Friday, February 19, 2016

Munching The Weeds

Nature and metaphor…this pairing is a constant source of insight for me and inspiration for my writing.  Sometimes nature’s wisdom “speaks” while I’m out in the wild.  Other times its wise voice can be heard right in our own backyard.  

The (much needed) rains here in California have fueled a backyard explosion of unwelcome weeds - oxalis, mallow and stinging nettle.  There are also other plants, ones we welcome, popping up in large bursts across our yard - poppy, miner’s lettuce, nasturtium, feverfew and arugula. As I attempted to make a small dent in weeding last weekend, I noticed that along with the influx of gargantuan weeds, there was an army of mighty little ladybugs (or lady beetles to be more accurate) scattered throughout our yard, munching their way across the mallow leaves and either nibbling or tucked, as if napping, in the miner’s lettuce. 

One of many lady beetles nibbling on miner's lettuce in our backyard

Meanwhile, on a family hike we enjoyed earlier this week, several caterpillars, congregated on a single plant, caught my eye, and they too appeared to be either munching or resting.

Hungry and sleepy caterpillars!

These observations are helping me feel more hopeful about a nagging challenge.  I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with clutter and disorganization and have felt as though paperwork, memorabilia and “stuff” have taken root as stubbornly as some of those weeds in our backyard!  In my own defense, I’m dividing my time and attention between parenting and family life, the expanding branches of my work as an artist, notecard designer and maker, after-school instructor and SoulCollage® facilitator (plus the accompanying facets of being a “solopreneur” and doing it all yourself) and each step, big and small, on my ongoing journey of healing and self-care.  This leaves time for decluttering and reorganizing efforts only in fits and spurts.  I take a few steps forward, then falter a few steps back, never advancing far enough to make what I would consider meaningful progress.  My frustration has been increasing to gargantuan proportions similar to the weeds!  To add a level of complication, as I’ve become more conscientious about reusing and repurposing, and creative ideas have become more prolific, I’ve admittedly had a harder time letting go of things.  

This week’s sightings of lady beetles and caterpillars have reminded me that although I may not have the time or energy to completely “pull up the roots” all at once, I can (and will!) make measurable progress if I keep “munching” away at the clutter and disorganization while also allowing space for rest and rejuvenation.  In fact, even in bite size pieces, I’ve already made progress.  The plants we’re happy to see thriving in our backyard are pleasant reminders to pay attention to the positives that surface amidst the challenges, offering perspective and balance.  Little did I know that the “evil mallow” (as it is called by our family) and the lady beetle would teach me these lessons!

How have nature’s metaphors shared their wisdom with you?  (What are some of your favorite organizational tips to share?!)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beginnings, Endings, Beginnings And "Betweens"

Beginnings and endings...endings and beginnings...and the spaces in between.  This concept has surfaced in my mind repeatedly across the past several months.  In an online SoulCollage® group to which I belong, a fellow member shared this quote a few days ago, and the idea of writing a post about beginnings, endings, beginnings and "betweens" solidified for me.

"And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end
And all is always now."
- T.S. Eliot

As you may already know, nature is one of my greatest muses, and although it's still officially winter, and while we're still in one of those between spaces, nature is offering simple wisdom on this complex concept of endings and beginnings.  There are already early hints of spring here, of the new beginnings we can always expect as spring approaches and arrives...

the lushness of rain-nourished flora along trails and new, unfurling growth, 

plump buds on buckeye trees and perky blossoms on our almond tree, 

colorful calendula and feverfew blooms beautifying our otherwise disheveled winter garden and volunteer lettuce seedlings muscling their way through the soil in our now derelict vegetable patch, 

and wild "fairy sculpture" mushrooms emerging from the carpet of a nearby pine forest.

I've been thinking about the cycle of a seed sprouting, a plant growing, thriving, then fading, drying and shedding new seeds to be scattered into the soil, laying dormant until the cycle begins anew.  In simplistic terms, it's easy to compare this cycle to that of one's life - being born, growing, thriving, fading, dying, scattering "seeds" of love, memories, inspirations, influences and the essence of one's soul.  

While I continue to mend my heart (broken open yet again with another passing of a loved one just last week), and as I gain an increasingly stronger awareness of my spirituality, I find comfort in having faith that although each of our lives inevitably ends at some point here in this physical world, a new beginning opens up for us in the spiritual realm.  With respect to different beliefs, I believe in our souls being eternal, and this belief helps me navigate, with a more centered perspective, through the unavoidable emotions faced with the death of a loved one.  This belief gives me hope for his or her soul's journey as well as my own soul's journey.  As I comtemplate T.S. Eliot's quote, "all is always now," I begin to realize that with awareness of this eternal cycle, I can start to better understand how all is always now.

I share this post, admittedly on the weightier side of concepts (and one I'll be continuing to ponder), in the hope that perhaps it will inspire you to consider your own beliefs and perspectives on the soul's journey...  

Saturday, January 16, 2016


What would you see if the inner me was a transparency?  This was one of the directives for creating an expressive art piece during this week's Healing Art retreat at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (of which I've been a regular participant for the past four years.)  My immediate vision was of a broken heart mending with love.  With the recent and imminent losses I mentioned in my last post and this week's loss of SoulCollage®'s (I'm a trained facilitator in this process) "birth mother," Seena Frost, my heart has been in an ongoing pattern of breaking and mending.  In the past couple days since the retreat, I've contemplated my "transparency" and written this accompanying poem...


Love weaves its way 
Through the broken pieces of my heart
And as they come back together
I glimpse the light shining from the cracks in between
There's always enough
To heal me 

I am mending, although rearranged

Still vulnerable, yet becoming stronger
Centering, but also
Reaching out
There’s always enough
To share with other hearts

- Lisa Handley

What helps to mend your heart when it's broken?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Crystal Ball

This "crystal ball" formed in our fountain during a recent cold spell

My daughter's wish for a "real crystal ball" on her Santa list this past Christmas inspired me to ponder this question...  

Do you ever wish you could gaze into a crystal ball and see the future - the answer to a question, the outcome of a situation, the resolution for a challenge, the reality of a dream come true, smoother sailing ahead after the going gets rough?  Admittedly, sometimes I do, but of course, I realize it's best to concentrate our gaze on the here and now, being present in the moment, feeling confident that the plans we're currently making or actions we're currently taking will lead to the fruition of our desires, believing our aspirations and intentions will be fulfilled, our contributions will leave a positive imprint and rough seas will eventually settle.  

As I reflect on how last year unfolded, its highs and unexpectedly deep lows (with the losses of three of my closest friends and my husband's longtime colleague and dear friend), its twists and turns, brightness and shadows, I also wonder what awaits in this new year and wish for a gentler, simpler journey through 2016.  Having already encountered turbulence in the last couple weeks of 2015 and first couple weeks of this new year (caring for our older cat Franki after a recent health crisis, losing a relative for whom I had great fondness and just finding out the loss of another loved one is imminent), an easier year seems highly questionable.  Who knows what a crystal ball, if there was one, would reveal in the months ahead, but I still hold hope that beyond these current waves of heartbreak, there will be opportunities to sail calmer seas for a while.  

Perhaps our hearts are the closest version of a real crystal ball?  We can truly "see" what is constant in our lives and within our view and our reach at any time, even through the difficult times.  We need only focus within our hearts, and if we look carefully, our "crystal balls" will reveal glimmers of love and friendship, gratitude, beauty, peace and hope.  These glimmers can comfort, support and center us and possibly enable us to surrender more freely to the mysteries of not knowing.  With the clarity of these blessings, we can perhaps have greater faith that we'll be okay as we traverse the unknown.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Awareness word for 2016.

Rather than compile a lofty list of New Year's resolutions, I began assigning a single word to be my universal New Year's mantra a couple years ago.  I've since discovered how the simplicity of one word can deliver a strong, steady influence on my thoughts and perspectives throughout the year, how it can weave a thread of continuity and connectivity through a variety of goals and desires.  Flourish was my word in 2014.  Expanding in 2015.  Both of those words came to mind intuitively and easily as intentions.

As this new year drew near, I decided to take a different approach and randomly selected one of my SoulCollage® cards to lead me to a new single word mantra.  The card that surfaced from my deck of nearly 100 was my "Observant" card.  

(Most SoulCollage® cards are created with images from magazines and other sources, as was the case with "Observant," so I'm refraining from posting a photo of this card out of respect for copyright.  I am, however, sharing a photo taken in the midst of making this card.  My daughter and I collaged together after we finished a shorter hike and waited for my husband to return from a lengthier hike before riding the aerial tram back down to the desert floor.  We enjoyed this creative moment outdoors at the Mountain Station in California's Mount San Jacinto State Park, a wonderfully unique card making and mother-daughter experience during our family vacation in Fall 2014!)

The word "awareness" surfaced as I reflected on and journaled with my "Observant" card.  Using the SoulCollage® prompt of "I am the one who," this chosen card expressed "I am the one who is observant, observing with my eyes, my heart. my soul."  The input this card provided me on my word for this year was "to be fully present, to observe, to sense, to be aware."    

I've since been contemplating how awareness will accompany and guide me through 2016. Some initial thoughts...


In nature
In creativity
In contemplation
I am aware

In deep breath
In repose
In peace
I am aware

In moments of pure joy
In bliss
In love
I am aware

In awareness
I am insightful

In awareness
I am inspired and energized

In awareness
I experience the fullness of life

- Lisa Handley

Friday, January 1, 2016


After Paper And Ponder's unintentionally lengthy slumber, it is finally time to awaken and begin anew! 

Yesterday as we said goodbye to 2015, our family enjoyed a hike with friends along one of our favorite trail loops that gradually climbs up to a lookout point, then meanders down through redwoods and winds along a seasonal creek.  I found myself quietly reflecting on slumbering and awakening, on endings and new beginnings, seasons and cycles in nature and in life.  Our family hikes this same loop throughout the year, and regardless of the season, it is always a beautiful, magical place, even now in the dormancy of winter. Although many trees already shed their leaves in autumn, and we won't see the pretty faces of wildflowers until springtime, there are still countless wonders to behold, signs of nature beginning anew, each little miracle emerging and unfurling as the creek flows again with its cheerful serenade.

Hello 2016!  Hello to awakening and beginning anew!  Warm, bright and happy New Year's wishes to each of you!

Garzas Creek In Winter

Air crisp
Colors muted 
Except for vivid greens
Of moss and fern

Carpets of fallen leaves
Cushion softly underfoot 
Along each stretch
Around each turn

In the absence of wildflowers
Shapely mushrooms emerge 
Displays of fairy art
Sprinkled here and there

Can you see the tree goblin?!

Amidst the woodland shadows 
The tree goblin
Sprouts a perky new head 
Of thick, lush hair

Contrasting the solemn quiet 
Of Winter's repose
The creek flows freely
Singing its joyous song

Heart-shaped miracle

The magic of nature
Each season unfurling in miracles
This is my contemplation, my celebration
As I walk along

- Lisa Handley

Sunday, May 31, 2015

You Can Find Her In Your Heart

One of my favorite local beach photos,
and a favorite exclamation of gratitude Joni and I shared - "We live here!"

How do you navigate through your grief when one of your best friends has passed away?

You allow yourself to experience the range of emotions you encounter with the sense that her enduring spirit will shine a bright light through your sadness and illuminate your path.

You draw strength from your admiration for the valiant warrior she proved to be during her 10-plus year battle with amyloidosis.

You continue to find inspiration and encouragement in her witty, determined, courageous, passionate, caring, loving qualities.

You are uplifted by gratitude for your 20-year friendship and find solace in the many fond memories you shared together, the carefree and humorous ones along with those which were deeply poignant.

You connect with mutual loved ones in a comforting circle of support.

You reminisce, cry, reflect, cry, smile, laugh, cry...remembering all the while that releasing your tears is healing.

You learn how to feel peace knowing she is at peace.  

You realize that just as she has always been there for you, she is and will always be here.  Although you have lost her in this physical world, love is everlasting, and you can find her in your heart.

This is what I tell myself as I miss my dear friend Joni who passed away ten days ago...I can find her in my heart.  

Please join me in healing wishes for Joni's husband, family and friends.  When making your donations to worthy causes and charities, perhaps you'll consider the Amyloidosis Foundation.