This wall piece was the second of 2 works selected for the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce’s 36th Annual “Commitment to Excellence” Art Exhibition, which was on display from Tuesday, August 12 – Thursday, August 21, 2014 at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.
Here they are, my studio mates, muses and (sometimes) helpers.
Tashi is calm, serene, unflappable – a bodhisattva. She can sleep through anything, undisturbed by loud noises and chaotic activity (very little of that in our house, except what is generated by my other studio mate, Sandy B). She is the sage, wise at the routines of our household and the comings and goings of my husband and I. When I meditate, she is there by my side.
Sandy B, on the other hand, is wild, rambunctious and almost meteoric as he rockets through the house. He races from front door to back door in an instant, anxious not to miss anything or an opportunity to try to scurry out into the forbidden zone of the front garden. In all his glorious 13+ pounds, he is louder by far than either my husband or myself when he gallops up our 2nd story flight of stairs like a herd (not a single horse, but a HERD) of wild horses. But when he feels insecure or scared or just wants attention, he comes to me and meows to be picked up and carried like a little baby.
As you can see by the photos, Tashi is calmly presiding over the studio while Sandy B is totally exhausted (but intimately connected) to his work as the supervisor of my henna tattoo painting.
And here is the finished piece, called “Illustrated Woman”:
A day in the studio doesn’t get any better than this!
When I was making this piece, this simple parable came into my mind. Although there are many meanings one might interpret from it, I was thinking of fishing as a metaphor for the process of going to a quiet, still place of calm and solitude inside one’s self…… and tossing a line deep into the waters of the heart. To connect into our essence and find an unending and abundant source of nourishment – soul nourishment. And how powerful it is to learn how to do this for ourselves.
I’m so grateful for all the people and things in my life that have helped me learn how to fish – my beloved husband, my friends, family, books, art, nature, meditation, my therapist, and for the grace that this kind of fishing has given to my life.
One of the many books that is filled with fishing lessons for me is Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “Women Who Run With The Wolves”. She talks about connecting with our essence and the nourishment we find there as “going home”. She says:
“Home is the pristine instinctual life that works as easily as a joint sliding on it’s greased bearing, where all is as it should be, where all the noises sound right, and the light is good, and the smells make us feel calm rather than alarmed. How one spends one’s time in the return is not important. Whatever revivifies balance is what is essential. That is home.
There is not only time to contemplate, but also to learn, and to uncover the forgotten, the disused and the buried. There we can imagine the future and also pore over the scar maps of the psyche learning what led to what, and where we will go next.”
So fishing for life is about two things for me. First, it is about the practice of “going home” again and again and again, for one’s entire lifetime. But it is also about that process of “fishing for a life” inside myself, asking my heart what kind of life I want and what it holds dear and brings it joy. It is about ”leaving the topside world”, again and again and again, leaving the shoulds and the have-tos and the I’m not good enoughs and the fears and the shames and the not enoughs and the doubts, and claiming a life that is full of the awareness of the ever-present love and joy and benevolence and creativity and light and expansion and tenderness and abundance that is always there. The joy of fishing.
I started doing Nia again after a long absence. I love music and movement, and Nia combines both of those elements in a way that is joyful and nourishing to my body and can be playful, if my mind lets it. It’s been about 4 years or so since I last attended Nia regularly, and although it took me some time in the beginning to get over my self consciousness, I had gotten to that place of joy and nourishment and playfulness . When I stopped going regularly, I felt a loss. So it filled me with delight when I heard of a Nia class that was starting up at a place and time I could attend.
Ahhhhh, but here I am in that space of beginning……………again. That place of awkwardness and gawkiness and ugly duckling-ness. But something different is happening this time. Yes, I still hear and feel that voice in my head that kicks in and says “You can’t dance! You have no rhythm! Look how off you are! You are the WORST person in the class! Don’t come back!” These thoughts cause me great suffering when they take hold and they cause me to see what isn’t really there. But what I love now is that their grip isn’t quite as strong, and they don’t scare me as much as they used to. I can peer into them a little deeper, talk to them, ease them. I can watch them rise, float and fall away. I can imagine them dripping off the tips of my fingers and toes as my body rises, floats and falls away to the music. And I can rejoice that these thoughts no longer blind me completely from seeing that I am, in fact, a dancer and that there is a grace and freedom and fluidity in being authentically, awkwardly me in that moment. I do experience joy in the movement of my body and the music regardless of whether I’m old, whether I’m off-beat, whether I’m doing it like anyone else or whether I’m doing it “imperfectly”. And I can – yes, I can even slow myself down enough to, as Brené Brown puts it, “lean into my discomfort” and learn to cultivate joy in being a beginner……again and again and again.
This piece is called “Heart of A Dancer” and she embodies the grace and freedom and fluidity of being authentically who she is in the moment – a dancer. She doesn’t care that she may not look to others like she is a dancer, she may not have the culturally defined body of a dancer, she may not have the “right moves” or be in the “right position”, but she loves to dance and, in the end, that’s all that matters. She lives from her heart, her life flows from that place of love and it is full. She is unashamed. When she hears the music, she lifts her arms and is ready – to dance! She radiates from the inside. For me, this is the dance of life. Heart open, willing to risk and be vulnerable to do our dance, reach for our heart’s desire, radiate deep love inward and then, outwardly into the world.
I had a show at Bethel Street Gallery this past March, and it was the first time that I had done a show where I wasn’t also working at a day job. Hooray! This meant that I could relax, settle in and devote much more of my time and energy towards birthing a “body” of work that was connected and whole. Before this, most of my creating was done in the evenings and on weekends, sandwiched in between all the other aspects of living a life. So it was both a joy and a challenge to be able to have this huge expansive space to push myself further than I had gone before, to link my pieces together, to work continuously, to make things larger and to create a full body of work.
As I was in the process of cultivating ideas and finding inspiration (which comes from anywhere and everywhere!), one evening I saw that the movie “The Golden Compass” would be on television. I loved it so much the first time I saw it that I decided to watch it again. And almost instantly, I knew what I wanted to do for the show. In the movie, every person (both child and adult) is accompanied by a daemon, a physical representation of their soul in animal form. The hero is a young girl whose daemon, which can and does shift form, most often appears as a cat (I love cats!). The story begins with the girl and her daemon setting out on a journey that appears to be about rescuing her missing friend. But she is really embarking on a deeper and far greater journey – about fulfilling her destiny in life.
She eventually finds her friend, who along with many other young children, have been taken to a distant place. They are being used in tests designed to find a process that severs the tie between the children and their daemons – a process to remove their souls! The powers that be want to do this to the children to make them more complacent, obedient and controllable. When they are separated in this way from their soul, they become lifeless, listless and eventually die.
I loved this movie visually and symbolically! It spoke to me of the power of my own daemon, my soul self and my deepest feminine being. It reminded me of the moments and periods in my life when I had felt lost, confused and separated from my source. It spoke to me of my deep yearning for nourishment, love and connection. And it reminded me of the times that I had set out, destination unknown, to embark on another leg of my life’s journey that would require much courage and vision, that was leading me closer towards my dreams and fulfilling my purpose. So my show would be about this.
This is the very first piece that I made, and it is called “Seeing I Cat”. Like the girl in the movie, her daemon has taken the form of a cat, with large, clear and distinct eyes that can see and evaluate everything, and guide her in a direction that reflects her truest self, her feelings, her needs and her values. It sees both inner and outer worlds, beyond what her five senses tell her. It is connected to the part of her that holds her wisdom, her wishes, her dreams, her desires and her destiny. It leads her to people, places and things that nourish her, cherish her and love her and that she nourishes, cherishes and loves in return.
Because her daemon needs a very special knowing to guide her in this way, there is another gift that it possesses. On it’s tail and back are three red “spots”, which represent three drops of blood. I first heard about the three drops of blood from Dr. Anita Johnston’s reading of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that is in her “Light of the Moon Healing Stories Volume I”. In this tale, another young maiden sets out on a courageous journey. Before she leaves, her mother gives her the wisdom and riches she needs to successfully complete her long journey. In the gifts she gives to her daughter, the mother includes a handkerchief on which she spills three drops of her own blood. Dr. Johnston says “ the three drops of blood represent the blood mysteries – menarche, birth and menopause. They are our connection to our feminine lineage, our feminine spirit. When we lose our sacred connection, which is our birthright, we become weakened and our mind can betray our soul’s destiny.” For me, the three drops of blood also represent another gift from the feminine – insight, instinct and intuition. Our soul forever carries these gifts for us and keeps them present and near in our lives. If we are not aware of them, if we do not use them or if we lose touch with them, we are unable to see clearly all that is. With them, our spirit soars.
I recently taught a ½ day workshop at Hawaii Potter’s Guild on how to make 2 part molds. It’s something that I learned when I was in school, and it’s been a skill that has enhanced my work and given me another tool that I use to express my ideas. I’m grateful that Hawaii Potter’s Guild gave me an opportunity to share this with other ceramic artists, and an opportunity to give something back to a community that has given so much to me. I’m not very experienced in teaching and so I was really hesitant to do this, even though I wanted to do something that felt right to me, it took me awhile to say yes. I had to really listen inside, get beyond my fears and trust my intuition to know that this was something, even though I might experience some discomfort, that would challenge and grow me in new ways and face some inner obstacles. That it was the kind of experience that would grow my heart and expand my world.
What I couldn’t have known when I did say yes was that by doing this workshop I would re-connect with some of my earlier slip-cast work. Intuitively, I made a decision that ended up giving me as much, and perhaps more, than I gave to my class. In preparation for teaching, I dug out all my old 2-part molds that I’d made over the years and started using them to make “demonstration samples”. Well, one thing lead to another and I fell in love all over again with my apple mold!
So here I am now, making apples with wings and feet and faces and hair and spikes and zippers! Little wild things. Fruit Flies and Bad Apples and The Flight of the Apple…….. and the piece shown above, called “Eve Bites Back”. I made this for the Matchbox Plus VII Exhibition at Cedar Street Galleries in Honolulu. The show runs from November 15 to December 10, and the opening is November 15 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Hope you can see the show!
This is my most recent piece, still warm from the kiln!
I feel so much love and gratitude in my heart for the tender care that my vet and his staff give to my cats that I just had to make this piece for them, as a surprise! It’s really a gift to myself, mostly because making it for them and thinking about how surprised they will be gives me great joy. It gives me joy to think that every time I go to their office from now on and see it I will think of my beloved cat Tashi, who is my model and inspiration for these little “fat cats”. It will be a precious reminder to me of the kindness that they have given to me and my cats over the years, and how the most simple acts have a profound effect.
My cat Tashi is about 10 years old, and until about 8 months ago she was pretty round and robust (at her biggest, 12.8 lbs). But over the last 8 months she’s started to lose weight, alarmingly so. For the last 3 months I’ve been taking her in to see the vet and they’ve done tests, but aren’t really sure yet what’s going on. In the meantime, some days are good days and some days are bad days. Tashi will eat and seem like she’s doing really well, and then all of a sudden she changes, and she’ll turn up her nose at anything I try to give her. She goes to her bowl and peers up at me with a sad, mournful look like she’s starving, cries pleadingly as if to say“ I’m hungry, my tummy hurts!” Other times, she sounds downright mad and I swear her yowl means “FEED ME, NOW!” But sometimes, no matter what her cry or yowl is, she doesn’t eat, doesn’t touch one stitch of food. These moments are torture for me – I want to help her and I don’t know how. My heart aches for her and for me and for all the hunger and yearning on the entire face of the planet. It touches such a primal longing in me to nourish and feed and heal, and to be nourished and fed and healed.
I’m at my most vulnerable when I don’t know what to do, when there’s no easy fix or something I can do right away to ease my anxiety. As much as I wish I could say that I don’t worry – I do! So when I walk into my vet’s office, I am often raw with vulnerability and emotion – love for my cat and desire that all my worries will magically melt away. I’m ashamed that I’m thinking about how much it will cost and if I can afford to take care of my cat’s most basic health needs. And at times I feel guilty – Did I miss something?…..Did I wait too long to take her to the vet?……Do I not play with her enough?…..Am I gone too much?
When I go into their office, the kindness, laughter, warmth and tenderness that come from Dr. Yoon and his staff washes over me. I feel as if I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right intentions and, for awhile, my fears are calmed. No matter what the outcome, I have done the right thing by bringing her here. And as they make efforts to ease my cat’s pain and suffering, they are also easing my pain and suffering. They bring me hope, they bring light into my dark, they hold the cup for my tears, they are soft and gentle with my cats and they are a loving presence in our community.
I’m reading “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford and I love it! It’s a wonderful book about embracing all of who we are, and finding gifts in places that most people would rather not go. Her book is so full of little gems and insights that inspire me. Here’s a quote:
“Our shadows exist to teach us, guide us, and give us the blessing of our entire selves. They are resources for us to expose and explore. The feelings that we have suppressed are desperate to be integrated into ourselves. They are only harmful when they are repressed: then they can pop up at the least opportune times. Their sneak attacks will handicap you in the areas of your life that mean the most.
Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove that you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”
Many years ago I heard an interview from a successful filmmaker and one thing that he said resonated with me very powerfully and has stayed with me all this time. He said that his work was about taking things that were fearful that were locked up and kept secret inside us and taking them out of the shadows, bringing them into the light and honoring them. Honoring their intention and gifts. Finding beauty in them. Sweetness and innocence. By bringing them out of the dark and into the light, we find that we are not alone and our vulnerability and openness connects us. My work is almost always about this – finding tenderness and grace and beauty in places that live in the dark, hopefully with a little humor and irony.
This piece is called: Me and My Shadow(s). On the back side is Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?”. For me, shadow is like a 10 ton gorilla in the room that I pretend isn’t there. Whether I want it or not, it accompanys me everywhere (on top of my head, on my back….) So I say – Embrace it!
When I first came to Hawaii in 1973 for college, I felt very much like an outsider. Everything seemed foreign to me, coming from a relatively small town in Washington state. It was my first “adult” adventure, leaving home and away from anyone that I knew, and I was REALLY far away and scared. I couldn’t just jump in a car and drive to someplace familiar. No friends, no family and not much ability to comfort myself. I didn’t miss the small town that I had left but all of the newness and challenges seemed overwhelming to me. I still wish I were the kind of person that saw change as wonderful and life as a great adventure, but my default mechanism is fear! When I am most fearful, I feel like the Ugly Duckling when it’s in the pond in winter and paddling ferociously to keep from being frozen. All that effort to stay alive but it isn’t really going anywhere – it’s mostly going around in circles that are getting smaller and smaller. When I am in that place of crazy fear, I feel like I have nowhere to go and no place to hide and I want to get away from the discomfort as fast as I can.
I met Grandma Ching during the very first year that I was in Hawaii. She was the grandmother of my boyfriend at the time, and she was so kind to me during those early, hard years. When I felt that other people were laughing at me for my differentness and my naivete, she was encouraging and positive. She would frequently say to me “ You’re a good girl” and I would soak it up, so starved for the warmth of that mothering and grandmothering affection. She taught me about local culture in Hawaii just by being who she was. She was feisty, strong and had her own voice – characteristics that I greatly admired. I loved her stories about when she was young and what it was like growing up for her, about her family and her children. She was a great storyteller! She loved playing cards and talking, and she taught us how to play Mahjongg and Hanafuda. We spent many Friday nights at her house, being nourished by her stories, her food, her laughter and the fun we had playing these games. It was a brief respite and a place of refuge for me.
This piece is in memory of Grandma Ching and all those nights spent at her kitchen table in Kalihi playing Hanafuda. Thank you for the gift of your love and acceptance at a time in my life when I needed it! It’s also a tribute to all Grandmas out there that give warmth, love and nourishment to those vulnerable souls that hunger for it, whether it’s your own grandchildren, your “hanai” grandchildren like me or anyone that needs a grandmothering spirit.
The Red-crowned Cranes are sacred birds in both China and Japan. They are called the “bird of happiness” because their mating dance makes them appear to be jumping for joy as they leap into the air and float back down on outstretched wings. The Crane hanafuda card on the figure’s chest and the bluebird that sits on his shoulder speaks of happiness. The figure feels innocent, peaceful and joyful in his simplicity. His little heart is leaping in joy as he basks in the love of self-acceptance and nourishment and play.