Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ropes that bind and break.


These photos made me start thinking about the ropes that bind and break. What ties us up and keeps us stuck? What loops around us til we are able to break to find a freedom we never thought possible? If we look at grief through the metaphor of ropes, what can we discover? For me, I found the ropes that bind me to be unswerving, forcing me to look at the things I would normally be averse to...and thereby breaking through to things I've never understood because I'd refused to look. Taking it to a poetic exploration looks something like what's below for me.

Don’t swerve
by Kara LC Jones
[inspired by “confusion is an asset” exercise in Walking On Alligators, p. 78]

It is so easy to turn away from it.
I don’t want to see that.
The unanswerable.
Gawd, I want nothing to do with you, The Unanswerable.
Why do you plague me?
And are you truly unanswerable?

What if I choose to NOT turn away.
I will turn off the phone and email.
Turn off the music and barrage of, “let’s just talk about this.”
Close the door to the kitchen where I could easily escape into scent and harvest.
Refuse the vision of others so readily available in print or film.
Refuse to let anything turn me away from The Unanswerable.

Looking squarely in your face: interesting. You are just a mirror.
I. Me. My whole being. My experiences here alive. ALL Unanswerable.
We create meaning to find ground, to feel balanced, to find ways of making sense, connecting with others.  It is damn scary to feel knocked about by the solar winds.  It is damn scary to accept that absolutely nothing makes “sense” but rather was simply made up by someone before you.  It is damn scary to accept that what we call connection is surface, pacifying for now, fleeting in the extreme. We came thru the birth canal alone. We go back to the dirt alone. Whatever we share along the way is great, but cliché: You can’t take it with you.  Damn scary stuff.

Is there even merit to learning to Be Present when it is All Unanswerable?
I mean we prize this.  Lean into the ungroundedness.  Be still in the chaos.  Float rather than fight tide.

But is any of it anything but an exercise in surface?  Who is to say I am any better off that way than the chaos of the ones who are actively running, addicted, hoarding, exhibiting?  Who’s to say I am any better off than then ones who swallow questioning, put their heads down, work-a-day, shelter in their homes, do jury duty without a squawk, learn to walk without raising any fuss?  Who’s to say that my choice isn’t just another in the myriad of coping mechanisms we have available to survive this barrage of being alive?

I do what I do because it feels good.
I do what I do because it is easier than trying to fit what feels good to another’s skin.
I do what I do because that is as much as I’ve learned so far.
I do what I do because I just want to escape to a world of my own making, my own word and heART.
I do what I do because The Unanswerable is ridiculously present in all things.
I do what I do because I can barely grasp the reality of what is happening to me.
I do what I do because I can barely convey to you what is happening.
I do what I do because you can barely find ways to try and understand what is happening to you, let alone whatever I try to convey about my experience.
I do what I do because, in the end, it is all ash.

The ash of my dead sons is precious to me because I am still alive and feel the empty space of them.
But when I die? The ash of me will be ground, the empty space of me filled, and there will be no one to appraise the ash of my dead sons anymore.  And so we all are ash.  It is all ash.  No more.  No less.

Always Unanswerable.

You ask, “What is the point?”
One answers, “There is no point.”
The other, “You make your own point, your own meaning.”
But I suspect neither extreme to be.  The vast range between them neither.
Rather it is Unanswerable.

And so, if I choose to be unswerving?
Then I stand full face with The Unanswerable.
And I am simply a long list of “what to do now” that stands between the first heart beat and the last.

No more.
No less.
Just now.
Till ash.


Take your exploration of the ropes that bind and break in any way you wish. Photographic, poetic, music, movement, collage, whatever you wish. What do you find there?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Vashon Tree Art of Summer 2014

Last summer I shared the first tree art I was finding here on Vashon and translated what I was seeing into a creative prompt for you all. This summer -- and in fact, all through the year -- the tree art has continued to pop up around Vashon. It's always a little creative spark to discover one, and it leaves me wondering who creates them, who decides to take the pieces eventually? I often entertain the idea that there is a very happy squirrel somewhere who has all these little doo-dads hidden away somewhere like treasure! :) Anyway, during my summer hiatus from blogging, I was gathering more and more photos and video of the various tree art we found. So now that I'm back, posting to share them all with you. Enjoy!

Isn't this one below really amazing?! A little sea relic from way down at the waterfront, made its way up town to a tree where it got caught in a spider web. Life and death. Randomness and intention. And just beauty. I'm so haunted by this one:

Well that's that, loves! We have a mild winter coming supposedly, so I'll keep my eyes open to see if the tree art continues and share accordingly :) Sending out love and Light and Reiki as we move through this day of eclipse!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pulling from dream images. A new series of wood, nails, and red thread.

So you can look for more and more of these through the dark season here because I am officially obsessed with wood, hammer, nails, and thread. You'll see in this post introducing the series that I started small, but I'm quickly working up to larger sizes. Not sure how that's going to unfold this winter as it isn't really something I can do in my small studio space that is so *not* industrial (meaning it has carpet, etc). I really need and want an industrial work and living space, but Hawk's so not on board for that (dare I say yet :) ) so we'll just have to see what path this takes.

Anyway, this new series is born from dream images I've been having since last Fall. The dreams, no matter what their content or visual style, would always have, at some point, a spot where I'd see a wood piece with nail(s) and red thread. Sometimes in the side of tree, on side of building, right on a wall, on free standing piece. It was wild. I was doing dream group last year this time, so I took the first ones into group and came away feeling I needed to play with thread, nails, and wood.

But it took this entire year for the pieces to come together. I mentioned to my housemate as she was covering her logs piles for rainy season, that if she had scrap pieces of wood, I might rummage them. She asked why, I told her, and wa-la!!!!  She-whose-storage-stuff-is-like-mom's-purse-and-has-everything-you-need started opening containers and bins. Wood, wood, and more wood. Then she started pulling out things like vintage nails from the workspace her father used prior to his death. She said she'd never been quite sure what she'd do with it all, but if I wanted any of it, go for it!

That was a couple weeks ago. Now I can't stop. Started with the small piece you see in the photo at the very top of this post, "mathematics of grief" which is only a couple inches large really. And then unfolded with the following:
Above: another of the small prototypes. I mean small, like maybe 3 inch long + 1 inch high. I'd love to keep working the series up to something that would take up an entire gallery wall. Hmmm....
Above: another small one. Couple inches. Playing w more ribbon like thread and furniture tacks. Something about how furniture implies something civilized but grief is so off-road from living room decorum.
Above: Working a little bigger. Just over a foot tall. Playing w shiny thread. And something about how even when we know it isn't linear, still we often forget how grief can go way off and cascade. And looking at where there is light and dark, beauty and snags, beautiful color and bird poo. Such is grief, well, life really but you know.
Above: another that is about a foot tall. Still deciding if it is meant to stand like this or if it'll be on its side. And so this was something about the split down the center, a visual of how grief's attention span splits and you can't track anything at first. Something about how the connections to things become thin and everything is up for questioning. Or something :)
Above and below: Managed to hammer this out before the household went to bed one night. This one is about a foot tall and couple inches thick. The baby shoe isn't exactly like in the dream so threaded a bit differently than I saw, too. But it's close and I have the other shoe to maybe alter a bit and do another version later.
Above: Daylight views of "Grief's experience of parenting." About 12 inches tall, plank is couple inches deep. Galvanized roof nails found at thrift shop along w the shoes found there. Reclaimed wood. Was an odd moment in the thrift shop buying the vintage baby shoes. There I was, heart pounding, thinking OMG these would work for my grief piece on parenting, and just then, all the ladies in the shop start coo'ing about how sweet it is I'm buying the shoes. Really it was okay, but just odd. I mean I just smiled and thought to myself how different it is now for me than it was 15 years ago. Back then I'd stand in the middle of dominant culture like that and would have either broke down in tears or shook with screaming to tell them all how mistaken they were. But that day, I sort of found myself smiling thinking, "Wow. Dominant culture sucks because it is sooooo un-curious and just assumes everything." And so I smiled, didn't say anything, paid my bill, and left. And of course, what you see above is what was actually done with the bits and pieces. So??
Abover: grief serves dinner. Not sure if this one is done or not. May beat up the surface of the plate bit more. Up-cycled the plate from thrift shop. This was a different thread than the others and most difficult to work w so far. Kept unraveling. But seemed fitting for what happens when you attend grief's dinner party.
Above: another in the series. The outline with smeared penciled writing pointing to things like "limp hands" and such. Also, heard from a friend that many religious traditions have stories about red thread. Did not know that! Will have to research. In the meantime, I continue to be shocked at what appears to make these dream images manifest. Again this time, it was my housemate who opened the garage and said, "Want a wood and glass door?" !!! It isn't exactly like the dream door which had a rounded top but sure enough, there is a door that would work! That's one of the "larger" ones I keep dreaming of doing. Soon.
Above: grief stands at the abyss. Found wood when a tree was taken down. Hemp thread. Tiny piece. Few inches maybe. Seemed to fit how the world shrinks while you simultaneously feel you are standing at abyss when death and grief come.
Above and the last one for today's post: grief discovers he must ask for help. Cedar scrap pieces. Pointed staples and vintage blue steel tacks. One of the reds that isn't very shiny. Something here about how we so desperately believe the western bullshit about independence when we are so relational and inter-dependent. How grief is treated as a problem inside you instead of a common human experience. How much it sucks that asking for help is risking more loss because responses we often get imply we should "get over it" or be "better" by now or that to need help is a failing. When we have a "healthcare" system that wants to diagnose and drug for grief, asking for help risks things like being committed involuntarily or having things written on your permanent medical records that say you are sick because you are still grieving your child's death. That kind of thing.

