From Terry Tempest Williams’ book Leap: “Hieronymus Bosch put his finger on the wound. What is the wound? Our wound, separation from the Sacred, the pain of our isolation, may this be the open door that leads us to the table of restoration, may we sit around the table, may we break bread around the table, may we stand on top of the table, may we turn the the table over and dance, leap, leap for joy, all this in the gesture of conserving a painting, conserving a landscape, conserving a spirit, our own restored spirits once lost, now found, Paradise found, right here, on this beautiful blue planet called Earth.”
Leap is one of my favorite books by Williams. It is her personal journey through the landscape of this painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by the 15th c painter Hieronymus Bosch. There has been much speculation about this painting since that time which she explores throughout the book. However, being a naturalist and passionate advocate for the Earth, Williams’ interpretation is a tour de force that brings together faith, art, and history to awaken our senses to the beauty, to the sensuous world around us…that is present right here, right now. If you have read any of this blog you’ll know that this is also the heart of my life and work as an artist. Art in service to the Sacred, the healing of the earth. I have been so inspired by Bosch’s painting and Williams account of it, that I have been at work on my own version of “The Garden” in the form of a mandala at the center and two outer panels. It has been slow going as I listen to the call of the muses and the creatures who are asking to be included in this piece but I’ve had a breakthrough in the last couple of days and look forward to sharing what emerges.
I believe we all have a soul path that we are born to make manifest in this world. For me, as a young child I liked to draw and had a desire towards art before I knew what that meant. As a teen, I wanted to join the Peace Corp and be of service to others. Later, I studied sign language and wanted to teach deaf children. (None of these early aspirations were encouraged—as viable vocations—by my family of origin.) As a young adult, I found myself supporting friends, lovers, and co-workers through the vicissitudes of life, love, and often much drama. Recently, I have been reflecting on my near-death experience from appendicitis when I was sixteen. Had it not been for visiting family friends, who encouraged the emergency room, I may not be here today. We’ll never know for sure, but my appendix ruptured as I lay on the operating table. On an unconscious level, I believe that experience likely altered, or deepened, my orientation to life and purpose. Later, on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I was ravaged by the loss of my brother, mother, best friend. Family. After the initial descent into the dark night, my heart broke open to the world. I was reborn again in many ways. To compassion. It was a long journey home and by no means an easy one but I’m grateful for the wisdom that emerged out of that long transformative passageway. Ultimately, it opened a pathway to service offering AIDS education/outreach and later facilitating grieving children at the Dougy Center here in Portland. It also created space for me to emerge as a spiritual artist and to answer the call of Spirit to manifest beauty in the world.
I’m sharing my personal story here to illustrate what I believe to be a universal truth…that we each have a unique calling in life and to encourage others to listen deeply to that inner guidance, even when no one around you affirms it to be so. I remember a few voices from the past including my late brother Richard and others who often didn’t really ‘know’ me, strangers in fact, who reflected back to me my potential and what they saw ‘in me’ that was possible. It made all the difference and gave me confidence to follow the muse where ever she would lead me.
In 2002, Spirit guided me to environmentalist and Buddhist scholar, Joanna Macy. And to a ten-day despair and empowerment intensive that broke open my heart to the suffering and beauty of the world which was, in every way, a spiritual homecoming to my place in the web of life. At the close of our training, we were invited to speak aloud and declare these Bodhisattva vows for the healing of our world. These vows are what continue to guide me in life, in my work, and in my HEART. For love of the EARTH, Pachamama.
I vow to myself and to each of you:
To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my brothers and sisters of all species.
To support each other in our work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my hart, and supports me in observing these vows.
What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
We weep when light does not reach our hearts.
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
“Love is, in fact, an intensification of love, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life. We not live merely in order to vegetate through our days until we die. Nor do we live merely in order to take part in the routines of work and amusement that go on around us. We are not just machines that have to be cared for and driven carefully until they run down. In other words, life is not a straight horizontal line between two points, birth and death. Life curves upward to a peak of intensity, a high point of value and meaning, at which all its latent creative possibilities go into action and the person transcends himself or herself in encounter, response, and communion with another. It is for this that we came into the world–this communion and self-transcendence. And this must not be confined only to sexual fulfillment: it embraces everything in the human person–the capacity for self-giving, for sharing, for creativity, for mutual care, for spiritual concern.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone–we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love–either with another human person or with God.”
And I might add, falling in love with the earth! Out of love for the earth, may we walk lightly upon her and care for all her creatures. May it be so.
“Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras. Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. Prayer flags are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity to the flag planter and those in the vicinity.” To learn more go to: www.prayerflags.com
Gathering in circle to join our prayers for the healing our world through sacred art. Prayers were invoked for earth healing, for our animal brothers and sisters. Beauty. Unity. These photos were taken at the class held at my studio on Saturday. Coming together in circle to create sacred art is one of my greatest joys. Much gratitude to Sandy, Gretchen, Linda, Gary, Jon, and Jayna for their reverential and artful spirits. With a prayer for healing, my flags were hung this morning as seen at top. From left: Om, peace, love of the earth, inka cross, and beauty. May all beings know peace, may all beings be happy. For love of the EARTH!