Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now that I'm Free To Be Myself, Who Am I? ~ Mary Oliver

I came across this Mary Oliver quote this morning and it brought me up short. I just sat and stared at it. 

Last night, between 11 and 12 pm, I started, stopped, and deleted no less than 5 attempts at a podcast. I have not missed a scheduled podcast since I started even though I've gone from every day to every other day since they have gotten so much longer, time for listeners to have time to listen and for me enough time for the well to fill again so that I feel I have something to say, to share. While my podcasts are not on the edge of your seat exciting. simply gentle musings from Dragonfly Cottage about the days here, the pugs and the parrots, the garden, my writing and art, thoughts about life, last night it felt like everything I came up with was gibberish, and, I must admit, it sounded like meaningless meandering all over the place. I could not get my brain on straight! The question that I had been grappling with all day was a version of just this, Now that I'm free to be myself, who am I?

By last night I was exhausted to the point of tears trying to figure out what it was that I was that I wanted to do with my one wild and precious life (One of my all-time favorite quotes, also by Oliver, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" the last two lines of  her poem "The Summer Day."), and I'll be doggoned if I could tell you.

I have written here, there, and everywhere about my 100 ladies, and I love them, and fully intend to continue with that book and their work. I have grappled with trying to write my book on being bi polar, I Will Not Go Down That Rabbit Hole, but after pulling it out, dusting it off, connecting with it strongly, after getting an amazing amount of feedback and thank you's for sharing it I became afraid again, not that I couldn't write it but, as self-care is absolutely essential for me, the dark place that I would have to live in for the year or however long it would take me to write it would mean that I would have to live through the pain and struggles that I face almost daily, twice. Once in the living of it and again in the writing. It is just not a place I feel it would be healthy for me to go. 

Then a few comments came in about part of a book that I have started over and over again for years, The Road To Dragonfly Cottage. This is not just a journey to a physical place but a spiritual journey that began after leaving my marriage at 45 in April 1999 to the present, and there is a lot in that book as I have conceived it and in the numerous drafts I have written to date that I feel has merit, might help others as well as be a record of both a spiritual and psychological journey of a woman coming to midlife and beyond while struggling to create a life that has purpose and meaning.

All of these projects are important to me even while I know Rabbit Hole needs to just rest for now, but my most pressing concern that comes up and up and up is that writing a book is not enough at a time when I really need to create an income. And so the idea of creating a community where I might bring the wisdom and experience that I have into a forum where I can help other women is what I have come to, but how best to go about it? Thank goodness I have Dori Etter of Inspired Income to help me do just that.

So after contacting Dori on Tuesday to tell her that I was finally ready to have our one-on-one session to start moving forward with this work, and I will next Tuesday, I started plotting and planning, and yesterday I made up a list of all of the things I have done in my life that I can bring to bear on this new work and I was overwhelmed. It was a life review of sorts and there was so much that it left me reeling and feeling somewhat depressed and melancholy about times gone by, as well as tender towards all of the things that I have done. And, too, what I came to is how little we credit ourselves for our own experience, knowledge, and wisdom earned over the years. I think most of all I love having come into my crone years and fully embrace that I am a wisdom keeper, a truth teller with the battle scars and stripes of glory that we all have, in our own way, as we grow into midlife and beyond.

Who am I?

I was a daughter and a wife. I am a mother and a grandmother, a friend and a lover of so much of the world and very nearly every one I meet, everyone that is kind and gentle and loving I embrace with my whole heart, even if I can't do it in person I have a lot to give and receive from where I am.

I was a childbirth educator for ten years teaching natural childbirth classes to countless couples, and after having my 2nd and 3rd babies at home I got more and more involved in the homebirth movement and became a lay midwife. I was a La Leche League Leader and counseled breastfeeding mothers for over a decade and nursed my own three children for long periods of time. We homeschooled our children and grew as a family through so very many experiences and so much over so many years. After 25 years we would separate and just short of our 31st wedding anniversary we divorced but my husband and I have had a very gentle, kind and loving parting and celebrated birthdays and holidays and weddings and deaths and births together over the years. My family, including my ex-husband, are the dearest people in the world to me.

As a survivor of long-term sexual abuse and suffering from a handful of mental health diagnoses, and having had nervous breakdowns and been suicidal, and having come through the worst of it to the place where I now work vigilantly at self-care, managing medications and working with a therapist for four of my nearly six decades, I have gained so much insight and wisdom about being a survivor, about healing, about struggling, nearly losing the battle, but winning the worst wars and daily finding my way over the hurdles and through the valleys, I have been on a shaman's journey, and with a lifelong spiritual quest from being raised Catholic, to studying Buddhism for four decades, as well as Native American spirituality, being ordained a Christian minister, studying, deeply, the monastic traditions, and finally coming to peace with God in what I call Direct Communion, I have a knowledge base that spans a multitude of spiritual traditions, that has brought a richness to my life and which carries with it so much depth, and color, and passion for living a life of spiritual service that I know I was born to do just this, to be of service in the world carrying the message of the name I took legally a decade ago. Maitri, the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and that we must first have it for ourselves to give it to another. My work is centered in compassion and loving-kindness in all that I do from day to day relations with others to my writing and art to the work that I will do with women for the rest of my life.

Having taught journal-keeping classes for thirty years, first with my childbirth couples and then, after apprenticing Katya Sabaroff Taylor whose wonderful approach to journal keeping changed my life, to studying with Ira Progoff, the founder of The Intensive Journal Method, and Natalie Goldberg author of Writing Down The Bones, and becoming friends with the woman who was my favorite writer and became my mentor and muse in the last years of her life, May Sarton, all the way up to this last year when I have studied and worked with SARK, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, who has taught me so much, read my writing and encouraged me every month since last July, and inspired me to do all that I have wanted and meant to do, in fact was born to do, yes, all of these people have stood me in good stead for what lies ahead.

I have learned the power of our stories. Writing and sharing our human stories is the most powerful thing that we can do and the recording and sharing of our lives with others and leaving that legacy for the generations to come I truly believe is the great legacy we will have left when our days on this earth have come to an end. Writing and sharing my own story, teaching, helping, and encouraging others to do the same, and gently midwifing women through the birthing of their deepest, most authentic self, and learning to fully love and embrace who they are may just be the most important work that I can do.

I am also a Reiki Master, a Shambhala Master Healer, a long time gardener connected to the earth more deeply than almost anything else, and I have had a lifetime of working with animals, rescuing them, as they rescued me, and living with a multitude of pugs and parrots and more over the years. Colette wrote, "My poetry is earthbound." My poetry, my life, my work, my love, my whole being is both earthbound and spirit-led. I am a child of the sun, the moon, and the stars. I carry within me the innocence of the newborn that I have never lost throughout it all as well as the wisdom of the grandmothers which I have truly earned. I am near tears writing this. I am all of this and so much more.

As I write this I truly encourage all of you to do just this. Start with the quote at the top and keep writing. Write for days, for weeks, for the rest of your life. Embrace and love and celebrate all that you are, and keep evolving and becoming and celebrating every single facet of your life, every battle scar and stripe of glory that you have rightly earned. As Walt Whitman wrote, "Celebrate yourself, Sing yourself!" and in this blog entry I have and going forward I will and I will help others to do the same.

I have answered the question. I am ready. I will meet with Dori next week and I will begin. Soon I will open the doors to a community that I will spend the rest of my life building and nurturing, where I will teach, and listen, and offer all that I have, all that I am, all that I know, and I will learn from the women who come to me, and I will love and cherish them with all of my heart.

In writing this I have found my answers, I have found my peace, I have finally, fully understood who I am. My heart is soaring. I am on my knees thanking God and my spirit has sprouted wings and my soul taken flight. I cannot wait to start this work. The best part of my life is about to begin.

Oh yes. I am ready.

With all the love in my heart I embrace each of you with the warmest regard and sending the deepest blessings to all...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can You Wind This Ball of Yarn?

The Ball of Yarn...

How to: Make a new friend, catch up with an old friend, get to know someone you have known for a long time but not really KNOWN...

Invite them for a cup of tea (or coffee, or a glass of wine, whatever suits) and, this is the most important part, have a ball of yarn ready and set it in the middle of the table.

After the pleasantries have passed and you are comfortable with one another you are ready to begin. 

Move your chairs together and sit with your knees almost touching. One of you will hold the ball of yarn while the other will take the end piece of the ball of yarn and beginning slowly unwinding it and making a new ball on your side. While you wind your ball tell the person opposite you everything you admire about them, everything you would like to know about them, how they inspire you, intrigue you, tell them anything and everything you can think of. Tell them how much you appreciate that they were willing to take a step forward with this friendship. You can laugh and giggle and whisper and cry and any other emotion that rises is fine. When you get to the end of the ball, stop, reverse order, and let your friend respond to everything you just said to her. 

Switch chairs. This is important because you are switching gears, modes, the ball of yarn is on the other needle so to speak. Now she (or he) will tell you everything that you first told her, and so on. When the ball ends, you answer. 

If you are feeling very close and things are really opening up and you are in a beautiful space you might pass the ball back and forth for hours. Having the yarn to wind makes it easier. Gives you a task to break the tension of staring at the person nervously not knowing what to say. You can just look at the yarn, constant eye contact isn't necessary. Keep winding, make a beautiful ball.

Now, if you can do this you will be one of the rare, extraordinary people as will your friend and this will be a friendship to cherish for a lifetime. In today's world where a dinner can't be had without someone texting or checking their e-mail, if you can pass the ball of yarn back and forth, raveling and unraveling the mysteries of the person before you and offering them your open heart in return a miracle will have occurred. 

Can you wind that ball of yarn? Do you dare?

© 2013 Maitri Libellule

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rose and the Stories of The One Hundred Ladies and How I Hope They Can Change The World...

Rose, the cantadora, who sings the songs (stories)
of the 100 Ladies...

I started The 100 Ladies Project because they insisted on being born. I wasn't sure where they would lead me but I knew that they wouldn't steer me wrong, and they haven't. They have led me into a place where art meets writing, where stories come from deep inside of me from a place of time beyond time, and in the most unique and unusual of the women's stories there is a universal truth. The 100 ladies message is that every woman, in her uniqueness, in all of who she is, is an amazing miracle and brings with her myriad blessings and gifts that, when shared with other women, can create a tribe of women who can band together to create a worldwide movement. 100 women  helping 100 women helping 100 women and so on into eternity. They mean to plant seeds that will bloom generation after generation. Their stories will never die.

I am a cantadora, a wisdom keeper, I sing the songs and tell the tales of women who have come before me, and those who will come after me, and those who are inside of me. I sing the lives of women I have known and women who have influenced, delighted, taught, and inspired me through their books and art and music. I write the stories that come in dreams and those from waking visions. Sometimes the lady comes first and sometimes her story but they come together, hand in hand, and their stories are more powerful linked together. United we stand, divided we fall, the ladies mean to band together, through space and time, and reach out to other women around the world. They want to hear your stories. They want to pass the talking stick until all the stories of all the women of the world are told. Their work will never end.

How do I hope to structure the real world work of these ladies? These are some of my ideas, and I am in the process of giving birth to more than a project, but a movement. I have always tried to leap into what should be long range plans before the time was right and this time I plan to move more slowly and grow into all that I hope to do but I can tell you that what I would like to do is to create a community where women can hear these stories, and learn the medicine, the wisdom, that Rose has come to teach, and start with a bi-monthly journal wherein subscribers, women committed to helping grow this community and help other women, will receive one of the ladies stories every other week. After the story Rose, the wise woman, teacher, and guide to the ladies will share the wisdom learned in this woman's story, and will guide a discussion in a forum created just for members. The forum will be like a cottage with many rooms where women can meet to discuss all manner of things from living their daily lives, to trying to find their way in the world and the path and work that are right for them, to how to build a life that is perhaps outside the norm but is the life they can best live to survive and thrive and grow the living garden inside of them even as they grow one in the real world.

I see the community of women gardening together, sharing seeds and stories, plans and dreams. Cooking together, sharing recipes and teaching one another about the foods and spices and traditions in their own corner of the world. These activities may be metaphorical and hold the energy of the activity, the nourishing quality of these activities that women have have taken part in in their daily lives since the dawn of time until recent generations. It is a call to bring back this energy and spread it, one woman to another, until all women know that their stories have merit and that in sharing them on they will change the lives of their children and their children seven generations into the future. 

I have a dream, not unlike the theory of The Hundredth Monkey which Ken Keyes wrote about in his book of the same name. When enough monkeys shared the knowledge it spread through the tribe until the hundredth monkey learned the lesson and the collective energy shot through the tribe and soon around the world. What if...

... one woman told her story and encouraged the next woman to tell hers (and as each woman shared hers she share the one that came before her) and each one carried these stories and this wisdom forward and on and on until all women knew all of the stories and the collective wisdom spread across the land and around the world and women found the commonalities at the same time they were enriched by the differences. We are all one. Together we can change the world.

I am creating something that each woman who joins will receive. It will be, I believe, a revolutionary way to change the world, one woman at a time. I am more than excited. I am in awe of the power of women everywhere. This is an idea that is growing inside of me, the seed of a movement, or a gentle revolution based in love and kindness, in compassion and in the genuine desire to change to the world for all who come after us. It is my hope, my dream, my plan, my mission. And there is so much more.

The 100 Ladies are on the move. Look for more news here. I hope by September to be ready to open the doors and begin to grow the tribe. Some of the work will begin to go out through the summer. If you are reading this I hope you will join me. We are part of a great lineage. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and back and back and back. Our daughters, nieces, neighbors, grandchildren and on and on into the future, and their families and friends and the whole world around them. 

Each one, reach one. That is the message of the 100 ladies. It is time to hear their stories. Let us begin...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's time to go scary deep with my writing. I'm going to tell it all. I will not got down that rabbit hole...

La libellule √©crit... 
(The dragonfly is writing.)

When I took the name Libellule after my divorce to honor my French heritage the dragonfly had long been my totem animal. The dragonfly represents moving out of the darkness into the light. It was in 1999. My marriage had ended, I came out as a lesbian and quickly found myself needing to enter into a cloistered world with animals and the garden, to go deep into a cocoon where all of the layers that had built up over a lifetime for self-protection were painfully tight and tearing. I was about to go through a decade and more of deep transformation. It would take me some time now to move through the darkness and into the light.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen

Thank God for that crack. The little bit of light that I could see kept me alive, and I was dangerously close to the edge. More than once suicide seemed my only option, but something pulled me back from the brink. In my darkest hour, the closest that I ever came, a miracle occurred. I was just at the very edge of black despair, tears were running down my cheeks, and then, just then, through my patio door flew a very large, luminescent dragonfly, golden, unbelievable but real. He stayed with me for half an hour. I was able to get my camera and he sat with me peacefully while I photographed him.

I call this extraordinary experience "The Visitation" and am writing a small book about it. He did not just save my life but in that moment I committed my life and my writing to spiritual good. To continuing to transform my own life and help others do the same. I have spent fourteen years trying to figure out just how to do it. I am finally discovering the answers and the way is unfolding. The time has come. The time is now.

In January I started to write a book that terrified me. After struggling with it for some long time I shelved it. I didn't think that I could live in the place that this book might take me to write it, but in the last days, the response that I've gotten from readers about my last  blog entry, "On Being A Bi Polar Artist," came from every direction. Comments here, from my Facebook friends and followers, from Twitter, and a lot of direct e-mails. It came to me once again that I had promised that dragonfly, that mystical being who saved my life, that I would be a truth-teller, that my job was to save my own life and the lives of others through my writing, and I intend, now, to do just that. 

I am going to share with you, tonight, the beginning of the book that I started to write in January, and tonight I am returning to that book and I will finish it no matter how long it takes. I know that it can save lives because no matter how dark, how bleak it is in the telling, there is also light coming in through the cracks, and it is the story of a survivor. Suicide isn't even something I would consider now. My job is to ride the waves of the bi polar ups and downs, to survive it all, and record it so that someone else can read it and know, through the worst of it all, that if they just hold on they can make it through. 

I am going to put the writing below and let this entry end where it ends because it leaves me almost breathless and afraid to put it here and hit publish, but this is the first step in a long journey. It is time that I return the blessing of he who saved me. It is my turn to help and to heal in as much as I can. 

The title of the book is I Will Not Go Down That Rabbit Hole, and I offer it, now, to you. It is a rough beginning, but it speaks for itself...

I will not go down that rabbit hole.

Too many other women (and men) have lost their way, the possibility of so much more that disappeared into the ether as the last embers of their lives burnt out leaving pain and suffering and sorrow in the wake of their deaths for all of the people who loved them, to whom they were important, even when they could not possibly believe that their life had any meaning, that it mattered not whether they lived or died. I have been in that place, I have nearly been swallowed whole by that terror, sometimes I face it every single day, but I will not succumb. I will not go down that rabbit hole. I will fight with everything that I have in me to stay alive, even on my hardest days, because if I can hold on and share my journey maybe I can help even one other person avoid falling into the abyss. If I can then my life will have had more meaning than I can see on my darkest days.

I will not go down that rabbit hole. I have been teetering on the brink and my head hurts and tears are welling up in my eyes and I am so terrified that I don't know how I will go on but I know that I must. I will not do that to the people who love me. I will not put my children through that. I cannot bear to wonder what would happen to these precious little animals that share my life if something happened to me. I have the rescues, the little ones no one else wanted, and they are so bonded to me their own lives would be in peril if I took my own. Suicide is no longer an option, nor do I want to go there, but the blinding terror that I face nearly every day to some degree must be managed in some way if I am to stay afloat. I will write this book. I will cast it, like a paper boat, out upon the water and let it find it's course. My dream is that it will multiply and find it's way to other tender souls who, like me, may have been one moment away from the edge when some unknown thing intervened.

I will not go down that rabbit hole. I will write this book. These words will anchor me to the page, will hold me in place, will tether me to this world. As long as I keep writing I will not go down that rabbit hole.


This morning I got up, went to the bathroom, woke the pugs to go to the potty, and we headed out into the cold. Back in I took my morning medication and we crawled back in under the covers for the hour they now know I must lie down to give the meds time to kick in and me that little bit of extra cushion before the day begins. Most days I can go back to sleep for awhile but this morning was one of the hard ones when the cover I tried to pull up over my trembling body was a heavy blanket of fear I could not remove. It was only because my old teddy bear pug Sampson was lying on top of me with my arms around him that I could hang on. Three year old Tanner pushed up against my right side and shy little Pugsley burrowed into the crook of my knees. These pugs have done far more to save me than I could ever do for them, but even this morning, anchored firmly in place with their soft warm bodies snuggled against mine, I had to keep repeating over and over and over frantic prayers and mantras in my head until I thought I might truly be going crazy. I was afraid to lie there and afraid to move. I tried to just breathe but quickly started repeating my prayer, an abbreviated version this time, over and over until I could bear it no longer. 

Usually I want the dogs to stay asleep, just a little while longer, but today, the three little faces, burrowed into the covers with their chorus of puggerly snores making me smile even through the dark cloud of fear, worried me. Can I wake them, do I dare? But they, so connected to me psychically that they know the movement of my mood's swift changes, sat up almost in unison and looked at me worriedly. I was nearly panting with relief by the time we got up, and once outdoors again, breathing fresh air, released from the previous night's nightmares and the early morning terror that gripped me, the day, as it usually does, seemed possible. Just before the pugs opened their eyes my own filled with tears. 

“I will not go down that rabbit hole, I will not be swallowed whole, I will not let my life end or worse yet let life swallow me up and spit me out, a broken thing that those that I love so dearly will need to worry over or bear the burden of taking care of. I must muster the courage, and find the wherewithal inside myself to live, to be independent, not to let a string of mental health diagnoses and the wreckage of a little girl's psyche that I try so hard to convince myself and everyone else has been pieced back together into something approaching whole, shatter. I will not let the shipwreck of my early life sink the life that is left to me in my final decades on this earth. I will soon be fifty-nine and it is not too late for me. God help me, I have got to find the way."

I am nearly weeping as I write this but even as tears run down my cheeks I sink into them with relief. I have written countless books trying to unearth the one in which I could really tell the truth, not be afraid, not worry what anybody else thinks or hold back in any way. In this moment I am fighting to save my life and there's no more time to waste. I will not go down that rabbit hole. I want to live.

Maitri Libellule, copyright 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

On Being A Bi Polar Artist...

Dear Ones...

It is one of those days...

One of those days when I feel blue, when any energy I might have had has drained out of my body and I look around at the disarray in my studio and feel overwhelmed and helpless. Will I ever get this cleaned up? Will I have the will, the wherewithal to finish this book? I have received great encouragement from the people that I am working with, that the work is good, has meaning, could sell, and I have been very happy to hear this, comforted, hopeful, and then these times come. 

I can't write this. It is my dark secret, I feel ashamed, embarrassed.

I have to write this. Writing this is the only way to open the shades and let some light in. I need light.

If even one person reads this that needs to hear these words, who might feel less alone, then this is what I must do. Throughout it all, good times and bad, hard times and times of great happiness, I have shared it all here, and my role as a truth-teller is the most important role that I have with my work because at the very heart of everything I do is the desire to help others. I have felt so alone, so frightened in my life. I have read and reread and clung to books that gave me hope, that were life rafts in a stormy sea. If I can do that for someone else, I must do it.

The difficulty for me is not in whether or not I can write or create art, I can do both of those things and I'm confident in my ability to do so, no, the difficulties that I face are the roller-coaster ups and downs of being bi polar. As I have been in therapy for decades and now only require regular check-ins every 3 months or so to have medications evaluated and dosages tweaked, I know my body, and the medications have helped enormously, but they can't pave over the rutted roads, sharp curves, and landslides that my neural pathways and grey matter are wont to take. Things are much more even now, the swings between the poles are not severe ups and downs, but they come regularly enough that, though subtle to the outside observer, can keep me from being consistently able to get the work done at a pace and speed that I would like to maintain to finish any project , be it a book, the artwork, household chores, or other things. 

My saving grace is the living things around me. My animals are my dearest loves and always get the best of care. They are the reason that I get up many days, to feed, take the dogs out, care for the parrots, get in any and all food and supplies that they need, go to the vet, and so on. And the dogs are the reason that I stay as stable as I do. Animals have an amazing sensibility and understanding of what is going on. My 3 pugs will practically lay on top of me when I am slipping into a sinkhole of despair. The concern on their little faces touches me deeply. I reach for them and love them to ease their worried little hearts, and in so doing I am lifted up. Time and again they pull me back into the present moment and move the stalled engine inside of me forward once more.

Too, the garden saves me, especially at this time of year when so much planting is being done, as plants come and must get in the ground and be watered lest they die, and the seeds that I plant by the tens of thousands must be kept watered to grow into the lush cottage gardens that I create. I drink in the color, the life, the lively dance of the cosmos, the poppies, the thousands of zinnias, the fragrant herbs, and am nourished, healed, and calmed by nature, the living plants, the wild birds at my feeders, a squirrel frolicking on my windowsill, a mourning dove sitting peacefully in a patch of daylilies, these things, too, are saving graces. I can move to care for the living things. I will take care of the plants and animals who need me.

And then a tidal wave of fear comes again.

"What will I do for income, how will I support myself if I can't get this work done quickly enough?" shouts a voice inside of me as fear runs over me. During these times, on these days, I try to anchor myself in what is concrete. I get up and clean up the kitchen. I have been putting that off for days. I get the dishwasher going, gather the dirty laundry and get a load of wash going, do my rounds with the animals and sit down with coffee. I tell myself that my plan will be that every time I get up, to go to the bathroom, to go outside with the dogs, answer the door, whatever, I will do as many little chores as I can. Last time I went out on the deck and filled the three bird feeders and blew the deck off, something I do several times a day with the leaf blower so the pugs don't eat the fallen birdseed. I got another load of laundry going, checked on the parrots in the other room, and returned to the safety of my chair here with an urgency of someone who barely made it back alive.

That will sound like an exaggeration to you, perhaps overly dramatic. It is the often painful truth. It is my reality.

There are times that my blood sugar drops far too low and I become shaky because I can't get up to get something to eat. I finally got up and got hummus and rice crackers. I am okay now. This happens far too often.

At these times I feel that it is important for me to write the book I keep starting and putting off, about living with bi polar disorder, because it may help someone. I don't share any of this to frighten anyone, to try to garner sympathy, but because I know what it is like to be thrown a life raft when there is a hole in the boat and I've lost my oars and am about to sink. 

