Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dirt Therapy

Yesterday, I spent almost all day trimming potted plants on our back deck and planting herbs in pots and in our south-facing herb bed. Mmmmm... the delicious scents that swirled around me all day! The honeysuckle vines are rampant in our backyard (I am a gardener of the Romantic persuasion) and their rich, scents seduced me all day long. It's like music for your nose.

By the way, this crop circle just appeared this past week in England. It makes me think of music and how interconnected and intertwined all our spheres and links are. It is in a young field of barley and is the 15th one reported this season. To me, it holds the central symbol of the sun as well as sylized yin-yang symbols on either side connected by lines and circles to create a repeating loop of energy. Isn't it exquisitely beautiful?!?

(Back to North Carolina...)
We also have ligustrum shrubs blooming now, with their cone-shape clusters of small white blossoms that have a fresh scent much greater than the blooms promise. I remember as a little girl we had a hedge of ligustrum along one side of our yard and my dad had pruned them so that they looked like one big long bush. Well, inside those branches were cubbies between the trunks of the bushes, a perfect place for me to crawl in, curl up on the cool dirt, and watch the world from between the leaves. This was in summer when the blooms were burgeoning, so whenever I smell that fresh scent, I flash back to hiding from the world surrounded by green smells and the soft buzzing of busy bees.

(Sometimes I still want to do this, you understand. Instead, though, I just sit outside and sniff after days gone by.)

The butterflies were enraptured with the blossoms, too. One kept fluttering its wings as it sucked nectar from honeysuckle blossoms. I'm sure it was so she would stay where she needed to be, but it sure looked like she was trembling with excitement about all the sweetness around her!

The herbs I bought last weekend at the Garden Jubilee in downtown Hendersonville were great to play with, too! I bought several scented geraniums, and potting them was just a cornucopia of lovely smells! If you don't know scented geraniums, you need to check them out (scientific name, Pelargonium, but google scented geranium and you'll find plenty of resources). They are not as showy as the more common geraniums you see everywhere, but those don't smell good at all (in my opinion). The scented ones have a soft fuzz on the leaves which hold oils so that when you rub their leaves, you can smell rose or lemon or an assortment of other relaxing scents. Nature sure knows her purfumes.

I also bought a bay tree which needs to be potted here in the mountains since it gets too cold for them to winter outside (so I understand...). And I potted some basil for pesto (yum! Andrew calls pesto "husband repellent", so I eat it when he's not around...) My son Allen helped me plant a curry plant, two tarragons, a lemongrass, a thyme, and two big pots of sweet woodruff (check out the recipe for May wine in an earlier post). So now our deck steps are lined with lovely plants that when you brush against them they will send out welcoming scents! And we have new perennials in our herb bed for pickin' and cookin'. The sage planted a couple of springs ago is going nuts, as is the fennel and lavendar, and a couple of varieties of mints. Time for mint tea. Mmmmm...
The birds are ecstatic nowadays... there was song all around me yesterday. I laid in the hammock for a while, breathing in the smells, watching the sight of the sun shining through the feathers of outspread songbird wings flying above me from tree to tree; ppssttt-pppssttt-ppsssttt-ing so the birds would come closer to check me out so that I could check them out.

It's amazing what loud notes can come from such small bodies! If only humankind would sing to claim our territory instead of go to war... wouldn't it be a lovely world?

So now our back deck looks lovely and welcoming. (Isn't it wonderful when you accomplish something that's been on your mind?) And last night we ate on the deck, and were joined by a couple of friends so that we sat well into the darkness talking and catching up. The honeysuckle sent out its welcome the entire time. What abundance!

This weekend is, for me, about getting some of my to do list done: tasks that are constant reminders of what I haven't done yet... like planting herbs, trimming potted plants... and next is de-cluttering and organizing my studio so I can create without distraction (or wondering "Where did I put that....?") I'm halfway there!
I hope you are having lovely, sensual outdoor experiences with Nature, too!


Friday, May 29, 2009

A Journal for the Journey

It's been quite a while since I've posted. I've missed writing, but wanted to wait until I had something to say. So here I am, finally...

Yesterday, I attended the 5th Annual Conference for Women offered by Mountain Bizworks here in the WNC area. Over 150 women in one room! What a celebration of estrogen! What energy! I met some wonderful women, and ended up sitting at a table that boasted mostly artists (and we made a lot of joyful noise, too!). Jen Salar creates handmade invitations through her Soulstice Invitations. She also works at Random Arts (a 3-D artist's den of iniquity!) in Saluda. Abbie Doyle, owner of Garden of Beadin (a beader's cornucopia of delights!) here in Hendersonville joined us, as did Lori Garcia-Hernandez who owns Fitness SOULutions, a women's fitness center here focusing on the body-mind-spirit connection. Barbara Stock is a PMC artist and designer who owns Wren's Nest Precious Metal Designs. All of these women are community builders with amazingly generous spirits. I also met two Asheville artists: Sherry Rambin is a gifted photographer with a bright and joyous spirit; and Melissa Clonch, owner/designer of Gift Baskets by Melissa, has a quiet, sweet and open presence. And Hendersonville's own Angela Vaughan was recognized as the "Entrepreneur of the Year" for all the good work she's done since opening her business, Fitness Masters, to support people in "mastering a balanced, healthy lifestyle". You go, Angela!

There were so many other wonderful women there, including keynote speakers, BizWorks presenters, and BizWorks "staff/family" members who provide information, support, and encouragement to anyone in their own business (or considering a business of their own).

One of those "staff/family" members is Susanne Walker-Wilson, wife of Greg Walker-Wilson, who has been the Executive Director of Mountian Bizworks for over 13 years. He is leaving the non-profit so that he and his family (Susanne and their 2 boys) can assume a three-year volunteer assignment with the Mennonite Central Committee in Colombia, South America, a dream they've had for many years. Whew! What courage!

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by Melinda Knies, gallery director of Mountain Made gallery, the retail shop connected with Mountain Bizworks and who carries my journals. She said the staff of Mountain BizWorks wanted to give Susanne a special thank you gift for all her years as a deeply connected volunteer and heart-centered supporter of the staff. Melinda asked me if I would create a journal for Susanne. What an honor! YES! (While I'd not met Susanne, I knew Greg and was sure he had great taste in women.) So Melinda sent me some info and gave me the freedom to create a journal for Susanne's journey.

At the conference yesterday, the staff presented Susanne with an award recognizing all her support through the past 13 years, and gave her the journal. I was so proud when I was asked to stand as the artist of the journal. Creating this journal for someone who is so community-oriented was an honor for me. Susanne and Greg are the folks who walk the talk... who promote positive change in their neighborhood and in the world.

The process of creating it was -- as always -- a magical one for me. I sat still and listened to the Muse and let my fingers do the walking over my various leathers, papers, and books. The process is one of listening and -- literally -- feeling my way through the creation. I'm thankful I have a stash of possibilities because the end result was nothing like I had originally thought it would be. That's the difference between "thinking" and "intuiting": one makes sense, the other touches deeply. Each signature I sewed was twice knotted, and each knot holds blessings for Susanne as she begins this new chapter of her life.
The green leather wrap cover is soft but strong. Green symbolizes growth to me, as do seeds which is why I chose the inside wrap paper for this journal. I gleaned the endpapers that line the leather from a 1963 oversized Reader's Digest World Atlas; the inside front cover focuses on Colombia. Four dividers throughout the pages are made from other maps from the same book and are folded to create pockets where Susanne can insert pictures, notes, etc. The clasp is an antique mother-of-pearl buckle, a circle that connects to the ocean as well as the mothering and nurturing that Susanne is committed to. The inside back cover holds a small booklet where Mountain Bizworks staff members could write their own notes for Susanne to keep with the journal.

After she received the journal, I had the opportunity to meet Susanne, and was so struck by her depth of spirit and positive intention that it brought tears to my eyes. Now I am even MORE honored than ever to have created something for her to take on this brave journey from the people that she has so intimately affected. I know this clear-eyed intention and integrity will bless the people she and her family come in contact with in their work in Colombia. What courage, to leave all that is familiar and certain and move their family to a culture in upheaval and uncertainty. I truly admire that kind of commitment and dedication to peacemaking and community-building!

Whether it is in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our work, or in our world, we all are on missions -- aware or unawares. I hope your days are filled with community and peace-building opportunities.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Treasures Recovered"

I've been creating more recycled art for the show beginning this weekend at Hand in Hand. This groups are journals which are in my Treasures Recovered series, where I take evocative covers from old books which have been thrown away or tossed aside and reinvent them as journals.

Putting All the Pieces Together recycles a beautiful vintage photo album cover boasting a mosaic of intricate, colored wood inlay. I estimate this cover was created in the early 1900s.

Green leather reinforces the journal spine. The inside end papers remind me of the trees that form the basis of this book.

Writing pages are from another vintage photo album, cut to size. Eleven signatures of four pages each offer 88 pages (front and back) for writing. Scraps from the leaf end paper keep the signatures stable since there is no stitching used in the binding (the perforation of the pages is too delicate to sew through).

The Storyteller journal utilizes a cover from a book series written about the Old Testament. While it looks like a prophet on the cover, I have entitled this “The Storyteller”, because that’s what they were. And we have more storytellers today than prophets.

I added a new red leather spine to complement the old leather on the covers. To me, the red symbolizes the passion with which storytellers tell their tales. The end papers are wonderful, fibrous papers from around the world. Seven signatures of seven pages each create 196 pages (front and back).

The Secret of the Old Clock (originally published in 1959) was the first book written in the legendary Nancy Drew mystery series. How many of us young girls of the 60's dreamed of being Nancy Drew? Her bravery, her cleverness and intelligence… her perfect hair, her freedom!

Today, how many of us wonder about the secrets of time? Where did it go? What is the secret of time, and how do we best enjoy it?

I have embedded in the cover a vintage paper-covered pocket watch face with unusual “hands”, covered and protected by a misty vintage pocket watch crystal. The end papers inside are fabric scraps recycled into paper. Six signatures of six pages each offer 144 pages (front and back) for someone to tell of their life and times.

I'm on a roll! But I've got to get these to the gallery this afternoon, so I'll have to postpone making more Treasures Recovered until later (but all the ideas are just chattering at me in my head -- uh-oh... there go those voices again! -- I prefer to think of them as the Muses whispering...)

I hope you are having a creative day.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rainy Day and Green Leaves

I love writing haiku. It forces one to be succinct (and since I love to use words, succinct is a good thing!). Today, the skies are a soft grey (making the new leaves that much greener) and the day reminded me of a haiku I wrote in 2000 while on a Vision Quest:


The rain falls on leaves.
The leaves nod in agreement.
All applaud Nature.

It was a beautiful morning to take pictures. The green-grey leaves of hostas holding water and the amazing growth of our Colorado Blue Spruce. I love blue spruces; no matter what time of day or what weather, they look like they have silvery moonlight shining on them. They really are magical. This tree is about 8 years old; we planted it after Yule one year (instead of having a cut tree). It took a while to take root, but once it started growing, it has really shot up! (Maybe that's why new growth is called "shoots" because they really shoot up and out fast!) The volunteer pine tree shows growth, too.

I hope you enjoy your own new growth today.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Recycled Art

Hand in Hand, a local gallery owned by husband and wife team David Voorhees and Molly Sharp (he's a ceramicist, she's a silversmith and jeweler) is hosting an exhibit and sale called "Eco Art: Artists Respond -- Reclaim, Reuse, Recreate". I'm proud to be entering several pieces in it, both jewelry and journals.

I'm att. photos of the necklaces I made yesterday.

