Reading Kahlil Gibran of late and appreciated this from “The Prophet.” Too often we turn to prayer as a form of request when life is not going so well for us (like this past year!) but what if we saw prayer as a form of praise. For life. For beauty. For the gifts of the earth? I reclaimed the word prayer for myself many years ago through the sacred act of creating art. Silence, stillness, contemplation, the paintbrush gliding along the canvas, gratitude for the gift of life. I wrote about this some years ago at my blog: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/reverence-and-art-as-prayer/
From The Prophet:
You pray in your distress and in your need;
would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing. . . .
May all beings be fed. May all beings be loved. May all know peace Aho.
Artwork: “The Artist’s Prayer,” 24×18″, Acrylic. ©Amy Livingstone. Inspired by Medieval monks who painted sacred texts, this painting speaks to the creation of Beauty by the artist as a prayer book for peace. The Latin “Oratio ad sanitatem nostri mundi” translates as a prayer for the healing of our world. The quote above from Rumi: “Out beyond fields of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
I woke very early one morning recently to see this sweet fawn nestled against this large grass. With my 35mm and zoom lens, I was able to capture this precious moment. I am also now watching over three turtle nests, or clutches, here on the land. The turtles wandered up from the pond nearby and deposited their eggs within view of the kitchen where I now await their emergence next month. I pray over each one on my way to the studio and hope the little ones make it back to the pond. I feel blessed to have many of these magical moments with creatures of all kinds here.
As lonely as it can feel during this pandemic, I am grateful for the kinship and beauty with “the peace of wild things” to borrow from poet Wendell Berry. My beloved former home of Portland is under siege right now and sending my love and support to my community there who are involved in standing up for racial justice.
Is art a luxury during such a challenging and uncertain time? Some days you might wonder, but imagine this pandemic without the arts? Our creativity. No paintings, books, music, poetry, movies, videos, etc. And the amazing murals giving expresson to our time. I’m heartened by the way people, having been forced to slow down, are also now hearing the birdsong out their window and are being present to all the wonders of the natural world. That is hopeful in spite of the darkness right now. To quote Thoreau, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” And the soul, I would add.
What wonders are you seeing around you. Right now in this moment?
DOODLE OR DRAW YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD AROUND YOU.
From an early age, Nature was my muse. Though I’m working on several larger paintings pencil drawing which was my first medium is fun for me and a meditation. Here, the Luna Moth, a recent visitor to the studio. I invite you to join me for this practice in seeing, being present, and giving expression!
NEW PRINTS AND FREE SHIPPING
During this quarantine time, I have updated my website, YouTube channel (see a virtual tour of my studio here in NC) and my online shop with free shipping on giclee prints! There are so many new prints available now including canvas prints. Watch the video below to learn more.
SUPPORT THE MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OUR HEARTS KNOW IS POSSIBLE.
For love of the Earth!
Would you like to contribute to the vision for a communally-inspired painting as an offering of hope and healing for our world? If you have been following along on my journey, you probably are familiar with and share my deep concerns for our beloved Mother Earth. But I want to hear from you!
What being(s) in the more-than-human world do you love? Who would you grieve if that being is lost due to the ecological crisis including climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, ocean acidification, plastics? Perhaps a special place? Or a bird? A creature? Trees? Coffee beans? Bees? Salmon? Coral reefs? Respond to this email as soon as possible!
Let’s co-create this offering of beauty for the earth. I can see showing this when it is complete and having others contribute as well. More to come as this project evolves.
“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
I look forward to hearing from you! Namasté.
Divinity and the universe seem deeply biased in favor
of the future. Both celebrate emergence.
Call it: Resurrection. Call it: New Life or New Creation.
Call it: Evolution or Creativity. I believe in the future
and the possibilities of hope.
-Theologian Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality.
I discovered this quote after I completed “Resurrection” seen here above and it felt so appropriate to the vision behind this painting: Holy mother earth with the seed of life nestled in the heart of the web of life. Our current paradigm is cracking open. Transformation, symbolized by the monarch butterflies, is assured. To maintain life on earth, we need the return or “resurrection” of ancient ways of knowing associated with indigenous and ancestral wisdom, for living in harmony with the earth.
Fox’s message fills me with hope and possibility at a time of deep division and uncertainty in our country, in our world. Art has that power, too. Hope.
I’ve been researching options for people to collect my work in more affordable ways. Art blankets have been something I’ve considered for awhile. Popular in the visionary arts community, they’re great to take to any festival, camping, or to snuggle up with at home. Spread the beauty.
