Sunday, August 19, 2018

Book Challenge Day 1: John O'Donohue's Anam Cara

There are books I read, enjoy and immediately forget.

And, then there are some books, slow books, books that take weeks or months to read, that demand to be highlighted and contemplated, books so beautiful I can never forget them.

In 2009, I was at a low point, feeling homeless, abandoned, untethered. Some how I came across John O'Donohue's book and fell immediately, head over heels in love with his words ... and, more importantly, the possibilities of my life.

I couldn't get to Google fast enough. I wanted to experience more of this person; I wanted a workshop. It broke me open all over again to find out that he had died the previous year. I had to make do with his words so I have read them again and again.

Here are just a few that a Facebook friend shared this morning. It reminded me to download a kindle version since I left my library behind when I moved to Mexico.

Savor and enjoy.

“There is a beautiful complexity of growth within the human soul.
In order to glimpse this, it is helpful to visualize the mind as a tower of windows. Sadly, many people remain trapped at the one window, looking out every day at the same scene in the same way.
Real growth is experienced when you draw back from that one window, turn, and walk around the inner tower of the soul and see all the different windows that await your gaze.
Through these different windows, you can see new vistas of possibility, presence, and creativity. Complacency, habit, and blindness often prevent you from feeling your life.
So much depends on the frame of vision—the window through which you look.”

Friday, August 17, 2018

Love Letters to my Life #2: Wandering & Wondering, the twisting path of creativity

It may be the middle of the year, but I’m still thinking about the Christmas letter I didn’t write … that actually I never write but always think about writing. 
In the past year, I’ve created a mountain of art … well, it would be a mountain if it weren’t all stacked in my computer in neat, pixel-hungry Photoshop files.

What I really wanted was an album where I could look at my art and share it with friends. The solution I hit on was a digital magazine: dump in the photos, make a link and send it out. Simple.

Why is it that simple ideas seldom are?

Beautiful though digital magazines are, it didn’t take long for that solution to reveal it’s complications … and expense. However, I was just about to leap into the new software and monthly expenses when a friend recommended iBooks Author
At first, I rejected the idea. I didn’t want to publish another book and go through getting an ISBN number and publishing it to some e-book site. And, I definitely couldn’t afford to actually print a full-color book of art.

My friend let out a not-so-patient sigh and said: 

So, I opened up the free software, somewhat determined to prove her wrong … and fell into wonderland, substituting my own letters: OMG!

Suddenly, I was on a path that allowed stories, poetry, lessons and bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way to be part of the journey. It was like a life collage forming in front of me … with no glue bubbles to try to eliminate.

Slowly, it turned into a book. But, not a 50,000-word book … more like a 5,000-word book with lots of pictures. A picture book for adults, especially adults trying to navigate "this stage of life."

In the process, the book became my second love letter to my life. And, to celebrate the completion of it, I’m giving away the pdf version for a month to my friends and all their friends and friends of friends.
So, if you would like a FREE copy, click on this link … before September 16th at 10:00 p.m. CST. At that point, I'm either going to sell it or retire it.

In case you would like to see small views of a few of the pages ... if you click on the image, you'll get a bigger view which you can actually read:

Chapter 1 - WONDER, page 7

A major question ends each chapter.
Chapter 3 - WANDER has a lot about Oaxaca - the story behind the frame is a favorite.
Chapter 6: CONNECT, page 63 ... all art is mine.
It took 10 pages to say Adios (to god) and required a brand new piece of art.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Free until September 16th, 10:00 pm CST.

Hola! It's here ... my new book filled with stories, art, and bits of wisdom about "this stage of life."
Just click here to get yours:
We are in such a challenging, exciting, confusing, oh-my-god-what-is-this time. If you're healthy and financially secure, you may be having the best of times. If you're on the other side of that divide, you may be wondering what hit you. Either way, there is much to learn in these times and I've tried to include as much wisdom as I could put together from my own experiences and the words of dozens of much wiser people who have touched on some of these issues.

Click here if you would like to hear more about how this book was created.
If you think any of your friends would like to have a FREE copy ... BEFORE the deadline of September 16, 2018 at 10:00 pm ... just copy and paste the above blue link in an email to them ... or post it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform you use:
I hope you enjoy the book ... and I would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rumi: What Was Said to the Rose

What was said to the rose to make it open. Rumi
Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.
-- Rumi

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

8/17/2017 -- Rumi's words this morning drew me into creating this image and contemplating the unending beauty that flows through the universe. It's an easy thing to forget in these days of turbulence.

Today's guidance from The Rumi Card Book:
Reward Card -- Eat on and on, you lovers, at Eternity's table; its feast is forever; and spread out for you.  Prosperity of all kinds is now open to you.
Category explanation from the book: The divine Love that urges our journey ever onward also constantly and lavishly rewards us for every sacrifice we make and every action of true generosity that we undertake.  When the eyes of Love really open in us, we see that life is an unbroken stream of ordinary miracles and that just to be alive is a matchless reward.

8/8/2018 -- What an interesting world. Eryk Hanut, author of The Rumi Card Book, and I have become friends on Facebook, where I learned what an absolutely amazing person he is. His Rumi deck is so important to me that it's one of the few things I brought to México with me.

It is available at

What Was Said to the Rose

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the Cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

Poem by Jalaluddin Rumi

More about Coleman Barks:   

translation ©2005 — Coleman Barks

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Love letters to my life #1: A new venture

Tree of Life
This is the first in, hopefully, a long series of love letters to my life, to be written on the 17th day of each month remaining to me. The thought that I might not be here to write the next one, prompts me to express my appreciation for every tiny moment, all the joyous occasions, and each heart-wrenching setback that has landed me in this particular moment of birdsong and unfolding new directions.

I am one of the lucky ones. Here in this moment, in the early days of my eighth decade, I am free, healthy, engaged with beauty and expression, rich in friendships and community,  exploring a new culture, learning a new language, watching, sometimes with astonishment, as each new page turns, revealing bits and pieces of the world and myself that I never knew existed.

Understanding the infinite immensity of all that surrounds me, I rest in the awareness that revelation will continue as long as I breathe. After that, who knows?

Neill James, photo and article
Today, I thank all the forces that brought me to a new landscape ... Mexico … and invited me into the unique culture of Ajijic, a small village guarded by two distinct feminine spirits … Teomichicihualli, goddess, fish-princess of Lake Chapala, and Neill James, an adventuress, travel-writer from the United States, who settled in Ajijic in 1943 and proceeded to do the work that called her … perhaps as an incarnation of Teomichicihualli herself. (For more about these spirits, read here.)

Artist: Jesús López Vega
Each of us writes, and lives, a story about our lives. It’s
never a true story, but it’s a handy one that provides a lot of justification for the choices we make and explanations for what befalls us. My story was simple … I was an only child, separate and alone, childless and unmothered, rolling through life free and independent. I could make all the details of my life fit that story. It was a story that didn’t allow space for community as I rolled from one place to the next, even though I frequently proclaimed my desire to find connection and community.

When the rolling stone of my life plopped me down beside the largest lake in Mexico, something changed. Life took me out of my rolling, 60 mph life and said: Walk! And, while walking through the streets and along the shores of the lake, community sneaked up on me. I fell in love with this odd blend of immigrants and indigenous, Spanish and English, wealth and poverty, raucous noise and generous souls. It’s like I have been touched by both Teomichicihualli and Neill James.

Many years ago, in the throes of an entrepreneurial moment, a friend and I started a small gallery of art and crafts. It was a joyous adventure and we created a luminous, creative offering for the community. It lasted three months and, when it failed, it broke my heart … and the friendship. I swore I’d never take a risk like that again. 

Never say never.

