Unveiling Conference of the Birds + Call for Unity

“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

birds, bird bath, and archways

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.

flowers, plants, animals in the center of mandala
“Reciprocity Mandala” inspired by Braiding Sweetgrass.

May it be so as we navigate this election day here in the United States and in the days ahead.

With love and gratitude,
Amy

Conference of the Birds

golden arches
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

Mihrab and Tree of Life

IMG_0866 IMG_0870 IMG_0871
Good day in the studio yesterday. Putting the final details on the ‘Mihrab Tree of Life’ (working title) painting inspired by the Sufi/Islamic tradition. I so appreciate all the meaning and symbolism behind each pattern of sacred geometry. It’s no wonder the works of art from this region feel so holy. To quote the late poet John O’Donohue: “God is beauty.” ‘Arabesque designs, or islimi in Persian, are complements to the geometric patterns. They aim not to imitate the plant kingdom naturalistically but to distill visually the essence of rhythm and growth it manifests, recalling the archetypal Gardens of Paradise.’ (from Islamic Designs, by Daud Sutton). The five pointed star, or pentagram, crosses numerous spiritual traditions including Islam (as well as Wicca!) and embodies numerous interpretations. It also appears on mosques and in their religious icon. It’s amazing to me that we humans share more similarities than we are often aware of, if we could only look beyond differences and dogma.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi

Mystic Awareness and 9/11

From my September Newsletter:
On the eve of 9/11, I feel called to share again this painting inspired by a mystical vision that I experienced following the “Day of Remembrance” ceremony that took place in the wake of the terrorist attacks. It feels relevant in light of the controversy surrounding the current threat to burn the Qur’an and the building of a mosque near ground zero. Both of which fuel more divisiveness at a time when we need to come together as a people in order to best serve the healing of our world–this beloved Earth and her creatures (human and non-human) which are in peril during this evolutionary time.

There is a long history of mystics from all our religious traditions and many books written on mysticism, with an equal number of definitions unique to each individual. For me, the few moments of mystical awareness that I have been blessed to experience have included a feeling of non-duality and oneness with all creation: opening the heart to love and compassion for all beings. In The Mystic Heart, Wayne Teasdale writes:

“Mystical spirituality is also unitive; it seeks integration with the infinite. All theistic types of mysticism are interested in this integration, for the goal is to be invited into a permanent, divine union with God. This unity is the heart of all mysticism. It is awareness of non-duality and non-separation, of no distance between ourselves, the ultimate mystery, and all other beings.”

The last sentence, especially, speaks to my experience. Such was the case during the “Day of Remembrance” ceremony facilitated by leaders from our local Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Native American communities. There was such love present in the days and weeks following the tragedy of 9/11 and people of all faiths (and no faith) came together as One. That was the world I wanted to live in. A world with heart and compassion for all our fellow citizens. I had a vision of this painting, of holding the love, while riding the MAX home that night. It is a reminder for me of the love that we all felt during those dark days–and a vision of hope for the future.

My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, a temple for idols, and a Ka’ba for the pilgrims; it is a tablet of the Torah, and the book of the Koran. I profess the religion of Love, and whatever direction its steed may take, Love is my religion and my faith.
-Ibn Arabi, 12th c. Sufi

As always, I welcome your comments.

Love is my Religion


My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, a temple for idols, and a Ka’ba for the pilgrims; it is a tablet of the Torah, and the book of the Koran. I profess the religion of Love, and whatever direction its steed may take, Love is my religion and my faith.

–Ibn Arabi, 12th c. Sufi