Summer Mode

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I Dreamed I Was Water (Emma) – Cat Fink

I’m on summer vacation time this past week.  My internal clock finally adjusted itself.  It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww.  I am now in summer mode.  Hooray!

Summer mode means my time stretches.  Becomes casual and bendy.  I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family.  Six-ish.  Noon-ish.  Eleven-ish.

I like ish-time.

I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time.  Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece.  On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there.  He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night.  Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.

On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.

This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away.  After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge.  To wander through summer.  Let my days stretch.  Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is.  Let ish-time lead me where it will.

Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago.  Thank you for the gift.

The Happiness Formula

laid to rest 80,000 obstructing spirits (north)--detailWhat makes me happy?  What gives me joy?

Here is today’s list:

Writing (of course).

Today’s polka-dotted weather.  Sun.  Cloud.  Hail.  Rain.  Sun.  Thunder.  Wind.  Repeat.  A smorgasbord.  I am leaving my studio lights on, even when it is the sun’s turn, because in five minutes the clouds will be sailing in and taking over.

Jazz, piano and violin playing off each other, a conversation, harmony and counterpoint.

Raisin bran and milk and demerara sugar for breakfast in my Blue Willow cereal bowl.  Raisins sweet and chewy.  Milk cold.  Flakes getting progressively soggier as I go.  I eat them, when they are soggy, only to get to the raisins.

My pen with its sky blue ink.

Water from our well, poured into my Shrek the Third glass.  Hard water with a lot of minerals and iron in it.  I think of the cartoon I watched as a child.  Popeye the Sailor who ate his spinach to get strong.  All I do is drink my water.

Reading a new novel.  Death in Florence by Marco Vichi.  Chief Inspector Bordelli who drives a noisy Volkswagen Beetle and smokes too much.

Discovering a new-to-me author who’s writing I love.  Thank you, Marco Vichi, for offering me a new treasure chest of words and ideas and story.  All translated from Italian.

Yes, a satisfying list.  Perfect things that happen every day for me.  That give me happiness and joy.

A few months ago I watched a documentary about happiness.  Someone had come up with a Happiness Formula.  My happiness equals my brain’s happiness set point (didn’t know I had one), plus my life conditions, plus my choices.  According to this formula, my life conditions only make up 7 to 12 percent of my happiness.  My choices make up 40 to 50 percent.

There is the key.  What am I choosing?  And what am I choosing to notice?  Where am I placing my attention?

Well, today my attention is on writing, weather, music, the raisins in my cereal, sky blue ink, cold water, the novel I started reading at breakfast, and appreciating the author I have discovered.

My life contains so much every-day happiness.  All I need do is be here, right now, present to the gifts I am being offered.  Choosing to notice.  Choosing to let the cereal in my bowl catch my attention, the taste of water from my well, the colour of the ink on this piece of paper.  Things on today’s happiness list.  This is my Happiness Formula.

____________________

In this post:

Death in Florence by Marco Vichi, published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2013.  http://www.marcovichi.it/

The Happiness Formula  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/leadership_b_3379150.html

 

Second Draft, First Draft

Blackbird Dance (desire)'detail
Blackbird Dance (desire) – detail

I am thinking about the second draft of my book.  The one I put aside last September.

I am coming back to it.  I’ve made a pact with my friend who is also writing.  She’s close to the end of her first draft.  We both need someone to write with, partner, give us each that extra push to reach the finishing line by the end of the summer.  Tell us in a sure voice, yes, you are doing it, almost there.

Chocolate and iced mochas, cafes and beaches will help as well.  Bribery works.

I wonder, as I look at my half-done second draft, why I wrote the first draft.  What sent me to the page?  Who was I writing for when I sat all those days at my studio work table, moving words and pen across the paper?

I can give the usual answers.  I was writing for me.  Writing to understand what I experienced.  Writing to make sense of the path I walked.

These are all true.  Not specific enough, for me, right now.

What was it that sent me to the page with enough words to fill a whole book?

Here I have to pause.  Feel back to where I was when I began the writing.  Not think.  Feel.

Like all I create, it was the push of an idea.  You might say ideas are thoughts, and thoughts are not physical.  This may be true for you.  Not for me.

My ideas and thoughts carry weight.  I feel them in my body.  No two feel exactly the same.  This idea to put words to my experience was heavy and insistent.  It sat in my belly, all of my belly.  It was very sure of itself and its importance.  It would not leave.  The only choice was to birth it.  Sit at my work table and write.  Day and day and day.  Let the idea flow as words from belly through heart to hand to ink and paper.

The insistence and sureness and sheer weight of idea into words is what carried me through to the end of the first draft.  This, and joy.  Joy runs as a thread through all my creating.

