“The forest is far more than a source of timber. It is our collective medicine cabinet. It is our lungs. It is the regulatory system for our climate and our oceans. It is the mantle of our planet. It is the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren. It is our sacred home. It is our salvation.” ― Diana Beresford-Kroeger, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest.
“Rilke’s Angel” 24×36″, 2022. Acrylic on Canvas
“lord god Bird: Elegy for Ivory-billed Woodpecker.” 12×36″, 2022. Acrylic and Jewels on Canvas.
From my September Newsletter:
I hope this message finds you well and perhaps welcoming in cooler temperatures though I know the West coast is still battling wildfires. Prayers up to all beings including those of the more-than-human world who are impacted.
I was able to complete these two paintings recently. It’s surprising how physical painting truly is, at least for myself as I prefer standing at my easel. So going back and forth between the palette and canvas, then stepping back to view your work, takes stamina. My knee has healed considerably so am able to work with minimal pain. Unfortunately, one of the wires is now protruding and I’m heading into another, albeit easier, surgery for their removal. I’m looking forward to having this completed so I can get back to strength training and a full recovery! If you missed the news about my fractured patella, read about that here.
Both of these paintings give expression to my sorrow over the loss of our beloved trees and as a consequence another one of our winged kin. They say that when people saw the magnificent Ivory-billed Woodpecker, they would exclaim “Lord God Bird” due to its size and beauty. Declared extinct last year though some argue that there may still be some living in the swamps of Louisiana (the state flower is magnolia) though there hasn’t been a sighting since 1944. They went extinct due to unchecked logging and loss of habitat. This painting will be included in the “Where We Stand is Holy” exhibit when I find a location for that. Lost another year here due to my injury but trust in Divine timing.
Buy recycled FSC products whenever possible and advocate for our forests. Without the global forest there is no hope for humanity’s future on earth. Join renowned biochemist and botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger in her mission to share the ancient Celtic wisdom of the trees and bring about a renewed connection to the Global Forest. Learn more about her mission to protect our forests here.
For love of the Earth!
“The Guardian” 30×40″ ©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.
Summer greetings my July newsletter:
Sweltering heat has settled over North Carolina (and for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere) while fireflies dance about in the evenings, deer pass through the land stopping for a nibble under the bird feeder, and the setting sun illuminates pine trees with a magenta glow. “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
It has been months since my last newsletter but I’ve been so focused on my recovery and regaining strength in my leg—it’s been all consuming. Today is the six month anniversary of my injury when I slipped on black ice and shattered my knee cap/patella. It has been a grueling recovery especially the first three months when my knee couldn’t bend to 90º, the first indicator to determine if I would regain full use of my leg. Screaming, wailing, crying—4x a day for months—pushing to get my knee to bend. It was brutal. I wrote about this journey at my blog which you can read below.
Fortunately, after five months of physical therapy, I am now bending at 132º. I drive now, care for my daily needs, and am walking much better. The first time I walked nearly two miles around a local lake, I had a “Rocky” moment and wept. When my surgeon first saw my X-rays six months ago, he wasn’t confident that I would walk again (perhaps meaning a return to my former abilities). I wept with joy and gratitude.
There’s still pain and they tell me it will likely be many months before it feels “normal” so I continue with daily PT and strength training. I am gradually painting again and looking to what comes next around this holy calling. We are in the midst of so much global change and after nearly 20 years with this particular vision, I am contemplating what might want to change or be updated in my work if anything. Not clear yet but trusting. Some adventure and travel is likewise calling!
I know that art is essential for the healing of our world. In an interview with the late, beloved Barry Lopez, his parting words—to all of us who are artists, writers, healers, and creatives working for the good of our planet—was: “Don’t be distracted. Stay in your prayer. Just keep doing the work.” At times, it can feel hopeless but I’m taking his words to heart. The world needs all of our creative gifts now more than ever—and yes, you do have a gift!
For love of the Earth!
“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.
“O people! We have been taught the language of birds, and been given everything
˹we need˺. This is indeed a great privilege.” Quran 27:16
As I shared with you last month, The “Conference of the Birds” was originally inspired by a Sufi text of the same name by Farid Ud-Din Attar, who influenced our most famous Sufi poets and mystics Rumi and Hafez. Though the painting doesn’t include birds from this epic poem, I loved the dialogue among the birds within the text about their journey (including their initial resistance) toward union with the One, the Beloved.
Who hasn’t experienced that resistance on the spiritual journey? There is a lot of fear in our world right now and it would be easy to give up on that which feeds life. But when we answer the call of Spirit, there is no going back sleep. And we will need to deepen our commitment in holding the light in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Attar was Persian, so the arches and textures are inspired by Islamic architecture and designs which render a feeling of the sacred. Per these evolutionary times we are living through, along with the beauty in the Garden, there is darkness around us as the poppy and lily flowers also portend. But here the Cardinal, Goldfinch, Red-winged Black Bird, and Arctic Tern hold the light of hope in the center around the circle of life, the one Divine source. Red, yellow, black and white, we are one people. Let us join together in love and unity for the healing of our world, and the Earth. Though difficult to see at this size, the red calligraphy at the bottom is Farsi, the Persian language, for love.
