Wisdom is to know that each of us has a unique gift….

jody draw rose gold cross

Wisdom is to know that each of us has a gift, a special gift, a unique gift.

That gift is to be used to serve life, to serve humanity.

One of the gifts the Beaver has is 2 sharp teeth

that he uses to create and build the dams and change the landscape.

If that Beaver chose not to use his gift and to lay on the shore

while the other beavers were working, his teeth would grow so long

that he would not be able to use them and he would die, physically die.

If we do not use our gift we will also die or we will become sick, mentally, emotionally or physically.

-Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene from THE SEVEN SACRED TEACHINGS

*In a way, I’ve already written about some of what’s included in the first part of this post but I really wanted to tie this in with the teaching of Wisdom, one of The Seven Sacred Teachings. These teachings seem more and more meaningful to me as the world grows darker.

I remember when I was in my 20s and early 30s, feeling that I had absolutely no talent, no purpose, no reason for being on this Earth. It was a sad and hopeless time and I spent a large part of the day and night.. drinking.

Eventually with the help of several therapists, most especially John Bradshaw and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I began to come out of this hopeless and depressing state and I began to feel I might have at least some purpose in this life.

ekr and us copy

Cindy Pickard, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD and Andy Pickard

I was always interested in art and I felt also, that I would like to work with dying patients, however since I hated hospitals, I couldn’t imagine how that could happen.

And I had a third interest..I wanted to be around the Native American people though there didn’t seem to be any in Texas where I lived. All I saw were plaques which gave the details about the Indian massacres that had taken place there.


My journey began when I signed up for some continuing ed photography classes at Rice University in Houston and then began doing portraits of children [they are easy to photograph because they don’t have huge egos].CHLOE BALLET

There was an upscale photography gallery in Houston at that time and for a while I imagined myself into the Art World, reading books about Georgia O’Keefe, going to gallery openings and buying a little art … but something was definitely missing.


After doing some workshops with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I started working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant at Hospice Austin in Austin, Tx and I began to feel I was getting closer to what could be my purpose.me:ot:hospice art

Working with my hospice patients, I was able to combine both art and photography. I often photographed these patients so that they would have photos to pass on to family and friends and I also photographed them for Hospice Austin publications.films of the dying:peter

 I used different art forms , encouraging them to  paint and draw and to write poems and stories for their families.ruth:hospice:paintingjames:hospice pt

I loved being with them..they brought perspective and meaning to my life…

Eventually I founded a non profit called RITES OF PASSAGE where I was able to freely express and bring together my ideas for working with terminally ill patients, combining home care with art, photography and with the help of my son, film.

Art continued to be a part of RITES OF PASSAGE as with the help of a few great volunteers, we offered an art class for patients and staff,File_01 joe:aids culminating in an exhibit of their work and my “Portraits of People with AIDS” photo/oral history exhibit

jim, gerri, jason

Family with AIDS

at The University of Texas-Austin.


And as yet another art form, I added the creation of memorials as part of the  presentations I was doing around the US and Canada.baby f memorial

Often after I showed one of our films on death and dying, I would pass out colored paper, pens, stickers, glitter etc and encourage everyone to make a memorial. kids:lourdes:memorials

They are so easy to make…


and they are beautiful…lynn memorial



The years passed and I went to a national conference on Death Education in Toronto.noel:flag

I had come especially to hear the keynote speaker, Chief Noel Starblanket who, earlier in his life, had been the youngest chief ever, of all Canadian Indians. After Noel Starblanket’s talk, which was on the Loss and Grief suffered by The First Nations People, I asked him if I could come to Saskatchewan to interview him for a project I was working on.

My three primary interests which had never left me but had seemed unattainable, came together then as I began working with the First Nations People in Canada.

In 2004, I met Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene in Winnipeg, Manitoba.Dave_Looking_at_Arkdave & me-petroform site copyMy son and I [IMAGICA PICTURES and RITES OF PASSAGE] made 2 films with Dave Courchene: THE 8TH FIRE and Manitou Api and Dave introduced me to the Seven Sacred Teachings which he had received and was talking about whenever and wherever he could.

These 7 laws were symbolized and represented by animals, which reflected our connection to nature and our connection to the land. The spirituality of our people is deeply rooted and connected to the land. You cannot live on this land honoring all that there is on the land unless you understand these 7 laws. If we do not understand these 7 laws that we are inspired to live by, then there is a good chance that we will not respect the land and that we will disconnect ourselves from what comes from the land. But if we live by these 7 laws, that is when we will have a truly happy and peaceful life, in harmony with all of nature and each other as the human family.

-Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene

glastonbury ceremony

Filming  MANITOU API  Glastonbury, UK

 I have written previous posts about the teaching of the WOLF-HUMILITY and the teaching of BIGFOOT-HONESTY.

The BEAVER represents WISDOMbeaver_flag

Wisdom is to know that each of us has a gift, a special gift, a unique gift.

That gift is to be used to serve life, to serve humanity.

I have observed so many times that when a person discovers his or her special gift, Life changes dramatically for the better.This has been true for me personally and though I haven’t made much money, I never feel bored and have an endless supply of things I would like to create.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross often spoke these words at the end of her lectures and I have always lived by them:
“It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days.you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.””

I have also observed that people who have not discovered their special gift or purpose, are unhappy, often turning to drugs or alcohol or worse… and they create more unhappiness for others.

The film clip below is from our documentary, MANITOU API~Where the Sun Rises which explains the importance and the meaning of each of the Seven Sacred Teachings.