Dug this out of the attic the other day. It wasn’t finished. I’d shoved it into a portfolio one day several years back after filling in just the background, the horses’ eyes and nostrils, and the mane and tail on one of the animals (can you guess which?)
Three or four moves later, there it was in my hand again. Blank white horses, flat as paper. Waiting patiently for brush and pigment to quicken them to life…
It wasn’t until a day or so after finally completing the piece that I realized how significant it was that I’d picked this piece, out of the couple dozen unfinished paintings I’d started and abandoned over the past fifteen years, to finish first.
Fifteen years of unsettled living, punctuated with excruciating creative blocks. Stressful times, and fearful times. Fear of not stacking up. Fear of losing control if I let myself follow my dreams.
Is this time different? Am I deluding myself to think that now, after starting up and drying up countless many times, I’m finally ready to let that creative river that’s been dammed up inside me for so long run free?
I’m not going to think about that. Instead, I’m posting this painting.
Orange. The color of the sacral chakra. The creative center of body and mind.
Violet, for the crown chakra: spirit and soul.
Horses. My personal totem animal. Horses to carry me over obstacles. Wild horses, running free.
Here is the message I hope this painting brings to the world:
It’s not too late. Dig out your buried dreams. Dust them off, and mount them again. Don’t think about where they’re taking you. Just enjoy the ride. So what if you fall? You will have tasted the wind.
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The Buffalo (actually the American Bison) is a sacred symbol amongst Native Americans. I don’t pretend to know much about Native American spirituality, but I can certainly see why the Buffalo is considered sacred in this tradition. It has incredible strength, solidity, and presence. Here are some of the qualities associated with this majestic beast:
(If you are of Native ancestry and/or familiar with this tradition please feel free to add to or correct this list.)
This Buffalo confronts us head-on. It doesn’t seem aggressive, but you can’t ignore its assertive presence. Perhaps it is challenging us to face our fears and live up to our dreams. This is primarily a Yellow buffalo, with hints of Red. Yellow brings to mind the 3rd chakra, or Power Center, and Red is the color of the 1st, or Root chakra. These are both warm colors, contrasting sharply with the wintery landscape. This creature is grounded, powerful, and very much alive.
Although it is still at the moment, the Buffalo’s Breath is visible, jetting forcefully from its nostrils. Breath represents Life and Spirit. It evokes all 4 elements: it is made up of water and air, emanates from the physical body (earth), and contains the heat (fire) that living things generate and carry within them. The breath coming out could represent creative energy, or one’s life force in action.
This Buffalo’s environment is significant. You can see the roundness of the earth in the exaggerated horizon. In fact, the earth seems rather small compared to the size of the animal. To me this is an indication of how significant one’s presence and actions on the earth really are. (You are more powerful than you know!) It is winter, which is a time of rest between cycles. A large animal like the buffalo must eat a lot; because food is scarce in winter it must rely on fat stores from summer to carry it through. Therefore it must trust that when the snows come and the earth chills and darkens, this is a temporary condition and a part of the natural cycle. The Buffalo knows that Spring will come again, and does not panic!
A row of Trees rings the horizon. Trees connect heaven and earth, and are highly spiritual beings. These trees are bare and dormant, but the ghostly flower pattern showing in the snow indicates that under the frigid ice life stirs, ready to spring forth in abundance with the first warm breaths of Spring.
This pending event is hinted at by the wintery Sun in the painting. It struggles to break through the clouds with a cold, watery light, but as the days grow longer it will gain in strength and warmth, providing the energy to nourish all life on Earth through another yearly cycle.
Is this Sun rising or setting? It could be either, representing either new beginnings or the end of a phase or cycle. (Remember, though, that in every ending lies the seed of a new beginning.) The lighting and shadows reveal no set direction, allowing for whatever interpretation feels right at the moment. The buffalo, too, sometimes appears red, sometimes yellow. Either way, it indicates a period of transition, or a pause between periods of growth – underscoring the theme of winter. If you would like to meditate on this image to help you through a transitional period, you might want to imagine it as a setting sun at first, and change to a rising sun as you begin to feel your energies rise again.
Finally, a mob of seven Crows accompanies this Bison. The number Seven is, of course, regarded as having great significance in any number of traditions. It’s frequently associated with magic and spiritual awareness, along with the ability to manifest results in our lives. (Seven black birds appear in another painting of mine as well, an art reading for the daughter of a friend. You can view and read about it here.)
Many traditions associate Crows with magic, sometimes black magic. While Crows are certainly Black, I don’t feel them to be a bad omen. Rather, their color signifies a deeply Feminine energy and access to the unseen spiritual world. Crows have wonderful, strong (some say harsh, but I think they’re beautiful!) voices that carry a long way, and they are great at warning each other of approaching danger. They are a reminder to listen to and heed the warnings of one’s intuition.
Crows are, in many traditions, a Trickster animal. They are also opportunists, and great at not just surviving but adapting and thriving – which is why you are just as likely to meet up with a Crow in the city as in deep wilderness. These particular crows appear a little impish, irreverently perching on and around the majestic Buffalo. They tell us it’s ok to have fun and be bold when pursuing our dreams and goals.
