Thursday, July 29, 2010

Working in the Negative

This week when I have risen at my usual hour of 5:00 a.m. I have noticed that it is still kind of dark outside. The first sign that the days are, in fact, shortening. May I sigh now? Riley's summer vacation is officially half over. I have a feeling the second half will go faster than the first half and yet when I think back on this last month, it hasn't necessarily sped by. Yes, I have often looked at the calendar and thought, "Egads! Already July ...fill-in-the-blank... Maybe it is because I have done so much with my time, I have travelled, helped a friend prepare to make her move back to the southern hemisphere (hi Sally!), spent some time grieving, and some time digging deep and learning more about me and what we casually or not so casually call "this life". I have also started another group blog with my animal communicator friends. One thing I learned on that journey was that I am not walking this earth alone in my grief.

And yet it's all baby steps.

Tuesday and Wednesday this week were tough, tough days for me and it reflected on my relationship with Riley. Our kids are so receptive, so reflective of who we are at any given moment. At least mine is. My moods affect his moods and well they should. But whenever I dive into a funk, I often surface with quite a bit of guilt. Guilt for being snappish, needy in my own way, unable to give freely, I cocoon.

The shadow side of ourselves is a fascinating study. I don't like spending a lot of time there, but I do visit, take day trips, short breaks where the dark is acknowledged and embraced. It is no mistake that at this time I took up my rusty old Speedball lino cutting tool,

the one I bought for my first year university printmaking class, and started cutting into some of the stock of rubber blocks the Queen of Arts had generously given to me a little while back. Cutting away the background instead of working the foreground was where I needed to be. I, successfully, cut a small heart and a crow shape I have often used in collage.

Another sense of negative space came this morning when Riley pulled a loose tooth. Another dark space, showing promise of new growth.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Bomb

We resorted to The Bomb. I'm not proud of this, wondered at first why I would even post about it if I am not proud, especially having recently participated in a workshop in animal communication (which includes insect life). When I thought about it though, it is/was deeply a fear issue. A couple of years ago we discovered a massive bee hive in our garage. A very active part of our garage, not a nice little tucked-away corner way at the back. The sound that came out of the ground was frighteningly of movie quality. The exterminators approximated it at over 5,000 bees. That's a lot of bees. They also said our family had been lucky that one of us hadn't yet been swarmed. They provided some interesting facts like how that particular type of bee had an acute sense of smell and could tell just who was in the yard at any given moment - likely a factor in not being swarmed as they didn't feel overly threatened by us. Another interesting fact was how there are sentry bees stationed outside the hive and can sting over and over until they are crushed.

It must have been the memory of that fear that made me so twitzy when we discovered a wasp nest in the very same place of our garage. The very active part, as I have mentioned. We couldn't see the whole thing because it was behind a large road box but we could hear them and we could see them going in and out of a hole they had chewed in the side of the garage. My first instinct was to let them be, compromise our lives until the early winter and then just dispose of the nest. And then my fears started creating visuals of the nest growing and growing to enormous proportions and ultimately, one of us getting swarmed.

My second instinct was to call an exterminator. Having dished out over $800 to get rid of the bee hive, my third instinct said that maybe we could do it ourselves.

It was a foot in diameter and those little beggars had destroyed quite a portion of the wood base structure of the garage creating it.

I still feel unsettled about the destruction, a life is a life. I feel like I took a few steps back in my evolution. But it was a weird kind of day, starting off with putting my clothes on backwards. You would think I would notice but it took me a while. My relationships felt thwarted and for one reason or another I largely felt rejected. I tried to make space in my heart by working in the garden. I don't have a pristine perennial garden with each individual plant circled with mulch. I have the type that starts off looking like a bramble patch and quickly morphs into a jungle. So literally and metaphorically I thinned out some irises and day lilies, chopped back the peony, pulled the rampant anemones and the mint, well it is a shadow of its former self.

I wish I could say I felt better for it today but I don't. I miss my dog horribly. I imagined this summer to be much different than it is panning out. Maybe I am holding on to those non-existent idealistic images, comparing them to what is real. Yesterday I couldn't quite seem to grasp loving what is real and honestly I am not feeling any closer to it today. I'm praying for a shift in consciousness of a miraculous proportion.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Have you ever....

...seen a caterpillar like this?

I wonder what kind of moth he will grow into. We spent the last few days doing this

and this

and seeking out these kind of trails

and skinning knees and palms on dirt roads.

Now, it is good to be home. I have one more week of vacation and we are going to make the most of it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

She's been reading my mail

I doubt any of you missed this post by Jen Lee like I did. Actually I can't say I missed it any more since I found it. I could have written it, except I didn't! It is as if she pulled those words from my own heart. Somehow we carry on, move forward. The resilience of human nature is something we don't even know we have until we have passed through it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Ahhhhhh. Retreats. Funny enough my trip to Kripalu did make me retreat into myself. I was never a very social person and going off to a place chock full of people I would have to hob-knob with is very much out of character for me. I love to isolate myself, am happy as a clam all on my own, I crave time by myself and have always been like that. Immersing myself in a crowd of 700 people is the last thing I would do if I was in my right mind.

I had been drawn there to do the first level of a course in animal communication with Penelope Smith. In preparation for the passing of my sweet, old dog, I had read Smith's, "Animals in Spirit" book earlier this year. That book changed my way of thinking about pets and animals by 180 degrees. It was an immediate and never-going-back shift. When I put the book down I felt that I had to meet this woman, had to be in her presence. Things all came together when I found the offering of the first stage of her instruction at Kripalu on the dates when I had extra hands on board for my son and I was off of work. Kripalu is a mere 5 hour drive from where I live, completely do-able. It was a words-cannot-describe experience. Naturally, I met like-minded people, equally excited with similar hopes and shared one of a kind experiences. A room of 20 strangers gathered, opened up, learned and hopefully will go out and share. Oh yeah, there was quite a bit of crying too. And a good share of laughter. This little-big guy, Speed, had a few special words for me, thanks Speed, what you gave to me will stay with me always.

Kripalu is a yoga based retreat center with classes for all levels offered multiple times a day. The days I was there it was hot, especially hot and humid for the mountains and it was flooded with yoginis. Nice people, yoginis. I do yoga regularly in my home, even wake up at an ungodly hour to fit it in, but I felt a bit like a geek in high school. I don't wear the yogini clothes, don't speak the yogini speak. The difference between now and that high school awkwardness is that I was there as a seeker and none of that differentness mattered.

I did take one early morning yoga class. It was full to the brim, we bumped elbows and toes and the whole room smelled like feet. It's kind of hard to find your Om under those circumstances. And I am so very grateful there were no random farters in that class. Every other yoga class I have taken there is always one person who really feels free enough to let go. With no judgment meant to those free and unselfconscious farters. There are even times I wish I felt that kind of personal freedom. I'm just not there yet.

I left only one rock behind, deep in the woods.

And speaking of rocks, I ended my journey with a side trip to the Queen of Arts at her home. I got to see her studio, meet her animals (hi Dave!). Even her garden has royalty.

Ever the graceful Queen, she left a beautiful bouquet of freshly cut flowers from her garden (the blue hydrangeas may or may not have been stolen) in the room where I slept.

Even the kitchen window was be-flowered.

I got a candid silhouette of Cosmo the Cat.

But wait a minute - what is that I see, in her garden?

Let me get closer...

Is it..... is it... a large, unpainted rock?!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Haiku

Off to Kripalu.
Much needed three-day retreat.
Yup, all by myself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If one is good, two is better, three is great!

I was over at Sally's house this morning, packing up her perishables and non-perishables. Moving to another country means not taking any food stores so guess what I have now? Four boxes of corn starch, three boxes of baking soda, three different types of vanilla, three tins of baking cacao, three bags of unsweetened, flaked coconut, four tins of bread crumbs, I-don't-know-how-many boxes of gelatin, a cupboard FULL of an assortment of rice and lentils, new flavoured oils and vinegars I am anxious and curious to try, and I have barely scratched the surface. It did give me an opportunity to clean out "that" cupboard. You know the one - bags of bulk store flours, sugars, dried pulses, various and assorted boxes of mixes that went out of date five years ago - enough to fill one trash bag. Unfortunately, she held on to her bottle of gin. She may need it more than me by the end of today!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Haiku

My kind friend Sally
rang yesterday afternoon
with a sweet bouquet

lavender et al
she picked from her own garden
to cheer and heal me.

You see, I had loss
of a tooth, a wisdom tooth,
a planned extraction

due to impaction,
and me, finally finding
the courage to go.

It also meant loss
of seventeen years of fear
of having this done.

I will miss Sally
dearly - she is packing up
and moving forward

for new adventures.
Moving home to New Zealand.
Much too far away.

So I have strung up
this beautiful gift of love
in my studio

to find a way to
preserve these moments we share.
It's new incentive

to dig them out and
put my travelling shoes on.
Kiwi anyone?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A glimpse of what guides me

All my regular readers (including the lurkers) know that the Queen of Arts and I are thick as thieves. I have been creating blog-art with the rocks I get from her. I have left so many behind in my neighborhood, given so many away, offered up countless ones to friends and strangers and yet some have found me again, returned to me, insisted on being with me. They seem to have a life of their own. I have written about many, including "join in" and "be". "build a bridge" has it's own separate story. Here is a shot of a corner by my computer, one of my many altar sites.

I kept "emerge" because I couldn't part with it. The Queen painted me "Forward" by special request after suffering the very painful loss of my 15 year old dog. And from her visit last weekend, enjoying some time up north of my city at my cabin, I chose "give free hugs" from her own bag of blessings (guess who I gave my first free one to!) . My only regret is that I didn't get a shot of the one that said, "Leap" that she left on my fireplace mantle. Here is a shot of two of my favorite people, together in one of my favorite spots.

What do you do to rejuvenate yourself? What keeps you hanging on?


I had a lesson in self-value yesterday. I went in to work, with the intent of giving two weeks notice. I had been romanced over to another place recently and I spent the weekend mulling and weighing the pros and cons of staying -vs- leaving. The end result of my mulling was I would stay if my current employer offered a considerable increase in wage. The increase seemed impossible to meet, I thought, and it was all but a sealed deal that I would be changing positions. It turned out that I was wrong. After almost two years at this one job, after feeling very much under valued and under appreciated more often than not, it turns out that I have highly valued knowledge and skills. Who knew? This whole magilla got me thinking of how I value myself. How important is money to how I feel about myself? Money is just one of the reasons I decided to stay the course, the other was some flex time that means time for art and time to be there for Riley at the end of the day or when he's sick. "Me" time. It was great big huge to know that my presence, my contribution makes a difference in someone else's world. And although my "work" is far from any kind of soul enriching service to humanity or the planet, it did tweak how I will look at going in, giving up my precious "me" time to earn the money that pays for our life.

One thing I am so disappointed in is not leaping. It's been a year since taking that leap of faith has been in the forefront of my mind. That old monkey on my back - fear - keeps me from believing that I really can. My one precious life? What am I doing with it more than mucking along, one foot in the quagmire of fear while my heart pulls and pulls to really soar.
But I can really only deal with one insecurity at a time.

Another lesson in self-value came last night. For the first time all season, Riley's soccer team won their game. They play twice a week, so we're probably a good 12 or 14 games into the season. It's been a lesson in disappointment for him. How would you feel if your team never won? As an adult, how easily could you keep yourself buoyed up with loss after loss? I know I would have a hard time thinking, "it's just a game - you're here to have fun". Honestly, up until last night, the team had only scored a total of two goals all season. But something came together for them, I'm not sure what, but they played well despite our excessive heat and humidity. They not only won the game, they mopped the field with the other team for a 5 - 1 win. The thrill and joy was over the top for the kids and for the parents too who have had to be the ones saying, "it's just a game - you're here to have fun". There is an element to winning sometimes, that's one of my truths.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Haiku

I often wonder
what's the point of writing here,
does anyone care?

Hmm, probably not.
My thoughts and art and writing,
another self-stain.

But try and stop me
and I can become nasty
and hard to live with.

My little corner,
my own self made universe
I can burp and fart

without once saying
"Excuse me", "Oops", or "Sorry".
Confess: you're jealous.