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. 



Loud Noises and Gratitude…

It’s been an interesting week.

The mean voices of my Inner Critic, which live in my left brain, have been pretty rowdy. It makes sense, when you think about it.

The Inner Critic’s task is to run about like Chicken Little, yelling that the sky is falling! She reaches this conclusion by using the interesting strategy of predicting the future based on the worst disasters of the past.

Often her statements begin with How could you…. What were you thinking… Nobody with any sense

Well, you get the drift.

I find this learning from my teachers in all things metacognitive, Shiloh Sophia and Jonathan McCloud, to be vital in deciding how much power to give the mean voices in any given moment.

If there is, in fact, a 12 foot gator snapping its jaws just below the footstool of my magic chair, it’s well worth pondering the perspective of the Inner Critic.

Lacking the gator, or its equivalent, it might work to get a mug of bone broth, take some deep breaths, and ponder the bigger picture, preferably a bright, clear picture of my deepest, most true dream.

A couple of nights ago, the voices of the Inner Critic were joined by some other loud noises.

The first was the horrific squall of a smoke detector begging for a new battery. The studio angels and I were not amused. While I ran to put the poor beasties outside, Bill got the step-ladder and saved the day.

By the time my heart rate reached something resembling normal again, I remembered to give thanks that it was a false alarm and no actual fire was involved.

A bit later, the TV made the almost equally horrific bast that signals some sort of public alert. Relieved that it wasn’t an Amber Alert for a missing child, I was still less than thrilled to discover that we had a flash flood warning posted. Floods, you see, are a touchy subject around here, after some recent challenges with our basement.

Shortly thereafter, the storms that one would assume went along with the weather warning began in full force.

Torrents of rain. Thunder and lightning. Another of the beasties’ favorite events. And, lacking advance notice, no CBD oil on board. It was, in the immortal words of Snoopy, a dark and stormy night.

Blessedly, we did okay.

No water in the basement that night or the next morning, thanks in large part to the brilliant detective work of my friend and handy-wizard, Greg Camp. No trees down, which is far from a sure thing in our neighborhood. And the morning chorus of birds on the job.

First, I let myself feel the relief.

Then I pondered all the folks who might not have been so fortunate. And I made some more dots.

There were gunshots very near our house Friday night. Again. And I so wish I didn’t know instantly that they were gunshots.

Then, I woke today to an email from Bernie Sanders with news of two more mass shootings this weekend.

I signed the petition to push the Senate to come back from recess and allow debate on gun safety.

I made a contribution to Gabby Gifford’s PAC  to end gun violence.

Then I noticed that amidst my anxiety and anger there was a river of gratitude, flowing gently. And I learned something new.

The gratitude is not simply, or even mainly, about the fact that we, and those we love, are safe… though that is certainly true.

Instead, the gratitude leaves me more free to care. More free to act. More free to reach out in the world even when the Inner Critic is in full battle cry.

That feels like a good thing. That and a mug of bone broth. And prayers for you and yours.

Oh, and check here for a free gift from Shiloh Sophia… a painting class called Colorful Scars which is all about the healing power of self expression. (No experience needed. Really!)







Needing So Many Dots…

It’s been a week for dots. Lots and lots of dots. And dots, in my world, mean prayers. It has assuredly been a week for that, as well.

From the tragic festival shootings in California and New York last weekend, to struggling friends, to rainforests, to last night’s debate, to the need for some embodied prayer in my own world………………………………………………… Dots!

This is, as many of you know, a whole person way of praying, or holding intention, that combines verbal/auditory, visual, and kinesthetic processes in a powerful way. (In this instance, the kinesthetic part is the movement of making the dots, as well as the feel of the brush on the canvas. If you use the handle end of the brush, as I do, it almost becomes drum-like.) Music that moves you adds to the journey. And, of course, favorite paint colors!

In this case, I began with a canvas already holding the drippy under layers of another painting, only begun. (It volunteered!) The limey green, purple, and orange are some of my favorite quilt colors, comforting and familiar.

Generally I make prayer dots while holding a particular word or name or thought in mind and repeating it (silently) with each dot. This week, my dots were doing double/triple/quadruple duty so I needed a slightly different plan and, like my canvas, the Metta Prayer (Or Great Prayer of Compassion) volunteered.

