M is for Mess-making

In the studio copyright Debra Myers Woodward
In the studio
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

As an artist, there are many ways to go about painting a painting or creating a sculpture or building a pot, but almost all of them involve the willingness to make a mess.  Even if the process is a fairly neat one like drawing, there is a certain amount of messiness to the process, even if its just in the process of going from idea to finished product.

Life is often messy as well.  And like many if not most people, I tend to think that messes are “bad” and clean and orderly is “good.”  But putting those judgments on any given moment in a process is really self-defeating.  If I am not willing to go through messy to get to a fully realized state, whether talking about art or life, then I will often be frustrated and stressed about what things look like. And then resistance shows up. Creativity does not thrive in this environment.

So I am trying to embrace messiness as just a snapshot in time.  Its merely a stage, not a state of being–a stage that comes around again and again and again.  And in making art, like living life, messiness is necessary.  The more we embrace the process, the more we will stay centered and strong through it. We can even celebrate that we are moving forward and stepping into unknown territory (as if we have a choice!)

Each day is new. We have never done this day before, so there is always a possibility of a mess. Lets try on this idea of accepting it and seeing it as part of our journey to peace with ourselves.

L is for Love (although it could also be Late!)!

Morning dew on tiny flowers Copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Morning dew on tiny flowers
Copyright Debra Myers Woodward

This weekend my nephew got married to the love of his life, really of all of our lives. They are a beautiful couple both inside and out!

So this got me to thinking, just what is love?  That may seem like a ridiculous question, right? We all have experience with this thing called love. And yet the word love can be used to describe how we feel about chocolate as well as our sister, or our favorite sports team  and our spouse.

So it seems useful to say that this is something that should be meditated on early and often to find what it means to us.

Perhaps one way to make a distinction in types of love is whether it is selfless or covetous. If your “love” leads you to covet the object of your affection, like chocolate or your boyfriend, maybe that’s not love but desire or possession. On the other hand, a love that is selfless or unconditional is truer to the real thing.

The Bible says that God is Love. And I see this as the truest form of Love. It is spiritual and universal. It heals and redeems. It encourages, uplifts, and comforts. And this divine Love embraces the whole world and all that is in it without condition or requirement. And that is truly a saving Grace.

Love seems to be easier to define by what it does, how it looks, and its effect than by its essence.  What does love mean to you?

I is for Indigo!

IndigoLast week I participated in a Shibori dye workshop with a good friend, Magda Dia, who offers workshops and classes at Jump Into Art.  I had a great time meeting new people and learning how to use indigo dye in this Japanese technique.  Here are a few of the things that I took from my closet and refashioned with Shibori.

This process is a resist-dyeing method where fabric is folded, wrapped, compressed, stitched and tied to create beautiful white spaces within the blue.  Almost anything that is water resistant can be used in the process – rubber bands are a favorite, string, wood blocks and dowels, pvc pipe, stones, marbles, and more.  Anything compressed that doesn’t allow the dye in will remain white.

In thinking about a metaphor, I usually consider resistance to be something to overcome.  And eventually, even in Shibori dying, one must unbind the fabric to reveal the beauty. In thinking about this, I can see how resistance does serve us when we can find no other way to stand honestly in our power.

But we can’t continue to resist forever and never unbind those moments where we haven’t allowed in the transforming, healing power of love. We must learn to love who we are, even the bound up version of ourselves that can be so awkward and difficult to work with, just as the tied and bound fabric was often hard to work with.

But look what was revealed! And this will be true for you and me.  The beauty of a life lived, even through binding and unbinding ourselves into and out of knots, will be revealed to be a fuller expression than if we had not lived and grown in such ways. Loving the process is a great step toward the unbinding – in Shibori and  in life.


H is for Hallelujah

River series, Autumn NFS Pastel on paper and canvas
River series, Autumn
Pastel on paper and canvas 30″x40″

When I first heard Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, I was so moved tears ran down my face.  He captures such depth and broken-heartedness. His voice, so intimate and personal, gently floats along like a slow-moving wide river carrying all who listen along with him.  It is a slow dance; a gentle rain on tender shoots of grass. He finishes the ballad by holding an impossibly long note, which you will try to hold too the second or third time around.

And having written the above, I found it interesting to go looking for his life story a bit. I knew he died young, but I didn’t know that he drowned in the Mississippi River near Nashville while swimming alone at night.  For several years I lived near the Mississippi River, and it was this very river I was thinking of as I wrote the first paragraph.  Its interesting to me how writing, like life, knows its way and shares it’s wisdom so generously without our even asking.

Hallelujah, indeed.

To listen to Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah, go here.

Note: The above pastel painting was made during the time I lived near the Mississippi near St. Louis just as the water started to recede from the annual flooding.  The small house is on one of the islands. The stacks in the background have been taken down and replaced with a larger single stack for the electric plant that provides for the communities surrounding it.

F is for Found Poetry

I really liked another AtoZ Blogger‘s idea to write a Dadaist poem. And so today when I couldn’t come up with a word for F, I looked up types of poetry that start with F and discovered something called a “found poem” popular many decades ago.

Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning. (from Wikipedia)
So when I googled found poetry, amazing artistic images came up of old book pages with loops around words and paintings and drawings in between.  I am so excited at this discovery, I can barely sit still.  So rather than just write out a Found Poem, I will make one!
This comes from the only thing I had with me, a page I had typed up for a meeting last week and colored pens and a blue highlighter.  Work with what you’ve got!  Enjoy.
Peace Spoke
Peace Spoke
                about refugees,
someone       with

E is for Elephants

Song of the elephantsThis is one of my favorite animals. I find something so healing and comforting about their large lumbering bodies and soft eyes. They seem to be the definition of peace and steadfastness. It saddens me greatly that they are being poached in such huge numbers and that we may live to see the last of the wild elephants.

I remember reading about elephants on a website devoted to animal communication. I learned that elephants have been found to have very low frequency communication which they “listen” to through their feet and trunks. (Read more about this at NatGeo here.) They also are known to have ancient migratory routes that they travel regardless of fences or other barriers which they may trample rather than walk around.  The explanation by Anna Breytenbach, a well-known animal communicator was that they are singing the earth into balance, along with their counterparts in the ocean, whales.

There is obvious intelligence and emotion in these animals as evidenced in their behavior noted in many articles. Here is one and another. And as the largest mammals on land, there is a compelling reason to protect their place on earth whether you believe they sing the earth into balance or not.

And me, being me, I sometimes sit and contemplate what would it sound like if I were to sing the earth into balance? What might my song be?

D is for Dragons

Lace-wing LandscapeDo you know how sometimes there are things in life that you just don’t want to deal with?  It might be a difficult relationship, or knotty problem, or even a important thing like your health?  It’s too … something… too scary? too uncertain? too hard to deal with, so you don’t.  You just keep pushing the thought of it away, because whenever it comes up, DRAGONS.  That’s what it feels like. Fire-breathing dragons.

My dragon has been the thought of getting a regular full-time job. I’ve worked part-time jobs over the years, and I have sold art, writing, and other things along the way (candles, anyone?) But the whole 9 to 5 thing really has me  flustered.

This morning I took a closer look at why that was so scary to me. And it was clear that I was holding the image of my former full-time jobs from over 20 years ago–sitting at a desk all day, waiting for the weekends, dealing with back and shoulder pain and bosses’ expectations. Or on the flip-side, working in retail or food on my feet all day.

And it hit me. Even though over 20 years has passed, I still believe that all full-time jobs (that I might be able to get) are like that. Talk about being stuck looking in the rearview mirror! Who’s driving the car?!

If we are going to move forward, we really need to look where we are going, and spend much less time looking in the rearview mirror.  It’s helpful to glance back there from time to time, but if we stay focused there, we have to stop the car or have a wreck.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the bend. Can you identify areas in your life where you are focused on the dragons in your past?  Take a look more closely, maybe the fire is just all smoke and mirrors.

C is for Capture

"Bowie's Labyrinth"So when I sat down yesterday to think about what I would write about, I wondered what word that begins with C would come up.  Immediately, “capture” came to thought.  I started to dismiss it and then couldn’t help but wonder, what would I write about capture?

Two things came to thought right away.  The first, a common use of the word capture, was that of capturing an animal.  It implied traps and cages.  Similarly, capturing a criminal might bring up the idea of jail. But the idea that really resonates with me is capturing an image, as in photographing something.

