"A Lesson in Love":
As a clay artist, I am continually mystified by the stories that I hear from other people when I sell my work at art festivals and shows. The wife of a wood worker told me an absolutely amazing story that I felt I must share. The woman was very moved by one of my clay turtle sculptures.She told me that I certainly captured the SPIRIT of the creature in clay. When I told her that I trusted each piece that I made was meant for a particular person who would show up to claim it, she wholeheartedly agreed. This belief was formed after a customer recently purchased one of her husband's wooden bowls. Apparently, he had been a farm animal veterinarian for a number of years. While waiting for the delivery of the baby animal and the part he played in it's emergence, he would sit and whittle small pieces. After a few years, he became quite good at it and found that a passion for it grew within his heart. Eventually he decided that it was time to retire from his profession and pursue his calling as a wood carver. Most of the man's friends knew that he was always looking for fallen trees that could be recycled and then used to create beautiful works of art.
One day a friend called and told him about an exceptional downed oak tree that needed to be removed. He felt that it would probably be enough wood to carve out at least four beautiful bowls. The wood carver contacted the caretaker of the land and was given permission to remove the downed tree. Since the man was deeply spiritual and grateful for the Gifts of the earth, he asked for guidance to create the most splendid wooden bowls possible. After hours, days and weeks, he was able to transform the tree into four perfect wooden bowls. The wife said that these bowls were splendid and they were overjoyed to display them at their next festival. One by one, each of the bowls found the perfect home very quickly, except for the last piece, which they simply could not sell. Over the course of a year, the bowl was lovingly packed and unpacked and it seemed that not one person was interested in it. At one point, the wife said that she picked the bowl up and questioned aloud "Is there something wrong with this piece? Why would the other three bowls from the same tree sell so quickly?"
After being packed and unpacked again and again, the older couple finally decided to lower the price. Not long after that, a young woman walked into their booth space and spotted the wooden bowl. Out of the many pieces on display that were carved from a variety of trees, the young woman went directly to that particular piece. She picked it up and examined it carefully, then she did something that always gives an artist such JOY, she held it up to her heart. After holding it against her body for a few minutes, she walked up to the wife and explained that she did not have much money, but if they would work with her, she would pay them installments on the piece. Naturally, the older couple was thrilled that someone had finally shown interest in it. They agreed to work with her so that she could give the oak bowl a home. After deciding how she could make payments on it, they wrapped the bowl up for her.
She then asked the couple where they had found such beautiful wood to create the wooden bowl. Within a few minutes, the man shared the story with the young woman about how he had been told about the tree and made a special journey to collect the wood to carve the four bowls.They laughed out loud as they shared how the other three pieces had sold so quickly, but this one lingered. Out of curiosity, the young woman asked where they found this tree and the wood carver told her the place. As he revealed the location of the tree that was used to create this last and final bowl, the young woman's eyes welled up with tears and she began to cry. The couple was disturbed that they had somehow upset her with their story, but the woman reassured them that her tears were not so much from sadness, but the profound realization that life is wonderfully inter-connected.
Sometimes, all we have to do is allow ourselves to be guided and open to the experience that unfolds. She explained to the couple that the area that they found the tree was the place that she had lived for many years when she was a child. The man had removed the tree from an orphanage and she had looked out her window at that tree admiring its beauty while she was growing up. It had been a great source of strength and comfort to her. Who would have thought that this old tree could have been transformed into the most beautiful work of art that could give such joy and love even in its death. In the sharing of that story, I came to believe even more that being an artist is a calling and that we must learn how to serve other Beings with a kind and loving heart. It is often easy to be closed by the tragedies and traumas in life, but to remain open and steadfast is essential to our healing.
When we show up at art festivals, we are risking a great deal in order to Share and sell our creations. Sometimes it rains, sometimes the wind blows, sometimes pieces are broken. Sometimes we do not sell a single thing to anyone. In spite of all the obstacles that we face, we are bestowed with a great responsibility. We must recognize that most people buy our work because it is pretty, but sometimes they buy it because it touches their heart and soul. May we ALL learn to trust that life is giving us everything that we need and move through our life lessons with love, tenderness and infinite compassion for our shared humanity.
