The Opposite of Writer’s Block

An old preaching professor of mine was fond of saying that, if you couldn’t say it in 12 minutes, it was more than one sermon and you should save some for next week.

Personally, I used to run an average of about 17 or 18 minutes which, while longer than Wade might have liked, was pretty brief compared to lots of preachers.

Blog writing works in similar ways. And today, I suspect Wade would be turning purple. You see, I feel overwhelmed by things jumping up and down to be said. Or, to put it another way, I feel like I’ve been noticing at warp speed.

It seemed to start on Saturday with the dogs which, in my universe, is not all that surprising. Bill and I were headed off to calm my food variety cravings with some really excellent raw oysters. Well, for me, at least.

But first, the beasties needed a brief break out back, lest we return home to flood conditions.

I was on the deck, reveling in the sunshine and encouraging Phoebe to actually go down the steps. (Let’s just say she’ll be glad to see her dear friend the chiropractor on Tuesday!)

Just as she made it all the way down, I noticed the siren in the distance. Phoebe noticed, too. And started howling, as is her habit.

Explaining to her that Newfs are not known for howling has not, thus far, convinced her to stop. And just behind our yard is a very busy road that runs straight to the Perimeter which translates into lots of traffic.

As the ambulance came into view, my lips began to move in an old, old habit from my nursing days, “God go with you.”

Just then, Luther joined in. Head back, nose to the sky, ear-splitting bass howl in counterpoint to Phoebe’s soprano.

It was the first time I’d ever heard him howl! (He didn’t start barking until a few months ago.)

The therapist in me celebrates this wondrous being finding his voice after early years of huge abuse. The urban neighbor with very sensitive hearing in me wishes that voice was a bit less loud and harsh.

The mythical Hounds of the Baskervilles came to mind. And Kenzie’s wolf painting!


And then, much to my surprise, I was flooded with a torrent of all the things in our world that make me want to howl just like that.

And then, in the midst of the torrent, a memory of some words I read just this morning. Words from someone I’ve never met. A guy named Karl Moore, introduced as a guest in the part of my world known as Learning Strategies.

Karl was writing about stories. The kind of stories we tell about ourselves. And the punch line was that we are not our stories. He even went so far as to explain that when those stories hold us back, we can actually loosen our grip on them and let them go. (Stay tuned for more about my version of how!)

And, right on the heels of that thought, another. You see, I’ve signed up for a long distance pet healing session with my Qigong friends.

Some of you are probably laughing. And others of you, shaking your heads. I’m okay with that. You see, Phoebe’s hips are hurting. And I believe — in fact I know — that putting hopeful energy about healing into the world shifts some of the negative stuff that feels so overwhelming.

It’s a lot like making prayer dots. And Physics.

Which brings us to my current Legend painting, also known as Oracle & Ally. In, through, and under what is visible to the observer is a story of my own, almost as deep and powerful as Phoebe and Luther howling, which has needed quite a bit of processing. That part will have to wait for another day.

For today, my version of a treasure I’ve learned from many, many teachers through the years:

Moving toward that which we most desire is far more empowering than resisting that which we fear, for that which we resist persists. 

Which, as I think of it, isn’t a bad motto for International Women’s Day! I was delighted to participate in a brunch hosted by Refuge Coffee Co. in near-by Clarkston, GA which exists to serve the global community. Fabulous art and food and new friends, along with an Intentional Creativity sister!


Contentment… really!

A tiny orange and black moth, not even as big as the end of my thumb, flaps her wings near the window as I write. I saw her twin while I was walking the frogyrinth, earlier.

The words to an old hymn echo deep inside me. I’ve got peace/love/joy like a river… in my soul. 

I’ve hummed along all weekend.

A new friend rests nearby while, outside, the ballet of Qigong active exercise goes on.

This is, in fact, my favorite movement. The one focused on contentment.

It’s mesmerizing.

And, I suspect, very counter-cultural.

There’s no money to be made in contentment.

Please hear me say that I’m not throwing stones. I grew up with a dad who fed his family with his skills in sales and marketing.

We didn’t so much watch TV when I was a kid, as we watched commercials.

And commercials are literally everywhere we look these days. All the time.

Which is worth a bit of noticing. And some wondering to go along with it.

How long has it been since many of us have felt content… even for a few moments?

And, the really big question:  How in the world do we help our kids and grandkids get a glimpse of what contentment feels like?

They’re not easy questions, I know.

I suspect, though, that the answer begins in becoming aware of our almost overwhelming tendency toward comparison.

Bigger. Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Prettier. Younger. Richer.

Well, you fill in the blanks…

And, maybe — just maybe — the answer has to do with valuing ourselves and each other as individuals instead of focusing on how we compare to everyone else.

Which is also a really good way to avoid more bullies and kids inclined to be victims of bullying!

It doesn’t have to be about being perfect.

(Or never shopping again!)

Just making a couple of shifts in the ways we talk about ourselves and each other.

And maybe creating a bit of peace/love/joy while we’re at it.

At least, that’s what the frog said!


It’s rabbit hole time again!

One of my favorite dogs, growing up, was a golden retriever named Alice. She’s been on my mind the last few days.

I suspect it’s because I’m headed for the rabbit hole again. (Yes, we’re free associating, here!)

Alice was my friend through a variety of tween/teen moves and changes and how-the-hell-will-I-ever-fit-in experiences.

Tomorrow, it’s time for another of those.

I’m headed to a deep dive Qigong retreat.

Now, for those of you who are about to ask what Qigong is, I’m going to start with the fact that it’s kind of hard to explain.

An eastern energy/movement practice, as I’ve learned it from Spring Forest Qigong founder, Chunyi Lyn, I think of Qigong as being a blessedly needle-free experience, somewhere between acupuncture and yoga in its mysterious healing effects on practitioners, but with less emphasis on actually being on the floor which I consider to be a very good thing!

(Apologies, Chunyi!)

Or, in a somewhat more theological sense, it’s a mystery… at least to me.

Let’s just say that, back when I was in nursing school, nothing in my well-worn copy of Gray’s Anatomy explained the impact of opening the flow of energy in the body.

But, I’m okay with mystery. And so I’m getting on a plane, headed for the land of my birth. The land of Garrison Keillor and the “hardy Vikings” of my family’s oral tradition.

We’re going to meditate and bounce and pat with cupped hands and, generally speaking, open up what’s blocked, energetically.

I must confess to being a bit out of practice. My friends at Learning Strategies are more than willing to help, by graciously hosting the retreat.

Clean, healthy food. Time enough for sleep. Gentle encouragement to leave the work at home.

(Well, two out of three is pretty good!)

On my packing list… all natural mosquito repellant. Mineral sunscreen. A hat! An essential oil preparation for muscle and joint relief. My intentional walking shoes. Some socks with the rubbery bottoms for bouncing. And a stunning, bright red shawl for meditation, in case I get chilly.

Also an apron. I’m the designated sous chef!

Am so looking forward to exploring the stunning gardens, a house sheltered in the earth, and — wait for it — the Frogyrinth!

Watch for pics and tales of the frogs.

Healing, as they say, comes in many forms. I’m for what works!

And the fitting in thing… these days I’m more for just showing up!


Chickens or Eggs?

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

I’m betting on the chicken because the egg would have needed somebody to fix a nest and keep it warm!

Oddly, I was pondering this yesterday, in light of the question of depression.

Depression, as the old saying goes, runs in my families.

Heavily genetic on one side.

Possibly more situational on the other.

I have been one of the ones who, in some wild DNA marathon, manages to out run it most of the time.

But, as my old friend Henry Close would remind us, If you’re not depressed sometimes you’re not paying attention!

Apparently, I’ve been paying attention lately.

Here’s what I’ve noticed.

I don’t usually realize that I’m feeling depressed while it’s happening.

What I do notice is when it stops.

Rather like one day deciding to put some new lights in the house because the time for dimness has passed.

Here’s the tricky part…

Do I change things because I feel better or do I feel better because I change things?

I suspect the answer is YES!

Which is to say that both of those things are probably true.

Even something simple like rescuing paint brushes from their canning jars of murky water and washing them can help.

Suddenly, they have hope again. They’re ready to do what they were meant to do.

Brushing the dogs can do it, too, but is a whole lot more tiring!

Lately, I’ve been eating a lot more bone broth. This is big on my list of things that, while they don’t necessarily fix things immediately, can’t possibly hurt.

And, I have a Qigong retreat/tune-up scheduled this summer.

If I had to guess, though, I’d say it was the painting – the Intentional Creativity process I’m learning –  that is calling me beyond paying quite so much attention to all the sad, frustrating, infuriating news in our world and back into a place where I can attend to hope and healing.

Where, just for a moment, every now and then, I can actually be hope and healing.

Now, clearly depression comes in many sizes and colors with different chemical and genetic and contextual factors. There are lots of theories about “causes” and “cures”.

And, if we’re being honest, there’s probably some vested interest at work in some of those theories.

The amazing author and artist known as SARK is fond of  what she calls radical self care.

Healing foods. Long, scented baths. Walking. Time to sleep. Comfort.

She’s convinced me!

And then, as often as possible, a tiny change for the better. (Susan calls them micro-movements.)

There are nearly endless options.

My Feng shui friends say it takes more energy to ignore things that aren’t working than it does to fix them.

Change the burned out bulb. (Ok, I’m on a lighting kick!)

Put some real food in a pretty bowl and skip the drive-up window.

Wear your favorite paint shirt, dried in the sun, all soft and fresh and friendly.

Be gentle with yourself.

Nobody ever got shamed and blamed out of depression.

Ask for help if you feel like it’s bigger than you can handle.

And, along with all the rest, create something.

Today, I will turn on all the lights and paint. (After I wash the brushes!)

More dots. A few words. Still, in many ways, background.

With the help of my new Instant Pot, I will take some crab shells we’ve been saving in the freezer and the fennel Bill’s kindly going to fetch from the Farmers’ Market, and experiment with broth.

There’s thyme in the garden, too!

And, assuming my painting cooperates, I’m planning a nap, complete with Spring Forest Qigong’s Six Word Chant playing softly in the background and enormous dogs snoring gently at my feet.

Chickens or eggs? Who knows?

Just gratitude.

Thanks, Greg Camp! 







Ready For Another Go!

I took a course in Philosophy once.

Thirty years or so ago.

I wanted to love it.

Our professor loved it and I thought him a miracle of wisdom and kindliness.

I wanted to know what he knew. To glimpse what he loved.

In that moment, though, I did not love philosophy.

My mind, raised as it had been by mostly modernist world views, wondered alternately how we as humans could have been in a place when we did not know this or that and how we might ever have questioned thus or so.

In my defense, I was also consumed at the time with the seemingly more urgent matters of baby Greek, putting groceries on the table, and a document we Presbyterian types refer to as the Book of Order.

Lately, I have begun to expect that the mere mortal intellects among us cease to be philosophical somewhere around the age of four or five and, if we are lucky, find ourselves ready for another go at it somewhere on the far side of fifty.

Which might suggest that we wonder a bit about the usefulness of conventional American Kindergarten and many of the survival skills we take for granted in our world, though that is, perhaps, an issue for a different day.

Another professor of mine said much the same thing when he called to us to be poets. If you don’t know Walter Brueggemann, there’s an episode of The West Wing that covers this nicely. I think it’s the one about the late night flight to Portland.

In any event, I found myself in a philosophical mode this morning.

I started out pissed.

Actually, I started out tired but, in my experience, tired often leads to pissed.

In this case, the immediate cause appeared to be Luther.

The same Luther who went out, with the four-footed girls, for his last stroll around the back forty about 11:00 last night.

I knew, when he barked at precisely 6:45 this morning, that he had no urgent personal needs. He simply wanted to go lay outside on the cool, damp ground and feel the world come alive.

Now, I’m not opposed to such a wish, in principle. On this particular morning, though, it coincided with a long night full of two paintings clamoring for my attention and nowhere near enough sleep.

Luther, however, has not yet developed a neurological circuit for, “I’ve heard your message and the answer is, ‘No.'”

I caved, reluctantly, justified by the other relevant factor that Bill’s shoulder hurts and he hadn’t slept well either.

About 20 minutes and a brief visit to my paintings later, I sat curled under a favorite quilt in my magic chair with a steaming cup of lemon water in my hands, listening to the birds sing the garden awake.

All the while, I fumed.

“Rotten, no-good dog! When is he going to learn?”

“He’s never going to learn if I keep caving in.”

“How am I supposed to get anything done today if I lost another hour’s worth of sleep?”

Feel free to fill in some more blanks, if you like. You get the drift.

Suddenly, though, I heard two of the more philosophical voices in my current universe warming up in my head.

“Expectations are the root of suffering,” said Qigong master, Chunyi Lin.

And, with a throaty California sort of accent, “In this moment, nothing is wrong,” from actor, author, and teacher, Samantha Bennett.

Frankly, it’s taken me a while to get on board with Chunyi. And, at the risk of plunking a detour in the midst of your own philosophical journey, I’m going to leave you with that one to chew on in your own way.

Sam has been a bit easier for me to wrap my head around.

It has a lot to do with here and now. And with a bit of relief from the shoulda-woulda-coulda routine that calls us to the past or the future, neither of which is actually happening.

Except in the sense that it’s really all kind of the same and Dave was right about time!

That, however, is a bit ambitious for morning, so I decided to notice, at least for a moment, that I was warm and safe. There were crows playing in the garden and roses peeking through the dawn. My world was filled with the happy scent of lemon. And there were three big dogs snoring gently at my feet.

All of whom I love.


When I took my glasses off and squinted just so, I could almost see Ben grinning.





“There’s no place like home!”

I woke Monday morning faced with packing and a very long day of travel on the way home from the Rabbit Hole. Part of me wished that I had a pair of ruby slippers and could just click my heels three times and be home.

It turned out just as well that these powerful postmodern ruby slippers are still on their way from Fluevog’s magical shoe elves. It seems there was still more for me to learn on the bumpy flight from Portland.

There was considerable turbulence over Idaho and Utah. I was having trouble reading and decided to check out the movies. Once again, I found a movie with a message for me. A Dog’s Purpose.

Of course, I’d read the book by W. Bruce Cameron, but it had been a while. And I had tissues in my jacket pocket so I took a deep breath and pushed play.

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“Believe it, it works!”

If you’ve been around for a while,  you may know that, for the last couple of years, I’ve been studying Spring Forest Qigong (chee-gong). This journey started for me years ago when I began to realize that conventional medicine didn’t have all the answers I needed as I tried to deal with chronic joint and muscle pain, allergies to many of the things that might have helped, endless debates about what was really going on, and some miscellaneous challenges like lead and mercury toxicity.

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