Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from our hobbit castle to yours!

The Bicicletta, Italian cocktails anyone?

Charlie Brown, we love you.

A cozy snowy Christmas Eve in our hobbit castle.

with love,
The Marianiello's

~

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

35 :: {My Year of Relief and Happiness}

{click on images to see the oh so delicious details}

I've decided to dub this year 35th year of my life as "My Year of Relief and Happiness." And I have a feeling that there is going to be some wonderful change ahead.

I didn't start out feeling this way about turning 35. To be honest, I haven't felt much of anything about it. It's been just another blurry thought on this freight train called my life. I've been thinking about what I want this year to be about for a few days now. I started making a tradition out of this a couple years ago and didn't see any reason to stop now. However, this year, my thoughts on the topic did not start out with much optimism. I've been exhausted and should have known better than to try and define my coming year in such a state of disrepair. The only words I seemed to come up with were things like "burden" or "responsibility" or "getting by." Good god, can you say depressing?! Eeeerch! The brakes needed to be put on those thoughts. Pronto!

I firmly believe in the power of our thoughts and I am simply NOT ok with the idea of attracting a burdensome year. I'm much too good at attracting things to play around with a dangerous word like "burden." And so I did the smart thing and asked myself: What is the opposite word of burden? What came to mind was "Relief." Oh, now I like that word. I like that word a lot. It feels good. I can sink my teeth into that one. It feels like something I can believe in. It feels realistic, possible. I can wrap my head around it. For such a simple little word, it also feels immensely powerful.

My life is fully ready for a little bit of relief. But wait a minute. Relief all by itself sort of sits with a flat feeling in my mouth and limbs. I don't need all the hoopla that I was seeking at 33 and 34, but I would like to include some sunshine, sparkles and a smile that radiates from the inside out. Relief is good, but I think I'd like to top it off with a nice sized dose of happiness when all is said and done.

When I told my husband, Vinny, about this, he was a little worried that I might be asking for too much. He also believes in the power of our thoughts, but usually leaves the magic-making up to me. He also tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to reaching for the stars. Adding happiness onto a request for relief--is this asking for too much? I don't think so. After all, why limit ourselves? We are, after all, our own biggest limiting factor. I've decided to add a little bit of whipped cream to my coffee. Goodness on top of good. Why not?

Relief means quite a few things to me. It means getting my shiite in order. It means finally finishing the unpacking from our move this summer. It means having time to be human. It means limiting my workload to a manageable amount. It is relief from the endless pressure of work and bills and the toxic combination they can sometimes create. I love the work I do, inside and out, but these 12-18 hour days just can't go on forever. Period. Relief looks like a big fat fellowship and a backup plan to live sanely, whether I get the fellowship or not. Relief will include facing my fears head on. Heck, even joyously. It means breaking a few self-destructive patterns. It also means finding out what, exactly, those patterns are. I'm hereby mining them out of the naivety of my subconscious and exposing them to the light of day. It means taking a deep breath and then embarking on the necessary steps to reach my goals. One thing at a time. One action at a time. One day at a time. One thought at a time. It will be made up of knowing when to say yes--and also when to say no. It will be made up of knowing when to push--and also knowing when to relax.

Last year my words of the year were "Wild Bloom." They were inspired by a photo and a story that my coach and dear friend Jamie Ridler shared with me during a coaching session. Holy taledo, and did my year ever go WILD with BLOOM!!! Things bloomed so fast and feriously that it's a miracle I didn't spontaneously burst into flame! Of course, life never looks like we expect it to. Nope. And sometimes not even at all. Anyway, despite difficulties, 34 was a good year of blooming all to pieces. But, I'll admit: I'm exhausted. And I am really, really, really ready for some relief, topped off with just the right amount of happiness.

Today I celebrated my birthday by taking the entire day off. I can't even tell you how good it felt. To be honest, this is the best day that I've had in a really long time. I took a couple naps, read, snacked on delicious food, played in the snow and generally relaxed to the nth degree. Did I mention that we were snowed in? I also created a vision board to help guide me confidently into this 35th year. And, by gosh, I really love the way it looks.


I get the feeling that this is going to be an especially good year. In big ways--but in nice, quiet sort of ways. I can already feel my heart nestle in a little bit more comfortably in my chest and the tension in my shoulders drop down a notch. This year I have a different kind of faith. It's called: faith in myself. I also have faith in the kindness of the Universe. I have faith in love, authentic work, and gentleness. I have faith in passion--and this year I'm not afraid to adjust the flame as needed.

Today I woke up in a snow cave. After a big snow-storm, our world has turned into a surreal landscape of drifting white. It felt like someone hit the "shift" button and I'm grateful because I needed to get snowed in. I needed to relax. I needed to spend some time with my dreams and the hush quiet of this newly white blanketed world.

And so here's to Relief and Happiness. It all its strange forms--both expected and unexpected.
Here's to wishing with our whole spirit.

Hello 35.
:)

~

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Random thoughts on a Sunday Morning

Sitting in front of my computer trying to get my wits about me, I figured I might as well write a blog post rather than starring like at idiot an my email, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Blarg. I'm shaking cobwebs out of my brain with a cup of coffee--or more--and then it's off to the dog painting factory. ha!

Ok, I'm just kidding about the factory comment, but today I will be mounting about 200 prints and painting 10 display frames. Stray Dog Arts has gone wholesale, baby! Not sure if it's a blessing or a curse. Well, it's definitely a blessing, but my lack of an assistant feels like a bit of a curse. Thought I had finally found someone one, but the timing (at least when I need it most) is off. (Dear Universe, please send me the right person).

The pond has hereby frozen over for good, complete with a dusty layer of snow. The sky is bright and blue, the air colder than ever. I've fallen in love with my new blue leg-warmers because they feel cozy and look good with my painting apron.

I'm going to be 35 in three days. I'm not sure what this means except that my metabolism will probably slow down. 33 and 34 were really special years for me. 34 threw enough monkey wrenches at me that I've decided that it will be ok if I somehow just simply enjoy and survive whatever the next year has to offer. I want my wild optimism back, but maybe it would be better for me to chill the hell out and just relish the small bits of life as they're offered to me.

To me, 35 feels like a big shipment from Dick Blick: daunting and full of possibility all at once. Did I mention that large UPS and FedX shipments are a new addition to my life? I've finally become like the girl in Cast Away (you know, the movie with Tom Hanks?). I even wrote a blog post about it here about a year ago and look how it's manifested itself! (please bear with the randomness of my brain) Like that girl, I'm the artist who lives beyond the crossroads and down a really long dirt driveway. I have an old garage/workshop rather than a barn, but the feeling is the same. Yes, I'm romanticizing my situation quite a bit, but this is a necessity in order to survive the otherwise endless pile of work sitting in front of me. Life is good and yet it doesn't feel like anything I was expecting.

Cup of coffee #2 required.

Signing off with peace and love,
j.

~

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 1

It feels amazing to me that today is the first day of December. The pond has frozen over in a fragile sheath of ice for the first time this year. It's been a process of freezing, starting at the edges, and has been going on for weeks. But this morning it has finally found its way across the entire surface.

I love the pond outside our house. It reminds me of Thoreau and a favorite quote:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

This is a quote that I have lived my life by. I came across it in high school and have made many decisions in its echo since.

It seems surreal to me that it's already been 4 months since we moved from the middle of a city to the almost-middle-of-nowhere. We moved at the end of July. In mid-August I got really sick with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (most definitely the strangest illness I've every acquired!). I had to drop everything for an entire month--the unpacking, painting, my work. Everything. That was difficult for me to do. I am pretty hard-driven and to be stopped in my tracks is not something I'm very good at. Not to mention, my schedule was already packed to the gills. Those lost weeks were not something I had to spare. From there it was a domino effect in trying to catch up. A big solo exhibition, many events, two major projects, and a handful of commissions later...here we are taking our first step into December. Time is a tricky monkey. It's gone from July to December in one fell swoop. Blink! This must be how it happens, how we grow old. This is how one day we wake up and we're 90, remembering how young we felt when we were 35. All I can say is: dang. I hope I live to be a 1,000.

And so today I drink my coffee out of an especially fragile cup. Some days I prefer the thickness of hand-thrown ceramic. Other days, like today, I prefer the fragility of fine china. I think it says something about how I'm going to approach my day. Sometimes I put on my old jeans, a sweater and boots and dig into my day with a full heart. Other days I like to move more deliberately. I like paying attention to the delicate surface tension that stretches itself across the pond, a fine combination of stretched lace and glass. Who knows, by mid-afternoon I might switch to that heavy ceramic mug, but for now I am content with the subtle features of the morning.

There are so many things to share and catch up with you in the space of this blog. Photos, stories, events, paintings...they wait in files on my computer and in my head and on my camera. But, for now, here is just a little slice of one moment out of one morning. This is my life as an artist. And, this morning, it is a life lived deliberately.

Here's to a December filled with a life worth living.

ps.
Photo taken by my husband, Vinny, this past weekend. Sitting at my computer in the studio with my wolfie girl, Anu, contentedly asleep at my feet (if only she were in the photo, too!).

~

Saturday, November 14, 2009

early morning in november.

Dear neglected Blog, I've missed you.

It's early, but not early enough. I like the dark moments before morning, the moment when the sky is still in a state of pre-dawn. However, with the light comes several notable details such as the sheep that live across the pond. Since the field next to them was cut, I notice that they stand in new configurations. The horses also have moved to another pasture, off the hill and away from the wind. I like the movements of the world surrounding our new home. If only I could slow down my own internal rhythms in the same way.

And so I take this moment to peacefully drink my coffee and do something for myself. Blogging is for me. It uses a different part of my brain. Yes, writing, I miss you. I miss you, but you are always with me. Waiting.

In the bedroom off my office I hear the deep sigh of my dog Louie as he nestles in deeper along Vinny's side. I love weekend mornings when the rest of the house sleeps in. For me, there is really no such thing as a weekend, but there are moments of peace, like this one, that I drink in deeply. I think to myself that someday I might even add some semblance of balance to my life. A life where I take weekends off, even if only occasionally. Where I have days that I wake up only to flop myself on the couch with my legs flung across cushions and a book in my hand. Maybe someday I will make that happen, but for now I catch the same sorts of enjoyments in quick doses. I stop in front of the living room window and take in the changing colors of the season. This new landscape--it is all a constant discovery. Even I am a constant discovery. Always, always learning how to live with myself a little bit better.

Early morning blessings to you, friends. Here's to another day and the endlessness of changing light.

~

Thursday, October 22, 2009

{Featured!} Must see: November Issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine

Yesterday my husband, Vinny, came home from the grocery store with a surprise for me. He had a big smile on his face and a plastic bag about 3 inches thick in his hands.

"I got you something" he said with an especially cute smile and handed it to me.

The bag sort of melted in my hand--square, but curving at the edges the way a small pile of magazines will do.

Eeeeeeee! Squeal of delight! I knew what it was immidiately: the November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine featuring "Custom Made" artisans and a two page spread of yours truly! :)

I don't mean to geek out or brag, but I just have to say that I am a little bit giddy with excitement. I can't help it. I'm excitable when it comes to being featured in glossy publications. Especially good ones! :)

I immidiately took one of the magazines out of the bag, circled the living room a couple times and then sat down in a chair next to the window. I was about to go straight for the article, but decided to torment myself and savor the moment as long as possible. I opened the magazine to page 1 and looked at every single page until I got to page numero 56...which is when I started ooooing and awwwwing and giggling like a maniac over the beautiful layout and my incredibly gorgeous Chesapeake love, Louie: front and center. What's not to love?! He glows! He's practically levitating in the foreground and there's me in the background...glowing, too! And that's exactly how this work makes me feel. Thank you to the photographer, Stephanie Colgan, for capturing that very deep and wonderful feeling.


The article, written by the fabulous Christy DeSmith is absolutely incredible. I moved from the living room window to the kitchen where I read it out loud to Vinny (and any dogs and cats that might listen). Louie, like a giant piece of Velcro, pressed up against my leg the entire time while Ella, our youngest pup, raced circles on the couch behind us. If a family can morph into one huge smile then, in that moment, that is exactly what happened to us. It is an absolute honor to be featured among such hugely talented artists of the Minneapolis area.

Here's to supporting the arts. Thank you, Mpls St. Paul Magazine!

May all dogs be happy!
~

Monday, October 19, 2009

Snake medicine.

{I like this image because , as we all know, fear loses
it's power when one looks directly into its eyes.
}

There's one thing I've always been afraid of and that's snakes. As a matter of fact, my very first memory as a young girl is of accidentally running over a garter snake with my tricycle. I remember the sun, the perfectly green grass, and the absolute focus of my journey from Point A to Point B. I was, what you might call, "in the zone," lost in my travels, a pedaling adventure between Clara's garden and the house. I remember the absolute fear that coursed through my body as I saw my front tire bump right over the top of that fine, slithering body and the lightening speed with which I climbed to the top of Clara's head (well, at least as far as her shoulders). Clara, bless her soul, a tiny woman whom my siblings and I adopted as an extra grandma, stayed calm the entire time. I even remember the sweetness of her smile as she peeled me off her head and assured me that there was no reason at all to be afraid.

Despite many noble attempts, I have never been able to overcome my fear of snakes. It seems to be a fear I was born with--and is, in my humble opinion, a fear that any intelligent creature SHOULD be born with. Gah. Of course, living in the country comes with its fair share of snakes. That is to be expected. And, luckily, in Minnesota none of the snakes living here are poisonous (but that's beside the point).

Earlier today, I posted a comment on Facebook proclaiming that I was going to FREAK out if I saw one more snake basking in the sun outside my studio door. Now that the weather has gotten cold and then warm again...oh my good god, they are out in hoards, storing up as much sun for the winter as they can. I can't blame them for that. And, actually, if I wasn't afraid of them, I might even think that they look quite stunning. They are graceful and quick. The bigger, older ones seem to possess an intelligence that I even respect.

But when they are laying right across the metal strip of the threshold of my studio door, warming themselves in the crack of the concrete between inside and out, and along the sun-warmed front of my studio, there they lay. Well...this is just about enough to push me over my snake-fearing edge. When they crawled under the door not once, but three times in one day (yesterday)....oh, bloody hell, that is just about more than I can stand! (ps. today none have made it that far--thank god).

