I've gone from a blog post a day to squeezing May's in at 11:30pm on 31st May! To get it posted in time, it'll be mostly pictures. When i finished the blog-along with Effy Wild for April, I missed it. I missed reading the blogs of others and missed writing my own, pondering about it and pulling it all together in my mind. I almost wrote a post halfway through just to use reading others' as a reward. But something else came up.
How was your month of May? Mine had some beautiful highs, ending on a heartbreaking note with the discovery of over 200 children's remains from a residental school in Kamloops BC. Effy Wild had a journal jam today and she dedicated the energy raised in the painting to go to healing those directly affected by this sad find, and to all suffering because of residental schools. I did the same, writing in the hair a release and pouring my feelings out. I had forgotten how therapeutic art can be in that way, helping to process hard emotions while also presenting a permenant reminder. This is my Journal Jam painting. I had contemplated the words' Bear Witness' but will probably leave her like this.
Brighter notes included Mother's Day and lots of love from my son and step-children, even some of my grandkids got in on the act. Ollie drew a heart and wrote his name on a gift and Maggie drew a lovely card to accompany another gift delivered late at night in our driveway. I love the sentiment: 'Your hart is bigger than a elaphant'.
Mid-May also brought the NOWW awards (an annual writing contest that I reguarly enter. It originates here but is an international contest. This year I had 'spectacular wins' as someone told me and I was thrilled. In celebration my stepdaughter Crystal sent the beautiful blue journal and keychain below. The journal came the day before I needed a new gratitude journal. Perfect timing!
23rd Annual Writing Contest Award Winners
The Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop
is pleased to announce the winners of the 23rd Annual Writing Contest.
Short Fiction – Judged by Emily St. John Mandel
Sue Blott – “Pretending”
Tina Petrick – “Escape from Slugbrook Academy”
Cindy Matthews – “The Roach Family”
Creative Nonfiction – Judged by Niigan Sinclair
Cindy Matthews – “Lost Innocence”
Robyn Stronge – “What If”
Vera Constantineau – “He and I”
Poetry – Judged by Sheri-D Wilson
Siobhan Farrell “Winter Thoughts”
Morgan Thomas – “Histrionics”
Kevin Bezanson (tie)
Tanis MacDonald (tie)
Haiku – Judged by KJ Munro
Sue Blott – “Relationship”
Sue Blott – “Nature”
Bill MacDonald Prize for Prose (Fiction) – Judged by Waub Rice
JF Foulds – “Beyond Tears”
Sue Blott – “Kin”
Dorothea Belanger – “Signs”
Of course May had many more moods and shades of moods and magical moments and sadder moments but this is my May in a nutshell to try to make the midnight deadline.
Celebrate and embrace your many moods!
Today is the last day for April's Artfully Wild Blog Along with Effy Wild. For each blog posted in the facebook group, we read and commented upon 3 other blogs. What a treat! I rarely limited it to 3 comments a day. To have the blogs all laid out was a lovely treat--pick and choose. Time consuming but an amazing experience. I will miss my daily dose of blogging and blog reading. My second time doing this and making it all the way through so very pleased about that. Thank you all for reading and commenting. I'm sorry I didn't reply to your comments. In time I might but the way weebly has it set up for me, it becomes quite ridiculously time-consuming and I often just ran out of time but I appreciated every single comment and read. Thank you! And thank you for sharing your blogs and yourselves and your lives so readily. Your blogs and comments often made it into the pages of my gratitude journal during April.
I know gratitude journals aren't for everyone but I love them. They give me focus and a full heart at the end of the day. I've kept them for years...well over a decade...now and have evolved them to include: 5 things I'm grateful for that day; 3 things from the day (FTD) which make that day particularly unique (not always positive things); one word (starred) to help sum up the whole day, the overriiding thing I'm grateful for that day. This all works for me although it may sound tedious. But the deeper delving stops it all from trite and the same old same old.
