IN HASTE

WE all do some things a bit too quickly. Our timing is “off” … we rush to complete something, to get somewhere, or maybe we speak so fast a genuine conversation is impossible. Examples abound; it’s not difficult to see this dynamic at work, is it? I notice myself doing this when I’m overly focused on getting to the “next moment,” as Eckhart Tolle often calls this subconscious rush to the future. Once you pause to consider how this subtle force works in your life, you may decide to slow things down.

Consider the moments you don’t really “see” because you’re already halfway to the next moment. How about the people you don’t actually “hear” because you are locked in your own mind, pushing the moment to complete itself so you can rush forward … once more?

Going to an art museum or spending time with nature are great ways to test yourself on this dynamic. Feel uncomfortable with a slower pace, running to-do lists through your head at the same time, checking your phone? Looking for a few brief seconds then “moving on” or skipping entire sections of the museum or the garden so you can quickly get to the next thing you want to say or do?

But … you may wonder … what’s the real harm in this? Isn’t life a race that requires selective attention and effective time management? Sometimes, yes, we simply have to hurry. No way around that. However, accessing the deeper side of life (the very mysteries of existence) and possessing an ability to reflect, meditate, and contemplate are linked to the ability to stay in the moment. FULLY.

While haste can feel natural to us because of the world around us, dare to challenge this. Dare to walk a path that creates an opening in your awareness, allowing for fresh insights to emerge. Otherwise, the race we’re quietly running may end badly. Otherwise, and probably. There is no medal for getting through life more quickly than the next guy. There is only a final breath waiting for all of us. That’s it.

So drag your feet a bit more. Don’t let subtle pressures to hurry impact your peace of mind, your sense of purpose. Imagine a world that isn’t half-crazy with visions of “getting to the future” just as quickly as possible. Experiment a little, see what happens. When I’m writing I can feel myself wanting, for example, the “complete the project.” The book, the article, the story, the poem. But I try to catch myself. Remind myself that a belief in time is at the root of this strange dynamic.

Spring is a good opportunity to let go of false notions. To see what life feels like without time calling all the shots. It is an illusion. And there is much to be discovered right here, right now. Thanks for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again in a few weeks!

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SPEAKING OF INSPIRATION

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Albert Einstein, The World As I See It

I’ve always been drawn to visual images. Photographs. Paintings. Sketches. Even doodles that take on a life of their own. The collaboration of images and words … well, it’s pure magic, of course. And since we all could use a dose of inspiration in January, why not focus on this very combination? Here’s a photograph by Mary T. Hercher, for instance. I love the color contrast, the “electric blue,” as she put it, against the steadfast evergreen. The picture points to many things: the bounty of nature, the insistence of creation itself, the importance of protecting and appreciating the environment, awareness of the natural beauty that readily flows from something organic and lasting.

What do you see in Hercher’s photograph?      

“Feeling a little blue in January is normal.”
~ Marilu Henner
MANY great poets have written about the poetry of nature. Trees, in particular. Personally, I can’t imagine a yard without plenty of trees. I grew up seeing plenty of cottonwood trees along the Missouri River, and scattered elsewhere on the prairie like afterthoughts. But the evergreen, it’s year-round beauty, is especially rewarding to gaze upon. Most, tall and stately, seem oblivious to everything going on around them, as they insistently stretch skyward … with a touch of inspiration for anyone who cares to notice.

 I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
~ e. e. cummings
THEN there is the phenomenal artist, Paul C. Jackson. I couldn’t mention inspiration without mentioning Jackson (AWS, NWS American Watercolorist) in the same breath. A prolific artist and ambitious world traveler, he is one of today’s most versatile and visible contemporary watercolorists. Whether his subject is landscape, cityscape, portrait, architecture, still life or abstract, Jackson captivates his audience with genuine emotion, intensity and finesse that energize each of his creations.

Music is often the focus of Paul’s art. Here, for instance, is “Lovesong” (20 x 26 watercolor), a new painting from Jackson.
Inspired by a series of Adele performances that Paul and friends enjoyed at Madison Square Garden in New York in September 2016,
this painting was selected for inclusion in the American Watercolor Society’s 150th Annual International Exhibition (Salmagundi Club,
New York City April 3-22, 2017). Paul notes that “this is the most prestigious exhibition for a watercolorist.”

PAUL was also the artist behind my recent book cover for The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone. I needed artwork that depicted a depth of emotion for my memoir that studies the dynamics of sudden loss while seriously venturing into the spiritual realm of life’s deepest mysteries. After looking at several of Jackson’s paintings, I knew the one he also decided to name “Silence of Morning” was a perfect choice. The words, the overall sentiment of the book, truly could be “seen” in Paul’s painting. Not only was the artwork beautiful, but Jackson has always valued collaboration with other artists and can find a viable creative edge for nearly any project no matter how far afield it may seem from the world of watercolors. When words and images come together … the possibilities are endless.

I must mention, however, that Paul may come by his tremendous creative spirit somewhat naturally. Nancy Jackson, his mother, recently completed a handmade quilt that features the names of authors she’s followed or admired or read. Included: William Least Heat-Moon (of Blue Highways fame), Paul Jackson (as he is also an author), and my name, as well. Nancy gathered the individual quilt blocks over a span of years; each author personally signing his or her name on each block for inclusion in her project. I was honored to be asked. The end result is outstanding! Amazing! Following the work of Jennie Doan, the quilt pattern author, Nancy has created a true work of art. I hope it is displayed in a  prominent place one day soon. Here then is the Nancy Jackson piece that beautifully illustrates that expansive and magical merger of words and images.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

INSPIRATION is also important to another artist I admire a great deal. Canadian contemporary artist, Terrill Welch, is an impressionist painter and photographer who seems to find tremendous joy in her work. A lovely commonality among all of my featured artists, actually. There must be something intrinsic to the artistic soul that moves universe itself. 

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ― Vincent Van Gogh

WHEN you visit Terrill’s website, you’ll find this: British Columbia artist and photographer Terrill Welch’s quick sure painting strokes, and photographic images capture forest, sandstone, sea and sky.  They remind us that there is only one moment – this one. Since 2010, more than 80 of Terrill Welch’s paintings of various sizes and significantly more of her photography prints have found their way into private collections. Many of these paintings have sold while still work-in-progress or resting wet on the easel.

I have been following her work for at least seven years now. Though unsure how I first spotted her artistic hand and upbeat presence, once you gaze at a Welch landscape, it’s not easy to stop thinking about where you would hang a piece of her artwork if you were lucky enough to have such a worry. Artistic work that hangs in our memory like a an endurable feeling, like a source of lasting inspiration, is a sure sign of something authentic and true.

  Catching Waves at Georgina Point Mayne Island BC 
Oil on Canvas 30 x 40 x 1.5

SINCE I was specifically looking for the magic of words and images, I thought this description from the artist was interesting. “There is a brisk northwesterly wind stirring up the Salish Sea in the bright autumn sun. I step carefully down the sandstone trail to the shore below the lighthouse at Georgina Point. Looking out across the Strait of Georgia, it seems that the best thing to do is to catch a few waves. Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada.”

SOMETIMES when I spot a new piece of work from Welch, I have fun playing with words to see what title the image provokes. Inspiration. It’s always there if we are open to it; if we seek it out. I can’t imagine a world without art … can you? But the individuals behind the work are usually equally fascinating. What brought them to the world of art in the first place? How do they sustain their energetic enthusiasm for their work? What do they want to communicate to the world? To you, to me?

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.
Émile Zola

Born in the village of Vanderhoof in north-central British Columbia, Terrill’s art training came at an early age and continued more in the European style of mentoring and tutoring. Terrill Welch’s work, in water mixable or walnut oil paints and photographic canvas prints, showcases the beautiful, mysterious and rugged southwest coast of Canada. Though locally appreciated, Terrill Welch is internationally recognized.  Her paintings and photographs are sold to art collectors throughout Canada and the United States as well as in Australia, England, Norway and Switzerland.

AND NOW I’d like to return to Mary Hercher, the photographer I began this blog post with … here again is her wonderful red bench that I featured in SunnyRoomStudio last year. It’s an invitation to stop for a moment to gaze out at the world anew. Look at something with the eyes of an artist … how does this vantage point change your overall perception? Can you describe this dynamic or paint it? How do you feel when looking through an artistic lens instead of through the dull eyes of routine and conformity? A whole new world is born in this way, in this context. SO make the shift! Regardless of what you do each day in your life, try opening your eyes to the beauty of whatever is right in front of you. Study the colors, the texture, the expression, the eyes. This alone, I would wager, could change our world.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
Edgar Degas

  “I have one image of myself that I like, but it is a ‘soft’ image, one full of joy.”
Mary T. Hercher @ Wind Spirit Photography
Rapid City, South Dakota

I have a feeling this is going to become one of my favorite blog posts for 2017. Certainly, it’s one way to express my profound gratitude to those who are such bright lights in the universe. As an author, I could never find the words for an entire book without the incredible work of others around me to provoke and guide and inspire. I wish all of these individuals an abundance of creative energy and joy in the upcoming year, and thank them again for their profound contribution to creating a world that looks beyond the surface of things for the deeper meaning. As Mary is doing above, keep looking up and out and around! Do this as often as possible. Seek the unknown, seek to finally see what is just beyond your awareness and grasp. THAT is where the true magic of life can be found. Best wishes to all for January and beyond. ~ dh

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

See you again in a few weeks!
Thanks so much for stopping by this creative sunny space for kindred spirits.
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BEHIND THE SCENES

IF this were any other month, I wouldn’t be wondering quite so much about what is going on behind the scenes in many homes. But in all reality … many families are seriously stressed this time of year. Winter weather for one thing. The weight and the joy of traditional holiday expectations. Intense emotions that surface unbidden. A plethora of memories that frantically swim in the background as though seeking immediate expression. Insistent feelings of wanting to find the perfect balance between commercialism and the more devout aspects of the season. Under the best of circumstances, that’s a lot to contend with.

Yes, the season can be delicate and beautiful and motivating and inspiring and joyful. 

But December, and all that it entails, can also become a mixed bag of frustration, sadness, stress, and confusion. Our beliefs and values may point to one thing; society may suggest something else entirely. Cultural expectations may run deep in us, especially if we have never confronted them directly. All of this can lead to inner conflict, which is painful for many. Some, when they really stop to consider it, may realize that serious inner conflict is another form of personal suffering. A rather insidious form, at that.

“It came to him that he didn’t like holidays. . . .
They bore down on you. Each one always ended up feeling like an exam . . .”
― Lily King, The English Teacher

Sometimes we are so accustomed to our own suffering, we don’t recognize it for what it is … we brush it aside as feeling tired, disinterested, or curiously negative. Maybe we blame ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm, or force ourselves to embrace what feels robotic, senseless, redundant. If personal suffering is extremely pronounced, it wouldn’t be unusual for someone to relapse into some form of addiction (deadly or otherwise). Some individuals, as we know, even resort to suicide this time of year.

Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for —
I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times. ~Kate L. Bosher

December is a tale of many realities, and so much happens behind the scenes because we’re not always eager to verbalize hesitant or painful feelings. Easier not to admit such things and risk a negative reaction from someone, right? Maybe that is why the season can start to feel like a “requirement” more than a meaningful celebration of life. On the surface … we all see the bright lights, the festive colors, the dazzling ornaments, the rush to “get everything done” in time. But the bigger story lurks in the shadows. The unspoken. The undone. The regrets and resentment that are well-hidden or even denied.

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
~E.B. White, “The Distant Music of the Hounds,” The Second Tree from the Corner, 1954

Can you envision a unique (pleasantly tolerable) path through the December wilderness? Can you imagine a month that loses its dark shadow and becomes something less cumbersome or anxiety-filled? Most of all, can you chart a course that truly honors your life journey and those around you? Can you try to extend your “idea” of December madness, so your personal evolution isn’t completely mitigated by unseen rules of tradition (yes, tradition can begin to feel like an icy fountain of deadening rules quietly outgrown a long time ago).

Conversely, I think it’s possible to keep something of the past that also honors the present.

And that may be how the magic of the season can be teased out once more: with a new vantage point, by an updated perspective that liberates and enlivens, by letting go of what has become quietly reflexive, as opposed to “thoughtful and genuine.” Realistically speaking, habitual behavior that originated long ago may no longer communicate anything of value in the present tense. Acknowledging that dynamic can open the door to something new and creative, something that feels much more meaningful and appropriate. Not everything has to change, of course.

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It’s always the next Christmas.
~Joanne Woodward

      Part of our holiday tradition is putting up a tree so our 16-yr old cat, Lola, can enjoy napping under it.
She must think she is outside, because she loves having a real tree in our living room.
Wrapped packages can be nice, too, but seeing her there every morning when we get up is much better.

December can feel more viable and less onerous … it really can. Try a “less is more” approach.

Leave some room for change. Turn down the noise of the season.
Spend time in quiet reflection.
Avoid what has become tired, overworked, dull and cumbersome.
Make the holidays resonate with peace and gentle moments that will long be remembered.
Skip buying the sweater gift that is purely obligatory.
Even if it means saying “no,” find a way to integrate a deeper perspective into your activities so something new can be born.
You don’t need direction as much as the willingness to listen to the nudge within.
Honor the truth of the moment in simple ways that don’t demand more than you are able to muster.
Faking it takes great energy; authenticity creates energy.
My best to everyone this season of peace and goodwill. ~ dh

 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

See you again in a few weeks!
Thanks so much for stopping by this creative sunny space for kindred spirits.
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DEGREES OF GRATITUDE

We’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

THIS TIME of year various themes arise in conversation. Gratitude is one of them. And while there are many reasons to feel grateful, today I want to mention the boundless contribution of spiritual leaders who have graced our planet. The lovely contrast they offer to all things mundane and superficial is a priceless gift. When the world is focused on overworked media stories, for instance, enlightened voices remind us of the “big picture” … the poetic, silent realm that is unseen, undervalued, and underestimated. Like joining an instant spiritual retreat, we can sit down and open the pages of a book by Eckhart Tolle, for instance. Or maybe read a little Ram Dass. There are so many others: Dalai Lama, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Thomas Merton, and so on. xmasfence2013 Plus there are a multitude of voices not associated with spirituality, per se, that also uplift us with communication that inspires and resonates deeply. Poets, musicians, authors, artists, and all the people out there who see something more, something seemingly hidden from view.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m going to be seeking out those voices more than ever before. Even though I’ve experienced a profound spiritual journey myself, written about it in depth in my memoir The Silence of Morning, I will always challenge myself to grow in wisdom. To transcend the daily experience we call “life.” To focus more completely on the underlying story, the one that speaks quite loudly despite the incredible “noise” of existence. As I wrote in my book …

  • Thoughts can be as empty as barren land, but living through hardship connects us to our soul like a laser. We must know pain firsthand. Innocence must be relinquished to grow spiritually.

And once we begin to develop and grow in spiritual ways (often committing to a path of growing awareness and presence), there is no turning back. Even when we feel out-of-step with the world around us, it can’t be helped. We look through a different lens, one that has less to do with the roller coaster of daily news, the glitz and glitter of a ridiculous celebrity culture, the dark and troubling political games of the moment, the warped definitions of “success” that flutter almost aimlessly through the air.

So … I wish everyone, especially during this season of gratitude, the willingness to stretch and expand in the spiritual sense of things. Once we perceive life events and destinations with greater depth and equanimity, we will have more to give others. A poetic cycle of renewal and growth begins to dominate our days. It’s certainly worth a try, right? ~ dh

What spiritual voice can pull you along until you find your own?
What kind of gratitude do you want to know and experience?
What kind of lens do you want to see the world through?

How often do you seek inspiration from within?

cropped-cropped-IMG-20121225-00790-2.jpgWe’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. Next post, early December.

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A POWERFUL GIFT

at the end of a long political drama, what can we do to salvage our peace of mind?

Some of the most important distinctions in life are subtle. Very subtle. We sense these distinctions on an intuitive level … when we are aware, mindful, and paying attention to something beyond our own mind chatter. But, sadly, these subtle distinctions are often ignored, missed, minimized. So how can we become more aware of subtle differences that point to something we actually need to know?

For one thing: read. Books often draw on important distinctions — fiction and nonfiction. Even poetry.

The book you don’t read won’t help.

Jim Rohn

Yes, I know. We hear about a world that doesn’t read all that much anymore. We hear about technology and its grip on our time. We also hear about shortened attention spans due to a constant barrage of snippets of information found online, via television or smart phones. But we don’t have to accept this troubling trend. We can continue to read real books, the kind that draw subtle distinctions … make us think … and give us pause. We don’t have to join those who insist there is “no time to read.” Make time in creative ways! Even a page a day … eventually gets us through an entire book.

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

–Marcel Proust

img-20141025-02645

JUST as the trees of autumn only show subtle differences of color at first (eventually the colors deepen, turn bright and artistic-looking), subtle changes in our daily lives noticed early on, before they hit us over the head, can be quite helpful. Perhaps they alert us to something critical in the offing. Perhaps (if our health is at play) we can prevent a major health issue from developing further.

A book is the only place in which you can examine
a fragile thought without breaking it
.
–Edward P. Morgan

Besides reading books of substance more frequently (making it a regular and important part of each day), what else might we do to increase our ability to perceive subtle, but telling, distinctions?

WHAT about tapping into the stillness within, so we can hear or sense more on an intuitive, knowing level? Do you feel it’s difficult to become truly silent, the mind running on like a wild river? Of course. We all feel that way sometimes. But if we are willing to work at learning about the merits of internal solitude and quiet, we can grow in awareness. We can deepen our perspectives. We can begin to discern the subtle aspects of life that are all around us and often pointing the way.

1022001530
I’m reminded here of the close of chapter one in my memoir, The Silence of Morning: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE. I had only a day or two earlier learned of my son’s loss … it was dawn, the morning of his funeral, and this is what I wrote: “Dawn arrived as a fuzzy continuum of then and now. Vague resistance was all I could manage, as harsh, unrelenting circumstances penetrated my awareness. Walls, draped in shadows, the cave I never wanted to emerge from. And, across the room, fragile flowers. Their colors sadly depleted. An unspoken mission–to console, to soothe–laid bare by this glaring day of black and white. The silence of morning, a cavernous, mocking echo reveled all of this, and more. Viscerally, I felt its cold, eerie precision: its force. Merciless. Absolute.”
  • Silence speaks to us quite loudly at times, doesn’t it? Sometimes underestimated in importance, it is usually trying to tell us something if we will only tune in. Listen. Try to grow in awareness. 

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. –Thomas Hood

Have you identified anything in your life to help you stay more alert to silence? Have you experienced profound insights when silent? What have you learned about trying to quiet the ever-chattering mind?

I encourage you during times of stress, pain, and confusion to consider leaning on the silence within. The quiet distinctions may bubble to the surface. The gentle nudge may be heard above the noise of life. Answers may come. Ideas may flow. Creativity is nurtured. Peace of mind may seem possible once more. Perspective may be regained. Your sense of purpose, compassion, and personal strength also can be enhanced. Though mysterious, learning to trust silence is a powerful gift. –dh

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When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze. –Thomas Carlyle

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. –Henri Nouwen

Even in the most beautiful music there are some silences, which are there so we can witness the importance of silence. –Andrea Bocelli

  • Have any memorable experiences with silence you would like to share here? 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you November 4th, when I’ll share my interview with author Laurie Buchanan. Her new book, Note to Self, releases on the 12th.
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