Saturday, October 29, 2011

birthday moments

It was a quietly grand day. I got to sleep in late. The Husband walked the dog. I had the morning to myself which I needed as I had one more painting to do in order to complete my 49 by 49 series. Yes, I thrive on deadlines.

I had one moment of panic when I thought I had miscounted and only had 48 pieces completed. One was hiding. I also realized I had painted two Kuan Yins (one can never have enough compassion I guess) although I am thinking the second one (painting number 48) might be my own goddess - Moon Goddess who has brought about all the major miracles in my life.

I debated who should be the last painting (of course, in essence my guides and guardians will continue expand as long as I continue to open to guidance and growth in my life.) Krishna or Shiva? I like the idea of Krishna - the lord of devotion, love, Bhakti yoga. Wooing the gopis, the cowgirls, playing his flute and invoking inspired dance and singing, he is a groovy god.

Alas, my path - my nature - is more closely aligned with Shiva. The cycle of creation, destruction and transformation - that seems to be the major theme of my life. Dedication, commitment, practice and the challenge to these principles - I call them Life's pop quizzes - these principles are the framework to how I live. As I end one phase of my life, I am opening to the next cycle. So Shiva (who is also Nataraja - "Lord of the Dance" so there is a little funky groove in there) completed my series.

My gratitude to all who made my day so bright and full of love. Truly, I feel blessed in my life to have so many bright lights illuminating my world. I felt a huge cosmic embrace yesterday. I know my mission in the coming year is to be sure and add my squeeze to that almighty hug.

As it was also the day of Cowgirl's school Halloween parade and party, I decided the best way to honor myself and the day was through pictures. Some taken with my new Lens Baby, my gift from The Husband.

Cowgirl's gift to me: one of 2 paper snowflakes
(she excels in the art of Chinese paper cutting!)

a bounty of unexpected gifts

a fluke shot - but it accurately captures the mood of a Halloween parade
(Cowgirl and her buddy are black cats this year)

party activity: decorating graham cracker houses -
not for the tidy at heart!
(look at that radioactive frosting! and there multiple shades of orange, blue and purple)

Cowgirl's Gaudi-inspired house - love dem bones!

funny, we can't say the word vampire in front of her ... but she can pretend to be one!

Halloween, here we come! The question remains: who will I be this year?

Whomever I choose to be!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

a dollop of joy on a gray day ...

Deep in the thick of compiling my handbook for Joy Warriors ... found I needed a little self care and discovered this video:

I'm not sure I've ever mentioned this before - but I am a huge George fan. I probably wouldn't be practicing yoga or meditation if not for his example. His music deeply inspires me - I consider him and myself bhakti yogis. So, on this day I've been thinking about George, spirituality and, naturally, ukuleles. Thank you George.

I'm blaming my introspection upon the weather and not the impending birthday. Another year coming at me ... is it just me, or is time speeding up?

[Shaking her head ] Excuse me ... um ... oh, yeah ... Beatles ... What about you? George, Paul, John or Ringo? What music do you listen to when your joy tank needs replenishment?

(I once heard a writer say that most women over 40 have their hair cut in some form of a Beatle-do. I suppose my style is reminiscent of their druggy Sergeant Pepper days ... perhaps its time for an update?)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

archive edition ... reoccuring thoughts ... joy warrior tips

I am a bit of a crazy quilt these days ... random ideas and actions stitched together haphazardly but I think I come together in some fashion. So I had a huge A-HA! moment while listening to Lucy Pearce on goddess leonie's Worlds Biggest Summit because I discovered my archetype: the Rainbow Woman. And guess what her shadow is? Yuppers - the Crazy Woman. Frankly the honest assessment is I suffer from creative bipolar disorder. The key is understanding the cycles and managing them.

Usually I am pretty good at that balance. My recent funky funk was a perfect cocktail of coming down off of the high (I visualize myself on a rollercoater: the highs are me with my arms in the air screaming "Weeeee!" The lows are me back in line wondering if I really want to bother with the wait, never mind climbing back into the car), hormones and seasonal change.

Actually, a big part of my mood was brought on by some necessary decluttering and a fear for Cowgirl decades in the future sorting through the boxes and bins of my art journals, painting, sketchbook, etc. Will she be drawn to excavate these artifacts, eager to unearth clues bearing witness to the full identity of her mother? Or will she think "Hoarders: the art edition"?

Having moved my mother cross country, these are the things that worry me. (My mother's home was a treasure-trove of 60s and 70s memorabilia some of which I saved, much that had to be tossed.)

And speaking of clutter ... I am hopeless when it comes to organizing the bazillions of image files stashed away on my computer and backup drive. One project eating at me is to collect my poetry with accompanying photographs into a single location: a book. No small task as I am a human squirrel with my nuts buried in hundreds of virtual nooks and crannies. (Except the squirrel remembers where it buries its treasure which I guess makes me a creative rodent with amnesia.) So here is my testimonial for Flickr as thank god I've uploaded and occasionally used tags as that is the only way I can find anything. (I find the image in flickr and then from the date can locate the original on my computer. Yes, I am a librarian by trade, but a reluctant one hence my refusal to follow consistent standards!)

vintage me - my mommy face - circa spring, 2009

I guess part of the fun of my organized disorder is to stumble across things I'd completely forgotten. And to discover the reoccurring themes in my life. So pulling myself out of my funk this week involved music and nurturing myself through small acts of joy (yes, Joy Warrior behavior is a must for a Rainbow Crazy Woman.) Then I found these videos, made for the second Unraveling course - a year old but still relevant:

Ewan by the lovely Jane

And wow ... when I am feeling blue, who better to turn to?

Another project I am excited about is a handbook for Joy Warriors. I know the above tips will be included for the section on care and nurture of the Joy Warrior spirit. As is this advice, always timely, from the Universe:

When you look into the mirror, Lisa, do you look for what you love most?
Do you look for me?

Do you smile?

Did you just ask, "Is there any other reason to look into a mirror?"

- The Universe

p.s. Please tell your friends, Lisa, to never look into a mirror without smiling!

And for the record: I am proud she loves my paintings but more importantly, that she loves her own. Oh yeah, really, really, really stoked about that one! (okay, and I am thinking my own concept of "a little Ewan for my day" is also pretty brilliant.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

snake skin struggles

I had a quaint and homey kind of tale to tell. It was going to start with Cowgirl cooking us her first big girl dinner using a recipe from the kids cookbook we gave her for her birthday. So I am going to apologize up front because this story is going to go awry. But first, the homey part:

I told Cowgirl to pick out some recipes for her meal and I would buy the ingredients. She settled on chicken fingers and frozen fruit pops for dessert. Her chair was pulled over to the counter, the measuring cups and spoons all set out. I was sous-chef and she a diminutive Gordon Ramsey. Yes, I got a tongue thrashing for screwing up the dipping sauce (the Husband informing me that "salad dressing" is code for mayonnaise); she enjoyed wielding the rolling pin (crushing cheese crackers for a shake n' bake coating), dipping the chicken into buttermilk and shaking everything up in a zip lock baggie. I don't eat chicken, so I didn't get to sample the flavors although she tempted me by disclosing "the special ingredient is Love!" The fruit pops (watermelon, raspberries and lemon juice) were the clear favorite of the night. "Next time, let's make MORE!" she proclaimed.

When I bought the cookbook I was knowingly recreating a memory from my childhood. One of the many things the Husband and I have in common is we both loved our Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls.

I still draw upon it when I have leftover pizza sauce and I make myself english muffin pizzas (which called for American Cheese - a flavor combination that immediately takes me back - gulp - 40 years!)

I was also thinking about the first meal I cooked for my family out of that cookbook: Mad Hatter Meatballs. At the time it felt like a pivotal moment, as if preparing dinner was a statement about my contribution as an individual, that I was no longer a mere child. I was very serious about that meal and wanted it wow my family.

And then, right before my meatballs were to be served, I learned my brother was not staying for dinner. I was devastated. I remember I hid in my parent's bathroom and I cried. I am not and never have been a pretty crier. My face gets all red and blotchy, snot pours out of my nose and these effects seem to linger on long after the emotional storm has passed. So before coming out of the bathroom and facing my family I did what became my habit: I covered my emotions. I actually took talc powder (scented!) and blotted my entire face in the hope of masking the red blotches.

My brother came up to me and asked me if I minded him going out and yes, again I buried my feelings and told him I didn't care. As I type this, I realize what I was really saying then (and for years to come) was I don't matter. My feelings, my desires, my emotions are not important, are not worth voicing and certainly not deserving of asking another person to consider or respect. (To be fair, my brother is 8 1/2 years older than me and at that time was almost out of high school and busy in his life; we had not had much time together and we didn't really know each other at all, so he had no clue as to what was going on and I chose not to communicate this with him.)

My brother did ask "what's all over your face?" I quickly lied and told him it was flour from cooking. I marvel now at how adept I was already at subterfuge.

Why this story has returned to me in full emotional color is not clear to me. I have been thinking about how sad it is that at an early age I was already hiding my feelings away, as if they were something to be ashamed of; as if they were somehow wrong and unacceptable. I do not know where I learned I did not have the right to ask for my wants or needs to be considered.

I guess I still hide how I feel. Which maybe is scary because people do think of me as an "emotionally liberated" person. But there is still much I tuck away, poke under the carpet, bury in the backyard.

Right now I am going through an unexpected dark patch. It may be the change in weather. I love Autumn but am aware of the effects of less sunlight upon my inner landscape. But I know there is more. As I drove home yesterday I had the realization that what I am feeling is what Anais Nin meant when she wrote "And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." This emotional discomfort, this sense of being tightly squeezed has become increasingly intolerable and it is forcing me to change, to move, to ... well ... grow.

According to Sun Bear my birth season is ruled by snake. This is how I feel: like a snake caught between growing a new skin but still lumbering around in an old, tight, restrictive casing. I don't know what that expansive new skin will feel like - I only know right now I feel stuck and am struggling but that somehow the struggle is my sign that things are okay. I just have to hang on. And wriggle a lot.

This post helped me immensely today. Borrowing from it these words of Pablo Neruda:

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."

So I paint, I cry, I despair over creating anything of meaning or worth, of my words and my art mattering. I realized first I must value myself. Really, all this wiggling wriggling discomfort is about that - honoring myself and my experience enough to be present to all that I am and placing it before me, and saying "this does feed me." All of this, a meal to enjoy. A meal to eventually share. Skin and all.

postscript: hello occurred to me later that I have been painting images of Snake Goddess ... and then I found the above journal page from a year ago which seems pretty wise advice to me right now. I wrote this post earlier today and by this evening I've discovered tiny seeds of ideas poking their heads into my consciousness. Ideas that excite me, that suggest open doors and ways to deepen into myself and my life. Go figure, I was busy being distracted by my feelings which allow this new growth to emerge unhindered. A highlight from my day (which somehow captures the whole experience) was me yelling into my cellphone "Spirit World? Are you there?!" Yes, I got a response. (Okay, so I was trying to talk to a friend, the connection was bad, and I was hoping she was at the deli - Spirit World - waiting to meet me.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

my three c's (and lots of p's)

I've been pondering these questions posed by a in a special SouLodge circle gifted to SAW attendees:

What do I most want for my loved ones?
What's behind every gesture of love that I make everyday?
What three qualities describe who I am as a contribution to this world? How do I incorporate those qualities into my life and how do I extend those gifts towards myself?

In the shower (the best place for ideas - you know, water, flow, being in the body ...) I came up with my three c's: cherish, curiosity, and connection.

Cherish was obvious to me - it is my style statement (I am a cherished creative!) When I think about my loved ones, what I want most for them is to feel and know themselves as beloved for who they are. Cherish conjures up the sense of appreciation and celebration for the individual. To cherish someone or something is to honor the qualities that make them unique. When we feel cherished, we feel seen and loved; we know we are held deeply within another heart.

Curiosity has become my favorite quality. To be curious is to engaged fully with life and all its adventures and magic. To be curious is to be an explorer, open to the unknown and eager to discover new things. When we are curious we believe our understanding of the world is meant to be always changing, growing, and expanding.

Connection for me is about honoring individuality but recognizing the bonds that unite us. Connection is knowing we are participating in something larger and that our lives extend outward in waves of influence and empowerment.

Empowerment is a HUGE concept for me, but it seems when the other elements are in place it just naturally flows.

What I find challenging is to consider how I weave these qualities into my own life - how do I nurture for myself being cherish, curious and connected? I think I am pretty good about supporting the last two ideas, but harder is knowing how I create or support the act of cherishing towards myself?

Things that make you go "Hmm ..."

There's the very likely chance I am being hard on myself. I mean, I have been making time this week to yes, paint more poppies!

(Seriously, they are addictive! They must be related to increased levels of serotonin or some such bliss hormone.) By honoring my need to have time for pure pleasure and joy, I am acknowledging and cherishing my joyous self, aren't I? I've been painting myself bouquets of poppies - watercolor love notes perhaps?

I know, I'm crazy with this whole poppy thing. But what it has opened up in me is an adventurous side, a me that is feeling frisky and playful and wow! creative.

So much good stuff happening. I am totally digging a practice called "dropping ink" which Leah Piken Kolidas shared on goddess Leonie's World's Biggest Summit. (While I could not find the exact video, here is another variation Leah offered):

I have been playing with ink, watercolor crayons, water soluble oil pastels and whatever is handy in the moment. I also have been drawing with my non-dominant hand (and painting with my dominant one so often I have both hands going at once!)

this was just india ink on untreated paper - i went back in with watercolors.
some kind of crazy turtle woman and angel/magi keep manifesting?

my picassoesque horse.
hmm ... here are those flames again ...

total WTF? a zoo nightmare? rhinos and tigers and monkeys ... Oh My!
(yes, yes ... a pink elephant ... sigh ...)

no clue. strange lady in a cavalier's hat?

Not sure how to tie this one all up (other than to hope no one is trained in psychoanalysis ... je suis un Surrealiste!)
I know there is more for me to ponder and just to offer these ideas out to y'all because, well, connection is my thing.

Along with adopting new accents it seems ...

Sleep tight my friends. Know that I love and cherish you all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

what my angel might say ...

As a recovering perfectionist, it probably isn't surprising to say that when I was in school, I was pretty much a straight A student. I didn't always get A's but I tried and I believed that was what I was supposed to be doing: earning the grade, pleasing the teacher, achieving excellence. Which oddly enough, I did not extend to myself: I might receive the A, but a good grade did not translate into self esteem.

So my dark secret - the one time (yes, one time) I did not receive an A or a B but gasp! a C grade was in a college watercolor painting class.

I found myself recalling that bleak moment in my life as I enjoyed a leisurely afternoon yes, painting with watercolors. On a total lark (and because I cannot resist at least checking things out) I decided to look into this whole poppy madness:

October is Poppy Spree Month!

Now I should give a warning that if you are a total art materials junky and are trying to go cold turkey, then don't look! Because once you watch a few of these joy-filled lesson videos, you will find yourself making an art supply list (and also praying to Mr. Blick to please send out another 40% off discount love note ... I mean, postcard) and heading out to your car, debit card in hand.

Wanting to just indulge myself today, I decided to paint some poppies. I mean, poppies to me evoke a kind of light-hearted freedom and bliss. Maybe it is the French association - Monet and all his poppies - but I think poppies and I think countryside jaunts, wine, flirty skirts and lots and lots of sunshine. Total joie de vivre.

So while I was digging the juiciness of the whole poppy/watercolor experienced, I remembered that C grade. What was particularly galling about that grade was the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed the class. I went to college where we took one class at a time for 3 1/2 weeks, so every day for hours at a time I was in the studio painting.

I mean, I was experiencing the life of a painter!

I was learning by studying and copying the works of great watercolor artists. To really learn about technique there is no better practice than to study a work and try to replicate the technique. Look at Andrew Wyeth's paintings and you will learn volumes about the color white. Winslow Homer taught me buckets about suggesting forms through the barest of brushstrokes. And Cezanne? Oh man, let me tell you about his apples ...

It was heaven.

And then I got that damned grade. I knew my final project was not the best work I had done but it was what came out of me in those final days. I had learned and grew and developed and I was pissed to receive what amounted to me as a failing grade. The whole experience felt discounted because the professor rated me so low.

In an unusual move for me, I went in and fought the grade. The fact that the professor rarely showed up in class and that Mr. Wyeth and Homer were my main instructors discredited any authority that gentleman had in my opinion. (He also retired at the end of that year which speaks volumes right there.) I stood up for what I had accomplished in the course and argued that I had worked really hard (which I do not believe qualifies one for an automatic higher grade, but others who came in with talent did very little to improve their skill) and that my grade did not reflect that. At the time I was fighting for my GPA but now I see I was also fighting to preserve my memory of the experience. I mean, I loved painting! And how dare that old man rob me of that!

I must have been convincing (or he was old, tired and close to retiring and probably figured in the larger picture, did it really matter what grade he gave me?) because he changed the grade to a B. (Side story: years later when I T.A. my first art history class I had a student who was borderline B+/A-. He was an engineering student and was way outside of his normal way of thinking within the class. In the end I gave him the A grade because I knew that would seal the deal on his new-found passion for art. I was not in the office when he picked up his final exam and saw the grade, but other instructors told me "He was the happiest student we've ever seen." I'd like to believe he still loves art.)

So what does all this have to do with angels? Before going to bed last night I was listening - again - to my mentor Mr. O'Donohue and he posed this playfully wonderful question: At the angel bar in heaven, what stories might your angel be telling about you?

I believe my angel would be saying this (over a good pint of hard cider because that's how my angel must roll): The dear lamb ... she often gets it, really gets it and then she goes wandering about again. Sigh. (another swig) I keep at her though because she so damned amusing! I mean, I've costumed myself as a blue coyote for heaven's sake! I just let her go because one day she will tire of these antics and then, oh then it will be magic!

i mean, i don't even care that my poppies look like blooming tomatoes -
they are just so much fun, nay, JOY to paint!

Perhaps a whole room filled with fat, juicy, red poppies would be a place to start? (Although - and here I go again - I am thinking about Mr. Van Gogh and his affair with sunflowers and wouldn't a whole journal of sunflowers be grand?)

Don't be surprised if the next time you hear me, I am speaking with either a French or Irish accent. Just feeling that way these days. And there is sooo much more to tell ...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

re-entry is challenging ...

This entire week I have been wandering through my days in a total fog. Actually, I feel a bit stoned with the accompanying munchies - so I guess my body is calling for some intense grounding through food, sleep and inactivity.

Well, on the surface I things seem stilled.
I tried to dip my toes back into creative waters and this is what my mind looks like these days:

actually, a wide angle lens is needed to capture the scope of my chaos

It seems an internal earth mover has been churning up my consciousness. Rocking my mind these past few weeks are the words and ideas of John O'Donohue. (Thank you Liz and Mel!) Before traveling to Sedona, I downloaded 3 of his talks recorded during the Greenbelt Festival and when I wasn't painting, I plugged into my i-pod and entranced by the poetic expression of his hugely vast and captivating mind. Seriously, the best $10 you will ever spend are these talks. (Just go to the iTunes store, type in his name and look under the audio books.)

In his talk "Imagination as as the Path to Spirit" he counsels that if you want to change your life, you first must change your thoughts. He goes onto suggest this exercise: take a piece of paper and write on the top of it "The 7 thoughts that shape, guide and determine my life." It may take months to figure out what those thoughts are, but if you really want to know yourself, then you need to determine what are these major thoughts/themes that govern how you interface with your world. After figuring out your list then he suggests that you consider how you have been married to these thoughts your entire life and what are the thoughts you haven't even flirted with or considered?


Another exercise he offers is to make your journal writing something more vital and deep and he suggests taking a new journal and titling it something juicy like "The Journal of My Most Dangerous Thoughts."

Double wow.

One of my 7 thoughts is this: I am not ready yet. Whatever it is that I am in deep love or conversation with, I am not ready to take it further. Usually this revolves around me taking whatever I am passionate about and sharing it with others. I'm not ready to teach, talk, instruct or share with others. I lack the words, the expertise, the experience to do so.

Dangerous thought for the day: What if I am ready now? What if holding back is no longer an option?

Coming down from the high of a weekend of Fearless painting and dancing in community with like-minded sisters/souls I found myself thinking this dangerous thought: It CAN be this way all of the time. I can choose to engage with life from such a deep, passionate, heart expanding perspective all of the time.

How about this: It must be this way all of the time.

Today Cowgirl was coloring with some new markers and she was excited to show me a new magical marker. There are regular markers but this one pen transforms their colors into new ones.

Consider the possibilities of that - a magical marker for our experience! We can transform our lives by sweeping over our days a new perspective, new attitude, new thoughts. Dangerous thoughts that flip the mundane into the magical, that turn lack into opportunity, that uncover the possibilities available to us in each moment.

And think about this: can we afford to not think these kinds of thoughts on a daily basis? Why would we choose to do otherwise?

I am scaring myself these days. But then I remember the title of an amazing autobiography which I would love to lay claim to: "I Shock Myself."

What dangerous or shocking thoughts dance through your imagination? It's time to give them room to move.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I am back from what I hope will be a yearly pilgrimage to Sedona and Connie Hozvicka's retreat Total Alignment. I went thinking it would be a tune-up for my creative spirit, but what I received was a total overhaul of my soul.

I went knowing I would be surrounded by some amazing spirits, but what I discovered was a tribe of women audaciously giving what my favorite Irish mystic would say a "mighty squeeze" to life.

I may have been in the desert, but I journeyed into the Emerald City and discovered I can no longer reside in a black and white world.

My intention was to shed some layers of self that I had long outgrown. In doing so space was created for a new way of being in this world - open, receptive, trusting and yes, in alignment with what I believe with all my heart: that life is the experience of love unfolding and that we are love creatively forming, spreading, and dissolving into and out of this crazy and miraculous Universe.

I am struggling with words because this experience goes beyond the verbal, rational, linear mind. It is of the heart and so beyond language or description. It must be felt to be understood.

So here is my feeble attempt to capture magic.

This is what happened to me: I went to the desert to paint. I traveled in a pack of juicy art mamas and we soaked up the energy of this sacred land. We opened ourselves to the place and we allowed it to work it's magic upon us.

I am actually holding onto the ground;
photo by Christine Graziano Miner

We ate food lovingly prepared for us and under a vast Sedona sky; we shared the contents of our hearts; we welcomed the rain with a tribal dance; and we painted.

dancing to the Black Eyed Peas in the rain;
photo by Tracie Hanson

We were given a stern but loving talk by our Fearless leader. The time was over for playing it safe, for painting pretty but empty paintings. It was time to dig in, get messy and dance with the demons. Get it all out and onto the paper. Liberate what we had kept caged or hidden or protected.

I had been painting on an easel, close by the group. Fire was there, but I was leaping over it, afraid I might get burned and unaware of the wings that could have carried me back out.

There was a passage, but it was blocked. Rock solid and seemingly impenetrable.

I have been struggling within the iconic roles of Mother and Daughter. My sense of myself was static and frozen, but another possibility was yearning to emerge. The path to that third possibility was through emotions, through fluidity, through movement and creativity.

On the last day - my last chance - I moved off of the easel and onto the ground. I taped two pieces of paper together and retreated to a distant parking lot to paint. I splashed and spun and poured paint onto the paper. I circled around the paper in a kind of maniac tango. The painting and I wound our way further and further out into the parking lot. The experience was like a desert storm: active, frenzied, pure energy and release. I found myself panting and pausing to catch my breath and then leaping back in for more.

Then the dance slowed down, the rain abated. Just a steady, calm trickle of action. And then the spacious calm afterwards. My inner landscape was washed clean and fresh. The painting ready to reveal itself; my senses and my awareness open to receiving its gifts.

I stood in the gap of waiting and did just that: wait. Previously my way would be to force, grasp, reach for and make something appear. But this day I was patient. This day I knew I would receive if I would simply trust.

I waited at the forest's edge and slowly the animals began to appear. First a bird, always a sign that I am in the right place, that I am home. Then the large female figure tumbled out of her cave, out of the fire of creation; myself being birthed into this new world, this new way of being.

Fox quickly followed - reminding me of what is most valuable only occurs when we are willing to take chances, expose ourselves to risks.

Horse leaped out - the girl I once was who believed that one day she would be free to live her dreams.

Blue Coyote crawling over the mountains reminding me that my journey may be to take the most arduous route but that is my process and to no longer doubt or deride it.

Rat was a surprise. But now I remember in the Chinese cycle of years Rat signifies new beginnings.

Otter - my favorite - slipped in; feminine, playful, moving with the flow of things - all qualities I wish to claim as my own.

Then people appeared: the praying woman,

the mermaid (living in 2 realms, not having to choose one over the other) and finally the 3 magi attending this miraculous birth.

There so much more but this is what I know right now: I visited the Emerald City and the wizard gave me my gift: myself fresh and new and ripe with possibilities. Ready to step fully into my life.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
(- T.S. Eliot Journey of the Magi)