Don’t Let Anyone Call You Stupid

‘I Rode A River Of Words And Heard Wisdom (Bryan)’   https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/dancing_the_ghosts/

Last night I watched one of my favourite Christmas shows, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This morning I woke thinking how, as kids in school, we labelled each other.  Those labels did a lot of damage.  Unlike Rudolph, some of us were never able to rise above the words we were called.

I love words.  I love playing with words, putting them together and taking them apart.  I love crossword puzzles, word games, and Scrabble.  I love reading other people’s words and writing my own.

When I was thirteen years’ old and entering high school, my parents gave me a thesaurus.  I never dreamed such a treasure existed.  I read it cover to cover, like a novel.

My husband didn’t have a love affair with words.  For him, it was much the opposite.

He struggled with words. He couldn’t make the connections between sounding out a word and spelling it.  Spelling was a disaster for him.  He had to consciously, repeatedly memorize the sequence of letters for each word. Otherwise ‘celery’ came out ‘clegery’, and ‘chimney’ was ‘chibmny’.

He was told he was stupid, and he felt stupid.

I know the English language has weird and wonderful word spellings, but his struggle was beyond that.

By the time my husband reached high school, he’d struck a deal with a friend who was an ace speller. His friend struggled to come up with ideas for writing assignments.  My husband always had loads of ideas.  So he provided his friends with ideas, and his friend spell checked my husband’s essays. Win win.

My husband is not stupid.

His brain came equipped with a different pathway to understanding words, sounds, and spelling. He had to find his own way, and did, into learning how to spell.

It’s so easy to stick a label on someone, easier than taking the time to consider the whole of the person standing in front of you and finding an understanding.

No one is stupid.

I have twenty years of experience as an artist, but ask me to sculpt something and the result would have you seriously doubting I have any artistic ability at all.  I am a disaster at sculpture.

My brain doesn’t see and understand the way a sculptor needs to.  What my brain naturally sees and understands is drawing.  Give me paper and drawing materials, and I am a wizard.

I’ll say it once more.

No one is stupid.

This life is rich because of the uncountable paths we have for seeing and understanding.

I have a very old dictionary from Great Britain, a school discard dated 1954.  It contains a definition for ‘stupid’ I find interesting. The dictionary defines it as ‘wanting in understanding’.

This definition surely describes me trying to sculpt and my husband trying to spell.  We want to understand and are unable to.

There are other layers in this definition.  We all want and deserve help and understanding from others when we are struggling.  And for those who label others then walk away, describing the label-ers as having a ‘wanting of understanding’ works for me.

_________________

In this post:

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated stop-motion Christmas cartoon, first aired in December 1964, produced by Videocraft International Ltd. (later known as Rankin/Bass Productions).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_(TV_special)

Failure and Success

Archangel (Raguel) - Cat Fink (blog)
‘Archangel (Raguel)’

I have a pattern of not celebrating my successes.  Mostly I ignore them, occasionally I allow myself to briefly enjoy them.  Never do I allow myself full appreciation of what I have successfully completed, be it writing or drawing or anything else in my life.  Always, I immediately move on to the next thing.

I’ve been wondering why I do this.  Two days ago, I discovered a big reason.

In school, I was one of those brainy kids.  The A’s on my report card came easily to me.  Because of this, my teachers gave me extra enriched work, mostly math and science.

I loved, and continue to love, learning new things for the sheer enjoyment of it, but this was not something I chose for myself.  I loved school, but this extra work felt like work, and I wanted to be with my friends playing and having fun.  I rarely completed the assignments.  The teachers eventually gave up, which was a relief for me.

In my child-mind, this experience created a belief that stuck in my subconscious.

I believed I was a failure.

I did not do the enriched work and become someone who changed the world through discovering amazing scientific things.  I did not meet expectations.  I did not fulfill my potential.  It did not matter that the expectations and ideas regarding my potential belonged to someone else.  As a child, I knew I was smart and I trusted my teachers, so I took this on as something reasonable.

When I look at my life now, I love where and who I am.  I love love love drawing and writing.  I love the learning I do, moving toward life with an open, creative heart.  I love the family and friends I have around me.  My life is good and I know I created this, which means yes I am successful at what I do.

I do not owe my school teachers or the world, or even myself, anything.  I owe neither success nor failure.

I walked the path I needed to walk, so I could be exactly where I needed to be.  As a child, love and joy were the most important choices I made for myself every day.  I didn’t consciously realize what I was choosing, and I couldn’t articulate it.  I didn’t realize love and joy could be choices, yet there I was choosing time with my friends as the most important thing.

That time with my friends shaped me.  We read, traded books, made up stories, and played pretend.  We drew and made things with whatever was at hand.  We were creators who played, loved, and enjoyed what we created.

