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I am UmberDove.

And by that, I mean an artist.  One who hears stories in the wind, who paints because it is what her soul tells her to do, who smiths because the muse moves through her fingertips, who loves nothing more than the promise of an unexplored trail, the sound of the ocean in her ears, and scent of a serious cup of coffee.



Postcards from the Other Side

Kelly Clark

The sky is soft with thinning clouds and the cool morning light.  I watch the edges of the plum branches find illumination, watch the songbirds and the corvidae bustling about.  I am learning how to breath.  Again. Right now at 36.  Finding the shallow places in my lungs where my ribs have fixed themselves in a stationary armor.

Dear bones. I know you are doing your very best to protect me.  You've held a steady shield, you've worked so hard to keep my tender organs safe in a world unpredictable.

I am learning how to yawn so wide my jaw crinkles and pops.  How to stretch open my lips without holding up a demure and apologetic hand.  To make a little noise, give a little volume, be a little inappropriate.

She told me those huge breaths, those monstrous yawns, are pivotal for loosening the fascia knit tight along the back of our throats and woven between our ribs.  Pivotal for moving the stuck energy that chokes our lungs with unanswered emotion and blocks true words from ever making it up to our tongues. 

I've been writing voraciously, filling notebooks I don't intent to be seen.  Writing my way through murky questions and sticky fears.  Writing concentric rings around old patterns, old beliefs, trying to align ever closer with the heart of self.  These last six months I've toed the line between the waking and dream worlds.  Stepping fluidly across barriers into the dark of the void, the space of visions and liminality, and back again into the tangible world of light and form.  No one enters this process and comes out unchanged.  I can't tell you quite what's shifted, but I know light has been shed on the deepest cracks in my foundation, unearthing shadows, illuminating bogs.  I don't know what this means yet, but I do know it's an opportunity to rewrite the ancient patterns that influence our actions from the shadows.

Four weeks ago I had my last chemotherapy infusion and truthfully, I'm still deep in the space of recovery: physically, mentally, emotionally.  Six months ago I agreed (with much pushback and trepidation) to chemo as a tandem treatment to a new clinical trial drug, one in the realm of gene therapy and encouraging new technologies.  One I wanted to try.  At the end of these six otherworldly months, the results came back... "Stable," as it was printed across the summary paperwork.  Not terrible, not great, and certainly not what I had been wishing for, but stable.  In truth, I didn't know where to land in those results.  I didn't know how to tell beloved friends and supporters that things were not "all better."  The perfectionist in me has long worried that anything short of "cured" must be a failure.  But I'm trying on the notion, like a sleek new coat, that perhaps the very fact that I'm alive after seven years of living with cancer is a great success in and of itself.  That perhaps, just perhaps, illness is not a failure of our own making.  And even though I would preach this as truth for every other soul out there, I had not granted myself the same grace.  What mountains might shake if I gifted myself the space to simply BE, to BE without striving, to move through the world without holding my breath waiting for "stable" to be replaced with some other less desirable word?

We had a talk recently about releasing versus drawing close.  The way not everything we wish to extract from our lives can be pushed out to the river, while we watch the water simply take it from us, bobbing and turning in the current until it's far from sight.  That sometimes we must consume a thing into the fire of our bellies, watch it burn clean until it stands revealed before us.  That sometimes the thing hiding under all that duff and detritus is a much younger version of ourselves, trying her damnedest to survive - even if it's all slippery sideways efforts.  And the last thing we want is to send her out alone into the vast dark of the sea. 

These are the thoughts filling pages in my journals.  These are the truths that sit side by side with a multitude of beautiful moments strung together every day.  

Here is what I know to be true this morning: sunshine and meditation may not cure all that ails you, but they certainly offer a gateway to deeply restorative moments of bliss.  Homemade sourdough raisin bread, fried in butter in a cast iron pan, tastes like heaven.  Spending time with a horse will bring you more solidly into full body presence than anything else I know.  The body wants to be asked for its opinions, its desires, and if we learn to listen deep in the belly, it always answers.   Your own dog always smells better than anyone else's dog - even when it's been too many weeks since their last bath.  When you are caught up in your head, move your feet.  And - please hear me loud and clear on this last one - self care is always the right choice.

