Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

Of quiet and longing

It was a strange day in the gallery today. With so many people about and wandering in the bookstore, it should have been a lucrative day – but it was not. I imagine most of them are on vacation, and with their carefree holidays coming to an end, have no time or interest in the alternative worlds that adorn my walls.

In the absence of an attentive audience, I busied myself with the work of a business owner; balancing the budget, considering employee schedules, allocating funds for reordering supplies. Realizing I have not the funds for any of it, I turned a hopeful glance to the patrons in my space.

But I was invisible to them today, or at least it felt that way. They found my art strange and weird, a compliment on most days, today it was not. Some of them, teenagers, even giggled awkwardly. At one point, hurt in a way that I should not still hurt (doesn’t 5 years of this business of art give me thicker skin?), I attempted to take some control of the situation and closed my glass doors (with me inside) to prevent their entrance. That mattered not. The people were not there today to buy, and after the third fated, “what beautiful frames you have” comment, I closed early, walked to the train, and came home. But can one come home early on a day they are not scheduled? Why did I even go in on a day I did not have to?

Last night I ached for the earth. All I wanted was a place in nature to go – a private, quiet spot to park my car next to a natural haven to sit my weary spirit down and be with Pachamama (Mother Earth). But the parks had all closed, and there weren’t even any places to stop the car and just get out, to just be still for a moment. I drove for hours like a woman who has not had water in days looking for a well; a fevered desire for just one tree, just one tree…

I never found that spot. Returned home defeated, a little sick from the longing. My own slice of heaven, that is what I would like. Only heaven is not in the clouds, it is right here, right now. I know the original Eden is still here, it calls to me as I call to it. If I could just find it.

My adventure last night was a striking parallel to the realities of our harsh modern life. We move too fast, going nowhere in particular, and without a natural place to rest and regroup.

Constant motion, distraction, busy busy. Perpetually pushed forward in a fevered dream of commerce and commodity.

The elite buy up the land and lock it away from the rest of us, charging admission, creating hours of operation for a thing that is, by its essence, free and wild. In the suburbs, where does one escape the cold modernity for the wildness of nature?

On the train home today I started thinking about that search last night which led to a question of pleasure, of joy, of happiness. What gives me pleasure? I feel so little of it in this constricting life I’ve created. I’m suffocated by the pressure to do do do, to go go go. What is the thing that feeds my spirit and heart like nothing else?

Venice.

That is my first and perhaps, truest answer.

I can no longer remember the details of what it was like to live steps away from the pacific shore, even though it was nearly 7 years, off and on. Perhaps I am protecting myself from the memories. I loved living in Venice so completely and was utterly heartbroken when I had to leave (which I did for my daughter, and only her, but that is a story for another time…)

My heart remembers Venice though, in the way only a heart can. It has some precious details, like the sharpness of the paint that was peeling off my fire escape perch. Or the rattling sound the fire escape made when someone walked up it.
Sometimes the memories are all about my neighbor, how we would talk for hours from our respective perches (my fire escape, his balcony); smoking cigarettes and tossing each other books to read into the wee hours of the night – night after night after night. Sometimes it’s remembering the early morning sunrise walks, when the sand was so cold I thought my toes would freeze right off. Or the way I always kept the windows open, hearing the ocean, smelling the saltwater, sometimes letting in magical creatures like a hummingbird or a dragonfly.
It’s the laughter of the women across the hall, so dear and precious friends, their laughter like gold. All of these moments and so much more, live inside a feeling in my heart. Tucked safely in a tiny space I rarely ever open anymore, for it just hurts too much.

There are times when the memories surface unsolicited. When the air is cool, and the sky is blanketed with thin clouds, I feel the person I was when I lived a life I loved, in a city I loved.

The memory-feeling goes as quickly as it came. Exhale heavily. What would bring pleasure in this moment, right now?

A book. I want to be taken by words carefully crafted by another that weave a tale of some extraordinary, yet ordinary life. I have books to read already, so many of them, hundreds even- but none of them are right. They are all so informative, which I enjoy, but am so tired of learning. Right now, I want to be seduced. And then I remember my plight, there is no budget for a new book…

The library is still open. I found 4 books that piqued my interest, plus a book on how to paint watercolors like Turner (I am a good student, after all).

The sun has gone down now. The air is crisp, cool and a little bit moist, which is strange for this desert. I look up and see that the clouds have obscured the stars.

Through the gate, walk under the overgrowth, up the steps, books in hand, I turn the key and step inside my warm and empty home.

It is empty from the lack of another body, but warm from the presence of something familiar.
What is this feeling?
What is this presence?

It is myself.

That life I loved in a city I loved? It’s still alive in me. The feeling arose and greeted me tonight in the silence of this pink room.

And I said aloud, “hello old friend…”

I danced

From my journals, post trip:

I’ve been home from Greece for a few days now. It’s 3am, and I have still only slept in fits and starts. The jet lag is so much worse than ever. Every night, if I can sleep at all, I wake up every two hours confused, looking desperately for the Libyan Sea or some other now familiar landmark. I am glad to be in my house with a purring cat on my lap – but it all feels different. I feel different. There has been a deepening in me, and there has been a wounding and a profound healing.

The world is full of terrors, I feel shallow and selfish being so preoccupied with this feeling. I should be doing something more productive with my time, something to help others, but what can I do when I my heart is howling? I found that place in my soul that has been calling me for a lifetime – and now I weep from the feeling that I left it all behind.  It is a sad, frightening feeling when I wake up at 3am looking for the sea. Where is the sea? Where is my heart?

There is work, there are art shows and deadlines, collectors and ideas pushing me forward to get back into the work. Of that, I am so very thankful. I use that lifeline to re-enter my life. I lived something mythic in Crete, honoring it with making new artwork is my gift back.

And yet, the sadness. My priorities have shifted ahead of my life. I dream of going back there to Crete. And yet somewhere inside I believe that once you have left, you can never return. The pain is tremendous. What am I mourning?

I explore the contrast, which serves to give shape to everything. The night gives way to the day, the hot to the cold, the happy to the sad, the deep to the shallow. We receive tremendous benefit from experiencing the contrasts, they clarify and refine all the edges, sharp and blurred.

Looking to the contrast of this extreme feeling, I realize that even though I have worked very hard to make something of myself as an artist, that in so doing I have been isolating myself to the point of danger. I don’t think I am actually meant to be alone. I don’t think I actually want to be alone. This revelation blows my mind.

In Lentas, I grew close with a small group of medicine women who gathered there from around the US and Greece. We were looking for healing, community and sisterhood. We each brought a unique piece to the puzzle, sharing our gifts with the group, and in our close communing, were prompted to see our shadows and our light. The support in those moments was overwhelming in its vastness, its wisdom. I was at home with these women, we became a family of sorts.

I had the sea, beautiful and bountiful food, the support of a community, all in the lands and the ruins of a culture that venerated the Goddess. If I had a religion, it would be of the ancient Goddess cults, that has always been where my heart knows itself. In the sweetness of all those experiences, what else was a single woman to do but fall for the handsome stranger at the local tavern?

Our moonlit encounters on the beach were the archetype of every beautiful and trashy romance novel. I was utterly smitten. For his part, for what he felt, I do not really know. I want to believe the same of him, but perhaps that is naive. Our ending was a bit tragic, full of miscommunications and missed opportunities. So many evenings together and in the end, we never even said goodbye. There are no pictures, he has no presence online. That part of the story is done, and I feel I cheated myself there. Was it fear and old stories that kept me from truly finishing what we had started? Or did it just go as far as it could? I will never know.

Yet, because life is generous, on my last night, despite that abrupt ending, my heart was expanded even greater, and into more joy than I had ever known!

There was food and community and an incredible Cretan band played who played for hours upon hours (five hours or so, I think). Their music stirred me profoundly. I danced and danced and danced! Tried to learn the traditional dances, which were fun and centered around community. I was not great at them, but with a heart as overflowing as mine, they didn’t seem to care. They welcomed me anyway! The band bought me drinks, the other patrons bought me drinks, and we danced some more. When the others were tired of dancing, I kept going, my body could not stop!

In my dance, I was following the ecstatic spirit of the music, my heart, the sacred land and the magic sea. I danced for the joys that were revealed to me in that week, and I danced for the sorrows at leaving it all behind. I danced for the beauty that is yet to come and I danced for all that is strange and frightening in the world. I danced for the sisters I had found, and the love we all shared. I danced for the man in the tavern who was not there, and I danced for the man who would come next. I danced for my heart coming home to herself, and I danced a prayer that this would please please please come around in some form, again.

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This is me. Happiest I’ve ever been in all my life, on the last night I spent in Crete, as the band played on. October, 2017. (Photo by Demeter)

Day Three. Lentas, Crete.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
(from my journals)

It is already morning. Not sleeping a lot here, which is unusual. I love to sleep! Watched the sun come up again from my bed. My sleepless nights are not out of melancholy or stress, or even from the romantic rendezvous. Deep down, I stay awake because I know my time here is short and want to take it all in – I really can’t get enough of this place. I love it so.

Why? Why do I love it so? There is not any one thing; it’s the combination of it all. It’s the moon, the sea, the land herself. It’s the ruins, the wind, the rocks, the herbs, the goats with the little bells around their necks, the lion shaped mountain standing guard, the elephant rock in the water. It’s the people, it’s the food, the history – it is everything. People talk of their spirit animals, this feels like my spirit land. How am I so connected to this place? I feel it in places within my being that I never even knew existed. As if this land opened up a new room in my soul.

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The wind is so strong this morning, I imagine it is carrying stories. I listen, but I cannot hear. How do I catch the stories? Yesterday, as I swam in the waters at the gorge, I laid on my back, relaxed deeply, and let the water carry me. It was quite effortless, the waves are so gentle. For once in my life, it was easy to let go. Ah, let go. Why are we so reluctant to let go? No matter the thing. So reluctant.

In the water yesterday, there were stories too. The beach is full of pebbles and rocks and as I laid on my back, ears submerged in the water, body relaxed and receptive, those rocks sounded like a thousand tiny voices.

I attempted to focus on one voice, but it is not possible. I am distracted by my mind, but it is the heart who has the ears to hear. My mind knows these sounds are only the motion of the ocean waves moving the rocks. My mind tells my heart to stop with this silly nonsense. But my heart is still listening intently, convinced there are messages for her.

The heart is clever and she wonders, “is it not the vocal chords that produce the sound of our voice with their vibration? Then is it not possible that it is the motion of the waves that gives voice to the ocean?”

My mind has lost patience with my heart.

I wanted to write about what happened today. There is so much to write! Everything has a deepening. My words feel softer, more purposeful.

We walked silently in a line up the hill to the ancient site. The Sanctuary of Asklepios, in Ancient Lebena, was a sanctuary of healing. He is the father of Hygeia, Goddess of Health, Cleanliness. What am I here to heal? What in my heart needs to be cleaned? I am faraway again, listening to something deep within that I cannot seem to really hear. Why am I so desperately wanting to hear a message?

We walk some more in silence. A tourist walks by me, says hello, and I break the silence by saying hello to him. I am disappointed in myself for that. Always so polite, Liz? This is a sacred, silent moment. Then I remember I had been trying so hard to hear something, and I heard something! Hello! I giggle. The sacred need not be boring. Lighten up, I tell myself.

We walk. Until now, I have only seen this path in the moonlight, as I excitedly walk to meet him. Him. I can’t think of him too much, I’ll get lost. I notice how pretty the path is in the day, though much less exciting. As I walk, I keep having this sense that I must think of something quite big and profound to ask for at the Sanctuary, but what? Wait. Am I to be listening or speaking?

I arrive at the sacred site. They give us instructions that I don’t hear because I’m thinking too loudly. I follow their lead and witness a bit of the mystery in expression. Memories surface. How is it that as a young girl I pretended at all the things I do now? When I was quite small, I remember practicing slow processionals on the long walkway to the porch. I was some kind of priestess, on my way somewhere important. I was 4, and suddenly it is one of my earliest memories. Am I having a life review? Where are these new memories coming from? Maybe I did have a secret room in my soul open. Another memory surfaces; I used to draw a woman, over and over and over again. Just one woman in the center of the page, wearing the most incredible clothing. I was 7 years old in this memory. She is remarkably similar to the woman I still make, in the center of the page. At 9, I pretended to be a shopkeeper, selling my drawings of the woman – until my little brother told me they weren’t very good (as little brothers are wont to do).

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Is it that life has a way of orchestrating itself so you are always at the right place and time gathering just the right knowledge in order to advance to the next place? Or is it that we are organizing it from within?

The memories stop. All is quiet in my mind, for once.

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In that timeless space, I make an offering at the Sanctuary and say a prayer.

My prayer is unique in that there are no words. All that thinking, all those words clouded around me as I proceeded up the hill to this place, and now my prayer is silent? It has never been silent. In this place, I pray to a feeling, a sensation of peace and knowing that lies beyond words. I take that feeling, picture everyone I love – there are so many of them! I love so much. I recall lovers, friends, family, strangers. All manner of people who have touched my heart in some way. There are those I loved once, and those I still do. There are streets, and houses I lived in and passed by. I wrap everything in this prayer of peace. It feels like a gift and a witnessing.

I hold everyone close in my heart.
And then I let it go.

Day Two. Lentas, Crete

From my journal:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (before dinner)

I have learned some things about this land which answer the riddle of why it feels so intrinsically special to me. According to an archeologist, this very spot I am staying at, (which is now a modern yoga resort a 5 minute walk from the village), was a cemetery in the ancient days before christ. (I love that there are things people discuss in the wide open, where they date them to a period ‘before christ’! But I digress.)

I knew this land was sacred! She said the bones have been moved to a new museum, which is expected to open in the next 5 years. I would like to return for that opening celebration.

In ancient Hellenic times, it is my understanding that the town was a port town, but was also a healing site, complete with a Temple to Asclepius, the Grecian God of Medicine. The other women and I will visit the ruins of that Temple tomorrow and hold a small ceremony. I can’t wait.

The thing that really strikes me about being here is the feeling of submergence in the mythic. I am quite comfortable in the mythic, it is my favorite place to reside. LA isn’t particularly mythic by nature, except maybe in Hollywood studios, now that I think of it. That might be the modern equivalent? At any rate, I just love that it’s perfectly natural to visit the platanus tree in Gortyna where Zeus, disguised as a bull, impregnated the abducted Europa! (This is the tree)

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I am starting to really like these women, a lot. At first I was shy and unsure of myself. But now I am starting to feel a part of it. It’s a small group, I think 9 of us? They are all remarkable in their own ways, and I have this deep sense that there is so much we can teach and learn from each other.  I want to take down the walls I have built around my heart and allow myself to get close to these wise women. They are just so special, every single one of them. It’s funny, they are all older than me, which makes me laugh because I was feeling old before I came here. It’s all relative, I suppose. The one woman, my favorite of the group, has taken to calling me Persephone. It makes my heart sing when she does that.

Oh, this is interesting. In Gortyna, there was a wall of ancient Greek laws in the walls lining the theatre. Conveniently located in the center of town, if you had a dispute with someone, you could both together visit the wall with the laws inscribed and resolve the issue immediately. No need for lawyers or interpreters. It was an empowered and informed citizenry, and how I wish we had more of that now. Knowledge truly is power.

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After Gortyna, we visited Phaistos (location of the famed Phaistos Disk). I wish I had taken better notes. The archaeologist leading the tour was a wealth of information that I did not seem to capture. What a shame. I just remember the feeling there; I kept holding my hands in an almost prayerful pose, feeling reverence and calm, curiosity and wonder. I wrote almost nothing down, instead I was just experiencing it.

We ended the day with a swim in the Libyan Sea by way of the Agiofarago Gorge, (Gorge of Saints), which we reached by walking through an area that was once home to hundreds of hermits. The archeologist told us that they believe that for thousands of years hermits lived here in complete isolation in these cliffside caves. They would gather one time every year and that was it.

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I have long romanticized the notion of a hermetic life, devoting existence to meditation, art, and pondering the nature of the universe. Something in me is shifting, though, for looking at these caves and being with these women full of life and heart, I am not so sure I want a solitary life any longer. After a couple short days in this little community of wise women, I want more community, sharing, support. I want to bring the experience of sharing back to where I live. How do I do that? Do I start a women’s circle?

J (my friend who is on this trip too) is having a hard time, a family member is in the hospital fighting for his life. I do not know how to comfort her. I put my hand on her back in support and she asked me not to touch her, as that makes her cry. I feel bad for not knowing how to comfort my friend. Having space to think and reflect in this precious time in Crete, I notice myself feeling rejection. If I am not careful, I will pull away from her when she needs support the most. Or maybe she needs to be left alone? Who am I to know what another person needs? How do I support my friend and not give into my ego who is feeling embarrassed and ashamed at not knowing how to comfort her? How can I have lived so long and still have so much to learn about being a good friend?

~

Later that night, around 8pm

We had a mighty, delicious feast of epic proportions for dinner in a tiny remote village. I think the first ingredient in each of the many dishes that we ate family style was love. I don’t feel so sad right now, I feel nourished and full of energy. Realizing how little I can do from here, I have pulled myself out of the suffering spiral and back into the moment. This beautiful moment, which leads me to think about him…

I do not want to be a stereotype. In fact, I have rebelled against any kind of label my entire life. You expect me to go right, I must go left. Even still, I think I might be a stereotype right now.

I have gone on vacation and fallen in love. Can I call it love? It was all so fast, just last night! I’m definitely falling in something…for a beautiful, handsome man in a village far away from where I live. We met for the first time late last night in a tavern under the waxing moon. We talked and talked at the table of Goddesses and got swept away together. I am not so naive as to think this is nearly as special to him as it is to me, but I allow myself to dream a bit that maybe I am wrong, and perhaps it is special to him too. I brush aside the reality check that this is probably something he does, and I allow my self to tumble on in to the feeling.

We share a birthdate, and I joked that we share a home in the stars. I hope something was lost in translation because that was the most ridiculous thing I have said to him yet! Yikes! Of course I said something so silly. I am scared.

I am so scared. I feel deeply, that’s my way. And because of that, I have locked my heart away for far too long.  I witness the intensity of my feelings, as irrational as they are. I just met him! I have fought the urge to write about him all day long, but I cannot resist any longer. I am drunk on the moon and on him. It has been so long since I heard the sound of my own longing being answered. It is so rare to be in that moment of mutual attraction that I am lost in it. Will we meet again tonight? Oh my, what am I doing here? This was supposed to be a meditation retreat, not a secret lovers tryst. What am I doing?

~

Day One. Lentas, Crete

It took me 26 hours, door to door, to get here, to this very spot. I traveled from Los Angeles to this small village of Lentas, with the elephant rock off the coast, the waters of the Libyan Sea lapping at its base. When I saw this place with my eyes, there was a resonance in my soul, for I had seen it months before, in a meditation (long before I knew of this trip or this place). I howled silently, a deep recognition in the center of my soul, which felt like descending into the depths of the mystery itself.

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I slept with the doors and the blinds open, tonight, falling asleep to the stars, and waking up with them too. The coastal winds are howling, carrying the voices of an ancient people. I do not yet know anything about the history of this place. I was called here, a sudden call to come on a women’s retreat, with only 3 weeks to plan. I may not intellectually know the history, but I feel it. I hear it. Though I have not seen any ruins, this must be a very ancient place.

Concerns of the world I left behind tug at me, they woke me at 3am. I feel I must work, but the sun has not yet risen. I gather my sketchbook and I draw, I contemplate. Do I know how not to work?

I contemplate my Tarot deck. There are 4 cards left in the major arcana I don’t yet understand; The Empress, The Emperor, The Devil, The Hierophant. In this land, I can more clearly see and feel. The Empress, Goddess of the land, she is the bountiful earth. She is generosity personified – she provides a good life for her people, long as they don’t take advantage or abuse the privilege by taking more than they need. She is powerful in and from love, not force. It is her great gift, this giving of life and sustenance.

At last I understand the Empress.

Something is awakening in me as I watch the sky illuminate, the sun is rising. I am in Crete!

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This is what it feels like to have enough. This is what it feels like to be content in the knowing that you are loved and provided for. I am crying now, the tears are washing away the words in my journal. I have never known such sustenance before. There is water, air, food, companionship, shelter. I would like to feel more of this when I return to my house. I very nearly said home, but right now, this is home. Being here in Crete I feel at home. The land welcomes me as if I have walked it thousands of times before.

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I know very little about the resort I am staying at, but looking around, I believe it was built by a good man. I see the fruits of labor from a man with a vision and resources, who used both wisely. I think that is the gift of the Emperor. A truly just and good Emperor has a vision, and builds it in the strongest way he can, in harmony with nature, yet also reinforced, knowing that storms do come.

I have never understood Him this way. How amazing that in the land of the Goddess, I can finally appreciate the God? I can finally see him and be grateful for his contributions. I am surprised by this revelation. I am not a man hater, but having been subjected to various forms of abuse at the hands of men who “loved me”, I lived my life in fear of men. Here, I do not feel that same way. Here, I appreciate Him, as much as I appreciate Her. The balance of the divine, where the masculine and feminine truly meet.

Is this because coming from a place so skewed to the force of the masculine, just by being in a land where She is still alive, there is no longer anything to fight for, there is only an integration of the two?

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Today I will gather with the women in ceremony and celebration, and there will be free time to explore the village in the afternoon and evening. I do not know what I am most excited for, the sisterhood or something greater? I feel as if I am stepping into a grand adventure of heart and soul. There is no script, only a sense that something big is about to happen. Am I up for the challenge? Already I am wondering how I can ever leave such a beautiful place. There are so many days ahead of me here, yet already I am lamenting my fate at having to leave. It would do me well to learn how to be here now. I have often felt the sensation of being in the wrong place and time – longing for something I could never name. Is the key in just accepting now? THIS now is easy to accept. It is beautiful and peaceful. I feel at home and full of life. But NOW is so transitory. You can’t catch it. Even as I wrote the word now, that now vanished and gave way to the next – and on it goes.

It is probably better I do not know the script, or if I do, that I do not remember it. I will be brave in the improvisation. I will do my best to recognize the gifts when they come and to not fear what comes next.

Thank you, Lentas, for calling me here. I remember you. I know you in my heart. I am so excited for what lies ahead.

~Liz Huston, from my Crete journals, Monday, October 2, 2017

In the quiet, I came to know something

The shoppe has been busy today,  but there was a moment of utter quiet. That moment brought an epiphany, which I quickly scribbled on a greeting card. I am presenting it faithfully here with very few changes to capture the essence of what I felt.

When there is space
(in our schedules, in our days, in our physical space, in our mind, in our hearts),
it will be filled with something.
(Maybe that’s why we keep ourselves so busy?)
Lucky for me, today’s moment revealed itself to me filled with something sublime.

In that quiet, empty space I wrote this.

22 September 2017

Inside, the music lends a refined ambience
thick with ethereal voices and angelic magic.

Outside, the hall is empty and quiet –
My thoughts are my own for a moment
I hear my name and dive in.

My eyes gaze upon
“Where You Meet Yourself’
and she stares back at me.

I marvel that it even exists at all.

I made it.
I remember the journey so well I could get lost in it.
Moving from the muscle memory of painting and making
and an entirely new feeling comes.

Suddenly I know;
I have been so fortunate…

The art life was a dream –
forgotten and remembered the way dreams are.

I took the long road on my way to becoming an artist, I joke.
But oh, I have been so fortunate…

It was Life itself that met me in the middle.
(early one morning, in soul crushing traffic)

Or was it the Eternal who met me in the middle
(and is there any difference?)

Who whispered, “art is the answer”?
Because I heard you.
I listened and made form,
I made a whole life from that moment,
only to return again and again to dialogue some more.

The dialogue with the eternal,
could there be anything more sublime?

I have been so fortunate to worship,
not at the feet of some abstract god,
but at the altar of life and mystery and soul.

The place where wisdom tempers fear,
where wounds give gifts.

I am so fortunate to know the way,
and even more fortunate to return bearing gifts to share.

Day after day I showed up and made the work.
but not alone. Never alone.
Always in the company of the Eternal.

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What We Have, What We Want, and What We Believe About it All

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“Self Help as a Competitive Sport” Original Art by Liz Huston

On paper, I have a pretty lovely life.
I’m a full-time artist, operating a little shoppe which sells my art inside the best bookstore ever.
My daughter is incredible, our cat is fat and happy, and the guest house I rent is just big enough for a little garden and an upright piano of my very own. I have not missed a single daily meditation in over two years, visit the gym nearly every morning, and am surrounded by the kindest, fiercest, most brilliant and loving women around.
So why did I fall into the worst depression of my life recently?
Burnout? Un-fulfillment? Loneliness? Lack of love? All of the above?
I have a lifetime history of depression, as I’ve already mentioned ad nauseum, but this was different. This was bigger. Possibly exacerbated by the intense energy of our world right now (the litany of which I will spare you).
From where I am today, I see now that it had been creeping up on me slowly; stalking me for months. Once panic attacks became the norm, then the tears couldn’t stop. Surrendering to the sadness I let myself fall into despair, which is not a recommended path.

