What’s Up With New Year’s?

Hi! It’s me, Phoebe.

Mom’s been pretty busy playing with the thing she calls a calendar lately. It seems to have something to do with the New Year which I think is pretty soon, though I’m not sure what’s up with that.

I’m pretty good at clocks but not so much calendars. There’s just a lot to keep track of!

I do know that I’ve been here for a little more than two years, now. A lot of things have changed!

First, it was just Sarah and me. She’s way bigger than I am and she used to chase me but doesn’t so much anymore, which is fine with me.

Just when I was starting to figure out how things worked around here, and believe that Mom and Dad would feed me every day, Luther came to live with us, too.

He was really scared when he got here. I think people were mean to him, too. He was so scared that he didn’t even like greeting people.

Greeting is one of our best jobs. Mom just let him get used to being petted and talked to in his own way and he’s gotten really good at it now.

Even though I’m the oldest, which I think is another of those calendar things, I’m also the littlest because Luther kept growing after he got here. Mom says she hopes he’s done!

Sarah and I help take care of Luther because he can’t see. I think he does a great job playing in the yard and going on walks. Getting in the car is hard for him but I’m pretty good at it so I go first to help him know it’s safe.

The last time Sarah and I went for our spa day, I got a makeover. I love my new haircut. I don’t itch nearly so much, which means I don’t need as much medicine, and Mom doesn’t bug me so much about the thing called grooming.

Mom has a new toy called an Instant Pot. I love it! Somehow, it means we get bone broth with our supper lots more often. I don’t really understand, but I think Mom was really glad to have it when I got hurt this fall. She said the bone broth would help me feel better fast and I feel great now.

I did have one of those things Mom calls learning experiences, though. Apparently, some dogs just aren’t nice, no matter how nice you are or how much you want to be friends with everybody.

Mom says some people are like that, too, but our job is to just keep trying to be kind to everybody and protect the people who need protecting. Newfoundlands are good at that. Mom says people could learn a lot from us.

I think we’re really lucky to have so many people to love us. It doesn’t make all the hard stuff that happened before we got here go away but it helps us remember that there’s a lot of good stuff in the world, too.

One of the new good things is what Mom calls painting. We started doing that not too long after Luther got here. We’ve done it more and more and Mom did a thing called graduating which seems really cool.

Sometimes Mom paints with just us. She plays music and sings along and tries really hard to make room for all of us on the floor. It’s fun!

Other times, our friends come to paint, too. Sometimes there’s crying and usually there’s laughing and there’s always a lot of talk about learning and something called healing which I think is like when my belly got better.

Dad is home more, too. He still works a whole lot but doesn’t go to the place called office as much.

I’m not sure what will happen this year. (I don’t think Mom is either, even when she writes in the calendar book!) I do know that Mom and Dad will love us and I hope our girls will come visit. They know lots about love!

We’ll all be hoping that your New Year will be full of the kind of love Mom calls Fierce Compassion. I’m pretty sure it makes the world better. We learn lots of things from her. Maybe she learned that from us!

Much love and a bit of toe licking, Phoebe

 

Old words for a new time…

For years and years now, Bill and I have had a tradition of movable holidays.

Valentine’s Day moves a lot, often due to the scheduling of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show (me) and sometimes due to the whims of male bonding (Bill).

It works for us. If we want to go out, restaurants — and parking lots — are less crowded which, in Atlanta, is a big thing.

One year we celebrated our anniversary, which is in May, sometime in October. Bill will assure you that it had to do with our first Newfoundland puppy and was not, in any way, his fault.

Occasionally, Thanksgiving is on Friday, most notably the year in Tennessee when we were running an urgent domestic violence rescue operation.

This year, we did Christmas dinner on Monday. Bill said he thought it was a good idea because stores would be open in case we discovered something we’d forgotten, which we did. We actually ran out of peppercorns!

(I think he wanted an extra day of turkey leftovers while he’s basically home all week, but we’ll just call that our little secret!)