Be well my birds.

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A Manifesto of Sorts

Kelly Clark

I drink my coffee either black or the color of malted cream, thick with rice milk, a dollop of coconut oil and a scrape of vanilla bean pod.  And I believe no coffee ever tastes as good as the one brewed outdoors.


I'm a sucker for lemonade stands, never able to drive past but forever skidding to a halt, digging in seat cushions for change, and buying whatever flavor of sketchy, corn syrup based tartness is begin sold.  I rarely drink it, but I love me a young entrepreneur.

I have a mouth like a sailor and zero inclination to change.  

There is no place I feel safer - physically, emotionally, energetically - than deep in the woods, with no one but my dogs by my side.  There is no place I feel able to let down the carefully constructed guards than with the trees as my witness and sentinels. 

I find science to be utterly magical, and can think of no more magical construct than evolution.  No more sacred event than the coming together of molecules, the sparking of life, the shifting and tearing of cells into life and death and the triumph of transformation.  

I can't stand any clothing item labeled as "high waisted."

The juiciest part of the creative process, for me, is the spark and pursuit of idea.  Of curiosity.  Of learning, obsessively, voraciously.  Of closing my eyes and stilling my mind, asking the muse out to play.  Of seeing fully realized images and objects come together in my mind's eyes - long before their birth into the tangible world - reaching out and turning them around, examining how they are made, what marks, what layers.  Sometimes I see things and know I don't have the technical skill, or time, or energy, and the hardest choice is to release them back to the collective consciousness of creativity, where without fail, they will find their right maker.


I have a deep love for tarot and oracle decks of all kinds. For the ways they open opportunities to dialogue with self, for the ways they remind me of how much intuitive magic we hold, and that like everything else, intuition is a practice.

I am a redneck at heart.  While I love the finer things in life and heated seats is top of my vehicular wish list, I'd take a beefed up truck, cowboy boots, and a lonely dirt road any day.  In a pinch, I've even parked my Jeep on the lawn.

I lived most of my life with an underlying feeing that I would die young, that I would never see my 35th birthday.  I have never been closer to death than I was during my 34th year; there was a moment when I was so deeply ill with cancer that I fully understood I was balancing on the knife edge between life and death.  It would have been easy to let go.  But I chose life.  I fought for life.  And when the tide turned, vitality returned, and I saw my 35th birthday, I realized the old soul contract, the one where I died at 34, had been revised.  And while I fully acknowledge that none of us know how much time we really have, I believe I received a new opportunity, a new contract, to live and live for years more.

I believe our food choices are one of the most radicals acts we can make as individuals.  To know where our food comes from, to vote with dollars by supporting those who grow right by the earth, right by the animals, to learn how to provide for ourselves what we're able and trade as locally as possible for the rest.  I was vegan for a great number of years, but gave it up in favor of my health and what I see as a more globally sensitive path and can not imagine going back.  I hold enormous respect for ethical hunters and those who raise their own meat animals with love and tenderness. 

Mitochondria is one of my favorite words.

I'm awful with remembering birthdays.  No matter how close we are, how truly and deeply I love your soul, there's a high likelihood I will forget the actual day of your birth.

I adore collecting mythology; creation stories in particular.  I love the cadence of indigenous storytelling best, from cultures across the globe, the lack of linear time and the unquestioning understanding that all nature holds spirit and being.  The Greeks and Romans interest me less, perhaps because patriarchal lines are so tedious.  After all, there can be no creation, no birth, without women in full agency of their bodies and minds.

When I write, when I share the thoughts behind my work, it is always and unfailing notes and reminders to myself.  When I write about being enough, about finding your wild woman, about trusting your knowing, it is because these are the things I am forever working on in my own soul.  It is because I know of no better way to find my path, my truest self, than through the making of art.  Amen and Aho.

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Kelly Clark

I will never be someone who tells you that a serious and life threatening illness is a blessing.  It is not.  But the truth is, I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's.  I think about who I've become over the past seven years, the ways I've grown and changed and I know, without the catalyst of fire I would not be who I am now.

A few months ago I created these tiny Saturnian pieces.  I wanted to speak about what it is to look back and recognize the upheaval and subsequent life changing, life realigning force that is the Saturn Returns.  That time in life when the ringed planet swings back to the exact place in the night sky it shone at the moment of your birth.  An astrological phenomena that happens right around age 29, then again around 58, and if we're lucky, again around 84.  A time when life seems to throw some serious curveballs, hardships, ripples of self doubt or straight up trauma.  A time, in reality, when we are being offered a chance to course correct, to shed the old skin of who we no longer are and step into the possibility of who we wish to become.  This is not easy work my friends.  This is not simply a time to do a little yoga and eat some pretty foods and wait for it all to get better.  This is when the nuts and bolts of our contracts in this lifetime get REAL.

For me, smack on time at 29 years old, I got cancer.  And for the past nearly seven years I have vacillated between medications and treatments, between tumor markers rising in fear and falling in relief, between times of incredible strength and times when I've looked Death right in the face.  I have stripped away layer after layer of non-truth, of shame and guilt that was never mine to bear, of fear and fury tangled up in my organs, and now I have found I'm no where near done.  But I am still here.  With a gold-filled backbone of determination and a bloody warrior's soul.  I am here to do the work.

When I sawed out the saturn silver and formed it with fire, my medical charts were looking up for the first time in a long time.  Stable.  Hopeful.  Decidedly not in crisis.  I wanted to tell you about coming up, out and away from the period of that Saturn Return.  How I wanted to invited you to celebrate with me the end of hardships and the start of a bliss-filled era.  An existential springtime if you will.

And then the tumor markers showed a concerning spike.  And the scans confirmed new activity in bones, the sparkling highlights of cancerous cells multiplying.  And so I put the necklaces at the back of a dark drawer and didn't look at them for weeks.  I felt betrayed, unsafe and if we're being honest, ragingly angry.  You see, every cell in my body holds a copy of a mutated gene.  It's not a simple matter of eradicating what's already there; it's the life long work of trying to keep healthy cells healthy, every single day.  

I come back, yet again, to this: I am here to experience life fully.  This does not mean I will only experience bliss and joy and happiness.  It certainly does not mean I welcome in the hardships or call them blessings.  It simply means I will experience life.  All that it is to be human; this human in particular.  And right now, what this means is that I need to focus fully on the living.  Especially as I am a few days out from beginning a new protocol of treatment, stepping into the simultaneously hope-filled and terrifying realm of clinical trials.  I don't know what next week holds; how I will feel, how my body will react.  I only know that today, right now, I am experiencing this life and grateful to choose how I show up.

So.  Today I clasp my Saturnian around my neck, not because the hard times are over, but because I know each day I am stepping into who I have the capacity to become.  Because each day I shed a little more of the old self and show up a little more my true self.  Because I am learning, sometimes rapidly, but more often slow as honey, how to love myself for who I am right now.  Because each day I have the privilege of deciding how I will show up, how I will honor my emotions and my physical body in the exact state they are in.  Because each day I get to engage with my sense of the universe, with source, with magic, with the way I can gift love and with the way I can open myself to receive it.

It is from that place I wish to offer you these small reminders.  To invite you, with great love, to hold truth around how every day you become a little more you.  But also to open my own heart to receiving.  Because my truth is that I need a little ease.  A time of boundless breath and less hustle.  A space to ask my heart, my body, my soul exactly what it needs to feel fully alive.   To step back from work for at least one full week with the intent to lean deeply into just living.

