Sunday, August 24, 2014

a week in color {№12}

in this pretty gloomy week, there was so much local color to be found.   i am so grateful for this little city and the beauty it keeps serving up.

on saturday, TOOLRY, our creative coworking space, hosted a lovely flower workshop.  when you add buckets of flowers, lemon scones and loads of flower-happy girls to TOOLRY's already stunning interior and good vibes, the vibrant joy kind of blows you away.

our lovely teacher, sarah-louise, flower goddess from irvington spring farm, posing for our brilliant official photographers of the day foster addington.

earlier in the week, i took a stroll in the urban zen that is anne spencer's historic garden.  we are so lucky to have this home and garden to enjoy.  anne spencer, the harlem renaissance poet, lived in lynchburg.  i can't wait to share the inside of her home with you in the future.  the colors are breathtaking.  she is a kindred spirit.  but on this summer day: the garden.

at the pond, you can push a button and listen to mrs. spencer's poetry about her garden.  bliss.

lucky local us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

sunday grace

collective despair.

we are swimming in it.

sometimes it feels like too much.  we bear witness to so much pain and grief; we touch it intimately and universally.  we are pulled into the opposite of hope.

as a child, when there were weeks like the last few our world has endured, i experienced the additional fear and confusion of living in a home where the term "the end times" was bounced around like a sad balloon my parents were dedicated to keep inflated and afloat.  it tasted a lot like giving up.  on my own, with only my imagination and tenderstrong heart, i had to develop the antidote to this doomsy view of life in order to survive.

i asked, what if these are the beginning times?  what can i do, how can i be, who can i love so that light remains stronger than darkness?

grace was, and is, my imaginary friend.

here is some practical advice she's whispered to me over the years:

  • stay curious about individuals.  especially those you disagree with.
  • create on an hourly basis.  better yet, stay in creation mode all the time.  creativity is the opposite of destruction.
  • experience silence.  it's the only way to truly rest and make sense of the rest of it.  for me, this means news sobriety.  modern "news" is the loud, incessant and distorted cheap boombox back beat for collective despair.  if you feel you must maintain some connection to the overwhelming happenings, find a quality source of information you trust and take little sips, no more than once a day.  i haven't listened to the news for months.  it took several years to wean myself from this destructive addiction.
  • love.  especially children and other tender souls.
  • each moment, make conscious decisions and take action to create the world you want to live in. in a million tiny ways, we can be the world we want our children to flourish in.
  • listen to good music that touches and inspires you.
  • laugh. a lot.  play. without shame.

let's live in the beginning of times.

Friday, August 1, 2014

a week in color {№11}

this is really "three weeks in color".  july was quietly awesome with cool days (unheard of in these parts), lots of down time, exploring sketching and watercolors, the farmers market, and happening upon a secret lotus pond.

creative time at toolry, the amazing artists' collaborative workspace downtown.  having a dedicated space to focus on one aspect of my creative self at a time (which often feels a bit broad and spread thin) lit a spark in me.  and the inspiration continued to glow throughout my weeks.

favorite summer thing:  heirloom tomatoes

favorite summer thing:  peach ice cream.

favorite summer thing:  dahlias.

this is pretty much my life.  except i was going for simon in the background.  simon is not as well-behaved as the queen's corgis.  he fancies himself an anarchist.  here's an outtake:

happy august loves!

Friday, July 25, 2014

happy friday

this weekend:

  • the buddhas, ganeshas, marys, lakshmis, kwan yins and jesuses in the gypsy hill multidenominational living room peace summit altar are getting bathed.  the buddha heads were the first (here they are, posing pretty after their bath). this is a huge job that needs to be completed in stages as there are nearly thirty members waiting in line at the kar(ma) wash.  :)
  • i want to make something in the kitchen that i've never made before.  i don't know what it is yet.  i'm going to let the farmer's market and the karma garden inform the decision.
  • there is a meditation center, the bodhi path, in the mountains not far from our house.  we are planning our first visit on sunday.  also, there is a classic diner nearby.  pancakes and spirituality go nicely together.  this reminds me of the time i was browsing through an omega catalog and saw an ayurvedic panchakarma retreat listing and my brain read it as "pancake-a-rama".  
  • i am a great starter.  i have a constant stream of new ideas that i like to kick into existence.  trouble is, i lose steam quickly and am on to the next amazing idea or project.  so a bit of incomplete exists on gypsy hill.  this weekend i will be finishing projects i started last month, last winter, last summer, three years ago.  

