Monday, July 28, 2014

Checking In

So how's this artist residency thing going?  Well, setting aside teenager wrangling, meals, laundry, visitors and workshop preparations, it is going well, thank you very much.  Each morning, I sit on the front porch (that's "bridge" to you) with my sketch book and notebook and sometimes a book book and see what happens.  Oddly enough, I have been writing, not drawing.  Several ideas have been reoccurring so I am letting them cook a bit.  I know that my ability to say with words is much less than my ability to say with things so at a certain point, images will come back.  

Yesterday, driving into Corner Brook to bring Lucy to the movies with a friend, I suddenly remembered how I used spontaneously stop and photograph things, especially graveyards, and how I never do that anymore and how I need to do that again.  It is vital to skip out of the groove of "this is the drive to Corner Brook" and all my other habitual patterns if I want to dig into what this place is again.

Meanwhile, the beach never fails me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's Ok. It's All Over Now

A week of silence with eyes lowered?  Seven to ten hours of sitting zazen/day?  Bring it, baby!

Two hours of rigorous asana?  What else you got for me?

Twelve years of homeschooling two willful human beings?  Yeah....and?

But Lord Almighty if my spirit wasn't just about broken with these three inches (302 sts/row) of K1 P1 ribbing.  It must be some kind of madness that would compel a designer to create such a thing.

As a firm believer in Elizabeth Zimmerman's mandate on ribbing: continue until you can't take it any more, I would say that this went Too Far.

Friday, July 25, 2014

You Have to Say Yes

In the tradition of yoga that I am studying, there is a lot of emphasis on good digestion.  We talk about the five vayu-s (vayu translates to "wind" in English): prana (energy coming in), apana (waste going out), vyana (circulation), udana (communication) and samana (digestion).  Even as these vayu-s are specific and separate, they are all connected with each one affecting the others.  If your prana is blocked, you won't have good apana or vyana, which affects your udana and samana.  You get the picture.  Each one needs to be in balance so that they are all working together in a healthy way.  It is a way of thinking about our bodies and about how we interact with everything we encounter in the world.  It also is a way of understanding things when something is not functioning well - it helps us figure out where the problem comes from and gives us an idea of how to change the conditions that are causing it.

One of the cool things about this whole digestion process is that it is happening - right now! - without needing to think about it.  I mean, you can think about it and affect it and consciously take steps to alter it but even if you don't do that, things are happening.

The vayu concept is a beautiful metaphor and it is not a metaphor at all because you can see it in yourself if you take a look - right now!

I have been thinking a lot about this process lately.  The training in Nashville at the end of June was deliberately designed to stir things up for us.  We have to experience for ourselves the effects of these practices in order to be able to offer them to others - just as in any other therapeutic training.  Perhaps what is different about this training is that it is done very consciously on so many levels.  We can watch it all happen: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  It's happening and we are watching it happen.  Noticing it and deliberately making note of it.  The process isn't always clear, however.  That is the edge that we work - you can only see as much as you see and the rest is dark.  Until it isn't dark anymore.

I was talking with my mentor teacher about my practice(s) and my ongoing questions about why I stay devoted to Ashtanga (this is NOT seen as a good thing in this tradition) and how my Zen practice fits into the whole picture.  It can get pretty murky and dark and complicated in my head.  Stuff happened in Nashville around these areas and I was trying to articulate how it was feeling to me at this point.  After I spoke for a bit, she said to me, "You don't need me to give you an asana practice - you can do that yourself.  In fact, the whole thing is for you to do for yourself.  You just need to say yes to it.  That's the whole practice.  You have to say Yes."

Once again, it all comes back to this.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

How To Use Time and Not Be Used By It

Two months in Newfoundland is not much time.  According to our current day, workaholic, blood-thirsty capitalistic society, two weeks is considered a long vacation and two months is unheard of - what are we, in France or something?  But stepping a little closer to reality, two months is not much time at all.  For a moment, let's set aside the point that I do not consider my time here "a vacation."  I consider being here to be central to my life as an artist - it is a rich, fertile, nourishing place.  Given all this and my limited time here this year, I decided to use the time as I would an artist residency.

