Questions that make all the difference..

Today, I did not paint.

I sat in my magic chair, like the experienced orthopedic patient I am, with my feet up, catching up on emails, knitting, and checking things off the list for an upcoming workshop.

I did have an idea for how to make the fine white line sketching required for a giraffe whose spirit appeared in one of my Works-In-Progress go more smoothly. And I went so far as to check it out on my practice canvas, which I can do in my lap. I’m way ahead for real painting.

All the while, I was waiting for tomorrow morning’s appointment with my old friend, the ortho doc. I need to know what’s going on! Fortunately, I can pray while I knit even, when paint prayers are a challenge.

Then, at 8:30 this evening, I got on the line with about 5,ooo other volunteers to listen to an update on the Bernie Sanders campaign.

If you’ve been hanging around for a while, you already know I have a preference. Before I tell you a bit about what I noticed on the call, please hear me say that I know you probably have a preference, too, and it may not be the same as mine.

That’s okay. Important things need considered conversation and this is a place where that can happen. It’s also a pretty good model for our kids and grandkids!

There were many things running through my head as I listened in on the call.

One of them was an old social “rule” that probably came from Dear Abby or Miss Manners. Or, perhaps, the Junior League. There were two versions, as I recall.

Either, The three things not to be discussed in polite company are money, sex, and religion. 

Or, The three things not to be discussed in polite company are money, sex, and politics. 

I’ll leave it to you to recall which version you learned!

And then I remembered a Sunday morning, twenty-some years ago, when I broke all of those “rules” in a single sermon! It was breast cancer awareness month, stewardship season, and the politics of open ordination in many denominations were heating up.

Not sure it was my most popular sermon ever, but it was what the text brought to my heart.

Tonight was kind of like that.

Senator Sanders joined the call toward the end and he mentioned some recent political writers who have gone on record as saying that the huge Sanders grass-roots organization “was talking to no one.”

Bernie’s rather pointed question was, “Who do they mean when they say no one?”

Suddenly, I was sitting, not in my magic chair, but in a Hebrew exegesis class in seminary. Walter Brueggemann, in his voice that reminds me a lot of Bernie’s voice, was teaching us to consider approaching a scriptural text wondering, “Whose voice is missing?”

I think if I could ask him, Senator Sanders would say that the vast majority of the voices of the 99% in this country, and of the next generations, are missing in the politics of the current administration.

And he’s trying to do something about that. I helped in 2016. I’m helping again now.

IMG_5836Whose voices in our world seem missing to you? For that matter, whose images seem missing to you?  Are those questions that resonate with your heart? And what will you do with those questions, wherever you live?

I’m not going to ask you to vote for my guy. I’m just going to ask you, if you’re eligible to vote in the USA, to ponder the questions that resonate with your heart. Go online and check your registration status, just to be sure. Check out Stacey Abrams and the Fair Fight campaign to protect voter rights. And, when your turn comes, VOTE with all your heart and hope.

The Iowa Caucus is February 3, 2020. The time to get involved is now!

And, if the whole process feels as complex and incomprehensible to you as it sometimes does to me, watch some of The West Wing. It’s the best Civics lesson I know!

Once upon a time…

… a long time ago, there was a monk named Brother Lawrence. You may have heard of him.

Here’s what I learned about him in seminary:

Brother Lawrence believed that even something like washing dishes, which was his task in the monastery, was prayer if it was intended toward the Divine.

There’s more to know about Brother Lawrence and you can read all about it in his book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Today, he’s been on my mind for two reasons.

The first is water. Washing dishes takes water and we’ve been pretty short of that in Atlanta lately. And long on heat.

Not nearly as short on water as the rain forests burning in the Amazon.

All of which suggests, I suppose, that water can, indeed, be holy.

The other reason Brother Lawrence appeared in my memory is pictured above.

Paint brushes. Dirty ones, to be exact. Lots and lots of them.

There’s been a whole lot of painting going on around here this week. In fact, my paint buddies and I have gotten nearly every brush dirty. We’ve gotten the most popular ones dirty several times!

And so, I have been washing brushes.

I’ve tried to do it with consciousness and intention, and the Castile soap that works without eating my hands.

Tried is, perhaps, the operative word in that sentence.

Honestly, my mind keeps wandering to the bits and pieces from Container Store we’ll need for rearranging some closets at our house. (There’s a sale!) I’m trying for a greater feeling of spaciousness, some more welcoming guest space, and a better place to photograph my art, all without any actual increase in square feet.

The work starts on Friday. Bill is not disappointed that he will be at Dragon Con that day!

My job is making the plan and being sure that all the parts are present and accounted for.

My friend Greg is in charge of ladders and drills.

The chat people on Container Store’s website are my new geniuses-on-demand. (Though why they stopped making all the old lengths of shelves and hanging rods is a total mystery to me!)

Fortunately, we have quite the stash in the basement which will be a huge help in terms of investment.

IMG_5815I did get distracted for a bit, watching the miracle of rain falling on my garden, where the grapes are getting ripe.

For now, one more batch of brushes to wash, with actual gratitude for the powerful process that gets them dirty in the first place.

And some soup to heat, which will inevitably create dishes to wash, as well.

You know, I’m glad Brother Lawrence appeared from the depths of my inner library today. He’s a great reminder that consciousness and intention change lots of things!

 

Huge gratitude to those who purchased art during my promotion for Grandmothers Against Gun Violence. With your help, I’ll be sending the donation today! (I suspect Brother Lawrence would be grateful, too!)

 

 

Dream Week!

When I woke Monday morning, I struggled to climb out of one of my classic stress processing type dreams that involved lots of strange creatures chasing me while I tried desperately to find the location of the final exam for a course I’d only attended the first day of the semester.

I was shaking and my heart was racing and I felt all fuzzy-headed.

Not exactly a great start to the day!

This morning, just before I woke, I was having a very different sort of dream. I’ll share it with you the way I learned to do dream work at Pacifica Graduate Institute, in the first person, present tense.

I am in some dreamy version of what is clearly my home. I come upon a door that I didn’t know was there. Reaching out, I turn the knob and the door swings easily inward. 

As I wander through it, I am amazed to discover two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a whole other kitchen. A BIG whole other kitchen! 

These new rooms are not flashy or trendy. Instead, they are spacious and generous and welcoming. And, somehow, they are miraculously a part of our home. 

Amazement is an understatement!

This morning’s dream has followed me all day and I was blessed to find some more insight into it with the help of a couple of dear friends.

First, a phone call with my art-sister and mentor, Julie Steelman. It just happens that we’re working on notions of something Julie refers to as Wild, Sacred Bounty. 

Questions like What do you dream? and What would it take to make it true? and possibly even How much would you have to invest to get it? are floating around in the land of Blossom and Roar. 

As we talked, Julie helped me articulate the deeper desire under the magical rooms’ spaciousness that appeared in my dream.

And, my Muse whispered the perfect way to create an image of it in my painting!

The second bit of insight came from Carl Jung, by way of a timely email from the delightful Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.

I’m thinking it may just be possible that who looks outside and inside, dreams and awakens!

In any event, my Muse has also chosen an earth eye for seeing outside and a winged, visionary eye for seeing inside, both wide open.

And, as is perhaps often the case, this choice feels both totally right and, well, way more complicated than I had planned!

But, there’s more paint for tomorrow!

For tonight, I find myself wondering what you’re dreaming of… what Wild, Sacred Bounty would look like in your world. (You can leave a comment below, if you’d like to share!)

And a quick reminder that, through August 25th, the Studio Angels and I will donate 15% of my proceeds from all art sales on my Fine Art Marketplace page to Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

Which, come to think of it, is another of my dreams!

PS… In the land of Intentional Creativity, it’s Work-in-Progress Wednesday. The opinionated Muse, pictured above is definitely a #WIP! (Stay tuned!!!)

 

 

 

Door. Yes! Step. Yes!

I’ve been thinking about language a lot, lately.

It’s not the first time!

I graduated from seminary in 1990, right in the midst of a major “discussion” in my denomination about the issue of gender inclusive language. Hymn books became a major battleground. Reading scripture, a land mine.

One morning I read from the passage known as the Beatitudes in an inclusive translation:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9).

There was audible muttering in the pews. And one woman burst into tears.

She hugged me at the end of the service and said, “When you read children instead of men, I felt included in the peacemakers for the first time in my life!”

Very nearly 30 years later, it seems to me as though we’ve had time to get used to radical notions like that and might consider moving on, though there are those who adamantly disagree.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about the extent to which we native English speaking folks, at least, use visual language so automatically.

I catch myself at it daily. “Luther, look over here.”

“Luther, see this…”

“Luther, watch out!”

Luther, as you probably know, is our Newfoundland rescue dog who lost his eyesight, due to a combination of negligent decisions that make me shudder even to think of them.

He’s doing really well, but he does need some extra auditory cues. Alas, pointing doesn’t help either, which is a struggle for me after years of training dogs with hand signals.

When it’s time for a trip outside, the routine goes a lot like this.

Open the door. Say “door.” Then, “Yes!” which is our universal word for “well done” or “good dog”, which I try to avoid from long years of coaching parents.

Then comes, “Step” to get him over the threshold and another “Yes!”

Then, we follow him out to the top of the deck steps and it’s time again for “Step” and “Yes!”

After that the muscle memory kicks in and he knows what comes next.

This happens three-four-five times a day.

And every time, I think about all the folks we’re leaving out, or not helping as much as we might be, simply by our choice of language.

He’s learning, “touch” which means to reach with his nose to know where he is which is especially good in interior doorways.

And, he’s also getting the hang of “right” and “left”!

A friend of mine, whose English is a great deal better than my Spanish, chats with him in Spanish and he wags and does the universal safe, happy dog move of rolling belly up for a rub.

I often wonder how many things might work better in our world if we all worked hard on language about abilities and ethnicity and gender diversity and family relationships, focusing on like instead of different.

I also think about images a lot and firmly believe that empowered feminine images by women artists in a world dominated for centuries by men, and often absent of images, have experiences of inclusion to offer all our children.

All it really takes is awareness. Changed hearts. And, for some of us, sparkly pink cowgirl boots!

We start by changing our own language and images in the ways our hearts lead us and trust that others will hear and see. Slowly, perhaps. Too slowly.

But we start, wherever we are today, because it matters.

Which is, when you think about it, a whole lot lot learning from a sweet, huge dog who happens not to be able to see.

He and Phoebe do, however, excel as studio angels!

And, lest she feel left out, Phoebe would also like to remind you that through August 25th, we will donate 15% of my proceeds from all art sales on my Fine Art Marketplace page to Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

I’m also supposed to tell you that one of our paintings has an awesome big blue Newfoundland in it!

The Muse Coup

Nope. We’re not branching out from Newfoundlands to chickens!

Last night the Queen Muse, also known as the Mermatee, and the two Muses-In-Progress staged a coup d’e´· tat, which is to say that they took over.

I’m fine with that in principle, but 5:00 am is pushing the overthrow thing by several hours!

IMG_5735When I went to bed I was a lot closer to contented with this image which will eventually be the Muse for my Blossom and Roar class, which means, essentially, that she’ll be helping with financial growth around here.

After an early morning trip down the hall which involved bargaining with Phoebe for prized floor space in the bathroom, I wandered back to bed, only to discover that the Muses were having a tea party in my head and they all had ideas about what to do next to solve the issue that there was very little viable space left for the newest Muse to actually emerge from the canvas.

In my defense, this had actually occurred to me before bed! In any event, after I laid there eavesdropping for about half an hour I finally got up, made some tea, and spent quite a while staring at the canvas and listening.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that band aids and making do weren’t going to get it.

So, as you’ve probably guessed from the photo at the top of this post, I got out the white heavy body paint and a palette knife, reminding myself all the while that the energy of all those under layers would still be there in whatever the final painting becomes.

The process was really quite redemptive. No shame. No blame. Just claiming what works and moving on to something that will (eventually) work even better.

And, as these things often happen, while I swiped and scraped away with my palette knife, what passes for vision in my world grew.

