Monday, September 28, 2015

Word of the Week - 82

Word of the Week:  LISTEN

If you have become estranged from your intuition, all is not lost.  The first step is to grow and remain quiet, still.  The second is to listen.  The third is to trust the information you receive no matter how unlikely, or even unreliable it seems.  Knowledge greater than ours takes us in directions we would never have chosen.

The prompts are likely subtle.  In my experience, intuition doesn't shriek.  Notions of what to do next may arrive sounding similar to an overheard conversation, or may be the result of simply knowing something unknown a second before.  Among my examples is the suggestion, several years ago as I began my morning at the computer, to "find more writers."  Just that, not how, not where, not why.  So I did.  From that directive, I discovered poets, their blogs, their work, and ways my own writer's voice could become stronger, winnowing down the choice of words I needed for what I had to say.   Those found writers became friends, models, teachers, even an angel who walked me through the poetry she'd studied her whole life.  In one morning, based upon a flash of what I can only call intuition, my world expanded like a new universe being born.

Intuition, I believe, is the Panama Canal, moving us from one level of existence to another.  We are lifted and transferred from ordinary to expanded.  Intuition is not epiphany, not the explosive realization of discovery but something much softer, yet quietly insistent.  It may lead us to epiphanies. to shouts of "eureka" and such.  For me, its gifts, for they certainly are that, are neither noisy nor big, at least in the moment.  In the aftermath of taking the recommended action, I may be aware that it was, in fact, a big deal.  At which point, my normal response is to sit, subdued and at the same time dazed, grateful almost beyond measure.  A sacred gift, indeed.  Thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Green People

What follows is a story first printed in Teesha Moore's The Studio 'zine quite a few years ago, later reprinted at my website.  I don't think I've shared it here before.  Please excuse the spacing, it is too late in the day/century to try and fix it.

My family had two sides, the indoor and the outdoor. When I went on
vacation with the indoor grandparents, we visited people. With my own parents and
the outdoor faction, we visited trees.

The trees we went to see more than any others were the giant redwoods of
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, both within picnic distance of the
San Joaquin Valley farm where my father grew up. Their family recreation had
always been going to the mountains; simple drives, picnics, hiking, camping.
The Sierras were their back yard. When my father had a family of his own, we
followed the same path.

Up we'd drive, watching the altitude signs along a winding road that
passed rocky vistas and high mountain meadows. Eventually we would reach the
trees, always finding a spot beneath their ceiling to have our lunch. We sat in
dappled sunlight, filtered spots bright as coins dotting our clothes and
bodies. The sound at ground level was the noise of skittering creatures. Higher
up, soaring branches tall enough to touch the wind played the forest's unique
music, a source of deep peace.

Over the years our vacations and my father's writing assignments took us
all around California. Trees awaited us at every destination. We came to
know the oaks of the Mother Lode, the Monterey cypress, windbreaks of eucalyptus
on the coastal plain. We were introduced to the bristle cone pine in our
local mountains, date palms and Joshua "trees" in the desert, orchards, timber
stands and cottonwoods turning with the season. Sometimes my father would
despair of his children as we read comic books in the station wagon's back seat
instead of looking out the windows. What he didn't know was that all the
information, all the sights and stories and impressions reached us anyway. We
learned the names of the towns and the rivers and felt ourselves among friends in
the woods.

We were still quite young when my father tried to tell us, partly in
words, what trees meant to him. It was a December evening, we'd taken our
Christmas tree from the car and it waited on the lawn as my mother readied its spot
in the front window. My father called us to form a circle around the fir as
light from the open front door spilled over us. We joined hands and danced,
actually skipped, around the tree, he singing some version of a Christmas song.
It was unlike anything we'd ever seen him do and we laughed from the surprise
and the joy of it. "I've always thought I was a druid," he said, explaining,
simplifying.   "They were people whose religion was about nature. " Then the
dance began again and we declared we were all druids, sisters and brothers of
the forest, children of the trees.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Little stuffed things

The Babysitter and Melba, art by my sister Laurie.
Animal brooches by Kamio Mari.
Sewn art by Julie Arkell, possibly brooches.
Art by Jone Hallmark.
Stuffed dolls in matchbox houses by Paula Mills.
Hand painted, embroidered folk dolls by Jess Quinn.
Summer becomes fall on September 23.  In places that aren't Southern California that could mean quiet lap crafts as the day's light decreases.  Hand sewing with bits of scrap is a worthy endeavor with Christmas barely three months away.

