Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Am I? and Where am I Going?

If I may borrow a quote from one of my favorite books by Dawna Markova, I will not die an unlived life... "Thomas Hardy once observed that your birthday exists in relation to another day, a day that is impossible to know: we pass silently, every year, over the anniversary of our death. How would it change you if you knew the date of when you were going to die? Would your priorities change? Pema Chodron, author and teacher, describes how most of us go through life like people standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon with brown paper bags over our heads. Would the bag still be there if you knew your "death day" each year? How would you remove it?"

Before my parents passed away a few years ago, I didn't think much about death. Maybe its a subject no one wants to think about, but putting death into another perspective I have chosen to think of death as the threshold of new beginnings. Just as the the inevitability of death comes to all of us eventually, death also happens every moment and every day in smaller ways, but by the passing of time, and change of seasons, the loss of a job, the loss of a dear friend, or our ability to work in the way we are used to. Change is an opportunity to prepare for acceptance of "death" of what unfortunately we seem to hold on to as permanent fixtures in our lives. The ability to think of our lives as un-permanent, and transient, and yet eternal in some way, makes death a non issue. We are born, we live and we die... But during the time in between, what and who we are during this small space in time, is what is important after all is said and done. What are we leaving behind in the minds of those that knew us or didn't know us? How are we affecting those we touch with our minds and souls while we are alive?

I think most people, if asked "Who are you?" would say what they do for a living, or some other type of "label" of who they think they are....but that is not who we really are....we are NOT our labels...we are not our identifiers such as the type of house we live in, or the cars we drive, or the clothes we wear, or our "jobs" or the kinds of foods we eat, or the clubs we dine at or the classes we take or even for that matter the things we create....we are facilitators of energy ... that is all...we transmit and transmute energy through love (hopefully) to create beauty wherever we go....that is all we are...creators. All of the above - are truly part and parcel of our personalities, and certainly affect us in many ways, but truly are not who we are. Those things are part of the illusion we create to illustrate the story we write about who we either think we are or who we believe we are supposed to fulfill an identity perhaps forced on us by our parents, or family or society. To truly know who you are takes time and determination and a strong desire to know.

What if we thought of our lives every day by waking up thinking what a beautiful day we have been given to work our energy magic with! Every interaction you would have from that moment on would change with those thoughts. Some days you are on track to create something defined and specific, but if your intent is to just allow the beauty of the moment to flow through your heart, mind and body....whatever it is you are creating will be perfect. Remember, there are no mistakes. We don't get to take our possessions with us when we cross over to the other side - only our essence travels with us...everything else stays behind and the only meaning it has is what people place on it.

Can we sustain that thought? Work through our fear of death? What if I lost my job? What if I couldn't feed my family? What IF I got hurt and couldn't work...? What if, What if, what if...goes on and on in the mind....all meaningless and nothing but fear. What IF we instead took the plunge and just QUIT our miserable job, and decided to do something else? If you were totally committed to what you were doing, the universe would provide for you I guarantee, because I did it myself in 1993....I can't say it was easy at first but I never doubted for one moment that I was doing the right thing. I have had to change "who I thought I was"....and just be willing to get on purpose, and trust and what I needed always appeared at the right time. Learning to manifest abundance or lack thereof, (and redefining what I think abundance actually IS) is a skill that I am always practicing. I am always open to new ways and ideas to make this process easier and better, but initially no matter what method you use...the first is believing in yourself and your goal. NOT who you THINK you are but who you KNOW you are. Knowing yourself is key. A great philosopher said it "Know Thyself"....and he was right. Knowing who you really are, a shining beacon of light, capable of great things, first and foremost is understanding and affirming that fact.

So much pain and suffering in life could be avoided if we could learn at an earlier age, to ignore labels, and judgment not only of others but in particular our SELVES...Parker Palmer, author, mentor and guide, wrote: "No punishment anyone might inflict on us could possibly be worse than the punishment we inflict on our selves by conspiring in our own diminishment."

What he meant by that is believing the lies we tell ourselves about what we, or society, tells us, we should do or don't do. People who "follow their dreams" are often labeled "selfish" or "irresponsible"....but in fact they are people who have gotten over believing that they should do what other people think they should do, or what other people are doing. They are people who are not afraid to dream big dreams and try to achieve them, who are not afraid to sacrifice all the "things" or societal markers of "wealth and security" for a bigger goal, that of personal happiness.

For some people, having the house, the car and the kids, is essential to their happiness and if that is true then that is their destiny, but for a few others, that is not the case. They tried it, did it, and were ready to move on in a short time to forge their own destiny their own way. For these people the world is their oyster.

For couples who share in the dream of making each other's lives stronger and better, there is an added bonus. For singles, it is sometimes a bit more challenging, but nevertheless still possible to manifest your dreams. Anything is possible! We are not cacti in the desert, baked and parched for centuries, untouched and untouchable...we are human, alive and always growing, like a beautiful sunflower, radiating love and energy. Giving back as much as we take, and more.

I'm not sure where this is all going, or where it even came from, but was on my mind as I continue to pursue the meaning and contribution of the latest art project I am working on, "Another part of myself" I'm calling it. Creating something that will hopefully bring joy to its viewers, and with a concept born of my introspective thoughts on where I am going today. Often as I work my mind wanders to these places, thinking of what does this mean...another part of myself? and what it means to me is that I am often evaluating where I am in the spectrum of life. How much did my activities today contribute to my life or to the world? Or did this day provide nothing but a safe pad to crash in for a few hours, while I pondered the state of affairs in the inner and outer world? Did I use my time to truly accomplish my goals today or did I allow myself to be distracted from here and there? Only I can answer that, for all things are important, there are no mistakes and there are no "wasted days"....everything is on purpose, and on schedule.
Love and best always.....

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Unfolding of My Self

"If we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us, so it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of persons we are. And it is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of humanity is to sacrifice ourselves for something higher--that which we believe in and love deeply" ___Cesar Chavez

I'd like to be able to just wiggle my nose and have new and really great ideas for art pop into my head, magically. I talk a lot about being inspired by nature, but sometimes my inspiration doesn't come from nature or anywhere around me. My inspiration, or ideas, are often born out of past experiences, painful memories, and joyful memories too, jumbled together and struggling to make sense of it all. Nature, or being in and around it, can definitely promote the creative process, but the actual art does not always come from nature.

Through my artistic creations I find ways to process those memories into something meaningful to me, or something beautiful with a defined form using mediums I can control--such as clay or stone. Because in Nature we do not control anything, JUST as it is in life. Control, if you can call it that, comes in the initial choice as we stand at the cross roads of life deciding which way to turn. But once you make that turn, there is no going back. And because life events are so transient, Artistic creativity, whether it is through sculpture, painting, writing, playing music or whatever your medium, is a way of going back over the events of your life and re-doing them or transmuting the energy of the event into something beautiful and lasting. Only the mediums and choices are "controlled"; the actual outcome should always be left to the mystery.

With sculpture, depending on the medium you choose to work with, you can poke, and prod, until you have created something pleasing to your eyes, and move on from there. I believe there are no mistakes either in life or in art but the level of excellence comes through in the process and methods you use, and how well you execute them. Just as in life, there are no mistakes, however some people seem to plod through life falling into one rut after another , whereas some people just seem to have an instinct for taking the right road and staying out of ruts--flawless execution! I have been one of those who always took the road less traveled and seemed to be attracted to the bumps in the road. Luckily I was always a quick learner AND a perfectionist, and didn't often repeat the same mistake twice. But have had a few doozies in my time. I always said, looking back, that these experiences were what have given me character and substance with lots of food for thought to draw on when writing and creating art.

But getting back to the "control" thing....I have been pondering this all week since I am well into my latest project...a new mosaic piece for my Soul series on the Self. This piece has been committed for a show in September and I agreed to make a new piece because I like chaos in my life, it seems. Not that I don't have enough to do with myself as it is, but the challenge of making a new piece was too much to pass up, especially if I was under a time crunch besides. I have said many times that there are two kinds of artists...those who create art for money, and those who create art out of the pure love of creation. The latter is me. This does create a problem however because I have always made art on my own schedule, according to my own terms. I have difficulty with people who try to tell me what to do with my art.
After all it is my creation right? I don't make art to suit someones living room decor, or fit into their color scheme....either they love the art just because and can't live without it, and if they do they will change their color scheme to fit the art or not! Now that said, it brings me back to this work of art. I spent the better of two weeks thinking about what this piece should be?, what would it have to say to the world? Will it be feminine or masculine? Will it have a colorful personality or will it be simple and pure? These are all valid questions when birthing a new idea or a new sculpture. Meditation, writing and sketching are all important steps in the process, but eventually I had to get out of "control" mode and just allow whatever idea came to me flow.

