City in a Garden

by | March 04, 2013 | Articles, Visual Artists, Writers and Poets

by Joan Riise –

We Chicagoans are a rare breed, often caught up in a love/hate relationship with this city we call home: too much traffic, noise, taxes, corruption, gangs, pollution, cold, heat, etc, etc. STOP! Take a breath and look around. It’s also a city of incredible art, diversity, gardens, neighborhoods, trees, music, fountains and our incomparable Lake Michigan.

After being raised a Navy Brat, as a young adult, I settled in the Heartland drawn by love and a desire to live near a large body of water. I wanted an urban experience which I found in plenty at the same time that I discovered historic architecture, global neighbors, music, culture, and a spiritual dimension that valued Nature, Art, Truth and Beauty. It wasn’t long before I found my own Bridge to Eden and embarked upon the mysterious, winding path that’s led me along the sacred pathway of life.

There are a lot of losses, loves, laughs and lessons one experiences in 60 plus years. Life has been both kind and rich in experience. Along the way I’ve been artist, author, adventurer, bee-keeper, camper, dancer, drummer, doula, hippie, poet, shop owner, single mom, volunteer, wife, writer, event- planner, fund-raiser, gardener (and gourdhead), goddess, yoga teacher, grandma . . . and don’t count me out yet!

Underscoring it all has been an inherent and continually deepening kinship with Nature. Grandmother Gourd speaks as my Muse. I’ve always been drawn to places of power. Air lifts my spirits; water soothes and cleanses; the earth supports and seduces me into her dark mystery and fire ignites the imagination!

“Bridge to Eden’ creates for me a powerful image that expresses a soul’s longing for return to contentment; “returning” to a time of unconditional love, simplicity, truth, clean water, fresh air, virgin forests, safe food and fair, guileless communication.

Santosha is one of yoga’s niyamas and is the Sanskrit word for contentment. At this point in my life, santosha is a precept upon which I often meditate and reflect. Particularly living in an urban environ- ment, it’s easy to become distracted, caught up and always striving, driven to achieve, grasping, gasping, depleted, unsatisfied and thoroughly exhausted.

Too often it takes growing far into maturity or a crisis of body, mind or spirit to stop us in our tracks. “Take time to smell the flowers; can’t see the forest for the trees; ‘tis a gift to be simple; the best things in life are free” . . . mundane until you realize their truth as it relates to you.

Change takes a personal commitment: time, mindfulness and honesty at least. The real Bridge to Eden
exists within our hearts and can be found anywhere, at any time – in a hotel room, an office, even on the Dan Ryan during rush hour! Each of us can create, plant and discover our personal sanctuary, our place of power – sometimes finding it in surrender, sometimes in passion, sometimes in an exquisite and transformational moment of grace.

The important thing is to begin, to find the courage that pushes us to take that first step upon the bridge where we soon find ourselves beyond the point of no return, liberated, eager, trusting, drawn forward by our Muse, guided always towards the Great Mystery.

Kudos to Joan Forest Mage and her loyal circle of LFA members who imagined the Bridge to Eden and brought it into reality. There is strength in forum where ideas, wisdom, art, music, poetry and dance can be exchanged. The Bridge to Eden allowed me to re-connect with what feels like my “tribe”.

For my part in the show, I chose to present Grandmother Gourd who manifests the timeless wisdom I discovered in the garden during the passionate seven year outreach of community gardens and Goddess Gourd Festivals. Germination, further expresses the same deep, feminine ecology, shedding light upon the spirit’s work accomplished during the season of darkness and seemingly frozen silence.

I invite you to visit my website, and while you’re there, listen to the radio interview you’ll find on the “About Us” page.

Thank you for this opportunity!

Joan Riise,
Loon’s Moon Art and Santosha Yoga

“Grandmother Gourd”, copyright Joan Riise

copyright Joan Riise
“Germination” copyright Joan Riise

~Joan Riise ( is the author of the book This Garden Grows a Goddess.

Editor’s Note: Joan Riise participated in Life Force Arts Center’s exhibition Bridge to Eden: The Green World as Artist (April 21 – June 19, 2012).

Share this post:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *