The Blessed Dirt of Santuario de Chimayo

There are places on the face of this sweet, troubled planet, that I never thought I would visit. Being raised by a fairly pissed off, excommunicated, Italian Catholic Mother, the church and all of its offerings never really appealed to me. I learned as a young teenager the cause for my Mothers hostility and bitterness and, I must admit, I agreed with her.

When my Mother was at her most vulnerable, laid out on the floor by the discovery of her husbands adulterous affair with her best friend and subsequent divorce, the church turned its back on her. She was sent packing – the compassion and inclusivity of that which the church preached was sorely lacking when my Mother reached out to it for comfort. It has taken me many, many years to forgive the church for that. In some ways, I am a more compassionate person due to watching her struggle with the isolation and rejection she endured. Compassion resulting from emotional cruelty – strange bedfellows indeed.

When I was presented with the opportunity to visit Santuario de Chimayo, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go. Would my self righteous indignation for the way my Mother was treated flare up? Could I see my way through the enormous contrasts and contradictions within my own heart? I will tell you now that I couldn’t visit the entire site. However, I did visit the vestibule of the church which housed the blessed dirt room where people with all sorts of maladies, whether physical, emotional or spiritual embark on a pilgrimage to touch the sandy earth; holding, rubbing, praying, crying, hoping and finding peace within the walls of that sacred space.

While I was waiting on a bench just outside for my turn to touch the place that had brought so many healings, I witnessed a man and a woman – she was standing barefoot in the dirt and he had bent down on all fours, laying his hands on the earth so that she could lean on him. They stayed that way for quite some time. The intimate nature of the scene was incredibly poignant and I closed my eyes to give them privacy while turning my thoughts inward. I reflected on the support I have received from so many beautiful souls, just as she was receiving that sweetness from her husband.

Walking out, they sat back on the benches and closed their eyes to rest and reflect. A calling to touch this woman was undeniable. I resisted, thinking that I would be intruding into the sacredness of her experience; I resisted, not wanting to feel foolish; I resisted not knowing if it was my place. Through all of those doubts, I walked across the narrow room and kneeled before her. As she opened her eyes and saw me there, I gently placed both of her feet in my hands and began to gently massage them. To be of service, to stand in the light, that was all that was needed.

When I finished, she reached out to me and we embraced – both crying, both holding each other tightly for quite some time. In this moment, this very tender moment, I was able to let go of any lasting bitterness or resentment that I once carried for this way of loving God.

We all have a path to walk. Every single one of them is inordinately opulent, dark, troubled, joyful and as individual as we are. Only we can know which path will bring us into the light. The road to Mecca begins with a single step.

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The Finish Line………sort of

It’s been almost a year since I decided to “climb that tree and venture out onto that limb” by registering for a three week stay at Ghost Ranch in Abuiqui, New Mexico.  With a much needed grant and a surprising emerging artist award, I was able to fund my trip and relax into the exploration of my artistic boundaries.  I had no idea how my experiences would influence or inform my work.  All I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, is that it would.  

Fast forward to today.  I just returned from delivering 24 new vessels, 3 wall sculptures and 13 pendants to The Gallery at Flat Rock, located in Flat Rock, North Carolina.  My one person show, “Sacred Ground, Bringing New Mexico Home”, opens on Friday, July 14th.  All of these pieces have been inspired by my trip – most of them created using micaceous clay which is indigenous to New Mexico. 

There is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and sadness in the completion of this grand adventure.  I have been so ensconced in the flow of the work, the evolution of my artistic voice and wanting to make those that believed in me proud.  It filled every waking, and most sleeping moments.  I have had revelations and disappointments, moments of “creative” orgasms and periods of obstacles that are all part of the process.  What I can tell you, unequivocally, is that it was all worth it.

I have learned more, pushed through fixed conditions, ventured into almost every “what if” moment with action and determination.  Did I make worthy art?  Did I do clay proud?  Honestly……..I have no idea.  That really isn’t for me to say.  What I do know is that, to this point in my life, given all that I am, I did my very best.  And that, my dear friends, is enough ❤️

Please visit my website for more information on the upcoming show and artist talk – http://www.lucyclarkpottery.com

The next adventure awaits!!!

How Do I say Thank You?

Today was my final day at Ghost Ranch.  It was filled with a trip to watch the magnificent dancers of San Ildefonso Pueblo perform for their annual Feast Day.  Although it was cold and windy, the sun was shining and it was a brilliant day to watch this powerful tradition.

At one point, there were two large groups performing different dances in the plaza at the same time. Just for a moment, I was uncertain what I should do. How could I choose which dance to watch? As I stood there quietly the answer came to me……. stand between them, close my eyes and just listen.  As I did so, I began to absorb the power of the drums and the voices of the warriors as each dance progressed; each one feeding on the beauty of the other.  Every dancer and drummer mingling with the wind and sun, raising the vibration from the earth to the sky.  I could visualize the drums as the heartbeat of the land and the voices of the warriors as prayers to the heavens in gratitude for the abundance of the tribe.  The sounds reverberated throughout my entire being and I felt myself lift with the power of the moment.  I knew then, exactly the reason for my trip. To give Thanks.  

