Butterfly Soles (Souls)
Unlike many artists, I have always enjoyed doing commissioned work for people. It’s often opened me up to new ideas, techniques, materials, and challenges that have promoted my growth as an artist, if not as a person as well. I’ve enjoyed meeting people and getting to see things through new perspectives, which being invited to make something for someone always brings.
My most recent, and, well, ONLY commission for a custom project this year has demonstrated a very familiar theme in my work; a project so perfect, so near-and-dear-to-my-heart that I can’t imagine doing anything else. Yes, I have the good fortune to be blessed, gifted really, with an ability to draw to me the perfect artistic challenge for my current stage of creative growth. Since my very first clients, Janet and Mark Scheuer (who many of you know are two of my best friends on earth), I’ve encountered many excellent projects to create something beautiful in my client’s homes. I love working on a project that has been called into existence by someone else. I enjoy adapting my abilities to the taste, interests, and desires of the client. I think its what makes me a successful artist, and I am grateful for this gift and for all of my many clients over the years, for the challenges they have given me.
This time, this year, 2020, has been, well, different to say the least. Although I’ve only had one commission this year, I can honestly say that no other project has overlapped so completely with my own life, interests and my spirit.
Lisa Simms is an artist herself, and we first became acquainted a few years back at the Festival Atitlan, on Lake Atitlan, where we both lived. She and her husband, David, bought a lamp from me, and this year, when they began to build their dream home there, she commissioned me to do a couple of windows for their new abode.
I was delighted the day last spring when she brought her collection of “stuff” that she wanted me to include in the windows. Wow! When I opened the box that she'd brought, I felt like a kid who just hit the jackpot!. Amythest chunks, a old cameo brooch, hand-blown glass disks, an irredescent Christmas ornament, a fossilized nautilus, a jade carving of a Mayan god, and….a collection of preserved, Monarch butterflies—be still my beating heart.
If you’ve read my blogs or seen my work, you know the butterfly is a very special and recurrent theme in my work. The spirit of the butterfly is one that deeply resonates with me, especially now, this year, 2020. Butterfly symbolizes transformation, and the dance of joy. My stepmother, Sue, comes to me with messages, often as a butterfly. And, butterfly figures prominently in my world as a healer.
This year, in fact, I’ve learned a lot about healing. First, from my dear friend, Jennifer Kipp, who taught me to do foot massage, a combination of energetic and reflexology techniques. When Jennifer gave me my first foot massage, I was a bit startled to "see" or feel the soles of my feet, as beautiful butterfly wings. This treatment unleashed my healing energies. I learned to do foot massage, and this caused me to recognize my own healing energy in other parts of m life.
Also, in working with my friend Mayan Ajq’ij Carlos Barrios, I learned a variety of techniques and wisdom that have become a part of my healing toolkit. I do credit Carlos with leading me along my path to healing myself, particularly in teaching me so much about the Mayan spiritual traditions he learned from his teachers. Fire ceremony, I have discovered, is healing activity on more than one level. First, it is largely a ritual of gratitude for various energies that comprise life. An offering made of candles and natural resins and materials is arranged to be burned to acknowledge these energies, or Chumil. One of the Chumil is Toj, which means payment, and highlights the importance of gratitude in living a good life. The fire ceremony is a ritual of gratitude. Gratitude promotes healing. A capable Ajq'ij, or Mayan spiritual guide, can also work via the fire as a medium to other dimensions to ask for healing for their patients.
Among his many stories, the ones that called my attention the most were those about the Four Balameb, the Mayan avatars who brought the fire ceremony to the Maya lands centuries ago. They performed the first ceremony, the same one that is practiced today in Guatemala. As he told his stories I began to feel the 4 Balameb "inside" me; I associated them with the butterflies, a most sacred and healing energy.
Perhaps the most effective tool for healing that Carlos taught me was a type of mediation to focus the attention of the mind that could be used to heal the body, among other purposes. When i began to use the techniques, I really began to notice some surprising effects. Later this year, Carlos's daughter, Denise, introduced me to a series of video courses by Dr. Joe Dispenza, Rewired, that were critical to my understanding and development of my body's capacity to heal.
And, I’ve healed myself. I’ve battled strep, anal fissures, and HIV, in addition to the break up of my relationship, loss of my home and my guesthouse business, and the terrible loss of my dear friend and guide, Carlos. With a lot of help from my dearest friends and family, I’ve overcome, or am overcoming, the grief of these losses. I’ve moved back to the USA, and have been living here in McCall, Idaho, since mid-August. I’ve regained my physical health, but I’ve also realized tremendous spiritual growth during this time. Butterfly has been there with me, showing up at different times this year.
Those butterflies, and everything in the box Lisa brought for me to work with just begged me to dive into the project which she gave me right before COVID shut everything down. Then, there were my health troubles, Carlos’s death, and having to move which further delayed the project. Weeks and months passed, and Lisa’s pieces sat waiting. Finally, in August, a few days before I left Guatemala on a repatriation flight for the US, when I had sold most of my things and was in the packing stages, I found the time to make the pieces. I HAD to make the pieces, really, because butterfly brought me so much healing, which I needed, this year. “Art is so healing,” Lisa said to me in a text message once I got started. And it was. After months of not making much mosaic art, this was pure joy. It came quickly; I was more than ready.
I cried big, happy, cleansing, calming teats when I began making these mosaics. They represent so much change and transformation for me. Making them, after all the stress and trauma of loss, death, and more loss, has been more than therapeutic. After packing up and selling what was my life in Guatemala, this was the most freeing and creative and wonderful experience. Being able to set my creativity free with these precious objects, some of which, the butterflies particular, speak so much to my own soul, was a thrill. The butterfly and I have something in common; we changed ourselves from the inside out. Change can be shockingly difficult, and uncomfortable, but we can complain about the aches and pains, or we can relish and share in the beauty created. That is the lesson the butterflies teach. That is what I wish to share with you today.
When I landed in Boise, and went for a walk the first morning there, I happened upon a sculpture that I wanted to share: