Saturday, September 29, 2012

Refueled, But Not Up To Speed Yet

Refueled, but not up to speed yet.
Still on a slower path
Alongside the faster pace
Of daily life
In the real world.

This entry in my “inner little girl’s” story best described how I felt emotionally and physically as I was emerging from my illness.  I am grateful to be living life at a more typical pace most days, but am actually being cautious (or at least trying!) to avoid becoming too “speedy,” realizing that in the past, my overly hectic schedule certainly took its toll.  There is also the reality of temporarily finding myself slowed down again after each periodic maintenance treatment.  Journeying on the slower path has taught me to be more mindful of self-care, and I’m also learning how to be more patient with myself.  By striving to live life at a reasonable pace, we can aim for more energy and less exhaustion, to feel vibrant rather than drained.  Instead of worrying about keeping up with others in the fast lane, we can focus on taking the time we need to catch our breath and replenish ourselves.
Everyone slows down at one time or another, perhaps in response to stress, grief, fear, illness, depression or change.  May we feel patience and compassion for ourselves and for others who happen to be traveling on a slower path.        

Friday, September 28, 2012

Girls Weekend

I’ve been continuing to contemplate traditions with much fondness and gratitude this week. Another tradition I enjoyed earlier this month was our annual girls weekend in splendidly beautiful Big Sur.  What a wonderful pairing!  For several years, six to eight of us, a group of local girlfriends, have been gathering for a weekend retreat from our respective busy lives.  These weekends allow us to briefly shed our day to day responsibilities and just relax, reconnect, celebrate our circle of friendship and of course, have fun!
The idea of “sub-traditions” in an earlier post this week also applies to our girls weekend tradition.  Without divulging all of our secrets (ha ha!), here are some of the "sub-traditions" that we’ve maintained during our weekends over the years: 
Outdoor enjoyment (picnic to kick off the weekend, walk or hike, outside conversation and/or game)

Abundant and tasty food (we’ve learned to prep at home in advance to minimize kitchen duties at the cabin…less work, more play while we're enjoying our weekend together)
Plenty of beverages (including a group favorite that’s an “essential” part of every girls weekend...not telling, but you're welcome to take a guess!)   
Candid and lively conversation (infused with much laughter and sometimes a few tears)
Games and prizes (along with some spirited competition)
Bonding activity (three years ago, we sat around a large table with magazines, scissors, glue and paper, creating a vision board for ourselves plus posting positive words and images on additional boards for each person)

Browsing through some of Big Sur's gift shops and galleries before heading home


Here are a few glimpses of my vision board created that weekend...

...and three years later, I have escaped my rat race!

Just as traditions are centering, comforting, uplifting and energizing, so is time spent connecting with and appreciating the company of good friends.  Let’s all include more dates on our calendars to get together with friends!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Last Weekend's Tradition

I posted this same photo on Facebook last week -
a scarf I created by upcycling some of my old MJF t-shirts & 
 sewing patchwork pieces together at Bella's Studio in Monterey,
one of my favorite places for creativity and inspiration  

Thoughts fresh on my mind after spending last weekend at the Monterey Jazz Festival…the enjoyment and comforting sense of certainty in maintaining a long standing tradition.  Attending the festival has been a tradition of ours for over 20 years, and despite distance, illness and in more recent years, child care challenges, my husband and I haven’t missed a year.  For us, the MJF weekend is a “sacred” weekend and a steadfast tradition.   
We lived in Minneapolis for a couple years while my husband was earning his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota, and despite the limitation of one income at that time, we were able to return home for the festival weekend.  I’ll always remember (with great appreciation!) a good friend of ours making his way through very heavy traffic, determined to reach the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in time, and against rush hour odds, we caught our flight! 
Since our daughter entered our lives, we've had to piece together child care like a jigsaw puzzle, recruiting support from family, friends and babysitters, but the festival is also expanding into a family tradition as she joins us to attend some of the afternoon shows.  In the past three years, she has even formed her own little Saturday afternoon tradition of playing with another little girl who’s her same age (and whose family sits next to us in the same row.)
Last year I rallied and managed to attend the festival while I was ill.  I remember how intently focused I was on feeling stable enough to enjoy at least a portion of the festival weekend and how grateful I felt to succeed in being there.  The festival weekend was pleasurable and familiar in the midst of an unpleasant and unfamiliar time.
This year another good friend commented about the traditions she looks forward to while at the festival, and I've been thinking about how there are indeed "sub"-traditions within a tradition.  While enjoying the overall festival and its music, we also enjoy the traditions of socializing with local and out-of-town friends, indulging in meals and treats from our favorite food booths and shopping for MJF souvenirs and unique (many handcrafted) items from vendors.
As life presents uncertainty, the comforting certainty of fond traditions can center, uplift and energize us.  What are some of your favorite traditions?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rolling Herself Back Up

When life unravels, with support around us and strength within us, we can roll ourselves back up…

Sharing another piece in my "inner little girl" series and continuing to roll myself back up a little bit more and more each day. 

