New Beginnings

“THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea” 

W. B. Yeats

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Late Autumn via Skylight: Degregoire Park, Mount Desert Island

So here we are, on the first day of a new year: 2015! How did we make it here, marching through the muddy cloudiness of life, keeping feet forward and a sense of hope in our ragged hearts? Magically, almost, the universe ushered in a new year last night late on a cold January evening; ours was marked with fireworks and fire and friends, and it was good to kiss a new year on the cheek, welcoming in the wishes of another turn around the Sun.

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Treasure from the River’s Bottom: Lincoln, Maine

This is the third January 1st that I have ushered in this cold and magical place where the ground is covered with moss and crinkles when you walk upon it on a cold winter’s morning. This afternoon, as I moved armload after armload of freshly chainsawed wood to its winter home of pallets set in the side yard, I watched the sunset over two mountains in the distance: it was colored pink and peach and seemed to be held interminably above the ridge of those mountains, clouding them in rose and salmon and magenta. I remarked to the neighbor who was helping me chainsaw piles of birch timber how lucky we are, and he remarked how everyone watches the sunset in different parts of the world, everyday. I disagreed and still feel that today was special.

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Sargent Drive in Snow: Northeast Harbor, Maine

So what does a new year mean, in its essence, in its whole, in the grand scheme of things? It is hard to posit meaning in and of itself; only to say that we are welcomed with opportunities and responsibilities in each moment, really, but especially in the birth of a new year, another transit around our central star, a time to reflect and plan and foresee, as best as we can, what is to come.

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Ice in the Driveway: at the Tool Barn, Hulls Cove, Maine

I have spent my year of 2014 in quiet and not so quiet contemplation of how I got here: how I came to be in this peaceful and quiet place, surrounded by misfits and oddballs, a kinfolk for sure of people who seek meaning in the everyday, who try to make it despite the natural adversities of life here. Here is a place you have to consciously commit to, as the way of life is so different, so difficult, even, and yet, so soothing and comforting and welcoming and warm. As I sit here in my new house, my home I hope to say, I am listening to and watching the fire burn, staring at old brass lamps that are glowing in the darkness. I type on a table that has been in my family since I was a small child, transplanted from England to Texas. This small pine table sat in many kitchens of ours; we moved many times within the same corporate-created borough of north Houston. We, an immigrant family seeking place and meaning in a foreign environment, created ourselves, as we all do, as products of our environment, our family and our friends. Today, that old table is covered with an antique quilt top gifted to me by Angel many years ago, one night during jewelry class. I always meant to make it in to a quilt, but haven’t so yet, and so it has become a beautiful tablecloth, covering a cheap heirloom of sorts, providing a grounding force in this new home.

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Treasures Hidden Inside an Antique Piano: Bar Harbor, Maine

Each morning, I look out my kitchen window at Champlain and Gorham mountains while I drink coffee. When I venture outside to grab more wood or make the move to my car to go to work, I gaze upon the notch between Dorr and Cadillac. At all houses here, previous to this one, I gazed upon the ocean. Here I look at the mountains, and the metaphor is clear: no longer a time of intense reflection, this time is for grounding and building, embracing this place and finding a spot in this community, continuing to build upon my projects, create more beauty, more artwork, in these awe inspiring, and at this time of year, rather desolate surroundings.

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The Cusp of December: Belt Buckle in Copper, Bronze & Milky Opal, 2014

I have found that it takes a certain person to make life work here: there is an intention within those who choose to be here to live and work and make a life despite adverse circumstances that are mostly based on a seasonal economy and general lack of orientation around money. Money here is not a driver, but experience is, peace is, serenity is, building things that will stay becomes a sort of guiding force for all of us. Once you have found it, you want to hold on to it. I remember discussing with a friend how he felt about his first stone wall, and how he went to check on it regularly over its first few years. I asked him if he was afraid it would have fallen down, but no, that wasn’t it: he wanted to see how it was standing, how it was living as a piece in a grander landscape. I suppose that is how all of us are here, there, and everywhere.

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The Flower Tower: a Memorial for Eden, Bar Harbor, Maine

My hopes for 2015 are for more creativity and more communication and for connecting the dots between how I see myself and how others see me. I wish to become more present, more available, less of a mystery and more a citizen of this place. For the past two years, I have waffled back and forth about staying and going, whether to commit, or not. In reality, I haven’t committed to anything in five years, until right now. I moved into this beautiful little house (photos forthcoming) a bit less than a month ago, and have found, after all the ups and downs of recent times, of the discoveries, enlightenments, experiences, sadnesses and true joys, have found a home.

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A Helping Hand: Davistown Museum Sculpture Garden, Hulls Cove, Maine

Thank you for reading. It is the winter, truly, now, and I look forward to writing more about how it unfolds here, sharing my thoughts with you and yours. It is time for a celebration of a sort: as a friend told me the other night, how amazing is it to be 34 years old? Or however old you are. Enjoy it.

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At the Tool Barn, Autumn 2014 – photography by George Soules

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Viva La Vida

Frida Kahlo and Pet Hawk

I have been in radio silence now for quite a while; there are various reason for this, but mostly life just keeps getting in the way of delivering my musings to you here. I have a slew of stories to tell about sailing the Caribbean in Panama, as well as reflections on the ending of my second winter in Maine, as well as new developments in the art-sphere, namely a new studio in a magical place that has been a stomping ground of mine since I was a little girl.

But, for today, for all we have is today….some musings and ideas from two of my favorite artists, that will propel us all forth this second week in April, in the year 2014, my thirtieth year of spending time on this small island that I know call home.

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The Portrait of Alicia Galant (1927) was the first painting of Frida Kahlo’s that made me pause. I was a very young girl of maybe 10 when my best friend’s mom dragged she and I to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to see the exhibit of a painter who, before that moment, was unknown to me. I remember spending many minutes gazing at this painting because it felt, to me, as if it was alive and glimmering: velvety and viscous, dark and deep set in the night.

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“Feet, for what do I need you, for I have wings to fly?” has been a motto of mine, especially during the metamorphosis of the last two years. I find that holding on to dreams, and trusting that when you  leap, you will land somewhere far better than where you started, and of course, just keeping going, one foot in front of the other, is what will propel you forward to a happier life that is full of intentional actions versus reactions to simple circumstance.

Today, I read this quote from another of my inspirations, Anais Nin, and thought to include it here as a musing on the doubtful part of the creative life: those dark corners of the psyche or even your apartment, when the doubts or fears or seeming impossibilities of what you are doing seem overwhelming. It seems to me that anyone embarking on the creative path will discover these dark corners of themselves; the trick, I think, is to channel those into more making, more artwork, more writing, more pause to understand the temporary nature of each passing moment, so that the creativity can continue, rather than be stifled by the “shoulds” and “should nots” of our cultural world.

“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.”

Lastly this morning, as I wrap up this scattershot of musings on a Wednesday, gazing outside the window at an early spring day, daydreaming of this afternoon’s visit to the new studio, and thinking about planting pear and black walnut trees on a 5 acre swathe of land on the Breakneck Road, my feelings keep coming back to the idea, that without the sense of love for yourself and others, that no dreams or beauty or art or peace or sense of tranquility is truly possible. May we all be lucky enough to have people that encourage us to find this feeling each day, in those temporary, fleeting moments. They are, after all, what ties us to our earth-bound experiences, and to each other.

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How Summer Ends…

rockefeller gardens 5Leaves beginning to disintegrate in the waning sunlight…

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. “

Natalie Babbitt

And here we are, again, another ending to another season: summer.

moglosMorning glories on parade!

Tonight I walked out of the restaurant with another week of summer under my belt. Summer, to me, has meant non-stop working: smiling, helping, bringing, doing, aquiesceing to peoples’ desires. Summer is a season of wants, sometimes fulfilled. Summer is a season when the population explodes: when your always sleepy town is transformed by people strolling in pistachio green or salmon pink trousers, people stopping in their cars or at least driving ever so slowly, as if creeping along a new road that has yet to be discovered.

rockefeller gardens 6Hidden views from Rockefeller Gardens

Whilst driving home, I noticed the outdoor temperature was 49 degrees: 49 degrees! Ever so cold for August; ever so cold for a girl who lived most of her life in a place when if it was less than 100 degrees in August, those types of low temperatures were considered a reprieve.

islesfordEnd of summer sunset from the Islesford dock

I have been writing here for almost a year: so much has happened over the last ten months. Most of the discoveries of the last almost-year have been reflective in nature: never before did I give myself the latitude of place to have time to think. This morning, when I woke, I noticed that the sun that daily streams through my front windows has bleached out my rendering of Shel Silverstein’s “Hector the Collector”, which is written in my slanting hand on the inside of a greeting card with the blazing emblem of “Let’s Get Drunk and Eat Waffles” on its cover.

rockefeller gardens 8Even lilies become caught in late afternoon misty rainstorms

My little house, so filled with light and creative projects, has been transformed from the tiny cottage it was when I moved in, to a jewelry studio with a small kitchen and bedroom. Everywhere, every surface indicates that an active artist lives here. The floor, messy, is covered with bits and bobs, the kitchen table-now-work-station is covered with silver wire, stones, pliers and projects halfway completed. On the counter lie Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, drying in the salty air. On the floor below is a skateboard-cribbage board, now decorated with insects from the 1800s. In the window hangs an Egon Schiele print, some prisms, a steel block or two, a slide from a Magic Lantern, tins filled with magical objects of a lost art, a sea urchin skeleton, and some antique steel components that once belonged on the drawers or in the doors of someone, somewhere far away.

rockefeller gardens 3Stucco rusting, dripping, disintegrating

To the right is a tiny antique shelf from Germany, or maybe England, although its rendering of wildflowers makes me think of Heidi, up there in the mountains of Europe. On the shelf lies a strand of ivory: Indian, not African, brought to me by my father when I was a little girl, before ivory was entirely illegalized. Within the curves of the ivory necklace is a stone box, with a magnetic clasp. Inside the box is the surprise of cicada exoskeletons, their bodies green and wings a plastic, black, threaded delight of perfect cells, and the dessicated body of a hummingbird who once flew into the windows of the school in which I taught. He flew into the glass, hit his little head, and fell to the ground, dead. I put him in a tin of salt, and after a time, he became what he is now: an artifact, a beautiful, scary thing that will stay for all time. His feathers shine green and black and grey and brown: a miracle of suspended iridescence.

rockefeller gardens 1Gateway in the rain

One of the things to appreciate in this grand scheme of turning time, this period of peace and quiet and loneliness, for it is that to be sure, are the stars. Glorious and reaching, they spread from horizon to horizon on nights like this. Wherever you look, there are stars, and the backbone-like fuzz of another arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. A galaxy so far, far away, yet we are a part of it and see only the tiny fraction of what is ours, what is our own neighborhood, here from the surface of planet Earth. Tomorrow when I awake, again it will be sunny and the sunshine will glitter like shimmering pellets on the water’s surface. Again the water will be deep blue, and the sunshine gold upon it. Again will I wonder at the beauty of this place, the stillness coupled with unfathomable dynamism: this place of daily change, of growth, of beauty, of solitude, of trees, water, and earth.

rockefeller gardens 7Sleepy Lisianthus, reflecting cloud cover and covered with an afternoon dew

The Enormity of Spaces

next servicesWhen I was 19 or 20, I have forgotten which, I went on a long road trip with a college boyfriend out west, from Austin all the way to Washington state and back. We traveled through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado all in a blue Ford Taurus that looked a little more worse for wear when we returned two months after we had left.

A highlight of this trip was our stop at the Grand Canyon. Previous to a random stop in Pecos, Arizona, town of art and college students, we were, like everyone else, going to stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, walk along the plexiglass bridge and marvel at the sights alongside throngs of other tourists. In Pecos, we stopped in a cooperative art gallery and I started chatting with the man working the gallery that day and he told us we should go to the Toruweap entrance instead, and so, we did.

painted desertThe Painted Desert, on the way to Toruweap

Toruweap is a hidden entrance to the Grand Canyon, one accessed by driving up into Mormon country and knowing where you are going because no one will give you directions. After a few turns here and there, you end up at the bottom of a valley with a very large sign at your right telling you the road ahead is 65 miles long and only suitable for all wheel drive vehicles. We pressed on in the Taurus, and two and a half hours later, arrived at a ranger station. We were allowed in and proceeded to drive along huge, flat slabs of limestone on our way to the rim of the canyon, at which point we parked and set up our tent, and walked to the edge of the canyon, realizing that we were the only ones there.

One of my first memories of the Grand Canyon campsite was looking around and noticing the largeness of that place. Later in the day, I walked through rattlesnake infested terrain, over rocks, and sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking down. At that time, only the two of us were there and we were able to experience the Canyon in a way that most people do not: it was immense, many-layered, radiating with heat in the summer sunshine. I sat there a long while pondering how deep it really was, and how I could get down there, and what would happen if I were to fall?

That night we lit a campfire and stared at the stars, thinking about the monstrously huge cliff’s edge only a few feet from where we sat. In the morning, we woke up and went walking around, looking for strange rocks and plants, narrowly missing a rattlesnake, until we saw a small, white Toyota truck with a Utah license plate parked next to one of the picnic tables.

Walking up to the truck (we had already learned to just say hello to other folks on similar journeys to ours), we saw an old man with a long white beard, eating cantaloupe and drinking black coffee, reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Now here was an interesting character, who we learned had driven in late last night for the evening and was about to head home. We sat and shared cantaloupe and coffee, and talked about the world, and traveling, and quickly said goodbye to take off to our next stop: Arches National Park in Utah.

barn windowSalsbury Cove Barn Window

That trip was many years ago now, in fact it was something like twelve summers ago. If I look outside my window today, I see fog and dreariness: the markers of Maine spring. When I was a child, we would arrive in Maine every May and every time we pulled up the driveway of our camp house, with a grocery bag of chicken pot pies, tea, and who knows what else, it was always raining. My memories of Maine in late spring always involve fog, cold, and greyness.

sculptureSculpture and steps outside the jewelry studio at Haystack

It was been awhile since I have written here: too long, as life is passing me by quickly and the events that necessitate recording are piling up inside my mind. I haven’t written since just before leaving for my Haystack weekend, and suffice it to say, I am more than thrilled that I went and had that experience. I met many incredible people, made many things, learned how to be a baby blacksmith, drank a lot of bourbon, and didn’t really sleep for three days. Not sleeping turned out to be a bad decision as it left my body quite empty and shaken up for almost two weeks!!! No longer am I a woman who can party all night and stay up all day the next day…

early morning coffee cupsEarly morning light, many coffee cups…

At Haystack, also, the Maine spring was in full force and it was foggy and cold and clammy almost every day, culminating with our last day being downright soggy, slippery, and windy-cold. There are two bridges to Deer Isle: one is a green metal suspension bridge reminiscent of something you’d find in New York, and the other is a low stone bridge made of white stones that stand out in stark contrast to the grey and brown pebble beaches, the amber and golden seaweed, the green fir trees, the blue water, the white boats.

Haystack is a crafts school that was build in 1961 outside the village of Deer Isle, Maine, and sits on the edge of the ocean, on a small bay that is dotted with the fir covered islands so common to Downeast Maine. If you walk down to the bottom of the steps that run the length of the studios, and lean against the railing, you will see birds fishing and swimming in the water before you, some moorings, some lobster buoys, a large island draped with golden and amber seaweed, and many smaller islands laying long and flat along the horizon. If you sit down there at night when the wind is blowing, you will hear the banging of the cleats of the flag against the metal flagpole, and hear loons call their eerie song to you. You will see the nightlights passing through the wooden slats that make up the deck and stairs, and perfectly frame a pair of windy, Arthur Rackham trees that grow up out of the beach and against the bottom railing of the deck. These are the trees that became part of the top of the box that I worked on most of the weekend. The box is made of copper and bronze and a 100 year old lockset with key, copper rivets, and epoxy that covers a piece of paper from an old newspaper, asking the question: what shall we do with our daughters? What shall we, indeed?

treesInspirational Trees

box topDo you see them?

Haystack helped me understand something about myself: that I crave the night spaces, the dark times, and that I like to work uninterrupted by others. I can work with others, as long as do not have to interact with them very much. The first night at Haystack I experimented with tools like the hydraulic press and their very fancy rolling mill and their many daps and dapping stumps and made a really beautiful, tiny vessel that looks, almost, like an autumn leaf.

vesselLate night fold forming experiment

The night spaces at Haystack are what are special: the coolness of nighttime, the sounds of the wind rustling the trees, the glow of orange and white lights out of studio windows. The sound that the sliding door made when I opened and shut it, knowing no one else was there, was immeasurably gratifying. Opening the studio door early in the morning and seeing the blue morning light cascading through large windows, casting the anvils, the tables, the lights, the walls in an eerie, silvery light. The smell of that studio reminded me of my old studio in Austin, but much, much colder, as if the environment that surrounded us on all four sides penetrated the walls, becoming part of the building itself.

studio instagramLate night, empty studio

haystack benchWork space

heat patinasExperimental heat patinas on paper-thin copper

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etchingsExperimenting with salt water etching

And that is, of course, my experience of life in Maine, that we are literally drawn into and become part of the landscape, and it of us. It is impossible to not be affected by and to effect the landscape, whether it be your footprints on old leaves whilst walking in the woods on a rainy day, or whether it simply be the memory of the way the birch trees with their white and black trunks look in contrast to their lime green new leaves. The landscape is burned into your mind, your heart, your soul, and becomes tied to its ever changing daily face, no two days the same, just like us.

When Haystack Weekend was over, and I was left completely exhausted after not sleeping the last night at all: I was blacksmithing til dawn and then just powered through to work on the box until crashing for about ten minutes at 9:30, my friend and I drove home along the windy roads of Downeast Maine, in the rain, talking about people, laughing about the weekend: making a wrong turn at one point, we ended up almost in Penobscot. The roads from Blue Hill to Deer Isle wind and wind, twist and turn around houses old and new, showing bushes bursting forth with spring color, lobster traps, old cars, hidden in the woods sometimes are even older houses, stone walls, and other mysteries that stay half hidden as the seasons keep rolling by.

It is hard for me to understand that in a few short days it will be the 1st of June, and that I have lived in Maine now for almost one year. I started writing here at the end of August of last year, and have watched the seasons change from summer to fall to winter to spring and soon, it will be summer again. Time keeps marching by, keeping its own pace, and we are simply swimming through, bearing witness to all the changes, small and large, planned and surprising.

boxThe box

A Funny Thing Happened at the Health Food Store

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The Robert Frost poem that discusses paths in the woods, and taking the one less traveled by, is a tried and true trope of our contemporary culture, and represents both a great romantic idea and an understanding of risk and reward.

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How do we know anything that lies in front of us in this life? We can take the trodden path, the one we know, and expect at least some results based on past experience, but even experience does not prepare us for life’s pitfalls and surprises. And when we measure the risk of venturing out and down the path that is dark and laden with heavy woods, the fear of the unknowns can be all too overwhelming.

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These thoughts were cavorting through my mind the other day when I stopped into our local health food store in Bar Harbor, and there I found a friend who is dealing with this place in life herself. Both of us stand with two paths in front of us: the path of least resistance and more security, and the path of hope and the heart.

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Whilst chatting with her over my paper cup of coffee, she behind the register and me standing to its side, two people began to check out with their groceries and eavesdropped on our musings about life. They said, to us both, that you don’t have to choose, that the right course will become illuminated and just to trust that it will. Trust is something I struggle with, being a lady who likes to plan and problem-solve. How does one trust in the unfolding of one’s path in this great universe of ours? How does one trust in the unfurling of opportunities, knowing the risks of being one of spring’s buds, the new leaf growing outward into the coldness of the spring air? How do you know if summer’s warmth and light is here, or if some new frost will come around and stop your growth in its tracks?

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I suppose that you never truly know anything, in this life. You can plan and plan and plan, and still be surprised. Today, in the midst of a spring rain, I noticed tufts of green grass coming out of the ground that, for months, has been beige-brown and lifeless. I heard, again, new birds in the trees, and watched a loon hunt for fish in the harbor. As I worked, piecing together a necklace so many years in the making, I watched two seagulls fly together, playing in the wind. Tonight, I sit here, at my kitchen table-desk, wondering about what lies ahead, and how to remain grateful and surprised at the opportunities opening up before me. Like the receding ice that has covered the rocks for six months, there are surprises hidden underneath: new joys that are uncovered each day.

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To work!

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Si Tengo Alas Para Volar

A few months ago, my good friend Julie told me that I should start naming the more intricate jewelry pieces, to give them more personality. I agree. Today I finished this latest necklace, inspired by necklaces worn by Frida Kahlo in many of her paintings.

This necklace is named  – Si Tengo Alas Para Volar. In English, that means If I Have Wings to Fly.

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Frida necklace

Hey look! It’s me!

Frida Kahlo was a woman who knew pain, and lots of it. She not only knew it, but was able to communicate her pain in a meaningful way to people who connected with her feelings and empathized with her experiences. Her quote: ¿ Pies para que os quiero, si tengo alas para volar?, was written at a time when she couldn’t walk due to injuries and pain to her spine.

I love this quote because it exemplifies what I think is the most important force in human thinking: our capacity to dream beyond what is right in front of us. This necklace is made of sterling silver beads that are silhouettes of stylized bleeding hearts, 14 karat gold, and red coral. It is meant to be striking, beautiful, slightly dangerous, risky to wear. Just like love, and just like all the steps we take along this path of life.

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Phew!

Christmas has been soooo busy, in a wonderful way. I am finishing up my last two custom projects: one a mermaid dress, and the other a Frida Kahlo-inspired necklace, and am just thrilled to be finishing them and be happy with how they have turned out, and to be able to see ahead a few days from now to a day or two of downtime, before preparing for new work and new motivation.

I love being a creative person, and to be making my living (just barely right now, but I have high hopes for lucky ’13) from my creative processes is enlivening and affirming. Today I received a new order and a surprise purchase. Things are moving in the right direction. Photos soon….I promise to be better organized in the documentation department from now on: it is one of my (many) resolutions.

For tonight, off to bed, after Lao Tsu gives us his wisdom for today:

TEN

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,

Can you avoid separation?

Attending fully and being supple,

Can you be as a newborn babe?

Washing and cleansing the primal vision,

Can you be without stain?

Loving all men and ruling the country,

Can you be without cleverness?

Opening and closing the gates of heaven,

Can you play the role of woman?

Understanding, and being open to all things,

Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,

Bearing yet not possessing,

Working yet not taking credit,

Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Vision.

Thinking about the future……