Messy in Action

I just had another one of those moments thinking, “Wow, this is gonna be a great Art Card for someone to draw out of a deck– and these words are pretty awesome!”

I’m writing again– can you tell?– working on the text that will accompany my Listen For Joy Art Cards in a little guide booklet.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the task, and sometimes it’s actually big fun to dig into each image, remember where it came from, and listen to the Spirit helping me find words for what the card is about.  I’ve had some rough days along the way, but tonight it was the fun kind, so I thought I’d share a peek of the text for the joy of it and to see what you all think.

Here’s the image, a vintage painting made in 2001, with my actual handprints.  I can just about feel that wet paint on my hands when I remember making this one on the bathroom tile floor:

Then here are the draft words I’m writing for it (unedited!), in four sections, below.  Of course these phrases are just places to start– whomever owns the Art Cards will get to decide what the images mean for them!  But sometimes it’s helpful to have a few ideas to bounce around in that process.  First is the intention of the card– one word I’ve chosen to represent one of its main messages.  Second is the invitation that the card makes to the viewer.  Third is the way a viewer might feel if she/he/they are feeling in balance or living in a balanced way. Fourth is what it might be like to be out of balance with regard to the invitation or energy of the card image.

Ok, so look at the image again, and then see what you think of these:

Intention:  Involvement

Invitation:  To cross a threshold and contact something personally, to let it touch and change you.  To get involved, engaged, or committed, which almost always means getting messy and being brave.

In Balance:  Willing to step beyond clean and comfortable when the situation or relationship calls for more.  Playing with gusto and abandon, letting go of appearances.

Out of Balance:  Refusing to engage discomfort or challenge.  Unwillingness to be affected or changed by life or a particular situation.

I felt inspired just writing some of these phrases.  In fact, they gave me some courage to make a blog post and share the messy, unedited process a bit more.  🙂  And I feel the conviction in these important political times to speak out, even if I’m awkward or unpracticed– about healthcare, and Black Lives Matter, climate change, and government accountability…
How are these words and image striking you?
Do you think the four sections of text are helpful for engaging the image?  What would you change or add?
I’m excited to keep writing, to keep my hands dirty, and soon to work with my wonderful editor to make it strong and beautiful…

The Long Road to Making Something

So I’m making something really great– two decks of Art Cards that include images from the last 20+ years of my work.  And although it felt over and over like I was ALMOST THERE– that any minute I’d be ready to launch my fundraising campaign and print these cards– the road to making something is long and bumpy.  Then winding, and long.  And bumpy.

The good news is, I’m still on the road, and I’m making solid progress.  (Super cool things are happening, actually.)  The challenge is, I get to stay on the path when it’s taking longer and feels a lot harder than I expected.  For example, (good grief!!) creating a Kickstarter campaign is HARD.  I had a pretty big meltdown the day I made the spreadsheet to try to estimate costs of what I needed to fundraise, to be sure I included absolutely everything, from taxes to shipping costs– even though everything is also an estimate at the same time…  NOT what my brain is good at.  Bumpy!  But I’m doing it.

And although I haven’t talked about it very much, my amazing life parter, Hollin, has a genetic version of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) that’s kept her in various states of illness and tiredness for five years now.  Yep, five years without stopping.  Long, long, and bumpy road.  This definitely impacts the way we navigate life and daily tasks, and it challenges my estimates on how much and how fast I can accomplish.  It’s been an incredible gift to learn to slow down and savor life with Hol!  But my production ethic is still Energizer Bunny while my actual possibilities are more contemplative and walking-speed.  So this year I’ve set the goal to start my campaign twice already, once by May and once by June… and again I need to reset the timeline to what’s real.  In fact, when I listen to the Spirit I get clear to let go of setting a date for a little while.  This feels really embarrassing to my “But I promised!” and “If I could just work harder” and “What will people think?” self!  But this feels honest and more possible to my spiritual and creative self.  SIGH.

So… I’m letting myself off the hook as best I can, and I’m still hard at work finishing the packaging details and the writing for the guide booklets that are going to be a real bonus to the project.  I even have a fantastic editor who will help me!  (Thanks, Christianne of Bookwifery!)  I’ll keep practicing remembering that all of this is taking just the right amount of its long and bumpy time.

And one more thing that’s a little bumpy but important– I can tell that I need to talk more about all this.  I’m rather shy when it comes to media stuff, and I can forget that it’s actually really cool to see the geeky process parts along the way to making something really great.  I mean, I’d totally want to see YOUR project stuff as you go, and hear about your stuck places and celebrations!!  So it’s my turn to take the dare and get out more pictures and tell more about the juicy moments, bumpy and awesome both.  Be prepared– I’ll probably start with a little video of the prototype tuck boxes that make me grin from ear to ear.  But don’t ask me to promise when I’ll post it…  🙂  Sometime after a little more long and bumpy.

Be well on your own winding roads, dear friends.


Storytelling Collage text:

“body halo of flames” –Denise Levertov

“(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)” — e.e. cummings

“anyone capable must want to save the world” — found poetry rearranged out of Rebecca Bagget’s text

“into the wilderness of your intuition” — from a magazine headline

“Storytelling” handwritten by Rebecca Landes, rescued out of the Magic Scrap Bin at Pendle Hill


We Will Listen to the Planet

Even when our government won’t listen to wisdom and the planet, we will.


I’m more sure than ever that we need to change the worldview that says the Earth is a resource for humans to use up.  That’s simply not true– Earth is a community to belong to.

So when President Trump pulls the United States out of a worldwide agreement to begin curbing the toxic parts of our human presence on the planet, we will continue to follow the wisdom in our bones, speak out in the ways that are ours to speak, pray for guidance and courage, and take our best actions toward sustainable lifestyles and business practices.

Let’s keep listening and responding with brave joy, fierce love, and active hope– for the good of our neighbors and the planet.

Refresh your web browser page to restart the video.

Art images included in the video: If We Had Listened, Storm Journey: Story, Resilience, Phoenix Seed Cycle, Center of Becoming.

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Center Down Spiritual Practice

Hello again, dear friends.  So many of us are feeling the heaviness and negativity of our times, wondering what our responses will be.  This winter when I felt particularly burdened by the political unrest and injustice I saw in the news each night, I created a piece of fabric art called Center Down that reminded me about returning to my spiritual center to listen for guidance about my part in help and healing.  The image is partly inspired by Quaker teachings, and Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion in particular.  Both the art and the practice it portrays have been such good help to me as it hangs in my studio!

So I wrote out a few lines to describe the spiritual practice related to this art.  I made a little printed card to share with my students, clients, workshop members and at two conferences.  It’s been so fun to pass these out, I decided it was time to share it with you all, too.  So here’s the text, below, and a link to a free PDF download of the front and back of the postcard, so you can view it or print it yourself.  Please keep my copyright information on it, and do not sell it or reproduce it for anything beyond your private use.  Thanks.

Enjoy, and if you think of it, please let me know if this is helpful to you…

With blessing– Melanie

A Spiritual Practice Inspired by Quaker Tradition:

Center down:  Settle down through layers of speed and distraction into stillness and openness.  Choose to arrive in this moment–  arrive in your heart and in your body.  Remember yourself in the web of life, and connect with the Sacred Presence as you know it.

Clear out:  Make a space for the Sacred within and around you.  As best you can, set aside your worry, fear, or habits of thought.  A purposeful place or practice might help– a patch of ground or sky, favorite chair or cushion, meditative walking, deep breath, a prayer or ritual– return to whatever brings you into Presence and protects your inner quiet.

Listen in:  Open your spiritual ‘ears’ and listen within your heart and soul for impressions, phrases, images, or an inner knowing.  Wait patiently for some inward spark or impulse that is loving and empowering, for a bit of wisdom from beyond your usual mind chatter, or for a truth felt in your gut or bones.

Rise up:  Allow and follow through on right actions that rise naturally from the inspiration or wisdom you receive.  Make intentional movements supported by that listening stillness, with love and goodness as your motivation.  This kind of doing is fueled by spiritual purpose, and it calls you to become your best self.


Free download PDF of Center Down spiritual practice


Fiber Fiesta Art Show

Excited to be included into another Fiber Arts show this spring– the Albuqerque Fiber Fiesta, May 19-21, 2017.  My fabric, thread, and bead image “Center Down” was accepted by the jury and displayed in the Lujan Center of the Expo NM Fairgrounds.  At first I couldn’t find it among the other 215 quilts, so here I am all smiles when I came around the right corner and finally saw it on display:


It’s good to see my art out in the world…  always curious what others will experience when they see it.

See image details

See Center Down Spiritual Practice with free PDF download

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If We Had Listened to Our Bones

What do you know, down deep in your bones?  What could have happened if you had listened to your bone-deep wisdom?  What might happen if you listen now?

What do we know as a people, a community, a planetary system, in our “bones?”  I asked this on Climate March day, and this painting emerged.  What could have happened if we had listened to what we know, down deep, is good for our children, our neighbors, our bodies, our ecosystem, and all the life with whom we share our Earth?  What harm might we have avoided?

What might we listen to now, and what might still be possible?




Art Print available

Gallery page

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NM State Capitol SAQA Fiber Arts Show

I’m honored to be included in the New Mexico Chapter of the Studio Art Quilt Associates‘ biennial Fiber Arts Show, “Structural Diversity,” in the Santa Fe State Capitol building.  My two images “Seamlessness” and “Cataclysm” from the Resilience Project were juried into the select show and will be on display during business hours at the Capitol, April 14-August 17, 2017.

Beautifully displayed show!  Quite a surprise to see my image, “Seamlessness,” right up front on the right.


“Seamlessness” statement:  I’m deeply inspired by the structure of our Universe emerging from an energetic realm of possibility.  My favorite scientist, Brian Swimme, calls this pure generativity, or “Seamlessness.”  I’ve imagined matter and light coming to being, using hand-altered fabric, swirling piles of thread, and stitched paths of interconnection.  Are these atoms forming, or the galaxies themselves?  Whether tiny or immense, all aspects of life and space are interconnected in this seamless web.


“Cataclysm” statement:  Endings and destruction are part of the fabric of our Universe– unavoidably.  Brian Swimme’s teachings on “Cataclysm” inspired me to consider actually embracing this letting go as an important part of re-creation.  In this image, I am exploring that breakdown.  I am also asking a fierce question about dismantling structures of power, thought, and violence that harm our selves, each other, and the planet as a whole.  As I literally cut apart and shredded guns, bombs, a colonial mansion, and trilobite fossils, I imagined us transforming those materials into new life-enhancing forms for the future.


The two twin images near each other in the first corner of the show display.


A great turnout for the opening night!


The Great Seal of New Mexico with our SAQA Fiber Arts show in the background.


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Art Cards Coming Soon

Thanks again to all those who have been supporting the making of Listen For Joy Art Cards.  In my last update, you’ll remember that I applied for a spring grant to include writing with the card decks.  It turns out that I did not receive that project grant— but something different and in the long run better— I will be given a generous, more broadly supportive gift in the fall to benefit my work in 2018.  What a surprise!  I’m amazed and grateful!!  The autumn financial support will give me some breathing room next year, and will mean that I’ll have the chance to experiment with new art and new ways of connecting that I’ve wanted to try.  This is deeply welcome good news!  I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

Meanwhile, the change in grant also brings a different kind of good news— I’ll be making the Art Cards sooner than later!  I’ve decided to go ahead and offer shorter, more concentrated writing for the decks, and fold that into a Kickstart-type fundraising campaign likely starting in June.  Basically, we and all our interested friends will collaborate to pre-order decks so I can pay to have them printed, and I’ll offer some other fun campaign goodies along the way.  If we’re successful (we can do it!), the printing goal is for this fall!  Hurrah!!

This is the year to hold these cards in our hands.

Last week I sold art prints at the New Mexico Social Worker’s state conference, and so many of those helping professionals are excited to use these decks with their clients.  One woman serving in hospice imagined out loud that she would love to give single cards to her patients along with flowers, to bring specific images of comfort for their dying transition process.  What a sacred, beautiful idea!  I get teary-eyed again just now imagining all the ways the Listen For Joy art will be able to inspire and serve people in the hand-held deck form.

After all this time, I’m still so excited to make these Listen For Joy Art Cards come to life!  It’s been a longer journey than we expected so far… but now I can see the next phases lining up and shining the way forward.  If you haven’t already, please consider signing for my eNewsletter list to get the next email to announce the campaign date and invite you to help get the word out.  Yay!!

With blessing and enthusiasm,


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To Stardust We Return

From stardust we come, and to stardust we return.

Our lives are sacred, precious, and short… Remember and live well, my friends.


Notes on Galaxy photo:

30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region in our galactic neighbourhood and home to the most massive stars ever seen. The nebula resides 170 000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. No known star-forming region in our galaxy is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. The image comprises one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos and includes observations taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, combined with observations from the European Southern Observatory’s MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope which trace the location of glowing hydrogen and oxygen. The image is being released to celebrate Hubble’s 22nd anniversary.
Hubble: NASA, ESA, ESO, D. Lennon and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI), J. Anderson, S. E. de Mink, R. van der Marel, T. Sohn, and N. Walborn (STScI), N. Bastian (Excellence Cluster, Munich), L. Bedin (INAF, Padua), E. Bressert (ESO), P. Crowther (Sheffield), A. de Koter (Amsterdam), C. Evans (UKATC/STFC, Edinburgh), A. Herrero (IAC, Tenerife), N. Langer (AifA, Bonn), I. Platais (JHU) and H. Sana (Amsterdam); Chandra: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al. & NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.

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Delayed Gratification – Art Card Decks

Well, I have good news and… a little delayed gratification. 🙂 The good news is: I’ve applied for an unexpected grant opportunity to improve the Art Card Decks, and I’m hopeful about my chances. The delayed gratification news is: I need to wait a few more weeks to know exactly when I’ll launch my Art Card Deck campaign part 2. I’d planned on February, but with this big grant possibility, it’s entirely worth the wait!

Here’s the scoop: If I receive this financial support, I’ll be able to invest six months to write brief stories and insights to accompany each Art Card– to make the decks truly complete in the way I’ve always dreamed they could be. I’m so excited about this, and amazed it just might happen! The writing will help bring the images even more alive, since I know from experience that words and questions help many people to really enter an image and make meaning with it. It’s also likely true that written text will give the deck added value if later I can find an invitation to publish with a larger company. And finally, this writing project will bring two decades of my work full-circle, distilling in words what I’ve gained by living with, sharing, and learning from these images. Here I am getting a little teary-eyed about the possibility as I write this to you…

I’d planned to publish the decks without written materials, but now I might be able to create the booklets I’ve imagined would serve alongside the art. It will be a worthy challenge! I should find out by mid-April at the latest.

Although I’m itchy to get these Art Card Decks into your hands and mine, it won’t serve to skip this opportunity or to push ahead on a fundraising campaign without knowing whether the decks would include small resource booklets. So, the project is very much alive and might get even more vibrant in a few weeks. Or, if the grant does not come through, then I’ll move ahead with the original Art Card Deck fundraising campaign as planned in April– without stories, but full of vibrant art that we’re all so excited to use and enjoy. Grant or no grant, this is the year to publish and share these images!

Meanwhile, I will appreciate your prayers, good wishes, and encouragement as I wait with hope and trust. It’s a definite stretch emotionally and financially to delay the deck launch– and to trust your patience with the process. Yet my guidance is clear that this grant chance is worthy of the risks and delay. Spiritual timing is its own adventure, and we’re on that journey!

Thank you again for your support for this dream and your blessings as it changes and grows. I can hardly wait!

With joy, gratitude, and faith,


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A Story of Our Wounds Healing

I felt the urge to share another art image this morning, and here it is.  I’ve got to say, however, that I didn’t expect to see this old friend of a painting in a totally new way.  At first, I scrolled through my image files and stopped at Enter Fire, drawn by its powerful questions, “Who am I?” “Who is God?” and “Who are we?”  I remembered asking these when a dear friend spoke them in a Quaker Meeting for Worship 14 years ago.  But then, all of a sudden I saw the colors and questions in a political way:

These days in the US, I can’t help but think of Red vs Blue.  All this vicious fighting, entrenching our positions, makes my soul sick.  In this toxic climate, “Who am I?” becomes a question of what I’m against.  “Who is God?” gets used to define moral judgments and decide who is rejected.  But this morning I was surprised by the other color in my art image: the question “Who are we?” rests in purple, in the meeting of blue with red.  For a moment, I imagined blending our ideas of what we are for (not just what we’re against) with our sacred knowing about love and right relationships (not just what’s bad and wrong).  I dreamed about people meeting each other to ask, “Who are we?” with the real listening, real humility, and real humanity to bring about change that honors all of us.

