Category Archives: The Creative Journey

Awaken And Dare

Her voice comes to me in a dream.

“You are dreaming,” she says. “Awaken and dare.”

Dare what? I wonder.

“When you awaken, there will be no need to ask.” she replies and vanishes from my sleeping mind.

…Only to return the next day as I unconsciously paint her into being as an ancient Egyptian goddess exhorting me to awaken.

Where did you come from, I wonder. What message do you carry?

I go in search of answers — because heck, good questions evoke curiosity. And not feeding my curiosity with searching for answers leaves my head brain way too full of pesky questions roaming around looking for places to upset my peace of mind.

I start with “What does seeing an ancient Egyptian goddess in my dream mean?

Dr. Google has many answers. One source states:

“A dream featuring Egypt is believed to represent the potential for change in your life.”

The wise woman within whispers lovingly, “To change the world around you, you must first create change within.”

Yesterday, I read a post by a writer I respect talking about his white privilege. He wrote that he was willing to revoke it in favour of simply being human.

It is not that easy.

My privilege is intricately entwined with how I live my life. How I think. What I do. Where I go. How I am in the world. It is embedded in everything that made me, me.

Privilege is not a thought. It is not a feeling. It is not a choice. It is integral to my life. I cannot discard it or erase it. Being born a white female, ancient, culturally codified privilege of what it means to be white in this world were invoked as my birthright.

My parents worked hard to instill in all four of their children the belief that we are all created equal. We are all deserving of being treated fairly, with kindness, compassion, honesty, respect. And we must always do our utmost to uphold those values and principles.

I do my best, everyday, to live by what my parents taught me about human worth.

And still, I cannot revoke my privilege. Nor can I say that my privilege didn’t help me on my journey. Just because I wasn’t racist, or I didn’t discriminate against others doesn’t mean I don’t use my privilege to my advantage. I naturally do. It is visibly part of me. Unfortunately, what is often to my advantage can create disadvantage for others when they do not have the same access or right to what I have.

It also means, that I can’t hold up all the work I’ve done for vulnerable people, the work I’ve done to create spaces for social justice and change to happen, as a testament as to how I am not racist. My work is a reflection of my belief in humanity, our human condition and connection. It is not about my being or not being racist. The fact is, that work was made easier because of my privilege. Everything I’ve done in my life has been made easier because I was born with the skin colour I have that lets me pass through life with relative ease.

Even in my darkest times, my privilege gave me an advantage. I was believed by the police when I finally spoke up. I gained access to supports I needed without jumping through additional hoops of having to verify my worthiness to those supports. Often, those who are racialized or ‘otherized’ must jump through hoops simply because they are forced to prove their worth first, before gaining access to what they need.

And so, this morning, heeding the call to DARE, I wrote to the individual whose comments about revoking his privilege caused me unease. ” I can’t change the colour of my skin and I fear that suggesting I am willing to revoke my privilege, to those who have experienced the indignities and inhumanity that comes with the different colour of their skin or circumstances in life, could risk minimizing their trauma, pain and reality.”

I wouldn’t have done that in the past.

I would have read the words they wrote, felt the unease, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Now I dare.

It is time we all dare to challenge one another. Sure, we’ll sometimes get things wrong. We’ll mess up. But, messing up is part of growth.

Doing nothing. Not challenging ourselves and one another will continue to mess up the lives of more, and ultimately, the world and all of humanity will pay the price for the mess we’ve created with our silence.

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.

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

______________________________________

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

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.

Let us be like a butterfly…

There was once a little girl who was afraid of colour. To see the golden yellow of the sun, or the deep green velvet of the forest, or the vibrant hues of the garden filled her heart with fear.

Terrified of all the colour in the world, she walked through each day with her eyes squinted against the onslaught of beauty that she could not witness. Fearful of the world of colour  that bombarded her senses with every glance, she covered her ears to the songs of enchantment all around and cowered beneath the belief that she was right to cling to her fears.

“Give me black and white,” she pleaded in the darkness of her mind.

And the world closed in around her until all she saw were the shadows between the colours of the world.

I wrote the story above several years ago. It had appeared in my meditation, tendrils of thoughts whispering their away into substance.  When I opened my eyes and let the words flow, they found their substance on the page and formed themselves into story.

It is what I find most enlivening and mystical about the creative process. When I stop squinting my eyes, when I stop fearing what might be, or not be, magic and wonder happens.

When I fear, when I force or try to push the muse into a container, to direct her into this way or that, the wonder disappears and I am left feeling left out, apart, and let down, telling myself, there is no magic. There is no mystery. there is no possibility of beauty rescuing the light from the darkness.

In fear, I fall into that place where all I see is what I fear. Where all I know is what I expect to be; the mundane, the same as, the predictability of my life lived in the comfort of the darkness I crave when I let go of seeing the light in everything and everyone.

In my studio, immersed in the creative process, the world falls away into that place where all I know, all I sense, is its beauty. In that space, with my music playing, candle burning and my fingers splattered with paint, there is no world out there, there is no war, no famine, no hurricanes and definitely no virus taking the world hostage.

There is only the muse and me. Connected. Committed. Creative. And in that connection, I become part of the flow of the essential essence of the Universe. I am one with life. One creative expression flowing with the expressions of all the world around me.

In these days where a virus is shutting us into our homes and keeping us at safe but constrained, distance from one another, connecting to our creative core, expressing our gratitude in songs of joy and messages of hope, is vital to our well-being.

We are the ones who must create the path for the world to survive this viral onslaught. We can only do that together.

Staying home, keeping our distance, washing our hands, matters. To ourselves, our loved ones, friends, community. It matters to the world.

It also matters that we stay connected to the beauty, the wonder and awe of the world within ourselves and all around us. It matters that we share our best to create better for all the world.

Imagine…

We are each a butterfly fluttering our wings to create a tsunami of well-being around the world.

When we flutter our wings as one, we create One world of possibility, hope, beauty and Love.

Watch me! #BellLetsTalk

 

No. 54 #ShePersisted Series
Mixed media on canvas paper
11 x 14″
©2020

It has been a while since I created a painting for the #ShePersisted series I began in March 2017.  Yesterday, I pulled out a background I’d created on the weekend, drew a circle and began to throw down paint.

I didn’t know what I was going to paint. I didn’t have a destination or image to reference. I was going with the flow and letting whatever appeared to be what was visible on the canvas.

She appeared.

She was challenging. Faces always are for me.  They take practice. Skill. An understanding of light and its play with the shadows. A willingness to mess up and dig in.

They’re best painted with a reference photo.

I had none. Somewhere, early in the process, I made a commitment to myself to paint from within me, to use my inner memory/knowing of the face as my reference.

It’s a wonderful challenge. There’s that scared, uncertain place within me where I worry I don’t know enough, I need something solid to guide me. There’s that voice of doubt that takes great joy in whispering, “You can’t do it.”

And then, there’s the vibrant, alive place within me that doesn’t like can’t and don’t and shouldn’t. That voice likes to leap into the fray, calling upon my courage and self-belief to rise up and call out joyfully, “Watch me.”

I painted a woman’s face yesterday.

I didn’t think I could.

And then I did.

I love the magic that happens when I let go of working hard to control the process and instead let myself be the process.

I love the mystery that opens up to wonder when I accept it’s not about ‘doing it perfect’. It’s not about creating something that is a reflection of something else. It’s all about allowing what is calling itself to be expressed from within to become visible on the canvas before me.

This morning, as I look at her, that little voice of doubt and uncertainty, the one who likes to find criticism in so many things, it wants to tell me all the things I could have done differently. I could still change.

I’m not listening. Not heeding that voice. It is the voice of the past. The voice of millennia of women being told they can’t, they musn’t, they shouldn’t, they don’t dare.

I dare.

Yesterday, I painted a face.

Her origins are a mystery. Her story is not.

She is every woman before me who was told she couldn’t.

She is every woman who was shut down, put in her place, pushed into dark alleys and corners, hidden from the light, hidden from the truth of her power, her beauty, her strength, her courage.

She is every woman who was told she had no power, no voice, no right.

She is every woman who was held captive to the lie she had to be perfect. That she would never be enough. The voice that still whispers from the dark roots of the past, “You can’t do that.”

They said, “You can’t do that.”

The wise woman within rose up and shouted to the winds and the seas, the stars and moon, to heaven and earth, “Watch me!”

________________________________________________

Today is “Bell Let’s Talk Day“.

Speaking up about mental health is important. Taking action is vital. Erasing stigma. Changing minds. Providing supports and help for those whose mental health is preventing them from living joyful and productive lives is imperative for everyone.

Changing the story of how we view mental health changes how we treat each other, how we build strong and healthy relationships and how we create a better world.

For women, our mental health is tethered to a past where we had no voice, no rights, no power. A past where we lived under the shadow of men and the laws and societal mores that were designed to create a ‘just and fair’ society and that ultimately were tools to keep us in our place.

There is no place in the shadows for freedom, self-efficacy, self-determination, equality, self-hood.

Cutting the ties that bind is an important act, not of rebellion but of freedom.

May we all be free to speak up. May we all know we have the power to take positive action to be actively engaged in creating a world where everyone has a place to belong, no matter the state of their gender, race, sexual orientation, faith, beliefs and economic, mental or physical state of being.

Thank You Bob Dylan

Sometimes, when I dance with the muse my moves are very focused.

Sometimes, they’re a sea of motion, visuals, words, ideas streaming together to create a dance of all the elements crashing into one another, like the waves crashing into the shore.

It was those words that I wrote in my journal yesterday that inspired my studio time later in the day. That and a monoprinted sheet I’d created a few weeks ago with images of clocks and birds that I’d turned into a mini-art journal. At the time, I remember thinking of my dad who’s favourite quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was always,

The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly --- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

That quote, and my own musings of time passing and life moving ever onward as well as one of my favourite folk/protest songs from ‘way back when’  inspired the story below. (Thank you Bob Dylan)

I am grateful for the muse and her ever-constant presence connecting me to my creative essence inviting me to soar with the wind and dance with abandon on the sands of time.

Blowin’ In The Wind

Time called out to the wind as it blew past,
“Take me away with you to far off places where I can forget who I am as I while away my days watching waves crash against the shore where seagulls dive from the sky and lovers dance oblivious to the sands of time passing by.”

 

Capricious and free, the wind swept up time and kept blowing, faster and faster as the hands of time kept spinning in delight of the wind’s breath fresh against its face.

Caught up in the wind,
Time kept passing
And as it passed it gathered stories
of far off places and tucked them deep into memory’s pockets
sewn into the great divide that stretched across the horizon
in every direction at the edge of day turning into night.

With its memories safely tucked away for a rainy day in the deep pockets of the horizon filled with time blowin’ in the wind, the world kept spinning as the hands of time kept turning.

In time, it came to pass that the wind grew weary and stopped to catch its breath on the shores where waves crashed and seagulls dived and lovers danced oblivious to the sands of time passing by.

Caught up in the joy of blowin’ in the wind and the who it was it could not forget, time could not stop. Without missing a beat time kept on passing by as the world kept spinning around the sun and the moon kept rising to greet the dark and the waves kept crashing as time passed by.