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Ask yourself: Why am I alive?

Meares Island  1000 year old tree with our group

We all know that everything in this world is interconnected. At least we know it in our heads. But each time I teach one of my Workshops in Wild Places week-long painting classes, I more clearly understand the interconnection between the land, our paintings, our lives, our bodies, our emotions, and our spirit. In teaching about connecting with the land to create abstract paintings, I realize how the land opens us up, how art opens us up, but only if we are willing. Leaning against a 1000-year old tree on Meares Island near Tofino, BC two weeks ago, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I had such gratitude for this ancient tree–that I was able to experience it, consider what its seen in 1000 years, stand inside the hollow part of its trunk, and sit on its huge roots as I leaned on it, feeling its big calm energy.

Under Mother Tree-photo by Julie Brogan

In my Workshops in Wild Places, we do various exercises to connect with the land––walking meditations, sitting meditations, gratitude meditations, writing, and other reflective activities. While connecting with the earth, we also connect with ourselves and to deepen that relationship, I invite artists to ask themselves and the land profound questions.

Seaweed on Cox Bay

Cox Bay Beach, Tofino, BC

While I originally envisioned the workshops as creating paintings that are reflective of a deep relationship with the land, I had not given enough importance to the artists’ relationship with themselves as well as with the rest of their lives. In this last workshop, as one person struggled with inner conflict, I was reminded that of course, everything is interconnected. The earth is not separate from our lives, our bodies, our spirit, and us. We know that in our dealings with climate change. In the same way, painting is not separate from us or from the world we inhabit. Everything’s connected.

Lone tree-Cox Bay

ME: Why am I alive?

OLD WOMAN: Because everything else is.

ME: No. I mean the purpose.

OLD WOMAN: That is the purpose. To learn about your relatives.

ME: My family?

OLD WOMAN: Yes. The moon, stars, rocks, trees, plants, water, insects, birds, mammals. Your whole family. Learn about that relationship. How you’re moving through time and space together. That’s why you’re alive.

From Embers: One Ojibway’s  Meditations by Richard Wagamese


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