Whew! I made it! Following Effy's Artfully Wild Blog Along, I read at least 3 blogs and commented on them each day and wrote a blog post every day in April! At times I jokingly called it my Slog Along. It wasn't always easy to find something that might be remotely interesting to write about or something that I could fit into the slow drips of excess time I had available. My reward was reading the other blogs and having people comment on mine.
I felt heard, held and loved.
I have my beautiful, faithful friends who read and comment whether on my blog or in person or in emails and I am eternally grateful for their presence, love and care. But it was also nice to hear fresh voices and to experience other people's days, emotions and thoughts, too.
So thank you all. Sending you much love.
I'm always fascinated with how people choose to express themselves--or not. Take the facebook avatars they choose, for instance. Why that photo, that saying, that painting? I long to know the story behind the choice. That kind of thing can tell you a lot about a person. Those are the kinds of things you want to know if you're a writer and you're creating characters. What would be your character's avatar? Why? And do they change them much or keep them the same?
For years my avatar was a selfie I had taken with a regular (not cell phone) camera. I'd taken it at night in front of my desk. But I didn't hear the 'snap' of the camera so I moved it to check if it was okay. This movement resulted in a multitude of lights seeming to stream around my face! I loved the effect. I liked that my face was somewhat hidden and that the photo had energy and that it had happened because of a mistake on my part. Perhaps a subconscious reminder that good things can come from mistakes. And it gave people lots to think about as they debated what the streams were: my windswept hair, creative wires, mesh of some sort?
For over a year now (or is it over two years?) I've kept the same avatar: a red glass heart in front of my hallway window which is etched with frost. Apart from the fact that I like how it looks as a regular size picture or a thumbnail, the picture has significant meaning for me. I took it between Christmas and New Years when I was waiting to go in for a second mammogram after my first one (my first one ever!) showed an irregularity, a lump of some sort. I had been reassured as much as possible by the receptionist that most times these were nothing to worry about. Of course my mind wandered often to that phrase: 'most times.' A poem was born from the experience and the photo. A poem about the frost scratching and etching the way cancer does in a body. Yet, for me, the photo is strikingly beautiful: that blood red, vibrant heart against the fresh white frost. Beyond are bare-boned winter trees.
Frost ferns remind me of my childhood, growing up in a single-paned house through cold winters where a coal fire downstairs and a paraffin heater upstairs did little to warm upstairs bedroom windows.
I bought this particular glass heart at Banyen's Books in Vancouver on my last visit there to see friends. As usual, I stayed with Linda and she indulged me in going to Banyen Books, a place we both love. I fell in love with it as soon as I entered the store. I hung it in my hallway window because I also have a place in my heart for hallway windows and I see it day and night.
I was very very fortunate: the lump in my breast is nothing to worry about. So my avatar reminds me of my luck, but also of how precious life is and how we could all use a little more pure red-hearted love, especially in the middle of a deep freeze.
Looking through my art journal today, I came across a two page spread that I did for Life Book 2017 with France Papillon called The Story Within. I remember the spread, the healing that occurred with that arting and the understanding and resolution I reached at the end of creating it. At the time, I was struggling with some information that I had discovered a year or two earlier about my father, about my family and about a belief that I had held for over 50 years, a false belief that my family purposefully fostered.
The discovery was that my dad is not my biological father.
As you can imagine, there are many levels to this kind of a revelation, some I'm still dealing with. But what I worked through in this two-part spread was the idea that a tight compact family circle had holes and spaces and wasn't as I had imagined. Instead there were loose ends, threads dangling. And this was ultimately okay. After the whole process which took many layers of writing, painting and expressing myself, I created the second page with the loose threads representing parts of my story to which I had no answers. I wrote:
Knowing more of the truth leaves loose ends but adds texture to my story.
Sometimes those loose ends can tickle, irritate and distract me. I want to have everything wrapped up tidily and tie those loose ends into a pretty bow. Realistically I know that won't happen. And that is okay. Even on the days when it may not feel so okay. I prefer to know the truth with its untidiness, to let the threads add texture and layers to my story, to my life.
In which areas of your life do you have loose ends? Can you embrace them and see how they add layers and texture to your life? It may take time and effort and arting and writing. In the meantime, may your heart and mind be filled with peace today.
