Grammy does math class!

I spent a big chunk of today at the phone store. Not, just between us, my idea of fun but nothing has blown up yet so we’re claiming a win on that.

I spent much of the week thinking about math.

This, if you’d known me for 40 or 50 years, would be something of a surprise.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid and it seemed like every state we lived in had a different “new math” system. I was pretty confused.

The guidance counselors told my mom that, by the time I got to middle school, it would start to make more sense.

Not so much.

My math teacher in 7th grade was a nice guy who had long yellow finger nails, reeked of smoke, and responded, “Figure it out,” to just about every question.

In 8th grade, I took algebra I, ahead of schedule.

In 9th grade, I took it again. My teacher was the freshman football coach and the sponsor of the chess team. You guessed it! We drew football plays on the chalk board and played chess.

My 10th grade geometry teacher was a retired military pilot. We told war stories and made paper airplanes. I survived by drawing very neat proofs.

In 11th grade, something bizarre happened. My teacher wanted to do math! Sadly, she responded to every question with chapter and verse version from the Algebra one text, seemingly not realizing that I’d spent that year on football plays and chess.

By some major miracle, I survived enough Calculus and Statistics to wind up with a whole lot of alphabet soup after my name.

And, mostly, math in my day-to-day world has meant recipes and fabric yardage for quilts and the proper ratios for raw dog food.

All that changed this week!

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure whether what I was learning was math or science, wonders of the world or philosophy.

It did have numbers.

This week I learned the Fibonacci sequence!

And, suddenly, I’m a fan of math.

The cosmic pattern for nautilus shells and star galaxies and sunflowers and fiddlehead ferns and a whole lot of ancient buildings that are still standing, the photo above is my first attempt at a Fibonacci spiral.

I am, surprisingly, moved by this ancient wonder.

I am moved by the sensation of making the swirls over and over.

I am thrilled by my painting, rudimentary though it may be.

And covered over as it already is.

Some things just wonder me.

Here’s the best part…

The Fibonacci sequence has to do with building things on a secure base, be they buildings, or family relationships, or social structures.

We North Americans didn’t do so well with that when we built a world that essentially ignored the important base of the indigenous peoples who lived here already.

I’d even go so far as to say that we’re not doing such a good job of building on a solid base in these days.

I’m clinging, though, to the possibility that there’s still time to learn. To start again with the ancient truths of harmony and relationship.

So be it. Amen.



What’s In Front?

There’s a writer named Natalie Goldberg who does marvelous books to help other writers along the road.

One of her most straightforward bits of advice is to write what’s in front of your face.

Here’s a glimpse of what that looked like in my world, today.

Amongst the mountains of frozen dog food to be sorted and stashed, along with about three days worth to be packed for a brief trip to Camp, there were boxes of the stuff that prevents heart worms to wrangle out of an online source, the usual door opening and water bowl filling routine, and, of course, treats, hugs, and brushing. Lots of brushing!

And, there are still dog directions to write for Camp, which I suspect is not quite what Natalie had in mind, but on the list nonetheless.

I’ve done the Don Quixote thing, tilting at windmills with UPS over a package that, shall we say, disappeared somewhere into the big brown kingdom, apparently never to be heard from again.

And was grateful to the folks who shipped it in the first place for shipping another, today. Fingers crossed.

My Muse painting, who appears first, below, and now hangs in our bedroom where she is in charge of dreams, did her job with enthusiasm last night, sending me a dream that involved standing in front of a room full of people I went to high school with (Blessedly NOT naked!) and telling them why I keep showing up here, and at the canvas, doing what I do.

It’s the one of those five people thing we’ve talked about before. (Click here, if you’d like a reminder.)

My alchemical consciousness has been high-fiving me most of the day!

Then there are blessed friends who’ve listened to me think out loud while I sort through .jpg after .jpg of images, all hoping for jobs in the changing landscape which is about to happen around here, on Facebook, and in my pocket where the new business cards from will live.

Here are a couple of sneak peeks:



There’s crab shell broth warming on the stove.

And paintings-in-progress figuratively leaping up and down, wanting play time, while brushes wait to be washed, eyeing me with one brow raised as I pass by their Mason jars of water.

Perhaps most of all, though, there are the two notes I re-discovered today, scratched in purple ink in my dog-eared copy of Ms. Goldberg’s The True Secret Of Writing.

The first appears on page 106 of the edition I have. It’s beside a list of entry line options provided to get folks from stuck to — you know — writing. My addition to the list:

The first thing I want my grandchild(ren) to know about me is…

You’re welcome to play with it! Grandkids you already know and love. The kind that are on the way, even now. The ones you long for someday. Or the honorary ones in border detention camps or trapped in caves or hungry pretty much anywhere.

And then another one, almost un-noticed, on the very last page of the book, under the note about the author:

Imagine you are seated in the lap of a Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother. Yours, the one you needed, the archetypal one, or even the one you are on the way to being. She asks, “What are you becoming?” and listens with love and attention to your most true answer. Then she whispers, “I will help you.”

I’d love to hear what comes to mind.

The most important thing, though, is that you know!

(To leave a response here, just click on the big picture of what the crab broth became, at the top of this post, then scroll way down, pausing a moment at the blog subscription box if you’d like, until you find the place for comments.)



Elsie and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Having re-arranged all the furniture in our house so that the rooms come closer to meeting our needs, it’s about time to move on to a bit of web site re-arranging.

As part of the planning process, I’ve been wandering through some of the dustier corners of what’s already here and pondering what needs to be freshened up a bit.

This particular post seemed almost to be jumping up and down for some attention.

So here, with a surprise twist at the end, is Story of a Quilter:

I must admit, with more than a bit of embarrassment, that I considered her somehow frail as I watched the fingers gnarled with the ravages of “arthur-itis” struggle to thread the slender needle known as a “between” through all those years of my childhood. Tying the knot was still another challenge, generally accomplished with that peculiar, frustrated puff of breath that ruffled the wispy hair on her forehead. And yet, the sacred family mythos holds that Elsie Hannah Royce Boardman, my paternal grandmother, raised six children, two orphaned nephews and countless flocks of turkeys, baked 40 loaves of bread a week on a wood burning stove, and once insisted that my uncle carry her to the Baptist church supper on the back of his motorcycle, lest the people of God be deprived of the pies she clutched in each hand on that long, bumpy trip through the cornfields.

As my cousins and I gathered and traded precious scraps of those myths, gleaned over the years, or perhaps it was only as I raised my own child, I somehow came to believe that Elsie must have taught herself to quilt simply so she’d have an excuse to sit down!

When I was a little girl, I got to help. Gramma would come to visit and she’d sort through my mom’s scrap basket, picking bits that caught her fancy. My job was to draw the pieces on the fabric using a very sharp pencil and a scrap of a Cheerios box, cut precisely to the shape of a hexagon. Then out would come the long, sharp scissors and Gramma would reduce the fabric scraps to a lacy honeycomb of my old dresses and bits of curtains and aprons. I felt important.

Years later, as a young mother myself, I decided to learn to quilt. I picked a pattern from a magazine, bought some fabric I really didn’t like, though it was the “right” colors, and began, laboriously, to cut. After a week or so I had a block done. I was frustrated. My fingers were burned from trying to iron what wouldn’t lay flat. And I still didn’t like the fabric!

I looked at my one tidy, borderline ugly block and realized with a shock that I needed 41 more, exactly like it. I put all the fabric away and went back to finish my Bachelor’s degree.

Graduations happened. Years passed. And then a few more. Eventually we moved back to Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of used bookstores. One day, with a bit of extra time before an appointment, I stopped into one of those bookstores.

I sniffed deeply, breathing in all the books, wandering here and there, just looking. Then, down on a shelf near the floor, I spotted a book that was somehow calling to me, the way books do to some people.

Liberated Quilt-making by a woman named Gwen Marston. I sat abruptly, right on the floor, and started to read. Soon tears ran down my cheeks. Here was a book that understood!

The book understood how hard it is for some people to work with just three fabrics. And how overwhelming it is to make 42 fussy, perfect blocks, all just alike. It understood why many people think quilting is not for them. And then, as I kept reading, I found another way. Lots and lots of fabrics? No problem! Crooked lines? Sure! Lots of different blocks? Absolutely!

And the tears kept running down my cheeks as I realized that I might be a quilter after all!
It took a while. Several classes. A grasp of the importance of ironing as you go. No rules about color. (Well, only a couple!) What kind of thread. How to use a rotary cutter. (Miraculous!)

Mostly what I’ve learned is that I am an artist. That the colors will all work out if you stare at them long enough and throw a couple of extras in. And, if you like wonky quilts with crooked lines, plan them that way.

It turns out that the same is true for painting. And the journey has been much the same, as well.

I am learning again. And these days I’m even painting quilts!

Beyond the tools and tips and techniques and surprises like warped canvas frames, here’s what I love the most…

The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. 

–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

It seems to me that our world could use a whole lot of folks practicing art these days!



WIP Wednesday

Welcome to Wednesday!

Today we’re going to do something just a bit different.

You see, somehow it’s 4:19 pm and I just realized it was Wednesday!

Very little sleep, two trips to see about new glasses (which I desperately need), a fast stop for lunch, dog food to order, a painting experience to plan for a friend with a big question, and a bit of wandering with some old friends through the kind of wilderness where it feels like somebody just yelled, “Tilt!”.

And, running beneath it all, a song I heard for the first time about 4:30 this morning.

Here’s the story. My Intentional Creativity teacher, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, is offering an amazing workshop that seems to have grown out of what happened when her long devotion to the Holy Mother crashed into the news about immigrant/refugee families being separated in many parts of the US.

If you’re reading this, the odds are pretty high that you, too, are appalled at what’s happening, especially to the children.

Shiloh’s workshop is called Bella Mama and, if you click right here on the title in the pretty colored letters, you can find out if it’s calling your name the way it did mine.

You see, I believe that the more hopeful energy we send into the world, the more hopeful the world will become.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to take a while but that doesn’t have to keep us from starting now! It is, as my paint buddies would say, a WIP, or work in progress. It’s also a Wednesday kind of thing.

And, as soon as I feed the very hungry beasties, I’ll be back to tell you about one other thing I learned today…

If you’d like an opportunity to do something more immediate and tangible to help the border refugees, some friends of mine have come up with a great idea.

Humanitarian aid workers are getting huge numbers of requests from the refugees for rosaries. To find out how to help, click this link for Rosaries for Refugees and read the pinned post at the top of the page. It’s easy and VERY affordable to send a dozen rosaries to folks desperately in need of hope and comfort.

When you think about it, as one of my paint sisters pointed out a week or two ago, we’re all pretty much works in progress. And today is a great day for that!

The art for today is one of the under layers of my Tree of Life painting. 

Situational Angst and Stardust Soup!

Lately I seem to be revisiting old stories. I just finished re-reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees for at least the sixth time. And, as ever, I found amazing things hiding in there I’d never noticed before.

Probably because I’m in a new place and different words and images are working their way through my “filters.”

Today, there’s another story wandering around in my head.

It’s an ancient Sufi teaching story.

At least that’s how I learned it, in a training group for hypnotherapists, 12 or 15 years ago.

The Wise Old Man at the Top of the Mountain

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, there was a farmer. The farmer lived in a small village in a far-away land, near a mountain.

One morning the farmer got up and went out to care for his animals. As he went about his chores, the farmer, who was very poor, noticed that his cow was missing. “Oh, no!” cried the farmer. “Whatever will we do?” The farmer was very upset and he had no idea what to do next. As the day went on, the farmer became even more unhappy. Finally he decided that he had to do something. There was only one thing he could think of to do.

He walked sadly down the little road until it started to lead up the mountain. The farmer climbed and climbed up the mountain. His feet hurt and it was beginning to get cold, but still the farmer climbed. When he got to the top of the mountain, he found a cave where there lived a wise old man.

“Farmer!” called the wise old man, for he was used to having visitors like this. “Come in. Sit by the fire. Have a cup of tea. And tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer bowed to the wise old man and accepted his cup of tea. And then, with a shaking voice and a tiny tear in his eye, the farmer told the wise old man that his cow was gone. Disappeared.

“How will my family live?” the farmer asked. “We need the cow for milk and to plow our fields. Without her, we will starve.”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer leaped up, dropping his tea on the floor. This man wasn’t wise! Clearly losing their cow was terrible news. And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Several days went by. The farmer spent a lot of time telling his neighbors about his trip up the mountain and how strange it was that the old man just said, “We don’t know if this is good news or bad news.”

The next morning the very worried farmer got up and went out to begin his work. There, much to his surprise, was his cow. And not only his cow, but a big, strong bull as well. The farmer was so surprised and so happy that he dropped his tools and went, as fast as he could go, back up the mountain to see the wise old man.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea.”

The farmer was so excited he was nearly bursting with his news.

“Tell me what brings you here today,” said the wise old man.

“Well!” said the farmer. “I got up this morning and there was my cow. She came home! And not only that, but there was a beautiful, strong bull in the yard as well! Our family is saved! We’ll be rich!”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands as he looked into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer had never heard anything so silly in his life! Of course this was good news! And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Some more time passed.

One day, the farmer’s son, who was just learning to use the plow to dig up the earth for planting, hitched the big, strong bull to the plow and began to work. It was a nice, sunny day and the farmer’s son was thinking about many things. Suddenly, a very large bee flew up and stung the bull right on his nose.

Well! The bull bellowed really loudly, as bulls are known to do, and began to run. The farmer’s son wasn’t strong enough to hold on to the plow. He fell over right in the field and heard a loud sound coming from his leg. Suddenly his leg began to hurt more than anything had ever hurt before. All he could do was sit in the dirt and watch as the bull dug up the earth and ran, as fast as he could go, right through the fence and away down the road.

The farmer, who loved his son, heard him crying and went running to see what was wrong. There was his dear son on the ground. The field was destroyed where it was all dug up. The bull had clearly crashed through the fence and run away. The farmer did not know what he and his family would do so he did the first right thing. He went and got the village doctor who came and cared for his son.

The boy’s leg was broken. The doctor tied tree branches to each side of it, as they used to do long ago, and wrapped it tight with some old pieces of cloth. The farmer and the doctor carried the boy to a small porch on the front of their tiny home. The doctor said the boy would have to stay there for many weeks and would not be able to walk.

The farmer was more and more upset. In fact, he was more upset than he’d ever been. Finally, because he didn’t know what else to do, he went and climbed slowly up the mountain.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer was so upset he could barely talk. Finally he managed to explain what had happened. His field was ruined. The bull was gone, and with him the plow. And his dear son’s leg was broken and would not heal for many weeks.

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

With that, the farmer flung his tea cup to the ground and went stomping down off the mountain, threatening to tell everyone he knew that the wise old man was not wise at all, but mean and just plain crazy.

The farmer was so angry he could barely do his work. A few days passed as he cared for his son without crutches or wheelchairs or any of the things we might use in our time.

Then, one morning, the farmer woke to all kinds of noise in the village. There were soldiers from far away on the road, with wagons, capturing all the young men of the village to go and fight in a war. People were crying and begging that their sons not be taken.

The farmer’s son couldn’t go, because of his broken leg.

When the soldiers had left the village, the farmer went and fixed tea for his son and himself. And he pulled a bit at his long, skinny beard and said, with a light of understanding in his eye, “We really don’t know, do we? (Boardman, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope )

It’s kind of been a day like that around here. And I’m really glad I know this story!

So, lacking a local mountain and a wise old man, I added some stardust to the soup bowl in my painting and then I did what I usually do. Pulled out my very biggest stock pot and started boiling bones.

Which is likely to be a good thing, in the midst of a world full of things we really don’t know about.


Oddly Quiet

Lightning bugs flicker in the gathering dusk while the big dogs amble in from the yard.

It’s an oddly quiet moment in the urban jungle.

It’s been an oddly quiet day, as well.

A day for settling in. For changes to take hold.

Bill, just back from a week in Seattle, is doing the time zone thing and trying to catch up on some much-needed rest.

The fur kids are re-adjusting to a two human household with about three times the moving around to keep track of.

We had a bit more furniture to move.

Fine-tuning huge progress over the last few weeks.

I have three paintings rolling around in my head (and dreams!) and much new learning to find space for.

And, somewhere deep inside me, an inner voice is chanting an old Quaker saying I may have mentioned about 42 times lately:

In order to learn, we must be willing to be changed. 

Perhaps it’s the news.

Or my most recent encounters with Quantum physics.

Or even a shift in the dogs’ energy levels.


Better Feng shui?

Or just getting used to this world rather than the ones from which they came?

I don’t know. It might be a shift in me.

I’m clearer about what I’m trying to accomplish, which helps a whole lot in trying to explain it to them!

I can feel my perspective getting bigger.

A willingness, as my new friend, Jonathan McCloud, would say, to allow for more possibilities.

New language for my experience and my questions. For my hopes and my dreams.

Soon, there will be some new language around here. Not different so much as bigger. Clearer, I hope. More current.

And some reflections on how it’s all happening.

Kind of like spots for next season’s TV!

I hope you’ll stay tuned and invite your friends along. We’ve got some growing to do.

For tonight, there is more processing to do.

More being willing to be changed.

Not to mention dog food to thaw and dishes to do.

And lightning bugs to watch.

Don’t they just wonder you?

The Loss Box

For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought in terms of metaphorical boxes in my brain.

Kind of like myths of Granny’s attic, filled with dusty boxes and trunks full of old photos and yearbooks and clothes waiting for the day when someone would come and clean them out, dividing things with love amongst the family.

Only one of my grandmothers really had an attic and she was fond of shiny new things so she gave most of the things that would have been in the attic to generations of church rummage sales through the years.

And yet, in my head, the image persists.

As many of you know, I went to Hungary in the winter of 1989 with a group of seminary classmates. You’ve heard the stories… cold feet and homemade hootch for breakfast and Russian tanks “exercising” in the fields beside the roads.

One of the things that happened on that trip, which is a little harder to write about, is that all the boxes in my brain fell apart.

By the time I returned to Atlanta (and thawed out) it was no longer possible for me to live in a world with separate boxes for theology and economics and politics and health care and education, Christian or otherwise.

It all ran together and talking about one became talking about all.

This did not necessarily simplify life at that point in my journey.

I sure doesn’t simplify it these days!

There are a couple of boxes left in my mental attic though.

One of them, that seems to grow when I’m not looking, is labeled Loss in bold magic marker.

It’s an odd sort of box.

Every time I have an experience of loss and try to sneak unnoticed into the attic to slip the new bit tidily inside, all the other losses in there get riled up. They start trying to climb out of the box and run around the attic, demanding to be noticed all over again.

Which kind of means that all those I’ve lost are still with me, helping to make me who I am.

This week has been such a time.

It’s a complicated story, and not entirely mine to tell, so let me just say that an old friend was killed in a tragic accident.

The previous losses in my box are in full on riot mode, like tired toddlers wanting all the attention.

Loss, it seems, is loss. And it’s all hard.

Last night the attic dreams ran me out of bed and I spent some time with tea and my journal. Then I went back to making prayer dots.

Just in case you’re wondering what prayer dots are, they’re a tradition in the Intentional Creativity community with whom I am learning painting and a world full of transformative other things.

A bit like rosary beads, they’re a whole body-mind-spirit way of participating with prayers, which helps lots of us.

They also, as Shiloh Sophia would say, keep us facing the loss, the suffering, the love.

Ten lives lost in a Texas school shooting. A dot for each soul. Seventeen in Florida. And on and on.

If you wander back to the homepage here and click on the drop down menu for Artist, you’ll find a gallery of my quilts and discover that I’ve been hooked on polka dots for years.

Prayer dots are like polka dots, only better.

I make mine with the end of an old paint brush. Dip. Random-ish dots, each with a name or petition or simply attention. About four or five dots of varying sizes before it’s time to dip again.

Dip. Dots. Prayers. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Go back later and repeat some more.

Rage, if you need to. Cry. Give thanks.

Dip. Dots. Prayers.

I started with my very first painting, while a friend was critically ill in the midst of Hurricane Irma and I couldn’t get there.

The rhythm is somehow soothing for me.

My second painting is full of dots, too. Mostly for a friend going through treatment for breast cancer.

Those dots kindly made room for more last night and today. My friend. His family. Dip. Dots. Prayers.

Now, I was educated in what theological folks call the Reformed Tradition. As a flock, we’re not much for prayer rituals. Or at least we believe we’re not. And we’re pretty convinced that no number of polka dots in the world is going to change much. Which, in and of themselves, they’re not.

It’s the attention and intention that change things. Being conscious. Intending good. Reminding God, as the prophet Jeremiah said so long ago, of who God is.

Or, if you prefer, sending positive energy into the Cosmos.

Like getting thousands of people together to meditate for peace.

Dip. Dots. Prayers.

One day, I walk by one of my paintings and notice that what I feel is grateful. Grateful for all those I love, in this world or the next. Grateful for others making dots. Literally changing the world.

And I know that, one day, I’ll need more dots. Kind of like needing a bigger box in the attic.

And love will meet me there.



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