Yesterday, I attended the 5th Annual Conference for Women offered by Mountain Bizworks here in the WNC area. Over 150 women in one room! What a celebration of estrogen! What energy! I met some wonderful women, and ended up sitting at a table that boasted mostly artists (and we made a lot of joyful noise, too!). Jen Salar creates handmade invitations through her Soulstice Invitations. She also works at Random Arts (a 3-D artist's den of iniquity!) in Saluda. Abbie Doyle, owner of Garden of Beadin (a beader's cornucopia of delights!) here in Hendersonville joined us, as did Lori Garcia-Hernandez who owns Fitness SOULutions, a women's fitness center here focusing on the body-mind-spirit connection. Barbara Stock is a PMC artist and designer who owns Wren's Nest Precious Metal Designs. All of these women are community builders with amazingly generous spirits. I also met two Asheville artists: Sherry Rambin is a gifted photographer with a bright and joyous spirit; and Melissa Clonch, owner/designer of Gift Baskets by Melissa, has a quiet, sweet and open presence. And Hendersonville's own Angela Vaughan was recognized as the "Entrepreneur of the Year" for all the good work she's done since opening her business, Fitness Masters, to support people in "mastering a balanced, healthy lifestyle". You go, Angela!
There were so many other wonderful women there, including keynote speakers, BizWorks presenters, and BizWorks "staff/family" members who provide information, support, and encouragement to anyone in their own business (or considering a business of their own).
One of those "staff/family" members is Susanne Walker-Wilson, wife of Greg Walker-Wilson, who has been the Executive Director of Mountian Bizworks for over 13 years. He is leaving the non-profit so that he and his family (Susanne and their 2 boys) can assume a three-year volunteer assignment with the Mennonite Central Committee in Colombia, South America, a dream they've had for many years. Whew! What courage!
I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by Melinda Knies, gallery director of Mountain Made gallery, the retail shop connected with Mountain Bizworks and who carries my journals. She said the staff of Mountain BizWorks wanted to give Susanne a special thank you gift for all her years as a deeply connected volunteer and heart-centered supporter of the staff. Melinda asked me if I would create a journal for Susanne. What an honor! YES! (While I'd not met Susanne, I knew Greg and was sure he had great taste in women.) So Melinda sent me some info and gave me the freedom to create a journal for Susanne's journey.
At the conference yesterday, the staff presented Susanne with an award recognizing all her support through the past 13 years, and gave her the journal. I was so proud when I was asked to stand as the artist of the journal. Creating this journal for someone who is so community-oriented was an honor for me. Susanne and Greg are the folks who walk the talk... who promote positive change in their neighborhood and in the world.
The process of creating it was -- as always -- a magical one for me. I sat still and listened to the Muse and let my fingers do the walking over my various leathers, papers, and books. The process is one of listening and -- literally -- feeling my way through the creation. I'm thankful I have a stash of possibilities because the end result was nothing like I had originally thought it would be. That's the difference between "thinking" and "intuiting": one makes sense, the other touches deeply. Each signature I sewed was twice knotted, and each knot holds blessings for Susanne as she begins this new chapter of her life.
The green leather wrap cover is soft but strong. Green symbolizes growth to me, as do seeds which is why I chose the inside wrap paper for this journal. I gleaned the endpapers that line the leather from a 1963 oversized Reader's Digest World Atlas; the inside front cover focuses on Colombia. Four dividers throughout the pages are made from other maps from the same book and are folded to create pockets where Susanne can insert pictures, notes, etc. The clasp is an antique mother-of-pearl buckle, a circle that connects to the ocean as well as the mothering and nurturing that Susanne is committed to. The inside back cover holds a small booklet where Mountain Bizworks staff members could write their own notes for Susanne to keep with the journal.
After she received the journal, I had the opportunity to meet Susanne, and was so struck by her depth of spirit and positive intention that it brought tears to my eyes. Now I am even MORE honored than ever to have created something for her to take on this brave journey from the people that she has so intimately affected. I know this clear-eyed intention and integrity will bless the people she and her family come in contact with in their work in Colombia. What courage, to leave all that is familiar and certain and move their family to a culture in upheaval and uncertainty. I truly admire that kind of commitment and dedication to peacemaking and community-building!
Whether it is in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our work, or in our world, we all are on missions -- aware or unawares. I hope your days are filled with community and peace-building opportunities.