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Solstice - 20131220_205919

Winter Solstice Fire (What I Bring Into The Light), Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Winter Solstice
darkness reigns

light turns a corner




She placed last year’s Yule branches into the ring, shook drifts of snow off the woodpile. Four boots, two drums, two rattles. No wind drifted off the cattails, stiff in the frozen pond. She watched for fox; maybe he would approach the chicken carcass and fatty skin, leftovers from soup stock made earlier that morning. The neighbors’ windows glowed—holiday lights, TV screens, reading lamps. The air was an eerie blue, foggy and wet.

She wanted to let go of the death of her father. She wanted to let go of all the the things she would never be able to ask. She wanted to let go of thinking it was her. Others let go, too, circles upon circles. Drums, rattles, chants.

Morning now. Her hair smells of smoked birch and charred cedar. Her dreams were deep and dark. Her heart is lighter.

Solstice 2 - 20131220_205933

Charred Dreams (What I Leave Behind), Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




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Looking back I see myself lying flat on my back, unable to move. It was early February, 2009. I was literally lying on the floor of Burlington Coat Factory, my sciatica pinched. That’s how last year began for me. Immobilized.

My best friend from graduate school, Ana Lucia, had come with her family all the way from Brazil. It had been over a decade since I’d seen her and her husband, and I’d only seen her three children in photos. They were on their way to Santa Fe for a week’s ski vacation, stopping off to visit us en route. My sciatica had been giving me trouble for weeks, and then the morning before Ana Lucia’s arrival, I woke up and could hardly get out of bed. I managed to get a chiropractic treatment that morning, acupuncture the next, plus a handful of painkillers from my mom, who suffers from lower back problems.

When Ana Lucia and her family got here, the pain was masked enough to join them for lunch and then to Burlington Coat Factory to buy jackets for their ski trip. For a while, I thought I was going to be fine. Little did I know, it was Codeine that had me walking around the store searching for good deals on down coats. As the drug wore off, the pain became so unbearable I thought I was going to pass out. Panicked, I got the keys to Ana Lucia’s rental and told her that I had to get something from the car.

My plan was to get to the car, drive the less than three miles to my house, pop another painkiller, and come right back. But when I got to the foyer of the store, that space not inside nor outside, I was close to passing out. I plopped myself down in a spot of sun, moaning and sweating. The automatic double doors opened and closed, opened and closed. Shoppers passed through the space, glancing my way. Not a soul asked if I was OK. I’d sit, try to get up, fall back again.

Finally I mustered the strength to hobble to the car. I turned on the engine, put the gear into reverse, and started to back out. When I almost passed out again, I turned off the engine and reclined as far back as the seat would go. I was stuck. I couldn’t drive home and I couldn’t walk back into the store to let Ana Lucia know what had happened.

And that was how my year started. Stuck.

The pinched nerve, I am convinced, had everything to do with a commitment I had made months before. I had been invited to submit five paintings to a show in Manhattan. Thrilled, I signed up to do so. But as the show’s Spring 2009 deadline approached, I let fear get the better of me. I had it in my mind that the pieces were due in New York City in April, but I didn’t go back to verify any dates. By early February, when I finally checked on the due date, I saw that the paintings were due in the gallery by February 28. I had less than a month to go and hardly an inkling of what I was going to paint.

To make matters worse, I had committed to taking on an exchange student from Mexico for two of the four weeks that I might have used to complete the paintings. In hindsight I believe I was subconsciously sabotaging any chance to actually fulfill my creative commitment. (Our experience with the exchange student was so enriching in other ways that I don’t regret having done that. But this is how the mind can work; this is how we create the obstacles to our own creative fulfillment.)

Back in the parking lot of Burlington Coat Factory, I called Jim on my cell phone and told him my predicament. He was there within ten minutes, went inside the store and found Ana Lucia. Then he got me home. I was able to see my friend and her family again on their return leg of the trip. We had a wonderful dinner and have kept in touch since.

Looking back I see that good things come of bad. Aside from my two weeks laid up on the ground, literally, I moved forward in 2009. I completed four paintings and showed them during the Corrales Art Studio Tour in early May. Went to Vietnam in mid-May and again in August. I met Pham Luc, learned how to make jewelry from my doodles, did two art shows in the Fall, and set up a small Etsy shop this past November.

Looking back, I woke myself up. I committed even further to the life I have—giving to my children and husband, to my job. I connected with old friends and new ones, gained from the generosity of other artists, and spent time with family.

Looking back, I see I found clarity. It’s as if Saint Lucy, that courageous woman who gouged out her own eyes so she could dedicate her life to what she loved most, was by my side, carrying her eyes on a plate so that I could see. I began painting her image probably a decade ago and never finished. She’s a constant reminder that if I look inside myself, I can see where I need to go.



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This piece is based on a 15-minute Writing Practice I did on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION. Tomorrow I will post my Intentions for 2010.

-Related to post The Making of a Painting Painter

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Blue Moon Over Ice Skating Rink – 0/365, BlackBerry Shots, Full Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009-20010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Through The Looking Glass


season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass


–tanka from hindsight haiku — pink cadillac (on the road), October 25, 2009





Writing Practice — Looking Back – 15min


Looking back I see hot hazy days when I didn’t have a job. What seems like the best opportunity to work on writing, art, photography, becomes consumed with worry. Looking back I see that Chaco died. He didn’t just die. We made the hard decision to put him to sleep. An odd turn of phrase, put him to sleep. It’s the second cat where I’ve had to make that hard decision. The first was my cat Sasha; it was years ago. Looking back I feel gratitude. For Liz, Kiev, Mr. Stripeypants. For my writing group, for Roma and her partnership with me on red Ravine. I feel grateful I have my health. Age, I’m aging. But overall, I have survived another year. The gray hair is multiplying.

Looking back, there were visits with Amelia, visits with Marylin. Mothers are important to me. Time with mothers. Time with my mother. How much time do we have? One never knows if they will live into old age. I like the yearly trips I take to the South and this one was no exception. There wasn’t enough time but the time we were in Georgia and South Carolina was relaxed. The reconnections I have made there the last three years are invaluable. Links to what was, links to what might be.

Looking back, I feel like I don’t do enough, don’t accomplish enough of my yearly goals. I hate setting them anymore, but I must. I feel like I get so little done. Recently a friend called and mused that we might feel an urgency to get more done because of our age. We are not spring chickens, not in our twenties, not even in our thirties, and here we are trying to make some kind of alternative life work out. Looking back, my car Greta made it through the recession with only the need for a radiator and some new wiper blades. Sylvia the Saturn made it, too. No new car payments — yet.

Looking back, I am happy where I live. Indria is humble, tiny, small. But every day I wake up and look out over the oaks, ash, and cedar. I feel happy to come home and watch the moon rise behind the cottage. I wish it was larger, that we had two more bedrooms, one to write, one for art. Hers and hers. Should we build on? Or buy a new house? Is it ever in the cards to have enough room? Small is good, too. I’m used to small, crowded houses. That’s the way I grew up with 5 younger siblings. There is something comforting about small.

Looking back, I don’t want to trade my life for anyone else’s. My mistakes are my mistakes. I can live with them. I have to. I don’t often remember the bad that happens in a year, mostly the good. And the gratitude I feel for the richness in my life, no matter how much I might be lacking. Is that keeping me from going forward? Have I gotten lazy. Or am I simply tired. Looking back, I’m happy to have a job, though it takes a toll on me. If you had asked me even a year ago, I would have said, “No, I’m never going to be driving truck.” But here I am. Never say never.

There is an opening in there somewhere. Gratitude for the abundance of having a job. Money coming in. So many are without work. Yet my work is my art, my writing, my photography. It will be the dilemma of every artist — how to make a living while being a creative soul. Our world does not support it. We have to. We create our own worlds, surround ourselves with people who help hold the dream. People matter. But it is each of us who has to do the work. Am I doing the work?



