Circle Song Meditations

Small Treasures

Memories of our Heritage

Circle Meditation with shells, seedpods, leaves, stones, silk, a string of heirloom pearls, and visiting insects.

The Visitor

by Susan Burnham Neilson

Oil on Canvas

30″ x 30″

Every Voice in the Circle

This painting began with an intention for drawing in my sketchbook as a type of meditation. I was interested in objects we might consider artifacts, personal amulets, or talismans. There are hidden stories, of brief lives and links between us all.

I started by swirling a few favorite remnants of silk fabric into a circle on the floor of my studio. Then some tiny treasures were collected and placed next to each other. The circle geometry and the insects were integral to the design sketches, with the one tiny bumblebee left outside the circle.

I decided to slow down the pace of the process of painting taking time to consider surfaces and illusions, as well as symmetry, asymmetry and interconnectedness. I revisited a favorite theme of circle songs, where every voice has a place in the circle.

Looking Closely

Small Worlds

In our culture, keeping up with current trends or styles often means discarding whatever came to us last week or last year. We keep buying new material things; building new homes, decorating, redecorating and adding to landfills.

Meanwhile there are stories to be found, just looking a little more closely at small things already at our doorsteps, in the woods, on the beach and in the top drawer of a grandparent’s dresser. These are the objects I like to borrow for a while, to consider the clues about where they came from or what lives they touched.

Wonder of Evolution

In the tiny shell of a snail

Close up section showing tiny snail by a cedar leaf


Precious pearls, a gift for my daughter, belonged to her grandmother and before that to another mother and possibly another. The full history is a mystery, but they were originally given to someone in our family whose name was Margita. She lived and died during a terrible war. We know almost nothing about her. Who was she? What mattered to her?

The Visitor

There is also mystery and beauty in the ordinary little seeds and stones collected in the woods or by the water and in the brief lives of tiny insects that stop by for a while. In the past, we thought they would keep returning year after year, generation after generation. Now though we are not so sure. Even the familiar pollinators, so interconnected to our own survival, might stop coming home if we don’t pause and pay attention. Small lives and even brief lives have important connections for us all.

What is the “butterfly effect” and what happens if the tiny endangered bee turns out to be just a visitor, left outside of the circle?

Bumblebee, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Butterfly, Butterfly Effect, Geometry, Art and Science, Mandala, Art and Meditation,  Heritage, Ancestry, Heirloom, Family, Pearls, Seeds, Art and Nature, Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, Canadian Artist
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