Tag Archives: philosophy

The Blank Page – or Adventures with Fecundity

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Fecundity is my favorite word. It is the ability to produce. When I am at my best creatively, I am relaxed, comfortable, and feel free. This state of being does not come naturally. I have (as do you, I suspect) what feels like A TON of things that must be done. I have roles of mother, wife, and friend that are important to me to fulfill. It is easy to feel very limited.

Yet, when I see a blank canvas:

behind the scenes 124I can’t wait to gather my paints:

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And fill it with color:

behind the scenes 129Don’t get me started when it comes to what is possible with polymer clay:

behind the scenes 126I can begin a piece feeling discouraged or sad, but it’s nearly impossible to hold on to those feelings when I play with colors and design:

dream onjourneywhat a lovely dayfeel betterjoymay find yourself smiling oftenbeloved let us love

As some of you know, I occasionally work with students in English. Yesterday, I spoke with a mother who needed guidance in how to help her daughter with her writing. She said that one of her assignments simply asks the student to write a story and provided a blank page. For the reluctant writer, a blank page is overwhelming. We discussed ways in which she could help her daughter brainstorm and organize her thoughts, which is really an amazing process when I stop to think about it.

Today, I think about how, even though a blank canvas, page, or a glob of clay doesn’t phase me, staring into the face of the unknown is daunting – just as a writing assignment with no real prompt and only white space was daunting to the reluctant writer. Jean Paul Sartre writes of this sensation in Being and Nothingness. To have nothingness can be ideal in that there is great freedom, but it can also be the source of great existential angst. Great power lies in the ability to create – and great responsibility accompanies that power.

I think, in the midst of experiencing some uncertainty in my own life, that returning to the metaphor of the artist is one that can inspire me to push through the angst and toward the sensation of hope, wonder, and playfulness. In the words of Fr. J.J. Lakers (who I write about in my post on Journeys), “I claim a certain right to expound a vision… by analogy with artists in a theory of artistic creation… when artists meet insuperable limits on the full and free expression of their longing in this actual society, they feel the limits intensely. Yet, where others who meet these limits may repress the longing or adjust to the reality, the artists refuse to surrender. They therefore set out to create new forms of life and interaction, if only in imagination.”

Here’s to the artistic spirit that dwells within us all – waiting to be unleashed. Here’s to fecundity.

– Free Range Al

http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFreeRangeArtisan

PLEASE NOTE: excerpts of this blog using Fr. J.J.’s words may not be used without written permission.

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Possibility

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Journeys

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The topic for Illustration Friday this week is “Journey”, and it was a delight to create a design based upon that topic.

Fr. J.J. Lakers, my dear friend and mentor who died in 2011, often spoke of the “journey into the unknown”. He used that phrase a lot when discussing marriage in his Christian Marriage course. J.J. made me responsible for his writing before he died (he was a great writer and thinker), and I couldn’t help but return to a section in which he writes that spouses:

“…embark on a journey into the unknown. When they find themselves at cross-purposes, they are called to plunge in. They have a choice. They can respond with honest self-revelations which allow empathetic entries into each other’s tangles, or they can turn to judgements or self-justifications, to fight or flight. If they enter through God’s love, however, they committed themselves to transform flawed exchanges into passionate, vulnerable, respectful, and faithful responses.”

The idea of taking a plunge into the unknown can go beyond that of marital relationships, of course. There are so many twists and turns in our life journey that make it impossible to clearly see what lies ahead. I’ve found that the more I open myself up to the experience and the people around me, the more I gain from it and the more I develop as a person. This is not always easy. In fact, it is something I am trying to do now in the midst of great uncertainty. When I look beyond myself, though, and enter into honest and vulnerable discussions, there is much beauty and I am full of gratitude.

My current design falls short of fully reflecting those ideas, but I do hope it portrays a sense of play in the face of uncertainty, which is something I think J.J. would approve of.

Here’s to the fecundity of the journey…

– Free Range Al

http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFreeRangeArtisan

PLEASE NOTE: excerpts of this blog using Fr. J.J.’s words may not be used without written permission.

(c) 2014

Receiving and Giving

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“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!” – George Elliston

My chickadee and I returned from visiting people who are very dear to us last Friday. Our visit included kayaking, attending a baseball game (which I normally do not enjoy, but our companions made it delightful), and the general enjoyment of good company. On Wednesday morning, I rode a mountain bike trail at a wonderful location called Two Rivers in Springfield, Missouri. The beauty and the challenge of the trails made it an amazing experience. I completed a slope style course two times! I was tempted to take my camera to share the view with you, but I wanted to be sure to stay present in the moment – and to stay on my bike!

We visited in order to spend time with loved ones, but I also needed to have a small procedure to complete the process of having a dental implant. Usually, I’m put under sedation for such things, but this procedure only takes fifteen minutes. I was terribly nervous about being awake, but, thanks to a generous amount of Valium, nitrous oxide, and The Black Keys, it went as well as such a thing could go for me. While this was a really stressful experience, there was also an element of beauty to it thanks to a wonderful nurse who took such gentle care of me. I’m full of gratitude for the patient care she and my surgeon provided.

When we returned, we found my husband in a state of great discomfort. A friend of ours in Illinois, who happens to be an audiologist, was a source of great help as we realized the initial diagnosis we received in Urgent Care. The time he took to listen to me and to check in via texts to see how my husband was doing made me feel less lonely than I did in a city that still feels new at times. On Monday, our primary physician declared the cause seems to be a virus in the inner ear, and he prescribed medicine to help him function while his ear returns to normal. I spent every day after our return in a state of what felt like nonstop care – either for him or for our active six year old. At times, this was a frustrating state to be in. I had things I wanted to make, to read, to write. I wanted some time to myself. I felt as if it didn’t really matter what I did – my time away from my desired modes of creativity made the chances of me being on David Letterman before he retires even slimmer than they already are!  While there was no doubt in my mind that my husband and son were, and are, my priorities, it was hard to let go of what else I wanted to be.

Now that my husband has returned to work and our life feels more “normal”, I have no regrets in my decision to focus on caring for those I loved. The other things I wanted to do are right here, waiting for me, and I’m about ready to begin some exciting projects. I think about the nurse who helped me on Thursday. She will probably not be on late night television either, but she created a lovely memory for me during a time that initially began with great anxiety – I made sure to thank her while I was still coherent.

Sometimes, what matters most in this life receives the least amount of praise. While receiving positive feedback and accolades feels good, we are really the only ones who can make what we do meaningful. I like this idea, and I hope you take comfort in it too – although it’s also a call to meaningful and intentional action.

May you always see the value in what you do…

Free Range Al

http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFreeRangeArtisan

 

Defining and Using Gratitude… with Chaos

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When my son is upset that something is not going his way (which does not happen often, but he is human), we’ve started a practice of making a list of what he is happy about in his life. At first, this annoys him, but eventually his face lights up as he thinks about what he really likes about his world, and we are often able to move on to a more pleasant state of being.

I’ve decided to make sure I do this too when I start to obsess over something I want but cannot have, or if my day does not go just as I planned. My list of wants includes things that just are not possible right now, and sometimes I want to throw fits of my own to release the emotions that comes with that fact. Sadness and frustration still arise, but, since I started making a list of what is good and beautiful right now, I also feel a deep sense of peace and gratitude.

After writing my last entry, I began to wonder if  this practice was leading me to settle for something less and enabling me to not push myself toward a better way of life. I suppose it is possible to use gratitude as a way to settle, but I’m finding that it works as an anchor in my life. I will always want more time to write, draw, organize, read, whatever. I really want to go to graduate school and study theology. While it can be painful, I think that drive will serve me well in eventually accomplishing what I want to accomplish as an individual. Meanwhile, there are some really good things in my world, and it serves me to pause and remember them.

