Pink Teacups and a Chamois Cleaning Cloth

(c) Adair W. Heitmann

I’m still settling into our new home, still unpacking, creating new spaces, and using old things in new ways.

It continues to be a time of tripping down memory lane and being grateful for the past as well as the present and staying wondrous about how the future may unfold.

Today I celebrate my dear friend and chosen “godmother by love” Kazue Mizumura. I knew Kazue by her Japanese nickname “Baye” which means “baby,” as she was the youngest in her family.

We met when I was fresh out of art school, making my own way in the world as a single woman and professional artist. We shared creativity and independence and feminism and bonded immediately! Over the decades I spent many a dinner over long, deep, heavily-accented conversations filled with raucous laughter at her tiny pink house on the water.

She was an author, illustrator, and jeweler, an artisan par excellence. She gave me copies of her books and she bought some of my artwork. I commissioned her to make jewelry for boyfriends of the time. We supported each other, mostly emotionally. When I was with her, I never felt edited, only loved. We delighted in each other’s company.

She died several years ago. Many years after that, ten years after her death, her partner in life asked me to help her “clean out Baye’s studio.” RU hadn’t set foot in it since Baye died. Over the course of the arduous process RU kept asking me to take something to remember Baye by. I was there to help loved ones not to take anything so I continued to brush off the kind offer. Finally after weeks of helping out I chose to take home some of Baye’s sumi ink painting and calligraphy brushes. They were used and precious to me. Baye held them in her hands as she worked her magic. RU didn’t think that was enough! To me it was. RU insisted I take more. I then chose Baye’s set of pink porcelain tea cups . . . personal and priceless, and one other thing.

Today, getting ready to go celebrate a friend’s birthday I open a drawer to get the old, soft, supple, and previously-used silver polishing cloth I always keep in my bureau to polish my earrings. No one would ever know it was Baye’s. The holes in it were caused by her usage not mine. To me the chamois is a cherished object and of great value.

Being blessed with Baye’s friendship, love, and devotion and experiencing tangible connections to her daily, I never thought to Google her until this morning. Unexpectedly, I found a mother lode. I didn’t know one of her books was read on Sesame Street nor that she had illustrated a book by May Sarton. To me she was “Baye” my chosen godmother by love.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to accepting love and finding your own riches.

Why Do You Read Books?

BooksSneaking in another chapter of the book I’m reading before going to work is one of my guilty pleasures. I’ll sacrifice non-essential personal or family obligations to get in one more page. Be it fiction or non-fiction, my current book shares an intimate relationship with me, I forego others for it. I read to escape and to learn. Why do you read?

“I read in hope of discovering the truth, or at least some truths. I look for truth in what some might deem strange places: novels and poems, histories and memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, letters and diaries. In reading for truth, you understand, I am not seeking a full game plan, some large system that will explain the world to me or a patent for bliss. Instead, I seek clues that might explain life’s oddities, that might light up the dark corners of existence a little, that might correct foolish ideas I have come to hold too dearly, that, finally might make my own stay here on earth more interesting, if not necessarily more pleasant.”
– Joseph Epstein

Creativity and wellness message for today: Read a book for stress reduction, knowledge, and free entertainment!

Creativity is a Renewable Resource

1396433877369I’m reading Biz Stone’s Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind. Biz is the co-founder of Twitter. Why not read it along with me and let me know what you think?

He had me hooked in the introduction:
“This book is more than a rags-to-riches tale. It’s a story about making something out of nothing*, about merging your abilities with your ambitions, and about what you learn when you look at the world through a lens of infinite possibility. Plain hard work is good and important, but it is ideas that drive us, as individuals, companies, nations, and a global community. Creativity is what makes us unique, inspired, and fulfilled.”

*Making something out of nothing is what artists, composers, choreographers, and writers do all the time!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Read this book, be exhilarated, let me know what you think.

Six Ways to Retinker Your Work

TEDxTinker (n): A person who can make all kinds of minor repairs.
Retinker (v): To make minor but highly effective repairs.

Yesterday, I spent my balmy Saturday morning, voluntarily tucked into a basement room with 100 other happy people. The Westport Library, held a TEDX event. TEDx is like the baby sister of the TED programs. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TEDx is all that, but on a smaller community level.

The official title of the program was,  “Retinkering Libraries.” Eight presenters kept everyone in the palms of their hands. My take-aways however went far beyond the world of libraries. Artists, writers, teachers, entrepreneurs, consultants, non-profits, for-profits, everyone can learn to retinker themselves. In this age of extreme make-overs and radical career changes considering the power of retinkering is very freeing.

Six Ways to Retinker Your Work:
1.) Try stuff
I learned about some very cool emerging technology, Aurasma, from New Canaan high school librarian, Michelle Luhtala. I’m intrigued to see what I might do with it, both with promoting my own creative work and on my day job.

2.) Ownership of arranging space
Architect, Henry Myerberg, founder of HMA2, taught us that visibility + flexibility + density = ideal learning spaces. Consider making your work space more flexible, see where that leads you.

3.) Come up with the worst idea
When brainstorming about new possibilities, Jeanine Esposito of Spark! Consulting, encouraged us to come up with the worst idea then find two things about the “bad” idea that are good. Now that sounds promising!

4.) Read and be read to
The Director of the Yale University Press, John Donatich, didn’t have a PowerPoint presentation. Nor did his talk didn’t come by video. He read out loud to us. As he read his speech I was lulled into the comfort of being a child and full of wonder.

5.) Surprise and delight your customers
Marketing guru, Joseph Jaffe, reminded us that “Attention is a gift and a privilege, earn it every day.” With the fusion between communication, marketing and technology this reinforces my own motto: If I don’t have something to say, I don’t say/post/tweet/ it.

6.) Reconnect with your original vision
Founder of Yahoo Tech, David Pogue, reminded us about the “too many cooks spoiling the soup” syndrome. One person with vision can make great things. Stay true to yours, if it’s dimmed discover what needs tweaking or changing.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Discover the power of retinkering.

 

 

Poem in Your Pocket Day: April 24

poem_in_pocket-daySave the date: Poem in Your Pocket Day 2014 will be held on Thursday, April 24! On Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day.

You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Why is this cool? It’s cool because it celebrates creativity and poetry and it brings poetry to the masses. It involves community and is an individual act, all at the same time. April is National Poetry Month.

What’s National Poetry Month? National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.

Reading a good poem takes me to a place of richness that I wasn’t in a moment before, such as this one . . .

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

I’m more grounded after reading it, awakened, and oddly satisfied.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Commit to doing something poetic this month.

 

 

The Truth About Nighttime Dreams

IMG_1367I’ve been following the wisdom of my nighttime dreams for decades. Guidance from that knowledge has been like a tiller in my hand, helping me steer the sailboat of my life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist, Marsha Norman says:

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”

So true!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Write down what was in your dream last night. Don’t edit, just write it down. Then be open to how that one act might help you set the course of your day (or your life.)

The Power of Sketchbooks

Kraft Sketch Book openWhen I was an art major in college I hated sketchbook assignments. Monotony overwhelmed me as I looked around my banal dorm room. How many times could I sketch my roommate Koko’s worn black socks draped over her sturdy shoes without throwing my charcoal stick out the window? I was the kind of artist who liked to invent what I created. That’s why I loved photography and printmaking. Those mediums allowed for serendipity, happy “accidents,” and magic.

Decades later, you won’t find me sketching my son’s white threadbare athletic socks draped over his running shoes. You will however hear me singing the praises of the act and art of keeping a sketchbook.

As an artist, writer, and a journal keeper, I group sketchbooks and journals into the same category. They all chronicle our lives, just use different ways of expressing it.

Last year, I met a sculptor in his studio/gallery in Northampton, MA. Samuel Rowlett made these cool, life-size stretched canvases. He attached them to his back and made self-portrait photographs in remote natural environments. As he and I chatted I remember him saying that sketchbooks saved his live. I recall he had been a new dad, an at-home house husband and father. He was used to creating big 3-D projects, but was limited to a small, two-dimensional notebook in his new role. Sketching was his saving grace.

I’ve experienced similar rapture, not from sketching what is I front of my face, but from writing in my nighttime dream journal, or participating in an international sketchbook project. The top shelf of my closet holds year’s worth of journals in all sizes, colors, textures, and shapes. My journals and sketchbooks aren’t the diary type. They don’t list the weather or what I had for dinner. They document transition times in my life. My hopes, fears, wishes, loves, passions, mistakes, and yearnings. My entries are self-portraits from a moment in time. The act and art of putting something down, in an intimate, hand-held form, that I can refer back to, is validating, instructive, and profound.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Brush off your old journal or start a new sketchbook. You never know where it may lead you.