Posts Tagged ‘overcoming fear’

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Ears Still To The Lonely Wind — Mandala For Rabbit – 26/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 26, July 10th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper, collage paper. Colored & collaged with DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Lineco Archival PVA Adhesive, archival card stock paper. Gogyohka & haiga by QuoinMonkey. Photograph taken with a Samsung DROID.

It must be a plentiful year for Rabbit. I see her everywhere on my journeys across the Twin Cities. If you look to the spiritual aspects of Rabbit, she represents calling out Fear—looking it right in the eye. It is said that if we focus on people, places, and things we fear, we draw them closer to us. The very act of ruminating on what we are afraid of creates opportunities to learn the lessons conjured by those fears.

It’s a good time for me to pay attention to Rabbit. Lotus wrote the poem Becoming a Rabbit -26/52 for one of the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Offs in our collaboration. I pulled in a line from her poem that spoke to me, wrote a gogyohka, and scripted it around the edge of the circle that would become a haiga:

Sidewinding summer rain
plays hide and seek with the sky.
Rabbit holds her ground ---
blades of mint awash in shadow,
ears still to the lonely wind.

I want to carry my Rabbit fetish from New Mexico in my pocket for the rest of July; there are challenges ahead of me with outcomes out of my control. Is it on the dresser with the other animals? She was a gift from friends, hand carved, and sold at one of the pueblos. I have carried the balsa Rabbit for a long, long time. To help ease my fear.

Rabbit may signal:
  • feeling frozen in place from trying to find resolution to a situation you are unable to resolve
  • being too focused on the future, trying to control what has not yet taken form
  • a need to write down your fears
  • space to stop, rest, reevaluate
  • time to wait for bigger, outside forces to move again
  • opportunities to reframe the way you see your present set of circumstances
  • the need to take a deep breath, burrow into a safe space, & release your fears

Lucky for me, Fear is a universal emotion. There is not a person on Earth that has not experienced Fear. I read it in the Writing Practices of friends. We talk about it over birthday dinners. I see it at the state, local, and federal government levels. I read about it in the news every day.

Naming my fears helps to dissipate anxiety I feel about things I can’t control. Rabbit helps me remember to breathe. And to listen for answers. Ears still to the lonely wind.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 10th, 2011, with gratitude to Lotus for the inspiration

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

Rabbit Mandala: Ears Still To The Lonely Wind (Detail) -related to posts: Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, ode to a crab (haiku & mandala), Eye Of The Dragon Tattoo

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by Teresa Williams

Devil's Bridge II

Joseph Mallord William Turner from St. Gotthard & Mont Blanc
Sketchbook [Finberg LXXV], The Devil’s Bridge, near Andermatt,
Pass of St. Gotthard, Switzerland, 1802.

*The Devil’s Bridge

Blue twilight
of ash
the weathered mountains,
a single goat-bell
the high silence.
The traveller stops
in the middle
of the narrow stone bridge,
her listening is

the bridge,
dark water
rushes and falls;
tangled serpents
the frenzied depths
of time’s black core
the ravine’s
bottomless hollow;
a night heron
swoops over
the churning,
red eye widening
seeing through
to the place
where the snakes
lie still.

A sudden wind
from the nostrils
of the mountain,
as if
to extinguish
all hesitation,
dark rocks
crumble down
filling the air
with a scoured-out echo
that waits
for what must cross.

The traveller steps forward
calls out,
no response
no sign
for what it is
she wants to know;
who made the bridge
and is she
the first to cross it?

The twilight
deepens, quickens
the pause;
the traveller looks ahead
her eyes fierce
and determined,
she steps forward
and the cold light
leads her
further than she
ever imagined
without turning back
she enters
a new silence;
it is in the not knowing
that makes her cross
it is in the knowing
that stops her.

*Legends tell us that bridges throughout the British Isles, Scandinavia, and continental Europe were built by the devil in return for the sacrifice of the first being to cross over.


About Teresa: Teresa Williams is a psychotherapist, poet and translator in Seattle, Washington. She has been writing and trying to live poetry for as long as she can remember. Her love for travel and the Spanish language has called her into translation work. She is also an active member of Grupo Cervantes, a bilingual writer’s group and literary community in Seattle.

Teresa’s poetry has been featured at births, weddings, funerals and several talent shows held by the closest of friends. Her first piece on red Ravine, Sound Falling From One World Into Another, was published in August 2010 and featured the poems: Swans, Two Coyotes at Dawn, and Tarot.

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Mandala For A New Year, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

A Downy pecks at the suet feeder. Black-eyed peas simmer in a vintage crock-pot in the kitchen. Temperatures hover around zero; it’s 3 degrees and windy. Gifted with unexpected time alone on New Year’s Eve, I wrote in my journal, checked in with the Midwest Writing Group, worked on a mandala, completed the BlackBerry 365 practice, made plans for the New Year. It felt positive to me, this forward thinking.

I am one of those people who mines for specks of gold in old and burly mountains, drags silvery threads of the past forward. Lineage. Writers, artists, photographers. Process. Birth, death, old age. What makes something work? Like The Fool archetype in Tarot, it is with great humility that I embrace the unknown and begin again. Beginner’s Mind. I will miss ybonesy and her free spirited and vibrant creative fire on a daily basis at red Ravine, but I know I have to face forward. It’s one of the things she taught me — take risks. Move into the future. When you collaborate with a person who strikes a balance, one who possesses the qualities you lack, it’s easy to become complacent about that which needs strengthening inside.

I need a strong back, flexible muscles. I will build on the Bones of red Ravine. I have so many dreams I want to pursue; they have not gone away. I will have to be diligent. Courageous. Disciplined. It takes courage for ybonesy to leave to spend more time with her family; it takes courage to stay. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There are days when the work of blogging feels like it needs a whole army of writers and artists to move it forward. But I believe in the mission and vision of red Ravine and am excited to steer her in a new direction. The winds may be stiff; I will follow the structure we put into place—teacher, practice, community—and see where red Ravine takes me.

Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year

I am forever grateful to Roma who walked up to me in Mabel’s dining room after one of the silent retreats, and asked if I wanted to write together. I would be returning to Minnesota, she to Albuquerque, 1200 miles between us. The Turtle in me had to give it some thought; not for long. The seed for red Ravine had been planted. Now this space is Home, a strong cottonwood by the Mother Ditch, in her adolescent years, still growing. But nothing can thrive without nurturing, play, attention, and time. I have to plan carefully, regroup. Thank you for standing by me.

I am grateful for the 5 years of creative collaboration with ybonesy. She is a strong, gifted woman, a dear friend. I am grateful for a community that keeps coming back. I feel supported. I’ve committed to keeping red Ravine alive through another year. It’s one of my practices. I draw on what Natalie taught me: Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good (adding under my breath, Cross your fingers for Good Luck!).

Back to the moment. Time to feed Mr. Stripeypants and Kiev. Liz will be rising soon. We spent part of New Year’s Eve watching Lily and Hope on the NABC 2011 DenCam. They aren’t worried about such things as red Ravine. They are busy being Bears. I focus on my new practices for 2011: (1) a daily Journal entry 365 (2) a BlackBerry collaboration inspired by Lotus (one of our readers) (3) a year-long Renga collaboration. I’ll write more about these practices in coming posts. Happy New Year, ybonesy. Happy New Year to all red Ravine readers. Happy New Year, red Ravine. New Beginnings. The Promise of Spring.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 1st, 2011

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Double Ferris Wheel, Minnesota State Fair, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

dark cycles of life,
giant octagonal stars —
dive into your fear

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 12th, 2010

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), red Ravine At The MN State Fair — Minding Our P’s & Q’s, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night At The Fair)

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Tossed away.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrIn fall of last year I had an opportunity. A gallery owner in New York City saw my doodles on Flickr and invited me to join a group show in spring 2009. (Several artists on Flickr were asked to join.)

I rejoiced in being invited yet hemmed and hawed about whether I’d accept. In the end I signed up, making a vague notation in my brain about April being a key month for getting the paintings done. Then I went on with my life.

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, as did the new year. I made the intention to Finish what I start. President Barack Obama was inaugurated. I rejoiced again.

I bought canvases for the art show, gessoed them, set them aside in my writing room. Looked at them most days, noted that it was time to begin painting, procrastinated.

In early February I decided to get serious about starting the pieces. I cleaned off my work table, filed three months’ worth of bills. We took on a Mexican exchange student from February 7-21. A pinched sciatica kept me in bed for almost two weeks.

By the time I sat down to paint, I had frittered away four months. I looked up the date when the paintings needed to be in Manhattan. February 28. The show was in early April. I missed the deadline. 

Second chances.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrI have a new opportunity. Our community, which boasts an inordinately large number of artists and craftsmen, holds an annual art studio tour. This year the tour happens the weekend of May 2-3. I will be showing in a gallery with a handful of other artists—real artists.

Here is my chance to make the leap.

When Obama was inaugurated, I did a quick doodle. As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to do a series of Obama faces on 12″x12″ canvases for the New York City art show. My problem was never a lack of ideas; rather, it was a lack of follow through.

Showing up.