"Rolling Herself Back Up," Winter 2012
Yarn, shimmer & glitter paper

You may be wondering why there are often red dots
accompanying my "inner little girl." 
These dots represent the healthy red blood cells I have come to value so greatly.

Love, family, friendship, support, kindness, caring, empathy, patience, positivity, faith, drawing upon inner strength...some of what helps us gain momentum when we're rolling ourselves back up after any "unraveling."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Brighter View

I experienced my personal version of reaching the “light at the end of the tunnel” as my health improved.  I felt like I was emerging from a dark forest, standing at the edge of a clearing, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face again and feeling very grateful and hopeful.  “A Brighter View” illustrates this fortunate time.

"A Brighter View," Winter 2012
Watercolor, glitter glue, crayon, textured, shimmer & glitter paper

I'm now wishing for those I know who are currently dealing with serious health struggles to reach their own “brighter view.”  (Wishing brightness for those I don't know, too!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Wisdom Of The Penguins

“The Wisdom Of The Penguins," June 2012
liquid watercolor, glitter glue, pen & pink, solid & shimmer cardstock, glitter & printed paper, magazine images & words, charcoal drawing, cardboard number, key, charms, feathers

During the same healing art retreat this summer producing the two lighthearted cats I shared yesterday, the interesting prompt for another project was to incorporate two selected numbers (mine were 9 and 6), images assigned to those numbers (my assignments were “penguin” and “refrigerator”) and one of our cat drawings (from that morning's warm-up exercise) in a large scale piece on foam core board.  Initially, this assignment seemed incredibly challenging, but as the afternoon progressed, ideas and insights began to surface in my mind.  When I came home after the retreat, I researched the symbolism of the penguin which fueled further inspiration, and over the weekend that followed, this story unfolded as did another appearance by my "inner little girl."

Peace, hope, creativity, play, nature, love...

6 essentials for staying afloat in the current of life.

Love is the key,

opening the door to escape the cold

and embrace the warmth.

The French curve cut-out is an abstract penguin as well as an abstract number 9!

The door opened, she set sail,

and as she traveled along the currents,

she discovered the wisdom of the penguins...

nurturing, enduring, living life with purpose

and creating order amidst chaos.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Meow Of My Inner Child

At times when thoughts and emotions feel so heavy, it can be refreshing and uplifting to approach an hour, a day, a weekend with a purposely lighter attitude.  My voiced intention at one of the healing art retreats I attended this summer was to shed some heaviness I was feeling at that time and experience a lighter day of creating art.  As luck would have it, the focus of the day’s class was to simply experience and enjoy the fun in art!  Serendipity!
One of the day’s directives was to quickly sketch a few different versions of cats with charcoal on paper.  We then incorporated some of our cats into our artwork.  Here are a couple playful pieces I created, admittedly childlike, but I succeeded in experiencing a sense of lightness by allowing my inner child to express herself.

"Delightful Dreams," charcoal, ink & feathers on paper, June 2012

"Whimsy, The Peeping Tomcat," watercolor & assemblage on mat board, June 2012

Wishing you moments of carefree, childlike lightness this weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2012

On My Nightstand

On my nightstand right now...

I confess one of the reasons why I’ve been quiet here on my blog this week is because the compelling stack of books on my nightstand lured me into reading rather than writing!  Last night (or should I say early this morning?), I finished an intriguing page turner of a novel, “Midnight Cactus” by Bella Pollen, and ended up with only five hours of sleep.  Ahhh, the sacrifice of sleep for a captivating story!
Two inspirational and motivational books complete my stack of current reads.  If you read my Carry With You post, you already know author and motivational coach, Gail McMeekin’s books have been very influential in my creative journey.  I’m now reading her most recent “The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women A Portable Life Coach for Creative Women” and picking up more nuggets of wisdom.  I’m also reading “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh, borrowed from our public library, which contains one of my favorite quotes…
“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: 
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,
the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. 
All is a miracle.”
Nestled between book covers are marvelous opportunities to gain knowledge and insight, to be inspired, to be entertained, to discover, explore and experience different worlds, lives and stories!
What's on your nightstand, beckoning?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Strength In The Face Of Fragility

Evening sky over Monterey Bay, October 2011 

I’ve been thinking about strength in the face of fragility, and these thoughts seem appropriate to share today, on a day of remembrance.
I’ve never considered myself a notably strong or courageous person nor have I considered myself weak.  I suppose I’ve always placed myself somewhere in the middle.  A realization has been surfacing, however, that as I’ve encountered certain challenges in life, I’ve proven to be stronger than I give myself credit.  Many of us likely don’t give ourselves credit often enough for the inner strength that exists within us all.
Whenever friends helped us move from one home to another, they teased me because I would label almost every box “fragile!”  I am very protective of anything fragile - objects, people, animals, environments, emotions.  Life itself is so fragile and precious as recent events have reminded me…as today reminds all of us.
By summoning our inner strength, we can draw upon the power of positivity, persevere, support ourselves and others and lend strength to that which is fragile.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Peace From A Postcard

In continuing to follow this week’s train of thought, “A Sense of Place,” I’m sharing a quilted postcard exuding artistry and calm, a treasured gift made by a very thoughtful and talented Etsy friend.  While I was in the midst of my initial round of chemo treatments last fall, this postcard touched my heart, and its scenic mountains were a source of peace (and yes, a sense of place!) for me.
Visit Blue Whimsy on Etsy to see Felicity's current assortment of wonderful quilted postcards and other items

Wishing you peaceful moments this weekend…    

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Sense Of Place Revisited

In The Woods, Asher Brown Durand 1855

Serendipity has struck twice since Tuesday’s post, and I’m continuing to contemplate and appreciate a sense of place.  Yesterday as my daughter and I were supposedly making a quick stop at our library to return a few books, she asked me if she could check out a couple more books (to add to the stack we already borrowed last week), then she thought, in fairness, I should check out a couple more, too, and she didn't have to twist my arm!  We quickly perused the art section, and this book caught our eyes, “A Sense Of Place The Artist And The American Land” by Alan Gussow.  I felt compelled to share a couple quotes from this book and some of the paintings I found most captivating.

Summer Afternoon, Nell Blaine 1969

“The places that we have roots in, and the flavor of their light and sound and feel when things are right in those places, are the wellsprings of our serenity.” 
- David R. Brower

The Cove, John Marin 1917

“For all of us have our loved places;  all of us have laid claim to parts of the earth;  and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.” 
- Alan Gussow

The Prairie - Colorado No. 2, William Kienbusch 1970

Earlier tonight, our daughter was leafing through her junior ranger booklet and reminiscing about our summer trip to spectacular Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  One of the pages was titled “A Sense of Place.” 

Sea Grasses And Blue Sea, Milton Avery 1958
I’m now suspecting these serendipitous signs are validating how important a sense of place truly is in one’s life!  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Sense Of Place

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon, relaxing and catching up with a cousin visiting from overseas while soaking up sunshine, margaritas and lunch on the outdoor deck of a favorite restaurant.  Our conversation turned to the topic of homesickness and how we can experience an underlying restlessness or melancholy when we don’t feel a deep connection to the area where we live, when it doesn’t feel like our true home.  Since then, I’ve been thinking further about how vital a sense of place is to our well-being and feeling grateful that we’re currently living in a location to which I am strongly connected.  As mentioned in an older post, we love the Monterey Peninsula similarly to loving a person.  I’ve had to move away from here twice and felt extremely homesick until I returned each time.  I’ve lived in many other locations where I felt a sense of nagging transience.  Undoubtedly, this is home.  A sense of place, a sense of belonging, comfort and centeredness.
How wonderful it is to also enjoy experiences eliciting a similar sense of place when visiting or vacationing in other areas that “speak” to us, visualizing a peaceful environment in our mind, being drawn into an image of a spot that beckons to us, even admiring or creating an artistic rendition of a real or imaginary place that calms and centers us.  In a past post, I mentioned how our homes can be transformed into havens by surrounding ourselves with souvenirs and items reminding us of positive memories and associations.  Photographs, prints and paintings that evoke a sense of place can also enhance our surroundings and perhaps soothe our homesickness if we happen to be somewhere that isn’t truly home to us.  When I was frequently away from home on business travel, I often tucked local beach and scenic vacation photos in my daily planner and took a peek at them when I needed to feel grounded. 
Where I feel a sense of place and peace…

At home on the Monterey Peninsula...on the beach

Spending time amidst the magnificent beauty of Big Sur

On the magical island of Kauai

In the coastal area and small town of Pescadero between Half Moon Bay & Santa Cruz

In the desert at Joshua Tree (yes, I can find a sense of place inland, too!)

Where do you most feel your sense of place?  I hope you're spending time there.