Saturday, August 11, 2012


"Renewal"   Winter 2012
Mixed media collage

Earlier today, I felt much gratitude and felt deeply honored to be part of a healing art exhibit at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula's (aka CHOMP's) Cancer Survivor Celebration, an educational and celebratory event with a cooking demonstration, lunch, informative booths, a "hands for hope" mural of survivor hand prints, a healing arts group project (creating joyful flowers with pastels and bird seed!) and a wonderful opportunity to connect with our local community.  It seems fitting at the end of today to begin to share more about my healing arts exploration.  

As I was emerging from my health detour and starting to feel better physically, I was perplexed as to why I was suddenly feeling so emotionally raw.  “I should be celebrating my improvement, and indeed I am, but why do I feel like crying at the same time?”  I joked that perhaps my severe anemia had dulled my emotions!  In reality, although they weren’t dulled, those emotions had been suppressed during my battle as I intently focused what little energy I had on traveling a positive path.  That suppressed fear, an unsettledness and the dawning realization of having averted the unthinkable were rising to the surface and creating unexpected post-traumatic stress.  
Around this time, one of the RN’s at CHOMP where I receive treatment, aware of my creative interests, had suggested I might benefit from the healing art program offered there.  Through the thick of my illness, I had relied on a supportive circle of family and friends, but hadn’t sought out any support groups.  I was receptive to and intrigued by this suggestion and am now a regular participant in the program.  After attending my first retreat, I was able to move forward with greater clarity about my feelings and needs, and every class I’ve attended since has had a similarly significant impact on my healing journey.  Every experience has contributed to exploring another facet of my inner self, sorting out a confusing jumble of emotions, uncovering another layer of understanding and achieving personal revelations as I learn how to navigate life as a survivor. 

The monthly day long retreat welcomes anyone who feels the need for healing of any sort, regardless of their situation and gently balances creative directives with the freedom to explore a variety of art mediums.  The atmosphere is comfortable, quiet, respectful, empathetic, caring and supportive, and the artwork, stories and thoughts shared are truly heartfelt and inspiring.  
I’m tremendously grateful for Mary, the RN/MFT who leads CHOMP's healing art retreats (meeting her has been a true blessing!) and for the privilege of spending the day with a wonderful group of kindred spirits, creating, sharing and healing together.
I created a single piece that first amazing day, one which I titled “Renewal.” Serendipitously, I found amidst the available materials an expressive paragraph about Big Sur, ethereal images of seals in Monterey Bay’s waters, a tiny map of Kauai and images of plumeria blossoms, all deeply meaningful to me.  I suppose it's no surprise that this piece is sea inspired!  This mixed media collage ended up becoming the (purely unintentional!) companion to an earlier piece shared in my "Someday File" post.

By sharing this personal work, my intent is to let others know about the powerfully therapeutic qualities of healing arts.  If a particular piece happens to resonate with you, my humble hope is that perhaps it will provide you with your own moment of reflection and insight.