Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Friday, July 23, 2021
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Have you ever read a book so good, that as soon as you read the very last line, you turned back to the beginning and had to read it all over again?
Early this morning at 3 AM (when I am chronically awake due to teaching at that time) I finished Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer, a memoir about his struggle to write a critical analysis of D. H. Lawrence. Then I turned back to the very first page to start all over again.
Here is the opening line:
Looking back, it seems, on the one hand, hard to believe that I could have wasted so much time, could have exhausted myself so utterly, wondering when I was going to begin my study of D. H. Lawrence; on the other it seems equally hard to believe that I ever started it, for the prospect of embarking on this study of Lawrence accelerated and intensified the psychological disarray it was meant to delay and alleviate.
and here is the last sentence of the book:
The world over, from Taos to Taormina, from the places we have visited to the countries we will never set foot in, the best we can do is to try to make some progress with our studies of D.H. Lawrence.
I, just like Dyer, am a person who can't always face the work in front of me, and often uses another creative project to delay what it is I am SUPPOSED to be doing.
The only time in my life I have been disciplined enough to actually hack out a rough draft of one of the many, many novels floating around in my brain was when I was supposed to be writing my Architecture thesis. The thesis certainly did eventually get written, but only in fits and starts whenever I was tired of working on that silly novel. I have found one of the best ways to get some big project done is to use it as a distraction from OTHER work you have to do!
The brilliance of Dyer's book is not really this recipe for procrastination, it more is how he weaves in the amazing (and challenging) person of Lawrence; visiting places in his life, Rome, Paris, Greece, England and Taos, New Mexico. Lawrence and Dyer are both people who always long to be somewhere else, and this resonated so deeply with me.
But why do we long to travel when it is so expensive, exhausting, and difficult? I think I have more understanding of this after reading this book. We are looking for something, that even though it is actually right in us, we will see more clearly when we are in new, challenging, inspiring surrounds.
Taos is where Lawrence's ashes are scattered, and where he took up painting and seemed happiest in his life. He had TB and died young, and Taos was the last place where he felt healthy and productive. My daughter lives near Taos, and is a painter, and the energy of this place exudes spareness, creativity, natural beauty. It also allows emptiness. I think Dyer admires Lawrence's ability to just BE, doing nothing. He also, of course, admires the boundaries Lawrence broke in his writing (Women in Love was banned for its 'pornographic language' and 'inappropriate content'.) The courage to just do something for sheer pleasure, not for any praise or critical success is huge in Lawrence, and perhaps the biggest lesson I get from him.
In fact, I have a memory of an experience of pleasure thanks to D. H. Lawrence. I lived in NJ at the time and there was a film opening of a three hour Lady Chatterley's Lover at a small art theater in Manhattan. Boarding the train, riding the hour into town, then walking to the theater, I passed an extravagant chocalatier, and on impulse went in and bought a perfect little box of truffles. As I enjoyed the movie I nibbled on these amazing chocolates. The beauty of the natural scenery in the movie, the poignancy of Lady Chatterley discovering pleasure, the taste of those chocolates. . . . all of it, divine. When the movie ended, and I stopped in the restroom, a beautiful young African American woman looked me in the eye (she had obviously been in the same movie) and said to me "Now, that is how we all need to live life!" We smiled conspiratorially at each other, and it was as charming a moment as any in the movie.
Thanks to D. H Lawrence for writing about pleasure and the pursuit of art.
Thanks to Geoff Dyer for knowing the seeking of the answers is actually as worthy as the finding of them.
Thanks to that beautiful young woman in the theater for bonding with this middle age woman over the glory of film, art, nature and chocolate!
Thanks that this strange year of quarantine is coming to and end and I can dream of travel once again.
Now to go read this book a second time. . . . .
Sunday, April 11, 2021
I have been learning to throw pottery on the wheel. I am taking a ceramics class at our local Rec Center, and it has been amazing for many reasons.
First - it is the first time in a year I have been in a room with more than the people I live with. We take precautions, like wearing masks and staying mostly 6' away from each other. But the casual conversation while we work is just a treat. The six other women in my class range in age, and it always surprises me that I am actually the oldest one! When did that happen???
Second - I simply love the wheel. The slow process of centering, the up and down coning to get all the air bubbles out of the clay, the wetness and smoothness of the surface. I love the way the clay bends and moves according to very slight hand pressure. With very subtle, even motions, the lumpy ball turns into a graceful, elegant form. It is so pleasing.
At this stage, half the shapes I start with end up collapsing, or rotating off center, or being too lumpy or thick or thin. But with more practice, I am growing in skill, and this growth really is satisfying.
Now and then, something catches, I move too quickly or lose concentration, and the whole shape goes off.
Trimming, as well, has risks and just a little push too hard makes the whole pot go wacky.
Third - I am not always upset with the surprises. After trimming, there is glazing, which always brings unexpected results. I spend hours watching you tube videos on throwing, trimming, decorating and glazing. It is a lovely new world of creativity.
Even the off-centered or thick-walled or drippy-glazed pots thrill me. And although I really admire the perfection of production potters, (who I spend hours watching on you tube) I know I will continue to be a person who experiments and admires the happy accidents.
Turnings of clay, of seasons, of years, changes that are expected and many that are not, it feels like a spiral of growth toward some peak. I am looking forward to what that might be.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Something I learned today: A kenning is a figure of speech in which two words are combined in order to form a poetic expression that refers to a person or a thing. For example, "whale-road" is a kenning for the sea. Kennings are most commonly found in Old Norse and Old English poetry.
Isn't that beautiful? Whale Road.
(I am putting more whale cards in my Etsy shop, if you are in the market.)
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
I'd like to tell you a story.
A true story.
Several years ago, I was driving in my car to Boulder, Colorado, to attend a two day dream summit. It was led by Robert Moss, an amazing dream teacher and writer of many books about using dreams as a shamanic practice.
I was feeling quite stagnant and quite uninspired in my life at that time, and was deeply hoping this dream summit might point me in a new direction. I knew that imagination creates reality so I asked my imagination to activate right at that moment.
Is there anything you want? Anything that would inspire you, fill you with joy, make you feel alive? I asked myself.
The answer: A horse. I would love to ride a horse, to be connected again with this sport/hobby that I have always deeply loved, but rarely had time or money for in my life.
Half an hour later, I am sitting in the circle of 60 or so attendees, each one a stranger to me. I turn to the lady on my left, "and what do you do?" I ask.
"I teach therapeutic riding with my horse." came the answer.
The Universe is more magical than we realize if we only give over our reality to it's playfulness.
Monday, January 18, 2021
Dale Pendell, author of the brilliant Pharmacopeia series, wrote a novel called Chronicles of the Collapse.
Written in 2010, 8 years before his death, here is the Amazon description:
Based in scientific reality, Dale Pendell presents a powerful fictional vision of a fast-approaching future in which sea levels rise and a decimated population must find new ways to live. The Great Bay begins in 2021 with a worldwide pandemic followed by the gradual rising of the seas. Pendell’s vision is all encompassing—he describes the rising seas’ impact on countries and continents around the world. But his imaginative storytelling focuses on California.
A “great bay” forms in California’s Central Valley and expands during a 16,000-year period. As the years pass, and technology seems to regress, even memory of a “precollapse” world blends into myth. Grizzly bears and other large predators return to the California hills, and civilization reverts to a richly imagined medieval society marked by guilds and pilgrimages, followed even later by hunting and gathering societies.
Pendell’s focus is on the lives of people struggling with love, wars, and physical survival thousands of years in California’s future. He deftly mixes poetic imagery, news-reporting-style writing, interviews with survivors, and maps documenting the geographic changes. In the end, powerful human values that have been with us for 40,000 years begin to reemerge and remind us that they are desperately needed—in the present.
Sunday, January 17, 2021
And just as I have immersed in thinking and writing about dreams I have come to the end of my latest dream journal, I filled the last page just this morning.
Luckily I had a "big dream" just as this summit started, so I have had rich images and ideas to work with and put these dream working theories to practical use right away.
Last night before sleeping I asked my dreams to clarify the "big dream" of yesterday. The new dream did not seem to connect, but putting the lessons together in a sort of Haiku form does make some sense.
Trespasses on imagination
Don't get overloaded
Do dreams ever need to make sense? Maybe the non-sense is the point.
I have always loved the idea that we can live in a "story telling consciousness" an idea written about by Anais Nin. Dreams are a sort of story telling our sub conscious gives us to lead us into that deeper, more connected way of being.
I am learning a technique of being a naturalist in your own dream, observing deeply and with patience and no judgement.
It's pretty great. Try it.
Monday, December 28, 2020
We recently visited my daughter in New Mexico, (following quarantine protocols, since neither she nor we have been interacting with anyone.)
She lives in a neighborhood founded by Buddhists and artists some 50 odd years ago, headed by an artist named Herman Rednick, who painted many beautiful portraits of ascended masters. These paintings are in a retreat building/gallery open to the public for meditation and contemplation. This portrait spoke to me.
Part of my shamanic practice is to meet spiritual teachers. Shamanism
allows us direct revelation from other entities, and the portraits
hanging in this room helped me envision these beings. In my journeys, I have
ventured to the upper world, to a panel of Ascendant Masters, seven of them.
They correspond to the colors of the spectrum (ROYGBIV) as well as the
seven whole notes of the heptatonic scale. I loved that this
painting shows the rainbow behind the wise master.
The energy of this place is so peaceful. When Covid is gone, they will host lectures; right now a Tibetan Lama is visiting. There is a Tibetan Buddhist stupa with magnificent interior paintings. I am so thrilled for my daughter living here, and we hope to visit frequently.
They also are building earth bag cabins for guests to stay in, and there is a retreat center. We wandered through the snow covered/tree filled paths around these buildings, it was so peaceful and soothing.
This area is about 40 minutes North of Taos, and sits in a huge plain with mountains around:
I know we all are hopeful and ready for this year to be over, and 2021 to bring us health, happiness, compassion, and new focused energies.
Happy New Year to all!
Sunday, October 25, 2020
This makes sense to me, because back in 1982, when I was an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence, I discovered that the big fat bars of unscented Marseilles soap, sold in the farmer's market, was the best thing I'd ever used on my skin.
Here is how it happened:
My story starts, like many, once upon a time in a land far away. I was an exchange student in France, living in Provence, loving the local market produce, the bread, the shops, the way of life that included slow meals and lots of walking. I lived with a family with 6 boys (not so strange for me since I have 3 brothers) and I got to immerse myself in the language and culture, and endure some amount of daily challenge. One challenge was the food - I always have to watch what I eat very carefully, and I just could not resist the bread. There is just nothing in the world like a crisp crunchy French Baguette.
Here I must digress a bit - I have Celiac disease, allergy to wheat gluten. At that time, I did not know it. So here I was, a stranger in a strange land, eating what was poison to my body unknowingly.
So we come to skin.
Celiac disease often expresses itself in skin problems. I could not get rid of persistent itchy rashes, Wandering in the market in Aix-en-Provence, I found wonderful large blocks of "Marseilles" soap - which by French law must be a minimum of 72% vegetable oils and have no fragrance or color. These bars are made with ancient recipes, cooked for days, and poured directly into molds in the concrete floors, before being lifted and and chopped into chunky bars. My skin LOVED this pure, natural soap. I bought what I thought was a huge supply when I left (3 large chunky bars or so) but never have found it here in the U.S.
Another amazing health-saving product I discovered while in Aix-en-Provence was Vervain. Even though I am a true coffee addict, I found a digestive infusion/tea that was served in all the cafes was very helpful for my symptoms. I replaced my coffee addiction with the vervain addiction, and it soothed my Celiac symptoms and was very helpful.
Vervain is a member of the Verbena family that is grown in the Mediterranean, used by Druids and Romans as a sacred herb, and one of the original Bach Flower remedies. Vervain is closely related to the new world Lemon Verbena, but the latin names are different and the healing properties of the plants are slightly different. Vervain was another product I never could find here in the states. Our life paths have a funny magical sort of way of unfolding, and I found myself in very dry Colorado 30 years later with a greenhouse, a burning desire to grow Vervain, and the urge to finally make myself some soap that my skin would love. My experiments resulted in these bars. Super moisturizing, full of olive oils and shea butter, no fragrance or dye or any drying chemical additives which commercial soap is made of, I finally can hold that ancient wisdom of Provence that heals right in my hand in a bar of soap.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
I am a chronic early riser, I get up many days to teach my Chinese students how to speak English, and as a result I am up all the other mornings as well. I drink my coffee, look at the internet, maybe put a few words or images in my journal.
The witching hour.
The creative hour.
Four AM is a magic time to be awake.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Soap making has begun! In this crazy year, soap is crucial, so I will be making sure my shop is full to the brim this holiday.
If you visit my Etsy shop, you can pre-order, all shipments will go out the first week of December.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Monday, June 22, 2020
A slip of orange sky outlined the monolithic stones. It indeed was magical.
I also had a little ceremony with friends online, right at 3:43 PM, the time the earth's axis made us the closest to the sun we will be in 2020. We talked about the cycles of the seasons, the turning of the earth and the moon and the sun and the stars. We reminded ourselves that even as we celebrate these rhythms and repetitions, that all life is impermanent.
The poet Shelley talked about the insecurity of time in a poem about Ozymandias (which is the Greek name of Ramses II.) He found a stone fragment in the sand with these words:
"My name is Ozymandias
King of Kings
Look upon my works
Ye mighty, and despair."
but then, nothing but endless sand. . .
Ramses the II lived right about when Stonehenge was being built. One monument survived, others did not. Yet we still can think about both achievements, those that remain in physical form, those that are remembered in words.
Yes, we are part of the turning of the Universe, we will flow into this new season of summer, as the days shorten again, bringing us back to where we started, and into another cycle. We can connect with our own helping spirits to honor these changes in the season, and even in the seasons of our own lives.
These past months have been so chaotic, scary, shifting sands beneath our feet so we cannot really get a foot hold. The virus, and eruptions in political tensions, protests, change for the good in the long run.
For me, I need to remind myself to reflect on how perfect and beautiful our journey is, how difficult and marvelous, both.
Monday, May 18, 2020
No such thing as a failed *creative* (yes, I mean you.)
When stressed, we have a choice - eat and go back to bed, or make something.
The last few months of this quarantine, I have done both.
The food did not feed me as much as the creativity.
But I have to work at NOT feeling like I am a failed creative.
Because what I do does not always get embraced by the world.
I love writing poems, but really only have one or two I even like.
I love to paint, and worked on that skill for decades, but the shows I had did not sell very well, and I found it was a bit too stressful to make the work public.
I took ballet in high school, the teacher always poked my chubby tummy.
I played guitar, that was fun, but I don't even remember any songs. Well, maybe a few bars of Stairway to Heaven.
and a little bit of Blackbird.
I worked for years at creative journaling, made some books, shared lots of images here on this very blog. You might have noticed I am not here that much. Or you didn't notice, because the YOU I am talking to might not really even be here. at least, not any of you seem to comment. So I have no way to know if you are here or not. For a long time I thought that meant this blog was not successful. But guess what, it is successful for me. I succeeded in making this blog and expressing myself here. It has been a nice record of some of my creative ideas.
In terms of interfacing with the world, I do have an agent, and they love my graphic work, they represent me and try to sell my images to put on things. So I have a few cell phone cases with my collage art. Kinda cool.
I wrote a children's book about whales, which I am really proud of.
Now I teach. Because the bills need to get payed. and I do enjoy teaching and feel successful doing this.
but I really need to turn to creativity to really be the most authentic me. Society does not reward creativity, at least, my creativity doesn't seem to have taken off. At least in the world's eyes.
But I am saying all this to tell you that there is no such thing as a failed creative. Don't think the world needs to acknowledge what you do.
Do it for you.
Do it to put that voice that is uniquely yours into the world.
A friend of mine who does a blog on creativity asked if I would be a "sample" counseling client.
I wondered why she did not chose me as an inspirational guest with my own creative ideas to share . . . . but okay.
I was game, and we chatted for her blog. She gave me lots of nice ideas.
I am happy to let go of ego and put my vulnerabilities out into the world.
and I will always need to create.
Paintings of whales.
Go out there and do it.
"Let the beauty we love be what we do."
and let the creativity itself be your reward.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Quarantine Crafts Day One: sew a piece of clear, heavy vinyl to a hat. Now you’re ready to face the world! (Only for necessary trips to the grocery store, be safe!). #quarantinecrafts
Quarantine Crafts Day Two: get an old flannel sheet, scissors, and a ruler. Cut 4” x 8” rectangles. Reusable wipes! Store in a plastic container with soapy water, or leave a stack in the bathroom to use as needed. Wash double cycle on hot water and you’ll be all set. No need to hoard TP! #quaranteencrafts
Quarantine Crafts Day Three: Not Your Mother's Macrame. (Unless your mother was a hippy in the 60's and then this IS your mother's macrame.) I bet you have a stick and some string! Just cut long lengths (I did 12 feet, because I want to suffer through many snarled knotted strands.) Loop them on the stick taking care to space them evenly. (You can hang the stick with wire so you can work vertically.) After you do all this, take a break and watch a movie, because I am tired just from this much work. Tomorrow I will show you some knots I added. I am thinking a knotted border at the top, then a whale shape. I've never seen a whale in macrame, so it's time. Then another knotted border at the bottom. Maybe I will even live dangerously and add some shells!
Quarantine Crafts Day Four: Not Your Mother's Macrame Part Deux. Some progress on the macrame. I tell you, tying knots is very therapeutic. If you haven’t started, seriously go find a stick and string. And we have snow here in Colorado. So today’s an inside day. Peace and love to you all.
Quarantine Crafts Day Five: KNITTING! There a ton of great How To videos on YouTube, here’s your chance to dust off those needles and pull out the yarn. I find knitting very therapeutic, the rhythm is like a meditation.
Quarantine Crafts Day Six: FACEMASKS! Anyone with a sewing machine can try this. and if you don't know where to donate them, don't worry, we will all find out soon. Don't have any fabric? I bet you have a bag of old clothes you were going to donate.
Quarantine Crafts Day Eight: meditative cooking. What? you say. Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GptAgiAxDP4 This is an example of spending time with deep intention, enjoying each step of the work, connecting with each ingredient and absorbing it's qualities. Making the act of cooking into an art is something I don't usually take time to do, but these videos (her whole channel is fabulous, you can get lost in watching) have helped me slow down and enjoy the process. Let's bring intention to each act of the day, and make cooking an art again!
Quarantine Crafts Day Nine: go outside. Find some rocks. Make a tower. Contemplate your work and the beauty of our world. Be at peace.
Quarantine Crafts Day Ten: you know what this is. The funnest thing is seeing how it turns out. Tomorrow, come back here to see the finished product.
Quarantine Crafts Day Eleven: undoing a tie dye is like opening a present. You don’t know what you’ll get.
Quarantine Crafts Day Twelve: this is a fun one; eraser stamp carving. Using white erasers and linoleum carvers, you can make a stamp to use for cards, your journal, wrapping paper, so many uses! [If you need supplies, Michael's will let you order on line and bring your purchase out to your car.] Geometric or curvy patterns can be repeated to make decorative edges. Preview: tomorrow I’ll show you a multi-eraser carving set printed with 3 colors.
Quarantine Crafts Day Thirteen: multi-eraser carving set printed with 3 colors:
Quarantine Crafts Day Fourteen: Not Your Mother's Macrame, Part Trois: working on making a circle in my macrame. What are you working on?
Quarantine Crafts Day Fifteen: make a postcard. You can use old photos, digital images, markers, glue stick, card stock. You can even use a cereal box as the base. I know you have someone who would love to get some old fashioned snail mail from you! Bonus points if you use the eraser stamp you carved. (Did anyone try that?)
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
The compost pile is covered in white, remnants of the foot of unseasonable snow that fell a week ago. You never know here in Colorado, what the mountains will bring - and a November blizzard is not unheard of.
I am taking time to notice. Notice the sky when I walk. Notice the magnificent maple tree next to our hot tub when I soak. Notice the shadows it makes across the dry grass. I try to connect to the plants in our yard, not just as their caretaker, but as beings who have a say in this world. My herbs give me such joy, and I try to thank them with a little ritualistic walk around the yard several times a day.
Yesterday a friend asked me if I was making art. "No" was my answer. Are you writing in your journal? "No."
My creativity lately has seemed dormant, but really it has not. I have been knitting, cooking, cleaning. I have been teaching every morning from 3-6 AM, English to Chinese students who sit at their desks on the other side of the world. I made a bunch of paper snowflakes to decorate my teaching space, this is as arty as I have been this last month. (photo to follow. . . . )
I also have been making soap for holiday presents, writing cards and wrapping things in pretty paper and ribbon.
And I have been resting. The amazing tiredness that sends me napping, and shortens my walks, worries me, but I can't think of a reason for it, so I am trying to honor what my body wants. Sometimes it wants carbs and sugar, and I try to curb that in, but truthfully lately, I've been enjoying chocolate and bagels. (gluten free!) I am hoping once 2020 starts I can find the motivation to eat healthier, and less.
and you, dear reader? Anyone who is still here? How are you?
Monday, September 9, 2019
Heat wave, hotel, find the TGV, packed in like sardines, sweat.
Arriving by bus to Aix, Mount St. Victoire peeks at me from the bus terminal like an old friend.
Villa in the sun.
My over-indulged American self will be without A/C in the hottest month ever recorded in France!
Hike with the dog in the woods.
Hike to get groceries.
Hike to catch the bus.
Hike into town to wander the streets I loved and knew 3 decades ago.
Hike to meet my glorious neice from Nice, two days of non-stop catching up with some good wine and food. Bliss.
Lay in bed in a pool of sweat.
Shower often, but mostly sweat.
Teaching from the Villa works! Hallelujah!
Dear 90 year old upstairs neighbor comes to chat each day. I enjoy hearing about her life immensely and she compliments my French. VICTORY!
Family I lived with 35 years ago comes to have carefully orchestrated lunch that I spend the week planning. (trips to seafood guy, trips to bakery, trips to wine shop, trips to market, trips to cheese guy.) Lunch was exhausting, heat-searing temperatures, but conversation lively and successful.
Owners return, and I am off to the next gig!
NANTES - 105 degrees, hottest day in history. Landlord's helper takes my suitcase, buys me a fan, gets me set. I could kiss him!
Teaching is fine, cat is adorable, apartment is cozy, but HOT HOT HOT.
Wandering medieval streets filled with tourists, cafes, food, restaurants, shops, more food, cafes, some medieval buildings, a cathedral, a fortress, gardens, food!
I am in deep danger when I realize the croissant stand not 10 feet from the front door to my building sells bags of freshly baked croissants 6 for 2 euros 50. Croissants become my main food source. I triumphantly prove that I am not allergic to Wheat, I am only allergic to American Wheat which is soaked in glysophate, a chemical outlawed in France.
I gorge on croissants.
Heavenly buttery wheaty croissants.
Several lovely visits with locals - my landlady has me for an apero and I hold my own in French for the 3 hour conversation!
Lunch with a Japanese woman married to a French man, so many things to talk about, I love hearing about her bi-cultural life. A drink with the "fixer" Hamish who has taken good care of me, outrageous life he has lived.
"Where is Steve" banners plastered all over town explain the Nantoises anger at a young man knocked in to the river at a music festival where he has drown.
People running and screaming.
My eyes and throat burn.
A cloth to the mouth and I run back to my apartment, which is unfortunately in the direction of the violence, since it is in the ancient, pedestrian part of old Nantes.
Safe in the apartment, too full from croissants, tired of the heat, I check prices to fly home early, via New Jersey, so I can see the new grandbaby born two weeks ago, prematurely.
YES, I score an affordable ticket through Rome.
I leave in a few days.
I frantically rearrange my teaching schedule so I won't get fired, ask a few parents to cancel classes, and start packing.
One more bag of croissants to remember my lovely time in France.
and I head home.
Empty seat next to me on the plane home to the States. Blessing.