Transformation and Adventure

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it, you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
– William Stafford

Creativity and wellness message for today: Let change purify you.

Inspiration and Perseverance in the New Year

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Nature Mobile by Adair Heitmann

Recently, a beloved mobile, one I made while I was in college, was accidentally broken by someone other than me. The mobile was special and sentimental. I constructed it late one night in my college studio apartment in Syracuse, NY. The hanging sculpture was of delicate, transparent shells and two pieces of elegant driftwood. I’d found the objects in nature while dreamily beach-combing and camping on Sanibel Island, FL. I fancy myself a good artist in two dimensional works, 3D however has never been my forte. Add to that the subject of balance, I was out of my element. Mind you, I can balance a checkbook and I strive to live a balanced life, but creating actual poise, stability, and equilibrium using fishing nylon, lightweight shells and small pieces of graceful wood was a challenge.

I hadn’t taken a class in weights and measures, nor was I a mathematician or scientist who could assess, evaluate, and compare sizes and weights to calculate stability. I was an artist! I remember vividly the night I spontaneously made the original mobile. It was my very first mobile and I ventured into unknown and nervous territory to even consider making it. Yet, I was inspired to do so. The creative process was hands-on and immediate. I felt my way through the act of gauging the position and stability of the little objects. I was more of a creator and the act of tinkering was new to me. Yet, I knew I needed to keep going, persevere, make adjustments, adapt angles and lengths, and I trusted the balance would present itself. When it was finished I loved its simplicity, it was Zen-like. I hung it in my tiny apartment and upon college graduation the mobile came with me, survived being packed and unpacked during seven of my moves, and always found a place on view in my home. The mobile was never a center-stage type of artwork, but every time I saw it, I felt proud of myself for trying something new and constructing something outside my comfort zone.

You can imagine how I felt when I found it, decades later laying flat on my desk. The supporting strings made of fishing nylon were old and weak. I could not blame the accidental mishap that caused it to break. I put it aside until I had time to fix it, I knew the persistent process I would have to undertake and I knew I’d go into an anxious tinkering approach in order to fix it. I made the original mobile spontaneously, using trial and error kinesthetic experiments. I had to go back into that same state of mind and hands-on method to fix it. It also was important to me that I fix it myself. I live with the mobile king and could have very easily asked him to repair it. But it felt imperative for me to restore the damage.

Our college-age son watched my process and progress. Over the winter break he was home and on his computer at the kitchen table while I was fiddling and messing with the mobile two feet away. He saw and heard my frustrations, he witnessed my starting over again and again. He observed, all while working on his own projects, my searching for spools of different invisible threads from my multi-compartment Norwegian wooden sewing box with six trays. He didn’t say a word, we were in parallel productive modes, but, as a parent I knew it was a teaching moment. If he saw me get annoyed and stop, it would teach him to give up too soon on his own endeavors. If I got angry at myself for failure, remember, equalizing weights isn’t my strong suit, I would be teaching him by example to let disappointment get the best of him.

I hung in there, remembered my former college self in my solo, small, second floor apartment and kept tinkering. Slowly a solution appeared and I mended the broken mobile. Is it exactly like the original? No. Is it good enough? Yes!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Hang in there and use the art of hands-on tinkering to create your next solution.

Joyeux Noel

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Adair Heitmann 2015

When I was a kid, growing up in the Presbyterian Church, we’d sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve by candlelight. The overhead lights would dim in the huge, fish-shaped sanctuary, with cathedral-height ceilings. The congregation hushed, candles were lit one from another, then the magic began. We sang all three verses of the ancient carol, Silent Night, slowly raising our candles in unison, then reverently lowering them.

As a youngster the feeling of majesty and awe, and even a connection to a deeper and broader, unexplainable mystery filled me year after year. This connection to my own sense of spirituality stayed with me as I grew into an adult. I’ve explored Buddhism, Paganism, Wiccan and other earth-based religions, Shamanism, Native American teachings, and Transcendental Meditation. Now a Unitarian Universalist, I’ve found a home in which I can have all my personal, eclectic beliefs, and still be part of a community.

Christmas time comes and how the heck do I celebrate? I still believe in a presence of Love and Grace that is bigger than I am, because I’ve felt it’s comfort over the years. I still believe in Santa Claus, don’t you? Santa certainly brings joy to the season. I love the pagan-based live fir tree in our living room, adorned with colorful lights, and handmade ornaments, chronicling our interests, friends and blended family traditions.

Every year I wait to be presented with a Silent Night experience. I don’t go looking for it, it always come to me, when I least expect it. Last Saturday night it’s kind elegance entered our family room. Having a teenage son who loves history, he chose the movie, Joyeux Noel, to watch with us while we enjoyed carry-in sushi for dinner. The movie is set in December 1914. Based on true stories, it dramatically portrays an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front that allowed soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other’s way of life.

When our son was young, we read a book together about this amazing historical event. Tears dripped down my face as we read about the soldiers, French, German, and Scottish, all singing Silent Night together. Fast-forward to this past weekend, watching, Joyeux Noel. When the acclaimed tenor turned soldier starts to sing Silent Night, alone, unarmed on high ground between the trenches, the hair on my arms stood up. My heart opened, my soul smiled, and I wept tears of mercy and kindness and hope. Tears of charity and clarity. I was given a blessing in my own home.

This holiday season, no matter what you do or don’t believe in, I wish you moments of peace, decency, and dignity.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to grace surrounding you when you least expect it.

Finally, Someone Who Understands! Thank you Misha

Mikhail-BaryshnikovNo longer will I feel guilty when I don’t want to talk with someone while I’m creating art in a community artists’ studio.

No longer will I feel ashamed that I don’t know Suzy Q, Barbi X., or John Z. when asked, “Why don’t you know them, they go there all the time?”

No longer will I apologize for getting snippy to my family when they interrupt me while I’m trying to choose which monoprint to submit to an exhibit, while reviewing art prints at our kitchen table.

Now I can proudly proclaim, “Don’t you know art is a very slow and fragile process? Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov told me so!”

While exercising this morning I heard on NPR about Baryshnikov’s Art Center in NYC, marking its 10th anniversary. Hearing Baryshnikov simply state the obvious changed my day, my week, and my world. He says that art is a fragile process and artists need privacy and space to create. I know that! Thinking back to when I had a separate studio space I remember those as the glory artist days. But I wanted more in life and co-created a multi-faceted, multi-use home and life. Yes, I adore our teenage son, but can’t a girl dream about “space, and light, and privacy?” That is just what Baryshnikov created for artists in New York City, an environment in which artists of all kinds can go and create to their heart’s content. Well done Misha!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Even if your kitchen table is filled with college tour brochures, applications, and forms, keep your vision of space, light, and privacy on the horizon.

The Power of Words

art-colorI recently visited The Nest in Bridgeport, CT. The Nest is an artist’s studio co-op housed in a weather-beaten, flat-topped, but freshly painted old warehouse, complete with a red door. Luckily a friend who has a second floor studio invited me and my artwork to participate in a group-rate photo shoot of my images.

Among other things, like taking a personal day from work to have an art day, I loved being immersed in color talk and hearing art jargon and nomenclature. It’s my first language! When I overheard the photographer say, “I’m seeing slight cyan issues,” I smiled to myself. Ahhhhhhh, I exhaled.  She isn’t talking about “issues” like anxiety, she was talking about color saturation to digitally match an artist’s fiber art. Sitting there,  I was in heaven just listening.

I grinned when I heard, “Every digital camera has its own color issues.” No, we aren’t talking about stereotyping. I was full and satisfied when I overheard, “It just needed magenta added back into the blues.” No, not a jazz song, not feeling depressed, color, color, color.

This orgy for my ears brought to mind a list of pure pigment names I read while ordering paints online last summer. I was delighted by how familiar they sounded on my tongue and looked to my eyes. Reminiscing about them instantly peeled off decades and I was right back in art school, young, powerful, and creative.

Hansa Yellow
Diatylide Yellow
Pyrrolle Orange
Perylen Vermillion (oh, how this one makes me shudder with joy)
Quinacridone Violet
Ultramarine Blue (brings me right back to the first art term I ever learned)
Phthalo Blue
Burnt Sienna (I can see the rich red-brown as I type)
Raw Umber
Van Dyke Brown
Jet Black
Carbon Black
Lamp Black (yes, we artists have many shades of black)

Words, simple words, they return me to my first life as a young artist. Positive memories spring up from my formative days, offering strength and excitement.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Revisit the language of your art and see where the journey takes you.

Pausing for the Mystery of Life

beach walkDuring this season of hustle and bustle, I cherish the times I make myself stop. It takes a conscious effort to slow down, pause, reflect. The media, in words, tempo, and pictures challenges me to hurry up and shop, buy, wrap, bake, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, I rebel. Sometimes I reach for a quote. That proactive process helps my voice lower, my stride lengthen, and my attitude ease. At other times, I compliment myself on the one online gift order I was able to accomplish before heading into work. Yes, it is the small things that can get us through our days.

I’m inspired by these words:

Walk Slowly
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line: that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.
– Dana Faulds

Creativity and wellness message for today: Slow down to discover the intangible gifts that are right in front of you.