Mindfulness Retreat Weekend

I have been seeking out new experiences this year so I decided to attend a mindfulness retreat weekend two weeks ago at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut. I have been there a few times before (see Contemplation and Renewal blog post) and it is a very peaceful place. I don’t know much about mindfulness or meditation, but I have been reading a little bit about the health benefits and thought I would try it. I chose a weekend retreat instead of a one day retreat because I wanted it to be an immersive experience. And it was.

When I walked into the room, I was struck by the peacefulness and calm that emanated from the carefully arranged circle in the room. There were 18 participants and we were led by Dr. Jerry Silbert and Roberta Silbert, a husband and wife team who specialize in integrative medicine. Members of our group came from Connecticut, New York City, Albany, Providence, and Massachusetts, and we formed community over the weekend. It was very special.

mindfulness circle

In the beginning I was somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing and didn’t know if I would be able to focus, sit still, or be silent. We spent a lot of the retreat in silence while following guided meditations presented by Jerry and Roberta. We took our meals in silence and that was very strange. We learned a lot of different meditation techniques that were surprisingly easy to do. Some of the meditation exercises were held indoors and some happened outdoors… it was such a beautiful day. There was sharing time at various stopping points where we went around the circle and talked about what we were experiencing.

mindfulness clouds

It got deep, and people were able to share what was coming up for them in meditation, and how it related to their lives. Some spoke more eloquently than others, but everyone shared significant things and it was truly moving. I had trouble getting the words out at times and chose to focus my sharing on my health issues, leaving a lot of other things unspoken, as that is what felt safe to me.

mindfulness shoreline

There was not very much free time in what was a very full weekend schedule, starting before breakfast and ending in the evening a few hours after dinner. I felt that closing in on me at times as I need a fair amount of alone time to feel centered in myself. Several of us broke away for a walk out to the road after dinner and we broke the silence and talked quite a bit, hushing ourselves as we returned to the door of the retreat house. It was very freeing.

mindfulness cairns

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and went down to the dining hall to get a cup of coffee. I noticed the red edge of the sun just cresting the horizon as I made my way through the rooms downstairs. So I raced upstairs to my room, grabbed my camera, and ran outside, like a little girl who has found a treasure on the beach. I watched the sunrise in awe and felt the presence of God.

mindfulness sunrise

The quality of the early morning light was ethereal and cast soft light and shadows over everything. I watched the light filter through the trees and felt that my life was taking another turn. I don’t know what lies ahead but I felt change and renewal on the horizon. Renew is my one word for 2018 (see Renew – One Word for 2018 blog post).

mindfulness light through trees

Growing through Life

August and summer are gently but quietly coming to a close. I have been going through a lot of changes and realized I am growing through my life experiences, essentially growing through life.

A lot of people in my online creative communities talk about setting up an altar in their home, a touchstone place where you can connect with self and find your center. I was curious about the idea but not really interested in finding a place to set up an altar in my home. When I looked around, I was surprised to find that I already had an altar in the deep window in my living room. It is filled with books, art journals, family photos, my yarn bowl, a Christmas cactus, a few amigurumi, and other special items.

window-altar

I have taken a hiatus from painting this summer and have not been creating a lot of art, but I took two online collage classes. It is refreshing to do something different as it is easy to get into a rut doing the same thing for a long while. Life is like that. It is always good to get a new perspective on things and see things in a different way. I have been very introspective and questioning this summer, doing a lot of private written journaling to find discernment and work through some issues, and growing into the person I am becoming. Change, although difficult, brings growth and renewal of life. I sometimes wish I could share easily like others do, but I am not like that. Fortunately, I have a few people in my life who understand.

