Mystical Musings

New Paintings + Ancient Celtic Wisdom of the Forest

“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!

Art for the Healing of our World

Earthkeeper: 2021, 30x40" Acrylic & Jewels
“Earthkeeper” 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.
-Wendell Berry

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! If you are holding the light in these dark times, you are an Earthkeeper.

For love of the Earth!

Emerging into the Light

First walk on Spring Equinox, 2022.

Someday, emerging at last from the violent insight,
let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels.
Let not even one of the clearly-struck hammers of my heart
fail to sound because of a slack, a doubtful,
or a broken string. Let my joyfully streaming face
make me more radiant; let my hidden weeping arise
and blossom. How dear you will be to me then, you nights
of anguish. Why didn’t I kneel more deeply to accept you,
inconsolable sisters, and surrendering, lose myself
in your loosened hair. How we squander our hours of pain…

-Rainer Marie Rilke, from The Tenth Duino Elegy

Dear earth|art loving friends:
Rilke’s poems, especially the Duino Elegies, have been a constant companion over these past several months. If you have arrived upon my website and haven’t seen my social media posts, I wanted to share some of my journey with you here. On January 18th, my life changed in an instant as happens in life. I slipped on black ice on my way to the mailbox and fractured my patella. A very pretty name for our knee cap. It broke into three pieces and the surgeon was miraculously able to reconstruct it with screws and rods. It has been an excruciating physical journey beginning with the fracture itself, straightening the leg in the emergence room, post-op surgery, and months of physical therapy working to get it back to full functionality. It’s the most difficult thing I have had to do physically in my life to date.

I’ve always worked to stay healthy, active, and athletic throughout my life and bearing witness to my brother’s agonizing death from AIDS thirty-three years ago implanted daily gratitude for the gift of good health, especially as I have aged. Though I nearly died from appendicitis when I was 16 and was bitten by a dog who ripped a big chunk of skin off my left arm six years ago nothing prepared me for this journey. But how can we prepare, truly? Like a diagnosis of any kind, you are thrown into an alternate reality of treatments and, hopefully, healing. I’m grateful that this isn’t a diagnosis, that I am making progress, and expecting a full recovery but that hasn’t been clear from the start.

I kept hearing six-to-eight weeks or I wouldn’t get back the function of my leg sending me into fear and “nights of anguish” to quote Rilke. I prayed for guidance from the angels, and Mother Earth/Pachamama, before and during every bend of my leg. Wailing. Pushing. Crying. Praying to get to 90º. Four times a day. Every day. This went on for several weeks without any progress and was looking at the possibility of a surgical manipulation. Thankfully, as my patella healed, and with new PT practices, my leg slowly began to bend more each and every day. And I continue to progress one brutal step at a time and now can see the light of hope.

I’ve asked Spirit what is it that I am to learn from this experience. I know deeply the finiteness and fragility of life, likely, from my early near death experience, then from the early deaths of my brother, mother, and best friend over 30 years ago. I’ve lived my life knowing that my time is limited and have followed the threads of my soul calling. Perhaps it is trust? Surrendering? Or learning to receive and being cared for which isn’t necessarily easy for a wildly independent woman such as myself? Or to welcome a rest or sabbatical, albeit forced, from my ambitions to serve our besieged Mother Earth? I’m still asking the questions. Rilke is also famous for having advised us to “live the questions.”

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” -Rilke


At work on the “Kinship Mandala, May 2022.”

I haven’t been painting during these months though I am now finding the energy to give attention once again to my art and vision. It’s been so grueling physically that I didn’t have the strength to stand at the easel until now though I have been sketching, doing some design work, and I wrote a chapter titled “The Healing Power of Art and Holy Listening” about my transformative journey through loss for an anthology being published by a local community on the gifts of grief. I’ll share more when it is printed.

I am excited to be emerging from this place of liminality—betwixt and between—and I “sing out jubilation and praise” for this gift of life, beauty, and love. Deep gratitude to my surgeon, physical therapists, and my sister and brother-in-law. And to all those who have been sending prayers and holding the light of healing for me over these months. It takes a village to heal.

And to the angels…


“Rilke’s Angel” (In process).

 

Thresholds and A Blessing


As we stand at the threshold between the end of this year and prepare to welcome in the next—while continuing to navigate the challenges of this global pandemic—a blessing from the late Irish philosopher and poet John O’Donohue. “We bless this year for all we learned, / For all we loved and lost…”

At The End Of The Year

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

From “To Bless The Space Between Us.”

Photo: “Threshold: Machu Picchu.” 2006. ©Amy Livingstone

Remembering 9/11


Art: “911: Love is the Answer”—2001, 2015, 2021

Evolution of a painting and our collective journey on this Day of Remembrance. September 11, 2001. It was the twelfth anniversary of my brother Richard’s death from AIDS, I was lighting candles in his memory when I heard of the terrorist attacks. Already in a place of mourning, I was stunned and bereft like most of us. However, it was during the Day of Remembrance three days later that I truly had an epiphany. I experienced a sense of love and oneness that I had never known before.

Much like the love that Paul speaks to in Romans to “love one another with mutual affection.” Christ’s message of love. The interfaith ceremony at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon, included speakers from all faith traditions—Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and our indigenous brothers and sisters. As the mystic and poet Rumi wrote: “The broken heart is the doorway to God.” It was extremely powerful and on my way home on the train I had a vision that became this painting.

What I remember in the days following the attacks was that love. The world came to a halt and people stepped away from their busy lives and began to question the meaning of life, to examine what was truly important. It wasn’t how much they had financially or materially, it was about family, friends, and love. Who would I call if I were on that plane? There seemed to be a new realization for the precariousness of our existence and a new reverence for life. People were kind to one another. This was the world I wanted to live in and prayed that this feeling of unity would last…

In my vision, I saw hands holding the earth emerging out of the smoke of the Twin Towers. My hands? White hands. However, over time, it hasn’t felt right with the growing awareness of racial injustice in our world. Years ago, I digitally added the red nails as an expression of the Divine Feminine which is being called forth during this evolutionary time.

And more recently, the 2021 version, I retouched the image with only the earth and heart in color. We are indeed interconnected in the web of live, may we unite in love for one another and for the living Earth. May it be so…

I send a breath of compassion to all those who are grieving for loved ones lost as a result of the September 11 attacks.

Art: “911: Love is the Answer” 24×36″, 2001. ©Amy Livingstone. I spoke at Eastminter Presbyterian in Portland on September 11, 2011 about this journey, you can watch the two-part videos (total of 20 minutes) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/SacredArtStudio/videos

20th Anniversary of “A Journey of Healing & Hope”

“The future belongs to those who believe in beauty of their dreams.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

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,
Amy

Grief art show invitation

The invitation to the opening.

 

Donnella Wood Movement

A stunning movement piece from Donnella Wood that honored my journey of transformation.

Lighting candles at show

Attendees were invited to plant seeds for my journey going forward.

“Rape of the Spirit,” 2001, (Bronze). One of the sculptures from the exhibit.

 

 

Commemorative Mandala

“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!

{New Painting} Earthkeeper

Earthkeeper and Amy Livingstone

“Earthkeeper” nearing completion.

Artist at the easel
“Earthkeeper” in process. Wearing Peruvian ceremonial poncho.

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.

mandala drawing

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.

The Artist’s Prayer

book with peace dove and moon
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:

Then a priestess said, “Speak to us of Prayer.”
And he answered, saying:
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.
For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?
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.”

Limited-edition prints and art blankets are available at my online boutique.

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

Conference of the Birds: 2020, 40x30" Acrylic & Jewels
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