Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tooooooooo Spooooooooooooky for Halloooooooween?

This is too spooky for words, my friends. This 'fraidy cat to beat all 'fraidy cats has come to a decision. I am no longer afraid of the dark. Ghosts, apparitions, aliens, and strange unidentified creatures can rest easy now, knowing that I feel no need to rid the world of them. It's Halloween, and all that scares me is. . . humans.

If the ghost of my Grandma or my Granny could appear and give me a real hug, then I would revert to my old fears because that would mean bad spirits could also touch me. It hasn't happened yet, even though I've wished for it so many times in my life. So, that's it, in a nutshell. It sure took me a long enough time to figure out this one!

Whatever scares you, try looking at it from a different angle. You might still be scared, but who knows? You also might chip away at the fear, creating a new handhold for courage.

That's my Halloween thought for the day. It's certainly not spooky in the conventional way, but sometimes "a-ha!" moments regarding real life sneak up on us and spook our brain with their uncanny appearance :) Hope all of your tricks have been balanced with lots of treats this Halloween! Nighty-night!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lessons in Life

Lesson #4,742:
Well, actually, this could be Lessons #4,742-4,746 or so. This picture brings to mind a bunch of different little blurbs.
For instance, Lesson #4,742 could indeed be that oak trees do not care whether (or when) other trees have changed colors. Oak trees are apparently stubborn like that. They will also hold on to their leaves long after the poplars are bare and the pines have shed beaucoup needles.
This observation leads to Lesson #4,743: Don't worry about raking the yard until all of the trees have lost their leaves. The poplars were losing them so quickly that the ground I had just raked would be covered again in an hour. I put away the rake. I'm waiting.
Lesson #4,744: If you sit under an oak in autumn, then you should not be surprised when an acorn falls on your head. Ask Katie. She knows from personal experience. She said it didn't hurt, so I don't feel so bad telling you it was actually funny to watch... exactly like a cartoon scene, it was.
Lesson #4,745: Frost is beautiful, but it is not easily captured in a photograph. I know. This was supposed to be a stunning photograph of a frosted leaf sparkling in the morning sunlight. Ha.
Corollary to #4,745: Don't forget to put down the darn camera and actually look at what you're attempting to capture. Otherwise, you're going to miss a lot of beautiful tidbits from Nature! The sparkles were spectacular in person, by the way.
Lesson #4,746: If you mess around too long writing your blog, instead of straightening the house as you planned, you may run out of time.
Corollary to #4,746: Ain't no corollary, really. I just need to say I better finish up here and zoom through the house one time! Bet I won't get to come back from the Fall Festival stuff and clean up before Parade time, and then family is coming to spend the night (and hopefully not look at the dust I let grow this week!). Have a terrific Halloween weekend, Everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Squiggly Lines and Half Moons

Always, the moon is a drawing force upon my soul.
That squiggly branched dead tree in the backyard is, too. It may not pull me the way the moon does, but that tree makes me fall in love with it every time I look out the back windows.
The other night, I was walking back to the house from the shed. My feet stopped at the tree, even though I try not to stand under it when the wind is blowing. Before I realized what I was doing, my hand laid itself upon a flat part of the trunk where a branch had once been. It was the same motion as someone resting their hand on a loved one's heart. So instead of a tree hugger, does this make me a tree patter?
I also happen to be a tree watcher. This one has a few different woodpeckers who treat it like their very own buffet, as well as plenty of sparrows and a stray goldfinch or two who drop in to rest on a favorite tall branch. Exotic birds and pet birds will catch my eye, but my true love is simply observing whichever wildbirds are near me. Hummingbirds at my mom's feeders, sandhill cranes in the fields near my parents' home, blue jays in the tall trees along the ditch at the back of our yard, hawks on light poles, and even turkey vultures resting on a neighbor's split rail type fence. . . those are my delights. Just like the squiggly tree, their adornments seem subtle but fascinating.
Hmmm. I'm not sure how that all ties in with the moon, although Luna is the retiring and shy counterpart to the blazing sun if you think about it.
Anyway, just a little rambling to go wiggle its way into your brain, just like the squiggly branches are always wiggling their way into mine!
Have an awe-inspiring Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Staring into the Eyes of God, or Why Artists Need Time to Waste

I will now cop to spending an hour one afternoon this past summer taking pictures of this praying mantis that graced the front sidewalk. It was obviously a "she," and she was moving very slowly, as praying mantises are wont to do, even when they aren't as pregnant as she appeared to be. Besides having a huge abdomen, she was also one of the longest mantises I remember ever seeing. She was gorgeous, all subtle brown tones and elegantly armored. How could I not run for the camera? She had beautiful patterns on her gently folded wings, and the colors were so intriguing.
Here's where more practical people (or people who are gainfully employed at "real" jobs) snort and mutter something about wishing they had time to take pictures of bugs. . . and I understand why, I really do. Why do you think I waited to write this until I found out I have a full-time, outside the home, job lined up? Being a stay-at-home mom and artist is a job, but one with leeway to do things that people on the clock for the man don't have. Often, other people only see the leeway and forget about the 24/7 responsibilities and the fact that a stay-at-home parent never clocks out and leaves the job. Maybe that's too much of a tangent off of today's discussion, but believe me, it is something that crosses your mind when you're enjoying the perks of that position.
Anyway, we were talking about wasting time taking pictures of bugs, weren't we? Soon as I finished following this one around the front sidewalk, I came inside and googled "praying mantis." It has always seemed entertaining to me that insects who eat other insects would be called praying mantises when they are actually preying, but then I do love a good play on words! The "praying" obviously comes from the folded front claws and the meditatively slow movement of these creatures. In fact, one description of them likened looking into their eyes to "staring into the eyes of God."
Staring into the eyes of God is an excellent metaphor for my interaction with this praying mantis. Far as this spiritual mutt can tell, God and Nature and the Forces of the Universe are all intermingled in such a way that even this former athiest is awed by the magnitude of power embedded in all that is life. What I wish you could see in the pictures I took is the incredible depth in the eyes. It was like looking into a clear marble with millions of translucent layers, practically endless.
It took me a while to come to the conclusion that it was worthwhile to spend the last hour of that afternoon in that way, observing and contemplating with no specific goal. A long time ago, before I'd read as many bits and pieces of books about art and spirituality and such, another glass melter told me there are people who think artists fulfill the duties and responsibilities of shamans in our modern culture. If that is the case, then who better suited than the creative soul to observe, experience, and pass along the wonders of nature to the souls who don't have the leisure to do the mundane footwork? It seems appropriate that we would all have something to contribute. The people with the technical skills dedicate their time and energy to building us homes, making our tools, sewing up our wounds. . . why shouldn't those of us with a different set of time constraints be obligated contribute what we are able to glean from our interactions with nature?
Oh, and all this speculating and pontificating does not mean that people with "real" jobs aren't creative or don't enjoy nature. That's not it, at all. Many people make those things their priority during time away from work. Many people find ways to integrate the soulful with the practical. All I'm saying is that maybe artists aren't merely "wasting" time when they do things like spend an hour staring into the eyes of God, take a day to research and interpret background information for their projects, and allow their brains time to incubate ideas while physically occupying themselves with mindless tasks. Many times, those "insignificant" actions will result in a time shortcut to education or momentary enlightenment for another individual. Making those moments more accessible for everyone adds so much to our overall quality of life, don't you think? I think so, and I think that I will work harder to make other people aware of that, no matter which side of the got-time-to-waste side of the fence I am living on!
So, go ahead. "Waste" some time when you can. . . and I will thank you for it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When It's All Said and Done

When it's all said and done, I guess the thing that attracts me to these older gravestones is the intrigue, the mystery, the stories. Time has worn them, but it hasn't erased them completely.

Who was lain to rest here? Pauper or prince? Does it matter now?

Memories upheld, bolstered by more memories.

Is it sad, or is it simply the results of time's march?

How can you not wonder about the connections this human had to other humans? How can you not wonder whether this person's life has touched yours by some series of connections?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's Locked Up in Your Head?

If it wasn't protecting some family's old mausoleum in the graveyard, I'd be looking for a way to pick it. Okay, so I wouldn't really do it, don't even have a clue how to do it, but I most certainly would wonder about it! Seriously, I wonder how long it's been since anyone pushed those doors back, sneezed at the mustiness inside, and greeted their ancestors' remains with a faint "hello"?
What parts of the life of a family remain hidden behind those doors? Are all the generations gone, leaving behind no one to care about whether or not that door can be opened? Are there children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live too far away to even know that lock is frozen? Are there people who could try to unlock it but choose not to do it?
What is locked up behind those doors?

Pondering these locks and their rustiness, I make the leap to pondering all the things we lock up inside our heads, hoping the locks rust shut, hoping the concrete doors are too heavy to heave with our shoulders. Obviously, that sort of pondering could get very dark, very quickly... but that's not exactly where I'm going with this train of thought. I'm thinking in terms of the parts of us that could be good, except we're too afraid of them to let them come into the light of day.

How many times do we bar parts of ourselves from being seen by others? How many times do we close up our dreams and longings and aspirations so that no one else can see them? Is it because we are afraid we won't be able to live up to the potential we have in ourselves?

I think so.
I know so.

We don't have to tell each other about all of those potentials, but when we do, we often find success is not as improbable as we think. Amazingly, the people who know and love us are often able to see straight through our concrete doors, with no need to pick the lock. What we think we have secured so well is not as hidden as we'd like to believe.

It seems that with all this talk of "concrete," I should give you a concrete example of something locked up in my head, instead of dancing around abstracts, right? Well, I'm not so sure I can really do it. There are great potentials hidden in me, just like there are in you, that will never even peek through a crack in the door because I am scared to throw myself into life without a safety net. From what I have seen in other people, though, the better you are at throwing yourself into the abyss without worrying about where you'll land, the more you can achieve in life.

And because I know that is true, I tell you about one potential (and it's conjoined fear) that lurks in my head, waiting for me to get the courage to unlock it. It's about writing. Gaaaaaaaawd, I love words, always have and always will. I remember writing Composition 101 essays at the breakfast table in college (this was long before assignments were ever expected to be anything but handwritten). . . my comp class was an 8 or 8:30 a.m. one. The inspiration would hide from me all night, and then finally make a splendid leap onto the paper in the morning. Higher classes required longer papers and more preparation, of course, but it was basically the same story. Once I found the inspiration, the words flowed well. Nowadays, I write Facebook status lines, and sometimes they are eloquent little blurbs and descriptions (and sometimes not). I write short blog entries like this one. When the flow hits me, I love it! It's why I write again (and again and again and again) in hopes of finding it one more time. So, that's the potential.

Here's the fear: exactly what do you make of writing like that? how do I ever turn it into a book? is there anywhere to take it, when it's basically limited to short venues? there are tons of inspirational writers, why aspire to be one more? how do I ever make an essay into something more than an essay? is there any point to it?

And that's where I am on that particular monster lurking in my head. Funny thing is, at least one of you has seen it without having a key to the rusted lock! I am so grateful for that, and I intend to pass along the kindness as often as I can. Writing this is one way. At least I hope it speaks to someone somewhere along the line and encourages them to let us see what's locked up inside their head. Chances are, we've already seen it in you and can't wait for the opportunity to cheer you on toward your dreams!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Do Thunderbirds Speak?

How do thunderbirds speak?
Well, if it's extremely early in the morning, then this one speaks through a less than perfect photograph. I may have the urge to write again, but I know better than to try to get out the camera and disturb the rest of the sleeping household, ya know! I'd also like to go outside on the upper deck and look at the clouds covering our part of the sky like a downy blanket. Once again, though, I know better... the hound-doggies in the neighborhood have gone to sleep, and far be it from me to awaken sleeping children OR quietly slumbering puppies :)

So, what you see is what you get for photos of this thunderbird right now. That doesn't mean we can't talk (make that "whisper" and "tap the keyboard a little less noisily") about it right now, though! Technically speaking, this bead was melted out of dark ivory and coral colors of glass. That thunderbird design was done with thin stringers of coral glass. Gravity helped me with the contours of the bead itself, playing and pulling the glass around the rod as I thought of old pottery and beadwork.
Something else was on my mind, too, as I turned the mandrel and meditated. Could I use this pared down thunderbird symbol? I seem to have no problem making Buddhas, even though I'm not a Buddhist. I love to use Chinese inspired themes, and even though I'm a spiritual mutt who thinks the Tao comes pretty close to summing up my thoughts, I'm not Chinese. I adore making Madonnas (the Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven, not the pop star), even though I don't call myself a Christian. I love religious art, and it inspires my creativity! I try to let the glass tell me what it wants to be, but part of why that works is that I fill my brain with all sorts of material and images from the world's religions and cultures. Am I misappropriating someone else's culture and beliefs when I do that, though? I don't feel as if I am, I feel as if I'm honoring and connecting with another part of the world.
But if you look at it from the other side of the images/ideas, maybe it does make me a bit of an interloper. It's a fine line, if you ask me. It's a line I've thought about many times. Most of those times, I choose to use my inspiration and let it flow because I tend to think my intentions are good. When it comes to Native American inspiration, I have trouble doing that because I've read the other side of the story. I have a tiny book filled with pictures of Zuni fetishes, such intriguingly pared down shapes. The book mentions counterfeiters who sell fetishes to the detriment of the Zuni artists who attempt to make a living sculpting fetishes based on their culture. I've read an incredible book/conversation with Lame Deer, even keep it handy because I like to re-read snippets that resonate with my own beliefs. When you look up "Lakota spirituality," though, you are almost certain to come upon warnings about charlatans who don't belong to the tribe but try to sell themselves as "medicine men." You find admonishments that the Lakota way is cultural, and only members of the culture can claim it. Can you really argue with it?? This continent was wide open and land "belonged" to no one until our European ancestors came. I am thankful for my country, and I can't go back in time and stop change... but I can also see "progress" from the perspective of those whose world became smaller as it filled with settlers from other lands.
All of which brings me to my measley little glass thunderbird. In the big scheme of things, who would spend the time to argue with it, even if I sold it? It's just a piece of glass, not a million dollar conglomerate in the making. One of my cousins used to tell me our grandmother was part Cherokee, explaining Granny's complexion that was so much tanner than our own all year long. While looking over the family tree with my own Mom a few weeks ago, I mentioned that story again and asked her about it. To my surprise, she said it was her father who told her his mother was part Indian. Well, like lots of information about past generations, it's not easy to confirm or deny. If one of my maternal great-grandmothers did have Native American ancestors, would that make it a little more acceptable for me to use Native American stories and symbols for artistic inspiration? I don't know. It feels as if I'm stretching, as if I'm trying to find a handhold to grasp a door that isn't mine to open. I don't know.
Who knows how we make all of our decisions in life, and who knows for sure whether we make the right ones when the details are inspected? For now, I will keep toying with the art in my books about North and South American native cultures. I'll keep toying with ways to let my inspiration flow without overstepping boundaries... who knows, who knows.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That's That... The Cat Is Where It's At

One night this summer, I grabbed the fancy chalks and headed to the patio to doodle a colorful mandala. The mandala was fairly quickly forgotten, being merely a piece of meditative art that has served its purpose once it is created.
The kids had other uses for the chalks on their minds, though, and their feline inspiration shone brightly. James and Kate do adore our cats! Moochie is just older than James, and Momo was a Christmas present of sorts a few years ago. Kate likes to play "cat whisperer," teaching Osiris to sit and follow her.
As far as these children are concerned, the cats are connected to them by cords of love so strong as to never be broken. Cats being cats, sometimes they respond accordingly... and sometimes they blow ya off just for looking at them.
My point, if there is one in this rambling, is that James and Kate made some incredible pictures that night, and the electricity in their images was definitely fueled by their love of their subject. James' vibrant chalk cats were especially amazing to me because he is the child who usually doesn't want to draw or make things. Ah, but when his subject was near and dear to him, his hands were on fire with passion, his creativity was ignited.
We all know loving what we do is important. We all know artists are inspired by the people and things they love. We all know it's important to follow our hearts.
And we all tend to forget these things, or put them on the backburner, from time to time. Don't let another day go by without doing something you love! It may be as simple as stopping on the sidewalk to pick up a leaf with all the burnished oranges and glorious reds of autumn. It may be as complicated as heading to your studio and spending hours making something just for yourself. Remember your heart, and do your soul happy today!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Long Time, No Write, Right??

I am such a dork, such a doofus. I neglected this blog for months, all because my writing muse seems to throw a huge tantrum in the summertime. What I didn't realize is that my neglect, coupled with the blurb at the top of my page, might make someone wonder if something was wrong with me. D'oh! I am so sorry. The request for prayers is for Mallory (Rosebud) H's daughter, who is fighting and beating cancer even as we speak. I am sure Jenny can still use all the prayers and healing vibes you can spare, just because it's a time of upheaval of "normal life." I, on the other hand, request your forgiveness for not keeping up with the blog. Pretty please? Coincidentally, last night Mallory herself was asking me when I was going to start blogging again! Thanks, Mrs. M, for all your encouragement, especially when I know you have more important things on your mind! Okey-dokey... gonna post this, gonna make one more bead or sculpture since I finally have the torch set up again, and then gonna try my best to get you all a new and improved blog post :) Toodles, Ang