The fun thing about symbols is that they mean different things to different people. I’m always interested to hear what other people take away from the images I create. What does this painting say to you?
It looks like Christmas here in Michigan’s UP, after a winter storm dumped about two feet of snow on us in 24 hours.
After all the digging (and swearing), it’s nice to sit back and appreciate the beauty of this time of year. There’s something dreamlike about it that, if you’re not careful, can get you thinking in stream-of-consciousness sorts of ways.
So…the snow made me think of the holidays, which brought to mind this painting I did quite a few years back, when we lived in Vernon County, WI.
Yes, that is Amish country, and these are Amish horses. Big, placid, gentle Belgians, taking a break outside their barn one summer day as my husband and I were visiting their owners. (I changed it to a winter scene later. Who says there’s no magic in the world?)
Anyway, this painting in turn reminded me of another story from that era, which is the real reason I’m writing this post.
We were visiting another couple and admiring their beautiful new barn. Upon close inspection, the barn appeared to be made from top-quality, cabinet-grade old growth oak.
“It’s gorgeous, but why did you use such beautiful wood for a barn?” my husband asked the man.
“Well,” he replied, “the wood was growing on our own property. It was cheaper to hire the Amish to mill it for us than to go to the lumber yard and buy wood from somewhere else.”
Makes sense. But I wonder, how many people these days might have simply driven to Home Depot and purchased wood rather than look around to see what was available for the taking?
The thing is, it takes a little bit of imagination to look at a tree and see a barn. And you have to be willing to seek out those with the know-how to help you transform the one into the other.
Ask yourself: What treasures might be growing in your own backyard? Would you recognize their worth if you saw them? And who are the human treasures you know who might help you find them?
Black bears come in many different colors, from black to all shades of brown, even creamy white. Non-albino white black bears are found almost exclusively in British Columbia and are also known as “Spirit Bears.” In Native American legend, the white color of these bears is said to be a reminder of past ice ages. The white bears are also said to stand for harmony and peace.
Last summer on a car trip through northern Wisconsin I happened to look out the window in time to see a mother black bear with her three cubs. What a thrill!
The ones I saw were actually black, or nearly so, but black bears come in many different colors, from black to all shades of brown, even creamy white. Non-albino white black bears are found almost exclusively in British Columbia and are also known as “Spirit Bears.” In Native American legend, the white color of these bears is said to be a reminder of past ice ages. The white bears are also said to stand for harmony and peace.
We don’t have spirit bears where I live in the U.P. of Michigan, but somehow the little cub in the center just wanted to be white. Its playful expression is perhaps a reminder that we need a little fun in our lives now and then in order to maintain harmony and peace in our lives!
Here is another totem animal/power symbol reading. This one is for the child of a gifted empathic healer. The feeling I got from the reading is that the child is probably gifted in this area as well. (The young woman in the painting is not a physical portrait of the child. I think it represents her soul or some aspect of her spirit.)
The reading below is edited slightly to protect the privacy of the people involved.
“The impression I get is of someone who is extremely sensitive, and who has a special need to connect with the natural world.
“I’m feeling that music is very important, and sound in general. Natural sounds would be good for her, like birdsong and the breeze in the treetops and the sound of water. One of those little indoor waterfalls might be something she would find delightful and relaxing. However if she was told it was there because it was good for her she would probably not like it so much.
“There are seven birds. Birds are often associated with spirit. I get the feeling the number of birds here is important. Seven is a number associated with spiritual awareness, introversion, an analytical mind, non-conformity, and natural healing.
“It feels like she’s very thirsty for the presence of nature. It might be good to take her to (a nearby botanical garden) some weekend. But don’t force it on her, and if you do, take her just one on one, don’t try to turn it into an educational field trip, just focus entirely on her and her relationship with the environment, and let her just experience it. And if she resists it, just let it go and do something else with her.
“Listening is important. She needs time and space to listen, and be listened to. I think she has need for un-structured time in her life.
“Oh, one more thing: something about hands, and smooth pebbles, and maybe water and soil. She might enjoy gardening or flower arranging. She needs to experience nature at the physical, tactile level.”
(The child’s mother told me later that the number seven is highly significant in their religious tradition (Orthodox Judaism.) It is associated with the Sabbath, amongst other things. The Sabbath being a day of rest devoted to Spirit, I believe this does relate very much to the message.)
Additional notes: Blackbirds are often associated with the creative forces of nature, mysticism and spirituality. They are also quite territorial during their breeding season, so it may be important for this individual (or her parents while she is still young) to set boundaries protecting her need for space, in order for her to fulfill her creative potential.
Spirals appear in this painting as well. Spiral imagery is symbolic of creative growth and expanding spiritual consciousness.
The tree in the painting is a young sapling, and the energy of the piece is that of Springtime – reflections of this child’s stage of life.
Most of the readings I do come through as animal symbols. Every once in a while human imagery comes in. This happens especially when I am doing a general reading (for the planet and/or humanity.) Are they nature spirits? Angels? Do they just signify higher consciousness? I’m not sure at this point. If you have any insight into this please comment!