“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” -Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge.
This painting came through me very quickly on one hand just prior to my move but I have long been drawn to the tragic story of the Passenger Pigeon. With a population between 3-5 billion, it was the most abundant bird in North America. Flocks would darken the sky for days as they flew overhead. Yet human exploitation drove this species to extinction over the course of a few decades. “Martha” the last Passenger Pigeon died in 1914. Originating in Scotland, the cairn or stacked stones, implies a funereal monument and in the lower left corner, the extinction symbol. Created by a London artist Xylo: “The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species” during what is now being defined in our time as the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species.
The demise of the Passenger Pigeon is also an urgent message around our own vulnerability in the face of ecological degradation including climate change. “How might we act with restraint” to quote Williams? And how do we navigate these changing times? And with grace?
While speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in November, indigenous elder Jim Dumont, of the Anishinabeck Nation, encouraged us to “Speak for the plants. Speak for the creation. Speak to the conscience of those who are destroying them.” This was affirming of my work and deeply moving. I wept. Art plays an important role not only in communicating a message/vision but, as most of you know, the process itself offers healing and a spiritual practice for resilience during troubled times. Even something as simple as coloring, drumming, planting flowers, or the latest ZenTangle can have enormous benefits for your well being and stress level.
I am settling into the new home and studio here in the Panther Branch Township (in Raleigh NC) and will share more next month. You can always check out Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates between newsletters. As always, I welcome your thoughts.
For love of the EARTH!
Challenging Hate Speech and Violence panel. From left: Shariff Abdullah
(Commonway Institute), Sat Hanuman Singh Khalsa (Sikh), Harris Zafar (Muslim),
Joanie Levine (Compassionate Listening/NVC), and Rev. David Alexander
(New Thought Center for Spiritual Living).
An inspiring day on Sunday (re)connecting with people from all faith traditions and activists working for social and ecological justice. It was one year ago that many of us gathered in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of World Religions and am feeling re-energized from being present for this gathering. Also honored to have my painting “All Nations Tree of Life” grace the cover of the program and share my work with this community. The three panel discussions were around Climate Change (forgot to take a photo!), Indigenous Wisdom, and Challenging Hate Speech and Violence–all interrelated with the urgent call to shift collective consciousness from separation to unity/harmony. The day was closed with music and of course, dance. Bow of gratitude to all the presenters and organizers for this special event. For love of the earth and all beings.
Peace. Salam. Shalom.
From my September newsletter:
“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us-like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness-that ‘out there’ is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of [wo]men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.” -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
I love this from Ed Abbey and discovered it while reading his book over the summer during the final stages of “Sext: Prayer for the Desert” shown here.* Seems appropriate given the intention for this painting and the entire “Where We Stand is Holy” series. It has been quite a journey with this piece as I changed course a few times around what beings to include in the border. These texts by Meloy, Williams, and Abbey were inspirations for understanding the sensuousness of the desert landscape, not having spent much time there myself except Sedona briefly and New Mexico many years ago.
I definitely felt the holiness of these landscapes in the American Southwest and there is a long history from all our spiritual traditions of those who have undertaken a pilgrimage to the desert to seek out God, the numinous, or something “wholly other” to quote German theologian Rudolf Otto. Consider Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad from the Abrahamic traditions. Exodus 3:5: Yahweh to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
In this painting, sego lily and cherry (Utah state flower and fruit), globemallow, and phlox are woven throughout with the creatures: raven, black-chinned hummingbird, collared lizard, desert tortoise, sage-grouse, prairie dog, not to mention the scorpion, honey bees, praying mantis, butterflies, and ants. All this beauty is under siege by oil/gas corporations who want to exploit this sacred landscape. This painting is a prayer but also feels like an elegy to me for that which we are losing. To learn more, visit Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
I also believe in the words of author and activist Alice Walker that “Anything We Love Can Be Saved.” If you read this and follow my work, you are a lover of mother earth and together I believe our love (and actions) can heal our world.
After taking a sabbatical last month, I’m pleased to share that my neck issues seem to have improved with physical therapy, yoga, stretching, and chiropractic care. This time has given me a new awareness of how fragile the inner landscape of our beings truly are. Taking breaks often from the technology is essential to our wellness. So, let’s take a break and go for a walk now…
For love of the earth,
*Sext, or Sixth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said at noon. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the sixth hour of the day after dawn.
I haven’t disappeared my friends but after five months of events, I am back in the studio working. This summer, my intention is to get as far as I can on completing the “Where We Stand is Holy” series that began with “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.” Shown here are details from “Sext: Prayer for the Desert.” Desert Tortoise, Sage Grouse, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. There are efforts to list the Sage Grouse as endangered species but much resistance from the oil/gas lobbyists as it would impact exploration and extraction in the SW.
“Sext: Prayer for the Desert” is nearly complete. I am also in various stages with Vespers (water) and Compline (mammals). These paintings inspired by illuminated manuscripts shine a light on endangered species as well as the beauty of those wild places under siege by oil/gas extraction, plastics in the ocean, and climate change. I’m envisioning these panels to be part of larger installation and will share more as that develops. In the meantime, I am offering limited-edition art prints with a percentage of your purchase benefiting organizations working to protect our creatures and wild places. Shop here: http://sacredartstudio.net/product-category/prints/
It was a very meaningful for me to be at Portland Community College during Earth Week where I brought my art installation “Momento Mori: Our Oceans in Crisis”. I had some powerful conversations with a diverse group of people from all over the world and dedicated our mandala to the people of Micronesia. One student, a kindhearted man from these small islands in the Western Pacific Ocean shared with me: “I am a climate refugee. My people are leaving their homeland to relocate to Australia and other countries due to rising sea levels and contaminated food sources from oil spills from tankers.” He was very grateful for my message as he feels that the world has not acknowledged them. He put a very real face to the climate crisis.
Many of the young students also gave me hope. After viewing my exhibit, a young woman shared with me that she felt sad. When I asked how she processes her sorrow around ecological issues, she said she goes to the beach and picks up other people’s garbage. Action is indeed the antidote to despair.
I put together a list of suggestions of what each of us can do on a daily basis to make a difference including self care and ways to get involved. You can view that here: What You Can Do Flyer
You can learn more about the nature mandala ceremony here.
For love of the EARTH!
Memento Mori is the Medieval Latin theory and practice of reflection on mortality.
This installation creates space to make visible what is invisible. To question: What are we willing to “see” and acknowledge? Do we veil ourselves to mask feelings of despair around the truth of a changing world including climate change and species extinction? Do we have the courage to bear witness to the beauty of our world, to break open our hearts for what we are losing, and be inspired to take actions to protect life on earth?
Much of what is now threatened by the ecological crisis isn’t visible to the human eye such as plankton, microscopic organisms that float on the surface of our oceans. Plankton comes from the Greek planktos meaning wandering or drifting. The neon-colored phytoplankton are responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere. As well as being vital to climate control, phytoplankton produces as much oxygen as all the forests and terrestrial plants combined. However, some scientists argue that we have lost 40% over the past 60 years. What now? New research also illustrates the staggering amount of plastic being ingested by zooplankton, the foundation of our marine food chain. On average, we are losing 200 species per day.
Our grief is born of love and by allowing ourselves to feel our despair, we also discover gratitude for the miracle of life. With this exhibit, we are able to “see” that our very existence is intricately linked to the health of plankton and our oceans, both of which are currently under stress from our current way of life. Seeing the fragile beauty of these organisms, we recognize our innate interconnectedness in the web of life and respond with actions to slow the damage.
