Photo taken by Michelle Fairchild ~ Art in Nature taken on 12.26.18
A message has been repeating itself this past week. I am listening.
I heard it first last weekend during an amazing workshop presented by Cosmic Cowgirls that featured Lyz Anzia, human rights journalist and found of Women News Network. The Women News Network has dedicated itself to bringing global attention to the needs and empowerment of women through online news journalism.
During the workshop one participant asked how do the journalists covering difficult subjects about such human rights issues which include stories about sex trafficking, rape, abuse and more, keep from falling in to despair about the many problems around the world. Lyz responded very clearly that journalists are able to do the work because they know that the work they are doing can help to change such things. In addition Lys shared that the stories they are writing
Just this last Friday night I had dinner with two dear friends who work on the front lines with people in crisis. One works for a women’s refuge shelter. The other has served as a therapist for those with mental health and drug and alcohol related issues. It is common that the shelter is short on staff and yet the clients continue to stream through their doors. My friend’s healthy realization is that she is only one person, and she can only do what she can do during her eight hours at work. My other friend spoke of the high number of 51/50 clients that had been brought into their center recently and then shared about talking to a peer who handles all the cases in a region for veterans who are suicidal. Again the message was we are each one person and we can only do what we can do.
In January of this year I wrote a Mojo Monday post called Change and Empowerment. That post was about how we can be aware of what is going on in the world and being sensitive, thoughtful and caring people, not manage to lose ourselves in all the swirling problems and tragedies in the world. There are always so many issues from the bees disappearing, to animal cruelty, to thousands dying because of chemical warfare, to people starving or not having enough clean water, to girls being sold for sex, and the list can go on and on and on. While I don’t believe that burying our heads in the sand is the answer, it also isn’t helpful to the world or to our own well being if we begin to drown in a sea of depression.
When I see someone I know posting on Facebook one tragedy story after another I want to give them a hug in person and gently suggest “Pace yourself my friend.” Personally I want to be informed of what is happening in this big wide world. I do care deeply about our planet and all the people living on it. My heart wants so much for every person to experience a loving and happy life. I sadly know that this is not the reality for too many living among us. I know that I have to balance out the harsher realities with uplifting and positive stories so that I am reminded of all the beauty and joy that also exists in our world. I also think as Lys Anzia so clearly stated in her workshop, that knowing we are doing something to effect change and make a difference in a positive way can also keep us uplifted in the midst of stories and events that are hard to bear.
The way we make a difference will vary and look different from person to person. I know that my husbands day job as a middle school science and mathematics teacher impacts the lives of his students significantly. He even has students who he taught about 20 years ago who have remained in contact with him all these years. I have worked for a non-profit foster adoption agency for over nine years and working shoulder to shoulder with social workers and therapists to serve the foster and adoptive children and adoptive families has been very gratifying. I also infuse the writing I do for Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine, this blog and the book I am writing with inspiring messages about healing, grace, love and forgiveness. Other ways I try to make a difference is by eating a vegan diet, signing petitions, making my voice heard about political issues by writing my representatives and so on. Even though we may earn modest teacher and non-profit salaries we also still choose to donate to causes each year that speak to our hearts. It may be the local food shelter, a center to help those in need, a family that is struggling, or an animal shelter like The Farm Sanctuary.
|Photo by Michelle Fairchild|
I realize that not all the day jobs out there will feel as if they are designed to serve a greater humanitarian purpose, but that doesn’t stop one from having a positive impact on one’s fellow workers or from volunteering or offering one’s services in other ways. While it may not be the easiest thing to do all the time it is in some ways the simplest, and that is to extend love and kindness to others on a regular basis.
|Photo by Michelle Fairchild|
Think of some things or images that are uplifting to you. Do you have these images in your immediate surroundings? Do you keep things in your environment that bring you joy and remind you of the beauty that exists in our world?
One of the things that is always sure to make me smile are sunflowers. Sunflowers remind me to breathe. They remind me of the wonders of nature and our planet. They remind me that nothing is permanent and that this is a good thing for life is dynamic. The praying mantis friend on the one sunflower reminds me that my positive thoughts create my world and that beauty comes in all forms.
There are also sources out there that offer up positive stories. One such site is called Daily Good: News That Inspires. Just today a friend shared a an article to warm the heart called The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret for Three Decades. Here is a story about a small group of women who anonymously for many years have done things like paid someones utility bill, bought new clothes for children, donated pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and so much more. They raised the money by selling pound cakes. You can read more about these inspiring women by clicking the linked article title.
Other stories of goodness and kindness abound if we look for them or take notice. There is a beautiful story told in this video about a love letter a man name Fred wrote for his wife who had recently died. You might want to have a box of tissues nearby as you watch how through the kindness of others his letter is transformed into a song.
|Art by Donald Crew from the book Freight Train|
If I ask you what or who inspires you, do answers immediately come streaming forth or does it make you sit and ponder? Just last night and this morning I felt like I was on the freight train of inspiration. Even just now as the words “freight train of inspiration” appeared in my mind and then on the page I thought hmmmm…I should go google that term and see what images pop up. Well it appears that no one has quite coined that term yet, at least according to google, but I did find this wonderful rainbow image from a children’s book called Freight Train by Donald Crew. Needless to say I am feeling a bit inspired by Donald Crew this very moment. Yet, before I get completely off track (no train pun intended) let us return to the topic of inspiration.
Here is one example of how Inspire is defined: to have an animating effect upon one’s mind or emotions; to stimulate to some creative or effective effort; to elicit or create.
Considering this definition of the inspire what or who has an animating effect upon your mind or emotions? What or who stimulates or elicits your creativity?
It will be a challenge for me to limit myself, because there are so many things that are inspiring me every day, but I’ll try to share a just a few on my list today and will provide links so you can explore more on your own.
I just stumbled upon a very inspirational couple just last night via the posting of an artist friend. The history geek in me is absolutely excited about the work of Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, who are the co-founders of the Reflection Press and School of the Free Mind.
is a videographer, webmaster, designer, accountant, manager, builder, architect, editor, publisher, and just about anything else needed to keep the Press running. Matthew came from Philly to San Francisco to intern with COLAGE, a non-profit organization for children with one or more LGBT parents. Growing up with a gay father, isolated in the midst of homophobia, taught Matthew the importance of working to include everyone and inspired his activist spirit to take root.
is an artist, author, educator, publisher, maker, freeek, spirit, big thinker, blissfully devoted spouse and parent who thinks kids and anything creative are awesome. She has illustrated over 20 award-winning, multicultural children’s book and written three. She has written three books for their press, including Claiming Face, Gender Now and I See Peace.
They are currently raising funds for their latest project called Everybody’s History. The overall goal for Everybody’s History is for this to be a large collection of chapter books. Each book telling the story of one hero who has impacted our world, despite the fact that they may at times not have fit into what was socially acceptable at the time. The series will include heroes from the United States, and eventually, the world.
as a small seed from within.
irst I learn to love and nurture myself.
And then as my spirit awakens
I find that when I help others,
I help myself.
And from that awareness
my love expands and overflows
out into the universe.
“I am a watercolor artist and writer. The theme of my work is about unconditional self-love. The reason I write and paint about self-love is because unconditional self-love has the ability to heal and transform our lives. I also believe that when we can love ourselves unconditionally that we create the internal support system that is needed to reach our greatest potential and to live our best life.”
Infinite Love Lyrics
And never let me know
Just to celebrate the notion
Stay with me, don’t go
Cause the truth in your eyes
Is the light in the darkness
You are my love.. My Infinite Love
Other way that we can go
Way that we need be
Here is the prophecy
There’s so, much there
Keep something in
Keep giving in
Keep winning in with
Keep something in
Keep giving in
Keep winning in with
Is the rain falling into the sea
Is the miracle showering me (x2)
I say the blind, the blind
I say the blind will see
Me say now heed the words
And we’re gonna split the sea
What say what
Say what what..
Light a candle
Me say don’t curse the darkness
Make a wish
Send it to the heartless
Taking it back in time 500 BC
Takin’ it to the future Historically
Is the rain falling into the sea
Is the miracle showering me (x2)
If you are familiar with author Oriah Mountain Dreamer you might be surprised to learn that once upon a time she doubted if she would ever become a published writer. This is the woman who wrote the piece called The Invitation, that later became a book by the same title. Oriah shares in her book What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul the story of attending a writing workshop, and how after having her writing torn to pieces over the course of several days, and hearing how few people will ever succeed at writing, left the workshop feeling deflated and almost convinced she should throw in the towel. Yet writing called to her soul and she picked herself back up and continued to follow that calling.
It was her determination and an internal pull to continue to write that propelled her forward. She explains in her book What We Ache For how a writer will write, a dancer will dance, an artist will paint or sculpt, the musician will make compose, the photographer will take photos and so on. They will do these things over and over again. Here is how she expands on the subject:
“Sometimes we use the same stories and images, sounds and movements. Sometimes we work on the same themes using different stories and images, sounds and movements. Sometimes we create the unexpected and never repeated. Sometimes we create between interviews and publicity tours. More often we create between dental appointments and taking our children to hockey practice. But we do our creative work. It’s how we learn how to do the creative work. And sometimes we become tired and discouraged. Sometimes we do not want to see the same image emerge on the canvas, find the same theme surface in the story we are writing. Sometimes we are afraid we will never be able to write or paint or compose or dance or film the wholeness or beauty or truth we ache to produce. And in these moments we take ourselves out into the world and let our sexuality, our love of the sensual beauty of this physical life, and our spirituality, our experiences of the truth we ache for, find us and rekindle our passion to create. We let the dance between the world and our imaginations move us. And we begin again, painting or writing or composing moving or photographing or filming. It’s how we dip down into that well of creative potential and weave a story or create an image or find just a single phrase of melody that takes the breath away. It’s how we pray, how we participate in in life. Over and over again.”
Oriah also recounts a great story about John Cougar Mellencamp. She shares how she heard him being interviewed on the radio and described what she heard this way:
“Mellencamp said that people generally fail in creative endeavors because they assume that great artists produce great works of art from the moment they begin. He postulated that for every masterpiece Renoir produced he has painted dozens if not hundreds of paintings that were just not very good. As a composer, Mellencamp had realized that he had to be willing to compose literally thousands of bad songs, songs that were hardly worth singing and certainly not worth recording, if he wanted to write one great song. Mellencamp pointed out that when an artist puts his or her work out into the world it appears to emerge fully formed. Those who received the completed work, the piece deemed worthy of sharing, hav eno idea how long a process was involved, how many previous incarnations hit the trash can or were painted or recorded over.”
Oriah shares that we have to be willing to keep at it, to learn from the doing. If we want to learn how to write or paint or do any form of creative work, we have to be willing to do it over and over and over again, even if the results are not what we want. Oriah shares how she was at first horrified when a respected writer advised her at workshop to lower her standards. She shares that while for a perfectionist this is tough, it is necessary advice, because “Nothing stops the creative flow and obstructs the only path to learning to create – repeated trial and error – like being wedded to doing it perfectly…and nothing frees up the flow, opens the door to the learning that can come only with repeated experience, like lowering your standards, giving yourself permission to write the worst possible drivel that has ever hit the page.”
Lastly Oriah also shares this piece of wisdom that was told to her years ago in a dream. An old man who she had seen in her dreams for many years smiled and said to her, “Do not confuse what you do with who you are, Oriah. You are not a writer, although you may at times write. You are life unfolding in human form, an awareness within which writing, along with many other things –eating, sleeping, making love, walking in the sun, feeling sad or glad –arise. There is no writer, only writing.” She says that this dream led her to this revelation:
“This idea frees us from the sometimes oppressive notion that we make the creative work happen. The human neurological system and awareness is but one of the places where creative work arise and through which it happens. Thinking of it this way, we can let the creative work be whatever it is. We can arrive at our desks or studios, our journals or easels or keyboards or cameras, excited to see what might happen and content to let it be what it is, to repeat the process over and over. This perspective can keep us from viewing creative work as a means to an end, as something with a hope-for outcome, and help us see it rather as an end in itself.”
Here are some questions to consider:
Today I am will to do __________________________ badly.
Today I will lower my standards in how I….
I do ______________ badly, but I do it because….
Prior to beginning this post I decided I would create a 2013 word art piece. I committed to just whipping it out and then posting it, no matter what I thought of it when I finished. I toast to us all trying new things, making mistakes, creating for the sake of creating, accepting imperfection, loving the process and the journey, rather than just the end products.
My words for 2013 are Wonder, Wow, Love, Health, Grace, Peace, Breath, Action, Courage and Mystery.
What words might you want to claim and hold close this year?