“Let us green the earth, restore the earth, heal the earth….” -Ian McHarg
“Commemorative Mandala” for Mike Marxen
Commemorative: an object such as a stamp made to mark an event or honor a person.
This mandala honors you and your 41-year contribution to the planning, conservation, and restoration of eco-systems from Minnesota, Iowa, the Pacific Northwest to the Hawaiian Islands.
Forty-one years of “walking your talk,” being a “believer,” symbolized by the outer ring—the walkway—so prevalent in our wildlife refuges—with 41 footsteps intertwined with the tracks of bison, bear, wolf, deer, otter, and duck family. Because of your dedication, you created and restored natural environments where animals and humans can co-exist.
Ancient civilizations practiced the sciences of Alchemy and related the different metals to specific planets. Copper is ruled by the planet Venus and is associated with the matters of love and symbolizes characteristics like charisma, artistic creativity, affection, caring, and balance. It is also considered a healing metal that teaches about living a fulfilling life. Silver is connected to the Moon and associated with philosophical traits of intuition, self-reflection, and inner wisdom—like your Cancerian self. It is symbolic of attributes such as vision, clarity, awareness, focus, persistence and subtle strength.
Being a stamp collector as a youth, I chose the stamp as a commemorative symbol for your journey beginning in the direction of the East. Minnesota where you were born, with Loon, the state bird. The Loon relies on water and water is a symbol for dreams and multiple levels of consciousness, thus Loons teach us to follow our hopes, dreams and wishes. Which you have done! Showy Lady Slipper is the state flower of Minnesota.
To the South: I sensed a deep pride in your work on behalf of the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. Here, through your contribution with the USFWS, you restored the tall grass prairie, brought back the Bison, Elk, and created habitat for critically endangered monarch butterflies. The Wild Prairie Rose is the state flower of Iowa.
In the West: Your journey brought you to Oregon and here you made many contributions to the health of our forests, rivers, estuaries—our ecosystems—around the Pacific Northwest. You shared your joy of salmon fishing with your son. Though the Oregon Grape is the state flower, I chose the ground cover cornus canadensis as you mentioned its significance to you around your farm.
To the North: The last stretch of your 41-year career brought you to the magical islands of Hawaii. Though separated from your beloved Kim, you were able to contribute to the development of a marine monument, educating and protecting marine animals like the monk seal, and contributing to the cultural preservation of Midway, the home of our beautiful, magical Albatross. An albatross as a spirit animal is attributed to grace, stamina, monogamy, loyalty, faithfulness. The yellow hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii.
In the center of the mandala, Leech Lake, the place you most love—on the lake, fishing (next to being in the garden in summer). Here, the sunset symbolizes the end of this particular chapter and offers a new beginning back in Oregon to the West, reunited with your beloved, to live happily ever after!
It was an honor to create your soul symbol mandala for you, Mike. Thank you for all your work on behalf of our Earth and all her creatures!
“Earthkeeper” 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 “Earthkeeper” 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 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.
Reading Kahlil Gibran of late and appreciated this from “The Prophet.” Too often we turn to prayer as a form of request when life is not going so well for us (like this past year!) but what if we saw prayer as a form of praise. For life. For beauty. For the gifts of the earth? I reclaimed the word prayer for myself many years ago through the sacred act of creating art. Silence, stillness, contemplation, the paintbrush gliding along the canvas, gratitude for the gift of life. I wrote about this some years ago at my blog: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/reverence-and-art-as-prayer/
From The Prophet:
You pray in your distress and in your need;
would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing. . . .
May all beings be fed. May all beings be loved. May all know peace Aho.
Artwork: “The Artist’s Prayer,” 24×18″, Acrylic. ©Amy Livingstone. Inspired by Medieval monks who painted sacred texts, this painting speaks to the creation of Beauty by the artist as a prayer book for peace. The Latin “Oratio ad sanitatem nostri mundi” translates as a prayer for the healing of our world. The quote above from Rumi: “Out beyond fields of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
“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!
but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
|Alchemy of Change, 12×12″ 2020, ©Amy Livingstone|
From my June Newsletter
Greetings Earth Lovers
What a difference a few weeks makes. We are living in extraordinary times indeed. I know many of us are feeling the sorrow (and outrage) of our collective history and the racial injustice towards people of color in this country. We are a nation founded on genocide and slavery and it now feels there is reckoning for those of us who have had the luxury to turn away. But the time is now. Change is here. I pray that like the lotus that grows out of the watery muck and the butterfly that emerges from the darkness of its chrysalis, that the beauty of unity, justice, healing, and reconciliation will blossom.
The arts are playing a significant role at this time. Numerous books, films, and documentaries offer us an opportunity to learn and understand. I don’t know how to have the difficult conversations but as a white woman, right now I am educating myself and ready to listen.
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!