My gratitude journals are always beautiful books that generally have been gifted to me although some I have bought myself and I always use the same lovely book mark that my cherished childhood friend Maggie sent me. We call each other Souley.
The other day, my dear friend Teresa from intown, snail mailed me a friendship card and a note. She'll often do this throughout the year even during those times when we can get together. A terrific day brightener and instant mood lifter. Of course gratitude for Teresa, her friendship, presence in my life and the lovely card itself all made it into my gratitude journal for that day. I wanted to share the card's face with you in gratitude to you for reading and for journeying with me. I've felt your presence, love, support and validation and I hope you've felt mine in return.
May your heart be filled with love and gratitude.
Yesterday we had summer in northwestern Ontario. Plus 17 degrees Celcius. I took it and ran with it. I had to pick up pet supplies from the vets so continued along the highway to Centennial Park on the other side of town. There I chose to walk along the railway tracks, lured by their proximity to the raging river, the sound of rushing water, the sparkling glimpses of churning eddies through the trees. Plus less people walked there. Except for an older man with his old black dog who I surprised after I'd detoured close to the river's edge and discovered curling birch bark which excites me no end.
I apologised to the man and the dog and stood back to let them pass and go ahead of me. Then I ambled along at a good distance behind them. I had passed the man sitting with his dog in the shade of a tall pine at the edge of the park when I entered. What a gift they were giving each other on this gloriously sunny warm day. When I left the park, there they were again, sitting in the shade, the man resting his old dog, sitting in a cloud of bluish cigarette smoke.
As I walked along the tracks, I realised I was devouring the experience. I couldn't get enough of it. Despite wearing a jacket, I felt like all my pores were wide open, absorbing these surroundings and the gorgeous day. I swear at one point my mouth hung open, drinking in the warm fresh air. A greedy guzzling of the day and the park, so starved for spring. The experience will nourish me for days to come.
Wishing you a day that feeds your soul.
I really needed to hear my own haiku this morning. The hope in it. Yesterday seemed like a swirl of emotions for no real reason. My neighbours across the street look like they're moving. I consider them an anchor in the neighbourhood yet here I don't even know if they're really moving---just Andre has been clearing out the garage for over a week now and yesterday a mini U-Haul truck was in their driveway. Moved by a writer friend's post on facebook I wrote a heartfelt message then found out I'd somewhat misinterpreted the situation. Sigh. Well, I think she still felt the love. But I carried the burden of what I believed to be true until I realised my mistake. Then I carried the burden of my mistake. Lol. Sometimes I don't know what to do with myself!
I needed to remind myself of one of my favourite Buddhist teachings: Two monks came to a raging river. A woman stood on the same side as them, unable to cross. One of the monks picked her up and carried her across, let her down on the other side. Then the monks carried on their journey. The monk who had witnessed the woman being carried across finally said, "Brother, you know what you did back there? Well, you think it was a noble thing to do but I'm not so sure. We're not supposed to touch women." The other monk replied, "I carried her across the river then forgot about her. Why are you still carrying her?"
Wish I could have remembered this yesterday! Lol. But I moved myself out of my mood, my feeling of not getting things done, of being hard on myself, of fretting that I couldn't be close to people if I didn't even really know what was going on in their lives and I watched a great movie ('A Call to Spy' on Netflix. Based on true stories during WW2. Made me realise that while that war was a call to action, this pandemic war is a call for non-action. ) I also went for a short walk to my den. (woods close to home) And took some pictures.
I fell asleep last night wondering what my daily haiku, haiku picture and resultant blog would be about today. Maybe the wall colour (teal) and wallpaper border (reminds me of heather) in my bedroom? When I woke up this morning, this haiku arrived fully formed. Exactly what I needed to hear. I love it when our creativity heals ourselves most of all.
Perhaps you needed to hear it too today? Even when we think nothing is happening, when we're feeling stuck in muddy feelings or a place of non-action, something could be seeding and growing.
