healing, like many processes, is a multifaceted and non-linear experience, one that requires equally multifaceted systems of support. there is the support of speaking and of being held in both silence and conversation together with friends, families, and communities; the support through body movement, exercise, the grounding and connecting to our physical selves; and the deep healing self work of sitting with your thoughts, processing through writing, drawing, and journaling. it is precisely the potential to heal and grow through the act of writing and visual creation that drives me to do the work of making books and marbled papers and share these practices with the world, to do the work of being an artist.
a project as of late that has converged my love of the landscape, contemplative practices, and building community is the opportunity to create a series of custom notebooks with marbled papers based on a specific landscape for a friend. the specially crafted, handmade journals were made for participants in a women’s combat veteran’s support group, created with the specific intention to provide space for these women in their process of healing.
in june my friend michelle approached me about creating a series of custom journals based on the colors and shapes of the landscape near spirit rock meditation center in woodacre, california, where we met while on a silent meditation retreat. michelle is an avid practitioner of buddhist meditation, a physical therapist, a veteran, and all-around incredible woman, who is part of a support group for other women combat veterans. drawing from the trauma of active duty service, michelle utilizes meditation, mindfulness practices, and journaling in order to build a framework for a life of healing and is the embodiment of post-traumatic growth. michelle’s dedication to her practice and her amazing perspective on life are such an inspiration and it is an honor to be able to create work for her in this way.
per michelle’s request, i created a set of twelve, hand marbled notebooks with patterns and colors based on the landscape surrounding spirit rock, where we attended our meditation retreat. spirit rock, for me, is a place of my own awakening, my own opening up: the bright, clear, blue skies held space for my breath and my own processing; the golden, sun worn hillsides sloped in what seemed to be forever across the sky, dotted with dark green shrubs and plants. mixing colors to reflect each aspect of the landscape, I created sloping, mountainous shapes underneath swirling blues for the sky. each notebook reflects similar patterns and shapes, though no two designs are alike.
I started the notebooks in baltimore, and finished them using my guillotine paper cutter in the middle of the street near oceanside, california. that next day I drove to an area outside of long beach where I met with michelle in a cafe to hand deliver her journals. In this way, the act of delivery became a ritual in itself, coming full circle from attending the retreat, back to baltimore, all the way back to california.
as we met and talked, we delved into both why the journals were created - to highlight the beauty of the landscape of northern california, to provide space for healing - and also discussed at large the tremendous benefits of the process of writing in general. in delivering these journals to michelle, I saw how the process of creating these journals was simply the planting of a seed, and that the richness of the experience doesn’t just stop when the journals are delivered. the pages of the books are enriched with each page that’s filled, each goal it retains, each dream it holds.
in the cafe, we discussed so many rich and incredible topics - why journaling, how we journal, what role trauma or turmoil has had in rooting us soundly in our foundations today and how our experiences give us a unique and compassionate perspective of the world around us. We talked about how the physical act of writing is more beneficial and successful for the purposes of processing than writing digitally, and how meditation and breathwork can support us in the work we do.
before we left, michelle left me with a beautiful quote which i love for its connection to the process of embarking on a path of awakening. she said she’d heard it elsewhere and couldn’t remember the source, but that it went something like, “an egg, when broken from the outside, reflects death. but an egg that cracks from the inside out means life.” when we open ourselves up to our own lives, when we put trust in ourselves and the world around us, we give ourselves the space, the tools, and the time, to do our own cracking open, our own awakening, life gives us what we need.
in sum, this process of making an affirmation of the path: I make books and journals because they are safe spaces, because they provide us with avenues for grounding, growing, and exploring our deepest and most authentic selves.
michelle, it is an honor and a privilege to be able to make for you from our shared experience at spirit rock. thank you!
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interested in working together to create journals to tell your own story? send me an email!
for artists, teachers, and folks working in healthcare, visit hemera.org to apply for funding to attend a meditation retreat. i am grateful to the hemera foundation for their support in my journey of meditation.