solstice

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So, it turns out tomorrow is not only the Winter Solstice, it’s also the time of a full moon – the Long Night Moon – as well a meteor shower (Ursid). Ok, that’s pretty cool. Seems like there ought to be some kind of celebration (oh, wait, I guess folks already thought of that, hehe).

The Winter Solstice is kinda funny because it marks the official beginning of winter, but it also marks the shortest day of the year – the beginning of the days becoming longer. Woohoo! I am all for that!

Seems like everything else is going 90 miles an hour around me, with ‘holiday’ preparations and entertainment. Maybe the solstice can just be a time out. A moment just to be calm and peaceful, to notice the stars and the moon. A moment to appreciate the incredible beauty of what’s already been given to us, instead of worrying about the giving and getting of our consuming consumer lives.

Nearby where I live, there’s one of those wild light displays with every kind of holiday character imaginable – from a lit up creche to snowmen, penguins, Disney characters, Peanuts, and more. During the day, half of it sits deflated under tarps. It’s actually kind of a mess. I wish I could say it makes me smile, but it does not – either during the day or at night. I’m sure the folks who put all that effort into it mean well, but it’s misplaced.

Let’s look at the moon and the stars instead. Notice the birds on the wing. Listen to the wind in the trees. In the context of our exquisite universe, let’s ponder those we love, or share the moment with them.  The awesomeness of our universe shows us so plainly that love itself remains the truly treasured gift in our lives.

It’s beyond amazing, the gifts we’ve been given. Who needs to go shopping? Let’s just pause and be astonished by what we have.

smiles

veru12_15_18Smiles are pretty awesome.

They generally come to us spontaneously, a happy, observable expression of joy or pleasure or contentment. A genuine smile touches anyone on the receiving end, too, usually evoking a similar response of happiness or pleasure. Good for everyone!

Even alone, perhaps reading a book or working on a project, when a smile comes to us, it is a small moment of transformation or illumination – an irrepressible flow of goodness that expresses through our face.

My best friend cat smiles at me. I don’t quite know how he does it, but he does. When he smiles at me, I just kind of melt with my own smile of love and happiness.

A dog that I visit regularly smiles, too. It is a ridiculously goofy, extravagant smile and simply wonderful to receive. There is no being down in the face of that smile.

Out and about, we come across strangers, some of whom acknowledge us with a smile, and many remaining aloof. The smilers change our day for a few moments, just lifting the spirit for a little way.

I have a couple of acquaintances who are big smilers. They smile all the time. There’s nothing fake about it, either. Their smiles are an expression of their personalities – positive, forward-looking, accepting, generous, fun. Their smile is kind of a habit. It affects everyone around them.

That’s not to say that people who don’t smile all the time are not all those things. I know plenty of non-smilers who are warm and fun and generous, too, and their smiles are all the more precious to receive.

I remember sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office years ago. I was kind of miserable. An older woman came and checked in. She was smiling. She took her seat in the waiting room, still smiling. Time passed, she smiled the entire time. I have no idea who that woman was, and I never spoke to her, but all these years later I remember her simply for that constant smile. I marveled that her inner state of being expressed itself outwardly like that. Even though we did not overtly communicate, she brought some peace and reassurance into the room with that smile.

No one likes a forced smile, nevertheless, I’ve been working on being a little more conscious about smiling. As a ridiculously introverted, overthinking sort of person, I don’t think I am much of a smiler. I tend to rather seriously and intently listen to other people – I am trying to remember to smile more during those times. That would be a true reflection of my feelings, too, because I am generally very appreciative of others and all that I learn from them.

Even when I’m alone, I’ve noticed I can change how I feel by smiling. Tasks are a little easier to do with a smile. I can make myself feel more optimistic or adventurous by smiling. I encourage myself when I smile.

Hey, it’s free and it’s easy. Why wouldn’t I?

Maybe I will have to tie a little string around my finger, just to remind me for awhile, while I develop my practice.

lessons

veru12_11_18I am ever and always becoming.

I may reach a plateau and coast for awhile, but apparently this is just the universe’s way of giving me a little breather. Then, the next lesson starts.

Except it’s not a new lesson, even though it feels fresh every time it starts. No, it is the same lesson I keep having to learn over and over again. The universe is absolutely persistent that I get this, once and for all, exactly right. It must be a pretty important lesson, eh?

And, why, pray tell, am I so resistant to it? Why do I flunk over and over again? And why does the universe not just kick me out of school?

The thing is, I actually know the answers to most of my own questions about this now. So apparently I have actually made progress in the curriculum. Maybe I’m not actually flunking anymore, I’m just getting C’s.

Why not finally go for it? Why not do all the homework and try for an A? Be an honor student? Be ready to graduate?

Yikes, what happens then?

Well, no fear, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned – the universe does have my back. And it’s all – every single bit of it – about love. I can trust that.

I am safe, if challenged, in the loving arms of the universe that is the absolute champion of critical thinking, innovation, embracing the arts, practical experience, fearless exploration, and radical education reform.

Confidence. I am good enough. I am smart enough. I can stop judging myself. I can do this without thinking. All I have to do is bring all of me to the party.

Okay. Pencils are sharpened. New notebooks in the backpack. No need for new text books, hehe, I’ve got them all.

Here we go again. 

overcoming creative resistance

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I have a difficult relationship with creativity.

Creativity seems to be absolutely essential to my wellbeing, to making me all of me. I feel an almost constant and fierce desire for creative efforts.

And yet, I confront my own incredible resistance to it. The resistance wins, more often than not.

Sometimes, I think of the problem as a matter of being able to allow creativity. That, say, conditions must be just right for my creativity to emerge and flourish.

I think that maybe I need daylight hours in which to do my creative work. Or I need a particular environment that is somehow unavailable to me. Or I don’t have the right materials. Or I’m not skilled enough. Or the planets are not in alignment. Or the Muse is absent. Or. Or. Or.

Kind of sounds like excuses, eh?

And then I think that it’s not really a matter of engineering conditions to allow creativity. The problem is really a matter of eliciting creativity – calling it forth.

This involves setting the intention to do my creative work, committing to it, and forcing myself to carry through despite conditions.

I managed to prove to myself that this is possible. And fruitful.

Still, such commitment takes both courage and self-compassion.

I am not whole if I am not creative. If my creativity is suppressed, part of me is missing – a pretty important part.

I have looked long and painfully at the reasons my creative soul hides. I have learned a few things.

The world is a pretty scary place for that corner of my soul.

She is not at all convinced of her own absolute legitimacy and worthiness. She has no assurance whatever that she is loved and wanted and safe. And she just knows it’s totally not okay to get messy.

It is a matter of compassionately taking her hand and showing her it’s okay to come out. Indeed, showing her that the world is not whole without her.

It gets better with practice.

Intention, commitment, action.

answers

 

veru12_2_18I was searching.

I was exhausted and frayed and a little frantic.

I thought if I could just get moving, I could move toward some kind of answer, something to mollify at any rate, a little peace.

I was already cold and tired. I could not bear the thought of more cold.

I pulled on my coat anyway. I practically fled, pulling on my gloves as I went.

I charged, desperate for answers. I kept walking and walking, through my fatigue, searching, frenetic.

Nothing was working. Everything was dysfunctional.

No answers.

So I asked.

As I barrelled along in the cold, I spoke out loud.

I can’t see them, but I know they are there, somehow.

They are there. Aren’t they?

I walked and I cried and I argued and I pled for help, and finally I sang.

It was the chant I learned oh so many years ago. I sang the chant as I rushed through the messy, snowed-up sidewalks. I could just begin to sense the edges of peace.

And then, suddenly, there it was.

The one voice in all this universe from whom I needed to hear right then.

And the dam loosed, not answers, but the warmth and the peace to find them.

Everything is a mystery, and nothing is a mystery.

kindred spirits

veru11_30_18I enjoyed a happy moment yesterday with the discovery of a kindred vegan spirit.

Chance threw us together. We were making friendly small talk. As time passed, we discovered more and more shared likes and experiences.

Finally, as the conversation somehow turned toward food, he quietly started a sentence, “ I’m a vegan, so…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You’re vegan?”

“Yes,” he replied with a tentative nod. He was probably bracing for the inevitable well-how-do-you-get-your-protein question.

Instead, what he heard was a very delighted, “So am I!”

With a look of happy surprise, up came the hands for a high five.

Gotta admit, despite the fact the vegan population is definitely on the rise, coming across vegans in the wild is a pretty rare experience for me. Wandering as a vegan through the heart of meat and potatoes country can be a rather lonely and sometimes alienating experience.

The alienation has its roots in the defensive posturing that some people feel compelled to launch once they discover you’re vegan. Sadly, it’s also the case that sometimes you fly quietly under the radar just to avoid to the predictable, tiring challenges that you are occasionally forced to gently work through with insecure, heels-dug-in meat-and-dairy eaters.

So when you chance upon a kindred soul, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Then, you can happily chat about fave dishes and books and apps and oh, just all the other doors this shared choice opens up. Because the choice to be vegan is not fundamentally about food. It is a very deliberate, practical choice toward exercising compassion. It is an ethical stance about animals, people, and planet.

All the healthy side effects of such a choice are icing on the cake, so to speak.

Online, I see that there are more and more folks on the vegan bandwagon all the time. In the stores, it is clear that corporations are working to tap into this growing market as more vegan processed options keep popping up. Restaurants, too, seem to have a budding awareness with more of them including a vegan, or at least vegetarian, option on their menus.

Estimates in the United States indicate that the vegan population might be roughly three percent. Who knows, though? I think some other countries are definitely ahead of us in this lifestyle.

The numbers are still scant. Working through those uncomfortable conversations is worth the effort when you have the energy for it, since you might touch another soul in a way that winds up mattering some day.

But when you actually discover a fellow traveler out there, there’s just a little moment of heart sparkle. You find both recognition and connection, and, even better, inspiration.

circles

veru11_8_18bI made my first penny rug about 2006. This was a piece of black wool felt cut into a circle, maybe 8 inches in diameter. On to it, I blanket-stitched smaller circles in a variety of colors, in a circle. The blanket-stitching was purposely very visible in black thread atop the bright colors.

This penny rug was the first of many, many penny rugs I made. They are called rugs, but they are usually decorative table mats or wallhangings. Each one was entirely hand-cut and hand-stitched, all by my own design. They were all very colorful, and often created in a family of colors – say, blues or browns.

I was inspired to make the first penny rug after a trip to Indiana, during which I toured a historic home. It contained many original furnishings. Among them was an actual small floor rug, created penny-style, very faded and worn. I had never seen one before, and I have never seen another quite like it. I could not get it out of my mind.

I came home and did a little research, discovering that penny rugs were a Civil War era phenomenon. Old wool clothing and blankets were repurposed to create the rugs. The penny part came in supposedly as pennies were sometimes inserted to weight the rug. I’m not buying that part of the story. If you’re repurposing your old wool clothing, you’re pinching those pennies, too. Besides, wool lays down all by itself just fine.

A more likely explanation is that pennies could have been used to trace the smallest circles.

I’m not sure I buy any of the explanations I’ve read. No matter. For whatever reason, I became driven to make these things (and still struggle with the urge, complicated now by my vegan views!)

veru11_8_18aThrough the years, as I labored over these creations, I’ve given much thought to their design and materials. It’s all very simple stuff, really. Mostly solid colors and circles. Mostly carefully chosen, repurposed textiles. That’s pretty much what you’re working with most of the time.

But the more I worked on these things, the more symbolic they became to me. In later years, I titled them. I gave much thought to what the circles represented, how they related to each other, and the space around them. I carefully considered textures, stitches, colors, and the repurposed history of the textiles.

In the end, it became obvious to me that they comprised a metaphor for individuals and communities, a subject very dear to me. Each circle was like a person, and there it was fixed in place in a community of other circles – a panoply of colors that worked whether they were randomly placed or carefully selected by tone. Together, they all danced.

And then within the array of circles, that original circle was overlaid by two or three other, smaller circles, a small unit of its own, a tribe or a family, if you will, within the larger community – creating its own history.

I suppose it seems silly to imbue this much meaning onto my lowly craft, but, it is, in fact, there when I look at, or make one of my creations. There are always deeper significant nuances to each particular work, as well.

The very lone circle itself – it is both finite and infinite, isn’t it? Like each of us.