Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Celebrating the Season of Light

During the holy month of December when many of us celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Solstice, I've been reflecting on light. This time of year is often referred to as the 'Season of Light,' wherein we drape an array of lights throughout home and hearth. In the Jewish tradition, the menorah is brought out for ceremonial lighting. These days I've been imagining what it was like two thousand years ago for our ancestors before electricity and the ubiquitous presence of illuminated devices nestled neatly into the palms of our citizenry. Sitting before the blazing fire in the wood stove today, I was thinking of those dark nights many moon cycles ago. I reflected on the ancient Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and of the oil that 'should' have burned for only one day and the miracle that it lasted for eight. I imagined three holy men, or Magi who were Zoroastrian (from Persia, what is now known as Iran) priests and astronomers following the stars to honor the birth of a vessel born to bring light in a time of darkness. Jesus, bearer of love and hope. I envisioned our earth-honoring ancestors celebrating the darkest night of the year around a sacred fire while inviting the return of the light over the coming months.

While studying the world's spiritual traditions in graduate school, I was surprised and de-lighted to discover the many common threads that weave themselves throughout all our faith traditions including those with our earth-honoring brothers and sisters. These sacred texts affirmed for me that no matter what path we are called to follow, we are all interconnected in the web of creation. We are indeed all One. May all beings know peace, may all beings know love. May it be so.

Mother, Father, God, Universal Power
Remind us daily of the sanctity of all life.

Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness
of all creation,
As we strive to respect all the living beings
on this planet.

Penetrate our souls with the beauty
of this earth,
As we attune ourselves to the rhythm
and flow of the seasons.

Awaken our minds with the knowledge to
achieve a world in perfect harmony
And grant us the wisdom to realize that we
can have heaven on earth.

-Jo Poore (Earth Prayers from Around the World)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

From my December Newsletter: sign up at

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 an 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.

-John O’Donohue

And so we begin to wind down another year. Most of us celebrate the holy days in ways that honor our own unique tradition or struggle through the season nostalgic for remembrance of things past, anxious for the new year to come. I tend to vacillate between the two. We then begin the process of reflecting on the year and visioning for the next. Ending and beginnings. We humans are typically happiest at the beginning of any adventure whether it be the start of a new year, a new relationship, a new project, and subsequently feel sadness at its end. In his work with dying patients, theologian and Griefwalker, Stephen Jenkinson counsels that we need to “learn to love the ending as much as the beginning.” This is no easy task but one I am learning to explore as an essential element to life, in my relationships, and in my work as an artist. Perhaps it comes along with the spiritual journey that invites us to let go and trust in the process. That life is indeed guiding us towards or through a labyrinth of cycles to our soul’s destination.

I felt this recently with the completion of my large-scale painting based on the Garden narrative. As most of you know, this project began late last year with a vision in the wake of the Gulf oil spill and came to life over the past year. I made near daily pilgrimages to the studio to work on the piece and upon completing it, a void emerged. Now what? Of course, to complete the cycle of co-creation, it must be viewed and I am currently seeking a location for a show. However, I felt a sadness or emptiness where once this intense passion had been driving my artistic expression. So I have been sitting with that, noticing it. It’s in the waiting, the in-between spaces that become the spiritual practice. That place of gestation once again that seems to show up over and over again, certainly in my life. And what has emerged is a vision to take this piece into video of some sort. I envision a journey into the heart of the Creation and the diverse layers of symbolism that weave throughout it and why I feel it is an important contribution to the current ecological and theological discourse, especially among those who feel called to reject climate change, species extinction, and the environmental movement overall. (Click here for one example).

Once again I am discovering that in life an ending can be an opportunity for birthing a new beginning, a new vision. And once again I’m happily immersed in the creation of a new soul-symbol mandala commission and the ‘crone’ from my sculpture series that includes the maiden and the mother. And so, allowing for the sadness, “we give thanks to the gifts learned” to borrow from O’Donohue’s poem and hopefully in the process we can learn to love the ending as well as the beginning. Perhaps this is our task in both life and love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

©Amy Livingstone, Scarlet in A Wind, 1997

Twenty-five years ago I never thought I would see a sign that read, "The Beginning of the End of AIDS." Today is World AIDS Day and I just viewed part of the on-line panel discussion with former president Bill Clinton, Bono, physicians, scientists, and global activists working to end the AIDS pandemic. This sign was on the wall behind the panel. I was moved to tears by the end of the conversation when they read off the numerous organizations working to eradicate this horrific disease from the planet. They believe it is possible. Wow. Back in the early days of the epidemic, when my brother, his partner, and so many other young gay men were dying and first diagnosed there were few agencies (The Gay Men's Health Crisis was the only one in NYC) working on the frontlines of the disease and there was so much denial and fear. Even our political leaders refused to acknowledge what was happening. Reagan and Bush, Sr. never mentioned AIDS while in office and for a long time I blamed both of them for my brother's death. The late 80s. A different era.

