Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 Days of Truth: An Introduction

I'm swiping an idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Becky at Thinking Too Hard. She, in turn, traced its lineage back to this blog. It is the end of September, so beginning tomorrow, October 1, I'm going to be posting a new truth about myself and, ultimately, standing naked in front of the internet universe (and my own unforgiving mirror) as I reveal myself in 30 Days of Truth.

It's going to take some doing. While I'm blatantly honest about myself and my feelings, having to actually force myself to do so is scary. But, the timing is good. I'm hitting 49 in November, so by the time I'm done with this, I'll be more than ready to wish my departing 48 year old self the very best.

Each weekday (Monday through Friday, with Saturdays still devoted to "Saturday Scribbles" and with Sundays off) I will delve into one of the following questions:

Day 01 - Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 - Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 - Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 - Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 - Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 - Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 - Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 - Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 - Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 - Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 - Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 - Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 - A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 - A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 - Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 - Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 - A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 - Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 - What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 - Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 - (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 - Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 - Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 - Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 - The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 - Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 - What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 - What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 - Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 - A letter to yourself, tell yourself everything you love about yourself.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Naked at the Locker

Y'know that dream. We've all had it. Yeah... that one. The one where you're back in high school, frantically trying to remember your locker combination because you don't have any of your books and you're late for class (which, of course, is on the opposite side of the building), and suddenly you realize you're not wearing any pants.

It's the classic, quintessential stress dream. As used to the dream as I've become over the years, I still hate it. I hate that I feel so vulnerable in that dream, so uncontrolled, so... frantic. Because I'm not normally any of those things in my waking life.

So the other night I took control. They're my dreams after all, my little psychotropic nocturnal forays into the Universe of The Bizarre. So I think I've earned the right to have some say. Note: For those of you sensitive to cursing, please stop reading now and go watch The View.

Anyway. There I was, out of some other dream and suddenly standing in front of my locker. I was pretty sure it was my locker even though it was in the wrong hallway. I was late for class and I knew exams were about to start. I felt myself coming unhinged as I hopelessly and helplessly spun the combination dial on the locker. None of the numbers I had in my head would work. As tears threatened to overwhelm me, I looked down. Sure enough. No pants. "Aw shit," I thought. "Here we go again...."

Then that little still conscious part of me tapped my dream me on the shoulder. "Psst. You don't have to do this again. It doesn't have to happen this way." Even so, I futilely spun the dial one last time. Nothing. I felt the hot tears begin to flow, felt the air on my bare legs, clenched my fists and with all the gusto I had, I hollered, "Fuck this noise!"

There was a whoosh of rushing air around me. The sound of distant thunder. A scent of cloves. The warmth of sunshine. I wiped my tears away to find myself sitting in a vast field, with the gentle rustle of weeds and grass coming like a prayer.

We can control our reactions to things. In doing so, we change our actions. In changing our actions, we change the world around us. In changing the world around us, the Universe opens wide.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Buffalo Takes the Cheese

I had a resounding revelation yesterday. No, really, I did... it wasn't just gas. I was sitting in my studio, contemplating work I need to do on an altered book. The book is about dreams and creativity and letting it flow. Y'know... artsy fartsy stuff.

Anyway, I was staring at this partially done page that's got a straight backed chair sitting against a green wall. For some reason, I felt that a buffalo needed to be perched in the chair. Don't ask me. It just seemed so right. Still does.

Even so, I sort of scoffed. I said (Yes, I talk to myself. Get over it. I have), I said, "Barb, c'mon. I know you're a freak, but... a buffalo? In a chair?! Impossible." The other Barb said, "It's only becomes impossible when I no longer dream it, when I can no longer imagine it."

Blam! Eye-blinking mental explosion.

It only becomes impossible when I can no longer dream it, when I can no longer imagine it.

Some 90 or so years ago, two men flew a stint into the Alaskan bush to deliver mail and supplies. The first attempt failed. One was convinced it was impossible and he went home. However, in 1921, the other gent, one Carl Ben Eielson, went on to fly the first air mail run in Alaska. He flew from Fairbanks to McGrath in 4 hours, a distance that normally took dog sleds 20 days to cover. Bush pilots are now the backbone of the mail and goods delivery service in most of Alaska. Granted, it's the third most dangerous job in the US, but it can be and is done.

Okay, okay... so putting a buffalo in a chair in a bit of art isn't anywhere near what it takes to be a bush pilot in Alaska. I'm not saying that. I'm talking about the power of what we'll believe when it comes to believing in ourselves, in our decisions. I really do believe that as long as we can envision a thing, it is possible. It may not happen as planned, we may even be a little ahead of our time (ask DaVinci or Galileo). We may be seen as outlandish and silly (ask Mozart). Our colleagues may pack up and go home. It doesn't matter. If the vision is there, it's doable.

So, the buffalo stays. Thus, a buffalo standing in a straight backed chair is, most assuredly, possible. I imagined it, that's why.

And everything else I can imagine is possible too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Passion. Get some.

After the invitation debacle (read about it here) and having to redo all of them, I was already in a somewhat put-out, grumpy mood last week. Granted, I was covering it well, because I knew my reaction was silly and childish, but it was still there.

Then I spent the better part of a day just cutting and folding cardstock. It's my least favorite part of my work. It's boring and no amount of Clapton will make it less boring. So, I was a little crabby about that too.

Then I talked to a friend of mine. He was in the same kind of crabby mood, and went on for a bit about all of the unrewarding stuff he was doing with his new line of work. Of course, being the philosopher that I am, at least as it applies to others and not myself, I said, "But you're now doing what you love. You could still be back at that desk, grinding away hour after hour and going home completely dissatisfied with your life." He did appreciated my comment and thanked me for it, "You're right! What the hell was I thinking?!"

I hung up and took a long look in the mirror. Ouch. The reflection wasn't pleasant, and I'm not talking about the weird mole on my face, or the fact that my hair was uncombed. I thought, "Who are you to talk? Here you are internally bitching about redoing some art and having to cut cardstock... but this is what you wanted! This is what you want! Isn't it?! Or would you rather be sitting at a desk, crunching numbers and feeling completely unfulfilled?!" I didn't give the bitch my answer, she already knew.

So I say, even a bad day making art is better than the best day doing anything else. Even the worst day doing the thing we're passionate about beats the best day doing other stuff. Period.

I'm good at desk work, very good at it, but it doesn't drive me. Gone are the days when I would be in tears on Sunday night because I knew that the following morning I had to go back to something that made me feel less than. Art drives me. Art makes me feel more than. Art makes me feel alive. It is, quite obviously, what I'm passionate about. I'm beyond grateful to have it in my life, and to have the opportunity to explore it.

