Journey of the Heart: Right. Here.

Hole in tree, something lived there, now its open for new life, by Annette Wagner, 2013, Terra Sophia Sanctuary

Its been three weeks since my mentor and painting teacher, Sue Hoya Sellars, passed into the cosmos. Three very hard weeks of trying to come to terms with the loss, the knowledge she is no longer here on this planet with me, with any of us. Knowing I will never paint with her again rips open my heart every single time I think that thought. That I won’t walk her land with her again. No more joking and teasing or laughter. The tears flow, I reach for a brush or pen, I create, I give myself permission to grieve, again, and again. Its all different now and its going to take time to get used to that intrinsic difference.

I’ve been feeling a need to journey around this grief, around the sense of loss. A sense of needing to take a step sideways to see what awaits me in the spirit world. A sense of being nudged. So this week my good friend John came over to drum for me so I could journey.

As the drumming began, I set space around myself and sank into my heart. I reached out to Black Walnut Tree who guides me on my journeys and holds the thread back to this world. I asked her to guide me to where I needed to go, upper world or lower world. I was told to climb and so up I went, branch by branch.

I reach a point where the branches of the tree are in the clouds and walk out to the end of a branch and onto a dirt path I recognize. It leads to a meadow in a long valley where I have journeyed before. And there, just as I step onto the path, is Sue – standing, waiting for me. Just like she would when we were ready to go walk on the land at Terra Sophia. Her notebook in hand, smiling at me. She says,

I’m right here. Right. Here. I’m not going anywhere.” 

Sue sketching on the Seine River in Paris, 2014

I stare at her. It’s her alright. I find myself heaving a huge sigh of relief. Tears coming to my eyes. It’s ok. It really is her. Here. Right. Now.

She turns and heads up the trail and we start walking, talking, pointing out the patterns of leaves or the way the light falls on something. Looking at the world through artist eyes the way she taught me. We stop to sketch. She has the watercolor sketch book I made her and the sumi-e ink cartridge pen I got her hooked on using. We wander and just hang out with each other. It feels comfortable and surreally everyday-ish.

Every so often as I look over at her, I see a hint of cosmos peeking through. A swirl of galaxy on her left cheek. A hint of stars in the fold of her black jeans. Clouds of nebula around the edges of her hands. It’s spooky and yet so perfectly Sue. She is one with the cosmos she loved to paint.

As we walk, I feel the sorrow, hurt, and pain inside of me. It’s still there and I can tell Sue knows its there. She just looks at me now and again and repeats,  

"I’m here. Right. Here. Just talk to me when you need to. I’m not going anywhere."

I realize that it was her nudging me to journey so we could have this conversation, this time together. So she could make it clear that even though I will never walk on the land with her again in this world, or paint that plein air vista we talked of painting together, I am painting with her every single time I create. That now there is this way she can be with all of us when we create. That this is what merging with the cosmos gives her.

When Sue was in transition, when she went into surgery until she passed into the cosmos, there was a physical sense of a red thread drawn very, very taut between us; my body felt it viscerally. It was like a tug from a compass pulling in a particular direction, the feeling that someone is on the other end of the rope pulling, and what it feels like when you knot a thread and pull it tight - all bundled together. Oddly comforting and yet, oddly discomforting.

Now I understand why I’ve been feeling like someone tore all the threads off the loom in this area of my life and as a result I’m being re-threaded. She isn’t HERE in the same sense that she was before. I have to connect to her differently than I did before and all those ways the red thread wove us together have to shift to accommodate that difference.

My connection to her is still there. But the nature and essence of that connection has transformed. Its different and I am only just beginning to understand the flavor of that difference.

Creatively yours, Annette