Reconciling the week.....
In any given moment we have a choice. It may be as simple and mundane as what to eat , where to go or whether or not a nap is in our immediate future :). Whether we realize it or not, every choice we make, whether conscious or otherwise comes from us. We all have the tendency to blame our condition on something outside of ourselves, and to a certain extent, this might be true. However......more often than not, it's ALL us doing a fine......or not so fine job of "driving the bus".There have been a few events in the past two weeks that have rocked me to the core. They haven't happened to me personally but to friends that had taken up residence in my heart long ago. I hurt for them, my heart aches for them and there are clouds in my soul. If I sat in this pain long enough, it would swallow me whole. This is where the essence of my creative being must rise and make a choice for life, to create something beautiful in response to the sadness and tragedy and to hopefully help the ones I love in the process. All I can ever hope to be is this......to be present for the people that I love and care for, to listen and acknowledge their pain and to create life in the midst of it. I owe it to them, I owe to myself and I owe it to Life.
I have been sitting at my pottery table for a few hours today. Lots of other things have gotten in front of creating lately. A move, work, obligations, holidays, the list has been quite long. I have had pockets of birthing my "soul babies" during this time, with a very large (literally) success of firing the biggest piece to date. She is almost 20"H and 16"W. To me, she is all sorts of big and beautiful. However, she was followed by an epic failure while carving another large piece. It collapsed onto itself as I was pushing the envelope of size and structure. I have a tendency to push my way a lot in life; sometimes it pays off, sometimes is doesn't. I have been feeling some anxiety lately - nothing of substance that I can put my finger on, but anxiety none the less. I realized during a period of "emotional palpating" this evening that I tend to walk myself out onto the preverbal limb a lot, especially with my art. A lot of people might view me as courageous, or naive, or simple, or delusional. What others think doesn't really matter in the long term scheme of things. However, what I think does. You see, I have an overwhelming desire to push the envelope in my life as well as my art. I am quite terrified every day about it, sometimes having to remind myself to breathe............simply in and then out. But if I don't do it for myself.........who will? If I am not the change I wish to see in the outer world as well as my inner world, then who is?
I don't want to look back on my life and have regrets of "should have", "could have", "would have" and "if only". Yes, I hear "no" my fair share; I get discouraged, disillusioned and have moments of great self doubt. But have you ever met a person who doesn't? It comes with the territory of discovery - get used to it. It doesn't mean you are not "good enough" - it just means that there is another door, another creation, another discovery just waiting for you to find it. If you stop looking, your future, your life and your destiny could disappear before your eyes.
Show up for your Life..........Yes, it can be terrifying. But guess what? I could use a little company :)
We are in the process of selling our "house" and moving into our first home. I know that may sound odd but stick with me. When I was growing up we lived for almost a decade in the mountains of West Virginia. When our Dad took a job in Iowa, being only 13, I reluctantly followed. Leaving those heavenly mountains, filled with it's abundance of all things nature, we were plunged into vast, flat, middle America. The redeeming factor to this move was and continues to be the life long friends I made. However, we left our home and lived in another 3 houses before I left and married. All of them felt temporary, average, easily forgettable.
I never felt a deep connection with any of them......and there were quite a few. 5 houses with my parents, 3 houses with my first husband, 3 with my forever husband. And then, through a number of serendipitous events, we came to the house on Walton Lane. That's right, Walton Lane.
After walking through the house and property, I could barely contain my passionate desire to move in immediately. No, it's not fancy or big; there is simply a connection that feels like home. A place with the comfort that only trees can bring and land and space to create a life. A place that I can see us growing older and wiser; where my daughter can come with her future family and feel like they have come to rest and reflect. A place where my creativity can expand in ways I might never have imagined.
It's true, Dorothy, there is no place like home. I can't wait to get there....
