Sunday, December 10, 2017

Little Feathers: Of Garth Brooks, Poets, and Gifts

Little Feathers: Of Garth Brooks, Poets, and Gifts: If you haven't listened to The Gift, you must. Suspend your desire to be sophisticated, suspend your worldly cynicism. Listen to a story...

Of Garth Brooks, Poets, and Gifts

If you haven't listened to The Gift, you must. Suspend your desire to be sophisticated, suspend your worldly cynicism. Listen to a story that is, and is not merely, about a poor girl, a bird, and a gift on Christmas Eve. Because there is so much more to this story.

Now that you've listened, I won't worry about spoiling the ending for you. Because I want to talk about the gift. On first glance (or hearing), the gift is the little bird the girl brought to the manger on Christmas Eve. Garth can make you see the trembling fingers of the sweet one who desires to honor the Christ, but who is intimidated by the offerings of the wealthy. Garth can make you cry (if you are a weeper like me and Jude Law in the Holiday) as he reveals the pure, sweet power of willingness.

Willingness is the loud-striking sound in this soft-hearted song. Because none of us can ever experience the fulfillment of our own gifts without the courage to lay them out there. To open the door where they are kept, confined by the cage of our own device; to lay them next to the riches of other offerings.

Willingness comes with a cost. We have to risk rejection, risk failure, risk everything really. Because the kind of willingness I'm talking about leaves no pretense, no walls of pride to hide behind.
What gifts have we been given that can make life easier, if only for one other person we may never meet?  Sometimes artistic gifts are the ones people think of first. But they are only one kind. There are researchers, engineers, honest and dedicated people in every field who put their souls into the offering of their gifts.

There is a secret hidden in this song, The Gift. For me, in my own mind, I hear the promise of reward for willingness. Not rewards as we may think of them. Not everyone who is willing to give their gifts becomes wealthy or renowned. They don't use the phrase "starving artist" for nothing. And we know even The Bard died penniless. But how much richer is the world for his gifts to us?

If we are the collective-if all creation pulls together in one intertwined river that flows to the sea, then every person who uses their strengths, who is willing to put them out there for the world to see, draws us all forward, upward into the rafters of the ancient church to sing as nightingales. Okay, I'm mixing metaphors all over the place. That's okay. I'm risking it. Hoping you'll listen with open hearts.

My mother first read me these verses by Robert Frost when I was a child. I had no idea at the time what a complex, difficult world this is. I only knew that the cadence, the rhymes, the quiet beauty of the poem spoke to me.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

After I was grown, I learned that Robert Frost was desperate to find Christmas gifts for his family,
and could not afford them. The sorrow of that now informs the verses for me. I wish he had been paid
for the beauty he gave to the world, and to me. 

I wish the world always rewarded good, always recognized sacrifice, always understood true value.
But even if the world does not, we can. 

Half of the value of a gift is in the giving itself. In the willingness to open the door. And half of the
value is all we will know as the giver. But it is enough. More than enough.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Little Feathers: The Most Surprising Thing

Little Feathers: The Most Surprising Thing: Everyone I know is looking for freedom. Freedom to be themselves. Freedom to work toward goals formed by hopes and dreams. And freedom from ...

The Most Surprising Thing

Everyone I know is looking for freedom. Freedom to be themselves. Freedom to work toward goals formed by hopes and dreams. And freedom from things, like self-doubt and the mashing thumb of the disapproval of others. I've been talking about how this affects our willingness to "put our selves out there" with my friend Sherry Dill. And this morning I thought about the most surprising thing.

You would think that emptying myself of ego, freeing myself from expectations to be good enough, might leave me without defenses and self protection. And that is actually true. But the surprising part is that the very willingness to be defenseless, to be vulnerable, gives me the power to learn to paint. To learn to write. To learn to sing. To learn to design. To get better at Math!!! Because, by letting go of the need to be talented, I make way for inspiration, I make way for improvement. Letting go of needing others to like my (fill in the blank- stories, blogs, paintings, songs etc) sets me free to fail spectacularly. And what a gift it is to be okay with that. If I don't need to be good enough for others to approve of me, I can be free to try new things. I can start at the beginning and see each stage as a wondrous adventure.

If every opera student quit when they didn't sound like someone from the Met, how many opera singers would there be in this world? You get what I'm driving at without lots of other examples. But I am in love with the notion that being free to be bad at something until I'm good at it is empowering.

The key to all of this is an elementary self love. An elementary willingness to let the world in, to be vulnerable. For years, I felt humility at war with self confidence. I believed I could do things, could learn things, could accomplish goals I set for myself, but I thought I needed to keep up a guard of humbleness to make sure I didn't get a big head. But the most surprising thing is that setting myself free to fail is the most empowering thing I can do. A huge piece of that is shrugging off criticism, beginning with self-criticism.

There's a great book that talks about this, called The War Of Art. Josh Beglau gave me that book when I started writing. A theme in the book is that what we tell ourselves about ourselves becomes our reality. This morning a post on facebook said, "The words you speak become the house you live in." Same idea. What we tell ourselves about ourselves becomes our jail, or our freedom.

Freedom comes from letting go of my defenses. Who would have guessed, all those years while I was honing my excuses, my limitations? Now I don't have any. I will paint bad pictures. I will write bad poems. And I'm good with it. I will have learned something from the effort. I can say that without hating myself for failing. I can see it, nod at it, put it in the pile of paintings with a grin on my face. How can I not smile, when I get this amazing chance to learn something as wonderful as the self expression of painting? I guess maybe it's that particular smile that is the most surprising thing.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Little Feathers: Going To The Sun (Cabin) Road

Little Feathers: Going To The Sun (Cabin) Road: There's a road in Glacier National Park in Montana that has the most beautiful name. Going To The Sun Road. When I hear it, I feel nosta...

Going To The Sun (Cabin) Road

There's a road in Glacier National Park in Montana that has the most beautiful name. Going To The Sun Road. When I hear it, I feel nostalgic, hopeful, longing for something just beyond my conscious thought.

We are very lucky to have a cabin in a beautiful mountain valley in New Mexico. Called Valle Escondido, our hidden/secret valley is full of amazing people, and the secret power of the old Sangre De Cristo mountains. I say they have a power, because they restore my spirit. The air is pure there, the sound of wind in the evergreens is a balm to my soul.

We love to spend the summers there, but have not been able to the past two years. We leave tomorrow for a few weeks, and I am feeling that same nostalgia, hope and longing. We'll drive through hot, flat West Texas, which has its own undeniable beauty. There is not a wider sky anywhere.

When we reach Ft Sumner, NM (where the sheriff loves to hide a bit and give tickets), we stop driving West and take a right turn. Toward the mountains. Toward the cabin. Toward people we love in Valle Escondido. Though we've been traveling WNW the whole time, this turn is dramatic.

It takes a while to see the mountains, but my eyes search for them from the time we make that turn. North. North to the mountains, where the birds will be the only sound in the morning. Where the air will be rich with the smell of trees and rain and earth. Where the air is so dry that the blue of the sky is deep, strikingly beautiful. Where rainbows sit on the tops of the mountains, their ends touching our valley.

Tomorrow we will only it make it as far as Lubbock, because we've gotten used to doing the drive the easy way- two short days. But on Tuesday a little after noon, you can bet our car, Flex Luther, will turn it's face to the north. On the Going To The Cabin Road.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Little Feathers: Heartbeat

Little Feathers: Heartbeat: Sally Nava, our beautiful daughter, middle child, amazing woman- made this card for me. I asked her to choose inspirational sayings for...