Mar 13 2012

Thank goodness life is not picky. Everyone seems to have good and bad experiences ranging from the heights of joy to the unending depths of sadness. With all of this character building, each person eventually finds a way to cope and survive the bad times, waiting for the good to come back around.

In my last post, Barbara Hughes shared her methods for healing from childhood sexual abuse by giving us a look into her art studio. She showed us how the creation of healing sculptures and paintings helped her get her pain outside of her mind and body. By forming her emotional pain into physical works of art, Barbara has lessened the impact of her childhood terrors.

Barbara Hughes, artist and healer.

In addition, Barbara also has reached out to gather community where she lives in Tennessee and traveled to Tanzania, Africa, intent on healing others in pain. Barbara has found that by enlarging her circle, she could continue to heal herself by helping to heal others. And, while Barbara was in Tanzania, she observed and celebrated the culture by painting and sculpting the beauty of the people she met.

Maasai Women

In 2010, Barbara taught in Tanzania at the Msalato Theological College. She taught Art and Spirituality to a group of African men and English to both men and women. As an accomplished artist, Barbara found the Tanzanian people and culture to be an endless resource of inspiration. Upon her return to her Tennessee studio, she began to sculpt and paint the “Women of Tanzania,” a show installed at Shenanigans Gallery, Sewanee, TN from April 1 – 26, 2011. The sculptures and painting in this post are all from the “Women of Tanzania” show.

The sculpture of Maasai Women, above, depicts women from a Maasai village Barbara visited. Although the Maasai are a very patriarchal society, Barbara found the women to be tall and magnificent, regal in their bearing. Her sculpture shows them wearing the traditional red cloaks worn by both Maasai men and women.

Here, Maasai women are singing. Many villages
have Mother’s Unions that gather to sing, dance
and drum at worship services.

Barbara fell in love with Tanzania after spending six months there in 2010. She went there to teach at the Msalato Theological College in conjunction with McCann’s Mission in Msalato, Tanzania. McCann’s mission is working toward, and accepting donations to build, the anticipated Msalato Women’s Center to offer wider outreach.

Another well known organization, the Mother’s Union, is an International Christian Charity supporting families worldwide, with a well recognized presence in Tanzania. As the Mother’s Union web site explains, “In 83 countries, our members share one heartfelt vision – to bring about a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. This is not a vague hope, but a goal we actively pursue through prayer, programmes, policy work and community relationships. By supporting marriage and family life, especially through times of adversity, we tackle the most urgent needs challenging relationships and communities.”

Matiki, a member of the Mother’s Union,
from the Wagogo Tribe in Tanzania

Women who belong to the Mother’s Union meet regularly for fellowship and worship. The Mother’s Union in each village will gather to sing, dance and drum and also to discuss issues of the village. Matiki, Barbara’s portrait of her above, is from the Wagogo Tribe. Even though the Tribe is a structured patriarchal society, the women of the Mother’s Union are very powerful. Barbara comments that, “Not much gets by these women.”

The Mother’s Union, founded in 2000 in Tanzania, has
accomplished much in changing lives for the better
with their Literacy and Development Program.

When Barbara saw this video about the Mother’s Union, she said, “I was really moved by the young husband having turned around his thinking. Domestic violence and extreme patriarchy is typical in Tanzania. I worked with some Mother’s Unions in introducing Al Anon, for families of alcoholics. Alcoholism is rampant. We did two trainings about the disease concept. Once open, the Msalato Women’s Center will be working with the Mother’s Union as well.”

The Mother’s Union was founded in 1876, in England, by a mother of three, Mary Elizabeth Sumner. She was aware of the burdens and responsibilities that can swamp young mothers. The Mother’s Union was specifically founded as a society for support of women in their role as mothers. Mary believed, “…that good parenting was more than providing for the physical needs of the child, and she believed that the primary responsibility was to raise children in the love of God.”

Barbara’s friend, Eunice, helps her fire clay sculptures
made by students of her Art and Spirituality class.

Barbara taught an Art and Spirituality class at the Msalato Theological College in Tanzania. In the photo above, Barbara, Eunice and some students from the class are in the process of firing clay artwork. Barbara shares that, “We placed the clay pieces on a flat stone and built the sticks around them. Then, Eunice ignited the sticks and they went into a roaring flame and fired the pieces.”

She continues, “In this firing I was helping to finish the figures my Tanzanian students had made in the Art and Spirituality class I taught. Here we see two of the five wonderful men who took to the class like ducks to water.”

Woman Dancing

Barbara tells us that, “The joy of the people is really something to see. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have had years of drought and yet, they know how to laugh and dance to enjoy life.”

When looking at Barbara’s artwork and then at slides and videos of Tanzania, the magnificently dyed fabrics of the clothing make a lasting impression. The beauty of the colors and patterns swirling with each movement become a visual delight. The prints on the fabrics are distinctive to each group of people and each region in Africa. Most of the garment fabrics are hand dyed by women of each village.

Brightly colored hand dyed fabrics celebrate the women’s song.

To effectively translate her impressions of the Tanzanian women into the hard media of clay sculpture, Barbara softens the visual effect by leaving off the shiny overglazes one usually finds on kiln fired clay pieces. Her sculptures, Woman Dancing, Woman Begging  and the Maasai Women, show only  the colorful matte underglazes to better depict the feel of the fabric.

Woman Begging

Barbara’s sculpture of a Woman Begging has a story. Barbara explains that, “My sculpture, Woman Begging, is of a woman who stood outside our little house and just waited without saying anything. We gave her food.  She seemed to epitomize the suffering of these people.”

Easing the suffering of others is now a big part of Barbara’s life. Remembering her own pain and moving through it, she is reaching out spiritually, but also financially, to help lessen the needs of others. Barbara sets aside a portion of the sale of her artwork to benefit the Msalato Women’s Center in Tanzania.

An informative article profiling Barbara’s work and her show, Women of Tanzania, is offered by Rev. Diane Moore, a prolific writer of many published books and of the blog, A Word’s Worth.  Of interest to fans of Isabel Anders, Rev. Moore has written a mystery novel with BlogHer’s own Isabel called Chant of Death.

For more information on Barbara Hughes, visit her website.

A portion of all artwork proceeds are donated to the
Msalato Women’s Center in Tanzania, Africa.

To give to the Mother’s Union
East Africa Famine Appeal, click here.

For a delightful peek at Diane Moore’s and Isabel Anders’s book,
Chant of Death, go here.

NaBloPoMo March 2012

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Mar 06 2012

I send some of my Sunbonnet Smart posts over to

On our BlogHer profiles, our avatars are proudly displayed and also appear every time we comment. Visually marketing ourselves by only a small square is a challenge. Some wondrous creativity come into play as informative, decorative and sometimes humorous images are produced.

I get a kick every time I go to my profile to check on my own BlogHer Followers, because look who I see right next to each other:

The world’s most horrible and most beautiful images appear
side by side. On the left, Kraken, a fearsome mother
of the sea, and on the right, sweet little Barbara Hughes.

Poor, sweet, little Barbara Hughes’ image, ending up next to big, mean, ole Kraken. While Kraken’s image is fraught with the humor you’ll find on her profile, Barbara’s image is world’s away in its intent, having deep meaning relevancy to her life journey. Barbara is well versed in art, both painting and sculpture, and has used her art ability to help in her healing of traumatic childhood sexual abuse.

In addition, she reaches out to others with artistically oriented healing retreats at her studio in Tennessee. Barbara encourages attendees to feel and dissipate unpleasant childhood memories in a safe environment with others that desire healing from child abuse, sexual or otherwise. Forming art materials into expressions of healing allow each person to move their pain outward into a physical form.

Here Barbara works on a maquette for Jesus with Wild Beasts.
Painters plan their work with preliminary sketches while sculptors
plan with small scale three dimensional models called maquettes.

Barbara sculpts with clay in an additive process, adding clay and manipulating it into desire form and expression. Sometimes, if she is creating an edition for sale, she will use her clay sculpture as a base upon which to create a latex and plaster mold. Then, once the mold is ready, she presses clay into the mold to recreate an issue of her original design.


One women is holding another as she remembers her abuse.

When speaking of her sculpture, Remembering, Barbara says, “I had so much grief about my sexual abuse that making a sculpture that said back to me what I was feeling was very healing for me.  The desire to have the clay say to me what I am experiencing is a key part of my sculpture.”

The expression of art is controlled by the media with which it is presented to the viewer. Artists materials are physical substances that have physical proprieties, so the artists must remember these limitations and tailor their artwork around them. For instance, earthen clay is a porous substance easily manipulated and formed. It is soluble in water, which is another wonderful quality for the clay to have while the artist is manipulating it.

Smoke Ritual

A celebration of menstruation and a ritual around it.

But, this affinity for moisture, a big help while the piece is in progress, also means that the clay, once dry, will absorb moisture if the finished piece is moved to a humid location. So, the artist fires the clay at high temperatures in an oven called a kiln. This high firing eliminate this absorptive quality and make the artwork impervious to water. Firing also chemically changes the clay into a hard, strong structure.

“These sculptures are made free standing in clay.” Barbara shares that, “Sometimes I use a temporary outer armature while the clay is drying a little. An inside armature would make the clay break because it shrinks as it dries.”

Commenting on her inspiration, she continues, “Sometimes, it is a power greater than me that makes it happen, and sometimes it turns out differently from what I had planned.”

Resting in the Woundedness of God

When thinking about her work, Resting in the Woundedness of God, Barbara said that, “This is a healing piece I did. The only way I could understand how God could be a compassionate God in the light of my and many other’s abuse is to get that God suffers along with us – that God is wounded.”

The physical pain a sexual abuse victim suffers is compounded by accompanying emotional pain. If a person is a child when they are compromised, then the betrayal by a trusted adult or older child leaves many trust issues behind. Sometimes, these issues do not become open emotional wounds until much later in a person’s life. The child that once had a strong natural urge to trust and obey, has trouble trusting. Working with people in authority can also become very fearsome.

Barbara’s healing retreats use the arts to creatively move the pain from physical and emotional abuse to a creative display outside the mind and body. Her workshops take place at her Rahamin Retreat & Clayhouse, named for the Hebrew word for womb, “Rahamin.”

COMING SOON! Saturday, March 17, 2012
Nurturing the Child Within
a day long Art Retreat
10am to 4pm.

The Rahamin Retreat & Clayhouse is an art studio and retreat space located in the beautiful mountains of the Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee between Nashville and Chattanooga.

Barbara Hughes leads art and spirituality retreats, some of which are for survivors of childhood sexual abuse or other childhood trauma or pain. These retreats have CAREFUL BOUNDARIES, and provide a safe place to take the next step in healing. Simple ART MEDITATIONS USING A VARIETY OF ART MEDIA require no artistic skill. There is time for sharing and time for quiet.

Barbara also gives art retreats at other venues around the country.

For more information, go here.

Barbara has painted visually luscious cards which she
sells on her web site to benefit CASA, the Center for
the Prevention of Abuse and Violence, an organization
that has an effective program for helping to prevent
childhood sexual abuse. 

To order, please visit here.


Barbara Hughes has traveled to Tanzania, Africa.
In the next post, Barbara will share her paintings
and sculptures of the people she met.


NaBloPoMo March 2012

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Feb 10 2012

Third in a series of three.

Settling back down into my chair in the corner, I began to read Becoming Flame, a book authored by BlogHer’s own Isabel Anders, an associate of Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time.

Ah! I thought. Some light reading. Something to take my mind off of the heavy, HEAVY spirituality of the Co-op. Surely this thin little book wouldn’t take long to read. I figured I could finish it in the two hours I had to wait for my ride to arrive.

Just taking in the back cover gave me pause, however. Reading, “What could be more natural and timely than…A poetic exploration of the large and the small issues of women’s life – nested, braided, interwoven, never fully unraveled – in precise language that retains the mystery but awakens the soul? “

I was taken aback and could only utter, “Huh?”

Becoming Flame is a book that is so rich with poignant
twists of common sense, it is hard to take in much at once.

Just as the Co-op had toyed with my sense of time, whipping me back and forth between 1975 and the present, the book began to play with my sense of spatial constraints. This thin little book began to grow, until I was, like Alice down the rabbit hole, shrinking and becoming insignificant next to it. The prominence of the pint size behemoth began to consume me. Like a scholar who studies to discover how much they don’t know, I began to flip through the book, trying to take it all in at once, hoping to contain it as it continued to enlarge up and out of my hands and mind.

I tried to devour the pages, reading as fast as I could to get a sense of the largeness of this little book. I thought that if I could measure it, I could control it, keeping it within the bounds of what I could understand. I was undone, myself however, as the book held firm, whirling and expanding while I was carried on high in a vortex of feeling, insight and expression. My chair began to raise off the floor and swirl around carrying me up into Isabel Ander’s feminine domain, the vast group experience of women, the shared ancient knowledge passed down from Mother to Daughter.

With my head in danger of touching the ceiling, Becoming Flame became much like a fine wine. I couldn’t just drink in the knowledge, but had to sip each phrase, acknowledging the bouquet, and swirling the shared images in my mind’s eye. Here, I realized was a book of deep thoughts to be savored. Collected vignettes of dialogue exchanged between a mother and daughter, putting into words things that, for the most part, usually go unsaid.

As I read Becoming Flame, the spiraling vortex of the
UofMD art student, Jenna Parry, painting on the wall
merged in my thoughts with the verbal images
presented by the book.

In her Introduction to Becoming Flame, Isabel offers that she has studied “the profound evocative legacy of Hasidic dialogue, or of a rabbi or holy man debating truth with his disciples.” She shares she intended to “…employ the same conversational form, drawing from my experience as a women and a mother, and in a similar manner to convey some essentials of feminine collective wisdom, focusing on the process itself, as wisdom is ‘kneaded’ and ‘made’ like bread.”

The title hints that the wisdom offered by Becoming Flame is enigmatic as is all knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. All great words of wisdom are not easily understood, digested and internalized without great study and sacrifice

“What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?,” a disciple asks his master. The Holy One answered, “When you have knowledge, you use a torch to show the way. When you are wise, you become the torch.”

So, we learn that words are not wisdom, but the transmutation of words, shining by the light of each person’s soul and collective experience, are wisdom. The words are reflected by the soul and become flame and the soul itself, in transmuting the words into wisdom, becomes flame.

Women, each one standing on the shoulders of the mother
who has come before, create an endless column of female
humanity rising from promordal history without beginning
and up to the present as described in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola
Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run with the Wolves.

Reading Becoming Flame jarred my psyche and my soul. I began to wonder what IS IT about collective feminine knowledge that is so deep and hard to understand at first read? The last time I had such a profound experience in reading, needing to separate each phrase, sometimes each word, for study and research was when I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book on the best seller list for 145 weeks in the early 1990s.

I began to think that while world history, written by the sword, rather than by the chalice, is raw in its power, feminine collective history has been intuitive, felt deep in the soul rather than spoken with the overt command of those conquering in the physical. While common knowledge has been spoken and written in the marketplace, in government and in the destructive councils of war, feminine knowledge has been more commonly shared during life moments and at the hearth, while creating soul, mind and body.

And so, Isabel Anders has written of the intuitive wisdom of women as they patiently intone knowledge to their daughters, an intimate sharing of the true light, love and continuance of their being. This collective feminine knowledge prepares women to live on the physical plane where the spiritual is merged with the physical and where intuition cannot always complete with the heavy burden of opposing physical strength.

Rising from primordial history, generations of
connected women, come forward to mentor
contemporary mothers and daughters today.

And why is unseen intuition considered less effective as a modality of strength? Waiting to speak can take great strength of character and willpower. So can the strength of focusing on the mundane everyday creation of body and spirit.

I am always perplexed by people who say they don’t have time to cook and eat together as if anything in their day is more important than feeding the body that cradles the soul.  It is the mundane that creates and sustains life. Each physical body recreates itself every six months. To do so requires incoming foodstuffs of specific metabolic vitamins, fiber and minerals, therefore a meal is the elixir of life, holding the spirit in physical form.

And so, as an example of one of Isabel’s many diologues between a Mother and Daughter, here we read them speaking to the everyday of food preparation:

The Daughter wondered that the Mother could spend so much time
lovingly tending the fire, stirring the soup, and baking the bread.

“Do you not tire of such mundane tasks?”

“This substance.” the Mother explained, breaking bread, “makes
possible the ‘alchemy’ of life. Through it the roughness of grain
is transformed into the fine constituents of Being…
How can this be called mundane?”

The Daughter said, “all of our work is so material, kneading
dough, plowing the garden, tending the fires without and within
…It is difficult to believe in the Unseen that surrounds us,
even on nights crowned by burning lights in the heavens.”

The Mother replies, “But, your own breath teaches you that there are
interim states between spirit and matter.  The elements that are
not seen: the wind, your breath, the Spirit that moves among us,
show themselves only in their effects. Therefore, which is more real?
The Sources or their effects?”

…from Becoming Flame.

If you have an interest in Isabel’s book,
hover your mouse over this link:
Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom


Jenna Parry’s original work, Nebula Painting #1, has been used in situ and as a component of the accompanying two dimensional assemblages.

NaBloPoMo February 2012

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Feb 05 2012

Second in a series of three.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?

If I can’t see, touch, taste, hear or smell something, does it exist?

If I am sitting in the same space as I was in 1975, but I am phyically in 2012, where am I if I am thinking about being there in 1975?

If the University of Maryland Terrapin is painted like Kermit the Frog, is he a Terrapin or Kermit?

Can he be both? Do they both exist in the same space?

Can I be in both 1975 and 2012 at the same time?

Large Terrapins were creatively painted and placed all over the
University of Maryland Campus. It was only natural that love for
Jim Henson result in this “logically extreme” Kermit Terrapin.

It seems only natural that while I was sitting down drinking my coffee and reading my new book, my mind would wonder to the powers of the mind as they relate to time and space. How in the world could it be almost forty years since the Co-op opened: almost forty years since I ate my first alfalfa sprout, hummus and whole wheat sandwich?

Maybe because there is a large Department of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, and maybe, because of the book and movie The Secret, there is a wide current interest in studying quantum mechanics. Yes, a casual study of light, energy, time, matter and reality is popular, judging by the selections on YouTube, and I feel a part of it. Or, maybe because Kermit the Frog was beckoning to the space time continuum located in my corner of the Co-op, I couldn’t keep my mind on reading my book.

Quantum Mechanics has lots to say about space,
time and creating your own reality.

First, I saw Craig coming through the door of the Co-op, I couldn’t believe the coincidence that he would be coming into the Co-op right here, right now. But, wait was he there? No, no not there. That was years ago. Craig dated my girlfriend Carol. I wonder how she is? No wait, they got married in 1976. I was there for the wedding. So strange. It seems so real. Geeze! That guy over there! I know him! Phil! I always liked Phil. No, wait…it couldn’t be him. This person is young, Phil would be forty years older…I don’t know that I would want to call to him anyway. It would seem if he hasn’t called me by now, he’s not going to.

Everywhere in the Co-op, I saw auras and beacons of
other dimensions, no wait, those were just art student’s
canvases hung up on the walls…or were they?

Going back and forth between two time periods reminded me of my favorite book of childhood, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. The most amazing concept it presented was time and space travel illustrated by an ant on a string. If you take an ant and let it walk across a length of string you hold between your hands, it takes a certain length of time for him to walk from one hand to the other.

But, if you hold the same string in your hands and bring your hands together, the ant can travel from one end of the string to the other, covering the same length of space represented by the string, but in a much shorter period of time. And in an amazingly ironic twist, this is the fiftieth publication anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time.

Fifty years! How could that be!?!? Published in 1962? Oh my goodness, it seems like only yesterday. Through what worm hole have I traveled? One minute, I’m taking A Wrinkle in Time out of the library with my very own library card—varoom!—the next minute I’m sitting at the University Food Co-op celebrating a half century of publication. Very strange…

Worm holes and stargates of the mind are powerful moderators
of reality. Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real you
continued reacting to it even after awakening? Was it a dream?

Or were you actually there?

Trying to get firmly back into the present, I intentionally ignored images from the 1970s and thoughts of my childhood. I had a good book to read and some great food to eat, and I knew nothing would keep me anchored like a hot cup of coffee. I limited my thoughts in order to concentrate on my new book, Becoming Flame, the venture into Mother Daughter wisdom written by one of BlogHer’s own muses, Isabel Anders.

After spinning through worm holes and peeking into stargates at the Co-op, it was a relief to finally settle down and settle into a good book. This, I had been told, was a good book. And never mind that Isabel Anders was mentored by A Wrinkle in Time’s author, Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote the introduction to Ms. Anders’ book, Awaiting the Child.

Surely reading a few chapters of Becoming Flame would be calming and not result in deep reflection and undue mental exercise. I would be able to relax with this unassuming publication and move on to the rest of my day with a clear head…

…or would I?

Next: Share Becoming Flame by Isabel Anders

This post features an original acrylic painting,
Nebula Painting #1,
by Jenna Parry, a Univeristy of Maryland studio art student.

NaBloPoMo February 2012

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Oct 14 2010

Anna Bågenholm, MD

I was taken with this video when I saw it and the story of Dr. Anna Bagenholm’s return to life after being considered clinically dead for about an hour and a half. She was in a skiing accident in Norway and slid under an ice shelf in a cold winter river, lying there for over an hour before help could arrive. Her core body temperature went so low that her heart stopped beating. The faith of her skiing companions and the team of doctors at Tromso University Hospital of Northern Norway in bringing Dr. Bagenholm back to life is inspirational. For a great overview of what it took to resuscitate Dr. Bagenholm, go to this link.

Anna Bågenholm was skiing in the mountains outside of
Narvik, Norway when she fell into a frozen stream.

See what you think about this journey from the physical world to the spiritual and back again by clicking play:

Dr. Anna Bagenholm’s heart had stopped, but her team
of rescuers refused to do the same, taking shifts until
she was fully resuscitated.

Dr Jel Coward, a GP in Tywyn, north Wales, and an expert on wilderness medicine, said people suffering from extreme hypothermia often give the impression of being dead, particularly as it can be difficult to detect breathing or a pulse. He said: “This case really does bring it home to us how cautious one has to be before diagnosing death in people who are cold. There is an old saying that “nobody is dead until they are warm and dead.” For more information on Dr. Coward speaking about Dr. Ann Bagenholm, click here.

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NaBloPoMo November 2012