As I've shared here before (click to read), art has always been my way of processing deep feelings, especially my grief in the wake of my brother's (and my mother) death. I credit art for saving my life during those dark years and you can see some paintings from my early years by clicking here. The painting shown above titled "Scarlet in A Wind" was inspired by the song a former friend of mine wrote for me about my loss and love for my beloved brother Richard. The red ribbon being the AIDS ribbon. As we mourn and remember all the precious beings who have been taken by this disease, may we also celebrate those angels among us who are working tirelessly to end the suffering of all those who continue to live with HIV/AIDS. May it be so.

Scarlet in a Wind

Sad ribbons blowing
Scarlet in a wind.
Sad ribbons blowing
Twisting ‘round her heart.
Thoughts flying skyward
Remembering you.

“Dearest angels in the sky
I had no time to say good-bye.
Your greedy wings took him away.
I didn’t know it would be today.
Didn’t you know that he wanted to stay?
All of my tears couldn’t keep you away.

Golden harps sang too soon.
Wind from your wings swept through the room.
Why did you need him so soon.
We needed time to grow and bloom.

All the things he might have been
are erasing in the night.
A father with child or a funny old man.
Now a dad lives on past his son.
Too soon. Too soon.

Tell him I love him.
Tell him I care.
Tell him one day
I will be there.”

© 1996, Joanne Nelsen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creativity and Creation Spirituality

This is a brief excerpt from a paper I wrote in 2004 while completing graduate studies at Marylhurst University. Founded by Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality informs my spiritual path as well as provides a framework for my workshops and retreats.

Creation Spirituality is intrinsically grounded in cosmology and creativity. Its theology is based on a reverence for life and honoring the sacredness in all of creation extending to the universal whole. As we are born of creation—a creative process in itself—we are, therefore, born with an innate desire to create. Creativity imbues the Creation Spirituality tradition in a way that allows us to connect to the Divine, recognize our interconnectivity, and thus act for the welfare of all. Creation Spirituality is the path to awakening, healing, and transformation. It's ecumenical in its inclusivity and draws on the wisdom of the ancient peoples and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages, specifically Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century Dominican mystic. The Four Paths of Creation Spirituality include the Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa, and the Via Transformativa. "The backbone of the creation spirituality tradition is its naming of the spiritual journey in the Four Paths. It is important to be able to name the journey so that people can share in a common language" (M. Fox, Creation 17). This is a language that honors the awe and wonder of creation (Path 1), the darkness and letting go (Path 2), creativity as giving birth to our Divinity (Path 3), and an awakening to act in service to justice and compassion (Path 4).

Can Creation Spirituality infused with a reverence for life, cosmology, and art transform cultural attitudes towards the living body of earth?

Most often we think of the natural world as an economic resource, or as a place of recreation after a wearisome period of work, or as something of passing interest for its beauty on an autumn day when the radiant colors of the oak and maple leaves give us a moment of joy. All these attitudes are quite legitimate, yet in them all there is what might be called a certain trivializing attitude. If we were truly moved by the beauty of the world about us, we would honor the earth in a profound way. . . . and turn away with a certain horror from all those activities that violate the integrity of the planet. (T. Berry, Dream 10)

During this time in history, we are facing an environmental crisis never before experienced by any other civilization. The geobiological structure of the earth that has taken billions of years to bring into existence is now being threatened by the anthropocentric-driven relationship that humans have with the earth—all in the name of progress and growth. If we don't alter our relationship with the natural world from one of exploitation to one of reverence the future of human life on earth remains questionable. Creation Spirituality is one path to a renewed biocentric relationship with the earth and creativity, and by extension the artist, can contribute to the awakening, healing, and transformation our world; however, the resacralization of nature is a choice that humanity must make for the collective good and for the survival of life on this planet. It is a profound homecoming to our interconnectedness in the web of life and it means a paradigm shift at the deepest level of our humanity that requires the support of our economic, political, religious, and educational institutions. It asks for "the recovery of faith in our creativity and in the artist within each of us and the artists among all of us. . . . It has to do with the rekindling of the spark of hope and vision, of adventure and blessing, that a tired civilization needs" (M. Fox, Blessing 187).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let it Be So

©Amy Livingstone, Mother Mary 2010

We had our womens’ seasonal sweat lodge ceremony at People of the Heart on Saturday night that honored both the light and the dark within and around us. Appropriate for the season and with so much change happening in our world and feeling bombarded with information about the economy, climate change, natural disasters, and unemployment, it’s no wonder we all let out primal howls. Wailing, releasing the heaviness. Many of us, especially hypersensitive people like myself take in this darkness and carry it around inside, so it was cathartic to release the energy that had been storing up in my body. Releasing in order to open to the lightness of being. After prayers of gratitude and healing were spoken, Rev. Jayna Gieber led us in The Beatles, “Let it Be.” It had been a long time since I really listened to the words of the song. I was moved to tears and saw before me my painting of “Mother Mary.” The Divine Feminine and her words of wisdom are speaking to me, to us all, during these evolutionary times. The question is are we listening?

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

And in my hour of darkness

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people

Living in the world agree,

There will be an answer, let it be.

or though they may be parted there is

Still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be. Yeah

There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,

There is still a light that shines on me,

Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.

There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be,

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I would suggest that we the people are indeed beginning to listen. Where the ecological and political movements of the sixties seemed to emerge largely out of sub-groups within society, the new paradigm movements include all of us and those of every generation--young and old. We can see this in the Occupy movement and the spiritual, evolutionary consciousness that is gaining momentum. The stakes are also higher now. Climate change is real. Some would argue these movements are idealistic in the face of the economic and political forces at work today. Perhaps. According to Webster’s, idealism “is a literary or artistic theory or practice that affirms the preeminent value of imagination.” Again, “the value of our imagination.” I would go so far as to say the Divine Imagination--the very source of our creativity. Yes, The Beatles were idealistic. I’m idealistic. Are you? I believe we are all artists in our own way, tapping the holy well of our imagination, therefore we all have the capacity for being idealistic, right? So “imagine” what we are capable of co-creating if we listen to these words of wisdom from the Divine Feminine? There will be an answer. All of our creativity and idealism is needed now. For the future of this planet and all her creatures. For future generations. “Imagine all the people living life in may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’re join us, and the world will live as one.” (-John Lennon)

Let it

For love of the EARTH,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


After being on hiatus for a couple of months, I am returning to my blog. For those of you who have been following my posts for awhile you know that I had a recent health scare around my heart, although thankfully I am well. I have been given a clean bill of health but for the past few months I have been questioning whether what I have to say, or whether my work matters in light of global climate change, the economic recession, people struggling just to survive every day, and the political insanity coming out of Washington. And I say yes! There is a place for art, beauty, love, poetry, and yes, our despair and our pain. We need more voices (yours too) holding a vision of what is possible while being present to what is also dying. It's acknowledging both the light and the dark of our times in order that we might envision a new way of being in relationship to each other and our world. That said, I intend to continue to shine a light on other artists who are engaging in what I consider to be holy work that brings forward art in service to the healing of our world, the Earth. Chris Jordan is one of those artists. His work on behalf of the albatross on the Midway Atoll is profoundly moving, inspiring, and beautiful. And I thank him for his vision. Here is a trailer for his documentary to be released in 2012.

For love of the EARTH!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Community. Creativity. Play.

From my August newsletter. Sign up at

I want to express my gratitude to all of you who responded so compassionately to last month’s newsletter around my emergency room adventure on July 4th. Throughout the month I’ve had more tests and my heart has been given a clean bill of health. Good news indeed. I was also moved deeply by how many of you shared with me your own despair and anxiety around what is occurring in our world these days--socially, politically, and ecologically. No doubt we live in challenging albeit transformative times. Physically I am well but this experience like others before them (about every decade it seems) has given me pause for reflection and discernment. What has come forward most clearly for me is that we can’t journey through the world alone. As the Hopi elders articulate so well in their prophecy, “The time of the lone wolf is over.” (Read the full Hopi message below) Sadly, I didn’t call any of my friends while being whisked away to the hospital assuming that because of the holiday everyone was going to be away or busy having fun! I was wrong. Numerous friends said they were available and would have been happy to be with me during that ordeal. In truth, many were disappointed that I didn’t call. Why is it so difficult to ask for help?

Lesson #1. Community. We need each other. We need community. Letting others help us, also fills a need for them to feel needed. We all know how good that feels, so time to remember and ask for help when we need it.

My teacher, environmentalist Joanna Macy speaks of three threads of consciousness that are occurring simultaneously at this time. 1: Clinging to the way things have been, i.e., the status quo. 2: Doomsayers, end-time theology, and apocalyptic thinking. 3: The emerging paradigm and the necessary creativity required for our times, or the Great Turning. I tend to vacillate between all three of these but am realizing that the first two are based in fear. Three is grounded in hope.

Lesson #2: Focus on the creativity thread and hope.

And finally. Lesson number #3. Play. I have been blessed with love of my work. A calling all my life towards a creative life and service in some form or another but I have been challenged in giving myself permission to play, for the sake of sheer pleasure. I laugh about being a ‘recovering’ over-achiever but sense there is something yet to release around that. This is the hardest lesson for me and am noticing my judgments around the notion of ‘fun.’ So, now I’m making play dates.

Community. Creativity. Play. And I would add that all three are grounded in love. Love of the other, love of beauty, and love for life.

Are you connecting to community, expressing your creativity, and making time to play? If so, how? If not, why? As always, I welcome your thoughts.

For love of the EARTH.

Message from the Hopi Elders

We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour
And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore,
and push off and into the river,
Keep our eyes open, and our head above the water.
See who is in there with you and Celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over, Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner
And in celebration.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for...”

Thursday, July 7, 2011


by David Whyte

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

From Despair to Creativity and Hope

Gunthers tree frog in the Amazon

This week I found myself falling into despair after hearing that the one of the largest dams in the world, Belo Monte, has been approved to move into production on the Amazon in Brazil. This will directly impact the indigenous peoples of the region and force many species into extinction. Coupled with the road now being planned to traverse the Serengeti, affecting the migrating patterns of all those wild creatures who roam that landscape, I wept for the lack of vision from our global political leaders who endorse these large-scale projects, bought and paid for by transnational corporations seeking ever more profit. What came to my mind/heart was "With no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18) I fear that this is the road we are traveling down and grieve for my little grandnephews and future generations.

However, today I finally read the latest issue of On Earth, the NRDC's (National Resources Defense Council) quarterly membership magazine. I've been a financial supporter for years, do my share of on-line activism, and today I am grateful and inspired to read of so much creativity being birthed through people, every day, on the ground in their communities. From "Planting The Trees of Life" in Haiti, the creation of a new "Green Chemistry" program at UC Berkeley (For designing new products with no toxic chemicals. Imagine that!) to a young woman, Molly Rockamann, who is training people of all ages to learn organic farming in Missouri. Rockamann also founded EarthDance which distributes the food from the 14-acre plot through a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) to the community at large. Ingenuity. Creativity. Hope.

These are but a few examples of the "Great Work" of our time to quote the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry. In his book of the same name, he writes, "We cannot doubt that we too have been given the intellectual vision, the spiritual insight, and even the physical resources we need for carrying out the transition that is demanded of these times, transition from the period when humans were a disruptive force on the planet Earth to the period when humans become present to the planet in a manner that is mutually enhancing. (p.11) Our political leaders may not have vision but we the people do and it is rising out of the necessity for our very survival. We have our creativity. We are the ones we've been waiting for. It has been said that the change we need in the world will emerge, ground up, instead of coming down via those in traditional leadership roles. Although we--and this planet--desperately need change in our political system as well, until that occurs it is going to be up to each of us to co-create new structures and ways of being in our communities. In his book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken writes of the nearly 2 million individuals and organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. This gives me hope.

It still grieves me that polar bears will likely go extinct in my lifetime, as will many other species. And there will be more suffering as people learn to adapt to the changing climate but on a good day, I believe in the creativity of the human spirit. And today, I guess that is as good as it gets.

For love of the EARTH!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Opening the Heart: The Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor

The month of May slipped by without my monthly newsletter taking form. I love painting portraits through language as well as through visual art but felt at a loss for words this past month, so I flowed with life and simply rested in the heart and less in the mind. I have been reworking the painting shown here adding vines to the cool, stone wall, giving it more life while reflecting on the Andean "Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor," on which the painting is based. It was five years ago in May that I went on pilgrimage to the Andes and spent time in ceremony with the local, indigenous peoples of that sacred landscape. (Read more here) Our journey was indeed a meeting of the eagle and the condor.
The prophecy story relates that in the beginning all the earth's people were one, but long ago they divided into two groups, and each one followed a different path to development. The people of the Eagle became highly scientific and intellectual, indicative of a masculine energy. This would represent those of us living in the industrialized West. Whereas, the people of the Condor became highly attuned to nature and the intuitive realm, or what might be the feminine energy. This refers to the indigenous peoples-or the people of the heart.
The ancient prophecy also speaks to the time we are in now when civilization is on the brink of collapse as seen in the economic, social, and ecological crises.
The prophecy says that at this time in the earth's history, the Eagle people and the Condor people will rejoin. Remembering that they are one people, they will reconnect, remember their common origin, share their knowledge and wisdom, and save each other. The eagle and condor will fly together in the same sky, wing to wing, and the world will come into balance after a point of near extinction. Neither the eagles nor the condors will survive without this collaboration, and from this rejoining of the two peoples, a new alloy consciousness will emerge that honors the Eagle people for their remarkable accomplishments of the mind, and honors the Condor people for the deep wisdom of the heart. Together-and only together-the crisis will be resolved and a sustainable future will emerge for all.
I've been noticing where the spirit of the Condor is showing up and where it needs to weave its way more fully into our rationally-minded Eagle consciousness as well as into the activism many of us are engaged in on behalf of life on Earth. I recently attended the "Washed Ashore" gala fundraiser at PCC Sylvania. (Click here for more information.) The sculptural exhibit is centered around huge sea creatures made entirely from plastics washed ashore on Oregon beaches. They are beautiful yet clearly reflect back to us our role in this crisis. We see our shampoo and water bottles, flip flops, toothbrushes, etc. It can feel overwhelming. Many representatives from environmental organizations spoke during the event and while the data is essential, I believe that until we can bring these issues into our hearts and remember our interconnectedness with all life, change will be slow. I was honored to lead a water blessing ceremony with several women from my spiritual community, People of the Heart, which allowed those present to express their love and gratitude to the oceans and ask for forgiveness. Drawing on a Hawaiian chant, Ho'oponopono, this simple ceremony opened the hearts of the people in the audience to the crisis of plastics in the oceans. Many were moved to tears. For me, this is an example of how we can bring the wisdom of the Eagle together with the compassion of the Condor, both of which are needed to inspire us to move towards action.

Art and ceremony are two powerful ways to open and inspire the heart. What are the ways in which you are seeing the energies of the Eagle and the Condor coming together in your life and/or work? As always, I welcome your thoughts.

For love of the EARTH!


In Praise of Water (excerpt)
-John O'Donohue

Let us bless the grace of water:

The imagination of the primeval ocean
Where the first forms of life stirred
And emerged to dress the vacant earth
With warm quilts of color.

The courage of a river to continue belief
In the slow fall of ground,
Always falling farther
Toward the unseen ocean.

Let us bless the humility of water,
The buoyancy of water
The innocence of water,
Flowing forth, without thought
Of what awaits it.

Water: voice of grief,
Cry of love,
In the flowing tear.

Water: vehicle and idiom
Of all the inner voyaging
That keeps us alive.

Blessed by water,
Our first mother.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beauty is the Messenger

Beauty is a messenger
Calling love out from forgotten places
Hidden by worry and fear,
And misplaced under the illusion of scarcity.

War, pain and conflict are all too evident
Between border towns, strangers and commuters.
But love grows exponentially faster.
It is the speed of light.

So, kindness reaches its destination
Infinitely faster than the time it takes
For the heaviness of cruelty
To chafe across toughened skin.

Beauty is a messenger
Waking up the sense of wonder,
Rounding up our wholeness into connection beyond ourselves
And increasing our capacity for limitless love.

Beauty is the messenger
Proving the incompatibility
Of splendor and malice;
Showing simply by example...

What is possible.

Poem by Deb Rodney, from Beauty is the Messenger

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poem for Mother

Mother Jane with my late brother, Richard

Contemplating this poem by David Whyte this morning on Mother's Day and how I wouldn't be the person, the woman, the healer, or the artist that I am had she lived. Her death twenty-one years ago and my grief broke me open to "a larger sea," to quote Whyte. (Read my story by clicking here) He writes, "The most difficult griefs/ones in which we slowly open/to a larger sea, a grander/ sweep that washes/all our elements apart." For me, this a profound grief that washes away separateness and egoic striving while opening our hearts to compassion and love in service to the greater good. Something I believe that we are all being called to do during this collective dark night of the soul. It took over a decade for me to experience the possibility of "exultation" that the poem also speaks to and I continue to give myself permission to experience joy even amidst my pain for the living Earth--the Mother of us all--that is being assaulted daily by greed and the illusion that more stuff will make us happy. Does it really? Or is the source of our happiness grounded in love, community, belonging, and purpose and for me also beauty, art, creativity. Something to think about as we celebrate, mourn, and remember our mothers. May all beings love and be loved.

The Shell

-David Whyte

An open sandy shell

on the beach

empty but beautiful

like a memory

of a protected previous self.

The most difficult griefs

ones in which

we slowly open

to a larger sea, a grander

sweep that washes

all our elements apart.

So strange the way

we are larger

in grief

than we imagined

we deserved or could claim

and when loss floods

into us

like the long darkness it is

and the old nurtured hope

is drowned again

even stranger then

at the edge of the sea

to feel the hand of the wind

laid on our shoulder

reminding us

how death grants

a fierce and fallen freedom

Away from the prison

of a constant

and continued presence,

how in the end

those who have left us

might no longer need us

with all our tears

and our much needed

measures of loss

and that their own death

is as personal

and private

as that life of theirs

which you never really knew,

and another disturbing thing,

that exultation

is possible

without them.

And they for themselves

in fact

are glad to have let go

of all the stasis

and the enclosure

and the need for them to live

like some prisoner

that you only wanted

to remain incurious

and happy in your love

never looking for the key

never wanting to

turn the lock and walk


like the wind

unneedful of you,




Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So Much is in Bud

From my April Newsletter.

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To borrow from the poet Denise Levertov, "so much is in bud" as we journey further into the season of Spring. The garden is bursting with new growth and on a global scale, we are witnessing the death of old structures in preparation for giving birth to new ways of being in relationship to the other, the earth, and the Divine. Like so many of us, I feel this energy intensely and it has been organically coming forward through my artwork. The sculpture shown here, MotherEarth (part human, part tree) is the second in my maiden/mother/crone series and is nearly complete. The womb in the back spontaneously emerged much like the womb/fetus in the "Creation Illumination" that I shared with you last month (you can view the painting below). On Saturday night, in honor of Earth Day, I also attended the seasonal sweat lodge ceremony at my spiritual community, People of the Heart. It was powerfully symbolic as it occurred on the day between crucifixion and resurrection during the Easter holy days. Entering into the womb of the mother earth, I let go of old wounds that needed to die in order that I can birth anew--trust, vulnerability, and JOY amidst these challenging albeit evolutionary times.

I find it fascinating that the word Easter originates from Astarte, the Greek goddess of fertility and sexuality (she is also appears throughout the ancient world in my other forms as well). Hence the bunny rabbits and eggs during the holiday festivities. This time of year does usher in a fecundity, a ripening energy that is the life force that feeds new growth, communion with the beloved, and our creativity. This time also coincides with the Celtic celebration of Beltane on May 1, the half way point between spring equinox and summer solstice, wherein the ritual mating of god and goddess was celebrated in ancient times. In other words, a marriage of the masculine and feminine, similar to what is being born collectively through us in our own time. As an interfaith spiritual artist and practitioner, I honor all paths to the Divine and believe that no matter who/what we choose to worship--Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, or a Tree, we are all interconnected in the web of Creation. My work is in discovering the common threads between our religious traditions and with those of our earth-honoring ancestors, so that all beings may come to realize we are indeed all One. To read more, click here.

You might want to ask yourself what needs to die within you in order to give birth to that which is most essential or what unique gift is yours to bring forward that the world needs now? If you would like to share that with me, I'd love to hear from you as always.

May the beauty of the season be with you and may the muses guide you in your blooming creativity!

For love of the EARTH!



-Denise Levertov

From too much love of living,

Hope and desire set free,

Even the weariest river

Winds somewhere to the sea-'

But we have only begun

to love the earth.

We have only begun

to imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?

-so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?

-we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,

only begun to envision

how it might be

to live as siblings with beast and flower,

not as oppressors.

Surely our river

cannot already be hastening

into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot

drag, in the silt,

all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet-

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other

that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know

the power that is in us if we would join

our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Creation Illumination

From my March Newsletter:
Spring blessings to everyone. At this time of year I am always so awed by the miracle of creation as the earth begins to awaken from her winter slumber. The first daffodils are blooming. Hydrangeas and trees are budding out. Bird song is abundant. With so much happening around the world from the crisis in Japan and the conflicts in the Middle East to the continuing economic challenges facing this country, it helps for me to remember that there is still so much beauty in our world. And like the cycles of the seasons there is also potential for transformation and growth to emerge out of the darkness and suffering.

An area of concern for me has been the plight of endangered species. I was feeling especially bereft for the the dolphins, sea turtles, and birds during (and after) the Gulf oil spill last summer. After a period of mourning, I turned again to the canvas. The Tree of Life emerged at the center and the overarching theme for the piece became "the Garden is right here, right now." Paradise is not in some unknowable future, but right here on this glorious planet. We need only remember the holiness of this place we call home. The endangered polar bear, spotted owl, tiger, and salmon (and honey bee, fenders blue butterfly, and frog) all asked to be included in this mandala or "Creation Illumination" (48 x 48") as shown below. Bringing together symbolism from both the Genesis narrative and those of our earth-honoring ancestors (4 directions, 4 elements, 4 seasons), this painting is a visual scripture that reveals our innate interconnectedness in the web of Creation. Currently in process are two other paintings that will live on either side of this center piece. (The three panels are what is commonly referred to as a triptych.) On the left will be Eve, representative of the feminine and on the right, Adam, the masculine. Here, Adam and Eve reclaim their roles as stewards of Creation per the original Hebrew text. The Hebrew at the bottom of the painting translates as "In the Beginning."

My intention is to show this completed work and have posters/cards printed in order to raise money for organizations working to protect endangered species such as the World Wildlife Fund or Panthera. If you know of any related events or places to show that are open to the public, please contact me.

While working on this center piece I met local poet, Deb Rodney. She shared her poem, Sanctuary, with me. It is so gorgeous and spoke so profoundly to my vision for this work, that I also wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

May we have, "the courage to sculpt a new heaven on Earth." May it be so.

For love of the EARTH,

By Deb Rodney

Divinity is formed from the undulating energy
Of billions of thoughts
Powering gravity, beauty,
Orbiting planets and the living potential of a seed.

Our house of worship stands on the well-worn stones
Of everyday living;
Where the sacred wisdom of nature is honored,
And every breath is a humble and sovereign prayer
Whispered to distances greater
Than the imagination can yet travel.

Heaven is peace
Among the butterflies,
Amidst the sap rising up tall trees,
In the sound of sea water flowing over broken shells,
In the last breath of a fully-lived life.

Heaven is freedom
From fear
And the hunger of poverty and greed;
Where the coyote runs belly-full and for the joy of it,
Where brilliant stars and tiny cells are created
By the magnitude of love
Grown fully.

Holiness arrives quietly
When humility and power meet
And the doors are wide open for tenderness;
When the lonely attachment to separateness
Is consumed in the holy heart
Of the collective heart
Of Us, the Creator.

This ecstasy is the wind and the mud
Igniting the courage
To sculpt a new heaven on Earth;
Where every moment is a miracle of possibilities
And every heartbeat is a living faith for all-

In this sanctuary where we live.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drawing as Meditation

Yesterday, drawing as a contemplative practice for deepening awareness to the miracle of creation. So much beauty as the earth awakens from her winter slumber.

This earth is my sister;
I love her daily grace, her silent daring
and how I loved I am -
how we admire this strength in each other,
all that we have lost, all that we have suffered,
all that we know;
we are stunned by this beauty,
and I do not forget;
what she is to me,
what I am to her.

-Susan Griffin

Friday, March 4, 2011

Welcoming the Return of Light

What Does Light Talk About?
-Thomas Aquinas

When you recognize her beauty,
the eye applauds, the heart stands in an ovation,

and the tongue when she is near
is on its best behavior,

it speaks more like light.

What does light talk about?
I asked a plant that once.

It said, "I am not sure,
but it makes me

Sweet bouquet of spring tulips from one of my clients. Spring is coming...may all beings know the light of love and beauty. Aho.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


ARTheology by Visionary Artist Alex Grey.

"Let’s make up a new word. ARTheology is the transmission of spiritual guidance through the arts. The arts have played a crucial role in parable and the recounting of iconic moments from all world religions. Theology, or the collection of knowledge related to the study of God, has influenced the sacred art of every tradition. It wasn’t really up to the Tibetan artist what a particular Buddhist Thangka painting would include. There was a prescribed assembly of relevant symbols that gave any image its power. The meaning was imbued on the art from a religious context. Sacred art is clothed in the language of the essential truth of that faith. When the purpose of art is our own salvation or liberation, we trust the good intentions of the author that art is being performed for God’s sake.

How can art be redemptive in a post-modern, pluralistic, trans-denominational world? If art’s mission is to make the soul perceptible, then all expressions are redemptive for the artist. Creation IS redemption. To complete the soul being perceived by another, the art must be shared. The social context of art is necessarily an ethical arena where the intentions of the artist toward the beholder are central to the message in the work. An artist fulfilling the sacred legacy of their profession, dedicates their work to the liberation of all beings. Their art is uniquely suited to be a tap root to the collective psyche and zeitgeist of the moment, to potentiating an historic evolution of consciousness. When a sacred understanding informs a community of people, the community can make art together, the pinnacle of which is temple building."

Visit for more information.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Artist as Spiritual Warrior

From my February newsletter. To sign up: visit

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. Why is this so important? Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause, serendipity reinforces our purpose. This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers[artists] don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete. Just as Resistance has its seat in hell, so Creation has its home in heaven. And it’s not just a witness, but an eager and active ally. What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s Code or the Warrior’s Way. It’s an attitude of egolessness and service. The Knights of the Round Table were chaste and self-effacing. Yet they dueled dragons. We’re facing dragons too. Fire-breathing griffins of the soul, whom we must outfight and outwit to reach the treasure of our self-in-potential and to release the maiden who is God’s plan and destiny for ourselves and the answer to why we were put on this planet.” From “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield.

Time. Time. Time. There never seems to be enough of it for many of us so it seems. I hear this often in the media and from friends, clients, family. There are some days I feel it myself. But committing to our creative calling requires slowing down and showing up day after day, trusting that the universal creative energy and the Muses support us in our work. In January, I committed to finishing a large (48 x 48”) mandala painting, or what I am referring to as an Illumination of the Garden that is right here, right now. Through my deep immersion and devotion, the piece has evolved into a triptych and will include an Eve/Lunar/Feminine panel and an Adam/Solar/Masculine panel as well. Together, the paintings will total 96 x 48.” Sometimes it requires a sacrifice in order to commit to our artistic calling. As Pressfield writes, we must be warriors in service to our art. In January, I chose to be a warrior with my time and to let go of other commitments including my January newsletter (apologies), social engagements, cleaning the house, returning phone calls, etc. But that is part of the creative journey, albeit at times what can feel like an isolating one. Ultimately, it is just me and the canvas (the blank page for some of us) along with faith that Spirit is guiding my hand. I trust in the Divine mystery that this is what I’m here to do.

I’m also thankful to fellow artist and nature mystic Rod MacIver from Heron Dance and his insights from his daily e-journal. He wrote recently:

I remind myself this morning why I’ve chosen to live my life this way, to devote myself to art: It is about what is sacred inside us and in the greater universe. It is my role as the artist to explore and optimize that relationship, or those two relationships. If we often fail, it’s okay. Sticking with the struggle is its own triumph.

So, if you’re feeling a nudge toward your art, carve out some time for it. Trust. Breathe in to the anxiety of beginning. Open to it. Be a warrior and let go of diversions (email/TV/chores) in order to answer your Divine calling. 15-30 minutes every morning informs the universe you are serious and it will make a difference. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” -Goethe

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Art as a Work of Witnessing

Yet another powerful message from author and earth advocate Terry Tempest Williams around the transformative power of art and bearing witness. She speaks of art as a form of witnessing our grief and staying present to it. I have been feeling so much grief around species extinction as I work on my 'Garden' triptych, which includes endangered species. I can not accept in my heart that tigers could be extinct in as little as 12 years. I feel helpless to stop it while also being inspired by the work of so many organizations who are fighting to save our big cats from extinction. Most recently I discovered the work of filmmakers and activists Beverly and Dereck Joubert through a TED talk, which I highly recommend viewing. There is also the Serengeti Watch, an organization working to prevent the road through the Serengeti that has been approved by the Tanzanian government. The road is considered a faster, more direct route to get minerals to the international market for cell phones. At what price? This road would have an irreparable impact on the future of these wild creatures. If you feel moved, sign the petition at their web site.

So, I bear witness, I sign petitions, I speak out. I paint my heart on the canvas. To quote Williams: "Can we stand together in the center of our grief?"
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

-William Stafford, A Ritual To Read To Each Other
I have posted several articles here that draw from the wisdom of Terry Tempest Williams as a voice for the earth, for beauty, for grief, for bearing witness. Click here to review them. The artist she references here in the clip is Chris Jordan. View his work here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Died for Beauty

From one of our most beloved American poets, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). A virtual recluse and unrecognized for her poetry in her lifetime, Dickinson wrote nearly 1800 poems. I appreciate the dedication to her craft and as an independent woman. A woman ahead of her time indeed, much like Jane Austin. Of course, Dickinson was born into a wealthy, Amherst, MA family and had the luxury of having time and a room of her own in which to create. Being a 19th-century romantic as well as an artist, a monk at heart, and a New Englander by birth, I consider her creative sister and inspiration. And what more noble ideal to die for than Truth and Beauty? May Truth and Beauty reign....

I died for Beauty - but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room -

He questioned softly "Why I failed"?
"For Beauty", I replied -
"And I - for Truth - Themself are One -
We Bretheren, are", He said -

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night -
We talked between the Rooms -
Until the Moss had reached our lips -
And covered up - Our names -

--Emily Dickinson
From The Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by R.W. Franklin

Monday, January 3, 2011


I recently met local poet Deborah Rodney and as synchronicity would have it, her poem "Sanctuary" spoke directly to the heart and soul of my work. Especially the "Creation" trio of paintings (triptych) that I am currently working on and had hoped to finish in part last week, but was slowed by a cold. I hear the urgent call of the creatures in the painting who are endangered in our world (polar bear, spotted owl, tiger, and salmon) and hope this piece can serve as inspiration to others, in taking action to protect this earth/sanctuary we all call home. As we journey into the new year, may we all remember that the Garden is right here, right now and that all creatures on this beautiful blue planet are asking for our creative vision, wisdom, and gentle stewardship to ensure a sustainable future for all life on earth. Create...Creation...Creature...Creativity To quote Rodney, it is time "to sculpt a new heaven on Earth."

For love of the EARTH!


By Deborah Rodney

Divinity is formed from the undulating energy

Of billions of thoughts

Powering gravity, beauty,

Orbiting planets and the living potential of a seed.

Our house of worship stands on the well-worn stones

Of everyday living;

Where the sacred wisdom of nature is honored,

And every breath is a humble and sovereign prayer

Whispered to distances greater

Than the imagination can yet travel.

Heaven is peace

Among the butterflies,

Amidst the sap rising up tall trees,

In the sound of sea water flowing over broken shells,

In the last breath of a fully-lived life.

Heaven is freedom

From fear

And the hunger of poverty and greed;

Where the coyote runs belly-full and for the joy of it,

Where brilliant stars and tiny cells are created

By the magnitude of love

Grown fully.

Holiness arrives quietly

When humility and power meet

And the doors are wide open for tenderness;

When the lonely attachment to separateness

Is consumed in the holy heart

Of the collective heart

Of Us, the Creator.

This ecstasy is the wind and the mud

Igniting the courage

To sculpt a new heaven on Earth;

Where every moment is a miracle of possibilities

And every heartbeat is a living faith for all—

In this sanctuary where we live.

Visit for more information.