The Creative Epiphany – Giant Redwood-like Birthdays

sunone Muir Woods, California

Today I am having one of those epic birthdays, right on the heels of Thanksgiving, that are thrust upon you to get your complete attention and sober you up about life. I am beginning to feel like a giant Redwood. Last year launched me involuntarily and against my protests into a new decade and now, a brief, fleeting, sort of nano-second year later I have my first year of that decade already under my belt. My belt is tightening with all the decades under it. When I was growing up I never could imagine I’d be this old, and I thought that if by any chance I was, someday, this old, I would be at death’s door – shriveled and feeble and ditsy and wrinkled and not having any fun at all. Might as well be dead, I thought.

I am none of those things, to my own amazement. I walk normally, I can still run and climb steep mountain trails, I am not at all feeble, and/or ditsy. I have a gorgeous boyfriend and yes we are lovers. I am a bit wrinkled but so are my younger friends, and I am having Tons Of Fun, enjoying one of the greatest periods of time in my life. Who knew it would be like this? I still listen to the R&R station on the radio when I drive because it is upbeat and infinitely more energizing than the news talk shows. I do believe that the channels you listen to on the car radio are revealing of your internal state of affairs. Please don’t listen to those idiotic and arrogant “spouter – offers” who seem to want every single person on the planet to believe as they do. They will pollute your day, robbing it of any optimism and cheerfulness, and eventually sour your mind and your soul on life. Listen to the fun stuff.

Yesterday around the Thanksgiving table we were discussing how old all of us are. Finally I offered the info to my sweet 5 year old great-niece that I was going to be 71 today. Her eyes widened, she looked at me and said, “Great (she drops off the “aunt” ) Jo, you are going to die!” Everyone laughed and I was the first to agree with her. But I am not dying today. I am nowhere near being finished.

Honestly, composing this blog is my attempt at brushing off this birthday with clever observations when in reality my birthday is always a deeply emotional moment in time for me. Last week I was reminded again and mourned again the fact that JFK was killed just a week before my 21st birthday. I can’t say that I enjoy birthdays anymore when they are my own. I have a reputation for making other people’s birthdays special and spectacular, but not my own. I see my own as harsh reminders. I am always glad glad glad when the day is over and I can stop the celebration. I can’t wait to move on…..I appreciate everything that loving people do for me, but moving on is my desire.

What I will say to you now is nothing more than the obvious – life seems to grind along most of the time like a slow and heavy wheel, but it is a true phenomenon that when you get older the years begin to fly by. I first noticed this when I turned about 50. The number of years you have lived are greater in length and represent a higher percentage of your probable lifetime than the years you have ahead, and so an urgency settles in. You have that feeling – that looking over your shoulder feeling – that something is chasing you. Instead of trying to run faster, you understand that no matter how fast you can still run, the years are gaining on you, gobbling up your time. You have a lot you want to do and an indefinite period of time in which to do it. If you are an artist, as I am, you know that you are painting better than ever but the payment you make for that reward is a loss of time. Every single day is precious, every holiday, every visit, every moment. Every brushstroke on your canvas has to count.

Gratitude is a word you begin to use more often. Thankfulness. Astonishment at your blessings. But you want to feed the hungry children, save the whales, see peace in your lifetime, witness miracles, travel into space, and leave a lasting legacy. You wonder about lost opportunities, you have experienced forgiveness, you hope for second chances, there are mistakes you can still correct….. you often feel unworthy…..you would like to believe in reincarnation. You value living in a country where life itself is the greatest gift and every life is valued, a country where we can all make a difference and freedom is the consistent, primary focus.  But it’s getting late.

It is my 71st birthday right now but tomorrow I will be ok again.