This is an ancient prayer, common to a variety of traditions and different languages, which, for me, kind of says it all, despite the fact that it is not a prayer they covered when I was in seminary!

I begin my dots with the specific names or events or challenges that are in my heart, making a dot for each.

Then, the first “verse” of the version I know best:

May I be peaceful.

May I be happy.

May I be well. 

May I be safe.

May I be free from suffering. 

Then repeat, substituting all people for I. 

May all people be peaceful…

And repeat again, substituting all beings for all people. 

Now, just in case you’re wondering, no, I can’t do all those words and make dots at the same time. Yet!

Here’s what I can do. Metta… Metta… Metta……………………………

It’s a bit like emojis, I’ll admit, but if I set my intention and focus, it really works. And decreases stress at the same time! One of those both brain hemispheres at once things, kind of like knitting which, by the way, works for praying, too!

If you want your dots to stay in distinct colors, do one color at a time and then get a cup of tea while they dry. Add more dots, one color at a time, until you feel complete in your prayer.

Small children, especially those experiencing grief or stress, can learn to make dots with their fingertips, repeating a name or an emotion, like sad, or a petition, like safe. (This may be best done outside!) Always be sure to use non-toxic paints, please. Or crayons on paper!

IMG_5668As I write this, I’m sitting in my magic chair, with my Liberated Flying Geese quilt which is, for me, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is also, providentially, backed with these amazing swirls of gem-toned dots!

Phoebe, our chief studio angel, is dozing on the rubber mat below my footrest.

Suddenly, she stretched and reached a back foot up where it brushed the bottom of my own foot, softly, a connection to a loving, living being that was a blessing in itself.

So be it for you, as well. Amen.



Catching Up!

Hi! It’s me, Luther.

Things have been pretty crazy lately, but Mom told me I could blog again whenever I was ready. I think I’m ready, now. Mom’s happy to type for me, especially since there are lots more people like you these days who might wonder what we’ve been up to.

In the time called May, I had eye surgery. Technically, I already couldn’t see, but had my eyes removed because they were growing things called cataracts and they hurt a lot.

It wasn’t fun. Mom and I had to be very careful that I didn’t scratch or run into things before my sutures were healed. That felt like a LONG time.

Then, my Auntie Karen came one day and it took a whole lot of time to get black (!) sutures out of my face. It really wasn’t much fun.

I’m doing better, now. My family and friends are learning to help me by saying words I understand. Step is one of my favorites because it tells me a very important thing.

I have a new outfit. It’s a harness that has signs on the sides that say, Luther. Blind. Friendly. People read it and want to be my friend, which I like a lot.

I also like people coming to paint. Mom has lots of friends who come and do Intentional Creativity ®. Frankly, that’s hard for me to understand, except that I run into easels now and then, but it makes them happy and we all hang out together and I think that’s a good thing.

Mom paints the most. We listen to music and sometimes she dances and sometimes she cries.

She always reminds Phoebe and me that crying is not a bad thing. Sometimes it means that you just feel things a  lot.

We understand that. We’re Newfoundland rescue dogs. Being a rescue dog is hard in a lot of ways. We’ve both been through times when we didn’t have enough love or food. Sometimes we were hurt. And we’re still missing Sarah.

Mom says there’s a painting called Apothecary like that. It has to do with turning tragedies into remedies.

I think remedy means that now somebody loves you and you are enough and there are more good days to come.

At least, I hope so.

It means that our girls love us, too. And loving ourselves also counts!

Today is our first day of what Mom is calling Radical Self Care. She says that if she takes better care of herself she’ll have more choices about things that are important to her. Dad is in charge of something called moral support.

Phoebe and I are important. And Mom and Dad are working really hard to help me have fun, even if I can’t see, which may be kind of like what she’s talking about.

There’s also a rumor that it might mean more of the thing called grooming. I’m getting better at that!

Sleep is sounding good tonight. And, tomorrow, more paint.

May whatever is sounding good to you be true, as well.

Love, Luther

PS… Phoebe says I should say that we didn’t spill the paint on the floor!

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach