Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stuck on you

Since I became a rubber stamp, shall we say enthusiast, I have tried to create rubber stamped stickers. At first it was a labor-intensive process of stamping and coloring images on adhesive-back paper, then cutting them out with tiny scissors that caused my thumb and index finger to go numb. For a time I'd found a photocopy shop that could print on sticker paper (this was in the early 1990s) but the cutting-out was still by hand, an almost zen-like activity which I enjoyed regardless of discomfort.  Once I had stamp designs of my own, the wish for stickers of those images seemed to hover just out of reach.  And now, a wish fulfilled.

MOO Online Printing offers booklets of 90 stickers - and you can upload 90 different designs, think of it - each sticker just less than an inch square for $9.99.  Kristen Powers, owner of RubberMoon, shared a week or so ago about ordering new business cards AND STICKERS from MOO, which was all the information I required.  I uploaded nine designs.  The booklet arrived today
New stamp images, which I have been designing at an embarrassingly slow pace, now shriek to be real so they can become real stickers.  I never dreamed it would be so accessible, so easy.  There might have been a clue last year when I ordered a collection of postcards from vistaprint, which also does a quick and satisfying job of turning digital photos into bright and glossy postcards.  However, the sticker booklet, reminiscent of a vintage post office product, is all glee and gladness.  At such a reasonable price for custom printing, all manner of things could become stickers: leetle (to borrow a word from a Seattle writer friend) photo portraits, the plate of fish tacos with handmade tortillas, the bowl of jap chae produced one evening without a kitchen light, roses, red shoes, doll faces, a divine antique button.  When I finally get my notebook/planner up to speed, I can make lists in it of all potential sticker fodder, and then stick the stickers in it.  A circular process which makes me a bit woozy, but only in the very best way.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fire up those endorphins

Cynthia Markert painting, available as a card.
Can the future of civilization be served by a large and artificial red flower? I hear you ask.

Signs point to yes.

We underestimate at our peril the spirit boost delivered by what makes us happy.  What if endorphins actually rule the world?  The Free Dictionary says, " Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain."   Among the endorphin-producing activities suggested in medical overviews of the hormone is laughter.  As one particularly susceptible to visual stimuli, I tend to laugh when I see something that makes me happy.

A few weeks ago, having discovered a brand new bright red cardigan at the bottom of a, um, ahem, pile of clean clothes, my mind began collecting various wardrobe bits with the intention of putting together a few outfits, should any visitors stop by.  I saw a black linen shirt with something of goodly size at the neck, a red bakelite heart pin, which I own, or a red vintage millinery rose, which I do not.  Today in a Box of Surprises from my sister, THE ROSE, as well as another, even larger, in pink and a spray of gardenias arrived.  We are expected to become more eccentric as we age, aren't we?  Whew, I hope so.

Imagining various linen shirts over contrasting tanks and tees as showcases for timeless accessories makes me happy.  Just the thought adds color to my cheeks, light to my eyes, endorphins to my brain.  If more of us were so pleasantly, so easily besotted, what might result?

Addendum:  the Huffington Post offered this tip for heightened oxytocin levels:
"When someone receives a gift, their oxytocin levels can rise. You can strengthen work and personal relationships through a simple birthday or anniversary gift."  Sometimes the solution is easy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interior fishing

Titus Canyon, Death Valley, CA.
The Merced River, Yosemite Valley, in springtime.

What I choose to think of as a temporary, though somewhat prolonged, state of restricted mobility keeps me sequestered from direct contact with the natural world, the outdoors, anything that isn't indoors (i.e. my apartment).  I am not discontent.  It is yet another experience of How We Adapt.

I have learned interior fishing, the finding of, I can only hope, wider themes and broader skies within - either as an interpretation of present thoughts or past experiences, possibly a combination of them.

Is there a way to mine the treasure of muscle memory, feet and legs dancing and hiking, and use that as fuel to strengthen what has grown weaker?  Do I, do we, possess a molten core from which I can draw the necessary heat to restart a sputtering engine?  Might the interior reflect, star for star, the universe without?  Are we microcosms?  Is it possible that each of us contains infinite reaches, gathered snugly inside this human form, a duffel bag cinched tight around a miniature version of everything?

Temptation to let the vicarious replace the actual is strong, alluring even.  A friend's recent travels to the Amazon, Peru, the Galapagos Islands carried me like a stowaway in her tote bag.  With time to reflect, I could separate excitement for her adventure from a wish to have it as my own.  I roam the Machu Picchu terraces of the mind, just as I search the Greenland coast for whales with Barry Lopez's 1823 crews.   From childhood I retain California places visited and revisited as my father cataloged the state for magazine articles and his own illumination.  Experiences of sea and wind, trees, rushing waters, narrow desert canyons and the land above timberline let me know we devour, digest, our lives, absorb what we've seen and known, whether or not our minds remember it, or remember it accurately.  The accuracy seems less important than the distillation.   We transform raw material into the stories we need to retain, translating for ourselves in our own tongues what we are driven to preserve.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Word of the Week - 64

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.
Macrina Wiederkehr

Word of the Week:  EVERYDAY

Each morning brings a new voyage, the destination always unknown.  Our lives are packed full as vacation suitcases with the everyday, from which the chance for miracles, for wonders, always arises.

In some now-dim past as I began my first gratitude journal, I realized that "I'm still here" was a significant declaration, not some ho-hum, I've run out of things to say, default.  It is not so much that peril just lurks, loiters, expecting our unwariness.  It is more that the unforeseen, the unwelcome, finds us all.  I celebrate surviving those encounters.   Best not to take them at face value for frequently it is within them that we see the impossible manifest.

Whether I feel equal to the task or pitiful and outnumbered, life seems to expect me to show up every day.  I suspect one of the attractions I feel for the color red is its boldness.  Red does not cower or apologize for being.  It does not explain, simply bringing as much glorious redness as it can muster to circumstances of the moment.  We don't notice its flattened hair, pouchy eyes or abbreviated attention span.  It may appear wearing house pants and pilly socks. No matter what, it is still red and it is here,  at its heart always and only red.  Why would we be different?

We, you and I, are pieces of holiness that come wrapped in the ordinary.   Even when we can't claim to be fully robust with optimism, with enviable efficiency or even physical strength, we remain seers, questing souls, our hues authentically bright.  Because we know it exists, hidden beauty is the source of our secret strength.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some music from the Letterman years

Bringing us music beyond the ordinary was one of David Letterman's great gifts.  On his show I first heard Tom Russell and "Tonight We Ride," which became a sort of theme song for my late cousin Sheri and me, mentioning as it does Black Jack Pershing and Pancho Villa, a cavalry campaign in which our grandfather took part.  Plus, what girl can resist an accordion?

Over many years, so many musical highlights, farewells and debuts.

Because sometimes what we lose remains lost, I don't expect to find again the sort of vision that collected these musicians.  I will miss that, but more I miss Sheri and our grandpa.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Word of the Week - 63

Le Treport, France, its funicular and cliffs.
Word of the Week:  ESCARPMENT

First heard during childhood in the original KING KONG, the word escarpment remains one of those bits of language that the imagination grasps with both hands. In geological terms, it is  "a long, precipitous, clifflike ridge of land, rock, or the like."  Its image and my memories of the word returned this week when we discovered and watched via instant Netflix a six-part French television mystery series called, in English, WITNESSES.  The delight of the unexpected.

As with other series which share a similar darkness, namely THE KILLING, the British BROADCHURCH and WALLANDER, the geography seems to be a character in WITNESSES.  Set in Le Treport, France, on the north coast, the town is surprisingly full of quirky features which were unknown to us and likely unfamiliar to most American audiences.  The photography is much more cinematic than we are accustomed to on US television.  Dialogue is spare (subtitled), tension is built and sustained with atmosphere, place and the actors' highly expressive faces.  We would have liked more episodes but the producers wisely kept the number in single digits, before the suspense overcame us.  No spoilers here, read any reviews with caution, hope for more projects from this skilled company.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Joseph Campbell explains most, if not all of it for you

Finding several illustrated quotes from Joseph Campbell has made my blogging task simple today.  The first one, above, is a lesson I've learned to embrace.  The heart's wisdom, as I experience it, arrives as a knowing.  Doubt it at your peril.  It will return to speak again.  It doesn't offer guarantees for none are needed.  It often makes no sense and may leave you feeling as though you're being conned, set up to appear foolish.  Ignore that and do it anyway.  We will survive letting our hearts make us feel temporarily foolish, for this is the realm of the act and not the outcome, though that generally turns out pretty well, too.
Sleep and dreams are sacred space for me.  Seemingly unreachable worlds shift and align when my mind is truly quiet.  I experience visitations and find treasure.  On a level beyond the physical, I experience weightlessness as I do in water.  I am restored by floating and wish more of my time could be spent in that drift.  In such a place we become magnets for notions too ephemeral for the dry-land, waking world.
Surrounded by grief, loss, injustice and the world's baffling turns, I feel inadequate of time, energy, funds and ideas to set things aright.  Following the bold suggestion above, I believe I may contribute to the good of our lives by taking heart-dictated steps to share beauty, humor, love and the quirks I embody, my ways of being alive.
Unique in all of time and space, yes, you.  What an impossible gift, the generosity of which I cannot quite comprehend but know it to be true.  That I haven't always known it only makes the awareness so much more dazzling.  It transcends imperfection and asks only that we be fully, truly who we are without apology or shame.  We are the dance of fairies in the moonlight.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Word of the Week - 62

Word of the Week:  REWRITE

A rewrite is as good as a do-over.  It gives a nod of assent to changing our mind.  Oh, yes, this IS better than that.

Perception may be 100% of any situation, which becomes something new when we can see it differently.  Anxiety is the lurking vortex, not quite invisible from the corner of the eye, its loud slurping reminding that fear and worry, even despair are always available choices.  We don't have to take that road.

Sunday morning, ordinary life challenges, the option of lapsing into hand-wringing and full-on dither.  Or, finding a way to do what absolutely has to be done in the moment and simply assuming that all will be well.  Not my job to know how, my only job is to trust, listen to what wisdom guides me and be honestly cheerful.  There have been countless challenges and I'm still here. 

Nor can we change the past, only the way we view it.  Even if it has felt like a nightmare for decades, responsible, or so we imagine, for ruining our lives, we can assign it a new role, reinterpret its influence, thank it for the unlikely gift of helping us become who we are.  Darkness and pain are not what the universe of my understanding wishes for me, though I haven't always known that.  Illumination, gratitude, peace and joy are what I prefer.  Raise your copy pencils, change the story.   We are not too old to learn new tricks. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Word of the Week - 61

Word of the Week:  MIXTAPE

Not sure what they call them anymore since we, meaning they, don't use cassettes.  I still prefer CD to digital and I still have mixtapes from decades ago and they haven't (or hadn't) lost their shape or sound.  I also continue to believe that a mixtape is an accurate representation of (a) the moment, (b) a very finite number of our favorite songs or (c) our ability to use other people's words to deliver our message.   For my (b), the problem if there was one would be how to keep it from being Van Morrison-heavy.

Here are two non-Morrison samples from my potential (b) mixtape:

To be known, is there any part of life less easily conquered?  First to be known to ourselves, not confused nor self-deceiving, then to find the means of communicating that, either by living it, writing it, speaking it, acting it out in pantomime, to significant others.  Our human ability to misconstrue is without limit, as though existence were a cinema noir classic in which we each play a protagonist of limited vision who only dreams of the big score.  Yes, I have recently been watching and thinking about noir.  I can tell you this, the cartel always wins.

With the discovery of Pinterest, I found knitting artists who produce non-matching socks by the pair.  They are jewels for the feet, rare and beautiful and, it seems, frequently made from last small bits of yarn leftover from other projects.  I know I am one of those pair, not one row like another, disparate parts scattered all over the landscape.  I believe most of us are.  Our songs will be as divergent as our thoughts and favorite foods.  A mixtape can be the microcosm, the linear presentation of peaks and valleys, a map of preferences in a way the brain can process it, us as a medley of our greatest hits which we feel no compulsion to explain.
Source unknown.

It might have to be a video mixtape, what with Lou Reed and all.

Two mixtapes, one video, one audio.  For now.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Woman at the window

"Alupka," painting by Sergei Arsenevicha.
A cursory study of paintings of women tells me that windows are significant in women's lives.  In Los Angeles it is every bit the spring morning I might have wished for.  The heat that made sleep difficult a day or so ago seems to have lessened, there are no clouds though yesterday's sky gave me a sense of altitude, mimicking a mountain summer edging toward fall.  The apartment window, slid fully open, lets in Saturday suburban noise but it is the wind, the breeze, that I hear, especially through the palms.

Space and time, as I've written possibly too often, can grow imprecise for me.  If there is a veil which protects us from seeing too deeply into matters not presently residing in this reality, that veil at times can thin.  It feels like stepping from the fixed and comprehensible bank into the river and surrendering to the unknowable current.  From the separate self to merging with everything, all that was, is and might be.   My present indoor existence would shrivel without the breath and vision delivered through an open window.

Winter stunts me as I wrap in layers and watch everything beyond the sill through glass.  I know other influences sparked today's communion with the cosmic whole, yet what the skin perceives plays a part.  Beyond that, I think my greatest wisdom is the product of a knowing that circles outside the ordinarily identified senses.  Once I chose to trust the clear, specific guidance that speaks to me in unexpected moments, I felt I had an ally, a mentor, a really smart sidekick who knew things I could not.

I daydream through my window, hypnotized as I am this morning by what is green and swaying or by a fog bank, by drifting clouds, by jetliners preparing to turn and land at LAX.  Even when closed, the window is permeable.   When open, no obstacles exist between me and what might be possible.  I am not sure that would be true at ground level but here in the sky there is unfettered access.  Now it is May and what stirs the branches stirs me.  I sail, I soar, if only in my mind.
"Summer in Cumberland," painting by James Durden.