I am working steadily on my 100 Ladies and will continue to do so. I love them dearly and it is work that has really opened up a place inside of me where beauty grows, where hope has taken the place of hopelessness, where I see so many possibilities, but I think if I use the ladies in smaller books along the way, if I can publish, even self-publish, books of stories that people can read along the way but more to the point that give me a feeling of accomplishment, that show me that a project can come to completion, then it will keep propelling me forward. Yes. I think that's it. In the way that I have to take small steps each day as a way of getting things done and feeling the sense of accomplishment necessary to keep me moving forward, so, too, would publishing small books along the way. My ladies are coming. They cannot be stopped! They have a will and a life of their own. There is no fear that I will not finish this book, it is only a concern about taking too long to finish all 100 of the ladies. I needn't wait until the end. Just writing this I see a bit of light coming in around the edges.

I want so much to write a book about Dragonfly Cottage, about the road to Dragonfly Cottage, because it has been the road to a place where I could finally land, where I could nest and feel safe, where I could create a life that would make living possible, where I could grow and flourish, and I have been, and I want, so very much, to show other people that it is possible for them too, to find a way, a place, the necessary elements needed to create a life of meaning and substance even with the limitations of bi polar disorder or whatever else might feel crippling in someone's life. People despair when they feel as though they can't fit in. I think we need to be comfortable fitting out. Fitting outside the norm. Living outside the box. That is my message. That has been the road to Dragonfly Cottage. I have run off the road a number of times but always seem to find the path back. Dragonfly Cottage, creating this world here, has been life-saving for me. I will continue, all the days of my life, to tend these gardens, these animals, and yes, work with every fiber of my being to keep moving forward, to do my writing and my art, and hope it has some value to the world. 

I think I'm okay now. I just noticed that I took the first whole breath that I have in some time. My body is relaxing. I have made it safely to shore again.

I am bi polar. I am an artist. A writer. I will live my way through everything I need to to do my work. It's what I have to give in this lifetime. I will do it because I can. I will do it because I must. I will do it.

Thank you for being here with me, for listening. It is a greater gift than you could possibly know.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The rose in each of us...

When I started the book The 100 Ladies Project I knew that it would be both cathartic and healing for me, but I wanted it, also, to be healing for those who would read it. I regularly pray and meditate before my work on this book and when I draw, as I have said here and in my podcasts, it is a mystical experience. I sit with my sketchbook and pastels and I wait. Then the placement of the head on the page finds its form, and I sit with it awhile and then all of the features come very quickly. 

The colors that I pick up, without a plan, knowing not why, are called up by the lady waiting to be born, but this particular lady, Rose, wanted very few colors, very soft colors, ethereal, and as I began to draw her I knew who she was. 

Rose is the embodiment of all that is holy to everyone. An angel, the Virgin Mary, any of many Goddesses, Glenda the Good Fairy from The Wizard of Oz, and most importantly a wise woman, a healer, a teacher. I mention all of the above because I want her to be relatable to anyone reading her story, and she will, likely, be the one lady who will appear more than once throughout the book, with many different images, though still the same colors, the same essence. No matter what spiritual path you follow or if you follow none at all, in which case she may represent a much loved aunt or grandmother or friend who has passed on but was very dear to you in this lifetime, Rose is here to be a comfort and a guide for all. She is very much a spiritual guide for me. She took shape quickly and I just sat and looked at her as if I hadn't drawn her, and meditating upon her face I fell into prayer and a quiet filled the room. Even the animals were quiet. I feel that this particular drawing may appear slightly differently to everyone who views her. She came to me as a gift.

I think that writers write the book that they want to read, the book that they need to give birth to so that they may realize, on a conscious level, the wisdom that their subconscious wants to pass on. After 30 years of teaching journal classes to hundreds of men and women I saw the same thing over and over. As they read their stories out loud there would be a shock of recognition. When you write quickly without stopping to read along the way, a timed writing, you've really no idea what you've really written until you read it, and reading it aloud in a group is a very powerful experience. Often my students would cry, or tear up, or having trouble going on, or even laugh, surprised at what had come up. This is the way I felt about Rose, and every time I sit with her she has a different message for me. 

I see Rose as a gentle wise woman, living in a cottage on the edge of a beautiful wood, in communion with all of the animals around her, the deer and the robin, the dragonfly and the mouse, the snake and the bats, as well as the animals she shares her life with, her dogs and a cat, and she tends to all of the animals using herbs and natural remedies she concocts herself. 

Rose has a beautiful garden, vast, encircling her small cottage. She grows all of her own fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs, and there is magic all around. People come to Rose to be healed, physically, emotionally, spiritually. She is a gentle presence, ageless, and indeed never ages. Once you come down the long road leading back to her cottage and turn into the lane something happens. 

There is a sign at the gate that asks that you leave your car there and walk in. As you walk up the long winding pathway the air changes, the powerful fragrance from the gardens fills your senses, tension leaves your body, your head clears. A peace comes over you. The closer you come to her little cottage the less you are surprised that deer are grazing with their young, very close to you, and do not look up, so used, as they are, to a safe existence with Rose, and you feel something shifting inside of you. 

