I’m sitting in my dining room, on a camp chair, my laptop and papers and pens on our camp table. My iphone is tuned to Jazz24 for background music. The bedroom down the hall holds an air mattress and bedding, clock radio on an upturned box. My son’s bedroom downstairs has identical furnishings.
The dining room window is open to a warm breeze, sun, blue sky. I can hear the hummingbirds talking. They are nesting in the white lilac next to the house. Last year they were in the holly tree at the far corner of the yard. I won’t see the babies learning to fly this year. I won’t be here.
This home is pretty much empty. Everything was moved to storage this past weekend. I have a week of camping out in my house, and then on to the new house-home-studio. (Excited? Yes!!!)
I am finding it interesting how little I need to be comfortable. And interesting how the floors and walls have become a kind of furniture.
I am thinking, these past few days, about doing long work. The big projects that take time to come together and mature. This home project is a big one.
Becoming an artist and writer have been big projects. More than big. More like continual. Can’t help it. I keep discovering new things to play with.
In all the packing, junking out, giving away, I uncovered a box full of old morning pages journals. Pages written when I began this I-am-an-artist journey.
Most of these journals I fed to the woodstove. Letting go of old beliefs, angst (there was lots of that), limits I’d built around my creativity, limits I’d built around me.
I read a few pages here and there, as I fed them to the fire.
What I noticed—the Cat in these pages is no longer me. Someone else’s story. The incremental shifts really do add up to change in a good way.
As much as I love creating, it was a battle for me at first. I had to fight my way past massive fear and anxiety. Fear of making mistakes or a mess. Fear of making bad art. Whatever bad art is, I never did define it. Anxiety over wasting art supplies (read ‘money’) because I’d screwed up a drawing. Fear I was fooling myself; I wasn’t really an artist but no one had told me. All fear.
What saved me was love. When I fought past the fear, I loved creating. Loved the ideas that grew. Loved the surprises that arrived in my drawings. Loved the inspiration sharing with other artists of all disciplines. Loved what I discovered about myself through the creative process. All love.
My love of creating was bigger than my fear of screwing up and making bad art and being a fool.
Inside the front cover of a journal, ten months after graduating from art school, I wrote notes to myself:
“You have to give the drawing everything, all of it, and now.”
“There must be something rattling in the brain and trying to fall out of the pen.”
“Okay Cat, tell me what I’m keeping out of these pages?”
“Imagine what an artist I could be with a heart fully open and aware (this terrifies me).”
“Do the long work, and trust.”
I read these words here, today, and realize despite the daily fear and anxiety, there was wisdom coming through. I did the long work. I trusted. And now here I stand. Artist and Writer.
I held onto the love in my creating as a life line. Love gave me a path through the fear.
Love helped me trust there was a way through.
Sometimes, when my love even now is not big enough, I borrow love from other creators. I play recordings of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron reading from their books. I randomly pull books from my studio library and leaf through other artists’ creativity. I leave books open by my easel and on my writing table. Courage and determination are contagious. Others’ images and words hold and inspire me while I walk through my fear and into creation.
During my final year of art school, I borrowed love from poet Pablo Neruda. His words fueled my graduating body of work. Imagine writing poems to a tomato, a pair of trousers, a watch. I borrowed his idea, drawing a pile of carefully folded laundry, a teacup and spoon, a pear and knife, my favourite fuchsia-coloured brocade vest.
On that same front inside cover of the journal, I’d copied some of his poetry.
“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting; the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of the years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Tomorrow is the US Presidential Inauguration. I am having a hard time believing that Donald Trump is becoming the US President, that he was voted in. And yet, it is so. What concerns me most? The divisive way he sees and talks gives others permission to do the same, to pit group against group, to use anger and hatred as the path to what they desire.
I say to this–I Am A Contrary!
I am a contrary. Much of the society and material world I live in tries to tell me all is divided, labelled, specified, separate. It tries to say I am separate from you, from the water I drink, from Raven chuckling in the fir outside my window, from the ground I walk on, from the smooth grey stone I hold in my hand.
Not so. I see, I know, I feel all life, this world, everything as one whole being, one energy, constantly connected, breathing one breath, all flow.
I am a contrary. The material world tries to teach me to see only polarities, black and white, either-or.
But I see pattern, illumination, both-and. I see richness and range. As a child growing up and as an adult living in an either-or world, I remain knowing I am the stars, the sky, the earth water wind, the grey stone, Raven, the fir tree. I am you. I am and we are, both-and.
I am glad I am a contrary. Because of this, I know all is one. I get to see the one whole beauty underneath all of the pieces of this divided material world. I get to see the beauty and the heart living within each person I meet.
I get to see the hearts each of us carries. I don’t just mean the unique shining heart each of us is. I mean every one of us is covered with hearts, all sizes and every colour, one pinned onto us by each person who loves us. We move through life covered, carried, loved, connected by all these hearts.
The past two weeks I’ve been experiencing one of the things on my list for living a creative life—Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.
Drawing and writing give me great joy. I mostly create alone, and this works for me. I hear my heart, mind, and Source clearly. There is peace in this, and an awareness that holds both energy and ease.
Lately I have been visiting with my artist and writer friends. Meeting for lunch. Going for walks. Sharing what we are each creating. Asking for and giving advice and points of view. Laughing a lot. Appreciating. Being inspired. Making notes of books to read and websites to view. New resources to play with.
We talk about creativity and life. For us, these are threads that wind round each other. Impossible to separate. I know I wouldn’t want to.
Thursday I sat across from a friend, at her round wooden table. The table was high, and I am short. I put an extra pillow on the seat of my chair. We had pens and paper. We wrote.
There was peace in this space, and the quiet act of creating in the presence of another. My friend and I know intimately the feel of writing alone. This day we chose to write together. There was joy in this. I feel it again as I tell you.
There is power, too, in creating with a friend. Familiarity, love, and acceptance of the creative process. Friendship, love, and acceptance of the person across the table. This power is ease, and it let my words flow. I looked up and saw my friend moving her pen across the paper, her words taking the shape of a new story.
Grace was given both of us in this time and place. Grace, joy, friendship, and writing. A perfect afternoon.
I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Her words have me feeling and remembering.
Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability. If they did, I didn’t hear them. Maybe the people around me did not know this either.
Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view. Show a calm, controlled front. Always pretend everything is okay. I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.
I kept pushing my feelings away. I thought I was getting rid of them. Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.
This is not the way to live. I knew it, but did not know how to be different.
Things changed when I was twenty-one. I began the relationship with my future husband. He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.
Something in me knew it was time to build a gate. A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.
I was terrified saying it. This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered. Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love. I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?
I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement. I said it like a question needing the right answer.
He said it. He said I love you. He answered. To me.
Love made the gate in my fence. Love and the courage to love. I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.
I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love. I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself. He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself. Maybe this is how my courage appeared. His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.
Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.
Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me. But louder than the words were his actions. He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.
He believed in me.
This is what we do for each other. We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves. We believe in them. We say ‘let’s do this together’.
We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us. We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.
‘I believe in you.’ Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.
Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years. We have a son to be proud of. My fence? It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself. Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now. I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection. Then I walk around it.
Lyle, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
In this post:
Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012. http://brenebrown.com/
It is Thursday and I am here in my studio, writing. Through my windows I see pine and fir and aspen forest, all around me. From my front door, I see rows of round hills moving into the distance. Greens and smoky blues. The wood thrush has returned for the summer’s nesting. I heard him calling yesterday, a song that sings like water over stone.
Beauty is here. Yet today, it is not enough. My heart is longing for the ocean.
What is it in me that can move away from peace so easily?
I love my studio here in the trees at the top of the round hill. I open my window and the air breathes me. The songbirds and the ravens companion me. Their calls inspire me to imagine and write and play. Peace and creation live here with me. Fall, winter, spring.
When summer comes, I move my studio to Victoria on Vancouver Island. There, I have ocean close to me. On three sides of me, when I look on the city map. I can leave my summer studio, drive four minutes in my car, and I am there with my beloved ocean.
I love my studio there, where the ocean lives close by. I open my window and the beach rushes in. I hear the seagulls yelling from their heights in the sky, hear the baby crows demanding their place in the world. When I sit at the beach and write, the waves move in time with my words. Peace and creation live there with me.
What is it that moves me so easily into longing? Time. I have been away from my ocean for nine months. The forest and hills have filled me, and now I come close to the time for change, to become washed by my ocean.
Oh, my heart, love here where I am now. Love here where I am creating these words to the sound of the wind in the trees and the wood thrush song. Know that I am blessed to move from peace to peace. From forest and hill to ocean and beach. From beauty to beauty.
Love what is here before me today, and love what I know will come soon enough. Love the longing I feel today, that created the words on this page. Cradle my longing. Whisper ‘Thank you.’ And whisper ‘Soon, I promise, soon.’
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