El Camino del Corazon (the way of the heart)

In attempting to process the grief of a significant loss, I created these three works of slab clay, three “hearts” (also function as labyrinths) that helped to guide me into a greater understanding of the journey of grief that we all take at some point in our life. Each heart added to a new facet to my understanding of journeying with grief as companion and guide.

Heart #1: the melted labyrinth

Heart 1

At my starting point, I turned to the labyrinth as a tool that I have used in the past when I was in need of discernment. But this time, something felt wrong. I had a visceral reaction to the symmetry of the labyrinth. They were too perfect, too concentric. This no longer spoke to the path I was on – and so I attempted to build a “melted” labyrinth; one where there was chaos and disorientation, like there is in grief. A labyrinth where the path winded a bit more. I did not initially set out to make it look like a heart, but after it was fired, that’s what I saw.

Heart #2: the four chambered heart

Heart 2

In my second attempt at a labyrinth that felt right, I learned that in native spirituality, it is important to honor the four chambers of the heart, which are often represented by the four directions (north, south, east, west). So in this heart-labyrinth, I created a path that moved through each “chamber” and in doing so, also moved the path through the four directions. These four chambers also spoke to the four elements of earth, air, water, fire. Anchoring my grief in the elements seemed good, but didn’t feel like the final lesson in my study of grief though. I needed to sculpt a third heart-labyrinth.

Heart #3: the journey out

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What unsettled me with the image of the labyrinth (in addition to the symmetry and concentric-ness), was this idea that the way out was a reverse of the way in. That just didn’t feel right to me — the way out of my grief seemed like it was not going to come from the path in. It felt as if I was carving a new path, someplace I had never traveled before. In my final heart-labyrinth, I knew that the way forward through this grief was going to be an uncharted path. So I carved the four chambered heart with a path that honored all four directions. But in this one, the center was the halfway point. The way out of the center was not the way in – it was a path that I had not yet discovered. It was still yet to come. It was trusting in the way of the heart to lead me forward on a path not yet known.

When all three had been fired, I was struck by how the colors moved — the first heart was a cold, dead blue. The second a warmer khaki. The third almost glowed with an illuminating, vibrant gold tone. A visual death-to-life that I could not have planned. And in the creation of the 3 heart-labyrinths — the way of the heart — I understood grief more deeply than I had ever before.

Reflecting on the art, I wrote this poem: THE WAY OF THE HEART

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