“What do I want to lead with?”
I ask myself as I prepare to write, to share, to open, to be with you here, dear reader & precious soul.
In this breath & in this moment.
& it is, my intention
to speak directly to your soul.
I took this assignment to heart…
For those of you who have written a piece for this, did you feel that way too?
I used to think I felt too much
Now I know that feeling is one of my (many) superpowers
Thank you for going on this journey with me.
1) I have written & re-written this
I knew I wanted to start this out with a “what i’ve been up to since grad school” share. These last few years have been….transformational, to say the least.
Upon reflecting on what I had initially written for this first part, it was clear to me that I had exercised an old habit of using humor & coy language to share something that was actually incredibly challenging to move through & continues to reverberate waves of pain with every next layer of healing I surrender into on this non-linear, non-destination oriented, journey of coming back home to what is real & what is true.
I am well aware that sharing this story here, with you, in all it’s confronting glory- no glitter, no frills, no trimmings, is part of that next layer of healing.
I’ve shared this story on my platform, Blood, Bone & Honey, but I have not yet shared it in a community art space, which I consider this to be.
After this instance of abuse happened, I ran, actually, sprinted (quite literally) in the rain across central park, away from the “art world” & “art spaces” because they didn’t feel like home anymore.
This was NOT my first rodeo dealing with abuse of power within the art world at the hands of white men with big egos & a habit of bypassing their own trauma resulting in them spewing it all over innocent bystanders who happen to cross their path (see *my thesis work*) & I knew it was time to GTFO so I could find my center again.
I’ll consider this my debut back into the “art world,” carving out my own temple space in a bunch of ruins as we do.
You’re welcome to come hang in my temple anytime – @bloodboneandhoney
I won’t tell you his name for obvious reasons. & if you’ve ever judged a survivor of abuse for not “outing” someone by name as if that is their job & due diligence – keep your eyes on your own paper, dude. This shit is hard & often incredibly unsafe to do. So less judgement, less “if I were yous” & more compassionate listening & bearing witness to those who are brave enough to tell the truth.
– – – –
Following grad school I moved to Sunnyside, Queens to join my then boyfriend, now husband, Max.
I immediately started working for a very well known photographer. Someone who you know as one of the fathers of documentary photography (notice we never say “the mothers”).
He’s in the history books & I had, before this happened, sung praises for his work from the rooftops & was SO grateful to be honored with the job of being his studio manager.
About a year into working with him I closed a big deal with a museum.
He pulled me in for a hug & kissed my neck.
I immediately sat back down in my chair.
He demanded I stand back up.
The next thing I remember is him leaving the room snickering & looking down at my chest to see a red splotchy rash around my heart.
He got me flowers the next day.
Worms crawled out.
He offered to gift me a print.
I refused to take it.
I got in his face.
He denied it.
Surrendering the “dream job.”
Walking away from…
a substantial salary in NYC right outa grad school
working for someone whose work I had admired the entirety of my photograph career
& many high-level connections
Some of those “connections” performed allyship at the time – optics are everything, right?
But through their lack of action it’s painfully evident that they weren’t actually willing to do the work of what it takes to hold & process the real ass truth of what really happens within the institution of “art” – right under their noses, every day.
To those folks I say, you can keep your made up ceremonies, awards, banquets & fancy gallery shows where you need to be on “the list” to get in. I’ve been on “the list” & let me tell you – the food usually sucks & I have enough coat check tickets to last me a lifetime.
I was 25 at the time & in the midst of my own personal revolution that was initiated through my thesis work at Duke (2015-2017)
Because I believed in more
For myself, all womxn & all people
I was terrified
I was brave
When I quit this high-level, high-profile, highly-abusive, & this-shit-is-still-happening-every-fucking-day-all-over-the-world-especially-in-our-art-communities-and-esepcially-to-people-of-color-so-conisder-this-your-personal-invitation-to-do-something-useful-about-it– job, I was about 6 months into building my business, Blood, Bone & Honey. I had been coming home from work every day & stoking the fires of my soul, building the foundation of this business, which looked like a lot of really long days & sleepless nights.
Following leaving my position as studio manager for one of the most “well respected” photographers of our time….
(yes, with a k)
I dove into the depths of my soul
Pulled the black tar out of my body with my bare hands
I made a pendulum swing
I cast spells with my words& the sway of my hips
Sweating, screaming, laughing, bleeding, dancing, crying
Carving out space
Until eventually, the things I called in started to fill me up
My authentic voice
Art that Serves
Community that’s here to do the work
Purpose & Passion that are soul-driven
& a new sense of home inside my own body
As my mentor Dez Davis says, I did “the brave work to create the safe space” for what i’m really meant to do in this world
I birthed so much work at that time for myself, for my community & for Blood, Bone & Honey
But Blood, Bone & Honey’s birthing conditions were radically CLEAR
I had to be an ALL IN& that required a lot of sacred surrender
Art, ritual, ceremony, magick & the willingness to burn it all down & rebuild again from the ashes with fierce integrity, intention, passion & purpose is the lifeblood that runs through me.
I have recorded much of that process on my instagram @bloodboneandhoney if your interest is peaked
I’m now just over 2 years into running Blood, Bone & Honey & wow – entrepreneurship is a path that is not for the weary of heart
But goddess damn, I am proud of myself & not afraid to say it!!!
I’m shouting something new from the rooftops these days 😉
This witch is serving her community, making money in consciousness, speaking her truth daily, setting fiercely loving boundaries & supporting womxn & femmes across the globe in doing the same as they call in, create space for & embody their radically authentic, multidimensional, selves.
Blood, Bone & Honey is a spell that is weaving me as I weave her
She came to me in a pool
Water really is the best conduit
I wake up every single day SO honored to be the vessel that this work flows through
Self-care as Art
& Art as Ritual
At the Altar of Life
2015-2018 shattered me to pieces
2019 brought hope upon her wings with the first *real* year of business with Blood, Bone & Honey officially operating as an LLC, the adoption of a cat who is really a wizard named Wiggins & the whole getting married thing….
& 2020? I’m not quite ready to write about you yet
For now, I’ll leave you with 2 photographs from my wedding to the one & only, Max Buckner.
2) A piece from the archives accompanied by a sacred self portrait made on my iphone, June 25, 2019
I was driving down the road I used to take to go to high school. Memories of a girl with a big heart, big eyes, big hips, big ideas & a couldn’t-be-tamed-if-you-tried-spirit going into battle.
I fought for my right to breathe, think, create, exist, explore & take up space from an authentic place, making people with small ideas & conservative concepts nestled in oppressive frameworks incredibly uncomfortable.
In moments I felt invincible – the burning, aching, roaring, wild in the core of my stomach, slithering up my throat & begging to make love to the world – all of my undiluted essence radiating off of me like flames, absolutely undeniable in it’s presence.
I wasn’t palatable. I couldn’t fit into the “small” tutu, I was called to the guidance counselors office for breaking dress code, I talked in class, I kissed too many boys to count, many of them whose names I didn’t even know. I laughed from my belly, I ate without guilt & I yearned from the pit of my being to make art all day long. Uninterrupted. Uncontrolled.
Tapped-in, tuned-in & turned on to pleasure.
So that is what I did & they didn’t know what to do with me, so I was a threat. Or, in their limited understanding of the depth of womxn, I was a “slut.” Too sexy to be smart. Too undomesticated to be taken seriously.
A bad influence
A bad girl
So I carved out space for myself. Clawing for my liberation, bleeding for my freedom, drowning out the noises of the stomachs that weren’t able to palate a young woman in her power.
Raped, abused, shut down, manipulated, burned, scorned, suppressed, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that white men who use the words of the bible to manipulate, control & oppress, would feel more comfortable in my Divine, holy, presence.
16 year old Sarah loved a good sepia filter. I made this photograph in honor of her.
It was captured as I held myself in ceremony of a past, present & future self integration. A celebration of where i’ve been, where I am, & where i’m going.
My hair dripping from my head like snakes, their tendrils adorning my crown. Soft, sensual, dynamic, present in sovereignty – my gifts, my capacity to create, to cultivate, to excavate, to exorcise, to hold, to support, to nourish, to reclaim, to ignite, to infuse, undeniably present.
While driving down that same road to my high school that I know so well, I thought to myself, 16 year old Sarah would think i’m the sh*t. She’d want to be friends & learn how to pull tarot. She’d announce with excitement, a little fear & deep curiosity, “I think i’m different” when telling me about the spirits she sees & feels in the corners of rooms & hears whispering in her ear as she falls asleep. She’d def want to get a vibrator (which TBH would have drastically reduced the # of idiot wanna be frat boys she ended up in bed with) She’d ask to dance with me under the full moon & would burst with happiness when I encouraged her to choose the garment that made her feel powerful, no matter how much skin it showed. We’d talk about feminist theory & i’d give her access to a language that would empower her recognize & call-out the bullshit projected onto her by traumatized people who haven’t ever been given the space to think a different way.
I’ve licked my wounds, I’ve lathered them with honey as I watched them bubble up, crust, dry, heal & fade. Unrelenting in my quest for my own liberation, in the process, I hold the hands of the womxn who stand beside me. I lick their wounds. I sing to their spirits. I recognize the magick in their souls.
To be in this body, to do this work, to share my story, to witness the stories of others, to tap into their brilliance & hold up a mirror to raise them up in their power is….everything. This is big picture healing.
This is big picture stuff
This is integration
This is reclamation
This is consciousness shifting craft
This is my practice
This is my life
& what an intoxicating, exhilarating, drop down to my knees in gratitude experience it is
So it is
It is done
3) A love letter to the womxn i’ve had the honor to make magick with
Every word you speak is a spell
Every thought you think is a prayer
Your existence is art
Thank you for allowing yourself to unravel
Energy radiating from the roots of the earth
To the base of your spine
Swirling in your belly
Spreading over your breasts
Slithering up your neck
Roaring out of your mouth
Radiating out of your crown
You are power in motion
You are the Divine incarnated
Don’t let anyone tell you how to be
How to heal
Or how to speak your truth
It’s your story
It’s your journey
& those of us who know,
Are here for all of it
& the deep rest that follows
You are whole
You are worthy of being heard
& in your darkest shadow
You are holy
& you don’t owe anyone shit
Reclaiming, shedding, expanding
I believe (in) you
I believe in us
Words dripping from our Mouths like Honey. Our Blood watering the Earth. The Music of our Liberation tickling our Bones. Wind kissing our Eyelids. Sun blushing our Cheeks. Trees whispering their Secrets. Songs of Sovereignty leaving our lips as Spells. Sacred Movement of our Bodies in Big, Bold, Authentic, Ways, Honoring the Depth of the Trenches we’ve Moved Through & the Pain we’ve Honored & Alchemized with our Bare Hands.
We Lift our Chins, Open our Hearts, Soften our Gazes & Tune our Awareness to the Divine Above, Below, Within & Without, Igniting our Higher-Self Connection & Remembering our Unbreakable Bond with Spirit.
Driven by Purpose
Powered by Peace
Nourished by Pleasure
Inspired by Play
Motivated by Passion
Unleashing, Savoring & Ravishing in the Goddesses, Witches, Priestesses, Empresses, Creatrix that we are
Conduits for the Light
Conjuring Living, Waking, Breathing, Higher Self-Care as Ritual that extends beyond the Altar.
& So it Is. It is Done.
Thank you for trusting me with your magick
4) Gratitude for my Teachers
“For some she came in a dream. For others in words as clear as a bell: it is time, I am here. She may come in a whisper so loud she can deafen you or a shout so quiet you strain to hear. She may appear in the waves or the face of the moon, in a red goddess or a crow.”
-Lucy H Pearce, Burning Woman
My teachers have come to me in books, films, songs, poems, photographs, paintings, at waterfalls, in tarot & oracle decks, on the streets of Brooklyn, on instagram, in the woods, through the whispers of my heart & guts between deep belly sobs & roars of laughter & most definitely in the form of animal guides, the waves of the ocean & face of the moon (& sun!!!)
I feel surrounded.Held.Seen.Nourished.Acknowledged.Bowed to as I bow back in bone-marrow-level-deep-gratitude.I rarely get away with anything 😉 & i’m so grateful for their stewardship.
They inspire me to embody conscious, plugged in, responsible, mature, authentic, radical, brave, compassionate leadership every single day.
Reclamation doesn’t just happen.
Transformation requires our presence, intention, community & support.
It requires dedication to shift, grow, expand, release, scream, cry, dance, disrupt, laugh, birth, die, shake, sweat, build, dismantle, surrender, ascend & do it all over again.
& I believe, from the depths of my being, that if we want to be authentic leaders – & believe that all artists are called to the altar of leadership in a very big way, all the time, every day – we have to be in our bodies & truth & supported by teachers who take that process as a very serious, non-negotiable, as well.
It is time to explore where & why we’ve kept our stories hidden & what trust, truth, unconditional love & support feels like in our blood & bones.
“If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you can almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women who Run with the Wolves
Who are you grateful for?
What’s your truth?
What are your doors?
5) A piece from the archives on healing my relationship with the masculine accompanied by a self-portrait made on my iphone of myself & Max in our Sunnyside, Queens Apt, December 26, 2018
Thoughts on holding space for the masculine
I’m working on it
In my body
In a way that feels sustainable
In a way that feels safe
In a way that acknowledges the pain, suffering and oppression that the toxicness of a masculinity that doesn’t hold space for the feminine
That version of masculinity does a disservice to everyone that comes in contact with it
Even the ones that continue to project it out of their bodies & perpetuate it in consciousness
Because they were told
Take what you want
Not want you need
You can have it all
You can be the CEO
You can be the President
You Can Rule The World
When so many of us were never told that these things were accessible to us
Or ours to claim
Until spending time with this man curled up on my leg,
I didn’t know that there was an expression of masculinity that wasn’t toxic
A masculinity that wouldn’t silence me
A masculinity that wouldn’t force me
A masculinity that would hold me without asking me to get on my knees
A masculinity that embraces
A masculinity that encourages
A masculinity that has unraveled all over and around my body openly and without reservation
Asking for comfort, support and home
A masculinity that can separate from itself & does not live in duality
A masculinity that not only holds space for the Feminine but respects when there isn’t space for the Feminine to take and in turn, actively creates it
A masculinity that doesn’t need a trophy
A masculinity that understands the capacity it has to oppress
And actively fights against it
The other night I had some sweet womxn over for food and soul talk. I asked Max if he would hang out in the bedroom while we had some time to be in community with each other. I called him out into the living room to ask him a question, and my girlfriends asked him to come join us. He engaged when it was appropriate, and watched, listened and experienced when it wasn’t time for him to take up space.
He doesn’t feel the need to dominate
He doesn’t feel threatened by the power of the Feminine
He is soft, he is gentle, he is strong, he is masculine
It is holy
& fucking beautiful
& because of him, I no longer accept that some men are just “pushy and loud and rude and powerful and unable to recognize consent because they are biologically predisposed to be that way”
Because “they just can’t help it”
Because that’s “just the way guys are”
That’s fucking bullshit
That’s a sad excuse for rape culture and I rebuke it
I hold the men in my life to an incredibly high standard
Because I love them, because I respect them, because I believe they have the capacity to be far better than the power-hungry, uncontrollable, dick-face version that our culture makes them out to be
So thank you Max, for showing me what is possible
For illuminating my old stories
For illuminating the stories of our culture
And doing the work to drag them into the light
And alchemizing them into something hopeful
I see you, and my gratitude is all consuming
6) Things I ask & say to myself often:
Where are you running? – lean in
Where are you holding? – breathe deeply
Where are you stuck? – dance & shake
Where are you out of intention? – be still
Where are you whispering? – chant & sing
Where are you filling? – empty out
7) Because i’m a rule breaker & we love to end on Sacred #7, I bid you adieu with this poem
“imagine the desert
mothers, with hair tangled
tighter than their theology
and breasts that flowed milk
and mystic wisdom. they
knew how to draw the singing
sigils in the sand, how to dig
rough and bitten fingers
into desiccated dirt for water
to wet the lips of their young.
women of hips and heft, who
learned how to burn
beneath the wild and searing
sun, who made loud love
against the star-flecked threat
of night, who knew that strength
is not always a matter of muscle.
imagine your ancestresses,
the prophetesses of the arid
lands, before these starched
traditions and pews too hard
to pray from, who bled true
ritual and birthed their own fierce
souls at creation’s crowning –”
― Beth Morey, Night Cycles: Poetry for a Dark Night of the Soul
Next up: Danny Kim (’18) in August.
See you all then.