Blessed Spring!

The long dark days of winter are over and the season of rebirth and renewal is upon us!

Blessed Spring

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Dia de los Muertos Inspired Pumpkin

Dia de los Muertos collage

Dia de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead. A Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st which honors loved ones that have passed on. Loved ones are often honored through the construction of an ancestral altar which is adorned with photos and items of the ancestors, flowers, candles, food & beverages (especially favorites of the ancestors you are honoring), and colorfully decorated sugar skulls.

This pumpkin is inspired by those sugar skulls. Originally I wanted to make this last year but I only got as far as buying the flowers. Recently, I bought the craft pumpkin (for 50% off) at Michael’s but then I ran into another road block – I couldn’t find the flowers I bought the year before! This past weekend I dug into the corners of my studio closet and found the flowers (phew!).  Painting the pumpkin became my Sunday afternoon (and evening) project. It was definitely easier to sketch the face than it was to paint it on a pumpkin. Fortunately, I only had to get out the gesso (to “erase” and paint over an area) a couple of times. I really enjoyed painting the pumpkin.

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New beginnings

There’s been a lot going on for me over the past six weeks. Thing just seem to be coming together – sometimes rapidly so.  One morning, at the beginning of August, the thought occurred to me, “If you truly believe there should be more people in the world like this, then why do you give yourself such a hard time over it?”  Umm – good point. Really good point. I decided right there to stop fighting myself and embrace all those things that make me me.

I really gravitate toward quiet contemplation. Quiet contemplation = meditating, writing in my journal, shamanic journeying, writing poem notes (thanks Liz!) or just being amongst my art supplies and creating.  It’s something a (big) part of me has been drawn to for a long time but apparently another part of me found that it “just wasn’t productive” so I didn’t allow myself to have much time for it. To be sure I didn’t have the time I would procrastinate on just about anything because apparently, somewhere in my brain, procrastination was more acceptable than quiet contemplation. Well, no more! From that day forward I gave myself permission for more quiet contemplation and I’ve really enjoyed incorporating it more into my life.

This past week Jen Lee had a great article on Roots of She, How to be Soulful, online and off. One line in particular really grabbed me when I read it:

But we are not all called to be entrepreneurs. The world still needs some of us to be artists and mystics.

Yes – YES! That so beautiful summed up my own experiences over the past several weeks. I have value. I am needed.

Over the past several months I’ve become more familiar with poet Mary Oliver and her many poems.  I first heard of her through SouLodge when someone mentioned that they like reading her poems about the animals they are interested in. You know how when something grabs your attention, you start seeing it everywhere? Yeah. After that Mary Oliver and her poetry were popping up many places for me.

Mary made a career out of taking walks in nature, stopping to write notes and observations on some index cards and then turned them into Pulitzer Prize winning poetry. Over the years Mary granted few interviews, choosing instead to let her writing speak for her. It is just incredibly inspiring to me that she has touched so many people but did so in a way that honors who she is. I have a bit of social anxiety and awkwardness (it’s a lot better these days but boy do I still have my moments!) and I really appreciated how inspirational she had been to so many people while spending so much time “alone” in nature.

One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems is The Journey. In fact, just hours after deciding on that August day to stop fighting myself, I read The Journey. It opens with:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,

So fitting. The whole poem is fitting (really you should go read it) and I didn’t go looking for the poem – it found me. I love synchronicity!

You know what I love about beginnings? There is a new one every moment. And this weekend, on this new moon, there’s a whole lot of new beginnings going on in this household.

For so long I felt like I have been standing at the very edge of the water, to afraid to take that step in (not being able to see the bottom does that to me!). Come on in – the water is fine!  I’ve been assured over and over that it is OK – the water really is fine. Come on in and play!  So tonight, I step forward and walk into the water. Six weeks after I gave myself permission for more quiet contemplation, I give myself permission to share me with you. Permission to find “my voice” and share it here with you. Thank you.

Namaste.