I’m going to define gratitude as the act of acknowledging what is good in one’s life. That does not mean that I ignore or dismiss whatever is bothering me or what I would like to change. It just means that I pause to recognize that which is good.

I think emotions we are quick to condemn can actually serve us. A Friedrich Nietzsche quote  I often visit is “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. Contentment does not prompt change, chaos does, so I do not really wish to be without it. I’ve heard many yoga teachers say to find peace in a position that requires great strength, and I finally realized that is really what so much of life is about. Finding something, it doesn’t have to be peace, in the midst of something that initially seems to be the opposite is something that requires practice, but it can bring a great sense of balance when it is found.

I’m  embracing the gratitude and the chaos today. I’m very grateful that my son is beginning a week of a music, art, and dance camp and that, if something happens, I’m only a phone call away and will easily be able to do what must be done. I’m grateful for the two English students I will work with today and am honored to be a part of their academic lives. I’m grateful that I can pick my son up from camp and learn about his day. I’m grateful that my spouse values what I do. I also wish that I totally had the day to myself to write out several ideas that came up last week, and (I’m not going to lie) I’d like to watch “The Queen” before practicing yoga. Finally, I’d like to spend the entire night designing cards. Actually, I’ve already written about one thought, and the little chickadee and I can do our warrior poses together. Maybe, if I’m not exhausted, I’ll be able to sketch while watching “The Queen” after tucking my little fellow in.

I really do love my present, and I’m excited about the future.

Wishing you peace… with a healthy dose of chaos,

Free Range Al

http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFreeRangeArtisan

Climbing Mount Pisgah in Oregon

Climbing Mount Pisgah in Oregon

 

A Somewhat Poetic Cleaning Day

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I realize, as I clean my studio,

Debating what remains, what can leave,

Experiencing the uncertainty and pain that accompanies the act of letting go,

I realize I’m in a metaphor – it’s time to sort my thoughts.

Newly Organized Shelves

Newly Organized Shelves

 

Happy Cleaning,

Free Range Al

An Introduction: What’s In A Name?

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In short, I think a lot can be in a name – ask any character from The Odyssey … then again, it’s easy to put too much into one’s name, or title – ask Romeo or Juliet.  When someone asks me what I do, I have to quickly decide if I will keep it simple (stay at home mom while adding that I do not like that phrase), or if I’ll avoid a label and provide a quick summary of what I do (write, create, mother, work with English students, support my husband, support those who are dear to me). As you can see, a quick summary is actually not possible, and each part of that summary has a story behind it. We all do a great many things, and our activities and areas of emphasis vary from day to day. That is how The Free Range Artisan came into being. It’s my attempt to have an identity without being limited by it. There are so many ways in which I love to create:

Illustration

Dream On

Polymer Clay

Owl Buddies

Mixed Media

Mixed Media Purse

Felt

Heart Felt Bottle

I could go on…

The world of ideas is also really important to me. Reading and writing has always been part of my life, and an objective of mine is to be published. I daydream about being a published author and respected thinker as often as I daydream about being recognized for my artistic creations!

reading

I wouldn’t mind being a professional drummer either…

Behind the Scenes

Sometimes having a great many interests and passions can be painful – it actually hurts when I do not have the time I need to write to the extent I want to write, or when I cannot stay in my studio by myself all day to make sure a drawing is just right – but these interests are also sources of great joy, especially when I can incorporate them into my current life as a mother. My son helped me prepare my business cards while I stamped bags today…

business card prep

… and it was a joy to share my love of nature with him during yesterday’s bike ride. I think my experiences of motherhood and the opportunities I have to build and maintain meaningful relationships will enhance my work in the future when I’m able to devote more time and energy to my writing and design.

What about you? What are your passions? How do you honor your own desires while being sure to care for those you love?

Take Care,

Free Range Al

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” – Nietzsche