But we all know a shift like that isn’t remotely simple.  I can’t just paint red and blue to make purple and expect us to all get along.  There’s a far deeper layer at work.  Look– the painting itself opens up, like a book, like a painful story we’re writing together:

See the wounding?  See the stitches?  We Americans– but especially white Americans like me with education, money, and power– need to actually see and begin to address the wounds of racism, classism, sexism, religious exclusivism, heterosexism, ableism, and too many more.  Our national story is cut apart by all the ways we’ve judged and excluded each other.  We are wounded, and we are part of the wounding.  The injuries must be acknowledged and opened in order to be treated.

It seems to me that this US election cycle has ripped off the bandages we’ve been ignoring.  I’m embarrassed at how shocked I am to see more of the hatred, injustice, and violence that our brothers and sisters of color and others on the margins have been bleeding from for years and years.  I haven’t really wanted to understand more deeply and ache with them.  Many days, I’d rather forget about even my own painful history of being excluded and vilified for my sexual orientation.  Then I’m nauseous with more grief to learn the stunning extent of ecological destruction, to watch protective legal regulations disappear, and to see photos of bone-thin polar bears stranded on melted ice floes.  I can barely look.

Our wounding gets more clear each day.

See the fire?  I sense the growing fires of outrage and despair burning in our country and in our world.  Right alongside, I see a fiery rising of passion, justice, and change.  The invitation is here, to “enter fire,” to find out what can be reborn if we walk right into and through these flames with courage, creativity, and faith.

I’ve heard somewhere that seeds from many pine trees and prairie grasses refuse to open and germinate without being touched by fire.  And I hear from the Spirit this morning that political wildfires are cracking our toughened husks.  We are given this unwelcome but necessary chance to send out roots and shoots to grow fresh, empowered, life-giving ways of treating each other and our planet.

See the prayer?  “The story of our wounds healing….” I believe this is a long, scary, gorgeous, painful, freeing, essential story– a heroes’ journey to become a people who love ourselves, welcome each other, and nurture our Earth.  What will it mean to live out loud and enact the pieces of this prayer, like “our sorrows becoming” or “transformation into love” or “deeper welcome of all things?”  I want to find out, today, tomorrow, and over my whole lifetime.  My response this morning is to follow the guidance to write this article and share it with you!

I trust that many of us are stepping into discovery by refocusing our priorities and listening to our inner wisdom and our hearts.  So many of us are remembering our faith: with spiritual guidance, we actually do have everything we need to bring healing and transformation.

May all of us share this vision and work to embody the real-life, daily practice of joy and well-being that includes everyone.

Amen, so it is.


See the Enter Fire image details.

Deep thanks to my dear, wise friend Barbarajene Williams who asked the three questions that inspired this painting in 2003.

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Shaken, Not Uprooted

In my waking nightmare, a larger-than-life President Trump grabs a huge map of the United States of America and starts shaking it.  Hard.  So hard, people start to fall off the map— brown people, black people— he’s trying to shake them off.  He shakes again, more people fall— poor people, LBGTQ people, people in every kind of wild and colorful clothing.  They bump hard against the thick wall at the bottom of the map before they bounce and fall.  

But Trump isn’t finished.  More overgrown white men join him now— Bannon, Sessions, Pruitt, Tillerson, Ryan— they all start jolting and shaking the map, the country.  Now the trees start falling off, and the water is blackened by shaken oil that spilled and it all runs off, dripping across the map face, over the wall, onto the piles of dislodged, fallen people, trees, and now animals below.  

The giant men pause, and agree to shake hard all together— 1, 2, 3, JOLT!  Religions fall off, and decency.  Hope comes loose and floats down like feathers in the dust of joy and goodness, crumbling.

Trump stops.  The men stop, and step back smugly to survey.  The map is ashen white.  All the color lies beneath, in ruin.  Dust smoke clears to reveal the American landscape, barren now except for the oil wells and crosses that mark their territory.  They look like tombs.

I study dreams a little bit, sharing them with a dream group every two weeks.  We follow a form taught by expert Jeremy Taylor, who asserts that all dreams— even nightmares— are given to us for our healing and wholeness.  Although they’re disturbing, in my experience, nightmares are actually good, juicy dreams to have.  They get our attention, point out pretty accurately in dream symbols just what’s amiss, and they practically guarantee that our minds and hearts are ready and able to do something about it.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the dream!  Taylor says, “The very fact that a dream is remembered in the first place means that the dreamer actually has at his or her disposal all the courage, creativity, strength, and wisdom necessary to respond creatively and transformatively to even the worst ‘problem’ that the dream presents.”  (Read his great article.)

So I’m paying attention to this nightmare.  The image of Trump and company shaking all the color and life off of the American map is a frighteningly accurate picture of how I’m feeling about the political barrage jolting our communities and shaking our way of life.  I’ve walked away from my desk several times just trying to stomach writing this list of recent actions taken and promised:  Muslim bans, border walls, white supremacist-influenced speeches and policy, climate change gag orders, green-lighted oil pipelines, hobbled environmental and consumer protection, threats to women’s and minority rights, sexual abuse approved and glorified, free press skewed and hampered, healthcare repealed with no plan for replacement, incompetent cabinet appointments, budget cuts on the poor, prioritized corporate interests, Russian election interference, disregard for nuclear threat, nepotism, bullying, lying without regard for truth, petty tweets, and on, and on.  Seriously, I can hardly breathe in this Trump version of the American dream.  If it all shakes down in this nightmare direction, our landscape will indeed be ashen— white-only, with a narrow band of approved thought or belief, spoiled soil and water, and very few tight fists holding all the wealth in top-down power.

But this is a nightmare— remember?— meant for our healing and wholeness.  This is a juicy, important warning message asking all of us to wake up, stay woke, and get busy offering our part of a life-giving dream for the USA and the world.

Some of us have been trying to wake up the rest of us for generations now—  people of color, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, the peace movement, environmental activists, the mystics and spiritual seekers, artists, poets, writers, and so many others.  These wise, enduring, and creative voices offer powerful and vibrant dreams and plans for justice, safety, flourishing, interconnection, belonging.  Listening to them in a variety of ways helps me hold my ground and stay steady when it’s shaky.  For my whole life, I’ve found inspiration and motivation through spiritual practice, poetry, and art.  Contemplative listening, Mary Oliver’s poems, and art-making definitely give me roots and wings.  For years, the LBGTQ, peace, and environmental movements have shaped my vision for a mutually-nourishing way of living on our planet home.  I even have a favorite scientist, Brian Swimme!  Recently, I’ve felt convicted to pray more deeply and to commit more of my life to my best work as I’ve heard stories from the Standing Rock gathering of Native Americans.  African-American elders, teachers, writers, and film-makers are urging me to examine my privilege, speak for justice, and never turn to despair.  And I’m only just starting to investigate more political avenues for systemic change, like the Indivisible Guide, the Black Lives Movement Platform, and Waging Nonviolence.

What practices, beliefs, ideas, and resources ground your spirit and inspire your actions?

In my dream of a vibrant, alive, colorful America, we must grow deep, strong, unshakable roots in truth, kindness, creativity, playfulness, wisdom, care for all other people and ourselves, healthy relationships with all of earth’s beings, etc.  We don’t have to fall off of that nightmare map.

In what do you grow your good roots?  

In my vision for who we are as a country and a global community, we do call out nightmares and evil when and where we see them.  Yet always and more:  we pray or set our sacred intentions, we listen beyond our quick judgments, we speak out and say what we’re for, and we show up and do what we love.  Each of us lives these out in a different way.  And all of us can live these together in a united way.

What life-giving visions for our future do you see or imagine? 

How do your visions and dreams invite you to respond?  

In my waking dream of who we as Americans can become, our love and creativity keep us rooted and alive when politics shakes us to the core.  We protect and support our vulnerable neighbors when injustice rocks them and us.  And we choose to listen to the planet and its wisdom when the climate speaks.

May it be so.

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Our Rising Orders

This is my intention, my prayer, and also the sign I’ll carry for the Women’s March in Albuquerque on January 21, 2017:


If you’d like to carry this sign too, hurrah!  I welcome you to download the file and print it yourself locally (for non-commercial use only, please):

Download the printable PDF sign here:  WOMEN’S MARCH SIGN

(You don’t have to join DropBox to download– click “No Thanks” at the bottom of the pop-up screen.)

This winter I invited my workshop students to consider the spiritual practice of clearing out and listening in, to make space to hear inwardly what right action would rise up.  In that spirit, I sat down one morning this week to get quiet and listen for inner guidance on whether I would attend the Women’s March in Albuquerque, and what message I would carry.  Speaking out for human rights and care for the Earth is deeply important to me, but I wanted to listen beyond whether I should go and what I should say.  With my limited energy and my particular gifts and skills, what would my inner wisdom know about the best way for me to respond in this moment?

After a while in the silence, I was surprised to remember a fantastic question my friend Sue asked me a couple of years ago.  When I felt all heavy and stuck around something important, she wondered aloud, “What if you could only do something fun about this?”  As her question rang again in my heart, I felt a new clarity rising: my political and social actions need to embody joy and goodness, not just anger and fear.  Yes, I would go to the march– for the grown-up fun of it— for the chance to join others and lift my voice for justice because love and hope pull me forward, gladly.  And with this joyful orientation and spiritual conviction, I would practice integrating the courage and fierceness I admire in dedicated non-violent activists.

So I played with words in my journal, then played with those words on my computer to make a sign that tried to say something about all that.  You’ve seen the result here, and I’m delighted that some of you might also want to carry this message too.

This is the way I want to continue to practice– again and again– as I engage our political and social challenges:  Center Down, Clear Out, Listen In, and Rise Up.  (I have some art that goes with that, and I’ll do my best to get that photo up on the website soon.)  My heart and my convictions worked together as I opened myself in the sacred silence, cleared out my shoulds, and let the right action and perspective rise up within me.

For now, I have my marching orders, literally, with sign in hand.  Or as my students and I said this winter, these are our Rising Orders.  There is much to heal, my friends.  May you joyfully listen to your heart and wisdom to find what rises for you, too.


If you’d like to carry this sign, hurrah!  I welcome you to download the file and print it yourself locally (for non-commercial use only, please):

Download the printable PDF sign here:  WOMEN’S MARCH SIGN

(You don’t have to join DropBox to download– click “No Thanks” at the bottom of the pop-up screen.)

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Art Card Decks Underway

I’m delighted to write an update on the progress of the Listen For Joy Art Cards!  Thanks again to all those who supported the GoFundMe campaign to get the project rolling.  After a personally challenging summer that delayed an autumn launch, we’re now on track for a February 2017 Kickstart campaign.  So exciting!

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek of the designs.  Turns out I’ll be offering two decks of 36 cards each:  the Deep Breath Collection, and the Come Through Collection.  Each set will be 3.5 x 5 inches, printed in full color with rounded corners and a thematic design on the back, wrapped in a beautifully printed tuck box (as a traditional set of playing cards would be).  I’m thrilled with the professional, helpful, and ecologically-minded USA printing company I’ve chosen.  I can hardly wait to see proof copies!



I’ll be printing 1000 copies of each deck to make the investment worthy.  So let’s look forward to an ambitious, festive campaign in February and decks in your hands by spring!

I appreciate your blessings, prayers, and encouragement as I move forward with many more preparations.  Thanks to my amazing partner, Hol, and dear friend Kath who have especially supported this phase of the work.  And my gratitude goes out again to all of you– for your interest and love for the images.

I do believe these Art Cards will be inspiring and useful in the years ahead, as we all practice listening to our souls and listening for joy.


175522_listenforjoy_deck box

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We’re Afloat

Have you ever been surprised and encouraged by something from the past?  This morning my friend Tracy Hart re-discovered a post I wrote in 2008, and it’s such a good reminder as we all continue to respond to Presidential Election results.  I’d been thinking about this image, but had forgotten this sweet spiritual practice.  Today I want to also add the practices of drop-by-drop activism and drop-by-drop prayer, too– equally important in that ocean of Love.

Here’s the original post:

I heard a fairy tale once about a tiny person carried downstream in a little walnut boat to all sorts of adventures. The story details are gone, but the image of the walnut boat came back this summer for this painting of feeling afraid, called Afloat. I felt rattled and unsure after another car accident in June, and created this image as I wondered just how to trust God’s presence when I didn’t feel particularly safe. Turns out the spiritual life isn’t a guarantee for safety, and so I lost another Subaru and entered some mild recovery.

I’m ok now, but it was a dark summer in many ways. It helped some to paint Afloat, to show just how scary big black waves and car wrecks feel. Today it could show just how scary economic crises and political fighting can feel. Worries come– our little walnut boats might be smashed any minute.

And yet… here’s one truth about art, about life, about Love: there’s always a bigger picture. We’re always held by something More.

When I back up a little and look at the whole painting, I see the crashing waves as the ruffled feathers of a larger bird underneath. Somehow that deep strength and uplifting holds the boat up, despite the chaos on the surface.

It seems to me that Jesus knew that calm under the storm. His disciples freaked out in the wind (and I would too!), but he remembered the possibility of peace and called it into being with trust and faith. I believe we all have access to this deeper body of Love, but that we forget. Spiritual practice of all kinds helps us remember. Prayer and creativity of all kinds help us to name the waves of our fear and then re-connect and re-center our hearts and minds in the deeper, truer currents of gratitude, wonder, Mystery, and compassion.

I’m trying a new spiritual practice a friend suggested this week. Whenever a worry shows up in my mind and body, I imagine it as a drop of rain that wants to join the Ocean of Love. “I might not make the bills this month” becomes a raindrop– a prayer for help that falls into the Divine One who holds all prayers like an ocean. “I don’t know what will happen if I take this risk”melts into a drop of letting go, sliding into God’s endless care and Mystery. “The need is so big, how can I give?” slips into a longing to love that meets all the Love there is. I feel a change when I practice this imagery as my prayer. When my worry drops touch Love’s Ocean, they relax. I relax. Then after a while, those concerns tend to rise back up, transformed into simple steps or calm little actions that bring a bit of peace or offer a bit of joy.

What practices return you to Center, to Love, to a heart of gratitude? Maybe you simply remember to fill your minds with goodness over fear. As one scripture offers, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” — Philippians 4:8, The Message version.

Whatever your spiritual path, I urge us all to remember and practice our best prayers and intentions in these times tempting us to fear. Drop by drop, we can transform the worry in us and around us into the calm and trust that keeps us afloat and makes room for the creativity and compassion we need.


Thanks to friend Robert Smith for reminding me of the little walnut boat, and to Jean Lee, wondrous massage therapist who’s helping me recover, for the image of worries as raindrops returning to the ocean of the One Love.

 See Afloat painting and details.  See Through the Storms blog post.  Art print available.

©Melanie Weidner 2008

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Successful Art Deck Campaign, Round 1!

Thanks to all for this wonderful start to our collaboration: making this Art Deck into a reality.  I’m so honored and uplifted by the support, and now I’m ready to get to work!  Watch for Round 2 this fall…

Meanwhile, enjoy this little thank you video…  with my grateful blessings.  —Melanie

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Join In For Joy – Launch an Art Deck

Hello, friends!

Here’s my latest invitation to co-create something wonderful.  Please visit my Round 1 Join In For Joy GoFundMe campaign to launch an Art Deck!  There’s a 2-minute video on the GoFundMe webpage, and an essay that I’ve repeated below.  Thanks for considering this collaboration, and blessings to you!  —Melanie

Art Deck GoFundMe pic B

Join in for Joy:  Launch an Art Deck

Whenever I sell my art prints at a conference or a festival, people say, “I wish I could buy so many more of them!  It’s impossible to choose just one or two.”  Whenever I make small-sized copies of my images to use in workshops or with my clients, people want to know whether they can take them home.  And whenever I think of sharing my art more widely with the world, I dream of making a deck of art cards to play with and pray with.

I’ve talked about this art deck idea for years, and more earnestly for the last two.  Last month at the Spiritual Directors’ International Conference, my friend Sarah C looked me in the eye and said, “It’s time.  Make the deck.”  When I told her I couldn’t afford to do it yet, her reply caught me off guard, but in the best way.  “We all belong to each other,” she said.  What if I were to risk letting myself belong to something bigger— to ask others to join me in a crowd-funding campaign, to let my art deck dream to belong to all of us?

For several reasons, asking is hard for me.  I’d rather do all the homework myself, and just tell you about it when it’s all shining and ready for purchase.

But this is the moment when I actually need the most support— in the research, discernment, and development phase.  I need quiet, concentrated time to listen for guidance and look for assistance, to explore the options and come to good decisions about the way forward.  Since I’m a self-employed artist and spiritual director, those kind of hours are “unpaid” unless I find another way to fund them.  As my friend Vicky said just last week, “Crowd-funding is the way art gets made now.”  We all get to help the art, or the music, or the writing hatch and then fly.  I know and love this when it comes to other artists…  and now it’s my turn to open up yet again and risk us belonging to each other.

Are we ready?  Here goes—

Hey, friends, I’m going to make a great deck of art cards, full of images I’ve received and created over 20 years of inspiration along my spiritual journey.  It turns out this art encourages many others on their own paths of spiritual exploration.  (I’m still so awed and glad about that—  Every time!)  And a lot of these people have been asking me to make the images more accessible.  My guidance is clear that the next step is to make a deck of art cards (or two or three).  Check out my 2-minute video to hear my voice and see the first deck prototype in action.

I want to offer pocket-sized card images of joy, challenge, love, and goodness.  Would you like to help me?  If it feels joyful and fun to you, will you consider giving toward launching this art deck project?  I will so gratefully receive the gifts of your good wishes, encouragement, prayers, ideas, purchases of art from my website, and/or donations to this Go Fund Me campaign— whatever delights your heart to share.  You’ll co-create something beautiful with me!  Then we’ll let it loose, in our world that so deeply needs our offerings of beauty, truth, and compassion.

This Round 1 campaign will support me to:

–Discern how the deck/s take shape

–Name the deck/s

–Find a printing company

–Create the graphics for packaging

–Write and create an information booklet

–Plan and implement the Round 2 campaign

The bigger, wider Round 2 campaign will focus on production costs.  In Round 2, donors can give in advance to receive their own art decks— and other festive incentives.  I can hardly wait!

If Round 1 is successful, then I expect to launch Round 2 in the fall of this year and to deliver decks in the spring of 2017.  How fun is that?!?

If Round 1 exceeds my goal, then I’ll use the extra support toward improving Round 2 with quality video software, a working creative retreat, and maybe even some business coaching to help me get the art out further into the world.  That would be amazing.

Thank you so much for considering my invitation to “Join In For Joy”— collaborating with me to bring an art deck to life.  I know there are many other important causes and projects we’re all supporting, so I’ll also be honored to receive your good thoughts and blessings for this work.

Let’s see what goodness unfolds!


The Power of Cataclysm

For months, I’ve been working on an artistic, spiritual response to violence in our culture and politics.  It’s timely to share what might be my bravest art yet– this fabric art called Cataclysm— and a brand-new 7-minute Cataclysm Art Process video clip on the making and meaning of the image.




Both the video and image are rather intense commentary, yet to me they are full of hope that the power of breakdown offers us new possibilities in the long run.  Oh how we need that kind of imagination right now– ecologically, culturally, religiously, and in just about every arena of our lives.  I’m deeply disappointed by the increasing violence and corruption in our political system, wondering how and when it will fall apart– maybe even with our help– to allow fresh justice, compassion, and leadership to emerge.

I’ll keep this post short hoping you’ll watch the video.  It’s home-made, for sure, but I worked hard on it, and I think you’ll enjoy seeing the photos of how I created and then tore apart the fabric elements of the piece.  Yep, it’s all fabric. Yep, I built a colonial mansion and made trilobites.  Yep, this is the first time I’ve ever used a gun or bombs in my art.  And yep, I shredded all those pieces to make a point– we can join the power of Cataclysm to dismantle whatever does not serve life as a whole, then out of the raw materials from the breakdown we might weave something new.


This Cataclysm image joins my Resilience Project series, along with the other more obviously inspiring principles I’ve sketched in watercolor, like Emergence, Allurement, and Centration.  Check out my other just-finished art quilt, Seamlessness, representing the generative space out of which everything comes and in which everything is connected!  (This science stuff still bends my mind and opens my heart.)




I can hardly wait to keep working on this ambitious project to complete 11 fabric art quilts embodying each of the Powers of the Universe qualities!  I’ll appreciate your encouragement and support….

With blessings as it all unfolds,


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Celebrating– with Miles to Go

Celebrating long walk

I’m inspired today by the new Paris Climate Talk Agreements, and especially moved by the South African representative’s reminder of Nelson Mandela’s words– our long walk is not over.

As Bill McKibben tweeted, “This agreement won’t save the planet. It may have saved the chance to save the planet (if we all fight like hell in the years ahead) @COP21 .”

Let’s celebrate each victory and vista, then renew our personal and public commitments to whatever causes for justice, peace, or healing are tugging at our hearts– Black Lives Matter, Syrian refugees, poverty in our neighborhoods, quality education, disease research, more– there are a hundred thousand ways to serve.  I’ll keep adding my voice and art toward bringing our human presence on the planet into right balance and right action.

Walk on.

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Grief and Beauty Together

The poet Mary Oliver says:

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

I’m deeply grieving for our Earth’s wounds this morning, and I’m thrilled by autumn’s crisp glory.  I just found out about horrible Indonesian jungle fires, and I just took another gorgeous bike ride along the Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains.  Seriously, I feel shaken by both.  How can my heart possibly handle these together?  It’s too much to express… so I’m making art to try to be with it all.

Soon I’ll start sharing images from my latest work on the Resilience Project.  Meanwhile, here’s a collage about the grief (thanks to National Geographic magazine and my scissors), and a photograph from my bike ride just yesterday.

Species Grief Collage


God help us to stay alive to both the beauty and the grief.

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Group Poetry

I’m remembering again the many gifts from teaching two more Pendle Hill workshops this summer in Pennsylvania.  In our weekend called Mindfulness at Play, 17 of us worked together to create a little miracle of group poetry, one phrase at a time.  Here was the tricky, awesome part: no one saw the entire poem until after it was finished!  Each author was responding to only the one line written just before theirs– the lines above it were folded back and hidden until the end.  When we unfolded and read the poems, we all marveled at the beauty and creativity of this heartfelt collaboration.  See what I mean:

Pendle Hill Group Poetry Aug2015

Or another one:

Pendle Hill Group Poetry Aug2015 3

When our hearts and hands work together mindfully, wisdom comes out to play!  Deep thanks to everyone who co-created these meaningful, inspiring workshops.

Maybe next time you will join us…  New Year’s Retreat, or next summer…

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Beauty and Simplicity


Georgia O’Keeffe is one of my heroes.  For my 45th birthday, my sweetie, Hol, and I went to tour her Abiquiu, New Mexico home for an hour yesterday… and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I felt a real affinity for Georgia’s space, and how she kept a strong blend of simplicity and beauty in every room.  But more than that, it was obvious to me that she lived intentionally and well, even when that wasn’t easy to do.  As the tour guide quoted her saying, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life– and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

So today my respect for O’Keeffe has me looking at my own life with a new admiration and intention.  I’m carrying away the deep inspiration to keep living authentically, letting go of whatever is unnecessary, dedicating myself to beauty and truth.

I hope 45 will be a good year for me, and maybe for you too– less worrying, more art, more play.  May it be so!


Photo above: Pedernal mesa– Georgia’s favorite– taken yesterday from Ghost Ranch, NM. 

Sorry, we weren’t allowed to make photos of the inside of her house on the tour, and I didn’t think I had permission to use them from online… you can Google search for some if you like!

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To Be Freed from Within


I’m offering this new image tonight, as a prayer of gratitude and invitation.

What within you waits to be free– nourished by the opportunities and difficulties of your history– ready to become a vibrant gift to the communities around you?

In what ways are you still unfree?  When and how are our neighbors unfree?  What’s our contribution to liberation?

May we see the possibilities for freedom within our deepest challenges.


Freedom from Within – fabric & thread – June 2015 – © Melanie Weidner

See Gallery Page

Original Art for sale

Art Print available


Freedom to Be


Just look at the joy on our faces when we creatively consider the Freedom to Be !

Thanks to Karli, Sally, Anna, and Lisa for joining me for the July 18 Juicy Workshop.  I’m always amazed at how much we discover about ourselves and each other when we show up with our hearts and hands to encounter a theme like freedom.  Then we can’t help but carry our wisdom out into the daily world around us!  I believe that creative and spiritual work serves us all.  May it be so.


I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, I, 12;
translation by Barrows & Macy.

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Self-Compassion Revisited


Not long ago, I found this painting in a box!  It was unfinished from 2011 and I’d forgotten all about it.  I’d considered it a failed attempt, along with Protect the Emergence, for what would later be Wrestling with the Angel.


But when I rediscovered this third drawing, I knew it was time to revisit my “failure” and finish the painting.  I added the wings, the background, and most importantly, the halo on the wrestling figure.  Four years ago I didn’t understand as well that our struggles are just as sacred and holy as our successes… so I’d left the wrestler bare.  Now in 2015, she feels honored and held in the embrace of self-compassion.

What challenges might you have put away in a closet and judged harshly?  What wise or spiritual part of you might offer your struggles a compassionate and healing gaze?


May it be so.


Original Art for sale

Art prints available

See Gallery Page



This Gift Left Me Speechless

A few weeks ago I received a gift that left me speechless.  One of my workshop students, Lois Trusler, mailed to me a gorgeous book of photographs she’d made on the last afternoon of our New Year’s retreat at Pendle Hill.

Although I’ve tried for years to describe my workshops in words, this beautiful book literally showed the powers of spirituality, creativity, and community in action.  Lois’ book taught me all over again why I lead these studio workshops, and what a miracle we make together every time.

Take a look.

And then come join us.

(Click the photos above to enlarge them)

See more workshop photos.

August 7-9 : Mindfulness at Play, Weekend Workshop – Register ASAP!
August 9-13: Treasures of the Inward Journey, 5-day Workshop – Register ASAP!
December 28, 2015 – January 1, 2016 : Creative Reflection, New Years’ Retreat.  Mark your calendar– info coming soon.


 Other workshop students say:

Melanie– I want you to know how much I have loved your workshops.  They have made a difference in my life.  I learned to play with art in new ways without judgment in a safe, fun atmosphere.  You made it all possible by being your loving, nurturing, listening, understanding, artistic self for all of us.  Many thanks.

This is a safe space to risk deep honesty, and to let yourself be seen.

It was a creative visual pilgrimage toward my center.

Melanie guided me into my creative self.

There is nothing better you could spend your money on.

Go to Pendle Hill, restore your faith in community, make everlasting connections, and soothe your soul.

Come and experience freedom and play framed by Quaker simplicity and spirituality.

I learned to risk and play and create.  It was more true, more real, and deeper than I could have hoped.

It will open your heart and mind.  You will have fun.  You will be glad you came.

Can’t wait to come back!

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Build Bridges

I’m thrilled for all of us who will be empowered and recognized by today’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.  And I continue to care for all those who will be fearful of or angered by these changes.  As President Obama said this morning, it is every generation’s project to build bridges between our best principles and the changing times.  May my prayers, actions, and votes work toward healing the hatred, injustice, violence, and oppression that we see each day in the news and in our own hearts.  May my life– and yours– help span the gap between fear and love.

4 R

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Bone Deep

Well, I don’t know whether you think this latest painting is at all romantic…  but here’s what happened when I sat down to make my partner Holly an anniversary gift to celebrate our four years together (yay!):


Clearly, I’m not in charge of what happens when I paint!  🙂  Thankfully, Hol loves the image, and so do I…  It speaks to us both of just how bone-deep our stories go, individually and together.  She’s had quite the life journey, my dear one, with lots of glories and plenty of struggles– including these past two or three years working with adrenal fatigue illness.  (More struggle than glory there.  Not fun.)  But here’s the romance:  I’m in love with how Hol lives all of her experience, how thoroughly she wrestles with and (eventually) welcomes and heals what comes her way, and how richly she weaves her life stories into compassion and truth.  I want to live that deeply and welcome my core life too.

So what are your marrow stories, and mine– the really real, central parts at the core of us?  Which of them wants to be known more fully in our own minds and hearts?  Which of our stories might inspire or encourage others if the time were right for the telling?

Marrow-Story-detailSee more image details: Marrow StoryArt Print available.

My paintings always raise more questions than give answers, I’ve noticed….  I also can’t help but remember another layered, question-filled painting from 2003, Listen to My Bones.  Guess the metaphor needed a revisit after a dozen years!  (Wow, already?!)

View 1 - top layer

View 1 – top layer


Bless us all– deep into our bones.



Brave Joy Studio

Our new Albuquerque studio is alive and well– hurrah!  Hol and I have chosen a name we love– Brave Joy Studio.  We invite you to courageously find your joy in our creative space!  My first workshop was a fun, inspiring afternoon of shared insights and art process.  Come join me for more adventures– May 9, June 5-7…  See Events to watch for what unfolds.

Meanwhile, Hol and I have postponed our studio open house, cancelling on May 2.  We’re sorry for the inconvenience if you’d marked your calendar.  It turns out Hol needs a bit more time for healing her long-term fatigue illness before we throw a party.  🙂  We’d appreciate your prayers or good thoughts for her continued recovery.  Thanks!

With growing excitement and gratitude for this creative journey…  Melanie

Brave Joy Studio pic 2 title

PS– Thanks to my cat, Mila, for “helping” to write this post…  🙂


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A Moment of Beauty

Like the Tibetan Monks who created an intricate, sacred sand mandala prayer and then swept it away, 550 participants made a meaningful, nourishing conference this week in Louisville, Kentucky before scattering back to their homes across the country and around the world.

Completed Mandala

Completed Tibetan Sand Mandala


I’m still savoring and celebrating the 2015 Spiritual Directors International Conference… grateful for the opportunity to hear teachings, teach a workshop twice, and share my art with the community there.  And what an incredible extra blessing and inspiration to watch these artist monks pray in color and chant for four days in the very same room with my exhibit table!  Their persistence to make this impermanent beauty reminded me that I too am invited to offer my best each day, then let it go.

Melanie shares and sells art - photo by Susan Robbin Etherton

Melanie shares and sells art – photo by Susan Robbin Etherton


As always, I loved the personal connections and stories from new SDI friends and old.  This year, many people let me know they’re using my art prints in their offices and ministries, as gifts to dear friends, and in their personal prayer spaces.  I can’t convey just how marvelous and encouraging it is to hear that the art serves in all these ways!  The workshops I hosted were a short, shining prayer of collective wisdom and insight too– as we enjoyed art and told stories in a circle that will never happen the same way again.  I was so delighted with those collaborations, I wish I could relive them!  But I get to remember, and let it go… my heart singing with the memory of sweet goodness.

Thanks to all who helped create this conference, and to all who carried art and books home with them.  Your support helps me to keep working!  May you be blessed until we meet again!  –Melanie

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Creative, Kind Response

I’m grateful whenever artists and friends of mine add their voice in response to conflict or injustice.  Kudos to my friend Mandy Ford of This Girl’s Doodles who created this drawing to remind Indianans (and all of us) to choose kindness along with speaking out against discrimination.

When will my art and voice be needed next?  And I wonder when you might respond with creativity and kindness?

Kindiana -Mandy Ford

Blessings as we use our art, lives, and voices for good in the world.


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Having a Spatula Moment

Have you ever had one of those moments when you pick up an object and suddenly a flood of memories shows up?  I just felt a torrent of affection and gratitude while holding the old spatula.  Yep, the spatula.

It’s tattered now.  The awesome flexi-silicone edges ripped a month ago from years of faithful service.  So yesterday I bought its replacement… but I just couldn’t use the new one at dinner time tonight.  I had to give my kitchen friend one last turn.  I’m like that sometimes.

imageThen when I rinsed it for the last time, and held it gently to say goodbye, I suddenly teared-up touching the burn scar on the back of the handle.  I’m not kidding– it was really sweet actually– remembering that I melted that bit in my first New Mexican casita apartment, learning how to cook on a gas stove while wishing I might someday be cooking together with a beloved.  Lots of longing and lonely.

But tonight, four years into our relationship, my heart and mind flooded with memory after memory of food prepared and shared with my Love, thousands of conversations at the kitchen table, and all the little boring, precious pieces of daily life that we’ve shared with each other– sometimes holding that spatula.  Yeah, here are those tears of gratitude again as I write this, for real.  Who knew I’d feel all this love for my Hol, for life, and even for myself tonight… in the good company of one of my favorite utensils.  🙂

Too lovely not to share.

What might happen tomorrow with the wooden spoon?  Goodness, I hope– and for you, too.


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New Juicy Workshops

Juicy-Workshop-squareEvery few years I pick up a new favorite word to describe the good stuff in life.  For example, I started saying “lavish” all the time after I read it in The Artist’s Way.  Then in 2010 my Pendle Hill workshop students teased me (in the best way, of course) when they caught me using “juicy” several times a day.  I’d say things like, “Imagine what color or shape would feel most juicy to you,” or “What’s the juiciest part of your experience right now?”  It stuck around as a beloved go-to word, and a partner for the pear image that often shows up in my art work.