Below is a photo of the woods yesterday. Spring here seems to be stalled. I had to search low for the little tree and green growth. But they were there.
May your load be light today.
I mean in a very literal sense: what are you facing? Glance up from the screen. What's in front of you? Perhaps if you're on a laptop or on your phone what's in front of you isn't something you would normally choose. But if, like me right now, you're in a 'fixed' place on a computer what you're facing becomes important. Very important. You see it all the time. My computer is in my studio. Studio. That sounds posh and lofty but that really is what it is...a spare room in the house, for me the heartbeat of the home...but my studio, where I create art in whatever form it may be: writing or painting or collaging. Facing me on the wall is a gorgeous handmade quilted wallhanging from my extremely talented and treasured friend Linda in BC. She couldn't decide on a single title for it so she wrote two titles on the back: 'Bugs in a Jar' and 'Pickled Bugs.'
When she sent me it, I laughed. Those VW bugs! We share a love of VW bugs. When we met in university, we both drove VW bugs--mine baby blue, hers fire enginge red. So I loved that link, that material and her indecision on titling it. But the colours unsettled me a little. Not my colours. And that border! Crazy! Linda had been taking a class of a quilt block a month and she always made two. One for me and one for her. But this wallhanging was much bigger than the others. I don't remember exactly when I received it. She wrote on the back Sept. 2001 so at the latest it would have been Christmas of that year. September 2001. What a time to welcome something so fun into my home. Of course I loved the quilt, the gift and the memory despite my qualms with its border and colours. I hung it prominently in our front hallway so we would see it leaving home and arriving back. Both times to armour and disarmour with love and smiles.
But as soon as I claimed this space as my studio, the wallhanging migrated to the wall in front of my computer. It fit so completely in so many ways. As I create and pause for inspiration, there it is with its quirkiness. Its border material of bright almost handpainted lines shimmers in the light. The playfulness of the material and of Linda's take on it never fails to lift my heart. The love stitched in it, the understanding, support and friendship through all the years...I see and feel it all. Be willing to take risks, move beyond what is usual, embrace new ways of viewing things, be playful, know you are loved, its presence reminds me.
All good things to face.
May your spirit be light today.
Quick! What's the first thing you do in an emergency? I don't know about you but one of the first things I do is put the kettle on. A kneejerk response from my British upbringing. Someone comes to the door. Put the kettle on. Distressing news. Put the kettle on. Something to celebrate. Put the kettle on. Four o'clock? Breakfast time? Dinner time? Seven o'clock? Bed time? Yep. Put the kettle on. All to make tea. I bring tea to bed, drink tea before I've had a bite of breakfast. Putting the kettle on and making a cuppa is the most comforting and welcoming thing I can think of to do for someone.
For me, a cup of tea suggests a pause. A time to reflect and sit back. A time to listen. Or talk. Or read. Or write. Or to stare out the window at the birds and the clouds.
Friends and family know about my love of tea and shower me with gifts of tea and all things tea related. I have no complaints. Hell, I completely indulge my tea fascination myself and seek out new blends and replenish old favourites.
The second most comforting and welcoming thing I can think of to do for someone is to offer them a varied choice of tea. The photo above shows a basket full of tea from under my painty table in my studio. Only a portion of the tea in that space. In the kitchen a double cupboard over the sink, several cannisters on the counter and the top shelf of one cupboard all hold tea. Um...yeah...perhaps that's excessive. Lol. The most embarrassing part of all that though is that I rarely have plain old orange pekoe.
I take my tea plain and very weak. 'Gnat's pee' Dad calls it and family remind each other to just show the hot water the teabag for my cuppa. To me, it tastes bitter if it steeps too long. I am so NOT British in that regard.
