Painter of the mystical, otherworldly, sensual, and whimsical.

I'm a painter living and working in the beautiful finger-lakes region of Western New York State. I am also an avid gardener and nature lover, so the lush green rolling hills, gentle streams, and majestic lakes that surround my home in this world often appear in the fantasy worlds of my paintings.

Many of the pieces draw inspiration from folk tales, myths and legends. These "teaching tales" were what drew us together around our hearth-fires for centuries, and I believe those stories still carry power.

I enjoy looking at these ancient tales, through my eyes, and painting what I see, no matter if it's beautiful or disturbing. But what's more fun is when others can see those same paintings and find something within of value that speaks to their soul directly. I do not plan for this, but am honored when it happens, and, oh, yes, do love hearing about it every time that it happens. It reminds me that maybe we are not so different after all.

Glad to meet you, and please enjoy the paintings!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Counsel for the Sincere Seeker

Hear, grown woman, the child in your eyes
just put the skipping rope down.

Hear, grown man, you put this serious mask just yesterday on.
With respect for the inspiration of the ancestors,
I say this only once,

for we should never meet each other like this again.
This is a dream! An illusion.
The self you assume you are is a dream image.
A clear distinct personality.
Just as the movie star projected in shimmering light on the silver screen, you, too, are a projection.
The light of a star exploded long ago in time of yore, the movie star long gone.
Walk out of the cave of Plato, leave the movie theater.
I know !!… It is a captivating movie, one you do not let go.
But the captivity that binds you is as illusionary as the movie.
Lose yourself in the movie,
become one with it and discover that your illusion consists of pure suffering.
Just as a table is made of wood, your dream is made of suffering.
O, sincere seeker, through the whole world you find monks, nuns, beggars, and hermits
who jingle bells, beat drums and gongs, blow horns, and cry out to wake us up.
To warn us that our illusion consists of pure greed, of burning passion for suffering.
Forget, forget your illusion, turn around, turn back to the place woven for the time.
Wake up, break the endless confusion that men teach each other.
Eternity is now, and now is eternity.
Hereafter does not exist.
There is only the eternal and forever lasting moment of now.
An egoless now, no I to attach to it.
Who, what, where you are or should you be.
What would you do with a self?
Ah, to give a name, confirm, affirm, captivate, and try to affix the illusion.
~And that is an illusion indeed!~

Zen has become a comfort, in the way that the rhythmic praying of the rosary was before.  Allowing time for daily meditation has allowed my mind the time to find stillness, without judgement or criticism.  Zen never denies God's grace, and never ridicules me for feeling "the deep magic" (~ C.S. Lewis) as an undeniable force in my life. All it asks is for me to release that, if only for now, and allow it to rest. In this, the deep magic can live alongside a deep peace.  I don't need to be the ideal of enlightened perfection... Like raku pottery or lovingly mended kintsugi ceramics, the irregularities that critics condemn as flaws are cherished because of the unique beauty they add and the story they tell.

Irony or paradox, but while Zen allow joyful acceptance of my own truth, it prevents hanging too much identity on it.  Whether I see myself as that intentionally imperfect raku pot, warped before I was ever fired, or the ["sweetly broken"][] kintisugi, Zen reminds me perception is limited and distorted to the point that it might as well be complete illusion.  There may be no "imperfection," at all... or each of us might be a hot mess. What matters is that it does not matter."Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." - Richard Bach
"Convictions create convicts." ~ R.A. Wilson

Meditation is a daily practice, minutes to learn and a lifetime to perfect, but I am enjoying the journey.  

Daihonzan = Head Temple (of) Suiren-Ji = the Soto Zen school where this was written.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kittens, and their use in Repelling the Devil

A kitten is licking my face.

My eyes aren't open yet, but I know it's morning. I also know it's going to be a bad brain day. Hold perfectly still, don't move, don't twitch, wake up slowly, take stock of every sensation. My mind is screaming, but, apart from a snoring husband, the giant cat sleeping between us, and the tiny face-licker, nobody else is here... nothing threatening, anyway...  It's safe to move. Move slowly.

I stretch. Giant sleeping cat stretches, too, and snuggles further into me. Does he know it's a bad brain day? Can he feel, maybe smell, the chemicals that nature already released inside my skull? Is that why he's here? Not important right now. Open your eyes, dammit. Breathe deeply. You're stronger than your biochemistry. Ask yourself, “What do I have to do today?”

Not fail. Not completely fail. At Life.

The devil pulls the chair out from my drawing table and sits down. He looks pretty comfortable.

“Just here to help,” he says “You're planning out your day, and that's being productive, healthy and functional. My friend, you're trying to take control of that brain before it takes a hold of you. So, what would you say 'not fail' includes?”

Rectify all of my past wrongs, accomplish everything today that I need to accomplish, and anticipate everything that could go wrong in the future so that nothing ever will. Today. By the end of today. Yes, that's what the world would expect.

The Devil slowly lights a cigarette. “What if you fail at this, too?”

My brain shudders like it's been hit by a blast~wave, and I close my eyes. Of course I'll fail at this... but my mind is on fire, and there is no sense of reason. All I know is that I have to fix everything in the world, today, right now, and, dammit, it's just not possible.

I never want to open my eyes again.

I keep my eyes closed, but it's too late. The other fuzzballs have seen movement. They know they can play with me, and, with feline-single-mindedness, attack my face in licking and purring. Do they know it's a bad brain day? Could they tell before I opened my eyes, like I could?

They're still licking my face. I can't concentrate on anything else. This is perfect, since the Devil hates to be ignored. (Pride...) Focus on the kittens, you can do this. Nothing else really matters right now. This is pure joy. Know that even if you feel that you've failed everybody else in the entire world, you saved the lives of each of these tiny fuzzballs, and watched them grow into beautiful young cats who see you as the source of all love and safety in the world.

You. Yes, you, right now.

Gently displacing kittens, I sat up and put my feet on the floor. Lying in the muddle of the open doorway into the hall was my copy of  the Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle.

I looked at the kittens, now jumping off of the bed and racing each other to the door. They're known for moving stuff, but it's usually hair-ties and favorite toys, not books. Besides, kittens can't read. Pure coincidence. Coinci-Dance? Synchronicity? Does it matter, if the message is good? Take what works, throw the rest out.

The Power of Now is a favorite book, but maybe I need to remind myself of the book's message; maybe read it again. I can't atone for everything in the past, nor can I possibly anticipate everything in the future. I can not possibly accomplish everything that I would, ideally, want to accomplish, in one day. I can only handle one day, and that's today, one moment at a time. I can handle Now, and, right now, that's going downstairs and making sure these little creatures have everything they need.

I'm the source of all love and safety in the world, remember? I've never failed them. They believe.

This is the power of unconditional love. While I may never completely understand the science behind it, a pile of kittens is one of the best tools in my toolbox for fighting a bad brain. A wise, kind woman told me once, “If God is love, animals are angels.”

Yes, I just repelled the Devil with the power of kittens... The anxiety and self-loathing that pulls us away from the unconditional love in the heart of the universe was sent away because, right here, right now, none of that matters. A stupid idea, if it works, isn't stupid. Holy water? I suppose, from a certain point of view, all life is mostly water. The most sacred holy water is the blood flowing through a beating heart that lives because of you and loves you completely. Purr on, little brothers and sisters. Lick my face every morning for the rest of your life. You're a gift from something greater than myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Lavender Bush

An unseasonably warm afternoon in an unseasonably warm October meant that I had a perfect day for transplanting a few treasured garden plants into containers.  When gardening became much more than a hobby, I felt it was OK to openly admit it's therapy. Non-gardeners may not understand why I feel pride in a lavender bush.  Lavender is slow-growing, and can be fussy, but years of love and care allowed it to grow into the beauty it is today.

It's possible for lavender to survive, and even thrive, in a container, if cared for properly.  I'm the sort of plant geek that views this as a challenge, and the possibility of having a container of lavender growing indoors is too good to pass up.  Indoor container gardens have added cheer to many long winters up here in the Great Lakes, so I'm not a stranger to growing things in flower pots (as well as recycled plastic bottles and yogurt tubs, as needed.)   Urban gardening means making the most of what you have, and I've seen enterprising souls create truly ingenious solutions.

Part of this, though, speaks to a more urgent need:  mobility.  The modern economy has created a class of techno-gypsy, and sometimes you need to pull up stakes, without much warning.  The old tribal dreams of  a family plot of land with an herb garden or an idyllic farmstead become something that must be grasped loosely.  We do not know that "this land" will be our children's children's for ten generations to come.  It's a rare family that could guarantee it for the next five.

Yet, some ancient part of us needs to touch the earth, and to see one season follow the other.  We need to know that there is continuity so that we can have belief that life will continue.  Without that, hope looses plausibility.  We do, in fact, need to "put down roots," if only so that we can be reassured, every spring, that the blossoms will come back.  Thankfully, humanity invented clay pots, so that roots and the life they generate can be carried, moved, protected, and allowed to grow wherever it needs to.  While Mother Nature has a lot of great ideas, I really have to give some credit to human ingenuity.

Were we meant to live with the constant uncertainty of modern life any more than lavender is meant to live in a container?  A better question is can we.  The best answer I can give is, "Some can do it better than others, some break and die, but many have thrived."

200 million years of emotional life can't be denied.

Has anybody noticed it's much easier to paint when you have no desire to go near to a computer? Right now, the outside world is a scary place, and computers are windows (HA!) to the outside world. Like most mammals, I react to panic by withdrawing further into my own social unit.

Paint is comfortable and happy, and my friends know how to avoid my triggers, meaning the things that we already know will set me off. This is great for managing times of stress. Experience has taught that a great thing for times of stress is avoiding, triggers, For example, I already understand that the compulsively following the 24-hour news cycle can lead to the sort of weird, compulsive, anxiety-ridden behavior of an addict, and, frankly, there are people who are paid far more than I am for those migraines.

Knowing that this is not my problem, and understanding that it's OK to step away from the monitor, is a powerful tool for controlling stress. I love all of you. Children of Earth, please work this out. You are above my pay-grade.

The most amazing thing I have learned this week was just how significant emotion is in our thinking process, once we really analyze the brain on the meaty-bits level. The science of the brain is a favorite "geek" of mine, but I understand not everybody shares it, so let me just give a link. This article by Stephen T. Asma has given me a great deal to think about.

The animal/ emotional part of our brains is much bigger, older, and more powerful than we tend to give it credit for. Vastly.

"After you spend time with wild animals in the primal ecosystem where our big brains first grew, you have to chuckle at the reigning view of the mind as a computer" ~Stephen T. Asma 

By giving myself larger blocks of time intentionally away from the computer and the possibility of news and its constant panic, I can reduce stress. By allowing myself a larger block per day to just do what I love and paint, I increase joy. By doing both, I can give myself an immeasurable gift. I'm not sure if I can stay with it, but I am willing to keep an open mind.