Meanwhile, nature enchants.

 

It is Sunday morning and I look out my kitchen window, alarmed at the silence. There are no bird songs. No pigeons cooing, no seagulls screeching, crows cawing, sparrows singing…

I took a walk into the park on Friday. Looking out over the ocean into the haze, eyes, stinging, feeling heartbroken for Earth.

Meanwhile, nature enchants.

A beaver glided by peacefully at the lagoon.

Continuing on past the ducks and heron.

Sparrows always make me gasp with delight.

 

Breathtaking. In very aspect of the word.

Turn the page- visualizing fading memory

My latest favourite daily practice is to quickly sketch and then saturate the drawing with watercolour crayon and coffee.  I love the feel of the wrinkled page. How the coffee ages the image.  The way a drenched drawing has a life of its own – beyond my control.

I am most in love with the drawing’s ghost.  What happens on the other side of the page.  I am moved by how the resulting image seems to illustrate the concept of fading memory.

“Not only something, but also someone could be there and not there at the same time. And that someone: me.”

– Gerda Saunders, In Memory’s Last Breath

The sparrow is mightier than the machine

This morning, at the 23 bus stop in the West End, I heard the overwhelming LOUDNESS of humanity– cars, buses, construction, garbage container being dumped into a truck, a plane overhead, motorcycles.

Cutting through all that noise was the song of one little sparrow. One little sparrow with a song so much mightier and awe-inspiring than the machines surrounding us.

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China marker, watercolor, acrylic on newsprint, April 8, 2019

And at that moment, a lilting melody lifts to the moon as a single sparrow sings.
Lisa Ann Sandell, Song of the Sparrow

A reminder that sometimes it is OK to do less.

I have been slow all day– I am trying to allow myself time to stop without guilt, to allow this feeling of weariness, this reminder that sometimes it is OK to do less.

What is this weariness?  Yes, I am recouping from a flu and yes, I have many multiple projects going at once, yes I have a long to-do and commitments, but is not physical, no, it is this familiar feeling of saudade.

Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  

Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again…  It can be described as an emptiness and the individual feels this absence…  In fact, one can have ‘saudades’ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.

I look at my to-do lists and I sigh.  I walk to the kitchen to make myself some coffee and it is an overwhelming feat today.

I have a precious day at home alone to catch up, but I really just want to sit.  To sit in this emotion, hang out with my parrot, and feel nostalgia.  To go inward, to regain some energy to move forward.  To embrace missing as a gift/reminder to rest.

I tried though- went back at my computer, preparing to write a letter, and as I was searching online for something specific, I came across an old blog post I wrote in 2013.  And I knew, this old post was a reminder again to stop today, to allow the feeling of saudade.  

Look who is saying hello in that old post!  How precious to see my dog Tobey (who passed away Dec 23, 2015), walking in the forest. 

A walk in the forest August 31, 2013.

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A GIFT.  So I share this here, pack my bags for tomorrow and STOP for the day- for sometimes it is OK to do less.

“About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building.  It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star.

The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.  His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.  Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.  I just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight.  The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.  The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.  The least we can do is try to be there.

– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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CHECK OUT THE POWER PATH:

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Here’s to us crawling to the finish line…

Touch me life.  Not softly. – Maya Angelou

And my GOD, life has touched us this year.

Here’s to us crawling to the finish line, scraped, bruised, hoping.  Here’s to our successes and our fucking failures, to finally resting and to re-entering labour.

Here’s to the vigil keepers, the rent seekers, to the quiet and the loud speakers.  Here’s to those giving up, to those still trying, to those still living and to those busy dying.  To the lost and the found, to the travellers and the homebound.  To the newborn and the demented, the clear thinking and disoriented.  To the laughing and the scheming, to the weeping and the grieving.

And I celebrate us all, trembling.

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Strip it down and focus.

Fuck ’em.

Fuck it.

Must.

Entering 2017 like…

trust

All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.
― J.M. Barrie

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I’ve given myself space-time.

This week started with some bristling uneasiness.  But instead of falling into fear and trying to figure out next steps, I decided to give myself this week to take time– to NOT FIGURE THINGS OUT.  To give myself some space and time.  Some space-time.

Be in the questions, yes- but allow whatever comes- to come.

I asked myself- what if I trust fully?  

What if I don’t try?  What if I trust that all is aligned and in place now?  What if I trust that I simply need to make a space in which to be and breathe?  To not force?  To do good work?  Not desperate work?

I am in the midst of this taking time time- and my heart is beating a bit easier.

Time does not mean making more time- it’s about allowing the unknown.  If a question comes up- I won’t fixate on fixing, but allow the answer to come in its own time.  It doesn’t add to the to-do- it allows for space.

Space-time today included moving myself out of my studio/bedroom/living room— and into nature.   I had a hunch that if I walked with a don’t know mind, allowing myself to discover treasures in the park- that I would get some clarity on some research I was stuck on.  Knowing that once I looped around the lagoon, I would know what I needed to know.

Some treasures in the park:

I looped back to my block, and indeed- an aha! answer came.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu

 

Love letter to Toronto 


6 AM

Despite living in Canada most of my life, I had never been to Toronto before this year and now I am on my third visit in just a few months!  Sitting at the table in my suite in Etobicoke [early morning preparing to co-facilitate with Beverley Pomeroy 3 days of engagement work with managers- work that includes mindmapping, personal coaching, team building, mindfulness, restorative practices, communication, problem solving, empathy, collaborative healing, circle dialogue], I look over notes I wrote on the plane regarding my impressions of Toronto.  These thoughts have been stewing for a few days and though in my head the words seem to unfold lyrically and effortlessly, and I am able to put into words what these visits have meant to me- when I try to type them out, they feel stilted, underwhelming and insufficient.

