Terra Firma Is So Last Century – Rising Oceans and Wet Toes

Do you feel the rumble through your life? Do you sense a change or a transformation? Or are you stuck in a placid life? Even if you try to maintain a peaceful, stable existence, the universe may not go along with your program. Something may happen to you or around you that will affect you. Something will intrude no matter your careful plan or preference.

At the turn of the century (you remember Y2K right?) we were ready for change but had no idea what that change would look like or entail. Not an inkling of the places we would go or things we would go through.  It’s probably better that way.  For if you had told me, I likely wouldn’t have chosen to start the journey, saving myself from angst, anger and major adjustment challenges. But I would have missed out on amazing experiences, and vivid, valuable life lessons.

Why do we challenge ourselves this way? What’s in our DNA that calls us to rattle the foundation of our lives? Generations have worked hard to give us a country, an economic system and a political system in which to thrive.  But we take that and try to twist it into something new. To redefine what a life in this place, in this century, should look like.  That’s the true freedom, to be a creative rearranger of your own life, attempting to make it into a life that’s worth living on your own terms.

Our terms included a life on the beach– a life we envisioned while still at the daily grind and that vision kept us striving. Beach living was chaotic. We lived on the edge, in liminality. We left an old world behind and dove into a new.

Red Ring - Hockney

We sacrificed our stable and predictable lives. We embraced chaos and did a daily tango with the tides. The tides. The tides that erode the land can erode a sense of security. Nightly dreams of water splashing our toes sounds exciting (it was) but those dreams can turn into nightmares.

Do you long for the forces of the sea in your life? For the transformational power and magic of the tides ? Are you willing to endure life on the edge?

This is the terrible beauty of  The Force of the Sea.

 

 

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Violets and Violence – Flower Children and The Language of Flowers

sunflower with butterfly copy

Do you have a favorite flower that stops you in your tracks when you see it? The flower for which you give a little thank you to the universe for its lovely creation? Is it the color, the perfect symmetry, the smell, the texture that lights you up?

It’s usually a sunflower that stirs my soul. There are many other flowers I enjoy, yet the grand presence of a sunflower affects me in a certain way. But one day a small purple bloom  took on a new meaning for me as I walked in a lonely field. The field was the Antietam Battleground.

At first I was taken aback by the peacefulness of the area. Green, lush, spooky quiet. A gentle wind, a bright sun. It took a while for me to notice the precious little blossoms scattered around my feet. A thought occurred to me that on the day of the battle, the ground would have been covered in streams of blood, fragments of shrapnel, fragments of humans and horses. The unfortunates who were not to feel the ‘glorious joy of heroes‘.

In a remembrance of the Battle of Shiloh, a young Henry Morton Stanley (of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” fame) wrote:

“Day broke with every promise of a fine day. Next to me, on my right, was a boy of seventeen, Henry Parker. I remember it because, while we stood-at-ease, he drew my attention to some violets at his feet, and said, ‘It would be a good idea to put a few into my cap. Perhaps the Yanks won’t shoot me if they see me wearing such flowers, for they are a sign of peace.’ ‘Capital,’ said I, ‘I will do the same.’ We plucked a bunch, and arranged the violets in our caps. The men in the ranks laughed at our proceedings, and had not the enemy been so near, their merry mood might have been communicated to the army.” –The Battle of Shiloh, 1862″ EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2004)

Stanley takes in the “holy calm of the woods”, for it was a Sunday. And he thought what a grand place for a picnic.

It’s hard to comprehend and appreciate the tragic beauty of a battlefield. Picasso created a work of art to express the cruel chaos of war: Guernica.

After the battles, Nature reclaims her own. The bodies are buried, the vines and grasses grow over, strip malls are constructed. The “raining death” of cannonball explosions is forgotten.

copy violet antietem

A small purple flower lives on. Perhaps the last beautiful thing a dying rebel boy or union soldier saw as he lay his head down for the last time on this violent earth.

Update: It’s the season for thinking of flowers–tilling the soil and planting the seeds. Even the astronauts high above the earth struggle with planting and nurturing their garden: Zinnias in Space

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Wave

 

wave still for post

What gets you up in the morning? Is it bringing up the sunrise? Is it greeting your sweet child? How about that loving and needy pet? What makes you happy to see another day? For us, right now in this time of life, it’s the beach. And the early morning sun on the water.

It’s a privilege to enjoy the beach early, when there are few, a hardy few, who make it out and about so early. Early birds and early dogs and their people move along, silent, as if in slow motion, before the crowds emerge.

It’s a great way to greet the day. Even on foggy and wet days, there’s a beauty about it. A rhythm and a rhyme. In. out. The steady breathing of the salt water pulled by the mysteries of the moon and movement of the earth. We breathe along with it. Inhale. exhale. The breath of life.

The beauty of mornings on the beach makes me want to write. Makes me want to paint. What ways do you find to express your gratitude for the beauty around you?

 

 

 

 

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Attachment and the Lingering Sun

Have you come up with your word or motto for 2016 yet? Many of the social media groups and coaches groups want us to proclaim one. Mine is: attachment.

My problems with attachment keep popping into my mind whenever I think about things that need to be discarded to make room for all our new “stuff”. Or when I think about things that are lost, or when we nearly lost a loved one recently.

I admit I have a problem with attachment, and non-attachment, letting go. I still miss our dog who has been gone for years. I miss certain houses and parents and kids and …you name it. If they’re not right here next to me, I’m missing them.

One of my favorite poems by James Kavanaugh captures that melancholy:

His imagery of watching the sun set over the ocean, remembering those he loves, rings true of the pull of attachment. He writes of wanting to gather his loved ones in his arms all at once. I love that image. A big group hug of everyone I love, all squashed together. That could be what heaven is like–everyone together laughing while our old dogs come running like pups, tails wagging, so happy to see us.

I first heard his poem read by someone with a lovely lilting Irish accent. When I read it, that is the voice I hear. Do you have a poem that has stayed with you, that you hear in your head? One that captures what you feel in your heart?

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Cultivate A Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset
                       Growth Mindset 

Do you have a growth mindset? Or are you stuck thinking in the same old way? With the same old ideas churning in your mind?

Sometimes, when you are still or quiet, you may notice something new. A little twinkle of an idea – maybe a new yearning. Something is tugging at the edges of your consciousness. This new idea can be annoying or it can be the sprout of growth.

You may be afraid that changing to a growth mindset* will require growth pains, lots of effort, grand changes to your life. There is effort involved, but embracing your growth mindset doesn’t mean you must reject your fixed mindset completely. Just quiet it a little, give it a rest. And while your fixed ideas and beliefs are on a time-out, let your desire for learning and exploring expand.

Where will your growth journey take you? Have you wanted to learn a new skill? A new language? Have you been wondering about the latest developments in food and nutrition? Is there a book of ideas you want to devour? So much is waiting for you out there in the big wide wonderful world. What can you do today to start growing?
*The idea of growth vs. fixed mindsets has been developed by Carol Dweck in her book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success 

 

 

 

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Revisiting Abundance and Scarcity

Dancing Through Darwin - Tree of Life

As I write this Thanksgiving post I am visiting a place that endures months of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit temps. I think about the contrast with where I was last year, enduring frigid temperatures and icy cold blasts of wind. Extremes. Endurance. Loss. Despair. Survival. Hope. Maybe hope. Please let us keep hope.

Hope can carry us forward. I don’t mean a political slogan of hope, thrown as an easy vote getter. I mean the down-and-dirty hope. Hope born of seeing the worst, and yet knowing that there is still something better. Something still worth fighting and living for–something that is inexpressible in words but known in a human heart.

In this time when the world faces a flood of refugees, let us remember the enduring refugee in us all. Let us keep in touch with, and be thankful for, that hopeful survivor inside each of us who unites us as humans.

Thanksgiving 2014: As I write this I’m visiting a place where the daytime temp is 16 degrees Farenheit and the sun barely appears this time of year. The locals are saying it’s a warm winter this year. Some people are thriving in this winter wonderland but a few of us find it hard to function in this kind of weather and our long-term survival would be questionable.

Have you ever been cold, I mean cold to the point where you couldn’t think about anything but how cold you were? And while you were in that state of almost-frozen, were you hungry also? Can you imagine some illness and death in the mix? Would you be able to care for yourself and others while you were cold, hungry and sick – and loved ones were dying? Add a bit or a bunch of despair in the mix and you have one big bucket of misery.

Centuries ago a band of separatists loaded a small boat, struck out across an ocean, and set their sights on surviving so that they could build a life worth living. They are not the only group to set out, striving to discover a new place and a new way of life. Polynesians, Vikings, Greeks, explorers from any culture leaving one world to embrace another. But that small group of English protestants, who lost almost half their number that first year, modeled a celebration that millions emulate each year. It was a celebration of abundance.

Usefulness of Creativity

Creativity in the service of survival is about rendering an existence and modeling a reality in which to survive. Is your gift the ability to write pleasant words, or paint pretty pictures? Can you use those words and pictures to bring yourself or a stranger out of despair?

Can you make body adornments, knowing you can also forge metal into a door hinge to keep out the cold?  Can you prepare lovely pies and casseroles while knowing you can kill and clean a protein source? Or forage non-poisonous plants to feed a family? Can you harvest honey to provide sweet fuel for hard labor? Most of us are not required to find out how creative we can be in hardship. But imagine being shoved out of your comfort zone, what could you do to help yourself or others to survive? And what would you do when you find you have survived and the scare and scarcity are over?

That creative streak you believe in, that ability to piece together a skill set, and that will to act – spring from somewhere deep in the communal human soul. It has enabled us to be here today.

That small band of cold, sick and hungry humans who braved hardship to establish what they saw as a better life, celebrated abundance with gratitude when their hardships eased.

Do you have a way to appreciate or celebrate abundance in your life? If you are stuck in the chill of inaction, thaw out your heart with some thoughts of confidence and trust in your creative process. Create gratitude art or experiment with metaphors of abundance. It may help you or someone else to survive.

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Enjoy the Ride

Enjoy the Ride
Don’t take your gift to the grave. I read that admonition online and it has lingered in my mind. Don’t take your GIFT to the grave.

 

Your gift. You have a gift. Is it something you received–you were given a gift? Or is it something you are giving–you are giving a gift to others? Have you ever been called “gifted”? Has anyone said to you “you have a gift for that”?

 

We are entering a season of gift giving. This year, think about the real gift you have to give. Open yourself to the possibilities that implies. Do you have the gift of grace or the gift of gab? Are you musically gifted? Artistically gifted? Maybe you have the gift of joyfulness. That’s a great one to share and oh-so-needed at this time of year.

 

 Many of us know what we are good at but we don’t think about others’ needing that very thing in their lives. Even though it’s sometimes shrouded, your gift is there and waiting to be set free into the world. Don’t take YOUR gift to the grave.
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Commit To Color

Color Is LifeColor Is Life

Our last meetup was a colorful success!  We painted birdhouses and explored the hold that some colors have on us and our emotions. Color surrounds us!

As an easy exercise choose one color today and try to see it in your environment–natural or man-made. Look for shades (color + black) or tints (color + white) of that particular color. Be aware of how that color affects you.

An awareness of how you respond to color can help you when decorating your home to add harmony and peace or excitement. Choosing the right earrings to bring out the color of your eyes, or the right lipstick to compliment your skin tone–that’s magic when done right!

Color is a powerful tool used by marketers, artists and stylists. And it’s a fun aspect of creative play. A few inexpensive bottles of acrylic paint and a few canvases or wood birdhouses and you have hours of creative exploration!

birdhouses

If you want to browse color groups, Jessica Colaluca has an amazing website of color palettes. As you scroll through you will likely find a palette or two that take your breath away. Bookmark her site to come back to when you need to choose colors for wall paints, clothing for a family portrait, or buying a new couch. We’re currently using her site in planning colors for a family wedding.

To all my unstuck creatives, we will have another color meetup soon. It’s a fun and useful topic and we have so much more to cover and learn. Stay in touch!

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the words poured out…

You sit at the computer or hold your pen suspended over a blank sheet of paper and wait…and wait…and…well, you wait some more. You wait for the inspiration, for the muse to visit, for the right words to come to you. You are stuck and that sucks. It’s frustrating and scary. “What if I can’t write? I’ll never be able to write what I want to say, the story I want to tell!” That is a common low point in a writer’s life.

Does that feeling ring true to you? Well, how about this feeling?:

“I feel joy when I’m writing well,” she continues, smiling. “I have my bad days, and I’m terrified of writer’s block. But in the end, the joy of finding even one good verb makes it all worthwhile.”

Those are the words of Harvard Medical School neurologist Alice Flaherty, who writes of her bouts of hypergraphia. So to understand the mania, imagine a day where you are struck with the compulsion to write. Continuously. Non-stop and non-deferential to any schedule or person. You. Must. Write. And keep writing.

Dr. Flaherty tells of her personal journey through grief after the death of her premature twins, when her family feared she would be engulfed in depression. But instead she burst into creativity. She helps us understand how our brains work. And how brain function affects creativity. She works with Dr. Shelley Carson, whom I introduced previously on this blog. They do fascinating research on creativity.

If the creative process is of interest to you, or if you just want to know why you struggle to get your writing or your art done, you may want to read more about their good work. Hypergraphia. It’s worth writing about.

Psychology Today

Interview

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Do You See With Your Eyes?

Do you see with your eyes? If you close your eyes, do you still see? The eyes and the idea of seeing are prominent in our culture, a very visual culture. From Tiresias, the mythological blind seer, to the little boy in the movie The Sixth Sense, we learn that not everyone sees the world in the same way.

Not long ago I stood with a friend looking upon a dry, golden California hillside. “It’s so dead!” she exclaimed. But I looked at this hill often, at all hours of the day and night. I saw it alive with deer, wild boar, a skunk, a family of partridge, and even a peacock! A circling hawk often hunted for a gopher or two. And a wild turkey once wandered from the hill and peered in our second story window! So I was seeing life at the same time she saw death.

Blossoming In The Desert

When you look out on the desert, what do you see? Like Georgia O’Keefe, our member Connie moved to the desert and is coming into her own–her own presence and her own power. If you have been one of the lucky ones to attend a visualization session led by Connie, you know that her work is immense and interesting!

 

She is a Two World Shaman, bringing to mind Joseph Campbell, mythology, ritual and symbolism. And she is willing to share some of her journey with us. Below is a post she wrote to help us understand her gift of “seeing” and how it can help inform our creative process. Please follow the link to her site to learn more about it. Thanks Connie for thinking of us!

 

Shamanic Methods Enhancing Art

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Facebook Public Domain Images

I can see what moves at the boundaries of the ordinary only by watching it from the corner of my eye; a direct gaze pushes it out of my reach. So I squint as long as I can. Using the same method, but in darkness with eyes forward, I stare into the candle flame. Both practices reveal weird and lovely images that only I can see!”

This game I played many times in girlhood helped me relax and halt adolescent angst. I called it CORNERING.

Today I recognize those practices as SEEING: viewing non – ordinary reality to expand perception and to contact inner resources for guidance and healing and to help others heal themselves. Most importantly,   I learned to use SEEING to access and develop my creativity.    DREAMING is an additional method of expanding perceptions in service of creating. People dream in sleep, while awake and in day dreams. All experience IS dreaming and with intent it can be used for the same creative purposes as SEEING.

Both techniques have other uses…that is for another time.

If you are interested in learning more about SEEING and DREAMING in the creation of art, please consider Shamanism and the Modern Artist Technicians of Ecstasy by Mark Levy (1993).

——-Connie Cox July 21, 2015©


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