Don’t Fear the Rapture

verdant b2“Although everyone feels rivulets of wonder, and even awe, from time to time, not everyone is as comfortable expressing those feelings as freely as John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Walt Whitman. Amy's rainbow




I suppose what people fear is loss of objectivity. But life doesn’t require you to choose between reason and awe,  or between clear-headed analysis and a rapturous sense of wonder. A balanced life includes both.” – Diane Ackerman, Cultivating Delight

pastorius panerama 2 sm size

Love Note #1

It’s easy to love what we perceive as our own good qualities – bakes killer brownies for friends, loves unconditionally, always helps a seemingly lost pooch, lends an ear when needed. But what about our faults, are they lovable too?

gorgeous chaos

It’s no secret that self-love is the key to feeling peace in your soul. Just try it. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Wink at yourself, flirt a little. Let it feel fun, pure and warm.

Some days doing this exercise is harder than others. You made a bad decision. Your words hurt someone you care about. What the hell is your life about anyway and why haven’t you figured it out by now? In these moments where fear and doubt have gripped you, are you still lovable? Do you still deserve your own love?

These are precisely the times when it’s imperative to love yourself. Berating yourself and withdrawing your compassion toward yourself will create a downward spiral into desperation and confusion. More bad decisions will be made. Guilt heaped on. Flame doused.

Love your mistakes as much as your triumphs because the goof-ups help you to grow. They point directly to where your attention needs to be – not as a reprimand, but as a guiding light. Love the part of you that doesn’t know how to do it better yet, because that part of you needs it the most. Like fertilizer on a droopy plant.

Then take it one step farther and love your pain. Love the hardships and the whole mess of life. Not because you want them to continue, but because you want them to transform. Love nurtures positive change. Acceptance yields a sense of compassion. When we feel safe to admit our mistakes or look honestly at what isn’t working, we can begin to see through a lens of love toward a better way.

Love is a balm and love is a catalyst. Love all of yourself – dark, light, happy, sad – and feel yourself bloom.

bleeding hearts

We Are All Holy Creatures

My neighbor’s feisty young cat attacked my old girl numerous times over several years.  I have scars on my arm from where the offender jumped up and clawed at me as I threw water on the battle to break up a fight.  Our time outside was guarded and tense, never knowing when an attack might come.  Vet bills racked up.

Christmas Eve 2012.  I pulled into the driveway at 11:30 pm after attending a candlelight service.  The bad girl was sitting in the slushy snow at the end of the driveway; she stared at me solemnly.  In the spirit, I wished her a Merry Christmas and told her to go home where it was warm.

She disappeared two days later and hasn’t been seen since.

The weather is warm now and my girl and I frequently perch in the sun on a lounge chair.  But I can’t totally relax, my nerves on habitual alert.  I feel angry that our lives were so disrupted, and I feel sad that my 21-year-old girl had to endure pain and fear.  Still, I pray for the terror-inducing feline – may she be warm in someone else’s home, not torn and bloody from being ravaged by a fox.  She’s a holy creature, just like we all are.

Be sad.  Be mad.  But please don’t let hate and fear settle into your heart.

Detail of Assemblage with Painted Frame by Simon Sparrow

Detail of Assemblage with Painted Frame by Simon Sparrow

(This piece is included in Great & Mighty Things: Outsider Art
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through 6.9.13)

Me and Jackson: Concealing and Revealing

I’ve always been terrified to raise my hand in class. When faced with making a major presentation in my grad school Landscape Architecture class, the only thing that saved me was discussing what I was truly passionate about at that time – photography. I explored how William Henry Jackson’s early photos of the American West affected people’s perception of the largely unexplored area.

Instead of memorizing every word, my MO when doing any public speaking, I winged it. In the darkened room, Jackson’s unprecedented black and white images encouraged me to speak from the heart and include my own philosophical musings.  Risky, but my classmates and even my professor, who I adored, were enthralled.

For the first time, I experienced The Zone.  That creative zone where I glided along through the barren, sulfur-spewing western landscape, with Jackson by my side. On the fly I married passion with original ideas, his novel images supporting my maiden journey.

Why had I always been afraid to raise my hand? Because I was afraid of being misunderstood, and then ostracized. My need to be seen at a soul level – my true self – was so important that I was willing to not be noticed at all. It kept me quiet for a very long time.

My thesis of the presentation was that Jackson and his colleagues chose what images to show the folks back home:  “The West is safe” – avoid snapping the spouting geysers. “The West is adventurous!” – shift the camera a foot to the left to show the moon-like craters and steaming shoots.

We choose what we want to show the world – the safe side or the wild side. The view that’s conventionally acceptable or the truth. Jackson did both. And now so have I.

Lone Star Geyser SCBL_856

Lone Star Geyser
(From the William Henry Jackson Collection)

Crater of Old Faithful SCBL_919

Crater of Old Faithful, by William Henry Jackson.
(From the William Henry Jackson Collection)

What are you afraid of giving up?

Me:  Why do you think you never made it big?

Him:  Music is a hard industry to succeed in. Especially in Nashville.

Me:  Do you think you were afraid of success?

Him:  Is that a thing?

Me:  Sure. Lots of people are but I think many don’t know it.

Him:  Why are people afraid?  Isn’t success what they want?

Me:  Sometimes their emotions are working below the surface and keep them stuck in the familiar, safe zone.

Him:  How do I know?

Me:  Think about what you’d be giving up if you made it big.

Him:  Okay.  (pause)  Are you afraid of success?

Me:  I have been, but I’m getting over it.

Him:  What are you afraid of giving up?

Me:  Freedom.

Him:  In what way?

Me:  The freedom to create, to have the time to create. It’s the same with relationships for me. I worry that if I’m living with someone I love I won’t have the time to myself that I need to think, write, alchemize and just go with my creative flow.

Him:  But lots of married people are successful.

Me:  Of course.  That’s how I know my fear is just that, and not a reality.

Him:  Why do you think you have that fear?

Me:  My mom basically gave up being an artist to be a wife and mother.  I never saw that you could have both a successful creative career and a husband and family.

Him:  That sucks.

Me:  Not at all.  I know the issue so I just keep telling myself that I can have both, that I don’t need to choose one over the other.  I have freedom now but if I was successful I’d have even more – money, choices… That’s where the ability to know what I want and say “no” to what I don’t want is crucial. If I start doing things that don’t fulfill me, then I lose my freedom.  So.  What are you afraid of giving up?