Little Joys- Signs of Spring

Garden Gnome keeps watch

I am not the only one watching for signs of Spring.

Celebrating the Earth

This year’s Spring vacation was actually a “stay-cation” and I couldn’t be happier.  I spent a glorious week noticing the daily subtle changes in my own backyard.  Every day is Earth Day to me and every moment of every day has it’s own, never-to-be-replicated beauty.  From a gathering of bluejays to a spectacular sunrise, blink and I miss it.  Gaia calls us to be fully present to experience her rich bounty.

Daffodils in my Garden

The daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.

I celebrate the early spring color palette with each new blossom and blade of grass.  Blink and I miss the brilliant yellow daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.  The yellow forsythias wave their arms in greeting.  The white, delicate lace flowers of the serviceberry act as a veil between me and the clear blue sky.  “Everything is holy now,” Peter Mayer wisely wrote.

A veil of serviceberry blossoms against the bright blue sky

“Everything is Holy now” wrote Peter Mayer.

Blink and I miss the yellows and whites make way for the purple of lilac and hyacinth and the delicate pinks of cherry and dogwood.  Each has it’s own cycle within the greater cycle of transformation that forms the wheel of the year.

Blink and I miss the little place in my garden where a rabbit is preparing a nest for her young.  One day, I noticed the mulch in a flowerbed pushed aside.  Soon, dried grass and straw appeared in a neat little pile.  Then, this little nest materialized.  As I write and look out my window, the nest is completely hidden from view by a mother who instinctively knows what to do for her young ones.  How much wiser would we be if we were more attuned to Nature?  What do we know that we have forgotten?

Rabbit mother prepares for birth

Mulch and soil are pushed aside as a mother rabbit prepares a place for her babies.

Ok, confession time.  At the time of the Winter Solstice, I hung a wreath by my front door.  Amazingly, it stayed perfectly green through December, January, February, and most of March.  I should have taken it down but procrastinated.  By the time I thought about it again, I noticed a bird flitting back and forth from the wreath to wherever she needed to go for food and… you guessed it… building material for her nest.  Well, what could I do?  The wreath is brown and brittle but she loved the location and gave birth to three wee ones.  When they fly the nest, I’ll toss the wreath.  I promise.

Mother bird chooses a safe place for raising her young.

A winter wreath becomes the birthplace of three birds.

Honoring the Earth

I could sit in reverence all day every day, observing the beings in my yard live, grow, and eventually die.  The cycle of birth-death-rebirth is the natural way of things.  I know.  But Mother Earth calls me to action.  It’s not enough to take, I must give back to stay in right relationship with Her.

I honor Her by vowing to be a steward of the land entrusted to me for as long as I live here.  Ancestors of bloodline and ancestors of place are with me as I cut back dead raspberry canes and clear the space around my grapevines.  I hear my grandfather’s voice echo in my heart, gifting me with his wisdom of flora and fauna.  I see the rainbow of jars in my grandmother’s root cellar- her connection to the land made visible.  I sense the presence of those who tended this plot of land long before “my people” even set foot on the shore of North America as immigrants in the early 20th century.

So I garden without herbicides and pesticides.  I hang prayer flags and make offerings.  I grab a lawn chair and my watercolors for a quick plein air session with the tulips and squirrels.  I pick up every bit of trash that blows into my yard.  It’s heartbreaking to see a birdnest with trash woven in among the grass, straw, and twigs.  I plant native species and compost as much as possible.  I do what I can the best I can.

Most importantly, I sit in silence and listen to her many voices– the wind, the rain, the birdsong, and my own contented sighs of belonging.  Call it prayer, call it meditation,… I call it CONNECTION.

Being in Relationship with Mother Earth

I love them all… all of the beings on our beautiful planet.  My view of “beings” has greatly expanded with my awareness of indigenous cultures and earth-centered traditions.  Trees, streams, oceans, plains, mountains, polar bears, glaciers, bees, wolves, … do you get where I’m going with this?  We are all connected.  All life is one.

I weep for the fact that we live in a time where we have to march to protect our planet.  In less than three centuries, we have littered the world with plastic, fossil fuel pollution, and chemicals.  We have killed more species than I can fathom- extinct, gone,…forever.  We continue to threaten all life with our choices and this breaks my heart but I’m hopeful that we are raising awareness and more of us are doing what we can to help the environment… for all of us…and I do mean ALL OF US.

I pray that we can educate and enlighten the ignorant.  I also pray that love, light, reverence, and stewardship quickly replace greed, hatred, destruction, and domination.  May we each do what we can to protect our home… our Mother.  I hope you take part in one of the marches around the world next Saturday.  Raise your voice for those who don’t have a voice.

Mother Earth, Mother Earth,

Take our seeds and give them birth.

Father Sun, gleam and glow,

‘Til the roots begin to grow.

Sister Rain, Sister Rain,

Shed your tears to swell the grain.

Brother Wind, breathe and blow,

Tell the blades so green to grow.

Earth and Sun, Wind and Rain

Bring to life the living grain.

Waldorf Song for Children (Writer Unknown)

 

 

 

Standing on Solid Ground

On Solid Ground by Susan Korsnick

On Solid Ground. Mixed media piece by Susan Korsnick

Standing on Solid Ground in Shaky Times

This past week, I realized that many of the women I came in contact with were voicing the same concerns that I was voicing to myself.  “How do I keep getting up in the morning when all I hear is news about hatred, greed, ignorance, deception, and abuse of power?”  “How do I keep vigilant and actively involved when I’m so exhausted?”  “I’m only one person.  How can I possibly do this?”

One of the most important things I can do is continually remind myself that there are millions of people around the world doing great things– speaking out in support of diversity, doing what they can to safeguard immigrants, actively engaging in ways to help Mother Earth and protect all beings, defending women’s rights to have autonomy over our own bodies, voting, marching, RESISTING.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our current “situation” is calling us to take a stand like most of us have never had to do before.  I’m a baby boomer, born in the 1960s.  I was still crawling when Civil Rights supporters were marching.  I was wearing rompers when women were burning their bras.  For most of my life, I took for granted that someone else had done my fighting for me and the fight was over.  But now, we are all being called to resist darkness in all it’s forms and the emotions that often accompany challenging times- fear, despair, anxiety, and depression.  At times, I want to say “I don’t have it in me to fight.”  But I do.  I know I do.  We all do if we do it together and maintain our footing on solid ground.  Stay grounded in what matters most.

What does LifeBook have to do with it?

I’m quite an admirer of Tamara LaPorte’s LifeBook online art class.  The yearlong online art class approaches art as a pathway to self-awareness, healing, and creative expression.  Each week, Tam or one of her many guest instructors share a lesson that participants can follow closely or use as inspiration for whatever their intuitive knowing calls them to create.  There is a Facebook group where we can share our art and personal journey with others.  Having a support system is vital to creative expression and resiliency in difficult times.

Lindsay Weirich recently offered a lesson called Solid Ground, which profoundly moved and inspired me to create the piece you see above.  There is deep shadow and contrasting light on the woman and subtle hearts around her.  She is me.  She might be you.  The words say “Self Love is not self indulgence.  Self Love is self preservation.”  It is my reminder to stay grounded in love.

Self Love is a Key to Wellness

Staying grounded, for me, is a multi-faceted approach to wellness and at the core is Self Love.  We have to take care of ourselves in every way.  Physically, we need to stay rooted in the present moment.  This keeps fear of the future and imaginary “what-ifs” at bay.  Mentally, stay focused on what we can do and how we can do it.  Then, recognize when it is time to stop and honor our need for rest.  Emotionally, stay heart-centered and express gratitude for all that is good in life.  Spiritually, stay grounding in what we believe and our connection to Source, Universal Love, Spirit, God, or Goddess (however you identify the divine).

A few years ago I hosted a Red Tent Event where self-love was our focus.  I reflected on this in my blog post Refilling the Well.   When we are under stress or fearful, we forget that we have the answers available to us if we listen to our inner wisdom, to our higher selves.  The Red Tent participants explored ways to ground themselves and shared their experiences in a sacred Wisdom Circle.  Each woman had unique ways that nourish her.  I can’t remember what I shared that day but I can share what keeps me on solid ground today.

Ways I Stay on Solid Ground

  1. ART–  Creative expression is a powerful outlet for feelings and a way to nourish myself at the same time.  When I play music (current favorites are Shamanic drumming, Reiki CDs, healing mantras, and songs of divine feminine beings like Kuan Yin and Tara) while I create, the very act of creation becomes a contemplative practice.  My art is sacred.  This holy act of creation connects me to the Divine and my highest self.
  2. NATURE– From my earliest walks in the woods of central Pennsylvania with my beloved grandfather to a vision quest in the mountains of Vermont, I have always felt a deep connection to Mother Earth and all beings.  I feel at one with the wildlife, every winged, four-legged, slithering, swimming, being in all of creation.  I feel a kinship with the rocks, trees, sky, earth, and water.  All is one.  Mother Earth is what I value above all else for I know that without Her, there is nothing else.  This is what nourishes me and what I am fighting for.  I live my life to protect and honor nature as best I can.
  3. BODY WORK– Massages and related services keep me grounded in my body and relax me so I can maintain my energy level and health.
  4. GRATITUDE– I balance the messages in the media with a daily gratitude practice.  I give thanks for all that I appreciate having in my life.  Focusing on the positives provides the balance I need.  I often call these gratitudes my “Little Joys”.
  5. RELATIONSHIPS– Here, I’m talking about all of my relationships- family, friends, colleagues, as well as other like-minded people who value what I do and stand up for their beliefs.  Being in community with like-minded individuals dispels the illusion that we are alone in this.  We are not!  There are grassroots groups in just about every town and city in this country.  There are online groups as well.  Find your tribe.
  6. SLEEP– I am getting better at listening to my body and honoring my need for rest.
  7. EAT WELL-  As much as possible, I eat a rainbow.  That is a wonderful visual for reminding me to eat fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  I don’t want to leave out brown so I eat plenty of chocolate and drink good coffee, too!  (These are little luxuries that make life worth living.)
  8. ENERGY WORK– Reiki sessions align my chakras, keep the universal life-force energy flowing, and allow me to relax.
  9. INSPIRING PEOPLE– Focus on the inspirational people, past and present, who are way-showers for me.  I particularly find comfort and inspiration in the stories of everyday men and women who stood up for what they believed in despite their fear or anxiety.  What can one person do?  One person can change the world!  There has only been one Mother Teresa, one Gandhi, one Rosa Parks,… just one of each.  There is only one you and only one me.  We matter.
  10. HAVE FUN–  I can walk the dogs, watch Grace and Frankie, go out with friends, or just play with my art supplies enjoying the process with no thought of product.

May you identify what keeps you on solid ground.

May you find peace and balance.

May you find your tribe and your strength.

May you always know that you matter.

Namaste

 

Self-Care for the Empath on the March

stillness

Self-Care is necessary for body, mind, and spirit.

Who Has Time for Self-Care?

I’ve always been a “To-Do-List” maker.  In the past, I made grocery lists, work-related lists, lists of errands I had to run on Saturday, and even a list of things I’d like to do if I wasn’t so busy making lists!  Do you know anyone like this?

Lately, my list also includes things like march on Washington, call my legislators, write to them when they stop taking phone calls, and put my money where my mouth is by getting rid of credit cards that are affiliated with companies that support things that I don’t.  I never dreamed I’d need a list like this.  I don’t want a list like this!  Who would?!

march-3

I never imagined this being on my To-Do list but it is!

In addition to being a list-maker, I’m an empath and maybe you are, too.  Empaths are highly sensitive people who feel deeply and try to do as much as they can.  They…we… act from a place of compassion and love but can easily get overwhelmed.  It leaves me feeling like this…

Freyjas Soulful Eyes

I have nothing left to give.

 

 So what can I do for body, mind, and spirit?

For me, it begins with a brand new To-Do list, identifying ways to balance what I need with what I need to do.  What are all the ways I can nourish and nurture myself so I don’t get depleted?

  • Body:  Getting sick or exhausted doesn’t do anybody any good… least of all ourselves.  To take care of our physical bodies, I suggest things such as a deep tissue massage, exercise a few times a week, eating healthy foods and also allowing the occasional treat, yoga, and my personal favorite- simply being in nature.  Nothing compares to a few minutes in my backyard where I can listen to the birds and watch the sun set while I swing in a hammock with my fuzzy kids.
  • Mind: This includes things that release my mind from my lists and the oh-so-real sorrows of the world.  I read for the sheer joy of it (mysteries and historical fiction right now).  I also do my best to focus on positive words of encouragement and affirmations like those Jessica Swift sends out as part of her 100 Uplifting Messages 100 Days in a Row.  Part of nurturing a healthy mind is knowing my limits, saying “No” when I need to, and disconnecting from social media when it gets to be too much.  Did I, a blogger, just write that?!  Yes.  Unplug and be present.
  • Spirit:  A balanced program of self-care has to include the spirit.  It can take many forms including meditation, prayer, connecting with a like-minded spiritual community, embracing solitude, Reiki, creative expression, and cuddling your 2-legged and 4-legged loved ones (a bit more difficult if you have a parakeet or fish).

One of the first things I notice about that 3-prong guide to self-care is that it is all connected.  What nourishes the body can also soothe the spirit and quiet the mind.  This reminds me of my post titled Boundaries & Priorities from May 2014.  Following these suggestions and reflecting on those I wrote about 3 years ago take me from “I have nothing left to give” to this….

peaceful-girl

Shhh… self-care in progress.

In the March/April 2017 issue of Spirituality & Health magazine, Dr. Judith Orloff’s  article “The Empowered Empath” shares some of her tips for refilling our well so we have more to give others.  I am particularly moved by her Empath Affirmation.

“I will treasure myself and vow to have people in my life who treasure me.

I will use my sensitivities to better my own life and the world.

I will celebrate the adventure of being an empath.”

What do you do for self-care?

I’d love to hear what works for you.

 

 

 

The Web of Life

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  

Chief Seattle (1780-1866)

Treasure in the Gulf

Treasure in the Gulf:  My homage to the lives lost to the horrific BP Oil Disaster of 2010.

With all of the darkness right now from the embarrassing US presidential scene to Orlando shootings, I am choosing to stand on the side of love and light.  I will do what I can from a place of joy, love, honor, and respect.  For me, that is creating art that lifts up what I value most — nature, the Divine in everything, and the beauty in the everyday.

On April 20, 2010, the horrific BP oil disaster killed and injured countless animals and damaged miles of sea and land.  My empathetic nature brought me to a place of being nearly overwhelmed by the magnitude of what humans have done and continue to do to the earth and sentient beings.  Thankfully, I was inspired to use my art as my voice.  I created a mixed media piece called Treasure In the Gulf to honor the lives of those that suffered and died, specifically the sea turtles.  Art matters.  The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia, got wind of this piece and asked to sell prints.  I agreed, donating a portion of the proceeds to the center for the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles victimized by the tragedy.  In some small way, my art made a difference.  We each have to do what we can when faced with darkness in all its forms.  Sometimes, we cannot fathom how our actions will impact others.  It’s just important to act from the heart.

I’m feeling called again.  We (and this is the universal “we” of the larger culture) invade their (the animals who were here long before us) territory to build homes and businesses then wonder why they are encroaching on “our” space.  We destroy their habitats and put those that remain into captivity then wonder why they act the way they act.  We call ourselves thrill-seekers, putting our lives in harm’s way for the rush we get for being in danger, then wonder why we are attacked.  We wonder why there aren’t as many of a species (or why they vanished) when we hunt them for “sport” and pose for “cutsey” pictures of ourselves with rifles and a beautiful dead beast lying in a pool of its own blood on the ground in front of us.

Look at us.  There are some who have taken the position that we are here to hold dominion over the earth and its other inhabitants (the animals, the trees, the ocean, and all others).  Dominion… domination.  Look where that has gotten us.

My belief holds that we are stewards of the land and that we are here only for a little while to take care of, honor, protect, and love.  Yes, we need places to live and yes, we need food.  We can have those things and be stewards of the earth at the same time.   “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”  Iroquios saying circa 1700-1800.

It is a tragedy when an animal does something that harms or kills a human being.  I do not diminish that with this blog post by any means.  I want to broaden our perspective and take compassion on all the beings involved in these stories.  It is also a tragedy that the animals are blamed and killed when their action is a direct result of our own actions.  They are acting out of their own nature.  It is how they are and how they have lived for thousands of years before we came along and put them in these unnatural positions.

I’m going to let my art speak for my pained heart.  I am only one person but I’m not helpless.  The best emerges when we each stand and do what we can.  For starters, I am inspired to create art that honors Alligator, Silverback Gorilla, Lion, and Shark.  I am sad for people who have suffered or died and I am equally sad for the other victims in these situations– the animals.

“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”  (Cree saying)

 

 

Little Joys- Part 1

There are so many little joys to be grateful for in life, treasured not for their grandness or “importance” but for the happiness they bring to each moment if we heighten our awareness of the present.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in obligations, multitasking to fit it all in.  But if we can stop and take time to notice, these little joys gift us with peace, a smile, and connection to all that is positive.

I’ve been recording some of the many little joys in my life via Instagram and Facebook but want to share them with my blog friends as well.  What Little Joys bring light to your life?

Art Supplies

My art supplies… always beckoning me, inspiring me, and encouraging me to play.

Birdhouses

My backyard bird haven… plenty of shelter, water, and food. Seeing them flit about happily brings me joy.

Coffee in the Morning

That first cup of coffee in the morning, made even more special by being in a favorite mug.

Crocuses

Purple crocuses bring the message that spring will soon be here!

Daffodils

Sunshine yellow daffodils soon follow crocuses.

Evening Walk with Pups

Evening walks with the dogs. My way to release the stress of the day , transition into my personal life, and take time to notice the little joys in nature with my pups.

Freyjas Soulful Eyes

Freyja’s soulful eyes. This gorgeous girl was once someone’s helpless puppy mill breeding dog but luckily for both of us, she’s been my little girl for 3 years, bringing me joy with every soulful expression on her face. I think we rescued each other!

Rag Rugs

Rag rugs are a great way to salvage scraps of material and give them new life. Each piece has a story. I made this rug over 20 years ago and enjoy the vibrancy and cheerfulness of every color.

Sily Socks

Silly socks… just because.

Warm Cinnamon Rolls

Warm cinnamon rolls with icing drizzled on the top. Comfort food at its best.

The Twins- A Collage on Canvas

Now that the parents expecting their second set of twins have been given my collage, aptly titled The Twins, I can finally share the images of the piece that I was commissioned to create to honor the babies they’ll soon be having.  I’m very happy with the way the piece turned out, especially the expression’s on the giraffes’ faces.  Here’s the finished piece and a few photos of my process.  Peaking out between layers of paint are some of the words to a blessing I wrote for the babies as well as words such as “Joy, Peace, Love, Serenity, Safety, and Laughter.”  All the things one would wish for little ones just entering the world.

Twins Final

The Twins- my collage on canvas. The finished piece has fabric to highlight the grass and add interest to the spots on the baby giraffes.

Twins 1

I lightly sketch the giraffes with acrylic paint on the canvas to make sure I have the scale right.

 

 

Stencils, stamps, and a turquoise outline add interest.

Stencils, stamps, and a turquoise outline add interest.  This is the layer where I get to play freely and see what wants to happen.

 

Twins 3

I make more deliberate decisions about details such as the grass and leaves on the branches.

Use It Or Lose It

I have a confession to make….my comfortable fall-back position is to look outside myself for guidance when I’m in a period of turmoil, whether it be job concerns, relationship issues, or spiritual questioning.  I grab the nearest self-help books, take the workshops, & listen to all the audio-recordings from motivational speakers & gurus that I can find.  Someone “out there” must be able to help me.  Right?  Not necessarily.

Here’s the bottom line.  All of those are wonderful resources BUT…. if I don’t internalize the lessons & APPLY them to my life, none of them will work.  Would I expect to get benefits from a piece of exercise equipment I never use?  Would I become a better artist if I never picked up my brush to paint?

I’ve learned to ….USE IT OR LOSE IT

Here is a short list of useful strategies I have in place to center myself- tools that both nourish & nurture me.

  1. Meditate
  2. Journal write
  3. Create art
  4. Work in my garden
  5. Go for a walk
  6. Connect with nature
  7. Pray
  8. Listen to music
  9. Spend time with those I love
  10. Read
  11. Take time to be alone
  12. Get a massage
  13. Give or receive a Reiki session
  14. Take a power nap
  15. Rattle or drum to change the energy around me
  16. Use positive affirmations
  17. Hold a smooth stone & get grounded again
  18. Play with the dogs
  19. Focus on the many gifts & blessings in my life

I have a great many tools in my “self-care” toolbox but it’s up to me… and only me… to use them when I need them.