The Ponder Days

I am just a sojourner, an artist wandering through life with a sense of wonder about it all. Come ponder with me. This year is about observation and perspective.

This blog is interactive and is at its best when comments are left and opinions shared, lively discussions generated, and perhaps with your favorite beverage.

I would love to read your comments. Please, don't be shy...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Living your Spirit #23 ~ Life Interrupted

When illness strikes, whether you work away from home or at home, the work doesn't get done, the house suffers, sometimes family is neglected, and there is absolutely nothing on the social front at all.
So, back at work, there is a lot of catching up to do. Looking around the house, setting it back in order becomes a priority again. All of the social aspects, family, freinds, media, come back into play.
Although it is easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of the seemingly monumental "catch up" tasks, adding a little at a time to your daily regimen may take a bit more time, but it will be a much more peaceful transition back into your schedule. There is no need to be hard on yourself.
How do you best catch up from unscheduled "time off"?

Living Your Spirit #22 ~ The Art of Family

Where would we be without family? They shape our lives, intentionally or not. We are a part of some sort of family, like it or not. It might not be what we think of as traditional. It might be blended from pieces of other families. It might be created from people that just want to be together and have no blood ties whatsoever. It might be all male, or all female, muticolored or monochromatic.
This art of family can be a drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, mosaic, graffiti. It can be small or large, free standing or heavily supported. It can reside in a museum or on the side of a building. It can be traditional or controversial.
Tell us about your family's art.

Living Your Spirit #21 ~ Visit the 3D World

When you work at home, it is so easy to stay there. There is always so much to do. The studio time, the marketing time, the paperwork time, then when you are not officially working, there is the house time and the family time, meals, pet care, laundry. I could go on and on, and as it appears that I already have, will stop here with the list.
Especially with our social contacts a fingertip away at our computers, people can have a more difficult time actually getting out into the three dimensional world where people actually do come face to face (I think Facebook might actually be misnamed). Many of us are forced into this world every day as we navigate through our workdays. Some of us have to make the deliberate choice. It is important to do so, even, very possibly especially, when we don't want to. Schedule the time, make the effort, get out of the house, talk to people.
What is your best "out of the house" tactic?

Living Your Spirit #20 ~ One Habit at a Time

Experts generally agree that it takes three weeks (21 days) of steady and daily practice for a new behavior to become a habit. In this sparkling clean new year ahead of us, may of us have habits we want to change, or habits that we would like to introduce into our lives.The longer we practice the new habit, the more firmly it becomes ensconced in our subconscious.
Unfortunately, when trying to inject too many  new habits at one time, the more likely it is that distraction will occur, days may be skipped, and a jumbled mess of overwhelming proportions will be in front of you instead of a neatly ordered world of nice, new, positive habits.
Maybe the first habit we should adopt is, "One at a Time". Take the time necessary to get the first and most important habit well established in your routine, and only then, pick up another. It may not go as fast as you like, but then, faster isn't always better.
What habits are you trying to establish? How are you doing it? How is it working for you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Living Your Spirit #19 ~ Pondering Oil Prices

I hear people complaining that oil prices are too high, and they are. I hear conversations about alternative fuel situations, such as natural gas for heating and solar power, to name just two examples. But there is another alternative. Another alternative - reduce consumption.  Reducing consumption generally brings prices down.

We are a nation of consumers and expect our wants to be met. We are not good at depriving ourselves on even a small scale to a common end. Yes, there are many who live a life committed to preserving the earth and are frugal in almost every action. I applaud and admire you., but the majority of Americans are consumers who buy what they want to have when they want to have it, mostly within reasonable limitations. The far reaching impact of this is high. Only one facet of this is that it takes a lot of fuel to move those products.

Steven L. Hopp says, in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,
"If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.  That’s not gallons, but barrels.  Small changes in buying habits can make big differences."

When we consider what a large number of people can do by each making such a small contribution, why would we not?

Living Your Spirit #18 ~ Loss

Loss of life, loss of property, loss of home, loss of health...all of these have been very visible in my life these past two weeks. To friends, to relatives, to townspeople, you have my deepest sympathies and energies for peace in your hearts.

We do not generally think about loss, except when it happens to us, sometimes unexpectedly. There is really no way to prepare, as there is no way to predict what will happen in the next moments of our lives.

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed into his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing I just helped him cry."

For those suffering loss today, we will help you cry.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living Your Spirit # 17 ~ Challenges

There are always challenges. I wouldn't want it any other way. I am fond of challenging myself, and usually, there are plenty of outside challenges to keep me occupied.
Sometimes the challenge is just getting my day together before it runs away with me.
Sometimes it is mastering (or just learning) a new technique, or a technology application. 
There are times when it is challenging to make myself the face of so much to do.
Then there is that challenge of making myself do something I need to do and don't really want to.

What do you see as a challenge? How do you challenge yourself?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Living Your Spirit #16 ~ Mouth...on Keeping Quiet

Sometimes you just have to shut your mouth! Or, I should say, I have to shut mine. There are times when it is better to say nothing. So many times in the past I have thought to myself, "Way to go. You have to go and open your big mouth, didn't you? When are you ever going to learn to be quiet.?"  Apparently, the learning is a constant process.

We have all heard the cliches about opening mouth and inserting foot or engaging your brain before putting your mouth in gear, but I am pondering the question of whether and when to speak at all.  I have often wondered what would happen if I chose not to speak for an extended period of time and just observed.  This does not fit in with my practical life, of course, so I have never tested it, but it still intrigues me.

We all say things we wish we wouldn't have from time to time. I am not speaking of nasty or rude things, although I am sure there is plenty of that, but those things we choose to share with others, and then we get comments for which we we didn't ask or feedback we didn't solicit. Often, this is not constructive and comes from unqualified sources and in a negative fashion.  Especially when we are discussing our work, comments such as these can smother the spark that ignites the creative process. This is when pausing to think before choosing to speak can come in handy.

Critique is good, and we should seek it on a regualr basis. It gives us something to look at from another's point of view and perhaps gain a fresh perspective. It helps us improve and often encourages us to try new things.  If you aren't in the frame of mind to receive critique, however, whether it be your work or your personal life, then you just might want to keep quiet.

Any words?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living Your Spirit # 15 ~ Borrowed Time

Death came this week, not once, but thrice, to people I know and love.  It has visited the periphery of my life, a dear friend of my daughter, fathers of two friends.  We are often hit hard when death happens, even if it is expected. It knocks the wind from our sails and we have to stop. Life interrupted. continuing, the way it always has.

Death is part of our everyday lives. It gets close sometimes, right into our personal space. My deepest wishes for comfort are with the families that are grieving these deaths, and celebrating these lives.

We are all on borrowed time. We live to die. We can be sterilized from the reality of it in these times because we have removed the face of it from our daily lives. Hospice, funeral directors, nursing homes, hospitals...all of these wonderful professionals handle the details; the things that used to be done by families. As I so appreciate the amazing jobs done by these caring individuals and organizations, I do ponder if we need to recognize more of death as a very intimate part of every day.
To this end, I do not wish to go to bed angry, or leave the house angry. I always wish to speak my love at the end of every conversation. I want to keep in my mind that we are here for so short a time, and to make every moment precious.

I may not be here tomorrow.
Peace and light.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Living Your Spirit # 14 ~ Fragments

Pieces of my life have been fractured, and there are times I wish a had a more singular, cohesive path; one steady trip instead of several different ones. But, and this is a big but, the continuity, however attractive, would never have given me the wealth of experiences I have had.
I am fortunate. I have seen much, and experienced much, good and bad, joyful and  tragic. I have lived in different arenas, each with its own perspective. Of course there were troubles, and still are troubles from time to time. There was pure joy, giddy happiness, deep grief, decisions both positive and negative.
I am thankful for patience and the tenacity to hang on to whatever good floats, and also to embrace those things we see as bad because they are important pieces, too. As I look at all the fractured pieces of my life, I see a beautiful mosaic, where all of the pieces have come together to create a one of a kind work of art.
So it is with your mosaic, your quilt, your collage of a life.
Bless you on your journey.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Living Your Spirit # 13 ~ Enlightenment

Sometimes there are things you know, learned by experience and repetition and hard lessons, that you somehow cannot verbalize. Not that you don't want to share, but sometimes the lessons are so deep and large, that the words don't exist, and so you are left to ponder and cherish a bit of truth. You watch as you see others learning the same, and you smile. It is a wondrous gift.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Living Your Spirit #12 ~ Doing too much?

I do a lot. I know it. I've been told I do too much. I don't know why I do so is instinctive for me. I might have been one of those children that didn't want to go to sleep "for fear she might miss something", as the saying goes.

Life is all too short, and so I have no problem saying yes to things I want to do. I'll find the time. I'll make the time. I always do. There is still plenty I will miss. I simply can't do everything, so I will do what I can.

Edward Everett Hale said, "I am only one , but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." This is often attributed to Helen Keller, who famously quoted it.

While doing, it is still a good idea to monitor the level at which doing so much crosses the line into overwhelming. I have had such episodes and have had to back off a bit to recreate balance. Remember the see saw?

