2013 brought a year of change, growth and a spectacular trip across the country. Today my heart is a little heavy but oh so grateful for the realization that Shelter to Shelter has come full circle. Today I mailed the last Traveling Postcards packages back to the courageous women living in Safehouses across the country. Our mission to drive across the US in a mobile art booth, to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and healing to survivors (and to us!) is complete. Let me tell you a little bit about our journey.
There comes a time in life when you have to jump- and jump I did! I could no longer keep my life’s work in a small box, only opening it on my lunch break. I quit my job and immediately embarked on an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money I needed to travel across the country. I had an idea to take my healing arts workshop, Traveling Postcards on the road and to visit rural areas in the US that are often isolated from services and connection. I wanted to hear the stories of women that must remain silent to protect their lives, but whose resilience in the face of violence deserves to be spoken. Mostly I knew that I could make a dent into the insidious nature of violence against women, if I could show every woman we met, the incredible strength of her heart.
Juliette and I packed a van full of camping and art supplies and headed north, traveling from California to Oregon and then on to Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and beyond. We met women in cafes and gas stations along the way and mostly in whispers were asked, “What is Shelter to Shelter?” and later as we told them and always with tears in their eyes, they said “Thank you.”
We traveled over 8000 miles that summer and never once ran out of gas or had a problem with the van. We had two wonderful guest artists ( Lisa & Janis) join us. The support we received from family, friends and shelter directors enabled us to keep driving across the Midwest, North & South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and the Mohave Desert. I can’t help but think we were blessed with good fortune.
The highlight for me was the hugs. I am not a naturally gregarious person but I met hundreds of new friends that summer. I met their hearts. I saw their innate wisdom manifest as strong, capable and often ferocious warriors, fighting to remain whole after years of abuse. I saw that art heals. I saw that bringing an abundance of beauty and possibility works to repair old wounds. I saw that bringing connection, love and support from women all over the world heals broken hearts. And afterwards, they hugged me.
We made Traveling Postcards-self-portraits really, that travel great distances and land in the perfect moment where they are needed most. These cards contain words that often seem unattainable but are suddenly available in the presence of creativity. Words were spoken not of victimization or resentment, but of offering love, connection and compassion. Each card is covered with an array of colors, textures and imagery that are hand selected; a chance to be self-expressed in the moment without hesitation or fear of reprisal. Traveling Postcards gave me back my voice and promises to give voice to all those who can no longer remain silent.
I carried postcards & hearts home with me. There I scanned and archived each one and shared its electronic image on our website for all to see. But the actual card remains a gift for the woman who takes it home with her and places it in a drawer. She knows now that she is never completely alone. This is the gift I just sent back to the shelters. Shelter to Shelter is not over. We will be back on the road. Traveling Postcards will continue to find new homes and spread the wisdom that lies in all our hearts; the wisdom that tells us that standing together with compassion and love in the face of violence, is the most powerful tool we have.