"Compassion is the Best Revenge"
So, my next "sharing" is another truly profound lesson that I learned at an Art Festival in Lafayette, LA in April of 2009. It involves a young woman that decided to steal one of my sacred Turtle necklaces. In the 12 years of selling my work at juried Art Festivals, I had never experienced anyone stealing a piece from me.One of my main "lessons" is loving detachment. Most people would say that I am naive and a bit too trusting, but that usually works for me! I like to believe in the Goodness of people. Often, I sit outside the booth and although I acknowledge the many people that walk into the space, I do not hover over them. Usually I tell them that I made everything that they SEE out of clay and that there are philosophical messages on the back and that IF they need any help, to please let me know.
Normally, my work really appeals to children. Seriously, they often wander into the space in front of their parents and are very moved by my work. I do not know WHY, but, they may sense the JOY that emanates from my creative expressions. That is one of the reasons that there is a CLAY sign that I made posted in my booth that says "PLEASE TOUCH." I feel like clay is a tactile medium that lends itself to touch. Plus, how do you know that you really Like something unless you touch it? In all the years that I have done this, I have only had two pieces broken by customers. I think I have broken more in transport to the show or packing. I never told the people that they needed to pay me. The signs that say "If you break it, you buy it" seem silly to me. The broken pieces were small and the people's Feelings were more important. After all, they did later buy larger pieces from me and it worked out to be a win/win situation. I do urge folks to use TWO hands when picking up the work.
This young woman that "took" the turtle necklace without my permission or blessing, was able to remove it when I was not looking. Because I KNOW ALL of my work, I recognized that turtle was missing. Immediately, I mentioned it to my husband and he told me to keep my eyes open. Funny, huh? I felt very violated and vulnerable.I did not like the way I felt, but I surrendered to the feeling. A few hours passed and I was sitting under the necklace area pondering the missing necklace when a young, drunk woman walked up to my booth and turned to me and flashed the Turtle necklace. Her friends were all watching from the distance. As a veru sensitive and empathic Woman, I knew that we were getting ready to do a turtle DANCE.
Needless to say, those who know me, know that I jumped up and fearlessly walked straight up to her and asked her why she had MY necklace on her neck when I had not gotten any money for it. Her "story" changed a few times, and she told me that she had purchased it earlier. I told her firmly "No, I did NOT get any money for the piece." Then, she told me that a friend had purchased it for her. Again, I gently, but firmly told her "No, your friend did not give me any money for the piece." Then, her drunk boy friend came over and asked what was happening. I told him that I either wanted the money for the necklace or the necklace. He opened his nearly empty wallet and offered me 3 dollars. I told him that it was more than that. Then, I told her that the necklace had my name on the back. I reached up and flipped it over and shockingly realilzed that for some bizarre reason, I had NOT signed that particular piece. She did not know that though and I did not reveal it to her. In my mind, that is a very important detail. Later, after the piece was returned, I signed the back with a permanant marker. Normally it is CARVED into the clay. For some reason that piece had gotten past me without my name on it. It temporarily got LOST out in the world of craziness and unconsciousness and had to Journey HOME.
With that, she finally reached up and took it off and offered it back to me with an apology. I asked her to come into my booth space so that I could talk with her. I have no clue exactly what was said, but I know it was what her drunk butt needed to hear in that instant. At that time, I informed her that although I am an "Artist" I do WORK for my money and it is NOT appropriate to STEAL. After telling her that, I also informed her that I do not make my focus in life MONEY, but service and connections. In all honestly, I feel that the work that I do is a "calling" of sorts. IF she had talked with me prior to stealing, I may have worked out a payment plan or perhaps GIFTED her the piece. She again said she was sorry and she hugged me. That may seem ODD to some folks, but I see it as a Lesson for her and for me. We can read about forgiveness, but what is most important is that we learn how to really practice it in our lives.
Then, I let it go for the time being and about an hour passed.This particular show is wonderful but very exhausting. My sweet husband, Chris, saw the girl and her group of friends getting increasingly drunk and passing an open bottle of whiskey around in front of my friend Lori's booth. That made him uncomfortable and he felt they may come back in the middle of the night and disturb the art work. At that point, I agreed with his keen observation and went to find Louann, the manager of the festival. Then, I discovered other artist's had pieces missing, but nobody knew who was stealing the stuff. I found a security guard and asked him to come into my space to SEE the work and to keep a close eye on it that night. I tried to gift him a small glass shell piece with the message "Compassion is an act of heart." He said he could not accept it, but would watch my area closely.He noticed that I live in Gulfport, Mississippi. He had also lived thru Katrina and lost his home in Biloxi, MS.
Suddenly, Louann and a "real" policeman with a real gun showed up at my Art in Clay booth. I told them what had happened and showed them the young people that had stolen my necklace. I told them that I really did not want any trouble and had handled the situation. They felt like the young folks needed to be banned from the festival. Because I do not like all the drama, I left my space to my husband (he, unlike me, loves the show COPS) and I ran over to Carol Thibodeaux's booth. I opened up with her since she is such a compassionate person. She hugged me and said that it was a blessing that I was able to be the one to experience that and perhaps teach the "kids" a valuable and lifesaving Lesson early on in their lives. Needless to say, I was feeling a wide range of emotions, but under all of it was an acceptance.... allowing it to unfold.
When I finally returned to my little area, I discovered that the young people, including the woman, had been arrested because they had apparently been stealing from MANY ARTISTS at the Festival International show. Fortunately, all of the Artists got their work back that night.Those that reported missing items went and identified their work. In fact, I did not discover that until the end of the show after packing everything up sunday night. The young people were arrested because there is a cause and effect thing in life that can NOT be avoided. Consequences for actions is a major lesson to learn. In retrospect, I can only say that the story does NOT end there.
Turtle necklace was NOT meant for that person and it returned to ME in order to find it's rightful owner/caretaker. The next night, a lovely, conscious woman named Kathy came into my space with her husband John. We really felt a kinship and connection with one another. In fact, her picture can be seen under satisfied customers gallery on this site. That was my last turtle necklace available at that time and she simply LOVED it. After deciding that she did indeed "need" the necklace for healing and such, her kind husband agreed to buy it for her. At that point, I told her the story of the piece. Prodigal turtle, huh? It made a bizarre journey away and then returned HOME. We all experience ourselves at times as unloving people. In spite of everything, I TRUST that ALL is WELL.
Everything really does ultimately work out as it is meant to work out for the greatest good of ALL Beings involved. I have learned that there is a difference between authentic Power and Force. As I grow in wisdom and experience, I become more powerful. I do not have a GUN, but I have an arsenal of experiences to draw upon. Never underestimate the POWER of keeping your EYES open as life unfolds. So many folks are awfully busy in their lives. I watched at this show as they blindly walked behind friends and family "texting" and not bringing their attention to LIFE. I still re- member what my high school teacher told me when I was only 15. Always take the time to stop and smell the roses. Simple, but true. Keep your heart, mind and EYES open to the beauty that abounds. In spite of all the challenges that we move through, we can learn to be fully present. That awareness has made even the most difficult experiences a little bit easier.
Interestingly, the story does not end there. I participated in a Fresh Market this weekend and a woman named Christa was next to me selling some beautiful photographs. Most of them were water related and she had some fabulous photos of turtles. We traded a starfish necklace for some great turtle images. As we were packing up our stuff, she told me about the pair of turtles in one photo. She said that they were actually swimming around one another in a DANCE motion that was amazing. I laughed and told her about the necklace being stolen and how I shared the happening on my web site. Then, I told her that I had said we did a "turtle dance" and was amazed to hear HER describe it. Life is one deep Mystery and we are truly connected to one another in ways that are sometimes very difficult to wrap out minds around. Again, we just need to take the time to communicate with one another. Next time someone talks to you, give them the GIFT of active Listening. We all just want to be heard and validated. I am going to tell you a secret now. YOU are so very special. You are so very loved. Your life is important and you are here for a reason. May that purpose continue to unfold. And one more thing, NEVER STEAL. There is more than enough and IF You want something that You do not think You can afford, just start a dialogue with the person. Often, when we are able to talk open heartedly, we can find a way for everybody to be happy and have their needs met. I am VERY approachable. As an "elder" I must say that I generally say YES, but if not, that's OK too.
