Tag Archives: workshops

Three Images and a Poem

As I rest in a pre-dawn reverie a series of images emerge layered upon one another. The first is one of my favourite paintings of William Holman Hunt: “The Light of the World”. The glow of the lamp extends to light my tanned, blue pedicured feet. The thought comes: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119). I am walking the seawall at night. As I look up, stars dot the night sky. Behind me the ‘pearl necklace’ of the Lion’s Gate Bridge shines across the dark water. The stars turn into tiny orange fires from a poem by Denise Levertov. This is how some of my best paintings have come about. A narrative emerges from a series of images collaged in my mind by the Spirit.

This may not ever become a painting. I have more ideas than I could possibly get enfleshed in paint. But I know why I half dream today as turn over again. This is a nodal day; a day I waited for: a rare meeting with a professor about my future after graduation in the spring.

The years of workshops and book study groups that have been my praxis to balance my academics have all but dried up. In this time when I could look forward to planning new series of workshops there seem to be no open doors. My last book study group had to be cancelled for lack of attendance. Both of my creative expressions of painting and writing are mostly solitary activities, whether in the sunlit studio or the dark room and lamp lit desk. These are both my default and my scaffolding undergirded by the Spirit’s inner work.

Just when I will graduate with a Masters of Art in Spiritual Formation, all that I have worked for seems to have disappeared. The Shellseekers Art + Soul contemplation and creativity workshops are my passion. It is not like I can now just look in the newspaper and find a job. The path of an artist is an organic thing. Yet the path is lit for a little ways ahead. I will paint and write. It is what I do. That does not change. A door ahead will be opened for me to pass these on to others I am sure. Faith and fear are opposites. I have a choice.

Life Interrupts Sleep (DS 2015)

The middle of the night again

Life interrupts sleep

Much to contemplate these days

Oh to stave of the desire to weep

 

The poetic and the mundane

Compete with images of fear and pain

Traffic noises and bumps in the dark

Arise my fair one and see what is stark

 

A list is made

To empty the mind

Of worries real and of future cost

I must retrieve what was lost

 

A degree almost earned

Benefits of two decades fall away

A car scraped

An iced driveway

 

Painting is a thing of the recent past

Writing is slow and creaking

To mask the grief

Of your absence

 

william-holman-hunt-the-light-of-the-world-circa-1851-53_i-G-23-2364-H53JD00Z

“The Light of the World” 1851-53

William Holman Hunt

The Abundant Life

The Abundant Life detail

“The Abundant Life” detail DS

It has been over a year since I posted on my blog. Life in all of its fullness suddenly overwhelmed me. The blog slipped away with regret. I simply could not write a post.

In the past year life has been overflowing with all kinds of experiences. My husband’s health took a strong dip but now he is on the mend again. I had a milestone birthday but have taken it in stride. There has also been so much good stuff happening it is hard to contain it all.

The workshops have been ongoing if sporadic and the participants have been life giving to me. I know it is a cliché to say that they are ‘special’ but clichés proliferate because they are so often true and defining. A two-year supervised ministry partnership has now come to an end. I miss the women already.

I have been cleaning up of late: sorting art supplies for my new studio, shredding old notes and correspondence, and re-organizing files. As a result, I have found myself reviewing my life. As it turns out, life so far has been even more abundant than I realized – especially of late.

Research material and supplies are still languishing in heaps shocking visitors who enter the wrong room on their way to the loo. I have taken to leaving the room door ajar so they can peak in rather than have the surprising experience of being faced with over-the-head piles of pink boxes, paintings and miscellany. “Oh, that’s the storage room,” I say.

I have come a long way from my neat and tidy roots. Instead of feeling the shame of the woman whose goal was perfect housekeeping, I feel the freedom that comes from succumbing to a creative lifestyle. I can now laugh at myself, sometimes. But I digress.

“The Abundant Life” is actually an art exhibition that will be showing at the Carey Centre, U.B.C. in the month of June. Something in me hopes it will become a travelling show. Twelve paintings with reflections witness to the goodness of God in my life. It has been so wonderful these days I just had to share this with you, dear “Shellseeker” followers.

Apologies

 

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“April Collage Workshop” 2014 DS

Apologies seem to be in short supply in our culture.  We have no fault divorce, no fault insurance and – actually a general sense of non-accountability abounds everywhere.  In an accident it would not be wise (or so the ‘wise’ say) to admit fault.  Even if one were caught red-handed stealing or killing, someone it would be advised by legal counsel to keep quiet.

Therefore, I must say, it was refreshing this evening at the workshop to receive an apology for a comment of last week.  The apology was gracious, specific and heart felt.  It was a pleasure to receive it.

I am no lawyer but it seems to me that if a genuine apology – a timely statement of regret; of responsibility taken for the misdeed or mistake – were given, the healing would begin right away.  I suppose some in our culture have put this idea into practice with the restorative justice movement.  It is a good trend in these days of every system needing reform.  I guess the slogan “let it begin with me” would be appropriate here. 

Actually I live a blessed life.  I offered several apologies myself last week and received one unexpectedly.  Can one be rich in apologies? There was something else that I could have apologized for but decided in that complex situation it would make it worse so I refrained. Perhaps more than an apology is required for healing.

I realize that at this particular workshop the women have bonded over difficult times.  There is no one-upmanship so one cannot really ‘lose face’ or lose one’s place in the pecking order by apologizing.  The regret can be received the way it was given – in honesty and caring.

If only we could package this experience in this microcosm of people in that place tonight, the world would be changed.  I can personally think of several people I would like to receive heartfelt apologies from.  There might be a couple that I need to give too.

This idea is what the church is meant to embody.  Is this practice freely given what the cross is all about?  Is the payment then so that we can apologize and accept those of others graciously without all of the posturing and cover up?  I think I have grasped some of the transforming power of the cross tonight.  If everything I have ever done has been forgiven, how can I not pass it on?

Heroes

 

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Last evening the “Women in Waiting” workshop series began with a friendly but rough start. People were stressed from difficult lives of juggling children, jobs, court cases and memories. A couple arrived late and some were no shows – or so we thought.

The contemplation part got off to a belated start with a rushed quiet time. We listened to some soft Taize music and breathed or not breathed, as was our need. I gave them the heads up that the instrumental piece was 5 minutes long. It was a good way to re-orient us from our busy lives and the long commute to get there. Amidst sisterly annoyance, hugs and ‘no you’re not late’, joie de vivre begins.

Much of the contemplation time was taken up by telling the stories of women. We imagined ourselves into the life story of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was a devout Jew. Her life was difficult too. We recognized her courage in telling the angel that she would willingly bear God’s Son. She found comfort in her visit with Elizabeth who was pregnant miraculously in her old age (as prophesied). We talked of her feelings atop that donkey at almost 9 months pregnant and finding no place to give birth right away. We see her mystified when Jesus at 12 years old teaches in the synagogue. Her grief was discussed when she was present at the cross and the strangeness and joy she must have experienced at the resurrection. We recalled that Jesus had asked John to look after her.

The conversation progressed to a recognizing of more modern heroes: Malala, Queen Elizabeth II, Gabby Giffords. The name of Anne Frank was raised and a World War II personal family story was told. I thought of Corrie Ten Boom, Teresa of Calcutta, and Teresa of Avila, Julianna of Norwich, Kim Campbell, Adrienne Clark, Alison Redford… All were women with feet of clay – some celebrated, some not so much. Our desire as women of seemingly ordinary lives is to live well, to flourish, and to be heroes if only of our own stories.

The evening continued with more people arriving and being let in on stories and instructions. The ideas of saints and collagists and the era of Dadaism filled the excited air. Our times too are filled with uncertainty and turmoil. Some have life decisions in the hands of judges, of doctors and of counselors – and some of God (if not all).

We collaged women and shadows, text and flowers, colour, paper, images all a seamless mash-up of art mixed with life. Once there, no one wanted to leave. As I drove home tired and happy they chatted in the halls and dark driveway of the church. A Dieu dear ones – until next week.

No One is an Island

 

‘No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were,

As well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

 

Year 1624 MEDITATION XVII Devotions upon Emergent Occasions John Donne (1572-1631)

The language is outdated but the sentiment remains.  We are affected by those around us – for good or for ill.  We influence our circle whether worldwide or village narrow. In this as in everything who we are and what we do as a person matters.

Yet as in our solitude we create, in our community we recreate each using our gifts.  We do not really operate alone.  Like these workshops in contemplation and creativity others are generously involved:

–       mentors, friends and participants

–       pray-ers, encouragers and supporters

–       those that introduce and recommend

–       administrative support, advertising, hiring

–       those that provide space, clean up, coffee

–       those who have trained and graded and 

–       those who take a chance

–       suppliers of glue sticks and scissors

–       laughers and criers

–       those who affirm the calling and ignore weaknesses

–       those who long for rest, for creativity, for connection with God

thank you

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A Year of Explorations

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

As I continue with reading “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas I feel inspired to put some of his ideas into practice this year. One thing I realized as I read about the practice of an ascetic surprised me. I had not considered myself as being an ascetic, yet when I read the words: “In a crowd or at a party, sometimes I try to ‘sneak in’ a few moments of solitude… All I know that it is in those solitary moments that colors regain their brightness, truth regains its clarity, and reality loses its fog”, I see years of my own behavior come into focus.

Waterfront, Seattle WA

Waterfront, Seattle WA


“Arrival, Waterfront, Seattle WA” 2013 DS

Case in point is my recent trip to Seattle by train. I had wanted to make the trip for several years to visit the Seattle Art Museum
and the Chihuly Glass Museum

Finally last September it seemed like the right time. I had also felt a longing to take a train ride. I put the two together and off I went alone on an adventure. The things I saw and experienced there will fill my mind and heart all winter and hopefully give energy to the preparations for my contemplation and creativity workshops. When I returned from the trip of exploration a new depth of knowledge about art, the city, God and myself returned to Vancouver with me.

Sometimes it is difficult to separate the outer and the inner life. Yet when I study and reap the benefits of knowledge about God and God’s ways a little action can turn the learning into real growth as a person and in my lived relationship with God and others. The way we live our lives affects those around us. I read again in “Sacred Pathways: “Each Christian life of prayer…however deeply hidden or apparently solitary in form, will affect the life of the whole Body.” It might just be that one of the ‘Sacred Pathways’ for me is to be a modern day ascetic. I find this invitation exciting: “Let her find in the busy city the desert of the monks.”

Messy Christmas

“Are you ready to have the perfect Christmas? No? Don’t worry, you are in good company. The first Christmas was hardly perfect, so maybe the mess and muddle of an imperfect Christmas is the best situation in which to welcome.”  Roger Dawson SJ

As an oldest child in sibling order, I do not like messes.  I feel calm when things are clean, tidy and in place.  Paradoxically, as a collagist, a confusion of paper, paint and found objects are the tools of my trade.   Yet the experience of Christmas – that holy culmination of all that is good – is expected to be pretty close to perfection.

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Christmas Desk 2013 DS

I watched the movie “On Strike for Christmas” (2010) and it did my heart good.  Why not strike if we have to pull off the perfect Christmas by ourselves?   However, even with the family learning the lesson of helping and giving at Christmas, the ‘perfect’ Christmas came up short for me.

I have spent time this season oscillating between positively answering if I am ready for Christmas and the negative self-talk that goes with trying to bring order out of chaos.  I am ready.  My gifts were bought and wrapped early, the cards sent by (the soon to be extinct?) Canada Post or by e-cards.    The house is as clean as it gets.  Food is bought. Image

 

Christmas ‘Tree’ 2013 DS

Yet my complaints are there.  My ‘tree’ is not a tree but a bouquet of branches easy to assemble.  The beautiful white snow for Christmas Eve is now replaced with slush.  People are not coming on the right days.  Some people are missing.  Someone sneezed on me yesterday.  I could go on.

Over the month of December I told the story of Mary in the workshops.  I read and discussed from the book of Luke.  My presentation was enriched by having watched the movie “Mary” (Maria di Nazaret 2010) on Netflix.  Mary, on close inspection, and contrary to the beauty of Christmas plays, must have had a very messy Christmas.

Things were definitely not as they ‘should’ have been.  First of all, even though she was from a good family with a godly upbringing, she became pregnant without being married.  Many women throughout history can attest to the grave difficulties that can bring.  Case in point is the story of “Philomena” now playing in a theatre near you. 

Mary had to face her fiancée, her family and her community alone.  Mary could have been sent away or even stoned to death in that ancient culture.  I am not sure that her reputation ever recovered.

Mary needed to travel on a donkey to a foreign country when she was almost due to deliver her child.  (I can remember how painful a bumpy car ride was for me when I was pregnant.)  The place where they thought they could stay turned them away in their hour of need.

 All of this was discussed by the women in the December “Contemplation and Christmas Collage” workshop series.  They remembered their own difficulties and fears in pregnancy and childbirth.  They spoke that final workshop.  One precious woman seated next to me ‘sang’ the requested carols with only sounds.  That touched me and in a way validated my being there.

(Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.) 

Before I left the collage workshop that last day we also recalled how the messiness of the First Christmas was energized by the Holy Spirit into a collage of great love come down.  “God with us – Emmanuel” was his name.  Mary’s story was filled with messages from angels.  God’s provision kept her calm in her difficulties.  The presence of Jesus brought the true meaning of Christmas.  Only God’s order could make sense of that chaos.

It is always so.  The messy Christmas that we all more or less experience is only truly made peaceful by not just the story of ‘God with us’ but by God’s very presence.  May we notice the difference in our celebrations and in our disappointments that not being alone brings in Christmas 2013.  A collage of love right now sounds good.

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Christmas Still Life 2013 DS