Got a Light?

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, died yesterday at the age of eight-three.  I’ve been reading her work since I was introduced to her talent in graduate school.  I’ve been deliberate to follow the release of her new work to add to the collection of her books.  I’ve been mesmerized not only by her poetry, but what she represented as an artist. She was a conscious, thoughtful, and feisty woman.

 I remember listening to her on the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett.  Oliver was smoking during the interview emphasizing her self-directed, stubborn, and living life on one’s own terms mentality.  She was simple and complicated.

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Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

I think a lot about lighting a candle to honor those who have died and in the same breath thinking about their death as their flame being blown out.  Why do we go to fire for the life force?  What is it about a flickering flame that holds our gaze, while holding our consciousness hostage in the mystery of something we can get close to, can’t touch, can warm us and burn us, can light our way or burn everything down creating a blackout?

One of my favorite Broadway musicals, Rent, has a song that starts, “Gotta a light?”  It’s two people in an abandoned warehouse where they’re living with no heat, not electric, and yet these two want to begin their romantic dance by playing with a candle.  The cycle of the flame, going from lighting to extinguishing will be the metaphor or their relationship throughout the show.  Isn’t that true for our lives?  We’re in the light at some points and completely in the dark in others.

As we say goodbye to Mary Oliver, I will ask you if you’ve got a light?  Do you have a recurring beacon of hope and warmth serving to provide solace during times of despair? I believe Oliver’s poems will light out way for many years.  Here’s to Ms. Oliver!

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We’ll Go Round in Circles

I love the mystery of the mind.  I never know where I will go when I begin my meditation.  I light the candle, start the music, and sit down at the table.  I say a prayer, lift the needle and thread, and begin the practice.  It takes a few moments to enter a place of rhythm and calm.

The stitches progress and today I’m especially aware of the shape I’m stitching. I’m in love with circles. I have very few works of art where I don’t incorporate circles.  One of my mentors, noted anthropologist Angeles Arrien wrote a book titled Signs of Life: the Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them.  The five universal shapes are circle, square, triangle, cross, and spiral.  Like numbers and colors, we all have a shape we’re drawn to…mine is circles.

person holding multicolored container
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

As I stich I think about and begin to experience the universality of the circle.  Our community within the Feast for the Soul feels like a circle, no beginning or end.  It feels like the communal act of meditating with those around the globe punctuates my love circles.  It also makes me feel connected to my practice and all those whose energy I’m incorporating in my practice.

The other aspect of the circle is the notion of returning to a place I’ve been before.  When I “circle” back I dig a deeper groove in my consciousness. It works to emphasize thoughts that are important or those I need to explore further.  Revisiting experiences, thoughts, and feelings provides a nest of safety and security.  It allows me to spiritually nest in comfort.

I was surprised the circle theme permeated my meditation so early in the Feast for the Soul.  It’s part of the mystery of what will bubble up to the surface!

POV

There are many influences in our lives. If you look at how you get your news, what inspires you, what angers you, and what challenges you, you’ll have a clue about what creates your point-of-view. One of the things I’ve been pondering given the state-of-the-world is how permeable is my being. What in the world gets through to my emotional and spiritual self?

There are a number of things that stay ever present for me. I read the posts of people I grew up with and see their Facebook posts and wonder how people who grew up with similar economic backgrounds, cultural and education backgrounds, and geographic influences can grow up to be so diverse. Life experiences once we left our protected hometown influences us and I’m amazed at the diversity that has emerged over the years.

If you watch any talent related, in particular singing, reality shows, you’ll know how important point-of-view is to becoming a success. The agents and producers are looking for what makes each potential “star” unique. The real world is a bit different because inherently we’re all unique. Nature and nurture have permeated our being and paved the road for who we become.

I was watching a broadcast the other day and the moderator encouraged, maybe even challenged each viewer to find someone with an opposing world view and have a conversation. He specifically focused on the word conversation because too often it’s a debate. The goal is to allow differing points-of-view to enter the circle. Given the current political and social climate in the United States that’s a difficult task.

It’s not uncommon for me to go from zero to sixty in my emotional life as I respond (notice I said respond) to a news report or interview. The good thing is that energy moves me to action. The bad thing is that it becomes a reflex and perhaps I should be looking for more constructive ways to resolve issues. I’m not saying opponents to my point-of-view would be willing, evidenced by my congressman’s tweets last night, but when does dialogue enter the picture?

I believe this is why supporting the arts is imperative to the health of our civilization. I don’t have to be antagonistic when I’m representing myself creatively. In the studio, I’m able to release the energy, state my message, and not be invisible. As artists we can give voice to those who feel invisible.

We’re in trying times and having a point-of-view should be cherished. When you scrape away all the crap, the least common denominator is the desire for us to be safe, healthy, and happy. The question is how do we keep returning to the least common denominator and move forward? What will you’re point-of-view add to the conversation?

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 38 Perspective

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective over the past week; mainly as it pertains to a quilt I’ve been designing. I’ve been looking at color and proportion, seeing if it all works. On the other hand, I’ve also been thinking about gaining perspective as it relates to world/national events.

Is it possible to have perspective if you are entrenched in a particular point-of-view? How do we uproot ourselves enough to allow perspective to be a player in our worldview? Have you thought about why perspective is important?

I was watching a terrific documentary Get the Picture about photo editor John G Morris. He quotes Robert Capa, an amazing photojournalist who said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I thought this was an interesting quote because he’s talking about perspective. In his case, he is commenting on the impact and newsworthiness of a photo.

