Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

In which the lessons circle ’round again

I originally wrote and posted this on August 10, 2012 – nine years ago. (Oh, time, you elusive beast… )
Re-read it today, August 10, 2021, and it was just as relevant today for me personally as it was 9 years ago. Reading it amused, delighted and enchanted me so I thought I’d post it here. I hope you enjoy it. xo


I’ve been reading this book entitled, “Zen and the Art of Falling in Love” by Brenda Shoshana.

Before I get too far into this note, let me clear 2 things up.

I am not a Zen Buddhist.

And, I am not by any means, an authority on it. I am drawn by the simplicity of the teachings, and the ease in which those teachings integrate into my life.

I am not currently in love.

Which poses a problem when the book calls for the reader to examine their current relationship. Since I am not in one, I look behind me. What I see is a trail of hurt and disappointment that looks more like a massacre than the signs of great romance. (Hence, the need to approach this whole love thing from another point of view entirely…)


In that infuriatingly simple way that can only be Zen, the book teaches beautifully simple lessons.

The first lesson is to not move.

In zazen (Zen meditation practice) you sit on your cushion, without moving, until the bell rings. Whatever happens during the sitting, within and without, you are to maintain your posture.

It’s an exercise in letting go of control, allowing life to flow as it will.

Taken on with this new found Zen focus, I found the sitting to be surprisingly difficult. So many things tried to catch my attention, and pull me away from the practice. I am no stranger to meditation, as I have been actively meditating for about 6 years now. Even with the prior experience, approaching mediation with the intention of sitting fully, what choice did the distractions have but do their job? They distracted me like pros.


The next lesson.When it is time to walk, walk.

The bell rings, and the Zazen is over. It seems to me, that as soon as I find my groove, as soon as I drop down into that deep place of silence, the bell rings. It jars me back to life, inevitably to responsibilities that I’d much rather ignore. But when the time comes to move, no matter how we feel inside, we must move.

The deeper teaching is showing us that we can often become attached to one state of being, one activity or one relationship. We cling on to it long after the bell has rung. All things move and change and progress. If I could give my relationships that kind of freedom to progress according to their own timetables, how much better would it be for everyone involved?


When walking, the Zen instructions are simple, “Follow each step attentively.”

Following each step attentively means to be with what is happening at the moment 100%. Not in the past, not in the future. Only now. And only 100%

I thought about this for quite a while, but felt I had no real practical application for it. No context, if you will.

So life gave me a lesson.


I took my book to the beach the other day.

I sat reading, meditating, and contemplating the beauty and majesty before me. I was able to sit on the crowded beach for 30 minutes, with my eyes open, in a meditative state. I was taking it all in, and it was a beautiful moment. My phone alarm rang, my 30 minutes was over. It was time to move. I opted to take a photo, so as to remember the moment.

There was a man approaching. He reminded me of David Lynch. (who is one of my favorite people, but I digress). David Lynch or not, this man was in my way. I wanted to take a photo of the ocean, but this guy just wouldn’t move! Begrudgingly I set my phone down and started to pack up my things. Then I realized he was coming to talk to me.

He walked up and asked if I wanted to play smashball. I had never heard of it before; apparently it’s like tennis, but on the beach. The Zen teachings flashed in my mind, and I knew that the next step I needed to take was to learn to play this game. But first I asked him to move, so I could take my picture of the ocean.

The game wasn’t easy at first. I was terrible at it, but enthusiastically terrible. He gave me some quick instructions to improve my game, and it did for a while. We played for about 4 hours that day. In that time, I learned that if I focused only on the ball and the paddle in my hand, I hit it every time. Not only did I hit it every time, but its aim was straight and there was a rhythm to the exchange. So simple, I thought.

And, true to form, as soon as my attention wavered, the ball did, too.

As the ball came towards me, I thought to myself, “focus! focus! focus” but I kept missing!

After 20 minutes of missing, hitting tourists, and getting hit in the neck myself, I finally realized it wasn’t about thinking about focusing, it was about doing the focusing.

Focus. And the rhythm came back.


He gave me other tips, as well.

He pointed out that I have no faith. (To which I laughed, but it’s actually kinda true…)

The ball goes into the ocean – he tells me not to chase it, that the waves will bring it in.

That was particularly hard for me to stop doing. I know the waves will come and go, and if there is an object that floats, the waves will bring it in. But I had this knee jerk response that had me running into the waves after a florescent pink smashball time and time again. I think it wasn’t until hour 3 where I finally started trusting and letting the ball come to me.

