Mystery

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It was strange to see this cat girl emerge.  She was painted just before the time that women were donning knitted pink cat hats.  They were called “pussyhats” and worn in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington DC.

A little recent history lesson from Google:

A pussyhat is a pink, crafted hat, created in large numbers by thousands of participants involved with the United States 2017 Women’s March. They are the result of the Pussyhat Project, a nationwide effort initiated by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect located in Los Angeles, to create pink hats to be worn at the march for visual impact.[1]

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As an artist, have you noticed this…not only does your art respond to the political and socio-economic climate, but sometimes it is almost predictive.  Artists, poets, writers, creative beings have a heightened sensitivity.  It’s no surprise that they can tune into something before it hits the press.  And express it through their art.

Obviously, my girl’s hat isn’t pink–but the concept of woman merging with cat, with her wild nature–and yes, she has magic–are reminders to myself.  A woman is an enigma to the male of our species.  Rather than men fearing and trying to dominate what they don’t understand, why not honor her?  Why not seek her out for wise counsel?  Why not be curious to know her more deeply?  Why not recognize that she has gifts to share (that he does not possess) and lend value to them?

That men are making most of the rules, guiding the politics of our lives, belies the fact that women comprise over 50% of the population in America!  2019 census shows 168.08 million women versus 161.48 million men!  When are women going to realize that they have more power for change than they are exercising?

There are so many things in place in our society (and world) that we know are morally wrong and socially unjust.  Women know this deeply…if they could gather their courage and unify their voices, change for the good would occur.

What is something you, as a woman alive today, are called to take a stand on?  How are you going to align yourself with what you know to be true and correct?  Is there an action you know that you need to take?  One step at a time…dare to take the first one.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Poetry Today (in Perilous Times) 2

Poets, writers, artists have a three-fold purpose as I see it:
1) the task of witnessing.  2) the task of writing it down or rendering it in some creative way.  3) sharing what they’ve written or created as a result of witnessing.  They’ve then come full circle with their particular art.

Within it, poetry has the imperative to share a message.  That message is intended to be evocative.  To awaken in the reader some of the same emotions that the witness/writer has experienced in putting pen to page.  A writer or painter can never be guaranteed that her audience is going to feel the exact same emotion.”  They can’t be attached to the outcome or response to their piece once it is released.  Fly away little bird.  But they must release it and allow it to affect and influence whoever it might, however it may.

Poets write about anything.  Poetry can express everything.  It is rare that the reader is privy to what precisely preceded the poet writing a particular poem.

I painted a piece with fish as the theme.  I don’t remember why I chose to paint these fish.  As I stood back from it and studied it, I felt tranquility.  It was exploratory.  But it didn’t have pop!  Not enough value contrast.  Or cohesion.  It prompted this poem, regardless.

A Quiet Wonder
© by Christine O’Brien

Underwater Kingdoms
Civilizations that we can’t comprehend
the sheen of scales
glint of colors
that stun in light’s glory
the silver trails through
unimaginable depths
the flash of a tail–
fish or mermaid
who is to say
for certain things
happen in depths
where humans
dare not go
we can’t all be Cousteau
though at times
if you’re at all
contemplative
you dive deep
into the dark waters
into what you’ve not known
beyond fears that taunt
and perhaps discover
another side
a way through
a quiet wonder

If this poem causes the reader to pause and contemplate something beyond their norm, then it has succeeded.
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The Gold in Your Journals

You witness your daily life experiences on the pages of your journal.  You share your reflections, fears, hopes and dreams.  Your feelings of the moment.  Your encounters, reactions and more.  This journal is not only a confidante, it is the keeper of your records.  As a journalist, you follow yourself around with pen and pad writing down the details of your experience(s) firsthand!  You describe place, person, thing, incident, occasion, a vista, your own feelings, reactions, goofiness.  You write down dialogue and phrases caught on the wind in a cafe.  You really don’t skimp on writing down these details.  They could be useful in your blog, a book, an essay, a poem, whatever.

Your powers of recall are amazing.  But what you recall is typically a feeling or an image, sometimes a smell.  You don’t remember the specific details, the exact feeling, the precise colors, your immediate reaction or the words of a conversation or your thought process.  As was noted in an earlier blog, it is through the image details that your writing rises out of the ordinary into the authentic and believable.  Writers paint word pictures.  Therein lies the gold in your well-kept journals.

Excerpt from an earlier journal…

“Once you lose the ability to speak, you really appreciate it,” my father slurred following a stroke.     (Having been a girl and woman without a voice for most of my life, I thought but didn’t say–tell me about it)

He tried to recite a poem Elegy in a Country Churchyard.  I couldn’t understand a single word of it!

My mother wore his yellow bathrobe, his watch on her wrist.  His wallet was in the bathrobe pocket with two medications that he was taking.  Like a high-schooler wearing her boyfriend’s lettered sweater.

When the doctor mentioned the question of life supports, her face screwed up as she tried not to cry.

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I wouldn’t have remembered these details had I not written them in my journal.  As a writer, have you mined the gold in your journals?

 

 

Conscious Ceremony

In our workaday world, it isn’t often possible to slow things down.  Depending on the demands of your life, your stage of life, where you live, etc., it may seem to be infeasible.  However, years ago, in the midst of a growing family and work outside the home, I began to claim time apart.  I converted a space in the roughly finished garage as my art, craft and sewing studio.  Giving myself this physical place, A Room of One’s Own, facilitated both my creative and contemplative process.

Back to the idea of Conscious Ceremony…Did I mention that I love the morning?  Especially on a day when I don’t have to rush out the door.  I’m working at minimizing adrenaline rushes.  This morning, before I get caught up in the momentum of the day, I’m going to harvest cherries from the cherry tree in my backyard.  This fleeting seasonal gift from the earth–if I don’t pick them soon, they’re going to be overripe or for the birds.  Then I’m going to blend the best cherry smoothie.  Sip it slowly, now, as I greet this day.

When I move into the day, sloooowly, I am able to bring a feeling of ceremony to my activities throughout the day.  Surprisingly, when I start the day in this way, I seem to “get more things done” if that is the goal.

As poets, writers and artists, we deepen into another level when we take such time apart.  Not something crammed into an already jammed schedule.  But truly A TIME APART.  There is a leisure to this  non-ordinary time, as if we had all the time in the world and could actually savor the moment.  This is how we deepen and evolve as creative beings.

This morning offers time enough to write my blog, to write in my journal, to practice drawing, to make my list for the day.  And, to be a witness to the determined sun rising over Quail Ridge.  All of this is ceremony!

Expressing the gratitude I feel for the beauty and appreciating the many wonders is ceremony.  Sipping this amazing smoothie, reveling in the generosity of a tree that shares its gifts with me–this nourishment to my body, mind and spirit.  Such a pure gift.  Deep awareness brought to the morning activities–this is ceremony.

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Taking Time Apart, Conscious Ceremony, can take five minutes or as long as you choose for your busy life.  It’s really the pause that you invite in as you move into your day.  Awareness, gratitude and presence do seem to be the key ingredients of this pause.

Writers’ Conferences

YES, SAY YES TO ATTENDING AT LEAST ONE WRITER’S CONFERENCE!  I have been to a few and would like to attend more.

The first one was a five-day long conference held in Ashland, Oregon.  I worked with one poet/instructor, Kim Addonizio.  At the end of the conference, each of the participants had produced some work with depth.  Five days with one instructor and a cohesive group, allowed us to explore in an atmosphere of ongoing  inspiration and safety.  This experience proved to be invaluable.

The second writer’s conference I attended, South Coast Writers Conference, has been held annually in Gold Beach, Oregon.  This was a three-day conference with an array of instructors from  several different genres.  Examples of some of the topics might include: “Healing through the Written Word,” or “Are You Allowed to Joke About That?,” or “Hero Quests and Graphic Novels,” or “Making Money in Magazine Articles.”  Participating writers could choose the classes that were of interest to them.  The instructors and themes vary from year-to-year.

The third was more of a poetry writing workshop, two days only.  This was just a lot of fun and introduced variety into the usual things I do as a writer.  Not to mention that I got to meet other writers and poets who, sort of, understand you…because they face what you are facing as a solitary writer.

Some of my deepest and most focused writing has come directly from these conferences.  Or they re-initiated, baptized me again in some way, into the craft I love.

For Your Consideration:
If you want to jumpstart your writing, go to a Writer’s Conference or Workshop. Just do it.

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Find and Follow

Is there an artist, past or present, whom you admire and want to get to know?

If you’ve gone to art school or had English as your major, it is likely that you were introduced to artists, poets and writers, some with whom you felt an affinity.  Once you graduated and moved on, did you lose track of this favored creative?

Whether or not you went to art school or had English as your major, why not choose an artist that you admire as your “mentor” of sorts?  Follow his or her career, become so familiar with their art, their process, their life that they feel like a friend.

One of my favorites, not especially because of her art, but mostly because of her creative lifestyle is Tasha Tudor.

(Click the play arrow and then click on “Watch this video on YouTube” above and it takes you directly to the video.)

Viewing this short video, you might think that Tasha Tudor lived in the 19th century.  However, she was born in 1915 and died recently, in 2008.  She illustrated children’s books.  She lived in Vermont, off the grid, making her own clothing and keeping a garden that photographers have loved to photograph.  One published book being Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin (author) and Richard W. Brown (photographer).

For me there is something romantic about  her lifestyle.  Though I can see it is a labor intensive life, it is an inspired one.  Living close to the earth, experiencing the natural rhythms seems to be an integrated, ethical and grounded way to live.

And yes, it seems like a thing of the past.  That someone could create that lifestyle in these times doesn’t seem possible.

Creative Contemplation:
Have you found and followed an artist or writer’s career?  Or looked to one for your own inspiration?  If so, what about this artist’s life attracts you?  Why have you claimed them as your “mentor?”

 Please post the name of your favored creative person under comments if you like.

The Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction.  The “single story” is a term she coined in reference to the generalizations and stereotypes that we make in regards to cultural, racial, gender, creed, etc. identity.  I cannot say this in any better way than she does in this Ted Talk.

Please make yourself a cup of tea, light a candle and sit for twenty minutes to learn from a fine teacher.

“The Danger of a Single Story” Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Contemplation:
Consider the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as you go about your day, encountering others.  Gently notice those times when you classify someone according to first impressions or any other “single story” responses.  This is an exercise in self-observation.

Practice Doesn’t Mean Perfection

I’ve been practicing how to draw and paint faces.IMG_9403

As a ripening artist, I fall in love with each painting…even when it is far from perfect.  Like this one.  Learning a new technique taught by Sara Burch in Paint Your Heart and Soul‘s year-long online painting and creativity course, I realize that one eye is larger and a bit lower than the other.  Yet, this painting captures something for me that I was having trouble expressing in words.  This painting helped me to bring some disparate feelings together.

Learning and practicing a new technique was the primary purpose of this new-to-me process.   Perhaps there is a time and place to strive for excellence (rarely perfection?) or even one’s personal best.  As I am learning, there has also got to be plenty of room for play, experimentation and error…sometimes happy accidents.

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With writing, is it any different?  Writers strive for perfection as they craft their prose or poetry.  Do they ever reach it?  Levels of perfection are relative, it seems.  For with any final piece preparing to leap into the world, the writer decides, at some point, to let it go.  This is not based solely on whether a piece is “good enough”.  There is an inner sense of completion.  What wants to be said has been said in a way that is “kin” to the writer.  In using the word kin in this way, I intend that the writer has expressed him or herself in a way that is unique, particular or inherent.  When that goal is reached, then a painting or piece of writing can feel complete and ready to be launched.

When you write about someone, you look for the dissonant detail.  Perhaps this is also reflected in your greater body of work–that you allow the dissonant details into your writing thereby,  making a work your own.  Those details–which could be seen as imperfections–mark your work in some way.  Those details reveal to the reader “your style”.  Offering your work, with all of its perceived blemishes, does make one feel vulnerable.

Contemplation:
Do you find fulfillment in practicing your art or craft?  Are you tolerant of “mistakes” as you learn? Are you patient with your development as a writer or artist?  Can you spot the dissonant details in your work that make it stand out as YOURS?

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“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take
if we want to experience connection.”
Brene Brown, Researcher, Story-Teller, Author, Lecturer

Hasn’t it all been said?

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Say “hello” to your inner critic. WHY WRITE? HASN’T IT ALL BEEN SAID? AND MANY TIMES OVER? DO WE NEED ANOTHER BOOK? ANOTHER POEM? ANOTHER WRITER? ANOTHER BLAH, BLAH AND BLAH?

Is this a common argument for you not to write. Or is it merely an excuse, avoidance?

This is what I’ve found.  Each one of us has a unique voice, a unique way of saying things. Your writing will connect with the “EARS” that can hear your voice.  I also believe that in these times, it is necessary to think and write outside the box.  As you do your own deep work and write from that place, there is the strong possibility that something new will be revealed to you.

Have you had this experience yourself or witnessed it with your children? Your mother gives you a lecture on, for instance, why you should practice the habit of saving part of your allowance.  You are half-listening while inwardly saying “yeah, yeah, yeah…” Then, your favorite aunt or uncle says the exact same thing but in a slightly different way and you begin tucking away part of your allowance every week.  Alright, maybe that’s not the best example…a child has to rebel against parental authority.

However, the point is, some writers reach us while we dismiss others who might be saying the exact same thing in a different way.

Do throw your voice into the ring of writers if this feels like something that is important to you.  These are not the times to be timid or quiet if you have something you want to say.

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In other words, as said before in a different way, inspiration is everywhere and in everything.  Ideas and images adrift in a universe and you, the writer, snatch the ones for which you feel a passion.  You extract what is of value to you, command the language, wield your wordy power and shape, fondle and create something that might have been said before, but now it’s made new or renewed through your particular voice.

Author and poet, Kwame Alexander recommends that you say “YES” to writing as “…language has the power to alter our perceptions.”  That’s no small thing.

WRITING PROMPT:
What in the whole universe are you writing about today?  Are you being true to your writer’s voice and allowing what wants to come forth to come forth? Is there something else you’d rather be writing?  WRITE YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS IN YOUR JOURNAL.

CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUE WRITER’S VOICE.