A Feast for the Spirit

A Feast for the Spirit

There are times in everyone’s life where an experience may not live up to all that we wanted it to be and yet, with enough distance and perspective, it is exactly what we needed. There have been so many unexpected events that have occurred during this trip – too many to bore you with – but I wanted to share an incredible event that I could have never imagined possible.

If you don’t know, the type of ceramic work that I create is based on the time honored traditions of the Pueblo Indians. Specifically, Maria Martinez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Her rich black, burnished surfaces of hand built work continues to inspire and entrance me. To be able to view her work in person while in Santa Fe is like breathing in the past and feeling the love and passion for the work wash over me and into the future.

I, along with my husband, students and staff from Ghost Ranch, attended Feast Day at San Ildefonso on the last day of our trip. It is a time to honor all the gifts that have been given to the tribe throughout the year and is celebrated with tribal dances, music, singing and, well, feasting. It has been said that if you are invited into one of the homes to join in their offerings you must not refuse; to decline such an invitation would be incredibly rude. To my utter astonishment and delight, through my pottery mentor, Clarence Cruz, we were invited into the Martinez home to share in their bounty of green Chile stew, red Chile stew, enchiladas, prune pie, fresh baked bread from the Orno and, and, and……….

As I entered the home, to say that I was humbled and awestruck would be a GINORMOUS understatement. I sat there, transfixed as I, along with Clarence, Rikki and my husband were led to a table and served. My first thought, I should be serving them! I should be telling them what a profound influence their Grandmother had on me as a person and an artist. I wanted to shout out from the rooftop how grateful I was to be allowed in their home to share this precious, precious moment with them. And yet, as I sat there, I physically restrained my enthusiasm and muted it into reverence for the food and the company. I thanked them nothing short of twenty times all the while having a silly, girl like grin on my face and wondering if they could see me bursting inside with gratitude and excitement.

It wasn’t until later that day, while I was sitting in front of the Labyrinth at the ranch and relaying the story to one of the students that I began to cry. Weeping for the chance to be a part of such a special moment, to be able to present with it, to embrace it.

My life has forever been changed by my time at Ghost Ranch and the opportunities that I have received and been able to experience. All of the other stuff that happens along the way is simply just transitory, temporary and nothing to hold on to.

This moment…………well, that was worth the price of admission.

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Stardust and Light

A couple of nights ago, I was fortunate enough to see the New Mexico night sky as I had never witnessed it before. A night when the sky, with barely a Moon in sight, was full of stardust. It was as if a giant bowl was turned toward earth and all of the planets and stars were spilling luminescence over everything they touched.

I went to a place on the ranch where I could safely lay down, look up and become shrouded in the metamorphic deep, dark, brilliant space of the never ending night sky. Have you ever seen something so beautiful, so ethereal and touched by the divine, that it physically caused pain within your body? Such a gift from a governing heart.

As I walked dreamily to bed, filled with all things of inky lushness, I decided I wanted to wake early to see the transition from night to dawn. I will tell you right now, it was worth the brevity of my sleep and dreams.

From moment to moment I was chasing the fading of the night and the birth of the morning, hoping for just one more moment of magnificence to carry my spirit into another day. One more chance to inhale the ending and look toward the beginning.

Wondering around since this event, I have been trying to figure out the lesson, looking for the message in all of this. There must be something I could retrieve from such beauty, such transition, so routine for the natural world and yet so transformative for me. And then, without warning, it became clear: everything must end and yet, with the sadness of this, there is this undeniable eagerness for another beginning. Another chance to love, to create, to be present in my life for the transitions that are coming to us all.

No matter where I go from here, I go there taking these memories of stardust and light with me. Without the light of the moon, the stars can shine. With the Sun comes another chance for us to shine.

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.

Temporary Times

The land takes over what our hands have laid aside.

As without…….so within.

Visiting a special area of Ghost Ranch with the photography class yesterday, I was struck by the eroding beauty of the man made structures left behind. Nature needed no assistance taking back what humans were finished tending. I took this wandering into myself and realized that without “self tending” we are all set up for an erosion of our spirit; a washing away of our essence barely perceptible until we find ourselves in the darkness of chaos.

I had a teacher once say, “If you have 10 phone lines ringing and you answer one, you only have 9 left to go.” It’s not the size of the chaos that takes us down as much as the inertia of apathy and overwhelm. If we are to be individuals with the gift of self reliance we also have the greater obligation of answering those phone lines. Some calls aren’t meant for us; some of them will have our name written all over them. That is where discernment must step in and guide us to the truth. Take a moment…….listen to the message…….decide if you are the true recipient.

It is a magnificent state of being to be of service but we all might do well to remember that self reliance requires that we also give to ourselves.

I give myself over to clay time and time again and receive multiple blessings in return. What are you giving yourself over to? Is it worthy of your precious, precious time? Or, is it an excuse to avoid your own self reliance?

