Sunday, June 29, 2008

Perez Hilton vs NPR

Last week I went to my first board meeting for the Lancaster Literary Guild. I was asked to be on the board by the founder of the guild, and I took it as quite an honor. I also knew that it would be a commitment--two years, minimum. In addition to monthly meetings, I'll be asked to attend and help at functions and to help on committees. I was a little leery to accept such a call. My kids are picking up speed in their activities, and my amount of parental involvement in these activities is a bit of an unknown. True, I am giving up PTA committees at Reamstown Elementary, but who knows what my daughter's new school, a performing arts center, will ask of its parents.

Looking around the room at the literary guild meeting, I am pretty sure that I am one of the few with kids still at home. But I am willing to give it a try. It will stretch me in more ways than just effort. Already the discussions were flying around the room. I heard phrases like posthumanist philosophy and questions such as, "Did you read that story in the New Yorker?" It isn't that I felt stupid or ignorant sitting with this group, but that I felt out of touch. A lifetime ago, I was one of the informed parties--at least informed enough to carry my own weight in a conversation. I am not going to say that having children has dulled my intellectual powers, but there is something to be said for having to devote part of your brain to survival of the young. The incessant voice that seems to play out: Stay aware in the parking lot. Eat your salad; I am sure it's the only green thing you've eaten all day. Your teacher emailed me and you are missing three assignments. Do you have your shoes for dance? Both pairs? Where are your rubber bands. Do you want to wear those braces until the end of time?
Is it any wonder that when I get a moment of downtime, I go to Perez Hilton to peruse the stupid doings of celebrities and wannabees? Now, here is where I say that I've kicked the habit. If you go to the history list on my computer, you won't find Perez listed. (It isn't that I think that smart people and Perez readers are mutually exclusive--just that my brain can't handle the dichotomy of desire to name Angelina's twins with the ability to discuss the the lineage of magical realism in literature.) Maybe I am ready to get back into the intellectual game. I used to listen to NPR when I was at work. Now that I am writing, I don't listen to it anymore. I can't write and listen at the same time. I could paint and listen, but I do better work while listening to Tina Turner or Maroon 5. Locally, I have trouble getting NPR on my car radio, but I did manage to get a classical station going while I was driving home from the meeting. (Listening to Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus would have really undermined my resolve.)

So what is a woman to do to feel smart and informed? If only there was a blog where I could get in tiny little hits of information with pictures like Perez. Last weekend, I went to the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and saw three small exhibits: Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan, Designing Modern: 1920 to the present, and Transcending the Literal: Photographs by Ansel Adams from the Collection. The shows were small and digestible, but left me with the feeling that I had expanded my horizons. Maybe that's what I need to do: each week make a small effort to branch out and add something to my knowledge base. It may not be much, but I am a work in progress.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I had my first meeting today with my coach (career, creativity, life). During one sitting, I had compiled a list of roughly 130 questions to use to whittle down to one we could work with as a touchstone for our work. (She assured me that most, if not all, the questions would eventually be answered through this process.) She had me read the questions aloud while she took notes. Some of the question included:

How can I balance writing/art/workshops?

Should I focus on one area?

What do I see myself doing in 7 years when my kids have left the house?

What do I need in order to feel successful?

How does money affect my ideas of success?

How does my spiritual life inform my work?

What gender issues come into play in my work?

What is my last project trying to teach me about my future work?

After we reviewed the questions, Kathy asked for more details about my past. Why did I quit my job? Do the reasons I quit still apply? What do I think is the essence of Jill? (I had a hard time with that last one.) I filled her in on my creative and working life of the past ten years. Many a-ha moments later we came up with the question, How can I live my life to the fullest? This question was punctuated by a crashing leap by Kathy's cat. AMEN!

It may seem like a very broad question, but it encompasses so much of what I am trying to do. When asked leading questions about where I see my focus, I say I want it all. I like the painting and writing and workshop giving. I like raising my kids and making dinners. I like taking it all in and spitting it out in different forms. Like a conduit cable made of many wires.

Some themes did emerge. It became pretty apparent to me (Okay, Kathy told me and bells started going off) that I shut down when I receive criticism and direction. I don't like being told what forms my art and writing should take and this often has paralyzing results. We also discussed money which, interestingly enough, seems to be innately linked to gender roles in my mind. These roles are a big part of my process and art.

I am most excited to be going on this journey with Kathy. A former fiber artist who has studied gender roles in artmaking. That could describe me. I'm not sure where all this is going, but already today, I have written more than I have in the past month. I hope to journal a lot and make sense of this---starting with one large question.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gentle Yoga

I was zipping around the universe trying to get working papers for my 10-year-old daughter so she could perform in dinner theater. Apparently, the school district where we reside has never seen such a beast as this form. There were calls to the state. I had to visit two schools to obtain signatures from unsuspecting school administrators. What is this for again? Then I needed to get my signature notorized in another place entirely. The notary happens to be in a little grouping of shops that includes a yoga studio,The Yoga Place. I have been eyeing this studio for years--it is the one closest to my house. Considering my kids' needs, in units of both money and time, I never signed myself up. But this time, I was frustrated by the run-around and felt the need to reward myself for the valiancy of my effort on behalf of my daughter's dream of summer stardom. This time, I saw a chunk of time between the end of school and our summer vacation that I could manage a short class. The only class that truly worked into my schedule was the Monday night Gentle Yoga class, but I was going to do it. Why else would my treasure hunt have ended at this little cluster of businesses? I would trust the flow.

I have always been physically active in some form or another. I have taken a smattering of yoga classes over a twenty year period and own quite a few yoga videos. Had my schedule allowed for the full choice of classes, I would have picked something like the aggressive yoga with the hot studio and endless sun salutations done in rapid fire succession. Or maybe I would have chosen another class that hinted at a goal--restoration or mindfulness, perhaps. This is quite funny. I have never had flexibilty or grace. I possess some strength and, thanks to my large flat feet, balance. And the idea of stillness? If ever one needed remedial yoga--it would be me. First night out--I rushed to the studio-- getting there late and having to find a place in the dark. Relax. Relax. Relax. What I was hoping would come off as a mantra was more like my inner drill seargent commanding me to do 100 pushups, but I made it through the beginning meditative stillness. When the lights came up, I saw the room I was in, and the beautiful shade of raspberry paint on the wall. It was both tranquil and enlivening at the same time. A huge stained glass artwork of lotus flowers hung illuminated at the front of the studio space. This was my kind of place. Maybe I didn't have to try so hard.

And so became my weekly June ritual. I have done three classes so far. Gentle Yoga seems made for me. Suzanne leads the class so I never feel as though I am exerting greater effort than rolling over in bed, but by the time the class is over, I am like a putty creature. Claymation Jill. My spine is a slinky. My ride home feels as though I am traveling by hover craft over a meadow instead of by minivan over potholed roads. I quite honestly feel like I've just had a full body massage and half a bottle of wine. And I sleep like a baby on Monday nights. I realize I've just exhausted the reader's tolerance for metaphor. But I don't think it is a coincidence that I started taking yoga class and am writing poetry again. Perhaps my poetic devices were trapped in the rigidity of my spine and limbs. Or maybe a purple room makes my brainwaves sing. Or maybe the lesson is that too often we try for and get discouraged by the grand gesture when it is small effort that yields big results.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remembering Tasha Tudor 1915-2008

When I am asked what art exhibit has meant the most to me over the years, I always talk about the Tasha Tudor exhibit I saw at the Abby Aldridge Museum of Folk Art in Williamsburg, VA. We were down there on vacation with my parents and extended family. The month was August. I am going to guess that it was just this side of ten years ago. My mother is a huge fan of The Secret Garden. Her library includes many copies of the Francis Hodgson Burnett classic by many different illustrators, but her favorite is the one illustrated by Tasha Tudor. That's how she came to learn about this marvelous writer/artist. As we journeyed south for our vacation, my mom, still in her Tasha discovery phase, was reading a book about her life that included wonderful photography. Imagine my mother's surprise upon arriving in Williamsburg to discover the Aldridge Museum was featuring a huge exhibit of Tasha Tudor's life and work.

For the unitiated, a little background (and make sure to click on the above link): this remarkable lady lived in Vermont. She raised four children on her own in an era that was not easy on single mothers. To make money, she illustrated and wrote books. Her children put on plays and elaborate puppet shows as a way to make money. They made all the puppets and sets themselves. I hate to try to condense Tasha's life in this place, but I want to give a sense of the woman. She lived simply and off the land. She collected and wore a wardrobe of dresses from the 1830's--her favorite time period. Her idea of making a shirt was to grow her own flax. She ate a diet that included goat's milk from goats she raised. She drew upon her life for her illustrations which included several children's books featuring her beloved corgis.

The exhibit, my introduction to Tasha Tudor--other than an article I saw in our local newspaper; included short films; reproductions of rooms in her home; the huge dollhouse that she and her family created, furnished and decorated for each holiday (including the tiny valentines the dolls exchanged). There were dresses from Tasha Tudor's antique collection. Original illustrations. A display of the technique for turning flax into a shirt. The colors of the walls were rich to hold in the lushness of the displays. My heart sang as I rounded each corner to find a new discovery. This was a woman who lived creatively, lovingly, outside of society's dictates, and inside of her own imagining.

I have been on the Tasha Tudor e-mail notification list for many years. Today I received an email that told me that Tasha Tudor, at age 92, had died at her Vermont home surrounded by loved ones. I am in awe of the woman, and happy that she touched my life as a mother, an artist, and a writer. Last week I cleaned my bookshelves (a byproduct of a painting project which is the byproduct of new carpeting) and came across the book A Time to Keep: the Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays. It reminded me again the importance of pausing to notice and mark the seasons of our life with ones we love.

I hear that the Tasha Tudor foundation is working on a permanent museum to house the collections and exhibits. I for one, will be making a pilgrimage to see it one of these days when it is completed. Road trip to Vermont anyone? I promise, you will not be disappointed. As for today, I will pay homage to Tasha by enjoying my dog, spending some time in my garden, rereading her books, and spending a slowed-down dinner with my family in enjoyment of the season.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I started off my day watching the Oprah Soul series interview that Oprah did with Dr. Wayne Dyer where he explains coincidence as a mathematical term used to describe two angles that fit together perfectly. Oprah countered with, "There are no coincidences." She used the word in the way we tend to use it today--as in surprise happenings.

I taught a workshop yesterday on Creative Journaling for artists. It was deeply satisfying. I got to explore the art making process and connect types of journaling to each part of the process. Then--to further instill it in my own mind, I got to teach it. I left my house with a smile, telling my son I was off to work. He said, "Yeah, but it's a job you love." That wasn't to discount my work, but to reinforce it.

I stopped in a cafe for coffee before my class and had some Ethiopian blend while journaling and finishing the final chapter in the Art and Fear book I am digesting. An interesting thing happened. I put off reading the last part of the book and instead wrote two poems. It has been a long time since I wrote poetry. I don't usually share my poems. Sometimes I take bits and pieces of them and use them in my novel writing. It was wonderfully freeing. Totally emboldening. Dare I say. . .decadent? I am being reunited with my words after a trial separation, and I am finding we are compatible. Why did we think we weren't?

I went to the workshop feeling light and happy. Eight people came, which is a great group size for me. Large enough to justify my time (and gas allowance) and small enough to interact. We brainstormed about what it is to be an artist. I read from Sue Bender's book Everyday Sacred. In the group itself, I reconnected with longtime participants and met some new faces. Though I travel 25 miles to teach this class, the newbies live three miles from my house. We discussed the local school system, where to buy raw milk, and cheesemaking. I found out that my new acquaintance is the baker who makes my favorite bread.

After the class, I again felt light. I bought some herbal bug repellent in Sarah's shop. My husband loves the scent; so if I can repel bugs and attract him, I am good for all the best possibilities of a summer evening. In addition, I had just finished reading Everyday Sacred which has as a running theme the symbolism of begging bowls. Tibetan monks go out and beg with their empty bowls and they learn to be grateful for whatever comes their way. I had been looking for a new summer purse. Radiance has lots of options made by Hemp Sisters. I picked up a particular bag that was woven with colorful fibers with black & white print accents. The print has a picture of a simple bowl. If that wasn't enough, when I found out that the colorful fibers were actually recycled Indian saris, I knew it was mine--in spite of the fact that my pay for giving the workshop was going to be seriously compromised by all my expenditures. And so, with my bug repellent/husband bait and my new purse, I left the shop and headed back to the cafe for my lunch date.

I was meeting a new friend Kathy who came to the labyrinth workshop at the end of May. She is a former fabric artist who is currently taking a course called Biography and Social Art at Sunbridge College in New York. We connected on about one hundred different levels. She was finishing a book by the author of Art and Fear so we discussed the things we both discovered from the books. We are both knitters, though Kathy is more actively so. She is doing an in-depth study of artist Judy Chicago for school. Judy Chicago had a great deal of influence over me and my art when I was in college and to this day. And Kathy's daughter lives in Northampton, MA, a town I love. So when Kathy asked if we could work together--she needs to practice coaching individuals as part of her program--I immediately agreed. With my scattered art and business practices I have been feeling the need for some unifying forces and direction. Coincidence? She asked that I come up with a central question around which to center our work. (Since the meeting, I've made a huge list of questions from which I hope to whittle down to one at our first session.)

If that wasn't enough, I came home to a surprise check in the mail. I sold another piece of art--one that, frankly, I forgot was hanging in a gallery. WOO HOO! I put the check in my begging bowl purse with much gratitude.

A cap on my day, I watched the movie Becoming Jane (about Jane Austen) with my daughter. (She is a big Anne Hathaway fan, and although she is more in the realm of The Princess Diaries--for literature as well as movies--she has watched Pride and Prejudice with me in the past.) We then proceeded to spend the rest of the day curtsying and perfecting our English accents.

A day of serendipity and light.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Late for Yoga

I arrived just on time to the yoga studio yesterday--after being late for my class last week. I asked the woman beside me if it was counter-productive to rush to yoga. The instructor overheard and laughed. She said she was going to get bumper stickers made that say, "Get out of my way, I'm late for my yoga class." I still have yet to get a new bumper sticker. This may be the one.

More on my yoga class later---it's a new undertaking.

Garden of Earthly Delights

In the garden and in the local produce stand, the bounty is coming in, and I am in heaven. I love to cook and use fresh ingredients. The strawberries from the stand a mile from our house are the best they've ever been. I ate one the size of my fist today. It was red the whole way through and dripping juice. I ate it while standing over the sink--though eating it while taking a bath wouldn't have been a bad idea. I was reminded of the title of a SARK book--Eat Mangoes Naked. We've had strawberry shortcake; strawberry pancakes; strawberry pie; strawberry salad with arugula, feta and pecans; strawberry cheese coffee cake--not to mention plain strawberries.

We've had salads from the garden: the aforementioned strawberry feta; greens and croutons with Moosewood Restaurant's spinach basil dressing; spinach salad with a poppy seed dressing; and a shallot Gorgonzola salad that I copied from Jamie at Home on the Food Network. Jamie Oliver--in the garden and in the kitchen with his accent--just too cute for words. And his salad was amazing. It was a light meal that evening that we ended with homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream we made with mint from our garden. Tonight's salad is going to be Caesar Salad with seared Tuna steaks. Our appetizer with be basil and ricotta stuffed squash blossoms.

In other harvests, we've had arugula. I piled it on top of steak sandwiches with goat cheese and caramelized onions. I also make a mean arugula pesto with walnuts that was great over polenta and pasta. We had green gazpacho with arugula combined with spinach, parsley and dill to make a fresh taste and emerald color so vivid that it made me happy to have white bowls to hold it.

Today I picked sugar peas destined for a pasta dish with local asparagus, ricotta, and tarragon. My daughter has eaten raw spring onions after a quick rinse. Those have gone into our omelets and into just about everything else. Next year I'll have to plant a whole load of them. It was a first year for them, and they were a hit. They smell incredibly sharp and green when you first pull them from the earth. I picked my first pepper today. I have ten kinds. This was a poblano. I can make it into poblano vinaigrette or do up some chiles relleno. Since this one is solo, I may stuff it with cheese and black beans, bake it, and have it for a lunch. I have bunches of lavender hanging to make lavender sugar for baked goods. A few sprigs of the lavender went in the batch of limoncello I am currently steeping for summer imbibing on humid evenings when fireflies are nigh.

And yes, as I read this, I realize that I am just a little bit over the top with my cooking and vegetables. What do they call it in writing. . . purple prose? I can get downright greeting card shmoopy. But remember, I didn't do all this in one day. The above activity was over the last month. And it was a hectic month, so it was good to have a little glory. I am not sure my kids can appreciate all that comes to our table. They eat heartily and complain little. Both of them recently watched Supersize Me, so they are starting to be aware of food choices. We've sworn off fast food while they are on break from school and are starting to look out for organic food labels on pantry items such as pasta and grains. Eating like this--it isn't a loss--we'll hardly miss a french fry. Too much bounty on the back roads and in the backyard. I can only imagine what summer will bring.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Radical Retreat II--church in the woods

I was reminded of my first retreat experiences on Sunday. We had our annual church picnic which meant that the service was outside in a shaded area. It was casual with drumming (my new drum made its maiden voyage), singing in a round, and story-telling. I had a flashback to the worship services I participated in as a kid when, for four summers straight, I spent a week at Camp Mt. Luther church camp--by my choice. I am sure my parents were thrilled that I chose Lutheran church camp above all others. Their joy in my choice was misplaced. It was probably at church camp that I started to pull away from the Lutheranism I had inherited from many generations of ancestors (on both sides). I told my mom that I didn't want to be confirmed, because when I grew up, I was going to worship in the woods--where I find the connection to the divine to be more direct than from the remote and cool Scandinavian-inspired architecture of my childhood church. Mom said I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up, but I was going to be confirmed. And I was, and it didn't stick.
Church of the Woods. I still long for it, but I have at least found a church community that honors my spiritual path with earth-based and nature honoring traditions--even if we are housed in an English-style country church. It was lovely to take the service out of doors, which we will do yet again before June is out. Call it retreat. Call it sanctuary. Every time I take a walk in the woods or sit beside a lake or walk on a sandy beach, I am worshiping in the church of my choosing.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Radical Retreat

When I go to bed, I mostly imagine that I am going to sleep in a loft of a log cabin in the middle of the woods. This log cabin does not exist in this world, which is good. If it existed in this world, my mind would be able to wander to other things of this world: worries, deadlines, schedules, inadequacies of kinds. It is a retreat of the mind.

In real life, I do take retreats. Some big and some small. I rent the art cottage at Herrbrook for the day. I go to my friend's cabin with her for hiking, reading, and playing cards. Sometimes we go with a larger group of women; sometimes we go with the kids. We take a family retreat each year when we go to Moondance Farms, another friend's magical hillside abode. She feeds us fabulous meals. We take naps, go for rides and walks through forest trails, and play outdoor games like Frisbee and capture the flag. Each year, I take some sort of philosophical or spiritual book along and dissect the text with more attention than I can muster on anything in my daily life. Last year was the the book Art Lessons by Deborah J. Haynes. (This year my spiritual text may very well be my new cheesemaking book!)

I have often wanted to go to Omega Institute or Kripalu for a more formal retreat. I can imagine taking classes offered by SARK, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Sabrina Ward Harrison, or Pema Chodron. Sarah Susanka is offering a workshop at Omega (July 4-6) on Not so Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters that sounds wonderful--if only I didn't have a a competing commitment. I could imagine spending a summer at either of the two campuses; taking classes on intuition, drumming, yoga, journaling, painting, living intentionally, writing, cooking, meditating, gardening and herbs. And, too, I'd love to teach creative journaling at one of these places. I find that when I give workshops, I get so much out of the experience that it almost seems silly to charge other people for that which gives me so much insight and pleasure. I am sure that one day I will make room, both in my schedule and my checkbook for such important work.

But I have already typed out my summer schedule. It is awash with the full workings of a family--all good stuff, too. I am not here complaining about mispaced prioroties; we are doing the things that matter. My daughter is doing dance and dinner theater. My son has fencing and cross country and meetings with a friend to work on their sci-fi novel. I am teaching multiple workshops, going to a few book clubs. My son and I are trying to work a drumming class or two into our summer. My husband is doing some races and painting the house--not to mention that job thing he does. We are getting new flooring. We have multiple gardens for which each family member has responsibility. My son will probably learn to mow the lawn this summer. And with the gratitude for a daily reality which matters, I find that the need for retreat is diminished somewhat. The retreats will happen on a small scale, including a flight or several to my imaginary cabin, but they will happen.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Artist Mamas

"Artists raise their kids differently. We communicate to the point where we probably annoy our children. We have art around the house, we have books, we go to plays, we talk. Our focus is art and painting and dress-up and singing. It's what we love. So I think you can see how artists in some way raise other artists."

I saw this quote by Angelina Jolie. I love it, and I wanted to share. I do think artists raise their kids differently. We are always examining our environment and finding new ways to interact with it. In some ways, I think we see nuances about the world that others don't see. Because of that, we have trouble making the black and white designations that so many other people use to parent children. And children run up against this kind rigidness in the schools. In the fall our daughter is going to be going to an arts school instead of a traditional Middle School. I wonder what the world would be like if all schools were arts schools.

3 Hours to Save the World

Eli (dog) and I just went to the bus stop for the last time. My daughter is done with elementary school after today. I am excited--ready to move on. I am not one of those mothers that laments the passing of childhood because each age is so exciting and a new adventure. We just received Maren's notification of acceptance into a performing arts middle school, so that will be a new thing next year. In addition, she is going to be playing Brigitta this summer at a local dinner theater production of Sound of Music.

As for my son, I spent 45 minutes this morning straightening my his hair. I asked him if he wanted me to add a blue streak, and he told me he isn't allowed unnatural colors of hair. Thank goodness Maren will be going to a school that allows for pink and blue hair. I think that banning color in this world is a poor use of rule-making. Anyway, Jonah's hair was in his face, but he said he'd wear his glasses so that the hair wouldn't poke his eyes. Apparently, he found the glasses (that he is supposed to wear but never does) in his locker. When asked why they were there--was he using them at school? he said he had them at school for a prop for a presentation.

So, here I am. Three hours until they release the animals. I need to get something done. My kitchen is an unqualified disaster zone. I should be attending to it, but it seems too mundane to be spending my time doing that when I only have three hours to save the world--my world. My beautiful, artist, writer, creative, imperfect, messy, mama world.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Intuitive Nudge

Sometimes as writers, artists or just plain human beings, we ask for signs from the universe that we are on the right path.

Tell me what to do! We beseech the heavens.

Then comes the day when a psychic, an expert on intuition, sends you and email, subject: Intuitive Nudge, to say that "You are SUCH a good writer" and "I see another terrific book in your future."

Many years ago, when my novel was finished, but publication was still a dream, my mom gave me a book she found to be personally inspirational. The book was entitled Divine Intuition by author Lynn Robinson . The best-selling book helps readers to develop their own intuition as a tool for making life decisions and turning daydreams into successful ventures. Besides being the author of many books on intuition, Lynn gives intuitive readings (consultations) for businesses and individuals. My mother was so inspired by this book that she dragged my dad to DC to go to one of Lynn's workshops. Since reading Lynn's books (I have read most of them), I have been a fan, too, and member of her mailing list. At one point, I emailed her after I featured her book on my Mortalmom site. She in turn gave my site a mention in her e-newsletter.

Did I send Lynn a birth announcement, email or postcard, when my novel arrived on the scene last August? I don't remember. What I do know is that, out of the blue, I received an email from Lynn this week, at the same time I was blogging about art and fear and book number two. She graciously gave me tips on dealing with my writer "gremlins" and then gave me the gift of her vision in predicting a successful second book.

I do feel that I, along with my son, have some intuitive abilities. But sometimes when we are close to the subject matter, we have a hard time being objective. My son and I both knew that a dear relative (now pregnant) would come to this joyous conclusion even through years of infertility. We told her as much during times when she was doubtful. I remember writing to her that I would be the keeper of the faith for her, when it was too hard to even have hope. I feel as though Lynn Robinson is my keeper of the faith right now for me as a writer. So thank you, Lynn. I've printed out your prediction and have it posted beside my computer. What a beacon of light in the dark! Every writer, artist, or just plain human being should be so lucky.

For those interested: Lynn has a monthly email intuition newsletter and a powerful Prosperity Prayer on her website. You can tell her Jill sent you--but she might already know.

Experience the Spiral

Back in Sarah's garden on Saturday. (Sarah is the owner of Radiance, the store in Lancaster where I give journaling workshops.) This time, I was the workshop leader along with Christine Cappabianca. We were doing a workshop to experience Sarah's garden spiral in conjunction with Kundalini yoga and journaling. The concept was simple: we were going to spiral our day around the centerpiece of the labyrinth. Meditation, yoga, journaling, walk the labyrinth, silent lunch, journaling, yoga, meditation. The rains changed our plan a little. We knew they were coming so we walked the outdoor labyrinth between the sprinkles right after our first meditation. Sarah's labyrinth is a 7-circuit labyrinth which means it has 7 paths. These correspond well to the chakra system which is a system of energy centers on the spine. Chris led an exploration on these centers in a series of spinal exercises. I did the same with journaling, having each participant explore the messages of the energy surrounding these points. The rain turned the workshop into a very contemplative, inwardly focused, mindful event. Most of the participants were new to walking a labyrinth. We used an indoor labyrinth later in the day which gave a better sense of the geometry. (The herbal labyrinth is lovely and fairly zings with energy, but sometimes, the sense of line is lost among the ferns.) The silent lunch was interesting. It was harder than I thought it would be to be silent, but it held us in purpose. I found I didn't want to make eye contact because I didn't want to intrude on another person's thoughts. The day went so fast. We didn't get in all the things we wanted to do, but we were successful in what we did accomplish. The shared energy was a magnificent force. What is great for me, is the level of excitement I have for such events. I would have attended this workshop if I were not teaching it, so it was a double treat for me, as practitioner and teacher. I hope to have more such workshops in the future. I see the possibilities.

**A great site for people to start exploring labyrinths.

The Hairdresser, The Drummer, and The Cheesemaker

On Friday morning, I had an appointment for my hair. I love getting my hair done. My cousin is my hairdresser, and she is a gift to the world. Allison is compassionate, funny, and she does good hair. I get to catch up with her about family. We have a good time and end each session with a hug. In and of itself, that would have made for a good day. On Friday, I got my hair cut summer-short or bring-out-the-funky-earrings-short.

Feeling a bit more breeze on my neck and having had my hug, I ventured around the block to Earth Rhythms, a drumming store in West Reading. They were having a djembe sale. My son plays a djembe in his school African drum and dance group. I am a drummer wannabe. Our church has drumming circles which I have attended in the past with both of my kids when they were tots. I must admit that my sense of rhythm is creative--shall we say. I get it going for awhile and then I add an extra beat sometimes--perhaps matching my caffeine-induced heart palpitations. But I drum with my joy and it seems such a healing thing to do to send blissful vibrations into the world. My son said he doesn't really want a drum, but I got a good price, so I bought one for myself. (He can borrow it.) It has purple trim around the head and swirling designs carved around the base. Next month when we go to our vacation spot on the top of the hill, I am going to play my heart out. Who knows. Maybe I'll even take a drumming lesson or two.

With the wind on my neck and a drum in the seat beside me, I set out for my final destination of the day--a cheesemaking workshop based on products from New England Cheesemaking Supply (featured in Barbra Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). The workshop was sponsored by Radiance, where I give my journal writing workshops. I got a new book on making cheese, sat around a beautiful kitchen with other cheese lovers to learn to make chevre and fromage blanc. We chopped herbed, rolled out balls of cheese, and laughed. Then when it was time to eat, I got a plate with multi-grain crackers and the cheese, poured a lovely little California Viognier and retreated to Sarah's blooming gardens and herbal labyrinth. I talked to a sheep farmer/knitter from Maryland and to some folks who are starting an organic vegetable farm. Sarah lent me a book called Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender which is about art and begging bowls and being open to spirit in all its forms. It was one of those days that was a little jewel for the senses.

I imagine circles. My head of hair. A drum. A wheel of cheese. A garden labyrinth. A bowl. Mandalas of celebrations--all of them.