Tuesday, July 28, 2015

gone to the dogs ...

I had thought I would share about my on-going obsession with canine portraiture ... and I will at another time ... but as I was thinking to myself "I've gone to the dogs" I must have inadvertently called down upon myself all manner of mishap and misfortune.

You see, this is the current state of my world.

You have to factor in the noise - handymen muttering to themselves, air stapler whapping and the concurrent hissing of a pump (for said air stapler or hammer-thingy) that makes it seem like are on a raft that is steadily deflating. 

Unfazed by it all is Mr. Moose who lies by my feet. Well, he is on pain medication which brings up another story of angst and woe. I found a black mass by a toe and trust me when I say, you do not want to Google 'black mass toe dog" unless you are prepared for some grisly images and dire reports. So immediately he went in to see the vet and the mass had to be removed - surgically of course - in order to be biopsied. So now we wait to find out what exactly that black blob was (think skin tag please.) But the Universe knows it is best to keep busy lest one's thoughts drift down dark alleys so it tossed out a curve ball with this line dropped into the post-op report "found a live flea on Moose."

Okay. So this is how it goes. As I've been in a month long practice called Messages Everywhere I now have the habit of pausing and asking myself "What is the message in this situation?" Or more appropriately: what meaning can I fashion using the caca that life serves up?  Just last week I had finally - finally! - settled into a routine of sorts with a writing project that has been fluttering about my mind and disturbing my sleep for some time now. I got butt in chair and began.

And then I had to stop in order to tend to the chaos that is life. Or my life anyway. Handymen, vet visits, flea wrangling, and all manner of inopportune events and details forced upon me.

And that is life, isn't it? I catch myself moaning "When I get my life back ..." but it was never lost or surrendered. It feels like it's been hijacked, but that is a product of my believing I am in total control of this story. The truth is, I am a co-author at best or as I think of myself, half of a dance duo. Sometimes I get to lead, but more often I have to follow, to allow the dance to swirl and twirl me about, learning the footing as I go.  It's not always elegant ... think Cloris Leachman in Dancing With the Stars. But I can still have fun, still make it mine through the way I respond to what is tossed at me.

So the writing, for now, is on hold again. I suppose something is simmering within. Meanwhile, I pull out my sketch journal and commit to a daily practice: one Moose a-day. This I can do. This brings me a small parcel of joy. I am also writing letters and engaging in the most therapeutic of all actions: doodling. I'm not changing the world, but I am changing the world within me. 

One dog drawing and painting at a time.

Maybe I'm not suppose to  figure everything out -  make sense of it all -  so much as find ways to stay in love amid the mess and confusion. In love and adding to it. 

When I am overwhelmed, when I am in fear, when I am at my wits end - a good place to be, I believe ... out of wits and into faith - then I must remember to return to what carries me through ...

I create and I pray.

I ask for what I need, I ask for guidance. I ask to remember to act, speak, and come from my heart.

And so it is. And so it will be.

Love & Woof!

my girl, home from camp!

Friday, July 17, 2015

slowwww downnnnn ...

It makes good sense at any time, but especially when the mercury soars and humidity levels hit tropical, the best thing to do is slow down.

More accurately, slow the fuck down. 

The girl has been away all week at camp. This was her first year and more importantly, it is my first week without her in the care of myself or a family member. The rational, wise part of my brain knows this is all good and right but let's be honest, the mother bear part of my brain has been all shades of bear-shit crazy.   

Which has turned out to be a good thing. Well, an it's alright thing.  Having time on my hands (all the time it feels like) has taught me that more time is not what I've needed in my life (yet how long have I obsessively believed this?  If I just had more time ... ) but what I've needed is to slow the fuck down and oh-my-god! do less. 

I've come to this conclusion on my own, however I was grateful to hear it repeated in a delightful talk by writer Anne Lamott. ("... the more you make yourself get less done every day, the more glorious and sweet and expansive your life is going to be ...") It's not about getting things done, filling up the resumé, checking off all the boxes, but about being present and fully inhabiting what is right here before me. 

I have had this recurring dream that has frustrated and confused me for some time now. In this dream, I find we (the Husband, Girl and myself) have moved into a new house and yet I don't understand why we had to leave our old house.  Usually the "new" house is a downgrade or in a different town and I am frustrated and angry that the move happened. "I don't want to move!" is usually what I scream in the dream.  But last night I heard myself saying "Why did we move? Our house is perfectly fine and I am happy here."

I woke up with this sentence hanging in the air around me. 

My life is perfectly fine and I am happy here.  Game changing words when the game I've been playing is I've got to figure out who I am suppose to be and what I am meant to be doing with my life.

This week I've been writing letters every day, mostly to my girl at camp but also to friends with whom I crave and enjoy deeper connection. (you know who you are!) I've been reading a fat, heavy novel (Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch) and living off of the roasted veggies from Sunday's farmer's market. The highlight of my week was 5 1/2 sweaty hours at the stables mucking out stalls and moving horses. The 80% humidity meant I was drenched within an hour. We had one rider coming and the horse we needed to ready was covered in dry mud. Rather than brushing him off, he received a shower. When he still wasn't dry after a half hour, we moved him in front of the industrial fan and I stood there with him drying off in the cooling breeze. Happiness is laying my face against the cool back of a beautiful horse, closing my eyes and knowing in my soul that everything is perfectly fine. I am - as is Star, the horse - happy in this delicious moment. 

I have a whole other ramble about the therapeutic benefit of physical labor (truly, I think I may have some sort of solution for the world's woes) and how exhaustion can be a road into contentment. But that is more doing and I am done for this day.

I'm excited to be supporting a slowing down movement and am part of this free offering by Jessica Amos of Stay With Yourself. Each day there will be inspiration and/or practices for staying present, staying in the moment. I have a video offering sharing my practice which may just be the secret to all things. Okay, maybe not ... but it is my very doable/enjoyable/grounding practice that helps me stay connected and present. 

for full details and to sign up click HERE

Sunday, July 12, 2015

friendship *

While I tend to be a bit of a hermit, this summer has reminded me how vital and necessary it is to spend quality time with friends.

Friends who have known you for so long, you cannot remember your life without them in it.

Friends with whom you are totally at ease, who encourage you to embrace your wildness.

Friends who inspire you to expand your boundaries, to experiment and play.

Friends who look after you, who always know exactly what would make the moment even sweeter.

Friends who drop everything, making time to see you.

Friends of yours who meet for the first time and immediately expand the circle of friendship.


Friends who never fail to astonish you with the beauty of their spirit, their souls.

This summer I've been on a friendship binge, as if I've been starved for too long. I think it is the effect of mourning, a descent into grief that has been solitary and private but now as I emerge from the cocoon of loss, I find myself racing towards the light of a familiar face, the sunshine of good and loving company.

In friendship I find myself rejuvenated and healed. Ready for the coming adventures.

It's been a good summer, wouldn't you agree?


Saturday, July 4, 2015

"A Day for the Book"

It was a day from a book,
steeped in its own warm juice
heavy with smells of growing ...
-Alastair Reid, "A Day for the Book" from Weathering: Poems & Translations

Such days are a true gift: moments strung together like brightly colored beads, each one intricate and fantastic in detail and completeness. One such moment, like a core memory (thank you Inside Out) a bubble of perfection, but an entire day brimming with golden moments?

I tell you, I could hear the mermaids singing. Okay, it was the cooing of a llama (same thing if you ask me) which is no less magical and heart-stopping.  The day went under the guise of a painting workshop and while I went with no expectations (okay, I had hopes for a Stevie kiss) I was pretty certain at the very least, I would have a lovely time. I mean, I was going to Apifera Farm for the day and to paint on top of that. Surely goodness and love would follow me all the day, right?

I admit, my hopes had wilted just a tad given the predicted 100 degree temperature for the day, although I figured the heat might keep me out of my head and open to experiencing a new way to approach painting. More than anything, I was worried the heat might keep the Misfits sequestered away in cool, dark places and while I was journeying there to paint, it was to paint while in conversation with these spirited animals that drew me half way across the country. 

There is a lovely description of how the day unfolded HERE. In addition to Katherine Dunn, our teacher and guide into the deeper alchemical mysteries of donkey ears, goat kisses, inner stories and paint, there were a total of four of us creating together in the cool of a barn. Katherine's horse, Boone, watched over us for the first part of the morning while Lady Birdie, a dainty llama occasionally peeked in to check our progress. 

our studio/art laboratory for the day

one of Katherine's lesson pages

The gentle and intimate mood of the workshop was established by an opening session with the donkeys where we were invited to drop into silence and to open up inner ears and eyes, allowing the donkeys to guide us into the art of intuitive presence. It was a Mary Oliver poem come alive -  

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
- Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"


Only a poet's words come close to capturing the experience of being welcomed by a herd of diminutive donkeys. While I wished I could have my camera handy to capture the gestures and the details of these soulful creatures, I am grateful Katherine encouraged us to engage directly with the residents of the farm rather than filtering our experience through the lens of a camera or smartphone.  Rather than busying myself with my camera, I was open and receptive to receiving tender nuzzles from donkeys and the kisses of dear Stevie (yes, my expectations were filled!)

I was able to stay alert to the subtler language and gesture of the animals as they initiated us all into the magic that is Apifera Farm.

The morning was a blend of donkey love, art lesson and inspiration, creative play and spirited conversation. Sitting around the table painting, I was reminded of the rich history of women's circles: women coming together to converse while hands are busied stitching, painting, drawing, knitting or sewing. What is crafted is found not only on one's lap, but deep within, as each of us wove our stories into the collective story of meaning, purpose, healing and hope.

It is a privilege to sit with others in a space of trust and respect and even more so when tender seeds of creative exploration are being put down. Watching Katherine paint was both inspiration and confirmation of my own artistic instincts and aspirations. I learned new techniques and skills but more importantly, I was initiated into a way of relaxing into the flow that is at the heart of any intimate conversation whether it be a creative or spiritual one. The trick is to stay present, curious, open and welcoming to whatever presents itself to the mind, the eye, or the subconscious, engaging with it to see where it may lead, but staying relaxed enough to switch partners and dance with a new impulse or idea.

Sounds a lot like communing with the donkeys or goats or horses. 

Original artwork © Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm
Lunch was served in the cool and inspiring space of Katherine's studio. A feast of ripe watermelon, cantaloupe, avocadoes, grapes and crackers that quenched hot and thirsty artists. The only thing juicier and more nourishing was the array of artwork that surrounded us as we continued several lively conversation threads.

all artwork © Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm

all artwork © Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm

The afternoon brought more painting and time to wander around and greet the Misfits. Despite the leisurely pace, the day flew by! It was hard to accept the day's end and even harder to contemplate shaking off the fairy dust and reverie that Apifera immerses one in. 

We each walked away with a painted record of our time together, but more than that we collected moments and memories that will nourish us in ways I suspect each of us is slowly discovering. Katherine asked us to put into a word what we felt like upon entering the farm and again, a word (or words) that capture how we felt by the day's end. When I passed through the farm's gate, it wasn't a word or thought that arose so much as a full body sigh, a sense of relief at arriving. By the end of the workshop I felt rooted, grounded, as if I had come home  ... to myself and to the life I am ready to claim and transform. 

Our day captured and translated into this poem piece by a sister painter

Indeed, the day had already transformed me! While painting in the barn, I slowly became aware of Boone, Katherine's horse, breathing slowly and steadily into my back as if inflating me to a fuller and more awake version of myself. By the end of the day, I was able to naturally assume the posture of confident and capable artist, sizing up and seizing hold of my world. 

Thank you Katherine and sister painters for the bounty of gifts so lovingly parceled out on this magical summer day. It was a day for the book, a day tenderly folded and tucked away into my heart for safe keeping, a day I will return to again and again to nourish and sustain me whenever I feel my spirits flag. 

What the day offered was space and time to dream, paint, and play. What I believe we all experienced was permission and safety to tune into our hearts and listen for the quiet murmurings of our deeper selves. A sound I believe sounds very much like the trilling coo of a llama ... or perhaps it is the unique voice of this llama, dear Lady Birdie?