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The Creative Epiphany – Coping With Absence During the Holidays

20-Time-Generations  Mixed Media Collage by Jo Ann Brown-Scott titled TIMES

Everybody talks about friends and family gatherings during the holiday season, the fun, the food, the reunions, the surprises, and yet you hear very little about the hollow feeling that settles in when you are one of the ones who knows that the key people in your life will be missing. I don’t know what it feels like anymore to not be coping with the absence of my key people. I try not to discuss it much – it’is a downer. And I do not like spreaders of doom and gloom. I refuse to be one of those. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism that seldom does the trick in these circumstances, because you cannot deny an empty chair or an unset table on Christmas Day. Other people attempt to fill in the hole in your life by inviting you to join them and thank goodness for that. And yet…

Absence is a harsh reality to cope with that brings strong feelings along the sensitive lines of abandonment. Absence brings nagging feelings of unworthiness on the part of the one left behind. Rationally you do not want to believe that, but a tiny voice nags at you. You wonder if you are not worth the visit. Are the reasons for the absences valid.

Oh the circumstances of the absences are valid. They really are. The reasons are logical, mostly. Issues of geography, money, demanding jobs – you know the reasons you think are valid and ones that you believe are not. But logic is irrelevant at various times in life when you, me and others like us are counting the number of holiday seasons, summers, winters, birthdays, that might be left to us. My favorite Thanksgiving of all time was the one when my daughter appeared at the front door, during an epic blizzard, having flown home from college at a time when we decided we should not spend the money for her to come home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The doorbell rang and I opened it to her smiling face, snowflakes as big as cotton balls swirling around. Logic became irrelevant at that point in time, because I was nuts with happiness. Sometimes you just have to do stuff against all reason. Those times are the memorable ones, obviously – quite obviously. So who the hell cares what the reasons are, for your inability to be home, and what has happened to that timeless belief that you make it home for the holidays no matter what? Just like the mailman – you deliver the goods come rain, hail, sleet or snow, and you are happy and honored to be able to do it. In support of this “old-fashioned” theory, witness the thousands of people at the airports, the train stations, the bus stations and on the highways trying to get home. In time. For the big day. No excuse. People want to be with the people they love the most. It is a strong pull – love is a universal magnet.

There are many ways that compensation can be made for absences during the holidays and for birthdays. A special time spent together doing something else is always good. You and those you love learn the best of the tricks, hopefully, getting creative and crafty with what you offer and employ as “substitutes” if such a thing exists, and memories are made at other places and times that might actually work out to being better overall, sort of. Maybe. Christmas does not have to happen on the 25th, because hopefully you can make it happen in your heart on whatever day works. Birthdays are the type of party that can last for days, with celebrations strung out and enjoyed over time. Children, lovers, friends, parents, grandchildren and other favorite people in your life whom you care for deeply are often very good at “making up” for days when they could not be present in your life. Any and all substitutions help, but the actual day of importance remains empty of their happy companionship. And so there you are. You get up in the morning alone and you do the best you can all day long to display a half-assed crazy looking fake smile and you go to bed alone at night, just like any other damn day. You heave a sigh of relief the next morning that the red letter day is over for another year. Really. You can forget about it.

That is no way to live. Wishing away the holidays and the birthdays and the special times that are not so special is no way to live.

My only advice here is to fill your life with the people who are geographically near to you. I grant you, they are not the actual people you would rank as the number one people in your life, and they already know that, but usually they are nice enough and humble enough to offer themselves up as warm bodies with pulses, lending some fun and food and happiness and they do care about you. They want to be used. They are selfless and giving. And they are present. They are with you.

It is a heavy load to carry, being away from your key people on life’s special days. But remember the load is carried at both ends – the ones absent feel it as well. So you gather your strength, you count your blessings, you offer thanks for all that is good, true and beautiful in your life and you carry on. If at some point it is all too much, you pack your little bag and you do the traveling to them, showing up at their door. Happy surprise!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Creative Epiphany – Thanksgiving is a Week Away

thCAUPXZZ8  I AM DISGUISED AS AN EASTER CHICK

photo courtesy of dechive.blogspot.com/2010/12/proud-as-a-peacock

th[11] I AM SO HANDSOME I WILL BE PARDONED

photo courtesy of breedsavers.blogspot.com

It is 13 degrees here in Denver tonight and Thanksgiving is a week away. The snow is coming down in  large cotton balls and people are in the holiday mood – planning menus, already buying gifts, decorating homes and usually shopping for turkeys right about now. I will never forget the time we were living in Great Falls, Montana at Thanksgiving time – it was about 42 degrees below zero ( not kidding) and after choosing the turkey at the grocery we put it in the trunk of the car and did some other errands. When we got home, I lifted the turkey out of the car and it was so heavy I lost my grip and dropped it on the garage floor concrete where it immediately shattered into several huge pieces, having gotten so cold that it was like a giant ice cube. We gathered up the fragments and roasted them all like turkey puzzle pieces in the roasting pan.

It isn’t difficult to find humor in turkeys. If you have ever visited a turkey farm, as I have, although for some strange reason I do not remember where that was  or why I was there, (I also saw pigs slaughtered one Saturday morning when I was a kid and immediately realized that my parents had used bad judgment in thinking I was old enough at age 8 to witness that murderous scene) you have probably heard all the jokes and true stories about what stupid fowls turkeys are. I guess  probably you have heard it all without even visiting a turkey farm and that would be the best route to take since my memories of the turkey farm are not the type of info I’d want to share with you. Not as gruesome as the pigs but still unpleasantly memorable, for an entire lifetime. They are humorous birds and yet they endure a lot of human-inflicted misery. Then they arrive at their final destination – a kitchen.

Cleaning a turkey for roasting is rather disgusting if you allow yourself to think clearly for just one minute about what you are really doing to an enormous bird that could no longer get his body off the ground to fly because it got so fat at the hands of its keeper (certainly through no fault of his own) and that he probably was no longer able support his weight even to walk at a brisk pace, and so he gobbled and  hobbled and sort of semi-strutted  around a pen with his feet constantly squishing through filth. No I am not on a crusade here – I am not speaking for PETA or some other turkey related “Save the Turkey” type of organization. I speak only from my own experience, purely as a turkey fixer at Thanksgiving.

Live turkeys are not what I would call a pretty sight either – except for turkey lovers – but I guess I would agree that they are fascinating in a squawky  kind of way.  But raw turkeys are much worse. That neck of theirs, once it is cut off and naked of feathers, is especially awful. To see the drumstick-legs brings to mind the bird feet that were attached to them and what they spent their lives stepping in. The heart, the liver, the gizzard – no thanks. Hopefully you got your bird from a place that cleaned it really well before you took it home, because through the years I have found some sloppy surprise remnants of turkey parts in with the edible stuff, so keep your eyes open and aware.

It is a great thing that Thanksgiving is the one holiday of the year that allows us to simply be thankful for friends, family, food, shelter and all the other blessings of life. It is the perfect day for finding comfort and pleasure in being at home with a home-cooked meal, or a place that feels like home and enfolds you. Usually there is enough going on,  with all the people you love the most arriving, that it takes your mind off what just happened in the kitchen, and most of the guests are happy to see only the finished product turkey as he is paraded out all browned and roasty and smelling of herbs and butter.

I am wishing all of you a truly wonderful Thanksgiving Day – one that warms your heart and reminds you of everything that is good about families and friends, and even total strangers who sometimes show up as “strays” as we call the them – invited by us to share the meal although we barely know them at all. It is a day for sharing the love as well as the meal.

Best Wishes and Thanks to all of you – my readers.

I am thankful that you care enough to follow what I have to say. I am blessed with your time and attention.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Creativity’s Multi-Choices

thCAVP09TH Gustav Klimt

I am having one of those moments in time when I cannot decide where to place my emphasis, because both painting and writing are near and dear to me, and very much alike. Creativity is visiting me now – she blew in after my trip to Singapore and has taken up residence in my studio, refusing to leave or even turn down the heat a bit. She likes it hot. She is here because she senses that I am ready for her – but be careful what you wish for because you might get it and she always brings complications disguised as challenges – that euphemistic word that implies the positive but often delivers the negative. She is tricky. She knows how to add intrigue while testing for ingenuity.

I see her as a woman, sitting there staring at me and smiling a Mona Lisa grin, all wild-haired and dressed in hot pinks and orange, eyes flashing. Sorry guys – I respect your freedom to see her any way you like, but to me she is a woman. She is a flaky wench, as I have said before – a woman of many faces, many moods. A heart-breaker, a beauty, a complicated and yet simply divine girl/woman who arrives in a different costume for every day of the week. She can be pouty, stubborn, insistent and bossy but she is also charming, enigmatic and smart. She kills me with her power – I am powerless in her presence. She demands my attention. I drop everything for creativity. Sometimes it is worth it and other times she lets me down….she deserts me….she leaves me in midstream of an idea and does not return for months. And when she does show her face again, enticing me back into her spell, she laughs at me, wondering why I missed her so much and what the fuss of her absence was all about, telling me I need to learn to “wing it” without her constant attention. Easier said than done. She knows how hard it is to wing it.

Sometimes she comes baring gifts so abundant that I am on overload. She offers ideas rapid-fire, challenging me to do them all at once or choose one, any single one, and do it to the absolute best of my ability, at the risk of losing all the others. This is her Sophie’s Choice – choose. I cannot choose one at the exclusion and even death of the others, and therein lies the rub. How come ideas come in clusters and the days are only 24 hours long? Creativity knows how impossible her requests can be. She does not care. She smiles. She waits to see what you will do.

I want to paint; I want to write. The two are similar in their challenges and their triumphs. I ought to be able to do them both, giving each a designated time of day, you would think. But they spill over, they melt out of their allotted hours, they almost become one and the same. I drift from computer onto easel and back to computer again. They each require constant practice, regular attention and loving support. A magnetic composition/plot that pulls in the viewer/reader. A path of light & color/unfolding story for the viewer/reader to follow –  lights and darks, embellishment of certain areas/characters, an exciting punch of extraordinary interest preceded and  surrounded by  some interesting places for your mind to travel while headed in the direction of the focal point/main event. The sensuality of color description, the journey of your mind as you view/read, the tension created for your mind’s eye, the surprise discovery of the message/plot, and the final conclusion – writing or painting? They are about the same thought process for me.

This late fall day, week, month, year, there is a war in my studio to see who wins – the visual artist or the writer. I am a helpless victim of creativity. Happy to have such a problem but wary of the battle.

The Creative Epiphany – Weathering Life

7- Midday Migration Mixed Media Collage titled “Midday Migration” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

We are expecting high winds in the Denver area today – 40-60 miles per hour with gusts as high as 90 in the foothills of the Rockies. When the wind is angry like that, building up a furious intensity in the high mountains, blowing and spitting snow as it barrels down through the deep canyons just 15 minutes away from where I live, you can be sure it will race across the flatlands of Denver and its bedroom communities like the breath from a science fiction monster. Until recently I used to say how much I love weather drama, then the storms began – Katrina, the Tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, Hurricane Sandy, epic Colorado flooding and the monumental typhoon in the Philippines. The big boy storms moved in and  began their 100 year visits, skirting the globe, scouting for random selections. Things have changed in the world of weather.

How is your internal weather? Fair to partly cloudy? Sunny and warm?

Are there storms that rage inside? What is your emotional forecast? All that is happening with-out cannot help but be reflected with-in. Weather disasters, political lies and scandals, crime, personal loss and misfortune, unhealthy personal relationships – all of that and more – cause emotional mayhem, creating internal havoc and unease. Feeling powerless in the face of large scale situations is painfully frustrating and destructive. We receive a steady does of bad news every day, built upon the results of yesterday’s surprises, then we get “updates” on the lingering miseries of months ago and it goes on like a bad soap opera. Of course there are human interest stories of courage and hope….crumbs…. evidencing the generosity, kindness and resilience of human beings. Show me some good news and I will try to remember it as the rotten news piles up and fills the streets of my mind.

Your internal climate is important to your health and wellbeing. We all know that.

When you get knotted up like a ball of string, what do you do to cope? How do you get up in the morning willing to face another day? Tell me what keeps you standing upright when there is so much that tries to knock you down. Tell me how you sleep at night, in the warmth of your bed, when there are babies dying for lack of food. How do we go on? What gives us the strength to continue, knowing that we have so little power to facilitate change?

I will tell you that for me, for insignificant me, the deep belief that change can one day be achieved is based upon faith that every positive personal thought, every positive casual comment, every smile, every tear that you blot for someone else, every word of encouragement, every shoulder offered to lean on, every dollar spent wisely, every single hopeful contribution to every other person or situation that you encounter counts. I do absolutely believe, especially now in this golden age of communication, that what every person says and does and feels and thinks makes ripples around the globe. How could it not? I do not care what social status you enjoy or do not have, what you might have amassed in the way of wealth, what your home looks like, what wine you like to drink, what kind of designer shoes you might be wearing – I want to know if you care about your fellow man/woman enough to worry about how we are going to feed the children.  We are all connected – we are all related – are we not all thinking about the same things? We all want our children to be fed, sheltered, clothed and educated. We all want peace, freedom and  the opportunity to prosper. And by the way, all the children are yours and my children too.

The epiphany comes when you realize that if you, you who do not wear designer shoes, are only able to affect positive change within your relatively small circle, that is, in the eyes of the universe, still a worthy cause. Buddha would tell you that if he was standing right there in your living room. Gaining peace of mind amid worldly chaos is possible in the performance of even the tiniest, kindest gestures. In my recent travels I saw acts of kindness, randomly given, received with great thankfulness and astonishment. Doing nothing is not an option. There is no excuse for failing to contribute to the common good. Make yourself an ambassador. You do what you alone can do in the moment of opportunity, you become the example to be followed, you teach through positive action, you strive to understand how something turned wrong so that you might know how to make it right again….and yes perhaps then you become a human interest story on the news after all. Coping is often the same as contributing – they go hand in hand. Coping with worldly dysfunction can be as simple as being a small but mighty force in your own small world for the cause of reason and peace – a force that is strong enough in intensity to become a ripple that widens and travels outside your world. You will want to get up in the morning if you feel that your personal mission is to do good. Because you matter. Every person, prominent or not, who has accomplished positive change, had to realize in a grand moment of epiphany that they mattered. 

             hawaii 008

Thoughts of the Philippines

I am re-blogging this post because I can think of no better way to utilize a blog than to be of help in a situation like the disaster in the Philippines – please consider joining this group of people who are wanting to help – I know the author of this blog quite well and can assure you that your help will be properly used.

The Creative Epiphany – Albania’s Newfound Self-Esteem

th[9] photo courtesy of travelerphotographs

 photo courtesy of Pinterest

 photo courtesy of gadlin.com

 photo courtesy of Flikr

Here in the USA it is Sunday morning and several of the news programs aired segments about some tenement buildings in the capital of Albania – broken-windowed buildings torn by war, neglected, abused and abandoned, that have been transformed and revitalized by the bold and joyous colors of new paint. The EU apparently objected to this radical change – for reasons we are not sure. The Prime Minister of Albania objected to that proclamation, persisted, resisted and basically said, “We are going to go for it,” in a gutsy move.

He went on to say, in one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Beauty is more intimidating than brutality.”

What an epiphany we have here!

To think that pride, creativity, thinking outside the box and positive initiative manifested in the addition of simple, stunning COLOR in some coats of paint could bring about such a paradigm shift in public thinking and collective self-esteem. Drab, often mafia infested neighborhoods, wasted, forgotten and forlorn, accepted and rejoiced in the jolt of some paint and ….what resulted….was optimism, pride and hope. That absolutely can only be seen as great. Sometimes it is the simplest things that make the most monumental changes for the collective good.