Friday, October 31, 2014

On the road to good enough, or possibly better

In my family we spoke of saving things "for good."  The long-term effect of that is, whether or not a situation is good enough, I sense that I am probably not.  It is startling, actually horrifying, to discover ways in which I've been holding myself hostage, even as I thought (with my mind, that Quisling) I was evolving, moving forward, leaving old beliefs and patterns behind.  Which I was, with a few searing exceptions.
As do most of my brethren, I have almost maniacal affection for journals and sketchbooks.  This is not new.  Before I began drawing with serious intent, I gathered the budget-priced, spiral-bound subject notebooks at the back-to-school sales and used them to keep track of most things.  Unlike my mixed-media fellows, I do not begin at once to fill those journals with backgrounds, quotes, collages, stenciling, confessions, fears and musings.  With what I now identify as a deep wariness, I put off filling those blank pages with anything for which I have no guarantee of good enough.  Realizing the magnitude of derangement in this belief makes me cringe.  I speak of it here, in the open, because I suspect I'm not the only one.  With me it is the pristine journal and other things which may or may not be explored later.  For you it may be that or something comparable which you deny yourself for no other reason than an underlying doubt of deservingness.  And that you've done it this way for so long, it feels, well, normal.

Browsing through Anne Lamott's illustrated quotes this morning brought me to tears.  In my unwritten (mostly) manifesto, one of the basic beliefs is that everything is process.  Everything takes as long as it takes and that is often very, very long.  It is the unfolding of an intricate origami piece to see how it was created.  All is patience, patience generously drizzled with the tangy-sweet lemon glaze of love.  Evolution is the teacher that causes us to fall in love with ourselves in spite of how unsuitable we think we are.  A self-identified usual suspect.

So once again I am in the midst of process.  As familiar as this terrain is, I hope I am not merely dragging myself around in a circle, covering the same ground again and again.   I trust it is the spiral path described by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis in their book,  The Courage to Heal.  Though the view seems the same, we have actually reached another level.

A few weeks back I wrote about a sense of change.  In a tribute to intuition and my willingness to pay it heed, it seems I was not mistaken.  The newest increment of self-acceptance, enhanced self-care, attempting to usher shame to the exit and not for the first time for it is a stubborn lodger, and intensifying compassion for self and all it/I have experienced, finds me considerably older than I once was, more weary yet more optimistic.  I have become better at quieting the fear-driven mind and linking arms with the love-centered heart and spirit.  I can, I do, show up.  Everything is process.  Here we are again.

(In case this might interest you, I'll share the link to a recent podcast by an energy healer whose work I admire and trust.  Her name is Jo Dunning.  A long-time friend studied with her and introduced me to her work.  In this program, she speaks of the difference between mind and intuition, of radical compassion, especially for self, and explains the way her energy is able to be transmitted even via electronic media, even replays.  And she talks of finding our own way through our greatest difficulties, of not coming to a teacher as anything but an equal.  I found it strengthening.  We each have our unique journey. The replay will, I believe, be available through this weekend.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

A birthday

Strother Martin, Robert Ryan and others from the cast of THE WILD BUNCH.
Celebrating my son's birthday today, thinking of events and outings his father used to arrange, not necessarily for birthdays, but because they were there.  When he was 10 and had a broken leg, his father wrapped him in various layers of plastic and took him in the pouring rain (we used to have it) to meet the Ninja Turtles at Universal Studios while I was home with pneumonia.

They attended  a daytime revival showing with re-mastered print of Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH, visited the art deco confines of the Wiltern Theater to see, to hear Nina Simone, basked on Molokai and shopped for books at the Tate Modern.  If his father were here, I know he would, as I do, remember that first October 27 as the most pivotal moment in our lives.  He is not here but standing in for him is a most agreeable, intelligent and generous step-mother with whom he has coffee every Sunday morning.  We can never have too many people who love us.

Here is an earlier birthday post, revisited.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, John Cleese, and others

Cleese image thanks to

The day a first child, any child, only child, is born remains a day of increase, of expansion and joy. Today is my son's birthday, a date he shares with, among others, Monty Python's John Cleese and, as he is called, Wales' greatest poet, Dylan Thomas.

