Rape of the Spirit, 2001, Bronze ©Amy Livingstone
It’s been over a month since my last communication. I hope this email finds you well and enjoying the beauty of Autumn and the lush colors that are abundant this year.
It has been an intense time for me with the sudden death of a good friend and the leader of my spiritual community, and my father’s final passage to the far shore a week ago today. It was hard to see him suffering at the end and am grateful to have been with him when he departed this realm. It was sacred time and naturally brought up memories of sitting by my late brother’s bedside 29 years ago as he lay dying from AIDS. Many of you know of my transformative journey through grief and if not, you can read about it here. My mother’s spirit (as were others) was present in my father’s tiny room over the last several weeks and am imagining them together again.
Art saved me back then and continues to be my saving grace and with so much suffering/violence in our world. The sculpture above “Rape of the Spirit” is one of many sculptures and paintings that emerged out of my own grief. It’s why I believe in the power of art to heal and may be offering some workshops again in the coming year if that is where I am called. Right now, I’m allowing time to grieve and listen for guidance around this next stage of life and work. Where there is an ending, a beginning or rebirth is inevitable and am trusting in that.
I need to be creating, so am slowly getting into the studio and am back to the mandala below. There are many paintings in process and will be sharing those in time. And if you’re starting to think about the holydays, consider purchasing sacred art prints, cards, or originals. I am experimenting with a line of sacred art items and will share more on that soon. Visit the shop here.
“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Reciprocity mandala inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.”
“Hope Mandala” (Soul Symbol Mandala Commission) ©Amy Livingstone
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
From my November Newsletter:
Like many of you, I have been feeling despair since the results of the election. We have entered another dark period in our human history where rhetoric meant to divide us is being fueled by fear. Fear of the other and fear of our future. Our fragile planet is also now ever more threatened by new leadership that denies the science of climate change. My heartaches for our beautiful mother earth and all her creatures, including we two-leggeds.
I believe it is necessary to allow time to mourn and then we need to move towards action, and soon. Love must trump hate. For love of all beings regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. For love of the earth and for love of country. During the recent Parliament of World Religions NW event, I spoke with Harris Zafar of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I asked him: “How can we support our Muslim brothers and sisters if we have a Trump presidency?” His response was that we all need to have the courage to stand up and speak out. To overcome fear and stand together as one. And I am grateful that we are beginning to see this coming together in community to listen and to dialogue, to co-create what Martin Luther King envisioned as the Beloved Community. Love.
And I also believe we must continue to bring forward all our creativity in service not only to our own hearts but for our world. If you don’t already have a practice of creative expression, I encourage you to explore different mediums: drawing, coloring, collaging, painting, writing, journalling, or dancing. Art, poetry, and beauty save me daily and know the power of art to heal. Let me know what practices are supporting you during this time of change. I will continue with the mission of Sacred Art Studio in spreading the message of our interconnectedness and love for the earth and all beings–human and otherwise. I am grateful for your support and am offering 50% off my sculptures.
A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all those here in the states.
In gratitude and love,
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
This is a small piece (12×12″) as yet untitled that I have been working on over the past week or so. Shown here in its progression. A sweet morning meditation as I continue work on the larger scale series “Where I Stand is Holy” that shines a light on species threatened by climate change. People often ask me how I create my decorative borders. As you can see here, I work out the design on a tissue paper and create the pattern that I will then replicate around the edges. Symbols of transformation continue to appear in my life but this is also representative of our larger collective evolution at this time in our earth’s history.
“Whosoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water–that offering of love, of pure heart, I accept” -Bhagavad-Gita.
Last week I brought part of the Return to the Garden installation to the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference held at the Convention Center here in Portland. The largest academic sustainability conference in the world brought over 2,000 change agents to Portland. AASHE’s vision is to lead higher education to be a foundation for a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world. I appreciated being invited to bring this sacred art and add a voice around our spiritual connection to the earth. To remember our innate interdependence in the web of creation and the role of art and beauty as they contribute to the conversation around sustainability.
My art installation was in the lobby of the convention center so between sessions, attendees were able to stop by to inquire about my work and to participate in co-creating our community nature mandala. I had so many remarkable and inspiring conversations with visionaries and passionate students from all around the world. I walked away feeling very hopeful. There is a lot of great work being done on behalf of our beloved earth and our fellow humans. Just a few included: A young man from Peru is here completing his degree at PSU and will return to Cusco to work with his father around erosion/conservation at Machu Picchu. Another young woman, an artist, makes her own paints and paper from natural materials. A student from University of Colorado is working on zero waste. Many students from small communities in the Midwest, the South, and Hawaii where there isn’t much being done around sustainability are taking on the challenge themselves! Yeah. One company makes solar-powered kiosks for charging electronic devices on college campuses. Another company makes water fountains that also includes filtration so we can refill our reusable water bottles. Imagine, the end of plastic bottles!
I also had the good fortune to hear Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff movement, and now Executive Director of Greenpeace speak the opening night. I was so inspired and touched by her talk and everyone that I spoke with that during the closing ceremony of our mandala, I dedicated this offering for the healing of the earth to AASHE and all those who attended. Thank you for inspiring me and all those who are working to create a sustainable future that works for all.
Bow of gratitude to all that contributed to the co-creation of our gorgeous community mandala during the People’s Climate March. We added our blessings, gratitude, and intentions to this offering that was gifted to the river, sending out our prayers for the healing of the earth and her creatures in all directions. This process is a meaningful symbol of our solidarity and interconnectedness in the web of life.
May this day ignite action in the hearts and minds of people around the world to begin the necessary ecological reparation to ensure a livable planet for future generations and all creatures. For love of the earth!
Greetings and Happy Fall Equinox. Shown here: “Harvest Moon Mandala.” The harvest moon is the moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox. (she was stunning this week!) Here, two goddesses hold up the moon. And as Autumn is also a time of turning our energies inward, the bears represent the hibernation or inwardness of the spirit as they march to the west which is the cardinal direction associated with the Fall. The dream catcher in the center adds to this theme where the jeweled net of Indra (from the Buddhist tradition) invites us to remember that all phenomena are intimately connected.
Song for Autumn
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
(Original painting and prints are available of this mandala. Contact me via www.sacredartstudio.net for more information.)
|Facilitating an interactive nature mandala|
|Gathering together, we honor all faith traditions.|
|“Lovers of Creation” and video at the Sacred Art Studio station.|
|Our youth. Adding their voice for peace, unity, oneness.|
|Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Indigenous, or Humanist, we add our prayers for peace and healing for the earth to the mandala.|
|The completed mandala.|
|Dismantling the mandala. A meditation on impermanence from the Buddhist tradition.|
|The mandala is gathered up and later offered to the Willamette River to send our prayers to all directions.|
I was honored to be part of the 7th Annual Festival of Faith at Trinity Episcopal in NW Portland on October 28th. This year the theme was “Voices of Youth.” If our youth can envision peace, there is hope.
A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost
OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
Spring is gradually emerging here in the Pacific Northwest. The birdsong is abundant, trees are in bud, and the daffodils, in spite of the recent snow, are blooming. New life is indeed emerging after the dark days of winter. I love the interiority and silence during the winter months and yet I feel my inner child again when I venture into the garden, seeking out new shoots of life peaking through the mossy beds covered with leafy debris left in place last Fall to enrich the soil. It’s this joy that fills my soul in times of grief and sorrow.
In my last newsletter (and last post here), I was preparing for my annual Living with HeART women’s retreat. Twelve of us spent the weekend exploring our sacred creativity, connecting our inner knowing with the ancient wisdom of the medicine wheel, and finding sanctuary from the busyness of our world. It was a holy time. When I returned, I learned that a very close friend had died suddenly while I was away. He had been a close companion and was like a brother to me for many years, so it was quite a shock. Yet he had expressed his world weariness and financial struggles for as long and I do feel in my heart that he has at last found some peace. There will be a gap where his presence once inhabited my daily life but in his death, he has also given me a renewed sense of urgency towards life and purpose. So, in my grief, I find myself a bit impatient with the minutia of daily life and feel an impulse to make some extravagant change as I did twenty years ago after the consecutive deaths of my brother and mother. (I moved to Portland alone with no job, no friends or family.) This time however, it is holding to place, to community, to art, to being, to service…right here, right now. So, I find myself ever more present to the beauty around me in any given moment and to that which is most essential. Which is love as Frost expresses so beautifully in his poem, “For this is love and nothing else is love.” As I’ve shared previously, I do believe, that it is through our grief, that we are able to open our hearts to each other and to the world around us. May all beings be happy. May all beings be loved.
What is most in bud for you right now during this season of rebirth, Spring? As always, I welcome your thoughts.
For love of the EARTH!
The above painting or “Pulgaria Mandala” is a personalized soul-symbol mandala commission. These are unique, one-of-a-kind sacred artworks that are expressions of your soul and support you on your healing/spiritual journey. Read more about these mandalas here at the blog or contact me for more information.