At one of my many church gigs this month I heard a message that caught my ear. A message of hope. A blessing to raise us out of the darkness. I was struck by the universality of the words. The context was obviously sacred yet there was also a clear secular interpretation. Winter solstice--the ancient ritual welcoming the light. Later I googled the author and discovered the piece was written by Jan Richardson
, a writer, artist and Methodist minister.
Her poem is titled How the Light Comes: A Blessing For Christmas Day. Contemplate her words this Winter Solstice. And take whatever meaning you may find into your heart.
I cannot tell you
how the light comes.
What I know
is that it is more ancient
That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.
That it loves
what is hidden
what is lost
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.
That it has a fondness
for the body
for finding its way
for tracing the edges
for shining forth
through the eye,
I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still
to the blessed light
Saw a great video on Keri Smith's blog
and just had to share. This gem was a Kickstarter campaign for the film project, Lost in Living
, about 4 artists/mothers who are trying to make both work. At 7:32 one of the main characters laments, "I can unexpectedly find myself in a little hole of despair. Why can't I keep my house clean? Why are there grease stains on my sofa? This is not who I was supposed to be." She goes on, "Music and art fixes that. It puts the sheen back on everything."
This story is about creative mommies but change the players and the message still fits. It could be employees stretched to the max or full-time care-givers. Change the outlet and the message is the same. Swap out creative pursuits for physical or spiritual outlets. Put the the sheen back on your life.
You may see many messages in this video. I see women wrestling with being themselves. I see people battling with their Super Egos. The struggle between what they want to do and what they feel they should do is torturous. One of the artist's young daughters is asked, "Is your mommy an artist?" She thinks for a while, then answers, "She used to be."
The video is well worth the ten minutes it will take you to watch. The imagery of the final scene at 9:40 is spot on. The message is clear. It is not easy to make the time for yourself. But everyone needs the time to be themselves.
This post is written on behalf of Outlet
, a green zine dedicated to more fun and satisfying lives. Published quarterly Outlet's preview issue will be available on December 15th. Each issue will feature a themed activity. Let's welcome each other to Outlet. Submit your chalk welcome mats this week to be included in Outlet Issue #1.
Outlet is about encouraging all of us to find our essential outlets. Not a soapbox; instead, Outlet is a forum for discussion, questions and group activities. Let’s start with activities because that’s the fun part. You get to make something, snap a pic and send it to us. We’ll feature a photo montage of all submissions in the zine.
The theme for our first activity is Chalk Welcome Mats. Without thinking too much run outside and draw a big chalk welcome mat on your front porch. A friend or someone young could come along to help you avoid overthinking. Just let yourself go. Do it quick--the deadline is November 10th! Please have fun with this, be playful and imagine delighting in welcoming each other to a new community come December 15th.
After a whole paragraph about being spontaneous we do need to mention a few small rules--don’t worry! Send your photos with “Chalk Welcome Mats” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org
by November 10th. By submitting your photos you are also giving us permission to use them on our FaceBook Page and website. If you’d like to protect your privacy turn off the locations settings on your camera or phone.
A big shout-out to Improvised Life. Their post on chalk welcome mats
provided the inspiration.
And by all means, if you feel too constrained by this themed activity then send us a photo of your version of “Welcome”. We can’t wait to see your designs!
My recent post on Letting Go received an insightful comment. “Letting Go can be so hard, especially when you've experienced something difficult long term. I appreciate your suggestion to free write to help release the things we hang on to and determine why. Journaling can be such a cathartic practice and can reveal underlying issues, that, when addressed, can change your life. Writing about the things we treasure can also help unearth what really matters to us.” With that comment came an interesting invitation. Dawn Herring, Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter went on to invite me to her weekly journal discussion where “Letting Go” was the the @JournalChat pick of the day and pick of the week. I was honored to be part of the discussion and to learn about her great journaling resource. Visit the latest edition of Dawn’s Refresh Journal to read more about last week’s chat. You can also sign up to receive your own weekly copy.
Journaling was just one of my suggestions for letting go after a loss or lengthy grieving process. Let’s talk about journalling a little more. I use free-writing every morning in order to both let go and discover more about myself. I can’t recommend this practice enough. Since this is a creativity blog I encourage journaling to get in touch with hidden stores of creativity that may lay untapped within each of us. And you might guess journaling is extremely useful for unblocking. All types of journaling will be a regular feature in my upcoming zine, Outlet, because it’s the easiest, and most overlooked, way to find yourself.
No fancy tools are necessary--just a spiral notebook a pen and 20 minutes of your time.
Free writing, or stream of consciousness writing is the simplest way to begin. As I said last week, “go buy a spiral notebook, put pen to paper and keep it moving. That’s the important part. The motion of the pen will connect with the flow of your subconscious and you will let go.” Buy a bunch of college-ruled spiral notebooks when they’re on sale. I prefer gel pens because they flow so smoothly. My best time to write is in the early morning before too much information invades my thoughts. But of course, there are no rules here. Write when it fits with your schedule, whether that’s after the kids leave for school, at lunchtime when you have some down time or before you go to bed. Write for about 20 minutes or 3 pages in your spiral notebook. If you’re doing this for the first time you will have to work to silence your inner critic and simply write. To be perfectly honest, when I first started this practice more than a decade ago I thought it was silly. But I kept at it. And now I can’t really do without it. Even my husband notices the difference in me on the rare occasions I miss.
What about you? Do keep a journal? Or is the time right for you to get started? Add your experiences in the comments section below.
Earlier in the week we talked through strategies for letting go of emotional and physical holding. If you find it’s difficult to get started don’t be surprised. Take a moment and think about the heavy load you may be carrying. It can be nearly impossible to act when you are weighed down by sorrow, pain and piles of memories. This process takes time; it’s important to acknowledge that the timeline is different for everyone.
Once you are able to let go of some of the uncomfortable thoughts and unfocused memorabilia you can begin to think about clearing your space. Remember there will still be an emptiness that yearns to be filled. In order to clear it’s helpful to inject positive energy into the empty place by creating a sacred space--a shrine.
“To make a shrine, no matter how simple, is to make art--not for profit, but as a gift.” ~Jean McMann from her book “Altars and Icons, Sacred Spaces in Everyday Life. ” She goes on to say, “...many individuals are turning for comfort and stability to the ancient powers of objects: not the glossy consumer items we are encouraged to buy, but the priceless, tarnished relics of personal and family histories. These things represent our triumphs, our epiphanies, our tragic losses; we cherish them, display them, and endow them with magic.”
What are your priceless relics and personal reminders? Photos, valentines, trophies--whatever touches your heart. Look for a place to display your most cherished mementos. Is there a place you’ll see and honor them every day? It may be a space on the mantle or a new sacred spot designated just for this comforting purpose. You may want more than one shrine in your home. It could be a permanent or mutable display. Think of it--you are the curator of these rich memories. Your physical involvement with making the shrine is important--selecting objects, tenderly arranging them and caring for them will help keep your creative energy flowing.
The shelf at the top of my staircase contains a selection of objects that remain constant and lend stability to other cherished mementos that change as life changes. In the past dozen years I have filled it with treasures from my children’s younger days, honored my mother with reminders of my own childhood and even looked fondly back on my pets’ full yet short lives. Calming and bittersweet--it serves as a three-dimensional collage of the times we spent together. This shrine is part of my life--just like they were.
Maybe you already have made an arrangement that brings you comfort. If not, would you consider collecting precious items and making a shrine? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you’d like to share your shrine post your photos on our Facebook Page.
Last week’s post on Empty Nest reminded me of feeling stuck. Focusing on an event such as watching my children move on brings back all those memories. One would think that tears could just woosh away the pain and sadness. Unfortunately that’s not the case. When major life changes occur (and truthfully any changes, good or bad, are processed as loss) our intention is to hold tight. But it’s hard to hold something that isn’t there. We grasp yet all we can find is a hole. That emptiness breeds fear, anxiety and tension in the body--in other words physical holding. That’s why loss is so painful.
Once our discomfort is magnified by sadness and physical pain we shift our direction and begin to hold onto things. It’s a very clever way to hide our distress. Toys, clothes, locks of hair, elementary school papers--anything that might fill up the hole. Now we have complexified our situation. Our bodies are in pain because of emotional holding and our homes are cluttered with stuff. We’re stuck.
Can you imagine the downward spiral if this continued? It’s a wretched cycle. And the worst thing about it is our lives are constantly changing. We are experiencing some kind of loss on a regular basis. Which makes the threat of getting stuck all the more real. Loss of loved ones, loss of job, changes of job definition and serious injury are devastating. Interruption to routine, illness and disappointment are frequent changes. What can we do about it? I wish there were an simple way to ease the pain. If you want to get unstuck the only way is to learn to adapt. Try taking these steps towards letting go:
- Turn and face the pain instead of running away. This is the most difficult choice. I get it. But it’s also the most direct path towards letting go. A wise woman once told me that a feeling only lasts about 30 seconds. You may face excruciatingly painful feelings--but you can make it for 30 seconds. Practice with the little daily occurrences and you’ll be better prepared for the big ones. This is so challenging and contrary to our nature that you may spend a lifetime practicing. It is worth your time.
- Start your day with 20 minutes of uncensored, stream of consciousness writing. Giving yourself the time and a private place to note your darkest thoughts or celebrate your victories will help you let go. Don’t overthink this. Go buy a spiral notebook, put pen to paper and keep it moving. That’s the important part. The motion of the pen will connect with the flow of your subconscious and you will let go. No words? Write blah, blah, blah until the words come. You may have to write a half page of nonsense before words begin to flow--and that’s ok. I first read about this method in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.”
- Evaluate your mementos. Identify the things you’re holding. My mother kept both her children’s bedrooms preserved--as if we’d never left. I did the same when my older son left for college. It wasn’t until my younger son moved out--six years later--that I realized I was doing exactly the same thing. Is there a space in your home that you tend to avoid? For example, my son’s preserved bedroom--I kept the door shut and I felt anxious about going inside. That’s a hint you need to handle it. Take an afternoon and make piles--toss, donate, keep, and cherish. Yes, absolutely keep the items that have meaningful sentimental value. Don’t hold onto every scrap. You won’t lose your children or your memories; you will gain yourself. Give yourself time and have a box of tissues handy. It will be emotionally exhausting work but letting go will make you free.
- Fill the space in a positive way. Look for the possibility instead of the loss. I’ll talk more about this later in the week.
- Review my coping strategies. Try my strategies for coping with loss. Making a plan for handling life’s inevitable losses will empower you and that will help you let go. Edit my list with the strategies that work for you.
- What works for you? Add your steps for letting go and getting unstuck in the comments section below.
My mother always said, “Only two things in life are certain--death and taxes.” I’d like to add one more item to the list--change. Change is certain.
When you’ve spent the last 18 years of your life raising a child it doesn’t feel like anything will ever change. Each moment is a part of you. Their laughter is your favorite song. Their cuddles are molded to your form. Their scent gives life to your breath.
And just like that, high school is over. It’s time for them to go. You want to cling yet they can’t wait to take the next step. And what a big step it is. It's a leap that creates a chasm of space.
Change. As painful as this may feel, take heart in knowing that now it’s time for you. Take all that time and love and energy you sent out to your children and turn it inward. Do you feel lost? Try finding yourself. Are you grieving? Give yourself a hug. Do you feel lonely? Invest in the closest friend you’ll ever have.
This may seem impossible right now. But think of it this way: you’ve had 18 years to practice loving someone. Your nest was a labor of love. Why not re-feather--for yourself?
I have some exciting news to share: I’m 2 months away from launching a new ezine! Outlet Zine was conceived in April 2012 as an inspirational zine for creative empowerment--the zine of self-fulfillment. It’s inspired by the visually stimulating art zines, “Play” and “Art and Life” from Teesha Moore, by the unique and arty quarterly of interiors, “Nest” and by the cutting edge ezine, “Rookie” created by the style blogging wunderkind, Tavi Gevinson. Mix that together with articles, photos and videos about pursuing physical, spiritual and creative outlets and you have Outlet Zine. I’m just agog over the world of possibilities of an online publication!
There is a certain life-cycle of a vision. The initial stages are thrilling, exciting and full of creative energy. The planning part is fun. Then reality sets in. If this thing is really going to work there has to be a mission and a business plan. There are a lot of nuts and bolts that can turn to questions and doubts.
But now that I made it past that clarifying work I’ve arrived at another exciting point: it’s actually becoming real. Now it’s more like teamwork which is really invigorating. Some fantastic friends are contributing and my talented stepson is illustrating the cover. It's an exciting new path--who knows where it will lead?
Of course there’s more work to do like contacting additional contributors, writing, layouts and meeting my own deadlines. The preview issue will be available mid-November. The best news? The preview issue is free! Share this post with your friends. Retweet to your followers. And follow my new Tumblr Blog so you can read about my progress. Most importantly, sign up for the preview issue here or below--I need your help with feedback (and submissions!) for future issues.
I can’t wait to share the preview with you!
Home canning. What a fabulous way to savor summer’s bounty! I spent the past weekend canning tomato sauce. My recipe? Twenty pounds of tomatoes, one boiling hot kitchen and many, many hours of time yield tidy rows of crimson jars. I love cooking homemade sauce and nothing can beat the flavor. But spending the time is luxury that I can ill afford. That’s why, as often as possible, I look for ways to save time. How about you? Would you like to preserve veggies in a fraction of the time? Read on.
The solution is fermented vegetables! Make as little or as much as you like in less than 30 minutes and enjoy delicious crunchy veggies for the next several months.
All you need to preserve these healthy veggies:
Quart canning jars
Plastic lids--in a pinch use the metal jar rings with a bit of plastic wrap or waxed paper in place of the seals
Organic veggies and herbs
Cold filtered water
Chop a variety of vegetables. Add them to clean quart jars along with herbs and 1 ½ to 2 Tbs sea salt mixed with 2 cups of filtered water. Top the mixture with a cabbage leaf to hold the veggies under water, screw on the lid and let them sit on your counter for 5 to 7 days. When they’re done they’ll be a little bubbly, a lot salty and full of healthful probiotics. Store the fermented vegetables in your fridge for up to six months.
What about flavor combinations? To get started I tried assorted veggies like cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots and beets mixed with peppercorns and lots of dill. Since then I’ve tried Italian mixes of red and green peppers, chili, radish and sweet onion with basil; Thai veggie mixes with bok choy, cucumber and carrot with cilantro, basil and mint; and Mexican flavors with peppers, chilis, onions, cilantro and red chili flakes. I’ve even made jars of cucumbers, garlic, peppercorns and dill that taste like old fashioned half-sours. Improvise your own flavor combinations--whatever you choose will be delicious, salty, crunchy and so good for you.
I like to mix them with brown rice or quinoa a little olive oil and some toasted almonds for a simple lunch salad. They are also a yummy vegetable accompaniment for a chicken or fish dinner.
Make one jar or several. Try it--they are so quick and easy you can make a batch today! Let me know what you tried in the comments section below.
Visit nourishingmeals.com to read their great blog post and watch a how-to video.
We’ve been here before. All four of us were members ten years ago when the Colorado Springs Symphony went bankrupt. On New Year’s Eve we played Strauss waltzes while the audience sipped champagne. The next day, the new year, we were out of work and out of benefits. Just like that. Maybe that’s why we were willing to do whatever we could this time around.
Our quartet had worked well for nearly 20 years. Just word of mouth. No advertising save for the very first season. By the time I joined the quartet we had 80+ in the audience two nights in a row. And the 3rd night was growing. It was a dream come true. Then came reality. Our numbers fell off, we exhausted our reserves and our board reached their saturation point. They gave us an ultimatum--go to one performance night or cease to exist. We found ourselves at the crossroads of “Fold” or “Make it Work”.
We decided to take matters into our own hands and start a new series. It was more work for us. Much more work. But it gave us ownership and a way to keep our quartet alive. After years of simply programming music, rehearsing and playing concerts we were now in charge of everything. Where would we play? What would we play? Who would come? We held planning meetings. We selected an informal board of supporters. In order to preserve our core audience we picked another name and organised a photo shoot for marketing.
Last August we launched City Strings at a beautiful space in a brewpub that was warm, inviting and very much at the center of city nightlife. It’s been a year now--our first anniversary concert is next week. We’ve had to learn advertising, marketing, promotion, production--just to name a few of the hats we currently don. It’s been a year of attempts and misfires. A year of celebrations and some defeats. And mostly a year of really hard work. Would we do it again? Absolutely!
As an arts group in the current economic climate you may find yourself in similar circumstances. To realize not only your creative outlet but your livelihood is threatened is devastating. When we first heard the dire outlook for our quartet we were paralyzed. It was nearly impossible to concentrate on what needed to be done. Little by little we absorbed the blow and were able to act. Here are the steps we took:
- Seek the counsel of an expert. After receiving our board’s final offer we talked to an individual with experience in our field. Their advice was--you don’t necessarily have to accept their decision. Prepare yourselves and make a counter-proposal.
- Enlist help. We rounded up every supporter on the board and sought out new supporters to help us with planning and executing the counter proposal. These angels also volunteered their time with meetings, marketing and even generous donations.
- Think outside the box. Just because the model had run successfully for 19 years didn’t mean it was working in the present. We made lists of alternate venues, alternate program styles and different audience segments. From these lists we selected one combination and focused our energy.
- Don’t be afraid to change. Our board didn’t want to lose or confuse our current subscribers so we picked a 2nd name and style to make a fresh start with our new concert series.
- Self examination. We took a good hard look at our strengths and our weaknesses. We picked our strongest element from the established series, then expanded and enhanced it for the new series.
Not unlike most of the classical ensembles I hear about, our biggest challenge continues to be finding audience. And we’ve all taken on more of the work load. But the benefit is we are learning what it takes to run an ensemble. We are completely invested in the outcome.
Will we make it? I’d love to give you a happy ending but it has yet to be written. Today was our first rehearsal together in 3 months. When I arrived the founding violinist came to my car to greet me. “I’m just so excited to play together again.” We are grateful for what we have. I’ve got a good feeling about the end of this story.