Friday, December 31, 2010

Why This Moment?

I just checked ... it's now 2011 in Rio.  Here in the Sierra foothills we have 5 1/2 hours left of 2010.  What a funny way to think about things.  As if all the minutes of 2010 were painted purple and the first minute of 2011 turned time pink.  There is no real difference between 11:59 pm today and 12:00 am tomorrow but bells will ring, fireworks will rocket, and a glittering ball will mark the moment for millions of people.

Why do we take this drop from the ocean and hold it up as if it were a rock star?  Not one thing is different from one moment to the next and yet instantly a million diets will be launched, exercise gym memberships will spike, and nicotine patches will fly off the shelves.  Slates will be wiped clean, do-overs will multiply like bunnies  and hope will blossom in the universal heart.

Perhaps the question isn't "Why do we celebrate this one moment?" but rather "Why don't we celebrate every moment?"  Why can't we start afresh every moment? Wipe away the dust and grime of the past and open our hearts to hope and joy every single second of every new and glorious day?

Why not indeed!  May every moment of the coming year be filled with joy and a great forgetting of all past hurts and wrongdoings.

Vision Collage - You're Invited!

On the first day of this year, several of us gathered with magazines, glue sticks, journals and an impulse to discover more of ourselves and what the year might hold for us.  It was such a delightful day I decided to make it an annual tradition.  So, tomorrow a new group will meet in a new place and you're invited to join us wherever you are.

Here's what you'll need:
-- a journal or someplace to put your collage (a canvas or board or anything else that you could put somewhere and see it often.  Blank 8 1/2 x 11 paper works fine but you may want something more special.
-- 4-5 image-oriented magazines (home, travel, O, Real Simple, etc.)  Spend some quiet time thumbing through them and pulling out images that strike you.  (Don't worry about whether or not they make sense.  If they capture your attention, they do.) 
-- scissors, glue sticks and any embellishments that look like fun ... yarn, sequins, stamps, etc.
-- most important:  dreams and wishes that you would like to see turn into reality in the coming year.
Once you've got several images that appeal to you, simply start to glue them onto the paper you're using as your base.  You may want to cut or tear the image so that you're only getting the pieces you want.

Here are two short articles about creating a Vision Collage that might give you a little more insight (the first one calls it a Vision Board):

http://christinekane.com/blog/how-to-make-a-vision-board/

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/vision_collage.asp

Wishing you a joyfully fantastic New Year even if you can't be with us.  We'd love to hear about your Vision Collage.




About the Image:  This is the 2-page collage that I did the first day of this year.  It is the inside cover of my journal so that I could see it frequently as I went through the year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sketchbook Challenge

I don't do sketchbooks ... they scare me silly.  But I love looking at sketchbooks and wish I could (would) do one.  So when a friend turned me onto the Sketchbook Challenge, my immediate response was "No way."  Then I tiptoed over to the blog post that announced the challenge where Jill Berry was reading my mind when she said:
So you want to start keeping a sketchbook but every time you sit down with a book in front of you and pencil in hand you freeze up and just can’t seem to get started. Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to get a glimpse inside another artists sketchbook to see how they use theirs? Well you’re in luck because help is on the way!
The sketchbook challenge is a new project launching on 1/1/2011. Follow along with a diverse group of very talented artists working in a variety of styles and mediums as they fill their sketchbooks based on a monthly theme.

So, what have we got to lose?  We don't have to share the pages that look like kindergarten homework.  I'm going to do it and invite you to join me.

About the Image:  This is a page from Jill Berry's blog.  My sketchbook will not look like this ... nor will I build a special box from scratch to hold my sketchbook pages.  Just so you know.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift without Price

“Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace.”
-- Leo Tolstoy

"Without forgiveness there is no future."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In this season of bright bows and colorful packages, it is easy to forget the gift without price.  Forgiveness is the gift that costs us nothing other than letting go of our angers and hurts.  This year I was gifted with forgiveness of my darkest moment.  It was an unexpected and magnificent gift that washed away years of guilt and self-condemnation.  It set me free of the past.

The extreme generosity of this gift lifted my heart and made me want to be equally generous with forgiving all my real and perceived wrongs and injuries.  However, even with the example and leadership of Jesus, whose birthday much of the world celebrates tomorrow, forgiveness is not easy.  I find myself in one particular instance holding onto the past, turning our dark history around and around as if looking at and polishing each facet of a valuable gemstone.  Why is it so important to continue to feel wronged?  Why am I reveling so in my own "rightness?"

In this instance, forgiveness has not been requested so I know that, if I can make the choice to forgive, the primary gift will be to myself.  In searching the Internet for ideas on forgiveness, I found the following from Larry James
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It is not something you do FOR someone else. It is not complicated. It is simple. Simply identify the situation to be forgiven and ask yourself: "Am I willing to waste my energy further on this matter?" If the answer is "No," then that's it! All is forgiven.

Forgiveness is an act of the imagination. It dares you to imagine a better future, one that is based on the blessed possibility that your hurt will not be the final word on the matter. It challenges you to give up your destructive thoughts about the situation and to believe in the possibility of a better future. It builds confidence that you can survive the pain and grow from it. 
I can do this.  I will let go of this hurt.  I will forgive.

I invite you to join me in finding one wrong to forgive in this season of love and forgiveness.

May all your holidays be joyful and safe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010: the year that ...

It's a time of the year when we make lists of everything and I thought it would be interesting to complete the subject sentence with five answers that capture the essence of the year for me personally.  So, here goes ...

2010:  the year that I ...
- returned to California and knew it was home.
- traded half a house for a 10 pound dog and got the better part of the deal.
- settled for my 3rd choice house only to find out that it was the perfect choice.
- gained a best-friend house-mate and discovered that solitude and companionship can co-exist.
- joined a mosaic group and found a new passion
I would love to see your list.




About the image: "Amarantine Garden #3"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Seeds We Sow

Maureen at Writing Without Paper found this wonderful little animation by Joaquin Baldwin and it is definitely worth sharing.  Enjoy.


The Windmill Farmer from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo.

Word for the Year

For the past ten years, I have chosen a word for the year although sometimes it chose me.  My first word of the year was found on a beaten up old RV... across the back was splashed the word:  JUBILATION.  The very sound of the word lifted my spirit and I knew I wanted to spend time with it.  It began a tradition that has become very important to me.  Some of the words in past years were familiar and some were completely new to me.  Annual words include  "chrysalis," "querencia" (a quiet place of safety where we gather our power for the coming challenge), "abbondonza" (an Italian word that made me think of dancing with abundance), and "autopoiesis" (life continually re-creating itself and its parts while organizing itself in relationship to its surroundings).

Each year about this time, I open myself up to the words that have come my way during the year ... kept  on the last page of my annual journal so I can find them easily ... and pick the one that calls to me.  This word goes on the cover of the journal in gaudy and colorful glitter glue with the word and the year on the spine for quick reference once they're shelved.   I start a new journal every year even if the previous year's journal wasn't filled.  It's a metaphorical new start.

During this end of the year time, I also reflect on this year's word and review the year's journey.  My journals are not diaries ... there's very little "what's going on and what I'm thinking and feeling" type of stuff but rather lots of mindmaps, lists, ideas, images, quotes and anything else that captures my attention.  Flipping through them is a little like time travel on fast forward.

This past year had two words ... "beauty" and "equanimity" (mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation) and both were perfect talismen for a chaotic year.  For the first time, the cover of my journal was actually a mindmap.  Since I knew it was going to be a transition year, I mapped the qualities that I thought would help me maintain equanimity:  gratitude, solitude, joyful play, kensho (seeing one's true self/nature.  Seeing the non duality of subject and object); co-creation, praxis (spiritual practice), creative expression, naikan (gratitude reflection practice) and maitre (Sanscrit for loving kindness toward self).

While I wouldn't say this past year reflected perfect equanimity, I think the focus on maintaining calmness helped me deal with the changes of the year.

This year there are again two words calling me:  "hallelujah" which seems to be a call to a constant state of gratitude ("nothing on my tongue but hallelujah") and "temenos" (he circle in which magic of the soul can happen).  I may choose them both.

Other words collected this year include:
"delicious futures" - Dan Gilbert
Cantillation - each person's special gift or talent that gives one a sense of joy but also union with the Absolute ... Dr. John Diamond
Mosaic ... a wonderful metaphor for piecing together a life into a beautiful work of art
Amarantine - everlasting.  Imaginary flower that never fades.  Amaranth -- shade of deep purple - red.
 Abbey of the Arts also has a richly poetic post on the process of choosing a word for the year.  If you want to join this tradition, I highly recommend this post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty Years from Now

As the year winds down, I enter a transition phase ... reviewing this year's journal, setting up the new year's journal and imagining what's next.  Since we're in a seemingly endless rain storm, it's a perfect time to be quiet and contemplative while staying dry and warm indoor.

As I was pasting collected bits and pieces into my journal, I came across this quote from Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines!  Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover!
  -- Mark Twain
Twenty years from now, what will I be disappointed about not doing?  Lynne and I have been talking about creating a "bucket list" but so far haven't gotten around to it.  This quote reminds me to take the time and do it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A New Virus

I have caught a new virus.  Apparently it has lain dormant in my system for many years and has only recently been activated, apparently by exposure to others who also carry the virus.  The symptoms have been showing up slowly ... a purple and pistachio painted bench here, mosaicked "flowers" showing up among the pavers there but today the reality of the virus erupted like measles when I carried home from an estate sale ... not the set of new dishes (which were lovely and I actually need) or any of the useful kitchen or garden tools, or even anything from the rack of winter sweaters available for $10 each. 

No ... what actually wound up in my car were twelve concrete balcony posts, a three-foot length of irrigation pipe, two concrete pieces of unknown use and origin and a metal "thingy" that who knows what it's original purpose was.  And, what do these things have in common?  They are potential mosaic surfaces and triggered a vision of an art possibility for my yard.  Everything I look at seems to transform itself into a riot of colorful broken plates and glass ... at least in my mind.

What I seem to have come down with is known as vernacular artist-environment builder virus.  Vernacular means untrained and the rest means people who get way carried away with arting up their living spaces.  It seems to happen more to mosaic artists and sculptors but can also be seen in toll painters and stained glass artists.  Lately I've been introduced to some artists who have created art wonderlands around themselves.  They are mostly mad, magical, incredible spaces that have left me boggled, overwhelmed and deeply infected.

I don't know how far this virus will take me ... fortunately it usually takes 25-30 years before things get completely crazy and out of hand so I may run out of energy before it reaches that point.  Or maybe there's a vaccine that will let me stop after just a light sprinkling of yard art here and there.  Who knows?

About the image:  Detail of one wall of this artist-environment builder's yard.  How can you not be infected by this?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joy 82/82: Life

(This was scheduled for yesterday but something went awry.)
"There is only one journey. 
Going inside yourself. "
 -- Rainer Maria Rilke
Today is my birthday and I am grateful for this journey through life.  Perhaps no one captures the joy of being alive any better than D.H. Lawrence:
For man, the vast marvel is to be alive.

For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh.  The dead may look after the afterwards.  But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours and ours alone and ours only for a time.

We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me.  That I am part of Earth, my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.  My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation.  In my very own self, I am part of my family.

There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.
82 days ago I made a commitment to write about one joy of my life every day until my birthday.  I probably averaged 300 words per post for a total of about 24,000 words.  D.H. Lawrence says more, and more powerfully, in his 211 words.  But, I kept my commitment and it forced me to be more aware and to think more deeply about how much I've been blessed in this life.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joy 81/82: My Assignment

"Everything that has a beginning has an ending.
Make your peace with that and all will be well."  
        
-- Buddha

Tomorrow I turn 65.  I'm now officially a "senior," theoretically one of the "wise ones."  So I poured through my quote file so see what others have said about wisdom and chose the one above from Buddha.  When someone reaches the official age of Medicare and Social Security, it's pretty darn hard to deny the "ending."

I don't know what that ending means even though all the great religions offer me their versions of what comes next.  Some I like more than others but the bottom line is that I'm ok with not knowing and I'm not afraid of whatever is coming.  I've enjoyed my journey through this lifetime and assume that I will enjoy whatever it is that comes next.  And, if nothing comes next, then I won't be around to like or dislike it.  I am at peace with the beginning and ending of what we call life but I'm also not sure there is an actual beginning or ending.

Where did I actually begin?  As a sperm and an egg?  Well, both of those came from a previous sperm and egg so that beginning keeps moving further and further back into the past until perhaps there was no thing that could actually be called a beginning.  And, when do I actually end?  When the last breath is drawn?  But, what about the bits and pieces of my flesh which will somehow enter into the planetary stew?  And what about the ripples I made on my journey through the world?  If the flap of a butterfly wing in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas, who knows what impact I have had or might continue to have long after "the end."

I like to think that God is consciousness and that I was loaned a microscopic piece of that consciousness for my Earth walk.  The assignment that came with this loan was to polish that consciousness and make it as bright as possible.  And, the polish available to me was, and continues to be, love.  I haven't always understood this so I intend to spend the rest of my journey making up for lost time.

About this image:  I was struck by the peacefulness of this woman who was sitting under a tree eating her lunch.  She was gracious enough to give me permission to take this photo.  I can almost smell the straw in her hat and feel the peacefulness radiating from her.  My guess is that she has done a great job of polishing the consciousness that was loaned to her.

Joy 80/82: Family

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
-- Jane Howard
Most of my "family" is by choice rather than blood.  My ancestors must have been an odd lot ... they seem to have embraced divorce long before it was popular so the family tree has more "steps" than many tall buildings.  Years ago, I looked around and realized that all of the family that I was close to, I wasn't actually related to.  Realizing that I could choose my family was very freeing ... and also a reminder that I  had to nurture the family ties to keep them alive.  I couldn't just depend on "blood."

Anyway, I love Jane Howard's quote and this time of the year when we pay special attention to the friends and family that make up our tribe.

About this image:  "Together Separately" -- Missy (poodle) and Boo (outdoor cat) were thrown together this year and are gradually becoming part of the tribe that includes Roxy (pomeranian), Buddy (shih tzu) and Kitani (indoor cat).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joy 79/82: Writing ... and Rewriting

I got my first writing rejection in the fourth grade.  Perhaps it was preparing me for the long string of rejections that would follow.

I moved to a country school in the fourth grade.  There were two grades per room and I was the fourth girl in my class.  At recess we acted out little plays written by Charlene Storm ... who was perfect in every way ... but that's another story.  Day after day we acted out her plays until I decided that I wanted to write one.  So I went home, wrote a play and presented it to the group.  Everything would have been fine ... except that my handwriting was tiny and unreadable so it was rejected.

I was crushed but I accepted the rejection rather than just rewriting it more legibly.  Later, I received the only "C" I ever got in "Writing" (i.e. penmanship).  No wonder I was so insecure about writing and that it took almost 30 years and uncountable rejections before me I became a "writer."

Many years later, as a writing exercise, I rewrote that event.  In that imaginary revisiting of my life, I rewrote that play neatly and we acted it out and had fun.  Charlene and I started collaborating on plays and eventually wrote a play that we presented at our eighth grade graduation.  Rewriting that time in my life didn't change it ... but it did change me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joy 78/82: Mystery

"I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it."      
 -- Harry E. Fosdick

"Mystery is the greatest need in the human soul."
   - Emily Dickinson
Why would Emily Dickinson say that mystery is the greatest need in the human soul?  Why would we need or long for mystery?  In some ways it seems like religion, one of our oldest institutions was born from the need to take the mystery out of the greatest of unknowns ... who we are and why we're here.  That makes it seem like we long for solutions rather than mystery.

And yet ... perhaps it's the very chase for answers that shows how great our need for mystery is.  What we don't know or understand calls us like a siren's song.  We spend our lives exploring the unknown, whether it's unexplored lands, the intricacies of a disease, the illusive form of beauty, or the strange and wonderful nature of another human being.  We're insatiable in our drive to know more, to make sense of the world we live in, and, perhaps, finally know our selves and why we're here.  It makes me wonder if we ever ran out of mystery, would we simply shrivel into dust and blow away? 

But, I guess that is another mystery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy 77/82: Coyote

The weather has been so beautiful we played hooky today and drove through Yosemite to take pictures of whatever came our way.  It's off season ... most of the fall colors are gone and the snow was patchy.  But it was a beautiful day and nothing much more until Coyote came our way.  He was at the edge of the road and we stopped hoping to catch a quick photo.

But, he didn't dash away like we expected (coyotes are known for not doing what you expect them to do).  He stayed and watched us intently.  Maybe he was tourist-wise and expected a handout.  Maybe he was old and lazy.  Maybe he was just trying to figure us out.   Whatever he was thinking, he stayed and stayed as we shot photo after photo.  This one is my favorite.

Since we saw another, much more evasive coyote later on the trip, I decided to look up coyote medicine.  There are many facets to coyote but the one I liked is about multi-tasking.  As we edge up on the end of the year, I always start to think about where I am and where I'm going and, as usual, I start to wonder if I should be more focused.  I tend to take on a multitude of projects which means I never quite develop the mastery that I would like to have in any of them.    Turns out that the curiosity of coyote nature makes it natural to have many projects going on simultaneously.  Accepting this tendency toward many projects, yet developing the discipline needed to finish the projects is a way of accepting the nature of coyote.  That seems like a good plan.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Joy 76/82: Nothing on My Tongue but Hallelujah

Occasionally a song gets stuck in my head and won't let go.  It happened last night when I watched "Saint Ralph," a lovely, little feel-good, Canadian movie.  "Hallelujah," written by Leonard Cohen and sung by Gord Downie plays late in the movie and it's haunting and beautiful.  (You may also recognize it from the Haiti Relief Telethon or Shrek.)

Here is a very touching video that includes Cohen reciting the stanza sung in the movie during his acceptance speech when he was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.  Here are the lyrics to that stanza which is missing from most performances of the song:
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Following the Cohen video is a video of K.D. Lang's version which also does not include that stanza.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Joy 75/82: Wonders

There are many things in the world that are beyond my comprehension ... the great pyramids, Stonehenge, the Nazca lines, the human body, cell phones ... and the list goes on. Another one was added recently ... the rock-cut temples of India. It's hard enough for me to imagine how we build sky-scrapers today but the thought of people 2000 years ago "sculpting" a temple out of solid rock just fritzs all my circuits.

This video shows the results ... how I wish someone had videoed the work in process. I can almost get my head around building up but the idea of carving down is beyond me.

Joy 74/82: Wild Creativity

Creativity is our divine inheritance and I love seeing it show up in unusual ways and unusual places ... this video is way fun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joy 73/82: A Small Tale

In a land not so far away and a time not so long ago, there lived a small toenail cell living an ordinary, every day life.  She did her work, processing incoming nutrients and outgoing waste, signaling when danger approached, chatting over the back fence with her neighbors.  She was a smart cell, aware of what went on around her and quick to react to changes and circulating rumors.  She had heard she was only one of 50 trillion cells that made up her world (give or take a few dozen) but math had never been her long suit so she wasn't quite sure what that meant.

One day an old cell, one of the cells known as the wise ones, told her a fantabulous story about a universe beyond the wide world that she had learned about in school, a universe where miraculous things occurred.  He talked about something he called light and how it created a beauty known as color and about pulsing rhythms that came from this other world yet changed the tidal flows that saturated their world.  He told about his visions of that universe and other universes beyond, universes that were even larger and more amazing ... that actually the world was without end. He told her the great secret of his vision: that she was part of this endless universe, that she was eternal, a part of the Whole, something he called Source.  All she had to do was to believe and to have faith, he said.

Long after the wise one left, the little toenail cell sat in dazed confusion, trying to imagine how such an immense universe came into being and where she fit into it and what it meant to believe and have faith.  She struggled long and hard but the confusion sat like a hard lump in front of her.  As she sat, the incoming nutrients weren't getting processed and the outgoing wastes were backing up.  She started to shrivel and her neighbors began yelling at her and throwing trash into her backyard.

One day, she shook herself and said, "I don't know.  I don't know what's out there.  I don't know Who created all of this or What it's all about or Why it's so complicated.  But, I do know what my job is.  Then she went back to work processing incoming nutrients and outgoing wastes, keeping watch for danger, signaling when something went wrong, and happily chatting with her neighbors over the backyard fence. 

And, if something hasn't changed, she is there still in that land not so far away, in that time not so long ago.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joy 72/82: Thistles

Thistles fascinate me.  It is one of the most showy and beautiful of wildflowers, sometimes lavishing whole fields with their bright pink beauty.  But they are also nasty, prickly things that are almost impossible to get rid of.  Even one flowerhead gone to seed will launch thistledown across the landscape where it quietly waits for its spring onslaught.
Botanical.com states:  "In agriculture the Thistle is the recognized sign of untidiness and neglect, being found not so much in barren ground, as in good ground not properly cared for. It has always been a plant of ill repute among us; Shakespeare classes 'rough Thistles' with 'hateful Docks,' and further back in the history of our race we read of the Thistle representing part of the primeval curse on the earth in general, and on man in particular, for - 'Thorns also and Thistles shall it bring forth to thee.'"
It is interesting to think of the thistle as a curse on man ... cursed by beauty that draws us closer; stung by needles that drive us back.  Butterflies love the nectar of its flowers; finches love the seeds but its aggressive nature sets it at odds with its neighbors.  Thistles don't place nice; they take over and crowd out less hardy species.  Perhaps thistles aren't just a curse on man but a metaphor for man's relationship with the earth.  Maybe we are the planet's thistles, beautiful but noxious weeds threatening the environmental balance wherever we go.

JOY 71/82: Appointment with Spring

While lecturing to a crowded classroom at Harvard, philosopher George Santayana spotted a forsythia in a patch of snow outside the window. Walking to the door he said, "I shall not be able to finish that sentence. I just have discovered that I have an appointment with April."
The rains came early this year and the grass has turned green.  It's my first full year in the foothills so I asked a neighbor if the grass would stay green till spring.  The answer was yes.  California has a long dry season which can last from April through October without a hint of rain  As a matter of fact, if it weren't for the Sierra and other mountain ranges that punctuate the state and practice "catch and release" with the rain, California would be a massive desert.  By May or June when the heat arrives, the hills slowly turn golden ... what some outlanders mistakenly call brown or dead ... until the rains come again.

There is something about the green here.  It's a piercing, innocent green that takes my breath away and on partly cloudy days, the light dances through the clouds and plays across the grass creating colors that cannot be captured.  Living here is like being hugged by nature.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Joy 70/82: Turning Pro

The call came at 3:00 pm. I thought he was joking ... but he's not exactly the joking type and his voice didn't sound like he was joking. Apparently he was serious. One of the two pieces I put in the "Water: Source of Life" exhibit had sold ... my first real sale. I'm still having a little difficulty understanding that someone actually paid for something I so enjoy doing. But, I guess this now means that I am a "professional" artist ... what fun.

About the image:  "Spirit of Water" ... this is the digital collage that sold.

Joy 69/82: Being Content

"Too much thought only leads to trouble . . . We Eskimos do not concern ourselves with solving all riddles. We repeat the old stories in the way they were told to us and with the words we ourselves remember . . . You always want these supernatural things to make sense, but we do not bother about that. We are content not to understand"
-- Orulo, Iglulik area as told to Knud Rasmussen, "Intellectual Capital of the Iglulik Eskimos," (Reports of the Fifth Thule Expeditions, 1921-1924, vol 7, 1929) p 69.
I'm part of a small book club (there are three of us) and we just finished several months of reading "Buddhism, Plain & Simple" by Steve Hagen.  The first two parts were indeed "plain & simple."  Part three left each of us befuddled as we grappled, unsuccessfully, with Reality, the Whole and Truth.  We kept getting tangled up in concepts, beliefs and perceptions, trying out one metaphor after another to find a way to understand.  Finally we gave up and just talked about our lives.

Perhaps that was the best thing we did.  Perhaps we were thinking too much, trying to solve all the riddles when we are part of the riddle, in the midst of the riddle and our real challenge is not to understand it but to simply live it.  Perhaps when we gave up the aggressive need to make the world make sense to our puny minds and simply began to enjoy the experience of each other's company ... perhaps that's when the riddle actually untied itself and invited us in.  Perhaps being content to not understand is understanding.  (I'm beginning to sound like the book.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Joy 68/82: Clarity

This is one of my very favorite poems as it describes so beautifully the journey from confusion to clarity.

The Journey


by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do the 
only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.


from New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992

Joy 67/82: Freedom

"I have felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders and now you want me to climb on a jackass? Try to be serious."
-- Mirabai, Hindu mystic poetess and singer (1498-1546)
Yesterday I found this quote and thought it odd.  I read about Mirabai, and found that she "is one of India's most beloved poet-saints. Her devotional poetry -- directed toward Giridhara, a form of the great God-man Krishna -- is so intensely personal that it borders on the erotic while, at the same time, it remains transcendentally spiritual."  More here. 

Also yesterday I had a business meeting, one of the last vestiges of my professional life.  It was a deeply disturbing meeting with threads of lawsuits and betrayal of what I believe to be the principles of business and human conduct.  It wasn't until this morning when I reread the quote that I started to have an inkling of its meaning.

I have been outside the world of work for four years, years when I've had the time and freedom to follow my creative impulses.  I've made art that sucked and art that thrilled me.  I've "felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders."  Why would I ever again want to "climb on a jackass?" 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Joy 66/82: Self-Trust

This morning Louise at Recover Your Joy posts about Jesse who has made a commitment to build a six-pack in the next 30 days.  Jesse has enough determination to reach his goal ... he proved that when he lost 100 pounds.  Over time 30 of those pounds slipped back ... now he is determined to lose those and gain the six-pack abs that seem to be one of the definitions of male beauty.  Louise finds inspiration and motivation in Jesse's journey.

I feel pulled in two opposite directions by the story.  Anytime I hear about someone who has successfully lost weight or reformed their physical presence, I am pulled into an "I should do that, too" mode.  It's familiar territory for me ... a life-long challenge with weight and a "never thin enough" mindset has been a major theme for me.  A zillion diets have passed through my life ... most took me on a roller coaster ride of success and failure and ultimately threw me off ... defeated.  Perhaps the worst result of this repeating pattern was the gradual erosion of my self-trust.  I became powerless to keep my commitments to myself.

Several years ago I renounced dieting and promised myself that I wouldn't do anything regarding food that I couldn't do forever.  I started making small changes and slowly began to lose weight.  Recently I've started testing myself again to see if I could keep my commitments.  However, I've become much more careful about the commitments I make and I've begun to craft them my them much more lovingly.  Right now I'm on day 66 of an 82-day commitment to post about the joys in my life.  The intent was to post every day but a few days were missed and I had to double up the next day.  That's ok.

Recently my eating has become more haphazard and less health focused.  So now I'm on a 30-day "real food" (no sugar, no dairy, no processed carbs) commitment ... however, the commitment doesn't mean that they are 30 *consecutive* days.  It's the holidays and I don't want to be a grinch so I'm shooting for 30 days within a 40-day period.  But, if it takes me 60 days to get my 30 days, that's ok too.

What this has made me realize is that I'm starting to trust myself again and I'm letting go of "perfection."  When I used to start a diet, I was filled with the notion that I could be perfect, do the diet perfectly.  As soon as I screwed up, I quit.  Now I just take a deep breath and realign myself with what I'm trying to do.

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Joy 65/82: Beginnings

It's the beginning of the last month of the year so it seems like a nice time to start thinking about beginnings and to share this quote.
"Where shall we begin? There is no beginning. 
Start where you arrive.  Stop before what entices you.  
And work! 

You will enter little by little into the entirety. 
Method will be born in proportion to your interest.
In the calm details of work, we must learn patience,
which in turn teaches energy, and energy gives us
eternal youth made of self collectedness and enthusiasm."  
     
    -- Auguste Rodin

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Joy 64/82: Empathy

"Empathy is the invisible hand."  This creatively animated discussion tracking the evolution of empathy is one of the most hopeful things I've seen for awhile.  Thanks to Louise at Recover Your Joy for bringing this to our attention.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Joy 63/82: Amarantine Garden

I was born with a brown thumb but I just planted a flower that I don't have to worry about freezing, dying or fading away. 

Enya has a song titled "Amarantine" and it started haunting me a few weeks ago so I looked up the word and found out that it refers to a flower that is eternal.  Enya uses the term in the context of love but I've decided to plant an "amarantine garden."  When I started laying the pavers in my backyard, I discovered that six of the little ones could be put together to form a flower shape that would be fun to mosaic.

I got a little carried away and there are now 21 of those flowers waiting to be planted.  The image is flower number 1.  It took a week and a half to finish ... this could take awhile.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Doing Without

 
This morning Louise at Recover Your Joy shared "Hey Mister," a very powerful poem about hunger.  It prompted me to share this poem I wrote years ago.   Tis not the season for children to go hungry.




Doing Without

No cans in the cabinet,
    No books in the school.
No man in the house,
    No job uptown.
No place at the table,
    No way to get in.

When trust fades, only hope remains.
When hope dies, it leaves only a residue,
A gun-metal gray powder that
    Burrows under your skin,
    Explodes in your bloodstream,
    And screams toward your brain,

     A red-hot,
    Flashpoint,
              Gun-in-your-face,
                Knife-in-your-belly,
                               Nothing-to-lose,
                    ANGER!

(c) Joyce Wycoff, 2010

Joy 62/82: My Neighborhood

I live in a rural neighborhood that seems a little out-of-touch with the world.  It is a step back in time to when neighbors actually knew and cared for each other.  I knew it was a little unusual when on moving day, the next door neighbors showed up to help move me in.  The neighbors are a family of 10 so there was a lot of help and they made short work of it and even left a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" card with a gift certificate to a local restaurant.  The family is home-schooled and home-churched and I'm not sure I've ever met nicer or harder-working kids.

It's a dog kind of neighborhood so we've met a lot of the neighbors on our dog walks and these have turned into several house visits, loaning of tools and equipment, taking care of animals when someone travels, and in general knowing what's up with each other. 

A couple of days ago, after a significant snow storm, we were out walking the dogs when we heard laughter and giggling.  As we turned toward  the family of 10's house, we saw  a sled flying down the hill and the sledders ... the nine-year old girl and her dad ... tumbled at our feet.  We talked about general things ... the snow ... their upcoming family reunion at the beach where the kids would be able to boogie board the day after sledding. (aaah, California!) 

While we were talking, another neighbor walked up with his dog.  We hadn't met him or Buster (his dog) so we exchanged the normal round of dog talk and general "where are you from and how long have you been here?" information.  At the end of this conversation, he invited us to a "turkey fry" ... his family always deep fries their turkeys so they've opened it up to the neighborhood.  They do the oil and anyone can bring a turkey and fry it and spend the "three minutes per pound" time chatting and catching up.

We didn't get to make it to the turkey fry but we did give thanks for being part of a such a welcoming, friendly neighborhood.

About the Image:  I missed my aspen fix this fall so I've had to revisit old ones.  This one is from South Lake, near Bishop, CA.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joy 61/82 (Revised): Quitting Christmas ... sort of!

OK, I was wrong.  I went to the hardware store today and they were playing Christmas carols.  I love carols ... I'm not sure I can make it through the holidays without Harry Simeone's "Little Drummer Boy" or Mannheim Steam Roller or even the endless loop of carols we will hear for the next several weeks in every establishment we enter.

I woke up last night with the refrain of "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" playing through my head.  I love the Grinch and I actually love the holiday season ... the lights ... the general festive feeling ... the impulse of generosity and abundance ... the bright colored paper and bows ... the focus on family and friendship ... even the sounds of the Salvation Army bells.

So what is it that made me decide to "quit Christmas?"  At first I just thought it was the crass commercialism of Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  But, after thinking about it for some time, it seems to be the expectations.  We're expected to buy presents, send out cards, decorate a tree, bake cookies, attend parties, eat and drink too much, and, in general, "do" too much.  My heart goes out to working mothers who have the expectations of the holidays added to an already overloaded schedule.

I think I'm in a delayed form of "teenage rebellion."  Now that I don't *have* to do anything, I'm rebelling against any form of expectation.  Fortunately, no one else is depending on my acting like a rational adult so I'm going to indulge my whims.  I'm going to enjoy the parts of the season that I truly love and ignore the rest.  Carols - yes.  Presents - no.  Cards and "Christmas Letters" - no.  Long phone chats with people I love - yes.  Extra contributions to my favorite organizations - yes.  Adding to the glut of stuff for the grandkids - no.

