Tag Archives: Life

Conflict and Confrontation

Knitted Tent Belkin Gallery

“Knitted Tent, ‘Material Obsessions’, Roth and Morton, Belkin Gallery, UBC”

Photo DS

Sometimes life can only be expressed in a nonet:

It was a week of conflict

A week of speaking my mind

A week of correcting paperwork

A week of calling people out

A week of phoning to say no

A week of advocating

A week of maneuvering a plan

A week of staying quiet

While I can

 

This summer week intended to be

A creative studio week

A week of picnicking with friends

A week of rest at the beach

A week of seeing what I need

A week of laughing with children

A week of sightseeing

And meal making

Together

 

Next week I will attend a festival

I will make the best of all

I will get back on the treadmill

And on the seawall

I will read Barbara Brown Taylor

I will paint the portraits that call me

The collages that long for me

The geranium baths eluding me

I will breathe and pray

This again is the only way

To sustain me other than

The gallery.

 

Nonet:

A group of nine people or things, especially musicians.

A musical composition for nine voices or instruments.

A poem with nine lines

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Grocery Shopping with Seagulls

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“Treetops” Phone Photo DS

A seagull’s cry delighted me as I exited the grocery store. Perhaps it had found some food too. I felt a surge of gratitude that prefixed a breath of the wet winter soft air. It set me on a reverie of other shopping times from years past: as a mother with crying children, as a worker with a broken foot, as a painter prepping for an art show reception.

I had been feeling down, tired, overwhelmed with thoughts about:

A health blip

A new normal in my relationship

A family conflict

An empty gas tank

A paper-stacked dining table

What little things can change our moods. Just an hour ago, praying with friends, I was looking forward to my next workshop, my upcoming art show.

I can leave getting gas until tomorrow, I thought, caring for self as advised. I was hungry, had bags to carry, food to put away and an afternoon ahead of paperwork. In front of the Rav IV windshield sharp pinecones dropped on the debris messed road from windy trees high above.

Home again a newspaper was retrieved with a climb. My face was enlivened by the mild air. I stopped and breathed again. I remembered who I was and the collaged life I had been given. Suddenly the half empty glass of my soul was filling up again. I have always loved seagulls since my childhood summers spent in a caravan at the Scottish seaside.

Art Can Imitate Life

InstallviewHolyCups

Installation View “Holy Cups” DS

At some point during the week between Christmas and New Year I find myself reviewing the year and setting priorities.  Both the studio and the prayer are quiet, sporadic, ad hoc, and unfocused.  Self care is taking its turn, finally.

Since the summer, shredding papers has been my contemplative activity.  Many of those papers are articles kept for writing essays, the essays themselves, and images for collage. This morning I came across one of my papers about the life of faith as an artist.  A quote from philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorffe expresses both the temptation of an artist and, in my case, how faith and art practices co-exist so well:

The art lover, like the mystic, turns away from ordinary concerns to be caught up in the bliss of contemplation… art takes over the function of this worldly salvation, no matter how this may be interpreted.  It provides a salvation from the routines of everyday life… Picasso expresses [about art]: “I love it as the only end of my life.”… Thus works of art become surrogate gods, taking the place of God the Creator; aesthetic contemplation takes the place of religious adoration…  “Art in Action”

Choices must be made.  In the life of faith, art making serves God, not money.  The unpopular image is enfleshed when one knows it will not be well received.  One does not build a career so much as follow Jesus on an art journey that imitates real life.

A table painted with checkerboard circle and vines, a round glass mirror, with hand-built pottery cups with holes around the edge and butterfly handles, and a little brown basket.  Is there any meaning here?  One could never drink from such cups with rows of holes.  Even so I am impressed to display them as some kind of worship.  There is no doubt that these items in their hand-made imperfect form are no competitor for the worship on offer.  It seems to me that God is pleased with this offering of my talents, such as they are.  Will it be another year of creating work that does not sell?

Life of a Princess

We think of our own floods and fires and family challenges yet even the life of a princess can be difficult. Perhaps loved leaders have the most difficult lives of all.

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a tragic car accident in Paris. Uncertainty and intrigue were woven through her life and continue about her untimely death.

She was photogenic and articulate, perhaps an introvert thrown into the limelight. She chose to be a princess but had no idea of what it would cost: everything. Yet her sons and her humanitarian work remain.

Diana lives on also in our minds. She became a part of our daily lives. We both celebrated and swooned with her through the ups and downs of her life. We vicariously joined in her courageous work and in her painful break up. Her dresses, jewelry and latest hairstyle formed an opinion in us. We remember where we were when we watched her wedding on TV and where we were when we saw that infamous Paris tunnel over and over again.

We have lived high and low along with her. We cried and prayed for the boys. We are as proud as Diana would have been at how they have turned out.

Blessings to you dear William and Harry as you remember your beloved mother.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/tributes-laid-at-kensington-palace-for-diana-anniversary-1.3569664

 

John 16:33 

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 

 

The Way to Publication

First publication is calming; my work has finally paid off, literally. As always, God leads me but in a zigzag line.

A child at breakfast reads every word on the cereal box. That was me (not so much the French).

In my twenties I worked in a bank. One day I came out and tried to start my car. I looked and instead of the key I had attempted to put my pen in the ignition. Today my brain thinks a pen is an essential part of the body.

At meetings I have now disciplined myself to take notes on my iPhone. (My pen is ever ready in my bag for backup.) This summer my precious spare time has been spent shredding five years of note-taking files.

So, the other large percentage of effort this year has been about submitting work for publication: prose and poetry. Some had fees and some graciously accepted submissions gratis. After a ‘couple’ of rejections of my writing I decided to submit one of my painting images to Understorey Magazine, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. After a few weeks I was advised that “Taffeta Apron” was to be published paired with another woman’s story.

It took me a moment to review exactly what I had achieved. An editor, so personable, had praised my image. I would be paid by a university and had to phone them with my SIN.

The magazine is published online and my work is in the current issue together with a story called ‘Island Girl’. Although I had asked to read the story before my work was paired with it, I felt strange. I felt confused. Usually I self-publish my images with my own stories on a blog. This was an anomaly.

Issue 11 of Understorey Magazine is now published on the website! Look for “Taffeta Apron” (Acrylic on Linen, 36” x 24”) alongside the prose poem Island Girl by Susan Brigham. If you scroll to the end of the poem you can read our bios.

http://understoreymagazine.ca/

Mixed feelings are still with me. I am excited to have my visual work published. It is not the same as being juried into an art exhibition, which is a bit more ephemeral. A published work is always there for people to see. I am disappointed that it is not my writing to be published.

I have a resume for art and a CV for writing. Which is this then – a painting in a writing magazine? It is truly a mash-up, a crossover of genres – and a delight.

How did I do it?

  1. I prayed for help.
  2. I made work.
  3. I submitted work to any call that seemed to fit.
  4. I researched as a regular practice and kept making work.
  5. I accepted that not all of my work would be paid for and perhaps not even my most important work.
  6. I experimented a lot. Creative work is about process over product first.
  7. I calmly waited for some response from somewhere. Then celebrated.

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“Taffeta Apron” 36″ x 24″, Acrylic on Linen, Deborah Stephan

 

 

 

Wisdom of the Rose Trellis

 

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“Rose Trellis” iPhoto DS 2017

There was a time when the family bloomed full red roses with green leaves. Yes, there were thorns but they were hidden (albeit sharply felt here and there). The scent of the rose trellis sparked instant praise. It was never as perfect as envisioned but it was good, very good.

At some point a deconstruction process took over. Deaths devastated, divorces divided, misunderstandings abounded and confusion set in. Thorns were easily visible tearing all who went too near. Even surface beauty was interrupted with too many dead branches and dry leaves. Blight had attacked with its polka dots of black and aphids crawled in white. Drought had yellowed the surrounding landscape.

Gee it was ugly.

It was thought that the deaths should be forgotten, pruned out for new growth to form – but they held the live branches tall, and gave them strength to hold to the trellis. It was decided to leave these wild elders – ignored yes, but not forgotten memories. The fertilizer of counseling was applied here and there to undisciplined stems.

Soon buds appeared of cranberry, crimson and carmine, attached to vivid green shoots. A tall vine shot up beyond the highest part of the trellis arch. Graduations and new births graced the family. Forgiveness had been planted. Rains came.

Through it all the trellis made of prayer held it all together – dead, alive and bedraggled parts. Tangles are still there. Somewhere it was written that confusion precedes change. A construction site can look chaotic yet the site supervisor knows and implements the building plan. By faith I say that it must also be so with the family. Perhaps again others will enjoy its innate beauty and be stilled by its scent.  Selah.

“After you have suffered a little while … then the promise…” Book of First Peter

“A trellis is a support system for a vine or plant that enables it to grow upward and bear fruit… a vine must have a trellis to support and guide its growth or it will slump to the ground.” God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu

Reading ‘Surprised by Joy’

There is so much I miss in reading books by C.S. Lewis. His writing is so intellectual, so dense with classic literary and philosophical allusions that it is overwhelming at times. Not so this time – as Luther wrote about being inspired to ‘pick up the book and read,’ so it was with me this month. Perhaps I was confused by Valentine’s Day and thought this was the love story of how Lewis and his wife met, not how he came to know and love God. (Now that I remember, that heart-changing story was told in the movie “Shadowlands”.)

The small yellow book lay near the front of my bookshelf as it had for several years. Maybe it was the blue sailor’s costume or the summer yellow sun behind the graphic of the boy on the cover that attracted me. I felt the desire to read another autobiography. This is a year of reading and writing memoir for me.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898. He had a comfortable childhood until his mother grew ill. He had heard that God would answer prayers of faith. So he prayed. When a miracle did not come the grief of his mother’s death and his gradual loss of faith were the marks of his childhood. In his father’s loss he was unable to relate well with his two sons. As it was not unusual for boys to go to boarding school in those days, each son was sent off in turn.

Deprivation and teacher incompetence rendered his boarding school experience harsh. Yet it was in relating to classmates and their hierarchies that he learned social skills to survive being an introvert. He was studious and found his way among them. Eventually he became a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. His prolific writings have delighted people of every age.

The book goes on to give the reader a view of how his reading the classics and in arguing in discussion groups with mentors and peers he formed his ideas about philosophy and about life. Faith having been eroded by years of neglect seemed in the book to be a side project carried on by God (hardly noticed at times by Lewis). By music, by experiences and longings for what Lewis called Joy, the pages of autobiography are like taking a trowel with the author and participating in an archeological dig of his thoughts. Glimpses of how his worldview changed now and then are like peepholes into God’s work behind the scenes.

Layer upon layer, God worked on God’s reluctant subject, until Lewis had to acquiesce and admit that God is real, present, and loving. C.S. Lewis tells his conversion story as being the only logical conclusion.   Lewis relates a real spiritual walk at a local zoo with the great charm of his imaginative stories: “Wallaby Wood with the birds singing overhead and the bluebells underfoot and wallabies hopping all around one, was almost Eden come again.”

The experience of seeking Joy only pointed to and led the way. We are grateful for signposts on a journey but they are not the destination. By one intriguing story after another Lewis finds that his longing for Joy is not for a feeling but for a Person. He writes:  But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian…

God has taken me as blogger on a journey of discovery also. I was born in Saint John, N.B. and dedicated to God there (something that God seems to take very seriously!) My childhood of singing in a tiny Scottish church and watching adults being baptized by immersion, the celebrations of Easter and Christmas, the refusal of confirmation, the leaving of church for a decade, the comeback truly a follower of Jesus Christ and the Joy of Companionship along some dark rainy roads to reach some turquoise beach experiences come to mind. Now in Vancouver, art school and seminary practices and friends along the way are there to enjoy a way of life with overflowing meaning. What is that old saying? It goes something like: a joy is doubled and a sorrow is halved when shared.

Book of Isaiah

Precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little… will he speak to [t]his people.

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Desk Photo Collage DS