For the last few years, I have been an advisor to the Choosing Earth Project which supports people to deepen their understanding of the magnitude, speed, and depth of challenges confronting humanity at this time. Several months ago, they released Duane Elgin's book "Choosing Earth: Humanity's Great Transition to a Mature Planetary Civilization" - which they make available for free. More recently, they released Coleen LeDrew Elgin's 70-minute documentary that explores our planetary crisis and the opportunity to meet that crisis consciously - with eyes and hearts wide open.
The film illustrates global trends with local examples - including the story of the Almeda Fire which swept through my community in Southern Oregon last September. I make a brief appearance as part of that storyline. It was very meaningful to collaborate with local friends Katie Teague who filmed the fire aftermath and Marga Laube who was also a contributor and is the film's narrator. The documentary features Duane Elgin, Victoria Santos, Jack Kornfield, Joanna Macy, Been Sharma, Lynne Twist, and other beautiful humans sharing their wisdom.
You can learn more about the project, get connected to workshops, download a free copy of the book, and watch the film at choosingearth.org.
Many years ago I watched Star Trek Voyager, in which the borg Seven of Nine would periodically retreat to an alcove to plug in for a Regeneration Cycle. I remember thinking how cool that would be - to be able to just plug into a source of energy that would refill my batteries without needing to sleep. So I could keep going at a fast pace, being productive, making things happen. A lot of humans turn to a cup (or 3) ☕️ of coffee for this purpose. More often than I like to admit, I have relied on adrenaline to keep my engine chugging along. I know I'm not the only person who has fallen into this trap!
But temporary wired energy is not regenerative.
From years of seeking and experimentation, I finally learned that regeneration - at least for me - is much more about releasing and letting go than it is about filling up. Shedding unhelpful beliefs, softening stress, facing fears, releasing unrealistic expectations, and ultimately simplifying my life... these have served me well. My practice of creating earth altars emerged during a time of letting go - of big projects, of travel plans, of busyness, of life as I knew it.
Creating earth altars is one of my most effective regeneration methods! Being present, touching natural objects, and allowing patterns to emerge is deeply restorative for me. 🌺
The Magic of Spirals...
These four simple spirals were each created with a single type of flora.
FULL MOON is created solely from poppy seed pods, OAK GALL NAUTILUS is (to state the obvious) made of oak galls, SPIRALING TOWARD WELLBEING features arbutus (strawberry tree) berries, and you can probably guess what single ingredient went into ACORN LIFECYCLE.
Spirals are a beautiful symbol of regeneration.
Bringing ourselves, our communities, and our planet back to life.
I've just put together a special set of spiral note cards, available at the EarthAltarsGallery shop on Etsy.
What is regenerative for you? Let me know in the comments below ☺️
This altar is titled Kamloops 215. I created it in the woods last week after learning about the remains of 215 children excavated from an unmarked grave on the site of the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia.
It features rose petals, pine cones. lavendula. sweet pea flowers, lupine and a bunch of other flowers from Nina & Jacob's garden. All nestled into the base of an old oak tree.
I was so saddened by the news of this discovery.
As I sat with my grief, though, I realized I was not at all surprised. I did not learn about the brutal history of US and Canadian policies toward Indigenous peoples when I was in school. It's only as an adult that I've had my eyes opened to the systematic harm and trauma inflicted on Indigenous communities - in both the past and present.
Kamloops 215 is my memorial to all the children who were stolen from their parents and from the family of humanity.
Below, I share more context and offer resources for engagement. Much of this I gleaned from information shared by a Canadian friend Jodie Tonita. (Thank you Jodie!)
In late May, 2021, a mass grave with the remains of 215 children was discovered at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. 30 other similar graves have been found so far. More than 150,000 children were stolen from their homes by the Canadian government and taken to residential schools where they were subjected to abuse and violence by their teachers and administrators. Nearly one in four did not return home. The last school was closed in 1996.
Governments pursue these policies of cultural genocide because they wish to abdicate their legal and financial obligations to Indigenous people, and to gain control of their lands.
All of us non-Indigenous people are settlers. This is a history our lives are built upon. It’s important to learn, mourn and act. We can help transform systems and laws to ensure this never happens again.
To learn whose traditional territory you live on, visit the Native Land website.
Here is an article on the history of residential schools in Canada. Read here about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and its 94 Calls to Action.
For background on the United States’ engagement in a similar program - American Indian Residential Schools - please see this Wikipedia article.
