Sunday, September 20, 2020

“Still, I rise.”

 



Again and again and again. 2020. This week my inbox and social media is crowded with messages like yours, I’m sure. We are all feeling and seeing and reeling from fires, viruses, deaths and disasters. 


One email focused on letting it all go. Jen Louden made a great point, “There’s a profound difference between surrendering to what is vs. falling into the grubby kind of “why bother? I’m learning to navigate between the two. I’m learning to feel my disappointment and heartache while dropping my stories like, I suck because __________ didn’t work or never happened.”


Inspiration and work. 


I admit, I’ve been in the ‘let it all go’ giving up phase. I also admit, I was heading for ‘why bother’ land. Louden’s email helped me feel the difference and steer myself back on the road.



I found a quote from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still, I rise” and I read her strong, beautiful, determined words over and over. My heart ached for her pain, saw her courage and felt my own small world rise.


Her words were the inspiration for a new piece. And I delivered it to a new gallery this week. Somehow the birds I’ve been making, Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem and the gallery’s 12x12 square all came together like magic. 



Being useful to the world. 


In the wake of Ruth Beader Ginsberg’s death, an email from Maria Shriver, Sunday Paper arrived with a question of how to turn despair into action. Asking everyone, “how you can be used right now. This is not a time for despair. This is not a time to bow out or go quiet. This is a seminal moment for each of us to dig in and dig deep.”


As an artist, how can I be used right now? I throw and hand build bowls, teacups, vases and birds in clay. This is not a revolutionary thing to do. My pieces don’t shout or march or protest. 



But, I realized the other day, they do make a statement. A friend came by my studio to buy one of my red ‘cup of love’ teacups. 


In the process, she loved and bought a bowl with the words, “Believe Love”.



And smiled happily at my Caterpillar/Butterfly with the words: love, joy, true, act, brave, kind. 




So maybe in letting it all go, I steered myself into new work that helped me rise. And maybe it will help my friend and others to rise, too. 


Despite the fear, death and smoke, I can hear Maya Angelou’s wonderful, brave words: 

“Still, like dust, I’ll rise”, “Still I’ll rise”, “Still, like air, I rise”, and “I rise. I rise. I rise.”



Friday, September 11, 2020

Perfectly Overwhelmed

 


I don’t  see blue sky outside my window. I see orange fog. Smoke. And gray particulates falling through the air. Just when I was getting used to wearing a face mask, cleansing everything with sanitizer and accepting a pandemic, my part of the world started burning. 

I am scared. I worry about all the people I know in danger and their children and animals and homes. I thank the brave firefighters and responders and want them to all come home, safe. And there is nothing I can really do to help stop any of this. What can any of us really do?



All I see on social media is pictures of the smoke, orange sky, flames outside everyone’s windows. I keep reacting to each and every one the same: shocked emoji. And I’ve taken my own pictures as well, but it just seems hard to post them. 


Sharing. 


Here’s a post I did see on social media this week and I found it very helpful.

 

This is from Lisa O’ Baire:


Dear West Coast friends, if you’re feeling anxious or unsettled by our orange, smoky skies, please remember that your animal body is responding *perfectly*. 



Your nervous system is so smart. 

You’re biologically wired to feel afraid.

Your body is prepping for threat that is not yet here.

What can you do to feel more settled in this moment?


1) Self-Touch

2) Self-Talk

3) Reach Out for Connection

4) Remember Impermanence


Self-Touch


Massage your body, even if it’s *just* squeezing your own arms. Take a shower with cool water. Ask a loved one to lay on top of you or use a weighted blanket. Sitting up with your feet on the floor, ask a friend to slowly press down on the top of your feet (it works!). Take a moment to smell something lovely. Connecting to our senses is one of the quickest ways to get “unstuck” when overwhelmed.


Self-Talk


Speak aloud what you most need to hear. Pretend you’re a loving parent and speak to your younger self: “Thank you, body, for reminding me that this is a scary moment. I am safe right now. I am resilient and prepared to act, if necessary. Until then, I am completely safe — even if it doesn’t feel like it.”


Reach Out for Connection


I appreciate every picture of an orange sky on FB right now. I see it as a bid for connection. You are not alone. Write to a family member or friend who lives in another area. Ask them to send you a photo of a beautiful blue sky. Call someone who delights you! Friends are our lifelines and can help us co-regulate. It’s likely your call will make their day too. 


Remember Impermanence


Our sweet brains need help remembering there is a different (better) future ahead. In times of strife, the body’s job is to keep us alive at all costs. Chemicals flood the body to “help”, but you may find yourself frozen — or desperate to flee or fight. 


Remind yourself that this WILL end. 

This WILL shift. 

Blue skies WILL come again. 


And finally, please remember that none of this anxiety mismatch is your fault. Nervous system regulation and resiliency was not taught in school.  Self-regulation and somatic awareness are the most important skills you can gift yourselves and your children. You’re worth it. 



Thank you, Lisa for helping me understand that feeling overwhelmed right now is perfectly all right. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020



Hours tick tock into a day. Days flip like cards into weeks. Weeks fall into months. I’m always amazed by the amount of time passing through my life. Time feels like it happens around me instead of through me.

Lost in minutiae, I don’t see the minutes marching by me. I have to admit, I like being lost in the flow most of the time. Throwing clay on the wheel. Rolling a slab for a vase. Mixing and painting a teacup or bird. Creating is my way to be lost and found in time. 


Summer is gone and it’s September?



It’s hard to believe. Covid has turned everything upside down worldwide causing so much pain, sorrow, anger and fear. Fall is coming but not with schools starting or harvest festivals or art shows or open studios.


I remember how excited my children were to go back to school. I think of how many will not even be able to go kindergarten. They won’t be able to run into a freshly decorated classroom with their names on cubbies, new paints on easels and sharpened pencils ready to use.


Bye Bye Birthday parties and hello Birthday drive byes. 


My grandson’s 1st birthday was in late August but with Covid restrictions, a traditional birthday party was out of the question. But my lovely daughter came up with a creative way to give her baby his first birthday anyway. 


With The Hungry Caterpillar theme, we went to work making clay ornaments. 



A caterpillar made of cupcakes. 



And a flying butterfly from clay. 




Luckily, it was a nice day for an outside, drive-by party. And everyone did a great job of staying safe, enjoying cupcakes and celebrating baby Cieran’s first year on our planet (in spite of Covid).

    

Lost time. 


Six months. I can’t believe that Covid has been here that long already. I spent many days, weeks and months between denial and fear. As a self-employed person, I clung to my routine. I threw and rolled and painted and fired and glazed and fired again.



Even as my shows were cancelled and galleries closed, I filled my studio shelves with bowls, birds, vases and teacups. I did social media promotions, online craft fairs and opened an Etsy shop. I worked and waited and hoped it would all end soon. 


 A season of change. 


Yes, Covid is still here. I’m still creating and working. But I’m still worried and wondering how and when will all this end? Will my granddaughter ever get to run happily into her classroom? How can we all change and recover together?


As I leaned on Mother Cedar this morning, I felt a sliver of warm sunshine and heard a message. “Take this small slice of light and let it into your soul. Let it warm you and lift you and heal you. And give it to everyone around you.”



Sunday, August 16, 2020

Forward into the Past



This week in the studio, I stepped forward into the past. Long before I had my own children, I took care of and taught little children in a local pre-school/daycare. 

I loved setting up the tables every morning with colorful toys, play dough and paints. Making wall art from their art. Setting up learning stations, reading corners, dress up and home areas. One day, I set up a long piece of butcher paper on the school patio with trays of paints and empty thread spools, small balls and sponges for the children to roll, toss, drop and splat with abandon. The mess was all easily sprayed away with the hose. The giggles were priceless. 


Teacher to mother to artist. 


When my own were born, I gave up my job as a creative in advertising to be a creative mom. And had the joy of setting up toys and paints and craypas for my own little children. I volunteered in their classrooms and taught art literacy. 


As their lives moved on, I moved onward too. I took classes and worked in watercolor, pastels, oils, copper and finally came back to clay which I did in high school. 


Around it goes again. 


I am so fortunate to be here for my grown children and their children. I love my Mondays with Meyer and now Cieran gets to come and play, too. I have a trunk of toys, a tiny kitchen, books, a dress up area and, of course, a storage cube filled with kid-friendly art supplies. 


Last week, we honored Eric Carle’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” again. This time, we made individual ornaments using Cieran’s toes for the caterpillar and a beautiful butterfly out of clay. These will all be fired and painted and ready in time for his one year birthday. 


Remembering the joy. 


This is what I so easily forget: the sheer joy of creating. The soft, squishiness of fresh clay. Colors flowing and mixing. Finding a new line. Adding a dot. Pressing a stamp, a piece of lace or hardware to make a new texture. 


Pressing the words into the wings of the new butterfly is a different kind of writing. It’s still a way to hear my soul speak. And especially now, to pass on those messages to my children and my children’s children. And to you, too. 


And hopefully, as we move forward from this time maybe the joys of the past can come with us in a new way.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Moving while Staying in Place


I’m the first to admit, these past five months created many new challenges, difficulties, sorrows and fears. As an artist, I saw my opportunities fall like bricks one by one and the bricks keep falling. As a mother, I worried for my sons, daughter and grandchildren’s health and safety. As a friend, I lost connections when I needed them most. 

There were many times, I felt my heart and soul cringe at the hard shell building around my city and country. Seeing violence and fear shatter so many lives, I found myself building a shell around myself, too. 


Creating from inside helped me out. 


With more inventory than opportunities, my head said it was time to stop making. Stop throwing. Stop building. Stop painting. But my heart cried out louder saying making, throwing, building and painting is your only hope right now. 


Creating is your only move toward light, even if everything you create has to stay home. 


It became a very slow process. I had no normal routine. I didn’t set a schedule and there was no deadline to meet. But I threw small bowls. I built new teapots and painted new birds. 


Moving closer. 


I know I’m lucky in many, many ways. I am healthy. My spouse and children and grandchildren are all fine. Even as they struggle to juggle home, work and babies. They are finding their way in this crazy covid world. 



And they are moving closer to home. This month, after 6 years away, I welcomed my daughter, son-in-law and grand-baby back to Oregon. And my son also moved closer to us. 


Now on Mondays, we have Meyer and Cieran and Colin and Caitlin and Kyle to see. Now we  get to walk with them to the park. Watch them swing. Slide down the slide. All at the same park where my now grown ‘children’ used to play. 


Learning a new pace in the same place. 


This difficult time forced me to break the shell of routine. Work away worry. Discover moving slowly is my new pace. And welcome my family home while staying in place. 


How about you? Is it possible to stand aside from the pain and fear, just a little? To look beyond these five months and see some light, movement, possibilities and maybe, some good?


Sunday, July 26, 2020

A lesson in listening


Lots of words swirl around us all right now: scary headlines, angry quotes, rude social media comments and insults. It’s hitting all of us from all sides and while some of these words definitely need to be said, my question is are they being heard? Are the right people listening? 


I read a wonderful piece by Martha Beck on listening. And how the overwhelming amount of information right now can drive you to turn off, listen less when what’s needed is to listen more. Her idea of listening is something more than just using your ears. 


4 Levels of Listening. 


Martha Beck breaks down the seemingly simple act of listening into 4 levels that involve your whole


Level One is ear listening. You hear something, perhaps scary, and you leap into survival mode.  Conflicts jump to the surface instead of cooperation and compassion. 


Level Two is body listening. The scary words cause a reaction in your body. Noticing it, breathing into it, you can help your body stay calm. This helps you notice the truth of the situation and understand your feelings and the feelings of others. 


body. 


Level Three is heart listening. Once the body relaxes, discernment happens and you can use your heart to lean in or out of the situation. According to Beck, “check to see whether your heart wants to move forward or to back off. When you’re being lied to, you may feel an inexplicable desire to move away, even to literally run. When someone is telling the truth, even though the words may be hard to hear, you’ll feel a softening and opening in your chest, a desire to hear and understand more.”


Level Four is soul listening. Beck describes this type of listening as, “a  bolt of love flows through me and toward everyone around me. It’s two aspects of one consciousness connecting, hearing our shared experience in separate bodies.” And with this type of listening a connection is made. Even if you don’t agree with the words or person, soul listening allows you to see their confusion or pain. You don’t have to change your mind in the midst of fear or prejudice, you can listen with less fear, more awareness and compassion. 


In Martha’s words, “When I listen with my ears, body, and heart, my soul is available to hear the wise voices of millions who refuse to give in to fear and bitterness. Their aim is to create a world that is safe, just and happy for all of us.”


Now these are words, I need to not just hear but listen to and act on. 

With my whole body, heart and soul. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Making Space


I’ve spent a lot of time during Covid cleaning. I do clean my home once a week but closets and cupboards and book shelves do gather dust. Somehow during this Covid time, I’ve found myself going from all ‘go’ to full ‘stop. Over and over. 


In March, I was determined to keep to my work schedule. Clay days. Painting days. Firing days. Errands, home and cleaning days. I look back and see it was my way of coping during a very scary time. I thought if I ran fast enough, maybe I’d out run it all. 


My way of working out. 


While every other social media post showed new ways to work out ‘at home’. I did my usual: walking the dog, yoga and throwing. But I added more to my workout schedule. 


I wiped down all my oak cabinets, doors and drawers with Murphy’s Oil soap. I treated my 12 pieces of leather furniture with conditioners. I dusted shelves and scrubbed drawers. This weekend I’ve dusted and reorganized two closets, cleared out 10 drawers, one desk and a window seat full of, yes, more drawers. 


Turning my worry into work is nothing new to me. I’ve done it all my life. I don’t do it all the time but during a time like this, I find it’s a helpful, healthful coping mechanism. It’s a work out that helps in body, mind and, yes, soul. 


Feeling refreshed and ready. 


Life is a force for change. Whether we like it at the time or not, life moves us on. Moving for me seems to always involve some cleaning and clearing. Whether it’s just to settle my energy or let go of the past to move into the future, it’s a workout that works for me. 


I’m making space in my body, mind, life and home for something new. And new things are coming. Some I know for sure and others I don’t. Either way, I feel refreshed and ready. 


And my closets are really clean.