This is my contemporary version of the Medieval “Canticle of the Creatures”
With joy we greet you Brother Sun and Blue Sky!
You brighten and enliven all.
Ah, Sister Moon, such a comfort,
your soft glow companions us, and with the stars twinkling by your side,
you give us hope when life is darkest.
While the Weathers, fierce creatures that you are,
swirling rain and snow, winds and heat,
swaddle us in your wild caresses.
Ah, Sister Water, so soothing, refreshing, invigorating, playful,
and Brother Fire, cozy, bright, enlightening, ardent,
both of you so useful.
You teach us how to be truly helpful
singing and dancing and making merry even as you serve.
O dear Earth, you are surely our Mother,
nourishing us with every good and delicious thing,
surrounding us with beautiful and engaging things,
providing us with furred and finned and feathered ones,
friends to enrich and enchant us.
But you are also most surely our Sister,
created by the hand of the same Mother/Father God;
we are born of the same with destinies linked.
Having been cared for all this time by you, our older Sister,
we now recognize that to go forward, we must walk hand-in-hand, conscious of each other’s needs.
And most fondly of all, we embrace the humanity of all humanity…the whole of what it means to be a human creature, spirit-embodied, both beautiful and disfigured, both charming and crude, both creatively boundless and yet utterly limited,
And we rejoice most especially when we can clasp the reality of all of that, and become a source of forgiveness and pardon and love to ourselves and others.
Finally, deeply encoded in our humanity, our continuing companion, Death, we call you Sister as well
…even as we name the nurturing creatures of Earth herself and Water and the Moon…
who, in your way, completes each of our bodily lives as we know them and frees our spirit from those confines.
You know the saying, “to do a job well, you need the right tool.”
After searching for a number of years for just that ‘right tool’ for one specific studio process, something unique to my way of hanging my tiles and moveable sculpture, I ordered one that looked very different from the one I have just about worn out. I only had half a hope it would fill the bill. It looked quite different on line from the one I always used.
It came the other day…and Wow! it is not only ‘perfect’ but better than the one I’ve been using for decades. The tip is angled to make the work easier; the handle is thicker to make it more comfortable for my somewhat arthritic hands to hold and manipulate. What a delight!
I didn’t realize how improved my process would be until I had the courage to purchase that rather expensive, new, seemingly different object. But now I rejoice in the way the designer of that tool has improved my life in the studio.
It’s the little things, right?
Getting that tool made me realize how we are all sculpting away at our individual lives, each of us pretty much using tools that may have worked splendidly early on…but may have gotten worn down and are no longer really useful.
COVID has and continues to bring all of us to re-assessing the way much of our lives work, but to actually make the change, that’s what takes the real courage…even in little things.
My passion for drawing and art in general carried into my college years, when my drawings and designs became more distinctively my own.
With a Bachelors in English, I spent the next fifteen years teaching that subject, in addition to some art classes to high school students. I also enrolled in a series of college art classes in preparation for applying for a Masters’ Program. In those I explored all media. So yes, I spent hours and all-nighters working with watercolor, in design classes, with sculpture classes…and finally… finally…my hands touched clay! It was magic. The potential of this material to transform into something useful and beautiful spoke to everything I understood art to be about.
My first clay class in hand building introduced me to the painful reality that it is better to destroy a poorly done piece while still workable than have it fired and be part of the history of humanity forever…and we were strongly encouraged to do just that. The following summer, I spent eight hours a day, five days a week for six weeks to develop a modicum of proficiency on the wheel.
With acceptance into the MFA program at the Catholic University of America in D.C. came more summers exploring diverse media, but always with most of the time in the clay studio. My thesis show consisted of all sculptural ceramic wall works, one 8’x5’ destined for Neumann College which just happened to be expanding and was happy to have a work from one of their graduates to permanently install in the new building. My art trajectory was set.
All the years that followed proved tremendously productive, teaching art in formal classroom settings from pre-K to college, offering workshops from my studio, establishing community arts events and galleries, as well as creating my own sculptural work, both for commissions and personally imaginative creations. Those years were energized and energizing.
For nearly 30 years now, I have worked solely from my studio, Earthsongs. It was initially a very scary jump from the security of the formal classroom to my own enterprise, but I found it a useful springboard to create many community-based arts endeavors. At this point, with all of the experience, connections and collaborations behind me, I now feel I have come to a moment of centering both in myself and in the medium, called to explore clay as my primary communication and interaction with the world. My images and objects now are my primary engagement with society, and I delight in this new reality.
The Holidays celebrated at this time of year find nearly everyone tapping into her/ his inner artist. No matter the tradition, creativity flows:
But I have seen the creative spirit alive many-fold this year in efforts to compensate for our quarantine. The ever-fun, “Ugly-Christmas-Sweater”party to raise funds for a good cause was replaced in one instance with cookies decorated to rival Ugly-Christmas-Sweaters.
Some families have revived the age-old craft of cutting paper snowflakes. It seems there are multiple places to visit online to get you started. Someone suggested this to be an especially good one.
I personally delight in being part of the creative swirl as soon as the Calendar flips to December. Much of what the Studio presents at this time of year is very different from my usual focus and allows my work to add to the treasured traditions for many families.
Which is why I found it so wonderful that Papillion was willing to host Earthsongs’ Winter Market Faire, my annual Open Studio. To be able to actively participate in the season in a safe way was a real stroke of luck for which I continue to be grateful…a new, creative solution!
So while I miss terribly all of the many gatherings, performances, and events that have come to mark this season for us, I invite all to join me in this festive time of heightened creativity to apply that creative spirit in a new way to the season’s celebrations during this very unique ‘time out of time’ year.
We are created to create, to leave the familiar, to cross thresholds and give birth to bold new ideas. We are invited to the borderlands of the known, to imagine a new earth healed not scorched, rested not exploited, and regenerated by human ingenuity and innovation. —Tom Gunning
The very day last month that claysongs.com went live and introduced the Porta Caeli to the world, quite unexpectedly I received a small paperback publication that included a series of essays identifying this current time/space moment as “Liminal Space,” in other words, a time in-between or a Portal before we enter the next space.
Now, having spent six months focused on creating just that…a Portal…I was rather blown away. All of those writings presented this as a time/space experience of Threshold…life is not what it was before, but we don’t yet know how it’s going to be.
Creating for me is always a spiritual experience, but never has my work linked so thoroughly and serendipitously to a deeply spiritual moment involving the entire planet. The Porta Caeli, as Nino baptized it, had been in my mind for many years, but only now in 2020 was it able to be brought to life and so become an apt symbol for our experience.
Interestingly in Tibet, there is no word for creativity because for the people of that culture, the very fact of being human is to be creative. And so for the maker, the one who creates, and that is all of us, liminal time is essential. It makes us see things differently; forces us to let go of what was, and hence is crucial to the creative process.
This is undeniably a moment of transition…the very thing a Portal proclaims…a space of demarcation. Anxiety and unsettledness permeate everything; all is mystery. Despite that, Liminal space is a place of power where we learn to let go so that we can genuinely embrace and shape what is to come.
In Liminal Time/Space, we sit on the Threshold and be with the mystery.
The Portal becomes an object that both beckons and protects; it invites us to acknowledge that a transition is taking place and calls us to tarry rather than rush through, to accept our vulnerability and not simply re-clothe ourselves in garments that no longer fit.
This is a time that is not a time A place that is not a place ...between the worlds...
including ideas shared by Tom Gunning, Felicia Murrell, Brandan J. Robertson