Places where you can make a donation to support residential school survivors and their families:
• Indian Residential School Survivors Society - https://www.irsss.ca/donate
• Legacy of Hope Foundation - https://legacyofhope.ca/english/get-involved/donate
• Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign - https://woodlandculturalcentre.ca/the-campaign
• National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation - https://give.umanitoba.ca/
• First Nations Child & Family Caring Society - https://fncaringsociety.com/donate
• Reconciliation Canada - https://reconciliationcanada.ca/get-involved/donate/
• Indspire - https://indspire.ca/ways-to-give/donate
• Native Women’s Association of Canada - https://www.nwac.ca/donate
Please feel free to Share this Blog post and resource list with your friends, family and community, thank you!
This altar is titled Swimming Toward the Source. I created it last week for my 50th birthday. It features maple seeds, wisteria pods, catkins from black walnut and other trees, camellia petals, ornamental oregano flowers, acorns, rhododendron flowers, irises, spruce twigs, ranunculus, sunflower petals, and a bunch of purple and blue flowers! Oh yeah and some big green leaves that grow on a vine on the side of my house.
It was inspired by a video my friend Tesa sent me about zen-doodling. I decided to give it a try, but rather than using pens and paper to do it with natural materials! As you can see I created this indoors. I used a giant pizza pan and laid all the dried parts in the evening. The next day, on my birthday, I added in all the fresh flowers. Mostly from my yard, but also from a bouquet gifted to me by Deb! (Thank you Deb!)
My partner gave it the title, as he saw all those maple seeds and yellow petals looking like they were swimming toward the center of the design.
To live well at this time - as a compassionate and caring human - seems to require a certain kind of resilience. Radical Resilience. I mean radical in the sense of Foundational. Far-reaching. Deeply Rooted. To navigate the shifting sands, the striking polarities, the horrific tragedies, and the changing climate, we must care for ourselves ever more generously. I recently wrote in a post about how much strength I gather from old trees - with deep and wide roots, solid trunks, and branches that can sway in the storms.
I remember learning some years ago that the giant redwoods have relatively shallow roots, but they are strong and solid because their roots branch out wide and intertwine with the roots of other nearby trees. In a way, we could say that they get their strength and resilience from community support.
So do we. Thank you for being part of my community - may we support each other in developing the radical resilience needed our mutual thriving.
In honor of Earth Day last week, I spent some quality time with my favorite nearby trees. Magnolia, Sequoia, Oak, and Sycamore. I find inspiration thinking about hundreds-of-year old trees weathering every storm life delivers. When my own life (and the world around me) feels unsteady, I find it supportive to imagine myself as a deeply rooted tree with flexible, swaying branches - resiliently returning to stillness once the storm passes. In praise of trees and all the rest of Mother Earth's bounty, I offer you a poem below.
Singing Praises to the Roots
To all the trees, bushes, and grasses
I bow down at your trunks and stems
to sing my praises to your roots
Never before have I listened so deeply to your wisdom
received such nourishment from your beauty
and noticed your stunning details
ever-changing with the seasons
I used to think an oak was an oak
and a maple was a maple
oh what a narrow and limited view
I see you, finally, for who you are
awake to your infinite brilliance
and elegant diversity
You leave me in awe and delight
when I pause and truly take you in
and heartbroken by the loss
of so many of your kin
You are bringer of joy, and survivor
May we all continue to feed our resilience in this time of many storms! For more poems and altars, please join me on Instagram or Facebook.
When's the last time you let yourself play? Could you use some more inspiration, comfort, and nurturing in your life? Do you want to make time and space for play, creativity, and experience being-in-the-moment but feel hesitant or shy to do it alone? Sometimes beginning is the toughest challenge of all. I want to support you in tending to your inner callings, the ones that you may have been putting on the back burner for too long now.
I will guide you on how to connect with nature and the spirit of play and curiosity in order to tap into the sacred creativity that already exists within you. No previous art experience is required! Join us virtually no matter where you are, and be a part of a community of people who appreciate the connection to beauty both within oneself and in the natural world around them.
Description and details are below and you can register here.
Half-price scholarship tuition available if needed - use this link.
Sacred Creativity - Exploring Self & Surroundings through Writing & Earth Altars
Virtual Playshop (both online and out in the world)
Sunday, May 16, 2021
10-2 Pacific, 12-4 Central, 1-5 Eastern
$88 Regular Price
($44 half-price scholarship available)
Beauty is Medicine. Nature Heals.
In this playshop, we will deepen our creativity and connection to the natural environment where we live. Through simple meditations and writing prompts, we will begin an exploration of our relationship to creativity and nature. Then, we will go outside to gather up bits and pieces of the natural world and create our own impermanent nature art - an Earth Altar. We will come back together to reflect on the process and share our creations (if desired). Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on how they may expand creative expression and connection with nature ongoingly.
This playshop will begin and end online, but the heart of the experience will be outdoors, where you will wander in your environment and create your own Earth Altar.
(Half-price scholarship tuition available if needed - use this link.)
