Sunday, July 26, 2020

A lesson in listening

Lots of words swirl around us all right now: scary headlines, angry quotes, rude social media comments and insults. It’s hitting all of us from all sides and while some of these words definitely need to be said, my question is are they being heard? Are the right people listening? 

I read a wonderful piece by Martha Beck on listening. And how the overwhelming amount of information right now can drive you to turn off, listen less when what’s needed is to listen more. Her idea of listening is something more than just using your ears. 

4 Levels of Listening. 

Martha Beck breaks down the seemingly simple act of listening into 4 levels that involve your whole

Level One is ear listening. You hear something, perhaps scary, and you leap into survival mode.  Conflicts jump to the surface instead of cooperation and compassion. 

Level Two is body listening. The scary words cause a reaction in your body. Noticing it, breathing into it, you can help your body stay calm. This helps you notice the truth of the situation and understand your feelings and the feelings of others. 


Level Three is heart listening. Once the body relaxes, discernment happens and you can use your heart to lean in or out of the situation. According to Beck, “check to see whether your heart wants to move forward or to back off. When you’re being lied to, you may feel an inexplicable desire to move away, even to literally run. When someone is telling the truth, even though the words may be hard to hear, you’ll feel a softening and opening in your chest, a desire to hear and understand more.”

Level Four is soul listening. Beck describes this type of listening as, “a  bolt of love flows through me and toward everyone around me. It’s two aspects of one consciousness connecting, hearing our shared experience in separate bodies.” And with this type of listening a connection is made. Even if you don’t agree with the words or person, soul listening allows you to see their confusion or pain. You don’t have to change your mind in the midst of fear or prejudice, you can listen with less fear, more awareness and compassion. 

In Martha’s words, “When I listen with my ears, body, and heart, my soul is available to hear the wise voices of millions who refuse to give in to fear and bitterness. Their aim is to create a world that is safe, just and happy for all of us.”

Now these are words, I need to not just hear but listen to and act on. 

With my whole body, heart and soul. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Making Space

I’ve spent a lot of time during Covid cleaning. I do clean my home once a week but closets and cupboards and book shelves do gather dust. Somehow during this Covid time, I’ve found myself going from all ‘go’ to full ‘stop. Over and over. 

In March, I was determined to keep to my work schedule. Clay days. Painting days. Firing days. Errands, home and cleaning days. I look back and see it was my way of coping during a very scary time. I thought if I ran fast enough, maybe I’d out run it all. 

My way of working out. 

While every other social media post showed new ways to work out ‘at home’. I did my usual: walking the dog, yoga and throwing. But I added more to my workout schedule. 

I wiped down all my oak cabinets, doors and drawers with Murphy’s Oil soap. I treated my 12 pieces of leather furniture with conditioners. I dusted shelves and scrubbed drawers. This weekend I’ve dusted and reorganized two closets, cleared out 10 drawers, one desk and a window seat full of, yes, more drawers. 

Turning my worry into work is nothing new to me. I’ve done it all my life. I don’t do it all the time but during a time like this, I find it’s a helpful, healthful coping mechanism. It’s a work out that helps in body, mind and, yes, soul. 

Feeling refreshed and ready. 

Life is a force for change. Whether we like it at the time or not, life moves us on. Moving for me seems to always involve some cleaning and clearing. Whether it’s just to settle my energy or let go of the past to move into the future, it’s a workout that works for me. 

I’m making space in my body, mind, life and home for something new. And new things are coming. Some I know for sure and others I don’t. Either way, I feel refreshed and ready. 

And my closets are really clean. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Happiness is Darby on my Feet

Every morning I wake up to a sweet, furry face looking up from the side of my bed. Even before I know I’m awake, he knows. Yet, he waits patiently for me to give him the signal for cuddles. Then he jumps up, leans in and gets a big hug. And I laugh. 

It wasn’t always this way. Two years ago, I had lost my sweet 13 year old doggy and I was beyond sad. I was lost. Everything I did from walking to reading to throwing clay was always done with her by my side. And she was gone. 

My dear husband shared my grief and insisted we both go to “Fun Day” at our local Guide Dog Campus. I loved seeing all the beautiful, happy, healthy dogs and their dedicated trainers. But with my grief so fresh, it was hard too. I wanted a hug from each and every one of them. I talked to the Guide Dog Career Changer Coordinators for a long time. I left sad but hopeful. 

Luckily, four months later I got the call about a black lab Guide Dog pup who needed a new career. 

Bouncy Boy. 

I’m so grateful for this sweet, ‘tiggerish’ boy. He bounces up every morning to greet me and my husband. He’s learned to wait at the top of the stairs for Michael to go down before he charges down and out into the yard. He’s a food gobbler, yogurt bowl licker and blueberry picker. 

He loves to run after the ball. He just doesn’t want to bring it back. His game is keep away and he loves to play it. Anytime. Anywhere. 

He has learned a lot in the last year or so here. He now takes his treats gently, greets a little slower (and without bumping into me) and looks but does not leap at other dogs. He also knows how to walk beside me off leash outside the house and ‘go home’.

Home is where my Darby is.      

Especially right now with all the fear and separation and loneliness, I know I’m not alone. Whether I’m throwing clay outside or painting inside, Darby is right there. 

Upstairs or down. Inside or out. He follows me from room to room all day long. If he can’t reach me because I forgot and closed the bathroom door, he whines to remind me. 

Just like Tigger in the Pooh books, he is happy, bouncy, playful and sweet. Even though he’s 70 pounds, he thinks he’s just a cuddly, playful lap dog. He snuggles next to me and when he can’t he watches over me. 

Wherever I go, he goes. 

Even if it’s on top of my feet. 

And I couldn’t be happier. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Hello, it’s me July.

Really? It’s July? I’m just shaking my head in confusion here because the last time I looked up or out it was March. Oh, right. Covid. How could I forget? How could anyone? I don’t want to start a rant about that, there’s enough of that on social media. 

I wish to focus on blue skies and sunshine and hope and love. I wish to picture my new bowls, teacups and teapots cheering someone’s day. I wish to see my new, little birds fly off and perch in the land of smiling people. 

Act Kind. 

My word of the year, act, found it’s way into my work. A series of new bowls bring messages I hope to act on more. It’s been way too easy to be fearful and angry and sad lately. While I understand the importance of all that is going on around me, I see my soul was reaching for the message. The meaning. The learning. 

All I could do was work. Put my hands in my clay. Trim my cups. Paint. And let the words and symbols appear. 

Act True. 

Act Bold.  

Spirals, hearts and wings. 

Spirals are ancient, cross-cultural symbols. The circle moving in and out and around represents the changes, unfolding in the journey of life. I’ve always been drawn to it, perhaps due to my Celtic heritage, it makes me feel both comforted and challenged. 

Hearts, of course, represent love but also ‘the heart’. Mine. Yours. And the ‘heart’ of the matter. I see it as a perfect symbol right now. I see how leading from the heart and getting to the heart of what matters are key in unfolding outward and reaching beyond our situation. 

My first bird didn’t have wings. Yet, now they all do. Heart-shaped and word-stamped wings. Hmm. More messages. 


This seems an odd message right now, don’t you think? Getting out and about is full of new rules, social distancing and face masks. Going on a trip, especially in a plane, is even more risky. Although some places are opening up, hours are limited and sales are slow. 

I worried. I wondered perched in my safe studio. Should I try to sell online? If so, how? I decided to re-open my Etsy shop last week. I took my own photos featuring my functional tea and whiskey cups only. Just 5 pieces. But it’s a start. 

A friend heard about my teacups and asked if I was going to make a teapot. I’ve never made one because I don’t like throwing lids. Then I saw ‘my kind of teapot’. And now I’ve made 2 teapots, I call ‘Me’ and ‘Mini-me’. 

Yes, months have flown by. And I must admit, my wings have felt very heavy in June. My usual speed slowed and it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere at all. 

But now I see, I did fly to some new and wonderful places all without leaving the nest.