I invite you to consider a new paradigm....

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All artists are story tellers, transformers of the soul. 

There is no REALvalue to art.
Yet, imagine a world without it. 
How bleak.
How devoid of soul.

Artists tell the stories of their time. They are the translators of human emotions.
They are the record keepers of the socio-political landscape of their generation. 

Without art, life would be dull, void of color, poetry and drama. 
Artists speak to and for the soul.

Think of how a piece of music takes you back to a certain time or relationship in your life.
Or consider how you feel when you hear poetry that speaks for your heart.
Imagine a stunning painting you can’t turn away from.

Art translates our emotions. 

I am an artist who makes art because I have to.
I make art to beautify, to express and to process this human experience – for myself and for the collective.

I also sell my art. 
And right there is the rub!

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I write this essay to begin a conversation with you about the current commodification of art.
I want to change that paradigm and I want to start in my own life as an experiment with you. 

Right now, art is sold as a one-time transactional experience. Each artist must put a “value” on their art, and so often that “value” relates to time and supplies spent on the piece.

I challenge this system, because art needs to be valued and exchanged in a completely different way. I can’t put a price on the thousands of hours and dollars I have spent arriving at this point in time, where I create a piece of art and then put a price on it for you. This is a simplistic, commodity oriented basis for pricing something that cannot be valued with this scale. 

And really, when we look at the art world, and what collectors will pay for art, who sets those prices? Hundreds of thousands of dollars for a splash of paint on a canvas. At the other end, artists so often asked to donate their work for “good exposure,” to offer their talent for free. There is an imbalance of over-value and under-value in the system. None of this is real. And all of it is real.

Art is made to speak to and for the soul, to translate human emotions into some tangible form so we can better understand our own experience and the conditions of our time. Art is made to shift our consciousness. When a piece of art speaks to your soul, that is when you want and need to live with it.

And yet, how do we put a price on translating our emotions into something beautiful, lyrical or poetic? How do we put a price on shifting our consciousness through art? How do we put a price on something as intangible as a skill that translates emotion into something beautiful and understandable?

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Art must be valued by the soul. 

“Good” art speaks to some deep place in us that begs to awaken. When you say to yourself, “I must have that piece,” then you know something within you is on the verge of awakening.

It doesn’t matter if anyone else likes the piece you’ve chosen, it only matters that it speaks to your soul. We must trust our own choices.

For making art is a journey of trust. One artistic decision leads to the next and the next until resolution comes.  

Just like life, we cannot rush our unfolding. We must believe in our choices.

So, I want to do a personal experiment with you, one that will have a direct impact on us. I want to invite you to consider looking at art in a new way when you feel drawn to owning a piece of art. Instead of thinking you will “buy” the art piece for a certain price to “own,” ask yourself, “What would my soul offer for this painting; to live with it and let it work on me?”

This self-reflective process engages you to ask a few questions. 

First, why do I love this artwork? 
Why does it speak to me? 
What can I give in exchange for this art piece so I can live with it transform me?

It asks you to consider your own resources and what you genuinely have to offer the artist in exchange for their life energy and years of practice they bring to creating the artwork at hand.  

Instead of having a one-time transactional experience of “buying” a piece of art, you enter into a relationship with the artist, and you find a price point for the exchange that speaks to the “value” offered both ways. There is no clear cut “price.” You, along with the artist, begin a dialogue around the artwork, what you have to offer, and together you find a value that works for both of you.

It feels uncomfortable doesn’t it? 
It does to me.

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As the artist, this system asks me to step into a place of trust that you, whoever you are, will value what I bring to the table in making my art – not just the piece at hand, but all of my years of study, practice, education, and inner work. And you, you must take a real look at your resources, what you value in life, why you want to live with this piece and make an offer on the piece. You must open the conversation with the artist. Your offering may also be something in non-monetary form. Perhaps you have skills that I’d love to trade for. Make the offer. See what happens.

The upside of this new paradigm, as I see it, is that art goes to the people whose souls are truly affected, regardless of monetary resources. The art then gets to do its job – bringing joy and transformation to someone’s life.

And you, as the “buyer” become more than that. You become a patron – someone who has a relationship with the artist, that is not about the “price” of any one piece, but rather you support and value the work the artist does in the world. There is an acknowledgement of the power of art beyond its commodity value.

You have stepped into a place of patronage, which is far more valuable. You have stepped into a relationship with the artist, which in the end, is what life is about: relationship|

this is the world I envision - where we change the paradigm of how art is circulated, and we find a way for you to enjoy the art that we as artists create. My art is not able to do its full job unless it goes out into the world to live with you. Lets try this!


Starting here, what do you want to remember?

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Winter Tree

I want to remember the wide black wing span as you glide over the river.

I want to remember the crunch of snow under my boots with every step in the woods and the silence of snow covered trees.

I want to remember cups of hot golden milk swirled with honey and ghee soothing my insides. I want to remember the coziness of flannel sheets, my soft fuzzy blankets, and burrowing under comfy covers for a long winter sleep.

I want to remember your kind hearted hugs where you pulled me close so our hearts could touch with no words. I want to remember your yellow toothed crooked smile and the sparkle in your crescent eyes when you opened packages of home-made chocolate chip cookies.

I want to remember the wordless afternoons as we sat together in the living room, over-looking Lake Merrit – you with your thriller mystery in hand, me with my art journal – just there. I want to remember my early life with you spent navigating the kitchen together, me moving twice as fast as your turtle pace as you made breakfast for mom.

I want to remember your made up calisthenics routine, where you flung your arms up and down, right and left - your own version of yoga, juicing the joints.

I want to remember the last time we went out to the Legion of Honor to see the Impressionist show and I told you how much I loved you and how I felt that the only time I’d be uncomfortable with that love would be at your funeral in front of your biological children.

And you told me just to be myself.

And I did.
And it was.

 I want to remember all the times you trod up the ski slope when I fell to help me back on my feet.

Yes, I want to remember your warm heart, the kind and gentle man you grew into in old age. And I will remember.

I will re-write my story.
I will remind myself that I did nothing wrong.
That I just landed in the role of your daughter through marriage.

I never stole anyone’s place.
I did nothing wrong.
I simply loved you.

Proximity made it so.
You were there.
I was there.

Under the same roof, in the same house.

I want to remember the last thing you said to me on the phone in your garbled voice, and I will:

“Di, I love you. I love everyone.”


Seeking Imperfection

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It is in my art journal that I relish the blemishes, the messiness, the absolute imperfection of life. I love seeing chaos on the page, and the feeling of letting go of any attempt to produce something beautiful. Instead, I let the scribbles, drips, tears and rips dominate. I allow the emotions to roar forth through color and shape. 

It is perfectly imperfect.

It is where I compost my life and let the layers of myself decay and transform into rich, nourishing soil. It all becomes compost that feeds the lotus to bloom from within.

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I write tidbits about life there: the piles of snow that came overnight; the chicory coffee I had with a friend; the ecstatic dance where my heart soared to the heavens. There, between the hardbound black covers of the journal are my bits, the ones I chose to collect and recollect. 

I listen for messages from the Universe through the random scraps of paper, wrappers, pictures and string haphazardly glued into the bound pages. I read it all as though I were reading tea leaves and learning about my life. 

I am at once the mad scientist artist composing, and yet I have no idea what is coming through me, so end up deciphering the mysterious messages once they appear. 

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The art journal is my living breathing mirror – a reflection of my psyche at any given point in time, not to be judged for its beauty or resolution, but to be witnessed and read for the codified missives that spirit sends from the other side. In this way it is a thrilling document, and a mystery unfolding.

It is a means to understand the worlds beyond and to open to guidance from something far greater than my little self. 

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The process is none less than magnificent. It strips me of ego and shows the microcosm of a human life, which just happens to be mine.

 


I didn’t care that I’d have to sit on the floor for months!

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It’s 2001.

I’ve just bought my first quaint place in the flatlands of Berkeley. It’s 850 square feet and I need to furnish it. First and foremost, I need a couch and a bed. But my heart wants something else. It needs art for the walls. Something that will speak to my soul.

My first purchase for my new little home was a large, wooden Lotus that was carved out of beautiful wood and made in Thailand. Yes, that was what I needed. I didn’t care that I would have to sit on the floor for months.

That lotus flower was the thing for my soul.

You see, I’d entered a whole new period of my journey. I was becoming a yoga teacher. I’d just done my first yoga teacher training and had entered a second one. Yoga was my life at that time. I was using it to rehab myself after a major car accident I’d been in just a couple of years prior.

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The Lotus Flower represented the calm I was cultivating within myself. It’s blushing pink beauty grows out of dark, swampy, mucky places and then dazzles the world. It was a great reminder that our own blazing light can only shine brightly if we own the shadow sides of ourselves.

I bought that heavy wooden lotus, hung it in my house and looked at it every day as a reminder of what was growing within me – calm, the ability to integrate my shadow, my own inner beauty, stability, and much more.

One might say we don’t “need” art because we can’t eat it, sleep in it, wear it (most art) or drive it. There is little “practical” use for art and yet, when we live life as a journey to open the soul, art and ritual objects become the most important things in our collection.

As the years have passed, I’ve collected pieces of art here and there. Each piece represents a time and place in my life and reminds me of my journey. When I can’t stop thinking about an art piece, it’s a sign that it is talking to my soul and will help me evolve the next place within myself.

So, next time you’re drawn to a piece of art, check in with yourself deeply. What IS it about that piece that calls you? What is the art saying to you? How does it make you feel? Do you want to live with the piece or is it enough to just see it once, or visit it regularly?

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If you keep thinking about the art you’ve seen, perhaps it needs to live with you.

Just like art calls us, there is often a time when the artwork has done its magic and it’s time to move on to work with the next person who needs the magic of the art piece.

I recently sold the wooden Lotus. I was happy to have it find a new home with people who were delighted to see what it had to offer them. Letting go of that piece opened up space for new art to come into my world….and recently I bought a piece from a friend of mine, and every time I look at it I think of her.

 

 


In Troubling Times....

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It seems the world really IS spinning out of control with the abundance of tragedy around the world, from bombings, to shootings, to hurricanes, fires and floods.Things feel tenuous at best, and yet I can't help think that we are all being called forth to create the new world we want to live in. So, in these troubling times, when life as we know it seems to be falling apart, here are simple practices to create more love in life. 

Be kind.
Make it a point to be kind to the person in front of you in any given moment.

Play with the children and the elderly.

Make art.
Create something. Write a new song, paint a painting, write a poem, make up a new dance.

Gather together.
Get together with loved ones…family, friends. Make it a priority. Time is short and we never know when we won't have the opportunity to do so.

Gratitude.
Remember all of the small things your grateful for.

Break bread together.
Share meals with friends, family and strangers. Cook something and invite people over.

Go out of your way.
Take time to honor people who are important to you. Send a card, pick up the phone, send them a present.

Get out to nature.
Go on a hike, get on your bike, sit in the trees or by the ocean. Listen to the wind, the trees, the waves.

Love the animals.
Spend more time loving your pets, or other people’s pets. Go to an animal shelter and love up the furry ones.

Tell someone you love them.
Today.


It's Getting Personal

When my friend in the Bay Area texted me late Wednesday, saying, “Did you hear about the school shooting in Spokane?” my jaw nearly dropped on the floor. My immediate thoughts were, “No, not in Spokane.”

“No. Where?” I asked, wondering if I personally knew anyone who was affected. Because that’s how it is right? We want to know if someone WE know or love was impacted.

And the answer is yes.

Yes.

A dear friend of mine has been a teacher in the Freeman community for years, and in fact, she knows most of the kids in the school who were involved and impacted. She is devastated.

Needless to say, the community is reeling with grief and broken hearts. One student was killed and three others are in critical condition. It’s not only heart breaking, it reminds me that no corner of the world is “safe” and we are all dealing with the DIS-EASE of violence around the globe as a symptom of something much larger than each stand-alone incident.

I know in my own life, when I feel that DIS-EASE – when I have a fight with my husband, or a conflict with a friend, or I’m torn up by grief – I want to blame the outside. I blame the other person, I blame the circumstances, where I live, the conditions of my life. But it never helps. It feels futile and mis-guided.

When I dig deeper, I notice I just want to be loved, and sometimes I’m not going to get that from the outside world. It’s up to me to nurture and soothe myself, because no one, really, can “make me feel better.”

Often, I just have to feel the feelings and let them move through me.

So I dance.
I do yoga.
I hike.
I journal.
I make art.
I cry.

These are my ways to soothe myself, to help move the energy through. These are my ways to handle my own rage, my jealousy, my resentment, my grief, my anger.

I named the art show in Oakland, The Inclusive Divide because it’s about owning the disparate parts of myself – the good, the bad and the ugly. My thought is if I can gently love those “un-loveable” parts of myself, perhaps I’ll find enough space within my heart to be able to love those ugly places in other people.

None of us is perfect. We all have a shadow side that pops out from under the bushes in twisted ways. But the intense violence we are seeing around the world in communities everywhere is symptomatic of the shadow side of humanity and we need to find a way to heal that which is broken within all of us.

It’s not easy to look in the mirror and see, let alone OWN, those parts of myself I’d rather get rid of. I know from personal experience, it takes practice to keep loving – myself and others – and not run away. It’s a moment to moment practice.

As I close, I want to offer my prayers to the Freeman Community and to all who are impacted by this tragedy. I offer prayers for ALL people who are suffering around the world from whatever pain is moving through their hearts.

 

Here are a few good books to support your inner growth, and a TED talk by the mother of one of the Columbine High School Shooters. She talks about her journey as the mother of the shooter and the grief and despair she’s dealt with.

Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
The Places That Scare You Are by Pema Chodron
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

My Son was a Columbine Shooter – This is my Story – Sue Klebold

 

 


I am in the chaos phase!

Of the painting.

The phase where all of the marks just look like a scrambled egg on the canvas, the kind you think any 6 year old could make.

And it’s probably true.

It’s the phase full of potential, power, possibility.

It’s the phase in the middle, when after “trying” so hard to “make” something happen that the inner voice just says, “Fuck it” and you throw down paint and get back to the truth of who you are as an artist and step back into PLAY.

It’s fun. It’s messy. It has no goal.

It is unbridled energy that infuses the painting with mystery.

The mystery of something greater. That intangible “something” we long to paint, describe in words, but best to just feel it and be it.

The chaos phase is also the phase where the critic can come out and say, “See, I told you so! You’re not a REAL artist.” She knows your tender spots and goes in for the kill, while standing on the side having a cigarette looking cool.

If you let her intimidate you, if you believe her, this is the phase where you give up on the painting. You let her win.

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I have re-framed this phase for myself when she shows up. I tell her, “Yeah, yeah. THIS mess, you’re calling it, is a new beginning. It’s a new possibility infused with so much energy it’s bound to be “better” than what I started out to make.”

She tends to skulk away when I stand my ground. And now, she barely shows up anymore because she knows I’m not giving up.

My layer is dry now, so back to playing with more color to see where it will take me!


I must confess, I’m not who I thought I was!

The Van Go vision had been so clear: that I’d be on the road, jamming to Michael Franti, windows rolled down, hot summer air blowing my wispy hair. I was gonna be hiking in the national parks, drawing and painting, inspired by BIG nature.

I wanted it like a bee wants nectar, and I worked hard to get Van Go prepped. I painted, decorated, got her all cherried out with artwork wrapped on the outside so she would attract my tribe to me. I had baskets of Spring and Summer postcards to hand out, spreading the love, not to mention I had talismans from friends and prayers and intentions from my circle in Spokane.

And then life intervened. There was a new Divine plan that wasn’t mine, and I got redirected home to my art studio.

If you didn’t read the blog on that, check it out on my website, because the full story is a good one, but I won’t repeat it here. Lets just say in a nutshell, “my” plan didn’t work, but I had a great summer.

Since late July I’ve been painting in my studio, exploring new territory on the canvas. I have journeyed inward. As Kabir says, “Don’t go outside your house to see flowers my friend, for inside your house there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals, and that will do for a place to sit.”

So, what’s the confession you might ask?

The confession is that I’ve sold Van Go! I’ve let the dream go (at least for now) of driving the country in a Van that has no air-con. I got it this summer that I do want more comfort – I want air-con, I want super comfortable seats, I want more space to lay out my art supplies. I want a cabin in big nature, not a van!

But let me tell you how it all transpired, because it’s a pretty cool twist. When I returned home in July, a friends of mine called and said, “I know someone who is interested in buying Van Go if you want to sell her.”

 “No way,” I thought. “I’m not letting go of Van Go. Not yet. I still want to try in the Spring.” But I wrote down her number anyway.

My friend explained that Ann had a dream of becoming the Peace Pilgrim and traveling the country. When she heard about Van Go, she felt like it was the “one.”

It took me a week to call Ann. No harm in talking to her right?

“I’ve had this dream for years to become the Peace Pilgrim,” she told me. We chatted easily for a ½ hour, talking about life, energy, art, our paths. Regardless of the van, we knew we had to meet.

And that’s how it happened.

In person, our connection was even easier, and letting Van Go move along to Ann almost seemed like part of some Divine order. I had merely been the duala for her to get to her next owner.

 “You know, I wouldn’t be buying a van right now if it weren’t your Van Go,” she told me.

“And I wouldn’t be selling her if it weren’t to you.”

In short, Van Go is gone, (though Ann has kindly said she feels like “ours”) but the dream of seeing the national parks is still alive. It’s just going to take a different form – I’m going to create artist residencies in big nature.

So, if you have a cabin, or second home near some beautiful nature or a national park and want to host an artist in exchange for some art, let me know!!


It happened twice this weekend, and it wasn’t pretty!

As we bought our tickets to the R rated movie “The Accountant, ” the 20 something girl behind the counter with creamy white skin and fine long hair hesitated before ringing us up. She looked at us, assessing something.

“Can I ask how old you are?”

To which my husband snappily said yes in his slightly sarcastic, but hard to detect way.

Me, I paused, running the algorithms of WHY she needed to ask us how old we were to go to an R rated movie.

Were we not old enough?

Do they have a new rule about who can go determined on age?

The answer that popped out of my mouth was actually full of curiosity.

“Why? Why do you need to know how old we are for the movie?”

“Well,” she said sheepishly, “I just wondered if you’d be eligible for a senior discount.”

“REALLY?” I squawked. “Seriously? How old do I look to you?” But then I had to know what age the movie theaters considered for a senior discount. Maybe it was 55 and she hadn’t been so glaringly off in her assessment.

“60.” She said, clearly understanding that she’d made the wrong decision to ask that question. My husband was un-phased because he knew the question wasn’t for his 42-year-old sweet ass. No, the question was for me, the 54 your old standing in front of her.

“How much is the discount?” I pressed on, wanting to know what the humiliation had cost.

“It’s a dollar off each ticket.”

Well, THAT’s not worth even asking about, I wanted to shout out, especially if you’re on the fence and don’t know if the people are seniors. But instead I held my tongue and gave a wry smile.

She back peddled as fast as she could, knowing she’d found dark and dangerous waters with the still menopausal woman.

“It’s ok,” I soothed her nervous, twitching. She handed us our tickets and we left.

But let me back up to give some context. On the ride to the movie theater, I’d been talking about aging and how when I look down at my hands the sun spots are turning a deeper hue, and the skin on my body, like it or not, is getting crepe-like. Not everywhere, but I notice in downward dog I see how the skin is looser and falls away from the muscles in ways it never used to. I also can’t deny the sun spots, or “freckles” as some kindly call them, cover my legs and parts of my arms.

The irony is that the day before I’d just gone to the Dermatologist for a Blu-Light treatment on my face with the intent to get rid of the pre-cancerous spots. But if I’m honest, my vanity is still chasing young and supple skin – at least for my face!  If you’ve never had a Blue light treatment or don’t know what it is let me enlighten. They put gooey gel all over your face and you let it soak in for an hour. Then you sit for 4 minutes under the Blu-Light. It feels like your face is up close and personal with a broiler and the stinging/burning sensation makes you wish you were getting a root canal.

So when I entered the movie theater, let’s just say I didn’t look my best – blotchy, red and a bit puffy. I console myself that this was the case.

 

The next night, I went to a party (albeit with make up to cover the red!) with two friends - both younger than me – 34 and 41. We were all standing around amidst vampires and zombies, TV show characters I had no idea existed, when the hostess ran up to the 41-year-old and wrapped her arms around her.

“I’m so glad you came,” she bubbled and then turned to me, “Oh, and you brought your mom?!”

This time I couldn’t keep it in.

“Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?” I blurted out with the help of my few sips of bourbon.

“I can’t believe it. Two nights in a row. Do you know what happened to me last night? Let me tell you.” I began, and launched into my story. ( now wonder what HER version of this encounter was!)

 

I remember my 20s, my porcelain unscathed skin. I didn’t appreciate what I had.  I do remember thinking I would age gracefully and not worry about it. That I would be sliding into middle and old age with the aplomb of Audrey Hepburn.

But we live in a youth driven culture where Hollywood touts the young, fit and beautiful. The reverence for age is not our root value.

So, despite my years of yoga, my choices to eat well, exercise and really take care of the “vessel,” I find myself still caught in the tide of cultural vanity.

I suppose the question for me is how can I be part of the solution to change this dominant cultural perspective – that youth is better and we should all strive for it, when in fact, I love who I am so much more at 54 than I ever did in my 20s? How can I validate myself and let the inner beauty shine through the spots, the loosening skin and the decay of the vessel?

Well, I believe that the best thing I can do is to live my life with passion and to do what I love so that I can serve this world and light it up from my core. And that, my friends is the reason I make art every day, despite my mood, my skin, my reflection in the mirror. It’s to bring out the inside and share it!

But when do I get that senior discount? 


To Flow, You Have to Let Go!

This tiny little phrase sounds so cute and trite.  “To flow you have to let go.” You might say “Duh!” I know I’ve thought that.

And yet that has been the lesson of my summer, starting in Glacier National Park when I first had to let go of the fact that I’d be continuing my 4 ½ month trip in Van Go around the States, visiting the national parks.

Yeah, that got nixed. In a heart beat.

Back spasms. Emergency Room. Valium and Hydrocodone. A three day stay with new friends in Whitefish MT all helped me “get it” that I was NOT going on the epic journey in the 1982 VW Camper Van.

No sir!

As I turned to head home, I still clung to the idea that I could at least do a partial trip. I’d get body work. I’d “get better” to see at least the Western National Parks.

Then the hamstring insertion point pinching materialized and I could barely walk around our park without throbbing pain in my ass.

Hmmmmm. Pain in my ass. I had to wonder. Was I being my own pain in my ass.

So I turned to my art studio. Started playing with color. Mixing new colors. Making new shapes. Cutting up potatoes and dipping slices in paint and making marks on the canvas.

FUN. I was having fun despite the discomfort in my body.

OK. I’d stay home. For a while. Still compromising with life, until it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be going ANYWHERE. At least driving in a Van, with a stick shift.

More painting. More color mixing. More blasting the tunes and dancing around in my studio and creating paintings.

More Fun. I was having fun. I let go. Of my agenda. Of feeling bad about myself for not going on this “epic” (at least in MY mind) trip. Ok, perhaps I could just accept the new path. That I’d been giving the gift of time to paint.

The lesson, however, did not stop there. It continues each time I start a new painting. I notice I enjoy the art process MORE when I let go and get out of my own way and just DO what’s fun. DO what I love to do.

So, my friends, I close out summer feeling grateful that “my” plans didn’t work out and that some higher order got me into my studio and I was able to see that despite myself, this was a great plan the Universe gave me!

My trip turned from the Van Go trip into the Van Gogh Trip!!


VW Tattooed on my Back!

Tiny beads of sweat form on my brow and on my forehead. It’s early June and I’m standing in the shade at ArtFest, a yearly art adventure in Spokane. You know, those art festivals with booths lined all around the park featuring everything form handmade soaps to 8X6 foot original paintings, to mugs and plates, and glass blown shapes to float in your water element in the backyard?

I plan to buy nothing.

I don’t really need anything. In fact, I’ve been purging for the last 2 years and I’m just about to hit the road in a VW Camper Van for 4 months.

No, I tell myself. “Don’t by any THING.” I feel the pinch of pride rise with my resolve. I know I will walk away with nothing in my hands.

Until I see the table of watches.  I don’t even WEAR a watch. But these are recycled silver plated spoons, made into watches with a magnetic clasp.  I am like a bee to sweet nectar dripping from jasmine. I enter the trance as I stand in front of the table with at least 60 watches on it.

I pick up the one with a square face and bands made of recycled silver spoons. I have to have it. It’s the sliver spoon. It’s my childhood, cleaning silver. I come from silver spoons and table settings, thank you notes and gloves, and the right purse to match your outfit.

Yes, I have to have it. For my trip. I noted the irony immediately – a watch to be out in nature on a “chillin’” kind of trip.

I lift my head up out of the daze to focus on the woman behind the counter – Colleen. I tell her about my upcoming VW Camper trip, and mumble something about the sliver spoon, and my childhood and to my left, a man in his late 30s with two missing back teeth is listening with his whole body. Then he booms,

“VW? I’ve got it tattooed on my back. Big. Used to own a VW mechanic shop.”

I smile and feel the desire to turn away and continue my shopping extravaganza. But he doesn’t let go. He starts in with a line of questions – what year, water or air cooling, where am I going?

I’m with a friend and I don’t feel like answering his questions. He talks on, clueless that I’m not that interested.

“The ’82, well that’s an air cooling system, in ’84 they changed to the water cooling system. Hard to find parts when you’re out there on the road. Better take an extra belt. Yeah, an extra belt. ’80 to ’83 was a short window of the air cooling system,” he says as though talking partly to himself and not caring if anyone is listening.

I stop what I'm doing and turn to him.

“What’s your name?” I ask looking him right in his eyes.

“Matthew.”

“Matthew, ok, tell me more. I’m listening.

He has my full attention. I realize he is a gift – a messenger. It's one of those meetings with someone who drops just the right piece of information into your world that you might need later. I open up my iphone to take notes as he rattles on about the belt, the cooling system, the magazine I should pick up with all of the info about VW camper van meetings around the country.

I buy the watch. It fits perfectly. Matthew waits to talk to me more about the van and closes out saying, “Well, when you have VW tattooed on your back, you could talk about the vans for hours.”

I knew he could. And I knew he would if I were into listening to his vault of knowledge on the vans. But it was hot, and I was tired already. But I found that sweet spot in my heart full of gratitude for this quirky stranger whose passion far exceeded my own about the Vans, even though I would be leaving shortly to experience life on the road.

 


India: Lesson # 3 - Creativity and the Univited Guest

She always shows up uninvited to the art party. She strides in with confidence and sits down right next to me as I’m starting to roll on a new art piece. I’m usually at the beginning or mid-way through when she raises an eyebrow, looks down at the page and scoffs, “You know, your perspective is ALL wrong there. You should really work on your drawing skills.”

That’s what I’m doing! I want to slap her in the face. She has a way of killing the happy art place in me with a few words. You'd think I would remember she often comes along when I start a new piece - but I forget and get caught by surprise.

I mutter under my breath, “I’m just playing. Practicing. Getting to know these new tools.” Trying to fend her off so she’ll leave me alone.

I feel the pit in my stomach. The surge of self-doubt. “She’s right. I can’t draw worth shit,” I think.

She settles into the seat next to me, her hair all wrapped in a bright satiny turbin, looking all artsy herself. 

“Do you REALLY think you can do something with your art?  I mean, most artists spend ALL their time in the studio. You seem to flit about doing lots of things,” she pesters with her opinions.

Oh. My. God.

My heart sinks. Maybe she's right. I feel that heavy sense of defeat before I’ve even finished the piece. 

NO! “Just keep going,” I tell myself. “Keep playing with color. Experiment. Nothing new came from giving up! Just play. Have fun. Discover your new tools.”

I press on and don’t listen to her negativity. I simply place my attention on what I’m doing. I get present to the FUN of color. To the play of making lines. To the investigation of making marks. 

I have yet to make a friend of her, my inner critic. She is still with me on the ride. In fact, I don’t think I will “get rid” of her, because she is part of me.

What I do know is if I don’t give her too much attention she gets bored and goes away. Especially when I get so fully absorbed in what I’m doing that I’m no longer aware of her, and I am soulfully present.