“The path is lined with all the world’s people, in all colors of the medicine wheel—red, white, black, yellow—who understand the choice ahead, who share a vision of respect and reciprocity, of fellowship with the more-than-human world. Men with fire, women with water, to reestablish balance, to renew the world. “ -Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.
May it be so as we navigate this election day here in the United States and in the days ahead.
With love and gratitude,
From my September newsletter:
“I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words becoming the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.” -Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
I’ve been at a loss for words given everything happening in our world right now. I’m feeling “the pain of the age we are living in” to quote Williams. And I am also looking to the beauty of what remains around me daily. Some would argue a luxury as a person of privilege. Perhaps it is, but I also believe we each have access to the beauty of the living earth at any given moment. We can take moments to stop. Listen. Breathe. Turn off the phone and look at the trees. Listen to the birds. This and art and books, especially poetry, are keeping me sane. What are the ways you are navigating these times?
The “Conference of the Birds” (above) was originally inspired by a Sufi text of the same name by Farid Ud-Din Attar that I discovered through another author, Belden Lane, though none of the birds in this epic poem are included in this painting. Instead, there is Cardinal, Goldfinch, Red-winged Black Bird, and Arctic Tern.
I’m drawing once again from the wisdom of Chief Arvol Looking Horse during the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015 that inspired the “All Nations Tree of Life” below. With so much divisiveness in our country right now, this message could not be more urgent. He said: “Red, yellow, black, and white, we must join together as a spiritual community to heal Mother Earth.” Read previous post here.
What I found interesting while working on the “All Nations” painting was the connection to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The raven (in the tree) appears in many indigenous origin stories and also in the Hebrew bible. Noah releases a raven before the dove. (Gen 8) The same four colors of the medicine wheel appear in the Shamanic Judaism (according Rabbi Gershon Winkler). And in the New Testament: “On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22).
There are so many ways we are interdependent and pray that we come together as a nation to heal the wounds of racial and economic inequality, divisiveness, and the climate crisis. Sending prayers to all being impacted by the fires on the West coast of the US and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, and to those around the World facing the challenges of our times.
With gratitude and love, Amy
Beauty blessings during this transition to Autumn in the Northern hemisphere. A belated Shana Tova to my Jewish friends. I’ve been contemplating this painting “Wheel of the Four Winds” again since Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Especially, the direction of the West, where the Archangel Raphael, symbolized by the bull, is our guide and teacher in navigating the darkness. Feels appropriate given the collective traumas of this year and the coming darkness of the autumnal season. In our earth-honoring traditions, this is a time for going within—though most of us have been living this all year! But perhaps we can do this more intentionally, asking ourselves what is asking to be released, like the leaves from the trees, to create the compost for the coming year? Breathing into this. Join me?
This painting is inspired by Rabbi Gershon Winkler’s book “Magic in the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism.” In the Jewish shamanic tradition, “the West is death…the dream place where all the doing ceases and has a chance to process, to become seed for tomorrow’s newness.” And the bull “symbolizes majesty and determination, unrelentingly pushing forward into tomorrow, into the next moment into destiny, against all odds and with a sense of surety and knowing…this is the place of wisdom and understanding.”
The Hebrew transliteration is “tifaret,” or beauty, which sits at the heart of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life at the center of the medicine wheel. In the four corners Hebrew letters—aleph, mem, and shin—representing the elements of air, fire, water, and earth which Kabbalists ceremonially chant.
Art: “Wheel of the Four Winds.” 2014, 30×48” ©Amy Livingstone. You can read more about this painting here: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/new-year-new-painting/
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!
The Holy Longing
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this:
to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
From April 10 newsletter. Happy Easter and Passover to all those who celebrate this holy time. Given this archetypal celebration of death/rebirth, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Sumerian goddess of fertility and wisdom seen emerging from her chrysalis and womb (Vesica Piscis) felt appropriate to share. Her mythic journey to the underworld is symbolic of a death and rebirth like that of Jesus and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. For me, I resonate with the transformational journey of Inanna and the caterpillar into the butterfly. I’ve been drawing from this theme of being in the “chrysalis” over the past month as we quarantine during this global pandemic.
In the ancient myth, Inanna passes through the seven gates of the underworld, forced to give up one symbol of her power at each gate until she arrives in the underworld stripped bare of all worldly possessions. Ultimately, she is killed, but then she is revived with the food and water of life and returns bearing gifts of wisdom. The story speaks to me of what we are each collectively undergoing psychically during this time of darkness. We are like the imaginal cells inside the chrysalis, shape shifting in preparation for our emergence.
Could this be a global initiation? Will we emerge from our cocoons bearing a new vision of living in sacred reciprocity with each other and the living earth. After traveling myself into some dark places around the unknown and tracking the news endlessly, I’ve settled into my interiority and asking myself, what am I being asked or forced to surrender? Sitting with the question. What about you?
Nature Mandala Offering: Day 10
I began this nature mandala offering for the healing of all beings and mother earth on April 1 and will continue to add prayers until the end of the month or until our return. Many of you are familiar with this ceremony that was inspired by my pilgrimage to Peru in 2006 which I have brought to events and installations over the past decade. If you’re not, you can see photos and learn more at this link. Feel free to email me a prayer and I will add it to our mandala in your stead.
With love and gratitude,
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!