I am a summer person living in Michigan, walking around half heartbroken, not being able to keep myself from anticipating what is to come, which is not-summer for another three seasons. Since I know the value of mindful presence, I look for things that’ll help me stay in the present. Even though I am more of a mammal lover in general, at the moment the antidote to my mind’s tendency to hijack me to the future comes from the insect kingdom as they remind me to be in the present, to savor the magic of the moment, and to contemplate the mysteries. I had written a blog about fireflies before so will focus on the butterfly this time around.
While environmental scientists across the world were working hard to finalize the assessment of the 2019 UN Report on the State of the Environment, I was eagerly descending the steps to my basement art therapy office on Main Street, Ann Arbor so I could put the finishing touches on my latest painting. I’ve felt this space to be particularly compatible with psychological work that requires a quieting of the mind chatter in order to be able to access inner wisdom.
I realized only later that I had great expectations around how wonderful it would all be in a way that wasn’t compatible with real life. I try to help my clients understand the many myths around mindfulness practices, especially the one that suggests that regular practice will lead to steady calm, happiness, or bliss. What mindfulness cultivates is an increased capacity to be present with all states of being rather then favoring the good over the bad and the ugly. One of the biggest takeaways of the retreat for me personally was that the same applies to retreats or vacations.
It is impossible not to grow in awareness and fondness of nature in general, and birds and plants specifically, while living in a town like Ann Arbor. I’ve been learning things organically, without a need to study deeply, or have a specific interest in plant life (which I admit I don’t). We lucked out with a house that has a huge backyard with many trees, a small pond that hosts a snapping turtle I’ve seen only once in the eight years that we’ve been here. Ignorance got me close enough to get this photo of her.
I make work that is political because I cannot help it. I tend to make work that reflects my life experience, and, as the saying goes, the personal is political. This phrase, which was popularized during the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, means that there are connections between my own personal experience and the larger social and political structures which tend to dominate, exploit, and oppress minorities in our politics, society, and culture.
I have been paying close attention to our backyard for many years now, and know which tree will be the first to turn green (the little willow by the pond), which wildflowers will bloom first, how much progress the moss has made in its fight for territory over the grass. Because I am unable to convince others let alone my husband that our attachment to lawns is not the best idea, we have plenty of it in our backyard, but due to our lack of chemical warfare against Mama Nature’s preferences, moss and some clover types are beginning to make their claim
My journey with Waldorf education began 14 years ago, when my oldest was starting kindergarten. One of the first things that attracted me to Rudolf Steiner School was the opportunity for my children to have balance in their school day. A variety of artistic activities are interwoven with rigorous academic endeavors to achieve this harmony. Bursting with joy and vitality, my children would not sit all day getting filled with information, staring at worksheets, textbooks, and various screens. There would always be a thoughtful rhythm to their day. From early childhood through high school, Waldorf students experience many kinds of fine and practical arts: drawing, painting, sculpting, singing, folk dancing, handwork, woodwork (you should see the container of hand-carved wooden spoons in my kitchen!), instrumental music, and the list goes on…
I was pretty convinced that my wild woman would be of the earth, probably covered with some dirt, have long un-styled hair, and maybe, bit of a crazed gaze that warned the beholder that she is not to be messed with. That she is to be feared even. Western society has burned even the tamest of wild women (wise women and healers) for centuries to make sure there is no question that our psyches equate wild with dangerous. In fact I am bewildered more than anything that this archetype has survived and is coming through in our imagery at all given how long and hard mankind worked to eradicate it.
This is the third time a dragon has showed up in one of my paintings and it continues to make me uncomfortable. The best way I can explain the discomfort is that the value of rational, scientific thinking as the only valid type of information gathering was such a central part of my upbringing that the consideration of the mythic is often accompanied by shame.
I always get a kick out of seeing how startled individuals outside of music studies are when they learn that the vast majority of music majors in America graduate with little, or more often, no skills in the primary creative processes of improvisation and composition, nor in the African American musical heritage that is arguably America’s primary cultural contribution to the world.
With the kind of work I do through my creative company — 7 Cylinders Studio — I get to interact with an ever-evolving cross section of our community.
I want to highlight a handful of those criss-crossing clients to survey our local landscape through the lens of video and provide some of the more compelling projects I’ve been fortunate to produce these past few years.
I am encouraged and inspired by the number of adults enrolling in ballet who have never studied before, or may have only had a year or two of lessons. A common thread among these different personalities seems to be a “beginner mind set”, an openness to trying something new, willingness to persist as difficulties arise and the sense of satisfaction that comes from finally getting it.
As is often the case, when I first finished this painting, I had little knowledge of the insights it held in store for me. The first revelation came when my husband commented that the fish to the left was not in a natural position, that it wasn’t moving. Often the very section of a painting that doesn’t make sense holds great jewels to unearth about what lies in the deeper layers of the psyche.
Shortly after I graduated with a masters degree in clinical psychology, we had a major earthquake in Adapazari, Turkey, a town close enough to my home-city of Istanbul that resulted in a death toll of 35,000, and many more that were wounded and/or traumatized. I was part of a group of private practitioners, and overnight our office space expanded to include hospitals and tent cities.
Some magic is small, like how the laugh of a baby can melt your heart regardless of your state of mind. Some magic is big, like when you run into an old friend in a city of 15 million people you are only visiting for a week. When the likelihood of something happening is way smaller then it not happening, it is called synchronicity.
I’ve been taking online art classes offered by the Art of Allowing Academy for over a year, learning to paint the female face through connecting to the Divine Feminine. Connecting to the intangible happens through the allowing process, letting of the feminine form appear on the canvas and following it with your hands. In other words, going with the flow as opposed to a planned execution. And making an appearance She has been!
A fire is dying to rose-colored embers in a brazier. A sound like branches being broken drifts down to us from high overhead. We cannot see the blue heron flying above us. It calls, wrapped in folds of night, and its dream touches ours.
It’s time to wake up to the realization that artistic creativity promotes health and well-being at any age. As a lifelong learner and nascent artist, I've experienced some of the health benefits of artistic creativity since retiring from a 30-year career in university administration.
I had ended my last blog with the question: What are your hands going towards these days? So, I will start there today myself. I have been continuing to create little mosaic pieces on my son’s broken Taekwondo boards. What stands out to me this time around, rather than the materials, are the forms that have been emerging . . .
In the art therapy stories I've shared thus far, I have explored various themes of change. The need/want for it, on the one hand, and the mechanism/process toward it, on the other