September 5th, 2005
Comments Off

“every day, passion speaks to us through our feelings. that’s why when you allow yourself to become anesthetized by what others think, you literally block yourself from living the life you were called to live.
i promise you that if you make a choice that doesn’t please your mate, your friends, your mother, or whoever, the world will not fall apart — the people who truly love you want you to love yourself. and as you become clearer about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you — the first time around.” ~Oprah Winfrey
(found on Jen’s site)
i am not upset, i openly welcome this dialogue.
i am growing, becoming more of myself. my “stuff” floats to the surface where I can look at it and own it and see where there is work to be done. love to be given.
i remember the guilt years ago of leaving the hospital and feeling that I should not experience any joy when ‘she’ could not walk or speak or move. i did not allow myself to live because she was dying. i see that now.
there are no coincidences here. I am meant to look at all of this.
I will not shy away from any of it. I believe it is the role of the artist to stand in their truth, and question our perceptions of the world.
Sometimes it is not recieved well, that is o.k.
thank you Jonis, Jennifer, et al. we all learn from each other.

August 23rd, 2005

If you’ve ever made a huge change in your life you might relate to the feeling of spinning, the whirling excitement, the nervousness, the not knowing, feet not touching the earth, the temporary lack of grounding, the building tension that exists right before you leap. I am down to my last few days here, the time before making the leap. My walk in the woods today was completely breathtaking, the changing light bringing the feeling of fall, the air a bit cooler than it has been. I cling to the safety of it as I sit on the soft bank, looking out over the water at the tall pines. I notice the water reflected on an overhanging branch.
And as I sit I have a kind of revelation, a simple thought that breaks through the tension. It is the understanding that if I cling to these woods, to this experience, (to my comfort) then I am not opening myself up to new experiences. different forests. different people. new ideas. growth. Even Thoreau spent a limited time cut off from the rest of the world on Walden pond. I smile as I think of myself a year from now having had many adventures, able to look back at things and know that everything was o.k. That all the fretting and fear of change was unnecessary.
How I wish I could have a conversation with that future self. That person would take me by the hand and say, “everything is as it should be. you can breathe, and be kind to yourself, and know that you are safe everywhere. no person or path can take from you the things that are important. your love of life, your creativity, your courage, your strength are with you always. even when you doubt them.”
I wrote to a friend recently… “the alternative is that we sit on the couch from here on in with the remote, eating chips, brushing the crumbs out of our cleavage, not giving ourselves new experiences, letting other’s tell us which products will give us meaning and what we need live a fulfilled life.”
there is no choice here. either we change, or we wither.

August 17th, 2005
Comments Off

Drawing city people at the local cafe. You can always tell they are “from away”, they seem a bit out of their element unsure of the rural protocol. I spose that was me a few short years ago.
Found deer tracks in the woods yesterday, (much harder to do in the summer than the winter when they are sprawled randomly in every direction.) The deer must be gorging on apples that have dropped from the trees. I cracked at least 50 of them with the ball of my shoe. The blackberries are out and every day on my walk now I stop and feast for a while.
I found another half dead/half alive tree, one with a red circle painted on it. I felt much like Virginia Woold walking and talking to myself about a new book idea. A bird sitting in the long grass flew up flapping its wings hysterically and startled me.
These days I seem to be flipping back and forth between extreme excitement and joy about the impending move, and actual panic at the idea of leaving my home of the last eight years. Today is a good day, I am getting stuff done, mailing the last personal items, talking to the phone company, finishing illustration work. Yesterday I was teary and terrified, asking the universe (and whoever else is up there rooting for me) for help because I felt weak and lacking in courage. Sometimes I feel silly, it’s not like i’m moving to a third world country, there will be very little in the way of culture shock. I so admire people who go off to Africa for a year doing field work or foreign aid, and I would like to do that some day. But I am reminded that any change takes courage no matter what the degree, and there is always that initial fear of jumping into the abyss, (the unknown), as Wendell Barry put it,
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” -Wendell Barry, naturalist

August 11th, 2005
Comments Off

I awake tossing in bed, my mind unable to fully rest sits disturbed and tangled like the bunched up sheets between my legs. My cat utters a grumpy, “mroump” from the back of his throat, apparently my restless mind is keeping him up too. I run through all of the things still left to do before I leave, many of them feel big and overwhelming, it feels like a long list and the time only gets shorter. It all brings me to a kind of panic. This thinking. These thoughts that get repeated over and over, like a train whistle that screams “you’re not o.k., you’re not o.k.” This is what I have trained myself to do.
I have started a new mantra for myself in this situation, something to do everyday when I wake up. I want to start my day on a different note. I take a long deep breath and say, “Today I’m going to do the best that I can do.” That’s it.
What is implied by that is I may not do it perfectly, it may not be ‘right’, I may not get everything resolved, maybe I don’t even get close, but it will be my best and that is enough. That is all I can do. Sort of takes the pressure off to get it all done. I used to percieve myself as some kind of superhuman, able to conquer every task with great speed, skill and efficiency. The pressure to ‘get it all done now’ was/is overwhelming. And at the root of it is control, the need to make sure that my life functions perfectly. I laugh now as I write that last line. No life functions perfectly. And in the imperfections is the good stuff, the stuff that is worth writing about. The messiness of everyday life. Color. Who wants to write about a life that runs like clockwork?
With this understanding I am learning to be more gentle with myself. Don’t try to do it all, just do what you can and feel good about that. Allow space for mystery and serendipity to come in. Allow for accidents and mistakes, for time spent doing nothing, for experience. (collage is wonderful training for this, you cannot control it too much.) When I am in a panic I am not really experiencing life, but forcing it into a little box. For the first time in my life I am starting to understand what it means to embrace my imperfections. Part of that is allowing myself to experience that vulnerability, (such a theme lately), and trust in my ability to deal with situations as they arise. Maybe I should make myself a tshirt that reads, “Imperfectionist in training.”
So today I will go for lunch at the cafe, I will write a bit, make a few phone calls, do a collage, attempt one thing on my big list, go for a swim. Or maybe none of that will happen. But it will be enough.

August 9th, 2005
Comments Off

Reading in bed last night, (one of my favorite things), the window open and faint breeze coming in, clean white sheets and my old ratty quilts. Having finished my previous book I grabbed one randomly off the shelf, (I do this quite a bit in hopes of receiving some brilliant “message”, the thing that I most need to hear. From the pages of “Everywhere you go there you are”, a passage stood out,
“If you are truly strong, there is little need to emphasize it to yourself or to others. Best to take another tack entirely and direct your attention where you fear most to look. You can do this by allowing yourself to feel, even to cry, to not have to have opinions about everything, to not appear invincible or unfeeling to others, but instead to be in touch with and appropriately open about your feelings. What looks like weakness is actually where your strength lies. And what looks like strength is often weakness, an attempt to cover up fear; this is an act or facade, however convincing it might appear to others or even to yourself.” -John Kabat-Zinn
Quite appropriate given that in the last year I have become aware of that ‘facade’, the not wanting to show vulnerability, and the lack of intimacy that creates with others. Though I still have a habit of wanting to project that strength, I feel much more in touch with that vulnerability, able to see what is at the root of that facade, (insecurity, fear of the dark stuff, wanting people to “like” me, wanting be loved.) It has made me look at who I am without all of that other stuff, who am I without the facade (without all of the external embellishments, success, possessions, job, clothing, friends, home, position). THAT is who we truly are. Are we able to feel loveable when we stand in THAT truth? That is the most difficult thing of all.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

July 25th, 2005

You can see the evidence of time passing in the forest. There are stories everywhere. It is summer moving through it’s cycles and as I walk I count the changes. The grass is higher, up to my waist. The bullrushes are tall and brown, like big hotdogs on sticks. The milkweeds are finished blooming and the pods are large and filled with seeds, (as a child my grandmother would dry the pods out and paint the insides with nailpolish, her own strange decorating invention, I remember being amazed that there could be other exciting applications for the bright pink polish.) The apple tree limbs are weighed down by fruit like old men wearing heavy coats. I crunch over discarded apples with my shoes and listen as they make a cracking sound.
The cure for all that ails you can always be found in a long walk. One of my favourite teachers told me as much many years ago. If you have a problem just start out in any direction and keep walking until a solution or a feeling of weightless drifts in. I go to the woods to be released from all of the weight of daily life. The worries about money, the leaky pump, the waiting to hear if a manuscript is accepted (or rejected), the bills, the missing, the procrastinating, the insecurities that plague me, the leaving.
and I walk. I am wearing my brown cordoroy pants and they make a swishing sound as I go. Swish, swish. You just keep going. Until a shift starts to happen.
At first it might be that you notice a tree that you hadn’t noticed before. You bend down to touch the wiry ferns. Your mind clings to the heavy stuff because it has a habit of doing so. Keep walking.
Somedays it feels like I could walk for days. Swish, swish, swish. I will do twenty laps if I have to. I wonder what the animals think of this strange girl who walks in circles. The one who walks as if her hair were on fire. (Maybe that would be my native name.)
I think of the long quote by sculptor Sol Lewitt who wrote to artist Eva Hess (whose work I have been studying lately), when she was feeling stuck with her work and her life. At the end of which he says, “relax and let everything go to hell.” That is what it means to let go.
We have to be willing to experience chaos and laugh about it.

July 23rd, 2005

To fill you in on the debate thus far:
I started reading the book Passionate Nomad -the Life of Freya Stark, about a famous travel writer and one of the first women to travel the world alone. ‘Candace’ commented with information that Freya Stark was a “masked anti-Semite”. Which started a whole questioning process for me. I find it so very interesting that I thought I would write more about it here. (you can read the comments in the previous post). I wrote:
It seems sad (and surprising) to me that a woman who traveled the world, spoke 7 languages, made a living out of learning about and understanding different cultures would be so exclusionary in her political beliefs (or should I say religious beliefs?).
So I put this out there…
As a reader of biographies (and as humans), do we discredit someone who has lived an interesting and powerful life and contributed much to our own learning and growth when we discover a hurtful and disturbing dark side, one that we were unaware of?
Do we all not have our own darkside?
Or do we look closer at it and try to understand it’s reasons for existing? Thereby making peace with the thing that is hurtful?

I’ve been digging a bit more into this controversy and was relieved to find this passage, (since Freya’s voice has been noticably absent in the debate)…
“Although detractors periodically surfaced to accuse Freya of anti-Semitism, she was both comfortable with and accepting of the great varieties of people who always made travel a fascination for her. She believed, she said, in “pluralist societies”, and she disliked any form of “religious extremism.” Her objections to Zionism were philosophical and political, NOT racist, and she pointed out that it was unfair to equate her anti-Zionist position with anti-Semitism. She was sympathetic to the Zionest dream of a homeland for Jews, safe from a world that repulsed, isolated, and ultimately murdered them, so long as, she would point out, it were not exclusionary. She foresaw that the creation of a Jewish homeland that displaced Arabs to fulfill the dream would spawn a legacy of violence lasting for years to come.”
excerpted from “Passionate Nomad -the Life of Freya Stark” by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
Candace, you mentioned that Freya was “feeding the flames that Jews are once again responsible for so many of the world’s problems”, could there not be another side to this? I have not yet found any evidence that she was ever inflamatory. Why do you feel that she was a “masked anti-Semite”? In my reading it seems that Freya was only trying to look for the best possible solution for everyone involved. Yes, it would seem that she might have had loyalties to the Arabs because she had lived, worked and written about middle eastern culture at length. But from what I read she was only trying to educate the rest of the world, (particularly America) about the dangers one culture being displaced for the benefit of another. She was against violence of any kind on both sides, (of which there was a lot at that time, around 1943).
It is not my intention to enter into an Israeli Palistine debate, I am certainly not equipped or positioned to do so. But I do think it important to look closely at both sides of a debate, especially when someone’s character is at stake. According to the book Freya was devastated by the criticism she recieved and found that she had been greatly misunderstood.
If anyone has information contrary to this I would be interested to hear it. I have no loyalties to the character of Freya, aside from the fact that I find her to be an interesting human. I am open to the possiblity that there are ‘ugly’ things that I do not know about her.
I find this learning process extremely fascinating and it brings up many issues applicable to my own life.
How much of it ideally comes down to perception? What are those perceptions shaped by? Do we have the courage to examine our own perceptions?
Often when I have had arguments/fights with friends or family there is the initial “feeling” that I am correct and that there is intent to harm on the other side. But on closer examination I might start to see that that perception has been tainted by some of my own stuff, (anger, fear, ego, etc.)
(On a related note there is a interesting book on the topic of ‘what is an extremist?’ entitled “Them”. It appears that most extremists do not see themselves as doing anything of an extreme nature, it is a label given to them by others. Interesting.)
addendum… it occurs to me that I may have opened up my own can of worms here, as well as a chance for others to misconstrue my words. I do not mean to imply that there are no situations in which a person might be “wrong”, indeed there are, (i.e. violence, etc.). I only meant to share my learning with regards to how I have found my own perceptions to have been tainted, (which have been numerous.)

July 21st, 2005

Today I put on my favorite jean skirt that used to be my mother’s. It is a wide a-line shape from the 1970′s, and has large deep pockets on the front, perfect for holding your money, pieces of paper, or some candy. When I wear it I feel close to her because she wore the skirt a lot and I know she must have enjoyed walking along with her hands deep in the pockets, or collecting small stones as she strolled barefoot along the beach (which was quite a bit). You would only know this after wearing the skirt and walking around in it for a while.
I think it must be the most durable skirt that has ever been made because it shows no signs of wear, and I feel kind of invincible in it. Maybe it has protective qualities. Mom strength that she left for me as a gift. I haven’t been able to wear it until recently.
I rode my bike along the main street to do some errands, (this is the kind of skirt you can ride a bike in). When I passed my neighbor’s studio door I heard the distinct sound of a violin being played (he is a violin maker). I put my bike down quickly and tip-toed up to the door to listen. And I sat there listening and smiling for quite some time. This is one of the great gifts of knowing a violin maker, you get to hear beautiful music from time to time, drifting out onto the street. It stops me every time. When he finished playing I poked my head in the door to thank him.
Tonight I danced around my room in the skirt listening to Sarah Harmer.
My mom did a LOT of dancing around rooms in her lifetime.

July 20th, 2005
Comments Off

Just the act of putting words on paper help to pull me up onto my feet again. That and a few words sent by a chorus of strangers, and also some friends. I find myself saying thank you a lot these days. Sometimes you send words out into the world not knowing what they are capable of, such a simple thing. I am still amazed by it. I am not trying to do anything special, only share some of my process in this sometimes messy life.
My husband left for California today, driving across most of the US with a full car (mostly books I think). I am sad for the moment, but I will be joining him at the end of August (after dealing with all of the things that one deals with when moving). Back to hearing his voice every night on the phone.
The woods are calling to me now. I have needed some alone time, to just be with my heart, to process, to let go, to feel o.k., to find some wisdom. There is another funeral party today at the legion across the street from my house. Men dressed in dark suits, women in their ‘funeral only’ dresses (black with white flowers pinned over their breast), and I am reminded once again that life can be fleeting. How quickly we forget even when we tell ourselves, “I promise to live better from now on”. I say this after every funeral I attend, and trust me, there have been a lot. I am convinced that we should all attend funerals on a weekly basis just to remind ourselves of this, (though I did know a funeral director once and he wasn’t any better off for it, arguably worse.)
So maybe instead what is needed is a constant visual re-affirmation of life. Just the words…

I think I will put that on a shirt and wear it around.

July 15th, 2005
Comments Off

It’s hard to know what to write some days when your heart feels a little heavier than it usually does. You go out into the world hoping that the little things that usually lift you up are still there and that they still have the power to make you breathe a little deeper or smile even. Sometimes we just have to accept that our hearts are a bit heavier and that’s just a part of this big life.
I’ve been feeling the biggness of my own life lately, amidst this heaviness. The sense that all of it is unfolding exactly as it is meant to, this after many months of not knowing. There is a distinct feeling a shedding my old skin and growing a new one. One that is stronger, more honest and different. Beautiful, but in a different way. It is not a surface beauty, not about skin or hair or eyes or face. It is not determined by how other’s perceive it or what it looks like in the mirror. This beauty comes more from inside. And it grows and shifts, akward at first like an infant who is learning to walk for the first time on shaky legs. (Once they get a feel for the movement they are unstoppable.)
What I can tell you about it might surprise you. It has been emerging out of a long period of extreme doubt and questioning. Darkness. Out of the not knowing, and the fear, and loss. And i will admit that I didn’t see that it was possible at the time. I felt around for a voice that had been hiding. And I found it buried under a pile of debris. My intuition which I thought had left me for good has proved to be stronger than ever, I just didn’t trust it. But it was there the whole time. I had no idea.
And when I listened to it I became strong again.
Some of the things I feared most have happened. But I am still here. I can see that no matter what happens, I will be o.k. because no one can take away that strength, in fact they cannot even touch it. Even though it feels like it sometimes.
But we have to go into the darkness to find it.
“Look how beatiful this big, old, lumpy and bruised heart is?”, she said with a smile. With everything it has been through it’s capacity to love is greater than ever.

Ad Free