Recalling Love

pastel drawing 'Love, Joy, Friendship, and Other Complications' by Cat Fink

I have, on my studio couch, a teddy bear.  He is small, about the size of my two hands laid side by side.  He smells like dust, and he is old, older than me.

I don’t know who gave him to me.  All I know is he has always been with me.

I used to think he was my sister’s bear, her toy that had somehow ended up in my collection of childhood memories.  One day I mentioned him to my Mom, and she told me with certainty that the small fuzzy purple teddy who now smells like dust was absolutely, definitely mine, a gift at my birth.

Here is a memory I do not remember, yet it exists.  The physical proof sits here in my studio, this bear who I should know.

How strange that I can have memories I do not recall.  Do I remember this tiny bear on my bed in our home, when I was not yet old enough to go to school?  Sort of, yet I am not sure if this is a manufactured memory, or something true.  I know his feel against my hands and face, and I know he did not always smell like dust.  He smelled like someone’s perfume at one point in my childhood.  I can smell it now, as I write.

Yes, my Nana’s perfume.  I feel like this bear was with me at my Nana and Papa’s house, when I was very young.  I was staying with them.  I don’t know where my Mom and Dad were.  Maybe visiting friends, maybe at a dance and coming home very late.  My parents loved to dance.

The only thing I am completely sure of here is this bear, who I didn’t remember was mine, smelled like my Nana’s perfume.  How odd.

Memories are such strange things.  That I can recall with clarity this one small detail out of what must have been a thousand details lost to me.

This bear is now faded to the colour of lilacs at the end of their life.  I can see in the creases of his arms and legs and neck that his fur was once bright, more like the colour of the amethyst I have on the shelf behind me.  A colour carrying light and love.  Bright, deep, true purple, a joy to behold.

Why can I not recall anything else about my purple teddy?

He must have been precious to me once, if he came with me to my grandparents’ home to stay overnight.  I must have taken him to bed with me, slept with him at my side or in the bend of my arm, warm under the blankets.

My Mom must have packed him carefully in my bag.  Or maybe he stayed in my arms, or sat next to me, or on my lap as we travelled to Nana and Papa’s house.

I am imagining this ride in the car to my grandparents, imagining staying overnight.  Imagining the smell of my Nana’s perfume, which I know was Chanel No. 5, ending up on my teddy bear.  Did my Nana hold him, hug him, and her perfume moved from her body to his?  Or maybe we dabbed a little on him because I told my Nana she smelled good and I liked how she smelled.

It always made me feel good, the smell of my Nana’s perfume.  It makes me feel good now as I recall it, smelling her presence even though she does not stand before me here in my studio.

Maybe this wondrous, mysterious old bear was a gift from my Nana and Papa.  Likely my Nana who loved to shop and find perfect, joyful things for herself and those she loved.  She loved me, unconditionally.  I remember this with certainty.

There is joy in playing with this fraction of a memory about my old, small, purple bear.  There is love in this imagining, too.

I see now I have claimed teddy as my own.  He is no longer the bear, he is my bear.

With one word, I shift this fraction of a memory and, with love, claim it as mine.

It is a gift, taking this piece of memory and the physical object that began it, and making something whole and perfect.  Something that feels like love.

It is love, no doubt of it.  As real as my bear who sits on the studio couch.

The Library In My Home

I’ve heard it said the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I understand that.  When my family gathers, no matter how inviting and comfortable the living room couches and chairs, we always gravitate to the kitchen.  Here we find nourishment for both body and heart.

However, my home has a secret.  It has a second heart, a library.  In my home, these two places feed us whole—body, heart, mind, and spirit.

I am in love with libraries, and having one of my very own tickles me completely.  I take great delight in saying, “I have a library in my home.”

My library is a small room, no more than ten feet by ten feet square.  Three walls of books and a window in the fourth wall.  The light coming in is gold and green, the result of summer sun filtering through layers of grape leaves.  It’s cool in here right now, despite the noon heat outside.

Besides books, my library holds an old couch, extra pillows, and an afghan.  There’s a narrow, wood table with two leaves that fold out if you need more space for important things like mugs of tea and a teapot, paper to write on, and pencils. 

My library might be small but, like all libraries, it contains worlds, immense and uncountable, in each book that stands on the shelves around me.  Here is treasure, beyond abundant, as endless as every imagination of every writer whose name shines on these beloved books.

My heart thrives in my library, just as surely as it thrives in my family kitchen.  If home is where the heart is, I am doubly blessed and doubly home.

_____________________

In this post:

The image at the top of this post is from the accordion fold sketchbook I created for the Brooklyn Art Library. The sketchbook is a secret garden, rather like my library, and if you’re curious about it you can find all the images at my art site. https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/the_sketchbook_project_the_secre/

Receiving Everything Most Loved

April was a writing month for me. I pushed myself. Pushing was the right thing to do, because now I am exactly where I wish to be, deep into my book draft.

Today I am changing my creative routine, receiving rather than giving. It’s a reward for all the creative work, and it’s one of the things I love most. I’m having a reading weekend, beginning today.

Julia Cameron would say I am replenishing my creative well. Yes, I am and with great pleasure.

My book list contains one mystery novel and three non-fiction. The non-fiction include one on energy work, one on creativity, and one a melding of memoir and creative writing. Here is my list:

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear. This is a murder mystery set in 1930’s London, and the detective is Maisie Dobbs. She searches and solves with both heart and head.

The Answer Is Energy by Jarrad Hewett. Everything is energy, including thought, belief, and emotion. Jarrad’s work helped me to heal fibromyalgia.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon. This is Austin’s new book. Yayyyyyyy!

Tomorrow I’m adding one more book to the weekend reading pile. The staff are saving it for me at the local bookstore–Where The Past Begins: Memory And Imagination by Amy Tan. I read her previous book on writing, The Opposite Of Fate: Memories Of A Writing Life, and completely enjoyed it. There is fourteen years between these books, so I am curious to see what Amy has to say now.

I haven’t decided if I will read through one book before moving on to the next, or if I will hop back and forth. The choice is mine, whatever I feel like in the moment.

A stack of books. Hot milky coffee. Background music by George Winston and Joe Hisaishi. My comfy studio couch. Four days of receiving something I love most–good writing.

_____________________

In this post:

Jacqueline Winspear http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

Jarrad Hewett https://jarradhewett.com/

Austin Kleon https://austinkleon.com/

Amy Tan http://www.amytan.net/

Everything Matters

A few months ago I listened to a webcast.  The speaker compared life’s experiences to climbing a ladder.

“Every rung is important,” he said, “Every rung is equal.”

At first, the idea of “everything matters equally” felt paralyzing.  Taking even the simplest of actions could be life-or-death in a world where all is so completely important. I might do it wrong.

Then I heard the words differently.

Everything in life has equal meaning. 

At first, this didn’t seem logical.  Holding a door open for someone and saving someone’s life has equal meaning? 

Yes, it does. 

Last Fall I was deep in grief over the deaths of my Dad and my cousin.  The feelings came and went, unpredictable tides that left me feeling helpless and lost.  On a day when things were especially colourless and I desperately needed to feel better, I took myself to the library.

As I walked towards the door, it swung open and someone came out.  Their arms were loaded with books, a balancing act, but when they saw me they paused and waited, holding the door open wide.  They looked me in the eyes and smiled.  I thanked them and walked through. 

Holding the door open for someone and smiling, a momentary gesture frequently repeated, nothing really in the larger movements of life. Except this someone, a stranger, smiled for me as if we knew and loved each other well.

That brief action was pure kindness, a connection that gave me light and space and breath.  I was offered a moment of love that buoyed me for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what happens as my actions and choices ripple outwards.  I don’t know who I affect every day in my life.

I do know I want my life’s touch to be as kind and loving as the gift I received that day.

If everything is important and equal, if everything has meaning, I choose to do my days with kindness and love for the people around me and for myself.

Imagine A Love Story

Yesterday I pulled one of my framed drawings out of storage.  As of next week it will be a donation to the CNIB for their annual Eye Appeal Art Event.

Right now the drawing is propped up on my studio couch.  There are coyotes walking across this drawing, a wall of coloured stones, and words about building a fence then taking it down.  Really, it’s a kind of love story.

The drawing is all imagination.  There was no still life model beside me as I created.  I imagined an argument and a fence, and what happened after.  Then I drew.

Seeing this drawing has me thinking about love in its various aspects, and how love can grow from imagination.

I love colour.  It’s the first thing I notice in everything I see.  I love light and the physical, emotional feelings it raises in me.  All my life, I’ve felt colour and light run from my eyes through my body as shades of love and joy.  It makes me shiver.

I imagine no colour, no light, and I feel lost.

I imagine never having such love and joy again, and I feel empty.

I imagine someone gentle beside me who still sees colour and light. They speak to me, saying I will guide you through this, if you wish.  Take my arm and we’ll walk together.  You’ll find your way through again.

Imagine this love story.

This is why I give away my drawing, to offer love and joy to someone I will never meet.  To share light and colour from within.

It’s all because of imagining a love story.

________________

In this post:

CNIB (formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Eye Appeal Exhibition and Event 2019 http://www.eyeappeal.org/

My drawing is titled “Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)”, and it’s the image heading this post.  It is also on my art site at https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/image/garudas_cheshire_cats_and_other_/old_coyote_trick_sticks_and_stones The words showed up after noticing someone had built a fence immediately next to their neighbour’s fence.  The drawing came after.

I see your fence

Don’t like it

Build my own

Make us small

Judgments  Expectations

Mine  Yours

Not how we are meant to be

Take down my fence

(burn it)

Breathe us big

Pat your fence

(like a friendly dog)

And walk around

When Nothing Makes Me Feel Better

The last few weeks have been a slow roller coaster.  My moods have traveled up and down, and longer in the downs.  This week I’ve settled, a blessed relief.

