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.
Starved for Spring
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.
For The Love of Little Trees
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.
What Are You Facing?
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.
Putting The Kettle On
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
Where Once Deer Roamed
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!"
"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.
'Get Over Yourself'
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.
This Or Something Better...
"Aww, you yawned. This one's going to be a big blur," I told Little Cat (aka Spook) last night as we snuggled in bed together. I'd been thinking about a photo for my daily haiku and possibly this blog the next day and Spook had settled beside my gratitude journal...at one point she had her paw resting on it. So sweet. I could write about Spook OR my gratiude journal habit OR Spook and my gratitude habit. She has huge round eyes that often seem a little startled as though the world is all just a little much and i was trying to capture her with that look. But the bright flash and delay gave her time to close her eyes. This last time she had obviously become bored with the whole process. "Let's just go to sleep, Mom. It's ridiculous o'clock again."
When I looked at the resultant photo, I couldn't believe it. No blur. A perfectly focused photo of her ginormous yawn. A little snake-like admittedly (those fangs! And why one so much longer than the other?) but still.
It reminded me of something I learned eons ago when library books had to be physically stamped with return dates to be borrowed. At a time when I most needed it, I stumbled acorss a book, 'Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About In School But Didn't' by Peter McWilliams in my local library. I took it out repeatedly, couldn't get enough of it. It's one of those books that I read while all the time recognising that its words stirred an innate knowledge within me.
One of the biggest things I learned was how to hope/wish/ask/pray. No limitations. I can't possibly know everything. No assumptions that what I was hoping for another was the only thing that could benefit them. Basically I suppose, it's how to cover your ass and send out good intentions without pretending to know what is for the best either for ourselves or for someone else. The two essential phrases: 'this or something better' and 'for the highest good of all concerned' covered everything, especially your ass in not limiting or assuming.
Last night's incident with Spook reminded me of that. I'd been so intent on a photo of her with her eyes wide open, paw on my book that I almost missed the incredible opportunity, the 'something better' that did occur. No limits. How easy it is to put lids on our expectations without realising it. And yes, I listened to her little body announcing bedtime, assured that I had a great photo for today's haiku and blog.
May your day be full of sweet surprises.
Who has time for frivolity and silliness? Not me. So much serious stuff to catch up on, so many 'chores' to focus on, so much STUFF going on in the world, so much to worry and fret about. Sighhhh. Add to all that: yesterday I woke up to 3 inches of snow (after weeks of mildish temps and rain), a midday temperature of minus 2 and, first thing, even before I'd ventured into the kitchen, my tooth broke. SIGHHHH. But I had rearranged a video call with Bethe in Texas so I could attend a live/ zoom watercolour painting session with Rachel Kentish of Rae Creates (check out her Etsy shop) so I made sure I attended. I knew that Rae was focusing on creating fantastical creatures but I told myself I could always work on something serious, something that really mattered, maybe my ATCs from January, on the sly.
Last time (also the first time) I attended a live session with Rae and her lovely 'followers', I painted a simple madala that ended up having so much meaning for me that I placed it on my spring altar. Besides, Rae has such a gentle peacefulness about her and her voice reminds me of Sheila's, a beloved childhood friend. A little sprinkle of peace and reminiscing is never a bad thing.
Wouldn't you know it, Rae flipped through enclyopedias and showed us how the pictures of wildlife inspired her crazy creatures and, well, it just looked like so much fun to create a mythical beast, I couldn't resist. Of course, the idea and hope is that we practice and hone our watercolour skills. Maybe I did that too. But I know for sure that I hatched the Super Nubbly Knobbly Criscact with her favourite flower. And I had SO much fun! (even naming her, can you tell? Lol!)
I based her on yesterday's haiku picture of my Christmas cactus. Lol. But you will certainly be forgiven for not seeing the likeness!
