A few days ago as I sat down to finish working on a pet portrait, still feeling overwhelmed with everything going on, I found myself wrestling with it. Why? my overtaxed psyche insisted. Why paint rabbits and puppies? Why do this now, in particular? I’m TIRED and emotionally fried!

I know why, but sometimes I need to remember deeply in my heart and bones.

Why is a fundamental question that I must connect with in this deeper way, or I essentially break down. It has always been important to me, but now, with my exacerbated health issues, it has become urgent. I seem to have a very purpose-oriented deeper aspect of psyche that will increasingly resist and upset my endeavours unless it endorses them.

I believe this has to do with the fact that I have had to learn my limit and play within it (not for gambling haha–British Columbians will get this). I have a very limited amount of energy every day, and this amount gets really slim when things are hard, as they have been lately due to the pervasive stresses of Covid-19 and the rightful outrage against racism happening around the world.

Instead of getting overly complicated here, which I can tell I’m about to do, to my own detriment, I’d like to share a story I posted on Instagram the other day.

(I cringe at that typo in the second slide there: *my = me.)

Note that all of this is to say nothing of the immense, warm, open space that comes with knowing the joy these paintings bring people. Human words cannot express.

“Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Darmok and Jalad on the ocean.” 😉 <3

Why matters.

I have never really believed that my life has a specific purpose, although finding meaning in the things I do has always been important to me. But increasingly, as I get older and sicker but also wiser, the clearer it is to me that living purposefully is vitally important. I can’t do things because I’m supposed to, because I’ve committed to them alone.

I must do them because they are important to me on a much deeper level.

Animals have always been able to give me something people never could. When I was young, there was a time when I particularly needed comfort but also felt quite alone. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, mostly this feeling of being comforted by my cat. My cat Homer (born and named before Homer Simpson, not after) was a unique comfort to me then. He was a complete snuggle muffin. He would climb up on you, wrap his soft, fuzzy arms around your neck, bury his furry face in your hair, and purr. Seriously, best hug in the world.

When I think about why animals are so important to me, I believe it is in large part because of this hug better than words can describe.

Major stress calls for animal medicine.

Right now, I am so deeply angry and sad and ashamed about the racism our world still supports and inflicts. I have known these feelings over racism since I was young. But recently, as things have amplified–with the Wet’suwet’en conflict before Covid, and now with the race riots in America and around the world–and in the wake of accidentally offending an acquaintance due to racial blindness, I have realized that this is actually a huge issue for me all the way down.

An agreement between Wet’suwet’en and both BC and Canadian governments signed on May 14th this year looks promising, but we shall see.

I’m hurt, ashamed, and angry in equal measures. I also feel relatively powerless. All of this has become overwhelming, and I call on that animal medicine to help me keep perspective. I call on it so I don’t burn up with the anger and hurt. There is a time and place for feeling and expressing these very strong emotions (it MUST be done), but it is also necessary to not allow myself to be consumed by them. I must remember all that is still good and green and fuzzy in the world as a foundation for my way through these current toxic stressors.

While Covid-19 requires that we remain separated from each other for an extended period, and thereby threatens and harms our physical and mental health in big ways, and while the world seems overwhelmingly complicated right now, there is an uncomplicated understanding and affection that animals offer that is unique to them.

This guy, Steve,

Original custom painting of Steve the darling beagle

my rabbits,

Rabbit Watercolour and Ink original painting by Julie Karey

and the occasional other animal

…provide a unique comfort and inspiration in times of isolation and overwhelm. They help me to feel connected, supported, and part of a much bigger picture than my small, practical, stress-laden existence. They invite the mind to remember the simplicity of existence at bottom, the health and rejuvenation of unconditional love, and the healing power of a hug, of feeling present in one’s body. They remind me not to take the weight of the world on my shoulders and to be gentle with myself and others.

The mark I want to leave on the world

They remind me of the mark I want to leave on our present world. I wish to move towards the change I want to see. I wish to be the change I want to see in the world. I do want to revive the warrior in me that has been over and over again beaten into shame and submission throughout my life (simply being female is a large part of the cause, though there are others), but I also want to remember “Kindness” and “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” who is quite fittingly named Esteban.

Steve has a habit of coming to me at important moments. I may write about Esteban if I get a chance.

Childish or wise? Or both?

So while I feel it may appear silly or even childish at first, there is nothing silly about puppies and rabbits actually. Perhaps childish, yes, but in the light of 40 years of experience that finally realizes the wisdom of simple pleasures, both physical and social, and unmitigated wonder at the curious largeness of small things and the smallness of big things. I was recently taught that this relief from the weight of the world–i.e. taking things less seriously–is exactly what we need to tap into the wisdom and power of life to help us solve these very large, very serious problems. This makes sense to me on some levels, and I’d like to explore and develop this wisdom further.

So when I want to scream in some asshole’s face, or my own asshole face, I try to remember that I cannot solve the world’s problems alone, and I don’t need to. I can take a load off and wait for the inevitable wisdom and power that come with connecting with, resting in, and wondering over what is larger than myself.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

I will close by offering the same as I did on Instagram the other day.

An offer for free rabbit paintings

If you feel you need a bit of “rabbit” in your life, let me know, and I will make one for you–a 4×6″ ink and watercolour–free of charge, besides shipping. If you would like to offer me something, that makes me happy and supports my art habit 😉 , but it’s not necessary. This is one way for me to give what I can give while I am still economically stable. Alternatively, you could offer a small donation to the Orangutan Project.

This project is a charity I have been following for the last year and periodically offer art proceeds to. It works to help orangutans who are threatened, harmed, and killed by things like deforestation and wildlife trading. They work to protect habitats, rehabilitate and release injured animals, and care for orphaned orangutans and help them “learn how to care for themselves and hopefully survive in the wild.”

The caveat is that it may take a bit of time for me to paint your rabbit. I have a few requests from Instagram. I enjoy doing them, and as long as there is no time pressure, I’m happy to take some more here 🙂 .

Kind regards and warm wishes for good health and stress management.

May the puppies and rabbits of the world be with you.

Julie

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