“Flight” Ten-second self-portrait by Katarina Silva

By Katarina Silva

As the new season dawns—the one that turns trees to skeletons—old aches in my heart get whipped around like dry leaves dancing in the wind.

Approaching autumn winds have a way of stirring up the deceased in me. Things I thought I had already let go of start following me around like phantoms. “Not this again!” But there it is, crawling out of its coffin, asking me to revisit it.

“Use this pain as trees make use of the cold seasons,” I tell myself.

I’d like to hibernate inside of my blustery aches until I spring forth with new growth and beauty. In the meantime, I try to settle into the discomfort. Needless to say I don’t transition easily out of summer. This seems to be a common phenomenon with artists.

Hopefully we’ve all stashed away little acorns to see us through the chill. My secret stash is made up of art supplies. When I feel frost starting to accumulate in my heart, threatening to freeze old aches into place, artistic expression becomes my fire. Turning heartache into kindling wood, I run into the woods with my camera, setting my spirit aflame.

Then I start snapping pictures like a mad woman. In an instant I grow raven wings flapping to the tune of liberation.

Oh, there’s nothing like the precariousness of life tucked into autumn to ignite creativity! The dance between asphyxiation and breath is positively exhilarating.

This is the pretty paradox that murders me, and births me, and murders me again, and births me again every time the shutter on my camera opens and closes. The dynamic dialogue between darkness and light spontaneously becomes the wine that sweetly intoxicates my creative process. Making art then become synonymous with making my way through uninvited blizzards as if I am stuck in an old version of myself, using an ice pick to chip my way out.

Michelangelo once said, when sculpting his masterpiece David, that David already existed inside the stone, and that his job was to chisel away at all the parts of the stone that weren’t David.

Autumn is thus my chisel.

I recognize its arrival because parts of me begin to whither. Then comes the wrinkling and blowing away. If I cling to these expired parts of myself, it will hurt. So I let the wind transport them elsewhere, beating me as it would a fledgling swallow.

There is violence in the Northern gales. My art wears its weapons. The swords of change carve debris out of my heart like a skilled surgeon this time of year. It piles up in a mess on the floor of my psyche.

Shifting seasons is an untidy event for me. Like the trees, I discard the self that no longer serves me, and scatter her across yesterday’s soils. There is something unmistakably emancipating about this, like a colorful ancient ritual drilled into my DNA that is activated every fall: magically intent on evolving the species.

It feels good to fall under its cleansing spell.

In the subsequent bonfire of existential sifting, my ashes dance upwards, crackling in thermal flight and playing with stars before they gently brush land again. This becomes fertilizer for my art, as rich soils are made of death. Just ask any composter.

So, as autumn slithers in, leaving the dry skin of summer behind, I frequent the peaceful graveyards of my former selves. I trace the windy journey I’ve led and marvel at all the skins of my own that I’ve left behind, finding comfort in the cycles, in nature’s change of wardrobes from green to brown, and even in the nakedness that comes ahead.

For life, I’ve heard, is mean to leave us bare, like a series of little deaths each designed to link us with our own inextinguishable being. With that part of us that never dies, in which you and I are deliciously linked to every juicy atom in existence.

We stretch from the tips of sparkling galaxies to moss on Redwoods, feathers on flying hawks, coral reefs shimmering in the sunlight, the little fuzz on a bumblebee’s belly.

At least, this is what the thick morning fog seems to suggest, as it swirls around my proud tombstones and tickles my ears with its mischievous breath, every autumn, like an amorous ghost intent on seducing me.



Katarina L. SilvaKatarina Silva is a self-portraiture artist who thrives on the spontaneous thrill of creating photographic images on a ten second timer, inevitably employing witchcraft to do so. Her autobiographical art reflects her emotions and dreams, and is characterized by the mysterious absence of her complete face. Katarina’s art has been exhibited in various venues such as at the Capital Fringe Festival in D.C, Darkroom Gallery, the New Diorama Theatre in London, and as a semi-finalist in Ron Howard’s Project Imagination. Her creations have graced the bottles of fine perfumes by House of Cherry Bomb, NYC and Skye Botanicals. In 2012 Katarina wrote the foreword for “A Naked Lady” by her colleague Michael V. Messina and Katja Gee. Help yourself to further peeks into Katarina’s mind at Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, view her art here, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. She lives unafraid of darkness, wrapped in nature, in an obscure corner of the planet with her magical kitty.



Photo: provided by author

Editor: Dana Gornall