Effy calls these 'Self Care Saturdays' and, on her facebook page, asks how we are practicing self care today. What did you do? Is there something you do daily for self care? This morning I went to tai chi practice at the gym. I've been practicing tai chi for well over a decade now. It grounds me and I totally love it. I practice alone, too, but the energy is magnified in a group and can be different depending on who else is around. I've never felt worse after doing to tai chi, whether on my own or not, and I aim to practice daily.
Years ago yoga had the same grounding effect and probably would today. Another thing I aim for is to get back into a steady yoga practice. I especially love the yoga sequences ie Sun salutations which was one of the attractions of tai chi initially--the dance-like movements within a form. But my overall nudge into taking up tai chi came because I thought I was losing my memory and became worried. I thought remembering the complicated forms would help. But then I fell in love with the energy tai chi creates, moving the chi, and how great in all ways I felt after practice.
Later I have a meeting with the producers of my play and all the other playwrights and directors involved in this year's 10x10 production. Then I'm working this evening.
So this hour of tai chi was my oasis in a busy day. It involves a standing meditation, too and while meditating, although ideally my mind should have been empty, I had insight about how to progress in my year of Rumi painting. A double bonus. And afterwards I connected with a dear friend, Louise, and we chatted for a while. Triple dose of self care.
I love how good things can trickle through my day like that. One small act of self care leads to another and another, sometimes purposefully, sometimes not.
May your day be full of self care, self love and self compassion. You deserve it. <3
Today I'm scattered. I need to work on my novel for my writing group but am facing huge resistance. I want to paint but it always feels so indulgent that I put it off as some later reward which sometimes I don't get to. It's incredibly gusty here today and my thoughts and emotions feel scattered on the wind. One minute I want to do this, another I need to do that. I'm easily irritated when I feel like this and can easily end up doing nothing productive or nothing I really want to do because I can't settle enough.
What to do when I feel like this? I've done some practical things: cut the tail off my shower pouffy (I know this sounds like a little thing but it's been unwinding daily for weeks now and its tail almost stretched the length of the bathtub! Every time I used it or saw it I'd say to myself, I should do something about that. Finally I did! ), fed the birds in the front yard and in the back yard, prepared a stamped envelope full of poem critiques to mail to a faraway member of our poetry group and checked on bills and marked down the due dates and moved my money around.
The real problem is that I have a full day off with no work, meetings or lunches or appointments, and have a stretch of days coming up that are quite heavily regimented with work and appointments and 'stuff that has to get done'. Today is the kind of day that I often crave but the kind of day that can dissolve into nothingness if I remain too restless. I want to do everything delightful and nothing that I feel I must do! I just stamped my feet! Lol. Even this blog has seemed like a slog today, not the writing of it now but the thinking of what to write.
On days like this, I just need to DO something instead of spinning my wheels. Writing the blog feels much better than thinking about it!
I discovered something at work a few months ago that I figuratively stuffed down into a deep deep pocket so I could control it, protect myself and possibly others and not have to deal with the demons it had hooked itself onto. Basically it was a trigger. I kept it hidden for the most part for 6 weeks until I had to say something and then all manner of things that should have happened did, including me having to examine why I had stuffed it away in the first place. I had to practice extreme self-compassion to understand that and, as a result, decided to see a counsellor, to give myself that gift. She asked me if I could envision a box in which to keep all this stuff I'd pushed down into a pocket, all this 'shameful' stuff. I painted and collaged a box and surrounded it with magic to keep it firmly closed and locked and called it 'Safely Stored'. I have it in clear view in my studio and can see it from where I sit at the computer. I feel peace when I look at the box. I made it especially feminine and pretty.
It dawned on me today that I can also pour my restlessness inside the box, trust that it can be contained in there. I understand why I feel restless today but it's not serving me well. I need rid of it. I can also art it out or write it out or walk it out or even meditate it out but for now, in this moment, I can also simply store it away. An exorcism if you will.
And you know what, I can feel that it's worked! May your day be peaceful and nicely-paced. And if not, what can you do or what do you do to settle yourself?
One of the cool things about the Artfully Wild Blog Along with Effy Wild is that for each post we publish in the group, we have to read and comment on 3 other blogs. I've learned all kinds of things and pondered and smiled and laughed out loud, even cried at some of the blogs I've visited. And of course each blog post can become a jumping off point for something in my life: a memory, an idea, an emotion. One such post by blogger Francine aka The Organised Crafterbrain was about a 100 day project of creating temporary collages Visit it here and check it out. Francine uses a selection of precut collage pieces and rearranges them differently each day, takes a photo then dismantles them. I simply love this idea of impermanence. I get far too attached to just about everything in my life! That includes my art and often how the painting or writing piece will turn out. So this collage practice would be great for me! Then I remembered a fun 'book set' that my friend Linda gave me as a gift many years ago.
I should probably add at this point that I'm not affiliated with the book in any way but I do really like it. It consists of a magical board, a soft-tipped brush and a hard backed book full of simple brush stroke drawings and an accompanying meditation or Zen poem. The idea is to embrace non-attachment by choosing a meditation and copying or creating a simple brushstroke drawing, then contemplating on the saying or poem as your drawing disappears. I've found it to be remarkably liberating to let something go like this.
I once knew a poet who burned her poems as soon as she wrote them. I was stunned! How could she do that? How could she let go so easily? But to her it was a double release: first the expression of the poem into a tangible form then the burning of it. She never regretted it. Oh to live so freely!
How do you mark your page in a book? Do you use bookmarks? Or are you a corner turner, a dog-ear-er? Does it depend on the book? I asked a friend over dinner tonight and rightly guessed that, like me, she uses bookmarks. But she said that for her notebooks she has a unique method of marking her page: folding it in half, not equally down the middle, but so that a triangle of the page sticks up out of the book. Ingenious.
I have another friend who told me she has no use for more than two bookmarks as she only ever reads two books at a time. She indicated that I'm forever buying her bookmarks and that I should stop.
Personally I have lots of bookmarks...and things that I use should a bookmark not be close at hand. I have special bookmarks for special books, like my gratitude journal (my souley bookmark from Maggie, a cherished school friend) and books from local authors who gave away matching bookmarks at their launches. Some books have a few bookmarks stuffed in them, books like The Artist's Way, painting manuals and many poetry books. In addition to bookmarks, I also like those ribbons and elastics that come attached to some books so I can save multiple pages.
I use all kinds of things for emergency markers...old receipts, tissues, coupons, post-its, empty folded toilet rolls...although I'm not proud of it, I have also occasionally kept my place in a book by simply leaving it open face down if i know it won't be disturbed!
I find it fascinating to borrow a book either from a friend or the library and find markers in there--recipes, shopping lists, ticket stubs, children's drawings, cards to Suicide Prevention Centres in some self-help books...I imagine I'm reading along with that person, walking in their footsteps almost, now that I know a little about their life.
Equally as fascinating is reading a book from a dog-ear-er. You know, someone who turns down the upper corners of a book. The way the pages are turned down speaks volumes, especially if it varies...this page neatly in the upper right hand corner, this whole page creased. Then there is the issue of where the person stopped reading. I wonder why. What came up that they couldn't finish the chapter? Why did they only read three pages on then stop again? I make up all kinds of reasons whether I know who last read the book or not. Sometimes I find a cookie crumb or a smear of blood or chocolate or a smushed bug. Sometimes i leave those things in books myself, inadvertently of course. ;-) But I love it. They add to the personality of the book. I adore books that have been read so often that their pages have begun to fur...oh that softness, like a caress from all who have read it before, even a younger me.
Have you ever purposefully left a bookmark in a borrowed book? I think that would be cool. I leave what I find in borrowed books. I also like the idea of bookplates, even if the book is eventually passed along, and I especially like the idea of writing your name and the date in a book that is purposefully donated to others. Popular in Thunder Bay are little free libraries (I think most everywhere has them now--little boxes, often beautifully decorated, with books for free inside. Leave one, take one; take ten, leave none...whatever you like.) Imagine each book in them having its own special bookmark and its list of who has read it and when. This idea ridiculously excites me!
Such personality is lost with e-books although I do understand their importance and necessity. But for me, nothing can beat a good old page-turner of a book in my hands, that weight, that sound, that bookmark waiting...
