“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Like a cat in search of a light-strewn windowsill to curl up in, I’ve come and found a place in the sun on the front steps where the battleship-grey paint peels and dandelions sprout from the bluestone pathway.

Basking in sunlight has a way of lengthening my breath—of thawing out my hardened thoughts—giving-rise to the more-malleable realm of imagination.

Anything is possible.

Greater peace.

Full-circle connection.

A black, Labrador retriever, even, greeting me at the door—tail wagging, tongue dripping—out-of-breath with enthusiasm.

A breeze blows softly through the arm of my shirt billowing out my sleeve and raising the hairs on my arm—the contrast of heat and cool exhilarating, almost rousing enough to send me in for more layers.

The air mingles with metal and wood chimes—swaying above me—whispering a sublime song with just three or four delicate tones captured at the level of the heart—the place that occupies an infinite space within us yet is incapable of holding official, measurable weight.

Within the sound is an invocation of the holy—a call to pause on an ordinary afternoon just before school pick-up.

Might we all suspend thinking just long-enough to soak in the common backdrop that interweaves among us—no matter our beliefs or our locale.

Might we all experience this web of connection holding us up and propelling us forward, if only at a snail’s pace.

This is the how of the seeming coincidences—the timeless knowing—the magic.

The birds compete with the chimes whistling their own afternoon melody with glee—elated to steal the stage away from winter’s prolonged residence.

In a flash, a scarlet cardinal zips into the high, thin branches of a young, apple tree where small buds have begun to appear—soon to burst forth in cotton-candy-pink and white blossoms.

I envision how the red-bird would look juxtaposed with the soft-pink petals—the combination of hues striking.

Lemon-yellow is among the first colors to appear in the burgeoning, Spring landscape in Maine.

Arching forsythia branches stretch upward and wide as if awakening from a long sleep and fragrant daffodils speckle the landscape with cheer—like a child’s drawing taped-up in a dim hallway.

When Jonah and Adrian were smaller, we occupied our drive home from school pointing out, naming and remembering the patches of vibrancy that revealed themselves first—giving them monikers like Canary Corner, Big Bird and Golden Sun.

We would do it again in the fall when the leaves transformed into their gilded state—a favorite patch at the curve of the road where a semi-circle of trees would lose their golden leaves—seemingly all at once—painting the pavement as a yellow corridor.

When driving home from school recently we came upon another expression of nature’s capacity to take-our-breath-away in the form of an ample, draping tree with an abundance of soft-cream blossoms cascading toward the ground.

I pointed it out but couldn’t think of the name of the species.

I was surprised when Jonah piped in, “Oh, that’s a magnolia tree.”

He’s been astonishing me in all kinds of ways.

Last year in his class play he gave three lines—with his eyes closed, as if in meditation—the energy of the crowd drawing him within himself for comfort.

It was beautiful in a sense to see his sweet face soft and at rest in front of an audience and I admired that he did what he needed to, to care for himself.

I witnessed him on-stage again yesterday—transformed as if into another body completely—giving a dozen or more lines confidently and with feeling.

I could tell that he was still well-aware of the many eyes upon him, yet he had grown more sturdy and grounded—his roots lengthening, deepening with time.

Later, he held a clipboard at a baseball game checking-off the players on Adrian’s team as they went to the plate—his petals unfurling into blossom with the world around him.

The blue metal wheelbarrow with its burgundy hardwood handles has faded with time and sits near the flower beds where I left it before the rain—filled up with last year’s hydrangea stems.

The stems dried out in the fall and winter and were more like sticks when I cut them rather than flexible, living stalks.

I pruned them short for the first time in hopes of a more fruitful re-bloom—the last few summers only producing a couple of flowers on three large plants.

The bases of these perennials now appear like three porcupines attempting to hide in the flower beds, quills mid-emergence.

A heavy fog arrives in the evenings and at dawn dampening the intensity of Spring’s flourish—drawing on our patience and on our trust in the unfolding of the earth’s annual rebirth.

The anticipation of being lived-forward along with our breathing planet is palpable—a racehorse at the gates ready to run free—and important in its own-right.

Pausing.

Waiting.

Gathering up our stamina—our strength—for the inevitable continuation and push-forward in our own lives with all of their unique expressions and majesty.

Turning inward—quiet, still, listening.

Then outward—full, radiant, in-bloom.

 

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“Clouds symbolize the veils that shroud God.”—Honore de Balzac

My head has been in the clouds these last few days—the sky scape with its disparate displays drawing my attention upward. Throughout the day, the clouds are spread out like puzzle pieces awaiting connection, their texture like stretched wool, the colors muted with pastel blues and the slightest tint of pink separating the willowy masses. The canvas of clouds feels near—hovering—almost as if it belongs to another planet, another world completely.

At sunset a vast contrast occurs—the sky dividing into fragments of intense streaks of sienna and amaranth pink. Thin slivers of bright, golden light divide the layers of color. Tall pines become black towers in the foreground of the vibrant display as we drive through forested lands, peering for a glimpse of the setting sun.

The clouds at this hour disappear all together.

As an early-riser and also sometimes-keeper-of-the-night, I mostly collapse into bed dead-tired, falling off to sleep within moments. I fall asleep mid, “thank you,” a parade of images from my day flooding through me. I like this feeling. I watched my father work himself to the bone for much of my life and I’ve come to understand the impulse— the easing quality of meaningful hard work—and the contentment of collapsing at the end of the day, mission accomplished.

Occasionally, I will prioritize sleep, aware of the opportunity to be transported to a healing and renewing place. I dream more vividly and grasp for the messages imparted. I wake up feeling as if my brain has been reset. I recently got into bed before I was bleary-eyed sensing that it might be a while before I slept. I laid on my back—a heavy, down blanket covering me—and placed one hand on my abdomen and the other on my heart. I dropped down into myself—like falling into a vast, dark night’s sky. I might have been a feather floating in space.

I was aware of my spine but I experienced everything else as pure energy. At first, there were clouds huddled in my midst—bunched up and stormy—heavy—especially around where my throat and lower back might have been. I noticed a part of myself that began winnowing out the particles of these billowy vapors, freeing them to return to their rightful place. The essence of me was like a sheet being pulled back taut and tucked in.

I drifted in the wake of this movement noticing a greater buoyancy of my being, noticing a sense of having been recharged and made right again.

Jonah is nearly nine years old now. The top of his head rests at the top of my sternum and he likes to show how strong he is by picking me up. He bends at the thighs—creating a firm center of gravity—and wraps his arms around me mid-leg, lifting me into the air at an angle—like a rocket ready to be launched.

I feel like I might topple over and yell, “that’s enough, that’s enough!” He insists in his demonstration I not hold onto anything. I try to be a good sport and cooperate, tightening my body like a dancer in a lift.

Despite his strength, he’ll still climb into my lap and let me hold him. I wrap my arms around his waste or chest hoping we’ll always be so close, knowing it is impossible.

When he was littler and would sit in my lap, I would sometimes pat him on the back almost like I was playing a drum. Once his spritely friend was over and I was patting his back and she exclaimed, “why are you beating him?” She laughed and laughed. Whenever I did that to him—and I sometimes still do—it felt like I was helping him to come more fully into his body. It felt like I was grounding his airy nature and securing him onto the earth.

Yesterday I had intended to begin working on the second part of a two-piece creation in my, “Free to Play” art project. I had first created an image of my younger son Adrian leaping off of our back porch—his pocket goldfish-orange. I planned to create an image of what precipitated the jump—the crouch before the launch.

I went in search of the tracing paper I use in the first phase of the work and saw—and remembered—that I had finished the roll. I didn’t have time to go out and buy more materials before school pick-up so I began looking around to see if there were some scraps of paper I could tape together and use.

I couldn’t find any but I did come across a sketch of a woman—folded over in grief—that I had worked with previously.

I felt inspired to return to that image with the time I had. I could feel myself returning, also, to the original joy of this process without the constraints of planning and instead following an inner guidance system that drew me to particular colors and textures and shapes and showing me how to piece them together in an intuitive way—like a puzzle put together in the dark.

As I worked, I noticed a thinning out of the energy within me—the bunched up places unfurling and returning to balance. I felt a sense of relief and as if the atmosphere was clearing and a thousand tiny lights were being switched back on—brightening the way and returning me to firm footing once again.

 

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“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” — Thoreau

It is late and the house is still. I’m sitting at our dining room table, lights dimmed, listening to the whir of the washer one floor above me sifting sandy garments from golden days away. The heater clicks like an off-tempo metronome and the tulips on the counter across the room open their petals one-by-one in the spaces in between my thoughts—we’ve just discovered today that they are a pale and pretty yellow.

I’ve come from my studio where in my latest work I entered the third dimension, bringing alive a nearly life-sized sculpture of a woman draped over the earth in a posture of protection. Her hunched body is covered in American flags, images of the Statue of Liberty and other monuments. It is a slower work than I am accustomed to with periods of gathering hard to find imagery and awaiting things to dry. A few weeks ago I sat on the floor of my studio examining a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund calendar that had been donated to me to be used in my work. Within it were letters from the loved ones of soldiers who died in Vietnam. All these years later, the pain is still so raw in those who were left behind. Through tears I read how one man wondered what his life would have been like if his older brother had survived. I thought about what it would be like to live with this question for a lifetime. I thought about what else that brother could have done if he had lived. I can almost see him, tossing his daughter up into the air—taking in her giggles like angels’ song. Holding his wife’s hand at church or a ballgame. Getting a call—his mother has fallen. Oh, beautiful humanity.

I stood in an airport security line recently coming into the United States from another country. Like a herd of cattle, the people were lined up, stripping their snazzy shoes and straw hats, piling up all of their many, many belongings to be placed on a conveyor belt for screening—my we all carry a lot of baggage along with us on this planet. I stood outside of myself for a moment in that line and I thought about all that we have dreamed up and created to protect ourselves from one another. I thought about the mind-boggling extent of our very existence that is controlled by a fear of each other that dates back millennium. I thought about the weapons and the dogma, the metal detectors and the courts. I thought about the bombs and the border patrols and the sharp-shooter perched at the top of a tower. I thought about what we have all collectively done with this opportunity to live a life here on this miraculous, living planet.

Throughout my travels, I took in the wide variety of human form. This pastime can be especially captivating on a beach where clothing hides far less of our being than under normal circumstances. We come in so many packages. There is size, of course. And color. And then there is essence and aura—the energy with which we navigate our lives and the world around us. This varies greatly as well and none of it is wrong. I could sit all day looking at we humans with our wide smiles and wrinkly legs, with our love of adornment and loud talking. With our limps and with our strides. Let me linger in paradise taking in your unspoken knowns and big bellies and slender arms. Let me immerse myself in your sadness, your gladness your silly songs and oh-please-let-me-be-with-you-and-your-dreams—each one of them alive and pulsing within you like a beating heart on a mountain’s climb.

Some humans are deeply steeped in the overarching stories we have been telling ourselves as a global society for generation upon generation. Others are untethered to these tales or as I have come to imagine myself—tethered—to an entirely different worldview and reality that is not bound by the constraints of time and space. It is not bound by fear, at all, but pieced together instead with the most powerful particles that exist in the Universe—particles of what we might call, “love.” These same untethered (or tethered) souls are often infused, as well, with an understanding of the illusion of “other.” They know about the backdrop that connects us—even with the most broken among us.

It is no easy task, navigating a life with this contrary perspective. It doesn’t save you from the pain. Quite the contrary. It is well-worth the cost of shedding the regular narrative, though, to be able to slip back and forth from here to eternity time and again, back into the glorious, salty sea air so readily, the sand now clinging to my skin again, lying near my sweet son as he drifts off to sleep—his silky cheek against mine in the softest of touches, meeting a kindred-spirit in of all places a gas-station to dance, following the trail of breadcrumbs—the tether I hold onto within my tight grasp guiding me from moment to moment to moment as I raise my face up into the sun’s glorious rays for a touch of warmth to power on. I wouldn’t trade this way for anything. I feel awake. I feel so very, very awake.

 

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“O Joy! that in our embers is something that doth live.” —William Wordsworth

Driven from the woods by a well-meaning park ranger warning of the brown tail moths shedding their meddlesome hairs along the coast of Maine this season, I find myself now at a picnic bench in a farm field.

I’m looking out at a fenced pasture, peppered with yellow flowers—buttercups, I think—contained, yet empty except for a light blue tractor in the distance making its way back and forth across the landscape in some seasonal chore. The Casco Bay stretches out behind me just beyond a thick row of trees so that I cannot view this favorite, rocky spot where I sometimes come with my boys to skip rocks and take them in as they test their courage and agility.

The air is warm and thick—welcoming to the black flies that bother my face every now and then. The birds are deep in boisterous conversation and suddenly they quiet all at once as if in acknowledgement of some other presence listening on. One particular bird—a Yellow-headed Blackbird, I think—has the most to say and sounds almost robotic in his delivery. I could sit all day trying to decipher their messages, the individual meaning of these numinous sounds in my midst.

A few weeks back my friend was grieving. A group gathered at her home. It was a day most unlike this one. It was quite cool and drizzling rain. Maine can be so changing like that—most places can be. When I arrived, there was a small bonfire being tended out back. There was plentiful food in the kitchen, people speaking in lower tones than they normally would in our friend’s home. I spent some time inside and then gradually found my way out to the blazing fire.

The yard sits on the cusp of a wooded area surrounded by sprawling trees—some are alive and thriving—mostly Pines. Others are long dead and remain like towering sculptures—like art—stretching up into the sky. There was a pile of twigs and branches, bark and weathered logs just beyond the edge of the yard being drawn from and placed onto the bonfire keeping it going and the heavy moisture in the air at bay.

I joined in readily, finding my place in tending to the heat—the heart— of this place that remains within each of us even in our suffering. With each piece of wood that I added, each ember I stoked, I began tending to the spirit of my friend and to her home and family. Some of the children were barefooted despite the cool temperatures. I took in the nature of their soiled feet, the freedom they had in this company to just be. Many of them had found a stick to do their very own tending and roasting, unaware of the matter at hand.

The rain came down more strongly at times and then dissipated again, resting in a mist. I wasn’t particularly well-clothed for the conditions but I felt very, very warm and at peace. I had a hood, but kept it down, wanting to feel the dampness on my hair and face. It felt just right to be there keeping the fire going. I could have stood there well into the night.

A few years ago, my husband decided to have a large, old stump ground out of our yard. He made the arrangements without my knowing. He had no idea how much I loved that old stump! I mourned its departure, my heart sinking when I looked at the empty space where it had been. To me, it had been breathing. It had been a memory of something from long ago. It was just beautiful.

My husband was so sorry when he realized. A large circle of sawdust remained in our yard where it had been, never filling in with grass—as if in protest, the tree still grasping to be a part of this life.

A few days after the gathering at my friend’s home, and on the last day of school for my children, I began lining the circle of dust where the stump had been with rocks, creating an impromptu fire pit suited for the blustery day. I felt a little anxious about starting a fire with the gusts that were coming across the shoreline and through our yard.

Jonah and Adrian were deep in play out front. Occasionally they would run in their bare feet into the back checking in on me and noting my progress. When I was finally ready to start the fire, I asked Jonah what he thought—whether he thought it was safe to light a fire in the wind. He is still so young—only, seven—and yet, I trust his instincts about so many things. He thought it would be ok and so did I, ultimately, so I set forth in creating a tiny, slowly burning blaze and tending to it so that it was just big enough so we could roast marshmallows.

I ended up sitting by that simmering fire for hours and hours, gazing at the orange and crimson embers. At times it would get a little scary with the wind kicking up. I would pile a few small logs on to keep the ashes down.

I sat and I contemplated the tending of my own inner fire, of my own heart and all that I hold within me as sacred. There are so many dreams, so many sorrows, so much joy and love resting right in there in the center of me to be kept tenderly in a steady glow.

Strangely—or not strangely at all—it has begun raining here in this field as I have been writing and I have moved into the back of my car with only the hatchback covering me. The climate of my life—of all of our lives—is always changing. Whatever the weather, I plan to keep tending, to keep nourishing that which is golden and glowing within me. I plan to keep stoking the fire so that I might always stay good and warm.

 

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“I used to think maybe you loved me now baby I’m sure.” —Katrina & The Waves

It is an unseasonably warm day on the coast of Maine. The sun is bearing down like a heat lamp warming the mudflats and our bones to the core as if in an act of contrition for these long months of awaiting her arrival. The air vibrates with the subtle sound of creatures humming in unison—their chirps, bleeps and whistles coming together like the universal sound of Om that goes on beneath the buzz of daily living. And then the subtlety of the undertone is broken—an expansive gust of wind passing through and bringing forth the textured scent of salty sea air that can only be brewed in these parts. I am sitting within these rhythms and noticing as my own work shifts away from the yang energy of the studio creation that has had me in her grasp these last months into this place of greater stillness and reflection.

Today is the first day of a new year. The numbers that make up my age seem backward—two high for my young heart. I have been thinking about what it means to celebrate being a human and what it means to be celebrated. I have been thinking about how I might strip away the many needs and notions that are piled upon us—upon me—in this tightly constructed world and discover what is truly essential, what will matter in the end—those things that invoke meaning and connection and joy. I recently had a conversation with a little girl—a soon to be six year old—about her own coming birthday. She is a Gemini Twin like me—wide eyed and gentle. She frequently asks her mother to stop into churches so that she may look around—she just feels drawn there. She looked at me and she said with a deep seriousness and wonder in her eyes, “do you know that your birthday is the day that you were boooorn?” She drew out the word born long and with the awe and gravity this more valuable notion deserves.

Just a few days ago my toes felt like they were frozen solid and my feet—prematurely donning sandals—were heavy like clubs in the cold as I ran the bases after a minor league baseball game. I had gone down to the field with a group of children while some friends had stayed up at the top of the stadium where we had been invited to be in a friend’s box seats for the day. The stadium had mostly cleared out but we were returning to the box to gather our things. Some of the children—including my son Jonah and that same little Gemini girl—decided to take the upper deck approach to our box while I ran along the bottom deck in a parallel trajectory. Across the stadium, music was booming—loud and clear. It seemed that there were only the three of us there in the stadium. The three of us and the music. Jonah—so agile and self-assured—especially in his physicality, ran from step to step to step, up and up and up into the stadium he ran with such confidence, his friend behind him like a butterfly—light and free. “I’m walking on sunshine, woah oh!” the words to the song sang out— like a soundtrack to their running, expanding my heart and my mind with each verse. They were zigging and zagging now, “and don’t it feel good!” They were running and they were living and I was taking them in and I was celebrating their being so very alive as the words of the song penetrated my heart and soaked me in gratitude for being a witness to this miracle of their existence—just being them. Alive. On this earth. Just living. “I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that’s really real.”

“The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.” —George Sand

This is a quintessential, Spring morning in Maine—the air thick with moisture, brisk and chilly still. Birds are chirping intermittently as if in conversation and the water of this tucked away bay dances with the breeze that rises up and then stills, rises up and then stills again. Occasionally a very large gust of wind comes charging through, “I’m here! I’m here!” it announces whipping through the branches of towering Pines swaying them deeply one way and then the next. Earlier—with his sharp five year old eyes—Adrian caught sight of a red fox running across our yard. I had seen him yesterday as well. He had come so near to the steps of our back porch and row of glass doors, it almost seemed as if he were peering in at my kitty, Autumn, who stared back out at him from her safe and warm pillow perch. I have a sense that there are some new baby foxes about that he is looking after, scouting food for. It is only a sense, though.

I am in gratitude for a friend who inspired my latest work of art. I have long had a heart for people who go about this world unseen and in need. My first encounter with significant poverty was as a young girl in a church thrift store where my mother volunteered her time. People would come in looking for emergency dental care. In some ways it seemed that their teeth were the least of their worries. I tried to be at ease so that they might feel seen—but not too seen. I remember trying to pretend as if nothing was wrong although I knew something was very wrong. I was awakened. Again and again I have been roused to awareness of the souls who walk this earth unattended to. I lived in New York City in most of my 20’s and early 30’s.  When not engrossed in the roller coaster of my own coming-of-age story, I remembered about others and volunteered with Coalition for the Homeless. It seems that when I come to a new place, part of what I do is to seek out the people in need. I’ve done that same thing here in Maine.

I remember once being in a van that went around the Bowery in Lower Manhattan delivering meals. The driver was a memorable guy who fueled his sobriety with this work. It was dusk—the bridges were beginning to light up around the city as we drove from location to location—delivering meals out of milk crates. There was one moment in particular on an outing like any other that I have replayed in my mind over and over like a gritty movie reel. We were somewhere around Chinatown and the FDR drive which runs along the East Side of Manhattan. It was nearly dark now and as I began to climb out of the van, I got a glimpse in the distance of the people approaching us and it took my breath away. They just kept coming and coming and coming pouring out of dilapidated buildings and alleyways like ants out of an anthill. As they came more near, I took in their physical condition. Their clothes and skin were deeply layered and worn, thick with dirt and suffering and decades of mental illness and addictions untreated.

Late last year, I described to my friend how I was hoping to bring awareness to the devastating issue of homelessness in our country through my art. My first thought had been to create portraits of homeless individuals enhanced in colors and imagery that would invoke all that lies beneath the often tired and weathered outer appearance of those without a safe place to lay their head at night. It was then that my friend—who has a much deeper connection to what it means to be homeless than I do—suggested that I create a piece of art that could simply be enjoyed by homeless people in a space where they gathered. She turned her head up a little and suggested with a slight smile that inspiration might be of some use, that a piece of art might be an unexpected source of hope in an otherwise drab environment like a soup kitchen. I admired her insight—the respect she demonstrated with her idea for all people needing access to beauty and communion with their hearts. Her idea spoke to me instantly and freed me, too, to concentrate on a work of art that was simply beautiful and bright and inspiring.

I began to envision an array of colors that would represent a pouring out of all that remains good in the world despite the evidence otherwise. As I began creating a paper palette, I grew very still inside, inviting a universal force to be with me in my work and to guide the outcome. Although I hadn’t presented the idea to anyone there, I had a vision of sharing the completed work over the holiday season at Portland’s soup kitchen, Preble Street. I was fueled by the bad news in the media wanting to be a part of a counter-balance. There was the continued school violence and then the Syrian Refugee Crisis and news of record homelessness numbers in New York City—including an ever-growing number of children without a place to be safe at home in the night. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to complete the work but settled into the process trusting in what I recognize as a divine timing in all things.

As weeks and then months passed, my work also became deeply informed by my current participation in a yoga teacher training and specifically my mind opening to the idea of a fascial network within each of our bodies supporting and protecting all that we are made up of. I found this image to be an excellent metaphor for the networks of our human capacities for holding each other—and not holding each other—and the ways that the systems may be disrupted through injury and trauma.

It is a gift each time I am allowed to participate in a piece of art coming to life and I never know where the work will take me. This experience was no exception. Over the course of five months, what began as a pouring out of the love and the good that I still know and trust exists in this multifaceted world, became an expression of the deeply held connections between us all as we make our way through the interwoven nature of life’s unfolding. This work—that I have just recently completed and named, “Fascia,”—became about our universal source and backdrop as human beings, as creators, as small drops in the vast ocean of the Universe.

I have yet to make arrangements to share “Fascia” publicly—though I intend to. I do not know how it would actually be received. Maybe people really do just want and need us to help them get into a place where they can have a home. Or maybe they would love to stand before a work of art and be reminded that they matter—that they have significance in this colorful world that we all share. My wish is that they would never, ever have to choose between the two. Either way, I am grateful to have entered into this process once again and to have been reminded where I fit in.

 

"Fascia," 2016 Mixed Media Collage, 80" x 77"

“Fascia” by Meghan Anderson Nathanson 2016 Mixed Media 80″ x 77″

 

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“Courage is a kind of salvation.”
—Plato

I was around 20 years old when I decided to jump out of an airplane for the first time. It was a static-line jump in which I climbed out of a rickety, old, seemingly taped-together airplane on a sweaty summer day. We were around 5,000 feet up when the door was opened—wind gushing in, loud and powerful in its pressure against our forward movement. I knew enough from our meager four or five hour training not to hesitate too long and was one of the first to climb out of the plane. Bracing my hands on the strut of the wing, I climbed forward and then hung there with my legs dangling out behind me. Counting down and out loud from three—fighting the deafening wind—I let go—my arms stretched out behind me in a “V” so as not to become intertwined with the line that I was attached to. With this type of jump there is almost no free-fall and you are entirely on your own. The line of the chute is pulled by its attachment to the plane within a few moments. I was trembling before and during the climb out of the plane—my heart beating wildly. Very afraid, I coaxed myself through each step, though outwardly I might have seemed calm.

Once the parachute opened I found myself in another world entirely and suddenly everything was very, very still, tranquil. I was floating across a patchwork movie screen of the world, the fear had vanished—sucked out of me and back up into the plane with the static line as if in a vacuum. I was perfectly—wonderfully—free from fear. I was perfectly—wonderfully—free from anything I had ever known. It was so incredibly quiet—a stillness came over me like I had never before experienced. I felt both entirely in myself and outside of myself at the same time. It did not in any way feel as if I were traveling downward through the sky, rapidly falling—although I was. And just as suddenly as I came into the stillness, I came out of it. The ground started to approach—objects becoming larger and larger, my speed seeming faster and faster. In a flash, I was back in my normal reality. I began to consider and then consciously operate the toggles which I had been holding onto—remembering now to guide myself to a particular spot on the landscape. The ground was coming now more quickly than I could have imagined. Suddenly a line was a fence, an abstract shape—a tree. It was time for me to land and I was not prepared. I just nearly missed the fence as it transformed before my eyes into something sturdy and tangible and sharp. I pulled my toggles down with all my might, steering sharply away from the obstacles and finally slowing myself but not in enough time to keep from hitting the ground with a dusty, graceless thud. My legs and feet were beneath me but it was no delicate landing. I was glad to be alive.

I have been listening to the language of fear these last weeks, noting the way in which the world speaks to us in themes through our experiences, through the things that show up as we float—or surge—along the cinema screens of our lives. Fear has shown up in my children at bedtime—their worries about being alone, unheld, unusually strong in these last months. Fear is steeped in the language of our politicians—both very real and exaggerated fears at the root of most platforms and coming across through all range of media. We are discussing the soothing of fears in the place that I go for spiritual nourishment—a welcome break from the usual focus on the fear itself. And as I take on new challenges in my own life—fears—those snarling, spitting beasts—have been lunging for me in their many shifty ways—so much more subtle and nuanced than the threat of a risky jump from a great height.

I have been thinking about how we might navigate fear so that it does not consume us and so that we might continue pursuing the things that we are called to. I’ve been thinking about how we might better notice fear, receive its sometimes worthy message, sidestep it, even, but not submerge it beneath us where it might take root and grow stronger. Naming fear is helpful. Like in meditation—as thoughts come up—we might describe them as something. Thinking, planning, storytelling, we might say to ourselves as thoughts arise—our breath rising and falling as an anchor. In this way we can receive the thoughts and then more readily send them along with less weight. It is as if in recognizing them, we may free them to stop prodding us. We can utilize a similar process when fears come near. I have also found that my fears die down—once acknowledged—when I then turn firmly away and press forward toward the things that I love. In this way, fear can see that there is no space left here in my home.

Despite the calendar turning toward February, the air was springlike this morning here in Maine. I entered my yoga class coatless—the sun warming me. As I’ve been sitting here, the sky has transformed from light blue to pale grey. It has grown darker—overcast, like it might rain. The water has been picking up its pace—moving along more like a river than a bay, icy segments breaking up before me. The tide has traveled inward, first rising beneath the ice, then meandering through it and finally moving the pieces apart completely. Crows dart back and forth from the trees in our yard eventually making their way out along the coastline.

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“Each color lives by its mysterious life.” —Kandinsky

It’s early and silent—three tender souls under one roof still are checked into another realm of slumber and dreams. I’m lying on a bench in our living room, gazing up at the tops of trees just coming into the light. The temperature is still very low from the night and there is a slight breeze that has begun to awaken the highest of branches—first so gently and then with an occasional gust bringing all of the branches together rising up in a momentary dance with the air. These few brief moments of noticing stir in me many aspects of my being—raising dust and moving around the parts of me stuck in the dark corners, bringing those facets back into the fold. Even from the other side of the glass where I am warm and removed I can sense the aliveness of the trees. I am wondering if I were living in a city still whether the sound of subway wheels clanking—multitudes of intricate faces passing me by—would move me the same. We are all made up of stardust, they say—even the trees, even the subway cars. We are all just orbiting around each other—each of us composed of this same magical dust. We brush by each other—at times like silk, a gentle caress. Other passages are abrasive—like brick on brick. I wonder what we will remember—what will remain—of these passings by.

Orange—I’ve decided—is the color of the soothing of souls. It is the color of warmth and comfort, of holding and forgiving. It is the color of new-beginnings—like green can be. Orange was Adrian’s 3rd-year favorite color, behind red and “lellow.” It’s funny, I’ve never before been drawn to the color orange like I am in this season. Now, I take it in with my eyes—with my whole body—like an elixir, soaking it up in the setting sun, in the images I work with, in the ember glow of a wood stove fire on an icy cold day. Our walls are grey, but—orange—orange is present when we come back into our home in the afternoons. It’s in our play. I feel orange in the preparation of a hot meal and the endless coloring, puzzle making and reading of books. Orange is Adrian licking the peanut butter and jelly off of his bread as I look on. It’s Jonah telling me a very long story at bedtime in a whisper—his voice still high and lilted—giggling out into the night air. Orange is cradling my heart—making it hardy—as I sift through old ways winnowing out what is worth keeping and discovering what must go.

My newly 7 year old son Jonah, who’s favorite color is blue—though and through—has decided that he would like to be a zookeeper when he gets bigger—a rescuer of animals hurt in the wild. He has elaborate plans for how his facility will be and prefers not to speak of any other options for his future so as to prevent distraction from his single-minded focus. He is seeking as much information about animals as he can get his hands on. I imagine a circle drawn around him—filled in with all that he is dreaming of. I see the circle as moveable and expansive—breathing—as his world grows larger and larger. For a long time, it was decided that Adrian—nearly 5 now—would also be a zookeeper with Jonah. I was surprised recently when he shared that he was going to be an artist instead. First he’d asked, “can you be just an artist?” I told him you could. There was a time in which I thought that I needed to decide between being an artist and being a writer. There was a time in which I thought that I needed to decide about who I would be.

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“By God when you see your beauty, you’ll be the idol of yourself.” —Rumi

I am propped up on a cozy, orange bench, a fire is going. My layers can’t seem to warm my too-cold hands. My fingers are dry against the smooth keys of my keyboard and there is a layer of polymer gloss that remains on a couple of my fingernails—remnants from a current project, one that is living in me like a child waiting for delivery.  I’ve come to this place once again where I may anchor my soul back into myself, back onto this beautiful and complicated planet. My tendency is to drift in my mind and with my body into the realm of daydreams and desires, like a balloon caught up in a dance with the breeze.  The fluttering around of all that I am imagining and even all that I must do sheds off of me like a skin as I sink back down into the more weighted place of present moment awareness. Typing with eyes closed now, the neurotransmission of my mind become both softer and more rhythmic. My breathing slows and my shoulders uncurl. I am safe. There is time. When I sit down to write, I never quite know what will come to the page but I know that it will draw roots out of me and intertwine me back within the earth.

I recently was the recipient of deep-listening, a process in which I shared a burden and those around me graciously took in my story and then eventually mirrored my words back to me. It is quite simple and yet, not something we can count on in the current pace of our society today. I love to take in and examine faces. My brain does not always work perfectly when it comes to remembering names, but I make a practice of memorizing your eyes, the way your brow is shaped, how you breathe. And when you speak, my attention is one part on the words you share and another part is experiencing you, your energy, your existence as a miracle of creation. I recently read that the probability of our being born—each of us, exactly as we are—is just one in 400 trillion. When I look at you, I remember this about you. It is not hard to see all that is unique about you even as you describe to me your seemingly common concerns, your challenging weekend with the children, your desire to start exercising again, your wish for a greater sense of community and safety. The gifts of the spirit are sometimes spoken to us in the very softest, faintest sounds of a whisper, and we must listen intently in order to decipher the direction to go. And yet, as I look at you, I am left breathless with the realization of how many magnificent creatures there are to love.

The water itself is like a mirror this morning— a house across the way reflected precisely in the bay it sits beside. I just keep sitting and being here with this new moment, and the next and the next, experiencing my breath and sensing what it means to accept oneself, to access compassion for our very own, deeply recognized challenges and flaws and come to a place of noticing, as well, of the many, many ways in which our essence—that which we all inherently are made of—is good. As I breathe in, I come to a place of wonder, as I breathe out I release judgment. No matter our age, this day, this life is still young.

 

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“Time and tide wait for no man.” —Geoffrey Chaucer


It is a blustery, late Autumn morning in Maine. The sun is brightening the dimming leaves that linger, the towering Pine centered in our backyard is bending ever-so-slightly with the force of the wind, white caps dot this normally tranquil cove of the bay. I’m sitting on our stripy, green love seat—legs propped up with a pillow—likely for the very last time. To my right is a floral couch with a dingy hue—once vibrant and cream in color. I had planned to take a photo of my two boys seated there early this morning. I had envisioned them next to one-another, arm-in-arm. It slipped my mind though amidst the gathering of various backpacks and rain pants, lunches and mittens. There is so much to be heartbroken about in the world in these days and yet, here I sit feeling nostalgic and watery-eyed about the departure of a couple of worn out couches. I can’t help but think of the babies nursed and napped here, the crumbs spilled with abandon, the forts constructed and torn down, and oh, of the fearless climbing and jumping that can only be demonstrated by the adventure gene yet to be stamped out by time and trial. I sit here remembering it all—my senses flooded—awaiting a truck that will ship out these time capsules of days gone by and later usher in the blank canvases of tomorrow.

I have been thinking about the work of the artist Andy Goldsworthy. He is well known for his ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature and new to me. I saw the documentary, “Rivers and Tides” a few weeks ago which highlights his exploration of time within the context of nature. He builds sculptures on seashores from stone, only to witness them disappearing with the tide. His fingers are raw as he molds together bits of ice into a fluid design, alone in a cold and faraway place. A red rock becomes a powdery splash of color in a remote stream. I am drawn to the fleeting nature of this type of work in my own life as an artist because of its paradoxical power to ground me. I am drawn to the fleeting nature of this work because of my own deep realization of the ephemeral nature of life itself. A friend and I shared in the power of one particular scene from the documentary. Andy is building a suspended, stick sculpture in a solitary field. The sculpture is slowly coming to life—stick by stick, moment by moment—a circle forming in the center. I could almost sense it before it happened. There was a little cracking sound and then everything—all of these fragile little sticks—started to collapse, almost in slow motion. And then it all just became more rapidly broken. All of the many hours of work came tumbling down in just a few brief moments. Andy—the artist, the human. His head hung down slightly and he took a very deep breath and just then as we observed him, he came to a place of acceptance before our eyes. His head moved in a slight back-and-forth direction now. With each breath he let go more. Over and over, taking in only his postures and his breathing, he revealed the deepest aspect of his work—the deepest aspect of all of our work—as we witnessed him coming to the place of allowing what is.

 

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6 Ways to Enter into Conversation with the Divine

It is an unseasonably warm morning in Southern Maine. Our screen door is open and I am listening to the song of seagulls as they come and go, rocking back and forth across the sky, first near and clear along the rocky shoreline and then dim and fading in the distance. I’m especially drawn to their whistles as they call out to one another. I find their cries soothing and they somehow elevate my insides to a place of quiet contentment. I’m peering out over the sun-drenched mudflats and suddenly notice a bit of movement in the distance, a bit of blue —a “clammer” is there almost fully blending into the landscape, folded at the hips and digging for clams. It seems that we are a world away from one another.

I’m home for a rest day and my children are at school. With a minor cold, I’ve fully lost my voice and needed to cancel my plans for the day. It was interesting to try to capture my boys’ attention this morning in a whisper—a profound contrast to the escalating strength of sound I’ve needed to gather their eyes these past weeks as they have stepped fully into a new chapter of their growth and independence. The whispering proved more effective.

Rising before daybreak this last month has peaked my attention, heightened my inner-listening and brought me more in-tune with a sense of magic and co-creation with the Divine. I choose this term, “the Divine” purposefully. It indicates a quality of pleasure in this process. It speaks to a communion with that which is greater than me. It carries with it a bow toward all that is sacred. This word might be substituted with: God, The Universe, All-That-Is, Higher Self, Consciousness, Spirit, Inner Self or any other word or feeling that resonates. I’ve been noticing the ways in which the Divine is whispering to me as I go about my work in the world and reveling in the flow that comes to life when I am listening. I’ve compiled a list of a few ways in which I have witnessed this conversation playing out for me. My hope is that in considering these observations and suggestions, you might heighten your own inner-listening, come to trust and follow your own unique calling and join me in the journey toward a better world.

  1. Be willing to begin the conversation with a question. I recently came to a place in my work as an artist in which I needed to make a decision about the direction to go in next. I was drawn to three different projects—one of which is to create a piece of art that would be donated for a public space where homeless and disenfranchised  individuals go to gather and eat. Journaling in the morning I made a request for direction and opened my heart to listening. A few hours later, in a quiet moment, I had the opportunity to open a book that I often reference regarding the creative path and turned to a random page. I came across this proclamation  “Make something for someone else, not to be somebody.” Message received, easy as pie.
  2. Trust in and notice divine meetings. I had recently been in a meaningful exchange with a dear friend and fellow artist. It would have been nice to have connected with her for lunch or even on the phone after this exchange, however, both of us had a lot going on and neither of us had reached out to connect in-person. I was in a place that I rarely go at an unusual time. She was there in the same place outside of her normal routines. Together in the crowded space our paths crossed and somehow our exchange/work together felt affirmed. We connected and celebrated the work of the Universe bringing us together despite our unavailability.
  3. Sometimes the messages will be subtle. In some ways I am partial to the more nuanced ways in which the Divine comes through to me. These are the moments in which the hairs on my arms raise up ever-so-slightly or I sense a shift in my energy when I hear or read something. These are the times in which I feel stirred, called, compelled. It’s where the heart comes into play and pleasure, too. What and to whom do I feel drawn? What would I love to do if I were not afraid? These messages can be accessed at any time with a quieted mind and an inward attention.
  4. Sometimes the messages will be really clear. In the fall of 2014, I was spending the day with my son Adrian. Thursday’s were our “special days” then and we would spend the entire day together while Jonah had a longer day at school. On this particular Thursday, we had gone to the library in the afternoon. We picked out some books for him and played a game. As we were leaving the library I suddenly felt compelled to ask the reference librarian if she could look for me to see if there were any books about the art business that I might be interested in checking out. At that time I had been experiencing some of the more subtle whisperings and was in the process of opening myself to bringing my art more into the world. She took me to a “jobs” section where she thought there might be some books about creative work and told me she would be back after she had done a further search. Immediately, a book caught my eye. It was called, “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon. I took it off of the shelf, glanced at it briefly and handed it to Adrian to look at while I perused the shelf further looking for something more “specific.” It was bright yellow and appeared to have some pictures, I thought it might occupy him. Glancing down I could see that he was looking at the table of contents exploring the numbers. After a few minutes of looking, I didn’t find anything else that seemed meaningful to me and Adrian handed the original book back to me. I decided that it was probably the only book in the section that was going to be of any use. I opened it up to explore it further and turned directly to the inscription page. It read, “FOR MEGHAN.” Clearly I had found my book! This book led to the entire creation of my website and joining together my art and my writing and opening more doors than I could even begin to count.
  5. Trust in divine timing and believe in meaning. I have come to understand time in a less fixed and more fluid way. I’ve come to believe that things never really end and that all relationships, all interactions—even the painful ones, maybe especially the painful ones—have purpose and potential to propel us toward growth. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges with people or events in life, it can be a powerful exercise—at the very least—to offer up these situations somewhere, anywhere! I offer mine up to the Divine and I both grow patient and simultaneously release. I try not to linger in worry and yet my attention is peaked for the ways in which I am being acknowledged by a greater voice. It comes in the message on the highway billboard, the initials on a license plate. It is the cat in the play that looks just like my own. It all matters. Every single thing.
  6. Express gratitude. When I begin working on a new piece of art, I always invite the Divine into the process. When I complete a piece of work, I always offer thanks to the Divine. I do not pretend to know how that translates. All I know is that I can feel the good things grow in my life when I am grateful and that my worries lesson when I release them to something greater than me. It does not explain all of the truly awful things that happen in the world. The only thing it explains is that my ability to give as well as my ability to receive grows with gratitude.

Thank you for your continued support in both my writing and in my art. If you have read these words, please consider this the Divine speaking through me to you. With love, Meghan

 

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“Silence is also conversation.” —Ramana Maharshi 


My husband was away—traveling for work—when I began my pre-daybreak awakenings. I meant to rise early so that I might shower and dress, then fill the lunch container and set the table with breakfast items prior to the calls from my two boys announcing their own rise to the day. They’ve held onto this ritual of our morning greeting stemming from their long-departed need to be lifted from the crib and on most days I still go to them when they call. Opening their door, the warm and sleepy smell of them wafts through the air to greet me—the room still quite dark from the blackening shade. I go to the bed of whoever called out first. Adrian, my littler boy, stretches and moves like a cat when he wakes sometimes crawling his legs up the wall and launching right into a commentary about some obscure fact he’s discovered or how stretching is a form of yoga or wondering about whether or not this is a school day. With his shirt hiking up his back as he stretches, I massage his still-warm skin and notice his eyes—puffy from sleep. Jonah is more still and needing of tenderness before he rejoins us in this realm. I come to him and rub his legs, maybe lie down next to him. When he finally opens his eyes fully, he might make a comment about his dreams—how good they were, or how scary. His expression remains supple and pure like a baby in these start of day breaths. I began rising early so that I might meet this morning reverie with a sense of calm.

I’ve long been drawn to the magic that lingers in the alluring darkness of the pre-dawn hour. There is a silence that is both palpable and vibrating with anticipation—especially in a household normally brimming with boisterous boy energy. On the first day that I rose before daybreak, I allowed for what I thought would be just enough time to prepare myself. When the favor of a few extra minutes came, I found my journal and a cozy place on the couch to write, legs propped up with a fluffy pillow beneath my knees. Words of gratitude fell to the page—long held feelings unearthed—if only briefly. And then the call came and I headed upstairs. On the second day, I allowed for more time. I completed my tasks quickly and by firelight, I soaked in the conspicuous sound of creaking inner doors cracking opening, Spirit gliding in oh-so-discreetly and settling at my side. I began to notice the way in which these stolen moments were informing all of my day. I noticed that I was called to sleep earlier in the evening. The external need for this ritual has since passed and still I rise earlier and earlier—thirsty to drink in the stillness, called emphatically to peel away the crumbling veneers and prepare my skin for a deeper listening—one that I am capable of at dawn’s first light.

Last year I began working on a “Wild Woman Collective”—a collection of sculptural collage showcasing women in various states of communion with their inner-spirit, their creative-self, their connection to the Divine as depicted by their interaction with a wolf. I am currently in the final stretch of the third installation—a woman arched into an almost backbend position and levitating with head dropping down toward the wolf who is meeting her with his upward stretching nose and mouth. Her legs are dangling down too in a state of surrender and resting against the sturdy body of this wild beast. Her posture is an act of acquiescence and one of faith in which she gives herself fully to this place of inner wisdom. In the final stage of bringing these wild women and their wolves to life, I must do the intricate work of cutting away and freeing them from the constraints of the paper surrounding them. It is a delicate work trimming away these facets of their beings that although once critical in their creation are now—quite suddenly—no longer serving them. This process requires patience and precision and focus. It requires a commitment to the process of unfolding and it requires stamina. It requires all of the things necessary for a genuine soul in her very own journey toward fruition.

 

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“What you are will show in what you do.” —Thomas A. Edison

A few years ago my now six year old son Jonah became interested in having a special container where he could keep his treasures in a private and secure place. He wanted something with a lock. We happened to have a small, unused lock-box that I offered to him. I strive to say “yes” when I can. I love to see my children manifesting their desires if I sense that it will be beneficial. Jonah came to call this box his “kit.” He keeps it remarkably unhidden on a toy chest in his playroom. I must overt my eyes, though, when he reaches for his hidden key. Adrian—his adoring little brother—may look on, for he is “a kid.” Jonah has utilized various key chains over the years to keep track of his key. My favorite was a multi-colored disco ball that he had picked out for me at an airport gift shop. I was happy to see it go to good use. I believe it has since broken and been discarded, replaced with a little scrap of yarn. For a while, Jonah’s kit was mostly filled with various gifts of the earth—stones and shells and such. In the last few months, he has become increasingly aware of the value of money and he has taken to setting up shops where he might earn a few dollars. His kit is filled with his earnings, plus some bills from a small—and oft forgotten—allowance and gifts from family. My favorite of his shops was his whittling mill that he set up in our living room on a small side table. In mid-summer he discovered that a kitchen, vegetable peeler acted as a fine tool for the shaping of sticks. This work proved to be a good place for his bountiful energy with so much of it going into the smoothing out the rough edges of the plentiful branches in our yard.

The abundance of acorns peppering our lawn this season makes walking around barefooted on these lingering, temperate days rough on the feet. I find myself taking a step, then a hop, a step, then stopping to pull a small acorn away from the arch of my foot. It is said that increased fruit production in nature portends heavier winters. Like squirrels in preparation for snows arrival, we’ve begun collecting these nutty gems once again just as our Acorn Tree Art prepares for shipment to the Maine Audubon for display. I’m taken with the way we arrive at that which is ours to do in this life. Collecting buckets and jars filled with acorns in the fall and saving them for art—I’m certain—is not for everyone. It is what we do, though. On one of our warmer days recently, I found myself engrossed in this process of moving along the steps of our back porch on hands and knees collecting these powerful seeds and their anthropomorphic little hats. I have a special affinity for the deep, chestnutty brown ones. Adrian—my littler boy—likes the still-green ones and tells me so when he comes near me in my work. We sit together closely for a few moments on the steps. I ask him if he knows that he has acorn eyes—such a beautiful mix of chestnut and green. He just smiles a knowing smile.

Soon he moves along to the work he has created for himself of digging in the dirt, of climbing and calling out for me to watch. Looking back down to a sunny spot on the ground filled with handfuls of acorns from which I might choose, a profound sense of calm washes over me, settling all of my inner-clutter into its right place. Faith shows up in this way—unannounced and without warning—a welcomed elixir brimming with healing thoughts and mending songs. There you are collecting acorns in your yard, on the couch—your sleepy child’s head in your lap. In she walks dripping with asylum, each droplet a new miracle to behold.

 

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“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” —Aristotle

Bringing to life the “Park City Boys” left an imprint on me. I was commissioned to create this piece last spring for a family who live in Arizona and spend some of their most meaningful time together on the slopes in Park City, Utah. Year after year, these four brothers have been photographed on the ski lift as their mother turns back from the lift in front of them taking them in, in the way that only a mother can. She described to me the ways in which her boys could be together there on the lift, over the years. One year they might be fooling around—teasing each other, another year they might be huddled up from the cold, on this particular year the youngest brother—the “bonus baby” of the group—discovered a place to rest his head on the shoulder of his oldest brother. She asked me if I might be able to capture this unique way in which she viewed her four children and all that it meant to her. I instantly felt a resounding sense of “yes!” In retrospect I can see that taking on this behemoth work of art—it measures a sprawling 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall—on the cusp of a very large home-renovation project with little child-care arranged might have been somewhat audacious. I am a “leap and the net will appear” devotee and this undertaking was no exception.

I quickly began learning about the four brothers and what made each of them unique. It became clear to me that the substance, the imagery, the mix of color that I used to distinguish each of them would be crucial in getting across their essence—the part of them their mother recognized at the core of their being. Silently I meditated on them, I thought about the images I had seen of each of them—they are truly a beautiful and vivacious group. I thought about the heartfelt and passionate words that their mother used to describe each of them. I got very, very still and just sat for a while and then I jotted these words in my journal:

Bradford: A Mountain
Colin: The Wind
Nate: A Breeze
Caden: Child of the Earth

Over the course of the next two months, I poured myself into this piece. I collected imagery from southwestern landscapes creating a palette reminiscent of the colors of Georgia O’Keeffe. I began the work of creating a drawing around fifty times the size of the image that I was working with. I carved out time to work. And then I began working. It took me a very long time to complete the “first” skier who came to life from images of red rocks and various layers of the earth impacted by geological pressures. I took pause upon completion of this mountainous young man and reflected on the strength it took to move him. He was true to form. I thought of the words of a friend who had recently reminded me that when you say, “yes” to the Universe, you have the right to ask the Universe to back you up. With a bit of sweat on my brow, I began asking for backup and moved on to the “bonus-baby” who rested his head so peacefully upon his brother’s shoulder. I relaxed. Each day my two young boys would come home from school, from being out with my husband and they would comment on, “our skiers.” They were intrigued with the mismatched pants of the first skier. “Why did you do that?” they asked. It was hard to explain that I didn’t make that decision myself, that it was revealed to me. Each of these vibrant boys—these skiers—went on to declare themselves to me. With their ease and with their energy, with their depth and with their wit and I just marveled at the accuracy with which they had been described. I fell into a flow and reveled in these moments of channeling bliss. My six year old son Jonah came home from school one day and upon viewing the third skier, exclaimed, “I want those pants!” We laid next to the skiers and measured ourselves—they aren’t quite life-sized, but close. I anticipated shipping them out with a bit of longing in my heart. I knew that they would be missed.

Coincidentally—or rather not coincidentally at all—just after the “Park City Boys” had been sent off to be carefully packaged and shipped, I traveled to Arizona for the very first time. It was a trip long-planned prior to taking on this commission. I remember arriving there and coming from the land of pine trees and rocky shorelines, I experienced the landscape as otherworldly. I was mesmerized by the blooming cactus and the arid, mountain horizon. I rolled the windows down in the car despite the high temperatures—the closer to be with this mysterious place. Later, I found myself nestled in a magnificent hideaway in the midst of Sedona. I found myself in the depths of the towering red rocks and the palette of my latest work. I looked out and I looked up—taking in the colors that I had been living in—mind, body and soul—for many weeks now. I felt as if I was being fused with my surroundings. I was no longer looking at the rocks—I was within them, a part of them. Time suddenly became fluid and in that moment—if only very briefly—it felt as if this time was the beginning of my creation, that this part had come first.

 

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“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” —Leo Tolstoy

There are various stacks of paper piling up on my counters and spilling off of my filing cabinets—evidence of my growing apathy for the “should’s” of this world. My car inspection will wait for the last moment, I’m certain. Thank-you notes go unsent—though my heart is filled with gratitude. A plethora of e-mails in my inbox are like messages in bottles adrift at sea. Instead I drive across a landscape—again luminous with freshly fallen snow—captivated by the shapes of trees and shadows and hills. I am mesmerized by the contrast of the red barn juxtaposed with the snowy field, the rocking yellow sign with the blue-sky backdrop. I wonder how I might bring these scenes to life with the scraps of paper that have become my latest artistic medium. The sun is a torn flower from an old calendar. The arm of a child is the pink and orange sunset, quintessential Maine.

My fingers and my dining room table both have a thin layer of polymer gloss covering them. At night when I rub Jonah’s back in his bed he tells me that my fingers feel rough. They feel rough to me too as they travel up the silken skin of his smooth, warm back. I wonder how much longer this precious time with him will last. A few weeks ago he announced that he didn’t need for me to rest with him in his bed at night any longer. I was surprised by this edict and grateful that it didn’t last. This is the place where I experience the gentle, “I love you’s.” This is where I listen to his longings for learning, for more knowledge about the world. This is where I remember how little he still is. He asks to feel my rough fingers and evaluates which ones I must use most in my collage work. I think of his request that I create a collage based on him and use a dolphin picture we found together in an old calendar. I think of he and Adrian standing on a bench overlooking one piece making various observations. One woman’s arm appears like a flamingo and Jonah feels this may exclude it from being “chosen.” They take in a picture of a beach from a torn calendar and Jonah exclaims, “that would make good skin!” It’s a family affair, my art.

I’m working on a piece based on a photograph of a friend and her child curled up sleeping together. Her son is feverish and her arm is draped across him with care. I am belaboring the faces. Pieces layered and layered—attempting to get the nose just right, yearning to create a cheekbone as perfect and rounded as my friend’s. This work is consuming me. And then later I am laying with Adrian. He too prefers these quiet, end-of-day moments with company. Often he leaves me with only a sliver of his bed so I am lying on my side trying not to fall and he is sprawled out on his back. Our faces are so close that I can feel his soft cheek on mine and notice the sweetness of his breath. His eyes are open but he rests in the space between wakefulness and sleep where a haze begins to fall over the happenings of his day and his lips fall silent. I am studying him like the faces of my collage. I could never capture his incredible beauty. His softness. This time. I must live in this time. Nothing will capture it or preserve it or ever make it come alive again in the way that it is now.

“Carpe Diem” ― Quintus Horatius Flaccus

In every moment, of every hour, of every day, we have the opportunity to begin again. To begin again with ourselves, to begin again with our children. As mothers, as women, as human beings, we are the makers of our own moods, the weavers of our own destinies. Waste not this glorious hour or the next in thoughts of woe and wishing. Instead, grab this moment before you, feel the surge of life running through you, and go dashing hand in hand with your child through a field of wonder. Notice their eyes, oh-so-connected still to the higher realm. Notice their lips, pink as rose petals. Notice the palpable love they have waiting for you if only you may step through the doorway of your own mind into this more beautiful place. Allow their love to wash over you, allow it to heal you, allow it to lift you up, up, up and away.

“This too shall pass.” – Ancient Proverb

Yesterday it was a hurricane morning here in Coastal Southern Maine. The water was moving faster than usual and a strong wind was creating a shower of yellow leaves along the coastline. Out front it seemed almost balmy with a light fog peeking through the branches of our towering pines. Knowing we were not likely to be in for a direct hit made our preparations casual. Friends in harms way were on our minds.  Little Adrian was tucked in for a morning nap and young Jonah had gone to nursery school in his yellow rain pants. Before leaving, my two boys embraced in a goodbye hug. It was unprompted and so new for them. “Ug Oda,” said Adrian. (translation: “Hug, Jonah”) They put their little arms around each other in the sweetest embrace, Jonah with his crinkling rain gear, hood already in place. Adrian with his navy, mock turtleneck fully soiled from breakfast.

As Adrian slept, I remembered when Jonah had first discovered his voice. He was around 18 months old. I’m not fond of the term, but when he reached this age I remember thinking, “oh, the Terrible 2’s begin early in this house!” It wasn’t so bad, really. My biggest challenge was that Jonah didn’t like to get into his car seat. Oh, how we struggled. He arching his back like a yogi mastering backbend pose, me near tears not wanting to hurt him but needing to leave the house every now and then. I remember wondering if this was how things were going to proceed. It’s hard to know as a new mother. I sort of knew about the phrase “this to shall pass,” but I didn’t count on it like I do now. Adrian is in a similar time in his life now, grinning coyly as he tests out his ability to affirm the negative, “no!” in as many scenarios as possible. He too puts up a noble fight when it comes to being strapped into his car seat. We are a free spirited lot. I have never wondered, though, with Adrian if this is how things were going to be in that oh-so-final way.

Last weekend our family meandered down a wooded path together picking up pebbles and nibbling cookies. We were making our way to a beach, one rich with seaweed and salty air. Every now and then, as we strolled, the wind would gust a shower of leaves into the air. Having recently been told about catching leaves and making wishes, we decided to give it a try. And so our walk became injected with a series of leaps – my husband especially intent on capturing the falling foliage. On my leaf – a muted orange one – I wished for the feelings of these precious moments together to continue on forever. I wished that I could capture the contentment I felt inside in that very moment and bottle it for future use. I knew that they wouldn’t and I knew that I couldn’t. I knew there would be scuffles later on about dinner needing to be different, more tasty, about another weekend gone by with chores not completed – as if this were a bad thing! And that was ok.

I remember visiting a Zen Monk who made his home in a cozy, wooded spot in rural Virginia. He is the father of a first love of mine and I believe he offered me in our visits an introductory course in mindfulness. Upon entering his home an air of reverence always came over me. With his pace, he slowed mine. Often it was dinnertime when we would arrive and our first interactions would take place over a quiet, nourishing meal, prepared and presented with great care. I remember eating so slowly, so mindfully, that I truly tasted my food – maybe for the first time in my life. On one visit my then-boyfriend and I were complaining about the weather or some other minor inconvenience. Upon hearing us, our host clapped his hands together loudly and with great force. “Things change.” he said. I have thought of this moment so many times in my life throughout the various storms that I have weathered – always a little voice quietly whispering in my ear, “things change.” I don’t always live out my belief in this aphorism but I know that it is true. Both the good and the seemingly not so good moments in our lives are always fleeting.

Today is the day after a hurricane touched our lives. We are among the fortunate ones who only experienced high winds, heavy rain. There is a carpet of leaves blanketing our lawn so beautifully. This is so today.

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” – Audrey Hepburn

When I was a young girl my grandmother took great pride in teaching me to set a proper table. She knew just how to place things and she was very proud of the vast collection of treasures she’d accumulated over years of military and personal travels in faraway places. There were bowls from Saigon, plates from Paris and linens from Thailand. Her home was crisp and clean, with hospital corners on the bed and the smell of gardenias wafting from her dressing table. It was gritty too, at times, after an afternoon of boating on the Potomac, catching crabs off a dock just a stone’s throw away from her home. My grandmother was devoted to gardening and homemaking and her lifelong love of entertaining culminated with a lucrative, late-in-life real estate career. I remember my cousin once comparing me to her. I took it as a high complement. I hope that my home is a fraction as lovely as hers was and that I may share with my children the importance of creating beauty like she did. She had a way of honoring the things that she was blessed with.

I remember when she died reflecting on all of her beautiful things, some of which would come into my care. I saw so clearly and was moved deeply by the fact that not a single exquisite item that she had so adored would be traveling with her. Even in her last years, I remember, as she downsized from her home to an assisted living and then eventually to a nursing home, fewer and fewer of her treasures surrounded her. She valued people and relationships far more than any of those objects, and in her final days I came to see her so much more for her true essence, for all that she was despite her belongings and what might be surrounding her. My grandmother had studied “new thought” through the Science of Mind Magazine series for years and years and in her final room in her nursing home she had kept with her, of all the many, many belongings she had to choose from, her collection of books by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

Each day I know that I have a choice as to how I spend time with my children. It is so tempting in this culture to spend that time out gathering more things, toys, clothes, furniture, you name it. When I find myself with plans to do such gathering, I often end up changing my plans. I sit quietly and observe my boys at play. I truly see them. I see the way they delicately examine a toy. I see the movement of their legs as they run wildly. I feel so deeply within me how little the clothes I wear, the things I own, matter to me. What matters to me are the experiences I share with my family. These moments. These connections. These are eternal.

5 Benefits of Mindfulness for Mothers

I remember vividly the time in my life when I discovered that mindfulness was so much more powerful than patience. It happened deep in the night, my baby nestled in my arms like an angel, months gone by with such little sleep. And yet, there I was, finding beauty in the night itself, the hum of an air purifier, the shadow cast by a sailboat night-light, the quiet. It was in my baby, his lovely, powdery infant smell, his exquisiteness. It was in the day that followed, the wonderful pick-me-up of my first cup of coffee, “a little coffee with your cream?” my husband teased. It was in my older son, Jonah, and the thunderous call he would make from his room at dawn, “it’s waaaaake up tiiiime!” I was present in a way during that time period that I have not been able to reach since, even though I am  (slightly) more rested. In those wakeful nights with my second son, Adrian, I was transformed from someone who endured difficult situations by trying to be patient to someone who could be present and find beauty in moments regardless of how hard they might otherwise be. I received this gift through mindfulness, through a heightened attention to my senses, through my breath. It was difficult but I remember it as being so beautiful more than anything. I can only compare it to the memories I have of this same little cherub’s birth. I was able to be fully present through my labor with him in a way that I was unable to do with Jonah and although I did experience intense feelings, I road the contractions like waves and truly loved my second experience of giving birth. It was not perfectly quiet or without any moments of fear but overwhelmingly it was beautiful.

I have come to believe wholeheartedly that no matter how tired one might feel, no matter how much anger might well up, and no matter how things may appear to others, mindfulness can bring peace to any moment within a person. I realized rocking my baby in the dark all those nights that patience has limits while mindfulness does not. With patience, you may reach “the end of your rope.” You may be put, “over the edge.” In mindfulness, all is well. All is well, always. I most certainly am not in a constant state of mindfulness with my children or in the rest of my life. I most certainly am devoted to returning to what I am sure will be a meaningful moment if I can get myself there as soon as I realize I’ve departed. I’ve discovered that mindfulness itself actually offers a powerful recovery from unmindfulness – both our own and that of others. For in mindfulness you will find great love. And love heals all.

These are five ways in which mindfulness may benefit mothers today in what sometimes feels like a world too busy to recognize a moment for all that it is worth. I hope these ideas will bring you closer to your children and closer to yourself.

  1. Mindfulness will allow you to experience your children fully and remember their childhoods. Vividly. You will remember the texture of rice cereal and the look on your baby’s face the first time this mushy mix crossed his tender lips. You will remember your child’s spoken words. How they sound. The special way in which they pronounce things. There is no regret for times gone by when you have experienced it fully.
  1. Mindfulness will allow you to live forward. No more dwelling on the meltdown that you handled badly at the restaurant last night. No more guilt-tripping over using the wrong words for disciplining last year. No more worries about what you could-have, should-have done better. In mindfulness all that matters is that you are seeing your child and experiencing them right now. Given a generally healthy home, being truly with your child in this current moment can repair mistakes you might have made in days, even years past.
  1. Mindfulness will allow you to value your own judgment as a mother over the judgment, opinions or fears of others. In mindfulness you will be in tune with yourself, uncluttered by thoughts of the past or future. You will know what the right decisions are for your children because you will be hearing them more clearly, seeing them with new eyes, experiencing them as more whole beings. In mindfulness, the good and bad opinion of others of you will carry less weight.
  1. Mindfulness will allow you to forgive yourself more readily when you act in unmindful ways. Every moment, given a chance, is overflowing with love. Every moment is a miracle really. Just breathing alone is a remarkable experience given the attention it deserves. Start there. It is proof that we are so much more than what we do or think or collect. When you’ve “failed,” finding the moment may heal you in an instant and allow you to start again in love. You will find love for yourself in the moment first. Love for all others will follow.
  1. Mindfulness will set you free. You will experience more joy. You will feel happier. You will have more energy. You will be filled with love. You will realize again and again and again all that this world has to offer when we are present and looking and aware.

 

5 Ways to Return to Mindfulness with Your Children

Being mindful with your children is not about being perfect. It is about recommitting to sharing moments with them time and time again – even when you’ve gone way off of your path and have to travel a long road back to be present again. If you’ve “lost your mind” for a moment, an hour or even a year or ten years – you always have the opportunity to start again. Here are a few ways that I have found myself again when need be.

  1. Stop whatever you are doing and connect with your breath. Hold your children in your arms if you must and take a deep, stilling breath. And then another. Stay here for a while enjoying a peace that is sure to come over you. Nothing is more important than your sense of calm. Nothing is more important than the sense of peace and safety you will share with your children in this moment. Not dinner. Not the laundry. Not bedtime. In breathing we are more likely to experience compassion for ourselves and for others so that we may choose loving and kind action. And in breathing we may observe our thoughts and experience them as an onlooker, with less judgment, instead of being continually in their grip. Notice your children modeling your breathing.
  1. Look your children in the eyes and affirm that you had been gone for a while but that you are back now. Children and even babies know so much more than we give them credit for. Better not to brush over your mindlessness. Acknowledge it. Let your child know that we all lose track of our thoughts at times and this impacts our actions but that we always have an opportunity to start again. They will understand and they will follow your lead in learning forgiveness and letting go and moving on.
  1. Find an activity to do with your children that uses your hands and immerse yourself into the moment with them in this tactile way. Pull weeds in the garden. Kneed dough. Finger paint. Braid yarn. Be conscious of your breath as you play. Listen more than you speak. Allow the activity to unfold naturally. Loosen your grip.
  1. Cancel something. Too many plans, a too-full schedule makes a person ripe for losing presence. Recognize the importance of quiet, peaceful, uneventful time at home and make it a priority. Genuine friends and family will understand. You may inspire them to do so as well.
  1. Quiet your mind again at the end of the day in the absence of your children. Give thanks for them as individuals. Reflect on each of their unique, positive qualities. Imagine them feeling happy and content. Imagine them thriving. Bless them each and know that they have been placed in your care perfectly.