Art + Nature + Soul

Painting: Tahoma, ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio


Tiny presence amidst the holy waters of Tahoma.
Nestled sweetly within the cool, clear rippling stream.
Silent sentinel to the raging waters nearby.
Moss-sweetened stone.
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!

Sext: Prayer for the Desert

tortoise 500pixels

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:

Shown below is the first in the series: “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.”

Creating Beauty in a Broken World

Resurrection: 2015, 20x24" Acrylic & Jewels
“Resurrection” ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” -Terry Tempest Williams
From my January Newsletter:

This from Williams’ 2008 powerful and heart-opening book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World. She details her journey from Ravenna, Italy, to the American SW, and to Rwanda where she helps build a genocide memorial with the survivors of the war. She follows the thread of a calling to follow one wild word–mosaic. She writes: “Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together.”

I was reminded of her book again after finishing the painting shown here, “Resurrection.” Although most would associate the word or concept with the resurrection of Christ, I am using the word in context with the necessary and emerging return of the ancient paradigm associated with our indigenous ancestors and the Divine Feminine of the Goddess tradition, prior to the rise of patriarchy. Although I would also suggest that Christ is likewise an embodiment of the feminine with his original message of inclusivity and love for the neighbor and stranger.

Holy mother earth with the ‘seed of life’ nestled in the heart of  the web of life is cracking and we desperately need the return of the divine feminine even more so given the recent rhetoric coming forward during the GOP presidential campaign against women, people of color, those of the Islamic tradition, and the earth herself. Fear breeding more separation. And yet, I know also that there are so many of us, you and me, making a difference every day in our world through our creativity and in our communities. Shining your light bright as I wrote about in last month’s newsletter!

From Amazon: “In her compassionate meditation on how nature and humans both collide and connect, Williams affirms a reverence for all life, and constructs a narrative of hopeful acts, taking that which is broken and creating something whole.”

Butterflies = transformation. Life. Death. Beauty. Preciousness of life. Bowie. Rickman. Frey. Levine. Icons and teachers. So breathing into the complexities of life  and in my heart, and piecing together a mosaic of beauty in a broken world.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

A blessed and wildly creative new year to you,


Happy Solstice: Painting & Poem

From my June Newsletter:

Happy Solstice!

The Ancestor
©Amy Livingstone

You stand at the edge of the pulsating river.
Carved by wind, water, and time.
Smooth like the curve of Tahoma’s back.
Gently, I slide on to your sweet spot of bliss.

Wrapping my arms around you,
we caress each other with our firm bodies.
Hot from the sun, you melt my defenses;
and embrace my sensuous self.

You hear my pain and love for the earth.
We are one.

I leave your warm embrace and wander
through the deep, milky pools towards the edge
of the throbbing white river of life.
Spreading my legs; I welcome in the seeds
of passion and purpose.

Yes! Yes! Yes!
Answering the call of the wild.

There is something magical about the turning of the wheel towards the heat of summer, the fecundity of the earth and her abundance that is bursting forth. And the season associated with the element of fire that ignites eros and invites us to give expression to our passions and our creativity. What Bill Plotkin, in his brilliant book Wild Mind, has coined our “wild indigenous self.” I’m feeling a restlessness to get back into the wild(er)ness and have been re-reading my journal from my Wilderness Journey with Animas Institute last July. (You can read more about that here). During one particular day while wandering amidst the stone ladened banks of the White River, I had a sensuous encounter with this very smooth and curvaceous being (the large stone seen in the lower right corner of the painting shown above) that inspired this rather erotic poem. I felt a deep kinship with this ancient one and long to return to that sacred place. I sense many of us, especially in the developed world where the dis-ease of busyness is now considered the norm, are hungry to remember and return to this deep interbeingness with the the earth, and to our creaturely selves. I know that I want more of this in my life. How about you?

In Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abrams puts forward an insightful and inspiring thesis “about becoming a two-legged animal entirely a part of the animate world whose life swells within and unfolds all around us. . . and seeks a new way of speaking, one that enacts our interbeing with the earth.”  I highly recommend reading Abrams book or you can also read a paper I posted under Notes at my Facebook page: “Reconnecting to the Natural World: The Neolithic to the Ecozoic Era.”

While I may not be off in the wilderness at the moment, I am enjoying a slice of Eden here with nearly daily visits from a hummingbird and red-breasted sapsucker in the garden. Work continues on various paintings in progress including a soul-symbol mandala commission for a lovely woman in the Boston area. More to come when that is complete.

May whatever spark of eros that is alive in you come to fruition in your life and through your creativity. Art heals ourselves and our world. “The artist, like the shaman, demonstrates how one can live with heightened sensitivity and how art heals by restoring soul and by transforming our actions and our perception of life.” – Shaun McNiff.

For love of the EARTH!

The New Gospel (of Earth)

The Translator: 2014, 36x36" Acrylic (Inspired by "Walking the Borders" by William Stafford)
The Translator
(Inspired by William Stafford’s Walking the Borders.)

I was re-visiting my first book of eco-philosophy today, A Sacred Place to Dwell: Living with Reverence Upon the Earth by Henryk Skolimowski, that I discovered in 2003. Reading this sacred text was life changing and inspired me to go on to graduate school to study spiritual traditions and ethics within an interdisciplinary framework. Although I had considered an MFA and a Master’s in Art Therapy at the time, I felt called to this other scholarly path to better understand the disconnect between humanity and all of creation— philosophically, theologically, sociologically, and psychologically, etc. I wasn’t interested in being part of a contemporary art world driven by the notion of art-for-art’s sake or the pathologies of dis-ease associated with art therapy, though I bow in gratitude to those who follow the latter calling. My artwork has been a response to this original inquiry and The Translator especially speaks to the creation of a new language, what some are now calling “the new story,” of our interdependence and reverence for the earth. You can read about the painting here.

Skolimowski put forward this “New Gospel” and share that here with you.
For love of the EARTH!

The New Gospel

  1. The World is a Sanctuary.
  2. You were born creative.
  3. You hold destiny in your hands.
  4. You have the responsibility to do your part.
  5. The web of life includes all forms of life, human and non-human.
  6. Be compassionate to others.
  7. Be gentle to yourself.
  8. Be mindful how you treat your body.
  9. Be mindful of what you think and what you eat.
  10. You were born into a beautiful world.
  11. Your nature is divine.
  12. You divinity must reveal itself in your action.
  13. Suffering cannot be avoided.
  14. The fact of death cannot be avoided.
  15. Celebrate! The universe is in a state of self-celebration.
  16. What is your path of liberation? To begin with, you need to take yourself seriously.
  17. Oikos (Eco)—A Sacred Enclosure (oikos is Greek for ‘home.’)
  18. Achieve wholeness through your own effort.
  19. We are meaning makers.

Prayer for the Birds

madonna of birds.wm
Spring greetings from Sacred Art Studio where the garden is bursting with life, color, and the birdsong is abundant. The sliding doors are open and am moving towards completion on the first panel of “Where I Stand is Holy” (detail here) As you know, this very complex painting is a morning prayer for the birds (threatened by ‪#‎climate‬). Visible here in this close-up are the American Three-toed Woodpecker and the Cerulean Warbler. I am reminded of the quote from Dostoevsky: “Beauty will save the world.”* When we awaken to our interdependence in the web of creation, we experience the earth as sacred. The birds, the flowers, the trees, and the water are our brothers and sisters. Reverence and reciprocity abide in this landscape where we recognize we are indeed all one. May we walk lightly and mindfully this day and every day on our beloved earth, Pachamama.

This has been a slow process of emerging as I was struggling with the central figure for a time after experimenting with some new layering techniques. Alas, I started over but that is all part of the process and will be sharing more of in my April newsletter. You can sign up for that on my home page.

For love of the earth and all her creatures.

Art: ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio
*From Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book “The Idiot”

Honorable Mention Award

Primordial Womb ribbon
Very touched by the recent award for my painting “Primordial Womb” (shown here) from Concordia University and the Oregon Society of Artists. I painted this small 8×8″ cradle board as part of a fundraiser and gala at the University last month. Drawing from my Scottish ancestry, I was once again drawn to the Celtic Tree of Life. And another nest called to me but this time with a robin’s egg. I did some research on the symbolism of the Robin and here’s one shamanic interpretation:

“Robin will incite new growth in all areas of your life, areas that have become stagnant and out-dated. You must believe in yourself as you move forward for if you do, barriers will disappear, and confrontations will be for show only. Robin will show you how to do this with joy in your hearts. Their song is a happy one, reminding you to let go of your personal drama and learn to laugh with life.” Source:

Though I have been feeling some despair of late around the ecological crisis and early Spring here in the PNW, this is another affirmation of my art and soul journey. Signs from Spirit/God appear to us all the all the time if we are still and present. Are you listening?

For love of birds…

The Grace of Beginning

Andean Dreams: 2014, 12x12" Acrylic
Art: Andean Dreams, 12×12″, 2014 ©Amy Livingstone

For a New Beginning
-John O’Donohue

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

From my January Newsletter
New Year Greetings:

I hope this note finds each of you well in spirit and in health; invigorated by what O’Donohue calls “the grace of beginning;” of what is yet to be as we enter the new year. Aren’t we often ripe with expectation during these first weeks of January when we contemplate what may unfurl in our lives? We plan. We set intentions. We resolve to do, and to be, the best we can. I often feel like I’m at the starting gate ready to run a race and remind myself that life isn’t a marathon but an unfoldment of each moment, each day, each year. As we walk the path, the journey unfolds before us. This is a lovely reminder from the late Henri Nouwen:

We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.

This can be a daily spiritual practice around gratitude given that life does throw obstacles on our journey and we live in a culture driven by fear. An acupuncturist once shared with me that fear and excitement embody the same level of energy but that ‘fear is excitement without the breath.’ Have you noticed that? In fear, we tend to hold the breath. So, when I begin to feel anxious about the future, the economy, climate change, or any of the myriad crises facing life on planet earth at this time, I stop and remember to breathe in and breathe out. Then I take the next step and continue to walk this path of art, beauty, and service.

The wonder is this: that, as we walk it, the path becomes clear. We have only to trust it into action, then truth reveals itself, shining all the brighter for the darkness of our time. -Joanna Macy

In the studio, I have been continuing with the “Where I Stand is Holy” series (see previous posts) but this sweet little painting, “Andean Dreams,” (above) wanted to be born through me and is inspired once again by my Peru pilgrimage. It’s no accident that hummingbird (Kinti) appeared again in my work as he is a potent symbol for holding our core in stillness amidst the busyness of contemporary life. There is also an urgency in our work on behalf of the living earth and all her creatures. I feel this and know many of you do as well but if we don’t take time for silence and stillness, burnout is inevitable. Breathing in and out? In the Andes, hummingbird is also a symbol of resurrection. New beginnings. Like this moment, this day, this new year. All pregnant with new possibility. What is calling to be born through you?

For love of the EARTH!

Andean Dreams

“Andean Dreams” ©2014 Amy Livingstone

A new painting inspired by my Peru pilgrimage. (Read more about that here.)
Symbolism around birthing and new beginnings continues. Original (12x12x1.5″) and prints will be available after the painting returns from my photographer.

About Siwa Kinti, or the Royal Hummingbird in the Andean Spiritual Tradition:
“One of the highest vibrational energies in nature is carried by the hummingbird. In the Quecha lanaguage of the Andes, the hummingbird is called Kinti and is the archetype representing the direction of the North. This direction holds the qualities of Siwa Kinti, the rainbow hummingbird, who lives between the worlds and serves as a bridge to those who have come before us (our ancestors) and those who will come after us (our children and children’s children). It is said Siwa Kinti was the sacred being of Machu Picchu in Peru and today bridges the two worlds of North and South America. According to the Andean System, royal hummingbird has access to the center of the Hanaq Pacha, or upper world, where Spirit is found. Hummingbird represents the paradox between action and stillness.” Read more here:

Signs of Spring, Song of the Lark

Trillum at Tryon Creek Park


…Whoever listens in this silence, as she listens,
will also stand opened, thoughtless, frightened
by the joy she feels, the pathway in the field
branching to a hundred more, no one has explored.

What is called in her rises from the ground
and is found in her body,
what she is given is secret even from her.

This silence is the seed in her
of everything she is
and falling through her body
to the ground from which she comes,
it finds a hidden place to grow
and rises, and flowers, in old wild places,
where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.

Excerpted From:
In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press