Category Archives: Sheltered Wonder

The Raven and The Wild Rose

The Raven and The Wild Rose — mixed media on water colour paper. Pgs 32 – 33 – Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

Raven appeared in my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal yesterday. He symbolizes transformation, and carries truth.

I hold many ideas and beliefs as ‘truth’. They create a framework for my life upon which my values and principles hang. Core to my beliefs is unwavering, redemptive, transformative Love.

Love is my weapon of choice. It is the only weapon I can safely deploy to keep my world spinning calmly, and to ensure I do not cause harm in the world around me.

Right now, standing in Love staves off the hopelessness, fear and sorrow that keeps riding in on waves of news articles touting the latest outbreaks, death tolls, and now, riots.

The world feels like it is spinning wildly off its axis. Like the cork that was stopping centuries-old anger and rage over social inequities, racism, prejudice and privilege of the few limiting the possibilities of the many, has been pulled out.

Rage, fury, anger, pain and trauma are gushing out of humanity’s collective consciousness. Unleashed from the genie’s bottle that has been held tightly in white man’s hands, human beings of every colour are spilling out into the streets demanding change, demanding they be seen, heard, taken note of – not as dehumanized symbols of an archaic and suffocating colonial structure that elevates man on the colour of his skin, but as fully actualized, worthy human beings.

When we measure another’s worth based on the colour of their skin or the depth of their pockets or the degrees on their walls or the power of their positions, we are setting those who were not born ‘the same’ to live in the shadows of our excesses. We are harming all humanity.

We are all culpable. I am culpable. For my sister’s pain, my brother’s anguish. I am culpable for my neighbour’s poverty, my dark-skinned brothers and sisters struggles and the struggles of those who identify differently than me and must fight for the right to be who they are. I am culpable.

Not because I actively do things to discriminate against others or cause anyone pain. No. My culpability comes from my inaction. My lack of giving voice to gather allies together who will help dismantle archaic systems that keep those who have not in their place, so that those of us who have can continue to live our privileged lives without having to unsettle the status quo.

The Raven appeared in my painting yesterday. He carries a message of transformation. Of truth.

The truth is, this world of ours, this planet that sustains us, nourishes us, keeps us alive is a better place to live for some than for many others.

I am one of the ‘some’. One of the sum total of humanity whose skin colour gives me natural and unquestioned access to what I need to create a beautiful life. A life that is free of fearing for my life when I walk down the street or get stopped by police or enter a hospital emergency room seeking to be treated like I matter.

I have never questioned whether or not I matter.

Too many of my brothers and sisters have been forced to ask themselves, “Do I matter?” They are the ‘many others’. The ones who have been deemed unequal to the arbitrary equation of worth set by white man’s structures. Structures that have been put in place to keep them playing a game of snakes and ladders where the ladders are blocked by the snakes pushing them back down. It is a game designed specifically so that they cannot win.

Raven is asking me to see the truth – My skin colour does not make me colour blind. It just makes me blind to the truth of the experiences of millions upon millions x millions of my brothers and sisters.

The Wild Rose which in mythology symbolizes Love and devotion is asking me to open the eyes of my heart so that I can see how my inaction hurts me and you and all humanity. My silence keeps others on the bottom rungs while I keep climbing up the ladder.

A Raven wandered into my painting yesterday.

I am grateful for his presence. He has illuminated a truth I have not been able to see.

I am not helpless.

I have the power to inspire action to address the effects of racism, discrimination, abuse, intolerance. Social constructs that are perpetuated by my silence.

The colour of my skin matters. Not because it’s white, (though that is unfortunately what makes it matter more in this world where racism and a culture of white supremacy that is unconsciously ingrained in each of us (and sometimes consciously) dominates) No. It matters because it comes with privilege.

It is that privilege that I must employ to influence others to stand united in calling out for change that will ensure those who are struggling on the bottom rungs of the very systems that give me privilege, can rise up to experience their colour, their ‘otherness’ without fearing it will matter so much to me and those like me, it will cost them their life.

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And So I Pray

In every life, a little rain must fall so flowers can grow and hearts can learn to weather the storms and break open in Love. Pgs 28 – 29. Sheltered Wonder art journal

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.

And so I pray.

Namaste.

The Quiet Whispers

Listen to the quiet whispers of your heart. They are your heartsong yearning to be set free. Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – pages 26 – 27

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 about How 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?

Listen to the quiet whispers of your heart.

Namaste.

We Are All Connected

“We are all connected.” 2 page spread in Sheltered Wonder art journal – pages 24 – 25

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!”

The beginning with the piece of paper collaged onto my page and gold gesso applied as an underpainting.

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.

Like art-making.

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.

Namaste.

Art, Like Life, Happens In The Messy Places

“Magnifico” – 2-page spread for Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – acrylic and acrylic ink on watercolour paper – Pgs 22 – 23

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.

Like life, art happens in the messy places. Pags 23 – 24 — work in progress

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.

Leaves used for imprinting.

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.

Namaste

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You can see the work Tamara created in THIS CONVERSATION on my FB page.

Seeking Perfection Is Tiring. Seek Beauty.

Beauty found her safe inside the bud of her imagination. Captivated by beauty, she danced free.

As I type this morning, I am listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s recording of 12 Songs From Home. The album notes state, “… at the height of Italy’s lockdown, Ludovico Einaudi waited until his family had gone to bed before taking out his iPhone to record himself at the piano. 12 Songs from Home is the result — an intimate record of a solitary artist, performing pieces from his most acclaimed solo albums.”

To my ears, and heart, the music he shares feels like the river that flows outside my window. Liquid. Velvety. Flowing. Deep and joyful. Soft. Sensuous. Soulful.

Yesterday, when I entered the studio to create a spread for my Sheltered Wonder journal, I put on Coldplay’s Everyday Life album and danced to Arabesque. It wasn’t a ‘dance by numbered steps’ kind of dance. It was more chaotic, free-flowing, arms moving anywhere they wanted to go, body following, sometimes leading. It felt like liquid movement that stirred my senses awakening my connection to the muse’s flow and the art of creating.

Fact is, the muse is always flowing. It’s just sometimes I am deaf to her entreaties to create from the depths of my being present in this moment, right now.

Which is why I begin every creative session in my studio with a dance. Moving my body breaks down the barriers I’ve created in my head to keep me separate from the muse’s exhortations that I let go, set sail, dance free.

My original intention was to go consecutively through the 5 Wonder Rules at the front of the Shelter Wonder art journal I’m creating as a reflection of this time in self-isolation. (Be Curious. Stay Open. Seek Beauty. Find Value. Share Grace.)

I created a two-page spread for Be Curious on the weekend and was intending to work on Stay Open yesterday. And while the image and words that appeared could be a visual guide for, Stay Open, my heart knows this page was created with Seek Beauty at the root of its conception.

And so, I let go of creating in the order my mind says makes sense, and fall into the grace of the rhythm of the muse where all that makes sense is to simply let go and create.

I am grateful.

In the muse’s beautiful song, I dance free of having to do it, ‘the right way, and find myself blessed with the gift of being in the grace of the simplicity that comes when I let go and create, or as Dale suggests in her comment on Wonder. Dream. Dare. “Enjoy and do. Enjoy and do.”

Namaste.

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About the painting:

I tried a new technique yesterday that I learned in an online course with Lorna Horn. I love the ethereal nature of her technique of painting leaves and, as I always do, I adapted it to my own expression.

The woman in the bud is a surprise. I had no intention of painting a woman — the spread was going to be all leaves and buds in various poses and then, I saw an image in an artbook I often use as reference and she appeared on the page.

That is the beauty of the creative process. There is no right nor wrong way. There is only the way I choose to express what is on my heart, in my soul, percolating up from my belly seeking release. And in that expression there is no The Good. The Bad and The Ugly. (thank you Clint Eastwood). There is only the beauty of self-expression. The wonder of what appears. And the joy of creating from the depths of my being present.

