Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring Cleaning (Art Sale!)

In my pre-Cowgirl days, regularly I would toss my bike into the back of my pick-up truck (yes, truly a lifetime and two cars ago) and head over to an amazing trail that afforded me 16, 25, and 40 mile riding options. Heading out, the trail seemed flat but slowly gains altitude until I hit a nice patch of hills that would take me up and down and up and down through wooded areas and rolling farmlands. I carried snacks to fortify me and to celebrate the turning around point, although the longer trek had an ice cream shop as its incentive for schlepping over more hills. But the real treat was the return ride with its gradual decline which meant long stretches of coasting, sitting upright and hands off handle bars to savor the view and the exhilaration of cool air washing over sweaty skin and tired muscles. 

It's been years - no, more than a decade! - since I rode that trail, yet it came to mind as I tried to explain to a friend how I am feeling right now after sloughing through a series of emotional hills since my mother died.  Some weeks things seemed smooth-ish although there still was the sense of effort, the need to keep peddling, keep moving. Then came a number of steep hills: all the firsts one goes through in the initial year of mourning. My first birthday without my mother; first Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and now Easter. I actually have traversed much of the steepest terrain with Mother's Day as the last big hurdle. 




So right now, I feel like I am in the coasting section... the fast flying over stretches of time and geography ... moments of pure exuberance as I engage with renewed enthusiasm in favorite creative practices.  It helps that Spring is ushering in gentle and cleansing rains, greening the landscape around me while the birds add their raucous soundtrack to my days. I've been Spring cleaning while whistling a happy tune and as I pause to catch my breath, I see a number of old friends needing new homes.




I literally have paintings stacked against the walls in my home. (I once joked after watching a documentary on the painter Alice Neel whose New York apartment held corridors of canvases 2 to 3 pictures deep that this would be Cowgirl's inheritance) Many paintings have stood by my fireplace, warming my heart and hearth throughout the previous seasons.  It is time for them to find good homes.

Here then is my blog-exhibit: Spring Cleaning!

Each piece available for adoption purchase has a link to its own page (click on the title) with full information on size, materials, and price.  If you are interested in giving a painting a good home (ahem, purchasing a piece), just leave me a comment on the appropriate page or send me an email and I will make arrangements for payment and calculate shipping cost. 

Email: Lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)com)  
Shipping to U.S. destinations will range in price from around $7 for small pieces to $10 for the larger ones.


Baby Ganesha

xoxo (Girl 1)

xoxo (Girl 2)

Buck's Magic


Hopeful (Fox and Bird)


Mermaid


Rooted (Rabbit)


Believe & Receive

Seeing all of these friends from the past year arranged in one space, I get a little weepy thinking about the journey they have taken me on.  I know it is time to release them, to share their magic with others.  They have been part of the uphill journey; now it is time to let them (and myself) enjoy a stretch of coasting, a period of celebration and release.    


Friday, April 3, 2015

finally, friday (and a Good one)

More often than not, it is the simple things that bring the greatest joy. 


 


Realizing that over the years, we have established our own traditions. For whatever reason, when I was a child my family didn't dye eggs.  Probably my mother thought it would be too much of a mess. So I am just as enthusiastic as Cowgirl when it comes to pulling out the Paas egg dye cups and mixing all the colors.



In a season of continual losses (I just learned a neighbor passed away last night) I am mindful of the choices available to me: fear or trust, regret or gratitude, clinging or letting go, despair or celebration.






Again and again, I find my practice consists of choosing to open, choosing hope, choosing love.

Happy Egg Moon, happy Easter!
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

the price of belonging ...

To belong ... or forge one's own way? That IS the question, isn't it?



As I watch my girl navigate the choppy waters of fourth grade social cliques, I realize I haven't progressed much myself in terms of understanding when the desire to belong may come at too high a price. Always lurking underneath my surface is a fear of losing my self in the gambit to be a part of something larger than my tribe of one. 

So too for my dragon girl, the desire to be a part of a group often clashes with a strongly developed sense of who she is and what she believes in.  We are moving carefully through the minefield of what to share and what to keep to ourselves.  I am trying to teach her that people have to earn the right to be trusted with her innermost truths. Her relationship with dragons (and fairies and gnomes) is one such tender area deserving of special privilege.

For me the slippery slope in belonging is too easily I lose sight of my direction and I begin to navigate by a set of values that are not my own. Or like my experience singing in a choir, surrounded by other voices I lose my voice and fall into tune with whoever sings the strongest.

Perhaps belonging isn't really the issue?  Perhaps what challenges me (and my independent girl) is the act of holding firm (and confident) to the differences that make us unique while seeking common ground with others? Not to downplay the pressure to conform which is at the heart of my girl's struggles, but in my case no one is pushing me to abandon my path for theirs.  Rather, I too easily fall into doubting myself. It may be a matter of believing another's way would be easier, mapped out and certain whereas I am totally on my own over here in the dark unknown. 



This has been quite an a-ha for me.  It's also dawning on me that perhaps the bulk of rigid constraints I find myself thrashing against are, more often than not, self inflicted and maintained. 

Yeah.  Wow. Just beginning to glimpse the full expanse of those two perspectives and the freedom they reveal.

Meanwhile, I admit feeling woefully inadequate to translate any of this into something useful for a  fourth grader.  The best I can hope to do is to help my girl strengthen her relationship with spirit and source which - like her - is still developing, still forming.  To nurture the core of who she is, modeling a reverence and valuing of her uniqueness while also emphasizing being a part of some larger group does not require her to abandon her way of moving through life. As I write this, I realize I am still speaking to myself here.

So, maybe I should take a page from Cowgirl's playbook and plug in my iPod and sing at the top of my lungs (flat and off key of course!) because it releases what pounds at the boundaries of my heart.  Walking side by side with my girl, singing our own songs, together but true to the call of our wild, dragon selves. Let that be my practice.




Perhaps my biggest a-ha is to acknowledge I don't need to have all the answers (for her or for myself)  but that staying true to oneself is to allow oneself to discover her own way ... and to get lost once in awhile because then we discover we have the ability to make our way back again. and again. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'tis the season (& don't let the turkeys get you down)

 I couldn't resist ...


Actually, I am always excited to see turkey.  He comes around a lot when I am with Cowgirl and his presence reminds me abundance is always afoot.

Still, as the calendar pages flip over to a new season I remember: transitions are always dicey.  Stepping off a stable dock and into a wobbly boat, usually there is someone ready to assist with a steadying hand. How then to step out of winter's inertia and into the energy of Spring without slipping or falling?  What steadies me?

Even thought it is still March, I find myself reciting the opening lines to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land":

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering     
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.


There is something challenging in the promise of Spring finding its foundation in the death and decay of Winter. I remember according to Ayurveda the three qualities - the Gunas -  that describe all of existence: tamas (inertia, darkness, impurity), rajas (energy, action, change, movement) and sattva (balance, unity, purity). These principles also describe the cycles of creation, preservation (living), and destruction that are in constant motion even though we prefer not to dwell on the fact that the only certainty in life is that things - ourselves included - will change, will never stay the same.




I catch myself thinking that death seems to be winning.  So many around me have been touched by loss in recent months.  Just this week a neighbor went to the hospital and it is unlikely that he will be returning home. Yet this is the way of life: birth, living, then death. The cycle isn't amplifying so much as I am noticing it more. 

Winter is tamas: the time of rest, decay, the natural conclusion to all that growth and activity of the previous seasons. When the time comes, when Spring arrives, it brings with it energy - heat, sun, light - to awaken the earth and to start the cycle of living/growing once again. So too I must reinvigorate myself. I must generate within myself some heat, some energy and coming out of a dark phase, this is always clunky, always challenging.

Thankfully, I have a few go-to moves that I've collected over the years.  Actions that help jump-start my day and in turn my inner engine so that I find myself moving in the direction of wholeness, happiness, joyful action transforming into joyful being.




It's really ridiculously simple.  I attend to the clutter. I find an rhythm to my day. Tidying up the morning breakfast, feeding the dog, then heading upstairs where I toss a load of laundry into the wash. There is  something about tackling the ever-present piles of dirty clothes that acts as a reset button.  It is my feeble nod towards productivity. I may get little else done, but there will be some clean clothes by the end of the day. I then hop in the shower and after I have bathed and dressed, I go through the house opening up all of the blinds, letting in the morning light.

Spring cleaning ... it makes total sense.  Before new growth can happen, I've got to clear out the death wood, tidy and prepare the way so whatever wants to be born has a place to land.  I'm itching to get outside, but the weather gods are not ready for me just yet. 



Inside there is plenty of half baked projects shouting out for my attention.  I start small, finding paintings in various states of completion ...



Pushing paint is what my one friend calls it ...  getting the juices flowing ... I know from past experience it doesn't matter so what I do as long as I do something. It is about stoking the internal fire, moving energy.  Some of the best advice I received from a yoga mentor was to consider before eating which foods would give me energy versus take energy to digest and assimilate. Expanding upon that idea, what can I do to support healthy energy flow within myself?  

The answer for me has been taking time to read, reflect, and meditate; daily prayer outside; cooking and consuming fresh foods, exploring new recipes; exercise (oh to run in the warm sunshine); and play. Lots and lots of creative play.



In the face of so much loss, there is a pull towards collapse, an impulse towards inertia.  The only valid response to death - in my humble opinion - is to live. The counterpoint to tamas is rajas, action. Both are necessary, both are part of the ever moving wheel of birth, life, death and the dance of opening, receiving, and releasing.  

