Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to keep that Maui feeling in Portland, Oregon.

I came back to Portland from Maui on September 16th and ten days later, that Maui feeling is starting to fade. I don’t want that to happen because there was a feeling to life there that I know I need here and now. Everyday.

It’s not just about a vacation. But a state of mind that was, in spite of recent life circumstances, healthy. It was like I’d been rescued from turbulent waters, wrapped up in a blanket and given a nice, warm drink. As well as time to take in my rescue and decide that life, in its very essence was a very good thing, something to hold in the palm of my hand, gently, savoring every little taste like a bite of delicious chocolate.

But, as we all know, life gets in the way. It gets busy. I had masks to send off to a show in another state, something I’ve never done before. I had work to finish for my open studio coming up in 2 weeks. I had interviews to do and articles to write. I had classes to set up, meetings, emails, problems to solve and animals needing walks. You get the idea.

For awhile, that Maui feeling stayed anyway. But slowly it started to fade away, buried under the to-do lists. I didn’t want to lose it, so I kept reaching down under the pile of life stuff and brought it back again. I put a sunrise view from our lanai on my laptop to remind to greet the day. I found hibiscus blossoms in my own garden and floated a few in a crystal bowl on my desk to remind me that beauty is life giving. I wore my Maui sarong in the evenings to remind me that life can be free of constraints. I used the coconut soap, shampoo and lotion that reawakened my senses. It all helped…a little.

Then, my friend, Susan suggested compiling some words to describe the experience there that I could use here. I followed her wise advice and started scribbling words on a piece of paper. I struggled. None of the words seemed to capture it for me. I asked my husband for suggestions. He added a few words. I scratched off a few. The list was longer than I wanted. Life was simple there and I wanted the list to be simple, too.

The words on the list are acceptance, bountiful, enjoyment, restful, peaceful, sweet smells, birds, ocean, sands, beautiful, colorful, live. But they all seemed too much.

Here are the words I feel say it better now: Calm, beauty, ease, pleasure.
What do you think?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Living, loving, creating and Maui

Last week, I was on Maui. The beautiful, lush, tropical island with soft, sandy beaches and warm surf is a fantasy land. And fantasy is just what I needed to recharge my depleted physical, emotional and creative batteries.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve heard about my life over the last 19 months. It’s been a bumpy, sad, scary and difficult road with no end in sight. Yet. My husband’s been laid off, worked part time, laid off again. Three people we’ve known, worked with and raised children with have died. My daughter moved away from home. The life we had, that we thought was stable is gone. And we’re both searching for ways to use our talents, live our lives creatively and make a living.

Seeing people we know die too young was shocking. But it also helped us see life as a gift that doesn’t come with guarantees. What it does come with is choices, and the biggest one is to live in fear or live in love.

I spent many months in the fear zone. I wasn’t sleeping or eating very well. I lost weight. I cried a lot. I tried to get out of it by looking for reasons and causes of the difficulties, trying to figure it all out. So I could fix it all and everything would be back to normal again. It didn’t work. I had to realize that there are many things in this life, my life that I can’t control: cancer, economic recessions, industry changes and children growing up.

One day, tears streaming down my cheeks, again, I asked a friend what I could do. She said, “Let go and let God”. Now, she knows I’m not a religious person and I don’t like the word, God. But in that moment, I realized that she was right. And that God didn’t have to be the male, power figure that I grew up with but a name for the essential energy force that is in and around all of us.

Something shifted that day. I had been telling my self to let go. But I was like a child on the monkey bars, who weary of hanging on was still too afraid to let go and trust that I would land on my feet.

Maui. The trip to Hawaii was an act of trust, of letting go and loving my life instead of fearing for it. It seemed crazy at first to my ‘control’ mind to book a 5 day trip to Maui when so much is still up in the air. And yet, it felt completely right. Right after we booked the trip, I felt this incredible sense of relief. I didn’t know what the feeling was at first, then it hit me. That’s what ‘letting go’ feels like.

And I like the feeling. Oh, I still had my scary moments getting ready for the trip and getting on the plane. Even though my mind was having a hissy fit, there was a place inside me that was calm, clear and rock solid.

On Maui, I rose at dawn everyday. Watching the sunrise, hearing the birds call back and forth to each other, seeing the colors change on the distant island and the sea, I felt calmly present. My mind was silent. My body tired at first, began to rest even as I walked the beaches and floated on the waves. I picked up sweet scented flowers on the path and filled bowls with them. My creative vision became clear once again and I saw the ‘masks’ in the palm trees and the figurative forms in the tree trunks. I longed to paint the warm reds, oranges and pinks of the sunsets and the luscious greens of the distant sugar cane fields. The deep blue green waves and the light peach clouds made me want to take out my pastels and draw in a way I haven’t allowed myself to do in many years.

I wrote in my journal inspired by articles I read that told of other women’s life changes. I realized that my life isn’t bad, wrong or odd, just changed. And many of the changes, as my friends have pointed out, are good changes for me, my husband and grown-up children. But the lives that ended, have shown me the importance of living. Really living.

What does that mean for you or me? Everyone has their own ideas. Mine is to live a creative life that sustains me in physical, emotional and spiritual ways as well as inspiring and helping the world and the people around me. How can I do that? I don’t have the complete answer. Yet. Maybe I never will. But surrounded by the beauty on Maui, I opened up to life and love. I know that my choice is to live in love instead of fear, and finding ways I can share that through my life, art and writing is creating a life worth living.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Book Review:
Beg, Borrow, Steal
A Writer’s Life

by Michael Greenburg

Each chapter feels like a scrapbook page of Michael Greenburg’s life. As the son of a cantankerous scrap metal owner, Greenburg left home and dropped out of high school to live the writer’s life. Making a living is the challenge he faces taking jobs, driving cabs, selling cosmetics, writing scripts about golf, teaching Spanish and ghostwriting memoirs.

Filled with a trunk load of curious and interesting characters, including old Hebrew school chums, immigrant neighbors, fellow street vendors, shady movie producers, drag queens, rats and coffee house baristas, Greenburg gives you a chance to peek into their world through his eyes.

The chapter on living in Argentina with his high school sweetheart is a touching thrill ride as she barely survives being shot in a Buenos Aires prison riot and they escape into the country celebrating life and conceiving their son. The memory of his neighbor, the tailor and a fortune lost is heartbreaking. His description of his unsuccessful career as a waiter shows his dedication to his writing as well as his longing for a steady paycheck. My favorite was the story of Eli, the difficult dachshund whose story is one that ends happily.

There’s no doubt that Greenburg is an excellent writer and his life has been filled with adventures of living a creative life. He’s a columnist for Times Literary Supplement, author of a successful memoir, “Hurry Down Sunshine”, articles in O, The Oprah Magazine, and The New York Times Review of Books. His stories are compelling, readable and enjoyable.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Making masks on a Sunday afternoon.
What could be better? Nothing.

This Sunday, I was happy to do another “Unmask Yourself” workshop. As I told the class, the latin word for mask is persona. And so, you can see that you wear a mask every day, it’s called your personality.

The idea for the class, to unmask yourself, really means to go with your gut. Pick colors, words or phrases, beads, feathers whatever feels right, today. To stretch yourself playfully beyond what you might think is you.

My class dove right in with gusto. They glued layers of papers, words, phrases and pictures layered it all with sparkly glazes, paints, beads and feathers.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. All in all, we had a great time.