Dang.

I was “warned” before coming to Toronto the first time (by quite a few people actually) that my facilitation style and creative engagement methods would likely not be met with enthusiasm or warmth.  That there are no trees, that the weather is shit, that it is flat and grey and fast, and angry.

Huh.

I was also “warned” I would love it, relish in the speed, adore the culture and neighbourhoods, feel the buzz.  And told repeatedly, please don’t move there.

Aw.

There seems to be a metaphor to these Toronto trips that go beyond just travel, work, socializing.

I was lucky enough, blessed beyond words, to be hosted with immense generosity by Beverley and Catherine and staff, excited to work when visiting (which gives such in authentic experience and enriching  vibe to the trips), to meet amazing people and also to be shown the magic of (what I can only call ) literary Toronto by my dear friends Matt and Owen.

Matt and Owen drenched me in history, and neighbourhoods, and culture and literature reference.  So my total of 8 day (soon to be 12) view of Toronto may either be really skewed or right on the mark.  Well, no matter- it’s my version, my view and I continue to be inspired by the energy of this city.  I know my short visits have not allowed me to know what it is like to LIVE and STRUGGLE and GROW here, but my experience has fuelled my personal outlook and creative process. These Torontonian days are a metaphor for new chapters, new possibilities, new uncertainties and new courage at HOME and in the WORLD and in my CREATIVE PROCESS, my HEART and my MIND.

Beware! I now know a language so beautiful and lethal

My mouth bleeds when I speak it.

– Gwendolyn MacEwen

I pulled an angel card before I left home yesterday, asking for a message from mom and dad really: what this third trip means, what to pay attention to:

FREEDOM


Some incoherent scribbles on the plane:

Neighbourhoods like the District, Kensington Market, Danforth, the Kip

Literature of MacEwen, Attwood, Ondaatje…

The Centre for Social innovation

Walking, walking

Yarns Untangled

Immersion

The ravine, the bridge, the old mill

The buses and the subway

Street art

The Ontario house

Restaurants like Ruby Watch Co

Maps, maps, maps

My own room

Cheetos and Mars bars

Shakespeare in the hotel lounge

Anxiety free airplane rides

Cheese plates

U of T

Pasting Tobey and Gwen

Paper, felt, tape and drawings

Owls and Hugs

Raise a glass to those passed, passing and newly arrived

Conversations

Alias Grace

Some moments:

THIS POST DEDICATED TO MATTHEW ROY, OWEN MCEWEN, CATHERINE WALLBANK, BEVERLEY POMEROY

On Autumnal endings and beginnings in October

This is such a beautiful tender time of the year for me.  The autumn is both a time of loss and renewal.  My parents passed in the autumn, yet autumn is a time of new possibilities and fresh starts.

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Life/ death.  The extremes?

Or two sides of the same coin or exactly the same?  For isn’t one simply the other?  Is the dark abyss before birth and after death simply the same graceful infinity that unites EVERY thing in this finite universe?

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The overhead horizon.  They want to say something, the dead.

They smoke but don’t eat, they don’t breathe but still have their voices.

I’ll hurry through the streets as if I’m one of them.

The darkening cathedral, heavy as a moon, ebbs and flows.

– Tomas Tranströmer, Deep in Europe from For the Living and the Dead (translated from original Swedish by Don Coles)

Avlyssnad horisont.  De vill säga något, de döda.

De röker men äter inte, de andas inte men har rösten kvar.

Jag kommer att skynda genom gatorna som en av dem.

Den svartande katedralen, tung som en måne, gör ebb och flod.

– Tomas Tranströmer, Djupt i Europa from För levande och döda.

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Recalling this time of year with my father:

October 11, 2012

Dad and I spent the evening in emergency to replace his catheter.  We watched the debate and laughed and talked about life.

October 12, 2005

Dad’s first sketch after his September 21, 2005 stroke:

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October 13, 2012

My father is dying.  I accept it.  He unwinds before me.  I let him go.  But losing my best friend is more painful than I anticipated.

October 15 2012

My father’s last writing:

 

And though at times, the wave hits me and that drowning saudade washes over me,  I know that without the grounding of loss, I would not have the air with which to fly.

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. – George Eliot

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Read Drawn Together (free PDF):

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‘Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.’ Journaling exercise

Today you are a newborn and you are starting fresh!

Draw a baby.

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Draw brainstorm bubbles above “your “head.

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Write about what it may be like to start fresh.  Releasing anxiety and hesitancy.

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Brainstorm central themes in your life.  Just let it happen.

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Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.

Meister Eckhart

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A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. 

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Recalling an alternative version of the exercise: What makes an object sacred?

My father’s last pencil box.  It will remain untouched.  It contains his favorite drawing tools like the black pencil crayon and his instant coffee spoon and his rolled up hand towel that he used to brush eraser bits away.

I went into Staples today and felt the weight of missing Dad.  He and I loved shopping for stationary together.

I miss our coffee dates and his to-do lists, but I am ready for the next chapter.  Ready to keep going.

What makes an object sacred? Write about it for 15 minutes.  Draw.  Add thought bubbles.  Pull out key words from your journal entry.

Stillness of the hummingbird.

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I recall the wonder of seeing a little hummingbird, amidst my sunflower garden, staring in through my kitchen window (when I lived in Roberts Creek).  Nothing has never felt so still.  That breathless moment.  A reminder today to sit in stillness, reflecting on that little creature.  Just stop.  For a moment.

If the hummingbird shows up in your life as a spirit animal, it may remind you to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and take time to enjoy yourself.  The hummingbird’s wisdom carries an invitation to take part in and draw to you life’s sweetness, like you would drink the nectar of your own flower. [source]

SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF.

For me, it is impossible to quantify grief.  To qualify it.  To define it.  It comes as a surprise. It comes as a wave.  It comes suddenly.  Or it comes on slow.  It can feel like nostalgia, anger, sadness, gratitude, drowning.  It can be triggered.  It can be low grade.  It can be reassuring.  It can be overwhelming.


Journal entry: November 3, 2012 

The emotion of missing.  What is it?

Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again…  It can be described as an emptiness and the individual feels this absence…  In fact, one can have ‘saudades’ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future. source

As the numbness wears off after Dad passed away on October 25, I find myself longing for that numbness again.  Now I feel the familiar sense of fear- sort of like walking on a unsteady pier or a balance beam that wobbles or a tightrope over a waterfall.  I am flooded with thoughts of doubt.  Did I do enough?  Should I have been more aggressive in getting treatment for Dad earlier?  Should I have taken him for more walks in the electric wheelchair?  Was he lonely and scared at the end?  These are expected thoughts.  I know that.  They are not to be avoided or feared.  It’s the process we all experience as we walk through grief.  I get it.  I dare to look.  But it hurts.

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My various experiences of loss and experiences of grief are not like yours, or hers, or his or theirs.  Mine takes up a different space, shape, beyond time. Shifting, eternal.  Each one of our personal truths are unique.  Profound.

And as saudadic waves wash over me, I find it healing to explore:

SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF

Beverley Pomeroy:

August 2, 2016: Living Grief is the profound journey of ongoing loss; where we can neither grief nor celebrate. Yet, our loss is palpable. We feel it wrapped around our throat choking back vulnerability we’ve not ever experienced before. We journey through acceptance, make friends with physiological depression, butt up against anger, bargain with whoever or whatever holds our conscience…ultimately, finding the sweet spot of denial where we can see and be what ‘is’ and live in the joy of where we are at on our journey with our loved one.
My gorgeous daughter, Sophia, turns 16 tomorrow…16 years more than we expected to have her, 15 years later with a palliative designation. Tomorrow I will be swallowed up in denial…and will let joy breathe for me, filling up my lungs until I can cry no more and the melancholy rocks my broken heart to sleep.
It is like a play…and even though we know there will be a final act, we so desperately cling to the idea of it being never ending, no matter what.

Beverley is a passionate advocate, social intrapreneur, Community Engagement Strategist, LGBTQA speaker, author of Living Griefbeverleypomeroy.com

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Patton Oswalt:

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… If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get ’em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.

And…

You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are… Read more

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C.S. Lewis:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear…

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time. – A Grief Observed

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Shakespeare:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart? – Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3, Page 3

My study of Munch’s “Puberty” (china marker, oil pastel on wood)

William Cowper:

Encompass’d with a thousand dangers,

Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors… I… in fleshy tomb, am

Buried above ground.

Fleshy Tomb

Cat Webb:

There will be a moment where a memory will hit, or a milestone day, or just a moment of being overwhelmed with something seemingly unrelated… and grief pops up again. AND THAT IS OK!!! More than ok… this is normal… your sadness about your loved ones death is normal… Your grief is normal and essential for your healing. There is no wrong way to do grief other than to pretend it isn’t there… Denying grief is the same as trying to convince your subconscious that there was no love here, no good times to remember, and this person meant nothing to me.  READ MORE

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“Psychopomp” for Cat Webb

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Kay Jamison:

There is a sanity to grief… given to all, [grief] is a generative and human thing…it acts to preserve the self.

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Roar Thorsen:

Adjust yourself.

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There are no easy answers.  There is just process.  And breathing.  In and out.

Study of Picasso’s Guernica

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You had the opportunity last month to end up not recognizing yourself.

This past weekend I have had a bit of that existential-post-trip-out-of-body-kind-of-weirdness-needing-to-contract feeling.

[Thanks to my soul sister, Patti Henderson], I check in with the Power Path regularly (especially when I feel like this) as a tool/guide.  I am reminded of the July 2016 forecast:

“Radical personal transformation is possible. Start with taking care of yourself, loving yourself, giving yourself the time and space for emotional assimilation, clearing, healing, and allowing yourself to prioritize your life according to what matters the most to you. Give yourself permission to be irritated and cranky as long as it does not affect others. Be careful of impatience and judgment and always move yourself to a place of compassion and forgiveness.  You have the opportunity this month to end up not recognizing yourself…  This is a higher centered time of emotional revolution, of seeing things differently, of having a new unique experience of your life, of access to more power, bliss and inspiration and to really feel like you are setting your life on a satisfying path.  If you are not there yet, have patience. Perhaps there is something that needs to be completed first in order to free you up for transformation or perhaps there is still fear. Just keep working at it, chipping away at the armor of attachment and falling more deeply in love with yourself and others.” – The Power Path July 2016 Forecast

I am working at it.  If you are not there yet, have patience…  When I am tired and need to rest, I tend to resist.  This resistance then creates an unease I liken to fear.  So instead of saying YES- not only to possibility and life- but to rest and stillness, I resist.  I am learning, however, that this seems to be a new (or at least more obvious) pattern to my creative process:  

observe, listen, inspiration, research, plan, prepare, create, OUTPUT!, experiment, collect, document, reflect, clean up, put away, stop, anxiety, fear, existential crisis, contract, fatigue, retreat, solitude, ponder, more fatigue, reflect, journal, rise up, abuzz, observe, listen, inspiration, research, plan, prepare, create, OUTPUT!, experiment, collect, document, reflect, clean up, put away, stop, anxiety, fear, existential crisis, contract, fatigue, retreat, solitude, ponder, more fatigue, reflect, journal, rise up, abuzz, inspiration…

So each part of the pattern is essentially essential- without one, there would not be the other.  The PROCESS has a PATTERN.

