Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dabbling In Conchology


Last week when I shared some current reading material, I made a passing mention of nature guides often being included in my stack of books on the nightstand.  Alongside novels and non-fiction, I enjoy indulging the amateur naturalist that resides within by trying to learn and understand more about nature’s many wonders.  I can identify a fair number of trees, wildflowers and birds, but when it comes to seashells, I’ve been somewhat limited to those most commonly found along our shores - purple dwarf olives, sand dollars, blue mussels, butterfly “shells” (chiton plates, actually) and a few species of clams and limpets.   Considering my fascination and obsession with all things related to the sea, I should have taken up a laywoman’s version of oceanography a long time ago!  With beach walks now a regular weekly activity and finding a wider variety of treasures from the sea, I’m much more intent on honing my shell identification skills and expanding my overall knowledge of the ocean.  After consulting several books, I've begun identifying some recent "mysteries" in our seashell (and ocean oddities!) collection...

California Trivia (like a mini cowry) found by our daughter

According to an old local guide, this is a partial Ida's Miter (or Mitre)
California Cone

Still working to ID this trio!

Regardless of our age, by continuing in the role of a “student,” remaining curious and inquisitive, learning a new subject or skill or enhancing our existing knowledge, we exercise our minds and enrich our lives.  What do you enjoy studying?  What’s on your “to learn” list?    

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Glimmer Of A Silver Lining

Sandy ripples captured during Friday's beach walk

Yesterday afternoon I was informed that a vendor fair in which I was participating next weekend, selling my Plumeria Papercraft creations, has been cancelled.  Naturally, my initial reaction was disappointment at the loss of an opportunity to gain more local exposure and generate sales.  To offset that disappointment, I’ve been uncovering the silver lining in my calendar as I shift my plans for this week ahead minus Saturday’s event.  Here are the glimmers I’ve found so far…

I realized last night that I will now be able to remain for the entire length of our book club’s discussion on Saturday morning (instead of dashing off halfway through to set up for the vendor fair.)  I’m looking forward to this particular discussion as the book, which I shared in my last postStill Alice by Lisa Genova, was so powerfully gripping that I couldn’t put it down.  I finished this intense novel in two (late!) nights.

I then realized earlier this morning that I will be free this week during time slated for creative pursuits to act upon current impulses rather than focus on heart themed designs for Valentine’s Day (my original plan to build my assortment for the vendor fair.)  Lately I’ve been fascinated by patterns and textures in nature and feel inspired to translate them into collaged forms.  One of my resolutions for this year is to keep pushing my creative boundaries and exploring new ideas and techniques.  Hopefully, in a few days, I can share some of the results of this week’s exploration.

Frosty sand (after a recent cold spell)
Inspiration in the bark of a tree


Love the pattern of a sequoia cone


When the “old me” was burned out by chronic stress, I lacked the energy and clarity to search for silver linings.  This is a skill I’ve been working on developing ever since. There’s a welcome feeling of reassurance knowing that disappointment can be tempered by seeking those silver linings and glimmers of new opportunities.
When you encounter disappointment along your path, look around for a glimmer and head toward the brightness of a silver lining!  


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Compelling Stack From The Library

A while back, I shared what was stacked on my nightstand, books beckoning to be read.  That nightstand stack is a permanent fixture with its ever changing mix of creative inspiration, insight and encouragement on personal growth and mindful living, nature guides, interesting memoirs and intriguing fiction.  On Tuesday, I “struck gold” at our local public library and refreshed the current mix with three compelling books, so compelling that I’ve already finished one in its entirety, and I’m nearly finished with another…so compelling that I feel compelled to share these titles!
I belong to a book club, and I was glad that this month’s pick, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, was available through our library (what a welcome resource when you’re being cautious about your finances.)  This fictional account of a woman facing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease grabbed me and wouldn’t let go!  Alice’s story is gripping and heartbreaking.  The writer expresses Alice’s experience and emotions in such a powerful way that you feel as though you’ve stepped into her shoes.  Her story feels so incredibly, intensely real.

I considered myself lucky when The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp caught my eye on the library shelf because this title was added to my Amazon wish list a while ago.  I may end up still buying my own copy after noticing the copious amount of page flags I’ve inserted in the library’s copy for remembering passages from which to take notes.

Yet to be read is The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron (I own a copy of The Artist’s Way), but I’m looking forward to perusing its pages soon.
Have you been reading any compelling fiction or non-fiction lately?  Please share!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Fascination With Ocean Oddities

I guessed it as a seagull's skull in a previous post, but it seems too large...perhaps a pelican?
Our daughter & I admired it, but the beach kept it for others to discover.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the ocean is magnetic to me.  As I've often shared, I’m drawn to its beauty, its wonders, its treasures and its power to calm, center and heal me.  I'm even fascinated by its oddities and mysteries!  Over the years, our family has collected the usual suspects of pretty shells and their fragments, frosty sea glass, smooth pottery shards and polished stones. Increasingly in recent months, we’ve been noticing some of the ocean’s more unusual castoffs that have washed up on the shore.  Sometimes I’ve captured them in a photograph and just let them be, while on other occasions, we’ve added a few of these quirky specimens to our beachcombing collection.

Apparently, barnacles can make themselves at home anywhere!

Those barnacles on the can bottom didn't come home, but these Volcano Barnacles did...
yes, as strange as it may seem, I sometimes find beauty in barnacles!

This one's a mystery to me, but could it perhaps be part of a barnacle?


My first Leaf exciting addition to my collection!

Scaled Worm Shells

Can anyone help identify these finds? 
They remind me of tusks, & there's such a thing as tusk shells, but I don't think they're found in our area.

Are you ever fascinated by the intriguing, mysterious qualities of nature’s oddities?  How have they captivated you with their unexpected allure? 

Shared this photo before, but had to include it again when writing about ocean oddities!
The best guess after posting this curious find on my Facebook page 
was possibly a shark egg case? 
The beach kept this one, too, although I later wished we had held on to it. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Works In Progress

10 years ago...

I came across my New Year’s resolution list from 2003 and noticed how every item on that list is just as relevant today as it was 10 years ago despite major differences in the dynamics of my life then vs. now.  As 2003 began, I was a corporate employee with a crazy busy lifestyle, I hadn’t yet become a mother and I was starting to hear the faint call of a simpler, more mindful life.  10 years later and two weeks into another New Year, life has changed dramatically in some ways while in other ways the shifts have been subtle.  Certainly more mindful and continuing to strive for simplicity, I am living my “work in progress” life.
As I reviewed this 10-year old list, I thought about how sometimes even though I’ve made inroads on some of my resolutions, they often get carried over into subsequent years with intentions to extend those inroads.  (Of course, there are those resolutions that fall by the wayside and land back on a later list!)  While life is inevitably a work in progress, so are our resolutions.

Looking back at 2003’s list, I recall that I tackled most of those resolutions on a small scale although I felt like I failed to make much of a difference back then, and my visits to the beach were infrequent.  My biggest success that year was yoga practice.  Despite an insanely hectic work schedule at the time, I managed to attend yoga classes regularly, and the routine kept me centered when life seemed like it was whirling out of control.

Fast forward to 2013, and more than ever, love, friendship and creativity are at the forefront in my life.  As you probably noticed if you’ve been following Paper and Ponder for a while, I’m now a frequent beach visitor…ahhh!  I finally have time (and make time) to learn new things – checking out books from the library and reading up on a variety of topics, attending classes and experimenting creatively.  I also feel as though I’m finally making some small
differences - volunteering in our daughter’s 2nd grade classroom and as a 3rd grade art docent, volunteering as a guest speaker at the local community college, participating in the More Love Letters campaign and sharing my healing art experiences.

For reasons I haven't yet been able to pinpoint (except for the fact that my beloved instructor moved away from our area), I’ve strayed from yoga practice for the past couple years despite realizing how beneficial it is for both body and soul.  Yoga is definitely making a comeback appearance on my 2013 resolutions list!

Have you had any carryover or comeback resolutions?  Would you like to share some of yours?

Monday, January 14, 2013

More About Insight, Less About Aesthetic

Last Friday I attended my first healing art retreat of the New Year and gratefully achieved my intention for the day of taking a break from outward energy and focusing inward. The directive for the day was to create a book based on our “travels” along a healing visualization through which Mary, our instructor, guided us.
As I have confessed in past posts, I am sometimes hesitant to share my healing artwork when my inner critic deems it childish or amateur in appearance. Now that I am one year into my experience with the healing art process, I’ve come to realize that it is less about the aesthetic quality of what’s created and more about the insight gained in contemplating the results. As Mary has reminded us, our healing artwork is the visual equivalent of a very personal journal. If I think of these works as “journals” vs. “art,”I become less self-conscious and self-critical about sharing them with you regardless of their aesthetic (or lack of!)

In reflecting back on one of my original intentions for Paper and Ponder, I wanted to share my healing art journey in the humble hope of resonating with others who might benefit from finding out about this therapeutic process as I have or helping others gain their own insight by sharing my personal exploration and discovery in this realm. I reminded myself of this intention as I found myself hesitating to share last Friday’s book because of its lowly construction paper pages, simple swaths of paint and childish qualities.
I then noticed that my favorite page happens to include a dragonfly and remembered expressing a similar realization about insight vs. aesthetic in a past post about art journaling, also with a dragonfly theme. On this coincidental (or not?) note, I’ve decided to stifle my inner critic, focus on the meaningful symbolism and underlying emotions of each page in my book and simply share this latest effort in my healing art portfolio. 

An edited version of Friday’s visualization…

Picturing yourself in a healing place

Walking across a bridge from your healing place to a lush garden

Planting a seed that blossoms into a beautiful flower

Stepping into a hot air balloon

Finding a piece of paper and pencil on which to write your problems and tossing the paper into space

Floating up into space with an astronaut’s view of Earth

Returning to Earth and lying down in a sunny meadow

Focusing on your body and its organs being in harmony

My book in all its childish glory!
Healing visualized...the colors that remind me of Kauai and love, always love
(Liquid watercolor, glitter glue, construction paper, seed beads, ink,
crepe paper, tie dye paper, fabric, pipe cleaner, beads on watercolor paper) 

The bridge...journey, explore, discover, safe passage over unsettled territory
(Liquid watercolor, acrylic paint, cray-pas, ink, crayon on drawing paper)

The seed...grow, thrive
(Origami paper, foam sticker, ephemera, deconstructed bracelet, ink, rhinestones on construction paper)
The flower...bloom and scatter new seeds
(Construction paper, shimmer paper, colored pencil, ink on construction paper)
The rainbow-colored balloon...discard and rise above burdens
(Sketch paper, crayon, twine, lined paper, pencil, ink on construction paper)
The astronaut's view...fears and worries out of view,
healing and centering places in view
(Map, bead, ink on construction paper)
The meadow...find peace
(Origami paper, plastic beads, deconstructed artificial leaf, ink on construction paper)
Harmony in the body...physical wellness, emotional wellness,
body and soul and spirit
(Origami paper, fabric, ink on drawing paper)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making My Peace

Winter view of Half Dome

Last summer my husband was starting to plan a family vacation in Yosemite almost exactly one year after our last visit there during which unsettling hints began to drop of what was to come with my health soon after that trip.  Needless to say, I developed an uncomfortable association with what should otherwise be a place to which I am drawn with its magnificent natural wonders.  My emotions were still too fresh to return to the place “where it all began” at that same, familiar time of year.  Although I am now healthy, there was an underlying sense of dread, of wanting to avoid a similar experience.
During the recent winter break from school, Yosemite came up again as an option for a family trip to the snow.  This time, in a different season that would present a different experience, I felt ready to make my peace with this majestic national park.  Although I admittedly felt a little uneasy, I staved off any major inner turmoil during my first return visit by focusing on admiring and being inspired by Yosemite’s more peaceful, quieter winter beauty (without the crowds!), feeling uplifted by our daughter’s beaming smile, carefree laughter and pure joy as she played in the snow and being amused by all the charming snow creatures we discovered throughout the park.

This kitty was one of our favorite snow creatures

Making my peace with such a peaceful (in wintertime at least!), beautiful place has advanced me along my healing journey. 
May nature’s beauty offer you peace, joy and inspiration!  (Centering and healing, too, when needed.)


A frosty "blossom" in the misty meadow

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Feeling Resolute

"Mirror image" of sky and sea on Christmas Day, Seaside Beach, CA

After a quiet spell here on Paper And Ponder (during which I was busy working on my Plumeria Papercraft business, celebrating the holiday season with family and friends, spending time with my husband and our daughter and enjoying winter beauty in Yosemite National Park), I’ve finally returned, ready to resume pondering, expressing, sharing and hopefully, resonating and connecting with you in the process.

Here we are in the second week of the new year, and surely, many of you have already contemplated or committed to some resolutions for 2013.  Admittedly, I’ve often struggled with resolutions, setting the bar too high and setting myself up for probable failure.  I’ve also struggled with the notion of suddenly beginning anew on January 1 whether it’s an opportune time or not.  Perhaps a better approach would be to establish a resolution when the timing is more conducive to actually following through and to spread resolutions out across the year instead of compiling them all at once, creating an insurmountable challenge?
As we head into each new year, our past baggage always comes along with us, packed with both desirable and not so desirable contents.  Resolutions can help us focus on expanding those desirable contents while discarding those that are undesirable or no longer useful or meaningful in our lives.

As I contemplate my (yet to be put on paper!) resolutions for this new year, I'm definitely feeling resolute about one thing…to stay the course on my current path.  Although the future is uncertain, I have never before in my life felt more certain about heading in a direction that’s truly right for me.  Despite the inevitable twists and turns, nagging concerns about finances and often feeling like that “little train” slowly, but surely chugging up a hill, I’m excited to be following my heart and my passion, my spirit is coming alive, I feel empowered to keep changing and improving, and I’m discovering precious moments of fulfillment and inner peace in living my life more creatively and authentically. 
I hope this new year has greeted you with much love, happiness, peace and fulfillment, and as 2013 unfolds, may you set out toward or stay the course on a path that’s right for you!