I remember how black cats and witches so captured my imagination when I was young. This was the safe and non-traumatic kind of fear (colorful witch cut-outs on the kindergarten room wall). Safe fear is the “good” kind, and even as children we’re drawn to that. Safe fear is where you play at scariness but know that you are not truly in danger, such as in playing hide and seek or telling ghost stories under a mimosa tree in twilight, knowing all is well with your world even if it was not for the babysitter in the gruesome tale you were told. Then there is the kind of fear that is more risky, the kind of fear where you think you’re safe, but what if not? From my own early childhood I have an example: waking up in the morning in the Red Room at my Grandmother Clayton’s house and discovering everyone else was already up (which meant having to get the nerve to walk down the long, semi-dark hallway all alone), now that took courage. I remember the soft carpet underfoot, and how at first Id tip toe and then well before making it to the end of the hall, passing The Purple Room on your right, I’d break into a pajama sprint and dash right through the sun-lit living room, safe at last. And once in the kitchen, copper pots gleaming and breakfast cooking, I’d end up with hot cocoa by the warm fire place (that fake log glowed orange and I loved it!). I was safe, but for a minute there, I was not sure at all.
This is a page from a marvelous book of poems I illustrated by April Halprin Wayland, Girl Coming in for a Landing (Knopf). It feels right for this morning because I feel creative at the start of a new day. Creating or producing creative works is like holding and tossing peaches up to the sun. Creative feeling and thought is a whirling spiral of energy inside the self, often emotional energy. Working with feeling to make something in order to give shape to it puts that energy into motion and gets life moving, often in surprising ways. And it feels great to hold something you created, rather than to hold (or carry around) feelings you cannot access or have not looked at and considered within.
In a recent dream, I saw a pair of birch bark moccasins. The white papery bark was very appealing. I tried them on (they fit!). I walked around in them and really liked them. The next day I looked up what the birch tree symbolizes. I read that the birch tree symbolizes “new beginnings” and “clearing of the past”. All this made sense to me as I’ve been literally stepping into the healing arts in a completely new way, and focusing more intently than ever before on working with people with serious needs, such as life or death health scares and life crisis situations.
I also looked up “birch bark moccasins” (what if I could get them on zappos.com?), and saw a photograph of one shoe, woven out of birch bark. Nobody knew who made this shoe or why, and they looked nothing like the shoes in my dream, but I loved seeing it.
This Spirit Painting was commissioned by Susan Thomsen, for Pat, who is a dear friend of hers. Immediately as I began the meditation with paint brush in hand, I felt a surge of color, light, drama (the fun kind), angelic and sentimental love and a sense of what I’ll call “safety through creativity”. Some of us leap into a void and feel fear, but I felt that this painting was all about how the human spirit can thrive in the unknown, in the mystery, and be brave and courageous in spirit. There was a strong appreciation for the joys of yesteryear and days gone by, as though those joys are stored somewhere in a kind of spiritual theater where they can be revisited, felt again and experienced with new perspective. I am so delighted by this painting and am smiling as I write this, it truly was an adventure and an honor to tap into Pat’s realm of angelic and creative motion. I thank you, Susan for commissioning this piece!
I’m thrilled about an article I wrote which is in this month’s Intuitive-Connections Network newsletter. Dr. Henry Reed is a Jungian analyst, former Princeton professor and author of The Intuitive Heart. He is Director at the Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies.
Since I grew up with Edgar Cayce books scattered around the house, having an article in Henry Reed’s newsletter feels like coming home. The topic of the article is also a home-coming kind of theme for me: art and intuition. For years I’ve taken my easel around to schools, museums and libraries and worked with children (and young adults) to learn to draw in a group setting, using an open heart. Kids have described the feeling as “like flying” and I believe that is exactly what it feels like. Here is an excerpt from the article, and a link below so you can go see many other articles and book reviews and more on Henry’s site:
The loss of drawing time in schools as children grow older through the grades, and a lack of nurturing around it as a valuable way to spend time bothered me as a student and also as a teacher. I saw the valuing artful mark making as an opportunity to help students connect inwardly and to reach important points of meditative self-discovery. Drawing is an urge that is emotionally charged by our human experiences, thoughts and imaginative intelligence, to lose it is to miss out on an individual’s expression through art, and to miss the point that valuing each other’s expressions is what creates social harmony. That harmony is realized when we use our own intuitive process of self discovery and allow others to also use theirs, thereby mutually valuing one another.
When I started using my method of gesture drawing as a way to encourage intuitive, empathic feeling and knowledge amongst school children, I had no trouble what-so-ever finding that original, powerful urge in each child to make marks. I have used this technique with pre-school aged children all the way through college age young adults, and every time, there is a beautiful and empowering result: each individual, with a little support and acknowledgement while making marks on paper, finds that something “other” is going on when drawing, especially if it is to draw another human being. I believe that sense of other is the complete and total, unconditional acceptance of self in relation to the rest of humanity (or at least to the others in the environment). This is arrived at with simple ground rules to establish freedom of expression, with heart and mind open as to the very important awareness of how others feel, and with mutual consideration and respect.
I created this drawing about ten years ago. I was remembering my visit long ago to Giardino di Boboli in Florence, and how enraptured I was by the statues as I took a walk through the garden. Statues have always been alive for me. As a child I remember how all of my friends and I would run up to a statue of Mary and stare at her marble eyes until we were sure she either blinked or winked, and then we’d scream and run. We were of course told not to scream and run, but we ran not out of fear. We ran because we were so excited. (She really did move, of that I’m sure.) My second picture book was about how art comes to life if you look at it in just the right way. My main character, Ella, learned that if you pretend not to stare at a statue, that is exactly when they do move (Ella’s Trip to the Museum, Crown/Knopf Books for Young Readers). A stroll through a museum or garden should alter our perception of what is real, or what is possible.
A friend gave me the Book of Changes, or I Ching, when I left Atlanta and moved to Boston. I used this as a guide practically every day. It offered wonderful concepts of ancient Chinese philosophy and very often resonated with my life circumstances. I began to dream of Chinese scholars, helpers and guides. I think the I Ching, for me, was more about virtues and how we live as individuals in societal structures. Our virtues define us in many ways, as they also shape our future, simply because our choices set us up for dynamic interchanges. Maybe not entirely, surely some things are random, but I do know that my own choices have lead me to certain places and people.