Shaman

Years ago, an older gentleman using a wheelchair, and accompanied by his wonderful wife, came into my very first booth at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair.

He was an artist himself. And when he saw my work, he…exploded (figuratively), in a wonderful, emotional, deeply spiritual way.

He asked questions, he listened carefully to my answers, about the sources of my inspiration, what led me to do this work, where I was heading with it.

He got it. He got every single tiny little thing about it.

As he circled the booth, he kept saying, “You’re a shaman! You’re a shaman!”

His words made me very uncomfortable. Now, I (thought I) knew what a shaman was.  If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that the minute I think I know everything, life will quickly and surely show me I don’t. (That’s why “eternal student of life” sneaks into almost all my my bios and intros.)

He stopped. He said, “I’m scaring you a little, aren’t I?”

I said yes. I said, “I thought I knew what a shaman was. A wise leader. but I don’t feel that way.”

He shared with me this beautiful, powerful definition of a shaman:

All shamans are artists.  But not all artists are shamans. 

All shamans are teachers. But not all teachers are shamans. 

All shamans are healers. But not all healers are shamans.”

It spoke so deeply to me, to how I felt about my art: My art healed me, and I believe it sometimes helps others heal. I love to share what I’ve learned, but not in a here’s-how-you-make-a-little-horse-way that so many people expect. More in a “what is the story only YOU can tell?” way.

And yet, even years later, I felt uncomfortable using that word in reference to myself.

Until, just a year or so before we left New Hampshire, I shared that story with a professional shaman. And she said, what I call Definiton of a Shaman Part IV:

“‘Shaman’ isn’t something you call yourself. It’s what others call YOU.”

A day or so ago, I had a teensy emotional breakdown. (In addition to difficult family matters, scary family matters, my most vulnerable pet on the lam, more uncertainty about my studio space, etc., I’ve been demolished by allergies this month. It’s scary, and exhausting, and leaves me fragile and exposed.) I wrote about it, listened to Mary Gauthier (pronounced go-shay. Who knew?? Not me!) singing “Mercy Now”.  I had a little cathartic cry, and felt better.

So many people reached out to me, (you know who you are. THANK YOU!!!), including a few old and dear friends.

I get lazy when I’m “out of earshot.” I love catching up with people in person, but I suck at phone conversations, and when I write, I lose track of what I’ve told, and to whom.

But in the last two days, I’ve reached out. And people have reached out, especially a handful of people I call “my wise women”. And each one had just what I needed to hear to start down a healing path again. (Note to self: One quality of a good friend is, they don’t try to tell you your reality. Thank you, Melinda!)

None of these people would call themselves a shaman. (Of course they wouldn’t! See Definition Part IV above.)

None of them believe they have everything figured out. (Of course they wouldn’t! If you meet someone who claims that, run away.)

Some of them, who are going through extremely shitty stuff, would not even consider their blorting to be “wise words.” (But they are. Their words show self-awareness, self-responsibility, anguish with a huge dash of humor thrown in, and incredible strength of character. Not because “they’re doing it right”. Because , even when they think they’re doing it horribly, terribly wrong, because when they are in a hard place and they hate hate hate it, yet they continue to do the incredibly difficult work they have to do. And they are open to the tiny miracles and blessings they find along the way.)*

And so I say to you today, thank you. Thank you, Melinda, Carrie, Amy J., Julie, Deb, Mary-Ellen, anyone I’ve missed because I am a bird-brain this week, and also to those who would have reached out, if they’d known, because that’s what they do…. Even someone I hardly know, who simply validated my experience recently at an Art Trails event that went totally weird. Thank you, Linda! Thank you, Clare, for encouraging me to take some “horse time” today.

Thank you.

You are a shaman.

P.S. Just want to say, most of my issues I’m moping about are third-world issues. Others have it harder. A helluva lot harder. Just sayin’, I’m aware of my privilege here.

P.P.S. If you are struggling today, try this: Everything is Awful, and I’m Not Okay

*I’ve just read the book Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved… So I want to clarify this. I don’t believe we are sent shit to deal with for a reason. Shit happens. I do think that what can help us through, through the fear, the anger, the despair, is to look for those tiny synchronicities that help us get through another day.

Like me saying to Jon, during his quick visit to New Hampshire last week, and on his way back to Keene from the White Mountains, “I wish we could talk with Jim and Kate (whom we haven’t seen in years) because they went through this exact same thing, and maybe they have some wisdom on how we can get through this, too.” And ONE HOUR LATER, Jon stopped for a quick dunk at the Discount Beach Club (“Bring your own damn towel”) on Dublin Lake, and he heard someone say, “Jon? Is that you?!” And there were Jim and Kate on the “beach.”)**

**The Discount Beach Club was a turn-off on Route 12, which runs around part of Dublin Lake.*** It’s literally that–a turn-off where you can scoot down to the lake. Not “restricted membership”, like some other lake accesses, or the boat launch, or whatever. The chances of finding someone there, let alone someone we know, let alone the exact people we needed right then? Well. That’s my definition of a miracle! So add Jim and Kate to the list!

***Dublin Lake has worked magic before, as these two blog posts illustrate. Cool place.

 

Dublin Lake 2005

Dublin Lake works its magic again! Discount Beach Club is just around the corner. Literally!

 

 

Mercy Now

Need to just cry for a few moments?

Mary Gauthier’s heart-achingly simple and beautiful song “Mercy Now”. That violin! Tania Elizabeth nails it with sweetness and restraint.

It’s been a hard month so far. Family matters, hard and sad stuff with our kids, impossible to solve. “Nobody died”, has been our way of framing things for Jon and I over the past 30 years. Still hard. Health issues (I now have not one, but TWO inhalers). A runaway pet. (Of course, the one who panics once she gets outside, and figuratively goes crazy.) Listening to people blame those dealing with hardship on…guess what? The people going through those hardships.

Where is the kindness?

Many people confuse “nice” with “kind”. I’ve learned to tell the difference.

So I pulled up that video on YouTube and played it loud, three times in a row, this morning.

For the first time, I noticed its date: 09/09/10.

Nine years after 9/11. Two days before my birthday.

And yet, the lyrics could have been written today.

Today, I’m going to donate to three causes. One will be for immigrant children separated from their children at the border. (Of course, there should be mercy, too, for the immigrant woman who was denied entrance because even though her husband KILLED HER TWO CHILDREN, it’s been determined spousal abuse is not a valid reason for entrance.) And btw, I often sign up for very small monthly amounts. Even $5/month adds up.

Today, I’m going to mail presents to my kids. One will love them, one will resent my “pity”.

Today, I’m going to do some journaling, something I tend to forget now that I have a regular writing gig.

Today, I’m going to schedule horse therapy time. I thought the horse needed love and acceptance, & I’d being doing HIM a favor. Doesn’t work that way.

Today, I will look for every opportunity to be kind.

Today, I’m going to take exquisite care of myself. Because like so many others even less fortunate and privileged as I, I need some mercy now.

noddy and nick

Noddy, please come home!

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Vacuum

I’ve seen those old stone steps, worn and hollowed,

Not by footsteps but by housewives scrubbing, scrubbing,

Themselves worn down by careworn chores and drudgery.

I remember the song of women’s work:

Wash on Monday

Iron on Tuesday

Mend on Wednesday

Clean on Friday….

A woman’s work is never done, they say.

Cleanliness is next to godliness, they say.

Well, screw that.

Here is my messy studio.

Art is created in chaos. Deal with it.

Welcome to my messy home.

We only clean for company, so come on in!

You can leave your shoes on.

This is my messy heart,

Still learning friend from foe, “nice” from “kindness”,

“charm” from “danger”.

Loving you for who you are

Instead of who I want you to be.

Here is my muddy soul.

I set down the burdens others put on me.

I wipe away the dirt some thought that I should hold.

My soul shines bright in the moonlight,

Radiant in the dark.

Here is my life, the awkward, stumbling journey,

Waves rolling, crashing,

The sun in my eyes, shoes filled with sand

The waves break, the sun sets.

The wind is wild and cool.

I take off my shoes.

I see our footprints, side by side, as gulls cry and soar above us.

The beach is full of sticks and rocks,

Dead kelp and screeching gulls,

Clouds of sand flies and salt.

It is beautiful beyond imagining,

And so are you, and I.

Luann Udell

beach

EXPLODING DOORMAT

If you choose to GO ALONG in order to GET ALONG, only do it long enough to GET AWAY.

20150728_153323 (576x1024)

“Rat” in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine by Steven Pastis can be very nasty. But he has a place in the world. People don’t like it when we set boundaries. Too bad. We can’t all be the Buddha.

I wanted this post to be something happy and bright for the holiday season. But other stuff is in my head, and so you get something a little more sobering today.

Some interesting choices are in my path for 2017.

I’m not here today to talk about them, not yet. But it’s interesting to contemplate the insights and “aha!” moments I’m holding as a result of those choices.

The exploding doormat.  People are surprised when I finally blow up at somebody. But it never comes out of “nowhere”. When I first heard the phrase, The Exploding Doormat, I felt like the veil had been lifted from my face.

I still struggle mightily with setting boundaries. But when I do, and it works, it is amazing.

Setting boundaries carries its own hard places, like being accused of being “selfish” and “uncaring” and “a sorry excuse for a human being.” But that’s still a heckuva lot better than trying to scrub shoe prints off my face.

Sitting with uncertainty until clarity presents herself.  I first heard this phrase from an incredible woman with deep life wisdom, Sheri Gaynor. It was profound. Sheri and I crossed paths this year, and our journey was filled with insight and miracles. She has since returned to her beloved Colorado, but I have a feeling our paths will cross again someday.

I’ve noticed that when I decide something has to happen, I waste an inordinate amount of worry, and pushing, and hammering square pegs into round holes–which only exhausts me, frustrates me, and ruins the pegs. This simple phrase reminds me that when I let go, many things fall into place–or don’t, but for very good reasons. It may sound New Age and karma-laden, and the pragmatic side of me complains–but it’s true.

do believe that you can’t just sit still let the universe barge in through your front door, because that rarely happens.

But taking one small step outside your comfort zone–taking a class with a friend, going on vacation, being open to possibility, taking a little chance on some small thing–this is often just enough for something new to cross your path.

Protection through rejection. So many times, the things we desperately want, and don’t get….well, it often turns out to be a good thing. When we look back, we see we narrowly missed walking into a quagmire beyond belief.

Note: This isn’t a reason not to “go” for things. Being afraid to try something new is stifling. But it can help me get on track with “the next thing”, instead of living in the past, and wailing about it. (Some people might say, “Not so much…” but pooh on you. I am getting better.) (A little better.)  (Sometimes.)

Going along to get along.  (See also: Exploding Doormat) Trained from my infancy to “be nice” and “get along”, I am still addicted to this behavior. And it’s led me down some downright scary paths. I’m getting a little better at this, too. But I will always, always, have to actively think about not doing this. My new mantra is, “Go along to get along, until I can get away.” It’s working.

Suffice to say, this year has been baffling and puzzling, with strange, frightening behaviors in some people who I thought were friends, a lot of pompous posturings from same, many micro-aggressions. (One tip: If someone gets upset and starts making pointed and repeated remarks about “rape” in your presence, that person is no friend of mine. Or yours.)

The last insight has many permutations. This ain’t your first rodeo, you don’t have to be the clown. (Thank you, Melinda LaBarge!) You don’t have to do stupid stuff to be part of the group.)  Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. You don’t have to take on other people’s issues if you don’t want to. And someday, take half an hour to read The Nibble Theory by Kaleel Jamison. You won’t regret it. (Explains why some people behave the way they do, in simple, beautiful, enlightening prose.)

And my absolute favorite, from Dr. Maya Angelou::

When people SHOW you who they are, believe them.  

It is astonishing how much bad behavior we accept from others, and the incredible stories we make up to explain it away.

Don’t do it anymore. You are just prolonging the agony. Every single time we look back on our interactions with toxic people, we realized we had willingly overlooked all the ‘tells’.

We’re getting better at this, too.

I really do hope your holidays are filled with love and joy and family and friends. But remember, sometimes you just have to add a lot more rum to that eggnog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC

(Originally published on the SOFA Santa Rosa website)

Today I only had a little time to spend at my studio in the SOFA Santa Rosa Arts District. (I’m at 300 S. A Street, #3, just down Atlas Coffee Alley.) This, after an entire morning of last-minute tasks, re-do’s, oh-I-forgot-I-have-to’s….  Every time I thought I was ready to leave, I’d remember one more thing….  Argh!!

When I finally got there, I unlocked my door and entered.

Then I realized I didn’t have what I needed to work on my next project. Drat.

Here’s where the magic happens:

A woman appeared. “I’m admiring your window!” she said. “Are dogs allowed?”

What dog?? Oh. There, hidden by the bottom half of my Dutch door, was a sweet, very friendly dog.

20150731_162516

I love my Dutch door! Especially when the jasmine is blooming across the walk. Do you Californians know how amazing that is???

I let them in.

“We’re visiting that photography show  at Christie Marks’ gallery,” she explained. “I have the dog while my husband takes a look. Then he’ll take the dog so I can see it!”

We talked a little about the show (which is AMAZING!) Then I left her alone to browse my studio. (I got to pet the pup.)

She saw my new Sonoma County Art Trails postcard. Coincidentally (or is it??), Christie is also on the card, along with Cat Kaufman and Mary Linnea Vaughn.)  “Oh! May I take one of your cards? We’ll come back for your open studio!”

Sweet!

Here’s where the magic gets even bigger:

She asked me if I’d consider submitting a piece for the upcoming “Landscape” show at Sebastopol Center for the Arts. (Oct. 21 – Nov. 27, 2016)

“I would,” I said, “But I don’t do landscapes.”

“I think that looks like a landscape!” she said, pointing to a small wall hanging behind my desk. “And you’d probably be the only artist in your medium!”

Sure enough, it could ‘read’ as a landscape.

I said I would certainly do that. She gave me all kinds of information–filling out an online entry form, the hours for delivering work, etc.

“Are you an artist yourself?” I asked her. “Do you volunteer at SCA?”

“Not really an artist, but I wish I were,” she said. “I just love supporting the arts, and SCA is a great organization.”

I thanked her from the bottom of my heart. Artists thrive when they are supported by their community. People who give their time to do that are golden.

We talked more. I promised to bring in my newly-recognized landscape. She joined my mailing list. Then she and pupster left to join her husband.

What are the chances she would show up at exactly the moment I unlocked my door?

I could have missed her by five minutes. By ten minutes Or I might have left before she even got there?

What are the chances she was not only familiar with Art Trails, and SCA, but also a dedicated volunteer, familiar with their shows?

What are the chances she spotted the one piece that could conceivably qualify as a landscape?

Yep. This happens all the time here in the Arts District.

Because when you are making the work of your heart, wonderful things cross your path every single day…if you look for them.

I don't know how she even spotted it in all the...er....visual excess. But she did.
I don’t even know how she spotted it in all the…er…visual clutter. But she did! (It’s the brassy-gold horizontal one at the top.)
Our Art Trails postcard!
Our Art Trails postcard! Come see us!