To give thanks to the people that I love and love me in return, to the clay that I cherish and for the lessons I have learned.  All of this has made me who I am in this very moment.  

Whenever I am feeling drained or powerless, whenever I am uncertain of the road ahead, I will remember this moment in my life.  I will call upon the power of gratitude and thankfulness of my time spent in this wonderful place and know that all is well.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you❤

Honoring our Story

Tonight, in an open forum, the faculty of the January term  were each asked to answer one question – how their story informed their creativity and inspiration.  Some of their stories were incredibly poignant, some sacred and others were laced with wit and humor.  In listening to them, I realized that I have not honored mine – at least not completely.

My mother was one of the most creative people I have ever known.  She came from a long line of Italian tailors, being taught by her mother.  Her skill with a needle and thread was masterful.  Although I could never find a love for the craft, she never ceased to amaze me at what she could create. I know that the dedication that I have for clay can be partially attributed to her.

We also endured a very difficult relationship.  My mom struggled with many hardships in her life and though I had great compassion for her, there came a time where I couldn’t be the recipient of the fall out.  I simply ran out of understanding. I felt a great need to protect myself from the pain, and in doing so, created great distance as a way to save my heart. Since her passing  over 8 years ago, it has taken a lot of time and thought to get to a point where I could not only forgive her but also forgive myself.

As I sit here tonight, I want to let her know just how thankful I am for every single gift she gave me. The hardships, the pain, the creativity, the determination, all of them.  Without those events in my life, I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude and passion for the creativity that resides deep within me.  Through these events, I have become clear about my purpose and my path.  No blame, no excuses, just a deep sense of gratitude for the story she told.

Thank you, Mom.  Safe passage on your journey home ❤

 

The Gift of Permission

As I was wondering, just ever so slightly lost on a hike today, I realized that I hold off my joy. I make a huge  “to do” list that just has to be accomplished before I get to start playing in the mud. My internal dialogue goes something like this…….Just as as soon as I clean the house, wash the dog, pay the bills, do the laundry, organize my desk, clean out my car, exercise, stretch, eat……….I can give myself permission to spend time in my studio working.  Sound familiar?  Just a tiny bit?

We took a field trip today to Abiquiu Pueblo. We listened to a gentleman who is the caretaker of at least 150 years of oral history of his people.  As a child he would sit and listen to his father, uncles and grandfather tell stories of the past.  Some tragic, some intense, some incredibly funny.  Listening to this man today, I am sure he never thought about giving himself permission to take the time out of his daily chores to do this.  He found great value in listening to his elders, asking questions about their heritage and honoring the past. He is now conveying these stories to his offspring and to those that visit his Pueblo.  He has incredible passion for what he does and it shows by the light in his eyes and the excitement in his voice.

All of us have a song of our soul that needs to be sung.  For me, it is clay; for others it may be painting, writing or woodworking.  Whatever it is, if you find that you are a better person for doing it – that your heart starts humming just at the thought of it – than by all means possible, make time to do it.  It doesn’t matter if you sell your work, give it away or put your words in a drawer.  What truly matters is that in the act of creating, joy is unleashed.  

The Essence of the Earth

I have never processed my own clay.  Until this point, I have opened a fresh 25 lb., bag of earthenware, stuck my head deep inside to inhale its magic and started creating.  

Today was the day where that changed. We had an appointment with the earth – it was time to process the clay and dirt that we had dug a few days ago.  It was time for us to honor our commitment and make something wonderful from the gifts we had been given.  We swirled the muddy water with our hands, digging in deep and releasing the rocks, twigs and plant material from the clay.  We poured it through sieves, capturing more unwanted earthiness until all that was left was a muddy water concoction that will eventually reveal fine, silky micaceous clay.

Afterwards, as I was reveling in all that masterful muddiness, I realized that we humans, if we are dedicated and deiligent, do that as well.  If we are to live lives of honor, truthfulness and integrity, we too, must dig deep, examine our dark corners, our rough edges, and slowly release the grog from the gift.  What was so amazing to me today, was after sifting through all of the “debris”, the underlying and hidden bits of Mica were everywhere.  Even in the grog, there were shiny, sparkly bits of life that was offered up.  It is up to each one of us to see the beauty that is just waiting to behold.

My hands reveal my story…….

The Power of Tradition

The type of pottery that I create is based in the Pueblo tradition of hand building.  One of the reasons I wanted to take this workshop was to learn new traditional methods of creating and firing.  I never imagined that I would be able to peer into the traditions of the people as well.  A great gift was given to us today by our instructor, Clarence Cruz.  We loaded up in the van early this morning and drove to the Okhay Owingea Pueblo where he was born, raised and continues to live with his family.  Today the tribal dances were held to celebrate the new elected leaders of the community and we were invited to observe.

To say that this was a powerful experience for me is a monumental understatement.  The respect and love for the tradition was prevelant on all of the faces of the dancers and the onlookers.  It made me realize that through honoring tradition, we can grow and create something brand new.  The birth of creation is founded on the stable, sacred ground of our past.