There was another way I demonstrated my lack of faith. When he hit the ball high in the air, I would jump up as high as I could to hit the ball, when it was already coming towards me. He told me, time and time again that gravity will make certain the ball comes down to me. I just have to be ready for it. I don’t have to work so hard to meet it in the middle. It’s coming to me. My job is to be ready.

But I didn’t want to be ready. I wanted to chase it! Another difficult lesson. I realized that I kind of like the chase. I enjoyed jumping up high into the air to meet that ball and be blinded by the sun. It was thrilling!

Another analogy for love, perhaps? The thrill of the chase… Something to ponder, anyway


Several days have passed since that fun afternoon on the beach. Being able to directly experience some Zen principles has stayed with me all week. I have made a point to be here, now, as much as possible. I have noticed it helps things, and when my attention divides, something always happens to pull me back in. It’s strange.

Take today.

I was walking around the gallery, cleaning up my art from ArtWalk. My mind was in full chatter mode; drudging up past loves, past mistakes, blaming me, blaming them; around and around it went. I was not fully with my task of taking down my artwork. I was distracted. Suddenly, I kicked something. I looked down, and this is what I saw:

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. That little guy just radiated the greatest joy!

I looked up the meaning, and this is some of what I found:”The Laughing Buddha symbol is based on the story of a Buddhist monk who lived in the 10th century China. He was a bit too eccentric for a monk, but his heart was loving and open, and in time he came to be loved by many. He is considered a reincarnation of Gautama Buddha (the historical Buddha); and added the often missing energy of light heartedness, joy and laughter to everyday life.”

And also describing what it means to find a laughing Buddha, “when found, it brings the best of luck and gives new life”

Much love and many blessings to you and yours,


The unseen process between the question and the answer

An acquaintance messaged me today asking in the most genuine of manners, how I am doing. I don’t know her well, so despite the tug I felt to bear my heart and soul, my response was polite. I safely and lightly danced around the question in order to avoid troding directly upon the depth which her inquiry had stirred up.

It’s a curious thing that I would rather write an honest answer to the question in my blog, and to people I don’t know, rather than people I do. I wonder what that says about me, really? Am I just participating in an unspoken but pervasive societal rule, assuming that nobody really wants the true answer to the question “How are you?”
How often do I truly want the answer? All the time I want to tell myself. Sometimes I don’t have the bandwidth or the time for the real answer, it’s true, though often, I do. I want a true answer in response to my inquiry of others’ well-being. So why is it that when I have a true, deep answer to give, it feels like such an imposition to give in all that depth?

And so, I turn to this blog, to say what I really wanted to say (and may still send as an amendment)…

At the bottom of it all, I am okay. We are living in quite a paradox, or at least I am. Perhaps it is not fair of me to lump the grand ‘we’ in with my solitary observations. With every thought, action and deed, I am willing myself to just accept the unknown with grace, and a dash of trust – in order to avoid slipping off the sharp cliff and into despair. There is much melancholy within and all around – and yet, so. much. beauty.
The roses in my neighbor’s garden are blooming with such a ferocious strength and in such great numbers, that when the wind is just right, their scent wafts into my open window. The branches from their mulberry tree lean over into my yard and drop their fruits at my door. When I pause long enough to see these gifts of unexpected beauty, the melancholy lifts like a marine layer in the afternoon. It will be back, though.

I have been making art as often as I can, though not as often as I would like. My deepest satisfaction has been coming from painting mandalas with oil paints – deeply meditative, pressureless acts of devotion, focus and simplicity. Pressureless because they will not be for sale or exhibition, so the inner critic takes a vacation. I must say, it is immensely enjoyable to create without a drill sergeant hurling insults at me. My lines are more precise, the time passes quickly, and there is a deep sense of satisfaction at a day well spent. These paintings are not meant for the world, they are a simply conversation between my heart and the divine, whomever that may be. Perhaps that is why the critic is not interested? Is the critic only present as a representative to my ego when there is the question of reputation at hand? I wonder how I might silence the critic more often as I approach my artwork?

I took a long walk early this morning; 5,600 more steps than I did yesterday, which sounds like a lot, but I only took 65 steps yesterday according to my phone. Between my gym being down (obviously), and confusion as to what outdoor activities were allowed, I have been moving my body somewhere between not nearly enough and not at all. Which may also explain the pervasive melancholy. On my walk today, I spotted a little library of books, a well-fed but skittish coyote, a cooing morning dove, a tiny starling, 3 squirrels darting up and down the trees, a bamboo forest with its own cooler climate, and 3 humans. It’s funny to me that even in a large city like LA, there’s still a small-town vibe in the early morning hours, a sense of community as we pass each other and nod good morning from our mutually safe distances.

I’ve noticed a new favorite word popping up for me lately: agency.
Agency as in: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power
(thank you Miriam-Webster).
It’s no wonder, really, that the word would get my attention the last few days, as it is the vital ingredient I have been most lacking since the quarantine began. In waking up early today and taking that walk, I found a sense of agency once more. And now that I have properly reflected on the original question, I can answer you honestly…

I am well. Thank you for asking. How are you?

Acceptance and Gardeners

I live in a guest house in a green part of Los Angeles, which I rent from a wonderful doctor. She owns this large property (which has a second guest house on it, in addition to her house and mine), and employs gardeners who come every Sunday. They seem to be nice, gentle men, and I have no choice but to trust them.

Lately on Sundays, I keep forgetting that they are coming – noticing only when the leaf blower comes far too close to my open front door, blowing gas fumes and debris through the screen into my home. I honestly wish they would stop using the leaf blower on my porch, and have asked, but with the language barrier, I don’t think they understood. So, there is nothing to be done about that, really. Just keep the door closed.

There are wild, untamed morning glory vines growing all over my house. Some of them I have trained to climb the walls, while others I have coerced into creating an archway above my door. At a glance, my garden looks untended, unloved, but nothing could be further from the truth. I treasure this garden. The lush green, the bright purple flowers, the lizards, the hummingbirds, the squirrels, my cat and I all get along harmoniously.
There is a small section of herbs which I planted 4 years ago, and marvel at their tenacity. Rosemary by the gate. Mint, growing wild and free a few feet away. Lavender, which is just now starting to flower. Oregano and thyme, which I use to cook with, and basil, which I can’t seem to keep alive, but never stop trying. I tend to these herbs as best I can, keeping them safe from the intrusive vines whose nature it is to take over everything else.

These last couple of months in isolation have been very strange. There are swaths of time where I don’t feel motivated to do anything – even the simplest of tasks seems too complex for me. It’s as if I have an allotted number of things I can accomplish on any given day, and seem to bottom out after only 4. So, then, yes, I have neglected my garden. I have neglected the herbs. I walk by them and think “I really have to cut back those vines”, but did not do it once in the last 30 days.

Yesterday was Sunday. Gardener’s day. I woke up in a decent mood, and remembered to keep my door closed. Once they were long gone, I stepped outside into the warm, afternoon light. I walked down from the porch and looked around. It was untouched – the morning glories were wild and free as ever, the weeds still jetted up a good 5 inches. I think to myself that they must have had their hands full with the rest of the property, and spared my house. Which was a kind of relief, actually. I appreciate that she employs them, but they never seem to care for my garden the way I would like. I took a deep breath, mentally going over my plans for the day and decided that today was the day to finally trim those vines near the herbs.

But what I saw on the other side of the gate, in my herb garden, broke my heart a little bit.


Only dirt. Where once, only hours earlier, there were lush green herbs, now only dirt. They cut down and removed my rosemary. They dug up my mint, my oregano and my thyme. The lavender was spared, as was the jasmine and the baby olive tree. The basil was gone. The trees were pruned back a painful distance. My Eden was disrupted. No, it was robbed. I stood looking in disbelief. It was the loss of the mint and rosemary that hurt the most.

Why would they pull up all of my perfectly good herbs? Sure, there were a ton of vines circling them, but couldn’t they be spared? It hit me so hard, this loss. It was a symbol of my own powerlessnes, my inability to meaningfully shape my life right now during this pandemic. I wanted the relief of tears, but held myself together. Lost herbs are not a thing to cry over, Liz.

What could I do? My landlady is a doctor, and the last thing she needs right now as she works endless shifts helping people is her needy tenant complaining about poor gardening choices. As for the gardeners, I don’t know how to reach them, and what would I say? There is nothing to be done. Truly. Nothing to be done, except to accept what has happened. Accept the loss. Accept that we are not in control. I am not in control.

I see the parallel in so many areas of my own life. There is a long-time situation on my mind which I just cannot seem to accept and move on from – still very much in bargaining phase of my grief there it seems. But in that situation, in the powerlessness that is living in the time of Covid, as well as this loss of herbs, there is nothing to be done short of acceptance.

I cannot save what has been uprooted, I can only plant new seeds.

At Blackwater Pond

Today is Friday, April 3.
I looked at my calendar this morning. Saturday, March 14 was my last day in my studio shoppe before closing for the pandemic. I was slightly ahead of the curve, having taken it upon myself to do the responsible thing by closing, only days before Los Angeles Mayor  Garcetti decreed that all non-essential businesses close. That means it’s *only* been 3 weeks. Three long, strange weeks. Three weeks of painting, crying, sleeping, working… Three weeks of isolation. Three weeks at home. How can three weeks simultaneously seem like such a long a time and so short a time? That first week barely counts as isolation, for even during that time, I still saw a few people, even had a lovely day with my ex, as he helped me pack up the shoppe so I could continue working from home. Which means the isolation didn’t really start for me until Saturday, the 21st – so it’s really only been two weeks. That’s even worse. Two weeks? I thought it had been an eternity!

Like everyone I know, I have emotionally responded to the situation with varying degrees of fear, panic and grace. Some days I walk around my house as if in a dream, tears streaming down my face, wondering if this is real. Other days I am emotionally resilient (like today), and even laugh genuinely.

I took my morning coffee on the porch today. The hummingbirds were drinking the nectar I made for them yesterday, fighting each other off for their share of the bounty. The squirrel was sneaking down from the big tree to eat the baby olives sprouting from the little olive tree, which I planted upon returning from Greece. Parrots screeched in the sky, and my big black cat sat purring on my lap. I noticed how tall the weeds had grown, and thought about pulling them. In the luxury of this moment with the natural world, and without warning, I suddenly had the sense that all was well.

Now, I know that all is not well.
I know that this is a scary time, and those on the frontlines are taking incredible risks just to keep people alive and society from crumbling. I am beyond grateful for every single person and their contribution (whether they are doctors, nurses, store clerks, postal workers, county employees, and so on). Please don’t think that I am sugar coating any of this. An actual pandemic is upon us, and we are all frightened. However, in my heart of hearts, I truly believe we are all doing the best we can with the tools and resources available to us. That includes “bad” decisions and behavior, including those with good intentions.

In my reverie this morning, I started to feel guilty that I could feel “good” in a serious situation like this. But parallel to that rising guilt, it occured to me that maybe I could try and experience the moment of peace without any guilt. Perhaps I could grant myself a respite from the 24/7 resilient fear mind, and just be. You know, like a human BEing. Maybe I could appreciate the fact that I have real time at home for the first time in at least seven years. Maybe I could learn to sit in the quiet and the uncertainty, much like I have learned to sit in my meditation practice, (despite desperately wanting to move from the cushion, even after decades of practice). Maybe I could be with the sadness, the fear, the anxiety, as much as I could be with the peace, the quiet, the solitude. All the feelings come and go – I may be feeling a moment of grace now, but that’s not to say that in 15 minutes I won’t begin to panic, or cry once more. And that maybe that’s all okay.

As I sat thinking on these things, I noticed a longing within. A longing for true conversation. Not the basic text messages I have been getting (and sending). You know the ones… “Hi. Thinking of you. How’re you holding up?” Those have their place, and I truly appreciate them. But oh, how I long to go deeper, not wider. Text is not the platform for that. Nor is video chat, or even phone calls really – at least not for what I’m craving. I thought how lovely it would be to write a long, spiraling, thoughtful email to someone; someone who would also write back at length, where we could engage in true correspondence.

Sadly, the only people I could think of who would be both game and enjoyable to correspond with have far too much emotional baggage attached. As bittersweet a realisation as that is, I cannot engage in any emotional baggage right now. It is clear to me where the limits lie – and revisiting old ties, even for the sake of good conversation, are not on the table. That is when I remembered about this blog, dormant for far too long. And I decided that maybe this is when blogs are for.

I will endeavour to blog as often as I am able, or as often as I have something to say. In the meantime, I would like to leave you this morning with a lovely poem written by the one and only Mary Oliver.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

Mary Oliver
(from New and Selected Poems Volume One)

A love letter to 2019

I began the year in an embrace with the man I loved, surrounded by friends and laughter. If I can will myself to leave the house tonight, I will end the same year once again surrounded by friends and laughter, but doubtful there will be an embrace.

This is the part in the story where I expected to begin to cry. As a single woman, I hate this ‘holiday’ more than Valentine’s Day. But I’m not crying. In a moment of clarity, I realize there were so many wonderful things that 2019 brought to me on a personal level that I want to say thank you instead.