The first class I took was the Vision Journal Workshop with Kathryn Costa. I have known Kathryn almost 10 years, although we have never met in person, and I enjoy following her creative adventures. Catherine mails out a physical envelope with goodies inside to class participants. The workshop can be found here. This butterfly and saying cut out of a magazine expresses how I was feeling at the time.

vision-journal-butterfly

Tell It Collage with Liz Lamoreaux was inspirational for me. Her class gently encourages you to glue in scraps of saved papers, photos that are meaningful to you, and anything that you might have on hand. It was very freeing and I had a blast playing with my journal. The workshop can be found here. The tree and wonderful saying were cut out of an old calendar. I have several art bins filled with found papers and things like this.

collage-tell-it

This spread is also from Tell It Collage. We were encouraged to free write about ourselves and I just let the words flow out from my hand through my uniball signo pen. I love pens and have a wide variety of them on hand, having collected them over time.

collage-about-me

This is another spread from Tell It Collage. The paper on the right was painted from my Gelli plate. I have a stack of these papers saved in one of my art bins and they add a lot of dimension to a piece. The photo of my hand holding the shells and the snippet of my artwork are from a trip to Hammonasset Park on Long Island Sound, see post here. It is a touchstone place where I go to recenter and find balance.

collage-hand-shells

Poetry, Writing, and Finding my Voice

This poetry in my art journal came about as a lightning bolt of inspiration over the weekend. I have been reading poetry (Mary Oliver, Hafez, Rumi), and writing in my journal, and knitting a lot. But I have done very little art journaling over the past 3 months. It is not that I was blocked. Rather, I was afraid of what might come out and didn’t want to face that. My work is intuitive, comes from inside of me, and at times it can plumb the depths of my soul.

change-poetry

I went to East Hampton Writers Guild Wednesday night after a 4 month absence. I was not sure that the group was going in a direction that I wanted to follow. And I am tired all the time, especially at the end of the work day, due to some new health problems that are going to take a long time to resolve. But I was glad I went and reconnected with the group which meets at the Bevin House. I went to see my writer friend Megan there on Saturday as I had some questions about my writing and wanted to talk. Megan is the innkeeper there and she has a wonderful blog here. We shared a lot (it was great!) and I came away from our visit feeling much better about myself and my writing. I wrote 2 poems Saturday night and I created the art journal page on Sunday.

Bevin-house-LR

My son and his wife gave me a year long subscription to Storyworth last year for Mother’s Day. There were weekly email prompts in a memoir vein that they preselected for me, and there is an app that lets you edit your stories and add photos. At the end of the year your writing and photos get bound into a physical book. It was an incredible amount of work and some of the prompts were difficult to answer, but it was very rewarding to see the finished book and hold it in my hands. Some of the writing is extremely personal so I can only share it with family.

storyworth-book

After creating the poetry art journal page, I was inspired to go back to Life Documented and pick up where I left off, at week 14. Life Documented is a year long art journal prompt blog site located here, with weekly prompts and monthly themes. The theme for July was butterflies and I did my own thing.

butterflies-LD14

I had an empty space in my stairwell and I remembered that I had two art quilts that were mirror images of each other, still in a box from the move 2 years ago. So I found those and I got them hung alongside the other quilt. It makes me smile to see them when I go up and down the stairs.

quilts-in-stairwell

Art Retreat – Squam Art Workshops

I attended an art retreat last week and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I went to Squam Art Workshops (link) at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake, New Hampshire, just below the White Mountains. It is hard to describe the experience in words.

This was my first time at Squam and it was amazing. 200 women from all over the country gathered in the woods, staying in small cabins, taking art and fiber classes, and enjoying the community of creative and kindred souls. I made new friends there and it was truly a magical and life-changing experience.

There was a beautiful dreamcatcher filled with wishes written on paper feather shapes, gently rustling in the wind. The wishes were added by Squamees from last year and this year.

“dreamcatcher”

There were chalkboards echoing the sentiment of the day. This one was my favorite.

Chalk board

This was West Water, our waterfront cabin tucked away in the woods. My cabin-mates were wonderful! We had a bat in our room the first night so we had to call staff at 11:30pm to come and safely remove him. It was a little scary but we were fine.

Cabin

There were several ice houses that store ice blocks harvested from the lake the winter before. Kept in sawdust, the ice blocks are used in the old fashioned ice boxes in the guest cabins.

Ice house

Paths through the woods led to classes and other activities. It was very special finding your way through the forest. There were chipmunks everywhere, the sound of birds was in the air, and you could hear the loons on the lake.

Path

The lake is magical and beautiful. We had a dock behind our cabin at the edge of the lake, to sit on, talk with newly found friends, and contemplate the universe. It was heaven. What more can I say?