So there's the start of it. There are others already in the works. This weekend I actually set up to work on a larger piece that is several feet, using the pointed staples to piece together small bits to make the larger vision. And with the weather holding out, I was able to set up space for that outside, able to leave it overnight, work more the next day. Not sure how long that will last though. And then I don't know what. There are pieces from the dreams that would take up an entire wall. Just have never worked this large before, so not sure how to even make it happen. Guess that's part of the process, right? Here's to continuing to be Radically Creative in the face of the unknowns (and really, isn't it *all* an unknown?!?).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Summer's self portrait...

Well without a whole lot of conscious thought on my part, I seem to have taken a summer hiatus for July, August, and September. I shared a lot on my insta feed and all, but haven't blogged a word since the end of June.

With October's arrival, I'm torn. Grateful for the amazing hiatus. Dreading the dark, rainy season to come. And wondering what to do as I come back here to the blog. For years now (and well over a thousand entries), I've shared ideas, how-to's, personal ramblings and more. In part, I do it to share my work. In another way, I do it to show that I'm walking the talk I do in my work as a heARTist mentor and creative grief educator. And truly a HUGE part, in the beginning years, was doing this as a way of really connecting with others. As the blog formats have seemed to fall out of favor, I've wondered why I keep adding things here and here and here as there isn't much conversation happening on blog platforms anymore. I do share these post forward on other social media, so connections happen there sometimes. But just something as simple as doing a blog hop with a Mister Linky at the bottom of a post, well, in the past couple of years, that kind of thing generates no response at all.

So returning from hiatus, I have questioned why post. Why continue sharing voice in this way? Why not move to just radio podcast or something? Why not just let the blurbs I post out on other platforms be it? Can't say I 100% have an answer about why I'm back. But I also couldn't come up with a 100% answer about why I would drop this space either. The hiatus was great. I may do more of those in the future as my pace slows in my every day life (doing that consciously because I want some sloooooow savoring of the every day stuff). But in future, I'll try to be more conscious of it maybe and let y'all know :) I'll try to be sure and say I'm taking a little break and point you toward whatever other platform I might share on more regularly.

In the meantime, I'm back. I have a huge stash of photos and ideas from the break to catch you all up on here. And as the dark season moves ever steadily toward another year's winter solstice, I know there will be more ideas and heART-work coming.


