Like the book itself, the artwork on the cover of Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedenss, has a story of its own to tell. It is a story of synchronicity and timing, one of flow, one of channeling and of ritual or initiation. It is the story of two things, each percolating for years, each on their own. The book, of course. And the artwork. And not just any artwork – sacred art. Sacred art for me and for the book.
The genesis of the artwork was a long brewing curiosity and interest in possibly getting a tattoo. Around 2009, when I felt the birthing of the second half of my life, I began to imagine getting a tattoo. I didn’t know what image I wanted, nor did I know where on my body I would want to put this image. At one point, my son’s girlfriend found a fabulous shamanic image of a woman and a power animal – which I bookmarked and then lost when I got a new computer.
When my interest in a tattoo renewed itself, I began searching the internet for images, knowing I wanted a lion as part of the image. Nothing ever emerged that resonated deeply for me or that I wanted to put on my body in permanent ink. And then, early in 2013, at the same time my book was moving to its publishing phase, a Facebook friend began to blog about her journey to a sacred tattoo and I knew I was supposed to pay attention.
Through this friend, I got in touch with sacred tattoo artist Tania Marie. The tattoo was to represent the spiritual dimension of my journey so I shared a couple of chapters from the book that reflected this journey as well as other reflections on what I felt the tattoo was to represent. Tania meditated on me and my journey and began to channel the design. What she channeled, before even reading what I sent her, was very consistent and resonant with what I shared.
Around the same time, the publisher started asking me about any ideas I might have for the design of the cover of my book. It was the first time I put the two things together. Without even seeing the design, it occurred to me that the spiritual skin just might become the artwork for the book cover. When I saw the artwork, I knew it was so.
Artwork by Tania Marie
There is much story contained in the elements of the art which embraces the elements of earth, fire, air, water and spirit and I will share some of it here, largely in the words Tania shared with me.
The medicine woman is in the process of shapeshifting into the lion who is my journey partner since my first drumming circle experience in 2000. The medicine woman wears feathers of the eagle or owl in her hair, entwined twigs and leaves of Mother Earth, his mane and her hair and shawl all merging and integrating.
A lotus essence, almost like ethereal fire, emerges atop the swallowtail butterfly, with energy integrating into the lion’s mane, the medicine woman’s hair and shawl. The butterfly is releasing and freeing its creative abundance and joyful breadth of life-giving and is a messenger of powerfully transformative healing and regenerative energy and symbolism across time of the precious miracle of life, hope, love, transmutation, magick, joy,
The art is hugely rooted in shamanism, centeredness, balance, groundedness, empowerment, expansion, opening, releasing and honoring, as well as deepening emergence – all symbols and allies in deep journey and in transformation which is in continual motion. Such a humbling experience to be offered this gift to be put at my back as a symbol of deeper healing, gifts, growth and protection.
Photo by John Coleman and Michelle Murton
When it was time to have the tattoo inked on my skin, I went to see Kyle Bowles at Soul Harbour, the same tattoo artist that my friend had used. It was done in two sessions, the first to do the outline, the second to do the colour. Many people have asked me if it hurt. It is hard to explain. It is pain and not pain at the same time. The only way I could think of it was as an initiation – like I might have gone through in a previous time, as the medicine woman depicted in the art, ritual, something that had to be done.
I love the colour version of the tattoo on my back – Kyle and I picked out the colours and it is even better than I imagined it would be. And it was the black and white original art work that was to adorn the cover of the book. I sent it off to the publisher and the design team there sent it back with the colour and shading that was just perfect for the book.
The interweaving of story, synchronicity, beauty, love and joy. A depiction of one aspect of the stranger in me showing up in the fullness of the openhearted journey.