Updated: Jul 6
Melinda called my studio one day. She said had been a long time fan of my artwork and had always wanted a print of my painting “Shadow Dancer”. As we talked, a story unfolded of her love for her mare named Diva. She shared with me that she had lost Diva only a short time before. I felt from her words that Diva was like a part of her sense of home, and when she lost her she felt bereft of that safe haven. As she talked it became clear to both of us that there was more to experience and that Diva’s spirit was leading her to me for a reason…. and that a portrait of her horse could help heal some of Melinda’s loss.
Melinda sent some professional photographs she’d had taken of Diva. There were two stunning photographs of her which I immediately knew would be perfect for her portrait.
In preparation for the conceptual ideas for her portrait, I went into a meditation and I asked to connect with Diva’s spirit for her upcoming portrait and to see if she had any images, thoughts, or feelings about how she would like the portrait to be portrayed, as well as any messages she would like to convey to Melinda.
In my mind’s eye I was surprised to see a woman instead of a horse. She appeared to be the personification of what you might envision as a “Diva". A backlit spotlight revealed a tall slim woman with dark hair in an elegant evening dress edged with fine ostrich feathers around her shoulders. As she approached me, however, her persona became more genuine, innocent, and lovely. Her mischievous almond shaped eyes and refined feminine face was framed with soft black hair that moved with the slightest breeze.
I asked if she give me a message for Melinda. An image appeared of a small oval black stone in a small calm pool. Then I asked what she came to learn in life as a horse. She said “to be an individual and to not feel like she needed to be guarded”. I asked if she had any feelings or impressions or additions to her portrait. She conveyed that she would be happy with what I create from the two photos of her, and that she wanted me to portray her face without the bridle.
Photo montage mock up of Diva’s Portrait
Then she started to convey her message to Melinda in words rather than pictures. This is what she said… the words came one sentence at a time.
Trust in the unknown Let it be without There is a plan and a journey unfolding
Choose the way where you feel centered
Choose the joy and not the responsibility
Do not let others influence your choice
On the other side of the unknown is a familiar feeling of coming home to yourself
Our life together is about communication about trusting your way rather than what has been done before
Harmony is achieved when we align our wills release our resistance and remember our purpose Remember the wild in you before you were tamed.
I then felt a pause and I asked if there was something more she wanted to convey – I sensed she had a message for me – and the message was – that this message was for me too. It was fascinating because I had been undergoing a transition in how I meditated. I had learned some new techniques which involved trusting my intuition, rather than what I usually did which was listening to shamanic drumming. The first night meditating with Diva I had attempted to meditate my usual way while listening to the drumming cd, and could only get brief glimpses. I was unsure how to proceed. But the next day while meditating on my own I realized I had the answer all along, which was not to rely on the “old ways” and to trust my new way. That is when Diva's message unfolded both in picture and in words. If I had been listening to a drumming cd, and expecting to see a horse instead of a human, or get pictures instead of words, I would have shut off the possibility of what unfolded. Thank you, Diva.
My correspondence with Melinda was an important element in the feelings that went into the portrait. When I shared the meditation with her, at first Melinda had trouble interpreting the symbolism of my vision. Seeing her horse as a human diva – and the stone symbol were confusing for her. She did say that some of the messages did immediately resonate with her and that she hoped some would make sense later. She then shared she couldn’t read the meditation without crying, so she recognized she must feel more without being aware of it. She also said that Diva loved to be in the spotlight!
I explained to her that my visions and meditations are symbolic rather than literal – as all my work is about interpreting the essence of things into form. So though the message is intended for the person through the horse, the imagery is coming through my “filter” of what speaks to me energetically and how to convey a message for the person. For me, seeing Diva as a woman was not surprising, and in some ways gave me a greater glimpse of her spirit from another perspective of who she is. It may have nothing to do with her soul being a human or a human spirit in any of her infinite forms – that was just one interpretation – but how she appeared was seen the context of asking her the question of what Melinda needed to hear.
I also realized that with some paintings, particularly those of horses who have crossed over,it is important to share the meditation when the client sees the portrait for the first time, rather than before. I have witnessed many times my clients experiencing the healing energy of seeing their horse again for the first time, and there is a profound yet comforting shift that happens. Then the interpretation of the meditation can be more clear and free of the sadness of their loss.
