Insipid No More

December wraps up the twelfth chapter and 12 months of The Artist’s Way for this creative. I would only recommend completing a chapter a month if you are ready to have your world rocked. I heard other participating artists talking about needing to stop part way through the year due to blocks surfacing that they had never experienced before. This was true for me as well. Every fear, every block, every experience was intensified sometimes to the point of being too difficult to withstand. On the other hand, I have never accomplished so much, had so many breakthroughs, and been so much at home in my creative skin as I have in the last year. I really came into my own. Artist’s Dates evolved from outings into taking advantage of many live stream courses. Artist’s Pages evolved into long meditations clearing the mind’s negative self-talk/sabotage. Mediation lead to a peaceful and a more positive creative!

Chapter 12 is entitled Recovering a Sense of Faith. This chapter reminds us to trust in our Creator–trust that the Devine’s plan for us very well may be in line with our own deepest desires.

I pondered back on a time when I had told myself such a clever lie that I even deceived myself. I believed that my artistic and creative talents were lower than a true life purpose. What I mean is, I believed that I needed to be giving some sort of service (for the greater good) in order to be living my true purpose. I believed that my creative pursuits were self-centered and indulgent. I guess I hadn’t considered I could live a life of giving back while being an artist. I had always had a great eye for home decor and visual art. I felt that I would be swallowed up in materialism and worldliness if I dedicated my life to my creativity. Deep down, I had known that I had so much talent and desire to be an artist, but had talked myself out of it on so many levels. I even told myself that I didn’t want to do it as a living because it was too special to me and it would be ruined as a passion. When we take so much time to talk ourselves out of something so important, we should recognize this as the red flag it is. The further I got away from these gifts, the less I felt like me. The final nail in the coffin for me was when bought into the idea of finding a career based on making money.

This happened to be in healthcare. What was dangerous for me was that it was a hungry monster with a never ending need for service. Luckily, that is when I discovered The Artist’s Way. I was heading for a degree in social work to be a step in my goal to be a medical social worker (the highest paid in the field of social work). The course brought me back to my authentic self, so doing it for an entire year made perfect sense. It had become my self-care. I had found a mode of healing. Art, creativity, the process had become not about creating bodies of work. It had become feeling and being alive.

This year, I learned that God is in the details. He is there wanting you to live your life to the fullest. He wants you to be on fire with purpose and excitement for living. Cameron points out that we have this idea that spirituality is about living a life of scarcity.. never being given permission to be truly aligned with your hopes and dreams. As you learn to have faith that the universe has your back all the while practicing your spirituality and creativity, you find you grow. Your ability to give back increases. Your talent increases. Your reach increases. Learning a craft, an art, or a skill is bonus! There is so much to gain and so little to lose.

If you are ready for the most amazing adventure, make your creativity a priority. Make creativity a regular part of your life. This isn’t about being a professional artist. It is about being fully alive. Finding your soul’s truest expression. Honoring your spirit, your voice. Honoring life.

“Adventures don’t begin until you get into the forest. The first step is an act of faith.” -Mickey Hart

Image

This painting was created in Shiloh McLoud’s Awakened Woman live stream class. She teaches a visioning/intuitive/imagination process that is beautiful and empowering. “The Muse is the Voice of Your Soul.” -Shiloh McLoud.

Title: “Lady of Fire.” Going deep to talk with my muse.

Being True-The Most Beautiful Journey

November’s focus for The Artist Way was chapter 11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy. I found this chapter to be a difficult, yet such important focus for my month.  By the end of the month, I realized that I was angry at myself for what I thought had been a failure to remain true to myself. I felt I had let myself down, slipped from the track. I don’t know about you, but when I feel this way it gives me some type of ticket to get really off course. That didn’t happen, but my attitude was terrible. I started feeling really sorry for myself. Things were slowing down and I was spending less and less time doing what I really loved doing.

When I start feeling this way, I usually go deep within to reflect. In certain ways, I began growing and discovering new insights, but those were difficult to share with others. I feared I was being swallowed up by all the needs around me, so becoming spiritually strong and steadfast became even more imperative. I meditated often. I prayed. I practice my intuitive work as much as possible. All of these practices led me again and again to my creative work. As I worked, I realized, it’s impossible for me to get lost in other people’s agendas. I am too stubborn for that. I just become grumpier the more I get pulled away from my art, and then comes the readjustment! Julia Cameron stated, “Creativity is oxygen for our souls. Cutting off our creativity makes us savage. We react like we are being choked.”

I believe I have appreciated my creativity for most of my life, but only in the last 10 years have I fought to give it center stage. It makes me so happy for painting classes such as Shiloh Sophia’s Awakened Woman. It took place right before Thanksgiving, so I had a lot to think about. You were to write down the 12 big lies you tell yourself. Some of my lies were that I am not the red rose kind of girl, I am not ready for big change, I am just a people pleaser, I lack direction, I am alone, I don’t need intimacy…. AND for me the biggest lie was OTHER people are sabotaging my efforts.

By the end of this class, my heart opened to the truth. I do love red roses, I do need love and intimacy, I am powerful, I am ready for the right amount of change to bring about my next steps toward my purpose, I aim to please God, I have been driven since a young child, AND I am the one sabotaging my efforts. BUT why? I realize that sometimes I get scared. When that happens, I use other people’s actions as an excuse to back down from my goals. It is my own convenient copout! Things flash through my mind like, “They are so controlling. I need some space.” Or, “He is going to stand in my way of this. Instead of speaking up, I’ll let him have this one.” I discovered that my need for control is what sabotages me sometimes when it counts the most.

I remembered the advice I had given all too often about sussing out motives. “What’s in it for you?” So, what is in it for me? Julia Cameron said, “If I allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people’s urges for me to be more normal or more nice, I sell myself out. They may like me better, feel more comfortable with my more conventional appearance or behavior, but I will hate myself. Hating myself, I may lash out at myself and others.” So deep down I realize that staying true to myself leads to a happier me, so shouldn’t this be an easy choice–a no brainer?”

It is my belief that we get so comfortable with our fears that we would rather stay stuck in that place that we know so well than journey into the unknown. The unknown might just be even scarier than a stuck place which you dislike. At least you know that you have all of your creature comforts. You know that you have your familiar routine. You have your anger. You have your resentments. You have your disappointments. They are YOURS. You own them, but shouldn’t life be the most amazing experience? Shouldn’t we be fully alive to experience the beauty in relationships, the earth around us, the magic present in every waking breath?

Image

“It is safe for me to grow, to create, and to experience life as the most beautiful journey.”

Acrylic on 18 x 24″ canvas. Created in Shiloh Sophia’s Awakened Woman live stream course.

Major Creative U-Turn?

The last couple of months have been very strange for me. I started back to work full-time and had less time for my art, writing, and personal life. My artist child was ticked to say the least.

Chapter 10 in The Artist’s Way is all about creative u-turns and exposing “The Deadlies” which are alcohol, drugs, sex, work, money, food, and family/friends. One of the exercises has you write these words on strips and draw them. You put the paper previously drawn back into your pile and there is the possibility to draw it again. The strange part of this exercise, is that I drew the same three over and over. When you draw the slip, you are to write how the deadly is having a negative impact on your creative process. I drew work 3 times, money twice, and food twice as well. It killed me that on a month that I was supposed to be focused on improving this aspect of my life, things were amplified compared to normal life. Work was more demanding, situations were more complex, and I had taken on a new role that I needed to learn and settle into. Talking about something that I was having mixed feelings about and leaving a positive message with my readers seemed impossible.. so I did what I do when feeling that way. I retreated.

How many of us react this way when we feel like we may not be living in our truth? Pull back. Reverse. Hide.

The truth is, finances were feeling tight, and working part-time had began to take its toll. I had been reveling in creativity is true, but somewhere deep down, I may have felt a little selfish. Finances hit and the kids need shoes. Okay, so maybe it isn’t as simple as just needing shoes, but you get the point. OR was I really just scared that the ride was over and that things were going to start getting too real for me? Do you ever have that moment when you make a shift and you know it happens, but you aren’t sure why you made the choice? I remember that happening. Almost like a tantrum. Things had not moved fast enough with my art endeavors. I was hoping to have prints up 6 months earlier and things were happening in slow motion. Anger surged as I decided to go back and make up with the lack of income through my day job. My heart broke a little. Image

A question that I have: Who made the rule that artists need to go through financial depravation in order to succeed? I am grateful for this new paradigm that we are building together where artists and creatives alike are valued for their contribution and are blessed with the abundance life has to offer.

This week, I feel like I finally came out on the other side so-to-speak. I got real with myself and faced facts that I did have a choice–I do have a choice. The truth is that I find great satisfaction in helping others. I love to see that I can make a difference and do my part in breaking down old, worn out systems that grind on vulnerable populations. I am not ready to leave my day job behind in the dust. I am still learning, growing and developing skills. I know that boundaries are important and I will need to take even better care of myself. I made the right decision for where I am at during this very moment in time. My creative dreams are very important to me and will continue to be a top priority in my life. One day, my passions will become one in purpose and I will be able to incorporate my desire to help others with art and creativity. Until that day, I learn and prepare.

Living My Truth?

The last several weeks have been really interesting. I have found myself questioning myself a lot and wondering if I am on track with my vision and my goals. Things have been so busy. Too busy. Whatever calm I was feeling with life seems to be gone.

I have gone through a couple of times this year where I felt impatient with my progress and stage of being. When this happens, I know it must be related to ego and it is time for me to step back and really try to gain some insight on what I am feeling deep down. Willowing’s Lifebook has actually been a lifeline this year. This week the lesson was tied to the creative goals that you made for yourself early in the year. Although I didn’t connect with the style of the lesson, the meaning was there for me once again. I remembered the words that I chose with Kelly Hoernig’s  first lesson were soar, flit, bloom, blossom, and shine. I made the little cards that went with her lesson and they have been a reminder of my goal with my art to use it to bring more positivity and light to this world. As I pondered those words, I questioned whether I am still on the same path. Am I living my truth? At this very point in time living one’s truth seems ultra important.

SHINE2

All of the goals that I chose are goals that I have stuck with all year. This month I am reading and working on chapter 9, Recovering a Sense of Compassion in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I am reading about fear and creative u-turns. The funny thing is, that I am wondering if I could be living more fully in my truth. I am not sure. I am searching for the insight to find out if I need to step more fully into the light. Where could I be doing better? Or is this my perfectionist veering its ugly head? As I write, it dawns on me that it is a natural wrapping up of 2013. We are nearing the end of the year and it is time to gather in the fruits of our labors. Maybe the fruits aren’t as bountiful as one may have envisioned, but nevertheless, they are there and waiting. The harvest is ripe and it is good. It is time to be grateful and to start to plan for a new chapter.

Layered Inspiration

June’s Artist Date was another special experience for me. I decided a couple of months ago that I would take Flora Bowley’s Bloom True course on the process she calls intuitive painting. It complimented The Artist’s Way theory quite perfectly. Each week the course followed a theme like play or bravery and each day you were given a task to complete. 2 days per week you were to paint. The bigger the canvases, the better as far as she was concerned. I went through so many emotions over the past 5 weeks, and today my Artist Date brought my painting to a conclusion.

Funny enough, this month’s chapter focused on abundance and treating yourself with luxury intentionally. What this means is that you pay attention all month how you are spending your money (no judgement), and then seeing how you are stingy with yourself in areas that would actually matter more. I found this to be true. I found myself being reluctant to buy the canvases, but in the end found coupons and my unspent birthday gift which helped me purchase my first 36 x 48 inch canvas for only $12. It’s original price of $79 felt like a lot of pressure to make something spectacular. I also had several 12 x 12s laying around and decided to do a grouping of 6 for my living room.

Each week I added new layers of paint to my canvases and started feeling a little more performance anxiety with the last 4 layers. In her course, she teaches a style that is very free flowing and without pre contemplation for the final outcome. You put on music and paint layers in warm colors, then cool colors, then blacks and whites etc. In the end, you start seeing images emerge and go out seeking inspiration on walks or in books.

This month, in The Artist Way, you were to go for a walk and collect leaves and rocks. This was also an exercise in Flora’s course. Yesterday after working on my painting I felt that the colors were just not coming together and I began feeling stuck. So this morning, I took my final Artist’s Date by going to the park with my camera, a big plastic baggie, a sketch book, my Artist’s Way journal and a pencil.

I wandered up the riverbed and calmed myself with the water’s flow and began taking pictures and sketched a rock. I then walked back up toward the trail when a big orange butterfly almost flew into me. I watched as other butterflies danced through the clearing. I wished I could have gotten a picture before a crow upset the magic. I walked up the trail and found a clearing on the path with huge trees and hundreds of ferns and realized those were the final elements missing in my painting. I collected my leaves, moss, bark, and pine cones before making my own little forest offering (another assignment for the class). As I arranged the wildflowers, moss, twigs, and leaves a woman stopped to watch. I had to wonder what she thought I must be doing.

I went home and worked on my painting with my new pieces of inspiration surrounding it, AND I finished it and loved how it turned out. I felt the most excited that it really reflected my family. Every bit of the painting was symbolic of what inspires us and our spirit. Next up, I will be working on the last few layers of my huge canvas, but as for today, I celebrate. I felt like a real painter. Something that I hadn’t quite owned yet.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Blooming

April’s Artist’s Dates & Walks were overshadowed by my preoccupation with reading deprivation. By the end of the month I was so thrown off that I believe that I really got back in touch with part of my younger Michelle. I felt a sense of renewal for physical vitality. I wanted to feel pretty again-to feel young again. I wondered if this is what a midlife crisis feels like. In the end, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to go on a trip to Florida with my husband. The calling sun becomes quite the temptation after a long northwest winter/spring.

Being a Facebook page owner has put me in touch with some great people. One afternoon (a couple of months ago) Laurel from Illuminating Souls offered free “angel readings.” I had never done these before, so it intrigued & brought me to tears to read the different page owners’ readings that day. It was such a sweet experience to feel that each person’s reading was so special and unique to them. Each reading also captured their best self–their potential. I decided this month, for my first Artist’s Date, to have a private reading. With little information about me, she was right on with my feelings and aligned with the direction that I have been drawn towards. She helped me to see that I have been leery of femininity, yet comfortable with the masculine. She recommended a couple of books for me to read including Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes which have turned out to be just what I’ve been needing (I can’t even begin to say how difficult it was for me to hold off picking them up until the new month). Laurel also taped the reading, so I was able to listen to it again later. In the end, I had two pages of notes and great new information for my journey ahead.

Two dates were spent with self-care activities like shopping, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, & a mani/pedi time. I am learning more and more that my artist needs to be pampered and to feel well and nurtured.

I went back near the mountain for my final date. The town that you go through to go up to Mt. St. Helens is Woodland. This little town has more going on than what one would expect. My favorite time of year there is spring because they have both the Tulip Festival and the Lilac Gardens in full bloom. I learned about these events back when I completed the Artist’s Way my first time in 2008 and have been attending whenever possible ever since. Woodland still has the small town feel, yet understands the value of hospitality.

My first stop was to the Tulip Festival. It was a little crowded for my style, but I went with it and took pictures with other people in them as well as the flowers. I enjoyed watching many ladies tromping through the flowers with their umbrellas up protecting them from the drizzle. I smiled to see many with cameras and many others with arms full of tulips.

Image

Before heading home, I took a walk around the old town area, and I found Old Town Grill, a “new to me” restaurant to try out. My first impression of the place was that it was too dark inside. Most of the patrons were sitting on the other side of the establishment (in the bar) watching sports, and it definitely had the old bar feel to it (the kind that the lights are kept dim because the decor hasn’t been updated since the early 80s).  I’ve learned long ago not to judge a restaurant by its appearance, but in this instance it put me off because when I went to read the history trivia on the other side of the menu, there was a dingy build-up that was hard to ignore. Hand washing before eating helped restore my interest in eating.

The friendly waitress was also the bar tender which kept her occupied for a while before she could take my order; however, I didn’t mind having a little extra time to explore the historic pictures lining the walls of the restaurant of the trees, loggers, and settlers of the area. I felt an immediate connection with the past and got my next lead to go to the museum a couple of blocks away.

My sandwich was pretty good, but the fries were delicious. The grilled sandwich had freshly baked turkey breast, but a processed type of cheese melted over it that I did not particularly like. I would eat there again, but would probably try their club instead because so much of their food had a home made feel to it.

Image

Next, I headed over to the museum. I found pictures of logs that were basically the size of the log trucks that carried them. I wondered where this old growth timber had come from. The ladies that staffed this small, two room museum were pretty knowledgable and very attentive. I learned that farming & the dairies were an important part of early Woodland. Going away, I felt that I got a good idea of its history and people.

A couple weeks later, I came back to Hulda Klager’s Lilac Garden the last weekend of their season. I did bring my daughter along (I know, it did not technically count as an official Artist’s Date, but I still wanted to include it) which turned out to be a good move since I fell in love with yet another lilac variety.

Gentle remembrances of the beauty of the bloom manifested all month long. The cycles of life may be arguably at their prettiest during the spring season. A longing of earlier times in life may surprise us, but shouldn’t be avoided because so many lessons may be felt.

Image

Whispers from the Past

MARCH: Artist’s Dates & Walks

March started out a struggle for me to get out on my Artist’s Dates (AD) and Artist’s Walks (AW). I had a very hard time sticking with the rules for the first couple of weeks and one week even took my husband with me. Though it was nice having time with him, I really wasn’t at ease to go at my normal snail’s pace. AWs have become a time for exploration and noticing details…. ADs about connecting with the people past and present.

My husband had been telling me that I would want to see the Oregon City Falls, so when our daughters were in a Saturday jazz competition at the college there, I asked him if he wanted to go as well. We stopped to walk along the sidewalk above the river and took pictures of the water below. I took the opportunity to grill him with questions about the mills on the riverbank and the industry there. He said that as far as he knew they are a big producer of toilet paper.

Image

Next we went to their museum. I tried not to get caught up in the worry about him getting bored, but that was a challenge for me. Museums are great because you see what the people of the area valued enough to preserve. They had a wonderful section of Native American artifacts and information. Another favorite was reading about notable, Ralph Eddy, photographer to their area, and I saw first hand how he was able to preserve their history through his beautiful work. His cameras were saved spanning his 50 plus year career right there in the museum. I did get some pictures of my own and made the decision that there was a lot more to Oregon City that I need to explore in the future.

Image

Museum of the Oregon Territory

For my next notable AD, I went to a little city called Kalama in southwest Washington. I had been antique hunting several times before a couple years back and brought home many finds. This time I also learned that the high school in their town was the high school used in the Twighlight films. Even with this attention, the town remains relatively unchanged since the last time I was there seven plus years ago. I did eat in the little deli (the only restaurant in the antique mall), and had the most delicious sandwich made on home made bread. I bought fresh cookies for my family as well. I walked through many of the antique shops and one of my favorite shops was a mix of the old and the new. They had new things that looked like old things. This particular shop also had a big section just devoted to Native American finds. I saw a rattle that was carved out of wood for $200. I had no way of knowing if it was actually authentic, but I got to thinking that antique stores in a way are little museums for people who want to take things from the past home with them. I found a bunch of cool things, but bought a Ladies’ Home Journal from 1910 that I planned on using in my mixed media journaling artwork.  Image

For my AW, I asked about local parks or walking trails and was directed to their park, but didn’t make it to the location that I wanted to. I later read that their park has the world’s talest standing Native American totem pole that Chief Lelooska carved for the World’s Fair in 1962. He did not finish in time, but these were made from wood and still are beautiful today. The park that I did make it to was very small, but I went up on the hill for a great view of the river. Like many of the towns that I have visited, timber is the most visible industry. Factories and piles of tree trunks lined the river as well as a rail line. Driving under the freeway underpass also had clues of the past with a mural of Native Americans, white settlers, and a ship, but I did not find the written history of Native Americans living there before the settlers.

Image

Since I can remember, I have had a strong connection with Mt. St. Helens (the little active volcano in my back yard). I was only 9 years old when she erupted. At the time we lived pretty close to the south side of the mountain so we felt the earthquakes pretty strongly leading up to the eruption and experienced the blackout from the ash from the eruption itself. Maybe the year before that I met Chief Lelooska (a school field trip that I would never forget). He told many stories, but the one that I remembered was of Mt. St. Helens.

As the spring came on this year, I felt a strong draw to the mountain. I know that the observatory is still closed, so for my last AD in March, I took my own approach from the area that I know I love on the south side of the mountain. I planned on going up to Speelyai Bay. I drove through Woodland set my odometer to zero. I needed to stay on the highway for 14 miles to find the bay. As I drove past Merwin Dam, the roads got narrower and windy, but I could see the gorgeous water below. At 15 miles, I knew that I passed the bay, but honestly had no clue which road to follow to get there. I passed three to four huge log trucks in route. I was pretty stressed at the point when a deer made its way into the road in front of my car. I slowed hoping that the animal didn’t double back and hit my car (deer are funny that way sometimes.. they run up the bank and come back into the road causing an accident). Making it safely back to Merwin Dam, I decided to stop at the Lelooska Lodge to check for upcoming events. I then went down to the lake with my journal and camera. After my walk, I spent the rest of my time there pondering the presence of the mountain. The park was almost deserted, but it was a gorgeous sunny day. The wind had a low howl that was a little spooky, and being alone up there felt exciting and also a little unnerving. It was a spiritual experience as well though. I closed my eyes and felt the stillness of what it is like to be close to the wilderness. I feel like this is an experience that I long for. I imagined what it would have been like to live off of the land. The park’s education board said that the early people who lived in the valley below hunted deer and ate berries.

Image

On my way back through Woodland, I made one more stop at an antique store that was in an old house which gave it a charming feel. Again this store had some other trinkets that they were selling along with the older antique items. My favorite area was with the baby dolls with what my daughters would call creepy because of their eyes.  Image

Speranza Antiques, Decor and Everlastings

My longing for connection with the earth only gets stronger as I explore the different sites around my community–one that I find difficult to express in words. I want to learn more about the native people who lived in this area before the European settlers came. I also want to feel the spirit of the land.. there is a connection there that I need to discover for myself. My ADs are bringing me closer to this realization and inner desire. It is something that I accept about myself, but I also discount to a certain extent. How many of us feel these intuitive pulls, but aren’t sure where they lead us?