Puppy Love

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Losing our beloved, old dog Murphy several months ago was hard. We all grieved daily including her pal, Ellie, our Welch Terrier. Our pets are such a part of our daily routines: every time I went to the fridge, refilled a water bowl, took a walk, memories of Murphy flooded in. I had made a memorial for her: a candle on a saucer by a photo with her collar with her name on it circling the saucer. This sat on a table in out hallway. Ellie hadn’t noticed it at first but one day she jumped on a chair she had never been on to be near the collar. She repeated this for days as if paying respects at a funeral viewing. Years ago one of our cats rolled on the mound in the garden beneath which we had buried her buddy and howled for hours. Our pets become attached to one another and grieve just as we do. Ellie has never been a single child. When she first came to us there were two older dogs to win over. Now it is her turn to be the welcomer: we just brought home a rescue puppy! She is not too sure; it will take time.

The reason I am writing about this is because I often suggest playing with young children as a way to reconnect to the power and fun of play since I believe play opens the door to our creativity. Well, now I want to add, ” find a puppy!” This one, as yet unnamed but I refer to her as Muppett, is always playing. She climbs into the toy basket and throws everything out. Our floor is littered with things tossed, tugged, chewed and abandoned. Of course she is teething and needs to chew but she makes a game of the task. She is pure energy not yet able to be contained in her small frame. And such joy!

She hops on the grass, is startled and fascinated by the sound of a Raven’s wings overhead. She finds a stick, too big to carry and drags it along. She licks the dew on grass blades. She tilts her head and cocks her ears to listen to new sounds or a singing voice. All her senses are acutely active. The world is seducing her.

I am exhausted. Aware my step has lost its bounce; aware I awake with less enthusiasm to greet a new day; aware I need to lighten up. So chores are not getting done. I am on the floor squeezing odd sounds out of stuffing-less, stuffed toys. I am singing songs as she drifts to sleep in my lap, her eyes resisting closing. Or I watch her in her crate for a time out, her eyelids coming down, her willing them up until at last, worn out, she allows the final shutting down.

And while I sit here playing I receive a phone call that a dear friend has died. His eyes now shut forever. The final shutting down. More and more these two edges meet in my consciousness: beginnings and endings, openings and closings, joy and sorrow.

Playtime

Can you approach a daily chore more playfully? And music to tidying, dance with the vacuum?

Try to bring fresh eyes to a morning walk. See, hear, smell as much as possible. Notice textures. Allow the world to awaken you.

Sing more.

Muse on the cycles of life, the changing pace, the changing tasks, the deepening awareness.

Do some reflective creative process, writing or art making on these ideas.

Have fun!

 

Responding with art

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Last night a colleague and I hosted a Creative Sparks evening. We started offering these a few years ago. Each month we would select a film addressing a topic that showed how connecting to our inner lives and/or our creativity enhanced our experience of being alive. We would then respond to the film with silent art making so each person could stay with his or her own feelings and thoughts. We would close the evening by sharing anything we wanted to share if we wanted to speak aloud. These groups have always been well attended, well received and a wonderful way to connect.

What is always surprising is what emerges in a short time of playing with art materials. Of course there are many inviting materials displayed for selection to tempt even a timid first timer.

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Some people paint, some create assemblages, or collages; others make masks, figures from wood pieces or dolls or draw with oil pastels or chalk pastels. Inner imagery is made visible. This may or may not carry meaning that can become apparent later with reflection. Any one in the group may comment on another’s piece but with no judgment either positive or negative. This means we speak of what our response to their response is; what is evoked in us in witnessing their creation.

Last night we showed the documentary, Inocente, an award winning film about a fifteen-year-old homeless girl who is a gifted artist. The filmmakers really showed the tactile nature of painting, at least how she painted. As viewers we just wanted to get our hands into the colorful paint containers. She painted large and freely with a vivid palette. Her first “canvas” was her face: each morning she would create elaborate patterns around her eyes. She also dressed colorfully with fake flowers in her hair. Despite the challenges her life presented she found support for her creativity through a program called ARTS- A Reason To Survive that served homeless youth and kids in foster care or group homes. Through them she was awarded an opportunity to exhibit, to have her own show.

There are other themes in the film: abuse- physical and emotional both spousal and child abuse; teenage pregnancy; undocumented immigrants; suicide; mother-daughter troubles. Much food for thought to stimulate responses.

As co-leader I have to create something quickly as my attention is split: focusing outwardly on the group process as well as inwardly. I was immediately attracted to a small black and white box. I wanted to decorate it colorfully and place symbolic things inside. I colored wood stars, added feathers and fabric scraps.

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Then I created the little figure who represents Inocente herself.

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I was not thinking of a story while doing this but rather letting the process lead me. However when I spoke I said perhaps it is about a Jill-in-the-Box. The box can represent the poverty, the homelessness, and the shame accompanying that, which Inocente finds herself stuck in. But she chooses to jump out of that to emerge as a colorful person through her creativity.

We all put ourselves in different boxes in different ways. It takes courage to spring up. We need to turn our own handle, take a small step to change our perspective. Maybe at first we just take a peek over the side. But the larger world there will seduce us if we let it. Coming alive is about emerging from boxes, from shells, from limiting beliefs. Hope this sparked some creativity in you.

 

Playtime:

Can you feel self-imposed limits holding you back?

What does the word HOME mean to you?

How do you create a home?

Where do you feel most at home?

Are there times when you experience a feeling of homelessness?

Is you creativity encouraged and if not how can you fix that?

Have fun.

 

 

Down Time

My cousin has a plaque in the veranda of his cottage at the lake:

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And I have the words from some ad on my fridge in my cottage:

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I am in my happy place-my family’s summer spot on Lake Winnipeg. I am in the sun filled veranda watching the sunlight twinkling on this inland sea. The wind rustles the leaves, birds chatter and I am still. I am a receiver, open to what comes to me without any effort on my part.

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Maple Wings and Then there’s No

Wanted to include some words about my “no” voice since I have been waxing on about saying “yes!” as though it is easy. I, like I am sure many of you, hear from this voice a lot. I have a section in my book about this “naysayer,” my inner saboteur. I share a dialogue where I confront the voice and try to get him to shut up.

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Using Art as a Tool for Healing by Zoe Yudice

Joan Stanford featured in Zoe Yudice’s article for The Mendocino Beacon

Using Art as a tool for healing:

Owner of the Stanford Inn and long-time art therapist, Joan Stanford, has recently published a book, ‘The Art of Play: Ignite Your Imagination to Unlock Insight, Healing, and Joy,’ which details the healing powers of art therapy and her journey of discovering its benefits in her own life.
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First Steps

Here it is! The book in my hands at last after an incredible journey! What generosity I met when writing to people for permissions or endorsements back at the beginning. It was not easy to send out a preliminary copy to respected writers that I had only met through their books. I had to trust that they would be honest and if their reviews were non-supportive that I could continue and not be shattered. Happily the first person I heard from, Jan Phillips, gave a wonderful blurb. Buoyed by this, the task became easier for me. We all need that confirmation when we step out of our small world. Especially for those first steps.

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The Original Tweet or More On Yes

I doodled this while listening to an online recording on creativity (and the birds tweeting outside.) She discussed managing our energy vs. time management. If I recall now, I believe she was encouraging us to say “yes” to our dreams and to recognize and accept that that may mean saying “no” to something else. She pointed out that not only is time in a day limited but our energy is also. When we are constantly doing we are depleting our reserves.

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