Thursday, January 29, 2009

True Friendships

As a lifetime animal lover, this video truly touched me today. Its been around for a few weeks but this was the first time I saw it. Compliments of Naufragiobella's Weblog. I wanted to share it in the spirit of goodwill to men and women everywhere. See if you agree.

For anyone interested in learning more about "The Elephant Sanctuary" in Holdenwald, Tennessee, go to their website and read about the amazing work they do with animals and you can even help by donating to their cause.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shadows of our Soul

Full moon in Paso Robles, California January 2009

There is something magical about a full moon on a clear night when you can see it in total darkness without the light pollution from most large cities and towns. My daughter is fortunate to be living in such an area in Northern California, and sent me this beautiful photo that they took on the night of the January full moon. With her permission I am posting it here.

I chose to post a poem that I wrote many years ago at another time in my life, written about "shadows" of the soul". The shadows that we see or don't see depending on the presence or absence of light. That can also apply to the shadows within us. Are they really there? or are they merely illusions? Unexplored fears? What happens to the landscape in the light of day? Does it stay the same or is it more beautiful than it is at night? or perhaps less so? What about our Selves? Do we really see ourselves as we truly are or as others see us? Do we need the reflection of another to see who we are or can we truly examine our shadow self for what it is? This poem is really just a pondering of these deep thoughts.

Shadows of our Soul
Ilona J. Passino, November, 1995

The shadow of the tree languishes in its ever changing shape over the soft, moist leafy bed beneath it.

But is it the absence of light's reflection or only an illusion?
Is not the shadow, in fact, the tree? Ever one and the same?

What then, are We?
Are we mere shadows of our Self in the absence of light?
Ever changing, but not?

In darkness, I see not my Self
Without mirrors to reflect my light, what Am I?
I see not flesh, but know my Self as I AM
I sense my beingness, my wholeness and taste my tears;
I feel my inner being, my inner light and the vast realm of beauty within.
I need not mirrors but only to look in your eyes to tell me what is there--
my reflection is within you;
within all others, within the world in which I live
as the Moon reflects its light upon the water.

My Self is Love.
My love is everywhere I look, even darkness does not diminish its strength,
or its capacity for knowing all that it is. It smothers me in the night with its
beating heart and pounding thoughts.
It seeks desperately for a mossy bed in which to spread its shadow,
its reflection, on to an "other".
But the path of light has been enshrouded by a jungle of trials and rejection.

In sadness, and alone, there is much time to reflect the inner knowing
of pain, disappointments and fear.
I cry out for answers from my Self.
But it has rejected me from the absence of reflection of an Other.

Then, I hear a voice say...
"the answer is love seeking love and the gentle reflection of that love
returning again and again to the Soul."
Love and Acceptance
Ever giving and receiving as nature gives and receives its bounty
to every living being
The reflection is the light of love and the path to the Self
and the Self is the Shadow of the Soul.

Sunset in Cambria, California
Photo compliments of K. Kaigas

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are we there yet?

I am the first to admit that patience is truly a virtue. In my younger days I recall being told many times "You just have to learn to be patient". Whatever it was I wanted to have or to have happen in my life, if it was not happening when I needed it to, would cause me extreme frustration. My father was the one who always managed to convince me that it just wasn't time. "Things happen when they are supposed to happen" he would say. Not because I wasn't good enough or didn't do enough but it just wasn't the time. That philosophy carried with me all my life. It has enabled me to learn to wait for things to happen on their own time and not on my time. It allowed me to be a visionary, a dreamer and creator but not hold on to my expectations for the outcome of things.
Often, if something did not manifest in my life when I prayed or asked for it, I would soon forget about it anyway and decided it just wasn't that important, at least not for that point in time. Like when I wanted to learn to sew as a young girl, and had no patience for the process. My projects would always turn out a disaster. My Mom taught me the value of taking my time, and being patient with myself and the process even though her methods of teaching were far less "patient" than my Father's. Other times, I learned that if
something didn't come to me when I asked for it, then perhaps I had not put enough of my own energy into the project to make it happen. We are responsible for what we manifest or don't manifest in our lives, it doesn't just appear there on its own. Well, some things do but that is rare. Like the person in my town who last week won a 32 million dollar lotto ticket! "That was supposed to be mine!" I shouted at the TV!! Well, I forgot to buy the darned ticket last week!

Seriously though, other things percolate in our heads for years, distant desires, dreams, things we want to make, things we would like to learn, and bigger dreams - that we think and dream about but do not actually take seriously. Dreams about who we want to be and what we want to accomplish in our life. What about those things? When do they manifest? On their own? or does it take our true intention to make it happen and taking action to help it along and then waiting to see what the "Universe" brings our way?

I have been reading the book "Heart of the Visionary" which I mentioned a few posts ago, and realized that yes I do
still have a dream which I have not taken action on for years. We get stuck in the "traffic" of life, literally, and just don't have time. Or worse, we forget to dream at all. For me, that "dream" is my vision of a Creative Arts Center for developmentally disabled adults. I wrote a preliminary vision plan several years ago and had attempted to get it started a few times but not with a lot of enthusiasm or perhaps the timing was all wrong, so it would go back on the shelf for a later time. This has happened several times in almost ten years. When I received the vision workbook for Christmas and started reading, I realized that perhaps the timing was now for me to take down my vision plan, get off the road, and have another look at it. In doing so I realized that indeed many of the parts of the plan were already in place to finally make this dream a reality, and I had done nothing that I could consciously recall to actually make them happen. I am sure I did, but not for the purpose of creating my dream. Or did I take certain actions on a subconscious level without even realizing it? Isn't that how the Universe works anyway? We create an idea or dream in our heads, create the plan, create the vision, and then let it go into the ether of space and let go of the outcome? Weeks, months, and even years later, circumstances then fall into place within the Divine matrix of life and create our dream for us. One day we wake up and realize that almost all the parts are there, it is only up to us to finalize the details. Sometimes it happens by changing our awareness of things. It is a very exciting concept.

In reading Shiloh Sophia McCloud's book one of the poems she quotes says this:

Be Patient
Toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms, or books written
in a very foreign language.
Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now.
You would not be able to live them.
and the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a young Poet...

This so beautifully puts the concept of allowing the questions in your life, the unknowns, the mystery, to be loved as much as what we know. Keep them in our hearts as though they were books written in a foreign aptly describes how some things feel when we are trying to conceptualize a vision we have. It is not always so easy to put it into words or a picture we are trying to paint. Once we can illustrate that dream, it makes it easier to see it. Once we see and feel it, it is almost there in the palm of our hands. As she says, live the questions now, and someday in the future you will live your way to the answer.

I cannot say for certainty that this time my dream will definitely manifest in my life, but it is my intention to do what it is I have to do, and can do within my power, to make it happen, and truly my hope is that the Universe will combine forces with me to put in place the necessary people, places and things, to make it manifest. If so it will be the directing force in my life for the next few years at least. It would be another example of patience becoming a virtue and also creating the dream of putting my art to use for a greater good than my own ego. It' all part of imagining our lives with vision, purpose and possibility.

Pleasant dreaming....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Women in Art

This is an amazing video of "Women in Art" which I found while perusing the internet - thought it would be fun to post it on my site for your viewing pleasure.

At first glance at the title "Women in Art" implies that this will be about women "artists", not that women are the subject. Its not surprising how many artists throughout the ages have focused on women in almost every style of art from Renaissance to Modern. I guess its obvious to men anyway, that the female body is something to be desired and has certainly been a favorite subject of both men and women sculptors; and a woman's face seems to hold so much mystery and variety of expression is it any wonder it is so frequently captured on the canvas by male artists? Perhaps in an attempt to better understand them? This video montage combines famous portraits of women and through some form of magic blends them, one into the other in continuous motion. Watch as the face changes and yet the eyes stay focused as though it were the same person going through a transformation of moods.
I really loved how this was done... Hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, January 9, 2009

From the Beginning

This haunting melody written by Gregg Lake of the British Rock group, Emerson Lake and Palmer, has always been one of my favorites of EL&P. The lyrics could mean many things to different people, depending on the circumstances, which is why it is such a timeless song. The lyrics were particularly meaningful to me today, and I wanted to share this brief beautiful musical journey with you too.

From the Beginning

there might have been things i missed
but don't be unkind
it don't mean i'm blind
perhaps there's a thing or two

i think of - lying in bed
i shouldn't have said
but there it is

you see it's all clear
you were meant to be here
from the beginning

maybe i might have changed
and not been so cruel
not been such a fool
whatever was done is done
i just can't recall
it doesn't matter at all

you see it's all clear
you were meant to be
from the beginning

This is one of those songs that makes you wonder "just what did he mean"...From the Beginning? were meant to be here? Is he talking about a lover? or a child? It could mean a parent who has been hurtful in some way to his child, and is apologizing, or perhaps regretting saying something in a harsh way and having it be mis-understood.

This could have been my Mother talking to me, in so many years past. It was revealing to me to remember how many times in the years past -- before my Mom passed away -- that my visits back East with my Mother would always end in mis-spoken words, mis-understandings, and hurt feelings - on both our parts. There would be silence for a long period of time, and then usually one of us would call and apologize or just start talking like nothing had happened. But the truth of the matter is that the words once spoken were never forgotten. In some tiny part of our hearts there was never resolution on certain issues between us.

Maybe it is the old Mother-Daughter "stuff" that just comes up out of fear of separation, fear of loss, fear of being "insignificant" that every Mother goes through when they face the reality that their kids have just grown up anyway in spite of us. In spite of all the love and nurturing that we tried to give them growing up, our kids just eventually leave, either for school or marriage or just out on their own. It's what we raise them to do, right? Be independent souls, Spread your wings and FLY! Become all you can become.

"But don't forget where Mom is. Don't forget what I sacrificed and gave up to give you a good roof over your heads, clothes on your backs, and food on the table. Don't forget all the trips to the Zoo, and movies and how I gave up things, including a career, just to make sure you were always cared for, loved, and had what you wanted so you would not feel "different" from the other kids on the block"...

Well my Mom never actually put it in those words, but it was how I felt at times, and I'm sure my kids feel the same
about me especially now that they are both married and have spouses, careers, homes and lives totally of their own choosing. I did not choose their spouses, their careers, nor their lifestyles, but I'm sure my raising of them had a large part of their value system in making those ultimate great choices. I wasn't always the best example of a "stable" person in those years I guess being raised by a "free-bird" type mother was difficult enough even though I always had a good job and insurance and made sure we always lived in good homes and neighborhoods, and as a Mom I was as involved in their lives as I dared to be without making them embarassed. I think there has always been a very fine line between them and me when it comes to boundaries. How much parenting is too much, and how little is too little? The most drastic example of that was when my daughter came home from college one summer (I was living in South Florida at the time). We went to the beach and I layed out my blanket on the sand near the girls and one of them said: "Eeew..lets move, we don't want to get Mommie Cooties!" Pretty funny at the time, but no truer words were spoken.

Well lucky for me, they all turned out pretty well in spite of me, in spite me and of our 35 moves in 20 years, and in spite of them having had to grow up in a home without a stable two parent relationship. When I became an "empty nester" early in life because I had my children early (20), so by 40 I was down to only one child at home and he was starting to push me out on my own! The reality was at that time I was ready for freedom from kids and responsibility and was ready to fly out on my own and see what life was all about. I was ready to move away from my home town as far as I could get and explore the world. No doubt I would have had a lot of fun had I done that before I had kids but maybe it all worked out as it was supposed to anyway.

Now, fast forward 20 more years and my parents have passed on, I hadn't counted on being a part of that phase of their
life but it is a real eye opener when you are suddenly faced with your own mortality questions and you start looking back at your life, seeing not where you want to be exactly, but maybe re-discovering other parts of yourself that are important to revisit, dreams that you still may want to manifest, and also reaffirming things that are really important in life, like your kids who you spent so much of your life being a part of. They are your life blood connection and I don't know of any other type of relationship, including marriage, that is more truly connected on a cellular level than Mother and Child. Yes we bring them into the world and lead them for about 18 or 20 years, but we do not take them out of the world. At some level I believe - as we age there is a "homing instinct" to again be a part of their lives and share our wisdom in some way, or perhaps it is just hope, but especially when you have been separated by many miles for many years. To know that they care about you enough to include you in some of their plans and openly discuss ideas and concerns with you, not for approval but out of respect - and expect that you will not judge or criticize what they do - is only natural and fair. No parent wants to feel like they are not important or loved. It works both ways.

In my case, when I moved away from my home in New York to be in a warmer climate and also to remove myself from what I felt was an unhealthy family dynamic for too many years, my Mother threatened to disown me! She was serious! She definitely did not want to lose control over her kids and I was in my late 30's at the time! It was really upsetting but her cry was definitely "you belong HERE!" just as the song says...From the Beginning - and to the END! But I was stubborn and determined that she was not going to dictate my fate. I guess that was what really started our personal war. But truthfully in the end she and I did find peace, maybe not total understanding, but she got her way because for a brief time (five years) I did move back to New York and was there when she passed away. It was a bittersweet sadness because what I really wanted was for us to be best friends ever and especially during our lives while she was most vibrant and able to contribute to the world her talents - not have to wait until she was dying. Unfortunately she was not of the mindset that I was. I think I have harbored some of that desire to stay connected to my Mother, and transferred that to my own adult kids. I have a secret desire to be somehow connected in a business or contributing to each other's welfare, as many talented familys often do, combine forces, etc. I have a desire to be as cared about by their spouses as I care for them as well, but I have to understand that to the spouse I am still "just a Mother-in-law". The worlds worst label, ever.

My adult kids have their own mindset, goals and life experiences, and I respect that, no matter what I think. I was not inside their heads as they were growing up and their experience was totally different than mine. When there is mis-understandings, it causes tension, but some times you can't take it back, its just something you have to get over.
Like the song says:
whatever was done is done, i just can't recall, it doesn't matter at all...
Some things just they are. They change when your mind changes. What never changes though, for me anyway, is the love and support. It's constant, unconditional, and is the one thing that always WILL be there - From the Beginning and to the End.

With Love & Peace to all

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Creative Diversions

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know I have written of my concerns with staying on course with my Art, whatever that course is. Basically, since I consider myself to be a sculptor of stone, I guess one should expect that I would be writing mostly about sculpting in stone. I feel, however, that this would be unfair to you as a reader, since, if I only talked about stone sculpting you would miss out on the "real" me - that being a passionately creative person of multiple interests at various levels of skills that I enjoy exploring to the nth degree.

Whether it is playing the piano and trying to re-master a Chopin Prelude that I haven't played in a year, baking something that I have never tried, painting a picture, working on my stone or sewing an apron, I try to put my whole being into it, and just get lost in the process. That being said, is one of the main reasons I have most likely never become a great master at any one and only one thing in life. I have always said that there are just too many crayons in the box to just color with one!

When I read about the great musicians like Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and really great painters like Van Gogh, Monet and the Renaissance Sculptors like Michaelangelo, who accomplished SO much in their relatively short lives, I often wonder if they would have been as prolific in a world where there is so much coming at us every day - so much that it is extremely difficult to concentrate and focus on our gifts and talents. How much time do we waste in a day on meaningless stuff? How much more could we accomplish if we didn't have to sleep, I think!

I have several stones staring at me in my studio and I am about to finish two of them, soon, but
in the meantime, just before Christmas, I went into my local coffee shop in town and someone there was showing jewelry made from - would you believe - Dominos!? She was offering a class to demonstrate how to make them for only $15 for a two-hour class. I thought it would be fun to make pendants, magnets and pins as little stocking stuffer gifts at Christmas and other times of the year. Miniature art! Who doesn't need another magnet, right? Well, I took the class and had so much fun I was afraid that I was going off the deep end again into another "craft" phase for a few weeks. Not that I needed another artistic adventure, but it is a nice diversion to learn something entirely new that you have never tried. It forges new creative pathways in the brain! Plus, they're easy to make and you have almost instant art for practically pennies.

One thing I have learned about myself and art, is that it doesn't really matter what it is you are making- or doing - it could be sculpting but it could also be just making bread, or baking a cake or as in this case, making domino art! It is the process - not the product - that counts. I have been creatively stuck for a few months now, in the sense that I feel as though I have lost my direction or focus, and there is no better way than to dawdle away your time making art - no matter what it is - to get your creative juices flowing again. Writers have discovered this same phenomenon too, that even when they are the most stuck if they can be still, sit down and write even if it is about the weather. Pretty soon your ideas start coming back and your enthusiasm about your projects takes flight again and you can see your vision with clear eyes and a clear heart.

In fact it is akin to meditation in its finest form. Philosophers talk about the mindset of "being in the flow" when we are creating something and totally intent on the process and Buddhists describe it as "Satori", or enlightenment, but also letting go of the result, we are in an "enlightened" state of mind where creative ideas just flow into our brains. This is why meditation is so good for us, but for some of us who find it harder to meditate for whatever reason, creating art or being involved in the creative process has much the same effect. When I am at my best, or can allow myself the time to sculpt I actually lose my sense of time and can work for hours without realizing it. For anyone who has other responsibilities this can be a real deterrent to creation, for creation does not like to be interrupted.

My venture into the strange world of Itty-bitty-Art with Linda K. Moore, gave me a great sense of accomplishment even though it is "art" in the pure sense, I often do not consider "crafts" to be "fine" art, which is one reason- in the past - I have never taken my craft ventures
seriously. Over the years I dabbled in beadwork in many forms, stained glass construction and design, woodworking, painting, macrame, crochet, needlework, sewing, clay work, and lastly copper enameling in addition to playing the piano and I am an excellent cook and baker. I have made things that were really interesting and very nicely done since I am usually a perfectionist whenever I do anything, but none of these projects held my interest as much, once I felt I had "mastered" the technique, but what I did take away from all of them was the knowledge and value of the process. Often one technique learned in one project would help me solve a problem in another project. Everything is connected, everything is relevant. And the best part is that I am never bored with myself. I can always find something to do that is fun and interesting and rarely am I sitting idle for very long.

The pictures scattered throughout my post are photos of my Domino art and the Itty-bitty-Art pendant that I also learned from Linda K. Moore's class. If anyone is so inclined to try it, please check out her website for more information. She is an amazing artist who has truly created an "art form" from this hobby and it is her obsession.

The Domino's are created simply by coloring the background with permanent ink markers in various shades and blending the colors with Alcohol and a Q-tip or brush. After that dries you stamp an image on the domino with permanent ink and let that dry. Embellishment can be added but it is optional. I used miniature rhinestones on the Domino's to enhance the images. Later you can glue a magnet in back or a pin, depending on what you want to use it for. They were so much fun to create and I'm still thinking of how I can use the method in other ways. Its all part of the fun of living a creative life!

Anyone can do this!

Have a great day!

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."
Henry Miller...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Heart of the Visionary

I received a very thoughtful gift for Christmas from my daughter. She always seems to know just what I need even if I don't think I need anything any more, and I have collected so many books I have most of them packed in boxes right now, but that's another story for another time. I definitely did not need another book, but she found the book in a little store up in Mendocino, California while on one of her weekend jaunts. Its called "Heart of the Visionary" by Shiloh Sophia McCloud. The book is a collaborative effort of many women who call themselves the Cosmic Cowgirls. They have committed to helping to cultivate a dream to create a workbook and workshop designed to help women visionaries, who have an idea or dream, and a desire to make it happen--do just that. Shiloh is an Artist and a writer and has put together a great workbook for visionaries. Although I have not made much headway through the book, I am taking my time and following her instructions to skip around and digest it in small bits and make it work for me. I want to read and focus on the parts that apply or are most helpful right now. It is not a test to see how fast you can get through the book, and there will not be a "test" at the end, but its a workbook for anyone who wants to figure out just what it is that they want to do with their life, or figure out just what dreams or ideas you want to manifest. For me this is problem #1 - narrowing down the possibilities.

My daughter, I believe, knows well the challenges I have faced over the past few years and I have expressed to her, my belief that our life is a constant journey of change. Just when we think we have things figured out we are faced yet with another challenge to handle. At times it feels like we are just bobbing in a boat on the ocean of life, being pushed and pulled by the tides and blown by the winds of time. I have always tried to have a purpose driven life and yet I don't believe we can just invent things to do...having a "purpose" means we are paying attention to the signs. Paying attention to what we love and what gives back to the world, or leaves something of value behind. I think my daughter was thinking of me when she walked into the store and found this book, as I am convinced there are no accidents. I am very grateful to her for this gift. The book is helping me focus a little more on my life - right now - and whether there may be ways I could improve on it by discovering something within me that wants to be done, and maybe I'm not aware of, or I'm aware of it and ignoring it? Either way this is a good time of year to reflect on these things so the book could not have come at a better time. Timing is everything.

In the chapter on "Perspective, entitled "The Power of Originality" Shiloh uses the migratory journey of birds as a metaphor, to compare to her journey so that she could gain a unique perspective in writing about her own personal and business experiences. She encourages everyone contemplating writing their personal story to consider using a metaphor of something you particularly love and trust or that holds your interest as a way of gaining a better and more objective perspective on your thoughts. I'm still working on that, but I loved the chapter because I also love birds and was at one time a pretty avid birdwatcher. I love that she uses "Tips for Bird Watchers" to compare life lessons. For example:

1. Birds flying abilities take practice and evolve gradually. We need to take our life path steps gradually, making notes of goals we can reasonably achieve over time and taking time to observe and learn, and to stop when we are tired. This seems fairly common sensical, but how many days do we start out before dawn and don't end until midnight or later? How many rest periods do we get? If you're like me, very few.

2. Birds plan and pay careful attention to nourishing themselves both inside and out in order to achieve maximum power prior to their journeys. What must we do to nourish ourselves? This is not a luxury, but a necessity. Something I need to do more of for sure!

3. Birds live their life in a hurry with high energy which shortens their life span. We must find ways to choose our own speed limit and to determine where our energy is best focused. Gather our thoughts, ideas, set priorities for ourselves and enter it into our journals. How can we use our wisdom before we find we have to give ourselves a ticket for unhealthy, unproductive speeding? In other words: Don't spin your wheels and try to find a moment each day to reflect on what you have done, learned, or taught someone? Its ok to give ourselves credit for seemingly small accomplishments.

4. Birds sing. So should we, even if we can't carry a tune. This is an incredible way to manage stress, fight depression, increase breathing and become inspired. What songs shall we sing? Write them down and learn to sing them! Make up your own little tunes! Hum!

These are just a few of the examples she uses in her book. In closing, she includes a poems that I would love to share, as well.
I believe it says it all in answer to many of us who have dreams, projects or ideas that we would like to manifest, but maybe we don't know when, where, how or IF, to start...

Finding Wings
Shiloh Sophia McCloud

The act of "finding wings" is a life-long journey

We cannot wait for inspiration to strike

or circumstances to improve.

The time to "take wing" is always

and ever, right now.

Right now, and

Right now!

We each have to find
our own wing cadence.
The pattern within

that invisible force and flap.

We can practice knowing
our wings will lift us when we need them.
We can pretend that we feel it even when we don't.

Especially when we don't.

Imagine that the whole gorgeous Universe
has your back.
That you don't know to rely on your strength only.

That preening your feathers is vital and important work.

That expecting miracles is your spiritual practice.

In the privacy of your own bird bath

lift your wings - flap flap flap
hear the sound...?
Now, look ahead...

What is it you are flying toward?

Do you see your dream up ahead?

What comes first?

The dream, or the wing?

Happy dreaming friends...