You were a rollercoaster, 2019. And a strange one at that. You were a ride with more loops than I have fingers, a stalled train car at the top of one of the loops, and quite a few breakdowns along the way. But that isn’t all; there were also the exhilarating moments – coasting downhill without a care in the world, and there was the time to chat as we waited in line for the next adventure.

There were magnificent trips – one to Snoqualmie Falls, the site of my beloved Twin Peaks, and not one, but two trips to Europe (Paris with my daughter and a couple of months later to Greece and Italy with my then-boyfriend). There were multiple opportunities to sit with one of my favorite spiritual teachers and learn from her. There was the discovery of acupuncture as a way to heal depression, and countless glasses of wine with the women I have known and laughed with for more than half of my life.

2019 was a year where I saw so many of my heros perform, that it makes me dizzy to recall it. Most notable were my heroine Amanda Fucking Palmer perform for 4 incredible hours, and my imaginary boyfriend Nick Cave – both sitting alone at their pianos bearing their innermost thoughts to auditoriums full of strangers. There was Yann Tiersen (also at his piano), Bauhaus, the Phantom of the Opera, and others I know I am forgetting. There were also the illuminating lectures of Michael Meade and later, Sam Harris.

There was the day I walked my Mom down the aisle as she married the love of her life, and later that evening where I authentically connected with my family for the first time ever. There was my daughter’s graduation with honors from High School, and the heartbreak of then driving her 5 hours away to college. There was also the low point, the breakup of a 2 year relationship which didn’t come as a surprise, but ripped my heart into shreds nonetheless.

There was the delightful premiere of Good Omens (a show based on a book I have loved for decades), and there was The Starless Sea. There were hundreds of days of working in my shoppe, selling my art and meeting lots of people who enjoy my work. There were more than a dozen ArtWalks, and one of the best sales years in my career thanks to my Tarot, the Dreamkeepers Tarot. And oh yeah! I, with my Tarot deck and book, were signed on by a publisher!

Quite a ride, 2019. Quite a ride.
In 2020, I intend to let The Art Life take center stage once again, and I look forward to falling madly, mutually in love with someone wonderful.



An Anniversary That Falls Like a Ripened Fruit

Two years ago today I went on the perfect first date.
It was a simple evening now that I think about it, but still, perfection. We spent more hours than I can accurately recall at the Griffith Observatory; looking at the stars, talking about Galileo, philosophy, the universe, exploring the grounds and just really enjoying each other’s company. He was so smart, so charming (in an endearingly awkward way), and kind. The conversation flowed effortlessly, and it tickled my mind in a way that was as satisfying as a drink of cool water after an intense run.

I remember that I could feel myself starting to fall, but held my breath, holding on fast to the proverbial edge, for who needs to fall in love on the first date? My memory of that night tapers off after our dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, where the food was good, but the conversation was better – that I remember. It was an evening full of so much fun, connection and great conversation – it had been years since I experienced a first date quite so lovely as that.

Clearly something sparked, as we spent the last 2 years continuing to do all of those things together; conversing, wondering, wandering, eating, traveling, loving.

We broke up 2 months ago. My heart is still aching, and the tears are still falling, but with less frequency. I am healing. My heart is healing. I have missed him so very much, and there’s nothing to be done with that. Nowhere to put that. So, why am I recounting this here and now? Because, it began 2 years ago today. I think anniversaries live in our psyches in ways that we don’t fully understand, but the memories ripen and fall on certain days. Today is one of those days.

I am also writing this today because for whatever reason, in the time we were together, he chose to keep our relationship off social media. Our friends and family knew, but with me being an expressive person by nature, having to keep it quiet grew tiresome and hurtful.
And so, I am writing this entry today for me.
For my heart.
We had this beautiful thing.
We had this incredible connection.
For two years he was my best friend and most treasured companion.
Our time together happened. It mattered.
And I honor it.

One of my favorite memories of our time together happened just a couple of months ago over the summer when we were in Europe, around the mid-point in our 16 day trip. We were spending the day in Vatican City, climbing to the top of St. Peter’s, visiting the incredible art museum, and had stopped for lunch at the museum cafe. We were both in good spirits, talking, laughing, eating. Nothing special was happening, we were just both open and relaxed, and enjoying the moment. I wish I could bottle that feeling and drink from it regularly, it was that good. I just remember the looking across the table at him, and before I could catch the words, they fell out. I said, “I am so happy right now.”

And I was happy. Deeply happy.

