Posted in Art and Life

Morning Glory

I didn’t want to walk this morning. But I’m trying to make a habit of it. Bandit and I are grieving our old dog Rascal, and it’s been really good for both of us to get up early and get out of the house and roam.

So I walked. I didn’t notice the morning mist (one of my favorite things) until we were coming up the hill and saw the slanting rays of the just-up sun in dappled rays through the trees, shining on the road.

A few days ago, we caught a lavender-orange sunrise. The world is different in predawn. If you routinely miss it, I recommend exploring it.

This month, I’ve added painting to the morning routine I started last month, which consists of waking at 5:30 (ok 6:00 a lot of the time), reading something meaningful, meditating, walking with Bandit, writing affirmations, journaling. I did daily painting in the past and it was deeply meaningful to me, and I felt like I needed more regular art in my life. My plan for this month was to do 4 series of bookmarks in a rainbow, one each: Tennessee Wildflowers, Insects, Birds, Scenery. Maybe sea life. Maybe… I had other ideas. So that’s what I did yesterday.

But I’ve been thinking about my nature journal too, and missing it, and I thought painting shouldn’t be a this-month thing, it should be part of the mix all the time. So I nature journaled.

I am astounded that I can walk the same route over and over again, half residential, half a wild little winding road through the trees, and find a different delight every morning. I use my Seek app to identify plants. I putter and let Bandit sniff around. It’s not about exercise, it’s about being present. Tiny joys are worth rolling out of bed at 5:30 (I’m trying to get to 5:30) and meeting gratitude on the wild winding road. I think, if I lived in the middle of a city, that there would be little joys to find on a different kind of wild winding road.

If there weren’t, maybe I could plant some.

Try getting up early. Getting up at an hour YOU choose rather than the hour dictated by wherever you have to be is empowering. You start to find everyday delights. Your caffeinated beverage of choice even tastes better if you have some time to sit and savor it rather than choking it down as you rush out the door. If you need inspiration, check out Hal Elrond’s Miracle Morning.

I wish you exquisite moments and gentle gratitude.

Posted in mindfulness

Rituals of Gratitude

Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
My father’s good health,
My daughter’s new job,
The song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
Decent coffee at the airport,
And your quiet breathing,
The stories you told me,
The frost patterns on the windows,
English horns and banjos,
Wood Thrush and June bugs,
The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
An old coat,
A new poem,
My library card,
And that my car keeps running
Despite all the miles.
And after three things,
More often than not,
I get on a roll and I just keep on going,
I keep naming and listing,

Until I lie grinning,
Blankets pulled up to my chin,
Awash with wonder
At the sweetness of it all.

— Three Gratitudes, Carrie Newcomer

Happy Thanksgiving.

For most people, this holiday is about gathering, family, and way too much food, but my wish for you is that it is also about actual giving of thanks, whether you thank the people who loved you this year or give thanks to the divine. It doesn’t matter. Gratitude changes us in wonderful ways, and I firmly believe that it should be among our regular practices not just one day a year, but every day.

My mother recently told me that she and my father, who has a great deal of problem with anxiety, have begun a daily Gratitude Practice together, each sharing three things at the dinner table for which they are grateful. She said dad called her up one day to tell her he “had a thing!” to share with her that evening. For me, I keep a journal, and each day I write three things (at least) for which I am grateful.

When you make this a yearly practice, you hit the big ones: family, health, home, well-being, friends, community, employment, gathering. When you make it a daily practice, everything changes. You start looking for little things to be grateful for, that you can write or share at your daily ritual. You start to focus on what is right with your life when it is so very easy to focus on what is wrong. And I believe, when you focus on the positive, you invite more of it into your life. People are attracted to positive people. You start to like the grateful person you see in the mirror every morning. You gain confidence that good things WILL happen.

It truly is life-changing. I beg you to try it, for a month at least. Share it on Facebook or Twitter. Write it in a journal. Make it a ritual in your family.

I’m not sure what the magic of three is. You don’t have to do three. You can do one. But for some reason three makes me push past the one big thing in my day that makes me smile, and encourages me to find more. There is always more. There is poetry in it. Yes, the sun is shining today, and it’s nice to notice that, but I can be grateful for the cheering glow behind my eyelids while I’m basking in it. I can be grateful for the long golden shadows at the end of the day. I can be grateful for the relief I feel after many gray days when the sun greets me and makes me realize that I didn’t know how much I needed to see it. Push your gratitude farther this year, dig into details and your feelings, let it really make you present. Why is the sunshine good? Why is your marriage good? Why is your job good? What is good about gathering with family, today? Yes, there is stress about the gathering, but you keep doing it year after year. Surely it’s not solely out of a sense of obligation. You’re not obligated, not truly. Find the joy in every small thing, the reason you keep doing it, and if you can’t… why are you still doing it? There is truth in gratitude, as well. Honesty. Maybe a wake-up call.

I am thankful that you are here, reading my words. I have known since I was small that words were my blessing and my craft. I have written a lot of words in a lot of journals since then, but now I am honored to bring them to the Internet, and more honored that you took the time to stop and listen to my thoughts. May this holiday season bring you joy that you have been forgetting to look for. ❤

Posted in Uncategorized

Journaling

journalkitty

This is Nin-Nin the journal kitty (among many other talents).  Every morning I have to fold his blankie for him and put it at my writing desk in my bedroom, where he comes to visit and hangs out while I journal.

I started journaling in 2001.  I wish I could say I’ve journaled consistently every day since then but it comes and goes.  I started journaling because of a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and if I had to pick one book that’s changed my life, that’s it.

At the time I had just left Jehovah’s Witnesses and I was in a dark place.  I thought God was going to kill me at Armageddon, but I was so disenchanted with the religion that I didn’t care.  Julia asked me to look again at my concepts of God.  And more importantly, how they related to my art.  Because, she says, all art comes from God.

That might be an unpalatable suggestion to some people and it was to me, at the time.  Jehovah doesn’t care about that stuff, I thought.  But I had to learn that she meant (at least, this is how I feel now) that place of the divine inside you, the thing that is soul, or essence, or truth.

Ah, maybe I’m getting a little deep for a Saturday morning.  The point is, in the last 16 years I’ve come a long way, baby.  I went to my journal to figure out what I thought about everything, because I’d been told for years what I thought about just about everything, and I had to figure it all out for myself again, from scratch.   In the meantime I’ve written the odd poem, a lot of essays, a few articles that were published in the paper, and I have come full circle to writing a novel, now.  I have ideas for other things I want to write.  It’s easy to discount the writing I do on a regular basis.  Over the last couple of years I’ve become pretty consistent and I write in my journal every day.  I put stickers in it and I write in colored pen that you would probably find obnoxious but I love them and I love the process.  I start by documenting where I am in space and time:  what am I making (I am always making), what am I reading, what am I listening to or watching, sometimes what’s in the news, what’s Dictionary.com’s word of the day, what tarot card did I draw today, what are my current obsessions.  Then I just write, sometimes about what happened yesterday, sometimes about how I’m feeling.  It’s the place where meditation, catharsis, rambling and inspiration come together, and I wouldn’t be without it.

Some day I feel pretty sure that I will write a book about my journaling journey because it’s a thing I think everyone should do, and I have a lot to say on the topic.  If you have a hard time with a meditation cushion, it’s an active thing that can get you in a meditative frame of mind without navel-gazing.  If you’re grappling with tough feelings about something (brother’s death, election went very wrong, whatever), this is where you figure it out.  If you’re so tired and bored you can gripe about life.  It’s not for anyone else.  It’s for you. And then it clears out all that junk so that you can open up the channels and let your creativity off the leash, which is the point of The Artist’s Way.  It’s meant to help blocked artists, but it’s done so much more than that for me.

So each morning I sit with my kitty and my cup of tea and from the end of Daylight Savings Time to the beginning, my happy light (oh, I could wax poetic on that topic too!), my colored pencils and my pretty journal and my stickers, and I tell the Universe what’s going on with me.  I have no idea whether anyone besides me will ever care to read them… I like to think my son might, some day when I am gone, but there is a LOT to go through because I keep other journals besides these, and there is a whole big box of them in the closet.  It doesn’t matter though.  I do it for me.

I think you should do it for you, too.

Posted in Uncategorized

Write Through Pain

thomas-st-sunset-0903-tonemapped

The last day I posted here was the day my brother died.  I planned to write regularly, but life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench in things.

Anthony committed suicide.  (I hate that word “committed”, like it’s a crime).  He was not a person you would expect to commit suicide.  In fact, people visited his Facebook wall and said how much they would miss him because of his “love for life.”  How ironic, I thought.  And how true.

If some day I can offer up this experience to help someone get through something similar, and they ask me, How do you get through it, I will tell them how I got through it:  You write through it.  Meditation helps too.

When you are grieving, you set aside that hour each morning and it is a safe place to grieve, to rage, to do whatever it is you have to do.  You let all the feelings come because here’s a secret I have learned:  when you let the feelings come, they also go.  The crying grabs us, sometimes when we least expect it, but it passes like a summer storm.  I felt the need to write about that too.  So I’m going to share a couple of poems that I wrote the last couple of weeks.


 

Day After Suicide

The first thing I thought when I rolled out of bed was,
I am waking up this morning
And my brother is not.

The words my brother is dead
Keep echoing in my head like the refrain
Of some badly-written earworm. My brother is dead.

There are always a million questions you can never ask anymore
When someone slips the bonds that kept them here, and nearly all start with
WHY?

Because it hurts.
If someone with cancer passes from us,
We say
“Well, at least she’s not in pain anymore.”
Why don’t we ever say that about suicides? Is it a judgment we pass on them?
I’m saying it. He’s not in pain anymore. For only that I am grateful.

I will take this burden from you, my brother, I and everyone who loved you.
You have passed on your pain and we will carry it for you
Shed tears you didn’t shed because they weighed too heavily on your heart
Mourn the help you didn’t ask for and the things we didn’t say and the visits we didn’t visit

… and never will.

 


 

Grieving

“Tears like rain” is another old cliché
And I hate to say it but as clichés
Often are, it is true. Not in the way
You would think — they are both falling water.

It’s more in the scrubbed-clean feeling I have
When they have gone, ozone scenting the air
Rays peeking from behind brooding storm clouds
Crepuscular, slanting over land.

I catch my breath, seeing the glinting tears
Standing on my eyelashes like dewdrops
Ornamenting shrub leaves after the storm.
I am purified afterward, at peace, drained.

Sometimes the storm comes on violently
Without the slightest warning — he is gone.
And I am wracked like storm lashed boughs, and drenched
In sorrow… it passes, leaving me whole.

Other times it comes on gently, and I
Do not resist, letting rain kiss my cheeks
And I let them come, as a remembrance —
If I do not shed tears, I might forget.