Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My inbox this morning

The first thing I read in my inbox this
morning was a lovely quote from Storypeople:

Leaves of Music

"She seemed to move
everywhere dancing &
music followed her like
leaves on the wind."

The next one was serendipitously related. There's
something here for me.I recognized the need
for a brain "zap" in regards to my art.
Robert Genn sends out a bi-weekly newsletter
for those that sign up. Here is today's gem:

You are the music

October 30, 2007

Dear Ren,

Neurologist Oliver Sacks's latest book, "Tales of Music
and the Brain," tells of various cranial disorders
that have led tomusical sensitivity and ability.
For example, hit by lightning,a man suddenly begins
to compose and conduct music. Thisreminded me of
the vacationing Augustus John, a mediocre art
student at age 19, diving into the sea at Tenby,
Wales, hitting his head on an underwater rock and
emerging a celebrated genius. The blow did considerable
damage, forced him to take the year 1897 for recovery,
and created a before-and-after scenario that everyone noticed.
Naturally, I've always wondered if this sort of effect
might be artificially produced--some simple clunk to the
head or laying on of hands that hot-wires
candidates to creative success.

Many of us thrive on combinations of strong desire
and relentless application. While relatively slow-going,
this has been the traditional and sensible route toward
creative evolution. Natural genius may speed things up.
But you may have noticed that natural geniuses sometimes
don't go far. They too may need a lightning strike to
fully manifest. An epiphany, a door suddenly closed,
or perhaps some form of hysteria--self-generated
or inflicted from without--might just
be the catalyst.

In "Four Quartets," T.S. Elliot writes,
"You are the music; while the music lasts."
One has insights, makes progress and
gets results only while the music is being made.
And this goes for easel time too. Elliot's poem
suggests the special state required for the creative act.
Concepts like "flow" involve being one with the
activity--a kind of psychic space unlike
ordinary life.

The idea of bold, frenetic, compulsive or obsessive
action as the great begetter of art is at the core
of this sort of thinking. "Boldness has genius,
power and magic," said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
"Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin,
and the work will be completed." Goethe was no
stranger to unkindly blows, either. Funnily,
or perhaps not funnily, the hindrances to bold
action line up like the deadly sins--laziness,
sloth, indifference, boredom, etc. Getting hit
on the head may be the blessed event that invites
creative being and acting. We are tasered--and
our work continues to taser us. Stunned, we stay
on the job. Sensitized and electrified, we make
gains by simply doing it. There are worse
things that can happen to people.

Best regards,


PS: "I have often seen quite demented patients
recognize and respond vividly to paintings and
delight in the act of painting at a time when
they are scarcely responsive, disoriented, and
out of it." (Oliver Sacks)

Esoterica: Strict instructions to wannabe
artists don't always work. Directions like
"go to your room and work five hours a
day and produce 30 finished works a month"
can trigger the old self-sabotage response.
There's something else. Somehow the
neural tissue needs to be realigned so
the artist sets a new course of his own volition.
In my observation, it's a self-anointed,
narcissistic ego-force that awakens the mad
mentor within. Artist, zap thyself.


Self anointed. Autodidacts. Ego-force.

Yes, there is something truly magical about just doing,
deciding a thing is worth your time and then taking
steps toward it. So simple, yet it
slips through our fingers so easily.

I hear so many people in society saying things like
"I wish ________" fill in the blank with whatever
thing they long for that they've decided is not
in the stars for them. Or that famous "If__________"
fill in the blank again with the excuse about why
they can't do something they long to do.

We choose. We choose with our life and if the life we
have isn't what we want, it was simply a series of
choices that led us to the life we don't want. So make
different choices.

Different choices look small. They look like unimportant
things we do each and every day. They look like meals
and who we are with and what we choose to give our energy to
and ways we respond to stimulus. It looks like very small
stuff indeed. But in those small choices we build a life.

I believe in building a life worth living.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Late night

So it's 2:21am here in Eastern Tennessee and I'm wondering why I have no new email. Doesn't anyone else stay up half the night? Doesn't anyone else get energetic around midnight? Anyone? Hellooooooo.....

I've always been a night owl. My kids are too. Society doesn't seem to understand us. It's like you're a bad parent if your kids aren't in bed by a certain time and you must be a little bit "off" if you stay up until the wee hours of the morning.

Some of us are just programmed that way I guess. It isn't insomnia because I sleep hard once I lay down...
...unless some random thoughts start tripping around my brain. But that's unpredictable. It happens while falling asleep at times, early in the morning at other times (and believe me, I will NOT be awake early unless absolutely necessary or while camping).

Does anyone else have thoughts that force them to the computer at random times? Typing out your thoughts so they'll leave you the hell alone? I feel like that Amy Steinberg song; "I'm so sick of taking shit from my inner child, I wish she'd take a fucking nap or just stay quiet for a little while"
Yeah. Just for a while.
Let me organize my thoughts before a new one comes along, teasing and pestering the far corners of my brain. Pushing me to write, to create, to ponder.

We worked on Halloween costumes today. Jalen makes a perfectly adorable "Link" (from the video game series Zelda) and Ciara's "Corpse Bride"(Tim Burton movie) is slowly coming together. Jared's custom vampire fangs fit perfectly and I'm packing a box to mail to Trevor who has not decided when he's coming home yet. It's strange without him. I guess it's practice for when he moves out, but I'm not ready. Not yet. Maybe never.

I just wonder where all the other night owls are right now. 2:30am is a lonely time. Even with night owl kids around....they eventually give up and go to sleep like sane people. It's a quiet world outside. I'm missing Trevor and wondering how a person like me ever gets out of debt. Random thoughts. Typing to try and sort it all out. Feeling like crying because my oldest baby shouldn't be old enough to move away, or talk about marriage or anything of the sort because I don't feel old enough to be his mother. Everyone tries to warn you how fast childhood goes. You don't believe them until your child is an adult and then you scratch your head and wonder what happened.

Things like spilled food or broken mugs or cuss words or matted hair or dirty clothes or not brushing your teeth are insignificant really. It's the jokes and stories and playing in mud and making honey milk and eating nachos at 2am and Dracula movies and Link costumes and Obos and kittens climbing your leg and being ok with it all. No, not just being ok with it but reveling in it, enJOYing it, embracing this messy, inconvenient and miraculous thing called parenthood.

When your kid leans down to hug you someday, what do you want them to remember? A parent that dropped everything to go get a hissing cockroach and ended up with a rabbit instead? A parent that jumped into the tub with their clothes on? Or a parent that followed the rules and made them brush their teeth and worried about eating some Red40? Life is short. Childhood is even shorter. In some cases far shorter than anyone could have imagined.

Willie Wonka said "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dream". The dream is to be a memory maker. That's what we parents are; memory makers. They should be damn good ones in the time we have. I think filling up your life with good memories is better than worrying about making your life a longer one. Fill up the years you have with the best stuff possible. Drink coffee like it's the most healing elixir on earth, and it will be. Make it good. That's what it's all about.

I miss my son. I smile at the smaller one looking like Link in the hammock chair right now. I sigh at my sweet Ciara snuggled in bed,having given up on her Mum coming to bed anytime soon. We have costumes to complete tomorrow, we have a box to mail and bills to pay. Before then I need to sleep. Soon. Truly I will. I'm just glad I don't have to hide a book with a dim light and spend the first half of a school day struggling to stay awake. School was hell for me that way. Nobody drags me out of bed or dumps water on me to wake me anymore. When morning must intrude on my sleep, a coffee will do the trick. A warm, comforting cuppa. My choice. My way. Nobody else to dictate my sleep schedule.

I'm a night owl. Happily so. Anyone up for some chit chat? I'm here.:)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zen moments

In creating Zen moments, or pausing to honor the Zen within, I am often struck by the beauty and grandeur of simple things. This gunpowder tea for instance. It begins as little, pebbly lumps of dry leaves. So tightly furled as to be unrecognizable. Kind of like a soul that has been molded and shaped for too long.

When those lumps of leaves meet with hot water, something truly divine begins to happen. They unfurl. Splendidly. Gracefully. An ethereal dance with the meeting of nature and man (or woman in this case).:)

I always watch in awe, as the leaves begin to open, share their flavor with the water and begin the slow, spinning swirl to the bottom of the french press.

Those tiny, pebbly beginnings do not tell of the leaf shape inside, but it's there all the same, waiting for it's moment to share goodness with those that stop to partake, showing it's origins and the plant it came from. The process is one I cherish. Not only the awakening of the leaves and the idea of unfurling, but the straining process...

...which leaves behind an amber colored liquid, reflecting sunlight, hinting at warmth and comfort for the soul.

We add a bit of sweetness in the form of raw sugar. It swirls in it's own dance to the bottom of the cup, dissolving ever so slowly in the amber warmth.

Pure Zen.
Pause and reflect.
Cherishing simple things.

Warm the soul.



The universe

in a



gunpowder tea.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life lesson in a poem

Listening to NPR on my way to work yesterday, they recited a poem that brought tears to my eyes. I wrote about the idea of a "beautiful mess" before. This poem really hit home for me yesterday.

I go through something I call "grieving cycles" where I feel sad and mourn for the things I've lost in this life. It seems to come and go, as natural as any other cycle. I'm beginning to wonder if it's always near the full moon.

Not sure if it's all the strawberries that remind me of my Mum, or the full moon, but I've been missing her lately. I was thinking about her, and about Hannah and my friend Ricky and some other people I carry with me always.....when this poem came over the air. There has also been a push lately, in my heart, to get closer to the earth, get closer to a truly sustainable way of life.....which feels so far away at times but I keep on taking baby steps. For me, it's taking steps toward authenticity. So perhaps you'll understand why this poem tugged at my heartstrings so.

It's titled "Advice to Myself" by Louise Erdrich. I won't re-post the entire poem, as that may be problematic due to copyright laws. This segment represents the poem well:

" Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart."

Read it. Really. I believe I shall frame it and read it every day......to remind me of what is really important in life. Because we all need reminders. And life is too short to not pursue the authentic, even if it takes a bit of "selling out" to get there.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Cuppa....

After a busy and slightly overwhelming week, I got a pause this morning to re-connect with abundance. Having just cleaned up the kitchen from yesterday's feast, I celebrated by brewing a cuppa tea before starting in on preparation for leaving town in the morning.

The words on my tea bag made me pause. I smiled. I thought about all the good things surrounding me and I reflected on last night.

We enjoyed a Birthday celebration, surrounded by friends, talented musicians, food and good beer (always a plus). Some moments stand out of course......

~My wee man (6years of age) blowing up a balloon then releasing the air under a ladies mini-skirt. Oh yes, it flew up high, causing a movie-like effect. It was beautiful.

~Dancing with my 10 year old as she and I pretended to do the Tango. Is that why my neck hurts this morning?

~Watching my friend smile as the room swelled with food and people to celebrate her special day.

~Watching my three children that attended, run up and down the sidewalk making loud noises with the contraption that wee man invented; a noisemaker stripped of the paper parts, shoved inside a balloon and blown up over and over again to make a looooooooong lasting noise.

~Shuffling to music that involved something called a "gut bucket" ...I'm pretty sure that's a southern thing.:)

~Holding hands with the man I married almost 18 years ago, and not only enjoying his presence but thinking how very attractive he was.

~Wearing high heeled, sassy boots and not having my foot hurt at all (just some dull ache to remind me the burn is there) while dancing last night.

~Waking up to a messy kitchen, which reminded me of all the fun we had yesterday.

~Getting said kitchen cleaned up and starting the food prep for a wonderful trip tomorrow.

Then I'm thinking about getting on the road to meet up with more friends and watch my joyful children be with some of their favorite people in the whole world down at the Carolina coast. I was feeling happy that my foot has healed for the most part (burned it a couple weeks ago pretty severely) and I'm making cinnamon rolls today.

I was also grateful for the good friends we ate Easter dinner with yesterday....our "created" family. We were filled up yesterday. Filled up with connections and beer and food and hugs and dancing and jokes and smiles and noisemakers and craziness.

As I stood there with my happy feelings, I looked over at my mug of tea steeping. The tag hung out and upon it there were three words; Cup of Joy, and I knew what I wanted to blog about.

What's in your cup of joy today?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A beautiful mess

Life is messy. Plain and simple.

I chose this picture because it is a good example of the beautiful messes we make because we're alive and well. I've been feeling a bit empty lately. Lots of feelings and ideas, but without the tools to put any of it into words. Messy stuff these emotions.

When we dance, we get sweaty.
When we love, sometimes there is hurt.
When we travel, there is discomfort.
When we paint or make films or have babies or bake cinnamon rolls or drive or garden or grow we make MESS. Big, beautiful messes. Messes that are usually fixable, but sometimes not. Our words can cause joy or pain. Our actions, our choices, our passions and dreams are all connected to mess.

Life is just messy stuff isn't it? So rather than try to put into words how I feel that joy and mess are interconnected, I figured I'd just ask you all what you think. If anyone is left to read this, after my neglect of this blog. :)

How is your life a beautiful mess? What makes a beautiful mess anyway? What passions do you have that connect the joy and the pain and the creations and the mess? How do you embrace the yin/yang of it all?

Everything that matters most to me in this life has involved mess or pain of one kind or another. I suppose we can't have the great moments, without the messy parts. Sometimes we glide through moments like a graceful skater on moonlit ice....other times we fumble around like a drunk in a dark room. But we keep on reaching, keep on dreaming, keep on living and dying don't we?

The idea of a "Beautiful Mess" was inspired by my friend Jenn, someone I've yet to meet in real life who inspires me constantly. She wrote:

" No matter who you are or what you want, it will always be about a beautiful mess. It will be about what you go out to find, even if only right outside your front door. It's not always waiting for you in the remote places; it's how you feel about being remote and what you do with those feelings. It's not in the crowds in those places on earth, it's right inside you. Your soul is waiting for words from others. Wanting to absorb them and learn from them. Waiting to put them into the right categories. That is the mission in life. A sorting machine is what I am. What you are. What all is. Sorting things and absorbing their meaning is like fuel for a fire or food for thought. It's what you do with it that matters in life. Nothing else. It's all about what you do with your own beautiful mess. How you absorb it. What you feel. What you do with those feelings."