Saturday, April 30, 2011

farewell, Poetry Month: Spotlight Saturday

Last night, I wrote my 29th poem of the month (inspired by Poetic Asides and Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day challenge). As I tapped out the last few lines, I asked my husband, "How did I get here already?"

29 poems. Just like that.

What else could I accomplish in a month?

What else waits just beneath the surface, needing only a dab of encouragement and my willingness to listen?

And how about you? One month from now, what progress could you be celebrating?

(mixed media in progress, soon available on Etsy)

Let's wrap up Poetry Month with one last poetry-lovin' Spotlight roundup:

"Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry."
--Mark Strand, "Eating Poetry," Reasons for Moving, 1968

(Nom nom! Delicious!)

+ This week's Thursday Sweet Treat creative challenge focused on poetry and art. So many interpretations on one theme! Love the diversity.

+ How a Poem Happens--an amazing array of interviews with poets. (Note: I haven't read all, so can't speak for the level of parental guidance needed.)

+ Charles Rafferty featured on How a Poem Happens--oh, I am so taken with his poem "Against Hesitation." Beautiful. Haunting.

+ Poetry Foundation, publishers of the acclaimed Poetry magazine--wow, a tremendous resource for poets and poet lovers alike. More poems than you could imagine. Interviews. Fellowships. News about poetry. Podcasts. Video. And the biggie, recently added: every issue of Poetry from 1912 to present. What?! I can't even comprehend this yet. Go check it out! Now!

Are you full of poetry yet?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

seven souls: Thanksgiving Thursday

Hello, lovely readers. It's 10:30 p.m. and I'm ready to fall into bed, thoroughly worn out by the last couple of amazing days.

My body and mind may be worn out, but my heart is overflowing. So many incredible creative opportunities have arisen in just the past week. I look forward to revealing them one by one as details are firmed up.

First up: I'm honored to be part of today's Seven Souls One Musing interview series at Kind Over Matter. Seven people answer the question: "When you look back over the past month, what single moment stands out?" I share a moment of vulnerability--one that ultimately brought strength. I hope you enjoy it, along with all the other touching responses.

Thank you to Amanda of KOM!

(mixed media in progress, inspired by this week's Thursday Sweet Treat)

Today I give thanks for fruition . . . for working really really hard, and seeing it pay off. :) Thank you to everyone who helps make it happen!

Thanksgiving Thursday, a weekly feature, celebrates the gratitude practice:
finding vibrant joy in everyday life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

recharge: Tidbit Tuesday

How do you recharge your emotional batteries?

Some people rest, relax, and refill their creative wells by spending time with friends. Cooking a meal from the heart. Listening to music. Spending time in prayer. Journaling.

It doesn't matter what or how. The only real question is this: are you doing it?

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated a burst of spring weather by going on a long, winding, meandering walk. We window-shopped houses for sale. Spied bushes about to sing out in blossoms. Savored breezes bouncing off creekwater. Photo-stalked one timid duck who kept dipping in and out of the water, and two ponies who were clip-clopping after a full-sized horse. The light was perfect. The air was perfect. Our laughter was perfect.

Just what I needed.

(love graffiti discovered on our walk)

Tidbit for today:

"During [these] periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight." --Fritjof Capra

Time spent nurturing your soul is never wasted.

Tidbit Tuesday, a weekly feature,
seeks bright bits of inspiration in daily life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

live your poem: Spotlight Saturday

My favorite part of celebrating National Poetry Month always happens around this time, a few weeks in. I start to see poetry everywhere. Not just fully written poems, all neat and tidy with title and byline--but poetry in motion. The way light streamed in today, warming my kitchen with a soft glow as I prepared quiche. The way my cat stretches longer than seems possible, yawning and looking at me with those brilliant green eyes. The way color swirls off my paintbrush and leaves a stroke of joy behind.

Poetry doesn't have to be formal. Poetry doesn't have to have rhyme or reason. Poetry doesn't even have to be written down. No, poetry can be a way of life--seeing every moment unfold with possibility.

On to our poetry Spotlight for the week! Two offerings:

- Poetry 180, the Library of Congress project, "a poem a day for American high schools." From the introduction, by Billy Collins: "Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race. By just spending a few minutes reading a poem each day, new worlds can be revealed." The site provides a poem to be read aloud or otherwise shared on every day of the school year. Of course, even those of us long beyond high school can enjoy this wonderful resource.

-Magnetic Poetry online! Aaaaahhhhhhhh!!! You know those super-adorable magnetic poetry kits for your fridge? Now you can play with a virtual set. You can even submit your favorites to their online collection (be warned, they do have a parental guidance note, since they don't appear to monitor the posts).

Have fun exploring . . . and more importantly, enjoy a blessed and beautiful Easter tomorrow. Let's go find poetry in motion!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

the gratitude principle: Thanksgiving Thursday

Isn't serendipity great?

I had to smile when I opened my course email for the day (Be Gentle, Be Love) and found our focus: gratitude. On the day I set aside for gratitude, every week. Perfect!

It's really no surprise, though. You know how if someone says, "Don't think about a purple elephant," all you can do is think about purple elephants? Gratitude is like that: the more you open yourself to it, the more you'll see it expressed in your life. Everywhere.

When I worry and whine . . . problems pile up like rush hour. Some grumpy little voice in me says, "See? I told you so! You should worry about everything else that will go wrong! 'Cause it WILL. Go wrong."

When I give thanks and consciously focus on little joys . . . blessings fill every corner of my day. It's not that they weren't there before. I just took the time and found enough humility to stop and see.

That's the gratitude practice, friends: the more you give, the more you get.

Give it a shot today . . .
look for one little joy, and celebrate it.

I bet you'll find five more.

Thanksgiving Thursday, a weekly feature, celebrates the gratitude practice:
finding vibrant joy in everyday life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

just wait: Tidbit Tuesday

Hang in there.

I've been struggling with a technical issue for months, one that has held me back from expanding Persistent Green in a particular way. I've complained. I've tinkered. I've read manuals and Googled and scrolled through endless forum posts. I've given up and come back again.

But you know what? Yesterday, the lightbulb came. I figured it out--with almost no trouble at all. Remember my post about finding lost treasures that were never really lost? Sometimes a simple shift in thought--a willingness to drop all the pointless chatter (why can't I figure this out? Why can't things ever be easy? Whine, whine, whine!), a choice to be humble instead of blustery--can make all the difference.

Maybe I stopped trying so hard to figure things out, and let myself be guided instead. Maybe all the work I'd put into researching finally wove together into an answer. Or maybe, just maybe, the time was finally right.

And you know? I'll appreciate this coming journey even more now. The rewards are even sweeter. And one more time, I'm reminded to stop struggling, find patience instead, and let serenity take the reins.

Tidbit for today:

"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before." --Jacob A. Riis

Sooo . . . that path of expansion, which has finally opened up? I'll soon be offering affordable, archival-quality prints of my original artwork. Budget tight, but want some color and beauty to liven up your days? You won't have to wait much longer! I'll update as soon as I have more details.

Hang in there, friends. That problem bugging you? That answer that never seems to come? It will. When the time is right, you'll know. Just wait.

Tidbit Tuesday, a weekly feature,
seeks bright bits of inspiration in daily life. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

poetry round-up part three: Spotlight Saturday

Another week, another chance to celebrate National Poetry Month! Let's kick this one off with a gorgeous quote from April's issue of O magazine (with its special focus on poetry):

"Poetry can startle you, awaken you, make you fall in love, take your breath away. When those words sink in, you'll never look at your life or your journey the same way again." --Maria Shriver

Hard to top that, right? No wonder writing--and any form of art-making--can seem like such serious business sometimes. We're in the life-changing business. No matter if that change comes with an epic aha or simply looking at your life with new perspective . . . all changes, big and small, add up to a life of meaning.

Next, let's visit Julia Corvallis at her blog, Painted Path, and indulge in her lovely poetry collection. Thanks to Amanda Oaks for featuring "Listening" on Kind Over Matter, so I could discover Julia and her life-affirming work. Several of her poems remind me of my own, focusing on mindfulness and the magic waiting in each moment. Go--soak up a little loveliness!

Finally, my writer's group collaborated on a poetry-loving front page for its web site this month. You might just find two of my own poems there. (In fact, it's pretty likely. Hee hee!) Both "Terra Firma" and "Note to Self" were written during this month's Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day challenge.

Is that enough poetry goodness to hold you until next week?!

Just in case you needed one last burst of inspiration, here's one of my favorite quotes, from the poem "The Summer Day":

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?" --Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 14, 2011

lost and found: Thanksgiving Thursday

After tearing apart my house and searching for the third lost item in two days, it finally occurred to me: I had a choice. I could continue to silently berate myself (how could you do this again? How many times have you said you'd get organized? How many times have you de-cluttered and re-cluttered? How much longer are you going to make yourself crazy?) . . . or I could be gentle.

The second option probably wouldn't have occurred to me, had I not recently been reminded via Be Gentle, Be Love. I often try to practice gentleness with those around me. But myself? Not so much.

Back to the earlier scene. Shuffle through piles of paperwork. Flip through the same drawer I searched three minutes before. Sigh. Groan. Repeat. Seriously, three items in two days? All from different categories of my life? How could I have gotten so out of hand?

Ahhh . . . but gentleness. Could I respond with gentleness instead of rising panic? Couldn't hurt, right? I certainly wasn't making progress by going through the same piles of stuff over and over, seeing even less each time as my frustration grew.

So I stopped. Took a breath. Offered up this simple prayer: help me see what I'm not seeing. Help me see what You see.

I continued to look for the latest missing item, but now with a fraction more patience. There, at my feet, was not the thing I wanted--but the item lost yesterday. And a few moments later? A lightbulb popped in my mind, and of course I knew exactly where my treasure was hiding. Perfectly safe. Perfectly fine, where I last stashed it. In a perfectly logical place.

Here's the thing. Those items were never lost. Each one? Exactly where it made sense to be. So why couldn't I see them? Two reasons: 1) I let too much emotional and physical clutter creep in, covering up the parts of my life that mean the most. 2) I let panic take over, even when there is no real reason for it.

They were never lost. But I let myself be.

And what found me? Gentleness. Divine guidance, there all along.

Today I am overwhelmed with quiet gratitude . . . and just a little bit of awe. What other clarity could be found, when I sweep away the meaningless "stuff" that clouds my vision? What might I see? What could I hear?

What might you find today?

Thanksgiving Thursday, a weekly feature, celebrates the gratitude practice:
finding vibrant joy in everyday life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

hang on to hope: Tidbit Tuesday

My flowers haven't bloomed yet. There's still too much uncertainty in the weather, too much of a chill in night air, not enough sun to whisper it's okay, you can come out now. But the greens are poking through. Tulips, daffodils, allium.

You know the funny thing? My husband and I pulled most of our flowers a few years ago, trying to discourage our insistent bee population. Either we missed some bulbs or they survived by sheer force of will. But now, each spring, I cheer when those sneaky flowers come back anyway. Their determination makes me root for them--even as bees buzz around our house.

Something inside me, too, comes back every year. Insistent growth. Blossoms waiting to unfurl, bend toward the grace of sun, live with all their might . . . no matter what or who tries to uproot them. Bright little pops of color, bursting through safe soil to the spectacular world beyond.  Hope.

the humble thistle, too, survives despite many attempts to eradicate it! Ha!)

Tidbit for today:

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.
And sings the tune
Without the words,
and never stops at all. "
--Emily Dickinson

Thanks to Be Gentle, Be Love for the reminder to keep hope alive.