Chop wood, carry water. Cut cardstock. It's all part of living as fully as we can live.

And what did I do with my "day off" yesterday? I went to a friend's house and helped her with arts & crafts projects.

Passion. Get some.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: To Tell You

The Existential Tourist

To Tell You

last night
we talked on eggshells
and circled
into nowhere
I tried
to tell you my emotion
words split like ice
and melted to tiny drops
what am I trying
to tell you
that I'm not saying?
it's just a turn
on this madly spinning carousel
(I chose a horse named Silence) -
when it stops whirling, and
when I'm weakened with recognition
of my futilely frantic search
will you be there
to help me off?
because I want you there
or I need you there
or both
but who am I
to tell you?

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, September 24, 2010

Live and Love

John would have been 50 years old today. I can't help it. He's on my mind.

Timothy and I were holding his hands when he awoke from his semi-conscious delirium three days before he died. He awoke, looked at us, and asked, "Am I dying?" I choked out the words, "Oh, my Love. Yes you are." He burst into tears and said, "Oh no... no... I'm not ready!"

I'm not ready. No one ever is. But we don't think about that as we fritter away our time in our daily lives. We don't stop to ask ourselves, "Is this what I would be doing if I knew I was going to die tomorrow?" Or how about this one, "Is this how I'd be treating that person if I knew it was their last day on earth?"

Get ready. Be ready. Because it comes crashing down sooner than you know. If we all took a moment to realize how truly fragile life is, we'd whine about the petty stuff a whole lot less. There is beauty to be had in every moment, but you need to take that moment, look around and see it.

It's Friday. The weekend awaits. Take some time out, spend some time with those you love - time that doesn't involve driving around doing errands or chores. Just some time to appreciate who they are in your life. Because, as John said, "It's those precious little moments. Just live and love."

Thursday, September 23, 2010


You people should consider yourselves lucky that I'm granting you an audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now.
~The Wizard of Oz

I'm having trouble writing today. It's not that I don't have a dozen (or six) thoughts in my head to write about. I just don't feel like writing. My head is busy with other things. It is restless to begin all kinds of different art work. And yet, I feel guilty for not wanting to write, as though I'm neglecting one of my very best friends. Then again, you can't hang with all of your friends all of the time... right? *sigh*

In the news, today is one of my very best friend's birthday. We are twins born 10 years (and some change) apart. So, shout out a Happy Birthday to my dear friend Laura!

In other news, some of my artwork is now available for purchase as tshirts, mugs, etc. at Am I a sell out? Perhaps, but a girls gotta have some pocket money, y'know? So, go make a purchase at the Black Ink Pad Shop (click here), and while you're at it, why not contact me to order some cards to go with that?! Yes, I'm a shameless self-promoter. This is what it has come to.

And now, the Autumnally aroused Muses call my name. I have, apparently, art to do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Permission Granted

Remember those permission slips we used to get in grade school? Our parents had to sign them and send them back with us or we weren't allowed to go on the field trip, or watch the movie, or whatever. "Barby has my permission to go to Plank Road Farm to watch maple syrup being made on March 19, 1968. Signed, Kathleen Black." And that was it, off we went.

What we need to do is give ourselves, as adults, some permission slips. Such as:

You have permission to sing. Wherever you are, no matter what your voice sounds like. Belt it out. You'll feel better and people will smile because you're happy.

You have permission to love whoever you want to love. It's nobody's choice but yours. If it turns out to be a bad choice, it's nobody's problem but yours.

You have permission to not believe in God. You're a good person regardless.

You have permission to choose. It's your life, take control.

You have permission to dissolve any relationship that is not satisfying or healthy.

You have permission to dream. You also have permission to take whatever steps are possible to achieve that dream.

You have permission to speak up. If it is important to you, let it be known. True mind readers are few and far between.

You have permission to tell people that you love them. This is the very last thing you should be shy about. Tell everyone. Often.

You have permission to be alone and to be silent. Constant input is not necessary. Take a few minutes of solitude and quiet.

You have permission to be silly, to giggle, to be childlike in your humor. It will keep you young.

You have permission to have sex. Whether it's with a partner of whichever sexual persuasion you prefer, or all by yourself (even if you have a partner), or with electronics, it doesn't matter. Sexual pleasure is a good thing (provided nobody gets hurt and no animals are harmed). It releases endorphins.

You have permission to howl at the moon. Deep down we are animals. We need to reconnect with our animal instincts more often.

You have permission to be curious, to question, to learn. And never stop.

You have permission to laugh even when no one else thinks it's funny, or cry even if no one else gets why. Emotions are personal. Yours are as much your own as your thumbprints are.

You have permission to wonder if your life would have been better if you'd never had children. This does not make you a bad parent.

You have permission to never have children. This does not make you incomplete.

You have permission to have an idea for something new and try it. Failure is in not trying.

You have permission to better yourself. Some people won't like that you've changed. Because they haven't.

You have permission to have a wonder-filled day. Every day.

And you have my permission to add other "you have my permission" ideas to my comments section.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Love Needs Now

So, there I was the other day, blogging away, blahblahblah... yadda yadda y'dadda... art, philosophy, raspberries... glibly saying a whole lot of nothing and using many words in the process when...

*low feedback whine*

We interrupt this tripe for an important message!

The following message is being broadcast to you via Black Ink Pad, courtesy of Sharon (here)...

"...on Tuesday, Sept. 21, ... look at your own world, for just that one day, with unconditional your appreciation to the people you appreciate....because you know that life is short and unpredictable, and you don't want another day to go by without telling people that you appreciate and love them for who they are and what they do

...Because we have all lost someone dear to us unexpectedly, with words unsaid.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, we will say what is in our hearts without fear of rejection or reprisal, so that everyone in our world will know they are unconditionally loved, and despite whatever may have transpired before, all is good now.

All that is asked is to tell the people that you love, (not here, but in your own life) that you love them. That's it. That's all. And to as many, or as few, people as you need to tell it to.

I have lost far too many friends this year, and unexpectedly. Life is too short and unpredictable to let another day go by without telling the people in our lives that we love them.

Even if your message is met with silence, even if unacknowledged or even rebuffed, the very act of planting the seed leaves the possibility for a change. It would be far better to make the attempt, than to not attempt, and always wonder.

Please share this event with as many people as you can.

I am inviting every one of my friends, and I have over a thousand. If every one of my friends reaches out to at least one other person, individually and privately, imagine the exponential results....

Only light can dispel the darkness."

Gypsy here again. Thanks for tuning in folks. And, thank you, Sharon for such a relevant, poignant post.

As trite and smarmy as it might sound, all of the people in my life are in it for a reason. I love all of you, unconditionally, as only real love can be (if you're unsure of what "real love" is, please go read more about it here). I love you not just for what you are, but because of who you are and for every bit of who you are. I mean that.

Go forth and spread some love... because, as Stevie says, "Love's in need of love today."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Almost Perfect... But Not Quite

Back when my Dad was a sign painter, he would painstakingly layout the lettering for his signs. Everything would be measured and centered just ever so. He would load up his palette with paint, swipe the brush back and forth through it until it was just wet enough. I was always in awe at the way he could pull a line with a brush. He would outline the letters, then fill them in, and not a drop of paint was ever out of place. Inevitably, he'd get to the last few letters of whatever he was working on, and my Mom (who did his bookkeeping part time), would walk by and somewhat timidly say something like, "Uh, Harold, "Permision" is actually spelled with two S's..." Cue my Dad tossing the brush down. Cue the lesson in creative cursing.

I am ignominiously proud to say that, not only did I inherit my Dad's artistic abilities, but I also inherited his ability to royally screw up a project. Because, like Dad, when I put my mind to something, it's all or nothin', Baby! Oh, and I'm here to say that those lessons in creative cursing weren't for naught. I'm good at that too... particularly when I screw up.

It's funny, kind of, I can forgive anyone else pretty much anything. Step on my toe, break my favorite dish, dent my car. It's okay, shit happens. No big deal. Don't sweat it. What's done is done. Really, I don't get bent at all. But when I'm the one who screws up? I have a really tough time forgiving myself. I'm much harder on myself than anyone else could ever be - probably because I wouldn't put up with that kind of crap from anyone else.

See... I messed up a card order. It was a big order for 75 cards, all saying the same thing. Yes, I'm smart enough to run a proof by the customer. I did that. Then I had to reformat the wording so it would print better. In doing so, I inadvertently typed in the wrong street name. Then, in complete oblivion, I printed out all 75, proceeded to stamp all 75 with multiple stamps and various colored inks, and even filled in each little dragonfly wing with glitter... 600 wings, all told. Oh, but wait! That's not all!! I even shipped the buggers, express mail, overnight.

When the package still hadn't been received after two days, I checked the tracking. Only to find out that it had been sent back to the Seattle hub because the address wasn't good. How could that be?! I immediately called the customer, told him what had happened, and said, "Isn't this your address?!" He said, "Uh, no. We live on (let's just say) Lavender Street, not Freesia Street."

Creative cursing ensues. Lots of it.

The customer laughed it off, saying, "Hey, shit happens. Don't sweat it." Steve, seeing my distress, hugged me and said, "It'll be okay, Honey. Stuff like this happens." I, on the other hand, internally ranted at myself and worked myself into a funk to the point that Steve actually called me, jokingly (albeit his timing was neither good nor wise), "Bummer Barb." That's it. Nobody calls me Bummer Barb. Time for an attitude adjustment. Mine, not his.

I went outside and breathed deep - the scent of the rain was delicious. I reminded myself that I'm not perfect and nobody, including myself, should expect perfection out of me. Duh. I asked myself the questions that I always ask when things go awry, "Is this the worst thing in the world to ever happen?" Nope. "Is it fixable?" Yep. "What needs to be done?" Redo the damned things, no way around it. "Am I loved and lovable?" Uhhuh.

So, yesterday, fueled with the tasty pancakes that Steve makes, I headed up to the studio and cranked out another 75 cards. It took me most of the day. Of course, this time I went for overkill and proofread them 4 times. I'm not stupid. It wasn't what I wanted for a Sunday afternoon, but it had to be done. Lesson learned. Of course, lesson number one is proofread. Walk away. Proofread again. Lesson number two is, I make other people unhappy when I don't forgive myself. Lesson three? Shit happens. Let it go.

And the creative cursing? Yeah, I'm keeping that lesson too. Comes in handy and chances are good that I'll need it again. The wonderful poet, Shel Silverstein, said, "Almost perfect... but not quite." My Dad said, "You'd bitch if you were hung with a new rope."

Poetry by Shel Silverstein

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of Mary Hume
At her seventh birthday party,
Looking 'round the ribboned room.
"This tablecloth is pink not white--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of grown-up Mary
Talking about her handsome beau,
The one she wasn't gonna marry.
"Squeezes me a bit too tight--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of ol' Miss Hume
Teaching in the seventh grade,
Grading papers in the gloom
Late at night up in her room.
"They never cross their t's just right--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

Ninety-eight the day she died
Complainin' 'bout the spotless floor.
People shook their heads and sighed,
"Guess that she'll like heaven more."
Up went her soul on feathered wings,
Out the door, up out of sight.
Another voice from heaven came--
"Almost perfect... but not quite."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: If You


If You

if you wonder what you bring;
is your consideration worthy
of my fragmented, fumbling dreams, and
why I'm captive in your smile
if you ask what I find;
is your world noble in my cautious
and groping curiosity, and
how can I want to hold your hand
if you question what you give me;
if pressed to answer, I could pull a rabbit
from an oblivion of millions, and
say that, never having requested as much,
you give a damn

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, September 17, 2010

48 Gypsy Factoids

Morning Eyes
-noun: lightness of mind, character, or behavior; lack of appropriate seriousness or earnestness.
-synonyms: frivolity, flippancy, triviality, giddiness.

I've been too serious. "What's happened to all your goofball posts like you used to do?" she asked. "I'm tired of all this artsy philosophy stuff. Not that it isn't important... but you're my friend because you crack me up!"

But... I'm so not serious! Really. I just get serious sometimes. Further, if I don't figure out the serious shit, how can I have time and understanding for the fun stuff?!

Right about then, the irrepressible Fabeku Fatunmise over at Sankofa Song posted a wonderful blog titled 31 Things I Never Dreamed I’d Share On The Interwebs. He concluded with a challenge for the reader to do the same. Considering that the number of items listed is based on the author's age, I decided I'd better get busy... I'm going to be 49 two months from today.

So, here are 48 Gypsy Factoids. Some of you might know most of them, but hopefully I still have a few surprises left among my gypsy treasures. And, hopefully, it will satisfy the levity quota.

1. I'll be happy when I hit 49. What a long, strange, wonderful trip it's been. I wouldn't change a minute. I love that the older I get, the more me I become, and the less I give a rat's ass what anyone has to say about that.

2. I had just turned 2 when John F. Kennedy died. That day is my earliest memory. Both of my parents cried.

3. There are only three nicknames I've been given that I ever really enjoyed: Barbarian - a combo of my first and middle names (Barbara Ann); Baaba - the name my nanny kids called me (and sometimes still do call me); and Pinky Slut Muffin (oh, shut up - it makes me laugh whenever he says it). For your own safety, please note: Babs, Barbarella, Barbarino, Barbarosa and Barbie Doll are not on that list. Anywhere. *low threatening growl*

4. I started what is now my artistic career with a set of four rubber stamps. That was six years ago. I now have well over 1000.

5. My parents had five children. Mike, Tom, Nancy, Me, and John - in that order. To this day I don't know how my mother managed to hang on to her sanity.

6. When I was 6, I was the Belinda of the Day on the Bozo show. So, I got my 15 minutes of fame out of the way early in life.

7. I was 7 years old when I lost my first tooth. I was so happy because I was behind everyone else on the tooth losing scale. I thought I was a mutant and it was never going to happen. The janitor at my grade school, a wonderful old guy by the name of Mr. Watkins, yanked it out and wrapped it in his (clean) hanky for me to take home.

8. At 8 years old I went to my first opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors. To this day I can remember the amazement and awe I felt.

9. When I was about 9 years old, I asked one of my friends what the word fuck meant. She told me it stood for From Us Colored Kids. That didn't make sense to me - why would that make it such a bad word? Still, it was another three or four years before I found out what it really meant. Sometimes I miss being so innocent.

10. I have had 10 separate surgical procedures on my left leg. The last was in 2005 and I'm pretty sure that did the trick.

11. I smoked my first cigarette when I was 11 years old. I snuck one from my Dad's pack, took it up to my room and stood by the window puffing away.

12. Twelve, a dozen, I've always thought this was an odd way to group things. Why not an even ten? Here's an interesting answer. But I still think 12 is odd... for an even number.

13. I'm not afraid of the number 13. In fact, I'm not at all superstitious about anything.

14. My Grandpa Black was one of 14 children. To my Great Grandmother Black, I say, "Ouch! Did you really need farmhands that badly?!"

15. I was 15 years old when I lost my virginity. Actually, I didn't lose it, it was taken. You can read about that here... otherwise, 'nuff said.

16. I almost died when I was 16 months old. My appendix ruptured and it's such a rarity in a baby that they didn't even think to look for it. They actually thought that maybe I had a dead twin fetus stuck inside me.

17. I have had 17 pets in my life - 4 cats (at different times) by the names Scorpio George, Patches, Noodles and Midnight; 2 dogs, Nino and Smoke; a gerbil named Felicity; one tire track eel, Natty Tread; three oscars, Joey, Tig and Cheeks; three clown loaches, The Corsican Brothers (they were snail eaters); a plecostomus, known simply as The Lawyer (scum sucking bottom feeder); an Australian Blue Lobster, Rocky; and a whole plethora of neons, referred to as The Mob.

18. Eighteen years ago I was married and working as a nanny. Today, I feel like it was someone else's life... someone else's old home movie.

19. When I was 19 years old, I had to zip up my father's pants for him. He was already very ill - the cancer having spread from his lungs to the bones of his right arm. He was too weak and in too much pain to zip up his own pants. That moment saddened me more than his death did.

20. Twenty. The number of cigarettes in a pack. I'm going to quit smoking on October 1st. That's my goal. I just put it down in writing, didn't I.

21. I think 21 is a ridiculous "legal age" for drinking... teach your children well, and sans limites. When I was in Europe, there was no legal drinking age and there was never a problem. It's my belief that minors will, can, and do drink more because it's fun to sneak and get away with it.

22. Twenty two years ago I had a two night stand with a married man. I hated myself for it. It's the closest I ever came to contemplating suicide. It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to forgive myself for.

23. Twenty three is one of my favorite prime numbers. I don't know why. It just is. I have a love for prime numbers, for a thing that is solid enough to stand alone. I'm a very strange mix of math geek and artistic freak. Neither side of my brain seems to predominate.

24. Halfway there... halfway through my life... pant... heave... can we have a pledge break? An intermission??? This is hard doggonit! Of course, I've made it that much harder by deciding to use assigned numbers. I can be such an over-killing zealous wingnut!

25. I was 25 years old when I left Michigan and moved to Maryland to be a nanny. It was the best decision I've ever made. All other major events in my adult life go back to that single defining moment.

26. I have 26 teeth. My deformity is that I have no enamel on my teeth. Never have. I had four mollars removed before I could get braces. Much to everyone's surprise, my mouth was actually too small for all my teeth. I also had two impacted wisdom teeth removed.

27. I met my ex-husband just after my 27th birthday. At a Catholic singles dance. I know some of you are laughing riotously at this scenario, and that's okay. I do too... now. I chose to ignore all the millions of little warning flags hovering in his aura. I can be obtuse when I really try.

28. My mother was born in '28. That makes her 82 now. I love the way numbers yin-yang themselves sometimes.

29. My 29th post on this blog was on December 10, 2007. It was about a striking dream I'd had the night before, involving my Dad, my friend Bill, Bob Dylan, and flying. It's a dream that has stayed with me both in terms of beauty and feeling, and what I learned about what it meant. I always have very vivid dreams, but this one was particularly so. I could smell the flowers. I know when I smell in my dreams that I'm really paying attention to them. Read my post titled Dreamscape here, but not until you're done reading this one!

30. When something angers me I count to thirty. If it still angers me, I count to thirty again. Usually that's long enough to diffuse my anger to a low simmer, and that's enough to not lash out, but to be rational, calm and constructive. However, if I'm still angry after two separate thirties... watch out.

31. Thirty one years ago I graduated high school. That just sounds strange to say. I'm such a different person now than I was then. In fact, thanks to Facebook, I have more high school friends now than I did when we were all in high school together. Funny how life works out.

32. I hated my 32nd birthday. I felt absolutely stuck in my life in so many ways. I cried the night I turned thirty two. It was my worst year - I hated that stuck, lost feeling. I was too young to feel so old.

33. When I was 33 years old, I went to work for the Department of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Except that there was typing involved, taking care of priests wasn't any different than being a nanny.

34. The USA celebrated its bicentenial thirty four years ago, in 1976. Notable for me: My nephew Matt peed on my shoulders where he was perched to watch the parade.

35. At 35 years old I discovered the internet. I was reminded, once again, that there is a big huge world out there. I began to come unstuck. I changed my attitude and, surprise, surprise, my world began to change.

36. I was 36 when I chased my dreams all the way to the great state of Washington... and for the first time in my life, felt like I'd come home.

37. When I was thirty seven years old I officially donned a title I loathe... Divorcee. Even after all these years, even with my firm belief that marriage is an outdated mode of transportation, it still feels like a humongous black mark on my record. I still feel like I did something dirty and bad, even though I was doing what I had to in order to save both of us from a fate worse than death.

38. Thirty eight years ago I went to Hungary for the first time to meet all my Hungarian relatives. It was the best thing my parents ever did for me.

39. Disney World in Orlando, FL opened 39 years ago in 1971. The first time I went there was in 1980, with my brother Tom, his (then) wife Mary, my nephew Homer, and my Mom. Later, Tom moved his family down there and worked for Disney. Homer now works there, as does his wife (who he met there). It's still one of my favorite places to go to - I never have entirely grown up and I'm still enchanted by all the pixie dust.

40. I have 40 paint brushes. For someone who, just a couple of years ago, under pain and torture wouldn't have admitted to being an artist, that's pretty impressive. My inner artist is the best thing I've ever discovered about myself.

41. 41 years ago it was 1969, the year of the Summer of Love. I couldn't understand why there was so much anger and hatred in the world, or why there was this horrible thing called The Viet Nam War. My brother Mike bought his first 35mm camera and took this picture of me. To this day, it is my favorite picture of myself.
42. Forty two is the answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything. You'd know that if you read anything besides this blog. (R.I.P. Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) "The only thing worse than not reading a book in the last ninety days is not reading a book in the last ninety days and thinking that it doesn't matter." ~Jim Rohn

43. Forty three years ago I began taking piano lessons. Knowing how to play music saved my life.

44. Forty four years ago my sister caught me sleep-peeing in the closet. She's never let me forget it. I'll never tell her, but I think it's hilarious now.

45. My 45th year was the harshest test of my emotional and mental strength. I lost my beloved mate of nine years, John, to bladder cancer. It has become the measuring stick to which all other "bad things happening" in my life are compared. Everything else falls far short of that.

46. At 46 I moved to the cabin in the woods... it was the wondrous calm before the storm.

47. I was forty seven when all hell broke loose and then came back around to good. What a year, and what a crazy fucked up whirlwind of a ride. Oddly, I found myself not overly worried, and really mostly unafraid. It was the pivotal year when I realized that no matter what happened, no matter where I was, I was me, and that being me is a good thing. As soon as I figured that out, I met Steve.

48. Forty eight has been the best year of my life. No question about it. I have Steve. I have great friends. I have art. I know that I'm loved, and better, that I'm lovable. I'm happy.

Your turn... hurry, before you get any older!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Valid Point

Those who know me know that I decry external validation (see posts here and here). Yes, it feels good, but I loathe it. I particularly despise smarmy, pat, trite garbage like, "Oh, you're so wonderful!" without some detailed backup. However, I had an epiphany while watching the attached short film. I'll try to keep this post short so you'll have time to watch the film. It's well worth it.

It's not money that is the root of all evil, it's the love of money. Similarly, it's not external validation that is despicable, but the need for it. Truthfully, there's really nothing wrong with external validation (unless it's given in an obsequiously sniveling manner, but this isn't a sycophant rant). So, I was wrong to be so disparaging about it. What really bothered me wasn't EV, but my addiction to it (I'm so over that now!), and because for me, it tends to go hand in hand with self doubt.

Validation, like love, is only as good as what you give of it. So, validate someone today. Let someone know what you like about them. Compliment someone on a job well done. Be sincere. Make 'em smile. You might just be the only person to come along and do that for them.

Now, grab a cup o' bean, or a snack or whatever, and settle in to watch 15 minutes of film that will change your life...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Face the Music

The other day my friend, Paul Boynton, author of Begin with Yes (buy it here), posed a question that has had me ruminating ever since. The question that he posted on his Facebook page was, "Why is Life like learning to play an instrument?" Of course, being a musician, I love any analogy that likens life to music.

Learning to play an instrument is a series of small achievements with enormous breakthroughs thrown in every now and then. It is, as another friend says, about progress, not perfection. The more you learn, the more you know, the more you learn. And the more you want to. Like life, it can be an equally frustrating and rewarding process. It can be discordantly beautiful - there is pleasure with the pain.

Just like the inhabitants of life, everyone has a different technique, everyone has different skill levels. There is always someone who is better at it, and there is always someone who is worse at it. The key, as my piano teacher once said, is learning to play for your own enjoyment and satisfaction. Enthusiasm and heart can win over even the most resistant ear.

Not everyone can be a virtuoso, but there's no such thing (really) as a solo. Even the background noise - the hum of the refrigerator, the traffic out on the street, the rattle of the blinds in the window, the rustle and coughs of the audience - all of that plays a supporting back beat. In your life, there are people who will be part of your duet, just as there are people who will play a quiet, nearly inaudible harmony. There are no inconsequential notes or players. There will be melodies that, on occasion, fall flat, just as there will be melodies that rise as if to make the mountains taller.

Mistakes will be made. Not everyone will like your style. Some criticism will hurt more than it should. Some praise will feel false. Some days you'll wonder why you bother. Some days you'll hardly be able to wait to begin. Some days will be filled with going over and over and over the same two stanzas because you just can't seem to get the damned thing right. Other days will be filled with page turning and brilliant restlessness. Some days you'll toss the sheet music aside in defeat, stomp away and say, "I'm never playing again!" Other days, you'll close your eyes, play for the sake of playing, and embrace the music in a moment of absolute ecstasy.

In the process of learning to play, you will discover things about yourself. You will find that at least trying, even when you know it's going to be difficult, is better than resignation. You will learn the meaning of nuance. You will find that the more adept you become, the more enjoyable it is to listen to the music of others. You will find that silence is never silent, understanding the music that is heard only during the rest between the notes. You will learn to find joy in small pleasures - sometimes the sweetest tunes are the simple ones.

Ultimately, you'll understand that it's all about practicing. It's all about getting in there and giving it your best.

You play because it's there

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Runnin' Down a Dream

You got to have a dream.
If you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?
~As sung by Bloody Mary in the musical South Pacific by Rogers & Hammerstein

When I was a little girl I dreamed of becoming a nun. Quit laughing. I really did. Of course, I wanted to be a nun like Julie Andrews and wander the mountains singing, and eventually marry a handsome and rich Captain. Some dreams are best left on the pillow. I don't think there's a big call for atheist nuns who don't believe in marriage.

I was revisiting some of my 30 - 40 year old dreams the other day. I realized, after a conversation with a friend, that some of my very old dreams have come true.

Growing up in Michigan, I had dreams of living in the mountains somewhere, of cool breezes and lush evergreens, of great snow-capped teeth rising from the earth to chew the sky. Blame that on Julie Andrews and John Denver. But it was a dream of love and I never have gotten over it. I'm fortunate enough to be able to live it now.

I dreamed I would find a man who would love me in spite of myself, or because of myself, or something. I dreamed that he wouldn't be afraid to show his love, and that he wouldn't be afraid if I showed my love. I dreamed that we would be able to work together toward common goals, that anger and annoyance would be easily diffused, that we could be symbiotic enough that our time together would feel like a dance. It took a long time, mistakes and heartaches, but here I am with Steve. Finally.

In terms of a career, I had no idea what I wanted when I was a teen. In school, I was very good at math, very good at English. I could have gone in a hundred different directions. I had doctor/lawyer mentality, but nothing sounded exciting to me. I didn't go to college, because I didn't know what I wanted. Instead, I settled for working as a florist after I graduated high school. What I wanted, and didn't dare hope for, was that I could be artistic like my Dad. I wanted to be able to cook as good as my Mom and my Grandma Schmutzer. The cooking I learned pretty early on. Creativity came fairly naturally to me, but I didn't think of it as art. Ever. Even so, that dream managed to come true, especially once I cracked open the door and took a peak to see what had been hidden away.

So, the conversation went like this, "I wish I could just chase my dreams down like you do."
Me, laughing heartily, "Chase my dreams down?! Until recently, I've never pursued my dreams, so to speak. I barely knew what they were, much less thought they were worthy of pursuit, or that I was worthy of attaining them. I have Forest Gumped my way through my life to where I am now! What are your dreams?"
A sigh, and, "Um. Huh. You know, I'm not really sure I know."
"Then how can you chase them?"

I'm happy that I've managed to land in the middle of my dreams in spite of myself. I didn't chase my dreams but, it seems, they chased me. All I had to do, really, was accept that they were real, that they were valid, that they were mine, and that I deserved them.

Runnin' down a dream
Never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream

~Runnin' Down a Dream, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Monday, September 13, 2010

Life Support & The Muse Chromosome

The other day I caught an online talk with Amy Tan (here), author of a few of my favorite books (The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, Bonesetter's Daughter, and Saving Fish From Drowning). Given her rather droll sense of humor, it was the delightful chat I expected it to be. However, one small phrase really struck me. She mentioned that some of us seem to have been born with a Muse Chromosome. As I laughed, I also hollered, "Yes! That's it!!" (I often talk to the ghosts in the machine.)

It makes such sense. For so long I denied that I was an artist, that I was a writer, that my need for creativity really meant anything. It wasn't until I acknowledged these things as part of me (and really, they were there all along), that I felt whole. Not whole in a sense of finding myself, but whole as in the puzzle pieces finally clicking together. My internal Rubik's Cube, at long last, lined up just so. It wasn't a great soul-rocking epiphany, it was simple acknowledgment that I was born with this and born for this. It really wasn't that much different than my acceptance of the fact that I tend to be an overly emotional soul - I cry just as easily as I laugh. It wasn't different from recognizing the fact that I'm empathic to other people's pain.

The great boon was that once I accepted it, I was able to actualize it. I think that's key for any of us with anything. After all, how can we be anything to which we don't accede? Giving that part of me permission to exist was like being reborn. As a result, I've taken a good long look into my self to see if there are other unborn bits, other amorphous zygotes just waiting around to be granted an existence.

It's as simple as this. If you don't know the lay of the land upon which you stand, how can you decide on a direction? No wonder so much of my life felt stilted and unfulfilling. I was grounded for life instead of being grounded in life.

I have a Muse Chromosome. I have an irrefutable thing in me that makes me create stuff. I can no more deny that, or deny myself that, than I could deny that I have blue eyes. It's just the way it is. I'm only happy that I figured it out before it was too late. It's not just about being an artist or a writer, it's about being wholly me.

What extra "chromosome" do you have? What are you doing to nurture it?

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
~e. e. cummings

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: She Never

The Very Loud Discussion

Welcome again to Saturday Scribbles. Yes! We have a moniker for this ongoing fun! For those of you who may have just tuned in, each Saturday I post one of my poems rather than my usual blather.

This particular poem was written three years ago as the result of a challenge. An online friend of mine claimed that I couldn't write a decent poem in 15 minutes or less. Silly man. I never ever back down from a challenge like that! I even let him pick the topic. "War," he said. "Go!"

Approximately thirteen minutes later, I emailed him She Never. I only had to close my eyes and I saw the woman in it as clear as day. She was right there waiting for her story to be told.

Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

She Never

she never said
the day he
left with freedom
in his eyes
and courage in
his walk
she only said
see you, son
love you

she never cried
for him
the day they
told her the news
her eyes saw
a sepia toned
and dreams that
turned to bone
and ash

she never said
the day he
arrived with the flag
the band played
and doves flew
she cried
a single tear
love you, son
see you

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, September 10, 2010

Saturation of the Soul

Art, of any kind, isn't just about talent. It's about soul, and soul is about passion. I can appreciate a Shakespeare play, but I much prefer a night of improv. I can appreciate a well practiced choir, and finely tuned symphony, but I'd much rather hear a local high school band playing a slightly discordant version of Louie Louie. I can appreciate what goes into painting a portrait so that it looks exactly as if the subject was still sitting right there within the frame, but I much prefer paintings that are, shall we say, rougher? Paintings that are more open to interpretation.

I get it when an artist has great technique, gifted hand, and good eye. However, when I'm really pulled in by a work of art, it's because they have all that plus soul. They create something more than art. They create a feeling that, in its resonance, causes a trembling within.

I feel that in me when I'm in creative mode, and yet, I’m not sure how to live within that kind of passion full time. Do I even have the chutzpah to do so? I think so, I hope so. Intrepid behavior does tend to rule my day. I know this... I’m not in deep enough yet. I only know I’m on my way.

This is what I am thinking as I watch the rain pour down. Saturation of the soul, my friends, saturation of the soul... and the passion that comes with wringing out every bit of it. There's a rather whimsical smile on my face when I think that I was once afraid of this stuff. Now that I've passed the Rubicon, I no longer fear drowning in it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Can't Get It Out of My Head

Yesterday my day was flowing as it usually does. I was writing, enjoying some good dark bean, communicating with online friends, and having a pretty darned good rainy morning. It all came to a screeching halt when I heard the news that Mike Edwards had died. The BBC reported that he had been killed in a freak accident when a bale of hay hit his car.

You might be asking, "Who is Mike Edwards?" Most notably, from 1972 - 1975, Mike was with the band Electric Light Orchestra (and if you don't know who they are, you might as well quit reading my posts and go watch The View instead). He played the cello for the band.