A note about the quote: Beauty found her safe within the bud of her imagination. Captivated by beauty, She danced free.

After writing it, I kind of cringed. Dang. It would be better to read… beauty found her sheltered within the bud….

And I smile. Seeking perfection is soooo tiring. I’ll stick with seeking beauty in all its manifestations.

And… this is the page I created for Be Curious.

The little speckles beside the words and above her hands are gold dust — they just don’t show up in the photo. 🙂

And… I know. I know. More?

I wanted to share a link to Coldplay’s album, Everyday Life (my fav by far). When I searched online I found this video of the cover song – and a reference to something I believe in deeply – Ubuntu. And… even more serendipity… The video was released on my birthday last year — how cool is that? 🙂

Sheltered wonder

Art Journal Cover created from a Wheat Thins box

As children, I remember my sister and I spending hours playing “Make Believe”. We reenacted our favourite movie, The Parent Trap, again and again. We made up stories which we then acted out, complete with costumes and props.

What we created felt so real to us.

And then, somewhere on that journey from childhood to adulthood, make believe was no longer appropriate. We were told to grow up.

I used to wonder why does ‘growing up’ have to include letting go of our capacity to play and create and imagine a world of magic and wonder?

It’s one of the things I loved about having children and now a grandson. I can play make-believe and no one tells me I need to grow up. When my grandson and I visit on FaceTime, he inevitably will ask me to show him the glittery butterfly I didn’t put away with the Christmas decorations. I fly the butterfly around the room and sing made-up songs as he watches, eyes wide.

In those moments, my heart knows complete, absolute, precious joy.

Yesterday, I began working on an art project I’ve been ‘creating in my mind’ for the past several days. The mind part isn’t so much about what it will look like, but rather, the meaning/purpose of the project.

The cover, pictured above’ is made from an empty Wheat Thins box just like the one pictured. Who knew that an empty cardboard box could be transformed into an art journal cover? My child’s mind did. My creative core did. As did my heart.

All it took was paint, time and a willingness to let go of my need to make something ‘perfect’. To choose instead to delve into the mystical nature of the creative process, allowing its urges to guide me.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl’s brilliant opus on what he learned from his time in a concentration camp he writes:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This experience of sheltering in place, of watching death counts mount, of fearing for my beloved’s well-being, of limiting our social interactions is my stimulus. What I write here, how I choose to fill my time, how I choose to feed my mind and imagination, are my responses.

Sheltered Wonders, as I’m calling this art journal, is how I am choosing to capture my reflections of these days and weeks of self-isolation.

I could choose to call it, The Covid Disaster, or something like that, but that would mean the journal would be about the virus. It’s not. It’s about the amazing gifts I’ve found during this time of sheltering in place. As my beloved and I have narrowed our world to quiet times at home, walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and time spent together, our pace has slowed and our relationship deepened. Sure, my waist may be a little thicker and my hair somewhat scraggly but the gifts of time to breathe easily, to wonder and create in the kitchen, the studio and on the page have been immensely rewarding.

Covid is a global stimulus none of us can escape.

How we respond now and in the days to come, as stay-at-home edicts are relaxed and the world begins to ‘awaken’, will determine our growth and our freedoms.

We can choose to keep the gifts of family connection, of time to slow down and find a healthier more liveable pace, of time spent baking, creating, sharing with those we love, the gifts that we’ve remembered, like childhood playtime, in this time sheltering in space.

Or we can choose to scramble back onto the hardtack reality of filling our time with the busyness of the past – a busyness that for many felt constricting and overwhelming.

How will you respond?

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A note about Sheltered Wonder – It is based on themes for each page — things I feel are germane to my experiences during this time of self-isolation. Belonging. Companionship. Community. Peace. Pace. Purpose. Creativity.

I’d love to hear what you think are important themes. Please do share – like Nance whose comment on my blog yesterday inspired this post today, you may inspire a page or two in my Sheltered Wonder journal!

Much gratitude.