Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hoorah! Snow Day

This morning big, wet, beautiful snowflakes swirled down covering the landscape in a fresh coat of sparkling white. I couldn't wait to get out in it. Jilly and I headed to the park enjoying all the sights and sounds of our little winter wonderland.

Shuffling softly over the bridge at the park and through the woods.

Jilly patiently waiting for me to quit taking pictures and move on.

Discovering spring blooms covered in snow.

And warm weather palms frosted, too.

Outdoor art covered with nature's medium: Summer in winter.

And lilies in snow.

Hearing the shouts of children throwing snowballs, pushing sleds and enjoying their 'snow' day. No one's on the swing, yet.

Back at home for fresh, warm homemade bread.

And chicken noodle soup.

Alas, it all melted away by mid-day, but it was a beautiful snow day anyway!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writing for the love of it.

I love writing.

I love the soft sound of my fountain pen flowing across the clean, white page swiftly following my thoughts as they race from brain to fingertips into words. It’s a sort of magic, really. I see my pen as the magic wand, drawing on mysterious energy. And even though my penmanship is awful and sometimes very hard to read, I don’t care. It’s the process of writing that I love. The ability it gives me to see what goes on in my mind, my heart and my soul that might get stuck there in some walled off space but with pen in hand and an empty page, thoughts, feelings and dreams flow through pen and ink magically taking shape as words on a page.

When I don’t get time to journal, I get very crabby. I feel off centered and scattered and lost.

Writing has always been my way to navigate my life. Journaling, for me, is like a well-worn path on the road of life that always takes me home. I started writing as a young teen in high school, in my “Dear Diary”. But this process followed me to college, where in the wee hours of the morning when sleep would not come, I had my journal and pen as my confidant.

When I sit down to journal, I usually don’t know what I’m going to write. I just put the pen on the paper and watch it move across the page Sometimes, I might start with one thought, event, problem or dream and by the end be in an entirely different place. Many times over the years, I’ve started a journal session with a question. I learned early on that when questions came swirling into my mind with no answers in sight; I could take it to my journal. Writing down the questions there, I would leave a space and sure enough, the answers would somehow magically appear. I have used this process for many years. Over and over, I’ve watched my problems solved in the pages of my journals.

Most of the time, I just keep my pen to paper writing what comes out until the pen stops. Then I’m done. Sometimes, I put my pen down, take a deep breath and read it all from top to bottom. Sometimes, I read it a few days later. Sometimes, I just close the book with a feeling of clean contentment that you might get from meditation.

What I find – and it always surprises me – is that my question, problem or difficulty has, unbeknown to me been answered, solved or eased.

I grew up figuring that everyone was this way. That everyone could write their way to their right path. That when they were upset, confused or tired, they only had to put pen to paper for awhile to feel calm, centered and rested.

I know now, it’s not true from everyone.

Although, I am such a deep fan of this amazing process, I often feel like a woman on a mission trying to convert everyone to journal writing. Not everyone is open to it or convinced of its value.

Hard as I tried, I haven’t even been able to get my kids to use a journal to help them navigate through the jungles of adolescence into adulthood. I gave them pens, notebooks and encouragement. They tried, maybe to please me, but never filled the journals or asked for new ones.

Once, in a desperate attempt on my part to help my young teenage daughter process her feelings, I suggested we journal together. So, for a while, she would write to me in her journal, leave it by my door and I would write back to her. I hoped after a while, she too, would fall in love with this kind of writing but she did not. She did write many wonderful stories, but not in a journal. My son drew comic book characters in his notebooks, which I loved and encouraged, giving him sketchbooks and colored pencils. But writing in a journal was not for him, either.

I remain the sole scribbler even in my own family. That’s just something I have to accept. For me, writing in my journal is a path to self illumination, spiritual awareness and creative problem solving.

I love writing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Playing with colored chalk.

I always loved the scene in Mary Poppins when Bert, Mary and the children jump into the chalk drawings on the sidewalk and emerge into a beautiful countryside. I wondered how Bert was able to draw like that with chalk. The only chalk I knew was used on blackboards by nuns in black habits. One day, I was with my mother in the hardware store. While she was hunting down nuts and bolts, I was sitting, staring with fascination at a box of colored chalk. She bought me the box of NuPastels even though all I did with them was open the box and drink in the colors.

Wherever I went, they went with me to different states, high schools, college and eventually to my own apartment and home. Some 30 years later, I started using them to draw. I loved smudging and smushing them with my fingers like a kindergartner with finger paints. I made a few drawings and then, I stopped. I put away my pastels, by color in separate zip lock bags and stored them away. And I put my creativity into clay, copper, screening and paint. I didn't think I missed it.

One day, I interviewed Kitty Wallis, a well-known pastel artist, and mentioned that I used to love drawing with pastels. But I'd never successfully been able to layer paint and pastel, the papers I had just wouldn't take it. She got up, went over to her big drawers of paper and gave me a piece of her famous Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper. She said I could paint the surface and still have enough tooth for lots of layers of pastel colors.
It took me 2 years to get up the nerve to use the beautiful paper Kitty so generously gave me. But Kitty was right. This paper can take it and then some. I had a great time playing with it. It took several layers of acrylic paint. Then I drew and drew and drew with pastels.

Some days the clouds at the top of the drawing got darker and thicker. Other days, I'd start drawing and somehow the sky would be blue and the clouds would be gone. Then they'd reappear and disappear again. Finally to come out light, white and bright. Just like life, right?

Thanks, Kitty for helping me rediscover drawing with chalk. It's just too bad I can't put it on the floor, and like Mary Poppins, jump right in.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cleansing: What was lost is found.

“Cleansing,” was the word I heard when I leaned against the big cedar tree the other day. It wasn’t a surprise, because I’ve been cleaning out closets, drawers, cabinets and shelves for the last month. What was surprising was the tone; it had finality to it. A sense of closure. It felt reassuring, like when you’re packing your bags from a long trip for the journey home.

Home. I love my home. But the changes and events of the last 3 years have shaken my sense of home right down to the foundation. Why is it when you’re worried about having a home at all that you take the least care of it? Maybe, when you’re afraid of losing something you love as much as your home, you create distance with clutter and disorganization. Or maybe the fear of not having enough led me to hang onto everything around me like a little kid hangs onto the monkey bars with white knuckles or stashes Halloween candy under the bed.

It’s a new year, now. Life has changed again, this time for the better. Job gains have replaced job losses. We are adjusting to a new routine, a new normal.

One afternoon, I went looking for a crochet hook and next thing I knew I’d cleaned two shelves and rearranged the others. Lately, I’ve found myself cleaning out drawers and cabinets all around the house. I didn’t make a list. Or set it up as a task. It just started happening.

Another day, I opened up the pantry and the next thing I knew I was sorting, re-filing and throwing away recipes. Then, it was my studio shelves, desk and easel. I threw out old work and put out new work. Next, it was the master bathroom, utility room, main bath, kitchen drawers and cupboards and hall closet. In every place and space, there were things to be thrown out, cleaned up, repaired, rearranged and donated.

Questions ran through my mind like a non-stop bullet train: Was I avoiding the studio? Was I afraid of email? Was I running away from writing? Was I covering feelings of self doubt with dusting and scrubbing? Was I becoming my mother?

My train of thoughts sped on while my hands were busy scrubbing, tossing, repairing and discovering. As I worried whether I was lost, I found things I’d forgotten I had.

Boxes and boxes that held jewelry gifts, now empty. A container full of silk paint and tools. A book on writing and publishing, something I’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done, yet. Old art books. Old car stereo cassette plug-in that my son wanted and I thought was long gone. Grandmother Gallacher’s shortbread recipe. Photos of my 8 year old cat, Terra, as a kitten. Five oil paintings that I’d done years ago and forgotten, literally, came out of the closet and tears came out of my eyes when I saw them again.

Answers were found as well: I am creating freshly washed, open space for new creative ideas. I am re-arranging my life, my priorities, and my thinking. I am finding a new way to enjoy my home, my home life, art, and writing.

Cleansing. Yes. I am cleansing my fear, pain and sadness. I am hearing deep thoughts and feelings that I thought were lost and finding my way back, not only to myself, but to my heart and soul as well. Like a blank canvas, fresh with white gesso, I am beginning again, at home, and moving outward to find my true joy.