Good morning! Welcome to "Morning Musings".

Musings: to meditate, think, contemplate, deliberate, ponder, reflect, ruminate, reverie, daydream, introspection, dream, preoccupation, brood, cogitate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Take Joy

Yesterday was the 97th anniversary of author/illustrator Tasha Tudor's (1915-2008) birth.
Many of her devotees commemorated the day by getting together for tea--one of her favorite activities, taking tea each afternoon.  Tasha had many activities besides illustrating books, such as, gardening, caring for her many animals (Corgi's, cats, goats, various kinds of birds, and chickens in her later years, and in her early years, besides the above, she had cows, sheep, ducks, geese, and a pet crow).  Also in her earlier years she cared for her four children, made and performed marionettes, made dolls for her 4:1 scale doll house, spun and weaved, made candles and soap, cooked and canned, and much more.  

I celebrated by attending the pilot Chapter of the newly formed Tasha Tudor Museum Society.  The Museum's #1 mission is "To provide inspiration to the public by immersing them in the world created by author, illustrator and early American lifestyle icon, Tasha Tudor."  Among the attendees was Tasha's former editor, Ann Beneduce.  We enjoyed hearing about their friendship along with the stories the other attendees could relate about meeting Tasha.  Time and again her endless energy was mentioned, her eagerness to share her love of Corgis and gardening, and anything else she might have had in common with you.  

The Chapter explored ways in which Tasha Tudor's memory could be kept alive through her books and the promotion of her lifestyle, especially for the younger generation.  For me it was her courage to be herself and to go after the kind of life she desired.   I wrote about this in an earlier post.  We also talked about her joy for life. She never hurried and was deliberate in her speech and actions.  She seemed to savor every moment of living.  In her book "Take Joy", which is dedicated to Ann Beneduce, the first page is a letter by Giovanni Giocondo, dated 1513, in which he writes, "The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.  Take Joy."

I think it was this mindset that allowed her to do all that she did.  I daresay we would all have her boundless energy, if we were able to see life through this "lense" of Joy that she possessed.  For one thing we would never be depressed, which is often behind a lack of energy.  We would be our most creative because we'd "see" things that others pass by.  We would be curious and seek to learn new things because we'd be more aware of the possibilities.  In short, to Take Joy would be taking life by the horns and wringing every last drop of good out of it.

So, Tasha, I wish to thank you for the beauty you brought into this world through your lovely illustrations and for the Joy you shared with us through your example.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roles We Play

Today's post is by, Paul Niebanch, 1981, from Daily Readings from Quaker Writings Ancient and Modern:

All of us have occasion to fear the unknown.  The thought of departing from known habits and rewards is so threatening that we cling to them, even when they cause pain.  At least they are familiar....The unknown contains risk, possible loss, maybe even death. 

But somewhere in us a voice whispers, "Go."  It says that there is a fuller calling for us, that there is much to be gained by venturing forth.  It says that there are resources within ourselves that we have ignored.  It says that external validations are empty unless they are responses to what we actually are, rather than to the roles we carefully play.

Playing these roles is hard work.  We become known for the traits that we have cultivated thus far in our lives:  our punctuality, perhaps or our productivity, or our generosity, or even our spirituality.  But what might have started out as genuine impulses now feel like burdens, mere reputations to maintain...We have sacrificed our inner urges in order to make ourselves acceptable to others.  Like a child, we feel that if we do not do certain things, "They won't like us anymore...."

The underlying fear is the fear of the unknown within ourselves.  What if there is no reservoir of strength to call upon?  What if there is nothing there?  Or what if we have to confront those things that we have successfully suppressed from our consciousness for so long?......

As we put aside the encumbrances and see them for what they are, we will see what was there, unnoticed and untapped, all along....Our commitment is to notice the stirrings within ourselves and to let them carry us to new levels of expression and service.

Friday, August 10, 2012

To Be An Artist

"You will have to see like a true artist--with your heart." 

This statement was said in the movie A Dog of Flanders to the little boy, Nello, who wanted to become a great artist like Peter Paul Rubens.  

When I was nine I took art lessons from an eccentric old lady who lived down the street from the house we'd just moved into in Greenwood, Mississippi.  She must have had a dozen cats.  Her house was dark and smelled of oil paint and cat litter box.  The yard unkempt.  If you can imagine the type of house in movies that kids ran past this was it.  I have no recollection now if I requested these lessons or whether my mother had met the woman that summer and thought it would be something for me to do.  The only thing I remember painting was a portrait of a man's head and face.  I can still remember his beady little eyes, misshapen mouth and nose, and no ears to speak of.  I was embarrassed to show it and came away discouraged.  I see this experience as the beginning of my desire to be an artist.

I again attempted drawing lessons as an adult on several occasions.  The only success I had was when the assignment was to copy the teacher's drawing.  That I could do.  But when I had to draw from real life, I just could not get the shapes and lines right.  

My only success was in 1997 when I got the idea to write children's stories about my cat, Poetry, and her best friends, Gabriel the Snowman and Sandy the Dog.  I was so into writing these stories that the characters "appeared" in my mind's eye and I just had to get them down on paper.  This was the result...


They are not life-like (remember, I can't draw real-life objects), but they represent the characters in my head--or more accurately, in my heart.  When I sent them to a publisher along with my stories, I received a very nice rejection letter for the stories but they added they'd like to see more of my art work.  Unfortunately, that was the extent of what I'd done and would do.

Susan Branch is one such artist who sees with her heart as she paints from her watercolor palette....

Click here to read her story.  Her fans have gotten to know her through her website and blog and we can all attest to her generous .   Her art is merely an extension of her.

Loreena McKennitt is another artist, in the field of music, who expresses her heart in her art.  You are listening to her music right now.  

These two women whom I admire attest to the truth that if you are to do great art you must see with your heart for that is where your truth lies.  It is only from your heart that you can share who you really are--and that will always be beautiful if your heart is full of love for life.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dance of Life

"The Boyhood of Raleigh" by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870

In the above painting a seafarer is telling the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother the story of what happened at sea.  Before books, radio, and movies/TV we had to rely on hand-me-down stories like depicted above for our stories.  Stories are important.

It is why I keep a journal and volumes of photo albums.  They tell the story of my life.  Like this photo...
...which tells the story of my first dog, Tuffy, who I was too young to remember.  It looks as though I really loved him--I'm petting him at both ends!

I'm in the process of collecting my childhood memorabilia so I can write my childhood story.  I want to leave it for my children and my children's children so they will know how they came to be in one small part.  So far it is just a collection of events and people, but I want it to tell a story--my story.  So I'm letting it all stew for awhile to see what rises to the surface.  

The elements of a story are characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution.  I already have my characters, setting, and conflicts for my story.  As the writer I need to uncover the plot and the resolution.  Do our lives have plots?  And are the conflicts ever resolved?   I'm hoping by writing my childhood memoir I'll discover the answers to these questions.

If I were to choose a dance for each chapter of my life they'd be the Bunny Hop for my childhood, Quadrille for my young married adult, and the Twist for motherhood.  

I'm calling this last chapter in my life the last Waltz.  It is a fitting dance because I still have my partner and together we will glide around the ballroom holding each other as we negotiate the turns that lay ahead of us.  

Ah, that life would be so simple for each of us--the  steps memorized and performed accordingly.  No, I think Freestyle is probably more like what really happens in our dance of life.  In fact, the Freestyle link lists these seven tips for how to dance freestyle:  

1.  Get comfortable with yourself.
2.  Move your body with the music.
3.  Get to know the song if you don't already.
4.  Put together a few moves.
5.  Make big transitions during the dance.
6.  Have inspiration.
7.  Have fun with it.

It sounds like a pretty good list for life, too.