i hope you are planning (or not planning, if spontaneity works for you this weekend) all kinds of goodness and fun and togetherness.

Monday, July 21, 2014

the perfect summer weekend

this weekend was
  1. lazy
  2. slow
  3. cool(ish)
  4. not too humid
  5. free of obligation
  6. full of gifts from the earth
after saturday morning yoga, we took a beautiful drive to a peach orchard and picked a peck.

we shared a peach milkshake under the orchard canopy.  isn't this just lovely?  i wish i would have planned ahead and prepared a proper picnic.

but i suppose "no planning required" was another thing that made this weekend perfect.

our karma garden is giving us so much goodness this year.  the abundance of cucumbers and dill informed our choice for sunday supper:  cold cucumber soup.

cooking straight from the garden is something i'm getting better at as the summers roll by.

this is the perfect summer supper:  fresh, cooling, light.

c u c u m b e r  s o u p  with  h e r b s  and  p e t a l s


  •  3 large cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt 
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of half the lemon
  • handful fresh dill
  • handful fresh parsley
  • sea salt
  • course ground black pepper
  • herbs and edible flowers for garnish (i used the dill blooms, oregano flowers, nasturtiums and calendula)
  • olive oil
  • if you prefer your soup smooth, peel all three cucumbers, scrape out the seeds and give a rough chop
  • *if you prefer your soup a bit rustic (as shown), leave one of the cucumbers unpeeled and add it to the soup after the soup has been processed
  • put cucumbers, yogurt, finely minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill and parsley in food processor and pulse to desired consistency
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • move soup to alternate glass container
  • *if you prefer the rustic version, process the third unpeeled cucumber to a rough consistency now and add to the soup
  • place in fridge and let it chill for at least one hour
  • when it's time to serve, garnish with more fresh herbs, flowers and more course ground black pepper; drizzle with olive oil
  • serve with toasted baguette or croutons

as an introvert, a perfect weekend for me always involves some quiet alone time.  i took a walk away from the crowd and stumbled upon this secret lotus pond.  there was one giant white bloom, a few perfect buds and a corps de ballet of electric blue and black dragonflies dancing about.

a serendipitous and magical prize for a solitary meander.

thank you weekend.  thank you summer.  thank you life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

happy friday

it's been a good week.

i dipped my toe into an amazing creative coworking space, toolry.  can you believe how beautiful it is?  i allowed myself several hours of uninterrupted time to just play with pencils, pens and my photographs.  and, in alignment with one of the visions of the collaborative workspace, had a lovely and inspiring conversation with one of the resident photographers.

i hope you find your space to create this weekend.  it might be a space like toolry.  or a workshop or retreat.  or it just might be your kitchen table.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

yoga body buddha mind

one of a million things i've discovered about myself during my 20-some-year yoga journey is that i need a big dose of spiritual with my asana.  while i experienced many benefits from hot yoga and love my bikram teachers, i needed more heart yoga.  the body-mind was all there and then some; for me, not so much the -spirit.  (ken loves doing bikram yoga and others have told me that the spiritual practice of bikram is the discipline and routine.  unfortunately, feeling spiritual in the hot room was as elusive to me as the endorphine rush that runners supposedly get that makes running feel good.)

i can't tell you how excited i was when i learned last summer that om yoga founder and teacher cyndi lee would be moving to our sweet town.  her partner is the president of randolph college where ken teaches (and me, once in a while).  she's been teaching yoga at a local studio between her numerous teaching gigs around the world.

i jumped at the opportunity to join cyndi's three-day workshop yoga body buddha mind.  i have collected bits of buddhist guidance here and there throughout my life, but the practice and my understanding of it felt a little fragmented and unknit to me.  i feel a pull toward buddhism and an intuitive knowledge that there is material and process there that i need in this life.

before the workshop began on friday, i felt some resistance (shocking, i know) and the options for excusing myself from the experience started rolling through my head.  since this summer (um, life) is all about examining and working through my resistance, i did some quick journaling and then made myself get in the car.  i pulled up to this sign.  it's a normal sign, but really felt powerful to me.

yoga participant.

yes, that's me.

once i entered the room there was no going back.  and i am so happy i entered.

cyndi has a teaching style that i really resonate with.  her level of expertise is mindblowing; she has so much knowledge and wisdom in both yoga and buddhism.  she is also very down-to-earth and direct in her teaching style, not afraid to ask tough questions that help students recognize and move through their resistance, while still being supportive and emotionally present for her students.  she brings stories, a great sense of humor and the willingness to play.

we worked hard.  you can always tell when i am especially focused and present because there are few photographs.

turns out, a big chunk of the workshop was looking at resistance from the perspective of this ancient practice.  which, by the way, is the actual beginning of looking at resistance.  hello attachment, aversion and ignorance (in buddhism, the three afflictions), you are foundation of modern social work and mental health practice.

while my memory card may be light, my mind, heart and notebook are overflowing with new wisdom, new practices, a new direction.

my view from savasana included the brilliant midsummer sky through 12-foot french windows, a tree that housed the bird who gently challenged my practice by chirping louder and louder and louder and louder and louder during mindfulness meditation, and this large ink-on-paper chinese calligraphy piece with the taoist characters wu wei: non-action or not-doing.

this is us (not me, i have the camera) post-workshop.  i really wish i would have thought to snap a group photo at the beginning of the weekend to see the changes in our faces and beings. by sunday afternoon we were completely blissed-out and full of new practices and new questions for life.

i am looking forward to doing more work with cyndi.  i am grateful that she is here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

sunday grace

where i'm from
by george ella lyon

i am from clothespins,
from clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
i am from the dirt under the back porch.
(black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
i am from the forsythia bush
the dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs i remember
as if they were my own.

i'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from imogene and alafair.
i'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up! and pipe down!
i'm from he restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

i'm from artemus and billie's branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
from the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
i am from those moments--
snapped before i budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.


last year at the creative joy retreat, jen louden read this poem to us and then instructed us to write our own "where i'm from".  this was such an amazing exercise.  even as the memories of those october retreat days grow hazy, the voices of women reading the words they strung together around this theme echo clearly in my mind and heart.  as each sixty second poem was read, i learned more about each of them than if we had spent hours or days or weeks becoming acquainted the regular old ways.

my own, which includes a daughter of apache warriors, pacific tidepools, backyard dinners (a tradition that continues), a roller-skating grandpa, avocado groves, flying dumbos and the smell of my eight-year-old summer skin (chlorine, heat, dove soap and watermelon paleta drips), is treated as a work in progress, a place i go when i need clarity.  and respite.

click here to read some other ideas on how to explore this personal history writing exercise on your own.

when we can gather up and dust off our childhoods and family histories and gaze upon them with the relative objectivity of distance, time and adult perspective; when we can hold them with curiosity, gratitude and possibly forgiveness; when we can claim, write about and share those things that made us and sit with who we are and where we come from, that is grace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

a week in color {№10}

happy place:  the soul kitchen.

happy snack:  soft-serve with rainbow sprinkles.

happy time:  the morning cut at irvington spring farm.

happy guru:  luca

happy make:  chalkboard flower bucket.

happy juice:  gypsy hill sangria.

happy harvest:  squash blossoms, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes and dill.

happy meal:  tacos de flora (with aforementioned squash blossoms) on frida's birthday.

happy cupcake:  festooned with flowers and the lady of the day.