Yggdrasil Tree of Life
Unveiling “Yggdrasil Tree of Life.” For the beauty and mythic narratives of our ancestors who also lived through times of profound uncertainty. May we rise to the challenges of our time with courage, faith, and an open heart. This is long but wanted to share the meaning behind this complex cosmology. What do you see?
My intention was to research the cosmology and mythology of my Swedish ancestors. I wonder if my grandmother Gerda heard about this as a fairytale when she was a child? This work continues with my vision to draw out the pre-Christian, indigenous roots (earth-based spirituality) within our own lineage or faith traditions in order to remember and reconnect to our interconnectedness in the web of life. Our separation from Nature has contributed to the multiple crises we are currently experiencing including the climate crisis and the global pandemic.
I began with the colors of the Swedish and Sami, the indigenous peoples of Scandinavia, flags. The border colors represent the former—blue and yellow. Around the border, the ancient Rune language. The inner ring symbolizes the Sami flag with red (fire), blue (water), yellow (air), and green (earth). And the flowers are similar to those used in their clothing and textiles.
In the Norse cosmology, Yggdrasil is an Ash Tree that forever remains green. It is the holy place of the gods. Because Odin is associated with the tree, his ravens hold the space surrounding the mandala or medicine wheel. The goddess Freya’s cats hold court on either side of Yggdrasil. Three roots of the tree hold it up and stretch out widely. There are nine realms that include humans, gods, giants and fairies.
Ratatosk, is the squirrel, who delivers messages along the rainbow bridge from the eagle above to Nidhogg, the dragon, below. Four stags—Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór—gnaw on the buds of the tree. The swans represent the well of Urd where the Norns reside and who were a group (in some sources), a trio of very wise female entities whose magical abilities were unmatched by those of any other being. The shamans and wise women of Yggdrasil!
New Year. New Decade. New beginnings. Holding this as I navigate darker feelings than usual around the state of our world, and Mother Earth. The fires in Australia. The loss of species. I know we’re all feeling the intensity of these troubled times. Art and beauty save me daily but it’s been a struggle. How about you?
“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
It has been a slow unfolding here since my last newsletter. Settling into my new home and studio here in Panther Branch Township just south of downtown Raleigh. It’s now six months since I pulled out of Portland and headed back East to begin a new chapter of life. Something I swore I would never do after moving alone to Portland in 1993. It was hard then and I was in my early 30s. It took time to make a life but a beautiful life it was and remain so grateful for all the many gifts over the years.
Never say never. Here I am approaching 60 and starting over again! Natural concerns about finding community, making meaningful connections, and making a living linger but life–and loss–have taught me too many times that everyday is a gift. Some days I am lonely but on this day of life, I am following my soul. Where it will lead remains a mystery. This is the journey of a pilgrim. Will you join me? “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life” to quote Oliver. Where are you being called to expand and take a step toward your soul calling? Artistically or otherwise?
Right now, I am committed to finishing the “Where We Stand is Holy” installation by the end of August to begin exhibiting in the Fall. I began the series of paintings around endangered species and landscapes several years ago but got put aside while care taking my father prior to his death and with the cross-country move. Prints of the first two panels (Lauds: Prayer for the Birds and “Sext: Prayer for the Desert”) are available at my shop.
The new studio seen above looks out over a quiet piece of land with wild trees, a little pond, and an abundance of Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds. I traveled 3000 miles to find peace. Om shanti. Though I do look forward to returning to Portland to visit friends!
For love of the EARTH,
“Humanity stands at a crossroads between horror and hope. In choosing hope, we must seed a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to life drawing its inspiration from perennial spiritual and moral insights, intuition and experience. We call this new awareness Interspiritual. . . the recovering of the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.” -Wayne Teasdale, “The Mystic Heart”
Created specifically for the Mile Hi exhibit, the “Unity Consciousness” mandala is inspired by the Science of Mind teachings of Ernest Holmes and his notion of the “Golden Thread of Truth” that recognizes that thread of connection between all our spiritual traditions. No matter what faith we choose or inherit, including science, we are all interconnected in the web of life. We are one with God, with the Other, and with all Creation symbolized by the cycles of the season. Colorado state animals shown here were my spirit guides during painting sessions. Learn more about Science of Mind here: https://tinyurl.com/y75x7udl
If you are in the Denver area, the show is up through the summer and closes on September 30. I will be on site June 24th and Septhember 30th from 8:30-2pm for the artist meet and greet.
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 December newsletter:
Happy Solstice & Holydays
To those of us in the Northern Hemisphere today marks the beginning of winter. My/our Celtic and Scandinavian ancestors had rituals to welcome the return of the light during this darkest of days. And it’s no coincidence that Hanukkah and Christmas fall around the Winter Solstice both of which celebrate the light. In the Jewish faith, it was a vessel of oil that was meant to burn for one day, and lasted for eight, symbolized by the lighting of the menorah. And for those of the Christian faith, a little bundle of hope born into a time of darkness.
I was pulling runes, a Nordic divination system, when working on the mandala below. When drawing ISA (I) the guidance is to stop and go within. It announces a time of restoration and renewal at the deepest level. I’m entering this space as we approach the year’s end and embracing the stillness after two Christmas seasons in the hospital with my father, who departed this realm last month.
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.”
“Hope Mandala” (Soul Symbol Mandala Commission) ©Amy Livingstone
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
From my November Newsletter:
Like many of you, I have been feeling despair since the results of the election. We have entered another dark period in our human history where rhetoric meant to divide us is being fueled by fear. Fear of the other and fear of our future. Our fragile planet is also now ever more threatened by new leadership that denies the science of climate change. My heartaches for our beautiful mother earth and all her creatures, including we two-leggeds.
I believe it is necessary to allow time to mourn and then we need to move towards action, and soon. Love must trump hate. For love of all beings regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. For love of the earth and for love of country. During the recent Parliament of World Religions NW event, I spoke with Harris Zafar of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I asked him: “How can we support our Muslim brothers and sisters if we have a Trump presidency?” His response was that we all need to have the courage to stand up and speak out. To overcome fear and stand together as one. And I am grateful that we are beginning to see this coming together in community to listen and to dialogue, to co-create what Martin Luther King envisioned as the Beloved Community. Love.
And I also believe we must continue to bring forward all our creativity in service not only to our own hearts but for our world. If you don’t already have a practice of creative expression, I encourage you to explore different mediums: drawing, coloring, collaging, painting, writing, journalling, or dancing. Art, poetry, and beauty save me daily and know the power of art to heal. Let me know what practices are supporting you during this time of change. I will continue with the mission of Sacred Art Studio in spreading the message of our interconnectedness and love for the earth and all beings–human and otherwise. I am grateful for your support and am offering 50% off my sculptures.
A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all those here in the states.
In gratitude and love,
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
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.