This is Elfrieda and this is her story,
the story of how she came to be.
It is also a story about
lies, fear and paralysis
truth, trust and trying
prayer, devotion and showing up.
Once upon a time there was a woman who woke up and began dreaming of who she was and what her life could be. Her heart began to whisper secrets in her ear and she dared to believe the simmer and glimmer of hope within. Wobbly, tobbly steps, weaving back and forth, carried her onward in her exploration.
Many days were spent battling the Brothers Gremlin who tried their best to derail her journey, distracting her by hurling reminders of mistakes made, lack of funds and education and by the way, did she know how OLD she was? Some days she would be beaten back to a dreamless dormancy but other days? Oh, other days she emerged victorious, climbing to stand upon that heap of lies and lifting her face to the light and love of possibility.
Eventually, her path led her to discover fearlessness and a tribe of warrioresses practicing their inner truth. She was waking up more and more and discovering the battles were coming less frequently. This way of living was becoming integrated into her being. In fact, it was deeper than that. She had excavated who she was from the first breath of life.
This is my story.
I suspect it may seem familiar to you.
It is your story as well.
All of this brings us to the present day or at least the month of May. That’s when I was led into this prayer painting process that Hali offers. I felt compelled to practice my devotion of creating space. I issued an invitation for you to offer to me your sacred words of prayer, hopes and blessings. I committed to holding those words with reverence, creating space for love and light to penetrate the depths of our united dreams.
You answered that call with fifteen prayers from all over the world.
Fifteen beautiful heartfelt prayers.
I began to prepare for my prayer day, my painting day. My husband cleared the house for me, taking the children for a day of movies and bowling. I bought a canvas.
A. big. canvas.
I’ve never painting THIS big before and right about this moment guess who showed up?
I had neglected my fearless painting practice for awhile. Life had gotten busy and I just hadn’t made it a priority. So on Thursday, June 7th, I woke with fear glaring me in the face, mouthing, “What have you done?! You haven’t painted in months and now you have invited all these people to share sacred words with you with a promise that you are going to paint their prayers? You can’t do this!” I walked into the dining room (which doubles as my art studio) and saw that HUGE canvas that I bought and I thought to myself, “WHAT was I thinking?!”
But I had made a commitment and I was determined to see this through. I believed with all my heart that this prayer painting was destined to be a breakthrough for all of us. Thus the battle with fear began. I felt tightening in my body, my heart racing, the questioning there, right at the surface. I decided to take a big paint brush and just apply gesso onto the canvas. It didn’t need another layer of gesso but it felt good to just be moving my body with the brush, getting into the flow. With each stroke, I relaxed into my practice again. It felt like I was being brought back home.
While the gesso dried, I sat with the prayers that were sent to me and wrote them all out by hand. I wanted that hand-heart connection.
afterward, I placed them in a cedar box that has been with me all my adult years. It felt like the perfect place to hold them while I painted.
I lit three candles and placed them on the box under the canvas while I entered into yoga and meditation. I was allowing the prayers and light and potential painting to exist together for a while.
The number three had come to me over and over as I prepared for this process. I felt it represented not only strength, but also unity. Many faith practices honor triune gods, goddesses or deities and I hoped to honor and respect the paths of all who had responded to my invitation.
After my meditation, I came back to the prayers and read each one aloud, lighting a candle for each.
Then I lit our one candle, representing our collective prayers as one, and extinguished the individual candles. The candle I found had three wicks … again, that number three was with me.
Now was time to paint!
At this point, it felt like water to me and I began to think of it as an ocean of our prayers. As I painted, I was captivated by this idea that when drops are added to the ocean, they don’t remain individual droplets. Instead, the merge together to become one body of water. Our prayers were becoming one body of prayer.
I then divided the painting into fifteen individual lines.
I went back to my box and took the prayers and read them again and focused on three words to represent the heart of each prayer. I then painted those words on the canvas.
As my painting process was evolving, I held one thought. We are one. The prayers that came in contained similar hopes. My own heart beat the same rhythm.
From there, I just began to play with color and shapes.
Right about now, I had been painting for a few hours. My inner breath was leading me in a direction and I was resisting. The voices were telling me that it was too expected and I didn’t need to be repetitive. All of sudden, this painting process was becoming a painting product. It felt like I was seeking safety instead of exploration.
So I took break. I meditated and took a nap. When I got up and came back to the canvas, she began to appear.
Once she was there, I was able to trust the process, trust that she would lead me to discover what belonged. Instead of posting more individual photos, I want to allow you to see the process from beginning to end.
I was reluctant to call her finished. The process was just so simply beautiful that I didn’t want it to end. When I spoke aloud, “She is finished.”, I felt the emotion rising up within me. It was more than bittersweet.
That day of completion was a gorgeous, mild summer day here so I decided to celebrate with a fire. I knew then that the final step in this process would be to use those rolls of paper as fire starter. I wanted to represent that those prayers are a beginning of something useful and glorious.
I watched the papers burn and I thought to myself, “now those sacred words really are part of all that is.” The smoke rose to disappear into the sky. The ashes became part of the ground. How profound!
My practice is to find a name for these women that I paint once the painting is finished. Those who have seen the completed painting have described her as strong. I looked up names with the meaning of strength. Elfrieda captured my heart. She does look other than, very elvish, displaying a gentle strength. An Elf Strength. Elfrieda.
This story has come to an end. This particular journey is over. There will be more stories to tell, more conversations about this process and what it is accomplishing in me and in you, and for certain, more prayer paintings.
Many thanks to each of you for giving me watch over your prayers.