Closer still you stop, trying to see all of the gardens in every direction but they are too vast and you wonder how one woman manages all of this amazing landscape of green growing things and flowers too many to count or identify, and the very size of everything that is growing is many times larger than anything you have ever seen.

Finally you see Rose on her front porch, smiling, her long hair falling in curls to her waist, her skin like porcelain, like cream shaded with rose petals, her long cotton dress brushing the ground just above her bare feet, and her apron pockets bulging with, what is that? a kitten in one large pocket and the other pocket full of herbs, lavender, rosemary, and sage with blue flowers showing just over the top of the pocket. She reaches both of her hands out to take yours as if she had been waiting for you, only you, all of her life, and as she embraces you you feel nothing but love, a kind calmness, affection, and compassion. You rest your head on her shoulder for a moment and she strokes your hair. She hugs you gently and then straightens up and takes one of your hands. 

"Come inside my dear, let me make us some tea and we will talk..."

No one goes into Rose's cottage and comes out the same. They have the answers to questions they didn't know they had, they suddenly know what to do about everything that has been troubling them, and they take herbs and oils Rose has made for gentle healing and to soothe, an armful of flowers and a basket of fruits and vegetables. When you were once home again and partook of the bounty Rose has given you you find that nothing looks the same as it once did, you find yourself wanting to reach out to others, with kindness and compassion, you want to heal and teach and spread the seeds of of all that Rose has taught you, quietly, and gently, to the world around you.

Rose has always been there, waiting for you. If you are one of those who has found your way to her it was predestined, and Rose has been waiting for you your whole life long until the moment you have arrived. 

No one knows why they go, or, after they return home, how they got there. No one can ever find their way back again. Such is the magic, the mystery, the miracle that Rose is, and in the end you don't know if she was real or came to you in a dream, but you are changed, and there sits the basket of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, and for some, some very few, they awaken to a mewing kitten, eyes wide, sitting on their chest, waiting to cuddle and be fed, and her fur has the faint smell of roses. 

Finally, it doesn't matter who Rose is, if she is real, if she even exists, because you know, now, what your purpose is, and you are ready to carry it out. People in the towns and villages far and wide are amazed and delighted by the gardens springing up everywhere, and by the gentle breeze that sweeps into their homes through open windows. Some hear a calling, deep in their soul, and they head to the hidden cottage to find the answers to their questions, and come back home to do the work that they were meant to do, healed and healer in one. 

No one ever questions Rose's existence, where she was or why she came. There is no need to know. They move through the years, their arms outstretched, and welcome those who come with love, and the cycle continues, the mystery remains. There is the possibility of Rose in each and every one of us. Your search ends when you find the secret garden within.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Singing The Songs & Telling The Stories of The 100 Ladies...

Greetings Dear Ones,

I am writing the forward to the book, The 100 Ladies Project. It's still very much in process but it came to me just after awakening this morning what I should share in the forward to the book. Who are these ladies, and why am I telling their stories, what do I hope to accomplish? I needed to stop, take stock, and clearly define my purpose and direction for myself and so I am doing just that.

It is quite an undertaking to draw and write the stories of these 100 ladies, but it is truly the most joyful work I have ever done in my life, and I think, I hope, it will matter, will reach and touch the hearts of women everywhere because it is real, it touches on truths that touch us all, some of them rooted in very painful experiences, some are survivors of abuse, some are women who have loved dearly and lost their beloved, some are delightful, joyful stories meant to uplift and others are cautionary tales, but all are written from a gentle place, not talking about the hard things directly or in painful detail because it isn't necessary. I have done that kind of writing and I am done with it. Now I want to be a cantadora, telling stories that help and heal and can be passed on.

These ladies are part of a great lineage of women who came before and women who will follow them. They hope to make the way a little gentler, perhaps easier, or even to provide comfort for the women who read them, This is my deepest wish, my fondest desire. They have so many stories to tell, and so as they take shape on my sketchbook pages, rising like steam from hot pavement after a rain, they come as gifts that I could heretofore not have imagined. I am filled with gratitude. They are teaching me things I need to learn, they are allowing me to share a lifetime of experiences and truths that have not come easily but might be a gift that I can pass on to others, they are guardian angels, mentors, muses, and guides. They are you, they are me, they are everywoman, at least in some aspect, a smidgen here, a bit there, and these stories are not just for women. I think this book could help men understand the women in their lives better - mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, lovers, wives, or their own daughters. This book is for everyone.

I will further explore my journey with the 100 ladies here, what I am learning, what I hope to accomplish. If you want to ask questions, share your feelings, or even tell me the kind of stories that you would like to read, need to hear, please leave comments here, I really want to know. When the story is ready the lady arrives, sometimes vice versa, but one way or another my ladies keep coming forward with their truths. I am simply the scribe at their feet. ready and wiling to record them and pass them on to you.