These things sent me to the page.

I tell you what I know for sure.  Without that weight in my body where the idea sat, the writing would not have happened.  That weight was the connection between the idea and me.  That weight told me the idea was real, here and whole already, even though I had yet to write a word.

Now that the first draft is done, and the second draft half-done, paused and returned to, is the idea and its weight still here in my body?

It is.  I feel it now, sure and insistent and whole, waiting for me.  I am not going anywhere, it tells me, until we are done.

This feeling is a gift of knowing.  It has carried me, and continues to carry me, as I write.  This knowing is all I need to know.  This book will be.

Insistent.  Sure.  Whole.  And the thread of joy.

In Beauty I Write

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Before I begin to write, this is what I do.

I ask for help.

I am writing, I say. Come and play and imagine and daydream and write and create in concert with me. I say this to my angels and guides, to Source, to the universe around me and within me. Come and play.

I am always answered.

Two days ago I am doing this, thinking ahead of the blog post I want to write today. Into my mind pop the words ‘in Beauty I walk’. The Beauty Way Chant.

I am not Diné. But I am human and these words show up in my life at various times.

In Beauty before me I walk,

In Beauty behind me I walk,

In Beauty below me I walk,

In Beauty above me I walk,

In Beauty all around me I walk,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty.

 

The words are here now.

This chant, this blessing moves into me as soon as I read or hear the beginning words.

I breathe deeper. My mind slows, my body quiets. I feel my weight on the earth. I am present to this moment in time (time doesn’t exist, I hear as I write this, there is only now). My heart opens and listens.

Here in this place of no-time, I stand in creation. Here is all balance and harmony, all life in concert with all life. Here is holy, sacred, all blessing. Here is love. Joy. Here is breath and being and all connection. Here is Beauty, whole, one.

These words shift me into communication with life. I am not just Cat, the single small me. I am Cat, a creation point among many creation points. I am supported, guided, gifted with inspiration and vision.

This is what asking for help does.

It connects me to all that supports me.

I have had two long conversations this week about releasing old feelings of being alone and unsupported in work and life. I know this is no longer me. I know all I need do is ask for help, and help arrives. Words, resources, and people show up. Ideas and images appear. I have a whole world supporting me. I am never alone, unless I choose it.

This is what the words and energy of the Beauty Way Chant do for me.

They connect me to all that supports me. Instantly. Perfectly. With ease and with grace, they stand me in creation.

Every one of us has something that opens us into grace like this. It may take the form of words or image or sound, an object, a person, a place. We just need to recognize it and then choose it, deliberately and consciously. Choose to ask. Choose to be supported, connected.

Choose to stand in grace in creation.

_____________________________

Happy Birthday, Bryan!  I love you.  Your presence in my life is a gift. xoxo Mom

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Attention

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This is what I remember.

I am three years old. I am standing in the living room. My mom is sitting in the chair in front of me, holding blankets. My dad is crouched beside me, at my level, telling me this is my new baby sister. Her name is Carrie.

See? Say hello. You can touch her. My mom leans forward so I can see inside the blankets. There is a small face. Red. The eyes are closed. There are black eyelashes.

I don’t recall if I said anything or if I touched her. I do know how I felt. I can feel it now as I remember. I feel confused. I don’t know what this means. Why is she here? Is she staying with me and my parents? My parents are doing a lot of holding her. They’re not holding me. Do they love her now? Does this mean they don’t love me anymore? Now I feel sad and somehow smaller. I am starting to feel angry at this baby sister, whatever she is, who is taking my place.

This is what I remember.

I am four years old. I am in my bedroom, standing in the middle of the room. I can see the back yard through my window. It is sunny outside. I feel my feet warm in my pink socks, feel the wood floor solid under me. I am happy, peaceful, connected to everything around me. I feel secure in myself—who I am, what I can do, my place in the world. I know I have a voice and ideas worthy of listening to.

What happens in the year between these two memories?

I remember.

My dad comes home from work. He changes from his work clothes to his home clothes. He comes into the kitchen, talks with my mom, talks to my baby sister in her play pen. Then he and I go into the living room.

We lay on the thick rug, my dad on his stomach and I beside him.

And we talk. Just the two of us. He asks me what did I do today? And then he listens.

I tell him what I did, what I found in the back yard (ants, a slug, and two rocks), the songs I sing as I swing on my yellow and blue swing set (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow). I sing them to him as loud as I can. I know all the words.

This is the immense gift my dad gives me. His focused attention. It may be only fifteen or twenty minutes each day. It feels like always and forever. In this gift, he tells me he loves me, that I am important to him and worthy of his time, that I have ideas and thoughts worth listening to.

My dad’s gift moves me from a confused, sad, angry three-year-old who wonders if she is losing her parents’ love, into a four-year-old secure and sure in herself and her world, happy, loved, and loving.

This gift of a few minutes each day. So small, yet it is everything.

Undivided, loving, interested attention. I learn what this is and how it feels. I take it into me.

I know now the infinite value of this gift. I practise it and pass it to whoever I can. This gift says I love you, and you are worth attention and time. You are important to me. You are interesting.

Thank you, Dad, for the gift of attention. I love you.  And Carrie, I love you too.

Random Thoughts About Good Things

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Drawing For Anna (detail)

 

Thursday, early afternoon. Warm sun and blue sky and a cool wind. Outside the window, the neighbour’s fir tree shifts, shakes, bends as each gust of wind hits it then moves on.

I am in my studio in Victoria, on the couch, sketchbook on my legs, writing. Jazz music playing. KPLU Seattle. I love this radio station. Coffee at my side. Decaf latte, to be precise.

So many good things in this life. I’ve easily named twelve in the previous two paragraphs.

I count the blessings in my life. Noticing keeps me present and grounded in my senses, my body, my heart. The best place for a writer and artist to be. Noticing is my direct connection to the world.

My drawing and writing come from noticing. Come from love and joy, from curiosity and questions. Some say that art comes from pain, the heart needing to express things that have no words. I know for sure my work comes from joy and love.

It was love that led me through the door of the art school every day for three years. It is love that leads me to the page and my blog each week. There may be pain expressed in what I create, but it is love and connection and the joy of creating that sparks me into action. All good things. All blessings.

So what blessings have I counted here today?

A day to be alive on this Earth. Warm sun. Blue sky. Cool wind.

The fir tree bending, shaking, shifting.

My studio and it’s old, comfortable, blue-and-white striped couch (an Ikea special).

Sketch book, the latest in a 20-year series.

Writing.

Jazz on KPLU (that’s 2 things).

Coffee (mmmmmm).

My body and senses and heart.

Connecting with this world.

Pain, joy, love (use everything).

Curiosity and questions.

Drawing.

Art school.

Words and my blog.

Creating, connection (again), action.

Sparks.

Yes, let me count my blessings. Gifts from the world. Thank you, World. I love you too.

What I Learned From Reading ‘Living Color’ by Natalie Goldberg

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Last week, Wednesday, I am pulling books from my studio shelves. Preparation to lead a writing workshop on Friday.

I pull down Living Color by Natalie Goldberg. I have had this book since 1997. Have read it through at least four times, and thumbed through it many times more. Inspiration, from writer to writer, from artist to artist.

I open the book and a piece of folded, loose leaf paper falls to the floor. I pick it up, open the page. In pencil, all caps, printed across the top margin, underlined, in my hand—what I learned from Natalie’s book ‘Living Color’.

Mystified. I don’t recall writing this. I did, obviously. After the first reading of Nat’s book, or the fourth. I sit down and read.

Here is Natalie’s wisdom distilled through mine, writer to writer, artist to artist:

‘Finish every piece, even when I think I just doomed it with my last marks or words. Take off from there into a different relationship with the drawing or the writing.

Nothing I ever create will hold that same intensity of joy I feel while I am creating it. The joy is inside me.

Trust and act on how I feel (my artist’s instinct).

Slow down and look.

If I really know a thing, it is there in my work whether I can see it or not.

Continue reading “What I Learned From Reading ‘Living Color’ by Natalie Goldberg”

Voice

Coyote Calls to the Protectors (war dress)
Coyote Calls to the Protectors (war dress)

This is my voice–imagination, experience, emotion, and action becoming colour and mark and word. Energy into tangible object. Magic.

I am here before you, offering my heart, spirit, mind, and body as one, shaped into the marks on this page, paper, screen. Touch my drawing, touch my writing, and you touch me.

Here is the process of my seeing, the tracing of my thoughts. A conversation begun and passed to you. Here is my voice reaching to hear yours. Will you answer?

This is who I am. The translation of love into creativity.

This is who I am. Artist. Writer. Creator. Magician.

Let me hear your voice. Let the world hear your voice, the unique creative force that you are. A silent voice is no voice at all. A silent voice is a loss to all the world. Speak, draw, act, dance, write, compose, play, sing. Imagine. Create.

Show me who you are. Show the world who you are.

Talk with me.

________________________________

The Cheshire Cat talks to me.

Crowgirl, it names me.

Artist, it says.

Ghosts and magic drip from your fingers,

pulled from the pages of your heart.

Crowgirl words, the only language.

Use them if you dare.

Incantations

speaking to that which is not there,

rubbing away all

except the smile.

________________________

Happy Birthday, Lyle!  I Love You. xo