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.

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Tell me I’m an artist

misc.pics 128When I was eighteen, I tried to become an artist.

I loved school and I believed in school, so I got myself accepted to university and started my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I thought courses and a diploma and those letters, BFA, after my name would make me an artist.

I thought being an artist came from outside. Like being knighted. I dub thee ‘Artist’. One of my art teachers would surely tell me, ‘’Cat, you are an artist.’’

All through that year, I hoped someone would see me, the artist me. I didn’t say it out loud, or whisper it. I never wrote it down on paper or the covers of my sketch books or a bathroom wall. Tell me I’m an artist.

I was so desperate for this, it must surely have been printed across my face. It must have leapt out of every piece of art I created (both the amazing and the dreadful) and every essay I wrote.

It didn’t happen. No one said these magic words.

I left the Fine Arts Department after that first year. I got my diploma in Business Administration instead, and went to work for the government.

Yes, go ahead and laugh.

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Buried Treasure

laidtoresteast.skullI’m in the library.  It’s cooler here than outside.  We had a heat wave last week.  It is done and gone, but cooler is still feeling better to me.

I am sitting by the windows, writing, a table for four all to myself.  Sketch book and loose leaf papers and BIC 4-colour pen and ipod spread out before me.  It is quiet at this end, away from the entrance and check-out desk and dvd section.  I’m deep in the 900’s stacks.  Biographies.  Katharine Hepburn looks out at me from a cover.  A namesake and one of my heroes, she is.

In the library I am no hero.  I am a pirate.  I’m here for treasure.

There is treasure everywhere in the library, so I’m always a very successful pirate on my voyages through this word and idea space.

Today I am searching for no particular treasure.  No.  Today I am on the lookout for buried treasure, unearthed by hands other than mine.

The book sticking out one inch beyond its neighbours on the shelf.  Someone thumbs through it.  No, not for me, they say, replace it carelessly, walk away.  I come by later and there it is, mine.  Just what I was looking for, although I did not know it until now.  I drop it into my sack.

And here is another.  Left lying on top of other books.  Like my first find, looked at, discarded.  Left for me to come along the shelves and recognize its possibility in my life at this moment.  A second piece of treasure into my sack.

I am a rich pirate today.  Double treasure to take home and play with.  Try out the words and ideas and story for their fit.  Ooo, I do like this first one.  It’s all me and beyond.  Hmmm.  This second one, not so much.  Doesn’t fit me and my life as comfortably, but there is an interesting idea and turn of phrase, the way the writer links her words that I write into my sketch book for thinking on later.

There is learning in both my treasures today.  The one that fits me well and sparkles brightly.  The other that does not, yet offers me a pebble for polishing and playing with, turning it in the light and finding its brightest face.

I love being a pirate in the library.  Gathering treasure unearthed by others gives me a different point of view.  I would never have gone looking for these books on my own.  They weren’t in my usual pattern of interests and thinking.  Yet here they are crossing my path and, because of that, worth a look.

I have long practice at this joyful plundering.  Sailing the library stacks and then turning for home, my sack full of treasure, my heart full of pleasure and anticipation, delight and surprise at what I have found today.

Did. Saw. Heard. Drawn.

lyndabarry3I have made my way through Lynda Barry’s book Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor.  Slow reading.  Taking in the content and structure of the pages, the balance and play of image, word, idea, question.  Seeing how her mind moves, and in turn noticing what my mind touches on.

On pages 61 to 63 Lynda talks about ‘Your Daily Diary’, an assignment she gives her students.  I’ve decided to do this for my blog post, and feel what this recording process feels like.

This is how I do it:  Today.  Seven things I did.  Seven things I saw.  Something I overheard someone say.  Draw a picture of something I saw.  All recorded on a single page divided into a grid of four spaces.  Do it fast.  Five minutes total time used to record my day.  I like the speed of this.  My internal critic can’t handle speedy creating, panics about getting run over, and hides somewhere out of the way.  Excellent.

Because I am doing this as my blog post, I’ll use a list rather than the grid.  A list of the sorts of things I notice in my life, what my mind touches.  Moments of being present in my day.  Here goes.

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Pilgrim

Archangel (Sariel)
Archangel (Sariel)

I’ve been listening to Sonia Choquette on the Hay House World Summit 2015.  Sonia talks about walking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain.  Eight hundred kilometers.  Five hundred miles.  A pilgrimage.  She carries grief on the long walk.  Deaths of a brother and father, the breaking of a long marriage, the certainty of failure in her life’s work.  She walks and forgives, walks and lets go.  Finds her way through to Santiago, balance, and home.

I am a pilgrim in my own life.  Finding my way.  The map is my heart.  I walk with my map open, certain and sure of each loving, joyful step.  I walk with my map closed, lost and aching, blind and stumbling.  Refusing to see and feel.  Refusing to take the single action that will save me—open my heart again.

Stubborn has been one of my words, and sometimes it fits me like a tailored suit of clothes.  Resistant.  Unwilling.  Yes, those too.  I’ll do it myself.  Say this quietly.  Pretend to go along with other people’s agendas, and then shift to the side and onto my own path.

Focused is the word I use now, rather than stubborn.

I need to learn things on my own.  I can be told something, but I need to test it out, experience it for myself.  See and feel all through me, the truth of something.

An example.

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I am Here

I held the earth and touched the sky (Mike)
I held the earth and touched the sky (Mike)

My heart is a map.  Where I have been.  Where I am now.  Where I am going.

It’s not a paper map, identical each time I unfold it to find my way.  It is simple to know where I am on a paper map.  The roads and pattern are always the same.  I see my place clearly, and mark it with an X.  I am Here.

My heart is the map of my life.  Like all maps, I must know where I am right now in order to journey to where I want to be.  To find my way on this map, I open my heart, and feel.  Where am I now?  Is it love, excitement, anger, sadness, joy, wonder, jealousy?  So many emotional places, I cannot name them all.  Ah, here I am.  Mark it with my X.  Homesick.

Is this where I want to be, in this place of homesick?  No, not really.  It doesn’t feel good, and I prefer ‘feel good’.  Don’t we all.

I have learned that clearly feeling where I am gives me information.  This place on the map of my heart, homesick, tells me I am longing for something, a something not fulfilled by where I am in my life at this moment.

This is what I do to find my way from homesick.

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I remember

 

I Called Light and Dark and Wove the Cloth of Life (Charlene)
I Called Light and Dark and Wove the Cloth of Life (Charlene)

 

I use my memories as a path of healing.

In yesterday’s post ‘Start with joy’, I write about finding joy in my physical connection to an image of beauty, to water and earth, and to a memory of myself at three years old.

For me, the process of finding a healing memory is intuitive.  I trust that I can recall all of my life, and that I can use what I recall to bring myself to wholeness and health.  The type of emotions in the memory make no difference, whether my head is judging them comfortable or painful.  I choose to use all of my life in this healing.

This takes love.  In the process of ‘I Remember’, the love I use can be for anything.  It can be for a person, an animal, a place, a toy, a pair of shoes.  Love is connection, and gives somewhere to begin.  The point is the feeling, and the stronger it is, the better.  Love includes trust and acceptance.  It allows me to trust and accept the process I am doing, my memories, and myself.

This is what I do.

I choose a space where I feel comfortable, safe, and private.  Most often, I use my studio where I write and draw.  My studio is my heart and my nest.  It is filled with things I love, that make me feel happy and inspired—toys from my childhood, favourite books, handmade gifts from family and friends, photographs.  These things are play, beauty, and heart.

A quiet atmosphere is necessary.  It is vital that I hear only my inner voice during this process.  I close the door.  My family is used to this now, but initially it took some training for all of us.  I learned to know that I am worthy of time alone with myself, and my family learned that my temporary absence would not create disaster.  They understand not to interrupt me or disturb my privacy.  I use earplugs or relaxing music to mask any noise in the house.  This allows me to focus.

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