There are footnotes in this post because I am a nerd.
If you've ever read "Women Who Run With The Wolves" you will remember that the book includes an exploration of The Ugly Duckling, whose story is essentially that she was a swan who was accidentally hatched to a family of ducks, and because she didn't look like or act like or sound like her family, she was considered ugly.
It wasn't until she found her own kind that she recognized her own beauty.
This week was about that.
So much of what I experienced this week is ineffable; words will not come, and even when I try to eke them out of a bubbling soup of emotions and memories, they don't do the experience any kind of justice.
Fest experiences are very often this way. It takes days to integrate what it meant to be out of what we pagans lovingly call 'the muggle world' for a while and immersed in a world in which we are surrounded and supported by our own kind, and once the wisdom, the experiences, the energy is integrated, it can be very difficult to say exactly what happened.
I bartered tarot readings for lovely things.
I hung out with fantastic people in my enclave*
I floated in the Bonnechere river for hours and did not check my phone.
I ate breakfast poutine* at the YAG*.
I wandered. And wandered. And loved on the land and let it love on me.
My ankles swelled up to 3x their size and I didn't care.
I spent an outrageous amount of money on trinkets and sarongs and a beautiful Djembe I've named Constance - Connie being her less formal name.
I sat in the drummer's pit with Connie (the drum) nestled between my thighs, her mouth open wide to sing, her body quivering beneath my hands as I mimicked the beat being played out by the lovely man* who knelt opposite me so he could pound out a rhythm for me to copy. We played together that way until I got in the groove, and then I found the groove and then I bruised my hands all to hell and drummed and drummed with a few dozen other drummers for a hundred happy dancing pagans as they turned the wheel around the sacred fire.
I soaked in the glory that was the last blue moon until 2018
I fested my face off. :)
In an environment where there are enclaves dedicated to those who resonate with labels like vikings, pirates, gypsies, faeries, and even zombies, I camped in an enclave called Shang-ri-la - an enclave made up of an hilariously eclectic bunch of folks who melded perfectly together despite all the obvious ways we are different - spiritual affiliations, walks of life, sexual orientations, age. No difference was too great to be overcome by the energy of our group mind, which was pure, unadulterated, open-armed acceptance and love.
I belonged there.
I'm just going to let those words sit here for a moment while you feel what that feels like with me.
Coming home last night to my little hobbit hole, my dog, a week's worth of unpacking and laundry to do, was lovely. I missed my own space, my solitude, and my gentle routine. But I miss Raven's Knoll, too. Already. I am longing for it like a lover longs for a kiss. I am so infused with the land itself - pagan owned and maintained, mind you - that I'm sure my spiritual batteries will remain charged for a good long time, but I am also chomping at the bit to get back there already. Soon! SOON! Please!
I know this doesn't really cut it as a post-fest write up. I mean, I didn't even come close to capturing the essence of the experience at all, and as I read over my words here before I hit post, all I can think is 'This post describes a candle. The experience was a supernova.' But I tried. I did. And I hope you can sense even a teensy speck of the spiritual renewal, love, and joy I carried home with me after a week of pure, sheer, ineffable belonging.
I bring this into my world. I will bring it into my work. I will let it spill over into all I do and when I have emptied myself, I know exactly where to go to get some more.
Special thanks go out to my enclave, Heather, Josh, Eagle Eyes, Ellie, Sharon, Dood, Wynter, Sue, Mike, Juliana, Heidi, Wendy, and anyone else I may have forgotten.
Hail the Stag King! Hail the Huntress! Hail The Drummers! Hail The Dancers! Hail the FOLK!
Hail these two dudes!
For getting me there. For helping me set up camp in the dark with a flashlight. For the drum lessons. For the walks back to camp in the wee hours of the morning. For being so generous with your time. For carrying ALL THE THINGS. For letting me feed you. For being my friend.
For coming up for the weekend. For putting up with all the woo woo. For holding my hand. For letting me cry on your shoulder when shit got real. For helping me break camp and stuff it all into the Fiesta. For the way we drove the winding country roads home in awe together the way we always do. For hearing me. For loving me fiercely.
Thanks, menfolk!! xo
Ye Aulde Foote Notes
*This festival is so big that there are enclaves of campers who get together every year to enjoy the experience with one another. You *could* camp singularly, but in a crowd of over 900 people, it's good for those of us who need this sort of thing to have a fest family that you can come together with at the end of each day, to process, to touch base, to look after one another, feed one another, ensure that you're all getting hydrated, etc.
*deep fried home fries, hollandaise sauce, cheese curds and scrambled eggs
*Ye Aulde Grubbe - The on site food truck that serves up an amazing variety of food to hungry festers
*My fest hubby, Scott, a dear friend that I've fested with for years who drove me up on Tuesday, helped me set up camp in the dark with a flashlight, and looked out for me until my lovely muggle hubby could come up after work on Friday. This same guy is helping Sultan renovate our house! Yes! My fest hubby and my muggle hubby are working together to make my house a home!
I believe with all my heart that art is a portal in to our most tender places.
It is a direct channel to the 'little' in us and this is magic because the little in us has a lot she wants to say but this self is non-verbal, non-linear, and non-logical. She really can't say what she knows. She can only feel it and express it through non-logical means. Art is her jam. The stirrings within us that are inexplicable - the knowing that makes no logical sense, the coincidence that feels like a God Wink, the things we are moved to choose - these can be frustratingly obscure if we have no way 'in' to the place where these stirrings originate. Art is the way in, and when you make 'getting in' a practice like I have, your trust in those stirrings grows and grows and grows (along with your body of work! Yeah!).
Soulful work comes from getting the fuck out of your own way. I really believe this. Our rational minds, our verbal selves, are so full of stories that have very little to do with reality. We can't see what really is with that mind. That mind looks at the sky and immediately labels it BLUE. It sees a tree a immediately labels it TREE and GREEN and LEAF.
It condenses everything into words, and as soon as we've wrangled everything into words, the experience is closed to us. We can't access the magic anymore. It's set in stone. It is what we've called it. There is no opportunity for more.
When the little in us faces a blank canvas and we get the hell out of her way, she will, tentatively at first, emote through colour. We may not even know what is being expressed (and that's totally my experience) but if we let her continue, she will follow colour with shape and shape with symbol and symbol will reveal to us what's going on in our inner landscape.
I trust this. I trust it because this is what I experience every time I face a blank substrate and let the little in me go wild.
I spiral alllllllll the way out with no idea where it's leading me, but I trust that it is leading me somewhere worth going, and so I go. If she wants spirals, I give her spirals. If she wants to pull something forward, we do that. If she wants to let go of a thing, we let go of it, and in time, something that was meant to come through COMES THROUGH.
I never even really have to understand it. I just have to allow it.
Let it be.
I didn't come at art from the perspective of a mystic. I came at it from the perspective of a blocked writer who just needed a way to vent the build up of stuff that she had no way to release. In time, though, the practice (as most practices do) led me to my innards, wherein the little lay in wait, caged by words and conditioning, to be set free with colour and shape and symbol.
I didn't know why I picked the name 'Wild' when I first began this journey, but now I totally get it. Art, for me, is an invocation to the wild child within me - the child who holds all my memories, all my conditioning, all my energy, all my access to wonder, joy, amazement, and reverence. When I found her, the heroine's journey began in earnest and we've been very busy over here slaying dragons and rescuing princes. We've been, hand in hand, writing our story in colour and shape and symbol and by virtue of the trust we have grown between us, we are growing free.
Trust is essential. It is the foundation of everything I am striving for. It allows me to love what is even when I don't understand it. It allows me to push on bravely away from a known shore for an undisclosed location.
It looks from the outside looking in like all I'm doing is playing with paper and glue and paint and glitter, but if you look a little closer, what I'm doing, what we're all doing, is The Great Work of excavating our true selves from the mortar of conditioning.
What we do with our journals and our paintbrushes and our devotion to our craft sets our feet upon the path that will lead us all home.
Hola, sweet taters! First, I want to thank you for your lovely comments on yesterday's post. You all sure do know how to make space for a woman's healing. I appreciate you. <3
This is an 'update' post of the studio variety, by which I mean that I intend to let you know what's going on in my creative network, where I'm teaching, and what's upcoming. In return for your kind and loving attention, I have embedded a mixed tape collection of some of the videos I've created lately. I hope you enjoy it!
Here's the Mixed Tape
Here's a Peek at my latest BOD spread
Member Only Classes
There is a new tab in Artfully Wild entitled 'Member Only Classes'. This is a perk for members of Artfully Wild that allows you to purchase archived classes at a steep discount. Currently, there are two editions of Book Of Days waiting for you to dive in to for as little as $25.00 each. While you *can* pay more if you want to, I have opened these classes up for registration at a 'what you want' rate. Skip your Starbucks for five days and you can take a class. Woot! Click here for details.
Upcoming under this tab is a planner class that I am creating for members only that will walk you through my own Ultimate Planner. I expect to have this done in time for January 2016, if not earlier, so do stay tuned!
Moon Journaling Continues On and On and On...
This is my favourite free offering at Artfully Wild and it will continue, though with a tweak: Some months, I will want to work with the New Moon. Some months, I will want to work with the Full Moon. Some months, I will want to work with the waxing crescent and sometimes I will want to work with the waning crescent. I will always email you when there is a new lesson up, and there will be one a month. For those who are wondering, Moonshine will be returning in 2016, and previous sessions of moonshine will be released as member only offerings, so stay tuned for that as well.
The guest teachers are already uploading their video lessons and, omgsquee, they are amazeballs. I am so looking forward to this class! Please click here for details and if you are a newsletter subscriber, check today's email for your coupon code.
We recently added Wyanne Thompson to the roster, and you all know how much I love her! Dyan just messaged to say that her class has been filmed and it is in the process of edits!
Wildly Inspired is one of my 'as-often-as-I-can' free offerings hosted at Artfully Wild (my on line creativity network), and it is ON HIATUS for the summer. HOWEVER, there are twenty episodes just waiting to be enjoyed, so please feel free to join. I will be focusing my attention on Moon Journaling, and a planner offering that I'm currently working on for members only, so I don't know when I'm going to reopen it.
This offering was inspired by Donna Downey Studios Inspiration Wednesday, which she put on temporary sabbatical. It has reopened! YAY!! Such search for it in her shop listings. I am paid a small commission when you purchase the class (or anything else, for that matter) through this link.
The Self Love Retreat is in the works.
This class is kicking my butt because it is the one I most need to take right now. Creating it is a labour of love and if you've ever actually BEEN in labour, then you know that there's some blood, sweat, and tears involved. I hope to have it ready before the end of this year, but honestly babes? This thing is going to take time. I am totally NOT INTERESTED in delivering the same old same old 'take a bath and watch what you eat' tired old bullshit. I want to create something that is TRULY useful to you in your endeavour to love yourself as well as you deserve to be loved. Again. Stay tuned.
And that's it for now.
Thank you for your presence in my life. You make me so grateful and happy. <3
I have been in an intense period of personal growth and the phrase that kept coming up for me as I (for weeks) considered how best to express everything that's in my heart to express is 'there are no words for this.'.
As those of you who have been tagging along with me on my artful journey these past few years probably know, it was this kind of 'bereft of words' experience that led me to art journaling in the first place, and after a few years of expressing myself in a very uncharacteristically visual way, I found my voice again.
Now I am, once again, finding myself in a 'bereft of words' space, but there's a subtle difference. Before art journaling, 'bereft of words' meant extreme frustration, blockage, no way out of my own muddled mind. After art journaling, and art in general, 'bereft of words' leads to this:
Colour. Symbol. Shape. Line. Layer. Dig. Excavate. Go there. Move the body with paintbrush in hand. Dance it out. Let it bloom. Be open. Trust. There may be no words for this yet, but there are dragonflies and there is transparent red iron oxide and there are feathers and there is Payne's Gray, and there are dreamtime dots, and there is green gold, and that's enough for now.
This painting was the second in as many weeks that I started an finished in a matter of days. When I finished it, I knew it was finished in a very visceral way. It felt 'finished' in my bones and I put my paintbrush down and stepped back and felt this overwhelming sense of rightness and wellbeing.
There were no words for that. It was a state that I'd never experienced before. Even though I finish art journal spreads all the time, and even though my work has led me to finish session after session of Book Of Days, finish filming, finish editing, finish creating one thing or another on a very regular basis, the message that I was capable of finishing things hadn't quite reached me in the place where one Knows.
This painting hit me there. Hard.
'You,' this painting said, 'are someone who finishes things. You are someone who knows when a thing is finished. You know how to full stop.'
It's about boundaries.
Which is a weird thing to conclude after finishing a painting, but after sitting with the 'bereft of words' place for a long time and painting it out, that's the wisdom that came whistling into my cave of bone. Boundaries. I have them. I know where you end and I begin. I know where my edges are and even when they feel a little bit squishy, my edges are very much there, very much defined. I am framed in dreamtime dots like my paintings. I'm not completely closed off or shut down. There is room for life to move freely into and out of me. But there are limits to what I will take in, and there are limits to what I will put out.
Boundaries are beautiful. And powerful.
A fire without boundaries is a destructive conflagration instead of a warm hearth. Without boundaries, life acts upon us, happens to us, and we are left with no other choice but to spill out all over the place in an urgent response. With boundaries, we are free to allow our own power to build. We are free to choose to release our power in ways that foster a life we create. We can, then, act upon life in a manner that helps us to manifest our desired feelings and experiences.
This was news to me.
I grew up without boundaries. I existed as a kind of repository for the sickness and dysfunction in my family of origin. I was the toy they played with for their own perverse pleasure. I was the punching bag, the dog they kicked when the day went downhill, the scapegoat, the squeaky wheel that allowed everyone around me to deny what was wrong with *them* while they assigned all the blame to a blonde-haired, green-eyed, little girl of 5, 9, 12 who was labeled provocative, stupid, pathological, worthless, a non-starter, a non-finisher, a failure, a train wreck, difficult, a problem, a burden, too much, too loud, too needy, too big for her britches, and ultimately, disposable.
Those were their words for me.
The only positive affirmation I ever got was from the people who were violating me and their praise was always about how I pleased them in my boundary-less, helpless, powerless state.
There are no words for this. None that satisfy me, anyway.
So I'm painting. I'm sinking deeply into the muck and mire of my history. I'm digging up bones. I'm befriending my demons. I'm learning new words.
Blooming, bright-eyed, soul fire incarnate,
she who dances with paintbrush,
Some of you have been following me on Facebook and you know that the work I'm doing sometimes causes me to post things that are really heavy. I want you to know that the way you witness me is intensely beautiful to me. I didn't mean to make you cry, but my loves, it is a healing balm on my soul to know that I'm not crying alone.
Yesterday, the nieghbours pulled out the "Slip 'N Slide" for their kids, and since I was out there, and since one of the kids was really unhappy about the mud at the bottom of the slide, I threw myself into 'being a good example'. Ahem. Because I'm a 'grown up'. Ahem.
It was awesome.
The kids continued to balk at getting dirty, but they did have a really wonderful time aiming the spray at me so I could wash off the mud that was all over every part of my body, including my face. I swear, they had more fun watching me get dirty and then helping me sluice off than they did slipping and sliding themselves!
After the parents thanked me for totally ruining their lawn with my fat arse (I kid!) and the kids got wrangled indoors to shower and change into dry clothes, the rain came pouring down (perfect timing!). Since I was already soaked to the bone, I spread my towel out on the grass and sat in the lotus position for a good twenty minutes, just letting the rain cascade over me. It was glorious - a warm rain, thank goodness - and so cleansing. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and though the rain was pouring down like it was fit never to ever stop, I felt, internally, like the sun was coming out for the first time in a long time.
It's been a rough few weeks.
There was a break up in the family, and I'm all kinds of heartsick for them both. My meds stopped helping me feel better and started making me feel apathetic and hostile. Joint therapy kept erupting into all kinds of painful stuff to untangle. Personal therapy kept erupting into all kinds of painful stuff to untangle. The dog I look after had a seizure and scared the crap out of me. My will to paint for myself disappeared into a foggy fog of fuggedaboutit, and creating for any reason felt like climbing mount Everest. I knew I had to do something. I knew that I was in a spiral down and I was not eager to revisit the cave of omgdoom again, thanks very much.
I went off the Welbutrin.
I had only been on it for three months, but after the initial stimulant effect wore off (it's well known for inducing get-up-and-go in the initial stages), it wasn't doing me any good and it felt like it was doing me some major harm. It's been six days since my last does now and while I do have a few withdrawal symptoms (mostly brain zaps that feel a little like my frontal lobe is being electrified and some vertigo), I feel like *myself* again.
I spent most of yesterday in a state of creative catch up - working on a spread for BOD, painting on canvas, dreaming up new paintings to get started on, and the day before was spent catching up on the pile of laundry I'd accumulated, and reorganizing my space a bit to emphasis NON WORK art creation so that at any given moment, I can easily get off my ass and throw a few layers on canvas.
Folding table? $30.00. The ability to get up and paint at a moment's notice? Priceless.
Little changes. Teensy tiny, non-overwhelming changes. Every little step adds up to big, awesome, goodness.
I made you a video!
I've been doing Book Of Days: Mixed Tape since the beginning of May and since theme is exploring our life's soundtrack, there's been plenty of opportunity for creating fun, musical, time lapse videos of my art journal spreads in progress. Last week I worked with Inanna by The Tea Party and created this:
This was a three hour extravaganza of embellishment and 'making sacred' in a process I like to call 'effort as offering'. She is mixed media in my art journal. The video doesn't even begin to capture all the work that went into her creation, since it is time lapsed to the nth degree, but I hope it gives you some sense of how much effort went into it. You can view it here:
Work continues apace on this:
And in case you missed the announcement, Wyanne has joined us as a guest teacher!! Yay!
It is going to be an amazing journey with so much delving into the hows and whys of each teacher's process. There's such a lovely mixture of emerging and veteran teachers that everyone from the absolute beginner to the advanced journal artist will find new tips, techniques, and ways of meeting the page that will be new to them.
I can't wait to create a brand new Ultimate Notebook to take notes in and dive into each lesson! There's a huge challenge included, too, that has a fantastic prize package. You can get all the details on the class over here!
I'm also teaching in this:
I created a mini accordian fold journal and then took it out into the field to do contour drawings that morph into zen doodles for this class. The lesson is very short - 16 minutes - but so packed full of info that you will find yourself inspired and ready to take a little bag of art supply goodies on vacation with you!
We start on July 1st, and the other teachers are totally awesome, so you can expect to find yourself up to your earrings in I MUST TRY THAT throughout the course of the class!
Alrighty, that's it for me for now, loves. I hope you are having a beautiful summer full of rich experiences that you can explore in your art journals! I know I'm loving chasing sunsets, sitting out in my garden, walking the creek with the pup, and soaking up the summer starlight. xo
I have been loving mark making lately. Especially when I can put on my Bluetooth headphones and trance out to something dreamy, like Kyrstyn Pixton. Dayum, that woman sings my internal landscape like no other.
I've learned some things about home over the last year since I moved out on my own after ten years in a domestic partnership. I used to cry for home - yearn for it like I was an orphaned child. Even when I *was* at home, I felt homeless, cut adrift, an infant with a useless, dangling umbilical cord, starving, desperate...
This, I think, is the result of a childhood full of abuse and neglect. There was never a 'home'. Not really. And when I needed, as we sometimes do, to 'go home', there was no such place to go. I have cried out, like a frightened little one, more than once over the last few years these words: "I just want to be HOME...."
Home. The word makes me cry sometimes. It has been such a dream to find it, to possess it. I searched high and low in lovers and friendships, in other's eyes...
It isn't out there, though. I know that now.
This year, I've created my own sense of home and it is in the center of my chest. It is where my heart pumps steadily, with certainty. It is within me. It is in my ability to choose. It is in my paid rent and full fridge - the security I made for myself by the work of my own hands. It is in the continued effort to nurture friendships with my sisters. It is in investing my time and energy in my tribe. I don't seek FROM these connections, though. I seek to pour INTO these connections. It is in giving that we receive.
In giving of ourselves, in knowing ourselves well enough to know what we have to give, we find ourselves at home.
I couldn't have come to this conclusion had I not had the rug pulled out from underneath me in February of last year. I could not have learned this without the heartache that led me here. I'm not saying I'm grateful for the soul crushing grief that I endured, but I will tell you this for nothing: I did not know my own strength until life put me to the test. I did not know how capable, how tenacious, how bad ass I really was until I had no choice but to pick myself up, dust myself off, and create a life that was completely and utterly my own with no real back up plan, no place to go 'home' to, no soft place to land...
I made my own soft place and having done that, I know I will never be homeless again. Now that I know that I will never leave or lose myself, I can never truly feel alone, abandoned or orphaned again. The umbilicus that waved like a tendril in the winds of other people's availability, ambivalence, desire or lack thereof, has been reeled in like a broken fish line and tucked away. There is nothing 'out there' that must be grasped after or yearned for to the degree that I must lose myself to find it.
Everything that I welcome in is an enhancement. Gravy on my French fries. Icing on my cupcake.