Happy New Year!

I hope 2017 is going well for everyone so far! It has been a slow start to the year here. We have had snow for the past couple of days (yay!!!), which has meant that most of my time has been spent inside working on various projects or just sitting and watching the snow fall. I could honestly watch the snow for hours, it is so beautiful and serene.

snowfence

A snowy fence

snowberries

Snow-covered berries

On New Year’s Day I did my tarot reading for 2017 using Joanna Powell Colbert’s Tarot Spread for the New Year. I have been using this spread for several years, and I really love it. I was especially excited to get two of my favorite tarot cards, The Priestess and Nine of Earth, in my reading for 2017. It is interesting that this reading echos the themes I have gotten from both my Hallowmas and Winter Solstice readings: getting to work and taking practical action. The High Priestess and Four of Fire also remind me to maintain my spiritual practices and connection to Goddess, listen to my intuition, and make sure the action I am taking is grounded in what is most important to me.

2017reading

My 2017 New Year reading

On New Year’s Day I also finished a little Great Blue Heron watercolor that I created for my altar. I really like the heron, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the background—it feels too busy and I wish I had made it more plain. I may try again at some point, but for now it is on my altar and it does make me smile to see it.

heronwc

Great Blue Heron watercolor

When I was in the Portland area I lived along a wetlands where herons nested every year, and they became an important sign for me. I often see herons when I need encouragement and a reminder that Goddess is with me. Last week I was down by the river feeling out-of-sorts and I saw two herons lift off from among a group of egrets and fly down the river. I rarely ever see more than one at a time—they lifted my heart and spirits as they lifted their massive wings to take flight.

I often find January to be a challenging month. I have made all these goals and plans for the New Year, but my energy and mood can take a deep dive during the dark days of January and I find it hard to get started on everything I have planned. Then I start beating myself up and worrying that I’m running out of time and that just makes things worse.

Last year in January I ended up re-reading all the Harry Potter books for the eighth (ninth? tenth?) time. I basically spent the entire month reading and not doing much else! I’m trying to find a bit more balance this year, understanding that this is a low-energy time of year for me and accepting that, while not completely giving up on doing anything productive. We’ll see how it goes! At least after years of observing The Wheel of the Year I know that come Candlemas, I will start to feel more energetic and ready to get to work.

I also wanted to share a couple of resources that might help get your year off to a good start:

  • I started this Writing the Goddess class a couple of days ago and am really enjoying it. This might be a good resource if one of your goals for 2017 is to get to know a particular goddess better. I am working with Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin as I work through this class.
  • The Hidden Brain podcast from NPR is one of my favorite podcasts, and this week’s episode, “Getting Unstuck,” was especially helpful for me today. I recommend it if you are trying to figure out what to do with your life in 2017!

I’m not sure what this year will hold as our government makes a dramatic shift this month, but I pray for peace and justice in our country, and for all of us to find the courage to create lives of meaning for ourselves. Blessed be!

A Little Melodrama and a Lot of Love

So I made some art last week. I have been wondering whether to share it or not, because it is…well, kind of weird. However, it led to some interesting insights, so I decided to share.

As often happens during the gray winter days, I have been feeling a bit down, a bit blah. I also haven’t been keeping to my news and Facebook fasts quite as well as I had planned to. I have cut back a lot, but I still can’t seem to stop checking in once a day or so to see what is happening. Mostly, it just makes me angry and/or depressed. So my heart was feeling gray and heavy, weighed down with fears and worries. An idea to draw a heart, a real heart, in my art journal, and paint it all gray and dreary came to me. I ignored it for a couple of days, but the idea kept pestering me, so I finally sat down with my art journal to sketch a heart.

I have a bit of a medical phobia. I can get freaked out by injuries and blood and pain. It is even hard for me to listen to someone describe a health issue they are having, because I will start to feel it in my own body. I am working on this, trying to come into a better relationship with the inevitable messiness of having a human body, but sitting down to draw an anatomically correct heart was a real leap for me. I used a drawing as a reference, not a photo of an actual heart, but even that had me feeling a bit panicky at first. After a few minutes, though, I was focused on the drawing and I calmed down.

And an amazing thing happened. After drawing the heart and painting it, I kind of fell in love with my own heart, beating away inside, a miraculous little organ keeping me alive and well. I focus a lot on my heart center energetically, but I don’t always consider the organ itself, and it is beautiful! Hmmm, maybe I need to draw the rest of my organs? Don’t worry, if I do, I’ll keep them to myself (probably).

heavyheart

Heavy Heart

The act of sitting down and drawing out my heavy-hearted feelings made me feel better, as creating art often does. Plus, once I was finished and I stepped back from it, I started chuckling at the pure melodrama of it. Not that it wasn’t from the heart (ha!), but putting it out on paper like that made me smile, and helped lift the emotional fog. Sometimes it feels good to wallow, right?

The next day, T. Thorn Coyle posted an essay, Metal Fatigue: The Use of Love in Times of Stress, on her blog. The artwork she used is, I’m pretty sure, the exact same drawing of a heart that I had used as my model the day before! This seemed like synchronicity that I needed to pay attention to. Her words were exactly what I needed to hear, and I highly recommend reading her post. She writes: “So what do you do? How do you interrupt a stress cycle? And how do you build in resilience before the stress cycles begin? One way is to consistently invoke love.”

Now, when my heart starts to feel heavy and overburdened, I think back to my heart drawing, and then I think of T. Thorn Coyle’s wise words, and I turn my heart, as best I can, back towards love. Because our precious little hearts aren’t meant to be hard and gray and weighed down with sadness, they are meant to be filled with love.

It isn’t easy these days, but for the sake of my heart, for the sake of all our hearts, I will try to choose love.

Resources:

I have found Loving Kindness Meditation (also called Metta Meditation) to be really helpful in cultivating love and opening my heart. I really like this guided Loving Kindness Meditation on YouTube.

One thing I learned, I’m not quite sure from whom, which isn’t mentioned in the video, is to first think of someone you really love unconditionally, someone who awakens warm, loving feelings in your heart. This may even be a pet, since our relationships with them tend to be less challenging than our human relationships. Then, try to focus on maintaining that same feeling of love as you move through the meditation. It is also okay if you aren’t ready to offer loving kindness to someone you don’t like yet. You can start with just yourself, just family and friends, or neutral strangers, and let your practice grow from there.

An Autumn Afternoon by the River

It has been way too long since I spent time nature journaling outdoors, so I took advantage of the gorgeous day yesterday to do some sketching down by the river. I wasn’t really focused on making a beautifully composed page, but was just having fun drawing and painting whatever caught my attention.

riversketch

Sketching by the river

There was a flock of Canada Geese paddling and feeding on the river. Drawing something that never stops moving is always a challenge, so some geese came out better than others. Then some honeysuckle berries caught my eye. They are translucent red and were literally glowing in the sun—so beautiful!

I found the wild grape leaf on the ground near where I was sitting. Normally they just turn yellow in the fall, but this one was gorgeous in shades of gold, orange and magenta. A teeny-tiny spider marched across the table while I was sketching, so I added her in, too.

I saw a Pileated Woodpecker, which is the first time I have seen one in this area. They are always exciting to see with their magnificent red crests!

The sun was warm, there was a soft breeze, the river was splashing and singing as it flowed over the rocks, and I heard several large splashes in the water—could it be salmon coming home to spawn? It was a beautiful time to enjoy the world around me and forget about worry, and cancer, and the election (oh my goddess, the election!!!) for a while. A much-needed time out.

I wish you gorgeous autumn afternoons full of sunshine and peace, and maybe even a little sketching!

rivsketchfinal

The final page

(P.S. I just realized I dated my page wrong! It should have been the Oct. 9. Oops! I’ll have to fix that.)

Out Loud

Out Loud

Mixed media on canvas panel, 2016

I finished this painting today, and I love how it turned out. Some paintings can be a bit of a struggle, but this one just flowed. As soon as I had done the background, I saw the shape of an elephant and knew that she would be the focus of this piece. I’m always a bit anxious when I sit down to paint something that I want to look semi-realistic, but she came out well and I really enjoyed painting her.

This painting speaks to me of joy, of living life on your own terms, walking through life as your authentic self, and speaking your truth—living your life out loud and in full color.

Elephants symbolize strength, pride, wisdom, confidence, and determination, as well as happiness and good luck.

May we all move through our lives with more confidence and joy!