However, I am clearly a survivor, and did emerge, thanks to friends and shamans. I learned something big in the process that wants to be shared.

What we have.
I began this blog with an inventory of the things I “have” in life.
Small accomplishments worked at daily to create a life I like and sometimes, I love. It’s important to look around at all the miracles, gifts, blessings we do have. Mindfulness is helpful for this – it keeps us present. Also helpful to remember is that mindfulness is a practice. Not a perfection. Practice.

What we want.
It’s hard to measure the elusive happiness by what we have. We spend our time chasing something for happiness or fulfillment, and once we get ‘there’ we learn that ‘there’ has moved. We want something more. Something else. I think that perhaps wanting, in its essence, is a good thing that keeps us growing and expanding. In its negative sense, it keeps us from ever feeling the pleasure of where we are.
We want a good relationship. We want money in the bank. We want a certain kind of lifestyle. We want world peace. We want to learn, to travel, to love. Wanting so many things…

What we believe.
This is the kicker. What do we really believe about what we have? What do we really believe about what we want?

Getting into the nitty gritty of what we actually believe isn’t as easy as you’d think. We have a lot of internal defenses protecting our precious beliefs. If you doubt this, just think about the last time you questioned someone else about their beliefs. Pretty hard to change their mind, huh? The same goes for us, on the inside.

One of my teachers once said, “A belief is just a thought you keep thinking”. That stuck with me, and has taken years to unwrap. It spontaneously unwrapped today at the gym. I wasn’t looking for it. In the rhythm of my run when BAM! An internal belief suddenly revealed itself.

That belief was rooted in a desire: I want to be an artist.
Which is good, because I am an artist. Yay. But…

What do I believe about being an artist?
Oh, well, artists paint *this* way with oil paints. And they live in this place (which just happens to be Paris in the 1890’s). And they have lots of painter friends that they get together with and share secrets at the local cafe. They smoke a pack a day and drink exotic booze. They rarely sleep as they’re up all night painting. Oh, and they’re men.

Ummmmm…
Deep down inside, THIS is what I believe about being an artist?
Is this why no matter how many pieces I create, no matter how many pieces I sell or where I exhibit – I never really feel like a ‘real’ artist?
Because deep down inside I believe real artists are men.
Deep down, I believe they paint exclusively with oils. In Paris. In the 1890’s.

Logically, these beliefs are absurd! I’ll never, ever achieve these things without a time machine – except maybe the oil painting part (which I’m diligently working towards, I might add). But I digress.
I’m a woman who lives in Los Angeles in 2017, who tends to be a bit of an introvert, who is primarily a digital artist that also paints. I quit smoking and don’t drink very much anymore at all. Hm. Not at all like what I ‘believe’ an artist looks like.

It occurs to me that what I believe about being an artist is rooted in a very shallow lifestyle. I don’t really consider myself a shallow person, so this revelation was disturbing – and sharing it in public, even more so. Examining this, the truth about what I want is revealed. I want a life, THE ART LIFE, not a lifestyle. Why is what I want in direct opposition with what I believe?

Where did I get such an idea? How did it become such a deeply held belief? What do I do about it now that I’ve realized it? Well, if it’s true that a ‘belief is just a thought you keep thinking’ then, maybe I could cultivate a new belief. A new picture of what I believe an artist looks like. I don’t know that it’s as easy as all that – but it’s worth the consideration and definitely worth the practice.

Gotta tell ya, now that I’ve seen this so clearly, am looking around in my internal house at all those beliefs which are covered in thick cobwebs and wondering, “what else is in here?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I’ll tackle one big belief at a time. I mean, it is a really big one…

* * * *

Here’s to unearthing our beliefs, one at a time.
xo,
Liz

 

 

Why are you sad?

These days I am having a hard time keeping my mind still. So many distractions, fears, worries, tweets – all striving for the seats in the front row of my mind. They are not the thoughts I want, but they are the usual suspects, and they are seemingly always there. And their message? GLOOM and DOOM, baby. Nothing but gloom and doom.

The ones I want? Those thoughts filled with hope, inspiration and love? They are always there too, though much quieter, and usually relegated to the background. Which is perhaps why meditation is so valuable, it just occurred to me. The constancy of love is always waiting patiently behind the fears and the worries. When we get quiet, that is when we can find the way to the quiet voices in the back. It is a sensitive but formidable force, love.

A friend recently asked me via text message, why I’m so sad. He said he’d only known me melancholy and wondered what I’m sad about. Why am I so sad? I have been struggling with the answer for days.

I admit. At first I was infuriated.
How dare he?

Then I felt ashamed.
How dare I?
How dare I infect this troubled world with my sadness.
That’s not the ‘legacy’ I want to leave behind. I don’t want people to remember me by how sad I was. Yes, I’m sensitive. I often cry and feel the weight of the world, like so many of us do…but I don’t want to be remembered that way.

