On Saturday, June 19th, a group of us in the Washington/Portland area met at a clear cut near Lake Merwin damn to honor Mother Earth and celebrate Beauty as part of the worldwide effort that was envisioned by Radical Joy for Hard Times. This is from their web site:
Radical Joy for Hard Times introduces a new, more intimate environmentalism for all citizens of the Earth. Together we go to wounded places to bear witness to what has happened, share the stories of our experience, discover beauty even in the midst of wound and waste, and create Acts of Beauty there.
Our local gathering was organized and facilitated by Judy Todd of NatureConnect Excursions and Julie Doll. Sacred space was created by prayer flags and silence as we walked into the clear cut area. Once there, with a stunning view of the valley, a drumming circle invited us in to being present to this holy land. With the discarded gun shells, the empty beer cans, the garbage, and the Beauty. During our time together we walked the land, sang together, shared our stories, drummed, read poetry, and made offerings to Mother Earth for her healing. We picked up trash (including a car fender) as you can see in the photo above. We bore witness to this wounded place and created radical Acts of Beauty. I was surprised to discover that although there had been violence perpetrated upon this hillside, there was life emerging amidst the ruins. The very smallest of creatures and wildflowers were finding there way back. This gave me hope. I brought this poem by Wendell Berry which always moves me to tears:
by 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.
the bee. Drone your way
from one fragrant
temple to another, nosing
into each alter. Drink
what’s divine —
and while you’re there,
let some of the sacred
cling to your limbs.
Where you go
leave a small trail
of its golden crumbs.
In your wake
the world unfolds
its rapture, the fruit
of its looming.
Rooms in your house
fill with that sweetness
your body both
makes and eats.
Spreading the Divine nectar of beauty on this eve of Summer Solstice. Gratitude to my friend, Eleanore, for sending this poem to me. Image from the Endangered Bee website.
When I met with Mary, she said “When I look at my mandala I want to feel JOY.” Gratitude for life right here, right now in this present moment. As a pagan, shamanic healer, and lover of trees, and with her roots in the Celtic tradition, the Tree of Life and the Triple Spiral called to me for the center of this mandala. The ancient Celts envisioned the cosmos in form of a great tree—the roots deep in the earth and branches stretched to the heavens. The Celtic Tree of Life is the symbol of balance between these worlds; the unification of above and below. Spirit and Earth. It is a sacred symbol of balance and harmony. Within the center and in the larger mandala, the night/dark/new moon and the day/light/sun represents the balance between the masculine and feminine which she is learning to balance through her recovery from cancer.
The number three, as in the shamrock and triple spiral, is significant for Mary, so the three half-circles surround the center mandala represent that number. Within these shapes lie a world of magical creatures that inhabit our world. Often they are too small to see at a passing glance, like a slug or lady bug, but when we slow down and come more fully into the present moment, we are able to appreciate the miracle of all living things and find joy and gratitude in the moment. The hummingbird, butterfly, and dragonfly are symbolic of transformation, beauty, and love. The red flowers are impatiens which are symbolic of “motherly love” which I discovered after being called to paint them when a hummingbird visited these flowers outside my studio door. Synchronicity, spirit guiding my hand. They are reflections of Mary—with her enormous love for your family, community, Mother Earth, and the women she supports in recovery.
The cat—and cougar who curled up with her in the sweat lodge—sleeps quietly as a reminder of her spirit guides. Finally, she spoke of the power of herbs and the importance of rosemary. Framing the mandala are sprigs of rosemary to guide and support Mary on her journey of healing and JOY!
I feel honored and great joy to create these personal, soul-symbol mandalas for others on their journey. When I am immersed in the process of creation, I feel the spirit of the Creator working through me and am enormously blessed to be a vessel in which to birth each of them into the world. For more information about soul-symbol mandalas, please contact me through my web site at www.sacredartstudio.net or call 503.239.9671.
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.