Tuesday, May 24, 2011


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."       -- Carl Sagan

We think of creation as being a unique and singular activity but one of the benefits (?) of living six plus decades is that you start to realize that there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything has predecessors.  I recall my creative writing teacher in college telling us that all possible plots were already told in The Decameron by Boccaccio.  Everything written since then was just an adaptation.

The Universe was created (method open to discussion and debate) but since then there has only been rearrangement.  Maybe we should call it playing rather than creating.  A couple of weeks ago, I was at the beach and found a miniature Stonehenge.  Someone before me had been playing.  And, since he or she, had not copyrighted, trademarked or patented the playful borrowing from a time long ago, I felt free to re-borrow it.  It is a giggly feeling to be in such intimate co-creation with someone I'll never meet or know.  I cannot perceive this person with my five senses yet it feels like our spirits are dancing together.  

Perhaps that's the gift of creativity because anytime we are "creating" we are in this dance with other spirits, with the Universe itself.  It is a delicious feeling of connection to a wide web that transcends space and time.

Beach Stonehenge

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seeds of Change

When does change begin?  

Yesterday may have launched a change ... or maybe not.  I won't know for awhile but it makes me marvel once again at the small things, the unrecognized-at-the-time things that happen that herald a major change but we don't see the connection until long afterwards when we can look back and say, "It all started there."

I'm wondering if yesterday was one of those moments.  It was an ordinary day ... a few planned projects and errands but mostly open space.  As I was checking off the errand list, I decided at the last minute to stop by the frame store and get a mat cut.  The conversation wandered off and the frame guy suggested that I check out a new print process ... at McDonalds!  Turns out that a Yosemite photographer had photos hanging there using the new process.

The path of my day veered into the McDonalds parking lot but I wonder if it was a more significant turn.  I loved the photographer's work and the process which eliminates the need for glass, mats and frames.  His phone number was on his write-up so I called him.  He answered, "I must be in trouble" and I laughed.  A few minutes later he was sitting on my deck, looking at my art and talking about possibilities, interesting possibilities.

It could all be smoke and mirrors, of course, but all things start with small seeds of possibilities.  Maybe this is one ... maybe it isn't.  But I'm now looking at things in a different way ... and that alone could be the seed of change.

About the image:  Seed of Change

My friend Diane at Contemporary Photography always seems to be a step ahead of me, challenging me to try new things.  She has an amazing image on her blog this morning and her framing technique called to me so I blissfully borrowed the idea.  

The central image is a photo I took at the breakfast table trying to read an inscription on a ring found at a garage sale.  The frame image is a view out my office window.  I was only wanting to try the technique when I started this image so I was shocked when it seemed to mirror so closely this morning's writing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Wonderland of the Creative Process

Somewhere on my recent journeys, I found a chair ... just a plain metal chair.  The seat was a pattern of holes and weathered but still brilliant paint in purples, blues and greens.  It pulled my camera out of my purse and then lingered in the back of my mind for several days before finally calling me to play in Photoshop.

I have long been fascinated by the creative process ... what starts it, where it goes and how it almost has a mind of its own.  The photo I took of the chair seat is rectangular with a mechanical pattern of metal and holes.  Rigid and static, it wanted to bend.  Photoshop is a willing, if sometimes cantankerous, servant so bend it did.  A flower form emerged.  Then sat there freed from its linear constraints but not knowing where it wanted to take its new freedom.

It rested like a magnet pulling other images toward it and then spinning them away when they turned out to be wrong.  Silently rejecting image after image, this holey-holy-wholly flower had a mind of its own.  When a spiraled nautilus shell paraded onto the page, the magnetic force snapped it into place like a puzzle piece and spun out a larger, fainter version in another part of the page.  And, then rested again.

I thought it was complete.  It wasn't.  It kept calling and I kept offering tidbits that were spit back out as it if were a fussy child.  It hesitated over a butterfly, tasted it, contemplated it and then waved it away.  I was becoming frustrated wondering if there really was another piece in this puzzling image now called "Wholly Flower."  The butterfly had felt almost right.  Then I noticed a small caterpillar image.  I had never been happy with the image because the caterpillar was crawling away from me on a leaf when what I had really wanted was to see its face.  

But, the caterpillar said "try me" and when I dropped it into the mix, the whole image came alive and said Done! Even the name changed.  The caterpillar looked like it was trying to crawl into one of the holes and it made me think of Alice in Wonderland and exploring new worlds.  It took on the name Wonderland.

The creative process is probably as unique as fingerprints but what amazes and amuses me is how it almost doesn't seem to have anything to do with me.  I feel like an observer whose primary job is to watch and listen ... and do its bidding.  Sometimes I wish it would speak in a louder, clearer voice but, overall, it is a gift.  I sometimes feel just like that small caterpillar heading into that dark hole.  I don't know what's ahead of me but I know it will nourish me ... and, maybe, on the other side I will turn into a butterfly.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We're all the same.