One of the lovely surprises of this season of moveable holidays appeared on my front porch in the form of a handmade card. I wanted to share it with you and it seems even more appropriate as Kwanzaa also begins today.

First, for those of you scattered around the world who may not know, a brief American history lesson.

According to Wikipedia and The Howard Thurman Papers Project, “Howard Washington Thurman (1899 – 1981) was an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century.”

For those of us who live in Atlanta, he was also a neighbor who attended Morehouse College and is reported, as a student, to have read every book in the Morehouse library!

A pastor, mystic, and professor at institutions including Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Thurman, who was strongly influenced by Gandhi, was a leading voice in the non-violent civil rights movement and a mentor to leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I knew these words from Howard Thurman long ago but was delighted to find them anew on a background of hand painted candles, right there on the porch.

I will light candles this Christmas, candles of joy despite all the sadness, candles of hope where despair keeps watch, candles of courage for fear ever present, candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, candles of love to inspire all my living, candles that will burn all year long.

Personally, we don’t light too many real candles in a house with three Newfoundland dogs but I suspect these candles will light my heart in all the days to come.

I’m happy to share!

Blessed be…

’tis the season for subversive….

For years now, I have loved this quote from Anne Lamott:

I decided that the single most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed. 

I hear you. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. You probably learned, as I did, that this is a time for tradition. For the way we’ve always done it. Not so much for subversion.

This year, more than ever, perhaps, I’m with Anne Lamott.

Which is not to say that I’m not deeply missing my kids and my girls and all those who are, and have been, dear to me. And butter cookies. The pressed kind.

I put up a spiral-y little metal tree on a table where Luther won’t run into it and am dry brining a local, pasture raised, heritage breed turkey. Bill loves turkey.

And I am living my life.

Intentional Creativity sessions with old friends and new, filled with actual hope and change.

Experimenting with a commissioned painting known as Mamaw’s Farm which is all about love and learning new things.

Food for neighbors who can’t be “home for the holidays.”

And prayer dots.

An interesting thing happened with the peace painting I’ve been working on. I watched the news.

And so, along with dots for Peace, dots for Wisdom have begun to appear.

And a few more words from an early Christmas gift, Anne Lamott’s new Almost Everything… notes on hope:

So why have some of us felt like jumping off tall buildings ever since we can remember, even those of us who do not struggle with clinical depression? Why have we repeatedly imagined turning the wheels of our cars into oncoming trucks? We just do. To me, this is very natural. It is hard here. There is the absolute hopelessness we face that everyone we love will die, even our newborn granddaughter, even as we trust and know that love will give rise to growth, miracles, and resurrection. Love and goodness and the world’s beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope. Yet no matter how much we recycle, believe in our Priuses, and abide by our local laws, we see that our beauty is being destroyed, crushed by greed and cruel stupidity. And we also see love and tender hearts carry the day. Fear, against all odds, leads to community, to bravery and right action, and these give us hope. I wake up not knowing if our leader has bombed North Korea. And still, this past year has been just about the happiest of my life. So, yeah: it can all be a bit confusing. 

Still, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

And the cover of Annie’s book is sprinkled with swirls of shiny prayer dots, whether she planned that or not.

Sometimes it takes more waiting than we’d hoped. And yet, if we act from the light of love, odds are, it will happen a little sooner.

Whatever your traditions or beliefs, may the light of this season surround you and those you love. And may you contemplate the notion that subversive might just be a good thing. Blessings,

Sue and Sarah, Phoebe, and Luther

 

Interacting With Chaos

Things have been a bit more chaotic than average around here lately.

All the activity that went along with finishing my Intentional Creativity Teacher certificate felt chaotic in the sorting and labeling and ordering, never mind the tech stuff that was way beyond my abilities. Kind of like book deadlines but with so many more moving parts!

CODEX painting process challenges. Not to mention the logistical challenge of really, really big canvases.

A wonderful trip to celebrate with our kids for Thanksgiving.

Considerable time hanging with Phoebe at the vet.

Lots more painting, which is fresh air in the midst of the chaos, and more than a bit of studio revision, which is a hassle but has left more space in the middle of the room so Luther is more comfortable. He’s not such a fan of having all the furniture on wheels!

Then there was all the learning involved in getting ready for my first artist market — which was awesome — and a bit of recovery time.

The last two days have been about trying to straighten things — including my back —  back out. I keep hearing the thundering voice of Dr. Walter Brueggemann in my head, proclaiming that, “Our God is a God who makes order out of chaos”

Talk about tempting theology!

And yet, there’s also my growing realization that chaos is, as virtually everything is, a matter of perspective.

We might suppose that our personal recent chaos has been of the first world variety and that is, in some sense, true. And yet devastating wildfires and hurricanes happen in the first world and leave chaos in their wake. Shootings happen in first world cities and so does cancer and Alzheimer’s and politics reeking of power and vested self-interest.

All of which has left me wondering if healing chaos might be at least as much about having choices as it is about making order.

And not only having choices, but claiming those choices.

One of those choices is broadening our perspective. Looking beyond the ends of our own noses, even when it’s hard, and allowing ourselves to see that there is order, and sometimes great beauty, in that which looks and feels totally random.

Granted, it may take a while. And considerable practice. I’ve been working on it.

Today, I made a new friend. Both of us, in some senses, more than a bit random in the community we share.

We began with tea. And images. And stories. We did a bit of dreaming out loud.

And then we made some prayer dots. And told a few more stories. And made some more dots.

You’ve already figured out that they were prayer dots for peace.

Peace in the midst of chaos.

It will probably take a while longer. And some of her dots were probably different than some of mine.

But we’re closer than we were. Closer to peace.

Which feels like a really good day’s work.

And my back is looser than it was.

 

 

 

Art Markets… then and now

Yesterday, I did my first artist market.

The night before, I had a dream.

I am back in the village of Szentredre, Hungary. It is, as it was in January of 1989, cold and gray. I am sitting on the floor in this little place known for its artist markets, pawing gently through bin after bin of tiny, hand-built clay creche figurines of Mary and Joseph, the magi, a gentle cow, a shepherd with a tiny sheep and a Puli dog, which I recognize immediately as an Hungarian herding breed, not usually seen in manger scenes! I’m thrilled. 

My fellow seminary students and our dear professor, Charlie, are at least pretending patience as I search for the particular figures wanting to follow me home. I am fascinated by the variations in their expressions and the attention to minute detail. I am overwhelmed by the artistry. 

It doesn’t really take Carl Jung to figure out why this dream appeared when it did. I was about to take deeply personal, powerful images, magically configured into holiday cards and small paintings, along with some copies of my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope, and a vintage linen table cloth, and put them out in a public place, filled with people I don’t know, and allow them to be chosen or not.

I had become the artist.

It went well.  I answered a lot of questions about Intentional Creativity. I passed out a lot of information and told people about my workshop in January. Lots of my work and a few bits of red thread followed people home, after a couple of lessons from a kind friend on how to use the square thing for credit cards.

Some of my work stayed over night in case today might bring more shoppers.

I made some new friends. And shared some good food.

I schlepped my own boxes. And survived standing on concrete for the better part of six hours.

All of which was a challenge for my knees. It was a pretty big thing for me.

Today, more light in the studio. And more space for people to paint with me.

And huge gratitude.

I have become the artist. Well, one of them.

And, after Bill gets back from Kroger, the angel who also belongs in the photo will have her head glued back on and be sheltering us all under her wings once again.

If you’d like to see more of my work, I’ve added lots to FineArtAmericaJust click this link and then click any image that intrigues you to find out what’s available. I’m loving the wood options! And, with thanks to my market friends at Vista Yoga, there are even a couple of yoga mats available!

It is, in some ways, a long way from Szentredre. And, in other ways, it’s the truth that has always come from creation.

 

Can you can? (Vegans be warned…)

This is not one of those “true stories that might actually have happened.”

It’s a “true story that actually did happen.” And it happened just this way…

In the winter of 1990, as I was about to graduate from Columbia Theological Seminary, I attended a meeting for students who would be open to serving churches in the rural southern US. Among the folks hosting the meeting were several pastors and their wives from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.

I had done my internship, happily, in Middle Tennessee and was curious to see what they’d have to say.

After much chatter about the benefits of smaller congregations, especially for new grads, and some arias to the benefits of no traffic, there was time to mingle and ask — or answer — specific questions.

Let me say, first, that they neglected to factor mules into the “no traffic” stories.

Let me also say that there weren’t a lot of women near-clergy in the group.

One pastor’s wife asked me if I could can.

Puzzled, I responded with a reasonably safe, “Pardon?”

She responded with a lengthy tale which included the curious fact that, for the first three years her husband served a small Middle Tennessee church, his “raise” consisted of an elder with a tractor plowing up an extra acre of garden for them.

Hence, “Can you can?”

Well, I couldn’t back then. And I still don’t.

I do freeze!

Tonight was a good example.

After a long day painting prayer dot canvases, the obligatory bathroom cleaning, and some more prep for the upcoming Open House and Artist Market at Vista Yoga, I spent two hours with an old friend who’s working through some healing in paint.

Then, it was time to feed the studio angels.

Among other things, the 4-footed crudo selection for today included shrimp heads.

Wild-caught, US, well-frozen shrimp heads.

It works like this…

Bill and I are having roasted shrimp for dinner tonight, along with brown rice and very gently wilted black kale tossed in onions and garlic oil.

The dogs happily ate the aforementioned heads.

I froze the shells for broth, either for us or for the dogs.

That’s a whole lot of good eating from a little bit of shrimp.

It’s a good investment of our grocery dollars.

It’s healthy, for all of us. (No onions and garlic for the dogs!)

It’s delicious.

It’s an expression of honor and gratitude for the shrimp.

And it gives me lots to share.

I still don’t can. Though I did help bale hay when I lived in Middle Tennessee.

I also believe that the world works better for all of us when we feed as many beings as possible with any given bowl of food, whatever we choose to eat.

In the cold and dark of this night, so close to the longest night of the year, that seems like a good thing to remember.

For now, dots. Peace. Love. Joy.

 

 

Could the world be about to turn?

When I was a kid, my mom was huge fan of the soap opera, As the World Turns. It’s a good bet she learned it from my Granny!

I couldn’t help but keep up some because it seemed to me that very little changed from spring break to summer vacation to Christmas break. We used to watch during lunch.

This week, I had a different experience of the notion of the world turning.

As Chanukah ends for this year and Advent goes on and Kwanzaa approaches, the emphasis is on light and dark and change in the midst of time.

I was blessed, this week, to be invited to a service of Lessons and Carols amidst the community of Columbia Theological Seminary, just down the road in Decatur.

A few things had changed since I first lived in that community, about 30 years ago.

One of those things was the music. Diversity is the first word that comes to mind. Not simply new hymn books with different colored covers, for that is dangerous enough as it is, but global influences and widespread leadership. I am dancing still!

I’m also reflecting on the teaching of Walter Brueggemann about the notion that our lives move through cycles of orientation and, as something changes, disorientation, and, eventually, to new orientation. (I suspect there’s some Ricoeur lurking in here, but it’s been a while! I can tell you that a paintbrush can do the trick!)

All of which came to mind as we sang a hymn that was new to me, by Rory Cooney. It’s called Canticle of the Turning and has a decidedly Celtic flavor to it. (Add in a smidge of flute!) I’d like to share just a bit. The refrain goes like this:

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away your tears, for the dawn draws near,

and the world is about to turn.

And then, my favorite verse:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

As the darkness falls early and the dogs leave puddles of cold rain everywhere, and people in my community need food to feed their families, I know three immediate things: light, prayers (complete with painted dots), and bone broth.

A new series of paintings and a batch of broth begin tomorrow. For tonight, light.

And love.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher