Appreciating Freedoms

Today, July 4, is our nation’s birthday. For those intending to celebrate outside with cookouts, pool parties, and fireworks, the weather has been an issue. We’ve had thunderstorms and a steady rain for most of the day, casting a quieting effect over the day. 

I don’t mind the rain. It has been ideal for relaxing at home with a stack of books and perfect for catching up on a webinar I missed yesterday. Instead of barbecue and homemade ice cream, I’ve enjoyed simple plant based meals at home. When the downpour slowed to a light rain, Greg suggested a walk at Mercy Park, to appreciate the day, just as it was. 

Appreciating Freedoms
Normally the city’s parks would be full of people on July 4. But the rain kept people home or drove them to shelters. Only one other walker was braving Mercy park when we arrived, and she carried an umbrella. I opted for a light weight hoodie over a long sleeved shirt and black leggings…definitely not a typical summer outfit but perfect for a brisk walk on this cool day. 

As we circled the small lake at the heart of the park, I thought about the freedoms that I am so grateful for. 

Appreciating Freedoms
Appreciating Freedoms

I love my country. Everyone, from the highest elected government official to the kids using technology to create their own You Tube channels, has the freedom to share their thoughts, views and perspectives. I am mindful on this day that celebrates independence that our freedom has been hard won and it is precious. 

I love my community as well. Walking in this  space where St John’s Hospital once stood reminds me that after the 2011 tornado, people were free to leave Joplin…or stay and rebuild. I am so grateful for those who chose to roll up their sleeves and stay, and for those who recognized the spirit of this city and came to help or chose to become one of us.  

Appreciating Freedoms
Appreciating Freedoms
As I walked I felt deep appreciation and gratitude for my health. Freedom of movement is not something I take for granted. Freedom from pain, and freedom from illness and dis-ease are important freedoms to me as well today. My heart goes out to those who are suffering, as a result of accidents, injuries or illness. My desire is to walk alongside others and offer fresh hope for increased health and wellbeing. 

I appreciated the freedom to not only walk physically, but also the freedom to walk as my genuine authentic self. While I hesitate to take the comparison too far, my freedom has been hard won as well. It has taken years of increasing awareness and deep inner work to live in the freedom, peace and joy that I currently do. I am thankful for all who have walked beside me, offering into my life with love, or with their criticisms, mirroring to me aspects of myself that I needed to explore.  

Appreciating Freedoms
Appreciating Freedoms
As we completed our walk, we paused near the butterfly mural at the eastern edge of the park. The butterfly reminds me that freedom often requires great change. Transformation isn’t easy. And yet I am grateful for every challenge and time of rest that occured, resulting in the strength to face my fears and come out the other side, free to fully be myself, free to embrace my whole heart. 

And freed as well was my creative nature. The little painted rock that we found at the base of the mural is symbolic of the new freedom I have to create and write and explore the areas of art that interest me. Painted rocks are a nationwide activity right now. Joplin has a club. People paint rocks  and hide them in public places. This is the first painted rock I have found! I hid it in another location at Mercy Park. 

As we drove away from the park, the rain began again in earnest. The timing of our “freedom” walk was perfect. 

Franklin D Roosevelt said, “In the truest sense freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”

I get that, on all levels. Freedom is achieved, through our thoughts and ideas, our actions and our unity, and through our willingness to learn and grow. 

I am grateful for all of my freedoms. 

Appreciating Freedoms

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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 Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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!

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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…

The Anatomy of a Vignette

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. 

Oh yes! 

The Anatomy of a Vignette

Day 275: The Giver

The Giver Poster

My sister Linda and I got to enjoy a movie this evening and have some girl time. She picked the movie although it was one we both wanted to see. For my first today, I watched the film The Giver.

The Giver stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan and has a brief cameo by Taylor Swift. It was directed by Phillip Noyce and is based on the novel by the same name by Lois Lowry. This sci-fi drama is rated PG-13, for mature themes and mild violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

Set in a future time after a war called “The Ruin”, a community exists without crime, hate, fear, danger, suffering or differences. Also missing are books, art, music, and color….the residents experience the world in black & white and the movie begins that way. The citizens have also lost being unique and different, freedom of thought and action, and emotions, including love. Three young adult friends, Jonas, Fiona and Asher, (Thwaites, Rush and Monaghan respectively) have completed their education and are being assigned their jobs and roles in life. Fiona becomes a nurturer and Asher a drone pilot but for Jonas, there is a special role given. He is selected to become The Receiver. From an older man (Jeff Bridges) called The Giver he will receive all the world’s memories, which are kept from the residents of the community. Only to Jonas, who is deemed strong enough, will the memories be entrusted. Jonas is recognized as being different, in a world where sameness is not only encouraged, it is a rule. Jonas sees beyond. He sees more. Ten years previously, The Giver had attempted unsuccessfully to pass on the memories to another named Rosemary (Taylor Swift). It is hoped that Jonas is more capable.

Becoming The Receiver is thrilling to Jonas, as The Giver begins to show him what the world was really like before, via his stored memories. Color begins to appear as Jonas’ eyes are opened. Emotions begin to surface from deep within as the young man ceases to take the daily “health” vaccination. He also begins to recognize the flaws in the so called perfection of his current world. In an attempt to prevent future war, the Elders have created a society where choice is taken away and everyone lives by the same rules. Love has been forgotten. Babies are created and nurtured in a facility until such time that they are considered strong enough to live with a family selected for them. The elderly and the unselected among the babies are “realeased” into Elsewhere.

As he receives more and more from The Giver, Jonas recognizes that the safety of his community is really control and manipulation. Being released is death. The vaccines suppress all deeper emotions. He sees that his parents (Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes) are well trained pawns and that Fiona, the young woman that he is growing to love, must be awakened, along with the rest of the community. He discovers that Rosemary was The Giver’s daughter and that he loved her very much. When a baby named Gabriel is destined for Releasing, Jonas intervenes, rescuing the child and fleeing for the mysterious Elsewhere beyond the borders of his small community. The Giver tells him if he can reach the boundary, all memory will be restored to the citizens. His own future and that of his world is at stake as Jonas sets out on a journey of freedom.

This was an interesting movie to watch, leaving me with much to think about! I loved the use of black and white film in the “perfect” but boring world that was created for everyone’s safety. As Jonas, and The Giver before him, discovered maintaining order, following the rules, not feeling, and being safe, do not equal LIFE. The messiness and chaos of deeper emotions, such as love, fear and desire are what make life vivid, powerful, meaningful. The arts and literature flow from those emotions. The freedom to choose, to make mistakes, to experience pain infuse life with color.

I thought the film was very well done and enjoyed Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Brenton Thwaites, who was a newcomer to me, as Jonas. I loved that he had the ability to see beyond and nurtured that ability, even when no one else understood what he saw. One of my favorite quotes from the movie says it all for me: “Have Faith, The Giver told me. He said Faith…that was “seeing beyond”. He compared it to the wind. Something felt but not seen.” Seeing beyond, for me, is like that, being present in this moment, and yet seeing beyond, feeling beyond, the present circumstances, situations or trials, to a largeness of life that calls to me in the midst of all that is now. It brings my head up with anticipation and opens my awareness. And my heart, indeed my whole being, responds to that call!

The Giver We gained control

Day 148: Read and Reflect on Caged Bird Poem


Maya Angelou left her earthly body behind today, at the age of 86. She also left behind a great body of work including seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry and a list of plays, movies and television shows spanning 50 years. Her story, of starting at the bottom of the heap, as she described her early life, and learning to thrive, has inspired so many.

Today, listening to the news of her death, I heard part of her famous poem, “Caged Bird” and was moved to tears. I realized, first of all, that although I’ve heard snippets of the poem, I’ve never read the whole thing. And secondly, I was impacted by the words that I heard because my symbol for this year of moving beyond is the uncaged bird. Not a caged bird. Not just a bird. But a bird that has escaped her cage and taken flight, soaring higher and higher, reveling in her freedom. For my first today, I read Dr. Angelou’s poem and reflected on it.

Here is the complete poem:

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps on the back of the wind

and floats downstream till the current ends

and dips his wings in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage

can seldom see through his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with fearful trill

of the things unknown but longed for still

and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

of things unknown but longed for still

 and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

What a beautiful poem. It is hard for me to believe I’ve never read it before now, and yet, this was the perfect time, during my journey, to become aware of it. The uncaged bird has been a significant and powerful symbol for me. I know why the caged bird sings also. She longs for freedom, and yet, limited in her ability to fly, bound by fear, she remains caged. I realized several years ago, as I felt myself caged by limitations and fears, that I was the one who built my own cage, bar by bar. I was the one who placed myself within this small, cramped space and yet longed for something more. Fortunately for me, and for all of us, the door to that cage is unlocked. It only required a desire strong enough to test the door for me to gain my freedom. Finding my own voice, opening my throat to sing, was the beginning of my exhilarating flight.

I love the poem’s imagery of the bird daring to claim the sky and naming the sky as his own. The expansiveness of the sky is unlimited, open, full of the breezes of opportunity and abundance. I, too, love being there, soaring, stretching, becoming all that I am meant to be. It takes courage from within to step out into the unknown and leave a cage that feels safe and familiar, no matter how confining. It’s scary to take that leap of faith that hurls you into the air, where you must fly or plummet. I have not regretted those steps or that leap. Nor would I return to my cage. I have grown too much. I would no longer fit within those constricting bars. For that, I am grateful.