June 6, 2019

Spaciousness

My word for 2019 is spaciousness, in all possible meanings, as applied to physical space and the body, emotional well-being and mental health, interpersonal relationships and relationship with self, creativity and the soul. Mind Body Soul Spirit. It's all connected. As such, I've been addressing all these aspects, from different angles, with different techniques, with the goal to clear years of clutter, muck, and stickiness.

One such angle was the wonderful e-course Your Soul Speaks, with Susannah Conway, 15 glorious days of prompts and tools to (re)connect with inner wisdom / intuition. One tool, collaging to unlock / tap into / release inner wisdom combined fluidly with another angle new to me this year, keeping a moon journal. I'm using this one to journal daily, following the moon cycle rather than the arbitrary passage of time recorded by the monthly calendar. Cyclical time vs linear time appeals to me, especially since diving into Leonard Shlain's book The Alphabet Versus the Gooddess - but I digress.
The moon journal pages devoted to creating a new moon mandala are a perfect time and place - every 29th day on the new moon - to use the intuition tapping collage technique to reveal my focus for the next moon cycle. The mandala collage then prompts specific intentions, written down on the next page, related to what the mandala collage reveals.
The first couple of these collages I made were very much directed by my conscious mind. But with practice, the two most recent, pictured here, revealed surprises (but not really). They surprised me in that they are in no way the result of conscious choices, the images and words seemingly picked themselves without my direction. The collages are not surprising, though, in their content. What they reveal are thing I KNOW. Things deeply known by my inner wisdom that intuition surfaced for my conscious mind to work with. I am loving these tools and techniques.
What are your rituals or techniques for tuning into your intuition / inner wisdom / soul? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

PS Another daily journaling / doing / prompt that I'm digging this year are the exercises presented in A Year to Clear: A Daily Guide to Creating Spaciousness in Your Home and Heart by Stephanie Bennett Vogt (hey, lookee, it's still offered as an e-course. Who knew?)

May 21, 2019

Feeling Rusty

I've been feeling very rusty in this little ol' art practice (or not practice, as the case may be) of mine. Figuratively rusty because:
  1. I'm working in new (to me) media
  2. I'm creating imagery rather than recording on film what already exists in reality
  3. I'm learning to think in 3-D
  4. I'm at the mercy of my learning curve for:
    •   Acquiring the necessary dexterity and craftsmanship skills for textile work
    •   Figuring out how different physical materials behave and won't behave
    •   Considering how 3-D objects will inhabit a space (dangling from ceiling, protruding from wall, sitting on a pedestal, etc)
  5. I'm creating my own visual and symbolic language 
And that's just the list I've pulled off the top of my head in this moment. I'm sure there's more. Of course there's more.

I'm mentioning these things because I've been beating myself up for not producing mounds of work, not producing exhibit worthy work, not spending every free moment in the studio working. I know I'm not the only one who gets down on myself for these things. But. It's just plain silly and counterproductive to beat up on oneself. For me, it stymies my creativity rather than open it up. I've been reading this advice from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse over and over again lately as a reminder to get out of my head and just do something, make something, anything. To cultivate and ride the momentum generated by simply doing.

So. A shift. I took feeling metaphorically rusty and turned it literal. I pulled out my collection of rusty shit and dyed tiny torn strips of muslin. (Am I the only one who sees these fabric strips as slabs of marbled bacon? The iron stains as muscle, the white fabric as the fat.)
I dye with rust/iron specifically because it's the iron in our hemoglobin that causes brown and rusty  blood stains. With my rusty fabrics and threads, I hope to suggest associations with blood. Regardless, I need a few more strips of rusty fabric to finish an experimental pod thingie that has been languishing for months. I worked on it for the first time in ages while over at a friend's house last week for a craft night date. Thank you Adrienne! Riding the momentum generated by those few hours of stitching carried over into more dyeing...
I even love the threads that shed from the frayed edges of the torn strips.
When these babies dry, some are destined to finish this pod experiment. What's it for? What's its destiny? Not a clue. And that's OK. It's teaching me things I need to know.

January 6, 2019

Altered Altar

This is the floor of my studio, right now. Yesterday, with the solar eclipse and new moon as motivators, I decided to get started on making an altar.

An altar. FULL STOP. I couldn't have contemplated such a thing or even said such a word a couple of years ago without a full body cringe of squiggy discomfort. An altar? Me? In my home? What? Since then I've read a lot, thought a lot, questioned a lot, worked a lot, stretched a lot, relinquished a lot, embraced a lot, and changed a lot, as one does.

My altar is not an altar of or to any religious faith (although it will contain a Ganesha figurine and possibly a Buddha head), it's more accurately a display or vignette of items that hold personal significance to me. My altar will serve as a personal touchstone, with elements of beauty and symbols that encourage and remind me of how and who I am and want to be.
This gorgeous, aged, chipped, carved wood frame will become the container, the altar, for my rotating collection of objects and symbols. I've had the frame for years, but haven't before now figured out how to use it or display it. The flat interior edges (the rabbet) are two and half inches deep. Perfect, I think, as a little shelf for special, little objects.

I'm going to add a shelf midway-ish up the height of the frame. And since I have no way to determine just what is in the paint and finishes that remain adhered to it, I'm going to gently clean and then seal the surface with polyurethane. It pains me to do something that isn't reversible, but I'd rather have any potential carcinogens and lung irritants safely sealed in place.
This is such a magnificent frame. I am over the moon with happiness that it will finally adorn my wall and serve a purpose other than just looking really friggin' cool. Creating an altar feels like an apt way to begin the new year. It will certainly include elements of my word for 2019, spaciousness. Sorry for the abrupt ending, I'm out of practice writing posts. . .

December 27, 2018

52 Books

For an explanation of 52 Books (2012) click here.
Links to all other previous lists
52 Books 2013 :: 52 Books 2014 :: 52 Books 2015 :: 52 Books 2016 :: 52 Books 2017
BOOKS 2018
The Goldfinch • Donna Tartt
Dancer • Colum McCann
All Over Creation • Ruth Ozeki
Gift from the Sea • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
At the Water's Edge • Sara Gruen
The Last Kingdom • Bernard Cornwell
The Girl on the Train • Paula Hawkins
The Fiery Cross • Diana Gabaldon
People of the Book • Geraldine Brooks
The Secret Garden • Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Mists of Avalon • Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Bridges of Madison County • Robert James Waller
When It Happens to You • Molly Ringwald
The Wise Man's Fear • Patrick Rothfuss
The Pale Horseman • Bernard Cornwell
Transit • Rachel Cusk
Winter Journal • Paul Auster
Wizard and Glass • Stephen King
American Gods • Neil Gaiman
The Language of Trees • Ilie Ruby
The Devil's Workshop • Alex Grecian
Threats • Amelia Gray
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You • Alice Munro
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
The Passenger • Lisa Lutz
Slade House • David Mitchell
The First Bad Man • Miranda July
Lords of the North • Bernard Cornwell
Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist • Judy Chicago
Sword Song • Bernard Cornwell
Cat's Eye • Margaret Atwood
Mortal Fear • Greg Iles
Black Swan Green • David Mitchell
Jezebels of the Earth • Wandering Meadowlark
Hag-Seed • Margaret Atwood
One Good Turn • Kate Atkinson
Beautiful Ruin • Jess Walter
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone • J.K. Rowling
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo • Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played with Fire • Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest • Stieg Larsson
A Breath of Snow and Ashes • Diana Gabaldon
Exit West • Mohsin Hamid
The Graveyard Book • Neil Gaiman
Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives • Becky Aikman
The Handmaid's Tale • Margaret Atwood
The Last Painting of Sara deVos • Dominic Smith
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century • Kirk Wallace Johnson
Started Early, Took My Dog • Kate Atkinson
This Must Be the Place • Maggie O'Farrell
The Burning Land • Bernard Cornwell
The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
Taft • Ann Patchett
Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
The Mistress's Daughter • A.M. Homes
Dark Places • Gillian Flynn
Bonfire • Krysten Ritter
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children • Ransom Riggs
The Robber Bride • Margaret Atwood
and an insightful, amazing, amusing, and helpful unpublished manuscript written by a good friend

