7 A.M. Love Letter

I’m having lunch with my sisters today, a fiftieth birthday celebration.

Time can pass so quickly.  I look at us and wonder how we grew to the ages we are. I wonder what carried us all the way to today.

For me, I know what carried me and what always carries me. It’s love, big and small.

Big love is my ground, the necessity I stand upon, the flow I rely upon. It’s presence is a constant. I’m never without big love, even when I forget how to feel it. It waits patiently for me to remember and return.  Big love is life.

Small love is something else altogether.

Small love is the spark that appears all through my day like confetti sprinkled, bits of colour to surprise me, have me pause in my busy-ness and not-paying-attention-ness. Pause and notice, rest for a moment, breathe, feel the world that surrounds me. Connect me back to myself.

Here is small love. The sky brightening outside my window, turning towards day. The greys blues pinks in the clouds shifting shifting till all is light.

Here is small love. The blankets on my bed warming me, and the soft pillows behind my back supporting me as I sit here, watching the sky.

Here is small love. The cat coming up the stairs, walking across the floor and then across my bed to say hello, jumping to the window ledge. She knows warmth sits there on sunny days.

Here is small love. The water from our well, cool in my throat when I drink, warm on my face as I wash.

Here is small love. A turquoise blue turtleneck shirt, red fleece vest, and old wrinkled jeans, comfortable and smooth against my skin, bright colours to delight my eyes. Silly socks to hug my toes and make me laugh.

Here is small love to come. Voices I know, talk and care and laughter shared. Sisters who are friends and family and kindness and hugs.

Here is love. A day of small bright moments and a life built of small bright days. Simple gifts to rest in and gentle blessings to carry me, whispering in my heart, telling me I am loved big and small.

If Fortunate

It’s mid-August and the weather feels like mid-September, warm days and cool nights. I get up at midnight and close the windows to half. The first blanket is back on the bed; I lay it over my feet, and by morning it’s up to my shoulders.

I count on my fingers. Ten months since I was last here. Ages. And gone in a flash.

My Mom died at the beginning of November. Grief is a strange and unpredictable ride. I stopped writing.

The pandemic, officially identified in March, introduced me to a stew of feelings that shifted, on some days, by the minute.

I forced myself to stay away from the news sites. Once every three days was all I could handle, and even that left me alternately chilled and in flames.

Months before the pandemic, I was longing for writing time uninterrupted by errands and appointments. Now time was mine in abundance, and I hadn’t the focus to write. I blame the feelings stew.

So I moved into Plan B. If writing isn’t working, do its opposite. I read. Should say I READ—there was a ton of it happened. I learned from the writings of others, and thank you fellow writers for carrying me and saving me.

In May my words returned. Draft number four is more than half done, and I truly love what has happened to the shape of my book. It’s become word and image–narrative, lists, pages that hold only a dozen words scattered in the white space, drawings, photographs. It’s like me, a kind of story that’s also a scrapbook.

Blessings wrapped and buoyed me all these months. That I and my family and friends remain well. That I am writing something I love. That I find ways through if I am patient and watch for light, warmth, and kindness to show themselves.

I don’t laugh as much, but I love bigger.

I am not the person who wrote the last post of October 2019.  I am shaken, broken, turned round, made whole again. Not sure I recognize this new me, and I welcome learning who I am.

One thing I know already. I am fortunate, and I hope you who read this are also.

Sending love, kindness, and care.

For The Sake Of Love

pastel drawing 'Containers For The Soul' by Cat Fink

I have a two-word mantra that guides my days. Choose love.

This morning I decided to put my blog on ‘pause’ for the next few weeks, or months. I’m not sure how long.

The reason is simple. I’m pausing for the sake of love of the book I’m writing. I love the story, love how the words are coming together, love the structure that is building itself as I write, love what is showing up to be expressed.

Don’t get me wrong. Loving how my book is growing doesn’t mean it isn’t work, because it is, and doesn’t mean it’s easy, because often it definitely isn’t. I want this book to be the best I’m able to create, and the combination of love, work, and not-easy tells me I need to focus my time and energy and creative power on one thing–the book.

It feels odd to think I won’t write my blog for the next few weeks or months. My blog and I have been writing partners for close on five years, and the weekly writing fills my heart. Yet, I know this is the right choice, and I trust what I feel.

I may change my mind and be back here sooner than I think. I really don’t know.

In the meantime, while my blog is on pause, thank you for the past five years, and bless you for reading the words and hearing my heart.

Ritual To Melt Away Fear

pastel mixed media drawing 'Keeping My Demons At Bay' by Cat Fink

It’s Thursday morning, right after breakfast.

I walk into my studio at the far end of the house.  I place two mugs, one filled with cold water, one with very milky coffee, on the work table, and close the door.  The closed door is a signal to my husband and son at home today—leave me alone, let me write.

This time of year, October, I turn on the heat pump.  Then I go round the room and plug in all three strings of Christmas lights, for the sake of joy. 

If it’s cloudy outside, like today, I turn on the desk lamp as well.  Its pool of yellow brilliance warms me on grey days.

I turn on the music, melody only because hearing someone else’s words interferes with my writing.  Today it’s John Boswell’s solo piano, melody like a river.  There is something in the rhythm of music that translates into the rhythm of words as I write, a gentle flow of sound to accompany flow of thought.

I sit at the work table, formerly my parents’ dining room table, and pull my morning pages book from one of the stacks of paper, books, and binders piled at the edge of the table.  I carefully sharpen my Minnie Mouse pencil.  I rescue my battered pink eraser from where, yesterday, the cat batted it across the table and into a pile of art pens and pencils.

Today I write only two morning pages, not the usual three, before I put the book aside.  This week my morning pages have been full of fear, and two pages is quite enough.  A spillover from my book draft where I’ve been slow-writing about finding the opposite of fear, and how the discovery changed me.

Now I lay a short stack of loose leaf paper in front of me, and resharpen my pencil.  Dull pencils slow me down. 

My heart and mind are open, ready to think and feel, ready to write.

I will tell you the truth of it.

I love writing, it’s a passion and an obsession, and it scares me.  I begin every writing day anxious and nervy, a skittish horse shying at the jump she’s crossed two hundred and thirty-two times before.

Call it its true face.  Fear.

Loaded with fear, yet again I make the jump.

Every thing I do before I set to writing the blog post, I do before working on the book draft.  These actions are a ritual that settles, balances, and focuses me.  I become grounded in my writing place, the space inside me made of thought, word, feeling, and the need to write what passes through my heart.

When I am done, the ritual reverses.  Paper, pencil, eraser put away.  Music silenced.  Lights darkened.  Heat turned off, and door opened.  I am returned to the rest of my world, quieted.

____________________

In this post:

John Boswell, musician and composer, http://www.johnboswell.com/

Morning pages were created by Julia Cameron, and the process is described in many of her creativity books, the first of which is The Artist’s Way. Morning pages save my writer and artist, every time. https://juliacameronlive.com/

What I Should Be Doing

from the Joy Diary Sketchbook by Cat Fink, held in the Brooklyn Art Library Collection

I think I broke my Writer.

I’m so focused on the book draft lately, I’m not giving time to the things that feed my imagination, aka my Writer.  Big mistake, because here I am ready to write a blog post, and the idea cupboard is bare. 

When I’m empty of ideas, I make lists.  Today’s list is everything I’m not doing to keep my Writer happy and brim full of things to write.

I’m not reading enough.  I haven’t stopped reading, but I’m shorting myself on how often and how long.  My stack of unread books is lonely; it might even be whimpering quietly like a sad puppy.

I’m not playing enough.  I need to go out to play every day, get a change of scenery, have long, loving, occasionally silly conversations with friends and family and kind strangers, play a board game or card game.

I’m not laughing enough.  Self-explanatory, as my book is a tough topic.  Balancing it out, choosing to experience its opposite when I’m not writing would be a happy idea.

I’m not wasting enough time daydreaming and doing nothing.

A short list, and it’s given me a plan to repair my Writer.

Today I’m going for a long, lazy dinner with my husband and son.  No special occasion.  Just because.  If the weather is good, we’ll go for a walk as well, and if the weather is lousy, we’ll play board games.

Tomorrow my sister and I are going to a matinee movie, and our lunch will be popcorn and pop. Then, I’ll read all evening as long as I wish, and go to bed late.

Saturday there’s a family birthday party for my nephew, who is now thirteen and terrorizing his parents via the adolescent emotion roller-coaster.  Very very glad my son is far beyond those years.

Sunday I’ll visit my Mom.  We’ll eat cookies straight from the package and forget to count how many. When I come home, I’ll sit on the porch swing and day dream, or sit on the couch and and do nothing but look out the window.

And next weekend I’m visiting with friends for the entire weekend.  A sleepover, with wine and chocolate, walks along the beach, and talking way past midnight.

There.  Play time all set.  My Writer feels better already.

Desire Lines

pastel drawing "Archangel (Sariel)" by Cat Fink

When a story has happened for real, you’d think possibility and imagination have a lesser place in the writing process than in a story of fiction.

Not so. The very first time an adult asked me, as a young child, to tell them “what happened”, I understood I had more than one path for telling the story. The things I knew had happened, the things I wanted them to know, and what they wanted to know were three very different lists. You can bet I chose the path of my desire over theirs.

If I know my desire lines, I know how to tell the story, because desire lines inform my choices.

My reason for writing the book is a desire line, and the readers I’m focused towards are another desire line. These lines work together. They guide me to specific story-telling choices and structures, and they point to aspects of the story to emphasize, include, or leave out.

There’s a desire line within the story as well.

The person I was eight years ago was desperate to heal her body, desperate to be well enough to work in her art studio. This very specific desire is what drove her into choices and actions she would never have otherwise taken, and it changed who she was.

This desire line drives the story, and it runs through all the writing I do, whether it’s a direct part of the book draft or in support of it. If a written piece doesn’t touch the desire line, I know right away it doesn’t belong in the story.

There’s a desire line running through me every time I write and every time I draw. I’m in love with creating, and that’s the biggest, most wide open, most full of possibilities, most imaginative desire line of all.

Time Shift

pastel mixed media drawing "Angel of Sky, Angel of Earth" by Cat Fink

I am happy today.

Funny, that, because usually it’s the sunny, blue sky days that pop me into happy.  Today the weather is the complete opposite—deep grey, wet, and chilled.

I heard the rain throughout the night, and I wasted no time this morning.  Out came the long sleeved shirt and jeans, warm socks and my polar fleece slippers.  Suddenly, Summer was put aside and I was in my Fall clothes.

I put an extra blanket on the bed last night, too.

I am a Summer Girl who loves her Summers.  Last week I was saddened to see Summer leaving.  We hadn’t reached the Fall Equinox, yet the feel of the days and nights had shifted, and my senses noticed.  The air felt different on my skin, an edge of coolness in the evening and chilled mornings.  A few of the maple trees were shedding leaves, getting ahead of the rush I guess.  Some of the songbirds had left, and my ears missed their voices.

And now, here I am this week, happy.

Something in me is enjoying the shift of season.  Listening to the rain on the roof.  Watching the wind push and pull the trees and slap the raindrops against the studio windows.  Seeing the gold leaves appears amidst the green.

Today I am settled into change, and I know the truth, that there is no resisting it.  I might as well enjoy what is coming around new again.

So I am happy inside my warm, dry studio.  I have Joe Hisaishi’s piano music playing for my solo pleasure.  I have my coffee and milk, lightly touched with cinnamon, beside me on the work table, and the rest of the potful sitting in the kitchen whenever I want it.  The collection of Mickey Mouse pencils are sharpened and ready, and the stack of loose leaf paper awaits.

It’s a rainy, almost-Fall day, and I have nothing better to do than write.  So I will.

_______________________

In this post:

Joe Hisaishi, musician and composer, has written many movie scores for Studio Ghibli, and that’s how I discovered him. Right now I’m listening to his Piano Stories collection and the soundtrack from the anime movie My Neighbour Totoro.

https://www.facebook.com/hisaishijoe/

Life Plus Writing Equals Voice

Pastel drawing 'Everything I Know About The Human Heart Part 2' by Cat Fink

Voice is a big deal in the arts.  Every teacher I’ve had, and every creativity book I’ve read, talk about voice.

Most don’t explain it.  Instead, they make it a mystery, something undefinable.  “One day you’ll find your voice,” they say, as though voice is a game of hide-and-seek, or the tap of a magic wand from your fairy godmother.

I’ve decided voice is simple and it’s standing in plain sight.

My voice is the intersection where the whole of my life and the act of writing, or drawing, meet.

I think this is the same for anyone in the arts.  If you are a dancer, it’s your life plus the act of dancing.  If a musician or actor, it’s your life plus making music or acting.

My words and images arise from inside me.  They come out of my life and who I am.  Every life experience, every thought emotion belief doubt, all I learn and every choice I make.  Everything I love and gather around me, everything I reject and push away.  All I remember, all I forget.

Add to my life the repeated action of writing and drawing.  The more I write and draw, the easier it is to connect with the well of life experience inside me, and pour it into the piece I create.

This is my voice.  It is my individuality as a person, and how I see the world, expressed to you.  When I put my individuality into words and images, my voice sings.

My voice as an artist and writer has always been with me.  I didn’t need to learn it, but I needed to learn to recognize and trust my unique voice.  It took me three years in art school and three years as a full-time artist to reach the first time I consciously recognized and chose to trust my voice.  Before that, although I knew to my core I was an artist, I was unconsciously relying on my teachers, my peers, and the art world to define my voice.

I remember the shift, because the moment was terrifying and then freeing.

I know the drawing, too, and which part of the drawing was the terrifying, freeing moment.  The drawing is at the top of this post.  It’s titled “Everything I Know About The Human Heart, Part 2”, and the moment burned into my memory is just before I added the tally marks at the right edge of the paper.

I drew from a still life tableau, always.  I played with the colours, using my instinct and intuition, but otherwise kept my work true to life. 

This time, my instinct and intuition saw tally marks. 

Those marks really really wanted to be a part of this drawing, insisting they belonged.  The tableau held plain, white, cut paper and scissors, and definitely no tally marks.

I became frightened.  Drawing the tally marks felt like a huge action, as though I was defying a rule while others watched, as though I was pushing through something I could neither see nor define, and beyond was the unknown.

I drew the marks, and suddenly felt the freest I had ever felt in my life.  My instinct and intuition saw tally marks on the paper hearts, and I drew those in, too.  I watched my still life drawing become something more than copying objects on a table.  With those marks, I added scars, fences, wounds, stitches.  I added emotion and story to my drawing.

I drew from my truest self, using what my heart felt.  I drew my heart on that paper.

I let myself be seen.

I let my voice sing.

______________________

In this post:

This drawing is part of a body of work that became my first solo show. The entire collection is online at my art site, in the gallery titled ‘Everything I Know About The Human Heart’.

https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/everything_i_know_about_the_huma/