reflections on wild geese

levitation attempt

 

That was my best shot at levitating so far. 

I was actually trying to take photos of a sweater I crocheted (in one piece in a sideways manner, I’m hoping to post the pattern soon). The way I positioned the camera was too low and couldn’t capture the entire skirt, so I decided to take a jumping shot, inspired by Natsumi Hayashi’s levitating self-portraits.

Having been following Natsumi’s posts for a couple of years, I’ve found that the key to levitation (as opposed to just jumping) in a photo shoot is that one has to jump while relaxing one’s shoulders and arms. 

It’s actually quite difficult. A lot of controlled coordination needs to happen in a fraction of a second.

In this photo I certainly still looked like I was jumping, but I like the way my arm and hand look in the light.

***

I’ve been stressed on many fronts lately. 

The paradox of jumping — a surge of energy to propel oneself off the ground against gravity — while being relaxed was actually quite enlightening when I thought about my recent encounters with conflict.

What this makes me realize is that, in conflict, I have to learn to sustain a clear and calm state of mind in the face of heightened emotions. Heightened emotions that threatens to derail my thoughts and actions.

It’s actually quite difficult.

***

Realizing that it’s difficult, and fearing that it might be impossible for me to ever do well, I find this poem comforting.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

– Mary Oliver

 

May we all find clarity and compassion today.

 

 

a bird named joy

I was curious about making sun catchers with white glue and beads, something I saw in one of the blogs I follow. So I thought I’d give it a try.

Here the glue is setting. It took a long time…

setting

 

I was worried that it was going to stick to the mold, but it came out very easily :D

joy 1

 

It’s now perching on a small stone vase, it was a birthday gift I received last year. It’s made from a glazier stone from Nova Scotia, one of my favourite places on earth!

joy 2

 

Watching it sitting on the vase reminds me of a story that a very wise woman shared with me this week, The Mountain that Loved a Bird by Alice McLerran (and so wonderfully illustrated by Eric Carle!).

In the story are a barren mountain and a bird named Joy. It’s a beautiful story about sorrow, and how courage, love and hope can emerge from it. A synopsis of the book can be read here. But the book is written in such a profoundly moving way, if you can get a hold of a copy I really wish you can read it (if you haven’t read it already). 

Take care, everybody!

 

p.s. the letting go series is proving to be a bit difficult to keep up because of an extremely busy couple of weeks, and because it’s getting harder to find things to recycle or throw out when Mike is doing the same… so I’ve decided to give it a rest for a while, maybe I’ll come back to it in a bit, but I will certainly make time to create when I can, and I will most certainly keep you posted when I do :D

 

 

 

be the change

be the change

 

 

I was watching the news last night while making this for a teacher/colleague. 

Amongst the many things about this teacher that I admire and want to emulate is her ability to see the goodness and strength in every person she meets, and to see possibilities for resistance, change and growth even in the most dire situations.

It is not only that she sees strengths and goodness and possibilities. More importantly, she reflects it back to the person, lovingly pointing out what she sees and cheering everyone on, which makes everyone feel good about their abilities and wants to do good in the world.

While watching the news last night, like many across the world, I felt incredibly sad and angry. Angry at the senselessness of it all. So angry that I thought if the world really does end on December 21 it wouldn’t be half bad.

But actually I don’t believe that the world will end on December 21. 

Instead, I believe that we can all be agents of change, encouraging the good in one another.

 

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
― Jack Layton

 

 

wandering art

The new school term brings me to a community centre about an hour of subway-and-bus ride from my home. I’ve never been to this neighbourhood before and was a bit worried that I would get lost on my way there (I have a really bad sense of direction).

But it turned out to be the easiest bus ride ever! I take the subway to the last stop on the line, then take a bus to the last stop in its route, which also happens to be the first stop in its route, because it ends in a loop (I was kind of worried about having to find the bus that takes me back the opposite way — I really have a poor sense of direction).

So that made me really happy. But what made me happier was the discovery of public art all around the community centre! :D

 

People who have been there before the summer said that the rocks are not where they have been a few months ago. They have been wandering! It took a while to see all of them, scattered around the trees.

 

I love the idea of art that moves. Always changing. Maybe they’ll get moss and lichens on them and their surfaces will start to change too. There are many more with words on them. Like “community”, and “traditions”. There are also ones without words. And here’s a feast someone’s spreaded out for the animals! :D

 

And awesome mural on the walls of the community centre itself! People told me that it’s newly painted, just over the past summer.

 

Definitely a nice part of the journey into the new school year.

Have an awesome weekend! :D

 

 

lessons from air-bending

 

 

I started going to a tai chi class once a week during my month off in April.

It came out of a recommendation from a supervisor at the agency where I intern. We were talking about the fear and anxiety that I encounter in work and interpersonal contexts. She strongly suggested finding a body-based practice that can translate into some helpful practice philosophy for work situations. 

Then she gave me a gift certificate that she had won for 4 tai chi lessons. “I take way more classes than that, so I don’t need it,” she told me.

So I went. Just to see what it’s like. And I know that I’m badly out of shape sitting in front of the computer or crocheting all the time.

After the first class, I decided to call it “air-bending”, because of the slow, subtle movements that the body makes, as if flowing with air. Also, because it reminds me of my sister, who’s a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I wasn’t really “getting it” for the first three classes. I was thinking that maybe it’s not for me. I’m just too uncoordinated. I wanted my body to move in the way that was demonstrated by the instructor, but I don’t know how to get it to move in that precise way.

The instructor was very nice. She came over to give me individual help every class. And in my third class, while doing this “ward off” movement, where the body kind of leans forward and the arms cross to press against an invisible intruder made of air, like so…

… the instructor observed how I was doing it and said,

You’re leaning too much forward. Don’t lean too much, know where your centre is.”

What she said touched something that was really important for me. I knew it was important because my mind blanked out for a moment and was only able to repeat those words.

Don’t lean too much, know where your centre is.

Isn’t that what I do every time I feel afraid? I lean into it. Completely into it. And I work myself up to become even more anxious, and I tell myself that I can’t finish the task. I can’t handle the situation. I can’t do it. I’m too anxious.

But what if I don’t lean into that fear, and I try to find this core place where I can believe that I can face challenges and other scary things with steadiness, knowing that I have some skills, some knowledge that will help me.

The fear makes me forget that I have skills.

I realize that I’m sick of telling myself that I can’t. I can’t because I get too anxious. I can’t because I don’t handle stress very well. I can’t because it’s too much work and it’s going to stress me out and increase my anxiety level and compromise my mental health. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

But I can. Because I’ve done it. Every time a goal is reached, every time a deadline is met, every time a dream is fulfilled. And, having been in school for quite a few years, I’ve had many goals and deadlines. And because of school, some of my biggest dreams have also been fulfilled.

My supervisor spoke with me about not letting negativities live rent-free in my head. 

You have to evict them, and you have to grow that place that cannot be wounded. Can you find that place inside you that cannot be wounded?”

The place that cannot be wounded, for me, is the spirit that God has created in me, and that, I think, is my centre, the core place that has the strength to pull me back from leaning too much into fear and self-doubt.

 

Ah, heavy topic on a Friday. But something that I felt I needed to sort out by writing it down.

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

earth owl and many blessings

My friend Nancy sent me a package in the mail, full of treasures! :D

There were lots of craft supplies, each thing related to a blog post I wrote! I was so moved by the thoughts and kindness behind this gift. It meant so much to me. Opening all the tissue paper-wrapped and ribbon tied parcels felt like Christmas!

Amongst the many things in the package, there were beads! I love beads! I poured them out into a paint palette and marveled at each one. There were a lot of stone chip beads and each is different. It was fascinating. I particularly love stones that are transparent with streaks of colours in them. Reminded me of the tiny bottle of tumbled stone chips I got at the Big Nickel when I was a kid.

 

It was a such special gift and I wanted to make something really special with them. Something that I can carry around with me.

