When I started this Sheltered Wonder art journal project, I wrote out the Wonder Rules to guide me. The reason for the journal is clear – to identify, acknowledge and celebrate the things I’ve learned, experienced, grown through, been challenged by and challenged during the sequestered solitude of Covid.
There have been so many moments where fear rose up, threatening to consume my peace of mind. It was through spending time in nature and in my studio that I was able to grapple with my fear so that I could find my calm even in its presence.
There have also been moments that absolutely took my breath away. Moments where the beauty of the world around me outweighed the sorrow and grief.
And, there have been moments where I felt like I was drowning in sorrow and grief. It has been here, in my studio, creating and writing, that I have found comfort, insight, healing, grace.
In this bubble in which I live, life flows as effortlessly as the river outside my window.
I struggle some days to align my world with what is going on in the world around me. And right now, that means how do I Share Grace, the fifth Wonder Rule, with my neighbours to the south where violence and death tolls continue to mount as the unrest boils over and Covid ravages lives daily.
There is little I can do in the physical world to change the course of events outside my own sphere of influence.
There is lots I can do in the metaphysical world, and also in this ‘cyber world’ where we meet up and share and learn and grow.
And that is, to practice every minute of every day, the art of sharing grace.
The issues that are impacting our US neighbours are deep and profound. Sitting here, north of the 49th parallel, it can tempting to sit in judgement. To cast aspersions upon those in leadership roles, those in power and control, those breaking the laws, those upholding them.
Grace means, I don’t do that. I cannot share darkness. I must share only light.
Light comes in many forms. For me, to add value (which is part of the fourth Wonder Rule – Find Value ) – my light must come in the form of my prayers. I must use my prayers to override any commentary I might want to make so that it is only my prayers that ripple out into the world for peace, understanding, compassion and healing for my neighbours to the south and all the world.
Just as the girl in the painting is carrying a bouquet of flowers to the tree surrounded by a field of wildflowers, I can only add my prayers to the millions of prayers going out to our US neighbours and to the world.
And so, I pray. In rain and sun, under grey skies or blue, I pray.
And I send my prayers out to the sky, the trees, the air, to the river of love flowing to those whose hearts are breaking, those whose lives are ending, those who are carrying burdens that feel too heavy and are falling under the weight. Those who are fighting for and against the turmoil of these times.
Those who are standing in confusion, fear, worry, sadness, sorrow, grief. Those crying in the darkness of their grief, those crying out for mercy, those calling out for the violence to stop, those calling out for change to happen now.
I pray and in my prayers grace finds me and hope embraces me. Hope for our neighbours to the south. For the world still struggling to come out from under the yoke of Covid. Those still struggling to come to grips with the loss of those they love, the life they had, the life they knew as normal. Those praying for peace. For change. For relief. For life.
I pray and send my prayers and my Love out into the world. It is the only way I can Share Grace.
May we all know peace. May we all know Love. May we all find the courage to heal what separates and divides us. May we all embrace our differences and celebrate our humanity as one people, one world, one human race.
In my 40s I decided to join my then teenage daughter in painting.
It changed my life. It also gave me a valuable lesson in How to Hear the Quiet Whispers of Your Heart.
Don’t believe everything you tell yourself about yourself.
When I started painting, I had spent most of my life telling myself I had no artistic talent. I thought it was true.
Committing myself to exploring my painterly ways in my 40s taught me that I was not always right. That in fact, the things I tell myself about myself are often based on my fears, not my heartfelt desire to live a true and authentic life. And, often, when I say, “I can’t do that” what I’m really saying is I’m afraid of looking stupid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.
Which brings me to the second thing I learned aboutHow to Hear the Whispers of Your Heart.
Get rid of ‘Can’t’.
Can’t is an easy way to let yourself off the hook of turning up for yourself in your life where ever you are, however you are, even in your fear.
If you’ve never done something before and you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do that”, challenge yourself. Allow yourself the grace of doing it imperfectly.