The first is entitled Dance of Words. I woke up Friday morning with the image in my head of the necklace (what a gift!). However, try as I might, I couldn't find the yellow metal "pencil-holder-thingy", which was very frustrating. Do you remember these? I don't know if they were pencil holders or pencil protectors, but I remember seeing one looooooong ago at my grandparents' home. They are metal with a design on them (probably souveniers from the 40s or so) and it held a pencil that you could slip into the bottom "barrel" part, and the top with an eraser built into the end slid on top to protect the point, much like a pen. I bought this yellow top depicting a "natural bridge in VA" in a pile of oddities from Smiley's Flea Market several years ago, but never quite knew what to do with it... until Friday morning... then I couldn't find it! *sigh* The Muse was laughing. Last night, I decided to ask Her to help me find it (and to sleep on it again), and within 5 minutes of looking after waking up Saturday morning, I found it! Hooray!

It is composed of old writing instruments. The "pencil-holder-thingy" has a page from a vintage dictionary inserted in it that is folded and rolled, upon which I have written:

I love words. I find irresistible their origins, their meanings, their similarities, and their differences, even their appearance. I relish reading and cherish crafting a well-written passage. I especially enjoy playing with words. I am passionate about puns. I want my epitaph to read, "She finally came to her wit's end."

There is also an OLD Parker fountain pen red ink cartridge (from my mom), vintage pen nibs, gold vintage faceted crystals from one of my great-aunt Weah's old necklaces (to symbolize the richness of language), red handmade glass beads (to represent passion), words from a vintage dictionary, gold hexagonal vintage chandeliers crystals (with "noun" and "verb" adhered to the back), paper beads rolled from the dictionary pages, glass beads, mother of pearl, amber, and miscellaneous copper chains. I am so pleased with it!

Next, I created another necklace that has been on my mind for a few months. When I was laid off from my job in January, I knew that "When a door closes, a window opens." I have a box full of old brass window sash escutcheons my dad bought from a hardware store that was closing back in the 60s or 70s, (see, I'm not the only pack-rat in the family! My mom and dad taught me well!) and I knew I wanted to use those with this idea in mind. So I searched through vintage books for the words "When a door closes, a window opens", set them in the escutcheon with resin, then drilled holes for the charms. I searched on Google Images for pics of doorways and open windows from all over the world and sandwiched them (front and back) with mica. The beads are handmade lampwork beads that I'm not going to use for my finer necklaces, but they're perfect for this!

Man, I love creating art! It just makes me so happy!

I hope you do something that makes you happy today.


Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fun and Firey Fertility Frolic

Blessed Beltane! (More commonly called May Day nowadays...) Beltane marks the transition from spring to summer, the mid-point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Beltane is one of eight Natural holydays that are points in the wheel of the year which remind us of the turning of the seasons. In honoring these holydays, we harmonize our lives with the rhythms and dances of Nature, the divinity that flows through all of creation.

Today is May Day, the first of May, when the ancients (as well as folks today) celebrate fertility -- of the land, of livestock, and of themselves. May Day is all about planting and planning the rich harvest and fertile animals that we count on to nourish us. It is also about celebrating fertility ourselves with flirtatious glances which lead to warm and firey relations.

The maypole anchors spring's spirited dance while a crackling Beltane fire promises deep transformation. We celebrate fertility and the coming of abundance individually, in pairs, and within community.

The tradition of maidens (supposedly virgins) dancing around the May Pole overtly represents the union of male and female. (I listed a recipe for May Wine earlier this month, which I'm sure the maidens and men enjoyed before their dance!) Beltane is certainly a favorite holyday of many folks, and with good reason!

Whenever I think of May Day, I remember the scene from Camelot that Guinevere and her maidens sang and danced to. Here are those joyous lyrics:

It's May! It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when everyone goes
Blissfully astray.

It's here! It's here!
That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear!

It's May! It's May!
That gorgeous holiday
When every maiden
prays that her lad
Will be a cad!
It's mad!

It's gay! It's gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that everyone takes,
Everyone breaks.
Everyone makes divine mistakes.
The lusty month of May!

Lyrics by Alan J Lerner

(When I was in college in the 70s I dated a guy who looked like Richard Harris as Arthur... and he rode a motorcycle. But that's another story...)

Fires of passion and purification burn bright at Beltane. Peasants, in their celebrations, would build small fires for their livestock to jump over to ensure fertility and plenty. Couples who hoped to conceive would hold hands and jump together over the fire. Dancing, singing, chanting, and drumming around the fire are traditional activities that help celebrate the abundance of blessings in our lives and to come.

A few years ago, I hosted a Peace Feast to celebrate Beltane with a community of women. We celebrated with writing our prayers for peace on long ribbons, which we then danced around a tree in our yard. The ribbons danced in the wind for many months after that. Once they finally came to rest on the ground, we burned them in a ceremonial fire and released the prayers again.

I like the idea of a May Tree in place of a May Pole. To me, it celebrates the Ma-tri-archy with a living being, not one cut from the ground and shaved of limbs. I also love honoring trees, which have been important to cultures around the world for eons.

In Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations author and urban shaman Donna Henes, introduces her writing about the connection of trees and spring with a poem from a sixth grader:

Spring is life.
Life is trees.
Trees are oxygen.
They all come together in one place.
Make us breathe and live...
Spring is the giving of life.

--Chieu Tran
Grade 6, I.S. 145

"Mama Donna" continues to write about Mid-Spring:

The tree of life, with its roots deep in the earth and its branches reaching upward toward heaven, out toward eternity, is the prime symbol of midspring celebrations in many cultures. Trees have long been worshipped as beneficent spirits of bounty. Trees shade and feed us, supply and sustain us. They breathe life into our lungs. Possessing potent powers of fertility, growth, and longevity, trees are the progenitors of the world family tree.

You can't see the forest for the trees in world mythology. The Masai people claim their descent to be rom an original parent tree. The Mayas of Central America understand themselves to be part of a great celestial ceiba tree. This silk-cotton tree, which stands for all life, is the pole at the center of the earth and serves to hold up the heavens. The Zapotec Tree of Life is 2,000 years old, 131 feet tall, and 138 feet in girth. It grows in Santa Maria del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. This majestic, stately being large enough to offer shade to five hundred adults, whic hsurvived Columbus and survived the conquistadors and survived the Mexican Revolution, is now suffering the consequences of air polution and a near-depleted groundwater table. The health and prognosis of the Great Tree of Life now hang in precarious balance.

The Koran refers to the cosmos as a tree. Yggdrasil, the World Ash, is the tree goddess of the Scandinavian underworld who overreaches the human abode, touching the sky with her branches. Her roots reach to the very center of the earth where they wind around the sacred wells that impart wisdom. The World Tree is the symbol of all relationship and, as such, is the central philosophical image for the Slavs. The Hebrew goddess Asherah was associated with a sacred tree. The Greek goddess Athena was symbolized by an eternally flourishing olive tree. Helen was worlshiped as a tree on the Greek isle of Rhodes into the 19th century. The Buddha was born under a tree at Lumbini, attained Enlightenment under a tree at Gaya, and enerted Nirvana under a tree at Kusinagara.

The Bodhi Tree. The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The Egyptian Tree of Life. The biblical Tree of Knowledge. The Persian Tree Opposed to Harm. The Navaho Tree. The Iroquois Tree of Peace. The Cedar Tree of the Ghost Dance. The Witch Tree of the Ojibwa. The Yoruban Universal Tree of Life. The Taoist Paradise Tree. The Celtic Tree of Paradise. The Germanic World Tree, the Heavenly Pillar. The Greek Sacred Pine of Attis. The Tree of Liberty of the French Revolution. The Oaxacan Tule Tree. The Kabbalah Tree. The Cedar of Lebanon. The Christmas Tree.

So now we celebrate the halfway mark between the Equinox and the Solstice. Everyone is dancing, not only the two-leggeds! This past week, I've seen birds courting, bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering, leaves bursting, and buds blooming in a frenzy of fertility. The colors and activity are inspiring and breathtaking. My red azaleas are so brilliant they seem to glow, as do the red maple leaves. There goes that tickle above my heart again. And this time, it's not about allergies!

I hope you join in with Nature's dance today!