Monday, December 30, 2013

stand in the place where you live

i tend to avoid the ubiquitous.  one exception is the foot photo/standing-here self-portrait, which i have been doing for several years.  i love taking these photos because 1. they provide space and time to stand still and be present and 2. create a lovely end-of-year snapshot of where i've been.  if you'd like, you can see previous years' collections here (just scroll past this current one).

a few things about 2013:

  • i happily became accustomed to a slower pace of life, with more precious space and time
  • i became a better traveler, mainly due to the gypsy job
  • i fell in love (again) with nyc
  • i spent a lot of time barefoot
  • ditto staring at the sky
  • i struggled with being vegetarian and had to balance nourishing my body with my strong opinions on meat-production (ultimately reintroducing organic/local/humanely-produced animal products, which turns out to not be a lot around here)
  • i embraced meditation
  • i avoided most crowds, too much noise, those personalities that drive me over the edge (passive-aggressive people, narcissists, fear-and-rage-mongers) to the extent possible 
  • i had a lot of time to think, daydream, plan and try new things
  • i wasted a lot of that time learned the value of doing nothing

as i reflect on the year, i consider it to have been really good overall, if not somewhat non-eventful...a resting year.

now face north.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

may your own light return

a brighter version.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

sunday grace

is found in the littlest moments:

  • poetry read aloud
  • a house that smells like blooming paperwhites and spruce and cardamom coffee cake (christmas house!)
  • tiny bonfires
  • a blue sky after yesterday's gray
  • a warm bed
  • gazing upon the talent of friends

Friday, December 13, 2013

all is calm. all is brite.

in these early and mid days of december, there are so many opportunities to practice mindfulness amid the hustle and over-stimulation.

i intend to experience december as warm silence punctuated with color and glow.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

a gypsy birthday

my birthday was earlier this week and i was on the road teaching.  i was staying in a little mountain town by myself.  the day started off a bit sad, with mediocre pancakes at a highway diner (and not a highway diner that in any way begs for its photograph to be taken).  with some encouragement from instagram and facebook friends, i made a conscious effort to improve the day.  and it worked.

here is what happened:

  • i discovered that the person i was working with that day (which is totally a random assignment) had their birthday the exact same day.  
  • i played sirius xm 1st wave all day long and it was like hearing the soundtrack to my life.  i was lost in remembering beautiful moments and people who helped make me who i am.
  • also, i still know all the words to all the songs!  and i sang loudly and badly because i was in the car by myself.  i'm pretty proud of this.
  • a strawberry birthday cupcake with a candle to blow out after my wish.
  • a little bag of confetti at the bottom of my purse (inspired by hulaseventy).  it was thrown.
  • i left hotel housekeeping a big tip because i got a bit carried away with the confetti enthusiasm.  it was everywhere.  i know it must have sucked to have to vacuum it up, but i also hope it made her smile momentarily.
  • a girl on the street told me i looked like carrie brownstein on portlandia.  thank you very much.
  • i went for a walk in the tiny downtown beautifully lit up for christmas.  i stumbled across the greatest little dress shop with colorful stars that hung from the ceiling and the best music playing.
  • while in the shop i was quietly singing along to the smiths when a total stranger began singing too.  we both looked at each other and smiled and continued to sing the rest of the song together.  it was awesome.
  • i got an early gift from mr. parks and they are the best birthday gift ever:  vintage floral dr. martens.  it's good to be known.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

gratitude {№15}

for all these things:

  • imagination
  • intuition
  • reason
  • everyday beauty (and the ability to see it)
  • cameras
  • paint brushes
  • a kiss on the top of my head
  • paris
  • uncontrollable giggles and inside jokes
  • a man who smells like soap, wood, cardamom and honesty
  • wildness

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

gratitude {№13}

seriously, i don't know how any human gets through life on earth without dogs.  i am so grateful for the love and laughter these two bring into our home.  luca is a wire fox terrier and simon is a corgi.  they fight some days but mostly love on each other.  in the photo above, luca is cleaning simon's ears, a daily event.

