Tag Archives: Inspiration

Clarification

Standard

img_8384

I’m sixty-four years old. I’ve been traveling this winding road that is my life long enough to have a pretty good sense of how it’s going. I am introspective. I think about things. I pay attention. Still, I keep an open mind. I listen; I learn. I have little “Ah-ha” moments, and often slight shifts in action or thought patterns. At this stage in my life, though, it is rare to come upon something or someone that offers an entirely fresh perspective. And yet, in recent weeks it has happened many times over!

The first was the book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I thought everything had already been said that could be said about creativity, and that I had already read it all. For those reasons, and because I wasn’t a huge fan of previous work by that author, I almost passed it by. I’m so glad I didn’t!

The second was a consultation with a psychic that I treated myself to, for my birthday. I told her about a burden in my life, and how I got myself involved in it. “It was ego on my part,” I said, “and greed.” I went on to explain my reasoning. She waved it off. “It doesn’t sound like ego to me,” she said, “and maybe a bit of desperation, but not greed. You should quit beating yourself up about that.” Immediately  as I heard the words, I knew it was the truth.

Currently, I’m reading Better Than Before (Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives) by Gretchen Rubin. Her best-selling book, The Happiness Project was entertaining, and I expected more of the same. This book goes so much deeper! Her husband put it this way:

“With your books about happiness, you were trying to answer the question ‘how do I become happier?’ And this habits book is ‘No, seriously, how do I become happier?’

As with the creativity book and the psychic reading, I am not getting information that is brand new to me. Rather, it is knowledge that I already have, presented in such a way that it clarifies everything that I already know and gives me a brand new way of interpreting and using that knowledge.

To be given clarification through the offering of a fresh point of view – not once, but one after another – is a surprising and wonderful gift!

 

 

Timeout for Art: Coming up Empty

Standard

january2016 081

I am an artist.

It took me many long years to learn to use those words to describe what drives me, what my passions are. For a long while I felt unworthy of the title. I’d say, “I like art,” “I’m an art student,” “I play around in art,” or “I’m working in the arts.” All of these reflect interest, but none imply achievement. Finally, I got over that barrier. I say “I am an artist.” Not only that, when asked to describe myself, that is usually the first thing that comes to mind. It has become the way I think of myself, on equal footing with mother, walker, feminist and writer. It is a big part of my identity.

I am an artist.

It doesn’t go away. This identity was slow in attaching itself to me, but now that it’s here, it isn’t fickle. Even when long days and weeks go by without time in the studio, it hangs on. Though sometimes I feel I have nothing to express through my art anymore, it stays with me. That’s good…because sometimes I just can’t bring it. No time and no energy leads to no inspiration, because inspiration isn’t a gift from the heavens, but just a by-product of daily tending. If I don’t put in the time, I don’t reap the rewards. It’s every bit as simple as that.

Still, I am an artist.

Though my children are grown and long-gone from my household…though it’s a rare occasion that I can even slip in a piece of advice…though I can see them each straining to not roll their eyes when I try to relate how I handled things…still, I am a mother. It’s at the very core of my identity; it won’t go away.

I think I will always think of myself as a walker, though my distance is not as impressive as it once was, and I let many other things get in the way. It has to do with how I feel about walking and how I feel when I am walking that holds its place in my list of personal identifiers.

My life is crowded with things to do…many are less important to my spiritual growth and well being than art, but demand my time anyway. I can’t always choose which way to best direct my energy. I have to consider obligations, commitments and the earning power of any endeavor. It might always be like this, though I’m wishing for better. No matter what, I am an artist.

 

Creative Fire Journal, Day #2

Standard

january2016 027

My creative flames are fanned by…

The people who inspire me most are…

What sets my life on fire

Your task: Do one, some, all, or none of these prompts, as you wish.

I love watching artists work.

It doesn’t matter if their choice of materials are ones that I would use, or if their finished product is anything I would want to attempt.

When familiarity  with the methods and materials is evident, when movements flow and a plan seems in place, I want to watch. The artist could be sitting at a potter’s wheel or a sewing machine, wielding a paint brush or a hammer, filling a paper with lines or a whole wall with color…I’m in.

When I was a small child, there was a person on television that drew on a glass surface with a grease pencil. Like magic, his images came together! No scratching of graphite on paper, no pausing to think where the next mark should be placed, no erasing. I could have watched all day! Later, sketch artists held the same fascination for me. On the streets or in the courthouse, they brought likenesses to the page seemingly without thought or consideration, just action.

In the 1989 film, New York Stories, one segment had Nick Nolte playing an obsessive, moody and well-received artist. He wasn’t a particularly likable character, until he started painting. He used a metal trash can lid as a palette; his canvasses were huge; when he was working, nothing else got in the way. Then, I loved him.

There are films of Jackson Pollack working on his large drip paintings that give me the same feeling: he has a direction and he follows it. He’s in the flow. That’s what I like to see.

I recently purchased the entire PBS Art21 series on DVD. Some episodes are wonderful, with artists intent on getting their message out there, messily, crazily, passionately. Others are more cerebral: they talk about their work as an abstract concept, an organized series of procedures. The intensity is missing. However beautiful the finished product, it needs to also carry the passion and soul of its creator.

Maybe, in a gallery setting, away from the artist and the process, the difference wouldn’t be visible…but I feel like I’d know.

When I want inspiration, I look to those people who throw themselves whole-heartedly into their work. Then I throw myself into mine.

Out and About

Standard

november2015 098

My sister Brenda and her husband Keith have a lovely, comfortable house. They live on a little lake and enjoy stunning views year ’round. Last summer we watched an eagle, perched on top of a pole with wings half spread, as he watched over the water. This time of year, we see geese gathering on the lake. Deer wander though the yard almost every day. Beautiful!

The photo I snapped, from the warmth and safety of the kitchen, is not a good illustration of any of that. It does, however, show the amount of snowfall we got, in one day. Lots!

Lots of snow on the roads, turning to dirty slush  as cars made their way through it.

Lots of snow in the driveway, as Keith rightly figured he’d might as well wait until the road was cleared, before he cleared the drive.

Lots of heavy snow on the van I drove, parked in the turn-around space where it had been sitting since I’d arrived Friday evening.

Most days I’d be content to just stay inside, pour another cup of coffee, read a book, chat with my sister.

Yesterday, I had different plans.

My daughter, Kate, has recently moved back to Michigan, from South Carolina. She and her husband bought a house (with some land, a garage, a beautiful stone-bordered pond, a red barn, mature trees, fenced garden, perennial beds…)and have been working intensely on it. Old wiring had to be upgraded; some walls had to be removed; floors and fixtures needed to be replaced. They worked at it while staying elsewhere until it was at a stage where they could move in. They still have plenty to do, but are getting settled, and are happy to be home.

Kate and Jeremy are both artists in a wide range of media. Both have good, creative ideas for home improvements; both are hard-working and capable enough to implement their plans themselves. I was anxious to see what they’d accomplished.

Beaver Island is pretty remote, expensive to travel to and from. Even when my daughters are both in Michigan, I’m fortunate if I see them two or three times a year. When Kate and her family were in South Carolina, it was even harder to get together. I hadn’t seen them since last summer, and wasn’t going to let an opportunity go by – to catch up with the adults, to hug my grandchildren – now that they are so much closer.

The first thing I did was to dig out the van. I started with a long-handled shop broom, finished with ice scrapers and windshield wipers.

Though I over-packed, not knowing what I’d want for various holidays and activities, I under-packed when it came to the weather. No rain gear. No winter coat. No boots. In November! What was I thinking?

I managed it though, and got out on the road.

Next, I took a short drive, to see if the roads were slippery, and if they were being cleared.

Then, when a drive seemed possible, I contacted Kate, to make sure she’d be home and to get directions.

I was on my way!

It was a pretty drive, north on M24 toward Caro, then east on Clifford Road. I had forgotten how beautiful that area of lower Michigan is, with rolling hills and farm fields bordered by evergreens. The roads were clear the whole way. Kate’s directions were perfect, and I found them with no problems.

I could write pages about how wonderful it was to see them all. They  welcomed me warmly. Kate and Jeremy generously shared their art and handiwork, the processes and inspiration.  Madeline and Tommy continue to amaze me with their kindness and humor.

I could devote several more pages to the beautiful views outside their home, and all of the inspiring, creative ideas they’ve employed inside.

I will, maybe, another day. Today, I’m happy simply to report that I did get out, in this wintry weather, for a wonderful visit with my daughter and her family.

 

I Fall To My Knees

Standard

april2015 057

I’m reading a book by Norman Vincent Peale: Positive Thinking Every Day. It has a little prayer or meditation or positive message for each day of the year. I feel, most of the time, that I could use more positive thoughts in my life! Actually, the book is one I bought for my mother. It is inscribed, wishing her “Merry Christmas and much love, 1996.” When Mom died, my sisters set it aside for me.

Though it makes me feel good to think that as I  turn the pages I am following her movements, I’m not really sure she ever read it. Probably, though.

Mom was a positive-thinker, a believer in miracles, a pray-er. She had so many children, I suppose she had to be.

My most sincere prayers have been for the health and well-being of my children. Or dogs.

For the most part, I’m not much on praying, though. When friends are ill or having difficulties, I’m careful to offer “best wishes” or “good thoughts” rather than prayers. Worse than not praying, I figure, is offering to pray and then not doing it. I cut my losses.

Even so, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my knees.

These longer, warmer days provide a chance to work in the garden.

