Category Archives: Beauty

Crack Me Open

Inspired by the synchronicity of a photo I had taken and some lines from Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness, I started musing on all the images of “cracked open” that are around me in my New England garden. I’ve always had a fascination with pods, especially the graceful milkweed pods. Learning that they were an important food source for butterflies gave me the only excuse for cultivating them that I needed.

Milkweed Pod Musing

milkweed podI love milkweed pods during all the phases of their growth. In the early summer, I made sure to capture the new, green pods, all firm and shapely. Just now, on Thanksgiving Day, I remembered that I hadn’t captured them in their autumn glory, wildly casting their wispy seeds on the wind. Gratefully, it is a glorious day and I had the time to wander my garden with my camera, capturing all the shapes and stages of release.

As I continued my photo meditation, I was struck by how important being “cracked open” is to wild creative expression. Observing the outrageous abandon with which the milkweed bursts forth its seeds, reminded me of the joy of dancing, lost in the music. Or throwing paint on a canvas, not worrying about the design. Or shouting for joy. Or expressing my true self in my writing, in my coaching, in my teaching, in all my interactions with the world.

hosta podsStill musing on the virtue of being cracked open, I was struck by all the seed pods I have in my garden, each one in their own way showing me the necessity of being cracked open to send forth your seeds. Now in this autumn season of dying, the seeds are being thrust forth for the new growth in the spring to come. Talk about optimism! Nature continues to believe that there will be another season of flowering next year. Maybe there’s more flowering in the season to come for me, too!


The Parable of the Acorn

Pondering these lessons of nature, I remembered a time when I was trying to change a lot of what was not working for me. In the midst of the process, when it seemed all I could do was complain and whine about what was being required of me, I came across a few lines in an inspirational book, describing an acorn in spring.  The acorn doesn’t say, “Oh, horrible things are happening. It’s dark and I’m soaked through from the rain. My shell is cracking open, there is something growing out of me. Why is this  happening to me? I am such a good little acorn.” The acorn trusts the process, knowing that all things must change to become what they were meant to be. An acorn wasn’t meant to remain an acorn—it was meant to be an oak! And the same was true for me, I was meant to be more than a fearful, depressed, hopeless, victim of life. Much as I didn’t want to,  I immediately saw the absurdity of my complaints in the story of the acorn becoming the oak.

I experience life as a spiral, so I’m often revisiting old territory at a new level. Cracking open means something different to me today than it did when I read the story of the acorn in the 1970s. Back then, cracking open was much more about dealing with the armor that Brene Brown talks about in Daring Greatly. In 1970,  had been told by a psychiatrist that I lived behind a brick wall of defenses. Well, of course I did! The world wasn’t safe and there was no way I was taking even one brick out of that wall!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to take the bricks down; they came down when I wasn’t watching. One day I was shocked to realized there was only a low ridge of bricks. The wall was gone, not through direct effort on the wall, but by finding environments where I could “crack open” safely, supported by container, context and community. But that’s another story…..

Cracking Open Now

Today, in my late sixties, I think cracking open means daring to bring forth my mature creative seeds. I think it is time to stop hiding out behind a well-polished professional veneer and let my wild, creative self break forth into to my day-to-day life. For too long,  I’ve compartmentalized my life by relegating interests and activities that I thought might keep me from being taken seriously as a professional woman into the background—my personal time activities. Whether it’s my lifelong spiritual studies and spiritual practices or my studio activities, they’ve always been just a subtext to what I considered my main life (or my mainstream life!).

I’m tired of hiding out! I want to crack open and be the wild woman that I am with no excuses, no apologies.

<img class="wp-image-608 size-medium aligncenter" src="×800.jpg" alt="" width="565" height="800" srcset="×800 generique cialis pas cher.jpg 565w,×1024.jpg 723w,×884.jpg 624w” sizes=”(max-width: 565px) 100vw, 565px” />Yes, I’m a third generation astrologer.
Yes, I’ve been reading Tarot cards since my mother first taught me what her mother taught her.
Yes, I live in an panentheistic world where Spirit indwells everything and all is One.
Yes, I wear a hat as my spiritual practice of honoring the Throne of Shekinah, the Divine Feminine Presence in the World.
Yes, I believe the new physicists are the old Kabbalists, bringing forth the ancient wisdom in new language.
Yes, I have too many cats and too many wild and exotic plants in my garden.
Yes, I believe our task in this difficult, challenging, and sometimes dark world, is to find the “sparks of light” and release them.
Yes, I believe technology can be used for good if we learn to embrace complexity and be mindful in our interactions with each other and the world.
Yes, I believe that there are no simple answers and  it is time for deep, difficult, challenging, dialogue that embraces complexity and the radical differences that appear to separate us.
Yes, I believe it is possible for us to transform the world by transforming ourselves first.
Yes, I believe I am personally responsible for bringing more love, kindness, compassion, generosity, authenticity and playfulness into the world.

Wow! I feel just like the milkweed pod, bursting forth with a wild profusion of “Yes“!

Thank you, Tosha Silver, for daring to bring your voice into the world. I am challenged by your example to live all the Outrageous Openness I can each day. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Crack me open2



You Can’t Find Your Voice If You Don’t Use It

I just read this line in Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work and it resonated strongly with me today. I’ve been in several conversations this week about the importance of having a Voice, feeling seen and heard by the community that matters to you. Talking with others has given me a chance to reflect on my own journey to find and have a Voice in the world.

Permission Slips

While reflecting on my creative journey, I remembered that the first exercise that Brené Brown had us do last fall in her Oprah Winfrey class was to write creativity permission slips. I had no trouble finding the messages that silence my creativity and my Voice. I’d been wrestling with them for years. One of the loudest ones in recent years is, “You’re not an artist. You didn’t go to art school.” In fact, as soon as someone asks if I’m an artist, I immediately become uncomfortable and deflect the question with some self-effacing excuse about it just being a hobby and that I have another profession. It’s even worse when others introduce me by saying, “She’s an artist” because it immediately brings up a shaming message about being an imposter.

Permission to do what my inner critic tells me I can't or shouldn't do.

Permission to do what my inner critic tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do.

The good news is the messages in my head don’t keep me from creating. And they’re not as loud as they once were. It’s taken lot of inner work to free my creativity so that I can have the joy of letting something new emerge from my imagination. And I guess my creative freedom is observed by others.  Recently, I had a teacher tell me how much she enjoyed what she called my “fearlessness” in the studio creative process. I responded by sharing with her that it wasn’t always that way for me. In fact, “compare and despair” ruled my creative expression for most of my adult life.

Attending a studio workshop was torture for me 12 years ago. I felt inept and untalented, convinced that  artistic creativity was gifted to some and not to others. Fortunately, I kept taking classes. I had the opportunity to meet and interview many artists who came to teach at the Bead House in Bristol, RI and at Metalwerx in Waltham, MA. Gradually, I learned that there were many paths to your own Voice, your own artistic expression. It also helped that heard the same negative messages coming from the inner voices of other women in the classes. I began to suspect I wasn’t alone.

In my conversations with others, I also learned that I had preconceived ideas about the artistic process that were erroneous. I thought writers wrote final copy in the first draft, photographers took only amazing photos and artists went directly from inspiration to a finished piece. Because I believed this to be the real creative process used by artists, I judged myself as ‘no talent’ because I only arrived at a finished piece after much work, rework and many pieces in the ‘reject’ bin. Today I think I’m not stretching my creative expression unless my ‘riffing’ takes to the point of creating something ugly!


copper and glass pendant

Pushed the limits on this one so it’s made it to the ugly one category for jewelry but it might make a good fan pull…


design notebook in studio

Iterations and permutations shape the design process








Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

I was please to learn about the importance of creativity in living wholeheartedly that Brené Brown discovered in her research. She discovered in her own experience and the experiences of the people that she interviewed that many of us have shut down our creative Voice because of critical messages we heard when we were young and fearless in our expression.

