Magicians

I am staying at Rh’s house. Or not in the house proper, but in a kind of separate guest house / basement suite that she uses, leaving the main house empty.

A man comes in. He wears a balaclava over his face and chases me around, trying to rape me. I am terrified, I do NOT want this to happen. Rh chuckles, watching the action. She has planned this.

There is a pause, and the man pulls off the ski mask. He is, in fact, a kind of goofy guy, and a magician. There is no threat after all.

* * *

This dream stayed with me for a while – as the frightening part was heart-stoppingly terrifying, and the idea of a goofy magician underneath the mask totally piqued my curiosity.

A few days later I found myself at a workshop in Owen Sound with the Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña –

We learned a “manifesting technique” that, in its series of movements, reminded me for all the world of the Magician card in the tarot deck – reaching up to the sky above, and down below to the earth in the process of creation…

What a way to begin the summer…

We stayed just outside of Owen Sound on my friends’ farm where they had some new horses, and Sauble beach is just a hop skip and jump away –

And there is a sense of buoyant optimism in the sensation of creation from this practice… It’s a technique that is done for a number of days in a row, the repetition reinforcing the sense of creative magician… even my dream world has been increasingly busy (and occasionally magical) with this practice.

* * *

On Facebook I belong to various dream groups, and recently someone posted some collages she was doing from her dreams.

They had the structure of a series of comic book frames, allowing for the shifts in the narrative from scene to scene – a technique she said she learned from a workshop with Jeremy Taylor.

We got into a bit of a conversation about working from a dream, and how sometimes later, when you look back at the original entry in your dream journal, the details can appear to be quite different from what you’ve been accentuating or extrapolating as you make art, or even have conversations about the dream.

For example, from the dream above at Rh’s house, I’d been remembering the most vivid bits of the fear and of the unexpected revelation of a magician.

Yet when I looked back to my dream journal I found that I’d had several other forgotten magician dreams before this, and within the original entry on this dream, there was a detail that “this is a game or a challenge Rh and I have”. So the chuckling Rh seems less evil in this context, and my character is then also not so much a victim as a co-creator.

Interesting.

* * *

There was a dream I had maybe 2 years ago of 6 dead bulls in a parking lot.

It was a terrible dream, with the stench of death in it, and the sense of tragedy of these 6 massive powerful creatures dying a lonely unceremonious death in a parking lot at night.

At the time I had no place to talk about dreams, but I can always make art, so I did painting after painting of bulls, dead or dying, wondering what the heck the dream was about.

At some point I happened on a free webinar given by some people in Vermont, and I told them the dream of the 6 bulls. They were so lovely, they listened so well, and at some point Sue said, “how do you know they were dead?”.

The possibility of seeing the dream story as a more fluid entity, of not taking the narrative as a finished, absolute, unchangeable reality ROCKED my world.

Since then there has been a large painting in the works of some very alive bulls, and even a small sculpture is in the works.

And you, Dear Reader…?

Have you found your relationship or understanding of certain dreams changes over time?

Female Fates

(This voyage happened a little while ago –
Got a bit too busy to complete and post it at the time, but here it is now…)

Montreal again.

Time for the Foire papier and I’ve signed up for a hooked-up tour to see all kinds of hot shows and behind-the-scenes tours with curators and fun stuff.

In the morning on my way to the train station, rushing late onto the commuter train platform, I see a familiar face amongst the crowd – my sister!

Such a treat, such a surprise, and a chance to chat about travel plans, kids, family this and that, our 2 bashful waspy selves happily delighted at the unexpected intimacy.

Some hours later, early evening in a crowded vernissage in Old Montreal, mind blown already by the totally rad exhibit by Bharti Kher, hinting at things deeply feminine, reproductive, migratory, a cross between exquisite sensuality and mass production…

We are milling around by the bar, people-watching the funked-out Montreal artists in psychedelic shades and storm trooper boots, when across the room again I see a familiar face…
My sister-out-of-law! Another most adored human!

Not quite officially related (she is my son’s aunt, but my ex and I never married), it is wonderful to see her after some years of missing each other in passing, and there is news of new cousins in the mix, and tell me, tell me, how are all the kids?

It feels awfully apropos to be surrounded by spermatazoid specks and female shapes on this day of family, tribe, migrations and reconnections.

* * *

Next day, another 12 or 14 exhibits, but my favourite is this one, yet another amazing female artist, Elly Strik – new to me, very drawing based –

This entire room is called the “dream room”, with a huge drawing on one wall of Freud’s couch, and many smaller drawings of more intimate details on the surrounding walls.

The major portion of the show is comprised of these massive mysterious female almost-portraits… beautiful yet unknowable, huge and yet tender.

And you, Gentle Reader?

Seen any good Art lately?

Awakenings

I’m always engaged in some kind of awakening process…

Except when I’m not.
Except when I’m hiding, hibernating, buried down in the numbing comforts of familiarity, habits, denial, avoidance and layers and layers of shadowy elusive fear…

* * *


The jaguar’s breath is warm on my face.
Whiskers twitch.
The pink wet of it’s mouth shows behind the enormous teeth.
There is a nibble at my neck.
But its proximity becomes a merge and we are two as one, fused together as we tumble down down through epic layers of earth and rock hurtling towards the very center of the earth…

The jaguar is considered the sun of the underworld, is the one in charge of destroying all our negative unconscious patterns… it gets rid of fear and obstacles.

~ Sergio Magaña

* * *
Sergio is one of the teachers I started following, hoping to develop my capacity for lucid dreaming, for awakening while dreaming.
Once in a while I manage it, once in a while there’s a glimmering of consciousness while sleeping, but mostly I am unawake, unaware, and remain utterly convinced by the nightly procession of illusions.

* * *

Recently we’ve had workmen in and out with drills and hammers and sanders and plaster and paint. We’ve had to prep the apartments and then evacuate while they do some work, then we come back in and clean and reassemble, live for a few days before they announce they’re coming back for the next step of unfinished business, the cycle beginning all over again.

They are not masters of efficiency, it is annoying, and yet it has put me into a deep clean, a radical de-cluttering of the space – there have been days and days of moving furniture and vacuuming, emptying out boxes and wiping down the dust covered contents, filling up the recycling bin with reams of irrelevant papers.

Sifting through one file folder I discover print outs of the massive communication I had over many years with my friend Mike who passed a month ago. Sometimes I think I started this blog really to replace our correspondence when it dwindled some years ago after thousands and thousands of words back and forth between me in Toronto and he in St John’s.

But in this recent excavation, there was one letter in particular that jumped out, demanding attention – it was the description I gave him of a first visit to a woman – a seer, a clairvoyant, a psychic in Montreal, recommended to me by Brenda, beloved friend of several decades now.

This woman shook me to my foundations that first time I went to see her, such was her insight.

Every few years or so I go back, and while each time is bouleversant, a profound reckoning with myself, over the years the shock of her capacity to see so keenly has lessened a tiny bit, even though I am cautious to prepare myself each time for what may turn out to be a life-changing session.

In that letter to Mike, many years ago, I described this woman, my most searingly awakening catalyst person –

She sat me at a table in front of a large window that looked out across St Laurent and the mountain beyond.
She explained her way of working – that she functioned essentially as a mirror, reflecting back what she saw inside one’s self.
She said she essentially entered a kind of trance state and would likely not recognize me in the street afterwards.
She handed me a stone with an animal carving on it, asked me to hold it a moment, then hand it back to her.

After having the stone back in her hand for just a moment, she got very animated, pulled her paper and pens toward her with excitement and began to draw and speak…
Her eyes were essentially closed, but her eyelids flickered as she spoke, as if she was seeing images inside her eyelids, not looking at me.
She said:

You have spent so much energy trying to hide your vibrancy.
It is like an inner pressure, all the fire energy you have inside of you.
If you don’t let it out, it will begin to effect your health.
You have treated yourself very harshly.
Now you must learn to cultivate tenderness and gentleness towards your self.
Now there must be no more violence.
It is finished.

The way she spoke was so clear and direct and definitive and her images so frighteningly insightful, the tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I made note of her words –

This woman inside of you is like a lion.
She takes her time.
She belongs to herself as a matter of course.

I continued scribbling my notes on a page, watching her flickering face with a kind of awed fear.
Clearly, she was a witch. 400 years ago she would have been burnt at the stake.

You do not see yet fully where you are going.
But this is not based on effort, it is based on COURAGE.
You must practice taking risks, you must practice pushing the boundaries.
Train yourself not to hide, not to contract.
DO NOT HIDE BEHIND ANYTHING.
When fear comes, look at it, look into the heart of it…

The hour was up.
She helped me into my coat and kissed me on each cheek.
I found my way back down in the elevator and came outside into the beginnings of a snowstorm.
The blowing snow stung my face as I walked for several hours, unseeing, caught up in my own thoughts.
I didn’t sleep for days.

* * *

Of the many splendid teachers and resources I’ve discovered on the path in the years since, two of my favourite “awakening” people, are in fact the “awakening couple” – Chameli & Arjuna Ardagh are both teachers in their own spheres. He does something called Awakening Coaching, while she is the epicenter of Awakening Women, a yogini circle.
Arjuna says of the experience of awakening –

…I find that what is really meeting this moment, hearing sounds, seeing movement, and feeling currents of sensation is formless empty space, pregnant with infinite possibility. There is a mysterious presence, indefinable, with the capacity to embrace everything, just exactly as it is, but which in itself is nothing, just pure context, with no content. This presence contains the body but still exists, with or without the body. In this recognition, just here, just now, there are no problems and never have been. Disorienting and confusing as it may be, this realization brings a sense of peace, wonder, tremendous energy, and a feeling of love with no specific object…
~ Arjuna Ardagh

Here is Chameli –

* * *

And you, Gentle Reader?
Do you have favourite awakening agents in your life?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Awakening

Spring Smile


Out beyond the place where we lived – a restaurant, a home, a gathering place – there was a stretch of landscape, deep ice and snow, a river and pathways still in the clutch of winter’s deep freeze.
There I found Gerald’s body.
As I stood there, feeling the violence inflicted on First Nations people again and again, he began to rise up – an ascension, a resurrection.
His back was towards me as he floated up into clouds and sky.

* * *

I turned over in bed, the disoriented waking of the morning, all identity and story still clinging to the whispers of strange images, oblique narratives, and there amongst the sheets I found a small slip of paper, the size of the paper fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie.

How sweet!
Where could it have come from?
Perhaps the library book disheveled in one corner of the bed?
Which would mean some sweet inspired soul had written it on a piece of paper and slid it in the book to be found by strangers…

* * *

It seems I’ve been in a deeper hibernation than usual this past winter – a number of people have been in touch asking: Where the heck are you? Are you still there???

On the one hand I’ve been intensely quiet, burrowed down inside like a bear in winter, reluctant to venture outside now that I’ve set up my studio at home…

And with a bit of a breather on the work front, just one slow-moving independent film job on my plate for the moment has meant there are not too many obligations around town…

Yet on the other hand there have been a number of planes, trains, and automobiles – a few wee winter adventures, opening up horizons and yielding the nurturing influx of friendship and art –

One, a retreat with my beloved dream teachers in Vermont

Another, a week puttering around NYC with a friend, a place I haven’t been in far too long, exploring the great city in all its glory and looking at as much art as we could…

Louise Bourgeouis @ the MOMA

And then a packed full long weekend in Montreal with dinner parties, vernissages, and the unfortunate news of the loss of an old dear friend made bearable in the bosom of so much love and creativity…

I’m hoping this very quiet stretch is almost over, and like a caterpillar that has been naught but a gooey cocoon for months, I’ll emerge resplendent and colourful with the coming spring, posting up a storm about dreams and painting and, with any luck, a little more travel…

We will see 🙂

Chestnut – Work In Progress

Weekly Photo Challenge – Smile

Waiting for …

There has been a lot of topsy-turvy here in our tiny household. Much transition.
The cat has been a bit stressed out at all the activity, Nervous Nellie forever waiting for the worst. It’s become a bit of a sport to tease her about her Chicken Little tendencies, while the humans stumble through Harvey, Irma, and the sabre rattling of North Korea as if everything were hunky dory.
Ah well. Who knows really.
Meanwhile, summer was…

…as summer should be.
Road trips and friends and lakes and chili hot dogs on Sauble Beach and misty river mornings and dragonflies buzzing and the sudden swarms of mosquitos on the Bruce Trail and an impromptu dinner party crammed around the tiny table of an RV.
Through it all the strange part for me was a health issue – I’m not usually a person with health issues, but 2017 has presented health issues as a distinct new concept, so there’s a new sense of the body as something potentially treacherous, fickle and demanding – an ally to be carefully courted – not the effortless ease of yesteryear.
Ah well. So be it.

Then beginning of September my boy moved out – after 23 and a half years, with the hope of a job on the horizon, he packed up his things and went to live with some friends in a hipster part of town.
Ah well. Very very happy for him.

And so with a bit of extra space at home, slowly I’m packing up my studio.
A few things are in progress on the walls, and I go over after work and look at them and feel unsure of what to do, where to begin, when to end.
I sit and look, waiting.
Waiting for some kind of sign, some kind of indication of what’s the next move…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Waiting

 

Summer Textures

Summertime lake.
The endless blue of the sky.

Approaching the island across the lake, I think of the book I’ve been reading: The Zen of Creativity : Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori.
He has a series of exercises on “Direct Experience” or “Experiencing without Identifying” – exercises closely related to the practice of mindful meditation, with the intention of quieting the mind and seeking to simply feel or experience things before the thoughts come in.

Most of us – seasoned meditators included – will find that it is very difficult simply to listen. We hear sounds and immediately name them, or we associate them with something else, we compare them, analyze them, or try to find their source. It soon gets boring just to listen and our minds wander. It’s not easy to let things simply be and let go of our running commentary.

As we approached the island I practiced with these trees –

Trying to just feel the trees without thinking about what KIND of trees, or about their size or colour or all the things one could think about trees.
Even so, even as I sensed them as a group, as a collective presence, an alive beingness in front of us, I found myself searching for the words to describe the sensations.

And again, trying to just allow the experience of the pebbles… much subtler, so small and ubiquitous, almost imperceptible yet hinting at eternity…
And from this place one might take a photograph.

One way that our spiritual power begins to manifest is through the emergence of the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. This is one of the reasons why Zen and creativity are so intimately linked. Creativity is also an expression of our intuitive aspect. Getting in touch with our intuition helps us to enter the flow of life, of a universe that is in a constant state of becoming. When we tap into our intuition, whether in our art or simply in the day-to-day activities of our lives, we feel a part of this creative continuum.

How can any of us gain entry into this unique way of perceiving the universe, where every breath is the first breath, every sight and sound is fresh penetrating the universe, reaching everywhere? 

At one time or another, each of us has experienced this way of perceiving. It comes upon us unexpectedly. Suddenly the music moves into our being and our body responds. There is no thought, judgment, or conscious effort. The music freely passes through us. We pick up a brush and the painting flows from its tip. the poem creates itself, almost without effort

A photo here and there, I also pick up strange things from the ground and bring them inside.
I’m teaching myself to draw on the iPad – it does not yet feel very Zen at all, it is still a lot about thinking through how the mechanics work, but there is a certain amount of non-thinking possible in the presence of strange things, just looking at them and trying to sense and feel the way into a drawing rather than think.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Texture

Natural Friends

Work has been more than a little intense lately – a good thing, of course – but the rare free moments are spent with friends or scribbling at the studio or, as spring springs and the weather gets nice, seeking to carve out wee moments that allow a few breaths of connection with nature.
In the mornings, if I hover at home for long enough, I can hear the coo of the turtle doves – maybe my most favourite sound ever – their gentle melancholy coos so delicious I just can’t rush myself out to the bus and begin the descent into the city, moving through the increasing urbanization into downtown, the sea of condo-building cranes and growing gridlock, to sit perched alone in a room with a computer.
If I opt to bike or walk a ways before hitching up with some form of public transit, there’s the kind of long short cut through the park.
And well, look who’s here – the rough croaks from the ponds and puddles all along the flooded walkway freeze time and I squat to take a closer look. Who cares if I’m late? I mean really – let’s talk priorities. There is a rarely seen friend here, the moment suddently so exquisite, it’s impossible to rush.

All the times with frogs come back to me – the streams filled with tadpoles when we were kids, the rims of ponds and lakes, long slippery legs swimming amongst the lilypads…

One of the jobs that’s had me busy is with one of my most beloved friends, Nicky – making a film of the play she did – a kind of hybrid of documentary meets play on film. Oh, her breathtaking performance – gives me goosebumps still after so many viewings. But the lines also follow me through the city, their poetry –

Love is love, and hard enough to find.

Oh indeed. It comes how it comes.
So when the cat, the center of our little home universe, gets diagnosed with something that will cost an extra $60 / month in medication for the rest of her life and griping about it to Nicky in the afternoon at her kitchen table she shrugs in a way to suggest maybe it’s time to rethink…
Oh but no.

Love is love, and hard enough to find.

Heading home at the end of the day, I’ve a bit of a long, elaborate route involving 3 buses, all to be able to watch the evening skies and shifting neighbourhoods and avoid the bad air and dank dark underground of the subways.
The streetcars on Queen have been replaced with buses and by about Carlaw at 8:30 or 9 on a Friday, heading east from the studio after work it occurs to me, Hey, I wonder if I should text Tom & Bea…? Cause they live somewhere along the route here in the east end and it’s Friday…
Tom & Bea arrived in my life in the strangest way – when my husband arrived from Cuba, the 2nd day he was in the country we went down to Harbourfront to catch a free concert with Femi Kuti.
Like, just soak that in for a moment – a free concert with Femi Kuti –

Sometimes Canada just rocks.
Anyways there we were, milling around in the crowds in the beer tent, my husband fresh off the plane from Cuba, and a woman stops and says to him: Hey! I know you!
That was Bea. With her husband Tom. They’d been tourists in Cuba, and well, whadyaknow, small world.
Right away there was something so familiar about them – Tom lanky with a sideways smile and a glass of beer, Bea vibrant and beautiful and laughing and always moving – there was almost a kind of deja vu, like I KNOW these people.
Several years and a divorce later here I am on the Queen St bus wondering if I should drop Tom & Bea a line.
Even just saying their names makes me happy, makes me think of the kids books, Ant & Bee –

But no, no, it’s late already, too late to be starting evening plans.
Until the bus passes the patio of that Cottage joint on the south side just after Leslie, and I glance over and could swear that’s Tom stretching to make a point to the fellow beside him at a table right there in the middle in the thick of things.
Without thinking, I scramble to jump off the bus.
What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe it’s not them?
I can always catch the next bus.
Totally worth the risk…

Love is love and hard enough to find.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Friend

March wishes

Oh I wish, how I wish I were a flying fish.

Oh I wish I wish I were the spray from an ocean wave
the wind in the trees
the stretch of a cat
the sparkle of a star in the night sky
a floating colourful anemone in the warm Caribbean sea
a coasting bird, soaring, casual as I move through the clouds…

* * *

We are in my dad’s house in Philadelphia – he has recently inherited it from his parents.
It still has old lady wall paper and old fashioned furniture and such, but some areas, by the staircase for example, there are some bare brick walls and boards.
I know I’m going to inherit this house soon, very soon, and so I look around with eyes to renovation – imagine it with the old lady wallpaper gone, and clean modern lines…Oh, it is exciting, the possibilities ahead!
And I start to pull away more of the old boards at the bottom of the staircase thinking of opening up more space, but I discover curled under the stairs in the crawl space the corpse of a fox terrier.
This is rather disturbing.
Creepy, and there’s going to be a smell problem.
It’ll have to be cleaned up.
But suddenly it gets up, now it’s glowing a rich blue colour, and is a real fox fox, a wild fox.
Away it trots, glowing blue.
I am relieved that this corner of the house is now clean and clear, blessed by this magic glowing ghost-fox.
Outside I am driving, and I realize this is going to be whole new phase of my life – I will move back to the States, to this house in Philly, and I will finally be driving again!
My sister and I are by a kind of river, streaming over rocks, with many many people. But there is a bad man who is a problem.
We drown him, the two of us, holding him down in the river in the midst of the rush of people – visceral, his red throat, bulging veins and tongue – and then finally, the bad man is dead.

* * *

Last night I sat down in the studio for a wee break from painting the latest fox – lots of foxes these days – and the angle from the chair to the patiently waiting half-finished or half-started crow on the wall with the Dollarama flowers on the table in front made it look as though the wing of the crow was decorated, almost tattooed with a gorgeous string of pink flowers…

And I wished, how I wished I was THAT kind of artist.
An artist who makes pretty pink decorative things or beautiful tattoos or things you might want to use as wallpaper in your kid’s room…

Moments, just fleeting moments where the desire to be other, to be more, to be different, to be something else, to be someone else bubbles up.

It’s not so terrible in a way, as it’s all clustered into what has become a fairly conscious process of change I’ve been working on for some time now, deep thinking about the things that are not working, the things that need to be better, the places I need to step up, become a better human being…
But here’s the thing… change is HARD!!!!

Maybe you already knew that.

So one thing I always find myself doing in these moments, is reading.

Have a seat by the fireside and enjoy some Joseph Campbell:

The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization…
If the call is heeded…the individual is invoked to engage in a dangerous adventure. It’s always a dangerous adventure because you’re moving out of the familiar sphere of your community. In myths, this is represented as moving out of the known sphere altogether into the great beyond. I call this crossing the threshold. This is the crossing from the conscious into the unconscious world, but the unconscious world is represented in many many many different images, depending on the cultural surrounds of the mythos. It may be a getting lost in a dark forest, it may be finding yourself in a strange city. It maybe be depicted as an ascent or as a descent or a going beyond the horizon, but this is the adventure – it’s always the path into the unknown, through the gateway or the cave or the clashing rocks…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish

Relax into colour

The desk is piled high with homework and projects past due.
Lists of Christmas gifts are scribbled on post-it notes around the computer.
The vacuum cleaner is plugged in and ready to go.
Recycling sits by the door ready to be taken out.
The chicken bubbles on the back burner. The rice is poured but unrinsed.
And yet, and yet…
The faint bling and winks of brilliant colour call…
abalone-hillscape

abalone-moonscape

abalone-rivuletAn abalone shell, sitting hidden for weeks in a scrunched up paper bag on a shelf, was rediscovered this morning.
And, oh, but what worlds it holds within…
abalone-nebula

abalone-kali

abalone-snout-and-hoofs

abalone-tunnel

Weekly Photo Challenge – Relax

Tiny Steps

tiny-clouds-can-flagIs it the dark of November, that flu I just couldn’t kick, or the malignant gloom of the American election?
There are days when it feels like nothing gets done.
Days when doing the laundry is a big accomplishment.
Days when I think it’s the perfect day, free of obligations, to go down to the studio and paint – smudging and scribbling and sharpening the image, listening to music for hours – and yet somehow I never get there.
Days when I get up with last night’s promise of a morning run ringing in my ears and I flop on the couch and flake out on facebook on my phone.
Days when I’ve told myself it’s really time to finally sit down at my little corner writing desk and enter the zone – the zone of happy struggles, of exploring interior worlds, scaling memories and imaginings and sensations and the secrets of the human heart, searching for all the right words… and instead I spend hours glumly in front of the computer catching up on email.

Do you know these kind of days?
Switch out the particulars for your own personal Important Goals list that never quite happens?

Well, I’ve been pushing against the dark slide of lethargy with some new tools…
Chief among them the concept of Tiny Steps.

kaizen-book

Tiny Steps comes from the Japanese tradition of Kaizen, elaborated on in this book by Robert Maurer: One Small Step Can Change Your Life.
He says,

Kaizen is an effective, enjoyable way to achieve a specific goal, but it also extends a more profound challenge: to meet life’s constand demands for change by seeking out continual – but always small – improvement.

The key is to start small.
The key is to make it SO small you can’t NOT do it.
Reading some of the bios and creative practices of the greats can be totally intimidating – they seem to be on their game ALL the time, productive all the time – so much so that it’s a world away, unreachable.
Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit describes her mornings –

I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on my workout clothes…walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab.

Well, this is amazing, I love the sound of it, can just see the dark of the Manhattan morning and the surliness of the cab driver and the sweaty two hours at the gym, and gosh I sure wish that were my life too, but ummmmmmmm…
I can tell you right now I’m not gonna be doing that tomorrow morning. And not just cause I don’t live in Manhattan.
I mean even just thinking about how far all of that is from my life brings up all kinds of neurotic garbage and the harpies of self-flagellation begin to loom and the whole thing makes me feel like, well, if I can’t be like that, then I might as well just give up now.
But…
This is precisely where the small steps of Kaizen come in.
Maurer says –

Don’t let these common roadblocks to change make you feel so guilty or frustrated that you give up your attempts to improve.
Instead, use times of difficulty to remember that fear is the body’s gift, alerting us to a challenge. The more we care about something, the more we dream, the more fear shows up.
During the rough patches, understanding that fear is normal, and a natural sign of ambition, makes us more likely to hold onto hope and optimism – qualities that increase our willingness to take the kinds of small steps that slip right past the fear.

Did you get that last bit?
…small steps that slip right past the fear.
Okay! Now we’re talking!
A step that is so tiny it will neatly sidestep the harpies in my head. Perfect.
So, for me, a small step would be NOT to say I’m going to write a novel before the end of 2016, but to say I’m going to write for 10 minutes each morning.
10 minutes of sitting down to write is something small enough that it’s really really really easy to do.
(and if there’s a morning when even so, even though it’s a tiny step, if it doesn’t happen and I don’t show up, I’m going to remind myself that FEAR IS NORMAL, and try again the next morning)

Going back to Twyla Tharp’s story about the cab – the point that she’s making and the point that really speaks to me is the idea of creating a Ritual.
Creating a Ritual sounds to me partly like a way to make the whole thing more FUN.
But Twyla takes it even further –

Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this? By the time I give the taxi driver directions, it’s too late to wonder why I’m going to the gym and not snoozing under the warm covers of my bed…
It’s vital to establish some rituals – automatic but decisive patterns of behavior – at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.

So for me, for my 10 minutes of writing, I’ve found this one piece of ritual I can bring in to the goal of sitting down at the little writing desk in the corner…
I light a candle.
The beautiful little glass candle holder makes me happy. The action of striking the match marks the beginning, the dancing of the flame keeps me company, and the whole thing signals to my brain that a hallowed space has been created to sit down and hold a tiny 10 minutes of writing.
corner-desk

And you, Dear Reader? Are there Rituals, Practices, Habits, Methods that have worked for you?

Please Note: All this comes from a training program I’m doing currently, called Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching. You might want to check it out. 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge – Tiny

Chaos in the hallways

golden-collageI am in an insane asylum. It is large and labyrinthine with many hallways and rooms and rooms within rooms.
It seems I am a doctor of sorts, a healer.
There are many sweet sweet patients – interesting artists and creative types – lovely people.
But there are also many angry people walking the hallways. Angry men especially.
On closer observation, some of the angriest figures turn out to be animals walking on their hind legs.
There is a lion walking upright in one hallway with a sign around his neck, “You will die if you get too close”.
lion-covers-face-oil-and-grahite-on-terraskinIt’s difficult to figure out how to manoeuvre within this dangerous place.
One room is a large blue-hued glowing-glass high-tech sci-fi X-ray kinda room.
A young man is in there – he is my patient. His head sits above what is like a skin sack – a shapeless sheet of a body.
I tell him to remember to feel his bones.
Feel the bones – remember the feeling of bones.
As I speak, his bones are wheeled in from where they’ve been kept in storage.
His whole skeleton will be reassembled.
skeletal-armBut while this is happening, the angry people and animals in the hallways are becoming more agitated – it is getting increasingly violent and dangerous.
I run through hallways and through rooms into even tinier rooms until I find mine, a small, well-hidden room where I dive under the cot bed against the wall, trembling like a coward, to wait out the violence.
Am I perhaps a patient after all?
standing-stag

Weekly Photo Challenge – Chaos

Call of The Fox

She turned to me, her blue eyes faintly distant, mysterious and said:
I had a dream of a fox.
But when I asked the fox what he wanted, he said:

I am here for Kat.
I have a message for Kat.

We were sitting at the breakfast table, the three of us.
A few days together and we’d taken up the habit of sharing dreams while we figured out coffee and food, it feeling a natural, rich way to begin the day.
But this was different – this was A Message.
And the thing was – I hadn’t even told them the story about the fox.

car in barrie

There’d been too much going on – there was that crazy night in Barrie with the lousy car, being saved by our angel Hedy, then appeasing the Goddesses of crossroads out by the car rental joint on the highway and the drive to our place, and days with the urgency to get outside, get hot and get in the water and swim, have a real summer, make great food, drink wine and sit in the dark on the porch looking at stars and watching the bats dive for bugs.

trees blur
So I hadn’t told them the story of the fox.
I mean I’d told them about the place I’d been the weekend before – about the little cabins in the woods, the amazing locally-sourced food, the moon rising over the lake, and singing in the dark of the sauna and diving in the cold night lake, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, camp songs and show songs and snippets of Tragically Hip songs, all of us trying to remember the words cause it was the night of their final concert and all of Canada was said to be tuning in.

lake wide

Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, your word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time

The people were wonderful and strange: the core co-facilitators of the shamanic circle, a bunch of us newbies from various Ontario towns, and a young, fascinating First Nations fellow who, despite his youth, brought what felt like lifetimes of ceremonial experience.
It was the Saturday morning when I overheard him talking to my cabin-mate about a fox. Apparently on her drive up she’d gotten lost and ended up wandering on some back road where she saw a dead fox. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she stopped the car and gathered up the fox and brought it with her.
“I mean I don’t make a habit of picking up roadkill”, she said, still mystified.
That afternoon, the First Nations fellow led us in a ceremony to reactivate a labyrinth on the land, using a massive quartz crystal, tobacco leaves, water from lake Atitlan, and fur from the tip of the dead fox’s tail.
Most of the group circled into the center of the labyrinth, but 4 of us stood menhir-like in the 4 directions.
I stood in the West, my eyes closed while we sang as they danced their way to the middle point of the labyrinth to plant tobacco, quartz, water and fox. As I stood, I felt, saw, experienced the entire event as a spinning, galactic vortex of energy churning up and out into the sky – it felt so powerful, so forceful, I felt I might fall over.

vortex fern

The weekend was full of these kind of Experiences – this one with the fox’s tail at the labyrinth particularly intense.
But I hadn’t told my friends all these particulars before that morning at the breakfast table, before my blue-eyed friend said:
“I dreamt of a fox and he said he’d come for you”.
It all seemed too personal in a way.
Or maybe it was that such a powerful internal experience will never really translate into words, words will always seem dry and inadequate.
Or maybe I thought even to talk about it would dissipate the power in some way, cause it’ll all just sound hokey.
But as the impact of the whole thing began to sink in – that a fox had come to her in a dream to say: “I have a message for Kat” – the three of us looked at each other and wondered…
What message?
What did the fox want?
Why like this?
Why not just come to me directly?

fox drawing bluish

While I can’t speak for the fox, while I wonder if there was more to the message I should be able to fathom somehow, I’ve begun to think that the simplicity of his apparition to her was a message in itself.
It was a way to really REALLY get my attention.
Because it would be so easy for me to say to myself, “Oh, the things I felt that weekend were just my imagination”.
Or, “This whole idea of spirits is all very well, but…”
Repeatedly I’ve heard various teachers on my path say they’d spent months, even years on the path of shamanism, of ceremony and journeying and so on, but STILL they doubted this whole business of “spirits”…
Until something happens that hits them over the head and makes it all so very plain.

Details of the Squash Takeover

Mornings on the patio…
Last year, in the borders out here on the patio, I planted a few tomatoes, some peppers, perennials.
This year, not so much, but our new-ish neighbour to the left, after a few tentative tomatoes last year, suddenly decided to go all in.
She has a much larger section of dirt and less patio, so rows were created in the earth, sections for various kinds of tomatoes, beans, herbs, squash, and the tall corn…
For weeks she’s been out there watering her plants every morning, though when you ask her there is a shrug of doubt – she’s an urban girl from Nigeria, she tells me, and her friends back home tease her that she’s come to Canada to become a farmer.
It’s all so new, she says, she herself doesn’t believe the plants will grow.

corn over the fence

June and so far July have been full of long dry sunny days.
Mornings have the rustle of people in pyjamas out watering and tending the flowers, the vegetables – weeks ago the grass dwindled to a shrivelled pale yellow.
But then after so many dry hot days, for a glorious 24 hours it rains…

dark morning after rain

weird blue flower tall

fly and raindrops

And the next day I am out again in the morning sun, and am a bit confused at the huge leaves over on the left.
A massive plant has started growing through the fence from my neighbour’s side…

the squash plant

dragonskin

It has already crowded out the little instalments of parsley and coriander I had growing over in that corner.

parsley gone to seed

parsley and squash flower

She comes around to see it – she can’t believe it!
That her gardening has been so successful the plants are bursting through the fence, seeking out more space to blossom and flourish!

green chaos

curly cues

I lift up a leaf to show her one squash that’s already an astonishing size.
Her eyes widen – the miracle of it!
She tells me I must use not only what is growing on my side, but help myself to her side as well, as she has more vegetables than she knows what to do with. That I must show her how I cook it, as she doesn’t even know anything about this kind of squash.

a squash

tiny squash flower

So, practicing my recipes, this morning for breakfast, I had flor de calabaza with salsa verde… yummmm…

flowers and fence

Weekly Photo Challenge – Details

Looking back

I was in Ottawa visiting friends from back in the day, back in Montreal, and as if out of some random pocket of a time warp, my friend pulled out some tiny forgotten paintings I’d done on tiles – tiny still lives of the charming funky place we lived in together so many years ago…

bowl and hyacinth

And my gosh, it was a revelation to me – most of all, that I had more or less managed with, more or less made my way around oil paints a couple of decades ago.
I’ve been struggling with oil paints the last few months – torn between the more recent experience of a fast drying acrylic paint, the possibility of fast endless layers, and the faint memory of a rich buttery wet wet paint I was able to negotiate to some degree some decades ago…

kitchen telephone

Now, trapped in work deadlines, I am fetishizing the time ahead in the studio…how glorious it is sure to be with this new-found half-remembered confidence…

goose and duck

Happy happy summer all…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Looking Up

The Great Curve

Sometimes the world has a load of questions
Seems like the world knows nothing at all
The world is near but it’s out of reach
Some people touch it…but they can’t hold on.

peony burst

She is moving to describe the world
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
She has messages for everyone
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
She is moving by remote control
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
Hands that move her are invisible
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)

peony busy abstract exp1

The world has a way of looking at people
Sometimes we feel that the world is wrong
She loves the world, and all the people in it
She shakes ’em up when she start to walk

peony - points and folds exp1

The world moves on a woman’s hips
The world moves and it swivels and bops
The world moves on a woman’s hips
The world moves and it bounces and hops

peony deep dive exp1

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curve