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Post Script: I wanted to combine several of my yearly practices in this post on looking back. Above is a tanka I wrote on the trip to Georgia this year, the Reflection part of my Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION, and a photograph of the Blue Moon from my photo practice. Below is my yearly Gratitude list. I do one at the end of every year, a result of peering through the looking glass, looking back on the good things in life.


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A – Accept loss forever. Learned this from Kerouac, then from Natalie Goldberg.  Easy to say, hard to do. Makes the world a much better place to live.


B – Breaking free. From the ties that bind. I am the one who keeps me back. It was a constant battle over the year to let myself be. To do nothing when I needed it. To sit and stare into space. To break free from old worn out habits that are keeping me back.


C – Cats. These 3 bundles of joy brought much happiness to my life in 2009. Chaco has moved on but we don’t forget. We scattered his ashes this year around the fire at Winter Solstice. Sometimes I still hear him pattering through the house, keeping night watch on the back of the couch. Chaco was a Nightowl.


D – Dead of Winter. I love Winter. It makes me feel alive. January to January, the Midwest Winter is nothing to sneeze at. It was -21 this morning. It’s warmed up to -8. Sometimes the Dead of Winter is when I have the most ripeness going on inside.


E – The letter “E”. I’m thankful for the vowels. They hold up a lot of words. Like Elizabeth. I thank my lucky stars every day that she’s my partner, that she’s in my life.


F – Fathers. I have a new respect for the role that fathers play with their children. Young children. Adult children. I have learned from reconnecting with my step-father in the South that it is never too late to heal. Never too late to realize the love. I have learned from my brothers who are good fathers how important it is to be there for your kids. I have learned from ybonesy and Jim how good fathers make a difference.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective. Sometimes I feel great loss. I try hard to get back to Gratitude for what remains.


H – Humble Pie. I’ve eaten a lot of it. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Humility always takes me back to center — Home. (Oh, and wasn’t Humble Pie a band from the 1970’s?)


I – Itches, those nagging, pesky things that make you want to jump out of your skin. You can’t scratch every itch. But don’t the itches raise the most important questions?


J – January. Some years I’m glad to be starting over, to walk into the clean slate of a New Year. This is one of them. Time may be boundless but the calendar offers a structure. Something that helps keep me on track.


K – Kindred Spirits. Make the list again this year. Not just community or people who are alive. But those who travel with us across the Ethers. And animals, like our cat Kiev. She’s solid as a rock. There are so many life forms that walk the Earth with us. The veil is thin.


L – Love. Love is underappreciated. The word is thrown around loosely. There are so many kinds of love, I have lost count. But the feeling of giving or receiving love — I would not trade it for money, fame, or fortune.


M – Mothers. Most of the nurturing of the world falls to women. This was true when I was born, it may still be true at the end of my life. I wish I could say it’s different, that all nurture the world. But it doesn’t seem to be women that take us into war. Or perpetrate most of the violence in the world. If I was wrong, I’d happily admit it. If I’m right, I pray for more balance. That’s too heavy a weight to carry.


N – North Carolina. I know it seems odd. But driving through North Carolina, it seems like one of the most beautiful places. I’ve also discovered that many of my relatives come from North Carolina, something I didn’t expect. This is true on the paternal and maternal side. I am rooted in the South.


O – Overdrive. Wait, I guess this is something that should go on my future Intentions list. But it popped into my head. People who run on Overdrive teach me about reaching goals. I don’t want to be a Type A personality–I only want a pinch of their drive.


P – Pants. Mr. Stripeypants is over a decade old; he acts like a kitten. I can’t explain the joy this cat brings into my life. He plays fetch with me in the morning, drapes over my arm when I write, greets us at the door after a hard day at work, follows us around the house in a constant state of curious abandon. I learn a lot from Mr. Pants.


Q – Quest. I’m always questing. Like a Knight but not in shining armor. I’d be one of those Dark Knights. After all, you need them, too. The ones that sit at the Round Table contemplating, one foot underground, one foot in the sky. They are all searching for the Grail. I think curiosity is an asset. I just wish it would quit jumping around. Hopscotch, 1-2-1-2-1-2-1, back again. Once in a while I wish throwing the rock was enough, just to see where it lands.


R – red Ravine. It makes the list again. Every year there is something different. It’s a practice in the collaborative spirit. Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps me going when things get hard. Where will it lead? Right here, right now. I’m grateful for every single person who has ever visited red Ravine.


S – Snow. It’s practical and romantic. A water reserve for dry summers, a heart bouncer for Winter rides on the horse-drawn sleigh. We got a boatload in December. It snowed like a banshee over the Christmas weekend. I used to ski but these days I’m happy to get out and walk in the snow. I don’t mind shoveling. But I have to admit, this year I thought about buying a snow blower.


T – Tracks. Animal cairns. We follow tracks in the snow in our front yard. Raven, crow, moles and voles. Rabbits, squirrels, raccoon. Tracking takes patience and an eye for detail. I’m not that good at identifying which tracks go to what animal. But I love to guess. Then check my tracking book for the right answer.


U – Understanding. It’s the brother of forgiveness. I had to live a while before I understood what it meant to forgive. Not everyone can be understood. But it helps to try. I understand that not everyone is perfect or impeccable. I forgive myself for not being those things either.


V – Veracity. An unwillingness to tell lies. A propensity for the truth.  They even made a movie about it — The Invention of Lying. Is telling the truth always the best route? What truth? Whose truth? I like looking at the Underbelly — the unwillingness to tell lies seems more realistic.


W – Woodpeckers. We had two sightings of the Pileated Woodpecker on our property this year. What a joy it is to see them. They’ve got to be the closest thing to seeing a prehistoric Ivory-Billed. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is a lot like the Loch Ness monster — now you see it, now you don’t.


X – X-Ray Vision. The absence of it. I’m thinking if I had X-Ray vision, I could see into the future. But I wouldn’t want to know. I’d rather take my chances. And make small decisions along the way.


Y – ybonesy makes the list again. She’s made leaps and bounds with her art this year. That inspires me, fires me up for my own creative endeavors. She’s a woman who seems to be able to do it all. I admire that. And feel so much gratitude that she’s collaborating with me on red Ravine.


Z – ZigZags. Like lightning. I’m grateful for zigzags because they are the way I live my life. Cancer the Crab rarely takes the straight line anywhere. Back and forth, testing the waters. She does finally land. Solid. For a day or two. Then off again on her quest. You can’t have a zig without a zag.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude: Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-), Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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Somewhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque (one), on the RailRunner Express, December 30, 2009, iPhone photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 

2009: re-flec-tion

 
–noun
 
 
1. the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected.
2. an image; representation; counterpart.
3. a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.
4. a thought occurring in consideration or meditation.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




Get out your fast-writing pens. The year 2009 (and the first decade of the 21st Century) is over. What did it reveal to you? What did you reveal to yourself?

Reflect on the past year. Write it out. Write about the trip to Santa Fe, the visit to your favorite store (the one with fake geese walking in a line to the front door) where you found an elegant wrist and hand made of blue glass for storing your rings.

Write about the books you read, the movies you saw, the many bowls of popcorn, salted and buttered, you ate. Write the tears and the illness and the losses and gains, the itches and tics, people and places, the time you laughed so hard you fell off the green sofa.









2010: in-ten-tion


–noun


1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
2. the end or object intended; purpose.









Make a list of your intentions for the new year. What do you plan (not hope, but plan) to realize? Reach far and wide, but do so in a pragmatic way. You can achieve what you set your mind to do. Put it out to the universe.

I will…I will…I will…

Fill in the blanks. What will you do this year?








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Postscript: For many people, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the start of a long weekend. Take time these next few days to look backward and forward. Even a half hour spent quietly—reflecting on 2009, thinking about 2010—will help you enter the new year with a sense of being grounded, feet on the ground, ready for what comes.


To all red Ravine readers, we are grateful to have spent the past year with you. We look forward to another one.

Happy New Year!


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The images in this post came from a day trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and back on the RailRunner Express, December 30, 2009. It was a cold day. Low clouds threatened rain or snow, and by the time we boarded for the one-hour-fifteen-minutes back, the snowflakes had started falling.


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