Refectory: Podcast

Salon Sophia

Refectory: Podcast

We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations and new episodes are available on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger at SotA for a while. We have a gallery where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork other creative projects. Coming soon is a scriptorium for written pieces and other narrative musings.

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Episode Eight

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Episode Seven

Today we’re in conversation with Emma Freeman. We spoke about artwork as a healing spiritual practice, finding sanctuary amidst troubling times in small and expansive ways, being a highly sensitive person, and the delights of language. We were also distracted by a glitchy computer camera that made it look like had a halo.

Visit our gallery to view some of Emma’s meditation scrolls.

What languages do you speak? Or are familiar with? Is there a new language you would like to learn?

How does language inform your perspective?

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. 

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. This podcast is one of online offerings. We also have weekly creative sessions and seasonal events.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

Musical Transition

Monique 

Recording Hi, Emma, welcome to our podcast Salon Sophia. Um, let’s start with… Could you tell us where you’re calling in from?

 

Emma 

Hmm, yes, I am in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin in the United States.

 

Monique 

Wonderful Wisconsin. This some helped me out here. Where’s that located geographically on the in the landmass? Is that kind of like the mid Midwest? Is that what people refer to as the Midwest?

 

Emma 

Yes, the Midwest. Yep. And then I’ll kind of walk is at the southern in southern Wisconsin, so almost to Illinois.

 

Monique   

Okay. Okay. I’m in the Pacific Northwest. I’m in Vancouver, BC. And it’s a magical place. It’s wonderful landscape. Very inspiring.

 

Emma 

That’s beautiful up there.

 

Monique 

Well, we’re a podcast that is curious about the relationship between spirituality and creativity. And I’m curious what your current some of your current creative practices are some of the things that are quite interesting for you right now.

 

Emma

Right now, I’m writing a lot of poetry and doing a lot of found poetry, which feels more like, it all feels like a meditation practice, I keep discovering, but I’m cutting out words from magazines and moving those around a lot. And that that’s, that keeps pulling me back in. So I’m doing that quite a bit. And then I make been making these fabric meditation books that I’ve been burying in the ground for the last six or seven months or something like that. So I’m still it. That’s very much one of my practices. And then one more I’ve been making these contemplation cloths, I call them they’re on, I found find these beautiful old textiles from around the world them and I slowly hand stitch on them. And yeah, those are my creative practice. 

 

Monique  

Yeah, your, the hemstitched fabrics that I’ve seen. It looks almost like writing like it looks like Aramaic or some sort of old glyphs style text.

 

Emma 

I love that you see that? Because I, I didn’t see that until someone you had said that. And one other person said that I thought, oh right, it does look like text. It’s amazing to me that that can come through without consciously realizing it. You know, those things that just hear that? Magic? Yeah,

 

Monique 

I wonder if part of it is my brain trying to make meaning of it and looking searching for patterns searching for recognizable patterns. I wonder if that’s an element of it. I don’t want to take away from the magic of your fabrics. And your buried books are so intriguing what inspired you to create the cloth their cloth books, right, and then you bury them or cloth panels? 

 

Emma  

Well, I started making the fabric meditation books at the beginning of the pandemic. And they emerged very intuitively because I was in a really dark space, I’d gone through a huge series of life transitions and was in this deep state of grief and overwhelm. And the book form just emerged one day, I saw it inside of a curtain that I was cutting up. And I just knew it was a book form. And I knew I needed to stitch on it, which I had never really done either of those before. And then I started to experiment with just slowly adding in nature, like stone and birch bark and different yarns and things. And then one day, I was sitting here in my bedroom at my art table, and I just heard this voice, idea. Bury, like bury it. And I was like, bury it. Oh, that’s interesting. I sat with it for a little while and and then I was in a bookstore, I think the week after and I was in the Eastern religions section and happened to open the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I had never read before. And I flipped it open and the passage was about this thing called earth terma which I’ve never heard of. And it’s about this ancient practice of burying sacred objects in the earth to be found later by people to be learned from it. I immediately felt like goosebumps had that synchronistic feeling and I came home and buried one of the books and and now it’s now it just feels like yep, this is this needs to keep happening. So

 

Monique   

that’s and then you’ve also invited other people to participate. So Right? Yeah.

 

Emma  

Yeah, cuz I just I started sharing images and sharing some of the background of the process on Instagram. And one day I thought, oh, it’d be really fun, invite other people to do this with me. So I just kind of said, what? Initially it started as if I could I send you a book can you bury can someone else bury these books for me and a few people have done that. And then people started wanting to make their own and bury them. And now, people all over the world have been doing it is so beautiful and healing and simply just wonderful.

 

Monique 

How my mind is going to the fabric, you use natural fibre fabrics, often. And then I’m thinking and then use some botanical dyes. And then even the fibres used for the threads or the the, the yarn that you would stitch on to could also be a natural, like everything could be coming from nature coming from the bounty of the earth. And then us playing with that interacting with that to create something and then returning it to the earth. And then seeing what the Earth does. Let the earth interact with that. And it’s just like this ongoing, multi layered relationship of us playing with the earth.

 

Emma   

Yeah. Yeah, and I’m also amazed at how much I didn’t realize until it was in the, in the process, how much I’m releasing into the books emotionally and energetically that coming out of me that I need to process and we can’t see it in the books, but I can feel that it’s there, I can feel that there’s a release happening when I make them. And then there is definitely feels like a release giving it to the earth to it’s very subtle and very kind of soft. And I’m really intrigued by hearing other people’s experience of that the emotional, spiritual parts of it, if they pick up on it when they bury their own and make their own. And it seems some people do more than others. But I love that, too. But it’s like alchemizing emotions, or doing some kind of magic healing there too.

 

Monique

Yeah, we the earth is vast enough to hold our sometimes our emotions can seem almost too big to hold. Sometimes I’m processing something that seems too large. And I’ll lay on the grass, and I’ll just whisper my troubles into the earth. And I know that the Earth can hold it, that I’m not going to overwhelm the earth with my emotions. That’s one being that I can always turn to that can hold whatever vast, seemingly vast emotion I’m processing. Yeah, such a source of comfort for me. 

 

Emma

That is a beautiful practice. I love that you do that. 

 

Monique  

Thanks. Give it a try. You opened telling us about your your books, your meditation books about that. It was born during a pretty dark time for you. And I’m curious if you wanted to explore a little bit about how artwork can be a spiritually healing practice.

 

Emma

My favourite topic right now. Yeah, that’s, um, it’s a new thing for me to feel that it’s a spiritual practice. But it absolutely is. And that’s really come through the last two years, but really the last six years of a deep healing journey that I’ve been on, and what I now wholeheartedly feel every time I create art sit down, that I’m connecting, I’m dropping into a deeper place within myself. And I’m shedding and releasing, but I’m also connecting in deeper ways to, to mysterious things that feel like there. It’s not just me, and there are intuitive messages that I received through the art making process that’s very new. So I’m really fascinated by it, and in awe of it, and now I just feel like ooh, what else is going to happen? Like, how much deeper can this go? So? Yeah, I really. I think it’s so incredibly powerful as a spiritual practice and I feel really inspired to maybe open some of those doors for other people who, because I did not have any exposure to artists and as a spiritual practice growing up, totally not a thing in my world. And now that I have access to it, I feel like I know that there are a lot of people who do it. But I feel like for the classes I teach and things if I can, like maybe open a door there for someone else. Yeah. 

 

Monique

Well you’ve worked very hard recently, and created your own online community. You’ve created your own little sanctuary rich retreat space. Do you want to tell us about that?

 

Emma

Yes. It also looks like you have a halo. It’s amazing.

 

Monique

I was gonna ask you if you notice the weird, funky thing that my camera is doing it? 

 

Emma

Yeah. 

 

Monique

I’m curious now what this colour aura means it’s kind of like a magenta. I’m outlined in like a blue, a peacock blue. And then further aura is like a magenta. 

 

Emma

Ooh, 

 

Monique

I’ve never experienced this on my computer before, but I’m definitely going to go down a Google rabbit trail after this call.

 

Emma 

Okay. It’s amazing. The community? Yes. So I have been teaching art classes for the last few years and through different art centres and things and I was feeling I’ve been part of different online communities now for a while and it just kept getting, I kept feeling like, I don’t want to play with this idea myself, could I create a space that’s more of an ongoing container. So because what has been happening in my classes is, people come together this beautiful group of humans and we we do something that we share this experience, and everyone flies off into their world. And that’s fine. But often it feels lately, like, there’s much more that could continue, but there’s not the opportunity or space for it. So I made this community called the Creative Unearthing Community, and basically, is just my container for all the classes and gatherings and resources. And it’s brand new, it just started a few weeks ago, I think maybe yeah, two weeks ago. But so far, it’s feeling very calm and very quiet. I wanted I’m a highly sensitive person, and I really want to design it with that in mind too, to not be overstimulating and to have lots of silence and quiet.

 

Monique 

But by that is that reminds me of what myself and my two co conspirators are, are working towards with  Sanctuary of the Arts, we’re looking for an online, a contained online space where people can come and sit with some art, and whether in whatever form either visual or audio, written pieces, and, and that we’re looking to create a space that has a lot of silence and a lot of space and is not stimulating is calming, but expansive, like grounded, rooted, and expansive in our kind of like, and that’s what I get what I’ve seen from your work from what it is that you’re building up, and it’s really very inspiring, and I still very appreciate when I run into other other people on the planet that are kind of the same rhythm. I find. Do you find that there’s a monastic quality of contemplative quality to your practice?

 

Emma  

Yes, yes. And I feel that too. I feel like we’re kindred in that way. Yeah. Oh, it’s so nice to know. Like, there are others.

 

Monique 

Exactly. We are so very unpracticed in our society with resting and and being quiet and still and small, like it’s not valued, isn’t it as I am also a highly sensitive person, an HSP, and when I read the book by Elaine Aaron, Elaine Aaron, is that her name and revolute I just like finally I see myself I understand things. Was it that way for you?

 

Emma   

Oh, yeah, I was like, what? How did I not know this before? Yeah, just put together so many puzzle pieces. And oh, um yeah and now I’m actually right now in the middle of a class for sensitive people that’s more spiritually based which is like starts with Elaine Aaron’s work but is going like way bigger, deeper and it’s with this woman, Myree Morsi, in Australia. Oh yeah, and it’s totally incredibly magical feeling so it’s fun to also explore how much deeper the sensitivity can go that I had no idea it’s still, you know, I feel like I’m learning so much continually about it within myself and, you know, learning how to take care of it and all of all of that.

 

Monique 

Yeah, it was important for me to understand that it’s not it’s not well, it’s not an illness, it’s not a pathology. It’s a characteristic and that it’s yeah, my, I’m having a hard time just I just wanted to people who are listening who are not familiar with the, Elaine, with the work around the highly sensitive person and the qualities of a highly sensitive person, and we’re not talking specifically about being emotionally sensitive, although that is part of it, but it’s a whole it’s a whole system’s sensitivity. Yeah, I’ll include some links in the show notes of course, so people can explore that further if they want but I guess I shouldn’t take us too far off topic. But I do find though, that people I run into who are contemplative and who embrace that lifestyle of being slowed down and contemplative that they do tend to be highly sensitive people and they do tend to honor that part of themselves anyways so you’re very clearly that spirituality and creativity is definitely linked in your understanding Yeah, definitely no doubt about that. And sanctuary can be a loaded term to some people previous guests really opened my perspective and let me see that it’s quite a Christ a Christian centered word that it’s quite linked to Christian culture and I hadn’t thought about it that way before but it is I’m curious if what your understanding of sanctuary is the word and the the concept

 

Emma   

I love that your cat is part of this. Sanctuary is a word that I haven’t had a relationship with until very recently like within the last month that it started to feel like catching my attention in a way that I guess with with other spiritual words to that I have felt a lot of resistance around for all of my life until very recently and starting to look at them and explore really what’s wrapped up in them for me and try to heal that and Sanctuary is one of them and now that to me, doesn’t it now it just feels like this very, I love it. Now it’s one of my favourite words, I think, because to me, it feels like this cocoon or this safe place to go where I can completely be myself in whatever ways that means in any moment and always be changing and so for me feels like solitude is a big part of that in my life. But also sometimes sanctuary also means being connected with other people so it feels like there’s kind of different No, no, I’m kind of still getting to know it as a word I think

 

Monique 

for sure. Is it something that resides within you? So you can carry it around in different situations?

 

Emma

Yes, but I also feel like it’s physical to like for me this room is a sanctuary there’s my art room and then nature like being nature in general but like being near a certain tree right now is is a sanctuary so I feel like it’s inner and our right now. Yeah, what about for you?

 

Monique 

For me, wow. Oh, yeah, it’s always like, I kind of relate sanctuary with safety, I think of sanctuary as a place of refuge, I get the image of like, an animal who has been, who’s being hunted or chased and is panting and tired and afraid, terrified, and finding refuge in like a hollow log or something. That’s sanctuary. For me sanctuary is a place of safety. And it’s a place to rest. And it’s interesting that you bring up that it’s inner and outer, because I hadn’t really thought about it beyond the sensations around sanctuary, I hadn’t thought about the architecture of sanctuary, like is it but it’s a word I use often, I also refer to my home as my sanctuary, my cloister, my very persistent, cat, and dog are part of my sanctuary. I’m gonna think more on on that, because I’m sure that there are times when I’m in a social setting. And I tap into that, my sense, my somatic wisdom of sanctuary, where I can draw on that as a source of strength if I’m feeling vulnerable. You’ve given me something to think about Emma. 

 

Emma 

You’ve also given me things too.

 

Monique 

 I also take my art practice is my sanctuary is a place where I find a lot of rest and peace, and you’ve touched on it, and you’ve probably you’ve already shared threads on it. But I’m wondering if you would want to share another story. Or another time when your practice your creativity practice was a source of sanctuary for you was a place of sanctuary.

 

Emma 

Yeah. I think that the biggest time that comes to mind is at the beginning of the pandemic. So I mean, really, like last few years, but especially that first few months, a couple of years ago, when I had gone through, so I got divorced, I had to close down my business. I lost my house and multiple pets, all within a month of each other, and then the pandemic and and so, and I moved, I left the state I was living in, I moved back in with my parents, and this is going through my head as a teenager. So there were all kinds of stuff that I I really couldn’t process. And so arrived slowly, I guess started to set up this table. Instinctively, I knew I needed a little table to make art and didn’t have much space at all. So I just put this in my bedroom and started just sitting down here every day and looking at the trees and crying and trying to process what was coming and then I slowly started to make art in different ways. And it kept travelling, you know, kept going in different directions and taking me in different directions. And I started to realize how much it was healing me. At first, I felt like it was just something to do to fill up my time. And I enjoyed it. And it was it felt good. But I started to realize how much it was actually healing me in deep ways and taking me to deeper places. So that’s the biggest time in my life has really changed the course of my life too, I think because I’ve had this cocoon, this sanctuary, to unfurl and to I didn’t have a relationship with silence or solitude before this. And those two things now. Oh, I need them in my life forever. Now I know. So. Yes.

 

Monique 

Yes. Thank you for sharing that. It’s such a tender. That was such a tender thread you just shared with us. Thank you. Is there is there a creative practice on the horizon? Is there something that has I don’t know about you, but I’ve always got like projects like when I’m finished this collage romance that I’m in Right now I’m in mixed media collage land currently. But when that’s finished, I want to try monoprinting. So do you have something that is like winking at you that you’re like, when I’m finished this project? I want to dive into that.

 

Emma 

I love thinking about it that way because I feel there’s always other things that are like, coming to play with me. Yeah, there’s always What’s right now? Well, I feel really pulled to try putting some of my poetry into a book. I think. And I also have a few other ideas for books. I’ve never written a book, but that keeps coming up. So I feel like that is this creative space that I’ll be diving into and trying to figure out sometime soon. The other thing lately it’s been like certain forms keep coming to me like scrolls. Do something scrolls and also with with ancient symbols, I don’t know anything about symbols, but just recently, I’ve been feeling like, I need to learn these like, and I’ve been exploring shamanism just a little bit, and it’s showing up in that space. And so I those are a couple of things that are kind of talking to me. Let’s see what happens.

 

Monique 

Yeah, I can see the progression to scrolls and to. Yeah, into ancient text. I can, I can, yeah, I can see Emma putting in your hand to something to create a scroll with ancient texts on it. And there’s, um, I don’t I can’t remember the word. But there’s a an intuitive practice of mark making that you develop your own alphabet.

 

Emma 

Asemic writing? Is it asemic writing?

 

Monique  

Yes, it is. Yeah.

 

Emma    

Love it. Yes. Yeah, it’s incredible. I’ve played with it just a little bit. And it’s fascinating to me, how it emerges. I love looking at other people’s versions. Yeah. Yeah, it’s amazing.

 

Monique 

Yeah. Did I get that? Right? It’s an intuitive practice where you just create your own alphabet.

 

Emma 

Yeah, yeah. And it can take many forms. So there’s no rules to it, just that it looks sort of like some kind of text.

 

Monique   

Yeah. Interesting. And my sense of it is, it’s something that you kind of practice with a regularity, until some sort of pattern starts to emerge. And it’s a personal pattern, a subconscious pattern, and then, and then you and then you work with that pattern and start to repeat it and find and string together different patterns, and then can create blocks of text that only parts of you fully understand what it means.

 

Emma 

Yeah, yeah. Isn’t that incredible? And I just,

 

Monique   

it is incredible. It is. And, to me, that, that, for me, lets me know that this is a spiritual practice, because for my understanding of spiritual is an in the moment experience that I’m going to slip up on trying to use my words to even describe it, but it’s ephemeral, and it is transcendent. And I don’t always understand I may understand it, but I may not be able to articulate what it is that I’m experiencing.

 

Emma 

I’m sitting with that. And I like that those words can mean anything. Like to each of us. They’re they’re so, like spiritual, spiritual to me has felt so tight in my life because of how I was raised with a lot of religious stuff. So now it feels like all energies can be very open, very vast, very expansive. And there are threads of connections often that I keep discovering with people with new people as I open up to it in my own ways, and it takes me wherever it takes me when I talk about something, someone else, oh you too or ooh yeah. And a lot of other words too, ephemeral or transcendent. I’m really fascinated by what those words actually hold beyond the conditioning of them.

 

Monique  

Yeah. That’s a good, good point. Yeah, even the words that we’re speaking right now we’re speaking a common language. Our, this language is not understood by everybody. So somebody listening in this is, this is our intuitive language, but to them this would not be understood. For someone who doesn’t speak English. Languages. I’m starting to learn Ojibwe. And it’s a it’s a daily mind melt. Daily, my mind melts down to its core essence. And then it’s built back up. Because it’s a language that is a little bit like Sanskrit, whereas each word is imbued with the quality of what it’s talking about. I’m not even going to try and describe that I don’t think I can do that today. But I don’t know enough about it. But it’s a different way of understanding language. And it’s new to me. And I’m fascinated with your idea of scrolls and with text on it and I may have just added that to my list of things that I would like to play with. 

 

Emma  

It’s amusing to me to get you in this amazingly beautiful glow around you. I feel like the moon is there. there’s this orb that, can you see that? Can you see?

 

Monique 

The images from my camera are pretty yeah, pretty cool. I can see that. I can see that. 

 

Emma  

Yeah. It keeps pulling me in. Wow.

 

Monique 

Yeah, that looks like there’s almost like a full moon over to one side of my head. For the left side of my head. I might actually at the when I do have the notes for this conversation. I will include an image of me so people can see what it is that keeps distracting us. I don’t know I’m I’m gonna go with that it’s that it’s that it’s an experience that I’m really diggin and I would like to understand a little bit more.

 

Emma

Yes, I love it.

 

Monique

I’m gonna go with that rather than it’s just my computer camera is somehow glitching.

 

Emma  

Let’s go with the spiritual interpretation.

 

Monique 

Let’s go with the spiritual and artistic licence.

 

Emma   

Yes.

 

Monique 

Oh, thank you so much for sharing. It’s really generous of you and I really appreciate you coming and chatting with us and sharing your thoughts so honestly. Was there anything left unsaid? Is there something else you would like to add?

 

Emma  

No. No, nothing is coming to mind

 

Monique 

Okay. Okay, we’ll leave it there then. And if people want to find out more about your artwork, your practices and your wonderful heartful offerings. They can find all those links in the show notes for this conversation, and I hope they do go and look at what it is you have on offer because it’s really very… well, I guess I could say that it’s so wonderful because it’s very akin to what it is that we’re doing but I need to find the people who will be drawn to the Sanctuary of the Arts would also appreciate the work that you’re doing.

 

Emma  

Yes, very kindred. And thank you. This conversation was so beautiful. So like there was lots of ease.

 

Monique

Good. That’s how it should be.

 

Emma

Yes.

Musical Transition

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode Six

Today we welcome Ryn Silverstein (they/them) to Salon Sophia. We explored a variety of topics, such as the Jewish calendar and spiral time, embracing Jewish priestesshood, impostor syndrome, sanctuary as something both internal and external and something you carry around with you which is akin to the Tabernacle in Judaism.
 
FYI: there are a few f-bombs (swear words) in this conversation.
 
Ryn is a writer, priestess, and facilitator with a creative living practice that’s embodied, queer, and ancestrally-rooted. They cultivate longing as devotional practice, creating space in the everyday for dreaming and enchantment. Ryn roots in ancient Jewish understandings of embodiment as inseparable from both temporality and Divinity throughout the creation process, which allows for the flourishing of new creative possibilities, rhythms, and ways of being. Honoring the moon as their ancestral home, Ryn tends to the connection the moon enables between our bodies, land bodies, and water bodies.
 
Visit our Scriptorium (blog) to read some of Ryn’s writing and visit their website for more writings.

How does your culture inform your understanding of sanctuary? What else informs your understanding of sanctuary?

Where are some areas in you life where you experience “impostor syndrome”? How do you respond to that experience?

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. 

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. This podcast is one of online offerings. We also have weekly creative sessions and seasonal events.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

Musical Transition

Monique 

Okay. Hi, Ron, welcome to our podcast Salon Sophia. We’re very pleased to be speaking with you today I’m most excited to explore some of the topics that you have suggested. And how about. Well, let’s start with where are you? Where are you joining us from? Where are you coming in from?

 

Ryn  

Yeah, thank you so much, Monique. It’s so wonderful to be here. And today I’m calling from Wabanaki confederacy territory, which is known today as Portland, Maine in the colonial vernacular, and I am seated on a couch and looking out the window. And there’s a really beautiful tree. And I’m not sure what type of tree it is. Because I’m not, I don’t know enough about trees really, at this point in my life to be able to tell, but it’s lovely. And there’s there’s lot of greenery and I have all the windows open because it’s a really lovely day out. So there’s a chance that you may hear some background noise. At some point during this conversation. I also live kind of near a fire station. So sometimes we get fire ambulances and trucks running by with sirens. So if that may happen, just to give you a heads up, but yeah, it’s a it’s a really lovely view. And I’m really happy to be kind of in this position right now to just be able to look out and see everything blooming.

 

Monique  

Yes, I that’s some a really wild synchronicity, because I’m also seated on my couch, looking out my window is a tree. It’s a Norwegian maple. And there’s lots of flowers blooming. And I am also on a street that has a firehouse, so and I have a chatty cat. So whatever happens in the background happens, I’m totally cool with, you know, background sound, it adds ambience. 

 

Ryn 

Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Monique

And I’m curious about if you wanted to give a if you wanted to introduce yourself, tell us about who you are. Sure. Such a little question.

 

Ryn 

Very small. Sure. Yeah. My name is Ryn and I, I’m kind of pronoun ambivalent, but I do see them as fine. And I am primarily a writer, I would say I am a laxed academic. So I was in academia, I was in a Ph. D. program for about seven and a half, eight years, and then dropped out, right, kind of a couple year or two before I finished would have finished theoretically. And that sort of left an indelible mark on my psyche, I think for better and worse, but it sort of helps frame my kind of life story in such a way because it’s you know, that’s a pretty big chunk of life almost a decade in, in school when I’m under 40. So, yeah, just sort of thinking about that, in terms of just percentage of my life is quite large. But yeah, I’m a writer, I tend to write a lot of different things, mostly fiction, but not all, I write a lot of kind of like speculative fantasy type of things magic do especially Jewish magic. I really enjoy writing sort of fictionalizing experiences and adding little twists and turns to things that might have really happened, but like to kind of, you know, add a little twist of some magic in there. I also I write poetry, sort of, I don’t really consider myself a poet. I wish I were i It’s sort of an aspirational thing right now. But I kind of enjoy I do enjoy writing it. I enjoy songwriting, even though I’m again, that’s also kind of aspirational, because I haven’t written more than like 15 songs ever. But that’s still something right. So yes. And, yeah, I guess let’s see, I am also a ritualist. I am an ordained kohenet, which is a Hebrew priestess. So in, in the Jewish world, the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute is a program that is a feminist leadership program for people who are really interested in creating embodied and earth based rituals. And it’s a three year training program that ordains people to kind of go out into the world and do rituals. So basically, like your traditional or non traditional, like marriage, birth ceremonies, death ceremonies, funerals, you know, naming ceremonies, transition ceremonies, like any kind of ceremony or ritual that might be needed, and then to create a bunch more that maybe we haven’t even thought of yet, right for like things that that need names and things that need to be recognized and celebrated or mourned or, you know, basically held right so 

 

Monique 

Yes, we are really lacking in rituals in our society. There are so many transitions in life that we just kind of as a society just want to breeze right through. Don’t want to honor them at all. Like you mentioned mourning. And I think about I’ve just gone through menopause. I’ve just started menopause in the last year, and I it is a celebration. I am so thrilled with it. But there’s no ritual. 

 

Ryn

Congratulations.

 

Monique 

Yeah, thank you. And there’s even just from childhood to adolescence, or first time riding a bike learning how to balance on a bike. I don’t know, maybe that’s, I’m taking it too far. But I definitely have a yearning for more rituals.

 

Ryn 

And I mean, yeah, I genuinely believe there’s a ritual for every everything. So think bike riding rituals would be amazing. Personally, that would be that’d be awesome. I don’t know how to ride a bike. Once I, I actually, I knew how to ride a bike at some point. And then supposedly, you’re not supposed to be able to forget that. But I did like my butt. No, we’re not ready. For that.

 

Monique 

Your your, your fascination with the Jewish magic. does that play into this spiral time and the Jewish calendar?

 

Ryn  

That’s a great question. Thank you. Yeah, so one of my favorite things about the Jewish calendar is that it’s not entirely solar or lunar. So like our calendar is the Gregorian calendar is mostly solar, right. So it’s usually connected with like the sun. And it’s always the same number of dates, and every month every year, and you’ll never have an extra month hanging up the calendar. But in Judaism, we have a solar lunar calendar. So it’s unlike the Muslim calendar, which is entirely lunar. So like, they can have Ramadan at any time of year, depending on what the year is. Like, sometimes it’s in the spring, sometimes it’s in the autumn. And, and in Judaism, you usually have the holidays pretty much in the same season that they usually are, but it can be a month or two different every year. And that’s because it’s like, mostly solar, but also kind of it’s mostly lunar, but also a little bit solar, I guess I would say. And what that how that works is that every every New Moon is the beginning of a month. So the beginning of this past month, which is Iyyar, which is the month of healing in Judaism 

 

Monique 

that’s the month we’re in right now? 

 

Ryn 

That’s the month we’re in right now. Yep, we’re about halfway through it is today is the, the 12th or 13th. of Iyyar, I think or maybe the 11th. It’s like always one or two days, almost always one or two days separate from the day on the Gregorian calendar. Well, not always, sometimes it’s like pretty off. But today, it’s mostly, you know, pretty close to the date. And then in the middle of the month is the full moon. So usually the 14th or 15th of the month is going to be a full moon. And then we end the month on this around the 30th within kind of waning or balsamic moon again. And that’s really beautiful way to mark time because I can always look at the date and be like, Oh yeah, I know what the moon looks like, or I can look at the moon and go, Oh, I know what day it is, which is really kind of funny, and really peaceful and beautiful way to connect time and place. Like quite literally, you know, so that always makes me really happy when I think about it. And then yeah, the reason that the calendar can be so different every year is because because we lunar, the we tend to we tend to shift away from like the seasons unless they throw an extra month in every few years. And that’s why they do that. So every three years, so years, there’s an extra month of Adar and Adar is called the month of what they all have certain names based on Kabbalah. So based on like mysticism, and so the month of Adar is like usually about joy. And that’s the month where the holiday Purim is and every few years you have to Adars so there’s Adar Aleph and Adar Bet and this year we had two. It didn’t mean that you celebrate the same holiday twice even though there’s there’s two of them. But you do have an extra an extra month to kind of get into the holiday celebrations, which is kind of cool. And so yeah, I just I really enjoyed the the cycles of Jewish time and I kind of like to think of it in kohenet tradition and like my priestess ordination tradition is more of a spiral than like a circle, necessarily. The spiral, or I guess with a circle like it sort of implies that you’re going around the same loop all the time, but with a spiral you’re like, you’re you might feel like you’re in the same place, but you’re always coming closer to something 

 

Monique

Yeah, 

 

Ryn 

You’re always kind of moving in a trajectory. I can feel maybe similar like, so like this one, this Iyyar is similar to last Iyyar from last year, but it’s still obviously a different time and a different place that we’re in. And so, yeah, so the spiral of it just sort of feels like important to mark the, the way that time shifts and flows through our own being and through, like the universe itself. And just yeah, things, things like that. So, yeah, just kind of thinking about time.

 

Monique

Yeah, I think about time too. And I sometimes feel like I’m a time bender, like, I sometimes feel like, I can feel the time slip and stream differently. And I’m out of sync with the world. And I feel that way, because I live with chronic illness. And I just time just means something different to me. And yeah, and I do like thinking of time as a spiral. And my experience of time as I’m on a spiral path. Because I as I many times I keep coming up against the same message, the same scenario, the same narrative, same rocks on the path, I stub my toe on the same rocks. And it’s different, but it’s the same. And I think that’s why it’s a spiral rather than a linear journey.

 

Ryn

Yeah, so agree, I think one way that most people in Western society tend to look at time is very linear. And like, also, this is kind of an academic word coming from my training, and that but a teleological only still like something that is not only linear, but also progressive, and that things are dependent on things that came before in a way that’s like advancing some sort of cause. So like, I guess, by which I kind of mean, like, yeah, like, I’m thinking about, like, the way that history is, is developed is traditionally in America’s in a in the US context seen as a teleological story. So like, oh, yeah, it was inevitable that this would happen. And I think that’s a very I don’t like that way of thinking because there’s no room for like, change or growth or for failure, or like any difference

 

Monique

No room for creativity. 

 

Ryn 

Yeah. Like, yeah, it’s just like, Oh, we’re, we’re the US. And we’re, you know, the best and we’re supposed to be like, no, like, we thought so. And that’s also very colonialist to like the kind of drive of like, oh, yeah, we’re always supposed to be here, Manifest Destiny kind of idea. So I feel like that kind of working against that as sort of one thing that the spiral way of time tries to do, I think, or ends up practicing, because we’re always moving from a perspective of like, things are always changing. And they don’t have to be totally linear or totally like, projected from like the past, based on what we’re kind of expecting like that, there’s always going to be some kind of difference or change going forward. And that feels much better to me than like, Oh, we’re, you know, this happened, because that happened in the past. And now like, I feel like I’m not explaining this very well. But like, yeah, just kind of thinking about the way that time moves forward as much more fluid than the way people sometimes think of it.

 

Monique 

Yeah, one thing I thought of when you were speaking about that fluidity of time and how it’s how you can be open to change, and it doesn’t, it’s not inevitable, the future is not inevitable. And I was thinking that, that it might be, even though cuz sometimes change can be quite frightening, right? So on the spiral path, even when it’s new, even when things are generative, and new. It’s familiar. So there can be there can be some security some some safety found within change, because there is a familiarity to it.

 

Ryn 

Yeah, I really liked that. That’s, that’s interesting. Yeah. And like, it can be helpful to see, oh, I stubbed my toe on that rock last time I’m gonna do it again. But like maybe learn something else from it, this can be helpful. And I think it’s also Yeah, really helpful to think of the future is not fixed because especially politically because I feel like when we’re thinking about ways to change the future, or the trajectory of history, it can be really disheartening to be like, Oh, it’s already set. You know, it’s already going to happen in a certain way. That’s usually not good for people, you know, for marginalized people especially and like, no, like, if we think of, you know, possibility, what’s possible. A lot of things are still possible, you know, even in like the wake of manifold disasters and institutionalized depressions and like things are still possible and that feels really important to, to name and to like strive for, I think

 

Monique 

things are still possible. I believe that truly and I’m fascinated by your creative writing process and world building and creating new characters and new stories. And I’m wondering if that helps to bolster a sense of that there are possibilities like you, you are actually put in using your pen on a piece of paper, or maybe you type on a computer, but you are somatically playing out a different reality.

 

Ryn

Right? Yeah, no, that’s, that’s great. Um, I think a lot about this term that I heard a few years ago speculative memoir, sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not quite like it’s it’s sort of a fictionalized autobiography of oneself. Which, you know, can kind of mean that you play a lot between the borderlands o

 

f fiction and nonfiction. And that’s like, a really fascinating place for me to think about, and I guess, that came up when, when you mentioned, you know, what you just said and kind of thinking about? I think I, I can’t remember where I read it, I think it was on. Well, it was online somewhere, maybe I’ll send you a link with I can find it in the future, but and you can add it to the show notes if you want. But yeah, just thinking about the way that speculative memoir or other kinds of fictionalized, nonfiction kind of enables you to kind of take more power in like the past also. So like, if something happened to you that you don’t want to relive, you can sort of rewrite that or like, write a different ending, or like, it can be really empowering, you know, you can kind of change something you can sometimes, I think one of the things that the people said in the article that I read about this was that sometimes a fictionalized version of what happened feels more true than the thing that actually happened. Which is something that comes across a lot in people’s work, when they write kind of fictional nonfiction or whatever that kind of, you know, paradox is, because sometimes it’s sort of the way that poetry sometimes can feel more touching than, like straight up prose. Because there’s something there’s something slantwise coming in through the meter, and the, the kind of verse that doesn’t always come through and like I did this, and then this happened. And then this happened, you know, the, like, kind of prosody of prose. 

 

Monique

Yes. 

 

Ryn

So yeah, it just, it seems like, so I guess to go back to your initial question, it seems like yeah, that writing fiction in a way that can address the full spectrum of possibility can really be productive in like a really generative way. And so yeah, for me, when I’m writing, I am often blending fact and fiction, and seeing that as a really potent place to grow and to address different possibilities that can emerge from that. And, yeah, like to give a brief example, I wrote a story a few years ago that I’m still trying to get published. So it’s like still being sent out. But I that’s kind of the writing life, but it’s a story about a, it takes place in like the 19, the late 19 teens in Brooklyn, and there’s, you know, a family of Jewish Jewish women and they live in like a tenement. And that’s all like, pretty historically accurate. And then there’s a demon that they see. And demons are actually pretty common in Jewish mythology and history, in the kind of folklore. And so it was really interesting to write that story and have it be like, kind of accurate to what the time would have been, but like maybe not factually accurate, like, whether or not we believe demons exist today. Like, right, you know, I don’t know, but like, there are certainly some forms of demons exist, I think, and whether whether or not they’re, you know, mystical is maybe another discussion. But yeah, I think it was really interesting to write that story. And to sort of think through how the people in it were sort of real in that they had real desires and real you know, thoughts and real motivations that people might have today or might have had back then it was just the like, the fantasy or the mythological components that weren’t quote unquote real but that we might still consider real because like, What even is exactly you know, so yeah, like reality can be very subjective and can very definitely vary from person to person depending on like, what you ask of them, which is why witness testimony is such a minefield sometimes because people always have a different story. So yeah. 

 

Monique 

Oh my goodness. Yes. Do you see me just sitting here looking at you with heart eyes? Yes, that was fab. I yeah, I think there’s demons walking around. I think there’s deep there’s demonic influence and I don’t see it as like the way that Hollywood portrays it but

 

Ryn 

Right

 

Monique

yeah I can get with the mystical and mythological side of life for sure I can. Yes. I’m trying to gather my thoughts together, because my mind is truly and well blown by what you’ve just shared with us. I wanted to circle back to you had at the very beginning mentioned that you have you’re in academia, you have the incomplete doctorate is that I am also incomplete in my, I didn’t do postgrad, but my graduate studies are incomplete. And it’s, it’s actually, I feel really bad about it. It’s a source of a little bit of shame. And it’s a source of sadness, and a source of anger as well. I’m like, I really wanted that. I really wanted that. And I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to complete it. But as we’ve discussed today, anything’s possible. So nothing’s inevitable. Maybe is some other timeline, Monique is completing her graduate degree. And I sometimes feel like an imposter and I in my life. And my vocation, and I know you have things to say about impostor syndrome, and how to how creativity can be a route a path, a path through that self doubt, do you?

 

Ryn 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, this is something I think about a lot. But also, because I spend a lot of my time being like, I’m making things up, and nobody’s called me on it. And they’re gonna figure it out eventually, that I’m like, not a real, you know, whatever. Which is always coming up. But yeah, I mean, to Yeah, to go back to my graduate program for a second I yeah, I guess, to be in a program for, you know, that span of time, or like, the span of time you were in your program I was in mind for, like, eight years, I think I said, and that’s like, yeah, that’s gonna leave a bit of a mark on like, how I conceptualize myself in the world and what I think about myself and like, yeah, it’s sort of just say, to some extent, like, Yes, you, you know, complete, I complete a master’s like, great, cool, but also, like, didn’t get the doctorate. Okay, fine. You know, there are a lot of reasons for that, which I can get into later if you’d like. But for now, it’s just law, a lot of a lot of stuff around. And, yeah. And so, yeah, kind of coming out of academia. And returning to my own practice, was a bit of a bit of like, I don’t know if I could swear, can I swear on this podcast?

 

Monique  

I think so.

 

Ryn   

It was a bit of a mindfuck. Honestly, like, it was a bit like, whoa, what to try to try to move from, from doing work in a very almost teleological sense to like a very, like, strict linear, like, do this, then do this, then do this, then do this because time moves in a very straightforward way. And you can’t go back you can’t, you know, turn away you can only go forward type of thing to move from that to like, okay, you can write for yourself now. And you can do anything you want was like what? Wait, what? It’s just very, very confusing and very difficult time. To like, kind of have all these barriers suddenly lifted, and also have myself back again, was was strange. I’m good, but like strange. And so. Yeah, so think about imposter syndrome. And creativity is kind of a little bit tricky, because I definitely think of myself as an impostor. Even in my creative work, even when I’m like trying to, you know, do it because it’s like, oh, yeah, like, there’s always a thing. Maybe this is true for every art form, but at least with writing for me, it feels like well, I may have written x number of essays, books, well, not books, but like essays, articles, fiction, stories, poetry, whatever, but I’m not going to be able to do anything else because obviously that was all alone, or something. And then like, the next thing that happens is like, oh, you know, I don’t know how to write anymore. And I get convinced that I can’t actually write anymore. I can’t I can’t do it. Because everything that comes out is garbage. You know? And so that there’s always this this this thing where that that phase just comes out for the first time every cycle in my in my writing life where it’s Nope, just trash. It’s just awful. Everything that comes out bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. And then I’m like, You know what, like, thinking about it? I think I heard this analogy from someone else but like, don’t critique your test pancakes like if you’re making pancakes and you’re like, you’re just making a couple to test out the batter like don’t call them shit. They’re just pancakes. They’re fine. If you’re practicing your your pancake, you know, technique. And so it’s been helpful for me to remember. And my wife is also really good at reminding me like, yes, it’s just practice, it’s okay. It’s not actually like high stakes, you’re fine. Like, you’re not going to die from writing badly, it is okay to just write something and have it be bad or good. And one of the things that my wife says that I especially love is they say something like, if you’ve written something bad, take delight in it, and cackle because you’re a witch who has created something magical, again, because of the power of like, the not caring or the like, I don’t give a fuck about how bad this is or not like the not caring about how it’s received, or how what the quality itself might be. It’s just made for me, that’s pretty powerful, actually, just being like, Oh, this is just something that I’m doing because I wanted to do it. And just the process makes it worth it. And in fact, the product is like, it’s not insubstantial. But it’s not the reason why we make art necessarily. Part of it is maybe but the process seems to be the key. Yes, to a lot of it. So. So yeah, I’d say this, the creativity is what runs through the that’s sort of how I run through the creative process, when I’m feeling a lot of imposter syndrome is like, Okay, remember, like, it’s about the process, have fun with it, which is hard. When you’re not having fun, it’s hard when you’re kind of hitting your head against a wall be like, well, this isn’t fun.

 

Monique  

Yes. And it’s ironic that it’s the process that’s triggering the, this isn’t fun, but it’s the process that’s gonna get you that’s gonna, you know, take you through that fun.

 

Ryn 

Exactly. And I just read a book, or I’m reading a book right now that I would recommend, which is called Revision as Spiritual Practice. And it’s by I have the name Elizabeth Jarrett, Andrew. And she talks about writing as like transformational. Writing is something that not only transforms your own practice of writing, but to transform you as like a being in order to revise something. And I was like, Oh, that’s so true. You know, like, of course, writing is, or any kind of art is going to be transformational in that sense, because you’re always going to be renewed and challenged by your work. And she also says in that book, like, if you find yourself not knowing what to do, go to the page, return to the page. And that just reminded me so much of like, return to the mat, and like yoga or return to like your seat in like Buddhist meditation practice in this like sit zazen and like sit due to your meditation, just keep going, just do it again. It’s a practice. And that really helped as well, to really think about it as a practice and less of a like, just final products kind of thing. Yeah, so I think a lot about that.

 

Monique  

I do I do too, right. And when you were talking about how you write sometimes and how it’s, it’s crap, and you’re like, I don’t know if that was the word you use, but you’re not pleased with it. I do that too. I’m learning watercolor right now. And, and I joyfully share my watercolor creations on my Instagram feed, and they look like a two year old made them. But I am so thrilled because I made that I had a thought in my head. I pulled out my paints and water and brushes and paper. And I taped the paper, put a whole ritual around there, right a whole little scenario happens. And I have fun when I’m doing it. I feel free. And I feel unbound from time and unbound from all the pains and the ickiness in my body, and I just paint, and then I share it because I want to share to show first I want to share my joy. And I just want to show people that art and creativity. It’s not in all caps. It’s not a capital letter. It’s not a private club. It’s open to everybody. Everybody’s creative. 

 

Ryn  

Yep. Absolutely.

 

Monique

Everybody, everybody has art everybody is art. And that’s why I share it. So yeah, my, my ugly art my primitive naive art. I’ve been calling it naive art because I’m untrained. But I’m curious. And that’s an interesting sound. It sounds like there’s a blue whale passing by the podcast.

 

Ryn   

I love that. I love the blue whale idea. A blue whale that is also a motorcycle like also a whale with like wheels

 

Monique  

and big mufflers instead of gills

 

Monique & Ryn  

**laughter**

 

Monique 

Well, as you know, this podcast is for Sanctuary of the Arts. That’s the online community that we’re starting to build and Sanctuary has very specific meanings to people. And I’m curious if you had thought about that word and if it has any meaning specific meaning for you, and and then tacked on to that. I’m curious if there’s times where your creative practice has been a sanctuary for you. And if you’re comfortable sharing a short story or a time when that was the case?

 

Ryn  

Yeah, absolutely. Um, the word to me has sort of Christian connotations, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just something that I’m always like, oh, like, I’m sure, yeah, it’s definitely a word that exists outside of Christianity too. But to me, it’s like, has this sort of Christian context, but the word that I associate with it, in the Jewish context would be Mishcon, which means dwelling? Yeah, and it’s, um, it usually refers to the triumph of the what? Why? Because I knew I was gonna forget, yeah, like the portable shrine, the tabernacle that

 

Monique

I was just gonna ask you to be the tabernacle, like the tent and the move like it would move with the people as they were through the wilderness.

 

Ryn 

Exactly. And I really love the idea of like, a portable sanctuary or shrine, yes, because it’s like something that you can always have with you. And it’s sort of, like in the Jewish context, it’s like a diasporic thing, right? Because, you know, we don’t have, or at least as a non Zionist, I’m like, I don’t have a homeland. This is my homeland, wherever I am, and like, my heart is my home type of place. My community is my home. And so yeah, just thinking about sanctuary as a place that is where you are. And that follows you is really powerful, I think. Because then it’s like, well, wherever you need to be, that’s where you are. And that feels really lovely. Yeah, so and then, as far as like stories, I don’t necessarily have a specific story. But one thing that I do that feels really magical, is every once in a while, every probably few months, I will, I will wake up at like, totally unexpectedly at like 4am or three or something, and not be able to go back to sleep, and then I’ll come outside, not outside, I’ll come out to the living room and sit on this couch and start writing with some music on. And I’ll just feel totally transported because the time is like so open because no one else is awake at that time. I mean, that I can say, you know, and it just feels really magical. And like really, like, time expands to be very slippery, I guess. All of a sudden, it’s like, Oh, time is just so big. And like anything can happen. And I can write for years and only seconds and or minutes. And that just feels really nice. Even though it’s always like the next day. I’m like, why did I do that? I’m so tired. At the time, it’s always like, Oh, this is wonderful. And it usually leads to some really interesting work that comes out of that. So to me that feels like a sanctuary. Like that feels like when the art is really coming through. And it feels like wherever you are, that can happen sometimes when you have a quiet hour, you know? And that’s Yeah, usually for me that’s like, up the middle of the night. But sometimes it can be like dusk, or like sunrise or, you know, mid morning and it just happens to be whenever there’s quiet time, or you can see the moon or something, you know, so it’s just really feels like a sweet time. 

 

Monique 

Yeah, it does feel like a sweet time. I like those moments as well there. It’s hard to put words around it. But some of the qualities when I’m in those moments, like you said, time is slippery time is spacious. And I feel both huge and like, my head is up in heaven and my toes are digging down into the soil. Like I feel completely rooted and grounded. But I also feel extremely expansive. It’s just such a magical place to be.

 

Ryn   

Just feel like that. somatically that’s so true. I wonder why that is? Yeah, it feels really expanded. Like it feels like the top of my head is sort of open. Yes, yeah.

 

Monique

There’s a poem I read. I don’t know, maybe 35 or 40 years ago, and I can’t even remember who wrote it. I just remember it was a Catholic nun. And she did a lot of like street ministry work and she was poet. And she was a social activist. And one of the lines from her poem was pretty much what I just said her that angels were combing her hair as her toes sunk into the soil, or the dirt and I’m paraphrasing because I just kind of remember the gist of it. And every once in a while I go down a Google rabbit hole trying to find this woman’s poetry and hopefully one day, it will come back to me her name and I’ll be able to find her poetry again, because I’ve just got that one line, but it summed up so well, many of my well, religious experiences just for lack of another another phrase, but those times when I feel I’m in the presence of something holy, when something beyond me, but absolutely within me. Yeah. That’s what I thought of when you when you were speaking of the tabernacle and how it travels, and the tabernacle is within the people, but the people are also in the tabernacle like it’s, yeah, it’s relationship.

 

Ryn 

Yeah, absolutely. Let me know if you ever find that poem. I’d love to read it,

 

Monique  

I will share it, I’ll get billboards, I’ll share it. I want to thank you very much for your generosity of time. I mean, this was really, really quite sweet really did my heart good to hear you. And I’m pretty sure that the other people listening are going to enjoy it as well. And I want to give you an opportunity to if there’s if there’s anything that’s been left unsaid if there was something else you wanted to share.

 

Ryn 

Um, I guess one thing I would say is that music is really important to me, I didn’t really get to touch on that too much. But I just wanted to share that I listened to music so much. It’s such a part of my practice. I think I have a Spotify subscription, which I feel mixed about, because it’s not a very good model for the people who are, you know, musicians, but I do listen it constantly. So I think last year, it told me that I had listened to 69,000 minutes of music. Wow, all year was like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. Because I pretty much listen from like dawn till dusk, you know, while I’m working or writing or doing something. And that just feels important to name because I think oftentimes I’m like, well, that’s going to have an effect, that’s going to have an impact on what I’m actually doing, right? Like, you can’t have that much stuff going through your mind without any result. And I usually find that it’s music that gets me into the like, spiritual state that I need to be in to write. And it doesn’t have to be like, spiritual music. It just can be anything that makes me feel a yearning or longing. And oftentimes, I know a lot of people who are writers talk about, you know, what made them realize they needed to write something like a book, or what, what gave them an idea for something or what the first scene that they were going to write about was, and when they realized that, and for me, it’s like, I don’t really think of scenes so much when I’m starting a project, but I do think of like moods, or vibes, I guess. So like, whenever I hear a song that is really going to connect with me, sometimes I’m like, Oh, the book is like this song. The book is like this song, it feels like this song. Or it feels like this chord change or even like this gesture. And so that can be really interesting to dive into when I’m working. Because I haven’t yet learned to translate a song into a book. So I’m working on it. But it’s something about Yeah, moving through. It’s something about the way songs and music moves somatically through the body, too, I think that it makes, you know, I mean, like, literally, you know, you can get chills listening to something right. And you literally have like goose flesh on your skin pimpling up and you can have your heart racing a little bit or beating faster, or stronger. And you could feel like the high of like the music. And so yeah, that’s really important to me when I’m working. And just thought it would be remiss if I didn’t mention that. So yeah, I’m just so curious about music and working with it. And that’s also why I’m hoping to do more music writing in the future. Yes, yeah.

 

Monique 

I was once working on, I had a grand idea to write a memoir. And I may still, I liked the idea that you were sharing earlier about the fictionalized memoir. I’m going to look that up after our conversation. But I was one of the tips that somebody gave me was, she told me about a website where you can say I’m trying to conjure up memories from 1978 that there’s this website I can go to and I type in the year and generally the genre of music that I enjoy, and it will play music from that year in that genre. And I can listen to it as I’m writing.

 

Ryn 

Wonderful. Yeah, that’s perfect time capsule. Yeah.

 

Monique 

Music is very evocative, and it’s one of our last sensations to go are lost faculties are our understanding and our memory of music. Hum, yeah. I mean, do you have a song right now that’s it. In pretty heavy rotation. 

 

Ryn

Yeah, Ihave. I’ll tell you the name of like the artist that’s been in my rotation for like the last five years, which is Agnes Obel. She’s a pianist and a vocalist. She’s Danish. So she’s released four albums, I think. And they’re all always on in my house. So she very melancholy, very beautiful stirring music. That’s kind of I would say, it’s like, yeah, it feels like it’s spinning through like my whole soul. Like it usually feels really beautiful. And it’s also a little dark. It’s like kind of melancholy but always feels good and sort of like feels transformative in a way to go through her music. So I would really recommend her her especially her later stuff. Yeah.

 

Monique

Okay, I will look that up. And I will, of course, create show notes and share with everybody who’s listening so they can easily find some of the things that you’ve that you’ve touched on. So again, thank you very much for your time, Ryn.

 

Ryn 

My pleasure. Thank you.

 

Musical Transition

 

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode Five

Today’s conversation is with Clare Morgan (they/them), an Anglican priest and artist living, working, and loving in unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ territory. They serve as pastor to the St. Brigid’s congregation at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, community director and co-chaplain of Hineni House, an intentional spiritual community of young adults affiliated with St. Margaret’s in the Cedar Cottage neighbourhood in 2017, and as a musician among the Inayati Sufi community in the Pacific Northwest.

We spoke about how creative practice can connect us to the divine, revisited the early days of the pandemic, discussed the political undertones of the concept of sanctuary, Clare shared a list of surprising musical influences, and we got rambunctious with hope and joy. 

Who inspires you? And how do you honour them?

What is your understanding of hope? 

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. 

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. This podcast is one of online offerings. We also have weekly creative sessions and seasonal events.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

 

Musical Transition

 

Monique

Hi, Claire, and welcome to our podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you. We’ve known one another for a great length of time. 

 

Clare 

Yeah. 

 

Monique 

This is like it’s gonna be a different way for us to have a conversation.

 

Clare 

Thanks for inviting me.

 

Monique 

You’re welcome. I’m curious, as way of introduction, where are you joining us from?

 

Clare 

Sure. I am joining you from unseeded stolen Squamish and Musqueam territory. I’m about 10 minutes away from walking from Senakw, which is a new development historically placed in part of the city where a settlement was. That was called Senakw and they have – the Squamish – have managed to reclaim that land and are building an absolutely beautiful development there. So I’m just kind of right near Kitsilano Beach, in a city that is currently known as Vancouver.

 

Monique 

Wonderful. Yes. And I am also similarly placed in so called Vancouver. So as you know, we’re just starting to build up this little online community Sanctuary of the Arts, or as we affectionately refer to it as SotA. 

 

Clare 

Yeah. 

 

Monique 

And I guess what comes to mind is well, first off, you what is your I know you as an extremely creative person. But how about you share with people who are listening? What are some of your creative practices?

 

Clare 

Sure, I mean, yeah, I It’s hard to narrow down just one because I, I love all creative processes. Probably the things that I would say I practice with the most proficiency and skill are music and writing. But I also do visual art. And I’ve done like a little bit of things like dancing, not much, but a little. And, yeah, like, just kind of, I just, I just love to create things.

 

Monique 

Well, if it’s not too bold later on, maybe if if you’re willing, if you could share one of your compositions, 

 

Clare 

oh, sure

 

Monique 

would even be okay. I didn’t even ask you that previous to recording. So you’re welcome to say “no, Monique”.

 

Clare   

I mean, I’m gonna have to think about what it would be but sure.

 

Monique 

That’s kind. And I didn’t ask you if you wanted to introduce yourself, forgive me. Is there, would you like to introduce yourself? 

 

Clare 

Sure. I’m Claire, my pronouns are they, them, theirs. And I am an Anglican priest, in the Diocese of New Westminster. I am a Celtic harpist. I am a writer, although I mostly write for the church and for myself. Yeah, that’s, that’s that’s me. I guess.

 

Monique  

That’s Clare in a nutshell. I’m thinking that you might have had some thinks, some thoughts around spirituality, and having an art practice, I just get that sense there considering what you do as your vocation. Do you see a relationship between the two between creativity and spirituality? And if you do, what are some of the qualities that relationship?

 

Clare 

Yeah, definitely. I mean, at its deepest level, I think that all art is a reflection of spirituality in a certain sense, because it is the very fact that we call it Creativity to me links it to a creator. Perhaps it is our creativity and our art that is the the trait that people of the book, say God gave to us to make us like God, I sometimes wonder if that might have been what it was. I think we’ve focused in the past too much on it being our reason and skill, whatever that might be, but I wonder if it might be our creativity. That was the piece that God gave to us. That made us like God, and the definitely the music that I do. It hasn’t necessarily always been the case but probably for like most of my career as a harpist, which has been about 20 years now, the vast majority of that time, the bulk of the work that I’ve created has been spiritual in nature. I went through, you know, my years as a tortured young artist who wrote love songs, and I occasionally still do, but for the most part, I write spiritual and religious music, to be shared in settings that are spiritual in nature. And then the writing that I do, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve done things like poetry, and a lot of the poetry that I’ve written has also been spiritual in nature, I would say that the most consistent practice of writing that I have week by week is sermons. So that’s quite explicitly religious in nature. But I’ve also done you know, blogging, and I’ve written some short stories and novels. And those have been like, I’m sort of interested in fantasy and that kind of thing. And even when I haven’t necessarily written them about things that are explicitly spiritual or religious, it comes in there just because I’m interested in that kind of stuff. So anytime that I come up with, like, I love world building. And usually, the part that I’ll spend the most time on is like, what is the theology of this culture that I’m inventing, because I’m really geeky about that kind of stuff. So I can’t really escape it. It’s not that I’ve never made anything that was sort of, you know, just secular. But I don’t even really know if I necessarily believe that things are just secular. I think that our sense of the world has a spiritual dimension, even if we might not necessarily classify it that way. You know, it just kind of exists and bleeds into anything that someone might create.

 

Monique 

I agree with you. Yeah, I think spirituality, religion, and faith, I’ll fold that in there are all just have different names, and people perceive it differently. But I do believe that we all have that it’s part of our nature, our innate nature, just part of being alive. Yeah. I’m curious if there’s been a time in your life when where you have where art has been a sanctuary for you, and maybe even exploring a little bit about what that word sanctuary means for you.

 

Clare 

It’s a great word, it’s, um, it’s both. Maybe this is just because I was watching a video the other day, exploring the Hunchback of Notre Dame in great depth. But it’s like, it’s this word that implies escape and solace. But has this very political edge to it as well, in a sense, which I think is really interesting. Well, you know, honestly, like, so, when I first was considering that question, I was remembering a couple of times where, when I’ve been at my most busy, and even sort of like, challenged or at odds with myself or the world around me, I haven’t often managed to create a lot. And there were sort of a couple of instances where the moment that I actually gave myself some space, usually on retreat was when songs came to me. But you know what, that’s not necessarily how I want to answer because, frankly, the pandemic was at the beginning of it was just a massive, like, shift in I was just writing and writing music every single day. So I produced this set of songs called the quarantine hymns, and the first 10 all occurred within I think, the first month that I was in social isolation. And just literally like every one to two days, a new song would come. And usually, I mean, it depends on my mood. But a lot of the time, it’s actually quite difficult to write. There are times where songs seem to just like fall out of the air, but more often, it takes time for me to kind of come up with like one or two phrases, either with lyrics or a tune, and then I have to find a way to put them together and it’s kind of laborious, but this time they just flowed, and I recorded a few of them. And I was sort of surprised that like, normally the stuff I write, I don’t know what it is about me, it tends to be like, between four and five minutes, my songs just like settle in that but there were some that were only like two minutes. And they just felt like this perfect encapsulation of how I was feeling in that moment. And part of why I’m so interested in sort of going back and exploring them is just realizing like, how each one has just a completely different set of emotions, and how I just flew back and forth between them. And you can feel the difference. Like there are some that are quite meditative. There are some that are angry, there are some that are anxious. There’s one that I wrote, When I found out that church would be canceled and closed. And there’s this descending line in the right hand that’s just booted. It booted. It booted it booted in it. It reminds me of how I just felt completely unmoored and anxious because I was like, This has never happened in my life, ever that they’ve closed the churches. So I it within the first month or so I wrote 10 of these songs. And then a huge span of time went by. And then another one came, right after I got my first dose of the vaccine, which I got early because I was working in a care home. So I counted as an essential worker. And so that one was written on like boxing day, I think, because I got my shot on Christmas Eve. So it must have been written Christmas Day.

 

And then I think there were like maybe a week or two after that the last one got written. And it was about my experience, working in the care home, being cohorted, or isolated to just one floor. When I went in and having to spend my Christmas season not being with anybody but these elders, most of whom had pretty severe dementia. And house, most of them were Christian, but there were a few that were Jewish. And so I was doing my best to do like Hanukkah songs and Christmas songs. Because those would be the things that they would remember. And I just the how strange and kind of beautiful it was to be in this space where I was kind of frightened to go into work, it was pretty safe. The the virus like we had an outbreak and the virus never made it to the second floor. So that’s where I was where I was cohorted. But every day, we were afraid that it would. And we none of us were vaccinated at the time. So there was just this sense of unease and and the folks that I was caring for, you know, because they had dementia, they didn’t know what was happening and they didn’t under like you can’t really easily keep folks isolated when they have dementia because they wander and so we had to do our best to kind of keep them in their rooms without like shutting the door on them. Because that would be incredibly terrible to do. So what we often would do is that I would station myself at opposite ends of the corridor and play for a few minutes, like, you know, half an hour here half an hour over there in the front room where technically they weren’t really supposed to be congregating. But they were because you’re not going to try and be keeping people apart when it’s not necessarily possible. And just spending like my shifts were probably about four hours. And I would spend three of those hours generally singing and playing. And I hadn’t done that since I was a kid busking on the street, you know, I was just exhausted at the end of each day. And yet it was so incredibly healing because none of us had ever spent a Christmas like that, where we couldn’t be with our families. We couldn’t do the things that we would do to mark the season. And I I couldn’t even like my mum was living at home at the time. But she also had dementia and was kind of fragile. And so I wasn’t seeing her in her home. We weren’t allowed to even be mixing households. I couldn’t even hug her. But I could be with these elders and share with them. And the the last song that I wrote was just kind of about what it was like to be in that environment. And I kept thinking that one more would come that was more hopeful. Because when I wrote the first 10 the lat the 10th one was quite hopeful and really upbeat. And then this last one It just because there’s 12, I don’t know, there’s this weird superstitious part of me that doesn’t want there to be 13 of them. But at the same time, it that sort of. There’s a hopefulness in that last one. But it’s, it’s a bit sombre. And honestly, that feels right for the situation that we’re in. Like, I feel like right now, the vibe, at least in BC is that well, it’s all done. And, you know, yeah, we still have to be a little bit cautious. But, you know, we’re all going to get it anyway. So we shouldn’t be fretting about it anymore. And I’m just like, that is not how we should be managing this. You know, for some people, it’s still just as dangerous as it ever was. And, frankly, like, we’re never going to go back to what it was like before. We will probably increasingly inhabit a world that looks more like what it was before. But like, millions of people are dead. And we have to reckon with that before we just charge headlong into pretending that we haven’t lived through this massive earth shattering experience. So it’s, like I was just really surprised at how furiously I wrote during that time. Like, that’s never really happened to me before. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve been, like, relatively productive, but that meant that I would write like, two songs in a week. Maybe not like 10 in a month. It was wild.

 

Monique 

Yeah, I had an an opposite experience my creativity practice dried right up. I say “I clenched” my nervous system just went, Oh, shoot. This is happening. And I just really clammed up and I had a hard time getting back into a creativity practice. Yeah, hopeful yet sombre, that is kind of that is kind of the general temperature for our times, I would say. The other day somebody sent me this little. I think the word is a meme. I don’t truly understand that word, meme. But this little phrase about somebody had to find hope as beat up and kind of scruffy and determined. And that’s when I’m talking about with hope. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about something very fluffy, very apathetic, very inactive. My hope is active. My hope is, my hope is assertive, my hope is disruptive.

 

Clare 

Put that on it. Put that on an image macro. That’s good, assertive, I agree with you. I think that sometimes when I’m talking to people about hope, I can tell that what they mean is optimism. And I think there’s actually a pretty profound difference. For me, I think what I usually tell people I always talk about this in Advent, and I’m obviously obsessed with the image but I say it for both hope and joy. They both have teeth. For me. I don’t think that they’re fluffy emotions. I don’t think that they’re sunny emotions. Like to me that’s the difference between optimism and hope and happiness and joy, is that hope and joy have teeth and they exist in opposition to despair. But they’re colored by despair, and they’re both much more – I don’t know – I think that anyone can experience joy but I think hope in particular is the more mature of the emotions that it it and yet irrational. It’s I think, I think hope and stubbornness are sisters.

 

Monique  

Yes, they are. They’re certainly sisters or close cousins. They’re very closely related. Um, as you were speaking, I was noticing how sparkly you get when you speak of music. I am curious, I know that we don’t exist or we don’t create in a vacuum and are there are some people who have influenced you any artists or genres or movements that you you draw from?

 

Clare 

Wow, that’s a great question. Not a lot of people ask me that. The question that everybody always asks me is why did you choose harp and I’m at the point in my life where I kind of want to just like make up a bunch of fake reasons and just tell them that because it’s such a

 

Monique 

because it was the cheapest thing at the music store.

 

Clare 

yeah. Because it’s like, I kind of get the feeling that I always well, I don’t think I actually disappoint people when I tell them the story, but it just it’s like a really boring story. It’s just like, I wanted to, and someone helped me make it happen. Like it’s, it’s a kind of how everybody learns how to how to learn to play something, and people will say, Oh, but it’s such an unusual instrument. But I’ve never met anyone who has been like, I would never want to play the harp like everyone who talks to me is like, Oh, I’d love to play. I’m like, well, then it’s probably not really that unusual. If everybody wants to play it. Like the unusual part is getting a chance to get your hands on one because they’re not easy to find. And they’re expensive. But yeah, influences. Well, it’s, it’s kind of all over the place, because like, I’ve got the ones that I think people would expect. So like Loreena McKennitt is probably like a huge influence. I was really into her music when I was younger, especially and still I love her work. And like there’s other folks that might not be as expected but might be a little bit more like people would say, oh, yeah, I can hear that in your music. So I’m somebody like Imogen Heap like I love her work. It’s very like playfully mystical. I kind of love be orcs work like her earlier stuff. I’m crazy about Tori Amos. She’s like really great. And I you know, I came of age in the 90s. So I was really into Sarah McLaughlin when she was a thing like all of though, and Jann Arden, like all of those kind of Lilith Fair types. But when I look back on my own history, like, there’s also people who are kind of more unexpected, like I’m actually someone who I consider to be a big influence was Seal. I love his music. And it when I was a kid, I, this tells you about the date myself, I bought one of his albums, specifically, because there was one track on it that I wanted. Remember, when we used to do that you had to buy a whole album just for one track. I don’t remember what it was called. I think it was just like an eponymous, like, you know, called “Seal” or something. And it had a lot of like, I still would have trouble today classifying what kind of music was on there, it was the same kind of very, almost mystical, just strange. That kind of, yeah, almost a sombre attitude in it. And he’s got such a beautiful voice, you know. And Celine Dion too, like I loved her stuff. And sometimes when I kind of let go a little bit, and I’m singing something more gospel, I’m like, I can hear a little bit of the way that she approaches that kind of thing. And I loved her when I was a kid, too. She has, you know, she doesn’t tend to really write a lot of her own music. But there are a few tracks that I that I come back to and I’m like, Oh, this is, you know, she did some stuff with Corey Hart, where it just like the the lyrics were just kind of profound and weird and cool. And I don’t know, her, her album falling into you had a lot of stuff on it that had that same kind of ethereal quality. That and that one. She had, she had that in some of her other albums. But that one in particular, didn’t sound quite like anything else she had done. There was just a lot of very interesting stuff going on in there. And I can I can hear some of that coming up in my own work, for sure.

 

Monique 

Well, I can honestly say that was a very surprising response. I’m glad I asked that question.

 

Clare 

I’m a big metalhead too. Like, I love that kind of stuff as well. But I haven’t done like when I when I compose I don’t tend to compose so much in that style. I was in a rock band when I was in the UK, but mostly what I would write would be the lyrics and they would all often have that kind of that kind of ethereal vibe. Even when the guys that I played with would do kind of more like hard stuff. But yeah, like I that that part of me. Does, does exist. There’s a there’s an old there’s an old band called Live that I would also say like I went through a phase where I wrote a lot of stuff in that style that kind of, it’s not quite grunge. It’s a little bit too melodic. But yeah, that same kind of like, strange. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe the mood that it gets me in, but I remember it kind of bringing me into this meditative kind of state. Yeah, that’s what I’m aiming for a lot of the time and, and provoking and thoughtful. I really like to, like I asked sometimes when I so most of the stuff that I write, I would say that I have conversations with God. Sometimes I write from the perspective of God. But a lot of the time, like, I’ve asked some hard questions of God in my music. And I’ve had some big feelings.

 

Monique 

Yeah, yeah, music is a great container. It’s some well, as you were alluding to earlier in our conversation, it’s kind of one of the last faculties but one of the last refuges of the mind as the mind if one is sinking into dementia, music, and smells are two of the things that remain. Yeah, I’ve seen it many times someone will be lost and confused. And then a familiar song comes on and the whole persona changes and the person becomes present. And 

 

Clare 

oh, yes, 

 

Monique 

Music is so powerful.

 

Clare  

I saw that so much in my work. Yeah. Often the the words will disappear, but the tune remains. And yeah, people just magic things happen. It is this profound. Like, truly, I mean, I think it’s a sacred act like it, it, I’ve just seen it, do the most amazing things and engage people and break down walls, I always tell people that I think the only thing that will save humanity is like music and food. It is the things that we all have in common. And they somehow managed to transcend every other barrier that we have. I mean, you might not necessarily respond positively to another cultures, music, if it comes across as odd to you, but like, you don’t like the language doesn’t matter. I don’t think your ability really matters. I know that I mean, that. It really makes me angry. Actually, I know so many people, so many, who will, you know, after I’ve played they’ll tell me like how much my music meant to them. And, and my voice like people have, you know, if I’m in church without an instrument, but I’m still singing, they’ll, they’ll tell me that they like the sound of my voice. And then they’ll say, Oh, I could, I could never, like I’m terrible at it. And I always, I, as I get older and I give less of a care. I’ve started asking people like who told you that? Someone told you that at some point, you’re probably very little when they did. And like, it’s not, it’s not like I think every single person will be an amazing singer, if they just unlock their potential. There’s going to be some people who are tone deaf or who like will never be amazing at it. But who cares? Like, there are so many cultures where singing together is just a part of the cultural activity. And I’m really sure that no one goes through the whole village or whatever, and is like, oh, so and so is a really bad singers. So why don’t you just mouthed the words? Like, you know, I think I mean, I think it’s just white people that do that. But also like, going to the question that you told me about about? Is everybody creative? Like I think yes. And I think that everybody has the capacity to create something. And it’s I do think that especially in the sort of Occidental culture in like the white West, we have this notion that like, you are born with a talent, and if you have the talent, you should do the talent. And if you don’t, you just shouldn’t bother. And I just think that that, like contributes to soul death. And like, perhaps maybe there’s a book to be written about, like how that is a feature of like, being wedded to capitalism as a system, like this notion that like, Oh, if you can’t, if you can’t do it well enough to market it, then why bother? And maybe that’s the way that they kind of keep us all satisfied with the crumbs that they give us. Like because we’re not gaining this sense of joy and empowerment from making things. Like, I just think that if you want to make something or create something, you should do it. And who cares if it matters to anyone but you, because the very act of doing so brings you closer to I think the thing that created everything, like I just don’t understand why we would ever want to police. I mean, I do understand why people police that there’s very clear reasons why. Because I think once people do, like when you do create things, and when you are able to engage with the world in this way, like just by nature, creating something puts out a new perspective on the world. And maybe people don’t want us to have access to that. Because it every piece of art that a person puts forth is a challenge on the established order. Yeah, I don’t know. That’s just a sense that I have.

 

Monique 

I’m right there with you. I’m standing beside you, my fist is raised I’m there in solidarity. I’m there with my teeth bared.

 

Clare 

Yeah

 

Monique   

 Oh, I just have well I just want to offer you the I want to leave it there and I want to add another question because I think he just so much so well, and my I think I nodded my head off my shoulders over here in agreement, but wondering is there anything left unsaid Is there anything else that you would like to offer?

 

Clare 

I don’t really know that there is like, make art, do crimes. 

 

Monique 

Get messy.

 

Clare 

Let your art just take over the world. The image that just came into my head. So back in I think 2007 my husband and I visited Cuba and we were going through Havana I guess and there were these buildings. I don’t know if they were just very old and had been neglected or if it was like a product of something like an earthquake or a hurricane. So there were these buildings throughout different parts of the city that had just kind of fallen apart. And I think through the initiative of the government artists had been allowed to go in and like paint the remaining walls and plant things and put benches in and they became these beautiful like green spaces and contemplative spaces in the middle of the city. And I always thought about how beautiful that was that like this. Art should be as public as possible people should be able to eat of course but like it’s it is a public service and it is, it is necessary for the flourishing of humanity. I just like plant seeds in the rubble and dance there. In whatever way you can. There’s a million there are as many ways to do so as there are people on the planet of course. 

 

I guess actually now that I’m thinking of that I had speaking of hope. I had this hilarious moment of hope a couple of days ago. So I was watching silly videos on Facebook and there was one that had been shared from Tik Tok of a guy who found a video of a cat on a fence and you know how when cats get really freaked out, they make these weird noises almost like they’re talking like rah rah rah rah rah. And this guy had gone and made an entire song with the audio chat. He plugged it into a mixer and had auto tuned it and made a hook out of it. And then he created a whole song around it. And I was like, Oh, this is like great. I listened to it like four times I was like, this really slaps I’m into it. And then I noticed that he’d made more videos so I was on this rabbit hole watching them and then in some of them other folks because this is how tick tock works. Other folks had layered themselves in so you had a video that started with a cat that was going rah rah rah rah rah. And then he’s in it doing vocals and beats. A girl was playing the violin, another girls playing the flute and he actually mentions in the video a little comment pops up. And he was saying, this girl playing the violin is on this side of the planet. This girl playing the flute is on the other side of the world. It was like I don’t know, Brazil and Russia or something like that. And they’ve never met in person and they’ve never seen each other and yet because they were both you know, following the beat. They were playing together like they were to beat like they would in the same room. And I was like this is like hilarious like we’re so as a creature. We are so innovative, in like being cruel to one another and messing up the planet. And yet we can also create art together out of anything like it was so beautiful to see them playing together. And also I was like they’re doing this because a guy made a video about a cat making weird noises. It was just the most wonderful. It gave me this profound sense of hope. And yet I was incredibly amused by it because I was like this is this is humanity at its best. Messing around having a good time. And art just gives us the chance to do that. It’s not based in like you can just hang out with people and make stuff like this for nothing. Like it’s great if you could, you know, artists should be paid for their work because they’re performing an incredible service to humanity, but also like the joy that comes from working with other people or from just making your own stuff. Like it just there’s something within that. That mirrors the abundance that I see in my own in my own relationship with God just like abundance and love pouring out and it can’t be contained. Make art.

 

Monique 

Make art. Let’s leave it at that. Make art everybody make a mess, make art. Thank you, Clare.

 

Clare 

Thank you.

 

Musical Transition

 

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode Four

We’re in conversation with Helen Kwok today. Helen’s a Vancouver-based artist who follows her fascination wherever it leads, exploring many avenues of creative expression: intuitive collage, quilt design, watercolour, urban sketching and mixed media in altered books. She remains dedicated to the handcrafted art form by exploring the tactile and textural possibilities of materials and pigments,. Her work evokes a sense of simplicity, naturalness and spontaneity. To play, to experiment and to see what divine inspiration reveals, all this keeps the creative process fresh and meaningful. Throughout this art journey, she has learned to trust, let go of control and surrender to the creative force that offers up many unexpected and mysterious treasures.

What is your true nature? Where do feel most alive?

What arises when you try out a new creative practice? How do respond to new experiences?

Helen’s Instagram: @omniamuse
 
A few of the topics Helen touched on:
 
Intuitive collage
 
The Lingnan School of Chinese Art
 
 
St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary is an arts-based, contemplative Anglican community in Vancouver, BC; the gathering priest, Melanie, is the founder of Sanctuary of the Arts and this podcast.

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. 

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. This podcast is one of online offerings. We also have weekly creative sessions and seasonal events.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

 

Musical Transition

 

Monique

Helen, welcome to the podcast. And maybe as a way of introduction, you could begin by telling people where you are where you’re where you’re zooming in from,

 

Helen

I’m in Vancouver.

 

Monique   

Wonderful. And we’re having we’re enjoying spring right now, aren’t we? 

 

Helen

Yes. Very different weather all the time.

 

Monique 

Yeah. Weather, and lots of blossoming trees, the blossoms are giving me a lot of inspiration. I’m trying to capture them in watercolours. And I would love to hear about your practice. I know you primarily as a watercolour artist. And I’m curious. Yeah. How would you tell us about your practice?

 

Helen 

Yes, in the past, I was doing a lot of watercolours. So that’s how you seen my work. And I really liked that medium, because it’s very spontaneous, it’s very playful, and you get a lot of unexpected results. I can’t really control it. So I really liked that aspect of it. And one thing about watercolors is sometimes I have to look at something when I’m drawing from painting. So just recently, maybe about a year ago, I decided to try something new. And it’s called intuitive collage.

 

Monique 

Intuitive collage? Sounds like something that I would be very interested in, could you tell me more? 

 

Helen 

Well, I make my own handmade papers, like paint on them, I make color for them. And, and then I combine them into collage. So I use a textbook, an old discarded textbook, and I put it on the pages. And so the book is full of them, it cannot even close. It’s just so packed full of collages, because I like to keep them in one place. So I can just look at them and see the progress every day.

 

Monique  

That’s wonderful. So you have an old textbook, and then when you make a collage, you put it inside that textbook. So it’s become like a journal of 

 

Helen

Yes, that’s right

 

Monique

a repository of your collages.

 

Helen   

Right.

 

Monique 

My goodness. And you make and you create the fodder that your collage is made up of. It’s got layers and layers of your artwork woven into it. 

 

Helen  

Yes. So, what I take is I would just take recycled items like say, paper bags, that I’m getting ready to recycle, I’ll just open them up and use them as a surface for the medium. Or I’ll take recycled drawings that I’ve done in the past that I no longer need. So I’ll use my drawings as a base that already has some some kind of marks on it. And sometimes I’ll just use plain paper or rice paper or tracing paper and I’ll put acrylic paints on them inks even these house paint any kind of medium just like the playful experimentation of seeing what happens when you get beautiful papers that can make no other way except maybe through accident or or something so it’s related to my watercolours but not.

 

Monique 

Yes, you can see how it would be related in that you can’t really control there’s a there’s a letting go of control of letting the process happen. 

 

Helen

Yes, 

 

Monique  

I sometimes I sometimes paint with teas, herbal teas and matcha tea and even just crushed up berries. I sometimes use that for paint. I use house paint as well. I use whatever and I I take a, I’ll break down cardboard boxes and prime them and then use that as a painting surface.

 

Helen

Yeah, when you were speaking about using teas and matcha teas. I’ve also used coffee as dyes. And recently I found some metal rusted metal in the street. So I would just put it on top of paper and put it out in the rain and let that do something to the paper and get this kind of really deep, rusty orange papers.

 

Monique

Oh, I’m going to try that. I have some tin cans that I put in my planters out on my patio to get rusty. Because I really like to do eco eco printing. And you and rest helps to get the tannins out of the leaves to transfer it on the I use paper, but many people use fabric. That’s a great, I think we would have fun playing together in the art studio. 

 

Helen   

That’s right. 

 

Monique 

We have very similar practices very, sounds very playful to me. Your practice is playful.

 

Helen

It is playful. It is experimenting and just seeing where it goes. Because you don’t know you’re not planning to make something happen. You’re just in the process of in the moment.

 

Monique   

Yes, yes, it’s that process. I really appreciate how you you’re making, you’re creating the elements that are going into the collage that really speaks to me, I find that I knit knitting is one of my primary hobbies. But I’ve gotten to the point right now where I don’t even sew in the ends of my sweater like I leave. I might be wearing one right now. I think it’s at the back so that I can very easily unravel the sweater when I don’t like it anymore. And then make a new sweater.

 

Helen

Yeah. It’s not really precious to you is the medium for creative expression.

 

Monique  

Exactly. So this podcast is for, for our emerging contemplative arts community Sanctuary of the Arts. And I’m curious if art has been a sanctuary for you, if you’ve found sanctuary within your art practice or another person’s art practice?

 

Helen  

Well, I think when I’m doing the collages I find a place where you feel free, you’re not really constrained. And you can just express yourself and just find the kind of peace and calm and just somewhere where you don’t really even have to think. So I find it is kind of a contemplative, that state, as well. So I don’t do meditation or anything, but I would imagine that’s how it would feel.

 

Monique

Yes, that’s Yeah, I agree. That yes, thanks. And never put the two together. But sanctuary is very related to meditation in the, in the states of mind that one seeks in meditation, that sense of freedom that you mentioned, and also, of just being. Being present. And,

 

Helen   

Yes. Just also just connecting to yourself, What is your true nature? And who are you? And so when I’m just being myself and creative, and that’s what I feel I’m just most me. That’s kind of a refuge, I think, to find refuge in yourself.

 

Monique  

Wow. I think if one can be at peace with oneself, then I think that’s freedom. I mean, that’s liberty. Right? Because I think most of our suffering is we cause we, we cause a lot of our, our internal talk and judgments and stuff like that can cause a lot of suffering. Of course, there’s a lot of internal suffering. I don’t want to downplay that. But, yeah, art, then can be a sanctuary in that in that sense of just allowing yourself to be allowing, without judgment, right.

 

Helen 

Yes, that’s right.

 

Monique 

That’s allowing the expression of yourself that’s lovely. Is there an artist that has that inspires you? It’s kind of a question out of the blue, I didn’t.

 

Helen  

Well, maybe about maybe 20 years ago, I started studying Chinese painting. And then I met a teacher. And I studied with him for four years. And in Chinese painting, it’s a similar state, like you are in the meditative state, and you’re doing things that are, you know, very spontaneous, very simple, very natural, so that that really spoke to me learning Chinese painting. He was very supportive, very encouraging. And I never done Chinese painting before so it was just a whole brand new thing. I decided to learn. I don’t know if you’ve seen those Chinese paintings where it’s just a brush, one brush, and then you just leave it, you don’t go back and you don’t change it. So if you want to do petals of a flower, and just spontaneous healing that comes out, after you have a lot of practice, then you can just do it.

 

Monique 

Okay, I, when we’ve finished our call, I’m going to look up Chinese painting, so it’s just one stroke. And is it those big long brushes with the big thick bristles at the end? We can use really inky liquidy ink and you 

 

Helen  

But also use colour as well. 

 

Monique  

Okay. 

 

Helen 

I’ll tell you about it. Because Chinese painting school is Lingnan. Lingnan painting. It’s a very interesting school of painting.

 

Monique  

Lingnan

 

Helen  

L – I – N – G – N – A – N

 

Monique 

Thank you. Um, for me, it feels like that would be really nerve wracking. Having to, like, it would take a degree of confidence to have one stroke be your statement.

 

Helen 

So that’s why he would give us a painting and we would actually try to copy it. So you’re doing a lot of practice a lot of muscle memory. So once you kind of like have that many, many pages of practice, then you just kind of like, forget about your practice, and then you just do it. So it’s also letting go. Also surrendering to that moment.

 

Monique 

It’s like a riddle for me, like having to have the confidence to let go and and then letting go and realising it didn’t take confidence. It just took a little bit of faith.

 

Helen   

Right. I was just about to say that word trust. just trusting. Yeah.

 

Monique 

Yeah, that sounds like a very spiritual practice that

 

Helen 

I think it was, but I didn’t even know it at the time, but not looked back on it. I feel that was very spiritual. Yeah.

 

Monique    

Yeah, I feel very connected to my spiritual practice, when I’m deep in creativity, I feel most connected to a source, an internal source and an external source. Like, it’s like, all sorts of boundaries just dissolve. And I’m just I don’t know, floating in this, you know, realm of possibility. And I’m just kind of a conduit.

 

Helen 

Yeah, exactly. Ah, I feel the same way. You, you think that you are making the work. But you’re not making the work because it’s, it doesn’t take effort is just flowing through you. So you’re not struggling. Or you’re not striving. You’re just kind of really open and just following and following. 

 

Monique   

That’s beautiful. 

 

Helen 

And I only kind of learn this because of doing intuitive collage. You know, this is nothing to look at, for you to interpret, to copy. Because it’s just all of these abstract papers. You don’t even know how they’re going to end up. But somehow, they all just fall into place. I can’t explain it except for the divine.

 

Monique    

That’s wonderful. Would you say that that is a bit of a parallel to your faith journey to your own? That it just kind of falls into place? There’s an element of trust?

 

Helen 

Yeah, with faith journey. I think it’s a lot of searching. I’m always still searching and trying to learn more about my faith journey. What is it? So in art, I think I’m always doing that too. I’m always trying to find out where do I need to go? What do I need to do next? What do I need to learn or? So I’m never going to arrive? But that is that is the journey. 

 

Monique 

Have you had any of your questions answered? 

 

Helen 

No, maybe I just probably won’t, but, you know, I’m also doing a lot of Bible study, which I’m not, you know, I’m not a Christian. So I just didn’t know anything about Christianity. So I was invited to join some Bible studies and I will use I want to learn more or like I want to know the truth. So a lot of the things I learned from the Bible study of Jesus, it also relates to our art, and how, you know, we’re to become more or, you know, where do you do the will? You know, that kind of things? It’s just also related. So parallel.

 

Monique 

Do you think everyone is creative? Do you think everybody has an art in them?

 

Helen 

Everyone’s creative, but I know as kids, we all did art. So we started off in the artistic way. But somehow, maybe some people told some child, no, you can’t do it. Or you’re not artistic. So you know, they got criticism. Yeah, so if they could find some other avenue to be creative. That’s good, too. But cooking or gardening? It’s so many definitions that people don’t think of.

 

Monique 

Yeah, I agree with you. I think the definitions of creativity they’re, it’s broad. It’s not so narrowly defined.

 

Helen 

But I wonder if I would be creative if somebody had told me well, no, you’re not good at it. So don’t even don’t even think about doing it. But, you know, luckily, I wasn’t ever told any of that. I never got any bad feedback. I always got good feedback, and always got encouragement. So I’m just wondering, maybe that was just so helpful to fostering that creativity.

 

Monique  

That’s a good point. I also received a lot of encouragement and a lot of opportunity. And both my parents are creative. So it’s just kind of the environment that I grew up in.

 

Helen   

Yeah, I don’t even think my parents knew what I was doing. I don’t think they ever even saw paintings of mine, because I probably never brought it home and showed it. Right. They never showed it to them. I can’t remember saying oh, look at my painting. So so they couldn’t have seen it. And, you know, said anything, except teachers thought so. So they were the important part.

 

Monique 

Right? Were you the type of child who would hide away somewhere and work for hours on whatever you were working on. I used to I used to write stories I used to hide in my, in the backyard in my little fort and I would write stories for hours. Was there something when you were a child that just occupied so much of your time?

 

Helen 

Well, I remember mostly doing art, but it wasn’t high school. It was in classrooms. Okay, and I don’t remember doing any art at home. Oh, okay. Never did those things at home. But I remember it was always at school. Or after school. So it was in that environment.

 

Monique   

And then you then you carried it on through and studied some other different styles. How did you discover intuitive collage?

 

Helen   

I was just studying with some YouTubers. So, you know, when YouTube has a lot of people teaching many things and you just find something that clicks with you say, well, maybe I could do this. I could try this. It looks fun. So you know, I just and she had this course it was called 52 weeks of art journaling. And that started like last January 2021. So I started it right at the beginning and I was just following along you know, not doing anything interesting. It was really awkward, very stumbling along but I just kept doing it over the year. And then maybe by about September, October around that time, it just like a little bit of my style would come through kind of distinctive. Oh looks like I’m learning because I was persistent and just kept doing it. Because I wanted to really understand how to do it. It took a long time.

 

Monique  

You started learning about the intuitive collage in January 2021. And that was coming up to the year anniversary of the COVID pandemic. And I’m, I’m curious if your art was a source of strength or a sanctuary. During these last couple of years, if it was something that you drew strength from? Or if it was something that faltered, my creative practice actually plummeted for a while. 

 

Helen   

You were just so stressed? 

 

Monique  

Yeah, I was anxious and nervous and fearful and constricted. And so I found that I couldn’t engage with creative energy. And if you’re open to answering it be?

 

Helen  

Well, I was just thinking that, because we couldn’t really go out and do things. I found a lot of things online, I found a lot of free workshops. Right, through Eventbrite. And they were just all over the world. So I would join, like a painting class. Or I would join intuitive, the intuitive collage that was on YouTube, but that wasn’t in person, but the quilting class. And then I think I did guided drawing. Those things I did online, and I really felt the kind of being in community was important, even though it wasn’t even real community. But it did feel like we were together. We had a purpose. And yeah, I really look forward to those. I’m still doing those zoom workshops online. And I think I’m doing the quilting. One is from Washington, DC. I’ve never done quilting before but I’m learning that now because I feel quilting is sort of like collage that we’re doing in fabric. Yes. So it’s the all the different avenues that creativity can just flow through. It’s not just oh, I’m this kind of artist and that’s all I do. Because I was I was worried I don’t have a style, or I don’t have a medium that I was really expert in. But I don’t know if that’s a problem, or that just leaves you open to being more exploring things. So I don’t know. I’m still figuring that one out.

 

Monique 

Yeah. You have my vote for being open to different styles. Probably because that’s my, my style as well. I don’t tend to settle into one. It’s just such a wide world. It’s just so much art that really inspires me. So I don’t want to limit myself.

 

Helen 

Notice that like, say, if I were to do something in another medium, that part of me that the creative, whatever force that would still show in that different medium. 

 

Monique   

Yes. 

 

Helen  

Maybe people could tell Oh, she did this. You know because they’ve seen my other artworks. They could say since there was a similarity, but it was just coming to a different medium. I’m just interested in that. 

 

Monique  

Yeah. Well with Sanctuary of the Arts, what we’re trying to what we’re hoping to do, what we’re aiming for, is to build some of those online communities where that you hooked into it. So, may those online communities continue because many people live many people can’t physically get to a place and it also opens up the borders right like you said, you’re you took classes from around the world. 

 

Helen   

Yeah it’s a blessing.

 

Monique    

It’s a blessing, it truly is. It surely is. Is there anything further that you wanted to share any questions unanswered?

 

Helen  

You know how I came to even be at St Hildegard’s you know, how story was that? I was just looking through the newspaper for any events to do you know, they’d have this thing called all events. So I was just looking what what could I do I try something new. Because I was doing The Artist’s Way and it said okay, you know, find some artists dates and try something new. So then I was looking down. Melanie was doing quiet and quiet day and so it said Oh, come and do this art in a church. So you know, I’m always curious and I think what could that be? and I’ll just go and see and if I don’t like it, that’s okay. Because it will need to go back it’s just a one day thing. And then that’s how i i really met Melanie and then the other members of St.Hildegard’s Just by that, that synchronistic happening.

 

Monique   

Yes, it was the same for me with St Hildegard’s too. It was meeting somebody in a yoga class. And she told me about St. Hildegard’s and then I kind of made my way there. One blizzardy the day. There’s really something quite magical about being quiet with other people while making.  I find it really soothing. It’s really quite a lovely connection.

 

Helen 

That’s right. Combining the arts and the spiritual side.

 

Monique  

Yeah. Yeah. They are related, aren’t they?

 

Helen 

You know, try reading up on it and just knowing more about it, and just confirming my own experience. And it’s, it’s so deep.

 

Monique   

Do you? Do you have a definition of art? I tried to define it the other day with Melanie and I failed miserably. I can’t. I can’t define it. I can’t put my thumb on what art is.

 

Helen   

Maybe there is no definition except just the one that you make, like the meaning that you give it.

 

Monique  

Yes. Yes. I think that’s a perfect place to tie up our conversation. Thank you very much for your generosity of time. I really appreciate you sharing with me your thoughts? I enjoyed them.

 

Helen  

Conversation is so meaningful

 

Musical Transition

 

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

Episode Three

Today’s conversation is with Monique, the third in a trio who are tending to the formation of Sanctuary of the Arts. She is our community prioress and podcast host. 

What does your creativity practice bring to your life?

What do you bring to your creativity practice?

Our weekly online community practice is called Crafted Connections. Info and registration can be found at Fully Woven’s website.

Monique talked a bit about “flow state” which is term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. 

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. This podcast is one of online offerings. We also have weekly creative sessions and seasonal events.

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

Musical Transition

Melanie 

So Hello friends, welcome to Salon Sofia at this. Today we’re doing something a little bit different. My name is Melanie. I am the abbess for the Sanctuary of the Arts community. And today I’m switching places with Monique, who is our prioress and usual podcaster. And we thought we would switch it up a bit, and I would interview Monique and we would have a conversation much like we do but a little bit different today. So welcome, friends. I’m gonna start off Monique by asking you to give us a little introduction to yourself. Tell us a little bit about you. Hmm,

 

Monique

Thank you. Let’s see. How much time do we have? No, I know how much time we have.

 

Monique 

Well, let’s see. Okay, I’m, I like the word creatrix. I like to say I’m a creatrix because I’m a crafter, and I’m an artist, and I’m a maker and a baker. And I just like to get my hands into stuff. And I refer to my creative practice, it’s a creativity practice. And, and that can pretty much extend to anything, I can make a walk down the street a creative practice. And I find a lot of solace in creativity. I find a lot of honesty and energy in creativity. I live with disability, and I’m often housebound for great chunks of time and my creativity practice is a source of play, and a place that I can rest. And it’s also, has come to be a marker when I’m starting to not, like when my mental health is starting to drop. And my functionality is starting to drop. When I’m not feeling creative, when I’m resisting the art table, I know I need to look a little deeper. I know I need to reach out to my support network. It’s become a barometer for me. So it’s a pretty close friend and I enjoy spending time with other creative souls. And I believe very firmly that everybody is creative in some way. I think even making a spreadsheet is creative. Probably because I enjoy making spreadsheets. But that’s a little bit about me.

 

Melanie  

And I love that. I love how there’s a, like a thermometer almost, of like, when my creative impulse goes down, and I knowing it’s telling me to pay attention. But what’s happening here, what do I need to attend to?

 

Monique  

Yeah, yes.

 

Melanie

I find that true also. So tell us a little bit about your creativity practice, which I know is varied.

 

Monique

Yeah, it’s varied. I think the one craft that I enjoy the most, and it’s one I’ve practised the longest, is knitting. My father taught me how to knit when I was, I think I was four or five years old, I was young. And he taught me how to knit mittens and socks. I became a little knitting machine and everybody got mittens and socks. And I still knit almost pretty much every day I pick up my knitting and I’ll knit even if it’s just a bit of a row, or if it’s many inches on a project. And so and then well knitting kind of led me into all sorts of fibre arts, so I enjoy weaving and spinning, crochet. And weaving in the last couple of years has evolved to be a mixed media. So I like to bring in found objects like sticks and leaves and like in dog hair, I have a dog here sitting beside me and he sheds a lot. And after I groom him I take his hair and I twist it and I’ll make yarn out of his fur. I’ll put that into my weavings.

 

Melanie

so cool 

 

Monique

It is, isn’t it? And I love the collage paper collage which started out as kind of, it’s a way for me to journal safely. I would write in a journal and then cover it with collage. It’s kind of evolved to where I don’t even write anymore, I just collage. I’m able to kind of translate my thoughts through image onto paper, and I know what it means. And then I feel safe if somebody picks up my collage book and they flip through it, they’re not knowing really what I’m talking about. They’re just seeing these collage images.

 

Melanie

Wonderful. 

 

Monique

Mm hmm. Oh, and watercolour paints. I’ve recently gotten pretty passionate, fallen in love with watercolour paints, abstract watercolour. And I like to mix it with oil pastels. I’ll draw like a scribbly abstract, it’s called neurographica, which I can explain if need be, but it’s kind of lines and then you round out anytime a line intersects, you round out the intersection. So it ends up looking like a neural pathway. If you look at an image of a neural pathway… the lines in the neural pathways… not remembering, recalling the words right now. But it’s got all these different nodes, right? And so that I like to do the neural pathway in an oil pastel or an oil pencil. And then I do a watercolour wash overtop of it. And of course, it resists on the oil. So it’s just, I love combining, and I don’t have any sort of fine arts training, which is perhaps a benefit. I’m just playing with the material. Right?

 

Melanie 

Yes, yeah. Just whatever, however you find your way in it. Exactly. I love that. I love that kind of creative practice, because it’s, it’s very free,

 

Monique  

very free. And I was a somatic therapist for a long time. And that was kind of my primary gig in life. And I find that this type of abstract is very somatic. Like my whole body gets into it, I quite often will tape a large piece of paper to the wall. And I’m just I’m, my arms are moving and my legs are like, keeping on

 

Melanie  

you’re moving as we’re talking as we’re talking

 

Monique 

Yeah, I find it a really very freeing practice. Yeah.

 

Melanie

Oh, how wonderful. I’m imagining all the while I love colours. I’m imagining all the possible colour combinations. And, and, and also recently, you were talking about the particular kind of oil paints of watercolour paints that you have sourced and that which sound quite marvellous, would you mind to say a little bit about that?

 

Monique

Oh, beam, B E A M beam watercolour paints, they’re out of Manitoulin Island in Ontario on Turtle Island. And they’re made by an Ojibwe artist in, made from that land, made from the rocks and the minerals from that land. And that’s where my father’s family, that’s the area that my father’s family are from. And so it just has so much meaning and my family name is ‘of the rocks’. So here I’m using paints that are made of the rocks from my father’s land, and it’s just, it’s so meaningful to me. Oh, yes, the paints are beautiful. The paints are just beautiful. Yes.

 

Melanie 

Well, I saw a little sampling of that and they are, they’re gorgeous, really rich, beautiful tones. And I love that connection. You know, that gives even more meaning to what the practice is, you know, I was thinking as you were talking about knitting. That the knitting knits to your father. Yes. And then and then the rocks ground you. It’s just I love those, I love those connections, and just the richness of what comes from that. How marvellous. Wow, now I immediately want to go find out about these paints. That’s my next on my okay.

 

Monique

Do treat yourself, do treat yourself with something lovely

 

Meanie

Wow. So, I mean, we have been on a bit of a journey together in the dreaming and scheming around Sanctuary of the Arts that we affectionately called SotA. 

 

Monique

Yes.

 

Melanie

I just mentioned that because I want folks to get used to hearing us say that and using that because it has really become our shorthand.

 

Monique  

Yeah, I was kind of thinking we should call our podcast Sodastream.

 

Melanie

We could consider that. Soda Salon. Yeah. I wondered if you would talk a little bit, and I know it’s very, it’s kind of had quite a journey. But talk a little bit about your whys for getting involved with Sanctuary of the Arts and, and why this idea kind of sparked to your attention and your interest?

 

Monique 

Yes, thank you. It’s a bit of a longer story, not as long as yours because you have been thinking about SotA for a long time. I was teaching a yoga class. And in that yoga class shows up a woman who I immediately recognized as a kindred spirit, we sparked around the same interests. And she told me about St. Hildagard’s, and I was really resistant. I had left the church, the Anglican Church, many years previous to our encounter and I was resistant. But I was curious as well. And a contemplative arts community, in a church, named after Saint Hildegard, who holds a very fond place in my heart. So I eventually did show up.  I went to St Hildegard’s.

 

Melanie

Yes.

 

Monique

It was, it was a blizzard, it was, the buses weren’t running and roads were closed down. And I rode my bike clear across the city to go to St. Hildegard’s. I was, it was, you know. And I immediately found a community where I felt welcomed. I appreciate the sensitivity to people’s different sensibilities, the sensitivity towards… you’re trauma-informed in your liturgy, and in your practices and in relationships. And I just so appreciated the silence, and I so appreciated that nobody asked me any questions, that no one came into my space. And I was just given such spaciousness to just be present and to worship. So that’s one piece of the, of that one why I got involved with SotA. And then I have long held a dream to have a collective, a Creative Collective. And it’s why I call my business Fully Woven, because Fully Woven, part of Fully Woven is that it is many strands. So it’s many people, it’s many that make up the fabric. So I always like to collaborate. And when you shared your idea of Sanctuary of the Arts, I think I probably lit up like a Christmas tree or almost nodded in my head off my shoulders. I was in such agreement so quickly, and I could see it, I could see what you were hoping to bring into the world. And I know that one day we’ll have a bricks and mortar place. I know that one day we’ll have a physical place. But when the pandemic fell on us, and we very quickly started to bring things online, much to my delight as someone who was housebound for great chunks of time, prior to the pandemic, and I will still be after the pandemic clears, will still be housebound to have an online community where we can be with other creatives in a contemplative, quiet, gentle way. Yes, is a dream come true. And I wanted to be part of that. I know that this was something I could contribute to. I knew that this was something that I could help grow. And I’m just really proud of what we’re doing. And I’m excited about where we’re going. Yeah, so I knew right away that I wanted to be involved.

 

Melanie  

Which was delightful. I mean, it’s such a gift. It’s always that great feeling when you recognize kindred spirits and it just ignites something in you. And somehow the sense of possibility when you have people come alongside with you, right, is just multiplied beyond, you know, it suddenly it’s like, oh, together, we could do so much more. And, yeah, so, so exciting. I’m super, of course excited too. We could sit here and talk about our excitement about all the possibilities, like, we are way, way ahead of ourselves and the things that we’re dreaming. But I think that that’s so I think that that’s wonderful too. So, and then also our commitment to go gently and to do things in a good way. Yes. And very much kind of embody what it is we want the what we is we want everyone’s experience to be, which is for it to be gentle. And for folks to be able to come into it in their own way that’s best, so that there’s a sense of that anything compelling, but and yet appealing. Yes. That lovely balance. So talk about some of the hopes. I mean, so many but but we have time,

 

Monique  

Yes, we have time. Well, I would love to see an artist guild. So people who are kind of a core group of artists who kind of champion Sanctuary of the Arts who you know, champion SotA. And by that I mean that they maybe mentor other artists or teach, like masterclass workshops. Yeah. I would like to see other workshops, but I see the guild as kind of a really skilled people sharing their skills. And then I would like to see a marketplace where we can sell. Yeah, where we can sell art. I’d like to see a gallery one day, I’d like to see a physical gallery, where you can visit with art. We have an online gallery. 

 

Melanie

We do. 

 

Monique

And, and then, but I’d like to see a physical space with workshops. And I really like the podcast.

Melanie

Yeah. I like the podcasts.

 

Monique

But I would like to see different types of podcasts to not necessarily like a conversational podcast, but I would kind of like to see maybe also a podcast style that is the kind of a workshop podcast hybrid where people can, people can join us, and they can ask questions, and it’ll be like a roundtable. Okay, yeah, maybe there would be guests like other artists would come on, it’d be two or three artists on a panel? And yes, yes, but we have a common art practice in common. But we come at it from three or four different ways, right? Yes. So those are a few of my small ideas.

 

Melanie 

Yeah, well, you know, I think it’s important to dream big. You know, like, who knows, I mean, you know, a year ago, we were thinking, how will we even how will we even, and so now there’s already so much beauty and, and much thanks to you, for your creation of the website. And the beauty that resides there already. As it is, as we’ve talked about, gently populating it in good time, and we’re gradually doing that. And that’s very exciting. I was saying to someone today that, wow, I’m really excited by the momentum that’s starting to move and, and what may, you know, what’s starting to happen and what may not be so good, it feels really good. And of course, as various folks come alongside too then that allows us to kind of expand the possibilities of what we can do and, and consider and, and the things we learn and share with each other, which was our hope that that that it would be, you know, an intersectional, multi faith, multi practice kind of a space where we could resource each other and, and, and share together so it’s, it’s very, very exciting.

 

Monique

Yeah, yeah, I, I do. I’m so delighted by what we currently have on offer. And I think about the three of us. We have been doing this while we have other projects on the go, too, but it’s, we’re obviously very invested and we obviously have a deep love for SotA. 

 

Melanie

Yes. 

 

Monique

So we’ve got our website that you referenced in this podcast starting to roll out and then we have the gallery. Christina is the first artist in our gallery, and we have one event online, which is a collaboration between me, my Fully Woven, and between SotA. And so Monday afternoons, we have an online open studio practice. And so people are welcome to come and join, they can find, you know how to, they can they can find out about it’s called Crafted Connections. And they can find out about that at either the Sanctuary of the Arts website, or my website Fully Woven. 

 

Melanie

Yes. I love the collaboration. I’m really excited about that. I love that space. And so I’m glad we can link that to the SotA community.

 

Monique

Yeah, I think collaboration is very important. And I think that’s part of creativity, too, right? Like we’re kind of like, it’s jazz, right? We need one another to make what we’re making. So creativity doesn’t happen in isolation.

 

Melanie 

No, no. And of course, like, as we were, as we were saying before it, it also just brings richness and diversity. And, you know, so much, just so much more, I think all the different colours, so many more colours. And strands and that’s so what we want. Marvellous. And, yeah, we will be dreaming. So I invite folks to keep looking and watching for what new things will get posted. We’ve had a few events that have come and gone already. And there will be upcoming ones that are happening that will be crossover, some of them will be in person things and if you want and can come in person you can and plenty of online things to make sure that it is accessible for folks in a variety of ways. So yeah, we look forward to that. Yeah. So if this question about and we’ve called the space, I mean, I’ve had my own reasons for that, which I think I talked about, but we call the we call this little project Sanctuary of the Arts. The word sanctuary, of course, is also St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary and the notion of sanctuary has been important in the creation of, of these communities. I wonder if you might talk about, you know, is creativity a sanctuary for you? And how, how is that? How, so? How do you connect those?

 

Monique  

Creativity is very much a sanctuary for me. And the times when I’ve been hurting, and very fragile, it’s my craft supplies that kind of bring me back into my body and stir up some self-compassion and stir up thinking what it is about. Well, for me, sanctuary means refuge means a place that I can hide away and lick my wounds, and gather up some energy, some, and fortify myself , get some courage again, right? So sanctuary for me is a place of rest, and it’s a safe place. Yeah, it’s, um, it’s a quiet place. It’s a private place. It’s my place. I’m the one who invites people into my sanctuary. My sanctuary is not an open space. It’s if I invite you in. You’re welcome in my sanctuary, as long as you play by the rules of my blanket for it, right. So it’s, it’s a great place to be and it’s with me all the time. It’s an interior, internal world, and it’s always with me, as my creativity practice is always with me. And so, right, I find I find when I’m, when my hands are in something, and I’m creative, I’m in a playful state. And Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is a psychologist and he studied, he called it the flow state. 

 

Melanie

Yes. 

 

Monique

And it’s that place where you’re deeply connected. You’re fully engaged, right? You’re challenged, but you’re motivated, it’s not so challenging that you’re overwhelmed and where you go, “well, no, no, thank you”. I want to find the challenge that spurs you on in flow-state. And that’s what creativity is for me. And that’s a transcendent place to be. It’s a place out of time. That’s a very healing place to be. And it’s a very illuminating place to be. And also safe. Yes, because I’m in control it’s my flow-state, somebody else is not setting the speed limit. It’s me. So yes, creativity is very much a sanctuary for me. Very much so.

 

Melanie 

I love that sense of it’s, to me, it often feels like well, it is, it’s liminal space, it has a different set of, liminal experience, right. 

 

Monique

Yes,

 

Melanie

It’s more like kairos versus chronos time, right?

 

Monique

Yes.

 

Melanie

You’re in that place where it’s kind of time less. And so rich. And for me, there is that sense of being held somehow, you know, you’re in this space, and it’s like you’re being held. And at the same time, there’s this freedom to do whatever it is that your hands find to do. Or not

 

Monique 

Or not. Exactly. Sometimes creativity is just laying on my bed daydreaming? Yes, that’s part of it. 

 

Melanie

Yeah. I love that balance. So you talked before about play and rest? Right? There’s kind of a to and fro kind of both are real, both are present.

 

Monique

Yes. Rest is very important to me. And I’m very vocal about rest. And I offer workshops on resting. I invite people to come and spend some time in rest. Come and rest your bones.

 

Melanie

I came to one. I loved it. Yes, exactly. I mean, I personally think we need so much more rest. We’re a culture that is, that has forgotten in a lot of ways even to rest. And I know folks will say, even when I can rest I, I don’t know how to do that anymore. 

 

Monique

Exactly. 

 

Melanie

Yeah. Which is a real sadness.

 

Monique  

Yes.

 

Melanie

My goodness. Well, I’m just looking at let’s see our time. And it is the habit of this podcast. To always ask, and I think I have this correct. What is art?

 

Monique 

What is art? Wow.

 

Melanie.

Okay. It’s your question.

 

Monique

I know. It is my question. What is art? Art is something I don’t understand. But I am deeply in love with. I know that’s not an answer. But I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what art is. I know it when I see it. When I’m in the presence of art. And I know when art is absent. When I look at something that’s not it. But to describe it. It’s kind of like asking somebody what is love? Not to be, I don’t want to be elusive. But I really truly cannot define art. I just, I know it when I’m in its presence. I think art is… I’m not even going to try and say what I think it is because I don’t know.

 

Melanie

Well, I think that that is marvellous, because that leaves it open to anyone listening to ponder to ponder what’s worked for you. How do you? What’s your experience? Or how do you name it or how do you define it? And I, I hope that it allows for a really broad definition and, and a wide embrace of all that might be artful. Yes, that’s certainly what we’re after. Is a wide embrace.

 

Monique 

Absolutely. What is that Hildegard quote about being hugged or circled in the arms of…?

 

Melanie

Yes. Are embraced in the arms of the mystery of God. 

 

Monique

Yes. Yeah.

Arches I know you going to try it 

Melanie

Yes, amen. Monique, is there anything else you’d like to touch on or share with folks before we sign off?

 

Monique

Um, no, I don’t think so. But I will publicly say thank you for inviting me along on this really marvellous journey. Thank you.

 

Melanie

Oh, I’m so delighted. So delighted. It’s marvellous to have companions on the journey who just, you know, resonate to similar things. And different. And so that makes a beautiful complimentary as well. So I thank you for your presence and for your being and for this conversation. And for all that is yet to be, we just leave our hands open. And I guess we’ll say goodbye for now.

 

Monique

Bye for now.

Musical Transition

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

——————-

Transcribed by https://otter.ai




 

Episode Two

Today’s conversation is with Christina, who is one of the trio tending to Sanctuary of the Arts. She’s a Vancouver-based photographer and our community Illuminator. Christina refers to her photography as a “love-letter” to our beautiful city and you can view some of her photos at our website’s gallery.

What were some of your favourite ways to play when you were a child?

How do you engage with playful creative expression now?

Monique 

These next few little episodes is between myself, Monique, and with Christina, who we’re talking with today, and our last episode, I introduced you to Melanie. So today, we are the three core, I don’t want to say founders because we’re all kind of sparking off one another and creating something new, and bringing others on board as we grow. So the three of us have started something kind of like planting a garden, we’ve all got our ideas on it. And we’re planting our seeds. And today, I want to introduce it to Christina. And explore a little bit about sanctuary, and art and creativity with her. So Christina, hi, welcome.

 

Christina

Thanks for having me. I’m so excited. 

 

Monique 

You’re very welcome. And I should clarify first your pronouns, what are your pronouns?

 

Christina 

Oh, she and her. 

 

Monique

Okay. I made an assumption. And thankfully, it was a correct one. So, my pronouns are also she, her, hers. 

 

Christina

perfect

 

Monique

So how about by way of introduction, if you would like to share… maybe a little bit about what it is about Sanctuary of the Arts that called to you? Why is it that you have chosen to come on board and, you know, get into this project with us? 

 

Christina  

Well, it’s interesting, because I’ve always been a really big fan of art in all mediums. Going to live music shows, seeing comedy acts, plays, I love the murals that the city has been doing and the public art that you can find around the city. And within the pandemic, I don’t even know if we’re allowed to use that word on the podcast, but within the pandemic, none of us want to talk about it anymore. Within the pandemic, I found, with everything shuttering, I miss those moments, and I missed just going to a show or going to a gallery, or even just the art that you see as you move through the city. 

 

And I realized that was a piece of me that was really missing. And then slowly, things started coming online where there’d be live bands that you could watch or history talks or different virtual events. And there were these little threads in my mind of how great that would be to have that all the time, that there would always be a place where you could access art that you wouldn’t need to buy a ticket, you wouldn’t need to take the bus, you wouldn’t need to physically be somewhere, to feel like you’re around art, to see art and to feel like you’re around other people that enjoy art. So when more of a firm idea came to me from the team, I have this idea of a sanctuary of the arts. And we all seem to have these similar threads of what’s more possible. That’s what drew me right in. Excuse me, and I was sold right away. And I wanted to be a part of it. So I don’t I’m excited to see it grow because we have so many really wonderful ideas. But that’s sort of what drew me and we’ve already had these little threads in my mind, but I didn’t know how to action it at all. Or even if there were other people feeling this way because I was feeling so isolated at home.

 

Monique 

Yeah. I want to get to asking you about your own creative practice. But first, let’s illuminate… illuminate – there you see that? The illuminator.

 

Christina

I love that.

 

Monique 

Will you illuminate? What were some of the threads that were most sparkly to you? What most interests you?

 

Christina  

The thing I love the most was even though I was at home and I have a disability as well. So there was a lot of times in you know 2019 And before where there were things I wanted to do and I either couldn’t afford it, or I didn’t have the physical ability to get there, or the physical ability to be present when I got there. And then within the pandemic, when everything was just shuttered down. It was when I started seeing other people, you know, there were live drag shows, you could watch, there were live comedy shows, you could watch, there were live bands. And that’s sort of my enjoyment of that and my enjoyment, and honestly, my enjoyment, also of enjoying art in my pyjamas, you just, you know, you don’t have to, you don’t have to worry about the clean laundry to go out. So that was sort of what the little pieces in my mind were that I wanted to do this as well. I wanted to bring art to people. And there’s a lot of people who, their 2020 was very similar to their 2015. They already were living very isolated at home and missing these experiences. So it was a little bit more eye opening that it wasn’t just me that was skipping events in the previous time. And that there were other people out there that were feeling this way. So I was so excited when there were other people that also felt this way and thought that there was a lot of possibility out there to bring art in all its mediums and forms to anybody with an internet connection anywhere in the world any time of day. 

 

Monique

Yeah, I really appreciate you bringing that up because I too live with disability and I too 2020, 2021, 2022 continues to be the narrative that has been going on in my life since the mid 90s. I continually miss out on things because I cannot access them physically. So I agree. I love the idea of bringing art online, and an artistic community and a contemplative artistic community. And yeah, that kind of speaks to the sanctuary part of our project, doesn’t it?

 

Christina

Yeah, it’s meant to be a space or our intention is it’s meant to be a space where it’s, it’s soothing, it’s relaxing, it’s maybe it’s energising, because you feel inspired, or you just just to stand back and be able to enjoy something that you haven’t seen within your four walls today.

 

Monique  

Yeah, absolutely. That we, the three of us who have, who are starting to build this, we have roles, right, we naturally fall into some, some roles, and yours is the illuminator of Sanctuary of the Arts, is that right?

 

Christina  

It is and it’s such, there’s so much honour in that title. Because there’s something really beautiful to the idea of illuminating things for people. And then there’s also the tradition of the word of the illuminators, who would illuminate the sides of the manuscripts, and would sort of bring some life to the text. So I was truly inspired when we sort of were working on our different roles. And you came up with these wonderful titles for us. So I’m excited within the sanctuary to bring, just to help bring artists into it, to help with our social media. And then when we get to the point where we’re able to host virtual events to be able to help illuminate you know, the evening or the day for people as they join us live or perhaps they’re listening to this later.

 

Monique  

Mm hmm. Yeah, well, I know you, I know your artistic endeavours from your photography. And that’s an illumination, that’s playing with light and shadow, right? That’s a source of illumination.

 

Christina 

Definitely.

 

Monique

Please share with us your love of photography. And are there other creative practices that you explore? 

 

Christina  

Yeah, I would say now that photography is probably the thing I do the most, and I get the most enjoyment out of, but my whole life I’ve been someone who liked to create and I didn’t particularly see myself as an artist or very good at anything, but I liked the doing of it. So when I was a little kid, I would sew little clothing for my Barbies, and my stuffed animals. They were the best dressed stuffed animals you would see on the street. 

 

And I would, I read a lot and like sort of lived a little bit in my imagination. And I I’d write short stories and I’d write poems and I’d write little newspapers of things that had happened in the week when I was on summer vacation and I was bored and and just little pieces like that of while none of what I was doing was maybe the best or at the skill level I should be at my age. I just enjoyed the doing. 

 

So that carried over into photography for me, because I really enjoy one I really enjoy when people enjoy it. I always get so much thrill out of somebody saying they enjoy something or, a lot of my photography centres around Vancouver landmarks and Vancouver history. And I really love when people share little stories or memories they have of those places and these impressions that these places have left with them. So in photography, I just feel like I’m somewhere else. And I don’t know where that is. But it’s sort of out of body seems dramatic to say, but I definitely do kind of float out of the Christina that needs to pick up the milk and then needs to remember to do that thing for work tomorrow. And don’t forget to call mom and things like that. And I just sort of, I guess I’m probably more present and grounded, than at any other time in my day or my week.

 

Monique  

That’s cool. Sounds almost like photography for you is a threshold, is a liminal space that transcends the material here and now. It kind of busts open the timeline and gives you opportunity to other perspectives.

 

Christina  

That’s a really neat way to put it. Yeah, I definitely feel like I’m in that liminal space, which can be a little dangerous when you’re taking photos of buildings in a busy, busy city. 

 

Monique  

For sure.

 

Christina

There’s a lot of me having to remind myself to shoulder check, and how, where am I standing and not getting in the way of pedestrians and people who need to live their lives. But I definitely do. And then when I go back to look at it later, it’s just there’s something so enjoyable to me about looking at how the light looked so great that day, or the the memory of the day that I’d spent out. And I’ll do little photography wanders when my health is good, and I just love what I’ll come home with, I’ll come home with two 300 photos after a walk. And maybe I like five of them. But I enjoy looking at all the things that I saw. And the other art, like I love capturing the public art in our city. And our city’s done a phenomenal job of, of different murals around the city, which I really enjoy capturing as well. So it’s sort of just gonna say it’s sort of like a layer of me appreciating their art by creating art, and then maybe someone else is inspired by that. And then they create something so I don’t know, it can be kind of neat.

 

Monique 

Yeah, I love that bouncing off quality of art, how we kind of bounce off one another and inspire and spark creativity just by sharing our projects. And I really enjoyed all the murals that popped up when the downtown core of our city here in Vancouver when they started boarding up the shops for safety and because they were shutting down so people could take time off work, not have to go into work. And so they should. Plywood planks went up and then murals happened. And it was a very surreal time I remember, you know, riding my bike around the downtown core, and there was just nobody.

 

Christina

Yeah, it was a ghost town.

 

Monique  

It was raccoons and deer and coyotes.

 

Christina 

Yeah. And then me.

 

Monique

And then you and your camera.

 

Christina 

I loved that it was, it was a really interesting idea of temporary space. And the idea that art isn’t always permanent. And like as murals get older, you know, the paint will come off and a new one will go up. And with those boards, I believe one of the local museums preserved some of them for future display and for part of our local history. But the idea of these incredible murals of all different styles of artists and messages of safety and taking care of yourselves and taking care of each other. And it was interesting to see sort of this massive scale temporary gallery based on a theme of safety and community care. And the different messages that other artists took from this, this one idea, and so many different styles of art, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t ride a bike, but I really enjoyed wandering around and trying to capture them and knowing that, you know, this might be the last time that I’m here because, you know, we thought the world would open up a little bit sooner. 

 

Monique 

Yeah, it was odd.

 

Christina

It was definitely a strange time.

 

Monique 

I’m curious when you’re standing on the street and something captures your attention and you want to photograph it. What is it about that, like you recognize it as something that you want to engage with creatively? So what is it when you’re in the presence of art when you’re in the presence of creativity? What are some of the qualities that let you know that you’re in that presence?

 

Christina  

I’d say for me, I pull out the camera and a lot of it has to do with light because in photography there’s so much about the light looking just right. And with the architecture, having the shadows fall a certain way. And one of the lucky parts of my life is I do live here. So I can go back. And I can try again next week at the same time to try to capture what I wanted to do, because I didn’t think the light was quite right. And sometimes I’ll even make a note to myself that I want to capture something again, you know, particularly with things like the impermanence of cherry blossoms and fall leaves. And maybe I just miss the seasons, I’ll make a reminder to myself, in my mind that I want to get back to that area around that time of year again, and hopefully I can capture what I thought would have been a better shot. And it’s also good for practice. I definitely I there’s, there’s some buildings in the city that I’ve taken hundreds of photos of, and each time I go, I’m taking something different. And I love that the building’s still the same, but the light is different. The people are different, the feeling I’m feeling is different. And then I can kind of go back and practice and get better and refine

 

Monique  

That’s interesting. And I suppose it’s, it’s easier and probably less expensive now with digital cameras, now you can take 5000 photos, and 

 

Christina  

absolutely 

 

Monique  

and delete whatever doesn’t work for you, right?

 

Christina 

Absolutely. And that’s and that’s a lot of what I do, too, if I’m trying to get better. And I’m always trying to get that perfect shot. And it’s never going to be perfect, because I’m always going to want to try again. But I love digital photography for that. And I’m a little bit on a mission to prove that anybody can do it. Because most people now have a smartphone with a fairly decent camera. And with a little bit of practice, you can get better and you can try different angles, try different kinds of light, try coming back a different time. But you don’t need to have a fancy camera. And even if I had a fancy camera, it wouldn’t be on me when I’m commuting home from work. Or and I’ve got my arms full of groceries, but I always have my phone in my hand or my pocket. It’s almost always attached to me somehow. And I can pull it out really quickly. It’s right there and I can take that shot.

 

Monique  

Wow. Well with your love for light, you’re the perfect person for the illuminator of Sanctuary of the Arts. I love it. I am a hesitant photographer. I don’t have a camera, I don’t have a smartphone. But I do have a little digital camera that I picked up at a thrift store. And I try it takes up every once in a while. I’m like, wow, that’s actually a really good photo. But I can’t tell you what about it is good. I just when I look at it, it kind of evokes something for me, right?

 

Christina  

Yeah, I feel the same way. And it’s really about practice and playing with it and playing with it capturing things that maybe are mundane to other people. I have a lot of infrastructure photos that I find interesting that I know, nobody’s particularly interested in this little bit of a rubbish bin, and then the bicycle that’s attached to the thing beside it. But I, you know, I’ll practise taking photos of that. And the joy of the digital camera is that I could take 1000s of photos and there’s no additional cost to that. I’m already out. I’m already there. I already have the phone.

 

But the flipside is I have 1000s of photos to go through. I have even within the pandemic and being isolated quite a bit at home. I have easily still taken over 10,000 photos in the last year. Not all of them good. Not all of them capable, but a lot of photos because I just like trying different things in different angles and different attempts.

 

Monique

Yeah, I mean, not to be repetitive, but I think this is where you find sanctuary. 

 

Christina

Absolutely.

 

Monique 

Photography. Your practice of photography. It’s the practice itself that is the sanctuary.

 

Christina   

Yeah, I didn’t realize that until I really started thinking about why I enjoyed it so much. Because I just enjoyed it. And that was just a thing I enjoyed and then I started really thinking about it. And again, as somebody with disability and somebody that lives with chronic symptoms and chronic pain, it’s also a moment where I’m outside of my physical issues and the things that are keeping me distracted from sort of feeling like I’m living a full life I just sort of I like I said it’s it’s out of body seems too dramatic, but I definitely feel outside of the person who has the things to do and the person who’s living in the body that is disagreeable today. 

 

Monique

Yeah

 

Christina  

So sanctuary is a really great word for it.

 

Monique  

It is a really great word for it. When you were talking about out of body isn’t the right word for you, just doesn’t feel right, I was thinking, well, I’m a yoga therapist, right. And in yoga, there’s the philosophy that we have five different bodies, like we’re one, but we have five different, almost layers or sheaths. And the physical body is just one part of it. So I’m wondering if when you sink into your practice, if you’re inhabiting more strongly a different layer of your body, like a different layer, like you’re, rather than an out of body experience, it’s an expanded body experience.

 

Christina 

I like that. Yeah, it’s definitely an expanded body experience. I’m definitely, like you said liminal earlier, I think that’s such a great word for it. I’m in between the physical and the spiritual. And I’m not. I’m not the person that I am the rest of the time, I’m just being, and existing and enjoying. And it’s one of the things I really do miss about art and going to shows and being pulled into somebody else’s world and seeing their art and their expression. And, again, you kind of get into that in-between space, where you’re not a person standing there with your wet umbrella at the gallery, or with your popcorn in the theatre. 

 

Monique  

Yeah, that’s beautiful, how you’re saying, when you’re doing it, you’re just being you’re just in it. Like, it’s a wonderful, it’s a wonderful place to exist when we can be in the moment and fully inhabit it.

 

Christina  

It’s so enjoyable. That’s why I want everyone to create, 

 

Monique 

Yes!

 

Christina 

there’s art in everybody. You don’t need to be the painters or the poets that they showed us in school, you, you know, get a cup, get a pack of colored pens, and just doodle I love making. I love mail. I love mail. And I love when I send mail. And I’ve done this my whole life. I love doing little doodles on the envelopes, or inside the cards or even making a little card and none of them are frameable. None of them are worth keeping beside the sentiment that I made them for someone I love. But it’s just another way that you can do something creatively without the big canvas and the expensive paints and education. You don’t need these things. Just do what you enjoy doing. And if that’s you enjoy baking really perfect cookies with perfect icing. That’s another kind of art. And that’s not something that should be discounted or gate kept away from, well, you’re not, you’re not a real artist.

 

Monique

Yeah, absolutely. I was actually going to ask you that. That was my closing question. And you know, right there, you’re brilliant. You’re the illuminator. I was wondering, I wanted to ask you, do you think everybody is creative?

 

Christina

Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s one of the other reasons why I really want to keep, for now, within my love letter to Vancouver, is what I call my photography project. I really want to keep using my phone and you know, I’ll upgrade eventually and use a different phone. But anyone can do this. Anyone can get a pack of pens, anyone can get a few ingredients to bake, anyone can get a simple, little premade kit, if you want to try something, they make little kits that come with everything you need as a beginner, and give a textile project a try. And it doesn’t have to be something that’s going to be sold in a gallery or displayed in a museum. And I just think that other people can get to that liminal space if they just allow themselves to not be fearful of mistakes or fearful of not being perfect or held up to a standard of, quote unquote, the grades. One of my favourite things is to go to a live show, and have it not go very well when it’s a comedy show or an improv show. Because there’s, you can see people pushing through that and trying to get the audience I want to know this is gonna be hilarious. This skit about Santa Claus at a Starbucks is gonna be really funny. Let’s get you back on board. And I love watching people creating that way. So even when it’s bad, it’s good.

 

Monique 

Yes, I would agree. There’s beauty in awkwardness. 

 

Christina

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Monique

That’s a wonderful place to tie up this conversation. And I do want to give you opportunity to share, is there anything that has been left unsaid? Or was there anything that you had hoped to say?

 

Christina 

I just, I really I’m so excited to be planting these seeds with the two of you and growing this into something. And we’re in the early stages but growing it into something where people find sanctuary. They find art when they need it. They find art when they want to enjoy it. And perhaps it’ll inspire other people to try to create. I mean I through the encouragement of the people in my life that love me. I put my work out there through the encouragement of the people in my life, that love my little doodles in my cards, I keep doodling. And there’s like, like we said earlier, there’s art in everybody and I just would really love if everybody just gave it a try. Just for themselves, it can be meditative. It can be pleasurable, it can be exciting to finish something, it can be exciting to get over a hurdle in a skill. And for me, it’s exciting to go back and take a picture of a building that stood there for 100 years. And I love this photo more than the one I took six months ago or a year ago and but I know I’m going to go back there again and try again at a different time of year or a different time of light.

 

Monique 

Thank you. Well said. Thank you so much for your generosity of time and for sharing your thoughts and your heart with us and I look forward to continued projects with you as we grow Sanctuary of the Arts.

 

Christina  

Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited for this project.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode One

Today we’re chatting with Melanie, the gathering priest of St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary in Vancouver, BC and the woman who had a vision for Sanctuary of the Arts many years ago.

What does “art” mean to you?

How do you know you’re in the presence of art?

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

We’re coming to you from so-called Vancouver, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. We are privileged to be guests here; may our words and actions reflect our deep gratitude and respect.

My name is Monique and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

As all the ways of gathering together continue to be redefined and as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again, we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. 

We’re delighted to be sharing these conversations about the relationships between art and sanctuary and how it all relates to spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask this and many more questions.

MUSICAL TRANSITION

Monique  

So hello, everyone tuning in, and listening to our inaugural podcast, for Sanctuary of the Arts.  We’re so very thrilled. And my name is Monique prioress at Sanctuary of the Arts, or SotA, as we affectionately refer to it. We’re an emerging community. And it all started with a dream, with some seeds and some sparks from Melanie. And I want to introduce you today to Melanie, and have her share some of her visions and thoughts and dreams about Sanctuary of the Arts. So welcome, Melanie. Welcome. How exciting is this for you to see SotA starting to unfold?

 

Melanie

I know it’s so exciting. And it’s, you know, there’s so much joy in it. And, you know, always a little bit of anxiety about how do we proceed, and how do we do things and things to learn. And, and so I’m glad that we say that we’re emerging, because it gives us room to be in process, which I really think that we always are in all of life. So this is a new way that we’re in process and emerging. So I mean, I look forward to learning together with you and with and with other friends around what this will be and what it will turn into. I mean, in some ways, I think that there’s a vision and a hope and a dream. But there’s also the sense that it will emerge and become what it’s meant to be and may start somewhere and change over time and, and be influenced by all the others who come alongside it and engage in the community.

 

Monique

Yeah. Would you like to maybe introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you. And that might give a little bit of insight into why Sanctuary the Arts was and is such a passion of yours.

 

Melanie  3:20  

My name is Melanie, I’m an Anglican priest, with a call to creative ministry. So in my, in my education in my learning process, I have studied contemplative creative practices, and the use of art and the significance of beauty in the process of connecting to spirit and growth and healing. So all those pieces are significant in my own life, and in my experience, and therefore, part of my sense of my call. 

So I am the gathering priest for the St. Hildegard Sanctuary community, which is an inclusive, art based contemplative community in Vancouver. So that is one piece of my work. And we are a community that gathers around the sense that creating connects us to the Creator. So we have a particular experience in the making, you know, when our hands are making and when we are creating, there’s an experience of connectivity that is a particular and I think that partly that reality in my own life and experience was what set me down a path towards contemplative creative ministry. 

So the sense that so if I back up a bit, I’ve been many things and at one point, I was a chaplain and in the process of that kind of work, definitely came to a realization that you know, there’s something that happens for us when we are in creative contemplation doing things with our hands. And there’s an experience there that I call the holy. 

So there’s experience of connection to something beyond us. And a kind of resting, that happens, but also enlivening, that happens, this curious place of being both kind of quickened, but not in a kind of hyper agitated way, in just the sense of life rising up. But then also this feeling of grounding, of being rooted into something that is bigger and deeper and beyond. 

And I realized that for myself, I really loved that feeling. And that experience helped me feel grounded and feel, just as a sense of, of peace, for lack of a, I guess, a better way of putting it. And I, so then I pursued learning about that. I looked at contemplative practices, the use of art, and the effect of beauty on folks in general and in a, in a care setting, etc. So, and I thought, well, this, this is something that I experience and have have gotten benefit from and so I, I’m hypothesizing that that’s true for others, which was also what I was learning, maybe, let’s, let’s, let’s use these practices and see how it how it affects folks for the good, which it did. 

So then as I was in seminary, these things overlapped. Thinking about life and ministry, what goes on in church, how how we do things, what’s our experience of the holy, I really felt this desire to have things be both simpler, but also deeper, so simpler, deeper, and I thought about this use of art, and the creative and my own experience of it. 

And then, you know, there were others who came alongside and so yes, we have, we have that experience, too. In fact, of course, as, as folks probably know, there are all sorts of people who’ve had that experience, this is, as you start to consider and reflect you realize, oh, so it’s not just a little me that has had this odd experience, but it’s actually there’s a whole history of, of the arts and beauty connecting us to the holy and, and that sense of being present to something bigger, that holds us in a in a in a beautiful way. 

So my wandering took me to, well, how would, how could we embody this in it? How might we engage these practices and do them in the presence? 

So first, the St. Hildegard community, I wanted to create a space, a church space, a worship space that actually engaged the creative in, in that time and space, not as something we do extra on the side or as an additional, you know, offering but but right in the midst of, of our coming together for worship. So that was my dream, my vision. 

So at St. Hildegard’s, then we have stations during the worship service, and you are invited to engage in various kinds of making and works of hands in that space as a way to connect with the holy in that time and space. 

Then beyond that, we started thinking about, well, what about people who aren’t able to get into the space or can’t, you know, the time or the space – 0r both – don’t work for them? What about people who don’t have an inclination to even come to quote church? Or be in that context? 

And, and, and yet, there’s a connection to a sense of something bigger, and to this spiritual goodness of, of the, of making. And how could we extend like, how could we make it? How can we? How could we kind of throw our lens open to think about how in a broader way, could we make such a an experience accessible, and encourage that experience, and have it be something that folks could engage with remotely, so you don’t need to be in a time or a space, you could engage it in any way that you wanted. 

Originally, when we dreamed of Sanctuary of the Arts, we thought of it as being, you know, maybe like a drop in space where people could come and do and be and various things would happen. And all sorts of things would be going on. 

And then we thought, well, no, but what if we made it an online community? Because that would speak to a whole other set of accessibility issues, and might even make it more accessible, which was our hope and our goal. And then of course, so that was about four years ago that we started dreaming on this. And then of course, we had a pandemic. 

 

Monique

Yes. That happened.

 

Melanie

And as with many things, you know, necessity is the mother of invention. So it’s like, well, you know what, we can even do it in a time and space if, even if we were inclined to do so. So, you know, over we go to thinking about how could we do this online? How could we create it in a different way? So I’m talking a lot, but I guess that’s the idea. 

 

Monique

That is the point of a podcast.

 

Melanie  

You know, yeah. And, of course, folks came along, right folks came alongside who, who shared a similar yearning, and a similar vision. And we kind of wrestled together with how, how, how and what and how do we communicate also the ethos of a space without having a space? 

And how do we create something that is generous and appealing and gentle, but evocative. And all the things that we value and desire, which we suspect and hope others maybe value and desire? 

How do we create that, of course, you have been amazing, in the creation of the website and making a space that evokes the feel, it’s really quite an amazing gift, evokes the feel of what it is that we want for folks to experience. So that it is inviting, and evocative and yet gentle. And engaging, but not compelling. You know, it has all those nuances that are true for the St. Hildegard community, which is one of our really important principles and beliefs fully invited, never compelled. Engage as you find best in the time, and the space that works for you. 

So that having this, having an online experience can allow you to do that. You can click when you want to click, you can look when you want to look, you can connect when you want to connect. And, and going gently and emerging, as you say, so we’re going to start everything will not be all polished and finished and perfect. Nothing is ever perfect anyway. So. But we will start and then gently build. As with time and the possibilities allow.

Monique

Yes. One of the phrases that you said earlier in this conversation, and as I many times when I’m speaking to you, Melanie, I’m taking mental notes because you have the, you are a poet, to your bones. And you’ll say a simple statement. And it is succinct and profound. 

And so you said simpler and deeper earlier was something that calls to you. Yes? 

This is my understanding of Sanctuary of the Arts. It is a simple, yet deeper or simple and deeper community. And I think that that is really lacking in our society. We’re hurry , scurry, busy, over extended, text me now, tweet this, Instagram that, like we’re just such a very distracted, blinky society, electronic society. And there’s, I can’t help but think about the irony that we are, we are creating a simpler and deeper community online. 

 

Melanie

Yeah.

 

Monique

A website, a virtual community. What are some of the challenges, the opportunities that you can see starting to become inherent in this community that we’re that we’re starting to build?

 

Melanie

Challenges and opportunities? I think the opportunities, of course, are that anyone, anywhere, anytime, could find and engage with the community. 

 

Monique

Right. 

 

Melanie  

And so that allows a pretty broad throw. And it allows people to, like I said, navigate at their own pace in their own timing so as is best for them. I think the challenges seem to be really the challenges of life in, in our current world are always the pushing against the pushing against the push to you know, to sort of go you know, faster, more, bigger, louder. And, and, and to, to be comfortable in our own pace around what we have learned is, is good. So and that’s why my gratitude also, for the website design, which is, various people who have seen it already say, “oh, I, it makes me want to go there”. 

 

Monique

Oh, that’s wonderful. 

 

Melanie 

It makes me want to go there. And oh, I feel I feel, I feel the things that we hoped, which was, oh, I, I feel, you know, like attracted to engage, but not feeling anxious or like harried about it, like, oh, I want to go there. 

But I can go there in a way that I can, I can just take a piece and savour it, you know, and I think I think that’s part of our vision too, there’s the opportunity, one of the opportunities is to create things that are like, you know, I think about a little tasting plate, you know, of really beautiful offerings, they’re, they’re these little tidbits of of delight, you know, these little, that you can just pick one, and, and, and engage it and savour it and just enjoy it and, and then know that, oh, there’s other things on the plate? Well, I could come back and taste those later. Or, well, if I’m really hungry, I could taste more now. 

But I could, you can pace yourself. And it will be things that are, are like that, that are enough, but not too much. And if you want more, you could maybe try something else or not. You could just stay with that one flavour, as it were, and just, you know, enjoy it and then come back another time. Yeah,

 

Monique  

Yes, that’s how I imagined SotA the online community to be as well, it’s a place to come and taste and savour and rest. And a place that’s an online hub that’s pared down, that has a lot of white space that doesn’t have pop ups and doesn’t have forced notifications, a place where someone can just maybe pop in for five or 10 minutes, maybe read something inspiring, look at an image that is you know, stir something up, listen to a podcast, like little things. 

Yeah, what are some of the little tidbits, some of the tasty bits that you’re hoping to see? Well bloom and blossom in our space?

 

Melanie

So we have of course the podcast that we’re hoping will be a source of enjoyment for folks and engagement. So you get a chance to hear from some of the folks currently involved in and, and folks in our midst that we can call in and, and then that way both bring in and broaden. Right? 

I love that idea of, and images that you’ve referenced. So we have the gallery, where there will be images of art, and part of our vision is to feature artists, so you can hear them on the podcast and then see what their particular art making is like. 

And, and it just, I love the idea. I think that in this idea of tidbits is also that you are slowed down to just take one thing at a time, and you have permission. 

So if there’s a gallery of images, you can look at them all, or you could just be with one for a while, you just sit with it and and you know, enjoy it, let it spark whatever it sparks in you, take time to write or be inspired to co-create with with what that person has done. 

And just slow it down. And let it just be, I think that’s also the nature of contemplative community, right? Is also that simpler, deeper experience where it’s like, no, we’re not going to, we’re not going to bombard you with all sorts of things, we’re going to let you hold one thing and really be with it, be present to it. And if that’s not the one well, there’ll be choices. So you choose something else and so that there would be some options. 

I mean, I think we have grandiose big, broad long range hopes, right, right down to you know, online artists market and workshops that we will host and such and I think those are all actually very real possibilities. And then and then we try to give ourselves permission to not be able to do all those things at once yet, but to grow as we grow our abilities. And our skills and our capacity, right. So. 

So in the, in the creation of the website and the community itself, there is the, the witness of how we proceed, which is to honour our capacity, and to grow in a way that is good and sustainable for everyone involved. 

So, right now there are three of us who are kind of managing, as it were, the creation and the oversight of this little website and community. So three people have limitations for how much they can do, and, and how much they can do in a good way. Right, that’s so important to us to do in a good way. And that would be my invitation really to people in general, you know, proceed in life as you can, according to your capacity in a good way.

 

Monique

Yes, it’s been such an interesting experience for me, coming on board this project and being involved in the launch, and I have confronted time and time again, my internalized ableism and what I think I should be doing, and then just gently hearing the voice of someone more wise, more gentle, which is perhaps a part of which is perhaps me saying, slow down Monique, really what what can you really reasonably do? And this holding, this commitment that we will only do it in a good good work in a good time. Don’t hurry just to produce something for the sake of producing something. Proceed cautiously, proceed lovingly, rather than cautious, but proceed lovingly, for myself, for you. And for the other people involved in this. 

 

Melanie

Yes. 

 

Monique

You know, I just think, to maybe like to close our conversation and perhaps extend the invitation to others to participate to join the community to come and come in and be involved. This word art can seem really high brow, right? And to be an artist can also be very, it can exclude a lot of people. Now, I know what your answer is and you know what my answer is, but let’s share it anyway. What are your thoughts around this word art? And artist?

 

Melanie

As you well know, Monique, I would say that we are all artists. 

 

Monique

Yes. 

 

Melanie

You know, and, and that and part of, of my belief is that we are created. And so and we are created in the image of that which creates us, and therefore we are inherently creative. 

 

Monique

Yes. 

 

Melanie 

And that’s partly why our experience of creating creates a connection with the Creator. So I love to, I love to think about when I’m in the process of creating, or art making whatever that looks like. And I think that art is really anything that is like an expression of the creative imagination. So I think we are art, right, we are art we are, we are the expression of a creative imagination.

 

Monique 

How wonderful. 

 

Melanie 

And so I love to think about when I’m in the midst of that place, you know, with my hands covered in paint, because I really like to paint with my hands or in clay or, or who are making food or doing whatever, I feel like this wonderful joy, you know, this, this sense of goodness that rises up in me and a real joy in it. 

And one thing I love to say to people is, you know, I love to capture people in that moment and ask them to pause and really drink in that feeling. Because it is my deep belief that that is the feeling that existed in the process of your own creation. You know, that is the joy that the lifeforce takes in you. And so, you know, to align ourselves with that is just this beautiful life giving goodness that I think is very sustaining and important. 

But yeah, I mean, I mean, we call up I mean, you know, we talk about capital “A” artists, small “a” artists and all these kinds of little variations. I’m like, Ah, no, I think we’re all I think we’re all artists and we’re all and we all have our ways of art making if we stop to pay attention for that. Right? 

And what is the work of our hands? You know, because that that we do with our imaginations and our hands and our hearts it’s like, yeah, it just generates I think we are naturally inclined to create.

 

Monique  

Mmmm, hmmm. Yes.

 

Melanie  

Does that answer the question? 

 

Monique  

Absolutely answered the question. I’m very excited. And I agree. I think everyone is creative. I think the very state of being alive is a creative experience and creativity comes out. For me, I think some of the qualities of creativity is that it’s somehow connected to time. It’s a nonlinear space when one is being creative. You can be like a time traveller or time bender. 

 

Melanie 

Yeah. 

 

Monique 

What else?

 

Melanie

creates almost a timelessness

 

Monique 

a timelessness? 

 

Melanie

You’re in this different kind of space.

 

Monique  

Yeah, you’re in like kairos, wild time rather than chronos chronology, right? 

 

Melanie

Yes, yes. 

 

Monique

And I think also creativity is, oh, it’s just for the sake of creativity. It’s not to produce anything.

 

Melanie  

Yes, yes.

 

Monique

It’s just, it’s just recreation, re-creation, recreation. It’s a way to reconnect with life. 

 

Melanie

Yes. 

 

Monique  

So those are some of the qualities for me. And so all creatives, artists, makers are welcome. 

 

Melanie

Yes. 

 

Monique

At Sanctuary of the Arts. 

 

Melanie 

Absolutely. Which would be everyone.

 

Monique 

Which is everyone.

 

Melanie 

You know.

 

Monique

Oh, I know. Melanie, is there anything left unsaid? Was there something that you wanted to share? That didn’t, didn’t come forth?

 

Melanie 

I don’t think so. I’m sort of sitting here thinking well, I don’t know,  is there, I think just the invitation, you know, be welcome. And come and see. Come and see.

MUSICAL TRANSITION

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and we don’t take that for granted. We look forward to sharing more conversations with you and new episodes are released on the first and third Monday of every month.

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork, writing, and other creative projects. 

We are a small and emerging community, and if you’re compelled to offer your support please consider sharing this podcast and leaving a kind review. We also accept financial donations and details can be found at SotA’s website.

That’s all from us for today and until next time, stay curious. Peace to you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Welcome

Is everyone creative?

How does creativity show up in your life?

Hello and welcome to Salon Sophia. A podcast brought to you by Sanctuary of the Arts. We’re having conversations about art, creativity, spirituality, faith, and religion. We’re interested in all the ways that creativity sparks soulful connections.

My name is Monique Francis and I’ll be hosting these conversations. I’m the founder of Fully Woven, a crafty care collective and I’m also the community prioress with Sanctuary of the Arts or SotA as we’re fond of calling it. 

SotA is an emerging contemplative arts community seeking ways to provide a peaceful and gentle space to engage with art. Right now, we’re an online community and have big dreams for a physical space one day. There are three of us who are tending to SotA and this podcast and an online gallery are two of our initial projects. We also host weekly creative co-working sessions online and you’re welcome to join us. You’ll find the registration details on our website and I’ll leave those links in the show notes.

While the vision of SotA predates 2020, our formation of an online contemplative arts community took root as the pandemic drastically altered our lives and how we gather together. We’re delighted to be exploring ways to build online communities and we’ve witnessed how Zoom sessions can be contemplative and foster relationships when done with that intention. And so, even as bricks-and-mortar venues start to open up again we’ll continue with an online presence because it brings geographical distances closer and supports accessibility. 

As all the ways of gathering in community are being redefined and restructured, we’re curious about finding peace and rest, creativity and art, and how it all relates to sanctuary and spirituality. You may ask, does it relate? We think it does and hope that you’ll come along as we ask these questions and many more. 

This is your invitation to contemplate how creativity shows up in your own life and how it contributes to soulful connections. 

As well as this podcast, we invite you to linger for a while at SotA’s website. We have a gallery and scriptorium where many of our podcast guests will be sharing their artwork and writings. We’re dreaming of future offerings that may include poetry readings, bedtime stories – doesn’t that sound good? – and creative workshops. We have many ideas and are committed to keeping a gentle pace as we tend and grow.

New episodes of Salon Sophia will be released every two weeks and our first episode will be with Melanie Calabrigo, the gathering priest of St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary in Vancouver, BC and the woman who had a vision for SotA many years ago. You and I are here listening to this podcast right now because Melanie stayed true to that vision. She’s the first in a series of conversations with other creatives, artists, and makers from various streams of faithfulness. 

Most of our episodes will be about forty minutes, with none being longer than an hour, and there will be show notes for each episode as well as a few questions for you to contemplate on your own or with friends and family. 

Thank you very much for listening. It’s an honour to come into your space and introduce you to the guests that will be coming onto our show. We don’t take that for granted and very much look forward to these upcoming conversations about creativity and soulful connections.