As within…….so without ❤️

The Beauty of “Ish”

Perfection is a harsh task master. It is a never ending gravel road of sharp wits, unforgiving, withering self criticism and a ink filled hole full of isolation from oneself. It is a the combination of self doubt fueled by exorbitantly crushing expectations placed squarely on our shoulders by the operator themselves.

Perfection is where dreams go to die. It is where we take all that we are and decide, day in and day out, that we are not enough. It feels as heavy in the body as a 7 day donut binge. It’s a drug; a fuel for consuming our desires; a lover who will never return our affection. And then at some point, since we can never attain perfection……..we ask ourselves, Why go on? Why pursue our dreams when it just ends up in disappointment?

The beauty of this Life is not in the attainment of perfection. The Japanese call it Wabi Sabi – that things are more beautiful because of their imperfections. The beauty of this Life is doing what we love to do, since the time is going to pass no matter how we spend it and let the liberation of our best efforts combined with our connection to the creative be enough. I’ll be there around 7ish; it’s finished for the most part; it’s a work in progress; I’m a work in progress; we are ALL a work in progress – and tomorrow, I’m gonna be alright. “Ish” is not an excuse – it is a softening of the cold hard edges of self sabotage. A willingness to give ourselves a pass to the next day, the next creation, the next adventure.

The beauty of knowing we are doing, being and having our best selves within all that we know while honoring our authenticity AND honoring the best within our loved ones – for me, that is of greater service to the higher good of all then following a infinite dark hallway toward the whipping post of fractured intentions and excuses.

Create…………and let that be enough ❤️

YOU Again?????

One year has gone by………..one magical, creative, evolutionary “art” year since I returned from Ghost Ranch; a 22,000 acre retreat center nestled between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. A place where paths opened for me that I never imagined possible. A place where I allowed my vulnerability and fear of reaching toward my future to fall away and allowed myself, YES, allowed myself to be gently led into the open air of possibility and tickling sensation that something was waiting on the other side of all of that self regulation and restriction.

One of the questions that I am asking myself when presented with different, divergent, paths is this: “If I can fast forward to the end of my life and look back, will I regret NOT taking the chance? Usually, when I can quiet down my “monkey mind”, I can see the answer clearly. More often than not, the answer is Yes. Take the chance. Breathe into the possibility. Expand past the self imposed boundaries and just create. Get your hands and your heart muddy and then go wash off.

I had a very valued artist say to me recently; “Don’t be concerned with going out on a limb creatively. Whatever you do and wherever you go, you will always bring back the knowledge that you learned while you were dangling.” That, my friends, is the power of inspiration. That is what Life can contain if we allow it. The ability to scoot out further on the limb – create, fail, succeed, expand.

I am headed to Ghost Ranch once again. This time, as a teacher and a student. There are other mediums that I want to incorporate into my work and this opportunity will give me the chance to say Hello to them.

It is my hope that you will once again allow me to express into words and visual photos how much this abundant, sacred space affects me. See you at the ranch ❤️

Personally Ours…..

If you are an artist, a creative or simply a living, breathing real life person, I bet you have had someone say to you, “You can’t take things so personally”.  Whether it’s your relationship with another person or a recent rejection, I’ve heard more times than I care to think about, that phrase which is supposed to be a salve to my heart. And yet, every time it is spoken I wonder to myself……..how in the hell do you do that?  How do you “de-personalize” something or someone you have invested part of your soul in?

Let’s back up for a moment.  When I am in the flow of creating, when a vision magically manifests in my head, I “see” it floating around, just waiting for me to acknowledge the fact that this vision was meant for me.  I quieted my mind and my own thoughts enough to allow my Muse to show up, to gently speak to me and am able to recognize that I had been singled out to bring this vision into the real world.  In that moment, I feel chosen, an individual blessed with a connection that is so intimate, so incredibly personal that I can’t wait to touch clay again to bring it into the physical universe before I lose the magic.

Taking things “personally” is, for me, what creating is all about!  If I am simply producing work, without a connection to its soul and it’s essence then I am not fully invested in the outcome. Yes, I take my art personally; and there are times, that I take rejection personally.  Well, most of the time, I take rejection personally.  I always wonder what I can do better, what edge I didn’t push, or did I push it too far.   But here’s the kicker………this is all part of the dance of life.  Being truly invested in my life means that there will be times that it ain’t all sunshine and flowers.  Fantasies don’t smell……….sometimes reality does.

If I allow the criticisms, the rejections or the apathy to take over my soul, I would not be able to create.  That choice is up to me. Now, I’m not suggesting that we should wallow in the misery of rejections or base our creative “mojo” on someone else’s opinion of it.  What I am leaning toward is that taking our lives personally is part of being an authentic individual with an authentic voice.  To be able to move through the struggles and disappointment and be able to come through it with even more passion for your art…..well, for me……..that’s the seat of the soul kind of love. I will continue to take my creativity, my art and my life personally, because, with all of its hiccups, travails and joys…….it’s mine.  Every last, personal drop.