Prior to hurricane Katrina, I was taking a course called "The Art and Science of Herbalism" by Rosemary Gladstar that was taught by the infamous Sandy King. She is truly a brilliant woman and all joking aside, I am honored to know her. Prior to taking the course, I was told that it would be a "breeze" since I was a natural at growing plants and gardening. Think again. That was harder than any course that I ever took while I was in the nursing program 100 years ago! For starters, I was required to learn the botanical names of medicinal plants including verbascum thapsis. That translates to Mullin for goodness sake. Sandy insisted that learning the botanical name was like learning a persons middle name. It added depth to the knowing. Yeah, right. I would awaken in the middle of the night with botanical names coming out of my mouth. I would get out my flash cards and run through them over and over again until the names were burned into my brain. Eventually when I stopped resisting it, the names came to me more easily. As Eckhart Tolle says so often "Resistence causes Pain." Sometimes surrender is what brings us peace.
The point of this is that a deeper love of the Creator, the plants, their medicine and also their names grew within my heart. YES, Sandy was right. One particular plant that I love is called bearsfoot and it is traditionally part of an arthritis formula. When I saw the plant growing at Blue Boy Herbs, which is run by my teacher's teacher, the wonderful Darrell Martin, I knew that I loved this plant! It is my belief that we GROW in love. It is about finding a way to stay connected to the loving and creative Divine Force in the Universe. Perhaps I should mention that I also feel a kinship with the animal Bear and the plant's leaves resemble the shape of the foot. In truth, I wanted to possess it as my own and watch it grow in MY garden.
At that particular time, I wanted to have it so that I could harvest some of the root for tincture. During my visits to the farm, I would ask for just a plant or two. Like so many wonderful things in life I had to wait for it to be released to me and completely ready to Receive it. In fact, it was at least three years before Darrell finally helped me dig up a few baby plants from in front of his place. I joyfully took them home and asked them where they wanted to be in the garden and then, planted them. During the first year, they grew and grew like Jack and the beanstalk. As they grew past the roof, I observed with awe and wonder.
When it eventually came time to harvest, I simply could not do it. Instead, I found mySelf taking a few of the leaves and rolling them in clay. Then, I would step back and see beautiful little women within the leaves and I would see words in the veins and I used my needle tool to help bring them forth. It made my heart sing to create those sweet clay pieces. It was as IF the beautfy of the leaf and plant was preserved in clay to be enjoyed and reflected upon later when the plant was sleeping for the winter. When I finally completed a few, at least a month from start to finish, I brought them with me to the Peter Anderson Festival to find the people they belonged to.
Towards the end of a very long and tiring day, a lovely young couple with two young daughters and another little girl came into my booth. They noticed that I had put out a few herbal tinctures and asked if I knew Lynda Baker. I said, of course I knew that amazing woman! We then chatted about other people we all mutually knew and I found out that the young man was a master gardener. I told him that he had to see my newest creations in clay which depict the beauty of the feminine drawn into leaves. As soon as I took the very first one that I had made off the wall, he KNEW it was bearsfoot.(I had fully intended to keep THAT One for myself, but the Uni-verse had other plans.) This beautiful, young couple ended up purchasing THAT Piece from me. They loved and appreciated it's beauty and as I have said previously, the Piece was waiting for them to show up!
There are not many people that would be able to recognize and identify Bearsfoot, unless they were familar with it. Then, I asked him how he knew the Plant? Amazingly, he told me that when he lived in Georgia there was a whole patch of them growing so beautifully. They were about to be clear cut and he could not bear it (haha... bearsfoot) and so, he dug some up and actually shipped them to...... ready for this? Darrell Martin, the master herbalist that had gifted me the plants in the first place. Yes, this is absolutely TRUE! To SEE the connections in life and in death is Truly a Gift my friends. We all have the capacity within us IF we are open and receptive and willing to take the time.
Again, what are the chances of that happening? I believe it illustrates that we are connected to all things and must simply take the time to be Aware. Also, it seems to be about some kind of perfect, Divine timing. Those plants are just outside my back porch window and stand over 8 feet tall in August. There are beautiful little mini sunflower like blooms all over them. The flowers attract insects including bees, which is a blessed thing to a gardener. Looking at them when the Light is shining on them in a particular way just takes my breath away. Who would think there could be so many variations on the color GREEN. I believe that I will go gratefully and reverently pick a leaf right now, roll out some clay and capture the essence and beauty of one of the many Gift's of Mother Nature. As you move forward on the Journey, may your heart be able to bear any pain, transcend it and know the Beauty of ALL that IS.
"Learning to keep the heart Light as a Feather."
In 2008, I made another powerfully transformative Journey to northern California to visit one of my Friends from high school. It had been over six years since I had last flown and I had heard some nightmare stories surrounding the current state of air travel. In spite of that, I affirmed that my Experience would be pleasant, Joy filled and I would meet just the right people at just the right time. And so my Journey began with great expectations. I must explain that very frequently I have night Visions and Dreams that seem to prepare me for future events. While awake, I often pride mySelf on being practical and down to earth, but while I sleep, I receive "Information" about things because I am more Receptive to Guidance without my left brain getting in the way.
Having said that, I must go backwards in time and explain that prior to my last California Journey in 2002, I had a severe case of food poisoning and was very ill for a few days. In fact, those that know me well, know that I prefer to stay away from hospitals and emergency rooms, but this was so severe that I had to go to an urgent care center. My body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do by creating a high fever to burn up the toxins, but my mind started to become disoriented and the phenergan medicine that they gave me just compounded the confusion. That night, while I fitfully tried to sleep, I had a Dream that I walked into a beautiful Temple. I must mention that I had not actually ever gone into a Temple prior to that dream. I removed my shoes and walked in. It was filled with many people and with very large statue Beings at the front on an elevated "stage."
The one Statue that stood out in my awareness had many, many arms. In the dream, I walked over to an area that had Light pouring in through the ceiling and I sat down on the floor in the Light. As I sat there, I began to Feel better and when I felt healed, I got up, gave Thanks, and walked to the door in the back. As I left, I was looking at a mass of shoes and could not find mine. Because I did not want to take someone elses shoes, I felt the loving choice was simply to leave without shoes. As I walked away from the Temple, I suddenly began to FLY. When I awakened, I felt better and was able to begin the process of full recovery. Perhaps the dream allowed my mind to shift it's perception and not resist the pain and allow an opening for healing to take place.
A week later, back in 2002, I flew out to California to visit Linda and take in the Beauty of northern California. (Check out vacation photo gallery IF you have the time.) She was very kind to me, as she always is, and made it a point to take me to various places. At the time she suggested that we could get a great vegetarian meal at a place called "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas" which was near Ukiah. It had been a state mental facility, but the lovely Buddhists had a Vision of creating a community of consciousness and were able to fulfill that vision. That included growing much of their food and really focusing on education and the practice of Buddhist principles. Initially, when we arrived on their well manicured property, I immediatelly noticed the beautiful peacocks and peahens that freely roamed the grounds.
Suddenly, I spotted the Temple and insisted to Linda that I must go within the building since I had experienced such a healing in my dream of a Temple a week earlier. First, we went and feasted on fabulous vegan vegetarian food and then, turned our attention to the Temple. As we walked towards it, my heart began to flutter and I wondered IF it was possible that it was the same as the one in my night dream and WHY was a being lead to this place? As I approached the entrance, I spotted a beautiful white Feather on the ground and bent over to pick it up. Then, a kind woman walked over and opened the door for me. Because of the dream, I removed my shoes and quietly walked into the sanctuary. It was other worldly to me since I had already visited the place in a dream without my physical Body. After all, we are NOT our bodies.We are so much MORE than that. We can be FREE. Way up above in the ceiling there were actually many sky lights, which accounted for the LIGHT that came in on me in the dream.
