Unexpected Transfers and Transformation: Growing a Garden

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I previously lamented my nostalgia for the north: how I missed the blooms of spring and the seasonal changes of things further from the equator. Life is such a funny thing—a strange change of circumstance caused us to unexpectedly re-settle further north and west in a matter of mere weeks.

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This is the little bit of earth I have to work with, and so I’ve given my gardening attempt a couple hours each day this week.

This new place, our temporary home while we search for something more permanent, also affords me the support of wonderful family, the treasures of living in a smaller town that I so sorely missed, and a small patch of land to work up a garden this summer.

What perfect timing, too! Mid-to-late May is about prime planting time around here. My very kind sister-in-law will likely be able to bring their tiller by next weekend so I can work up the patch I’ve roughly outlined (approximately 7’ by 14’ feet), and I’ve started most of my seeds in containers so as not to lose any time. While my seeds germinate and sprout, I’ll be working up my brand-new plot and attempting to get a decent mix of soil going. If you are new to gardening–or coming to it years after growing up with gardens but not really knowing a whole lot beyond “well, Mom made me pull weeds…” I recommend you check out this for some super basic, but helpful, information.

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The first day I got this little tiny bit turned over, plus the entire outline of the whole plot, before some rain hit.

Life is so strange… It takes us where we are afraid to go, and where we would never expect to go. But yet, once we are there, it is obviously the perfect place to be. And so it is, a long and difficult journey leading us to—well, we may not quite know even yet—but it really has become about the process.

More and more, I look at my artistic and green-thumb endeavors, and marvel at what my family and I have been through. All of it together makes me realize the great thing of this universe we live in. Chaotic order, or whatever you care to call it… it is beautiful.

In all this, though, there is a deeper call to quietness. I think we forget, in the hubbub of survival and searching for security, the most simple of things: our families, our friends, and the love we have for the things we hold dear.

So during this extremely hard and trying time that is also absolutely amazing, I am making every effort to live each day better than the day before. I am determined to live with intention. All my actions, all my words, all my creative endeavors ultimately require intention. Without it, my soul or whatever you’d like to call it, is a bit topsy-turvy, running off-kilter in a world that has also, I think, largely lost its intention.

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The Helper Dog. Once things are planted, she’ll be disappointed that I no longer welcome her digging. For now, she is the greatest contributor to the compost pit.

I think many of us have strange happenings that bring us to a moment of reckoning or revelation. When these things bring about huge change, a new (or better) habit, or wonderful new tradition, it is exciting. I love hearing from others the ways the world has altered the tiny things to completely transform the bigger things—so feel free to share your story in the comments, too.

Blooming in Paint and Progress

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April is here, and… probably in full bloom? The thing about living near the equator of this fickle blue marble, is that Spring never feels like Spring as I grew up knowing her. She was moody and rainy, blistering cold many days with ever-so-slight promises of warmth and resurfacing greenery. Now it’s kind of hard to tell what season is what.

I miss the seasonal shifts more than the seasons themselves sometimes. Autumn comes with her bounty, creeping across fields to turn everything to a hue of sun-spun gold. The deep ochre and red-gold themes of nature, along with pine green and rich ambers that make up the fall palette are perhaps my favorite. But each season’s turning has its own unique way: Winter turns crisp and gray, and we humans paint it with so many festivities to cheer the world from her slumber. And Spring—which is upon us—does not come easily, or quietly, or all at once. And I miss that.

Our little potted plant wants to bloom... but can it?

Our little potted plant wants to bloom… but can it?

Where we live now, I have to find people to knit for up North, and I have to remind myself what the seasons are, or what time is really doing in other parts of the hemisphere. I’ve taken to small daily rituals to remind myself of the re-birthing nature of spring. Each day, we find time to water our potted plant beside the front stoop. The thing of apartment living makes having a garden impossible, but remembering spring, and keeping a little bit of land—even if it is only in a pot—to remember where we come from is so important to me right now.

I also find filling sketchbooks up with paintings and doodles inspired by the seasons I’m missing helps me quite a bit. I haven’t done too much lately, though, so I’ve been seeking out others.

I thought I’d share a couple things I find particularly inspiring. I have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to floral inspiration, which can be a great way to spark creativity. Digging a little deeper, too, one can find lots of inspiration for technique, practice, and method. This one by the fabulous Alisa Burke, discussing the thing of sketch supplies and process, is super helpful no matter what subject you’re tackling. And this from Shannon Kirsten’s blog offers unique floral inspiration.

Check out my Tumblr for posts of my personal images, and of course you can find me chirping on Twitter from time to time. I would love to hear how others are creating in Spring too!

Easter Egg Trees & Traditions

With new intentions (which are going well, I think), and new beginnings, come new traditions around here. As Easter fast, it brings with it reflection for me.

I was raised in a  protestant home, and went to our Methodist church every Sunday. But Easter Sunday was bigger than the rest; it required a special dress—usually a gift from one of my grandmothers—and gloves, the dreaded tights, and a small purse. I think the purse was my favorite part of the tradition—a grown-up item of delicate fabrics, often beaded or embroidered. It was a lady-like place to hide my childhood treasures: a broken egg-shell found along the tree-line near the back pasture, or the pilfered candies I took from the jar near the piano.

Easter was a mix of frivolity, piousness, primness, and mischief. We dressed in our finest, prayed with a particularly heightened sense of faith, and—I, at least—were extra-careful to keep our ankles crossed in a ladylike pose while sitting in the front pew awaiting Children’s Moments. And mischief: after all the quiet prayers and somber hymns, we children would all race out onto the church lawn directly after Sunrise Service to find Easter Eggs crammed with chocolates and mints and whatever else. we had our baskets and our legs, and we heartily fought to procure the most eggs the fastest. There was nothing graceful about this—I clocked one boy across the neck in order to get more eggs. He flew into the bushes, and I didn’t stop to help him up. This was an Easter Egg Hunt, after all, so it was considered fair sport.

My household doesn’t celebrate this way now. I’m sure, in years to come, we will visit our share of Easter Egg Hunts and secular celebrations of the holiday. But my appreciation of the holiday is different now. I would say—if one insisted upon a categorization—the nature of this holiday is, for me, more of pagan than Christian. I revere the earth for her bounty, and am thankful for the seasonal shift that brings us light again. I feel closer to the earth, and feel a particular warmth for the new life all around us. I have a sense of tradition, yes, but I think it reaches deeper than my childhood, and past generations of church-going Sundays. I feel as though my soul is pulled further back in history, and it makes me want to raise my children with an appreciation for so many aspects of this season.

Decorate a tree for all the holidays to teach traditions that celebrate all the seasons with cheer!

Decorate a tree for all the holidays to teach traditions that celebrate all the seasons with cheer!

This is why my husband and I have erected the Seasonal Tree. It began as a reason of space: we didn’t have the space to store the Christmas tree. But then we talked about how decorating the tree for one holiday seemed kind of dismissive of all the other perfectly good holidays and seasons. So we decorated for Fall, for Halloween, for summer and her red-gold fiery days. We talked about how, one day when we had more kids, it would be nice to teach them to appreciate every season, and be thankful and joyful in every holiday. So now we make our own Easter pretties, put up the Spring wreath, and happily decorate our tree.

Announcing: Poems & Illustrations!

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In the last post, I talked about new endeavors, new beginnings, and generally: new things. Today, I have something to tell you that is so brand-spanking new, it is slick with just-been-born freshness. So new, in fact, these poems and illustrations are still in pre-order mode!

The cover!

The cover!

My book, A Personal History of the Lost & Found, is coming to life, and I couldn’t be more excited. The idea was birthed over a year ago, and it evolved into something that I’m pretty happy with. The process ebbed and flowed; at times, I thought about just letting the whole thing lie. By lie, I mean die. I hoped it would crawl off into the cracks of time and die a quiet death of imaginary creatures ignored by their creators.

The poems came first, and then the illustrations. Oh God. The illustrations. I think I probably did a total of fifty (I kid you not) illustrations/gesture sketches for this; but then, I would decide this one doesn’t fit, and this one plain sucks, and this one should be saved for later. I settled on a handful of illustrations that show a range of styles, and it certainly shows my evolution in process and skill.

Eventually, I developed a practice, and I came to the page nearly every day. As excited as I am to see my book going out into the world (and honestly, nervous, too), I think I’m most grateful that this book has given me the discipline and practice to come to the page with ideas and get them down. I’ve done that before—I mean, that is kind of the entire idea of writing a thesis for a Master’s degree, of course. But this felt more real, and it felt more self-propelled, and it also taught me a lot about working outside of my former genre of choice (fiction), and also about embracing visual medium.

When I thought it was time to let my ideas die, something would happen to steer me back into production. And so it was born, and now it is done, and you can pre-order your copy now.

Creating Changes in Spring

There are lots of reasons why Easter has become a commercialized occasion of chocolate bunnies and super-yellow images of impossibly perfect daffodils against too-brilliant blue backdrops of photo-enhanced skies. There is a reason why Easter falls in spring—a religious holiday that is traditionally about resurrection, redemption, being born again as something more pure. And I am sure you’ve heard a handful of things about this…

Pagan, ancient, New Age, modern, semi-ancient, kind-of-ancient, really-really-old, pretty recently… Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, not-religious-but-spiritually-minded. These are some (but not all) of the time periods and groups of people who have given the seasonal cycle “spring” a lot of thought and reverence.

The idea of rebirth and change and fresh beginnings is a wonderful thing that offers hope and a whole lot of other good and fluffy stuff… So I’m joining in. New intentions, new endeavors, new beginnings—these can be very enticing to those of us who are caught in a daily grind, or are less than happy with our current existence. Creating a new path, forging new possibilities—it is never easy. So if taking this time this year, with Spring 2015’s particularly perfect energetic chemistry is a way to launch you in your desired direction, why not embrace that?

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I am embracing some positive change! It won’t be easy. It means sacrificing minutes of silly games on my phone when I find those spare moments. It’s about taking scraps of time and putting them to good use. Not whining about lack of time or energy, and instead making time. Piecing together the scraps of time to create a solid fabric of a whole existence is hard. It is being a quilter of actions, memories, and intentions.

A first hello

Welcome to this humble little blog where words and pictures and conversations will hopefully bubble and brew into some kind of magical concoction.

Upcoming posts will cover things about creatively living: art and writing and general creative endeavors. Also, look for posts about day-to-day meanderings about creatively keeping a house and family while incorporating things like art. It’s a broad spectrum from an existence that seeks to find balance amid mayhem, and I hope to offer a smattering of helpful posts that inform and/or inspire.

You can also find me on Tumblr and Twitter.