When I said, “I have no artistic ability” I was really just giving myself a soft landing and an excuse not to try something new. Sure, when I look back on some of my earlier pieces I can see how little I knew about colour, composition, light, depth – everything. But, if I’d never picked up that brush, I’d have missed out on the immense pleasure I’ve experienced over the years of creating art that speaks to and from my heart.
In the process, I’ve learned lots about colour, composition… and I’ve strengthened my creative voice and found incredible joy rising up from within the depths of my being.
I still sometimes catch myself saying, “I can’t…” That’s when I must listen for my heart’s whispers by reframing the ‘can’t into an invitation… “I have never tried that before. I wonder what will happen when I do?”
Which of course, brings me to the most important thing I’ve learned as ‘a creative’.
Listen for your heart’s whispers.
Your heart knows best. It is wise. It is loving.
The heart speaks in loving whispers, not angry shouts. Sometimes, you have to listen really deeply for the whispers because the fear that lives at the base of your skull shouts so loud it can be confused as ‘the truth’. In fear’s strident nature, it can become a habit to allow fear to drown out your heart’s quiet truth.
The way to tell the difference between heart truth and fear posing as truth is to ask yourself, “Does this voice hurt me or inspire me?”
If you hear angry, loud messages that are telling you you’re not going to make it, you’re not good enough, you’re stupid or anything negative and hurtful, it’s important to acknowledge that it is fear having its way with your real truth – you are worthy. You are good enough. You are magnificent, brilliant, a shining light.
In those moments when you realize the shouting within is becoming the ‘truth’ you’re accepting as yours – Stop. Breathe. Listen. Deeply. And ask yourself ‘Wonder Questions’… “I wonder what is really true here?” “I wonder what will happen if I just… step here, do this, experiment with this idea, stop listening to ‘can’t’…
Develop the practice of allowing the ‘shouts’ within to become an invitation to get still and listen for the quiet whispers of your heart.
Remember — The heart speaks in loving whispers, not angry shouts. Listen for its whispers.
Years ago, I did something I didn’t believe I could. I started to paint. My life is so much richer, vibrant, loving because I risked turning ‘can’t’ into possibility.
What about you? Are there ‘can’ts’ in your life yearning to be transformed?
When I sat down to create this page, bees and flowers were not in my focus. The page itself had started with a piece of collaged paper that came from Tamara’s work surface when she was here painting outside with me for the afternoon.
She’d scraped some paint off of her canvas, cleaned the scraping tool off on the paper covering her work table and exclaimed, “You should collage this into your next piece. The colours are so cool and look at that pattern!”
Why not, I replied. And promptly applied some medium to the middle of my just beginning next spread and affixed the paper.
The question then became… Where to from here?
It was all about experimenting with backgrounds and materials to see what happened when…
I worked on it a bit that day and then continued with it the next day. Again, letting the page itself guide me with whatever secret/story it was bringing to light.
I added background textures. Painted over places that didn’t ‘feel’ right. Kept delving into the background story.
Gold makes me think of bees and honey. I underpainted honeycomb shapes with pastels and painted a flower.
Hmmm… if there are honeycombs maybe there need to be bumblebees.
Part of what I’m enjoying most in creating the “Sheltered Wonder” art journal is the opportunity to experiment with supplies and materials I haven’t used in awhile.
Somewhere in my stash of stencils I knew I had a bumblebee. I dug through the box where I store them and found it. Perfect. Suddenly, two bumblebees appeared on the page surrounding the flower.
All things in nature are connected through an intricate web of delicate interdependency. Flowers rely on bees to pollinate them. Bees need nectar from flowers to create honey.
Flowers create beauty in our world. Honey nourishes.
Yet, we humans often forget the interdependent nature of all things on this planet. Including us. We strive for independence as if that is the gold ring of success. Even when our success doesn’t happen in isolation. It is always in connection with the people and things we employ to create whatever we have succeeded in doing.
This piece began with a suggestion from a friend. From there, it evolved into what it became because of all the products I used that someone, somewhere developed and created. It also helped that the muse was flowing freely and I was open to her whispers.
We are all connected, interconnected and interdependent. As John Dunne wrote long ago, “No man is an island.” We are one world. One people. One planet. We need each other. As the African word ‘Ubuntu’ so aptly describes, “I am because we are.”
In Covid’s presence, I have felt the wave of interconnectedness as country after country worked to flatten the curve of this virus’ onslaught.
In the midst of shelter in place orders, people rose up to share their many gifts. From music shared on balconies and driveways, to art ‘zoom-in’ s happening online, to poetry readings and cooking classes, and hundreds of other ways people found to connect, we the people of this planet have risen to the challenge and found ways to make ‘shelter in place’ feel less alone and frightening.
As the world ‘opens up’ again and shelter in place becomes less prevalent, may we all remember the beauty of this time where together, we created a planet where the best of our humanity connected us in ways we never imagined possible.
It is inevitable. Somewhere between sitting down at my studio table to begin, and deciding I’d reached the end of the process for whatever I’m working on, I decide I must quit.
Not because I’ve reached a place where the natural harmony of the creation feels complete. Oh no. Never then.
It’s always somewhere in between the beginning and the ‘ending’. That place where I am thinking about the value of the ‘end product’ instead of being present to the value of being in the creative process. That’s when the critter wants me to believe that whatever I’m creating isn’t being organized enough to have value, make sense, look ‘good’. I may as well just chuck it and begin again.
Yesterday, I decided to collage three of the leaves I’d used to imprint with the day before, as the focal point of my painting. The message being — ‘nothing in nature is ever wasted’.
Good message. Yuck application.
Or at least that’s what my critter mind (who does not care about proper usage of English) kept hissing about midway through the creative exploration of what was seeking to emerge.
I didn’t. Quit.
I kept exploring.
Which also means, I kept breathing. Deeply. I kept breathing into the present moment bringing my entire body into attunement with the mystery that arises in the art of creating.
Nature is your inspiration”, the voice of wisdom whispered within my body. “Let your curiosity and your natural desire to explore open you up to what is possible when you allow the muse to have her way with you without your thinking getting in her way.”
“Nothing in nature is ever wasted.”
I let curiosity guide me.
I am grateful. I did not give up.
Spring blossoms are in full bloom here at the eastern foot of the Canadian Rockies. The undergrowth in the forest separating our lawn from the forest that lines the riverbank is growing thicker. Dead autumn leaves are decaying, becoming fertilizer for new growth.
A robin takes up residence in an abandoned nest tucked into the branches of a tree. I watch it carry offerings from Mother Earth, twigs and grasses and dead leaves. She is busy making it a safe home for her new family. Waste not. Want not.
I affix three leaves to a piece of watercolour paper and halfway through worry I have made a mistake. Ugh, the critter hisses. This painting is going nowhere’.
Frustration with the whole creativity process mounts. I want to give up.
“There is nowhere to be but within the wholeness of everything”, the voice of wisdom whispers. “Keep diving into wholeness. Let your entire being be present within the process.
I breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Deeply. Slowly. My thinking mind stills. My body attunes to the wonder and awe of the moment.
Criticical thinking of what I’m creating falls away. Appreciation of being in the creative moment rises up to greet me and welcome me home.
All things that were once alive become part of creating new life in nature. Nothing is ever wasted.
Nothing is wasted. Every layer becomes part of the whole. Every idea energy to ignite what is possible into becoming visible.
I wanted to give up yesterday. And then, Nature called me back into the moment and I found myself, once again, in the sacred space of creating with Nature as my guide. Allowing all that was yearning to be called forth into awareness to become visible.
Nature. Wonder. Awe.
Curiosity. Imagination. Inspiration.
Harmony. Gratitude. Grace.
A perfectly whole trifecta of three. The embodiment of my creative expression.
Nothing is ever wasted when I am immersed in creative expression.
I whisper a prayer of gratitude to Mother Nature.
Thank you Mother for your gifts. For this exquisite moment. Thank you for your wholeness. I am complete in your expression of life, of mystery, of endings and beginnings. I am whole when I allow your creative Natureto flow freely through all that I create, all that I am.Thank you Mother for this life.
Harmony and peace wash over and up and throughout my body.
Nothing is wasted in nature. This moment, right now, is perfect. And it flows with nature’s perfect symmetry into the next.
I painted outside yesterday. I moved two tables, chairs and some supplies out of my studio and onto the lawn and set myself up for a day of magic.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Tamara, friend, fellow artist and one of the other three founding members of the Basement Bombshells Art Collective, joined me for an appropriately socially-distanced paint-in on the lawn. We laughed and chatted and threw ideas around as easily as the squirrels leaping through the Poplars that every so often kept dropping little stickies onto Tamara’s canvas. They all added to the texture of her work while our conversation, the magic that happens when two artists come together to create and the environment offered up the perfect space to delve deep into soulful expression.
Nature’s beauty is ever-present. It lies deep within the soil giving birth to plants and trees, flowers and weeds. It fills the air. With birdsong and distant traffic humming, whispering leaves rustling in the trees and rushing waters gushing towards a far-away sea.
It is beauty. It is the beast. It is light. It is dark. It is softness. It is the hard edges of humanity colliding into life in the messy. In those places where we have forgotten the magnificence of our birthright and fight to find our place, make our mark, make ourselves be known, make peace, make love, make war.
Yet, no matter how far we slip into the dark side of fighting for our lives, we cannot avoid that which is true for every single human on this earth.
We are all born magnificent.
Our lives all began in one single act. I like to think of it as an act of divine love. And, no matter how it is initiated in human form, it is this same act that creates every single being on this earth.
And then, life happens with all its beauty and all its messy, inexplicably painful, frightening part. Immersed in trying to understand the messy, we lose sight of what is true as we struggle to make sense of a world that often defies logic. In our sense-making quest to commandeer life into some sort of order, we forget our magnificence and fall beneath the burden of living ‘our purpose’., finding success, making our life work.
Until, one day, we come upon a time when the brevity of our life journey appears to be drawing closer and closer upon the horizon. “Where have the years gone?” we ask as we turn inward towards the glimmering shimmers of light illuminating the sacredness of our being here, on this planet we call home. Slowly, we begin to remember. Magnificence is our birthright. It is at the heart of our human essence. And the cracks appear in our memory as we remember to let go of mediocrity and live our magnificent selves alive in a world of other magnificent selves.
Yesterday, I painted outside amidst Nature’s splendour and I remembered.
Ah yes. This is life. This is joy. This is calm. This is what it feels like to feel, really, really feel, what it means to ‘be alive’ embodied in the present moment. To feel at one with all of nature, sentient and non-sentient beings, in this moment, right now. To know my inherent humanity in all its magnificent colours and to experience the magnificence of others.
Inspired by nature, I collected a few leaves and imprinted their delicate nature onto the page. I splashed and swirled, drew and etched as the page came alive with colour, texture, form, depth.
I’ve titled this 2 page spread, “Magnifico”. It is my reflection of nature’s reminder to never forget the magnificent nature of all things.
To honour always, our humanity and our impact upon this planet we call ‘ours’. It is fragile, this ecosystem that sustains us. It is intertwined amidst and in and of each breath we take in and each breath we exhale. It is a delicate, sacred dance. A gift of life that gives each of us air to breathe, water to drink, gravity to hold us in place and land upon which to stand and sit, walk and run. It is our home. It deserves our loving attention.
The weekend started with rain. Heavy. Pour down buckets kind of rain. River running high and fast kind of outpouring of rain.
It ended with bright green leaves shimmering in the sunshine. The river still flowing fast but not as muddy looking. Friends gathered together on the lawn in the late afternoon for a socially distanced visit.
The weekend that was brought much delight. I am grateful.
It’s funny, with leaving the formal workplace a year ago, (six days is my anniversary) I’m surprised that weekends still have relevance. But they do.
It’s as if my body, which has spent almost its entire lifetime acclimatizing to weekend breaks, holds onto that rhythm because it’s a habit, and I have done little to change that habit.
And that’s okay.
It’s a nice rhythm and, as the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Today, the sun shines in a sky that arcs up from the horizon in pale whitewashed colour to a deeper, almost peacock blue overhead. A white wispy cloud slips silently into the space between the leaves of two trees reaching up to touch the sky, its feathery tendrils undulating through the atmosphere like a phoenix in flight. It is here and then, it is gone and the sky is blue again.
Looking out at the river, the leaves on the trees that border its expanse, shimmer and dance in the breath of a light morning breeze and the ever-present squirrels play their prerequisite game of tag amidst the branches.
The weekend has come and gone. Good-bye old friend.
The week lays before me. A beautiful, inviting mystery.
Hello Monday. I am ready for your delight! Open to your yet to unfold stories. Eager for your unknown moments that will come. All in good time.
In this moment right now, here I am.
And the trees give a little dance. The river flows freely. And the clouds keep drifting on by.
Gratitude. Grace. Joy. Contentment. Love. I breathe it all in.
When I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was told I had to go to bed for the first three months.
Oh no! Whatever will you do? friends asked. This is awful.
I had to make a choice. Think of this enforced bed rest as awful, or choose to see it as a gift of life.
I chose gift of life.
Every day, I wrote in my journal about what a gift it was to have such splendid solitude alone, getting to know and love on “Baby Balthazar”, as we called her in utero. I filled each moment with loving thoughts of my unborn child so that she would know deep within her soul how wanted, loved and special she was.
These exceptional days of Covid are also such a ‘splended solitude’, if you choose to see it as such. You can use words that speak of your frustration and angst. Or words that speak of possibility, gratitude, hope.
The frustration and angst may still be there, but they wane in the light of words that illuminate your path with joy and love.
My eldest daughter turns 34 in June. She is expecting my second grandchild, a daughter.
No matter the circumstances of Covid, the words I use to describe her imminent birth are filled with all the love and hope I hold for her arrival and her life.
I wouldn’t want her to know anything else.
Life can be hard. To handle the hard times, she will need to believe in magic, wonder, awe, so that she will have the words entwined deep within her psyche that draw out her courage and love so that she can see and speak of the beauty in her life, no matter the times.
Choose your words wisely. Make them lift you up. Fill you up. Enlighten you. With joy. Laughter. Gratitude. Abundance. Possibility.
Make your words be the expression of all the wonder, awe and beauty you see in the world around you.
Let your words shine bright so that the darkness has no hope of dampening your light and holding your spirit down.
In the wild places of my heart, weeds are welcome. My heart only knows their beauty. Only sees their fierce devotion to life.
The wild places of my heart do not have time to judge or condemn or complain or segregate weeds from the things others call flowers.
The wild places run free in fields of flowers by every name blowing in the wind, growing up towards the sun, nodding their beautiful heads at one another as the wild places of my heart leap and cavort amongst their tapestry of rainbow colours.
In the wild places of my heart I live in the joy of the wild beauty of life teeming with possibility, wonder, awe.
In the wild places, I do not fear unseen viruses. I do not condemn those who see the world differently than me. I do not judge those who live differently, who abide by rules other than mine. Who see the world through different coloured glasses.
In the wild places, I do not judge. I bathe in crystal clear waterfalls of grace. Compassion. Tolerance. Acceptance. I reach up into the eaters pouring down and touch the fierce beauty of life in all its powerful nature.
In the wild places, there is only the sound of gentle hearts beating as one and soft words spoken on the winds of time whispering its stories to the leaves. Wonderful stories that stir hearts and ignite imaginations. Stories of the beauty its witnessed and the wild things its planted on its journey around the world.
I want to live in the wild places.
I want to plant beautiful things that sprout up to create fields of wildflowers captivating hearts and minds and souls.
I want to dance with abandon amidst the stories of the wind, to leap with joy in the rivers running clear and free and breathe deeply of the fresh, clean air that fills me up with gratitude and life.
I want to live in the wild places and plant wild things of beauty wherever I go.
What about you?
Care to join me?
About the painting: Yesterday, Sonia, a lovely artist from Wales whom I met last summer, shared a page from her art journal on her Instagram page. (See her beautiful work on Instagram – HERE or on her website HERE)
Her work inspired me and this painting appeared.
When I began, I did not know it would be about planting wild things of beauty. The words came after.
I think they were always there, the words, pushing me on, stirring my imagination, calling out to be released.
A cat misses noticing a bird because it is watching up in the trees instead of down on the ground.
The bird walks freely, oblivious to the cat because it is down in the grasses searching for worms.
I am fascinated by the flights of fancy that percolate up when I am immersed in the magic of the creative journey.
Yesterday, I didn’t get to my art table until late in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, I had sat down at my computer to write a short story. It’s a piece of homework I needed (wanted) to get done for a writer’s circle. I thought it would be ‘short’ – like a thousand words short. 3,000 words later my first draft is done.
The story came unbidden. I put my fingertips to the keyboard, closed my eyes, took a deep cleansing breath and began to type. The words began to flow and kept on flowing. Magically. Effortlessly. Inspired by being willing to close my eyes and trust in the process. It’s what always happens when I let go of looking for the words and simply let them come through me from the Universe’s rich vault of stories always in the making.
And my soul revels in the mystery and my heart feels all pumped up with joy.
When I finished, it was already early evening. Too late to start a new page for my art journal, I told myself. Is that the new series I’m watching on Netflix calling my name?
I glanced at the screen of my laptop. It sat silently in front of me, the little N icon staring back. Capitulate, it urged. You know you want to.
Yes, I do.
At least the little part of my mind that likes to take the easy path to nowhere wants to.
The wise woman within, the one who knows how fulilling and joyful I feel when I am creating. She knows what I need most.
I shut the lid of my laptop. Get up from my desk. Tell C.C., my beloved he is on his own for dinner (there’s a stew I took out of the freezer thawing in the fridge) and went down to my studio.
Outside, the rain poured down. The glass of the french doors were streaked in rivulets of water. Each one seemed to hold a prism of green light filled with shimmery, wavy images of the leaves on the trees outside dancing on the glass. It was cool in the studio. I put the fire on, turned on lots of lights, my painting playlist, began to move my body to the music and bid the muse have her way with me.
I had no idea what I would be creating for this spread in the journal. I needed her intercessions. I needed to trust she would flow freely.
I pulled out a file of things I hadn’t looked at in a long time. There were stencils I’d made for my She Persisted series. Drawings and cut-outs I’d created and saved (for a rainy day) and found a cat and a bird I’d drawn some time ago stuck between two sheets of wax paper.
It was all the invitation the muse needed to have her way with me.
I am grateful.
The muse is always flowing freely. It is up to me to heed her enticements. She doesn’t discriminate. If I am too distracted by life and my little mind worries that keep running me around in circles, I will miss her visit. She doesn’t judge. She just continues to flow freely, seeking other more responsive lives in which to float down and share her magic.
One thing about the muse, no matter how distracted I am, as long as I am open to her entreaties to create, she will visit me again.
Yesterday, she did not leave until I felt satiated and the magic of the page was revealed.
It is one of the aspects of diving into the mystery of my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal that has so inspired me to keep creating.
I never know what is going to appear on the page. Until it does.