The Ballerinas

In these uncertain times, we strive for balance, meaning, purpose.  We hope for the safety and health of ourselves and those we love…and we extend that prayer for our entire family, neighbors, community, state, country, neighboring countries, the earth.  We are in this together.  We always have been.

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I honestly don’t know why I started to paint ballerinas.  Perhaps it is their perfection of form–the way their bodies stand tall and poised, their mastery of graceful movement.  Perhaps it was the memory of a fleeting girlhood fantasy of being a ballerina.  Perhaps it is their delicate beauty.

I began painting ballerinas, several of them, one after the other.  This first painting was a total surprise to me.  It’s one that started out as something else, a compassionate feminine Buddha portrait, and then, it turned into the ballerinas.  At first, the central ballerina was a flower, the bleeding heart.  However, all around her, other ballerina figures were developing.  Suddenly, the bleeding heart no longer fit.  The flower became the central ballerina and she too changed over time.

Ballerinas.1

Sometimes, the way in which the paint or acrylic ink  “dripped” prompted a new figure.  I limited the color palette.

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Today is a good day to notice beauty.

The Virus.1.

I’m not ignoring the virus, the pandemic, the constraints on travel, the isolation, the possible detrimental effects to businesses and their employees as we slow everything down, bring some things to a halt and are forced to isolate and go inside.  If we hopefully aren’t sick, chances are that we or someone we know are directly affected by the restrictions in place at this time.

One of my nieces has been at a cooking school in Southern Italy since January.  The school closed before the course was completed.  She is currently on her way home having to make three different flight connections–one in Munich, one in London and then home to San Francisco.  She is going to self-quarantine for two weeks.  We aren’t sure what requirements she is going to face at each of her stopping points.  We pray for her safe return and minimal hardship along the way.

Then, a nephew working in the entertainment industry, may lose his job.  He finds out today.  He has a wife and three young children.  I can only imagine the stress that he is under at this time.  Of course, ideally, employers should take care of their employees at such a time.  I read that Disneyland is paying their employees during the shutdown.  Yes, we each deserve to be so valued.

One of my daughters is a nurse.  She works twelve-hour shifts.  In a clinic for low income people.  She is sure she’s been exposed to the virus at this point, even with all the precautions that she takes.  On the weekend, she shops for groceries.  She is dismayed to see that the shelves are emptied by people in a panic.  When she loads her shopping cart with what she can find of her weekly food supply, someone in line smirks and says “hoarding.”  She has a husband and three children all at home due to school closures across the land.  We know so little of other people’s lives.  Another reason to be considerate.

For me, I work at home, so at this time, it’s not affecting my daily work routine.  I admit to taking one extra of things on the grocery shelf than I might ordinarily.  I leave plenty for others.  However, being single, I do miss the local social gatherings that have been cancelled.  I call a family member or a friend…but it’s not the same as being in their physical company.  Even living in a small community, the streets are bare and it is somewhat eerie.  I do have concern for my family that lives in the big city.  I do pray for everyone, for a worldly calm to descend.  I also hope that we take advantage of this time apart.

Blessings, calm and good health to you and your families.

 

Poetry in Perilous Times (3)

We have not had very much precipitation in the mountains this winter.  We’ve had three big storms that deposited a lot of snow in the city proper and on the mountain.  However, it was quickly washed away with rain at the lower elevations.  February brought idyllic spring-like weather.  While we enjoyed it, we also felt some trepidation.  The summer and fall of 2018 were frightening to us living in this highly forested area.  Fires sprung up in every direction around us.  We were told to be packed and ready to evacuate…but where to, we wondered.  Some of us stashed non-perishable food staples in the car, packed a suitcase, a tent, sleeping bag, bottled water, clothing, important papers, etc.

The smoky skies extended throughout the summer months starting in early July through October.  It was an intense panorama of smoke-filled days and nights.  We wore masks when we ventured out.  Typically, summer is a time to appreciate the lakes and hiking trails, to walk briskly, climb, swim and breathe deeply the fresh mountain air.  Not then.  Honestly, there is a certain dread of the coming summer.  Without a winter of sufficient rain and snow, we pray for our own safety and that of our forests and forest creatures.

I wrote this poem in September of 2018…

When the not-so-far ridges have been obscured
by smoke for months…
When your mind is clouded with confusing thoughts…
When what you once perceived proves to be false
or limiting…
When you sip your morning
cup of tea and place one foot
in front of the other
and say yes to this new day,
you have learned faith.

The smoke hangs on the ridge waiting for
directions from the wind.
The firefighters are out there
day and night manning
bulldozers, helicopters, heavy machinery–
we trust them to do their jobs–
to be wisely directed by those
who understand the nature
of fighting fire in a heavily forested area
with up and down rugged terrain.  We
have to trust them.  We have to trust
and to hold onto faith that everything is
going to be alright…
and until then,
that we can bear it–
be strong
be patient
and live our lives truly
and boldly.

We have to trust that we have
sufficient courage,
to share our gifts and
to proceed
into this new day.
We go forward into the uncertainty
on wings of prayer, hope and trust
and faith
and whatever love looks like today.

Then, I go into the garden to harvest tomatillos.

tomatillos

As of this moment, it is snowing and accumulating.  Yay!  And the rest of March might bring more precipitation.  We hope so.

 

Saying “NO”

I write down thoughts that seem valuable in the moment.  I found this list in one of my journals that seems worth sharing.

I’m wondering if this is true for other women (and some men)–at a young age, I learned that saying “no” to my father was unacceptable.   To feel safe, I acquiesced.  This carried over into my life as a young woman, wife, mother.  I was there to meet the needs of others and to deny my own.  At a point in my life, I literally had to learn and practice saying no.

I was taught to feel guilty as a way to manipulate
me into saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”

To feel safe, I said yes when I meant no

To be liked or accepted, I said yes when I meant no

The ability to say no preserves physical and mental health

It’s appropriate to say no to those things and people that are not consistent with my life values

It’s alright to say no to things that aren’t important to me

It’s alright to say no when I have something else to do

How to say an appropriate no–

“No, I won’t be able to do that.”

“No, I choose not to do that.”

“No, I’m busy.”

“No, that doesn’t interest me.”

When I decline an invitation, I don’t have to explain why

Can I say no without having to give a reason?

Consider what it is that I really want

Remember that I have a choice to say yes or no

When I say yes or no, how does it affect my physical and mental health?

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I’m sure that it’s more complicated than this…the right to choose your life is no small thing.  I once gave a workshop to a group of economically disadvantaged women in a college setting.  The workshop was about self-nurture.  Several of the participants had no sense of putting themselves first.  The concept of “no” was inaccessible to them and even frightening.  What would the fallout be if they dared to say no to someone, typically a man?

Real Life

I write a blog.  I give writing prompts.  I aim to inspire.  That said, there is something too real to ignore right now near where I live and affecting my immediate family.  I live in the forested mountains of northern California.  There are more forested areas to the north, east, south and west of where I live.  Three of my sisters live one hour south of here.  Two of them have been evacuated from their homes due to forest fires.  The fires are now 17% contained.  Where I live, the air has been of an unhealthy quality due to
the smoke.

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Why is it this way with humans–if it’s not happening to us directly or to  someone we love, then we can disregard it.  Healthy detachment is good…but when we don’t think it could happen to us or our families, then we are in denial.  Do we have a false sense of divine immunity perhaps?

Regardless of our race, creed, color, gender, sexual preference or other differentiating factors, don’t we all want to feel safe?  Don’t we all desire the safety and well-being of those we love?  Isn’t this a a common thread of connection despite all of the things we name that separate us?  Isn’t this awareness/recognition the fulcrum upon which we can chart a new course?

Instead of putting dollars into making heftier weaponry, shouldn’t we be collaborating to save our planet? What if we put our collective imaginations in that direction?  What could life on earth look like then?

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Today, the smoke level has reached unhealthy proportions where I live.  I am packing what I need and preparing to leave, if necessary.  This has been one of the worst fire seasons we’ve experienced in this part of the country.  We need rain.  We need prayers.

For now, this blog is suspended.  Thank you for following it over this past year.

Best wishes to everyone.

Christine