Category Archives: inspiration

The Willow’s Bow

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“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. There is no house like the house of belonging.” – David Whyte

Well, I wanted to write a blog post about the fabulous home of designer Thomas O’Brien showcased in the latest video by Quintessence. But I’m fighting back tears…it has sparked childhood memories of sliding down the banister of my grandparents huge old Tudor in Detroit, shaking out cornstarch on the linoleum so our feet would slide when we danced,  and of watching scary movies at a friend’s renovated old mansion in Birmingham, where I used to dog sit…of the smell of old polished wood and ancient roses…and life.

My parents bought a rambling Cape Cod when we five kids were little. It was old by 1960’s standards; the architect had built it for his mother in 1926. I loved that home for many reasons, including the hidden staircase from inside my sister’s bedroom closet to the attic. And the faerie-sized garret doors perfect for squirreling through to hide. But I remember playing hide and seek outdoors most of all, crawling inside the peony shrubs that lined the 400′ lawn between the house and the Detroit River. They were so old, stems so woody, that they were hollow in the center, a natural fort of branches. They had been planted when the house and gardens were new as a frame inside the majestic willow sentinels. Those trees were taller than the fourth story of the house (where my room was in the eaves) and drifted lazily down to the grass. They whispered to me at dusk that everything would be alright; I swear they bowed to me every sunrise. They kept my tender heart swathed in hope.

As the house let sway the hours of the day, activity increased around me. I heard the movement of a family, sometimes peaceful, sometimes in glorious song together, often engaged in a personal war, always a family. The willows were still. Downstairs my father or my sister practiced on the grand piano in the living room hours on end. Their repetition, their mistakes, unnerving then, are now fond remembrances.

Such an enchanted life we all live, whether or not we realize it in this moment. I am grateful for all of it, all of the struggle and the beauty. Here, I get a sense of it all rushing back to me. I love watching and listening to these two. Thomas is obviously happy to be sharing the home he truly loves. Susanna Salk always puts a smile on my face. She’s such a “tourist” – she gawks and is demonstratively awestruck – as we all would be. And she’s paying attention! There is no pretension or affectation.  She admits she’s embarrassed at just noticing the fireplace two hours into her visit! They both make me feel more creative and more alive by their inspired way of life. Watch closely, you will see the willows in the garden bowing…

 

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Full Circle

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What seems like a lifetime ago now, I was suffering terrible illness, depression and anxiety. My life was falling apart. Without the support I needed or the means to get away, I began to think of how I could help myself through these dark days…and I remembered a book that had inspired me years prior: The Artist’s Way. I knew I had it somewhere, maybe in a box in the basement. It had not been unpacked since the last move. Perhaps this could help me. It was a good place to start, and I certainly had nothing to lose.

It was the holiday season and life was all busyness. So I set a goal to begin the first of the year. I went to the basement, brushed the construction sawdust off the boxes and found the book, inscribed by the friend who had gifted it to me in 1997. It was now December of 2012. Reverently I carried it up the stairs and set it on my nightstand where I could surely find it after all the hubbub and the visiting family had waned.

Within hours I received an email from another old friend, now a psychologist, who was asking if I would be interested in attending a group study she was about to facilitate –  based on the book The Artist’s Way. When “coincidences” happen like that – which they often do for me – I feel heard, and led, by God. I could hardly wait to go; but more importantly, I knew in that moment I would be alright. In retrospect I must report that I believe this class, and the extraordinary women I would meet there, literally saved my life.

Immediately I began the practice of writing “Morning Pages”, the commitment asked of her students in the book – to journal, first thing upon waking, at least 3 pages a day. One of my favorite diversions from the stress of everyday life at the time was my addiction to interior design magazines, and their new format online: BLOGS! And I decided to write a blog. Not necessarily for sharing, but for the cathartic writing that would pull me out of the darkness.

Well. Here I sit years later, still inept at the technology needed to do this efficiently! But late in 2012 I accidentally learned how to post a video from YouTube to WordPress. And for reasons I cannot fathom today, I posted a video on January 1, 2013, of Tina Turner chanting with children.

Yesterday a Tina Turner video showed up for some weird reason as recommendation after a design video – which I’m STILL addicted to! The dominos of time and space were falling…and so I watched. And became so inspired. I have read news reports lately of her continuing struggle with cancer and poor health. NOTHING keeps this woman down. I learned that she has had a kidney transplant, battled cancer more than once, and lost her beloved son to suicide not long ago. She has overcome more adversity than most of us will ever know, and still she rises. I am in awe. On May 16th, 2018 she was interviewed by Oprah and talks of how, at 73, she is happier than she ever could have imagined.

 

Chien Lunatique

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This house has been one of my “all-time favs” also…this artist has got it goin’ on. You know she’s living life to the fullest. Susanne gets it: it’s deeply personal. Not being a drinker, I don’t know what much of this stuff is that she’s talking about – but I DO drink Limeade…and am a coffee-holic. I’ve always made coffee ice cubes so my iced coffee doesn’t get diluted. I’m serious.

Anyway, I maintain that all “true beings” love color, Lulu, and that we make far too many compromises in our own love homes. My home is a love home – I love my home, my land, my pets, my bed, my memories, my time here , my sweet, sweet life…

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.” – Claude Monet

Eat, Pray, Crib…

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Elizabeth Gilbert is an American icon, of course, and certainly one of my heroes. As an aspiring memoirist, I have followed her career since Eat, Pray, Love made her a household name. Here she takes us on a silly tour of the house she was selling in 2012. Gorgeous house! (Great artwork, too.) Damn. Missed it, or as Maxwell Smart would say, “missed it by that much…”

For some reason she is uncharacteristically giggly here, but nonetheless, stick with it to see the magical details built in to the “SKY-BRARY”, and the gardens. Not yet in bloom, I can only imagine how glorious they are in the summer.

We know much heartbreak would visit Liz in the years to follow, and yet still somehow the writing that would inspire us all to keep going. I only wish her well, and that her recent living spaces have proven worthy shelters for such a magnificent spirit.

It’s a humid, hot day in northwestern Michigan, but there is a wind, and so I must have the windows open. I love my home; I love my hills…could I ever leave? Oh, sure. Like Liz, I have always moved often. There is something inherently cleansing for your soul about paring down; always editing. Homemaking is so completely, consumptively, creative. So I do understand her selling…maybe…I guess.

A True Mirror; because “individuality REALLY IS all it’s cracked up to be…”

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It’s a glorious morning. I’m completely socked in a cloud. It’s fifty-five degrees and breezy. The deep green treetops float above the mists like the Isles of Pandora. Heavenly.

Last night I watched the movie Avatar for the first time. A friend had used it as metaphor the other day, and I had to admit to being the last person in ‘Merica who had not seen it. I had not been interested when it was released, and to be honest, I was as disappointed as I expected to be. It was pedantic and oh so predictable. I wonder if James Cameron got a kick-back from the US military, because as a piece of recruitment propaganda it was outstanding. Let’s give the director the benefit of the doubt and assume that is exactly the result he was going for. Had the overly emphasized theme of good versus evil not been so blatantly pounded into us however, the beauty of the animation might not have made it to the big screen.

My friend’s heart was in the right place. It is a fabulous illustration of the out-of-body experience: the work we do while our body is sleeping is never to be taken lightly. The first thing I do when I wake in a strange place is to look down at my hands and feet to see what this body looks like. Next I regulate my breath, and quietly observe my surroundings as best as possible. But sometimes I’m in the middle of war or natural disaster or chaos of some sort. Then you just GO! and figure it out on the move. Quantum leaping is not for the faint of heart. Of course, I’ve never trained for this, or consciously asked for it in any way. God knows I’ve tried to resign. But on some level, in some reality, my soul signed up for this work. Some intelligence somewhere decided I was up to the challenge.

And that was my friend’s point – that sometimes we take a hit for the downtrodden or the oppressed, and it hurts here, when we wake in this time and place. The lifetime we live now is but the tip of the iceberg of our full soul’s experience. It’s hard to remember that when my heart is breaking.

This brings me to the idea I have tried to reconcile much of my adult life: the ongoing argument of PURPOSE. Many loved ones are struggling to “find” their purpose, to “live their purpose”, to fulfill their purpose.

Honestly, it makes me a bit crazy. My friend was right about the best scene in the film:

“We will see if your insanity can be cured,” says the wise leader.

My hope for curing the insanity of my culture is that we can give up this erroneous idea of purpose. I don’t have a purpose; I AM A PURPOSE. I breathe purpose. I embody purpose. WE ALL DO. It is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is not a goal. It is not a job. There is nothing to find or figure out. You cannot miss it or fail at it. It is not your gift – YOU are the gift.

If we don’t SEE that, then we don’t SEE each other. And until we see each other there will always be an enemy without. There will always be a war. And Heaven will always be a fantasy.

This woman knows. She makes a business out of telling us:

“Who would not go on a little further were it given him to know the way is short and Heaven is the goal?” – ACIM

 

you can do what you want…

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Friends often hear me say, “On the road to enlightenment, I’m taking the local.” Recently I told someone that I was not interested in spirituality. Least of all in “spiritual” people. They’re so screwed up. Everyone wants to talk about listening to your intuition…living authentically…living your truth. News flash: we all hear our intuition all the time. I am so much happier when I’m not trying.

Pablo Picasso said “Artists live out loud.” They do. They really don’t have much choice. You ignore the direct line God put in place to communicate with you, you’re gonna get unhappy fast. Or dead. They live with their heart on their sleeve, raw, because the process of creativity requires being present…and it creates it…and it requires it…it’s a way of life. All artist’s are making a living. Some of them even make money in the process.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recognizes that “going sane feels like going insane at first.” She is acknowledging that when we finally decide to honor our inner knowing, people react badly to our being less available to THIER needs.  This is all the same thing, folks: we are a culture so enmeshed in the HABIT of being co-dependent that we are driving ourselves nuts. We are people-pleasers. We make decisions out of fear and need. Damn we are needy! I’m right there, every day, asking myself what I really want. That’s the pivot point where the healing occurs, what A Course In Miracles calls the Holy Instant: split second, gut reaction, yes to this, no to that.

“I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” – Herman Hesse

God is not someone separate from you trying to lead you or guide you or trip you up if you don’t comply. That way of thinking will mess with your head, make you old before your time, or at least miserable today. It will keep you constantly dealing with poverty and disease. Stop asking to know God’s will. It’s hard-wired in. Really, stop trying to figure this out.

Just BE. Make mistakes. Rant and rave. Sob uncontrollably. Breathe deeply. Scream like a banshee. Play like a kid. Make art. Never mind if it’s good or bad – that’s none of your business. Just BE already. That is how we practice loving ourselves.

“God has no secrets. He does not lead you through a world of misery waiting to tell you at the the journey’s end why he did this to you.” – ACIM

We Will Walk It Out…

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“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

It is a glorious sunny morning, albeit chilly. As I sit in my beautiful new home high overlooking the sand bluffs and treetops of northwestern lower Michigan two of my close friends are fighting for their lives. One is fighting a physical cancer, the other a mental cancer. Both potentially deadly. I can’t help but wonder why them, why not me, or anyone else for that matter? It all seems so random, the blessings and the curses. There is one thing that occurs to me: there is no such thing as deservedness. No one deserves any more blessings or suffering than another. This immature notion must be allowed to wither away from our collective consciousness as a culture. It was a bill of goods someone sold us, and it needs to go the way of our ancestors.

As it happens, I have just been through a week of my own hell, bedridden with debilitating migraines. I had fooled myself into thinking I was going to do a nice liver detox this week, and then had to resort to taking migraine medication when the pain became frightening. There is a (not so funny) meme circulating on social media that says, “When the head and the heart clash, the liver suffers.” It has a different meaning to me now! Migraines come as demons in the night when I have succumbed to spending too much time in my head, disconnected from my heart. And there is grieving to be done.

But there is equal joy to be found in “falling apart at the SEEMS” and re-membering myself, my sweet life. And that I am not in charge here…as The Indigo Girls sing, “the less I seek my Source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.” Today is the first day in over a week that I can stand up straight and the nausea has subsided. It is the first time I remember to look at my daily lesson in A Course in Miracles: “By grace I live. By grace I am released.” For some reason it feels like Christmas.

 

The Power of Not Knowing, or, how to Navigate the World with a Sense of Humor

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Artist, author and American icon Maira Kalman says “I love my empty mind.” Meditate, let go, empty, repeat. Michael Strang writes about this practice in The Surrender Experiment. It’s a way of life that requires courage. It’s The Artist’s Way.

In the movie Trouble with the Curve baseball scout Gus Noble is losing his sight. But he can recognize great talent by hearing “the pure sound.” I’m not much for sports movies of any kind, but I loved this one and Million Dollar Arm. They’re as much about life as baseball.

All the House Lights Left Up Bright

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“It’s coming on winter, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace…oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” -Joni Mitchell

In the dream I lived on a river. Mid-morning I took my dogs to walk along the shore, stretch from the early hours at the typewriter. That was so long ago, that dream. And dream it was, what little I recall of it as I entered another scramble morning. Steven ready for school and I for work as we head out the door, just a little late, forgetting some somethings. Half the time I swear I caught myself watching out the corner of my eye. Life moved so fast it was painful. You knew you were missing something, but you were powerless to slow down. So many demands.

Now I live on a river, have two dogs. Mid-morning we walk along the shore as I secretly shoo crumbs from my pocket, imagining some little birds delight at discovering the manna. My son has long since grown and lives away in his own scramble world. I’m still pulling at time, ever slowing the momentum it took so much life to build.

I wish I could write like Joni Mitchell. A few lines told the whole story; some part of your psyche filling in the future. It seems you knew that story before she reminded you. Again I must say: Thank God for the artists. The historians of our truth. Thank God for Joni.

“Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.” – Virginia Woolf

 

“It’s Space. It Doesn’t Cooperate.”

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It seems that perhaps I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.

Embarrassingly, I note that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked – as inspiration is – by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.

There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.

This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make – that can, and does, effect our future.

That photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn sentinels of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.

One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul – and that I was worth saving.

In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.

For Faith.