If you look really closely, you can probably only read a little of my handwriting on the flying bird in this new painting called Return to Center. But that's ok with me. As we all engage a new part of the pandemic, I've been working with the interplay of what's legible and blurry, what we understand and what we don't. I'm using writing/handwriting for both visual texture and layers of meaning.
And yet... when another artist uses words in their art, I always want to know what those words say! So I thought I'd be kind to the curious and share. :-) Keep reading for a bit of the process, and then the text.
As you might have guessed, I wrote a lot words and cut the bird out of the middle of a larger paper. In fact, I wrote prayerfully in a free-writing, stream of consciousness style about my daily life and themes like water, trust, and simple ritual.
I did a bit of choosing about where I would cut out the bird shape from the whole writing page. But of course I didn't get to control exactly what words would stay on or be trimmed off... so it became a kind of found poem that wrote itself on the bird cut-out. Here it is:
all the radiant joy
and pollen, song after song
between trips back and forth
fresher, brighter way than
did I head out as always to fill the bird
now than our little stone basin.
birds, bugs, and creatures that count
poured the water for my own heart
real danger and true need, I add
in the redistribution of water wealth
true and essential: giving and reciprocity
wise to keep this ritual of stopping
tempted to make a task of this joyful action
humility and care return to pull me back out of the grip of
false importance. May the birds themselves remain my teachers
the day as it is
the sustenance in the moment, treasure their
as easily as this rainstorm passed
nests and chicks
my ego might decide
I really liked this partly-happenstance poem! And then, here's the whole prayer writing from which I cut out the bird. (The bold words are those that remained on the bird, as typed above.)
“It rained last night. Four inches of storm rain after months of dry. Here in the desert, it’s always a matter of trust and faith that just enough water will arrive. Yet in these days of climate emergency, it’s rough to keep that faith! In the paradigm of measurement and logic-only, we are speeding through the limits into our demise. What lifts our faith?
Lately, I’ve been learning about ritual as one way to find balance and remember daily the truth of Earth and her possibilities. Abundance and generosity are her favorites, it seems, as evidenced by that incredible rain and all the radiant joy rising up out of the ground in leaves and grass, mud and pollen, song after song from the birds. So much happy chirping and trilling between trips back and forth to the nests.
It’s humming with life out there in a fresher, brighter way than I’ve heard in a long time. We all needed the rain. Why, then, did I head out as always to fill the bird bath? There are puddles everywhere more popular now than our little stone basin. True, but I needed the daily motion of care for the birds, bugs, and creatures that count on the water in dry times. I scrubbed the bowl and poured the water for my own heart as much as these dear birds I treasure.
In the face of real danger and true need, I add this simple act of generous repetition. Participating in the redistribution of water wealth reorients my spirit again to the perspective of what’s true and essential: giving and reciprocity in radical trust.
When my time is too scarce, I am wise to keep to this ritual of stopping my urgent plans to make this offering. When I’m tempted to make a task of this joyful action, may the sacred intention of humility and care return to pull me back out of the grip of stress and deadline and false importance.
May the birds themselves remain my teachers as they greet the day as it is, find the sustenance in the moment, treasure their temporary dwellings, and, just as easily as this rainstorm passed, they let go of nests and chicks and everything my ego might decide is too necessary to release.
They live, seek, trust, and fly. They keep faith that God and Earth will bring the water and the seed, and sometimes I am the ambassador with both.
The daily service feeds me just as deeply, I think.
If that sounds too dramatic, I only mean to say that I lean on these rituals of water, and listening, and remembering, to practice and recover who I truly am as a child of Earth and Spirit, sister to the sparrow and the microbe, cousin to the stars above.
God, please help me fill my heart with life each day as I pour water for the birds and for the tea. I want to remember that abundance and trust beget faith and generosity enough to transform us. I choose this small ritual to hold the largest prayers for love and mutual flourishing.”
It's (mostly) a joy to share what's given to me in the creative process with you. It's also bit vulnerable, but that's what's alive and juicy, right?
I told stories about the other two birds for the Brave Joy Collective community, in posts I wrote specifically for them. And then I crafted a spiritual practice on the theme Ritual for this new art image. Come join us in the collective if you wish-- and receive fresh art and practices like this in your mailbox each month. It's a meaningful adventure and spiritual boost.
One member said, "It has been a joy to receive these inspiring images. They provide my body, mind, and spirit a clear focus for staying positive and taking steps toward clarity on the path. I feel grateful that you offered these this year!"
You can also order just the June Art & Practices, or a Return to Center Art Print. I always appreciate the support, and I love knowing the art will inspire you or a loved one. And there's always plenty of strong beauty to bring into your heart or share with another in the website shop.
Blessings for the prayers and daily rituals that help to fill us with Spirit.
Art & text © Melanie Weidner, 2021.