Seal is too a Power Animal!

The seal as a power animal is both a land animal and a sea animal, symbolizing adaptability to the water and earth elements. Seal Energy taps into the intuitive while helping you to stay grounded. Some of the other qualities that it represents are playfulness, protection, imagination, strength, good luck, dreams and movement.

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My brother said that this seal looks “somber.” He added “…but who wouldn’t be with one’s habitat being destroyed and population dwindling.”

I told him that if he could see her in person he might think that she embodies power.

“The canvas is 24-inchesx24-inches,” I replied

He texted back, “Yes, I might have misspoken by using the word somber–maybe defiant (which could imply power) would be a better adjective.”

I texted back: “Interesting. I posted the photo on my artist page on Facebook. A friend wrote back: “He is so cute. He looks like he came out of a child’s story book. Beautifully done.”

I guess it is in how one sees it.

I didn’t plan to paint a seal. I didn’t plan to paint an animal. I mostly paint intuitively. I painted what emerged from the canvas and today, it is this seal.

I grew up by the ocean in San Francisco, CA. There was a big rock that we called Seal Rock because that’s where the seals loitered. There was a coin-operated tower viewer through which we could watch the seals as they clambered over the rock, as the waves dashed the rock, as the fog drifted in over the rock and hid it all from our sight.

According to Wikipedia

Seal Rock (or Seal Rocks) is a group of small rock formation islands in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District in western San Francisco, California. They are located just offshore in the Pacific Ocean, at the north end of the Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House and Sutro Baths ruins.”

As I type these words from Wikipedia, a nostalgia washes over me like a soft salty ocean wave. And then drifts across the sand into ocean’s memory. I knew these places and like the seals we grew up beside, we took them for granted. It’s often in memory that things take on a lovely patina and sometimes we linger there over the words and the images that they conjure. Lands End, Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Seal Rock–all in my backyard as we lived four blocks from Ocean Beach and The Great Highway that ran the length of the beach from the Sunset through the Richmond District. We rarely could see sunsets in the Sunset District. The fog was so thick! The foghorns played our nightly and daily lullaby.

We weren’t allowed to go to the beach on our own. As I got older, I got permission to take my younger siblings there. We walked from Moraga Street, crossed Lawton, Kirkham, then Judah where the streetcars ran. We turned down the street from 44th Avenue to 48th Avenue. At Judah and 48th, there was a tunnel which ran under the Great Highway. We ran through the tunnel, screaming, our voices echoing. The tunnel smelled of urine and the ocean. We probably ran and screamed to chase off any unsavory characters who might be lurking nearby. And then, like a light at the end of life’s tunnel, there was the ocean big, bold and vast. We were so small beside her.

When I was a young mom, I used to take my daughters to Ocean Beach and we’d sit on a cement wall gazing out to sea having our hot chocolate in thermoses with doughnuts. We would sit beside the mesmerizing ocean. The constancy of the waves, the intrusion of the foghorns, the taste of salt on our lips mixing with the bittersweet chocolate. People of all ages and sizes bundled against the cold, running, walking their dogs, walking with a companion or alone. I never really felt alone when I walked solo beside the ocean. I considered the ocean like a mother to me. Familiar and all-embracing.

Memories…a friend is writing her memoir. Mine would be wrapped in sea salt, waves, barking seals, my siblings, fog, and yearning.

This painting of a seal has taken me back in time and conjured up these memories.

A Scene

Landscape drawing and painting is a whole other territory, no pun intended.  It is one area where I’ve only started to scratch the surface of what there is to know and put into practice.  There I was, on the McCloud River one sunny day.  The elephant ear plants, the rocks crowding the scene, the greenish color of the water–how on earth does an artist begin to capture this?

In a sense, making art is all about impression.  What is the feeling I get when I see this sight in nature?  How do I want to show a river, contained yet in motion?  So I play…with form, light, shadow, image, movement, whimsy.  And while it looks nothing like the original setting, it has an energy about it that I appreciate.

I framed this painting and it sat in a gift shop for at least one year.  Then, they gave it back to me as it hadn’t sold.  I stashed it…until a couple of months ago.

But WAIT!  It wasn’t done!

It went from this…to this.  I named her River Goddess.  When I put this piece in a members only art exhibit at a local gallery, it sold within one week!  I knew that she would sell.  A man, a lawyer, who’d never visited the gallery before purchased the painting.  He was on a tour of the gallery with his rotary club.

Any artist’s journey with a painting is a distinct experience.  It is a tender relationship. Something unique is brought forth through you.  It’s an honor to share in the creative process.  I really do believe that it’s accessible to everyone.

What are your thoughts…how do you invoke your creativity?

Grouse

Why Grouse?  This bird signifies the Sacred Spiral Dance in the Native American Tradition.  According to author, Jamie Sams in her book, Medicine Cards:

“Many spiritual disciplines ask that you cease all external movement in order to recognize the inner life.  Grouse medicine, however, is an invitation to the dance.  Grouse celebrates the Divine Source through its sacred spiral dance…you can spend a lifetime learning…how to harmonize your dance with…” the cycles of the earth.

Jamie Sams recommends that you “Analyze the way you move through your world…In the final analysis, is your movement compatible with your greatest desires and goals?”

It is interesting to consider these things in this time of slowing down and sheltering in place.  How do I conduct my dance when I’m at home, alone?  Or in relation to my
family or housemates?  Or out in nature?  Or when social distancing with a friend on a trail?  Or when on a Zoom Call?  Or when in conversation over the telephone?  This forced slowing down is an opportunity for me, for you to observe how we move in the world in the midst of a pandemic.  And, how are we going to choose to move in the world when the virus has run its course?  Is it going to be different?  Reverential perhaps?

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What did this painting mean to me?  At the time I painted it?  Of course, it’s whimsical.  I typically use an actual image, or several images, of who or what I’m painting to ground it in some recognizable reality.  Then, it becomes fanciful.  I call this Grouse Takes a Walk.  Doesn’t he look purposeful.  And even like he himself is a celebration of being.

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Thomas Berry talks about The Great Story.  He talks about life celebrating itself.  The universe loving expressiveness through all of its variety of manifestations.  That’s what I feel when I look at this grouse!  CELEBRATION.

The question for me is how am I harmonizing with a celebratory universe?  Or, am I adding to the devastation of our earth home within the universe?  I feel that these are the questions that are before us in this time of pandemic.  What am I going to do differently to preserve our earth home for future generations?  I feel that this is our job at this time, to give this some serious thought.

“…the universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event.”

THOMAS BERRY,

from “Returning to Our Native Place,” in The Dream of the Earth p. 5

What Do You See?

As a writer, how do you PRACTICE describing what you see?

Following is one of my favorite poems that illustrates deeply seeing and then portraying what the poet observes.

Nude Descending a Staircase
© 1961 by X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
that parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
her slow descent like a long cape
and pausing on the final stair,
collects her motions into shape.
I appreciate this poem because it not only succinctly describes a nude woman walking down the stairs, it creates an imagery whereby I, as the reader, also see her.  And, in her descent of the staircase, I note the action of her walking, the movement.  This is a great feat in poetry.
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We’ve seen artists with their pencils and art journals sketching what they see.  As a writer, do you practice writing word sketches?  These word sketches can be used later on in other writing that you do or to simply facilitate your ability to observe.  Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Writing Prompt:
Here’s  fun exercise.  Take yourself outdoors to a park bench and sit with your pen, a  journal and notice people, your surroundings, the array of dogs?  Find the precise words to describe the flowers, trees, any movement.  What adjectives or metaphors come to mind as you allow yourself to really see someone or something?  Jot them down.  Practice doing a word sketch…or several.
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Thank you to X.J. Kennedy for permission to print his poem.
“From In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press), copyright 2007 by X. J. Kennedy.  By permission of the author.”

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!

Reminding You Once Again…

THAT YOU TOO HAVE A BODY!

Why am I bringing this up again?  Because I needed to remember.  As a writer, I have an infatuation with what I’m writing.  Some days, it’s more like a full-blown love affair.  One path leads to another…the infinite possibilities unfold.  The mind with its cornucopia of delightful discoveries, corners to turn, ideas to share!

However, that said, I forgot, once again, that I have a body with needs besides food, drink and rest.

My body needs and thrives on movement.  When I grant this request, everything in me is refreshed and my body feels celebrated. I enjoy walking in nature, some types of yoga, qi gong, tai chi and dance.  What about you?  Have you remembered to meet your body’s requirements for movement?

 

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When it comes to dance , another favorite is THE WAVE popularized by GABRIELLE ROTH.  Google it.  The Five Rhythms explores core rhythms of life itself–Flow, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Check it out.  Perhaps there are corresponding rhythms with writing.  What do you think?

Movement Prompt:  Ask your body self what it craves as far as physical activity right now.  Pay attention.  It’s so worth it!