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?
“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!
Nice group of people showed up for my art opening last Friday at Karuna Contemplative Living. Thank you friends. Here with the owner, Anandi, and art enthusiast Mark. The show will be up through the end of May.
I chose these particular paintings for this exhibit because they embody the overarching message that weaves throughout my work. That we as a species must reclaim ancestral ways of being in sacred, reciprocal relationship with the earth if we are to ensure a livable planet for future generations and the survival of all species.
This was the inspiration for Resurrection: 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 endangered monarch butterflies, is assured. To maintain life on earth, we need the resurrection of indigenous and ancient ways of knowing. Can we remember that we breathe with trees? That everything comes from the Earth?
Indigenous leaders and teachers like Chief Arvol Lookhorse and Robin Wall Kimmerer are telling us that we are at a crossroads. All Nations Tree of Life was inspired during a Lummi Nation ceremony and later reiterated by Chief Arvol Lookinghorse during the indigenous plenary at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015. I wept through the entire three-hour session. Their message—red, yellow, black, white—we are all one people. “We must join together as a spiritual community in order to heal Mother Earth.” And again, reading Kimmerer’s inspirational book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Her sacred text was the inspiration for the Reciprocity mandala. She writes: “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.”
The question is: Are we listening?
My work is a contribution and a prayer toward this transformative vision.
I hope the start of this New Year brings you good health and joy. There seems to be a renewed energy of hope at this moment after what seemed like a year of holding our collective breaths. We’re still here though too many beloveds have departed this realm, but I remain grateful for all who are holding the light these days. As indigenous teacher and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:
“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. “
May it be so. This quote comes towards the end of Kimmerer’s brilliant hymnal to the Earth, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.” There is abundant wisdom and rich imagery in her book and with only so much space to work with, I simply allowed the species of each plant and animal to guide me. Salmon, heron, ambystoma maculata (salamander), three sisters, aster and goldenrod, medicine plants, etc…Through this co-creative journey, I feel an even deeper kinship with all these beings.
I hear the call from our indigenous brothers and sisters about the need for all of us to unite as a spiritual community to heal the earth. This was also the inspiration, for those new to my work, for the “All Nations Tree of Life” shown below. I/we are seeing this happen within many communities even though it may not be visible in mainstream media.
In closing, from Braiding Sweetgrass: “The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibility for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread our blanks out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. . . . Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world. . . . In return for the privilege of breath.”
What is your gift? Would love to hear from you!
For love of the Earth!
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/
You stand at the edge of the pulsating river.
Carved by wind, water, and time.
Smooth like the curve of Tahoma’s back.
Gently, I slide on to your sweet spot of bliss.
Wrapping my arms around you,
we caress each other with our firm bodies.
Hot from the sun, you melt my defenses;
and embrace my sensuous self.
You hear my pain and love for the earth.
We are one.
I leave your warm embrace and wander
through the deep, milky pools towards the edge
of the throbbing white river of life.
Spreading my legs; I welcome in the seeds
of passion and purpose.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Answering the call of the wild.
There is something magical about the turning of the wheel towards the heat of summer, the fecundity of the earth and her abundance that is bursting forth. And the season associated with the element of fire that ignites eros and invites us to give expression to our passions and our creativity. What Bill Plotkin, in his brilliant book Wild Mind, has coined our “wild indigenous self.” I’m feeling a restlessness to get back into the wild(er)ness and have been re-reading my journal from my Wilderness Journey with Animas Institute last July. (You can read more about that here). During one particular day while wandering amidst the stone ladened banks of the White River, I had a sensuous encounter with this very smooth and curvaceous being (the large stone seen in the lower right corner of the painting shown above) that inspired this rather erotic poem. I felt a deep kinship with this ancient one and long to return to that sacred place. I sense many of us, especially in the developed world where the dis-ease of busyness is now considered the norm, are hungry to remember and return to this deep interbeingness with the the earth, and to our creaturely selves. I know that I want more of this in my life. How about you?
In Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abrams puts forward an insightful and inspiring thesis “about becoming a two-legged animal entirely a part of the animate world whose life swells within and unfolds all around us. . . and seeks a new way of speaking, one that enacts our interbeing with the earth.” I highly recommend reading Abrams book or you can also read a paper I posted under Notes at my Facebook page: “Reconnecting to the Natural World: The Neolithic to the Ecozoic Era.”
While I may not be off in the wilderness at the moment, I am enjoying a slice of Eden here with nearly daily visits from a hummingbird and red-breasted sapsucker in the garden. Work continues on various paintings in progress including a soul-symbol mandala commission for a lovely woman in the Boston area. More to come when that is complete.
May whatever spark of eros that is alive in you come to fruition in your life and through your creativity. Art heals ourselves and our world. “The artist, like the shaman, demonstrates how one can live with heightened sensitivity and how art heals by restoring soul and by transforming our actions and our perception of life.” – Shaun McNiff.
For love of the EARTH!
Very touched by the recent award for my painting “Primordial Womb” (shown here) from Concordia University and the Oregon Society of Artists. I painted this small 8×8″ cradle board as part of a fundraiser and gala at the University last month. Drawing from my Scottish ancestry, I was once again drawn to the Celtic Tree of Life. And another nest called to me but this time with a robin’s egg. I did some research on the symbolism of the Robin and here’s one shamanic interpretation:
“Robin will incite new growth in all areas of your life, areas that have become stagnant and out-dated. You must believe in yourself as you move forward for if you do, barriers will disappear, and confrontations will be for show only. Robin will show you how to do this with joy in your hearts. Their song is a happy one, reminding you to let go of your personal drama and learn to laugh with life.” Source: http://www.shamanicjourney.com/robin-power-animal-symbol-of-growth-and-renewal
Though I have been feeling some despair of late around the ecological crisis and early Spring here in the PNW, this is another affirmation of my art and soul journey. Signs from Spirit/God appear to us all the all the time if we are still and present. Are you listening?
For love of birds…
“Andean Dreams” ©2014 Amy Livingstone
A new painting inspired by my Peru pilgrimage. (Read more about that here.)
Symbolism around birthing and new beginnings continues. Original (12x12x1.5″) and prints will be available after the painting returns from my photographer.
About Siwa Kinti, or the Royal Hummingbird in the Andean Spiritual Tradition:
“One of the highest vibrational energies in nature is carried by the hummingbird. In the Quecha lanaguage of the Andes, the hummingbird is called Kinti and is the archetype representing the direction of the North. This direction holds the qualities of Siwa Kinti, the rainbow hummingbird, who lives between the worlds and serves as a bridge to those who have come before us (our ancestors) and those who will come after us (our children and children’s children). It is said Siwa Kinti was the sacred being of Machu Picchu in Peru and today bridges the two worlds of North and South America. According to the Andean System, royal hummingbird has access to the center of the Hanaq Pacha, or upper world, where Spirit is found. Hummingbird represents the paradox between action and stillness.” Read more here: http://puakaihealing.com/hummingbird/
The winged-ones are speaking through me lately as I work on a new painting; the first in a series I’m calling “Where I Stand is Holy.” This particular vision came to me following my recent wildness trek with Animas Institute. On our last evening, we were invited to share a poem, song, or expression of our soul inspired by our experience. As I shared back in August (see previous post), I felt a deep connection to the forest, Tahoma (Mt Rainier), and White River. The landscape felt holy to me and was reminded of what Yahweh says to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, Pachamama, we are standing on holy ground. So that evening, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and sang a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge. I changed the wording from sitting to standing but it goes like this:
Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.
Singing is not my particular gift and rarely sing outside the lodge let alone in front of a group of people that I don’t know well but I felt called to share what was alive for me in that moment. The river spoke to me of letting go of safety and trusting in the journey even when the path is uncertain. It was a very sweet moment and am grateful I found the courage to be vulnerable in front of these other beings–human and non-human. How often do we silence ourselves out of fear of being judged or abandoned?
The first painting of this 4-panel series that will once again address threatened species includes the Arctic Tern, Varied Thrush, and American Three-toed Woodpecker (view more at my Facebook and Twitter pages) and they are three of 314 North American birds that are threatened by climate change. The Audubon Society is tracking this and you can learn more and pledge to take action at this link. The painting process has been emerging slowly as the vision becomes clearer to me but there is also a feeling of uncertainty as to whether I can actually manifest what it is that I am being called by Spirit to create. This will be a time-intensive project and feels a bit overwhelming at times. Some days, I hear that little voice inside my head that says I “should” (a word that should be eliminated from our vocabulary!) create artworks that are more commercially viable but this is where my soul is called to be. So everyday, I show up, listen, and trust that I am being guided to serve not only my soul but the earth and the creatures in this way. Where might you be called to serve your soul and our world?
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The completed painting on my easel one recent sunny autumn morning. This painting, “She Who Watches,” is inspired by my recent soul journey with Animas Institute to explore what Bill Plotkin (guide and author of Wild Mind) defines as our Wild Indigenous Self. The experience was yet another homecoming and I felt a deeper communion with all creation. Owl came to me during one of our wanderings, so this painting became a self-portrait around my embodiment of owl spirit and her ability to be still and to watch, listen, and hold vision in the darkness. Thresholds of transformation and shape shifting are alive for me during this time of mid-life and perhaps for you, too. Embracing the journey to live from the soul and serve this divine calling.
Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far-off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.
My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.
My soul turns into a tree,
and an animal, and a cloud bank.
then changed and odd it comes home.
and asks me questions. What should I reply?