Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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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: Water, Water, Water

Happy Monday! Ready to start this week’s mindfulness practice?

Before we get to that, did you practice silly walking last week? Come on, it’s okay. A little silly walking in the privacy of your own home is a great way to break the negative voice from taking over. How can anyone stay annoyed when they use silly walking? Just thinking about it flips my negative thoughts.

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Water

With the number of forest fires that have torn through the west this summer, becoming mindful of water seems rather timely. This week, we are asked to become aware of water in all its forms, both inside and outside of our bodies and our homes.

Did you know that your body is 70% water? Saliva, blood, urine, joint fluid. We take in water all day long. Tea, oranges, soup. Without water we’d be a pile of dried up cells & salt.

Becoming aware of water, we realize how miraculous a substance it is. Water is liquid, solid, gas. It is a substance we take for granted until we run out of it (drought) or have a problem with it (overflowing toilet.)

When it comes to mindfulness, consider how water moves. It flows without hindrance, over rocks, under bridges. What if we allowed our mind to be light and flexible, flowing (like water) with situations as they arise and change and not with energy-sapping resistance?

If water is muddy and left undisturbed, the sediment settles to the bottom and the water clears. When your mind is agitated, can you still the mind and regain clarity like the water?

This week, become aware of water in all its forms and how precious it is. This week, become aware of how your mind can become light, flexible, and clear, like the water.

Reflection:

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water.
Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it.
So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one
can do it. -Lao Tzu


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Words Fall As So Water Falls

The Bolton Artisans Guild’s theme challenge this year was “water.”

I first considered creating a spirit messenger and then decided to create something different from my usual line of work.  I knew I wanted to have words in my piece for the exhibit.  So I asked a few people to send me a list of words that they thought of when they heard/read the word “water” for incorporation in the piece.

At first I thought I’d create a piece that resembled rippling water with concentric circles spreading across the surface.  And then, while I was out on a walk, the idea came to me.  As I walked past a neighbors house, I heard water flowing and there it was…a small water fall.  Next thing I know, the idea popped into my head to have those words, the water words, flowing down a water fall.  Intrigued with the flow of rolling water, up, over, and down, I tried to capture that same movement through the use of water related words as they flow over the canvas: up, over, and down.

And thus, Words Fall As So Water Falls came into being.

As Water Falls So Words Fall

Words Fall As So Water Falls

To create this piece, I started with a pre-stretched canvas, created the “rolling” water, covered the canvas in brown paper bag, applied gesso and several coats of acrylic paint in water-like colors.

The water words were printed on tissue paper and applied over the rolling water.  Then this piece sat on my work table for a couple of days.  I knew this piece needed something else to complete it but I wasn’t sure what exactly.

And once again on another walk while contemplating this piece the idea for mosaic tiles popped into my head.  The tiles have images from Native American and Celtic cultures that represent water.  The Spanish moss, raffia, and sticks represent life found around water.


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The Secret Knowledge of Water

Our friend Emile Tobenfeld, aka Dr. T, is one of several featured artists exhibiting work at The Nave Gallery’s “The Secret Knowledge of Water” in Somerville, MA. The opening reception was held last Friday, followed by a performance by Dr. T and the Immersions ensemble which included Eric, our friends Dean Stiglitz and Ramona Herboldsheimer, and Rick Scott. The video and music performance was aptly named “Water Music and other Improvisations.” To hear the performance, visit Jamendo.

Folks gathering in the gallery.


Several photographs in the “water” theme.


Mixed media, video, and photography.

Painting and photography.

More photography.

The Nave Gallery is part of the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church. Dr. T and the Immersions ensemble performed in the Sanctuary.

Loved this stained glass window.

Setting up for the show.

Eric plays synth and the Harpejji. Dean plays Electro Flute. Ramona plays Hammered Dulcimer. Rick also plays synth.


No show is complete without Gwynnie, Dean and Ramona’s dachshund.


Or the bees. Dean and Ramona sell organic honey. They were selling the honey at a farmer’s market before the show. And you do not leave your bees in the car.

Show time (sorry for the low light; I did not want to use a flash to take these pictures.)

The Secret Knowledge of Water exhibit runs through August 17. For more information visit ARTSomerville.