Insatiable Hunger for Books

My hunger for books is insatiable right now, perhaps it’s the lazy heat of summer.  For the last several days, I can’t get enough time to read.  Do you ever feel that way?  As I type this blog post, there is a beckoning stack of books on my nightstand, another stack calling to me from a bookcase in the living room, & an invisible stack piling up on my Kindle.  I won’t venture too deeply in the “paper book versus electronic book” debate but suffice it to say they both have merit.  My Kindle is light, easy to carry, & a great way to get any book at a moment’s notice.  Paper books will always hold a special place in my heart– the colorful shiny cover, the crisp pages just waiting for me to underline something or make a note in the margin, the smell of newness (or age), & the sound of each page as I fall deeper & deeper in the experience.  Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter.  At different times, I need different books.

I plan to read all of these… except the dictionary & thesaurus 🙂

What I read depends on where I’m at with my life & how I’m feeling at any given moment.  For example, while I was immersed in my women’s workshop this past spring, I read such titles as Creating Mandalas by RA Johnson, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood by M Stone, & Wise Talk, Wild Women by G Mazer, works that fed my need to unite creativity & the divine feminine.  As I prepared for a spiritual retreat at the Omega Institute, I devoured Soul Retrieval by S. Ingerman & Shamanic Reiki by L Roberts.

A rich variety that helped me be a better workshop facilitator & more well-rounded spiritual woman.

Needing a break from non-fiction, I turned to The Tiger’s Wife by T Obreht (complex yet beautifully written) & Haunting of Maddy Clare by S St. James (suspenseful escapism).  Today, I’m savoring Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by N Sankovich.  She writes, “… all the great books I was reading- were about the complexity & entirety of the human experience.  About the things we wish to forget & those we want more & more of.  About how we react & how we wish we could react.  Books are experience, the words of authors providing the solace of love, the fulfillment of family, the torment of war, & the wisdom of memory.  Joy & tears, leisure & pain: everything came to me while I read in my purple chair.”

It’s not a purple chair but it’s a wonderful place to read on a summer afternoon.

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Serve- For the Spiritual Journey

It’s been weeks since I worked on a new piece for my collage series entitled “For the Spiritual Journey”.  Last week, “Serve”, #10 in the series, finally came to me in a moment of inspiration.  I laughingly say “in a moment of inspiration” because inspiration is a funny thing.  In a way, it can’t be forced.  That’s why it took so long for me to complete this piece.  Yet, in another way, inspiration has to be encouraged by looking at the unfinished work daily, letting it incubate in my mind & heart, sketching ideas as they come, & persevering until the right image appears.  Like Thomas A. Edison said, “Success is 10% inspiration & 90% perspiration.”

This collage series represents the many components of the individual spiritual journey.  Some may resonate with you while others do not.  That’s ok.  Take what works & leave the rest.

“Serve” resonates deeply with me because it takes spirituality to a more meaningful level, by looking within to discover gifts, talents, & strengths to share with other beings.  Beliefs & values become purpose-full actions.

I created a figure standing on an open lotus blossom, awakened by the divine energy entering the crown of his head.  His outreached, deliberately over-sized hands open to the world, allowing that divine energy to flow through him & radiate to the world around him.  He discovers his life’s purpose through the act of service.

Share your unique gifts with the world. “Serve”

What does this look like in my life?  I’m still figuring that out.  But I think I’ve purchased enough books, taken enough classes, & meditated enough to know that the next step is serving as the opportunity arises.  I don’t have all the answers but like the figure in this piece, I’m open to the Divine & willing to share of my Self.

Lazy Days of Summer

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!  I have a secret that needs to come out; despite being a total nature lover, I find summer is the most difficult season to love. There, I said it.  Every June I come up with dozens of ideas for outdoor projects, ignoring Mother Nature’s gentle reminder which I vaguely recognize from last June, “You might want to do your outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day & rest when the sun is at its highest.”  When I continue to work in the yard, despite her warning, she gets parental by shrugging & saying, “Ok, I tried to warn you.  Now you have to learn the hard way.”  The reward for my stubbornness is exhaustion, icky sweat, & sunburn.  As I rub aloe across my red shoulders & down my red nose,  I humbly remember I need to work on Nature’s terms if I want to enjoy the summer.

Lawnchairs in the shade beckon as the temperature climbs.

It’s all about balance & learning from nature.  Birds, deer, & other wildlife are most active in the cooler parts of the day.  Intuitively, I know that & always have.   I now do my chores early in the morning.  Once the temperature rises, I read, meditate, sketch, or perform self-Reiki in the shade of my young maple tree.  Occasionally, I nap because that’s what summer is for!!  Just ask Paco, he knows 🙂

Paco, my Lhaso Apso, knows how to beat the heat.

One Flower

My art & spirituality weave so tightly with nature that I can’t tell where one begins & the other ends.  They are me.  I often start the day gazing across my back garden, saying “Thank you” to the Great Divine for every bird’s nest, blueberry, & flower in my yard.  There is such joy & wonder in these little things.

There is also great change from day to day.  Crocuses bloom & die, making way for forsythias, hyacinths, & tulips. They, in turn, die to make way for bee balm, daisies, & hibiscus blossoms.  I have to take time to walk my yard each day so I don’t miss any of the magic that is right here, changing with each season.

This whimsical 12 inch collage in browns, pinks, & a hint of turquoise metallic ink was inspired by a tulip blooming under my bedroom window.  Like Georgia O’Keefe, I knelt down very, very close to the flower to see the subtle color changes in her petals & note the many greens in her stem & leaves… taking time to really know her.  I drew a quick sketch then played with the image to make it mine.  There is no way to capture the beauty in nature; all I can do is hope to capture the feeling it gives me.  This flower was fun, joyful, & full of silent laughter so that’s the mood I tried to give this piece.

One Flower: All the wonder of the world is contained in its petals.

Take time to connect with a flower or leaf.  Get to know it well.  The universe is contained there, waiting to be discovered by you.  Happy summer!

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan


Blueberries for Everyone

It’s the start of blueberry season, a treasured time of year because I can pluck warm, juicy, perfectly ripened berries from the bush & pop them into my eager mouth.  You have to have this experience for yourself to know the world of difference between freshly-picked & store-bought berries.  There is no comparison!

Two years ago, I asked my boyfriend to build a wooden structure covered with netting to keep the birds off the blueberries.  After spending all day running errands, I came home to find a mourning dove with her wing tangled in the netting, flailing to free herself.  How long had she been trapped like that?!  I helped her get loose & thankfully, she flew away unharmed.  No amount of blueberries was worth seeing her frightened & distressed so I vowed to do things differently next year.

Last year, I didn’t cover the bushes at all.  While I thought I could get up early enough in the morning to get a few berries before the birds got them, it never happened.   Sure, the birds were happy but I was starving for blueberry pancakes, muffins,& smoothies.  Again, I vowed to do things differently next year.

It’s taken a couple of years but I think I’ve worked out a way to do this without being “extreme” in my methods (or ideology).  The solution… compromise.  (Isn’t that so often the solution?)  This year, we designed the perfect protection for the blueberries so we can enjoy them now & have plenty to freeze for winter while leaving two bushes uncovered to feed the birds.

Berries for Us

Berries for the Birds

This compromise is a symbol of my gratitude for what Mother Nature has given me as well as my belief that we must share what we have with others.  By freely sharing our abundance, there is more for me & more for the birds, too.  We all win!

Who knew that blueberry bushes would come to represent my spiritual journey? 

Plenty for Everyone

Horse Sense

Every once in a while, I like to share a book, art exhibit, or movie that resonates deeply with me.  Buck, a movie directed by Cindy Meehl, made me really stop & think.  It received the Sundance Audience Award for Best Documentary & I can clearly see why.  Buck Brannaman is a master horseman & the consultant/inspiration for Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer.  I’d go so far as to say Buck’s a philosopher whose “horse sense” could benefit educators, parents, & well… anyone who wants to relate better to others in a more positive way.

I’m always inspired by people who overcome life’s obstacles & rise above adversity with dignity, class, & style.  Buck is one of those people.  While others use their experience being abused as an excuse to abuse others, Buck was determined to break that cycle.  The pain he suffered at the hands of his father helped him to relate to horses who were also  “broken”.  He realized there must be a better way to train these beautiful animals & soon connected with someone who taught him gentler, kinder horse-training techniques.  Throughout the DVD, in his soft-spoken way, Buck lets us know that everyone (humans & animals alike) responds better to kindness.

At one point in the movie, a woman shows up at one of his clinics (workshops) with a horse who has clearly been mistreated & attacks anyone who dares get close to his teeth or hooves.  In the clip, Buck is obviously distraught but honest with the woman.  The horse has to be put down.  He’s violent & dangerous.  It’s not the horse’s fault, Buck explains, it’s hers.  She didn’t care for this animal responsibly & now he would be paying the price with his life.  Buck tells her that “the horse is a window to the owner’s soul” & she has some serious soul-searching to do.

How true it is… how you treat others speaks volumes about you.

Let It Happen

The Diary of Frida Kahlo with a forward by Carlos Fuentes is a disturbing book that is a window into Frida’s tortured body & soul.  If you don’t know anything about this passionate artist, watch the DVD Frida starring Selma Hayek.  It’s powerful!  Though I can’t say I connect to her work, or even like it, a statement in this diary inspired me.  Frida worked in a variety of media & often let the choice of medium dictate the subject matter & theme of her work… especially in her diary (which resembles what we now call an art journal).

Sounds intriguing.  So, I got out my opaque watercolors, Prismacolor markers, Sharpies, & Staedtler triplus fineliner pens with the intent of letting them lead me to subjects I may not normally create.  It worked!  I created some rather odd drawings along with some bits of writing triggered by the imagery.  While these in no way resemble my finished art, they came from a different place in me– a place not encumbered by logic or planning but rather, a place of emotion & spirituality.

The first piece turned out to be something that can be viewed right side up & upside down.  Reflecting back on it, I see that it is a Yin Yang- type of symbol.   To live means to experience both pleasure & sadness.

Swirls of opaque watercolor & pen details.  Upside down, the frowning animal is more obvious.

This way, the smiling animal is more obvious.  The writing says, “To Smile, To Frown, To Live.  All is One.”

The next piece was also watercolor & pen.  The way the watercolor ran down the page revealed these two figures with hands touching.  It came to me so easily that I felt I was merely tracing the image I saw.  They seem to smile & say, “Join us.  Open up to your highest potential.”    While they seem “other-worldly”, I really think they represent you & me.

We are beings of light with limitless possibilities.

This last image came from an opaque watercolor background & broad-tipped Prismacolor markers.  This one did not come so easily.  The figure seems stiff & disproportionate but I love what I wrote to accompany the image.

“She knows the rhythms, honoring them in herself.  Phases of the moon, seasons of the year, her own ups & downs, ebbs & flows.  Everything has a cycle.  Everything takes a turn.  In her heart, she knows all of this.”

She knows….  And deep down, YOU know, too.