Tag Archives: Orly Avineri

Connection. Community. Coherence

When I sat down at my studio worktable yesterday morning, there was one phrase that kept drifting through my mind, “And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”

I pulled out the altered book journal I’ve been working on with my mother’s prayer cards and gave myself over to the muse.

It did not start out well…

You know how you can be working on something and think, “hmmmm…. It’s okay but I’m not really sure what I’m doing here…”

My first instinct is to quit. To paint over. To tear it up.

My deeper knowing is to keep deliving into it. To allow myself to work through the ‘yucky’ to get to whatever is looking to be expressed.

When I do that, it happens. Like magic. There’s this moment where I feel so connected and so immersed in it all that my heart sings and my soul dances and my body sinks deeply into gratitude.

Yeah? Well, yesterday, that happened.

There I was, feeling stuck and blah when without thought, I felt my entire being sink effortlessly into that place. Breathing deeply, I felt the silence expand between my heart beat’s steady tattoo as my soul seemed to hang suspended in time. I felt as though I was floating in harmony with the universe and all of life surrounding me. My senses awoke to the moment and I sighed and whispered to the sun and the clear blue sky and the breeze drifting by as the leaves whispered their incantations of love and ease and bliss, “Ohh. I see you. I feel you. I know you. Here I am.”

And in that moment I felt the breath of my mother’s prayers wrap me in their sweet tender embrace and the world felt oh so precious, oh so sacred, oh so new and fresh. And I felt embodied in the present moment, connected, in partnership, part of and all of the trees and the leaves, the breeze and the sky, the river floating by, the chickadee perched on the birdfeeder and the squirrel spinning in acrobatic grace through the branches of the trees.

In that moment, I was embodied in ‘the now’. At one. Complete. Part of. All of. Connected. Whole.

“And her prayers became the song the night sang to sing the stars awake.”

Watercolour and acrylic ink on watercolour paper.

And then, later in the afternoon, my dear friend Jane came over to paint outside. And it happened again. I was one with the embodied present. Whole. Complete. Filled with a sense of harmony and peace.

That’s what creating is — it’s not about outcome, or style, or technique or saleability.

It’s about being present within the journey of creating. Being connected and whole.

And it’s about community.

Both these pages were created as part of two different courses I’m taking. When I shared the spread from My Mother’s Prayers on my Instagram yesterday, an artist friend wrote back,

“My spiritual community both soothes my soul and lights new fires.” Tracy Brown

“I put my Instagram artist friends in this category”, she said.

Yes.

Being present is about connection, community, coherence.

Thank you for being part of my community. For taking this journey with me. For illuminating my path with your light and making it easier to see in the dark.

I am grateful.

A Prayer for Present Me

Watercolour and acrylic inks on watercolour paper – 9 x 12″

I didn’t know I was still carrying energy around a long-ago event until my daughter told me about my grandson waking up inconsolable with a fever.

Ah yes. I remember those feelings. That sense of helplessness. Of worry and fear grappling for dominance in my mind.

She was three months old. Thanksgiving. She’d been fussy for a couple of days. I asked Wanda, our next door neighbour who was a pediatric nurse, for help. What do you think? Should I take her to a doctor?

She’s just teething, Wanda asserted.

I wanted to believe her but the next day when she would not stop crying, (Alexis never cried as an infant) I insisted we take her into the Children’s hospital emergency room. We were on our way to my then in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner can wait, I told my then husband. This is more important.

I remember when they took her from my arms and placed her on a cold steel examining table.

I remember when they put a tiny IV needle into her scalp.

I remember holding her and trying to soothe her and all the while she is mewling and I am forcing myself not to cry because I need to be calm for her.

She was admitted to hospital that day. An infection. A spiking temperature.

She was there a week.

I only went home to shower and change my clothes.

I could not leave her alone no matter how kind and caring the nurses and doctors.

I could not leave her alone.

I had forgotten about those moments and days 34 years ago until I heard about my grandson. He is okay. Whatever was ailing him passed through and he is once again his sunny self.

I am grateful.

That he has weathered this storm, whatever its source and that I can breathe again through memory, letting time wash away the traces of those moments and days long ago when I felt so helpless, so incompetent and like such a failure as a mother.

How could I not have known when first she started to cry that it was something serious?

How could I not have immediately whisked her off to the doctor?

And I smile.

I remember.

I never wanted to be ‘one of those mothers’ who was constantly dragging their child to a doctor imagining the worst.

I wanted to assume the best. To be calm, collected, thoughtful in everything I did.

Years later, when Alexis was about 12, she’d break her foot climbing the doorframe to the kitchen (I know. It was a thing to do.) Not wanting to foster her assertions that something was seriously wrong after having listened so many times to her cries that a fall had resulted in a break which ended up with unnecessary x-rays, I put ice on her foot and told her if it was still hurting in the morning, we’d get it checked out.

Sure enough, this time, the break was real.

And again, I wondered, how could I not have known? How could I be such an incompetent mother?

I’m smiling as I write that. I think being a mother has taught me more about acceptance of my limitations and fears as well as made me aware of my blind-spots and ego’s need for reassurance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

Being a mother humbled me. It still does.

And being a YiaYa has given me the gift of remembering those places where old fears still linger, where charred spots in my psyche can still burn.

And I say a prayer of gratitude. And I say a prayer of hope. And I say a prayer of remembering what it means to be human.

We do our best and our best is all we can do.

Namaste.

___________________________________________________-

As part of the course I’m taking online with Orly Avineri, the invitation was to take one image and repeat it 3 times in a journal page.

This page in my altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, is called, A Prayer for My Inner Child — it became 3 prayers, one for my inner child, my present me and my future me. My mother always lit candles for her children, particularly when something was going on in our lives. I’m pretty sure, 34 years ago she burnt a candle and prayed for Alexis every day.

A Prayer for My Inner Child
May you always feel safe in my arms of Love, free to run with abandon in the garden of dreams blossoming in my heart. May you never fear that I will desert you or put you at risk. May you know peace within me.
A Prayer for My Present Self
May courage be my constant companion, drawing me deeper and deeper into the great mystery of life where I am bound in sacred partnership within the luminous present opening my heart to Love always.
A Prayer for My Future Self
May you feel deeply and passionately connected to the exquisite nature and intimacy of the whole dancing fearlessly in the ephemeral nature of the embodied present. May you dance with life, falling forever into Love.
And so it was.
And so it is.
And so it will be.
Forever and Always.

Art and Baking With A Two-Year-Old

My grandson wakes up singing.

I hear his voice through the closed door of his bedroom and do not go in. My heart yearns to listen and feel the joy in his song.

When I do go in, he smiles his beatific smile, holds out his panda for me to admire and asks, “Can I have my silver porch car?”

I smile and ask back, “Is there a word missing?”

He gives that same heart-melting smile and says, “Puhleaaase.”

I’d do anything for that smile and so go and find his little silver porch car.

For the next 15 minutes, I sit in the chair beside his bed as he plays in his crib with his trusty panda in one hand and the other ‘zoomin’ the car across the mattress. There’s a carwash to visit. A tunnel to drive through and a cliff to dangle the wheels over.

Eventually, he sits up, holds out his arms and says, “It’s time to get out of my sleep sack.”

And the day begins.

Each day always includes a walk. Rain or shine.

It is, ‘our thing’.

And I am into ‘our thing’.

Last year at this time when I came to visit, I wrote a post called “Lessons from a Toddler”. The first lesson was:

  • There’s no need to focus on your destination. It’s not going anywhere.

“Take time to savour every step along the way. You’ll get to where you’re going, eventually. Sometimes you’ll end up where you thought, sometimes you won’t. It’s all okay. Doesn’t matter. Where ever you end up, you’ll have discovered new vistas, new things along the way.”

With an almost 2 and a half-year-old, the lesson remains as true today as it was then. There is always so much to discover when you savour every step you take.

Inspired by the teachings of Orly Aveniri’s “Come Outside” online workshop, TJ and I have been collecting leaves and flowers and petals that have fallen on the ground. They are gifts for his mommy.

Yesterday, we smooshed our hands in paint and smeared them all over the pages of his painting book and made marks with his paintbrush and glued our collected ephemera onto the page.

It was pure delight.

Earlier in the day, we made zucchini muffins. He mixed the flour and dry goods in one bowl, poured the liquid and vanilla into the other and then stirred them all together. The kitchen ended up with flour everywhere. It didn’t matter. Though, as I said to my daughter, “One thing I forgot. When cooking with a 2 year old, make sure you have all the ingredients on the counter before you begin!” Otherwise, you risk having flour flying out of the bowl and being reminded that a mixing spoon is not just a spoon. It’s a rocketship too!

As we neared the end, he climbed down from his special kitchen stool, raced into the bedroom where his mother and sister were lying on the bed with his dad and proclaimed proudly, “I made muffins!”

I could listen to his voice forever.

I have been here for just over a week now and my heart is full.

Time with my granddaughter, Ivy, is a blessing. I savour it all.

Time with TJ and his family is a gift. A treasure. It fills my heart and memory banks as sweetly as rain trickling down a string of copper bowls into a barrel.

I will dip into it when I’m not here and come out refreshed, nourished and soaked in the sweet, tender goodness of these days.

On Wednesday, C.C., my beloved, will be driving out with my youngest daughter who is coming for ten days to support her sister and family.

She was to have flown but concerns over exposure to Covid on airplanes nixed those plans. Concerned that she had never taken such a long drive alone, C.C. offered to drive her out. They’ll rent a car so the two of us can drive home together in my car.

His willingness to take that long drive just to help out is a testament to his natural generosity and kindness.

But then, that’s family.

Heeding the call of Love to be there for one another in good times and challenging times.

These are exceptionally good times. Times to savour. Remember. Cherish.

Times to fill the memory barrel letting the sweet nectar of these days fill my heart.

Namaste

There Is Only Love

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!

Much Love. Many blessings. Bright light.

My Mother’s Prayers

My Mother’s Iris At The Altar – Mixed media on book page.

My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.

After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.

None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.

That time has come.

On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.

The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.

My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.

In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.

A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.

There are no mistakes.

Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.

Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.

As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.

I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.

Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.

In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.

There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.

In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.

The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.

Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.

And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.

How very ‘Catholic’ of me.

My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.

It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.

It can however, be a powerful force for change.

To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.

And so, I create.

A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.

The Crosses We Bear – first 2-page spread in My Mother’s Prayer Cards Art Journal

A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shame of a past we cannot change.

I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.

I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.

Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.

What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.