I joined an online group called “First 37” which started on January 1st. What drew me is the intention behind the purpose of the 37 day program. The description said it was for those who want to live more meaningful lives, one day at a time, who want to start the New Year with intention. First 37 is designed to help me explore what I want to create in 2019, and set me on the path to creating it. I get a daily prompt that includes 3 different steps, and there is the opportunity for dialogue in a community of people on the same journey. Some of the prompts include noticing things and I love to capture those images in photographs, instead of just writing them down on an index card. I love to include visuals. I am using an app on my phone called LiveCollage to put together the quick collages you’ll see featured below.
As I begin to write this post about a death, a birth and two heart surgeries my quirky mind jumps to thinking about the film called Four Weddings and A Funeral or those jokes that start off with “A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar…” Perhaps it is not in my best interest to share how ADHD my thoughts can be, and may I add, how they exhaust me at times. Yet it is true that these past two weeks have included the death of a great uncle, the birth of a great niece and two heart surgeries, an aunt’s and that of a very dear member of my creative Cosmic Cowgirl community.
My auntie’s heart surgery went smoothly and she is on her way to recovering. The heart surgery of Sue Hoya Sellars, a master artist and matriarch, on Thursday, September 18th also appeared to be successful. All the monitoring during the long procedure indicated things went well. There was a beautiful video live stream post surgery, where those present and those of us miles away could touch base and share in wishing Sue a speedy recovery. However things didn’t go quite as expected because Sue didn’t wake up. As the hours and days rolled on vigils began and still family and friends held onto hope that she was simply healing in “Sue time.”
As more time has passed the shadows of doubt have grown. The community has circled around sending waves of love from around the world, while writing poems, drawing and painting, in honor of she who has taught many how to wield a paintbrush and how to mix her unique blend of black paint. In the midst of tears that I shed multiple times a day I am inspired by all the creativity and love that abounds. There is the 30 day Committing Art with Sue that launched. I have seen so many beautiful drawings and paintings posted by those who have been touched by her and this community. I have fallen head over heals for the quotes that artist Christina Gage has been creating from close ups of her paintings and the wise words of Sue herself. I have been moved by the poetry and written words of so many who wish to share their experiences with Sue and offer words of comfort to one another. I have loved hearing how many have visited the hospital, sitting and talking to Sue, singing to her, drumming for her and certainly praying for her.
Even as I write this on the evening of Thursday, September 25th, Sue is alive, blood flowing through her veins, and her heart pumping. Actions were taken earlier today though to remove all the tubes and wires, so that family and friends could move her to her beloved Terra Sophia homestead. The latest update was that she remains unresponsive and it is expected that she will transition from life to the great mystery called death.
Every day since the surgery I have awaited the announcement that she has awoken. I have expected to hear accounts of her waking to joyous reactions and great relief. I have imagined her look of surprise to learn she has been sleeping for a week. Many have suggested she has been soul traveling and will return with stories of visiting the cosmos and spending time with ethereal beings.
I reflect and find irony in how my most recent taboo article for Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine is entitled We Are All Going to Die. Poetry Can Help. The day my article was published is the day I learned Robin Williams was no longer with us and not long before that one of my all time favorite human beings, Maya Angelou, had passed away. In the here and now of grieving for the very real likelihood that Sue transitions in the next hours or days, the title of my own article feels more real than ever. Yes, we are all going to die and yes, as I continue to witness, poetry can help. So can painting, singing, drumming and writing as we transform grief and loss into expressions of love and beauty.
Sue believed strongly in the power of art to heal and to connect with our consciousness. As a part of fulfilling her deepest wishes and the legacy of her vision a Barn Raising has been initiated. Sue’s longtime homestead is called Terra Sophia and an invitation has been extended to be a part of Sue’s vision for her property to become a sanctuary for committing art. Please visit the “Barn Raising” site to learn more on how you can participate. On this site is also a beautiful video that offers a peek into Sue’s world at Terra Sophia.
I have been a part of the Cosmic Cowgirl community since October 2008. This tribe of creative women has impacted my life significantly. Sue intimidated me a little the first time I met her and I joke that it was the “toilet paper lecture” that did it. Those who have heard this same detailed instructional guide from Sue can nod knowingly and then giggle. It was the second time I met her that I was struck strongly by the depth of her love and kindness. I saw in her eyes the wisdom and the generous heart that poured forth. I admired her deep contemplative mind and her gentleness. I also loved her humor and wit. That second time upon preparing to depart from an amazing weekend spent with Cosmic Cowgirls I went to say my goodbye to Sue and found myself spontaneously announcing “I love you Sue.” I saw the glisten in her eye as she took in my heartfelt words.
Some people affect us more deeply than we know, especially when faced with their departure from our lives. Sue was at the heart of the Cosmic Cowgirl community. She is beloved to us all. I pause while typing this to hold my hands to my face while stifling a sob. I wipe my nose and dab my eyes and return to sharing written words for comfort and a way to process the grief. Later I will turn to the paintbrush and a canvas to transform tears into expressions of art. Always I will turn to this community of creatives for connection, friendship and support. We are bound by the red thread.
In closing a song that felt called to be shared.
by Elephant Revival
Lyrics by Elephant Revival
If I was a raven
I’d fly on through the heavens
I’d fly to all my loved ones
If I was a raven
If memory’s worth saving
I’d savor the feeling
of knowing love and loving
I’d remember the feeling
Some say upon that mountain
there is many a raven
They call out to the living
from somewhere far beyond them
From those we’ve loved
that have flown on
From those we’ve loved
that have flown
Love letters. I have written my fair share. As a long time lover of snail mail and years of living long distance from a few of my beaus I have spritzed letters with perfume and imprinted them with ruby red lipstick. Yet not all love letters need be of the traditional romantic genre. Throughout the years I have also sent hundreds (maybe thousands) of letters and cards to family and friends that were infused with my love. While living overseas in France for a year and a half, prior to having access to email and phone calls being prohibitively expensive, I wrote many long letters to family members and college friends back home. I would even find amusing images in magazines and tear them out and make my own envelopes. Right now just thinking about it makes me want to make some again. I have not forsaken snail mail as I still adore it as much as I always have, but I do know that the long letters I used to write are more abbreviated notes added to sweet cards I buy from local stores or artists I admire.
How long has it been since you sent a “love letter” to a family member or friend?
Learning about a project called More Love Letters that was created by Hannah Brencher has me contemplating again the power of a longer letter to connect, express thoughts and feelings, tell a story, inspire and spread loving energy around the world. I first learned about Hannah Brencher through her TED talk. Here is the video where she shares how already being a huge fan of love letters, as this was her own mother’s way of communicating with her long distance, that upon bottoming into depression after college she began writing love letters and leaving them around the city for strangers to find.
After watching Hannah’s introduction to More Love Letters in her own words I encourage you to visit the web page for this movement. It has been beautifully created and executed.
The world doesn’t need another website. It doesn’t need another app or a network.
What it needs is really basic. Simple. Bare-boned.& often forgotten in the race to get followers, likes & status.
LOVE. Pure, old-fashioned, never goes out of style Love. Ridiculous, oozing, cannot pack this thang into 140-characters kind of love. Fearless, bold, unstoppable love.
And that’s where we come in… We’re going to tell you that we leave love letters all over the world for others to be blessed by. We’re going to ask you to write letters for Love Letter Bundles for people you’ll probably never meet. We’re going to invite you to nominate someone you know for a Love Letter Bundle. You are going to think we are a bit crazy. A tad loopy… But let’s be honest, you’ve been looking for a website that leaks love all this time.
Fair warning, we could really care less about love letters.
We’re only interested in you. The cracked parts of your own story & how you can use them to lift someone else. It’s about how each of us can morph our lives into love letters… lamps… lanterns… to light the paths of others who needs kindness and love today.
Your cursive means the world to us.
I read through some of the Requests for Letters. One in particular moved me deeply. Here is the description taken from the site:
R E N E E
please mail all love letters by July 15, 2014
A loving daughter wrote into us requesting letters for her mother. She wrote “My mother is undergoing an enormous transition period. At the age of 32 and happily married, her husband and my father, passed away in a tragic car accident on Valentine’s day that year. She was left with 5 kids under the age of 7 to raise on her own. My twin brother and I were just 8 months old. My mom just turned 60 and finally retired after 28 years of bouncing around jobs to provide for her family. The first time in her life she has no kids to take care of, no job to report to, and she is finally free. And she is scared. No one needs her, which is what most of her identity has been defined by. My mom needs a love letter that will inspire her to live again and finally, learn to take care of and love herself.” Join us in writing a letter of love & encouragement to this awesome mother.
PLEASE MAIL ALL LOVE LETTERS TO:
c/ o Hilary C.
4505 Avenue A
Austin, TX 78751
Whether or not you feel inclined or inspired to join the More Love Letters official movement, consider right now making a commitment to send some love letters. How about you send one today or this week? How about a commitment to sending one or more a month? Will you send it to someone you know or will you leave it on a chair in a cafe, on a shelf at a store, in a dressing room, or on a park bench? The ripple effects of sending out love on a physical piece of paper can have more impact and power than you can fully grasp.
If you do send out a letter (or two or three or four…) consider sharing about how taking such action impacted you. What feelings did it invoke? What stories unfolded? What did you find yourself sharing? Where did you leave it or send it? Did you send it to someone you know or did you prefer to leave it for a stranger?
A new year can feel like it offers up fresh starts, new beginnings, and opportunities to do things differently. I found myself wondering how long the tradition of proclaiming resolutions has been around. I did a little reading and found that Wikipedia had some interesting notes about the topic. “A New Year’s resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.”
While resolutions may appear to be a secular concept Wikipedia also offered some of the religious origins of this practice. “The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions. There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility, in fact the practice of New Year’s resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.”
This year I have noted many people, in lieu of sharing resolutions focused on improving oneself, (ie one of the common ones involves joining a gym, working out 7 days a week and losing weight) are instead choosing resolutions regarding doing things that makes one happier. Part of this shift is a movement away from the guilt that accompanies not following through on resolutions and they might be onto something. According to a “2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.”
I have also noted a lot more people sharing how they have chosen a word for the year. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts has shared that her word for 2014 is trust. She shared this on Facebook: “My word for 2014 is trust. I’m gonna practice trusting my little heart out. Trust in others. Trust in new beginnings. Trust my voice. Trust the leaps, the falls, and the timing of it all. I can tell that 2014 is gonna be epic.”
Artist Pixie Campbell also wrote about selecting a word for each year on her blog. Her word this year is Mother and I encourage you to go visit her site and read more about this choice.
What is your word for this year? (I’ll share mine later.)
A great post to read about finding closure for 2013 as you embark upon 2014 is also by Kelly Rae Roberts. Pop on over to this blog post of hers and enjoy her always insightful musings. Here are the key questions she addresses to close out her year:
1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2013? (What did you create? What challenges did you face with courage and strength? What promises did you keep to yourself? What brave choices did you make? What are you proud of?)
2. What is there to grieve about 2013? (What was disappointing? What was scary? What was hard? What can you forgive yourself for?)
3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete? The next step is to say out loud, “I declare 2013 complete!” How do you feel? If you don’t feel quite right, there might be one more thing to say…
My hubby and I have a tradition for New Years Eve that involves us reading a letter we wrote for one another the year before. We also do two inspirational card readings. The first is with the Lakota Sweat Lodge cards that my husband has owned for many years. We then select from one of my decks of cards and do a second reading. This year we used a new deck called The Enchanted Map. We record our readings in the same journal each year that is reserved for this annual ritual. Here some photos showing two of the readings.
I haven’t really ever selected a word as part of my new year ceremony. This year however after reading the first posting by Rob Brezsny my word came to me. The recommendation for me was as follows: “Deep bronzes and smoky cinnamons and dark chocolates will be your lucky colors in 2014. Mellow mahoganies and resonant russets will work well for you, too. They will all be part of life’s conspiracy to get you to slow down, deepen your perspective, and slip into the sweetest groove ever. In this spirit, I urge you to nestle and cuddle and caress more than usual in the coming months. If you aren’t totally clear on where home is, either in the external world or inside your heart, devote yourself to finding it. Hone your emotional intelligence. Explore your roots. On a regular basis, remember your reasons for loving life. Stay in close touch with the sources that feed your wild soul.” (If you want to read yours click here.)
My word, as it came to me in that forecast, is Groove. The meaning for me has to do with release, flow, easing into, relaxing, movement, sensuality, letting go and breathing. Here is my creative expression with my word so that I can hang it up as a reminder through the year.
How does your word translate into art?
Could you dance it, sing it, write poetry about it, paint it, sculpt it, photograph it or plant it?
Gossamer threads of life hold me,
Perched between Earth and Sky,
Weaving the web, dreaming the dream,
Through the two worlds I will fly.
With you as my muse, Mother,
I create the substance of dreams,
Allowing the artist within me
To fashion my life with esteem.
I mold the clay of experiences
Into a sacred Medicine Bowl,
Capturing the essence of living
As it sings deep in my soul.
Your secrets of creation, Mother,
Have taught me when to destroy
The chains that have bound me,
Limiting the expression of my joy.
You have taught me how to labor,
Giving birth to the visions within,
Setting them free like silver arrows,
Kindling the fire of Creation again.
~ Jamie Sams
On Saturday I traveled up into the mountains to meet with my Vision Quest spirit guide and to gather with some clan sisters. As we talked and shared about the experiences so far this month I realized how fitting it was that an extra burst of creativity had been very much a part of my life. As part of the Vision Quest spiritual journey we are reading the book The 13 Original Clan Mothers by Jamie Sams. It just so happens that the month of October is represented by the Clan Mother of the Tenth Moon Cycle, Weaves the Web. “Weaves the Web represents the creative principle within all things. Her moon cycle falls in the month of October and is connected to the color pink. Working with the truth is her Cycle of Truth. She teaches us how to use our hands to create beauty and truth in tangible forms. Pink is the color of creativity. Weaves the Web shows us how to use crafts and art to create our ideas and dreams in the physical world. Through using our hands, we show our willingness to be of service to All Our Relations.”
In addition to the writing I do for blogs and Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine, and the creative process included in my Vision Quest, I have also been participating in the amazing course by Jenafer Owen called Storywalking: Retrieve. (You can find out more about Jenafer’s on-line courses at Inspired Inquiries.) We have been creating collages the past few weeks and then this week during a guided meditation the most amazing traveling companion revealed itself to join me on my journey ~ a whale. Below is an artistic rendition of my friend as I envisioned. The message my whale had for me ~ “We are going to plumb the depths…and swim among the stars.”
I also could not resist participating in the course being offered by Brene Brown (and sponsored by Oprah) called The Gifts of Imperfection. During the first week of class I wrote permission slips for myself, took the pledge and created a courage heart, which included a short list of my most trusted confidants, or as Brene Brown puts it, the list of those who love me because of my imperfections.
It was rather interesting that even through I had read the chapter She Who Weaves right at the beginning of the month, I had not fully connected all that had been blossoming creatively in my corner of the world. Of course October is also the month that includes Halloween, a favored holiday in our home, and there have also been creative opportunities in the creation of costumes. My twin daughters chose to be a fox and and owl this year and we put together playful , comfortable and simple costumes for them to wear.
There is more from the introductory chapter about Weaves the Web that also bears sharing. “Weaves the Web is the Guardian of the Creative Forms in all things. She helps us express our creativity in a positive manner and use the energy available to us. The Clan Mother is also the Keeper of Life Force and instructs us to create health, to manifest our dreams, to develop and use our talents, and to access our spiritual potentials.
The Clan Mother of the Tenth Moon Cycle is the Mother of the Creative and Destructive principles; she shows us when to destroy limitations and create anew. She also teaches us when to nurture our creations, because she is the Keeper of Survival Instinct. When our physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual survival is at risk, Weaves the Web shows us how to tap into the life force to grow beyond this stagnation. She is an artist, a creatress, and the muse who beckons and inspires us to create the beauty found in our heart’s desire. Through making something tangible and filling that creation with beauty, we are shown that the stuff of dreams can be expressed, giving form to our visions. She is the Clan Mother we turn to when we are afraid of failure or lack self-expression.”
The last sentence above “She is the Clan Mother we turn to when we are afraid of failure or lack self-expression” is one that I had somewhat suppressed this month, but has been ever so present in a deeper and more subconscious way. On Saturday I also experienced a heart tuning by a beautiful young woman from Costa Rica who practices Reiki and is also a yoga instructor. After the heart tuning she shared with me that there was one message she was receiving for me which was that “It was okay for me to release the fear. That the fear was not necessary.” I nearly teared up at hearing those words for I knew I had been suppressing deep seated fear for a couple of months. I had been pushing and stuffing it down, in an attempt to make it go away, and here I was being told by a messenger that I could just release the fear.
Let us return to the final paragraphs about Weaves the Web from The Thirteen Original Clan Mothers.
“When we follow the steps necessary to bring our dreams to life, Weaves the Web shows us how to use the life force found in the four elements of air, earth, water, and fire. We learn how to mix these elements with the creative essence that is our gift from the Great Mystery. This creative spark is called the Eternal Flame of Love and live inside our spiritual Essences. When the desire to create is in place, we are then able to make the decision TO BE. We then give form our our Spiritual Essences or Orendas through self-expression.
Weaves the Web, life Grandmother Spider who wove the web of the universe, teaches us how to weave the web of our experiences. She shows us how every circle we create grows to touch the circles created by all other life forms. The webs we create can trap us, if we do not create them in truth. We are asked by the Clan Mother to work with and for the truth in order to manifest a world dream that all living things can share. A web that is created in greed with eventually trap and devour the one who wove it because it was woven too tightly to allow giving, receiving, and sharing. A web woven too loosely, without care, lacks the craftsmanship that is necessary to make it strong and durable. A web woven from fear will attract the lessons needed to overcome that fear. A web woven from the love of creating and desire to share the abundance caught in the web’s silvery fibers is a web that will endure until the dream is fulfilled.
Weaves the Web is the Clan Mother we turn to when we need the skills to make our dreams real. She shows us how to take the actions necessary to tap our creativity and go with the flow. Giving birth to our dreams is always accomplished by having the desire to create, deciding to create, and taking the actions necessary by using the flow of life force to give birth to the dream in the tangible world.”
Has creativity been flowing in your corner of the world this month?
Are there dreams that you have been longing to birth?
Are there fears (fear of failure) holding you back?
What would it take to release your fear?
What do you desire to create?
Are you taking actions on your desires?
Consider this quote from the chapter Weaves the Web:
“Weaves the Web taught the children that every painted symbol had meaning to an artist and that every color had a significance when an artist created an object of beauty.”
What symbols resonate with you?
Do certain symbols show up in your dreams, thoughts, art or objects that draw your attention?
What colors are you currently drawn to at this time?