Friday, December 14, 2007

The sound of one hand clapping.
Or being an artist living with a broken wrist.

(Polar Bear)

I slipped on a steel plate in the sidewalk and my life is changed. Wrist broken. Many things come to a complete stop. Copper repousse paintings. Screening relief tryptic. Fiber work. Yoga class. Driving a car. Weights.

With the holidays around the corner, there's a lot I can't do either. Decorate. Bake. Wrap.

What I can do. Write. Draw. Read. Surf the internet. Walk the dog. Watch movies. Observe the world outside my window and inside my mind. I can collect images to use later. I can consider my work from a new angle. I can work on my story, a little more slowly, but maybe that's a good thing.

I can also delegate and accept help. Both hard things for me to do. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here. With help, the holiday tree is up, the house decorated, cookies are being baked. My children are now helping me tie my shoes instead of me helping them. But they are learning too, like how to make their favorite Tuscan Bean Soup and Shortbread as well as how much goes into all the pretty decor, tree and wrapping that they've enjoyed for so many years.

They are learning some things they need to know because I'm not able to do it all for them. And I'm learning some things that I need to know, too, because I'm not able to do it all for myself.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sesame Street now has a warning label...Adults Only.
(Cheetah Mask)

According to a New York Times article, some of the characters and situations go against today's politically correct standards for pre-schoolers. Big Bird hallucinates. Cookie Monster has an eating disorder. Oscar the Grouch has an anger management problem.

I've watched Sesame Street since its beginning and loved its creativity, imagination and ability to teach and entertain children of all ages. I've watched my own children watch, laugh and learn from Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. I see this new labeling as another way to take childhood away from children.

A child's imagination needs to be nurtured and encouraged so that a child grows up to be creative. Yes, Big Bird has an imaginary friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus. How many children grew up out there with a friend called, "Barbie", "Ken" or "GI Joe"? How many children carried their favorite stuffed animal everywhere they went, served them tea, put them to bed at night? Many of these same children grew up to be able to create characters in novels, plays or paintings.

Child's play is creative learning. A child's kitchen serves plastic food to imaginary diners who lick their plates, wear silly hats and invite bears to tea. This is a way for children to experiment and explore the world around them so that they grow up with more understanding. Yes, Cookie Monster gobbles cookies. How many children pretend to gobble plastic food? Cookie Monster is playing pretend. All the children get that and they love it. It fosters humor, imagination and creativity. Not unhealthy eating.

Children learn about feelings through play, too. They have arguments with their dolls, trucks and stuffed toys. Yes, Oscar the Grouch is grouchy and rude. So are children sometimes. By watching Oscar be grouchy, they can understand their own feelings and the consequences of acting on those feelings.

Sesame Street nutures children's imagination while teaching valuable lessons on life, creativity and the world around us. And one of its most important lessons is NOT to label anyone or anything but to accept and respect the creativity, imagination, intelligence and feelings of everyone in this world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ANOTHER QUESTION: Can art change healthscare into healthcare?

ANOTHER QUOTE: "The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion." Nadia Boulanger

(Mini-muses: Music, Art, Spirit)

Musing about my healthscare experience, the quote from Andrew Worrall, I wondered what could I do other than fight the fears with what I hope is possible. Then I thought about what I do as an artist and how the arts have become so divided from everyday life...hung on walls, put on pedestals, locked behind glass.

I felt there was a missing link here. Art as a way to health and care for everyone. Art off the walls, down from the pedestals and into the hands, hearts and bedsides of everyone.

I thought about the need for care in the healthcare carts that feed the senses to facilitate calm, health and comfort. Having choices available that stimulated the senses in a positive way...Music for hearing...Nature books, videos for seeing...Warm/Cool textured pillow/blankets for touching...Aromatherapy for smelling...well you get the idea. Perhaps these already exist...but maybe more could be done?

I thought about the role of art in healing. I wandered back in time to our tribal roots and envisioned the role of art in that setting to heal. Music, dance and drumming to work the stress out of muscles, bones and mind...Smells from oils and herbs that soothed...Colors in clothing, jewelry, blankets to warm the heart...Patterns/textures in pottery, utensils, shelters to bring out feelings of safety, protection. All this art contributed to health and was important for health and well-being. As important and intrinsic to survival as food and shelter.

Then I happened upon this quote on another blog and saw a connection. "The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion." These wise words from Nadia Boulanger, a famous musician, composer and teacher so clearly speak to the importance of art in everyday life. There's the missing link.

A new healthcare practice: Everyday put the care back into everything I do...that is healthy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A QUOTE: "Lack of resistance to what you hope is possible."

A QUESTION: What does this mean to you?

(Sun mask: brass repousse')

This quote is from Ambrose Worrall, a Christian faith healer. I read it on Deb Robson's blog, and it hit me like a bucket of cold water poured over my head. Suddenly, things around me looked different. I felt different. I was shocked, awake, refreshed and relieved all at the same time.

Seems a lot for a simple quote to do? Let me explain.

I had just spent over 4 hours at my local medical center undergoing annual tests, a blood test and a mamagram. I am an old-hand at these tests, been doing them for almost 2 decades now due to 'family history'. But this time was different. I had been asked to come back for 'additional views' for my mamagram. I went through the process again and waited as usual. Then the wait got longer and longer.

It was scary to wait. But what was even more scary, were the conversations going on outside my little waiting room. These women were trading horror stories about tests upon tests upon tests that ultimately lead to nothing. No cancer. No problems.

Good news, right? Yes and No.

Good news...we were all right. Healthy. Fine. Bad news...we were so scared. It made me mad that once again our Healthcare system was actually a Healthscare system. Preying on the fears of innocent, healthy people.

I realized how much I had been resisting the Healthscare fears. And that's good, because it's unhealthy to buy into it, I've seen it happen and it's not pretty. But I also realized that my very resistance was setting up a dam that was, perhaps, keeping out some healthy, caring energy. I know the care energy is out there, like sunlight waiting for me to absorb.

The question remained. How could I keep my boundaries up toward the Healthscares and be open to the Health-caring energy.

After reading the quote, I saw a way out. A rope thrown to me in this sea of fear...with the phrase...'what you hope'. A light...with the word...'possible'.

The quote was in response to a question to the faith healer asking if he required a faith in God or religion for the person to be healed. The response was that he what he really needed from the person was faith which he defined as "a lack of resistance to what you hope is possible."

In other words, opening up to the hope of health, the possibility of good energy, good times and a good life now and in the future! I hope this has given you an idea of what might be possible for you, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

MY VIEW: Territory by Emma Bull

I don't usually read westerns or historical novels, but this one is wonderful. And, boy, am I glad it crossed my desk.

I've heard about the place and characters, who hasn't...set in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 featuring Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and Tom McLaury, and the OK Corral. This is a novel that brings life to the history recreating the town, politics and the people but goes beyond facts to create a world where the mystical crosses paths with historical.

Emma Bull adds new characters to the town as well, including a lead female named, Mildred Benjamin, a widow working for one of the local newspapers as a typesetter but loves to write. In secret, at first, Mrs. Benjamin writes romantic adventures, then gets one published in the fiction magazine of the day, 'Gallagher's'. She even gets paid! Ok, so the check is written out to a Mr. M. Benjamin, but she cashes it anyway. Along the way, her own life gets a little romance, mystery and thrills, too which she gets to write about in the local paper.

Jesse Fox is another new character, who possesses a few mystical and psychic gifts and with the help of a Chinese 'doctor' learns how to use his talents to help himself and others in the town as well. Tombstone's Chinatown adds yet another layer of depth and richness to this well-written book.

Oh, guess who Jesse falls in love with?

Yep. Mildred.

Does it end happily ever after?

I'm not telling...because it's much more fun to read the book.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Map in hand, I set out again for the second weekend of Portland's Open Studio Tour. As a true Portlander, I didn't let a little thunder, lightening and rain stop me and from what I could see, it didn't stop the artists either.

First stop - Wendy Dunder(, a multi-talented artist whose work includes murals, mosiacs and paper/wood sculptural lights. These wonderful, soft lights are made using a wood frame that is covered with layer after layer of tissue paper and glue. Just beautiful.

Marjin Wall(, an artist working in wood, shared her process of using milk paint to finish her hand-turned creations including candlesticks, salt/pepper mills and bowls. Her workshop/studio had that wonderful smell of freshly cut wood.

Jan vonBergen, another multi-talented artist whose work includes ceramics, encaustic and prints generously demonstrated how she does solar plate printing in her cozy studio. I love how her works combines calligraphy, solar printing and exotic, cancelled stamps.

Nicky Falkenhayn(, a metal artist, had no trouble opening up her studio because it's still in the process of being built. A two level space will allow her to do large welded pieces as well as have a separate space for her amazing knitted silver wire jewelry. What a challenge to be out there greeting people on such a cold, rainy day. Thanks, Nicky!

Sunday was a much nicer day to be out and about. I enjoyed my visit to two other studios without the rain.

Sara Swink(, a clay sculpture artist had a wonderful display of both large and small scale clay pieces. I really appreciated it when she explained her process of using oxides and underglazes to achieve the soft, paint-like patina on her sculptures.

Ann Munson(, another artist who works in many different media, opened up her greenhouse/studio sharing her art and garden. There were layered paper collages, cement mosiac sculptures, prints from her colored pencil drawings of animals, fun and funky bracelets, small container gardens to go and cement wall art. Outside I strolled through her wonderful garden taking in even more of her creations like the chickens on a bicycle, basset hound planter and the dragon under construction around her down spout. But not to be missed or forgotten...the turkeys perched in her pine tree. Now that was a sight to behold!

Thank you, thank you to all the brave artists who graciously opened up their studios and shared their art this weekend rain or shine.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Today, I went on the first weekend of the Portland Open Studios Tour. It was a beautiful, sunny fall day that smelled like adventure and so, map in hand, I set out with a friend to tour some of the 55 artist studios open to the curious today.

This event started some 8 years ago, by Portland pastel artist, Kitty Wallis, has grown to include artists from the city to suburbs. The public is invited into artist studios to watch the artist at work, tour their studio, ask questions and even purchase art directly from the artist.

You purchase a calendar that includes color photos of all the artwork from participating artists and a map for both weekends of the tour. You decide if you want to tour by media...paintings, ceramics, glass, or sculpture...or by area, then get out the map and go!

Having done the tour many years ago, I loved the improved map and directions! It was much easier to find the studios this time around.

Once I found the studios, I have a mixed review. Some studio artists stayed behind their desks and ignored visitors. But the artists who took the risk of greeting and demonstrating and answering questions about their art, their process and product were delightful.

Arrianne Bright...kiln form glass artist...clearly showed me and others how she takes slivers of colored glass and stacks them into abstract and landscape forms. Amazing!

Robert Abbott...monoprint artist...explained the monoprint process and how he adds his own stencils and laser printed collage elements to create multidimensional art pieces. He invited us to tour his lush and extensive gardens as well. What an inspiration!

Julie Fulkerson...wildlife and nature artist...showed how she uses an exato knife to 'draw' her amazingly detailed black and white nature scenes in scratchboard and explained how her colored pencil drawings come to life on colored paper. Wonderful!

To the artists willing to show their process and inspiration as well as their product...THANK YOU!

Saturday, October 06, 2007


My View:

Puff, The Magic Dragon
By: Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton

with paintings by Eric Puybaret

A touching classic folk song/poem becomes a beautifully illustrated childrens book that includes a 4 song CD in the back featuring Peter Yarrow, his daughter Bethany and cellist, Rufus Cappadocia.

For several generations, now, many children have grown up singing this wonderful song brought into the world by Peter Yarrow along with his friends, Paul and Mary. I first heard the song when I was four, played on a 45 record. Peter, Paul and Mary, the well-loved folk group have performed this song many times over the decades and even with all the silly controversy about the song's, 'real' meaning, its magic has charmed millions of children, parents and now grandparents along the way.

What's even more magical is getting the opportunity to meet Peter Yarrow. I brought my copy of this beautiful book to Powell's in Portland to have it signed and although I expected a crowd, I didn't expect it to be a concert! Peter Yarrow performed at least dozen well-known folk songs, got everyone in the audience to sing along including his son, Christopher, and then invited all the children up on the stage and passed the 'mike' for their own solo in the chorus of "Puff, the magic dragon."

Part concert, peace rally, family gathering and book signing, it made my week. I felt uplifted, loved, hopeful and safe. And he was so sweet to my daughter, I wished I could have said then, what I'm saying now but I was a bit overwhelmed. So here it is: "Peter, you're music is still warm and wonderful, humorous and loveable, just as you are yourself. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. I had't had a very good day until then. You changed it all. Thank you again."

Puff, the Magic Dragon and Peter Yarrow. Still magical after all these years!

Portlanders note: You can catch Peter Yarrow at 2pm tomorrow at The monkey and the rat (his son's cool import art store in Old Town).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fall is in the air. Crisp. Cool. Like a fresh, crunchy apple, it has its own flavorful juices to enjoy. Strolling through the park, I see the geese and ducks doing their flight schools, the acorns decorate the ground and the squirrels are dashing faster up and down the trees. The leaves are still green for the most part, but there is the hint of color change at the tips.

When the wind is right, I hear the high school band practicing for the home football games and some Friday's I hear the cheers along with the fight song. I remember back when my husband and I would sneak into the game just before half-time to watch my son march in the band. I do love marching bands. It's the only reason I was ever interested in football.

Here in my own landscape, there's been a huge change. Gone is the lawn. In its place, three natural rock walls and a river rock creek bed. In the back, a stone meditation space, two new planting beds and a wall of bamboo. Planting the crimson Japanese maple and mums, I puts me a fall mood as well. Even though I am still happily gathering my dahlias and making arrangements inside, I've put out a bowl of fresh, fall apples, scented candles in warm vanilla and cinnamon scents and hung the harvest wreath on the front door.

Even though I'm not buying my children school clothes or supplies this year, I still feel that urge to sharpen pencils, buy new notebooks and break in a new pair of shoes. Don't you?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


A few months ago, Annie O'Shaughnessy at Soul Flares, wrote a piece about animal totems and invited reader response. I wrote her about my first animal totem experience and how it led to the first of my Shapeshifter series, 'Crow'.

Here is part of the letter and below it the short story I wrote that is part of the 'Crow' shapeshifter piece.

It was great to revisit the experience that inspired this whole series. I hope you enjoy it, too.

"Dear Annie,

I am of a celtic ethnic origin and so the idea of animal totems did seem 'wierd' to me at first. The idea also fascinated me but I felt that not being of a certain ethnicity, I could not go there. Now, I look back at myself and smile softly with a little shake of my head. I understand. I realize that the art I create is full of totems even if they are not stacked one on top of the other or carved into a tree trunk, they are my totems all the same. "


I know a bird.

He is strong and black and wise. He travels many worlds, through different times and knows creatures I can’t even begin to imagine. Today, he is a common crow. If you look at him now, that is what you’ll see. But his shape changes. He could be that dark-haired woman walking briskly with bracelets jangling. He could be a child from the past, part of an ancient tribe, trout fishing. Or he could be that man in the park with the bead in his beard, the daypack and heavy boots who seems to disappear just when I start wondering whether or not he is homeless. Perhaps, he has more homes than I think.

My shape never changes. I feel locked on the ground with two feet and I see only what is in front of me. My friend has no such limits. He tells me that he has been many shapes in many times and places. His wisdom and knowledge is beyond my perception.

One day, he swooped down landing on top of a fence and screeched. I jumped back shocked out of my mindless internal scrap heap. He was so big and bold, so close to me that all I could do was stare and listen. In this way, we became teacher and student. His teachings showed me all the small ways we are all connected. Some days, as I walked, he flew by with information about sites ahead as I traveled. Other times, he warned squirrels and other birds that my dog was on the prowl. Another day, I might be out driving and suddenly a crow landed on a stop sign, then later on a street sign I passed and then again on a tree near the road and I am gently prodded out of my; mindlessness. It made me wonder at all that is around me. It caused me to question the easy consensual reality in which I so mindlessly exist.

I have read that some people can see shape-changers and others just see the shape they want to see. I’ve never seen my friend change shape. But I do know I sometimes sense something out of the corner of my eye but by the time I turn to ”look” it is gone. Just because I haven’t actually seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’ve learned, now, thanks to my friend and teacher, that there is much more to the world than I can see and touch and tasted and smell.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My view on the new book, ‘Why We Read, What We Read’ by John Heath and Lisa Adams.

Ok. I don’t like to be negative especially here in my Art and Words blog. I want to offer insights, a light in what can be a dark world and hope.

When I read the title and promo email, I hoped I would be reading…a book about how current events from 9/11 to Katrina to the Iraq war influence our relaxation reading choices. Instead I received a book that can be described as Best Seller Bashing.

They go on and on describing plots, characters and story lines of many popular fiction books as too simple, too sexy, too violent, too black, too white, too much hugging, or too many lawyers. The bashing of Dan Brown alone gets tedious. For example, referring to the hit, The Da Vinci Code, they say, “It’s speedy, simple and full of secrets. It’s not only about sex and religion but sex in religion.” And that its success has to do not with plot, characters or literary qualities but its highly controversial content.

You’ll realize that these authors criticize best-sellers for their ‘platforms’ defined as ‘built-in audiences’, while building their own ‘platform’.

Their platform can be described this way - divide up and criticize the best-sellers categories: Health and Wealth, Good and Evil, Romance, Politics, Religion and Self-Help. Use all the popular book titles to create ‘buzz’. Add a mixture of clever phrasing and rephrasing, snobby literary references and snide comments to keep those words coming.

They tantalize you in the intro with a self-help bit promising that they have an idea that will create more good books. Yet, they even admit that their “solution is so conventional and unlikely to find fruition it’s probably not worth more than a paragraph. But we never met a paragraph we couldn’t turn into several pages, and so we do.” Make that an entire 273 page book.

Ok, so want to know their solution that according to the authors quote above, it was going to be conventional? Here it is: Don’t buy the books and they won’t become best sellers.


Sorry, I had to laugh, don’t you? They can bash Dan Brown as much as they want, I still loved “Angels & Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code” as much as the re-occurring characters and controversial themes in Shakespeare and Austin.

The only things I agree with the authors on is don’t buy this book so it won’t become a best seller.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you addicted to distraction?
Do you love the rush of busyness?
Hello, my name is Susan. I have a distraction and adrenaline addictions.
(Element series: Earth)

A few weeks ago, I received the usual newsletter from creativity coach and author, Eric Maisel in which he discussed his new work on Creativity Recovery focusing on new types of addictions that undermine creativity. He pointed out that both "distraction addictions and the adrenaline addictions are existential cheap thrills."

I stand up and say...yes, they are. They keep you thinking you're accomplishing something while at the same time, draining away your creative energy and sucking away your soul.

Ever gotten hooked by drama? It doesn't matter if it's the daytime or nighttime kind, your own personal events, your kids, your neighbors, your coworkers, it is all too easy to get caught up in the adrenaline high that comes with complaining or problem solving someone else's problems. It keeps you real 'busy' doesn't it? And there's the rush in rushing around. Yes, it's an adrenaline high and it's addictive. Why? Because it keeps fear at bay or so we think.

According to Eric Maisel, "If we are even minimally anxious, resistant, discouraged, uncertain or unmotivated and therefore eager to find some way to avoid getting on with our writing, how strong the pull is to distract ourselves with a beckoning, right-at-hand Internet possibility.
How much easier it is to get a rush by hopping on your motorcycle and racing down the road than by canalizing your energy, channeling your being into your creative work, and waiting for the rush of good adrenal feeling that may not come until late this afternoon—or next week—or not at all. The pull to avoid our work can prove so strong that it is fair to call our flight compulsive and to characterize our behavior in real and not metaphoric terms as an addiction."

I agree. It is all too easy to jump on the Internet and...check your blog, check my blog, check out the latest news, weather, fashion, movie, book or even to 'justify' your distraction by calling it research that lasts for hours. I know. I've been there. I've done it.

Time for a change. Now the first shall come last and the last shall come first. Starting today, I will check email, internet news, weather and blogs in the afternoon when my creative brain is usually tired. And I will stop myself from rushing around trying to get all these small things done like they are the end of the world. Instead, I'll do one at a time, around my creative time not 'before' it. And when I feel the pull to problem solve someone else's problems or complain, I'll take a deep breath and say instead, "I am completely stopping."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Great Read...Words that inspire my art.

I loved this book, "The Wood Wife" by Terri Windling. It's an intriguing story with a compelling mix of mystery, poetry, and a lot of wonderful visual imagery. There are mythical spirit characters as well as down to earth humans set in the beautiful American Southwest. Each chapter starts with a poetry quote of the fictional poet character from the book, as well as quotes from other 'real' poets. One of the other main characters in the story is a painter and her art is described in such detail that I can 'see' the canvas as I read. I loved every page.

The author credits her visual inspiration from well-known British painter, Brian Froud. I can see her inspiration from author, Charles deLint as well. I have enjoyed everyone of deLint's novels over the years, reading and re-reading them. I enjoyed reading Windling's novel so much, I look forward to re-reading it as well. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, she describes how her novel started out as a series of short stories and 'shape-shifted' into its current form.

As I have created a whole series of pieces based on the concept of shape-shifting, I guess this novel was a natural for me. This book helped me see once again how important words are to my art.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Swinging on the breeze,
Imagine you're on a trapeeze
Entertaining your muse.
Or sit back and snooze
Dream of pink and chartruese
Braiding daisy chains for your hair.
It's warm in the sun
so enjoy summer fun
Play and play and play.
All day and into night
Twirling cirlces fast upon the grass
and hide and seek in the moonlight.
(Ball masque:Sun)

I loved summer as a child. All those hours to play, ride bikes, explore the forests surrounding my suburban house. Or spending a hot an humid day in the community pool diving for pennies and getting sunburned. Then cooling off after supper playing 'spud' or hide n seek with all the neighbor kids across our unfenced backyards. Even spending a quiet afternoon in the shade reading the latest Nancy Drew mystery. One summer, it changed, when I looked out the window and saw the teenager girl from down the street walking by with no bike, no book, nothing to play with and I felt sad. Suddenly, I knew my summer play days were numbered in single digits.

Today, my age well into the double digits, teenage days long gone, I want to welcome back the summer. Not just the flowers, sunshine and light breeze but the carefree, happiness that went with fudgesicles and sundresses and twirling.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

8 Random Facts...Playing tag for grown-ups.
(Seasons: Spring)

One day, Janet emailed me and told me about this new blogger game and asked if I wanted to play. Just like those old playground days, I wanted to watch a few players first, get the idea of the game and then join in. So after checking out Susan Tweit's blog at , and Janet's blog at (, I jumping in the game.

First: The Rules

1) Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2) People tagged post on their blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3) At the end of your blog, you choose eight people to tag and list their names.

4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Susan Tweit’s 8 random facts(
1) I live in a house that has a view of four biomes: western Great Plains, southern Rocky Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert and Great Basin.2) In my garden are six kinds of heritage tomatoes (none are ripe yet).3) My first car was a horse and a pack train.4) My first dog was a Labrador retriever who loved to fish and hated hunting.5) My last dog was a Great Dane who was bigger than I am. When she galloped, I could almost fly by holding onto her leash.6) One of my degrees is in fine arts photography but I don’t own a camera; my other degree is in field ecology and I don’t own a field either.7) I do own a formerly decaying industrial property on which my husband and I are carefully restoring the native bunchgrass habitat (the wildflowers in our front yard are gorgeous right now).8.) If there is a plant I love more than big sagebrush, I haven’t met it yet.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s 8 Random Facts (
1. I don’t have a belly button.2. I’m a licensed pilot who hasn’t piloted since surviving an accident in 19873. I’m gluten-intolerant4. My sister and I used to sing duets5. Our wire-haired pointing Griffon is the third dog we’ve had in a year; the youngest of the two we still have.6. I always wanted to be a stand-up comic.7. If I went back to school it would be in spiritual counseling.8. I like to eat salt from the palm of my hand.

Janet Riehl’s 8 (okay, 9) Random Facts (
1) I first heard the word “meme” in the early 1990s working for as the backroom girl developing training curriculum and materials for an internationally known organizational development and diversity consultant. I thought it sounded exotic…and remembered how to pronounce it by thinking, “It rhymes with ‘theme’.”
2) I grew up on land in Southwestern Illinois on the bluffs above the Mississippi River which has been in our family for six generations.
3) “It’s part of your education,” is one of my touchstone phrases from my father, Erwin A. Thompson, who graduated from high school when they still taught Latin. He usually says this when something goes wrong…as a philosophical way of balancing the nasty thing out in my mind…meaning…”Now you know and won’t do it that way a second time.”
4) “I’m ready for a new set of problems,” is a touchstone phrase from a Ghanaian friend E. F. Ofosu-Appeah who I knew in West Africa in the 1970s…meaning…”Nothing is trouble free…there are no completely new slates…and it’s all about figuring things out.”
5) “It was sad really…when…” is a touchstone phrase from my friend Stephanie Farrow in Albuquerque, New Mexico…who says this to me when I’m becoming overly morose…in order to restore my perspective. In anyone else’s mouth, it could be cruel, but she is so kind, this phrase serves as tonic and produces a laugh, almost guaranteed.
6) I lived in Africa for five years in the 1970s. My parents came to visit me three times in both Ghana and Botswana. If they had not entreated me to come home on their last visit, I likely would have remained an expatriate forever.
7) I’ve set foot on five of the seven continents (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe, but not Antartica nor Australia). I’ve worked with most major ethnic groups in community education and development. I travelled to Bhutan before it was an open tourist site when I attended a cremation of a great Buddhist master in 1992.
8.) I’m a hyphenated kinda gal, and have trouble at parties saying what I do at any given time, as I fish from my lily pond of: writer, artist, storyteller, actress, speaker, creativity coach, teacher, old-fashioned variety comedy show impresarrio, violinist, violin teacher…or, as my father dubbs me, “Woman of the World.”
9) I’m always sliding over the line, so my eight facts become nine: I have a frog collection in my bathroom where they hop around at night.

Susan Gallacher-Turner's 8 Random Facts (

Here I go...

1. My first cat picked me out at the local shelter and wouldn't let me leave until I picked him up and took him home. He also loved going to drive-in movies and riding in the car standing on his hind legs and looking out the window.

2. My college degree was in Home Economics and I was going to use it to become a pre-school teacher. Now I teach art making classes at elementary schools.

3. My first post-college job was at a local radio station as a copywriter where I wrote radio spots for restaurants, car dealers, concerts and 'head' shops.

4. It was an AOR (album oriented rock) station where I also met my husband.

5. I went back to school to study art after my kids started school, to learn to draw and paint but I actually do sculptural work with various metals(and sometimes add paint, too).

6. I am not a gardener but I had a fern for 20 years that grew so big, it filled up the dining nook and we had to move the table.

7. The fern was a housewarming gift from my father when I moved into my first apartment and it died 3 months after he did.

8. I learned to ballroom dance in college as part of my PE credit. I also took bowling but I got better grades in ballroom dance.

So there ya go, my 8 random facts. So now, I'm supposed to 'tag' someone else but quite a few others have already been tagged. What to do? How about just joining in anyway? Janet...Susan...Quinn...

Friday, July 13, 2007




It is a summer's day!

New work - Season's series


As a deep prussian-blue night sky with an opalescent moon shines down on dew-drop jeweled rose petals lit by the gentle twinkle of fireflies, I sit elegantly dressed in an all white gown with a tangled wreath of honeysuckle in my hair. I know I am not alone. Although I cannot see my fellow midsummer revelers, I can sense them nearby gazing up at the glowing moon, playing with the fireflies and making rose petal necklaces. We all share the magic of the night savoring the luscious smells of honeysuckle, lavender and rose, the taste of bright raspberry, the light touch of cool breeze, the swaying of the tree leaves in time to a long forgotten melody. And they dance to the tune. I know. I see the mysterious bends in the grass that fairy steps leave.

I sigh. Ah, a midsummer night melody from which dreams are made.

Friday, June 29, 2007

IT'S OFFICIAL...I'M A SCRUMBLER! I'm a happy 'hooker' and out of the closet, at last.

About 4 years ago, I had this hankering to learn to crochet. Why? I don't know. But I bought myself some yarn and a hook at the craft store, then went online and found a crochet tutorial site and started crocheting. My son was worried about me, he thought I was going a bit bonkers, I think. He said, "Mom, you're an artist and you're doing this little old lady thing." Well, being a creative person, I didn't listen to his fears and kept crocheting.

Since then, I've made too many scarves to count (I've had to give some away because they started to pile up), hats of all shapes and sizes and colors and again (I've donated to Bosnian orphans), wraps, shawls, tank tops, shrugs and even purses. I've learned the basic and not-so-basic stitches. I've tried my hand at is as hard as it looks.

Then, I learned about free form crochet and joined The International Free Form Crochet Guild located online at . When Prudence put out the scrumble challenge, I jumped in. Even though I'd only done one 'scrumble' before this, I decided I would do a few and let 'Pru' decide whether or not to use them. The wonderful and talented woman that she is, she used mine and 64 others scrumbles to create a magnificent coat, shawl and umbrella! Then to top that, she took photos of everyone's contributions and put it all into this new book, 'coat of many scrumbles', 'or just stop worrying and sew the dang things together'. It's a colorful, creative book filled with pages of crochet scrumbles, a brief history of the scrumble and how the whole challenge came together plus scrumbler prose and poetry as well as beautiful pictures of the finished coat, shawl and umbrella.

I'm honored to have been a small part of this great project. I want to send out a big thank you to Prudence Mapstone for her pioneering efforts to keep knitting and crochet on the creative map. For those of you who don't know, Prudence has her own website as well as a web of galleries featuring creative crochet and knit pieces from people around the globe. I've been happy to be able to show some of my yarn creations in her exhibits.

If you'd like a copy of this beautiful book, contact your local yarn shop(LYS) or order it online at . If you, too, are a closet crocheter(or knitter) and want to join in the fun, log on to the website anytime at Ok, so some of your nearest and dearest may think you've lost your mind but if you want to do it, do it anyway and you might just find not only your mind but a host of others with the same desire and mind-set along the way, just like I did. Plus you'll be creating pieces that can become artwork and keep you warm to boot!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Something Uncommon
Common Courtesy
"Little blue bird"

I had a conversation with my husband the other day about all the violent acts that seem so common in our everyday lives. Just look at the newspaper headlines…students shooting students, drivers hitting walkers, men killing men over anything and everything. It seems we have no boundaries any more and angry violence has become a common cultural communications tool. Scary.

I mused that five decades ago, we still had crime, wars and car accidents but there was a difference. There was still a small little peaceful oasis available to everyone in their everyday lives. A little thing called common courtesy. And I believe that this small thing might just be a way to bring about a little cultural revolution toward peaceful understanding every day.

Ok, for those of you who have just pictured yourself donning suits, hats, white gloves and matching handbags…take a breath. I am not calling for a return to the 50’s or replacing halter tops with padded bras or walking shoes with wingtips.

I’m talking about ‘attitude’. How about replacing ‘gangsta’ with respect? How about substituting ‘pushy’ with patience? A smug look with a smile? A rude hand gesture with a wave?

Oh, I know it sounds simplistic…very ‘Happy Days’ and a little too ‘Mayberry’…but a return to old-time values is not what I’m talking about here. I know it’s not going to keep violence from happening, but maybe it just might make everyone’s day a little more peaceful. What I’m talking about is bringing back a little common courtesy from one person to another.

Here are some examples.

You are walking down the street in your own neighborhood, maybe walking your dog. Next time someone passes you, smile and say, “Good morning, afternoon or evening”. Or just nod and say, “Hi”. Or even better, “Hi there. How are you?”

When you enter the mall, how about holding the door open a little for the person behind you, regardless of gender or age? Even better, if you see a parent struggling to get a stroller through the door, why not go over and hold the door for them?

When you’re driving and it’s bumper to bumper, how about letting one car in ahead of you with a friendly wave of your hand. Then, driver of the car being let in, respond with a wave of thanks and a smile. Say someone stopped at a red light, gets distracted and doesn’t notice the light has turned green? Instead of responding with a rude gesture or word, how about a small toot of your horn, a small smile and wave?

Say you’re jogging or biking through the park and you see a couple walking their dog ahead of you taking up the sidewalk…how about calling ahead with, “Hello there, excuse me…I’m passing on your right/left…thank you!” Or you’re jogging with some friends and chatting away across the sidewalk when you see someone approaching you, how about forming a short single line as you pass and saying hi or waving? You can go back to your talking formation after you pass.

The phone rings and it’s one of those ‘sales calls’. How about saying, “Hello, I understand you get paid to sell things over the phone and I respect your right to earn money. Please respect my right to make the choice not to buy anything over the phone and please take me off your calling list. Thank you. Good bye.”

You are shopping and someone drops something on the floor. How about offering to get help for them? Or there’s someone in line behind you with just one item…how about letting them go ahead of you especially if they have little children.

These are small things, yes. But I really believe that bringing back these little, common courtesies can make a big impact. Who knows, just a small smile from you today might change someone’s angry attitude just enough to prevent another violent headline in tomorrow’s paper. Even if that sounds a bit far fetched, try this, doesn’t it feel better to smile at someone? The best thing? A little goes a long way and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

I know that courtesy from one person to another is uncommon today. But you can change that and so can I. Just say ‘hello’ and start making common courtesy from the past, today’s newest communications tool.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Elementary mask workshop
Where has the time gone?

I can't believe it's been a month since I chatted here. I am really glad so many of you stopped by to read the interview with Eric Maisel. And thanks to all who left comments. I know I learned a lot from the interview and I enjoyed all the other stops on the blog tour, too.

What have I been up to?

I finished up my two mask workshops at local schools. One was for little ones and focused on making 11 different wild animals. It was great working with the kids and fostering their creativity in new ways. With the middle schoolers, we worked on animals from fairy tale stories...big bad wolf, three little pigs, wicked witch and a scarecrow just to name a few. I could tell that they were all proud of their artwork and I was, too. The masks in both workshops turned out great!

Then it was back to the studio for me. With more time to devote to my newest pieces including the last 'season' sculpture...spring. I 'm also developing a new series of copper repousse' paintings and moving along on my tryptic in metal mesh.

Also in the studio, I guess, I've been working on a story. This is a new thing for me and I didn't expect to be a 'writer' again. But this story started out a few months ago and it's evolved to more than 50 pages now and each time I sit down with it, the characters just seem to appear and start talking. I am amazed at what they have to say and I just try to focus on them and let them reveal themselves to me. This is not what I ever thought writing a story would be like. I thought that 'writers' had the plot, characters and ending all figured out ahead of time. Then they did whatever research they needed to do and set about writing it from beginning to end. My process seems to be very different. I'm trying not to think about it or judge it but just let my hands move across the keys and write down what these characters are saying.

Why don't I find the time to write here more often?

I don't know. I sometimes forget the blog is here waiting for me and I get caught up in the details of everyday life. I know that teaching, home remodeling, parenting, domestic duties and dog training take up a lot of my time, adding in studio work and writing, so the blog seems to get put last on the list. Does that ever happen to any of you? If so, how do you handle it?

I'd love to hear what you have to say, too. Leave a comment and let's start a dialog...maybe we can all learn something!

Monday, May 14, 2007


I’m so glad to welcome Eric Maisel, author and creativity coach here today. I did a brief overview of his new book, Ten Zen Seconds a few weeks ago but today, I get the chance to ask Eric a few questions to help me center and create in a more postitive way.

SGT: So, Eric, for those who are visiting today, can you do a ‘ten’ second overview of your centering concept and incantations, just to get us started.
EM: The basic idea is to marry some useful cognitions with the benefits and power of deep breathing. Was that more than ten seconds ?
SGT:Nope, ten seconds on the dot. :)

SGT: When I read the first incantation, "I am completely stopping", it stops me cold.
How can I look at it from a different perspective?
EM: Many people have tremendous trouble with this first incantation and even experience it as a "near-death experience," which sounds very dramatic but which speaks volumes to the way we are rushing around, afraid to stop for fear of encountering emptiness and the void.
The "different perspective" from which to look at it might be that, like it or not, real presence involves exactly that sort of stopping, creativity demands our presence, and if a person wants to do her deepest work she will need to "buy into" the idea of stopping, even if there is some (or a lot) of initial panic associated with the process.

SGT: So, true, I didn't realize how much I am afraid of stopping. I like the idea of right here, right now better, it makes me feel that I can be actively engaged in life and art and stay focused but how can I do my best work with no expectations?
EM: The incantation "I expect nothing" refers to outcomes, not to dreams, hopes, ambitions, or goals. It is wise not to attach to outcomes, because outcomes are not in our control. We can’t, even if we pledge an arm and leg, guarantee that our next novel will work—it may or it may not. We can strive for excellence, do everything in our power to master our craft, and so on—and then we let go, honoring that we can’t make happen what we can’t make happen. To expect nothing is to allow for everything and to not be disappointed by reality.

SGT: Speaking of goals, memorizing all 12 incantations is a little overwhelming, what can I do to make using them easier?
EM: Easy! Just pick one or two. I think that the best procedure is to go over the explanation of each one and see which ones feel most congenial and useful, then commit to using one or two on a regular basis.
It is a very big deal to breath-and-think even just one or two useful things in a habitual way. What if you were "open to joy" and "equal to every challenge" all the time? That would be a tremendous blessing—and one that you could get from using just those two incantations.

SGT: How can the incantations help me before and during an art opening?
EM: That depends a lot on what aspect of art openings give you the most trouble.
For an artist who has trouble making the necessary small talk and promoting herself, I might suggest that she try "I am taking action," to remind herself that this is an event that requires her whole-hearted effort.
For an artist who fears that she can’t speak eloquently about her paintings, I might suggest that she try "I trust my resources," to help remind herself that, especially if she’s practiced her artist’s statement and her rap, that she has adequate inner resources to present herself well.
The way to use the incantations is to think through what’s true for you and what particular challenges you face and then to select one or another of the incantations accordingly.

SGT: What incantations would you suggest when someone critiques my work?
EM: Again, it would depend on what part of the interaction tends to prove hardest for you. Let’s take one possibility. Let’s say that every current critique always puts you in mind of a particular painful criticism that you received at the hands of an art school instructor many years ago. What now happens is that the two fold together, the current one and the past one, and so every critique, even mild ones and even flattering ones, end up hurting, because that old critique comes to mind.
In that scenario, I would use "I am free of the past" in a mindful, habitual way to help excise that barb. Then you can come to the present critique and take it in entirely on its own merits, without any residual pain from that old toxic criticism.

SGT: Is there a way to use the incantations to frame my time from one task to another, for example, domestic duties to studio time to teaching to exercise?
EM: Yes, I think they are perfect for that use. First of all, it is vital that we make conscious decisions about moving from one activity to the next, so that we make each movement with requisite strength and arrive at that next activity calm and centered. That’s why completely stopping and then mindfully naming your next work are built into the process.
What you are saying in essence is, "Okay, I’ve done the laundry, now, rather than thinking I need a break and to watch a little television, I’m going to announce to myself that I am turning to my novel—and I am going to turn in that direction right now, without fuss." That’s the sort of strong transitioning that the incantations "I am completely stopping" and "I am doing my work" support.

SGT: Can you explain the difference between ‘following your bliss’ and ‘meaning making’?
EM: To my ear, "following your bliss" makes life sound much easier than it in fact is. I think that we have to do tons of things that hold no particular meaning for us, like writing marketing emails and so on, that support our meaning-making efforts—the effort to get our book known, for instance, because we think it has something to say—things that feel nothing like blissful.
My fear is that the phrase "follow your bliss" makes it seem as if our work should be fun, soulful, easy, exhilarating, and so on, whereas it is those things only a percentage of the time. But it can always be meaningful, even if it is rarely blissful.

SGT: Say you’ve been ‘meaning making’ creating your art and it doesn’t sell even with your best marketing efforts. Can the incantations help in dealing with disappointment and frustrations?
EM: That is where "I expect nothing"—not your favorite!—comes in.
It is easier to keep trying if you haven’t attached to the idea that your work should have sold on the first, second, third, or fourth attempt.
Salespeople know that it is often the tenth person who will buy after the first nine have passed.
Artists, even when they are also salespeople in their day job, seem not to understand this and get disappointed and defeated after their story is rejected by six or seven magazines—as if seven is some astoundingly large number. If you do your best creative work AND your best marketing work (two things that most artists do not do in tandem) AND use "I expect nothing" in conjunction with "I am equal to this challenge," you put yourself in the best position to continue and to achieve success.

SGT: Maybe after a difficult period, I’m uncertain about what is meaningful to me. What would you suggest?
EM: Such a big question!--Big enough that I am doing a whole book on what making meaning implies and entails.
I think that at such moments we have to do a number of things, among them getting back in touch with the plan for our life, if we’ve articulated one, and with our cherished principles, if we’ve identified them, and make a new (or renewed) decision about what would prove meaningful and where you want to make your next meaning investment.
There is no answer separate from a subjective appraisal about what seems meaningful next, based on an evaluation of not just recent experience but the totality of experience. The incantation "I make my meaning" takes this all into account, once it is deeply understood.

SGT: Do you use these incantations on a daily basis? And if so, which ones
are your favorites?
EM: Actually I use one not on the list: "I am perfectly fine." I wouldn’t promote a phrase with "perfect" in it to anyone else, but it’s the one that I use the most!

SGT: If you had to choose one incantation to take with you today, which one would it be?
EM: You mean, like to a desert island ? It would be a toss up between "I am completely stopping," "I expect nothing," and "I make my meaning." All twelve incantations have something important to say, but these three may be the most important.

SGT: Thank you, Eric, for joining me here today. Your blogtour idea is an original and creative marketing idea and I’m happy to be part of it. You’ve not only found a great way to market your book but you’ve created a new blogtour community and given many artists, writers and creative types a chance to meet and share. I find your centering concept in Ten Zen Seconds
very helpful and I’m glad to be able to get this information out there for other artists to use.

If you'd like to experience the 'Ten Zen Second' concept for yourself, check out Eric's website at You can order the book as well as and try out a sample meditation by clicking on the bottom menu.

I’d also like to ask a question to blogtour hosts and readers out there, what other questions do you have for Eric? Leave them in the comment section and I’ll take them back to Eric and post the answers here for you.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Centering in Ten Seconds.
(Artwork: Meditating Man)

I'm rushing, racing and multi-tasking, so I often find myself out of breath and frazzled. For a long time, I set aside what I called my 'creative meditation' time in the morning as a way to bring some calm into my days. And that worked for a while, but the race to get things done won out more days than I like to admit. I wanted to feel calm and centered but didn't know how to find the time.

Now I do. Thanks to the new book, 'TEN ZEN SECONDS', by Eric Maisel, I can center anytime, anywhere. And yes, it only has to take 10 seconds. And I can do it before, after or during any of the multi-tasks that I need to get done. It really helps me feel calmer, relaxed and energized all at the same time.

I know it sounds too good to be true...but it is true and it works! If you'd like to learn more about it, stayed tuned for my interview with author, Eric Maisel right here on Monday, May 14th.

If you can't wait to get started, you can find more info on the web at Then come back and join me for a chat with Eric Maisel about how easy it is to center in ten seconds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Inspiration comes from strange places sometimes.
(Artwork: Ball masque, 'Wolf')

My husband and I went to see a play called, "Defending the Caveman". I expected a play about men. What I didn't expect is that it is also a play about women. It was hilarous! But it was also sweet, warm, silly and true.

It cleared up alot of misunderstandings that I had in my mind about men. It also cleared up some of my misunderstandings about women, too. I left feeling like I had a whole new way to relate to my husband and son as well as my daugther and friends.

According to the play, cavemen were the hunters. So they needed to be able to confer on what was to be hunted, figure out a strategy, then go hunt in complete silence. Sound familiar? Sure it does. Men act the same way today, it's just the prey that's changed. Think sports. Think driving the car to a specific destination without stopping and never asking directions once in route. Think TV and remote.

Also, according to the play, cavewomen were gatherers. So they needed to wander the fields and forests looking, touching and tasting new foods and fibers. Sound familiar? Sure! Women do all these same things, today, too. Think shopping. Think cooking. Think group activities involving lots of communal activity and talking.

It was a fun, funny, delightful play that taught me alot about cavemen but also helped me see myself, cavewoman, in a whole new way, too.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin
(Artwork: Ball masque-'Sun')

This is a wonderful quote for this budding, blooming time of year, so it feels right that I found these words today. My studio is newly remodeled and still smells like fresh paint. I am working on 4-5 new pieces including the final sculpture in a 'Seasons' series entitled, 'Spring'. I have several new workshops starting this week, new blogger pals to chat with on the web, and a new book, "Ten Zen Seconds", to read by Eric Maisel with an interview to follow next month. So it seems many things around me in my world are blooming.

But what's sticking me up are the words...painful and risk. Scary. I don't know how to respond to that. What should I do? Should I do anything? If it's already happening, then, I can just sit back and enjoy. Right?

Then another quote found its way to me, "I am developing both my active and receptive energies," from Shakti Gawain's book, "Reflections in the Light". The daily reading for this April day explained the two ways to get what we want in life using masculine or feminine energy. The masculine energy is the go-get-it way. The feminine energy is the attracting-it way. One the bee, the other the flower, so to speak.

Raised in family of boys, I'm more familiar with the active, go-get-it energy. Allowing myself to be receptive and allowing what I want to happen or come to me, feels uncomfortable. It feels weak and lazy but also risky. What if nothing happens at all? Won't that be painful to admit that I did nothing? Ahh, those words again...painful and risky.

Does a bud push itself to blossom? No. But it does take in the nourishment it needs to grow, so in that way, it is active in the process of blooming. It is also, receptive. Waiting for the right temperatures and sunshine that will allow it to bloom. Just like the bee is needed to spread the pollen between the flowers, both masculine and feminine, active and receptive energies are needed to make things grow.

And so, I can be both a bee and a flower to myself. I can go-get-it. And I can attract-it, open up to receiving and allowing what I desire to bloom in its own time.

You know, taking that risk doesn't seem so painful, after all.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Welcome! Janet...Quinn...Brenda...Stacie...Eric and all the rest of my new visitors!
(Artwork: Macaw Mask)

It's a whole new blogsphere out there! In the past week or so, I've met and chatted with a wide range of creative bloggers from all over the world. Artists. Writers. Poets. Creativity Coaches. Graphic Artists. Singers and performers just to name a few. Whew!

As a studio artist, my work is mostly a solitary activity. I love my time in the studio working with my hands shaping metal, wood or clay. But over the years, I've wished for a few co-workers to chat with who could understand and appreciate the work of art as well as share a few tips or personal experiences over the 'water cooler' as I go about my work day. The kind of co-creative types who understand the need to work alone and the problem with feeling lonely.

A few months ago, in an effort to share my creative experiments and writing experiences with other creative types, I started this blog. It was a little scary at first, but after a while, I wondered if I was just talking to myself. That's ok. It can be valuable, too, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

But after several months feeling somewhat 'alone' in blogland, I find I'm not alone after all. There's a whole tribe of fellow bloggers out there who are generous, supportive and encouraging.

How did it all happen?

I gathered up my courage one day and signed up to be part of Eric Maisel's blog tour for his new book, Ten Zen Seconds. I'd been part of his 'test' group as he was writing the book and really felt his concept helped me alot. So when he announced he was marketing his book by blog tour, I signed up right away. I'm glad to support a book that supports other artists and I love the whole blog tour marketing idea. Very creative! He gets support for his new book and supports other artists by connecting them to one another. Just what this big, big blogworld needs!

I started out in this big, big, blogworld feeling like a munchkin in the great big land of Oz. Now, I feel more like Dorothy following the yellow brick road and finding new friends just around the bend. And all it took was a few clicks, not of ruby slippers, but my mouse to find my way to a new home.

So welcome, come on in and leave a comment, or just your name and blog. If you'd like to link here, let me know. Then, check out Eric's website as well as the new links to the left and meet some new friends, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Winter to spring.
From death, dormancy and destruction
To rebirth, new blossoms and rebuilding.

It's been awhile. When Heather died, I not only lost my studio companion and muse, I lost my studio. In putting in a much needed new floor, a leak was found. There was dry rot down to the sub floor, through the wall, and even nasty critters crawling and flying all around. My studio had to be dismantled and closed off while a heater dried out the floor and chemicals killed the carpenter ants. Just a note, in case you didn't know this because I didn't, carpenter ants appear wherever there is rotten wood. That's what they eat, so if you see carpenter ants inside your home, as I did last fall, start looking for rotten wood.

After a month, the floor, wall and ceiling were fixed and repainted. The roof leak was sealed and repaired. And the floor was finally installed. Then I cleaned! The dust and dirt covered everything but I was so happy to be in the studio at last putting it back together. Well, I should say, actually, putting it together in a new way. In the month that I was forced out of the studio, I gained a new perspective. As I dusted, vacuumed and washed down furniture, windows, easel, cabinets, counter tops, I saw each element individually. Projects that I'd thought I wasn't finished with, I realized were finished. Pieces that I hadn't liked, now, I liked. Others that had been stationed in one place for years were moved to a new location and I see them now, in a new light. Some needed to be put away for another day, another time. And somethings just needed to go to the recycle bin, like the giant collage that used to hang on the wall above my desk.

Now, I sit here typing on my laptop, staring at a freshly painted blank wall and I am refreshed.
I put up new curtains. I have a new clean, white rug on a new black wood floor. My easel is cleared, dusted and ready for a blank canvas. My writing that had seemed so stuck and impossible in my old space is zipping along. The first day back in my new space, I had a copper mask due that very night. I had been thinking about it and sweating over the deadline but with my studio closed off to me I couldn't work on it at all except for some concept sketches. Sometimes, maybe less time is more than enough because I got the beautiful copper butterfly mask done in one day off to the client to wear to the masquerade ball that night!

Just like the butterfly mask that I created, I, too have gone through a metamorphosis. After Heather's death, I crawled into a cocoon of grief and loneliness. I lost my studio companion and my studio. But with time and hard work and the help of loving friends, all has been transformed. I walk into my studio and see the beautiful space and colors and I feel relieved and released and ready to let my imagination fly.

(I'd love to show you the butterfly mask I created in my new space but blogger won't let me upload any images. I'll get it up as soon as I can.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

“An opportunity disguised as loss, someone with whom you have had a strong emotional bond, through which you have been living a part of your life. Retrieve it now. Seek among the ashes and discover a new perspective and strength.”

This is the card I pulled for the New Year. My friend died the next day. She and I have had a strong emotional bond from day one. But I never saw that I was living part of my life through her. Until now.

She greeted everyone with open-hearted enthusiasm. She loved to meet new friends, people young and old, dogs and cats. She had a sweet, happy energy about her and almost everyone she met, responded with the same eager happiness.

She had a calm, quiet strength that radiated out of her. Yet, she was never aggressive. She would never attack anyone. If, by some chance, she encountered someone who pulled back from her in fear, she made it her quest to win them over. Sometimes it took a while, but she was patient. If someone showed anger and aggression to her, she just kept her head forward, and walked on by with quiet dignity and strength. If the need arose to protect herself or those she loved, she did it with the kind of calm authority that comes with true power.

She was totally in the moment. Every minute. Everyday. She showed me so many ordinary things that I would normally have missed. To her, the ordinary was extraordinary. Watching her, I saw the world. I heard the scrambling of a squirrel and the whisper of bird wings. With her, I stood quietly and smelled the woods, watched the geese fly and welcomed the changes of each season.

She was determined and persistent. She never gave up on what she loved, even when forces worked against her. When her leg was injured and she couldn’t take the daily walks she loved so much, she didn’t let that stop her. Oh, she rested and let it heal, and then she got up and started walking again. At first, it was just a few steps, then, out into the yard, across the street and within months of the injury, she was walking to the park and back again. She got herself up and down the stairs everyday in spite of the pain. She did it with the same determined persistence, one step at a time.

She trusted herself, her intuition, instincts and natural intelligence. She moved out into the world with that firmly rooted trust and inner knowing. She taught me that born inside everyone is the key knowledge. No school can teach you what you already know; you must find the knowledge yourself from inside yourself and trust yourself enough to use it.

She always gave me and everyone she loved a warm hello. For a long time before she died, she couldn’t speak. Again that didn’t stop her from communicating with me or anyone she loved. She was there for me, for all of us and she always knew when it was time for a treat. She loved treats.

Yes, I was living part of my life through her. I saw her wonderful qualities, admired them and never saw them in myself. But she saw them in me. Now, through her, I can start to live them for myself. She’d encourage me just like she always did, with a gentle nudge of her nose.

Her name was Heather.

Seventeen years ago, she arrived into my family. She was a baby, all cute and fuzzy and sweet. I have to say that other than my own human babies, nothing is cuter than a golden retriever or poodle pup. They are just adorable. She was the cutest.

At the time, I had two small children ages 2 and 5. It was no small task to juggle the needs of all three little ones. They all needed time, attention, love and guidance. They needed to listen, learn and share. I needed to teach them all many things, sometimes all at once. It was hectic and stressful and there were times when I didn’t know if I was going to make it through.

One particular time, Heather and I had been training and she’d gotten cranky. I had to give her a time out. After I’d had my ‘time out’, too, I went to her and sat down on the floor. She climbed into my lap and as I began to cry, she licked away my tears. I reached out, hugged her and told her I didn’t know if I was up to the challenge. I was trying but I was tired and frustrated and I told her that maybe she’d be better off with someone else. Her answer was to snuggle closer to me, put her nose on my shoulder and sigh. In spite of the very bad day, I knew that we would make it through together.

Lately, I could see she was tired, in great pain and frustrated then it was my turn to be there for her. And so, I snuggled close to her, put my nose on her shoulder and patted her softly and listened to her sigh a last goodbye knowing we made it through together to the end.

She was my golden retriever friend for 17 years. She would be proud to see me retrieve the enthusiasm, calm strength, true presence, determination, persistence, trust, intuition, true knowledge and love from her life.