Tiny gallery to be on Colón
A new friend and I just signed a lease for a new gallery here in Ajijic … Galería del Futuro.  Steve and I are both digital artists and had been talking about finding a place to show our work. When the right place at the right price showed up, we started talking seriously about the possibility. Shadows from the old venture wafted through the air and I outlined all the reasons I didn’t want to be part of it. I didn’t want to be tied down to a retail store; no one was going to buy our work anyway, it would be a waste of money … amazingly negative talk from someone who believes in positive thinking and benevolent self-talk. 

What it might look like after painting.
However, as we continued to discuss the possibility, a new thread appeared … we could help young, local artists by showing their work also. Suddenly, passion was ignited as the whole project took on a different aspect. We both recognized our deep interest in supporting young artists … a kind of support we had never experienced ourselves. This possibility also linked us to a project some established artists here were working on to try to support promising young, local artists in their artistic development. We began to see this new gallery possibility not as just a commercial venture that might succeed or fail, but as a connection to the community, an investment in the future, a legacy.

As always when a new venture begins, we do not know whether it will succeed or fail. However, I do know that this is now part of my journey, a new piece of me being opened to life and the connection of everything. 

I am so grateful for my life and all the wonderful experiences coming my way.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

When preconceived notions explode

I confess. For thirty-some-odd years, I loved traveling in Mexico, which I would have described as a beautiful, colorful, happy country. However, it was always the backdrop to the vacations or workshops that were the main focus of my attention. I loved the food, the music, the laid-back, anything-goes feeling. The people I met during these trips were mainly waiters, hotel workers, or kind strangers who dug us out of deep sand, rescued our lost selves, or rebuilt broken car parts seemingly out of spit and sawdust. I "loved Mexico.” And, Mexicans.

It’s hard to admit how deeply into the “happy, carefree Mexican” stereotype I was. I knew Mexico's history was traumatic and that poverty was widespread, but I didn’t have an inkling of how narrow my understanding was until a few years ago when I was in San Cristóbal de las Casas. It was September, 2014, and I was walking through the Cathedral plaza, loud speakers blaring words I didn’t understand and a gathering crowd of a thousand or more. I had no idea what was going on. However, as I moved through the crowds, I was suddenly hit with a feeling of overwhelming sadness.

The feeling was so strong I started looking around, trying to figure out what was happening. I noticed large photos of young men on the ground, arranged like a quilt. Children were placing flowers and candles on the photos. Something was terribly wrong. I finally found a woman who could explain that 43 students had recently been kidnapped and no one knew if they were dead or alive.*

Over the next few months, I wound up in several demonstrations about “the 43,” talked about it as much as possible with the Mexican husband of a friend, and read all I could. Mexico's history … and it’s present … opened up a sliver of understanding about this incredible country, traumatized for at least 400 years, and the complex culture of generosity in the face of poverty, kindness to strangers while trusting only family, open skepticism of government, and defiant celebration of life and joy in a world that mainly offered pain, suffering and death.

Where moments of life and joy are restricted,
Music, dance, food and festivals enhance those precious moments.

Slowly, it becomes more clear why family is everything in Mexico. For centuries, family has been the heart of the culture while trauma, abuse and death have been constant external forces. It is no wonder why music, dancing, food and festivals are such a huge part of this culture. My view on this is that the Mexican people have never been able to take life or joy for granted, so they celebrate as often as possible.

Gradually, as I explore the country, less as a vacationer and more as someone trying to understand this intriguing and confusing culture, I keep running into the deep vein of abuse of wealth over poverty. Mexico is a rich country and from the first days of the early 1500’s, Spain exploited the wealth of Mexico, stripping gold and silver from its hills and life from the miners who brought it up from the depth.
Zacatecas Cathedral

Concentrated wealth 
is generated 
by widespread poverty.

The Zacatecas Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Zacatecas) is one of the most beautiful in the world The ornately carved, Baroque style is termed Churrigueresque, named for its architect and sculptor Jose Benito de Churriguera (1650-1725). 
This style is kindly called “lavish” and not-so-kindly described as "over-the-top.” Many references state that the building of the Cathedral was funded by and built as a temple worthy of the "aristocrats of silver."
Model of mine worker
After touring Mina El Eden where we learned that miners never saw the light of day as they worked 16 hours a day for barely enough to eat, went to work when they were 8, and died at the rate of 9 or 10 a day, it is clear that it was the miners and their families who built that cathedral. I have seen no sign that their contribution to it is honored.

Slowly, it becomes more clear why family is everything in Mexico. For centuries, family has been the heart of the culture while trauma, abuse and death have been constant external forces. It is no wonder why music, dancing, food and festivals are such a huge part of this culture. My view on this is that they’ve never been able to take life or joy for granted so they celebrate as often as possible.

My stereotypes go even deeper

However, my stereotypical view of Mexicans went even deeper than not understanding their relationship to authority, both church and state, and their culture of celebration which results in loud, exuberant music, startling rockets and firecrackers, and a deep acceptance of middle-of-the-night crowing roosters and barking dogs. My view of their art has always focused on Frida Kahlo, the muralists Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, and the vibrantly exciting street art and murals found in many of the cities I’ve visited.

Pedro Coronel - Wikipedia
That preconception was blown apart by visiting Pedro Coronel’s museum in Zacatecas. Housed in a Jesuit convent built in the early 1600s, it was used as a college, hospital, barracks, and prison before being converted in 1983 to a museum to exhibit the art collection of painter and sculptor, Pedro Coronel, who apparently bartered his own paintings to build his extensive collection and said, "Pedro Coronel said: "Little by little I was acquiring the pieces that had the most meaning for me and I formed my own idea of beauty.”

Walking through the mind of a genius.

I’ve visited many great art museums but this one knocked me sidewise because it was like walking through the mind of a genius. One man with an artistic scope that ranged from ancient Mexico, Japan, Greece, and Africa to dozens of modern artists such as Goya, Miro, Picasso, Chagall, Giacometti and dozens of others. 
Standing posters share his thoughts about art, beauty, psychology. As I walked deeper and deeper into this tangible brain, I felt my perceptions sputtering like sparklers at the end of their lives. I had expected so little and was being flooded by so much. Suddenly I recognized that my perceptions of Mexican art and artists had been blown to bits. 

Whoever Pedro Coronel was, his vision, curiosity, and talent were immense. I wanted to know more and immediately made arrangements to come back in a month for permitted study, which will allow me to take pictures and document more of Pedro Coronel’s art and thoughts. 
* Postscript: The story of "the 43" that slowly came out was that a woman with connections to a cartel and political ambitions had had the students kidnapped because they threatened to disrupt a political speech she was planning to make. The government investigation released a report that did not jive with the investigations of others.

On June 5, 2018, The New York Times reported: A federal court in Mexico ordered the government on Monday to investigate the 2014 disappearances of 43 college students again, but this time under the supervision of a truth commission to be led by the nation’s top human rights body and parents of the victims.

When the Universe weaves threads together and makes us wonder.

Huichol Art from Museo Zacatecano
This incredible piece of art stopped me in my tracks while touring the extensive Huichol exhibit at the Museo Zacatecano. It stopped me, not only because it is stunning, but because I had seen it before ... not only had I seen it, I had bought it ... for my couch ... and my new yoga bag.

When I first moved to Ajijic, I lived in a lovely small apartment that had recently been remodeled and was basically colorless. The couch was solid gray so I went to Alejandra, a local woman who makes amazing things, to see if I could get my couch cushions recovered. When I walked into her tienda, I was immediately captivated by a colorful, surrealistic material and wound up with this couch.

When I moved, I couldn't take the cushions with me because they belonged to the couch which wasn't mine. Those cushions were one of the few things I missed from that apartment, so I went back to Alejandra and had her make me a yoga bag from that material!

Things like this make me smile. It's obvious that I have a connection to this colorful material, but I had no idea it was anything other than a colorful design. Now I feel a call to find out more about this piece of art and delve deeper into the Huichol culture.