I'll tell you my story so you can understand what making art means to me.…
The Journey to Rewilding project came about during the pandemic and after some deep re-evaluation of my work as a freelance illustrator. I knew I wanted to create something of value to help bring about positive change around sustainable practices and the climate crisis. I have always believed that whatever your talent or skill, there is always a way to contribute or serve the greater good.
In the past, I chose clients that were doing good work in the world, and by supporting them, I felt a part of the good service or product. Now it was time to saddle up and find my own offering. My passion for preserving the beauty of the natural world, and all her creatures, was really ready to be manifested. I had an additional deeply personal reason to make art for the Journey to Rewilding card set that had to do with a prior health crisis. I have written about this in the post: The Long and Tenacious Path to Journey to Rewilding.
As I started to think about the projects that I loved the most I found myself coming back to a couple of themes that ran throughout my life: seeking an authentic way to express my spirituality and honoring the living beings of the animal kingdom.
There had been so many experiences from my early childhood that seemed to be pointing me in a certain direction. Here are just a few examples that indicate a connection to this central theme of the animal world.
I was an average kid, and in those days some would have labeled me as a “Tomboy” simply because I was more likely to be in the woods, collecting rocks and investigating the stream than playing with dolls. Throughout my grade school years, I collected stuffed animals at thrift shops and brought a kind of comfort to my room. At twelve I wrote a play called “Alice in Pollution Land”. The nuns at my Catholic School allowed me and my friends to perform our one-act play in front of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades (about 45 kids out of the 118 that attended this small school). It was performed in the church basement recreation space, located next door to the school. This was a big deal in a small space in a small town in a small parish. We made our animal costumes out of household items that included fuzzy toilet seat covers fashioned into animal hats and for our big finale we had a fan blow small pieces of trash and confetti across the stage. This was around 1970 when the Viet Nam war was over and the first Earth Day was created. For the first time, reporting of oil spills and degraded waters were beginning to show up on TV and in newspapers. I can remember Lady Bird Johnson’s very small signs that were posted along the roads: “Keep America Beautiful”. I must have been absorbing the heightened awareness of the environment and I was trying to make sense of it as a twelve-year-old by making this play.
Around this time, I was beginning to have very vivid dreams and visits from wandering spirits.
I wasn’t the kind of kid that liked spooky stories or read ghost stories however, that didn’t stop them from showing up in various places throughout my childhood. In first grade, I saw one of my first visions of a spirit while I was praying. The image of this has stayed with me and today shows me that the veils between the worlds were very thin at that age. There were many sitings of orbs, light beings, disembodied spirits, and other visitors that came and went in the house I grew up in and places where I babysat. My dreams were vivid and sometimes informed me of future events. I had to keep these things to myself because my mother had already accused me of trying to scare my younger brothers. I was told in a stern tone: “There are no ghosts”. I really wanted to comply but it didn’t seem that I had much of a choice.
One night, I dreamt that animals and weather-like spirits were coming straight out of my head and moving upward. The images were so powerful that I ended up painting them on the wall as a mural. There were dozens of “events” that happened with the spirit world and it wasn’t until many years later that I found my first teacher of Shamanism who helped me make sense of it. I was now focused on studying the methodologies of many wise indigenous cultures to understand why these things were happening and what I needed to do.
I always liked being in church, sitting quietly with many other people. That was as close to knowing a sacred space as I felt the Catholic church had to offer. Outside of that, there was nothing that remotely related to my experiences or gave me a clue as to the other realms that existed. Heaven and hell were just words that could be associated with punishments or rewards but an actual spiritual practice was never a part of this particular religion as I experienced it.
In college, I had taken a primatology course that opened up my eyes to the mistreatment of apes and chimpanzees and the way humans had directly caused them harm and stolen or destroyed their habitats. Later in my freelance jobs, I would be invited to illustrate dozens of species of animals, insects, beetles, and birds for an educational institution that produced oversized flashcards for kids. It was a dream job to be able to research and study the natural beauty and features of each one. I was also a part of a team of designers that worked on a traveling solar project that went across the lower 50 states to promote the use of solar. Both in publishing and advertising, I continued to have opportunities to paint animals, protect the environment, and design promotional materials to live a healthier life with a healthier planet.
Once again I was painting animals that were appearing in my dreams. This went on for almost a year before I realized I was dreaming of the Chakra totem animals. I started to paint them and eventually offered to journey on others’ behalf for their animal paintings.
Shamanism combined both an authentic spiritual practice, the animal spirit world, and many other realms that coexist. I finally felt at home and understood what was happening in my earlier years and now found meaning through this spiritual practice. In a simple way, I’ve learned that loving and appreciating mother earth and all her creatures, is a spiritual practice.
From the long view, there were no accidents and I can see the threads of my life’s path and the way they have been woven together for this current position. The Journey for Rewilding project is the place where the resilience of nature and focused spiritual practices are aligned for a regenerative process to occur. It is with great passion and delight to be able to wake up to this adventure and work on it each day.