Art for Living in the Hands of the Gods

Living in the hands of the gods (ink and watercolor on paper, March 2020)

I spent the winter in a blogging hiatus (while still prolifically making art during the dark months), so with this first post of 2020, it’s almost more of a New Year energy than January ever had. Except, with Corona requiring us to adjust to a new reality moment-to-moment, this feels like a whole new world we’re suddenly living in, rather than “only” a change in the calendar.

It’s surreal to have so much work to share online, that I’d created in the “pre-Corona alternate dimension” that was 2019, while our collective attention is now on something far bigger than I (most of us?) anticipated for 2020. And yet, now that online connection is such a powerful antidote to fear, it seems most appropriate to be here with you all, to show up and be with each other.

To that effect, I’ll begin with today’s art invitation (and I’ll share a bit about my process with my piece below).


Join me in making some art for these liminal times

I invite you in joining me in making something that connects you with the big picture of life and humanity, in the midst of this pandemic and all it entails.

The you part includes your personal feelings, experience, thoughts, fears (how is this pandemic going to harm me and those I love? our world as we know it is crumbling! I don’t want to get sick, lose my source of income, be alone right now), or even joys (it’s terrible out there, and yet, I can sit at home and create something I haven’t had time for in decades! I have nowhere to be, and that’s a relief! Look, environmental pollution is down and wildlife is returning in unexpected places!).

The big picture part is whatever helps you take a step back and connect with the rest of the world in a wise way:

whether it’s through compassion for the people suffering right now, for those severly ill or caring for someone who is; for those who have lost loved ones; for the healthcare workers and people in leadership and emergency management having to make tough choices; for the collective uncertainty we face together;

or perhaps it’s through perspective of the natural balance between life and death, and contemplation of how death and illness can be a catalyst for post-traumatic growth;

or even still, if you feel spiritually connected, through prayer and the space of not-knowing that allows us to reach and connect to a mystery far greater than ourselves…

However you decide create your paintings(s)/poems/stories/collages/etc, be sure to include room for all parts of your experience, and as always, I look forward to seeing what you create: share on Instagram with the hashtag #mermaidforest (or tag me @mermaid_forest) or on Facebok at Mermaid Forest.


For some more inspiration:

I almost died laughing when I read Austin Kleon’s little quarantine zine, which I read as both hilarious and profound (humor is really helping me process what’s happening in the world right now). In fact, “Ye hoard” has become a meme in our household and it’s probably here to stay.

If you’re looking for low-maintenance ways to explore your creativity right now, check out his work for things to try out!


About this art piece

My painting above showed up very intuitively, ready-to-be-painted– it wanted to be loose, expressive and (also) low-maintenance, in keeping with the needs of the moment.

The hands represent many paradoxes at this time of Corona:

We are both literally and metaphorically “holding the future in our hands” right now, in ways that perhaps have never been this clear. Literally, since our hands are a crucial vehicle for the Coronavirus; metaphorically, our decisions–even seemingly inconsequential ones– and how we behave collectively will have unprecedented and (to an extent) unknowable consequences. In German, the word Handlung (and the verb handeln) refer to actions; how one acts/behaves, and it comes from the same word as “hand”; this term illustrates the felt connection between our actions and our hands.

And also–

The sentence that kept coming to me– the title of the piece– “living in the hands of the gods”, comes from author Daniel Quinn, who used it as a way to express that there is a way of living that acknowledges that a relational stance with our world, not top-down control, is the way that many cultures have lived (and continue to live). This is not meant necessarily as an assertion about there being gods, but “gods” becomes the word to signify forces greater than humans: perhaps randomness, evolution, emergence; perhaps a single greater consciousness, or many.

The way I experienced this in creating this painting, was about connecting with the greatest wholeness possible; with a deeply felt sense of how life and death are interwoven and indivisible from each other, and how beautiful and unfathomable and beyond control that is.

I painted this to express how, for all our power to shape our environment and create worlds upon worlds, we are still– have always been– nestled in the hands of the gods, who understand life and death, and the timing of each, in ways that we (perhaps) will never have access to. At this time the gods are bringing us death, and we may never understand “why”. In creating this I’m opening up spaces inside me for compassion for how little I know and understand, for surrendering illusions of certainty, and for thanksgiving for how much is given, and how much is possible, in the midst of fear and pain. For learning in my body–beyond any philosophy, only in true felt knowing– how life and death are always here.


Shoutout to Jennifer Harvey Sallin and Merlin Györy who initiated the invitation to create Coronavirus-related art over at InterGifted’s Art and Creativity group , which I love being a participant in. Jen and Merlin lead the group, and they spark our creativity by sharing regular creative prompts, of which making art around our Corona-related feelings and experiences was the most recent one. Thank you two for the inspiration!

Mermaid Forest @mermaid_forest