If you know me for any length of time, you will quickly realize that I am a strong person. I have taken pride in the fact that I keep my body strong, my will in place and my ability to care for myself at the top of my priority list. I care enough about others to avoid being a burden to them due to my lack of being present in my own life. Someone once told me that I can't "will" everything into existence. My response to them was, "Why not?" But here's the deal............sometimes "being" strong is a way to avoid vulnerability which in turns keeps us from intimacy. If everyone around me believes that I am strong enough, that I can handle everything that Life, God or the Cosmos throws at me, then I have done a wonderful job of avoiding being vulnerable. As i have gotten wiser, I have realized that I don't have to lay my soul and vulnerabilities out for everyone to trample on, I just need a few people in my life that I can trust with those precious commodities. For me to believe that I can be there for others, and not allow others to be there for me - well that just creates an imbalance in the soul universe. The people I have in my life are of my own choosing. It is my responsibility to choose well. As a wise woman recently said to me, The Universe has got your back. Trust in it.
Although I have only recently begun creating ceramic art in the past 4 years, I have long since had a love affair with clay. I remember as a youngin' living in the mountains of West Virginia, sitting by the creek, scooping up mounds of mud in my pie pan and shaping it high until it fell back to the earth. What a luscious feeling it was; the grit, the consistency, the earthiness of it all. Even now, every time I open up a new bag of clay, I stick my head way inside and breathe deeply the smell of it......and realize that what I am smelling is not just the dirt and earth but the possibilities of what it will become.
All of us have an opportunity, every day, to move into our next greater self. We have the endless ability to create something new and beautiful to share with the world. The longer I am in this body, the more I realize that the power to radiate life has been within me all along. Through all of my trials, struggles and challenges, the constant thread was me. I get to choose every day how I see my world and the world around me.
Just as it is with clay, it is in the world. To let go of control enough to allow life to happen and still be present to the possibilities. The choices we all have to create a life we dream of, a life we, as our higher selves deserve to step into. That's a life well lived.
Every artist that has ever created anything has done so with Energy by their side. Whether they were aware of it or not makes no difference. Wherever we are in our own life reflects upon our creations. However, over and above this, is the true essence of each artist coming through each piece. It's like with each new creation we are reaching back to our beginning and finding the ethereal thread that holds our life and our purpose together. Everything we are, that we have ever been, culminates into the next piece that shows up. As a society, we tend to dwell on the bottom third of life. The drama, the violence, the power of it all. Since most of the artists I know are incredibly sensitive a lot of art tends to reflect the jagged energy of that environmental turbulence. Even if we are not experiencing the imminent threat of those heavy energies, we tend to pick up on them and create around them. There are times when we may think we are creating what's inside of us when in actuality we are simply being influenced by the collective.
To be able to detach from the "agreed upon" reality and to express one's own true essence is the sweet nectar of art and life. To move through the commotion to our own sense of sanctuary where we can be still, envision and put forth our highest, truest art.........is a testament to life.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time will attest to the fact that I'm a "doer". I fill my life with all of the things, people and work (for the most part) that bring a smile to my face. I move through my day and never quite realize or acknowledge my accomplishments. I am am more of a "what's next" kind of gal. This morning, as I was finding present time from the dreamland of the night before, I had the thought that I had a lot to "do" today. The list immediately began; walk the dogs, go to yoga, drop off an order of my pendants to a retailer, perform 6 massages and say a final goodbye to one of my favorite people who is moving cross country. It was then that with the prospect of all of that, I felt a heaviness in my chest. It seemed like too big of a mountain to climb - and that was just the time from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The rest of the night would be devoted to my art which always seems to come last - when there isn't much of me left.
As I was wondering around the moroseness of it all, I realized that it wasn't my list that brought a heaviness, it was my frame of reference. What if I simply woke up and instead of listing all of the "do's" of the day, I said "I have a lot to BE today"? Instantly upon having the thought, I felt lighter. Like the day held the promise of adventure and excitement. To get the opportunity to "BE" a dog lover, an artist, a massage therapist, a friend - well that is the richness of life that "doing" can completely miss. To simply do and not BE present to the grace of life is a life unloved.
