Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Before I Walk Through the Open Door Into The New Year

"In the case of the creative mind, it seems to me, the intellect has withdrawn its watchers from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude. You worthy critics, or whatever you may call yourselves, are ashamed or afraid of the momentary and passing madness which is found in all real creators, the longer or shorter duration of which distinguishes the thinking artist from the dreamer. Hence your complaints of unfruitfulness, for you reject too soon and discriminate too severely." Friedrich von Schiller

Because I have been willing to trust my creative mind more than ever before, trust its murmuring, trust its quiet little voice, its tap tap tapping patiently on my shoulder and especially when it slaps like a thunderbolt, I have learned a lot about myself and what I'm capable of doing. As I continue to be willing to be active in the process of letting go, I've been able to keep my inner "worthy critic" at bay longer than before. When I saw this quote last week it resonated with a big wow. "I reject too soon and discriminate too severely." I compare my work in process with an accomplished artist's final product, and you know all about that don't you!

Because I paid attention to my mind's murmuring, I signed up again for Bloom True, an acrylic painting class with Flora Bowley. I've got a long way to go before I'm at home with acrylics and canvas. I've taken classes from her before and love her style, her use of color and her willingness to take chances. This year Flora stretched herself a lot and she showed her students the personal risks she is taking even though she was way beyond uncomfortable taking them. I enjoyed painting for longer and longer periods of time and though one painting is still in a chaotic state, two others are hanging in my home, reminders of how far I've come in this process.

I'm much more comfortable drawing my little ladies as well as mixed breed animals all of whom defy gravity and normal body shapes. After years of being shy about sharing this with others, I went public on my blog and in real life by putting cards together and selling them. Our local museum shop took a chance on me as did a half dozen other venues. I'm learning what I don't want to do again, and last night I wrote down steps I could take next year, tomorrow, to continue to grow and take chances in this area. My inner critic is quite willing to withhold comments when it comes to drawing. What a relief.

It was quite a surprise to realize what a creative lightning strike can accomplish. There were three I can think of. One clap pushed me down the road to others. Flora suggested I look into the August Joy Up, a vision book class. I loved doing that and made some discoveries about myself. One is that I love horses. Through the joy of creating vision pages and trusting the process, I discovered equine therapy. I was moved to make all arrangements to take a class only a couple of weeks away within hours of discovering that it existed.

The rewards from making the cards have gone way beyond the steps of creating, making and selling. I've met a wonderful new friend that way and put together two books, one combining prayers and drawings. I've learned to ask for what I want and take chances. A goal for the new year is to create a different line of cards, keep track of the expenses, and make the process of putting the cards together much simpler and keep the cost of the card down. If you have experience along this line and are willing to share, please contact me.

I'm closing the door on 2013 with no regrets and a feeling of accomplishment and joy. Yeah!

Baruch ata adonai...may I trust my creative mind and let it grow without the need to check its madness with fear and shame. Hallelujah! Amen

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Friendship and Gratitude

"When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled and pleased to give back. Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift that your pit crew of people has been for you." Anne Lamott

Yesterday and the day before captured everything good about 2013.

One day was totally and unexpectedly dominated by the celebration of friendship, and I began to rejoice in the way serendipity brings us together and then glues us through all the calamities and joys of life. Two friends who arrived by pure chance have stayed for decades. Another opened the door just a few months ago. The amazing thing is that we each recognize something undefinable and alluring in each other which is worth sticking around for. Many friends come through shared interests, and I wonder when so many others are involved in the same way, what it is about certain people that keeps us checking into each others lives. My friends have rallied over and over this year. Thank you all. You are better than magic, and I know I am so lucky.

Yesterday we drove to the mountains to have lunch with our grandchildren and watch them confidently and eagerly start their skiing lessons. It was the Monday before Christmas and not many people or other creatures were were stirring on the road or at the resort. We drove over to the mountain and hiked into our cabin. A couple was ice skating way out on the lake. It seemed like a daring and joyful thing to chance so early in the season. We crunched our way over the snow filled road, checked out our cabin which looked snug and brave, and then continued down to the lake.  Could a day be more life affirming, more soul drenched, more beautiful and pristine? It was truly a winter wonderland.

As the year ends, I am filled with gratitude, optimism, and good health. At least for a few days, maybe if only for today, may I remember to stop and enjoy each moment. May I look into the eyes of others and see them. May I go forward and into the future minutes and hours with soft sweetness. May we all.

