Nov. 10, 2021
During the fall of 2020, in the midst of the ever-threatening Covid-19 pandemic, I enrolled in an online course with an emphasis on creativity and spirituality, based on Christine Valters Paintner’s book, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (https://abbeyofthearts.com/). This course tugged at my heart because after years of not writing poetry, I was making a return, and I was also intrigued by the idea of interweaving arts and spiritual practices.
For twelve weeks, this large group met virtually every Monday for a workshop led by Christine. Artists of every sort showed up with participants from the UK, Ireland, and Canada, as well as many of the states. Christine invited us each week to explore different areas of contemplative prayer as well as to practice some artistic endeavors, sharing our responses on a group wall. Never have I felt so enriched or so excited because here were people that spoke my language. That realization was incredibly reassuring in the Fall of 2020 here in the States, where a raucous and contentious election was taking place, causing me to wonder who we had all become. This gathering of artists and monks became a sanctuary, a place to reclaim my own identity and sanity.
From politics to pandemic, a harsher, more divisive side of us has been revealed. In the face of so much upheaval and confusion, I wondered what one action I could take that would make any difference, and I have realized that what matters now, perhaps more than ever, is creating beauty, however I can, with my own artistic medium—words.
The online community reminded me that beauty can be found in so many forms: in poignant prose and poetry, in color when artists paint and quilters stitch, in the sculptor’s chisel, the musician’s instrument, the gardener’s green thumb, the photographer’s sense of shadow and light. Beauty became my goal. My spiritual practices of silence and meditation became my pathway.
When this course ended, Christine offered the opportunity to create small groups who wanted to continue the journey. I joined such a group. Initially there were ten of us when it began; we are now six—a solid six. One member lives in the UK, two live in Canada, one in Washington state, one in New York state, and me, the Southern US representative. We have never personally met, yet we gather monthly on Zoom to review what we learned with Christine, to share our art, to offer meditations and spiritual practices, and, most importantly, to create community where we all speak the same language, no explanations needed. Every artist needs soulmates.
I am so very grateful for these five artists in my life. They are “church” to me because true church (religion, spirituality, philosophy, whatever gives Life) reminds us of beauty. True church reminds us that we were created by Love so that we can create love. Like the Creator, we are each called to create in the midst of this present darkness and to lift our offerings like candles that shine with hope and beauty.
Whatever your creation is, whatever your art form is, the world needs it, and I thank you for it.
Blessings to you ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org.
for Monique, Lois, Liz, Jacque, and Berenice
They are like candles, this gathering of artists,
candles whose flames illuminate the darkness
of those who live on the edge, those whose language
is often foreign to the ears
of the world. Tall, slender tapers
of various hues—royal purple, saffron yellow
river green, desert sage, and rich dark bronze—they are
like candles shimmering and flickering,
casting images and shadows in paint
in words in texture in black and white
and color. Together, they create
a luminous light that fills the soul
and feeds the soul, befriends
the soul, shifting to the shapes
that ruach* whispers upon their flames.
Their art is wonder, the delicate stream
of smoke that rises from each of them,
a holy incense wafting to heaven
an act of brave beauty.
(c) Rosemary McMahan
*ruach: The Hebrew word for breath, spirit.