There are many major events in our culture that have their own ritual from weddings to graduations yet there are some that have no ritual at all, a girl’s transition to womanhood with her first period or a boy’s transition to manhood (when exactly is that?). There is a growing movement to make moments more special by personalizing rituals that aren’t very meaningful anymore (the commercialization of holidays comes to mind) or creating new rituals where there isn’t one. I had to do that when Buddy, my dog of 13 years, died. I mentioned in my last post how it affected Pixie, my darling Shih Tzu. I don’t have to go into detail about how deeply it affected me, too.
To honor Buddy’s memory, give him a proper good-bye, & give myself closure, I created my own ritual that included a burial with his favorite stuffed animal, a eulogy where I mentioned many of the wonderful memories we shared, journal writing, & the creation of a portrait that was based on a silly photo of him & Pixie in a washtub. How he hated that experience! I could practically hear him protesting the humiliation of being photographed in a plastic tub. Totally embarrassing for a dog of his stature 🙂 The portrait wasn’t meant to be realistic; it was meant to capture his playful yet curmudgeonly spirit as well as Pixie’s sweetness. This artwork helped me heal & still makes me laugh each time I see it. Art is one of the great healers & a valuable component to meaningful ritual for me. How do you make rituals meaningful for yourself?
Animals have feelings, not unlike human animals– listen to a cow call longingly for her newborn calf, watch a mama Grizzly protect her cub, look at polar bear babies snuggling their mother as they sleep. Knowing that animals are sentient beings who feel resonated with me most powerfully when Pixie, my Shih Tzu, mourned the loss of Buddy (my other Shih Tzu who died at age 13). They were constant companions & she suffered the same way each of us suffer the loss of a loved one. She got depressed, refusing to eat or drink. She literally seemed to give up on life. It took IV fluids, lots of love, & a new companion to give her the will to live without him. For this & many other reasons, much of my artwork is an attempt to depict how animals might feel when left to live life freely. I love the small painting shown below. From the minute I lay the wet brush to the canvas, I knew this was going to be a fox with personality plus!
Sweet Dreams Fox captures a young red fox asleep among crunchy Autumn leaves, happily dreaming of chasing rabbits or playing with his foxy friends in a nearby field. I can hear him making noises like a sleeping dog, little growls & barks of contentment. Isn’t nature wonderful? Aren’t animals amazing? Don’t we owe it to them to be good stewards of the earth, spreading a message of peace, interconnectedness, & the value of all life? (Sorry to be preachy…I guess I’m feeling the importance of this message as deer hunting season starts tomorrow.)
Have you ever entered an art supply store & had your eyes dance with excitement when you spot something you’ve never used before? That happened to me recently– I fell in love with these cute 3-inch square canvases at Dick Blick’s. Working on this scale is new for me but I had a feeling it would be fun to try. Before I got to the cash register, I knew that they would be mini-portraits of animals to set on a small ledge in my house but that’s all I knew.
What’s nice about working on a small scale is that it’s inexpensive, quick, & liberates me from my tendency to be a perfectionist. I don’t worry about what anyone else may think– I’m creating art for art’s sake. Letting my heart lead the way, I chose acrylics in bright jewel tones, black, & white for the background surface treatment. My brush was relatively dry to give the effect of colored chalks on a chalkboard- sketchy & rough. After completing the backgrounds, I sipped Jasmine tea while patiently waiting for Divine inspiration to speak to me & influence the art. One by one, Snowy Owl, Holstein Cow, Mourning Dove, White-Tailed Deer, & my Shih Tzu Pixie appeared in the paint. It was a relatively quick art session but sometimes the best art happens that way 🙂
Try experimenting outside your comfort zone by working on a scale you normally don’t use. It will give you a fresh perspective on your creative process but most of all, you’ll have fun trying something new. By the way, I’m offering free shipping through Dec. 31st to anyone who purchases something at my Etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan. Use coupon code SAK1966.
By our nature, artists are highly sensitive people. We feel deeply & it shows in our art, writing, dance, & music. So, it comes as no surprise when my creative friends & family members express that they are going through a highly emotional time or a time when everything bad seems to be happening at once. I’m experiencing that, too. It feels as though I’m the only one noticing body language, picking up on subtle clues, & sensing things in what people say & do that others aren’t picking up on. If you’ve seen the movie Stepford Wives, you know what I mean.
So what’s a creative spirit to do? I’ve turned to my dreams for answers as their imagery is full of symbolism that speaks to my soul & often provide insight into what I can’t understand in my awake time. For example, last night, I dreamed there were a few small black lizards in my backyard. Every time I looked out the window, there were more, larger jet-black lizards. I wasn’t frightened at all; they were here to tell me something. I went outside & walked among them fearlessly. When I awoke, I referred to Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. In it, he writes that lizards are symbols of intuition & heightened sensitivity (interesting!!). Listen to that intuition & honor those feelings in your Self. He also writes that some lizards have tails that detach when they are attacked. “Sometimes, it is necessary to separate ourselves, or part of ourselves, from others to be able to do the things we must desire to do.”
What does all this mean for those of us struggling to make sense of insane situations or overwhelming amounts of negativity? Pause. Meditate. Dream. Listen to your inner voice for guidance. And, if necessary, physically, emotionally, and/or mentally remove yourself from the situation to see it more clearly. If nothing else, an appropriate level of detachment could be the healthiest thing you can do right now. As for snowballing amounts of negativity, counteract that by doing something positive for yourself & someone else. The only thing that will dispel the darkness is light. Be a light to others but most of all, be a light to your Self.
When Mother Nature talks, I try to listen. In the past two weeks, I’ve intuitively heard her say when it’s time to prepare for winter & when it’s time to enjoy a gorgeous autumn day. On Oct. 29th, the sky was grey with fat, wet flakes falling to the ground. Leaves weren’t even off the trees yet. How bizarre to see two seasons occurring at once! At first, the snowfall was beautiful to watch but soon the trees bent low under it’s weight. Mother Nature sounded the warning so I raced outside with a broom to sweep snow off the branches before they snapped. Thankfully, my trees survived. That day woke us to the reality that winter is just around the corner. Time to prepare. Since then, we’ve power-washed the house, tilled the garden, rolled up the hose, & repaired gutters. I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be.
Autumn & Winter at the same time.
Mother Nature spoke to me again today. “Come play,” she beckoned, “The sky is blue, the air is mild, & the last of the leaves are about to fall from the trees.” We drove to the lake, an art date with Mother Nature (as well as my boyfriend). I picked up rocks rich with mica or quartz, glistening like jewels on the rocky beach. We skipped stones like children & I climbed among gnarled roots to hug trees so big my arms couldn’t wrap around them. Yes, I take “tree hugger” literally 🙂
This day was a sigh. A lovely break from the routine so I could commune with Mother Nature, centering me & soothing my spirit. May you find time this week to find peace in nature.
Who can resist being in nature on a day like this!
I’ve had my share of periods notoriously known as “Artist’s Block”, very similar to what writers experience when the desire is there but the ideas are not. It happens to all creative people sooner or later. I’m not exactly sure what cleared my block but I do know that meditating, walking in nature, going on field trips to fun places, & surrounding myself with positive people contributed to the shift inside of me.
I now have the opposite problem, a wonderful, energy-charged problem– too many ideas & too little time. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining. Far from it! I’m humble & grateful for this flow of inspiration that has sprinkled my studio with canvases, blocks of wood, & art journals in various stages of completion. What’s an artist to do?! You might say, “Finish them, Silly!” And I will. But right now, I feel like a child with too many toys on Christmas morning. What do I play with first?
See my dilemma?
I'm loving this art journal spread!
Love the background but have no idea what it will be.
Have you ever felt like you need to regain your sense of direction? Maybe after ending a relationship, finding yourself in a professional “rut”, or realizing your spiritual path needs a bit of illumination? I created a workshop for people who know themselves intellectually, but may need a little help getting in touch with their heart again. I ask participants to turn down the volume in their brains so the voice in their heart can be heard more clearly. Then, we set to work.
1. Consider your purpose in creating a Soul Wish collage. What do you want to know about yourself? 2. Go through a pile of magazines quickly, allowing your intuition to select what images & words speak to you. Don’t analyze; just CUT! 3. Arrange the images on poster paper. 4. Glue them down in a way that feels right to you. Keep in mind that a lot of space or no space between images can tell you something about yourself, too. 5. Hang the board somewhere private but where you see it often. 6. Lovingly listen to your Self. Journal or meditate on your Soul Wish collage. Even as you journal, allow thoughts & feelings to flow through you without your brain editing, analyzing, or criticizing. The collage will speak to you; listen.
Keep in mind, you can repeat this activity any time you feel your life is going through a major shift or any time you need to get in touch with the real you.
An example of a Soul Wish collage. You can see common elements.
A strong desire for the simple things in life.
Longing for love & laughter.
The Soul Wish collage I created during my second workshop.
An exciting time of growth & possibilities.
Dreaming is the only way to make your dreams come true.
Sometimes, a little voice full of self-doubt can whisper things like, “You can’t make money doing that” or “There are already a zillion artists (writers, chefs, whatever…) in the world, you don’t need to be one.” That’s the annoying voice that prevents us from following our bliss. I like the voice that says “There’s no competition for your life’s true purpose” much better. That’s the encouraging intuitive voice that knows we are at our best when we are doing what we love.
What would the world be like if Matisse hesitated because there were already a lot of French artists? What if Meryl Streep went into accounting because she thought there were too many actors vying for work? What if Oprah stayed in Chicago living a life that was too small for her? Only you can fulfill your own destiny by taking that first step & seeing what will happen. It doesn’t have to be a major career change, although that might come naturally 🙂 Maybe it’s about exploring a new hobby, volunteering somewhere different, or taking yourself on a day trip somewhere unfamiliar. Try what your heart is calling you to try! My heart continues to tell me to create, lead workshops on spiritual discovery, garden organically, blog, write, & spend time in nature. Who knows where these passions will lead!
Have you ever driven by some churches that have those clever & amusing quotes on signs along the road? One sign I read said to “Invest your time; don’t waste it.” What great advice for us creative types who always find excuses for not pursuing what we love. Dream boldly then take a step. You’ll be glad you did!