If you need a reminder, too…

One of the good things about being a writer is that many of us are “afflicted” with the habit of writing down wise things our teachers have said through the years.

Then, when the world feels like somebody just yelled, “Tilt!”, we have someplace to start hunting for words that just might sustain us. Rather like the tagline on this blog.

…situational angst and stardust soup

I don’t know about you, but the news over the last couple of days sent me rooting through my mental and electronic attics for some words like that. Whether it’s a surprise for you or something already settled into one of your mental boxes, this ancient Sufi teaching story is the best I’ve got in this moment. (This is 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 feels a lot like that around here. And I’m really glad I know this story!

So, lacking the knees to climb our local mountain, I made myself a cup of tea and collaged some of this story to my almost finished painting, The Wisdom of Trees & Grandmothers. Then, I started thawing things headed for  my very biggest stock pot. It’s time to boil bones!

Which is likely to be a good thing, even in the midst of a world full of things we only think we know about.

p.s………. Great day making art with awesome women. Watch for next workshop info, coming soon!

When the 30 second dance party involves paint…

Yep. It’s #WIP Wednesday again. And there’s lots of stuff in progress around here!

It’s also catch-up day for one of my projects. Never mind for a moment that catch-up month might be more useful, I’m closer than I was before. (Except for the tonnage of emails that showed up while I was painting!)

The next right thing, however, is feeding the Studio Angels who seem to be of the opinion that they’ve worked hard and earned their supper.

Kind of like a brief commercial break! I’ll be back…

So, if you’re conversant with Grey’s Anatomy or creator, Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, you’re probably checked off on 30 second dance parties. So is Shiloh Sophia McCloud, though hers generally take longer than 30 seconds and are part of the creative journey.

One was called for today. It’s big fun! Also, potentially kind of messy.

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Intentional Creativity® dance parties are more about integrating what’s becoming conscious during the creative process than they are about a break state after something stressful, though both are often helpful.

Today’s was all about claiming our paths to this point in our journey and putting all the stuff – easy and very hard – into the work. It’s really freeing and totally NOT about staying in the lines!

Here are a couple glimpses of what’s under all that integrating paint. At least what’s under the paint on my canvas. I was just doing what the Muses were whispering in my ears.

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The very pink photo, way up at the top, is a glimpse of another #WIP, which seems to want to be about trees and growth rings and grandmothers.

There is much more work to be done.

After I get a dry brined chuck roast tucked safely into the InstantPot so that we, like the Studio Angels, can have a fine dining experience.

There’s Pine Street Market pimento cheese tucked into the fridge for Sunday’s workshop.

And a new recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Bark. We’re liable to need a “test” batch before Sunday!

Transformation can be hungry work. Good chocolate and almonds are part of the ritual!

 

Are you a jigsaw puzzle person???

Imagine, with me, that you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle. One with many, many pieces. There are a couple of challenges. You don’t have a box with a picture on top of what the puzzle is supposed to look like and there are no edge pieces!

Perhaps you’ve noticed that life feels like that sometimes. At least mine has, lately.

For me it usually happens when I’m discovering new things and I can’t tell how they fit together with powerful things that have already claimed me.

Just now, it has to do with things like demo paintings and round two of a journey called Legend and a round-the-world perspective trip with something known as Motherboard.

All layered over the wonder of holidays with my girls and reading some things I wrote a while back.

Oh, and MLK, Jr. day.

Curious???

It happened like this…

I was still floating around in an inner tide pool after MLK day, watching Legend videos, squirreling away collage paper for a workshop demo, and pondering what Motherboard will wind up looking like in my world when – cliche’ but true! – I had a dream!

The dream led me out of bed, braving the cold and the dark, to retrieve a copy of my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope. (The sweet faces, above, are my granddaughters, peeking out from the cover.)

Wrapped in a purple, faux fur wobbie and fortified by a cup of hot water and lemon in my favorite sunny yellow mug, I started ripping pages from my book.

Yes, ripping pages!

Collage material for one project. Inspiration to be transformed into symbols for a couple of others. And two answers to my prophets’ favorite question:

If we believe what we say we believe, what, then, shall we do?

Yes, there are a great many answers to this question. For now, these are mine.

Put Motherboard to work in my world. (You’ll have to stay tuned…)

And, wave at babies!

There it was, on page 73, my personal plan for world peace. Let me read you a story…

My favorite place for waving at babies is the big, international farmers’ market where we live. There are lots of babies there! Babies whose families come from parts of the world my 7th grade geography teacher never told me about. Babies balanced on top of cartloads of food I’d have no idea how to prepare. 

Wave at the babies. Smile, too, of course. Tell them they have cool shoes. Become less “other.” Less “different.” More “same.” Wave at babies at traffic lights and in restaurants. Most of them are serious flirts. 

It’s probably going to take a while, this plan of mine. Less, though, if we get all the grandmothers signed up. (And the honorary grandmother archetype folks, too.) Your kids will see you wave and they’ll start, too. And then the people with the babies will notice and just possibly smile. Pretty soon you’ve got a cart full of crazy looking produce, a nice pastured chicken… and some actual fresh bay leaves. And, if it’s been a good waving day, a couple of dozen fewer strangers in the world. All of which, one way or another, is a good thing for your kids to learn. 

See, grandmothers are in charge of hope! 

Oh, and just one more thing. Before the pieces of the puzzle begin to make sense, we have to take them out of the box and play with them! Often paper and pens and images are helpful!

Keeping My Eyes Open!

If the weather elves who inhabit my phone are correct, it will not quite freeze tonight.

That works for me. (Even Luther will be happy with the balmy 36 degrees. No ice on the back steps!)

Not being a Newfoundland, I’m looking forward to growth.

The mail is filled with seed catalogs, one of which was considerately printed on non-shiny, collage appropriate paper and is, appropriately, headed for Sunday’s painting workshop which is all about growth.

Aided, I trust, by the raft of new liner brushes pictured above. (Did they really have to put sticky labels on the handles of all 12 of them???)

A dear friend dropped by for a visit today with newborn herbs, a gift from her husband, the seed guy. Time to rearrange lamps a bit… it’s too cold for outside. Parsley and basil, here we come!

And then there’s the which one is not like the others item in the photo.

Raw cacao powder, headed for Friday’s baking project. A flourless chocolate cake for Sunday’s paint sisters. (Yes, there’s still time for a couple more of you to sign up!)

Though, compared to big brand cake in a box, which half my family couldn’t eat, I guess it is growth!

Here’s the way Kenzie and I did it for Christmas dinner, with considerable inspiration from Ina Garten, Alton Brown, some wise things I’ve learned along the way, and a couple of web site versions.

Chocolate Cake (Almost) All Of Us Can Love

Figure about 45 minutes for actual kitchen bonding and another couple of hours for the fridge to do its thing.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate. (In our case, Green & Black’s organic 85% dark.)
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, preferably organic. Save wrapper!
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar. (Nobody’s perfect!)
  • 1/4 tsp. finely ground sea salt.
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract.
  • 3 large room temp. eggs (preferably pasture raised) slightly beaten.
  • 1/2 c. raw cacao powder or Dutch process cocoa powder. (We did 1/4 c. of each).
  • 1 good pinch espresso powder for baking or INSTANT espresso powder.

Ingredients for chocolate ganache topping:

  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate. (The same type as above. Three 3.17 oz bars = the 2 c. total.)
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream, preferably organic.

Optional ingredients for garnishing *

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Using the wrapper from the butter, grease an 8″ round cake pan (We used stainless steel.) Cut a circle of unbleached parchment paper to fit and place it on the bottom of the pan. (This is an excellent job for a young helper!) Grease the parchment paper with the rest of the butter on the wrapper.

Place the chopped chocolate and butter over low to medium-low heat in a heavy sauce pan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the butter and chocolate are melted and well combined. (If you have a microwave, rumor has it that will work, too.) Remove from heat. 

Add sugar, salt, and vanilla extract, stirring to combine well.

Add the beaten eggs slowly, stirring well. (Kenzie is an excellent stir-er!)

Add the cacao/cocoa powder and espresso powder and mix just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan, keeping the sauce pan for later, unless you just love doing dishes! Bang bottom of cake pan on countertop to release air bubbles. Bake in center of oven for about 25 minutes, until the cake has a thin crust on top and a toothpick comes out not quite clean.

Cool cake on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a table knife around the edges of the cake to loosen. Cover pan with a serving plate and flip so that the cake magically appears on the plate with the former bottom up. (This is, perhaps, not the best job for a young helper!) Discard parchment paper. Allow cake to cool completely, while making the ganache.

Combine 2nd batch of chopped chocolate and heavy cream in your sauce pan. Stir, over low to medium-low heat until all is melted, smooth, and shiny. (Or use microwave.)

Spread the miraculous ganache evenly over the cooled cake. Let it set up a couple hours or more before serving. The refrigerator works great and keeps the big dogs from very dangerous snacking!!!

*Slice cake into thin wedges (It’s rich!) and garnish with a dash of powdered sugar and fresh raspberries or strawberries if desired. Whipped cream or coffee ice cream would not be amiss.

This was REALLY good. And it keeps well in the fridge. Am experimenting with mini muffin tins for Sunday. I’ll keep you posted.

And do keep your eyes open with me. Noticing signs of growth seems like a pretty good practice just now!

 

What do you see? What do you hear?

Dear Hearts, according to the calendar most commonly accepted in much of the world, today is New Year’s Day. In my world, it’s also Work-in-Progress Wednesday, which somehow feels appropriate! And a day for the Studio Angels to recover from all the very noisy celebrating in our neighborhood last night!

Here’s what seems real.

My Tree Woman emails are out, with much prayer and huge help from a patient paint sister. That’s one big step forward for 2020! (And a hint in the photo, above!)

There’s a soup pot on the stove. Bird broth. Pulled pork and boar salami. (Really!) Brussels sprouts and arugula. Lots of aromatics. Gorgeous mushrooms.

It’s not hog jowls and collard greens, but it works for us.

IMG_6564The bones of my MotherBoard space now exist in this dimension! This, too, is a huge step forward for 2020 and will make more sense as time goes on. (Really big whiteboard due Friday!)

And, quite probably prompted by an avalanche of emails beating the drums for a major (US) election fundraising deadline, I have been casting about for something to say in this moment. Only one thing made sense.

Please hear, now, the words of the prophet known as The Dangerous Old Woman, probably not for the first time, with ears of this moment.

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves and Untie the Strong Woman.

Holding Light for the New Year, Sue and Phoebe and Luther

 

 

Wonders Abound!

Not too long ago I was thrilled to be part of an online class led by Sam Bennett of The Organized Artist Company. Sam is one of those people who come to be friends because they’re already friends with people you love and respect.

Sam is also comfortingly quirky which may be why she was teaching a whole herd of artsy types about “Weird Ways”  to earn about $2,000 before the end of 2019!

I learned lots of useful things that have taken root and bloomed in my holiday art markets and in a whole new way of thinking about signs and letting people know how to help make a difference in the world.

I also learned that when we open the door to a bit of newness, MORE has a habit of inviting itself in! It’s one of those energy things.

Here’s what happened next…

On Wednesday, I had lunch with a paint buddy and we took a bit of a field trip to a local boutique art gallery called Wild Oats & Billy Goats. I’ve loved it for years and treasure several things that have followed me home from their fabulously varied collection.

While we were there, I asked if they were looking for new artists.

They were!!!

IMG_6447One thing led to another and, by noon on Friday, I was the newest artist at Wild Oats & Billy Goats!!! (And yes, I’m thrilled!)

For Atlanta area friends, they’re on the Decatur Square and are easy to spot. There’s a herd of metal goat sculptures on the sidewalk!

There’s also an online gallery. I have descriptions to post!!!

A Heart for the World is there, eager to meet you, along with several of her friends.

Then I spent some more time hanging out with Sam yesterday and I have a business name now, too!

The Fiercely Compassionate Artist ®

And a “headshot” (which some of you have seen before) to go with it… a portrait of “Grammy” by my granddaughter, Kenzie!

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All of which feels totally wonder-full.

So does the fact that Bill and I cleaned out and sorted our people-food freezer today. Not as artsy, perhaps. But, a wonder-fully weird way to “earn” money by actually being able to find, and eat, what’s been hiding in there!

Warm food for the Cold or Long Nights Moon which will occur on Thursday, December 12, at 12:12 am ET. Which, as I think about it, is a bit of a wonder, itself!

“You’ve gotta do the things that you pray!”

Jim Morgan is an old friend of mine. The Grace Notes recording artist wrote and sings a song reminding us that, as the title says, we’ve gotta do the things that we pray.

Filed right beside that truth, somewhere in my head, is the old preacher-ism, “You’ve gotta do what you preach!”

The therapist who lurks inside me would chime in with something along the lines of not just “noticing and wondering” about other folks, but also about ourselves.

All of those things, if we’re being honest, get tough sometimes.

Today, though, having survived Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, the Return(s) of Black Friday, an Art Party on Sunday, Cyber Monday, and then a combination of Giving Tuesday and another Art Market, I’m going to give it a try.

I’m going to take care of myself tonight and I’m going to start by taking the rest of the night off!

Just as soon as I share a glimpse of my new greeting cards and some of my favorite words from Shiloh Sophia McCloud on the off chance that you need them, as I do, in this moment:

I am a creative being, not a creative doing, 

and sometimes being creative is allowing myself

to do nothing except the act of dreaming. 

-from The Creative Being Creed, Tea with the Midnight Muse

Here’s to making space for all our dreams… and helping our kids do the same!

(And to getting that huge pot of broth into the fridge.)

 

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