Melissa Bonin is a dear friend of mine, and was recently honored as an outstanding businesswoman in our community by ABiz (Acadiana Business, based in south Louisiana). I was delighted to be invited to share this moment with her, and sat with several other friends and family at the luncheon that honored her and several other standard-setting women. Even though we recognized the many talents of our friend (“well, of COURSE she’s being honored!” was our communal reaction), Melissa was totally surprised by the honor. In her acceptance speech, she described herself as an “accidental businesswoman” because you see, Melissa is an artist.
She is also a very successful one, and over the years I’ve been amazed and inspired as I’ve watched her balance her response to the callings of her soul with the mundane tasks and trials of everyday life. A single mother, she’s dealt with the loss of both of her parents, illnesses in her family, and the demands of allowing Spirit to speak through her eyes and hands while trusting that she had everything she needed to live, love and thrive. Her work represents her deep relationship with the healing magic of the Louisiana landscape. She captures living water in rivers of light; looking at her work, the viewer experiences mystery and magic – and is simultaneously graced with understanding.
“To be an artist means to give voice or vision to the murmurings of the soul. Now ladies and gentlemen, you try to put that into a business plan,” she told the crowd gathered that day.
A business plan, indeed. She doesn’t need to swim in the “shark tank” to chart her path or grow her business; she listens to her heart and follows the call of the soul – and she paints. She says “…if I valued my soul’s voice and made my choices based on this belief …… all good things I wished and dreamed would happen.” What has guided her are the questions: “ Does this honor the work? What does the work require next? Does this bring joy? Does this affirm life? Does this inspire?”
I listened to her acceptance speech that day with tears in my eyes. In her usual uncanny way, she had summarized the challenges that so many of us face, and charted a path for meeting those challenges. As I listened, I simply said “well, of course. Put the call of the Soul first, and things will fall into place.” I’ve sometimes thought this to be impossible, but Melissa exemplifies this. She puts the most precious things first – her son, her art, the life of Spirit and Soul. It’s not an either/or, they all fall into place, with everything else second. Like so many other women, she’s found that it can be a bit of a high-wire act with bated breath and occasional heart-wrenching slips….but things come together and balance is achieved.
I’ve carried her words with me since that day, and have found inspiration for clarity, especially when I am overwhelmed. Asking myself “ Does this bring joy? Does this affirm life? Does this inspire? Does this draw me closer to Spirit?” If the answer is yes, then I can move forward, even if I am fearful.
Enjoy the life-affirming and inspirational work of my friend, gifted artist Melissa Bonin, at www.melissabonin.com and in person at her gallery at 3714 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA.