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Category Archives: Art

Finding beauty in every day… a 365 day challenge. #beautyineveryday

omlotus

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to cope with all the happenings taking place in the world today. And not just on the global or national scale (which, of course, are heavy enough) but, all the things that are happening day to day, month to month, to each of us. Life, by nature, challenges us – pushes us to overcome on a daily basis. Teaches us how to cope (or not cope) and forces us to keep moving forward because we have no choice. Time goes on, days go by, you wake up, you go to work, you go to sleep and then wake up to do it all over again. It’s an unavoidable cycle that, if you’re not careful, can slip by you in infinite time and the next thing you know you wake up at 37 and wonder how the hell you got here so quickly.

Finding purpose is something that I have admittedly struggled with. But I think that’s OK. I think that part of the journey of life is discovering and re-discovering purpose. Re-discovering self. Growing up I had a purpose – horses. In college I had a purpose. At least, the kind of purpose a 20 y/o woman surrounded by powerful, ambitious and brilliant women has. A purpose that I still tap into. With my ex, I had a purpose – a life, a love, a family and a future. In the years since then it’s been much less clear.

I used to use this blog as an opportunity to process. To share. To put what I am feeling on the inside out into the world, with the hope that someone would hear it – or that I would be heard. I used to sit in front of my computer late at night bursting with thoughts and feelings that I felt compelled to get out. And then I would go through phases where I’d grow silent. Repression, maybe? Avoidance – more likely. At times I thought perhaps I had healed what needed healing and had nothing left to say. Other times, I thought to myself that perhaps I just had nothing left to feel.

Today I feel compelled to write again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and have known for quite some time that the day was imminent that I would feel this unyielding need to sit in front of my computer and write again – and not because it was my job or someone was telling me to do it. But, because I feel this insatiable need to do it, to get it out there and to share it with others. Perhaps it’s because I’ve reached an emotional place where I know I’m not alone and want to feel the support of my community around me. Perhaps it’s because I think I have something to offer to those who are in a similar space. Or, perhaps it’s because I’ve come to accept some things about myself and my life, my career and my situation, that have forced me to opened up again and to share.

I experienced something quite remarkable last night (something that I will go into detail on in a future post) but the essence of what it taught me is that in order for my life and my energy to flow, I need to find my voice and to express it. To find my joy and to share it with others. I could sit here and go into an over-analysis of my astrology charts, numerology, colorstrology, birthday charts, aura, energies, etc., but that might seem boring and a little new age for most of you. The important thing that I know and have learned about myself through this is that I have a deep, deep empathy for others – one that has, at times, led me to have premonitions or a telepathic connection (yeah, I know. sounds crazy! – and for yet another post) – and a desire to influence happiness and positivity in others. I give more of myself than is healthy at times, but that is a choice that I make conciously and willingly. I also harbor emotions too strongly and too deeply, and that has often closed a door around my heart that is hard to reopen. But that’s OK. That’s life. That’s learning and that is progress. I also know that I can comfort people just by being in their presence. That I am often a rock in an otherwise chaotic life. And that fills me with joy and a sense of purpose.

So… this leads me to the purpose of this post. The last couple of years have been very tumultuous in my life – relationships, cancer, work. And the last six months  have been particularly challenging at work. We have been in the midst of many changes, much of which have a direct impact on me, my team and the work that we do. It’s unsettling, and frustrating and infuriating, at times. After months of resistence to it I was able to realize that the negativity was not going to change or solve anything. Only make it harder to cope – harder to move on. So I have been working the last few months to create positive energy at work. To give some of my (sometimes exasperating) sense of optimism back to my team. It may sound silly but, I have created a white board where I’ve asked that we write, draw or attach the joy that we want to find in our work that day. The comments range from silly to serious, inside jokes to personal experiences. My intention is to help everyone find a reason to laugh, a reason to smile, a reason to think to themselves that things aren’t as bad as they feel right now.

This doesn’t mean things aren’t bad. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the feelings we are feeling and the experiences we are having – with work, with life, with politics, with humanity – aren’t valid. It just means that there is also much to appreicate in the world. There is much to love and much to find joy in. And in order to be our best selves, to find the courage and the strength to change the wrongs, to find our purpose – we must fuel it with joy… with appreciation. With love.  With compassion.

And so I am challenging myself (and any of those who wish to join) to take a journey with me – to post something every day  for 365 days that is beautiful… that you find joy, happiness or laughter in. Something you appreciate and/or love. Something that inspires you. Repeat posts are OK, because this journey is for you, not me or anyone else. We are just here to support you. And if you miss a day, that’s OK too, because there is no judgement here. No competition. No failure. This is for you. This is for me. This is what I feel compelled to do to keep my focus and to keep moving forward. Perhaps, to move beyond.

Use the hashtag #beautyineveryday and let’s begin…

My Day 1 selection is for the women in my life: past, present and future. When I had the idea I decided to go through all my facebook photos and pull pics of me with the women I love, who have touched me and inspired me. In doing so I found myself feeling overwhelmed with pride and joy – and the recognition that I have been fortunate to have been touched by so many remarkable women who have grounded and shaped me, and served as role models for the woman that I hope to be. There is so much joy and laughter in these photos. As well as happiness free of the gravity of sadness, uncertainty, unknowns. They remind me just how much love, kindness and passion there is in the world. All of which I hope to tap into on this journey. They remind me of the hope that I have.

So my beauty in the world today is all of you. You wonderful, gentle, inspirational, powerful women.

Day 1

 

 

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Soul food.

I had an incredible experience last night that I can’t stop thinking about. I will be writing about it but, in the meantime, enjoy this little ditty. Heard it in the car this morning and it hit pretty deep.


Amazing friendships, both human and animal…

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The death of my dog was the most traumatic thing I think I’ve ever been through… ever. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been through some pretty traumatic shit (https://underalilactree.com/2012/09/19/history-as-gravity/. See also: Ex-hole.).  The idea of life without Buckley was something I couldn’t even imagine. And to have him taken so suddenly, where there wasn’t even a moment for me to “imagine it”, let alone say goodbye, was devastating. I didn’t even believe it was real.

en routeI suppose that’s what inspired that in-the-moment decision to have him cremated. I remember the vet asking me if I wanted to have him cremated and I instantly said yes. He was laying there, right in front of me, still warm… I don’t think there was any other possible answer. Then she asked if I wanted a group or private cremation. Um… private. Obviously. I wanted to take him home with me. I wasn’t ready to let him go.

The next week, I was talking with a good friend about it…  a friend who I consider a soul mate, someone I love deeper than almost any other person on this planet. I was telling him pretty emotionally how I was dreading the day that I was to go “pick him up” from my parent’s. That I couldn’t imagine that my dog, who was so full of life and love and joy, would come home with me in a stale, wooden box.

My friend, an artist and a magician with wood, said to me almost instantly, “I will make something for Buckley to live in.” Of course, it was the perfect thing to do. My friend, who’s artistic talent I’ve admired for years, was the perfect person to create something meaningful. My friend, who was with me for some of the greatest moments of my and Buckley’s time together, was the perfect person to know how to make me feel like Buckley would live on forever. My friend, who knows me deeper than almost anyone else in my life, knows exactly what I need to feel peace with all of this.

urn

A few weeks ago I was in NYC for a business trip and was able to pick up the piece that he did. It was breathtaking and emotional and perfect. My Buckley has a new forever home, and it’s exactly what I imagined it would be. No, it’s even better. It’s the second best thing to him actually still being alive.

Instead of tell you myself what the significance of it is, I thought I would let the artist himself explain it in his own words. Below is an email he sent to a friend and colleague of his, who was interested in writing a blog article about the piece as soon as she saw the images:

Greetings Amy,

I hope you have been well and staying warm this chilly season. I would be happy to inform you about the meaning behind the urn and how it came to be. Let’s start with the pup who now lives in it.

Buckley was a 3 year old, 75lb Boxer mix who a dear friend of mine rescued as a puppy. He spent his life with my friend, Em, in New England. They often visited the ocean beaches to let out all of his enormous amounts of energy. During the summer of 2013, Em, Buckley, myself and my two dogs, Harriet and Myrtle, took a week long trip to a house located on the mid coast of Maine.

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Being a woodworker and natural wood gatherer, I began collecting beautiful pieces of driftwood. I had the intention of creating some drift wood inspired pieces.  Buckley and Harriet kept me company while I searched the beach each day and night. Buckley was certain that the wood was soon to be used to demonstrate his superior fetching skills. Much to my dismay, he took some of the best ones for laps around the beach. Overall, the week long journey was an unforgettable experience in amazing friendships, both human and animal. IMG_2919

On Thanksgiving day 2013, Buckley was playing with his best dog buddy, as he did quite often. In mid stride, Buckley suddenly collapsed. It is presumed it was due to heart failure, as Boxers often suffer the same fate as Buckley. When I spoke with Em, she mentioned how carrying her 75lb dog home in a tiny box was the worst thing ever. Her daily companion deserved to be memorialized in a positive way, one that brought a smile to her face. I asked Em if I could make Buckley a proper urn, she gladly accepted my offering. 

I began by examining all the drift wood I had gathered and trying to see which ones spoke to me as “special”. I also began sketching different designs. As I often do with my woodwork, I decided to just start working on the urn. After finishing my normal work day in the cabinet shop, I began bringing my thoughts from the past month to life. I calculated the volume based on Em’s measurements of the current container, increased it by a little, and worked out a scale for the urn that worked well with the delicate driftwood. I chose walnut for the main structure, as it is dark, yet warm and comforting. The darkness of the walnut would contrast nicely with the driftwood base. I spent most of my time trying to make the drift wood actually hug and embrace Buckley’s new home. Taking that into account, I also wanted it to represent a tree house, as Em and I often discuss the joys of tree houses and wanting to live in one as adults. 

After several hours of working everything together just right, it was complete. It was delicate, yet secure. It didn’t look like a depressing box that held a dead dog. It now represented some of the most precious memories of Em and Buckley’s time together. 

Death is never easy. With this piece, I aimed to create a truly positive resting place. The memory of Buckley will live forever in a tangible memorial to his playful nature and the joy he brought into our lives. My dogs would much rather plop their head on my pillow, while thrashing around my sheets to create a comfy little nest. I hope this piece acts as Buckley’s comfy nest, where he can rest peacefully and have little barky doggy dreams of scouring the beach for drift wood. RIP Buckley. 

Thanks Amy, I am glad we met.

Chris

hug (1)I can’t even describe how perfectly the piece came out. In talking with Chris, I had told him that I wanted something the made me feel like Buckley was eternally being “hugged”… as I often did because he was the perfect size for hugging. And that’s exactly what he did. And beyond that, he incorporated a feeling, a memory, a moment, into the piece that will forever capture the heart of who Buckley was and the joy he brought to my life. The mischievous, adventurous, ‘I want to take your stick’ Buckley…will now be surrounded by his favorite driftwood, from one of his happiest moments, forever.

I will be eternally grateful to Chris.

To see more of his phenomenal work, check him out here:

http://www.treesandnails.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TreesAndNails


Chicagoland!

A recent work trip to Chicago made for an amazing opportunity to take some great pics during a morning run around the pier where I was literally almost blown over the edge. I love my job.

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Wicked Game (cover) – James Vincent McMorrow

Hands down one of my favorite covers of all time. Doesn’t hurt that it’s sung by one of my favorite voices of all time. If you haven’t listened to James much I strongly recommend that you spend some time with him. Just beautiful.


“I am an invisible man.”


Boston. Orange line. Not rush hour.


Walt Whitman

I read ‘Leaves of Grass’ for fun the summer after college. I found it the other day while unpacking some boxes. There were dozens of pieces of paper sticking out of it and scribbles in the margins… noting passages that I liked or pieces that I connected to. The note sticking out of this one I had written “Beautiful. Crush.”

O You Whom I Often And Silently Come

O YOU whom I often and silently come where you are, that I may be
with you;
As I walk by your side, or sit near, or remain in the same room with
you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is
playing within me.

And this one, I just wrote “lilacs”. Of course.

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

1
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
2
O powerful western fallen star!
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
3
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
4
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)
5
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
6
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil’d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
7
(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O sane and sacred death.
All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you O death.)
8
O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I walk’d,
As I walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop’d from the sky low down as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on,)
As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.
9
Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call,
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain’d me,
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.
10
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?
Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I’ll perfume the grave of him I love.
11
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.
12
Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio’s shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover’d with grass and corn.
Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.
13
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.
14
Now while I sat in the day and look’d forth,
In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and the farmers preparing their crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds and the storms,)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they sail’d,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.
Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still.
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me,
The gray-brown bird I know receiv’d us comrades three,
And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later delicate death.
Prais’d be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
And for love, sweet love—but praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.
Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.
Approach strong deliveress,
When it is so, when thou hast taken them I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death.
From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and feastings for thee,
And the sights of the open landscape and the high-spread sky are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.
The night in silence under many a star,
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil’d death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields and the prairies wide,
Over the dense-pack’d cities all and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee O death.
15
To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.
And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.
16
Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.
I cease from my song for thee,
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night.
Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night,
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full of woe,
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake,
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.

 

I love Walt.