A Balm for Our Smoldering Grief
Pandemic. Racial justice uprising. Devastating hurricanes. Political timebombs. A continent on fire.
It has been a year of cascading and escalating crises, there can be no doubt. We are individually and collectively worn down: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Enduring just one of the above phenomena would take a profound toll on any soul, let alone all these in quick succession. And yet we are still here, carrying on. I’ve been trying to write for months now, but too often it is all I can do just to get through each day. Wake up, make meals, get sleep…on good days manage to make some art despite the persistent fog of coping with the cumulative trauma. It’s a slow burn of ineffable, inescapable grief.
My devotional project of illustrating the Goddesses of the Mt Shasta Goddess Temple has proved to be so much more meaningful than just a creative challenge this year. Shortly after I completed the first Goddess, Prajnaparamita, COVID-19 hit. I had to quickly let go of the idea of sticking to a timeline, illustrating one goddess per month as I had envisioned. I found myself struggling to “see” each goddess as the weeks went by, struggling to find the motivation to evoke them in pencil and ink. As COVID took hold, I found myself skipping Kuan Yin and moving to Green Tara, which in hindsight was quite appropriate considering her healing, Savioress qualities. Another two months went by, and images of the Black Madonna began to bubble up into my consciousness, seeming to seek her manifestation. I had just finished sketching her out when the uprising for racial justice came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. I let myself take refuge in the working of the Black Madonna as the world reared up in outrage and strife. She came exactly when she was needed. A lesson for me in surrendering to the will of the Goddess—and trusting her timing.
After finishing the Madonna of Black Butte and introducing her to the wider world, I took a deep creative slumber. I was sapped, emotionally and creatively. I tried to invite the next Goddess to come through…would it be Baba Yaga? Aphrodite? But none seemed to be present, so I allowed myself a time of dormancy.
Then the lightning strike wildfire storms hit. Literally overnight, California was afire with a vengeance…at least it felt like a vengeance. The calm before the (relative) firestorm was over.
It was time for Kuan Yin: She who hears the cries of the world.
She holds a vessel of pure water: the nectar of life, the divine benevolence of compassion and wisdom. In her other hand she holds a willow branch to sprinkle this sacred nectar, blessing those who cry out for her in their suffering.
In this art, Kuan Yin is pictured at Hedge Creek Falls, one of many sacred places in the landscape of Mt Shasta where we envision the Goddesses of the Temple residing. She rides a dragon, symbol of spirituality, wisdom, strength, and the divine power of transformation. The sacred nectar from her vessel pours out into the rushing waters of the Falls, flowing out to meet the waters of the world. All water is one water.
Invite the waters of compassion into your own life; purchase a Kuan Yin of Hedge Creek Falls print.
May the blessings of Kuan Yin’s divine waters flow out to quench these terrible fires. May her infinite compassion be a balm to our smoldering, consuming grief.