I once spoke with a psychic about my visions and asked her why some seem so detailed and others seem to just have a few images or words. She said she felt the horse themselves offers up what their owner is needing at that time. This was amazing and comforting to me, because it took me and my “abilities” out of the equation.
An usual thing happened when I was almost ready to finish her painting. Usually my compositions are determined in the beginning of the process and once I start a painting it is rare that I add anything more. However I began to feel that something was missing. I meditated with Diva again and I saw her again as a human diva this time with a pink boa – and then I saw a swan in flight. Diva had shown herself to have very clear ideas, and I realized there was just enough space to add a swan to her painting. I told Melinda of the symbolic meaning of swans that had to do with awakening to the true beauty and power of the self. Symbolically the swan can be a guide to how to see the inner beauty within oneself regardless of outer appearances. This was a particularly vivid message for Melinda and she began to truly embrace the messages that Diva was expressing through the mystery of the infinite love such horses share.
At Melinda’s request I framed the painting with a lock of her hair inserted into the mat. I wrapped the hair in silk threads. This created a very unique and beautiful personal remembrance.
"Diva Divine" Framed
I met Kim McElroy many years ago at an event in California. I had fallen in love with her work and was frankly a little star-struck. She was warm and sweet and signed my book.
My Arabian mare Diva chose me has her human when I decided to take a different road to town. I saw her in a pasture and even at 50 mph I was captivated. She led me to purchase the home where she lived. Imagine my astonishment when I went to view the home and found hanging inside a print of “Shadow Dancer” by Kim McElroy! The homeowner and I became friends based on our mutual adoration of Diva and the love of Kim’s artwork. Diva was not part of the deal for the house, (although I tried several times) but a few years later, she came to live with me.
Diva and I were together for an all too short 6 years. It came to an end when I received a phone call at work from my panicked husband saying he couldn’t get Diva up. I gave instructions to find a way to get her to the vet. Her diagnosis was past grim. Her last gift to me was that there was no gut-wrenching, guilt ridden decision to be made. We had to euthanize her. I was in shock and grief over the sudden losing of my beloved girl.
At the end of a long train of thought that even I had a hard time following, I went to Kim’s website. I emailed for more information on “Shadow Dancer”, the print that had been the connection with my friend and new home, and I was surprised that Kim answered my email herself. I found myself telling Kim about Diva, and shortly thereafter I decided I wanted Kim to do a portrait of her. I sent photos of Diva, some of her mane hair, and I awaited my very own Kim McElroy original and for Diva to come home
Kim kept in contact throughout the whole process. She sent mock-ups of the portrait and told me of the intuitive communications she had with Diva. If I had a question, she always answered as soon as she could. She always treated my connection to Diva with tenderness and respect.
During the creation process Kim revealed that she’d had an inspiration during a meditation with Diva to include a swan in her portrait. She shared with me that among the qualities the swan symbolized in myth and story was self-acceptance. I wrote Kim and told her that upon reading her email tears had quietly escaped my eyes. The symbolism of the swan made sense to me. I have always struggled to find an acceptance within myself. I believe it was something Diva tried to teach me and something I am slowly beginning “to get”.
When Diva was finally on her way home, I think Kim was just as excited as I was. The portrait is stunning and Kim went to extra effort to include a beautiful braid of Diva’s hair in the framing. Diva now presides in the living room of our home, but being the true Diva she is, no matter which way you come in the house, she is first to be seen.
In regards to how I feel about her portrait, it is difficult to put it into words. The photos that I have of Diva, while beautiful, aren’t really her. If someone wanted to see what she looked like, I would proudly show them the photos. If someone asked about who Diva was, I would even more proudly show them her portrait.
Having her home again by way of the portrait is, quite honestly, kind of disconcerting. She watches everything. I’m glad she is home, but it feels like we are redefining our relationship. It doesn’t feel anything like I thought it would. But, then again, Diva never did anything like I expected. Getting to know her portrait is as wonderful and complex and wonderfully complex a journey as any relationship.