When I started The House Museum in 2001, the motivation and ideas for the project were coming from my first impressions of this place.  I didn't know anything about it really but I had a strong impulse that felt like it came from somewhere very deep inside me.  A feeling of knowing, even as I knew nothing.  The process of making and running that project for five years (!) brought me much closer to this place.  In a way, I came to know too much.  I got a bit jaded and cynical.  Newfoundland was this or Newfoundland was that.  It's always a bad sign when you think you know something so definitively, in my opinion.  Fortunately, I had the good sense to stop running The House Museum at that point and to spend time just living here.

Oddly enough, the question that was central to The House Museum - why are you here? - was never so pertinent or unanswered as when I stopped running The House Museum.  Why was I here?  I no longer had the obligation (as it came to seem to be) of running that project.  I no longer had an angry husband who was pissed that he had to spend all of his vacation here.  I no longer had two little children who needed full-time attention.  With all the obstacles cleared away, I was suddenly unclear about what I was doing and why.  I seriously considered closing this chapter of my life - without obligation meant that I was, in fact, not obligated to hang on if there was nothing to hang on to.  But that impulse that stirred in 2001 is still there.  I feel it.

So, this time will be spent rediscovering this place.  I know a lot now so it is time to get back to not knowing and, instead, to begin seeing what is in front of me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Home, It's Where I Want To Be

At long last, we have arrived!   And it is glorious.

We got on the ferry last night after spending the usual shocking amount of time in North Sydney.  Oh, how many days of my life have I spent hanging around in North Sydney, Nova Scotia?  It is time that I will never get back and, frankly, I am not so happy about it.  Possibly the only place more bleak than North Sydney is neighboring Sydney Mines, that uses the motto, "Rich in Hospitality....and Coal!" Need I say more?

It has been something of an odyssey - the storm, the delays, the no-cabin, the being parked on Deck 1 (it's a long story that involves a lot of waiting around).  Both Lucy and I had moments - many moments - when we wondered if Newfoundland is really worth it.  And maybe I say this every year....but it is so worth it.

This place.  This crazy place.  It is home.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Churning Up Above and Below

There was much talk about digestion in Nashville.  No, not like a group of old people at the dinner table.  This digestion consists of taking in all the information and experiences of our nine days of training and really absorbing them.  Tossing them around in our minds and our bodies and seeing what happens.

For myself, however, this process had to be delayed (we shall not speak of it as constipation as this delay was made consciously and deliberately and I can end it at any time, I swear).  I so deliberately delayed my digestion because we had only three days in NYC before heading north.

Unfortunately these training modules happen in late June so our time in Newfoundland must be pushed back - normally we would have been there for months already.  Of course it is an embarrassment of riches so I am not complaining!  When I booked our ferry crossing, I thought that for once I won't need to give weather a second thought the way I do in April or May.  How wrong I was.

As we drove northward it was clear that Hurricane Arthur was going to interfere with our crossing.  Indeed, the ferry departure was moved up to a time that made it impossible for us to catch.  So we - along with many others - rescheduled.  The earliest we could book was for Tuesday night but I am holding out some hope that we might get on one tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Lucy and I are on something of an enforced vacation, holed up in Cheticamp on Cape Breton while the storm passes over.  Seems like the perfect time for some digestion.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


We have crossed the halfway mark of our time here in Nashville.  Each day, classes have run from 7 am to 6:30 p.m. with short breaks for breakfast and lunch.  If it is very intense for the students, I imagine it is doubly intense for the teachers (there are three).  They are giving us everything they have, without holding back.  In fact, that is their goal so that, at the end of the three years, we will be our own personal version of everything they know.  And they know a LOT.

It's funny.  We all arrived a bit cautious about the others and unsure of our own abilities and experiences.  Some people, especially the West Coast people, know each other but many of us arrived alone without a friend to sit next to for reassurance.  We have slowly - and quickly - come to know each other through class discussion and mealtime conversations.  Although it has been my multi-year project to be less shy and more open, I was plenty wary of my fellow students.  As one person put it, yoga people can be so weird.

To my delight, I have had no reason to stay wary.  Far from weird, we are, as a group, interesting, experienced, sincere people.  Some have more knowledge in one area and some in another but we all have something to contribute and we share a deep desire to learn and to be of service to people who are interested in how yoga can be used therapeutically.  If I may say so, we are a most excellent group!  No doubt this is because the teachers are most excellent.  I hope you will study with them if you can.

Besides the in-depth discussions about philosophical topics - oh yes, I can go on about the meaning of life, believe me! - I am especially fascinated by the three observations we have done.  Three willing (and brave) people have come in and had three consultations with one of the teachers while we listen and watch.  After their visit and the person leaves, we discuss our observations and clarify what we saw and didn't see.  Each of the people has a serious issue - two of them are living a life of debilitating chronic pain.  Watching the teachers in action has been beyond inspiring.   Each of the people has come in a bit scared and uncertain about this process and has left clearly feeling better than they have in years.

It is rather heartbreaking to be honest.  Our tools are so simple and so easily within reach for absolutely everyone.  It is hard to reflect on the years of suffering that each of these people have endured, going from doctor to procedure and medication.  Maybe it is exactly because part of the healing comes from stopping the notion that the fix is coming from "out there" and to turn the light around about what is happening, and not happening, in here.  To be clear, I don't mean that, if you break your leg, you can meditate your way to proper bone healing.  Of course not.  At the same time....look closely, really closely, at your life.  Often the answers are not far off at all.

It is difficult to even begin to share in a coherent way all that has already happened in a few days.  Fortunately for me, another participant is more eloquent than I am.  Please read what she has to say.  It's lovely and, truly, just the tip of the iceberg here in steamy Nashville.

Monday, June 23, 2014


For the past several days and for several more yet to come, I am in Nashville, TN, to attend the first module of training in yoga therapy course - a three-year program that includes a total of six trips to Nashville, many web-based meetings and, I hope, one trip to India to study.

It is very exciting.  It is very intense (seven 12-hour days and two 6-hr days).  Naturally I have many thoughts and opinions about the whole thing but, at the moment, no time to share them.  Indeed, I must sleep now or I will deeply regret it in the morning.

See y'all soon!

PS.  Newfoundland is much nicer in late June than Nashville.  Just saying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Handpainting Fibre and Yarn Workshop in Gillams, August 2nd/3rd

This summer, I will be hosting the wonderful Ani Michelle Mueller, who is the creative force behind Widdershins Woolworks.  She will lead a two-day workshop in Gillams on hand painting and dyeing fibre and yarn.

She will focus on handpainting yarn and fleece using acid dyes.  Topics covered will include colour mixing, painting tips for best results and she will share all her hard-earned secrets for getting the most beautiful, unique product for knitting and spinning.  Ani has over three decades of experience as a fibre artist and business owner, so she has much to share with us.  You can see some her work on her website.

There is an option to attend one ($100) or both days ($175 - and I highly recommend you come both days!).  Fees include lunch and all materials.  Please be in touch with me if you are interested in attending and/or need assistance/advice about housing.  There are a very limited number of rooms in Gillams that will be available first come, first served for participants.

As you can see from these examples, Ani is not your average fibre worker.  She's got Talent.  She also is very funny and charming.  And did I mention generous?  Well, she is.  The course fees are based only on the cost of getting her to Newfoundland and back.  Ani herself is accepting no fees for her teaching.

I have no doubt that it is going to be a blast.  A blast resulting in oodles of gorgeous fibre to take home and play with.  Also mad skillz to take home and play with, yo.  The only question that remains is...

....will YOU be there to be part of it?

Monday, June 09, 2014


Two shows worth seeing at The Brooklyn Museum:  

Of course there are more than just two excellent shows there (and the wonderful fountain in front of the Museum) that are worth seeing.  So go already!  Plus, the Botanical Garden next door is free on Tuesdays so you can combine the visits if you have the stamina.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Glory Days

These are the glory days in the garden.  The roses are out and their scent is intoxicating.  Add to that the smell of the honeysuckle (hey - I don't agree with it being there but since it is...), and being in the backyard is a heady experience.  

She is a little miffed that she doesn't get to go out but the birds are happy.

My goal has been to simplify.  Being gone for the main gardening months year after year has resulted in a tangle of invasive plants (see mention of honeysuckle above), none of which can be tolerated in such a small space.  So I have been digging out the beds and replanting with low maintenance perennials and a few annuals.  Would I rather be creating a mini-farm for subsistence living in an urban setting?  Yes, but it just isn't happening.  My denial of that is why I have such a mess back there now.

Little by little, it is looking better and happier.

And a happy garden is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Minky (2004? - 2014)

Our most beloved cat, Minky, has moved on to larger hunting grounds, leaving us with years of fond memories of her loving nature towards people and ruthless nature towards any and all small birds and mammals.  

She enjoyed spinning almost as much as I do.

Last summer, we noticed that she was walking slowly and not really engaging in the merciless hunting that had made her reputation.  She had to stop and rest when traveling up the hill between her winter home and her summer home.  A trip to the vet in Corner Brook revealed that her heart was enlarged - a genetic condition that would end only one way, sooner or later.  The vet didn't recommend the pills and the other treatment involved traveling with her to PEI for thousands of dollars worth of surgery - surgery that would only result in the same outcome i.e. death, albeit months or possibly, years, later.

Minky brings new meaning to the Utopia Tent.

Minky was a dignified soul who didn't need to go through all that travel and invasive treatment.  She spent her earliest days at the shelter in Curling, winning the hearts of the volunteers there with her warm, friendly manner.  Also, she caught all the mice that were foolish enough to try to take up residence at an animal shelter.  We noticed her because of her sleek, all black appearance - like a mink or perhaps, like a Minky whale.  Thus her name.

She offered us years of dedicated service in keeping varmints away, sometimes resulting in multiple catches in a day.  We learned to watch our step first thing in the morning as there would be some tidbit waiting on the welcome mat as a gift of appreciation from Minky.  In her enthusiasm, she even carried a live chipmunk into the house during one of my public House Museum events.  She also loved to sleep on your lap and crawl up to rest her face so she could look right into your eyes.  She trained me well - a quick tap on my face at 3 am was all it took most nights to get me up so I could let her outside.

Last fall, as we packed up to head south, she knew, as she always did, that this meant she would shift back to her winter home.  We always fancied that she preferred our house - and she probably did considering the love and attention that was showered upon her there.  But last year, she lay on Finn's bed and looked at me out of one eye as I raced around, packing.  When I met her eye, I knew it meant only one thing - this was our final good-bye.  She never allowed me to give her tearful good-byes in year's past - she simply would have none of it and would wander away before we could weep and wail in front her.  I always respected that about her because, let's face it, who were we really weeping for, if not ourselves? Last year, she allowed me to pet her and speak softly, offering my apologies that, once again, we were leaving her behind.  I knew it would be for the last time.

I have been half expecting to hear of Minky's death this past winter, but no, the word was that she was fine.  Then, today, I heard from our neighbor that she has been missing for a week and, despite the efforts to find her, she seems to have gone.  I am not surprised.  This is how she lived - not making a fuss, just doing what was needed.

We loved you dearly, sweet, beautiful Minky!  Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Only one of us still has red hair!
This photograph dates from just a couple of days after Lucy was born.  A wild time, no doubt, because not only did I have two children under the age of two, we purchased and moved house just a couple of weeks later.  I guess if you are going to play, play.

I am only posting it because it is sitting on my desktop and it is pretty darn cute.  Also, I have been mostly caught up in shredding old tax forms from this same era and other various, visually boring enterprises.  But if super cute, red-headed baby pictures are not your speed, may I offer you this, which a school teacher friend of mine placed before my eyes.  All three of us whom you see above laughed til we cried.