By Melanie Lee
Author, “A Year In Sedona~Meeting The Muse At Wisdom’s Edge”
(March 12, 2018)
During my years as a city dweller, I became semi-successfully adept at ignoring an acute sense of grief over the losses and pervasive shrinking of the natural world. After moving to Sedona, all that changed. With feet now firmly planted on the path to wisdom’s edge, it was easy to find trail markers everywhere inviting new ways to acknowledge, explore and honor a longtime love for the beauty of nature. Just stepping out the backdoor every day into our tiny yard with its red rock views brought an overwhelming sense of gratitude that here I might be able to come to terms with a debilitating sense of loss and hopelessness about what was happening to the natural world.
That first spring in Sedona there was an art event coming up, a climate care mask making workshop, and I was eager to meet local performance artist/mask maker Pash Galbavy, the creative and compassionate muse behind this stunningly imaginative way to honor the notion of bringing healing to the planet and to ourselves. Pash and her husband Marty run Inspiration of Sedona (inspirationofsedona.org), the environmental educational non- profit that sponsors an array of environmental sustainability education offerings, one of which was our mask making event. The purpose of the group is to spread the knowledge that much can be accomplished when a few people, even with limited resources, put their hearts and minds together to make a change for good.
Evoking long forgotten memories of intense childhood feelings of protectiveness and nurturing for our fellow earthly inhabitants, the climate care workshop invited us to find our own images for healing nature by making a plaster mask of our face, then choosing a symbol of nature as a decorative statement. I’d always been drawn to what I considered a perfect symbol for nature’s fragile grandeur, the Monarch butterfly, amazing in all its orange and black wonder. Increasingly losing habitat as it decreases in numbers and struggles for survival, this fabulous creature deserved my support and I decided to figure out a way to depict a Monarch image on a plaster of Paris mask of my own face.
Creating the actual mask was relatively easy, if a little messy what with all the slopping on of prep goo ( a decided plus was the coconut oil base). After covering our faces with the plaster of Paris ( a piece of plastic sheet went underneath it) we let it dry and then peeled it off revealing the mask, an initial visage of stark white blandness with no expression at all. At that point the masks could have been a voice for anything, but once we began to bring them to life, it became enormously exciting and great fun. Everyone decorated their masks differently, allowing their creations to shout and strut with vibrant color and raw organic textures using all manner of natural decoration including paint, words, found objects, jewelry, leaves or other elements as embellishment.
Perched next to my Monarch, painted on my face mask with orange and black acrylics and magic markers, were a variety of evocative renderings of wildlife, a glorious shining sun, a butterfly, a tree, a black death mask…each was different, a unique vision of the creator’s individual expression of angst, love, fear, joy, celebration or trepidation about the future of our fragile and beautiful natural world.
These remarkably expressive pieces of art deserved a wider audience, which they got when a reception and show took place later that week at a well attended community gallery, where the stunning creativity of the mask makers was on full display. Taken as a whole the renderings were powerfully affecting with their twigs, rocks, feathers and angel wings other surprising materials pasted, taped, stapled, or otherwise attached. The assembled tributes were touching in both their simplicity and creativity and after the show I was encouraged, inspired really, to take things a step further.
My husband Louis, who’d also been at the workshop, and I decided to take an activist approach to helping the good guys find their way home. We would make a refuge for our winged guests, setting out a little stash of milkweed seeds for caterpillars and of course the Monarchs themselves in case they had a flyby during a possible annual migration. We found an outfit in Florida to sell us the seeds, the top favorite food of the Monarch butterfly (www.LiveMonarch.com and for a very nominal sum, they sent seeds and instructions on how to plant and nurture provisions for these splendid royals of the butterfly kingdom. There weren’t many seeds, just enough to fit into a large terra cotta container, but believe me, we were flushed with a new sense of pride and gratitude the morning we tucked them into their snug little spots in the soil.
That creative foray into climate care mask making and our hands on tribute to nature gave new meaning to the notion of transformation through celebrating the beautiful and good with art. And it was the medicine we needed to begin to heal a lingering sense of loss and bewilderment about how to do something, anything, small though it may be, to honor planet Earth, our own sacred garden. To paraphrase the Quakers, ‘all they have is thee and me’ to help bring the good into the world and so we did what we could that spring, feeling privileged to offer aid and comfort to these magnificent treasures who give us so much beauty, asking for only a little habitat in return. It was a good beginning.
Melanie Lee is an award-winning writer, editor, artist and author. Growing up in Texas, she read mostly biography and autobiography and dreamed of being a writer who could help inspire others to meet their muse by honoring beauty in everyday life. She holds degrees in languages and journalism and was a features editor and columnist, writing everything from lifestyle stories and business news to profiles of entrepreneurs, artists and inventors engaged in the creative pursuit of right livelihood. She lived for ten years in Northern New Mexico where she was creator and director of Sojourns Writing Workshops of Santa Fe.
At the second half of life she moved to Sedona with her husband Louis Michalski. She met her muse anew, took up painting, became a yoga teacher and avid hiker and wrote “A Year in Sedona~Meeting the Muse at Wisdom’s Edge“, available on Amazon.com or from the author. She can be contacted at
P.O. Box 1419 Sedona, AZ 86339 or firstname.lastname@example.org