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Excavating Knowledge

 Labyrinth Bowl

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot

Above is a photo of a labyrinth bowl I made earlier this year (I just find that quote from T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets so fitting for a labyrinth). It was a project our women’s circle started together when we made our own labyrinths out of the same block of clay. Weeks later, we all came together with or labyrinths in whatever decorated (or not) stage there were in. We discussed what the process had meant for each one of us and then we had a beautiful blessing for them. Afterwards we all walked through the woods (in the rain, crossing a creek at one point) to a spot where we will one day build a labyrinth. The weather didn’t put a damper on things at all – it truly was a beautiful day!

I share the labyrinth with you because, as I  wrap up the week seven, the last week, of  Inner Excavate-Along I think about how this excavation over the past several weeks reminds me of a labyrinth walk – walking toward the center, the center of me.

And now here I am. First of all, I can’t believe we are already “at the end”. I am grateful that the blog posts will always be there and the flickr group will remain so that we can continue our excavation journeys and others will join in as well.

I have a lot of interests and often times I feel like I have too many balls up in the air at once and I’m usually not gracefully juggling them. I complete projects, it is just on the rarer side. Over the course of this Inner Excavate-Along I have read each chapter, watched the videos, read the blog posts, generally kept an eye on the flickr group and for the most part, did one prompt for each chapter.

Side note: I am kind of feeling like an ass for “tooting my own horn” over here but at the same time, I know that it is important for me to acknowledge and celebrate my accomplishments…so…Go Me!

Originally, I was drawn most to the mixed media component of the book but surprisingly, I did very little mixed media throughout these last several weeks. Instead I experimenting with some of the photo prompts. I find it easiest to work with the camera on my phone, especially with the help of some neat camera apps I recently added to my phone : HDR+ and Instagram (I mean I’ve heard of Instagram forever now but I totally didn’t realize they’ve been out with an Android version for a while). I also had fun making collages through ribbet.com (remember picnik? practically the same)

I also enjoyed exploring many of the writing prompts. Making a poem from a word list was neat though I only tried one word list using words my eyes randomly fell on. I would like make another word list with words that “speak to me” more so than ones I find at random. And I love Liz’s idea of “Poetry Notes”. It just helps my brain so much to jot down “notes” rather than say, “I am going to write a poem”. I definitely want to explore more through poem notes.

Here I am sitting in the center of my labyrinth – coincidentally (?) a seven circuit labyrinth, seven chakras, seven chapters of Inner Excavation? – ready to walk back out. The journey most certainly is not over. As I walk out, I will be revisiting these chapters. There are so many rich prompts and I just want to spiral in and out over and over again, exploring a bit deeper, doing another prompt, excavating more.

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Kayaking With a Duck!

If every Monday could be like this past Monday I would really love Mondays. Late last week my coworker asked if we could swap days this week which left me with an unexpected Monday off and a really itch to do something  with my three day weekend.

I’ve really been wanting to disconnect from the hectic day-to-day life and reconnect with nature. I wanted to go camping but I wanted it to be somewhere that was a least a little secluded. As I researched some tent camping sites, I saw great things about the walk-in sites at Black Rock Mountain State Park. When I saw that they also had a lake for our kayaks, I was sold! I sheepishly approached my partner with the idea of taking off the next morning for a few days in the mountains and he was completely on board with it!

BRM collage

One of the nice things about camping Saturday – Monday is that everyone else in the tent camping area left by early afternoon on Sunday giving us a whole day with the area to ourselves. Ahh, solitude! I definitely did some thinking, reading,and journaling in addition to hiking and kayaking over the weekend

Speaking of kayaking, we took our kayaks to Black Rock Mountain Lake the17 acre lake inside the park and checked it out. The lake is beautiful, especially with the mountains in the background. While we were paddling along on Sunday morning, I saw a duck just ahead. A first I was worried we would scare him away but he turned out to be quite the curious fellow. He came over to me and checked out my kayak, pecking at it for a moment with his bill. As I peddled* my kayak, Ducky stayed just off my right (by less than a foot!) swimming beside me. I must have kayaked with this duck for a good 20 or 30 minutes before my partner and I decided we were down for the day and beached our kayaks.

I wasn’t surprised when Ducky followed us out of the water but I was quite surprised that he followed us all the way up the trail back to the parking lot when we carried back the first kayak. I was laughing as we went along wondering what on earth I was going to do with this duck that was following us! We set the kayak down by the car and headed back down the trail to get the other boat. It was the cutest (and most hilarious) thing to see this duck waddling down the hill right behind me as we went back down the trail to get the other boat. Seriously, the waddle was freakin’ adorable. Anywho… we got back down to the shore and I guess Ducky knew we were leaving and he couldn’t go with us. H suddenly just up and flapped his wings, flying just a few feet back into the water and he went about on his way.

As we loaded the second kayak on the car, I could hear him down at the lake quacking loudly. Apparently he was trying to find someone else to hang out with. Just before we left we drove down to the fishing pier to see Ducky standing tall on the rock outcropping, keeping a watchful eye on the lake. In fact, when we stopped by the  on Monday just before heading home he was at that same spot again watching out over the lake. The duck of Black Rock Mountain Lake is definitely a special duck!

 

 

* Through a series of synchronistic events this past spring, I acquired a used Hobie Mirage kayak which has a pedal drive system that drives a pair of underwater fins. I think that using the pedals rather than a paddle (nothing to come out of the water as I propel myself forward) was very helpful when it came to kayaking with the duck.

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Excavating Synchronicity

Last fall I bought Liz Lamoreux’s book, Inner Excavation. It is all about, as the subtitle says, exploring yourself through photography, poetry and mixed media. In the past seven or so months since acquiring the book, it has sat dutifully in my studio – sometimes over here and sometimes over there but always within view just waiting for me to dive in. Well now is apparently the perfect time to do so!

I was reading some past blog posts on my Google reader on Friday evening – something I hadn’t done it quite a while. While reading, I came across a post about Liz  doing a seven week read along of Inner Excavation over on her blog, be present, be here. It just started on Monday and I was seriously excited to find out about it!

My creativity and I have been in an extended game of hide and go seek for some time now. Just recently though, I’ve noticed an inner stirring – a call back to the page, to the clay, to the paper. On Thursday, the day before I even knew about the read along, I got out a mostly empty moleskine notebook that had been sitting on my shelf and I started gessoing pages. I seriously haven’t used gesso in months.  I started playing with paints, inks, stamps, and vintage papers. Again, supplies that I hadn’t touched in months. After a bit of play (it was nice that it felt like play) I had a nice two page background going on in the journal. That was a good stopping point for me that day.

Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to watch the video Liz did for the beginning of week one. During the video I decided to use the moleskine that I pulled out on Thursday for my personal Inner Excavation Journal! I decided to jump right in with the two page background I did the other day and I wrote my intention  for the process in the upper right corner of the page.

2012-06-17_11-26-34_HDR

I read through chapter 1 last evening and I did the poetry prompt this afternoon. I made a word list by randomly looking through pages of a book, Our Literary Heritage. It is a book from 1956 that I bought at a thriftstore so I could use the book covers to make my own journals and because there are some great illustrations in the book itself that will be nice to incorporate in other art journal play.

I wrote the word list in the upper left corner of the page. The poem that came out of it was – interesting. Ultimately I chose to obscure the poem in this journal spread. It is a good feeling to be proud of my creative output regardless of the outcome because the victory is in the creation itself . In other words, I made something and didn’t let the perfectionism/good enough/worried about failure monsters get in my way of creating. That right there is the victory.

Liz, THANK YOU for giving of yourself so freely and doing the read along this summer (It’s not an ecourse people. It is a FREE read along!) I love what Lizz said in the video about liking inner work to excavation and in this read along format, we are all on a dig site and you can always pop your head up and say ‘Hey, I need some help over here!’ That’s some good stuff right there! I am really looking forward to continuing this process over the next six weeks. Won’t you join along?

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Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day 

To all of the men and women that served our country – thank you. To those that have
made the ultimate sacrifice – my gratitude is beyond words.

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The Painting Blooms

Painting In ProgressOver the past few weeks I have been taking Flora Bowley’s Bloom True ecourse and I have been loving it. Today marks the last week in the class but thankfully that doesn’t mean we have to finish up our paintings this week!

I first heard of Flora Bowley when Kelly Rae Roberts took one of her workshops in person and posted about it on her blog.

