Thursday, November 30, 2006

On living and dying








I made the spirit doll in honor of my mother earlier
this year. She is one of three dolls that were made
alike, at the same time.


Each of them are now unique, due to the fact that myself and my sisters adorned them with personal mementos of my mother. My own doll holds a broach and pendant that belonged to her in this life.

The quilt is made from pieces of her clothing. My Father had it made as a gift after she died for her three birth daughters. When I feel a need to talk with her, I often snuggle inside, remembering our time together.

I have a new relationship with the people that have left this earth. My relationship with them did not die when their physical form moved on, but it changed drastically. Coming to terms with that new relationship is what the grieving process is all about.

I think about the life-death cycle often. I like to believe my family will honor my very strong feelings about not relegating death to a cold institution, a ridiculous and expensive coffin or service that does not celebrate life. It saddens me to see our loss of connection to the birth-death cycle in our society, our fear of touching and seeing death. We are, as a society, uncomfortable with death and it isn't healthy.

One of the most profound and moving essays on this topic was posted recently at the 37 days blog. "Forever Hold Your Penguin Dear" by Patti Digh is a fine example of words that reach right into your heart and stir the ancient truths about death and how we respond to loss.

I sat here this morning, with tears running down my face as I read the story of a family that chose to honor the death cycle in a beautiful and life affirming way. I read about the way they annointed this young person's body with herbs and oils, how they celebrated their connection to her both in life and in death. It moved me deeply and this story will hopefully inspire others to examine the rituals surrounding death and burial, and just how we honor the loved one that has left their body behind.

We humans grasp onto the gossamer threads of possessions left behind, of these scraps and bits that connect us to our loved ones. We dig into the past trying to hold memories, touch and voices. We talk to the spirits that move through the air, trying to convince ourselves of something real, something true, something that can't be taken away.

There is a fabulous quote that I keep nearby: "The hard inescapable phenomenon to be faced is that we are living and dying at once. My commitment is to report that dialogue." Stanely Kunitz is a wise man. I often question my work and whether I am archiving that living and dying experience in my own way.

Today I am alive and well. I have received the gift of another day of life, and moved one more day towards the grave. Every day we have is a gift. But every day is also one day less.
In becoming a parent we celebrate the fact that we have brought a new life into this world, but we often fail to remember that we have also brought another death into this world. Living and dying. That's what we earthlings do. I want to honor that process by celebrating the living and dying we're doing together, by weaving ritual around the process and drinking of the joy that is in it all.

Diana Jenner has inspired me time and again in the way that she has chosen to honor Hannah. I take pause today to remember not only the loved one's I have lost, but the chain of life reaching back into the millenia. I think of the ancestors that could not have imagined the world in which I live, the blood spilled on the ground which we walk every day without notice, the life and death that is all around us at every turn. I want to tread gently on this sacred ground, this sacred day....this day that will bring both life and death into our world.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obos and stuff




I started today with a really great email from Robert Genn, who sends out a twice-weekly email to anyone that signs up for his brand of wisdom. It was about "Obos", stacks of rocks left for nature to reclaim, or the aware eye to find. Here's his email:

Dear Ren,

Some weeks ago an anonymous subscriber wrote: "The
Painter's Keys"
is not a website--it's a vision.
It's a vision of a universal brotherhood and sisterhood,
timeless and for all time. It's a vision of solitary
strugglers who are united in the obligation for quality
while serving their own individualist dreams. What we
artists do is noble and life-enhancing for others. It
requires a balance between outward learning and inward
contemplation. Thank you for providing this shrine."

I often think of these words. I'm deeply proud that there
are many who get the point. Our website is certainly one
manifestation of that shrine, and while it is not a physical
spot or a spiritual dogma, it might be a metaphor.

Years ago, I started placing small "obos" in remote places. An
obos is a Japanese term for a pile of rocks, often only three,
one on top of another. The obos merely says, "I was here."
Being an unusual configuration, it is obviously from the hand
of man. Further, if it is knocked down or desecrated, it is
easily rebuilt. There can be one at the bottom of the garden or
in a private corner of a public park. I've seen obos among
potted bonsai in a sparse apartment high above Park Avenue's
clatter. So you know what I'm talking about, I've asked Andrew
to illustrate an obos in the current clickback. See URL below.

