Watch out for who you run into at your local gardening center! There I was, minding my own business, choosing colorful potted flowers for my front porch, when I saw a friend browsing the outdoor aisles. We got to talking and catching up. She follows me on social media and asked about my recent art exhibitions and writing projects. Gab, gab, share, share, it was a lovely day to be outside and even lovelier to be chatting with her.
We say goodbye and a few weeks later, I’m asked if I would be interested in leading a lay-led summer service at The Unitarian Church in Westport, CT. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. What might be of value to the folks in the pews? I asked my friend (who was the Worship Associate) and she answered, “Talk about your art.” Hmmmmmmmmmm. Yes, I could talk about that until the cows come home, but is that really of value to the people in the seats?
Then I said, “I could speak about losing fifty years of my original fine art in a silent basement flood right before I was planning a retrospective.” She leaned in. I immediately followed my intuition and promptly said, “I could title my homily, “A.R.T: Action, Reflection, Transformation.” Ding, ding, ding, she thought it a great idea.
While it was a challenge writing my personal narrative homily with a message, I got as much out of it as the congregants. Being asked to speak was validation of me and my worthiness. Having my idea liked made me feel recognized. Hearing, seeing, and feeling the responses from the people in the pews and from them afterwards opened my heart.
Watch a video of my homily below. It starts at 13:26.
My art was recently selected by juror, James Barron, into the Spectrum Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in New Canaan, CT. The theme of the show is “Renewal,” apt and timely. I’m proud to be in the exhibition. Being accepted helps me keep going, keep creating, and keep creatively experimenting.
I’ve also been submitting to art and writing residencies around the US. I’ve wanted to be accepted into one for decades! I applied to one 30 years ago, got rejected, felt defeated, and never re-applied. Now I have the courage (and time) to keep pursuing applications to a variety of venues and locations. I’ve applied now to four, and have been rejected, so far by three. Still awaiting news on the fourth.
Over the years my mind set has changed from lasting despair if I don’t get accepted to viewing my submitting process as Rejection Accomplishments. It’s my responsibility to myself, as an artist and a writer, and someone who really wants the collaborative and focused work environment of a residency, to keep applying. I learn something new each time I apply to a different residency.
My Excel spreadsheet of possibilities, deadlines, and websites is lengthy, I have more creative opportunities then I have time and space to submit to. It’s a good problem to have!
Creativity and wellness message for today: After feeling the loss of rejection, consider patting yourself on the back and acknowledging “Job well done, now on to the next!”
Decades ago I longed to be a member of the Connecticut Press Club. Life and work responsibilities got in the way of me applying for membership plus I didn’t feel good enough. Over the years I worked in marketing and communications, health and wellness, academia, and I wrote, I taught, I created, exhibited, and sold my fine artwork. I started a family and helped raise a wonderful child. I created and co-authored a writers’ blog for a local library. My blog posts offered encouragement, followed my own process of starting a writer’s website, how to build an author’s platform online, and how to feel joy in the act of creativity.
I followed my own advice and as best I could kept my professional online presence current. The membership application didn’t come up on my radar often as I led a popular bi-weekly creative writing group for six years and had my poems and non-fiction essays published in journals, anthologies, and books.
Last year, I was a storyteller for the international visual storytelling experience PechaKucha Night Bridgeport, and this year I am a contributing author in a commercially published book. Still, I didn’t feel I was worthy of submitting for membership in the Connecticut Press Club.
Last month, however, I thought I had enough under my belt as a writer to apply for membership, I did. The organization was reworking its online application form so I contacted the organization directly about how I might apply. To my delight, I heard back that the organization read my bio on my website and I “was all set.” I’m happy to report this story has a happy ending.
Creativity and wellness message for today: Just keep doing what your heart calls you to do.
In 2019 I had a nighttime dream in which whales metaphorically foretold a health crisis that I would survive in 2021. Their wisdom helped me weather a very trying and scary time because I knew to trust their guidance. I’ve been connecting to spirit animals in my dreams and in waking life all my life. They’ve never steered me wrong.
Last year I was so sick and the medical treatments so severe that I had to take a medical leave of absence from work. Due to the severity of the treatment’s side effects, I had about 5.5 non-consecutive hours a month (that’s right — 5.5 hours per month, non-consecutive) when I had functioning brain cells and a modicum of energy. I called it my “one week a month when I came up for air,” for about an hour each day for a period of about one week.
During my long stretches of down time, when I could focus, I had a lot of time to think. When I thought about what I wanted to do when I came up for air, once a month, I thought “Do more of what makes me happy.” When I thought about this I pondered . . . writing makes me happy.
Serendipity played a hand one day, while I had brain cells I was randomly scrolling though LinkedIn, and along came a call for writers from Sacred Stories Media about its upcoming book by world-renowned author, teacher, shamanic practitioner, and licensed psychotherapist, Dr. Steven Farmer, ANIMALS: Personal Tales of Encounters with Spirit Animals. The publishing company’s call was “Have You Had a Mystical Experience with Spirit?” Well, yes, I have.
The Common Sentience book series is a first-of-its-kind series that brings to the fore and celebrates mystical experiences we have. Every book is anchored by a Featured Author (Dr. Steven Farmer for the ANIMALS book) who is a eminent thought leader on the book’s topic. These teachers share both their personal stories and deep knowledge in chapters throughout the book, along with selected contributing authors. Sacred Stories Media asked people to share their true, compelling personal stories of a direct interaction with a Spirit Animal. The story that immediately bubbled up from deep within me was an experience I had with gray whales in 1988 and how they helped me overcome fear on the Pacific Ocean outside of Tofino, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Over the next weeks, whenever I had a few brain cells available I jotted down my memories of that profound experience. Over time my briefly drafted word sketches grew into the whole true story. During my few hours each month in which I had energy and brain power I stitched all the pieces together and I felt happy writing it. The deadline loomed. I knew I had gotten the story as good as I could. I submitted it to the publishing company for consideration and went back to sleep.
Needless to say, when I learned my story was accepted I was delighted! I am now counting down to the book launch date of January 11, 2022.
Part of the back cover states: “Experience how these spiritual allies can guard, aid, heal, and guide you in the most unexpected and delightful ways.” I’m proud that out of the 35 selected sacred storytellers that my story is one of the highlighted six on the back cover! You can find my story on page 133, “Overcoming Fear With Help From the Whales.”
Best U.S. Book Links to Use: ANIMALS is available worldwide. If you live outside the U.S. please look up the book on your favorite retailer site. A shortened Amazon link is – https://bit.ly/cs_animals A shortened Barnes and Noble link is – https://bit.ly/cs_animals_bn
Creativity and wellness message for today: Allow yourself to to guided by the intelligence of animals and the power of nature.
My thoughts today alight on feathers: Feather symbolism has different meanings depending on who you ask. For me, they represent hope, alignment with Spirit, divine protection, poetic inspiration, and profound yet light mystical connections. They also come into my life unexpectedly and offer me insight and strength to try something new. The feather comes as a sign and teaches me to creatively trust what is in the immediate moment.
Others have said: “In a result oriented culture like ours, it is easy to get hung up on endings, on figuring things out and finding precise solutions. But a true fascination continues building with each new piece of information, making new connections, revealing new patterns and opening new perceptions. The exploration of natural miracles is a fundamentally open ended and curiosity driven enterprise. It reminds us that science is not always about the answer, it is about the questions.” – Thor Hanson, Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
I’m continuing on my healing journey and am letting myself be changed by it. I think it’s fundamental to my emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual growth . . . to allow myself to be changed by inescapable realities. Yes, I can change some things and I do. Yet, in life, outside forces can change you and you have to yield to survive and thrive. (Surthive).
Per Webster’s: An example of yield is an orchard producing a lot of fruit. An example of yield is giving someone the right of way while driving. I love both definitions, they ring true.
Here’s a quote to live by: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” -Wendell Berry
Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer.
Creativity and wellness message for today: Yield to your own transmutation of self and listen to your stream sing.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you enjoy a year enriched by beauty and wonder. I continue on my year-long healing journey and in order to recuperate I need to be quiet and rest. I am finding these times of solace and solitude restorative. There’s a wonderful book our son gave me for Christmas, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. It beautifully describes the process of tuning inward in order to heal. I recommend it!
And then there is Mary Oliver . . . just when I think I have read all her poems out of the blue a member of my church (who doesn’t know me) sends me one I haven’t read before and it nails it.
The Lily by Mary Oliver
Night after night darkness enters the face of the lily which, lightly, closes its five walls around itself, and its purse of honey, and its fragrance, and is content to stand there in the garden, not quite sleeping, and, maybe, saying in lily language some small words we can’t hear even when there is no wind anywhere, its lips are so secret, its tongue is so hidden – or, maybe, it says nothing at all but just stands there with the patience of vegetables and saints until the whole earth has turned around and the silver moon becomes the golden sun – as the lily absolutely knew it would, which is itself, isn’t it, the perfect prayer?
Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to the gifts of the day no matter how quietly they come in.
Recently I’ve been dealing with a major health crisis that requires my full-time attention, managing severe side effects of treatments, and being fundamentally exhausted every day of every month. To deal with this major life upheaval I fully embrace my introvert self and go very internal, diving deep into rest and reflection. I nap when I am not having treatments or managing side effects. I come up for air briefly for a short period of time once a month right before my next treatment. I thought I could work at my fulltime job while undergoing aggressive treatments but I’ve learned the side effects are so strong, unpredictable, and completely flatten me that I’ve had to take a medical leave from work to focus solely on my health.
Eight years ago in January 2012 I wrote an essay for the Fairfield Writer’s Blog “Writers – Use What You Have” about the power of creativity and the value of not reinventing the wheel. You can read the blog here and view the book I mention in it Haikus of Nature, Family, and Art by Adair Wilson Heitmann at The Sketchbook Project — Brooklyn Art Library here.
Enter September 2020 and the Fairfield County Arts Association Virtual Art Show Call for Artists. I received the information awhile back but was too sick and exhausted to even consider submitting. Then weeks later I opened an email reminder and since I was in my brief moment up top I wondered “why not?” Even though I pushed myself to submit to the exhibition I used my own advice to use what I had and submitted a recent fine art unedited photograph that was readily available. Now seeing it in the virtual art show, I’m glad I did!
Creativity & wellness message for today: trust your own best advice and then follow it.
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.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
-Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things
Creativity and wellness message for today: Delight in hidden messages and the blessings of small things.