From The Garden

Just past the Autumnal Equinox and into the home stretch for the Winter Solstice, kale and chard are going strong, beets and carrots are neck and neck to the top of the soil, the birds are feasting on sunflowers and berries and the lettuce takes its sweet time.

This place, this earth is so well organized, so well expressed. I have only to notice what is here to see it. Of course it’s what I already know so the stretch is not mine. I visit my father’s mind in this mode of wondering what I eat from the garden that I do not see and what do I not eat because I can’t see it.

I walk around waiting to bump into something I don’t know and wonder if wondering is enough to manifest. I think of the tales of the Europeans who came to distant shores where the inhabitants could not see them and were overtaken and think if we don’t open to mystery we too will be doomed to repeat failure.

In my work with artists and all those in transition, I ask that habits be renegotiated, simple as using a different hand to reach or the other foot to lead, difficult as not giving the voice of resistance its due. Letting the light of appreciation be on fully, floating in the sea of possibility, willing and able and full of expectation at the edge of unknown to find there is no edge, only open sea.

Or, in Ivy’s case, the possibility to sleep, perchance to dream.

Words, Thoughts with or without Shakespeare

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” So spoke the new King Claudius in Hamlet (act III, scene 3) after asking God not to forgive him for killing Hamlet’s father but to allow him to get away with it. He knows the truth and what the lie means to him and he begs to carry on as he has been.

How many times have I asked the removal of a moment’s haste, something broken or wasted. A promise or friendship, a young life given moments of doubt, of fear, a reason to hide something for the shame of it. I have often spoken with other parents and laughed self-consciously about the moment we just shared and how it might send our children to “the couch” in their futures. We also forgive and know the resilience that is in all of us.

But what about this aspect of ourselves: our words, our actions? The Vietnamese monk and meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”

Carrying an attitude, a fear, an appreciation is like wearing a suit of clothes. It shows our colors, who we are that day, and, if worn with consistency, gives the mood by which we are known.

How do we want to be seen? If we don’t care or have too much care where is the authenticity. Sometimes it gets lost. When we are in appreciation mode, when we are clear within ourselves, we have a head start at being in sync with who we are, our words can be our best friends.

 

 

 

Mud

The working title for all my paintings using Missouri River mud is, “my father’s mud, my mother’s river.” It’s not entirely true, of course, what is? But the mud was collected by Paula at the headwaters of the Missouri where we went the summer of my mother’s spring death. We took her ashes to the baby of the river so she could float down the river she had adopted and loved as her own.

It has taken me a long time to feel free to use the mud – collected and gifted to me with a happy smile from Paula in 1993. So I’m not swift here by any means. I think it’s taken so long because I was afraid to use it up. I was afraid to dip into the muddy, loving and scarce waters of my mother’s river.

She was a rarity. Swooping in and out of my young life like an exotic, endangered long-feathered bird. Sometimes a great thought, perhaps a smile, but just as usual was the withering look, the, “I thought you’d have  …. by now.” Mostly she wanted not to have to deal with any growings in or out of really anything, she wanted a done deal and one to her specifications.

So we weren’t always on the same page. She was in Vogue and I was in some do-it-yourself magazine that wouldn’t come out until the 70’s. But from time to time we were in the same place at the same time and there was a connection that formed, opinions grew and changed. We learned about what it takes to be around someone so different, we learned some respect, some willingness and we learned that love is complicated but malleable. And that it can take on a lot of colors.

Magic

Magic is all around us, it is the art of getting results. The rituals I see everyday now in watching Olympic athletes – the pulling of ears, air crosses everywhere – are tools to connect to a higher power – we see it in the world around us, we feel it in the air.

Connecting to magic sounds esoteric, arcane, unusual but those who get results are often seen by the rest of us as magicians but for them magic is a series of successful action steps taken not just when the moon is in a certain phase but when they are in alignment with their goals.

For me magic is when I feel the pull of an idea, an image, a goal and I take those steps toward it that will bring it closer. There are always choices to steps. Stepping away might be a distraction. That same step could be a saving grace for my goal if I’m stepping into a distraction from a thought that would keep me from my focus.

There are no dicta here. Not distracting myself from a thought that could hurt my self esteem is as important as keeping my focus while jumping a stream or riding my bike.

Gesture is the sword of ritual, words are the prayer. Costume is important. Wether I am dressed down for my studio, wearing walking shoes or dressed up for an important meeting I am  representing my goals.

Alignment is key. Appropriate attire depicting mindset is important on any field of purpose. Am I lined up and ready to go or did I forget an air cross or to pull on your ears?

Play

When I was young I spent more time around animals than people. Animals are interested in movement and I don’t know if I started out being as interested or learned from them – doesn’t really matter, I credit the cats and dogs and horses of my youth as well as the turkeys, geese, chickens and even the animals who preyed on them who were so still until they were in motion.

I learned to trust play, to look for the confidence it took to concentrate and respond. Now I have names like improvisation, but as a child I watched the cat, the fox in their concentration, the birds in the river banks making nests and feeding young. They had a concentration and purpose I found lacking in the adults around me.

Our dog Jules is a very large greyhound. When he runs within an enclosed space he looks awkward, legs all agaggle, tail and shoulders at angles. But when he has the chance to stretch out, he works through the awkward to the astonishing. As he runs his body stretches out into the most graceful arcs, he covers enormous ground.

In my youth I challenged my friends to stretch out, to jump – into the river, over hurdles set up in the halls of my parents house. Racing on foot or on a horse, as long as I am outside boundaries I am graceful, I feel graceful. Inside boundaries awkwardness takes over, rules don’t bend the way my body/mind bends, clarity gives way to restriction.

So it is in every moment. My relationship to boundaries defines my grace.

 

Where We Meet

Look at your thin brown fingers against my willing ear, nose to nose and lips lightly swept into the moment. I remember the outfit I was wearing, one of my favorites. You can see the straps, they were so light, very fine cotton lightly ironed, I remember its being so smooth and just a little crisp. Like you. I would put you up to so many adventures – we celebrate them now – so many rises and falls of our breaths. You’d look to me at the end of The Lone Ranger – was it Him? I could always tell. And I would say yes – or, no, a fake this time. I knew, just like you knew to take me in that moment and a mother, yours, I think, knew to ready her camera so we can thank her forever for this shot.

And for this one I can thank my daughter Bimala. Gordie and I looking like the tame West, sunstruck on the beach, sharing a glance, a moment in the sunlight, the years still kind, Gordie the ten year old Galgo when we met. I promised her freedom of expression for the years left to her and for seven years she larruped and gallumphed in our lives. On the Rail Trail in the wet spring of Conneticut, Gordie unleashed, promised to stay on the trail, just an old dog. In an instant of my looking away she flies into the nearby pond, home to frogs now wildly dashing and flopping and splashing off lily pads so happy to connect to her old self, her power. She meets the tame with the wild. She is Queen of the pond.

 

The Queen. Whenever I am, wherever I am it is an opportunity for a nap, a pet, a lot of sliced turkey. I have sanctioned this. Invited and upheld the now institution of the Queen of Cats. In bed I am plucked at and turned for comfort, cold, hot, food, or an upset stomach. There is no reason to complain; I have invited this guest of my heart. She is a miracle of clarity, of focus, of warmth and creatureness. She is the Isle of my heart, the root of my response to faith. She has taught me to leap into faith, to trust my own instincts and that I can get sliced turkey when she needs it.

 

 

Conflict – Thank You Seth Godin

Seth Godin wrote about our internal conflict. He said,

“Everything we do that’s important is the result of conflict. Not a conflict between us and the world–a conflict between us and ourselves.”

I feel that all the time. I put Guinevere’s photo up because she is my example of who isn’t conflicted. Today Paula and I are looking at houses. We hope someone will look at ours. We hope they will talk themselves into our house and we will talk ourselves into another house. It would be handy and scary if it all happened soon. But what do I want – I want to be like Guinnie. I want to accept the miracles I find, yeah,  I want to see the miracles in the first place.

