During a recent afternoon break, I took a spontaneous bike ride down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Stationing my bicycle, I walked past tourists and entered the stately building of the National Museum of the American Indian–a museum I had never gone to before in the nineteen years of my living in New York City.
I found myself walking into an exhibit of paintings and sculpture by Robert Davidson, a Haida artist from the Pacific Northwest. I was struck by a wave of emotion and tears came to my eyes. Though I grew up in inland Washington State, near Idaho, I would visit my grandparents on the peninsula and there I was naturally drawn to the impressive, elegant and otherworldly animal spirit totems made by northwest Native Americans. As soon as I saw the familiar curve of the Pacific Northwest style when I entered the exhibit, I felt as if I was being greeted back into a home in my heart.
“Canoe Breaker” by Robert Davidson
“Echoes of Ancestry” by Robert Davidson
As I wandered and took in Davidson’s work and watched a short video interview, I was struck by the beauty of his line as well as a deep sense of spirituality in his work. As I gazed at my favorite painting, “Echoes of Ancestry” rendered on a ceremonial drum, I felt a longing for an established practice of spirituality in my childhood, within my family and community.
“I can always practice now,” I thought.
In fact, during the last few weeks I had been meditating on inviting and welcoming loving strength and support into my life. It was during one of these meditations that I made an important perceptual shift: I actually already had an immense source of the strength and support. It was the ground. Soon after my visit to Davidson’s artwork, I made a practice as I walked to the subway or to work in Soho: I scooped my left hand from the center of my pelvis and turned my hand so that my fingers pointed towards ground, as if I was releasing an offering into the earth. With this gesture I silently said to the ground, “Thank you for your strength and support.” By this simple physical acknowledgment and honoring of my relationship to the firm earth, I felt more settled and supported.
I am grateful that I happened upon Robert Davidson’s artwork that day. It was beautiful, nourishing and inspiring. Davidson is creating work that is quite modern, yet drawn from a long-practiced traditional artistic style. And thanks to his dedication and exploration, I was inspired to create a new ritual which honors an age old relationship of living human being to earth.