It’s February 2nd and already the first signs of spring are here with daffodils emerging and little buds on the hydrangeas beginning to show themselves in the garden. A mild winter in the Northwest but we are still only half way to the Spring Equinox. Today is Imbolc which originated within the pagan tradition and is one of the cross-quarter days which falls between the Solstice and the Equinox. The day became associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid who was later adopted by the early Christians and is revered as St. Brigid. From chalicecenter.net/imbolc:
The Second of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.
In secular culture this time of year became known as Groundhog Day—which was a big deal growing up in New Hampshire where the winters were fierce and we kids yearned for the sun to return so we could play outside again. Growing up, I did not know this yearly visitation of the groundhog had its roots in the ancient ways of our ancestors. Imbolc is a festival of the hearth and home and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. It was a time to start preparing the fields for the first planting and to bless the crop seeds saved and stored from the last harvest. This is the time for purification and renewal.
Today, we can begin to till our actual gardens and we can also symbolically till the soil of our souls by letting go of something (or some action) that no longer serves us and plant a seed of intention to bring into our lives what we most want to harvest this year. Like our ancestors, I joined with several of my women friends in circle this weekend to honor this turn of the wheel and to set intentions for what we would like to see blossom in our own lives. It was a sacred ceremony that was blessed by fire and water, the two elements most associated with Brigid.
For me, these are symbolic of the feminine aspect of the life-giving water and the masculine energy of the fire—like the sun—that when joined together in union give birth to new life. Growth and opportunity are abundant in this landscape. During the winter season, we rest in the darkness of the womb and the sun will now purify and bring energy and light to a new vision for ourselves and our world. What are you longing for? What would you like to see bloom more fully in your life, your work, your relationships? Plant the seeds of intention now, nurture the ground, and harvest the gifts as we journey through the cycles of the seasons in the coming year.
Brigid was the goddess of healing, inspiration, craftsmanship and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. “Song” from Wendell Berry—farmer, tiller of the soil and soul, and poet:
Within the circles of our lives
we dance the circles of the years,
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the seasons,
the circles of our reason
within the cycles of the moon.
Again, again we come and go,
changed, changing. Hands
join, unjoin in love and fear,
grief and joy. The circles turn,
each giving into each, into all
Only music keeps us here,
each by all the others held.
In the holds of hands and eyes
we turn in pairs, that joining
joining each to all again.
And then we turn aside, alone,
out of the sunlight gone
into the darker circles of return.
Wishing those of the Jewish faith a blessed and happy Hanukkah during this season of light. I really love this ancient ritual of lighting the menorah. For those unfamiliar with the symbolism of this sacred time: Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabean Rebellion (167-160 BCE) against the attempt by Antiochus to force Hellenistic i.e. Greek pagan, practices upon the Jewish people and symbolizes the re-dedication of the Temple. According to the legend, when the Jews regained access to the Temple, they found only one jar of oil left, enough to stay alight for only one day, but by a miracle, the oil stayed burning for eight days. Occurring around winter solstice, each night for eight nights, another candle is lit on the menorah. The amount of light gradually increases like the lengthening of sunlight.
“ARTheology is the transmission of spiritual guidance through the arts. The arts have played a crucial role in parable and the recounting of iconic moments from all world religions. Theology, or the collection of knowledge related to the study of God, has influenced the sacred art of every tradition….Sacred art is clothed in the language of the essential truth of that faith. When the purpose of art is our own salvation or liberation, we trust the good intentions of the author that art is being performed for God’s sake. How can art be redemptive in a post-modern, pluralistic, trans-denominational world? If art’s mission is to make the soul perceptible, then all expressions are redemptive for the artist. Creation IS redemption. To complete the soul being perceived by another, the art must be shared. The social context of art is necessarily an ethical arena where the intentions of the artist toward the beholder are central to the message in the work. An artist fulfilling the sacred legacy of their profession, dedicates their work to the liberation of all beings. Their art is uniquely suited to be a tap root to the collective psyche and zeitgeist of the moment, to potentiating an historic evolution of consciousness.” -Alex Grey, Visionary Artist. www.alexgrey.com
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.
Creator of the Universe,
How infinite and astonishing
Are your worlds.
For your Sacred Art
And sustaining Presence.
Forgive my blindness,
Open all my Eyes.
Reveal the Light of Truth.
Let original Beauty
Guide my every stroke.
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”
Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. While the rest of the country has been living under crushing heat waves, here in Oregon our rainy season lasted well into June. Given the level of drought not only in the U.S. but around the world, I bow with gratitude for the life-giving rain. But today, on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I’m thrilled to be sitting in my garden, sipping coffee and listening to the birdsong as I write this note to you. Jays, juncos, and spotted towhees make haste to the freshly-filled feeder while others splash about in the bath hanging from a Ponderosa Pine, waiting their turn.
In last months newsletter (see previous post), I shared how “art saves lives,” and indeed saved my life twenty years ago. I also believe like many of us that the natural world can also heal our hearts and bring us peace during these challenging times–personally and collectively. All too often though with the advent of technology, demands of family, and the fast pace of our modern world, we don’t take enough time to nurture our souls by communing with the earth. There is a common belief that one need be “out in nature,” camping or hiking, etc. However, if we can remember that we are always “in the Creation” at any given moment even in the city, we have the opportunity throughout each day to connect to the beauty that is around us. We need only stop what we are doing and be present to that which is before us. To the air we’re breathing. The trees we pass on the road. The food we eat. The water we drink. The bird in that tree…right over there.
From naturalist Terry Tempest Williams: “How to create time, how to create buffers around us so that we are doing nothing. I think that may be our biggest disease right now–the disease of busyness. With all these modern conveniences that are supposed to be time-savers, I think we’ve never had less time. So I think creating open space, time to do nothing, time to love, time to be, time to dream, to think, to walk, is its own act of civil disobedience.”
For me, at this time of year, I take my contemplative practices outside. For example, I practice what I call “bird meditation.” Here I use the word meditation loosely. Like one of my spiritual teachers, Adyashanti, I consider this practice a form of silent sitting. Most often the notion of meditation is tied to a rigorous practice utilizing breath and body with a desired outcome in mind. Typically “enlightenment” or freedom from some sort of emotional or mental anguish, or suffering, etc. For Adya this is another form of striving much like anything we undertake in our lives which only adds to our suffering. Here, the ego strives for control which ultimately leads to more feelings of failure and self-criticism. Instead, this silent sitting, or bird meditation in my example, allows for simply letting everything be as it is with no striving. You cannot “fail” with this practice. You are simply present to all that is around you, within and without including the Creation, the earth, which is holy and worthy of our reverence.
In the morning, I spend forty-five minutes to an hour silently sitting which often begins with reading a sacred text such as poetry. In silence and stillness, being with what is in this present moment, grounds me before I begin my work day. You may not have an hour, but even fifteen minutes a day before you turn on your computer or phone, can make a difference and bring some inner peace into your world. Try it and let me know what you discover.
For love of the EARTH!
A Beauty Blessing
As stillness in stone to silence is wed
May your heart be somewhere a God might dwell.
As a river flows in ideal sequence
May your soul discover time in presence.
As the moon absolves the dark of resistance
May thought-light console your mind with brightness.
As the breath of light awakens colour
May the dawn anoint your eyes with wonder.
As spring rain softens the earth with surprise
May your winter places be kissed by light.
As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance
May the grace of change bring you elegance.
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind
May your outer life grow from peace within.
As twilight fills night with bright horizons
May beauty await you at home beyond.
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.
January has been a time of stillness and spaciousness. Although I have been working steadily in the studio, attending to design projects, and preparing for the upcoming Living with HeART retreat, the month has unfolded slowly. After our annual New Year’s Day sweat lodge ceremony at People of the Heart, I emerged out of the womb of the earth and felt that initial impulse, as so many of us do at the start of a new year, to make haste and manifest all sorts of intentions. Instead, I stopped, took a breath, and eased into my days. I have also been reflecting on our ancestors who lived close to the rhythms of the earth. January was a time of restoration, to store energy in preparation for the start of a new harvest cycle. How far we have come from that reality in our fast-paced, 24/7 wired world. So, for me there has also been lots of sleeping this month, ‘resting in the grace of the world’ to quote the poet Wendell Berry. Energy is now mounting and shifting outward once again, just as we reach the ancient celebration of Imbolc on February 2nd (Read more here.) This is the midpoint between Winter solstice and Spring equinox when our ancestors would begin to prepare the seeds for planting. This is an ideal time to plant the seeds of intention for your new year. What is your soul longing for? What is the heart of your longing? Playfulness, passion, purpose, or perhaps deeper wisdom?
Discover this in a sacred space with a wonderful group of women. I’m excited about offering you the third annual Living with HeART retreat. With my co-leader, Judy Todd, we will be guiding you through the medicine wheel and the four seasons of a woman’s life. Drawing on our innate creativity, we will rest, remember, and return renewed, ready to plant the seeds and manifest our soul purpose.
So, why does this matter given the demands of our lives in feeding ourselves and our families? I think most of us would agree that we are experiencing environmental degradation during this time on earth. For me, and many other theologians, the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. Scholar Karen Armstrong writes: “Perhaps every generation believes that it has reached a turning point of history but our problems seem particularly intractable and our future increasingly uncertain. . . .Unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that can keep abreast of our technological genius, it is unlikely that we will save our planet.”
This may sound dire, but I do have hope in human creativity. I believe that this spiritual (r)evolution will begin with each of us slowing down, being more present to life, reclaiming the Earth as holy, and drawing on all our creativity to serve our ailing, albeit beautiful world. That’s my vision. Care to join me?
To register for the retreat, visit Judy’s website. We look forward to sharing this sacred time with you.
For love of the EARTH!
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.
– Wendell Berry
From my April Newsletter.
To sign up visit www.sacredartstudio.net
To borrow from the poet Denise Levertov, “so much is in bud” as we journey further into the season of Spring. The garden is bursting with new growth and on a global scale, we are witnessing the death of old structures in preparation for giving birth to new ways of being in relationship to the other, the earth, and the Divine. Like so many of us, I feel this energy intensely and it has been organically coming forward through my artwork. The sculpture shown here, MotherEarth (part human, part tree) is the second in my maiden/mother/crone series and is nearly complete. The womb in the back spontaneously emerged much like the womb/fetus in the “Creation Illumination” that I shared with you last month (you can view the painting below). On Saturday night, in honor of Earth Day, I also attended the seasonal sweat lodge ceremony at my spiritual community, People of the Heart. It was powerfully symbolic as it occurred on the day between crucifixion and resurrection during the Easter holy days. Entering into the womb of the mother earth, I let go of old wounds that needed to die in order that I can birth anew–trust, vulnerability, and JOY amidst these challenging albeit evolutionary times.
I find it fascinating that the word Easter originates from Astarte, the Greek goddess of fertility and sexuality (she is also appears throughout the ancient world in my other forms as well). Hence the bunny rabbits and eggs during the holiday 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. This time also coincides with the Celtic celebration of Beltane on May 1, the half way point between spring equinox and summer solstice, wherein the ritual mating of god and goddess was celebrated in ancient times. In other words, a marriage of the masculine and feminine, similar to what is being born collectively through us in our own time. As an interfaith spiritual artist and practitioner, I honor all paths to the Divine and believe that no matter who/what we choose to worship–Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, or a Tree, we are all interconnected in the web of Creation. My work is in discovering the common threads between our religious traditions and with those of our earth-honoring ancestors, so that all beings may come to realize we are indeed all One. To read more, click here.
You might want to ask yourself what needs to die within you in order to give birth to that which is most essential or what unique gift is yours to bring forward that the world needs now? If you would like to share that with me, I’d love to hear from you as always.
May the beauty of the season be with you and may the muses guide you in your blooming creativity!
For love of the EARTH!
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.
When you recognize her beauty,
the eye applauds, the heart stands in an ovation,
and the tongue when she is near
is on its best behavior,
it speaks more like light.
What does light talk about?
I asked a plant that once.
It said, “I am not sure,
but it makes me
Sweet bouquet of spring tulips from one of my clients. Spring is coming…may all beings know the light of love and beauty. Aho.
From my December Newsletter: To subscribe visit www.sacredartstudio.net
During the holy month of December when many of us celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Solstice, I’ve been reflecting on light. This time of year is often referred to as the ‘Season of Light,’ wherein we drape an array of lights throughout home and hearth. In the Jewish tradition, the menorah is brought out for ceremonial lighting. These days I’ve been imagining what it was like two thousand years ago for our ancestors before electricity and the ubiquitous presence of illuminated devices nestled neatly into the palms of our citizenry. Sitting before the blazing fire in the wood stove today, I was thinking of those dark nights many moon cycles ago. I reflected on the ancient Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and of the oil that ‘should’ have burned for only one day and the miracle that it lasted for eight. I imagined three holy men, or Magi who were Zoroastrian (from Persia, what is now known as Iran) priests and astronomers following the stars to honor the birth of a vessel born to bring light in a time of darkness. Jesus, bearer of love and hope. I envisioned our earth-honoring ancestors celebrating the darkest night of the year around a sacred fire while remembering the return of the light over the coming months.
While studying the world’s spiritual traditions in graduate school, I was surprised and de-lighted to discover the many common threads that weave themselves throughout all our faith traditions including those with our earth-honoring brothers and sisters. These sacred texts affirmed for me that no matter what path we are called to follow, we are all interconnected in the web of creation. We are indeed all One. May all beings know peace, may all beings know love. May it be so.
Mother, Father, God, Universal Power
Remind us daily of the sanctity of all life.
Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness
of all creation,
As we strive to respect all the living beings
on this planet.
Penetrate our souls with the beauty
of this earth,
As we attune ourselves to the rhythm
and flow of the seasons.
Awaken our minds with the knowledge to
achieve a world in perfect harmony
And grant us the wisdom to realize that we
can have heaven on earth.
-Jo Poore (Earth Prayers from Around the World)
How are you celebrating the light this season?