My dogs practice what Godin calls “self-marketing.” He even goes so far as to say, “Successful people have discovered how to be better at self marketing.” I agree. When I align what’s in my best interest with what I want, I’m successful. And then I don’t care so much what someone thinks, I’ve done my self marketing. I know my audience.

Seth’s whole post is here:

Conflicted

 

Everything we do that’s important is the result of conflict. Not a conflict between us and the world–a conflict between us and ourselves.

We want to eat another dessert but we want to be healthy and skinny as well. Who is we? Who is the self in self control, and who is being controlled?

We want to stand up and make difference and we want to sit down and hide and be safe.

We want to help others and we want to keep more for ourselves.

It’s not a metaphor, it’s brain chemistry. We don’t have one mind, we have competing interests, all duking it out.

This conflict, the conflict between I and me, is at the heart of being human. One side sells the other. Like all kinds of marketing, it’s far more effective if you know your audience. You will do a better job of telling a story (to yourself) if you understand who you are marketing to. In this case, I is marketing to me (and vice versa). The marketing is going on in your head…

Successful people have discovered how to be better at self marketing.

Seth Godin

Spring Flowers

Nature’s deeply rooted impulses are what I walk in and around upon stepping outside. Step by step I can reflect upon the confusing abundance of effort, action and just sheer thoughtless presence. This tulip came up where Paula and Bimala planted it. It reacts to its surrounding soil, water conditions and so on. It wouldn’t look like this necessarily in another location.

Nor would I. Or you, wherever you are. Transformation is a word we often use to mean big things but it happens every millisecond we are alive – and, continues after death. It’s one of the most normal of experiences. We don’t give it much thought – and the tulip could care less.

The tulip’s actions to growth can be captured step by step in slow-motion. What would your slow-motion movie show? The microcosm bit, not the trajectory of birth to death. The one where you make the decision to…..whatever your decision is. Can you catch it before you say the word you regret? Take the food you don’t want? The step which will not benefit you? What do you look like in that moment?

Every moment, minute, hour we have choices fly by us like bosons and neutrons, we have the chance to catch the flame of our attention, take action or reaction, stabilize or destabilize. The fuse, the fuel of our transformation is how well we know who we are and what we want – our passion, our reason for taking breath.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Sometimes I feel like I get something so right I don’t know what to do with it or what more to say.

I love to draw. I sit and pick colors for outlines I have made. I can do this for a long time. I don’t always feel good about it – I mean as in not very accomplished – but I always know who I am while I’m doing it.

I meditate a lot. I like quiet. I like lines not always filled in. It gives me the feeling of possibility, that I could fill it with anything by putting nothing there. I like that.

This one’s called “Mr. Leftover.” I still crack up when I look at him. Does he make you nervous? What if you ate something and that’s what was left? Would that be creepy?

This one’s too easy, I mean, gosh, it has design potential.

I’ll end with this one, I feel he’s part of “my crowd.” What do you think?

The Gap

Two beautiful stallions and five pregnant mares moved into the barn across the road for the summer. Horses who race in New York have to be born in New York. They came here to be born. They also give us great views of new life – but that’s not what this is about.

Before the stallions were brought here, the large paddock in front was divided into two paddocks. Not just a fence between. Two fences between. A gap is needed so they can’t get to each other. As an aside my gelding at another barn is happy to lean over his fence and rip another horse’s field blanket to shreds – and yes, I’ve replaced a friend’s blanket at least once! Horses love to lick and nibble, push and nip their friends. Stallions take it to another level.

Sometimes it’s a lot of work to accommodate or acclimate to “the way things are.” In this case it took two men two days to secure the fencing so the stallions will be secure. In the breeder’s life they are worth a lot. Both stallions bring in more money than they could possible eat or sleep in –  they are the life’s blood (speaking literally here) of the farm so it’s a logical, left-brain decision to keep them safe.

What is important to you? What needs a double fence and a secure gate? I didn’t mention gates until now, but they are crucial. What really precious element would bleed out of your life without its own security. Whose responsibility is that? Where would you be if your crucial element hopped the fence, what have you done when it has?