As I grew up, every choice I made, everything I was, everything I created led me here.

I appreciate what my school teachers did.  Unknowingly, they pushed me into making my own choices, helped me find and experience the things that were right for me.

I know and feel how the words and images I create, the love and joy I share, the life I live changes the world around me.  That is success.

I did not waste my potential.  I have been fulfilling it all along.

Pushing The Edge Of My Creativity

notetomyself.enteringhope.blog
“Note to Myself: entering hope”

Picture me standing knee deep in turquoise ocean waves.  Bare toes, all ten, digging into the sand to keep balance.  Leaning my body forward, a telescope to my eye, searching the horizon line.

I want to know what is out there, what’s beyond the range of my vision.

Writing a book has turned me into an explorer, and what I’m exploring is the edge of my creativity.  How far can I push this seeming edge?  How far can I expand my capabilities as writer and artist?

I’d always thought a project of several years’ length was beyond me.  I’d get bored and dump it.

I was wrong.  My curiosity for what is next in my book remains as bright as when I began.  Not only am I curious about the book, I am curious about my creativity.  It keeps changing, reaching and expanding.  Every time a new idea shows up, it is something beyond what I have already done.

Helen Frankenthaler, an artist whose work inspires me, talked about not wanting to do something she already knew she could do.  I feel the same way.

I don’t mean wildly leaping into complete unknown.  I mean standing on what I know, reaching toward what I don’t know, combining the two, known and unknown, and experimenting.

My book project is becoming an experiment.  As I complete the work in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, my vision of the book is shifting.  I see something that sits between all text and all image.  Not a graphic novel, and not a standard word-only book.  I am marrying my capabilities as artist and writer, and challenging myself to go further than what I already know.

As yet, I have little idea where this expanding vision of my book and my capabilities is taking me.  My telescope shows me only the open space at the edge that is labelled “here there be dragons.”

I am curious about dragons.  I hear they can fly, and some can be ridden.  I hear they guard treasure and need to be coaxed to share.  I hear they are made of fire.  I hear they were invented by someone like me.

I want to write a dragon of a book.  A book made of fire and treasure.  A book that takes flight and I need to hang on and fly with it, the ride of my life.  Guessing I may need asbestos pants in order to stick my seat.  I’ll find some.

In the meantime, every day I learn something new about the edges of my book and my creativity.  Today it is realizing my interest in my book remains firm, and this makes me happy.  Today it is discovering my creativity is capable of handling both short and long term projects, and this makes me happy too.

Today I push out the far edge, and place my new knowledge there.  Step forward and stand on the new edge of my creativity, lean forward and balance.  Put the telescope to my eye, and see where my vision takes me next.  There is an amazing dragon of a book out there, and it’s mine.

_________________

In this post:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/

Helen Frankenthaler, Artist, 1928 – 2011.  http://www.frankenthalerfoundation.org/artworks/paintings

 

Writing The Wrong Stuff

archangel (raphael).small
Archangel (Raphael)

Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, and I did not resist.  I took myself, my writing, and an iced decaf latte, outside to the porch swing.  I spent most of the afternoon writing backstory for my book, working out why my main character wants what she wants, and laying out her defining misbelief that constantly throws her off track.

Halfway through the writing, I sensed something was off track and it wasn’t the character I was writing about.  It was me.  Somehow I lost the main point and sent myself chasing words down a side track.

I completed the piece anyways, and ended it with “Rats, rats, rats, this is wrong!”

It is not lost on me that I went off track writing about my character’s misbelief that sends her off track.

Today I will go back.

Again, I will write about my character wanting what she wants, and her tricky misbelief.  This time I will deliberately aim the writing in a different direction, and see where I end up.  But first, I’m going to reread what I wrote yesterday.  There may be a gem of an idea I overlooked, one that really does have a place in the story.  Even if I see no gem, I will keep the draft of what I think is wrong stuff.

I keep my drafts because of what I learned and use all the time as an artist.  Sometimes mistakes point me in a direction I had not considered, and sometimes it takes me a while to see it.

I keep my drafts, even the ones that seem wrong, because they tell me where I have been in the story, and they remind me of what wasn’t working and what I didn’t want.  Been there, don’t have to go there again.

I keep my drafts because of my Dad.  He told me once, when I was fourteen and suffering through a high school course I felt was useless, that everything I learn I will use at some point in my life.  I listened, and the words stuck.

So here I am, choosing to find a use for my wrong-stuff-writing, instead of judging it a wasted writing session and tossing the pages.  Even if I discover no gem in the words, it prompted my blog post for today, and that is gem enough.

