Archive for the ‘Things that bring me joy’ Category

It really bugs me when I hear someone say, “I’m not creative,” or “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” It bugs me because not only is it probably not true, I used to be one of those people and it took me years to realize how wrong I was. I had confused “creative” with “artistic,” and because I had internalized something said by an insensitive grade school teacher, I believed that I could “not do art.” My youthful attempts at art were not as representational and as proportional as were those of some of my classmates, therefore, I couldn’t draw. Which in the mind of a child equal “can’t do art.”

And if you can’t do art, you aren’t creative, right?

I believed that misstatement and internalized it to the point that I gave up trying to be creative. I allowed one person’s ignorance of art to create barriers and limits to my self-expression. In doing so, I was actually creating something; it just wasn’t something I should have created.   In truth, realistic, representational art is one tiny piece of the whole creative thing, yet that is the one aspect of artistic/creative expression that we expect all “creatives” to be able to do.

How ridiculous is that?

Not only does it limit the range of those who seek to define themselves as “creative,” it limits all of us as well. It would be like saying that orange is the only color that counts. All the other colors are there, of course, but they aren’t really colors, just pale shadows compared to orange.

There are lots of ways in which to be creative. LOTS of ways. You can be creative with food or paint or words or beads or car designs or architecture or methods of teaching or ad campaigns or ways to communicate with the world. I finally realized that I was a very creative person, just like you, and I found the best ways for me to express that creativity. In the external world, I do that with words and abstract color and beadwork. In the internal world, I create myself anew each day. When I realize that I have been repeating a mindless pattern of thoughts or beliefs that hold me back, I get creative with my inner self and find the words I need to shift me out of that space. My external creations are not always for the benefit of others. Sometimes I just have to slap some paint on a canvas in order to feel right with the world and I don’t really care what it looks like at the end of the day. But my internal creativity always impacts the external world. When I create a more compassionate me, the world is a little better place.

If you are one of those people who say, “I’m not creative,” it’s time to challenge that statement. Take the time to explore your thoughts and feelings: how do you want to be creative, and how can you support your creative shift away from limitation to expression? The only person to answer that question is you, and I’m positive you’ll find a creative way to do it.



Read Full Post »

McKenzie River, between Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls

McKenzie River, between Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls

We live in an area with lots of natural waterways, yet only one makes my heart sing: the magnificent McKenzie River.  As rivers go, it’s not tremendously long (just 87 miles), but it feeds me in a way that I cannot fully explain, and am not sure that I fully understand.

I love the geology of this river.  Borne of snow melt and rainfall, it originates in Clear Lake, an aptly named lake so clear you can see the submerged trees that have stood silent vigil since the lake’s creation by volcanic activity a mere 3,000 years ago.  The McKenzie flows south from this lake and tumbles over huge basalt flows and eroded granite boulders, dropping 100 feet at Sahalie Falls and another 70 at Koosah Falls a short half-mile down the road.  From there, the river rushes toward the Carmen Reservoir, then it vanishes below ground, seeping through the porous volcanic rock to re-emerge about three and one-half miles west at Tamolitch Pool, a clear, brilliant blue pool of icy cold water.  The river continues its swift path down the mountain to the valley floor east of Springfield, then meanders west to meet up with the Willamette.  There is a “fire and ice” element to this river that wraps around me; swirling energies of blue and red and black that almost lifts me off the ground.

I love the colors of this river.  From crystal clear water in all shades of blue to rocks of brown, orange, and grey shimmering in the depths, and the variety of greens lining the banks, there is a stunning palette of color.  The force of the water as it rushes down the rocks creates heavily oxygenated pools that are pale turquoise and full of bubbles.  The shadows of the tall firs that line the river give certain pools a more stately blue-green appearance.  The moss is a shot of bright green and the many twisted roots are a study in brown and white. 

I love the synergy of this river.  There is massive life here as seen in the abundant flora.  There is also massive death here, yet every death in this river feeds other life.  The living tree becomes the decaying log that creates a slow current pool or backwater where life can take root.

I love the sound of this river.  The roar, the gurgle, and the splash are truly music to my soul.  When I stand on the pathway between the two waterfalls, the roar is loud enough that I have to use my “outside voice” just to be heard.  If I could have that sound outside my window I would never have another sleepless night.  It sings: you just have to listen to hear it.  There is a pool above Sahalie Falls that whispers and splashes and entices you to come and play (although I don’t advise it).  It mesmerizes you and surprises you and changes every time you visit.

There are fish in this river, and my husband does his best to thin that population, but that’s not why I love it.  I love this river simply because it exists; because it sings and it dances and it laughs as it rolls down to the valley.  I love this river because it feeds a part of me that has felt empty for a long time, a part that the desert in which I lived for so long could not touch.  I sit on the rocks along the water’s edge and I listen to the sounds, watch the play of light on the water, and know that I am home.

Read Full Post »

I was talking to a friend the other day who is dealing with a chronic back condition, and she said something to the effect of, “if my problem had some meaning, other than just pain, I could deal with it better.”  I realized at that moment that I have made a conscious choice to share my journey specifically for that reason: to give it meaning.

This little blog chronicling my journey is part of that meaning.  I share how I feel, what steps I have taken, and how it all has progressed, so that my words might be of service to just one PsA sufferer.  I know that my journey is unique, as is yours, but maybe something I’ve tried sounds like a good fit for your healing journey.  And I’m always open to a dialog with those who are trying to find their way out of pain.

I’m participating in the Personal Genome Project, in large part because I want to do what I can to help patients and doctors understand the genetic aspects of this condition (if any).  And I look for the connections in my mental, emotional, and spiritual states to see how they fit in with the physical condition at any given time.

Knowing that my experience, no matter how painful it may be at the time, might be of service to another person has made all the difference in my healing progress.  For that, I am truly grateful.

Read Full Post »

Those of you who follow this blog (all five of you) know that I have spent the last 26 months or so wrapping up a very big loose end in my life: completing the college degree I began 32 years ago. Well, my lovelies, I am happy to say that it is a done deal. I am now a college graduate – yeehaw! And I spent my final Spring Break in NYC with my sister-in-law and her two lovely daughters. It was a whirlwind trip of shopping, eating, and, most importantly (to me, anyway) museum-ing. Yes, museum-ing. It’s my blog, I can make up a word if I want to.

Our first museum visit was the American Museum of Natural History, which the girls, being only seventeen, knew best from the film “Night at the Museum.” This was an interesting visit, as they aren’t particularly keen on the fine art of taxidermy. In the film, of course, all of these previously-living-now-dead-and-stuffed animals come to life and hilarity ensues. Needless to say, this did not occur during our visit. Nor is there a T-rex in the main lobby of the museum at this time (he’s upstairs – there is currently a Barosaurus and a small Allosaurus in the lobby, very different indeed). The visit was not entirely a bust, as the artist niece was in awe of the meticulous attention to detail in the background paintings for the various dioramas. I’m not sure the fashion-conscious niece was impressed, but if we’d made it to the Memorial Hall of Gems I’m guessing she’d have appreciated the new diamonds on display much more than she did the rat pelts in the Hall of Rodents and Small Carnivores. I am happy to say, however, that the Hall of African Peoples presented an opportunity to correct a misconception held by both young women: they thought that pygmies were an extinct form of early man (go, public education!). I explained how there were different ideas about why these people are smaller in size than other population groups, and that environment, mortality rates and other factors may play a role in their size. I also let them know that the term “pygmy” is considered a pejorative term and they should refer to members of these populations by their group name, like the Mbuti or the Aka, etc. After all, I’d hate to let this new college degree in anthropology go to waste!

Our second foray into museum-world was the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA. It was a cold and rainy Monday and the line outside of the museum was insanely long, so it was a good thing we already had tickets – I don’t know that waiting in that line was really an option for this group. Once inside, we perused the installations on the second floor for a bit, but I don’t think the girls cared much for either of them – one was a very dark series of short animated videos and still images reflecting South Africa during and just after apartheid, and the other was “The Artist is Present,” a high concept bit of performance art where visitors to the museum had the opportunity to sit opposite the artist and experience being present in silence with another human being. The third floor, however, was much more to their liking: a Tim Burton retrospective, with early sketches and doodles, a timeline of Burton’s film and animation career, and models, props, and costumes from various films. It was a blast, even if it was over crowded and poorly ventilated and every fifteen seconds some uniformed staff member would bark out “No Pictures!” None of the people taking pictures was paying the least bit of attention to the museum employees, and frankly I’m not sure that you can really stop people from taking photos these days, what with cell phone cameras and all. It kind of felt like a three-ring circus in that exhibit, with the pushing and the crowding and my height-challenged nieces having to squeeze past people just to see the illustrations. But they were happy, which is all that matters. We did get to see several Picasso’s, the Monet water lilies exhibit, some Pollack’s, and Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” which both of the girls liked quite a bit. As much as I liked MoMA, I have to say that the crushing crowd and the noise level were fairly distracting. I expected it to be a bit noisy at the Museum of Natural History, what with all the groups of school-aged kids running around poking their hands past the security sensors to try and touch the dinosaur “bones” and alarms going off every fifteen seconds and such, but you don’t expect that level of noise at an art museum.

In that respect, and in all others, I have to say that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was so much more to my liking. My artistic niece and I had the day to ourselves while sis-in-law took the other niece shopping for the day. While there were uniformed staff members everywhere you looked, they were quiet and polite and simply asked that you not take flash pictures, even showing you how to turn off the automatic flash setting on your camera. Did I mention that the Met was much more to my liking? Anyway, I was delighted to see the appreciation my niece expressed in the ancient Greek and Roman artifacts (the number of artists sitting around sketching the statuary might have had something to do with her interest). We had the chance to talk a bit about how early archeology was not as structured as it is now and how many things that were recovered two or even three hundred years ago were not processed with care; how large items were sometimes broken up and distributed in pieces to various museums without thought to reconstruction and how we could learn from the piece if it was whole; and about how we often know very little about the site an item was recovered from, which means we know very little about the importance or meaning of the item itself (context is everything). Of these artifacts, she was most interested in the few small female figures at the museum and we got to chat a bit about what those might have meant when they were created. While that was great fun for me, what my niece as most interested in was to be found upstairs. As a painter, she was particularly interested in seeing the various collections of paintings, and to her delight her favorite piece of art, Pierre-August Cot’s “Springtime,” was hanging in one of the main painting galleries (and yes, she walked out with a poster of that painting in hand). She was captivated by the two artists who had easels set up in the galleries, painting copies of a Vermeer and a Bouguereau (particularly the Vermeer, as the artist was explaining to a tour group how he applied his glaze then used a dry brush to remove it in order to achieve the transparent color he is known for). We were lucky to be there during the current Bronzino exhibit, which includes sixty drawings and one painting, all dating from the mid-1500s. Mitch couldn’t join us on the trip, and if he had gone he would have wanted to see the Bronzino exhibit, so we made a point of spending time there, absorbing the details of each drawing in order to faithfully share our impressions with him when we returned home. It was pretty impressive, let me tell you.

After we exhausted all the painting galleries and had an overpriced lunch in the cafeteria, she indulged my interest in Near Eastern artifacts and we visited the galleries with the Assyrian reliefs, Egyptian statuary (six beautiful seated Sekhmets and entire room devoted to Hatshepsut!) and an amazing collection of Pakistani and Afghani Buddha statues (I didn’t even know that there were Pakistani Buddha statues). We ended the visit wandering through the Asian galleries, looking at statues of various bodhisattvas, different Buddha images, apsaras, Hindu deities, and Tibetan thangkas (Vic, eat your heart out). We marveled at the carved interior of a cupola that was originally part of the Red Fort at Agra, which was pretty trippy for my niece, as she, her mom and her sister went to the Red Fort at Agra when they were in India over Christmas break. As much as I would have liked to have seen every inch of the Met, especially the costume and textiles exhibits, we just ran out of time. The next time you are in NYC, you’ve simply got to go. And if I can remember the name of the little Italian restaurant on Lexington where I had the most amazing Golosi ai Quattro Formaggi (little ricotta and spinach gnocchi in a four cheese reduction sauce), I’ll let you know. It’ll make your toes curl.

Read Full Post »

Man, look at all the spiders out here – I really need to get out here and clean this studio up one of these days.

I need to write. But what about?

I am surrounded by stories but I don’t know the words. I am enmeshed in wonders not yet seen and entranced by the hint of something more going on just beneath the surface.

Do I write a fantasy? A tale of beauty trapped in a bower, awaiting salvation by the prince?

No. Done to death and not my favorite theme, anyway. I prefer that the damsel save herself, or at least that they work as a team. What about the poisoned fruit, the talking fish (no frogs in my pond, sorry), or the magical cat?

Well, all cats are magical, aren’t they, so what’s new about that?

Ah, here is the rain they promise. Soft and gentle, enough to splash its liquid life into the pond but not enough to preclude my needing to water the grass later, I’m sure.

Have I written so many research papers that my pen has forgotten how to fly? My writing partner is far away – I moved, she stayed – and our few attempts at long distance writing “dates” were less than successful. Is that it? Am I only able to create flights of fancy when inspired by another writer? Or am I simply adrift in a sea of words, trapped in a dense web of nouns, verbs and adjectives, unable to string them together and find my way home?

The garden is wildly overgrown. Roses twelve feet high, bending back down to earth by the weight of their blossoms; the lavender is chest high (I’m allergic, thank you), some kind of mint has taken over the small patch in the back, and butterfly bush exploding everywhere in sagey green and shades of lilac. Not to mention the sneaky blackberry tendrils that weave unbidden through the densest stand of branches.

You can’t kill them, you know. They spring up everywhere here, invasive little suckers. They aren’t native, either, and like the trumpet vine and the passionflower vine, they’ll take over everything if you let them. One season is all it would take and you’d need a flamethrower to get more than two feet into the garden.

And there are spiders everywhere. I see four little mamas in their webs just from where I’m sitting and it looks like three different types of spiders (don’t ask me which kind). Brown house spiders, wolf spiders, crab spiders, hobo spiders (same as brown recluse, ‘cept different), black widows – so many types that only Arachne herself would know for sure.

The rain has stopped (see I told you it wouldn’t amount to much) and I can’t even enjoy the reflection of droplets suspended on silken webs. The sky is leaden and grey and no brave beams break through to illuminate.

Do I write of memories long since dead, locked away in musty old houses filled with scurrying feet and muted wings? No, I think I’ll not go down that path today. Maybe when I’m old (and not just gray), when the memories seem as if they belong to someone else. Besides, I’m no good with ghost stories, I scare too easily.

Shoo, little spider, I’m trying to write.

The rain is back: steady, small drops. Maybe I was wrong after all. Maybe it will be enough. Enough to feed, to renew, to refresh. Maybe it will wash the cobwebs from my mind, replacing their dense weavings with something lighter, airier, brighter – like Indra’s Net.

Do I write of brown eyes that light up as he speaks my name? Of a quirky smile and a love that has lasted through thick and thin, pain and joy? No. That isn’t just my tale, it is his, too, and I have no right to tell it alone.

Do I write of floppy-eared dogs with crooked smiles and gigantic hearts? No, I wouldn’t know how to write it without it becoming cloying, maudlin, nauseatingly sweet. Living everyday with such a beast is joy enough, no need to put it in writing.

Geez, that’s the biggest daddy long-legs I’ve ever seen. You can get off my desk now, thank you.

Do I write of giants and trolls, wizards and dragons, treachery, betrayal, honor, glory, and “ever after”? Of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, rescues, trials, victories and defeats?

Nah. I think I’ll just make a cup of tea and stare out the window for a while. Let the world write itself today – I’d rather watch the spiders dance in the rain.

Read Full Post »

This lovely photo of the McKenzie River bounded by snowing trees was taken in January, 2008 by my talented husband. We took the dog up to Sahalie Falls to romp in the snow and to let Mitch take some photos of the falls in the snow and on the way back down the mountain we pulled off onto a road that crosses the river and leads to an electric station maintenance compound (more than a “shack” but less that a full station). The road had only been snow-plowed up to the compound and beyond it was snow to a depth of about 4 feet. Too deep to take Tucker in – I’d have lost him in the snow!

Some of you know that going to Sahalie in the winter is one of my favorite things to do. A bright sunny day, anywhere from two to four feet of snow on the ground, and that gorgeous waterfall surrounded by icicles and snow covered trees has got to be one of the greatest gift winter could give me.

Now I just need to get me some grippers for my shoes (I’m kind of tired of slipping and falling on my keister each year).

Read Full Post »

Well, three more days of actual classes and five exams and Fall 2008 session is over. Then three weeks of deep housecleaning, catching up on sleep, some short family visits and on to Spring 2009. Wow – how is it possible that we are already looking at 2009? I must have slipped through some wormhole or something because it simply doesn’t seem like we could be that far along in the year.

The good news is that the Winter Solstice is only 20 days away – that makes me very happy. Just a shade less than three more weeks of shortening days, then we start to get a little more daytime each day (I’d say sunlight, but hey, I live in Oregon, so…). Yippee! Anything that makes life a little brighter is a good thing. Although I have to say that this fall has been absolutely stunning. Unseasonably warm, more sunlight than usual, and truly spectacular days. We were even into the low 70’s as late as mid-October, which is almost unheard of here.

The hardest part about the Oregon winters is the damp cold and the lack of sunlight. It may not rain every day, but you can go 7-10 days without seeing any real sunlight, just diffuse light coming through the overcast skies. And damp cold that bites into my joints (I know, I’m trying very hard not to think about the long term ramifications of that statement). Even my little dog gets seasonal affective disorder. But, thanks to my brilliant mother, we have a couple of full-spectrum lights that we run when we are home and the skies are grey. The cat doesn’t seem to care much, I’ve noticed. Well, she doesn’t care much as long as there is canned food in the bowl at the proscribed time and she can supplement her diet with a little “ala carte” now and then.

All of this is my way of saying “Welcome” to the holiday season. We don’t do presents much any more, just stocking stuffers for the girls and magazine subscriptions for the boys (different sets of kids). Mitch asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and since he can’t give me a renewed planet all by himself, he’s going to settle for taking me to see “Singin’ in the Rain” at the movies this coming Weds night. I love old musicals and this one is a particular favorite. Having never seen it on the big screen, this will be a treat. And him being willing to sit through it with me will be extra special. I’ll have to control myself and not sing along with it.

Enough procrastinating! Devo studiare per l’esame finale d’italiano domani.


Read Full Post »