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This Butterfly Has Wings

This summer while walking through the Farmer’s Market in Vancouver, WA, a booth filled with greeting cards and framed art caught my eye. I recognized the lively colors and the Reiki symbols. Less then a year ago I had met the artist, Kat Huebner during an event at the August Moon where a collection of her work illuminates one of the walls. Nervously presenting her work to the world for the first time, Kat beamed with astonishment as she told me of the moments of grace that opened the doors and officially bid her entry into the world as an artist.

Seeing her again at the market, I was amazed by the obvious evolution of her creativity and expression. In a short time, Kat had gone from drawing colorfully magical healing symbols to playful faeries, and complex, multidimensional portraits of the mystical feminine.

Growing up poor didn’t hinder Kat’s creativity. Drawing, making paper dolls, and play-acting with her sister allowed her to live in a castle and fly with Peter Pan at a moment’s notice. Kat often lived in a fantasy world, abundant with dreams, hopes and possibilities.
“As a child I used drawing to entertain me”, she said. “…making up stories like the fairy tales I read every night. I found that drawing nurtured my imagination and was a great escape from feelings of insecurity and painful shyness that crippled me in so many ways. My imagination created a ‘safe place’ where I could feel normal and in control.”

Her father, a local historian and published author, saw little value in Kat’s talents and told her she could not make money with her art. “He didn’t acknowledge that I could draw,” she said. In spite of discouragement from her father, she took every art class available throughout high school, finding inspiration in the art of Peter Max, which continues to influence her drawings to this day. “…He did the Yellow Submarine and all the Beatle’s stuff. I loved his bright colors,” she said. Then speaking of her own work, she added, “I think that’s where all the colors come from, like shocking pink.”

In 1970, at age 18 Kat left her home on the Oregon coast, taking her art with her.
Between her father’s discouragement and the need to make a living, Kat’s desire to draw nearly stopped, and her dreams of living in a castle and flying with Peter Pan faded into the past. Shortly after leaving home, Kat’s original portfolio of drawings was accidentally left in a bus terminal, never to be seen again.

Late 1971 Kat married, and later gave birth to her son, the first of two children. During this marriage, Kat and her new family moved often, living where they could, “…even in a teepee” she said with a slight chuckle. After three years of following apple and other summer crops as migrant workers, Kat and her husband separated, and later, divorced.

A few years later, during the late 1970’s, Kat managed to revisit her passion for art, and attended college in Astoria, Oregon for one year studying printmaking and basic design. At the end of that school year, Kat took a job as a cocktail waitress. For nearly fourteen years she worked nights in order to be with her son as he grew up. During that time, Kat gave birth to her second child, a girl, and her grown son moved out on his own.

Kat later married a man she had known and dated off and on for several years. In spite of bouts of depression and low self-esteem, she was finally living a fairly stable life in a home of her own. With only one child left at home, she worked full time at a department store. However, after a few years of marriage, Kat’s stable life started to crumble.

While at work one day, she sustained an injury to her back which left her nearly bed ridden for six months. During that time, her father died, and three months later, her mother-in-law died. Between the devastation of two deaths in the family and the loss of income from Kat’s injury, their marriage started to fall apart, and her last child moved out of the house. After the death of her mother-in-law, Kat’s husband turned to drugs and became extremely controlling and abusive. It wasn’t long until their savings and life insurance was gone, when Kat found her breaking point. In April of 2000, while suffering from panic, anxiety, and menopause, she attempted suicide. With the assistance from her best friend, Kat’s doctor allowed her to return home to recuperate.

Life at home continued to deteriorate. By August of 2000, Kat turned to the YWCA in Vancouver, Washington for support, and soon filed a restraining order against her husband. After he moved out of the family home, she realized that the mortgage and bills were two months past due. Kat had no money for food, her car broke down and her fourteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Petey, had died. Within days, the YWCA arrived at her home and took Kat to “Safe Choice.” “I left with one suitcase” she told me. “I had to leave my cats, my life, my hopes and dreams, and our house and face the unknown. I went to the lowest point anyone could go.”

Once at the Y, Kat participated in programs for battered women and children, finding safe haven and a fresh start. “The Y was a savior,” she said. “They put me in transitional housing…where I spent a year healing.” While there, Kat met a lady who taught the healing art of Reiki to a small group of women.

Reiki, an ancient, almost forgotten form of healing was re-discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui of Japan in the late 1800’s. It was he who named it Reiki, meaning holy or sacred energy. Before his death in 1926, it is estimated that over 2000 people received instruction and initiation into Reiki.

According to Frank Arjava Petter, author of “Reiki Fire: New Information about the Origins of the Reiki Power, A Complete Manual”, Dr. Usui’s teaching included five principles to live by. Adopted from Emperor Mejiji of Japan, (1868-1912), Dr. Usui believed that living the principles would help his students be an open channel for the universal life energy. The five principles are: 1) Don’t get angry today. 2) Don’t worry today. 3) Be grateful today. 4) Work hard today. (on spiritual principles and practices) and 5) Be kind to others today.
Reiki healing shares one common element with other energy healing modalities in that Universal energy flows from the Universe, through the healer’s hands, and into the patient/client. Reiki differs from other energy healing modalities in that Reiki uses it’s own unique healing symbols. And, a Reiki Master initiates Reiki practitioners into three basic levels. Initiates first receive instruction, followed by an attunement, which infuses them with the power of the healing symbols related to each level. The first Reiki attunement offers healing of the physical body, the second attunement heals the emotional/mental, and the third heals the spiritual.