All this delightful silliness reminded me of one of my creative 'heroes' Shel Silverstein. If ever I doubt what I'm sharing with the world creatively, especially something bizarre and light hearted, I remember his wisdom and all he gave this world and how much better we are for it. Long before I even knew of him, his poems and songs touched me as a child (to this day I can't listen to 'The Unicorn' by the Irish Rovers which he wrote without tears in my eyes). Later, I fell in love with Dr Hook and many of their quirky ballads and moving songs ('I Got Stoned And I Missed It', 'Cover of The Rolling Stone', 'Sylvia's Mother', 'More Like The Movies' and 'A Couple More Years' to name only several) and was astounded to learn that they had been written by the same person, this Shel Silverstein character. In university, we studied his children's books. Such talent--he drew the pictures, he wrote the words. I found out years later that he also wrote the infamous Johnny Cash song, 'A Boy Called Sue' which I had loved even as a child as it had my name (or what I wanted as my name) in it and it was funny.
But when I doubt my creativity, especially the more frivolous creations, I turn to one of his short poems, 'Put Something In'. I used to have this poem printed out and in full view of my computer. Maybe it's time to put it back up. I hope the link below works and you can listen to 30 seconds of the poem being read aloud. Spoiler alert: it ends with 'Put something silly in the world/ that ain't been there before.' Yesterday, thanks to Rae, I did just that. And it felt wonderful.
What silliness can you add to the world today?
On Petal Wings
A thick blanket of snow! It looks pretty but it's beyond mid-April and I'm more receptive to rain right now. But it won't last long. The other day I noticed how most of my Christmas cacti (cactuses sounds better) are busily blooming and I wrote a haiku about it for my daily haiku (but didn't use it yet) and took photos of the beautiful shimmery flowers. The first line of that haiku was 'No fall bulbs planted'. I was missing the early bulb flowers in my yard so looked within and embraced the Christmas cactus beauty instead. With the startle of so much snow this morning, I changed the first line of the haiku.
The haiku was inspired by the shape of the flowers which from some angles look like tiny planes or birds; definitely they look as if they're soaring purposefully through the air to me. The pinkish white flower above is from my oldest Christmas cactus. I have no idea how old but at least 15 years...very possibly more. It's so old that its main stems are woody and rough. I moved it last year but it's adapted well and is just as happy in its new location (east facing window as opposed to west facing). I just love it. And on days like today, I appreciate it (and its fellow companions) even more!
Sometimes we have to move beyond what we want to see outside and embrace and nurture what's inside.
May you be surrounded by beauty.
High on the shelves at the top of my stairs stands a solid rectangular block of Lego created by my son when he was 8 years old or so. MOM. On the back three hearts (almost). I've never dismantled it and it's dsplayed prominently so I can see it every time I come up the stairs. A little jolt of joy. No matter that some of the white Lego has yellowed over time. It makes it more precious really. No matter that many of the memories it stirs aren't directly linked to its making.
Dane turns 33 today and lives very happily with his husband in Tucson, Arizona, USA. I just checked and without making any stops Tucson is about 3,300 km away from where I live in Thunder Bay, Canada:
total driving distance is 2,018 miles
driving time of 31 hours, 56 minutes
flight distance is 1,589 miles
flight time of 3 hours, 41 minutes
I'm amazed it's so close. It feels like it's a million miles away at the moment.
Last year, my hubby and myself visited Dane and Jonathan in Tucson for 2 weeks. Our first time there. We were so fortunate that our visited concluded just as covid travel panic set in so the first ten days of our time together were especially carefree. I took the photo below of Dane at Sabino Canyon during those early days.
Amazing how many memories can be stored in little bricks of yellowed Lego.
May your day be energized with jolts of joy.
A Den For All Of Me
You know the feeling when you're totally in sync with yourself, with all parts of yourself? Fetch, your inner child, your adulty self, your ego, your intuition? A couple of weeks ago I took a path never traveled by me before into the heart of a copse of trees, mainly birches and alders, five minutes walk away from my home. I stumbled along a narrow path full of swishy wintered leaves and deadfall branches. I felt excited; a child on an adventure. As a girl I loved playing 'up the hills' at the top of our road or in the vacant lot at the end of our street. i loved making dens, cosying a place up, hidden from view from anyone, protected on all sides and with a secret door usually of moveable brush. I could see out but no one could see me. I could spy! On this present day path, I reconnected with that young free-spirited girl. I also recognised the wildness of Fetch. Especially when I discovered a sunlit glen with a thick fallen log for a seat. My heart leapt! This could be my den! No matter that I could probably never get up (or even down) onto the log to sit! I saw myself sitting there with a shiny silver tin full of buttons and cookies and postcards and red leaves and pine cones. A pen of course and a pretty notepad.
I promised myself I'd be back. As I ducked under low lying branches and walked away, the caw from nearby crows sounded like claps of joy from Fetch and the free-spirited girl within.
Wishing you a day of delighting your inner child.
Skeletons of Winter
Tree branches still clack when the wind blows; thick frost sparkles on rooftops; the wind chills like ice. Winter still has a grip on us here in northwestern Ontario, in the middle of Canada. Spring has teased us with a few warm sunny days, even mild rainy ones but yesterday when I fed the birds, the breeze chiseled through my clothes and made me shiver and hurry. That's when I noticed this one lone maple key on the back deck. Its skeletal wings reminded me of the bony last grips of winter.
As soon as I took the photo of the maple key, my cat Spook ('little cat' in some of my haiku) pounced on it, batted it up into the air, leapt to catch it then tumbled off the deck (mere inches) with it between her paws. Then she bolted round and round the bottom of the deck. A pudgy cat possessed!
We may not always feel it but spring is definitely in the air. Just ask Spook.
May sunshine warm your bones today.
Make The World Go Away
I work midnights so I sleep during the day sometimes and I've had these earplugs for a year or so now. I've never wanted earplugs. My hubby came home with them one day after I'd woken up too early the day before due to him puttering around downstairs. I wore them once or twice. Only if he was home though. Being slightly deaf in one ear, I thought the earplugs would make me feel vulnerable. But since a squirrel took up residence in our bedroom wall then in the ceiling, I've worn them constantly. Much as I loved hearing the squirrel croon (who knew?) and found that comforting, the sudden frantic scrabblings bothered me. Apart from waking me, the noise distressed me to think about the damage the little critter could be doing. No peaceful sleep happening then.
When I was a child, the dark bothered me. But what bothered me more was the looming hulk of a wooden wardrobe in my small bedroom. Even with the door open and the hallway light shining in, the wardrobe cast a shadow like a hunched figure over my bed. Plus I had watched 'The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe'. It terrified me! What lay just on the other side of the wardrobe door, in the darkness that lingered there? I used to lay with my back to the wardrobe to fall asleep on my right side (I absolutely couldn't fall asleep facing it) then at that very last moment before drifting off, at the point where I knew I couldn't open my eyes even if I wanted to, I'd flip over onto my left side to sleep. Sometimes I would fall asleep on my right side but always woke up on my left. Decades later, even understanding why, I still started my sleep journey on my right side, 'good' ear upwards.
Until the squirrel came along.
To block out the squirrel's noises, I started to wear the earplugs. To help, I also started to sleep solely on my left side, 'bad' ear up. To my absolute delight, I found I slept soundly, barely moving, waking up feeling refreshed on my left side whether daytime or nighttime sleeping.
The squirrel has gone from the inside of the house walls and ceiling now (the holes where she was getting in boarded up when she was out gathering seed at the feeder) but I still wear the ear plugs for every sleep.
Who knew such a simple thing would improve my sleep overall so much? Now I'm looking at eye masks as well. I've seen ads for an eye mask and earplugs all in one and it even plays your Spotify tunes. Ah, make the world go away!
May you have a day as free as possible of worldwide cares.
Tai Chi in the Dark
My yesterday was crammed with screens and by the end of the day my body was screaming to do something more active than sit. I considered a walk, even just around the block, but that would have involved getting changed into pants even though it was 9:30 and dark. My new moon vow involves getting back into my tai chi practice. So that was it then. Tai chi. I slipped on my outside tai chi shoes, the ones with the orangish plastic soles that are a touch too big, even though I intended to practice inside. Tai chi only requires the space of an oxen lying down. Surprisingly not always easy to find in our house.
I told my hubby I was going to do tai chi "in the kitchen or in the middle room or..." "Outside?" he asked jokingly. I snapped my fingers. "Hey, you know what? Great idea."
So the cats and I ventured outside into the night. No rain. No wind. Perfect.
I used to practice tai chi regularly for the past 15 years or so but have barely practiced at all since the pandemic. No idea why not, really. I'm very aware of how it grounds me, strengthens my body, calms my mind, stimulates my memory and just generally helps me cope so much better.
The form I practice (International 8 Form) takes 10 minutes at the most to run through 3 cycles. Even adding in my favourite qigong from the 6 Form for Health Qigong only takes several minutes more. Who can resist 'white crane spreads its wings' or 'stroking the beard'? Nothing special is needed for tai chi, not the place, not the atmosphere, not the attire. I love my tai chi shoes and have three pairs but they're not necessary and I have done tai chi barefoot in my home and in winter boots on snow at the public boat launch. My tai chi instructor always made sure that his classes were the same all the time with nothing fancy about them so we didn't get locked into thinking that certain conditions had to be fulfilled before we could practice. Likewise, I have emphasised this approach in writing workshops so I get it and appreciate it. However, I love to practice tai chi with incense burning and soothing oriental music in the background. But none of that is necessary. Another instructor has led free practices in the summer beside Lake Superior with taped music drifting on the breeze.
Used to be I would take tai chi however, whenever and whereever I could find it.
Last night I found it again in the chill of the dark night on my back deck.
Wishing you a beautifully balanced day.
Journal Jam Joys
I admit it: I'm addicted to Journal Jams, especially Effy's live ones. Something so magical about spending an hour or two creating art from Effy's pulled prompts along with her and other creative souls. Catch them here through Effy's Patreon: www.patreon.com/effywild
I set aside time for them so I can catch them live if possible. I like the challenge of reacting to the pulled prompts spontaneqously as Effy pulls them. In replays (although still fun) you can find out the list of prompts in advance so they're not quite the same. Mind you, I usually fall behind Effy who is a whiz at painting, understanding the colour combinations and temperament of the materials she uses but there is still that challenge of thinking on my feet that happens in the live jams.
Another delight of journal jamming is seeing everyone's posts in The Wilderhood, one of Effy's facebook groups. We all have the same prompts, we all see what Effy is doing yet everyone's paintings are so inspiringly different. Below is my painting from yesterday. I still need to put the quote in on printed paper above the heart. I had in mind something like: 'Enjoy life in all its glorious messiness.' The swirling mess inside my heart which also seems to somehow work (at least in my eyes) inspired the quote.
Effy started regular live journal jams at the beginning of the pandemic as a way for people to connect with each other through art. They are a balm to my soul. Often I'll push aside my favourite activities such as art, 'reward' for doing other things that need to be get done in my day but this often means that I'll end my day (or run out of time) without having done any art. Journal jams remind me that art needn't take long and that there is power in starting and forging ahead and that everything else falls into place better if I take some time out for art. And that time set aside means a thing gets done! My day is better for it.
Much of the art surrounding me in my studio is journal jam art that I like too much to tuck away. (see below) The bottom picture is also the present background on my phone's lock screen. Thank you for all this, Effy!
May you be able to embrace the messiness of life today.
A Moment in Time
At the risk of sounding ancient, it's all so different nowadays. Photos. They're everywhere, of everyone and everything. Used to be they were of very select moments, usually perfectly posed, a smile or not depending on the occasion and the period of time. Now they are more likely to be candid moments taken on someone's cell phones or selfies from which the photographer can pick and choose the perfect shot.
How daunting, really, especially in generations past, that the only one perfectly posed photograph that exists of Great Great Great Aunt Wilma might have been taken while she was trying to ignore a severe period cramp. Perhaps she never looked so pained in real life. But there she is now, that particular moment in time captured as her physical legacy throughout later generations.
One of my favourite photos of Mam was taken at Trafalgar Square when she was a young woman. She looks like she's having fun, surrounded by flapping pigeons, her hair flying everywhere. But in reality she had a fear of birds flying and bats getting caught in her hair. I wonder now if that fear arose after the photo...right after as a result of this experience perhaps? Or did something negative happen right after so she equated birds flapping by her hair with those negative emotions? Or was she facing a fear by feeding the pigeons? Or was she really having fun feeding the birds? I never asked her. But I do love the photo. Mam never cared for her smile and she rarely smiled freely in photos so this is one of those precious ones.
My photograph pondering came about because it's my hubby's birthday today. So of course I wrote my daily haiku about that. Then went in search of an accompanying photo to put on instagram. I didn't have to look far. My favourite photo of Rob by himself is in my studio printed on copier paper in a simple plastic frame. But I just love it. It's from 2008, at the wedding of his daughter Nessa, captured by our son-in-law's father. Rob gave a speech that night that touched everyone's hearts. He cried as he delivered it. So did everyone else. When the picture was taken, outside just before the ceremony, Rob hadn't written a word of his speech. This pensive moment seems to capture him recalling memories, thinking about what to say. He can't remember what he was thinking right then but either way, I just love the photo, that unguarded moment.
As I scurried throughout the house taking photos of photos for the blog, I began to notice how i surrounded the photos: a gift label lovingly made for my mam from a dear friend in Tasmania; an ATC that I received from my friend Linda which seemed to fit with the photo of Rob. Many of these choices became conscious but started at a subconscious level and speak straight to my heart. Symbolism rules!
My son Dane would be horrified if he ever knew that I'd posted his graduation photo but I had surrounded it with ATCs (again from Linda--we swap ATCs) representing him and love. He now lives in Arizona with his husband and is very happy there. So the bright colours remind me of that. The black and white photo of Mam and myself was given to me after her death by Dad who had stumbled across it while clearing up. He loved it because of her joyful smile, a mid-laugh almost. I paired it with a pretty piece of glass which often doubles as a wand, a dab of magic which reminds me of all the magical/crazy/affirming incidents that occured after her death.
I want to go to a thrift store now and buy a ton of frames and print photos out and put them in the frames and place them all over the house and see what else might drift up against them, securing them to my heart. Lol.
A couple of days after Dad's second wedding, Dane and his husband were late arriving at a family function. But they were immediately forgiven when they arrived with framed photos from the wedding for myself and his two aunts. the photo shows the 5 of us together at the wedding. A moment in time, beautifully captured.
May your day be full of moments to treasure.
'Pretty Ugly Gold'
I'm certain I've missed my true vocation. Surely I should be naming crayon or paint or nail polish colours? The names captivate me. I marvel at the imagination of such folks that have these jobs and I always read and pay attention to the names of the colours, ever disappointed if they're simply a meangingless jumble of numbers. My friend Linda mentioned visiting her mom in a retirement home and painting her nails, mentioning that the staff had found the particular colours that her mom loves.
"What were they called?" I asked her.
She replied, "I think one is called 'Dull Pink' and the other's 'Pretty Ugly Gold'. As you can see I have no idea!"
I had to laugh, both at the humour in Linda's response and in our differences. The first thing I'd have done was to check the names! I used to think this was some sort of secret fetish of mine until I joined online painting groups and realised that so many of us covet naming colours as a job. Actually Linda could be a pretty accurate colour namer, although I don't think many people would want to buy them.
Excuse the messiness of my painted nails. Unless I use a fast drying polish, I always smush it somehow. Too impatient. I'm also sloppy in applying it sometimes but I don't let that worry me too much. It is what it is--a bright or pretty reminder to have fun and pamper myself. I was always that kid with one sock down around my ankles and my hair falling out of its braids. Now I'm that woman with nail polish on my cuticles.
Also I bite my nails. And cuticles. I know. I know. I didn't when I was pregnant. I couldn't stand biting my nails or drinking tea (which I love). My nails got so long when pregnant that I had to use a pen for our rotary dial phone. Did I ever feel elegant! I vowed to keep them like that but immediately started to bite them again after my son was born. An old habit that tells me something is on my mind long before I realise it consciously.
But back to colours. I was delighted when choosing nail colours to take with me while visiting my son in Arizona to stumble on a creamy neutral called Vacation Time. Well that was meant to be!
When choosing a shade of yellow paint for my kitchen, I must admit to being swayed by the name. So we have 'Falling Star' in the kitchen. In the bathroom, the walls are 'Peartree' and the ceiling is 'Oyster Shell'.
Imagine how dull and boring life would be without beautiful, interesting names to enhance colours. Imagine how creative the namers of colours have to be. Yep, pretty sure I missed my vocation there.
Wishing you the most colourful of days, in the most delightful ways.
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.