 The Saturnian pendants will be listed with multiple pricing tiers; from the base cost of metal plus labor, to several options for gifts-of-love toward a fund for ease and living life for me.  A way to know I can rest and receive space for whatever this season of treatment brings, to ignite a tiny spark of trust that maybe, just maybe, I - we - are held. 

Here is the truth: asking for help is one of the hardest things I know.  It shakes me down to my very core.  Perhaps second only to receiving.  But if I believe (and hear me friends, I deeply, truly do) that you, You, YOU are worthy of love, of rest, of ease, of receiving, that I would sing that truth from every mountaintop, then I also want to believe I am too.  That maybe if I ask now, then when you need it, you will ask too.  That by the seemingly simple act of asking for what we need, and then being open to receiving it, we can radically shift the paradigm of what it is to give, to ask and to receive.  And THAT I can get behind.  After all, we are here together, on this earth, and we have great capacity to ripple out goodness of every kind.

Know this friend: I believe in you.  In me.  In us.  Thank you for the myriad of ways you support my life and the lives of your own beloveds; trust me when I say it truly never goes unnoticed. Pop on over to the etsy shop and you'll find my Saturnian Pendants and know that I deeply appreciate YOU.

Thoughts on Storytelling, Rock Climbing and Fortitude

Kelly Clark

If you've known me for any length of time, you know I love the story.  The why.  The tangle of experience melded with words and image.  The way these things build both the creative process and our visual vocabulary.  The way digging into our individual life stories for the work of our hands, be it overarching themes or the events of a simple afternoon, creates a richness all of their own.

Last weekend BC and I dug into the world of rock climbing for the first time.  Learning where to dig toes into crevices, how to push, pull, center and scale that rock face.  Climbing until my arms felt like a sack of mashed potatoes and I couldn't shake the grin from my lips.  Feeling muscles strain and the sweet sweet taste of hiking your body up over that last craggy face.  And the whole time, singing through my brain on repeat, was the thought, "how miraculous is the human body."  Each time I would stop and rest, shaking my arms out, feeling strong (and as the afternoon wore on, feeling jello), I'd think of the me from two-and-a-half years ago, the one so desperately ill that she couldn't walk up three porch steps without help.  And each time, I felt the deepest, truest gratitude a body can feel.  

When we returned home that evening, I thought about that intense feeling of gratitude.  About the thrill of feeling strong and the joy of perseverance, about the push of determination.  The small rock walls we climbed were no great feat in the larger world, but I felt the gift they offered me was a powerful nugget of fortitude; access to my own vein of golden truth.  And so.  I got to work.

(Fortitude Posts... sterling silver, deeply textured, layered, and adorned with 23k gold) 

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Grace and Fury

Kelly Clark

- Wherein shit gets real -

In the mornings I go to the river.  I find my footing in the spongy banks and the song of the varied thrush, in the bite of cold on fingertips and the groans of giant conifers.  I am an internal processor; this I've come to recognize in the ebb and flow of sharing and silence.  The river stones hold my truths while the water washes me clean, again and again, from the clamor of daily living.  It is with such bravery we alight on this earth in these physical forms, folding up our stardust for one wild ride; at the river I feel my parts come together in peace and I can breath once more.

Here is a truth:

This month I allowed myself to feel deeply disappointed.  Frustrated over not yet receiving the gold star marks of health on my medical paperwork.  Fearful of the continuous rise in tumor markers and the confused looks in doctors' eyes as they peer into my face trying to find illness while I perch there looking like the peak of health.  I've been sitting in that, experiencing the various levels from despondency to fury to hopelessness to grief.  I don't often get that opportunity - correction - I have never taken the opportunity to move through those emotions, to allow myself to feel them, hear them, acknowledge their realness.  It's warm and fuzzy and lovely to be happy, but the truth is, our capacity to experience joy is tempered sharply when under the surface lies a host of silenced emotions and unrecognized feelings.  She tells me all the time: "We have to move through them in order to release them."  This is work.  So I flex my hands and close my eyes and invite the muted slivers of self to speak.

Here is a truth:

I live a blissfully gorgeous life.  Each week I spend hours, days even, hiking with my dogs in some of the most exquisite country on earth, singing with the Muse and creating art in my light-filled studio, dancing around the kitchen with my loving husband, eating beautiful foods and visiting with dear friends.  I also spend many hours each week in medical clinics being poked, prodded and scanned, discussing with doctors what's not working and what experimental treatment I should try next.  Still other hours I spend wordlessly sitting on my bathroom floor, talking myself down from the threat of panic and hot tears, or wondering if it's foolish to make business plans when I don't know what the future months may hold.

You see, all of these things are true; none are diminished by any other.  Part of my heart and soul work in this season - perhaps in this lifetime entirely - is the granting of permission to feel what I feel, wholly and deeply, no excuses, apologies or disclaimers.  This means when I feel bliss, I'm all in.  Heart petals unfurling, laughter bubbling up for no reason at all, soaking up joy like the California hillsides in spring.  It also mean when fear or anger arises, I try to give them space, to ask what is the root issue is, if they just want to be seen, for me to ask in turn if they are helpful or even real.  And if we're being honest, my optimistic personality finds this line of questioning terrifying, but I want to hear the whispers of my body and spirit, to sink ever deeper into my own truths.  And so I name them.

I feel full, blessed, grateful, excited by what is to come, by what I am about on this earth, by the ripples of love and goodness and inspiration I seek to send out.

I recognize that there are cancerous cells in my body.

I allow that I am deeply sad for myself, for this wonderful physical home to my soul, for the sheer number of issues and hours and tears that are shed devoted to surviving, thriving and fighting cancer.

I acknowledge the hot lump in the back of my throat, the Perfectionist and the Curator who have worked so hard to keep me safe, who worry deeply about transparency and inadequacy and what will happen if.

I see my childself, still worried that I am unloveable all on my own, without a rallying cause or a continuous supply of beauty.

I accept that I am loved.  Loved well, loved deeply.

I am committed and open to the fact that my soul is a supergiant, that my light is important, my message vital.

I believe I hold the power of radical transformation.  That my body is capable of great healing and I am capable of writing my own manuscript.

Here is a truth:

I have been thinking about Grace.  Not a genteel, sweet grace nor a delicate, demure grace.  But a grace that sways like tongues of flame.  A grace that ripples in sunlight but holds the power to flood the land and displace mountains we thought would always be.  A grace unencumbered.

When my oncologist looks at me with those sad brown eyes and says "it's not working the way we hoped it would," I want to rise up and roar with the power of every ancestor who has fought for their life.  Do you not see how strong I am?  Let me tell you this: I am fucking stronger than you could ever guess.  I am scrappy, surefooted.  I am playing for keeps.  Understand this strength, and then come back to me with your thoughts.  For I am a warrior; this is my birthright and name.  I have embraced the sword-wielding goddess and the legion of shield-sisters.  Each month I am better equipped to face the obstacles that arise.  I have been speaking with Death and we are clear: this is not yet my time.

But then I remember grace.  And I see that all this blessed armor, built to keep me safe, is too heavy to leap.  I realize this: strength has nothing to do with armor I've built and everything to do with how I choose to live.  You see, I know it will be alright.  I know I am on path.  I know my life is a holy prayer of redemption and a series of glorious mistakes and child-like joy for no reason, all wrapped up into one.  I know I must shed the next layer of that which no longer serves, and lean into the raw fleshiness of my own authenticity. 

And so I ask my anger, I ask my fear, I ask my childself, I ask my ancient wisdom, I ask my hands and feet and heart and bones: What do you need? What can we lay down, burn down, release completely, release in droplets one at a time?  I am willing to do the work.  I am learning to do the rest.  I am showing up, loosing the binds on my voice, ready to drip truth from my lips.  And I am ready to leap, grace unencumbered.

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