With much love to one and all...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Story Of Jasmine and Marietta, Two Best Friends With Secrets...

Jasmine & Marietta at 14

Jasmine and Marietta went, as they did every year, for their birthday luncheon, to a little tearoom overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. They met when they were 14 and always brought the picture taken of them together the year that they met. Two freshmen in high-school they were brought together by eye issues. As they always did they reminisced, looking back with the wisdom of old age, at that tender time when every barb hurt as the other kids mocked and made fun of them. They didn't talk about bullying in those days, kids were just cruel.

Marietta: Jazz, I always used to think it was harder for me because I couldn't hide my eyes. They called me fish eyes, and googly eyes, and stopped and stared at me making their eyes as big as they could, and then would burst out laughing. You were so beautiful I didn't think you had a care in the world and I couldn't figure out why you were so nice to me. (She smiled tenderly and reached over and stroked the hair that still hung over Jasmine's left eye, now silvery grey but charmingly curly still.)

Jasmine: I always used to feel sorry for you, you know, about your eyes, which I thought were beautiful, and probably saw the world better than most people, and I admired the way you didn't try to hide, you just looked them square in the eyes and made yours bigger and I'd laugh when you'd go, "BOO!" and dash at them as if your eyeballs could reach out and grab them. After a while they left you alone but I still never wanted them to know my secret.

Marietta: I know Jazzerling, but what you had to deal with was worse, because the boys loved what they saw until they...

Jasmine: ... found out.

Marietta: I know honey.

Jasmine: I only went on one date and when that boy screamed when he kissed me and...

Marietta: He was a jerk.

Jasmine: But he told everyone, and no one ever asked me out again, and the girls treated me like a pariah, as if they could catch what was wrong with me if they stood too close.

Marietta: If they could catch what you had they'd have caught a bigger heart, and a kinder countenance, and they'd have known compassion, and they would have moved in the world with more grace.

Jasmine: I don't think they could catch that. I think they were afraid to catch the fear in the one eye they could see.

Marietta: But we had a bigger secret later.

Jasmine: We surely did. (Laughing) That would have startled the doodly-doo out of them.

Marietta: Ha ha, doodly-doo bug...

Jasmine: But we didn't talk about that in those days. I wish we'd been able to.

Marietta: But it didn't stop us from loving one another.

Jasmine: No, it didn't. (Blushing)

Marietta: They never cared to know anything about who we really were, so why should they have known about that?

Jasmine: No, you're right. They didn't need to know. I've been happy with you all of these years. Your eyes saw straight into my heart and didn't judge me when you knew. 

Marietta: Oh, I knew so much more than that honey. I knew all I needed to know.

Marietta bent over, pulled the hair back that covered Jasmine's left eye, and kissed the empty socket on the scarred skin that covered it. They rose together and Marietta pulled the chair out for Jasmine. They walked out into the sunshine, down the street arm and arm, and Jasmine leaned her head against Marietta's shoulder.  They didn't mind that the tea room they first went to together was now shabby, the cabbage rose patterned wall paper yellow and curling at the seams. To them it still looked just like it did when they were girls, feeling all grown up and blushing and flushing, their cheeks hot, hoping no one would notice. They would meet for tea once a week and go to their respective homes with their head filled with dreams of tea and scones with clotted cream and lemon curd and each other. That was as racy as it got in those days.

The next year Marietta stood in front of the old tea shop waiting for Jasmine but she didn't come. Jasmine had died four months before and the tea shop had finally closed. A tear ran down Marietta's cheek, her huge eyes brimming with tears, and she bent down and put the pink rose that she carried on the worn mat in front of the locked door. She kissed it first, and against the rose she set the picture of she and Marietta at 14. 

My beautiful one-eyed girl. I'll meet you for tea soon and we won't hide to have anymore...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Maureen ~ Selkie By Day, Mermaid By Night...

She is a selkie by day, a mermaid by night, she knows this too be true.

Nights were scary before she grew her tail, frightening things grew too large when the sun went down and the stars in the sky didn't light her way. She was a little girl, she was afraid.

One night, when bad things were happening, all of a sudden Maureen looked up at the stars and WHOOOSSSSHHHHH she was swept out of her body. Out of her body into an ocean of stars, star fish, the deep blue sea, she felt her legs fuse together and the movement, back and forth, once terrifying, became her tail swishing, moving through the waves, going deeper and faster, now nobody could catch her! There were starfish in her hair and a seaweed and everything looked blue and green and soft and hazy.

When she awoke the next morning she saw that she had slipped out of her tail and she walked awkwardly on her legs as any selkie does when they come ashore. Things had happened in the night that were not part of her daytime life and it was best left deep down in Neptune's land.

As night approached Maureen could feel her legs prickling. She knew it was time to grow her tail again. She could swim deep and fast and down and down and she never had to be afraid again. No one could catch her under the sea with the scales of her tail glinting in the eyes of the silvery fish around her. She closed her eyes and dove back down and down and down.

The next morning the selkie got dressed and took her little book bag with her, happy to leave her tail, and the night, behind.