Have you ever had someone recommend that you step back and gain some perspective? I have, and I can tell you that statement usually angers me because I feel as if my point-of-view is being negated. I’d much rather someone offers a counter theory/account/knowledge so I can derive my own conclusions.

It’s clear that in the world of politics and religion, perspective is always on the frontlines. It is often the battlefield because we begin to argue dogma instead of personal beliefs, towing the “party” line. Whatever happened to independent thought? Why are we so willing to fall into a trench without critical thinking being part of the equation?

Perspective is something that goes beyond art. It’s something that impacts how we related to one another. Perspective can be our best friend if we allow it to play a part in the equation of our lives!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 37 Learning

I like school! My mother always promised me that if she won the lottery, I could go to school for the rest of my life. She hasn’t won the lottery, but I’ve done my fair share of school. I enjoy being challenged. I thrive on building a community of like-minded people. I’m hooked on expanding my treasure chest of knowledge.

The interesting thing about learning is it doesn’t have to be done in a formal setting. I was talking to Jeanne, the owner of the local quilt shop where I’ve taught. The last class I was going to teach didn’t have enough enrollments so the class was cancelled. I asked her why she thought the number of people taking classes had declined. She said that with the huge explosion of YouTube, fewer people were leaving their homes when they can find the information online.

I hadn’t thought about the use of YouTube for learning techniques, or hearing interviews, but sure enough, there’s so much information out there it would make your head spin.

The library is another treasure trove for knowledge. In the town where I live they built a new library. It’s an amazing building and has lots of features beyond just books. I asked the librarian if people were using the library. She informed me that since the new library has opened, they’ve seen a 60% increase in library card registrations.

My most recent method of learning has been documentaries. I’ve watched more than fifteen documentaries on art, artists, and fashion over the last couple of weeks. I find watching a documentary with a creative bent inspires me to get to the studio and create my own work. These stories blaze trails and open my eyes to what’s possible in telling my own story.

I guess what I’m saying is there’s more than one-way to learn. The world is full of opportunities beyond the classroom to learn and explore. Lifelong learning is important because it keeps us current. It makes us more interesting and research has shown the lifelong learning can decrease the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Go take a class. Learn an instrument or a foreign language. Explore the many avenues available to expand your mind.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 33 Focus

It’s said that focus is important for achieving your goals. Thinking about focus was a result of working in the studio. I’ve been working on a few pieces. Two are based on motifs I’ve been working on since the beginning of the Winter Feast for the Soul, and the other is an experimental piece.

Focus refers to attention. When I think of focus it brings images of a camera. I want things in focus because it gives definition to the subject. It gives parameters to what I’m viewing. When I focus I feel dedicated to my process. The interesting thing is focus makes things clear, but often my work is messy.

I remember attending an artist talk years ago at Plus Gallery. The artwork was abstract in a sense. There were some aspects that looked like it had some realistic roots, but it was as if Vaseline had been smeared on the lens.

The artist began talking about her inspiration and her process. A member of the audience asked about this particular show and her response cleared up the mystery. She explained that many days during the week she rides the bus. She would spend hours riding the bus with sketchbook in hand she sketched. The paintings were her vision of the road as she’s passing the sites while riding the bus.

I liked her explanation because it played with the concept of blurry focus. What I was thinking about today in the studio was that focus can be whatever I want it to be because it’s centered on what I’m open and present to at that time. The meditation allowed me to view focus about the experience than an exact definition.

My meditation is about focus. It allows me to focus on my breathing. It allows me to focus on my devotion to my art. It allows me to focus on creativity and storytelling. I’m thinking I’d like to meditate on being out-of-focus and see what surfaces. If I spend a meditation session on that experience I’ll let you in on my insights.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 29 Experimentation

There are times in our lives when we try things that are supposed to be good for us. We try fad diets, adult coloring books, drink green tea, and learn to slam poetry as a way to express us. I believe that when we experiment we step outside the lines. We expand our horizons. Moving out of our comfort zone has it’s perks and obviously is not without its fears.

Today I started playing with stitches on my new sewing machine. The machine has 350 built-in stitches so I have a lot of options. What I find interesting while trying these new stitches is they evoke different feelings. They create moods. They accentuate and punctuate aspects of my art.

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I don’t like change. If you know me, or come to know me, you’ll see that I dig my heels in when change makes its presence known. I’m using the sewing machine and my art as way to ease into the realm of experimentation. I figure, if I can do it in my art, I can transfer that action to the real world.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a risk taker. When I moved to California from New Jersey, I got on a plane one hot August evening with two boxes and a suitcase. I relocated 3000 miles to go to school. I didn’t know anyone in California, didn’t have a job, and didn’t have a place to live. This is an example of ultimate experimentation. Of course, I was thirty years younger than I am currently. You’d think experimentation gets easier with life experience, but I haven’t found that to be the case.

I’ve allowed my meditation to be a place of experimentation. I can experiment in thought and feeling allowing me to explore what frightens me, excites me, and challenges me. During these quiet and thoughtful times I’m able to go beyond my self-imposed limits. I’m able to experiment with the “what if” questions. I can live in the space of “as if” and I have permission and freedom to be and do anything I choose.

Meditation is like being a “life” mad scientist. I can be as sane or weird as I choose. I can explore the most conservative and insane ideas. I can dream and then land in my body. Experimentation in my meditation world is life affirming!