I love this photo. It is of the professional art installer putting up the set of seven flags: "A Lifetime." I love it because Love is first, it is centered and it is balanced (level). Below is the entire set installed. In the near future it will have plexiglass behind and infront of it but they wanted to install before the grand opening of the new entrance to the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland, OR.
Sharp intake of breath.....
I am editing the site....
Holy cow, I need to be blogging more. So much happens. Yikes. Well, never to late to start or restart a good habit, I guess. Blogs are about living in the moment and reporting those moments. So, for this moment, life is revolving around saying "yes" to the universe in terms of my art. I made a request this morning for some legal help with licensing. I am updating and will be uploading more recent prayer flags. And, of course, revisiting the blog.
"The Holidays" of course are looming. So is the third anniversary of my husband's manic episode that took him on a secret bus trip across the country to try to save our daughter and others from a catastrophy he believed was eminent based on, well, blogs, and sites of people who focus on fear and distrust. He got swept up in it. And so, did our life together.
Solstice is a return to the light but for our family in 2014, it was the last day we were together as a family. Lots of people have heavy stories about "The Holidays," there's a snippet of mine.
So, I work to focus on the positive, the present moment, the light... Currently, when I am not working on the website, I am working on a commissioned prayer flag. I just finished a commission that took me into dark corners of my being as it challenged me to live the intention "Luminous, Sovereign, Present," during the anniversary month of my husband's last days and death from this place two years ago. It was a powerful experience that resulted in much reflection, reverence, and growing pains. ALL very much GIFT. I will upload an image of that one before the day is out.
Speaking with my sister this morning, I found myself describing my latest prayer flag as “incredibly challenging.” She didn’t even breath, I swear it. “Good!” she exclaimed, “that’s great! It means you’re growing!”
How often I forget to be grateful for challenges because they mean I am growing. It was so good to be reminded. So often it feels like challenges just keep following one another into this life without respite. Somewhere in my psyche I still seem to think this isn’t how life is supposed to be. Something in me still thinks life flatlining means all is well and I can relax. In reality, flatlining means death. Death of the artist just as sure as it means death of the body.
Apparently, sometimes I also still pretend making art will someday really be all joy joy joy!. I am learning though that Joy is rather a bit more complex. Joy resides in the deep place in one’s middle where our deepest and most honest feelings originate.I think that may be part of why it is so hard to access. It can sometimes be found alongside heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, fear. Not that we feel joyful in those moments of heartbreak or fear, but I do think those more challenging deep feelings block our access to joy. It sometimes is hiding beneath them. Some of my favorite authors are able to make use of this in powerful stories that take one to the depths of despair in one sentence and in the next have one laughing until tears form, or vice versa, take one to the height of hilarity and in the next line plummet one into utter disbelieving shock at what the human experience can bring. This to me is a super-power some writers possess. Through it they let us know the vast expanse of experiences we can hold in an instant. Through it they show us how gloriously strong and brave we are to live this life.
I am learning that joy, and perhaps bliss (which is closely related), coming from the middle, the center of the self is far more beautiful and perhaps truer when it flows from the midst of life as well. Joy is not the sunny vacation at the Riviera (though I’d not turn that down!) so much as it is the rippling laughter upon noticing one has put on mismatched socks or found just the right answer to a child’s earnest question. Joy is not ease of creation. Joy IS creation, grueling, challenging, fun, inspired, messy, lovely, silly, sorrowful LIFE. In a sense, one gives birth to joy. Some labors are short, some take more energy. All bring something into being which before was hidden. Joy is like this. It shows us something of life we cannot see. It allows us to express that which cannot be seen.
So, Yay, today I was challenged. Today I didn’t flatline. Today was a day well lived and Joy was indeed created.
I walked along the beach today with my little dog. It was a gorgeous, if unusual, 88 degrees at the Oregon Coast today. Even the water was warm. Treasures from the sea lined the water’s edge. The beauty reached deep into me to a place where all feelings originate in the magma of my being. When some emotion or experience slices through the layers of my daily living to touch that place in me, generally there is a sense that all emotions are One, or at least are so connected as to be instantly drawn to the surface one by the other. So my marveling gratitude and joy felt walking along the beach cut a path to where loneliness and sorrow also reside and I found myself remembering how rich my life was with my husband by my side and my child running along the beach and out two dogs playfully exploring. And now we are two.
Experiences like this are dangerous, or at least used to be. They could plummet me instantaneously into despairing thoughts that darkened my path back to the surface of day to day living. It has taken many years and much trial and error, and hard work to come to a place of feeling that experience of joy unlocking the path to all emotions including painful ones without free-falling. Today, the beauty of the day pierced my heart then sliced down to the marrow of my being and I felt the fall, I felt despair and longing and aching regret as I looked again at my little dog ahead of me, walking purposefully, as if he thought, if he just walked far enough he’d find the rest of the pack. Then I began simply saying “thank you.” And I spoke to God the Universe and Everything about how grateful I was for those moments, those days on the beach with the love of my life, our child and those two amazing dogs, one of whom still very much needed someone to play with him in the surf.
This to me is joy. Joy is all of it. The beauty reminding us of the pain reminding us of the moment reminding us of the gratitude reminding us of the love. One can start anywhere in that lineup. It’s the strand of pearls. Circular. Separate and unique treasures of the human experience; but one necklace.
Image of the new prayer flag, Joy, coming soon…
Someone recently asked me, “so, do you follow some kinde of plan, like, sort of a paint-by-number, when you lay out the pieces and then sew?” It’s a good question. Do you follow some kind of plan? My answer, whether satisfactory or not, was, "I’m not at all certain," pause, then, "but, no. not really." Piecing and sewing the prayer flags is an intensely intuitive process, i went on to explain. I pointed to the flag I was showing her at the time. “this part here, this piece of fabric was part of my patron’s father’s shirt. I’d found a place for his bluejeans but hadn’t seen anywhere the plaid could fit in until the entire flag was finished being pieced. Then it occurred to me the shirt fabric would make a nice pattern in the shallow water. So everything in the lower 1/3 of the flag had to be lifted so the piece could be included.” I added that my dry hands always pose a challenge, as does my benign tremor. I have a few different size tweezers in my studio to help.
Inevitably, with every flag, at some point, things aren’t feeling quite right and a major or if I'm lucky, minor, unduing and rebuilding of layers takes place. Sometimes it’s near the beginning of the process, sometimes when I think I'm just about finished with piecing it. Sometimes when stitches have already been laid in.
So I do a lot of undoing and re-doing. It takes a lot of patience. A tailor, when looking at my flags, once said she’d rather make a three-piece suite than make one of my flags. Without missing a beat, I responded, “and I could never make a three-piece suit.” We all have our own particular type of patience and making these flags has taught me much about mine. Making them has given me practice through which I have learned great patience in allowing something to unfold. Most significantly though, I have learned that if I listen well enough, I can catch subtle indications that something doesn’t quite fit and from there, if I take the time to undo and redo or make right what didn’t quite fit, the result always, always, always will be far better than the original “plan.”
I continue to work on staying present in my life and in my art. This sometimes makes it challenging to take a moment and write about what all is going on. Living in the moment is one thing. Writing about living in the moment sort of skews time a bit and takes one out of the moment. That said, Life (with a capital "L") continues to be about not slipping into despair or neurosis in the wake of my husbands death. This is below the surface of what I present to the world most of the time. Most of the time, I simply look busy, or relaxed, or greiving, or I don't know, "Ok." At least that's what I hear. Within there are thunderstorms and whipping winds and torrential rains and waves crashing against rocks and washing away sands. And in the center of it all is the tiny house of me. Wondering and waiting. Hatches battened. Keeping up with the leaks as fast as I can. Dancing to maintain every critical evidence of security if not stability.
There you are, here I am.
In the meantime, I do create art. It continues to be the best caulking to seal up the leaks, so to speak. It repairs me as nothing else can. But too, it also breaks me open. In any given moment, I cannot know which it will be. Repair or breaking open. Yet I do it. Why?
Simply put, I can't not. Making art is like breathing. And just because my ribs are bruised and my body feels wracked (and my world rocked) in the wake of my love's suicide, I cannot stop breathing. Infact, breathing is what will keep me alive, though it will hurt for a while and perhaps from time-to-time for the rest of my life.
Hard is a four letter word, I've learned (thank you Roberta) to use the word "Challenging." Art is extremely challenging at times. It turns me inside out. And sometimes what's inside is pretty messy, pretty rough and scary, painful and dark. And turning it to the outside makes me feel very raw.
Right now I am working on a commission. A prayer flag with the theme and intention, "Joy." Ironic? Challenging? Yup. It is taking me twice as long to complete this flag than I'd estimated. It has challenged me to go inside and search the halls and rooms of myself with a flashlight, looking for joy. It's there but it is extremely skitish right now. Like a feral cat, it hides from the any attempt to capture it. I have to act as if I am just going about my life and pay attention to when joy creeps out from some corner and brushes up against me. It has been a complex journey. I've never taken so many stitches out of a flag as I have with this one. I've never gotten nearly finished and wondered if I should start all over again only to see that, no, this one is unexpected; but it is perfectly complexly joyful.
I will post a photo when the patron has seen it. Give me a couple weeks...
SO happy with how this "cairn" worked out in a recent flag. This is part of a quadriptych for which I now have two flags finished. the largest flag is of Mount Hood with the Zigzag river flowing off it. The flag with the cairn is one depicting the foreground in the quadriptych. Just wanted to share some of the details in colors through stitching and fabrics and fibers.
The word "abundance," is tossed about quite a lot lately. (one might say, "tossed about with abundance.") It's a good word. So many applications. So many implications. I have been very busy since my last post, digging deeper into it's meaning in my life. The first anniversary of Mike's death was a check-point that carried many and deep meanings, I am grateful the first year of grieving his departure from our life has concluded. It was an abundant year. And, as I've been tested from time to time, I really do not recall a lot that went on. Grief is it's own reality. It is a reality abundant with pain, of course; but grief is also abundant with it's gifts. The depth to which one feels grief is in itself a gift. I don't know that I've ever experienced anything close to the fulness of the human experience I've felt in the last year.
Has the year informed my art? Abundantly! This is one of grief's gifts to me. The spectrum of emotions, the richness of the physical ache, the emptiness, the full of emptiness feeling, the return of the joyful memories as the trauma melts away, all of these experiences have been with me in every brush-stroke, every fiber placement, every of the millions of stitches this year. There is an unconditional present-ness that comes with grieving, if one allows themselves to BE present. This allowing is challenging, as we all know. But the gift of allowing one's self to grieve is this poignant sense of present-ness that is rich and, in it's own way comforting. I have found it to be so anyway. I've also found it to be extremely supportive in creating art.
I have studied "abundance," for years. It is a companion word for me. But recently it was pointed out to me that though I may carry abundance in my heart, I do not always receive it well, or even at all. Receiving is the new notion for me to work on it seems. I think I've also talked in this blog about "allowing." "Receiving" is quite similar to "allowing," but where "allowing" is an openness to what is seen, "receiving" is vision.
I wish to see better...