In all the first two examples of capturing, you are confining something to a certain space.  In the latter example, you are confining the image to a moment in time.  Usually we try to capture moments that are meaningful or beautiful or happy.  And often we look back on those photographs with melancholy or sadness because those moments have passed. Things are not as they once were.

And here is where I want to explore a different response.  Instead of longing for an imagined past, or hoping for a better future (or afraid of a bad future), I am trying to live in the moment I am in.  To take in the beauty, the sadness, the joy, the boredom of THIS moment. It won’t come again. It can’t really be captured and held at all.  It must be lived and let go. The more I am able to do that, the more peace I experience. Centered in Now, I am fully present to you, to me, and to this moment. And this moment is something I don’t want to miss.



B is for Baby

"Love is a present"This morning I went to Starbucks to do one of my favorite things, read and drink coffee.  I need
ed to get centered. The place was packed and most tables were taken, but I found one in the back that I could sit at away from the unseasonably cold air coming in the front door.  I decided to forgo the line and ordered from my phone.  Soon after getting my coffee and settling in to read, two women and a toddler sat at the only table adjacent to mine, and the woman across from me began talking very loudly and very fast.  Oh no! There goes my peaceful centering time.

But rather than fleeing, I popped in my earbuds and turned up Enya. I was going to salvage my personal time and space.  Shortly after the “intrusion” I looked up to see this small round face grinning widely at me as though he had just heard the best joke in the world.  His eyes were completely taking me in as though I was the only one in the place – we two were one.

After that I forgot my reading.  I forgot the cold. I was captivated by moments when this Baby Buddha caught my eye and grinned again.  He looked at others and they grinned too.  He pointed to people

and pictures hanging on the wall and his orange juice, which his mom held for him to drink through a straw.  Then he looked up at me again and we smiled.  Shortly after we started this dance of delight, he held his hand up toward me as though he held the top of a jar and screwed it back and forth a few times in a wave.  I returned the corkscrew wave back.  We both grinned.

We kept on in this way for half an hour while the woman with fast words spoke to his mom, who managed to be attentive to her son and her friend.  I’m not surprised. Who else could be bringing up this One who seems to know the whole of the Universe and offers it to the rest of us in his smile.


A is for Aperture

Untitled AbstractWell, I have leapt into the fray with all fours.  I signed up for the A to Z blogging challenge. I have Diana Beebe to thank for that! (Visit her blog, Mermaids Don’t Do Windows at dianabeebe.com.)  The intention is to blog 6 days a week for the whole of April, using the alphabet to guide each days subject (A for today, B tomorrow, etc.)

I have wanted to start blogging for a while and just haven’t done it. So this should be interesting.

Today’s topic is about light and how much we let in.  On a camera, the aperture is the space or hole that allows light into the lens when you take a photograph. Adjusting the size of the hole, allows in more light or less and is used to adjust the camera to the lighting situation you find yourself in.

But today’s blog isn’t about shooting photography.  I consider myself a spiritual warrior.  For me, light is what I take into battle with me, if it can be called that (and sometimes it definitely feels like a battle.)  Light provides clarity. It illumines any situation. It literally helps one see where they are going.

I have found myself in the dark many times. And sometimes there seems to be very little light available to me, but even a small amount can be enough to find my way out.  My favorite Bible verse includes this (from Psalms): “If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.”  What lets the night appear as light? A wide open aperture.

And being wide open, arms flung open to the heavens, is a perfect image that captures the surrender to a higher power and intelligence when all seems lost. When we invite in whatever light is available and stay present to witness its coming, we will find it in the smallest of ways. A smile from a passerby, a friend calling to say hello, a small act of kindness from a stranger. Even kindness witnessed toward others can lift our eyes to see the dawning day.

I witnessed just such a kindness this morning at Starbucks. An elderly gentleman was there sitting in a chair in the space between two parked cars, having coffee and conversation with his friend who was sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the cars.  When his friend couldn’t come to the table, he took his chair to his friend. I was deeply touched by this evidence of Love.

And to receive the full benefits of the light, the good, that I witness, I feel gratitude for each appearance.  There are many more ways to find light in one’s life.  How have you opened up the aperture in your life to see more light?