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.

 

 

To everything turn, turn, turn…

For a few years, while I was writing my dissertation, I did a lot of weddings.

That meant I did a lot of pre-marital counseling.

And a lot of marriage counseling after that.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to help starry-eyed brides and grooms grasp the notion that there were more important things to think about than whether the bridesmaids’ shoes matched the punch.

(Go ahead and laugh. This was a while ago and I’m from the South!)

I also spent some time gently suggesting that obsessing over the perfect song for the first dance might possibly need to take a back seat to being able to tell a soon-to-be spouse what you really need and want and love.

I can’t tell you how many women clutched Kleenex and tea cups while they explained that confessing their deepest longings was just too scary.

The logic seemed to run like this…

If I don’t admit what I love, and don’t get it, I’ll be heartbroken. 

If I do admit what I love, and don’t get it, I’ll be heartbroken twice. 

Two things are true about those conversations.

As reluctant as I am to say this, I get it.

And, I never heard a guy claim the same dilemma.

(I won’t presume to guess what that means.)

I wish I’d known more about Rumi in those days!

Then again, “…to everything there is a season,” and I understand turning toward what I love in a different way than I used to.

And, while I’m still sleeping off their visit, my two best teachers are back to their regular worlds.

I, of course, am still finding crayons and pins and a very stylish white denim jacket which needs to be mailed home to its wee owner.

I also have a new context in which to listen and learn.

Or, perhaps, a vivid, fresh reminder of my chosen context.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve come a bit unspooled, my writing and painting and even my plan to actually go get my hair done are all echoes of “turning toward what I deeply love”.

And, in this season, a reminder to claim more of what I love.

I might not get it all but it seems way better than not trying.

Maybe the girls will watch.

 

 

Curiouser and Curiouser!

When I was very small… about two or three… I spent a day with my friend, Sue, who was just about my age.

I don’t actually remember that day. At least not consciously.

What I do remember is my mom telling about what Sue’s mom had to say at the end of the day. It went something like this:

Why? When? How? Why? Why? When? Why? Why? Why? 

Apparently, we curious toddlers asked questions until poor Betty thought she’d never make it through one more question.

Curiosity is a marvelous thing. It can also be exhausting!

There’s been lots of curiosity at our house this week with the girls here for Spring Break.

We spent much of our time making first quilts.

If we’d been recording our conversations, you might have heard:

Now? When? Why? When? How? It’s in a knot again! When? Why? 

Etc., etc., etc….

We talked a lot about the notion of muscle memory and why Grammy’s hands knew from ages of practice how to thread the sewing machine and put in pins and all the other challenges for new “drivers” of such miracles.

We started with lines they drew on paper and no thread in the needles so they could get the hang of the foot pedals and the all important “needle up/down” process.

They decided they were ready to start “sewing for real, Grammy!”

First, we needed a plan. Make that two plans.

They made all the design decisions.

We began with the magic cupboard, aka my stash.

The girls picked fabric and decided on one patch squares.

I did the rotary cutting.

Next came arranging. Checkerboard style for Kenzie. A somewhat less predictable pattern for Taylor.

Then, we started actually sewing.

And, predictably, we started un-sewing. (Fortunately I have two seam rippers!)

We learned piecing and basting and a couple of options for quilting. We learned to make binding and attach it. We also learned that Grammy would help with the hand-sewing part!

IMG_2680Yesterday they headed for the airport with finished quilts. And suitcases full of unending curiosity!

It turns out that they’re pretty great role models.

Today, along with some painting buddies, I am pondering curiosity, as well.

What happens when we become curious observers of our lives?

What do we notice? (An old favorite!)

How do we turn stories into symbols?

And, why are we here?

Really!

I suspect that one may take a bit longer…

It somehow seems timely, though, in these days of Passover and Easter.

With all the blessings of the season,

Sue and the big dogs…

 

Reflections on a Bit of Heaven

It’s Spring Break, day four at Grammy and Grampy’s house!

Phoebe, the wonder aunt, is doing a great job. I’m pretending I don’t know about the bed thing, which she’s definitely going to have to forget before the rest of the herd gets home.

The girls are making quilts and they’re doing great! They’re making all the design decisions and, with some coaching, learning to do machine piecing, make binding, and iron. Lots of ironing! With a bit of help they’ll each have a finished quilt to take home.

Grammy will probably need a nap!

I think the refrigerator door has been opened more times this week than in all the time we’ve had it! Popular choices include almond butter with raspberry jam, seaweed salad, tuna salad, olives, and a lovely pot of halibut broth with sea bass. The girls helped pick the greens for the soup. (And ate them!)

Crab claws are on the list for Friday, Farmers’ Market willing.

We did leave the dandelions next door as they don’t belong to us and are suspect for Roundup.

In the meantime, my Muse painting is coming along, helped out by moving an easel and some paint to the living room entry way so I can paint while they sleep.

The Aquarium was huge fun! The girls liked everything best. Including the gift shop!

My esteemed garden helper is outside putting down a new layer of wood chips so we can hunt eggs without wallowing in the mud later this week.

It is a miraculous 77 degrees and sunny, with roses blooming and the microgreens taking over their raised beds.

I miss my grandmothers!

Caution! Grammy learning new things…

It’s 11:00 Saturday night. Having finally caved to peer pressure, I am learning a new skill.

On the surface, it has to do with the shiny new thing that looks a bit like R2D2 parked on my kitchen counter.

Yes, I bought an Instant Pot.

There are several reasons for this adventure and one big one for doing it just now.

I hate to boil eggs.

Ok, boiling them isn’t so bad but peeling them is, well, let’s just say not my favorite thing. It’s even harder when you buy fresh, local eggs.

And I have a lot of eggs to boil this week!

Kelly and the girls arrive tomorrow morning.

The girls will stay for the week, their Spring Break.

We have big plans for painting and baking and maybe sewing and, if history is any indication, a nostalgic chorus or two of This Little Piggy!

We’re also having an Easter egg hunt. “The kind where you hide the eggs, Grammy,” said Taylor.

A few questions later I had established that they do, indeed, want to dye the eggs as well as hunt for them. “Lots of them!”

We also need brunch for tomorrow and, given our various food challenges and the variables involved in air travel on a rainy day, deviled eggs seemed like the obvious choice.

It took a while to figure out how to put the lid on the thing!

Tonight, brown eggs from our local farmer friends, complete with lots of beeping and timing coming from the kitchen.

Assuming that all goes well, white eggs later in the week, suitable for making pretty colors. Dave will be here by then and can help, too!

Their beds are made. Flowers are waiting in the kitchen to be arranged.

Phoebe is resting up for Auntie duty.

My head is spinning.

Have to remember the booster seat for the car. Crossed fingers that I can really count on them not to play in the paint in the middle of the night. Major questions about the weather. At least it’s not likely to snow!

I’m behind on my painting.

And yet, my heart is full.

Our kids and grandkids and the children of our hearts are hope for a world which desperately needs it.

They’re also excellent inspiration for learning new things!

And I am deeply aware that, despite all the things I imagine teaching them while they’re here, I will learn even more.

What a blessing!

 

 

 

Tea With Alice Walker

Today, I have become a book reviewer.

I’m not sure that particular designation will fit on the back of my business card along with Author, Artist, and Activist but that is a problem for another day.

In case you’re wondering how such a transformation came to be on a chilly, gray Wednesday when there are countless loads of linens to be washed before my girls arrive, I will tell you.

A new book dropped, like manna from Heaven, into my awareness.

But before that, I discovered — via the oracle known as Amazon — that my teacher, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, once illustrated a book of poetry for none other than Alice Walker, herself!

The title was enough to insist that I needed this book and needed it as closely as possible to immediately.

HARD TIMES REQUIRE FURIOUS DANCING

How could I resist?

A bit of button pushing later, and a couple of days worth of camping on the mailbox, it arrived.

As I sipped tea and eagerly flipped pages, tasting words like really fine dark chocolate, I knew I had to tell you about it.

But, of course, the copyright page insists, as even those in my own books do…

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, or other — without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

No worries!

Well, just one.

Which “brief passage” would I choose?

As sometimes happens, the right passage chose me.

It’s from the poem, CALLING ALL GRAND MOTHERS, which begins on page 30.

Step forward

& assume

the role

for which

you were

created:

To lead humanity

to health, happiness,

& sanity.

I call on

all the

Grand Mothers

of Earth

& every person

who possesses

the Grand Mother

spirit

of respect for 

life

&

protection of 

the young

to rise

& lead.

My apologies to Miss Walker for not having the technical skills to make this look just like it does in her book. WordPress blogs are opinionated about such things.

Still I suspect you will recognize the amazing truth of these words as you read them. The book is full of such truthful words.

Enough so that, today, I became a book reviewer.

The art is fabulous, too!

For now, though, the Beasties are insisting that it is dinner time and then some.

Here’s the link in case you’d like one of your own:

HARD TIMES REQUIRE FURIOUS DANCING

 

The Wisdom of Pooh

The other day, I was chatting with an old friend about the challenges of our childhoods.

About the stories we learned from well-meaning parents in a world new to parenting manuals.

And about how ingrained those stories can become in young children who conclude, without benefit of abstract thought, that pleasing the tall people keeps them from starving and makes the sun come up in the morning.

And ultimately about how, 40 or 50 or 60 years later, some of those stories about self and life may not be working too well.

Somewhere during that conversation, a thought popped into my mind, rather like the missing piece of a puzzle.

Many of us were raised to survive, but not necessarily to thrive.

It makes sense, when you think about it.

We were raised by people who lived through or grew up in the aftermath of the Depression and World War II.

Surviving was a strategy they had to depend on.

And, because they loved us, they passed it on, often not as one possible strategy available to us but as the only strategy.

The difference between surviving and thriving is rather like the difference between living out of scarcity or living out of abundance.

I’m about to wander out to the center of the pond where the ice is thin and suggest that the struggle between the worldviews of surviving -vs- thriving, between scarcity -vs- abundance, may well be one of the biggest challenges in our society at this time.

If you’re still reading…and at all like me…you’re probably wondering how we raise our kids and grandkids and great grandkids and students and even ourselves in the inherent abundance of thriving.

Winnie the Pooh and I have some ideas about that!

Don’t just practice believing that you’re braver, stronger, smarter and loved more than you know… believe that they are, too!

Value them for who they are.

Believe passionately in their capability.

Don’t rescue them from opportunities to learn.

Encourage curiosity. (This means resisting the temptation to solve all their problems and tell them all the answers. All your answers.)

Model What might happen if… exploring.

Invest more in art supplies than “devices”.

Value process, and learning, over outcome.

And, insofar as possible, offer the same grace to yourself!

I hear you. None of these strategies are nearly as efficient as directing and expecting, but we’re talking about our beloveds. The dearest people in our world. Including ourselves!

So, if you’ll hang in there for one more thought, while we’re out in the middle of the pond where the ice is thin, and with apologies to all my clergy and therapist friends, let’s listen for a moment to some words from Carl Jung, via a brilliant author named Gregg Levoy,  which I am only beginning to comprehend…

 …people rarely integrate anything told to them by others…even those they pay dearly for their advice. “It is the things given them by their own unconscious that make a lasting impression.”

Now, on the off-chance that Uncle Carl was right, the way we move from surviving to thriving, from scarcity to abundance, is to engage experiences that counter our old, limiting beliefs, whether we’re six or sixty!

Look on the faces of the people with whom you share this world and experiment with believing this…29314237_1788187544820505_9185891725573357568_o

 

And, just in case you’re up for more… check out Gregg Levoy’s fabulous book, Callings… Finding and Following an Authentic Life.

Or maybe even my Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope !

Let me know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

 

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