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.

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