THE SPACES IN-BETWEEN

Years ago a teacher once said to me when I was a student in an art class, “You should consider not using so much white space.” I looked at her incredulously.  Yes, my work pinned to the critique wall was markedly different than the wild expressions of the other students’ work that filled the board.  Mine was made of pure forms with a lot china-20152_1280of white space, or negative space surrounding them; the uncovered virgin-white paper a statement in itself.

For me, that remark was something like “change your soul.”  It was similar to the shaming I received as a young girl from my mother “you are too sensitive.”  Growing up I struggled to fit in a loud world & embrace the social norms that my young culture revered.  The music was too loud, venues claustrophobic, & the presence of too many people intimidating.  I was a misfit among misfits.

The book that rocked my perceptions of myself was Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain.  Suddenly my quirkiness made sense to me.  I was an introvert.  My previous perceptions of introverts were individuals that were uncomfortable with all social interactions.  Not so.  Now I realize Introverts can be social & have many connections.  The difference is we need to retreat to quiet to achieve balance in our lives.

I liken these respites to the white spaces in my artwork, the spaces in between the active parts where the eye can rest.  These pauses are a time of rejuvenation and, in my life, can be anything from a walk, a nap, reading a book, walking my dogs, gardening – or anything that brings my being back from the chaos of daily life.  Conversely, now I understand why the extroverts of our society want to bring us introverts into the fold of busy-ness.  They thrive in that energy & the majority sets the standards of what is normal.

After reading “Quiet,” I learned to honor the introverts in my classroom when I was teaching. If a student felt uncomfortable working in a group I allowed them to work alone. As long as they were learning, I was fine with their style.   I’ve learned to honor my own pace when traveling or hiking rather than suffering to keep up with wants of others.  For me, it’s not the destination but the jewels I find in-between point A & point B.  That might be as simple as a flower, a rock, or a conversation with a local.

Our driven multitasking culture celebrates doing more than being.  It would be healthy everyone, to slow down and find oneself in the spaces in between & honor those who march to a different beat. The magic for me is in the white space of life.  In these pauses, I can ponder, wonder, & feel whole in a world that moves at too fast of a pace for my tastes.  It’s been a relief to let go of the expectations of others & accept myself.  In the meantime, I still enjoy making art with a lot of white space.

A Rap for Martin Luther King Day

asian-653899_1280

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES

Hold these truths to be self evident

That we were all created equal

Under our president.

Each woman

Each man

Each Native

American

Each black

Each white

Gay, lesbian, & transvestite

Each Latino, Muslim, and Asian

Is all part of this great nation

Not just the United States of the white man

A United States of all the land.

One nation under each of us

Indivisible

By love & trust

And liberty & justice for all.

Why I Meditate

606-to-507-028For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing.  It’s an unglamorous but serene picture.  This is how I prefer to start my day.

Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class.  It was a simple procedure.  Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement.  The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing.  This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you.  You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it.  No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money.  The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.

I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it.  Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day.  It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule.  Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day.  It all helps.

This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight.  Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about.  This will happen over & over.  Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.

One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths.  Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.

Meditation is the ultimate reality check.  Slow down, stop, and go inward.  If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start.  You will not regret it.

Why I started to Write

Odd things can happen in your 60s. I feel like that kind of yucca pant that blooms once a century or a prehistoric seed given the right enviroment germinates and starts to growwhy-i-started-to-write. All of a sudden this last year I felt like I had to write. It started out with an occaisional poem, then frequent poems to some short essays to now a blog. Probably what has contributed to this perfect set of conditions is now seeing more time behind me than before me- the need to document my experience on this planet. Then there’s the fact that this winter in Oregon has been so cold I cannot seem to motivated to work out in a ceramics studio that is heated only by space heaters. I needed a creative outlet. Whatever the reason, here I am, a writer.

In the past, I have written for classes & have kept a journal. But write for the sake of writing at 4 AM? Years ago I would have shut my eyes, pulled up the covers and waited for the impulse to pass. Experience has told me though, that unless I heed my heart, its whispering will become shouting and that ultimately leads to unrest and irritability.

This is my start of my writing journey. It’s surprisingly one of the most grounding things I have ever undertaken. I have benefited greatly from the writings of others. Now I have opened myself up to critical eyes but also to those that will benefit as well. It’s worth the risk.

Muse

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.

The Last Eve

On This Last Eve

There are no more squares to fill

Nor pages to turn

Nothing can be changed

But how we act tomorrow

And how we think about the past.

It is done

A tapestry of memories woven in our minds

Events left to history.

In the morning

A new calendar will grace the wall

Waiting to be filled with commitments & adventures.

Let the glasses clink with their bright sound

Among this circle of friends & family.

Let us toast to the warmth of love & friendship,

A better tomorrow

& the chance to begin again.

 

You Just Start

sand-1522182_1920

You just start.

There is no perfect time.

You are weary of an idea pursuing you & tugging on your soul, so rather than run harder you stop in your tracks, turn around, shake your idea’s hand & say, OK.  I will give you 15 minutes of my day NOW.  No running out & buying a new pen, notebook, paintbrush, canvas, computer or whatever distraction you may deem necessary.  Just sit down & give you & your idea a chance to know each other better.

Lao Tzu,  an ancient Chinese mystic once said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”So true, but what he neglected to say was that first step is the hardest of the entire journey.  On the flip side, it is the most liberating.  Your 15 minute appointment with your idea will probably extend to an hour.  Then you can hardly wait for the next one.  Congratulations- you are on your way.

This scenario is exactly how this blog started on a beat-up legal pad  I scrounged from a drawer in my desk.  I was ultimately tackled with the idea that I needed to share my stories of life on my creative path, often a lonely one.  Hopefully it can help you, dear reader, on yours.  In the process I had to thumb my nose at my greatest nemesis, perfection,and just start.  This is my first step.