This is how my spirit was created, and I will live it the way it was given to me.

Some spirits are slow and langourous, some are quick and frenetic, and so many other combinations. What is your spirit?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Your Spirit # 11 ~ Solitude, Sweet Solitude!

It can be called loneliness when unwanted; when one is wishing the company of others and conversation and interaction, but when one needs to be alone, especially when the creative process is taking place, the solitude becomes precious.  There are those who can create on demand, come up with ideas or visuals or poetry in the midst of the cacophany of a household or office...not me. I require alone time, sometimes to the exclusion of all outside influence altogether. Not voice, nor music, nor written word penetrates my need for moments of isolation so I can access my deepest creative powers.

I know, that sounds a bit sci-fi, maybe imaginary, and perhaps a tad pompous, but I certainly didn't mean it to be so.  Those solitary moments of which I speak may be several hours at a time, or perhaps just fifteen minute increments here and there. Even when I do manage to sequester myself in my studio, that door just may open at any time, with someone at its threshhold smiling at me in some sort of conversational expectation. I try so not to be rude...sometimes I just smile and wave and go back to what I was doing, in hopes that the visitor will get the hint of my wish to be uninterrupted. Often, I voluntarily allow myself to be dragged back into the world with other humans and lose my reverie to varied interactions with those I love.

Although my solitude is something I need from time to time, and precious to me, nothing is sweeter than knowing that my presence is desired by another.  It feeds my spirit like nothing else can.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living Your Spirit #10 ~ The Cobwebs of Your Mind

The room for unused things, or things we need out of sight to get to when we need them, or a place to put things of sentimental value that we just can't seem to get rid of.  Sometimes we need to get in that attic to sort things, clean up the dust and cobwebs, and very likely get rid of some stuff.

The same is true of the mind. It gets cluttered and dusty with unused things. Finding your way through all that stuff every day in order to get to the things you really need and need to do can be stressful. It is more commonly known as mental clutter.

Do you make a daily list of things to do? Do you find yourself writing the same task on the list each day so you won't forget it, but you can't seem to get it done? I't kind of like ducking under the same cobweb day after day and not getting it out of the way so you have a clearer path. It  is sometimes called procrastination, or avoidance behavior, but I just like to call it cobwebs. It seems to give it a better reason to clean it up and get it out of the attic.

Did you ever notice when you have a space in your home all cleaned and organized just the way you want it, how you like spending time there, and you want to be in that room and enjoy it? The same is true with your mind. Now no one wants to be in an empty room - there needs to be some furnishings, but how much more we will enjoy being present to our own mind if it is cleaned of the cobwebs and put in order. What a simple way to nourish your spirit.

Remember the chunking down?  Here. Just clean one little corner at a time. Oh, by the way, our minds are not square rooms, you know *twinkly eyed grin*. There are myriads of little corners and angles that can accumulate dust and cobwebs. Just find one or two and get started, and I will do the same.

Let me know what you find up there. Sometimes we uncover wonderful surprises about which we had all but forgotten.

Have a peaceful day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Living Your Spirit #9 ~ Finding Balance

Often, we struggle with where to schedule what in our quest for balance. Paint in the studio all day? Yes, sounds wonderful, but there are other things that need to be done. There are the necessary out of the building errands, correspondence to tend to, both paper and electronic, marketing needs to be met, supplies to organize, financials to manage...and that is just the business end of things.

Then there are the home things, the personal things. Whether you have the responsibility for the cleaning, the laundry, repairs, appointment scheduling, meal preparation, shopping (and I am referring to both males and females here), and personal time for relaxation, social events, outside activities...the list can go on and on. No wonder we feel out of sorts and lopsided some days, as if there are pieces of us everywhere to be collected.

Picture, if you will, an old fashioned see saw, the kind kids used to play on years ago - just a support with a board placed across it, no fancy playground equipment.  You would ordinarily think that the board would be placed evenly across the top of the support so that equal sides of the board would be on each side.  But if one child was considerably bigger than another, in order for them to ride comfortably, the board would be shifted to accomodate the weight difference.  The support, aka the fulcrum, would be in a different place between the two sides.

So the first thing we need to do is properly place the fulcrum between business and personal life. How much weight do we need on each side? There are those that really have the need for symmetry, so they may need to have things perfectly even. As all artists know, however, one can find beautiful balance in assymetry. Do what works for you. Let's place that fulcrum first, then begin to assign spaces, or time chunks on either side. It actually can be fun to see what kind of balance can be achieved. Build a little model to make a fun game of it. Not a bad idea for family members and household chores, too.

One of the things that sometimes comes of this exercise is that  maybe some things will just have to go, or be set aside for a different balance day. Putting too much on the scales will eventually topple the entire thing. Believe me, I used to topple on a regular basis. Finding balance is a process. Finding a way to enjoy the process adds to it .

Donna Welsh, I Believe I can Fly. Miniature sculpture on recycled flooring base. ©2010

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Living Your Spirit #8 ~ See the Spirit in Others

Sometimes I am so intent on living my spirit, looking for what it is telling me, and acting on the truth of it, that I forget that part of living my spirit is finding and acknowledging the spirit in others.  This week, I will make a deliberate attempt to see the spirit in others, to pay attention and find the good in them, even if it seems to be buried.

Join me on this treasure hunt! Share what you found and your treasure map for finding it.

It is going to be an exciting week. Peace and be well.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Living Your Spirit #7 ~ Be a Dreamer

If we allow ourselves time to dream, we turn on our imaginations.  Night time dreaming is wonderful. We would be lost without it, as it serves a very important function, but that's for another post. This is about daydreaming, wondering, pondering...all those things that caused trouble for us in the classroom so long ago, or even now.

 Call it what you will - meditation, brainstorming, daydreaming. When we allow ourselves the time to let our innermost thoughts bubble their way to the surface we access an essential part of ourselves.  So often, we busy ourselves right through our day into the next. Our time is precious, and we deserve some of it to nourish our spirits.

My children and I used to have "ponder days". We would take a whole day and maybe go on a picnic and watch the clouds or examine the behavior of the ants or maybe just hang out in the yard and observe the world passing by. We didn't have to be DOING anything. It was not busy time. It was slow and langourous. We explored all the subtle and sharp tastes in lemonade, we looked very closely at plain old dirt. I remember those days fondly, better than any other planned exciting experience. For they were times of dreaming, much of which children do very well on their own. They have such a wonderful capacity for it. I was privileged to share some of those moments.

I encourage you now to take some of those moments for yourself. Bring some childlike wonder into your life. Take some quiet time today...allow yourself the, the necessity...of dreaming.

You may say I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us,
and the world will live as one.
                             ~John Lennon

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Living Your Spirit #6 ~ Embrace Your Humanity, Forgive Your Mistakes

You've made a mistake in your artwork. Something went amiss. Now what? "Oh no (you stamp your foot)! Now it's ruined."
Not nec-ces-sar-ily...some things that some people would call mistakes, I like to call happy accidents. Sometimes they can be used to turn your art around from what you originally intended to an unexpected pleasurable outcome. We occasionally try to rein our creativity in a too narrow path; throw something away before we have recognized that it might still have value, perhaps in another area ~ or perhaps just as it is.

Mistakes are part of human nature. We all make them. There are cultures that deliberately include mistakes in their creative efforts as a statement to our human imperfection. I have adopted that upon occasion, although more often than not, I don't have to make the deliberate effort.

Today's challenge is to look at a mistake as an opportunity.  Share your examples.  Don't be shy. Mine? Yes, the red ran where I didn't intend, so I continued and exaggerated it. I think it turned out better than my original plan.

Donna Welsh, Stages III. Encaustic on wood, 8.5 x 9.5 inches. ©2010

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday with Words

I know Wednesdays are supposed to be wordless in the generic blog community, but I have had way too much caffeine today (as opposed to none on a usual day), so I will try next week for that thousand word image...meanwhile please forgive me and carry on as though I know what I am doing.

Living Your Spirit #5 Venture Someplace Scary

Sometimes we stay so within our confining comfort zone that we miss out on rich experiences.  Today I will find something I have been hesitant to do or someplace I have been hesitant to go. I am actually looking forward to it and would love to hear your experiences as well.

Donna Welsh, Stages II. Encaustic on wood, 8.5 x 9.5 inches. ©2010

2011 Reading List Inquiry

I am preparing my reading list for the year. My goal is 30 books for 2011. Reading gives me balance and makes me sit still. I am hoping for some suggestions. I like books with substance; biographies, good  mysteries, extraordiary novels, classics...and sometimes just the fun stuff.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Living Your Spirit #4

Listen to the inner voice that knows best who you are, not the voice of society, or worse yet, the media.

Donna Welsh, Stages I. Encaustic on wood, 8.5 x 9.5 inches. ©2010

Monday, January 3, 2011

Living Your Spirit #3

Find miracles in small things! Look for a miracle today ~ if you look for it, you will find it, but not necessarily where you expect.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Living Your Spirit #2

Don't be afraid to be kind. It enhances your spirit and greatly improves sleep.

Saturday, January 1, 2011