The Art of Not Censoring Oneself

I found the following post in the DRAFT department of my wordpress site. I didn’t publish it because I thought it wasn’t interesting enough, exciting enough? But thinking about it now, this experience was important to me. That’s what’s key- not second guessing what someone else may think. As I say later in this essay, it’s about trusting one’s intuitive voice. Enough of this self censoring…

The following is an essay I wrote up from a 25 minute writing prompt from from my class at Fishtrap Writing Conference in E. Oregon last summer. The prompt was something like write about a risk you took that changed you. This experience popped up in my mind so I ran with it…

TOTEM

In the photograph, I am standing by a 4-foot totem of raw clay that is constructed around a young tree.  I am sporting a broad smile with a coworker.  In another photo were several children deep in the process of constructing it.  The totem was the finished project I was assigned as a parent volunteer at my son’s 5th-grade outdoor school camp.  I signed up for the art station since I was a practicing artist.  Not only did I want my students to experience creative magic in this cathedral of Douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock, I wanted them to honor the revered creatures of the indigenous people who once occupied this land. 

This project was new to me – but my intuition beckoned me to it like a faerie whispering in my ear. I quieted the fears of all the potential pitfalls and risks and decided to proceed despite them. In preparation, I brought 50 pounds of clay the color of a threatening sky.  For details, I had blue, red, and gold paint in 2 oz. bottles, some small paint brushes, and a handful of large, colorful plastic beads.  The rest of the materials we would gather from what the forest offered.

Each group of 4-5 students had been assigned to a clan for the duration of camp; beaver, porcupine, salmon, crab, raven, squirrel, and eagle.  I had selected a perfect juvenile western hemlock standing straight in a small clearing for our blank canvas.  As each clan of boys and girls arrived at the site for their session we spoke of their totem animal.  What did they know about it?  Why did the Native Americans celebrate it? What was the purpose of totems for coastal native Americans?

To construct their totem animal I explained they were free to use all the clay and tools provided but the rest they would need to gather from the surrounding environment. I spoke about the cooperative process. They were to recognize what each clan member had to offer.  I opened the first rectangular block of clay, cut it into pieces, and let the students begin allowing them to organize themselves as they saw fit.

Continue reading “The Art of Not Censoring Oneself”

The Art of the Obituary

In September of this year, I took up the task of writing my mother’s obituary.  She passed away on June 28 from complications due to advanced Alzheimer’s at the age of 94. Previously I had never written an obituary .

An obituary announces the passing of a person’s death as a public notice in a newspaper, church bulletin, or the like.  Usually, there is a brief biography and a photo, but everything else is up to the writer’s interpretation.  An obituary can be solemn, funny, traditional, or even in poetic form.  Writing Mom’s obituary begged the question ”What should be said about a loved one when they pass?”  What was their essence? What was their legacy?

I didn’t like the idea of writing the 3rd person like a detached narrator so I made it clear this was from the viewpoint of her surviving adult children.  I had to keep in mind that obituaries can be very expensive in major newspapers.  Ultimately, my mother’s average-sized obituary at approximately 1000 words cost over $1000 in the San Fransico Chronicle for one run.  Her local paper for the same obituary cost $300 with 4 courtesy copies thrown in with the deal. (non were included with the Chronicle). So yes, a lot of money but hey, you only die once and everyone deserves memorialization. In most cases, like in my mother’s, the deceased estate covers it.

It was therapeutic for me, the author, to cut through all my mother’s foibles as we had our differences and honor her- her accomplishments and her legacy, I also decided to mention some of her hardships growing up. Hardship is a pivotal force in a person’s life.  I could see how her challenges as a child reflected in her parenting.  In her last years with her memory loss, all that friction washed away like dust in the first rain of fall. It was an honor to summarize her life for all to see.

As for the picture?  Rather than one from her youth, I chose one that was taken on her 80th birthday looking radiant with the celebration. 

Having written my mother’s obituary, I wonder about my own.  What would be written when all is said and done?  I have considered writing my own and leaving it in my will giving me some authorship.  I should include such things as

She liked to start her day with a steaming up of tea in her hand sitting up in bed with her pens & journal with a clear view of the bird feeder.

Felt complete with a dog and or a cat at her side

Liked to take adventures in the wilds, as well as  in art, writing, and music

I’d like the picture of me taken by my friend Deb we were out on the Zumwalt Prairie in 2021. Then I would choose one of my doodles to be included.

Now I may be tasked with writing my step-daughter, Heather who recently passed.  For this, I would solicit the help of her many friends to contribute their thoughts for a young woman who lived very large for her 38 years.  This is a challenge I would be honored to take up.

As I think of the many people that have passed from my life this year, I also think of the other beings, favorite trees, dogs, cats, and the like that have crossed the rainbow bridge that I could memorialize.  They certainly are deserving of an obituary as well, at least in my personal writing.  I’m inspired by this worthy genre.

Two good friends that passed on this last spring- Hilma Kaye and G.D Armstrong whose spirit lives on in my guitar…

A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022

With the easing of the pandemic, the summer bloomed with music.  Learning to play the tenor guitar was my defacto pandemic project. Three years later I was ready to venture forth with my new skills along with my friend, and neighbor, Kelsey in our newly formed duo “The Ribbon Ridge Girls” the name pertinent to the rural area we live in.

We kicked off with the Tenor Guitar Gathering in Astoria, Oregon in early June, a gathering of 4 string guitar aficionados. Kelsey plays a standard guitar but she was more than welcomed.   The tenor guitar came about in the late 1920s when banjo was going out of style.  Those out-of-work banjo players had guitars made with tenor banjo necks with the same tuning CGDA so they could still be employed. It’s tuned in 5ths rather than 4ths of a regular 6-string guitar. The sound of a tenor guitar is brighter and a good complement to a regular guitar. It faded away in the late 1950s and currently is experiencing a resurgence.  Tenor Guitar Gathering is special as it is the only event in the world that celebrates this instrument.

This was an intimate affair of around 100 friendly participants plus local participation at the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.  On Friday morning we packed the historical Astoria trolley strumming and singing tunes along the waterfront.  There were various workshops offered and in between, we sampled the beer, baked goods, and coffee that the town has to offer. Astoria also has an array of vintage stores we visited. At night we jammed in the local motel we stayed in along with the featured musicians.  A high point for me was meeting Tyler Jackson in person, my virtual guitar teacher from San Antonio, Texas, who was performing and teaching at the event.  We won big in the raffle, Kelsey won a guitar (which she later donated) and I won a year’s worth of virtual lessons from an award-winning musician back east (woohoo!)

Continue reading “A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022”

Something to Do

doodle by the author

Much of my time is spent with facinations that perhaps lead to nowhere. I doodle. I make art most of which is unshown and not for sale. I play music with no performing or recording aspirations, write and don’t submit the vast majority of my pieces for publication. My blog is not monetized. This is so counter to our culture’s obsession with productivity and success- but they all make me happy.

Today I read a post by Austin Kleon riding 5 miles to mail some letters rather than mail them from home because it “was something to do.” On a link embedded in this post was another post titled the same, “Something to Do.” I found this post so profound. It put into words what I have been unable to to do trying to justify my gratutious pastimes. In short, they keep me alive. To me that’s the ultimate payoff.

My workstation!

The Zen of Showing One’s Work

Last week I had the honor of reading my prose piece, “The Orchard by My House is Gone” at the book release celebration of Paper Gardens the annual literary journal of Yamhill County, Oregon.  I was joined by other local authors that had their work published along with family members and members of the community.  The most memorable part of the evening was when adults shared the stage with writers of all ages including those as young as second grade.  We were all writers in different stages of our journeys who took the risk to submit our work to be judged and perhaps rejected.

 A close friend asked to see my entry and I emailed it to her.  She read it and then responded that how much she appreciated me sharing my work with her.  Doing so gave her a window into my life and how I view the world.  She remarked in her email that a long-ago friend was a painter but would not allow anyone else to view her work and that “would potentially impact the way she felt about her art.”  I also have an acquaintance that ceased painting her stunning watercolors as she never sold them at the one event where she exhibited.  Paintings are especially challenging to sell as it’s not only if a person likes the piece, it has to fit and match one’s décor.

I find both these situations very sad.  We are always under the scrutiny of others- the way we think, dress, or otherwise live our lives.  I don’t make art for economic gain anymore.  What is imperative is that my creativity provides a spark to my life, joy in the process of its creation, and serves as an avenue for self-expression.  There lies the attitude of non-attachment. There will be some that don’t care for what I write or create, yet there will be others who resonate with it.  It’s not a deal-breaker as I am out to please myself.  It is the nature of bringing creation to the world to see. If I am pleased with my work and it is well-executed, that is enough.  It’s like hiking.  I go out and have a beautiful day among nature and if I see wildlife, so much the better.

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My New Native Plant Garden Begins to Find It’s Voice

This post also may be seen on my sister blog onesweetearth.blog

Camas

It’s been a very cool spring – even by NW Oregon standards. April set a record for the wettest ever recorded so native plants planted in late February & Early March have been slow to emmerge. Still, it’s been thrilling to watch the ferns unfurl and various flowers to reveal themselves in my native plant garden. I’ve been adding some artistic touches with some old sculptures of mine scattered about the garden.

Front view

One great find at “Hortlandia” was a little table made of scrap wood for a top and legs of thick curly willow. I added two small benches cut from the stump of an old walnut tree that was taken out a few years ago. and sorely missed. Now I have benches to remember it by This area is my fairy tea spot.

Fairy tea nook
Continue reading “My New Native Plant Garden Begins to Find It’s Voice”

Have Some Magic With Your Tea? The Doodle Review 5/10/22

Every day when the sun comes up

I put on the kettle

and make a good cup

back to the pillows

doodle, write a poem or two

stir in some magic

now that’s a good brew!

The following are the last two weeks and some from my “doodle day planner”. Events often mirror what’s going on with my daily life- others are purely random.

Continue reading “Have Some Magic With Your Tea? The Doodle Review 5/10/22”

The Doodle Review 4/24/2022

I recently divorced Instagram. This last year or so was the big social media Instagram experiment. Almost everyday I posted the off-the-cuff doodles I draw on the right side of my day planner under my tag @almostdailydoodle (still there!) The upside is that it makes a tidy little record of my innocuous art online. The downside is how much time Instagram was sucking from my life with all the posting, checking, liking. I thought I was above all that- I guess not.

Doodling is my morning creativity workout. It has become my main art form as of late, downshifting from ceramics and printmaking. It is fun to show my art now and again so I thought I would post them here occaisionally and see how it goes in a blog format.

You Don’t Have to be Good

“Wild Geese” – a Tribute to Mary Oliver

The title of this post is the first line of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese.”

The poem continues:

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves……

I came upon this poem years ago.  It was the first poem that I loved, that I could pull around me like a homemade quilt.  It became my anthem of sorts. 

Now the interesting thing is Oliver did not set out to write a greatest hit, nor any work of great meaning.  According to an interview with OnBeing, she created this poem quite informally to illustrate the difference between end-stopped lines and enjambment to another poet.  But words are powerful and when she released this poem to the world it spoke deeply to many people.  It’s become one of her most loved poems.

For me, it permitted me to do the work I needed to do regardless that I sucked.  Do it anyway.  Over the years I’ve agonized over my work like every other creative, but her poem on my wall makes me understand that it’s not the likes, the money, or the accolades.  I do not have to suffer for my art. Ultimately, it’s the daily practice of doing and honing my craft. It’s what my soul calls to me to do (which did not include quitting my day job). 

Time is no excuse. Write the poems in grocery lines, at stoplights (using voice memo), doodle designs in boring meetings.  The dream won’t happen unless you do it- unless you listen to the voice of the wild geese within.

I never was interested in poetry until I read “Wild Geese” until I read Mary Oliver and discovered more poetry.  Now I write it.  Here is the poem in its entirety…

Continue reading You Don’t Have to be Good

Rewriting My Personal Script

I have had this unfolding conclusion that I do not have to accept my own mythology, my notions of limitations and inabilities, as written by others or by myself.

My first inkling of this concept was in my junior year of college.  One of the most popular electives on campus was “ballroom dancing”.  As a child, I was told indirectly that I was clumsy and uncoordinated by family nicknames that were not so endearing. I bought into it telling myself I could not do a cartwheel or any of the other physical badges of honor that young girls collect.  Still, I needed an elective and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Lo and behold I proved myself wrong.  I was doing the jitterbug, swing, rumba, waltz, and the like.  Not only was I good, but I also loved it!

A more difficult life script to rewrite was the notion of “I’m not good enough” which I dragged around since childhood like a large overstuffed suitcase (without wheels).  This one is rather toxic for the soul, especially if one is an artist or writer, like me.  It’s the one that tells me “I can’t, I’m too old, I’m too flawed, I don’t have the right training, I’m too this, too that.”

Three years ago at age 63, I decided that, no, I wasn’t too old to pick up the guitar again, traded in my old one for a lovely tenor guitar I love, and started to take lessons.  I don’t learn as quickly as in my younger years but I am so grateful I got over myself and started again.  What a joy music brings! A year before that I started to write even though, no, I was not an English major- but so what. I’ve gotten better. I have two blogs, I’ve gotten published but beyond all that I love the process. All from recrafting my story.

I found that I can rewrite that, ?YES, I am good enough and I will commit to honing my craft no matter where I am at be it as a visual artist, writer, musician or ____________.

An advantage of meditation is being able to recognize that old script playing in my head.  I can disagree with that voice in my head, “Sorry, you are so WRONG!”, show that voice the door and change the station with a positive script that reads…

Yes I can

I shall

I will

(and sometimes it is after I take a nap.)

Your story can always be edited.

If given the chance

Choose to dance

Courtesy “The Crossroads of Should & Must “by Elle Luna