Now, this is kind of a feat for me. First off, I have a pretty serious predisposition to depression and melancholia. I treat it with medication, meditation, and acupuncture, but still struggle with it regularly it seems. Because of this, moments of true happiness, (or dare I say bliss), are rare and absolutely noteworthy.
Also, I’m not catholic. (In fact, I avoid organized religion at all costs) so why this huge feeling took place in Vatican City is beyond me. But it did.

The love I held for him, combined with the joy of being on this dream vacation together (Athens, Santorini, Rome and Venice!)… sharing so many sights and sounds and tastes caught up with me in that moment. I have rarely been happier than I was right then.

I had no idea that just 6 weeks after that blissful moment we would reach an impasse  and end our relationship. Looking back I see I held my breath for two years, not allowing myself to fully fall in love with him – and when I finally (accidentally) did, I understood why I held it so long.

Still, I have no regrets. I am so glad I was able to spend two years with a beautiful man, who has a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind. I know that in the end I loved him completely, to the best of my ability, and how wonderful that after all I have been through in this life, I can still love so deeply.

My heart thanks you for reading and witnessing.



On Cravings and Choice

Last weekend I went out to dinner to a fabulous new Mexican restaurant near a friend’s house, and all I wanted was machaca tacos. So much so that I could almost taste the spices in my mind. Which was weird, because I’ve been vegetarian for many years and vegan for the last year and a half. Don’t worry – this isn’t about pushing my dietary choices on you, the backstory is important because this craving was really strange! Was my body in need of iron? Why suddenly the intense need for red meat? I labored over my choice. Investigated my desires. Took a deep breath and defiantly thought, “I deserve to have what I want. If I want meat, I’m going to order meat!” When faced with the option by the waiter, however, I couldn’t actually bring myself to order meat. Much as I craved the taste, I don’t actually want to eat meat. Feeling defeated on one level, I ordered the vegan-friendly veggie fajita (which was delicious, btw) and called it a day.

Tonight I felt fed up with the usual restaurants near my studio shoppe, and set out on an adventure looking for new place to eat. Eventually, I stumbled upon a tiny little Mexican joint which was new to me. Something told me to check them out…turns out they had Beyond meat on the menu, which was quite the delightful surprise! I have not had a beyond taco yet, but the burgers are good, so this had to be good! I couldn’t decide between the vegan nachos and the vegan taco, but went with the beyond taco. Wouldn’t you know it, but it tasted exactly like machaca! I think I actually squealed in joy with my first bite. Full disclaimer: I will say that it’s been so long I may not remember what machaca actually tastes like, but this was cooked in very similar spices and my week-long craving was completely satiated!

Walking back to work, I thought about desires, wants and satiation. I really wanted that machaca last weekend. Like, really wanted it – but didn’t indulge because it went against my own preferences. In making the choice not to have it, I also let the desire go. I even completely forgot about it, to tell you the truth – only to have it suddenly come to me in a way that was in complete alignment with my values. (and the taco was only four bucks to boot!)

My point is, we all have things we want… maybe even desperately want. The craving is strong, and sometimes it’s so strong that we make choices which go against the grain of who we are just so we can scratch some itch. But what is the payoff there? Temporary relief, sure, but at what price?

There are things I really desire right now, but for various reasons, am not actually aligned with, and therefore are not part of my life experience. Truth be told, I’ve wasted far too much time lamenting these lacks. Today, though, my silly, delicious, not-machacha taco reminded me of something really valuable. It is vitally important to let go of what is not working, let go of what is not in alignment, let go of who or what is not choosing you – in order to receive what is truly nourishing. It’s almost as if once you let go of a non-productive desire, the subconscious can go about solving that particular riddle, and scratch the itch in a way which is deeply satisfying.

I know what you’re thinking. There is nothing more infuriating than the instruction to “let go”. We don’t know how to let go. We are not well versed in accepting the way things are, and we don’t know how to say goodbye, for that matter. But it is something we truly must learn to do if we are to have what we really want, and have what will be satisfying on multiple levels.

So, with faith and conviction…let go.

The Comfort of Books

I have more books than places to reasonably store them. I have piles next to my bed, on the coffee table, on the floor. There are piles next to the piano, on top of the piano, and the bookshelves themselves are at such great capacity that they seem to be leaning against one another for mutual support.

I can’t put my finger on just what it is about books. Is it the romance of the page, the well aligned typeface, the quality paperback size that fits oh so uncomfortably perfect in the palm of your hand? I am not a fan of hardcover books (though I read many of them), for they are far too cumbersome to carry with me as I travel on the train and read. The mass market size books seem too temporary in size to be taken seriously. No. I love a good quality paperback size book; it has substance and size, but not too much weight. Its presence alone says that it will provide companionship on the road which you travel, and will not weigh you down.

