June 22, 2012

A Poem That Rhymes

My niece Emma is part of my creative tribe. She's a wise 15-year-old with interesting ideas, creative talent, and a great eye. She reads my blog and enjoys when I write poetry. Yesterday she requested I write a poem that rhymes. I like a new creative challenge, so I agreed to work on a rhyming poem (she promised to write me a rhyme in response). I thought this might take days to simmer, but yesterday I made zucchini bread and was inspired to write a poem. For those interested, the recipe is from amazing cook Heidi Swanson. (I'm in love with this bread. It's one of my go-to recipes in the summer, and I include everything Heidi lists as "optional.")

A Poem That Rhymes
Zucchinis are in season,
but that's not the only reason
I make the delicious bread.
It gets me out of my head
and back to the here and now,
where all my senses say wow.
The ingredients so very tasty;
my movements never hasty.
Except my impulse to eat the batter.
Raw eggs? Doesn't matter.

This bread is wholesome and yummy,
and brings a smile to my tummy.
The recipe requires time and care,
yet I have an extra loaf to share.
Food made with love is a great gift,
and via the process my spirits lift.
Plus I have scrumptious bread to eat.
Thanks, Heidi, for concocting such a special treat.

June 21, 2012


Two weeks ago I started a read-along of Liz Lamoreux's thought-provoking (and beautiful) book Inner Excavation. The read-along is lead by Liz in the most heartfelt way, and it brings together a group of diverse, interesting, and creative women (it's certainly not only for women, but no men enrolled--BTW, enrollment is still open, and it's free).

The subtitle of the book is "Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry and Mixed Media." I've long loved photography; poetry is a recent find, yet feels comfy and enjoyable; mixed media I haven't tried, but this read-along has--at the very least--gotten me to think differently about my journal (e.g., pasting in photographs, making art).

I've spent my adult life exploring my inner-self, in a multitude of ways. Some explorations more intense than others. But this particular process is different: it's steeped in creativity. The exploration is really of my own creativity and expression. I try new things, feel vulnerable, yet still share my work. The read-along group is a supportive and safe group with which to share. And some parts of me (especially the tender parts) require safety in order for sharing.

When appropriate, though, I think it's helpful to boldly share, without the benefit of a safety net. To share something with which I feel fairly comfortable, yet still makes me feel vulnerable. And then trust. Trust that whatever the reaction (or non-reaction), I am strong enough to handle it. In the words of Brene Brown: "Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage" (2012 TED talk).

To be brave means to be vulnerable. And I think the more brave, vulnerable acts we witness, the braver we become--the more willing we are to try something new or share some long-protected piece of ourselves (or at least consider sharing). With this in mind, I share two--very personal--pieces I recently created. [Click on the picture if you want a larger view.]

Namaste. (The light in me sees the light in you.)

June 18, 2012

Morning Reflection

Very early this morning, we received big thunderstorms. The thunder kept me awake, but I was soothed by the rain--not just the sound, but the rain itself, as my plants are in desperate need of water. We've had quite a dry patch here in Appleton. So the pouring rain was a lovely sound, as I knew my plants would drink it in.

While my morning coffee brewed, I went outside, just as the sun peeked out of the clouds. I took many pictures of my daisies, and after processing the photos, I realize what great lessons they teach. One lesson is about perspective. I'll illustrate with some questions: On what do you typically focus? The details? The big picture? The positive? The negative? When is it easiest for you to see many different viewpoints? To what views (e.g., identities, philosophies) do you tightly cling? 

These are important questions to ask. When I'm centered (not rushed) and authentic (in touch with the real me), then I have much more space to see and accept different perspectives. When I'm lost in the busyness, I rely on my habit of (false) control, and it's harder for me to see the big picture.

Daisy: Two Views

There's a quote, attributed to writer Anais Nin, that speaks to my heart: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Most of us know this feeling--we hold tightly to protect some tender part of ourselves, yet that tightness leads to more suffering than just facing our fears, trusting ourselves, and blossoming. There are many places in my life where I've blossomed, and some places where I'm still a bud. But through life experience, self-reflection, connection, and meditation I have more and more blooms. And that's a lovely thing. Even lovelier is that we all have different ways of blooming. We're connected, yet unique. We all have buds and blooms, just in diverse ways. I think it's helpful for us to honor the buds in ourselves and others, and also celebrate the blooms--every single one of them.

Ways of Blooming:

June 6, 2012

Black and White

There are many parallels between photography and life. Previously, I wrote a blog post on how color applies to both photography and life. But black-and-white photography is actually not like the black-and-white view we sometimes have in life. In pictures, B&W processing shows richness in texture and depth in patterns, and also shows many shades of grey. Black-and-white thinking, though, allows for no richness and no grey. B&W thinking is rigid, judgmental, and restrictive; as opposed to B&W photography, which is a flexible choice--a different way to view the world.

We Wisconsinites had a big election last night. The issues involved were (and are) divisive for our communities. These are emotionally-charged topics, and many people contract into B&W thinking (e.g., I'm right and you're wrong). I am deeply disappointed with the results of last night's election. It's not what I wanted, but it's what happened. And that doesn't make it wrong. There's much more middle ground. The more life experience I gain, the more I realize nothing is black and white--everything is filled with shades of grey. In fact, it's the shades of grey that allow us to understand and empathize (even just a little) with everyone in this zany world. And that connection is vital to our sense of community.

Wendell Berry wrote a thought-provoking poem called "Enemies." The first two sentences:
"If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,
how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind?"

Hate comes from B&W thinking. Beauty comes from B&W photography. I hope we can embrace the muted shades of grey; embrace the richness (and complication) of life; and embrace each other, even if by baby steps.

June 4, 2012

Changing Weather (& Emotions)

After a long, cold winter, we crave spring. And when it arrives we rejoice. We bask in the sun and mindfully look for new plants bursting from the soil. I think weather is a wonderful metaphor for our changing emotions. Weather changes. No matter how long winter feels; no matter how hot a particular stretch of summer feels; no matter the length of time without rain--the weather eventually changes. One thing we can count on: change.

Change is actually a wonderful thing with regard to emotion. We can trust in the fact that difficult emotions--fear, anxiety, grief, sadness, shame--will not last forever. Eventually they morph into other emotions, even if for brief moments. Our fear that disturbing emotions might last forever is an added layer of suffering. On the flip side, we also add suffering by wanting the positive emotions--joy, excitement, inspiration, love, acceptance--to actually last forever. In Buddhist language, we cling to pleasant emotions and are averse to unpleasant emotions. Interestingly it's the clinging and the aversion that cause us suffering. It's not the emotions themselves--that's just the normal stuff of life.

The greatest benefit I've received from meditation (and, in particular, meditation retreats) is the know-it-in-my-bones experience that emotions do indeed change. I might be in great pain (physical and emotional) one day, but the next day can be completely different. And just knowing this makes the difficult times easier to work with. I trust that the emotional weather will change. This allows for just a little space and softness around the clinging and aversion--and that space is where I can find peace.