Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

Category: Travel

Ode to my boots

It has been so long since I posted here. In that time, sooooo much has happened in my little world. I did a Kickstarter, which was successfully funded. I finished a Tarot deck (which took 10 or 13 years to complete, depending on how you look at it). I wrote a book. I published the deck and the book and shipped them all out myself. (And I’m a Mom, a small business owner, sometimes even in a relationship, and I have amazing friends – pretty full plate). How fortunate am I to be able to say that? As I write this, I recognize just how incredible my life is.

So why do I feel so…down?
I am struggling so much, emotionally these days. I admit it, I have a mood disorder, (or chronic depression), whatever you want to call it – so the melancholy is not unfamiliar territory. I manage it the best I can through exercise, meditation, supplements, diet, journaling, art, friends, family, cat… But also, a lot of things are up in the air right now. There are many losses, and navigating them is proving difficult. The biggest thing, which you wouldn’t expect it to be a loss, but it actually feels like it is – was the completion of my Tarot deck.

I began my first deck in 2006. I have orbited around the idea of making/and actually been in the act of making a Tarot deck since 2006. Consider that for a minute – where were you in 2006? As fate would have it, that first deck, which taught me how to be an artist, as it neared completion, was destroyed in a great computer crash. When I finally began again, it was 2008. So the Dreamkeepers Tarot took me 10 years exactly to create. Even when I wasn’t consciously making the deck, it WAS the thing I was orbiting around. And now, with it finished, without the gravitational pull of that very solid idea, I feel lost in space. Wow, I hadn’t made that metaphor before, but it’s exactly how I feel! Lost…in space.

Because I am a fighter, have been taking steps to get back to work, though. Yesterday, in fact, I spent the entire day piecing together a new tableaux. So far, the idea is a bit convoluted, but I think there’s something good there. Something solid. I think this is my way of testing the waters again, of processing where I am and considering where I want to go artistically (since there are really no parameters, except for what I think people expect, and what I expect of myself, both tricky things to navigate).

My daughter will be leaving home for college in August. Emotionally, I am already preparing for this. She has a very full life outside of me, so on some level it already feels like the separation is happening. Another gravitational pull that has diminished in nature. Everything is so fleeting, looking too long at what is changing can be disorienting, so I search for an anchor. Historically, that anchor was my art, but the art is new now, too. I feel like I need something tangible, something that tells me in this moment of transition who I am, and where I stand.

The question plagued me for the better part of this afternoon. “I have nothing”, I kept telling myself. Nothing. (I told you I’m in a bit of a depression) Nothing Nothing Nothing Nothing other than the shoes on my feet…
Then it hit me. The shoes on my feet! My 20 eye Dr. Martens which I’ve worn most days for a handful of years now. They are my beloved companions, and I must introduce you to them. I have replaced the zippers on them so many times that I no longer chance the zipper and instead lace and unlace them every time. These boots have carried me through more heartbreaks than I care to remember. They have moved me from 4 different addresses, 3 art studios, and held me as I work day after day in my shoppe. They have carried me across Paris as I wandered her cobblestone streets alone. We clocked miles inside the Musee D’Orsay, wandering from one exquisite painting to the next, took the steps on the grand staircase of the Opera Garnier, and stood in the home of Gustave Moreau (which is now a museum of his works). We walked together under the light of the full moon as I met a beautiful man after-hours in a taverna in Crete. We walked the hill of the Acropolis, visited the oracle in Delphi. We saw Frida’s house, took to the streets of Mexico City alone in the dawn, and hiked up to the tops of pyramids. We got lost together on the muddy path leaving Macchu Picchu, and trudged through the Amazon jungle to take in the view high above the lost lake.

They have taken so many steps with me that the tread on the bottom is practically nonexistent, and I have to step very carefully in the rain. This does not deter me, mind you. I still wear them almost daily. When I take them off, I swear they still carry my presence. I would ask to be buried in these boots (unless someone who loves me wants to keep them to remember me by). I have tried unsuccessfully many times to replace them, but they are not manufactured often it seems, and so I have yet to find a new pair. I still wear them down, day by day, step by step. Oh, if there was one thing to bring me out of my depression and into a place of gratitude, it is this, my beautiful, world traveled, weather beaten boots.

Thank you for reading.

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Much love,

Liz

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