I compiled a stack of supplies that I knew I would need, like toys, and gathered them all around me on my work table.
There were a few basic things I had to do such as constructing the base and inner form but the creative part was just working with the materials. For two days I have been "playing in the mud" so to speak...working with the ideas that just came to me instinctively and finally have the basic element for the inner structure of the new mosaic. I have yet to name is a feminine form with a ghostly apparition attached to the mystery is what to call her...what have I created from my past? What am I trying to teach with this piece of art? What will be her message? That is all in the mystery and will be unfolding as I progress....So far I call it "Another part of Myself"

Stay tuned for more "unfolding".... In the meantime just enjoy the beauty of nature around us. Try to imagine your life as a balloon, floating, drifting and being propelled by the winds of time, totally out of your control, and yet you are at the drivers seat turning the flame, that keeps you afloat. When the flame goes out, you have reached the end of the ride. Remember to keep the flame alive at all times and enjoy the ride from a higher perspective...when you look down from that higher point of view, you will see things differently. Things that once seemed so large, are meaningless and almost disappear from your site.

Blessings to all...come back to visit again!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finding Inspiration in Nature

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"___Marcel Proust

I mention often in my writing about how much I enjoy Nature and how I love to find inspiration for my artwork from Nature. These photos were taken a year or so ago during a trip to the the High Desert in Southern California to a place called Joshua Tree National Park. It is an amazing place to visit and the sights are incredible. Many people cannot imagine that a desert could be beautiful but the rock formations are so amazing it is almost as though giant hands actually carved the rocks out of clay and just dropped them into the barren desert a thousand years ago, and they remain unchanged for us to enjoy today.

There is vegetation in the desert, and depending on whether or not the desert had any rain the previous winter, will determine how colorful. But it is all a feast for the eyes. The inspiration I get from being in the desert, is unlike what you find on the beach or walking through the woods in the high Sierra region of California. That area is no less serene however, with the same kind of gargantuan rock formations and lovely streams and watersheds scattered throughout the region, but with the tall forests around, you feel a sense of protection, perhaps, less vulnerable than in the desert. But either place is a place of beauty and serenity. If one was inclined to paint, you would never run out of subject matter, for the shapes and colors of the simplest things take on new meaning when you start to examine them from different perspectives. Like the photo I took of the small stream with leaves and branches suspended above it.

Both of the two photos here were taken in the High Sierra mountains where the giant redwoods grow and if one wanted to get lost forever, this would be the place to go. A beautiful paradise to discover and explore nature, opportunities for hiking, camping and taking pictures are endless.

How I derive "inspiration" from Nature is not that I seek to copy nature in my art, but true inspiration to me is a feeling that fills me INSIDE my Heart and Soul with the joy of just being there. Touching the ground, smelling the trees and walking on the rocks, I connect to something older and larger than myself. It is a humbling experience. It also encourages a feeling of inner peace. It is from that place of well being that I regenerate my own creativity, problem-solving ideas and general overall being more grounded. My head is clear, my thoughts are more focused and my thoughts flow more easily.

People have become so "out of touch" in their busy lives: get up, make breakfast, read the paper, rush to get ready to start the day, rush to get to lunch, grab a "meal on the go", finish our job, run errands, get back home for the kids or pets, throw a microwave dinner in the oven and spend the night watching TV...and on and on it goes for days on end. Some of us even have more than one job! This is life for many people today, not all, but many. Is it any wonder that we have so much depression in the world and people with feelings of low self esteem? Is it any wonder that so few people can derive inspiration from anything when they do not understand or seek out the balance between Man and Nature? Nature is there for all of us to enjoy and derive love and joy from...that is its precise purpose. But it is Man who has turned its back on Nature it seems and at time appears to be at war with nature and Mother Earth.

Many of us have neighbors in our neighborhood whom we have never met in two or more years. We are living less than 500 feet from each other and don't even know their names? Our society depends on the television, and computers to tell us what is real. But true reality is right in front of and breathing. Are we too out of touch to notice? Are we too focused on the insanity of day to day meaningless nonsense most of the time, to even take time to notice what IS real?

How can we be inspired for anything magnificent if we are too busy to notice a beautiful rock formation, or the colors of the rainbow in a stream? or the flowers of a cactus in full bloom? How can we write a beautiful stream of words, to someone we love, if our minds are too cluttered with thoughts of nothingness just to get through the day? Can you find beauty in a cactus? or a desert junkyard? Can you be awe inspired by an exquisite sunset ? Inspiration is all around us every day, we just need to make the choice to seek it out. Nuggets of beauty are all around you in the desert, and forests, along the beaches, little gems of nature that are there for everyone's inspiration!

I realize that not all people are so out of touch with Nature and themselves, but a lot of people, myself included, are managing a lot of things in their lives these days and often do not take time to "smell the roses". But as an Artist and creative person, it is extremely important to recharge your creative batteries from time to time, on a regular basis. The more you do this the more you will realize that it is not only fun, it is essential to staying balanced and inspired. Some of my best creative ideas come from taking a walk in a quiet place where I can observe nature in action - or non-action. There, you are forced to slow down as you "attune" energetically to the environment. A desert or forest is not exactly the place to go if you want to see things moving quickly and in fact, everything seems to slow down to a crawl, which is good. It's also why things there do not appear to change too much from year to year except for the effects that Man has upon Nature. Left to its own accord, Nature is pretty resilient and not normally violent. But when Mother Nature does decide to attack, she is the most powerful and potentially destructive forces on Earth. To me, this is a good reason to treat her with respect.

Another beautiful end to a beautiful day.

Friday, August 15, 2008


"The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face."

William Makepeace Thackeray, an English Novelist from the 1860's wrote this quote, and it has been repeated in many different ways in the years since. In fact it may even be responsible for the current mode of thinking that we see and hear about so often that our "thoughts create our reality". It's like the old saying "what you put out is what you get back". My mosaic shown here called "Self Reflection", is a visual observation of this quote; (Click image to enlarge) showing two faces gazing at each other, or reflecting off of each other. One side connected to the essence of our being (the Soul) and the other, more colorful side, demonstrating aspects of our personality, but both sides are still connected through the heart and both sides are also connect to the universal life force depicted by the mandala above the heads.

It is also an interesting observation that as we get older, our faces start to show the reflection of the kind of life we have lived. Our facial lines, or lack thereof, have more to do with our thoughts and feelings and deeds of a lifetime rather than if we remembered to brush, floss and wash our faces every night and use night cream. If one could study the anatomy of our body you would discover that the human face has over 200 major and minor muscles. The face, when studied by cameras and slowed down to show the slightest movement, reveals an incredible amount of movement that is undetectable when viewed at normal speed. What does that tell us? That our face is a mirror of both our inner and outer world and things that happen to us to cause our face to move--either through speech or eating, and in normal everyday activities no matter what we are doing the face is in perpetual motion from our thoughts.

This is why people who study facial expressions, and bodyworkers who study the anatomy of kinesthetic movement of the body and face, are able to detect restrictions in the body, thereby enabling them to help correct problems. Science has also learned that it is possible to detect micro movements in the face to detect emotions and read a person's energy (or thoughts if you will). The bronze sculpture here is entitled "Dream Weaver" and depicts a person deep in meditation, dreaming a better world.

What does all of this mean? To some people it may mean nothing but a mere observation of fact. But on another level IF it is true, then we need to be aware at all times that our thoughts are not only helping to energetically create our reality but create our bodies and faces as well. It is more important what we think than we think! Thinking happy thoughts, rather than dwelling on the past or sad events in our lives, or "mistakes we think we have made" does no one any good unless we are trying to resolve a painful past memory, or event, and thus come up with a creative solution to remedy it or change it. We all know we can't change the past, but we can heal it. We can also learn from it and move forward to create a much better today!

Most people have very interesting lives and could write a book about themselves if they sat down to think about it. But because time seems to pass so quickly, it is often difficult to remember what we did yesterday, let alone three weeks or three decades ago, but our bodies remember everything, and if you think you don't remember just because you cannot immediately recall the events, you are wrong. Somewhere in our DNA or inside of the massive computer called the brain, are stored the facts of every detail of our life ever since our first breath. We just are not consciously aware of it.

When I was practicing therapeutic and energetic bodywork and Reiki healing energy, we learned to work with somatic illness as a way of helping people to release through bodywork, either energetic or muscular, deep issues both emotional and physical that are stored as pain, deep in the body's muscular layers. I learned that there are 12 layers of pain. From the point at which you first "stored" the painful memory, to the point at which you sought help for the pain, the body has a unique way of referring bodily pain "somatically" from one area to another . It was also amazing to see the way a person looked after a session on the table. Not only did they feel better physically, but their face would look younger and lighter. I learned then and there how much our emotions and feelings affect our faces and bodies.

As an artist, putting emotion and meaning into a work of art, whether it is a portrait or sculpted face of someone, or
simply a landscape, there is a great desire on my part to convey something of what I am feeling, in my art. If that emotion conveyed makes someone feel empathy, or compassion, then they will take that with them whenever they see the art. If it depicts joy and humor, the person viewing the art will feel that as well. Often I have looked at paintings by other artists and immediately felt a sense of calm, and order or possibly confusion or disorder! Whether I liked it or not was my own subjective opinion, but the Artist was successful because he or she had derived out of me the response they wanted with their art. "The Angel of Abundance" shown here by this joyful, Angel with child.

If having fine art in your home brings about a sense of joy and peace, and enriches you as a person, then that is a noble cause for art. If it incites you to action, then that also is a noble cause as long as it is "right" action. Because we know so much more today about the body and mind connection, this puts an even greater responsibility on all artists for what we put out there. Some say freedom of expression should mean you can put out what ever you want to put out, but I am not in total agreement with that, especially if what is being put out is harming society.

It is my hope that my artwork will express what is within me, and ALSO express what I think of what is outside of me. Not everyone has to agree with my thoughts but I believe "in a perfect world" or society in which all creative people will seek to convey the highest goals possible through their music, art, film, theater, through speech, both spoken and written, and that all of society will conduct itself better as a result. For as a human race, as we ARE so shall we BE. Just as it is for the inner community of our own we shall we BE. Each generation lays the groundwork for the next. How do you want your children or grandchildren to find the world? A world with the highest integrity and intelligence or one of desolation and suffering? I believe it is not up to any individual culture or country to demand this from their people but up to each individual person no matter what their culture or upbringing, to find the way to higher mind and demand it of themselves. The good literature is there and fine art is all around us, even in nature, if we choose to seek it.

Many blessings.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nurturing the Creative Spark

"One day a student of Zen asked his Master, "What is the most difficult part of painting?" His Master said: "The part of the paper where nothing is painted is the most difficult."

I love this quote because it shines light on an interesting way of looking at the dilemma we face when starting something new, or searching for a creative idea to solve a problem, or perhaps a new art project that we want to create. Some people think that Artists are constantly punching out ideas like a machine. That is not always true. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I felt a huge letdown when I finished a project that took over six months to complete. There was a daily flow of energy moving into the project, but once it was completed it was done! I was staring at an empty page every day. Creative ideas do not always come to you by turning the handle of a faucet, they are often generated out of a sense of well being and by taking time to recharge your creative batteries. Creative ideas can also come to you as the solution to a problem, or a trauma that you may have suffered. Through the process of writing a poem, creating a sculpture, painting a picture or your kitchen, you heal your own pain and thus end the suffering. Not that pain and suffering is the way to creativity, but it is often true that creative people are people who have had difficult challenges in their lives to overcome and found through becoming masterful at creating things, they remained whole.

Many years ago I read a fantastic book "
The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron She points out many of the ways that Artists often block their own success and sabotage their creativity and offers suggestions for helping to regenerate it. Sometimes all it takes is a day by yourself reconnecting to nature, by walking on the beach, or just finding a quiet spot to
meditate in, and just drown out all the voices in your head. Or maybe poking around in an interesting antique store or a great hardware store is your way to discover something to spark your interest, or spend a few quiet hours in the library going through books.

Whatever approach works for you, the key is to do something radically different from your normal routine, preferably something quiet and by yourself. For as much as we love our family and friends, they can sometimes be our worst enemies when it comes to our creative life. Out of love and a sense of responsibility, we are often so committed to our families that we sometimes leave ourselves and especially our creative project, for last. Many times, in the midst of a very difficult, project I would stop and just leave the project to attend to someones needs. To get around that I developed the ability to work many late hours, into the night, alone with only the radio for company, so that I would not disrupt the "flow" of creativity. Often I would suffer for it the next day, but maybe that is why so many Artists have that disheveled "lack of sleep" look!

But seriously, being a free-spirited, creative individual, as I said before, takes a lifetime commitment and dedication to allowing, respecting and nurturing your artistic dreams, whatever it is that you want to achieve. By shutting it down for everyone and everything that comes along, we ultimately diminish ourselves. Not only that, the world doesn't get to have what we have been given to share--our gift of creativity, whatever it, painting, writing, poetry, sculpting, dance or any of a hundred thousand creative gifts.

Think of what our world would be like if Beethoven, in the midst of any of his famous Symphonies had stopped to take care of the children (he had 12?)....No doubt many famous artists were single most of their lives, along with famous writers, athletes, musicians and anyone who has made huge contributions to the world of art or they had spouses who totally believed in and supported their creative gifts as well. No doubt, it is a selfish life, that of an Artist, if you want to achieve your dreams.

It is not always possible to find balance when you are in the creative flow. It is an energy force that takes over your life, at times, consuming your entire days and nights. The laundry may pile up, the house may not get cleaned, and dishes may pile up in the sink, beds will go unmade for weeks and yet you keep working on your "project"...until it is finished. Then you can catch up, until the next wave of creativity flows over you and you are back to the drawing board again, facing another blank piece of paper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Falling Free

Sculptured Mosaic "Self Immersion"

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull
of what you really love" ---Rumi

Being a free-spirited person involves a commitment to that philosophy and to apply it to all that you do and in all that you stand for. As an Artist, it involves time devoted to paying attention to life. For I believe it is in our observations of nature and life that we derive our greatest inspiration for art. Nature, being what it is, answers to no one. It just IS. The tree grows or not, because it has to. It is his nature to grow. Just as a flower's nature is to grow and blossom. The bee and butterfly's nature to pollinate, and so on and on. Human's are not always so instinctively driven when it comes to our free nature, or just "being". Sometimes we allow our minds to get in our own way.

When I can allow my mind to relax, through meditation or when working on my art, I always feel as though that is when I do my best work. That state of mind has been called by many names but my term for it is "falling free" though we had just fallen from a diving board and are just about to hit the water, or just jumped out of a boat into the depths of the ocean and you are floating, free, into the deep unknown waters of the ocean, waiting to hit the bottom, with no awareness other than your body floating, and the air bubbles from your breathing apparatus surrounding you. There is an excited anticipation about the feeling. What better way to look at life than with curiosity and anticipation every day. Never knowing what one thing or another will lead to next? It is an allowing, of life, and allowing wonderful and exciting things to enter into your realm of nature and thoughts. Its where you derive your greatest ideas for creativity and healing.

When I created the "Lion of Flanders" (see my first post) in 2003, I had that feeling every day for over six months. I would not allow myself to feel discouraged or tired, or for one minute think I would not complete the task. I knew that every day when I went to the studio to work, there would be new challenges to overcome but also new ideas for ways to solve them. And at the end of the six months when the mosaic had been completed I felt an enormous feeling of dis-engagement with the process. The only way to describe it is that I felt as though there was something more I had to do but this job was done, so now what? Again, developing that feeling of anticipation of what now? was very difficult to cultivate at first.

(Detail of Mosaic Self-Immersion)

But soon, my curious nature took over and I decided to try making another mosaic sculpture, since the weather was much too cold to do stone sculpting, I began developing the idea for a series of mosaic pieces based on my thoughts about "the Self" and I called it "Echoes of the Soul". The idea came out of the notion that our Soul is our primal driving force that directs us during our lifetime or lifetimes on Earth. We all have a purpose, or something that we love so much it is in our thoughts at all times, something that we came here to do (or remember)--maybe at the back of our mind but there nevertheless. That driving force, or "what we love" is what we are supposed to pay attention to in life. No matter what...that is what we are here for. That is not to say we should not have jobs, or do other things as well, because many of us came here to do many things, but one or two exceptional things.

The older I get the more I realize that our "Soul" is talking to us and guiding us, but we don't always listen. If we just take time to pay attention to our urgings and inner gut feelings, and not be afraid to follow and see where they lead us, it may surprise you how it turns out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

One Thing Leads to Another

For students of ZEN, a mere stone is a treasure. When I was a child I was always fascinated with nature. I remember my mother cutting an article out of a magazine when I was about 7 yrs old, about butterfly collecting. She was an artist as well, and always curious about new things. She encouraged my curiosity and creativity early on. She made me the net with special nylon netting, a wire rim and an old broom handle. We fashioned the spreading boards from cardboard, and carefully I learned how to use a very toxic chemical which we purchased from the drugstore, to use as the method of killing the butterflies. In the beginning I was too young to realize that killing these butterflies to put into my "collection" would be so hard to do. I was too caught up in the excitement of learning about them.

For almost two summers I was totally absorbed with the process of chasing down butterflies in our neighborhood and catching them carefully in the net so as not to destroy their precious and beautiful wings. I would soak a cotton ball with a few drops of the chemical solution, and put it into a mason jar, then slip the net over the top of the jar and drop the butterfly into the jar, where she would quickly drop lifeless to the bottom. I then used metal tweezers to remove the butterfly and put her on the spreading board to display the wings, just as an Entomologist would do. I had a beautiful collection and had learned to identify all sorts of wild colorful butterflies, bugs, moths and even beetles. One day on my second summer of collecting, I was preparing another butterfly for its death chamber, and it suddenly overwhelmed me with a feeling of sadness, remorse and pain. I had an awareness that I had never felt before, of empathy and compassion for this helpless little creature that I was about to put to death. I released the butterfly immediately and vowed that I would never wilfully harm another living creature for art's sake or otherwise. I believe that incident paved the way for the philosophy I had about life from that day forward. I became a defender of animals, trees, nature, children and all sorts of ideologies. I also believe that everything we do, even seemingly painful and difficult things, eventually find a purpose in our lives and lead us to higher and higher levels. We become enlightened by the awareness of our deeds and how they can be applied to even higher purposes.

This leads me to the essence of my subject today, that being "Everything is connected".

One of the other passions of my childhood was collecting stones. Yes, simple stones from the ground. I would stop dead in my tracks to pick up and examine a little stone from the ground that had unusual colors or markings, trying to find meaning in it. Later, when my parents started to take our family on summer camping trips to Upper Michigan along Lake Superior, which is a haven for agate collectors, I would always come home with a pail full of odd but beautiful stones, much to the dismay of my Father. Some of my stone treasures from other places include fossils of early plant and animal life, and even Indian arrowhead artifacts from our back yard. Even more interesting are stones from all over the United States such as the Basalt Stones from Soldotna, Alaska or the interesting "story" stones from Sedona, Arizona. The "story" stones, have natural pictures on them that seem to speak to you. Some of these are shown here.

Basalt Stones from Alaska with Markings

Sedona Stones with "rainbow" marks

Warrior Image on Stone from Sedona

Now some would say that you can't harm a stone, because it is already dead, so I figured at my young age that picking up stones from one part of the world and taking them home to another part would do no harm to anyone, but what I learned later in life, it can be. It's like taking a baby bird from its nest. Everything has a place in nature, and it is there for a reason. Even if for us to study. But that doesn't give us the right to just take things without asking permission. So I learned about asking permission from studying Native American religions. One should always put something back in nature if you take something away. So as to create balance. Sort of like what we are supposed to do when we bring things from the store to our house....remove something else and give it away? Anyway, back to my story:

Stones have been "connected" to me most of my life, and in 1996, after I had been practicing Therapeutic Massage for several years, I learned about a new therapy called "La Stone Therapy" using heated Basalt Stones. This sounded like something I HAD to learn so I went to Tucson to study with Mary Hannagan who at the time was the only person doing this therapy. She actually developed the technique based on a dream or vision she had, and the rest is history. Mary started spreading her knowledge around and it has become one of the most therapeutic and most called for therapies known in 5 Star spas the world around.

In 1997 I was living at my daughter's house in San Diego, temporarily, while looking for a job in San Diego, and decided one day to drive up to the Stone Sculptor's Supply in Escondido, California, to see what it was all about. I had heard they sold stone and had studios for people to do stone sculpture, and even take classes. When I arrived I was mesmerized with all of the pallets filled with huge piles of white and pink marble, and even more rows and rows of Alabaster Stone, just waiting to be carved. In the back of the warehouse, were two women who ran the business at that time. Mary and Lenora. Mary talked to me about what they did and asked me "what did I want to do?" I said that I wanted to take a class in stone sculpture and when she learned that I was a massage therapist and an artist she told me that I didn't need a class. She said my instincts
and hands would guide me to do the right thing. So, she gave me a dozen or so tiny stone scraps from the pile and I purchased two little Italian rasps and off I went home to work on them on my own. She suggested that I finish them--just have fun with them--and bring them back in two weeks when I needed to polish them. She would help me.

In two weeks I had turned all of the little pieces of stone into tiny little sculptures waiting to be finished. Mary taught the elements of sanding and polishing and I was on my own then. Addicted to a new passion in art--Direct Stone Sculpting.

Eleven years later I am still sculpting stones but much larger ones now. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves stone and loves a challenging art form. It is not for the faint of heart, for stone is stone. Alabaster is much easier to work than Marble but the colors in Alabaster stone are what drew me to it. The passion of carving something so raw and unfinished into something beautiful, smooth and sensual, is very evocative. It creeps up on you until you are seeing beautiful images in every raw stone you see. I believe this is a gift that was honed by my many years of being connected to stones at an elemental way, just being aware of them, touching them, collecting them and studying their markings, has made me more in tune with the material. Working as a glass artist for ten years during the 1980's also gave me some dexterity handling tools and difficult material as well. But I believe anyone can learn it.

Raw Pink Alabaster Stone

Working successfully in Stone, I believe, takes a real determination and dedication to completion of an image in your mind's eye, and cooperation of the stone. Sculpting, like Massage and Healing work, is not something you DO to the Stone. You work in conjunction WITH the stone. Sculptor and stone work in unison, and communicate to each other just as animals communicate through our sensory nerves. Just as I sensed the beauty and pain of the butterfly so many years ago, I can "sense" the meaning in a stone. Whether it will be used as a sculpture to beautify someones home, or put in a hospital as a work of art to soothe someones soul, the beauty of the sculpture is derived from a collaboration between the stone and the artist.

Pink Alabaster Stone after Carving and Polishing

A New Home for a Lion

Today is the first day of writing my long awaited, and even longer contemplated personal, "artful" blog.

Strangely enough, I have been thinking of starting a blog for months, like most people, it takes a lot of mental preparation and planning. I could have easily talked myself out of this but I love to write and have a burning desire to talk about what is important to me, and I truly believe that blogging is a wonderful way to share our lives and what is important to us, with others. Hopefully, others will find it interesting too. It will be many posts before I feel comfortable with the mechanical process of posting and creating artful conversations that I intend will give others inspiration to challenge themselves, and know there are no limits when it comes to what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it.

Today, I want to share the experience of installing my sculptured mosaic Lion "The Lion of Flanders" at the Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, California, yesterday.

I created this lion in 2003 for an outdoor public art exhibition. The sculpture was later gifted back to me by my generous sponsor, The Flanders Group in Pittsford, New York As an artist, this honor was not only totally unexpected, I was clueless as to what I was now going to do with a 500 lb. 8' long mosaic lion! I had long suspected it would be auctioned off for charity and that would be the end of it, but no, five years later I am still trekking it around the country on various excursions and exhibitions. My ultimate hope is that someone will fall in love with him as much as I do, and want to marry him....oops, I mean buy him and take him home, so I can create something bigger and better ! Ha! Well, the truth is I have to release him, my friend tells me, who is a psychic and past life regression therapist for 25 years and knows about these kinds of things.

So, I unleashed him and first put him in the Spanish Village Art Center for about a year or so, then he traveled to Mesa, Arizona,, for their
"Sculpture in the Streets" exhibition which lasted six months. Sadly, he was not treated well there, as a few people felt he would look better with his whiskers trimmed off and decided to do that for me. Unfortunately I felt he was better with the whiskers, so I spent about three weeks restoring them along with all of the accompanying mosaic around them. Now he sports his fancy new whiskers (photo above) and is living in a new home for a few months. This one is by far the best. He is actually living in the South African Gardens of Quail Botanical Garden He will be accompanied by a Giraffe I am told, and I hope they behave themselves!

Here are a few scenes from the re-location: