October 2016
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Rivers of Life
Remembrance and Expectations

Fall Forest by CJ Shelton
A dear friend recently gave me a book called The Celtic Spirit – Daily Meditations for the Turning Year by Caitlin Matthews, who happens to be one of my go-to authors for all things Celtic. As we near the end of October I have delighted in Matthews’ snippets of wisdom coupled with long walks to savour the last of the balmy temperatures and brilliant autumn colours. Yet these have been punctuated by bitter-sweet reflections on how deceptive the warmth and vibrancy actually is with November’s chill and the darkest part of the year now only a few breaths away. Reminders are everywhere of life’s transition points between past, and future, heartache and joy, quiet and chaos.

Shaw's Creek by CJ SheltonI have also been chastising myself for being so remiss in getting out this long overdue newsletter. While a lovely restful stretch of downtime in late summer blazed into a powerful outpouring of creativity and some amazing new paintings, all that activity left me spent. As I look back I see what an elemental journey it was from watery emotionality, to inspired airy thoughts, to fiery activity and finally some earthy tangible results. Along the way, my good intentions of writing “what I did on my summer vacation” about the other journey I took in August along the Niagara River somehow remained only a thought process that never quite made it to actual words on a page. Instead, I kept surrendering to more urgent callings that carried me along like running rapids.

But all this is as it should be. Life’s energies never cease to swirl and eddy, where one moment we are in a calm reflective pool, the next flailing towards a thundering waterfall. I find though that it is acknowledging Mother Nature's metaphors that helps keep me present and centred in the “now” … as much as that is possible for a mere human. As Matthews’ writes, “it is only humans who fetter themselves with the chains of past and future; animals [and Nature] experience a continual present. That they do not inhabit their memories or expectations is a blessed condition for them that we cannot share”. Or can we … ?

Fall Berries by CJ SheltonWe humans are the only creature that tortures itself with self-flagellating remembrance of things past and twisted knots of self-imposed expectations; it seems we are always living either in the past or the future but rarely in the here and now. Perhaps I am just nostalgic for simpler times but it seems the ancient Celts lived with much less resistance to Nature’s flow and more in harmony with her inevitable cycles. They thoroughly embraced the light and goodness of life but coupled it with a healthy and extraordinary ability to welcome the darkness too. Their goal was to strike a perfect balance between these polar opposites as the rode their currents with grace and acceptance, whatever the circumstances.

Four Worlds Celtic Knot Mandals by CJ SheltonAnother way they maintained such balance was by celebrating seasonal festivals at regular six week intervals throughout the year. Like the intersection points in their intricate “over/under” knot-work patterns, these festivals marked the transition points of the solar year with reminders to pause and take stock before life’s forward momentum resumed once more.

We are now approaching “Samhain” (pronounced sow-en), the most important though least understood of these festivals. Samhain was celebrated between October 31 and November 6 as the Festival of the Dead, a time to pay homage to the ancestors while the “veils between the worlds” were thin. At this time contact with unquiet spirits and restless souls could be done with ease. Fall Leaves by CJ SheltonThis special time also divided the Wheel of the Year into two seasons:  the Dark Half and the Light Half. Samhain was the day on which the Celtic New Year and winter began simultaneously so it was a logical time to acknowledge endings and beginnings of all sorts. As a liminal threshold point, Samhain signified change and a brief but celebratory time-out to honour and lay to rest the past before preparing and for the winter ahead.

Unlike Halloween, Samhain’s modern counterpart, it had nothing to do with evil practices or horrific, ghoulish costumes. Rather, it was a time infused with positive energy and filled with hope for the future; many of its activities were very reaffirming of the continuation of life in the face of winter’s impending hardships. Interestingly, some modern day witches and pagans now dress for Samhain in costumes reflecting what they hope to be or achieve in the coming year … which really sheds new light on the whole concept, doesn’t it?

Both Matthews’ musings and Nature’s turning wheel have a wonderfully synchronistic ability to echo exactly what we may be feeling or experiencing on any given day. And as I continue to chastise myself for failing to write a timely newsletter about my summer vacation, I now realize I actually have written about my summer vacation, just not in the way I expected. And I recognize that by surrendering to the flow of life, I have allowed that complex thought process of what is now a past memory to remain a living entity that feeds me still, and will continue to feed me going forward. That moment will always remain a part of my river of life … whether I actually wrote about it or not.

Fall Sunset by CJ SheltonThe river is always there and ready to offer its timelessness and its teachings, as well as its remembrance of things past and expectations of things to come. As we mark the transition to the Dark Half of the year, let us take pause along our own individual rivers to savour this time of transition and the collective magic available to us, knowing all too well, that these fleeting moments are what lead us to the next fleeting moments. In this way we humans, like the animals and Nature, can experience a continual present.
Here are some creative ways I have upcoming to help mark Nature's transition points:

On October 29 you can weave a Witches Ladder for Samhain to invoke blessings for the year ahead. October 27 I am presenting a very special Spirit Horse workshop at Fox Meadow Farm where real horses will help facilitate our shamanic journeying and creative mandala process. My holiday themed watercolour painting workshops throughout November and December will let you create paintings to use on your holiday greetings. And finally, my Wishing Candles workshop on December 17 is a wonderful opportunity to usher in the Winter Solstice.

May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist, Instructor & Healing Arts Practitioner

Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...

Spread the news ... share 'The Dance' by forwarding to a friend to enjoy!
This piece is part of a dream incubation series of mandalas I began back in January in a process I refer to as “seed to seed”. It involves a metaphorical journey to the secret garden within us. While it is a bit like making new years’ resolutions or vision boards, it is actually much more effective as the symbols and images are fashioned by the person’s own hand and the wisdom of their subconscious.

The foundational pattern is one of the most powerful creation matrices in sacred geometry, meaning it follows the same mathematical proportions and principles used by Mother Nature herself. And believe me, the process really works!

The seeds I planted in the first mandala of the series literally grew into this design of radiating oak leaves protecting the acorns nestled at its centre. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”. Initially I had no idea what my crop would ultimately be but it has since resulted in some very real "acorns". Now those same acorns can be planted this coming January with a dream of new forests to come.

The next workshop for this process will be the first weekend of 2017 on Saturday January 7
"INTO THE MYSTICAL" Learning Circle
Moon Quest
Share spiritual wisdom, experiences and all things of a mystical nature with like-minded souls at this monthly gathering of 'friends on the journey’.


Thurs. Nov. 17, 7-9 pm - Reincarnation: Is There Life After Death?

Thurs. Dec. 15, 7-9 pm -
Solstice Celebration – A Magical Potluck of Spiritual Treats

Sat. Nov. 26 - ALL DAY

Please visit my studio to soak up its magical atmosphere as you chat, browse and enjoy a cup of mulled cider.
Create & Colour Mandala “ART IN THE ROUND” and “ZEN-DOODLING” Parties

Book your own custom session anytime to fit your schedule. For groups of two or more. Discounts are available for large groups. Please call for a quote.

Art in the Round MandalaCelebrate and express your collective creativity by making memories with family, girlfriends or wedding group as you make beautiful “art in the round” or “tangled” designs together.

Sessions can be held in the tranquil environment of my studio or at your community location. No artistic ability needed. Suitable for ages 12 and up.
DRAWING LESSONS - "Seeing With New Eyes"

Sun. Afternoons, 1-3 pm
Wed. Afternoons, 1-3 pm

Student DrawingBuild your drawing skills and learn to see the world through an artist's eyes. Newbies and more advanced welcome. Start anytime. Pay as you go.
Sat. Oct. 29
Two Sessions Available: Morning 10am-12 Noon and Afternoon 1-3 pm
$50 per person

Weave into being your very own "ladder" of dreams for the coming year while learning about the true origins of Halloween.
Enjoy some creative time for yourself amidst the holiday rush. These are great sessions for those new to watercolour with the added bonus of being able to use your paintings on holiday greeting cards and messages.

Two Sessions Available: Sat. Nov. 5 or Sat. Dec. 3
$75 per person

Two Sessions Available: Sat. Nov. 19 or Sat. Dec. 10
$75 per person

Sat. Dec. 17 from 1-4 pm
Two Sessions Available: Morning 10am-12 Noon and Afternoon 1-3 pm
$50 per person.
Decorate your own special candle with secret runes, sparkling charms and plenty of wishes to welcome in the Winter Solstice.
$40 each. 10 different designs to choose from. Drop by the studio to purchase or email your order.

Wolf Run Pendant
"Wolf Run" Pendant
Shamanic Consultations & Spiritual Mentoring
Are you in search of answers or experiencing a challenging life transition? 1-on-1 sessions can be booked with me at the Alton Mill to help you find solutions.

MARI® Mandala "Soul Symbol" Interpretation
Explore the 'language of your soul' in a 1-on-1 self-discovery mandala making session with interpretation and a symbol 'reading' that lets your inner wisdom shine through. Sessions by appointment at my studio. Visit my website to learn more.
The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment, wisely and earnestly.”

~ Buddha
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