For our wedding, my hubby and I gave samples of a special tea blend away to guests. My lovely step-daughter, Carole, arranged it all and asked us for our favourite kinds of tea. For me jasmine (also earl grey in a regular restaurant) and chai for my hubby (who isn't much of a tea drinker surprisingly). So it ended up being 2 parts jasmine to one part chai. Delicous! The blend and little sachets to give away were created by iHOT (International House of Tea) which is my local go-to tea place. They also make the scrumptious Thunder Bay Tea. I prefer this in black tea but it is made in green tea, white tea and a fruit tsane too. A perfect gift for out of town family and friends. (I'm not affiliated or getting paid by them. Just a big fan!)
I've also recently discovered other local brands of deliciousness: Tea of Fortunata (I love Eleanor's wild rose tea especially and as I know her, I can envision her handpicking the tiny rosebuds and rose petals herself. I also love all the delightful names and storoies she weaves around her teas...you could say her tea company which is named after her grandmother is steeped in meaning. Hahaha) and Boreal Forest Teas (Loon Song...OMG. Gifted to me by Carole for my birthday this year, it is a heavenly bedtime tea.)
One of our more memorable LUNA (Lakehead Unfinished Novels Association lol!) writing group meetings (at least for me!) that took place in my home involved tea. I bought everyone a different flowering tea...the flower opened up in hot water. I don't know about anyone else and I don't remember anyone's critiques but I do remember everyone's excitement in watching their personal tea flower bloom.
Ahhh, tea. If you enjoy it, do yourself a favour and put the kettle on. i would do it for you if I could.
Wishing you time to reflect and sip some tea.
In 2019 Effy Wild offered a painting course: A Year Of Rumi. In a year of interesting personal changes, Rumi (and Effy's interpretations and instructive classes) became a delightful resting place for me. A new painting derived from a new quote each month. Moments to explore and reflect; moments to lose myself in; moments to soothe and refresh and re-ignire my soul. I sopped up as much as I possibly could.
This year, through her Patreon account, Effy gives us A Year Of Mary. A new painting, an Effy signature, a lip-up girl, centred around a quote from a Mary Oliver poem each month. Mary's poems, for me, are like moss-covered rocks to rest against. I wanted to dive right in as soon as Effy offtered them but strangely I just finished February's. I've coveted them, trying to stretch out the delicious anticipation of creating them. But they are such a delight, such a comfort, that I think I'll spoil myself once this blog along is over and indulge in catching up.
In both courses, I've often adapted each painting, using Effy's techniques usually but perhaps changing the overall picture, sometimes not changing much of anything. Effy reads out loud the full poem in AYOM (a treat in itself--who doesn't love being read poetry to?) and I print it out and read it over, seeing if a different phrase jumps out at me. So far I've used both of Effy's choices. You can see my January AYOM in the side bar, advertising the course.
In A Year Of Rumi, Effy directed us to many quotes and focused on a different one each month. The 12 paintings are designed to be used as calendar pictures and Effy gives instructions and pages at the end of the course so we can build our own calendars if we wish. For my cover page in AYOR, I chose a completely different quote which somehow brings me immense comfort and freedom, so much so that I have it pinned on my bedroom wall so I see it everyday. One day I'll frame it. I made it using not so great white gel pens but can easily fix that if I want. The quote is: "It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you but no one can walk it for you." It's funny what speaks to me at certain points of my life but this quote still resonates strongly with me and somehow gives me permission to let everyone else go their own way while letting me go much more freely my own way. Ah, Rumi. Such wisdom.
In 2017, my son Dane returned to Thunder Bay from Toronto while awaiting his green card so he could go and work in the States and be with his American hubby. He lived with his Grandpa, my dad, who was still deeply grieving my Mam's death in 2013. In mid-2018 at the age of 80, Dad met a lovely lady, Sandy. Romance blossomed quickly between them. So quickly that on my way to meet Sandy for the very first time Dad announced that he would likely be going to Florida with her during the winter. Dad hadn't travelled out of Thunder Bay since Mam died, never deviating from his daily set-in-stone routines so this was quite amazing. Sandy's presence brought many changes, both to Dad and his outlook (very positive but it took some adjusting to his new way of being!) and to the house. Long story short, Dane obtained his green card and left to live in the States right after Christmas 2018 and Dad also left for 3 months in Florida around the same time. Although delighted for both of them and although happily married to my hubby and surrounded by a large loving stepfamily, I felt...oh I don't know...abandoned somehow, a little adrift. Enter A Year of Rumi and his insight.
