Sunday, January 17, 2021

Turtle Steps



I made lists. I had plans. Then, last year happened. And maybe like you, all those lists and plans and goals fell apart. So with this new year, I decided to start out slow. 

Last week, I repaired sculptures that were broken in last year’s final months. I faced the overwhelming task by taking only one piece down at a time. Fixing that one piece. Then and only then, moving on to the next. Even though I went slowly, one at a time, it surprised me how quickly they were all fixed. 



Think tiny. 


I didn’t come up with the idea. One of my favorite writers, Martha Beck did. What is it? She says, “A turtle step, as I define it, is a step that takes you toward your ultimate goal, but is so tiny you could do it easily on your worst day.” 


And in addition to suggesting this as a new goal for the new year, she shared that it was the only way she was able to write her books. Her goal everyday was one paragraph. That’s all. But, of course what she learned was that a paragraph a day(or maybe 1 more on a good day) does become a book. 


After reading this, I took a long look at my big ideas from last year. And my lack of big ideas for this year. And I sighed with relief. 



One snap at a time. 


This week, I needed to revamp my Etsy shop. Although I’ve had an Etsy shop for years, I really never got the hang of it. Last year, I decided it was time for me to take it more seriously. And it worked. My work sold on Etsy. 


With Valentine’s Day approaching, it was time to re-stock my shop with new ceramic pieces. As I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered ‘turtle steps’. One day, I just chose the pieces.



 The next day, I set up my photo booth. 



Then one by one, I took pictures. Next I wrote descriptions, prices, sizes, colors and tags. Another day, I uploaded them onto Etsy





At first, it all seemed overwhelming but doing it little by little, day by day, it was a snap. 


So, if you’re feeling you just can’t face this new year: try turtle steps.

Today, one step. Tomorrow take another. Then day after day, one more.


Maybe we all need to remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare. 

Slow and steady wins.   



One by one. Day by day. Vaccinations can happen. People get well. Smiles return.  


Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 Word of the Year

 


What a week. I listened in shock at the chaos, damage and injury happening in our nation’s capitol. After 911 and 2020, I thought I’d seen the worst. I was so wrong. 

Living through such a crazy, scary, turbulent year, I feel so many feelings. Sad. Mad. Confused. Afraid. Alone. Frustrated. Isolated and silenced behind a mask. Watching and waiting for it to all be over, only to see more difficulty and damage all around me. 


New Year. New Word.


Many things seem to have broken this year. I had several pieces broken while on display outside my studio. Some were minor. But some were major damage and so overwhelmed me, I had to put them on a shelf, on their sides, where they lay ‘dead’ for many weeks. I didn’t know if I’d be able to repair them and sell them. Or if they’d always be scarred and damaged. 



I was feeling the same, so I looked to find a way, a word to help me move step by step into a new year. I know I can’t fix a pandemic, the violence and destruction in my city’s downtown or our nation’s capitol. I didn’t even think I could fix my own damaged art pieces. 


I searched for the opposite of all the words that described this year: damaged, broken, sad, isolated. From those came one word: Heal. 


Working to heal. 


So this week, I walked in my studio and faced my broken birds and leaf. I let myself breathe out  my anger and fear. Then I gently took down one piece, looked at the damage and got out some tools. 




One by one, I looked and touched and sighed. I assessed the damage. I sanded and cleaned gently. I glued what I could and waited. When there was nothing left to glue, I gently sanded some more. I mixed paint to match each chipped and broken bird and dabbed and wiped and waited some more. If the color held, I glazed and waited overnight. 



In the light, after days of work, I saw no cracks. Beaks had slightly new angles. Wings chipped were now smooth. One leaf stem was gone and would never be the same, but my work had formed a piece that was whole in a new way.  



Broken and reformed. 


When I look around this last year at all that’s broken and all that we’ve endured, I see that we have also adapted. Of course we are changed by everything that’s happened to us and around us. So many things we could have never imagined fell apart. 


The definition of the word Heal(verb): to make free from injury; to make sound or whole; to make well again; to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome; to patch up or correct; to restore to original purity or integrity. 



In the words of William Powell, “The troubles...have not been forgotten, but they had been healed.”


So this year, I will work to mend, recover, rally, overcome and reform.  

And find ways to help us all come back together to heal our hearts and our souls. 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye Act. Hello ?

 


Every year, I pick a word of the year. I look at it as a light, a guide, a mantra, maybe even a marching order. The word for 2020 was ‘act’. Yeah. 

A year ago, there was no pandemic. No stay-at-home orders. No masks. No social distancing. No one knew what COVID was. No one was afraid, out of work, hospitalized or dying. Children were playing in playgrounds, going to school and running around with their friends. Shops and restaurants and galleries were open. People were working and shopping and looking forward. 


Acting on my word. 



Even with everything closed down, I worked. I threw and trimmed and painted and glazed. I was determined to keep creating. And I knew that creating, for me, was the best way to stay healthy. When I work with my hands, my mind relaxes. Throwing works my muscles and helps me stay strong. 


When everything else seemed to stop, my best act was to keep going in my studio. I made teacups for the first time. Trimming those delicate little feet took a lot of concentration that stopped my spinning thoughts. 


Act started to appear in my bowls giving me new thoughts. 


Act Brave.



Act Kind.



Act True. 


Acting in my own behalf. 



This phrase kept appearing in my journaling. I was a bit surprised because I always thought I did a good job of taking care of myself. But looking deeper, I realized, I did a much better job of acting on behalf of others like my husband, my children and even, my dog than I did on myself. 


Many, many times in my life, I’ve kept my mouth shut. Put up with abuse. Waited and waited to be asked, recognized, heard and seen. I kept my ideas, opinions and feelings to myself. I realized that many, many times, I did not act when I could or should have. 


Act helped me this year. Even with the pandemic fears, I acted. I worked. I created. I showed my ceramics. Instead of always depending on some organization or somewhere else, I learned to sell my art myself. I put my art on Etsy. I did social media promotions. 



I did act. In spite of all the closures and cancellations and quarantines, I acted. I acted brave by promoting my own art. I acted kind by going out safely with mask, sanitizer and social distancing. I acted with love by taking care of myself, my husband, my children and grandchildren. I acted true by voting with my mind and heart. 


What will be the word for 2021?


After this year, I have no idea what 2021 will bring. I don’t know what word could possibly help us move beyond this year into a better one. 


And the only act I want to take right now, on this New Year’s Eve, is say goodbye 2020! 


Monday, December 21, 2020

The Shortest Day

 



The solstice is an ancient marker of endings and beginnings. The "Winter Solstice" and the start of the "winter" season, will arrive at 4:02 CST or 7:59 am PST Monday morning, December 21st. While it is our shortest day, it’s also the beginning of our days getting longer. 


From now on, the sun sets each day just a little bit later.  And we inch our way from darkness into more and more light, from cold winter to warm summer. 


Cultures celebrate with many rituals. Fires and dancing and feasting. The Celtic people believed the sun stood still for 12 days and burned a log using the remains fo the previous year’s fire. They believed it would conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. And why many still honor this belief by burning a ‘Yule’ log for 12 days starting on the Solstice. 


Let’s say goodbye to darkness. 



I think we’ve all been through enough dark, difficult, scary months this year. Even when the weather was sunny and warm, I felt the chill of fear up my spine. I worried about my children. My children’s babies. My husband. My friends. My neighbors. I waited in long lines for TP with a mask on my face. I scrubbed and sanitized and held my breath. 


I held my breath again waiting for election results. I worried and fretted some more. Four years has seemed like an eternity watching and waiting for the darkness to lift. 


New light. 



Today as the sunrises on the shortest day of the year, I’m going to look ahead knowing each day will bring a little more light and less dark. That each day, I’m going to see fewer worried eyes around me as more and more of us get vaccinated. That each week will bring more good news and less bad. That month by month, we will be lifted up and away from fear.


So maybe this, the shortest day, will be the ending of a very bad year. And our first step toward a new beginning. When changes that have been a long time coming, will shine new light into the minds, souls and hearts of us all. 


Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Light



Today, I sat like a cat in the sunlight and wallowed in it. I read and snoozed and put my feet up for a bit. Basking in the cozy warmth for a few hours, I forgot that it was cold outside. As soon as my neck felt that cool shiver of daylight dipping, I got up and made a cup of tea. And watched the light change outside and in. 


I see once again how important light is to the world and to me. We all need it and it feeds us all in so many ways. 


Warmth. 



Decorating, during the holiday or not, is more to me than creating a functional living space. It’s an emotional and creative process. It’s a way I make my house into a nest from which my husband, children, and now grandchildren can feel loved and supported and grow. Even when they need to fly the nest, it’s always here should they need a soft place to land for while. 


This last week, I redecorated many areas for the holidays. Books and toys and candles and twinkling lights and china all come down from shelves and cupboards and closets to bring back cozy childhood memories, beauty and soft warmth. 



A few pieces of my Spode Christmas Tree collection and gifted teapots mingle with my handmade porcelain teapot and teacups. Afternoon tea is becoming a daily ritual. 



Santas sit, pose and ring in several spots around the downstairs. 



The coffee table set up for play with the Brio train set that now two generations enjoy. 



The tree and stairway sparkle. 


Light is life.



I love twinkling lights year round. And the holidays just give me more chances to play with light.  And I know, especially this year, I need even more light and warmth in my life. 


We may not all be able to gather or celebrate this year in the ways we always do, but we can still celebrate the sun shining outside, the warmth in our own home and let that light warm our souls and lighten our hearts.   

Friday, December 4, 2020

Horizons

 


It’s December already and my birthday month. While I’ve grown up sharing my birthday month with my Dad and the holidays, there have been times of resentment. But not anymore. 

I can’t explain it, but it feels good to share in the twinkling lights and special decorations that come in my birthday month. Especially this year. Maybe even more because of this crazy year. I need more light, color and sweets to balance the stress, fear and difficulties. 


Looking at the horizon. 


One of my favorite things to do is sit on the window seat and look out as far as I can see. Watching an eagle fly over the distant trees. Seeing a cat run from one yard to the next. Viewing the progress as a neighbor strings up their holiday lights. Waiting for the clouds to move and let a little sun shine my way. Even at the beach, I could spend all day watching the horizon change. 



This popped up in my horoscope: “You live best as an appreciator of horizons, whether you reach them or not.” Those words from poet David Whyte would be a perfect motto for you to write out on a piece of paper and tape to your mirror for the next 30 years. You, Sagittarians are most likely to thrive by regularly focusing on the big picture. Your ability to achieve day to day successes depends on how well you keep the long range view in mind.”


Messes, order and disorder. 


That’s what I see most of the time. And as a clay artist, I make a lot of mess. This week, I glazed almost 2 dozen teacups and a bowl. I mopped up all the drips and washed up all the tools.



The next day, I loaded and fired up my kiln. Firing is an orderly procedure. I set my timer and turn up each dial from low to medium and high in 2 hour intervals. 


But what I can’t clean up or control are the results of the firing process. I can do everything right at every step, have lovely bisque teacups going in, but what comes out is not always up to me. And I have to admit, I don’t like this part of the process. 



Another quote from my horoscope this week: “To accomplish all the brisk innovations you have a mandate to generate, you must cultivate a deep respect for the messiness of creativity; you must understand that your dynamic imagination needs room to experiment with possibilities that may at first appear disorderly.”


This is my last kiln load for 2020. And I’m hoping, yes I admit, for a lovely kiln load of teacups. But I also know that this year has been full of mess and disorder. 


And still, I hope. 

I may love a scenic horizon but I’ve never felt like a big picture person. Maybe, especially this year, it’s time to start. 



Thursday, November 26, 2020

Grateful

 


I am grateful. Yes, in spite of all the terrible, difficult, confusing, maddening, and scary things this year has thrown in my path, I am humbly grateful.

I am grateful for my breath, my hands, my body (yes, even as it grows older). My arms are strong enough to lift my grandkids. My back bends, slowly. I make sure to use my abs. My legs love to stretch and walk and climb with me every day around the park and back. And my hands still love to throw, shape, trim and paint clay. 


Home and heart. 


Again, I’m grateful for my home, warmth and food. Especially this year with all the problems finding TP, cleaning supplies, flour and even yeast, it’s been scary. Just when I stopped ‘backing up’ my pantry so many things got hard to find. But one day at a time, I’ve gathered and stored. And I’m grateful my pantry is ‘backed up’ once again. 



While many other hearts filled with anger and violence and fear gnawed at my soul, my arms opened to welcome my children and grandchildren home. After many years apart, my daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson came home. Now I get to take care of two sweet, wonderful new humans. My granddaughter, Meyer is at that magical age of 5 and my grandson is moving from baby to toddler learning and growing with amazing speed and sweetness. 


Art and soul. 


Through all these difficult months, art has been my island of peace, safety and joy. Throwing teacups. Trimming delicate feet. Stamping bowls with messages to ‘act brave and kind’. Creating my own new way to make birds with heart shaped wings and encouraging words. 



All of this work lifted me up when my heart started to sink. It gave my body a way to work through my feelings. And my mind something else to focus on and move onward. And I am always and ever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do.


Inside and out.  



Quarantines. Walks in the park. Gallery sitting with a mask and no visitors. Shopping with social distancing. It feels more than a little surreal. It’s difficult. Frustrating. And sad. 


But inside, my home is still my home. Today, my daughter and I cooked and watched a movie.  My husband and my doggy Darby are now snuggled by the fire. Upstairs, my daughter and son-in-law are gently singing my grandson good night. And tomorrow, my son and granddaughter will be here to eat turkey dinner and



Every day. Every breath. Yes, even for every roll of TP.  

I am grateful. 

Again and again and again. 



What are you grateful for today?