Leaning into Now

My husband and I, packing up our little band of misfits and all of our worldly possessions, moved exactly one month ago, to the mountains of North Carolina.  A dream of almost 20 years realized, we have gone about setting all the details of our lives in place. There have been many moments of chaos, anxiety, fear, worry, joy, apprehension, grief, sadness, excitement and calmness.  These "moments" never come with any order or warning.  They just appear from thin air, and when they have had a whirl, they tend to leave just as quickly.

I haven't wrote much about it because I don't like to be off balance let alone appear like a staggering drunk.  But here's the truth.......this simple decision of picking up and moving has had subtle and profound affects on me that I never even thought of.  The good, the bad and the sheerly different details don't really matter.  What does matter is the fact that I am creating more than I ever have - even through the confusion of stability and emotional centeredness.  I am fragile, vulnerable and unbalanced at times, and yet with that melee' has come incredible moments of inspiration and creativity.  Go figure........

I stand in this transition realizing more and more what very little we actually have control over. As I do with clay, I must let go of holding on so tightly, to the old, the comfortable, the familiar and start to embrace the next chapter of my life.  May it be beautiful........IMG_4585

Keeping My Word

As a long practicing Massage Therapist, whenever a client wouldn't schedule after their appointment I would always say, "I am here whenever you need me." And I meant it.  Fast forward 22 years, and I am now standing on the precipice of my own move and evolution as a person, a therapist, an artist.  I am the person who isn't rescheduling........... In a very vulnerable way, I have gone through the emotional tumult of feeling as though I'm not keeping my word.  I have always been a loyal kind of girl; once I call someone my friend they are my friend. Period.  As a lot of us do, I never thought things would change.  I thought that I would always be here for my clients and I could be, at times, the one stable place that they could come to to get out of the chaos of daily life.  And then............things change, life happens and we either recognize it, readjust our sails and lean into it or we resist it and allow the friction to envelop us.

Clay has taught me that, as in life, there are more things in motion than I am aware of.  I may have a "fixed" idea of how I want a piece to turn out and honestly, that just sets me up for either disappointment or revelation, and it's all about how I view it.  With our impending move to the mountains of Western North Carolina all of the seats of the emotional roller coaster are available to me.  It's my choice which one I sit in.  Should I sit in the front seat leaning into the wind, the change and the excitement?  Or do I sit in the back with a look of abject terror strewn across my face, hoping and praying the bird that just flew by doesn't crap in my face? The position I choose changes on a daily basis, sometimes hourly.  But, in a beautiful, messy, sort of way, that's what the freedom to choose is all about.  Our emotional "being-ness" isn't supposed to be a final destination, it's a journey.

As I say Goodbye to all the clients and friends that I have made over the past few decades, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will STILL be there whenever they need me.  In this chapter, it may be a phone call, a thought, a wish of light moving toward them, but I will hold them in my heart wherever change takes us all. And I know, just as the sun rises tomorrow, they will be there for me.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Kiln

As happens with most of my pieces as they are waiting to be fired, I envision what they will turn out to be after the final step.  The building, carving, burnishing, sanding and loving have been completed.  One month of drying has come to an end.  It was now time for the piece to enter the final phase of creation - the slow, low fire of the kiln with a quick exit at 1000 degrees into a pillow of sawdust and smoke.  Unfortunately, for one piece, she never made it that far before tragedy struck. As I carried the piece out to the kiln, I sat her on a side table to prepare the fire brick within the kiln.  As I turned back around, out of nowhere, my two large, rambunctious dogs, came barreling toward me, running into each other and the table.  Before I could reach out and catch the falling piece, the large carved top of the piece hit the table and smashed into many, many clay teardrops.........closely followed by my own.  In the early morning light, I screamed.......and cried........and cursed the dogs, the timing of it all and most importantly myself.  The "should of, could of, would of", inner dialogue began.  I started berating myself for everything and anything, as well as my husband for the way he set the kiln up all the way down to the uneven ground on which it sat.

I walked away from all of the emotional mayhem and drove to yoga.  My sweet friend, Anna, was teaching, and I felt relieved.  After class, I went home, and between some tense words and moments with my husband, he set about building a platform in which to create a level firing surface for the kiln and the table.  Meanwhile, I set about with a Dremel tool along with a whole lot of prayer, magic and cussing, and proceeded to transform the piece into something else.  The piece fired the next day, and to my amazement, I am pretty happy with the results.

The reason I relay this story is this.........no matter what drama, trauma or invalidation occurs, whether it is given by ourselves to ourselves, from another to us, or witnessed out in the world, there is always a chance to create a new beginning. ALWAYS.  I had to forgive myself for my own invalidations; I did not deserve the treatment that I rendered unto my very own soul. So it is with others in our lives.  If we are being openly criticized, berated or otherwise put down, please, please, please remember this.......You don't DESERVE it.  Don't make excuses for the perpetrator of those words, no matter what they call it - whether it be "feedback", "constructive" criticism or an other shiny, shitty term they want to use.  It's meant to suppress, control and cage your soul.  PERIOD.  If you believe them then you have shot yourself through the heart and the lesson will come up again and again until one day, you finally stand up for yourself and realize that they are speaking of their own fears, regrets and insecurities.  If they can make you believe that it's you that needs fixing, their job is complete.  They can take the spotlight of doubt off of themselves and place it securely on your shoulders and in your universe.

We can all be better than we were yesterday..........the question is, "Better by someone else's standards.......or your own?"  If clay has taught me anything, it is to be kinder to myself and to listen to my own intuition and the soul of the universe.  Everything else will take care of itself...........and with that, we can begin again.......photo

The Addiction To Which There is NO Cure

I touched clay for the first time less than 5 years ago.  Since that glorious, destiny filled day, I have been addicted to it.  What part of clay, you may ask, is so intoxicating? Well, to make order of my addiction, allow me to take this from the top. When I first open a new bag of earthenware, I plunge my head deep within the bag to take a big deep breath of all things earthy.  The scent of the clay is something akin to that beautiful sweet smell that happens just after the rain in the mountains.  It is at once filled with dirt, water, grass and sky.  The scent is so heady to me that I lose myself for a moment, lost in memories of all the hikes I have taken in my heaven which goes by the name of North Carolina.

As I roll out the clay to fit it into a bowl for forming, I marvel at it's movement, the way it's smooths out onto the canvas and the feel of it beneath my hands.  As I take the time to mold the clay, it is taking it's time molding me.  I know, for certain, that clay has made me a better person.  A calmer, more patient, loving individual.  Earth has a way of doing that, if we just open up and allow it to do it's work.

When I roll out each coil and sculpt it in to the body of the piece, I love the feeling of anticipation, never knowing where the process is taking me.  I always feel like I'm just along for the ride - never in control and, for once, not only enjoying the feeling but embracing it.  The stress of living is long gone by this point; it's just me and the clay.

Next in my long list of addictions is the carving and burnishing of a piece.  This can sometimes takes hours, days or weeks.  I used to hurry through this step, impatient to see the finished product.  But you know what?  It just doesn't matter anymore.  I have heard 1,000 times that the journey is more important than destination.  Now, I finally get it.  Each piece is a journey of it's own as well as a pathway to the next creation just waiting to be born.

The firing, smoking and polishing of the clay is another step that is full of excitement knowing that the piece is never, ever finished until it comes through the fire.  Kind of like all of us.  We must all go through the fire to become tempered, smoothed, soothed and wise......

Who would want to find a cure for that?

Kindness and Compassion Prevail

I was presenting my art at an art show this weekend.  Though the first day was rainy and cold, I had 3 of my ceramic works find their way into their forever homes.  I went home feeling tired but satisfied. Sunday started out as a lovely day - the weather cleared and it promised to be a busy day. Then, I realized that my most expensive piece called Floating Lotus had been stolen.  This had never happened to me before and I was in a state of shock.  I didn't notice it while setting up.  I filed a police report and worked on going about the day the best I could.

The day was winding down and all of the artists were getting ready to pack up.  What happened next is on every artists "worst nightmare" list. One of the artists was backing up his truck and trailer when he hit my booth.  The frame of my tent was bent and 4 of my pieces were destroyed.  I found myself screaming and on my knees.  In that moment, I felt utterly frozen and helpless.  A set of emotions I very rarely experience.  All of a sudden, almost out of nowhere, the artists surrounding me yesterday came to my rescue.  While I was incapacitated, they, along with my husband, went about securing my tent and what was left of my work.  These people, who hardly knew me, stopped what they were doing to lend a hand.

Whenever I am at odds with the rawness and rudeness of humanity, I will remember this moment.  Not for the artist who hit my tent, felt no real remorse and will probably never reimburse me for my work, but for the beauty and the giving of these fellow artists that gave of their time to help and comfort me when I needed it the most.

While, I know, I was not physically hurt, I still feel a great sense of loss.  In time, this too shall pass.  I will set about creating again and let it be a positive motivating force to push my creations to the next level.

Kindness and compassion will always prevail.Image

A Response to Violence

As most people with a heart, I have been incredibly troubled by the events in Boston.  A few days ago I read a quote from Leonard Bernstein which states, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before". This statement has resounded in my thoughts since.  

It seems the easy way out would be to just lay down and allow shock, grief and apathy to steal from us our light, our peace, our gifts.  I, for one, will not go quietly into that dark night.  All of us have a duty and an obligation to shine even more brightly simply due to the circumstances.  Call me an optimist or a pollyanna, it won't hurt my feelings.  Life, art, beauty, light and love are the true calling of us all.  To allow dark, misguided, evil purposes to drive that out of us would be a travesty.

Creation and destruction can not occupy the same space.  Creation comes out of destruction.  It is our choice what we create.  Choose life, choose art, choose music, love, beauty and light.  

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The Birth of a Pot

I recently had the opportunity to create some awards for a wonderful organization that supports the arts in my community.  I rarely create "for" someone else.  I usually just begin and let the clay universe take it from there.  My motto is to "let go and let clay".  The more I release control of the outcome, the more the piece shows up. But creating for someone else is a very different mind set.  It takes getting into their space a bit - figuring out who they are, where their "essence" shows up.  I spent many hours contemplating before my hands even touched the clay.  I simply asked the universe to show me the way........and it responded.

After the pieces were finished, dried and fired the time came for me to hand them over.  I did it with a "business as usual" attitude but soon fell into a well of sadness.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out where the blues were coming from - the pieces turned out well, they were handed over in one piece and I had completed the goal I set out to achieve.  And yet......there it was, staring me in the face; a deep sense of sadness and loss.

I pulled up my "big girl panties" and went off to yoga.  One of the best remedies for me when I am faced with depression is exercise.  So, there I was in the middle of a particularly challenging class with my favorite instructor, Jess, when it dawned on me.  As I quieted my mind of all of the external noise and put my focus on my mat and my physical being, it freed up my space and my spirit to wander.  I realized that the sadness and loss I was feeling was for handing over my "soul" babies.  Those pieces which I had put such thought, time and love into, were gone in an instant and off to their forever homes. After a day or so, I was able to acknowledge my emotions, cry for their leaving and be liberated from my dark cloud.

I created these pieces, not for myself but for others that had taken their passion and purpose and turned it into an art form.  They were never mine.........they were meant for these special peopleImage and I was only a conduit to let them take shape. I can only hope that the individuals who received them felt the love..........