• Current Reading List

    Peaceful Action, Open Heart - Thich Nhat Hanh*** Eat, Pray, Love*** Peaceful Living - Mary Mackenzie(daily reader)*** The Vein of Gold - Julia Cameron (this is a read a chapter a week type book)*** Dubliners - James Joyce*** Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring - Jean Watson*** The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Volume I***
  • Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.
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double marathoning

Two major things happening in my life right now that are my “extracurricular” activities. Meaning, they have nothing to do with work or family and are just for the enrichment of my life. Funny how they both involve the word “marathon” – my “creative marathon” of which I have most recently been journaling about. And of course, the women’s half-marathon in September for which I am training. Marathon, by the way, is named such because this Greek runner messenger ran 26 miles to deliver his message of Victory at the village of “Marathon” and then fell over dead.

There is irony here because I am not trying to kill myself, but am rather trying to better myself. It can, however, feel at times as if it is indeed my death that I am plotting. Physically and emotionally. While I am feeling very successful….hmm, successful doesn’t accurately describe it…rather to say that I am very pleased with my painting efforts. I have even decided to keep one (mile #11 – the whimsical blue flower). My running efforts however, are feeling….well unsuccessful. Words like failure and inadequate come to mind. Very discouraging.

But I digress, as first I wanted to discuss my experience with my “book”-club the other day. We decided to do this creative marathon together and forgo books for the time being. We met last Sat to discuss our journey so far. They are very very talented women and their works thus far were very inspirational. I must admit, that prior to meeting with them, I was worried and feeling a bit self-conscious about my attempts at art…especially sharing the images with others doing the same thing. What if theirs were Better? Prettier?…Better?

What I found was that it didn’t matter. I wasn’t there to compare, and they weren’t either. I didn’t feel so self-conscious once we became engaged in sharing and discussing. I didn’t feel like comparing. I did learn a lot about myself. I was very delightfully surprised by their interpretations of the “miles” – the drawings we had been sent to work from. They were interpreting! You could see their individual spirit in each painting, and they were all beautiful…even when (maybe especially when) they wound up looking very different from the example.
I think my paintings stayed closest to the examples. I remembered how, as I was painting, I would try to paint my images a little different…but…**light bulb!!!***… I realized that I was very strictly adhering to “rules” that I created for myself. Those rules said I had to do it like the example and that I must follow the instructions. I gave myself only the tiniest bitsy bit of wiggle room to be a little “different”. Perhaps because I am not trusting my process. Not trusting that I could have original ideas or unique interpretations that can still be beautiful works of art. Not trusting that I have ability, that I do have an inner artist locked inside that really wants to get out. Only I keep hemming her in with rules and straight and narrow rows that she must follow in order to express herself at all. Rules that are about other people’s art, and not about my own.

Perhaps it was “fate” that this last mile didn’t give a concrete example. The instructions were to draw a “cave painting”. So I did. I did research some images that I wanted to use. And then I made up my own. It isn’t perfect. I wouldn’t hang it on a wall. But it is all mine. And I like it.

I intended to write more about my current struggle with running (yes I am running, but it seems harder than ever, I feel slower than ever, and my hip hurts). I don’t much feel like moaning about it any more. As I wrote the above, I realize that perhaps I am having the same problems with both marathons. I am trying to hard to fit into someone else’s mold. I run the way I run. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t fast. Its messy. And sometimes it hurts. But I am doing it.


dashing in the miles

I have lots and lots to say about my bookclub meeting yesterday. We are doing this Creative Marathon together, and painted a mile together yesterday. It was AWESOME. I churned out my best work yet (see mile 11 below) IMHO, and I am NOT, NOT, NOT, painting over this one. I will write more tomorrow (Promise!!)…but since I have been procrastinating running for the past three days, I had better go do that. For now just updating the pics (as promised weeks ago!)

fast thoughts

It always seems that I have the most interesting thoughts about this painting process either during or immediately after the painting. That makes the most sense right. I am also painting when I don’t have much time for anything else, so there I have no time left for blogging. I decided to throw down a few words before I go into work in a few short minutes time. t-2 and counting.

I am in love with mixing colors. I am  feeling most drawn at the moment to purple and orange. They seem to be slightly more difficult shades to perfect, and I am delighted with the outcomes of mixing a little red, a little blue, a dash of white and getting these vibrant colors. Before I signed up for the class, I had previously purchased some cheap acrylics in various shades – tan, orange, pink, brown. I have used them only very rarely, and I fear that they will dry up in their little plastic bottles while I run through bottles and bottles of primary colors and white and black. The possibilities are endless and I am in love with the process. Once again it is about letting go of the outcome. I know that if I mix red and blue I am going to get a purple – but it all depends on whim as to what shade I get…too dark…add a little white…too pale, hmmm, lets add in some blue and so the process goes. Sometimes I get just the shade I want – or rather I fall in love with the outcome. Sometimes I need to work at it a little. So what if I mixed too much. Sometimes my frugal side has me use up the extra on another canvas’ background. Sometimes, as right now, it just sits on the palate (fancy christmas paper plates) and dries. Othertimes I am uncertain about the color, so I slap it on the canvas anyway because I now know that if I don’t like it, I can always layer over it. Nothing is set in stone.

Who knew?

Miles 5&6

My painting has become my meditation. I am in a place where I am avoiding meditation….avoiding some feelings that I need to feel, but don’t feel quite ready yet. Normally my journaling and meditation practice are what keep me centered and keep me processing emotionally. I have been largely avoiding those practices, again because I am avoiding. I am aware, but I feel very very resistant. I think that this process of painting is what is keeping me emotionally as grounded as I possibly can be right now.

It is very soul soothing to mix the colors and allow the process to flow from my hand. I am finding that I am much more able to let go of the process than I could have imagined. The images are simple, so it doesn’t take a lot of energy or thought. I just put them down on the canvas and the results don’t really matter. It is the process that matters. Being in the moment and experiencing that moment fully instead of fretting in the moment about what the results could be, and whether or not I will like the way things turn out. I am even doing the paintings in fits and starts…a little color here today..a little more tomorrow. I imagine things coming out one way, and they don’t…but it is still good.

I painted mile #5 with my nondominant hand (as suggested) and it was most surprising to me how neatly the circles came out. Not as sloppy as I imagined they would, and not as sloppy (but fun sloppy) as the model. I wanted sloppy and loose. I got order and symmetry. Perhaps that is what I needed.

I really am pleased with the way this turned out. It is a happy picture and the colors are happy and the flowers friendly.

I wasn’t quite ready to let this one be covered up right away, so I went ahead and painted over my lady that I had on the second canvas for the “mandala” drawing. I wasn’t particularly pleased with with simplicity of this mile, but I actually found the painting of it to be quite soothing. I think that the best part about it was letting go of the desire to have this amazing creation. It was just circles and colors. The rest didn’t matter.

Down the Creative Marathon Road

I have completed miles #3 and #4 in the past 26 hours. Work and whatever kind of slowed down my gung-ho-ness. I actually started #3 last Saturday, but just couldn’t get to finishing it. I decided to complete it while I was having a kind of stress-ful phone conversation and I found that it did a lot to calm me and release tension that I would have be feeling during the conversation otherwise. I also found it interesting that the colors came out darker than I anticipated, likely because of the “dark mood” that went a long with the conversation. I debated on going back and lightening the colors, but decided that it came out as it was supposed to. I am really enjoying the texture that arises from layering all this paint. The blending of the colors also gives me this feeling of freedom. The colors don’t always blend smoothly, and I find I like it more when the base colors bleed through. Often I don’t get the color I am aiming for exactly, but most often am pleased with the result. It is learning to live in the process and allow to process to happen organically. I could always throw the paint out and start again, but I never was much on that and why fight it? I am also learning that if I don’t like the color I can always go back over it. This happened with mile #4. I wanted a brown cup, but the brown came out very very bleh..and then I questioned my reasoning behind wanting the brown, wanting to be so plain. I think it was because I didn’t like the image. It wasn’t as fun and playful as the previous miles have been. It felt so mundane, and I was feeling a little mundane of spirit. I decided to liven it up a bit with splotches of color, and then suddenly mundane was a little more lively and free…and I felt better about my simple cup.

But I get ahead of myself. Here is mile #3:

I love this little bird…the bigness of her, and the swirliness of her colors. Whitney said to go for asymmetry, and I loved making her out of proportion with her uneven wings and large beak to break through the air. Whitney also talks about needing symmetry of color or balance, but I didn’t feel like adding any more green anywhere in the piece. So I took some yellow and swirled it through several of the colors. I think that balanced it out.

For mile #4, I repeat the lesson of letting go. I liked my little bird and for a few seconds it was hard to let go of her. Sure I have a picture, but that doesn’t replicate her texture and realness that you witness when you are right there with her. I am struck by the impermance of all things, and I let my paintbrush fly.

Here is #4. I am out of for today to say more, so I will let the picture speak for itself.

The glare is a little bad. Perhaps I will take another pic. Perhaps not.

Beginning a Creative Marathon

So this is my new venture. A friend ofmine first told me about this “creative marathon” thing a few months ago, and I was intrigued. What a better para llel for my actual marathon training than to “run” a marathon creatively. So, here is what 6 the thing is about: Essentially you are painting 26 paintings over a period of 13 weeks in an effort to delve into your right brain, open your mind and heart, and become “creatively fit” .

At first, I really I really wasn’t sure whether I would have the time to paint two paintings a week….I mean, one painting has taken me forever before, and I spent a lot of that time being dissatisfied with the results. Whitney Ferre , the brain behind this process, assured me (via video) that my painting was “not going to solve world hunger” and so it really didn’t matter if it was perfect, or even whether or not it looked very good. Plus, the beauty of it all, is that come the next mile, I am going to paint right over it. So it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is. I love this idea of impermanence; of stretching myself just to stretch and letting go of the outcome.

So I started on my first mile. Initially I had these nagging little thoughts that said things like “this doesn’t look anything like what they are doing” (students in the video I was watching), “that line looks terrible”, “what a mess”, “you can’t do this”, etc etc. Thankfully I ignored that voice, and told myself just to relax and enjoy the process. So, while this little critic yammered away in my head, another part of me just ignored it and enjoyed the feeling of the brush in my hand and the smell of the paint. When I finished, I criticized the result a little I must say. I didn’t like this tree, or that line, or that color, but it was fun and I left it to dry. When I came back to snap a photo of the result after it dried, I felt very differently about it. I loved it. I really didn’t want to paint over it, but wanted to keep it. Wow! My first “real” painting.

Mile 2: I was eager to start, but it took me a moment or two to let go of the attachment I describd above, and slap on a new coat of paint. Maybe it was because this image was so childlike and fun, or maybe it was because my inner critic wore itself out on the above painting…whatever the reason, the critic was absent for this mile. I just enjoyed the painting process. It felt really freeing to let go of the previous image and bring out the child within myself. Whitney suggested painting this one with your left hand, but I actually forgot to do that, which was okay. This little guy was just so much fun, and I loved mixing these colors. I felt childlike and joyous. This painting also took very little time, and I was almost sad to finish because I wanted more!

I plan to blog about the entire 26 miles. I am looking forward the new experience of each painting. Whitney talks about it being like meditation – and it certainly feels like it as afterwards I am left calm with a little center of childlike joy. I actually pulled out another board and started an “optional” mile #1 because I couldn’t wait for mile 3 to get here! Maybe I will post it later.

Phenomenal things (including discovery of the armpit-hollow)

A lot of awesomeness is happening in my life right now and I am truly truly thankful and joyous. There are some rough edges here and there, but they are beginning to smooth out nicely. This new job, as with all new endeavors, has resulted in a retreat from blogging as I immersed myself in acclimating to my new role and especially new hours. Well, considering that I only slept 3 hours last night (off day), the switch back to nights is likely going to take a considerable amount of time to adjust fully. But in the meantime, I am beginning to feel a little less brain benumbed and able to focus on other things (like blogging) once again.

One of the phenomenal things that I am going to start this Friday is Creatively Fit Marathon. NO, it has nothing to do with running….although I think it will gel very nicely with my actual running training for my next 1/2 marathon in September. This “marathon” is all about painting. 26 paintings or “miles”. It is supposed to be a highly transformative process and I plan to blog about my journey along the way. (gosh, saying that makes me cringe a little bit, as it seems that every time I say I plan to blog about something, it kind of goes by the wayside….time to be different and do what I intend!!!)

Another phenomenal thing I just discovered is that I have an armpit hollow. This is how your armpit hollows when you hold your arm a certain way and there are muscles and tendons on either side of the hollow. The armpit actually recesses a little bit. I hope this is making sense, as I am not sure how to describe it clearly, and it is such an important discovery. You see, I have never ever had an arm pit hollow. Well, surely I did as a small child…but not in my memory anyway. Before, I just had, well fat, filling up the space. This new hollow  is most exciting, and speaks to a level of fitness and healthy changes in my body that I have never experienced before. Armpit hollow. So simple and yet it is bringing me so much joy today. I discovered it quite by accident in the shower when I went to shave the pit today. I had just finished weedeating and my arms felt like limp noodles so I opted to shave my pits in a very lazy fashion that didn’t require raising of the noodle that was my arm and I propped it instead on the little scallopy thingy that protrudes from the inside of the shower for just such a need. When I went to shave, there it was! A hollow!! Amazing.

Lots of other phenomenal things to write about (like my awesome new job and the fact that I finally ran a 10 minute mile [10:05 actually])….but I think I shall stop here, heed the growling of my stomach and go eat some phenomenal Indian food with my phenomenal husband. Life is good.