Why not invite hope into your day?

Tidbit Tuesday, a weekly feature,
seeks bright bits of inspiration in daily life. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

poetry, playfulness, & PlayDoh: Spotlight Saturday

Poetry. Do you think of college professors with leather-elbowed blazers, or snooty high-nosed people discussing metaphor this and simile that? Or does poetry make you think of stretching out in tall green grass, finding shapes in the clouds with your best friend?

I prefer the second. Not to say that poetry can't go deep--it most certainly can (and I love poetry that gives you the gut-clench, the gasp, the lightbulb moment). That's the trick, for me; my favorite poetry invites me to feel, whether that's in a cozy-up kind of way or a hang-on-for-the-ride kind of way. Just feel. See. Experience. Life, in its fullest.

Welcome to part two of my little Poetry Month celebration. Today was an odd one for me emotionally (can't go into detail), but what a perfect time for a word-lover such as myself to pull up a poem and enjoy.

On today's agenda, we have a very exciting treasure I stumbled across recently (through Danielle LaPorte, I believe). A woman named Samantha has decided to write a poem a day in 2011--and post them online for anyone to enjoy. Her site, bentlily, is as spare and lovely as her poetry. No frills. No tricks. Just the love of words, and clearly love of life, there for the taking.

I've read Friday's poem, "Ode to the blueberry,"  four or five times now and each time have fallen more in love. Sweet. Simple. An ending stanza that earns my happy sigh every time. Love!

Samantha's project humbles and baffles me just a bit--a poem every day? I'm proud to survive Poetic Asides' thirty day challenge. Today I wondered how I would get through 365 days of creative commitment. Aside from the usual platitude one day at a time, I thought: playfulness. Be Gentle, Be Love encouraged playfulness recently and reminded me to keep it a daily practice. I tend to get so serious, to the point of letting worry and what-if creep in . . . rather than sinking in, valuing my natural voice instead of always trying to be good enough.

Mom and I practiced a little playfulness tonight, messing around with that glorious childhood favorite . . . ahhhh . . . PlayDoh.

(a rose is a rose is a rose . . .)

In poetry . . . in life . . . I could definitely use more play. There is a time and place for seriousness; but what life can't use a little softening, a little more laughter, a bit more childlike joy?

Will you join me?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

be here now: Thanksgiving Thursday

What's the first thing you heard when you woke this morning--not counting your alarm clock?
What did the sky look like yesterday afternoon?
What's the last bite you tasted that made you shiver with delight?

Hard to remember, isn't it? If not . . . you might just be practicing mindfulness. (My answers: blue jays cawing as they swooped and swirled through my yard. Sky? Blazing blue, bursting through big fluffs of cloud. And taste? Ohhh my goodness, last night's french toast topped with raspberry sauce.)

I'm no yogini, so my concept of mindfulness is probably a bit simplified, but this is what I mean:  be here now. Slow down. Notice your breath. See, feel, taste, touch, hear your surroundings (okay, don't taste the mini blinds; use your best judgment here, folks). Refuse to coast through life on cruise control. Practice gratitude, which comes easier the more you see and acknowledge the multitudes of blessings overflowing each day.

Check out today's Thursday Sweet Treat reveal, where I'm delighted to be featured as artist of the week. I shared a few additional thoughts on mindfulness and how it relates to my latest art series . . . along with a shout-out to Be Gentle, Be Love.

(purple-inspired piece created for Thursday Sweet Treat,
available soon on Etsy)

Mindful finds today:

sparkling dishwater bubbles
blossoming strength during morning workout
crisp spring breeze through open window
cheerful color and pattern in my wardrobe
gratitude, unfurling like my brave buds outside

What unexpected joy might you discover today, with a little mindfulness?

Thanksgiving Thursday, a weekly feature, celebrates the gratitude practice:
finding vibrant joy in everyday life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

on a whim: Tidbit Tuesday

Spontaneity used to be synonymous with failure in my mind. Rejection. A knot in my stomach.

Why? Because predictability is safe. Planning is safe. Spontaneity? Stepping out without a net. Swinging in the breeze.

As an artist, too much planning can kill a painting, squeeze the life out of a poem, or drain the energy of a mixed media masterpiece. Not to mention how that way of thinking--and avoidment of unpredictable excitement--can turn a whole life beige. Passionless.

And I'm sorry, but beige is boring.

I want life in technicolor. I want zip. Zazz. Sparkle. 'Cause that's life, in its amazing, up-and-down, messy, throw-your-hands-up-on-the-rollercoaster kind of way.

But that can also be scaaaaaaary.

Thank goodness April Poem-a-Day and Be Gentle, Be Love have come to my beige rescue. I tend to slide back into safety (probably due in part to my social anxiety). Just as muscles need to stretch and strain in order to grow stronger and more flexible, spontaneity has to be worked out. Practiced. Tested. Okay, I know that sounds weird, since the very nature of spontaneity seems to be against regularity, right?

Not really. Let's take the example of Poem-a-Day. I'm four days in, and although I'm getting used to the routine (check the prompt, think on it while going about my day, sit down at the keyboard when an image or turn of phrase rises to the surface) . . . every day is different. Morning: I have no idea what I'll write, where I'll go in thought. End of day? I've been transported to somewhere poetic, seen my world with a little sparkle, given my life the gift of attention. Routine. Spontaneity. Match in heaven?

As if this enforced spontaneity weren't enough to shake me out of my comfort zone, a recent prompt in Be Gentle, Be Love encouraged us to practice "ditching your meticulously thought out plan." Oh, the horror! I like my meticulosity! Umm, is that a word? It is now. But seriously, folks, thinking things through is good, right? Of course. But not when it turns to rumination. Or when those plans stifle joy.

So I'm adding a little spontaneity into my routine. Today? I threw myself into creating more artwork for my Lens series, urging myself to push new techniques and methods even further. Guess what? I loved the results. They were freer, riskier . . . with just the right amount of swinging in the breeze.

Don't get me wrong. Spontaneity in art--and in life--won't always work out. Sometimes we flop. Sometimes we fail. But at least we'll feel the wind in our hair.

And that, my friends, is far from beige.

Tidbit for today:

"We fail more often by timidity than by over-daring." --David Grayson

Will you leap into spontaneity with me?

Tidbit Tuesday, a weekly feature,
seeks bright bits of inspiration in daily life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

for the love of poetry: Spotlight Saturday

Happy April! Can you believe it? I'm loving the chickadees at my feeder (not so much the superhero-like squirrel who hangs upside down to help himself), inches of green promising to become tulips and daffodils and allium, and a hint of warmth in the air.

So, too, does National Poetry Month mark the beginning of spring for me. What a perfect time to nurture dormant inspiration, to see the world once again through the eyes of a poet--every detail and nuance shimmering with delight.

In honor of this poetry-loving month, each Spotlight Saturday in April will feature the craft in some way. Let's begin by focusing on a recent favorite of mine: the Poem-a-Day challenge, sponsored by Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides. Each November and April, Brewer encourages participants to write a poem a day. Many people choose to post their daily efforts in the comment section. I won't be doing that this year, since it takes time enough to write the poem, but I have shared there before and very much enjoyed the community atmosphere.

At the end of the month, participants are invited to submit to a contest. That part is fun and challenging in itself, but for me, the real purpose of Poem-A-Day is reminding myself to see the world through a lens of poetry. I also remind myself that "the elusive muse" doesn't have to be so; with regular enough practice, capturing inspiration can be like turning on a faucet.

Not interested in writing poetry? You could still tune in at Poetic Asides and enjoy a whole month of poetic exploration. Why not grab a mug of hot tea or coffee and join me?

Tune in next Saturday for more poetry love!