Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Gardening: A Practice in Acceptance

Within 72 hours or so of posting about gardening as a spiritual practice, I learned that gardening is also a practice in acceptance when Eric commented “Someone has been eating our hostas.”

Sure enough, a young female deer had foraged through the garden bed closest to the house and did serious damage to the once large hosta plants. I thought of my friend Carol who recently moved into a house that is much closer to wildlife. Carol commented (to paraphrase) what is it about deer? Do they pick and choose what they eat? Do they skip a plant because they’re full? I mean, they eat a little here, a little there, don’t touch that plant over there.

Such is the irony of deer and so it was with our hostas. This deer de-nuded a couple hostas and left some leaves attached to others. My first reaction was “hummph” and I silently berated myself for not spraying the deer repellent on the hostas.

The next evening Pippin spotted our now named “Lady Hosta” deer. Again she was munching the hosta. I banged on the window, which got her attention and caused her to look at me quizzically. So there we were, me in the house telling Lady Hosta through the window glass that I did not appreciate her eating my hosta and that I’d like her to leave the garden, and Lady Hosta staring at me with those doe eyes glancing at the nearby sedums with their newly formed buds, and looking like she wasn’t quite sure which way to move.

A few more pounds on the window and the front door and Lady Hosta took the hint and off she ran through the front yard into the woods.

This is not our first encounter with the neighborhood deer. We’ve been acquainted with them for several seasons, throughout the year. I think I’ve counted up to six at one time in various positions around the house. Usually we have mom and the yearlings. Once I kept Eric from leaving the house because mom and baby were wandering through a large bed at the end of our property. The fawn was nosing and nibbling through the bed and mom was standing guard. It was too precious of a scene to disturb.

Another time mom and a couple kids were sauntering through the yard. The young male decided to inspect the vinca near the house. I happened to look out the family room window and there was the little guy. I must’ve said something that attracted his attention because his head popped up from the plants. It was then that I noticed his tiny antler buds and said “Oh you’ve got little antlers” while raising my hands to my head (imitating the antlers). The hand movements must’ve scared him because he bolted straight out of the garden bed. Or he was completely insulted by my antler imitation and he ran to his mom to tell her of the strange human on the other side of the glass.

We knew that once we planted our gardens we were likely to attract wildlife. In some ways that was our intent. We wanted the bumble bees, the hummingbirds, and the dragonflies, the goldfinches and robins and butterflies. Eventually the call must’ve gone out; “these guys have a salad bar here and it is open 24/7.”

I love my garden and I love the animals it attracts, the birds, the deer, the rabbits, the chipmunks and snakes, and mice, and insects. I’m not always happy with the damage that they inflict and it is up to me to put down the preventatives or put up a barrier or put out a trap or to surround those plants the deer like with plants that are less to their liking. Sometimes I’m lazy about it and don’t act until after-the-fact.

Some people I know get angry about the deer and other wildlife. Personally, I don’t think that accomplishes very much. After all, we’re the ones who have moved into their neighborhoods here in the rural areas and countryside. I believe accepting that this is their habitat and living in co-existence is a better approach; at least that works for me.

For me gardening is not just a spiritual practice reinforcing our connection to the earth, it is teaching me acceptance as well.

On Friday, 6/20, NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook had a wonderful interview with author and professor Robert Pogue Harrison on The Gardening Art, a history of our love affair with gardening. Read more about it and listen here


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Milagro Spirit Icons: The Heart

Milagros is Spanish for Miracle. In Folk Art, Milagros are talismans against illness, trouble and pain. They are symbols of hope or dreams; a promise made or fulfilled.

I became intrigued with Milagros during our trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in September, 2007. The Milagros I purchased during that trip became the inspiration for this series of icons.

Today I present the Heart Milagro Spirit Icon. The heart Milagro represents love, healing, and gratitude. It is the most common image offered at shrines. Unlike our heart valentine, traditional heart Milagros are anatomically correct; some even have blood vessels coursing across the front. A heart Milagro may bring you a healthy heart, and may bring passion to your life and to the love you have for another.

The Heart Milagro Spirit Icon is approximately 10″ tall. His halo is a hammered bottle cap with a patina finish. The Milagro can be removed and worn on a necklace or bracelet. The Blessing Bottle holds prayer or wish.


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Gardening As A Spiritual Practice

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from which you came, and to which you shall return.

I remember a feeling of fear as a child whenever I heard those words during mass at the Catholic Church. I didn’t want to turn into a pile of ashes. I didn’t want to become dust blowing around on the ground. And just what did you mean, calling me a pile of ashes?

As is all too common, I heard those words as a child and had not a clue as to what they meant and didn’t question it either. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to understand that we, as humans, come from the earth; we are part of the earth. John O’Donohue puts it well

Your body is as ancient as the clay of the universe from which it is made;
and your feet on the ground are a constant connection with the earth.
Your feet bring your private clay in touch with the ancient, mother clay from which you first emerged.

I love to garden, both vegetable and perennial. We always had a garden when I was growing up, whether it was in Detroit or in the suburbs of Michigan. I have fond memories of my dad going out to the garden, salt shaker in hand, where he would pick a tomato from the vine, sprinkle it with some salt, and take a bite. Is there any better way to enjoy a tomato? And somewhere in a photo album is a picture of me as a little girl sniffing the flowers.

So it seems natural that gardening runs in my blood. I’m not always successful at it and some seasons weeds are my best friend. And for whatever reason, as I planted seedlings in the vegetable beds this year, I began to think of our connection to the earth, to the dirt that I was digging and pushing around.

I don’t always have the time I’d like to devote to my gardens (hence the acceptance of weeds as my friends). And it was knowing that I don’t have as much time that I started to think of gardening as a spiritual practice. During this time, the garden becomes my sole focus, my intent, my presence. The phone stays in the house. I don’t wear an iPod. It is just me, the gardening gloves and tools.

In making my gardening a spiritual practice, whether I spend 15 minutes or an hour, the time spent becomes a richer experience. Bird songs seem louder. Bees seem to buzz with greater intensity. It is as if the world becomes more vibrant.

In making gardening a spiritual practice, I now understand even better our connection to the earth. I have a better appreciation of John O’Donohue’s words, that we are part of the “mother clay.”

As we nurture the earth, so will it nurture us both physically and spiritually.


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Mac Attack

Resistance is futile

-The Borg
Star Trek
First Contact (1996)

In late May, assimilation occurred in my house. I switched from a PC to a Mac laptop. Eric has used a Mac in his studio for a while and more recently as his primary computer in his office. I’ve been having some “issues” with my desktop PC for several months and when I proposed the idea of getting a new computer, two questions were posed to me: desktop or laptop and PC or Mac.

I was leaning toward a laptop for ease of transport around the house and when traveling. The brand was another decision; PC versus Mac; Mac versus PC. I know for some this would be a no-brainer type of decision. But after using a PC for a number of years and, more importantly, using a PC for a small business, I had to consider the equivalent tools in Mac format.

That didn’t take too long (thanks to Eric for doing much of that research for me.)

Actually, the conversion hasn’t been too difficult. We used Apple computers years ago (Apple IIG, I think) before becoming PC users. And now the pendulum has swung back to the Mac. I’ve found that there are similarities between the two (yes, I’m sure simply saying that is like committing a mortal sin) in the sense of how you save a document or reply to an email (similar keyboard shortcuts).

Other things are better on a Mac, like having a series of tabs open in the web browser that can be automatically recalled when the laptop restarts (so I don’t have to try and remember what web pages I had open). I’m also enjoying the “My Day” widget that shows my calendar to-do items right on the desktop (it looks like a little handheld device.)

I was a little hesitant about using Quickbooks which is only available in the Pro format for Macs. I had the basic version on the PC but I’ve found that even though Pro has way more stuff than I’ll ever use, I am getting used to it and enjoying the format.

I’m slowly poking around and learning how to use Aperture which is my Photoshop equivalent. Macs use a different hierarchy in their tools and what seemed obvious in Photoshop (e.g. how to convert an image from 300 dpi to 72 dpi) took some sleuthing and having Eric say “try that tutorial” which finally explained how to change the size of an image (in Aperture you change the dpi when you export the image into the desired folder. It does make sense but I certainly can’t explain how.)

This also explains why I haven’t posted the Milagro Spirit Icon pictures as I need to understand Aperture a bit better before I let myself edit those images in this new tool.

It really has been fun learning how to use a Mac and I’m happy that the assimilation, I mean the transition, hasn’t been as difficult as I imagined.

Excuse me, I hear that Borg Queen again.

I’ve overseen the assimilation of countless millions. You were no different.


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Small Milagro Spirit Icons

In a burst of energy as I was preparing for the Paradise City show last month, I decided to create not only the large Milagro Spirit Icons (which I will post; I promise) but smaller Milagro Spirit Icons.  To keep the retail price affordable, I used small face molds (versus sculpting each head), created a solid form body structure, and mounted the icons on a base of polymer clay.  The Milagros were created from hand colored and stamped shrink plastic (versus authentic handcrafted silver Milagros.)

Therefore, these icons were a little simpler in construction than the large icons and were also created in batches (e.g. all the heads at once, all the bodies at once, etc).  By taking a production-like approach I was able give them a mid-level price tag which placed them in-between the price of the Vaughn Hills Sprites and the large Milagro Spirit Icons.  And each one still retains its own personality.

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