Octopus

A small female octopus has remained in my heart ever since I watched My Octopus Teacher. Her short life held many things, including— surprisingly— a connection with a human, despite caution , instinct, and perhaps fear (who knows if an octopus can feel fear?). She opened, accepted, and had a rich and unique life because of this. 

“……an octopus’ main experience of the world is the tension between fear and curiosity.”  ~~from an interview with Pippa Ehrlich, co-director of the film

This documentary broke my heart. I will most likely never watch it again. But her story lives inside of me now— a lesson in living. I had to pay respect to her and so I created her in beads. 

The story of the bead project:

  • I searched the web until I found just the right image of an octopus. It had to have life, grace, and flow. Lucky for me, the one I finally found also happened to be an intricate cross stitch pattern! This made it quite simple to print the pattern and choose similar colors for the beads.
  • I spent considerable time contemplating the background. It couldn’t just be a plain monotone color without thought or life or meaning. Though she undoubtedly would have popped and been very pretty on a sea-blue background, it would have made for a shallow picture, without depth or thought— something that you look at and think, “How pretty” and then turn away from. So the background that I chose represents her life. The white and clear beads are the clarity and purity of the water, the vast and limitless expanse available to her, and they soften her edges, making her seem not-well-defined. The whites/clears of the water and her own ghostly pale grays merge in places, making her one with the water. But of course! She is an octopus after all, a soft being who must spend her life camouflaging herself and avoiding predators. The galvanized marine-colored beads represent the richness and depth of her environment, the ocean itself which teems with life and nourishment. They are the viscosity and silkiness, the suspension and flow that supports the life that lives in it.
  • Embellishment ideas have flowed through my mind constantly right from the beginning….. a starfish— what size? color? —placement? A tall seaweed forest? -colors? -material? Sea floor? -rocks? sizes? —arrangement? Fish? Edging? Header for hanging? Bottom fringe or themed embellishments?  Long bottom? Short bottom? Focus? Is this a small project or is it part of a much larger canvas? 

As I’m just over halfway to placing the 14,706 seed beads for the base of the project I am still mulling the finishing touches. I will not know what it will look like until I place the very last piece on it and call it done. You see, as the work emerges, it brings with it a life of its own. There is constant evolution happening in the visions I can see. I have minimal control over what it asks (and sometimes demands) of me.        

You will see her in many different lights. If viewed close up in bright light there is the ‘work of her’— the individual building blocks and their separate, distinct colors. Each bead and embellishment a working part of the whole. In my opinion, not a pretty view when each is taken separately, and yet a necessary view in order to understand all of the tiny elements which make a whole. But when you back up and see her from a distance her personality emerges. You will be able to see her in many different ways with each change of light and angle. When the water around her shimmers with life and she is matte; a real being in a ‘live’ world. When the water around her is flat and seems like nothing and she is flat too, merging with it as you try to see her edges and can’t. When you enter the room and catch sight of her from an angle, and the light is just so……did she move?                              

12/08/2021

I love the languid gracefulness of her sinuously waving tentacles. I’m there with her and can almost feel the viscosity of the water as we gently, slowly sway with the currents.

There are 39 rows left now. She is almost complete. Like the producers of the show, I don’t want to assign a personality to her, don’t want to humanize her in any way. She is too precious and pure to be contaminated that way.  This is one of those times when you can feel a sort of love for a being and be perfectly okay that it’s not returned—you know it can’t be— because there is nothing selfish about this feeling. 

01/22/2022

She came off the loom last week. I don’t know if I can find the correct words to describe the feel and drape of the finished, beaded ‘fabric’. It’s a bit luxurious, with a satisfying weight, and almost a fluid movement to it. Very fitting for this project, yes? 

There was finishing to be done, some ends to be woven in, most ends knotted in groups of four and still waiting to be contained in the leather of the top and bottom borders. The bottom has decided that it will be the sea floor: some ‘rough’ sand ridges with scattered shells representing an abundance of life. This is what I’m working on now. Small pieces of abalone shell are representative of rocks scattered about the sand. 

03/06/2022

The bottom border is close to completion. I’m now adding the jute twine to the edges. Of note: this jute twine is well over 30+ years old. It’s something my mum had in her ‘junk drawer’ of tools, strings, and odds-&-ends of doodads to fix things with. I remember this roll of twine from decades ago. In all probability, it’s decades older than I think, as she had a lot of items she saved from her own mum’s house that she never threw away, proclaiming it all good and useful stuff that would last forever! It’s things like this that contribute to the meaning of the art, although most people who see it will never know. 

14,706 beads have been married to soft deerskin leather, cotton fabric, a thin base of fine Florida sand overlaid with coarse, gritty Maine beach sand, miscellaneous shells, Swarovski Crystal starfish, a piece of Maine beach glass, a golden sand dollar finding, polished abalone chunks, a black lip shell starfish, the findings that support the hanging, and of course, the old twine. Not including the hanging twine, this piece measures about 9 1/2 inches wide and about 10 inches tall.

This mixed media piece of art has taken months to plan and finish. Sometimes her and I just needed a rest, other times I needed to stop and listen to what she wanted. Occasionally, certain pieces that I envisioned just couldn’t be found, and that told me that they weren’t meant for this piece. I near completion with mixed feelings. Her and I have been working together for  months now. A sort of partnership. I’ll miss that even as I look forward to my next projects. 

Until you create something, you can’t know or recognize the depth of soul that goes into a creation.        ~~DLFarley

Goodbye 2021, but not Good Riddance

As time closes in on the end of January I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the year past.

There have been a lot of years I’ve said good riddance to. But this year I won’t– despite the pandemic, the awful politics, and all the rest– there are many blessings and happy times I don’t wish to forget.

In the midst of distancing I found a lovely prayer group online. Wonderful people who were caring and supportive of each other. Even though I was never able to meet any of them in person, I learned to pray along with them for their families and friends (and mine), and for all the people of the world who are looking for the light at the end of this dark tunnel. I discovered that, in the restricted world of a pandemic, a prayer group lends a great deal of perspective to the narrowness of this new life we have been forced to live. Now that we’re (hopefully) seeing the end in sight, the online prayer group has been stopped and I find that I miss it terribly. Those folks were part of my life for over a year……a lovely warm glow at the end of many evenings. Now I have prayer time alone and remember them– pray for them– wishing them well as the future pulls us forward, each in our own direction.

I’ve had a lot of time to really dig deep within myself and meditate on my dreams and goals for this life. Time to examine the changes I want to make within myself; changes that will inevitably force me to grow and step outside of my comfort zone. Changes that, if I’m strong enough to make them, will lead me to a life lived with an open heart that allows joy to flow in and back out again to envelop others.

In spite of a world embroiled in difficult times, it’s been a year of learning and growing that’s been long overdue, and gave me hope for many more years to come to learn, grow, and love, in good health and with a happy heart. So as I walk the path of life this year, I choose to embrace the good from the past year, and to take what I’ve learned and use it to make positive changes.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13 (ESV)

👩🏻‍💻

December 2020

2020 is drawing to a close. I think we’re all breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to the healing that 2021 will bring. Healing for our bodies from Covid & healing for our hearts from all the stresses and traumas of 2020.

We have been distancing, quarantining, masking, washing, losing our jobs, our incomes, and our minds. We have been forced to spend significant amounts of time alone. Naturally we have drawn inward upon ourselves. While some have taken this enforced alone time to work on themselves in various ways, others have struggled mightily from the lack of contact we have taken for granted all of our lives.

Perhaps now is the perfect time to reflect on the year as it passes into history.

As we reflect on what went wrong, what went okay, and what actually may have gone right, this is also a good time to contemplate what we want our new year to be like. I’m thinking about our relationships with each other. This past year, as we hunkered down and tried to stock up on products, we were forced to be apart. Our focus turned to our earthly needs and material things. It was tough not being able to greet and hug everyone, so we poured our energy into these physical things instead of each other.

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. With vaccines arriving and many folks doing their best to stop the spread by masking, washing, distancing— we’ll get through. Now that we know the light is coming closer perhaps we should turn our thoughts to how we are going to behave when we can more freely interact again. How will we treat each other? How will we treat strangers?

What have we learned?

Really stop and think about this. What have you learned? About yourself? About others? About how you want your life to be from here on out? About how you want our world to be?

What changes would you like to see people making? And the most important question of all: what changes will you make?

As for me, I will be kinder. I will listen more and try hard to see things from other’s perspective. I will try to be more understanding and generous. Generous with time, with help, with comfort and with love. After all, I believe we are all here on earth to learn to love each other as Jesus loves us– unconditionally.

Burst into 2021 with renewed hope. Don’t tiptoe in fearfully, looking over your shoulder. Only by taking action will we make the changes we wish to see in our world. Join me is spreading love and understanding all throughout 2021. Let’s make it a year of healing. 💕

👩🏻‍💻

Winter

It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.

Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.

Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?

This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.

I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness. 

You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look.   👩🏻‍💻

If You Could Turn Back Time…

Take a moment to step back and view your life so far. Do you like what you see?

(This post is a conversation that I have been having with myself recently. I’m letting you in on it because I know that everyone has moments in their life when they reassess where they are, how far they’ve come, and where they want to go looking forward. If my self-talk helps you in any way then I’m happy– for you & for me.)

If you could go back to any point on your life’s timeline, knowing everything you know now, where would you land? What would you change?

Think about this for a few minutes.

  1. You’ve collected a vast amount of knowledge and experience during your time here on earth.
  2. You have a lot of ideas about how you want your life to be.
  3. You have weathered disappointments along the way or have given up some of your dreams.

Now think about where you are in the scheme of it all. Okay? Ready?

You still have a lot of good living to do. Don’t abandon your visions for your future. They are not the same dreams you had earlier in life and that’s to be expected. Your dreams and visions evolve with you as you walk through life. Looking at the rest of your life…..

    What do you want it to be like?
    How have your dreams/visions evolved?
    What steps can you take to guide it in that direction? Small steps are an excellent beginning & very motivational.
    What mistakes have you made, learned from, and don’t want to repeat?

I actually sat down and made a list of things from the past that I wish I could go back and change, or knowledge that I wish I had possessed. It was a wide-ranging list that included relationship-related things, monetary knowledge, career paths, activities that bring me happiness, health considerations, etc.

I spent a brief moment of time mourning those things that I wished had been different. Ultimately all my experiences have made me who I am though, and recognizing that made the slight sadness evaporate.

Begin taking those steps that will make your visions come alive. Live the life you see in your minds’ eye as closely as you can. 👩🏻‍💻

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Birthdays

We mark our passage through time each year on our birthday by celebrating ourselves and the fact that we have been in the world for x amount of years. It seems foolish that we don’t also celebrate our parents (and their ancestors) with thanks and respect each year on the date of our birth. We are not the ones who did all the work of creating our little bodies, which grew inside of our mothers. All we did was appear when it was time. We should include paying our respects to our parents for all that they did to bring us into the world and raise us they best they could. The sacrifices they made, the dreams they set aside, the love they gave, the guidance they provided— and continued to provide long after we grew to adulthood and flew from the nest.

I know, I know, there is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but they seem so separate and cold. Forced almost, like some holidays. Wouldn’t it be cozier and more loving if we acknowledged our birthday as not only achieving another year of life, but as a family appreciation event as well?  

 From now on I’ll be spending a good part of my birthdays thinking about my parents and all who came before them. If not for every single one of them I wouldn’t be here.  Even though Mum & Dad are both long gone from this world, I can still appreciate them, think of them, and take the time to look at my life from their loving perspective. I appreciate the work they did to keep the bills paid, a roof over our heads, and good food in our bellies. I appreciate all that they taught me— right from the first breath of life and into the decades beyond. 

 Think about it. Think about the myriad of skills you were taught or learned by watching your parents. 

Some of the basics from my early years: Learning to walk, using a toilet, taking a bath, using silverware, playing nice with others and not cheating at games, learning to turn the other cheek when the kids at school were cruel, writing thank you notes, being considerate of others and sharing toys and food, learning to save money in a piggy bank, being honest and doing my best at whatever task I was faced with, working hard in school, and of course, the freedom to explore any book I wanted to read no matter how ‘old’ it was for my age because Mum recognized the value of knowledge and self-learning.

Some of the valuable lessons of my middle and older years: being on time for appointments, keeping up with healthcare, eating healthy, looking for the good in even the most difficult situations, caring for family not just every day but through the tough times too, and preserving & building on the family history that will be passed down through the generations so that family will know a bit about their ancestors.

 Many lessons are just the basics of everyday functioning. But others have to do with character and being a strong, independent person. One thing Mum always said that has really stayed with me no matter what is “Better days are coming.” It’s the first thought I have when I have a bad moment, a bad day, an issue to work through, or whatever challenges me. Better days are coming. And it’s true. All things pass and circumstances usually improve or at least change to the point where you can get a fresh start. Solutions are found. New scenarios are had. These four valuable words keep me going when things get tough. Just four simple words passed along by a woman who had experienced much during her decades here on earth.

What wisdom has been passed along to you? 

If you were to rename the birthday experience to include the celebration and appreciation of our family members what would it be called?  👩🏻‍💻

There’s Something About Autumn

Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The tourists are beginning to clear out along with the mosquitoes. There’s a nip in the air every morning now that has me putting the big, fuzzy slippers on and tossing a shawl around my shoulders. Hot cocoa tastes like a dream as it warms its path downwards and makes my innards quiver with delight. 

Autumn is here. It’s my favorite time of year. Brisk breezes, walking on beaches and trails that are no longer overcrowded, hearty stews and soups, sweaters and fleece mixed in with Indian summer days and star gazing evenings by the firepit. 

All of these things make me want to pull out the projects I work on in colder weather: wool socks, afghans, scarves and hats. A quiet evening next to the window with a movie playing while knitting….. 

What do you do to let go of the non-stop hectic at the end of the summer? 

Wellness 9—– Subtracting

We’ve talked a lot about adding things to your wellness toolbox. But we haven’t yet discussed eliminating things from your life. Such as stresses, bad habits, toxic people, clutter, etc. I think we get so involved with building up areas of our lives that we forget it’s just as important to discard, oust, or phase out things too. 

What is there in your life that you feel is holding you back?

  • Is there a bad habit that you know you should get rid of? Like smoking, eating poorly, not drinking enough water, alcohol, drugs, or avoiding activity?
  • A partner who isn’t on board with your efforts or doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do?
  • Your own fear of failure?

What might be making you anxious? 

  • An issue at work that needs resolution? 
  • An area of clutter at home that you need to tackle?
  • A situation that you know needs to be dealt with but you’ve been avoiding?

Are there people that stress you out every time you encounter them? 

  • The toxic friend who likes to stir up trouble at every turn?
  • The relative who starts a fight at every family gathering?
  • The venomous coworker who puts effort into everything except work?

I’ve been working diligently over the course of the past couple years to eliminate the conditions that cause me stress and anxiety. So far, it’s been very successful and that success is what keeps me motivated me to continue. Dealing with one thing at a time is the key. If you make a list it’s bound to be lengthy and can appear quite daunting or even overwhelming. Stomp that feeling down right now. Just pick the thing that bothers you the most and think about how you’re going to deal with it. Then do it. The relief you’ll feel after you deal with that one thing will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. And that, my friend, is what will have you working your way through your list with a whole new vigor. 

The more you accomplish the more you will feel as if weight is falling from your shoulders. That buoyancy will keep you motivated. 

The most difficult thing I did was to ditch a couple of malicious people. Ridding myself of their toxicity and destructive behaviors was like opening a window on a warm, sunny day and letting the fresh air in. What a relief. When you have that bright spot in your day you tend to feel as if you can tackle one more thing and keep the momentum going. It’s an amazing feeling. 

Admittedly some things are harder to deal with or even impossible to eliminate. However, there are always ways to reduce, curtail, or lessen the problem. Stop and think about the issue. Can you minimize it in any way? What will make it better? Let’s take the example of the relative who starts a fight at every family gathering. You know you can’t change their behavior. You know you can’t change others reactions to him/her. What can you change in this situation? You can change your proximity to this person— just walk away and go talk with someone else. You can change your reaction to this person— don’t engage in the behavior. You could even skip the event if you choose. You have options. You also have an imagination so put it to good use. 

Stumped about something? Ask advice from friends, coworkers and relatives. Do some research online. Do whatever fits the situation and can help you make a good decision. A total eradication may be what is needed or perhaps only a partial elimination will make you feel better. Sometimes it’s a regular task that needs to be tackled. Like my refrigerator. Ugh. Always overloaded to the point where it gets unmanageable. I live with a hoarder and this includes food. It’s so trying. When I open the fridge door and things fall out I get so frustrated. Every now and then I just have to purge it. It’s one of my most despised tasks. I recognize that I can’t change the husbands behavior, so I just have to think of ways to keep it under control. How can I make it better? Maybe I could do a mini-purge weekly. Then it wouldn’t turn into the big, overwhelming, hour long task that it becomes. 

I hope these examples give you a starting point for your own “subtraction” process. Keep your goals in sight. Deal with one thing at a time. Don’t let your fear stop you. Look forward to that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Enjoy your results!   👩🏻‍💻