From my September newsletter:
“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us-like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness-that ‘out there’ is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of [wo]men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.” -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
I love this from Ed Abbey and discovered it while reading his book over the summer during the final stages of “Sext: Prayer for the Desert” shown here.* Seems appropriate given the intention for this painting and the entire “Where We Stand is Holy” series. It has been quite a journey with this piece as I changed course a few times around what beings to include in the border. These texts by Meloy, Williams, and Abbey were inspirations for understanding the sensuousness of the desert landscape, not having spent much time there myself except Sedona briefly and New Mexico many years ago.
I definitely felt the holiness of these landscapes in the American Southwest and there is a long history from all our spiritual traditions of those who have undertaken a pilgrimage to the desert to seek out God, the numinous, or something “wholly other” to quote German theologian Rudolf Otto. Consider Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad from the Abrahamic traditions. Exodus 3:5: Yahweh to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
In this painting, sego lily and cherry (Utah state flower and fruit), globemallow, and phlox are woven throughout with the creatures: raven, black-chinned hummingbird, collared lizard, desert tortoise, sage-grouse, prairie dog, not to mention the scorpion, honey bees, praying mantis, butterflies, and ants. All this beauty is under siege by oil/gas corporations who want to exploit this sacred landscape. This painting is a prayer but also feels like an elegy to me for that which we are losing. To learn more, visit Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
I also believe in the words of author and activist Alice Walker that “Anything We Love Can Be Saved.” If you read this and follow my work, you are a lover of mother earth and together I believe our love (and actions) can heal our world.
After taking a sabbatical last month, I’m pleased to share that my neck issues seem to have improved with physical therapy, yoga, stretching, and chiropractic care. This time has given me a new awareness of how fragile the inner landscape of our beings truly are. Taking breaks often from the technology is essential to our wellness. So, let’s take a break and go for a walk now…
For love of the earth,
*Sext, or Sixth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said at noon. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the sixth hour of the day after dawn.
Tiny presence amidst the holy waters of Tahoma.
Nestled sweetly within the cool, clear rippling stream.
Silent sentinel to the raging waters nearby.
Light-sprinkled tendrils reach to the heavens.
Bearing witness to shape-shifting White River.
Holding court among swaying algae in the shadow
of what remains of the Creator’s architectural beauty.
Stone people. Ancient ones.
Keepers of memories in a changing world and
holding a vision for what might be
as new life emerges
from the generous, heart-shaped valley of her coat.
Silent. Still presence in this cathedral
where earth, air, fire and water meet.
She offers a prayer that humanity
awaken from its slumber to this;
the revelatory miracle that is Creation.
Baptized by her waters. I offer love.
Together our souls are one.
-Amy Livingstone, July 28, 2014
Reflecting this week on my Animas Journey from 2 years ago. Worth sharing again, friends. Wild Blessings.
Tahoma is one of the indigenous names for Mt. Rainier. A powerful apus (Mt. Spirit from the Andean spiritual tradition), his presence was palpable during my recent trek into the Wilderness of Soul with Animas Institute. I felt a deep soul connection to the mountain, the stone people… my ancestors the “living stones,” and the holy waters of Tahoma and wanted to give expression to that through this painting on my return. And although most of you know me as a deep appreciator of poetry, I seldom write poetry. However, the joy of being in the presence of not only this sacred landscape but also being with men and women appreciating, reading, and writing poetry, I felt a sense of belonging with kindred souls that is often difficult to find in the wildly busy, technologically-driven world we live in. So, I was invited and inspired to write a few poems during my wanderings, and I share this one with you. The natural world is a ready muse anytime we take time to be slow and present to the more than human world at any given moment.
A note on soul as defined by Bill Plotkin, founder of Animas Institute, in Wild Mind: “The soul is a person’s unique purpose or identity, a mythopoetic identity, something much deeper than personality or social-vocational role, an identity revealed and expressed through symbol and metaphor, image and dream, archetype and myth. . . . Soul is the particular ecological niche, or place, a person was to born to occupy.”
I’ve been in a wandering mood since my return, enjoying long walks and a lovely hike into Dry Creek Falls the other day, so I will keep this brief but wanted to touch base before Autumn returns next month. My Animas journey was affirming of my own particular way of engaging the world and of the necessity for me to continue following my soul around art, spirituality, beauty and how these contribute to to the healing of the earth. To quote poet Mary Oliver, “My work is in loving the world.” What is your soul calling to you around your unique purpose at this time? Painters, poets, musicians, writers, filmmakers, dancers, singers, all the arts, play a necessary and important role in our world to sustain the soul of a people. We can have a world where technology, efficiency, consumerism and rationality rule, but it would be a soulless one.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” -from Dead Poet’s Society. In memory of Robin Williams.
Wild blessings and love for the EARTH!
I haven’t disappeared my friends but after five months of events, I am back in the studio working. This summer, my intention is to get as far as I can on completing the “Where We Stand is Holy” series that began with “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.” Shown here are details from “Sext: Prayer for the Desert.” Desert Tortoise, Sage Grouse, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. There are efforts to list the Sage Grouse as endangered species but much resistance from the oil/gas lobbyists as it would impact exploration and extraction in the SW.
“Sext: Prayer for the Desert” is nearly complete. I am also in various stages with Vespers (water) and Compline (mammals). These paintings inspired by illuminated manuscripts shine a light on endangered species as well as the beauty of those wild places under siege by oil/gas extraction, plastics in the ocean, and climate change. I’m envisioning these panels to be part of larger installation and will share more as that develops. In the meantime, I am offering limited-edition art prints with a percentage of your purchase benefiting organizations working to protect our creatures and wild places. Shop here: http://sacredartstudio.net/product-category/prints/
May, Featured Artist
Karuna Contemplative Living
1725 SE Hawthorne Blvd
This is a sweet space in SE Portland. Owner Anandi Gefroh, shown here in the center, and I share a similar passion and purpose for supporting those on the spiritual journey. Thank you to everyone who came out for the opening. Art is up through May.
Karuna means compassion in Sanskrit. Specifically, it means to alleviate suffering. At Karuna, we believe that a contemplative life is about taking occasional breaks from doing, cultivating a sense of wonder and curiosity about ourselves and the environment around us through simple observation.
It was a very meaningful for me to be at Portland Community College during Earth Week where I brought my art installation “Momento Mori: Our Oceans in Crisis”. I had some powerful conversations with a diverse group of people from all over the world and dedicated our mandala to the people of Micronesia. One student, a kindhearted man from these small islands in the Western Pacific Ocean shared with me: “I am a climate refugee. My people are leaving their homeland to relocate to Australia and other countries due to rising sea levels and contaminated food sources from oil spills from tankers.” He was very grateful for my message as he feels that the world has not acknowledged them. He put a very real face to the climate crisis.
Many of the young students also gave me hope. After viewing my exhibit, a young woman shared with me that she felt sad. When I asked how she processes her sorrow around ecological issues, she said she goes to the beach and picks up other people’s garbage. Action is indeed the antidote to despair.
I put together a list of suggestions of what each of us can do on a daily basis to make a difference including self care and ways to get involved. You can view that here: What You Can Do Flyer
You can learn more about the nature mandala ceremony here.
For love of the EARTH!
Memento Mori is the Medieval Latin theory and practice of reflection on mortality.
This installation creates space to make visible what is invisible. To question: What are we willing to “see” and acknowledge? Do we veil ourselves to mask feelings of despair around the truth of a changing world including climate change and species extinction? Do we have the courage to bear witness to the beauty of our world, to break open our hearts for what we are losing, and be inspired to take actions to protect life on earth?
Much of what is now threatened by the ecological crisis isn’t visible to the human eye such as plankton, microscopic organisms that float on the surface of our oceans. Plankton comes from the Greek planktos meaning wandering or drifting. The neon-colored phytoplankton are responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere. As well as being vital to climate control, phytoplankton produces as much oxygen as all the forests and terrestrial plants combined. However, some scientists argue that we have lost 40% over the past 60 years. What now? New research also illustrates the staggering amount of plastic being ingested by zooplankton, the foundation of our marine food chain. On average, we are losing 200 species per day.
Our grief is born of love and by allowing ourselves to feel our despair, we also discover gratitude for the miracle of life. With this exhibit, we are able to “see” that our very existence is intricately linked to the health of plankton and our oceans, both of which are currently under stress from our current way of life. Seeing the fragile beauty of these organisms, we recognize our innate interconnectedness in the web of life and respond with actions to slow the damage.
There is hope. I believe we each have the power to make a difference in our day-to-day lives—economically, politically, and in our consumer choices. I also believe in the power of human creativity and that each one of us has a gift to offer our world in service to other beings and to the earth. I invite you to find that one thing that breaks open your heart and that inspires you to, in the word of Gandhi, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Profound gratitude to Christian Sardet and The Macronauts, Plankton Chronicles project for permission to use their photography for this project. planktonchronicles.org
Come say hello!
Wine reception with the artists on Friday night, 7-9pm.
Show continues through the weekend. Saturday, 10-6pm and Sunday, 10-2pm.
I will have several original paintings including “Munay Pachamama” shown here in the lower right hand corner of the promo flyer, new limited edition giclee (fine art) prints, devotional posters, and note cards for sale. I will also have a selection of items of the “Creation Illumination,” shown below, to help raise funds for organizations working to protect endangered species.
Hope to see some of you there!
From my morning reading. Spring blessings.
How to Bloom
The almond trees in bloom: all we can accomplish here is to ever know ourselves in our earthly appearance.
I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones—at your demeanor, the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose. Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.
-Rilke, Uncollected Poems
Art: Vincent Van Gogh, Almond Tree Blossoms
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this:
to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
Greetings Earth Lovers
This poem felt appropriate given my recent reworking of the Butterfly Woman Mandala shown above along with Vernal Equinox and Easter weekend upon us. Emerging from the dark chrysalis of winter, we find ourselves once again in this time of rebirth where beauty abounds. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Earth is coming back to life–trees, flowers, and shrubs are budding and birdsong is abundant.
It’s no coincidence that Easter coincides with Spring Equinox. Scholars agree that Christianity borrowed from, and was grafted over, the pagan cultures of the ancient world. The etymology of Easter originates from Astarte, the goddess of spring, fertility and sexuality. Hence the rabbits and eggs during the holy day festivities. This time of year does usher in a fecundity, a ripening energy that is the life force that feeds new growth, communion with the beloved, and our creativity. Perhaps you are feeling “insane for the light” as Goethe writes?
Butterfly Woman was the first mandala that I painted during a 4-day workshop in Canada back in 2003. It was my first piece of sacred art as I was launching Sacred Art Studio that same year and a year prior to the start of my graduate studies in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. This mandala never felt quite finished and I was inspired to revisit the painting in celebration of Spring. Adding the earth adds balance and gives a universality to a message of global transformation that is attempting to be born during this evolutionary time. Here, the divine feminine emerges from the dark womb of her chrysalis, and holds the light of hope as Christ offered in his time. Once again, resurrecting a new, and ancient, way of being in relationship to each other and our world, Pachamama.
Spring and Easter blessings!
It was an inspiring weekend at the Climate Arts evening and Earth Care Summit as the Interfaith community gathered to celebrate the arts in breaking open our hearts to the beauty of our world and to honor Mother Earth last month. Poet Kim Stafford, son of the late Oregon poet William Stafford, shown below gave a very moving presentation that included stories of his life and his poetry.
We had a nice conversation during which I was able to share with him the painting, The Translator, inspired by one of his father’s poem Walking the Borders. He was very enthusiastic and supportive of my work and am touched by his generosity of spirit.
The amazing cellist, folksinger, and fellow artivist Anna Fritz also led us in songs that touched our hearts. Especially moving was her last song, Into the Fire, that tapped into our grief around the damage being perpetuated against the earth and the necessity to find joy where we can. You can listen and purchase music at her website.
Take this heaviness from my heart.
Throw it into the fire.
Let me learn to be joyful.
Lift my soul up higher.
Overall a beautiful evening and inspiring weekend that gave me hope. Dr. Randy Woodley, a Keetoowah Cherokee and professor at George Fox University, gave the keynote shown here about indigenous world view versus our Western, post-Englightenment orientation to the natural world. And after attending numerous City Council meetings over the past year or so, it was fun to meet Mayor Charlie Hales. Here, he is speaking with Muslim eco-activist Nana Firman. Attended her break-out session that was very informative, sharing passages from the holy Quran that address care for all creation.
Gratitude to Oregon Interfaith Power & Light and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon for organizing this yearly event and University of Portland for hosting.