First share back, I thought I'd post these two quasi-self portraits. I've been reading lots about feminist stance on self portraits, lots on marketing gab about making yourself visible in your work, etc. It's interesting. Mostly I don't do it because there are so many other things I see or create that I want to share. And I don't often like photos of myself or they seem so boring. But these two spoke something for me. The one at the top of the post was an odd angle, reflection in a window where the sun's light gave two peeks at the same image. The one below was just a shot in full sun that made me laugh when I saw it. The shape of the girl has changed a lot over the years, but the stance -- and the coffee -- are ever the same since back in the day. Something about arriving here in Seattle on Halloween day 1995, full sun, clear sky, crisp day, with coffee at the edge of Green Lake, looking at my traveling partner in crime, and thinking to myself, this is it. I'm never leaving here. Though I have left. But the pull back always comes.

And maybe that's the reflection of being back here on the blog. Hell, maybe that's the reflection of being back here awake each morning in my every day life. Much as I curse it all and grief is always re-threatening everything, the pull back always comes. And here I am. 

An old friend sent me the lyrics to Coldplay's Paradise recently. And yeah, something in there. Being just a girl, expecting the world, but catching bullets in her teeth. Something about sleeping under the heavy storm, but knowing the sun is set to rise. To the last breath, I suspect I'll partly be that girl who still expects the world. And to the last breath, I suspect I'll catch bullets, grieve in the heavy storm, and know the sun's at least set to rise, even if I don't see it.

For now, I'm grateful for the breath that comes and does let me see another rise. For now, I'll bring what I bring, whether it has a "point" or "purpose" is beyond me. It just *IS* and that will be enough.

Here's to living as slow a life as possible so that we might savor deeply.
Miracles to you!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Home in Details...

Another in the weird collage series. I don't know what this one means. I started with the bottom of the "home" wanting to dangle various items from it. And all the rest is just play and play and play until I got some harmony that felt sort of done. Words have been hard to come by lately. Well, coherent words anyway. So I won't even attempt words for this entry. Enjoy the heART.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wired high...

This bird sat on the wire outside the grocery the other day as if posing for me. His photo was the start of this piece. As I was creating, I was pondering the notion of stillness. How this Being just sat still. Obviously not just for me. But so what made him be still just then? Birds seem to have such grace around balance, movement, stillness. I always feel so clunky and awkward going from movement to stillness...coming in and out of meditation.  It got me pondering, too, how awkwardly we move into or away from our grief experiences. Sometimes the broken heart seems too jagged to touch, and yet other times we lean into the broken open spaces and nestle there. But it rarely feels as graceful as this bird looked to move between the various states.  Hence, the splattering and streaking and sponge spots of paint and color in the background.

I don't know. Something like that anyway.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Eat Your Words...

Rather than give you more words, I give you a new weird collage titled:

Eat Your Words


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nostalgia for what was never yours in the first place...

It can be a difficult thing to explain to others if they haven't experienced this kind of thing themselves. And it makes me a pretty lousy Buddhist when I get into these spaces. It is a sort of nostalgia for something that was never yours in the first place. I'm not sure if you would feel this as part of your grief experience if the person who died was older. If you had time with them, if you created memories physically in the relative world, if you took photos and said words and heard their words -- well, then I don't know if you'd get this or not. It is something that came for me after having a full term, otherwise-perfectly-healthy-pregnancy, and just before our due date, giving birth to death instead of a living child.

The birth of death brought with it a nostalgia for something that was never mine in the first place:

  • a nursery that was actually used
  • family vacations with all of us present
  • finishing a baby book with something other than polaroids that documented his dead body
  • baby's first Christmas ornament
  • watching Dad and son learn the practice of meditation together
  • first bikes, sandboxes, inline skates, waterwings, swimming lessons
  • terrible twos, temper tantrum threes, hearing him read a book himself, homeschooling
  • finding out what he found fascinating in this world

Now don't get me wrong. I don't sit around doing nothing, asking the unanswerable things like What If and all that. In fact, I have many days on this crazy planet when I'm actually glad that our three sons who died have died already because they aren't faced with suffering. And we have all (me, my hub, and our living children and grandbabies) found or are finding our winding, twisted ways to living lives we that mean more to us now, that make us grateful for the smallest of things, that are uncompromising because we know how quickly it ends.

And as a practicing Buddhist, of course my aim is to just be with the present moment, and when I can manage that, there is nothing here but IS. But it is called a *practice* for a reason. It isn't perfection. It's a skill that must be worked. And at that, it is a skill that some days really kicks in for me and other days, well, I just sit and watch my mind bounce all over the world and time and space and go monkey berserk. And on those days, the over-arching feeling that stains everything is:

nostalgia for what was never mine in the first place.

That's just part of getting conscious of what is happening for me moment to moment. Sometimes the shadow is darker than the color and contour and texture of my living body. And I roll with it while letting the breath breathe me. Not much else to be done for it.

Well, besides making more art. (Hence, the image you see in this post.) Go gently, lovies.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Texture Of Without...

This one is something about the nature of grief and how we don't understand it until we are in it. Even when we are in it, we don't understand the permanent piece of it till we are emerged in it. For example, after my son died, people kept telling me the first year stuff was the worst. But by far, the 2nd year Mother's Day after he died was the worst because it was at that point that I understood the permanence of *Without* and how that would not change, ever, the rest of my life.

I wondered as I was making this piece what kind of nests we cocoon ourselves in to protect from this reality? When do we each learn about the permanence of impermanence? What are the screens we look through to cloud the truth so we don't have to face it until we have no other choice? Do we, in the Western world anyway, have increased fear and stress about death and dying because we spend our lives trying to avoid the permanence of impermanence?

Something like that.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Series of sky sculptures ... and mini bit of a how-to

Continuing in the weird collage explorations, today's post is revealing a series of sky pieces. The aim was for them to be as if they were just sculpted pieces hanging in the sky. I know, I know, Magritte did this so much millions of times better than I ever could, but that won't stop me from playing. :) Thought to share a tiny bit of a how-to just sharing some of the steps I took in Photoshop Elements to work up this series.

  • Set up a new blank file at 12x12 inches, transparent background, 300dpi.

  • In the first/deepest layers for the background, I've dropped in a mesh of two different sky photos I took.

  • In the next layers, over the sky, to aid in the blending of the two skies, I've added filtered layers of color using brushes that have grunge or stain shapes to them. I'm filtering them to be "Overlay" or "Difference" or "Color Dodge" or something. Play around with all the options and see what you get!

  • Then I'm opening separate files to do cut outs of different things like one of my Buddha paintings or public domain image of an animal skull or one of my photographs of a beach crab. I make the shapes high contrast so that I can easily use the select tool to get the major shape. 

  • Once selected, then I'm opening a high res scan of a vintage paper and dropping it on top of the selected shape. Then I use the cut and paste options and what that does is cut out the vintage paper in the selected shape, then drop a paste of just that paper in that shape in a new layer.

  • Then I drag that new layer of the paper cut shape into the Sky piece to make it the "sculpture in the sky" on the 12x12 PSE file. I might duplicate it, make it b&w, use gaussian blur to do a drop shadow of the piece. 

  • Then I start playing with other layers in the Sky piece, over top of the central sculpture. I might do color fill and play with the filters again like "Color" or "Hue" or "Linear Dodge" or something. Just play around with all the options and see.

  • I might play with the edges and do paint brushes for grunge drags or sponge paint painters or nightshade stains. 

  • Basically I just keep playing with colors, filters, various brushes or may other collage elements till the piece gets a balance I like.

Anyway, it is all just the same as playing on canvas. Build up the layers, play with colors, use the grunge paint brushes with white to imitate gesso, and on and on. Just keep experimenting till you get what you want or to get something surprising that you like even if it is far off the mark of what you thought you wanted.  It's a practice, not a perfect!  Enjoy the play time. Let it be a metaphor for practicing how you layer your life experiences, too. Crafting art is a great metaphor for crafting your heART.

Sending big love out to one and all!
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