So it’s no surprise that “Juicy” popped up this week when I named my new Albuquerque workshop series.  I grabbed a Sharpie marker, wrote out the word, doodled an iconic pear— and a fresh logo was born.

Pilgrimage-Book-Begging-BowlI always need the reminder trust what comes naturally.  It’s my hope that the simplicity, fun, and joy of the “Juicy” name will inspire these creative wisdom circle workshops!  I can hardly wait to gather to explore what’s ripe and sweet and wonderful in our souls and our lives.  Together we’ll use art-making, poetry, conversation, silence and more to harvest the fruit on Saturday afternoons.  No doubt our new studio will be a nourishing place for sacred play.

Would you like to join us?  Watch the Events calendar page for dates and details as all this unfolds.  For now, I’m starting with March 28 on the theme “Fresh Territory,” and May 9 on “Unfolding.”  Contact me right away if you’d like to register since I have space for 8 participants.  If things go well, registration will open April 1 for a third Juicy “Freedom” themed workshop on July 18.  If we’re really rolling, more dates will come for autumn….

Meanwhile, if you want a deeper dive into creativity and spirituality, consider three 2015 summer retreat options:  my two annual residential workshops at the terrific Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center near Philadelphia: “Mindfulness at Play,” August 7-9, and “Treasures of the Inward Journey,” August 9-13.  See also the Albuquerque 3-day creative workshop intensive, “Growing Edges,” June 5-7.  Please let me know if you’re interested.

With blessing for your juicy moments–  Melanie


Studio, Sweet Studio

Slowly but surely, my partner Holly Bahn and I are making a sacred play space in our new Albuquerque studio office, and it won’t be long now until we start hosting workshops and groups.  Hurrah!

For some weeks now, I’ve been seeing spiritual direction clients in person and by phone in the cozy office room… proud of the walls I painted and the chairs Hol found at our neighborhood thrift store.  Doesn’t this look friendly?


Client listening area in the inner office room — with a skinny window into the studio space

A few weeks ago, Hol and I unpacked our twin mountains of art supplies… amazed again at all we’ve each gathered over the years for arts groups and workshops.  Seriously, we’ve both been dreaming about and planning for this for a long, long time.


Holly with our art supply treasures

Now we’re finding shelves and drawers for all this good artsy stuff, making a creative studio that’s inviting, imperfect, and wonderful.  🙂  It’s good practice to work with what we have and to trust our intentions and those who gather with us to fill in the gaps.


Creative art space in the main room


Almost ready to go…

Watch the Events page and look for email announcements for the first workshop announcements.  (Sign up for eNewsletters on the Contact page.)  We’ll appreciate your prayers or good thoughts meanwhile– for a few more lucky finds at the thrift stores, a little more income for track lights, paper drawers, and a sign out front, and the stamina we need to bring it all together and get the word out.  Thank you!

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Thread of Creative Connection

I’m still celebrating the goodness and wonder of ten women who gathered with me at Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in a New Year’s workshop to create art, intentions, and community.  It’s a sacred privilege and great big fun to cultivate the connections that rise from soulful creativity in group spiritual experiences.  More and more, as I’m learning to lead by leaning into the Flow and guidance of the Spirit and my heart, we’re all freed to learn, love and shine together.


See us all here, shining and connected?  Oh, if you only knew what brave, beautiful, healing steps we all took toward wholeness and joy.  Here are the covers and a page of my little art booklet made to honor and process the experience.

Red Thread Weaves booklet 1

Red Thread Weaves Booklet 3

One of our group members, Ute Arnold, wrote the poem central to the pages above.  It begins: “The magic is released and the red thread is weaving our lives– near and distant– what folly to think I might ever be alone…”

Red Thread Weaves booklet 2

May we carry the thread of creativity and connection into our daily lives, strengthened and blessed by the gift of time away and together to remember our best intentions for 2015 and beyond.


Update, February 2015:  I’ve taken the red thread theme into fabric!  See Follow the Thread.


Want to join us for a workshop this August at Pendle Hill?  See Mindfulness at Play, and Treasures of the Inward Journey.  Register soon– limit 16 participants.

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Watch This Space

4th St StudioMy partner Holly and I are thrilled– we just rented a studio-office space near our home in the North Valley of Albuquerque.  For years we’ve been waiting to develop a place for our spiritual exploration and creative empowerment work.  Now that Hol’s energy is returning after several years of illness, a new chapter of life is opening for both of us, and for those who will join this adventure.  HURRAH!!

We’ll work individually and together, meeting with clients and offering groups and workshops.  For now, the space is a “diamond in the rough,” as we begin to bring together our collections of art supplies, vision for this community of creativity, and years of experience.  I’ll kick things off with an informal art sale, then we’ll spend the rest of December and maybe some of January “nesting” and preparing.  It’s a perfect Advent practice, co-creating with the Divine in the dark of winter, waiting and watching to see what gifts will be born to bring a little more healing, compassion, and light into the world.

We appreciate your support and prayers!  With great joy–  Melanie

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Ordinary Time

I love celebrating the sacredness of the everyday.  Some parts of the Christian tradition honor it with the color green, in the liturgical season they call “Ordinary Time.”  The irony is, there’s nothing ordinary about it, except that so much of lives are full of wonder that it’s more the norm than not!  My friend Sue Joiner is a pastor who thinks this way too, so she commissioned me to make a green stole that she’ll wear while leading worship.  We started with one of her favorite songs to set the creative stage– “Holy As the Day is Spent,” by Carrie Newcomer.  Here’s the video:

Screen shot 2014-10-19 at 4.03.16 PM

And here’s the stole, full of Spirit, fun, and fabrics (even denim!) representing all sorts of ordinary sacred moments:


Check out Sue’s awesome sneakers that make the whole outfit complete.  🙂  When I brought the finished stole to her house, she threw on her ‘alb’ (that’s churchy-speak for ‘white robe’) over her jeans and I snapped a picture of her big smile.  Without a doubt, Sue will share years of love and thoughtful sermons, wrapped in the colors and good news of the miracles all around us every day.  (See the Pentecost Stole I made for Sue’s installation.)

Enjoy a few more photos of the process, which must of course include those beautiful “mundane” machine stitches on the backside…








Blessings for the sacred ordinary in your day today.

Update:  See all 4 in the Liturgical Stole Series.


Circling Back Around


Fondly remembering my service as Friend in Residence at my alma mater seminary, the Earlham School of Religion, in Richmond, Indiana, September 14-19, 2014.  What a rich opportunity to circle back around to a community that changed my life– TWENTY years ago— Wow.  I spoke about my experiences then and now at Common Meal, the weekly lunch gathering of the ESR community, in a presentation I called, “That’s Not What I Expected (Thanks Be).”  Long distance students joined us by video for the talk and Q&A.  Although I’m a little bit goofy and a lot bit vulnerable in this talk, here’s a link to the video:

Screen shot 2014-10-19 at 3.35.49 PM

I instantly loved the current students who shared their hearts and classes, a great art and poetry workshop, beautiful collaborative worship, and a whole lot of one-on-one spiritual direction sessions.  It’s heartening to know leaders are training to offer thoughtful, engaging, and inclusive ministry in a wonderfully wide variety of ways– from prison chaplaincy to poetry writing to spiritual direction, and beyond.  Once again, I felt the joy of such good company.




Last but not least, I thoroughly enjoyed my reconnection with faculty and friends there in Richmond, Indiana.  Dear friend and fellow alum Trayce Peterson even dropped in for a surprise visit!  As always, it’s the relationships I treasure most.




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Fire, Stars, and Bombs

DSCN0200As I sat still to begin another collage mandala, images of fire, stars, and bombing rose together in my mind’s eye.  My students and I had just invited Israa, a 20-year-old Muslim student from Iraq, to join our Pendle Hill workshop– allowing our hearts to break with her firsthand stories of a lifetime of violence in her homeland.  Two evenings before, I’d pulled a nighttime photograph of forest fire embers out of a magazine.  When I opened to the morning’s creative process, those fire embers looked to me like stars in a galactic cloud, or sparks in a bombed neighborhood that Israa described.  What could I do with this imagery shifting from beauty to tragedy and back again?  I started with prayer.

In fact, I wrote a very long, rambly, unedited prayer on the background layer of the wooden circle I planned to collage.  I let the sorrow and the anger, and despair flow out in words, alongside beauty and wonder and longing.  The sentences came through easily in my pencilled handwriting, mostly because I planned to cover them with paper and paint.  The energy of the prayer would be buried in visual imagery.  No one but God and I would know how jumbly and powerfully I felt about fire, stars, bombs, violence, grief, compassion, and hope.  Only a few words might peak out around the edges.

During that day, I focused on teaching the workshop and engaging with the students.  By nightfall, I’d added a thin layer of orange tissue on top of the still-visible words.  When I called my partner, Holly, before bedtime, I told her about the art and how good it felt to write out that long prayer with its wild wandering through questions, metaphor, and petition.  Wouldn’t you know, she asked if I wanted to read it to her!  Shocked and shy, I felt both hesitant and eager.  But since Hol is my safest, most compassionate listener, I worked up the courage and read my prayer aloud.  “It’s beautiful,” she said, before I had a chance to argue.  She said it was deep, rich, and heartfelt.  And she asked me if I’d consider copying the words before covering them up.  Amazed by her encouragement (and by my vulnerability), I went to sleep wondering about visibility and invisibility, and why I so often keep my writing and the complexities of my heart partly hidden.

The next day I photocopied all the handwriting on the circle– just in case.  That afternoon I knew my heart wouldn’t let me cover all the text.  The Spirit was inviting me to be more transparent in my art and with my messy thoughts and process.  So rather than hide my words with magazine photos, I laid thin layers of tissue and paint to shape the flame my written prayer lines returned to, over and over.  The whole image itself now illustrated the hide-and-seek of despair with trust, and the in-and-out ambivalence toward sharing my unedited, passionate, and unsolved thought and prayer.


On the last day of the workshop, the students and I shared and celebrated our art and our insights with each other.  To symbolize my learning and embody some fresh courage, I displayed the photocopy of the whole handwritten prayer beside the completed art mandala.  Offering the two together brought me a surprising sense of belonging and integrity.  Then the feedback from the students and my soul made it clear that more transparency was in order– it’s time for me to practice more willingness to show up and speak up– especially when anger and heartbreak meet creativity and vision.

To that end, I’ve typed out that rambly, heart-felt prayer and posted it on a website page along with the art, called Ready for Flame.  It begins:

I come tonight with a prayer for a broken heart, a burning heart with the pain of impossible, unthinkable choices.  Or the terror of an earth on fire with greed, out of balance as we rich burn oil dug up from millennia of trees laying down their bodies as offering.  Is there any offering we can make to the embers to calm them?  Is there any act of peace that will still the bombings?  Read the rest here.

The prayer ends with this intention that you’re welcome to pray as well:

This seriously scary time might yet catch blaze with compassion, spark with creativity, burn with understanding.  At times my heart flares up in a prayer or an action, yet more often I am a burned-down campfire waiting for new fuel, new wind, to fan the flame of passionate response, timely argument, or a quiet act of kindness.  

May I burn as a starlight ember in waiting, ready for flame.

In vulnerability and longing,

Original Art for Sale

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Transformation, Creative Style

DSCN0131I’m reflecting on my sixth year teaching Arts & Spirituality summer workshops in one of my favorite art studios ever, at the Pendle Hill Contemplative Center.  We add a bit of poetry, a dash of mindfulness, stir in fantastic students who come ready for community and adventure, simmer in inspiring group conversation and plenty of Mod-Podge, then sprinkle with bits from the Magic Scrap Bin (see poem below)– and we’ve made the recipe for co-creating a whole lot of transformative, nourishing goodness.

It’s hard for any of us to describe what happens in these workshops… and why it matters so much to practice creativity, awareness, presence, and self-acceptance in good company.  This year’s students said:

Limits I didn’t know I had were released.

I came to renew my spirit & my creativity, and to reduce the power of fear in my life.  I have.

The workshop helped me to slow down and take a deeper look at myself.

This program helped me connect with others, re-examine my direction in life and my priorities.  I got to dive deeper into my spirit and express that with art.

We found it relaxing, playful, friendly, inspiring, and creative.

Come only if you are ready to explore, be present and GROW in a safe, holding environment.  You will be delighted.

If you dream of exploring/freeing/engaging your inner artist or long for a fresh way of engaging your creativity or your faith or the sacred– try this out.

Come to learn, to play, to be transformed!

I deepened my perspective and insights.  I feel nourished, rested, and deeply hopeful.

It’s true, our lives change as we work and play together.  One student, Dawn Stewart, blogged powerfully about her meaningful experience: see “Let Your Light Shine.”

Our surprise guest student Israa from Iraq broke our hearts open with stories of her homeland, and then filled us with hope by sharing her deep courage to choose life and a future.  She changed my worldview, yet again.

Did I mention we have a lot of fun, too?  Trudy Kleckner wrote a spontaneous, funny poem to honor one of my favorite elements of all of my workshops:  the Magic Scrap Bin– a collection of art paper scraps recycled from previous projects by my students from New Mexico to Pennsylvania!


Ode to the Rag Tag Band
 (To be read in a snobbish, very cultured voice)

You know, my dear, it’s common knowledge,
those residents of the magic bin–
I mean the Magic Scrap Bin, of course–
why they’re nothing but remnants,
discards, quite frankly the left for dead.
And probably just as well, I hear
they are dubious characters, who lay around
in idleness and total want of use.
They are, quite understandably, rejected
in favor of their smooth, whole, and
perfectly beautiful cousins.
After all, they are rumpled, crumpled,
and oddly sized.  Who needs them?
What?  What’s that you say? Treasures?
Hidden treasures?
And you only have to dive in and
dig deep?

–Trudy Kleckner

I celebrate our courage and meaning-full play.  It’s my joy and privilege to serve these wonderful people, who in turn touch the world with their renewed spirits and creativity.

We invite you to join us!  See the Creative Reflection winter retreat, December 28, 2014-January 1, 2015 and mark your calendars for next summer’s Pendle Hill workshops, August 14-16, and 16-20, 2015.  More information coming soon…  watch my Events page or sign up for my eNewsletters on the Contact page.

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Creative Group Fun


Cheers for a few more little dreams come true!  Yesterday, five friends gathered at Ann’s place out in the country to play together, making stuff.  (After a potluck, of course.)  Ann shared with us the impressive collection of gourds she’d grown and dried.  She set out cool tools like her dremel and woodburning pen, covered her kitchen table in washable towels to make a work surface, and let us all pick a gourd and start creating.  OH MY GOODNESS was it fun!  I mean really fun— I conquered my fear of the dremel tool, used a woodburner for the first time since I was about 11 years old, explored a new-to-me gourd “canvas,” found out what gourd seeds look like, and loved being with my friends and partner in the process.  Such a satisfying day.

Ann, gourd gardener and host

Ann, gourd gardener and host

Here’s the dreams-come-true part:  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who had a group of friends playing around with creativity on a Saturday afternoon, and really loving it.  For a lot of years, that sounded too awkward or hard to put together, or too much like the work I do hosting arts and spirituality workshops.  Or I thought I didn’t have a big enough or good enough space for it.  Or I was moving too fast to take the time.  But today I just had to tell you– it’s not that hard and it’s totally worth it to experience this much joyful, engaged ease, right in your kitchen or living room.  And it’s FREE, beyond the gas to get there, a few supplies, and a side-dish.  The tricks are: making an effort to live slowly enough (at least sometimes) to give a half a day to an adventure, being willing to be messy and try something new, and to ask some friends along.  (Ok, the potluck might actually be a requirement too… but even that was a super-simple feast yesterday.)

Vicky's "My Beautiful Chicken"

Vicky’s “My Beautiful Chicken”

It was Holly’s idea to invite these friends to meet every six weeks or so for creative exploration.  We’ve totally loved the times we’ve gathered so far.  Sometimes we do old fashioned “Show & Tell” with each other, sharing whatever we’ve been creating lately on our own.  Other times one of us organizes a project, like collage-making at our house, or this terrific chance to make gourd art that Ann gave our group.  Who knows what we’ll do next, but I’m already looking forward to it!  Truly, these simple pleasures improve my life a hundred times over.

What’s more, when I read the wonderful book I’m enjoying right now, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down, by Christian McEwen, I can smile and nod in agreement, rather than cast my eyes wistfully to the ceiling in longing like I used to do.  These days I’m deeply grateful I’m not just hoping for a slower, richer, creative life… some of it happened just yesterday.

When might you try your own version of creative play time?  I can’t recommend it enough.

Click on the pictures to see the details, and leave a comment about your own explorations!

With blessing and joy–  Melanie

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