“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again’.” -Lewis Carroll
Frosty mornings here on the land. ©Amy Livingstone
Very chilly mornings have arrived here in North Carolina! Warm thoughts to those who are experiencing the deep polar vortex and pray for those vulnerable to the cold—human and more-than-human. I’m grateful for shelter and embrace the interiority of the season and the darkness as a time of reflection, inspiration, and creative visioning. May the beauty of the season be yours and inspire your own creativity in the spirit of joy, peace, and healing.
Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.
I feel blessed to be included in this anthology of essays around grief, healing, and transformation. It’s published by Heart2Heart, a local non-profit here in North Carolina that supports individuals, families and communities who are in the sacred passage of the dying time, and also those that are navigating grief through movement, massage therapy, and sacred music.
My contribution in this collection is titled: “The Healing Power of Art and Holy Listening” about my transformative journey through grief after the deaths of my brother and mother thirty years ago that led me to this path. There are many other inspirational stories that I look forward to reading as well. If you are looking for support or inspiration on your journey, it’s available on Kindle or in paperback here.
Art: “911: Love is the Answer”—2001, 2015, 2021
Evolution of a painting and our collective journey on this Day of Remembrance. September 11, 2001. It was the twelfth anniversary of my brother Richard’s death from AIDS, I was lighting candles in his memory when I heard of the terrorist attacks. Already in a place of mourning, I was stunned and bereft like most of us. However, it was during the Day of Remembrance three days later that I truly had an epiphany. I experienced a sense of love and oneness that I had never known before.
Much like the love that Paul speaks to in Romans to “love one another with mutual affection.” Christ’s message of love. The interfaith ceremony at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon, included speakers from all faith traditions—Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and our indigenous brothers and sisters. As the mystic and poet Rumi wrote: “The broken heart is the doorway to God.” It was extremely powerful and on my way home on the train I had a vision that became this painting.
What I remember in the days following the attacks was that love. The world came to a halt and people stepped away from their busy lives and began to question the meaning of life, to examine what was truly important. It wasn’t how much they had financially or materially, it was about family, friends, and love. Who would I call if I were on that plane? There seemed to be a new realization for the precariousness of our existence and a new reverence for life. People were kind to one another. This was the world I wanted to live in and prayed that this feeling of unity would last…
In my vision, I saw hands holding the earth emerging out of the smoke of the Twin Towers. My hands? White hands. However, over time, it hasn’t felt right with the growing awareness of racial injustice in our world. Years ago, I digitally added the red nails as an expression of the Divine Feminine which is being called forth during this evolutionary time.
And more recently, the 2021 version, I retouched the image with only the earth and heart in color. We are indeed interconnected in the web of live, may we unite in love for one another and for the living Earth. May it be so…
I send a breath of compassion to all those who are grieving for loved ones lost as a result of the September 11 attacks.
Art: “911: Love is the Answer” 24×36″, 2001. ©Amy Livingstone. I spoke at Eastminter Presbyterian in Portland on September 11, 2011 about this journey, you can watch the two-part videos (total of 20 minutes) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/SacredArtStudio/videos
“The future belongs to those who believe in beauty of their dreams.”
From my August newsletter:
Today (August 11) is the 20th Anniversary of my first art installation “A Journey of Healing & Hope: Honoring Loss and Celebrating Life” which was the culmination of a decades worth of paintings and sculptures that began in the wake of my brother’s death from AIDS in 1989 and the sudden death of my mother nine months later. Art saved my life as I have shared many times over the years. It’s why I believe so deeply in the power of art to heal our hearts and our world. It was a powerful evening for all who attended and being witnessed in my grief was profoundly healing. (See photos below.)
To celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering 20% off
everything at my online boutique. Use Coupon “ART20” at
checkout through August 31.
This event was also the launch for my working professionally as a visual artist and healer. Though I had been drawing and painting since my teens, completed undergraduate studies in Fine Art, discovered sculpture in my 30s, and had a wildly successful design business, I was 41 when I answered the call of my soul. It’s been an amazing 20 years and feel so blessed for this creative life journey. As a healer, I began offering “Healing HeARTS” circles for women in grief (based on the Dougy Center peer-support model where I’d been a volunteer working with grieving children for eight years) but those quickly morphed into ecological grief/art circles after a 10-day intensive in the Work That Reconnects with environmentalist Joanna Macy a year later.
It’s been a meaningful two decades and continue to follow the thread of my calling, completing graduate studies in Religion and Ethics in 2007, exhibiting my work, completing commissioned works, creating ecologically-based installations, writing, facilitating workshops, leading ceremonies, and presenting at conferences including the Parliament of the World’s Religions. All in service to the healing of Mother Earth, Pachamama, though as I write this, I am feeling the weight of the new data coming out about the climate crisis. Breathing into that and may we each continue to hold the light in these dark times with the gifts that are ours.
