Two weeks ago I was caressing my beloved friend’s hair as she was slowly floating away from her body.
On a cold January afternoon, decades ago, she had held my hand as I had walked out of my bakery one last time, knowing I was walking out of a much bigger chapter, heartbroken and scared. The memory had been very present for me in the last few weeks and while I never brought it up to her in our many phone conversations, I knew for sure that if there was any way at all, I wanted to hold her hand as she walked out of her own big chapter, out of her life.
I flew in, walked into her room, kissed her, sat by her bed, and before five minutes had passed, she said to me: “Hey, remember how I walked you out of the bakery, all these years ago? I was wondering if maybe you could walk me out …”
I wonder how long she had been thinking this. I never asked, just nodded and we agreed that this would happen, however it would happen.
An afternoon, a night, then a morning. We had these, surrounded by other hearts that were overflowing and breaking at the same time. A sacred dance of love with tears, laughter, and dark hot chocolate.
She and I knew it was time to say goodbye and we knew that saying goodbye is a huge privilege, something not to take for granted, something undoubtedly worth traveling for. It was hard, it was beautiful, it was life and love passing through our hearts. It was gratitude, mostly. For the countless cups of tea, the belly laughs, the big talks, and the support, always the support.
There is so much to say about this and someday, I will.
The memory of seeing her face breaking as we hugged one last time before I walked out of the door, wearing her well-used leather clogs and the black coat I had given her two years ago, is tucked inside of me, in this velvety burgundy place that nothing touches.
Then began the hours of waiting, my clogged feet in the jungle, and my heart in her tiny house 2,500 miles away, the recipient of a friend’s generosity as she wrote to me each day, bringing me as close as she could to the little bed, far away. My feet in her shoes, I walked through the village, the river beds, the dusty roads. I told myself I was walking her out.
The time came, she flew. Gracefully as she lived, knowing how loved loved loved she was. Is.
At the same time, in some poetic and powerful invitation to really FEEL Life, my heart was also on the other coast, in Georgia. There, each day passing was bringing another beautiful being closer to flying into this world. My baby granddaughter was on her way in.
On a shelf in my house, a pair of tiny patent leather clogs I had bought for her weeks ago in the village’s thrift store. Shiny, ready for many walks through streets not yet known.
This two-lane highway of love had been present for weeks. I woke up and went to sleep feeling them both, in awe of how real it all is, how big, how crazy, and really, how … not crazy at all. In, out. Out, in. The rhythm, the truth. Two ends of The Magic Carpet ride. We hurt for one and we celebrate the other. Saying hello is so much easier than saying goodbye. Our hearts crack open at both.
Each day had been bathed in this knowing, this feeling. This gratitude too for not being spared the bright light of truth, the intensity of our humanness. At times it felt sweet and soft and pink, at others it felt as though I could choke on it if I wasn’t careful.
Today, writing from a beautiful sunbathed room in Georgia as we are probably hours from whispering a sacred hello to this baby girl, I love to think that she and my friend spent a little time together out there, my beautiful friend showing her how to make the perfect cup of tea, a flaky pie crust too, maybe. How to go slow, to meditate, to create beauty, to be completely present for a heart-to-heart conversation, to laugh with abandon, to forgive.
On the phone last week, my son reminded me of this Jack Johnson song:
”Down the middle drops one more grain of sand
They say that new life makes losin' life easier to understand
Words are kind they help ease the mind I miss my old friend
And thou you gotta go we'll keep a piece of your soul
One goes out, one comes in.”
What a Gift it all is.
Today, I invite you to GO there. Wherever “there” is for you. Whether by plane, by foot, by telephone, or by prayer. Go there and say hello, say goodbye, say I love you, I forgive you.
I miss you. I am so happy to meet you.
There has been a meme showing up on Facebook the last few days. It says something like this: “To all Canadians: Your weather is here. Please take it home.”
A friend and I were sitting on the beach having a meal of Tacos and Garlic Shrimp when he pointed out that it felt as though we were having lunch in Vancouver, BC.
Overcast, the ocean a dark gray, people wearing hoodies, and the sand still wet from a recent rain.
That made me smile and sink an extra level into my plastic chair.
I needed this. Badly.
My heart has been spending a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest lately. Bare feet on the smooth Mexican tiles of my studio, I have been painting women from Anacortes for an upcoming art show. WOA. The Women of Anacortes. A collection of 12 women who have had an impact on the community.
Honoring them, celebrating them. So when the clouds started to shade the sun a few weeks back, I sent them a big wave of gratitude. It was such a nice support, a powerful way to help me connect with my models, with the flavor of that place I still love so much. Brushstroke after brushstroke, uncharacteristic gray sky above, Leonard Cohen singing in the background, the twelve portraits emerged and I just know that if the sun had been shining, if the AC had been on, a layer of something would not have shown up on the canvas.
Just as the hot sun and sweltering heat of the summer had been my companion in creating La Gente del Pueblo earlier this year (I know at least two portraits include a few drops of sweat mixed in the paint).
Our environment is so important and sometimes I think we forget this part.
While we cannot always count on the sky to get cloudy to match our creative needs, we can often alter our surroundings to support us. A coat of paint, a new lamp, moving a table under a window - or away from it. Music, an apron, even a choice of tea can be subtle but effective allies.
When we give ourselves the gift of taking the time to listen to our needs and make small changes, we can be surprised by how much more comfortable and inspired we become. I believe that our art reflects this.
Today, I invite you to look around your art space, your kitchen, your bedroom, your bathroom, even your car, and unapologetically ask yourself: What would make this space more delicious? Then do that, even the tiniest smallest version of that.
This week, the twelve paintings are making their way across the border and to the island, where I will meet them, ready to share them with the community on March 8th. If you are nearby, you are warmly invited to meet me there.
A beautiful room layered with colorful rugs and pillows and soft music. Carefully chosen pieces brought back from a traveling life and made part of a rich current life.
Nothing under glass, untouchable. All within reach of human eyes, human bodies, and furry paws.
A safe space to be this morning, to create.
My friend’s weekly life drawing group.
She had been patient with my non-commital “Can I please decide to show up at the last minute?” request and there I was, crisscross-applesauce on one of her sofas, pencil and eraser at the ready.
Three of us, plus our lovely model, who is also a special friend of mine. Two dogs and two hours ahead of us.
Pose after pose, sips of mint and honey tea from a large Mexican mug, I am tracing my friend’s curves. She is very still, and then she stretches and changes her body around. My pencil follows her.
After a few minutes the “Is this looking right?” questions from my mind start to get quieter and further apart. Eventually, they almost disappear. It feels so good, so restful.
My eyes on her body, my hand moves on the paper. A hip, a foot, a long neckline, a nipple.
Then I notice something.
It’s subtle and very easy to miss.
I call them.
I am calling her body parts in my mind as I draw them. “This is a toe.” “Here is an ear.” “Now her belly.”
So weird, so tiresome. So … small.
As soon as I notice what I am doing, from long-ago art classes in college, I hear my teacher’s voice: “No, no, no. We don’t do that.” This teacher had a huge influence on me twenty years ago and I love that she showed up again today in this beautiful space across the world.
So I stop. I try to hold back the words, the labels. I hold back everything I have learned about how an eye looks and how a back bends. I do some inside blurring, I call on some detachment from “What I know.” I just look and I just move my pencil. A straight line. A dark angle. A curve, a rectangle. I step away from my story and my words, my past experiences, and my skills or lack of skills. I step away from my questions and I step away from my answers.
I just draw. For many minutes.
And right there, in this peace-infused space of not knowing, not asking, not responding, and not labeling, I receive a reminder of how sweet it would be to live - and to love - this way. No story, no pre-conceived anything. Just a journey from one curve to the next, from one breath to the next. Responding to one invitation at a time, restfully. So very restfully. Trusting, following creating.
Then of course, when I look down at my paper, I love the way the drawing looks. My left brain asleep or at least dozing a little, beauty has shown up.
What a Gift.
As I walked out into the sunshine and sounds of the cobblestoned street an hour later, I felt slightly altered, sweetly re-oriented.
Today I invite you to consider stepping away from the knowing, for just tiny bits of time. To trace the contours of your day, the lines of your minutes, the sounds of the words from someone you love. Just as they are, without naming them. I think you may love it.
SCARED OF THE SACRED