Saturday, November 26, 2011

gratitude and goats

I've never been able to keep a gratitude journal, not that I don't love the concept of one. I'd like to believe years of attempting mindfulness have made me sensitive to recognizing those moments when my attitude should be deep appreciation and thanks.

The Thanksgiving holiday naturally brought about a questioning: What gifts have I overlooked? For what - or whom - am I overdue in giving thanks to for impacting my life in a positive way?

A little over two and a half years ago, I created this image for Susannah Conway's Unravelling: Ways of Seeing Myself:

At the time I had just ventured back into this dream world of creative exploration and expression and I felt very alone in my immediate community. I feel very tender towards that me of not-so-long-ago. I wanted a friend to join me in my escapades, to share my dreams and fears, leaps of daring, skinned knees and bruised ego. I didn't know how I would ever find anyone who would really get me.

I sit here and pinch myself for this Lucy hasn't just found an Ethel - I have a whole tribe of Ethels! And if you are reading this, then you are in that tribe.

I once read that what we all crave is to be loved and to feel understood. If we are loved but not understood, then we doubt that love. If I am grateful for anything in my life, it is the fact that I am so deeply seen and understood by this community of creatives I am fortunate to know in the flesh and here, "in the matrix."

I am grateful for all of you who fearlessly share the experience of your life in written and visual forms for it inspires me to pick up my brush, pen or camera and capture my world.

I was talking with one of you about this Brave New World of creating for personal fulfillment and how it is so hard for people to wrap their minds around this concept of creating just to create. In our consumer driven world, it is consider just plain odd not to be actively engaged in trying to sell something. But what I think is even more threatening is the notion of putting oneself first; daring to say "my needs and happiness matter" when the work ethic we've been taught to embrace is do do do and one day you will be rewarded for your efforts.

I ask: who is going to reward me if not myself? Not that I am advocating blatant disregard for the care of others and the responsibility to give of ourselves for the betterment of our community, our world. But how often do we deny ourselves the small gift of time and attention to cultivate our dreams? How often do we put off to tomorrow doing what our hearts yearn for today?

And now I've wandered down an unexpected alley when my intention was simple to say thank you. Thank you moon, thank you stars, thank you geese on Thanksgiving day,

thank you poppies,

thank you Tooth Fairy,

thank you goats,

thank you Cowgirl,

thank you kitten (whom we can't take home but oh-how-we-wanted-to),

thank you to my family who embrace Cowgirl with all their love,

thank you Moose dog,

Thank you everyone and everything that brightens this world. A humble but heartfelt thank you.

And a special thank you to The Husband who watches me paint goat after goat and never question "why?" (He too knows and loves me.)

I am also grateful for the opportunity to share my "out there" thoughts over on the blog of the always inspiring Jen Lee. She is birthing some amazing projects which have supported me in believing there is a place for my perspective, my voice in this world. Goats and all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

we believe ...

"Do you believe in fairies? … If you believe," he [Peter] shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die."

It's been an event-filled week here. There was this exciting development:

This tooth was hanging on by a single strand for days. Cowgirl would not let us touch it but she gleefully would shove her mouth in front me, displaying the torment twisted tooth. She bumped it and it was bleeding but still we could not pull it. Then, to her amazement and surprise, she sucked in really hard and the tooth popped out.

She is very proud of this feat of dental daring and repeatedly informs us "I can't believe my tooth came out!"

Cowgirl scored a hundred percent on her spelling test this week. You may remember that studying her spelling list is one of the more odious tasks in our daily routine. I would rank it up there with scrubbing out the poo from a monkey's cage - a thankless job with the added risk of one's self getting smeared by an angry (and caged) simian. The fact that I drilled her and coached her every day might have earned me a smidgeon of gratitude but no, instead she informed me that the Fairies assisted her. Apparently they are able to hide in the folds of her skirt or in her hair, whispering the correct answers to her in her moment of need.

We've been talking a lot about the Fairies lately. She has told her other friends at school and to her amazement "They don't know about the fairies mommy!" Her good fortune in knowing and cultivating a relationship with these handy helpers is just dawning on her (but does she thank me? Noooo ...) and she is sharing their secrets with her best friend who "trusts me and believes what I tell her."

So with the perfect spelling test and $1.50 from the tooth fairy (you've got to get a crisp bill AND some silver) the Fairies have been busy at work in our home. I'll admit, I was feeling left out of their magic when this friend appeared in our backyard:

It was a cool, but sunny Sunday early afternoon when I spotted Fox napping in our garden bed. Her appearance was nothing short of a wish come true. Two years ago I spotted a fox crossing the road in our neighborhood and I have been thinking about Fox in recent weeks. That first visitor gifted me a lesson about taking chances and daring to pursue what calls to my heart. Working in the SouLodge I have been greeted by many guides in dream form but I will concede, I had been hankering for some concrete proof of, well, magic in my life.

So I had been thinking how seeing a fox right now would really seal the deal on my faith in such matters. I've been watching the roadside, scanning the nearby fields and farms for a creeping presence. To have Fox curled up and napping in my yard waiting for me to discover her is fairy magic indeed!

Perhaps I need to give credit to my latest guardian and guide birthed last week during our time in the West in SouLodge.

Like me, my Spirit Protector is wearing the signs of her hard won faith. Her heart bared for all to see and she reminds me to love my life is an act of fearlessness and trust. Thank you fairies, thank you Fox for helping dissipate any doubt.

Fairies ... we believe! We believe!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

About a girl

Have I mentioned how much we love using disposable cameras in our house? (I know ... just typing the word disposable makes me feel guilty and robber baronish.)

But Cowgirl loves having her own camera to use and so it has become a kind of tradition that for every major event, she receives a camera to document the day.

She has also misplaced many a disposable and I've had to run out and buy a new camera when we couldn't find the camera that always seems to have 15 pictures left.

Which is how we came to discover TWO partially used cameras - the contents of which were a mystery to us. A few days later (after no apparent event worthy of documenting in film) Cowgirl presented me with one camera ready to be developed.

I think my favorite moment is when I am sitting in my car holding the packet of just-paid-for developed pictures. I always hesitate for a moment - should I wait and let Cowgirl be the first to gaze upon the wonders?

I never wait. The temptation is too great; the experience is akin to lifting off the top of her head and seeing exactly what lurks inside her mind. I mean, what parent doesn't gaze upon their child and wonder "What is going on in that brain?" (I guess I could say the same about the dog, although I have a good idea it revolves around food and tummy rubs.)

This is what lurks inside:

Some facts about my girl (those tidbits I think I will never forget but have discovered do quickly slip away as they are replaced by equally fascinating and often bizarre new tidbits):

In her next life she will be a cheetah. (I know that is a jaguar; she loves all big cats and I imagine this homage was made with the intention of commemorating her passion for all wild things.) She has directed me, upon dying, to "wait for her" and then we will come back together as cheetahs. I guess I am suppose to go into limbo or perhaps be a friendly ghost until she joins me? (In subsequent lifetimes she will be a Transformer. I have not been invited into those lives.)

She loves her friends. She continues to amaze me with her very social nature. She is outgoing, adventurous, generous and forthcoming in ways I could never have imagined myself being at 7 let along 37. (At 47, maybe ...)

She loves her dog. He is the only little brother she will allow in the family. She tattles on him ("Moose is licking the floor!"), bosses him about, dotes on him (when she is in the mood) and in general ignores him in person and celebrates him in her artwork and stories.

Cars are people. Cars have complex lives and adventures. She wishes we had named her Hot Wheels.

She must have been a penguin in a previous life. She has a penguin baby now and I am its grandmom.

And the biggest mystery and greatest miracle of them all? That this is what she sees every day

and she still loves me immensely. Yep, just as I am.

I dare you ... peering into the mind of a child you love ... it's a wild and wonderful place.

But be prepared to be baffled and a little concerned ...

(a prize for the best guest as to what this is?! I have a set of 5 newly printed postcards from some of my paintings which I will give away next week for the best answer. Help me unravel this mystery! Comment or email me: lishofmann(at)novia(dot)net.)

FYI: the camera developed had pictures from her birthday party last year; the top photo is her using that very camera!

Friday, November 11, 2011

a friday soup

Background & disclaimer: I love making soup. For one thing, you can add just about anything and as long as it cooks awhile and there is proper seasoning, it usually comes out tasting delicious. I love making soups because they allow me to clean out the refrigerator and pantry; they are my go-to meal especially when I am trying to avoid the grocery store.

Fact: I hate grocery shopping. I hate figuring out what I will want to cook and eat 5 days from now; I hate making the shopping list and I hate the trek to, around and from the store. Grocery shopping is the stone I roll every week to 10 days. Actually, the experience is more akin to Prometheus's fate of having his liver eaten out day after day after day ...
So, I make a lot of soup.

My soups are usually well received but when I find myself reaching for the can of navy beans because, well, navy beans are all that's left in the larder, I suspect I may have a problem on my hands.
And getting to the point (you suspected I might wander back to a point) this post feels a bit like one of my soup meals. Tossing in bits of things I've been meaning to share and hoping it will all come together into a tasty offering. But ... there was that navy bean soup incident (with corn ... yup, pretty grizzly even for me) so consider yourself warned.

I realize I haven't shared this yet:

My painting from Pixie Campbell's workshop Back to the Wild at Squam. I cannot believe I haven't been bending your ears about the marvels of molding paste. Look at the texture! I loved the experience of making this piece - it was a very physical event. I slapped the paste down, shoved it around, pressed things into it. When it dried I sanded it, scratched and basically assaulted the surface with any handy sharp object. I mixed paste with the paint and build up new areas. I smudged paint in with my fingers, drew with my non dominant hand and basically experienced a lusty tango with this piece.

I find it fascinating and mildly disquieting that the horse here (drawn with my non dominant hand mind you) is very reminiscent of the many horses I drew when I was a girl. I can't help but think about that version of me enthralled with the essence of horse - power, strength, passion and independence and the person I am now returning once again to claim what I seemed to have abandoned out of fear or uncertainty.

One thing I love about this piece is how I grabbed a section of map off of the table of clippings only to discover it contained the section of the U.S. that included Nebraska and South Dakota. The issue of my identity with my adopted home has been a slippery one for me. Part of my process this Fall has been to embrace all aspects of who I am now: I no longer consider myself a transplanted Easterner - I am a Midwesterner.

I also have been thinking about the changes in my relationship with Cowgirl. As she matures and demands more independence, I have had to renegotiate my role as her mother. What seems to be required is a quality of strength or power coupled with gentleness and compassion. So horse seems evocative of the changes in both our worlds and speaks to what needs to be nurtured: Power with grace.

Cowgirl and I were invited to contribute a piece for a fundraiser benefiting a local art alliance. We had planned on painting penguins but somehow a dragon appeared:

Cowgirl has been making many dragon images over the past couple of weeks which I find fascinating as the coming year will be the year of the Dragon according to Chinese astrology. I've also been sitting with the energy of fire and the South in the Medicine wheel for SouLodge and I love the appropriateness of dragon, fire, creative action and the phrase I penciled in at the bottom: playing with fire.

That's how I'm feeling right now ... in a frisky, muzzle snorting way!

(I am only mildly freaking out about the possibility that no one will bid on our work. I understand many people won't be interested in mommy/daughter artwork and I feel torn between wanting it to sell and having it come back to us. Now I understand why I haven't felt compelled to try to make marketable art - my heart isn't strong enough yet!)

Okay, here's where I go reaching for the navy beans ...

Other developments include a new found passion for ... goats?

I discovered the art of Katherine Dunn and her amazing blog Apifera Farm. Her art work and photographs of her beloved farmyard friends (the inspiration for my drawings) have me bewitched. Okay, so my fantasy life is living on a small acreage with goats, a donkey, a horse, some chickens, barn cats and dogs. There would be space for me to have a real art studio, a tire swing for Cowgirl, and our animal family to inspire us all. And since it is a full fledged fantasy, we would be in Ireland or Scotland and okay, I would allow Ewan McGregor to be there as well.

So I am contemplating a profession as a animal portraitist.

I've also been decorating art journals (the simple brown Moleskine journals) as gifts.

Perhaps a dual profession? (Seriously, I am thinking about a small sideline offering of personalized journals ... looking into the details but do tell me - would you commission one?)

Well, it's back to my informal painting studio for now. No idyllic scenes of sheep or pigs, but there is a pink dragon in the making.

I think it augurs well for the changes being ushering in today ...

Dragon AND snake for Cowgirl. My guides are more bucolic.

(All my contour drawings/watercolors of goats, donkey and sheep were inspired by original photographs by Katherine Dunn as seen on her blog and flickr photostream. My works are not intended for sale but merely for my enjoyment and practice!)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

finding my rhythm

I wish I could say the absence of any sustained writing appearing on this blog was due to my pounding away at other projects.

Alas, I am here to confess: first grade is whipping my butt.

I know, it is meant to be challenging The Girl and it is - but in order to keep her moving along this mama is having to run alongside her much like a third base coach yelling his runner into home base.

First there are the weekly spelling tests. Because my child is "gifted" and honest, she tests out of the A-list (the "easier" list as she knows it) and is thus burdened by the onerous B-list. (She is honest - or naive - as she doesn't fail the pretest on purpose as a friend's son has figured out to do.)

So B-list it is. And I am wondering about the relevancy of that list. This past week she had (and misspelled) the word splint. Do doctor's still use splints? And even so, how many 7-year olds come across the word splint in their reading? So far, no splints in Frog and Toad or Little Bear.

But each week we blunder on. blunder ... that would be a good B-list word.

Then there are the craft projects which you would think this crafty mama would enjoy. Well, no. First of all, the project slips come home with usually only a week's lead time. As we live far from the craft store, a visit for supplies requires some planning and no small amount of mental/emotional preparation on my part. Perhaps we will reach a state of stasis whereby we will have all the pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and raffia required?

We have made scarecrows, pet portraits, and animal habitats among other things. I actually assigned the last project - the creation of a shoebox habitat for a robin - to The Husband. (Not that I wasn't involved; knowing he would put it off until the final day, I was prompting Cowgirl through the week to tackle elements of the project like drawing a robin and gathering sticks.)

They are both pretty proud of it:

It was a two fingers-injured (The Husband's) affair. Advice-that-one-apparently-does-have-to-state-to-Husband: do not let a 7-year old handle a hot glue gun.

Have I mentioned the social events of a first grader? Bounce gym, bowling alley, dress-up shop parties just to name the most recent few.

This what I remember of first grade: Mary, Mike and Jane books; worksheets matching rabbits with the correct number of carrots; wearing pants under my skirts as one never knew when petticoat day might be happening (that's when boys pull up your skirt to see your underwear - a phobia I am just now realizing has affected me quite profoundly); parties at home with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; and a mock election to teach us about the upcoming Presidential election: Nixon versus Humphrey. (For the non-American reader: let's just say the Beatles were still a band that year.)

All of this mama-business aside, I have been able to poke my head above the clutter of elmer's glue, tissue paper and bottle caps and make some useful observations about myself and my life. The biggest revelation is an understanding of the cycles and rhythms that I move through as well as an awareness of how the larger cycles of the seasons and life move through and affect me. Ironically, I am coming to understand all of this as my own body shifts out of what had been a very regular rhythm and lurches into the erratic.

Initially, I was disturbed by the unpredictability of my cycles. But what I have learned is to be more sensitive and alert to feelings and sensations of my body and my emotions. The dialogue with my body has deepened and I am learning to be more attentive to its needs. Equally important is understanding my emotional/creative cycles. This piece of wisdom came as a gift from a very plump little caterpillar.

#44 in my series 49 by 49

I was walking the dog when I noticed a jolly green caterpillar making his way across the sidewalk. Caterpillars always put me back into the mindset of a child. I paused and watched as he methodically made his way across the concrete and into the grass. I started thinking about a book Cowgirl has called "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." It then struck me that I have been in a caterpillar phase: gobbling up everything I can to feed me in preparation for the time in the cocoon. While I had been thinking I was directionless - dabbling in too many mediums, gobbling up ecourses and dining in multiple social sites like ning groups or secret Facebook clusters - what I have been doing is fattening myself up creatively in order to move into a period of gestation and transformation.

So as we move deeper into the stillness of Autumn that threatens to merge prematurely into Winter, I am feeling the pull to cocoon myself and I'm okay with it. Perhaps there will be some new growth, but within a safe space.

Meanwhile, we girls continue to play. Or are we feeding ourselves?

Munch, munch ...

Cowgirl's trademark "Blue Thunder" monster truck;
that's "Hey man" at the bottom (well, Hay man!)

considering a sunflower series

Happy cocoon building!

Friday, November 4, 2011

where i am ...

Spending a fair amount of time chewing my cud.


Scribbling notes to myself. Lots of lists.

Listening to messages from my angels.

Been here ... but haven't.

I am giving myself the month of November to write my heart out, create the handbook I want to share with you all.

Of course, still painting and playing. I learned from Spider that what I need in order to live in trust is to stay connected with the practices that place me in flow.

Challenging myself to think outside of my box.

Gotta roll ... I have things to do.

Pretty miraculous this life. Ups and downs, yes. But overall there is so much that renders me speechless.

So nothing new to report. And yet ... everything is changing.