Last night I was part of a love affair.  It was a Yanni concert and love was definitely in the air ... between Yanni and his musicians and between us, the audience, and Yanni and the musicians that played as if they were having the time of their lives.  

In some concerts a magical sense of connection happens ... this was one of them.  Maybe part of it was that we wound up front-row, center stage and could see every nuance of his facial gestures and those of his musicians, including Charlie, the drummer, who thrilled the audience when he stood up with a Fresno Bulldogs t-shirt on ... and played one of the longest, most exciting drum solos I've heard for decades.

Perhaps the biggest thrill for me was when Yanni repeated, in his deep, Greek-tinged voice, his statement from "Live at the Acropolis,"

"I want you to remember one more thing:  Every great thing that has ever happened to humanity since the beginning has begun as a single thought in someone's mind.  And, if any of us is capable of such a great thought, then all of us have the same capacity because we're all the same."       

In one concert we got great music, a display of true generosity and musical collaboration and a deep wish for peace and creativity in our world.  Here's a sample of Yanni:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mothering an Idea

I love it when life delivers a lesson in a small, painless package letting us unwrap it and savor it slowly and gently.  Yesterday one of those packages arrived.

I attend a small, new thought church that lives in a run-down, commercial rental property.  A few years ago, "we" bought a four-acre property with the intention of building a new church home.  Two weeks ago the foundation for the building was poured and now the challenge is to raise the $150,000 it will take to build it ... current building fund: a little over six thousand.  It's a big step and no one knows how it will happen.  But, intentions are strong and we've seen miracles happen before.  

Two months ago, we were told that we needed to pay over $30,000 in fees before building could begin.  A group from church appealed and presented a four-page, single-spaced list of everything the church has contributed to the community.  It is an impressive list and the Board of Supervisors abated all but $2,000 of the fees and they were made payable when construction is complete.  But, still, $150,000 is a lot of money to raise for a small congregation in a rural community.

A few weeks ago I decided that this could be an interesting story in the making and offered to document the progress of the building fund.  Last week I suggested to a few of the leaders that we take an altar statue to the site and create a beginning picture to help us visualize the possibilities.  The idea was well-received and we made a plan.  However, somewhere between that moment and the following week, I faltered.

I began to think it was a stupid idea, that no one would show up, that I was being a pushy newcomer, that Mother's Day was the wrong day, and so on and so on.  Yesterday dawned cold and a little rainy so I decided it definitely wasn't the right day.  When I arrived at church, I told the person leading the service to announce that we would do it next week, thinking it would probably just fade away.  

Then the first speaker started talking about mothers, which I expected, and about divine creativity, which I hadn't expected.  I noticed that the room was filled with flowers, bouquets left over from a mid-week memorial service and the roses that all the mothers were given as we arrived.  Suddenly, I realized that this was the perfect day to celebrate the beginning ... the birth ... of our new church home.  On this day of honoring mothers, we were also mothering a new idea, a new intention.  I also realized that I had almost killed my idea ... I had failed to mother it.

Fortunately, I was able to let the leader know that the plan was back on and dozens of us went to the site, taking the flowers and the symbolic statue with us.  We took pictures and enjoyed our first gathering in our new location.  And, I was reminded about the importance of mothering and protecting ideas ... they are fragile and need to be nourished and supported.  

This image will hang in the sanctuary as a symbol of the building to come.  I will periodically report on the progress of the Positive Living Center building project.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chaos and Trust

"It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust. "
    -- Samuel Johnson

Last week my dad died.  He was 90 and all his systems were shutting down ... it was his time.  When my mom died three years ago, all he wanted to do was die also.  But his life veered off on a different path, in some ways good, in some ways simply bizarre.  He met, befriended and was befriended by a soap opera cast of characters and I got a glimpse into a world of "tweakers" where jobs are rare and truth is rarer. 

It's probably an old story ... young women with a seedy past and few prospects and an old man, lonely with nothing to live for.  For three years they entertained him, gave him something to look forward to ... and took his money.  He didn't have much so it probably balanced out.  But, as he approached death and then died, the feeding frenzy over his already bare-bones estate escalated into a chaotic torrent of accusations, counter-accusations, police involvement and a blizzard of phone calls.

Trying to handle by phone the mountain of details that accompany death meant dealing with these people and with numerous police officers who kept getting called into the mix.  I am basically a trusting person and will believe anything someone tells me until I find out it's not true.  This past week offered me a lot of finding out.  It made me realize how precious truth and trust are.  Once those are gone, life is a very uncertain place.

This morning, I sit in my office looking out at this bright green day with the sound of weed-whacking overwhelming the calls of the blue jays and woodpeckers and I am grateful for every true sound and for every person in my life who tells me the truth and has proven themselves completely trustworthy.  I've taken that truth and trustworthiness for granted for way too long.

And, I take the moral from Sam Johnson ... it is still better to trust people and be wrong occasionally than not to trust at all ... that would be hell.