Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Imbolc and Feast of St. Brigid

Imbolc, also known as Candlemas, begins at sundown on February 1 and ends at sundown on February 2. It also runs concurrently with the feast of St. Brigid.

There is much to read about Imbolc and the feast of St. Brigid, so I won’t add more to that. Except to point you to one of my favorite descriptions about this holiday by Waverly Fitzgerald on her School of the Seasons website. And a post I wrote on Imbolc back in 2008.

I also came across this lovely song about St. Brigid by Celia, which prompted me to put together this post.

I listened to this song a couple of times and danced around the studio while it played. Moving the body is a great way to invite the creative muse to come and play. It also seemed appropriate because Brigid is also associated with creativity and creative ideas.

After dancing around the studio, I created this watercolor painting of St. Brigid in honor of her feast day.

St. Brigid Keeper of the Flame

St. Brigid
Keeper of the Flame

Working intuitively, this painting came together in less than 2 hours. I love when I can dive in and let the creative flow happen. Sketching comes easily. Choosing colors of paint is less stressful. The negative voice becomes quieter when it knows I’m not listening to it.

If you enjoyed Brigid’s song above and want to sing along, the version below includes the words.

Brigid so beautiful. Brigid so powerful.

Goddess Brigid, peace weaver, healer, poet, queen. Melt the snow and bring the spring.


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Experiments in Intuitive Painting

A year ago, in February, I pulled some muscles in my back and spent several weeks recovering. I call that time period the “Universe tried to kick me in the a** and missed” month. During that February, I spent time learning about  St. Hildegard of Bingen. One of the practices I engaged in was creating mandalas or other forms of painting images inspired by daily readings and prompts.

It was during this time that I reawakened my love of painting and sketching. I also became more intrigued with using words or phrases as the catalyst for the pieces I created.

Fast forward several months. I’m pondering what direction my art wants to take me. Polymer clay is still my first love. But, realistically, sculpting is not agreeing with my hands. After a few hours, I can feel my thumb joints starting to ache. I am reminded of that time in February. I find an old email that contains a video interview with Chris Zydel of Creative Juices Arts. I remember being intrigued with the concept of intuitive painting the first time I heard about Chris and her work.

I start poking around the Internet for information on intuitive painting. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go too far down that rabbit hole before I found Flora Bowley’s website. I’m drawn in by what I see & read.

A few clicks later and I’ve ordered her book and some tempera paints to play with.

As my holiday show schedule came to a close, I set aside some time to read Flora’s book and play with my paints. I chose the tempera paints because they’re relatively inexpensive and figured it would be a good place to start playing with this form of painting. I also didn’t want to waste the few acrylic paints I did have on this experiment.

So I pulled out an unused watercolor pad, tore off a few pages, and began to play. Here are the first few intuitive paintings I created using those tempera paints.

Experiments with Tempera Paint

Intuitive Painting #1

Intuitive Painting #1

Intuitive Painting #2

Intuitive Painting #2

Angels in the Mist

Angels in the Mist

Flying Blue

Flying Blue

Tempera paints are, um, interesting. They dry pretty quick and don’t mix well unless you immediately put wet paint on top of wet paint. Granted the watercolor paper probably wasn’t the best substrate. But, you rock what you’ve got when you’re experimenting and playing with a new medium.

The Acrylics Arrive

A Christmas gift to myself was a sampler set of Liquitex soft body acrylics, plus a few other assorted colors, and a new assortment of paint brushes. Now I was ready to give this intuitive painting play some serious attention.

Here are two pieces in progress using the acrylic paints. Each is on a 5″x7″ canvas panel.

"Cellular"

“Cellular”

"Two Faces"

“Two Faces”

The acrylics are, for the most part, fun to use. The colors are more vibrant and tend to blend better than the temperas. I am having some interesting results when I spray water on the Liquitex paint. It often lifts right off the canvas, leaving behind either small water spots or larger blank spots. Sometimes the color layer underneath is retained. Sometimes it pulls right down to the white canvas.

I consider it a happy “accident” and try to work the effect into the overall painting. After all, I am trying to do this intuitively.

During this time I also signed up for Flora’s online course, BloomTrue

It was a slightly spontaneous decision. I had read about the course last fall. Then a couple friends recently told me about their experience taking the class. It started to feel like the Universe was putting it out there for me to make a choice. So I listened. Class starts February 10. I can’t wait to delve deeper into the process and share more paintings with you.


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My 2014 Word of the Year-Transform

Most years I choose a word to guide me through the year. Sometimes the word is a good choice. Sometimes not so much.  The process for choosing a word isn’t terribly scientific.  I’ve used Christine Kane’s approach to chose a word. I chosen from random words that pop in my head.

This year I was guided by a more spiritual-intuitive process from Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts. This was a 12-day mini-retreat which included daily emails that provided a daily practice to help you contemplate potential words. What was different with this process, for me, is that it wasn’t about ME CHOOSING a word. Rather, it was about a word CHOOSING ME.

There is a difference.

When we choose a word, we’re looking and striving for THE word. We want it to be perfect. We obsess. Our little noggins say “this is the word that I want.”

When we allow time for a word to choose us, we, hopefully, let go of ego and let our intuition guide the process. We must let go of expectations (the perfect word) and listen to what stirs internally. Words that excite. Words that make us uncomfortable. Words that call us to grow.

So, for 12 days, I paid attention to words & phrases that appeared frequently in readings. I wrote down words that resonated with me. Words that made me uncomfortable. I made note of synchronicities.

At first, I thought my word would be “possibilities” or “possible” as in “With you all things are possible.” After surviving several losses over the past 18 months, I was feeling that in 2014 anything is possible, both good and not so good.

Then I paid more attention to other words that appeared and resonated with me. And the one word that appeared over and over was transform.

Transform means to change markedly the form or appearance of; to change the nature, function or condition of. It comes from the Old French “transformer” and Latin “transformare.” The prefix trans means “across.” So trans-form would be taking the normal mode of behavior “across” into a whole new form.

The word is quite fitting. During that 18 month period with one loss after the other, I started to question many things, from the meaning of life to the meaning of my work. I turned inward and gradually began working on my spiritual development. I thought more about what really makes me happy in life.

Now that we have started a new year, it truly is a time of new beginnings. It may sound cliche but I think of the caterpillar who cocoons and turns into a butterfly. Much work is being done internally in that cocoon. And when the butterfly emerges a wonderful transformation has occurred.

I feel I am gradually emerging from my cocoon. I have made changes in my business plan for 2014, such as not doing any art shows and closing my ArtFire Online Studio account. I’m looking forward to spending more time on personal & spiritual development. And I’m gradually starting to paint again.

So here is to 2014. A year to transform. A year of transformation.

Hanging Around in Sedona

Hanging Around in Sedona


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Welcome 2014

SunThruTreesI have been spending the past week reflecting on the past year, waiting for my word for the year to find me, and setting new intentions for 2014.

Below, I share with you two questions that were posed during my meditation today. They are good questions to consider as we begin again in 2014.

What was the most life giving for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember them with gratitude.

What was the most life draining for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember to forgive.

If you are so inclined, feel free to share your answers in the comments below.


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A Fallow Period-Coming Back to Myself Through Spirituality

It started when I made a small twisting movement that Friday morning. As soon as I moved back to a neutral stance I could feel the muscles in my back tighten from top to bottom. “Oh crap,” I thought. “Well, this has happened before and it usually works itself out by the end of the day.”

So I took some Advil and went on with my day. My back was stiff and sitting for any length of time wasn’t pleasant. I stretched as best I could and put on BioFreeze.

When I got up Saturday morning, my back felt much better. I had been taking pictures of the February blizzard the day before and went up to the studio to take another picture out the window. I bent over to take the picture and when I tried to stand up, pain shot through my back and brought tears to my eyes. “Quick, sit down and catch your breath,” I told myself.

A warm shower, more gel and Advil provided very temporary relief. I was in tears as I slo-o-owly walked to the kitchen slightly hunched-over and looking like Tim Conway’s old man character from a Carol Burnett skit. This flippin’ hurt and it scared me.

I spent most of that weekend on our couch alternating ice packs and the heating pad. At least the snow was pretty to look at. Lord knows I wasn’t about to go very far.

I began to think about why this intense pain had struck me. I’ve had back pain before. I’m prone to sciatic nerve pain and muscle tension. But this was different. It ran deeper. It literally stopped me in my tracks.

And then it hit me. All the emotional upheaval of the past 10 months- the death of a friend, my Mother’s death, my Mother-in-law passing, another friend’s spouse dying, my brother’s terminal cancer-all of it had culminated in that one moment that Friday morning. The Universe missed kicking me in the ass and hit me square in a weak spot. All the emotion, the lack of self-care, the pushing forward, the grief came to rest in my back.

Son of a gun.

Laying on my back, I slowly came to this realization that I had to stop the pushing. I had to allow myself the time to grieve. I had to learn to receive. A large hole was forming inside-a void that needed to be filled. My spirit was being crushed under all this grief and crying out.

The Word He Uttered Was...

The Word He Uttered Was…

Spiritual Community

You know how some things come to you just when you need them? A few weeks before my back pain started, I noticed an e-newsletter appearing in one of my in-boxes. What made this unusual is that this particular newsletter was previously going directly into a designated folder. So much for email rules.

Abbey of the Arts, the sender of this e-newsletter, was offering a class on a 13th century mystic, a woman named Hildegard of Bingen. Never heard of her.

Yet my desire to fill a void in my spirit and to find a spiritually based community was strong. So, without even knowing why, I registered for the class. It was a blessing in disguise.

Each week, we received daily readings from one of Hildegard’s books, followed by questions to contemplate. I learned about Lectio Divina, how to use physical movement to express myself, and found my voice in chanting. One of the best parts, as a component of Lectio, was expressing myself through creativity, specifically mandala-making.

For the better part of 40 days, I created a drawing, painting, or photograph in response to the words I read. It was magical.

As this art came forth, I rediscovered my love of drawing, of painting with watercolors, and of connecting with my spiritual side to express myself.

What had once been a fallow period was now greening with new life.

Bloomed In Your Branches

Bloomed In Your Branches

What I learned during this time is that my spiritual side-reading inspiring words or passages, taking time to meditate or chant, being in nature, being silent-is something I cannot neglect. It is part of who I am. And it is part of what defines my art.

This is why I withdrew from many aspects of my business and why my blog fell silent. I had to find myself again before I could be present here.

Discovery of my Voice

Discovery of my Voice


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15 Minutes With A Tea Mug: A Photo Essay

I recently started reading Christine Valters Paintner’s new book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Photography has been one of my pastimes for many years. What drew me to this book was two-fold: Christine’s photography and my desire to learn again how to “see” images and not just “look” for images.

The online class that accompanies Christine’s book started this week. You might be able to still sign up for the class here.

I am working through the book at my own pace. The first assignment is a wonderful lesson in seeing a rather mundane object as something fresh and new. For me, this meant seeing my tea mug, which I use almost every day, in a new way. I set the timer for 15 minutes and received over 40 images in this short amount of time. Here are some of my favorites. (NOTE: Click on the first image in each set and you can see each picture in a slideshow.)

Tea Mug in the Kitchen

Tea Mug in the Dining Room

Tea Mug in the Family Room

Tea Mug on the Deck

Tea Mug on the Grass

Tea Mug on the Rocks

What is fun about this task is that once you open your eyes and heart to the object, you truly start to see it in a new light.

What every day, mundane object in your life could you look at in a new light?


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To Begin Again

It has been quite a while since I felt compelled to share anything on my blog. This fallow period began in February when I realized that I had to step away from many commitments and expectations and tend to my spirit.

Only in the past couple of weeks have I felt the spark of interest in posting something, anything on my blog.

And within that spark of interest, I was reminded of St Benedict who tells us that we can always begin again.

And so I shall. Begin again.

Winter's Leaves


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Happy Halloween, Happy Samhain

This post is a repeat. Happy Halloween!

halloween07.jpg

Samhain, pronounced “sow-in,” is Irish Gaelic for “the summer’s end” and represents the death of the summer sun god Lugh.  Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic and Wiccan New Year.  It marks the end of the harvest.

Samhain is considered a time to eliminate weaknesses.  It is now customary to write one’s weaknesses on a piece of paper and then to burn the pieces of paper.  It is also a time to plant the seeds of new projects, to allow them to germinate over the winter, and to end old projects.

If you catch a falling leaf on Samhain before it touches the ground, it will bring you good luck and health for the coming winter.

Halloween originates from the ancient Celts celebrations and is based on their “Feast of Samhain.”

To learn more about Samhain and other Celtic festivals, visit here and here.


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A Year of Mindfulness-Being Present in the Face of Death

It is the women of our families who keep the traditions, preserve the memories, and hold us close.
-Unknown

My last mindfulness blog post was nearly three weeks ago. The topic was This Person Could Die Tonight. At the time I said that this particular practice was resonating with me. It was hitting too close to home as I had three ill people in my immediate family.

Shortly after uploading that post I traveled out of town to be with two of those ill family members. Little did I know that for one family member, it would be my last visit.

On Wednesday, August 15, my Mom, Anne Butler, passed away peacefully after a short illness. It was the most heart-wrenching event I’ve experienced in some time. It was also the most spiritual.

Mom had been sick since the middle of July. Each episode that played out over those early weeks seemed to resolve and then something else would appear.  In the end she developed pneumonia that her body could no longer fight.

During the final days I spent with her I kept reminding myself to be present to the situation. To be mindful in the face of death. I was constantly reminded of my last mindfulness post. How the hell could this be happening?

They say that being present with a loved one during their final days is one of great honor. I honestly couldn’t see the honor when the process began. It was gut wrenching.

You want to respect the wishes of your loved one. You want them to be free of any pain or fear. You don’t want them to struggle. You want to help them make the transition.

You realize that you can only take them so far on this journey. At some point, you understand that your loved one must make this journey on their own. The timing, the decision, is entirely up to them and nature.

We come into this world screaming. We hope to leave this world with peace and dignity. A few days before Mom passed, I remember saying to myself that “it” was getting closer. I could feel the inevitable around the perimeter of her room. Tendrils would touch her and then pull back. It wasn’t time. But it was coming.

Later Mom rested comfortably. Her breathing was less labored. She slept deeply. Her skin was warm to the touch. During a moment when I whispered into her ear, she snored into mine. It made me laugh.

My Mom was a very good swimmer. She taught me how to float and then how to swim. One morning before she passed, I had a vision. Mom and I were in a body of water and we both wore white. This time our roles were reversed. I stood in the water with my arms outstretched. Mom lay in my arms floating on the water. I was helping her to float. No words were said between us. We simply enjoyed the coolness of the water as I gently held her.

Mom passed a few days later at 9:30am in a lovely hospice facility. She did not leave this world alone as family was with her. Each of us took part in assisting her on this final journey.

My heart has been full of sadness. I’ve literally felt it break as the anguish flowed down my arms. Yet I’ve also had a sense of internal peace and calm. I know Mom passed as she wanted. In peace and with dignity.

Mom and I (1994)

Mom (2009)

Shrine for Mom (2012)


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A Year of Mindfulness: This Person Could Die Tonight

Sniff, sniff…how did you do with last week’s practice to become aware of smells? I loved that you shared some of your favorite scents and the memories attached to them. If you continue this practice throughout the year, notice how smells change during the year. I’m thinking of wood burning in the fireplace in the winter or the scent of apple cider in the fall. Or one of my favorites, the smell of spring.

This Week’s Practice: This Person Could Die Tonight

I remember earlier in the year when I flipped through How to Train a Wild Elephant and saw the title of this week’s practice. It gave me the creeps. I knew this practice would cross my (our) path at some point. And now here it is. The appearance of this practice comes at a moment in my life when I am dealing with three ill family members. In all three cases we know that the inevitable will happen, someday. In all three cases the thought that it might happen sooner than later has also crossed my mind.

So why would we need to become mindful that any person in our life could die tonight? Certainly it causes us to consider our own mortality. Something we might tend to do anyways as we get older. Having spent several years working as a Speech-Language Pathologist in nursing homes & rehab settings, I had to accept death and my own mortality early-on. The first time you have a patient die, you tend to reexamine life.

What happens if you consider that the person you’re talking with on the phone could die tonight? Does your heart open a little more? Do you pay more attention to what they’re saying? We’re all a bit guilty of talking to people but not really listening to them.

When speaking face to face with someone, how often do you look past them or look down at something else? If you knew that person were to die tonight, would you be more inclined to look directly at them when speaking?

This week’s practice, as depressing as it sounds, helps us break through our own denial that human life is fragile and that death could come at any moment. This isn’t about filling your head with anxious thoughts about mortality. It is about improving your awareness of impermanence and cherishing the people you encounter every day.

This week, instead of talking “to” someone, bring presence to the encounter. Realize that you, too, could die tonight. Be more present and more alive in your life.

Reflection: The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. -Mark Twain

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