On one of our west coast islands, I built a few obos on a rocky
foreshore just above the tide. Returning twenty years later, I
found them still intact and dressed in moss, as if spirited
there by some ancient coastal cult.

Obos is a destination, a sanctuary, a shrine and a focal point
that reminds us that we work with our hands. We are builders
and what we build is sacred. Obos may appear inconsequential
and be unnoticed by casual passersby. It's a private tribute to
something higher, something we might be striving for but find
difficult to attain. Approach obos with a relaxed, curious
mind. It can help with answers to questions not consciously
asked. Obos gives pause, a contemplative thought or a new
direction, a respite from clutter, a rededication to our
struggle and an affirmation of the value of our personal
effort. Obos is the carrier of a golden secret. Obos is like
art itself. Obos is a joy to build.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw
that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."
(Rabindranath Tagore)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm enchanted with the idea of "Obos" now. Four years ago, when my mother lay in the hospital dying and I was scheduled to fly home the next morning, I visited the beach with my children. In a very natural and flowing way, I sculpted a small shrine there, with the materials available: a feather, shells and driftwood. Art is available to us all, if we use the materials we have and express what is within. Obos are one way to share the joy of sculpting. Nature provides many chances for thoughtful expression.

Later, I responded to an email from a new aquaintance, the very woman that introduced me to the beautiful music of Amy Steinberg.
Susan Lachman is the person behind the voice of "women on air" that airs from Johnson City every Friday afternoon from WETS, an affiliate of NPR. I heard her interview with Amy once-upon-a-time and fell in love with the message and music. One of her songs reminds me regularly that I am "exactly where I need to be".

So anyhoo....as I sometimes do, I googled Susan's name to see what else she's up to (I hope you don't mind Susan):) and found out about the "Leaf" project. where the artist Carol Ann Newsome creates these small works of art and leaves them all over for people to find. I believe she's planted 5,000 so far! Amazing project, fab idea.

Reading about the Leaf project led to information on something called the "Good Goddess" which I thought was a yearly festival, but after researching figured out it was a traveling art exhibition that was here many years ago. Darn!

Through that piece of information, I discovered an amazing artist named Charles Vess who lives just up the road in Abingdon VA. His work is absolutely stunning! Wander around a bit and enjoy the visual and mental massage.

You know, that's one of the greatest things about technology, the ability to make very fast connections with people, places and new information. I love that I can start with a serendipitous connection to a local person and go wandering about the planet finding other artists, art, ideas and inspiration. It's all connected and I love being a traveler discovering those connections.

**Above photo is by Joanna McKasy, taken at Denali National Park Alaska

Monday, November 06, 2006

37 Days



~*"Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.”~

There is a blog that I love to visit. The project started when the author's Father was diagnosed with cancer and died 37 days later. The focus is about what you would do if you had just 37 days left. Her challenge is to do something, anything for 37 days. I'm posting it here as I've decided to take this as an opportunity to practice some discipline.

For the next 37 days I will do at least ONE thing towards marketing myself. One thing towards getting some art classes started here or running a creativity workshop or getting my book proposal ready to mail off (or actually mailing it IN)....SOMETHING each day that helps me move forward with the marketing aspects of my passions, even if it's as simple as buying some stamps. 37 days. Five minutes, or 10 minutes or one action, it matters not. Just that I DO something each and every day.

Lives can change in the daily actions.
~*“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”~

I have a book titled "The Power of 5" that outlines the importance of repeated actions. It's so easy to put things off because they seem large and intimidating.
Starting a business.
Taking a big trip.
Building a house.
Getting organized.
Losing weight.
Being healthier.

In reality, we just need to DO it.
It's not the grand, sweeping actions that define the pattern of our lives. It's the daily things and in just minutes per day we can create habits and begin entire journeys.

I believe in the power of daily actions. I believe in myself. I believe the next 37 days will open doors for me. And so I begin (or really continue, in a more focused manner).........

*Both quotes are from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Collage and stuff



Here's where the artist thing becomes a bit of a pain. I'm wide awake at 2am, which wouldn't matter except that my sleep schedule is a bit on the unpredictable side at times. It wouldn't matter, except that my children will expect a coherent mother in the morning, as will my out-of-town visitors and my co-workers. sigh.

BUT, because of my inability to sleep I've been mucking about online and found some really great links to share. You know how one thing leads to another? Well, I started with Art Shrines, which led to a fabulous artist in New Zealand named Dale Copeland and a compelling collage exchange she organizes.

Now I'm inspired to create the required 13 collages and mail them over to New Zealand. Causes me to ponder if a similar project would work at Imagination Tribe. Hmmmmmmmmm.......

Either way, collage projects are calling me. Oh, and the miniature shrines and a few IT trades and, oh yeah, there's that fundraiser thing I promised to organize. Ok maybe I can sleep now. Hope my muse knows I need a nap.

**Above image is one of my pages from the Imagination Tribe circle journal 2005**

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Days of the Dead



We're working on a *Day of the Dead art trade over at Imagination Tribe, entries being due on the 2nd. Having already received a couple trade items, I'm getting more inspired. Sierra and I worked on ours and came up with some that we're really happy with, though my **shrine is staying here with me. Sometimes I can't bear to part with something. It's also an inch larger than the size parameters so I have my excuse to not send it away.:)

I've really enjoyed this trade immensely. The onslaught of cold weather lends itself to turning within, journeys into self and a hunkering down at home with loved ones and hot soup. Something about this time of year causes me to slow down and create more art and writing.

I had a night where the past felt overwhelmingly painful last week, swirling up feelings of loss. I cried for my mother, great grandmother and mother-in-law, I cried for Hannah Jenner and all the parents that don't have their babies in arms. I opened a box if keepsakes and cried over the past that I can't touch any longer....bits of notes from loved ones and times that will never be again. Loss. It's such a powerful word.

Kahlil Gibran said "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper the sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

Yin-Yang. Balance. Universal flow.
I find his words resonate with me. It's all part of this journey. Learning to accept loss as a natural part of our visit to this earth helps us release that which no longer has a place here with us. As much as I would love to hold onto my mother, that was not her journey. I trust her journey is exactly what it's meant to be, even if it causes my pain.

*Days of the Dead is a time to reflect on death and life and losing loved ones. It is a time to honor those we've loved that have died. It is a time to go within and find the joy of the season, to celebrate life and light and all that we enjoy. As our part of this planet spins itself towards darkness, it is time to enjoy the quiet season. The harvest is in, the labor is finished for now, it's time for reflection and connection.

*Dias de los Muertos starts on October 31st and finishes on November 2nd.
**Quotes on the shrine are: "To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure." ~Albus Dumbledore
"Death--the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening." ~Sir Walter Scott

Monday, October 23, 2006

Broken bowl mosaic




Thought I'd share my first attempt at mosaic, the very one I mentioned in "Growing Beyond Blame". I'm pretty happy with it, though I learned a lot about what NOT to do next time. I affixed all the bits and pieces to an 18" square tile purchased at Lowes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Confidence (or how to grow some)




These are pictures of artwork that I find absolutely stunning. The *person who created these recently joined Imagination Tribe and has shared many of her fears and insecurities about her own art. I'm displaying these to show that talent and skill level have NO connection to our confidence level.

Her art speaks volumes. It is what I aspire to as an artist. Yet she deals with the same fears and grapples with the same insecurities that I (and so many others) do.
Many of us are acting as bulwarks against generations of fear perpetuated, against wholeness robbed. We are saying "no more" and plunging into the life of a creative regardless of the outcome. We are telling the universe that we BELIEVE, that we are worthy. We are trying to be a buffer for our children, so they can lay claim to their own gifts without the weight of second guessing themselves.

There is an article on this very topic, that this person posted yesterday. It brought me to tears because it speaks directly to my own journey:
"Just Like a Goddess" is a must-read in my opinion.

The only way to rid ourselves of these negative messages, is to ignore them. We choose the voices we will hear. I choose the voices of my sisters. I choose the voices of strong, beautiful women that create art or writing or cooking or whatever is in their hearts to create, with confidence and strength. I choose my gifts today. I choose the creative life. I choose to let joy be my guide, not fear.

*All artwork by Laura Bowman

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Delicious Living






Community: a : joint ownership or participation b : common character : LIKENESS c : social activity : FELLOWSHIP d : a social state or condition

What makes life delectable? What people, places or things nourish our spirit and lend a richness to our day? I've been thinking about this in terms of community, the kind of people and activities that define the framework of our days and give tide to the rhythm of the seasons. The essence of community for me is not only about my "tribe" but about ritual and flow. Sometimes it's a delightfully spontaneous moment but much of my community is about the thrum of everyday life.

I am fortunate enough to have likeminded friends (whom I refer to as my "tribe") all over the country and even in far flung corners of the globe. They are available to me any time I sit here at my computer. The beauty of technology is the rich connections we've made with people that are not a part of the local area in which we choose to live. People which I think about and converse with. People I met online and then in real life that help me grow as a human being and challenge me to dig deeper.


~The Old Sweet Shop; always bring quarters to crank up the player piano
~The Museum Warehouse; a mad array of imports made by tribal people in foreign countries
~The Jonesborough Library; 'nuff said
~First Friday; Art galleries stay open late and we always run into a few people we know.
~MAC counter; work friends that help me grow as an artist and make me laugh.
~Park day; meeting up with other homeschoolers and unschoolers rates pretty high on the priority list
~Nord's games; where we can discuss needed D&D items or new games we'd like to play.
~Michael's; to replenish the constant flow of art supplies being used.
~Hands-On Museum; from painting and freezing shadows to iguanas and a mini-grocery store.
~Music on the Square; what could be better than some bluegrass and sidewalk chalk?
~Acoustic Coffeehouse; dark beer, chalkboard walls, art, independent musicians, who could ask for more?



These people and places are the framework for our regular days. Community; today I sat with some friends that live nearby and assembled an art project that involved 20 people from different states and one from Canada. We sat and drank Chai tea, chatted about life in general and shared our amazement at the different ways each participant expressed themselves in this project. These times make my life feel rich and full, the moments we connect with others near or far and share our days. My Tribe.

This year has seemed to be all about community, all about soul connections and deep friendships. There have been connections made in Albuquerque, in the mountains of North Carolina, the flatlands of South Carolina and right here at home. My daughter connects with her Pensacola community via constant internet and phone conversations every day. We all make connections with new and old friends through MySpace and other internet forums.

I think we need to surround ourselves with positive, brilliant and beautiful people that aren't afraid to shine. I think we need these soul connections with likeminded (and not-so-likeminded) people to help us grow and learn and open our eyes. My community nourishes me deeply. Community is a safe place during the storms of life, it is a haven for our spirit and a boost in the arm when we need it. Community.


My creativity list (Imagination Tribe) has allowed me to participate in and run several trades and collaberative projects that bring home the message of community in a powerful way.

Through community we have experienced the charm of collaberation. Collaberative projects take on a whole different feel than art and writing we do on our own. One of the circle journals we made at Imagination Tribe sits near my bed. I cherish the diverse and interesting pages brought together by collaberative energy. Working together while expressing individuality is a fabulous way to encourage creative expression.

So here's to community and collaberation! Here's to the freedom to create the community of your choosing and expressing self through partnerships and connections. Here's to friends that enrich our lives and the places we love to visit and revisit.
Community..... a small word that holds an immense definition. Life is delicious!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Coffee-time




I was sitting at Starbucks a few weeks ago, on a lunchbreak. Sitting there thinking and observing (as I often do) led to some writing (as often happens) about the comparison between corporate and private business. I'm not anti-corporation, I'm just against the exploitation, greed and harm most big businesses cause. Oh, and the lack of personality, character and uniqueness that should be part of a business...ok, I'm anti-corporation.

My Grandfather used to talk about the lack of uniqueness that was becoming prevalent back in the 70's. He said "If you stuck me in any city in the country, I could have told you which city it is by the different buildings and businesses. I couldn't do that today,they all look the same". He bemoaned the influx of sameness, brought on by big corporations and chains.

This man is an icon in my world. He left home at 15 to make it on his own. He's seen more countries than most, worked in Saudi Arabia, moved to Alaska as a young father to create a life on his own terms. He became wealthy, but always stayed humble, connected and modest. I don't doubt that his views have influenced many of my own.

So here's the discourse I wrote, while sitting at Starbucks enjoying my lunchbreak:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Starbucks; slick, clean, oh-so-symetrical and glossy. It's the vogue of coffeeshops. Graphic artist paradise.
Acoustic coffeehouse; busy, swirling activity, sounds clash, colors jump out, people don't match but they laugh oh-so-loudly. Artist paradise.

I like my mountain-high pile of gooey, salsified nachos and a dark beer to wash down the live music and conversation at Acoustic. We leave chalk messagess in the bathroom and chat with pirates and a beautiful man from Kenya.

I sit sipping on dark roast with cream and raw sugar, with a tidy cut of coffee cake today. Politically correct music plays over loudspeakers as people come and go. I write messages to myself and talk to no one, though a smile or two may pass among strangers. Strangers that look like students and professionals--I wonder where the pirates are on days like these. Pirates or dark-skinned men from Kenya or strong women that sing passionately and aren't afraid to cuss or admit how they really feel. A guy sitting out front with his guitar and dog is sounding really good right now.

But I'll politely sip my coffee, glance up occasionally to see strangers come and go and think about how sterile this world is becoming thanks to places like Starbucks, where I drink my afternoon coffee and dream of raw edginess and colorful people.
Verone blend anyone?
Cheers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Being true to self




This is my good friend Nielah. She and I have major philosophical differences, yet this person inspires me and uplifts me everytime I see her. Nielah is one of those people that is so full of life, so full of love for what she does and so in the FLOW of spirit that you can't help but feel inspiration in her presence. Her gifts to the world are dancing and singing. They are gifts of the heart, born from the depths of creativity and passion.

She is my symbol for the topic I've been pondering this week. I'm not even sure how to formulate what's been swirling through my mind in some succinct manner, but it's the difference between bending yourself to fit other's expectations, and touching others through your gifts. The first one seeks to conform, while the second seeks to heal. Touching people, reaching them through your art (whatever form it takes) is the greatest gift. But you can't reach others by trying to please others. It doesn't work that way.

I got a serendipitous email this morning, one of the Robert Genn twice-weekly letters. Here's a segment:

~~"I admit it, every time I paint a picture--or write my
twice-weekly letter--I'm thinking that something in what I do
might bring value to another person. I believe that reaching
out and connecting with others may just happen to be our
highest calling. In the regular inflow of emails, many artists
tell me that they don't paint to please anyone but themselves.
A lot of this attitude, while commendable in some ways, is a
cloud of smoke.

It's my observation that all of us, no matter how iconoclastic
and independent, while looking to our own sparkplugs, also keep
our eyes on connectivity. I don't know how you feel about it,
but I think universal love gets into art, too. Without
connectivity in our lives there's no reason to keep our
sparkplugs sparking. It's not a difficult plot."~~

While I agree with Mr. Genn, I think he needs to elaborate on this idea.
Yes, I agree that the connectivity is everything, but I don't believe you'll find that connectivity without first learning to NOT care what anyone thinks
Going within is the way to GET to those connections and reaching others.

I spent this last weekend with some really fabulous people. All of them inspired me in different ways. One person I was chatting with asked me a lot about the creativity coaching I do and how I came to that place. It reminded me just how much healing happened along that path and how important it was for me to excavate what was within ME. As I excavated an authentic life, it naturally began to swirl up and affect others I came in contact with.

As we go within, as we excavate our own passions and interests, we will naturally affect everyone around us. Sharing our gifts requires a deep journey into self, where we find that beauty only we possess. That beauty, brought to the surface of our every day living has the power to not only heal our spirit, but touch others.

I am constantly in awe at all the inspiration I get from kindred spirits that are willing to follow their life's passions and share their gifts. I am constantly in awe at how many people tell me that *I* have done or said something that helped them! In awe because you don't even have to TRY to reach anyone, you just have to stay the course, trusting that which is within and be willing to share. Community is a powerful thing.

Which brings me to my next line of thought...the power of collaberation. But that's for another day.:) Keep trusting the interests you have in your heart, they are the key to an authentic life and deep connections with others. It just keeps getting better.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Growing beyond blame

At the Unschooling Basics list, there was a question about acheiving one's dreams (or the lack thereof) and whether or not it's ok to blame your parents for the damage they did. I'm lifting my response, because I've been thinking about this topic a lot:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So I'm not allowed to blame my parents?"

Depends.
YES, I think you have a right to be angry at their
lack of support. I think anger is the first step to
healing. I think you have every right to examine what
they did wrong, turn it over and look at every angle
and in every light. I think seeing clearly where they
didn't help you, will actually be a very important piece
in letting it go.

So blame them for their actions or lack of actions. BUT,
don't blame them as an excuse for what you are or are not
today. Because now it's up to you. You have a choice to
be bigger and better than their limitations. You have a
right to everything your heart desires. You are worthy
and beautiful and talented. Their limited and limiting view
of YOU is NOT what you are about!! That's it. Simple right?

Disentangling ourselves from our parents view of us is
sometimes more complicated than all that. That's why I believe
it is SO important for us to be that clear/calm pool, so that
we reflect the TRUTH of our children back to themselves, rather
than some distorted view that is filtered through fears and
judgement.

It's a process. One that you can live in each moment. When
you hear that voice saying "I'm not good enough" you can LAUGH
in it's face and say "that isn't ME!! I AM good, I AM talented
I AM successful" YOUR voice wouldn't put you down, would it?
So that must be someone elses voice getting inside your head
and it has no right to be there any longer.:)

Replace all those voices with positive self-talk. Practice
self-kindness and compassion. Give yourself and your
children all that positive talk that your parents could
not give you. Recognize that it wasn't about YOU at all...
it was their own lack and self-perception that allowed them
to rob you of fullness. It was about THEM, not YOU.

Maybe you already know this logically. But I think
emotionally you're hanging onto some of the fears they
dumped on you. They had no right to do it, but they truly
didn't know better. So let it go. Let yourself be the fullest
expression of YOU. You are not defined by anyone elses
expectations or ideas. Go ahead.....be larger than life!!
It's ok to be grand and beautiful and amazing. It's ok
to be in the spotlight. It's ok to be the master and captain
of your ship....don't let anyone tell you differently.:) It's
also ok to surround yourself with people that buy into your
dreams and limit people that aren't going to support it.
Create the world you NEED to nourish yourself and
your BIG dreams. Then simply live the passion each day,
without any limiting ideas of what those dreams look like.
Just BE a singer.
Because you are.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


So the issue of unsupportive parents was addressed, but the part I
keep going back to is the whole idea of our dreams. This person was talking
about shedding a lot of tears the last five years because her dream of
becoming a successful singer has not happened. Life changed and she--like
so many others--essentially gave up on the dream.

The first part of this equation is having a rigid idea of what "success" looks like and holding onto it so tightly we miss the meandering journey that the universe holds for us. Dreams should not be some concrete, static thing that we shoot for. If the joy is in the passion we carry, then the dream IS the passion not some mainstream idea of what FORM that passion should take. Passions are greater than all that. We don't have to achieve a certain status or level of success to be nourished and fed by our passions. That is rather limiting really.

The other part is this........sometimes life throws a few curveballs. Sometimes OUR version of things gets turned upside down. It's what we do with those bits and pieces afterwards that decides whether our passions become a beautiful thing in this journey, or some poignant reminder that we aren't going to have what we thought we wanted.

I have a reminder of this sitting on my bedside table. It's an amateurish attempt at mosaic, my first mosaic. But let me back up a bit;

Once upon a time, in Pensacola Florida I worked one night a week at a ceramics shop. I painted a lot of ceramics back then so it only made sense that my husband recieved one of my creations for a birthday. I painted him a bowl with scenes from our lives on it, the places we lived, the things we'd accomplished and a lovely quote about who he was. It said "You have the heart of a musician, the soul of a dreamer and the mind of an adventurer". Which is still true.

That was the year our marriage came crashing down. I picked up the shattered pieces of my dreams and tried to move forward. They didn't fit quite the way I'd planned. After many months and a lot of heartache, we managed to reconcile and in that reconciliation find much growth.

But we entered into a completely different relationship and marriage than the one we'd had before. If I tried to hold on to MY version of "how things should be", it wouldn't have worked. In going with the flow, in being able to adapt and be creative, we've come to a better place than either of us could have imagined.

Our dreams do this sometimes. Letting go of that concrete version that looks like one thing, helps us achieve MORE. So back to the mosaic.....
That bowl I painted for my husband got dropped one day. It was in many pieces on the floor and I just looked at it and sighed. But I've been carrying those shards of broken ceramic with me. They were formed into the mosaic that sits by my bedside recently. It doesn't look anything like the bowl it first became. There are lovely bits of glass wedged in between, shiny blues and greens and whites.

It's a new and different work of art now. Not worse, not better, just different. It's inspiring in it's own way. Broken pieces don't have to be a reminder of what was lost...it can simply be it's own new and beautiful work. It depends what we do with those shards. In sculpting with those pieces we can find authentic success.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chai recipe





One of our favorite hot drinks around here is my Chai tea. According to Manisha, a friend from Bombay, "Chai" just means tea. So I'm using it in the more American form which means "sweet, creamy, spicy tea from India".

A pot of boiling Chai spices brings most of our family members into the kitchen. "Do I smell Chai cooking?" is the query most often heard or "how long until the Chai is ready?" It's ready when it's ready. Kind of like learning and development.

Soooo....thought some readers might need a creamy, spicy, good-to-your-toes, warming-the-soul kind of drink for this winter. Great for taking with you into meditation areas, for book reading or creating art, but we enjoy it most often clustered around the table with good conversation.

You will need (mind you, there are 6 people in our little family):

5 cups water
5 cups whole, organic milk (yes, organic is better in every way)
3 heaping tsp. whole Cardomon (green pods are best, use level tsp. if not using pods)
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. dried ginger
4-6 cinnamon sticks
4-6 whole allspice
2 Tbs. Loose black tea (optional, we don't always add this but some folks can't have chai without it)
1/2 cup raw sugar (adjust to taste, or allow each person to add their own sweetener)

Place water and all spices on hot stove in large sauce pan, bring to boil. Cover and  lower heat to gently simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat. Add the black tea if using and let sit for 5 minutes with the lid on. Add the milk and sugar, then re-heat (do not boil).
Strain and serve with good humor, warmth and willingness to converse.

Enjoy! I can smell the spices now........
Oh, and now that you have the official recipe, you are expected to serve a pot when good friends come to visit. Yep, even if you live in the hot South.;)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Feel good video for today



This is a photo of my very uninhibited five year old, turning his breakfast crepe into a mask. Inhibitions are interesting things...they allow us to live in society, but they can also keep us from realizing our full potential if we are not mindful about their existence and just what effect they have on our psyche.

My friend Geri created "The Good News Network", which reports all the great things happening in the world. A video she had posted today, brought tears to my eyes. A man stands on the street with a "Free Hugs" sign as part of his Free Hugs Campaign. It's incredible what one human being can do and how letting go of inhibitions opens up the world in amazing ways.

I wondered if *I* would willingly stand on a street corner giving out hugs to strangers? Would you, could you?

Earlier this year, I watched a video about two men dancing on street corners, moving in whatever way they were inspired. It's interesting to watch the reactions and think about our own inhibitions and how that applies to the rest of our lives. Winter of the Dance is inspirational to me, encouraging me to step beyond the boundaries of what is "acceptable" in our society. You can watch the actual video HERE.

I want to dance more freely, I want to embrace that which moves my spirit regardless of whether someone thinks me "strange", I don't want to blend harmoniously with the whole (though at the spirit level I do....) I want to wear my own colors and be perfectly alright if they don't blend in. In short, I want to LIVE and be bold and be crazy and have no regrets when I take my final bow. I'm glad for the free spirits that remind us to do this each and every day!

Anonymous quote:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention
of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up,
totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming to the universe:
Wow — what a ride!"

Monday, September 25, 2006

McElligot's Pool





There's a Dr. Seuss book titled "McElligot's pool" that we picked up from the library this week. A small boy is fishing in a tiny pond, in the middle of a pasture and is asked why on earth he's even bothering because there is only junk at the bottom. This delightfully imaginative child explains all the possibilities that could lie within this small pool. It MIGHT be connected to an underground river that flows underneath the town and out to sea.

He goes on to describe the colorful creatures that he could come in contact with: "I won't be surprised if a dog fish appears! Complete with a collar and long, floppy ears! Whoofing along! And perhaps he might chase a whole lot of catfish right straight to this place!"

At the end he declares: "Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish, if a fellow is patient he might get his wish! And that's why I think that I'm not such a fool when I sit here and fish in McElligot's pool!"

The main character in this book is a true creative spirit. The creative side of us can see possibility everywhere. Even within the mundane or everyday objects and places there is possibility. It is that possibility to grasp a new idea, a new sight, sound or taste that keeps us poking and peering around the next corner, fishing for material in the strangest of places.

I see art in the street, in bathrooms and quiet puddles. I see it in the sky, in people's eyes and in dead birds. We are a type of fisherman, but it's not fish we're after, it's ideas, new material, inspiration....

There's a huge, swirling sea of ideas all around us if we see the world with an artist's eye. At an ATC trade in May I had the privilege of trading with a *young artist. He drew an interesting design on a blank card with the words inscribed "Art is art to those who see it". Smart guy! He's already figured out what so many miss...that art is a way of viewing the world, it's a shift in vision that allows us to find inspiration everywhere.

You've probably got a McElligot's pool right in your own backyard. Don't let the naysayers convince you there's only junk at the bottom, you'll never know what's possible unless you muck around for a bit! Let's go fishing, shall we?

*ATC created by Frederic Camden, traded May 2006 in Peabody MA (all of the Camden kids are really fabulous artists!)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sacred Space









When dealing with the topic of creativity and reclaiming our creative selves, the idea of sacred space often swirls up in conversation. I highly recommend spaces that help your spirit find peace, joy, inspiration...whatever it is that you need.

I have such a space. In altering the function of a closet in my bedroom, I created a meditation area. I was sitting in there tonight, looking around at the items I've chosen to surround myself with and pondering just what the magic combination is for each person. It isn't a static thing, my space is in constant flux as interest and need changes with the seasons of life. Right now, these are some of the items that have found a home in my sacred space:
~A plethora of books, ranging from art and spirituality to the more concrete anatomy and nutrition. Current favorites (some I've read, some are beckoning me) include "Succulent, Wild Women" by Sark, "The Sense of Wonder" by Rachel Carson, "Mamaphonic" edited by Bee Lavender and Mai Rossini, "Traveling Light" by Brian Andreas, "Wild Mind" by Natalie Goldberg, "The Birth House" by Ami McKay, "Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden" by Talbot Whiteman and my very favorites to look at, all the old books I collect like a drug addict.

~An altered shelf I created, upon which sits: A handmade clay tree purchased at Nelson's Fine art, a Quan Yin statue given to me by a dear person that I will never forget, an ATC that a new friend (Darlene) gave to me at the conference to encourage me. The words on this particular ATC are "I can visualize my dreams into reality".
There are other objects, too numerous to list, but all meaningful to my spirit in some unique way.

~A basket of meditation stones. It feels good to hold these, touch them, rub them as you focus on the word inscribed on the stone. The Goddess with the word "love" and the stone with "abundance" are two of my favorite. The large marble that looks like the earth is particularly appealing for some reason.

~A quilt made by my paternal Grandmother that lives in Manning Oregon who used to farm.

~Another quilt made of my late mother's clothing, a truly precious gift that my father gave to each of us girls.

~A buddha statue, looking all serious in the lotus position, next to some bird nests on the floor.

Just now, my sleepy children are snuggled up on pillows and blankets here in my room as I write. Sierra got her "bed" laid out just how she likes it and as she scooched down into softness she smiled brightly and said "It feels SO good to have my bed how I like it."

We all need places and spaces for dreaming. What do our spaces say about us? Are they fulfilling our inner desires for harmony and inspiration? Creating spaces that sing to the soul is important, though for each of us it will look so very different.

What are some of the items in your sacred space?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tea with Ren launch




Ok, so this is a measly start to what I forsee as a sparkly, interesting free-for-all. A friend suggested the title "Tea With Ren" for a book, after visiting my house many times and recalling the large pot of spicy, bubbling Chai I usually have on the stove for visitors. I'm not up for figuring out just what a book of that title would entail, but a blog? Heck yeah.

So here we go. Soon. I promise. Hope you stop by with some good comments, that always makes things more interesting.:) If you have a topic you'd like to see blogged about, feel free to drop me a line at my website, Learning in Freedom.

I figure this might be a good way to get all those thoughts swirling through my mind (night and day) out of my system so I can learn how to sleep like a normal person. Might work, might not. Either way, you'll know exactly what a neurotic mind comes up with in the wee hours of the morn (or night, depending on how you view it!).

Speaking of morn, it's now almost 1am and my babies are probably tired....time for some snuggles...but maybe another cuppa tea first.:)