learning challenge

31 December 2008

It’s almost too late to participate in Lani Gerity’s “free spot” contest, but never mind.  Her online course is an affordable and convenient way to learn about Expressive Arts and try some activities that will get you participating in some creative play – and maybe seeing things from an entirely different perspective!  Make 2009 the year in which you’ll make the act of doing something nice for yourself a regular priority.  C’mon – give it a try!  Let’s make a doll together!

At the very least – click here and enjoy Lani’s blog!


time to make

30 December 2008

I love to make dolls.  Actually it’s more a compulsion than a “like.”  I am compelled to look at them.  I’m fascinated with the role they’ve long played in cultures everywhere, and the therapeutic benefits they can offer to the maker.  When I go to art galleries, I get hung up on ancient displays of figures, dolls and masks.  When I am participating in expressive arts activities, almost everything I produce is some sort of doll or puppet.  I love to make soft dolls for children as much as I love to make abstract dolls from collected materials. 

When I was a young girl and I loved to draw, I made portraits more than anything else.  Collages turn into dolls or masks.  I find faces in old pieces of driftwood, in the snow collected at the bus stop, in the morning reflection on the wall.  I’m not exactly sure where this compulsion comes from, but I think it has something to do with the idea of the ‘outside’ as a window on the ‘inside.’  Goodness knows I’m famous for wearing a mask over the ‘inside’ my entire life. 

I haven’t made a doll in more than a year, and recently decided to remedy this blip.  In my notebook I have been writing down ideas.  At home I’ve begun to collage dolls to generate ideas.  I have spent some time getting inspired by browsing the blogs and websites of doll and puppet artists.  And with each small step comes further inspiration and motivation, sometimes it seems out of nowhere.  Somewhere else on this website I wrote, “If you seek inspiration you’ll find it.”  I’ve most certainly learned that lesson again. 

I’m in a news shop and a Puppetry magazine I had never heard of pops out at me.  Carly finds a rag doll I had made a few years ago, thinking it looks like the little niece of her friend.  On receiving it, the [thrilled] friend agrees.   I’m looking for a new journal for my own niece for Christmas and the next shelf just happens to hold several new books on art dolls. 

And it all continues to snowball.  Each new idea spins off three more from that.  I see pictures of a gorgeous studio and all I can think of is myself there making dolls. 

Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron likes to talk about synchronicity:  if you take the smallest step in the direction of a dream, things start to happen to help you along the way.  Or maybe it’s just a heightened awareness.  Whatever – at this point, it all sort of feels like I’m doing what I should be doing, even if I have no idea where it will go.  In the meantime I think I’ll keep on daydreaming about that beautiful studio.


25 December 2008

It’s Christmas morning, and all is quiet at Carly and Kelsey’s place.  I am sipping coffee and writing.  Carly’s cat is looking out the window.  It’s a beautiful quietness before the hubbub.  This moment is an extension of the best part of Christmas: the most perfect ‘moment’ that is Christmas Eve. 

Recently a friend asked what the “essence” of Christmas is to me.  It didn’t take much thought to answer.  A good part of that is of course the wonderful hubbub around a warm and loving family sharing a day and a meal.  But the most precious moments of Christmas for me are the quiet ones.  Christmas Eve – when all of the madness pulls up and stops.  You feel it – peace – as you sit warm and look at the lights aglow within homes down the street.  It’s not about buying and parties and traffic jams and stores anymore.  It’s the gift of peace.  And this moment in time is more precious than all of the stuff that swirls around it.  This moment is Christmas.

december sister

19 December 2008

Happy Birthday Jane.  If I could, I would give you the birthday present of all your documentation back from the UK high commission so you could hightail it back home to your husband.  But I can’t.  So in the meantime, I must say, it’s great that you’re here, and we’re all enjoying having you, and I’m sorry but I really like the idea of you being here for Christmas because you’re my sister and I love you from the bottom of my heart and Christmas just isn’t the same when you’re not there. 

Many happy returns and shut the door on Ricky Hubble.

What is it that invisible thread of connection that binds you to a stranger?  What is it about that person that stands out in the sea of intentionally bland, internalized faces in a busy transit commute in a busy city?  What makes your attention rest on a particular person; makes you wonder about a stranger’s life?                                 

Say you see something in a pair of bright blue eyes.  Brighter and clearer than you might expect to see in a body even decades younger than the seventy odd year old one that houses these ones.  Something in the way they stop on you only for a split second and move away just as you notice them.  You know in that instant those eyes are present; they are living in their surroundings, not glazing over them.  And you somehow know those eyes didn’t glaze over you. 

Then you notice the way he lingers back casually away from the rest of the people at the bus stop, not needing to stake a place just where the driver will stop to ensure a seat.  The peaceful way he sits in the crowded bus, holding various bags and an awkward plastic box without fumbling or struggling or intruding on anyone else.  You notice something that is somehow lucid and purposeful in way he pulls on his gloves while still holding on to those bags and the box.  That mouth drawn up in a way that elongates his chin makes him look something like Ray Bolger – an expression that could make him look simple or comical like The Scarecrow, but doesn’t.  It’s a mouth housed in a face that is alive to its surroundings.  A face and a body alive to a moment.

Today I encounter a stranger.  After he exits the bus I imagine what his kitchen is like, and him making breakfast and coffee, planning a day that will include an early bus ride.

my baggage your baggage

16 December 2008

Recently my friend Monica and I had a fun email exchange on which decade was more “bad” – the seventies or the eighties.  In the end, I think my one anti-eighties list item: the abominable and utterly unflattering “high waisted, front pleated, tight ankled jeans” singly trumped all of her seventies’ “disco dancing, bell bottoms, Donny Osmond, Mork and Mindy and pet rocks,” but she may beg to differ.  And – though it sure wasn’t as much of an issue to me then as it is today – I will argue until the cows come home that bell bottoms definitely made your waist look smaller.

Of course Monica’s and my listings were shaped by our own experiences and memories of these times.  We’re all looking out a different window right?  My “pro-seventies” list that included things like feminism, folk rock, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson as some of the things that made the seventies great, might ring really NOT great to someone else.  And I’ll admit it; I still have a big crush on Kristofferson.  Maybe he just represents the look of a good period of time for me.  Or maybe the male species of that time.  One thing’s for sure, he definitely he recalls a time long before I found myself struggling through in a wildly busy, competitive world; a time when I didn’t have any stresses beyond wanting to impress the boy with the shaggy hair and mischievous eyes.

Recently I got looking at a teenage boy on the bus.  He was operating his cell phone in one hand and his MP3 player in the other.  His clothes, shoes and backpack looked expensive.  His hair looked coiffed, tended, and full of product.  I kept thinking about a picture that Lynn has of a bunch of us teenagers on a beach way back then, and that those marvellous male creatures with their long hair and bare chests and faded cut-offs were infinitely more beautiful than the boy on the bus with all his hardware

I know, I know.  I’m sounding all “when I was a girl things were different” and “oh those kids today.”  But travelling back in time now and then to explore who you once were can be an illuminating thing to do.  And while I can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, conjure a vision of myself that resembled anything like seventies earth goddesses Joni Mitchell or Rita Coolidge, it’s certainly easy to narrow the lens to eliminate Pet Rocks, Laverne and Shirley and disco dancing from my vision.  That’s what you can do with a memory, and that’s how you invent yourself based on the life “snapshots” you choose to keep; which baggage goes and which baggage stays. 

The most illuminating thing I discovered when time travelling?  When I really look hard at what I want out of this world; at my deepest desires and at those things that define me as a person, they are exactly the same things that ignited me when I was 17.  And that goes for boys too.

december daughter

9 December 2008

26 Years on the planet. Seems like yesterday – well, okay – seems like ten years ago you were that little tiny peanut under the Christmas tree with her beautiful little bare foot poking out of the blanket. I couldn’t be more proud of who you have become. Here are the things I love most about you:

Your bright and engaging smile. The way little kids identify with you and that you always have great little kid movies to watch with them. Your critical mind. Your ability to find music and movies that I’ll love and that you always make the best mixed CDs. That you like screeching hardcore music, and that you also like Neil Young and Al Green and the Who. That you always know what’s going on in current events, and that we can always find something to talk about. That you maintain great relationships with your sister and your cousins. That you value your family and love to be with them. That you always know what books to buy me for Christmas.

Your effortless ability to get people to like you – but also that you don’t take any shit. That you continued the Christmas Shortbreads tradition (especially as your mother didn’t). That you have strong ideas and you hold to your beliefs, and that you employ your marvellous brain.

Your face in profile, which still looks pretty much as it did when you were a little girl, and could still break my heart with its everlasting countenance of innocence.

Many happy returns Carly. We’re all so glad you arrived 26 years ago, and I’m so looking forward to the next 26 years of getting to be your mom.

(And many more and shut the door on Ricky Hubble.)