Snowdrops are wildly blooming along the edges of my flower beds. Clusters of Narcissus and Daffodils show all shades of yellow. Tulips have fat buds at the top of their stems. Iris and Day Lilies have presented their fan-shaped leaves. Through it all are layers of wet brown leaves that fell from the maple trees last fall, long bunches of pale Day Lily stalks and leaves and the remains of the fall-flowering plants. Together, they hide the progress of persistent spreading weeds.

Every day I come home from work, stash my papers and bags, let the dogs out to enjoy the sunshine, and I drop to the ground. My tools are simple: one claw tool for loosening and lifting roots, one ratcheting pruner for wayward rose, grape or wisteria branches. The creaking, wobbly and rusty wheelbarrow stands nearby.

My rule is that I’ll work at least one hour, and fill the wheelbarrow at least once with debris.

First, I pull all the dead stuff away, working with my hands around stalks, raking with my fingers though the blooms. Then I tackle the weeds.

Years ago, when I had about four fewer jobs, and much more impressive gardens, friends would ask me to come over in the springtime, to look at their gardens, and help them determine what was a desired plant, and what was a weed. I couldn’t help. I don’t recognize every good plant, and I don’t know all weeds, especially in the springtime. My advise was this: “Pull what you know: pull the grasses; pull the dandelions. If you’re not sure about it, wait until you’re sure.” Weeds show their true nature soon enough.

That’s the way I do it. One at a time, I move the rocks that border the flower beds. Roots of grasses are visible there, as they try to move into the gardens. I dig in with my fingers. I try to use gloves, but can’t get a sense for what I’m doing, so I usually set them aside. I pull roots up one by one, and follow them to the end, or until they snap. When an area is clear, I move on to the next rock, and repeat the process.

When I am working at the hardware store, I’m often thinking of things I need to accomplish for the news magazine, or for the townships. When I’m driving to and from other obligations, I’m planning art projects or remodeling projects, or plotting where I’ll find time to get groceries or do a load or two of laundry. When I’m awake in the middle of the night, I’m running through to-do lists or writing articles and doing interviews in my head.

When I’m working in the garden, I’m hardly thinking at all. One leaf, one root at a time, I am in the moment. It’s the closest thing to a meditative experience in my life.

The entry for May 1st, in my little book of positive thoughts, says this:

The secret of prayer is to find the process that will most effectively open your mind humbly to God. So experiment with fresh prayer formulas. Practice new skills and get new insights.

May 7th, I have heard, is the National Day of Prayer.

If the sun is shining, I’ll be on my knees…with my hands in the dirt.

Lost

Standard

Image

I have a couple ideas for what to write about.

I have gathered photos to accompany these posts.

I have notes to remind me of what I want to say.

It’s all in my red notebook.

And I’ve misplaced my red notebook.

My daughter, Kate, gave the book to me a couple years ago, for Christmas. It’s a blank book, with lined pages in the eight and a half by eleven inch size. It has a red, corrugated vinyl cover that is easy to spot, and easy to keep clean. Red is my favorite color. It has a black elastic band attached, to hold it closed when not in use. That keeps the pages neat.

Very special.

I’d been thinking, around the time I received it, about how many magazines I kept around, simply because there was one recipe I wanted to try, one web-site to explore, one special bit of inspiration I wanted to remember or information I wanted to have at hand.

Perfect!

My habit became this: when sitting down to page through a magazine, I’d keep my red book and a nice pen beside me. When I came across a tidbit I wanted to remember, I’d jot it down in the book. In addition, I kept it close when surfing the internet, to take down inspirational sayings or snippets of information. Quotations from books, references, sequels or authors to remember were added to the pages. When putting in a DVD to watch a movie, I’d grab the book in case, in the previews, I saw another that I wanted to remember. When blog ideas came to me, I’d put them in the book, to refer to later.

Now, the book has gone missing.

It’s all I can think about.

I have searched the house and the car.

I have retraced my steps, in my mind, a hundred times.

I don’t know exactly how long it’s been gone.

I wake in the night with the puzzle still on my mind. “Oh!”, I’ll think to myself, “It must be in the old satchel that I took with me the last time I went to the mainland…” or “in the big bag that I switched off for the smaller purse last week…” or “under that box in the back seat of the car…”, and, sure that in the morning I will now be able to put my hands on it, I go peacefully back to sleep.

But, in the morning my nighttime ideas do not pan out. Then I think, “Okay, not the satchel, but what about the little overnight bag…” and one idea will lead to another search and another, until I once again feel like I’ve exhausted all possibilities.

But things do not just disappear.

It has to be here somewhere.

Sometimes I think I saw it recently, and I only need to remember where.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote in it, but I know it was not that long ago.

One week…maybe two I have been without it.

Every bit of information it holds has taken on added value simply from being inaccessible. I can’t fathom retrieving all of that absolutely vital knowledge. It is gone.

Until I find my red notebook.

Do things become more important, or just more appreciated, when they are gone?