I’m tired, but excited. And, while I heat some soup and write these words, there’s a big part of me that’s still, after all these years, hearing the voice of my friend Steve Glenn who created the program, Developing Capable People, reminding me that it’s very difficult to learn anything new when we’re wallowing in shame or blame.

Wow, am I grateful for Steve! This particular bit of wisdom is one that I’m working hard to pass along to my girls.

And, somewhere in all that white paint, is a message from the Muses helping me actually embody the wisdom of Steve which I’ve been believing in for about 35 years now.

Just in case you might have a bit of shame or blame taking up space in your world, you can put it in the box where mine goes when I set it down. If you decide you want it back later, that’s fine… but I’m betting you won’t!

For this moment, a reminder…

Through August 25th, I will donate 15% of my proceeds from all art sales on my Fine Art Marketplace page to Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

The new Muse won’t be there yet, but she’s got lots of friends waiting to inspire you and help do some good in the world.

Thanks for being you!!!

 

 

 

Creating Comes with Soup and Symbols

The house smells like heaven on a busy day!

Ginger tea. A hint of freshly dried towels. A spritz of Santa Maria Herb Water from Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, to bless a canvas.

And, like a bass note under it all, gallons of chicken bone broth bubbling on the stove, gently suggesting Vidalia onions and garlic and herbs from the garden.

All, by the way, embodied right brain sorts of things. (If you’re new to the bone broth magic, click here for a starter recipe. Just substitute roasted chicken bones for the turkey!)

The studio feels a bit like I imagine the Garden of Eden must have looked on the seventh day. Except for the resting part, for creation is happening there, too, despite the fact that the world feels a bit more like it’s time to build an ark.

In between tending the soup cauldron and adding carefully selective glaze coats, I am pondering symbols, for several of my works-in-progress are calling for them.

Often guided imagery is involved. Many of you have been there with me before. Here’s a short sample version:

You’re walking through your favorite empowering place… focusing on your vision… your dream… suddenly a guide or angel or spirit animal appears and offers you an image… what is it and how do you feel having it? 

Frankly, I struggle with these sorts of exercises! I am not primarily a visual processor. I don’t often see images in my head. At least not consciously. Instead my experience is something closer to perception. I can tell you what the image or symbol would look like if I could see it.

And, on a good day, I can paint something pretty close to that which I cannot see.

Nonetheless, symbols fascinate me. We tend to claim the ones that resonate with us, whether out of familiarity or curiosity. They come from our history, our families, our spiritual traditions, even – at least in my case – our love of dogs. Or cats or horses or hawks or bees or roses or dragonflies or red thread.

And symbols are a way to get more conscious about our beliefs. Both our chosen beliefs and those we might prefer to un-choose at this point in our journeys.

For me, this cocoon, if you will, of chicken soup and fresh towels and hatching symbols has had me musing on the power of Creation. And frankly, the language for such musing is getting more complicated for me as I learn to appreciate traditions other than my own.

And then a new thought appeared in my soul, literally while I was adjusting the temp under the soup.

Paul Tillich.

It’s been about 30 years since I spent much time hanging with Tillich, who was, according to Wikipedia, “a German-American Christian existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian (1886-1965). 

Tillich taught widely, including at Union Theological Seminary in New York and at Columbia University. One of his students grew up to become a hugely important teacher in my own journey, Dr. C. Benton Kline.

Sadly, we don’t have time for all the Ben stories, though you can ask me sometime about my favorite Ben moment which happened when Bill and I got married.

It was from Ben that I learned of Tillich’s references to God as the Ground of all Being. The ground upon which all beings exist.

I’m not sure I was ready for that framework 30 years ago. Maybe it just didn’t squeeze through my filters.

It certainly seems to be pitching a tent inside me these days! It’s actively shaping my symbols. And it is, somehow, urging me toward action in the world which is deeply, but not merely, symbolic.

This week I joined a grassroots organization of people like you and me called Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

And, through August 25th, I will donate 15% of my proceeds from all art sales on my Fine Art Marketplace page to Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

Just go to the page and click on an image to read a bit about its story and find the options for prints.  Or leave a comment if you have questions. E-mail works, too.

Now is a great time to visit. Three new images went up today! There are museum quality wrapped canvases and archival watercolor giclées in several sizes, which come with certificates of authenticity, as well as images on poster paper. In some cases, originals are available. And Barry and his team do a great job with shipping.

There’s a legendary old quote that says, “Art will save the world.” I hope so! In the meantime, I’m totally convinced that art created and selected intentionally to set symbols of healing free in the world will, indeed, get us closer and closer to the loving and just creation intended by the Ground of all Being.

Art really doesn’t have to match the couch. Consider the glimpse, above, of my Taliswoman/Artist painting who either matches everything or nothing!

Come check it out. Find a symbol that calls to you. And do some good in the world.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Fierce Hearts and Gardens

Me without words is, generally speaking, a bit of an oxymoron! And yet, that’s pretty much the way I’ve been feeling.

A couple of days ago I got a text from a dear friend. I’m sharing it here, with permission of course, because it has lodged in my heart.

…a side note – if you prayer dot today, put some up for me and [Joe]. He’s angry and sad and frustrated over shootings and we’re trying to decide how to respond. I sent him off to church today while I crawl under covers (our usual responses, him outward, me inward), scared the church could be targeted, or his school tomorrow, etc. We’ll be donating and/or writing later and registering him to vote the minute he turns 17 1/2 (presidential elections are days after his 18th birthday!), but throwing up extra prayer dots at this point can’t hurt.

IMG_5693Fortunately, I have a painting in progress that was happy to volunteer for dots. Finger dots, this time. On their way to being a meadow beneath a Klimpt-esque tree of life.

And while I made dots, I pondered.

The friend on Facebook under attack for expressing her views on moving toward effective gun safety laws in the USA.

A high school kid who should be worried about dance try outs afraid that his church or school will be attacked. A suburban kid with an educated family and plans for college.

Two beloved granddaughters I hope are excited about choosing a new, more intense level of involvement in their swim team journey and looking forward (mostly!) to the new school year who happen to live way too close to the epi-center of utter political dysfunction to realistically avoid the news.

And this grandmother asking her usual question… “What, then, shall we do?”

First (You guessed it!) more dots. Not simply because I’m convinced that they add to the positive energy in the Universe and make real change closer to possible, moment by moment.

And not simply because I believe in a Creator who is, after all these eons and against all odds, still working good for us.

But also because making dots changes us. As we focus on someone’s request, or the huge, gaping needs of the world, we also get access to more of our own process. We get in touch with our inner Observer who is quite likely to surprise us with new information and new ideas for action we probably didn’t notice in the midst of our angst.

In short, making dots helps us connect rather than isolate. And I believe that connection is the key to what ails our world. (Even if, now and then, what patches us together enough to connect is our pillow and a favorite quilt!)

And, I have a few other ideas, as well.

The first batch are pretty obvious for many of us. Find political candidates on the local, state, and national levels who want the kind of world you want and support them. Wear a button. Put a sign in your yard. Give what you can. Each individual contribution matters!  Write or call your representatives. If they’re like most of mine, they’ll ignore you, but it’s our responsibility to speak out, regardless. Even if our voices quiver!

Make something better. Even if it’s only trimming the muscadines gone rogue in your front garden. Or cleaning up litter. Or a community art project.

Celebrate what’s working in life and in the world.

Make space for the ones you love.

Be available for conversations (which are different from lectures) with the young people you love, when they’re ready.

Make things. Cookies. Treehouses. Gardens. Soup. Lego worlds. Dots. Quilts. Stories. Remembering as you do, in whatever way it works for you, that we humans could well be described as creations of a Creator creating.

And try asking your inner Observer to help you notice the ways we are alike instead of focusing on the ways we’re different. It takes a bit of practice but it helps, a lot.

And, maybe, just maybe, give thanks for teenagers with something to teach!

The longest of journeys begins with one step. Please don’t miss out!

Clearly, I wasn’t quite as speechless as I felt! Part of that is due to the words of wise teachers pondering these same questions… notably Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, Julie Steelman, Dina VanDecker- Tibbs, and Anne Lamott. 

 

 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher