Thursday, October 25, 2012

Life, Travel and Yoga = Health and Happiness.

I do yoga. I started because my legs, back and jaw ached. It helped. So I kept doing it. I take classes and I do it on my own before my walk in the morning and sometimes before bed. I feel better when I do it. It seems I am not alone.

Brian Leaf, the author of “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, started doing yoga in college. He found that the more yoga he did, the better he felt. It helped heal his colitis, calmed his nerves, helped him avoid the debate team and find his way to happiness. For Leaf, it involved a lot of different types of yoga classes, a van, a roadtrip and ultimately to studying yoga, meditation and Ayurveda.

Here, in his own words, is what Brian Leaf learned:
“From yoga, I learned how to stand and how to breathe.
From yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, I learned how to eat, how to poop, and how to sleep.
From meditation and Kripalu yoga, I learned to awaken my feelings and my intuition.
And from Jerry Garcia, Misha the yogi, and a scary shaman named Genevieve, I learned to emote, to connect, and to love.”

I like the open, honest, conversational writing style in this memoir. I agree with Brian that honesty is, indeed, the best way to live a good life. So, I must admit that the travel section was a long, winded and winding road that I decided to not travel to the end.

I do want to share one golden nugget from the book that I honestly believe in.
Here are 6 of Brian’s 8 Keys to Happiness:
“Do Yoga. And if you already do yoga, do more yoga.”
“Follow your heart.”
“Cultivate and follow your intuition.”
“Connect with your heart and interact with others from that place.”
“Speak and act from your true self.”

I do agree. When I do yoga, I do feel better. So why not do more? I have followed my heart many times in my life and the only time I’ve been wrong is when I failed to follow. If you’ve never done yoga and need a light hearted, personal guide, try traveling the road with Brian Leaf in “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi.” It just might help you find your own road to happiness.

Brian Leaf, M.A. is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. He draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Come play with clay.

Pinch it. Roll it. Stamp it. Watch me carve into it. See mugs and vases from this week’s throwing session. Feel the difference between wet clay, leather hard and bisque clay. Learn about the transformation from a wet mound of mud into a glazed, finished bowl or vase.

I’m opening my studio to friends, neighbors, and the whole community for free from 11 am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday during the Washington County Open Studios Tour in Oregon.

I’ve been a working artist for over a decade now, but making functional clay work is new to me.
Here’s a little story about how I got started on this new path.

Four years ago, a wonderful gentleman and his wife came to my studio. As they looked around at all my mixed media work, the man spied several of my clay sculptures. When he asked why he had never seen them in the gallery shows, I told him I only did a few, not enough for a show and had stopped working in clay because I didn’t have kiln access. Right then and there, he offered me his kiln. For Free.
When I went to pick it up, he insisted I take his wheel, too. I tried to explain that I had failed at the wheel way back in art class, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Here’s what my studio looks like now. Full.
Notice the overflow of just thrown and handbuilt pieces with no place to go. Thanks to one man’s kindness and generosity, I am happily throwing, sculpting and hand building. That’s why I’m so excited to be hosting an open studio this weekend. I can’t wait to share the wealth.
So if you’ve always wondered what goes on in an artist’s studio, here’s your chance to find out. You can come, play with clay and see how my art works. And best of all, it’s free!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Talking to the Trees: Resting in Motion

(This is the second essay from my collection. To read the first one, click here.)

Leaning against the Mother Birch Tree, I rest in the curve of her trunk with my eyes closed, I listen. I don’t know if I’ll hear anything at all. The trees I visit all have incredible energy, knowledge and wisdom but how and when they share this with me is up to them. All I can ever do is be there, be open and listen.

Today, the sun is shining and there’s a crispness in the air signaling the change of seasons is coming. I love summer. The blooming flowers, ripe fruit, lush greenery makes me feel safe in an abundant universe. When the crispness starts to creep into the summer mornings, I feel melancholy. I don’t want to see the leaves fall off the trees, the flowers fade and the greenery die back. I know the cycle of the seasons is important for all life. I know the flowers will bloom again. I just feel a sense of ending and I don’t like endings.

I want my life to keep going and growing and blooming. I want a cycle of spring and summer without the loss of fall and the emptiness of winter. I want to be reborn again and again without the darkness and unknown of the womb. What I really want is to not be afraid, again, ever.

But that’s not how life works, is it? Growth leads to blooming, yes, but without harvesting we would never smell the sweetness of the flowers or taste the juices of the fruit. And in order to harvest, fruit must fall from the trees, leaves swirl down to compost below the frost in the winter to enrich the roots of the trees so they can, once again, blossom and bear fruit. It’s a never ending cycle or beginnings and endings, so why can’t I take comfort in that knowledge? Why ever year do I fight against the natural flow? Why don’t I welcome the changes and enjoy the harvest and feel safe in the bounty I have through the winter? Why am I so afraid?

We live in a culture that insists on its own cycle, one that is up, up, up and never down. We must live, live strong, live fast, live better. But the fact is we do die. We all have weaknesses. And many of us, myself included, live fast wishing to create the space for us to slow down and relax. Being able to relax and take a vacation is what most of us see as a better life. Interesting.

Today, with all this circling around in my head like leaves blown by an autumn wind, I lean against the Lake Mother Birch Tree and listen for her wisdom. How can I embrace this new season, these changes and live comfortably with the endings and still move on in my life? Her answer is simple and clear, “Rest in motion.” I can feel my face scrunching up as I puzzle this out in my head, while my body relaxes into the wisdom of the words without question. “How is it possible to move ahead and rest at the same time?” I feel the tree smile and hear, “What do you think I do when my leaves have fallen and the ground is frozen? I rest, yes. But at the same time, my roots are moving in search of water, my seeds are settling under the dense leaf mulch and old limbs that are no longer needed are breaking off.”

Once again, I see the tree wisdom but how does it apply to my life? In my mind, I’m not sure that this would work at all. After all, if you don’t push, you don’t get what you want, right? But my body, knows differently. I have pushed and pushed and pushed in the last few years and yes, I’ve made progress. But lately, that approach isn’t working for me. And although my mind continues its endless whirling motion, my body wants to rest. My heart wants to dream and take in the changing season and create.

Resting in motion, yes, I can do that. I can rest on the bank of the lake and watch the geese practice their fall flight patterns. I can move through the woods with my dog and let myself see the beauty at the edges of the crinkled leaves and seed pods. Instead of frantically working out of fear of the future and running away from the changing seasons, I can to be in the change, right here and now. I can learn to rest in motion.

(This is an art mask I sculpted, inspired by Mother Birch)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

More patience. And the pay off.

Last week, I was glazing my clay pieces. And I was chomping at the bit. I wanted to race to the finish and not have to blend and pour and rinse and repeat. Then wait for the glazes to set up and be ready for firing in the kiln. I hate waiting but I like good work.

After a few days for the glazes to set up, I started the loading process. Loading a kiln is like doing a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle. There needed to be enough space between the pieces, shelves and kiln sides for good heat circulation. A balance is needed between large and small, short and tall pieces. And I tried to load certain glazes closer together.
This took patience to get it right.

The kiln was loaded, fired and unloaded twice. It took about 6 to 8 hours to complete a firing in my kiln. I have an older manual kiln, so I have to be there to turn the dial from low to medium and, at last, to high. I pushed in the plunger, set my timer and turned up the heat every two hours. I held my breath and prayed to the kiln gods and goddesses.

And I waited some more.

Even after the kiln finished firing, I waited even more. If I opened the kiln before the interior and exterior temperature was the same, I’d crack my pieces.

More patience.

Finally, it was time to unload the kiln.

This was the first firing.
This was the second firing.
When I opened the kiln, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I picked up each piece, inspected the glaze, admired the colors and glossy feel. Then, I set each one on the tray and carried it into the studio. What was once soft, lumps of clay are now bright red bowls, teal blue vases and black and white mugs.
Sometimes patience does pay off.