Healing the World

Over the table in my studio, I hang a sign. Sometimes it hangs up there for a day, sometimes for a month. It’s not an affirmation, it’s a question. It helps me think while I work. My studio is my Place Without Noise–no music, no TV, just silence. So a question hanging in eyesight is sort of a mental chewing gum.

The most recent question is “How Will You Heal the World?” No doubt the world needs healing–Haiti still has 634,000 people living in displacement camps,

Constellation Orion from cwru.edu

almost a year after the earthquake; Japan is still reeling from the earthquake and tsunami–there is no shortage of damage in the world. Isn’t is ridiculous to think I can help? Me, with no skills in engineering, nuclear physics, or law?

My mind was a smooth blank as I pulled a piece of paper toward me to cut into butterflies for a collage. The paper was a map of the night sky, and there, on one side, was Orion. The hunter himself didn’t have an auspicious beginning. He was born from an ox-skin that various male gods had urinated in. He was blinded by his father in law, revived by the goddess Artemis, and then angered the Earth goddess Gaia, who sent a scorpion to kill him. Gaia then placed them both in the sky as a warning to others not to harm the earth. Not much healing there, and I don’t want to think about out punishment for all the plastic bottles we put in Gaia’s earth, either.

What I did notice was Orion’s sword. You can see a pinkish star in the knife at

A closer view of the Orion Nebula. Via cwru.edu.

his waist. That’s not really a star, it is a whole nebula–an incubator for new stars. The young, forming stars are hot, and heat up the gas around them, causing it to fluoresce–so what we are seeing as a star is a cloud of gas and tiny hot stars 1,500 light-years away.

Maybe a small kindness, a prayer offered when someone asks for one, generously letting a car ahead of you in line, particularly when you don’t want to,  maybe all that is the equivalent of a tiny hot star that helps light up the nebula. Without the star, and others like it, there would be no fluorescing nebula, no sword in Orion’s belt. And of course, if you are a star in a nebula, you don’t see all of Orion.You see something else when you look into the universe.

As my hands smooth over the paper, looking for a spot to cut out the butterfly, I wonder if the way you heal the world is one tiny, glowing act at a time. They add up over time, and eventually you have a constellation of healing put into the sky as a lesson to everyone else to help out, too.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach and artist who thinks art heals by scattering stars into the sky, one at a time.

Wabi-Sabi: A simple life

The moon lay on her back in the sky, her thin ivory rim tipped up. Cupped gently in her hollow was the indigo sky, dotted with stars. Two straight lines stitched past the horns of the moon. They were contrails, side-lit by the bright, reflected light. Next to the contrails is the constellation Orion. I always look for it when I walk at night. Often I can just see the belt. Tonight I could see the entire constellation: the powerful Hunter standing next to the river Eridanus with his two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, fighting Taurus, the bull. In the early Spring, the constellation is overhead when I walk at night, at an angle I have to search for.

OrionThis morning, I watched the moon get tangled in a palm tree, and later in a new-leafed tree. I like walking late at night and early in the morning. The sidewalks are deserted. In the distance, I can hear a train whistle calling as it crosses the street grade and races into the blank and mountainous desert. Who is on the train? Where are they going at night, where will they wake up?

In the next block the first faint trace of orange blossom appeared and vanished over a block wall. In the dark,  I could just see the first blossoms on an orange tree. I know the smell from perfumes, but no perfume has such a rich, deep green smell that carries the hope of summer’s glowing ember oranges. I touched one of the polished, shiny leaves, black in the pre-dawn. moon

The houses have their curtains drawn. I could hear faint sounds from the TVs. Someone was watching explosions and laughing. In the next house someone was screeching on a reality show.  I kept walking through the chilly, shining air. This was my gift alone. In two months it will be warm this time of morning.

I have chosen this life–right now it is hard. I work too much. I don’t spend enough time in the studio. My house is not clean and polished, there is laundry to do. But walking through the night with all five senses is a feast I find indescribably peaceful. I feel alive and aware. I am in one moment at a time. It is an enormous gift to see all this, to taste it, touch it, to hear the sounds of the desert. I am grateful. The people who are in front of the TV will never know this, but they are satisfied, too. They don’t want to be walking outside in the dark. I’m glad for their comfort and glad for my own experience.

And in that second of peace, I know the heart of wabi-sabi.

Images: Orion: space.about.com  Moon: http://www.andrill.org

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

Choosing a Wabi Sabi Life

The moon lay on her back in the sky, her thin ivory rim tipped up. Cupped gently in her hollow was the indigo sky, dotted with stars. Two straight lines stitched past the horns of the moon. They were contrails, side-lit by the bright, reflected light. Next to the contrails is the constellation Orion. I always look for it when I walk at night. Often I can just see the belt. Tonight I could see the entire constellation: the powerful Hunter standing next to the river Eridanus with his two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, fighting Taurus, the bull.

OrionI was walking at night. The sidewalks were deserted. In the distance, I could hear a train whistle calling as it crossed the street grade and raced into the blank and mountainous desert. Who is on the train? Where are they going at night, where will they wake up?

In the next block the intense smell of orange blossom washed over the block walls that provide privacy. I could just see the blossoms on an orange tree. I know the smell from perfumes, but no perfume has such a rich, deep green smell that carries the hope of next summer’s glowing ember oranges. I touched one of the polished, shiny dark leaves. I pulled one of the blossom branches to me, and, making careful that there were no bees in the bunch, touched the flowers to my tongue. The neroli oil washed over my tongue in a sweet and bitter wave. It is as if I had bitten into a perfumed orange. The branch sprang away from me.moon

The houses have their curtains drawn. I could hear faint sounds from the TVs. Someone was watching explosions and laughing. In the next house someone was not making it on American Idol. I kept walking through the shining night air. This was my gift alone.

I have chosen this life–right now it is lonely and hard. But walking through the night with all five senses is a feast I find indescribably life affirming. I feel alive and aware. I am in one moment at a time. It is an enormous gift to see all this, to taste it, touch it, to hear the sounds of the desert at night. I am grateful. The people who are in front of the TV will never know this, but they are satisfied, too. They don’t want to be walking outside in the dark. I’m glad for their comfort and glad for my own experience.

And in that second of peace, I know the heart of wabi-sabi.

Images: Orion: space.about.com  Moon: http://www.andrill.org

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

Raven Woman

She was an enigma and a gift. I stumbled across her accidentally, while researching something else. Her name was Maggie. She lived in the upper left corner of the country, and part of the time she lived in a house in a tree. The rest of the time she lived near a tree whose hollow trunk could shelter eight cows from the rain.

I wrote to her because she was a gifted carver of fossilized walrus ivory. The permafrost spits up chunks of it, and Yupik tribes harvest, carve and sell them. Maggie has a small stash of walrus ivory.

I’d seen some of her carvings, and I knew she was the right person to carve my dream. For months I’d had a recurring dream about a woman. She would come trudging up a hill, outlined against the night sky. A moon was shining in the dream and the sky was spattered with stars. The woman had big hands; she used them to hold her shawl close around her.

raven woman Once she reached the top of the hill, she would begin a simple dance. It was one of relief and joy, limited only by arthritis. At the end of the dance, she would wave her shawl over her head. At that moment, I saw the woman had the wings of a raven. She would wrap the shawl around her again, and as she trundled back down the hill, I could see on her back the constellation Orion.

What did the dream mean? I still don’t know, but Maggie carved it for me. Without more than the story above, she got it just right.

I miss you and your gift Maggie. Rest in peace.
–Quinn McDonald is an artist who wears the amulet Maggie made for her. Quinn is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com