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.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Joy 40/82: New Moon

Tonight is the New Moon at 9:52 PM PDT (Pacific Daylight Time). Where I live now has a minimum of ambient light so the moon and the stars are just stunning.  The moon has always held great meaning and mystery for us and the Power Path School of Shamanism has this to say about the new moon tonight and how we might celebrate it: 
This is a great time to honor the feminine, to go back to zero, start over, clean your slate and set your intentions. These should be your intentions about you and not about someone else. How do YOU want to manifest, create, express and feel? You will definitely want to spend some time by yourself today connecting in with and appreciating the power that you do have to intend for things to be just the way you want them. Make sure your intentions are set from essence and not created by the personality or one of the obstacles such as greed. Being as this is the month for resolution, completion and healing, this is also a good time to simply observe in yourself what needs attention in these areas and set an intention to complete, resolve and heal whatever needs it.
About this image:  "Winter Night" ... of course this is a full moon rather than a new moon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Joy 39/82: Rumi

I love the fact that a poet who died in 1273 (on my birthday, by the way), is the best selling poet in today's world.  Of course he was helped a bit by Coleman Barks, his charismatic translator.  Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from Rumi:

"A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home."


*******


"Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of


water hear the waves or a hunting
falcon hears the drums come back.


This turning toward what you deeply love
saves you."


******


"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep."


******


"Learn the alchemy true human beings know.
The moment you accept what troubles you've been given,
the door will open."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Joy 38/82: Synchronicity

This past weekend I was in a workshop with Michael Meade and got to see synchronicity in action.  Michael's life has been an intriguing journey into story and mythology and was inadvertently launched when his aunt gave him a copy of Edith Hamilton's "Gods and Goddesses" for his thirteenth birthday (she had intended to give him a book on history but picked up the wrong one).

Being something of a rebel and a rule-breaker, when Michael was drafted into the Vietnam conflict in 1965, he decided it wasn't a declared war so he shouldn't have to go.  Obviously that didn't start his Army career off to a good start and when he told them he wasn't going to "kill people I didn't know for a reason I didn't understand," he wound up in a military prison in Panama.  For reasons he didn't fully understand then, he decided to quit eating and over a period of 8 weeks went from 154 pounds to 87 pounds and was frequently told he was about to die.

As he told this story to us in the workshop, he discribed the visions of gods and goddesses from the Hamilton book he had during this ordeal and how it sealed his fate in story and mythology.  However, later in the workshop, someone asked him how he got out of prison.  He said he really wasn't sure but what he had heard was that some guard had called Bobby Kennedy's office and told them that one of his constituents was dying in a military prison in Panama.  As the story goes, Kennedy called Panama and told whomever that if his constituent wasn't released immediately, he was coming down there in person.

The story gets stranger.  Apparently Michael has only recently started telling this part of his story and at a recent workshop, a woman came up to him later and told him that she had worked with Kennedy and wondered if Michael knew what Kennedy had been reading at that time.  Of course he said he didn't and she explained that RFK had been so devastated by his brother's assassination that Jackie Kennedy had suggested that he might find comfort in the ancient Greek myths and gave him a copy of Edith Hamilton's book, "Gods and Goddesses."  At that point in the story, we were gripped by invisible thread weaving through Michael's life, but more was coming.

After Michael told this part of his story, a participant in the workshop added to the thread.  He had told us earlier that he was an activist film-maker turned teacher.  He was a tall, thin man with a quavery voice and he touched us with his story of working with his students. Now he stood and told us that he had planned to talk to Michael the day before about a book he was starting to write but had never found the right time.  Now he knew why ... the story was still unfolding.  He told us that he had been working on the RFK campaign and was there the day Bobby was assassinated.  As he said, "When the shots rang out, I was the one that grabbed the microphone and tried to calm the crowds so when the news broke on television, what many people saw was a tall, pale man with a quavery voice telling them that Kennedy had been shot."

By the time he finished, the emotion in the room was palpable.  Many of us in the room were old enough to have felt personally wounded by the season of assassinations and the synchronicity of this continuing story of connection and the web of life moved us all deeply.

YouTube offers a taste of Michael Meade which you might enjoy.

Fate and Destiny: Part 1
Fate and Destiny: Part 2
Fate and Destiny: Part 3 -- at about minute 13, Michael starts one of his drumming stories
Fate and Destiny: Part 4 -- this starts with the conclusion of the story from Part 3
Fate and Destiny: Part 5
Fate and Destiny: Part 6

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Joy 37/82: Free Elections

On this day of all souls, I will be a microscopic cog in a mighty wheel, one of the hundreds of thousands of people working to assure our basic right to cast our vote, speak our minds about the future of our country.  Last night several of us met at the Oakhurst Community Center to set up the tables and the voting booths.  Today we will feel the weight of democracy as we carry the carefully sealed bag of ballots to the public place and follow the detailed instructions on how to make sure every registered voter has a chance to place their vote in the sealed ballot box.

The small group of us working here in Oakhurst are undoubtedly of different political views as this commuity is a microcosm of the whole.  And, yet, we are all here with one primary purpose:  to see that the process of voting is done fairly.  We have taken an oath to carry out our duties with integrity.

In some ways today and the process I will be involved with is largely symbolic as a large percentage of voters are now voting by mail.  By now, most people have made up their minds about the candidates and issues on the ballot so the course for our future has been cast.  Let us pray that the decisions are good and the candidates chosen are wise enough to live up to the challenges before them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Joy 36/82: Humor

Insanity is contagious ... let's hope the rally becomes an epidemic.  Here's the top 100 signs from this weekend
... and my favorite.