The After Party Before the Next Party

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Well it’s all over now until it is New Years Eve…the aftermath of a lovely Christmas is to me a sigh of relief that all went well, a clean kitchen (finally) and a few days of delightfully normal food to stabilize, everyone safely home from their holiday travels and a ticket in my hand for Hawaii in February. Here in Denver it is currently 7 degrees with light snow falling, and we are losing ground – soon we will have no degrees left unless they are minus. Tomorrow night we are told to expect 15-20 below zero. I have enclosed a cell phone shot looking out of my upstairs studio window. Please excuse the quality but in this case it almost enhances the image….a sugar plum, sparkling blue and white 4 pm scene, when the snow is dry and powdery as stardust. You would almost think that everything is right with the world on a peaceful day like this.

As I sit in my studio, especially in this type of weather, writing my book and taking intermissions from it to paint, I feel fortunate to have both of those pursuits to choose from. It is a luxury to have the time, the warm and cozy space, the inspiration, dinner on the stove and a lot of friends and family who care enough to check in with me once in a while. I feel wealthy in these conditions with those blessings.

My New Year’s wish for all of you is much the same. As the Christmases pile up into nearly a full lifetime, the urgency of time settles in, and I hope you are as inspired as I am to make every moment count. Even if all you are doing is sitting quietly looking out the window at nothing in particular, if you are thankful and cognizant of your blessings, it counts as quality time in my book. In 2015 I plan to use my days wisely, spending them on worthy pursuits, great friends and family, and thankfulness.

Happy New Year!

Jo

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.

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 – Flashing Before My Eyes

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My life is flashing before my eyes in Technicolor dreams of days gone by. Excuse the melancholy interlude. It was bound to happen.

Relocating to another area, another state, familiar as it is to me and as highly motivated as I am, still seems a heavy load to carry alone. I see, with every item that is packed, a long life placed neatly in boxes, as if it could be condensed to just that. Small a space. With a lid on it. In spite of  my pride all these years at not having a lid on it. No matter how many boxes there are, the headlines of my life, the subplots, the nuances, the places and faces and times and history that define a life well lived are almost all missing, without documentation. They could not make enough boxes…to hold a lifetime of my experience. And so, for the most part, my memories are lost in space, floating in and out of the bank of clouds in my mind where they have enough room to stay.

Every goodbye changes a relationship. I am a good and loyal communicator – I do well at keeping in touch. But it is never quite the same. I will miss seeing the spontaneous expression, the revealing tear pooling up in the corner of an eye, the laugh lines deepening and the weathering of a human face. Your face and mine…because we are reflected in the eyes of eachother. Being with someone who is telling a story is a priceless window of sharing when bonds are made based upon visual impressions, heartfelt exchanges, and unspoken words. Oh you can Skype and you can do face-time, but the daily connection is what will be most missed. Because life is that – so very daily. It grinds forward like a heavy wheel, ponderous and unrelenting, and yet each moment is rare and fleeting. Such an odd contradiction. The slowly rolling wheel and the nano-second flash of a memory.

As James Taylor sings,”The SECRET OF LIFE is enjoying the passage of time.”

He also says, “Take to the highway……walkin’ on COUNTRY ROADS…..reckon my feet know where they want me to go…..walkin’ on country roads.

“SHOWER THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE WITH LOVE. Show them the way that you feel. You can run but you cannot hide. Shower the people you love with love. Things are gonna turn out right if we only will.”

From his song FIRE & RAIN  – “Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone….I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around…I’ve seen sunny days and I thought they’d never end….but I always thought I would see you again….somehow one more time again…..thought I’d see you one more time again….say nice things about me now…..I’m gone.”

To be continued at the other end of this journey….mid-July. Denver. My Rocky Mountain home.