There have been times in my life that I was absolutely sure that I needed, damn well deserved, balance in my life. I focused on attaining it everyday. I willed myself to have time for all of my duties and obligations, my wants and desires, and all of the other things that I was just sure that made up the ever illusive quality of balance. Guess what? Not only did I fail miserably at achieving it, I also added on the caveat of reprimanding myself for not being strong enough, smart enough or evolved enough to make it happen. This cycle started as a struggle and turned into lose-lose on all sides. Before I knew what was happening, I had found myself with a first class ticket to Crazy town! Today, while taking a yoga class from my masterful instructor, Mary Lyn, a light bulb went on in my head between Crow Pose and Leap Frog. It's not balance that matters to me...... it's the "flow". As there is a flow in yoga, so there is in life and art. We all know when we are in a state of grace and flow. Whether through our chosen profession or the art form that chooses us, we can keenly sense the sweet spot when it appears. You see, trying to balance work and life just creates a big fat "zero" in the end. We are running so hard between the two extremes that we gain nothing other than a lot of exhaustion and failure. There really isn't any lasting growth. However, being in the flow of the moment, the task, the touch, the beauty of creation......well that's the place I want to live. To give ourselves completely to who or what is in front of us, to "Be Here Now" gives us the opportunity to be fully present. When we enter this state of grace, time ceases to matter or exist. Yeah, I want more of that. So how to get it? Make conscious choices about who and what we bring into our life. Everyone and everything can take a little piece of you. Make sure that it's worth the cost........and then open up, be present and breathe.
In my day time profession as a Licensed Massage Therapist, I am always working to get spasmed muscles to release, stressed clients to relax and my day to develop an easy flow. As it is in my living so it is with my art and my life. When I touch clay, after just a few minutes, all the sharp edges of my world start to soften. I can audibly hear my breath slow, set to the rhythm of my hands. In this simple rote act of building a piece of pottery I find myself. Not someone who has an agenda or any earthly idea of what I am doing, being, having, controlling, manipulating or planning.
There comes a time in everyone's life, whether we like to admit or not, where either the masks come off.......or they harden onto our being like concrete. One can slowly lose themselves to ideas, personalities, groups and rigid ideas that they think is them. And yet it isn't. The belief system that we set in place over the years, whether it has manifested through family, religion or friends was put in place to guide us until we could raise ourselves up enough to think for ourselves.
Just think of all of the lovely people, places and experiences we are holding off by wearing all the old stuff that just doesn't serve us or the higher good any longer. By releasing that which does not work any longer, we can open ourselves up a brand new world of light and creation. Honestly, this is how I found my art. I had to release the hurtful past which I allowed to hold me back. The painful relationships that were continuing to create negativity and darkness in my life and find what my soul needed. It may sound simple to say that clay did that for me. You see, clay is a lot like yoga. You just do the same things over and over again with your physical body, never really noticing that subtle yet profound changes are occurring until, one day, you wake up and everything just seems more..........available and alive.
I once had a friend who said that "you have to take out the garbage before anything new will come in the door." For everything that we release it leaves room for the fresh air of new growth and opportunity to come a' knockin'. Doing this with soul and grace by your side makes for the most beautiful kind of art.
I have been ruminating on the subject of clutter lately. I have read a few articles that stated that an artist needs clutter - somehow, it seems, that clutter equated into a greater level of creativity. That by having things in disarray meant that there was a flow happening; that a bumbling into the next masterpiece was just on the cusp of occurring. Coming from a background of order equals sanity, you can well imagine how I could take exception to this theory. However, it set my thoughts in motion about what might make sense for an artist's work space, or any work space for that matter.
As a practicing Feng Shui practitioner, I was taught that clutter could actually cause the flow of "chi" or energy to stagnate or become restricted. A space that allowed the eye to gently meander through it was healthy. I have seen this practice work time and time again. I have also seen that some of the messiest desks or art spaces can in fact produce beautiful work. How could both ends of the spectrum be true? In this right OR wrong society in which we live, most people need concrete dictums and absolutes in which to operate. But here's the thing.........artist's don't usually follow concrete dictums or absolutes. In fact, most of the artist's I have known try to abolish them from their lives. The confines of strict lines can actually inhibit the creative process rather than allow it to flourish.
So, after a lot of thought, this is what I believe to be true....everything we "OWN" "OWNS" us back. Everything in the universe has energy attached to it or emanating from it. If a person, place or thing brings joy into your life and space, than by all means KEEP IT! If, on the other hand, any one of those things brings a sense of depression, fixed considerations or general "yuckiness" PITCH IT FAST! The fact that our possessions are also possessing us means that we should all thoughtfully choose what we want, need or desire in our lives. We only have so much of us to go around. Less "stuff" could mean more space in one's life and with more space fresh opportunities actually have a chance to say hello.
A few months back, a piece of art was stolen from my tent at a local art show. To say that it was a surreal experience would be an understatement. After my initial emotional response of betrayal, shock, grief and anger, a very quiet calm settled over me. It's almost impossible to explain - it was if I intuitively knew that this event was larger than myself or my art. It has turned out to be the start of a very poignant and profound phase of my life. As a person, I tend to fall into my thought process. Getting out of my own head can, at times, be quite a chore. However, the more I thought about this event, the more I gave it up to the universe. Somehow, this experience has allowed me to reach even further than I thought possible just a few short months ago. When we lose something or someone we cherish, there are a number of ways we can respond. I decided to respond as if I had nothing to lose. I read a quote recently that said something like this......"Enjoy your life but don't become attached to it". Letting go allows us to loosen our grip and ease into our future - not as a leaf blowing in the wind but as a person with intention and clarity who simply decides to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a flow to life.
Since I started touching clay just a mere 4 years ago, I have never attempted to recreate a piece. My motto is to Let Go......Let Clay. I simply start a piece and the clay takes if from there as long as I step out of the way and let the process unfold. However, since all of this occurred, I knew Floating Lotus would reappear. It only took 2 1/2 short months but she is sitting on my table, smiling at me. She has been resurrected a little larger, a little more bold and confident, her petals standing a little taller and yet with more grace of movement than the original. For that, she has earned the name Dancing Lotus.
I've been on vacation this week. It has been filled with walks in the woods which included my husband and our little tribe of fur babies, Gabriel, Daisy and Frodo. Each one of us, unknowingly and seemingly with caring, came to the woods for very different reasons. My husband needed time with me and to have space between jobs. Gabriel, my big "little man" needed to run in the woods and hunt things, though, what he would do with them if he ever caught anything is a mystery to us all. Daisy was all about the pure unabashed joy of crashing through the woods with wild abandon and Frodo, my little Yorkie "Hobbit" just wanted to follow me, no matter where I was going. Mine was for rejuvenation and a new vision for my creativity. You see, I work......a lot! Between my full-time massage practice and my art life, I put in countless hours every week determined to get ahead, create, be of service to others and generally get things done. While I'm doing it, I almost never notice that it even feels like work. I have a friend that has, in the past, called me "driven". I responded to her by saying that I'm not driven..........I'm passionately interested! However, everyone comes to a place of empty. A need to disconnect, de-stimulate and breathe. In my yoga practice, it's called Shavasana - corpse pose. Without rest how does anyone ever start again? I have found it nearly impossible. A hard won wisdom for all of you worker bees out there - yeah you know who you are - strong, confident, pushy, visionaries..........have compassion upon yourself and take a rest. Whether it's active resting like walking in the woods or lovely 2 hour nap time in the middle of the damn day, which I did as well, do it! The older I get, the more I realize this is not a race - the competition with others is long gone. What has replaced it are feelings of worthiness and a need and a desire to live.....MY......life. Not what others have envisioned for me and certainly not in spite of anyone else. Just quietly, calmly going about what puts a smile on my face that no one can wipe off.
