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Art and Healing

An early pencil draft of what became the cover of the book

From the Forward to A Walk With Lady Wisdom: “I first met Eric in 2006, when he was working as a counselor at my rural Southern Oregon high school. I was a confused, artistic adolescent searching for my voice. I spent the summer competing in a national speech tournament, then a month in Boston at a precollege program for the arts. Home after that felt empty and lonely. The last of my four older siblings had left the once lively house, and I had perhaps already outlived my usefulness. I sought out Eric when a family friend passed away, jolting me out of the dull penetrating depression that had consumed me since returning home. He authentically listened to me and gave me a respect not often extended to youth. He helped me through that moment and imbued the seeds of self-belief that would evolve into the courage to pursue my dreams in the visual arts.

When Eric asked me to illustrate a book he wrote, I was in a very different but resonant place. Building my life as an illustrator in France, fresh out of an abusive marriage, I was starting to feel solid again after my life fell to pieces. Throughout everything, trauma would frequently sneak “up and snatch away my sense of self. When isolation in a foreign country brought up old questions of my worth and purpose, I had often gone back to the early message Eric left me: that I needn’t search for a voice, I just need to believe in the voice I have. The idea of helping Eric share insights like this with a wider audience thrilled me. I have never said yes to a project faster.

Illustrating the book was a powerful and personal process. I deeply related to the stories of these strong women, each of whom the book approaches as unique individuals with particular personal histories. My heart ached for many of them, my mind circled around the epiphanies they reached with Eric, their understandings highlighted by the poetic meaningful way he found to weave the stories together. The writing is similar to the strange way life lays different situations on us, sometimes so surreal that all you can do is laugh until you find meaning in the mystery. Moments of unveiled understanding illuminated some overlooked dark corners of my own workings. The shame I still struggle to understand, the guilt I feel for allowing myself to be in a dangerous home. What does it take to be a woman who understands she can be hurt, be lost, but find she is still powerful, still strong?

It is not always easy for us to see ourselves clearly. Sometimes you are lucky enough to meet someone with the genuine capacity to reflect back the positive parts of yourself that you have pushed away. Someone who not only reflects your strengths back to you, but also actively helps you see all the good, the hurting, and the hidden. Eric is one such individual, and his impact is not only to help people see their potential, but how we can then do the same for others. We all switch roles, counselor to client, the empathetic ear to the lost voice yearning for some recognition. This book is a gift of both perspectives, and I have been honored to participate in its creation, and to be on this journey with all of us seeking Lady Wisdom.

—Tara Chávez”


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