Leslie Leslie

Reflecting Nature's Beauty Through Art

Recorded: June 28, 2013

A compassionate environmentalist, artist, and humanitarian, Leslie Leslie shares prayers and vision of loving kindness through her art. She is creatively driven to share the splendid beauty of California with others by creating unique prayer flags which she describes in this video. Leslie has been a board member of the International Rivers and has supported efforts to keep rivers natural and avoiding dams that result in environmental damage and human displacement.

Leslie Leslie is a mother, teacher, artist, fundraiser and environmentalist.  Living in Vermont for her formative years, she learned how important it was to protect the environment. In the early 1970s she and some friends started the Onion River Co-op, an organic food co-op that still exists today in Burlington, Vermont. She has taught classes and lectured on Death and Dying and has also helped to found three schools for young children. In the 1990s she worked at the Resource Renewal Institute with Huey Johnson where she promoted the strength of Green Plans. She has served as advisor and board member for many nonprofits and has been on the board of International Rivers for several years.

In 1983, Leslie was deeply touched by a trip to the Everest region of Nepal and by Himalayan Buddhism, vowing to someday make art that evoked the feelings of the prayer flags. The flags wave in the air, sending prayers to the four corners of the earth. Even their ashes are scattered to the winds. On each piece of her art, she writes the Metta prayer of loving-kindness and compassion and includes a prayer for the earth: May all beings and the earth be at ease.

Huey Johnson: Leslie Leslie, welcome. You’re activities here are wide ranging and you have great passion for about every environmental subject that comes along. In the context of nature, how about wilderness as a theme for you?

Leslie Leslie: As a child, my father bought a whole street in Massachusetts, it was a dead end and from our house, it was a mile to the Connecticut River. And we were very young when he bought it and as we got older, he let us travel farther. But the rule was we couldn’t go down to the river until we were a certain age, but to me, that was wilderness. There was nothing. There was nothing in our way that was my wilderness. And I understood how that freedom really informed my life, how lucky I was that we lived at the end of the street and we watched houses grow up along the street. It had been an apple orchard and Johnny Appleseed had supposedly planted the trees. When each tree went down, it hurt my heart and I felt that it was really important that the earth, the earth had a heart as well and I’ve always felt like I had to be respectful of it.

Huey Johnson: You have developed an interest in rivers.

Leslie Leslie: They say four hundred million people have been affected by dams and had to move and have been displaced and have become the world’s poor. And I realize that by saving a river and keeping it wild, not only do you save the fish that are within it and the ecosystem, but you are saving a lot of lives as well, human life and everything that lives and depends on that river. So when they asked me to be on the board at International Rivers, I felt I could be very effective at saving a lot of lives.

Huey Johnson: That’s a nice answer. Tell me about your art.

Leslie Leslie: Well, I write the prayer of loving, kindness and compassion on a large piece of paper or a canvas and I write it over and over and over. It’s a very long prayer, about three paragraphs long, and then I add prayers for the earth and everything on it, the rivers, the mountains, the depths of the earth, the air that we breathe and I pray that all of them will be free from being hurt. And then I put it in water, either rainwater or the creek behind the library and I then put earth on them and then I put colors on them. So they’re my prayer flags and some of them are very big and some of them are small, but each one is a prayer flag that I hope will go out to all the four corners.

My first husband was an artist and he said that when he came to California, he didn’t quite understand how artists could work here because it was so glorious, it was so gorgeous, it was just so beautiful that it was very hard to compete with the beauty of California. And he was talking about Yosemite, he was talking about the ocean, he was talking about San Francisco. It’s quite spectacular and we are so lucky and I reflect on that every day when I take my walk and I think how absolutely gorgeous it is here, but my art needs to reflect that beauty and the fact that it’s what gets me up in the morning. And so I’m blessed with the beauty, I have to share that beauty and I would feel that any artist should feel that.