Why Am I Here?

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to contemplate this existential question. Today, Thursday, October 29th, 2020 as I go about this day. I’ve decided to put that question at the forefront of my mind. I want to be with it as I weave in and out of the daily activities and encounters. It’s not as if I expect to find a final or definitive answer. It’s more like a present day review that addresses the question: Am I living what I value?

Waking up to a pristinely beautiful autumn day, I might answer “Perhaps I’m here to see and appreciate this inordinate beauty.”

As I sip my morning smoothie made with the abundant fruit harvest, “Maybe I’m here to express gratitude for such nourishing abundance.”

As I stand under a stream of hot running water, taking my morning shower, “More gratitude as I realize this is a privilege, not a right and that there are many others who don’t have running water, hot or cold.”

“Why am I here?” the question echoes and follows me around like a curious puppy discovering the world.

As I wield a paintbrush or write this blog, “Perhaps I’m here to be a creative channel.” And then,
to share my observations and art with others.

Then, as I go out into the world encountering others, it could be that I’m here to be the best version of myself. And to welcome the best version of you, the other.

As I strive to live my personal values, going out into the world, is what I stand in and up for recognizable to you? And do I meet you at that level, recognizing your uniqueness and what you stand in and up for?

Are we each here to welcome ourselves and one another into this grand, crazy, wild, chaotic, uninhibited expression of life!

I feel that one big reason I’m here (or that anyone is here) is to establish right reciprocal relationship with nature which includes us. Yesterday, in a telephone conversation with one of my brothers, he was feeling distress regarding the distancing between nature and people who live in big cities. He said that they have no sense of where their food comes from, how electricity is supplied, nor awareness of the interdependence and relationship between themselves and nature. The “city person” expects these essentials to be delivered to their doorstep. “They are spoiled,” he said. I have been a city person for most of my life. For the past twenty-two years, I’ve lived in the mountains. I do agree that there is a disconnect. And isn’t it then, up to each person to find that missing piece in their lives and reestablish right relationship?

In this time of Covid, there is a common theme of separation and isolation. It has been forced on us by the virus. Yet, if we could begin to re-establish connection to nature, maybe we’d feel less lonely. And, really, as I quest for an answer to why I’m here, I might remember that humans are social animals. And while there is a need for separation at this time, we are a chorus. We need each other. And it is through relationship that we remember why we’re here. For ourselves, for one another. There is a wholeness when you and I meet that can’t be fabricated in solitude. We are born alone and we exit in that way. However, while we’re here, we join our voices, fight for common causes based in our values and play outdoors in nature as often as possible.

For today, I’m going to keep it small…make the question a tiny one that sits there as I quietly observe myself and how I influence life and how life is influencing me.

There’s something else that is coming through powerfully as the day goes on. In this lifetime, I was born a woman. And with that comes a whole other question. I am a witness to how the world I’m born into disfavors women. How it disallows her innate rights of being. How it has enslaved or made women lesser than men in so many ways. Why am I here can be reframed into “Why am I here as a woman?” Is the world ready for women to be all that they can be, in their true power and dignity? I think that it’s about time. What do you think?


Note: I wrote this in October of last year…I decided that today is a good day to publish it as I reconsider my initial question Why am I here?”

Ecology

Why is ecology important? Ecology is the basis for a state of one’s personal and global well-being.  It recognizes the interdependence between people and nature (which includes us)  that is vital for food production, maintaining clean air and water, and sustaining biodiversity especially notable during this time of climate change.

Why is biodiversity important?  Each life form adds to an environment that works for many.

“Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.”

I might think I’m an independent person.  But if I consider everything that sustains me…water, air, food, sunshine and how all those things are delivered to me…I’d soon realize how very dependent I am.  Interdependence sounds better.  But it can only be effective if I live in a reciprocal way.  Not just taking things in…but giving back and sharing the bounty with others.  And respecting and caring for the source, the resources.

Many humans seem to think that they stand outside their environment.  I mean, they might live in a house or housing.  They might have a garden or a few plants on a balcony.  They might live in the city or a rural area.  Yet, they often think that they are separate from their environment.  That the effect of one on the other isn’t important.  There is also the peculiar notion that nature has to be dominated and that “humans know best.”

I wonder how we awaken to this interdependence and the need for reciprocity.  I wonder how corporate interests can continue to do irresponsible logging of tropical forests and fracking or dredging for oil.  I wonder how they don’t seem to consider the ways that this is impacting the local wildlife, the indigenous peoples there.  How it is drastically affecting climate change and that across this beautiful earth, we are all going to suffer for this irresponsibility.  Neither the very poor nor the very wealthy, neither the ignorant nor the very wise, neither kings, queens nor presidents are going to be spared if we don’t gather our wits and understand this vital relationship soon.

Ocean in Abstract

abstractocean1

This abstract was done in a class with artist, Laly Mille.  I divided the 9″x12″ 140# watercolor paper into four triangles.  They can be cut into individual paintings if I so choose.  When I look at this abstract painting today, I think I would leave it as an ocean study.  In my thinking, abstract equals the artist’s impressions of a subject.

There are the colors that I’ve associated with the ocean.  There is, perhaps, a horizon line.  There could be rock formations not far from the shoreline.  And there is definitely sky.  With clouds.  A mood is created.

When I present an abstract painting, I don’t like to discuss it very much.  I like it to stand alone, to represent what it represents and to allow the viewer to be drawn into it and have their own interpretation.  To encourage the viewer to fabricate a story around my impressions of the ocean.

 

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?

Possible, Impossible

I revived this poem from two years ago because it feels even more relevant today!

Sonnet #3
© by Christine O’Brien

Possible, impossible, a constant weave
Do we have control over where we go?
When the powers that be cause us to grieve,
Can we grab the reins, redirect the flow?

When so-called leaders don’t know how to lead
When ambassadorship, isn’t their forte
Why do we entrust what we hold sacred
to those who lead us to certain “muerte“?

Resources are finite, global warming, fact
Denial has been a way of life too long
We are coming up against our earth’s lack
How can she provide when we ignore her song?

This regime cannot withstand the earth’s dream
She will have her way as they sit and scheme.

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Why is there a battle between humankind and nature?  Didn’t we arise from nature and doesn’t nature include us as some wise persons have noted?  When do we decide to heed the warnings and begin to turn things around?

Project Drawdown is a ray of hope today.  Have you heard of it?  Following is a short clip that gives a glimpse into the possible.  What’s impossible is the direction we’ve been going.

The following clip is about 1-1/2 minutes long.  Paul Hawkens is the speaker.

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Here’s my invitation to you.

  • Make yourself a cup of your favorite tea.
  • Have a pen and pad handy.
  • Google “YouTube video of Project Drawdown” or Paul Hawken (he is one of the spokespersons for this project).
  • There are several videos of varying length.
  • Choose one.
  • Listen deeply and take notes.
  • Is there anything that connects with you?
  • Is there anything that is spoken that arouses your concern, interest or passion?
  • Consider learning more about it.
  • Begin talking to others about it.
  • Is there the possibility of forming a circle with others with similar concerns?
  • Is there an immediate action that you want to take?  A group action?

I believe that it’s possible to change a direction if we act soon.

Monet

monet.final

A few years ago, a friend invited me to one of those sip wine and paint gatherings in a large open rented studio space.

“Today, we paint like Monet did in his garden!” our artist teacher announced.

The instructor was so confident that we could carry this off.  I was less so.  Looking at this painting, would you think of Monet and his pond in the Garden at Giverny?  Tell the truth?  If you put the paintings beside one another…you would quickly see that I rebelled and went off in my own direction.  The teacher might have been a little disgruntled.  The other students tried to find something “nice” to say about it.  I could tell they didn’t approve of my rebel stand.  Wasn’t I supposed to do it better, closer to the original, follow instructions?

Truth is that I liked what I painted.  It made me happy.  I had to listen to that inner voice that said, try this, try that.  Break the rules.  So I did!

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Last month, I took a class called Expressive Bouquets taught by fine artist, Sherry Lynch Woodward.  The wannabee Monet painting above transformed into this mixed media painting of a bouquet of flowers.

expressivebouquet.collage3

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It’s wise to be open to change.  In our art and in our lives.  Not an easy thing it seems.  But then, what choice do we have.  Resist it or flow with it.

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This video offers a little sanctuary in these chaotic times.  Take a few minutes to be with it.  I’ve played it more than once.

Everyone Needs an Ally

angel

This painting was prompted by a class in Paint Your Heart and Soul. Not initially knowing what a painting wants to express, I allow the images to show their presence.
I added the wolf and turned the figure into an angel.

What was new to me in this class was learning how to paint a lacy dress.  I couldn’t imagine how an artist could imply lace fabric.  I’m not 100% pleased and I appreciated acquiring a new art tool.  Another painting challenge for the artist is PAINTING HANDS!  I remember the painstaking effort to paint this one arm and hand.  I was pretty pleased at the time and by no means have I come close to mastering hands.  Sometimes an artist, not wanting to take the time and effort it requires to paint a hand let’s it disappear off the page, in a pocket, or hidden behind a skirt or another shielding object–a bouquet of flowers, a table or anything that fits with the painting.

This angel has an ally.  He is an ethereal wolf…part of the night, yet real to her as she is real to him.

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In 2018, I encountered a gray wolf as I was driving down the mountain from Bunny Flat.  I had visited a new friend who was camping there.  We spent a sweet time together getting to know each other.  The vista was smudged by smoke from surrounding fires.  At this higher elevation, the air was breathable.  At one point she offered to lead me through a qigong set.  I agreed.  For the next twenty minutes, we moved our bodies in harmony with the nature around us.  A magical time.

I left her well before the sun set.  As I was rounding a curve in the road, I spied a large animal not very far ahead.  He seemed to be in no great hurry.  I slowed the car.  As happens, my brain tried to comprehend what this creature was.  Bear, no.  Dog, no.  What’s that in his mouth?  Finally, as I drew closer, my mind settled on a gray wolf with another rather large animal in his mouth!  He slipped down the side of a slight slope.  I pulled my car into the space beside the road.  I got out of the car, no fear only wonder.  I watched as he slowly meandered off into the shrubbery and trees.

The sense of wonder I felt stayed with me for a long time.  A visitation from a rare animal has meaning for me.  In the Native American Tradition, wolf is a teacher.  From Jamie Sams book, Medicine Cards:  “Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine.”

When I returned home, I googled the Gray Wolf.  I remembered reading that the Gray Wolf had crossed the border into northern California a couple of years before.  They were being tracked and protected by a team of rangers.  Their exact whereabouts were kept a secret so as to avoid hunters.  Then the team lost track of the sly wolves.   How fortunate I was to see one of these amazing beings that memorable day.

To Dream

There was a brief period when I chronicled my dreams.  Waking in the morning, I religiously wrote them in a dream journal.  I then proceeded to extract the meaning as best I could.  I had a book of dream symbols…but I often felt that a packaged interpretation missed the mark, that the real message intended for me and my specific circumstances was within me.  It helped when I sat with the dream and allowed the meaning to reveal itself.  Some dreams were a bundle of images, like a slideshow of sorts.  It seemed that these dreams were a way of processing too much information.  Other dreams, definitely had a metaphorical meaning for me to discover.

IMG_9885

I relish dreams.  I feel that they help with deep integration.  They offer something I might only realize or acknowledge in non-ordinary reality, i.e., in the dream state.  There, in the dream world, it fits.  It offers something that I might not otherwise get close to touching.  Extracting a meaning, I then bring it forward into my ordinary reality.

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Then, there are the dreams that take the form of aspirations.  That is what this painting evolved from.  What does one aspire to?  What arises from the depth and calls us forward?  Something in us that wants to be seen, heard, somehow acknowledged.  A once-upon-a-time dream that was, perhaps, mislaid along life’s path.  And now, it calls again, resurrects itself into the current day and your awareness.

In these times of global pandemic, perhaps there is a barely formed dream coming to your awareness.  An outside of the box aspiration that is being created as you engage this present reality.  Staying open when you want to be overly protective isn’t easy.  And yet, a new way of seeing and being is trying to emerge.

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This morning, I considered the idea of dreaming the future as some Indigenous cultures do with the aid of spirit guides.  In our society, there is so much disconnect with nature that it is likely difficult for us to align with it and dream a better future.  That said, perhaps this time away, time apart could be used for that purpose…quieting oneself, connecting deeply to nature and dreaming the future better.

Life to Art

Iris

In Spring, the bulbs that have been seemingly asleep underground, poke their heads up through the crusty earth.  Where I live, it’s usually the crocus first.  Then the daffodils.  Next, the tulips.  Finally, the irises.  Several years ago, I planted tulips and irises along the path in the front yard.  Probably not the best decision as there’s a lot of hopping over them by me and any guests who come to visit.  That said, they are there and make their appearance when conditions are right.

This painting was actually based on a photo of a little iris growing beside this path.  The tightness with which it held its bud form was noted.  The very next day, I was shocked (in a good way) to see that it had burst open overnight.

iris

 

 

Like a trumpet sound, it was impossible to ignore.  A beautiful declaration to be noticed and appreciated!

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A bulb holds promise, doesn’t it?  Years ago, I moved into a house in the San Francisco Bay Area with my family.  When we had first seen the house, before we purchased it, I had noticed the abundance of flowers in the backyard…it must have been springtime.  Months later, the flowers had come and gone.  Digging in the backyard, I found all of these gnarly brown flaky things in the soil.  I had no idea that I was tossing bulbs away, the flowers that I had witnessed in the spring.  When I think back on this, I feel sad…I didn’t know.

These days I plant bulbs and look forward to the glorious gift packaged within each tight little knot as it prepares to share its glory!

The garden, nature, is a source of inspiration to artists across time.  It’s no surprise.  Witnessing beauty, our hearts are uplifted.  The artist finds a way to render this beauty…there are so many ways.  I wonder what it is that leads one from observation of beauty to the desire to paint or portray it.  Maybe it’s a desire to preserve it and the feeling that it gave when you first witnessed it.  Or maybe it’s a desire to share it with others.  Perhaps it’s instinctual to want to capture it in an artistic way–to claim it more deeply.  I wonder.

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Sheltering in place, many more people are buying plants from the garden center.  There’s nowhere to go, nothing usual to do — creating a garden…often a food garden with flowers to beautify seems like a good idea.  Seeking the good in the present circumstances through a return to the soil.

 

Mermaids II

If I were a mermaid living in the ocean, I’d be angry with humans.  The ocean is, afterall, my home.  I want my environment to be pristine.  For myself and all the variety of wondrous sea creatures who also live here.  When my environment is polluted by the ignorance and greed of humans, well I can’t just get up and walk away, can I?  The integral relationship of the ocean with the moon and our ecosystem that keeps things “working” is being drastically damaged by destructive human activities.  Witnessing the devastation that humans have wreaked on my home, I’m wondering what I can do to wake them up!

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As we get more and more distanced from nature, we are going to feel the effects.  Because, as John Muir has said, “Nature includes us!”

As sophisticated as we might think we are, as much as we think we’ve conquered nature and that we are civilized above and beyond the natural world…that’s false thinking.  We are nature, nature is us.  We have a biology and so does the earth and the sea and the whole ecology in which we are included.  I’m likely preaching to the choir here!

This mermaid reminds me of a warrioress.  She is both tender and tough when necessary.  She is ready to go to battle for her home, the ocean.

mermaid.1

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In 1995, an amazing film was released, The Secret of Roan Inish.  The music was haunting, the scenery enchanting, the acting authentic and the story–magical and mythological.  This is where I first heard of “the Selkie.  And, I feel that the sea is portrayed as a character itself.  Effective personification!

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The phrase “If I were” is a good way to begin writing.  Especially when you’re feeling stuck…”If I were…”  Those three little words open the door to imagination and possibility.  Go ahead, WRITE!