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.

Saying Yes Please To Help

I was one of those children who regularly insisted, “I can do it myself.”  My parents heard those words a million times.  Bless their patience.

Now I am in the messy middle of writing a book, and I can most definitely not do it myself.

I didn’t fully realize, when I began this process, creating a book is a communal effort.  I kind of knew, but hadn’t considered it at depth.  After all, book covers say “by author’s name”.  They don’t say “by long list of names.”

The clue is inside the book on the acknowledgements page if the writer has added one, and most do.  Right there is the long list.

When I think on it, I had help long before the book idea crossed my mind.  Every creativity book I have worked my way through, and every author of everything I’ve read throughout my life have helped me.  They’ve laid paths and rhythms of language within me.  I move to that beat when I write.

I learned from every teacher ways I wanted to play with words, and ways I didn’t.

My circle of friends are artists, writers, and readers, book lovers all.  They patiently read my drafts and ask exactly the right questions to unstick me from swamps of my own making.  They celebrate, commiserate, and push when I need it.  I do the same for them, and gain a deeper understanding of my own creative process.

In my future beyond the drafts stage, there is a stream of wise partners who will help me create, support, and present the book that shows up online, in bookstores, and in readers’ hands and minds.

The help list is long and growing.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I treasure the community coming into being, the wisdom and experience shared with me, the yes they are offering my project.

I was a do-it-myself child.

It’s a good thing I have changed.

(Written at a friend’s home, grey-blue ocean beyond the windows and a morning sky clearing towards a sunny day.  Thanks Wren, for lending me your place!)

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

The Feeling I Didn’t Expect

My studio is in chaos.  Boxes.  Books.  Papers.  Art supplies.  Reintegrating two studios into one is a messy business.  Right now I am organizing, and there are multiple piles covering the floor and work tables.

I am joyful amidst this chaos.  My smile is wide and I am utterly content.  My studio is becoming one again, I am becoming one again.

I moved back and forth between two homes for fifteen years.  This movement was not natural to me.  I am a nester.  I did my best anyways. 

Now I am home where I began, the place where I feel grounded and whole.  Here I breathe easiest, and my body and senses know the rhythm, smells, and sounds of the land.  I am a part of this place.

I should have expected the feeling that showed up, but I didn’t.

Relief.  Overwhelming, tear-inducing relief.

I held my breath for fifteen years and did not know it.

How could I not know something this essential?

Necessity.  I forced myself to focus on what was necessary.  In my second home I made myself find what was good, what was new and interesting, what I could love.  Apparently I am very good at finding ways to feel okay, and very expert at looking away from what I have to leave behind.  No looking back, I say to myself, and I don’t.

I made good friends.  I found things I could truly love, and things that expanded my life.  I met people who love the land there, who are clearly home in every meaning of the word.

But I know my home is here.

The back-and-forth years are done, the time away completed.  The relief I didn’t expect to feel is real and honest.  I have come home again.

_____________________

In this post:

The image is a pastel drawing I made for my sister-in-law. It’s titled “I called light and dark and wove the cloth of life (Charlene)”, from a body of artwork “Dancing The Ghosts” which honours five generations of my family. I created this body of work while living in my northern home, and on Charlene’s drawing I wrote:

Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is neurotic. Nothing is disowned. Everything is possible. Everything is held. Everything is claimed. Everything is loved. This is who we are.

If you are curious about “Dancing The Ghosts”, you can find the drawings at https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/dancing_the_ghosts/

A Few Words And Lots Of Pictures

Two days ago I completed my second sketchbook project for the Brooklyn Art Library, and yesterday it began the journey to its new home.

It’s not your usual sketchbook. It’s a pocket mural. I made it to open like an accordian. Hold one cover in each of your hands, open your arms, and there it is, one long garden. Close it up, turn it over, open again, and the garden continues on the second side.

I am so very happy with how the drawings turned out, all colour, play, and joy. My heart loves the garden I created, and I can feel how my body longs to be in the midst of it for real, climbing and playing. I wonder if someone makes adult-sized swing sets with a glider and slide? I think I need one.

I can’t hold my garden in my hands any longer, but I can hold it in my heart and share it. Here is The Secret Garden. Join me! Come and play!

_______________________

In this post:

The Brooklyn Art Library https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/library

The Sketchbook Project https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/sketchbookproject

Busy Being Still

I’m packing the last of my northern studio, readying to move south for the last time.  I am about to have a single creation space, something I have not experienced for fifteen years.

The joy is bubbling in me.  I want this.  But I have a question for myself.  Will I be able to sit still in one place?

I was a child who exploded with energy, curiosity, mess, and noise.  I have a million memories of being told to sit still, stop wiggling, stop making so much noise, be quiet, clean up the mess, put that away, don’t touch that.  And on and on.  I am not surprised my Mom, like me, napped every afternoon.  I wore both of us out.

Eventually, I learned to become someone who appears quiet and peaceful.  The word ‘appears’ is a clue.

I’m not actually sitting still.

Under the surface, my mind and heart are constantly, busily, happily engrossed creating the next drawing and the next piece of writing. Inspiring myself with other artists’ work, and how exactly did they create that colour and that effect. Being curious about the book I’m reading, and how did the writer get me to assume this and feel that. Can I do these things, too?  Wondering, experimenting, learning.  I love this activity.  I am alive here.  This is my me-ist me.

Here’s the paradox.

Under the energy, mess, and noise, my heart and mind are in stillness.

My creativity is rooted in stillness, the deepest internal pool of quiet.  Infinity is here.  Forever is here.  All possibility lives here.  My ideas rise from this place, rise from peace to become energy and activity.

It fascinates me that my creativity requires these seeming opposites.

One of my art professors regularly talked of getting to know and use paradox and the awkward in the work.  I know he didn’t mean the kind of paradox I experience every day, but his words stick in my memory, a reminder to be comfortable with all that surfaces when I draw and write.

Embrace it all, the mess and noise, the stillness and quiet.  Opposites creating wholeness.

Being told to be still wasn’t wrong after all.

And maybe a single welcoming, perfect, light-filled studio is exactly what I need. 

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