Storm Journey Book Origins

A few years ago, it seemed that everything in my life was falling apart.  I’d let go of my apartment and art studio in Oregon for a chance to house-sit and maybe move to New Mexico.  At the same time, a new relationship was failing, and I had no job in either city.  I felt alone, displaced, scared, and overwhelmed.

Not long before I left for Albuquerque, I had a dream.  In it, I see a tornado coming toward my house, threatening any stability I have left.  I try to pray hard enough to make the storm go around my home, my life, and me.  Then I hear God chuckle kindly and say, “You can’t stop the storm, dear one.”  My resistance is clearly useless, and God gives me the nearly impossible instruction to actually welcome the coming storm.

Incredibly, I am untouched while the tornado rips apart my house and pulls up the trees.  The raging passes and I find myself standing safe in the sunshine, surrounded by rubble.  Everything is totally stripped away, and the dream ends.

This vivid echo of my life losses stayed with me over that long, difficult winter.  In the spring, I decided to go on retreat and translate the dream into art images in book form.  Would creativity continue the storyline?  Sure enough, illustrations emerged for the tornado dream and beyond.  After being saved from the storm, however, there was no triumph– in the following picture, I’ve slumped to the ground amid the wreckage, feeling altogether lost.

My muse told truth in these images, about my habitual reaction when things fall apart: I start picking up the pieces to try putting it all back to the way it was before the storm hit!  I can’t give up my plans.  As the art and story unfold, the reconstruction effort fails.  I surrender.  Then– in that strange mercy that only appears when I finally let go of my strategy and baggage– a completely unexpected insight arises, followed by a fresh, vibrant response.

But the story wasn’t finished.  Six months later, I returned to the desert retreat house with my incomplete book.  I hiked up onto my favorite mesa to invite the creative process yet again.  To my surprise, as I walked along the mesa top, I suddenly felt a sacred presence all around me.  Thankfully, I payed attention and stopped to listen, rather than brush off the feeling.  I closed my eyes and grew still.  Then I felt, more than I saw, a circle of women elders sitting right there on the ground.  They each wore a shawl around their heads and shoulders, and I sensed they were gathered for a sacred purpose.

In this vision, the wise women offered me tea, and I sat down with them in the circle.  I asked them, “What comes next in the book?”  At once, I received in my mind’s eye 13 more images that continued the story from where I’d left off.  The images came as clearly and strongly as any I’d ever seen in all my prayerful art making, as if by visual dictation.  Stunned, I gave thanks to the women for their gifts and walked directly back down the mesa hill to find my sketch book.

Quickly and with very little correction, I drew out each image just as they were given to me in the vision.  Then for the next six days, I worked in silence to create the collage art for the remaining book pages of Storm Journey.

Now, three years later, the finished book offers nearly 100 juicy reflection questions along with those envisioned images about what can come next after challenges and loss.  Just past surrender, several creative leaps bring wisdom and change.  Insight, transformation, and community arise beyond that individual failure to put the pieces back together.

We all go through storms where letting go isn’t a choice.  How do we respond to tragedies like job loss, the illness or death of a loved one, a divorce, or even an actual tornado or storm?

Storm Journey certainly doesn’t tell us what to do, but it raises good questions that can open us to wisdom rather than reactivity.  For example, the book asks us all to consider what we know we can trust in the middle of a storm.  We’re invited to see what might be lost when storms hit, and what might be cleared away or opened up.  We get to be curious about which challenges, in our lives and for our planet, might look different from a higher perspective.  We consider new avenues for working together.  The journey itself questions and affirms what we really need– as individuals, neighbors, nations, and as an Earth community.

I’m excited and also a little nervous to share the vision that unfolds in Storm Journey’s pages.  The book shares compelling questions that I’m just starting to ask, let alone answer, personally and globally.  Yet I hope deeply that Storm Journey will inspire creativity and collaboration in the midst of our biggest challenges.  Letting go of what we thought we had to keep just might make room for curiosity, insight, and engagement when the coming storms pass through our lives and across the Earth.  May it be so.

— Melanie Weidner, written for Inner Tapestry cover art article, October 2013

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