Friday, April 30, 2010


We come into this world as artists, creators, and how we express that is for us to find out. It could be in how we organize an event, handle a customer crisis, write, draw, read, cook, tend house, farm—the list goes on. Life is art; art is life.

Yesterday, in particular, I felt on fire. So much racing through me. I continue to feel the inspiration and encouragement; and to find ways to remember to see the world with fresh eyes. I feel the nudges of the universe in a way like never before, or perhaps it’s the same, but now I’m listening more. I feel as though I am giving birth, birth to myself, birth to something that has always been—is a part of where I come from—from this earth, a series of connections, large and small, always a new page, always “emptying the cup” seeing the cycles and then allowing them to fade and then discovering them again.

All of this fire, made me think of a long lost memory of my real father and how he made me an easel when I was a little girl. I didn’t get to use it much. We lived apart. I had another father too. I was upset when my mother told him to take it down, take it apart. No easel. Why? Why! No! I cried. He wasn’t happy about it either. He was an artist, a fine cabinet maker. He would make me wooden dolls with block heads, but they were so beautiful, unique. He made a large crib, dollhouse, high chair. The only gift I kept because of circumstance is a treasure chest he made for me and here it stays, and when I open it, it still has that fresh wood smell that I love so much, and a flush of memory rises.

Ours was a complicated family story—to be saved for another place, another time—I’ll never quite understand, but I know that the easel he made with love, with his hands, my hands—that this drive in me to create in quiet and loud ways has always been there, and sometimes it disappears. I had never really made the connection. I see it now, and I also feel how it transcends all memory, into a larger memory beyond myself and my world.

To connect with that spark, that glow. It never burns out. The fire needs tending, keep blowing on it and see the sparks, hear the crackle. Know that it will never go out. It may need to recede, but it is always there: The drive to create and connect with the great beyond.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This Morning a beautiful shroud of rain mists through
the valley.

All movement to the West,
as the trees raise
their arms to the silent
ones to the East.

The wind, a consistent hush,
with high notes that carry
the scent of moist wooded trees. The bamboo
leans back gracefully and
then forward again.

This morning the trees dance,
the whole valley moves.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Journal Sketching Workshop – It’s a Wrap

Like art, life is a series of shapes, of lights and darks intermingling. If we keep squinting, keep looking, those shapes begin to form before our eyes, into our sketchbooks, into our minds.

Today was the last day of our four-day journal-sketching workshop. Our last sketch spot was a shopping plaza. I found a cozy spot and decided to start out with a circular cement seating area with a statue in the center. As I walked to my spot, a security man on one of those upright two-wheel scooters asked me if there was a scavenger hunt going on. I told him what we were up to; he smiled and scooted on.

Today, I found myself slightly frustrated with not being able to fully grasp perspective. Of course, this is not a class in perfection. It’s a class in getting that idea down on paper, of jogging memories. So I have to keep reminding myself: Be gentle with yourself and do the best that you can. And have fun!

I really like how quick sketches force me into my subject. It feels a bit like free writing. If I am able to push myself and get out of my own way, I find my “flow.”

Our assignment for the day was to go out on our own through the plaza and find different objects or scenes to sketch, and then we would meet at a central location after an hour or so. Once we met back up, the instructor went over a few things. She talked about water coloring shadows for trees and how rather than make the cast shadows black, she would add a little violet. She also said that the form shadow for the tree bark should have some violet in it also. Browns and violets. “Can you see the violet,” she asked when she pointed to a tree in the near distance. I squinted. I could not see the color she saw. To my eyes it was grey and brown.

Before class wrapped up, the instructor sat with us each individually to look at what we had sketched. She offered praise and suggestions. She helped me see the layered shapes of the water fountain that I had sketched a bit askew. After class concluded, we each went away with a little more confidence to sketch. I’m glad that the workshop wasn’t too long, four sessions was perfect for my temperament. But in this short period of time, I feel like I’ve gained a lot. The best part is she had us sketching right away, rather than getting caught up in details. That’s really the only way to learn: By first jumping in and then having a guide ready to give you a helping hand and encouragement.