Today I found myself hungry for yet even more words, and so to the bookstore I went – looking of course, for nothing in particular, yet I knew it the moment I found it. It was in an unsuspecting volume of collected essays by Mary Oliver where I discovered today’s delight.

“And whoever thinks these are wordy, breathy words I am writing down is kind. Writing is neither vibrant life nor docile artifact but a text that would put all its money on the hope of suggestion. Come with me into the field of sunflowers is a better line than anything you will find here, and the sunflowers themselves far more wonderful than any words about them.” (excerpt from Upstream)

Is that what it is about books then? The hope of suggestion? Reading about love is not quite as delicious an experience as having love, (as the sunflower is to the words describing it) but when the experience of love is out of reach, is reading of it and feeling the hope of it not a satisfactory substitute?


On Delight (Day One)

I just stumbled upon Ross Gay’s book, “The Book of Delights”, and am here to report that it is indeed a delightful little book. In fact, for what it’s worth, I highly recommend you head to your nearest indie bookstore and buy it right now, or head to the library and borrow it.

It was the description I first found intriguing, wherein the author describes how in counting the delights every day, he actually felt more delight in his life. “Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight.”

Intrigued by that statement, I remembered the year I photoblogged every single day – (all the way back in 2010). When I look back on that time, I feel a sense of expansiveness, joy, and attention to detail. In writing my daily blogs (which were not journals, they were intended to be shared) I became a much more engaged witness to my own life. And it’s true – that time was filled with delight! Who knew?! And so I have become inspired to take up the project once more. I would love to do a post a day for an entire year, but can I promise that? I don’t think I could promise a delight every day, but I will certainly be honest. It occurs to me that perhaps if I am honest, there is always something, if not many somethings, to delight in. Let us begin and see what happens.

Day 1.
December 2, 2019

I am sick in bed today. For 5 days I pressed on and fought the urge to rest; insisting to myself that I was not ill. Believing instead that this intruder upon my good health could be fought off with supplements, vitamins, and daytime cold medicine; but of course, I was wrong. My body just needed the rest. And so here we are – a little stir crazy, a bit fatigued and foggy headed, but in strangely good spirits. I wonder if perhaps good spirits are what naturally arise when one ceases to argue with what is, and simply accepts it.

I think it was Henry Rollins who said, “It’s hard when someone you know becomes someone you knew.” For the last two months I have been nursing a broken heart. We had nearly 2 years together, so the least I could do was give my sad heart the proper mourning time. However, I’m not sure did, for in this time of healing, I doubled and tripled my activity. Making plans for every night of the week, my tactic was to stay busy, a step ahead of the pain it would seem. The sadness found me anyway, and usually in the most inopportune moments. Plus, here I am now, missing a day of work (a luxury the self employed can rarely afford), sick in bed with the flu. All because I couldn’t stop running from my feelings? Or was it the snotty child who sneezed on the train last week who bestowed this gift upon me? Does it even matter? For here we are, and my original intention was to look for delight, not the rough edges. How easy it is to focus on that which hurts. What a challenge then, to point oneself towards delight.

It is after 4pm now, and twenty minutes of daylight remains in this day. I feel as if I have wasted today, accomplished nothing, because, well, I have accomplished nothing except to rest and an absurd amount of time to write this first entry. Earlier this morning, I somehow summoned the energy to make a large cauldron, if you will, of homemade chai. The entirety of which is still sitting on the stove, covered, because I fell asleep for nap #2 before it was ready to drink.

(She steps away and heats up a cups worth on the stove)

Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, anise, pepper, black tea, all mixed with rose water and honey, topped with frothy almond milk – it is delight in a cup, the sweetness and spiciness of life distilled.

Of course, in my condition with full blown flu symptoms, I can’t actually taste it. But, since I know how chai is supposed to taste, I imagine. Expectations are superimposed on the experience – the mind and taste buds argue. Neither is particularly pleased, but while they fight it out, I notice something else. There is a pleasant warmth inside as I drink the tea, and the chills I have been feeling (and unsuccessfully tending to) for days are finally smoothed into comfort from the inside out.

There it is!

Not in what I was expecting, (the taste), but delight in what is actually occurring (the comfort).

…And we loop back to where I began in this writing – on the good spirits which arise when one accepts that which is actually occuring. Cheers.

The Sense of Touch

It’s morning. Another day is here. What will we do with it? Will it count?

The sky outside is grey. There is a chill in the air and a light drizzle outside. I only know about the drizzle because I let the cat out and he came back inside almost immediately with a light spray on his coat; little tiny beads of water that were so small in size, they only felt wet when touched collectively, not individually.

This big black cat on my lap begs for my attention. He claws at my typing hands, begging for them to tap away on him, not this keyboard. Touch is a powerful thing, a beautiful thing, a necessary thing for all living creatures. I pause to connect with this beautiful creature, my friend.
 He purrs.

Oh, touch – yes, that is why I sat down to write this. It’s strange maybe, but I didn’t know exactly why I had the impulse to write until now. It has been so long since I shared with you.

I had a moment in my shoppe yesterday. Just signed a lease on a new art studio, and was feeling the triumph of the art path reforming. Considering what needed to be moved, and what would stay, I saw the tiny holes in my shoppe wall, holes from old nails. Holes that were created from hanging artwork and measuring badly. Holes that need spackle and paint, but there is no time to do such an activity, so they sit open and gaping. I think it’s okay, doubtful anyone notices. I know I hadn’t.

The shoppe and the bookstore were both quiet in that moment. I felt alone, but not lonely. It was a profound moment of solitude. The kind of moment where it is most delicious to be alone, where the mental chatter of the inner critic ceases, and in its absence all the senses awaken. In that moment of true solitude, the realization that you are alive enters. I felt alive and fully in my body – a rare moment of connectivity.

Gazing at the holes so in need of repair, I gently touched them in this full presence with the tips of my fingers. The drywall crumbled away. I saw the stripes, and remembered painting them. I ran my fingers across those stripes and thought about when my shoppe was just a dream, and those stripes the anchor in my mind. I thought about all the art, my art, those walls had held over the last 6 years. Over a hundred works of art maybe, have been hung and rehung in that time. Not just on that one wall, but in that room. Over a hundred works of my art, the fruits of my labor, the souvenirs of my journeys, the gifts of solitude.

I felt such appreciation for those walls that have held me and my art. Appreciation for the hearts touched, for the conversations sparked, for the income and the support. Running my hand across that small space of wall, I felt, in a very palpable and real way, supported. It was a new feeling. I know there is support for my art and what I do from loved ones and collectors, but I don’t often feel that support. Most of the time I feel crushingly alone. But in the tangible evidence of the wall, I felt support. I knew it. I saw it for both symbol and matter; a structure of support that has held me and allowed me to grow into someone I am (sometimes) proud to be.

I was utterly lost in my moment of reverie; savoring the memories, looking back on a difficult journey with love and appreciation. Mind you, the shoppe was open to the public during this time, and as it were, someone came in. I don’t know how long they were there, but suddenly I felt the sharp edge of reality – and in an instant, turned around to see a man standing there watching me. I yelped, startled, then laughed. He laughed too.
“What are you looking at?” He asked me.
I told him. I told him the whole beautiful thing, through embarrassed giggles.
He was kind and sympathetic. He moved to the wall to feel it himself.
As he touched it, he asked me, “And what are you feeling?”
“Gratitude”, I said. “The deepest kind of gratitude.”

He smiled and introduced himself as the owner of a business in the neighborhood. He might not have ever touched the wall of his establishment in the way I was doing, but in his introduction to me as a business owner, and in the light in his eyes, I knew he understood. And even though my cheeks burned bright with embarrassment – I felt seen.

Later that evening, I went outside and was chatting with a neighbor. The man walked up again, he knew my friend. We both laughed about the moment we shared, like old friends with an inside joke. (It occurs to me that the nature of an inside joke is that you have to go inside to create one. But I digress…)
He asked my friend if he knew me.
“Yes, of course” he said. And the man nodded and said with certainty, “well, she’s very special” and walked away.

I’ve been thinking about this interaction ever since. We all want to be seen, but are so afraid of it. I myself live my life in bursts of being seen. Retreating to the studio to make something all alone, delving deeply into the work and myself. Bringing back the art I created – a souvenir from the trip I took, I am then seen (or the work is). Only to retreat once again, deeper into myself.

I once read that in order to be an artist one has to learn to be alone in many ways. This is true, in my experience, and yet maybe not entirely true. Yes, one need be alone to dive in and create with focus and intention, but to live that way is crushing in its aloneness. I am seeking the balance between it all. The sublime moments of solitude, the divine revelations that come of it, and coming back to the world to find the reassuring caress of the beloved’s touch.