Monday, October 28, 2013

mirror mirror ...

"There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.

And when she was good,

She was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid!"
- The Real Mother Goose (1916)

When I was little, my mother often would repeat the above rhyme to me.  In my memory, she never gave commentary, never explained the why of the when behind her recitation. Having been a curly-headed child, my sense then - and now - was that she was issuing some kind of warning, a foghorn cry that I was venturing dangerously close to banks of horrid-being, horrid behavior.

I'd ask her about this now, but I know time has erased any memory of difficulties.  She always tells me I was an easy child; I was labeled sensitive and shy and never ventured outside of the lines. But this memory of horrid and my immense fear of being labeled as such, it a tender spot I guard to this day.  Which means when I have a bout of fierceness - okay, an acting out if-you-will -  a wondering and worrying "was I just horrid?" quickly bubbles up within me, obscuring the situation and my feelings within it.

This past week ... or is it two?  or three? has been immensely tough.  I feel like I am lurching through my days, never finding a rhythm, creating collateral damage to emotional shins and elbows, hearts and spirits.  I've said before that parenting is like standing before a fun-house mirror: all of my disfigurements distorted to freakish levels.  My stubbornness is reflected back to me in an equally mulish daughter; temper, verbal acrobats, defensiveness, emotional hyperbole echoed tit-for-tat in a rendition of Dueling Banjos from the movie Deliverance.  And that trip down the river did not go well!

Being difficult ... that was to be avoided at all costs.  What I have on my hands is a double whammy of difficult and I am gutted by my reactions, emotions and triggers. 

It all boils down to expectations - what we each want from the other - and a mutual decision to not cooperate or even consider the other person's perspective.  Each of us was consumed by our own piece within the performance, riffing and reacting to the other.  If I wasn't in the middle of this jerky tango, it would be funny.  But I am impaled upon the prongs of horrid:  being demanding in some way,  challenging others to meet those demands and standing firmly by my line in the sandI am the adult here and trying my best to understand that role, which is hard when my inner little girl has her curls all knotted, tangled and sore.

I want to do the right thing, I want to be a good parent for my child.  I also want to be a good daughter and feel I am floundering on that level as well.  Of course, I know all of this would sort itself out if I first could remember to be good to myself.  

Walking the dog, I ran into a neighbor and ended up crying to her, "I feel like I am letting everyone down!"  She comforted me with the truth that we all experience this confusion in our roles, confusion in motives and responses.  When I am caring for my mother, I want her to comfort me but right now, our roles are reversed.  When I am standing firm with my girl, I want to be heard, acknowledged and reassured.  But that is not my daughter's burden. 

What I seek is some certainty that all will work itself out.  But I know certainty is more mythical than a unicorn.  I am slowing learning that the unraveling of my internal knots of confusion along with my tangled curls and moments of horrid, is a learn-as-I-go process. I forever will be untangling the threads of my personality: daughter, mother, wife, friend, child, maiden and crone.  Yes, there is a Queen somewhere in there and I need to find her, wipe off the mud and dirt of neglect and find an inner sovereignty. 

While certainty is not an option, trust is.  Trust in myself and in my girl.  And hefty dose of faith in something larger than myself ...  Love? Spiritual evolution? The power of dragons to heal and fly on?

I also must make my peace with knowing I am a work in progress and who I am is not a static entity or experience.  I want to be learning, evolving, growing.  I never want to be set in stone. That means even in the challenging moments with my girl, with my mother, and with myself and I can choose to open to vulnerability, allowing myself to be sad or scared or lonely which are my flip sides to horrid - and hopefully learn  from those encounters. 

This is what I have to say to you. In the first stage of the journey you learned to replace harmful beliefs with helpful ones. It was such a relief to let go of negativity that it became a temptation to stay there - to make your home in those newly acquired positive thoughts. But a positive self image is still a mask. The next stage of your journey is becoming comfortable with the unknown. It involves being clear and courageous enough to rest in bare awareness without having to create another identity, without needing to tack yet another belief to the end of "I am."

Experience the expansion, the spaciousness that comes from resting in the truth of unknowing. It isn't comfortable, at least not now, but it is powerful and inherently creative. It's what your soul longs for. Use the sense of vertigo to leave behind the know, and let go of the need to tether your soul to anything solid or definable. Let yourself go, over and over, until it is second nature to be weightless.
-Danna Faulds, From Root to Bloom

This is what I seek: "being comfortable in the unknown" and resting in "bare awareness" while letting go of  the tendency to label or judge or measure my experience as right or wrong, horrid or good.  Rather, I want to move towards healing, unity, understanding and compassion for myself and for those around me.  There is no right or wrong way, except perhaps to say the true way is to listen to my heart, honor and receive its guidance.  And then to listen and understand with my heart the actions, words and intentions of those around me. 

That I have such challenging days is a reminder that my girl and I are all shifting and changing.  It is not a sign that things are wrong - which is my initial reaction - but that things just are the way they are  and I can adjust and grow, or I can stay trapped in a net of expectations. 

I am looking in the mirror for clues to my transformation ... 

Monday, October 21, 2013

what i want (what i offer ...)

Oh my ... I believe we are in full Autumn swoon over here.  

With the temperatures dipping into frosty numbers at night, the leaves have deepened into a rich palette of garnet, amber, and golden.   Mornings are hot cocoa events and the knitting needles have been pulled out and are clickety clacketing me into a meditative space. Even Cowgirl has found herself a relaxing pass time with this home made Lil' Loom for Rainbow fishtail jewelry (thank you Maya D for the heads up!) 

This past weekend we sat at the kitchen island puttering: me working on yet more mandalas ... 

(my life interpreted through the mandala circle is quickly becoming an obsession) 

and Cowgirl working a necklace. Taking advantage of this still time, I put on an audio file of a folk story Ivashko Medvedko performed by Tom Hirons and Rima Staines (found on her wildly inspiring blog, Into The Hermitage) We both were transfixed listening to this Russian folk tale that involves the wild and memorable  Baba Yaga  (look at this new collection of Baba Yaga stories!) 

There is something so grounding about an afternoon spent deeply immersed with imagination.  Even though we each were lost in our own internal visions of the story, there was a closeness and intimacy as we step out of time and into the timeless.

This was the kind of day I aspire to nurture more regularly for myself and my family.  The qualities I seek to weave into my world and what I find myself craving:  intimacy, connection, engagement, curiosity, and celebration. Thinking about this day ("It was a day from a book, steeped in its own warm juice, heavy with smells of growing ..." a favorite line from an Alastair Reid poem) I find myself recommitting to the reasons for this grand experiment that is my current life.  To be more present.  To be of service.  To live with purpose which for me, means expanding the sense of what is possible.

If I were to boil down all that I wish to offer - which is to say, all that I wish to experience in my own life - I come up with this:  radiance.   I want to know the feeling of being lit up from within and shining brightly my truth, my essence.  I have felt the sparks of this radiance which is the energy of being fully alive with every cell turned on and vibrating, glowing with warmth, with brilliance and with love.  I know this is my truth and I know it is the potential of all to wake up and be this fully plugged in, charged and powerful. This is not something another can give to me, create within me or sustain for me.  I alone must find my way to my inner source, my inner light, my inner sun.  Just as I connect with the cooling, intuitive energies of the moon, I must activate, feed and nourish all aspects of my being. 

And I want company!  Because I have journey long into the darkness, because I have been at the edge where I was ready to release my final finger hold and embrace nothingness, and because I know weariness and greyness and hopelessness, I know the impossible miracle of igniting one's inner radiance is absolutely possible.  It is a thrilling proposition.  It is the challenge that has as its prize my very life.  To discover I can nurture and care for myself and through my actions show up as a beacon of love and light for the ones who matter most to me and in turn, watch them discover their own inner flame of goodness,  brilliance and beauty ... that is a magnificent  Wow.  A soul-stirring Wow.

I am always beginning anew.  Each day I visualize wiping clean the mental and energetic debris that all-too-quickly accumulates in my mind and my heart. Each season has its own flavor and Autumn is my time of harvesting, pruning, composting and preparing myself for the long nights ahead.  It is my favorite time and my most challenging.  So I cycle back around to the practices that I know work for me.  I snuggle back in with some important self care, with time for reflection and grounding and smoothing out the rough edges in my life.  If you are wanting some support in stoking your internal fire, tuning in to your inner radiance, I would love to circle around the fire with you and enjoy a virtual retreat.  

Shameless self-promotion, but there you are.  I am proud of this work ... I know it is vital and important and I offer to others knowing that we each must tend our own fires.  And it is lovely being by the fire together.

Inspired anew by this Tedx talk by one of my mentors, Maya Corinne.  I am a plate spinner, gathering queen and what I hold in my basket I offer to you with sincere intentions that it empower you. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

believers ...

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Henry David Thoreau)

We went to the woods to gather some acorns.  It has been a long day indoors with much studying ...

"Brain bender" takes on a whole, new meaning after working a word search ... in Chinese!

Remembering how lovely a time we had in the nearby woods last week, I decided we should make a mini excursion back to our favorite, quiet spot.  As we pulled into the entrance we were immediately greeted by a welcoming committee ...

Not just two ...

turkeys doing their version of Abbey Road

not just three ...

but a dozen wild turkeys crossing the road!

Harbingers of much abundance (dare I believe a month for each turkey?  A whole year of blessings ahead?) With perhaps only a little ruffling of feathers involved?

Then Cowgirl spied her friend ...

Each trip to the park, she sees a doe (or two) so she claims deer as one of her totems (but turkey is another as he always appears when we are together.)  

Feeling pretty satiated with blessings and good luck, we were ready to grab some acorns and head on home.  But wait ... there's more?!

Oh yes ... if ever we had doubts (and we are mother and grandmother to a 2 month old dragon named Blaze Thunderbolt, so our faith was fairly certain) we are firm believers now! 

Yes, as The Man might point out, while I don't require it,  I do like my statues to move and talk.  

Just little signs of the mystery, always welcome and reassuring, you know? 

"When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with the living imagination so that you can begin to see, so that your thoughts can become what Meister Eckhart calls "our inner senses." (John O'Donohue, Awakening the Mind, Awakening the Soul)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

bountiful harvest

Have I mentionned I love October?

Of course, it is my birthday month ... and Halloween ... but truly my favorite aspect of this season is The Great Pumpkin!

This past weekend, Cowgirl and I made our annual pilgrimage to our favorite pumpkin patch.  Here in the Midwest, pumpkin patches can be big business.  We live minutes away from the major attraction for our region, but we've only gone there once.  Instead, we head north to our old neighborhood and the family farm that we've been visiting every year since Cowgirl's arrival. 

While the bargains still abound (a trunk full of pumpkins for $10) this once well-kept secret is no longer our quiet, little family space.  Even the owner seemed weary of the crowds despite the fact business is booming and the fields already emptied of pumpkins with weeks to go until Halloween.

I just love the fullness, the jaunty spirit and robust glee of a pumpkin (or gourd), don't 


This year feels particular rich and bountiful as I find myself engaged in many colorfully abundant, radiant and heart-filling adventures.  There is my Mandala circle  (still time to join!) that is becoming quite a playground of experiences for myself and others.  

Octopus mandala in progress ....

There is the Fearless Sisters Oracle Deck project that is such an offering of love and a testimony to the power of collaboration. 

And I am excited to share ... drum roll ...

image from Dirty-Footprints Studio

I am rather gobsmacked to be part of this group of woman, many of whom are mentors, inspirations, dear sisters and friends.  They are a rockin' group of creatives and this Spring's offering of 21 Secrets by Dirty Footprints Studio looks to be incroyable! The offering will be delivered via a downloadable ebook which means you have access forever to the workshop teachings, videos and visual materials.

Say what?!

I know ... 21 different instructors, 21 classes to dive into and explore.  What is my contribution?  You guessed it Mandala Meditation and Play. Full descriptions of each offering can be found here.

(Full disclosure: This is an affiliate program which means if you follow the links from my page or the 21 Secrets button on my sidebar and then purchase the course, I will be receiving a percentage of that sale.  Another aspect of the generosity and abundance of collaboration, cooperation and mutual inspiration.

Great pumpkins indeed!  Rolling in the bounty ...

Proof positive that dangerous thoughts, acts of daring and whispers from the heart do bring about abundant flow.  Even if it is only in pumpkins and girls.  But I love this view, don't you?

Dream big my friends ... and be prepared for those dreams to grow!

Friday, October 11, 2013

the effort and ease of awakening ...

 "Why must we answer the call to awaken? Why must we follow the questions of our soul? Because it is through habitual, non-inquisitive living that we lose our sense of wonder. Because eventually, even the strangest or most magical things become absorbed into the routine of the daily mind with its steady geographies of endurance, anxiety, and contentment. Left to our own devices, curiosity dims and fear of the unknown binds us; we cling to the known. Only seldom does the haze lift, as we glimpse for a moment the amazing plenitude of being here in the heart of the greatest story ever told—our own lives."

Sometimes all it takes to connect with Magic is to step outside of routine, making a detour but still staying in one's own backyard (or nearby park) ...

So simple and maybe that is why I so often miss it ...

Or maybe it is my habit to  over- complicate matters, fixating upon my shadow when all I need to do is turn and behold the source of my light ...

 What is required is to stop moving, pause, look around (down, up, over, within) and allow that indeed I have all that is needed to conjure magick:  a curious mind, alert senses and a heart open and willing to receive ...

All this in a half hour of my day.  Returning home full and nourished, fortified and resolved to stay awake and to leave room for the mysterious to curl around and within me.  

Thank you Mel for the much needed inspiration and reminder to get thee outdoors!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

view from my boat

As I wind up The Gift of Practice, I have found myself returning again and again to the stark, simple, straight-to-the-bone teachings from the Zen tradition. Perhaps it is this season of emptying ... leaves, daylight, my garden, myself ...

Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.”  

Perhaps it is my growing intimacy with daily routines. Staying at home to work has me finding a rhythm in writing, creating, doing the laundry, putting away the dishes, figuring out what to make for dinner. The pairing of the two - home life and creative life - results in a kind of mirror reflection.  Each showing me an angle into the other that I had never noticed before.

There is a sense of absurdity within housework.  I dust (erratically, I admit) only to see dust motes settling slowly back upon momentarily clean surfaces.  The laundry basket is never empty; the cycle of clean to dirty to clean is a continuous one.  Same thing for meals and dishes and grocery shopping.  It is all necessary work but no lasting satisfaction for it is never complete.

Then there is my other work - my real work as I have come to regard it - which I commit to in the spirit of building or contributing to something greater.  What exactly is that something greater?  A discourse or conversation with community?  A body of work mapping out my existence? My journey depicted on paper (and computer screen) as a guide for others?  For myself?

What I am coming to recognize is the gesture of defiance in my art making, a denial of the brevity and transient nature of my time here. The words, the objects all standing like rows of soldiers guarding me from the eventual erasure of, well, me or this concept of me. I know ... heavy thoughts on a Wednesday afternoon.

But here is the flip side - the positive of inhabiting a steadily sinking boat - which is acute awareness of the value in each moment, each gesture, each swipe of the dust cloth, each meal shared with family and friends. It's not the elusive state of a perpetually clean house, full pantry, finished painting, well-thought out essay that drives me forward.  Perfection is an illusion and even if it existed - even if I experienced it -  would I cease from future efforts?  

It is a dance I do while knowing I am sinking in each moment, rowing closer and closer to the middle of an ocean I will never cross.  Crossing, arriving, finishing ... that is not the point.  I don't know if there is any point, although it is comforting to believe in one.  Rather than casting about my navel lint for a belief, I ask myself "What do I know?" 

I know I am here ... filling the time before my girl returns home.  I know I am preparing this house - our home - to welcome her and my husband as a retreat from their busy days. I am attempting to do so with full attention and care. I know have people in my life I love so much it would be too shocking to my system to contemplate the depths of that love and gratitude for their presence in my life.  I know I do not know how long my boat will hold up - so while I have this time, I want to see things as clearly and as truthfully as possible.  Each moment is a gift.  I want unwrap the moments and honor their beauty and magic.  The satisfaction I seek is not in completion; it is found in perpetual engagement, connection, and unfolding.

Now I'm aware that I alone am in the vast
of the sea
And cause the sea to be the sea.

Just swim
Just swim.
Go on with your story.


Friday, October 4, 2013

ebb and ebb ...

There has been much talk in my Practice group about the ebb and flow of one's creative practices.  This is something I have come to surrender to more gracefully: that there are cycles and seasons to how I express or explore myself; and that I naturally move towards that which allows me easier egress when I step out of the way of myself.  What do I reach for on this lazy afternoon?  What am I curious about?  What interests or compels me?

There are days when the words, the paint flows and then there are days where I need a massive tree branch to stir the muck and heaviness.  This past week has been one of ebbing and ebbing some more as I stay alert to my girl who has been home sick with a virus.  

I cannot totally immerse myself, so I find myself skimming the surface of things ... catching up on blogs, listening to podcasts, and doing what I do so well: puttering around the house.  In the past I might have despaired but now I know - from watching myself go through seasons of such spiraling inward and outward - that this is a necessary phase.

A shedding period ... the leaves falling and also my own winding down another birth year.  October is my ending and beginning.

The shedding and ebbing  is opening me up to an appreciate for the fragile beauty and immense power presence in every detail that describes my world.


I give lip service to celebrating the gifts of this life ... but reading this piece jolted me upright and awake in my chair and to my quiet world.


We cannot know ... we do not know ... how much, how little, how breakable, how mendable the pieces of our lives will be, never mind ourselves with these animal bodies.  Sometimes emptying is necessary for me to appreciate how deeply, fully, completely I can fill myself up. Hopefully, that cycle has many more future turns ... but I must pay attention to this one.

And so I sit and paint my birthday mandala, that already has filled and emptied and now awaits another layer.  Another turn.  

Now it is time to make my way upstairs to my bed which has become a life raft for my girl - books, lovies (stuff animals), comfort blanket, crayons and pads - and I will happily slide into that raft and drift into the rest of this day.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

eine Pause

I love foreign phrases ... to take a break in German is machen Sie eine Pause and that is what I am attempting to cultivate within my day: pauses.  

(I also this idiom- du hast eine vogel in dem köpft - you have a bird in your head - meaning you have so much room in that empty skull of yours, birds could be flying around ... in other words, you are nuts!)

Every morning I fight the undertow that is my day by stepping outside and sitting.

Just sitting.  I pull up a patio chair, turning my back upon the house, the dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry waiting to be hung up, the glow of the laptop awaiting new words, new images, more content and I sit down and stop all movement.

I take a pause.

This is my practice for the 6-weeks that is my Gift of Practice program.  I have other practices I more or less regularly "do" but the call to do nothing has been growing insistently louder and more compelling as I continue to adjust to this self-employed life.

It is a willful practice right now.  I have to snap my own whip.  Today I could feel the mounting pressure to get to it - dive into the mound of work I need to tackle before the week's end.  Up until the very moment I slide open the screen door, I wasn't sure I would make it.  I mean, we are talking about 5 minutes.  Easy (in theory) to do, but also easy to dismiss.

Cowgirl had an epic birthday week ... 


family dinner, special delivery lunch (via moi of course), a girl's day with one grandmother and a special playdate with some classmates.  

Naturally, at the end of this all ... she is home sick.  (Just a fever ... but home for two days now ... tomorrow is uncertain ...) So in addition to being mommy nurse-maid and trying to play catch up from last week, I am sitting here up to my eyeballs in projects awaiting my attention.

Yes, well ... they are on pause.

I broke out of my morning trance (shuttling between dishwasher, washing machine, sick bed, dog bed) to sit outside and watch the madness swirl around me.  Funny thing, once I sat for a minute or two (listening the the clatter of the nearby builders and the calls of the golfers) the insistent tempo that had characterized my morning slowly faded away.  Liz Lamoreux counsels to practice taking 5 deep breaths throughout your day and I love that idea.  I would add: if you can, gift yourself 5 full minutes of sitting, breathing, not doing, but being.  Being antsy, being still, being bored, being at peace, being full of ideas, being emptied of ideas ...

Pause ... notice ... then proceed with your day.

Me, I feel as if my feathers were fluffed and I have been able to soar through the mountain o'tasks with an easy grace, renewed enthusiasm and a spacious mind. Remembering my word for this year: possibilities.  Remembering each day I can create space for new possibilities to emerge.  

Just give me five minutes ...