As life would have it, I came across this article about a new book by Anne Lamott just as this piece was finished. The book, Almost Everything - Notes on Hope grabbed my attention, along with this opening line from the article and her prelude: "In general, it doesn’t feel like the light is making a lot of progress."
And that is kind of how the world feels this morning after a horrific shooting in a Pittsburgh synagog and bombs delivered through the mail last week. Yet there is a glimmer...in the voices raised to comfort families of the fallen, in those speaking out against bigotry, hatred and violence. There is a glimmer of light in people reaching out to each other.
Lamott says: "...we see that our beauty is being destroyed, crushed by greed and cruel stupidity. And we also see love and tender hearts carry the day. Fear, against all odds, leads to community, to bravery and right action, and these give us hope."
To love and tender hearts, dear reader. They are our hope and our heroes - the glimmer in the dark. On this Monday, let's look toward the light and bring it home.
You artists and writers out there know the feeling, when you are trying so hard to create this thing in your mind that it actually gets harder to achieve the more you work on it. So the goal is to find a kind of flow instead, where it doesn't feel like trying at all. It is harder than we think!
An online article about a new book, Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity describes wu-wei as this:
"Wu-wei literally translates as “no trying” or “no doing,” but it’s not at all about dull inaction. In fact, it refers to the dynamic, effortless, and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective. People in wu-wei feel as if they are doing nothing, while at the same time they might be creating a brilliant work of art, smoothly negotiating a complex social situation, or even bringing the entire world into harmonious order."
Oh. A way to bringing the entire world into order! Hmmm.
I haven't read the book (yet) but the article is quite fascinating. And it made me add another sign to my studio. In addition to "Leap Before You Look", I've added "How to Be Exceptional: The First Step is to Stop Trying." Whoa.
So get out there today and stop trying, whatever it is you want to achieve. Maybe just sidle up to it like it's a shy pony and look at it out of the corner of your eye. I'll be in the studio trying not to try. :)
I've had a lot of time to rest, read and watch t.v. lately, and I've been delighted by a series titled "Call the Midwife", which takes place in 1950s and 1960's England. What I didn't expect was this nugget of wisdom in the opening narrative of one episode - "women write their history in the words that pass between them." Whoa. I had to think about that one for a day or two. In modern times, we launch how many words per day into the universe? Between our voices and our social media, we fling a lot of words. So I paid attention to the words passing between women. A lot of it was uplifting, encouraging, motivational and tender. Especially when the women knew each other well. Some of the words were exquisite - little treasures to remember and cherish for those times when we need reminders of our goodness and abilities.
But some of it was not good at all. Some of the words passing between women were mean-spirited, gossipy or judgmental, and rarely face-to-face. The words that pass between other women can uplift or wound us even if we aren't a part of the conversation, for words travel. Once released, they take on a life of their own.
So back to this painting. What began as skewing a master became instead words of wisdom from the paint. The words that pass between us, what we SPEAK and what we SAY, write a history. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Let's write a history together that lifts us one and all.
For those of you interested in upcoming events, there are some goodies in November!!!
Who knew pushing a grocery cart (even an empty one) could be so taxing? And the clerk looked askance at me when I asked for each bag to be packed as lightly as possible. My purchases were literally weighed to make sure nothing was too heavy for me to lift.
But here's the good part - making soup is kind of the ultimate act of love, I think. A few Christmases ago, I came down with a wicked flu - high fever, chills, ick. My sister, a guest for the holiday, spent the entire day roasting a chicken and making soup. Hours and hours. And I still remember it as one of the greatest gifts I got that year. A warm bowl of homemade soup was just the thing I needed.
Now I am no soup goddess like my sister (who is known far and wide for her broths!), but I like to think the oodles of love on top of the noodles in this week's soup will be just the thing to tell my sweetie how much I appreciate his patient and gentle care over nearly three months. And maybe, if we're lucky, he will feel better, too.
"We Went Left Instead of Right" - mixed media on 300 lb watercolor paper, 22" x 15". Ready to frame. Available here and at Artfinder.
How about some free play in the studio? For this piece, I put down thick gesso over an old painting, then carved through it with a chopstick. Once dry, I turned the paper repeatedly, examining the lines and looking for shapes. There! A foot! There! A moon! A bird! An antlered beast! The more I look at this, the more I am drawn into the painting, There are STORIES in here! It's a little like fall down the rabbit hole. You can bet I will try this again. An EXTRAORDINARY amount of fun.
And even more fun - a weekend in Sarasota at the Florida Watercolor Society Annual Convention! Just what was needed to infuse me with some much needed art tribe bonding time, inspirational art ogling and an absolutely mouth-watering display of art supplies and tools at the trade show. Brushes! Paints! Inks! Papers! Boards! Grounds! Oh my. Someone wipe the drool off of my face already! Ok, ok. Yes, a lot of it ended up in the car to go home with me. This is what happens when an artist is kept in the house too long.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a room full of wild creatives learning how to swashbuckle their way into the world of social media and tell their stories. They didn't mind at all when I donned a blue tutu and dared them to play Mad Libs as a storytelling prompt. These artists are GOING PLACES! What did they learn that you might be interested in? Here are a few juicy links:
hastagify - learn what hashtags work best with whatever you are doing on social media
linktree - add links to your Instagram bio page
IFTTT - add recipes to your life! Not just for artists. There is a little applet for just about everything!
The bird, the bird...feathered spirit guides appear in many forms. Hawk, eagle, sparrow...as many as their are birds. But what about birds in general? They appear in many of my paintings - what do they mean?
Often, the appearance of a bird sends the message of emotional control and weathering hardship. A symbol that you can do it - whatever it is challenging you right now. Bird also means endings and beginnings, but not rushing to complete one and start the other. Patience, right timing, waiting. (The dreaded "P" WORD is how it's known in our house! Patience is my husband's thing. Not so much mine, though I am learning.)
Bird can mean to use your voice to bring hope...something as artists we hope to do with each brushstroke. As humans, sharing our stories, using our voices to encourage - all are powerful bird energy.
With the wings of your bird spirit you can rise above hardship and adversity, separate yourself from worldly problems and enjoy lightness of being.
And now, enough birdsong to fill your day!
Jen Walls and her imaJENation