Liz Huston

Liz Huston is a modern mixed media artist based in Los Angeles, California. Her art borders on the symbolic and the surrealist, creating an esoteric narrative that hints at a logic far beyond the average and mundane.

Eleven Years Ago Today

On March 24, 2006, I left an absolutely great job that I really loved in the music industry to become self employed full time. Aside from the fear of setting out on my own, I want you to know that music is really my first love, so leaving that job was huge.

Today is my 11th anniversary of that decision...and I have been self employed ever since.

Eleven years!

In that time I've been married, divorced, been a single mom, moved my home half a dozen times, had 5 art studios, 1 shoppe, hundreds of group art shows, 3 solo art shows, 6 trips to other countries, countless ceremonies with shamans, 4 relationships, over 100 pieces of art - all of it adds up to my 1 dream.

And that one dream? The Art Life.

Thank you for enjoying my art, for supporting it, for visiting my shoppe, for making my Art dream come true.

If I can do it, so can you. So whatever you dream, I absolutely promise that you can do it.

With love and so much gratitude,
Liz

An open letter to the woman who broke my art yesterday

January 22, 2017

It was a day truly unlike any other day.

We had both spent the morning marching in solidarity with our sisters and brothers for a cause we both feel important, The Women’s March. There were hundreds of thousands of people in Downtown LA, more than I have ever seen gathered in one place, at one time, for the same reason. The energy was palpable, heart centered and beautiful, and as we would all later learn, it spread around the world! It was a big day, energetically. After marching for several hours, I decided to go and open my shoppe, which was conveniently located at the center of it all. The interaction with the first woman who came in to my shoppe was beautiful; we connected on a deep level and she stayed for quite a bit.

The next people to come in was a group of ladies, whom I believe you were with. Everyone was sparkling with this lovely energy of the day, which was centered in goodness. Reveling in that good feeling, something outside caught your eye, you went to look out the window and accidentally knocked one of my most beloved pieces of art onto the floor, “Whatever You Love, You Are”.

The shattering sound it made when it hit the ground, I can still hear. It was loud and sharp, like hitting a cymbal with an axe. My heart paused and I truly couldn’t even bring myself to look. What happened next was I guess the best any of us could have done. I don’t remember who turned it over to see the damage, but I held back my tears with as much strength as I could muster as I saw that yes, the antique frame was cracked and broken. The hard to find antique bubble glass, shattered. The print beneath the glass, badly scratched. I was surprised at how much that hurt me, inside. I know it wasn’t personal, it was an accident. But my art means so much, I couldn’t articulate my thoughts into a coherent sentence. As a business owner, I should have had a “break it you buy it sign”. I did not (I do now). Nothing has ever broken in these 4 years here. I had no plan for such an event.

What you did next is where my injury really lies, however. You were trying to make it good, I know this, but went about it in such a way as to actually cause more harm. You told me, “That’s a print, so I know it can be replaced. Those frames, you can find more of them.” I woke up this morning with those words burning in my mind. How wrong you were in those assumptions. The antique frame, sure, with some effort, can be replaced. It was, however, special and of sentimental value, which cannot be replaced. The print, well, that was the very last in a small edition of 5 plus 2 artist proofs. The one you broke, that was the very last artist proof I had. So no, it is not “replaceable”. I have more integrity than that. I will not reprint an artist proof, as that is not the purpose of an artist proof. It is to proof the colors, the quality of the print, when making an edition. It’s not just an open window to make another print whenever I feel like it. I honor the numbers of my collections. I honor my collectors.

Basically what you did was try to tell me that my art wasn’t worth anything after your carelessness destroyed a piece of it. And I, stunned at the chasm between the hope and connection I felt minutes earlier and the shattered glass before me, knew that I could not respond eloquently. So I said nothing. Anything I would have said at that moment would have been filled with venom and truly not in the spirit of the day, nor in the spirit of who I am as a person. You did not offer to pay for your mistake. And I did not insist. I knew I could not insist. I had no established precedent or had a break-it-you-buy-it warning posted.

That is the first and last time I will respond like that. Were I to be exhibiting another artist’s work, even without a sign, I would have fought tooth and nail to get that artist payment for your carelessness. I’d have notified my insurance and even paid the deductible if I had to so my artist could be compensated. I know this about myself. I fight for others whenever I see injustice. But when it comes to myself? That is a battle I’m not so good at, and oh, I am so ashamed to admit this. It’s easier for me to fight for someone else’s good, than it is my own. I never saw it so clearly. You taught me that. Thank you.

It’s not news to consider how hard it is for artists to place a dollar value on creations of the hands and heart. Nor how hard it is for artists to ask the price we know our work is worth. It’s even harder to find an audience capable and willing to pay those prices. I came up with a price, and after all these years, have found collectors to support the work at the prices I ask. They are not unreasonable prices. Just to break it down for you; I spent 3 months of my life creating the piece of art you broke. 3 months, plus a lifetime of learning. 3 months plus 4 years running my own gallery, working 80 hours a week, every week (sometimes much more) to make my work and to get my work in front of the eyeballs who will appreciate it and support it.

Your carelessness broke the result of that effort, my chance to be compensated for the creation of that labor of love. And in that, you have taught me the true value of my work. So for that lesson, I suppose, I must also thank you. I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what my work is worth.

I am keeping the piece you broke, in my home, as a reminder of what the true value of what I do. In a way, I’m glad you didn’t offer to pay and that I didn’t insist. I feel that perhaps you didn’t value what I do enough to own it. But I do. Thank you for that very harsh lesson in worth. I hope that you have learned something from this as well. I hope you will be more careful and aware in the future, and maybe not be so diminishing of the value of another’s craft. I in turn, hope that I will do better at standing up for myself. Look, things break. This is life. I accept that. And because I choose to live mythically, looking for symbols and meaning in life, I choose to make this a learning experience. When I say thank you for the lesson, I truly mean it. Sometimes it’s really hard to see the things we need to learn, and we need bigger lesson example. I wish my art hadn’t broken, but such is life. Things break. The current flows on. The lessons get applied. And finally, to that first woman who stayed during the whole thing; the woman who guarded my shoppe when I had to take the broken glass to the trash can, who held me as I finally cried, who embodied the support and solidarity I felt earlier and desperately needed to see again in that vulnerable moment...Thank you.

On Solitude

“We know how to care for each other”, was how the email began.
A multitude of feelings poured forth from me as a result of this simple sentence, wondering at the truth of it. Do I indeed know? Do any of us in this modern society know? Separated from the land, the cycles, separated from one another, do we know how to care for ourselves? And by extension, for one another?

In my heart, I feel the call of stillness, of solitude. I crave it like a beggar in the desert craves water and shade. If I were to care for myself right now, in this moment, I would retreat into my studio and simply be with me. Be with my work. Be with the ideas and the possibilities and the glorious mess of it all.

But how to be solitary in a world which beckons me back with the rising of each morning sun? How to find solitude when there is a child to raise, income to earn, food to prepare, a business to run? How to find solitude with the requests to share a meal, the demands of my time from so many sources outside of myself?

Am I depleted by these interactions, or am I filled up? Is there a heart in the center of the path I walk, or is this path taking me further from my heart?

It is solitude I crave, but I wonder if my solitary nature was learned or is inherent. I spent many years in forced solitude, grounded as a young child for some small infraction, (usually speaking my mind), and kept there by my own stubborn resolve. I decided a long time ago it was better to be alone - safer, possibly. Safer from whom? Safer from what, though?

A man just came in to the shoppe and asked me, as they do every single day, where I get my inspiration from. For the first time in my career I had an answer that actually felt right; solitude. I get my inspiration in solitude. It is the time I feel most centered, most calm, most clear. In solitude I am without the demands of others, to which I inevitably acquiesce. Even if those others do not ask, I sense their wordless requests. I bend myself to their needs, anticipating the proper way to be in order to negotiate around their pain. Did I decide, perhaps as a young girl, that their feelings were somehow my fault or my responsibility? Or more valid than my own? Because I certainly act that way now.  

Back to the question of the heart. Where is the heart on this path? Is the heart in sharing the results of my journeys, these artworks I make as a result of deep and unrelenting introspection? Or is the heart in the path of creating them, and these works I bring back just souvenirs of the journey; the places I’ve seen, the feelings I’ve sorted through?

It is a marvelous life I have created, and even now, as I wish for peace and quiet, I am more satisfied than not. I am happy to be in this place today, in my shoppe. I am happy to share my work with new eyes, to touch the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. Most of the people who come in here are not expecting to find art that they resonate with; they’ve come to the bookstore for something else, perhaps, and leave with a little piece of their own truth. I like that.

Maybe that is the answer to all these questions. Maybe it is as simple as one of my heroes said, “Your job as an artist is to observe, interpret and report back.” I feel so much gratitude for this chance, the ability to do what I do...but it is not without its confusion, it is not without its pain. I crave so much more than this small room can contain - how to make that balance?

