Prayer and Reflection Retreat

Mercy by the Sea stained glass

At the beginning of March, I attended a self guided prayer and reflection retreat weekend at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut. I arrived at Mercy before a snowstorm that came late Friday night into Saturday, and I left Sunday morning before another snowstorm came Sunday night. The snow made the retreat setting extremely peaceful and invited introspection. I visited the chapel for prayer several times during the course of my stay there and was able to talk with God and feel a connection again. I lost my faith and spirituality a year and a half ago while dealing with serious illness. My faith and spirituality has slowly come back to me over time.

Mercy by the Sea

The weekend was transformational for me. The other retreat participants were each there for their own reasons, and that formed a common bond, a community. We shared meals in the dining hall and light conversation. I had a lovely room overlooking the courtyard and the sea beyond. I walked the grounds Friday before dinner, visiting the ocean and the labyrinth. It was cold outside and the air felt like snow.

Mercy by the Sea snow

In the morning I woke up to a blanket of snow outside. It was lovely watching the snow gently falling from vantage points inside the Seaside Room and the Grant Living Room. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I had brought my journal along with my year end Unraveling Your Year 2019 workbook from  Susannah Conway. I had started the year end journaling in December but only made it partway through. So I set an intention  to complete the journaling in the workbook over the weekend. Between my journal and the year end workbook, I wrote 30 pages in all. I have never written so much in my entire life. It was very freeing and brought great focus and awareness – it was like getting to know myself all over again. I went home with a feeling of peace and serenity.

Crossroads quilt

This quilt hangs in my art/quilt studio and it is called Crossroads. I made it quite a while ago when I as at a crossroads in my life (one of many). I am facing some new challenges and decisions right now, actually quite a few challenges, some big and some small. My direction is clear on some of these challenges and not so clear on others. My health and self care is a huge priority and I need to consider that in everything  I do. Perhaps the biggest question for me is how do I want to spend my time and how do I balance things out? Not just creatively, but in my whole life. I want to art journal. I want to make quilts. I want to be in local groups. I want to be in online groups. I want to write.  I want time for family and friends. I want to spend time at the lake (when it warms up). I can’t work at a paid job forever and I need to face up to that. It takes time to adjust and to change your compass point.

One Word, Begin Now, Write Now

New Year’s Day 2019 lake

After many days of holiday celebrations with family members, I spent a quiet New Years at home, with my journals, and my books, and Netflix. The words “one word, begin now, write now” encapsulate where I am at this exact  moment in time. I have been reaching back into the past and looking forward to the future, in an effort to collapse time and bring everything together into one cohesive whole in the present. It is not easy to do, and I ask myself, where have I been (and how can I reframe the difficult passages in a more positive light), and where am I going  ( I don’t really know, but I am restless and feel incredible transformational shifts happening inside).

It is almost as if the sky has ripped open before me and this amazing and blinding light has surrounded  me and shown me all of the grace and beauty of the person who lives  inside of me, that person  who hides from the world and the insensitivity of others. I am very humble and unassuming, so it is a bit daunting to see myself in this magnificent way. In my Life Book art community, Tam  echoes the sentiments that nurture us: you are worthy, you are enough, you are are loved, you are strong, you are whole, you are healing, you are a beautiful being.

One word 2019 hope

My one word for 2019 is hope. I have been choosing a word to guide me through the coming year since 2010, so this is my tenth year. Previous  blog posts about my one word choices can be seen here. It was very easy to choose a word this year, as I am hopeful about a lot of things happening in my life… a new (my first) grandchild, more time with family, slow improvements in my health, renewed creativity, more writing, deepening of new friendships, renewal of old friendships, strengthening  of my boundaries, and letting go of everything that no longer serves me.

Begin now card

I love card decks. I have a half dozen purchased oracle decks and I have created 5 mixed media altered playing card decks of my own. This morning I pulled this card from the Denise Linn Sacred Traveler Oracle Card deck. The artwork in the deck is exquisite. The Begin Now card is so relevant for me and refers to the Lao Tzu quote “ A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” How appropriate for me as I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning but have been unable to take that first step.

Unraveling 2019 page

I have been journaling in my Unravel Your Year 2019 workbook, an annual free offering from the amazing Susannah Conway, her website is here. I am also taking her Blogging from the Heart e-course right now and reading her book, This I Know, Notes on Unraveling the Heart. I was unable to face doing this end of year journal  last year with what was going on in my life, but I am embracing it this year. There are a lot of things in this 60 page journal that I can’t share, hence the blurred text. By the way, this is what a page of text looks like for me without my reading glasses.

I would like to be brave and share one workbook writing prompt entry. How has your life changed? What have you learned about yourself?

My life has been quieter and more laid back. I have been more introspective and choosy about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I have been practicing mindfulness. I have been knitting a lot and really enjoying it. I am learning to trust B. and feel more comfortable with him. I have learned that I am strong, courageous, gentle, caring. I am becoming a good writer. I am open to new possibilities. I am happy and content.

 

 

 

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