Thoughts from the TreeSong Community
Featuring Anna Wiancko-Chasman
Fall is in the air, cooler, shorter days, foraging animals and birds, and much needed rain.
For many of us, this summer has been a mixed bag. Speaking for myself, it has been a challenge to stay positive under the heavy weight of worry, confusion, loss, and feelings of helplessness. For months now, smoke has been very real, but it is also a metaphor for the threats to our beloved planet. Smoke represents the haze of destructive self-serving politicians aligned with giant corporations, their own egos and need for power. It can blind us to the truth, as can the hurricanes of greed and destruction.
For the purpose of this essay, I will speak only for the concern for the natural world, with full realization that also under threat is our capacity for unconditional kindness, tolerance and acceptance of our fellow human beings.
Our country and our world are falling ill to climate change. The American Medical Association reports that our response to global warming is “eco anxiety” that can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which if prolonged, can affect digestion, lead to memory loss and suppress the immune system. “ Many people understandably feel that reading or watching the news can be unhealthy. But burying our heads in the sand is not the answer; denial and silence can be dangerous to all that we hold dear.
So what are we supposed to do? We are baffled by this question! I believe in BALANCE. Each of us must monitor our own emotional responses, finding our own balance between being fully informed, and awareness of when we’re stretching our emotional limits .
We are fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, where access to nature is fairly easy. For me, nature and wildlife are deeply important for mental and personal balance. Instead of worrying over the potential of loss of nature, I strive to simply revel in the splendor of what is in this moment….. a chickadee at the feeder, the music of a stream, the twitter of cottonwood leaves in the breeze, or the glint of a dragonfly’s wings.
Rev. Matthew Fox writes “there is only one thing wrong with the human race today…. we have forgotten the sense of the sacred.” We must remember the sacredness of all living beings. There is wonder to be felt each time we study a tiny stone or hear birdsong.
To fill our souls with the miracle of nature is now more important than ever. And through our steadfast dedication to nature, balanced by informed thinking, each of us can help shift the present culture by finding his or her own voice, speaking out, moving from feelings of hopelessness to empowerment.
We must continue to teach our children to respect and honor the natural environment, ensuring its future- whether through family picnics or outdoor school. We can listen to the voices of teachers such as Thomas Merton, Black Elk, David Suzuki, Wangari Maathai and many others.
There is hope as well, in young people like 17 year old Xiutezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians who has championed environmental justice since he was six; Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots youth programs; Nature Bridge environmental learning campuses; and our local art and nature retreat center, TreeSong.
Let’s be aware of today’s challenges while embracing the positive; here we will find balance.
And as winter approaches, like the plants and trees, we will take this energy down into our roots, helping to strengthen our core and enable us to be fully present to the light as well as the dark.
Anna is offering her popular “Magic of Masks Two-day Mask-Making Workshop” Sunday, October 29 and Sunday November 5. Click here for details and to register.
I have been selling my art for more than four decades, but my love of art and the creative process has happily been a major part of my life since I was a child.
I believe the powerful communication and expression of art enriches both the artist and the public. Therefore, I feel that with art making comes not only personal satisfaction but also a sense of responsibility. Through art, the artist speaks a universal truth that is often more accessible than other forms of communication. I try to speak out about critical and difficult issues facing people and the planet, but also balance this with art that is whimsical and humorous. I enjoy the exploration of metaphor and irony in all their permutations.
I frequently work in clay, mixed media, and found objects to create unusual and expressive sculptures and assemblages. Working in this manner allows me a freedom of expression that I cannot achieve nearly as well as with a single medium alone. Sometimes I prefer to work in 2-D, in acrylic, collage and watercolor, but most often, I incorporate mixed media and found objects as well.
I draw most of my inspiration from a deep and lifelong love of nature and animals. Much of my work reflects that passion, whether it is a sculpture of a shore bird or salmon, or a mixed media painting of our forests and streams.
I teach classes in clay and mixed media to adults and children. I am also an art therapist and art therapy supervisor. Following the tragic loss of my daughter to cancer in 1989, I returned to college and in 1992, I earned a master’s degree in art therapy, later working for hospice in Portland. Several years after that, I began private practice, specializing in grief and loss. I believe my own experience and the experience of helping others through such difficult and challenging times have enriched my own personal growth and expression and given me an understanding of deep human connections. Even if someone is not directly involved in art therapy, just the process of making art can have a deep healing impact on the artist.
I continue to seek out new artistic ways to express my thoughts and feelings, stretching the limits of the materials and subject. It is inspiring, challenging, thrilling, and always powerful.