I packed up my supplies and walked to the grocery store to get a snack before heading back home. On my walk there, I felt that I was seeing everything a little clearer. The outlines of the different trees, the way each had a dark side and a light side, and how I wouldn’t have to put all the details in to be able to “read” that it was this or that tree I was seeing. I was getting it—I was seeing what the instructor was saying. During our sessions, I was able to capture these concepts somewhat, but now, walking without sketching, I was able to truly see what she meant. I saw the different flowers, in their little clumped shapes and again, their light and dark areas. I saw more distinctly how the cast shadows appeared. And when I passed a few trees, I did indeed see the violet in the bark.


Here are a few sketches from today.

This first one is a pencil sketch of a different water fountain. I decided to leave it as is.

This flowerpot was done with black pen and shaded with dark and light grey. I could have added color, but I thought I would keep the color in greys.

The last one is my favorite and it's not because it has color, which does add to it. It was done in pencil and I really felt like I was able to capture this moment, and I love palms like this. I added color when I got home using watercolor pencils. I don't want to mess it up, so I probably won't be adding water to blend it so that it looks like a watercolor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Journal Sketching Workshop ~ Reflection One

This weekend, I spent part of my mornings in a journal sketching workshop. The idea of the class is to learn how to make quick sketches, so that if we are traveling or out and about with our notebooks, we have a better handle on how to get down our observations quickly. The focus is not on detail, but on getting the idea on paper, so that when we see it, we can say to ourselves, “Yes, I remember that day exactly.” I thought this would be a wonderful compliment to my writing journals. I’ve sketched a few things and dabbled in different mediums, but I wanted to feel more comfortable with knowing how to approach quick line sketches.

On the first day, the instructor went through some basics. We did some 45 second sketches; 1 minute sketches; and then towards the end, we did a 2 minute sketch. This is my 2 minute sketch that I first did in pencil and then I went back and put in some defining lines, and shadows. I didn’t know we would be adding any color, but was happy to hear that the instructor had intended for us to add color to our longer sketches, once complete, so she brought lots of supplies.

I appreciated very much that she reminded us, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” We’re jogging memories.” She shared her sketch books with us and as she held one up said, “You may not recognize that, but I can tell exactly where I was when I drew that.” She also had words alongside some of her sketches and words dispersed throughout randomly. She found her pictures much more interesting to look at than the words on her pages. For her the images were much more telling. Even though her journal contained words, she was first and foremost a visual artist. Her preferred mode of expression and recall was through her sketches and painted images.

The most challenging object for me to sketch was a pinecone. I tried three times, and I’m still not entirely convinced my last sketch looked like what it was, but I suppose when I look back years from now, I’ll know it was a pinecone. I’m going to pick one up on one of my walks and study it. It will be a fun challenge to keep at it until I can make sense of the shapes.

The second day we met at Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek and it was beautiful. I used to hike the hills of the surrounding area, but I had never stopped in at the ranch. The gorgeous rolling green hills took my breath away. I had to keep my eyes on the very narrow road, lest I topple over. This day, we would sketch animals, barns, and any other parts of the ranch that caught our fancy. We talked more about shapes and how a lot of what we see is shapes, but the instructor really helped me to see the shapes a little better. It’s difficult though for my mind to overcome seeing a sheep standing in front view as a series of overlapping shapes, but when she demonstrated it on her large pad, I could see it.

Our last drawing of the day was a 5 minute sketch and then we would add color once we were done. I was pleased with how this one turned out because it jogs my memory and I can tell what it is. It was very hot and I chose to sit in the grass near a visitor house and the geranium caught my attention. The instructor sat for a moment with another student, so I put them into my sketch and you’ll see they are just lines, but you can tell that there are two people. I wasn’t able to do the geranium justice, but I can remember how lovely they looked and I can remember how the sun was beating down on my head and face and how warm my body felt and how peaceful I was in the surrounding environment with others scattered around trying to capture their experiences that day. My last drawing that I was somewhat happy with, is not perfect, but it’s a start.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Childhood Glue

Reading didn’t come easy to me. I don’t remember taking trips to the library with my mother. Instead, I have a vague memory of her volunteering at the school library when I was in the second grade. She used to bring home stacks of children’s books. A few that stand out are the George and Martha stories; Paddington Bear and his many adventures; The Story of Ferdinand; and Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue. She never brought home Dr. Seuss books, or Where the Sidewalk Ends.

I don’t have memories of mom reading to me and I don’t know if I was actually reading these books or if the illustrations were so vivid, they made me feel like I was reading—reading the images. I do remember being scolded for reading aloud, which helped. “You’re not supposed to read out loud. Read quietly—to yourself,” she would say. Well, now I can do what I want. I love reading out loud. Maybe she was in a bad mood that day.

Out of all the books, the one that stands in my memory as a favorite is one that is out of print: Neat-O The Supermarket Mouse by Tom Tichenor with illustrations by Ray Cruz. It could be the title that left an impression, or maybe it was the illustrations, but it stayed with me enough that I felt the need to possess it again.

I remember searching the web in a fit of nostalgia. I was searching for two childhood items: A musical toy called Major Morgan and this book. That must have been a decade ago. All that stood out was Neat-O the mouse, his mother, and soap suds—something about it stuck, but the details, the actual story were gone, out of memory. All I could go on was a vivid blur. When the book arrived, the cover was just as I had remembered. I looked at the book with wide eyes. I was that child again. There was Neat-O with his soap suds. It was all coming back. The wonderful illustrations that brought this mouse’s story to life, his kind mother loving him, the mouse bullies teasing him because he smelled too good, and Neat-O’s decision not to bathe in hopes of warding the bullies off with his stench.

Yet, with all the bullying, Neat-O was still kind. It was the love of his mother that carried him through the little bumps. I am glad to have this book back on my shelves, glad to have a little slice of my childhood sealed in those pages where I can pick the book up anytime I’d like to be transported with the images and memories, and the emotions captured in the illustrative details.

Mom didn’t always show me outward affection, but I know she loved me, and she made up for it in the stories and characters that she introduced to me. She loved me through books in the most subtle ways, that my now grow up self can appreciate and embrace. She left me clues from childhood that she must have known I would look for in adulthood; at least that’s how my imagination likes to look at it. I never know what clue I will find next. I keep adding to my collection—my everlasting collage of her memory.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Sun

(Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck. Painted by Lady Frieda Harris)

As I shuffle, you fall out, you chose to shine your rays into the world today, for everyday.

You shine so bright, Radiant Sun, that I feel compelled to share, to place you here, so that you can radiate outward: Creativity. Exploration. Collaboration. Manifest in the ways you will.

“The Divine child within us that is always seeking to express itself in unlimited ways" (Arrien pg. 92).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Little Musings

My calmest time is in the shower, where thoughts seem to float in and out at a pace that I cannot keep up with. I have often wondered if there is a tape recording device that is water proof, and how fun it would be to speak aloud what whimsy comes about. But then—if I tried to catch the wings with my verbal voice, would they flit away, out of reach? Is there something more subtle, less obtrusive in pen, hand, and paper?


Dear Moon, where are you today? In Aquarius, Ah…A flight of fancy, dancing with the glow, with the rainbow, dangling with green wings, posing before yourself, looking into the mirror, seeing, gazing, creating music with your hands, with your fingers. Swaying back and forth, holding me like a stringed violin; or a cello, plucking me into your very bosom, into your very soul.


I feel the water on my skin,
The soap suds washing away yesterday and tomorrow. I am now.
In the present.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Squirrel, what has gotten into you?
Trying to steal eggs from Blue Jay’s nest.

The past two mornings, outside my
window, you create a ruckus. First I hear you
scurry, little feet running on the rooftop.

Pine limbs shake, and there you are Squirrel,
leaping before my eyes into the tree, an acrobat—Big Blue right behind you,
on your tail, squawking—feathers flapping—he scolds you for rummaging
around in his nest. You keep running—Mischievous Squirrel!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Museum Excursion

I first posted this on February 24, 2010, and this morning, with art, with creation on my mind, it feels fitting to repost it here. This day must have made an impression on me; it was a new turning of the page, coming back to a part of myself—or rather discovering, re-discovering—a part of going out into the world alone with a new path before me, many directions open, yet still taking it slow.

I'm very excited to be signed up for a short sketch journal class. It begins in April and lasts for only four short sessions. I hope to learn how to capture images quickly in my journal, so that they can go alongside my words. I have done this on my own, but I thought it would be nice to see what I could learn—to enter with a clear and open mind.


Museum Excursion

Finally, my train stop: Downtown Berkeley BART. I make my way out of the cave into the light. As I scoot up the escalator and exit, all is a buzz of people, cars, stores. I feel slightly disoriented and then a strong scent of something sweet causes me to breathe in deeply, and I get my bearings, walk to the crosswalk, remembering there is only one direction toward campus and it’s practically in front of me. When I drive or take trains, and sometimes even when I walk through a street passage that spills onto another side street, I get disoriented—this has always happened to me. It’s those secret crossovers that must be responsible.

When I approach the path, I remember how beautiful the campus is. I walk among tall trees—a miniature forest. There aren’t too many people in this area yet. It’s an overcast day; everything seems dim. As I get closer to the portion of campus that is near the Bancroft side, I see some homeless folk, spread out in different spots, bundled up beside their carts that are loaded with their essentials. It seems they are still sleeping. I feel bad. I walk out further and hear drumming and follow the sound, go up the stairs and see a group of young appears young Kyoto drummers. I love the sound and watch for a bit. It looks as though they are practicing because they keep stopping. It must be a wonderful feeling to be among fellow drummers and pound the drums while feeling the combined vibrations in every inch of one’s being, to feel the continuous reverberation.

I continue walking toward Bancroft, cross the street, and head to the museum. There is something about this museum that makes me want to keep coming back. The beauty of its concrete structure, hard gray concrete, formed into a linear cocoon of angles and shapes escalating, opening out to different spaces, where at any point in these viewing spaces, you can see the gestalt of this work of art, that makes me wonder how concrete can be so beautiful—and constructed so solidly to not appear to be worn. This museum has a modern timelessness to it. I love gliding my hand along the smooth concrete railings that aren’t really like railings, rather they seem an invitation to be touched. There are also large windows in a few corners of the museum to look out into a courtyard area, and on this day, the trees are blooming pink blossoms.

Not all of the viewing spaces were open yet, so it would be a shorter than usual visit. I walk into one of the spaces and begin taking it in slowly, looking in glass display cases at what are little booklets with images sketched of houses, land, practical farm type objects; words depicted by squiggly lines; there is also a display showing pages from books themselves, perhaps random, with letters of the alphabet drawn, some have drawings, others have words; there are miniature calendars painstakingly done by hand. I look, not knowing what to make of what I am seeing, trying to find some connection to the artist. I then move on to a section that had one of several biographical plaques that I would encounter throughout.

This was the art of James Castle: A Retrospective. An artist from Idaho, he was born deaf. He used soot and saliva and many of his pieces were done in gray scale. He used materials that were around, and his parents operated the post office, of which many of the materials went to artistic use. As I wound through the exhibit, taking it all in very slowly, reading the plaques, learning more about the artist, taking in his art and the progression, I was moved. He had been sent to a school for the deaf and blind, but the environment did not seem to suit him. It is said that he never learned to read, write, sign, or lip-read—and it is also said that it was his choice.

In his drawings, he captured the patterns of the wallpaper and floors with precise detail. It is also said that he was self taught and was at it all day, everyday, his whole life—this was his life. And again, all of his drawings were done with soot and saliva, sometimes mixed with water. He also did collage work. At some point he was provided with art supplies, but he chose to work with found material, natural materials. He seemed a rebel of sorts, and I admire that quality. He did things his way, by his own rules.

I am still digesting how profoundly touched I feel after viewing the art of James Castle and watching a video hearing other artists and his family speak of him. To live without verbal language, without stringing words together in sentences and paragraphs, and to take that deep quiet, communicate in the way that he did, and create his own life is beyond words.


Here is a website I came across that shows a picture of James Castle, some of his art, and a short video clip from the DVD video that I viewed at the museum. It is short, but is worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Rituals

April 6, 2010

10 - 6 = 4
10 - 4 = 6
6 + 4 = 10

Habits, small rituals, hidden comforts. I have two small calendars at work that sit on the counter, so I can see them well. One shows a book-a-day. If a book catches my fancy, I’ll first check the library. If it’s not there, I’ll put it in my holding file—an imaginary file, more like a pile of paper tidbits that needs sorting through. The other calendar is much smaller, more intimate, a page of Eastern wisdom for each day. The larger book-a-day calendar has the date more clearly visible, and it is the habit of the boss that has me now looking at the date a little closer—the numbers—in the way he views them. He sees the patterns and sometimes when a certain date is upon us, he says we wont have this one for at least ten more years.

Today is a day that is divisible by two; the subtraction and addition of the numbers expresses today. I’m not a numbers person, but I’m always open to finding little ways—little portals—into the vast array of ways to enter into a space, into another’s world for just a few moments. I am fascinated by how many different ways there are to approach the world and I will always continue adding a dash here, a sprinkle there, to my little suitcase of amazements—the little things. I’m especially still in awe everyday my mind is taken to the fact that all those wonderful planets out there are spinning and held in space. No rational explanations will take away my ability to still be in the mind of wonder and curiosity. I am forever mesmerized by this beautiful and mysterious world we live in.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Holly Hobby Moment

Previously, I posted this to RR (3/28/10), and after reading Vincent's blog: Amber, it made me think of my HH Moment, so I thought I would post it here too. Vincent’s blogs always give me much to ponder...sometimes, it seems like you can ponder forever. What a nice feeling.

As I walk down to deposit the mail in the box, I glance down at what I’m wearing: Black summer wool knit dress, in the shape of a paper doll cutout over light blue jeans, rolled one cuff length because they are too long, a simple tan cotton ¾ sleeve cotton shirt underneath, and turquoise Crocs because they really are comfy. I’m feeling good, and my clothes make me feel like I should be outside in a field of wildflowers with my easel, painting, writing, communing, dancing circles.


On this day I feel like Holly Hobby with her big bonnet and colorful patchwork dress, innocent, young at heart, keeping back her smiles because she’s smiling at nothing, yet smiling at everything, smiling at the feeling of her body in this physical plane, smiling at the curves of her lips because she cannot hold it back, smiling at feeling at home in her physical manifestation, and feeling so much a culmination of heaven and earth, all the little speckles floating around—feeling a connection to something in the great beyond that although she feels at home in herself—she also feels that sense of being different, and loving it because it makes her who she is, but also realizing that it is also what keeps her in her aloneness in the most profound and wonderful way—a lone wolf on the outskirts—but that is where home is. It’s not a bad aloneness, but she has always had few that she could be herself around, few that she could be around. It has always been this way—she has never liked being part of the crowd. She has ebbed and flowed in certain friendships, but she has felt most herself in the very few, and especially in her solitariness because when one goes into that solitariness, that is where it all comes together: The A-ha’s and the unfoldings and these moments shared but their secrets never fully revealed, lest they crumble like star dust. Best that can be done is to write the feelings, the emotions—the energy into existence. To be in oneself, to embrace all that that means, to surrender to the path that is discovered more and more each day, to walk into the reasons, to walk into the questions, to walk into the purpose that one is gifted in being amongst the living. To bring a little happiness into the world—laughter, smiles, sharing, in the ways that are etched into the reasons.

It is possible to know aloneness, yet be graced with the riches of connections in the ways that they present themselves—and I am grateful for that. I am grateful to continue finding wonder, passion, zest, curiosity, love, feeling—so much do I feel in life. So much—that all I can do is pour it out right here, pencil in hand racing across the page as fast as it can, to capture this moment because all that we have are these moments and they are everything. They are alive!