The way I move out of Winter mode and into Spring is to follow the energy. Nurture and support it and then allow it to support and carry me. I am amazed to discover there has been so much all around me, so much waiting to engage and awaken me.

paintings in various states of completion; my intention is to offer them for sale soon!


What are you finding as you move out of Winter's cave and back into the sunshine? What gets your juices flowing?

 




Welcoming the mystery, relaxing into the not knowing is one way to navigate through the transitions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

gentle transitions ...

Tomorrow would have been her birthday. 

She would have been ninety.



A Spring baby ... the youngest of three children and the only girl ... I wonder what blessings her mother bestowed upon her when she was fresh and new? What secret hopes did my grandmother hold in her heart, in her dreams for her only girl child?

This Spring arrives in the nick of time.  I know grief is not finished with me, but I am ready for the heaviness within to lighten and I feel my heart turning towards the horizon, towards new beginning, new cycles and new growth.

For months I have been in deep conversation with the Moon ... unraveling her meaning for me and coming to understand the extent to which she illuminates my relationship with my mother and with myself. My moon mandala practice has ushered me into the mysteries of Maiden/Mother/Queen/Crone and unusual for me, I am relaxing into an understanding that lies beneath language, below what the mind can grasp.  



I tried to explain to the Husband how my relationship with my mother is best described by the moon: how all my life has been a continual journeying out and away from her, collecting experiences, gathering knowledge and but always orbiting back to be seen and understood by her light. Now I journey out and I must make myself return ... I must find a new source of illumination to guide me, a new anchor to hold my sense of self tethered to life.

I am finding my way through simple practices.  Each morning I feed myself one poem, moving mindfully and attentively through River Flow: New & Selected Poems by David Whyte.  



As someone prone to gobbling books up, it is beneficial practice to make myself take time and care, savoring the words, the lines, the rhythm of his art.

I am cycling back to beginnings, remembering how it felt when I first returned to creative play years ago. The simple pleasure of gathering materials, creating bright, colorful things because they pleased me, they brightened my day. 



Getting out of my way and cleansing myself of thoughts about Bigness and Importance and Grand Acts. Enjoying the simple, the playful, the tiny bright moments that lift my spirit and refresh my heart.  

These are all things she would understand ... she delighted in my creative play while quietly pursuing her own.  I mark her birthday with colorful adornment (she was known for her stylish outfits, beautifully coordinated and accessorized) ...




and I honor this season of new beginnings, new growth, and new opportunities to choose Love. I honor the mystery that calls me forward, that carries me through the darkness for I know in my cells, in my soul, it brings me home.

And so to these
unspoken shadows
and this broad night
I make
a quiet
request
to the
great paternal 
darkness
to hold her
when I cannot,
to comfort her
when I am gone,
to help her learn
to love
the unknown
for itself, 
to take it 
gladly 
like 
a lantern
for the way
before her,
to make her see
where ordinary light
cannot help,
where happiness had fled,
where faith
will not reach.
-David Whyte (excerpt from My Daughter Asleep)

 


Happy Birthday Momma. I lean against your cloak of darkness and I feel your love. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

conjuring love ...

I am finishing up my HeartFull Living circle and what a magical gathering it has been! With one more post to go up, I woke today wondering where to find inspiration?  I didn't have to look too far ...


Can you believe it?  From a smudge of grime or dirt on my front door window this rainbow heart appeared on the wood floor.  I couldn't have create such a perfect heart if I had tried! The art historian in me can't help but think of the stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals and how light was understood by the Medieval to be an instrument and aspect of the divine.

Certainly we've been conjuring up love over here ...




creating farewell offerings to send out to the women who circled with me this past month. 



Keeping hands busy stitching and embellishing a new set of prayer flags (part of Em Falconbridge's A Year of Soul*Makes offering) has the entire house humming with creative play. Messages from HeartFull living spilling over into my day, my work, my world ...

 


Trying not to think too much, but relax and enjoy the flow.  The theme of the new season seems to be love and mandalas ...



Which isn't all that unusual as I am working under deadline to complete my contribution to Spectrum 2015, Mandala Moon Meditations.  I've got mandala fever and am excited to be sharing my monthly moon mandala practice there.  Tuning into the moon's energies, creating my mandalas, working with ceremony - all these activities are fueling insights as I shift through the layers of daughter/mother/queen/crone which seems to be the hidden wisdom within my grieving process. 

a sneak preview of my Moon Mandala Meditations process; visit Spectrum 2015 to learn more


And as Spring awakens new growth within me, projects are popping up including a  collaborative learning/sharing lunar cycle circle with my wise and inspired sister, Kristina Wingeier as part of her Inner Wisdom School.

Oh, much love and magic is afoot ... I dare not think too much.  Just opening and receiving and saying thank you thank you thank you ...


Beauty + imagination + conversation = love.  That's my kind of sacred mathematics.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

what is lost ...

Last Saturday ... oh, last Saturday!  Saturdays are busy days for us ... sleeping in means an extra hour of sleep (which I argue is NOT sleeping in ...) and a breakfast pace only a smidge leisurely compared to school days.  I have to rouse Cowgirl to head into town for our Chinese class. It is not her favorite way to spend the morning, but it is what we do.

 

I say we because for years I attended Chinese language class by myself. When Cowgirl was old enough, I started back at book one with her.  I held my head high in those early days having mastered "Hello. My name is Lisa.  What is your name?"  and "I like green. What color do you like?" Not fluent, but rattling off my phone number in Chinese sounds impressive. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I can barely hold my chin above water.  The class transitioned from conversation to reading and writing which causes my brain to cramp. Seriously. I'd swear you could hear gears grinding and pieces of my mind breaking off with a rattling clattering clunkAnd then that hissing sound of an exhausted engine.



I joke (but it is true) that together Cowgirl and I are a B+ student.  Divided, we would be crushed under the 公共汽车 (Gong gong qiche - bus).  The teacher is very kind, generous and patient which makes it all the harder when the verbal grilling begins.  今天天气怎么样We startle, looking at each other in panic, Cowgirl hissing at me "You're suppose to help me!" and me snapping back "You should know this!"  We (by which I mean "I") talk a lot about being more kind to each other in Chinese class and about the work of learning and how anything worthwhile is often challenging and requires effort and patience. Yes, Cowgirl's eyes glaze over and I'm sure what she hears is yadda yadda yadda Chinese

When the hour and a half class is over, there is an audible gasp of pressure being released.  Usually we head home but this past Saturday I had errands I wanted to run while in town.  So off we went to the Asian market to pick up the rice crackers Cowgirl loves. She gave me grief when I first bought them.  "Hello Kitty crackers?!" She was concerned they might tarnish her image (the logos she prefers are KU Jayhawks and Nike) but her fear of trying another brand that she might not like outweighed her disdain of cute, girlie things. 

Then we got wild. Impulsive.  We bought a new soup bowl (so now we have three! Once for each of us) and a much needed rice cooker to replace the one falling apart. After the market we had one more errand which brought us in the vicinity of the French Bread bakery.  "Let's swing in for a roll!" I gleefully suggested. Cowgirl does not like bread products except for artisan breads. Of course.  So we ducked into the warm and bustling bakery café.  It had begun to snow outside making the bakery that much more inviting, the smells more intoxicating and tempting.  We bought croissants, a baguette and some soup to take home for the Husband who was sick in bed with a man cold. We had to wait for the soup. Standing off to the side, Cowgirl proceeded to eat her entire croissant while I eyeballed a giant cookie.  

We waited. And waited. Usually (I am ashamed to say) I can be impatient waiting. I am ready to be off to the next event. But this day -  with the snow gently falling, the hum of conversation in the café,  the whirl of the bread slicer, and the fragrant smells wafting out from the kitchen - I was content to steep myself in the moment.  And it was a moment. Golden and rich like the croissant my girl wolfed down. A moment that I could sense transmuting into a memory that I would call upon at some later date.  Realizing that, I leaned in to kiss the top of my girl's head and to whisper to her "I love spending time with you."

Then it hit me.  A collision of memory. Past and future sandwiched together. This moment with my girl (linked to so many other similar moments we've created or shared) with memory of moments with my mother.  Other bakeries (a theme there?), other excursions, adventures in suburban travel, meals in special, tucked out-of-the-way places and journeys through museum labyrinths, movies and books and stories experienced and shared together.  It overwhelmed me, the tidal wave of all that memory, of all those moments with my mother, each one a pearl on a long strand looped about my heart. 

When I say I lost my mother, I realize what I mean is I've lost a keeper of memories.  I've lost the person who could confirm details, fill in the gaps. I've lost a companion who could travel with me back through the delight of treasured moments.  With both my parents gone, I've lost the only record to my earliest days, the years before my memory clicked on. 

I am finding my mother in new ways. In a song, in the call of the Blue Jay, in a favorite recipe, a joke, a story, the smell of her perfume, and in moments with my girl.  I know the foundation for my relationship with my daughter is strong and stable as it rests upon the deep bond my mother and I shared.  I know that as much as I may mourn the gradual fading of memories held by myself and my mother, new ones created by me and Cowgirl will flood in to fill the space.  




It isn't that I've lost my mother but that I've lost the beginning of my story. I suppose the beauty is I can continue writing the rest of the tale. It's completely mine now and I honor her by living it fully, with gratitude, with awareness of each sacred moment.