Sext: Prayer for the Desert

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Greetings
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.

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“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/

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

Compassion in Action: Reflections from the Parliament

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New Painting in Process, ©Amy Livingstone

From my October newsletter:
I returned home from the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City a week ago but my heart is still in Utah with the 10,0000 people who attended the Parliament. Ten thousand men, women, and children/youth from 80 countries and 50 faith traditions ranging from indigenous, goddess, pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, B’ahai, Buddhist, Hindu, artists, activists, priestesses, and healers. All in agreement to the holiness of our sacred container where love and compassion were generated in our honoring of diversity while recognizing the common threads of our shared humanity. I felt that I traveled the world in five days and found a home. A tribe. The theme this year was centered around “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity.”

The Ute tribe of Utah welcomed us to their ancestral lands and our indigenous brothers and sisters lit a sacred fire that burned throughout the Parliament. There was much praying, chanting, singing, dancing, a Cosmic Mass, and ceremonies but many tears were shed as well as we listened and bore witness to the numerous crises of our time. Religious extremism, social and economic inequality, climate change, and the rights of women and indigenous peoples.

The message was clear, people of faith (wouldn’t that be all of us?) have a moral obligation to step up and take action. Every plenary, every talk I attended addressed the urgency of this critical time and that we each have a role to play. Large and small. It was affirming of my work as a sacred artist and activist and returned energized to continue my mission in service to Mother Earth and all beings that began a decade ago.

What is calling you during this evolutionary time?

There were so many powerful moments and presenters, many whose work I have followed for years including Vandana Shiva, Terry Tempest Williams, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Marianne Williamson, Karen Armstrong, Jane Goodall, and the Dali Lama who spoke to us via satellite. The indigenous plenary was one of the most profound and moving. An elder from Greenland told us that the ice is melting and there is nothing we can do about it. He was looking for the one hope for future generations. I don’t know that I can ever forget his wailing song to the ancestors who we will need if we are to survive the future.

It is a good time with Sawhain (Halloween) this week to honor and welcome back your ancestors.

Our time together was an urgent call but it was surprisingly filled with hope. So many people on the ground doing the Great Work for other beings, human and non-human, and our beloved Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama.

I’ve been working on this new painting since my return. Our fragile world is cracking and transformation is assured. What will our world look like in 20 years? What part are you playing or will play in this Great Turning? “Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” -Terry Tempest Williams.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

For love of the EARTH!

Where I Stand is Holy

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The winged-ones are speaking through me lately as I work on a new painting; the first in a series I’m calling “Where I Stand is Holy.” This particular vision came to me following my recent wildness trek with Animas Institute. On our last evening, we were invited to share a poem, song, or expression of our soul inspired by our experience. As I shared back in August (see previous post), I felt a deep connection to the forest, Tahoma (Mt Rainier), and White River. The landscape felt holy to me and was reminded of what Yahweh says to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, Pachamama, we are standing on holy ground. So that evening, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and sang a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge. I changed the wording from sitting to standing but it goes like this:

Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.

Singing is not my particular gift and rarely sing outside the lodge let alone in front of a group of people that I don’t know well but I felt called to share what was alive for me in that moment. The river spoke to me of letting go of safety and trusting in the journey even when the path is uncertain. It was a very sweet moment and am grateful I found the courage to be vulnerable in front of these other beings–human and non-human. How often do we silence ourselves out of fear of being judged or abandoned?

The first painting of this 4-panel series that will once again address threatened species includes the Arctic Tern, Varied Thrush, and American Three-toed Woodpecker (view more at my Facebook and Twitter pages) and they are three of 314 North American birds that are threatened by climate change. The Audubon Society is tracking this and you can learn more and pledge to take action at this link. The painting process has been emerging slowly as the vision becomes clearer to me but there is also a feeling of uncertainty as to whether I can actually manifest what it is that I am being called by Spirit to create. This will be a time-intensive project and feels a bit overwhelming at times. Some days, I hear that little voice inside my head that says I “should” (a word that should be eliminated from our vocabulary!) create artworks that are more commercially viable but this is where my soul is called to be. So everyday, I show up, listen, and trust that I am being guided to serve not only my soul but the earth and the creatures in this way. Where might you be called to serve your soul and our world?

Check back often for updates or visit my Facebook page.

Bearing Witness

A heartfelt message from author and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams regarding the state of our public lands in the American West. These sacred lands are essentially under siege by the oil and gas industry with the support of our government (and many citizens of our country). I had no prior knowledge of the current environmental and human devastation including the high rates of cancer caused by the effects of coal extraction in Wyoming. It’s heartbreaking but important to see. To learn, to bear witness, to act. Perhaps we can find a way to simplify our wants and desires? To put less strain on our natural resources? What is happening in the United States is but a microcosm of what is happening worldwide on our beloved planet. I’m told a coal-fired plant goes online every day in China. It grieves me and I feel helpless yet again to stop this massive ecological assault but I can’t turn away either. We, as a global community, cannot afford to turn away either. In his Nobel Peace Prize winning memoir of the Holocaust, Night, Elie Wiesel writes: “Convinced that this period in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness.” This resonates deeply for me not only around the ecological crisis but twenty years ago I felt called to bear witness and speak out during the early years of the AIDS pandemic. After my brother died from AIDS in 1989, I became an activist offering education and outreach to heterosexual communities, but was ultimately met with denial. Fortunately, there are now drugs to extend life but so many people worldwide continue to be devastated by this disease. Unfortunately, there are no magic pills to cure the ecological crisis. This will require a radical shift in consciousness and in our way of living. But as the economic crisis has been teaching us, sometimes simpler can be better. More time for family, friends, community, creativity, simple pleasures. How will we be judged by future generations? What will be remembered about this time in history will be determined by how we respond right here, right now. Denial is not an option.

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restrain, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the uncertainty we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” -Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

A Vision

This is one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry and it comes to me after reading yesterday that “the Obama administration approved the sale of timber in a roadless national forest in Alaska. The Tongass National Forest is a 17 million acre temperate rain forest in southeast Alaska, which is home to both endangered species and native Alaskan tribes. It is the largest temperate rain forest in the United States.” (source: huffingtonpost.com)


A Vision

–Wendell Berry
If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is it possibility.