_______________________

In this post:

I am using the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016, to guide me through my main character’s backstory.  This book is definitely a gem.   http://wiredforstory.com

The Way Through Is Love

ibuiltmycastles
I Build My Castles in the Sky

I led a writing workshop last Saturday.  In the conversations and the writing, two life experiences showed up common to everyone.

Early in our lives, we discovered we loved creating with words, images, music, or movement.  Then later, someone told us with great certainty that we would never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, an actor, a you-name-it creative person.  Invariably, the someone making this pronouncement was in a position of authority or trust.  We were told by parents, teachers, and peers.

When this happened to me, the someone was a university art professor.

I heard “You will never be an artist.” and I stopped drawing for seventeen years.  Mine was not the longest gap.  One person in Saturday’s writing workshop was coming back to her love of creating after fifty years.  I have met people who never recovered from the experience.

This happens not only to those in the arts.  This happens to all of us.  We love doing something.  We have a dream.  And then someone says to us, “You will never be.  This will never be.”

Why does someone tell another person, “You will never be.  This will never be.”?

What makes someone so sure they know another person’s future?

I don’t know the answers to the questions I ask.  What I do know is that the way through hearing “you will never be” is love.

I left the visual arts degree program after hearing “you will never be.”  I still grieve the loss.  I wonder what I would be doing now, what kind of life I would have if I had stayed.  And at the same time, I know the life I did have prepared me to return to the art I loved and claim the title of Artist as mine.

During the years of not drawing, I kept my love of making things with my hands.  I found other ways to create.  I crocheted and embroidered and sewed.  I learned to weave, loved it, acquired a floor loom, and took over the extra bedroom in the house as my loom room.  I learned to spin and dye yarn.  My family and friends were the recipients of all this making.

I began calling myself a fibre artist, and loved how I felt when I used those words.  They felt like me.

Then I discovered a new love, weaving tapestry.

I saw complex images in my mind, the tapestries I wanted to weave.  But I discovered I was not able to recreate the images on paper, in preparation for planning the woven piece.

The Universe stepped in to support my love of making, and offered me two things.  My sister introduced me to the book The Artist’s Way, and I discovered there was an art school ten blocks from my home.  I said yes to both.

Love brought me full circle, back to drawing.

My love of creating with my hands would not let me go, and I listened to that love.  It helped me find ways of making that carried me through and healed me of you-will-never-be.

If someone says to you, “You will never be”, let yourself feel the hurt.  Then find a way to walk back into what you know you love, and walk through.  Love is your power.  I believe in you.

_______________________

In this post:

Book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Penguin, 2016.  Originally published by Tarcher Putnam in 1992, and republished by Tarcher Putnam in 2002.  Julia’s website is at http://juliacameronlive.com/

My New Year’s Un-Resolution

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)'
‘What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)’

There is a scene in ‘Aladdin’, one of my favourite Disney movies, that frequently rises in my mind.

Genie, in the shape of a large bee, is buzzing in Aladdin’s ear, “Be-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e yourself!”  Aladdin is preparing to definitely not be himself as he talks with Princess Jasmine.  In his mind, being himself is not good enough.

I understand this.

Much of my life I have been sure I am not good enough.  I no longer believe this.  Thus, my New Year’s Un-Resolution.

Be Myself.

That’s it.  Two words.

This is not the usual New Year’s resolution.  I am not looking to improve myself.  What I am doing is uncovering my authentic self.

Be Myself.  All day long I ask, is this my choice or someone else’s?  Is this my belief, expectation, value, judgment, idea, or someone else’s?  What is true for me?

I use words to ask myself the question.  I look for the answer in how I feel.

My heart tells me yes, this is me, this is mine.  This feels right and true to me.  Or no, not mine.  This feels wrong and false to me.

I learn from everything and everyone around me.

Sometimes in the learning, I take on things that are not true for me.

Sometimes, it takes time for me to understand that a belief, expectation, value, judgment, or idea does not fit me.  That is okay.  Trying things out and experiencing what happens may be what I need.  Sometimes I must know what I don’t want in order to know what I do want.

So here I am, eleven days into 2018, paying attention to who I really am and discovering what feels true to me.  So far, mostly what I have discovered is that I have un-learning and un-choosing to do.

The ‘un’ in front of ‘resolution’ was a clue.  Yeah, missed that.

No worries.  Being Myself is a work in progress.  I have all year long.

____________________________

In this post:

Animated movie Aladdin, 1992, Disney.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin_(1992_Disney_film)

 

Heaven And Earth

img_0055
Winter Solstice

Raven flies overhead

Her wings cut the sky

the sky

into a thousand skies

 

I stand here

bare feet

on red earth

 

Just once to fly

like Raven

Wings cutting

one day

into a thousand days

 

I am earth’s child

Dust clay ashes stone

Blue river pebbles

fill my pockets

Roll round my heart

like joy

 

No place for me

in Raven’s thousand skies

 

I am earth.  I live in this physical body.  I walk a physical place.  The water, fruit, bread, and meat I swallow each day grounds me here, now.

And yet, perhaps not.

Years on from writing the opening words of being only earth’s child, I understand I am also the connection between earth and heaven.  I am spirit created in material form, and I am the spark that gives light to both earth and sky.

This is true for every one of us.

We are the spark and connection between heaven and earth.  We are the lightning bolt that flashes and flies, creating light and heat for all to see and be warmed by.

I am sure I knew this when I was born, having just come from the light and onto the earth.  I am equally sure as I grew up this understanding faded.  The heaviness of the earth shadowed the light in me.  Living here does that sometimes too soon, too often, too harshly.

Living here has me turning the truth on its head.  As a child, I am taught I am two things, a body with a spirit inhabiting it.  I am taught this is the truth, and the world always tells me the truth.

Sometimes I should not believe what the world tells me.

I am one thing, not two things or four things.  I have a body and spirit and heart and mind.  I not only have these things, I am these things, but they are not separate.  I am not meant to be divided into parts.  I am meant to be one whole being, light aligned and in harmony.

I am spirit in material form.  My body is created from spirit, and my spirit is my body.  That includes my heart and mind as well.  All one.

I not only think the truth of this.  I feel the truth of this.  The words come like music to my body’s senses, and they feel balanced, smooth.  They move through my heart and don’t stutter or jar me.  They move through my mind, blend into my thoughts, feel recognized and comfortable.

Spirit in material form.  These words fit like a jigsaw puzzle piece finding its home, nestling into the pieces all around it, making the image whole.

This is how I know truth.  By the feel of it in my body, how it fits into me and makes me whole.  Spirit in material form.  This means as I am now, I am created from both earth and heaven.

Something in me never lost this knowing, even when my light was shadowed.

In my studio I have a collection of stones and feathers.  I have been gathering them for their beauty in my eyes and their feel in my hand since I was two years old.  I construct still life arrangements from them, and draw their magic and beauty onto the paper on my easel.  They are placed around my home, in every room, on shelves, table tops, windowsills, for the eye and hand to enjoy.

Stone and feather.  Earth and heaven.  I have never forgotten.  All my life I have been collecting reminders of who I am.  The light remains within me, no matter how I divide and separate and shadow who I am.

My feet rest on the earth.  My fingertips brush heaven.  All my life Source has been quietly placing stone and feather in my path to remind me, and I have seen and accepted them, picked them up and taken them home, these pieces of myself.

I choose this.  This is my truth.  I am spirit in material form.  Body, mind, heart, spirit.  One whole being of light connecting heaven and earth.

 

Imagining My Power

'7 Crows, A Secret Never To Be Told'detailsmall - Cat FinkTwo nights ago, I dream.

I stand with my son and husband in the centre of an empty street.  No other people.  No cars.  No sound.  All is still.

I look down.  A raven stands beside me.

I look up.  I see ravens sitting on the top edges of the one-storey buildings and on the fences.  They walk on the sidewalks and in the street where I stand.

I lift my arms.  I see feathers, black, sleek, shining.  I see wings.

I am me and I am Raven.

Here in my waking life, I hear raven voices every day.  Ravens live in the tallest firs and cedars near both my studios.  I see them fly overhead, hear the edges of their wings cut the air.  Nothing else sounds like a raven’s wing.

This past summer I watched them teach their young what wings can do.  Watched the young discover joy in their power.  Watched them fall in love with their wings.

When I falter in my drawing or writing, I imagine myself as Raven.  Creator and Healer.  Trickster.  Teacher.  Messenger.  Raven is all magic.  Raven is pure power.

Imagining Raven, I open creation, call word and image, and invite them to play.  My wings cut through fear and hesitation, shatter them like the ice they are.

My Raven eyes see forever.  See what has not been seen.

Imagining Raven, I reach into magic.  I take nothing and create something.  I breathe it real.

Imagining Raven’s power, I move back into my own power to create.  I stand steady in the joy of who I am.  I fall in love all over again with what I can do.

Artists, writers, all creators are Raven.  We have the power to create, to heal and make whole, to trick and tease, to communicate and teach.  We see what has not been seen, and make it visible.  We create something where there was nothing.

We are joy’s magic, and we are the power of love.

________________________

In this post:

If I pay attention, my dreams teach me.  When animal guides show up, I go to the book Medicine Cards, written by Jamie Sams and David Carson, published by St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1999.  The book is accompanied by a deck of animal medicine cards illustrated with the drawings of Angela Werneke.  Book and cards were a Christmas gift from my husband, ten years ago, after I told him animals were appearing in my dreams.  http://jamiesamsbooks.com/medicinecards.cfm