Monday, May 31, 2010

From Where I Stand ... (Best Shot Monday)

These are the things that are pleasing my spirit right now:

Saturday mornings at the farmer's markets (yes, we have many to choose from!) and the excitement of new discoveries such as this:

Chinese Spinach which is a magnificent purple color. It is so pretty, it has to be healthy!

New projects (can we say electric drill - yes, learning how to use new tools) from The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole. I already made a name plate for Cowgirl and was inspired to make this one as a gift for a dear friend's new baby. Look at those impossibly tiny and equally precious toes!

Speaking of new tools, I am dabbling more with Photo Shop and learning tons from Susan Tuttle's new book Digital Expressions. If I only had hours to spend playing around. This digital collage sums up where I am right now:

But at the end of the day, here is where my passion and my heart lies:

Seriously, can it get any better?

Happy Memorial day ... what are you taking time to celebrate?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Full Flower Dreaming (Dreamboard)

I absolutely loved the prompt for this month's full moon, known as the Full Flower Moon. This is a particularly powerful full moon where we are invited to dream big and envision ourselves in full bloom, our spirit bursting forth into its fullest expression. (For a really insightful discussion of the meaning around this full moon, visit Monica on Bohemian Shadows.) How to capture that was a challenge that I almost didn't take.

Yesterday was a crazy day, being Cowgirl's last regular day at her preschool (she will be attending summer school there; but in the fall will be starting kindergarten at the nearby public school.) I was unexpectedly emotional saying goodbye to teachers who have been a part of our lives for 3 years now. The school hosts a end of year picnic which meant an afternoon of cooking and baking and then a mad dash back into town to attend. Lots of good food, lots of families and kids running around the park, popsicle juice flowing, water fights ensuing ... a wonderfully mad and crazy day. But what was even more crazy was having a chance to meet this woman who not only lives in my town (although she is moving) and is an amazing photographer, but she is also collaborating with my very favorite photographer, the lovely Susannah, on an upcoming book on Polaroid photography. Such an inspiration to talk with her and learn a little bit more about her story.

Flying high just thinking about her work, and pumped up by a rich conversation with another in-process mother/writer/creative soul (Joey, are you reading this? If you had a blog I'd be linking you right now!) I came home and shot tons of photos of a very tired and dirty (but always picturesque) Cowgirl getting ready for bed. All this is a long winded way of saying: I am beginning to taste the energy of this full moon and she is big my friends!

So even though I am a day late, I got up this morning inspired to put down my thoughts on this full moon.

What I am seeing evolving in my life is connection. When I am in full flower, I am connected and connecting. Giving and receiving. Inspired by and hopefully inspiring (just sending the energy and love back out.) Drinking deeply from the well of creativity and on fire with ideas and energy; transforming my life into art and art into my life. Looking deeply, taking action. And defying gravity - notions of what is and is not possible - to arrive at a place of new possibilities, new perspectives (not to mention the playful joy of inverting oneself!) I am using more of my own images in my journal pages and it feels good to recognize I am capturing all the inspiration I could ever need from this small life of mine.

And finally, I am embracing the notion that I am finding my way. I am uncertain what form my flower will take, but I am enjoying this process. Even the notion of being lost is really just a matter of perspective. Upside down, lost is just another door leading to discovery.

There are lots of ways to make a wish these days ... go on, I dare you. What is your full flower moon telling you?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wishcasting: My Space

What do I wish for my space?

Lovely prompt Jamie!

I wish for my space to be a place where love, creativity and understanding thrive.

I wish for my space to be an invitation to all who enter to relax, reflect, feel safe and able to ask their questions, speak their truth, seek and offer support and guidance.

I wish for my space to encourage all to believe in themselves, trusting that we each carry what is needed to uncover the answers.

I wish for my space to be a place of comfort, refreshing and renewing everyone's energy, spirit and soul.

I wish to carry this space within me. And I wish for all to know their own spaces of beauty and power that rest within.

Shhh ... listen ... look ... right there ... in the pause between each breath ... in the space between beat each thump of your heart ... now can you feel it?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 20): Art Saves

This week the ever-inspiring Connie from Dirty Footprints Studio and creator of Art Journal Love Letters is guest curator over on Crescendoh telling her story for the Art Saves series. Click over to read and to see Yours Truly (and my postcards) spotlighted by Connie - an unexpected honor!

Connie's piece and the series Art Saves got me thinking about the role art has played in my life. As a kid I loved to color and paint. I took the usual pottery classes at the local museum; my parents paid for me to have private lessons with a woman who taught me all about proper proportions and alignment when it comes to the human face (not that you can tell from any of my current drawings); and I spent hours in my room drawing in notebooks pictures of rock stars, horses and for some reason, squirrels.

But the moment that changed my perspective and my life was when my mother took me to the Metropolitan Museum in New York to see an exhibit of Monet's paintings from Giverny. What I remember was walking through the galleries surrounded by paintings of waterlilies and Japanese bridges and feeling transported to another place and time. Not long after that, I got to see a retrospective exhibit of Georgia O'Keeffe's art and I was hooked. What captured my attention was the sense of total engagement with the world depicted on the canvas. As the viewer, I was being offered the opportunity to step into the eyes and skin of another person and experience their world, their perspective.

Studying art history, I loved the process of immersing myself into the culture, the events, the experiences of the artist as expressed through their work. And now as I use art making as a way to understand my life I am coming full circle in terms of appreciating Art's power to connect us. In making art of any kind, I am acknowledging my perspective, my beliefs and celebrating my individuality through the work. But what happens when my art goes out into the world and when I explore the work of others is a realization of our commonality, of an underlying Unity that connects us all.

How has Art Saved Me?

Art has saved me in that it allows me to tap into the universal energy, Shakti if you will, that pulsates through all life. When creating, I am in flow and I am connected to something bigger than myself - Creation/Source/Life. When I look at your art or read your words, I see how she moves through you. Celebrating our differences, I can see the ways in which we are all one.

Art is about wanting to understand and hoping to be understood. Art saves me in that it has leads me again and again back to myself. Through art, I am found. Through art, I experience myself as enough. Through art I recognize my place in the flow of life. And through art, I offer my heart, my hope, myself to another.

Connecting ... is there anything more vital right now?




Creating, connecting, play ... the juice of life. Connie, thank you for reintroducing me to my juicy life. Thank you Art for being the best juicing machine ever.

Monday Blahs (and my kinda Best Shots)

Not sure why, but I'm having a case of the Monday blahs. It may be the heat (a taste of summer), the winds (blowing any sense out of my head) or the new project at work which has me feeling like I just stepped off my Conestoga wagon and landed on the helm of the Enterprise. Yeah, That Kind of Project that tests the limits of my brain's elasticity and finds it shrinking. (Or would it be snapping?)

The past week was also a busy one which I am only now realizing as I look back upon a small pool of images for Best Shot Monday. Small because we were on the go and the camera couldn't keep up. Friends were in town, Cowgirl got asked to be on in a commercial shoot for our zoo, I hit the farmer's market which seems to get busier and busier with each passing year (remember to wear steel capped boots next visit; it was that crowded) and I don't know! Things were just happening.

In all the busyness we managed a trip to the zoo (separate from the film shoot.) Normally, I am reminding Cowgirl to slow down and look. She tears around and I wonder if she realizes we are there to see all these wild live animals. But every once and awhile she reminds me that while I'm off photographing the splashy male peacock
, she is searching for the less obvious treasures. (The boys were all out strutting their stuff for the ladies - it is the funniest thing, they open their feathers and then turn away from the females to and wiggle their bottoms in a mad mating booty call!)

Isn't that cool - a peacock egg! (is it a pea-egg since it was laid by a peahen?) This peahen was fussing over her egg with such determination to get it in exactly the right position to lay upon it. And doesn't that seem right? While the males are off busying themselves with their fancy plumage, the female is tending to life.

I did pick up Susan Tuttle's new book Digital Expressions and am having fun playing around with Photo Shop. It gives great ideas and walks you through all the steps. I am still a novice when it comes to Photo Shop (I can manage Pioneer Woman's Action sets and am thrilled when I can adjust color, exposure and drop in a texture layer) so this book offers me a lot of material to work on. Here were some fun and easy effects:

I never tire of photographing flowers:

And our old friend, Mr. Peacock:

These were created using the colored pencil and fresco filters (I think? I mess around so much I cannot remember what I have done when I get something I like!)

I am liking some of the dreamy, surrealist effects you can get with textures and layers. This is one exercise I adapted from the book:

Not sure why I added the Italian script, but kind of like the sense of memory and nostalgia evoked by the ghostly writing:

And here is me getting wacky with rust, calligraphy other effects:

A lot of fun, but bottom line: I'd much rather be out taking pictures than sitting inside on the computer. But when the blahs strike, at least I can Photo Shop some color back into my world.

How do you fight the Blue Meanies? Do share.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The power of being Seen (or why I take so many pictures)

A little over 10 months ago, I decided to commit to a project of where I would take a picture of myself every day. I’m not even sure I knew then why I was taking on a year-long commitment to capturing my image on a daily basis. I had been thinking about this notion of a daily journal in images and what it would be like to have that type of record of my life. I felt pretty certain I could manage to take at least one picture a day. Whether it was good or not seemed secondary to the documentary nature of the project. In addition to sharpening my photographic skills through regular practice, I had hoped this project would provide some insight into my own process: where I have been and where I might be headed.

At first the practice seemed silly. As I snapped pictures of me in public or in front of friends, I would say, almost embarrassed “it just part of a this little project I’ve set for myself.” As the months have worn on, I have been annoyed, stunned, inspired, bored, but consistent in taking that one picture a day. It may just be part of my hand, foot, face, shadow, or reflection but somewhere I am there, in the photograph documenting one moment, one day of my life.

I only recently considered the irony of amassing 365 images of myself. As an adult, I never liked having my picture taken. I cannot recall how I felt as a kid, but I do know with the exception of school portraits, there is an absence of any kind of photographic record of my life. A handful of slides of me as a baby and toddler; vacation shots where seagull photos outnumber pictures of people; summer camp (where I was miserably lonely); high school & college graduation; and eventually, my wedding. By that point I was taking my own pictures and I would run screaming if anyone tried to turn the camera’s lens upon me so my absence continued into my archive of images.

I’ve been thinking about what this all means – my absence – and also the absence of any single image containing my entire family (with the exception of wedding photographs staged by the professional photographer.) It saddens me to realize there is not one picture that I know of which captures my family experiencing ourselves as a tribe because, well, we never thought about family in that manner. And in the absence of any collective identity, I think I felt uncertain as to who I was and where I belonged. So tenuous was my sense of myself, I reacted not by demanding to be seen or acknowledged, but by an act which clearly was an attempt at total erasure: an eating disorder.

What has become apparent to me through this process of self portraiture is the power and the primacy of being seen. This I have thought a lot about. When Cowgirl came to us, she was 23 months old. There is a period in the adoptive parent’s life which feels like the search for the Holy Grail: it is the search for any images of your child before she was your child. I have 6 images of Cowgirl from those early months; 3 of them I found through exhaustive searching online. I haven’t given up hope of one day finding more. But it breaks my heart to think of this hole in the record of her life. And it makes me think about the natural act of celebrating the primacy of someone in your life by taking their picture. Like any new parent, I went wild taking pictures of my child in every possible situation. The husband smiled and indulged me, believing that like other parents this phase would wind itself down naturally. Except it hasn’t and I don’t believe it ever will because I am forever attempting to make up for that 23 month gap.

I know my child was well cared for before I became her mother and I know she must have been shown affection because she easily showed affection towards us in our early days as a family. But I am certain she was not seen. She was not celebrated as an individual; she did not know the experience of being witnessed as a miracle. Not that taking a picture is the only way of seeing someone (and you can take pictures and still not really look at what is before you) but it can be a powerful one. I take pictures and I hang up pictures of my daughter in which she is photographed with family and friends. I frame pictures that capture the essence of her spirit; I incorporate pictures of her into my artwork because that spirit inspires me on a daily basis. I want her to grow up surrounded by images of her family celebrating our union. I want her to know her presence here matters, that who she was and is has been recognized, recorded, honored and celebrated.

And I want to leave this record of our love for future generations to know us by. When I was younger, I took a lot of pictures but was very shy about including people in my shots, never mind including myself. I think I believed those empty images to be more artsy without people cluttering up the scene. Now I find those pictures sterile in the sense I have little connection with that image or that moment. I took it, I was there, but the photograph is more like a shell or a flower collected on a vacation and brought home as a memento. I don’t want to collect images anymore; rather, I want to live those moments fully as a participant and not simply an observer.

This is what I have discovered by taking over 300 pictures of myself: by picking up my camera and deciding how I wish to record this moment in my day, I am acting as both the subject/protagonist and the author of the narrative that is my life. By choosing to place myself in front of the camera, I am declaring my life is worthy of examination. By taking that picture, I am insisting my viewpoint, my perspective matters. Each picture I take is my way of laying claim to my life: I am here, this matters, this counts, this is who I am and how I wish to be seen and understood.

This is the mirror that hung in my bedroom when I was a girl. I would stand in front of it, looking intently at my reflection and think to myself “if someone would just take the time to look at me - really look at me - they would see I am beautiful in my own way.” I can vividly recall the surprise and sadness of this realization. What I remember as loneliness was really deep desire to be seen.

One of the most powerful healing experiences I have experienced has been at yoga retreats where we are to share what we are thinking and feeling within a small group who do not respond except by looking at the speaker while they are talking. In one exercise the listeners were instructed to say at the end “thank you for sharing with me. I heard everything that you said.” Unspoken, but understood and equally powerful was their presence as a witness, seeing me as I unraveled pain and sorrow and arriving at a new place of understanding and healing.

This topic – the power of being seen – has been brewing within me for quite awhile and has been inspired by the work of a portrait painter, Mark Gilbert, whom I’ve had the good fortune to get to know. Several years ago, our University Medical Center hired Mark for a project painting the portraits of cancer patients and their caregivers. The aim of the project was to examine the impact upon the patient's healing process by having their portrait made. What comes across when looking at the images and hearing the sitters talk about their experience is the power behind being seen and in that process, being accepted and experiencing acceptance for themselves and their situation. (Watch this 3 minute video clip from CBS Evening News to see and hear the artist and the subjects talk about this amazing project.)

What we all seek, it seems to me, is the affirmation that we each matter, that our stories are worth listening to, that our words, our image, our SELVES as we are counts. The author Katherine Center writes that when we love someone, the act of loving makes that person beautiful to us. I would also say being loved - knowing I am loved and seen and accepted as I am - allows me to recognize my own beauty and allows me to experience the wholeness that I always carry, but all too often forget. So whenever I pick up my camera, I am honoring both my subject – my daughter and myself – as something whole and inspiring to behold and worth taking the time to understand. And I am honoring myself as an artist defining and capturing the beauty that is my life, my world.

This is why I take so many pictures. Each snapshot is an act of healing and an affirmation of my love for myself and for my family. Brené Brown writes: "We can only love others as much as we love ourselves." My camera has taught me how to love all of me and all of my life. Through the lens, I experience myself as complete and in that process I am healed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 19): Personal Revolution

Who decides what role I am to play? Who determines my worth?

Sitting quietly,
Meekly answering to another's directives
Fulfilling the job description of
Being a
Good Girl,
Responsible Mother,
Caring Partner.

Attentive daughter,

Productive Worker.

Stay small.

Don't use up too many

Accept the
Assessment that
I am deficient,



Understand that
to speak or act
Would shatter
The delusion

I've carefully

Myself into.

My savior comes
In the form of
A small voice
Heard in a rare moment
When I let myself be stilled:

Who will be the final judge
Of whether my life
Was well lived or not?

Do those other voices -
The ones trying to mold,

shape and squeeze me -
Do they live in my skin?

Do they feel the stirrings of my heart?

Do they assume any risk?

To consider such questions.

And there's more.
What if I do all I that ought
And then come to the end and find
I wasted my chances,
Squandered the gifts,
And ignored the opportunities
To grow and to love

More fiercely, fully,
Inspired and inspiring,
With heart wide open,
Gratefully receiving
And freely giving.

Life pouring into Life
And merging into
An endless flow
Of Love



To allow such radical notions
A moment of my attention
Is an act of total defiance.

Only one response is possible now:

Let the Revolution

Care to join me on the Love Bus? The scenery is gorgeous and the company inspiring.

yes, this feels just right. What or who is stopping you from claiming your rightful place?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Snaphots of my life (and my Best Shots)

I really love what Tracy Clark wrote today for Best Shot Monday:

"Capturing these elements of my daily life helps me not only better appreciate my life, it helps me to see what is beautiful in the mundane. It tends to bring out the best in things. Click after click I am being mindful and living in the moment of my life right now. Even after all these years, it still never ceases to amaze me how something as seemingly simple as "taking pictures" can be so transformative."

I am marveling at the camera's power to capture the little details that might otherwise go unnoticed or forgotten. I marvel at how my camera is empowering me to reach out and embrace my life, to live with my eyes and heart wide open and to be on the look out for the next miracle, the coming gifts and emerging magic. I know of the camera's power to clearly acknowledge what I see matters and what is seen is worth looking at. Deeply looking, deeply seen. In an effort to sharpen my skills, I have make it a priority to take a day every week or so just to take pictures. Photo excursions I am calling them. I'm not always able to take many pictures; Cowgirl keeps my eyes and hands busy.

I am finding photography is one way to engage with Cowgirl in a way that nourishes both of us. She is an energetic child. She is a forceful presence and parenting her can be challenging on the best of days. Somehow the camera reins us both in. It gives me an outlet while she is burning up energy but it also magically keeps her orbiting near me. It is something we create together and I am realizing it feeds her need to feel empowered and contributing in some way. Her sense of being a grown up is then you can do whatever you want and can boss others around. Yeah, we have to work on this skewed perspective.

Over the weekend I finished this project for week 5 of the Artistic Mother Group (project from the book The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole):

I loved this piece ... it hangs in my yoga room and is a daily reminder to slow down, enjoy and be sure to celebrate through art making. Art-filled living and a life celebrated artfully.

I love finding ways to use my photographs in my art and the projects in this book have widely expanded my range of skills and ideas. It's not too late to join in on the fun!

What details make you smile?