Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cowl Crazy

Knitting or crocheting a cowl or infinity scarf is the big new craze. There are patterns in magazines and on the internet. I love to crochet, so I decided to make one myself. I'm crazy about it.

It was fast and fun to crochet. I picked up the 2 balls of yarn at my local JoAnn's craft store on sale, $4 a ball. I just chained long enough to drape, slip stitched to form a circle and started crocheting in the round until I ran out of yarn. Easy.

But here's what I really's soft, snugly and warm and it can be worn three different ways. I can wear it draped as an infinity type scarf.

Drape it over my shoulders like a shawl without the worry that it will slide off.

Double it over to cozy up around my neck when it's really cold.

Three scarves in one with two balls of yarn for only $8! What fun!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Cerulean Blue and Sunshine.

I'm thankful for many things in my life these days. And especially today...for blue sky and sunshine in January. Staring up at the beautiful clear cerulean blue sky, I wondered about the origin of one of my favorite paint colors.

According to Wikipedia, the word cerulean is derived from the Latin word caeruleus, "dark blue, blue or blue-green", which in turn probably derives from caelulum, diminutive of caelum, "heaven, sky". The cerulean pigment color, made of cobalt(II) stannate, was discovered by Andreas Höpfner in 1805, was first called corruleum or coeruleum and sold by George Rowney in England. Now, cerulean is made of cobalt chormate.

The first time I brushed cerulean blue across a wet piece of watercolor paper, it was like magic. I felt like a fairy waving my wand and creating a beautiful, summer day with my paint brush. Take a little cerulean on one edge of your brush, a little cobalt on the other and voila, a sunny summer day.

Start with a brush of cadimium red, wet into wet, on watercolor paper, follow it with a brush of cerulean and you'll get those blue, grey clouds that gather at sunset.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Don't just do something. Sit there."

I read this quote in a book this week, "Everyday Sacred" by Sue Bender. In it she tells a story of her husband's sabbatical year in which they traveled around the country and Europe without a plan, project or goal. At the end of the year, Sue observed her intelligent husband had somehow gotten smarter.

What had he done? Nothing.

I've observed this phenomenon working on my children, too.

My daughter, Caitlin, a professional singer and musician, has taken voice lessons since she was 15 years old. One year, she decided to take the summer off. When she went back, her voice teacher was amazed at how much her voice had grown. She was singing even better than before.

What had she done. Nothing.

My son, Kyle, a musician won several competitions in high school and taken lessons at a university since he was 16. When he entered college, he gave it all up. A few months ago at a party, he joined in with some friends on the drums. He picked up the sticks and played right along. They were amazed how well he played after 5 years 'off'.

What had he done. Nothing.

What did Caitlin, Kyle and Sue Bender's husband discover? That stopping, resting, sitting it out for a while isn't bad. It's good. Some times, it works like an invisible wand, magically making us even better than before.

Why, then, do we fight against it so hard? When sitting still is its own reward for our body, mind, spirit and creativity?

I don't know.
I do know this - here is where I can learn a lesson from my dog, Jilly.
She sits. Anytime. Anywhere. She always gets a reward, too.

Maybe that's the secret.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walk in the Park: Empty Nests.

Today, the sky is soft, velveteen grey with slivers of light making it through the dense clouds. The path is wet and dotted with little puddles of rain and melted ice from yesterday’s frigid temperatures. But it’s not raining now as Jilly and I walk along the lake. We pass groups of geese gathered to feast on the remaining green grass. There are ducks swimming in the water, mallards and common goldeneyes, quacking away. It was cold, but now, this afternoon, it’s almost ‘balmy’ at 48 degrees. I don’t even need a hat or scarf; it feels so much warmer than yesterday.

But it is still winter.

As we walk along, I admire the bare, black branches of the trees silhouetted against the slate grey sky. There’s no snow or ice or lights or leaves to cover the bare tree branches today. I love seeing their bone structure, all the branches from the largest to the last smallest twig. But there’s something I’ve haven’t really noticed before today.

Bird nests.

There are bird nests perched in the branches up high in the trees. Dark, twig baskets sit nestled between tree trunk and tree limb. Empty.

Some trees have only one nest; others have as many as four, making some trees single family homes and others multi-family apartment complexes. I’m fascinated by the number of them, in so many trees, all around the park. In these twig cribs, babies are born, grow up and fly away, yet the empty nests remain, sheltered in the branches. Then the leaves fall away, revealing the nests, as dark silhouettes against a grey winter sky.

These are big nests and well made. They’ve stood the test of winds and rain and sleet and snow. The crows that live all around the park, even in winter, visit the trees but leave the nests alone. The nests sit empty.

Empty nests. A cultural cliché, I know. But I don’t see them as empty at all. I see openness, opportunity and potential. Waiting.

And as I walk by, so am I. Waiting.

Although I walk through the park, along the lake and by these trees twice a day almost everyday, I’ve never noticed the nests before. Yet, the nests are always there. Waiting for these bare branches to burst with buds, leaves and flowers, for the busy crows to mate, renovate and fill the nests with new life.

Winter reveals the beauty of the bare branches and empty nests waiting to flourish and be filled. Again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Years Intentions: Good Idea or Bad?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week about goals, resolutions and intentions for the New Year ahead. First, that gets me spinning back over the old year, evaluating what worked and what didn’t. How I can do better. What I shouldn’t do again. Helpful? Not.

A better idea is to make a list of intentions.

How is that different from goals or resolutions? A resolution is really about doing something different, implying that something in your life is wrong or bad or needs to be changed. Hint: That you are not good enough, just as you are. Ouch.

A goal may set your focus, but it also might set you up for failure especially if you set it up too tightly or unrealistically. You know like all those ads shout out; lose all body fat without ever exercising again, eat nothing but fiber, win millions, become more famous than facebook. I loved Jennifer Louden’s blog on goal setting and how it sets you up for a no good, terrible, very bad year.

Reading Susan Tweit’s blog, Walking Nature Home, I felt the power of her intentions for the New Year. And clearly, having intentions vs. goals are very different. Intentions set a tone or a parameter for your life. Intentions give you some room to breathe, by being more open ended. That creates space for you and your life to develop as the year goes on.

Here are my intentions for this year: to create, trust, open up to new experiences and more quality vs. quantity in my life, a balance of solitude and silence with connections and collaborations that put my heart into my life again allowing playfulness and freedom and, yes, imperfection. I’m going to look at my life as perfectly imperfect.

These intentions can be used in every area of my life. And, for once in my life, it’s not a ‘to do’ list but a ‘be’ list. Good or bad idea? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to live it out, one day at a time, and see.

That’s my intention, anyway.
What’s yours?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fire of Intention

The week before New Years, an artist friend was hard at work sculpting a huge altar to set on fire. Patrick Gracewood has been making and burning his work for over 30 years now. His intention is to provide closure to the old year and energy to the new.

The sculptures have taken on many diverse shapes and themes over the years, including griffins, peacocks, wizards and tigers. This year, the sculpture was an altar shape with a large white and green cake made of a tube iced with joint compound behind it was a green and gold stenciled 7th century Buddhist flame symbol for awareness. Patrick said, “It’s a wake up for this year.”

Arriving at his studio on Friday night, the mood was cozy and inviting. But soon, the mood changed as strips of paper were passed out. There were questions to answer: What did you want to let go of from the old year? What did you want to welcome into your life in the new year?

A silence surrounded the room as one by one, adults and children chose colored paper strips and wrote out messages, wishes and prayers. Then, each person pushed them through the holes drilled into the cake sculpture or tucked them into a large fireplace pinecone that was placed on top of the altar. A little before midnight, the sculpture was wheeled out the door of Patrick’s studio and onto the concrete patio/pathway.

Talking and laughing, we all followed from the warm lit room into the dark, cold night. Somehow, it seemed fitting, leaving the light of the old and known year and stepping into the dark of the unknown new year. Everyone waited excited and anxious to see the first sparks fly from the fireworks. There was a 10 second countdown to midnight. Cheers went up. Hands clapped.

And then, it grew quiet as we all stood, huddling closer to the warmth and light of the sculpture fire. Pieces fell into the flames creating dancing lights of orange, yellow, red and blue. Other pieces crumbled into black piles of ash. The bright pieces of paper with messages from the past and wishes for the future had become like smoke signals spiraling up into the night sky.

The excitement of the fire gave way to silence and in the end a deep sense of peace. As the flames died down, the guests left slowly, shaking hands, giving hugs, blessings and wishes for the New Year to new and old friends. I can’t think of a better intention for the New Year than that.