By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated May 5, 2018
Throughout the ages, humankind has been inspired by the natural world. The earliest cave drawings found all over the globe depict animals, heavenly bodies, and symbols relating to events in the natural world: eclipses, earthquakes, and meteor showers to name a few. Since then, we have moved out of the caves and into the suburbs, but our fascination with wild places and their inhabitants still remains.
Unfortunately, our wild neighbors and their habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate. Raising the public's awareness of this situation, artists and writers like Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Georgia O'Keeffe, have been a powerful force for conservation efforts. It becomes more and more clear to me that the wilderness must be preserved.
In this age of corporate-sponsored fear and paranoia, it is a revolutionary act to feel safe in the wild places of this world. The media often communicates messages that the wilderness is dangerous, barbaric, and full of predators. Don't go for a hike it's much safer to stay at home and watch the Discovery Channel. They advocate wilderness at a distance, viewed only through the lens of a camera or through the windshield of a car.
Viva la revolucion! I invite you to step away from the safety of your couch, and go find something wild! It is in the wilderness that we learn, heal, find a sense of the sacred, and become inspired. Wild spaces must be protected; only in the wilderness can we find what has been lost. You are not judged by what you take with you when you die which is precious little but by what you leave behind. Walk with this truth in your heart, and wild places will be safe forever.
I'm working with the Mancos State Park as their Guest Artist Program Coordinator. In their pilot year they offered five artists' residencies at the park. I applied, and was chosen for five days in the wilderness, creating visual art, writing, and planning workshops. It was a fabulous experience; one I will always treasure.
As I reflect on my little sojourn in the woods, I wonder, what did I learn there? Has it somehow transformed and healed me, turned me into a saintly hermit in the trees? No. I have not been changed utterly, as I had somehow hoped. It would take a lengthier retreat from polite society for that little miracle to occur. Perhaps I am too arrogant to change entirely, as most are. But I have changed a little, healed perhaps a tiny bit. The biggest change? I am no longer afraid to be alone; in fact, with very few exceptions, I prefer my own company to the bustle and chatter of others of my species.
I am, again, a lone wolf, as I was in my childhood. So perhaps I have not changed at all, but changed back, to an earlier, steadier, more authentic self.
I have read the message of the Mother Pine Tree; I have watched the sun rise and set, the moon rise and set, and I feel whole again — whole in ways I did not know I was broken. In an important and real way, I have learned to speak in my own voice again. I have learned to follow without question this path my heart has chosen.
The following creative visualization exercises were first developed as part of a creative arts workshop I presented at WomenFest, an event held every year to benefit the Durango Women's Resource Center.
You can do these visualizations alone, or with a group. Following each visualization is a suggestion or idea for an art or writing project. You may wish to have a blank journal and pens, paints, or collage supplies ready. Go wild!
Close your eyes. Picture yourself in a forest of tall pines. You come to a large clearing and stand in the center, facing West. You raise your arms to the sky, seeking what was lost, and singing. When your song is done, take a deep breath. You begin to walk, heading into the shadows beneath the trees. You walk and walk and when you can walk no more, you stop and look around.
Focus on one thing the first thing you see. Picture it clearly. It will be different for everyone some will see a stone, others a grove of trees, a raven, a bear. Know that, whatever it is, you remain safe. For all things in the forest are one; the thing you see before you is a missing piece of yourself, lost and gone wandering, longing to be found. A missing piece that wants nothing more than to be taken into your heart to make you whole. Open your eyes.
Without speaking, begin to write, sketch, or create a collage based on what you saw during your walk through the forest.
NOTE: This visualization was inspired by a short hike I took during my residency at Mancos State Park. I came to a clearing in the woods, and waited there. When I found the right direction, I began to walk quickly, seeking a sign. I found a huge pine tree. Her branches were burned and broken on one side, near the ground. Her trunk was scarred by fire, and she was magnificent, beautiful. Not in spite of her wounds, but because she had survived them to grow taller, seeking the Sun year after year. I realized that I am that tree scarred and broken, and vibrantly alive. I have survived storms that I thought would break me, stop my heart, turn me cold and dead inside. Yet each morning, I rise to greet the Sun. I am made stronger by these storms, these scars. I know now that no mere storm can break me; no fire can steal my soul and leave me with ashes where a heart should be. I seek to show you these scars, yours and mine: to make them shine, to make them sing; to transform them into something beautiful. I seek a way to show you that you are stronger than you ever dared to dream.
Animals have much to teach us. As I write this, a blue-bird lands on the picnic-bench outside my door. He looks straight at me and hops down to the ground, fluttering wings the color of the sky. What strikes me most is that he is totally unafraid, fierce and fearless for his size. I can learn much from this. When I confront something large and strange and scary, it might benefit me to get a closer look at it. To walk forward, face it, and find out what my fears are made of.
If you wish to seek a guide from the animal kingdom, I ask you to again close your eyes. Now, think about a problem you need to solve; a question you're seeking the answer to, or a goal you want to achieve. When you're ready, write it down in the form of a question. Close your eyes when you are finished. Return to the clearing in the tall pines. Ask your question to the forest. As soon as you finish speaking, an animal guide will appear. When you see it, open your eyes again.
Create a quick sketch or poem about your guide, or simply write a brief description of it. Now, think a little more deeply about the guide you have chosen. What qualities, characteristics, or memories do you associate with this animal? Do a little free-writing about this guide from the animal kingdom. Try to link it with different words, phrases, emotions, or actions. Then, ask yourself, "How would this animal guide answer my question?" Write down the answer, or create a sketch or collage of yourself taking the actions suggested by your guide.
NOTE: My question was, "How can I succeed as an artist and writer, with no day-job to steal time away from my real work in the studio?" When I closed my eyes, I saw a big brown grizzly bear, a female. She grinned at me, then walked away through the forest. I followed her quickly. She paid no mind to obstacles, making a wide path through brush and bracken. She did not hesitate, nor did she look back.
I followed her far, until we reached a bee-tree. Rising to her hind legs, she scooped out sweet sticky gold, offering it delicately to me from her huge claws. As I tasted that wildflower honey I knew the answer to my question. Walk without hesitation in the direction of something wild and sweet. Do not heed obstacles they have no power to stop you. Fear nothing, for in the wilderness of your mind, you are the biggest, meanest beast in the forest, Queen of all creatures. Do not look back; it has nothing to teach you, and it makes it impossible to move forward. Find that secret sweet thing that you most desire, and revel in it. Always share this treasure with those brave enough to follow you into the wild places of the heart.
I've discussed nature as a healer and guide. Hopefully, these visualizations can offer you some inspiration and guidance. Now, it's time to seek nature in her most glorious form: The Wild Muse. If you're ready for another visualization, close your eyes. Return to the clearing in the tall pines for a final time today, knowing you may return anytime you have need. A clear breeze is blowing from the West...
Ask your Inner Muse, that wild queen of the forest, to reveal herself to you. You hear a sweet voice calling your name. You cannot resist. You follow her into the forest, catching glimpses of her through the trees, a bare shoulder, dark hair, flashing eyes. Finally, you catch up to her in a small clearing. There stands a cottage made of rounded stones from the river of dreams. You see a blue wooden door, and round windows like portholes. You enter together, and find it is a studio, with every type of artwork represented by a variety of supplies stone and clay, drums and bells, easels and paints, paper and pens of all colors and sizes, glue and beads and glitter for gorgeous collages, and more.
Your Inner Muse smiles. "You need no key to enter this place, Artist. But if you would return, you must first create a portrait of me, in this magical place where all dreams begin. Show my true face to the world!" Now open your eyes, and begin!
You have followed me far today, and it is time now to sit around the campfire and rest. Footsore weary wanderers, spin your web of dreams! Return again to this enchanted place any time you have need. Cry for a vision, seek a new path through this world, and when in doubt, listen to the wisdom of the Great Bear: Walk without hesitation in the direction of something wild and sweet.
Do not heed obstacles they have no power to stop you. Fear nothing, for in the wilderness of your mind, you are the biggest, meanest beast in the forest, Queen of all creatures. Do not look back, it has nothing to teach you, and it makes it impossible to move forward. Find that secret sweet thing that you most desire, and revel in it. Always share this treasure with those brave enough to follow you into the wild places of the heart.
Next Muse: The Chaotic Muse
©2006 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
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