Lake view

Here is the landscape painting I created in my class with Karin Olah. It is acrylic paint on canvas with fabric collage glued on top. I also took a knitting class and made a small shawl sample, learning new techniques. There were also spontaneous knitting and sewing sessions here and there with great camaraderie.

Landscape Layers

I made a short video, my first actually, of the panoramic view from the back of my cabin. I am so happy to share my impressions with you.

Finding My Inner Compass

I have been going off in a lot of different directions over the past month and I feel a strong pull towards finding my inner compass. I want to do everything but I can’t do everything. I want to create art, I want to knit, I want to make quilts, I want to write, I want to read, I want to take classes, I want to socialize, I want to be a part of things, I want to pull back into myself, I want to center myself, I want to focus, I want to grow.

I am already taking three classes and am behind in all of them but today I decided to sign up for a one day Visual Journaling workshop with Kathryn Costa at True North Arts. Kathryn has been my friend for years and she shares her refreshing outlook on life on her blog and in her 100 Mandalas community. This will be a great way to recenter and find my compass.

ATC Georgia O’Keeffe quote

I have been thinking a lot about friendship and what it means to me. I have a lot of friends but I don’t usually get too close to people. I don’t feel comfortable sharing a lot of things about myself and that is just the way I am. At times I have found myself wishing I could be more open but I don’t want to be like everybody else. I want to be me. A few close friends is really all you need. One advantage of being an introvert is that I am both perceptive and a good listener, and those are qualities that make me a good friend.

GHQG quilt retreat 2018

I went to a four day quilt retreat at the Ivoryton Retreat and Conference Center at the end of April. There were old friends and new working on many colorful quilts. Everyone brought their own sewing machine and quilting projects to work on. I brought way too much stuff as I was not sure how long it would take me to complete each project.

Mom memorabilia 2nd

This memory quilt about my mom has been waiting to be finished for some time now. All that it needed was the binding but I needed to be sure that it didn’t need to have any more buttons sewn on before I could finish. I have mom’s button collection and she had sorted the buttons by color – they look lovely!

Lattice quilt mary

This lattice quilt took up most of my time at the retreat and more time when I got home. It is made from floral fabrics from mom’s sewing room and was started at the March quilt retreat at Camp Hazen. It was a lot of work to put this together – there are 196 blocks in all. The ones I made for my sisters had 120 blocks and were oversize lap/couch quilts. This quilt is going on my four poster double bed. My friend Laura is machine quilting it as she has a long arm machine.

Spring Quilt Show

It snowed again on Friday and everyone in Connecticut is wondering when spring will arrive as it is delayed this year. It is cold out and indoor activities involving art or quilts are perfect right now.

I went to a quilt show at the Haddam Neck Congregational Church today. It was so nice to see all of the colorful quilts draped over the pews and hanging from the rafters. I enjoyed some homemade soup and bread in the tea room and that was a wonderful treat.

Haddam-Neck-quilt-show-2018

This crazy quilt caught my eye with all of the embroidery stitches and embellishments. These quilts were popular at the turn of the 19th century and were found in many Victorian era homes, often displayed in the front parlor.

HN-quilt-show-CQ

I enjoy embellishing quilts and small items. I am adding beads to two quilts right now but they are not far enough along for a photo. Here is a little embellished jewelry pouch that I made a while ago.

Jewelry pouch

I am slowly redecorating the sewing room/ art studio/ home office. I got this chair for the sewing table on clearance at Staples on the way home from work one day. I had been using folding chairs with not much padding and they were not very comfortable. This was a big improvement! I want my art space to feel good and be conducive to my creativity.

Sewing-chair

I got an armless swivel chair for the desk from Amazon. It’s a tight space and there was no room for a chair with arms. This is perfect for me. My next purchase is a 2’ x 3’ bulletin board which will arrive on Wednesday. I can use it as an ever changing vision board. It is going to hang vertically above the art table. I try to stick to a budget so I do a little research to find the best value and price for an item.

Desk-chair

Quilting, Knitting, and Art Journaling

The month of March has brought us four Nor’Easters in a row, the first one bringing major rainfall, and the remaining three bringing significant snowfall. It has been cold outside and there is comfort in wearing leggings with a sweatshirt and snuggling under a quilt on the couch. It is also a time for quilting, knitting, and art journaling.

sunrise-quilt

I am making a quilted wall hanging for my son and daughter-in-law as a wedding gift. Aurora likes the color yellow so I decided to design a sunrise over the ocean quilt using an assortment of yellow and blue medleys that I ordered from Keepsake Quilting in New Hampshire. At the quilt retreat the beginning of March, I hand appliqued gentle curves to a muslin base and then machine quilted the top at home. The quilt is about 18” by 24” which is a nice size.

beads-for-sunrise-quilt

I decided that it would be fun to add some beads to the quilt to give it some sparkle. I went through the beads that I had on hand and picked some out. There were not enough beads in the right colors to express my vision, so I decided that I needed to make a road trip to a bead store. On Saturday I went to Nature’s Art Place in Montville, Connecticut. I lost myself for a while wandering around the vast array of beautiful beads on display. I can’t wait to get started on beading!

knitting-socks

I joined a group of knitters this month and am enjoying the camaraderie of the group. They are called the Knifty Knitters and they meet at the Portland Library on Saturday mornings. There is something very soothing about knitting and the act of knitting seems to carry your worries away and make them disappear. I am enjoying a renewed interest in knitting, crocheting, and all things yarn after a long hiatus. Inspired by this talented group, I am knitting socks for myself with fingering yarn and very small circular needles (size 2mm). With the help of YouTube, I learned how to do the Turkish cast on. I don’t know why I am knitting socks – after all I could buy them in the store or on Amazon – but it is something I want to experience and feel the connection with women who have gone before me.

art-at-coffee-table

I thought I would show you how I set up my coffee table with my drawing board for art journaling. I have an art/quilting studio downstairs but It is nice to be able to work on my art in this space – it makes me feel more spontaneous and free somehow. The windows are larger and I can hear the birds singing and people coming and going. The studio is more isolated, but it has its advantages. I can leave a mess out downstairs whereas upstairs I have to clean up when I am done. I like having different options.

Journal52-transform

Transform is from my art journaling class Journal52. Transform can mean different things but in this instance it is about the transformation that happens when spring arrives each year. After the long winter in the northern climates, everything slowly comes to life and finally bursts forth into spring.

Journal52-dream

Dream, also from Journal52, is about daydreaming and I chose to highlight the things that are important to me. This girl is dreaming about the simple things in life that make her happy. What is success? Waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror, and liking the person who you are.

Knitting as Meditation

Doll sweater finished

Knitting is a form of meditation and it is especially appealing in the middle of winter in the northeastern United States. At this point in time, most of us have grown tired of the cold and the stark landscape, although there is beauty in bare trees and snow. The sun hangs low in the sky and the shadows are long. Still, we long to see buds on the trees getting ready to burst forth into green leaves and warm weather. The birds have been singing more lately as they know that spring is coming soon.

Knit Picks yarn

This is about making something from nothing, only a few balls of light-weight fingering yarn and a set of 3mm circular knitting needles. I am by no means an expert knitter and these were very small knitting needles. I used to knit during and after college until my children were very small, but I moved on to other things and let that fall by the wayside a long while ago. I decided to try knitting again last year after seeing the wide variety of yarns available now. I was also very inspired by my daughter-in-law Aurora’s love of knitting and yarn.

There is a rhythm to knitting, like the rise and fall of your breath in yoga or meditation. In the beginning when you sit down to knit, you have to find that rhythm as you go stitch by stitch. Or maybe that rhythm finds you. Your thought stream gradually shifts from worries about this thing or that to a calm peacefulness. By knitting you are doing something that others who have come before you have done, and you feel connected to women of the past and their communal history.

Doll sweater first sleeve

The doll sweater was built in steps and I had a pattern to follow, Rosie’s Circular Yoke Sweater, a free pattern available on ravelry, a community for yarn enthusiasts. You start with a little sleeve and it grows. Like any project, it is easiest if broken down into steps. That makes it more approachable and less daunting. This is true for most projects.

Doll sweater two sleeves

It took a while, as knitting on small needles goes slowly, but eventually I had two sleeves done. The stitch holders are for setting the two sleeves aside until it is time to join them with the body of the sweater on the circular needles.

Doll sweater joined

Joining the sleeves to the body was a little tricky. I did not quite understand how to do it, so I read the directions over and over again and tried to visualize how it would all come together in my mind. I laid the pieces out next to each other and studied them. Finally something clicked and I was able to join the pieces together. Sometimes life is like that. You might not understand something but if you give yourself time, you will see.

Doll sweater yoke

Journeys and Paths in Life

Lake sunrise

Life can take you on many journeys and down different paths. Sometimes you may be on your way down a path and realize that you want to change your direction. This may happen a few times or many times in life. It is important to listen to the small voice inside that is telling you to go a different way. Even if changing the way you are going brings you to a more difficult path than the one you were on.

Your roadtrip or journey

The art journaling piece above was from week 1 of the Wanderlust 2018 class, with the theme of your road trip or journey. I decided to show how I moved through my feelings about my life during the second half of last year. It was a time of happiness and a time of difficulty, with a lot of transitions along the way. I have come through it all with a renewed sense of self and a calmer outlook on life. My litmus test for everything now is to ask myself the question, “Is this important… does it really matter or can I let it go?”

Finding your path

The art journaling piece above was from week 2 of the Wanderlust 2018 class, with the theme of finding your path. I have been art journaling at the coffee table and using my Pelikan watercolor pan set which is not messy like acrylic paint. It is winter and it is cold in the art studio. It takes too long for the space to heat up when I want to do something in the moment, i.e. right now. In this piece I let the painting evolve as I went along and it only seemed natural to add the sun and some stylized rays of light. I am really enjoying the Wanderlust class which is run by two wonderful artists based in the UK.

Life documented week 3 - be you
The art journal piece above was from Life Documented week 3 and this is a playful take on the theme of being yourself. I love the quote! Life Documented provides free weekly art journaling prompts and I am doing the prompts along with my sister who lives about an hour away. It is great having an art journaling buddy!

Renew – One Word for 2018

One word 2018 renew

Happy New Year! I have chosen the word renew for my one word for 2018. I have been choosing a word at the new year to guide me through the coming year for 9 years now, when I first heard about this on Ali Edward’s blog in 2010. My previous words were 2017-believe, 2016-open, 2015-love, 2014-trust, 2013-grow, 2012-be, 2011-focus, and 2010-create. These words can all be found in an altered card deck that I made about 3 years ago. It is a nice practice to choose a word for the coming year… it is kind of like lighting a candle and setting an intention for the new year.

Renew has several meanings listed in the dictionary:
– To make new, fresh, or strong again
– To make new spiritually
– To begin again
– To restore to existence
– To make extensive changes in
All of these meanings have significance for me as I seek renewal, better health, and more balance in my life. Renewal for me means yoga, exercise, a healthier diet, and a healthy lifestyle. Part of this means learning to say no to things that would overextend me. I need time to myself to just be. This also means saying yes to things that would be good for me.

I have been reading a lot lately and wanted to share the pile of books on my coffee table that I am enjoying. I am pretty much a nonfiction reader and I like to read inspirational books from the writer’s viewpoint and see how other people experience their world. Books expose you to new ideas and help you to transcend and transform your life to something better. I have some books on my iPad but there is something magical about a book that you can hold in your hands.

Dec 2017 books

I have slowly begun art journaling again after a long hiatus. This has been somewhat tentative at first and has been happening at my coffee table with an art-to-go tote bag. I have a small art studio downstairs which is combined with a home office, library, and quilting/sewing studio. I have not been working on my art or quilting down there at all and my intention is to spend some time art journaling in the studio so that I can paint and get messy. I am doing 3 year-long art journal prompts/workshops this year… Wanderlust 2018, Journal52 2018,and Documented Life 2018. I did this art journaling page last week to celebrate that I am going to Squam Art Workshops in June which I am very excited about! I sent in my deposit and registration forms this week and also put in for vacation time at work.

Squam art journal

I have been doing a lot of crocheting the past 6 months as it is easy and portable. Knitting and crocheting are very meditational processes and crocheting was very comforting for me when I was going through medical treatments and not feeling very well. Here is my Sunday shawl that I recently completed. I found the pattern on Ravelry which is like the Facebook for knitters and crocheters. I am looking forward to renewal and growth in the new year!

Sunday shawl