Monday, January 25, 2016

Listen to the Voice

My series of reflections on Journey continues…...
(For background, refer to January 3 entry.)

Art supplies. My art supplies, not my grandchildren's, even though the book says "for KIDS." Through the years, I've filled and re-filled a basket of art supplies for them - crayons, markers, paints, clay, pipe cleaners, construction paper, glue, scissors, sketch pads… and gladly joined in their projects. It's not that I haven't been creative in other areas of my life, but when it comes to drawing, painting, designing - from ideas in my head rather than stamped with instructions - I've felt stuck in first grade.    

You get the idea.

Art classes seemed scary. Everyone would be better than I. Only "artists" take art classes. I had to know what I was doing before I even signed up for the class. Obviously, my reasoning was stuck in first grade, as well. 

But something fundamental has changed in the last few years. I've started listening to voices. Voices that initially had nothing to do with art, but had everything to do with honoring myself.

Like the voice that inspired me to create a meditation room - complete with purple curtains, enroll in my first writing workshop, write a blog, lead labyrinth retreats for women, embark on a 50-state labyrinth journey and write a book about it, present at The Labyrinth Society Annual Gathering. What would have happened... if I had ignored her?

Then, a month ago, a voice whispered, "Take a look at this art class." I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed a friend's posting about an online class she was helping teach - The Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals. I read the details: "creative exploration through art journaling and handmade books, using mixed media for those who want to express themselves using words and images." I paused for only about a minute and a half, long enough for my 60ish year-old self to reassure the hesitant 7-year-old. "Bring your beautiful, creative spirit along. We're on this journey together."

I've completed my January journal, a mini one, decorated with Zentangles and held together with a pipe cleaner.



I've filled it with quotes. And one watercolor - my first ever! The prompt was to find seeds, look  closely at them, then select a meaningful quote to accompany the artwork. I followed the video tutorial step-by-step, stopping and starting, dabbing and detailing. It felt like meditation.

I bravely share my creations not to say, "Look at what I did," but rather, "Look at what any of us can do."

That voice you hear? It's your own. 
Listen and step forward, with confidence, on your own journey.  


Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Visitin'

My series of reflections on Journey continues…...
(For background, refer to January 3 entry.)

My father was one of six children, all born in the family farmhouse in Pine Grove, Arkansas - a smattering of farms, houses, and churches - just a "stone's throw" from Sparkman (today's population 419.) Only two of the siblings remain, my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Nat. I rarely saw Uncle Nat during my growing up years, but Aunt Carolyn was a constant. She was the Auntie Mame in my life, with her cool sportscar and designer sunglasses, trendy Dallas apartment, accomplished nursing career, and hip Christmas presents. I wore her elegant lace and organza wedding dress when Drew and I married. As years passed, I unconsciously dropped "Aunt," and Carolyn became my friend.

Carolyn spent last week with me, transitioning from Florida to Arkansas (no, not the other way around) after retirement. Fifty years of nursing! In the evenings, she drank a glass of wine while I sipped tea, and told me stories. Stories that sounded vaguely familiar, from when my grandparents used to tell them, as they rocked on their front porch. But I never listened. Old stories. Who wanted to hear those? I do, now.

"On Sundays we'd all pile in the truck and go to church at Sardis," Carolyn began. "We'd always be late, Mama and Daddy trying to get us six kids out the door. Some Sundays, we'd have 'dinner on the ground,' with everybody bringing something. Mama's fried chicken and egg custard pies were scooped up in no time. Then we'd go visiting (visitin'). I hated it. All those adults talking and talking. To Cousin Lou Bert, Virginia and Sue's house, Aunt Liza,  Rufus, Cousin Willie, Uncle Jeddie…."

"Stop. I'm lost," I said. "You went from one house to another all afternoon? Where did all of these people live? I need to see a picture of this."

I tore a piece of paper from a sketching tablet, grabbed a pencil and placed them in front of Carolyn. "Would you please draw it for me. Start with the farmhouse and show me where you went."

She began slowly, adding more and more details as her hand moved across the page . "Let's see, our house was here, the church was here…"



Within fifteen minutes the paper was filled with lines, names, arrows - flowing from relations to friends and back again - until Carolyn had sketched much more than a Sunday afternoon journey. She had reconstructed an entire community of people who had touched her life. A map of memories.

One day soon - it doesn't have to be a Sunday - Carolyn and I will take the map and drive to Pine Grove. It may be a long day, so we'd better pack a lunch. I'll fry the chicken if she bakes the egg custard pie.

Monday, January 11, 2016

When A Journey Chooses You

My weekly reflections on Journey continues…...
(For background, refer to January 3 entry.)

Who comes to mind when you think of a hero? Anyone like this?

This little guy surfaced when I googled "heroes examples." Not quite what I had expected, but I like him! He's dressed the stereotypical part - weapons at the ready - even a coordinated vest and cape outfit. But the detail that appeals to me most is the expression on his face. Can you see his mouth? It's tilted in an "I'm-not-too-sure-about-this" kind of way. And his eyes, one slightly higher than the other. If we could see his eyebrows, one would be elevated. Unsure. Maybe even frightened. But, there he stands.

Joseph Campbell - American author, scholar, mythologist - published a book in 1949 (new edition in 2008) titled, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

He writes of the "hero's journey," a pattern found throughout world mythologies, in which an archetypal hero follows three basic steps: Departure, Initiation, Return. Star Wars' creator, George Lucas, relied heavily on Campbell's work. His main character, Luke Skywalker, an unlikely hero himself, set out on a personal quest and ended up saving the Galaxy.

Photo credit: BBC
In a recent TED Radio Hour (December 18, 2015) broadcast, "The Hero's Journey," four speakers shared their unique experiences as journeyers. One was Dame Ellen MacArthur. In 2005 she became the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe, in a sailboat, nonstop, solo. Twenty-six thousand miles in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds.

A monumental and heroic accomplishment, to be sure; but it was a comment she made at the end of her talk that captured my attention even more.

"You're not brave to take on something you choose. I think real bravery is taking on something that you don't choose like young people in recovery from cancer or leukemia or, you know, people who lose a close friend. You then have to deal with something that you have no idea how to deal with - you cannot in any way prepare for. And, for me, they're the heroes. And they're the unsung heroes, but they're the heroes."

Three friends of mine have recently begun journeys, not of their own choosing. Two lost husbands to cancer, another to an accident. The Departure stage of their journeys was unplanned - no time to put on armor, grab the sword, outfit a yacht with supplies for 71 days, or plan a personal quest. Perhaps they feel somewhat like our little hero with the red cape. Yet, like him, they show up. And take steps forward, day by day, with uncommon bravery and strength.

Heroines of their own journeys!!  

Ann, Jan and Mary Beth



Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Blog Awakens

I've been writing a blog for almost six years, in Moscow and now New York City. My postings have drifted farther apart in the last few months as I have devoted more time to writing my book, Labyrinth Journeys ~ 50 States, 51 Stories, about my two-year journey to walk a labyrinth in each state and interview its creator -- all women. The writing continues, with a goal for completion of the draft by April 1st (no April Fool's joke intended.)

I've recently considered discontinuing the blog altogether. My heart just hasn't been in it. Until this morning. I was listening to The Writer's Almanac, as I do every morning as I put on my make-up, when Garrison Keillor began talking about Lucretia Mott.

 "This day in 1793, Lucretia Mott was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts. She quit her job as a teacher at a Quaker boarding school near Poughkeepsie, New York when she found that she was being paid less than half of what the male teachers all made, simply because she was a woman. The experience sparked her first interest in women's rights. In 1848 she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first convention for women's rights in Seneca Falls, New York.
It was Lucretia Mott who said, 'The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.' "

The day Lucretia chose to step away from her job, she stepped toward something greater. She began her own journey.

Journey. The idea captivates me! It captivates me more each day as I sit at my computer and write about another woman's journey… and contemplate my own. I pay closer attention when people share their stories. I even watched The Force Awakens with new eyes. Where is Luke in his journey? Is Rey's journey following a similar path?

By the time Mr. Keillor's soothing voice had read the final Poem for the Day, I had a plan.

I will continue the blog - weekly - on Mondays. I will write about Journey. Perhaps someone's journey, or about Journey itself. I will see what surfaces, and for how long. A journey is ever-changing.

Please join me.

Today, I begin by thanking you, Lucretia.
For the journey you began for women's rights over 200 years ago.
I wonder, though...what did you learn about yourself on the journey?

Lucretia Mott (painting by Joseph Kyle - 1842)
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