Today I celebrate his humor, a sharp skill at mimicry, a mostly philosophical nature that helps carry us both through trying times. I celebrate his resilience, his capacity for appreciating the good that comes his way. He seems to lack any malice or the harboring of resentment, and is his parents' child in that he would probably rather be reading or seeing a movie than anything, except maybe having court-side seats for the Lakers.

Without him I would be less than I am in every sense. I wish him peace of mind, vibrant health, abundance in all he desires and the continuing determination to see his creative dreams come true. We chose his name for we knew he would bring light. May it keep growing brighter.

Word of the Week - 34

From, Words Art Lessons.
Word of the Week:  WORDS

One of the questions asked of botanical alchemist, India Flint, in a published interview was: What is your favorite word?

Is it possible to name just one and, if so, how long would it take you to narrow it down?  Pretty much forever would be my answer.

I like the word escarpment which I believe I first heard in the original KING KONG.
Example of an escarpment.
Some words resonate for the sound they make, the way they shape the mouth, the exercise of pronouncing them.  Others are favored for their meaning, such as ponder, which I use almost constantly, or languid which I employ less often but am always looking for the right occasion.

The names of colors - crimson, heliotrope, chartreuse, ebony, marigold - feel like playmates whom one could invite to a tea party.  Do you ever think about changing your name?  I did, just now.

Squelchy or sharp-edged words appeal, such as quagmire and barnacle.  Because they are visual, I am fond of billow and trudge.

For the naming of fictional characters, I believe Charles Dickens is a master.  I give you Uriah Heep, Mrs. Malaprop, the Murdstones.  Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.
Quote found here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Word of the Week - 33

Illustration by Ana Varela.
Word of the Week:  ROUNDUP

Eventually, if we are lucky, age arrives to welcome us to its club.  In the process of reaching this status, we may notice that parts of ourselves take on aspects of socks lost to laundromats in cities almost too numerous to mention.  This past week I received gifts that aided in the roundup of some cherished bits from a specific time and I had not been conscious they were even missing.  A formal definition of "roundup" suggests a systematic gathering of scattered people and things.  Mine was roundup of happenstance.

As brief a backstory as I can assemble:  A few weeks ago, in correspondence with a friend of some years, she told of locating, she thought, the issue of a long discontinued craft magazine (American Home Crafts) for which she had designed a needlework project.  After reading her mail, I did a search of my own to see if I could find any additional magazines.  What I found was a blogger who had, as of the writing, unearthed a few random copies in a thrift store.  She shared photos of some pages and there was my friend's work.  The flurry of additional emails brought the two of them together.  I posted on Facebook about the much missed publication and a project I had done from one of their patterns.  I told that my collection of every issue from debut to au revoir had not made a crucial move some 22 years ago and of my regret for that oversight.

The FB post sparked its own dialogue with a most generous friend who believed she still had all the copies she collected, as I had, in the 1970s.  In short, after I described  the pages I longed for, she found and copied and sent them to me.

What I remembered as a blue chambray Levi's work shirt brightened with embroidered flowered vines was, in fact, an off-white shirt in the magazine photo, which she had sent ahead to confirm we were both in the right neighborhood.

In case this sounds like much ado over nothing, I need to say that American Home Craft was unlike any craft magazine seen before or, really, since.  The photography, the imagination of projects, the pure style made one want to tackle things they'd never done before.  It truly was a case of "the best of us," and I dove into the satin stitch pattern worked in variegated DMC threads with enthusiasm.  That was nearly 40 years ago.

When the pages arrived in their manilla envelope, I had no idea what sort of fish I'd gotten hold of.  Seeing the pages connected me to the much younger woman I was then, the life I was living, the then-husband for whom the shirt was created and produced a telescoping of time that allowed my now rather senior self to delight again in the inspiration of the magazines, eagerly awaited every six months, and the sense of accomplishment at trying something beyond what I thought was my skill level.  It was a cellular experience, feeling both of us within the same skin, as though I had taken one simple step backward and gathered up at least some of those missing socks.
Art by Christina Barsony.
A few days later, the full magazine which did not contain her needlepoint designs arrived from my friend in New York.  Seeing the familiar cover again (Fall/Winter 1974), for I had looked at each issue dozens of times over the years I still had them, was like holding hands with a friend absent for too long.  I would not have expected such pangs from seeing pages of familiar handcrafts.  We never know what will be the time machine trigger, do we?  A scent, an object, a model's freckled face.

Among my favorite western movies and mini series are "Red River" and "Lonesome Dove," both of which involve cattle drives, cowboys, stampedes and roundups.  I am still quieted by my response to treasures received, by the great and good hearts that sent them my way, by the wonder of restoration that I didn't know I yearned for and by the wonder of the wonder.  They say we find our tribe.  We also find those who have been entrusted with locating our wandering stock.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Word of the Week - 32

Thank you, Tricie.  Found here.
Word of the Week: FLORIBUNDA

Characterized by large flowers, growing in clusters, floribunda roses are hybrids.  It seems the word may also refer to other plants with copious and showy blossoms.  The sublime in bunches, nothing stingy, pure generosity.

If we have lessons to learn from the moth, the earthworm, the oak, the tide, I have no doubt that roses are our teachers as well.  Be beautiful in your own unique way, be an explosion of what feels extravagant and lovely.  It does not require external assistance.  It is about your essential self flowering in and out of season.  Carlos Castaneda said, “The spirit listens only when the speaker speaks in gestures. And gestures do not mean signs or body movements, but acts of true abandon, acts of largesse, of humor. As a gesture to the spirit, warriors bring out the best of themselves and silently offer it to the abstract.”  If coming into bloom isn't an act of true abandon, then I am not sure what is.

I will speak for myself, knowing that I am not alone in this:  I believe we too easily under-value our worth and worth may manifest in such subtle forms.  The mere sight of a rose delights and, surprisingly perhaps, reassures me.  All has not turned to dust, to despair.  I find such hope in the bright and fragrant (real or imagined) splendor of a rose or its bud.  It is a botanical marvel.  Be as the rose, the poets might say,  bringing to any situation such gifts as humor, compassion, attentiveness, insight, kindness, generosity, wit, sparkle, gravitas, foolishness, honesty, presence, for that which the heart or eye or spirit finds pleasing is you in full flower.

Think of your most glorious, abundant self as a modest daisy if you wish, a wee violet, but remember there are no small gifts.  In our quiet ways we are heady, billowing, profuse and possess the ability to turn soured milk sweet.  We are that amazing and powerful, capable of serous magic.

From Pinterest, here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mooning about in the Billington's Cove sunshine

Gloria's sandwiches, borrowed from here.
Robert was thinking, "lucky day" as he watched his workmates head out to string the fairy lights for the dance.  They had actually drawn straws, a commodity the hardware store could produce, to see who had ladder duty that day.  The Reading Man was willing for any task that needed doing and was also grateful to be more earthbound.

If he'd been working in the field, so to speak, he could have swung by Gloria's for lunch.  Any of the voices he heard that morning included conversation about sandwiches for workers.  Someone mentioned feta and sun dried tomatoes on ciabata.  Maybe they could bring him back a few.  (Fisherman's pants! his mind half shouted at him, but the vision of an ample lunch refused to shrink.)

The other half of his mind had begun to fill with music, all of it decades out of date, all of which he had danced to, sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with a detachment he hoped seemed cool.  Shuffled in among best loved oldies were the few songs he'd overheard Gloria singing in her kitchen.  Folk songs in a sweet voice that made him think of a mandolin and girls with long, straight hair who had, once upon a time, laughed, it seemed, from the soles of their not-quite-clean feet, only knew how to cook spaghetti and didn't complain.  He remembered they had each grown dreamy from the smell of his porch-dried chambray shirt and shampooed hair.

Good thing they hadn't assigned him power tools today, Robert thought.  Saws, drills and their ilk in combination with ladders.  He had sidestepped into his time machine, the state of suspended disbelief discovered in childhood where now became any time he wished, either with clear memory or soaring imagination.  He knew from experience it would be a jolting re-entry to find himself back behind the cash register, his youthful wonder boy self disguised as a man of increasing years.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tom Waits bonus track

Because this made me laugh out loud and, hey, it's Tom Waits day at my house, thanks to Melissa's call this morning.  xo

Tom Waits sings our tiny boat away from the dock

Photo shamelessly borrowed from here, with thanks.
Does it ever come over you, a sense of change?  You've been sitting in the antechamber for what feel like lifetimes, time enough for others you know to produce creative work and find a market for it.  What I once thought of as sloth may be essential marching in place.  We are not where we were, we are not yet ready to step into whatever is next.  From all sides the possibilities beckon, they insist, but the bridge has not yet been built and we are not such strong swimmers.  Is it any less wrenching to leave an old, likely outgrown version of self than to leave others we love?  Perhaps even more difficult, for we, it, can never be fully abandoned, we will always be with us, if not in fact then in memory.  No wonder we fear and resist change.  It is a solitary journey across open water, even with a boat our arms grow tired.  I wish my sense of adventure were more robust, my reticence more easily overcome.  I have doubts about being too old for this, not entirely clear about what "this" is.  As I am occasionally quoted as saying, when given a directive by the universe or its front man, inner wisdom, "You can't mean me, you can't mean now."  However it does mean me and if it doesn't mean now it means sometime very close to it.  Shiver me timbers.  My heart's in the wind.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The fiction of normal

From the email,  Notes from the Universe, 10/8/14:   Marylinn, you are the one who was sent to make a difference, to be a bridge, to light the way, by living the truths that have been revealed to you, so that others might do the same.

So now you know why you've always seen the world so differently than others.

To help,
    The Universe

“A ‘normal person’ is what is left after society has squeezed all unconventional opinions and aspirations out of a human being.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
Hunter S. Thompson

I know I've used this video before, at some time in the past six years.  That this song, these musicians, could fuel a car if played loudly enough I do not doubt.

If each of us is unique, how can there be a standardization that labels some as normal and others as variants?  Ideal, perhaps, as in medical, psychiatric text books.  Preferred, the word chosen by some for the lack of problems caused.  We are either authentic or we are not, trying to pass as false selves or showing up with no mask, all inside-out seams and safety pins, held together by self-administered sutures, improvisation, unmatched in any known place, wishing that genuine involved a bit less pain.

The question is rhetorical, yet I have to ask myself how much of my life energy has been spent in an attempt to appear other than as I am?  I've watched too much sci-fi not to know the amount of power a device consumes while holding back the sea, conveying search parties through wormholes or trying to escape the relentlessness of a tractor beam.  Such a charade is depleting, it steals the life force.  No wonder the cities are haunted by approximations of the species.  The message and the models encourage fitting in, matching up, maintaining formation, shunning otherness, keeping the noise down and the waters calm.

I was praised for being a quiet child, a practice begun in fear yet turning out to be a natural response to the world.  In spite of that, trouble-making tendencies found their way to the surface.  I am reminded often of Mary Oliver's Wild Geese, " only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."  Those are the words we need imprinted in childhood, that is the model that is still conspicuously missing from the mix, the examples, the billboards not of pop stars but eccentrics to assure us we were never meant to blend in, that that was not the plan.

The real plan, with a scant few directives to get the ball rolling is this:  Revere your unconventional mind, allow it to make synaptical leaps that cannot and should not be explained.  Love what and who you love as though your passion was the one thing that could save the planet, for it very likely is.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Word of the Week - 31

Word of the Week:  POND

It is larger than a puddle, not as large as a lake and is thought, by consensus, to be a small body of still water.  On a good day, it could be my mind.

"A capacity for stillness" was not an attribute I could have named until I came to know my son and saw in him what I might never have seen in myself.  For all my twitches and human shortcomings, I have for my whole life been able to become quiet and spend time in my own company without screaming.

A pond, a pondering pool, unruffled water beside which one might sit in dreamy idleness.  Spirits and faeries would gather on its banks.  Their just-missed presence could be detected by the prints of their leaf-shaped slippers where the ground was moist.  Fall asleep there and faerie mischief might weave vines and trumpet-shaped flowers in your hair.  They might take your best silver ring, either to guarantee your return to look for it or as fair barter for the bits of magic they tuck into your pocket, pin to your lapel.

We move beyond time when near a pond.  The deeper the shade, the thicker the moss, the farther we have wandered from what is ordinary, burdensome and dulling about everyday life.  Unlike the hypnotic, stirring motion of the sea, a pond abides.  The ocean waits, it can wait forever, yet it paces and prowls, roams and returns. A pond is undemanding, certain we will arrive exactly where we are meant to be without its prodding.  A calm presence, it trusts our wisdom.  What it reflects turns us back to ourselves, our secret chambers of longing, our wishes, our dreams.

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names." - Henry David Thoreau,