she who burns

sky above me
earth below me
fire within me

If you are making a list of things that make me cry, add any Simon and Garfunkel song. This morning it was this one that I heard on the way from taking my grandsons to school. 

It's tender and feels fragile here in the United States. Our election is less than a week away and it has divided our citizens like no other election in my memory. Our indigenous people are fighting to save their sacred land and water from a gas pipeline while another burns in another state and another dumps tons of gas into a river. The news feed is a just a list of fearful, violent, and corrupt acts. 

Where is my America?

I am looking for her.
I am looking for the hope, the light and love, the kindness and compassion.
I am looking for the goodness I believe lies within us all.

That's the soft part of me. 

The hard part of me is a fire breathing dragon ready to take on injustice, misogyny, and racism. I am a fighter or at least I think I am. I want to fight and make a difference, instigate some change. Fighting makes me vulnerable though. I know this. Fighting is my energy leak. 

Some people are designed for the fight. I like to think that I am. I like to think that I am the tough girl, the nasty woman, the one who can fight the battles but I'm not that woman. I have played that role because it feels like to be taken seriously I have to be her. I have played that role to others while coming home and collapsing into the arms of my love, my rock, my husband and weeping until exhausted. 

I can't fight anymore. It's not how I want to live my life. It's not how I want to be with those that I love. It's not how I want to move through the world.

Ah, but there's this fire to contend with, to tend. I may not be a fighter but I am the fire woman. I will always burn fervently for those I love, for the things I believe in. I can't be the raging fire that destroys everything in her path though. I want to be the fire that nurtures, that nourishes, that brings light and warmth. I can be her. 

I am she who burns. 

i made a thing ... let's change the world

You change the world by being yourself.
— yoko ono

Advice given: Imagine the end of your life. Imagine the people you love and your community reflecting on your life. Imagine what you want them to say about you, your life, your work in the world. 

Advice taken: ( well ... advice taken after I let that advice given mess with my mind for far too long )  I will not design my life based on some outcome I hope for years from now. I will live my life well each day, with love and compassion, with grace and peace, with laughter and learning. Living well today, and the next and the next, will add up to a life well lived. That's it. 

I used to think that I could change the world. I used to believe that I could make a difference. Some days now, I despair that each day begins and ends the same and it all seems a little less hopeful than I want it to be. Other days, most days, I know that all I have is today and the work of healing myself, of giving back love and light to the world any way I can, of creating a small and wonderful life. 

I'm a creator, a maker, a crafter of my life. I say that I am an artist and that is true on a deep level but the moniker I most relate to is maker. I make things. I am a maker of things. Paintings, poems, journals, masks, doodles, and zines. Those are the things I am making now and preparing to offer to you, to others, to anyone who wants to give me money. Ah ... money. I am asking for money. And there is a TON of words to write about how that makes me feel vulnerable and courageous all at the same time. I will save  those words for later. For now, I have something else to tell you first. 

I used to think that I could change the world. I used to think that I could make a difference. I want to believe that is possible again. I want to play in the possibilities. 

When I began to craft this business of mine, this making things and selling things, I held a very important intention to carry through into my work. I decided that I would donate a percentage of my sales to causes and organizations that I believe in. I chose three. 

1.   I believe in the healing power of creativity and making art. I believe that supplies, resources, and classes should be abundantly available to everyone. I will be supporting The Dreaming Zebra Foundation

The Dreaming Zebra Foundation was incorporated in Portland, Oregon in the interest of promoting greater access to the arts for children and young adults. Our founders recognized a pressing need in many communities for the promotion of charitable donations of art and music supplies to support individuals, schools, and other nonprofit organizations serving youth and the arts.

Core to our identity is the belief that all children, regardless of their financial circumstances, should have access to art education. As a public charity powered by volunteers, this belief drives all that we do.

The Dreaming Zebra Foundation’s supporters share a common passion for education, the environment, and community, and as such, we are able to connect the synergies between those who support the arts and those in need.

 

2.  Wolves. I love wolves. I have written about my connection to wolves. This sacred animal is misunderstood, hunted, and endangered. I believe that educating the public about the role of and lives of wolves is important. Equally as important is the work of protecting and prolonging the species.  I've chosen to support the Wolf Conservation Center

The WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. The WCC accomplishes this mission through onsite and offsite education programs emphasizing wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the United States.

The WCC also participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Recovery Plan for two critically endangered wolf species, the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the red wolf (Canis rufus). The Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf are among the rarest mammals in North America; both species at one time were completely extinct in the wild.

3.   Domestic violence is a national and international crisis but it is not an issue out there somewhere. It is likely that either you are or have been a victim or someone close to you is or has been. In my own life, women I know and love are survivors. Supporting those who are making their way out of their situation, who are trying to heal and survive, who are building better lives for themselves is important to me. I have chosen to support our local organization, Safe Harbor

Our Mission

To provide a continuum of services for victims of domestic violence and their children.

To eliminate cultural acceptance of domestic violence through a coordinated community response, prevention and education.

Our Vision

To influence a culture where all people are safe and valued in their relationships.

Safe Harbor is a private, 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence in the upstate of South Carolina.

We offer a continuum of services, providing safe emergency sheltercounselinglegal advocacy, andtransitional housing, as well as community outreach and teen dating violence education in Greenville, Pickens, Anderson, and Oconee counties.

We have approximately 25 full-time staff, 20 part-time staff and over 100 volunteers, including our board of directors.

Together, we make a difference for victims of domestic violence and their children, providing them with safety and resources, helping them to heal, and giving them the support they need to start new lives.

When you purchase artwork or journals or zines or whatever other wonderful thing that I make, you will be partnering with me in support of these organizations. I hope you feel good about that. I do. Speaking of purchasing something ... I have something to offer! 

If you subscribed to my e-notes, my exploration notes, or if you read this post, you will know that I have been playing with creating a small zine, a new iteration of something I used to offer. 

A couple of years ago, I created and sold a small ten page journal called spiritspeak. It was an offering of my own creative practice, my journaling process. When I decided to bring spiritspeak back in zine format, I discovered that in the time of the spiritspeak hiatus, a beautiful tarot project of the same name was created
( follow her on instagram as @spirit.speak ) so I began to explore other titles for my project. Ultimately, the project has evolved into something a bit different but perfect.

 On that particular day, I was sitting with my dog on the back porch. It was his last day with us. At thirteen years old and with congestive heart failure, all signs that week pointed to us making the choice to assist his leaving us. While I was working at the table on the back porch, where he wanted to be, I picked up my pages and started making notes in them about what I was experiencing. I wanted to remember. I wanted to honor. At that moment, an ambulance sounded in the distance and Dobby tried his best at a howl. A simple lowly howl that reminded me that these are the sacred moments and they need to be recorded and shared. 

I made October's zine but life happened and I didn't post about it or get it to the printer. Instead of soaking in the discouragement of that, I went forth and created November's zine. It is done and ready to go.

Life happening to me means a free issue for you. When you purchase November's zine, you will receive October's zine for free. Buy one get one, y'all! Also, if you'd like to go ahead and purchase December's zine, I'm gonna give you a discount on that as well! Click for your purchasing options below. 

Options

a lowly howl is about the ritual of living, pausing and noticing my day, excavating words and questions. Creating it has been a sacred practice. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.

The zine is created from one sheet of paper, printed on both sides, with a total of sixteen pages. It measures 5.5 in x 6.5 inches. After you read through the first eight pages, you will open it up, flip it over, fold over again, and pinch the middle pages together to gain access to the second eight pages. It sounds complicated but when you see it, I am sure you will understand. Here's an example of what I am making so you can visualize how it looks. 

As always, thank you for your love and support. Thank you enabling me, empowering me, to love and support others. 

there is no time in the wild

Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.
— mitch alborm, the timekeeper

After a trip to the grocery store, after dropping off the grandsons at school, I pulled quickly into the driveway, mentally speeding through my morning. It was almost nine-o'clock and I was already feeling behind. I was riffling through the to-do list in my mind, trying to figure out how to move as quickly as possible through the day because I have shit to do. Important shit. Urgent shit. Not as important shit. All the shit to do. 

As I got out of the car, my neighbor called to me. He has apples for me. I took a few moments to chat with him about his grandfather's farm, rock and stones for the driveway, and how much candy should I have ready for Halloween because we've never lived in a neighborhood before now. Trying not to let my impatience show, I turned back to the car, rushed the groceries in, breathless and feeling behind.  

I am feeling stressed because I feel behind. I feel behind because I am fifty-two years old and didn't figure out what I want to be when I grow up until a few years ago. There is so much I want to do and so much less time to do it in.  The years grow shorter, the days pass too quickly, and I count hours obsessively. Though there is no reason to have this thought, the end of my life looms large, motivating me, demanding that I not waste time, that I spend my time well.

Time is the construct by which I measure my life. Most of us do. I wonder if this is not serving us well. I don't think it is serving me well at all. When I say I am behind, what do I mean? Behind who? Behind what? Who gets to say or determine what my speed through life is? Who gets to measure my life and declare that I am running out of time or that I am wasting time? Though I want to say that I am the timekeeper of my own life, I am not so sure that is true either. 

On days that feel purposeful, I don't count time. I move through my day from one thing to the next, being present, responding to life instead of reacting and that is how I want to live everyday. When I think of my perfect day, I think of the wild and what Mother Nature has to teach me. There is no time in the wild. There is not a frantic push to do all the things before life ends. There is not a to-do list to accomplish before sunset. Hours and days and years are not counted. I want to live in the wild. I want to live. 

"when you are measure life, you are not living it."

~~ mitch alborn, the time keeper

 

crying in the grocery store

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
— charles dickens, great expectations

It is said that I have a habit of crying in grocery stores. This is not an untrue statement. It has become such signature move for me that when my daughter recently heard a friend describing an incident in her local grocery store with a crying woman, my daughter asked, "Did she have red hair?" 

I remember the first time. The beginning of 2013 was a season of mourning. A young friend took her own life, my nephew died of an overdose, and my mother's health began a downward spiral. As I juggled a part-time job, caring for my grandsons, managing my mother's health needs, my own home and the last years of homeschooling, grocery shopping became daily run-ins on the way home. It felt like the only time I slowed down and I would take the opportunity to walk up and own each aisle. Publix became a safe space, a familiar place, and the tears would fall. 

My heart was working through the grief of loss, the challenges of change, and the multiple ways I felt like I was not doing enough well enough. There were many dropped balls during those years and many mismanaged emotions. 

Yesterday, the tears were cued when I saw someone who made me think of my brother who died in May. I thought about missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and just missing him. He was a gruff and sometimes angry man. I wondered what our conversations would be like now during this election. He was the demographic of a Trump supporter and I think he could have been vulnerable to the fear mongering of the Trump campaign. 

Then I thought about my father who died in 2004 ten days after the election. My Republican father who went to the polls in a wheelchair to cast his vote for George W Bush. I saw him the day after election day and he asked if the guy I voted for had won. This was his way of determining which way I had voted. Well, I hadn't vote for the guy he had voted for so I thought quickly that at least one person I had voted for in my very Republican state had won so I just told him yes. It wasn't important enough to shatter his delusion of me when his time left here was so short. I've often said that it may be a gift that he left this world before finding out that his beloved daughter had come out as a Democrat. I wondered what our conversations would be like during this election. 

Then I thought about my mother. She never cast a vote for anyone in her life. Maybe she thought she wasn't smart enough, educated enough. Maybe the process was just too overwhelming. I don't know. We didn't talk about it. I do know that she had excellent judgment of character and I know that she had a huge mistrust of her gender and would probably have never approved of a female president. How is it that we women are conditioned to turn our judgment upon each other? So, I wondered, too, what our conversations would be like during this election. 

I haven't set out this morning to write a blog post about our United States elections. There aren't words enough to capture the emotions and thought processes of the past twenty months or so. Instead, I set out to capture the timeline of thoughts that had me driving home from the grocery store in tears, grief flowing through me. I want to remember. 

I want to remember why I cry. I want to remember who I cry for. I want to remember that the salty water cleanses me, somehow. I want to feel every tear that is pulled from my  heart and sears my face with heat, branding me with a reminder that I am real and that life is beautiful and hard and complicated ... and beautiful. 

So I cry for the days and years that I don't have my nephew, my father and father in law, my mother and my brother. I cry for any way that I failed them, failed to show them love and compassion. I cry for the state of my country and the division and fear. I cry for my incredible humans, my children, who astound me with their wisdom and way in the world. I cry for this love of mine, my man and our journey through time. 

There was a time that I didn't cry. I felt it diminished my strength. About twenty years ago, the flood broke through and now? Well, I'm the one crying in the grocery store. 

tell a new story

I want us to live our lives rather than perform them.
— kelly diels*

Ok, I admit it. I have caught the Hamilton fever. I knew next to nothing about the musical except it was a crazy hit, had won a bunch of Tony awards, and was probably instrumental in Alexander Hamilton remaining on the ten dollar bill. Then I saw Lin Manuel Miranda on Saturday Night Live where he riffed off  I'm Not Throwing Away My Shot and I was intrigued ... this is a hip hop musical?! This past Saturday, I recorded and watched a bit of Hamiltion's America (saving the rest for when I returned home). Shaking my head at the genius I was witnessing, I went searching for a way to listen to the full performance. The album is on spotify! I've listened three times since Saturday. By the time the musical goes on tour and makes it way anywhere near me, I will have every word memorized. 

Driving home from the coast yesterday, my husband and I listened to it together. The last song began to play, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells your Story:

and I was captivated by the thought of who tells your story ... because I believe in the power of story. I also believe that we have the power to tell our own story. 

Sometimes it can feel like life happens to us, around us. It can feel like we are nothing but a player in the drama, the comedy, the tragedy. It can feel that way and it can be easy to give over to just playing a role, performing to a script not written for us or by us. 

What to do? 

Tell a new story.

Write yourself into the script. 

Live your life instead of perform it. 

I believe that you already know who you are. 
I believe that you have a story to tell.
I believe that when the story wrapped around you doesn't reflect who you are and how you are in the world, you can tell a new story. Change the narrative. Live the truth of who you are. 


*quote from Kelly Diels most recent love letter. Check her out. 

howling with the wolves

To run with the wolf was to run in the shadows, the dark ray of life, survival and instinct. A fierceness that was both proud and lonely, a tearing, a howling, a hunger and thirst. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst. A strength that would die fighting, kicking, screaming, that wouldn’t stop until the last breath had been wrung from its body. The will to take one’s place in the world. To say ‘I am here.’ To say ‘I am.
— o.r. melling
photo from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Flickr stream. Click through to see original. 

photo from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Flickr stream. Click through to see original. 

I'm a city girl, granted, a small town city girl, but I grew up up right off North Main Street in my hometown. I'm from sidewalks and streetlights, a huge library and art museum almost within walking distance, the night sky with less stars and more sirens and trains in the not too far distance. 

As a child, climbing into the arms of my beloved huge, old dogwood in my backyard was my escape. The earth and the sky called to me with the promise of being rooted while simultaneously offering me a view of freedom from those tip-top brances. The wild was buried deep within me, heartbeat to heartbeat, waiting to emerge. 

Fast forward to 2012 and the phone call, a torrent of words rushed out of me, and she said, "wow. freedom is very important to you. The phrase you repeatedly said was, "I want the freedom to" Yes. Freedom is very important to me. 
A few months later,  another phrase was on repeat.

Spirit Uncaged

The beast was calling. 

It was never a bird behind those bars. It was always a wolf. I don't really know why. I know next to nothing about wolves but when I thought of releasing the spirit, MY spirit, I was releasing the she-wolf. It became a symbol of releasing myself to return to myself, to root into the very spirit of myself, the primal, the deep knowing, the instinct. The wolf was she and she is me. 

Wolves are almost like mythical creatures to me and hold a sacred space in my soul. I don't collect wolf figurines or surround myself with images of wolves easily because it is the spirit of the wolf, something that cannot be seen that is most important to me, that is the connection for me. 

There's more to this story. Now that you know all of that about me, imagine my reaction when my husband recently asked if I wanted to go to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to the Red Wolf Howl. Yeah ... it was something like this:

Kristen Bell - Sloth photo kristen-bell-so-excited.gif

This time tomorrow, I will be on my way to the wolves. On Friday night, I'm going to howl with the wolves, to find my song, to listen for theirs. Call and response. A prayer. 


In interest of preparing and protecting a sacred space within for this trip, I will not be writing here for the rest of the week. I'll be chronicling the story on instagram and facebook. Please follow along with me there.

she ... and she ... and she ... is me

I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
— walt whitman, song of myself

Take me in your hand
hold me to the light
turn me this way and that
so that you may see
the pieces of me
reflecting the light
of this heart and soul
the pieces of me
that make up the whole of me.

I am not just one small being.
Like whitman, "I am large. I contain multitudes" 
I say that I AM multitudes
and I sprinkle the blessed holy water on myself
and call them good.

I do not have to be one thing, one person, one woman
the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow
to show you who I am. 
That would be false.
The truth of me is fragmented and faceted. 

Once there was shame for not having it all together,
for being unfocused, scattered
too much and too many
for we are to know who we are and where we fit exactly
and I never have known or fit exactly.

I AM ALWAYS SPILLING OUT OF MYSELF.

I am gathering in the bits and pieces,
 placing them on the alter, the sacred space.
I am looking each iteration of myself in the eyes,
welcoming her, honoring her, getting to know her deeply.

She and she and she is me. 


when being sick slows you down

Being sick is just your body’s way saying you’re way too awesome, and you need to slow down so everyone else can catch up.
— somewhere on the internet

I've spent the past two days on the bed, barely able to move except for those needed trips to the bathroom ... over and over. I am up today for a bit but soon will crawl back up the steps and crash again. My mind is assailing me with thoughts of falling further and further behind on all the things I need to do, want to do. My body says, "slow down. rest. heal." 

When I was a younger mom and the kids were mostly littles, this type of thing didn't get me down. It couldn't. Mom's have super human strength. I guess I thought that would never go away but it has. Thursday, yesterday, today I feel like a whiny three year old who really just wants to be left alone until she feels better ... just bring me some ginger ale from time to time. 

In small bursts of lucid moments, I think, what lesson do I learn from this ...because there is always a lesson to learn. It is a different variation of the same one that I've been trying to learn for awhile now. Surrender to what is. Fighting doesn't make it go away. Resisting doesn't make it easier. Lean in. Go soft. Surrender. 

So I am sick for two or three days this week. So that means I didn't get things checked off my to-do list. So what? The to do list is still there. Nothing is urgent. The things that I feel are important are still there waiting for me. 

I have a habit of piling more on my plate that I can possible handle, expecting more of myself than is humanly possible, and then feeling completely less than when I am not able to meet my own standards. I call it creating a too big container. I've been preaching about this to myself for over a year now. Small calls to me but I don't listen, I don't answer. I reach for more and more and more. 

I'm ready for balance and that is a word that I usually avoid because it conjures up an image in my mind of someone plate spinning, keeping all the things in motion at the same time. No. I am done plate spinning. I am ready for the balance that comes from being completely centered. Slow down. I wrote about it on Tuesday and my body is just giving me a huge reminder right now that I have to mean it. Slow is my just right pace. 

Ok. That's it for today. I'm exhausted. There's a little part of me that clicks the save and publish button and revels in saying that I did this today.  Another bigger part knows that being here, writing words, is part of my slowing down, focusing on what fuels me, what I need to be doing in this moment. 

the body seen

We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we’re not glowing, and we’re not hot, that we don’t matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don’t matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you.
— oprah winfrey

I am fifty-two and things they are a-changing and I am trying to be OK with that. I am trying to accept what I cannot change and change what I can and be very, very clear on the difference between the two. 

I am looking into the mirror and paying attention, seeing myself for the first time in a long time. My home has few mirrors because I have avoided mirrors. I have told myself that I didn't want the focus to be on the outward of me when the inward of me is what really matters. I haven't had a full body mirror ... ever. I didn't have to see myself because I chose not to see myself. 

I wasn't allowing myself to exist, to be real, to be worthy of being seen. Though I am an advocate for realistic beauty standards and body love, I haven't been opening my eyes to myself. Without a mirror, I could be whoever I wanted to be in my mind. Maybe that is not such a bad thing but I am discovering that I have ignored my body into non-existence. I've created a hostile environment by sending the message that I prefer she stay hidden. I prefer to not know how she is changing. I prefer not to see her and love her just as she is. 

My body has been speaking to me. She entered into a very loud rebellion last year when I began to lose the sensations in my hands to constant prickling and numbness, when I began to lose my ability to grip things. I was terrified that I was losing my strength and dexterity in my hands just when I had discovered art making as my love. My healing journey has brought me closer to my body, to paying attention. With acupuncture and massage therapy, I have improved. Some of the symptoms have returned in the last month. There is more work to be done. 

The first time my massage therapist touched me, I began to weep. I was forced to acknowledge this body, to see her, hear her, honor her ... to say, she is real. The healing has been more than physical. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I am growing. As I have been healing the connection between my body, my mind, and my soul, I've longed to be seen. To see myself. The mirrors return and I take photos of more than just my face. 

I look into the mirror and I am a bit shocked. I haven't seen that belly for what is is. I've imagined it smaller, flatter ... more acceptable. I haven't seen the breasts that are beginning to rest lower. I haven't seen the rolls and bumps and spilling over. My mind begins to judge, to criticize, to admonish, to shame me back into hiding. My soul says, "We need to be here together ... body, mind, and soul. We need to create a safe place to find complete acceptance of one another." 

As much as I want to say that I don't care, I do. I want to be cute in my clothes and sexy. I want to feel that my outside matches my inside. I want to love this body unconditionally and celebrate who she is. 

Here is where the love poem should be. All the words that I want to say to and about my body, declaring how amazing she is. I am barely there though. This voice of love is but a whisper but it is growing. Sometime the words are difficult to find and nurture so I'm beginning with the visual, with allowing myself to see and to be seen. I'll be writing more about it and sharing in real-time on Instagram with #thebodyseen. Join me?