To circle back around to where I began in this note; I do know how to care for myself.
It is in making the work. It is in solitude; measured in quality, not quantity. And for how to care for others? Perhaps it is just to share these universal truths I stumble upon in my quiet solitude. It is in the filling up of my own spirit, and then responding from that overflow to the needs of others. It is in giving what I have to give, which is vulnerable and personal, useful only in the way art can be useful. Art gives a moment of quiet, a moment of beauty, a moment of truth which we all need in our own reservoir in order to carry us through this rollercoaster ride which is our human experience.

...and then I wonder if that is 'enough'.
"Enough for who?", I snap back to myself. I suddenly realize the absurdity in the question that I've always asked. Enough. It's not meant to be enough. It never will be enough. The journey is never ending - we are not meant to fill up the tank once for a lifetime of exploration.

To take care of oneself, to care for one another means we must gather resources along the journey in all the ways that are available. In all the ways that are useful, necessary and meaningful to the immediate needs. 

Be well.
Thank you for reading.
Liz Huston
December 26, 2016

A little about The Tower

I've been working on a Tarot deck for about 8 years now. Maybe 9. The first deck was lost 8 or 9 years ago (I can't remember now, exactly), in a ridiculous computer crash. I had it all backed up, of course I did. But the backup crashed, as well. So I lost it all. After a bit of a grieving process, I began again.

It has taken me years to get this far. That first deck I worked quickly, I think it only took me a year. Having never gone to art school, it was the Cards that were teaching me how to make art. They were a crash course in symbolism and visual storytelling. I had already been reading the cards for well over a decade when I began that first deck, so I had a good foundation. But making one's own deck, that was a bold initiation.

In hindsight, I'm so glad that first deck was lost. At the time, however, that loss nearly destroyed my spirit. I felt like a victim, (and acted like one, for shame) which is never a good place to be. I did everything "right" as I worked; kept my backup updated, but in the end, it made no difference.
68 of the 78 cards I completed of the deck vanished. All that work was gone.

Like I said, now, 8-9 years on, I'm glad they were lost. I know that's a weird thing to say, but now it's true. My work was crude then, it was unrefined. I really wanted to make great work, I thought I was! But I was still a baby, learning how to crawl. Not even walking yet! It was a mercy, that computer crash. And a perfect example of the lessons of the Tower card.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Tower card - it's a card of quick, sudden, deep change. It's the lightening bolt that strikes, decimating everything in its path. 

I'd say this is not a particularly good card to get in your reading; for In that catastrophic moment when the bolt hits, everything is destroyed. All those things you cling to, the unhealthy attachments are all dissolved. That can be deeply traumatic, more so if we base our identity on these external things and people. 

However, the ripples and benefits of such a clearing event are hugely positive in potential. It's ultimately a card of trust - trust of self, trust of the universe (or whatever your higher power or science is).  

The Tower holds the potential for a brand new beginning. It's the ultimate in liberation - giving our heart freedom from the prison (or the tower) we'd locked ourselves away in out of fear, or habit, or both. The Tower breaks away barriers we've built and frees us to experience the innocent, pure parts of our being. It's the chemical reaction that reveals the latent image.

The Tower is the moment of ultimate release - the past is no longer relevant in this scenario. The message of the Tower is to release the old way of life and look toward the future with complete trust.

Most of my artwork that will appear in my deck were created to be both art and oracle. The focus being on the former. However, sometimes the particular cards are so big, so powerful, so important, that they can only be titled their actual name. And so, The Tower, doesn't have a deep meandering, poetic title associated with it. It could be called "At The Mercy of the Destruction of Unhealthy Attachments". But really, it's just called "The Tower"

Liz Huston
September 2016

Home.

Spontaneous sharing of deep thoughts on a Saturday in September...

Today I’m thinking about home. My whole life I have been searching for home, and my whole life it just keep slipping through my fingers.

What is home, really?

Is home carried within you, as the saying goes, “home is in your heart”?

What does that mean, really, and why does it feel so elusive? Is it trauma, experienced at a very early age, which separates some of us from our own, internal source of home? Perhaps that’s true. One of my teachers explained trauma as the interruption of a cycle, or a circle. It could be as simple as the ice cream topped on a cone falling off as you go to take your first bite. It could be huge as in the loss of someone great in your life. The trauma is the interruption, an inability for completion. We have little traumas, and we have big traumas. And we store them, an internal warehouse of incompletion. So we search, intuitively, unknowingly, trying to complete those circles.

Like all of us, I have had many experiences of deep pain, loss, dare I say trauma. As a result that has caused my spirit to flee my own body, in order to compartmentalize and protect itself. A lot of what I’ve done in my shamanic path is reclaiming those bits and pieces of my own soul. We even have an energetic process for it, called ‘soul retrieval’. There have been so many times I’ve called those pieces back, but didn’t do the follow up work in integrating them. Sometimes I have done the work, but if I’m really honest, sometimes I haven’t. I wonder if there are only so many times you can call those pieces back, only to ignore them, that they stay out of your reach until you’re really serious. And that’s where home comes in.

I have found home in people. I have found home in places. I have found home in songs, and poems, and art, and books, and ceremony. Those are fleeting, but they’re still home.

I met a friend on the beach this morning, in a place that was actually home for many years for me. One the drive back, all I could think about was this idea of home.

I wonder if, when we find a sense of home in other people, is it just that their heart beats to the same rhythm as ours? And if we’ve successfully compartmentalized ourselves, just being in their company, the confusion of the modern world slips away... For a moment, however fleeting, they remind you of your own rhythm? And in that rhythm, is home?

Is that why the sages, in instructing meditation tell you to keep returning to the breath. For what is the breath but the path to the rhythm of your own heart?

The Love Letter

Today has been a day full of attention deficit; I can’t hold my mind still long enough to complete any one task. The art I started lays dormant, not having enough creative juice to carry it from the initial sketch to a recognizable form.

Phone calls I made are un-returned, and I want to leave my studio for the day, but since there’s nothing waiting for me on the other end, I stay. I have successfully wrapped up a few odd, loose ends, which felt good - but ultimately, this will be one of those forgotten days wherein nothing of particular use or value occurred. Although, perhaps by writing this, it will shift the purpose of the day.

I spent most of today reading though old writings; thoughts and words carefully arranged on the page to illicit a response or some clarity. I was enchanted by these words of my younger selves; a creature full of paradox - beneath a suffocating blanket so full of sadness, rays of hope filtering in through the threads. She was a survivor, alright. She taught herself the secrets of humanity through simple observations. She reinvented herself, she shrank and then she grew.

It occurs to me that by wasting the day, I am not using my time here on earth wisely. I have been given the gift of presence, and yet, am not fully present currently, in my own life. I listen with rapt attention as strangers weave their stories, while my own stories tug at my sleeves and I tell them, “later, darling. I’ll listen to you later.” And so, they have stopped tugging.

I’m doing the workbook in the The Artist’s Way series with an artist friend of mine. There’s a sort of comfort in having a friend accompany me on the path I’ve walked alone so many times. This is not the first time I’ve engaged in the weekly tasks, but this is the first time I’ve done so with a partner. We offer each other encouragement and advice when needed, and a friendly nudge to keep going when the tasks are daunting and uninteresting. I like having a traveling companion; it makes the terrain so much more interesting.

If you don’t know what The Artist’s Way is, briefly, I'll explain. It’s a daily practice of journaling (first thing in the morning), a weekly walk (to clear your mind), a weekly artist’s date (to fill your creative well), and finally, a handful of tasks, so to speak, that change every week. And there is a small amount of reading. Lovely reading. Questions to answer, excursions to take. The tasks are all pretty simple, and they don’t take a lot of time. The insights gathered are valuable, and since I have learned to recognize their value, I engage with them as fully as I can.

It’s interesting that knowing the benefit, there are still some tasks which tasks I avoid. I'm interested in finding out why I avoid them. I feel that I can learn as much from that which I avoid as that which I engage with - if, and only if, I am willing to look.

The task I am avoiding right now is writing a love letter to myself. My friend read me hers, and its simplicity and beauty struck me. It was as if her inner 5 year old piped up in defense to tell her older self simply that she is fun and nice. I liked that.

I address myself in my proper name, “Dear Elizabeth,” the letter opens. And then, crickets.
I stare at that empty page for a good long while before I pull out another blank page, full of earnest intent.
“My dearest Elizabeth,” it begins.
Crickets. Again.

Why is it so hard to write a love letter to oneself? It occurs to me that I have not written a love letter to anyone in far too long. If I wrote one to my boyfriend now, he might think it sweet, but a little strange. No, I have little practice in this art. Which, given that I am a self proclaimed incurable romantic, I am surprised that I cannot write a word.

I begin on yet another blank sheet of paper. I worry about the trees I’m wasting, but begin again.
“My dearest Elizabeth Rose,” it reads.
Something about using my middle name perks up my own interest. What a beautiful name, I think. My parents really did something nice for me by naming me that. My middle name is after my Grandmother, who recently passed away. And then I am sad and filled with regret - why didn’t I go out to visit her at least once in my adult life? I traveled to South America three times, I could’ve flown to see her once, but I did not.
My thoughts are swirling in a million directions, and I don’t write any further. I did mention this was my own personal day of attention deficit, right?