Why am I so sad?
Maybe it’s because the world is broken and it hurts me to see so much suffering. Maybe it’s because I gave the bullies in my mind a front row seat so often that they are rooted there. Maybe it’s because there are bullies in charge and they want to destroy society. Maybe it’s because I still miss my husband. Maybe it’s just what I learned at a young age because of rape and abuse. Maybe I still have a medical condition (bipolar) that needs treatment. Maybe it’s habit. Maybe this friend pushes my buttons so much so that I have learned to just not be well around him so as to avoid the uncomfortable confrontation, and in the handful of times we have been in each other’s company, he has never seen me truly happy, only guarded.

Maybe it’s all of these things and none of these things.
I have a predisposition towards melancholy. I have a fondness for nostalgia. I feel out of place in this time and space. I’ve often longed for a time and place that may have never existed, but I can find it in my dreams, and that tends to come out in my art.

I think his question and my impulse to answer it suggests a power over the melancholy, the power and ability to choose thoughts from the back row, from the well of love instead of the loudest and brashest of voices. There is value in that, for sure. Choose your thoughts wisely, become aware of the stories you tell yourself.  Someone (or somethings) are weaving the story of your life – it might as well be you.

So, would I choose melancholy? Sometimes, yeah, I would.
It’s comfortable, familiar and quite beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes I choose joy.

And sometimes (oftentimes), I feel like I have no choice at all.
This is all part of the life I am living.
I manage my sadness in many ways, and remembering that I can choose a slightly different voice is helpful. Sometimes.

An open letter to the woman who broke my art

*I posted this back in January on a blog that I will discontinue. Reposting it here so as to save it when I deactivate the other one.*

January 22, 2017

It was a day truly unlike any other day.

We had both spent the morning marching in solidarity with our sisters and brothers for a cause we both feel important, The Women’s March. There were hundreds of thousands of people in Downtown LA, more than I have ever seen gathered in one place, at one time, for the same reason. The energy was palpable, heart centered and beautiful, and as we would all later learn, it spread around the world! It was a big day, energetically.

After marching for several hours, I decided to go and open my shoppe, which was conveniently located at the center of it all at 5th and Spring Streets in Downtown LA. The interaction with the first woman who came in to my shoppe was beautiful; we connected on a deep level and she stayed for quite a bit.

The next people to come in was a group of ladies, whom I believe you were with. Everyone was sparkling with this empowered and connected energy of the day, which was centered in goodness. Reveling in that good feeling, something outside caught your eye, you went to look out the window and accidentally knocked one of my most beloved pieces of art onto the floor, “Whatever You Love, You Are”.

I can still hear the shattering sound it made when it hit the ground. It was loud and sharp, like hitting a cymbal with an axe.

My heart paused and I truly couldn’t even bring myself to look.

What happened next was I guess the best any of us could have done. I don’t remember who turned it over to see the damage, but I held back my tears with as much strength as I could muster as I saw that yes, the antique frame was cracked and broken. The hard to find antique bubble glass, shattered. The print beneath the glass, badly scratched. I was surprised at how much that hurt me, inside.

I know it wasn’t personal, it was an accident. But my art means so much, I couldn’t articulate my thoughts into a coherent sentence. As a business owner, I should have had a “break it you buy it sign”. I did not. (I do now). Nothing has ever broken in these 4 years here. I had no plan for such an event.

What you did next is where my injury really lies, however. You were trying to make it good, I know this, but went about it in such a way as to actually cause more harm.

You told me, “That’s a print, so I know it can be replaced. Those frames, you can find more of them.”

I woke up this morning with those words burning in my mind. How wrong you were in those assumptions. The antique frame, sure, with some effort, can be replaced. It was, however, special and of sentimental value, which cannot be replaced.

The print, well, that was the very last in a small edition of 5 plus 2 artist proofs. The one you broke, that was the very last artist proof I had. So no, it is not “replaceable”. I have more integrity than that. I will not reprint an artist proof, as that is not the purpose of an artist proof. It is to proof the colors, the quality of the print, when making an edition. It’s not just an open window to make another print whenever I feel like it. I honor the numbers of my collections. I honor my collectors.

Basically what you did was try to tell me that my art wasn’t worth anything after your carelessness destroyed a piece of it. And I, stunned at the chasm between the hope and connection I felt minutes earlier and the shattered glass before me, knew that I could not respond eloquently.
So I said nothing.

Anything I would have said at that moment would have been filled with venom and truly not in the spirit of the day, nor in the spirit of who I am as a person. You did not offer to pay for your mistake. And I did not insist. I knew I could not insist. I had no established precedent or had a break-it-you-buy-it warning posted.

That is the first and last time I will respond like that. Were I to be exhibiting another artist’s work, even without a sign, I would have fought tooth and nail to get that artist payment for your carelessness. I’d have notified my insurance and even paid the deductible if I had to so my artist could be compensated.

I know this about myself. I fight for others whenever I see injustice. But when it comes to myself? That is a battle I’m not so good at, and oh, I am so ashamed to admit this. It’s easier for me to fight for someone else’s good, than it is my own. I never saw it so clearly. You taught me that. Thank you.

It’s not news to consider how hard it is for artists to place a dollar value on creations of the hands and heart. Nor how hard it is for artists to ask the price we know our work is worth. It’s even harder to find an audience capable and willing to pay those prices.

I did the work, poured my heart and soul into it. I then came up with a price, and after all these years, have found collectors to support the work at the prices I ask. They are not unreasonable prices, some have commented that they are rather low.

Just to break it down for you; I spent 3 months of my life creating the piece of art you broke. 3 months, plus a lifetime of learning. 3 months plus 4 years running my own gallery, working 80 hours a week, every week (sometimes much more) to make my art and to get it in front of the eyeballs who will appreciate it and support it.

Your carelessness broke the result of that effort, my chance to be compensated for the creation of that labor of love. And in that, you have taught me the true value of my work. So for that lesson, I suppose, I must also thank you. I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what my work is worth.

I am keeping the piece you broke, in my home, as a reminder of what the true value of what I do. In a way, I’m glad you didn’t offer to pay and that I didn’t insist. I feel that perhaps you didn’t value what I do enough to own it.

But I do.

Thank you for that very harsh lesson in worth. I hope that you have learned something from this as well. I hope you will be more careful and aware in the future, and maybe not be so diminishing of the value of another’s craft. I in turn, hope that I will do better at standing up for myself.

Look, things break. This is life. I accept that. And because I choose to live mythically, looking for symbols and meaning in life, I choose to make this a learning experience. When I say thank you for the lesson, I truly mean it.

Sometimes it’s really hard to see the things we need to learn, and we need bigger lesson example. I wish my art hadn’t broken, but such is life. Things break. The current flows on. The lessons get applied. And finally, to that first woman who stayed during the whole thing; the woman who guarded my shoppe when I had to take the broken glass to the trash can, who held me as I finally cried, who embodied the support and solidarity I felt earlier and desperately needed to see again in that vulnerable moment…Thank you.

Day One of One Hundred

Today I recognized the miracle of being alive. The miracle of being in a healthy body.

It was a remarkable sensation.
But let me back up first.

Yesterday was a low day for me. A very, very low day. My tendency towards melancholia crept in, and I was listless, devoid of energy or inspiration. It hurt. Physically. It hurt. I spent much of the day crying and trying to make art of out of the sadness which I could not name. But, in the end, had little to show for it.

Needing to get out of my house, needing to get out of my head, and into my body, I took myself on a hike. It was a late enough in the day where the sun was mild, and the shade abundant.

IMG_4712

I walked.
I hopped across the stream multiple times, and for the first time in 8 years, I fell. I slipped, slid, caught air, and landed firmly on my butt. Knocked the wind right out of me! (I’m okay, just some minor scrapes). But I realized my punishing thoughts were consuming me and distracting me. After the fall, with each step, I practiced being completely present and wouldn’t ya know it? Gained a certain clarity.

In that clarity, a dare came to me. A dare to commit to a specific set of goals for the next 100 days. It seems like a lot to commit to; but I’ve already been doing it more often than not, so it’s really a fine tuning of the practices I’ve come to love. This 100 day personal challenges includes the gym, meditation, drawing practice, journaling, social media, practicing the piano, and of course, eating well.

When I got home, I plotted my challenge, arranged my goals and counted from July 6 (day one) to 100 days in the future. I was shocked at the date. October 13, 2017, is 100 days from today, July 6. October 13 would have been my 13th wedding anniversary.

wow.

Now that I realize the personal significance of the date, this challenge means more than ever. I’ve come to think of it as: who do I want to be on that day? Do I still want to be suffering? No. I don’t. The tricky part is that I do have a problem with depression, and I have my whole life. So it’s not just lifestyle adjustments and positive thinking – there is medication, too. I take Sam-e every day, because I must. Finally I realize that taking Sam-e serves essentially the same function (metaphorically speaking) as wearing glasses to correct a vision impairment. No shame in that anymore. (small, but important victory)

So, this morning, I got up promptly. (yay! No snooze button for me today!) Went to the gym and ran my best time yet; 3 miles in under 30 minutes. Not bad for someone who smoked for 20 years, only quitting 4 months ago (and joining the gym then, too!)

While I was running, I started to really tune in to my body. It was amazing. I felt the muscles, I imagined what they looked like. I imagined my lungs pumping air through my body, my brain all lit up with the oxygen…
I started to realize that all my years of berating my body for not be thin “enough”, for those times I was made that I wasn’t pretty “enough”, or good “enough” were all bullshit. Total, complete bullshit.

For the first time in my life, I came to recognize the incredible gift of just being alive and in a body. A body that can run and jump. A body that can learn to play the piano, that can draw and paint. A mind that can dream, and the body that can make that dream tangible. My body is utterly imperfect, I have no delusions about that. But it is MY imperfect body. And it has been my most faithful companion for 4 decades. Today I recognize the gift of being alive, of being Embodied. And the gratitude, the real, true, deep gratitude, brings me to my knees. I am very happy to be in a body, right here, right now. And my body, if it could talk would say, “Thank you. It’s nice to be appreciated.”