Inner Contents: My Collage Journal



I have been absent from posting and have decided on a new tactic to keep in touch. I will share my collage journal here. As mentioned before I use 6×6 spiral bound journals. I do some simple collage on the page on the right, intuitively choosing images. On the facing page on the left,  I reflect with writing. Sometimes I do this after completing the collage but often it is sometime later as the collage may not speak to me immediately. My intention is to do one collage each day but when I miss I no longer beat myself up. Some days I create more that one. This practice allows me to check in with my “inner contents.” I collaged the above image on the back cover the new book I just started while on vacation at the lake. (I wrote about what I experience on my annual visits to the family cottage in another post, Down Time.)
I think the reason I stalled on blogging is because I wanted something really “meaningful” to share. I wrote several pieces but never posted them. When I began posting I ended each entry with suggestions for you to play and framed each post to mirror my book. What I am encouraging you to do, and need to remember for myself, is “Just do something!” Forget the end product and play with the process of creating. So in sharing my journal process I hope to model that “letting go” aspect. Let go of expectations; let the process lead you. I am letting go of the format I started out with.  I had set up a rule of “be consistent” which restricts spontaneity.

With these journal postings you will see that each page is very different (consistency thrown away) but each provides a focus for a conversation with my inner contents. I actually began doing these small journals to be sure that  I  just “did something.” I never seemed to have enough time but these are very doable and satisfying to complete in a short amount of time. Also I gave myself permission to use any materials at hand removing the excuse that my “good” art supplies were elsewhere. I can do these in a motel room using the insides of envelopes and tourist magazines. I travel with a glue stick and scissors!
Hope you find this useful.



Puppy Love


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.


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!



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I have been absent from these posts and my inner critic has been merciless-pouring on the guilt, making me feel inadequate. Here I am in defiance, a stance I perfected over the course of writing my book. I could list ALL  I have been doing over the past few months, defend my absence to you all but I would rather talk about empowerment since that allows facing our inner critic.

Power is on my mind. We have just experienced our first walloping winter storm in years: roads flooded, schools closed, trees down, power outages. We flick switches habitually even when we have no electricity. This gesture made me consider all we take for granted and how important change is to awaken awareness. So often we neglect to be grateful for the gift even an unwelcome change or alteration brings.

What do I take for granted?

Each morning I wake up, turn on a tap that brings me water with no effort. I realize I have the power to walk, to wash, to dress, to eat-all in a comfortable, warm space. I can make choices as to what to wear, what to eat and on some days, what to do. I have the power to boil water, cook, wash clothes, run a vacuum-all tasks more laborious without electricity. I turn on music, my computer without thinking. So I am very grateful for all that P G and E enables (or, during this storm, a generator.)

But what about personal power? How do I generate that; keep that juice flowing?

I realize I have to connect to something bigger than myself. A walk by the ocean or into the forest takes me out of my small world and allows expansion. I have to be still, slow down, quiet my restless mind. I have to sit at my art table or desk and begin. I have to trust that I can reconnect to the grid-the creative grid that powers us all. Just as a blackout contracts our world, taking away the light needed to see further than our flashlight beam, so too, a shut down of our creative spirit limits our perspective. We feel stuck, immobile, tentative, trapped, a prisoner of our own “can’ts.”  We have yielded power to the inner critic. When we stand up to that voice we are turning on our power, enabling ourselves to act, make choices. We reconnect to the world of possibilities, to the world of “can.” We will be flooded with ideas, inspired, enlivened, enLIGHTed.

Wishing you a year of can-do power.

Play time

Think of what you take for granted and then do a gratitude exercise, eg: Thank you for these legs that take me where I need to go; Thank you for these eyes that allow me to see; etc.

Consider the on/off switch for your creativity. Write or make art about what turns it on and what shuts it down.

Picture a generator that you can access when your main power source fails.  What fuels it? How do you activate it? Represent this with art.

Consider terms associated with winter weather: storms, blackouts, floods, closures, live wires, downed trees, huge ocean waves, hail, gale force winds. Or blizzards, whiteouts, treacherous roads. Think of metaphors suggested. Do some word association poems or collages or other art.

Imagine a safe, comfortable place that can provide shelter in a storm. Create a representation with assemblage, collage or other art project.

Have fun!

Responding with art


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.


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.



Then I created the little figure who represents Inocente herself.


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.



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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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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