Here’s the thing, though. I am stubborn and determined. I wholeheartedly want to complete all of the tasks assigned to me by the book, just to simply say that I was disciplined enough to do it.

That does it. I actually begin to write.
It reads more like a self help seminar, my own personal motivational speaker, than a love letter. But I suppose it’s better than nothing.

In it, I am reminded of my own strength, my ability to survive, and at times thrive, in spite of great obstacles. I read words that I have used in recent conversations to friends and loved ones, this time re-framed and pointed directly at myself - reminding us all of our own talents and abilities.

In this time,  something remarkable happens. I stop taking myself for granted. Let me repeat. For one precious moment, I stop taking myself for granted.
I am fully present with myself - who I imagine myself to be, who I portray, how I see others, how they (perhaps) see me, and how my actions are different from all of that.
I realize that yes, there is still a great distance to travel and a great many marvels to discover and uncover, but I see how far I’ve come. I see how picking myself up and dusting myself off time and time again has paid off in great dividends in my personal story and creative evolution. I recognize and marvel at the wonder of my heart, at the center of my being, plugging away, pumping the life giving blood through my veins. And I realize, for the first time in, well, maybe ever, the marvel of simply being alive.

What better love letter than standing in full recognition of the miracle that is existence? This isn’t about me, or what I’ve done, or who I am or think I am. No. This is about the miracle of life, and that after all these years, after all the heartache and the sorrow and the love and the laughter and the hopes and the dreams - after it and in spite of it, I’m still standing here. Breathing. Heart beating proudly in my chest.

 

Wow. I am alive.

And so are you.

Welcome home.

xo

PS: If you are reading this, may I suggest that you write yourself a love letter. Notice what comes up, and what that might be teaching you. It’s a marvelous exercise.
 

Creative Isolation and the Map of Authenticity

Introducing my first public art piece: a mural in Pershing Square in Downtown LA!

Art Squared Exhibit in Pershing Square, DTLA, March 2016 ||  Photo by TanyaAlexisPhoto.com


In 2012 I made a piece of art inspired by my birthday, March 4.
In the book "The Big Book of Birthdays", each day has a phrase that encompasses the meaning of the day.
My day, according to that book, is "The Day of Creative Isolation".
I felt an unshakable bond to the phrase (it's so me) that it inspired a piece of art, “Creative Isolation and the Map of Authenticity”.

Fast forward to the beginning of January 2016:
I'm approached by the committee in charge of public art in Pershing Square in Downtown LA. They wanted to include one of my pieces in the latest installation, and out of the several I sent them, they chose Creative Isolation!

I spent several weeks painstakingly enhancing and remaking the piece (created originally at 16x20 at 300dpi) to make it 9 feet x 9 feet square! The result is gorgeous. Really, something I'm so very proud of - and it's my first public art piece! Proudly on display in Pershing Square for all to see for the next couple of months.

And the icing on the cake? The mural was installed on March 4, 2016.
The DAY of Creative Isolation. Can you believe that?! Couldn't have orchestrated it better had I tried.

So if you're in downtown LA, come see her in person. She's very special!

Liz Huston with her mural, "Creative Isolation and the Map of Authenticity" March 4, 2016 ||  Photo by TanyaAlexisPhoto.com

Use your creativity or it will use you

Meditation is a topic I write and talk about quite often. Probably because it is integral to a life that is balanced and happy, for me at least. I find that with a consistent practice of meditation (and I stress the word 'practice' because I still feel I'm not quite *that* good at it, but I practice anyway...but I digress).
With a regular meditation practice, the benefits flow into my life through every channel; my art deepens, emotions feel more manageable, the rough patches of life are somehow more smooth, my head is clear, and sometimes, when I'm just quiet enough, tremendous wisdom comes through.

Today, an insight bubbled up after my morning meditation that I felt was worth sharing. It was a simple sentence, but the truth of it ripples out in many directions.

 

The insight was simply, "Use your creativity or it will use you".

 

That might mean something different to me than it does to you. For me, it's simple. If I'm not using my creative impulses to make art, those creative impulses need an outlet, and they will wreak all kinds of havoc in my life if not channeled properly. This can be disagreements, drama, accidents, all manner of things. All of which are, well, unpleasant, to say the least.

I think the point is that like a daily quota of meditative time, there must be, for the artist, a daily quota of studio time. Regularly tended to, the art will flourish.

 

If you're reading this, chances are you are an artist, a creative person in any discipline.

My question to you is this:
Are you giving your creativity a regular outlet?
A committed time and place, daily, in which your own creativity can express itself?
And if not, why not?
Are you using your creativity to get out of your creative work?
Can you see how that untapped creative energy is making trouble in order to express itself?
If so, just notice it. Take a deep breath, right now, and make a small commitment to yourself and your creativity. Even 20 minutes a day to start...

I promise, I am doing the same, and will say that it's not easy to devote a window of time, every single day to one's art. Even when, as is my case, the art is the day job! It's still hard. Life is demanding. Schedules, commitments, loved ones pull our attention in other directions - but I promise, giving your art that time on a regular, consistent basis, will reap tremendous rewards. Just try it.

Let me know how it goes!

Happy creating!

 

Your own personal value

The world is alive and talking to us all of the time. If we still ourselves long enough to pay attention, we can have a dialogue, a communion with this life, and thus an enchanted existence.
I like to think that my life is enchanted, but it did not arrive that way without effort.

I’ve always wanted to understand the unknowable, to touch the great mystery that is life itself, one tiny drop at a time - if that was all I could get my hands around. And, quite often, it is all I can get my hands around. The world around and within us is unimaginably vast. Endless possibilities scatter before us in all directions.

So in order to live what I feel is an enchanted life, I began a relentless witnessing, pursuing, processing and connecting, which has brought the most profound (yet utterly mundane) insights.

I can go weeks without insights, much like the weeks or months without remembering any dreams. And then out of the muck rises some breakthrough, suddenly, and without warning, without ceremony. The other day I had such a revelation. This one was about worthiness.

Now let me preface this by saying that I did not grow up with any extra-ordinary amount of self esteem or inherent worthiness. Quite the contrary, actually. A life long history of crippling depression did not naturally lend itself to personal value. Perhaps it was rooted in the belief that I was inherently bad, undeserving of good things, no matter how “good” I was inside or behaved on the outside, constantly reinforced an unworthy bias.

It could have been the internalized message of a religious upbringing (we are all born sinners or something like that), or it could’ve just been the baggage I brought with me to this life when I entered. It doesn’t really matter where it came from. What matters is that I’ve carried it, day in and day out for decades. It was the hole I dug in the ground to escape a loving encounter, it was the cliff I built to leap away from a frightening (but good) opportunity.

This feeling that we don’t really deserve such blessings is one of those things that lives behind our smiles, it hides on the backs of our open hands as we hesitantly accept grace. “Do I really deserve this?” is the question we never form, but that lives under our tongues, as we try and say yes through the sludge of that loaded question.

Somewhere I started to believe that it was necessary to “do good” in order to BE deserving of good. That whole like attracts like thing, maybe. Or maybe it was my way of punishing myself, of creating impossible standards, in order to prove myself right by never reaching the unattainable. But, because I am stubborn, and a survivor, I continued on, striving to someday be “worthy”.

The other day I went for a walk on the beach. I have a bit of a pattern when it comes to these sunset walks, always walking towards the sun. This day, for some reason, I walked the other direction. I only walked a short distance when I came across a bird in need of help.

This bird, a cormorant, had been caught with a line of some kind, which wrapped around both of its wings and neck.
(I wrote about it in detail here)

The poor bird was really suffering, it was hard to watch and not to help. This was the first time in my life (that I remember, anyway) where I had an opportunity to truly be of help to a creature in need. Looking back, I surprised even myself with how I handled it. The bird needed help, and so I patiently, lovingly, unwound that string from his feathers. The whole ordeal took about an hour, and the sun was down by the time I left his side, once I knew he’d be ok.

The walk home was when the surreal nature of what had occurred hit me. Did I really just save a bird’s life? He surely would’ve drowned had I not helped, right? But, I was always going to help. That creature deserves help, I thought to myself. It had nothing to do with me, or my ego or anything else. It was about connection, compassion. And that was when I realized the thing about value, about worthiness.

Each one of us has tremendous value as a living being, as part of this world. You are part of the synergy of the whole complex thing. Consider the possibility that maybe your actual value lies simply in being an active participant in life. That is, just by being alive, by breathing, you have value. You don’t have to “do” anything except exactly what is natural to you.

Try that on for size. How does it feel? I admit, it felt more comfortable when I tried it on at first. As I write these words I am tempted to backtrack, to explain more, to agree that maybe it does seem far fetched and simplified. But really, when the insight came, it was just that simple.

In the case of the bird: I felt an impulse to take a different path in a moment that lasted less than a fraction of a second. Didn’t question it. Seemed natural enough, I do have an adventurous streak, and had gotten into a rut by walking the same way day in and day out.

So, yeah. Just by showing up, I found myself in a situation where I could give back to life.
 
Oh, but there is a catch. Showing up in integrity with who you really are, by following the impulses that are unique to you, that is the value you serve and give back to life itself.

Consider the relief in that you just have to do what’s right and best and natural to you. Life has given you life. Life itself wants you to live, and feed back into the loop that continues life.  It is, therefore, of value to life itself that you show up - in all the ways that are authentic to you. It has nothing to do with being anything other than exactly who you are.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. It’s so simple, yet so hard to hold. We’ve been taught our whole lives that our value is measured in our striving. In how many hours we work, or how many followers we have, that's where we find our worth. But those things are fleeting, although, I guess under this new awareness those things do have their place.

So, if it is your natural impulse to work endless hours, to court countless followers, go forth and do it with no apologies. Your life has value, you have value. Your unique contribution is important to the functioning of the whole. So do your thing. Stop doubting yourself. Stop questioning your worth. Stop digging a hole to hide in. Just live. Live your life in the most authentic way you can. And then at the end of it, weather you die in obscurity, die next to your beloved, or die with millions of fans mourning your passing - if you lived the life that was authentic to you, as often as you could, nobody will be able to deny that you lived, and you lived well.

xo
Liz Huston, October 21, 2015

Haunting the halls of my own heart

I wrote this on 11/24/14, then promptly lost it somewhere in my computer.
Stumbled upon it today, a lifetime later (9/24/15), and I thought perhaps it was worth sharing.
Thank you for reading.
~Liz


For the last several months I’ve been haunting the halls of my own mind in emotional torment. I became a stranger to myself, familiar (to myself) only in my sadness. I did not take the unraveling of a beautiful love story (aka: break up) very well. I closed myself off from the world - less the world outside,more from the lush interior world which I had spent so many years designing and decorating.

The halls of my heart were filled with trinkets and plans, artwork I’d begin one day, dreams I began but haven’t finished. All of these lovely treasures of my own heart, mind and soul lay neglected within me, as if shrouded in white sheets signifying to anyone who entered, “Nobody lives here anymore.”

I remember one of my Shaman teachers told me after a particularly deep healing session, “Do not abandon yourself.” She was emphatic in this. She delivered the words directly, sternly. I heard her, and I heard her clearly. I actually retained those words, and nothing else she said from that whole session. And that was maybe, 5 years ago?

While I heard her, I admit now that I didn’t really know what she had meant. I thought it sounded absurd. I mean, how could I abandon myself? WHY would I abandon myself? Of course I won’t abandon myself. Silly.

I still don’t know the why, but I’ve come to learn the how. Because, I did abandon myself.

Sure, I devoted myself to my art, plunged into an unmanageable work schedule that stretched somewhere between 70-100 hours in the studio and shoppe, every. single. week. For months.

I thought that meant I was still present. I mean, I was showing up! I was showing up every single day, no matter how dark, no matter how hopeless, no matter how I trembled in fear, in pain, in loneliness. I was still working, I was still making art. And it was meaningful art, coming from deep within. And I was enjoying it all - the best I could anyway. In fact, I completed 6 new pieces in that time, pieces that I’m proud of. Pieces that not only speak to me, but they speak to other people. So the time was not wasted.
I just wish I would’ve been more...present.

I now see that just because I showed up and committed myself to my art and my process, that did not mean I was present. In truth, I was doing it because I didn’t know what else to do. This breakup had caused a full war within me. It had caused every single unfinished love story I had ever experienced in my life, from the 4th grade crush on a boy named Jason, to the devastating divorce, and everything in between, to rise up and remind me, “Remember us? We’re still here. It’s always the same, Liz. There’s always someone prettier, smarter, more worthy of our affections and attentions. There’s always someone - else.”

Because that has been the thread of my love story. It seems there's always someone else. Never on my end, but on theirs. It’s been the hardest thing to understand and accept. That kind of repetitive pattern does a number on one’s psyche.

I had the disturbing revelation, just last week, that maybe the pattern was repeating itself because I was guilty of the very same crime. Me? Yes. Me. But it’s not what you think.
It occurred to me that maybe I had in fact chosen someone else as well, but my crime was much graver than theirs.

I chose them over me.
Every damn time.

I abandoned my own dreams and hopes, left them to rot under old white sheets, and filled the halls of my heart with ‘our dreams’. Mind you, they never asked this of me. Really, I think that ‘our dreams’ were still ‘my dreams’, just under the guise of sharing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been very good at sharing. While we’re at it, I’m not very good at asking or communicating, either. In fact, I remember one man who told me that he’d rather look at my art than listen to me talk. At the time, I took that as a horrible insult.

Years later, I was able to ask him about that comment, and his answer startled me. He said, “I wasn’t trying to be mean. What I meant was that it’s so much easier to know what you’re really thinking and feeling when I look at your work.” I was shocked. So it wasn’t an insult. It was an attempt at getting closer.

Now I know what he meant. Now, I can look back at those last pieces of art I’ve finished recently and suddenly I am closer to myself. I become present. I can imagine showing up physically, all of those days, countless hours. What is revealed to me is the longing, and the healing, and the transformations that were quietly taking place behind the scenes as she, I mean, I, made the work. Quite probably, had I been more present at the time, I would have gotten in the way of it all.
 
So this is how I feel, today. I’ve come to a place of acceptance and peace, and started to peek under those white sheets at all I loved and held dear.
I am remembering myself, remembering what I dreamed of.
I am pulling the dusty books off the shelf (literally and figuratively) and reclaiming those bits of me I left out, neglected to rot and decay. They might be a little worn, but they’re still there. The core of their truth is still intact. The ideas of art I have not yet made, ideas that the very thought of made my heart race in wild abandon, are all still there, unmade, just waiting. I have sketched out dozens of new pieces and several bodies of work, which have always been there, just waiting, until I was present once again.


I am present now.


Liz Huston

Day 1. (2015)

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

This is a quote which is frequently attributed to Anais Nin, but upon my research today, there is no corroborating evidence to source her for the genesis of this quote. Perhaps she said it, perhaps she did not. Regardless of who said it, there is a stark truth in it, and my mind ravels and unravels around this truth like a bee looking for nectar within that bloom.

It occurred to me today that most of us live very tightly closed, well defined lives. We have our routines, our habits, and tend to live life in a closed, safe and predictable manner. I believe society, in a way, has contributed to our being closed down individually. We have been taught to live small lives, as humility is the ultimate virtue - safe for yourself, and more importantly, safe for everyone around you. Even as we gawk at our celebrities, who to us, live anything but small lives. There’s a giant paradox at work, and it’s one that has many of us feeling dis-empowered, frustrated and, at times, just plain stuck in our small-ness.

I am in a bit of a creative block at the moment. I have been working non-stop despite the creative block, hoping that by the sheer force and determination I possess, I might be able to pry myself open and enter into that open expanse of creativity.

Force has never brought me into greater creativity. I know this, but I arrive at my work this way anyway, every single day, looking for a place in which to enter. I know that in my art is where I take refuge. It is the one place in my life I was never afraid of the expanse, not fearing the freedom of my own creative spirit; and yet, suddenly, I realize I am not free even in the sanctuary of my own art. And that is why I am blocked.

There are so many reasons we learn to live small. In many ways, it is safer to do so, and it is ingrained upon us as tiny children. We poke our head up, point out some uncomfortable truth, and are shushed. Perhaps we carry the memory of that experience into our adulthood - not wanting to anger the tribe, because that would, anger them, and maybe we would be kicked out of our tribe. It's certainly happened before. I believe that there is no malice intended, it is, perhaps just the way it has always been, just the way our society behaves.

I could go into a larger conversation here, citing references from history where the people in charge have wanted (and still want) anything but an enlightened and informed public. But I won’t.

Because, ultimately, it is us who choose to stay small. It is us, individually and collectively who want so badly to belong that we perform in a safe and predictable way, rarely questioning our potential and throwing every obstacle in our own way to make sure we don’t grow.

Here’s a metaphor to illustrate the simple truth of what I’m trying to say, back to the original quote I began this rant with. Let’s say you are a flower. You are a beautiful bloom that only opens when the circumstances are right. 

Say you are night blooming jasmine, and so you bloom under the moonlight. You thrive in the dark. Say you are a lily and you bloom in daylight, shade of course, roots buried deep in the moist, shaded soil.

You, in your peculiarity only bloom when the circumstances are appropriate for your particular design. Imagine if the jasmine, as dusk gave way to night said to its neighbors, “I can’t do it! I can’t open! Last time I opened I was abused and my leaves were all plucked off this vine. This is all I have left! I can’t open! I won’t do it!” And thus the beautiful jasmine flower decides to stay closed for this particular cycle of night. Imagine it. Absurd, don’t you think?

So you push those boundaries.

Bloom where you are planted.

~Liz Huston
Friday, September 25, 2015

“Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.”

 

Liz Huston, 2015. Photo by the marvelous Sam Litzinger.

Liz Huston, 2015.
Photo by the marvelous Sam Litzinger.