Since it’s humble beginning, the practice of Reiki healing has spread around the world. When first introduced to western cultures many years ago, it was so highly revered as an exclusive healing art, that people paid up to $10,000 for instruction and attunements. Today, however one can become a Reiki healer or Master for a much smaller financial investment. The smaller investment is by no means a sign that the Universal energy called upon with Reiki is any less powerful or valuable. It means that we, as a human society, are moving from greed and ego into our power and truth, knowing that a balance needs to be maintained by an exchange of energy. That energy most often comes in the form of money, but could be an exchange of anything of value.

Richard Bryant, Reiki Master, Medical Intuitive, and geomancer told me that Reiki is just a name given to a Universal force, a gift, and a flow of energy that can be tapped into and used by everyone regardless of race, religion, sex or age. “…It is the human need to qualify things with a title that gives Reiki its name. This is a universal force that stands outside of time and outside of dogma and teachers, and I’m not excluding myself from that. It stands outside of everything that is controlling. It is there for everyone to use, everyone has it. Some people are told how to access it, some people just do it naturally…” he added.

Within months, Kat received instruction, and three Reiki attunements to become a Reiki Master. After the first attunement, she started receiving visions and after the second attunement, started drawing again, putting the visions on paper, and using vibrant colors rarely used since high school.

The night before receiving her third attunement, Kat had what she called, “a big vision.” In it, she walked up to a cliff and jumped off. “It was a leap of faith,” she said, “showing me it was time to leave the Reiki group and the transitional housing.” Giving herself time to integrate all the changes taking place in her life, she left and settled into her own apartment.

After receiving the Reiki attunements, Kat said that she became “obsessive” about drawing the symbols she had received in her visions, “…like someone else was directing me.” Living alone gave her plenty of time to draw while re-creating her life. “I have wanted to be a healer all my life,” she said. “I learned Reiki, but I actually think that I am not supposed to be a healer that way…I’m supposed to be a healer with my art. That’s what I’m supposed to do…”

People are drawn to art because it helps them recognize the familiar, sparking memories and making them feel things they normally don’t feel. Kat uses her art to help people remember their “…’connection to the magic.’ Like when they read a book and realize that they had already known whatever it was that they just read…but they didn’t remember they already knew it. It’s an inspiration thing”, she added. With that understanding, Kat keeps a journal of magical things that happen when she meets people. “ I pay attention to people I meet and the signs I receive relating to people and events.”

The reemergence of her passion to draw brought with it clear memories of the discouraging words spoken by her father over thirty years ago, as though they had been spoken just yesterday. However, financial necessity outweighed her father’s unkind words. Kat carried her drawings with her wherever she went, hoping to make a sale.

Then, it happened, synchronicity.

For several months, Kat had heard about the activities at the August Moon, Vancouver’s community cultivation center. One day while driving past the August Moon, she decided to stop in for a visit. With drawings in hand, she was greeted by the owner, Quin. Within minutes, she had not only made her first sale, but was blessed by an exchange of grace she would never forget. “Quin told me that these symbols need to be out for people to see,” she said. “Without meeting Quin, I would still be carrying around my Reiki art. He is an earth angel.” After a moment of silence she added, “He gave me directions when I was lost.”

Since meeting Quin and making her first sale, doors of opportunity have opened for Kat. She was awarded a small business grant, which gave her the means to join the local Farmer’s Market as a vendor. In addition, Kat was commissioned to create the greeting card for “Hands Across the Bridge,” a Labor Day celebration sponsored by Recovery Association Project of Portland, Oregon and South-west Washington. She also created the art used for Roots and Wings, a children’s program at the August Moon. And, the YWCA in Portland featured twelve of her pieces during the “Art of Surviving” art show and sale in October 2005. At the close of that show, Kat was invited to display her work at The Elizabeth Building in Portland.

Kat is also busy creating a deck of cards from her drawings. “I’m not sure of what kind of deck it would be or how it would be used,” she said. “I am following guidance for each picture, knowing many will be used for the deck. The best therapy of all is going into my pictures when I am drawing…I go right in there and nothing else exists. Sometimes it will be two or three weeks before something comes to me again and I can do that, and sometimes it all comes to me at once. I can’t make it happen…it just happens.”

A perfect example of the principle portrayed in the movie, “Pay It Forward”, Kat shares many moments of grace by mentoring other battered women. The movie, which is based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, is about a seventh grade social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet, played by Kevin Spacey, who challenges his students to “Think of an idea to change our world – and put it into action.” He then assures his class that “…The realm of possibility exists in each of you.”

One student, Trevor McKinney, played by Haley Joel Osment, is inspired by the assignment and created an idea he called, “Pay it Forward.” The purpose of Trevor’s idea was to help three people by doing something important for them when they needed it most. Each of those three people must help three more, and each of those three help three more. As the number of people helping and being helped grows, lives are changed and society heals.

When Kat mentors, she offers encouragement and shares resources, guiding women as they take the steps to regain a healthy, safe life for themselves and their children. In addition to mentoring women, she loves to teach children to draw, and believes artistic expression as a way to “keep them enlightened.”

Today, Kat sees her future full of possibilities, becoming a freelance artist and an illustrator of children’s books. “I am so excited to get a chance to tell my story and to let people see some of my artwork”, she said. “I hope they can see the strength, encouragement, and healing power that I felt after each drawing. They were drawn to remind me of the long journey I made to find myself and to be able to celebrate this new life.”

Kat Huebner can be reached at, alightgiver51@yahoo.com.