Honoring the Snowy Owl

I have had an amazing month. For the last three weeks, I have been in my first art class since junior high. Signing up for this class meant taking a huge leap into something scary for me...sitting in a room full of artists and trying to feel like I belonged amongst them. Now that I have declared that I am an artist, I knew I needed to try it and see what happened.

This was the perfect class for my rebirth.

The class is called Sacred Art: Ancestors and Spirit Guides. I have been working with both ancestors and spirit guides for about a year now as part of my master's program at JFK, but I have not experienced anything quite as amazing as this. Part of it has to do with the teachers, Kaleo and Elise, who hold the space incredibly well and bring a wealth of knowledge and materials to the class. Part of it has to do with the journeying and qigong we do as part of the class in order to get in touch with our ancestors and spirit guides.

During this class, I became well acquainted with a new totem animal, the snowy owl. The owl came to me in a dream a few weeks before the class. Now she sits on my right shoulder, guiding me and encouraging me.

As part of honoring the spirit guide or ancestor who comes to us in this class, we create art pieces. In one journey, the owl gave me a cape and a nest, and I decided to make them to give them form in this world.

I started with the nest. I gathered sticks and twigs from the parking lot at school and brought a bag full of them to the second day of class. It took me four hours to twist and bend those twigs and sticks into a nest. I tied the twigs together with raffia and stuffed the inside with moss and lichen. In the journey, the owl had also shown me specific items to go in the nest: a piece of amethyst, a piece of jade, a piece of carnelian, and a blue egg.

These are all meaningful for me. Amethyst is a protector stone and it is also my birthstone (and favorite stone!). Jade connects one with the heart. Carnelian's energy works with the first three chakras and helps one manifest their creativity in the world. Connecting the energy of these three stones meant that I was connecting all of my chakras, and also connecting my spirit with my heart and my creativity. This is exactly what I am trying to do with my photography and art, and so this nest is a representation of where I am going with my creativity.

The blue egg ties it all together. Blue is the color of the fifth chakra, the only chakra not represented by the stones. The fifth chakra is about communicating and using one's voice. This is so meaningful for me, for I believe I am in the process of developing my true voice, and an egg in a nest could not be a more appropriate metaphor for this process.

After the nest was done, I tackled the cape. This was considerably more difficult for me, because I don't sew. I have dabbled and had a few lessons, and I have a sewing machine passed down from my mother-in-law, but I have had fear around making an entire piece.

I overcame this fear through this process. I Googled a hooded cape pattern. I went to the craft store and got fabric, buttons, and beads. I came home, cut out the pattern, and headed upstairs to learn, once and for all, how to thread my machine (it's a 1969 model!).

After 45 minutes or so of messing with the bobbin and the complicated threading process, I was ready to sew. I put together the hood, sewed it to the cape, and viola! I had my cape. I added a button and a loop to close the cape, and it was ready for beading.

I spent the rest of the time in art class beading that cape. It was an exercise in patience. Bead after bead, I created what came to look a lot like the spotted pattern on the back of a snowy owl. I am thrilled with the results.

And so, here I am. I've taken my first art class in a long time and overcome the fear of creating among other artists. I've tackled my fear of sewing. And I truly know now that I am an artist, and I am ready to own that in a much more profound way.

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