Duck Whimsy

I love this painting even today.  It touches me in a way that I don’t expect.  The original image was in a nature magazine.  I portray it in my own whimsical style.  The black and white of the duck, the furry duckling going for a ride, the shadow on the water and the background of total colorful whimsy–I find them entrancing…and fun.

When you enter into a painting, when you are so engaged that everything else in your life and the world falls away, if only for a few moments, you are in the creative vein.  What a special timeless place to dwell.  What a gift.  This is something artists and writers share and understand deeply.  Everyone has the ability to enter, but not everyone does.  It saddens me to hear someone say that they don’t have a creative bone in their body.  I know otherwise.  I truly do.  Many of us over the course of our lives stand on the precipice of our own creative vein.  But we don’t take the leap.  Why not?  “I’m not an artist,” is the refrain.  Or, “I’m not good at that.”  I disagree.

duckfour (1)

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If you dare to take my dare…find a magazine with images.  Choose one that you like.  Start with something easy.  Trace over the image a few times.  Get a sense of what it feels like to trace this particular image.  Then, draw the image on a piece of paper, in a notebook, whatever you have.  Draw it today, draw it tomorrow, draw it everyday for one or two weeks.  Notice the lines in the image.  See if you can spot shapes.  Notice the lines and shapes in relation to one another.  Let your hand practice drawing what you see.  For it is in showing up and practicing that we get good at something.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Let it be your perspective, the way that only you see it, that guides your hand.

Engage with it and notice where you go.

Stay safe and healthy.

The Dreamcatcher

Years ago, I wove hundreds of dreamcatchers.  It was a very challenging time in my life.  I don’t remember how I discovered the dreamcatcher…but when I did, I found that designing and weaving them was healing and engaging in a way that I hadn’t expected.  I gathered supplies, hoops, twigs, willow, waxed threads, leather strips, feathers and beads.  Each dream catcher was a unique creation.  For me, this indigenous craft held deep meaning…and they were to be shared.  I gave one to each of my family members.  A man I met had a booth at a local flea market.  He sold them, keeping a profit for himself.  What they provided for me in the moment was without price.

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Tracy Verdugo taught a class on painting dream catchers.  And then invited us to write a poem.  This poem is written around the outside circle of the dreamcatcher.

Destiny

Lace and ribbons
decorate the frock.
“Forget the dreams.
Get back to the kitchen
and bake me a pie!”
Banish your fantasy of
happy couples and
floral bouquet apologies.

Re-enter the Goddess–
no partial woman is she!
So, you are somebody
after all.
Tell us what you know.
Emergence is what you requested–
sit down and let’s talk over tea.

A wedge of lemon?  Honey?
Ah, the bitter with the sweet.
This you must experience
for yourself.

Lace and ribbons,
wedding day vows–
disguise your sovereign destiny.

 

 

dreamcatcher

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A dreamcatcher is an indigenous symbol–a web, often with a hole in the center.  It is intended to let the bad dreams pass through and to catch the good dreams.  The dreams that guide you towards your highest visions.

There is both power and presence when we create.  What is the dream of the future that you’d like to paint, color, draw, sculpt or weave?  Make your own dream catcher using collage and paint.  Are there words or poetry that go with it?  Write them on your work of art.  Get lost in this process.  Invite others to participate in making their own dreamcatchers.  Share in ways that are available to you at this time.

Stay healthy and safe.

Cycles of Creation

“The cycle of creation, of rising and falling energy, is as it should be. In this sense there is no such thing as creative block, or writers block. There is a time when creative energy flows like a river underground and disappears for a time, in the meantime making something, creating a new body, and then emerging again.”

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I have known this to be true from my own experience.  When people talk of writer’s block or tell me that they are not inspired, I remind them of this.  That what we perceive as a block or a lack of inspiration only means that we have entered what I term the fertile void.  In this place, the material of the deep psyche is mingling with your life experiences and your soul quest.  It is in this place that something new is brewing.

Within the fertile void, there is a sort of amnesia.  Even the very things that I’ve been passionate about don’t arouse the energy to bring them to fruition.  And, I lose direction of where to go next with these passionate ideas.  Desolate and aimlessly wandering, I face frustration and lack impetus.  In those times, if I can remember that this too is part of the creative cycle, I might find some relief.  Learning to recognize and trust the creative process at such times, is helpful and hopeful.

This point of seeming stuckness in the creative cycle is not something that needs to be solved.  We see it mirrored in  the wiles and cycles of nature.  If we live in a place with four seasons, we are especially privy to these cycles.  Within her blossoming spring, simmering summer and picturesque autumn, we see momentum and purpose.  Then, that immobilizing frigid winter comes and there is limitation, slowing, hunkering down, waiting it out and inward searching.  When I remember to welcome the winter, I am privy to her gifts.  This fallow time of rest, going inside literally and figuratively,  allowing the integration, rather than resisting it helps.  Winter, this seemingly inert time, is vital to the creative process.  It is not only restorative, it harbors the potential of spring.

This does not mean that I am unproductive during the time of inwardness.  Instead, I can work on creative projects that I’ve stashed away…things like knitting or sewing or cooking a gourmet meal to share.  I might clear out some old files that really do feel stagnant.  I might study something new or even learn Spanish–a promise I’ve made to myself.

How do you experience the fallow time?  What resources do you call on to see you through?

 

Sometimes, it is just practice

a bright idea, a rush of enthusiasm…these spark you and you begin to write and then…nothing…flat…blah…halt.  a false start.  the flow is gone and you put the poem or manuscript in the bottom drawer of your file cabinet…the shame pile…more unfinished work!

what if it was just a momentary thing.  not meant to be a love affair of any note or a long term relationship.  can you accept that?  could you even shred it?

For me, these false starts are a way of moving the energy.  As a writer, especially one who writes almost daily, I am open and available to ideas that zoom in…and then often they zoom out without coming to fruition and completion.  Not every idea has to be developed.

One question to ask of yourself is…”Do I always need a product?”

Sometimes, writing is just practice to facilitate your process.  You jot down the bright ideas, but you’re already working on something that is going somewhere. When you get to a stuck place in your life’s work writing, you can get easily distracted by yet another brilliant idea.   You then get waylaid from your story that has to be told, the one that you deeply desire to complete in this lifetime.  These engaging nova star ideas that race across your mind are a way to keep the channels open while you wait for what’s next in your great work.  You follow the star–and then, it plummets.  Nothing.  Nowhere to go with it.  Oh yes, where were you with the project at hand?  Get back to it.

These fleeting ideas show me that I’m in the flow, receptive and available.  I wrote it down, followed its lead and then realized that it is going to land in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet.  Perhaps I’m going to pick it up again one day and follow it further.  Or, I’m going to shred it immediately after I write it although the temptation to keep it is there as what I’ve written so far is, to my thinking, splendid.  These little writing flings…sigh.

 

 

The Stone’s Story

I do not for a second believe it when someone says to me: “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”  Or, “I didn’t get that gene.”

Like anything that one values, your own brand of creativity needs attention.  If you show up and pay attention, inspiration is everywhere and the point where you and inspiration intersect is a creative opportunity.  Creativity isn’t about perfection or making a painting or drawing like someone else.  It’s about tapping into your own unique expression.  And it takes DARING.  Especially in the beginning.  Below is an invitation to you to dare to be creative in a way that is unique to you.  Yes, you get to foster your own creativity!  Have fun.

In her book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, artist/author Adriana Diaz, offers a guided meditation, drawing and writing exercise with a stone or river rock that you select
as your object and subject.  She calls it “The Counsel of Stone.”  Have you ever journeyed with a stone?  Have you considered the stories it holds, the messages it conveys?  I have.  You are invited to follow suit, if you choose.

Stone Consciousness
© by Christine O’Brien

I know loneliness
a stone separated
from it’s streambed
My particular glamour
is less appealing here
Or, residing here for nine years,
have I become part of the wallpaper
unseen, too familiar
Like this displaced stone
am I commonplace
or too old
This stone a misshapen buddha
solitary bodhisattva
witness to its own cleaving
remembering the whole
What dissension shattered humankind
into this separation
Lonely and separate as this scarred stone
praised for its cool detachment
who cares to hear
the untold encrypted story

A star has fallen
to the bottom of the sea
fossilized
while a starfish rises into
the darkening sky
alternating realities
God is in us
is all right with the world
Has the stone learned compassion
Is that the panacea for such loneliness

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Go ahead and find your  stone and seek its counsel.  Study it from every side, notice its angles and curves, any markings, hold it in your palm, draw it, meditate with it, write about what is revealed to you in a poem or prose.  Just do it!

Share here under comments if you like.

The Mournful Moon

Conversing with the moon. Have you noticed how she shines fully and boldly on everyone across the planet?  We all share the same moon!  That really is profound when you consider it.  We witness her fullness and watch as she wanes, then seemingly hides over the course of her cycle.

Today, where I live, she is mournful.  (Alright, that’s my attempt at personification, for perhaps it’s me who is mournful.)  It seems that most humans don’t see her as anything other than a lonely, cold flat disk in the sky, without purpose.  There is so much ignorance.  She is not included in the daily conversation with humans anymore…as if she wasn’t even there.  They don’t consult her.  When shall we plant the new crop, and then when is the best time to harvest?  Very few humans ask her opinion or search the sky to collaborate with her.  They rarely notice her influence on ocean tides (perhaps a few old salts (sailors) do.

moon.concerned..jpg

Except for some women who refer to their monthly menstruation cycle as their moon time.  Perhaps a few of these women take a time out as was practiced by indigenous cultures.  Those cultures recognized a woman’s moon time as a time of exceptional power and vulnerability.

Except for poets.  Poets find a purpose for the moon.  The moon has always inspired poetry.  Poets remind us that the moon exists as more than a lost disk floating in the vast and starry sky.

To The Moon
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth, –
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Except for astrologers too.  Astrologers love the moon.  That dimensional and soulful orb.  The moon, womanly, intuitive, concealing and revealing.  Her mystery…or is she a “he”, the man in the moon?
Why do we put the moon outside the limits of our lives when we all share the same moon?  Actually, the same sun, the same air, the same water…the same planet–our earth home.  Spaceship earth–according to one Buckminster Fuller, architect, systems theorist, author, inventor, futurist.  I’m getting off track here.
Except for songwriters too, they love the moon.
Writing Prompt:
What about you?  How do you relate to the moon?  Follow your whims, your train of thought and write about the moon.

Photos Are Evocative

A flat tire over the weekend with no possibility of repair until Monday, I was on foot.  I recommend it…not the flat tire, but walking through your neighborhood.  When I spied this “doggie in the window,” I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and took a few photos.  This one tugged at my heart.  I could certainly make up a story around it.  Would I write it from the dog’s perspective?  The owner’s?  My own?  Hmmm.  It’s really all my own, no matter which perspective I choose.  Or, I could paint it…

doginthewindow.2018.jpg

There is nothing like a visual to evoke a memory, a feeling or some other emotional response.

Writing Prompt:
If you were going to use this image as inspiration for your writing today, how would you begin?  Does it inspire a poem, perhaps?  Write it!

The Point of Inspiration–The Closing

How do you bring a short story to a satisfying conclusion.  A short story is by one definition “a slice of life.”  The audience enters at a certain point and exits at another point and we assume the story continues beyond our point of exit.  Yet the reader looks for an ending to this exposition, this portion of the larger ongoing story.

The Point of Inspiration (Part 3 of 3)
© by Christine O’Brien

Fifteen years later, she was a hazy memory.  He once thought he loved her but was now convinced that he only wanted to express himself creatively.  She afforded him this avenue.  Decorating cakes for special occasions became his secret obsession.  By August of that summer, he had invested in a cake decorator’s starter kit.  He bought cake circles and boards, a turntable, one plain and one patterned side scraper, an acrylic board (recommended) and a rolling pin.  And, of course, a set of crimpers, a cake smoother, brushes, parchment paper triangles, a flower nail.  Every hue of icing colors, piping gel, spatulas, stencils and the icing tubes and tips.  He practiced piping congratulatory words, fluting flowers and leaves, scrolls, ripples.  He bought instructional DVDs from cake decorating sororities the world over.  He sketched the spires of Bryce Canyon (where he’d first met her) on large sheet cakes when he could think of a valid reason to do so.  He did return to his job as a firefighter.  You’d never catch him with frosting on his turnout coat.

Writing Prompt:
I invite you to write about a secret revelation.  How do you build a story?  One that creates a bit of suspense and then the surprise conclusion when you reveal what was hidden?

 

The Point of Inspiration–Story Development

There are many ways to propel a story forward.  The physical action of the characters creates movement.  Dialogue creates revelation…who are these people…let them tell you through their words and actions.  And, descriptive narrative assists the forward motion of the story.  Image detail engages the senses.

The Point of Inspiration (Part 2 of 3)
© by Christine O’Brien

She trolled her blue Volvo along the main road, pulling off at the various lookout points.

“That’s Thor’s Hammer,” she said pointing to a top-heavy stone protrusion.

“The thunder god,” he offered to show her that he had a degree of mythological literacy.

They continued on to Bryce Point and the delicate Wall of Windows.  She took him down a trail or two, asking occasionally how he was doing.  Did he need water or want to rest.

When the sun was near setting, she asked him where he was staying.

“Don’t know yet,” he answered truthfully.

There and then she said “I’m going to bake you a cake.”

They returned to her suite at the lodge.

“I work here from April through October,” she told him in explanation.

“As what, a tour guide?”

“No, I’m the head pastry chef.  I actually have a staff that bakes the cakes.  I decorate them according to the occasion and my inspiration.  You might say that I take cake decorating to a new level.  People come here to get married, celebrate an anniversary, birthday, all of those special human occasions.  And a few odd ones like this older couple who ordered a cake to celebrate their newly acquired false teeth!”

He was definitely drawn to this brawny woman with a flair for cake decorating.  He was surprised to hear himself ask, “Can I watch?”

He lingered at the lodge, sharing her room through spring and into summer.  He told her he was on a medical leave from his job for a few months.

“What job,” she asked.

“Firefighter,” he said gruffly.

“A job with a lot of risk,” she said admirably.

By the end of July, she told him that their fling was sweet and that it was over.

“Time to move on,” she said.

To irk her, he added “to greener pastures.”

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Do you know these characters a little better?  Can you see how the story is being developed?  Can you guess what the secret revelation is?  Post what you think under comments!

The Point of Inspiration…the Opening

How do you begin a short story?  It helps to have a good idea, one that has sparked your own curiosity and imagination.

Sometimes, as in this case, it can start with a class assignment.  Several years ago, a writing instructor offered this prompt…Write about a secret revelation.  Does that get your imagination going?  It did for me.

At the time, I had become fascinated by the spires of Bryce Canyon (having come across a photo of them in a magazine).  That seemed like a good opening, a starting place.  And, perhaps, a good way to capture my reader’s attention.

The Point of Inspiration (in 3 parts)
© by Christine O’Brien

     She was either to blame or to be credited for his secret passion.  It was certainly a fate of sorts, meeting her below the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

Pointing upwards and to the east, she handed him her binoculars, saying “That’s Inspiration Point.”

And then, in a quick breath almost inaudible, “Do I inspire you?”

“What did you say?” he asked shaking his head as if he had water in his ears.

Swiftly, she changed the subject “Have you been here before?”

“Never,” he answered.

“How about I be your tour guide for the day?  I know these spires like, like…”

“…the back of your hand,” he offered.

“I was looking for an original metaphor,” she said.  “I hate cliches.”

“Cliche or otherwise, I’m all yours,” he said, noting her muscled calves and tall sturdy frame, a spire herself he found himself momentarily thinking in metaphors.

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Does this opening make you curious to know more?  About the characters?  About where this story is going?  How is it going to lead to a secret revelation?  If it has caught your interest, then, it’s done what was intended.  It has hooked you as the reader.