Category Archives: finding joy

In Between, There Is Magic

Page 8 – 2 page spread on watercolour paper. Acrylic and acrylic inks. — The Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

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.

What if…

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.

Like magic.

You don’t see it happening. And then it does.

Namaste.

The Future Is Not Now

Years ago, when I got out of a relationship that was killing me, my future was pretty grim. I was broken. The ‘me’ I thought I was had devolved into the puppet of his command. I had no voice. No sense of ‘I’. No future worth living for.

I had two choices. Stay traumatized. Heal.

Going through that relationship was hard. It almost killed me. Getting out of it, I had PTSD. I had no money. No job. No home. No belongings. Nothing.

What I did have was a miracle. He had been arrested and I knew deep within me, that was the miracle that saved my life.

I could not waste my miracle. I had to choose to heal. How was up to me.

Armed with my miracle and the belief I didn’t get it to live in pain and sorrow, I had to decide to heal. Me. Broken relationships. My life.

My number one priority was to heal my relationship with my daughters. By the time of his arrest, we were estranged. I wanted to be part of their lives again. To feel and share the love that had flowed so strongly between us, before I got lost in an abusive relationship.

To heal that relationship, I had to heal myself first.

To heal myself, I had to choose to let go of the things that did not serve me on my healing journey. Bitterness. Regret. Resentment. Hatred. Anger. Fear. None of them moved me closer to healing. Giving into regrets and bitterness only made me feel worse.

There were so many questions for which I had no answers. How could he have done the things he’d done. How could I have been so blind? So selfish? How could I do the things I did to cause my daughters so much pain?

I had to choose to let those questions and all the heavy, life-sucking emotions that went with them, go. Those questions could not be answered from a place of weakness. I had to grow strong enough to face them without losing myself in their seductive, self-annihilating web of pain.

I could not go searching for answers in the past if I was to build a bridge to a future where I could be myself in all my darkness and light, beauty and the beast, warts and wounds, wonder and wisdom.

The past was too painful a place to tread without the light of love to guide me and the future could not be conceived without Love being my constant companion in the now.

The only place I could find myself was in the now. And, the only thing that could sustain me in the now was Love.

So I chose Love.

Every moment of every day.

No matter how broken and helpless I felt, no matter how lost and afraid, confused or tentative. Whatever I did, I had to do it in Love – with me, myself and I. All of me. The broken down, beat up, worthless feeling me. The shattered me who included the mother who deserted her daughters in the final throes of that relationship because the only way she could conceive of getting him out of their lives was to give up her right to live free of his abuse.

May 21st is approaching. It has been many years since that day in 2003 when a blue and white police car drove up and gave me the miracle of my life.

Time has deepened and enriched my gratitude.

I am grateful for my family and friends who loved me through it all.

Grateful for my daughters whose love, even in their pain and anger, never deserted me.

Grateful for the beauty and joy and Love in my life today. For the wonder and awe I experience with every breath.

And I am grateful I chose to heal In Love.

My life today is a beautiful tapestry of light and love, beauty and shadows that shimmer in the dark corners of my life as well as the wide-open expanses of possibilities unravelling with each new dawn. It is woven through with threads of fierce courage, gratitude and grace, joy and soul defining oases of calm.

It is my life lived In Love.

I still have down days and dark moments. I still experience cloudy skies and murky waters. This is life. Beautiful. Complex. Complicated. Messy.

But, no matter the times or the weather, one thing never fades. The Love that instills this moment right now with such beauty it takes my breath away.

Living now doesn’t mean giving up on the future. It means choosing to fill this moment, right now, with so much Love, the future becomes all that is now.

Namaste

The Kitchen is an Island

 

Yesterday began with a brunch/early lunch of poached eggs on avocado toast and roasted tomato. It progressed to making focaccia and cookies — with no clean-up in between.

The island was covered. In flour. Utensils. Mixing bowls. My laptop. The crossword puzzle I was working on. My cup of tea. Various and sundry cutting boards. Knives. Spoons. Other ingredients. Olive Oil. Sugar. Everything I needed to make two different recipes. All at once.

I am blaming it on Covid — this way of cooking that, for all my free stylin’ ways, feels chaotic and frenzied while also calming and comforting.

It is the duality of life. Dark/light. Day/night. In/out. Up/down. Wet/dry. Love/hate. Peace/anger. Chaos/calm.

To know one is to welcome in its opposite.

In this time of Covid, I find myself creating chaos so that I can then savour the calm. It’s as though my body needs the darkness to know the light, the mess to appreciate the tidy.

Or it could simply be that to create an island of stability amidst the chaos of the world, I turn my kitchen island into a reflection of the world to find the peace within me.

And, as stay-at-home orders lift, and the world begins to return to a form of normal that is different than the same-old of the past, I want to cling to the bubble of serenity self-isolation has created in our home. My kitchen offers up a full menu of opportunities to savour the joy of cooking in the now while staving off the impending approach of opening up to the world outside.

Whatever the reason, I am spending more time in the kitchen than ever before. And in the process, along with the creation of delectable delights to please the palate of my beloved, as well as those I package it up for and deliver it to, I am creating a sense of the familiar. A connection to my past. My parents and my history.

There was a lot of chaos in my childhood. There was also copious amounts of joy.

Food was my parent’s love language. Food and meals brought us together. Creating food brings me closer to the past ways of being present in this world. It connects me to the comfort of old recipes and new. To old ways and new. To the spatula my father used for many years while baking. His rolling pin. His bread scraper. My mother’s little glass bowls for prep. Her handwritten recipes full of her tiny writing scrawled across lined pages with margins crammed with her comments.

Kitchen labours are nestled in the womb of my past. They are the umbilical cord connecting me to my family story.

I learned to knead bread under my father’s tutelage. To poach eggs guided by my mother’s voice reminding me to not overcook them. My sisters and I regularly share recipes and now, my daughters have joined in. We are all cooking. We are all talking about food and even sharing photos of our creations, both our successes and the not so successful ones too.

Immersed in food-imbued connections, Covid’s tentacles feel less deadly, less close. There is joy in flour scattered on the countertop. Laughter bubbles up with olive heating up on the stove, infused with rosemary and thyme. Smiles erupt as bread dough rises and the thrill of a freshly baked-to-perfection tray of cookies pulled from the oven in the nick of time.

And through it all, there’s memory’s beautiful long and winding threads bringing me home to where I find comfort in my kitchen. Through every ingredient, every carefully, or not so carefully, measured out scoop, every chop, every dollop of this or that, I find myself immersed in the joy of cooking my parents shared throughout their lives.

And as to the mess on the island… The larger the island, the bigger the mess. The more room I have to explore and create memories of meals past, present and yet to come. I am at home in my kitchen. It is the oasis I return to again and again, no matter the times or the chaos, to find peace and harmony in my world.

Namaste.

Recipes:

Foccacia – https://www.inspiredtaste.net/19313/easy-focaccia-bread-recipe-with-herbs/

Cookies courtesy of Flourist.com

https://flourist.com/blogs/recipes/white-chocolate-stem-ginger-and-rhubarb-cookies

 

 

The Memory of Breath

The new normal eases into a way of passing each day. The chafing of this new ebb and flow lessens. Its awkwardness subsides as you learn to adapt. To make do. To adjust..

You know this new normal has settled in for awhile. It’s not going away anytime soon, still, you wonder, “When will the end arrive? The end of these restrictions. The end of wearing a mask to do your grocery shopping, or not doing your grocery shopping at all and relying on a neighbour, a friend, a son or daughter.

You wonder when will you be able to walk a path and not step off it every time a stranger approaches. Or fear that an unseen microbe could be lying in wait the next time you open a door or go about your everyday tasks.

You wonder.

And you carry on with your day, pushing back anxiety with baking, sewing masks, writing poetry, painting, doing a puzzle, taking solitary walks and reading through the pile of books that have been sitting on the bedside table threatening to topple over every time you turn out the light.

You don’t have it so bad, you tell yourself. Think about families with young children. They can’t socialize. Their children’s playdates are cancelled. School too. They are at home. 24/7 and there is no one to play with other than each other.

And that quote you heard years ago and don’t have any idea where pops into your thoughts. Familiarity breeds contempt. 

And you go in search of its origins because, well you’re in lockdown and have lots of time to feed your curiosity. And you discover it’s old, that quote. Old as Chaucer who wrote in the 1300s.

And your curiosity kicks in again and you wonder, ‘when did the plague happen’? And lo and behold, you find out Chaucer was alive in the time of the plague.

Did this happen to him too? Was he quarantined at home with his family? A mere child when the ‘Black Death’ swept through, taking the lives of millions of people.

And your mind does another one of those little leaps and you wonder, how many people lived on planet earth in the 14th century?

You say a little prayer of gratitude to Google Search and discover there were only 475 million humans on this planet, way back then. Before the Black Death that is. After, there were about 125 million less.

You say another prayer of gratitude.

For science. Medical advancements. Hospitals and ventilators. Governments and organizations like WHO insisting we stay home. And all your fellow citizens who, despite the hardships and the pain, are abiding by the rules of social distancing and sheltering-in-place orders.

You say a prayer of thanks for the food in your fridge. The frozen goods that can sustain you for awhile yet. Your full pantry and grocery stores and restaurants that deliver.

And you give thanks for hot running water and soap. You can wash your hands at will. You can keep your distance from ‘the well’ because you have running water in your home. And toilets and electricity and music.

Oh yes. Music.

And television and Internet that gives you access to movies and how-to videos and news from around the globe. Though you do wonder if that’s a blessing or a curse as you once again scroll through the numbers of new cases. Recoveries. Deaths.

It worries you.

This new need to know. How many. Where. Who. And you feel it chafing. This itch for information you cannot satisfy that sits at the back of your skull. And again, your mind does one of those leaps and you wonder, What is that part of the brain called. Your fingers ache to go look it up. And the word pops into your mind before you have to test your resolve to not give into the urge. Amygdala. That’s it. That place where memories are stored and fear responses are triggered.

And you think about fear and the memory of breath sweeps in to wash it away.

You’d forgotten to breathe in your quest to find out. Everything. To know. To have certainty.

You’d forgotten to breathe.

And so, once again, you take a deep breath. In. Deep breath. Out. And you keep repeating the breath. In. Out until you feel the fear subside. And in its easing off, you take your fingers off your keyboard. You stand up. Call the dog. Your children.

It’s a beautiful day out there. Nature is calling for you to come experience her in all her refreshed beauty.

You gather your family around you. The children are laughing. Excited. The dog is barking. You are laughing too. And you put down your cellphone by the front door and the kids put down their tablets and the dog picks up his leash and brings it to you.

You click it onto his collar, open the door and together you step out into the day.

The answers will come. Someday. Soon. Maybe. And even in their arrival, there will be more questions. More known. More unknown. More changes. More new normals.

In the meantime, the normal that feeds your heart and soul, the one that keeps your spirits lifted, your heart dancing with joy, is to spend time with those closest to you. Those who live in the same household.

And so, you step out into the world to savour the day. And say a prayer of gratitude for good health and good companions.

You step out into your neighbourhood. You’ll keep your distance from others. It’s what you need to do. But between you and your family, there is no distance that can keep Love from filling in the spaces where others would be if Covid hadn’t forced you apart.

You carry them with you. Buoyed up by Love, you step into the world with your family around you and say a silent prayer of gratitude for Life, Laughter, Love.

 

This small, succulent, juicy moment

 

The day begins here
at the edge of the horizon
where earth and sky embrace
with sun sweetened kisses
breaking morning open.

A stranger writes to tell me how much my words meant to them, and tears well up in my eyes.

I watch a man in a bright yellow jacket standing on the bridge watching the water flow, and tears well up.

A chickadee lands in the naked branches of the bush below my window. She hops from branch to branch, a fragment of a song slips through my mind. The Sunshine Band. “Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight….” A smile raises the corners of my lips slightly. Tears well up in my eyes.

A squirrel poses against a tree trunk, tail straight up pointing towards the sky, his body pointed towards the ground, head lifted as if looking straight at me. I smile again and again, the tears well up.

I sit and watch the river flow past. A chunk of ice floats. A duck balances its body on its surface, bobbing up and down as the ice moves along. Smiles and tears again.

There is so much beauty in the small moments.

My heart aches for the small moments. For the moments devoid of virus counts and mass shootings where innocents are slain, not by a glob of proteins attacking their lungs but by a man with a gun intent on taking lives and destroying the peace and beauty of an entire community.

My heart aches and I feel the tears and I feel the sadness and sorrow and I let them flow.

Like the river, they move on, flowing ever onward toward a distant sea.

I sit and breathe and pause. My eyes take in the ineffable beauty of the moment. I fill my senses with the wonder of it all.

So much beauty. So much ugliness. So much darkness. So much light. So much life and death entwined in the eternal dance of being present within the gravitational pull of this planet that sustains us, grounds us and holds us up every moment of every day.

I feel the tears pushing at my eyelids again. Tears swollen and bruised with the sadness of these days of deaths by a virus and manmade destruction.

And then, two geese rise up off the river. Honking loudly, they fly up into the sky, up towards the sun rising in the eastern sky.  I run outside onto the deck to capture their wild, carefree flight and feel the cool gentle kiss of morning against my face.

The wildness within me stirs. My senses awaken to this beautiful dance of life in all its complex beauty. Love and joy, sadness and sorrow flow and mingle, forever entwined within the inexplicable beauty of this moment in which I stand, outside in the rising sun, feeling the freshness of spring air against my skin, listening to the honks of two geese flying towards the sun.

And I breathe again, relax the tightness in my shoulders, close my eyes and stand in the cool, crisp air of this spring morning.

No matter the source of these tears, I tell myself, let them flow free. In their passing, you will find yourself rising again into the beauty of this sun-kissed morning where the most precious thing of all is this moment in which you stand, exposed, wild of heart, grateful for the gift of the inexpressible beauty of this world in all its light and darkness.

And so I breathe into this small, succulent and juicy moment and count my blessings. They are many.

Namaste

 

 

Fear beckons. I choose Love.

I scour the newsfeeds, as if my search will lead me to the thing I seek the most. Hope.

It isn’t there. At least, I can’t feel it beneath the fear that rises up to grip me.

I do not want to feel the fear and instead, turn to my studio, as if in immersing myself there, I will discover hope rising.

I still feel lost in my fear of the fear that stalks me.

I lose myself in a book, as if the words lining the page will somehow make sense of what is happening in the world around me.

I lose my place in the words I read again and again. My eyes blurring with fatigue and worry of fear’s tight grip.

I numb my senses in a Netflix series, as if the ongoing drama of fictitious characters will somehow help me find my place in all that is going on in the world around me.

I cannot stop what is going on in the world around me. I struggle to free myself from this place where fear threatens to drown me.

Holding my breath as if underwater, I fear I have nowhere to go.

I let go of fear. I take a breath. And then another. Life-giving oxygen fills my lungs. Fills my being. Fear diminishes. Courage rises.

I dive deep into myself, breathing into the beauty of this moment where the river flows endlessly towards a distant sea.

Above its steely grey surface, I watch a family of three walking with their dog across the bridge. The leash is held in their child’s hand, taut. The dog pulls. The child rushes to keep up. The dad rushes to help his child. There is fear in his quick steps. I cannot hear them but I can see the child’s laughter. The child’s joyful insistence that they keep hold of the leash. The dog pulls, urging the child to keep going. The child runs after the dog. Laughing. The parents join hands and follow.

I breathe in the joy of this tiny moment played out upon the bridge and feel the heaviness of my fear lighten up.

I watch two geese skim the surface of the river, honking loudly in their flight. Their wings expand and they fly up into the still chilly air of this April morning where spring hides high above in a clear blue sky. A cold front is passing slowly, ever so slowly, through. In the presence of the geese returning from southern lands, I am reminded, this too shall pass. Spring will blossom.

My heart lifts with the expansiveness of the geese taking flight and I feel life flow throughout my being present in their passing by. There is hope here. This too shall pass.

Held in still, soulful silence in the deepness of this present moment, I watch two squirrels chase each other up and down and all-around a tree trunk. They are fearless in their wild flight from tree limb to tree limb. My heart beats wildly. There is joy in their animal kingdom style game of tag.

I smile with them. My heart beats freely. Joy is here. Laughter. Fearlessness. Life.

I scoured the headlines searching for hope.

It wasn’t there.

It is here. Silently flowing all around me and deep within me. It flows like the river, carrying me always deeper into this present moment where the eternal beauty of life fills me up and I flow fearlessly in its embrace over the threshold of this moment, into the next.

And in each moment, I take a deep, life-giving breath and find myself lovingly held within the beauty of this moment right now.

This moment in which love flows freely.

I searched the headlines this morning looking for hope. I found only fear lurking between the black and white words and numbers blurred into incomprehensible statistics beneath my tears.

I wanted to give in to fear. I wanted to dive deep into hopelessness.

Instead, I chose to follow the thread of the river to where it leads me deep within to that sacred place where all I need to sustain my peace of mind in these days of turmoil and grief is that which is ever-constant, ever-flowing. Love.

I wanted to give in to fear this morning.

I choose Love.

 

_____________

I am sharing this with the Tuesday Photo Challenge as the word this week is Hope. Without hope of this pandemic’s end, the future would be grim.

 

 

 

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I read the news today. Oh boy.

No 58 – #ShePersisted Series
Mixed media on acrylic paper
11 x 14″

“I read the news today. Oh boy.” (Source)

Like an addict seeking their next fix, I scour the Net for the latest news related to Covid-19. I creep Facebook pages and furtively dart into Instagram threads like an underage teenager slipping into a sex shop, hoping to garner one tiny morsel of news that will feed my need to know what’sgoing on.

And I repeat it. Time and again. Even though I’m not clear on what more there is for me to know other than what I can do to keep myself and those I love safe and to minimize my risk of passing the disease along.

The numbers here are rising. We’re on the upside of the curve, desperately trying to flatten it down, while in the far east, they’re on the downward slide, desperately trying to revive shuttered lives and businesses.

Social distancing isn’t a cure but it helps stem the flow when we do it together.

Washing hands and avoiding touching my face will protect me. And I’m doing my best not to worry, but there’s still no guarantee Covid-19 won’t slip in through some unknown crack in my defences.

All I can do is breathe and trust. Breathe and trust.

I read the news today. Oh boy.

I don’t know why I keep reading.

Perhaps I’m hoping it’s all been a big mistake.

Perhaps I think I’ll read it’s over. Done. Gone.

Perhaps I’m just looking for hope between the black and white reality of these times we find ourselves in with nothing but good sanitation and keeping our distance to keep us safe.

I read the news today. Oh boy.

And then I re-read the lines I’d already devoured in an effort to stem my seemingly unending need for information.

And it’s then I realize, all this readin’ is not good for my health.

I don’t need to bury my head in the sand, but I do need to gain some balance between reading the news and living my life in these uncertain times.

Labels don’t change Covid’s reality just as knowing how many presumptive versus confirmed cases have occurred does not change the course of my day. Trusting that I am doing everything I can to keep myself and my loved ones safe, does.

Fact is, it’s not Covid-19 stealing my peace of mind, it’s my incessant reading of the news.

I read the news today. Oh boy.

And then, I stopped.

There is still a beautiful world out there. A world of nature and rivers flowing. Of sights waiting to be seen. Of adventures waiting to be had.

There are still words to be written. Paintings to be painted. Life to live.

It’s my choice whether I carry fear as my companion or peace of mind.

Because, while I may not have a lot of choice in what Covid-19 is doing, I do have choice in what I do. Today. Right now.

For now, those sights to be seen, those adventures to be had, those words to be written and paintings to be painted, they are mine to do, right here. Right now. Albeit, closer to home, and mostly alone.

For now. Because no matter what is happening today, this too shall pass.

The unknown always existed. It’s just right now, the unknown comes with a name that is stirring my worry genes and causing me to break out in a sweat.

And so, I breathe.

And the river flows past my window and I sit and watch its undulations.

I cannot change its course.

All I can do is to find my peace of mind by reminding myself I have the power to create a day full of beauty, love and grace. Right here. Right now.

I have the power, right here, right now, to find myself in this moment and breathe into the silence and the beauty that surrounds me.

I cannot change the course of Covid-19, but, together? Together we can stem its flow. We can flatten the curve of its impact. Together, we can get through this by doing the things we know we must do to manage its passing through.

I read the news today. And then I stopped. It is time for me to take control of what I allow into my mind, body, spirit and world.

This morning, I’m off to walk my dog. To watch him play in the snow. To watch the river flow past.

If I meet strangers in the park, I’ll keep my distance. It’s the right thing to do.

And with friends and family, I will use the tools of this technological age to keep us connected across the distance we must keep, for now, to hold each other safe.

We are all together in this place of the known and unknown. Of the certain and uncertain. Let’s walk as one voice, one people, one humanity in gratitude, generosity and grace to ensure we survive with our hearts intact, our connections to one another strong, and our planet a place of good health and well-being for all.

Namaste.