This moth reminds me of how fragile life is.
There is a storm brewing outside my window. Change is in the air.
I am thinking of the importance of bending with the winds of change. What use is there in resistance?
I find solace lately in quiet walks. As Mary Oliver writes in Upstream: "For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple."
I am content with not knowing all the answers.
The gray clouds have been relentless and the temperature refuses to climb much above 70 degrees. The flowers may be rejoicing after last year's parched summer, but I find myself in need of sun. Here are five ideas for a rainy Monday:
- Explore a new museum. I have been wanting to take a field trip to MASSMOCA to see this amazing exhibit by Nick Cave.
- This article has me thinking about the downside of allowing technology into the classroom. It's worth a read.
- Visit your local library. I'm planning on stopping by mine today to pick up this book, recommended by Karen of Pumpkin Sunrise. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than by sitting curled up on a comfy couch with an engrossing book, warm afghan covering your lap and a cup of hot tea by your side?
- Try a new craft. I'm excited about exploring the art of making collages using my own hand printed paper. This book by Elizabeth St. Hilaire is a wonderful resource.
- Head to the movies. While buzz is currently surrounding Wonder Woman, I am looking forward to seeing this.
Sending a little cheer your way,
Sketching is almost everything. It is the painter's identity, his style, his conviction, and then color is just a gift to the drawing. -Fernando Botero
It had been nearly a year since I'd been to my teacher's open studio and when I arrived she asked what I would like to work on. "I want to start at the very beginning," I said, "I feel I really need to properly learn about perspective and sketching."Read More
Ten things, right now...Read More
"Magic reveals itself in unstructured movement and communication; to hold back is to forbid the dawning to occur." - Pixie Lighthorse, Prayers of Honoring Voice
I am not spontaneous - impulsive, yes, but that is different. Being spontaneous requires a fearlessness, and unfortunately fear is an emotion I am well acquainted with. Fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of criticism, fear of not being good enough...these are old friends of mine, shaped by years of careless comments said to me throughout my life, often starting with the words 'if only': 'if only you didn't wear glasses', 'if only you didn't smile so much', 'if only you weren't so awkward'.
As a child I took these words to heart and they took root in the very soul of my being. When I was young I considered these comments as truisms but as an adult I realize I only have myself to blame for giving these seeds a place to thrive. Instead of shining a light on them and seeing them for what they were - careless comments made by imperfect people - I allowed them to define me.
"The bad news was that if felt impossible to be in congruity with one's true self, but the good news was that by a certain age, we understood that we had a true self, and they hadn't managed to wreck it entirely yet."
-Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway
We always have a choice, don't we? When I reflect upon Anne Lamott's words I realize that the only mistake I made when I was young was to give others permission - by way of not protesting - to critique me when what I should have done was to tell them all to piss off. Fortunately, I came to this realization once I reached college; I finally understood that I had many choices, the most important of which was that I could speak out when others tried to hurt me, to turn and walk away. I understood that I had a true self and that it was good and kind (although somewhat naive) and it was my job to ensure it was nurtured, it was my job to let it grow and blossom. Thank goodness for maturity.
But the fear is still there, buried deep, and it has taken me a lifetime to excavate it from my being. It took root long ago and it has been hard to weed it out entirely. And so I remain mindful of my tendency to hold back, to recognize it for what it is, my old friend Fear. I take small steps by putting my art out in the world and, more importantly, putting my self out into the world. Engaging with others. Speaking up. Using my voice.
"Help me permit myself to know the joy in chasing amazement without over-cautiousness." - Pixie Lighthorse, Prayers of Honoring Voice
So this I pray: teach me to trust that I have the wings to fly, to allow myself the joy of spontaneity. It's right there, within my reach.
Hello, friends, it has been a while. The winter was long and dreary and it seemed I had run out of thoughts to share. My overriding feeling these past few months has been that change is in the air and I have been rethinking where I am headed.
My painting life has been quiet as well, as if the great push I made before Christmas to set up this new site, to open an Etsy shop, to put my art out there either drained me of all creative energy and I needed time to refuel and, yes, revisit the reasons why I paint. If you have been a reader of this blog for a while you will recognize this tendency I have to pull back, to reassess, to think deeply about what drives me. And winter, well...winter is the season where I spend too much time in my head.
Instead of fighting what was happening, instead of pushing myself to my studio each day I decided to let it be, to see where this turn would take me. It wasn't long before I realized that one change was that I began spending more time engaging in daily life. I volunteered more actively at Ann's Place. I took up piano. I allowed myself time to just sit and read for the sheer pleasure of it, going through all twelve of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache mysteries in three months.
