Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


A New Earth-Chapter 10 The Final Webcast

Each person’s life-each life form, in fact-represents a world, a unique way in which the universe expresses itself.

Yes, this has taken a while to post. It sat in draft form for several days and before that in my head for a couple of weeks. This last installment has been one of the harder webcast posts to write. Perhaps because it represents the end of a remarkable series of webcasts. Perhaps because it only marks the beginning of a journey that many of us are traveling.

Throughout these webcasts with Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey there ran several consistent themes: to live without the ego, to live in awareness of life around us, to become comfortable with change, to realize that the first step to awakening is to reflect on our inner selves, for we are the ones who hold “the key” to our fullest potential.

Eckhart refers to this awakening as a return to consciousness and a move away from form (ego). In our society, this awakening of consciousness typically happens as we approach death or when faced with a tragedy, illness or loss. At times it is only when these issues confront us that we become conscious and experience a spiritual awakening. In our society, we are more focused on the DOING, not BEING. And in our often frenetic DOING, we tend to avoid BEING because we fear a return to our spiritual nature.

This does not mean that DOING doesn’t have its place. It does have its place. And we can honor the DOING aspects of our lives if we are present while DOING them. And when we are present when engaging in the activities in our lives, we step into BEING. (Does this sound circular?)

As we increase our awareness, ego begins to drop away. Unfortunately, it is our collective egos that have contributed to so many problems in our history as human beings. We are intelligent beings. However, as Eckhart states, our intelligence is often very stupid. That is, on the one hand we are very intelligent but on the other hand we are very stupid with our intelligence.

There are three ways in which to bring awareness, or presence, or consciousness into the DOING:

Acceptance: While we may not enjoy what we have to do, we can accept that this is what we have to do. In this sense acceptance means that for now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires us to do and we do it willingly. Performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace doing it.

Enjoyment: Sometimes, when we accept that we have to do something that we don’t enjoy, we may actually find ourselves enjoying it. When we make the present moment, (not the past or the future), the focal point of our lives, our ability to enjoy what we do, and the quality of our life, increases.

Enthusiasm: This is highest level of vibration or energy in increasing awareness. Enthusiasm means there is a deep enjoyment in what we do. This may also include goals or visions that we work toward. However, if we become more focused on arriving at the goal rather than enjoying the process, then we become stressed.

So after reading the book and watching the webcasts, what did I get out of it?

I’ve learned that spirituality can be separate from religion. One does not need to be religious to be spiritual.

I’ve learned that God-like or Goddess-like qualities are found within ourselves. One does not have to look outward to find the goodness within.

I’ve learned that if I can clear my mind of that internal voice, even for a brief period of time, I can better focus on the task at hand. And when that voice pops up, I don’t have to listen to it.

I’ve learned that if I pause and take one deep breath during the day, I can return to stillness and feel centered.

And I’ve learned that this is a process that doesn’t happen over night. I work on it every day. And some days are definitely easier than others.


Show Economics

Prior to doing a show, we receive lots of well-wishes for a good show, a successful show, a profitable show. After the show, we’re asked how it went, how was attendance, were people buying. In response to these questions, it is important to keep in mind that what may be a fair, good, or great show to one person, may be a bad, poor, or crappy show to another person.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

What makes a good show? For me it is more than just the revenue. That’s not to say that the revenue isn’t important. I’m grateful for every purchase made by a customer and for every name added to my mailing list. Yet, I also like to think about what I learned from a show; about my booth, my sales technique, the conversations I had, the comments that were made, and so on.

Was the Paradise City show a good show? Yes; or as a friend put it “reasonable.” Did I cover my expenses? No, not all of them. Did I make a profit? No; but sales were much better than when I did this same show over Memorial Day weekend, 2007.

Here is how the expenses of this show broke down:

Booth fee: $820.00 for a 10 x 10 space.

Electric: $70.00 for 500 watts

Pipe and drape rental: $92.93 which includes a fourth pipe across the front of the booth for stability.

Lodging for three nights: $333.96 which includes taxes and a hot/cold continental breakfast each day.

Food during the weekend: $44.23

Gas: $36.28

Tolls: $3.00

Grand total: $1,400.40

This does not include the money I spent prior to the show on risers which also double as storage for inventory, the Dynamic Display pedestal, the acrylic frames which hold descriptions of various pieces (and are sometimes sold with the piece of art), or the booth lights.

So if I didn’t make a profit and didn’t cover all my expenses, how can I say that this was a good show?

Because of the people I met and the connections I made.

I met people who giggled when they saw my work. Who “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” when they opened a vessel or held a sculpture or read the story about a piece of work.

I met art teachers and art therapists with whom I shared tips and techniques about polymer clay.

I met an older gentleman who asked me probing and thoughtful questions about my work; its origin, the spiritual basis, the chosen shapes, and the inspiration.

I met other polymer clay artists and enthusiasts.

I met people who bought a piece of my art for a friend battling cancer, for a friend graduating, for a daughter pursuing a degree, for the new house, and for themselves.

I made new customers/collectors and recognized several others who stopped by my booth to say hi. Some brought their friends and would describe to them my work; how boxes opened with quotes inside them.

And I met other wonderful artists who were also selling at this show.

I know it is hard to stay positive when doing a show. You have 150 or 300 artists all competing for the same audience. You see people visiting other artist’s booths and your booth is empty. People may comment that they are “only looking” because they can’t spend the money (really, you don’t need to explain yourself to me; I’m just glad you came.) I had my down moments and would have to psych myself up again.

But one of the reasons I enjoy doing this show is for those connections. When we make and sell our art, we are giving a little piece of ourselves to the buying public. When we make a connection with a customer/collector, we are giving a piece of ourselves to them.

Forgive me if I sound all “pollyannish” but I do believe the attitude we take into a show will be reflected when we’re doing the show. I’ve observed artists who leave their booths for extended periods of time and miss potential sales. I’ve had artists come into my booth (or have been in another artist’s booth) and listened to their complaints. And it can be hard not to join in the complaining.

The Paradise City Arts Festival is not an inexpensive show for an artist and I completely understand each artist’s desire to do his or her best, to meet their expenses, and to make a profit. We all have similar goals. Yet it is important when doing a show to keep in mind not only the monetary economics but the intangible economics as well; the people you meet, the overall environment, and the connections you make.