Start at the very beginning

etchasketch.blogDecember 31st.  The end of this year.  One step away from the year to come.

I am ending and beginning my year with beginner’s mind.  Open.  Curious.  Passionate.  Allowing.  Accepting.

Beginner’s mind is creation mind.  For me, the best and only place to be.

Last January, in the beginning days of this blog, I wrote about beginner’s mind and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.  I love this book, love how it both enlightens and mystifies me.  Suzuki Roshi knew creation mind.  I am sure of it, because this is what he said:

‘The Zen way of calligraphy is to write in the most straightforward, simple way as if you were a beginner, not trying to make something skillful or beautiful, but simply writing with full attention as if you were discovering what you were writing for the first time; then your full nature will be in your writing.  This is the way of practice moment after moment.’

Then further along, he says:  ‘This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.’

This is how I am choosing to end and begin, stepping from 2015 into 2016.  This is how I am choosing to live 2016.

Be a beginner.  Give myself permission to play.  Be open and curious and in love with my life.  Risk the possibility of ugly art and bad writing.  Risk the possibility of beauty that shines through the drawing and sings in every word.  Use everything in my life, and see what happens.  Let myself stand in this present moment and receive what is here for me.

Do this, and through it all, choose love, choose love, choose love.

Happy New Year, Cat!  Happy New Year, all of Us! xoxoxo


In this post:

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, originally published in 1970, currently published by Shambhala

Home and Safe

If I Could Bottle Love
If I Could Bottle Love

I am eight years old, sitting in the back seat of my parents’ Volkswagen Beetle.  It’s Friday night, November, and dark.  My sister is curled into the far corner opposite me.  I think she is sleeping.  I am near to sleep as well, that place where thoughts float and my body releases the day.

I can see my parents in the front seats.  Light from the dashboard lines the edges of their faces, Mom turned towards Dad as he drives.  Their voices wrap around me, quiet and warm.

We had dinner out tonight, and then did grocery shopping.  I can smell the bread, packed full in one of the brown paper grocery bags behind my seat.  Ten loaves for a dollar.

The car tires hum against the road, and the engine chugs.  Steady and sure.  I know Dad is watching for the deer who sometimes step from the trees onto the road and into the light, and then stand, blinded.  They and we are blessed.  We always pass each other with space to spare.

In this memory, time and place, this is how I feel.  Warm.  Safe.  Comforted and comfortable.  Cared for.  Loved.  Belonging.  Home.  There is nothing more I need or want.

Here, now, in times when my life does not feel warm or safe, not comfortable or comforted.  When I don’t feel I belong, not loved, not home.  When I only hear and see wants and needs demanding a piece of me, clamouring and noisy– I stop and let go.

I let go.  I close my eyes.  There, I see the night and my parents’ faces.  I hear their voices and the car, humming.  I smell fresh bread.  I know my sister is near me, asleep on the seat.  I breathe deep.  Let my thoughts float, my body release the day.  Feel just this.

Here, is love.  This place, home, is within me.  Warm, safe, comforted, comfortable.  Cared for, belonging.  All within me and created by me.  I choose this.  My home is within, my place of strength where I stand knowing who I am.  I am love.

I open my eyes, return to the day and my life, carrying this within me.

Carry this into whatever I am doing.  Make this part of my experience.  I choose love, and I am home and safe.


This post is from May of this year.  May we all be home, wherever and whatever home is to each of us.  May we all be safe, whatever safe is to each of us.  Bless us all.  There is love enough when we open our hearts and let our light shine.

Remembering Light


winter light
winter light

It’s late December. Mid-afternoon and the sky already dark. Snow still coming down. It started before dawn.

I’ve been thinking about emotion and memory.

What is memory anyways? It’s nothing solid. Like all in life, it changes. I can tell that my memories move like a story told over and over. The essential points stay the same, but the details shift. Am I remembering more clearly when this happens, or am I filling in gaps, making things whole, putting clothes on the bones of what I recall?

I am remembering the Christmas Eve I was in Grade Five. My sister and I were given night lights in the shape of genie lamps. All other gifts were abandoned as we carried our lamps around the house, Aladdins in nightgowns and slippers. I remember the two of us, whispering and giggling in the dark cave of the hallway outside our bedrooms. We had turned off the hallway light, and all was now mysterious and spooky as we moved around, genie lamps in hand, their blue plastic light covers casting shadows we couldn’t recognize.

This I remember clearly. What I don’t recall with any certainty is whether my lamp was the pink and black one and Carrie’s the aqua blue and grey one, or the other way around. When I picture us in the December dark, I can see either lamp in my hand. I remember them both.

I don’t know what happened to my genie lamp. I do know I loved it, played with it, kept it on the floor by my bed. I suppose I eventually outgrew it, and it was lost deep in the big cardboard toy box Carrie and I shared. Or perhaps, when I tired of it, it was given away to a younger cousin or to a daughter of one of my parents’ friends.

What does not shift in this memory of light in the dark, is the feeling of fun and play, laughter and enjoyment, friendship and love with my sister. I feel all of this now as I write. You can’t see me, but I am all smile like a Cheshire cat.

Here in this memory is joy and light and love.

When I am afraid and in the dark, all I need do is remember Carrie and me in that dark hallway, playing with the light of our genie lamps, giggling and whispering. If I trust myself enough to allow this memory to fill me, body, mind, heart, and spirit, I can see my way here, now, and walk myself out of fear and the dark, back into light.

My mom-in-law, who does not know this story, found a genie lamp in a garage sale. She bought it and gave it to me. It sits here on my work table, a treasure among treasures. It is exactly like the one in my memory. Aqua blue and grey, like my sister’s lamp, or mine—that part does not matter. To my eyes, it is the colour of light and play and laughter and love.


I first posted ‘Remembering Light’ last February.  As we move through the world’s celebrations of light and towards the Winter Solstice, I wish us all light and play and laughter and love.

Believing is seeing

Velveteen_RabbitThere is a story I read uncounted times before I was ten years old. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I loved not only the words. I loved the drawings by William Nicholson as well. I would trace my finger along the lines of the words and images. I wasn’t consciously imagining I was writing or drawing. No. But there was something compelling, some feeling that filled me as my finger touched the shapes on the pages. Two dimensions becoming three dimensions in my imagination.

In Margery’s story, love and belief change the velveteen rabbit from stuffed toy to Real.

Isn’t this what I am doing, every time I write and draw? Love and belief becoming the words on the page and the lines in the drawing. Words becoming story. Lines becoming image. Real.

I hear people say believing is seeing. They are right.

Belief changes everything.

So does love.

When I write and draw, I can’t see the end of what I am creating. I don’t know how the story will close. I can’t see the image that will be there after I place the last mark on the paper.

Continue reading “Believing is seeing”


Nana and Papa's house, January 1966
Nana and Papa’s house, January 1966

December. It’s snowing on my blog pages. Love it. Bless the person who came up with snow for the blogs.

We had snow here for real, a week ago, and more forecasted for today. No sight of it yet. I’m waiting, impatiently. Snow boots by the door. Coat and snow pants, hat, mittens from my mom, scarf, all at the ready.

I love the snow and December. They fill me up with joy and play. The child in me has free rein to laugh, enjoy, be happy. No purpose, no goal. Be happy and let it grow as big as it wants to be. I swear that brand new snowflakes on my tongue are good for my health. Also snowballs and snow angels.

My faithful iPod is permanently on its Christmas playlist. Four hundred and seventy-seven songs, if you want to know. Twenty-six hours, nine minutes, and twelve seconds. Every year I add new music. This year it is the Eric Byrd Trio’s version of the Charlie Brown Christmas music, and George Winston’s album December. His ‘Minstrels’ song haunts me in its beauty.

I scan the television listings for my favourite Christmas shows. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 original cartoon) was on last night. Yay!  A Christmas Carol, the 1951 movie with Alastair Sim. A Christmas Story. A Muppet Family Christmas, the Muppets in their fuzzy joy. My husband groans when I switch the channel, then watches the show anyways.

Gifts I am creating and giving. Cookies and treats to be baked. Love is such a secret ingredient (shhh, don’t tell) it’s not even listed on the recipe. All for sharing.

December. This is the month my heart sings. I know we are days away yet. I say the words anyways. Happy Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Diwali (last month, in all its light and colour). Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Solstice.  Happy Happy All.

I make these my December gifts. I choose Happiness. Love. Kindness. Play. Laughter. Sharing. Forgiveness. Joy.

I choose Celebrate.


In this post:

The Eric Byrd Trio, music, A Charlie Brown Christmas,

George Winston, music, December,

A Charlie Brown Christmas, animation, 1965,

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, animation, 1964,

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, animation, 1966,!_(TV_special)

A Christmas Carol (aka Scrooge), movie, 1951,

A Christmas Story, 1983,

A Muppet Family Christmas, 1987,