Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last day of 2006

I woke up late and, at the moment, I'm savoring these few minutes of quite time to myself before it's gone. Ahhh, sweet silence. December 31st...and it's raining outside. I've just brewed myself a cup of Mexican coffee in the French press. Mmmmm...there is nothing like the strongly brewed flavor of a light roasted coffee on a quiet, raining winter morning. Granted, it should be snowing, not raining...but I'll give up my expectations of winter for just a moment to enjoy the drip, drip, dripping sounds outside my window.

...and so the day begins. I hear the shuffle, shuffle of morning feet. First Vinny. Then my mom. She's here for the weekend to celebrate her birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!). The quiet has ended...
...pour another cup of coffee.
Good morning, everyone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Muscle Memory.

Tonight I headed down to the studio with a fresh cup of coffee and some good music for a date with my colored pencils and a grey piece of paper.

Not only have I made the conscious decision to return to art making, but also to return to doing my morning pages (at least 3 pages a day in my journal--remember those, fellow AWer's?). I'm probably stating the obvious, but what these two actions have offered me is a tremendous sense of relief.

I don't know... I think somewhere along the lines, these past several months, I somehow, quite successfully (and unintentionally), boxed myself into a very dry and lifeless place. I've been trying to beat myself into submission when, all along, it's the opposite that I've needed. But I'm going to just give myself a break--because getting to this point (in all its haphazardness) has all been part of the process. I see that now. And I'm learning to trust in that process.

Throughout my life there have been times when I've felt as though I'm observing myself--like a semi-omniscient narrator reflecting on the thoughts and actions of my own (seemingly third-person) character. I generally enjoy this state of mind because, when it happens, I invariably end up with a better understanding of myself.

As I worked on this drawing I found myself thinking about my old painting professor, Carol. She used to talk a lot about muscle memory. I sat down with my pencils and Indian music and coffee and r e m e m b e r e d just how good it feels to draw. I tried not to think about it too much and instead worked quickly, allowing for mistakes. Carol used to preach that, with practice, our muscles remember the actions that they have performed in the past. It's easy to imagine how this works for a musician practicing scales or a dancer rehearsing a series of movements--but it's the same for anything we do. Like riding a bike. The body remembers.

I started doing self-portraits a few years ago in order to get better at doing portraits in general. You see, we tend to lie when we look at ourselves. We want to look past the dark lines that create our smile; or the way one eye is droopier than the other; or the way our chin or forehead is not quite smooth. I find myself attracted to doing self-portraits because they demand more honesty. I know my own face better than anyone else's. If something is "off," I'm forced to be more aware of where I went wrong. For every mistake that I make, I learn something new, not only about myself, but about seeing. I've come to realize that it is in capturing both the beauty and the imperfections of an individual that make for the most interesting portraits.

Morning pages and self-portraits force me to give up my need for perfection. And it's in these little actions that teach me about trust--trust in myself and trust in performing the necessary movements. Whenever necessary--they will be there. Automatic.

Friday, December 22, 2006

coffee grunge and christmas joy.

Due to the snow and general wintry conditions, Vinny and I decided that it would be a good idea to celebrate our Christmas early...well, part one of it, that is. This year we will be celebrating several at my dad's, one at Vinny's parents', one at my grandma and grandpa's, and one with my sister and her kids when they return from Virginia. But the one we enjoy the our own private little Christmas, just the two of us.

You know how I know that my husband loves me? Because he got me a coffee cup! Um...yeah, I kinda have a problem with collecting coffee cups. I can't help myself--I love them. Due to the sheer volume of coffee cups that I possess, Vinny has given me a hard time about the lack of space in our kitchen cabinets ever since we started living together. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said that I like unique things found in specialty shops (or a puppy). ha! Well, I'm impressed. The guy knows his way into the my heart. It was a nice night filled with yummy pasta, glasses of wine, jazz music drifting from the stereo, a room full of lit candles, and after-dinner mochas. Vinny spoiled me with gifts from India (oh, they even smell like India--heaven! the silk shawl is especially divine).

And so if that was our Christmas Eve, then today feels like Christmas Day. As I sit here at my desk, a blanket of white still covers our world. It is day one of a string of SIX DAYS OFF! I couldn't ask for a better start to our vacation.

I started the morning with 3 cups of coffee (half decaf--to maintain sanity) and then went for a long walk out in the woods with Vinny and Anu. For all the walking we do, it's rare that we actually go for walks together. It was nice to take in the strange white, misty, drippy morning together. Such beauty. Next we're going out for a late breakfast and then to a bookstore. After that I plan on spending the afternoon in my studio with my paints and colored pencils. I suppose it goes without saying that today most certainly fits my definition of PERFECTION.

*Vinny took this photo on our walk this morning.

And tomorrow...we'll get in the car and drive north to Bemidji. It will be the first time I've been home since moving away this past summer. Let me just say: I can't wait.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Finally!! I am so happy I could nearly burst. There was pouring rain all morning long, but a little past noon things turned a bit dangerous as the temp. dropped below freezing. You know what that means?? SNOW!!! The second I got off work, I precariously made my way home and then immediately headed for the woods with my wolfie where the snow was so thick and heavy that branches cracked and fell into crashing heaps. Several times we watched this happen, as though in slow motion.

Our world has been transformed. And the effects are marvelous. There is such enchantment in so much white and ice and heavily bowing branches, creating contrasts made even more stunning by wet blackened tree bark and blankets of snow.

Somewhere in the middle of the woods I looked at Anu and at the trees and the ground and out over the ridge...and I felt good. No, better than good. Snow has a way of returning me to my center like nothing else can.

Today I am thankful for beauty.
And, because I want to share it with you, welcome to my woods:

and a little later in the evening, Vinny snapped this shot...

Happy Winter Solstice, friends!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

hold close the morning quiet.

This morning the sky is filled with deep grey clouds. While walking in the woods I noticed how the thick air tamps down the background noise of traffic, leaving more room for the sound of birdsong. I don't know why, but I wore my big, clunky winter boots. There isn't even any snow. I wasn't really awake yet and so the combination of the sky, my boots, and my muscles that refused to wake up made me feel firmly planted to the ground. It is a hazy morning stretching out into a hazy day. Today there will be no into-the-sky-shattering. Even Anu agrees.

My feet dragged along the path while she sniffed, nose to the ground, acting more like a hound dog than the energetic wolfie that she is. Lately her playfulness has been replaced by a serious bout of curiosity. I am content to slow my pace to hers, sometimes even stopping completely. She sniffs and digs while I scan the horizon. Often we look into the woods together. And I wonder why I do that--why I have such a deep need to understand and memorize my surroundings. For some reason, observing the shadow of fallen leaf helps me make sense of the world.

I've walked these woods so many times since moving here that they have begun to lose some of their mystery. Only lately have I started to make sense of the elaborate trail system that twines itself in knots and continues beyond the scope of my daily hikes. But the loss of mystery has been replaced by another way of seeing. I continue searching for secrets hidden behind, underneath, above. Clouds, dogs, leaves, a bird that I can hear, but not I am not pushing back or breaking open. Today I only have energy to absorb.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

a new favorite and other thoughts on the extraordinary.

I think I've found a new favorite musician and her name is Susheela Raman. My "favorites" come in stages, but tend to last for years, maybe lifetimes. Like many things in my life, I tend to move from one obsession to the next to the next...yet never entirely leaving any of them behind.

I've heard one of her songs on another disc, but oh....I never knew just how good she is...and, well...the music has been cranked ever since.

At the moment I'm listening to sound recordings of traffic in India ("Idi Samayam"--Music for Crocodiles). The horn of a Tata truck. A rickshaw. A motorcycle. I can't even tell you what this is doing to me.

We seem to be missing a cow in this photo!There are some things that have a way of turning me inside out. Sometimes it's a certain smell. Sometimes a sound. A touch. A color. A movement. Yes, even a specific pitch and rhythm of a horn. At times like this, it is all I can do just to keep myself from boarding the next plane. But someday I know I will. This thought creates quick little fires in my brain. Synapses flash and it feels like the top off my head has been taken off, letting in an extra dose of light and air. Creative epiphanies. I see images. I hear poetry in the sound of traffic. For a moment I understand the direction all of my work should take--in writing, in painting...little fires, my synapses bursting into flames of red and blue, yellow, lime-green, a woman with a thin frame and dark eyes looking past me, a baby on her hip, blue sky, the smell of burning rubbish, morning sunshine, indian red, off-white, everything alive and dying and being born...

I think we're all born with a certain amount of potential--but it depends on our willingness to follow our hearts that determines how close to that potential we'll ever come. I've always been facinated by the word "extraordinary." Extra-Ordinary. Extraordinary. We all have it in us. Finding our own voice in the ordinary is what makes us extraordinary. Some days just the thought of living life to the edges of myself is enough to break me wide open. Some days I think even the sound of a horn or the scent of a certain spice or the flash of an image (real or imagined) is enough to shatter me into a million pieces of sky.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tonight the sky feels bright blue.

When I got home I opened up my mail box and was surprised by something extra wonderful. A Kristine original! And with it came a little note from her that read:
"Today my little piece of wire took a walk. It went on an adventure and in the process of being inspired it wandered over to you to be placed on your tree this Christmas--to live in your home and bask in the beauty that unfolds as you live your life today."

I took it out of the tissue that it was wrapped in and a gasp escaped my lips while a smile took over my face. I feel like Kristine's taken all the walking and wandering I've been doing lately and turned it into something beautiful--I'm looking at it like the topography of my life--and I find it amazing how a piece of wire can bring such happiness.
Its sparkle has been catching my eye all evening and each time I look at it my life feels more immediate, more buoyant, filled with more possibility. I love how artwork has a way of doing that... :)

*check out more of Kristine's artwork here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a white room

This ever present cold-bug has turned me into an herbal tea junkie. Yesterday I drank lots of something called Shanti Ayurvedic Blend. I found it at the co-op and bought it 1.) because it had the would "shanti" in it (which means "peace") and 2.) because the jar it was in had a label on it that said it possesses healing powers for the immune system as well as the ability to bring balance into one's life. Hell yeah...totally worth the $3.46 that I spent on it, if you ask me. And it tasted good, too.

Today my drink of choice is another herbal tea that my sister bought for me called Breath Deep. It's got a picture of a saddhu meditating on the box and is full of goodies like licorice root, basil, eucalyptus, ginger root, cinnamon, thyme, peppermint, cardamom, mullein leaf...yeah, you get the's packed full of flavor and warm comfort. Not to mention, it's making me feel rather spiritual...yes, it's that good. ha! ;)

In other news, there is still not a speck of snow on the ground and the thin layer of ice that was briefly on the lakes have already started to thaw. If I hear one more person remark that they love global warming I'm gonna have to smack 'em. They say it with such chipperness, such happiness. I just can't help but think, "my god, people, what's wrong with you?!" I don't mean to be over-serious but every time I hear people say they love global warming, a blaring image of a brown crispy-fried planet creeps into my head. Well, to each their own...I guess. I'll just keep drinking my tea and hope for snow sometime soon.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to going home for Christmas. I've been finding myself daydreaming of tromping around in the woods with Anu (off of her leash) a lot lately. Yeah, I have woods here...but I miss the kind of woods that stretch out for miles and miles and miles. I miss the kind of woods where you can't hear the constant hum of traffic in the background...instead, only sweet silence. I'm glad I moved away...but, my god, I'm looking forward to a long awaited road-trip north. There are two places that my body and soul have felt the most at home. One is in the woods of northern Minnesota and the other in India. Maybe someday I'll be able to travel between the two...but, for now, I'm grateful for the nature I have out my front door and for the mega-nature I will soon be going home to enjoy (never enough) of.

I live in the city now--and I love it. But it's funny how we create balance in our life. I like the way life ebbs and flows in the way that it does. These past months have been strange for me as I attempt to make sense of where I'm at and where I want to go. There has been a constant sense of impermanence...a feeling of relevance. Every once in awhile there are days that feel little more than futile...but, more often, I feel like this is all just part of my path towards whatever comes next.

These days I'm reading a book by Twyla Tharp called The Creative Habit. I got it for my birthday and when I opened it up, the first sentence read: "I walk into a large white room." For some reason, this sentence "spoke" to me on a very deep level. I love the idea of a white room, a blank page, a white canvas. Despite my fears, there is so much POTENTIAL in that empty space. This is my year of "empty space." Then again, every year contains a little bit of empty space...every moment contains room for creation. Later in the chapter, Tharp writes: "Bottom line: Filling this empty space constitutes my identity."

Recently, Sophie wrote a question on her blog. "What is your metaphor?" I keep returning to this thought; it rolls into my head at odd times--when I'm walking or doing the dishes or shelving books at work or watering the plants or taking a shower. And so I'm sitting here right now wondering: if I were to walk into a large white room and fill it with a metaphor of myself, what would it look like?

And the first thing that comes to mind is huge, dark, saturated wild iris. But it doesn't end there. You see, there's an entire room to fill and I'm constantly discovering new things about myself--new colors, new ideas, new passions. In every moment I am creating myself.

Empty space. An empty white room. What do I want to fill it with? What do you want to fill it with?
I can't help but love the prospects.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Worst birthday ever turned good.

"It is never too late to be what you might have been." ~George Eliot.

Today is part 2 of my birthday. I'm not sure if that's legal, but my real birthday (yesterday) was the worst one I've ever had and well...I decided to give it a second chance. After all, there's something about this year that feels important--and I want it to start out the right way.

Yesterday had great potential except that I woke up sicker than a dog and, to make matters worse, had to work all day at the garden shop. I had originally looked forward to it, but instead I spent the day being miserable and tired and weepy. I survived it. But I might have been better off never leaving my bed. Last night I sat down at my computer to write about it and let's just say that when I woke up this morning I was glad I hadn't. Maybe some things are just better left unsaid.

I do, however, want to tell you what was good about yesterday... and one of those those things goes by the name of "Saturnalia"...which is our neighborhood holiday celebration hosted, in part, by our garden shop.

They blocked off the street and celebrated by filling everybody up with freshly roasted chestnuts (which brought be straight back to the streets of Italy--taste bud heaven!), hot chocolate and cider, cookies, smores and hot dogs. We built several bon-fires on the sidewalks and in the street; there were face-painters and hay-rides; Santa climbed DOWN the coffee shop's chimney; there were puppets on stilts and dancing snowmen; the air was filled with wood smoke and the steady beat of the Women's Drum Corp; there was dancing in the street; people brought their dogs and kids. It was really quite incredible and made me feel the stirrings of love for my new neighborhood and their pagan-esque celebrations. And even though I felt like hell there was a part of me that thoroughly enjoyed it. The drumming, the dancing, the weather, the general was pretty cool.

See...when I write about it in this way, it makes it sound like a good day. Never mind the rest because...what it boils down to is that it's all a matter of perspective, isn't it. Maybe I feel better about yesterday because I'm looking at these photos or because of the really incredible sleep I got last night. I don't know...but today I feel much better--which is why I've self-proclaimed today as my birthday also. hey--why not? Yesterday I let myself get knocked over by my own personal tidal wave of shitness and today I decided to stand myself up again. Today...well, today has been better than yesterday by a million miles.

Some of the best things about turning 32:
  • an e-mail from bee
  • birthday wishes from ruby
  • an e-card from my fellow sagettarian jamie
  • loralee's voice singing me happy birthday on the phone
  • waking up to find presents from my husband sitting on my desk
  • reading his wonderful card
  • phone calls from family
  • going out for spicy hot indian cuisine (soul food for sniffles!)
  • good conversation and mochas with mardougrrl...and a bag full of really perfect presents (i'm spoiled!) ;)
  • coming face to face with the biggest buck i've ever seen--in my front yard!! (yes, my life is surreal like this, but i'm serious)
  • blog comments
  • much needed sleep
  • neighbors coming to visit me at the garden shop--yes, people actually came just to see me! (it made me feel loved)
  • going music shopping with my husband (the rest of his gift to me...i should write more about this later)
  • pancakes
  • dog kisses
  • husband hugs
  • nice clean fluffy fleece sheets and the best sleep ever!
  • dreaming about dogs
  • sunny weather
  • a long walk
  • frozen lakes
  • going sweater shopping and finding something cozy that i liked!
  • an incredibly patient husband who survived my day of moods and still loves me anyway
  • russian tea cakes
  • champaign
  • a new candle
  • good coffee
Hell yeah...I guess it was a pretty damn good birthday...despite false starts.

Friday, December 08, 2006

i just want to send a little message out into the world to say that i've been busy. i haven't been able to visit your blogs or respond to e-mails in the past couple days...but i miss you and i'm thinking about you. just know that.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Came home from work last night and was sick...again. Ate supper, wrote a tiny bit, then fell asleep on the couch. I woke up in the middle of the night, still feeling like hell, worried that I'd still be sick today. And, as luck would have it, I am...but fighting it hard because, damnit(!), I get to meet Loralee today!!

I'm oddly excited to meet this girl from Utah. She makes me laugh--even on the phone! Unfortunately, I have to go to work right now. Damn. Precious time--wasted.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

For my 32nd year...

The eye is meant to see things.
The soul is here for its own joy.


Yesterday, while browsing in a book store, I found this card. I went back to look at it several times and finally decided to buy it. I justified my purchase by making it an early birthday present to myself--a reminder to trust what is inside of me. The words and the paint brush she holds in her hand speak to me in a special way. Too often I lose trust in the creative power that I hold within me. I start looking on the outside for what can only be found on the inside.

On Saturday I will begin a new year of my life; and this year, more than any other, I feel the accumulation of a lifetime worth of triumphs and failures, bravery and fear. I want to trust the woman I've become. Because it's all inside of me. Everything. My soul is here for its own joy...

all I need to do is trust.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

shared thoughts.

Ok, so I've been messing around in Photoshop. Don't ask me why except for that I took a picture of myself with my new journal. And I don't know why I did that either, but hey...I felt inspired.

It was a busy (but fun) day. It's been a day OFF...and even better: a day off WITH a car. Ah, sweet heaven. Usually V. needs the car for work but, because I have been unwilling to bike my sorry ass around in this cold weather, I opted to get up at the crack of dawn and give him a ride all the way across the city just so I could have transportation for the rest of the day. It was worth it.

I got a spontaneous haircut, bummed around uptown, thought about my blogging friends, went out for coffee with a rather large pile of books, hung out in a few bookstores (yes, I go to bookstores on my days off from the bookstore--I'm a geek), looked for a new sweater (although everything I liked was ridiculously expensive), did a little grocery shopping (where I stopped to smell bunches of peonies--*deep breath* ahhhh...), drove my wolfie with me everywhere, found a little gift for Loralee and (for the highlight of the day) bought a new journal!

In my opinion, there is nothing better than a virgin journal. It's like getting new socks and underwear....but better. Yesterday morning I finished the very beautiful handmade journal that Tara Dawn sent me a couple months ago. And today I set out with the intention of finding a simple spiral bound notebook due to inspiration from Dancing Willow and Natalie Goldberg.

Doing a post every day in November for NaBloPoMo primed the pump for more writing. It felt good to write everyday, even when I sometimes didn't have the energy for it. Granted, I missed 1 or 2 days, but I'll forgive myself. November is over and I intend to continue posting on a (nearly) daily basis. But I also have noticed that, lately, I allow myself to be a lot more raw in my handwritten journal. Right now I like rawness...or, at least, I think a little rawness would do me good. I need to swear every other word and complain and cry and not worry about how stupid I sound. Ok, so I do a lot of that here anyway, but...

Like Dancing Willow is doing, I like the idea of filling up 1 spiral bound notebook a month. However, in the process of today's bumming around, I found an extra cheap and very fat journal that felt so smooth and wonderful in my hands (that's what I get for picking it up in the first place!). It fell right open (in just the right way) and was filled with page after page after page of white graphing paper. I couldn't help myself, and abandoned my spiral notebook intentions in exchange for the big fatty.

I don't even know how many pages are in it, except to say that there's too many to count. Generally, I don't like big journals because I get sick of myself before I get to the end. Well, this time around, I thought I'd try out my staying-power. If it comes down to it, I'll write one word per page until I get to the end. Whatever's necessary. It only cost 8 bucks and will last me the better part of the winter. Not to mention, it's the kind of journal that will almost certainly inspire some serious drawing as well...and, for this, I've decided to start carrying ink and colored pencils with me in my already over-loaded purse.

Like always, I'm ready for a new beginning. I've been thinking about my creative habits a lot lately. Actually, I live my life around those habits. Today was just a little celebration of the little things that make life colorful.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I've been sitting here for the past hour and a half trying to write about waking up to snow and how this is my favorite day of the year. But I'm so tired all I can do is stare out the window and watch the sky turn a dozen shades of blue light and a single page from a newspaper being tossed around by swirls of wind in the parking lot across the street. These whirlwinds cause minature blizzards, dusting the naked limbs of trees that line the street...trees that appear to be held together by nothing more than christmas tree lights. People walk by looking cold and tired and happy. I like watching the snow that sticks to the bottoms of their shoes. I like watching the way people move...because snow makes them move differently.

I write and delete and stare out the window and then write a little more. I sit in the coffee shop by a window that blankets me in a solid layer of cold. Too tired to think...just glad for snow.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: "In the last hour..." {portrait of a drunk, 3 cops, and a girl waiting for the bus}

It's cold outside. And in certain corners of the house, it's cold inside, too. There is sandalwood incense burning, a cat at my feet, one at the heat vent, and a cup of coffee in front of me. The incense and the light from a candle give the illusion of warmth even though I'm cold from somewhere down deep in my bones.

(note to reader: this didn't happen in the last hour, but it is what happened in the hour before I read this week's prompt.)

The day before yesterday, I walked to my bus stop to find a man sprawled out on the downtown concrete. He had a gash on his head from falling and the only sign of life was the slight but occasional movement of his ribcage. The guy was in a bad state. The temperatures were in the single digits. For a minute I just stand there looking from him to the glint of skyscrapers until a cop drives by and I wave him over.

We talk about the weather and cold concrete and how they find that guy drunk with blood on his head every week and how he should have been dead a long time ago. I am, shortly after, joined by 2 more cops who agree.

Eventually, they get him into a sitting position. One of his arms doesn't work. Maybe it's fallen asleep. He's crying and drooling. Something between a whimper and a wail escapes from his open mouth--it comes from his core--no words, just the sound of truly a lost thing.

After declining an offer to wait for my bus in the squad car (no way, thank you very much), the youngest officer tells me I should stand inside the bus shelter, out of the wind where it's warmer (where the drunk guy is). I do, but immediately regret my decision. I wait off to the side, in wafts of the man's alcohol stench and hollow howls. The cops spend the time chumming with me and, when my bus finally comes, one of them pulls out a hand full of paper from the pocket of his crisp, blue shirt and hands me some free metro tickets. Oh, good idea, they all clamor. Gentlemen to the nth degree. They are flirting with me. Competing for my attention? It's been a long day and all I want is to get home. 2 days later, I keep thinking about all those jokes and laughter and slow dying.

And, I'’m sorry; I have nothing profound to offer with these words..words that are nothing except an observation of the ways that we end up in places we don't belong. The sort of places where living and dying collide--—places where we tell jokes or withdraw or drink ourselves senseless. The ways in which we do little more than just try to get by.