As I was working today, a friend and collector stopped by my office. I was excited to show her a publication that had written an article about me and my artwork in which one of the pieces she and her partner had purchased was featured. As we were discussing this, she asked me a question that I have since been unable to get off my mind........."When does an artist know they have "made" it? After thinking for a few seconds, I blurted out, "when they can pay their bills with the sale of their work". That seemed rational enough at the time; however, since then I have realized that it is so much more. Don't get me wrong, every artist that I know loves to get paid for what they do. I just wasn't sure that this is a true definition of making it. I started wondering and asking myself questions about what it means to me to have "made" it. Is it winning awards for my artwork? Seeing my name in a publication? Being accepted into the next big show or gallery? What does "making" it mean to me? Everyone, whether they are an artist or a fireman, must ask themselves this question. Without knowing where we are going how are we ever going to know when we have arrived? Although, the answer will be different for everyone, it's incredibly important to know the truth about one's intentions, motivations, aspirations and vision.
For me, it's knowing that there is another piece inside just waiting to be born. It's the heightened sense of of being "out of body" when I'm working on a piece, watching it come to fruition. It's watching people connect with my work. It's constantly looking for the next vision or piece of inspiration that can come in an instant in the oddest of places. It's waking up, going to sleep and dreaming about my art. It's the possibility of the next piece, the next show, the next road to beauty. It's knowing that tomorrow, when I wake up, I have another opportunity to create.
If I am emanating from a place of authenticity, creating sheerly for the joy of creating, well, that's when I know I have arrived.
I saw an old friend this weekend while selling my art work at a local show. It had been awhile since we last spoke. As it is in life, people can move in out of one's circle not so much with drama but with a quiet separation of time and space. It was good to see him. He had bought a piece of my pottery a few years back and was now interested in acquiring another. The joy that it brings me to see someone connect with a piece of my work is, at times, overwhelming. I actually have to hold myself back from simply giving it away.
He said something during the course of our conversation that has stuck with me. He told me that I have gotten "new age". At first I felt myself become defensive and then, as I was processing the statement , he added, " not that it's a bad thing". I have never thought of myself in these terms and it set my mind to wander what that actually means. My response was something like "I like to think that I have become a kinder and gentler version of me."
We talked a little more. He picked a piece that suited him and then he was off with a warm good-bye.
As I have thought about this, I looked back upon the years that we had known each other which added up to well over 25. I realized that, in some ways, he was correct. If being "new age" is becoming more aware of myself and my life; becoming more tolerant of my fellow man; of being comfortable in my own skin; doing what brings me joy and sharing it with the people I love then yes, absolutely I am "new age."
In my profession of massage therapy, all too often, I see people become bitter and resentful of their lot in life. Unrealized dreams, unspoken desires and fear of failure hold many people back from a life they love. I don't want to be one of those people. I move forward fully knowing that I have the choice to settle or reach beyond. I have only myself to blame if I allow my self imposed obstacles to stop me.
When I touch clay, all I can see are the possibilities - of creativity, of growth, of life. If this new age then so be it :)
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.
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.
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 people and I was only a conduit to let them take shape. I can only hope that the individuals who received them felt the love..........
My kitty, Weiner, passed away peacefully on April 1st, 2013. There wasn't any drama leading up to her passing; no tumors or diabetes. Just a slow release of her kitty body to the universe. You see, Weiner, was 21 1/2 years old. She held on long enough to see my daughter leave to truly begin her life. I don't think she wanted Caitie to witness her death - like when a loved one waits for everyone to leave the hospital room to finally take their last breath. Weiner wasn't alone though - I was there. As I have been there for all of our pets passings; Filbert the 14 year old Australian Shepard who lost an eye to Weiner, Pee Wee the 10 year old mixed lab who never did give back our hearts and now Weiner who finally, after hating dogs for 19 years, found love with our rescued Florida hound, Daisy.
You see, each one of these fur babies taught me something invaluable. Filbert let me in on the secret that persistence pays off. Pee Wee led me to love more freely but have strong boundaries and Weiner, she taught me that you could be a "bad ass" and a lady all in the same breath.
I have learned more about life from my pets about how to be true, honest and authentic than I have from any one person. Perhaps that's how it should be - their intentions are so transparent - they simply want to love and receive love in return. Isn't that what we are striving for?