These soft and cozy blankets are woven with 100% cotton. 60% of which is recycled cotton. Made in the USA. $85 plus shipping. (If you’re in the Portland area, I could arrange for delivery.) I’m taking pre-orders here.
I’m also thrilled to share with you that Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass loved the Reciprocity Mandala. She wrote:
“I have to tell you that I just cried when I saw your painting. I feel my dear ones from Braiding Sweetgrass, so very much alive here, so loved. It is so whole. The love and the grief…the glimpse of salamanders, the radiance of goldenrod and asters….This is really magnificent and I am so touched by your creation. This is our work, together-to reciprocate the beauty of the world with beauty of our own. I am so grateful.”
I’m so deeply touched. And in spite of all the uncertainty, I am also grateful. For life, for spirit. For the beauty of our world. Where are you creating beauty today?
From my November Newsletter:
In our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop
upon the heart
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
through the awful
grace of God.
I first discovered this quote from the Greek tragedian Aeschylus while doing research in graduate school a decade ago. Robert Kennedy had recited this to a crowd during a campaign stop upon hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Kennedy was speaking to a grieving nation and it also resonated deeply with my own grief journey after the deaths of my brother and mother 25 years ago.
If we don’t turn away and numb the pain, those profound moments of loss that we all experience have the power to break open our hearts and to remind us of that which is most essential. Love, family (biological or chosen), health, community…a peaceful, sustainable, and just world. And for me, beauty and art of course.
Today, in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the abhorrent backlash against those of the Islamic faith, most of whom likewise desire a safe home, food on the table, and a peaceful world, may we have the wisdom to recognize that we are one human family.
I continue to be inspired by my experience at the Parliament of World Religions last month with so many inspiring visionaries from all faith traditions. A Sikh woman, Valerie Kaur, spoke of Revolutionary Love. I’m attaching the video link here and hope that you will be equally as inspired by her message.
Like many of you, I feel deeply the heaviness of our world but give thanks for this precious gift of life in all its complexities and possibilities. Thank you for your support and as always, I welcome your thoughts.
A blessed Thanksgiving to all.
In gratitude and love,
For a New Beginning
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
From my January Newsletter
New Year Greetings:
I hope this note finds each of you well in spirit and in health; invigorated by what O’Donohue calls “the grace of beginning;” of what is yet to be as we enter the new year. Aren’t we often ripe with expectation during these first weeks of January when we contemplate what may unfurl in our lives? We plan. We set intentions. We resolve to do, and to be, the best we can. I often feel like I’m at the starting gate ready to run a race and remind myself that life isn’t a marathon but an unfoldment of each moment, each day, each year. As we walk the path, the journey unfolds before us. This is a lovely reminder from the late Henri Nouwen:
We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.
This can be a daily spiritual practice around gratitude given that life does throw obstacles on our journey and we live in a culture driven by fear. An acupuncturist once shared with me that fear and excitement embody the same level of energy but that ‘fear is excitement without the breath.’ Have you noticed that? In fear, we tend to hold the breath. So, when I begin to feel anxious about the future, the economy, climate change, or any of the myriad crises facing life on planet earth at this time, I stop and remember to breathe in and breathe out. Then I take the next step and continue to walk this path of art, beauty, and service.
The wonder is this: that, as we walk it, the path becomes clear. We have only to trust it into action, then truth reveals itself, shining all the brighter for the darkness of our time. -Joanna Macy
In the studio, I have been continuing with the “Where I Stand is Holy” series (see previous posts) but this sweet little painting, “Andean Dreams,” (above) wanted to be born through me and is inspired once again by my Peru pilgrimage. It’s no accident that hummingbird (Kinti) appeared again in my work as he is a potent symbol for holding our core in stillness amidst the busyness of contemporary life. There is also an urgency in our work on behalf of the living earth and all her creatures. I feel this and know many of you do as well but if we don’t take time for silence and stillness, burnout is inevitable. Breathing in and out? In the Andes, hummingbird is also a symbol of resurrection. New beginnings. Like this moment, this day, this new year. All pregnant with new possibility. What is calling to be born through you?
For love of the EARTH!