On 1st June 2019, Dad and Sandy got married. I made their wedding card and wrote May's Rumi quote within as it seemed so fitting: Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.
It all just goes to show that in anything we do or create or offer to the world, like Effy's wonderfully timed A Year of Rumi, we can never anticipate how it will touch the life of someone else. So thank you, Effy!
I will leave you with my August painting from AYOR which is one of my favourites--a departure from Effy's I think but I incorporated her watercolur lesson. I like it because it makes me think of foggy nights and gas lamps. I hope you will take the quote to heart. Thank you so much for reading and commenting if you wish. I appreciate it and read all the comments even if I don't manage to reply via this blog.
Thank you for journeying with me along this part of the road.
"Don't you know yet? It's your light that lights the world." ~Rumi
I admired the trees across the way often. Last time I really appreciated them was about 10 days when I practiced tai chi on my back deck late one evening. No moon but street light fell on the tree tops beyond my back lane neighbour's driveway casting them in a ghostly glow. A delightful focal point for my stances. From my studio and kitchen windows, I've watched the copse of treese reflect the seasons, found a peace within them, seen deer escape into them, heard robins sing in them, watched crows watch me from their depths. Last week, to my horror and despair, the trees were all cut, stripped and mulched. I couldn't stand to watch. Even to notice. But this morning after work, I drove past. A miserable morning of wet snow and low clouds. A fitting day to witness destruction. My soul wept.
The ironies are startling: deer vs Deere and cutting down a beautiful mini forest of trees during Earth Day week. I grew up in England close to hills but with no garden/ fresh grass yard, only a concrete back yard which housed a huge orange iron coal bin. We did have a couple of window boxes and rhododendrons and azaleas in tubs but no trees. I loved the hills and the local cemetry which had narrow paths lined with horse chestnut trees and oaks. All the trees in my yard now irritate my neighbours but I love my trees. All trees. Somehow I will have to honour the trees across the way and all the joy they gave through the years.
May you have chance to hug and thank a tree today.
"Insulin and din-din!" I call to my grey cat, Kaden, every morning. He runs to sit at my feet mewing. Well, sometimes mewing little quack-like noises other times simply opening and closing his mouth with no sound. A diabetic side effect. Kaden gets insulin by needle, 2 units, twice a day. In the morning I inject him as he eats his soft food; in the evening, around twelve hours later, I give him his needle as he eats a handful of treats. Fortunately for us both, he has the absolute sweetest temperament and even before I caught on to injecting him while he was busy eating, he would come and sit patiently while I fumbled around trying to bunch up his skin and poke him.
When he goes for his full day blood glucose curve monitoring at the vets, I get little notes from her calling him 'such a sweet boy' and saying what a 'very good boy' he was as always. His diabetes has steadied out well and he only goes for these day long tests twice a year now. It took a little experimentation with doses before we hit on what works best for him but he's been doing so well for the last several months. He is curious, playful and active and playful.And I'm very thankful.
Kaden is 12 years old and we've been together for 11 of those years. All those years ago, I was typing a congratulatory email to a writer friend but had to apoligise for any typos. I couldn't really see properly as I was in floods of tears. I'd had to put my cat Whiskers to sleep a couple of days earlier and I couldn't stop crying. I mentioned this to my friend who responded immediately saying that his girlfriend and her daughter Ashleigh had rescued a kitten from the local garbage dump a year before but they needed to find him a good home now as they had too many rescued animals. Was I interested? My head wrote the return email saying I needed to think about it but my heart was already out the door buying new dishes and pet food. They lived a couple of hours away in another town but drove in with Kaden a few days later and I fell in love with him as soon as I saw him.
As the family drove out of my driveway, Kaden stood on his hind paws, his nose against the front screen door and watched them drive away. His little gesture touched my heart. I hoped he would be as happy with me. When Kaden and I first started going for monthly visits to the vets to regulate his insulin dose when he was 10, who should be the technician-in-training one time, but Ashleigh. She recognised Kaden straight away but said he didn't seem particularly interested in her. I like to think he knew her. At a time when I was very worried about his health, Ashleigh said that he looked well and that I was obviously taking good care of him.
Actually, I think Kaden and I take good care of each other. He makes it all so easy.
Wishing you a day of easeful loving.
I had been gifted a set of Oracle cards ('The Answer Is Simple' by Sonia Choquette) that I already had so I thought long and hard about who to regift them to. Melissa! Not sure why Melissa came to mind but I thought she would have fun with them and I could drop some books off in her little free library at the same time. Melissa used to be my coordinator at work but I've always considered her a good friend. Vivacious, extremely kind-hearted but tough and practical with a tirade of backup plans for backup plans, Melissa also has a delightful self-deprecating sense of humour. Her reaction to the cards was hilarious.
I laughed too. Not that Melissa needs to get over herself at all but it got me thinking. Her reaction (laughter at herself) was a breath of fresh air. So many times I get myself so wrapped in in what others think of me, how many likes does a certain post get, what did that person mean when they said that about my work, how come no one likes that instagram /facebook post, how come they only like it and don't love it? On and on. A perpetual hamster wheel in my mind which takes so much energy to move beyond. And of course the opposite, feeling so puffed up and important when I get lots of love and likes. (I! Listen to me! I mean a piece of my work or a post of mine of course! Yikes!)
A prior blog post I wrote mentioned Shel Silverstein and in looking at his quotes, he said that he never took any notice of reviews of his work, even if they were positive. If you believed the positive ones then you also had to believe the negative ones, he said. Ouch. Really, Shel? Of course I've known this for years. Obviously it's still a battle for me. In school external things always motivated me. The year we were given stars for each completed project, I couldn't wait to rush in each day and see that often extra sheets had to be made just for my stars. I did try not to make this known to others and I did try not to be insufferable about it. Not sure how well I achieved that. Even now. Lol. Dad's first comment no matter how well I did with anything was always, "How did everyone else do? How far ahead/ behind were you?" I lived alone with his parents, my grandparents for a year and understood better how he thought like this. Mam's constant response was "That's good. So long as you tried your best." A nice balance.
When I find myself on this hamster wheel of fretting about other people's opinions, I've found, as Shel also said, the best thing to do is to keep on doing. One foot in front of the other no matter what. Still keep creating. Appreciate and acknowledge comments (it can be helpful to note comments, especially when I've asked for them, but in a more objective manner) but carry on regardless. That's why daily deadlines work well for me. They force me to just get on with it: to bring myself down off clouds or drag myself from swamps of stinking self-pity to just do the next thing. On my more enlightened days, I can even laugh at myself like Melissa.
The sunset last night inspired me this way. The sun sets every day whether we notice it or not. It just goes about doing its thing day after day whether we noticed its beauty the day before or not, whether we notice it from a mountaintop or behind window screens and a bric-a-brac of tree branches.
My weekly horoscope from Chani Nicholas seems to support this idea. Ultimately, the number of likes isn't important. Other people's opinions don't matter as much as getting the work out there trusting that it will find and touch, possibly help and inspire, whoever it's intended for. It's not my job to determine that or to determine who that may be. I may never know. And maybe that's no one. And that would be okay too. My job is to keep producing the work and honing my creativity and putting it out there in trust and faith. And with as much humour as I can muster.
May you feel surrounded by enough love today to take yourself lightly.
Welcome! I'm Sue Blott: a writer of all things, a poet at heart, mom, wife, daughter, step-mom, grandma, tea drinker, tai chi-er, mystic, artist, dreamer...and now a blogger! This is my world.