I picked up the paintbrush in March. When I started, I painted to the tempo of a little voice saying, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never painted on canvas. If gessoed, I figured, canvas should act similar to gesso on wood. I was wrong.

Painting is a process. This painting, the first in a series, is a work in process. I thought it was almost done, but then I realized that I hadn’t learned how to control—or, rather, let myself lose control—of the paintbrush. 

When I began thinking about painting on canvas, QM suggested that I do a post about my process. I agreed even though I had no idea if my ideas about process would work. I’m not done with this painting, but I can tell you this—it’s not the actual process that’s important. What matters is that you have one. 

Learning process.

My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas and drew the outline onto tracing paper.

My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, done with pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas, add a background, and draw the outline onto tracing paper.

Step One: Transfer the image outline to canvas

I transfer the image outline to the canvas using good ol' carbon paper, the kind used in days past for typing mimeographs. This prep work takes a lot longer than I expect, about half a day.

Step 2: Paint first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas

I paint the first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas, starting with Obama's face. I don't like this color of blue; it's too purpley. I still haven't figured out how to mix colors to find the right one nor how to use my brush as a tool versus an obstacle.

Never working with watercolor on canvas, I'm afraid to make mistakes. I notice when I'm bold with color, I end up going too dark, such as the brick red portion of the circle behind Obama.

I paint slowly. I'm afraid to make mistakes, and I notice that when I go bold I end up adding too much paint, like in the orange portion of the circle beside his head. I need to dig in but I'm stuck at not wanting to mess it up. I procrastinate again.

I add more paint and texture to the face, going in dark and then using lighter paint to emphasize shadow. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas about the background are changing completely. Good thing gouache is maleable.

Finally, I pick up the brush after a hiatus. I add more and more paint and texture to the face. To create dimension---shadow and light---I go in dark with shades up to black and then use light paint to take away the dark. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas for the background are changing. Good thing gouache is maleable.

While watching American Idol, I find that I loosen up with the paint. I'm also trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. I experiment with using the brush the way I would a pen.

While watching American Idol, I loosen up. I'm trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. Also, if the room is kind of dim, I have a better time seeing contrast. I notice that I have too much light paint on the tip of Obama's nose. I'll go in next time and put in more shadow at the bottom.

In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match the rest of his skin.

In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match his skin. I notice his eyebrow is too dark, but I can go in, lighten it and add texture to make it look more natural. (Although, is "natural" a consideration when his entire face is bright blue?)

His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.

His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.

Overcoming fear.

Here’s what I know. I’m the only person who’s ever stopped me from realizing my dreams. I’ve gotten out of my own way this time. Next time I might be right back in the middle of the road with my hands out in front of me yelling STOP! But not today.

My goal is to paint six pieces for the early May show. I have less than a month to go, and I can only paint in the evenings and on weekends. I went to a carpenter and asked him to make me wood boards to paint on. Canvas works, but I still like wood best.

Just painting.


Gouache postscript.

Thanks to QM’s curiosity, I’m adding these excellent links on the topic of gouache.

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I take a risk when I write, period. Risk that I might say something I can never take back. Risk I might say something that someone will recognize, like the time I wrote about going to the Taj Mahal with R. How we met in the lobby of our hotel before sunrise, and how I was embarrassed to be seen with him in his pleated gray slacks, thin leather belt, and striped Polo shirt. How I thought he looked like he was dressed for a morning of golf at the country club, not for a rickshaw ride at dawn.

I take a risk when I write about sex, when I talk about money or politics. Those are the big ones, questions of how much I make, what I’m worth, the way we calculate all that in dollars.

I take a risk when I say I never wanted to be poor. My parents were poor. Poor never leaves your bones. It resides in your DNA, stays with you the same way brown eyes and olive skin stay with you. Nothing you can help, checking the price of the bathroom rug, buying things only on sale and only at least 50% off.

I take a risk when I write about my body, the fact that yesterday I shaved my legs for the first time in months. I clogged the razor and exposed the bumps on my skin where I’d scratched until the pores rose like freckles on a strawberry.

I take a risk when I write about my skin, the living organism that covers more area than any other part of my body, write about its color (a sort of cappuccino), about its consistency (smooth, soft), its elasticity (firm but losing firmness, especially sagging breasts and sagging skin under my arms).

I take a risk when I say I’m growing old, I’m the age where I first had memories of Mom, strong memories, lucid and vivid, of her knees and calves, which are mine now.

Writing is a confession, a small booth that smells of musty wood and Old Spice. Father Cassidy, who smells of bourbon and ashes, who has sweet breath and sour, a big belly and gentleness.

I take a risk when I wonder aloud, did he ever molest anyone? I can’t help but ask myself that question every time I think of old priests from my youth. He used to pinch my cheeks, but I remember nothing more unsavory than his boozey breath.

I take a risk when I admit I never brought charges against the man who did molest me, even though I knew he probably dated women with young girls long after he divorced my sister. I should have protected them, should have taken more of a stand, although, yeah, I was protecting me.

Sometimes, and here’s the real risk, I think we all get what we get. The cards are dealt for a reason. I could have gotten an ace or a pair of queens, but instead I got a joker, a deuce, and that became who I became.

I’m not saying I deserved it, no more than any one deserves violence or abuse or cancer. But sometimes there’s nothing any one of us can do to change the course of life.

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAKE A RISK

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Approaching the Rio Grande Gorge, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Approaching the Rio Grande Gorge, photo © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

I’ve always been afraid of bridges. I remember last year Natalie Goldberg took us slow-walking the length of the Rio Grande Gorge bridge outside Taos. I had to walk as close to the road and as far from the railing as possible. Each time a semi-truck passed, I pictured the wind force coming out the side of the truck, like a wake from a boat, and lifting me up and over the edge. Surely the wind couldn’t lift my 120 pounds of flesh and bones, but still, when the semi-trucks passed I hung on to the railing, imagining that at least if my body flipped over the side I might be able to pull myself back up.

Mom gave me this unnatural fear of heights and bridges. I can still picture her lips pouched in concentration as she strained to look over the long hood of the Caprice each time we drove up to the Fedways rooftop parking lot in downtown Albuquerque. “Oo-wee,” she said in a low voice as the car crept toward the roof of the multi-story building. I sat on my ankles so I could see outside, too, and it really did seem like we were driving over a cliff.

Every summer our family took a roadtrip to visit Aunt Helen and Uncle Nemey in Long Beach, California. One time Dad stopped en route so we could all look over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Mom held on to me as we approached the scenic overlook. She didn’t let me get close enough to see the canyon bottom. “Ay, Dios mío,” she said when I tried to pull us both closer to the edge. “Leo, Leo,” she motioned to Dad to grab Larry by the back of his t-shirt when he went running up to the railing.

Years later my sister Janet and I were in San Diego. I’d received an award for work on a project and was invited to a banquet at the Hotel Del Coronado on the Coronado Island. Janet and I headed to the island in our rental car. Our windows were down and the flowers in bloom — purples, pinks, and yellows. It felt like we’d stepped into Old California, the California of I Love Lucy re-runs and roadtrips to see our cousins. We approached the bridge leading to the island; it was narrow and curved in a long, slow slope. I moved the car as close to the center line and oncoming traffic as I could without completely imperiling us, and I slowed down like an old lady driver.

“Look over the edge, how beautiful” Janet exclaimed, and I said, “No, I can’t!” She must have seen the terror in my face because she said, “Don’t look,” and I told her back, “Don’t you look, either.” It was as if our childhood fear of heights suddenly joined us as a third passenger in the car. Janet and I leaned in toward one another and trembled our way to the end of the bridge.

Last night when I saw on TV the Minneapolis Bridge collapsed into the brown waters of the Mississippi River, I immediately imagined QuoinMonkey and Liz trapped on that bridge. QM had been off email all afternoon, unusual for her, and Liz’s mom had been due to arrive for a visit. I didn’t know where the airport was relative to their home, but surely they had to cross the I-35 bridge to get there. As it turned out, QM and Liz were home safe. Safe but shaken. We talked on the phone this morning. QM described how high that bridge was and how much of an impact its collapse would have on everyone who lived in the Twin Cities. She said they were projecting it would take two years to rebuild.

Gorge Bridge, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedWe reminisced about the slow walk on the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, recalled how it vibrated whenever a car passed. I told her Jim and I took the girls to see the bridge last weekend. Jim walked with them across the gorge while I drove the car to the other side. I drove slowly so I wouldn’t scare them with vibrations and imagined wind tunnels. I couldn’t look at them as I passed, though. Em, such a waif — surely a good gust might lift her. 

While I was waiting for them to come across, I got out of the car and approached the gorge. I wanted to meet them halfway, at the gorge’s deepest point. I wanted to tell them about my slow walk on the bridge, how for a few moments I managed to overcome my phobia. But as soon as I got onto that bridge, the railing seemed so short and I felt unnaturally tall and prone to toppling over. I turned back, deciding it was probably best that I not subject my girls to this particular side of me.

I’m relieved QM and Liz are safe, and my other friend in Minneapolis, too. I wonder if this collapse is going to make them fearful of bridges. I know it will exacerbate my fear, and I don’t even live there. 

Turning Back on the Bridge, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Turning Back, photo © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

posted in red Ravine, August 2, 2007

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