Of Golden Acrylics & Empowering Filters…

It is 2:46 pm, EDT in Atlanta. Just in this moment, a day that began chilly, breezy, and gray turned instantly warmer and brighter, helped along by a gizmo in my ceiling called a Sola-Tube.

It’s a sort of sky light, really, but much easier to install than the more traditional versions in a pre-Seasonal Affective Disorder urban ranch house.

There’s a thing in the ceiling that resembles one of those toys kids love called a dragon fly’s eye with all the prisms in a circle. This, according to the manufacturer, is called the filter.

The filter is connected through your attic space by a thing that looks a lot like a very shiny dryer vent hose.

The shiny vent hose then connects to a light collector placed on the roof and aimed to gather southern light.

These things are magical. We have five of them in our house, spread out over a couple of major remodeling projects. I’d take at least four more in a minute.

Most of the time they just quietly hang out, not making a fuss, and adding very welcome, gentle light to a house that would be way too dark even if I wasn’t a quilter and painter who grew up in Florida.

On days like today, though, they remind me of the power of the filters through which we all experience the world.

Brighter and more hopeful, in what seems like an instant.

Or flashing with lightning on a dark and stormy night. (Ok, I’m a writer, too!)

I’ve been thinking about filters a lot lately.

It has a lot to do with a painting I’m working on. Or, perhaps, a painting that’s working on me.

The class is called Apothecary. As in the old-fashioned word for a place we might go to find medicines or other aids to healing.

We’ve been rooting around in our old stories. The ones that have defined us. The ones through which we filter our day-to-day experience. Many of them, hard ones.

Discovering symbols for those stories which changes, in the moment, the ways we relate to those stories.

And, each in our own way, claiming all of those stories in bringing us to this day.

Yep, all of them.

An old friend of mine has been singing along in the background while the drips of paint and scrubby brushes and vestiges of shame fall to the floor.

His name is Ken Medema and, if you don’t know it, his story is fascinating. I hope you’ll check it out.

For this minute, though, his music…in the midst of whatever day you’re having in whatever place you are.

 

 

Tending the Drips

Have you ever noticed that when you become involved in a new group, a new world view, even a new family, there’s a whole lot of new insider language to learn?

One of my favorite examples comes from my own family.

My dad used to get dressed in his oddly colored terry cloth shorts and his sandals and pick up his car keys to head out on some mysterious weekend mission.

Experience had led my mother to ask questions.

We’re talking about a man who famously headed to the garden center to buy grass seed one day and came home with a new car!

After a few years of practice, they had their routine down pat. Daddy would pick up the car keys. Mom would raise one eyebrow in that ominous way I’ve never quite been able to accomplish.

Daddy would calmly comment, “Out. Later. Nothing.”

Even now that they’ve gone on, we’re still known to do the “Out. Later. Nothing.” routine upon occasion and we all understand perfectly!

Today, I learned a new one.

I was watching the last videos for my Legend class in Intentional Creativity. We were working on the final few layers of glaze.

(If there is such a thing as “final” layers of glaze…)

Demonstrating a technique that involves a big brush, a thin layer of paint, and a squirt bottle full of water, our fearless leader soon had a downpour of reddish drips cascading onto the face of a very large cat near the top of her painting.

Not to worry!

Just grab the nearest ancient t-shirt and, tend the drips.

It was really amazing to watch.

Tilting. Patting. Wiping.

Allowing the drips to be where they worked.

Discouraging them where they didn’t.

It went on for quite a while.

Long enough for me to realize that a lot of life is tending the drips.

Tiny acts, over and over again, all designed to bring things closer to the way we hope they will be.

Or, perhaps, closer to the way they hope they will be!

This is a powerful metaphor for someone who lives with three Newfoundland dogs!

Sarah is what’s known to insiders as “dry mouthed.”

Phoebe and Luther are not!

Hence the spit rags strategically placed near doors and chairs.

Along with lessons for guests.

Because sometimes we have more drips than we need. (Ok. Often!)

We also have towels all over the floors on wet, muddy days like today.

Luther hasn’t quite gotten on board with the more traditional paw drying rub down method. And so, we tend the drips.

If you don’t relate to huge, slobbery dogs, think of teething infants.

Or, in some senses, skimming soup pots.

Painting offers a lot of new things for the previously uninitiated to learn.

Keeping the glow. Scrubby brushes. 

How to buy paint.

Assembling easels.

I’m reasonably certain there are about to be a whole lot more things to learn.

It’s a challenge!

Today, though, I found one I understood.

Tending the drips.

As a life skill, it really kind of works when you give it a minute.

 

 

Just one word.

I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately.

Mostly writing and art projects.

Missing wandering kids.

Oh, and maybe Henry’s new glasses!

One of my writing friends posted a prompt inquiring about the “soundtracks” of our lives.

It’s kind of a timely question for me as I find myself fishing through stashes of old CD’s for atmosphere and inspiration while I paint.

I seem to be leaning in the direction of ’60’s folk music of the summer camp sort.

Along with some soft rock classics.

A fair number of instrumental, meditative selections.

And a smattering of chant music. Mostly Chinese/Tibetan and Gregorian.

I wouldn’t blame you if you were wondering where the common thread might be.

I wondered a while, myself.

And then it came to me. Intention. 

I’m listening to what I want people see or hear or taste when they look at my art or read my words or eat my soup.

Love. Peace. Hope.

And yes, I sing along.

Some of you who know me really well will suspect that it might be better if I didn’t.

Occasionally the dogs might agree!

There’s a fancy neurological explanation for why singing is such a powerful experience. Simplistically, it has to do with building connections between our right and left brains and even altering our emotional states.

Also, according to my hypnosis guru, it can actually help us get un-stuck from some of our old, ineffective stories, especially if we are moving as we sing. Marching in circles is the classic option.

Dancing works.

Making big, loopy swirls with paint seems to work, too. If you’re up for a real adventure, try both hands at once! (Brushes optional.)

I am continually awed by the complexity of being human. And the opportunities!

Come join the party!

Here are a few of my “current” favorites. Pull up a chair and sit a spell.

https://youtu.be/uZAsfB1Np-8

https://youtu.be/cTBx-hHf4BE

https://youtu.be/QhnPVP23rzo

Get woke!

If you’ve been reading along for a while, you’ve noticed that I’m kind of hooked on food TV.

At the moment, Bravo’s Top Chef.

I’m not sure I’d be a realistic candidate. There’s more lifting and toting than I’m used to. And, this season, the whole camping in the Colorado winter thing.

Personally, I like my house with central heat and my glass top stove I can set on low and leave to bubble gently all night.

And, just between us, sleeping in tents is not my thing!

All that being said, there’s still a lot to learn. And not just about food!

But, before we get to all that, there’s something else you should know.

I’m not sleeping much these days.

I get tired. I can even sleep for the first couple of hours after I go to bed. All too often, though, I’m awake about 3:00 am.

The kind of awake where your mind is racing with new ideas and things the paintings need and a new recipe for soup.

I try to sleep, because I believe I “should” but it doesn’t work out that way too often.

Then I wind up in my chair with a cup of hot water and lemon and a good book.

Except that my reading gets interrupted every few minutes by yet another thought that I must write down.

The pile of index cards next to my chair is getting impressive!

One of those cards, from a couple of nights ago, says, “Get woke!” with a note to remind me that this is a quote from Top Chef.

It would be handy if my wide-eyed muse would remember to jot down a bit more information as to episode number, etc., but there it is.

As I recall, vaguely, this may have been from the infamous camping in the snow episode earlier this season.

One of the contestants was telling a story about growing up with his grandmother (I think) in, perhaps, a Caribbean nation.

Apparently, Grandma was fond of instructing the children to, “Get woke!”

There sits the index card.

And, while the exhausted part of me just wants to sleep for a week or so, there is another part of me that suspects that maybe, just maybe, my insomnia is about getting woke.

At the very least, I’m deep in a spell of new learning and creating.

And, what materializes as words and images seems to require a lot of processing, which I seem to be doing while most people are sleeping.

Or, perhaps, other people are not sleeping so much either.

It seems as though this is a time in history that may be calling us, more than any other I remember, to “Get woke!”

Sleeping, clearly, would be easier.

For this moment, though, it looks like I’ll be sipping lemon tea and wondering about the bird who seems to be calling, “Who’s there?” as the sun prepares to rise.

Which is, if we’re getting woke, quite possibly the biggest question of all.

Untitled design-45I have two very dear reasons for getting woke. Kenzie and Taylor are growing up in this world.

A very happy birthday to Taylor who is eight today. And big hugs for both my girls!

 

Now, though, a wee nap. Dinner for the dogs. And glaze!

 

 

 

Voices from the past…

If you’ve been hanging around for a while you know that when Dave was about four — the same Dave who just turned 38 — I wound up, kind of accidentally, in a parenting class called Developing Capable People.

To make a long story less long, I’m so glad I did!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until the cows come home…I’m not sure Dave and I would have made it if it weren’t for the author of the course, Steve Glenn.

Skipping along a bit, I wound up as a certified DCP group leader and, for many years, could practically recite the audio stuff by heart.

Literally, by heart.

This weekend, I’ve been pondering one of the best (and possibly most subversive) things I learned from Steve:

There’s no such thing as failure. Only experience to be learned from.

Read that again, please.

I’m not sure about you, but this is not what I grew up hearing!

I grew up with the notion that failure was shameful and made one somehow less than expected.

And, just between us, I was more than ready to trade that particular perception in for Steve’s considerably more radical notion.

In case you’re wondering why Steve is sitting, psychically, beside me as I write this just now, I have a very simple answer.

Paint.

A very simple answer and a bit of an explanation.

First, we’re pondering oracles in my Legend painting class, and Steve is right up there on the list of the oracles I’ve encountered.

Secondly, I spilled my brush water. Again.

No worries. That’s why my little vintage serving cart on wheels has paper towels.

It’s also why I posted a question for the far more experienced painters in the circle and asked if anybody knows where the cool little beige paint caddies with sides in all the videos come from!

No time for shame and blame or labels like “clumsy”. It takes time away from painting!

Then there were the eyes.

First, let me say that this is only the third painting I ‘ve ever done, and the first where I’ve attempted open eyes. Very scary!

“Not to worry,” insist the experts. “Just paint over it!”

I didn’t really understand.

I just knew the eyes weren’t working for me. I kept adjusting.

For a while they looked a lot like martini olives. Oops!

Finally, it occurred to me that all the fixing wasn’t fixing anything and I could actually start over!

No failure. Just experience to be learned from.

Hence, the rather alien looking being in the photo above. I adjusted the size of her eyes and then painted out the “olives” and, after what I devoutly hope will be a good night’s sleep, I will begin again.

No shame or blame or labels like “totally without talent”.

Just, as the master sculptor of the Renaissance, Michelangelo, would say, “I am still learning.”

What if that was what we were teaching our kids?

And, for that matter, what if we believed?

I believe. (Most days!)

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher