A reader sent me the most amazing email the other day... Betsy Hinze is an artist who felt inspired to make a jaguar mask after reading What the Moon Saw. (Clara's grandmother's spirit animal is a jaguar.) I followed the link to her etsy page, and was met with this fantastic work of art that took my breath away:
And not only is it absolutely stunning, but wait till you read about her process! I am so honored and moved that my book inspired someone to put all this care into creating something beautiful. You can tell that Betsy put her heart and soul into making this... I love this mask for so many reasons, but most of all, I'm grateful for this reminder about the deepest reason why I write-- in hopes that through story, souls can touch and create beauty. Thank you so much, Betsy!
Okay, I'm cutting and pasting Betsy's description here-- it's long, but eloquent and fascinating and inspiring and definitely worth reading. (She quotes from What the Moon Saw, which, if you haven't read yet, you can read more about here.)
"I have used many symbols in this mask, all based off of the book (as I will explain below). I absolutely loved reading this book-it let me escape into a completely new world, in which I became totally immersed...
To the symbols:
First, I soaked the leather in a mixture of spices and coffee, based on these quotes:
“I would sit in the dark and watch the rabbit in the moon and let Pedro’s music enter me…I would feel the fresh herbs dripping rainwater down my arms, the warmth of hot chocolate, the sweet copal smoke, the taste of mango juice, the color of his voice, the smell of goats.”
“I stood still while she brushed wet herbs [ruda, basil, white flowers] over my head and neck…”
“For years, Clara, my life was drenched with aromas of herbs and spices…stirring cinnamon into hot chocolate, stirring oregano into soup. Stirring lemongrass into tea.”
“It was the shiny form of a jaguar! His spots shimmered like tiny moons…moonlight glinted in his eyes.”
I painted the mask in colors based off of these quotes:
“There was a strange light, kind of orange-yellow, thick as squash soup. Everything glowed like a painting done in a palette of eerie colors.”
“The sky melted from black to deep blue to gray to pink.”
“Abuelo came back with the firewood and a sackful of wild mushrooms. Some were sea green and some fiery orange…Usually mushrooms taste like dirt to me, but these tasted like forest secrets. Like sunsets hiding in tree hollows.”
“I chose the cup of good, and drank down every last drop. It was golden and sweet, like honey, and filled me with light.”
Next, I added silvery iridescent lines and webs with mica powder (you can hardly see them in the photos):
“Only when the light was right, only if you were paying attention, could you begin to see the connection. It occurred to me that hidden strands linked us all, through decades, over thousands of miles, across borders.“
“Watching the light shine through the leaves, specking my skin with jaguar spots.”
“Only a crescent of moon showed that night, but the leaves and branches glimmered, silver. And everything pulsed with life…Below, I saw threads, like spiders’ webs, connecting everything.”
Lastly, I added the details. I put real Swallowtail butterfly wings on the ears. The butterfly died naturally.
“What I remember most about our walk were the butterflies dancing in the air above the uprooted trees, as though it were a day just like any other.”
I added parrot feathers, cacao beans, and wood pieces with goose egg pieces glued to them:
“We left gifts to thank the spirits for the plants. Gifts of eggs and green feathers and cocoa beans.”
“Gifts of cocoa beans, turkey eggs, green feathers.”
I used porcupine quills as whiskers because all animals are connected, even the mighty jaguar to the small porcupine.
The very last thing I did was add long orange ribbons:
“She unwound the orange ribbon from her braids and carefully wove it into mine.”
I hope you appreciate the time, effort, and thought that went in to creating this mask. I really tried to encompass my love and respect for the book I created it in honor of."
(This is me again, Laura.) Isn't this amazing? It moves me every time I read it and look at the photos... I get happy shivers!
You know, in general, I feel content with my fairly modest income from writing books-- what gives me fulfillment is getting emails from readers, like this one... BUT every once in a while, I see something like this jaguar mask that is just bursting with soul and magic, and I *wish* I had a few hundred dollars lying around. I would buy this in a heartbeat!
Ah well... just knowing it exists makes me happy. And I'm going to print out a color copy of it and hang it in my trailer!
(Incidentally, if YOU have a few extra hundred dollars lying around, you could buy it here and tell me about it and send me pictures of you wearing it! That would definitely make me happy, too!)
Have a lovely day, and Betsy, thank you again!
Laura P.S. So now, after writing that post, I'm thinking, hmmm.... maybe I can scrounge that money together after all. It would be so amazing to have this in my home-- every time I walked by it, I'd be reminded of why I write... We shall see!