And so the earth owl came into being! :D

 

I haven’t done a lot of wire work so this turned out better than I thought. I kind of just bent the wire into an owl shape in a free-formed manner. For the body and the wings I attached/strung the beads on by crocheting with a 2mm hook and thin wire. The eyes are also crocheted.

I found these gorgeous, sparkling glass beads from the package for the eyes. 

 

 

And the best thing about the owl is that I had a super fun time making it. The beads inspired many hours of creativity and pure joy.

Feeling so very thankful and blessed.

 

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

the kindness of a stranger

 

Today was a really bad day.

It’s not really about one thing in particular. It could be an accumulation of different things. Either way, I just felt so profoundly sad for no particular reason, so much so that I had to leave in the middle of a class and broke down in the bathroom sobbing.

So, as I locked myself in a stall sobbing, I heard someone else entered the next stall. I continued to sob.

Then, I felt that I was ready to leave and as I was leaving, a voice came out from the next stall:

Whatever it is, it’s going to be okay. Be strong.”

I thanked the voice, feeling ever, ever so grateful, and started sobbing again.

 

I then found a potted plant to sit next to in the hallway and let its branches fall over my one arm, breathing in deeply its scent of dirt and basil (but I don’t think it was a basil, it was too big to be a basil), waiting for the class to end so I could get my backpack.

The woman came out from the bathroom, “give me a hug,” she said, “you’re going to be okay.” I don’t know who she is, she didn’t ask for my name and I didn’t ask for hers. 

A young woman from my class whom I’ve hardly spoken with came out of the classroom to microwave her lunch. She asked if I were okay and if I wanted her to sit with me. I said it was up to her.

She sat down and said, “we’ll sit in silence.”

And we did, as I sobbed intermittently.

She didn’t ask me why I couldn’t stop crying. And even if she did I wouldn’t know how to answer her. It was just one of those days.

 

One of those days where I didn’t want to be alone but I don’t really want to be talking with people about why I’m sad.

One of those days where I like to sit with plants, hug trees, because they don’t judge.

And that, to me, is kindness.

The two women today gave me great gifts of kindness. They didn’t ask what I crying about to judge whether I was deserving of their kind words and gestures. They just offered it to me without even knowing me.

These are the moments that I will store up in my memory to keep me going on days like today. 

 

A great quote I saw the other day:

Look at the sea. What does it care about offenses?
— James Joyce

 

I was speaking with a very wise woman about Niagara Falls. I told her that the falls is certainly full of energy, but the water that flows over the table rock just before it falls, I could stare at it all day because to me, it feels like kindness.

What is it about the water that reminds you of kindness?” she asked, smiling.

I couldn’t quite think of the reasons then. I could only think of the way it caresses the rocks and gently sways the underwater plants at the bottom. But I think I’ve figured it out today.

Because it doesn’t judge.

 

Lately Mike and I have started going swimming at the pool in our building. I can’t swim, but I like the feeling of being surrounded by water. Feels like I’m being hugged. And the muffled sound one hears underwater, it makes me think that maybe that’s what it sounds like inside the womb. (An idea I probably got from watching TV shows, and it makes sense, doesn’t it?)

 

And so, the women who offered kindness to me, a stranger, today showed me that it is possible to be compassionate and nonjudgmental without having to be a plant, a tree, or the sea. They showed me how to show kindness as a human being to someone who really needed it.

 

And I think of you, my friends whom I’ve never met in person but visit me regularly or once in a while or for the first time, being interested and reading what I have to say, even leaving messages that are so encouraging and kind and make my day over and over again — I’m so very grateful for you.

 

 

 

inspired by buttons

A few days ago I went with a couple of friends to the clay drop-in class at the Gardiner Museum. Before that we also went to Lettuce Knit, where I saw some incredibly charming ceramic buttons for sale. The friendly woman who was looking after the shop at the time said that she had actually made those buttons at the drop-in classes at the Gardiner. So when I left the shop I was quite determined to make buttons in the class.

