W is for Wild

Solar Wind copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Solar Wind
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

There has always been a place in my heart for this word, Wild. I don’t really understand its full meaning or resonance, but it definitely evokes something in me that is primal and vital.

Its not about acting wild. It doesn’t have to do with physicality either.  It’s more of an honoring of the Source of my existence and living out from that with freedom.

If instead we choose to follow a broad path of acquiescence to societal norms and expectations, we may find that our spirit gets tamped down, caged and eventually withers us from the inside out.

We have all seen these withered people. Some are angry all the time (and rightly so). Others are despondent and depressed. And still others drink or drug their anxiety into numbness and oblivion (even prescribed medication can be a form of numbing because we refuse to acknowledge the real source of our ailment.) And we may recognize the withered one in ourselves.

I remember when the Dallas Zoo had all their big cats in small cages (some still are, I think.)  Their life span at that time was 3 years!  Ours might last a little longer because we let our anxiety seep out or drug it.  But its worth noting that we can’t keep our true wildness caged for too long, or we will wither and die as well.

As for how to go about truly honoring what is inside, I can only suggest that we each find stillness and listen to the voice within.  That voice is God, the Wild Original, and is calling to us always.  The path to our expression of it is our own and will be like no one else’s, although we will find encouragement and camaraderie by others who have the courage to venture toward their wildness as well.

Today is a good day to begin or renew the journey.

O is for Octopus

"Moon-age Dreaming" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“Moon-age Dreaming”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I recently had a dream about going on a train or subway with my son. We had an octopus that we had to put in a plastic box.  It filled the box as we put the lid on.

I have a book on Native American animal imagery and meanings they have for different animals.  Unfortunately, octopus wasn’t included, so I did what any modern-day inquisitor does, I googled it.

It isn’t so hard to discover what associations octopi are likely to yield: creativity, ingenuity, intelligence.  Have you watched videos of their amazing escapes? I read just the other day of an octopus named Inky escaping from the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Now that  requires ingenuity! Swim free Inky!

But this got me to thinking about my dream. Have I boxed in my creativity, my ingenuity and intelligence. I could answer yes, definitely so. I am just beginning to write again, thanks to this April A-to-Z challenge. But I go long stretches without painting. And not because I don’t have ideas!

So one of my intentions this week is to make room for painting.  Are there things you haven’t made time for that you know would be good for you?  Its never too late to create a space of even 10 minutes a day to cherish your well-being by doing what you love. Maybe this small opening will lead to the freedom of the ocean like it did for Inky.

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?

J is for Judgment

At some point in my life, not all that many years ago, I suddenly woke up to the idea of radically not judging others.

I think the idea was planted the day that someone was driving insanely crazy near me in a lot of traffic.  First they tailgated me, so I slowed way down.  Then when they had an opening they flew past me on the right, cut across my lane in front of me and into the left turn lane at the light we were approaching.  Of course, I blew my horn and probably gave them angry face — you know the one.  But when I looked to the left to see where they were going, my heart sank.  They were pulling into the emergency entrance of a hospital.

I instantly felt childish and inconsiderate.  I had assumed they were jerks, (another J word!) but it turned out that the jerk was me.

After that, I began looking at people differently. I realized that I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know why they act the way they do, even day after day. Who knows what difficult upbringing they may have had, or even when they are my own family members, I don’t know what all they experienced.  I don’t know how they were treated in school. I don’t know what hopes they weren’t allowed to develop.

I am realizing now that I still am challenged by drivers who ride my bumper or cut me off (or heaven forbid, drive slowly!!)  But I can say, that in most areas of my life, I have really learned to judge much less often–not just others, but myself as well.  And my life has a lot less stress and more friends for it.

H is for Hallelujah

River series, Autumn NFS Pastel on paper and canvas
River series, Autumn
NFS
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
      Peace
spoke
                about refugees,
          support
someone       with
Compassion.

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.