On Any Day, Do Something

January 1, 2013

Watercolor sketch, tools of the trade

Watercolor sketch, tools of the trade

I was inspired recently reading these words by the poet Jane Hirshfield in Jeffrey Skinner’s book, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets:

“You don’t need to write every day, but you can do something every day that connects to and sustains your life as a person in love with words, images, music, stories, and what they can hold.  Listen with the ears of a language thief casing the mansion.  Cultivate concentration.  As you move through the day, notice one thing that you would not have seen if you were not looking with the questions of poetry in your ankles, knees, and tongue.  Remember a memorized poem in line at the post office.  Read something of substance before you read anything else in a day.  You don’t need to do all these things, you don’t need to write; only, on any day, do something.”

What do these words mean for me?

“I don’t need to paint every day, but I can do something every day that connects to and sustains my life as a person in love with images, form, pattern, composition, colors, and what they can hold.  Look with the eyes of a thief casing the mansion.  Cultivate concentration.  As I move through each day, notice one thing that I would not have seen if I were not looking with the questions of art in my ankles, knees, and eyes.  Look for forms and patterns in line at the post office. Read something of substance before I read anything else in a day.  I don’t need to do all these things, I don’t need to paint or sketch; only, on any day, do something.”
— with apologies to Jane Hirshfield

So this is my resolution for the new year.  To live a more artful life.  Maybe not to sketch or paint every day, but to sketch or paint more often.  To build a habit of art.  To give art prominent time in my days.  To feed my soul by visiting museums, learning the names of colors, experimenting and playing with tools of the craft, reading about artists and creativity, cultivating an attentive eye.  Slowly, slowly grow as an artist.

A New Year, A New Calendar

January 1, 2012

The weekly "diary" I will be using for my 2012 planner

Transferring information to my 2012 planner

It’s the time of year for a new calendar.  One of my year-end tasks is to transfer important information — birthdays, anniversaries, vacation dates, holidays, etc. — to the new year’s planner.  I finally get to use the lovely 1984 Diary from the Royal Horticultural Society that I bought for $1 at the Miller Library Book Sale.

There is something freeing about so many uncommitted dates at the start of a new year.  How to keep hold of that feeling of freshness and free time!

Pausing on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2011

“New Year’s eve is like very other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.”
— Hamilton Wright Mabie

Night time at Green Lake

I’ve always told myself that each morning is the start of a new year.  Today’s quote reminds me how artificial and forced it actually is to break up Time into increments of years, months, days, hours.  In the vast scheme of the Universe, there is no grand marker announcing a new year.

It’s similar in a way to the way we map a country’s borders.  When the earth is viewed from space, we are almost shocked to see that it really is one world with no delineated borders.

I’ve never gotten into celebrating New Year’s Eve.  But if you do, I hope you find joy.  Travel safely!

Two girls in traditional Tibetan dress

This afternoon I stopped by Seattle’s Sakya Monastery’s Losar Festival, which celebrates the Tibetan New Year.  Here are some photos of the event:

Photo of the Dalai Lama held center stage

Buddhist monk with prayer beads

Traditional Tibetan food

Feet on stage, with embroidered dress

Young girl with Tibetan dress

Young girl's headdress

Young man outfitted in traditional Tibetan costume

Celebrating Tibetan culture

The Buddha's hand; batik

Antelope Canyon, Arizona (April 2008)

From the myriad bits and pieces of all the reading I did this year, my mind keeps returning to a story about a woman who gave up New Year’s resolutions in favor of choosing just one “theme” to guide her year.  I wish I could remember the source of this story so that I could give the author credit for this idea, because I find myself musing about it as we approach another new year.

I can’t remember what theme the author selected as the focus for her year, but I have spent some time imagining what “mantra” I should choose for 2011. . . Creativity?  Generosity?  Frugality?  Quest?  Friendship?  Service?  Personal growth is important to me.  What might help me to become a more authentic and better person?

I’ve decided that my theme for 2011 will be “Depth.”  This can become my guiding light for the coming year – in my thoughts; in reflections on my reading; in my writing, art and photography; in my activities and actions, both ordinary and less ordinary; in my relationships with family and friends.  This one word encompasses the attentiveness with which I wish to live my life.  I believe a little more depth will enrich my life.

New Beginnings

January 1, 2010

A new year, a new calendar

Starting a new calendar and day planner

“Nothing is essential except beginning.”
     — Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins, The Feminine Face of God

I consider every day the beginning of a new year, and therefore my New Year’s resolutions are apt to be on-going efforts to be grateful, appreciate and love my family, learn new things, create art, explore new worlds, and find beauty in my ordinary, every day life.  Here are a few special things I hope to concentrate on in 2010:

  • Pare back my material possessions, give away things that no longer reflect my interests, lighten my load, minimize clutter;
  • Read more poetry;
  • Travel to New York city for the first time in my life, visit museums, walk through various neighborhoods, take pictures;
  • Continue daily posts to my blog through April 14th (the one-year anniversary of its launch) and then re-evaluate its direction;
  • Walk or take the bus to work more frequently (drive less) and explore Seattle by bus;
  • Learn to bake bread;
  • Make at least one trip home to Minnesota to spend time with my Dad and family;
  • Spend more time outdoors hiking and camping.

I don’t foresee any big changes in my life in the year ahead.  My regular life, with its routines and responsibilities, provides plenty of material for growth and creativity and thought.  Books and movies send me on mental journeys, which are almost as satisfying as physical ones.  My boxes of fabric scraps and watercolors are the raw materials for more art and handcrafted projects than I can possibly complete in one year.  If I pay attention, my local surroundings provide infinite subjects for my photography and opportunities to feed my soul.

I must continually learn to keep a fresh eye on my world.  “Though I am always one year older, the year is ever new, renascent . . . and whatever I encounter within the season extending before me will be at once familiar and completely new.”
     — David M. Carroll, Following the Water