Leaps of Faith ...
Of Lions, Lambs and Brave Birds
"After the Prize"
From my new 'Birds of Prey' Collection
March may have been heralded in by the first and only real snowstorm of 2016 but for me it was a fitting 'lion's end' to a very busy winter, so busy I never even sent out a February newsletter or got the quiet time I usually take when the cold north winds are roaring. Of course, El Niño is responsible for turning the weather all upside down this year but the busy schedule ... well that was my own doing!
While taking a brief pause to catch up, it occurred to me that I am approaching my fifth anniversary at the Alton Mill. The words "go big, or go home" is a phrase that epitomizes the lion-sized leap of faith I took when I opened my studio in April 2011. But as I look back over the past five years what strikes me is that I have found more ‘bigness’, or perhaps more aptly, ‘greatness’, in the little things.
I find greatness in the daily art of teaching, in the gentle and playful ‘lamb-like’ joy of coaxing out hidden talents and the need for self-expression that I know lie dormant in my students and only need the right conditions to start germinating. And it is in the little moments, as a face lights up when skills worked at so diligently finally come together in a single piece, that I sense something much bigger, shining brightly. Those moments are as exquisite as they are momentary. But those are the times when we can rejoice, celebrate and review all the hard work - as well as the frustrations - before getting right back at it again and onto the next challenge.
If someone had told me a few years ago that one day I would be nurturing the creative spirit in others, my answer would have been “Who me? I'm not a teacher!” Teaching though has now become a source of richness in my life in so many ways. What started as a tiny seed idea to provide better quality art programs for seniors (the result of my unpredicted side trip into training in gerontology and social work ten years ago) has blossomed into a teaching practice that now includes a diversity of ages - my youngest student so far has been only six years old and my oldest just turned 92!
Currently I am in the midst of a short teaching gig at Mayfield Secondary School as a guest artist coaching Grade 9 students in a special project for their enhanced arts program. We have been thoroughly engaged in creating paintings of birds of prey and all I can say is "wow"! These photos below are just some of their preliminary work.
Former Mayfield student Nicole Morrison, who at the very young age of only 19 now runs Kingsport Environmental and specializes in the time honored sport of falconry, brought three of her raptors to the school to be our models. You can imagine what a treat it was to get up close and personal with such incredible birds.
“Storm”, a juvenile bald eagle raised in a breeding program has, at little more than one year old, all the attitude of a born queen, supremely confident in her exalted position at the top of the food chain.
“Lady”, a snowy owl recovering from an injury in the wild, exhibited all the grace inherent in her name by quietly and curiously observing us as much as we observed her, without even once getting ruffled or moody … unlike her colleague “Eddie”, the great horned owl, who while thoroughly endearing in his affection for surrogate mom Nicole, developed a serious case of shyness on our second day together.
Although Lady now only has half a wing on her right side, she has quickly become one of Kingsport’s shining stars after coming to them for rehabilitation and a new career. Amazingly, despite everything she has been through, she still managed to take on a wayward skunk that ventured into her enclosure only a couple of days before we saw her … and yes, the skunk lost. Lady is, after all, still a wild woman at heart. Which got me to thinking how the ‘greatness’ of these birds, much like our own greatness, is often hidden behind a facade of gentleness or humility, glimpsed only in those moments that allow its true nature to shine.
Birds of prey are, just as their name suggests, hunters and it’s that specific and spectacular skill that sets them apart as monarchs of the skies. Like each of these magnificent birds, we too have our own talents and gifts. While animals understand and perform theirs instinctively, for us humans, discovering those gifts and letting them shine seems to be much more of a challenge. Sadly, some people never discover that specialness. Or it takes some sort of catastrophic event or extraordinary circumstances for it to rise to the surface. This was actually the case in my own life. A severe repetitive stress injury to both hands - in particular my right one, just like Lady’s wing - forced a complete change in my art career ten years ago. That however, was the catalyst for the eventual leap of faith I took into teaching and running my own studio.
Once uncovered, a true gift is hard to ignore or deny. Trust me, I know ... and so does the white owl “Lady”. We know that one can go through life-altering circumstances and be threatened with the loss of all that it does naturally, but the essential self, the true nature containing that divine spark which makes it completely unique, not only remains, but can thrive in a new-found way when willing to take a leap of faith.
Feeling up to your own leap of faith? Welcome in spring by exploring your own untamed nature in an afternoon of ‘Awakening the Dragon’ or making Faery Flags. These two new workshop will be in April, perfect timing to celebrate coming out of hibernation to play in the sun again. Be sure to check out my full spring schedule and preregister by emailing to reserve your spots. Many blessings as we look forward to spring.
May you enjoy the dance!
Artist, Instructor & Healing Arts Practitioner
Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...