Then I saw very large statues on a stage in the front area. There were also some in the back but I had not seen them in the dream. I walked over to the place where the healing Light had poured in(pictures of the Temple can be seen under the gallery "vacation" pictures.) and there was a vase of my favorite flowers called Stargazer lily.(you can see what these look like under the gallery section garden photos.) If you ever breathe in the fragrance and essence of this flower, you never forget it's sweetness. And so, feeling that I was being given a beautiful GIFT and InSight, I proceeded to move to the back of the Temple and sit down silently and ask if there was something that I needed to be more aware of in my Life?
As I sat down on the floor and closed my eyes and began to focus on my Breath, I found that still, powerful point of Peace. When I arrived at that place, the words "keep your Heart light as a feather" came into my consciousness. As I sat and pondered that message, I realized that it would be a Journey rather than a destination. And so I gave thanks for the Experience. As I prepared to leave the Temple, I found my shoes and walked over to the books. I picked up one called "The Heart Sutra" and later read it when I returned to Mississippi. As I approached the glass door to exit, I saw a beautiful white peacock looking in the door. The white feather that I still held in my hand probably came off of this bird.
Needless to say, the entire experience was very profoundly powerful and a bit mystical. It was also during that visit that I discovered that I have an ability to pick stinging nettles without gloves. They simple do not sting me. An American Indian told me that I had authentic Power, not worldly Power. Interesting. And now the story comes full circle six years later when I had an opportunity to visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas once again in July of 2008. While walking in downtown Ukiah one evening, Linda spotted a flier with information indicating that the Buddhists were hosting a community vegetarian Feast for a mere 9 dollar donation. We called and made our reservations. When we arrived at the restaurant, there were at least five round tables with people sitting around them. We sat down at one of the tables and began to interact with other guests.
A friendly, funny woman named Cecilia sat down next to me at our table. After a bit of talking and sharing, the delicious food began to be served. As one beautiful course after another was placed on a turning area in the center of the table, we felt even more of a sense of sharing and connection with one another. Eventually, I shared the story of my healing experience from six years earlier with Cecilia. She was intrigued and told me that I must record the experience and email it to her. So, once again, I am moved to write about this and share it with others. During our conversation, I was told that it sounded like the loving, compassionate Energy of Quan Yin healed me of my illness. In that healing, I was able to know the importance of learning the art of Living a life of Awareness. Some days, that is easier than others.
A significant part of that has included being able to release those things that held me back and caused me to suffer. Many times it was simply an outdated perception that no longer served my grandest unfoldment. Part of my journey involved living through hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi gulf coast back in 2005 and then, the OIL tragedy in 2010.. The Katrina "event" is over, but in many ways the pain has lived on for many people in their heart, mind, and soul. I can only be Aware of MY perceptions of the intense experience, and I can now see some of the Gifts that came out of it. Fortunately, I had done some internal cleansing of my body and mind prior to that event, or I would have suffered more tremendously. Regarding the oil situation, it will take many years to see the full impact of it. I have seen many Turtles wash ashore on our MS gulf coast beaches and it has made me feel very sad. Certainly Life is interconnected on the Earth. We MUST take care of the resources and walk with more reverance.
After sharing a lovely community meal, I quietly and reverently walked over to the Temple for another visit. It was full of monks, nuns, and many other devoted Beings. I had severly pulled a muscle in my right hip a few days earlier and it caused me some pain to walk. Once again I entered the Temple and gave thanks for the experience. In the observation of the chanting and walking meditation, I again became Aware of the importance of nonjudgement, finding common ground with other Beings on the path to EnLightenment and discovering a way to renew the Connection with one another. It came into my Awareness once again that my resistence causes me to suffer.
When I fully embrace what is happening it is as though LOVE has the chance to offer a healing. I feel like I have finally arrived Home to my Heart Center. Perhaps the sharing of this will inspire others to begin the Journey of self Awareness and healing. Since that time, I have learned that the only real Peace lies in the experience of the present Moment. Pain must be transcended and burned up in the presence of NOW. We must all find a way to cultivate more consciousness and know that we can move through all challenges by learning authentic Power with other Beings, rather than Power over them.