Fabric craft on a small scale is appealing work for any season, any locale.  I could embroider on a sunny deck overlooking the Pacific, couldn't you?  Pocket-sized art can travel anywhere (I'm not sure how they feel about needles and scissors on airplanes, it has been so long since I've flown).  There is almost no fabric scrap too tiny to save.

Likenesses of creatures from nature, gumball-headed, pocket-sized stocking-face dolls, wee imaginative brooches, sampler-like geometric shapes, cuddleable companions, close work with good lighting (a must!) may be how we are called pass an evening as the seasons turn.

I would be giddily happy to spend an entire day googling and researching the textile crafts of artists around the world.  What a wealth of inspiration, but then so is the sewing basket, the scrap bag.  Maybe that flowered shirt can find a new life here.  It IS faded in spots, frayed along the placket, would I buy it at a thrift shop?  Of course I would, to turn into little stuffed things.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Word of the Week - 81

Word of the Week:  STEWARD

I feel it more and more, the insistence that I am, that each of us is, the steward of our own past.  It begins to nudge me toward memoir, though not in a linear way.  More likely fiction, however that may be achieved.  Real stories, parts of which are true.

No matter how small we think our lives or our stories, they are pieces of an intricately entwined whole, pieces upon which other stories and lives balance or lean.  We are not complete without each other.

As age drags us reluctantly or gleefully forward, that over which we are stewards expands.  The more distant reaches do not shrink proportionately.  Each minute, year, hour maintains its size.  We simply let out our mental corsets to include new arrivals or, more accurately, to allow space for reinterpretation of all that has been.  Events become clearer at a distance, we know ourselves better as we evolve.

The puzzle:  how to weave the husbands, the missing but essential magazine issue, garage sale fashions, a backstage encounter, discovering martial arts movies, ghost towns, music, years of car trips, jewelry made of shells, hamburgers and ice cream, books and all the people into either a single strand or episodes of coherent narrative, even in my own mind let alone on paper.

We need not have survived the Titanic's sinking nor been Rosa Parks to have a story that deserves tending.  Ordinary life is a series of wonders, our wonders, both unique and universal, begging our stewardship, whispering, Do Not Forget. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And then there was rain

"Morning Rain" by Filomena Booth.
I don't want to talk it away, use voice and words to diminish its power.  Rain is so experiential, especially here in Los Angeles where we haven't seen the like of this in perhaps a few years.  I also refuse to Google it away by looking up statistics, numbers which would only tell me what I already know in my cells.

Rain calms me, slows and soothes and further stills me.  It induces a trance state in which all is peace.  Here, in abundance, it reminds me that gaps in our lives are not meant to be filled artificially.  Rain, the absent tonic, cannot be imitated.  Its tranquil blanketing will never be hurried along.  When it arrives so unexpectedly - 40% chance is not my idea of a sure thing, we have very few sure things here when it comes to rain - and so profusely it becomes both blessing and teacher.  Remember all those things you thought ought to be here, ought to have happened or arrived by now, those things upon which you have half given up, resigned to disappointment?  Rain taps out a message of almost infinite patience.  See, it says.  See, I have arrived.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Word of the Week - 80

 "The Old Red Door" by David Lee Thompson.
Word of the Week:  CLOSURE

Based on its standard usage, especially in tv news stories, I nominate closure for myth status.  The states in which humans are left following death, illness, trauma and loss in its infinite forms do not lend themselves to tidy, invisible restoration.  The frayed ends do not, in my experience, reweave themselves, things torn asunder do not simply reattach.  What remains is not closure but a process of evolution, alchemy really, in which we move from being one thing to another.  We finds what ways we can to grow past the wound.  It will never not leave a scar.  That is not a mistake, that is order.

I believe well-intentioned, giving them the benefit of the doubt, people actually bully others into feeling they are doing it wrong, insisting that by some arbitrary time they should have reached "closure" with anything sad, often horrific.  Unlike the previously mentioned news stories, I do not believe that a jury verdict, a death sentence, or an execution will ever bring to an end the sorrow and suffering resulting from criminal acts.  A sense of revenge is not a substitute for diminished grief.

These musings spring from a post seen a few days ago, suggesting that if we can't have the illusive closure, we can learn to move on.  To me, that is as good as it will get.  Not to be mired in sadness at the same sharp level where we began is progress.  Life alters us, in its high moments and its low.  My familiar theme of living adaptively certainly applies to that which leaves us feeling broken and lost.  Visualizing recovery from physical injury gives us a model of the multiple steps, the duration of healing to get us back on, for instance, our feet.  And when therapy and exercises are completed, we may limp, we may not walk at all, yet we are not where we started.

To the best of my ability, I assume each of us is doing as well as we can, however imperfect that may appear.  How can we possibly know what motivates another, what kind or insidious voices whisper suggestions that might even make sense in the moment?  How can we know until it happens to us which events will take all the starch out of our spines and our spirits?

We will not, we cannot evolve until we learn to be much more forgiving with ourselves and our processes, until we come close to being kind to each other, no matter what.  There will always be differences between us.  We will always appear in the mirror as flawed, forgetting that flawed is human, the only material we have to work with.

I think my greatest disagreement with commonly held beliefs about closure is that it comes from somewhere outside of us, as with criminal proceedings where the jury awards closure to the victim's family.  I think every bit of it is a deeply interior process.  We are the almost unbearably slow train that brings us back to abandoned parts of ourselves.  We must have patience beyond where we once thought patience ended.  Everything is about becoming, to which there is no limit.

Monday, September 7, 2015

ABOUT TIME is about kindness and love and impossible things. What could be better?

"We're all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride."  Tim, from ABOUT TIME
Actors Domhnall Gleeson and Bil Nighy in time-travel mode.
It's not that I was in ill humor when we sat down to watch ABOUT TIME last night.  The cooler days had stalked off, leaving us with temperatures heading up the thermometer (the old, analog kind) and I could feel my energy waning.  Then the mango slices had to be rescued from the floor, washed and eyeballed (yes, it IS that kind of a home) while the cranky voices in my head found fault with things that don't even exist.  All that evaporated with this story, for which I now have great affection, introducing us to kind, loving people who live quirky lives in quiet ways and have tea on the beach next to their Cornwall home every day no matter what the weather.  You may more easily find yourself swallowed by this Richard Curtis work if you remember the phrase, "the willing suspension of disbelief."  It is fiction, possibly fairy tale, taken as such, taken as antidote to millennial  cynicism, narcissism, rejection of magic as one of the impossible things that happens.

By the movie's end I was refreshed, restored and reminded that the high and happy road is never a wrong choice.  Happiness IS a choice.  Uninvited, it will not likely come and sit by your side for ever and ever.  Make room for it, expect it and set out the trail of cake (not bread) crumbs to lure it closer.  Life is about what we do in spite of everything.  It may be a test, we can't be sure.  Pretend that it is.  ABOUT TIME offers us a map, one that may take us where we want to go.  It charmed me, lifted me out of the doldrums, if that is what they were, by my ears.  Perhaps I could watch clips of this every night instead of the news.

Word of the Week - 79

All illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch.
Word of the Week:  CREATURES

"Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."    Albert Einstein

As I wrote this over the weekend, I believe experts are still trying to find again, then free a blue whale off the coast of Los Angeles who became tangled in fishing line.  To see the aerial footage of this 75-foot example of Earth's largest creature in our local waters is a remarkable experience, even from the comfort of the living room.  The rescue team admits they have no blue whale experience, they don't know what the response may be to divers swimming close.

Hopping from nature to the world of art, I am enchanted by those who turn to the animal, insect, etc. kingdoms for inspiration.  Last winter I found the work of felting artist Celestine and the Hare, her creatures and her humor which now brighten every day of my life.  The list of illustrators who have charmed me over a lifetime would take days to compile.  For now, I'll share the art of Wolf Erlbruch whose animals and others bring joy.   Mister Finch creates arachnids and lepidoptera of unusual size to help populate our imaginations.  Ceramic artist Midori Takaki has mastered the art of tapirs and softly-glazed polar bears.

I marvel at the ways in which the world can be both large and small simultaneously.  The great blue whale and the statistic that perhaps only 5% of ocean life has even been identified, side by side with great silliness in a tiny package.  Fall in love with as much as possible.  It is all so miraculous.
The felted art of Celestine and the Hare made weasel a household word.

A moth in vintage fabric from Mister Finch.
Ceramic tapirs by Midori Takaki.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Watercolor pencil play

From last week, when some drawing and painting actually happened.  Hoping for more of the same.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

From the quiet center of a quiet life

Henri Matisse, "Blouse Woman Dreaming."

"Your must find your own quiet center of life and write from that."
  Sarah Orme Jewett

Today it is lingering thoughts of loss and how to reshape them instead into moments of celebrating what was.

When life is not a splashy collection of busyness, socializing, achieving, acquiring, it takes on a miniature aspect, as thought it weren't a complete and full life but a scant portion thereof.  We may be the very last to know ourselves, to recognize our value to the whole.  The self viewed through a prism of diminished significance.  That is not the truth.   From where we are, with what we have, we are or become what is needed most.  Our job, in addition, is to trust the rightness of that.