Thursday, September 30, 2010

5/82: Live Music

After having a feast of live music at the weekend flute festival, Tuesday night there was a local concert by the folk duo "Small Potatoes." While their choice of names is a little questionable, their music makes you laugh, sing along, think a little and sometimes find tears welling up.

My two favorites are on their YouTube video above ... The Waltz of the Wallflowers written by Jacquie Manning humorously captures the feeling of being on the outside looking in that most of us can identify with. 1000 Candles 1000 Cranes written by Rich Prezioso is a touching story of two minor characters in a major world event.

I've been thinking a lot about the lives of musicians since the past week has offered such a banquet of live music. There's not much logic in being a musician at this level ... bad hours, an itinerant lifestyle, living on "love offerings" and CD sales ... and yet they persist. Jacquie and Rich are accomplished musicians and song writers and they have been performing together for 18 years. They obviously love the music and their lives as musicians and their passion and craft enriches those of us who get to hear them.

Beyond the joy of the music, seeing all of these people live their passion is a great reminder that life may be limited but living joyfully is not limited ... it is our choice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Joy 4/82: Mosaic Class

Tuesdays are mosaic class.  It's not really a class ... it's more like a quilting bee.  Everyone works on their own projects, sharing inspiration and materials, encouraging each other, offering advice and all the while talking about life and what's going on in the foothills.  This is one of those places where, if you weren't born here, you're an outsider.  It doesn't mean a whole lot, just a fact ... someone is single or married, short or tall, male or female, local or from somewhere else.  It's just one of the ways people categorize others. 

About half of the class are women who were born and raised here so a lot of the conversation is about people I don't know and the way things used to be.  But it's nice.  It's like stepping back in time to a kinder, gentler world where people made things with their hands and recycled and reused almost everything.  While most of us buy a lot of brightly colored tiles, we also scour the thrift stores and yard sales for plates, bottles and a myriad of "found objects."  Very little gets thrown away when a mosaic artist is anywhere near ... old chairs, tables, suitcases, shelves, baby beds, picture frames ... everything is fair game.  The screen door shown was done by our leader, Colleen Wittke, for the Sierra Art Trails open studio tour this weekend.

Tuesdays have become one of my favorite days of the week.  Even though I'll never be a "local," I feel very accepted and welcomed by this group.  They have helped me feel at home and introduced me to a craft that enchants me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joy 3/82: My Bench

An old, raw wood bench came with my house.  It was an unsightly thing and I was ready to get rid of it but I've watched the people in my mosaic class transform the most ordinary things into works of art, so I decided to give my bench a second chance.  My granddaughter and I painted it purple and pistachio (a paint store mishap) and then I began to mosaic the seat.  This isn't a small bench ... it's probably six feet long and 20 inches deep ... that's a lot of territory to cover ... especially with no plan.

Not having a plan worried me for awhile but I remembered the intuitive painting class I took with Stewart Cubley many years ago and decided to use the same process with the bench.  So that's what I'm doing, taking one step at a time, following my feelings about what wants to come next and it is joyful.  It amazes me that I enjoy this so much because it is slow and painstakingly detailed.  But, yesterday I spent about six hours on it and had to drag myself away when company arrived.  The hours just float away as I play with the brightly colored bits of glass and tile, cutting hundreds of tiny shards to fit together just so.  It's sort of like working a jig saw puzzle where you don't have the picture and you have to make all the pieces by hand.

I'm a fast-paced person and like most people in today's world, a multi-tasker.  It's proving to be very peaceful and satisfying to do something that has to be done slowly and carefully and requires my full attention.  Here's a detail shot of the work in progress.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Joy 2/82: Flutes

The Yosemite Flute Festival ended yesterday and my flute collection grew to 3.  A few days ago I would have wondered why anyone would need three flutes but I've learned a lot in the past few days ... including the fact that people collect an incredible number of flutes even when they can't play them much at all.  I was amazed the first day when I met a guy in the "Flute for Dummies" class ... he had 21 flutes and was still an absolute beginner.  I soon found out that he was also just a beginner in the flute collecting department.  I talked to dozens of people who had 40-50 and one guy admitted to having 200! 

Now, obviously no one can play 200 flutes on a regular basis, so why do people buy so many?  Over the past several days I've started to understand the tendency ... flutes come in different keys, an incredible variety of woods, with inlays and without and with highly imaginative fetishes which form the air channel that actually makes the tone.  Some are absolutely works of art and command an art-like price tag.

My very puny collection now includes:

     1.  Key of G - made by Odell Borg, High Spirits Flutes.  A lovely flute but a   little hard for me to get a consistent tone from it, which I'm sure is more about me than it.
    2.  Key of F# - a Mark Holland signature flute made by Ed Hrebec, Spirit of the Woods Flutes.  Made of Claro Walnut with pommele sapele endcaps.This is a limited edition and I have #17.
     3.  Key of A - a "warbler" made from PVC pipe by Tim Blueflint, Shades of Rez Custom Flutes ... this one is for kayaking and camping.

Next year, if I have made progress learning to play, I have promised myself a flute made by Brent Haines of Woodsounds who makes some of the most beautiful flutes I've seen.

It was a joyful time being surrounded by these lovely instruments, hearing them, hearing the stories of the musicians and the flute makers, seeing the passion that people have for music, the crafting of the instruments and the healing spirit that comes when we find the songs within us and breathe them into the world.

Next year, the festival will expand to include "world music" and the dates are September 23, 24, 25.  Come join the fun!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Celebrating the New Moon - Joy 1/82

Something remarkable happened the other day ... actually the something came in the mail ... in an official-looking envelope which for awhile I thought was a fake.  But, it turned out to be true, this December I will be eligible for Medicare.  Medicare.  Me. How did this happen?

As I've thought about this, I've decided that I need to do something to mark this milestone.  And, since it seems like we celebrate our birthdays longer and longer as we get older, I might as well start right now.  So I've committed to finding and celebrating joy for the next 82 days until my birthday.

The Yosemite Flute Festival is going on this weekend and it has been filled with joy moments.  The concerts last night and tonight were amazing but the person who stole all of our hearts was Rona Yellow Robe.  Her authenticity shines through her captivating voice and haunting flute playing.  I think she made all of us feel a little more connected to life and to each other.  Actually, throughout the festival, there has been a spirit of generosity and connection unlike any other music event I've ever attended.

You can hear Rona here.

Probably the funniest moment of the concert was when Mark Holland, who was doing an improvisational riff with Scott Robinson stuck his head in a bowl of water and made gurgling sounds ... very musical gurgling sounds mind you.  You can hear Mark here but not the gurgling. 

All in all, a very joyful day ... a great way to kick off the count down to 65.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Irritation Path to Enlightenment

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
 -- Carl Jung

It has always irritated me that what other people do that irritates me has anything to do with me at all.  I much prefer thinking it's just them being out of kilter with the way things should be.  The grumpy waitress at the Grizzly or the friend who can't seem to be on time surely doesn't have anything to do with me.  Or does it?  After reading Jung's quote, I decided to re-explore one of my hot-button irritations.

I hate being watched ... it is, in fact, positively irritating.  My mom used to come to the bathroom door and watch as I put on makeup.  I never wore a lot but they thought I wore too much.  I could always feel my anxiety mount as she watched and I would resist the impulse to tell her to go away.  I always felt like I was on the edge of doing something wrong.  My dad, in a kidding-truthful teasing way, always said I never made the same mistake twice but I sure found a lot to make the first time.  It felt like he was just waiting for me to make the next mistake so he could tell me how it should have been.  And, a recent relationship showed the same pattern.  There wasn't much open criticism ... just that continual watching for lights not being turned off, cabinet doors left ajar, irregular noises.  Little by little I felt like I was living in an irritation soup.

The slightest sense of being watched can trigger irritation.  A few years ago it almost ruined a very good friendship.  I traveled to Mexico with a friend who has very definite ideas about how things should be and we disagree on many of them.  Mainly, there are things, small daily living kinds of things, that are important to her that just don't mean that much to me.  I started to feel "watched" ... i.e. insecure, afraid of being "wrong", feeling childish and weak.  Irritation grew until I was prickly, snappy and just plain bitchy. 

We made it through the trip but then didn't see each other for quite awhile.  I didn't really want to see her but I missed her and eventually we decided to do something together.  My friend isn't the type of person to let an issue go unresolved, so as we walked through the woods, she wanted to know what had been going on in Mexico.  I had to try to unravel the threads of what caused that irritation.  I peeled back the layers enough for us to understand what had happened.  But, now, I see a few more links ... when someone "watches" me, they may see an imperfection ... something that I don't do perfectly.  If I am imperfect, I am not valuable or valued.  If I am not perfect, I am not worthy of being loved.  Being watched triggers the irritation of knowing I'm not perfect (true) which triggers feelings of being unlovable (untrue).  I don't expect my friends and loved ones to be perfect, why should I think they expect me to be?

My friend and I worked it out and our friendship is strong again ... and I know a little more about myself from looking at that irritation.  (Isn't it irritating when the great masters (in this case, Jung) are always right?)  It makes me wonder if all irritations, if traced back far enough, have the same well as their source:  feelings of being unlovable.  The slow service of a waitress or the friend who's not on time may just trigger a "if I were truly important (lovable) this behavior wouldn't happen" type of irritation. 

Maybe there could be a whole school of personal or spiritual development based on examining irritations.

So what irritates you?

About this image:  I found some wonderfully playful glasses at a thrift store and as we were getting ready to use them for the first time, I noticed the colorful shadows and spent a wonderful few minutes playing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tension of the Opposites (Repost)

Black or white. Black and white ... not gray. Opposites.
What's right? What's wrong? What's true?

My new friend Diane started me thinking about contradictions and that made me think of the quantum physicist Niels Bohr who once said:
"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."

My friend Emily calls it the "Tension of the Opposites" and says insight and creativity come when we can hold those opposites, one in each hand, and be patient with the tension between them until something new emerges. Included below is her painting of this mystical process.

But, holding that tension, allowing two profound truths to exist in our minds at the same time is not easy. We can think "black" or "white" or we can mush them together into gray but it's very hard to hold them separately and allow both to be "right." And, yet, isn't that what the very process of existence is? The tension between birth and death is what we walk through daily. Today we are alive but we know the day will come when we will not be. We're either here or not here ... or is there something in between? Something that's left, still alive, still active in the world after we're gone.

Perhaps that something is what we call our legacy. Whether it's our children, our works or just the joy we've shared along the way. We touch others and make a small, or sometimes large, impression on their lives. And, in that touching we live on. Our spirit continues to exist in the world and as the people we have touched touch others, we ripple out in a continuous spiral.

Recently I visited the Enchanted Circle Pottery Gallery in Taos and spent a couple of wonderful hours with Kevin and Jo Dekeuster who are amazing potters. Over Jo's workspace hung a quote from Gandhi:

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will."

That just about says it all.

Tension of the Opposites by Emily Meek

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Gratitude: Fall

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.
-- Stanley Horowitz
You can almost feel the sigh of relief across the country as the summer heat gives way to cooler days.  In a couple of days it will be officially fall ... my second favorite season and the absolute favorite for many people.  Growing up in Kansas ... with no air-conditioning ... how did we do that? ... fall was marked by the first day when I could wear my jean jacket.  Now, summer passes rather seamlessly into fall as leaves begin to turn colors and collect on the ground until we suddenly feel and say, "Fall."

There is talk of rain, something we haven't seen in the Sierra foothills for over four months.  It will come but probably not for another month or so.  So, for now, we enjoy outdoor living and revel in the cooler days, make sure the wood is piled high, the propane tank is full and enjoy the round of fairs and festivals that are part of each autumn.

About the Image:  Taken in the Maroon Bells area near Aspen, CO

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Die in This Moment

A friend sent me the YouTube video of Eric Whitacre's "virtual choir" and I suddenly wanted to know more about this guy.  The video below gives you an overview of his work.  One of the statements he made that stopped me was when he was talking about the beauty of the close harmony in choral music.  He says it was so beautiful that he wanted to "die in the moment."   It made me think about those things that are so ecstatically beautiful that we could die at that moment and be happy.

Whitacre's virtual choir started when a young girl sent him a video of her singing one of his songs.  He thought it would be great to have hundreds of people singing together through the medium of video.  The link above takes you to the virtual choir ... and makes me ponder the incredible creativity in the world.  If we could focus more of our time and resources on this beauty and talent, perhaps we would have a different kind of world.

Take a moment, brew a cup of tea and enjoy listening and watching this passionate man and all these talented singers creating beauty.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


A year ago today I posted the first message on this blog.  One of the most amazing pieces of advice I gathered during this year was:  Someone out there needs you, live your life so they can find you.  Each one of us is a small candle of wisdom and the blogosphere gives each of us the power to shine our wisdom into the world.  I am truly grateful for the wisdom I've found here and for the opportunity to live my life more fully and more openly.

It feels as if there is a new direction in the making but I don't know what it is so, in honor of this first anniversary, I'll just defer to a master.


Sometimes when a bird cries out,

or the wind sweeps through a tree,

or a dog howls in a far-off farm,

I hold still and listen a long time.

My world turns and goes back to the place

where, a thousand forgotten years ago,

the bird and the blowing wind

were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,

and an animal, and a cloud bank.

Then changed and odd it came home

and asks me questions. What should I reply?
 -- Herman Hesse, Swiss poet and novelist

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Gratitude: Blog Goddesses

I was so committed to meeting my Sunday gratitude commitment yesterday that I grabbed the first thing that occurred to me.  I still think the Martha Graham quote is powerful and inspiring, but immediately after posting, I realized that I really wanted to focus on a different gratitude: goddesses ... specifically blog goddesses ... extra specifically MY blog goddesses.

I was especially motivated toward this gratitude because I had just finished being inspired by Diane Walker's new book on goddesses ... which if you haven't seen it, click here immediately.  (The image shown here is her goddess of flamboyance.)

A year ago this Wednesday, I started a blog (after being inspired and encouraged by Diane) ... it seemed like a better thing to do than to ruin all my friendships with my endless carrying on about the state of my life.  I was immediately embraced by a group of wise, wonderful, generous women who are each goddesses in their own rights.  There are many wonderful blogs out there and many that I never miss but there are three blog goddesses that I'd like once more to express my undying gratitude to:

     Diane at Contemplative Photography ... some of the best photography and imagery you'll see anywhere on the internet along with insightful meditations on her daily life and, as if all of the above wasn't enough, beautiful, inspiring poetry. 

     Louise at Recover Your Joy ... stories that will break your heart, make you laugh out loud or think about life in a different way ... sometimes all in the same day. 

     Maureen at Writing without Paper ... throw away your newspapers, turn off the TV news and just read this blog ... you will be happier, live longer and know that the world is a truly amazing and beautiful place. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gratitude Sunday: Wise Elders

In hopes of having Sunday's gratitude post actually show up on Sunday, I am going to express my gratitude to the wise elders who have left a trace of their wisdom behind for us to learn from.  I love this quote from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille:  (breaks have been added for emphasis)

"There is a vitality, a life force...that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.                                                                                     
And if you block it,                                                                                                                                      it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.

The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.

You have to keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open."

Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 – April 1, 1991) was an American dancer choreographer regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance, whose influence on dance can be compared to the influence Stravinsky had on music, Picasso had on the visual arts, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture. (Wikipedia)

Agnes George de Mille (18 September 1905 – 7 October 1993) was an American dancer and choreographer.  (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gratitude Sunday: Time

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."  -- Mary Anne Radmacher 
I know it's Wednesday but I've been thinking about this since Sunday.  Does that count?

This time last year I was in a dark wood of loss and confusion.  I was in a place that did not feel like home, alone and wondering which way to go.  There were no clues telling me that I was at the edge of the wood, but I was.  Time was working its magic and, though I couldn't see it, things were about to change. 

Within a few days I would attend a photography workshop where I would learn a new way of seeing and make a new friend who would inspire me to start a blog.  Writing my confusion into the blog and meeting a group of incredibly generous and wise women bloggers helped me have the courage to keep putting one step in front of the other and doing what called to me.  Within a month an unlikely relationship resolved itself and released me from the pain and confusion that accompanied it.  New friends and new opportunities began to show up.  Life began to call me back into the light.

So this week's gratitude is for the gift of time that allows our wounds to heal, our spirits to mend, and our vision to rise to new vistas. Time is the currency of life and I particularly like what Agatha Christie said:
I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. 
I have a friend who is currently in that "acutely miserable" place caring for her husband as he spends the last currency of his life.  It's a hard place and she cannot see the light that time will eventually offer her.   It's almost impossible to remember that there will be light again when we're in that dark wood but if we could carry that hope like a smooth rock in our pocket that we could rub as we walk through the pain and confusion, perhaps it would help.

For any of you who are in that dark wood, may these words be like that smooth rock and offer you hope that the edge is near, the light will come.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blog Respect

There seems to be two blog "camps" to be in ... one aims for volume and dollars ... one exists to give voice to the everyday journey of life.  While I am parked firmly in the second, "everyday," camp, I'm fascinated by the blogs and bloggers who live in the first camp and try ... and sometimes manage ... to commercialize their blogs.  Exploration of the second camp turned up a remarkable person who succeeds in both ... Jon Morrow.

I'm on Jon's mailing list and didn't realize until recently that he has muscular dystrophy and is paralyzed from the neck down.  He operates his computer with nothing but his voice.  Jon is the Associate Editor of Copyblogger, one of the most commercially successful blogs around and he obviously has been on a life journey worth blogging about.  Jon's basic advice on blogging is:  do something interesting and then blog about it.  Actually Jon puts it a little stronger:
Figure out something everyone has always wanted to do but they believe is impossible.
And then do it.
And then write about it.
It's scary, I know. BUT THAT'S THE POINT.
Do the impossible ... hmmm.  On the surface, Jon's blogging is about making money.  Under the commercial veneer, however, there is a powerful life philosophy spoken (literally) by someone who has walked a rocky path ... who has literally done the impossible and then blogged about it.  But the impossible he focuses on is not his physical limitations but the unlimited opportunity offered by the blog world.

Learn more about Jon and Copyblogger:
Twitter:  10 Tips for getting more blog traffic
How to Be Interesting  21 great tips regardless of which camp you're in
Speech recognition software video: 

About this Image: 
The Key to Beauty ... an old key from Mexico and eucalyptus bark

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letting Go

After complaining about not writing yesterday, this woke me up in the middle of the night.  Be careful of what you wish for?

Letting Go

With a leaf, I craft a tiny boat,
Stock it with the shadow of memories
and one acorn.

At the water's edge, I see
reflections of lost dreams and hopes,
piercing as thorns.

Close to the surface, I hold
what needs to be washed away
but cannot let go.

Above the chill water, I raise
my arms to the darkening oaks,
then, slowly, know.

In the middle of the stream, I bend,
dripping heartache onto the boat,
as it is claimed by the current.

Each end is a beginning.
This beginning is a gift of that end.
Now I let go.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Gift

"Creativity is a gift.  Too many of us refuse it unwittingly.  Assaulted by self-doubt, we fail to believe that it has been put into our hands.  We diminish it by insisting that we should have been child prodigies.  We insist its only proof is commercial gain.  But the creative is a gift to us from another realm, and it comes to us when it comes." 
 -- Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life
I went to a writers' retreat and I wrote.  I came home and stopped writing.  Something is going on and I'm not sure what it is but while it works itself out, I'm going to just post interesting thoughts from other people and an occasional past writing such as this poem which seems to fit Deena's thought. 
The Gift Refused

Wrapped in bows and bright paper,
       We know it must be for them.
      Surely, it can’t be for us.

It sits in the middle of our table.
     We walk a wide arc around it,
              Knowing it’s not for us.

Gradually bills, catalogs, and Sarah’s shoe
     Cover it over till only one red
              Corner of the bow peeks out

Luring the kitten whose playful swats
     Unravel the string.  Diamonds spill
               Across the table and onto the floor.