I had time to contemplate on the morning while sitting in the dentist's chair at 9:30 waiting for the last stage of my root canal. It had been a whirlwind of activity for me and my husband, Rob: garbage day AND recycling day, pets to feed and medicate and clean up after, ourselves to feed and clean and prepare for the day--I had my dental appointment and my husband discovered that today--this morning!--was the funeral and celebration of life for a longtime friend of his. Rob's ex-wife had called with the details. Now he needed his suit and to be out the door at the same time as me so I had to bring in the pets from outside. Phew! We kept bumping into each other (literally!) as we scurried from activity to activity. Somehow we kept our senses of humour. I think that can be the strongest part of our marriage! In the middle of the chaos we had the following conversation:
Me (checking my teeth in the bathroom mirror) : I don't remember you telling me that he had died.
Rob (collecting the garbage from all the rooms in the house): I did. He died on my birthday. Remember I was trying to find the funeral information and couldn't?
Me (tossing an asprin in with the dog's food) : Ah yes. I remember now. (then measuring the insulin into the syringe for our cat's shot) You must have known him a long time. A restaurant friend? (I had never met him even though Rob and I have been together for 18 years. Rob doesn't keep in regular touch with many of the people from his younger days or that his parents knew, often Chinese food restaurant owners or workers,)
Rob (clattering plates in the cupboard): Yes. Look. This is what Ming Lee taught me.
I turned to look. Rob balanced three dinner plates up his right arm and carried one in his right hand. He looked like a circus act. I envisioned them filled with noodles, rice and chicken balls.
Me: That's quite a feat.
Rob (pausing for a moment, lost in a memory): It was. I wanted to be able to do that so badly. He taught me.
Then the chaos of the morning began again. We left each other with a hug and a kiss.
The dental assistant told me that I wouldn't need to have freezing for this final stage of the root canal and that it would only take a few minutes. Yay! But while waiting for the dentist, I had time to reflect. It made me think of the weft and warp of our lives, how even the little everyday things all interweave to create the fabric of our lives. These moments root us, help keep us grounded.
We will never have another morning exactly like this even though overall it seemed quite ordinary. Such is the beauty of life.
What would be your daily prescription? What would you like each of your days to hold? For my birthday, I got this spoon (see pic) from my step-daughter. She knows me well! I aim for each of things every day. My today is especially lovely and, in addition to the three spoon-fed prescriptions, has also included (or will include):
Of course we sometimes have bitter pills to swallow each day too. Today I tried to eat a melon that had rotted (ugh!) and ate too much sugar to take away that taste. I had to drag myself out of bed to go to work for an early start then had to race to work. I marched through our muddy yard in my new slippers to protect my cats from the neighbour's Tom who likes to fight.
How is your today? What would you like to include as a daily prescription for a contented day?
Most of us have them somewhere, either proudly displayed or tucked away: pictures of family, chosen or chosen for us. Last weekend my hubby Rob and I had dinner at a restaurant with my stepdaughter, Nessa, her hubby and their two daughters, Tori (9 years old) and Maggie (5 1/2) to celebrate Rob's birthday. Nessa brought crayons and paper and a blank book to occupy the girls, both of whom love to draw.
When Rob and I arrived, Maggie was busy working on a birthday card for her grandpa. After a while she put it to one side and began to draw a universe instead with a blazing sun and planets with rings and then mermaids. Towards the end of the dinner, she returned to the card. While the adults chatted, she drew Rob and I. She studied, quite unselfconsciously, my sleeves and the way the cloth draped over my arm, then she peeked under the table continually to get my shoes just right.
Just over six years ago, Maggie's sister Tori gave us a big family portrait she had drawn: two big figures with a little green felted figure in between. Nessa asked Tori to explain it to us. "Well, this is Mommy," said Tori, pointing to one of the big figures. "And this is me!" To our surprise she pointed to the other big figure.
"Oh!" I exclaimed. "Where's Daddy?"
"Oh, he's not in this picture..."
I glanced at Nessa who was beaming. I pointed to the tiny felt figure. "So this is...?"
"That's my little baby brother or sister who's growing in Mommy's tummy right now," said Tori.
I've had the picture on our fridge all these years. Definitely one of the most unique ways we've ever been informed about a new family member and one of our sweetest family portraits .
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.