Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.
Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.
So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.
So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.
Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.
I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.
I awoke with the first stanza of this poem drifting through my mind.
When I wrote it down, the second stanza wrote itself out as if it knew its truth long before I heard the words calling.
When I went in search of an image to include with it, the image above was the first image I opened on my computer. It is from the Sheltered Wonder art journal Icreated last year to mark all I’d learned, experienced and grown through during the initial months of our sequestered solitude.
The body knows even when the mind doubts.
Yesterday, in response to a comment by the lovely and thoughtful Kiki, I told her I wished I’d taken a video of the raw journal. And then… while I was looking for something else, I accidentally uncovered the 19 sec video I’d taken of my Learning to Fly art journal before I started to create the images and quotes.
The body knows even when the mind doubts (or as in this case, forgets).
Have you ever noticed how, when fear awakens, so do the voices in your head?
That’s my experience. As I get closer to doing something I’ve been avoiding or putting off, or doing something that’s new and/or different or requires me to step outside my comfort zone, or at least the lizard brain’s comfort zone, the cacophony of sound emanating from the dark recesses of my grey matter get louder and louder.
Intoxicated with the lizard brain’s negative feedback, I begin to tell myself it’s right. I shouldn’t… – Do whatever it is I’m attempting. Step outside my comfort zone. Talk to someone I think could really give me guidance on a project [as in, ask for help]. Submit my work to a magazine. Create that Art Journalling 101 course…
Working in my “Learning to Fly” art journal has been an awakening and an inspiration to keep on going, keep on digging in, keep on stepping out, reaching beyond my comfort zone, looking at all the things (lies) I tell myself I risk losing if I do… x, y, z.
it’s also been a great wake-up call.
As in, the only thinking that’s stinking around here is mine!
And I smile as I type that. I might sound like I’m being hard on myself – it’s actually a loving form of tough love – I’m being real and honest with my fears — as I wrote on Spread No. 6 of the journal – “Fear is the voice of doubt and confusion that would have you believe you don’t deserve to live your dreams.”
I also think I’m suffering from Covid-brain Weary Syndrome.
You know, the falling into lazy patterns of thinking without even realizing I’ve been doing it.
No one can deny, this has been a long year. And there is still more to come before we can step out of our front doors and into the world without fearing this invisible microbe’s attack. As the world has hunkered down, so too have I in some ways.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been very creative and given birth to lots of creative expressions. The challenge is, I’ve not done much with my body of work. I’ve just kind of floated from project to project like a sleep-walker drifting through the silence of the night.
To wake myself up I have to get out of my feelings and into my body, my whole body, where I know, beyond doubt deep, deep within my entire being, that I am more powerful than I could ever imagine, more creative than I could ever express and more fearless than I could ever envision.
We all are.
More than we imagine.
Think about it. Our imaginings take place in our minds. Our minds are constructs of our habitual thoughts.
If our thoughts are limiting, so too will be our expressions of ourselves.
Living under the thrall of Covid has limited all our lives in so many ways, it makes sense that some of our thoughts could evolve into more limiting than freeing.
Which is also why birds appear throughout my Learning to Fly journal.
I don’t know where they’re leading, I don’t know where this journal is going (it’s all part of the adventure) what I do know is… if I do nothing, nothing will happen other than what already is. I must follow the flight of the birds where ever they lead. They carry my dreams.
To pursue my vision of creating inspiring and compelling work that ignites the creativity and passion in others, I must pursue pathways to getting my work out there.
And so… the adventure continues.
Going back to my 20 Attitudes and Actions to live the life of my dreams, today I commit to working on No.s 9 and 10.
What about you? What do you commit to doing today to move you one step closer to a dream you want to transform into your reality?
I hope you share your thoughts. I’d love to be your accountability buddy!
No. 6 – Attitudes and Actions — “Don’t let fear muddle-up your thinking. Even when you think you can’t, tell yourself you can. – Listen to your heart.”
I remember as a young girl my mother admonishing me after one of the squabbles my middle sister and I often had. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was one of her favourite sayings.
My mother kept her silence. A lot.
I used to think her silence hurt her. Filled with all the not-nice things she wouldn’t say, her silence constantly grated against her peace of mind.
As I work in this journal and come to its last pages, I recognize the limitations of that belief. As I paint and meditate on the pages. As I collage a prayer card on the page and allow the words to divine their way into being known, the awareness grows that her prayers were her way of transforming her silences, her secrets, her worries and fears and anger and tears into hope and love and above all kindness.
As a child, I never liked that adage of my mothers.
It was my inability to not be silent that frustrated my mother the most. Particularly, as my speaking out often came in the form of questions about things she never wanted to discuss.
“Let bygones be bygones,” she’d say.
“Stop making trouble Louise. It was long ago. It doesn’t matter today what happened then.”
“Don’t be mean. Be quiet.”
I never meant to be mean, but to explain to my mother the source of my angst or questions required speaking of the things she did not wish to speak of, at least not with me.
Which is one of the gifts of this journal journey.
There was a time when I thought that my mother just wanted to avoid talking about everything and anything that did not please her or paint her in good light with the saints to whom she whispered her prayers. And while she did like to ‘look good’ and spent a great deal of energy worrying about what others thought, it was her right to choose what she did or did not speak of.
In my constant questing for answers, and her desire to not speak of things for which she knew her answers would not be enough for me, there was no safe container for either of us to find our way through the turmoil of the past together.
In all probability, my mother did speak of the unspeakables she carried deep within her heart and mind. It’s just, the only one she trusted with her thoughts and feelings, fears and doubts, anguish and anxiety, was her God.
My mother, like me, was never perfect.
She was kind. Caring. Generous. Shy. Quiet. Creative. Loyal. Steadfast.
And above all, she was a woman of great faith.
A woman who wanted the best for others. And even when she didn’t know how to give it, or how to speak the words, she never doubted that her faith was enough. In her steadfastness, in her constant prayers, I was free to grow fierce and loving. Strong. Wild. Free.
As this page says, “Her prayers became a garden where Love grew stronger in the memories of those she left behind.”
I have a memory of my parents. They are in their kitchen. My dad is making one of his famous stews, or perhaps bread. Dirty dishes cover the counter. There is lots of noise. My father was not a quiet man.
My mother is fluttering around him. She is trying to clean up his mess as he cooks.
“Leave it,” he mutters. “You’re getting in my way.”
She ignores him. He keeps muttering angrily. She stifles her tears at his angry words and keeps doing the dishes.
It was their way.
The kitchen was his domain. Keeping it clean was her contribution, except for those times when he would give way to her desire to prepare her ‘fancy’ dishes. He’d grumble and mutter about ‘fancy food’ being a waste. About how the aromas bothered his sinuses, especially garlic. You shouldn’t mask good, hearty food with that garbage, he’d continuously blurt out whenever mom prepared one of her beloved curries or special dishes redolent with the aromas of India and France spicing the air and dancing together on the palate.
Whenever my mother came to visit she would immediately gravitate to my kitchen and start to clear away dishes and wipe down counters.
Helping out was her way.
It was not my way so I’d shoo her away.
It was the story of our life.
My mother wanting to help out. Me rejecting her help.
I am still that way. I don’t like people in my kitchen. I don’t accept help easily.
Back then, I didn’t understand my mother’s love language. I didn’t understand that after a lifetime of being told by my father that she was ‘in the way’, she wanted to find a way to be of service in peace.
In her lifetime, I never found a way to let her help out in peace.
In my lifetime, I am making peace with the places where strife stirred our relationship into a mess. I am letting go of the hurts and cooking up a new way of being at peace.
This, “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal, is my path.
Like a coat of white paint covering graffiti on a wall, I am painting the past with beautiful colours that weave a glorious tapestry of acceptance and forgiveness from the memories that litter my mind. Like crumbs leading me home to my heart, I am following their way into peace and harmony.