Baruch ata adonai...More and more for more and more time I feel I am the person I want to be. It is good to feel comfortable within myself. May I be the friend others are for me. May I continue to be willing to learn and change and challenge and accept what comes to me day by day. Thank you for the blessings of this year. Amen


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Who You Gonna Call?

"Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile...initially scared me to death."  Betty Bender

I have friends whose first thoughts are assisted living or a memory unit. In the middle of the night when the distant drums pound and thoughts escalate from stubbed toe to amputation, I go right to my funeral. Since last night was my first pain free night in the past three months (high fives and applause please), I've had a lot of opportunities to consider disaster and healing, letting go and gratitude.

It all started with a fall eleven months ago. During this period I first saw an MD who referred me for a set of xrays and a cortisone shot that didn't do squat. Then I marched through acupuncture, eleven sessions of physical therapy and therapy from assorted body workers until I finally found the right healer who accomplished the job in two sessions. Would he have brought relief three months ago? I don't know. I do know my most fervent gratitude often comes from my greatest turmoil, and I am too busy being grateful to think about that just now. Then there is the nagging question, who should I have gone to first? "Ghostbusters!"

Our medical situation stinks in so many ways. Our insurance will pay for drugs but not for talented healers who look deeper for mind/body connections or who can feel with only the equipment of their hands what is going on below what can be seen with xrays, healers whose path didn't take them to medical school. During this time, my husband went through his own health trauma. His help ultimately came after we experienced the worst and the best medical care in our area and only because I kept pushing through the mire. A year and a half after a shunt was put in his brain to reduce hydro cephalic pressure, he has passed through a plethora of dementia symptoms to mostly, but not entirely, age related forgetfulness. It is truly a miracle.

Cataract surgery is another medical miracle. Last week, my right eye went from not seeing well at all even with glasses to 20-20 for distance, and even reading without glasses is much better. Tuesday my left eye will be dealt with, and then my sight will be incredibly good.

I am grateful for my dogged determination and unwillingness to have anyone tell me due to aging  health problems are to be expected, especially when it's someone in her forties who seems to have that wisdom to pass on. Doctors have slipped that into their conversation for thirty years! I am getting older, but that doesn't dementia or constant intense body pain is to be accepted as inevitable. I went into last week's cataract surgery thinking I looked more and more like my mother and came out realizing I look like my grandmother! I can understand the desire for facial surgery now, but where would I start and where would I stop? And how would I feel now if I accepted the conventional wisdom that with age comes decrepitude. Every age has challenges and giving up isn't the answer to any of them.

All along this journey, I have been caring for my inner child and finding others to do that job when I'm feeling too little to help myself. Equine therapy, art classes, gathering in the strength of my friends, asking for help and guidance, and laughing with my film club friends have inspired me and held me up. In my best moments, I feel as though I'm often in touch with the wisdom of age. If not now, when?

Baruch ata adonai...in the past year I've had ample opportunity to learn patience. I'm not sure I have. I know you will test me again. I've had ample opportunity to get out of my own way and out of the way of others, and often I do. I know you will test me again. May my learning never stop. May my courage continue. I'd like a little more grace. Perhaps I can learn that without too much prompting. Amen

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Whole Lot of Learning

This little girl with iron will  rose up from letting go of a lovely underwater scene that wasn't going anywhere, and she's taught me a lot about survival, transformation, determination, being grounded, and going along bravely, lovingly, and not quite so surely. That's a whole lot of learning to come from a canvas and a bunch of paints.

As she began to evolve, her very body position said, "Don't you dare paint me over. Fear not." Yesterday I watched a video with Peleg Top who said, "Fear is a terrible consultant." I have painted in fear in the past. I know you can fill in the blanks about that one, the way fear has stopped you dead in your tracks. This time I continued on and realized she isn't an angel but a butterfly, and it was way past time for me to step out of need and into transformation. And it came to pass she was standing on a turtle, the very symbol of moving slowly, being grounded, peaceful.

 Now I'm letting her go. I'm signing the painting and thanking her for all she's taught me.

Peleg Top is new to me. You can watch his short video on abundance and how to live an abundant life here. He's not talking about an abundance of monetary wealth but rather inner abundance: the ability to love yourself, to live without destructive stress and anxiety, to live in gratitude and creativity. It's all about what I experienced.

Baruch ata adonai...last week when I sat down to write, I intended to write about gratitude, but I was totally blocked. This week  the lessons just kept on coming. Blogs arrived and videos appeared with the same message. Love yourself and be thankful. What you think you will become. Thank you for sending them. Thank you for opening my ears and my heart. Thank you. Amen


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Little Book of Little Ladies

Today I gave my Little Ladies' their very own book. They're so very happy, and they wonder what the heck is going on with me. They don't know that after taking care of them, I spent gnarly time paying bills. What would they know about bills?  And they don't care that I'm finding that tremendously anxiety producing. Or that I really want this blog to be about exploring gratitude which I'm apparently not feeling too much of right now. They say today it's all about them.

The sweet thing about the Little Ladies is that they are always smiling, probably because they never have to pay bills, or feel guilty, or parse the meaning of gratitude.

Here are their aunts who are twenty years old now and off on their own very dramatic adventures. I want to be going where the one on the right is going, but I'll probably go walk my dog.

Inside their sunny exteriors, they're not quite sure what they should wear, but they know they would probably feel braver and happier in their tutus and boas or on rare occasions their hula skirts.

They have the most amazing ability to spin off into ecstasy with the least provocation,

and have delightful encounters, like when they get to go fishing or skating.

There's more, but they're feeling shy and mumbling about nap time.

I do have some thoughts about gratitude and hope they'll organize themselves for a proper prayer blog tomorrow. Meanwhile the Little Ladies are giggling about their first venture on the wordless pages.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Creative Every Day November 30

My last intention for this creative month of November is to give my Little Ladies their very own book. Next week in my multi media group we're repurposing children's board books. I'm creating a Little Ladies story book where they can all be together and share their stories with each other. Born of boredom in classes, the first were definitely freer than what came later.

The second generation of little girls yearned to wear their capes, tutus and boas and due to their various moods of courage and insecurity often weren't able to make a choice. There are a couple of them below.

Later the girls were happy, confident, jumping for joy, amazed at themselves. I think I was too.

This year I hope to draw a whole new series. The little ladies are discussing it as I type and all have opinions. Do you?

Leah, thank you for this challenge. I've grown and been conscious of creating every single day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

This year the many gifts of letting go and being grateful have brought me lessons on patience, standing up for myself, being for myself, letting go of myself. It really is all about me. You and I can be grateful in any given moment for the opportunities given to us. Watching a TED talk with David Steindl Rast brought this all home to me. A difficult gift is an opportunity to learn something. And we always get another opportunity to learn more.

Onward to the future. Stop. Look. Go.

For example I have had lots of opportunities to learn a better way to transfer my drawings and paintings so others can see them. Lesson after lesson and I haven't learned. I just want to get something done and not learn what the moment can teach me. (I am not generalizing this to my whole life, but it could be an apt metaphor.) Think Photoshop. I really really need to learn this in 2014. I'm putting this before you. Hold me accountable.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Day I Always Said Yes

The view out my window is grey grey grey with a chance of clearing. The view of my blog is warm, cheery, and incomplete. How do I put in those things that usually clog up the right side of the blog. Surely some of them must go back in, but I don't really know how to do that. It's a start. I've been saying, "On your mark, get set, change this," for quite a long time and then I don't. Until today. It's like much else in my life. I belong to to the dive in and start swimming school of taking action. Do I know how to swim? Barely, but what I have will allow me to start and what have I got to lose? Are you asking where all those side bars are and how you can subscribe if you don't already? Probably not. It's enough for first thing in the morning: a cheery look, a place to comment, and something to say. I hope I'm gearing up to that part.

Here's what I'd like to write in my gratitude journal at the end of the day.

1. Today I began something I've been afraid to do and I allowed my self to stop doing it at the first step. I know I will build on it, change it, eventually. For today, one step is enough. I'm proud of myself for not plowing on and on and getting frustrated.

2.  Today I recognized my limits in changing this blog and I looked at it and said, "It is enough." Then I said to myself, "And you are enough too. Just as you are."

3.  Today I sat down began to warm up my drawing muscles. I've missed drawing. Today I was patient with myself because I know it will take time to get in the groove again. This is a little doodle on top of a piece of intuitive painting. Looks like he's pulling up a worm he can't let go of! Oh yes. I've certainly done that. But NOT today!

4. Today two thoughts from the weekend kept me happy and light: my son said he would like to have one of my paintings and my grandson told my cousin,"Cousins and grandmothers are the best because they always say yes."

5. Today I always said yes to myself. I always said you are enough, and I am grateful for you.

Baruch ata adonai...being grateful brings me to a place of warmth and security within myself and closer to you. Even in the midst of difficult times when being grateful seemed hard to come by, times when I was only grateful for my dog and the fact that the day had ended and I had something good to eat,  you've helped me keep the gratitude door open. Amen

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creative Every Day November 21, 2013

As I have been painting the past two months, I've taken photos of my progress from stage to stage.  Looking through the photos before I posted this picture of today's work, I realized that no matter how much I think I'm going to start a new canvas in a completely different way, I always begin in the same way. There's a palette I like, bright warm colors, and there's an raucous amount of energy going on which I'm not so crazy about. I want to reign it in, calm it down, but intuitively this is what wants to come forth: the excitement of new beginnings.

When I look at the all photos, I see many stages I wish I'd kept. So far in this one, I think I'm saying no matter how much chaos is going, on love and hope and joy and gratitude can overcome the rest. The only part we see so far is the love part. My challenge here is the same as in all the others. Right now, everything is more or less of equal importance. How do I move on and highlight parts and have the rest to the background. I haven't learned  how to do this yet.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Creative Every Day November 19, 2013

Today I'm creating ideas for new projects. My desk is in a room where I'll only do "clean" projects. After for months on big canvases and creating big messes, I'm yearning for smaller formats, think trading card size or 4x5. I'm thinking tissue paper collages. I'm looking forward to seeing what Little Ladies come to life. Maybe I'll work on more greeting cards again. Today my world is full of creative possibilities and no time to do much more about it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creative Every Day November 18, 2013

A Time to Be Silent
There must be a time when we cease speaking
to be fully present with ourselves.
There must be a time when we exclude clamor
by listening to nothing whatsoever.
There must be a time when we forgo our plans
as if we had no plans at all.
There must be a time when we abandon conceits
and tap into a deeper wisdom.
There must be a time when we stop striving
and find the peace within.
David O. Rankin (U.U. Minister San Francisco)

My goal as an artist is to paint without talking to myself, to paint and not listen to myself, and most especially to paint peacefully. It isn't exactly that I'm new to this way of painting. Every year for the past couple of years, I paint for months at a time, but it doesn't come easily, especially not when I'm explaining to myself that I don't know how to do it, and that is just the beginning of my talk.  I know, yes I do, that I'm not alone in this struggle. Sometimes I really love painting.

Up to this point, I've had a great time. The canvas is hectic, but I'm enjoying the journey, right through the point where I painted in the dark background below because I wanted contrast, and I needed to simplify.

This is the angry teenager stage. I've done a number of things I really like. I still like the central figure and the turtle is getting more definition. This is the point I've gotten stuck in many paintings before: making smooth transition spaces with interesting gradations of color blending. The purple background still had more energy showing than I wanted, and hoping to make it work I painted in a world of precious little butterflies. I tightened up. I'm tried too hard. I lost my rhythm. At this point the fun stopped and the talking started. Now turtle woman who definitely has attitude is getting impatient with me.

If I take out that green I added on the left, the whole thing looks kind of like the inside of a snow globe. I like that, but I begin to imagine she feels like I did when my mother sewed my clothes. I was not gracious about standing still while she pinned and re pinned, ran the sewing machine and then asked me to try it on again. She must have wanted to wring my neck. I need to figure out this color background stuff while the turtle woman isn't looking.

Here's the beginning of another painting. It's a larger canvas, 40x40, and this is the really fun part. I love painting without a plan, playing with color, daring to let my brush take the lead. Are those the beginning of glasses left of center? Forget it. I try not to think this could be a painting about windows or doors. Much much too early. In part that's where I got stuck in the painting above. I began to love the combination of butterfly and turtle totems. She wants to survive, I tell myself. I'm personifying her. I'm making her much more than a painting. Yikes.

I keep circling back to this quote by Thich Naht Hahn. "There are two ways to wash dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes." I need to paint in order to paint. I know I can get a painting back to this point. I always love my first few layers. Now I think I need to practice the blending that's stopped me before. I need to make sure this painting is willing to change, and I'm willing to change it, and then I need to go back to the first one when I have the skill to change it.

Baruch ata adonai, I feel like I've told you all this before. Maybe if I go through this over and over I will shoot out the other side with a better skill set not only to paint but to deal with myself. I hear you tell me I already have that. This is all about patience, right? Yes I thought so. Then please help me to be patient with myself and others and not always need all these words to understand what I intuitively know already. Amen

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Creative Every Day November 12

I am not a baker, but I did have cranberries in my freezer from last year and Google not far away and found a recipe for these easy to make little cranberry apple pies. How hard could it be to do this with the kids. I bought Trader Joe's frozen rolled pie crust, which certainly has to be better than mine, and had everything set up for my grandchildren to make when they came Sunday. Almost perfect except for one thing. The dough had to come to room temperature. and I didn't have the time to do that. So this is my creative venture today. Notice how no two are alike?? Too delicious. They're not staying around here. I ate the other half of the one you see at the bottom right. Tonight they're going off to film club with me.

This is a project from Sierra Club magazine. Homemade snow globes. Simple to make. Use E6000 to glue figures to jar top after sanding the lid a bit. Allow 24 hours to set up. Then fill the bottle with distilled water and add one tablespoon glycerin and a half to a whole teaspoon of glitter. 

You need to fill the jar to overflowing, turn it over and screw on the lid and voila!

I prepped these before the kids came and then we made a mess together. When I visit them in a couple of weeks, they can go through all the steps themselves. There must be a way to glue on the lids. I haven't explored that yet, but I'm quite sure my six year old Charlie would give it a try.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Creative Every Day November 11

"No positive change can occur in my life as long as I cling to the thought that the reason for my not living well lies outside myself." Terry Hershey

To warm up this morning, I continued on with a new canvas by painting cool colors over warm. The random marks don't bother me. It's suppose to be this way. Out of randomness comes the picture that wants to be born like Michelangelo sculptures emerging from stone. He probably knew where he was going every step of the way, and he still had to follow seams existing in the stone itself. And so I put down marks that are random and layer by layer something, I don't know anything about just now will emerge. In this way the turtle girl I'd never met before came out of the chaos.

At this point in the painting, I don't have that feeling of reckless abandon. This morning I'm asking myself what's working and what's not working. How do I keep every little stroke from becoming too precious, too thought out, too deliberate? How do I keep letting go rather than painting like someone who is fearful of losing something? Unlike the earlier stage of another painting, I can't paint "no regrets" on this one. This one's a keeper. I really love the central part of this canvas. There's the turtle walking its path in peace, sticking to it with determination and serenity. There's the busy fluttery butterfly, the end stage of a big transition that only lives for a day. And there she is, the impatient girl coming out of nowhere who is learning to fly, and at the same time loves that sure steadiness at her foundation.

I've outlined some areas in the side panels and I'm thinking those marks will disappear. I think she is being born form we don't know what, and we don't need to know. There's a trick to keeping what is working and changing the rest, but I don't know what it is. Yet.

Baruch ata adonai....how do I walk the line between letting go and having to know? Anything I need or want or hope to be is already in me right now. Help me to live with the mystery. Amen

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Creatie Every Day November 10

Just a quickie today to show you my studio non-light fixture newly  assembled.

 I wish you could see this better. There are glass hearts and devil heads and tin hearts from Mexico, a small doll given to me at Artfest, bulbs and stars originally from thrift shops, the shooting star at the top and the angel and a bird nest you can't see and the birds on the right came from an art group tail gate party. It is so much fun, and it's very difficult to get a picture of. Surrounding it are cards I make, and my grandson's art. If you've ever made an assemblage like this, please send me a pictured. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Creative Every Day November 9

The first layers in any of my paintings consist of putting down warm colors, then cool colors, then black and white. If this were an art therapy class, this would have told the story of a time in my life when I was trying to make sense of what was happening and create some sort of order.

And then order came in my life and I didn't want to work on that subject anymore.  So on top of that layer I started again. I knew in starting again, with "no regrets" I would still find myself in some sort of chaos for awhile. I know in starting over, I'm still dealing with myself and my ability and my willingness to be brave and bold and most importantly, being able to let go of preconceived conceptions about what this painting "should" look like. Once restarted, I would continue on.

Definitely in transition on this one. I showed a version of it before. I love that the idea of a woman riding a turtle came up. Today I've been working on calming and simplifying the area around her. I'm excited to discover where it will go next.

Sometimes we just need to restart, return to go, but after getting to go with "no regrets" I still had to strike out again and get through the chaotic stage of new beginnings. Painting is so much like real life!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Creative Every Day Post

Last year I found this light fixture in a San Francisco recycle store. It became an assemblage featuring jewelry especially earrings, ribbons, Miss Piggy and other characters. Most things came from give aways or from SCRAP, an art supply warehouse containing  the dreams of every artist and everything recycled and inexpensive.

Yesterday I took everything off and started rebuilding it. For me it's the focal point of my studio.

My guiding principle now is to use stuff I already have. The picture in the lower right is a chandelier from a magazine with silverware dangles. I've accumulated some children's silverware I'll add to this. I'll send the finished picture this weekend.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Past Few Days

Dear Readers,

If you've been following my blog, you can see this isn't my usual format. I'm participating in an art challenge and every few days I want to post to that and can't figure out how to do it unless I publish this. So consider this a bonus or more junk in your mailbox. I know there are lots of ways to accomplish this, but I'm not in on the tech of any of that. Barbara

Creating art has been easier than getting the pictures to my blog. The whole thing has been constipated and I am frustrated!! So, calming my feathers, and taking a deep breath, I'm hoping this is going to get to Creative Every Day.

I've been making bookmarks and hang tags from my painting remnants and from drawings I've done. We are in a wine growing area and soon I'm going to go to some wine shops and see if they would like them for hang tags for gift bottles. Today I met with a graphic artist who really likes my designs, who will work with me, and who has a contact who licenses drawings like mine. Even if it's not my "and away we go" moment, it's pretty exciting. Think really good and positive thoughts!

This painting is moving along. I've completed an online class with Flora Bowley on intuitive painting, but I certainly haven't finished the work! This image seems to be evolving, and as usual, there are parts I wish survived into the next painting session.

Now she is standing on top of something, and it looks like she has a tennis racket next to her. I don't know what that's about, but I think the racket will disappear and way too much green. It will go too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blooming At Last

"In a world that just keeps getting faster, increasingly more complex and loaded with never-ending expectations, I continually need to remind myself to be gentle, both with myself and with the people around me. For me, being gentle is about softening and allowing. It's about letting go of my grip on how I want things to be and allowing things to just be the way that they are. In this way, being gentle is also about acceptance." Flora Bowley

This weekend I completed a five week online class on intuitive painting with Flora Bowley. I've taken classes from Flora before both online and twice in Mexico, and this is the first time I feel as though I have overcome myself, been gentle and patient enough to soothe the inner angsty voices and paint on anyhow.

This process involves putting down layer after layer of acrylic paint until the painting works its way from a mess, from the unknown, from stuck, to something that begins to speak to me, to something that seems to want to be born on this canvas. I have no painting background and no particular skill I bring to this process except determination, except knowing I want so much to let go, and when I do, I will stand on the other side of what I know now.

Lots of potential in this one. I love the colors. It's maybe the fifth layer I've put on.

Several days later it looks like this. You can still see bits of the painting above and now it's kind of an underwater scene. I like it a lot. I fuss with it a few days, and I am stuck. I don't know where to go next. Time for radical change.

Tuesdays and Fridays Flora demonstrated the daily lesson on two paintings she began the first day. They were about as big a mess or full of possibilities, whichever you might want to call it, as the rest of us were making. We compared notes and shared our paintings and emotional journey on a private Facebook page. This day she added a flower or maybe it was a fireworks burst, and I ran with that idea. I wanted to see how she did it.

I love this painting, because it feels as finished as I can make it and because it is the first time I painted effortlessly and with abandon. Even though what you see are blooms, each of the many layers I added is still there and adds to the whole. I've named the painting Blooming at Last.  It's on my studio wall as an acknowledgement that I can let go, I can move through many layers of paint and emotional uncertainty, and I can do it while being gentle with myself.

Baruch ata adonai...I've struggled with this process for years and something in me wouldn't let go. I know this painting is the beginning of a breakthrough in all parts of me. Thank you. Amen

Monday, October 21, 2013

Help Me To Have Faith In Myself

"Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough." George Washington Carver

My takeaway from everything coming in my front door (vision books, equine therapy, painting ) teaches me to listen to my heart, to listen to my intuition, to pay exquisite attention to connections, to messiness, to loss, to the unknown. This week's online art class has to do with being brave, with the ability to reach outside of my comfort zone and stretch boldly beyond what I know of my life and my abilities.  In my life, the unknown, my husband's dementia, will continue on, and I will can either define myself as being at a personal growing edge or falling into the abyss. I'm guessing it will be a lot of each, and yet, if I use painting as a metaphor, something totally unexpected can arise if I allow it to enter, if I don't rigidify with old thoughts and old feelings about not being able to do art or life.

As a piece of art therapy, considering what I've just written, I think this painting might say that's exactly where I am. Believe me, it looks a lot better as a small copy than as a 30x30 canvas. I spent the morning working on a second canvas with a similar amount of energy and created something that intrigues my growing edge. When I came to this one, I decided I needed to be a lot calmer. I needed to create a new starting place and so I did. I felt better instantly.

Tomorrow when I paint again, I will be guided by the past which shows through and the present, a softer more open and friendly place to begin again. It takes courage to paint either way. Perhaps the first painting would resolve itself into something I would love, and yet at the pivot point, I thought it took a lot of courage to say, "No, that's not a path I want to continue on, and I can make another choice." Actually it is all part of a single painting. I could have totally painted it over using opaque paints rather than transparent ones.  Perhaps what comes of this will look a lot like the shadows seen in the background or that might look like the starting place of something entirely new. For me it is a conscious choice to be warmer, softer, more accepting and loving toward myself and my work.

"I've come to believe that standing back is far scarier than falling in. Standing back and being aware of it makes us feel stuck, makes us feel afraid, makes us feel less than. When we let ourselves fall in, we fall into our courage. We fall into our strength. We fall into our power and our worth. We fall into ourselves and our joy and meaning." Maria Shriver

Thanks this week and often to Terry Hershey whose blog, Sabbath Moment (tdh@terryhershey.com) is full of all kinds of inspiration and to Sister Barbara who pointed me in his direction.

Baruch ata adonai....I am full of gratitude for the opportunities in my life which lead me to growth and richness. In the days ahead may I be willing to reach in and out in equal amounts. If I only reach in, I will drain my well. If I only reach out, I will lose my balance. Help me to have faith in myself. Amen

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Your Mark, Get Set, Let Go

"There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn't good and it wasn't bad. It was what it was, and it is just that. In the space of letting go, she let it all be." Rev. Safier Rose

I awoke from a long dream and knew it was an important one. There were the usual suspects: people I haven't seen for years, in places I'm not quite sure exist, vaguely connected to things I've recently encountered. Toward the end I'm sitting on the ground Indian style (which I can't do anymore), writing important sayings on a block of plastic wrapped Monterey Jack cheese which is supported by a stack of my green childhood encyclopedias, which in real life I just gave away and haven't looked at in years. The dream occurred at the end of a week when all the steps I wrote about a couple of  weeks ago were finished, and I felt there was nothing more I could do to help myself prepare for the future.

As soon as I woke up and wrote the dream down, I realized it had a important piece of information for me. Cheese melts. Reference books are not only out of date, but also unread, and no matter how much I prepare for the changes ahead, life is going to happen in unpredictable ways. Relax. There is nothing I can control. At that moment, I let go.

And remember my experience at Equine Therapy less than a month ago? Until I let go of my self talk, my self defeating self talk, until I emptied myself of all thought and just stood quietly and at peace with no expectations, only then would the horse know I was safe and it was safe with me. Only then could we join together and play together.

Today is the beginning of the third week of an online art class that involves, guess what, letting go. What you see is the third step. The first two layers are applications of warm colors and cool colors. The class is about painting intuitively. I see some good stuff here, and I know my head and my heart are loving this journey. Great music is on and am having fun. Nothing in mind. No expectations. Then we're on to adding black and white.

Oh dear. Getting a bit chaotic and yet there are elements here I hope I can come back to. I know they're going to disappear with the next layers, but there are parts I love, and before it becomes too precious, too hard to let go, I add more elements so I can move on. Then we add three translucent colors.

This is what letting go looks like. I know it is just where it's suppose to be, and yet, where are the parts I loved so much? We've been told not to worry about pretty or making it look like anything in particular. I've taken this class three times, and I've never gotten this far, never been able to look at it and not see chaos and be scared and intimidated. I can hardly wait to see what we're going to be asked to do next.

In order to let go, I've got to go against my nature. I've got to let go of being in control, of needing to have a plan, of knowing where things are going. In paintings and dreams and in life, things change quickly. What I'm changing is only paint on canvas, and I do know it's much more than that. The other side of being in control is everything else that is possible.

"There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn't good and it wasn't bad. It was what it was, and it is just that. In the space of letting go, she let it all be." Rev. Safire Rose

Baruch ata adonai...what a journey. I'm loving all these lessons one after the other. Thank you. Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Wings Do

"When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she had always been. But she had wings!"  Dean Jackson

I'm in familiar territory. Painting and sweet talking myself. Telling myself to be calm, it's only paint. Telling myself to be brave and bold. I witness my thoughts: happy and confident and then judgmental.  It is totally ridiculous. I'm flying and then I'm crawling, then I'm flying again. It isn't a coincidence that Transform is the title of my vision book.

My goal is to change the way I approach painting, and of course, this is a metaphor for the way I sometimes approach my life, isn't it. Isn't that true for you too? Isn't whatever way you're approaching whatever you're doing a metaphor for the way you approach everything? I'm going for gentle. I'm going for stopping before I get frustrated. I'm looking to be calm and kind and nice to myself. I'm trusting my intuition to keep me safe from my inner caterpillar. There is nothing wrong with a caterpillar. In fact I am probably in the caterpillar stage of painting right now, except for when I'm a butterfly. I do love all that flying around looking beautiful. I've created an altar and also some cute little affirmation cards and each day I paint, I remember to honor my inner caterpillar and honor my inner butterfly who is learning how to spread her artist wings.

When my kids were little, we had empty acreage behind our home where milkweed mixed in with  grasses and walnut trees, squirrels, field mice, and in season, butterflies. One year we put a stick, a caterpillar and milkweed into a jar, covered it and forgot about it. When we looked much later, we found a butterfly whose wings were glued together because it wasn't allowed to fly.

Baruch ata adonai.... Help me spread my wings. Help me show up for myself. Be with me as I support the part of me doing something she isn't quite sure she will ever be able to do. Isn't that silly? I am doing it. Help me let go of expectations. Please whisper in my ear, "Have fun my dearest." Amen

Monday, September 30, 2013

Every Warrior Needs a Cheering Squad

"Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness of which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest."
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby.

"I shine when...." I sat with this prompt for days. The Spirits of Joy online vision book class ends today. Although I have other prompts still to do, I wanted to finish this one before the class ended. When do I shine? As I began to gather pictures that seemed to have something to do with this, I began to understand I shine when I find a light within my depths that allows me to see where and how to move ahead from confused darkness, that allows me to release troubles from the hold they have on me.

This light must must illuminate the ruins until I can find a door to go through.

Two weeks ago I felt like a small boat lost in a churning ocean. If I only knew how to swim, or if only I had a life preserver or a compass, I could save myself. It's horrible to feel lost, rudderless, small.

Then a new thought appeared. I'm not a rudderless helpless boat, I am the leader of a team. What a reframe! What a life saver. Though I don't know how to swim well enough to save myself in an ocean, I do know how to build a team. I do know how to find my own cheering squad.

So I've built my five part team for now. My husband is in some stage of dementia. He still drives, plays tennis, meets with friends, but his problem solving skills are weak. Changes will escalate. I know there will be other teams as he moves on. Today we're dealing with legal aspects that must be changed now. Later when our trust is drawn up again, we'll find an attorney our sons will be comfortable with.

Next there are back up helpers for "when the time comes" and my husband needs more help. I've already spoken to people who will move into action to help then. At this point this all seems so remote, and we know how relentless this illness can be.

There's a support team for me, for my emotional and physical health which includes a life coach and a caregivers support group to help deal with the difficulties my husband will experience and those I'll have difficulty dealing with later.

Family support: The very best part is that my sons have figured out how to be supportive and show their caring.

Friends: I need to experience the total joy of asking for what I want and need from my friends. It will be better to think of what I want ahead of time so when I'm wallowing in misery and sadness, they can step in. I am imagining everyone saying yes, once I figure out what to ask for. This is a challenge for me.

Baruch ata adonai...you built me up when a part of me died and I needed to find myself again. I began to pray, to write prayers, to talk to you directly. Thank you for showing me the way again. You turned on the light. You told me to plan as much as I can, and then show up and be gentle with my husband and gentle with myself. This is a journey I can't go on alone. Amen