I could list the reasons, but it’s easier to simply list ‘life’.

I am exactly like my son when he was five years old.

It was a tough day at school (kindergarten is not always easy), and he came home angry.  He didn’t want to talk, and he bashed his way around the house until I became angry too.  Better we separate when we’re both angry.  I told him to go to his room. I stayed in the kitchen.

I listened as he stomped away, as his door slammed, as the noise and activity level in his bedroom peaked, then quieted.

After a few minutes, concern and curiosity led me down the hallway.  I knocked on his door, then opened it.

He looked at me, mourning written all over him.  “Mom, I’ve tried everything and nothing makes me feel better.”

The evidence of his effort lay all around him, on the floor and the bed.  Toys, Lego pieces, stuffed animals, his favourite blanket.  He had tried so hard.  My upset dissolved in an instant.

Love is what I gave my precious son that day, and received love back.  We sat on his bed and hugged, held hands, talked about nothing important.  We had all the time in the world.

I’ve tried and nothing makes me feel better–I know that place.

Luckily, I am now old enough I’ve learned what to do.

I don’t push the feelings away.  I don’t try to make myself better.  I’m upset for a reason and my feelings are broadcasting what and why.  I need to feel and listen, so I do.  I put on music, or let the house be silent , wrap myself in my favourite blanket, cocoon myself on the couch, become still.  An hour or a day, I feel and listen.  I treat myself gently, a precious being broken and hurting and needing love.

Love is what I give myself when I am hurting and needing.  Love and all the time in the world.  Love fills the cracks and mends the breaks.  Love tells me I am something precious, and makes me whole again.

My son doesn’t remember that day, but I do always.  He gave me the most perfect gift of feeling and understanding what keeps us whole.  Love.  Love.  Love.  Love.

________________

In this post:

I didn’t always know how to love myself.  I still forget sometimes, but each time the gap is smaller.  Dee Wallace’s Red Dot Exercise is one of the things that helped me learn what unconditional self-love feels like. 

My experience doing the Red Dot Exercise is here on my blog, postings from December 23 and 24, 2014:

Dee’s website is at https://iamdeewallace.com/

Lost For Words

My imagination, like my breath, is an autonomic function.  It runs without any obvious help from the rest of me.

My imagination is a welcome partner through my day.  It keeps me interested, alert, curious, playful, connected.  Like my breathing, it keeps me alive.

Right now, though, it is working on hibernating.  Slow and lost for words.  Not the ideal situation when I am into my write-a-blog-post day.

In a way, the lost-for-words makes sense.  Today is Valentine’s Day, and isn’t this day more about heart and feeling than words?  You can argue that the words evoke the feeling, but for a writer the feeling comes first, then the words to express.

I am still lost for what to express in my post.

I do know what I am feeling. It’s love.

Well then, let these be my words, coloured true by my heart.

I love that you are reading this.  I love, and am honoured, that you have given me a few minutes of your day and your life.  Your connection here is a gift, and my heart feels it.  I am made larger through your connection, and I thank you.

May your day be blessed.  May someone you love, love you back freely, unconditionally, and abundantly.  May joy surprise you many times today.  May hugs surprise you.  

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Let your heart light shine.

Surrounded By Family

How Do You Want The World To See You?

Two months ago, someone asked me a question which has stuck with me.

How do you want the world to see you?

Now, I know from my experience as an artist and writer, I have zip for control over how someone perceives and responds to me and my creations, and I would not want such control.

Still, the question keeps popping into my thoughts.

How do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen as my truest self.  I want to be seen fully open-hearted, where love comes first in everything—what I feel and think, what I say and do, how I treat myself and how I treat the world.  Love as my first consideration.  Beginning there.  Choosing love in my connections, communications, actions, and reactions.

I don’t always manage to begin from love.  I get angry, tired, frustrated, impatient, sad, numb.  My open heart feels it all.  It needs to feel it all, that is its reason to be.  But then, reminding myself to choose love brings me back to a place where I can change how I feel.  It opens a space for me to shift the story I am telling myself, and make it different in this moment.

When I say to myself ‘choose love’, I am reminded I always have choice.  I can react, or I can pause and come back to my heart, recall who I am, and choose to create from love.

I’d much rather create from love.  Love allows me to be true to myself and what I want my life to be.

The question I began with, the question I was asked, isn’t the right question.

How do I want to see myself?  How do I want to see the world?  These are the questions.

I want to see myself, my life, and the world as a place that chooses love first.  Chooses compassion, kindness, and care.  Chooses connection, communication, gentleness, and patience.

A world that chooses to hold each other gently.

A me that chooses to hold myself gently.

This is how I want to see myself.  This is how I want to see the world.  This is how I want the world to see me.

All of us, choosing love first.

_________________