Sunday, November 17, 2019

Living Wholeheartedly: Further Defining What It Means for Me

I came across the term “wholehearted living” from reading Brene Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfection.” Those two words spoke volumes, not in actual words, but in how the term reverberated through my soul. A fire was lit. This was it! This is what I’ve been working towards all along, and I grabbed onto that concept as if it was lifeline.

What first popped up in my mind were words about being a better person, such as: honesty, integrity, kindness, honor, gentle but strong; those qualities that define a good, kind person. Words I feel are important for living a good life. Ideals I want and believe I am. But it’s so much more …

And once I became aware, it began slowly working within me all the time. I’d catch myself in times of stress asking myself how I can live more wholeheartedly. I’d catch myself going down the rabbit holes of frustration and despair, but then those words would ring in my brain and I’d pull myself out. Live wholeheartedly!

I find I’m laughing at myself over certain situations. I’ve never done that before! Things that would upset me for days I am now seeing them in a different light. I’m able to re-look at how I’m reacting, reminding myself to live wholeheartedly and going over the few key words as to what living wholeheartedly means for me.

As time goes on, the life lessons and self-work continue to evolve. Life isn’t reading a chapter, taking a test and being done with it. Life constantly deals out lessons and challenges. It’s a continuing education. So, what does it mean to me to live a wholehearted life?

Wholehearted living does not have a how-to formula. It’s not something with specific steps, not a one-size-fits-all; our lives are not cookie cutters. It’s not about copying Brown’s work into my lifestyle because we live totally different lives. It’s about taking her basic concept and reforming it to my life – mentally and spiritually. Yes, some things ring true, but other aspects I need to change around and put my words to it.

I’m developing my own definitions to fit me at this stage of my life. It’s not about setting my beliefs as gospel for anyone else. It’s taking the concepts resonating in me and turning them into assets for my life.

I am choosing how I want to live my life and I’m “daring greatly” (another term she uses) to talk about it. I’m sharing my experience in how I’m finding my way in this world. I write about coping with life issues; not as a sob-woe-is-me story, but to share how I deal with the challenges and how I’m always striving to be a better person … not to prove something to others, but to live the most wholehearted life I can.

I think about what living wholeheartedly means, and beyond those first words I mentioned above are peacefulness, calmness, patience, resilience, doing the best I can, goodness and determination. There are also the clich├ęs of going with the flow and finding balance. But I also consider: Taking the time to ask for Divine help/guidance; being true to self; allowing for imperfection; looking for joy and beauty every day; loving when I can and forgiving when I can, setting boundaries.

Creating boundaries is a bit of a toughie, but necessary for someone empathetic. Setting boundaries for me means cutting myself of from negativity/anger; not falling into media hype traps and avoiding people/corporations trying to sell me the next best thing.

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean cutting myself off from the world – although I am consciously doing so in many cases. It doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion. It’s about choosing what I can comfortably allow into my life. It’s about changing what I’m thinking about the minute I start falling into despair by some negative comment or event.  

It’s still a work in progress. I’m sure other aspects will surface, and I’ll make adjustments.

What does/would it mean to you to live wholeheartedly?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Emotions, Excuses, and Making Adjustments to Move Forward

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about art … and even been in the studio. (Except to water plants.) Art was kind of put on hold for the summer as so many other projects took forefront. Plus, I don’t like the last pastel painting I had framed. Does feeling that way add to my dragging my feet to get back to painting?

Oh, I’ve made feeble attempts, then walked away discouraged. I lost the creative fire, and with poetry, too. Maybe it was the summer with the creative endeavors and energy going into designing more gardens. I enjoy flowers.

Crowded studio with plants brought in for the winter
Now I’m ready to get back into the pastels ... but I’m hesitant. There’s still one partial painting on one tabletop easel. There’s another I started on the big standup easel (then wiped most off and restarted). There are two others on tabletop easels with a brief hen scratches drawn on.

What’s the matter with me? I get photos and for a moment I’m inspired … then the flames die back. I’ll start something and think it’ll be quick and easy, then the minute I run into a challenge, I give up.

Time for reflection and figuring out the next step in my artist’s evolution.

Time to reorganize and revamp my crowded studio
The other day I returned to one I’d started after my trip to the seacoast in June. This is the one I’d wiped initial workings off. I love the scene. I’m just having trouble getting the perspective.

One of the problems, which I realize I do to myself, is I will take three or four photos from different angles figuring I’ll incorporate favorite aspects into one painting. Doing this means perspective will be off, and I need to make adjustments to create a good composition. Perhaps that is an immediate setup for problems – but I’ve done it before, so why am I struggling now?

I wrote a blog last week on creating structure that works for my size, height, weight, flexibility, etc. Maybe this line of thought works on my studio space, too. I considered the height of my easels and where I tape the paper I paint on.

Three things stood out.

One, I paint standing up and usually tape the paper so it’s eye-level where I can better see what I’m doing. In re-thinking this, I realize this height makes me raise my arms and shoulders higher than comfortable, which in turn, creates tension across my upper back and shoulders. (And it doesn’t help I now have arthritis in my back.)

Two, earlier this year I read about making the work space more up right so excess pastel dust falls off into the tray and less gets out into the air. I adjusted my easels. Now, in thinking about that, along with the easel height, I realize an upright angle is not comfortable for me.

Three, perhaps I should narrow my focus to only one or two paintings on an easel at a time. Part of me rebels at this because this has been one of my quirks of how I work. I’ve used this as part of my rebellion at doing it like other artists.

Pencil sketch of "Winding Through Autumn" -SW
The other day a friend posted a scenic photo I fell in love with and was given permission to use it for a painting. I printed a copy in color and one in grayscale. That evening I did a pencil sketch while watching TV. I was very pleased, not only with the result, but for the fact I usually get bored with sketches and give up!

Time to set up for the painting. Yesterday, I adjusted the angle of one of the table easels, then contemplated the height of the table. The legs are on 6-inch bed risers to raise the height. I’m afraid if I take the table off the risers, the easel with then be too low. I walked out of the room without doing anything else.

This morning I discussed the dilemma with my neighbor. He said we can use blocks of wood leftover from when he just rebuilt the garage steps. This way we can create the perfect height for me to work comfortably.

I’m excited again and can’t wait to get to it!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Deadlines and Feeding My Soul

Working on the summer guide, my big spring project which I only have about two weeks to get done on top of everything else I do, is finally in its finishing stages. Hopefully, I’ll have my end of it done today.

The stress was definitely less this morning (except for the nuisance blue jays) and was the first day this year I had the slider and front door open. I went outside early to put up feeders. I can’t resist the little birds, though I chase off the jays. It was raining, but warm; so warm, I stayed outside to do a morning yard walk-about. I’m always amazed at how much plants grow overnight. Very exciting … except for weeds, black flies and mosquitoes, and my fear of ticks.

I considered moving a few more rocks to create a new flower garden, but with the wetness, the dirt on the rocks, and the fact I overdid it a bit yesterday (my back was sc-uh-reaming last night), I decided against it. But I so wanted to! I stood there surveying my little yard contemplating how I’m going to extend the new garden. I can’t wait … but I have to take my time, do a little at a time. It’s the way I need to work nowadays, and that’s OK.

What is the difference between what I want to do and what I feel I have to do? What I really want/need to do is paint more and when did I last do any real writing, like work on a book? I want to do the gardening, too, before the days get too hot and buggy. These are the things that feed my soul, and I always get extra stressful when I'm not nourishing my inner being.
I went through my pile of accumulated notes the other night. I’m always making lists and writing down thoughts and ideas to work on later, and the pile of paper gets higher. 

There are so many projects and writings I start working on, but they fall by the wayside. It leaves me feeling incomplete, discombobulated. For some reason, that latter word comes to my mind a lot. I think it really describes how I feel often. I've used it often throughout the years. 
The last couple of days I've done my journaling in early evening because I chose to work in the morning to meet dual deadlines with the summer guide and the regular weekly edition. That meant I gave up my meditation time. It doesn't help with it staying lighter later as I'm not getting to my “nesting time” until later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Butterfly Bounce

April 27, 2019
7:20 a.m.

The roar of the brook – no, river – buzzes under the music playing inside the house. I pull back the curtains on the slider to welcome the morning. Oooeee, the water levels had risen over night! No wonder it’s so loud. The huge boulder in the middle of the brook is totally covered over, the water rushing over it in waves.

The torrent rages with lots of white crests as water gushes over rocks and bounces off the banks on its hurry to get to the lake. I consider waiting until the rain stops, but I have to go out now and don flannel shirt, coat, and sneakers.

I take many photos from the deck overlooking the brook, but that’s not enough. I have to get closer and gingerly make my way down the steps to wade through wet leaves and wintergreen with its red berries creating tiny pops of bright color in all the dullness. My feet are soaked by the time I make the 50 feet or so to the top of the bank.

The noise is almost deafening. For a few seconds, I just stare, mesmerized by the turbulence. There are so many nooks and crannies, small waterfalls as water rushes over boulders then splashes in brighter whiteness before gushing on. With all the different nuances I could stand here watching for quite a while.

I work my way a few yards downstream to take photos from various angles, then work upstream. It starts raining harder and water drips off my hair, runs down my face, and soaks into my coat. I make my way back to the house and finish my regular morning routine. But even when settled in my chair, the movement of the water, seen through the slider and between the deck balusters, keeps distracting me. Oh, I love this view!


"Martha's Sunset" pastel painting in process
The garden muse has been winning out, but as it was raining yesterday, I slipped into the studio to do a little art work. I debated the two new floral sketches I’d started and thought about the next landscape, but with three in process paintings on the easels already … I turned to “Martha’s Sunset.”

And again, I contemplated giving up on “Grassy Dunes,” but it’s not letting me.

I have to admit, there’s something fascinating with experimenting and figuring out how to get a specific effect. I get one part looking OK (to me), but then something else needs adjusting. I know I can’t make it exactly like the photo (because that’s not what I do), so the goal is to just make it look really intriguing. There’s a line of trees between the darker ones and the mountain range. I feel I’m struggling, yet, it’s not looking too bad. I’m not even sure how I’m going to do the foreground. It’s rather featureless. I guess I’ll just have to improvise.

In the meantime, I had to get back to editing. There’s a deadline to meet.

By 3 p.m. today and deadline met, I was glad I went out to the brook this morning. The water levels dropped once it stopped raining, and while occasionally the water gushes over the top of the huge boulder, it’s no longer totally covering it.

I do get carried away with taking photos, but I love sharing the beauty of my surroundings through pictures posted on Facebook. It’s my way of giving to the community.

Once more the butterfly bounce carries me from project to project: writing, painting, editing for the newspaper, taking photos, and more. Oh, and this time of year, the flowering gardening adds another component. A little done here, a little done there and I happily follow my heart’s whim.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Surrender to the Mystery

I open the slider curtains being careful not to step on Pele. I spend a minute looking around to see what has her attention, but nothing catches my eye. I move on with my morning routine and while at the kitchen sink preparing to make coffee, I look out at the brook.

Taking flight
Something unusual catches my eye. Tall and skinny with long legs, it takes a few seconds for my brain to register. A great blue heron is standing on the huge boulder in the middle of the brook! He is very aware of me. He must have been watching when I opened the slider curtains. I’m surprised he didn’t fly off.

I quickly grab my camera, but the height won’t work out nor is there a clear shot through the screen. I use manual focus and press the shutter button a couple times anyway. I move over to the slider, but the deck railing blocks the view.

The only alternative is to stand on a stool (an iffy attempt for me). Will he still be there? He’s definitely watching as I hoist myself up on the stool, but he doesn’t fly away, and I focus the camera and get more photos. We watch each other. I wait for him to move … and wait.

I love Pele's reflections in the glass
Leo comes to the door and Pele is just on the inside. They are face to face. I take a quick photo looking down on them. Leo rattles the screen to come in. The blue heron watches. He finally hops off the rock to land in the water.

I gingerly get off the stool, shoo Pele out of the way and let Leo in. I slip out the door in bare feet. The thermometer reads 38 degrees. I carefully cross the deck hoping to get a closer, clearer view of the big bird, but this is too close for the heron and he spreads his wings and flies up the brook. There are too many trees to get any photos. I hurry back inside. Brrr, it’s cold!

In reading “The Artist’s Way Every Day” by Julia Cameron, I was really taken by her comment, “Surrender to the mystery of the creative journey.” Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I do without realizing it – when I’m not caught up in trying to “get it right,” ha-ha.

Creativity, for me, is a mystic journey whether it’s painting or poetry. I seldom know where it’s really going or how it will come out – until it’s done. I love the surprise.
Today’s work in the studio had me adding touches to the sky. Then I moved down the page and began working the horizon. I dab and daub and rub and feather. I make a few sharper lines, blend colors allowing the mystery and the discovery to be revealed.

"Martha's Sunset" in process
It’s quite the challenge when working from more than one photograph. I use one photo for the main scene but choose various sections from the other photo(s). Often there is … what I call busy-ness … that clutters a scene and I’ll leave that out. Other times I’ll add extra bushes or rocks depending how I want to shape the composition.

What’s interesting, too, is if someone is familiar with the scene, it’s still recognizable even with the changes I make. They’d have to look really hard to know what’s different.

Earlier I lined framed paintings on the couch. (I need to find wall space – some will be off to a show.) Of course, I have my favorites, and I notice the progression in my style and technique.

Yeah, if I look hard, I can always find something I should have done, but I can’t dwell on that. I laugh at myself thinking if I did that particular scene over … Yep, there’s always room to improve … and even ones I may not fully like in the end have an opportunity to, perhaps, return to and finish someday and make totally beautiful.

I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished. I am so happy! There is just something about having pastel in my hand and my hand moving to create and enhance the scene. Or holding a pen to page or fingers on a keyboard to write. The creativity flows and the heart and soul are filled with joy.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Working through the Challenges

19-008 “Martha’s Sunset” WIP; Started March 1, 2019

I got back in the studio and really worked the sky. It’s a challenge, for sure, choosing the correct shades of gray, blue, orange, cream and yellow.

And then, my hand just moves without my thinking about what to do. How much do I trust that I’m doing what I’m supposed to? I layered, I rubbed, I wiped off and did it all again.

I kept stepping back and every time I did, I bump into my pastel cart. I finally wheeled it out of the way after saying, “Ow!” too many times.

I worked more than I meant to at this time. As usual, whenever I walked away, I’d turn around to look, see something to adjust, and go back. In the end, I decided to shorten the foreground and moved the tape up 1 ½ inches.             

I’m pleased with the progress. I’m always amazed the painting is never exactly like the photograph, but then, to try to get it exact would drive me crazy. I enjoy letting the picture help create itself.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Scene Calling to Photographed and Painted

Chickadees keep my Pele-kitty entertained

The morning of April 8 was dark and rainy. I recited the old adage “April showers bring May flowers” knowing every day will bring new sprouts shooting up out of the ground. There are already some sturdy looking shoots coming up in an area I don’t remember planting anything. It’ll be exciting to see what those are … tulips, daffodils? Some kind of first-up perennials of the year.

The garden manual I began four years ago has not been updated in a long time. (Neither has my editing manual.) Both have been pushed into the background as other projects take my time. I can’t complain as I follow my heart – and whatever muse has me at the moment. I like it. Life is interesting and I make it more so by finding things I enjoy.

April 9 was another dark rainy morning. The ground was still white-spotted from the occasional icy snow the day before. The frosting on the hemlock and spruce boughs were eye catching.

It was foggy, too, when I headed out to pick up my friend Jane and to meet our other friend, Nan, for breakfast. The dirt roads were wet and a little slick. I like going the back way because the scenery is more enjoyable. Driving was better on the paved roads.

We passed a picturesque area calling to be photographed. Fog wound around an impressive birch tree on the top of a hill. The tree’s branches formed an eye-catching elegance, like a stately lady posed at the top of the stairs waiting to be noticed. Evergreens rimmed the bottom of the hill; the lady’s audience waiting with applause, and in the far distances, more trees and mountains.

I’ve taken photos of this scene in the past. One I used as inspiration for a charcoal drawing, and another was a summer scene for a pastel painting. None were from this angle and neither had fog. (Funny how a direction change can make a scene totally different.)

I didn’t want to stop because we all had other things to do. As it was, it was going to be a short breakfast (and, of course, breakfast and conversation was good.) But I was a bit disappointed. I seldom get out on a foggy day and I so love doing fog paintings.

Today, April 10, starts out as another gray morning but no fog. The back deck has more snow than the previous day. It's all pock marked, so it looks funny. I guess other drippings caused it ... not sure how exactly. It looks like the deck was spread in sunflower seeds, then a light layer of icy snow covered it.

Yesterday’s scene of the birch tree is calling me. It wants to be photographed and painted. Should I make a run over? Go now before I settle into the day’s projects? Should I time it to be able to get lunch takeout at in in-town restaurant?

I finish my morning routines, and, for the few moments between projects, that scene begins calling louder. I have to go, I have to! If I wait and spring really starts emerging, that particular view will be blocked.

Looks like a flying saucer crash landed
I don outerwear, then take photos of the brook before leaving. The ice on one of the bigger rocks looks like a flying saucer crash-landed. The temperature is only 32 degrees and the roads are covered in icy snow in many places. I drive with a little more care. Tree branches, frosted in white, bend from the weight of ice. The ice gives them a lacy-ness. Mother Nature creating works of art.

I reach the spot I call “the Hill” in eight minutes. Uh, oh, there’s a ditch alongside the road with running water. There’s no room to pull over. Too much brush and fallen trees don’t give a clear view of the scene I want from the roadside.

There’s an old pull-off space probably used years ago by the old farm. I don’t dare park there for fear of getting stuck or having the weight of the car force it to cave into the ditch. I don’t want to park farther down the hill because it would be too hard for me to walk back up.

Hmmm, what to do. I want this picture! It is a quiet morning, not much traffic here. I’m going to chance it. I leave the car running with the blinker on and grab my camera. I don’t usually go on someone else’s property without permission, but this area is far enough from the house I don’t feel I’m trespassing.

I cross the ditch and pick my way through dead leaves and field grasses, going around a couple of big bushes to reach the stone wall bordering the field that is home to the birch tree. I get seven photos before the camera stops working. Oops, dead battery. Seven should do it, though.

These scene calls me and calls me
Back home, after giving Pele and Leo kitty attention, I import and edit the photos, getting ready to print when something Nan said yesterday rattles my brain. She said she always prints a black and white photo along with a color one. This helps her with values.

Duh! I used to do that all the time! When did I stop? And why? Goodness. So, I edit four of the photos to also be gray scale and print them all. I’m not sure which angle I’ll choose for the painting. I’ll spend some evenings playing around with preliminary sketches.

While I was at it, I also gray scale the three in-process paintings currently on the easels. I’m still shaking my head how I let this important step slide out of my awareness.

The sun is poking through and I’m eager to get in the studio.