Brene Brown Guideposts

Guideposts for Living Wholeheartedly from Brene Brown’s Gift’s of Imperfection

I believe that all of us have a part of us that knows how to be fearlessly creative. This is the part of ourselves that is most filled with life and joy. Staying alive as we age may require finding this vital source. I call it my 12 year-old self. This the part of me that delighted in imagination, creativity and was fearless in the face of peer pressure. Sadly, she didn’t survive the pressures of adolescence and was shut away until the age of 40.

I rediscovered this part of myself at a critical point where I wasn’t sure life was worth living. It was at a time when everything came crashing down in both my personal and professional life for reasons largely beyond my control. I found it nearly impossible to ‘bounce back’. I had worked very hard to get where I was in life and it all shattered. I didn’t feel like I had the will or the energy to start over. It was one of those moments of ‘radical reset’.

Fortunately, the previous summer I had met a teacher at a course I had taken in Ericksonian Hypnosis at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. At the end of the week, the teacher, Mel Bucholz, mentioned that he also conducted Vision Quests once a year for people who were in major transition. I blew him off with some glib phrase about ‘being princess and not doing camping” but his message stuck. Six months later when I was sitting in a shattered life, I called and asked about the process.

dirt road in the woods

Not sure I can see the road ahead so I need a new guide, a new path

After reading through the information in the packed I received from Mel, I collapsed into despair. Clearly the process was too hard for me, I wasn’t in shape, I was a heavy smoker, I didn’t have any money and it sounded very scary to spend three days and nights by myself on a mountain. So, I decided I would just have to call and make up some excuse about why I couldn’t do the Vision Quest (definitely couldn’t tell Mel the real reasons!).

It was in that moment that I rediscovered my 12 year-old self. As I was preparing my mental script for the call, she piped up and said, “We can do this! I know how to do this even if you’ve forgotten!”  And then as she felt me waver, she said “And if we don’t do this, I’m giving up on you forever!” The finality of that statement echoed through my being.

I knew at that moment that I was being challenged to live—that if I silenced my 12 year-old voice, I would begin to die. She is the voice of my vital being, the source of my creative expression in the world. I listened. She wrote the application and told the truth. She said, “I don’t know if I’m more scared to do this or to not do this.” She acknowledged that life as she knew it had ended and she didn’t know how to begin again.

Well, the Vision Quest is another story for another time. The short version is I learned a lot, faced my fears and freed up my Voice. I came down from the mountain after three days and nights praying, fasting and ‘lamenting for a vision”, ready to move forward in my life. In the years that followed, I was able to create a body of work that I felt proud to bring into the world. I still did battle with the internal voices that wanted to silence me but they never could gain the chokehold they had before.

Today, twenty-six years later, I know that listening to that 12 year-old voice was the turning point in my life. I reconnected with the part of me that knows how to live wholeheartedly. I don’t always listen but sooner or later she gets my attention and we go back to doing what feels alive. She is the source of my fearlessness. My 66 year-old self can get pretty scared about the future and all the uncertainty ahead  for me personally as well for all of us on the planet. But then I hear her voice again, saying, “We can do it! We know how to do it!” and I’m filled with hope and creative vitality.

The road's wide open. You could go anywhere!

The road’s wide open. You could go anywhere!

Beauty in My Backyard


I am so grateful for the restorative capacity of beauty. I started the day feeling a little “full moon blue” after a restless night, disturbed by the neighbor’s wild party and the energy of the full moon. Leo energy can be pretty intense in the ‘dog days’ of summer (also an astrological event) and when I checked the chart for the day I saw that the full moon was squaring my natal sun and that Saturn was square to my natal Saturn conjunct Pluto. For those of you who have no idea what that means let me just saw there were reasons that living in my own skin was uncomfortable.

Reservoir with pumping station

And you can see forever…

So, I was more than a little cranky when I woke and the glorious day did not match my impending thunderstorm mood. Knowing that I wanted to shift my energy I decided to go for a walk even though my knee was complaining loudly. Bringing my camera along was an afterthought but it turned out to be just what I needed. It provided me a new lens for viewing the day. Before I knew it, I was entranced by all the beauty around me.

I think taking photos helps me practice something the Positive Psychologists have identified as “savouring”, a practice that sustains wellbeing. Practicing savouring is a big shift for me, a person who once was told by her spiritual advisor that she had to learn how to sit quietly in her own garden, savouring it, rather than weeding. She offered me the observation that “other people take the time to smell the roses you plant”. These make wonderful metaphoric statements but sadly they are too true.

In my youth I was very in tune with the beauty around me. We lived on a lake and played in the woods. We had a pine grove and lots of birches from which I made ‘indian bracelets’. We roamed freely in our combined backyards, playing from dawn to dusk in the fields, meadows, woods and lake. It was a great environment for letting imagination roam free until “Olly, Olly Infree” or Mrs. Cunningham’s bell.

tree hollow with vines

Must be a doorway…all we need is the magic password…

My mother was a panentheist. We didn’t know that as the name for what she believed, she just taught us the spirit indwelled everything. She talked about the natural world as a living animate Presence. We learned to talk respectfully with the spirits of animals, plants and the mineral kingdom. She told us about fairies, elves, sprites, and wood nymphs and that we were in their kingdom in the natural world and needed to be mindful of this at all times.

tree hollow

Definite possibilities for catching sight of fairies in hollow like this…probably an entrance to the Other Side




Then I grew up and no longer lived in the natural world. I lived in apartments in a city, traveled in airplanes, stayed in hotels, worked in corporate meeting rooms…no fresh air, no natural light, no living things other than us humans. Bit by bit, that natural sense of wonder was deadened. Like so many, I became so busy with the stuff of life that I never noticed the world around me. In fact, I often ate so fast that I didn’t experience the food I ate. No wonder I felt empty, hungry and dissatisfied. Satiation comes from savouring life not rushing through it mechanically.

Paying attention is the key to savouring. I need practices that slow me down so that I can be present or conscious in the moment. Even trying to remember to say a prayer before I eat is challenging. For forty years I’ve struggled with maintaining a daily prayer and meditation practice. I can put together a stretch or weeks or even months and then something distracts me. The same is true for any exercise routine…starts strong and then fades.

I’ve read a lot of the literature on habits, willpower, and lasting change. The metaphor of the rider and the elephant that the Heaths write about in Switch rings true for me. Unless I get the elephant to buy in to the rider’s plan, no change will happen. So finding ways to engage the elephant is key to developing a practice that will be maintained long enough for a change.

I think taking my camera on my walk may be one of those keys to capturing the elephant’s attention. You see, taking pictures has become fun and meaningful now that I can use the images in writing and art projects and social media. Photography used to either overwhelm me or I couldn’t see the reason to keep pictures of people I no longer knew and landscapes I didn’t remember. Now it becomes the inspiration for stories I can tell.

This fella patiently posed until I got just the right thought...but, of course, I told him he was very beautiful and the larger world definitely need to see him

This fella patiently posed until I got just the right thought…but, of course, I told him he was very beautiful and the larger world definitely need to see him

tree bark

Life has certainly turned this once young sapling into a gnarly old specimen…hmmmm










Thinking about what I might like to shoot causes me to see more dimensionality in the natural world around me. Today I was fascinated by how trees get hollowed out by insects, weather and human inflicted damage…yet they are still strong and flourishing. (I know there’s a metaphor there somewhere!) I looked at the stones in the embankment for the dam and saw all kinds of interesting lichens, patterning their surfaces. I saw the surrounding runoff eddies and life teeming in each one. And then there were the big, puffy clouds, reflected in the water. The lily pads and the trash bag, the stone walls falling down, pine needles in the cracks, the elegant form of pokeberries, all shapes and sizes of weeds, weathered wood and BUGS!

Three hours later I returned home, tired, sweaty and limping. But my day was transformed! I was filled with wonder and beauty and Life was Good!