Aurora Borealis

By Susan Mann

October 19th, 2022

This tile was made at Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit in Royal Oak, Michigan, under the tutelage of Art Therapy instructor Lauren Alfonsi from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Healing Arts Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and an artist who demonstrated and helped us with the project, Nancy Opatich. Since many of the support activities of these organizations are just getting back on track from the pandemic, we met in a tent outdoors at Gilda’s Club on a warm September evening. This piece relates to my 17-year cancer journey in multiple ways. First and foremost, I have been supported, entertained, encouraged and cared for by a huge number of other cancer patients and support staff whom I have met through Gilda’s Club and the Karmanos Healing Arts Center. I have spent many enjoyable hours being lifted up by the camaraderie and shared experiences of the many fine people I have known. Secondly, I am not much of an artist, but I was so thrilled as the image revealed itself. There really isn’t a specific name for the technique — I just followed Nancy’s advice and dropped the chosen colors on. She put the fire to it and as the alcohol burned off, it looked just like pictures I had seen of the Aurora Borealis in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan over the course of this summer! The Aurora Borealis (Northern Goddess of the Dawn) is an incredible phenomenon. Yet it is just one example of the astonishing beauty and majesty of the natural world, and the stability and gentleness of the Earth, with all of her healing powers. As I have followed this path of cancer survivorship, I have leaned many times on that deep core of grounding that our Earth provides. The brilliant colors and shimmering lights of the Aurora Borealis seem to be guiding my way to new beginnings.