Thursday, July 12, 2018

Flops Flipped

Life, as they say, sometimes hands you lemons. And as the saying goes, you’re supposed to make lemonade. I used to hate that saying because it felt like I was supposed to feel good about the bad things in life. I even got rather stubborn about it. I didn’t want anyone to trivialize my pain and, therefore, belittle the challenges in my life. 

I think I missed the point. 

The point, I believe now, is to view bad things not as good but as transformative.

Lumps, bumps and losses happen throughout life. From babyhood to adulthood, we have to leave part of our life behind to grow forward. Moving through those changes, quite literally, changes us. And we wouldn’t be living our life if it didn’t. 

I moved away from a career in early childhood development into advertising but that education made me a better mom. I might have failed throwing clay in high school, but it was failure that got me to go back to art class. 

As an artist, I flop all the time.

I throw bowls all the time, some crack and some don’t. I have researched and googled and tried new clays, new trimming ideas, new tools and still I, sometimes, get lumps and bumps and cracks. I’ve had black underglazes turn blue and brown. 

I’ve done big pinch pot sculptures that dried for months and then, blew up in the kiln. Lately, the small pinch pot sculptures I made, looked fine before firing and then shrunk and got all lumpy. 

But sometimes, my flops flip into something else. 

One of my recent flops became this scalloped edged bowl. Now it’s far from perfect, but it started me thinking about other ways I could change the shape of a bowl. I mean, why does every bowl have to be perfectly round? Flop flipped. 

Another flop was the pinch pot sculpture idea. After a few years, I gave it a try again. Fooling around one day, I created this little creature. Not a complete flop, but not exactly what I wanted. 

I kept going. I tried different clays. I tried different ways to make it. All of a sudden there was a  whole menagerie of them on my studio shelves. 

Most of them looked good, but one flopped. It cracked in several places and I was ready to throw it away. But throwing caution, to the kiln in this case, I slapped on some clear glaze and put it in a bisque fire load. Much to my surprise, he came out in one piece!  I even like the glossy glaze instead of the matte look I’d planned. 


Life, this time, did turn a lemon into lemonade. This cracked and disfigured little creature transformed into a happy go lucky Party Animal.  

Now, I’m not saying my life is going to transform into one big party. But I think this little fellow and his buddies are going to make it a lot more fun. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

America, the Beautiful.

On the anniversary of our Independence Day, it’s hard to see the beauty out there. I know. I’ll be the first to admit these Trump years have been a new kind of hell here for so many people. If you read my blog, you know I’ve aired my fair share of angry complaints about it all. 

But this week, I want to try to search out the good, the beautiful, the love that lives right here.

Think with me for a minute. Turn off your devices. Close your eyes and breathe in the fresh air. Listen to the birds and bees and squirrels and all the life around you. As a country, we’ve worked hard to keep our air and water clean. We’ve succeeded in many ways. And in many ways, we have much more to do. 

But that’s good.  Most of us share the dream of an even better country and world.

Think of how you help others. Think of the others who’ve helped you. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, sometimes the smallest kindness makes the biggest change. A little gentleness. A smile. Another driver who lets you in front of them. Someone who picks up something you’ve dropped in the grocery store. 

You are a good person and you’re one of many here. People who care about women and children. People who help the sick, feed the hungry and teach children to be kind and fair.  

In the deepest darkness, we all need light. 

Be that light. Show your kindness. Be understanding. See the fear around you and move on anyway. Lead by example with understanding, perseverance, strength and gentleness. 

Be true to the heart of America’s dream: a place for all to live, learn and love. Embrace the best for you and us all. 

No we can’t change the past. Yes, these last few years have been hard. But we can move forward together. America can be a beautiful place of shared wealth, health and values with safety and security for all.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Creating Quiet

I don’t know about you, but one thing I’ve noticed lately is how loud the world is around me. I’m not talking about the birds, bees, dogs, cats, cars, trucks or even sirens in the night. I’m talking about the noise of anger and hate and fear and frustration. These noises seem to be filling the world so much lately. 

I understand it. I embrace it too. This is a tumultuous time in our country and world. While things need to be said, voices need to be heard, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes, it feels like I’m surrounded by a never-ending protest rally. 

I know, I am part of that noise, too. And my ears are ringing. 

Quite literally, my ears have been alternately ringing and completely plugged. While I have been dealing with allergies, colds and an ear infection, it occurred to me there might be more going on here. 

It came to me as a whisper. Not a thought, but a message from somewhere outside of and beyond me. From a world worried about our world, I heard the word: quiet. 

How can quiet do anything? 

It can’t. And that’s the point. By sitting, or standing, or walking, or working quietly, the space around me changes. It becomes a space in which there is possibility. An area opens up to embrace a flow of movement, like a soft, cool breeze washing away the sticky, heated debate of the day. 

Sitting here on the window seat, I am surrounded by quiet. My son’s small dog sleeps on her side, perfectly still. My granddaughter rolls to her side, sighs softly and dreams away in her now quiet world. The room is filled and yet, open. 

Openings like this are so rare in our world. And yet, so needed. 

We need this kind of room for quiet to bring us rest, yes. But in this quiet, there is also an opening for us to be, just sitting and breathing in for once, instead of out.  And yes, as the fire truck wails beyond my window, I start to jump into that fear state of mind where, I realize I live too much of my life. Maybe you do too. 

So before my mind jumps all the way out the window and chases down the street with the fire truck, I breathe in, rest my head against the wall and stay here. Here in the quiet I’ve created, in this house, in this room, on this window seat, in my mind. 

I really feel that this quality of quiet is where the true solutions are created. 

Next time I get caught up in the whirlwind of noise around me, I’ll remember the whispers. Creating answers to difficult questions comes from creating enough quiet to hear new ideas and solid solutions. 

Maybe my stuffed ears was my body creating the quiet I really needed to hear. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Thoughts of the Week: Shit Happens, Sunsets and an American Tirade.

Shit Happens. 

People cut you off in traffic, causing an accident and damage to your car and others. Scary, yes. Maddening, yes. Fixable, definitely yes. I panicked because I have never been in an car accident in my life. The other people were calm, so obviously, they had. 

Even in bad situations, there is good in people. They were kind and helpful. They gave me a hug. And they stated the obvious and most important: nothing blew up, no one was hurt and it is all fixable. 

Sunsets are a meditation. 

Even in the most chaotic day, there is a sunset. Everyday, you and I can look outside the window and watch an evolving, ongoing light and color show. Just like every day is different, every sunset is unique to each day. 

Blues, reds, oranges, yellows, white and black all dance in and out, up and down. All before your very eyes. All you have to do is sit down and watch. Best of all, it’s always free. 

Just because shit happens, doesn’t mean we have to let shit happen. 

Ok, this is my stand up America tirade.

Yes, there is evil in the world. All you have to do is look at that big White House, you’ll see lying, cheating, greed, stealing, money laundering, racism, sexism and abuse. Our president praises the Russian mafia and dictators with nuclear bombs while putting not just our lives and our families in jeopardy, but our entire planet. As long as he makes money, he doesn’t care who gets hurt. Including the horror of using small, innocent, vulnerable children as political pawns. 

Hacking our election system is now not just an idea, it’s reality. It happened. The Russians hacked our elections to get Trump elected. That, people, is an act of war. 

Are we doing anything about it? No. 

Isn’t it about time we did? Yes. 

What can we do? Demand that our justice department, do their jobs. Follow the rules and laws of our constitution. Demand our military protect us from outside invasions. Demand our representatives do their jobs: represent all of us. Not just the corporations that are giving them money.

It’s time to be there and fight for your freedom. Demand human rights. If you see something wrong happen, step up and do something about it. Demand change. Support the news media in doing their job which is to ask the hard questions, demand answers and give us information. Do your job too, by being a responsible citizen. 

Breathe and remember that we are ALL important. 

You matter. I matter. They matter. So what you think, say and do, matters to us all. So choose your words and acts wisely. But most important, and something I forget a lot, don’t let your fears and your thoughts run the show.

Sit down. Take a deep breath. And watch the sunset. Know that though this day is ending, there is another day dawning tomorrow. Let’s all make it the best it can be, for all of us. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Wave the Day Away.

Hassled? Feeling overwhelmed? Got a case of creative block? Here’s the cure: sit down on a random rock and watch the waves roll in and out and in and out and in again. 

I don’t mean look up every now and then while you play with your phone. I mean put your phone in your pocket, turn it on silent and listen to the breeze. If you have to do something, count the seagulls or the sand dollars. Take pictures of the driftwood. 

Better yet, let your mind drift. 

If you need to talk it out, go ahead and speak to the wind. Ask the crows your questions. Look up at that immense, empty blue sky and feel how small you are in the grand scheme of things that make up this beach, state, country, world and universe. 

Got too much on your plate? Literally? Then put on those shoes or go barefoot and walk it off. Traipse around the pockets of sand drifts. Examine the tufts of sea grass. Wind your way around the incoming waves. Jump over them or wade through them. It really doesn’t matter. Just keep your feet going and learn to follow them, instead of trying to lead. 

Remember: You are only one person among millions.  

You are as small as that speck of sand and almost as plentiful. That said, you are still important. Your life still has meaning. Just as every speck of sand creates a part of the whole beach, you create an important part of the whole world. 

You are needed. You can make a difference if you choose. Choose wisely if you can. If you can’t right now, that’s ok, too. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll feel broken with pieces missing just like the crab shell you pass by.

You can love and be loved. You can be open, helpful and, most importantly, kind. Especially to yourself.

But. You are not. The. Whole.

And isn’t that a relief? 

So today, just wave the day away. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Directions. New Paths.

The creative life sends you down many long and winding and very twisty paths. Some paths are life long. Some paths end. Suddenly. 

Creating for me, is a life long path that began in my childhood with simple play. I loved twigs and leaves and mud with these I made tiny houses with leaf roofs and rock roads. The sound of the crickets, birds and neighborhood creek were music to me. Riding my bike through the woods was my favorite path and it still is. 

I started writing even before I could write by scribbling on any piece of paper I found. I loved holding the pencil, pen or crayon in my hand. Just the movement of it across the page was a delight. I didn’t know then that writing was any kind of occupation. It never occurred to me, I could make money at it, or ever win awards for it. I still doodle in my journals and write on this blog. 

I know many feel that the long road gets shorter with age, but I don’t. 

Yes, as life evolves, some paths end. Jobs end. Galleries and shows close. Groups change. Friends fade. Children grow up. My mud villages became grass and the woods I roamed are now suburban streets and homes. 

As I’ve grown and lived and aged, I’ve evolved, too.

Back in my mud making days, I could never have imagined throwing a cup, bowl or vase from clay. Although I saw faces in the clouds overhead, I could never have imagined making a mask from copper or window screening. Watching the sun set, I never knew, one day, I’d paint one.

I don’t scribble on walls, anymore. I type words on my IPad, post on my blog and edit a group newsletter and yes, sometimes I still write ad copy. 

Where I see loss, I  also see new directions. I see new paths.

Writing and mud are still part of my path. But the years and life create layers of experience that enrich and expand everyday. So I’m trying to remember, when tears come and something ends that I have been given a chance to create a new path to explore. 

And so, now like I did then, I walk through the woods, lean against the trees and listen to the birds. But now, their wisdom guides, calms and revives me to move onward.  

Friday, May 25, 2018

Jilly’s Strawberry Field. Forever.

Jilly loved sniffing the trees at the park. Catching her big red ball but not bringing it back to you, well, until she was ready. Eating her poached egg on Thursdays and waffles on Sundays. Sticking her head under the rosemary bush. And sneaking bites of strawberries when I wasn’t looking (or so she thought). 

Jilly spent many happy days outside. Wandering around the backyard. Patrolling the fence line checking for squirrels. Finding ‘kitty candy’ in the flower beds. But one of her favorite pursuits was raiding the garden for tomatoes, blueberries and, of course, strawberries. 

I loved that she loved so many things. 

And after she died two months ago, I wasn’t sure what I should or could or would do with her ashes. Keeping them in a tin for a while was ok, but it didn’t seem right to keep the ashes in that tin forever.  When we were planting our yearly garden of lettuces, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers  and peppers, I knew what I wanted to do. 

A garden of strawberries for Jilly.

There was one flower bed in the yard that was Jilly’s favorite. In the middle was a large, wobbly  and very overgrown rosemary bush. Ok, it became a tree but that’s because I didn’t know how to trim it properly. It got so lopsided, that we had to prop it up with rope, over time, it grew in a very twisted shape.

My idea was to pull out all the plants, keep the twisted rosemary tree and plant the strawberries around it. Unfortunately, when the excavation began, we found out the rosemary tree had cracked roots and had to be removed. I was sad because Jilly loved that tree. 

Turns out, rosemary plants are not easy to find this time of year. There were strawberries everywhere, but no rosemary plants. I decided to check one more place and I found the very last rosemary bush they had.

It was meant to be. 

After we prepped the ground, I brought out Jilly’s tin. Michael dug the hole for the new rosemary bush and I gently filled it with some of Jilly’s ashes. We planted the small, fragrant rosemary gently into the middle of the garden. 

Around the bush, we scattered the remains of Jilly’s ashes. Planted rows and rows of strawberry plants and covered them with mounds of fresh, moist soil. 

As I planted each and every plant, I saw Jilly’s round black nose searching for ripe berries. I remembered her tail wagging when she found them. I sniffed as tears of love and loss fell in and among the new berries. 

But mostly, I remembered how much she loved this spot. And how it will now and always be her own little strawberry field. Forever.