Realms Of the Soul – October 2019

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”
Leonora Carrington, 1917 –  2011

Each month 2nd Tuesday presents images and ideas about how the objects and symbols we treasure can be gathered from their randomness and into ‘Realms’ for the spirit; for the soul. Such a process can become a means of nourishing and calming our inner lives, healing and sustaining our health, finding resilience that we might not realize we have, honoring people and beings, and affirming and encouraging our intentions and values.

The changing light of Autumn prompts the sharing of the assemblage work of artist Saundra Cobb, a friend who, inspired as a child by Matisse’s painting Dance of Life, became committed to the creation of a totem; her decision to proceed with its creation ignited by a move and subsequent friendship with a neighboring couple who had immigrated from Poland.  The couple’s story, the trauma they had encountered, the challenges that they and their children had overcome, and the sudden news of the wife’s diagnosis of cancer inspired Saundra to build and adorn a totem to represent her own family’s journey, its friendships, their stories; the love and intentions they shared.

‘Dance 1″ Henri Matisse, 1909

The totem, itself titled The Dance of Life, once constructed, became the gathering place for hundreds of objects Saundra had collected, found, and added into her life with the intention of the totem; a totem of light, a totem of love.

‘Using my family as story, I started my totem The Dance of Life,  each color, each jewel, bead, key, mirror, object, and number representing an aspect of our family’s experience. I worked on the totem and its individual shafts of objects, wire, and beads always aware of the interplay of light and metaphor. Mirrors were placed everywhere. In the Arizona sun, the totem became alive with colors and reflections. Illuminated at night, the totem swirled under the stars and danced in the movement of breezes.’


Upon relocating to California in the past year, Saundra took the beaded, wired, and object-adorned wands off of the totem and remade them into mobiles and Spirit Stixs to share with her family and her friends.

“What I’d like for the receiver of a Spirit Stix to know is that each piece was made with love and with prayer; for them to have a sense of my caring and love and intentions for them.”

“For me, the totem and the sharing of its elements has been a very emotional experience; each piece I hope finding a place, a table, a vase, a plant, an outdoor environment where it can catch the energy of the light and bring an additional sense of love and peace into the life of another person, and, in the case of some of my friends who have experienced serious illnesses, a sense of healing.”

“There’s a sorrow and pain in everyone’s life, but every now and then there is a ray of light that melts the loneliness in your heart and brings comfort like hot soup and a soft bed.”                               

Hubert Selby Jr.


Saundra Cobb was born and raised in Edina, Minnesota, attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Hawaii Academy of Arts, and the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts in Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in Carlsbad, California with her husband Nate to whom she has been married for fifty-eight years.


4 Responses

  1. Karina says:

    Love my Mom. She is an inspiration!! Thank you for sharing her story. It is a true gift.

  2. Fred Swan says:

    Karina, It’s such an honor to know your mother and to witness her talent!

  3. What a wonderful article Fred! Saundra and I are friends on Facebook and I love to see her adventures and positivity. This deeper look into her life and art is such a gift of beauty and light. Thanks for bringing it to us here. I have been toying with making totems myself lately and love how she approaches hers. Inspiration is everywhere. <3

  4. Fred Swan says:

    Beautiful as a whole and in the gifts of its individual parts. So good to have met Saundra through you!