Friday, October 26, 2007

New Perspectives, Part Three, I Dare You.

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Have you ever watched The Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds perform their high flying feats?

Speed, agility, daring, skill, and flair.

We love watching them. The Pilot Guy and I saw the Thunderbirds on one of our very first dates. Jet engines are so romantic--at our house, at least. We've seen the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels a few dozen times since.

Last weekend, the Blue Angels performed at a nearby airport. So close, in fact, that one of their wide swings brought a five man delta formation right over our property line. Very fun. And loud. (I love the sound of jet engines.)

While I watched them cavort in the sky, I marveled at the power, and wanted to feel that same power in my creative life. While I watched them fling themselves upward, I wanted that same daring. As they separated, re-formed, and rolled, I wanted to share the same kind of agility in my work. As they trailed smoke to improve the audience's ability to see them, I wanted that same kind of flair.

Recently, someone remarked to me that we have ideas, but often our ideas are suppressed. Real artists have the courage and conviction to follow through with their gut feelings.

Read that again.

Real artists have the courage and conviction to follow through with their gut feelings.

Courage and conviction. Listening to the distant drummer Thoreau wrote about. Dancing to our own music. Seeing our own visions.

What is your gut telling you to do creatively? What impulses are you ignoring?

Whatever it is, rev up your engines and blast off!

Do it.

Do it with flair, panache and daring. Forget for a while, the rules of your craft, and do what makes your heart sing. The only rule is that you must find the project fascinating. Be passionate.

Create for yourself first, then for others. If you find the results beautiful or powerful, you have been successful. Last spring, in a fit of boldness, I painted my porch swing a rich, royal purple. The entire time I was painting, part of me was worried about what others would think. But the color was so wonderful, I just kept on painting. You know what? We've enjoyed the purple porch swing all summer long. The color is a surprising jolt of fun. It goes well with the various pink blooms and green foliage around it. Think of the fun I would have missed if I'd allowed a 'what will people think' mindset to limit my creativity. That same negative voice critisizes my writing, too. In fact, that nasty voice questions every creative impulse I have.

Go on. Create something daring, a little bit wild, or just plain fun.

Shut that voice up.

I dare you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Perspectives, Part Two: A Different Point of View

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We writers love point of view. We wrangle endlessly about whose eyes the scene is being seen from and whether the author has shifted view points or not. Photographers fret over proper angles to tell a story or bring out the character of our subject.

In fiction, unrestrained view point shifts are not a good thing, but in your creative life, well, that's different story. Sometimes seeing life from a new perspective gives you fresh inspiration and outlook.

Last week, I was invited to fly along with The Pilot Guy as he moved an airplane from the maintenence airport to it's new home airport. While he was busy flying, I had a wonderful opportunity to gaze out the window. We weren't too high--just a few thousand feet. High enough to be able to see miles, but low enough to pick out landmarks. Fortunately, we flew over an area I'm very familiar with. In fact, I was able to pick out my own neighborhood and house.

The tiny cars jostling for position on the overloaded freeways. The freeways themselves snaking across and through the landscape. Thousands of new houses being built in a neighboring sub-division. I knew it was big, but didn't realize how big until I saw it from the air. No wonder our local highways and streets seem more crowded. There's a lot of people out here.

We flew over several lakes, still overflowing their bounds from the early summer rains. Trees lush and green. Pools glinting from backyards.

From above, the air seemed very clean and clear. The challenges of traffic, shopping, and lawn mowing, unimportant. It was a lovely landscape tinged with golden late afternoon sun.

As a teenaged photographer, I remember an instructor at a week-long workshop telling us that if we can back from an assignment and our knees were not dirty, he'd send us out again. As he put it, unless you've photographed your subject from a flat on your belly perspective and climbed a tree and photo'd from that angle, you had not fully covered your task.

Even as a portrait photographer, I climbed stairs and ladders to give a new look to a bridal portraits. Getting on my knees and laying out flat to get a ground-eye's view added flair to a child's portrait.

Getting a new perspective can be a challenge, but it adds so much to your creative output. There are two ways to cover any subject. For example, if you are studying a mountain, you might take a helicopter flight over and around it. You can get the big picture that way.

The other way is to mark off a three foot by three foot section of that same mountain and go over that area with a magnifying glass.

Think of the different things you'd see. The emphasis would be different in both cases, but you are still researching and learning from the same source.
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Sweet Autumn Clematis-detail
What ever you are doing, can you see it from a new perspective? A writer could view a murder scene from the viewpoint of a small mouse in the corner. Or what did the person on the top floor of an office building see when the cars crashed below? A quilter can swap lights and darks in a pattern to achieve a new look. An artist can feature a broad landscape or tiny details. Imagine a photographic study of baby toes or hands. So sweet.

What ever you do today, get your knees dirty. Then, climb to a new vantage point and see it from that angle.

I hope you'll be rewarded with an 'a-ha' moment of fresh perspective.
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Sweet Autumn Clematis-full view

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Perspectives, Part One. The Strength Within

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Last week was all about flying at our house. The Monarch migration started the theme. Later, The Pilot Guy got to fly a new (to him) aircraft and I got to go with him. The week finished with a thrilling display from the Blue Angels at a nearby airport.

As I posted last week about the Monarchs, I'm inspired by their journey. So small and the distance they travel is immense. Fueled by two small sets of wings and nectar, they travel hundreds of miles. Incredible. It gives me a new picture of the phrase 'a wing and a prayer.' I'm reminded that so much of what we need to be, we already have inside ourselves, whether we are caterpillars just starting out or transformed butterflies. No new fancy equipment needed.

Just do it.

Whatever *it* is. Use what you have and already know. Which means I don't need another book on how to write a novel, design a garden or sew a quilt. I have a shelves full of writing, gardening, and quilting books. In fact, because I've studied these subjects for the last few years, I have enough knowledge in my head to do them well. Just doing it, that's the key. Do I still have things to learn? Of course. But, for now, I can create with what is within me. I need to trust myself.

Once, at a small photography workshop, a man expressed dissatisfaction with the teachings of our mentor. While M. N. was out of the room, the photographer said that he had hoped M.N. would tell us about a new lens or a new gadget for our cameras that would make our photography better. Creativity as something we can buy seemed to be what he wanted. I, a wide-eyed 23 year old, knew he was off the mark, but didn't know how to articulate it. A later mentor, the terrific Charles J. Lewis, reaffirmed that it is not the camera, but the photographer who makes the difference in the work. Study. Learn your craft. Learn the rules. Once learned, break them. And break them with flair and pizzaz.

But the key to the art is your own heart.

Our work, our creativity, is within us. Our task is to mine it out of our hearts the way diamond hunters unearth gems. From the sweat, dirt, and even blood, comes beauty. When artists of any medium display temperment, I believe it is because what we feel in our hearts and see in our minds cannot be fully translated onto paper or fabric, canvas or glass.

Be kind to the artist within you. Be alert to the nuances of your craft. Feel the passion in your art, whatever your art medium may be. Grow with it. Try something, ANYTHING, new.

Stretch your wings on the breeze, gather a sip of nectar, and fly.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Garden Jewels

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They're back!

Saturday morning, I went out to Amy's Garden to putter around. Although I did pull a few weeds and harvest some seeds, I ended up sitting in the swing for a bit. Sun glistened on the grass and flowers like jewels. Cool fall air felt crisp on my face. The happy chirping of birds, the quiet squeak of the swing and the occasional drop of a leaf were the only sounds. A lovely morning.

Only when I raised my voice to call the dog did the air explode with butterflies. They'd been quietly sleeping in the trees less than three feet away. My voice startled them into a cloud of orange flutters. Imagine my delight in being caught in the middle of the storm.

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Two years in a row, our place has been a Monarch Rest Stop. Last year a hundred butterflies rested in our trees for a week while waiting for the next cold front to help them on their way to Mexico. This year, September's ninety degree heat has kept the monarchs from migrating. You see, they travel when the temps are in the eighties or lower. Plus, they love to ride the wave of a cold front to push them toward Mexico. When the weather is too hot, they find some trees to hang out in and rest.

I love it when they visit. We've filled the yard with all kinds of butterfly blooms; lantana, penta, salvia, Mexican bush sage for them to feed on. Trees provide shelter and we are always watering something so water is available for them.

Seeing those monarchs inspires me. When I see them hanging in the trees I'm reminded of perserverance. They are so small and their journey very long. They don't look strong enough to make the trip. I wonder if they doubt their strength as I do mine sometimes. I wonder what untold stores of energy, drive, and passion I have to fuel my pursuit of dreams, creative and otherwise.

The butterfly's beauty makes my fingers itch to photograph them. If I could paint or draw what my mind sees, I'd put brush to canvas. Seeing the intricate patterns edged in black makes me want to take up stained glass design.

Their hunt for nectar reminds me to seek the sweet in my life. Look for the pretty and indulge in the best. I have a talk I give to women's groups about the choice we have to be a hummingbird or a buzzard. What do we *look* for in our lives? You find what you seek most of the time.
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I also love the way monarchs float, flutter, and fly from place to place. How graceful. How relaxed they look.

And when I startle the group, I love how they flutter over my head. I want to fly with them. At the very least, I want to dance.

Since Saturday, thunderstorms have rolled through our area, powered by a cold front that finally brought us fall temperatures. The monarchs have moved on, riding the wave of cool air further south.

Pursuing their goals and, hopefully, enjoying the journey.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Witness to a Miracle

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Ever been witness to a miracle?

Last week a friend's husband got a call. After decades of diabetes and after many, many months of dialysis, my friend's husband was getting a transplant. The two organs he needed, kidney and pancreas, had come available.

All through the night, various medical tests were done. Lab work to determine if the organs were viable and suitable for him. Blood work and fever checks hour after hour to determine to state of his health. A fever would mean an infection and an infection would mean someone else would receive these organs.

A long drive in the dark to the transplant hospital. Anti-rejection drugs administered. Surgery at 8 a.m.

By two in the afternoon, the surgery was done. A man who had lived nearly forty years as a diabetic was no longer in need of insulin. A healthy kidney did the work of the two damaged ones.

Renewed health. What a blessing.

In less than seven days, the patient went home. There is still a lot of recovery left to do, as well as tweaking the various medications involved, but there is great rejoicing in their household.

Fantastic as that is, that's not the real miracle.

The real miracle comes from the person who signed an organ donation card and the family who followed through. Despite their heartbreak, they remembered the bigger picture.

They gave someone the gift of health and longer life.

Miracle gift.

Does your family know you want to be an organ donor?