Lately I’ve recalled with fondness the month I spent last year randomly drawing creative actions out of a glass pitcher. I selected a folded slip of paper each day during the month of June, in 2016. Those activities were fun, and they not only revved up my creativity, they also deepened my trust in the Divine’s guidance in my life.
This evening, after working most of the day, I was deciding what to write about when those folded slips of paper came to mind again. Yes. It was time to stop thinking about how much fun that exercise in creativity was, and take action again.
Of course, I changed the game up a bit. I cut 32 slips of paper and wrote out an inspirational activity on each one. Guided by this year’s theme of Inspiration, which includes Alan Rickman’s words about making life a bit more tender and art a bit more robust, and my greater health awareness, I chose to challenge myself.
Not every activity pushes me, but I attempted to come up with suggestions that take my creativity or compassion or health consciousness beyond where I am, currently. I included writing exercises…and challenges to submit my work for publication. Travel inspirations came to me along with designing, sketching and expressing tenderness in new ways. I won’t draw an activity every day. I’ll reach into my little ceramic jar, made by my younger daughter Adriel when she was a child, and “randomly” draw out a slip of paper when I feel drawn to.
Last year this type of creative play formed the foundation for this year’s theme. I learned so much about myself, about how life works for me, and about the constant guidance I receive from the Divine.
I am open to receive whatever comes from this experience this year…open and unattached to outcomes. The phrase I made up for these slips of paper seems apt. Fire starters are little pieces of wood that are soaked with a flammable solution that then ignites logs to create a bigger, hotter fire. May these inspiration starters ignite within me a creativity that burns brightly and feeds my artistic soul.
As much as I enjoyed being a travel blogger for a couple of weeks, I am excited to return to being guided daily by inspiration and being wide open to creativity. As I fell asleep last night, I wondered what creative opportunity would present itself today…what invitation would come.
Inspiration did arrive, in a totally unexpected way.
I am a lucid dreamer, one who is very aware during the dream state and who recognizes the symbolism inherent in the mind movies the subconscious creates. Often my most meaningful dreams occur in the early morning hours just before I become fully alert.
Such was the case this morning.
I was leading an art workshop. We were drawing, coloring, creating collages and models around a travel theme, using a variety of mediums and techniques. I enjoyed the class very much, feeling energized and enriched by our collective creativity.
As I was loading my car after class, a colleague, another realtor named Brenda Murray, approached me. She was not present in the class. And yet she knew what I had been teaching.
She asked me, “Is this what you want to do?”
“Offer creatively?” I asked in return. “Yes! I want to write and draw and travel and create and help others live well and enjoy life.”
“And what will you gain from living this way?” Brenda asked.
I smiled. “Joy, freedom, opportunities to fully express my creativity in all the ways it can be manifested!” I felt incredible happiness as I gave my answer.
I awoke from the dream at that point. Outside the darkness was just beginning to give over to morning light. I felt that surge of joy still from the dream…and the sting of tears in my eyes.
Lying there quietly in the shifting light, I unpacked the dream. It was no surprise that I was teaching a class…I’ve taught many over the years…or that it was an art workshop with a travel theme. Easy enough to see where my subconscious pulled those elements from.
What intrigued me was what happened after the class. A realtor approached me to ask a crucial question. Is this what you want to do? In my dream the face belonged to a friend of mine. But it wasn’t really Brenda asking the question. In my dreams, every person is me, playing out a crucial role that helps me to see something about myself, something that is often hidden from my conscious mind.
My realtor self was asking an important question…is this what you want to do? Do you want to live more out of your creative self? My creative self didn’t hesitate with an answer. Yes! Yes I do.
This Year of Inspiration is all about freeing my inner artist and living a more creative life and about making life a little more tender. The dream allowed me to affirm the direction my journey is taking. And it came at the perfect time.
Invitations to offer creatively are arriving, as opportunities to submit stories and essays and photography. If I wondered, at some deep level, whether to accept these Divine invites, the dream gave me permission to say yes. Actually, I gave myself permission, through the dream, to say yes.
I won’t be walking away from real estate yet. However, I will remain open to the opportunities and inspirations that come. I will be saying yes more and more.
Since returning from Italy, I have been going to bed very early and waking up extremely early, as my body tries to adjust to a different time zone. This morning I saw the early awakening, with the dream’s lingering message, as another invitation.
Bringing my laptop, writing notebook and a cup of lemon water into my bedroom, I set up a makeshift studio. For the first time ever, rather than free writing or journaling, or turning over to go back to sleep, I instead began working on a couple of submissions for creative writing projects that have found me.
I have reset all of the vignettes in my home, except for one. The vintage wooden sieve on my dining table has patiently awaited transformation. However, no fresh idea has come to mind. I walk by that table many times a day. I’d look at the sieve and think Hmmmm…I’ve got nothing.
Today, as I returned a stack of books to my creative studio, a small canvas print hanging on the wall caught my eye. And BOOM…there it was…inspiration for the wooden sieve had arrived. I thought it would be fun to share the creative process of putting together a vignette, from idea to completion. I hope others will feel inspired to create vignettes of their own.
As I work on a vignette, I am open to learning…about life, about myself, about creativity. These aha moments and deeper truths are the most important part of the creative process for me. I’ll share those insights as well, in italics.
The artwork that inspired tonight’s vignette features a bird with the encouraging words to “spread your wings and fly”. The colors in the print directed the choices I made for the rest of the pieces in the vignette.
The bird outside a birdcage was my symbol several years ago, representing freedom and moving beyond the self imposed cages I had created in my life. It is no surprise that this artwork caught my attention today. I have been journaling and refecting on my growth these last few years and how much freedom I now have in my beautiful life.
This is vignette attempt #1. I play with different pieces as the idea develops. I really wanted to use the red metal birdcage with the bird perched atop it…because…see the insight above. Although I very much had the bird theme going, this arrangement wasn’t quite working.
I have learned to be open to everything and attached to nothing. Sometimes that means letting go of something good, so something better can come to me.
I replaced the red birdcage with an old metal scoop, painted green and given to me by Greg’s grandmother many years ago. I recently found the scoop again, tucked away in the attic. I love this homey piece. Keeping with the bird theme, I filled the scoop with artificial eggs in soft greens and creams. I kept imagining a pair of birds building a nest in the scoop, as if it had been left forgotten outside.
I don’t want to be afraid to try new things. Repurposing is the practice of creating something fresh from an item, using it in a new way. The scoop was repurposed into a piece of art. It still has ties to the past, as it embraces a new purpose. I want to live this way too!
I liked including the scoop full of eggs. I didn’t like that the artwork and the metal nest were the same height. Suddenly I saw a new possibilty. I turned the scoop on its side. Perfect!
It’s all about perspective. Often, looking at something familiar in a new way creates fresh purpose and insight for me. Perspective helps me to think and see in a bigger way.
I was getting close on this vignette! I swapped out the chubby bright white ceramic birds for chippy, off white metal birds with more slender silhouettes. They better mimicked the bird on the art print and tied in well with the metal scoop. Imagining the eggs in a nest, I created more of that look within the scoop by adding a pick with red and yellow berries.
Creating a vignette is a great example of being in the flow, and staying open to change as part of life. The eggs became symbolic this evening of new ideas about to hatch, and new opportunities unfolding.
I was happy with the vignette…and thoughtful as I snapped pics. I like the insights that arise as I create.
I realized this vignette…all my vignettes actually…are reflections of who I am. My inner world is reflected in these outward expressions. This vignette reflects the truths of freedom, adaptability, perspective, flow, creativity and new opportunities “hatching”. And there was one more thing…
When I removed the birdcage, I removed my light source. All of my vignettes have a light source within them, typically a candle. My new vignette was not quite finished. It needed light. I added a small green tea light holder, and lit the candle. Now it was conplete.
I carry Light. I am full of Light. My desire is that my heart is so full of Light that it spills over.
Today truly was a good day to fly…and to create and reflect. This is how the creative process flows for me. And this is how I grow and learn. I just happen to write about it, and even that is part of being in the creative flow.
Anatomy of a Vignette. Anatomy – a study of the internal workings of something. Vignette – bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind, by creating life representations.
Sometimes inspiration taps me on the shoulder or whispers in my ear. I get a creative idea or a very detailed download and off I go, to manifest that idea. And sometimes inspiration takes me by the hand and leads me on an adventure.
Today, it was more of a field trip for us. Inspiration led me to Sandstone Gardens, just west of Joplin.
It was Greg who mentioned this beautiful place. We needed to get out of the house for a while. The City was installing new water lines in the neighborhood and shut off the water on my street. We took in an early movie. And then decided to visit this grand home and garden retail store.
Sandstone Gardens began in 1986 as a side business in the garage of newlyweds, Max & Vicki Carr. The couple made molds and cast small traditional concrete yard ornaments. After a succesful first year in business, they both quit their jobs and have devoted themselves to growing and developing Sandstone Gardens.
That’s the biz story. It doesn’t adequately convey the beauty of this enchanting place. When the company was located in Joplin, on S Rangeline, I visited Sandstone Gardens frequently. They had a showroom full of unique items. However, it was the outdoor gardens with their winding paths and attractive concrete statuary that drew me there.
When the company outgrew their location, they purchased 68 acres west of Joplin, near the Oklahoma state line, and built a 50,000 square foot building that looks like a country estate. This building is amazing, filled with a vast collection of housewares, home decor items and garden accents, all for sale. Sandstone Gardens reopened in its new location in 2004.
But on my first visit there, I was disappointed. Although the huge store was incredible, gone were the gardens with the winding paths, nooks and crannies, benches and statues and gazebos. There were a couple of “garden” rooms full of plants and fountains and statues, however they were enclosed. It wasn’t the same. I never went back. Until today.
Sandstone Gardens hasn’t changed its layout. They have added a Bistro. And of course, the product has changed since my last visit years ago. The interior of the store is just as amazing with its gorgeous displays. The garden rooms are still there, and there is a small outdoor area to wander through.
What has changed, is me. I have grown. I no longer place expectations on people or events or even stores. I could walk into Sandstone Gardens today with an openness that I didn’t have before, and simply let the experience unfold.
And I was delighted with what I saw. I was drawn from room to room, exclaiming over this or commenting on that, and Inspiration walked alongside, tapping my shoulder, or planting ideas into my creative mind and soul.
I loved a display of Alice in Wonderland inspired garden accents. And I found a door in a garden room, which reminded me of my symbol from two years ago, signifying new opportunities and adventure. Everywhere I looked, I appreciated the grace and beauty of this place. I felt my creativity expand.
I even found a statue that looks suspiciously like Gandalf the Grey, the wizard from Middle Earth. I believe he will find his way into my garden this summer!
Walking outside, I realized that the old Sandstone Gardens in town had been my inspiration for creating my own backyard paradise. I suddenly knew what had happened. When the new store opened, without the accompanying gardens and paths, I lost that place of inspiration and also the hope I felt that I could someday create something similar.
The dream I had didn’t die though. I was just forced to look for inspiration elsewhere, like within myself. Other opportunities came and other doors opened, and as I shifted and grew, I took responsibility for creating my own place of peace and beauty. And I did it. I made my dream a reality.
My backyard paradise…a beautiful work in progress.
My garden is a continuing work. Like me it shifts and grows every year. I love it. And I love Sandstone Gardens. I am open to the beauty it offers. I can visit that magnificent place and receive inspiration and purchase items to take home.
Next week, when I am not juicing, I will return to try a vegetarian lunch at the bistro and let inspiration lead me again through the rooms. I am looking forward to another visit to Sandstone Gardens.
I worked part of this gorgeous Sunday, so it was late afternoon before I turned my attention back to the question I asked this morning.
How shall we play today?
This morning I had received a quick flash, a mental image of me sitting in candlelight. By afternoon, curious about lighting candles and with no clear idea yet of what I was supposed to do, I asked the question again.
How shall we play today?
This time, a clear image of Julia Cameron’s book, Walking in This World, came to mind. I am almost finished with this creativity book, and working through a chapter strongly appealed to me.
I didn’t know how reading a chapter in the book connected to candlelight, but I didn’t need to know. Trusting the guidance given is an important part of my journey. I grabbed the book and a pencil, and began reading.
It was on page 229 that a paragraph caught my attention, causing my heart rate to increase. Julia writes about taking the heart seriously and listening to it. She says, “A heart does not need to be told, ‘Oh, toughen up’. It needs you to plan a tiny cheering ceremony and execute it.”
I was captivated. I love little rituals and ceremonies, reminders of my spiritual walk and the symbolism and messages that I discover along the way. I knew just what to do!
I lit candles throughout my bedroom, realizing this was the mental picture I was given early in the day. The string of Edison bulbs added additional soft white light to the room. I prepared hot herbal tea in a dainty vintage tea cup, for all my favorite rituals involve hot tea, and sectioned a blood orange.
I arranged a pretty tray to hold my tea and orange slices, and included a silver heart tea light holder from Scotland and a stone burner with a circle of charcoal smoldering within. When the briquette was ashen, I sprinkled dried herbs from my garden on top of it. They released an earthy scent as they burned, the fragrant smoke curling into the room.
In the next section of the book, Julia suggested making a list of 50 things my heart loves. This seemed to me to be the perfect inclusion for my little cheering ritual. In my candle lit bedroom, surrounded by things that I love, I had no problem coming up with 50 things that make my heart sing and bring me great joy.
I could have listed hundreds of things that my heart loves. I stoppped writing at 61. I had achieved the desired conclusion, which was to recognize that I live in a “rich, savory and enjoyable world where, if I will just take heart, things are bound to work out well.”
Before I began my little cheering ceremony, I looked up the word “cheer”. For this ritual, I adopted the meaning – “to give support to, to encourage, exhilerate, gladden, hearten.” The word originated from the Greek word kara, meaning head,and morphed through Latin and Old French to chiere, meaning face. The sense was that cheer was an outward expression of an inward condition. Beautiful.
My little cheering ceremony brought me great joy. I loved taking the time to prepare a ritual with the intention of supporting and gladdening my heart. How very precious. How very meaningful. Cheer did indeed expand my heart, becoming an expression of quiet joy on my face.
This may become a cherished weekly ceremony.
Check out Julia Cameron’s book, Walking in This World:
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I love when something unusual happens. It gets my attention, causing my intuitive antenna to go on alert as I hone in on the message for me. When I opened my iPhone to Google this morning, the day’s quirky holidays were listed. I have yet to celebrate one of these unique days this year. But today’s list caught my interest.
Three of the holidays jumped out at me: Artist as Outlaw Day, Tenderness Toward Existence Day, and Women’s Healthy Weight Day. Robust art, tender life, and health are the focus of my journey this year. What are the odds that these three have special days, all on the same date?
I didn’t calculate the odds. However, I accepted the invitation inspiration offered, to spend time thinking on the holidays and how my life intersects with each one. Please read about Weighing in on Ideal Weighton my other blog.
I couldn’t discover any information about this holiday. It seemed a strange pairing, artist and outlaw, until I looked at an alternative meaning for the word outlaw.
Rather than seeing an outlaw as a criminal on the run, a law breaker, I considered the term outcast instead. The word originates from the Old Norse utlagr, meaning banished. Banished, relegated to the fringes of society, viewed as different, a little scary, living by his or her own rules. I could begin to relate!
And certainly, not all artists are viewed as pariahs, as outcasts. But their very creative souls allow them to perceive the world, and life, differently. From that tilted or expanded or deepened perspective flows astonishing music, eyebrow raising art, and powerful words that can change a life.
I don’t know what the original intent was for this strange holiday, but I no longer care. I appreciate what rose within me today as I contemplated the artist as outlaw, as I thought about myself as living happily on the fringes. I am making art more robust by allowing creativity to occupy a larger part of my heart and life. Art is at the forefront of my awareness, growing stronger and more vigorous.
I couldn’t locate the origins of this unique holiday either, which is an unusual occurrence in itself. I’ve never clicked on a link for one of these celebrations, and not found some info. It happened twice today.
Perhaps the personal message to me was to see where my thoughts led me. Existence is another word for life, for the state of living. Its origins are from the Latin ex – out, sistere – take a stand. Existence literally means out taking a stand or out, being.
Tenderness is a feeling of sympathy, of compassion, toward someone or something. Kindness is another synonym. This holiday, then, could be interpreted to be a day of expressing kindness and compassion toward all living things, toward all who are out, being.
I suddenly recalled this evening, another definition for tenderness. The word can mean a sensitivity to pain.
How powerful this bizarre little holiday became for me. Tenderness toward existence, resulting in compassion and a sensitivity to the pain of others…ALL others.
My heart is wide open. I want love, compassion and sensitivity to the pain of others to flow to all of existence, regardless of race, skin color, gender, orientation, economic circumstances, age, intelligence…beyond any perceived differences or imagined barriers. Compassion toward all life, all people, whether they are like me or very different, agree with me or disagree, love me or dislike me. All people.
A couple of nights ago, one of the possums I feed on the front porch, found his way to the back door, and into the utility room by way of a cat door. Fortunately, the utility room door opening into the kitchen was closed. But what a surprise, to have a possum indoors.
Even though the back door was opened so he could exit, he chose not to. He was happy in the corner, beside the washer. I checked on him numerous times. There was a broom nearby. I could have attempted to chase him out.
Instead, I spoke calmly to him each time I checked on him. I told him it was okay. He was safe. He could leave whenever he wanted. I would not hurt him. Whenever I spoke to him, he would raise his head and watch me, listening, blinking his eyes as if he understood. He never showed fear, nor did he bare his teeth or hiss. He also didn’t play dead! I’ve yet to see a possum, “play possum”. He was calm and alert. And so was I. We didn’t speak the same language, so different were we, but we connected in our mutual respect for each other.
Sometime in the night, he returned to the outdoors.
I thought about that possum a lot today. He offered me lessons in acceptance, grace and compassion, and in communicating beyond spoken words. He allowed me to exhibit tenderness. I am grateful. I am making life a little more tender by being aware of the sacredness of all life, of all of existence.
If only I had grabbed a sketch book and created a quick possum portrait. I would have been celebrating Artist as Outlaw Day and Tenderness Toward Existence Day, a little early.
Today’s inspiration invited me to ponder the deeper meaning of the word robust. I am using Alan Rickman’s delightful quote as the foundation of my adventure this year: “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.” As I completed reorganizing my bedroom closet, and sorted through piles of stuff, my mind was free to consider the word Alan so purposefully used. The journey I was guided on was amazing and soulful.
I looked up robust before the end of last year. The word means “strong, healthy, vigorous”. I am always fascinated by the origin of words. Robust comes from the Latin word robur, literally meaning oak strength.
This morning I asked, as I do every morning, “What adventure should we have today?”, which is a fancy way of asking, “How shall we play today?” This is what a response, an invitation from the Divine, looks like in my life. It starts with a nudge, an energetic tap on the shoulder, that gets my attention.
It began with memories from Facebook. Three years ago on this date, during my Year of Firsts, I took a winter walk in Wildcat Park. I encountered Oak Tree for the first time, a big old tree near one of the walking trails. Touching the oak that afternoon, I felt the vibration of energy humming beneath my hands. I look for Oak Tree every time I walk at Wildcat Park, and I always stop to rest a hand on the rough bark.
As I worked in my bedroom this afternoon, I had a DVD playing, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There is an ancient tree featured in a couple of scenes. It is a whomping willow tree, not an oak, but seeing that tree, after reading my post earlier about Oak Tree, drew my attention to the word robust, and its root word meaning oak strength. Now I was curious. And curiosity inspired me to follow its lead to discover something deeper.
Oak Tree in Wildcat Park in the spring.
I looked up the symbolism around the mighty oak tree, as I thought about art being more robust, more oak strong. This hardwood, which can live for hundreds of years, is considered the King of Trees. Attributes associated with the oak include honor, wisdom, endurance, stability and strength. Those are good characteristics to connect with art…and with my life. The Celtic word druid is derived from their word for oak, duir, which interestingly literally means door. To the Celtic people, passing through an oak door is to spiritually access soul thoughts.
This is where I said, Wait a minute… and began to access my own soul thoughts.
In 2014, my Year of Firsts, I encountered Oak Tree and we became friends. The next year, my Year of Journeys, my symbol was an open door, and my secondary symbol became the acorn, the oak tree’s seed. I associated the acorn with remembrance, and potential, and I purchased a silver acorn pendant and a silver and copper acorn ring.
Last year my journey continued with a Year of Surrender. My symbol was the river, representing the flow of life. I learned to trust at a deep level, recognizing that I am not in control of anything, except how I choose to respond to where the flow takes me and the opportunities that appear. I realized that the Divine calls to me as the Dream Giver, just around the river bend. I can choose to follow that guidance, or resist the invitations to grow and expand my heart and soul.
2017 is my Year of Inspiration. Inspiration…literally meaning Divine guidance. As I considered the acorn, and how that seed contains all the potential for a mighty, strong tree, my heartbeat quickened. Ahhhhh. This. This is where inspiration was leading me. I suddenly saw the connections between my own journey the last three years, and where I am now. The linking of the symbols of the oak tree, the door, the acorn, surrender – which is a type of dying to self, exactly what a seed does so new growth emerges, inspiration and the word robust…from Alan’s quote…gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.
How could I ever doubt that my journey is being divinely guided? My trust deepened even further today, with such inspired revelation…going deep like the roots of an oak tree.
I briefly questioned whether my symbol for this year should be the oak tree. That would make sense. But the answer that came was no. No, this was a lesson today for me about my journey…a lesson that began three years ago when I desired to move beyond my comfort zone.
And the journey continues.
This year, I am learning about making life a little more tender, and art a little more robust. I am becoming more robust as well. I am oak strong.
Most of my day revolved around showing property and follow up work on the computer. In between shutting down the lap top and dinner, I had a burst of energy and creativity, and added a bit more fall décor to my home. Redoing the chippy entry table was quick and fun and satisfied my urge to create.
I loved this little project for three reasons:
1) Other than the purchased gourds, I created this table vignette using items I already had on hand. It’s great fun, for me, and expands my creativity, when I pull pieces that I own together in new ways. All my decor gets reused and combined in endless ways.
2) The stack of mini pumpkin-like gourds in the metal cloche was a happy accident. When I created the vignette in the vintage wooden sieve, I had one white gourd left over. I popped it into the cloche, so it had a temporary home. A few days later, I stood studying that cloche and visualized a stack of orange and white gourds, rising in decreasing sizes within the wire cover. Would that work? Only one way to find out. I purchased more mini pumpkins, paying attention to the sizes of the gourds. My idea came together perfectly and became the focal point of the table top.
3) On the bottom shelf is a favorite quote on a plate with autumnal colors. “A friends knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” I cherish my friendships. How amazing it is to share the journey with those who know my heart so well. And nestled there in the front, is a little marble owl from Italy. That treasure came to me from my Aunt Annie, who passed earlier this year. He seems right at home as part of my vignette.
I enjoyed listening to Liz Gilbert speak Monday evening, on creative living. I’m reading her book on the subject, Big Magic. One of the things she shared was that it’s important for creativity to be able to trust us. She explained that creativity is set free in us by being creative, every day, in big or small ways, wonderfully or imperfectly, for a few minutes or for hours. By expressing our creativity, consistently, joyfully, doing what we love to do, we send out the message that creativity is fostered by us, appreciated, honored. I so agree. As with so many things, the more we express and explore creativity, the more creativity flows to us. I love spending even a few minutes allowing my soul to hum with that vibrancy that being creative brings. And those days when I can spend hours in the creative process, then my soul opens wide and energy flows, and anything is possible.