The Courage to Love

Hope Mandala: 2015, 24x24", Acrylic (Commission)
“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.

-Wendell Berry

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,

Amy

Economics of Happiness Conference

EconofHappiness Mandala start

Mandala 2

EconOfHappiness_FinalMandala

Reading

sweeping

I had the joy of bringing the Nature Mandala Ceremony to the Economics of Happiness Conference two weeks ago. It was an inspiring weekend of visionaries working together to envision and co-create a new way of being in relationship with each other and the earth. Radical localization on a global scale. Learn more at Local Futures. Local Futures is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide. I received this affirmation of the ceremony from the program director and conference coordinator:

“It was such a pleasure to watch the mandala emerge over the weekend as the participants worked on it little by little. It had a unifying and creative power that was truly unique and added another layer of connectedness that we haven’t had at previous conferences. We’re very grateful to you for that and it has inspired us to include similar elements at future gatherings.” Kristen Steele, Associate Programs Director, Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture

Still so much to process but honored to contribute my art and beauty making to the gathering. Bow of gratitude to all who co-created this gorgeous offering of beauty in remembrance of our interconnectedness in the web of creation and our solidarity in serving our world. I dedicated our mandala to the ancestors whose presence was invoked all weekend and to the future beings who will benefit from the vision put forward by all who presented and attended. I closed with this poem from Wendell Berry before sweeping up the mandala. For love of the earth!

A Vision

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.

View from the Studio

I love the early autumn mornings when there is a nip in the air but it is still warm enough to have the studio door open and hear the profusion of birdsong. Spider webs linger about on the hydrangeas and the sun drenches the garden as it begins to fade back in preparation for winter. My cat, Henri, holding vigil by my side. At these moments, in the words of the poet Wendell Berry, “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Here, you can see the edge of one of my current paintings…a very large “Creation” mandala. Early stages. Trusting while wrestling with the muses. A state of blessed unrest, perhaps?

One of my favorite quotes, and one I have framed in my studio, from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille. For all artists out there who are following their vision and working (sometimes struggling) to bring that to the world. Keep the channel open!

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

Crisis and Opportunity


Like so many of us, I am completely bereft at the environmental crisis unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. I sob watching the news or while listening to radio commentators pontificate endlessly on who is responsible for this? Yes, BP and ultimately, greed, are responsible. But I also ask myself, aren’t we all responsible on some level? With the world’s desperate need for more and more oil to maintain lifestyles that are not sustainable, I wonder what is the price we are willing to pay for that? How many species will we need to lose before we (in developed countries) radically alter our way of life? Listening to those around me, I hear anger, frustration, grief, despair, and hopelessness. Some are praying. Others turn away. It’s too much to bear. I’ve written much here about the importance of bearing witness but at times like this it can be difficult. I wonder daily if this will be the collective wake-up call humanity requires in order to shift our allegiance, and addiction, to fossil fuels and move more quickly towards sustainable energy. I hope. I pray, too. I simplify.

One way that I am working to reduce my fossil fuel footprint is to limit buying vegetables that are grown (most often with pesticides) and shipped from other parts of the world such as Mexico and South America. For years I have only bought organic, but over the past winter I purchased my vegetables locally or within one state away whenever possible which reduces the amount of petroleum necessary for shipping long distances. Okay, an occasional cucumber slipped by, but for the most part I was consistently checking labels as to where my food was coming from. Here in Portland, we have thriving farmer’s markets throughout the city and many of us are now growing our own food which is great. And there is often a friend or neighbor with extra to share and fresh eggs, too! For me, the choice to be mindful around my food source has also been an opportunity to expand my creativity into the kitchen. Instead of tasteless tomatoes shipped from Mexico, I use other ingredients with salad greens which expands my culinary repertoire while attempting in some small way to lessen my footprint on this beautiful Earth. To quote artist Lily Yeh: “To live your values is political.” (Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams) The food also tastes better and what a wonderful opportunity to bring more creativity into our daily lives. Food growing and creation is truly an art form. This year I am expanding my vegetable garden and am excited to see what delights I can create out of this richness. I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which has quickly become a sacred text for me. It is her families account of how for one year they only ate what they could grow or buy from local farmers. It’s very inspiring as well as educational about the food industry, farming, and growing. (Food, Inc. is a documentary worth viewing as well.) The book includes recipes and Kingsolver writes with great humor and insight. Well worth reading if you haven’t checked it out!

In the meantime, life goes on for the rest of us who aren’t immediately affected (not yet anyhow) by the crisis unlike the residents along the Gulf. My heart goes out to the many communities whose lives depend on the waters and her creatures for their livelihood and survival. Many years ago as a young adult, I lived on the coast of Florida. It’s pristine sandy white beaches, aquamarine waters, dolphins, and stunning sunsets were all part of the landscape in which I walked, worked, loved, and played. It was a magical time, in a magical land. May it be saved and preserved for future generations. Pray it may be so. Aho!

The Peace of Wild Things
— Wendell Berry

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.

Imbolc and St Brigid Day


It’s February 1st 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 First 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 on February 2, 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.