My soul has been reluctant to let go of the slow rhythm and interiority of the dark winter days yet it is impossible to deny that spring has indeed arrived early in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike the copious amounts of snow that our brothers and sisters on the East coast have endured, our winter weather has been very mild. Blooming earlier than normal, I took these Cherry Tree photos in the cemetery today near my home/studio where I walk almost daily. They are so gorgeous and with the abundant birdsong, I was overwhelmed by the awe and wonder of creation. Over the years, I have come to know this cemetery well (new arrivals or new statues, headstones, flowers, and landscaping) as I walk among the remains of those who have gone before us, often prematurely. People sometimes find it odd that I walk amidst the dead, but for me it is a reminder of the fragility of life which encourages me to appreciate life more fully, to follow my soul’s calling both creatively and spiritually, and to not take this brief time I/we have on this beautiful planet for granted. Sadly, we need look no further than Haiti and Chile to remember that truth. On a personal level, I’ve written about my own losses here so this isn’t new territory but at times—especially during this epoch period of transformation and suffering for so many around the globe—it can be easy to slip into fear of the unknown or the future, so these walking meditations are a way for me to practice being more present to life, beauty, love, and gratitude. What brings you more fully alive? Feel free to share your thoughts or feelings around this.
I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.
Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that’s wide and timeless.
So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.
–Rainer Maire Rilke
Translation Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
It has been another month since my last post here. I am just now getting psychically grounded after I was rear-ended at a traffic light on the 26th of last month. Like most of us, I was simply going about my life. In this particular case, I was heading to the market for a loaf of bread to go with my mother’s ‘famous’ spaghetti which had been simmering all afternoon in preparation for dinner with a dear friend that evening. It was raining and dark, but I was was feeling very alive and joyous, singing, when my car was suddenly struck with great force from behind. I have been in a few small fender benders in my life, but for some reason this particular accident struck a deep cord in me. The accident literally stopped me in my tracks and I have been sitting with the notion of impermanence more attentively these days. I have been a student of Buddhism for many years, both in my meditation practice and as a framework in which to encounter life. Certainly the teachings around suffering—the First Noble Truth being that suffering exists—offered me great insight and comfort when I was in a very dark night of the soul twenty years ago after the deaths of my mother and brother (among others at the time). But it has been twenty years since I have experienced the death of someone close to me except several of my beloved four-leggeds. Like all of us, I have had my share of disappointments—loss of friendships and lovers, but no physical deaths close to my heart. I seem overdue somehow. On a smaller scale however, my accident—which totaled my car and left me with some neck injuries—was also another reminder for me of my mortality and how quickly life changes. Change. Impermanence. The cycle of life, like the cycles of nature. I wonder, do we need these traumas, small and large, in order to remember how precious every moment is when we get too complacent about life? I believe there is some truth to this (and wrote about this in my master’s thesis) because these experiences often bring us more fully into the present moment and closer to Spirit, or God. “The wailing of the broken heart is the doorway to God.” —Rumi (Trans: Coleman Barks). Last night, we held a sweat lodge ceremony at my spiritual community for one of our members who is journeying through a dark night of the soul after a series of familial deaths. There amidst the darkness, in the womb of Mother Earth, we each spoke of our grief and loss—both recent and distant—as well as the darkness that comes before the light and the gifts that grow out of our suffering (however long that process takes). We remember that we are grieving because we dared to love so much. It was beautiful, healing, and an honor to bear witness to the deep sharing from the heart.
Over the past two decades, I have worked to not take life for granted, to see the beauty everyday even amidst the grief at times, and acknowledge that death is an inevitable fact of life. As a result, I ask myself often: “What it is that I am here to do, to be?” But life, as it will, happens and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in busyness or fear especially now with a deep recession and our world in the midst of change. My accident forced me to slow down, stop, and so I am asking the question again and realize that I have been attempting to do too much. I believe we all have many gifts, but also that there is one gift that we are here to serve, to bring to the world. “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” —Buddha. And in answering the question for me, art is always at the forefront of this conversation. How can art and beauty be a vehicle for healing ourselves and our world. I quote this often but feel it bears repeating many many times! “How do we find beauty in a broken world? By creating beauty in the world we find.” —Terry Tempest Williams
So, it is with humble gratitude that I allow myself to be a messenger for spirit to work through me in order that I might create art/beauty that moves the heart. I don’t normally show my work until it is complete but several people have asked me about my process lately, so I wanted to post these photos from my studio. The teal Buddha is complete as you can see on my web site and waiting for its owner to take possession. Inspired by my process in creating the Buddha, the feminine face of the Buddhist tradition asked to be revealed as well, so Kuan Yin or the Goddess of Compassion (She Who Hears the Cries of the World) called out to me. I am answering that call. In closing, from Spiritual Artist, Alex Grey’s book, Art Psalms.
Life is always lived at risk.
We may grow complacent
And not realize it.
We may not smell the fresh sweat
Of anxiety or excitement,
But what are we breathing for?
Touch the nerve of passion
And live for greatness.
Fear of failure stops many,
But Death stops everyone.
So love without restraint,
Create the New,
Follow the courage of your highest dreams.
Fate favors your daring.
Risk surrendering to Love,
And gain your Soul.