Friday, October 6, 2017

Personal Authenticity and the To-Do List: An Exercise in Self Discovery

When you retire or your life changes dramatically, sometimes you are left wondering "who am I?" Here is an exercise that can help define activity in the world that more clearly reflects the "authentic" you.

First, create a to-do list.  This can be a mix of things you wish you were doing, as well as things you think you should be doing. Don't fuss about how much is costs, what training it requires, or what people will think of you if you "do it". Just get the ideas down--shoot for at least ten items. Number each line.

Then, on a blank sheet of paper, write in the very middle that one great aspiration you have.  Here are some examples:

  • To Show Compassion to All
  • To Nurture others
  • To See Reality
  • To Love Well
  • To Create Beauty
  • To Stand for Truth
  • To be an Icon of Patience
Think long and carefully about what your central driving aspiration is.  Once you have placed it on the paper, draw a circle around it.  Then, pick what your secondary aspiration is, write it on the paper above and outside the first circle.  Draw a larger circle around both the central circle and your new word, beginning to create a mandala.  Proceed at least five "circles" out. When you are done, you should have five concentric circles, each with a single aspiration within it.

Now, go through your list and plug the number of your "to-do" list into the mandala.  For example, if I wrote down that my great and central aspiration was to create beauty, and #5 on my to-do list was learn to do Medieval Card Weaving, I'd write #5 inside that aspiration circle.  One by one, drop in the "to-do" list into your aspiration mandala.

When you are done, take up your journal and write about your mandala.  Does your "to-do" list truly reflect your central aspirations?  How might you adjust your life and choices to better reflect how you spend your time and energy in the face of the deep motivations you have for your life?

I personally was very surprised at how little of my "to-do" list reflected who I have become after 27 hospitalizations, a divorce and remarriage, a cross-country move, and a change in what I am able to physical do (or rather, what I can no longer do). I have no illusions that it will take a while to "live into" this new reality of self, but bringing my actions and aspirations together on one page has certainly made me conscious of the deeper parts of myself.

I hope you give it a try!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Choose to Love

My step-daughter recently garnered a number of important awards in High School golf, and our local TV and newspaper has made a big and wonderful deal out of her milestones.  I'm also the assistant coach on the team, making sure we keep the food and water stocked, utilizing my yoga therapy certification to help with everything from a slightly tilted pelvis to acute back spasms on the course. And when "women's issues" arise, I'm glad to take point.  I was so sad when her mom (my husband's ex) immediately texted my husband, furious that a picture of Mike, my step-daughter, and I had aired on the local television station.  "I don't want my child associated with THAT woman."

Sitting here this morning, sunlight streaming across the open field outside my dining room window, I feel such deep compassion for her. To take the joy and excitement of her daughter's accomplishment and make it about petty jealousy is just a kind of violence to self I often see in folks who have gone through a divorce.  And it is always a violence that rebounds, injuring the minor child so much more than the adult. So what do I do with such energy?

The only thing I really can do: I breathe and practice compassion. And I write.

I know there will come a day when my own children will meet a new stepmom for the first time. I pray I have the wisdom and kindness to support the new relationship they will enter into, knowing deeply that my children will be loved into a larger circle of friends, family and life. In this crazy world, that is one commodity I hope overflows into my children and their children.

I imagine
the empty house echoes,
when she is away,
speaking to me of the time
when she will not burst through the door,
sparkling with teenage glitter and grins,
or trudge up the path,
shoulders rounded with some small grief.

The questions will come--
Who am I now?
Who loves me now?
Who will see when I laugh or cry?

I know this energy myself--
that's why I can see it in her mother.

I am more than my children,
but they are knit into my bones-
yes, even the ones
I am not related to
for better or worse
leave wonderful and muddy footprints on the fabric of my life.

So when the little and the nasty and the rude shudder their way
into my view in print or glance,
to not weep for their mothers and fathers,
to not feel the looming empty nest
just before adults themselves learn to fly again
would slash a larger wound.

I choose love.
And to keep loving
breath by slow breath.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Americans are Becoming Machines

With increasing regularity the past few years, I've noticed a kind of machine-level rude behavior, particularly in medical offices.  Sometimes it's a little irritant like--"Can you hold? Thank you." without being given a chance to answer "Yes" to the question.

One awful experience occurred when I went for a vision check.  The woman who did my initial check-in sped ahead of me down the hall, totally oblivious that I was struggling to keep up. (This also happened to me at a local hospital just before a lung function test.  I had recently gone through a total knee replacement and speed was not my forte!!!)  I called up to the vision clinic woman and asked her to go slow. "I've just had my knee totally replaced so I am at full speed right now."