we lost our roxy dog this last summer which makes my gratitude for these two lovedogs the deepest of deep.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

gratitude {№12}

grateful for the little things like eyeglasses.  mine broke last week and i had to search high and low for my spare pair.  during the hours i was without, i was so frustrated and felt really lost (in my own home) and even cried a bit.  i can't imagine how it would be to not have these extra set of eyes that allow me to see details of this beautiful world and read words on a page that fill my heart and move me to engage in the world.

thank you eyeglasses inventor!

paying it forward here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

gratitude {№11}

  • raking leaves in the sunshine
  • doggy heads poking out from leaf mountains
  • gouda and apple on rosemary bread, grilled
  • afternoon naps
  • the first of what i hope to be the complete collection of vintage penguin poets paperbacks (d38, the metaphysical poets)
  • the very last of the beautyberries trumpeting the final hurrah of autumn on gypsy hill
  • home

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

gratitude {№10}

eye candy on a cold day.

and the beautiful lady who risked glue-gun-carpal-tunnel-syndrome to create it.

paying it forward by supporting local shops and small businesses this holiday season.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

sunday grace: being well

i got sick a few weeks ago; fever, sore throat, exhaustion.  my immunity tends to get fragile around change-of-season times and this year the weather has been radically swinging back and forth from summer to winter. add to that the classroom battle i have to fight with students who covertly turn the thermostat up to 78 degrees (i don't even understand this!) and most of us wilt away while two or three happy students sit there in short sleeves and open toed shoes in november all cozy and shit.

i mention that i was ill because i haven't been ill in over two years.  and, despite the sneaky students, illness struck me at a time when i wasn't taking the best care of myself.  i was travelling a lot and neglecting to take the time and effort to do basic self care.  it was a wake-up call.  and also a reminder that wellness and health are such precious gifts.

i'd love to share some things i do to stay well.  it may seem like a lot, but it's totally worth it.  i haven't had a flu shot or antibiotics or any other prescription med in five years or more.  i have strong feelings about the pharmaceutical industry and, while i am grateful for the lifesaving aspects of modern medicine, i generally feel that our western medical machine is happiest when we are collectively unwell.

so here are my favorite wellness friends (clockwise from top left), with links:

  • buddha nose keeps my nose clear and moisturized.  i keep this at my bedside and rub it on before i go to sleep.  i also sleep with a humidifier.
  • old-school herbal ricolas are my go-to throat/cough drop.  no frills.
  • i put honey and lemon in my tea.  this turmeric/honey goo from the lovely heidi swanson is new to my repertoire this year.  it takes a while to get used to the taste, but this is one of those things that i can actually feel working instantly.  i use mine in tea but you can also just melt some into hot water.
  • i could go on and on about coconut oil.  the lovely meg worden introduced it to me a few years ago.  i melt one tablespoon into my coffee each morning and i also do a twenty-minute ayurvedic oil pull a few days a week.  the oil pulling seems weird, but i believe it's one of the most effective detoxification routines around, it keeps sinuses clear and removes nastiness from the mouth and throat.  it also gets rid of dark circles and whitens teeth.  (oil pulling was one of the practices i had been neglecting prior to my recent illness.)
  • yogi cold season tea.  i have tried every herbal tea known to man and this is hands-down the best wellness tea.  whenever i feel a bit of a scratch in my throat, a heaviness in my ears or stuffiness in my head, i drink a double-bag hot cup of cold season.  and then have a great sleep with awesome valerian dreams (if you take valerian, you know what i mean) and wake up clear and light.
  • i make my own thieves oil because it makes me feel like the mad scientist i was meant to be, but you can purchase this essential oil wondermix already made up for you here.  i mix a few drops with purified water to spritz the air and make a handwash by mixing ten or so drops with this soap.  speaking of handwashing, i am not a fanatic about it.  i refuse any of those hand sanitizers (unless i just touched someone with obvious contagious symptoms and no other soap is around).  i also do not use commercial antibacterial products on my body or home.  just keep your hands clean and if you can't, don't touch your face.  i make a point to wash my hands after the supermarket and before any food handling.
  • i take a hot bath every single night.  i make it detoxifying by adding one cup of epsom salts, one tablespoon ground ginger and one cup of organic baking soda.  i close the door to make the bathroom all steamy.  i often add a few drops of essential oil.  in the winter i use juniper, eucalyptus and grapefruit (it smells like california to me).  
  • new to my regimen this year is bone broth (in the center of the photo).  i use this crockpot recipe and add a knob of ginger, a head of garlic and one dried guajillo chile to the pot, this really raises the heat factor to further clear breathing passages.  whenever we finish a rotisserie chicken i put the bones in the freezer.  same with (washed) eggshells.  bone broth is not the same as regular chicken broth or vegetable broth, the long cooking time pulls the gelatin and minerals from the bone.  it's thick and gelatinous.  

other lovely things not shown:
  • daily movement:  a little yoga, a nice walk in the woods, kitchen dancing
  • kombucha
  • green juice, this is my winter favorite.
  • keeping stress low (easier said than done, i know)
  • sunshine
  • staying hydrated
  • clean sheets and pillowcases and a spritz of thieves on my pillow under the case
  • getting enough rest, and by enough i mean probably more than you are getting
  • opening the windows a few times a week to get fresh air circulating in the house
so tell me, what are your favorite ways to stay well?

Friday, November 15, 2013

gratitude {№9}

  • lunchtime walks in bright sunshine.
  • eating sushi under a blindingly yellow canopy of ginkgo trees.
  • sketching a leaf.
  • guessing at the proper name and only missing the spelling by a few letters.
  • lunch.
  • a job from which to break for lunch.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

gratitude {№8}

i am so grateful that all we really have to do is think it, live it, send it.  we are powerful beyond measure.

paying it forward here, here and here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

gratitude {№7}

grateful for the small things:

  • mercury goes direct 
  • spaghetti squash
  • how wearing gold boots makes you feel like wonder woman
  • a quiet safe neighborhood
  • yogi tea cold season (this stuff keeps me well when i am surrounded by germs)
  • new ideas
  • the crunch of leaves beneath my steps
  • woodsmoke

Sunday, November 10, 2013

sunday grace: big buddha

while i was at creative joy in breathtaking upstate new york a few weeks ago, i wandered away from the monastery at garrison on a whim to visit another monastery a few miles away:  the chuang yen buddhist monastery, home of the largest buddha in the western hemisphere.  (for size perspective, see tiny live human head in bottom right corner.)

i went to see the big buddha and he is awesome.  but i discovered so much more about the buddhist traditions.

on the walls surrounding the building, there are a thousand tiny buddhas, each with his own golden light and a label printed in chinese.  i couldn't find an english-speaking person to explain it to me, so i just enjoyed the light show.  i imagined they are akin to lighting candles in a catholic church:  sweet little prayers for loved ones.  i have a thing for prayers that glow.

the base of the big buddha is encircled with beautiful boddhisattvas.  the hands of each form different mudras.  (it's true, i am all about the hands and the feet.)

ten thousand peaceful buddhas are sitting en masse to create the illusion of giant white lotus petals.

the center is a school and there is a small library of literature to browse or take home.

the grounds are spectacular.  i sat outside on a bench while troupes of (softly) laughing children played.  i watched a tour bus tai chi lesson as i sipped hot jasmine tea in the crisp autumn air.  i whispered a note of gratitude that there are tour buses that bring americans to places other than outlet malls and off-track betting.

there are countless buddhas on the grounds as well.

up the hill from the main campus, there is the beautiful and peaceful thousand lotus memorial terrace, where ashes of loved ones are placed.  pots of burning incense are at every turn, as are children and families honoring their deceased parents and elders.

on the second terrace a young man stood in a deep bow for what seemed like an hour before the urn of a loved one.  at his feet were a few white boxes of take-out and two sets of chopsticks, one set for his respected elder. what a lovely tradition, to bring a favorite meal to share.  it was so touching and tender.  i sensed lightness and joy from all the families who were present.

i will never forget this sacred place.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

gratitude {№6}

grateful for the company of good, strong, smart, talented, peaceful women.

(creative joy, garrison, ny; october 2013; photo by tracey clark.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

gratitude {№5}

caution:  life is good after meditation.

it's true.  since (finally!) committing to meditation on a pretty regular basis:

life has clarity.

life has rhythm.

life has abundance.

life has kindreds.

life has answers.

life has questions.

life has space.

life has breath.

life has beauty.

life has truth.

life has love.

life has grace.

life has......

thank you meditation.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

gratitude {№4}

grateful for the way the sun streams in through the windows on quiet sunday mornings.

grateful for the scent of coffee laced with cardamom.

grateful for the wee forest behind the house and how it explodes with color each autumn.

Monday, November 4, 2013

gratitude {№3}

so grateful for healthy food grown by neighbors who care about the earth and each other.

grateful for access to markets and so many choices.

grateful for those who work each day toward safer and more environmentally-friendly food production and distribution.

grateful for my improving relationship with food and understanding how to be nourished.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

gratitude {№2}

today is dia de los muertos, a day on which departed relatives are honored in the mexican culture.  growing up in the central valley of california, my childhood was infused with mexican culture, so i am naturally drawn to celebrations such as this.  plus, the color.

this weekend relatives are visiting.  i have some anxiety about this.  i don't have a particularly close family of origin.  one person in my family with whom i felt particularly attuned to as a child was my grandma dee.  i write about her often in this space.  i imagine that she felt the same otherness in the family unit when she was with us.

today i am grateful for my grandma dee and her love of a simple quiet life that was curiously juxtaposed with her fierce apache spirit and the courage to be different.

Friday, November 1, 2013

gratitude {№1}

hi loves.  once again i want to focus on the month of november to practice gratitude.  of course, to live a truly joyful life, we practice gratitude as we move through each day of our year, but i like to use the month of giving thanks to really drive it home.

in the days post-creative joy retreat, i am walking through my life in a love and beauty rainbow haze, with awareness that i became a kinder more beautiful version of myself, taking space and time to re-enter the sometimes-harsh real world.  i am lucky to have big spaces of silence and stillness in my life (part luck, part design, part sacrifice).  i have room to stop and remember a bit from the monastery and integrate it into my real life and actually see it working.

i struggle with this luck, this privilege.  this always comes up for me at retreat and other moments when my life reflects back to me in glittery and complete opposition to the lives of many of the women and children with whom i have worked.  the brightness of privilege is shadowed always by a profound sense of injustice.  and then guilt.

we talked about this at retreat and our lovely leader jen louden wrote about it here.

so this year my november gratitude practice will include additional practice in noticing the privilege guilt when it arises and moving into moments of service and connection with the spirit of love rather than obligation-slash-penance.

i hope you will do some sort of gratitude practice too, either on your blog, instagram, facebook or in a more private way.  if you are, please share so i can follow along.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

creative joy

last week i journeyed to new york's breathtaking hudson valley to attend the creative joy retreat.  it was four luscious days filled with love, yoga, play, writing, photography, laughter, rest, tea, dance and stories.

i cannot conjure sufficient adjectives to give written justice to the october beauty of this space.  our retreat was held at the garrison institute, an old monastery made of stone and stained glass and a thousand seeking souls that now holds programs of contemplative practice. the grounds are expansive and include woods, trails, a garden, a labyrinth, bamboo groves and an opportunity at every turn to be one with your thoughts.

the beautiful jane lafazio, filling up her sketchbook.

tiny blooming miracles:  flowers in late october.

practicing being fully present and attuned to the beauty inside and out, asking myself the question, "what do you want?" and acting on the answer without apology or explanation...these are the things that filled my days.

these two bright spirits are half of team aliveness, our small group in which we practiced witnessing, not fixing.

A is for awesome.  and aliveness.  and awareness.  and answers.

giving fears, negativity, criticism, etc. to the minion to hold is one of many little practices i'm bringing home with me.

i find myself struggling to find the words to describe the experience.  i believe it's because i allowed myself to be fully present and truly experience the retreat and the kindreds who gathered.  i did not feel the need to document (either with camera or pen) every single minute with an eye toward blogging about it.

also several of my experiences were just simply beyond description.

thank you thank you beautiful brilliant women of creative joy.

thank you jen louden, marianne elliott and tracey clark for bringing us together and creating a program so deeply meaningful, fun and unexpected.