Sunday, September 20, 2015

sunday grace: things to do with your hands when someone you love is dying

  • hang a bright new string of prayer flags
  • pick up a pencil and write write write
  • place them on your thighs, palm down, in the mudra of calm abiding.  sit.  breathe.  abide.
  • rummage through boxes of ribbons and beads and finally start putting together that dream catcher.  you are a maker because of her.

  • type "grief" and "meditation" into google and discover this.  listen.  listen again.  and again.
  • pet your dogs
  • chop vegetables
  • finger paint
  • cut up a hundred tiny bits of colorful paper and create a collage, the first art she taught you.

  • pick up that box of tissues to take with you in the car.  even though you think you are going to hold it together, you will inevitably lose it at the farmers market, at the stoplight, when an old journey song plays on the radio
  • pack your bag, so that at least one thing is ready when it's time to go
  • let someone hold them
  • when the grief and confusion feel too heavy in your body, shake them vigorously to get it out
  • plant a new tree.  a deep red japanese maple, the color of her birthstone

  • pick up a book and spend the afternoon reading.  be grateful for the love of story that she instilled in you.
  • light a candle
  • wrap them around a warm mug of chai, feel and taste every single mug of cocoa and soup she ever made to comfort you when you were sick or having a bad day
  • sift through the photographs and revisit a life well lived.

  • quietly throw them up in surrender.  

Monday, September 14, 2015


"now she's back in the atmosphere
with drops of jupiter in her hair."

i've returned from this magical little place that is nestled into the nooks and crannies of the world's most ancient mountain range.  bend of ivy lodge, in the blue ridge mountains just north of asheville, was the location of alena hennessy's soul painting retreat.  it was so very luscious.  as i sifted through my photographs, i became aware that i was more present with my eyes and heart than with my camera.

still, i did not neglect to capture some of the magnificence of this week.  they are in no particular order as i have not yet shaken off the rhythm of retreat (i.e. go with the flow, say yes, be present, be open, etc.).  i'm going to hold on to it as long as i can.

everything we did...painting, talking, laughing, eating, sitting in silence...was adorned with the sounds of nature:  the creeks, the crickets, the rustling trees, the birds, the goats, the thunderstorms.

there was so much attention to spirit.

alena's teaching style is gentle and intuitive.  she provides demonstrations and guidance, but the painting process is yours alone.  i love this.

and it was such a delight to have the joyful and profoundly talented mati rose to teach and guide too.

summer's lush was just barely yielding to the crisp nature of autumn.  the grounds were incredible.

the lodge was cozy and you could tell its walls had held much happiness over the years.  we enjoyed yoga, qoya, reiki, journeying, storytelling and meditating here.

and we were nourished with an abundance of organic food sourced from local farms and providers.
all of our meals were made from scratch and with love by dava.  i have never been so well fed on so many levels.  the food was quite simply the most beautiful energy my body has ever had the pleasure to taste and smell and touch and see and hear.

even with all the amazing amenities and activities, it is always the people who make or break a retreat.  these women, who bravely came from near and far and gathered to quickly create a sisterhood out of strangers, they are the heart of this retreat.  they are artists and singers and healers and huggers and dancers.  the mountains will echo their laughter for a long time to come.

thank you life.

bonus list of things to start practicing in real life:
  • wear a bindi every day
  • dance qoya and shake your body like a dog
  • walk in nature
  • put your fingers in some paint and move it around a bit
  • sing to the sun
  • crap food doesn't feed your body or your soul, cook and eat like dava.
  • let people hug you.
  • people that make you laugh until you cry:  find more of them.

Monday, September 7, 2015

today seems like a good day for a journey

one day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"mend my life!"
each voice cried.
but you didn't stop.

you knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
it was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

{the journey, by mary oliver}

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

oh HELLO you

how is summer going?

you know those days when the little things light you up, when you just can't believe how lucky you are, even when there are not-so-great things happening too?

i'm there.

here's why (in no particular order):

  • i get to paint.  in my home.  in my yard.   the mountains.  
  • my yoga teachers who, without saying a word, make me believe i will soon press up into a headstand or balance my body on my arms.  who make me believe i am capable.
  • this smart and handsome and loving man i share life with.
  • my buddha dogs.
  • my baby girl.  she breathes fire.
  • it's almost autumn.
  • a growing community of authentic in-person friends.
  • the job that supports all the artmaking and colorful living, that i love too much to continue to refer to as my "day job".
  • sometimes people ask me to draw and paint for them.
  • there is a bunny living in our front yard.
  • which kind of tells me the snake has moved on to another habitat.  
  • my news hiatus is now permanent.  never felt better or more intelligently informed.
  • rainbow-stripe sneakers.
  • music makers.

some days i'm all, how did this happen?

most days i'm all, oh yeah, you worked really hard on creating a life you love.

what is lighting you up these days?

Friday, August 21, 2015

the ghost of you

your salacious breath
exhales slow like midnight fog
rolling slow and heavy over flesh
like indigo blue ink
it spreads and pools in the apertures
permanently staining
the outline of me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

art lately

loves, it's been a super hot and humid summer.  and while i miss all the hiking and hammock lollygagging and other outside frolicking that this prevents for me, i'm loving all the indoor painting time.   i've been busy splashing some color on canvas in between dayjobwork and organizing the studio and all the other bits and pieces of life.

the piece above is a reworking of a practice canvas (the surface on which i try out colors and marks and techniques).  it's always funny to me how they end up being some of my favorites; probably because i'm not thinking too hard about what it needs to be.  the stage above is the hardest part of the mixed-media process for me:  when i am in absolute love with the way it looks, but i know it still needs some evolving.  i don't want to let go of any of it.

that sounds a lot like life.

i finally made the decision about which parts would show.  what i love about this process is that all of the beauty and mistakes are still there inside and the piece wouldn't be or look the same without them.  this one is still in process, resting, waiting for more inspiration.

i finally got a proper mixed media journal.  and above is my first spread.  i love that the background is completely comprised of leftover paint and paper from other works.

i am completely in love with the stage of this work.  it's the biggest canvas i've worked on, a commissioned piece.  i'm stuck here and completely in love with the colors.  it keeps telling me it wants to be something other than what i intended.

summer mornings on gypsy hill are the best.  there is this moment when the sun just peeks over the treeline and rainbow rays beam through the forest.  they are soft and intense at the same time.  i love love love to paint outside.

a few months ago, i wrote a spontaneous poem where i'm from (you can read it here).  i love it so much i've decided to capture a few lines of it in a series of smaller art pieces.  the work above was a piece a did a few years ago which i wasn't very happy with.  i reworked it a bit and now i love it.

the piece below is inspired by the lines, i am from strong women who are not afraid of dirt or silence.  it features my paternal grandma, great-grandma and great-great-grandma before they made the journey west to california during the dust bowl.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

sunday grace: a new practice

when i started this blog seven years ago its primary purpose was to serve as a spot to ground me in the beauty and living of ordinary life.  the first few years i posted like a crazy person and i've noticed the posts have become fewer and fewer in the past years.   i want to reintroduce the practice of using this space as a reflection of my days, checking in with life practices i've chosen (to make sure i am doing them, not just thinking about them), and serving as a weekly benchmark to move me forward.

so i thought i would use this sunday post as a reintroduction of this practice, organized by some of the things that are important to me.  i want to reflect how i am doing with actively including them into my day to day life.

f l o w e r s

s k y  g a z i n g

n o u r i s h m e n t

cantaloupe with urfa biber chile.  and all of a sudden, tomatoes everywhere.

a r t

this is a little doodle i did while participating on a 16-person conference call.  when you are an introverted intuitive, the purpose and effectiveness of a conference call tend to escape you (so much of the context and nuances are missing), so you engage your brain however you can while you listen.

this is a new piece i'm working on in its early stages.  i like to capture the layers of the work as they move and change.

we had a bit of rain this week.  i took the piece outside and let some showers inform the direction of the work.

i experimented with some chemical movement on the same piece as well (drops of alcohol).

in a future layer, a full moon is going to be central to the piece.  just layering some understory here.

c o m m u n i t y

we spent part of saturday at an art fair held in a barn.  several of my favorite local artists and farmers were there.  it was so delightful to see them.  i especially love seeing their children play and work alongside them.

is there anything more quintessentially summer than a children's lemonade stand?

m e a n i n g f u l  w o r k

i put a few pieces of my work up on redbubble and am so grateful for the response.  stuff like this...putting work out challenging for me.  i ordered one of the phone cases and am very pleased with the quality.  i also love the sweet doodled box it arrived in.  (there is a link on the sidebar if you are interested.)

i also taught a class this week filled with new child abuse workers.  they were eager, energetic and soaked it all up like sponges.  this makes me happy.

also, painting.  lots of painting.

y o g a

i did two group classes this week and one practice at home.  i also took a group meditation class and meditated at home five days this week.

s t o r y

i am reading turning the mind into an ally for an upcoming training.  it is a wonderful book about meditation and i highly recommend it.

we watched still alice last night.  this movie is haunting me.  my grandmother descended into alzheimer's quite quickly, so i've always been aware of its presence in the world.  but this story about a woman experiencing early-onset alzheimer's really hit home.  see it.

h o m e

did i mention the rain this week?  this is a view from my kitchen at twilight.  the forest outside is wet and lit.  inside it is dark and cozy.  i will never ever get tired of this view.

and while i am loving my new practice of moving out into the world a bit more frequently, i always love coming home the most of all.

thank you grace.