Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG March: Criticism

If you don't know what IWSG stands for you'd be like me a few months ago. It stands for Insecure Writer's Support Group. We post the first Wednesday of the month. I took a few months off but am back this month to post about criticism. Before we get to that, if you would like to learn more and think this is a group that might be a good fit for you, visit the blog of its creator, Alex Cavanaugh, here.





Most artists are sensitive. It motivates us and enables us to penetrate the surface of situations, seeing the world in a unique way. Sensitivity can lend itself to vulnerability. Artistic people need constructive criticism to hone their craft. Criticism, however, particularly in the age of the internet, comes in many shapes and nameless forms. Before I was published, I noticed how actors took to their criticism. I heard, with great curiosity, how some said they never even read it. I read mine and then I don't for years, only to go back to it and read it again.

My experience has taught me that some people are just vindictive and spiteful. Others are lovely and supportive from their hearts and spirits. When there is a common thread to the criticism or praise, if you're the type to read it, it warrants attention. I go back and forth on the nasty criticism, to those who never look to those who spend all day reading and mulling over it.

I am working on numerous books at the moment. Once again I shelved the tendency to even think about criticism. In the past, I have looked, had high points and low. Now that I've moved on, I'm back into the seat of the writer and researcher, which by the way, is much more enjoyable. I'm feeling thoroughly creative and having fun.



Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory).  Ca. 200-190 BC.  Marble


How do you handle criticism generally and of your writing or art? I'd love to hear from you...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ageing Gracefully

I've been reading about calorie creep, as I try to stave off the 52 pounds I've lost over the past year. (More in posts to come). What about age creep? We've heard about age creeping up. Is there anything we can do about it? Are we victims of the process? Can we be willing, joyful participants?

I hadn't really thought of myself in conjunction with ageing much until I applied and was accepted into the anthology Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife. The anthology edited by Carleen Brice, features the works of 43 contributors, including highly regarded authors and poets such as: Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Susan L. Taylor, Rita Dove, Terry McMillan, Gloria Naylor, Maya Angelou and Pear Cleage. It was published in 2003--12 twelve years ago! Yes, age has steadily been creeping up on me.



I've always loved T.S. Eliot as you can see by my post: Celebrating Poetic Genius: T.S. Eliot, posted around this time last year. What did he mean by this verse:

I grow old...I grow old
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled?

Could it be growing old is a time to do what you like? Trousers rolled or unrolled, you decide; not society's conventions?


Triple Goddess

In my prose "The Pathway Home" included in "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number," I ruminate, as a young mother but one who gave birth later in life, on the triple goddess: maiden, mother and crone. I call myself too old to be called maiden and too young to be called crone. 

Though my body and face may say different, this is my way of being. My angel oracle cards say it repeatedly. The cards ask me to stay in touch with my inner child, to never forget the magic of innocence and to day dream at will. Doing these three things will bring about healing.

I have been jolted from these readings by ageism heard in  the media, especially on television and the reaction to super model Cindy Crawford's photo in Marie Claire magazine, which has not been manipulated by Photoshop.

I'm blogging about this not to paint a rosy picture. There are several good quotes floating about on Facebook that describe the process well, such as, 'growing old is not for the weak' and 'growing old beats the alternative'.

The Africa Channel on cable has designated February as Elder Month. It is a month venerating the wisdom of elders from different walks of life through 50 vignettes. A lovely thought. I hope this idea catches on. 

Meanwhile, between taking calcium, black cohosh and magnesium blended with herbs and an evening primrose oil mix, among other herbal remedies, while battling the annoying symptoms ushered in by ageing, I'll be here tapping on the keyboard, trying to make sense of it all, while hopefully ageing gracefully. I'm looking forward to hearing your experiences on this and other topics as they arise. 

(ATC by Stephanie Bird)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Warm Messages from the Chill

All Occasion Card by Stephanie Bird

This morning I heard we had snow in 48 states. Snow on the ground - 48 states? Amazing. No need to go into it too far. It's cold. The plains states, super cold. What to do? What to do?
Collage on Paper - Stephanie Bird



Snow and cold are daunting. There's shoveling to do and many other practicalities to tend to. It could seem as though many activities are halted. Replaced with dull or exhausting tasks, like clearing paths. I'm not discounting the necessity of clear paths, just suggesting snow may open paths once dormant in several ways.

We have the opportunity to travel to so many different places, through the arts. My way has recently been through renewing my studio activities, picking up my brushes, canvases and paints. I've also picked up my novel manuscript. Day by day I'm breathing new life into it. I knew those CPR lessons would come in handy some day! I've taken flight from what is dismal situation outdoors and headed inward into the realm of imagination.

Music has been a great facilitator.  Before heading off to dreamland, I enjoy listening to nature sounds. Sounds--particularly those at the beach, reminding me of the warmer days to come, thaw my imagination. From there ideas flow. 

I have an assortment of sounds spliced with music for bedtime listening. Now, I'm using this vehicle well while writing. It stays in the background just enough not to get in the way, yet it offers gentle support. There are hundreds if not thousands of such albums. Here's one you might enjoy listening to this morning as you embark on a new day. particularly my compadres who also work from home: Paul Addams - of Peace and Compassion 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Signs

It's a bit of a challenge blogging about angels. They are quite foreign to me, as I've mentioned. Heretofore, they've been illusive. Nevertheless, I am trudging on with this series because they have so boldly inserted themselves into my life and healing process. This is the third post of the angels series.



In African American culture, signs are very important--especially signs through dreams. One of the recurring divination cards from the Doreen Virtue Angel Daily Guidance Oracle Deck I frequently pull (despite thorough shuffling) is the Signs card. It wasn't until I starting thinking more about this post, which attempts to link signs, divination and angels, that I've starting patching together the signs I've been given.

My cards spreads ask repeatedly for me to look for signs and use my talents to interpret them. I was promised a mini-reading at the angel workshop I attended. Miniature indeed. We had a three card spread to mull over and a single card to point us to our archangel.

Archangel means ruling messenger and prince of angels. These are the heavy hitting angels. I was expecting to pull one I with which I had some familiarity. Instead I pulled Sandalphon. What the heck? I got a bit of scanty information at the workshop but since then I've investigated further. Turns out he is an ascended master, meaning he first lived life on earth as prophet Elijah. His message is powerful and pertinent to my life. Since pulling the Signs card and connecting with his energies my healing has accelerated.

If you notice my last post, Uplifting and Spirited Music, before this angel series, it's all about music. Music which uplifts spirit. This is how Sandalphon speaks--through music and spirit, usually expressed with prayer.

I couldn't have picked a more important and relevant archangel in the deck. His message and presence invites us to:

  • use inherit talent to help yourself and others
  • balance emotions
  • move towards good health
  • be dependable and stable
  • connect with Mother Earth

If you follow my website you know about my struggles with writing. All growing from insecurities. You'll also see many posts sharing my practice of Earth-based Spirituality and involvement with plants as healers. 

Yesterday, I finally picked up my newest novel, which had grown dusty and worked on it. I had clarity of vision. So much clarity, I was able to read through my opening chapter, as the content editor I am. Listening to global tunes, not only did I mark up the entire first chapter (which writers know is one of the most important), I had enough confidence to envision and outline a new chapter. Previously I was stuck with the first 6 chapters--blocked. Now I see the need to break up the compact chapters with lighter/informational chapters woven in between. I'm moving forward. 

Sandalphon + Music + Prayer = Renewed Confidence & Creativity + Productivity

Then the curious dream, an encounter with what I can only imagine to be an angel. Just for some background, my parents were very religious--Dad more towards the end of his life, but still.  They weren't A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) just plain old Methodists. Angels have been completely off my radar because of my beliefs in the Goddess, goddesses, gods, lwa, spirits, etc., but they were big in their lives. Signs sent from them are going to be Christian, whether I like it or not.

In the dream, I told you I saw an ultramarine blue wing. It's hard, even for a painter like me who has handmade paints, to discern between ultramarine, of certain saturation's and cobalt blue. Have a look for yourself: 

Ultramarine Blue

Cobalt Blue

Sometimes Archangel Michael is attributed a generic blue light and sometimes it is cobalt blue--the bottom image. Ultramarine has a type of transparency whereas cobalt is very dense. The angel in my dream, which brought me to the workshop to learn more about angels, was closer to the bottom image, and that is Archangel Michael's color. There was no transparency in the colors of his wings. Michael is considered the Leader of Holy Angels. Another appropriate and important angel for my healing, this time in my life, and my mother's style of guidance. Here are some of his qualities:
  • appears to lend courage when one needs to overcome fears
  • represents protection
  • strength
  • faith
  • power
As I indicated, I'm learning on my feet. Angels haven't previous been in spiritual my vocabulary. One additional thing before I go. Our presenter at the workshop said the cards were powerful. She let us know we'd get the same cards again and again if angels were trying to speak through them. Intriguing but unbelievable I thought, until it happened.

Part IV. is coming...




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Angels: Seeing is Believing


Part II. of a Series Exploring Angels

As is typical for a workshop icebreaker, our facilitator asked what brought us to the workshop. Hmm, where to begin. I've had four distinct experiences. They remain etched in my memory. With my foggy memory, I'd prefer to go backwards in time, rather than starting from the beginning.

According to our presenter, specific colors are used for communication by archangels. A couple of weeks before the workshop, I had an amazingly colorful dream. My dear departed mother appeared. I was shocked to see her, as I would be now, since I have accepted her passing. She and I were on a bustling street. I don't know what city we were in. It seemed far away.

I followed her, though it was difficult. In a bazaar atmosphere, we quickly became a part of the group movement, jostling others as we pressed forward. She moved quickly through and past shops with me in pursuit. It wasn't like I was chasing her, as it may sound. It seemed as though this was a perfectly natural way for her to move. As her daughter, I knew I must respect her mode of traveling.

Finally, things slowed down. We entered a shop but just when I thought we might have meaningful contact, she disappeared. Looking for her frantically, I came to a halt. I could move no further. I bumped into an amazing array of ultramarine blue feathers. I was stunned by their beauty and wanted to reach out for a touch. Attached to them, I saw a gold-tinged figure.

Sometimes in our dreams we lose all sense of reality. This dream was different. I'd call it a vision.

Source: dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com


When I awakened I was still spellbound. Though my eyes were open and seeing my bedroom, I longed to return to that place where the angel and my mom resided. I believe in many things but not coincidence. There was no mistaking the feeling. My mother had led me towards an angel.

One of the reasons I was drawn to the workshop was to learn more about this blue-winged angel in my vision and angels generally.

Kuan Yin: Earlywomenmasters.net/Emily Dickinson's Nature Mysticism

African American Folk Sculptor William Edmonson

Dream Visitations

According to Dr. Ian Stephenson, University of Virginia School of Medicine, founder of its Division of Perceptual Studies, my experience with my mother and the angel is a dream visitation. Stephenson says the degree of vividness is a factor distinguishing a regular dream from a visitation. The intense vividness and emotions raised,as well as the true-to-life feelings I was left with, let me know this was a dream visitation. If you are now questioning which of your dreams of deceased loved ones were just dreams and which were dream visitations all you have to do is listen to what your heart said right after the dream.

Where do Angels Belong?

You might be wondering why someone like me, believes in angels, considering my diverse beliefs in the world of magick. It's simple. Angels are higher beings than our religious and spiritual divisions. They connect us to the all knowing love of the divine.

Working with our Higher Self and the soul of our spirituality, whether Kuan Yin, (depicted above), Jesus, Moses, Buddha or any number of differently named Ascended Masters or Divine Spirits from around the world, connects us with the knowing love of the divine. The divine heals because it is of a much higher frequency than most of us have ever known. The healing nature and ability to listen to the smallest concerns present in angels, grows from love.

Tomorrow in Part III., more on how I'm using my oracular nature to connect with archangels, beginning with my encounter with Sandalphon during the workshop.







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Flirting with Angels

Art by Kathy Fornal

Recently I took an angel workshop. I've flirted with the idea of angels for many years but I wasn't quite sure what to make of my interests. The workshop has been transformative in many ways. I learned what to call the interactions I've had with angels. I learned more about the order of angels. Most importantly, I've reestablished my workings with them in a more informed way.

Some of you may be wondering what the heck I'm talking about. In some ways I wonder myself, yet I know they have been a constant in my life. 
  • I learned in the workshop that angels do "walk-ins." This is where they appear in human form and interact with you briefly, only to be never seen again.
  • Moreover, you must speak out loud to them.
  • You are assigned two guardian angels for your lifetime. They are always with you.
  • Our workshop focused on the messages of the archangels.We communed with them through divination and meditation.

                                     
It is the ways that divination brings the angels voices forward that fascinates me. Yes, I had a book by Doreen Virtue but for some reason it didn't speak to me, though she is very popular. I bought How to Hear Your Angels by Virtue and it is still not grabbing me for very long. It is through her beautifully illustrated deck Daily Guidance from your Angels Oracle Cards that angels speak to me.

The next few posts will focus on angels in divination, spirituality and life. Come back to read more and join in the conversation...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Uplifting and Spirited Music

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, play. My husband and I watched and listened intently to them performing the Brandenburg Concertos.

I have always been deeply touched by hearing those concertos but haven't seen them played live in ages. These concertos seem to have the ability to reach deep into my heart and go past that, touching my soul.

The Chamber Music Society features many gifted musicians who aptly interpret and play the various concertos beautifully. The artists are various ages--each lending a unique quality to the music, which seems to stem from their age for example vibrancy, ambition, wisdom and mastery.

Each of the artists exhibited a tremendous joy, drawn from their mastery over their chosen instrument. Their joy was infectious, resulting in numerous standing ovations. Now, if only I could come close in my lifetime to composing a piece of literature, painting or combination of the two, approaching the genius exhibited in J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.