The Creative Epiphany – Be Careful What You Wish For

recentfolder 013  Time Weavings, mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

They – whoever they are – say that our lives are shaped more by the prayers that are not answered than the ones that are. When I say “prayer” I use that term loosely – because I think of the word “prayer” as a visualization, a power of positive thinking, a goal strongly sought after, a long-term dream you have chased. But indeed it is a focused request to yourself, or to your higher power, and/or the universe or your soul for something you greatly desire. Well that is kind of a scary thought. Makes you start going back over all of your unanswered prayers, trying to remember what happened or did not happen after you realized that one particular prayer and probably others were never answered. I would guess that in some cases what came instead was a far better thing, and perhaps in other cases it was just a void. Nothing much seemed to take place. But at the time you had no perspective. You were so far under the mountain that you could not see the view.

But let’s just say that, lucky you, your dream sort of comes true. Maybe it isn’t the total 100% super duperest extra special perfect version of your spectacular technicolor  dream, but it is this —- close —- to the dream you always had. What are you inclined to do with that? Did you believe you deserved the absolute perfect answer to your prayers? Are you that entitled and that lazy in your requests to the universe? You must have the best, the very best, or nothing at all? You don’t return a gorgeous and rare rose because it has one split petal. Or maybe you do. Are you going to snub your nose at this gift and curse the imperfection? Or are you going to feel blessed that it came, even in a less than ideal form, inviting you to expend a bit of elbow grease and effort to mold it into the almost impossible version you wanted? Maybe it’s a test – because life does send us tests – to see how badly you really wanted what said you wanted.

By the time you are in the second half of your life, that life that has blessed you with many gifts and unexpected delights, you really ought to be able to look back and see the larger picture. It should be  obvious that if all of your wild-eyed, crazy-ass, howling at the moon prayers had been answered the results would not have been as blissful as you imagined. You thought you wanted this and then that. You wanted what you wanted and you wanted it now. The clock was ticking – you got impatient. When Where and How were your dreams going to come true? You asked for a person or a thing or a time or a place or a cure or a circumstance or a winning ticket. And you didn’t get it. What happened instead? If you made wise decisions based upon what you knew you could realistically have, rather than what you perceived as all the ways the universe had slighted you, I would be willing to bet the results were spectacular and satisfying. The weavings of time may seem enigmatic, but in time you see the threads are carefully woven for the quality of the entire tapestry.

The Creative Epiphany – My Wish for You

tree2012The holiday season brings wish lists and hopes and dreams in the minds of young and old alike.

Wishing almost becomes a pastime – who wants what, who has already purchased what for whom, which person needs this or that, where what can be found.

I hardly know you – the great YOU who are out there and have responded most kindly to my new blog. And yet I have wishes for you – wishes for everyone. Things I hope for you and gifts I wish you already have and must keep or wishes you might receive. Here they are:

I wish that you all have good people in your lives – a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, mother or father, son or daughter, grandmother and grandfather who love you and tells you so; and a husband, wife, lover or friend who loves and values you and who you value in return.

I wish that you have a special place on earth that you can go sometimes for fun and/or peaceful retreat from the harshness of the world. I happen to believe the world is a wondrous place, but sometimes the noise of it becomes too much. We all need a safe place to hide – a room, a destination, a walking path through the woods….

A pleasurable way to pass your bits of free time – a hobby you love or a service you offer to others or a skill that you can drown yourself in when you need to become consumed by something creative and meditative. Some type of endeavor that takes you away.

I wish for you an understanding of what life is all about; and that you learn the ability to sort things out and keep what is honest, true and beautiful in your life.

I wish that you have the insight and courage to know what you will no longer tolerate in your life and that you can manage to separate yourself and make a distance from any unwanted negativity, if not permanently then just for brief and welcome relief.

Perhaps most of all I wish for you love – love and acceptance of self, love for family, friends and special people in your life and love of humankind in general. We are all fellow captives here on the big blue marble, swarming around together. There is no more water now than there has ever been, no more land, no more sky and no more air. We are all using the same resources – the same gifts – that have been here since before recorded time. I wish that we could all learn sharing, caring, toleration and kindness, peace and love. There really is enough to go around. I wish that we would all see that the gifts are distributed more fairly.