Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Joint Efforts

Detail of box drawing...look at that fig tree on the right.  Can you see it?
Being creative is an interesting process.
It has taken a long time for me to see and accept

that creativity is an essential part of 

living as a human.

Creating connects me with the Creator.

Creating opens my heart and lets in the light.
Creating is hard, sweat-inducing work
that leads me down a path with no discernible
light at the end.
I don't know were I'm going when I'm creating.
I just know there will be something new if I go down the path.

I went about 2 decades without being creative.
I told myself that I was too busy
but I realize now that
 I was unable and unwilling to be vulnerable
to the possibility of what could be.

there's a crucial thing that I understand now
that I didn't really get then....
I can't create if I can't be vulnerable.
To try and create without vulnerability is
just manufacturing or treading water.
Creation requires me to open up
to accept the possibility...
the inevitability...
that I will
break open
to bring something new into being.

detail of box planting....tomatoes and basil and eggplants and beans....

In the past few years
my creativity has returned.
At first it was fits and starts.
Some days it is a tidal wave or a tsunami of ideas, acts and attempts.
Some days it's a steady hum in the back of my mind.
I have invited it to live with me
and it comes and goes as it pleases.

Most of my creative outlets are for myself.
I sell some of them locally or online.
I give some of them as gifts.
I like best the creative outputs that I can use 
and incorporate into my day.
Whether it's a painting or a piece of jewelry or
even a meal.
It's part of who I am-a creator.
Just like all humans.

So pretty...Pad Thai I made recently for my growing (and starving son)

I've always been good at creating with plants.
You can see on this blog the posts where I'm comfortable sharing
or teaching about how to have a palette
using plant material.
Until recently...
I've never really tried to create an idea
or an outline for someone 
else to implement.
All of my creations with plants
were for me.
My plans and ideas
were mostly in my head.
The loudest critics
and opinions
were mine and (usually) mine alone.
Recently I've let my spouse into the creative space
when we're creating gardens.
That was hard.
The results of hard work were the church gardens 
that we've worked on and grown over the past year.
(You can read more about them here here and here).
The results of that collaboration were also...
A completely successful collaboration!
Who knew?
It was a new experience for me for sure.
Welcome Bed at House of Hope in the dead of winter is lifting pansy at a time.

Last summer ...a  gardening friend from our church
asked me to visualize a garden
for a hard to use space.

The space is between a parking lot and a private fence.
It is hot and muggy...
it was covered with weeds and some scraggly nandina.
My friend is an excellent gardener-she grows things all the time.
She works with our Simple Gifts Garden
and thought this might be a place to add additional 
vegetable growing potential.
But she wasn't quite sure what to do or how  to use the space best..
so she asked me.
I was so honored and excited.

My initial thoughts were...absolutely!
I know exactly what to do!

And then....
I got nervous.
Because she might not like what I suggested.
Because she might not implement it like I wanted.
Because it might not be good enough.
Because everyone is going to see it.
Because it could be a lot of work.

Expectation is the killer of creativity.

It chokes out beauty like weeds choke out flowers.
I had to sit with that for a good long time.
And then I had to get over myself.

So that I could put down on paper what was calling to me to be created.

I suggested boxes that are raised up 
so they wouldn't get run over by cars
or walked on by unsuspecting church goers.
I suggested trellises to maximize the space.
I suggested some base plantings to anchor the boxes and clear up the scraggly.
I drew a visual and suggesting vegetable rotations...
It didn't really take very long once I got to it.
Just a quick sketch and some coloring.

High level overview with a side view visual of the boxes...

And then I did the hardest thing.

I gave it away.

I very intentionally gave it to her
to do what she wanted 
with zero expectation.
It wasn't mine.
It never had been.
It was a piece of a train for someone else to hook onto.
Like all is
For us ALL.
Very rarely after art is done
is it for just one person.
I'm starting to know this. was hard.
Even though I didn't have time for one more garden.
Even though the building and overseeing of the garden
 would be intense and expensive.
It still felt like MINE.
And I knew it needed to be freed.
I released it.

Not surprisingly...when I did the hardest thing
something magical happened.
Someone else (or in this case several someone's)
could pick up the idea
and make it better.
That little idea
 serves so much more thoroughly now
more than it could have locked away in my sketch pad....
inside my little, tightly controlled sphere of influence.


An eagle scout took the project
and moved it forward.
He raised the money to build the boxes.
You can read about it here.
His troop spent a whole day putting them in.
They improved on the design
and built such beautiful
sturdy structures.

I could not have done this.

Not by myself.
Not with my friends.
Or family.
The work needed to be done here is too big.
Bigger than me.
Bigger than my ideas.
Little seeds need care and watering.
They need all the drops of rain and nutrition they get along the way.
I was a raindrop.
I did my part....and look what happens when we 
show up and do our part?
And then we let go so someone else can do their part?

Spinach and onions popping up

This just confirms for me
that creativity is part of how we connect.
To ourselves.
To each other.
I believe that I have a part to play
and it is an important part.
That I have gifts that are to be of service
but they are also needed in conjunction with other
gifts to evolve the idea
into the creation.
and cherished...
just like everyone else.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Good Strong Cuppa

Very little cups of very weak tea.....
I try not to talk specifically in public about my childhood.
Mostly I'm still trying to protect people 
but I'm also not sure how to speak of my experience 
in a way that will come out coherently.

Many things that I learned as a child 
needed to be unlearned.
But today I want to talk about something that I never ever GOT.
It's a big lesson
and a seemingly simple one.
It's somewhat embarrassing to realize
at my ripe old age
that I never learned
this gem:




I learned to avoid feelings at an early age.
Feelings are uncomfortable-particularly the ones that are 'negative'
and so I learned to push the ones away that I didn't like.
This was a particularly useful strategy as a small person
who was overwhelmed with terrible struggles and choices.
If you push the emotion away, then you don't have to think 
about how sad, scared or alone you are.
You can focus on solving the puzzle,
getting through the next few minutes or hours
without all the stress of the emotion.
WIN-WIN right?

I thought so for a long time.

It took me a long time
and quite a bit of therapy
 to realize that I was giving away the emotions
all of them
so that I wouldn't have to feel them.

Brene Brown....So wise.

The unfortunate side effect of giving away the negative stuff
was that I was also giving away the beautiful stuff.
You can't hide the bad without also hiding the good.

Another side effect:
I was so excellent at giving away the emotions
(all of them)
that I was sh*t at holding on to them.  
Feeling them was next to impossible.
My emotional depth tolerance was too shallow....
I couldn't hold the beautiful stuff any better than I could hold the scary stuff.
I was very very wimpy.

Recently, my understanding of how to more appropriately 
be in relationship 
with emotions (and myself) 
has coalesced into an analogy that has been very helpful.
I'm southern.
I think best in metaphor.

I've come to think of feelings or my potential to hold onto feelings in the form of a cup.

My previous approach to life was to give away whatever emotion 
landed in that cup as fast as possible.
Really big emotions
whether they were JOY or TERROR
couldn't even be held within the cup.
They never even landed-they were too big.
I used to let them just wash over like a fire hydrant 
would wash over a plate.

Smaller emotions could be sorted
quickly and efficiently.
Right out of the very shallow basin
and onto someone else.
Since nothing too heavy would fit
my cup didn't stretch
or grow to expand emotions.
I think I realized that it 
*could* stretch to take in more
but I was very resistant to taking that step.
What if it never went back to 'normal' size?
What if I got lost?
How could I come back to me??

My only approach when dealing with emotions 
was to displace them
before they could expand or overload.
Get rid of them ASAP!
In really hard times, I would bail them out as quickly as possible
to relieve the discomfort.
If my baler wouldn't bail fast enough
then I would just go numb.
Stop noticing the emotions
until they had passed somewhat.
Once the majority of the feelings had passed
I could come back to this serving
and tell myself that I'd handled it like a PRO.
In reality, I had checked out to avoid the handling....

To further along this pathology
I had a specific attitude relating to blessings
or gifts that came my way.
I think most people can relate to giving away 
the terrible or awful feelings.
But how could I justify giving away the beauty?
Well...I couldn't hold it so I had to rationalize it.

My thought was that if wonderful, beautiful things landed in my cup
then it was my responsibility as someone who had been blessed
to give those things to someone else
who was less blessed than me.
I thought of myself as a GIVER
I wanted to be OF SERVICE.
Way more than I wanted to be WHOLE.

What I've come to understand though
is that I can't really be a GIVER
without having a full cup.
No one really can.

So I have changed my rules
changed my story
and my understanding of what is necessary.
I still want to be OF SERVICE.
I still love GIVING.
I just have to make sure there's enough in my own cup

This is really hard for me.
My immediate instinct 
is always
may always be
to give away whatever I have.
Good or bad
that emotion needs clearing out.

Instead, I have to stop
and ask myself....
Is my cup filled to OVERFLOWING?
In a little bit of an uncomfortable
can't quite hold this delightful ocean
but don't quite want to let it go either
kind of way?
Then by all means
let the love flow.
If my cup is not filled
and I'm just passing out crumbs
then I am not in any fit state to be giving.

My cup is still pretty shallow
it doesn't take much to fill it to overflowing.
But I am changing
and it is brutiful.
I've come to think and process differently.
It's haaaaard work.
I'm not accustomed to being so
Just plan....slow?
I know my goal has changed though.
If my cup is not full to overflowing
then I need to keep filling myself up.

The goal is to over-flow
and FEEL all the FEELINGS.
The ones that lift me up
and the ones that scare the crap out of me.
It all fits in there
and it is all meant for me.
I can't have the beautiful without the brutal.
So I'm taking it all.
One strong cuppa at a time.....

Friday, March 03, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

 I'm pretty amused at how 'churched-up' I have become in the past few years.
It occurs to me that the younger version of me would have groaned and moaned
at even talking about church on a mid-week day.

There's a really big difference between my understanding of God
and the role that God has in my life now vs a few years ago.
There's a tremendous difference in my understanding of my own heart.
I have managed to land in a church community that is 
varied, expansive, and allows me to lean into what I need.
Also...I'm somewhat compulsive.
When I get something wonderful
I generally want more of that something.
This year I went to TWO Ash Wednesday services.
Yes two.
One was apparently not enough.

The first was a drive through service offered by 
the Peak community within our church
where we've been attending services recently. through.
Like a fast food restaurant.
Only without the saturated fat.
Here's a link to an article about the drive through service.

I am almost always excited and looking forward to Lent.
This year more than usual though...
I'm excited to get back to my God.
To deepen my connection to my Creator.
To remember that 

I am the thirsty beggar standing hunched 

in a deluge

and all I need to do is look up 

and open myself to the mystery

to have my thirst quenched.

That connection is all around me all the time.
I'm the one who is separated and withdrawn.
Lent is a focused time to reconnect to that LOVE.

When I arrived to receive my drive through ashes, 
I had music blaring
I was singing at the top of my lungs.
I felt incredible joy.
Several silly members of the congregation 
wearing orange vests and pretending to be traffic control 
directed me around the parking lot
I laughed out loud.
And turned off my radio.

I pulled into my 'station'
and was met by a lovely person.
She asked my name.
My name.
Let's just pause there and know that even in my car
on my busy Wednesday morning
filled with joy and coffee and Avett Brothers turned up loud
my sister paused to ask my name.
And then she gave me her name.
This sister who I just met shared her name.
And in those 60 seconds...I was reconnected.
Plugged back in.

She asked to impose ashes,
I said yes
she said the normal things that people say
on Ash Wednesday
and I went to drive on to my normal day.

Great big alligator tears
spilled onto my lap.
Overwhelmed with the spirit
I drove in silence to work.
Just like that....plugged in.
Just like that....back with my one and only Maker.
This is a LOVE story.
Just not the kind you think.
Force of nature Laura McKowen has a great message over on her media.

That evening, we also attended a service at the main campus of our church.
It was held in our traditional sanctuary.
The pastors wore formal robes.
The choir also wore formal robes.
They were hot in all that finery.
We were freezing in our spring attire.
We smiled and waved to friends we haven't seen in a few months
while we've been attending services at the Peak.
We settled in on a pew and opened our hearts to whatever message was coming our way.
The service included both pastors from our Spanish speaking congregation as well as pastors from the traditional services.
Most of the message was given in both English and Spanish.
We sang a contemporary Christian song in Spanish and in English.
We did a traditional call and response.
It was truly a beautiful service....
and it informed me in new ways about why it was so hard for me 
before to feel connected in the formal church.


These words are thrown around a lot in traditional worship services.
They are part of the message of Lent.
I'm not disputing that they can be applicable.
It just strikes me as focusing on the blister you gave yourself
when you were creating that lovely flower bed.
Instead of focusing on the beauty and the glory.

It's like we are told to focus on the pain.
Feel the burn.
Do better.
Because we are inherently awful.

Again...I'm not saying that's not true.
We are pretty awful.
I'm saying that the focus of that message does not resonate with me.
I don't know anyone who CHANGED
because they told themselves how terrible they already are.
Whether it's
 losing 10 lbs 
or earning that new promotion
 or working on that relationship
if we come to that challenge with the perspective
that we are evil, broken or just plain worthless
then we may seem to be different
but we'll still be angry, hurt and broken.
Just hiding out inside-
which is kind of the opposite of what 
we're trying to do with Lent.

When I think of what changes me-
truly changes me
and sticks-
it always starts from a place of radical acceptance
and open-heartedness.

So here are my alternative words for the traditional perspective this Lenten season


Monday, February 27, 2017


Look at these brilliant, beautiful powerhouses.  They nourish themselves with tiny seeds watered with faith and love.
This post is inspired by one of my dearest and longest held friends.
We were girls together.
And even though we have grown and moved
we have failed and succeeded
and will fail and succeed again
I will always be a cheerleader of hers.
I still feel her heart as part of mine.
She wrote a blog post that got me thinking
and in my usual way
I somehow managed to connect 
her post
with growing plants
because I really only have about 3 tracks in my brain
(growing stuff, eating stuff, healing stuff)
So sit tight and enjoy the ride
as I take the long way 'round.

Baker Creek puts out an incredible's art 

It's spring and that always brings me to seed catalogs.
I love to browse through them
plotting and dreaming of the possibilities,
how many plants I can fit in that space,
what the potential options are
for heirloom and organic,
flowers and vegetables,
tools and soil amendments.
I'm a plant geek.
I can't help it.

Plant nerd eye candy on Baker Creek's Instagram

Seeds are such amazing little packets of life.
They hold so much energy-
just waiting quietly for the spark
in this encased and self-sufficient pod.
When plants make seeds,
they usually make hundreds.
It's like they know life needs 
thousands of possibilities
in order to ride one spark to fruition.

In spite of their compact efficiency, seeds are challenging.
They have lots of raw building materials
 in that little package.
However...they need some important additives
in reasonable doses.
Add some water
and a substrate
and some light
and wallah!
You'll most likely get that little engine going.
Mostly likely.
Not always.

There's something that you have to understand about seeds.
They are time bound.
They do not have limitless potential.
Most annual seeds have a shelf life of 1-3 years.
Meaning..if you preserve them
in exactly the right humidity
and temperature
then they will still remain viable 
somewhere between 1 year and 3 years of 
when they became seeds.
That's a wide margin...and it shows you how chaotic
and variable life can be.
Sometimes a seed from 3 years ago can actually take root
and grow into what it was meant to be.
And sometimes that same type of seed
won't sprout even a few months from when it was intended.

Even though I know this
and I KNOW that I can't 
use those seeds from last year
(or the year before)
in my current vegetable garden....
every year I have at least one packet of 
that I try to get going.
Just because it never hurts to try.

Does it?

I've been thinking about what it means
to hold on to possibility that might be dead.
What opportunities am I missing out on
when I try to grow seeds
that are not going to grow-
no matter how much I water them?

How do I know the difference between a seed that still can be a plant
and a seed that needs to be composted?
I don't think there's a checklist
that is fail proof
that will tell me 
that it's time to move on.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that 
sometimes I can in fact use that basil seed
from two years ago.
Sometimes that seed takes root
and flourishes.

Sometimes that seed never goes anywhere.
I've been wasting water
and space in the garden
that was meant for something else.

And also....
Sometimes I pick what is easy instead of what I really want.
There are choices that seem like success...
but end up feeling like pragmatism at it's worst.
I can't have that amazing tomato variety
because I used the space for those pepper seeds
that I found hanging out in the bottom of the seed cabinet.
They grew and we had jalapenos coming out of our noses....meh.
No one in our house is super crazy for jalapenos.
So why did I make that choice?
Lots of reasons....but mostly because it was easy and I was lazy.

Several years ago, my little family took a trip to Italy.
On the side of a mountain in Tuscany I saw
an artichoke plant growing wild.
It was gorgeous.
Sometimes, I will remember that plant as I'm combing through seed catalogs.
I will find Artichoke
and gaze with lust on it's royal blue or purple frills
it's exotic and practically alien leaves
so silver and sharp.

Then, I remind myself of the specs of an artichoke plant
which include a need for cold treatments to induce flowering
and space of at least 5 feet between plants.
Which (so far) has caused me to get real with myself.
Artichoke growing would take up most of my yard
AND would mean that I cannot
grow any of the other plants that are essential
(I'm really talking about tomatoes here and we all know it)
So artichoke growing is not for me.
I could do it-but there is a cost of the other seeds
that I would like to grow more of
or that maximize my actual gifts and talents best.

Saltproject are amazing....

Let's bring this metaphor all the way around.
Choosing seeds is a lot like making life choices.
Picking which dreams to follow.
There are so many
-thousands really-
points of our lives where we have potential.
Multiple seeds waiting to go in the ground and lead us down a path.
If you think about it too long
you're liable to get performance anxiety
and let your seeds rot in the drawer.

We make decisions.
We pick the dreams we want to nurture.
A relationship.
A job.
A child.
A perspective.
A painting.
A book.

We plant those seeds;
we water and care for them.

Sometimes those dreams grow and bear fruit.
Sometimes we tend those dreams too much
and we choke them out.
Sometimes we treat them just right...and natural disasters occur.
Outside of our control.
And the crops we've tended die.

When the seeds die
it is important to grieve their death.
To honor them and send them back to the earth.
To give thanks for all the lessons that we've learned
through those seeds.
Even when they failed.

It's also important to remember that 
There will be a time for new seeds.


When planting season comes back around
we will feel spring stirring
and we will know it is time.
Time to plant the ones that we've been gazing at longingly
in that great seed catalog.
To remember that not all seeds grow
in the places we want them to grow.
But the seeds that are for us
and meant for us.