Blessings for the Human Animal

I’ve been reading David Abram’s delightful new book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, an exploration of our creaturely selves in relationship to the rest of the animate world and this morning I came upon this blessing poem by the late Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue. These two voices speak directly to my soul in relationship to my experience of the non-human world. I often feel more kindred with the trees, the elements, the four-leggeds, and the winged-ones than the two-legged variety. And likely why I’m drawn to the shamanic and indigenous tradition(s) from around the world. I recently heard Abram’s speak at Trinity Episcopal and he used the term “omnierotic” as a way to define a way of being in love with ALL the world that is beyond any duality associated with the feminine vs masculine dialectic. I find that fascinating and the concept is still gestating within me. Today, on Global Oneness Day, may we remember that we are also one with our non-human friends on this beautiful blue planet. That our fellow brothers and sisters of all species, including our own, need our compassion and protection. May we remember that we are indeed all interconnected in the web of life. May it be so.

To Learn from Animal Being
John O’Donohue

Nearer to the earth’s heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world
In a way we never will.

We who are ever
Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens:
Their seamless presence
Is not fractured thus.

Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.

May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth
Breathing with us.

May we enter
Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild.

Let the clear silence
Of our animal being
Cleanse our hearts
Of corrosive words.

May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
Might be baptized
In the name of the wind
And light and the rain.

From To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

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.

Film to inspire the world

I watched this documentary yesterday and it is a must see for anyone who believes that they have no power to change their circumstances and, on a larger scale, the world. After decades of civil war wherein systematic rape, unimaginable violence, and poverty permeated their lives, the women of Liberia (both Christian and Muslim) came together to stand for peace. It is heart-wrenching to bear witness to the suffering shown through interviews and archival footage and awe-inspiring to see these women not only end the civil war but get the first female head of state elected to an African country. I was both weeping and cheering by the end.

From the web site:
Thousands of women — ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim — came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war. Their actions were a critical element in bringing about a agreement during the stalled peace talks. A story of sacrifice, unity and transcendence, Pray the Devil Back to Hell honors the strength and perseverance of the women of Liberia. Inspiring, uplifting, and most of all motivating, it is a compelling testimony of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.

Their story gives new meaning to what Margaret Mead said: “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed citizens to change the world. Indeed, it has never been done otherwise.” The women of Liberia, the Suffragettes who fought to guarantee women the constitutional right to vote, Gandhi’s non-violent actions to end British colonialism, and or course, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Jesus’ message of love for all beings. Great moments in history that often took decades of committed citizens to alter the course of history. They were (extra)ordinary citizens who stood up and challenged the status quo and, tragically, many often paid the ultimate price with their own life. We are more powerful than we know. Lest not forget that especially now with all the political rhetoric saturating our airwaves during this election season. It is still business as usual for those in power but we the people, have the power to change our world. This film was a reminder to me of that. I don’t get political in my blog but I’m feeling passionate enough after seeing this film to speak out. I’d like to see our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and our sisters from all faith traditions join the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and storm Washington DC to stand up for the Earth and all her creatures. Demand from our leaders immediate legislation that would force corporations and individuals here and abroad to reduce carbon emissions and begin the move towards sustainable energy now. Global climate change is a reality and we have no time to lose. For love of the earth, and for our children and their children’s children…may it be so. and Four Years Go are also two grassroots organizations that are doing amazing work on the ground to make this transition happen. Get involved for the 10/10/10 work party with! Read an article on the difference between men and women on global climate change.