And, yet, I get the very clear feeling that they are not attempting to stay in here. They have no interest in making a home in my studio, rather they are just trying to find some temporary warmth before falling asleep for the winter in whatever warm earth den they call home.

A couple of wonderful friends suggested that I look into what the Snake might have to teach me. After all, there is often a reason that things show up in our lives. I couldn't agree more and, after a little bit of reading, learned that "Snake arrives when we are moving toward change, and need to let go of a part of our old self....prepare to shed something in favor of something greater and better." And Tanaya shared with me this link.

My first reaction to the idea of more change was the desire to throw a temper tantrum. You know, one that goes like this: "But I don't wwwwaaaaaannnaaaa change anymooooore!" After all, this past year has felt like nothing BUT change! The notion of change has sort of lost its shiny luster for me and, as I was driving to the store, I began to realize that although I once used to equate change to excitement and adventure, I've now started to equate to pain and emotional/physical/mental discomfort. It's no wonder I'm no longer welcoming it into my life! I find myself whining: Can't things stay the same for just a little bit?!

haha! Yeah, right.

OK, Snake. In the moment of realizing what was holding me back from change (that is, fear of more discomfort), I decided that I'm going to start over. After all, there ARE plenty of things that I am more than ready to change about my life. Some things are actually causing a helluva lot of pain and discomfort in staying the same. Especially my work to income ratio and my relationship with time (among other things, I'm sure). Snake Medicine also teaches about intuition, creativity, transmutation, and the energy of wholeness. Hmmm...not all bad. This is something I can work with.

I still can't say that I like snakes--or even that I plan to anytime soon. But ever since returning home I've decided that every time I step over the threshold of my studio, it is an opportunity to face my fears and grow past them. The snake is just a metaphor. I step through the door and, each time, find myself returning to the words: Be Brave. Two years later and I'm still living those words every single day. Damn those words. They are good.

You see, there is power living inside of this studio. Great amounts of beautiful, heartfelt, loving power. And by power, I mean Inner Power. The kind of stuff that causes me to glow. The sort of power that lets me know, without a doubt, that in this very moment, I am living my life's purpose; I am doing my best and truest work. The way I feel when I'm painting or creating is worth stepping over any number of snakes.

Snake is fire medicine. It has vitality and intelligence. It is protective, healing, acutely intuitive and it's movements lack resistance. These days, I desire to find a way to allow my passion to take better care of me (and visa versa). You know the quote by Albert Einstein: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Well, I'm going to believe that the Snake is showing up in my life (REPEATEDLY!) to jar me out of old patterns. Every time I step into my studio or back into the world outside, I make a conscious decision in the direction of Bravery and new thinking.

Instead of representing fear, what if I give Snake the power to represent Change? And what if I decide to no longer equate Change with negative experiences? How about if, this time around, Change means something GOOD and, in this way, gives Change the power to mean that awesome things are coming my way? What if I allow Snake to become a reminder for me to use a new way of thinking and acting? Think new, create new.

OK, Snake, be my teacher. I am, after all, more than ready for the next leap.

Image credits: http: www.boston.com
~

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whooot! Watch for me in the November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine!

Out soon! The November issue of the Mpls St. Paul Magazine is all about custom made. And guess who's included!




ps.
Keep another eye on my shop. Great new products are on their way!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy Diet :: Desire


The Next Chapter :: The Joy Diet (chapter 3):
Never mind that I'm a week behind.

I just wrote half a blog post when my little cat, Viscosa, came and sat on my computer and managed to turn the power off. It's just as well because all I had written was a bunch of nonsense about how intensely hard I've been working and how exhausted I am beginning to feel. You know, the old story.

But that's not what I really came here to write about. I came here to write about Desire. I wasn't able to post last week because I was in the final days of preparation for a big art show opening. It swallowed me whole and then I got swallowed a little bit further by travel (read more about animal rescue and puppy adventures) and then the aftermath of being too busy to keep up with things for too long.

And this is where I've been spit out. On a Friday morning in the middle of October with dogs waiting to be walked and a heavy layer of mist outside my window. It has led me to my very first day off in over a month (the last time being only because I was too sick to carry on). It's fairly ridiculous what a big deal it is for me to be taking today off. You have no idea what a mental leap it was for me to put my foot down and say NO MORE, for just one day, NO MORE. I am, after all, my own schedule maker. If you think it is all bliss and candy being able to work from home or to be a full time artist or to follow your dream or whatever it is...think again. Living this life takes some pretty heavy-duty amounts of determination. It also requires knowing when to stop--which, apparently, is not one of my talents. I am aware of the insanity of this pattern, but have yet to find a way to break out of it.

And so...for the past week I have been thinking about Desire. My thoughts usually begin when running errands or on my way to a photo shoot in the city. Shortly after turning down County Road 1 (an especially beautiful road flanked by fields and bright colored forests and rolling hills), I ask myself what I desire and, this past week, each time, my answer comes back the same. I just need a break. And before I even get half way through that thought I feel the sting of tears and a heavy sort of hopelessness. I know that is the exhaustion talking. Because giving myself a break would be easy. But what I really desire is to be able to take a break without having a mountain of work pile up on the other side of it. As I drive, I attempt to follow this string of desire to a solution, but my brain starts to feel cloudy; it bumps and skids a little; I feel an ocean of tears start storming in my belly. This is about the time when I become keenly aware that something needs to change...and soon. My desire for a whole day or weekend or evening of simply "being" rather than "doing" is so deep that I can feel it all the way through my bones and into the earth.

Letting myself get tangled up in this thought of wishing for some downtime never gets me anywhere. The wishing makes hopefulness grow cloudy. And so I take a nap and dust out the cobwebs. I start over and remind myself that starting over is something I need to do on a regular basis.

I admit that I have not yet even finished reading this past week's chapter ("Creativity"), but am savoring the question: What will help me to obtain my heart's desire? This is an action oriented chapter. I'm good at action. Unfortunately, I'm a little toooo good at it and so I proceed with caution. I tweak the question to go more like: What can I do to help me obtain my desire that won't just make more work for myself?

My desire is to make enough money that I don't have to work myself to the bone just to have enough to barely get by. My desire is to set myself up to get paid more and work less. My desire is to occasionally take a weekend or evening off just to do something else or nothing at all. My desire is to learn how to create free time and then not jam pack it full of more to-do's. My desire is to live a little bit more sanely and feel a little less exhausted in the process. I desire time off without worrying what kind of hellacious work load will await me on the other side. This is a simple desire, right?

I am ready to start living my new story. My new story requires creative thinking...and this kind of thinking requires one simple ingredient: rest. Right now I'm going to do just that.

Never mind that it took me all day to write this post. I got distracted. Distraction was bound to happen. It's a process. I feel awkward, but am baking a pie. Morning turned to evening...and now that the day flew by I think I'll go back to bed with my book. I obviously need practice when it comes to chilling out.

For now: more rest. Creativity coming soon.

~

Friday, October 02, 2009

Truth and the Fine Art of "Don't Know Mind"


The Next Chapter :: The Joy Diet (chapter 2):

ok, ok, ok...I admit: I struggled and fought and wound myself up in a few uncomfortable corners with this chapter. I don't know how or why this happened except that I let monkey-crazy-rat mind take over. It talked itself into a messy little knot and made me a bit miserable in the process. How do I feel? What's the story I'm telling? Is it true? Dear god. I love these questions. But holy hell. Not this week. This week I did not love these questions. I did not even like them. It took an entire week to finally realize (this morning) that, all along, the questions, although maddening, have actually been working their magic in a slow, silent sort of way.

The time in between, well, there were other moments of complete and absolute contentment. Such as stopping (yes, actually stopping) to take in the many colors of a maple leaf while walking out in the woods. Then I noticed how that single leaf connected to a branch and how the branch connected to more leaves, connected to a tree, connected to other trees, connected to the sky, connected to the blue beyond, connected to the pond, connected to the grass, connected to the tree...and back again. I attribute the ability to even stop and notice these things at all to last week's practice of "Nothing." Amazing. Nothing continues to amaze me. I like "nothing." No, I luuuuuv nothing. I also find moments of perfect happiness/joy/contentment on the walk between the house and my studio. It takes all of approximately 40 or 50 steps and, in that time, I become aware of everything: the sky, the temperature, the coffee cup in my hand, the moon or sun, misty skies or blue, my body, mood, feet, hair, state of being, breath, the dogs, a glisten of light on the pond, a paw print, the movement of air, my beating heart.

There is joy in noticing these details. I blink in disbelief that I have a life that allows me to walk between my house and the studio. Every day. Morning, mid-day, evening...and even in the middle of the night.

But, many times this week, trying to figure out Truth got in the way of joy. To be honest, Truth was turning out to be a down-right joy wrecker. I spent many of my days going round and round on a few things that have been bothering me and coming up with new ones in the stupid, horrible process. In short, I was ruining otherwise beautiful days with my own Truth inquiries and ridiculous thought patterns.

Anyway, this morning I had a very profound and wonderful realization that the world around me is actually perfectly NEUTRAL. It's ME (my brain, thoughts, actions, words) that causes conflict, confusion, insecurity, distrust, hurt feelings, anger, inner turmoil...and all the other useless emotions that seem to have been paying me visits as of late. It's me...as in, NOT the world around me. Not this person or that person or that organization, but me. It took an entire week of having ridiculous arguing matches and stupid, endless conversations in my brain to finally realize that the only constant in any given situation is myself. It's me that is wrapped up in my situation, my stories, my dilemmas. No one else really cares.

And so that, my friends, is realization Numero Uno.

But there is a second part to "Truth"...and that is the difference between the stories we tell ourselves and another very important something called "Intuition." Chapter 2 has caused my philosophical brain to go a bit nuts, but please bear with me. My question is this: How do we know the difference between a story that we tell ourselves and simple, legitimate INTUITION? Which leads to another question: What is intuition in the first place?

Intuition. To be intuitive. This is something I value. I value intuition. It is something that exists not just in our tangible realm, but the psychic realm as well (oh boy, this could get deeper than I feel like delving in one lil' blog post). Intuition is the ability to read energy, to be aware of a flash of insight, and to simply be in tune with the moment, minus the clutter. BUT what if we let our stories get mixed up with what we think is intuition when really it is just our crappy old baggage weighing us down unnecessarily? And how do we know when to take our intuition seriously so that we don't have to live through a crappy experience only to say to ourselves in the end: "oh, I should have just listened to my intuition!"

See where I'm going with this?

Martha Beck points out that to not know (or to be unable to know) the Absolute Truth can be really, really uncomfortable. But it can also be very deliciously liberating. We are at the mercy of our ongoing experiences, but what we make of those experiences is truly up to us. She reminds us that "[o]nce we begin living with the full awareness of our basic fallibility, we can regain what Buddhists call the 'don't know mind,' the alert, receptive mental state that makes us capable of genuine perception." And that, my friends, is the place where sacred intuition lives. Yes, it's a fine line, isn't it--and I think it's safe to say that plenty of "Nothing" is required to keep a clear head in the matter.

Which leads back to being NEUTRAL. Right. This is a good lesson to learn. Returning oneself to neutral territory allows one to notice things like colorful maple leaves. It causes us to notice our body mid-step as we balance a too-full cup of tea as we walk across the driveway on a wet and windy day. Neutral is good. Neutral simply notices things. Neutral keeps us out of danger without creating unnecessary drama in the process.

Wow--and so I will just say that this was a very tough week of Joy Dieting. I am glad, however, that I stuck with it and didn't give up with the almost justifiable excuse: "I'm too busy for this."

It took awhile to get there...but something finally clicked. Sure, I still have a lot to figure out, but what I can say is that this week I got one step closer to myself. Today monkey-crazy-rat mind finally got a rest.

And, believe me, the silence has been golden.





~

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I don't know about the rest of you, but...

Today I'm realizing that, for me, "Truth" is most certainly one of the most complicated of flavors.


(book club thoughts on Martha Beck's The Joy Diet)
~

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Truth Seeking on the 29th day of September.

Cool fall morning. Lavender scarf. Dogs running through tall grass. Slanting early sunlight. Golden wooded trails. The sharp smell of something green and growing. Frost on the studio roof. A double espresso. Comfortable gray sweater. A long day of painting, beginning with this post.

~

Monday, September 28, 2009

Anu :: {an update on my girl}

I just want to send a great big thank you for all of the supportive and thoughtful comments, messages, phone calls and emails that I got after writing about Anu this past week. You have no idea how blessed it makes me feel to have such incredibly loving people in my life.

Although I don't have a lot of time to write, I just wanted to let you know that she is doing better. Not perfect, but much better.

For now, we are giving her pain medication to make her feel more comfortable and she is responding really well to it. Her tests showed mixed results. There are some abnormal cells, but no conclusive answers just yet. She will need to get more tests for us to know for sure if it's cancer or not, but since treatment is not really an option due to her age and the size of the lump, we will just keep a close eye on her and bring her back to the vet for another look in a week or two.

In the process of all of this, we've been lucky to find a really wonderful vet in our area. Since moving, our regular vet is an hour away, too far for Anu to travel under the circumstances. Knowledgeable and caring veterinary care means a lot to me--and Dr. Geoffrey Passe of Cannon Valley Vet Clinic is just that. They got us in, despite a tight schedule and took the time we needed to make Anu feel a bit better and to put my husband and I at ease.

I admit that I was a bit of a wreck when I called in. With last minute preparations for a major show and magazine photo shoot also on my plate, this has been a very full week. Anu got sick right smack dab in the middle of it all and I think my heart came just as close as it ever could to breaking into a million peices. I can't even tell you how grateful I am to still have Anu by my side as I continue these long days of working and painting. Every time I look down at her, every time I touch her, every time I kiss her or hug her or feed her or look into her big brown beautiful eyes or even just think about her...I am filled with relief that the Universe decided to give me a break and grant me more time with her.

I was just seriously not ready to say goodbye. I never will be...but I am grateful for every single extra moment I'm given--whether it's a week or a year. I snuggle my face deep into her neck (my favorite part of her) and breathe deep the sweet smell of her wolfie hair. She stays closer to my side than she ever has before. We are savoring each other--all of us. We might have some tough days ahead, but right now there is happiness in her eyes. And I remind myself that this might be nothing at all. Whatever it is, in a very big way, it has caused me to appreciate what I have right here and now.


Thank you, Dr. Geoffrey, for helping us out during a difficult and scary time. Thank you, friends, for doing the same. Your stories, love, and well wishes mean a lot--to all of us.


Sending you lots of slobbery dog kisses,
Jessie
~

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Joy Diet :: An Introduction and a bit of Nothing.

I've been meaning to write my introduction to Jamie Ridler's new book group, The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, for over a week now. I'm just going to go with the "better-late-than-never" motto and leave it at that. Anyway, today is just as good a day as any to start since I just came back from experiencing a blissful (massively blissful) moment of Nothing.

You see, I recently relocated to the edge of the Universe. We moved from the middle of a big city to a vineyard in the middle of nowhere. We traded in the bungalow we were living in for an earth home nestled in the middle of 50 acres. We call it our "hobbit castle" and, like hobbits, we have found ourselves to be very happy here. There is a big willow tree that graces the yard in front of our house and, beyond that, a pond visited by egrets and blue herons, wild geese, frogs and turtles, coyotes and bobcats, too. Beyond the pond are hardwood forests and a pasture inhabited by two brown horses and one white. I am most fascinated by the white horse and have really begun to love mornings, when our world is filled with so much mist that I can just barely make out those beautiful creatures beyond. At night, the sky is filled with stars.

This morning I got up early to turn off the windmill. It was windy last night. And that's another thing I've grown to love out here: the wind. You see, our water is generated by an old school windmill and then gravity fed from the vineyard to the house. We have to turn the windmill on every few days to fill up the well...and turn it off a day or two later so that it doesn't over-fill. Needless to say, living here is causing us to become very connected to the weather and our use of water. The second half of summer was still and windless. Running out of water is a horrible pain in the arse and so wind-sounds cause me to feel over-joyed, even with the subtlest of breezes.


I got up today in the early half-light of morning. I was starting to clench my teeth with worry over everything I need to accomplish in the next week and a half and decided that it would be best if I just got up and enjoyed my day instead of getting myself tangled up in my brain while laying in bed. It was too early for Vinny and the dogs to get up and so I had the quiet beginning of the day all to myself. I put on my husband's thick, fleecy sweatshirt and hiked up the path to the vineyard to turn off the windmill and, in the process, decided that I would treat myself to a nice big dose of Nothing.

Oh, Nothing. Sweet Nothing.

Why is Nothing such a complicated little nugget of goodness? Rather, Nothing is quite simple. It's just the getting there that is sometimes complicated.

If you've been a reader of my blog for any length of time, you probably already know pretty well what I'm like. I'm not very good at Nothing and I AM very good at overwhelming, overextending and overbooking myself. I am the Goddess of High Pressure. Or something like that.

In moving to this magical little oasis at the edge of the Universe, I decided that I wanted to change that about myself. Then I got sick. I got really sick and wasn't able to work for almost an entire month. That was frustrating and good for me all at once. You would think that this would have been a good lesson in The Art of Nothing--and it was--but then the other half of life and all its demands came crashing in on the other side of it with deadlines that cannot be moved and expectations that involve a lot of other people. I found myself with only a few weeks to create an entire art show--which is the activity that I am smack dab in the midst of right now. Among other things.

OK...so being overwhelmed and too busy is the story of my past. BUT what if I don't want that to be my story any more? Well, then I need to start telling myself a new story.

And so here it is...no matter what's going on, I need to start reminding myself that I DO have time for Nothingness. To prove this to my slow learning self, I am hereby committing myself to at least 15 minutes of Nothingness every day for the course of this book group. Thank you very much, Martha Beck.

This morning Nothingness looked like this:
A sleepy girl with tousled and disheveled bed head walking up a path lined with crimson sumac and wild plums. She gets to the top of the hill and notices an overflowing well. Water! She is happy. She is also alone. No dogs, no chatter, no phone, no nothing. It is just herself and the morning. She feels a bit nauseous from hunger because she didn't eat enough the day before and asks herself: what does my body need right now? She appreciates the way Nothingness causes her to ask herself this question because, in her bones, she feels it is a good question.

She walks the length of the vineyard, row after row of grapes hanging thick and heavy on the vines. She stops occasionally to taste them and is reminded of childhood Sweet Tart flavors--except these flavors are better. They contain something of both the earth and sky. She turns down a particularly inviting row and, once she gets to the middle, flanked on both sides by grape vines, she lays down in the dewy grass and--for the first time in several days--she breathes.

Deep blue sky-filled breaths.

She breathes and notices the feel of grass on her hands and neck and in her hair. She notices the way the grapevines and solidago plants look from underneath. She notices the color of the sky. She notices the change in temperature and that she has a body. She notices that it has been a long time since the last time she visited Nothingness. She decides that Nothingness is good medicine and is glad that she decided to get up early and that the windmill needed to be turned off and that it led her to that moment of lying in the grass in the middle of the vineyard in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the sky in the middle of everything.

When she gets up again her eyes see the world around her with a bit more vibrant colors. She feels the wind in her hair and it feels good. She notices that the landscape rolls in layers of dips and peaks, a patchwork of incredible colors: gold, orange, green, red, yellow. She notices the shells of recently hatched turtles and wonders if they are from the same tiny baby black turtles she found outside her studio door a few days ago.

She decides that Nothingness feels good. She remembers that she has the power to change her story if she really, really wants to because, mostly, it is just a matter of perspective anyway.

She comes down the trail from the vineyard and, at the bottom is met by her dogs with wildly wagging tails. They are beside themselves with happiness. And so is she.
~

Welcome to Nothingness.


I am looking forward to the journey that lies ahead of us.

~

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love...and all that goes along with it.

Last night I slept on the floor of my studio with my wolfie girl, Anu. It's a garage, really. Complete with mice and spiders and things that go bump in the night. But I would do anything for my dogs. And they would do anything for me. My twelve year old babe is not doing very well. If you've been reading this blog over the past few years, then you know how important she is in my life. I am exhausted. My eyes are so swollen from crying that they are starting to hurt. I am beside myself with grief and yet I keep telling myself to buck up because she might just pull through--at least for awhile and, who knows, maybe even longer.

I honestly didn't know if she'd make it through the night, but decided against emergency vet care because I could not stand the thought of being told that I'd have to leave her there, alone, without the ones who love her. My worst fear is of her dying alone. No one should die alone. Not even a dog.

But we made it to morning. A few tests and bloodwork later, we're not sure what's going on with her. She has a large growth that might be cancerous and maybe not. It's been there for a long time, but recently it's started changing, at a rapid rate. Her bloodwork pointed to some abnormalities, but nothing 100% conclusive. If it is cancer, there's not much we can do except make her last days comfortable--whether it be 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. She is, after all, an old girl. We've been advised to simply take it one day at a time. I'm trying to remind myself of that. I tell myself to stay present, lest I melt into a puddle of tears.

To make matters worse, I have approximately 2 weeks to complete 9 portraits in preparation for an opening and major event that takes place on October 8th. After getting sick and not being able to work for almost a month, I am mondo-behindo. I am tired. This year (numero 34) has been a somewhat hellacious journey and I am just so tired of pulling magic out of my ass. I will do it again. Magic is, after all, a specialty of mine. So far, I have deeply enjoyed the time spent painting in preparation for this show. It seems like an impossible feat to accomplish in such a short amount of time, but I have surprised myself before and have no doubt that I'll somehow be able to do it again.

I paint from such a deep place of love. It is hard to paint while Anu lays next to me in pain. My heart breaks. Not yet knowing if it is her time...I feel torn into a millions pieces. I will let her go when it is time. I don't want to. But I will. I paint with my heart up wide open. That's just the way it works. I am glad to experience such a profound sense of love through the work I do, but holy hell. I feel like I might metaphorically bleed to death (or maybe just cry to death, if that's an option).

On Saturday a magazine will be coming out to do a photo shoot of my studio for an upcoming feature. I am so excited about it. The photographer, whose clients include Life , Real Simple, Modern Bride...she's incredible. But, I admit, much of my energy flew right out the window when Anu got sick. Last night I kept getting this image of the photographer showing up to take photos of my red, swollen eyes and no Anu--which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, my idea of an ideal photoshoot. At the moment, I just feel haggard. I feel the need for an ice pack and some sleep. I feel the need for a big long snuggles with my girl. All of which I am going to indulge myself in--because there is no other way I'm going to make it through the next couple weeks unless I do.

Right now, Anu is asleep on the floor near my feet. Behind me, my other dogs, Louie and Ella, they have their legs wrapped around each other in sweet muggle-puffin play. They know something is up, their movements are especially quiet and gentle. Louie, my Chessie, is the most sensitive. His thoughtful expression breaks my heart again. Both the pups stop and sniff Anu and keep a watchful eye on her. We stay close and surround her with love.

Needless to say, my world is filled to the brim. So much love that I feel it sharply, painfully. Maybe everything is going to be alright. No matter what the outcome, in the end, I know it will be alright. But life just seems to be happening all at once these days. And, damn. This is just a bit too much.

My wolfie girl is my heart.

I don't want to have to say goodbye.

~

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Notes to self:

Paint lots. Walk often. Eat well. Remember to sleep.

Journey. Meditate. Journal.

16 days until the opening reception. Great magic required. And great magic available.

Feel love.
Smile often.
:)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The birth of new.

This is about the time of year when I start to get sick of warm weather. I begin to yearn for coolness of air. It inspires me, causes me to breathe deeper and has a way of expanding my body and brain from the inside out. I am a woman of winter, who loves fall without a doubt.

Yesterday I did something interesting. I went to visit a woman named Sage who taught me Shamanic Journeying. She traveled with me to find my power animal and also showed me how to find my human spirit guide.

I've learned a lot about myself since yesterday. I walked away with a lot of insight and information and a source to return to whenever I need it. I got a glimmer of what lies in front of me. It is incredible and colorful and expansive.

And so this is a bit of what it entails...

I'm going to start eating and cooking beautifully.
I'm going to take belly dancing lessons--and might even work on getting good enough to perform.
I'm going to sit in the woods and paint pictures of mushrooms.
I'm going to walk and meditate up on the hill in the vineyard.
I'm going to walk deep in the woods and beyond.
I'm going to invite magic to infuse my senses.
I'm going to stretch and listen to wild music while I paint.
I'm going to drink wine and tea and build bonfires and have fun.
I'm going to start watching out for myself.
I'm going to become more sacred and irreverent all at once.
I'm going to start doing lots of things and stop doing lots of other things.
I'm going to cackle and dance and paint dogs.
I'm going to bring women together.
I'm going to fly and stomp and leave this dimension entirely, at least for awhile.
I'm going to spend time with water.
I'm going to spread my wings to the current of the wind.
I'm going to write.
I'm going to eat tomatoes from the garden. And wild plums along the way.
I'm going to shed my old self.

This here is hereby the birth of someone new.

~

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In visions...

You would be amazed by how many blog posts I write in my head every day. Never mind that they don't actually make it to my blog, but it does seem to be my method of making sense of this experience called LIFE.

These days I'm fluctuating somewhere in the middle. What I mean by that is that I seem to be in a holding pattern somewhere between starting to feel better (from my Rocky Mountain Horror Syndrome--yes, I'm being dramatic here) and still not feeling good at all. It is frustrating. I start to feel better and, therefore, treat myself to something wonderful like and afternoon of boutique browsing with my mom and--whamo(!)--I end up feeling like a piece of crap again.

I don't know if I'm sick from being sick or sick from the antibiotics used to treat it. Luckily, today is my last day of the antibiotics which means that I will at least be able to read my body a bit better. Yuck. I hate writing about being sick. It feels pathetic and weak. And I think that is one of the things that I hate about not feeling good. Pathetic and Weak are two states of mind that I prefer to avoid. Then again, I am fully aware of the fact that I have needed to be smacked down like this in order to knock some sense into me. I needed to slow down. I needed to shift gears and readjust for whatever is coming into my life next. As I've mentioned before, there is a transformation happening. I feel it, even if I don't yet understand the details and particulars.

Last night I laid in bed unable to sleep. My mind was racing with all the things I have to do and remember. One of the good things about getting sick is that it caused me to stop doing this for awhile. I hate the thought of this mental racing returning and so I got up to sleep on the couch and, in the process, wrapped myself in a blanket to do some meditating.

The thing is that my mind was not really racing in its usual way. It was going through all the details of things I have to do...but what I was really doing was trying to figure out what is next. I was trying to figure out the missing piece of the mysterious puzzle that is stretched out before me.

Last night I watched a video by Goddess Leonie. She talked about a meditation in which she surrounded herself with angels. I loved this idea. It seemed as though it would be helpful, comforting, and good. And so I sat nestled on the couch between the warmth of two dogs and a thick afghan blanket. I imagined myself (only semi-successfully) being surrounded by angels and repeated the question: "What's next? How should I move forward?" I sat with that question for 10 or 15 minutes until, finally, a deep sleepiness took over me. There was a part of me that was frustrated with not being able to see the answer to my question (I was, after all, hoping for a divine sort of vision). There was another part of me that was just grateful to feel my body relax. The feeling of exhaustion makes it really hard to believe in yourself sometimes.

Sleeping helped to rejuvenate my spirit just enough. I woke with a pin-prick of memory of the horses that live at the end of our (very long) driveway. I have made a promise to myself to spend time walking in the vineyard or woods. Alone. Without dogs or husband or distraction. I am dedicating myself to this half hour walking meditation--every day. Last night my walk took me through the woods and down the drive way. It brought me to 3 brown horses and a white one.

When I got there I just stood and watched them. The white one, in return, watched me. It was nothing special and something very powerful all at once. Yes, a pin-prick of energy is the only way I know how to describe it. Like a zing between the horse's eyes and mine. I looked at her body in the light of the setting sun and decided that, yes, I am capable of painting her.

You see, the body of a horse is different than anything that I've ever painted before. I understand dogs and cats because they have always existed closely in my life. Horses, although I've spent time with them, I do not have such a strong understanding of. Their bodies are magnificent and mysterious to me. With paint, I want to get it right. I want to do their muscles and nuances justice. I want to be able to capture their individual and unique spirit, their energy--and, if I can't do that, then I don't want to paint them at all. This is not about perfection. It is about connection.

I keep going back to this idea and, yet, although it sounds silly, I still can't seem to find my way in to the center of it.

I also feel a "falling away" of other details in my life. In some ways this feels sad to me. Some of these details include relationships and interactions as I currently know them. This is difficult to explain since I am not cutting out any friendships. I guess you could just say that my role in them is changing. It is a type of letting go. But in letting go there is a bit of loss involved--even when letting go is a step in a new and energetic direction. This direction will most definitely still include dogs. I am in a state of constant amazement by how inspired I am with new ideas for how I want to paint them--it is like a light that never turns off.

And, in this process, there is some part of this that is trying to break off. There is probably a geological term for this. I think, really, what is trying to happen is that my higher self is trying to do something that I have not yet done. Whatever it is that is trying to manifest itself in me is requiring a lot of independence. It is requiring a new and bigger part of myself to emerge.

Whenever I see glimpses of this part of myself, the vision always includes me standing at the highest part of the hill in the vineyard in the light of the almost setting sun. What does this mean? I don't know.

But I do think I should go there often to see if this mystery might someday be revealed to me.

Here's to the journey.
Namaste.

~

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Welcome to my new studio...


Slowly, slowly things are coming together. The boxes in the studio are being unpacked one at a time. Progress is being made and, in the meantime, there is the half of the studio that is fairly functional. The glowing, magical, peace-filled half that I visit on a daily basis...even when I'm not making any art.

Today it dawned on me that I have been trying to continue working as though nothing has happened. Sure, I've slowed down about 10 notches, but I've still been trying to make it to meetings and keep up with email and basically stay on top of things. It was only Monday that I went to the doctor and was told I have Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I mean, what the hell is wrong with me that I can't just take several days off (days that I've really needed to take off) and truly relax, rest, and heal?

Actually, to my credit, I have been doing a lot of resting. Mostly because my body left me no other choice. Looking back on the week, I am seeing that I should have rested a lot more. Getting sick like this is just about the best thing that could have happened to me. I know that sounds weird, but I needed this. I was running myself into the ground--hard and fast--and becoming increasingly anxious and unhappy in the process.

Anyway, my life is in the process of changing. I am in the middle of a metamorphosis and, although it has been ugly, pathetic, and painful, it is exactly what I need.

Melly Hocking wrote a thought provoking post about change. She wrote about something that I've been thinking about a lot lately and that is limiting beliefs. We all have them. But only those of us daring, self-indulgent, growth-thriving maniacs strive to become aware of them. And then there are those of us who, once we're aware, can't help but torment ourselves further by attempting to overcome those beliefs.

It is maddening and inspiring all at once.

Anyway, I'm going to make myself nice and vulnerable by sharing some of my limiting beliefs with you here now. Airing out the dirty laundry, shall we say?

And so here are a few of the trolls that live inside my head:
  • "I'm fat and stupid and ugly." (oh, this one is practically a mantra! I know it's not really true and so I've been working hard on cutting this one out of my vocabulary. Funny how habitual some of the things we say to ourselves are!)

  • "You're never going to make more than $xx,000 a year...no matter what you do." (I tell myself that there is something about me that puts that message out into the world. My hair? My mannerisms? My clothes? My body language or the way I carry myself? My attitude? My language? My shoes? My skin? What if, way down deep, I'm just nothing more than a half notch up from white trash? There is a part of me that believes that I will never be anything more than someone else's worker, a less-than, a half a step away from being a grocery store check out clerk, that I'm someone striving for more success than I'll ever get and that I look like a silly fool in the process of trying to get there.) Oooh! Ouch. That troll was honest! (Sometimes I think we just need to love our trolls. They're like children who lash out because they're in need of some positive attention once in awhile, you know?)

  • "I don't have a mind for numbers and this is always going to hold me back." (First of all, math might not be my strong suite, but I've always made up for my weaknesses with massive doses of determination! If I were to be honest with myself I would see that I've been LETTING it hold me back! This thought alone is very intricate and deeply woven--deserving of a blog post of its own if I could just unravel it well enough to make sense.)

  • You have to work in corporate America to make anything more than an average income. (uh-em! I would like to prove this wrong. One thing I DO NOT believe in is the Starving Artist Syndrome. That is something I have absolutely NO interest in playing the role of.)

  • I'm an artist and people don't take me seriously because of it...at least, not on all levels like they do other professionals. (In all honesty, I see people treating me with as much respect as I treat myself with.)

  • I have to work hard to do well. I mean REALLY hard! I have to work even HARDER if I'm going to do something I love. (Wait a minute...who am I trying to prove this unfair work ethic to?)

Ummm....yeah. You get the point. I'm sure there is more where these come from. I know there are, but these are the first that came to mind. There are all sorts of sneaky limiting beliefs that hold us back all the time--in both big and small ways. Usually it's lots of small things that ADD UP--big time!

BUT when we stop to look at those limiting beliefs we begin to see what UTTER NONSENSE they really are.

Here's the deal...I really, truly, full-heartedly believe that every single one of us is capable of ANYTHING when we allow ourselves to shine. And it doesn't matter what our back story is. Every time we feel ourselves shine we are on the right path. Do you know the shine I'm talking about? That radiance that beams from the inside out--that's the shine I'm talking about.

Shine and follow it. Shine and follow it. Shine and follow it. Just think where we'd end up! And at lightening speed!

But we get scared. We tell ourselves lies. We second guess and then allow ourselves to become distracted.

OK...so what are your little lies? I know you have them. Just think who we would be without them! Do you/I even realize how LIMITLESS we would be?!?! How limitless we ARE?!

Oh yeah...anyway, this was supposed to just be a post to introduce my new studio space. Just beyond the studio door is a trail to the vineyard. Despite my endless list of difficulties, I am fully of aware that I am one lucky dog. This life is not fancy. But it fits me well. I could not be in a more perfect spot to take the next step forward.

I have a feeling that is true for all of us.

Namaste,
j.

~

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It just doesn't seem fair (stupid ramblings from a broken down commuter)

Today I left the house for my first meeting in two weeks. I made it 5 miles down the road and my emmissions light went on (I have a newer car and don't want to think about these things). Chug, chug, chug down the freeway until finally it felt unsafe and I pulled over. Slowly I made it down the side of the highway until I made it to a ho-dunk service station where they weren't able to anything more than give me the phone number for the Honda Service Center. The Honda Service Center beamed like a ray of heavenly light that I could only hope to get to! After talking with a Honda service technician I decided to brave the last 10 miles with their phone # in hand, should I need to be towed.

Just got here. Got my cup of coffee, a cookie, and even a computer to sit down and lament on. Geez, what is up with this bad luck?!

When leaving the middle-of-nowhere service station I had a thought about angels helping me get from point A to point B. Funny, but I think they showed up.

I love the Honda Service Center. An oasis. I love my little lime green Honda Element. Brave girl. Let's just hope the warrenty covers her. Fingers crossed! I'm just kicking myself for not bringing a book with me. I always bring a book!

Meeting cancelled. I wonder if I will ever make any headway. All I can say is that I'm glad I didn't have to walk anywhere. I think I would have laid down and cried. My body just isn't ready for this.

Gah.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

At the moment, I am laying in bed with two farting dogs. I've taken the day off and, for that matter, most of the past week too. Not because I've wanted to. No, I've been fighting it tooth and nail! But I've been sick. When I say sick, I mean really sick. I mean the I-wish-I-would-die sort of sick. Not that I want to die. Far from it. But there were a few moments that I was really wishing someone would just put me out of my misery.

Yesterday I finally scraped myself off the couch and made myself go to the doctor. It was the spots covering my body that convinced me to go. Never mind how horrible I felt in every other way possible.

You can imagine my disbelief when they told me that it looks as if I have Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Rocky Mountain spotted what?! I mean, I've heard of it...but. Geez. Anyway, they started treatment immediately since failure to do so can be dangerous if not fatal. As you can imagine, sitting in the doctor's office listening to all of this was a bit surreal. At this point I'm not sure if I feel like crap from my initial (and current) physical condition or from the powerful antibiotics that they are using to treat it with. What is it, you ask? Well, sort of like a scarier version of Lyme's Disease. Google it. It's interesting, if nothing else.

I imagined a more poetic or humorous or dramatic post about this exotic sounding sickness I've picked up. But there you have it. I'm covered in a rash and am glad to have survived a weeks worth of migraine-like headaches, nausea and fevers.

Everything is on hold.

I pulled a Medicine Card today and got the "Bat." Perfect. This is some of what it said (shortened version, of course):
"Bat embraces the idea of shamanistic death. . . Shaman death is the symbolic death of the initiate to the old ways of life and personal identity. . . If Bat appeared in your cards today, it symbolizes the need for a ritualistic death of some way of life that no longer suits your new growth pattern. This can mean a time of letting go of old habits, and of assuming the position in life that prepares you for rebirth, or in some cases initiation. In every case, Bat signals rebirth of some part of yourself or the death of old patterns. If you resist your destiny, it can be a long, drawn out, or painful death. The universe is always asking you to grow and become your future. To do so you must die the shaman's death."

And so there is one half of me imagining a caricature of myself standing on top of a pen-drawn mountain. I'm covered in cheerful pink polk-a-dots striking a Saturday Night Fever pose. That same part of me has John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" playing over and over in my head. I imagine dying from listening to his music. That part laughs at myself and the absurdity of the entire situation.

There is another part of me that sits in a chair under the willow tree and stares out over the pond in a complete space-out.

There is another part of me fitfully asleep on the couch, the floor, the bed, then the other bed.

There is yet another part of me that sees this uncomfortable state of being as a perfect (although strange) match for the transformation that is taking place both within and around me.

At the moment, mostly I just feel crap. I can't work for very long. It takes most of my energy to walk from the house to the studio. I've been canceling photoshoots and meetings all week and last. Today I went for a short drive with the dogs and it was a big deal. Oh boy. Sitting in front of the computer for very long is impossible. Unpacking is not an option. Building my empire is out of the question.

Everything is on hold. I wait to feel better. I begin to understand that I need to just experience this. I don't have to get deep about it. I've already done a lot of thinking. Right now I find it difficult to think much at all. And that, my friends, is probably what I need more than anything: to stop thinking for one divine minute.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is hereby the strangest illness that has ever come my way. I laugh at the idea! But earlier this week, the pain was enough to bring tears, too. The important part is that I think I'm on the mend.

Life is strange. That's all I have to say.

~

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Ridin' the Airwaves: Radio Interview tonight!

It's time to play with Sage Lewis, The Creature Teacher! The Pet Playground is an entertaining and educational call in show for pets and the people who love them.

Tonight I have the great honor of being interviewed by Sage Lewis of Dancing Porcupine. I will be joined by the wonderful Sarah of Sarah Beth Photography as a fellow guest. Sarah and I love collaborating with each other when given the chance. To be interviewed on the radio together with Sage, well, that's an added bonus!

I look forward to sharing a little bit about my life and work as a pet portrait artist. Let's connect over the good things in life!


Please join us tonight!
The Pet Playground - Your Place to Play
Sunday, August 9th, 6-7pm
AM950 KTNF

Pour yourself a nice tall glass of lemonade and head out to the front porch to relax and listen in. Not a Minnesota listener? Technology is a wonderful thing! Audio stream via KTNF's website here.

Busy out playing in the sun? No worries! A podcast will be available for your listening pleasure here.

Have any burning question for me, Sarah, or Sage? Call in! We'd love to hear from you!

Listener Call in #952-946-6205

~

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Musings from under the willow tree...

Under the willow tree has become my favorite space in the universe. It is made of magic and sacredness. Its bending braids of leaves and branches refresh me. I've been feeling a bit like I've been bounced around inside of a pin-ball machine, but that feeling always goes away when I step under the green comforting contours of the willow that graces our yard.

Louie and Ella's favorite thing in the whole universe: the soccer ball.
A happy tie with running through the willow's drippy branches.
Willow tree + soccer ball = blissful dog glory!

My life feels fragmented. Good, but a bit unsettled. Things are changing. I can feel it. Shifting. Lots of shifting. Even all of my friends seem to be moving. There is a lot of change for many of us. It is in the air. I feel better than I've felt in a long time and feel a bit undone all at the same time. The stress of moving is real. And, yet, moving is the best thing I could have ever done.

As I look around at the mountains of junk and boxes that I have dragged from our old house to this one, I see myself reflected in the mess. I see the storm that was brewing under all those piles and am glad and grateful that I have finally decided to do something about the chaos that's been quietly accumulating. I'm beginning to see how much stress I've kept myself under these past 10 years. I was thinking that this state of overwhelm has only existed for the last couple of years, but as I look at everything, I am beginning to see that it started much earlier. All these boxes of stuff are puzzle pieces of me that I am only now beginning to put together in a new and revealing way.

I'm beginning to better understand my destructive habits. I'm also remembering what brings me the most joy.

Life is full, full, full to the point of bursting. I suppose you could say that I have always been lucky in this way. But sustained fullness requires balance and that is something I am trying hard to understand. Balance is a bit of a foreign language to me. I used to know its language....but these days I seem to get my consonants and vowels turned around.

There is change in the air. And a settling all at the same time. A strange combination of sensations. It feels palpable. An opening...leading where, I don't know.

Besides the willow tree, there is another place that I love...and that is my new studio. Having only recently moved in, I get visitors: the occasional mouse, spiders, a dragon fly and a cricket or two. I carry the mice outside in an upside down bowl with a dust pan slid underneath. They are sweet and vulnerable and easy to catch. I can't bring myself to do otherwise. Blue herons, egrets and wild geese fly over on a regular basis. Anu is always with me when I'm there. She is my love, my old spirit. She doesn't care about mice or toads or crickets. Instead, she concentrates on the coolness of the floor, our quiet companionship, the comfort of the sun or blowing fan. We stretch together on a daily basis--hand to paw.

In the studio, Louie and Ella come to visit, too. Life feels normal there. Despite boxes.


My most recent work includes a dog named Henry.

"Henry"
6"x12" Oil on Canvas

Henry is hereby the very first portrait that I have completed in my new studio space. These past several weeks have felt more than a little overwhelming with the move on top of an already busy schedule of summer events and projects. There is one thing in the world that puts me right back to center and that is painting. No matter how much I have going on...painting makes me feel calmer in a nano-second. Of course, painting a really great dog makes it even easier to breathe deeper and be inspired.


Thank you, Henry, for making me feel good. :) You were painted in the company of 3 great dogs, double espressos, and some really great music in a fresh, new, and not yet unpacked studio space. You were a perfect beginning to all that is to come.

~