December 18, 2018

Beginnings

Dear A - - -

I've been thinking about new beginnings, fresh starts, hitting the personal reset button, and would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. But, as you know, our phone conversations clock in at, at a minimum, four hours. (When you left voicemail this morning, I was at my workplace's annual holiday breakfast, which I had completely forgotten about when planning my days off this week. Oops.) Regardless, I have too many things I want to do in my days before heading north for the holidays, especially in the studio, to make space for one of our epic phone rollicks. Instead, my rambling, one-way conversation is coming to you as a "letter."
Sure, I could put pen to paper and mail this through the postal service. It's always so pleasant to receive something personal in the mail, isn't it? A lift, a spark, a hug, delivered right to your door or end of the driveway, as the case may be. But, as I know you receive my blog posts in your email and file them away in a separate folder until you have time to sit with them, I thought: Hey! Two birds, one stone. (What a horrid expression! Sorry, birds!) An e-letter to you to sow the seeds for a future conversation plus a "new beginnings" blog post all-in-one.

New beginnings. I've been wanting to reconnect to this space through regular posts (whatever regular winds up being: Weekly? Bi-weekly? Don't know, what in the end feels right and doable, I suppose). But I've been struggling to find my way back in, struggling to interest myself enough in my own words and ramblings to share them here with a wider audience. Even if that audience is only two, that's still wider than the limits of my own head. Struggling, that is, until the format of a letter to you hit like a bolt of lightning. Don't worry, I'm only a little singed around the edges, and plan to cut my hair soon anyway, so no lasting damage done.
Oh dear. I'm cluing in to why our phone calls are epic in length. Because we wander. Even writing to you, imagining this as a conversation with you, wandering ensues. We wander beautifully & curiously & playfully & inquiringly & rantingly & goofily & searchingly & intuitively. Our conversations are like rollicking tromps through the countryside, from meadow to brook, forest to hilltop, thicket to lake shore. Were a couple of lovable, inexhaustible hounds, meandering to and fro, noses to the ground sniffing everything, noses in the air seeing everything. I love our conversations. I wish we recorded them to listen back to later. To be able to take notes. Some of the stuff we stumble upon is pure gold.

Right. New Beginnings. What I have been holding on to, making space for, mostly just reminding myself over and over, is that new beginnings can happen any time. ANY TIME. Every new breath is an opportunity to begin afresh. Okay, not exactly revolutionary or earth shattering of a thought. But still. Instead of putting off starting something - like trying to figure out how to create a cracked open milkweed pod shape with fabric pieces - until tomorrow, next week, the new year, whatever conceivable future time frame feels new and fresh in the moment, I remind myself that this very moment is a new beginning.
With your years of meditation practice, I imagine this is not a new concept to you. And I have to interrupt this train of thought to say that it's not a new concept to me either. But, somehow, in recent years (um, over the past decade perhaps?), more and more time-based procrastinations and avoidances have crept into my daily habits. And I don't like it. It just doesn't make sense to me, intellectually if not in practice, to put off something I want to do or need to do with the justification that tomorrow or next week is a fresh start. I'll do it then. Why then? Why not now? And, really, the "then" in those ego trickster mind games never seem to arrive. Or keep getting pushed back.

Well, I've barely scratched the surface of what I thought I wanted to get down in words for you. But this will have to do for now. I'll leave you with a passage from Dani Shapiro's book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life on this very topic of new beginnings, a passage I have glued to the inside cover of one of my sketchbooks:
     When I was first learning to meditate, this idea of beginning again was revelatory. It still is. The meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg speaks of capturing the mind scampering off, like the little monkey that it is, into the past, the future, anywhere but here, and suggests that the real skill in meditation is simply noticing that the mind has wandered. So liberating, this idea that we can start over at any time, a thousand times a day if need be. I see many parallels between the practices of meditation and writing but none are more powerful than this. Writing is hard. We resist, we procrastinate, we veer off course. But we have this tool, this ability to begin again. Every sentence is new. Every paragraph, every chapter, every book is a country we've never been to before. We're clearing brush. We don't know what's on the other side of that tree. We are visitors in a foreign land. And so we take a step. Up the stairs after the morning coffee. Back to the desk after the doorbell has rung. Return to the manuscript.
     It never gets easier. It shouldn't get easier. Word after word, sentence after sentence, we build our writing lives. We hope not to repeat ourselves. We hope to evolve as interpreters and witnesses of the world around us. We feel our way through darkness, pause, consider, breathe in, breathe out, begin again. And again, and again.*
Things I did not get to that I'd like to remember to talk about with you:
     1. Spirals vs circles, linear vs cyclical time
     2. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image
(my current read, I'm fascinated with the author's theory that written language is the universal reason varied cultures shifted from egalitarian Goddess worshiping polytheistic societies to patriarchal, mysogynistic monotheistic societies in which God is imagined as male.)
     3. Reading deliberately, list of books to read, books on shelf that remain unread or unfinished

* Shapiro, Dani. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013, pp 109-110.

November 8, 2018

Shifting Perspectives

A shift in perspective. Deliberately altering one's view/mindset by changing one's outlook/point of reference. Employing new words to describe a tired concept. New words create new perspective, fresh ways of thinking about a particular problem or sticky wicket.

This is where I have been: listless, immobile, stagnant, motivated yet resistant to starting. Starting anything: art, creative idea follow-through, decluttering, ordering the house, cleaning, cooking. Stuck. Stagnant.
After much not helpful deliberation and stern self-talkings-to, reflecting on a conversation with a dear friend got me thinking. What if the stagnancy in me is a reflection of the stagnancy in the house? Stagnant energy, if you will, enclosed in the house, gathered and trapped amongst the areas of clutter and the items unpacked yet not arranged.

I intellectually know that my clutter hasn't changed. Nevertheless, being overwhelmed into paralysis by the sheer volume of the decluttering I dearly wish to tackle, that helplessness completely shifted when I replaced the language in the story. Instead of cleaning and clutter-busting I am releasing stagnant energy and inviting in fresh energy. Complete game changer.
It began with removing the air conditioners from the windows in preparation for colder weather. (Did anyone else abruptly move from A/C to heating in a single day?) The first window was filthy, so I deep cleaned every nook and cranny and polished the glass to a shine. The difference was amazing! It not only let in more light - clear, unwavering, unfiltered light - with the idea of energy exchange in mind, it felt like I had removed a barrier to the stagnant energy escaping the house. More window cleaning ensued. Which led to removing the pockets of clutter around the windows. And arranging the windowsills to be pleasing, harmonious, happy.
This shift, this change in words, change in conceptualization, altering the story and self-talk, I wonder how it can be applied to creative work. When stuck, or blocked, or feeling in a rut creatively, when feeling "uninspired," or tapped dry, how can I shift my perspective to unlock movement and effort? How can different words used to describe the blocked feeling, a fresh way to conceive of the issue, provide space and motivation for the joy of making?

Through this process of physically clearing and cleaning and removing blockages, the synchronicities keep on coming. Perhaps it has been framed and inspired by my early choice of word for 2019: Clarity. Regardless, this timely post from The Craft Sessions about unlocking creativity through changing our self-talk says what I am trying to convey much better than I can say it. And this guest post over at Annapurna Living - about windows of all things - landed in my inbox with a soft chuckle and nudge to keep on keeping on. As George Bernard Shaw put it, "you are the windows through which you must see the world."