But when we got there I had the opportunity to use one of the few pottery wheels available, so I made a split decision to try my hands on the wheel instead. It was quite an experience but I didn’t end up with any finished product, because by the end of the 2-hour class I was still trying to centre the clay on the wheel (and failing to do so after 4 attempts!). I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t have a mug or bowl to put into the kiln; I understand full well that throwing clay on a wheel takes a long time to master. But I think I would feel very happy in the end if I had stuck to my plan of making buttons!

So! After I got home I started to gather inspirations for the next time I visit the clay class.

 

I love this one, it is so sweet. (source)

 

 

My favourite shade of blue! (source)

 

Remind me to bring my collection of pressed leaves from the summer! (source)

 

Thumbprints. Love the organic shapes and subtlety (source)

 

It would be fun to find surfaces and textures to make imprints with (source)

 

And this would be fun to glaze, no? (source)

 

AND! What about making ceramic necklace pendants? You know how much I love necklaces… I’m so ready to have tons and tons of fun next time I go to the class! :D Now I just have to wait until school work slows down…

But that’s not to say that I came home from the last clay class empty-handed. While helping me centre the clay on the quickly spinning wheel, the instructor said something that I thought was quite profound:

Don’t let the clay push you, you push the clay.

My mind really hung onto those words for a while, and I have been trying to figure out why.

I suppose they resonate with certain circumstances I find myself in lately. At first I thought it has to do with interpersonal stuff. I certainly get intimidated (i.e. pushed around) quite easily. But then I thought pushing other people back isn’t an appropriate response neither, is it?

Then I started to think about the feelings around being intimidated. Anxiety feels the most prominent to me. Maybe this is really about relationships, but not so much my relationship with other people but my relationship with anxiety.

It’s very simple: when I feel anxious, I try to make the anxiety go away, and that makes me feel even more anxious. 

Like throwing clay on the wheel, the idea is not to fight against the clay, because the more I fight it to bring it back to the centre the more it wobbles about and wiggles away. The idea is to find the right angle and the right pressure to move with the clay, and apply gentle pressure consistently and persistently, give it time, and it will eventually spin between my two palms in (near) perfect symmetry. 

So how does that apply to anxiety?

It’s what I already know: sit with it. I know this from supervisors who teach mindfulness practices. I know this from being in therapy. I know this from being trained as a therapist. But I don’t do it myself. I give in to my natural tendency, my automatic response to fight the anxiety as soon as I feel my heart rate increases.

So how did we move from buttons to this rambling about anxiety?

Such is the power of art to evoke stories and metaphors and insight.

 

Wishing you a week of happy adventures and new discoveries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the unapologetic seagull

I went to an art therapy conference in Niagara Falls this weekend. In one of the workshops I attended, we were to create an animal to represent ourselves as an infant, adolescent, adult, and elder.

I most connected with the animal that represented what I hope to be as an elder. It was an unapologetic seagull. I suppose that image of the seagull came to mind because I came across many of these birds when I arrived in Niagara Falls.

Here is my Plasticine seagull, I took a picture of it when I got back to my hotel room. She’s rather small; her body is about the size of my thumb.

 

The wingspan…

 

The next day I attended a workshop about the art of practicing gratitude, in which I came across the quote: today I’m happier than a bird with a fry. So then later on when I contemplated what to put on the community mural (a large piece of canvas placed in the main area of the conference, everyone was invited to add to it) I immediately thought of the quote, and my unapologetic seagull. This was my contribution to the mural.

 

Later on Mike and I were walking along the falls and we saw a seagull standing on the railing, looking like he’s enjoying himself (or herself?) and not one bit concerned despite people getting close to it to take pictures of it. They do have a kind of dignified expression, don’t they?

 

Then after I came home I download the photos from the memory card, and realized that I captured an image of a seagull emerging from the mist of the Horseshoe Falls.

 

Never really paid much attention to seagulls before. But I quite like the idea of the unapologetic seagull. The exercise of creating an animal to represent different life stages is also an interesting way of reflecting on the past and envisioning the future. Perhaps an idea for an art project or journaling?

More art and photos to come!

Have a happy Tuesday! :D

 

 

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