Happy Vernal Equinox

Spring Altar
Greetings Friends
New energy is pulsating within me and in my work as Spring brings forth the fecundity of the living earth. Amidst the stress of what is unfolding in our political scene, I find great comfort in the beauty that abounds from the sound of birdsong to daffodils; from the decomposing leaves waiting to be raked from the beds to the a splattering of St John’s Wort peeking through the soil—ripe with the smell of humus. The earth is indeed alive and “so much is in bud” to quote Levertov.

On Monday, I changed the altar cloth to yellow in the studio in celebration of Spring and in honor of Saraswati. Resting here in the center, holding her veena (string instrument) she is the Hindu goddess of learning, wisdom, and the creative arts. Now is an especially fruitful time to create as Mother Earth brings forward her beauty. No matter where you are, there is some piece of beauty at hand. A stone, a flower, an apple, a leaf, a bird….listen….look…breathe.

Beginnings

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea–“

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet–
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

-Denise Levertov

Sacred Pause

riverview angel
Angel at RiverView Cemetery. Photo by Amy Livingstone

Greetings friends,
My 92 year old father fell and broke his hip in December. It has been a wild journey in moving him from the hospital, to rehab, and now to assisted living. For any of you who have walked this path with your elders, you know the intensity and time this takes. I have had some sweet moments in the studio, working on various projects including sketches for the interfaith prayer room at a local hospital. I continue to believe in the power of art and beauty to heal our hearts and our world even amidst the insanity of what is unfolding in our country.

I will return soon with more offerings, art, poetry, and inspiration!

Namasté
Amy

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.
–Aeschylus

Art + Nature + Soul

Tahoma
Painting: Tahoma, ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio

Grandmother

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.

Grandmother.
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!

Happy Solstice: Painting & Poem

Tahoma.web
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!
Amy

GPSEN Launch & Mandala Ceremony

IMG_0837IMG_0841IMG_0846IMG_0834
World Environment Day was June 5th. It’s a day when the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of environmental issues and encourages political action. In conjunction with WED,
GPSEN (Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network), a UN-based, growing network of regional educators, students, non-profits, political and industry leaders, and community members collaborating to promote sustainability had their launch celebration. This is quite an honor for Portland. GPSEN has been acknowledged as a Regional Centre of Expertise on education for sustainable development, by the United Nations University. We join a coalition of 129 RCEs around the world committed to creating a healthy, just, and thriving future.

I was invited to bring my sacred art and nature mandala ceremony to the event. A Native American elder from Wisdom of the Elders opened with a blessing. Rev. Jayna Gieber from my spiritual community People of the Heart offered a poem for the earth. Appreciate that we were all able to bring the spiritual component to the evening. It brings the Condor heart into the landscape of the Eagle mind as foretold in the ancient prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.. Gratitude to visionary leader Kim Smith and to so many individuals and organizations working for a sustainable future.

Prior to dismantling the mandala I offered this poem from John O’Donohue poem and dedicated this offering to our children, their children, and future generations. It’s for them that we do our work. For love of the earth.

Praise for the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

(Excerpt)

 

 

Artist as Translator

“The Translator” 
 
My latest painting inspired by this poem “Walking the Borders” from William Stafford. (See below) The painting became a sort of self-portrait for me as my work centers around creating a new, visual language through sacred art that illustrates our interconnectedness in the web of creation. You can see her holding in one hand a skull and paint brushes in the other. 

Walking the Borders
Sometimes in the evenings a translator walks out
and listens by streams that wander back and forth
across borders. The translator holds a mint
on the tongue, turns it over to try
a new side, then tastes a wild new flavor,
a flavor that enlivens those fading languages
of cursing and calling each other those names
that destroyed millions by swinging a cross
like an ax, or a crescent curved like a knife,
or a star so red it burned its way over the ground.
The wild new flavor fades away too,
but lingers awhile along borders for a translator to savor
secretly, borrowing from both sides, holding
for a moment the smooth round world
in that cool instant of evening before the sun goes down.


The background shows the Ten Commandments, a moral doctrine that for me is the fading language that has separated us from each other and from the Creation. The new language is one of interdependence in the web of life and the coming ecozoic era where we come back into balance as foretold in the ancient prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, shown flying here wing-to-wing in the sky. In the center, the Hebrew word Ah-ha-VAH translates as Love. (Note: I chose Hebrew as it is the first of the Abrahamic traditions followed by Christianity and Islam.) 


Stafford was a pacifist and conscientious objector during WWII. In his poem, he is referencing the Abrahamic traditions: “those fading languages of cursing and calling each other those names that destroyed millions by swinging a cross (Christianity) like an ax, or a crescent (Islam) curved like a knife, or a star (Judaism) so red it burned its way over the ground.” If we look at history, human beings have been killing each other over religious differences for thousands of years. Consider the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. And more recently, the white supremacist who killed three people outside a Jewish community center. So, in going back to the Ten Commandments which inform the Abrahamic faiths and culture on some level even if one is secularist/atheist. I was contemplating the sixth commandment (it’s also in a different color in the painting, though hard to see that at this size) that says “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” So my painting, and the poem, is questioning what it means to live by a doctrine that hasn’t worked to ensure peace among us. I honor all paths to God, the Divine, but the question for me is how do we create a new “language” that recognizes our interconnectedness in the web of creation that puts aside our differences in order to ensure a liveable, peaceful, and sustainable future for life on earth?

 

 



Signs of Spring, Song of the Lark

Trillum at Tryon Creek Park

THE SONG OF THE LARK

…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:
THE SONG OF THE LARK
In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Intention and The Great Work

New Connexions Magazine. Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, 2014
Show at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland
Opening at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland

The Journey
One day you finally knew  
what you had to do, and began,  
though the voices around you  
kept shouting  
their bad advice- 
though the whole house  
began to tremble  
and you felt the old tug  
at your ankles.  
“Mend my life!”  
each voice cried.  
But you didn’t stop.  
You knew what you had to do,  
though the wind pried  
with its stiff fingers  
at the very foundations,  
though their melancholy  
was terrible.  
It was already late  
enough, and a wild night,  
and the road full of fallen  
branches and stones.  
But little by little,  
as you left their voices behind,  
the stars began to burn  
through the sheets of clouds,  
and there was a new voice  
which you slowly  
recognized as your own,  
that kept you company  
as you strode deeper and deeper  
into the world  
determined to do  
the only thing you could do- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver 
  
My intention around expansion for the new year seems to be manifesting these days. (See previous post). I am having a show of my artwork at the Doll Gardner Gallery inside the West Hills Unitarian during the month of March, my ‘Ganesha’ is the featured artwork on the cover of New Connexions magazine, and I also had a wonderful interview recently with Robyn Purchia at EdenKeeper.org. You can read her article here. We share a similar passion and mission around the connection between religion and the environment. 
We all know the power of intention and holding a vision even when it’s not quite clear where it will lead. This is the path of radical trust and faith. I appreciated revisiting this poem from Mary Oliver that speaks to that calling we each have inside us to follow our heart in spite of the voices, or culture, shouting their bad advice. I believe deeply that we each have a gift to bring forward in service to what the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry called the Great Work of our time. We need all hands on deck if we want to ensure a liveable planet for future generations. When I spoke aloud my vows at the end of a ten-day training with environmentalist Joanna Macy in 2002, I committed my life to serving the healing of the earth and the welfare of all beings–human and non-human. That has seemed overwhelming at times but it remains the underlying intention for my life and work in whatever form that takes. Will you join me? 

Macy speaks to three areas of engagement during this era of transformation, or the Great Turning. Perhaps one of them will speak to you. Holding actions (boycotts, civil disobedience); creating new (sustainable) structures and institutions; and shifting consciousness around the reality of our collective interconnectedness in the web of life which has been my primary focus though I have also participated in numerous events and demonstrations around social/ecological justice over the years including the current campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. This year, I plan to share more about ways you might be inspired to get involved though I know so many of you are already doing such great work on behalf of our world.   
Always, it is my love of the earth, beauty, and the intersection where art, spirit, and earth healing meet that feeds my soul. What feeds yours?

Song for Autumn

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.

—Mary Oliver

(Original painting and prints are available of this mandala. Contact me via www.sacredartstudio.net for more information.)

Feeling the seasonal shift approaching. That instinctual turn inward like nature herself as the garden begins to die back. Autumn is my favorite season and love rising early before the sun, before the world wakes. I start each morning in the studio with a ritual of lighting candles, making an offering of incense, and saying a prayer (or an intention) that my work may serve the healing of the Earth. May it be so.

Artist’s Prayer

Creator of the Universe,
How infinite and astonishing
Are your worlds.
Thank you
For your Sacred Art
And sustaining Presence.

Divine Imagination,
Forgive my blindness,
Open all my Eyes.
Reveal the Light of Truth.
Let original Beauty
Guide my every stroke.

Universal Creativity,
Flow through me,
From my heart
Through my mind to my hand.
Infuse my work with Spirit
To feed hungry souls.

—Alex Grey, “Art Psalms”