The Magic Touch:Rachel Clearfield
I first met Rachel Clearfield and her husband Ron when they brought their two gifted kids, Esha and Elon, to participate in my professional training program for young actors. Then their youngest, Raphael, became old enough to join the Young Actors Company. The Clearfields, although very active with their own flourishing careers, were never far away during rehearsals. In fact, in the latter days of the company, Rachel would stay and sketch the cast, or work on the mural that still remains on the wall of our last theatre location on Haywood Street (where the NC Stage Company now resides). Rachel was always busy working on something: costumes, sets, sketches of the actors; always exuding warmth, support and the air appropriate of an artist of her stature. She was such an inspiration to the young actors and aspiring artists. After Raphi went off to college, our friendship endured a natural waning.
Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in a staff meeting for WNC Woman and hearing the theme words for the July issue―miracles, synchronicities, and magical moments. Rachel Clearfield shot through to my consciousness like a bolt of lightning. I spoke her name and everyone knew her or at least her work. I called Rachel and she invited me out the next week.
It turned out to be a gorgeous day to take a drive into the countryside, the day of the interview. It had been some time since I had been out to the Clearfield’s studio/home, so I referred to the new GPS app on my iphone for directions. It seemed paradoxical, using such technology to arrive at a place that seems other worldly, as if time and technology had not spoiled something organic and beautiful. I noticed that my breathing had become slower and deeper the farther I got from town on the 15 or so miles into the countryside. By the time I got to the little dirt crossroad in the middle of a large tract of pasture land, through which the roads had been carved, a bright green sign said Clearwater Creek Road. I had reached my destination. As I began to climb the long gravel drive, I was flooded with memories of the quaint and prolific gardens surrounding the house. Soon I was beneath the Manchurian Apricot trees, laden with fruit, and the chocolate Hollyhocks, towering over the Gazebo, 12 or more feet into the Carolina blue sky. The air was fragrant. As I was gathering my things, I was warmly greeted at the car by Ron, wearing painter’s clothes and holding a grouting spatula. He pointed to the new guest house that they were building and invited me to come see it after my visit with Rachel.
I’m sure that there was much to see, as the Clearfields had built their studio/home from the ground up and the artistic touches throughout were fantastic. The house had marble tile floors made from chips and chunks of scavenged and reclaimed marble. This theme continued into the bathroom, where (even more creative) the tile work also included bits of broken pottery and china. The ground floor had both a studio for Rachel’s art and a state-of-the-art recording studio for Ron. Ron is a composer for film, an independent musician, a teacher, a cellist with the Asheville Symphony, and Director of the Asheville Youth Symphony.
After a brief chat, Ron said he would announce my arrival to Rachel, but then had to get back to work on the guest house. I paused to look at the garden and breathe in the fresh and intoxicatingly fragrant air. I was soon joined by Rachel. She was in comfortable clothes, with her hair in long braids. After a long, heart-felt embrace, we went inside. Up the spiral stairs, walls were decorated with several of Rachel’s paintings. “Wow! Rachel…” is all I could say. Bright, vibrant colors swept the room, through her paintings and other artwork. Conversation began to flow immediately. We spent the first hour talking about our kids and catching up on their exciting lives. We looked at pictures of her first grandchild and talked about the upcoming visit of the little mommy Esha, expecting her second baby.
Blue Iris Pond, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 40
I reminded Rachel what I had said on the phone about immediately thinking of her when I heard the words: miracles, synchronicity and magical moments. She began eagerly talking about the ‘magical’ fundraiser that had just been held on their property, an annual event to raise money to support Food For People, an outreach program through the work of spiritual leader Prem Rawat. Food For People raises money all over the world, for starving people throughout the world. The event, as Rachel described its creation, was a bit of a miracle in itself. She talked of people driving in from far away to help prepare and participate: friends of The Clearfields, folks who study and adhere to the teachings of Prem Rawat, others who knew nothing about him, and neighbors who just came out to help. The day before the event, enough workers came out to build an entire stage, in sweltering heat, to hold the line-up of musical talent―six bands that, in addition to Ron, were donating their talent to the cause.
Rachel was excited and radiant as she talked about the various local community donations―a brewery that donated beer, two other prominent grocers who donated organic beverages, and a local restaurateur who donated all of the food. As she talked about the magical way in which the event came about, she said the weather had also been miraculous. The rain paused at key times to allow for the construction, deliveries, and the event itself. Rachel glowed as she recounted.
An hour or so after I arrived, we sat down for tea at the beautifully hand-carved and painted dining room table and chairs. Rachel showed me a series of floor-to-ceiling draperies that she had made in graduating colors from panel to panel. The first was a clown-inspired patchwork with a multitude of colors, each patch cut from fabric sample books. The second panel was a work in blue patchwork that shifted to greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. Graduating the colors on drapery panels, she said, was an Old English technique called color-shifting. The pieced panels were an example of marrying her passion for art with her passion for recycling. Creating art with found objects is a passion that I enthusiastically share. “It represents the feeling of abundance. Ron and I, both being artists, have had to live creatively on little money throughout much of our time together, as most artists do.”
“What are you working on now?” I asked. “Grouting!” We laughed. “It’s the bathroom in the new guest house. I can’t wait for you to see it!” We drifted back to our tea and conversation. I asked Rachel to say whatever popped into her head when I said the words: miracles and magical moments. “The miracle of breath. It is our breath that begins our journey on this earth, and it is the last thing we leave behind when we die and our kindness merges with the universal kindness.” She went on,“Connecting to my heart. That is the fountain that all the magic comes from―the heart. The love that is universal, that we can feel in our heart, is so powerful that anything can happen―good things. And even when bad things happen we are enveloped and protected by grace.” She began sharing the teachings of Prem Rawat and the Practice of Knowledge from our self-source, and the four techniques of going within. One of the things that Prem Rawat recently said is “If you want to become rich, become generous.”
I asked Rachel what question she was asked most often when being interviewed. She quickly replied, “How can you be so creative?”, and before I could comment on that, she went on, “I was sexually abused by my father before I could talk. He had just come home from the war, freeing prisoners from concentration camps.” Rachel was born in Manchester, England in 1946. “As a resuIt of this happening at a pre-verbal stage,” she continued, “I was spacey in school. I tuned out of academics―except when it came to art, poetry, and handwriting! I was top in form in those three areas. I was very ostracized at school, teased because I was different. People called me a Daydreamer because I couldn’t concentrate on lessons. When something didn’t connect with me I was out the window, floating out of the room into the treetops. The only thing that could hold me was creativity, my art. I just focused on the things I was good at. The other academics had no appeal to me then―now I am busy educating myself. I’m a voracious reader. I just love history, I love biology and natural science, and everything fascinates me.. how everything works.
“I went on to art school. I graduated with three years in Fashion Design and one in Illustration. After finishing, I went to Amsterdam, but I was still very disconnected. I was lost and very, very confused. I suffered with Bulimia; I was a mess and I got into heavy drugs. I was absolutely a broken spirit. I was as low as one could get on this earth. I married a man that was also heavily into drugs, so it was hard to stop―but I did stop. I just walked away from it. I knew this was not what I wanted.
“So I moved out to the country. I lived on this hippie commune where we made and sold candles in Amsterdam. I was really trying to find myself, you know, studying astrology, studying organic eating and organic growing, peripheral things that don’t really take you to the heart of the matter, but which are called esoteric sciences. I was just gobbling up everything that I could get my hands on. And then I thought I could go and help my husband, who was still into drugs. He actually came out to the farm and got me, and within a week I found out that I wasn’t as strong as I thought. I mean I thought I was strong; physically I was strong. I would carry bales of hay on my head, you know, to mulch. I mean physically, I had gotten it together. But within a week, my husband, who was probably more lost than me, stole from me. I had sold paintings to the Dutch Government, I had made my first money and he stole the money and went off to buy heroin. He had beaten up the people who had let us stay in their house, so we were being thrown out―and he just disappeared. He had knocked me around and I was broken. I just remember, I was lying on the floorboards of that house, so broken, yet I had to get out that day.
“I prayed―and I didn’t really ever pray―this was the first time I had sincerely prayed. I cried out from the bottom of my soul, and I said, ‘I don’t know if God exists or what God is but if God is out there, show me, help me and show me!’ I needed a sign, something, anything. Something inside me made me walk out onto the streets. I walked to this little club nearby and on the door was a little sign and it had this picture of Prem Rawat as a little boy. He was eight years old, at his father’s funeral, and he now had become the master. His head was shaved and he had a turban on. His little hands were out in a blessing mode―and they were the most beautiful hands I’d ever seen, like a little Buddha’s hands. He was looking so strong and confident, and with those tiny hands. The words at the bottom jumped off the poster at me. ‘If you want to see God, I can show you God, face to face.’
“A disciple of Rawat’s spoke that night and the people that were there had just come back from seeing Prem Rawat in India. As I listened to the speaker, I thought, this is it! I can still remember the faces of those people, so peaceful and so beautiful. They looked like Madonnas and Saints and they were so calm. They weren’t saying anything, it’s just the look on their faces was so strong… love. It was so beautiful, it was like a classical painting, like ancient beauty that you look for in people, do you know what I mean? It was this stillness coming from deep within them; it was a fulfilled stillness, not an empty one.
“So a week later I hitch-hiked to London, leaving a park in Amsterdam early in the morning while the birds were singing, and traveling through the night on a ferry. I still had a couple of paintings left that I had not sold to the Dutch Government. I sold them both to this little restaurant to pay for the ferry. When I got to England, I hitched a ride in a Rolls Royce, all the way to London. It was just me, alone, hitch-hiking. I arrived at the little house where Prem Rawat was staying. A few days later I received the Techniques of Knowledge. Then I went to Germany and cooked in this big house where people were practicing this technique and then I was House Mother in different Centers of Practice. Then I married the man who had put that sign on the door.”
Rachel and I talked at length about her life from that point. The marriage lasted about four years. Rachel scraped together money and continuing to follow Prem Rawat, found her way to California. Her story continues with an amazing number of synchronistic events that led her to meet and marry her current husband, Ron Clearfield. Together they have raised three wonderful children, have a beautiful marriage, and live in a storybook English Cottage in the quaint rural countryside of Leicester.
The Gift, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36
I want to thank Rachel for the magical afternoon and also thank Ron, one of my favorite men, a man with also a plethora of talents. Thanks Ron, for helping us through the technical aspects of getting Rachel’s art to the pages of WNC Woman. Rachel’s art can be viewed at www.RachelClearfield.com.
Jerita Wright is Director of Marketing and Advertising Sales at WNC Woman.