It is not our differences or all the moments we caused each other pain that matters in my life today. It is the beauty I create to honour their memory that transforms them into joy and peace and harmony.
My mother and I never had an easy relationship. In memory and in life, I am free to let go of the unease and fall with grace into the Love that was always there and always will be. Now and forever.
That is the way of a mother’s Love.
I am off to Vancouver tomorrow to visit my daughter and her beautiful family. For the next ten days, I shall be immersed in the joy of being with my grandchildren and sharing special moments on the coast.
C.C. and I debated about my going. The ‘second wave’ of the Corona Virus is expected to hit soon. Can I do the drive safely?
He was to have driven out before me with a friend, stopping to golf at several different courses along the way. After much consideration, he cancelled his trip but, we’ve decided that as long as I take all precautions, the risks are low. I do the 11-hour drive in one day, stopping only once for gas and calls of nature (which I plan for very carefully).
These are the times in which we live. Given Covid 19s presence and my aversion to flying in its midst as well as winter’s imminent arrival and the dangers of driving high mountain passes in winter months, this is probably the last time I’ll be able to see them until next spring.
I am grateful my daughter welcomes me with such love and grace.
I won’t have much time to post while I’m gone. See you sometime after the 15th.
The Raven’s Caw Mixed media on canvas board 12″ x 12″
The muse and I are dancing.
Dancing in all the colours of the rainbow
threaded through the supernumerary
of dreams and dreamers
to the promises held
within a golden sky
soaring into the infinity
beckoning me to create
the magic of my dreams
in living colour.
The muse and I are spinning.
of dreams taking flight
on whims of fancy
tumbling and spiralling
of lighter than air
of life unbounded
by gravity and gravitas
upon a raven’s caw
beckoning me into flight.
The muse and I are dancing.
Watch us spin!
There is something magical about playing in the studio and then dancing with words appearing as if strung across invisible threads of imagination.
Before I went away to visit with my daughter and her family, and to meet my brand new granddaughter, Ivy, I had gessoed, collaged and painted two wooden canvases with complementary backgrounds.
Yesterday, the muse beckoned me to create outside the altered book journal I’ve been working on in memory of my mother and her prayer cards.
The theme of the fourth lesson in Orly Avineri’s course, “Come Outside” is repetition.
This was a challenging one for me. So many thoughts, and my inherent desire to organize them, got muddled up in my staying present with the allowing of what was seeking to appear, to appear. Plus, a real-life story unfolding in all its beauty and wonder kept distracting me.
This morning, I awoke with a clearer sense of what the story of this page was. I am grateful for sleep and dreams and the muse’s constant flow.
As with my other pieces in this new art journal I’ve just begun, this page includes torn up bits of my mother’s prayer cards embedded within the pages as well as a prayer she used to recite in French (it was her first language).
The crosses are a reflection of the crosses we all carry with us in our life. They can burden us down, or free us. Like any burden, we can choose to struggle beneath their weight or live their gifts.
Crosses have recently been a dominant element in my creative flow – perhaps because since my mother’s passing on February 25th, I’ve been doing a lot of work on healing the broken places, and my relationship with my mother and the Catholicism of my childhood appears a great deal in those places.
For me, this piece is about the multi-faceted, complex colours, stories, textures, depth of life on earth and our separation from the whole.
When we let go of seeing our differences as a reason to fear and hate and hurt one another, we create space for our magnificence to shine. In its coruscating light, no matter how we present our beauty, wounds and wisdom, our natural human beauty shines through.
In that beautiful space, we know and live the truth — We are all one humanity, one human condition, one planet. We are all connected. All of the whole, with the whole, essential to the whole of life on earth.
In the beginning and the end, as is written at the bottom repetitively (and as I’ve come to resonate with even more deeply since my mother’s passing) – There is only Love.
This will be my last regular posting for awhile. I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging to focus on other things.
I may intermittently be posting, but not on an everyday basis.
Enjoy this season of growth and change and beginnings and endings no matter where in the world you are!
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.
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.
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