Asian American women are facing increasing levels of racist violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, spurred by fear and misinformation. Our culture normalizes harm against low-income and working-class women, immigrants, massage workers and sex workers of color. In the last year, nearly 4,000 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported in the AAPI Hate National Report - the majority against women. We all have a role to play to stand up for Asian women, #StopAsianHate and #UpliftAsianArtists.
As an act of solidarity with the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) artist community, Earth Altars will be donating 25% of profits from online sales to a non-profit organization called Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWA) during the month of April 2021.
AAWAA was founded in 1989 in San Francisco to promote the visibility of Asian American women artists. Since then, AAWAA has been a home for artists, social justice organizers, academics, and volunteers dedicated to advancing the visibility and recognition of Asian American women in the arts. AAWAA offers exhibitions, publications, public programs and a super informative website.
Just a few days after the horrific murder of 6 Asian American women in Georgia in March 2021, I attended a beautiful and inspiring event called Illuminate - featuring performances from a number of super-talented Asian American poets and writers. AAWAA hosted this event and this is how I learned about their work.
Learn more about AAWA’s Membership platform, their amazing virtual events, programs and speakers bureau, and how to get involved and support at their website: https://www.aawaa.net/
Upcoming for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AAWAA and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) in San Francisco are teaming up to co-present SOWING AGENCY: Seeding the Future of Environmental Justice, a multidisciplinary exhibition inspired by the fight for environmental justice, activating AAPI communities to engage in the issues of today’s climate crisis while working to realign our relationships with the Earth and highlighting collective leadership by BIPOC communities. On view at SOMArts Cultural Center and online April 30 through May 23.
The exhibition features a number of artistic disciplines that work to realign our relationships with the Earth and highlight collective leadership. With the show’s broad coalition of community partners, Sowing Agency weaves local and global climate resistance into our cultural consciousness and reflects on the grief and resiliency rooted in “seeding the future.” AAWAA says: “This show is birthed from our deep frustration and grief at the impact of climate change on the API community both in the SF Bay Area and globally.”
Ready to learn more and take action?
“Over the past year, our communities have had to face an increase in racist, xenophobic and violent attacks. Rising against these cycles of hate, art has the potential to make people feel seen, inspiring avenues toward empathy, healing and empowerment. At AAWAA, we provide safe spaces and opportunities for Asian American women artists to speak out through creativity and expression. Uplifting art by Asian American women is one step toward the social change we all envision of cultivating equity in the arts.” (AAWAA website)
Anti-Asian Violence Resources
AAWAA’s Resource List
This altar is titled Simple Beauty and was created in Ashland last summer. It features a zinnia bloom, surrounded by alstroemeria petals and hops!
The flowers were part of a bouquet gifted to me by my friend Marga Laube. The flowers were grown and arranged by Fry Family Farms. The hops are from a tree in my neighborhood. I love their shape and color and didn't know they were hops until I snapped a photo and looked it up online. I am loving learning the names of things that draw my eye - and it's extra fun when I discover that I know a name like "hops" but have no idea what hops looks like growing on a tree!
Typically, when I create an Earth Altar outdoors, I leave it there so that nature can take its course. If I'm in a public place, I also love knowing that it could delight passers-by with a little dose of unexpected beauty. Also, I'm usually in a meditative space - not listening to a podcast or talking with anybody. Simply being present with the earth and the precious bits of her bounty that I'm placing on the ground.
With this design, however, I was in fact talking on the phone with a friend who was feeling stuck around a difficult situation. I was offering reflection and encouragement for seeing many possibilities - multiple ways to get unstuck. Spontaneously, without really thinking about it, I began placing the flowers in a variety of patterns. I would take a photo and then re-arrange the pieces again in a new design. After we got off the phone, I sent her a collage of 9 different designs created with the same few flowers. I love the simplicity of Simple Beauty - thus the name. And I love the kaleidoscope nature of the "Possibility Series."
Same few flowers, arranged in multiple designs.
The Simple Beauty Earth Altar is available as a 12x12 square canvas print, a 16x20 canvas print, and greetings cards through my online shop. Through April 15th, all Simple Beauty items are 25% off!
This altar is titled SPRING and was created in Ashland in the spring of 2020. It was one of my earliest designs. It features peony flower and petals, snapdragons, statice, arbutus berries, rose petals, green almonds, grasses, and catkins.
Throughout the season of blooming in 2020, my dear friend Nina would drop jars of flowers and greens on my porch - clipped from her abundant gardens. The centerpiece of this earth altar is a gorgeous pink peony that was part of a birthday bouquet from Nina. The green fuzzy things around the border are almonds! I found these on the ground on a walk and was drawn in by their color and shape - I had never before seen what almonds look like wearing their protective green coats.
While I'm not typically drawn to pastels, I found myself entering the gentle world of these soft colors. As I worked outward from the centerpiece, I felt both soothed and energized.