Artist & Teacher

Posts tagged “love

Thinking of Mark

272. thinking of Mark

“The Space between Heaven and Earth” currently showing at the Mendocino Art Center

My cousin Mark died today and I feel compelled to write about him and how I feel. He was just a few years older than me, 57- I think, and he died of cancer that had spread within his body. Mercifully he only knew for a couple of weeks and, I’m told wasn’t in much pain even at the last. That’s comforting, I think, at least comforting to me. He was an extraordinary man, full of wit and wisdom, sarcasm and sweetness. He was one of the strongest, most persistent people I’m sure I’ll ever meet. You see when he was in his teens he began showing the signs of muscular dystrophy, and while the disease weakened his muscles he carried on his life – he lived and learned and loved and though he was in a wheel chair for decades he was fiercely independent and spent most of his adult life advocating for people with disabilities. This paragraph is not enough, no words will be enough, but I wanted you to know, I want you to know he was here on this earth, he was important.

As a sometimes confused and always questioning Christian, I don’t really know what happens when we die. My dad shared his thoughts a few days before his death: at birth we are in one place warm and familiar and then there is a great commotion and we are in another place distinctly different and death seems to be like that, we are in one familiar place and then a great commotion and now to another place. This is a comforting way for me to think of death, as a rationalist I know we are made of cells, and molecules and atoms, particles of dancing protons and electrons. When we die those things still exist in the universe but their purpose is changed, they break apart and reconfigure but are still here. The molecules of Mark’s last breath still float in the air repurposed, reclaimed but here among us just the same.

I watched a documentary awhile back about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was fascinating and illuminating. One scene I remember is at the bedside of a man who had just died. The tradition calls for prayers and chants to be sustained around the body for many hours (perhaps days?) to encourage the floating spirit to not be afraid and to not jump into the first living thing to pass in front of the suspended soul – in essence cheering the departed one to reach for a higher level existence in the cycle of reincarnation. Oddly today as I thought of Mark I thought why not try out the strong body of the grasshopper. Wouldn’t it be lovely for him to bound and leap with such strong legs? Besides a grasshopper lifespan is short – within the year he could leap his way into a flitting, flying sparrow and try that body for a while, there is much to learn from the little sparrows strong wings, I’m sure. Three years from then perhaps a wise old owl will suit Mark’s fancy, soaring above us all in the long cool night air. Or maybe a dolphins body would fit well, how playful and lithe he would be let loose from that heavy damn wheel chair.

So just incase, I put the cricket I found in my kitchen this afternoon gently outside and whispered in my cupped hands before I let it go – you’re free now JUMP!

Making LOVE (it’s not what you think)


Love note we made at the first monthly meeting of Open Heart Studio troop #1. Laminated and with strings ready to put anonymously into the world to promote love and peace one person at a time!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the uncivil discourse in our country and the world that seems to be filling our newspapers, our social media, and our inboxes.  But we all know in reality we are more alike than different, we want to give and receive love, we want our family and friends to be safe, happy and whole.  You know that’s about it really when you come down to it, and I think almost everyone could agree to that.  So what has been rolling around in my mind is how to get that message out? I decided showing love and building community through art is what I know so last week I launched this-

OPEN HEART STUDIO troop #1Promoting civil discourse one LOVE letter at a time.

This is what I sent out to my local friends:

Mission:  To reveal our common humanity via Random Acts of Love, through the vehicle of art.  No politics, no religion, just a common need to receive and give love.

What: Make a love collage on one side of a 4×6 card, write a simple note such as “YOU ARE LOVED, pass it on”, laminate the card add a string on top  place them randomly and anonymously in the world.  That’s it!

Short Term Goal: To brainstorm the idea with you and make some love notes and send them out in the world.

Long Term Goal:  Meet monthly to make collage cards and set them loose in the world.  Encourage others to start their own OPEN HEART STUDIO troops.

Dreams: To have a mobile Open Heart Studio van filled with collage items and everything needed to make a R.A.L. card…go to scout meetings, schools, churches, synagogs, mosques, town meetings, have a booth at farmers markets, a stand outside of Congress, at the U.N.….oh yeah and achieve world peace!


Inaugural meeting of Open Heart Studio troop #1 –  thanks to Kate, Sonia and Jack for joining me on a rainy Thursday night to MAKE LOVE happen!

I don’t have a facebook page or a website or any of that right now just an idea and a hope for a more loving, accepting, helpful, peaceful world. I will keep you posted on my progress.  Maybe you want to start your own Open Heart Studio troop. Yours can be troop # 2!

Marking the Sweet Moments Last



Every morning this week I have climbed in bed with my dad, it has been a sweet time while my dad dozes I sketch in my sketch book. Notice his feet bumps on the left side of the bed and mine on the right.

I’ve been up with my parents since Monday and will be here for the foreseeable future my Dad started on hospice this week. His pain is being managed – His energy is low but he continues to walk and sleep in his own bed with his wife of 61 years, for now he is eating and enjoying a iced mocha or a gin and tonic here and there. His sense of humor is good and his sense of peace at where things are is clear. When he came home from the hospital this last week he was full of tubes and bags, his quality of life has shrunk. He is sanguine, he feels he has had a good life, right now is a struggle and he is ready. The whole family is on board and supportive. We three sibs are rotating staying here to help in this journey to support both my parents and now getting some blessed extra support from hospice.

When asked by the social worker if he had anxiety or fears about what happens when he dies he recalled something a rabbi once told him “when a baby is in the womb he isn’t scared about what is next, there is a powerful commotion and one existence ends and another begins” that is how he feels- he is ready, this life has almost come to term. We are all here to help him and my mom, hospice is the midwife. What is next is unknown

We are all trying to just be present to deal with what is required in the moment, to enjoy, to joke, to cry, to laugh, to hug, to hold….

Thank you for your love and friendship out there in virtual community land. I know I am being held by your love and concern,
😢😊😍😞😳😘(range of emotion)

Inspirational Mini Quilts to Mail: When words are hard to find

Here are a few of the cards I made

Here are a few of the cards I made

About a month ago I shared a series of peace quilts I’d made. With the scraps from the fabric that I had created I made some 5×7 mini quilts that I stitched to card stock and made into mini quilt cards. I stashed the cards away in a box ready to send. I found myself reaching into that box numerous times this month, two dear friends had close family or friends pass away this month, another friend is going through chemo treatment. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to send to a friend in need and what is most important is to just let them know they are in your thoughts. I found these cards hit the right note. They are a little piece of me- my art and my heart.

I recently created more fabric using my new favorite medium, Tint It spray with stencils.  I sprayed on linen, organza and tulle(left). Then cut it up into 5x7 inch blocks to create the cards.

I recently created more fabric using my new favorite medium, Tint It spray with stencils. I sprayed on linen, organza and tulle(left). Then cut it up into 5×7 inch blocks to create the cards (right).

I used so many that I made a whole stack this week to have at the ready to express my affection and concern and hopefully give a little bit of inspiration to someone I love.

Peace Be With You…. continued

Peace Be Upon Us All- mixed media quilt-

Peace Be Upon Us All- mixed media quilt-

In my last post I shared with you some of the pieces I did inspired by the phrase “peace be with you”. As the week went on that became something of a mantra. I kept cutting and stitching and reflecting the idea in different ways, until a series emerged. Some time while I was working the Sheryl Crow song, “Peace Be Upon Us” kept tunneling through my brain not so much an ear worm as is sometimes the case when songs won’t leave you alone, no this song wove itself into my Peace series lifting and lilting like a hawk on an up draft. I found myself humming at my sewing machine making my efforts into something of a meditation on peace as well as a creative endeavor. I want you to get a sense of my mental space so click this link to get this lovely addiction wandering in your brain too! PEACE BE UPON US ALL – Sheryl Crow listen to the whole song I think you might me humming this through your week – and if your going to have a song stuck in your head well, I think one about peace is a good way to go.

detail of quilt- The concentric circle stitch was inspired by watching the baby ducklings swim in the pond here at The Bishop's Ranch!

detail of quilt- The concentric circle stitch was inspired by watching the baby ducklings swim in the pond here at The Bishop’s Ranch!

I’ve got a few more pieces to show you from this series- I want to spread the peace around a little bit!

Rocking my World

A friend who is struggling with health issues sent me an email saying she had spent a sleepless night up rocking and asked for my reflections on rocking. Upon my first reading I set this question aside not sure how to answer. This was one email among 225 emails waiting for me after a week away taking my son all the way across the country to college at Penn. While I was away my beloved dad ended up in the emergency room and resulting in a pace maker procedure, this all converged on my fifty-second birthday – my feelings were so balled up – full of worry and concern and unknowing. That is all to say that when I first looked at the email about rocking I couldn’t see how to connect with the query, I had other things to think about. A couple of days later I returned to the email and the following spilled out and I think it has everything to do with enduring, and worry and being and comfort and all the things that make this human journey rich and hard. So for your reflection here is my answer to that email:

Rocking Inspired by my writing it is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix injet film then layered on a wood panel

Inspired by my writing is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix Injet film then layered on a wood panel

The rocking chair for me has always been a comfort zone, from my own childhood sitting on my grandma’s lap she rocking and reading the old oak chair creaking on the wooden floorboards it has been a comfort, a prayer. I have that same chair in my home now rockers resting on the wooden floor. When I had a crying baby my own mama taught me to sit in that chair with my babe and rock and count to one hundred because you can do anything for that long and if the babe is still crying then you start counting to a hundred again because you can do anything for that long. Now I have no babe to rock but my own self needs rocking sometimes and the rocking chair and my mothers simple wisdom come back to me sit and rock and count because you can do anything for that long and then the counting and the rocking clears the mind and opens the heart and you really can do anything you can face anything receive anything be open to anything both great and small, wondrous and worrisome and wearisome. A deep creak, creak, creak like a heart beat like a breath, solid and real something to hold on to something to count on…. one, two, three, four….

PS My father’s pacemaker procedure worked wonderfully and he headed home Tuesday reportedly pinker than he has been in some time and ready to rock and roll. My son is thrilled and thriving in his first week at Penn – it was hard to leave him on the east coast but not hard at all to feel the thrill and joy he exuded as he launched into the solo adventure.

Happy Birthday to Me!

This is my birthday breakfast.  Made lovingly this morning by my husband who knows my favorite is always Eggs Benedict!

This is my birthday breakfast. Made lovingly this morning by my husband who knows my favorite is always Eggs Benedict!

I am fiftyonederful today and glad to be alive.  Thanks to my family and friends and you dear followers who have joined me in this journey round and round the sun, I am truly blessed.

This morning I went for a walk with my dog Lucky pondering birth-days. I got to thinking about that newborn self – that pure, sweet, unhindered self.  As a baby we are a sweet elixir, a pure sip, a true soup of self, simple and raw flavor unlike any other fruit on any other day of our existence. As years pass and birthdays come and go experience and happenstance, effort and luck add to the mixture.  More sweetness when love comes like ripened fruit, spices both sizzling and subtle get sprinkled in with lose and lust and labor.  Sometimes ingredients are added in fistfuls and overwhelm the recipe, in times of great strife or loss these ingredients can add a bitter or sour flavor to that pure baby elixir that poured forth on our first day. But with consciousness and sometimes great effort we can change the course of our life’s recipe we can let the savory salty sweetness of life shine through, the sour and bitter inform but don’t overpower the broth. It seems to me that life is an accumulation of flavors and we are adding and adding with each day, somewhere along the way, a cooking down, a condensing begins. I’m not sure when this starts is at 50, 60 70? earlier? later? I suppose it’s different for each of us, but our soup of self begins to simmer.  And over the years we are cooked down, the volume reduced but the flavor enriched.  We boil and simmer and stew until another elixir emerges, related to that newborn broth but different. I saw this in my own two grandmas, very different women, very different pasts, and paths and choices unique.  One was sweet and creamy the other salty and often sour.  And as they aged (they each lived deep into their nineties) their broth of self cook down to a thick consommé. In the end the sweet was sweeter, settled and satisfied; the salty one struggled, the sour flavors adding fear and fretfulness to her later years. I want to acknowledge that dementia can be a cruel cook and one doesn’t always have control over the cooking process but I like to think, I want to hope that we have some choice, some power of selection, some jurisdiction over the recipe, how hot the flame, and vigorous the stirring. And so today, my 18,360th day of existence, I rededicate myself to the flavors of my purest self, my baby elixir, I pledge to added ingredients thoughtfully, stir gently, simmer slowly and let the recipe evolve as it will with each rotation of the earth each revolution around the sun.

