Challenge or Warning, How to tell.

In life one of the things I find the most difficult is to ascertain when something is a challenge or a warning. How does one tell the difference? It takes a lifetime of running off the road, finding one’s wheels spinning in the sky before one begins to understand. I still don’t.

However, there are things that as Douglas Coupland points out, are not worth it. He said, “Find out what you don’t want to do and then don’t do it.”

Sometimes, nevertheless, by walking away from difficulties we shrink. We shrink from learning to push on. We shrink in size because we didn’t stretch our bodies, our minds, our spirits. With students, I am frequently encouraging them to think step by step. I ask them to remind themselves that they are “the worst you will ever be at…. (fill in the task) today. Tomorrow you will be better as you practice.”

It is very difficult to assess yourself without criticism… at least for me. My expectations are frequently so expansive that I run aground on the shoals of my own ambition. Competitiveness also puts me in a place whereby I am judging both others and myself to see who is “ahead.” This attitude is poisonous. It is like a long-distance runner who turns to check others in the race. All track and field coaches point out that that split second when the runner’s mind is off of the race, is when he or she loses. The athlete loses the ability to focus. The runner loses the ability to “be” in his or her body fully and efficiently. He or she loses a connectedness with the ground, the air, the energy flow. And it is given over to the other runners. In a meet if this happened not one runner is present. In life, we who have a tendency to judge and be competitive lose the opportunity to be present.

Flow-Stab energy flow

Flow-Stab energy flow

So how best to work with these tendencies? First of all being aware of how one is feeling is crucial. To observe the emotion gently seems to go a long way to loosening their grip on me.

A warning that one is running on the wrong track comes from a sense of being trapped, of a closing down of the body, of a lessening of energy. Sometimes if one persists and increases skill, one can push through the initial resistance.

On the other hand, when the resistance persists. When the task is increasingly frustrating, it is best to take Coupland’s advice and hand it over to another who joyously and fairly effortlessly can help you. So the final observation that I am making in my life is that there are others on the team, in your tribe who can assist. But there are times when… one must take on the challenge and keep on going on in order to grow.

It is much like working out. If you are in pain the next day and can’t move… then you have done yourself an injury. If you feel warmth in your body and a revitalized energy, you are on the path. I am looking for that feeling in everything I do.

Wish me luck!

Warning to Artists!

scrape on edges, deep grooves

scrape on edges, deep grooves

Awoke to the acid green leaves setting on the window outside my bedroom. The morning light touching flaming yellow patches translucent in their purity. The room zen like in its bamboo flooring and yellow walls does not feel bereft of nature because the trees on both sides  are part of the visual unity of the space.

My mind, so trained for anxiety began to sweep the terrain of the day like a sniper looks for movements of emnity. Perhaps that is why I feel so negatively charged when I am with people who are in defensive mode. It pulls me in and out of myself. I see mirrored in their attitudes the worst of myself. Judgment. Fault finding. Attempting to establish status and as always various types of anxiety. What I call this is the war zone mind. Some live as if they were in Lebonon or Sri Lanka during the worst of the inner city battles. Always looking for the next assault. Times of relaxation and friendship are just breaks in the vigilance necessary for survival.

I am aware that my childhood has wired me for this state. However, I am gently working to loosen those roots. The work is to be kind, gentle and loving with myself. When I falter, when my mind goes to a place of judgment and competitiveness and negativity, I see it and realize that most of that response is internal.

Yesterday while we were carrying a large piece of art out of a furniture store, I was saddened by the fact that the owner had obviously just shoved the 5 x 7 foot piece in a truck with no protection. I was saddened by the fact that they had moved their store and left no sign. When I went to leave off promotional material, the store was empty and my 3 thousand dollar piece was gone. I tried phoning the numbers on their business card and was told it was not in service. Feeling anxious (again) I sent them an email indicating that I was not notified of their move, I couldn’t find them and I wanted my art back. I over-reacted and also said that I did not want to have to take “further action” to retrieve the piece. Almost immediately I got an email back telling me ,”we don’t want your art. Come and get it out of the store.”

When I arrived, I found that the piece had suffered damaged and was scratched to the point where it is unsaleable. I will have to do hours of work to fill the gashes and get an even surface. I felt both disappointed with myself for assuming the worst and disappointed with them for not protecting a valuable piece. All I could do was to remind myself that in the future, I must be more careful about the placement of my art and be more skilled in my dealings with galleries and art dealers.

While I was feeling so many things at once, we were trying to get the giant piece out of the store, without any help. A man walking along the front of the building opened the door for us, smiled and took care of us. A woman driving past stopped to let us cross, smiled and took care of us. I let myself appreciate the kindness of these people. Things are as they are.

All I can do is try to catch on.

Images of the damaged piece are included.

deep gouges in the piece

deep gouges in the piece

For all artists out there, what I have learned is that whenever your work is out on display in any situation, have a contract for the owner to sign. Make one of your own if they don’t have one.¬† There is no guarantee that they will comply but it does teach people how to treat you as an artist and as a person. The more we surround ourselves with respect, the safer we feel. The safer we feel, the less vigilant we are. The less defensive we are, the more the universe supports us.

We never catch up. However, we can catch on. Go forth in joy.

How to tend your Garden

Off to a personal trainer, preparing for the art show in Vienna, Austria, keeping the house clean, getting enough sleepy. My OC tendencies are constantly trying to take over my life. Everything I see that needs doing, everything I think of I want to do. It is like keeping a team of horses under reign. Must sit meditation today to keep my feet on the ground.

Happy Spring everyone. I will be taking you through my process of how I developed the images for Vienna so stay tuned. My blog will be a step by step revelation of how I got there.

Free desk top images

I wish to share a few of the images that I have been working with the universe, or maybe just the world, or maybe just with you. Heading off to Vienna, Austria for an upcoming show has my generosity juices flowing. Also, some of my works can be purchased as postcards or art cards which I can ship to you quickly. Sample some possibilities and come back if you wish to purchase some of my energizing images for your home or office space.

Anyone wanting a one on one two hour class for $45 can contact me at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, 250-763-4269.

Happy spring.

Living with Exhaustion after the death?

tearing away

tearing away

Tired. Emotionally tired from going through papers since 1962 and seeing things such as the receipts for the wedding I didn’t want all clipped together. Every penny that my mother spent on me for my wedding in 1962 are recorded and in a clump in the papers my brother and husband and I went through after the death of my stepfather. I wanted to be married in nature, to wear a full length velvet dress and if my mother wanted to give me something she could give me a jeep. She had promised me a jeep when I graduated from college. No. Now no jeep. Now because I was marrying a man I had met in a poetry seminar, it would be a wedding. Her wedding. I was allowed to select the pattern at the fabric store and the material for the dress. I burst out crying when the florist showed me that she could spray paint the flowers: “Any color you want.” As a graduate student in contemporary American poetry with hair down to the thighs and a person who never wore make-up, the thought of carrying flowers consciously made artificial broke my heart.

It was a power play and my mother always won the power plays. She did it with guilt and with money. There was always the sub text that I was a “Bad girl” and that she had to endure me, from my birth on the issue was how much pain I caused in her life. And then the money. How many 17 year olds know exactly how much their mother is spending on them to send them to university? I knew. I knew down to the penny. She kept track and I kept track. It was what I “owed” her.

And now as a 64 year old woman going through the cat, raccoon, possum, squirrel hair and bodily reminders covering piles of paper, I find the carefully clipped accounts of what she “spent” on me.

It is the wedding which most enrages me. The marriage lasted 12 torturous years because I was trying so hard to be a good girl. I knew at 7 years that it was misery but…. it cost so much. The wedding. It cost my mother so much. I had to stay. Today I could have looked back and remembered the trips and the fun times I had in that jeep. I would have felt brave and free spirited to have a wedding in the woods.

But I gave in, I carried spray painted flowers in the colors she “helped” me select. I wore the veil that she thought the best. It was in a church and the reception at her house. The house that my brother and I went through in four days and with the help of his wife’s family gutted for possession by the reverse mortgage people.

What happened to all of the money my mother used to control me and her husband. He burned through it spending it on race horses, spending it on a waitress 40 years his junior that told him, “I love you honey.”

Now, my brother and I are working our way through the tangled documents, the insurance policies some defunct, some hidden, some active. We are working our way through five bank accounts that were spread throughout three countries. We are working our way through our exhaustion from doing what was estimated to be three months work in five days. But mostly underlying it all is the grief. The realization that for all the promises of love that my mother held out to us. It was a lie.

We have unwound lies about identity, about our real father, about what my mother did or did not do with her money. And we knew as we stood at my step-fathers grave that we could give up the dream that someday we would be loved as innocently and as effortlessly as children are supposed to be loved. It happened. It was over and we locked the door on our family home. We laid to rest the dream that was truly a nightmare.

We now go out into the world knowing that we have done well. Somehow we learned to love in spite of the spiteful spirits around us. We both have deeply committed marriages and have children that we care for. We can feel proud of the “war zone” that we have managed to survive. That we have managed to rise above.

I have no checks, or accounting for what we have given our children. They will not find our lives in such chaos as we try to cling to money to give us power. Both of us have learned that power lies in our hearts.

But right now, we are both exhausted from the lessons.

What to do about Grief?



My step-father is dying. He who cared for his mother as a boy and had to quit school in Grade 8 to support the two of them is now the invalid. She had MS and his father left without further contact. Left the two of them alone to cope with the world. And she was ill.

He served as a tail gunner for a year and was in London. He hated London. He hated most things. He is good at figuring out what he dislikes which is many things: politicians, camping, strange foods.

Pie. It was pie that we had to stay at the table waiting for as we travelled on holidays across the Southwest, down to California, into Mexico. Coffee and pie finished every meal on the road.

He smoked and hated exercise. He got enough exercise at work unloading beer cases at Lucky Lager. Camping, exercise, strange foods and politicians. He had enough of them.

As my mother fought her death for six years, doing everything she could do to stay on this side, he was puzzled and frustrated. He didn’t understand medicine. She was the nurse all of her professional life. He just had to sit for hours waiting for her treatments to finish, chaufeur her from hospitals to home. Now he hates doctors. Camping, exercise, strange foods, politicians and now mostly doctors.

He fell and broke three of his ribs. “If he had been in better shape,” the two doctors told me at different times. He once said that if he knew he would last this long, he would have listened to ,”your mother. She was always nagging at me to go out for a walk.”

Life is strange and, well, inexplicable. She who exercised, went to aerobics and was a health care worker died eight years ago. We thought he would give up and die. He bought race horses. More and more race horses. He was engaged, waiting for the next race. Then this year, he sold his horses. They were costing him.

He gave up. When we would phone and ask what he was doing he would say,”Nothing. I am doing nothing like everyday.” But his heart was strong. It is just that he had no heart for life.

Now he is depressed, in pain with every breath, unable to understand what is happening around him and I ask him what happened in his 80 years of life and he said, “Nothing. I didn’t do nothing but go to work.”

He doesn’t remember the pie, he doesn’t remember the mock fights that he and my mother had. My brother and I are deeply in grief because of how he is.

While I was in Portland I heard one young check out clerk call to another in Whole Foods, “How you living, Carl?” “I’m living great,” was the answer. I so want to wrap my arms around this strange, distant man that stood silently in the back of the room while we watched tv, I want to make it better for him. The dying and the life. I grieve for what is happening to him and for what didn’t happen. I can only hold his hand with love now that he will let me.

Note: I had the priviledge to sit vigil with him and to love him out of life. He doesn’t hurt anymore. He doesn’t have to protect himself from feeling anymore.