Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines 2018

Another year, another Valentine. Another time to reflect on what LOVE is teaching me.

What do I want you to know about this year's Valentine? In true therapeutic form, I feel like answering the question with another question will help. (Funny thing, on my way to work this morning I was skipping radio channels and I heard two different DJ's say "The question is...".)
Have you ever been grossly misunderstood?

It feels pretty terrible. Justifying my deep love for sparkly beauty and my open mind to symbols is not something I ever thought I would have to do, yet the "opportunity" recently arose.

Initially, there were lots of tears and feelings of isolation. I struggled alone by choice. I knew I would be given the grace needed to handle the situation. (I'm aware the people around me love me very much and do not ever want to see me in sometimes I process internally before allowing for potential influence. So, I Cave.) Once I found some peace and broke my silence to a few trusted people, of course healing rushed in. I went to my hypnotherapy training (YES!!! This is one exciting reason I have been so busy!) and experienced further amazing healing. I thought the issue was resolved and put to rest.

It wasn't.

Turns out, the toughest part was yet to come. Lucky for me, I have one particular aunt who empowers me like no one else can (she personally understands the biz/therapist part of me). During this difficult time she said things as plainly as, "Honey, you're being a victim." Yeah, we're that close. And when I stubbornly held to my (and she also knew it was well justified) position she said things like, "Are you really willing to win the battle, just to lose the war?" She reminded me of things I have said before: "You have told me you feel called to work with Mennonites. This means any Mennonite who comes to you, client, neighbor, friend, colleague." (Because I grew up Menno—-& I know there are lots of Amazing Mennos out there.)

And so I met and grew my wise, strong adult in an unlikely way over the last 7 months. I chose open dialogue three times even though I experienced feeling unheard. I continuously faced the opportunity to love, even when I felt annoyed, mad, intruded upon, unsafe, criticized, persecuted. The time for dialogue is over now, and the healing continues. Who I am and what I actually DO believe continues to clarify...and it feels AwEsOmE!

During this time I read the work of George Tillich who Goodness knows (like Freud and Jung) certainly didn't get everything right. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? His work on symbols (read after the dialogue was over) was profoundly healing to my own narrative. He wrote about how our language, our letters and words and earth-bound concepts are ALL symbols to point us to knowing God, or what he called Ultimate Concern. I am no theologian, but I got enough of the feeling of his writing to experience profound healing as well as permission to continue using symbols as (what I call "anchors") in my faith and life.

During this time I also painted the painting (below) that would *eventually become the background of this valentine. The painting is called, I, Cave. It tells the story of two perspectives. One, a person standing outside of a cave seeing darkness, thinking the light is on their side. The second perspective is that of mine, me looking out from deep within (my inner knowing, my sparkly, well-lit, beautiful and mysterious cave) and seeing a vast amount of beauty and more mystery in darkness illuminated by stars and reflective sparkle. There is a poem to go with this piece, which actually emerged before the painting, but it is not yet complete.

So, my beautiful, clear, truth-filled Valentine is born from great difficulty...and all I see in it is great beauty. I even like the provocative way the sentiment "This is not love..." draws my Valentines closer, beckoning a second look. (Who ever sends a Valentine that says this?!! haha.) Dang it, I can't actually send love to you all. But what if I send a symbol, something that conveys the idea of love? And how great is it that I am not able to actually confine love to an envelope and a card that arrive one day per year? Love is not to be contained or too easily defined...for if it were, it would just become ordinary, cheap, another thing to be understood and categorized. The symbol allows me to send the sentiment of love, and for all of us to think more about love. It allows the conversation about love to continue.

The back is signed with my deepest conviction of LOVE, Ultimate Concern. Enjoy!

*I'd also like to document that I consulted with my amazing graphic designer daughter on the lettering and layout of this piece. She gave me great feedback which resulted in the more clear message of the (pictured) symbolic heart than I had originally drawn---and she also told me it was a little too busy overall, and that if the background (which at that time was b&w marbled paper) carried no message, to scrap it. So, I went back to the drawing table which is when the idea to use the painting dawned on a big "duh". So I changed it and then asked Andria if my painting was too busy of a background...her response was perfect: "The background is the point, Mel." (The girl should be a therapist or something.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

42 Renew

The absence of production on my blog illustrates exactly what is happening in my life right now. Yes, I am still busy working in my lovely office perch/nest---and loving on the people who matter most to me. This means I am (still) not spending much time (Instagram proves I'm still finding/creating's Insta to post there ya'll!) out in the studio creating. 

I mostly believe and feel how letting go of extra studio time is the right thing for this season. There are times when this creeping feeling comes over me which is usually complimented by thoughts of "should". I quickly recognize these feelings/thoughts for what they are and when I challenge them, I always arrive at confirmation for the season I am currently observing, and go back to feeling/knowing peace in my mind, body and spirit. Below you will find the scripture that is guiding me through this time.

I am a work in progress! I am grateful for the patience and steadfast presence of my friends and family. Thank God for transformation, for change, for renewal, in my 42nd year of this beautiful life. 
Even my office space is in transition. I just got the long, counter-height table and will pick up my new full-length couch over the break. (This will mean my hypnotherapy clients will be able to leave feeling better emotionally AND without neck pain.) Those are my heels in the corner by my door. You bet I kick them off between clients!

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Better Balance

All three of my people are going back to school in the next few weeks. Before we head into constantly changing schedules, I decided to shift my own as of August 1st. As a result, I get to be home an hour early on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I have also decided to take a break from supervising at Friends which opens up quite a bit of head-space and frees me from living so attached to my phone/another email account and moving between my office and the college mid-day. While they seem like small changes, I have already lived one week in the changes and am experiencing great relief!

On Thursday night I walked out of the office at 5:30. Plenty of daylight. Not starving.  I spent some time in the studio getting the neglected space cleaned up. I attempted to create a poured painting with Elmer's glue. It failed, but I was excited to be back in the studio.

On Friday after clinic I had the energy to go to Hobby Lobby and Ace Hardware thinking I would try this new painting process on Saturday. I ended up going out to the studio Friday at 9pm to make the seafoam/gold painting. Ohmygoodness! It was so much fun. So. Much. Fun.

On Sunday I poured this Amethyst painting and a few small blue ones. See my IG link for more  photos. Studio time = pure healing!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Carribbean Blue

The Caribbean in Roatan Hondouras was gorgeous; the reef heavenly. My dear babe is 40.  It's his year to live Psalm 40 now. 

He starts graduate school at Friends in a few weeks. With God's help we will be able to practice together in just two years. 

It will be our FIFTH college degree completed while married. Will it be our last?!?!! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ryan Adams at Red Rocks

Cody and I skipped town last week to go see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks. Everything about it was AMAZING. I kept sitting there marveling at the huge open sky...and how different my view was there compared to where I usually sit on Tuesday nights. Here are a few snapshots from the night.

That's the city of Denver twinkling in the right foreground.

Natural amazement. Perfect acoustics.Opening act.

It was amazing to be serenaded under the open sky by such a feeling, expressive artist. Never seen him play? Here's a great video from a performance on Letterman:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Modern Venus Opening

I missed the opening; but then I wasn't ever completely sure I would go. So I was a tiny bit sad yesterday when I heard someone at the Finishing School talking about the great success of the Modern Venus show opening the night before. I am sure there were powerful connections made that night! (I taught Saturday---so I got to take some time with the 30ish fantastic show selections.) 

Turns out, I decided to go to bed instead of going out. I had no bone for being social left in my body after the full week I'd had. (Four of us went to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks...that's another blog post yet to come.) Years ago I would not have missed it for multiple reasons, among them, my burgeoning ego as a closet artist starved for attention. Now, I hear my own voice saying, "Be gentle with yourself. What do you need to do to take good care of yourself?" Staying home was the right thing for me to do that night.

And the show went on and I'm so thrilled it opened to great success. I am honored to be showing next to several ladies whose work I know and admire. On Saturday I took a snapshot of the show's description (see below)---sadly, my phone/camera died before I captured all the artist names.

I Remember the Rocks

I remember the rocks on Rolling Hills
the white soft and sparkly rocks
that illuminated my hand
before it found a voice
Will this rock write? 

Or the clear infracted marbles on Cherry Hills
their sheer faces swirling and glassed off
pitted like craters created by comets
that somehow dropped only in front of Lenny's house at 12 O'clock noon
Gifts from the moon?

Then the red and black lava rocks on Regier
with bubbly pores blinking water
popping and crackling next to my tiny ear
after being held against my twisting tongue
My eyes were always on the ground
in the present

I remember when I felt my first real sand in California
washing off the soft
then rough
millions of tiny grains
when that stranger yelled "Son of a Bitch!"
What does 'Son of a Bitch' mean?

I remember the first time I saw black galena
a whole huge pile stacked on the survivors' shore
Black glass button eyes? From Volcanoes? How did they get here?
in that remote place where I grew from mystified to mortified
all the while only a few shores and even fewer years later
were the smooth clacking palm-sized tumbling rocks in Green Bay
Were those brought in and dumped there, too?

I remember thinking it all happened by accident
Sometimes I still do and I blame you
ancient and glittering and grounded
that such seemingly inanimate objects comforted me
back when I began to dream about rocks
and I still do

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Poetry and Rubem Alves

Call it age. Call it stage in life. Whatever. I am becoming more poet than anything these days.

This switching mediums is a cycle for me to which I am accustomed, so luckily, I embrace the change and I allow the immersion. Poetry feels to me, more intimate than expressive art. I think I will post a poem here and then I yank it down; too exposed. Often they are just stream of consciousness excuses to avoid punctuation. Always, they are expressive and allow me to release my clinical containers.

Over the last month I have devoured two books of essays/poetry by Rubem Alves. This guy is my dream writer because in addition to poet, he is also a theologian, philosopher, and psychoanalyst. (How appropriate? I found him because of an equally and severely beautiful client.) His "sneaky, creeps in and wakes up" style reminds me of the writings of Rabbi Friedman or CS Lewis. I especially love what he has to say about mystery and The church...but maybe it's because his writings are like looking from a dingy mirror into a clarifying mirror, or the freshness that comes after taking a deep breath, or the lightening that lifts upon setting down a heavy weight.

Anyways, here is one of his poems:

What is hope?
It is a presentiment that imagination is more real
and reality less real
than it looks.
It is a hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress
is not the last word.
It is a suspicion that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe
and that the frontiers of the possible are not determined
by the limits of the actual
and that in a miraculous and unexpected way
life is preparing the creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection . . .
The two, suffering and hope, live from each other.
Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair,
hope without suffering creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness . . .
Let us plant dates
even though those who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
This is the secret discipline.
It is a refusal to let the creative act be dissolved
in immediate sense experience
and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
Such disciplined love is what has given
prophets, revolutionaries and saints
the courage to die for the future they envisaged.
They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.
- Rubem Alves

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Love, My Genogram, and the (Meta) Modern Venus

I am honored to share my genogram, Meine Familie, in an all female show next month. I cannot imagine a more perfect venue and event in which to shelter/exhibit the piece for its first time public showing. Though the Modern Venus show is a separate and distinct thing, I know the space well because it houses The Finishing School, which is near and dear to my heart as it is the brain-child of my brilliant friend Jill. I will post more about the show as it comes in. (Seriously, could there have been a more perfect first opportunity for it? I think not.)

Following are Rilke's enlightened words on Love and what he predicted to be (what I am calling) the (Meta) Modern Venus. Enlightened? Yes, because he wrote these words over 100 years ago. I find these words to be even more true today, and love that they were written by one man to another man.*

"We are only just now beginning to consider the relation of one individual to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such relationships have no model before them. And yet in the changes that time has brought about there are already many things that can help our timid novitiate.

The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately , more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.
   This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform the love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman. And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other."

If quotes from letters aren't your thing, here's Rilke's poem Love Song:

How can I keep my soul in me, so that
it doesn't touch your soul? How can I raise
it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
lost objects, in some dark and silent place
that doesn't resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws *one* voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song. 
 *If you want to read his whole letter to his younger friend, enjoy.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

O Dear Me

I in my vessel
all patina flesh and brain
Groaning bound with earth
in radiant pain

Thus I sail the stars
heave to in the night
Mainsail to the moon
starboard I alight

Dive into the deep
floating as I might
Neutral buoyancy bliss
gradient blue in sight

Outer space, inner sea
Love plus eternity
Flesh and blood
Earthbound feet
I am.
I cannot help but be.

Edit: I keep playing around with the name. I've settled on O Dear Me, a sort-of-homage to Robert Louis Stevenson linking with the last verse of this poem.