I, very literally, wore out ELO's Eldorado album. Trained in classical piano, and raised with older siblings who ran the gamut from folk to country to rock, I absolutely loved the amalgamation of genres in ELO's music. I couldn't get enough.

So I spent the day feeling very sad. Would I have recognized Edwards' name had the byline not mentioned that he played for ELO? Not likely. However, that doesn't make his impact on my life any less. The minute I read it, I felt such a profound sense of loss... a door pinching shut on my adolescence. I frittered the rest of the afternoon away, playing any and every ELO tune I could get my hands on.

This thought kept following me around: what a rich, diverse, and wonderful soundtrack I've had for my life. I'm alive at a time when there are more kinds of music available than ever before, when it's acceptable to listen to all of them. I learned from a very early age to tune in and what to listen for. I received a musical education that taught me to listen for and listen to nuances in music. I can dissect music without it losing any of its beauty. I can hear a piece and say, "ahh... lovely bit of flute there," without missing out on the bass or the fiddle. So I'm grateful, and very much so.

The other thought was, all these people who've made an impact on my life. All those artists who kept the beat going for me. They'll never know. They'll never know how thankful I am that they, at least for a time, ran in the direction of their dreams...

... and in a big way, taught me how to run in the direction of mine.

R.I.P. Mike... knowing that you made a difference in one young gypsy girl's life.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's a Sure Sign

I was checking out Magpie Girl's, 8 Things: Warning Signs. She said, "I’m thinking about all the little clues I carry around that show me when I’m not standing in my own power. If any of these show up, it’s a sure sign that I need to stand a little stronger. I use them as a warning sign to help me clue in and change my approach."

Although I'm usually aware, at least on some level, of my own warning signs, I've never actually limned them. Often, at least in my experience, making a list is a huge step toward conquering an issue. So, I'm happy to do this bit of soul spelunking. Here is my list of eight warning signs that I'm not standing tall.

1. The number one warning sign is that I have to go looking for inspiration. Normally inspiration, whether for writing, artwork, cooking, anything, comes fairly naturally to me. When I have to really think about it, I know that something is off.
2. I watch TV, not because there's anything of real interest on, but because I'm trying to distract myself. I'm not usually much of a TV watcher.
3. I eat junk food. Granted, I'm an over-eater as it is, but I try to stay with reasonably healthy items. So, the red flag flies high when I start scarfing total crap food. (I think ALL of my food issues go back to seeing myself as an unworthy vessel.)
4. I feel more tired than I ought to and/or drink more caffeine than normal. Yes, I'm a certified Bean Freak, but even I have my limits, and I know when I've cruised past them.
5. I feel needy and clingy. That's definitely not my usual MO!
6. External validation starts feeling wayyyyy too good.
7. I'm not doing what I should be doing and I know it. I start procrastinating things. Ahhhh... Avoidance, you evil bastard!
8. I'm easily annoyed by ridiculously small stuff.

Take some time. Think about it. What are your warning signs that you're not standing strong? Please share with me if you care to. Sometimes all it takes to snap me out of it is to admit to it.

Join *8Things

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mammy's Little Baby Loves Shortenin' Bread

Sometimes we get so used to enjoying things the way they are, that we don't bother looking for something better, something maybe more enjoyable. Complacency doesn't just happen when you accept a bad situation without trying to better it. Complacency also happens when you accept a good situation as the end all and be all.

This point was driven home to me in a biscuit. It wasn't bearing a saintly face, it didn't talk, the crumbs didn't fall appart into the shape of the burning sacred heart. It was just an ordinary damned buttermilk biscuit.

I make my own biscuits, always have, always will. I don't do biscuits out of a can, in fact, I don't even consider them real biscuits. I make biscuits the way my Mom made them, which was the way my Grandma Black made them. I've been doing this for at least the 30 years since I moved from my parents' home. I probably made them before that. I know I used to "help" my Mom cut them out.

So, basically, I've been eating the same biscuit for all my life. Decent flake, but not overly fluffy or doughy. It's definitely a Northern type of biscuit, compared to some of the Southern stylings that I've sampled. It's a good biscuit. They've graced many a groaning board and came away with praise.

I've made that very same biscuit a couple of times for Steve. He liked it okay, appreciated the effort. Then, a couple of months ago, out of the blue, nary a biscuit in sight, he said, "Have you ever tried making those biscuits a little fluffier? Kind of like the pancakes I make, so they're lighter?" I have to tell you, Steve, no question about it, makes the best pancake I've ever eaten. So, instead of bristling at the thought of changing a time-tested "perfect" recipe, I listened and I thought about it.

As a result, over the past month or so, I thought about biscuit dough a lot. I've pondered just what I could tweak to change it up to meet Steve's request. The whole time I couldn't help but think, "But... it's tradition! I'm messing with tradition!" As if my mother was going to get wind of the whole kafuffle, come marching out here and wallop me with a wooden spoon. As if the spirit of my Grandma Black would come whooshing in on a cold gust of wind and turn the flour into a dusty spectral dervish.

Change is good. Right? Of course, right.

Last night I roasted a chicken, made smashed potatoes, fresh corn, salad and... a reinvented biscuit. It was really the Black Family Biscuit Recipe with a few minor tweaks. It turned out amazingly good - light, fluffy, just the right mixture of crumb and flake, buttery, warm, mouth-watering, mind melting goodness. Steve was so right.

Sometimes, if we'll listen, if we'll think about it, if we'll try... what's good gets even better.

Monday, September 6, 2010

All That Shimmers

The world's just not as sparkly as you want it to be. We should all carry some glitter and add a little bit along the way.
~Sleep Talkin' Man

Needless to say, the above quote really appealed to my crafting (crafty?) sensibility. I often use glitter on my cards - the very fine art glitter, not the big chunky stuff (eewwww). See, the trick is, you don't want to over do it. A little glitter goes a long way. Just a dot here and there to give the work some extra shimmer, that little unexpected "eye candy." Too much is just tacky. I'm talking literal terms here, but that applies figuratively too.

It's nice to add a little light, love, and shine to the world. The same rule applies... all it takes is just a little. If we all throw a little sprinkle on the day, it'll be dazzling. No heavy labor involved.

That's it. That's my message for this last holiday hurrah for the Summer. Spread some light, keep it light.

Shine on, you crazy diamond...
~Pink Floyd

Well, we all shine on,
like the moon, and the stars, and the sun,
Yeah, we all shine on,
on and on and on and on and on...
~John Lennon

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Full Moon

Thank you for joining me again for Poetry Saturday (I really need to come up with a more clever name, now that I've established tradition). This poem is one of my favorite things that I've ever written. I've never decided if it's because of the way the words flow, or because of what it meant to me to write it. Both. Neither. It was the tenderly placed and humbly accepted gift of freedom.

Have a wonderful weekend.

The Juxtaposition of a Mending Heart Against a Sadder Time

if anyone were to ask
was there a time
when the black umbrellas
and the reign ended;
the crows again flew, stark
against the Summer sun;
the scent of roses threw
their stain along the tendrils
of the wind;
and the quiet of a day
no longer stretched itself,
yawning like a wound -
if anyone were to ask
when was the moment
that gave beat to the measure;
what drove
the cloud from the lining;
which dog ate the marrow,
warm and quivering, from
the heart of the bone;
how gracefully the slumbering giant
rolled away from the dew
of morning -
if anyone were to ask
what changed it all
my response would be:
it happened as he
listened to the unspoken;
honored an unshed tear;
gave loft to the gauze
of an airless dream;
held an empty hand until
it grasped everything -
if anyone were to ask
I’d have to say
these things became
as effortlessly
and unremarked
as the wink of an eye
that is
the color of the Aegean Sea

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, September 3, 2010

Real Worth


Welcome once again to the Church of the Wayward Gypsy. We need to talk.

What are you going to do when all your precious bits of paper crumble? When your treasures turn to rust? When you realize that your real worth isn't what you have, but what you have to give?

There is a reckoning coming in your life. You - the people I'm talking to - you know who you are, although currently, you're probably too self-absorbed to acknowledge this. I'm not talking about a religious, biblical epiphany (as if I would!). But, you're about to hit a wall. A very big, solid, hard brick wall. It's going to stop you. It's going to hobble you. You're not aware enough to see it coming. All you can focus on is the fashion statement you're making and what the neighbors are thinking. I promise you, it's going to hurt. I don't feel sorry for you, I'm siding with the wall. You've got this one comin', you built it yourself.

The question is, how will you react when you slam into it? Will your first reaction, as you're sitting stunned on the pavement, be, "It's not fair!"? Or will you pick yourself up, get real and deal?

Want to avoid the wall?
Shut up. Open your ears.
Stop looking in the mirror. Look around.
Stop expecting. Start doing.

Learn and practice these ten words:

Acknowledgement - recognition of the existence or truth of something
Awareness - a state of being informed or alert
Charity - leniency in judging others, forbearance, mercy
Compassion - a feeling of deep sympathy for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering
Forgive - to grant pardon, to cease to feel resentment against, to cancel an indebtedness
Gratitude - the quality of being or feeling thankful
Honor - honesty, fairness, or integrity
Humility - the quality or condition of being humble, modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance
Kindness - consideration of others, helpfulness,humanity
Meditation - the act of engaging in thought, contemplation, or reflection

Have we learned anything today?

Go in peace.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Living In Color

Rainbow of Chaos
Inspired by:
"We live in a rainbow of chaos."
~Paul Cezanne

Art is a funny thing. It's so subjective. I've always known this, but not on as personal of a level as I do now. There are things I've made that I thought, "boy, this will really get raves," but I end up hearing nothing. There are other things I've made that I thought, "well, at least I got whatever it is out, but I can't see anyone getting excited about it." Yet, it seems like those are the very things that everyone does get excited about. I think it's because they sense the heart behind the art.

Passion, even when it's not our own, does something to us when we see it. We crave a piece of it. We want what they've got, even if it is only an approximation. We see angels in the architecture and we want to live there.

Here's an even funnier thing. An artsy friend acquaintance of mine hinted that she felt threatened by my art. She seemed to have this idea in her head that I was going to, I don't know, maybe out art her in some way. How silly. For one thing, we're very different artists - different styles, different concepts, different mediums. Besides that, I'm not in it for the competition! That would just be foolhardy. Still, she was bothered that I've been so prolific lately, bothered that I'm willing to dabble with so many varying ideas. How can I not? That would be like tapping a well and lying down next to it until you die of thirst.

I know that it's all about some deep seated insecurity on her part. Duh. I get that. But. Huh. I don't get that.

*scratches head*

See... this is all still very new to me. It's a discovery. It's a recent discovery that I'm really, really excited about. As I unearth this buried treasure, I continue to find more to be excited about. So, I want to share that with others in the same way mathematical geeks get jacked about deciphering a new equation, in the same way spelunkers get worked up over a new cave segment. Even so, on the flip side of that is a humility that borders on timidity. Honestly, my art is very personal and I wouldn't share at all except that my art is very personal. It's part of me. It's who I am. Not sharing it would be... oh... like telling a friend to shut up when they ask me how I am.

What it comes down to...

Art is my adventure. It's my journey of a lifetime, both figuratively and literally. I'm just sharing the photographs from my trip.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In a Stew

September... I feel the shift and turn. The slow tick of winding down. Or winding into. Into my time of year. Into the place where everything within me screams alive, while everything without dries, blows away, and eventually is shrouded. We slowly wander into the darkness and light a blazing fire against it. We hunker and huddle. Some sleep. Some of us thrive. For me, these are the long lazy days. These are the days of slowness, of an almost ethereal waiting. These are days when obfuscation is swept away with a brutally cold wind that leaves thoughts as clear as the barren branches.

For some, all of this is unbearable. For me, it is a time of wonder.

As we were hit with a cold, rainy front yesterday, I was thinking of making stew while I ate my breakfast. This is something that's best thought of early in the day, but normally, I can't imagine what I'll want for dinner until it's much closer to dinner time. As I considered the possibility, the thought flitted across my mind, "You can't rush a good stew." It stopped me. Simple profoundness often does.

There is nothing worse than an undercooked stew. It needs a long, slow heat to achieve greatness. Without that, you end up with tough, tasteless meat, and boring potatoes that haven't had time to lend their starchy goodness to the boring soupy stuff. With the long, slow heat comes tenderness, meat that falls apart, soft potatoes that have absorbed the other flavors in the stew and have given back their starchy goodness (sorry, but I like that phrase), a thickened broth that is nearly a living, breathing entity - giving back as much as it takes. Perhaps there are carrots. Bright orange, sweet, earthy bits that sing the song of the stew. The whole house is redolent with the scent. People come home to that scent and say, "What is that? I'm in love!" Add a good, fresh, homemade biscuit, and you've made magic.

But it takes slowing down. It takes time. It takes gentle heat for that true marriage to come alive.

So, into the darkness, I go... with a glowing fire and a sturdy cauldron. And welcome the coming Autumn with arms wide. Join me. There's plenty of room around the fire.