When I first found out about the ecourse, I strongly hinted to my husband that it would make a great birthday present. Let’s face it, he could get it for me as a birthday present or I’d just end up enrolling for it myself. Birthday present it was!

The largest canvas I worked on previously was an 11 x 14. In this class, the bigger the canvas the better! I purchased two  24 x 36 canvases and one 36 x 36 for the class. As the start date of the course approached, I was trying to figure out how to set up my canvas for ease of painting and I remarked something along the lines of, “So this is why people have big easels.” Since I only had a tabletop easel, I propped the canvas against the wall on an old 3 legged side table, taped some plastic to the wall to protect against paint splatter and went to town – my set up wasn’t very pretty but it was functional.

The following weekend I headed out of town for a small retreat with my women’s circle. When I got back home that Sunday afternoon and walked by my studio, I was surprised to see a large easel in there! While I was gone, my husband spent the weekend making the easel for me. I was SO surprised, especially that he built with while I was gone for less than 48 hours.  It means so much to me to have his handy work help me with my own handy work. I envision years of using this easel that he so lovingly and thoughtfully made for me.

Flora’s painting style comes from a very intuitive place. Over the past four weeks she has gently encouraged us to stop outside our fear and embrace the “ugly phases” in our paintings. She acknowledges that this process can bring up emotions for people and not only is that OK but it is perfectly normal. We are all on a journey and wherever we are in this journey is absolutely fine.

For the first two and a half weeks of the course, things moved along smoothly for me. I was painting a few times a week and keeping everything lose. It was one big experiment and these early layers would more than likely be covered up with other layers. Then as we approached week three I had to suddenly go out of town due to the passing on of an elderly family member. At the same time, the gears were switching in the course. We started looking at what inspires us and it was time to add some imagery in our paintings. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve focused on “working with what is working”, reducing down our color palette, etc. This is where it got harder for me. It was all easy for me to “keep it loose” in the earlier stages but as the painting progressed, I could feel my own emotional struggles bubble up.

I currently have two paintings in progress and I continue to add layers, still unsure of how it will come together. It can be difficult for me at times but I keep going, trusting the process, adding layers and seeing where it leads me to next. I am grateful that the course content is open for 6 months. I have a feeling I will be watching a lot of the videos again in the coming weeks. Watching Flora paint is both pretty mesmerizing and inspirational.

If you missed out on the first round of the Bloom True ecourse, do not fear! Flora has another round set to go live this June. Happy Painting!

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Papermaking–Swatch Swap Book

Back in October I posted about my adventures in papermaking with plant fibers – daylilies to be precise. I took some of those sheets and cut them into swatches for the Yahoo Papermaking Group Swatch Swap hosted, this year, by Megan Singleton.

Swatch Swap Collage

Over the weekend my Swatch Swap book arrived. The book is awesome! Thank you Megan for organizing the swap and creating such a beautiful swap book. I also want to thank the Yahoo Papermaking Group for encouraging newbies like me to participate and thank you to my fellow participants for your inspiring swatches. I look forward to furthering my papermaking adventures in the months and years ahead.

Update: February 4, 2012
May Babcock (Papermaking Helper) published this great post about the process of making the covers for the swatch swap book. The cover is so beautiful – thank you May for all your hard work and for sharing the process with us!

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It’s Here! Eatin’ Happy

At the beginning of the year I announced that I was working on a new venture – a new blog called Eatin’ Happy where I write about my adventures in organic and sustainable gardening, whole food eating, and plan to explore other food related topics such as community gardens, urban agriculture, and local food co-ops & swaps.

While it has been nearly a week since I first posted on Eatin’ Happy, I just started letting people know about the new blog. The design is simple & basic and I still haven’t thought of a good tag line but the bones of the blog are there and I have been posting regularly since the launch.

While my primary focus has shifted toward food in many forms – growing, establishing community, cooking, eating – I still plan to maintain this blog as creativity remains an important part of my life (I’ve just taking a few weeks off from being “artsy” to focus on starting up this new endeavor). If you love food too, I hope you will join me over at Eatin’ Happy.

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