The woman sat down in the office we finally arrived at and what was the first question she asked? "Have you had any recent surgeries?"

I stared at her. 

Then firmly said, "what did I just say to you in the hall?"

These kinds of incidents are increasing in our society--from the check-out person who never smiles or responds to you to hospital personnel who don't listen to their patients. The ability to interact with another human being is becoming an increasingly lost skill.

And we all suffer.

So do we call folks on it when it happens?  Suffer in silence? Write a polite letter to the office or store where the behavior happened?  Shrug and let it go time after time after time?

What would you do?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dogen: "Time goes from Present to Past"

I'm revisiting an "old friend" this week--the Zen Master Dogen of 12th century Japan.

I was arrested by the phrase, "Time goes from present to past." The first time I heard those words--see it already is true--I was about 28 years old and attending Aquinas College.  They were "interesting" in an intellectual sort of way.

But sitting here today, I see time constantly moving from the present to the past--the flowers outside my window are almost instantly compared to the time when the hummingbird was sipping their pink hearts and the rest of fall wasn't showing up on the tips of the leaves.  The single Blue Jay reminded me of the riotous family of the same breed swamping my feeders just weeks ago. Every glance, there is the movement--present to past.  It happens so fast with me.

That's one of the reasons why I am not a big proponent of "linear time"--consciousness doesn't work that way.  At fifty-two, I'm not struggling with such things, though. The panes of past-present-future all flicker like a movie and I allow them to do so.

It's what the rock knows.
It's what the tree proclaims.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Delight in the Small: Tiny Treasures of a Forest Walk

Walks in the forest with a camera can be a delightful way to tune into the "small".  I am recovering from a full knee replacement (thank you Dr. Hollander of Traverse City Orthopedics!), so as my husband nips and cuts out a new forest path, I follow behind, clearing off loose branches and then sitting in a portable camp chair. It's in the stillness that the woods really begins to speak, and I notice the textures, the tiny beads of interest strewn all around. I am in no way a photographer, but I delight in trying just about anything new. In the looking, I become clear and present, going from merely looking to finally seeing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Forest Faces: Photography

One of my favorite photography "hunts" is to look for "faces" in natural objects.  Facial recognition is one of our earliest cognitive skills--and it's fun to "revert" to childhood and see what I can find. Here are three faces I found in the cedar in our forest yesterday.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Illusion: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata

Illusion American-Style

More than a hundred years ago,
they raised the statue.
Hope carves like that—
stiffening onto stone,
motion, breath,

Today, others want to tear such things down,
laying Paper Mache and blogs and airwaves
bird shit and weathered bronze,
sweating and cursing in the humid air
to make the outside
some insides.

Move the outer world around as much as you wish—
yell you are “for it” or “against it”.

All Time’s child play with objects in a sandbox.

Honor: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata

He greets me at the door,
a black and white brown-eyed wagging,
toenails tapdancing on linoleum
so I know that “welcome home”
celebrates in wiggles and long pink tongues.

He lays his head on my lap,
slobber and all, soaking in,
and still I laugh,
untangling unruly clumps around his ears.

There is honor in my dog—
he knows who he is
he sees who I am
no matter what role I am currently playing-
mother, wife, farmer, writer, child
and from that knowing
we both love deeply and well.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Choice and Life: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata

Choice by choice
I have dropped enamel
on the tiles of my soul.
The world splashes on the rubbing alcohol
and oh!
delightful unexpected
brilliant oranges to muddy browns,
everything mixing into something
messy and alive.
Patterns I cannot always control
but I have always
brushed in with deliberation
at the edges.
That, my dear sons,

is life.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

You ARE Joy: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata

Sunlight on a thousand shades
of yellow petals.
Scarlet maple leaf tapestry
on the shade-dabbed path.
Scent of an ancient birch,
its bark shedding the ground
like parchment inked with
aromatic secrets.
A perfect brown hen’s egg
and a side of fresh cherry tomatoes.
Yarn and paint and tree branches
weaving into art.
His eyes, crinkled with fifty- two years
of smiling
sets down his coffee and opens his arms wide.
Don’t you know?
You ARE joy.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to Never Lose: A Poem

I rode hard-
posting without stirrups,
sweating in the 90-degree summer sun,
but my mare, feeling irritable
dragged her feet in the dust,
simply done for the day.
Twenty riders,
six collected ribbons but not me.
there was Sue with her gap-tooth grin,
and Darlene on her wild-eyed Arabian,
and I laughed out loud,
clapping as my Morgan
sank into her bones
and rested one foot in
the hot arena sand.
I learned early if the heart is big enough,
I never really lose.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Play: a poem from Easing into the Mahabharata


I am the dishwasher,
wet bubbles popping on the silver faucet.
I am the farmer
clucking to the hens, laughing.
I am the weaver,
needling fiber and beads into beauty.
I am the lover of stones,
stacking, circling and painting.
I am the mother
sitting in the moonlight at midnight, praying.
I am the wife,
leaning into an embrace, shivering with delight.
I am the friend of the birch tree,
feeling her scar as my own.
I am the writer
riding thundering Kitaro
to allow spirit to flow through

the empty flutes of my fingertips.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Twig Weaving and Weaving in the Round

I've worked on large looms since 1998, including big four-harness rug looms and 7 foot triangle looms.  The hard part about the size of these monsters is finding a place in your home to set it up and what if you want to weave in a doctor's waiting room?

There are two really cheap and fun alternatives to the big standard looms that anyone can make and use.  The first is the twig loom.  Find three or four small branches in a finished size you like.  I've worked as big as 2.5 feet and as small as 4 inches. Here is a finished piece with three small twigs, great for Christmas ornaments or pieces of a mobile:

The weave was very simple, just two lines under and over.  But the frame could be warped and woven in a more traditional tapestry or common weave style.

Here is a stick frame warped and ready to weave on.  The sticks came from our beach and were sanded by the wind and water and snow--they are silky to the touch.  It helped to do a double-turn on each side of the "loom" to help keep the warp threads from slipping.  You can also gently score your loom with a pocket knife and allow the threads to drop into the score lines to help them stay put.

I bound the three interesting twigs together with hemp string, giving it a rustic look.

This is the weaving underway.  

And this is the finished product, ready to hang on a wall!  I created a rustic piece on purpose, and love the swoosh and energy, like a winter seascape.

If you want a more traditional loom, you simply lay two straight twigs parallel to each other, then bind on two cross pieces to make the square, warp it up and weave away!

You can also follow the natural junction of a twig or branch.  Here is a piece I am creating using "dreamcatcher" weaving and regular weaving as well as wrapping the piece with yarn. In this beginning stage, I wrapped the yarn, then warped from branch to branch, doubling up the top warp to create a firm line to weave to.

Here is the same project with the dreamcatcher weave added between branches:

It's really fun to create these projects and easy enough for upper elementary kids to each do a big branch then create a forest along one wall of the classroom.  

Finally, one of the easiest looms to make is the needle point frame loom.  Simply purchase a round needlepoint frame or look for them in places like garage sales and Goodwill.  I found several for $.50 at our local St. Vincent de Paul resale shop.  Separate the pieces of the frame, and warp the inner circle, wrapping thread away from you, keeping the tension, and giving the circle a little turn for the next pass.  When you are done, tie it off and gently slide the outer part of the frame over the inner circle. Tighten the screw to lock everything in place.  

Here is an example of weaving in the round with this type of frame.  What's great is you can then hang your piece from the tightening screw!  If you visit other sites on lines, there are some lovely pieces done with different widths of yarn, dyed fiber and even dried flowers and plants.  Have fun!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Audio Version of Easing into the Tao te Ching is Now Available!

The latest addition to the Easing Into comparative religion program is out in audio!  Easing into the Tao te Ching features gifted narrator Collene Curran.  This short work allows listeners to gently enter the world of the Tao through ten "great ideas" found in the work.  Explanations of each idea, original poetry for contemplation or opening material for small groups and five probing questions to take you deeper into your inquiry all function to provide a wonderful introduction to this sometimes difficult text.

The Easing Into Collection is slowly growing to include titles from all the major world traditions.  In this time of discomfort with what is "other", I pray it will help people of all faiths understand what is important and beautiful in other traditions. Watch this fall for You Tube teachings from this series and be sure to tune into or download past programs of my radio show, Deep Communion, which are available on the ArtistFirst Radio network.

Here is the link to it's Amazon page.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dragonfly House Summer Update

The gardens are in full swing now--peas plants over seven feet tall, 18 5-foot tomato plants, raised beds full of kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, green and yellow beans, blueberries, raspberries, pumpkin, zucchini and more.  I seeded the small hill in my backyard with wildflowers, and every day something new surprises me. My "English Cottage gardens" in the front of the house are going wild with colors and textures. In the newly opened fields, poplar trees are sprouting up.  Mike seeded in oats, different kinds of clover and a plant unfortunately called "rape" that is part of the cabbage family that white tailed deer adore.

Art-wise, I've been creating woven pieces out of sticks and used yarn, hand painted paint stir sticks for garden markers, rehabbed some old furniture, made benches out of old chairs, and painted small white tiles to create a "wall quilt" for the living room. I'm also making "garden flowers" out of old china and glass pieces, attached to blue wine bottles and then placed in the ground around the garden for extra flair and color.  I'll be creating cement brick and landscape timber benches to place around the property. Mike and Ian put up a new screened porch this summer, and we'll be adding a lovely pond liner and fish just off the deck.
Mike is also starting to get the hunting blinds in order.  Our long-range goal is to create hunting blinds approximately 8'x8' that will have pallet-board paneling,  a fold down bed frame, small grill, small heater and small outdoor portapotty, chair and pull down writing surface arrangements that can be rented to Air B&B folks or used for small meditation hermitages in the off season. We'll have a bonfire each night up in the main garden.  Eventually we may add single-person screen in porches to each. I'm super excited to be able to lead contemplative retreats out here in the future.

Family Wild, our wonderful hunting, fishing and wildlife arts program will be launching in September.  The first tier of books are in the final editing stage, and our merchandise is nearly complete and ready to go. Mike will be hosting a new radio show to encourage folks to explore nature with their kids in a variety of ways.

Happy summertime to you!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Easing into the Bhagavad Gita in Audio!

My newest book in audio is currently available on Amazon and I-Tunes! This is a simple, Ten Great Ideas of the Gita, complete with verse reference numbers (in the book and Kindle formats) original poetry and group discussion questions.  My current work as a writer is to create a library of "easing into" texts--the ten great ideas of many facets of the world religions as well as more "fringe" groups like modern shamanism. Taken together, they create a simple quilt of the beauty of humankind's highest thoughts and ideals.

Blessings! Kim

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Repainting an Old Weaving Bench

Working with "throw away" items has become a passion of mine this summer.  I'm building benches from old wood chairs and Restore lumber, painting "flowers" on the bottoms of clear plastic bottles and stacking Goodwill glasses and plates to make some "vertical interest" in the garden.  This picture is the top of an old weaving bench.  I'm fascinated with aboriginal dot art and have combined a very simple form of it with dragonfly images.  We call our main house "Dragonfly House" and so it seems fitting.  I also hope the spirit of the dragonfly will drive away some of our mosquito hordes! HA!

Spring Birds of Northern Michigan

The arrival of the "spring birds" is almost as welcome as the flowers on our land.  I love this picture Mike (my husband) snagged.  We've seen the square holes of the Pileated Woodpecker all over the 50 acres, but this was the first sighting of the bird. 

I enjoy taking pictures of birds--especially when you catch them in a-typical poses.  Here, a Mourning Dove does her morning yoga.

The Baltimore Oriels have enjoyed half-slices of orange, as well as the Hummingbird feeders (yes, we've had hummers, too).  Even on the cloudy day, they add a dash of sunshine to life.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker awed us with his bold color.  He's been a lovely addition to the "nature TV" display at the feeder this Spring.

This is the most exciting bird of the spring--we had THREE of these lovely Indigo Bunting males at the feeder for a few days.  They may have moved on--haven't seen them in a few days, but wow!  what a treat when they were here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ironwood Cactus: a Poem

I have found a peace, working with my hands.
This brush-stroke, that bit of glue,
pushing back dirt for a plant or seed,
gathering eggs, patting a goat on her head.
I wish you could see inside my mind,
the not-enoughness, the not-lovable enough,
not-wealthy or healthy enough.
that has driven and broken me.
I’m gluing and painting myself back together.
And if sometime, I need you more than seems
even ironwood cactus statues need
twine and goop and a gentle hand when
one arm or the other falls completely off,
giving into gravity after years and years

of shaking its fists at the sun.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cedar and Restore Art

I enjoy working with natural objects, creating art from them.  But I also like functional art--bird
feeders, benches, a trellis for the garden.  Here are some items I am working on!

 This is a walking stick I am making for myself, using    aboriginal dot art.  Each old bough scar becomes the center for an explosion of color, reminding me that "Every new beginning is the death of some old beginning."

 I have a fetish for clay pots, neat old wine glasses and mugs--so I decided to "indulge" the fascination at the local thrift stores and make my finds into vertical interest feeders and planters.  

 Here is the dot art again--this is a huge 20 lb stone for my front garden. I sealed it with a spray acrylic, high gloss.  It's beautiful in the sunshine.

 The colors didn't show, but you get the "picture".  I traced the wood borer lines in color of red and black and made this lovely hanging for the deck.  

 These bottles were all found in the dirt on the property.  I love the rust.  It makes a very gentle sound in the wind--not so "metallic" as most wind-chimes.

 This is a project I am really excited to begin--a $4 chair, a $5 chair and a $2 chair, used boards from the Restore in Alpena. It will all be painted one color, planters on each end and then painted cedar sticks rising behind, all rendered in blues and greens.  I'll post the finished picture.  :-)

So what is lying around your life that could become something new, giving "junk" a new beginning?