Though deeply loved I was not encouraged as a child to pursue a creative life, so it was against all odds that I have moved beyond the limitations of my ancestral heritage to follow my creative dreams. Don’t ever give up on your dream, friends! We all have a creative gift and the world needs it now more than ever.
Deep gratitude to all my friends, family, and supporters!
We need each other.
In solidarity and love,
“The Guardian” nearing completion.
Happy Earth Day!
From my April newsletter: Though if you have been following my work for sometime, you know that for me (and most of you, no doubt) every day is Earth Day! Bless our beautiful Mother—the source of all life. The vision for “The Guardian” came during my Covid experience in December that I have shared with you. Everyday I anxiously awaited the development of more extreme symptoms and was fearful for myself and my sister who was very ill. On Solstice, Dr Alberto Villoldo of the Four Winds Society was hosting an online celebration. As the Q’ero were preparing a Despacho as an offering to Mother Earth, Pachamama, they shared a message that Earthkeepers would be protected during these troubled times.
I took this to heart as my work and life for the previous 18 years has been dedicated to the healing of the Earth. I had taken Bodhisattva vows with Joanna Macy in 2002, traveled to Peru in 2006 to learn the earth-honoring ways of the Q’ero, and in 2014 during an Animas Valley soul quest, I reaffirmed my commitment to bring the Condor heart to the Eagle people of the North as foretold in the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor. There have been many times over the years when I have wanted to walk away from this path, as the ecological crises continue to mount, it can feel overwhelming.
But the message on Solstice was affirming. If make it through, I will continue to be a faithful witness to all that we are losing, to be a maker of beauty for all that remains and for a world yet come. To take action as called. Recently, I was invited to create art during a 350.org Triangle online event to Build Back Fossil Free. See below.
It was very moving and inspiring to hear of all the Great Work, to quote Thomas Berry, being done here in the North Carolina environmental communities. From ending regional pipelines, advocating for missing indigenous women, to regenerative agriculture.
There are so many ways we each can contribute to a more beautiful, ecological just world and know many of you that are already doing awesome work. I bow to you on this Earth Day. If you are called and unsure where you might offer your gifts, follow your grief, your heart, and that will guide the way. We are all Earthkeepers.
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.
“Sacred Art. Sacred Activism” in the August issue.
From the introduction:
We are living in a time of great change: racial, economic, and political polarities continue; climate change is contributing to record wildfires, drought, and other natural disasters across the globe; and mass shootings are sadly becoming normative to our daily lives.
There is much to grieve as we bear witness to our changing world. In tandem with what has been defined as the great unraveling, many of us are already participating in the birth of a new evolutionary consciousness as the Science of Mind community has long affirmed. Out of this darkness there is a collective rebirth yet to come with the light of love as our guide. As we navigate this threshold between a dying paradigm and a world that works for all, can art hold out a mirror to the truth of our oneness and the sacredness of all creation? Can art inspire hope and action on behalf of the living earth?
Throughout history, human beings have given expression to God, the Divine. Consider the cave paintings of Lascaux, the Hagia Sophia mosque in Turkey, or the golden icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. To quote the late Irish philosopher John O’Donohue: “God is Beauty.” Sacred art is born of the marriage between the Holy and the creative imagination.
The Science of Mind magazine is available at Barnes and Noble and by subscription. https://scienceofmind.com/
“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!
Rape of the Spirit, 2001, Bronze ©Amy Livingstone
It’s been over a month since my last communication. I hope this email finds you well and enjoying the beauty of Autumn and the lush colors that are abundant this year.
It has been an intense time for me with the sudden death of a good friend and the leader of my spiritual community, and my father’s final passage to the far shore a week ago today. It was hard to see him suffering at the end and am grateful to have been with him when he departed this realm. It was sacred time and naturally brought up memories of sitting by my late brother’s bedside 29 years ago as he lay dying from AIDS. Many of you know of my transformative journey through grief and if not, you can read about it here. My mother’s spirit (as were others) was present in my father’s tiny room over the last several weeks and am imagining them together again.
Art saved me back then and continues to be my saving grace and with so much suffering/violence in our world. The sculpture above “Rape of the Spirit” is one of many sculptures and paintings that emerged out of my own grief. It’s why I believe in the power of art to heal and may be offering some workshops again in the coming year if that is where I am called. Right now, I’m allowing time to grieve and listen for guidance around this next stage of life and work. Where there is an ending, a beginning or rebirth is inevitable and am trusting in that.
I need to be creating, so am slowly getting into the studio and am back to the mandala below. There are many paintings in process and will be sharing those in time. And if you’re starting to think about the holydays, consider purchasing sacred art prints, cards, or originals. I am experimenting with a line of sacred art items and will share more on that soon. Visit the shop here.
“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Reciprocity mandala inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.”
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