Wednesday, September 28, 2011

being seen

me by Cowgirl

I wasn't planning on writing this ... I am in the midst of packing for yes, another quickie art retreat trip and I am feeling a tad guilty for all this pleasure heaped upon my faded and chipped plate. But as I ready myself - lists for the Husband made, plans for Cowgirl in place, dog walker for Mr. Moose scheduled - I struggle with the anxiety that travel and new places and faces evokes within me. This gathering will be much smaller than Squam and while I thrive on intimate, I also squirm at the sense there will be no place for me to hide.

Being seen is uncomfortable for me and yet I crave it. For so much of my life I felt unseen and misunderstood although in hindsight I have to wonder if perhaps I let myself be misrepresented? When the name-callers bruised my tender child self did I speak back? Of course not. I gathered all their words and wounds and patched together a crazy coat of false identity. The task of my adult life has been to shift through all the notions I have about myself and toss away those that are no longer true or blatantly false.

My word for 2011 is Shine and I'm not sure how well I've embraced that concept. There still is a layer of scum clouding my perception of myself. But I had a mini-epiphany at Squam while listening to Jen Lee talk about the care and keeping of our creative selves. Hearing Jen tell her about her experiences, I realized that it is impossible for me to truly see another until I can clearly see myself. And part of that process is putting forth for others my true, shiny, vulnerable and uniquely-flawed-and-therefore-beautiful-and-imperfectly-perfect self.

There is a vulnerability in letting others see me; we talked about this in Jen's workshop. It's scary stuff to put one's tender self out there and perhaps be ridiculed or disregarded. But to hold back is to devalue myself. I think the thing about being seen is it hurts more when we refuse to see, honor and befriend ourselves.

me - holding onto Squam

So as I pack, I am aware of not packing a mask or a uniform or a disguise - not to be dwelling upon who it is I want others to think I am, but to just be myself. Comfortable, eccentric, sometimes mismatchy, but cherished, honored, resilient and wiser for all my experiences. Still unfolding, still in process and hopefully sitting more comfortably in the mystery of not knowing, but trusting. Trusting myself to be my own best friend.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Now we are seven ...

Somehow - and without my permission - Cowgirl went and turned seven on me. Seven. No longer a tubby toddler or dumpling-faced preschooler but a little girl. A little girl with BIG attitude and personality. Sass central resides our house. But I am learning to see all that fire and spit is just her way of establishing independence and laying claim to her space in this world. From day one I declared Cowgirl to be my wild mustang and that is still true at seven. I don't want to break that spirit, I just want to help her learn to channel it in positive and loving ways.

Feeling all sentimental about the seasons moving 'round the carousel of time, I delved into my vast photo archives - not a task for the faint of heart! (Lesson one: use tags! Lesson two: be consistent in titles! Lesson three: Create folders!) As a photographer, it was interesting to see my eye change along with the changes in my girl. I also noticed threads or themes developing as I chronicle our life as a family. And I saw where my attention got deflected and gaps appear. Not to be hard on myself, but gaps in my taking photographs does translate into lapses in my attention as a parent. A useful flag for me to heed.

As I collected these images (but no means all my favorites, but the ones I could find as I haphazardly opened folder upon folder - my images organized only by the date they were taken - hello?! Pure madness!) I was thinking about a recent conversation with a friend considering whether she wants to try to have a baby. I remember well that dilemma: pondering the life I knew and loved versus a life hidden like a prize behind door number two. Do I stick with what I know or take a risk that what lies behind that door is not a goat tied to a stake but something big and shiny and exciting? A vehicle to a wider and wilder world?

And I know families that have been shocked by what was unveiled ... although they still might make that choice knowing what would arise ... but it is a gamble. I cannot know what my life would be without my child but I do know this: my Cowgirl has blasted open my heart which had been pretty wide open beforehand. For me - and I do not want to sound like those people say "you just don't know the scope of your love until you become a parent" although in my case, that is true - being a mother has mentored me in the experience of being vaster than my mind could ever comprehend; loving more deeply and fiercely in a primal, wild animal sort of way; knowing a love that is eternal and unchanging and dare I say, as close as humanly possible to knowing how god or the goddess or Great Spirit loves each of us.

This is the gift my daughter gives to me: inspiring me to dig in deep and nourish all that is within me because to do so makes me a better parent and a better person. Her trust and confidence in me has healed wounds and doubts self-inflicted; her belief in me has helped me realign with my understanding that we are all love folding back in upon itself and flowing outward in communion with the world.

And she keeps me moving, growing, expanding, learning and never, never lets me rest in what is easy. Did I mention the wild mustang and the need for sharp, constant awareness and presence?

my sweet angel from Lisa Hofmann on Vimeo.

(music by Jonatha Brooke "Sweetest Angel" from The Works)

Happy Birthday my angel. You are the sweetest and most demanding guru I will ever know.

But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world ..." (Saint-Exupéry,
The Little Prince)

Friday, September 23, 2011

lingering (Squam memories)

prayer bundles made by our cabin

While I've returned home and hit the ground running (Cowgirl's birthday is on Sunday and tomorrow is the party with all of her friends + my mom gets out of rehab next week) in my mind I'm still in the woods.

Care to linger with me?

Suzy, here is the proof of your early morning swim - before the rain!

Missing these people:

Suzy and Karen

Brandi & Daniel

Sarah and Ada

bonus! got to meet Em at the art fair

Definitely the world between worlds ... I mean, the mushrooms were crazy beautiful! We were surrounded by fairy folk!

Lots of space and time to sink deep within:

And to answer Kerry's question: yes, I did swim in the lake - twice! It was cold but refreshing. Frog medicine for sure. I did not go in the dark so I was wearing my granny bathing suit. Perhaps next year we can take another moonlight dip? (Missed you my friend!)

Clues and hints were scattered throughout the woods that weekend:

And I still have to unpack my paintings and supplies ... but I am resting in the lingering moments for the time being.

Monday, September 19, 2011

the experience that is Squam

Traveling home from Squam yesterday I was thinking about another return trip. When Cowgirl was not quite 3 years old, we took our first family trip to Cape Cod. Flying out, one of us went through the airport security screening and then waited on the other side while she walked through by herself. On the return trip home, it was just Cowgirl and myself as the Husband dropped us off at Logan airport to continue onto a workshop.

Arriving at security, I wondered how I would get my young child to go through on her own. I decided to make her go first and told her to "Go ahead of mommy." She gave me this uncertain look as if to say "You want me to leave you?!" On the other side of the screening station there stood an older, somewhat grumpy looking and stern female TSA agent. Pointing to her and in my most cheerful voice I told Cowgirl "Go to the nice lady!" Cowgirl looked at me, hesitated just a moment, then turned and ran full throttle through the gate. She headed straight for the agent, flung her arms around her legs and hugged her as if she were a beloved auntie. The woman's reserve visibly melted and she announced "You have no idea how much I needed that!"

The experience of Squam is like that for me: one continuous series of unexpected hugs and the surprise of realizing each time "I really needed that."

an excited meeting of my bunny sister, Brandi Marie

Squam is one big hug-fest. But the sense of being welcomed, held, and received extends beyond the act of a physical hug. The experiences and the encounters with old and new friends, teachers and classes is a repeated series of homecomings. Weary from the tasks of parenting, family, and work, the 4 days of Squam represented a space and place of returning to myself and discovering the pool of inspiration and joy to be very deep. When life gets demanding, that pool can feel frozen or lost. But in the embrace of Squam I found myself thawing out. What is unimportant is more easily shed and what is left behind is what truly matters: love, enthusiasm and a sense of connection radiating around and within me.

another sublime hugger: Pixie Campbell

I return home refreshed and fortified; I return home ready to fully receive the hugs of those whose love lies deepest in my heart. Squam is about caring for myself so that I can be a better mother, wife, daughter and friend. I return home fully committed to what I see is the most important task at hand: to create for myself and my family a beautiful and art-filled life.

I have more pictures, art work and stories to share but this is what floated to the surface of my heart.

Thank you Squam. Thank you Elizabeth for the very best hug of all on the final morning as I scurried to the airport shuttle. Your words and your mama bear hug reinforced the newly formed intention to be gentle with myself. Always.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Squamward bound ❋

I'm off early tomorrow morning ...

and I am ripe and ready for an adventure!

I will be back next week and promise to share the secrets I learn from the woods.

It truly has taken a village to make this trip a reality and I will carry all that love and support with me. Listen for the howls and the laughter ... and join in!

xo Lis

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quiet space

In the past week I've dropped several dishes but only shattered one; was an hour off for an appointment and spaced off another; taught Cowgirl a "new" and "funny" word (it rhymes with duck and apparently was shouted when the above mentioned plate was broken); broke down crying in front of another mom at martial arts class (and the next time I saw her - before she could ask me how I was - I asked her "how do you spell cuckoo?"); shifted through my mother's underwear drawer, refrigerator, filing cabinet AND cracked open her previously un-openable safe.

Thankfully this week in SouLodge we are to be sitting in the North - the place of stillness, reflection, integration and celebration for the wisdom gained in working the Medicine wheel. This place reminds me of savasana or relaxation pose which is the final pose of any asana practice. Often the one pose students want to skip is that final period of rest and integration. After a vigorous practice the act of nondoing is challenging - they are ready to move on to the next task. What I understand for myself is the deep need to integrate into my day this period of time to just be still. In my tradition of Kripalu yoga we often say it is like the snow globe: you shake things up and then you sit and watch the snow settle.

If you shook me up I'm certain dozens of scraps of paper would come flying out of every nook and cranny ... I am nothing more than a vessel for all the accumulating "to remember" lists. My calendar is like a pink flamingo there are so many post-it notes attached to it. The first few moments of sitting still and all I am aware of is the spinning of my thoughts like a mouse frantically running in its wheel, trying to go somewhere and getting nowhere.

But the medicine wheel reminds me that in any given period or cycle there must be this space of quiet and calm. A place to re-balance, integrate, regroup and also a place to acknowledge the work that we've done. Living this life as a Joy Warrior I seek out those flashes of magic and inspiration in my day, but their beauty exists in relationship to the heaviness, the darkness and the challenges that also rise up to meet me. It is necessary to also acknowledge the difficulties, the suffering, the heartache and to give myself the space to sit with it all. To hopefully touch upon compassion not only for myself and all that I must do, but come to understand in a heartfelt way that which everyone juggles within their heart soul in any given day. To touch the sadness, the feelings of overwhelm and by honoring them, let them go.

Every morning I make my way to my yoga room to meditate. This room is the place where I touch upon the quiet space inside myself. I then try to carry that space with me ...

Hopefully remembering throughout my crazy day to pause and rest there again, as needed.

My quiet place is when I remember to be present for all that moves through me. My guru waits for me every morning and takes me out for a mindful morning stroll. This routine is my touchstone ...

and a wagging tail reminds me of all that I need to carry within myself - a light and open heart.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No words for this ... but we must speak out ...

My dear friend Soraya is offering a giveaway of one of her art prints on her blog as part of her efforts to raise awareness and gather names for a petition in protest of the continuing genocide of women.

It is hard to wrap one's mind around this fact. In India and China the number of girls are aborted or killed is greater than the number of baby girls born in the U.S. The practice of killing an unwanted female child stretches back throughout history ... and it continues into the present day.

It's a Girl Documentary Film - official trailer

The United Nations estimates that over 200 million girls are missing due to sex selective murder. I recently read Xinran's book Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother which outlines the cultural, political and economic pressures that lead women to the heartbreaking decision to give up their children. Even more difficult to swallow are the stories of female babies killed upon birth because the family wanted/needed a male child.

As unthinkable as it is, we must understand these realities in order effect any positive change. Please visit Soraya's blog for more information on what you can do to speak out for those who voices have been silenced.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a day of grace and gratitude ♥

I've been carried aloft by the wishes and prayers of so many this past week. To say "thank you" seems insufficient. But that is what I offer: a heartfelt thank you for hearing and understanding. My mother is much better and is out of the hospital and in rehab to build up her strength. In many ways, this little crisis was a blessing for it prepared me for what may lie ahead. Questions were raised, issues confronted that one is never ready to face but now I know how to proceed and what answers need to be determined.

It's a strange role reversal: checking my mother into the rehab facility was like setting her up for summer camp but with some very dark twists. By the third time of hearing "in the event ..." you are primed to expect that there will be some kind of event occurring. If not now, soon enough. How many of us know what funeral home we would like to use "in the event"? CPR or no CPR? And then there was me filling out my mother's "life story" to better help the staff care for her. Her religious beliefs? Thorny at best. How would I rate her marriage? Her relationship with her children? I can tell you her about her appetite, favorite foods and general habits but her marriage? (Do I even want to know?)

our neighborhood Labor Day bike parade

The long weekend has given me the space and time to be with my family and to tend to myself. I even had a pocket of time today to start a few sewing projects! It sounds trite, but I am learning to take it one day at a time. Learning to be soft with myself and my expectations, knowing that all that I want to get to will still be there later on and perhaps I don't need to do all of that anyway. It is a day of rest from labor and a day to reflect upon how it is I labor unnecessarily in my life. Today was that suspended moment between the inhale and the exhale - a rest, a break, a lingering pause ...

It is with immense gratitude that Cowgirl and I thank you for the support of our August Art Bash. Officially we raised $1275 for Half the Sky foundation although the final tally is to be determined as we await a few checks in the mail. Not only did we blow past our goal, but we got to play artful elves and experience the joy of sharing the wealth of creativity that has enriched our lives and shared some amazing artwork with all you amazing people. And with that - here is our final winners: Owl Magic: Kathleen D; Painted Pages: Kelly W; Strawberries & Pansies Print: Emily. Congratulations everyone!

And so Cowgirl and I say goodbye to summer and hello new school year (first grade!) New adventures await and I for one am looking forward to the journey. I know there will be some unexpected dark alleys (hello? is there some major developmental phase occurring between 6 and 7 that I unaware of? Symptom: excessive sass and attitude coupled with exaggerated eye rolling? Please enlightenment me ... or send info for appropriate support group) - I welcome it all because, well, I have no choice. Resistance is futile!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

gentle teachers (or teacher, please be gentle ...)

Owl which hung in my room when i was a child

My mother has been in the hospital for the past week.

I write that and then pause. I want to add a big BUT ... to temper this reality with what? Something easy to hold? Easier for the heart to carry?

My mother is in the hospital and the outcome is uncertain. And without the illusion of certainty (is anything truly certain in life?) I find myself walking a tightrope over a deep canyon of fear.

Fear is tricky; fear masquerades as some kind of solid reality albeit a reality we don't want. The mind wants something to hang onto and fear slyly slips itself into the mind and says "Here, let me fill the empty space for you." But to push away from the experience of fear is to empower it through our resistance.

The truth is my mother is 86 years old, has enjoyed good health all of her life, is sharp as a tack, is still finding humor in the midst of dark uncertainty and is not ready to give up. But she is tired. And she is grappling with her beliefs about life and death, a conversation I try to interject my thoughts into but which ultimately is a hers alone to articulate and rest in.

While waiting (hospitals are nothing if not a place to practice waiting) I dipped into Anam Cara by John O'Donohue. " When your senses open out to the world, the first presence they encounter is the presence of your soul." Huddled in a freezing room, my body curled in for warmth but also to protect myself from the palpable presence of anxiety circulating through the captive patients and family members, I became aware how we shut ourselves off when presented with fear and uncertainty. Open, present, aware - I was none of these. I was oblivious to the power and presence of the soul; I caught in the trap of resistance which causes me to contract inwardly while support and guidance reside in opening myself up.

"It is a startling truth that how you see and what you see determine how and who you will be."

Today I saw the morning mist upon the window. I noticed small bird feathers in the grass. I saw a rainbow on my daughter's pillow. I took in the unexpected delight of my morning glory plant finally blooming. I saw beauty, I beheld hope and the gift of life evolving and unfolding in its own manner. I held my mother's bruised hand, I wiped away the blood that seeped from her fingertip, and I witnessed and shared her tears. I look upon her and I acknowledge the fragility and immense stamina that living requires of us.

Bhumi or Mother Earth - #33 for 49 by 49

Life is a series of teachers presenting themselves to me. The challenge is to stay open for the lessons and not contract or resist what comes before me. Because come, it will.

I've been thinking about the presence of Rabbit in my life. Often I see them huddled in the grass, temporarily frozen as they attune to what is lurking at the edges of their awareness. I used to think they illustrate the notion of being frozen by fear. I am beginning to think they are still and present, awaiting more information before responding. Rather than run around reacting to a perceived threat, they sit in that space of unknowing and wait. It is a difficult place to be and my habit is action but I am seeing the wisdom in abiding. My tendency is to give out, but I am learning to wait, listen, and receive. And to look with a softened gaze that takes in a fuller view.

In this period of acute waiting, I am drawing upon the practices and teachings that have guided me thus far for strength; I take comfort and gain insight from new practices I am learning in the SouLodge. I attempt to keep my gaze clear, my heart open, my mind calm.

I am being comforted by Bear - her appearance in my life coinciding with the realization that sources of mothering can be found around and within myself;

bear - #34 for 49 by 49

I am cleansed and fortified by Rosemary and other plants who remind me to tend to my emotion and physical needs;

my medicine staff reminds me to keep my balance and that on this journey there is much sustain and hold me;

I meditate with Selenite and receive the gift of acceptance and welcoming for all my teachers.

I feel the support of my sisters in the Lodge, my Painting Tribe, and my friends here who provide this circle of space that affords me the opportunity to be witnessed and understood.

This is all I can do. It is a tough task. I am finding that to bow to what life presents me, honoring the flux of emotions and reactions that well up and then wash out, I am able to stay on my tightrope and not fall under the spell of fear. Not that fear isn't my companion right now, but I am still leading the way, allowing the wisdom and healing power of my heart to speak to me.