There is hope. I believe we each have the power to make a difference in our day-to-day lives—economically, politically, and in our consumer choices. I also believe in the power of human creativity and that each one of us has a gift to offer our world in service to other beings and to the earth. I invite you to find that one thing that breaks open your heart and that inspires you to, in the word of Gandhi, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Profound gratitude to Christian Sardet and The Macronauts, Plankton Chronicles project for permission to use their photography for this project. planktonchronicles.org
It was an inspiring weekend at the Climate Arts evening and Earth Care Summit as the Interfaith community gathered to celebrate the arts in breaking open our hearts to the beauty of our world and to honor Mother Earth last month. Poet Kim Stafford, son of the late Oregon poet William Stafford, shown below gave a very moving presentation that included stories of his life and his poetry.
We had a nice conversation during which I was able to share with him the painting, The Translator, inspired by one of his father’s poem Walking the Borders. He was very enthusiastic and supportive of my work and am touched by his generosity of spirit.
The amazing cellist, folksinger, and fellow artivist Anna Fritz also led us in songs that touched our hearts. Especially moving was her last song, Into the Fire, that tapped into our grief around the damage being perpetuated against the earth and the necessity to find joy where we can. You can listen and purchase music at her website.
Take this heaviness from my heart.
Throw it into the fire.
Let me learn to be joyful.
Lift my soul up higher.
Overall a beautiful evening and inspiring weekend that gave me hope. Dr. Randy Woodley, a Keetoowah Cherokee and professor at George Fox University, gave the keynote shown here about indigenous world view versus our Western, post-Englightenment orientation to the natural world. And after attending numerous City Council meetings over the past year or so, it was fun to meet Mayor Charlie Hales. Here, he is speaking with Muslim eco-activist Nana Firman. Attended her break-out session that was very informative, sharing passages from the holy Quran that address care for all creation.
Gratitude to Oregon Interfaith Power & Light and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon for organizing this yearly event and University of Portland for hosting.
Greetings Earth Lovers
I am excited to share the completed “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds” from the “Where I Stand is Holy” series with you. If you have been following along, you know this has been quite a journey. The original vision emerged after my return from an Animas Institute quest last summer. I connected deeply to that landscape and was reminded of this commandment to Moses from the Torah: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, we are standing on holy ground. On our last evening together, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and chanted a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge (changing sit to stand).
Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.
(Repeat several times)
This mantra guided the creation of this piece inspired by illuminated manuscripts that included ornate borders with flowers, bugs, and creatures of all sizes and imagined monks in ancient times as I painted each tiny leaf. The 11 varieties of birds that I chose through my research are just a small sample of the 314 North American birds threatened by climate change. According to the Audubon Society, 314 of the 588 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080. (Learn more here). With temperature changes, acidification of our oceans, and loss of habitat and food sources, their survival is precarious.
American Three-toed Woodpecker
How do we be with this beauty and our sorrow? As I learned from my own transformative journey through grief 25 years ago, it is important and necessary to allow the feelings and to allow our hearts to break open, as painful as it can be. It is natural to grieve what we love(d) and who among us doesn’t love our birds? “Beauty is what opens our eyes to love. Love ignites passion and passion is what propels us toward the future wrought with risk and uncertainty.” -Terry Tempest Williams
With the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment and urgent call for creation care, my work (and many others) over the past decade feels affirming and am grateful for his vision and leadership on the most critical issue of our time.
In the Catholic tradition, Lauds is the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, so I chose morning glories and songbirds to symbolize this time of the day as the sun rises in the background. Three other panels for Sext (noon), Vespers (evening), and Compline (night) are all part of this vision and will also give expression to our endangered species. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter, too.
For love of the birds.
This is a small piece (12×12″) as yet untitled that I have been working on over the past week or so. Shown here in its progression. A sweet morning meditation as I continue work on the larger scale series “Where I Stand is Holy” that shines a light on species threatened by climate change. People often ask me how I create my decorative borders. As you can see here, I work out the design on a tissue paper and create the pattern that I will then replicate around the edges. Symbols of transformation continue to appear in my life but this is also representative of our larger collective evolution at this time in our earth’s history.
“Whosoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water–that offering of love, of pure heart, I accept” -Bhagavad-Gita.
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!
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.