I developed a beginner's mind, returning to the watercolor open studio I used to attend and requesting that my teacher, Betsy Rogers-Knox, have me start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with graphic sketching, learning about shading and toning and drawing from still life. I signed up for Flora Bowley's Creative Revolution E-Course, learning ways to jump-start my creativity and to weave it into my daily life.
It was as if since I had proven to myself that I could achieve certain goals (setting up shop, and this site) I made the unconscious decision to change course, to continue my journey in a more mindful way. I gave myself permission to grow slowly, to play, to ease up on my self-imposed expectations to get things right the first time.
Going deeper, I am no longer afraid that my cancer will return and rob me of precious time. I feel strong and healthy. And, let's be honest; does any one of us know how much time we have on this beautiful planet? Instead I am trying to live a meaningful, balanced life every day, to accept life's ebbs and flows, to allow change to occur rather than fight it.
It is so good to be here with you again.
"I can't believe God put us on this earth to be ordinary." Lou Holtz
I hadn't been using my camera recently. The gray overcast skies did not entice me to travel very far from my home. As I've mentioned before, I don't mind winter as long as there is snow. Without the snow, the world feels dreary and tired.
Yesterday morning I awoke with a clarity of mind and lift of spirit that I had not felt in a while. Putting out Popeye for his morning business I glanced up at the crabapple tree that graces our backyard. Dewdrops dangling from its branches, it looked at if it had given blossom to diamonds. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed outdoors for the shot, not caring what the neighbors may think of me wandering about in my pajamas.
"Every experience is a form of exploration." Ansel Adams
After photographing the jeweled crabapple tree I turned my sights to a pile of old logs leaning against the post and beam railing that borders our yard. I never pay much attention to these, except to wish that my husband would clean them up, but today I noticed that many of them were covered with fungi. On any other day I would have just glanced at them and moved on; yesterday, I decided to look more closely. I was awestruck by their beauty. They reminded me of turkey tails, their colors evoking autumn.
"It is all very beautiful and magical here, a quality that cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it..." Ansel Adams
Returning inside the house, I did a quick Google search for fungi and learned that fungi usually appear on trees that are diseased or already dead. They take root in the heart of the tree and spread outwards. Fortunately, the fungi I found was only on logs hewn years ago.
"Art is both the taking and giving of beauty; the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these." Ansel Adams
I was enchanted by the beauty that had sprouted on these weather-beaten logs and I quietly gave thanks for this reminder of the grace that can be found if only I am willing to see with clear eyes.
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.
The photo above is my what is for today. I'm on day three of fever, aches and congestion so I am comforting myself with coffee, knitting and Mary Oliver. My head is too fuzzy to write much, so instead I will leave you with this beautiful quote from her book of essays titled Upstream:
"May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful."
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.
"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer" -Albert Camus
Today I awoke to yet another gray sky, clouds hanging low and heavy, no promise of sun in the forecast. These dreary winter mornings are so hard. I have to fight the urge to pull the covers more tightly around me, to settle back down into a comforting sleep.
I love winter. Truly, I do. I love the promise of snowy days, warm sweaters, woolen hats and mittens, snow shoeing and cross country skiing. But this winter has brought mainly cold rains, ice and slush. The earth is painted in muted tones of slate and brown, only occasionally punctuated by a clear blue sky. My mood has matched the landscape; I find myself struggling with fatigue, a desire to just wrap myself in an afghan and hide until spring comes.
This morning I became teary and discouraged. Despite knowing that the cause of my mood is the absence of sunlight outside my window, I struggled to come through my melancholy. As I reluctantly started my day I paused for a moment to check my email and opened a letter from Anne, author of The Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. The subject line was What's Saving Your Life Right Now? and in it she spoke about her own struggle with the winter blues (you can read her post here). On February 2nd she is going to be sharing what's saving her life this winter but I decided not to wait. I knew that writing my list right now was just what I needed (sorry, Anne!).
So, what's saving my life right now?
- The knowledge that this sadness will pass. I have learned that if I acknowledge how I am feeling and just sit with it that even in the course of a day my mood may lift. Just being aware that I've been in this state before and have come out of it helps so much.
- Staying socially active. This is hard, especially when the weather has been so miserable. My inclination when I am down in the dumps is to isolate myself. I find excuses not to go out to chorus rehearsals, open studio, get togethers with friends. It's too cold. It's too rainy. I'm tired. I need to give myself an extra push, remind myself that once I get to where I'm going I will have a good time. Which I always do. Being among friends and colleagues always lifts my mood.
- Relishing being able to curl up with a good book. When I step away from my pity party I remember that this season is perfect for doing sedentary activities that I love. Reading was my first love as a child, a passion that has stayed true through the years. I find such contentment in sitting in my favorite chair, Popeye by my side, a cup of hot tea on the end table and a good book on my lap. I've also been working on embroidery and knitting, taking pleasure in the creative process.
- Learning a new skill. We have a beautiful upright piano that has been going unused since our children moved away. I took lessons years ago when I was a pre-teen but never stuck with it. Today I met with a lovely piano teacher and am going to begin taking lessons. As we conversed I became so excited over the thought of reading music and learning music theory. I have always enjoyed being a student and firmly believe that one is never to old to learn something new. You can teach an old dog new tricks. ; )
- In spite of the unpleasant winter we are having I have been trying to get out every day to walk, if only for a short while. Even on the cloudiest of days I find that my mind clears when I am outside. I love the feeling of cold brushing across my face. The tension in my body eases and I become relaxed and cheered.
The one thing I haven't been doing is painting. I fell out of my routine over the holidays and have been finding it hard to return. I'm not worried though, I think it is natural to step away from the easel for a little while and take time to focus on other things. I tell myself I am replenishing my creative well. Plus, my studio is in the bottom floor of our home, the least heated area of our house. Even the gas hearth and portable heater is not enough to completely ward off the chill, making it hard to paint. But, winter is passing and spring is coming and I will pick up my brushes again.
What's saving your life right now?
Sharing with Becca.
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” - Henry David Thoreau
“We are constantly invited to be what we are.” - Henry David Thoreau
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.
What is, is the great teacher. -Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs
What is, in this moment...
I am realizing that it takes courage to be true to my self. I used to be chameleon-like in order to fit in, but found it exhausting. Better to just be me. The gift in this decision is discovering that what is is enough.
I am feeling a pull towards becoming more involved in my community. We moved here when the girls were in their teens and so I never had the opportunity to meet other moms through playdates. In addition, I was a teacher in another town, and for years I lived with tunnel vision; work, family, houseclean, repeat. Now I find myself thinking of returning to church, to volunteering at the food bank, to connecting with others in this lovely town we call home.
My husband's work requires him to spend long days commuting back and forth to the city. I see him growing more and more weary with each passing year. This is our what is and I find myself trying to find ways to make our home a refuge for him. A place where he can let go of the day and rest.
The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about reality, is to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is love. -Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs.
Sometimes what is is hard and often it is frightening. It is during those times that it becomes necessary to dig down deep, to fearlessly face adversity. It isn't easy to do. When my cancer recurred I was angry and frightened but I knew it was important to accept what is and find the courage to adapt and grow in spite of it. To let go of fear and let love in. To admit that I was afraid, confess my vulnerability to those I love and trust that they would be there when I needed their help. I received so much goodness in return.
All we can do is try to keep our hands cupped and open and ask God to teach us how to keep our hands cupped and open. The events and experience of life teach us how. -Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.
Attention is the beginning of devotion. - Mary Oliver, Upstream
Christmas has passed, the new year welcomed. This week I find myself in an odd state of suspension, a limbo, my decorations still up for one more week, and my mind not quite ready to move forward to what's next.
To get my sluggish self moving I resume my walks with Popeye, walks that had been cut short because of his injury (why I couldn't go without him I cannot explain except to say that it felt like a betrayal of sorts). We head out to our favorite spot, a road off the beaten path that also has a small nature trail. Here it is quiet, cars passing by few and far between. The sky is steel gray but bright enough that I feel my spirits lift.
It's peaceful here. A place where I can walk and reflect.
And this is what I learned: that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness- the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart. - Mary Oliver, Upstream
It is here in nature that I feel most tranquil. It is here, quietly walking with Popeye by my side, that my thoughts slow, my mind exhales, and I am able to listen to what my heart is trying to tell me. To rest when I am weary. To create when I am inspired. To heed my inner clock and follow it's whispers. To yield to change (for it seems that change is happening more frequently now as I grow older) to welcome it and the wisdom it has to offer.
You must not ever stop being whimsical.
And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.
-Mary Oliver, Upstream
I think a lot lately about how I view my place in the world. I used to compare myself frequently to others and often found myself coming up short. Too sensitive, too awkward, not outgoing enough. Aren't we always hardest on our selves? But now I allow myself the same kindness I extend to others. I am good enough.
Our walk over, we head back to the car, my mind now clear, his senses full, both ready to move forward to what is next. Another new year, another new beginning.
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.
And now we welcome a new year. Full of things that have never been. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
December 29, 2016
As the new year grows closer I find myself in a bittersweet mood. Last year was not an easy one for my family and I find I have no difficulty in saying goodbye. Like so many others I look forward to a new year, a blank page, a starting over.
As I contemplate in my journal on what is to come in the new year I find certain words repeating themselves as I write.
trust :: integrity :: courage
This year I hope to strengthen my trust in my own worth and in my instincts. To my life with integrity and courage. To live a balanced life.
hope :: adapt :: accept
I hope in this new year I learn to adapt to the ebb and flow of life. My astrological sign is cancer, a water sign, and yet I find that the older I become the more I am resistant to change. I find comfort in a daily routine and when that routine is disturbed it takes me longer to readjust. Even going on vacation (something I love) throws me for a loop. I need to adapt. To accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can (and have the wisdom to know the difference) (thank you, serenity prayer).
connect :: nurture :: grow
It is important to me that during this new year I connect to loved ones that I no longer see on a regular basis. To reach out and let them know how much I love them. And for those loved ones I do see often (both family and friends), I hope to nurture the ties that bind us, to be present for them, to show how much I care.
I send up a simple prayer: that I continue to grow and learn and express gratitude for the goodness that is my life.
Yes please, and thank you.
Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~ Hal Borland
Wishing you a new year full of peace, hope and light.
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for a home." — Edith Sitwell
The presents are wrapped, the cards have been sent. Our tree is dripping with ornaments, its crisp pine scent filling the air. Homemade granola cools on the stove top, a gift for my husband who has been patiently waiting for it to be made. This is the first day in weeks that I feel I can exhale and embrace this enchanted season.
I love the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Lamplight casting a golden glow over the living room, candles lit, the quiet hush of evening. Popeye rests by my side, softly breathing and dreaming... perhaps sugarplum bones dancing in his head? My senses seem to come alive during this season. I thrill to the clean cold air, relish the softness of the warm scarf wrapped around my neck. The crunch of snow underfoot makes me smile, along with the promise of more to come in the air.
Tonight the first of my daughters arrives home. I can hardly wait. Together we will begin baking while carols play in the background. On Friday we will be joined by her younger sister, and the three of us will make our traditional sugar cookies and watch "White Christmas" on the television.
This will be the first year our oldest daughter won't be joining us for Christmas. We're sad but know that it is for the happiest of reasons; after ten plus years of living in Dubai she is moving to London in January. We are so very excited to have her just across the pond. We were fortunate to be able to visit her twice while she lived in Dubai but having her in London will be so much easier. Our fingers are crossed that she will be able to join us for a few days after New Year's, before heading to her new home.
For the past three years I have participated in Susannah Conway's holiday offering to choose a word for the upcoming year. In 2015 my word was 'bloom'; I had just begun to paint again and wanted was excited to see where my newfound passion would take me. Last year I chose 'nurture', a reminder to keep learning and growing as an artist. As I look back on 2016 I realize how much I nurtured my creativity:
- I participated in online courses offered by artists I have long admired.
- I made it a point to paint at least a few times a week.
- I took the brave step of sharing my work on social media and, to my surprise and joy, discovered that there were people who wanted to purchase my art.
- This led me to approach a neighborhood shop to see if they would sell my prints and notecards Imagine how excited I was when they said yes.
- Emboldened, I opened my Etsy shop, WhimsyandJoyStudio.
But in spite of all these bold steps there are still times when I question if I am on the right path. Because of this I have chosen 'trust' as my word for 2017.
TRUST: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
It is time to trust my ability to create beautiful art. To trust that I am worthy of the good fortune I have had this year, and to trust that yes, I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. I never dreamed I would be an artist, I never felt I was as good as other artists I knew.
It's time to stop doubting my ability.
Bloom. Nurture. Trust. A natural progression, don't you think?
As I started to think about how I should end this post, one of my father's favorite songs came on the stereo. The words are so fitting for this time of year:
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
As we end what has been a turbulent year filled with unrest I wish each of you a tranquil holiday.
May you have peace in your heart and home and may the new year bring you comfort and joy.
A friend posted this prayer on Instagram yesterday, a perfect reminder for when life gets busy. During this hectic season may you remember to pause. To breathe. To rest.