Sunday, February 24, 2013

Making Art & Raising Chickens...

If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens. 
~*~ Grandma Moses ~*~ 

"Ripe Fruit"

Dear Ones, 

Well, comes the day you look over your life and think, "If I haven't done it yet I'm not gonna do it," OR, "I haven't done it yet so I better get a move on!" I am more in favor of the latter.

My great heroine for decades, since I was still young with babies at home, has always been Grandma Moses who didn't start painting until she was in her 70's and painted until she was over 100. One of my all-time favorite quotes ever is attributed to Grandma Moses who said, "If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens." Well, as a 58 year old writer and fiber artist I have always wanted to paint and explore other artforms, AND, yes, I have long wanted to raise chickens. And very recently I have begun to stockpile art supplies when I could get them on sale and finally made the leap beginning with pastels which I've fallen in love with. Soon I will have the easel set up and begin painting as well, and, you guessed it, a friend is going to come help get a chicken coop up back here in a little fenced area of the Dragonfly Cottage gardens and by this summer I will be raising chickens AND painting. And heck, I'll only be 59 in April, I'm beating Grandma Moses by a long shot. I'da carried her a basket of eggs if she lived down the lane!


The above two pastels are the first and second ones I have ever done and the third will be below. I am starting the 4th today. I am making my art a daily practice, and I am being very gentle and kind with myself. I am not here to do anything but stand aside and let the joy find it's way to the page or the canvas or whatever I am working with. I was the little kid in school that got rapped on the knuckles with a ruler by the nuns and told I would NEVER be an artist because I would do things like paint tree trunks purple and the leaves periwinkle blue and the grass magenta and the sky orange. I was a dreamer, and that hasn't changed but with nobody here to smack me on the back of the hand with a ruler I'm just going to plunge ahead and do what has been inside of me for 50 years. I guess it takes some of us longer than others to conquer that early fear but if not now, when?

And the thing is that the art is blossoming in the middle of writing a book that is sometimes a little hard going and I can express things when I draw that, even as a beginner, allows things to surface gently that are coming up for me as I write in a very healthy and supportive way. Too, as I start to gather together my "basket full of eggs." or rather skills, to see what I have to offer with the new business I am creating I have come to realize that there are elements that have stood me in good stead for decades and somehow, now, like when a thermometer is dropped and shatters and the mercury inside splatters all over but it rolls back together and becomes all of a piece again, many disparate elements of my life are coming together again in a way that has helped me realize just what is important for me to do, what I am interested in doing, perhaps what I have to offer.

The book that I am working on is a non-fiction account of what it means to live as a woman with bi polar disorder. It is very honest, the difficult and the hard times are there but also the ways that we learn to cope and grow along finding things that sustain us and the beauty in life along the way. In doing so I have come upon something I have written about for a long time and it was the inspiration for my now defunct etsy shop when I was selling my fiber art, "Maitri's Heart and Hands." That name came out of the knowledge that because I live with more than one mental health diagnosis I need to be vigilant about self care, and of course have a wonderful doctor, good meds, alternative therapies, and many spiritual practices in place all of which I employ nearly daily, but the one thing that has been critical for me was not to stay "in my head" for too long but to balance it by moving "into my hands." Hence if I am writing I have long had a basket of fiber work next to me so that when my brain cells screwed up tight, or I felt blocked I could turn away from the computer and hand-spin yarn or weave or crochet or knit or any of the numerous forms that I work in with fiber. Now I have a rolling table with art supplies here next to me so that on one side is my big farmer's table with my computers, printer, scanner, etc, and other side my art supplies. In this way I move back and forth and feel much more balanced.

"Hold On"

Above is the 3rd pastel that I did and put up on my Facebook page to share with friends as I work through my process of learning and integrating my art with my writing. After a couple of questions I wrote a response there that I will copy over here...

"You know, there's something about this that is so sweet because I am just allowing myself to be a true beginner, (Think Shunryu Suzuki Roshi who wrote, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.") I have always been self taught in everything I've done which leaves me in a perpetual state of beginner's mind, so these pieces I am doing are little pieces of myself sort of becoming unlodged, if you will, and floating to the surface. In this piece I started with the Vesica Piscis, (Click the link for a fascinating wikipedia entry on the Vesica Piscis.) that powerful ancient symbol of 2 circles intersecting and the place where they intersect referred to as the mandorla, meaning almond-shaped, has been referred to in ancient times as representing numerous things from a woman's genitals to the symbol of the fish Christians use today with references to the Kaballah and even the Holy Grail. You can still see the mandorla under the girl on the left's long hair. It's funny because people have wondered if these were two lovers and they could be but for me it is the union of the 2 sides of myself which as a bi polar woman, "Hold On," refers to me coming to a place of more union between my two halves. I know you don't get all of that from a beginner's simple drawing, but it's not how it looks so much as what I process and what comes up and out when I'm doing it. I'm making it a daily practice even if I have to work on one particular piece for 2 or 3 days. Sharing them here seems like an important part of the process, maybe me shyly coming forward with sides of myself I've never shown, even my little art pieces, and owning them. Somehow it just feels right."

And so I have begun, a little ahead of 70, and if I don't end up wildly successful as an artist in a few decades at least I'll have eggs. One way or the other I'll never go hungry.

I shall now get out my pastels and begin again...

Blessings & Love,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Writing On A Cold Grey Saturday With A Soft Warm Pug Inside Helping Me Work & Consolidating That Which Matters While Letting The Rest Fall Away...

It is far easier to get work accomplished when you have someone cheering you on. Or, nudging you along. 

Me: I don't feel like writing.

Penny: If you don't write and finish this gosh darned book that you've been working on for 400 years none of us will get any treats or even dinner for that matter at the rate you're going.

(You can actually hear sad violin music playing in the background as she delivers her speech. Guilt works with me. They all know that.)

And so on I plunged and I am amazed to say that of all of the books I've started and stopped over the course of this blog (So many that one person said that I spent a lot of time talking about "the book" I was writing but never seemed to finish it. Ouch. The truth really kicks you in the keester!) I am finally cruising along with this one, thanks, absolutely, to working with SARK since last July. Her WINS (Write It Now With SARK) program is amazing, and I'm in WINS+ which means I send work to her each month which she goes over and sends an MP3 file back going over my writing, encouraging me, and oh, she is just a font of love and inspiration. Having loved her books for longer than I can remember to hear her voice talking about my work, saying lovely things, glowing things even, really adds fuel to the creative fire. And so this time I am letting nothing stop me.

My life is changing in huge ways, so much so that I haven't been able to write here, or even, the last few days, on the new little Joy-blog I started (I've realized that I just need to concentrate on this one. When you're bi-polar allowing your energies to get dissipated by spreading yourself too thin is not a good thing. There is strength in staying the course with what you are doing and not getting scattered, and there's no shame in admitting that you had an idea you liked, you tried it, but staying strong and steady with your central work so you can finally accomplish something is a good thing. It's taken me a long time to learn these things.)  I haven't sent a newsletter to my newsletter list because I'm not going to just send blog entries and material that is rehashed from some place else and I'm trying to figure out how, when, why, and if to do one. I don't have anything to sell yet and instead of creating lots of little things that might make money here or there I have to finish this book and then I will see where to go from there. 

I said "I'M FINISHING THIS BOOK AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME." (I'm talking to the Trickster, as I call him, the one who keeps stopping me when I'm moving along to convince me that it's a different book I should be writing or if I just start one more blog or one more this, that, or the other... meanwhile, nothing gets done at all. I'm wise to him now. He can't stop me anymore!)

So I have put aside my sweet little joy blog for now. I also quit Twitter. With over 28,500 followers it became a joke. Why do something if you can't really interact in a personal way with people, at least to some extent, which is why I am staying on Facebook but shut the Twitter account down. And people want LOTS of followers but what's the point when the tweets go by so fast you never see the ones you'd really LIKE to. No, I'm cutting away all the dross. Anything that keeps me from writing this book. 

I am also simplifying my life. Making a conscious decision to live on less money so that what I have can last longer to see me through this next phase of changes, but also because while if you saw my cottage you would know that I don't and never will live Zen-spare, I have been too acquisitive in my life. The emotional roller coaster of being bi polar and being clinically depressed most of my life has not served me well when it has come to managing my money and more, buying way too much of everything to the point that a lot of it never even gets used. That's a kind of hoarding if you ask me and it's embarrassing. It may take ten years to pare down to where I'd like to be, but I am taking the first steps. I am clear-cutting a path through my life to make space for this book to grow, and what is here is beautiful and will be cherished -- the animals, the garden, the natural world, good books, superb lattes, a nice cup of tea. Good talk with dear friends, and the bit of time I get to spend here and there with my precious children who are growing their own lives and families in many directions and I am so proud of them all. I am growing my own life too, and I am fertilizing it with my dreams, not dollars. I am, in this, feeling a kind of relief and calm I hadn't known existed and I am feeling a kind of peace inside that is such a sweet balm I just cannot express, yet, what it all means.

Oh gracious, it is getting cold. In this warm coastal region where in weeks past the weather has been in the 70's and you could be outside in short sleeves the temps have been dropping quickly throughout the day and they have even predicted possible snow tonight. Now for those of you who are snowed in a good bit of winter (Waving to dear friends in Canada!) you can't appreciate how in a region where we seldom see any snow at all what a miraculous blessing a little snowfall can be, and little it will be if we get it at all, but even just enough to cover the ground just thrills me to my toes. I grew up in the Midwest and while I love many things about living in the south, besides having a very hard time with the long unbelievably hot summers, the thing I miss most is the change of the seasons, four real seasons, with snow in winter. We moved down here in November of 1992 and shortly thereafter I said to my husband, "There's something wrong with living some place where you can get your Christmas tree in SHORTS!" And so I will go out and gather kindling for a fire and, giddy like a school girl, look forward to snowflakes in the air.

It is blowing hard outside and getting dark and grey, the sky has that "snow is coming" look to it and here in my studio whose beautiful old windows all around two sides are one of the many things that I fell in love with when first seeing this place also mean that a lot of air comes in around the cracks and it is COLD in here. I will turn up the heat and put the little energy saver heater on next to Miss Scarlet, my nekkidy grey parrot whom I need to keep warm since she's a plucker, and I will go make some spicy hot tea, and go back to the next section of my book. 

What a sweet Saturday this is, and how lovely to reconnect with you. I have to constantly reign myself in and bring myself back to priorities and the important central things in life that keep me stable. The miracle now is that I realize these things rather quickly and right myself so I don't lose my way. Oh, it feels so good.

I close here looking out as so many birds at the three feeders outside my windows I can't count them all. The birds are getting ready too. It's a cold winter's night and we will all hunker down and settle in and delight in the magic and miracles of life all around us. And there are so very many. I feel so blessed, as I know I am...

My love to each of you...

P.S. 5:20 p.m. IT'S SNOWINGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

In an effort to bring more joy into my life, I have created a new website and blog (This will still be my main blog)...

You can find the website at:

And the blog by clicking this header:

I am taking the month of February to slowly and gently find my way into the new work that I need to do to create from a healthier place, a place of wholeness, and yes, joy, and what I have found my way to and am working on now is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, a book that is all hand-done, words, art, and all. I am sitting amidst all manner of art supplies, sketch books, books, and everything needed to play my way into the new life I am carving out for myself. Releasing too many years of living in the past darkness (Even when I honestly thought I had released it...) is such a breath of fresh air.

The new blog is a compilation of very brief entries, a journal of joys and delights and things to share with others so that they, too, can find joy and be led to seek it in their own lives. I hope you will find your way there and enjoy what you find. Do leave me little joy-notes as you can and we will share in this dance together.

Blessings, Love & Happiness to one and all,

And something we all should remember...