“The creative process is not just iterative; it’s also recursive. It plays out “in the large” and “in the small”—in defining the broadest goals and concepts and refining the smallest details. It branches like a tree, and each choice has ramifications, which may not be known in advance… The creative process involves many conversations—about goals and actions to achieve them—conversations with co-creators and colleagues, conversations with oneself.Source: A model of the Creative Process

And so back to the Power Path: You have the opportunity this month to end up not recognizing yourself…  This is a higher centered time of emotional revolution, of seeing things differently, of having a new unique experience of your life, of access to more power, bliss and inspiration…

Certainly this recognition of pattern and process and allowing the process to unfold, even the fear- is NEW and TRANSFORMATIVE for me.  Being in the journal portion of my creative process yesterday, I took some paper and a pen to a bench in the park and just wrote, knowing I am carrying some many insights and personal lessons with me from last week’s trip.  But I knew i just had to write.  To keep the pen moving, writing nonsensically, without thought, without curiosity, without censor… just move the pen and let the verbosity out.

July 31, 2016 Stanley Park [unedited]

Sometimes you require, crave, demand solitude.  I am spreading.  Folds of flesh start to fall.  No longer am I fetus, infant, toddler, child, pubescent juvenile, young adult, adult, daughter.  My skin has slipped from its hinges and is askew.  Existential downtime when home from a trip.  The glow stick is snapped and the heat spreads upward from the heart- the peritoneal lining feels acidic- the heat spreads onto the face  and the sweat creates a hovering layer not quite touching the skin.  The hands cool, clammy, wet, wrung, wringing.  The brain turns 360 degrees in its cavity before settling back.  It is requesting something and I am not sure what.  I want to debrief and talk deep but dialogue feels futile.  The birds will have it.  Sitting in the park, the putter of Sunday life the soundtrack.  I request and require solitude, I write in my mind, observe the human, like on the bus this morning, and I feel so disconnected.  The birds will have it.  Three robins sprang up in front of me as I walked towards the bus stop.  The meeting?  The meaning?  Are they guardians?  Souls?  

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As the flesh comes off its hinges and becomes papery and fragile, it peels away, revealing the skeleton underneath.  The flesh no longer the nurturer.  The bones though still provide structure, framework.  There is a child playing with his little sibling and he keeps repeating “Stop in the name of love!”   Meet it all with love.  I must gather myself, my thoughts and my to-do’s and remind myself to trust the permanent change.  To celebrate every breath, to make sure I make the right agreements.

A gentle journal vomit session tends to cleanse the nooks and crannies of the mind and heart and spirit.

“In the world of YES, Fear = Contraction.  When we contract, we become closed or restricted.  This can cause us to retreat or give up.  Take a look at what causes you to contract or expand with regard to your creative dreams.  Creative dreams themselves are natural expansion devices.  They contain energy, motion, and desire.  We can learn to respond to change creatively by studying our habitual responses and making adjustments.  It can feel natural to respond to change by contracting or saying no.  Contraction is not bad, It just slows expansion.  What makes you feel expansive, open to change, and like saying YES?” – SARK

Source: Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day by Sark, Simon & Schuster 2005

So did I end up not recognizing myself after this month?  Hell, yes!  

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In place of death there was light.

I am preparing myself to draw my mother’s “death mask” from the photo my son took after she passed on November 8, 2008.

I have been preparing for awhile.

I know the process will be an important and necessary one for me personally.  I think about it often.  It’s not about needing to work on something unfinished.  It’s about not shying away from the processes of life.  I don’t want to shy away!

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I have just needed to feel the time was right.  I have had to gain some space and maturity and to heal in order to be able to revisit my mother’s “death mask.”  To explore, in full truth, my profound relationship with her.

Our final year together was the “start” of a deeper more authentic connection.  We had always been so close, but there had always been a layer of deference and fear on my part, and fragility and depression and loss on her part that did not allow us to speak deeply with words.  But that final year was different.  We spoke of our love of each other, our love of family and homemaking and caregiving, our love of history and crime stories and our mutual love of hibernation and desire for autonomy and adventure.

There is a lot I want to write about my relationship with my mother.  I want to explore my old diaries and I want to view it all with these new mature eyes.  But I pick up a journal and read an excerpt and there is such pain there.

With time and healing, I am slowly able to open the pages more gently without being thrown into an existential crisis.

Grief is work!

Exploring the journals is an essential piece in my work on Molly as my story and her story intertwines.  But words aren’t flowing just yet around the relationship with Mom.  There have been starts and stops.  I suppose Mom is not ready.  But I KNOW she wants me to tell it.  We “talk” about it often.

Whatever the truth is, to speak it is a great adventure. – Louise Glück

As I explore and prep to draw Mom’s “death mask,” I am inspired by the work of Sue Coe:

The Last 11 Days is a group of charcoal drawings Sue Coe created from July 20 to 31, 1995 depicting her mother as she lay dying with cancer. The drawings reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. [source]

 

From: BROAD STROKES

Unlike her other work, The Last 11 Days were created without the intention of being shown and reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. Sue Coe is inspiring in every form, supporting issues that plague the world and refusing to sit quietly in their wake. She continues to be a magnetic force in the complex world of contemporary women artists.

 

Memory:

On a visit to SFMOMA in 2011, my daughter stated that sees her “Mormor” in this portrait by Matisse .  We often talk about how Mormor flew right down to Anna in San Francisco when she left her body.

The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908
Henri Matisse

And so, today I will dig through my files and try to find the photo I hid away deep in my computer in an obscure file.  Once found, I will sit with paper in place and china marker in hand wait to see if mom lets me know if it is time.

In place of death there was light. – Leo Tolstoy

And in place of death there is love.  And mom’s laugh.  And more and more love.

Mom’s parrot, Asterix, lives with me now. I love when he does her GIGANTIC belly laugh and answers the phone in her Swedish accent.

Soul work… my 2016 Toolkit

You may recall, I set my intention for 2016- to simply meet it all with love.  Yet I knew it was important to take the time to do soul work.  But it’s been hard, so very hard to get “started” on it.

Yet- that’s not really correct…  Actually, I have started.

I have been collecting soul work to do’s.   I’ve been preparing.

So yesterday, I thought allotting myself a two-hour window to create a mind-map of my vision and goals would suffice.  I was expecting to be able to share it quickly with my daughter, Anna, and with Patti, over a simple Skype chat.  I predicted an 18″ x 24″ piece of paper.  No, no, no.

This 2016 toolkit is taking a lot longer than I expected.

But I finally committed to it last night.  I created a toolkit last night in an old, recycled journal (a leftover from my work with youth on the Downtown Eastside).  I collected, cut, pasted, organized.  It’s ready to go.  And I’ll do a few at a time.

My personal toolkit contents includes a variety of empowering tools I’ve developed or gathered from my network.  All too good to forget so I just kept adding to the list. A toolkit to visit in bits and pieces, as needed, throughout the year.

My list:

  1. Vision board: take out my vision board from 2013- review it, re-evaluate.  Collage a new one.
  2. Read Anna’s goals and visions.
  3. Write a scenario of my story at age 64.
  4. Where do I see myself in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years: personal, career, health.
  5. Answer the 10 questions that matter list.
  6. Go through current to-do’s and review.  Start a new calendar.
  7. Redo my 12 journal exercises project.
  8. Do core values worksheet.
  9. Mindmap– review old ones, create a new one.
  10. Do the Inquiry process– archetypes and shadow-work.
  11. What kind of bird am I? Study its symbolism.
  12. The Power Path– review in detail and mind-map the monthly forecast.
  13. Answer the Soul Prompts questions.
  14. Explore post-traumatic growth creativity.
  15. Write out the checklist: 25 things you need to let go before the new year.
  16. Write out a bibliography of my favorite creativity books.
  17. Acknowledge my history.
  18. Street art.
  19. Community– build it.  Honor it.  “Remember to rely heavily on your spiritual practice, your allies and your community.”  The Power Path
  20. Redo Peter Breeze’s exercise.  Write a letter to my future self.  Write a letter as my future self to myself today.
  21. Embrace your expertise and take imperfect action.
  22. Re-visit my favorite websites: Rebelle Society, Paid to Exist, Heroic Trading Co, Right Brain Business Plan, Start with Why.
  23. Review my 2013 manifesto and business plan.
  24. Pull angel cards and create daily ritual.
  25. Rethink EVERYTHING.  Scratch that.  Simplify.  Focus on the one goal and let everything else feed that.
  26. And remember- let go when overwhelmed and just meet it all with love!

This morning I awoke pretty frozen by anxiety (a variety of typical right-now reasons).

Larger scale inner RESETS are often accompanied by intense experiences of some kind that threaten the ego and false personality and may even cause one to feel like you are going a little crazy or completely falling apart. The Power Path January 2016 Forecast

Instead of drowning in it though, I dragged myself through the morning then finally  yanked out the toolkit I prepped last night and dragged it to a coffee shop, grabbed a coffee and sat outside and forced myself to write through tears, through fear:

Journal entry Jan 13 2016
Journal entry January 13, 2016

After I got that out of my system, I addressed item 19:  “Remember to rely heavily on your spiritual practice, your allies and your community.

I texted my daughter and my friend/agent Peter for some much-needed good vibes.  Got some fabulous get your head out of your ass (Anna) advice.

Everything is as it should be.  U just need to allow (Peter).

Draw an angel card (Anna).

The sun came out as their multiple texts rolled in.

I decided to continue on the self-care focus for the rest of the day.  Do the toolkit.  Do the toolkit.  So I am taking my time, allowing, trusting and doing it.

For example:

Item 11: what kind of bird am I?

My sister-in-law asked me that question the other day as we reflected on my street art project.

After much thought, I really feel it is the Sparrow.  I always stop and observe birds.  But there is something in particular that I connect with in the Sparrow.

The Sparrow reflects self-worth.   If a Sparrow totem has entered your life, ask yourself if you know your own self-worth.  The Sparrow will show you that even a common little bird can triumph.

The Song Sparrow reflects the chakra energy awakening from the heart and throat.  It reminds us to sing out our own song of dignity and self-worth. [source]

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Item 12 The Power Path January 2016 Forecast mind-map:

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Item 1: Review vision board from 2013:

My nephew, Henrik, fully immersed himself in the process with me
My nephew, Henrik, fully immersed himself in the process with me, Feb 2013

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I look at pertinent quotes on the 2013 vision board and make a found poem:

How to survive going nowhere?

What she said:

We change into our capes in a telephone booth-

and take on the world’s evolving challenges.

Referring to myself: 

Ways to stay up in the air?

New York

Item 24: Pull angel cards and create daily ritual.

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Beauty is the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when looking at it

The conception for beauty is used or studied in art, sociology, social psychology, and culture. An “ideal beauty” is an entity which is admired, or possesses features widely attributed to beauty in a particular culture, for perfection.

The experience of “beauty” often involves an interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature, which may lead to feelings of attraction and emotional well-being. [source]

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The journey continues.  I will indeed meet it with love and trust I’ll have some pressing issues sorted.

Everything is as it should be.

Much love, Kat

 

2015 reflections and 2016 intentions.

It’s that time of year to reflect and lay out intentions.

What a journey 2015 was.  It was the year…

[DELETE.]

I had written several lengthy paragraphs reflecting on 2015 and laying out a detailed list of intentions for 2016.  I almost posted it last week.  Then again yesterday.

But this morning I delete it.  There was an apologetic tone to the post that no longer sits rights with me.

And so…

I say thank you for 2015 and simply state:

2016 is the year I meet it all with love. 

(Note: in background- portrait of me by Emily Cowan and ink drawing of trees by Roar Thorsen)

 

A marker for Molly

I do not take my work on Molly lightly.  I respect that her story is a tragic one.  I respect that Molly somehow chose me to tell her story.  Eve Lazarus refers to it as a tap on the shoulder– and Molly tapped me on the shoulder on Level 5 at the Vancouver Public Library in late 2003 as I was searching through microfiches.

I also do not take lightly the deeper bonds that formed between my parents and I as we researched and explored together.  Oh, that tap on the shoulder- what a gift!  It led to amazing adventures and brainstorm sessions between the three of us.  Delicious.

Mom and I would often spend time at Mountainview Cemetery with our dog, Tobey, visiting the unmarked grave of Molly and discussing, at length, the ins and outs of Molly’s timeline and its intersects with the Babes in the Wood cold case.  These were joyous times for us.

Even today, as I sit at my kitchen table surrounded by research, I take note of parental influence, reading through old newspaper clippings lovingly put together by my father.

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I know mom and dad are still here, on my team in spirit, and that Molly always guides the work (#trust), work that continues to unfold much longer than I anticipated as the story is bigger and more profound by the day.

My mom and I certainly knew that this whole affair would not be complete until Molly’s grave site received a flat marker.  So today, as I review my to-list and notes, I decided to request a quote.

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• Grass marker for Molly O’Dwyer at Mountainview Cemetery, Vancouver BC

O’DWYER

Molly Teresa

1924 – 1947

anam cara

I chose the gaelic words for soul-friend- anam cara [souls connect and bond across time and space, through life and beyond into death. source] as, to me, they truly reflect that tap on the shoulder.

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UPDATE:  I received a lovely, thoughtful email and quote today from J.B. Newall regarding a 12″ x 20″ x 3″ granite memorial marker.

Some excerpts:

Thank you for contacting us with your inquiry.

12″ x 20″ x 3″ granite memorial marker, in your choice of
granite colour, with up to five lines of inscription…

Cemetery permit/setting fee…

… our designers take the time to create several artful, custom
layouts from which to choose.

Currently, completion time is approximately 4-6 weeks.  We work closely with
our suppliers to ensure the best quality, monument grade granite; all of our
work is guaranteed.

Thank you again for allowing us the honour to provide you with this
quotation.

Warmest Regards,

K.H. |MEMORIALIST
JB NEWALL MEMORIALS LTD.
5096 FRASER STREET |VANCOUVER, B.C.| V5W 2Y8
T: 604.327.1312 | F: 604.327.1397
WWW.JBNEWALL.COM

CELEBRATING 106 YEARS IN VANCOUVER (1909 – 2015)

I’m hoping to be able to proceed in the Springtime.

Reminder: the purpose of the design is to unsettle the bee…

I am about to embark on a very personal journey revisiting a time in my past I need to process in depths in order to fully move forward into the next chapter in my life.  I’ll share more about that later.  Until then, I will revisit an old post on the bee and its relationship with anxiety- a good reminder for all of us!

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ANXIETY is part of life.  It can beneficial.  It can hinder.  When I am overwhelmed by it, to the point of distracting me from enjoying my life and making it hard to live in gratitude,  I pull out my copy of A Slender Thread- rediscovering hope at the heart of crisis by Annie Dillard and read the following quote.

The purpose of the design is to unsettle the bee…

Copy this quote down in your journal.  Refer to it time and time again and I trust you will find solace in it too.

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One rarely notices the uncertainty of the bee, wallowing and sliding, or how flower petals are delicately balanced so that they will appear firm, but waver and flex suddenly without actually breaking off.  The purpose of the design is to unsettle the bee.

The purpose of the design is to unsettle the bee, I remind myself.  The bee isn’t supposed to be comfortable, secure, or happy, it’s supposed to get smeared with pollen- whether or not the bee suffers is irrelevant.  So it goes with the evolution of anxiety, worry, grief, depression, and other states of emotional distress…

Shedding the centuries, falling backward down a time well, I picture the small bands of humans from whom everyone on earth descended.  Our terrors are their terrors, our hungers their hungers, our pleasure their pleasures, our worry their worry.  We speak the same emotional language.  Only the details have changed, as our vocabulary evolved to cope with everyday life, but our emotional grammar did not.  We carry many of the same psychic burdens, only the satchels are differenent, how we fill them, and where we lay them down.  We’re prepared for their world, not ours, and the strain doesn’t begin to describe how emotionally off-balance, misfit, and cramped we sometimes feel, as we try to improvise with outmoded tools.   – Diane Ackerman

Ackerman, D. (1997) A Slender Thread- rediscovering hope at the heart of crisis, New York, NY: Vintage Books

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I am thankful for the unsettling irritation that forces me to keep moving forward!

Bio-math

From 1 over 2

To 1 over 2 plus 1 over 2
To make one me
Within she
To me
and she
and we
And that one me– so she.

Until he
But
Not 1 + 1 = 2
Nor me + he + she = we
No…
he + she equals less of me.

But then…

1 over 2 of me plus 1 over two from him
And
SHE SHE SHE made ME.

Though still
he + she equals less of me.

Then…
1 over 2 of me plus 1 over two from he
Made HE HE HE

And oh- oh
is this now we?
No—
Still
he + she equals less of me.

Then he
And her

Made almost no me.
But no no no

The three,
the THREE
ME and SHE and HE became WE.

And now me minus he
Added to ME.

And so
I am all ME

Not she
Not he
Not they

But ME.

Not a diorama
Or biorama
Or bio-drama

But a PAN-orama.

All parts equaling all parts.
Identity
Infinity.

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Pay attention to the birds: Part 5- Sparrow

Bliss- walking my old dog slowly, oh so slowly, in our West End neighborhood listening to the sweet song of the white-throated sparrow.  Miraculous.

I walk with a smile on my face.  I am filled with self-love for truly the first time in my life.  I know my own worth and I can sing it from the rooftops.  Today.  For today is all I have, and that is beautiful!  And lo and behold-

The sparrow reflects self-worth.   If a Sparrow totem has entered your life, ask yourself if you know your own self-worth.  The sparrow will show you that even a common little bird can triumph.

The song sparrow reflects the chakra energy awakening from the heart and throat.  It reminds us to sing out our own song of dignity and self-worth. [source]

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The Sparrow is ever vigilant in her goals. She is always bustling for her food, foraging for her nests, and gathering for her young. Fastidious and productive, the Sparrow is a reminder that idle hands (and idle minds) should be avoided in order to live a full, healthy life.

She is a master of flight, and camouflage, and as such the Sparrow teaches us to use our creativity to get around in life – think outside the box, and be creative in solving our problems.

As an bird totem, the Sparrow speaks of higher thoughts and ideals. She beckons us to keep our burdens as light as we can in order to avoid a heavy heart. [source]

Birds hold so much meaning to me.  And they always feel like messengers, telling me to pay strict attention.

My bird, Asterix, age 26.
My bird, Asterix, age 26.

See also:

PART 1: Kingfisher

PART 2: American Robin

PART 3: Pigeon

Part 4: Hummingbird

POST: They let their wings down…

POST: Dead messengers

Pay attention to the birds: Part 4- Hummingbird

hummingbird Frida

I came across a bush the other day abuzz with crimson hummingbirds.  BREATHTAKING.

If the hummingbird shows up in your life as a spirit animal, it may remind you to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and take time to enjoy yourself. The hummingbird’s wisdom carries an invitation to take part in and draw to you life’s sweetness, like you would drink the nectar of your own flower.

The call of the hummingbird totem will guide you to open up to love and lightness in your emotional life. When you see your totem, you are encouraged to open up your heart and expose yourself more to joy and love. It might be time to show how you feel to loved ones or people who are close to you. [source]

I recall watching hummingbirds land on my sea of sunflowers in my Roberts Creek garden.

I often dream of them.

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From Dream Journal- the rat, the jay and the hummingbird

The hummingbird reminds me that by taking small steps, I can achieve my dreams.

I have turned a new leaf of late— simplifying my life and allowing myself to take those smaller steps.

And to NOT complicate the path.  It’s all good.

If you have bitten off more than you can chew and if you were not ready for your bid for power, it will be obvious. Do not judge yourself, just make an adjustment and take a baby step instead of a huge leap. Practice gratitude for all of your opportunities and when you feel overwhelmed go back to handling the details in front of you, one at a time. – – Source

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I spent a beautiful morning with Brenda Morrison and her students teaching a 4th year Criminology class with Laura Mack at SFU on February 23, 2015.

The lovely egg above was a gift from Brenda- made by “lifer” at Ferndale Institute.  It features a hummingbird with the word “spirit.”

In October, Brenda gave me a beautiful book from another SFU class: The Flight of the Hummingbird. The theme of the book is the power of taking small steps to achieve a big goal.  

“I am doing what I can.” – Dukdukdiya.  

Birds hold so much meaning to me.  And they always feel like messengers, telling me to pay strict attention.

See also:

PART 1: Kingfisher

PART 2: American Robin

PART 3: Pigeon

POST: They let their wings down…

POST: Dead messengers

Why receiving a NO from @writehedgebrook was a YES.

December 19, 2014:

Dear Katarina,
Thank you so much for applying for a 2015 Hedgebrook residency.
We received 1,466 applications for 2015 and are able to offer 40 residencies. Though your application did not advance into the final round this year, we want you to know that your work resonated with our reviewers.
Sending your work into the world is an act of bravery, and we appreciate the opportunity for our reviewers to experience your voice.
We’d like to share our selection process with you, so you know the thoughtful time and attention your work received. Two Hedgebrook alumnae, who take their role in this process to heart, read your application and collaborated to select applications to continue further into the adjudication process. All applications are anonymous, and any reviewer who recognizes an applicant will recuse herself. Applicants who advance are reviewed by a three-member committee of readers in cities across the country, and then by a five member selection committee in the final round.
We ask reviewers to consider the quality of the writing, the strength of the proposal, and clarity of answers to the ‘Why Hedgebrook, why now?’ question. We are committed to supporting a diversity of voices: cultural, generational, geographical, LGBTQ, by genre, published and emerging.
You are a member of Hedgebrook’s community simply by sharing your work with us. As our global community grows, we are offering more opportunities for women writers to experience Hedgebrook in other ways. If you choose to stay on our mailing list, we’ll share opportunities to write, network, take workshops and engage with writers from around the world. We are committed to advocating for all women writers to gain equal voice in the cultural conversation.

 

So why is a NO from Hedgebrook a YES?

Because I dared to apply for the 6 week retreat.

To allow myself even the possibility to focus fully on me shows me that my mindset is changing.  I am opening myself to opportunities.

I have worked on my project, Molly, since 2003 through all the blood and guts of life.  Working on Molly is my refuge.  Now I need to give myself the QUIET that she needs.

I was empowered by the application process- empowered by the NO, for it showed me that I am ready to allow myself to now strip away distractions in my life that do not serve me, that do not reflect my value nor feed my life’s work.

I want to give myself to the experience of Hedgebrook- but that need not be at Hedgebrook.

I am expanding my community.  I will eat well.  Walk.  Take time.

Retreat frame of mind.

Hedgebrook state of mind.

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My nephew, Henrik, and my dog, Tobey, Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
My nephew, Henrik, and my dog, Tobey, Stanley Park, 2014 Vancouver BC

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UPDATE June 15, 2016:

TIME TO APPLY AGAIN!!! Go to:

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Touch me life, not softly. #journalentry

How will you take on this week? Last week was truly full of too muchness, too fullness, too many extremes, but at the same time, I was grateful for the intensity. It helped me clarify what was truly important. There was output and connection, there was trauma and fear, there was despair and elation, and there was reconfiguration and realization. How will I take on the week ahead? With a don’t know mind, with allowance, with my hand round my cock, with a hustling frame of mind, with humor and curiosity. With self-assurance. With Frida in my heart.

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[Inspired by The Power Path]

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Touch me life, not softly.– Maya Angelou

“Seeing your life in broad strokes and in bright pieces allows you to redraw…” @carolinemyss

In detecting the emotional charge in your biography, you can begin to see how the fragments of your history have worked together in ways that have affected your past, your present, and the state of your health. This perspective is what I call symbolic sight. Seeing your life in broad strokes and in bright pieces allows you to redraw your conception of your future and fill in the fine, interpretive lines more consciously. Symbolic sight enables you to get back your energy or spirit and heal emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically.

– Caroline Myss

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Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

A walk in the forest August 31, 2013.

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“About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building.  It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star.

The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.  His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.  Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.  I just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight.  The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.  The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.  The least we can do is try to be there.

– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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Journal August 31, 2013 [Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary Aug 31, 1957]

Connecting with nature and with my memories of Mamma and Pappa, picking kantareller [chantarelles], reminiscing about our hours of searching, laughing, coveting, exploring, picking, relishing, knowing where to find the mushrooms, what part of the hill- which little glen- what sunspot- where they don’t grow- not by the Salal- but on the sunny side of the hill- by the orange jelly mushroom- but not by the ferns- right after the big rain- on that path- in that glade- by that stump…

Gleefully squealing when seeing the gold peek out.  The fierceness of protecting our spot from others.  The rush.  The coffee and crusty buns with swiss cheese, pepparkakor and laughing at the dog who ran wildly free and happy.

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Spaghettini with the freshly picked chantarelles, bacon, garlic, basil, pine nuts and bratwurst.

JOURNAL SERIES Part 4: REFLECTION: esteem heart

I am working on a new journal series to connect with my book 

Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges With Art.

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I am a great believer in sharing my creative process!  That is how Drawn Together was created in the first place- through journals and blogposts.

As I build the journal series, I will be sharing my notes and process here and welcome your feedback and your photos!

Your contribution is invaluable and may find its way to my book! Contact me at Email.

 JOURNAL SERIES in progress

Part 1: INSPECTION/PRESENT DAY

Part 2a: INSPECTION/HISTORY: ROOTS

Part 2b: INSPECTION/HISTORY: PHOTOS

Part 3: INSPECTION/HISTORY: JOURNEY/CONNECTION

TODAY

Part 4: REFLECTION: ESTEEM HEART

We are all faced with challenges, every day.  Some may seem insurmountable.  Some keep coming back.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the most difficult challenge of our lives (as in my Dad’s stroke), and sometimes just getting out of bed is a challenge,

Focus on 3-4 things that are blocking you, that hinder you, frustrate you, nag at you, keep you from living your life peacefully.

E.g. Anxiety, Fear, Money, Low Self-esteem, Trust, Doubt

Write for 10 minutes in your journal about these blocks.

On a drawing/photocopy of an anatomical heart, write your main words repeatedly throughout the nooks and crannies.

Color the heart, cut it out and glue it on a card stock.

Write sentences about your blocks coming out from the vessels.

FLOWING OUTWARD.  LET GO.  RELEASE.

I came up with this exercise last tear and I have found it very powerful and I repeat it as often as I need to.  It does release tension.  Many of my students have found it powerful as well.

Paula

Evelyn

Mikki’s beautiful piece. She accidentally drew a sentence going INTO the heart, so she drew a cork! Genius!

Last Thursday I spent a few hours with my friend, Sheryl, taking the exercise a step further:

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My daughter combined the esteem heart exercise with the roots exercise creating a magnificent piece:IMG_2567