So happy holidays to all whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Al Hijra, Ashura, Yuletide or simply life in general!


About the image:  Every weekend after thanksgiving, my friend Emily converts her art studio into a gingerbread making extravaganza.  Friends and family gather to decorate gingerbread houses, talk and just enjoy being together.  Inevitably it turns into a frosting fight but adults have been warned that this is a day for children and that "anything goes."  Children run wild and eventually their joy infects the adults and almost everyone winds up wearing a little bit of extra frosting in their hair or on their noses.  This is the true spirit of the holiday season.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Joy 61/82: Quitting Christmas

Old Joke:

When I was 20, I worried about what people thought about me.
When I was 40, I quit worrying about what people thought about me.
When I turned 60, I realized they weren't thinking about me.

Now that I've reached the age that people aren't thinking about me, I feel free to be more who I am so I am now declaring my freedom from Christmas.  Today is Black Friday, the day when the Christmas season officially begins ... at least in the commercial world which absconded with Christmas many years ago.  The Christian world has tried mightily to "keep Christ in Christmas" objecting to the generic "holiday season" terminology in spite of the many different cultures that celebrate this time of the year.

Several years ago, I realized that the celebration of Christ's birthday (although no one truly knows his birth date) did not hold a lot of meaning for me. While I think Christ's message of love is a truly important one for our world, it seems that it has been lost in a morass of rules, regulations, prohibitions and intolerance of other paths.  And, the almost frantic buying nature of the season is a jarring note completely out of tune with all holidays related to the season.  So I tried to quit Christmas but the timing wasn't right.  There were still little children involved and family hooked into the presents, parties and decorating frenzy.

Things are different now.  No one is depending on me to make their holiday merry.  So, I am going to develop a new ritual and celebration.  Going back to the pagan celebration of the darkest night of the year, I am going to honor the return of the light.  I'm not sure how right now but it will not involve buying things no one needs or letting anyone else buy me things I don't need.  I will look for ways to share light and love and truly think Christ will be ok with that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Joy 60/82: For those who make holidays work

Today I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with two dear friends at a lovely local lodge.  I would like to thank all the people who will be giving up their own holidays to make this day possible for the rest of us.  Wishing a special, if possibly delayed, thanksgiving to:
     -- all the cooks, serving staff and kitchen workers at Tenaya Lodge and every other resort, lodge, restaurant, coffee shop and fast food establishment that is open today.
     -- all the people who keep the hotels, motels and inns open for the holiday travelers
     -- all the policemen and firefighters who keep our highways and streets safe and rescue those of us who come to harm
     -- all of the paramedics, nurses, doctors and medical personnel who tend to our injuries and illnesses
     -- all of the pilots, attendants, mechanics and airport personnel who make it possible for us to see friends and family in far off places
     -- all of the grocery store workers who make it possible for us to buy those last-minute-but-critical items we forgot to get yesterday
     -- all of the social service workers who find that human despair does not take a holiday
     -- everyone else I may have overlooked who is working to make life better for those of us who have the day off.
Please remember that we appreciate your efforts even if it seems like we have come to take them for granted.

About the image:  A year ago ... and a world away ... I was on my way to California for a visit with my step-daughter and granddaughters.  I stopped at the Bagdad Cafe and paid homage to one of my favorite movies and favorite songs.  In case you missed them, here's a video honoring the movie, the cafe and the song:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Joy 59/82: Thanksgiving

It's the day before Thanksgiving ... Richard's favorite holiday.  He loved the abundance of it all ... the food, the gathering of family and friends, the joy of celebration.  It was also his last as he died three days later, almost four years ago.

It's an interesting time, this official season of thanksgiving.  59 days ago I committed to expressing gratitude for the joys in my life for the 82 days leading up to my 65th birthday (that's a lot of numbers!)  And, I definitely have been blessed with incredible joys.  But, many of them of them have come not in spite of Richard's death but actually as a direct result of the changes it set in motion.

That tends to be confusing.  Joy resulting from the biggest loss in my life is a little unsettling.  But the truth of it is undeniable.  I live in a new place I dearly love.  I spend my days peacefully exploring art and my own creativity with almost complete freedom to follow whatever path appears before me each day. I share my life with a supportive best friend and three dogs and two cats and have two lovely granddaughters an hour away.  Life is full and joyous ... to the point that it almost seems disloyal to Richard.  I loved him and I miss him and know that no one would want me to be happy more than he would.  And, yet, it is confusing, this mixture of pain and joy.

Perhaps this is life's lesson.  It is easy to be joyful when life is easy and uncomplicated and just as easy to forget to appreciate it.  It's only after a descent into pain that each new joy takes on a diamond radiance of an unexpected gift.  I don't know why we're here or what life's all about or what happens when life ends.  Those questions fascinate me but I'm beginning to think that it's enough to wake up each morning and give thanks for the joy I feel and recognize that there will be seasons of pain and that both pain and joy are part of this grand adventure of being alive.

Wishing you all a joyous season of thanksgiving.

About the Image:  Richard and Ava, who is now 9.

Joy 58/82: Learning

What a time this is to be alive.  Almost every day I wonder about something and make a quick trip to google or wikipedia and discover something I didn't know.  Or I come across an interesting person and find that there is a video of them on Ted Talks or YouTube.  We live in a universe of information and, admittedly, a great deal of misinformation.  But, what a joyous time it is to be a life-long learner.  Here are some of my favorite quotes on learning:

"Still I am learning." -- Michelangelo, on his death bed 
"As long as you live, keep learning how to live."   -- Seneca 
"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it."  -- Pablo Picasso 
"Everyone is the architect of their own learning."  -- Appius Claudius, 4th century BC 
"In times of change, the learners will inherit the Earth while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."  -- Eric Hoffer 
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."  -- Alvin Toffler 
"Learning is perhaps the only pleasure that might replace increasing consumption as our chosen mode of enriching experience.  Soomeday, the joy of recognizing a pattern in a leaf or the geological strata in a cliff face might replace the satisfactions of new carpeting or more horsepower in an engine, and the chance to learn in the workplace might seem more valuable than increased purchasing power or a move up the organizational chart."    -- Mary C. Bateson, from Peripheral Vision

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joy 57/82: Memories

Is this really a joy, this memory that cycles through every year, now going on 47 years?

I was sitting on my bed, the bottom bunk of a 3-girl dorm room my freshman year in college when the news came.  I couldn't comprehend it.  I had been sheltered from the harshness of the world.   I didn't know that people ... our leaders ... could be assassinated.  Oh, I knew it in the history-book sort of way, not in the right-now, not to someone like Jack Kennedy sort of way.  I couldn't process it so I shut down and walked through the next days and weeks in a fog.  I didn't watch the funeral on television.  I didn't cry.  I just felt abandoned. 

For many of us children of the 60s, this was the day we lost our innocence, our belief in a golden future, our belief in our own power to make a difference.  For some of us it came back slowly and slightly less bright-eyed.  For others, the path to sex, drugs and rock-and-roll beckoned.

Perhaps it is a joy to remember these shared tragedies, to feel part of a community of mourners, to acknowledge the great loss to all of us as we entered the season of assassinations that would take Jack, Martin and Bobby in a still incomprehensible waste of potential and hope for the world.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Joy 56/82: Bark

I've always had a "thing" about bark ... the colors, textures and shapes.  Some trees ... especially eucalyptus ... are like galleries with thousands of paintings in ever-changing exhibits.  I've  taken hundreds of pictures of bark which sit neglected in my computer files. 

Once again, Maureen at Writing without Paper opened my eyes to new possibilities.  She introduced me to Cedric Pollet an amazing photographer who created an incredible book of his bark photographs.  You can see some of the pictures from his book here.

I just bought the book and spent several minutes looking at all the bark photographs in my files ... the creative juices are stirring.  Thanks again, Maureen!

About this image:  "Looking Out" ... see the tiny being looking out at this world from the safety of his eucalyptus home?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joy 55/82: Movies

On this rainy, soon to be snowy, evening, it was movie night so we  watched "Invictus" for the second time.  It is such a hopeful, inspiring movie even though I find rugby to be a completely incomprehensible game.  Since it was directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie was preceded by a montage of his career and I thought about how he built up his career step-by-step from the good-looking nice-guy Rowdy Yates in "Rawhide" to the poisonous anti-hero in the spaghetti westerns to tough-cop Dirty Harry to the slap-stick teaming with Ruth Gordon and Clyde, the orangutan, to becoming one of the best directors of our time. 

His has been an unlikely journey, completely unlike the journey of Mandela from activist to prisoner to president, and yet in some ways similar.  In both men, there seems to be a thread of destiny pulling them forward.  When other people might have faltered or given up, both of them carried on.  I don't know if Clint Eastwood had a personal connection to the titled poem but both men have truly been masters of their fate.
Invictus

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Joy 54/82: Rain

There's a storm coming in and it looks like rain ... maybe even snow ... for the weekend.  Normally I would be disappointed at not being able to get outside for the weekend but today I am delighted.  For two weeks now, we've been redoing my back yard.  I've had some great help and they've done most of the heavy lifting but they have other jobs and in order to move the project along, I've worked like a laborer.  Last night we were sanding the pavers until after dark in order to get them set for the rain to come ... think 4 solid hours of bending over.  My body doesn't quite understand what's happening.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to being inside all warm and cozy with a hot cup of tea and a good book for the entire weekend.  My house mate calls it:  Eat, sleep, read ... repeat.  I think I'm going to take a hot shower, put on my jammies and not take them off till Monday.

About the image:  This is an ice-storm in Arkansas.  I hope it does not look like this here this weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Joy 53/82: Poetry

Poetry is like "dancing on dynamite." 
  -- Hart Crane

I'm not sure I think poetry is quite as dangerous as Hart Crane suggests but it is an intriguing quote.  Here is one of my favorite poems by a British poet who died too early and has been largely forgotten except for these three verses from a much longer poem.

Ode

by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

We are the music-makers,
   and we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
   and sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world forsakers,
   on whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers & shakers
   of the world forever it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
  We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story,
   We fashion an empire’s glory.
One man with a dream at pleasure,
   Shall go forth and conquer a crown,
And three with a new song’s measure
   Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
   in the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
   and Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
  to the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying
  or one that is coming to birth.

Joy 52/82: Wildflowers

Impromptu thoughts are mental wild-flowers.
      - Madame Marie Anne du Deffand

Madame du Deffand was a French patron of the arts in the 1700s.  I'm not sure my impromptu thoughts are as beautiful as wildflowers but I like thinking of them that way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joy 51/82: Photoshop

My introduction to Photoshop was slightly unusual.  Four years ago, with a lot of trepidation, I signed up for a digital collage class in Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico, (just south of Puerto Vallarta).  Photoshop was a requirement and I had barely installed it when it was time to go so I was sure I would be the class dunce.  But, off I went and arrived in the small fishing village that took me back 50 years in time, crossed the river that divided the village in a ponga powered by a small boy with a long pole and arrived at Casa de Artistas where I met Robert Masla, the instructor.

The next day I found out that I was the only person in the class so I had a week of one-on-one tutoring and coaching.  Every day, we explored the village, took hundreds of pictures and returned to find ways to create art using the incredible power of Photoshop.  Bob is a fine artist and a wonderfully encouraging teacher.  In that week, many things changed.  I started to look at photography as a gathering process rather than a search for "pictures."  Everything became an "element" ... something that carried meaning that could be incorporated into a bigger story.  I also discovered the magic of Photoshop that happens when elements are layered together and allowed to interact with each other.

Sometimes it seems like I came home from Mexico with a guru in my computer.  Sometimes she is frustratingly vague and incomprehensible but sometimes she snaps her fingers and something new appears ... something I could never have imagined ... something that sometimes takes my breath away.

About the image:  My first digital collage: "Wild and precious life" Borrows the great question from Mary Oliver and applies it to the village life of Boca de Tomatlan where grandmothers still wash clothes in the river while children play with a mountain mongoose.

Joy 50/82: Amazon.com

I'm not a shopper and I can't remember the last time I went into a department store but I love books so I was a natural for Jeff Bezos' dream of an online bookstore and the beginnings of internet shopping.   I've bought a ton of books from amazon but it has also become my retailer of choice for cameras and various other items such as my new lime-green weed whacker.   Amazon reviews helped me decide on the right one and had it on my doorstep in a matter of days.  It is exactly what I needed and wanted.

The word-of-mouth review process developed by amazon helps all of us be better shoppers and I've often wondered why bricks-and-mortar retailers and manufacturers don't seem to take the reviews seriously.  When I was looking for my weed-whacker, the only ones carried by the big box hardware stores all had uniformly horrible reviews.  Companies spend a fortune on marketing research but I wonder if they ever wander through the review sections at amazon and other sites that offer reviews.

Yesterday amazon sent me two "100 best books of the year" lists and I'm working my way through them and adding to my wish list.  If you didn't get the lists, here are the links:

 Top 100 Editors' Picks  

Top 100 Customer Favorites 

By the way ... did you know that before it was "Amazon" the company name was Calabra?  And that in 1999 Jeff Bezos was name Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for popularizing online shopping?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joy 49/82: Backyard Progress

Remodel projects are seldom straight lines but this one has been very snaky.  I didn't set out to redo the back yard; I was just going to take out an ugly raised bed ... and then the pine tree that really didn't have room to grow, and there was no reason for the pergola to be there in the middle of the yard ... and suddenly there was nothing left but dirt which turned into a swimming pool when the rains came.

What to do with the space?  Flagstone?  Concrete? Pavers? Screened-in room?  Possibilities flew around till I was dizzy.  Decisions came and went but the quotes went one direction ... up!  Finally work began only to be stopped by the rain again but Wednesday arrived bright and shiny and progress began.  It's behind schedule and over budget ... but it is beginning to look like a backyard again.

I've moved a lot in my life, but this morning when I looked out at my not-quite-finished patio, I felt at home.  I am where I belong. I am at peace.

About the image:  this is the before ... an over-crowded, small backyard.  "After" picture coming soon.

Joy 48/82: Gallery Showing

Last night I did something I never expected to do, something I couldn't have dreamed of putting on my bucket list even a few years ago.  I went to my first art gallery reception where I was one of the artists in a special show titled Water: Source of Life.  It was a juried show and I was delighted and honored to be among the other artists featured in the show, artists I respect and admire, artists who inspire me.

The show was eclectic ... from a beautiful, handcrafted boat to a collage of trash representing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch ... from an installation of the life of water dripping from its ice form into a basin of floating leaves to a series of photographs of the amazing colors and textures of flowing water.  It was a tribute to water, a reminder of the central role it plays in our lives, a plea for its protection.

One of the most amazing aspects of this event was showing with incredible artists who have become and are becoming my friends.  Vivian Helena's painted cow skull honoring 35 cows lost in the Fresno River a few years ago was sold before it was even hung.  See her blog for the image.  Becoming a member of an art community is one of most amazing gifts of this past year and a confirmation that moving back to the Sierra foothills was the right thing to do.

About the image:  Heart of Water is one of the images I entered in the show.

Joy 47/82: California Poppies

California Poppies bloom in March and April and make a joyfully colorful splash across yards, hills and mountains.  They may be the true California gold. 

I was delighted and surprised to see a clump of them blooming in the yard in July when I moved in.  By August, I was amazed to see them still blooming in spite of the heat.  I've now run out of words because they are still blooming in spite of a few frosty mornings and the recent drenching rains.  This picture was taken this morning.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joy 46/82: Breaking Patterns

Dr. Jill Ginsberg grew up thinking her family was "dirt poor."  Her mother, a Holocaust survivor, lived with the paralyzing fear that calamity was always around the corner even though Ginsberg's father earned a good living as an attorney. “My mother talked constantly about we didn’t have money for this, we didn’t have money for that,” Ginsberg recalls. “She bought everything on sale and would say, ‘We just have $1 to spend on meat.’ I always felt ashamed that we were poor.”
  
As she grew older, she began to recognize some of the same traits of scarcity mentality in herself so when her mom died and left her some extra money, she decided to honor her mother ... and break her own pattern.  She made a commitment to give away $100 a day to a stranger.  Her blog recounts her journey through the 30 days.

This story has inspired me to think about some pattern I am still carrying from childhood and how I might creatively let go of it.  I'll have to report later about what it is and what I might do ... but if you have any creative ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Article about Dr. Ginsberg's give away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joy 45/82: Questions

"Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask."   
-- Sam Keen

I love interesting questions and here are some of my favorites.  Feel free to respond to any that strike your fancy. 
If you were an egg cracked open right now, what would you like to see when you opened your eyes?
If there were treasure buried in your own backyard, what would it be? 
What does your soul want?  
What is it you fear doing?  Should you do it anyway? 
What is your purpose today? 
What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?  (from Mary Oliver) 
"The question is:  How big is your 'we'?" (from Beatrice Bruteau) 
"What is the most important thing that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?" (from The Study of Adult Development, Harvard University)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Joy 44/82: I Am Enough

This TED Talk by Professor Brene Brown is about "wholeheartedness" and having the courage to be vulnerable ... to let yourself be seen completely.  She is funny, irreverent and passionate.  I love her message that we don't have to be perfect ... we are already enough.  You are enough; I am enough ... the professor says so!

About the image:  a foggy day at the coast turns the trees into ghosts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Joy 43/82: Creative Diversity

"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."
  -- Margaret Mead

There wasn't a lot of diversity in the mosaic class ... at least not the ethnic, gender, age and socio-economic variation we normally think of as diversity.  But there was a lot of creative diversity.  The woman who sat across from me was working a table top and it was meticulously and beautifully designed and crafted in tiny bits of glass.  Down the table, a woman worked on a box topped with a bright red sculpture of tools surrounded by dinnerware, china figurines, tiles, beads, glass, medallions, and so on. 

Each piece was completely unique and reminded me once again of how unique each one of us is.  Given some time and a lot of material to play with, what comes out of us reflects our individual perspectives and life experiences.  I love watching this process.

This gallery offers a quick view of the pieces created during the retreat.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joy 42/82: Facing the Blank Canvas

It's so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.  -- Paul Cezanne
That's how I felt this weekend when I began the mosaics retreat in a rustic setting overlooking the foggy Pacific.  Groaning tables of tiles, glass, shards of china, rocks, pebbles and various other materials called to us while the blank canvas loomed.  I arrived with a half-baked concept using a sun-face and a bright piece of china with grapes and leaves ... both oversized for the 12"x19" canvas ... and it got worse by the minute.  While my fellow mosaic makers were gathering materials, sketching and diving into their projects, I was sinking into the dark place of judgment.  The more I futzed with it, the worse it got.  The women around me seemed to be in high gear while I was stuck and stayed that way till giving up and going to bed.

Somewhere, somehow, in the middle of the night, I realized I wanted a tree even though it wouldn't fit the scale of the sun-face ... and the grapes had to go.  So, I started and one step led to the next and the blank canvas slowly became the finished piece shown here

Tomorrow, when I've caught up on my sleep, I'll post a link to a gallery of pieces from the retreat.  The diversity was stimulating and inspiring.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Joy 41/82: e.e. cummings

e.e. cummings is another one of my favorites and here are some of his thoughts and one of his poems:
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
******
always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.     
******
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
******
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her
troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing
bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a wold and as large as alone

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.