♥ Shaped Love in Four Acts

I got a lot of responses this week to Monday’s post, and it seems (no surprise to you) that love, as Frank would sing it, is a many splendored thing and complicated!  I did a little research this week and found a wonderful and extensive article by Ian Gately from Lapham’s Quarterly a magazine of history and ideas, I highly recommend reading this article, find link below.  To summarize the article tries to explain how the heart shape, ♥, came to equal love. Mr. Gately points out that the ♥ is the most commonly recognized symbol on the planet after the cross and the crescent.  But how did this symbol come to represent the physical organ the heart and how did the heart come to symbolize love an how did the heart come to be represented like this> ♥?  Aristotle reckoned that the heart was the seat of reason;  early Christians, along with a their Jewish forefathers , held the heart was home to our feelings.  Pagan tribes of Europe who adopted Christianity in the dark ages connected the heart with courage and Vikings related it to the god Odin and battle-madness.  Courtly love, an notion of damsels and heroes on bended knee, was discovered (ironically) by pillaging Crusaders in their travels in the Islamic world.  The heart shape ♥, which these knights borrowed from the classical Greeks ivy leaf symbol of steadfastness and constancy, became the symbol of choice on shields and banners of knights.  The catholic church tried to wrestle the ♥ shaped out of romance into the sacred and launched a ad campaign to rival any by Nike or Coca Cola today.  The iconography of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was born.  This symbol has had great success of course and is still a prevalent image in the church but crasser players were soon to grab hold of it.  With the advent of the printing press in 1480, and the mass production of playing cards. ♥’s quickly replaced grails as the symbol of the church suit on playing cards and have remained there ever since. Fast forward to today we cannot pass a day without seeing the ubiquitous I ♥ New York, or my poodle or…. fill in the blank.

Now somewhere through the centuries of battle over the symbol of the ♥ the meaning of LOVE has been scrambled.  In a response to my Monday post, Julie wrote about an experience her 8-year-old son had passing out Valentine’s at school.  Some boys in his class told him that it was inappropriate to write “Love Elliot” on the card to boys!  Julie pointed out that we seem to have forgotten that there are four kinds of love.  In our society today, where sexuality runs rampant and vulgar language and suggestive dress (I sound like my grandma) are essentially required for coolness.  My friend Stephanie, who is a high school health teacher, reports that the girls in her class see their sexuality as tool to use, and even that there is no better option for power and status.  How sad.  Could it be that the problem is a linguistic one?  The Greeks had four words for love: Philia is love between friends, Eros is the sense of being in love what we associate with romantic sexual love, Storge is affection, love of family, Agape is unconditional love.  It is said that the Inuit language has 100 words for kinds of snow, how is it then that we have only one word for love?  One ♥ shape to hold so much meaning.  So let’s get out there and use some new, old words… spread a bit of Philia today and don’t forget to call your mother and give her a bit of Storge.  Well that’s all for now, I love you…opps I mean sending Philia your way, or should I say Storge to you and your…well maybe this will take awhile to get off the ground! I think I’ll just stick with XOXO!

A Heartshaped history by Ian Gately from Lapham Quarterly

Four kinds of Love by Brian Tubbs from Suite