Visions, Feathers and Nests
– Liz Nicholas (artist, experimenter, risk-taker, earth & animal lover)
How lucky we are to be surrounded by so many amazing life forms! The past few years, I have found myself drawn to many things of which I realize now; I have frequently taken for granted. The clarity of the sky, the billowing of the clouds, the sounds of nature, and of course the mystery and connection we all have to the plants, trees and all the little creatures who live in or around them.
This reality becomes a backdrop to color my heart, and my paintings. The world, (and nature), becomes an inspiration and a gift with the introduction of the intricacies and artistry radiating from abandoned nests and pieces of a broken egg strategically placed on the ground after the hatchlings burst free for the first time. All these gifts are always mysteriously left in my path. Is this by accident – of course not. These are the forces which continue to draw my eyes to the sky both in daylight and at night time leading me down my life’s path. I hear the melody of the songs from above, I see the floating of a feather or a leaf on its way down to the ground, and I feel something resonating deep in my soul, about this “big mystery” as I gaze at the sparkling planets above.
Because I see all of these as "signs", I've decided to explore and paint the emotions and images attached to my finding/feelings. I sense that when combining visions with reality, and mixing real objects in a "dream-like" composition, I am able to offer the viewer the ability to explore creative thinking and sensations as I have.
As you can see, I retain the greatest fascination with feathers, nests and eggs, as most of these images come from a foundation and respect gained from spending time in nature. As a wildlife rehabilitator in training, I am able to experience these intricate objects up close, and each time marvel at their creation.
My experience in "wild places" in-and-around the US, combined with my own curiosity to understand more about them, has confirmed to me that we have done a great injustice to most indigenous peoples of the world. Here in the US, I continue to be drawn to life events which reveal the truths on what was experienced by our Native Americans; through stories, personal research, and people whose family members can elaborate on “The Trail of Tears”. I am equally drawn to tribal art forms and ceremony and reverence for nature held by the “First People”. I feel a great connection in my life today as I frequently find myself sitting under a “Trail Tree”, or speaking to someone met by chance about his Cherokee grandmother.
In general, I think nature brings me back to what resonates most, these “earth centered principles” which simply seem to be the best foundation for me in my life today. I see now that those who walked this ground before me presented these principles and have left many of these lessons here today for us…if we choose to see. For me, my nature paintings with these earth symbols, they are closely linked to natural beauty, spirituality, and freedom of flight (and life).
The nests suggest a warmth and security of home while eggs remind me of birth. As life guides me and nature assists with my own journey, I choose to carry objects of significance whether in thought or in hand of many of my important life passages. With my most recent visits by a pair of hawks who have permanently nested within my home ground, I feel particularly connected to them as one of my significant animal of inspiration. I continue to find gifts from my bird friends each day.
I also believe that we each create our own path, as well as follow traditions which resonate to us. Each is based on experiences and knowledge, as well as what we most honor and respect. For me, each of the elements that are revealed carry their own meanings. For example, man say that to have a hawk cross your path could present a lesson on “spiritual awakening”. I really feel that we need to be aware of how and why nature DOES communicate with us, regardless of the method.
The past few years, I have delighted in being the recipient of many unique messages and gifts. Just 4 short years ago, on one of the solo nights of a Vision Quest, my birth sister who was thousands of miles away and her children found a hawk feather in their yard. During my time in the canyons, I assembled a clan of close friends and family members and asked them to think of me during this time alone. To them and to me this feather was something symbolic of my journey alone. They knew I was pursuing answers to understanding "how to widen the circle of my purpose". Part of what started my pursuit of the earth-related themes were feathers......how interesting they received one so carefully placed on one of my solo nights!
Since we are all part of nature, we all also share the responsibility to honor it. We know that there are things in nature that affect our lives, some of which cannot be explained even scientifically, but somehow we just believe that it happens for some mystical or maybe spiritual reason. Thing which we may encounter holds meaning and we try to logically create meaning to explain what we cannot understand.
Is it just a coincident when a bird crosses your path to miss you by inches, or a butterfly lands on your shoulder? I read somewhere once where someone said that "we are all still primitive beings with ancient souls deep down inside". Regardless of our position on this earth, we are all still living in nature.
Even spiders can be found in a sterile hospital, hawks nesting on the metal eves of a tall building, snakes appearing in schools and churches, or a bear is seen in the city coming down from the mountains. Nature is around us, communicating inside and outside of our perceptions. Whether or not we understand the significance to these creatures visiting us, some times their messages comes much later...some times years (at least it has for me).
As a child, I was connected to plants, animals and insects from as far back as I can remember. Living in Pennsylvania, autumns become cold, and winters frosty. I remember taking a frozen locust and placing him in the lint trap of the cloths dryer and heating him up. Needless to say, when he started singing my mother was not happy with the fact that he was in her dryer! She told me to throw him away, he was dead.....well I showed her!
Nature communicates to us all the time, it's just up to us on whether or not we choose to listen.
Finally, and one of my most significant visitors showed up one day when I just could not pull myself out of the depths of sadness.
Being unemployed at the time, running out of money, releasing an attachment to my best friend of which I truly loved (and still do), in a confused space in my head, I found myself standing at my kitchen window starting at something perplexing. I blinked and looked again, almost disbelieving what I was seeing. It was a smiley - happy faces from the 60's out on one of my bushes! Just a big grin smiling back at me, and then it left.
I looked again and saw it again.....and stared and stared (what seemed like hours was only seconds). Flustered and slightly afraid, and overwhelmed by the fact that this "face" was smiling back at me, I realized that it was some type of special and rare butterfly. I quickly grabbed my camera and this is what I saw. This wonderful creature, obviously nearing the end of it life, torn and ragged, there to make me see things different, with all her beauty and humor. Her memory and this picture will serve as my symbol to be happy always!
So this journey, this wild, wonderful, woolly, prickly, feathery journey, in all is complexity and simplicity is hopefully revealed in my paintings. I hope you can perceive the significance of each object within them, the colors selected and overall composition. To me, they represent self-growth, release of the past, and the choice to fly free! I hope you enjoy each composition, and it speaks to you in its own way.
I have great respect for the foundation of people who where in this country at its creation. I honor them, and mourn the way in which they were treated and killed. This section is dedicated to their strength and faith in the great spirit. To all Native American and Aboriginal people - thank you for your gifts
I felt it might be thought provoking to provide some information on a few of my favorite animals, their signs and potential omens taken from a collection of books I have collected over the years. Many of these are representative of Native American folklore, as recorded in literature. The most intriguing part to me is according to traditions, birds, reptiles, animals and all things in nature are also considered "spirits" of both bad and good, positive and negative. Look through the lists below and evaluate who's visited you lately...you may be surprised!
Antelope messenger, forewarns us of human behavior
Bear - good sign of special power, wisdom, insight, protection, healing
Beaver - good power, warning of conflict in the future
Bobcat or mountain lion - bad sign, you are being stalked by an enemy but could also be used as good luck for protection of your family
Coyote - portraits the trickster or creator-he is full of magic, special powers, and teachings
Raccoon - good sign as a protector, intelligent, cunning and clean
Shark - bad sign and warning of danger, if sharks come close to the shore, it is a sign of earthquake, hurricane, etc
Skunk - bad sign and bad power, sign of sickness and bad luck
Whale - sign of confusing times, but a sign of wealth and prosperity
Blue Jay - warning sign of people who are jealous and evil people preying against you in a bad way
Eagle - special sign and that of a good one.....represents protection, wealth, wisdom, foresight, strength and spirituality
Hummingbird - good sign, messenger to take prayers to the creator. She is a doctor and healer
Owl - bad sign, bringing bad news
Crow - good sign, good luck sign of protection and messenger of wealth
Robin - messenger of happiness, good health and love to families
Ant - represents super strength, intelligence, psychic abilities, telepathic communications, sharp thinking and planning
Bee - messenger with news about sex, fertility, protection and love power
Butterfly - very special bug representing the presence of good spirits, shows of metamorphosis, balance, harmony, grace, peace
beauty and spirituality
Spider - messenger, good or bad, warns of danger, warning of people who are jealous or when someone is lying
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