I didn't intend to be away for quite so long! But after driving 2 days for a more-than-worth-it Thanksgiving with family back home in Texas, we returned to quickly became preoccupied with sick kids, custom journals and, well, life. Plus a broken camera makes blogging a bit tricky, but I still have my phone! ...Oh, wait, yeah, the lens on the camera phone is cracked now, too. Very tricky. But I have been busily working. Even dipping into my journal bit by bit, though still not as at home in its pages as usual. But I will persevere.
Because I am working on new things! Pretty things! Some you will see in my Etsy shop shortly, others just for fun. Like these fabric beads that I just had to spend an afternoon making. Just in case I needed them. Until then, they are lovely in my Andy Warhol commemorative soup can. And making me a little hungry.
Yep, busy, busy. But you will have to be content with a sneak peek for just a little longer. Until I figure out how to get some real pictures. I mean, what's a blog post without pictures?! Blog suicide that's what! Yes, very tricky, indeed.
So, bear with me a little longer, won't you? I've got lots to show you and some fun stuff planned---including a giveaway! You know, a little pre-Christmas gifty. You won't want to miss that! Not to mention sparkly things! And feathers! And beads! You can't get much better than that in my book. Especially feathers.
It won't be long before glimpses like these will be only a faint memory. Ordinarily fall - with its crisp, cool days, changing leaves, piled on blankets, and the promise of the holidays - is enough to make me giddy with delight, but lately I'm finding myself clinging tightly to these last slipping-away days of summer.
Our vegetable garden, extraordinarily lush the past few months, now looks as weary and exhausted as I feel, without the harvest we have come to expect from past summers (not including, of course, the 2,001 zucchini we finally managed to use up last night). I don't know what happened this year. She was all batting eyelashes and peeking cleavage before slipping away into the night. I guess you learn something new every year.
Already I'm having to take a sweater along on my morning walk, and last year we saw our first snow in early October. I should be looking forward to it, I know, but I've never been all that good with change.
Yet, I do have a few ideas brewing for fall crafting. And then there's the baking and the snuggling under piles of blankets. So maybe change isn't all that bad. But I think I'll hold on to these last warm days just a little longer. While I still can.
1. Haiku speaking into journal pages. 2. Brand new journals waiting to be bound. 3. Paper strips to be sewn together, never to be alone again. 4. Spines for hanging on fishing line. 5. Blank papers, folded and stitched. 6. Buttons and dangly things to hang on painted boards and brighten someone else's garden.
What are you working on this week?
I've never enjoyed exercise. Or any kind of physical exertion, to be honest. Give me a mental or creative challenge and I can keep blissfully busy for hours, but running on the treadmill or even hiking through the forest has just never been my thing. And while I hardly sit around on my behind all day (with raising and homeschooling my very energetic 9 and 11 year olds, I'll never have that luxury), practically none of the activities I ever chose to fill my days do much to get the heart rate going. Yet, at the same time, I've seen the research. I know that to have the healthy, active future I see for myself, my body needs to get moving - every day. So, I struggle to find the time and motivation to make a change, most days alternating somewhere between self-defeat and outright denial.
The fact is that education is often not enough to change our most deeply ingrained habits. Unless we've deliberately been keeping our heads in the sand, most of us know the kinds of things that will bring us the healthiest, happiest lives: eating more fruits and veggies and less processed foods, burning more calories than we consume, finding productive ways to handle stress, getting enough sleep, taking time to pursue personal hobbies and interests, giving back to our communities, learning something new every once in a while, and - yes - regular, daily exercise. But for most of my adult life, simply knowing these things to be true hasn't done much to stop me from downing that Big Gulp or to get me away from my computer and out to the gym.
It has been a long, hard road to go from the things I want to do (start every morning off with a Dr. Pepper) to the things I know I should do (choosing green tea instead). But every year I can see we are making progress towards where we want to be as a family: almost entirely replacing refined flours with whole grains; substituting added sugar or artificial sweeteners for honey, agave or no sweetener at all; spending less time in front of the TV and more time in the garden; requesting a demotion at work that will mean less stress and more time with the family. Even my husband, who like me is admittedly not the most athletic man in the world, ran his first half-marathon last year and is training for a second one this November. But I just hadn't been able to find the right thing to get me motivated to work out and keep with it for longer than a few months.
But as you've heard me say a million times, often inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. And as has often been the case in my life, this time inspiration came from a book. I've been reading an incredibly fascinating and wonderfully written book by Jonah Lehrer called Imagine: How Creativity Works. I'll go on and on about it another time, but what got me going (quite literally) was the research showing that often our most creative insights come not when we are deeply and intently focused on a problem, but when we are relaxed, day dreaming, taking a hot bath or a leisurely stroll. It is when our minds are at ease and we allow our thoughts to wander that we are most likely to make the creative connections that will lead us to greater insights and break through mental blocks.
Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease - when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain - we're more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we're trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights....It's not until we're being massaged by warm water, unable to check our e-mail, that we're finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been there all along - we just weren't listening.
So, that finally did it for me. Evidently, I value creativity and insight even more than I do my own health. (I learn something new about myself every day.) And every day now I roll out of bed, put on my walking shoes and get outside before I do almost anything else. And you would be surprised what getting out in the fresh air, admiring the beauty around you, having a designated time to yourself to think, daydream and imagine can do for the soul as well as the body.
To be brutally honest, I have struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life. I've been on medication, gone through therapy, identified negative thought patterns, prayed my heart out and, aside from my art, none of these things have done more to help my state of mind than my walks. Many, many days I jump from the bed to the curb out of complete desperation only to return home with a clear head and more hope than I would have had otherwise.
So there it is. And if I can encourage someone else in their journey toward health (and creative problem-solving), I'll die happy. Ok, so maybe I'm overstating, but I'm also betting there are a lot more people out there like me who could use a little encouragement in their journey, too. And here are a few tips I've picked up along the way for your daily walks, if you can use them.
1. Don't worry about having the right exercise clothes or shoes. I'm sure these are important, but if they stop you from getting out the door today, let it go. Often you'll find me walking in my flip-flops, and I wouldn't put spandex on my body if my life depended on it.
2. If you find your mind cluttered or overly burdened by worries, take some time at the beginning of your walk (maybe 15 minutes or so) to think or pray it through, but then just let it go. Make it your habit to not focus your thoughts on anything in particular but let them wander wherever they happen to go. Focus on your surroundings and let yourself get caught up in the beauty around you. If you think it's not there, look harder.
3. Walk where you live. Go right out your front door. Use the opportunity to get to know your community better. If I lived anywhere but Colorado where people just aren't that friendly, I'd know everyone in my neighborhood by now. But I'm still holding out hope....
4. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.
5. Take your phone with you. These days everyone has a smart phone, right? I use mine to take pictures that I'll to add to my journal, to make notes of the incredibly brilliant insights I have along the way (Don't assume you'll remember them when you get home!) and it makes me feel better to have a means of communication in case of an emergency. But never, ever use your walking time to text or check email. There's plenty of time for that stuff later.
6. Consider taking a small pair of embroidery scissors in your pocket for taking cuttings of plants you see on your walk. I love to try to grow plants from cuttings! And there's nothing better than a windowsill full of plantlings to make doing the dishes a delight. Although I never take clippings from anyone's lawn without asking, I might be caught snipping a tiny piece off a very mature plant from a park or other public property. The day I leave the scissors behind is always the day I run into something unique and beautiful, and I don't want to take any chances damaging the plant without scissors.
7. Be patient. It usually takes me about 15-25 minutes of walking to finally feel that sense of calm come over me, that tells me I am doing something good for myself and it's worth every minute I spend doing it. That's when I feel like I could walk for days. Maybe its the endorphins kicking in, I don't know, but don't stop before you get there. However long it takes. Often, I don't actually feel "better" until I get home and then it hits me. You'll get there, too, just be patient.
8. If I can do it, you can do it. I am the least athletic and least physically motivated person I know. Twelve times a day I fall off my own shoes, for goodness sake, so if I can walk around the block and not hate every minute of it, so can you.
More painting on boards. Making use of things I've had laying around forever. Thinking of all the song lyrics in my head with the word "sun" in them. Here comes the sun, ain't no sunshine, it's called the rising sun, sunshine of your love and--of course--you are my sunshine. A favorite because my grandmother used to sing it to me as a child.
Ripped this design right off the Internet. Seems like versions of it are all over Pinterest these days. Of course, I had to add my own color spin to it. Why use just one or two colors when you can use fourteen??
My grandmother always used to say--before we could say goodbye she would always have to remind us--to "make happy memories". I'll never forget her words and I try to live by them like she did. Each and every day we are making memories. Better to make them good ones.
Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year in Colorado? Growing up in Texas, spring was always one of my favorite seasons. Plenty of sunshine and not too hot yet to spend time outdoors. But if you hesitated even a bit, the garden and soul scorching heat of summer would be upon you, and you would be forced back indoors until every living thing had been drained of its color and its life before you could finally stumble outside again without melting in your shoes sometime around October. To be sure, Southern Colorado gets plenty of sun and heat, but the cold mornings and light cardigan-wearing evenings are the perfect bookends to spring planting days.
After the compost bins and raised beds were finished (we tried to build as much as we could with reclaimed lumber), there remained a pile of half-rotten wood blocking the path to the back gate. Knowing it would probably sit there for the rest of the summer, I slowly started dragging choices pieces back to the studio, waiting for inspiration to hit.
Such simple things: a piece of abandoned wood, a little paint, some beads and wire for some garden inspiration. And a little encouragement for my veggies (and me too) to do what all living things must: grow, grow, grow.
When I first started getting serious about my art, I was a major hoarder. I had miles and miles of patterned papers, drawers full of ribbons & trim, baskets overflowing with interesting found objects, and cabinets stacked with paintable boxes, trays, birdhouses, etc. that I planned to get around to...someday. Not surprisingly, that day rarely came and I was buried under so much stuff I barely had room to create. If I'm totally honest, much of my creative time was spent buying and collecting, not making.
And then I just got sick of it. Sick of spending way more money than I made. Sick of keeping up with the latest and greatest. Sick of never having enough space for it all. Sick of never even using my favorite things because I was too afraid of ruining them. It was absolute craziness! So I got rid of it all. Well, not everything, obviously, but most of it. It was way more painful than it should have been, but also--as it usually is with downsizing--so liberating!
These days I don't collect art supplies. I make and collect art. I buy what I need and then take it home and use it. I will never go back to hoarding. Except for...well...just this one little thing.
Three years ago, before we moved to Colorado, we traveled to Portland, Oregon, to visit friends and see if it might possibly be our new home. We fell in love with the city (not so much the grey sky and rain), and I was especially enamored with the Cargo store downtown. Just thinking about it now makes me a little giddy and light headed. I promptly went home and began collecting bits and pieces of brightly colored goodness to recreate Cargo at home. Eventually, those wonderful dangly things were carried with me to Colorado, and there they sat. Needless to say, I loved but never used any of it. Until now.
Finally, in the name of Lawn Art, I have broken free of my last hoarding tendency and am digging those babies out of their dusty drawers and boxes and bringing them into the light of day--so I can enjoy them, for goodness sake, instead of just storing them for someday.
These are some of my most favorite things. Who knows why? The heart loves what it will. Years ago, I learned from LK Ludwig to use, and not hoard, those most precious of objects in my art. She promised that the art would be all the more special for it, and she was right. I love my boxes of pretty things that remind me of a wonderful trip, but I will love sitting on my back porch enjoying my lawn art more.