How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives – Annie Dillard
Unfortunately, when we were born we did not come with an instructional manual on how to live our lives. We are all individuals with unique traits and circumstances. As we go through our days there can be a lot of trial and error. There are some principles though, that will serve all of us, especially in this crazy digital age.
As a creative type, I keep an arsenal of motivational reading nearby. The creative practice not often respected by our culture so I need all the cheerleading I can get. Thus said I was more than excited when Austin Kleon released his third book Keep Going about 10 days ago. I even preordered a copy, unusual for me. The tag line of the book is “10 ways to stay Creative in God Times and Bad.” If you’re sighing right now and saying “Too bad I’m not creative,” think again. We are all creative beings. With few exceptions, we all have opposable thumbs. That means we can make, cook, write, etc. If you have kids – that’s the ultimate creation. If the word ART trips you up, just insert the word LIFE or HUMAN.
Like Austin’s other books, Steal Like an Artist (on unlocking your creativity), and Show Your Work (on how to become known), this is a small affordable manual ($9 on Amazon). It’s an easy, read full of his entertaining graphics, photographs, and words of wisdom as well as some of his kids’ artwork. It’s divided into 10 chapters, shown below.
I have come to some of the same realizations as Kleon himself but it is so validating to see them in print. If you are in need of a reference in how to live and stay creative, or know someone that does, this is a good one. Worth a read, worth a place on your shelf!
Images from the book Keep Going, by Austin Kleon
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce
When I was a child I would sit down with a set of crayons and draw without much intention other than just being in the moment with my colors and paper. Painting was even better. There was nothing like afternoons in school where the math and reading were put aside for time standing at the easel with giant paper and pots of tempera paint. I remember painting with big fat brushes with long handles pictures of skies, big suns, houses, horses- the usual subjects for a little girl. The paintings I made were often brought home and gifted. There was not a lot of attachment to the pieces as there were always more paintings and drawings to come.
At some grade in school, the easels were put away and we were subtlety given the message that art was not important and academics were. Art was play, nothing to be taken too seriously. Good grades, college, and a career were.
Continue reading “The Art of Play”
May the beauty of your day, take your breath away – unknown
I’m in sort of a lull in a creative sense. My energies are spread elsewhere now that my husband is recovering from knee surgery. This period draws parallels to an experience I had with dormancy and reblooming…
It was a gift, an orchid plant for my desk at the end of my last school year before retirement. Six blooms of royal magenta, tinged with highlights of yellow cascaded down like the contour of a woman’s haughty hip. It was one of those grocery store variety orchids, nothing too out of the ordinary except for the color of the flowers. They positively glowed like a stained glass window in the light.
I absorbed the beauty of these blooms every day for weeks until each slowly shriveled, dried and dropped. I sadly removed their spent forms one by one. What was left were several deep green ovate leathery leaves and the tall, now naked flower stem in a plain clay pot.
“I just throw them away” a friend commented on my bloomless orchid. But I could not, the only crime of this plant needing rest after a grand performance. I remember my father saying that he got his orchids to bloom again. After enjoying such a spectacular show, I felt it a crime to sentence this plant to death in the compost pile.
I left the orchid on my bedroom window sill, watered it, and waited. Over a year passed and I realized that it probably needed special nutrients to bloom. I purchased some spray fertilizer just for orchids. In a few more months, I had a stalk full of orchid flowers to enjoy again. It is now in its third bloom.
This experience got me to thinking how we humans too need to be nurtured in life to bloom and then given periods of rest. This reminds me not to give up in dry times, be patient and to get the self-care I need to be creative. The compost pile of life awaits soon enough!
When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by. Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure. Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask. This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.
This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy. The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop. These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing. To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.
Out of the ashes we can find beauty. We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.
Last week was difficult. I had to put down my almost 14-year-old Golden Retriever, and the little stray cat, Lizzie that adopted us last year died due to complications due to feline leukemia. Dougie was a devoted companion for years, Lizzie a bright spot in our lives her sweet face peaking in our screen door requesting a meal.
It got me to thinking that these creatures we love are just borrowed souls- and I do believe animals have souls. Our pets connect us to our best selves. Their lives are far briefer than ours but add so much. Theirs is a language of the eyes, of touch actions and acceptance. Now the grief has subsided, I am filled with gratitude I had the privilege of borrowing their sweet souls on their short stays on planet earth.
The following poem speaks to all the dogs that have shared my life’s journey…..
IN MY GOOD DEATH
by Dalia Sheven
I will find myself waist deep in hight summer grass. The humming
shock of the golden light. And I will hear them before I see
them and know right away who is bounding across the field to meet
me. All my good dogs will come then, their wet noses
bumping against my palms, their hot panting, their rough faithful
tongues. Their eyes young and shiny again. The wiry scruff of
their fur, the unspeakable softness of their bellies, their velvet ears
against my cheeks. I will bend to them, my face covered with
their kisses, my hands full of them. In the grass I will let them knock
It was unlikely that we’d find each other- a big man that pumps concrete connecting with an artsy middle school science teacher, but we did.
We were to celebrate 19 years of being together as “spousal equivalents” by spending two nights at the Cannery Pier Hotel that juts out into the Columbia River in Astoria Oregon. Massages were on the books. I’d always wanted to stay there and have a romantic getaway. There we would lounge around in a lovely room while sipping glasses of wine watching tug boats maneuver barges and huge cargo ships up and down the Columbia
As luck would have it, our 14-year-old Golden Retriever, Dougan was on his last legs, and Lizzy our adorable little feral cat that adopted us, disappeared and returned quite ill. We were hardly in the mood to celebrate so we canceled. No matter- we enjoy our days together. Another time awaits.
I decided that 19 would trump 20 as a big milestone. It’s a prime number that hardly gets any recognition being overshadowed by its next-door neighbor, 20. I find comfort celebrating the obscure, including feral cats and second-hand dogs.
Both of us had been married before, twice each. This time we decided to shed all expectations creating a framework that worked for both of us. We lived apart for the first 8 years raising our own kids. No use complicating things. We have been cohabitating since. Our hearts bind us rather than a piece of paper. The foundation of our relationship is built on mutual respect- which we both work on.
Beyond all the other complexities of life, the chance to be loved and loved back by other humans (and furry four-legged) is where it’s at. You don’t have much without loving relationships. Lucky me. Lucky us
The hotel will still be there. When the time is right eventually we will get to watch the tug boats guiding their ships on the mighty Columbia River. Continue reading “#19”
It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer. People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve. Then there is a matter of assumptions… Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another. You will be treated accordingly. Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:
I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou. Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label. It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.
I would rather be a verb than a noun
I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance
And kick up my heels
Rather than just be a person, place or thing
Let me describe an action, state or occurrence
And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence
Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label
And end with the pleasure of being all used up
My wings in tatters
My breath gone
When my time on Earth is done