I pulled in, got out of my car, and stepped into magic. It was late. But, the magical sparkles I felt were the kind you don’t have to see with your eyes. It was the kind you can feel inside. I couldn’t see anything. It was pitch black except for the few lights on around the cabins, but I felt the magic fairy dust running through my bones as soon as I began walking in this very sacred place. I have quite an affinity for the Texas Hill Country, but this was more than just being in the hill country. Upon inquiring about the history of the all girls camp at Camp Waldemar, the Director told me that, “the veil is very thin here.”
The cabins are made with rock and limestone that were quarried from the Guadalupe River. Every detail from the woodwork, to the light fixtures, pathways, and gardens are uniquely and exquisitely designed with a Russian fairytale air. Built in the early 1920s, an architect from San Antonio designed the camp and a Russian immigrant was recruited from a Mexican farm to help build Camp Waldemar due to his reputation as an excellent builder. For more information on the history of the camp, please check out the Camp Waldemar website! It has a rich and fascinating history.
Back to the sparkly magic though. I didn’t attend Camp Waldemar as a young girl. In fact, I didn’t attend summer camp at all as a young girl. It wasn’t part of our economic or social context. But, as an adult, I’ve been on a journey to rediscover my inner child. So, here I was stepping my feet on sacred ground and attending camp solo for the first time in my life at a women’s art camp called Lucky Star, created and organized by my friend and owner, Lisa Hamlyn Field. I was hesitant and perhaps even a little guilty for taking the time out of my life to come to art camp. But, by the end of the camp, I had already committed to attending next year. Something pulled me back and it was larger than the inner child calling. It was something beyond the veil akin to a subtle whisper that crept into the crevices of my soul. What was that whisper anyway?
“Hey, sister – welcome!” my cabin mate eagerly said as I walked into my cabin for the first time. My other cabin mates were talking and laughing. It was warm. It felt good. I felt connected. There was a sense of belonging. I’ve been thirsty and hungry for that. It was as if I had finally opened an invitation that my soul had been sending me often that somehow in the past kept getting lost in the noisy pile of junk mail, but this time I noticed it with an alluring curiosity. With that curiosity I opened a new dimension into a world where our creative existence is held prime.
I didn’t need a license, a degree, or a special show. All I needed was myself with a twist of marvel for discovery. That’s exactly what I got. With each step, I discovered something new and interesting. It wasn’t the kind of new and interesting that you get when you go window-shopping either. It was the kind of newness that sparks fire, the transformational fire. I was enchanted with each step as if I had discovered walking for the first time in my life.
I was surrounded by beauty in the external world. The camp was well groomed, the buildings made of the finest materials, and there was a beautiful and clean river. And, there were sweet critters and creatures roaming everywhere. Certainly that had something to do with my enchantment. But I had been in many beautiful places before and there was still something about this place that was more. It was more than the beauty that met the eye.
Upon arriving and meeting my cabin mates, I was immediately busy creating my name tag, my goodie bag, and a special gratitude tag for the gratitude board project. There were colors, markers, ribbons and paper of all shapes and sizes. There were no directions other than to create what your heart felt like showing. At that point I thought, “Do I really have creative license to draw and color what I desire?” I didn’t grow up with an art education or appreciation of art. I was that person that thought I wasn’t an artist and creating wasn’t my thing. So, I dived into books and writing instead.
I had already opened the invitation that begged attention from my soul. I was at the camp. Now I just had to break down the walls. You know, those walls that tell you all the things you aren’t so you never try and then spend a good portion of your life wondering, “What if…” This was definitely my dive into making the “what if” real. I spent a whole day learning single gel printing. I made prayer flags (and sewed for the first time with some awesomesauce encouragement by the teacher) and spent another day learning how to upholster a chair.
In fact, every act and encounter seemed to cultivate a keen creative sense deep in my heart and, like a child in awe of her first realization that she could paint, I was mesmerized by the possibilities that life still had to offer. There was so much color, texture, and depth to each moment. And, laughter. There was a lot of laughter. The belly shaking, oh my goodness my face is hurting from laughing so much kind of laughter. There’s something very magical about laughter.
The veil that separates us from our true selves melts in the state of laughter and our creative instinct lights up like dynamite. The veil I’m referring to is the invisible wall that we tend to put up around our heart and mind and it blocks us from seeing life in all its beautiful glory. What’s most fascinating about the thinness of the veil in this emotional state is our creative instinct to really unite and know each other – whether human, animal, or inanimate object – at a level that no words can seemingly describe for that would blemish the purity of the essential connection.
In that moment of union, the essential connection, we begin to know who we really are – ever changing matter on a spiritual quest of creative endeavors. As the poet David Whyte beautifully says, “No matter our need to find a place to stand amidst the onward flow of the world, the real foundation of the self is not in self-knowledge, but in the self-forgetfulness that occurs when it meets something other than the self it wanted to know.”
That’s exactly what happens when we find laughter in the stardust. We forget the thing that separates us, the walls come down, and we begin an intimate journey with what binds us together. That’s the gem of Lucky Start Art Camp for Women. We are brought back to a place of magical proportions. It’s a place where we no longer see the stardust out there, but right inside each of us. In that community we spark the essential nature of who we are and create all things sparkly and bright as we were meant to do whether it be painting a canvass, sewing cloth, singing music, or sharing our stories about life. We find that to create is to live joyfully.
With that spark being cultivated inside, I went on a run in our downtime at camp along Highway FM 1340. Soaking in the winding country roads and breathtaking limestone and granite accents atop the rugged hills, I came across a mama deer and her doe. Usually in these instances the deer will run to safety as they see us humans as predators. But this time, it was different. There was no veil and that which binds us together took center stage. I forgot who I was and met something my soul deeply desired to know. It was quite the transcendental experience. We had an intimate conversation, but there were no words. In that moment, I was infinitely here in this body, there in the deer, and a little bit everywhere floating in the stardust of the vast universe. The essential connection to all things took me back to a place where I could do nothing but hold sacred with deep gratitude and reverence for the very act of being and becoming – the ultimate creation.
As Whyte reminds us, “We are neither what we think we are nor entirely what we are about to become, we are neither purely individual nor fully a creature of our community, but an act of becoming that can never be held in place by a false form of nomenclature.” This is the point where our humanity meets divinity. It is in the act of creation, of making art, of taking something that didn’t exist before and giving it room to breathe, to grow, and to laugh its self into a space of ultimate grace. And, this is where we become beholden to stand in awe at the stardust dripping off our fingertips.
As I was sitting by the fire where we sang sing alongs and laughed ourselves into divine glory, I inhaled a little more of the magic and thought that “the very act of sitting here and being aware of such grace-filled unity made me an artist.” I carried that with me into the next conversation, which had me up much later than I anticipated, but there was the unspeakable to create, this time with an exchange of words sitting around the potter’s wheel. And as if this super sonic artistic vibration couldn’t get any better, we closed out the night and camp experience with a Show & Tell. It was a visual tapestry of our human story, each a piece of each other, but different enough from the other that honored the uniqueness of our special spark.
We raised our glasses in a toast around the transformational fire letting go of what was and celebrating what was about to become, holding a sweet warmth around that and never forgetting that piece of nectar that we all came to know something beyond our selves. Until next time, a fellow camper and teacher with these words sent us off, “May we all be like the duck that crossed the lake without losing a feather and this time next year find ourselves here back together.”
In that same tenor, may we all remember to walk our own artistic journey, ruffling our feathers a bit, but not losing our truest self in the process, and finding our way back home to the place where the veil is lost in the laughter of the stardust.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea