Julia: The Burr Under My Saddle. The Bee in My Bonnet.

slide_5Perky Julia.
The burr under my saddle.
The bee in my bonnet.

Calls every day.
Multiple times a day.
Different phone number every time.
Words dripping of sweet talk and empty promises.
Robo-calling beard.

I hate her.

God help the woman behind that perky voice.
May she never cross my path.

(I love this photo. My resting face is fierce.  I was not aware until I saw this photo.  Makes me look braver than I am.  I am 56 January 3rd.  My goal for the year is to be as fierce as my resting face!)

I don’t believe in unconditional love

379059_10150936478140035_1325803287_nI don’t believe in unconditional love.
I don’t think I ever did.

I grew up Southern Baptist where the term, unconditional love, was bandied about, but they never meant it.

Unconditional love, IF you meet our conditions.

Um?  That is the absolute definition of CONDITIONAL love.

Our motto was, “Jesus died, once, for all.”

BUT unless you meet our conditions all does not include you.

If all does not mean ALL, did Jesus die in vain?  I asked the preacher after church one Sunday morning.

Shortly after I began asking questions like this I was offered an opportunity to work in the church nursery DURING the Sunday morning service for $$$$!  YIPPEE!!!! dsc_0008

Decades later that I realized this golden opportunity kept me from asking the preacher questions about his sermon on Sunday mornings during the exit handshake.   (Someone was very clever.)

Do I believe in Jesus?  Oh, yes, I do.
Do I believe Jesus died in vain?  No, absolutely not.
Do I believe in “once for all?”  Yes, she answered hesitantly.
Do I believe all means all?   Yeah, I do.  And that makes me a bad Christian.  I was not very good even before I came to understand that all might actually mean ALL.

Does it piss me off a little bit, all?  Well, of course.  Some people are horrible and I would like to see them burn in hell for eternity.  WOW!  Say THAT out loud three times and it will make your toes curl.  When I say it out loud, I mean it a lot less.

Apparently what I believe, now, is that no one is too horrible for Jesus.  What I really believe is that Jesus can find the image of God in all of humanity.  Even the horrible ones.  Even, me.

Holding the paradigm of ALL takes more faith than the (un)conditional love I grew up with.dsc_0014

(For the record, I grew up in a decent enough church.  FBC San Marcos.  Some Sunday School teachers were lacking.  Some of our pastors were better than others.  There was definitely a “good old boys club” and cliques abounded.  (HA!  I misspelled clique and it spell check auto-corrected to cliché.  There were definitely clichés!)  I don’t remember ANTI anyone sermons.  Talk about us versus “the other” slated for eternal damnation.  Of course, I did spend the last several years of high school working in the church nursery so if things went astray I could have missed it.)

What in the world does this have to do with art?!?

I was getting around to it.

I paint hope.  Recently I came to the end of hope for an individual who I attempted I love unconditionally.   Those attempts were to the detriment of my emotional, spiritual and physical health.  Releasing the illusion of unconditional love was crushing.  Immobilizing.  I did not paint for five days.

I.  Failed.  Love.
A love failure.
Surely if I loved enough, loved the right way, just loved unconditionally
everything would be sunshine and roses. dsc_0015

It is not as hard as one might think to blow smoke up one’s own skirt. 

My mental wellbeing required that I set down the burden of unconditional love.  Sometimes loving from a distance is the best you can do.  Sometimes loving from a distance is more than you can do.  Sometimes, sometimes, you don’t have to do anything.  Not even love.  Sometimes being who you are is enough.   Sometimes it is all.

We are human.  We have victories and failures.  If we are fortunate we get back up.  Not everyone makes it back to standing.  I am back on my feet.

The last several days were difficult.  They were also exceedingly enlightening.  I know myself better.  I am learning to trust myself again.  (I sought help quickly.)   Clarity is a good thing.  Even when what is cleared up is ugly.   Truth is tied to freedom in the bible.  Truth identifies the enemy within and without.

dsc_0013As I air out my smoky skirt (metaphorical skirt as my only “skirt” is really a pair of billowy pants),and put on my big girl boots and I am getting back to work.

There road is never straight.  Detours abound.  I was on a detour.  I am back onto my path.

For now.

May your detours be short and may you find beauty along the way.   Thank you and Much love (whatever that looks like)  Gwen

Intangible Gift Giving 101

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la laaaa la la la lah! 

dsc_0009So many feelings about the holiday season and, yes, commercialization can definitely run amuck, but oh, the gifts!

The journey to discovering that little something gift that says, “I see you.”  Or maybe just that something that says, “I remembered you.”  Gifts don’t have to be expensive.  The cost can come from the heart as well as the pocketbook.

Gifts, tangible and intangible.

A few weeks ago I was dreaming (literally dreaming) about Melissa’s Mexican wedding cookies.  In my dream I was devising ways to trick my dear friend into making me these particularly magical cookies.

I woke up quite ashamed and disappointed in myself.  Partly because I had been so devious in my dream and partly because I failed to come up with a plan to get me some cookies!

This time there was a happy ending.  Jubilee stayed the night at Melissa’s house enjoying her good buddy, Rivers, and when she came home she had a container filled with Mexican Wedding Cookies!

Melissa’s gift made my dream come true!

There is joy in receiving (and don’t anyone let you tell you otherwise.)  But- oh! – the joy of giving warms the cockles of the coldest heart.

(Wait! that did not come out quite right.  Melissa baked cookies out of the goodness of her heart.  It was my cold cockled heart devising fiendish plans to gain cookies.)

Giving acknowledges our shared humanity and allows us to take pleasure in the blessing of others.  Giving is transcendental.

Some gifts are difficult to wrap.

Intangibles are hard to wrap and often they are even hard to identify.  They just do not fit inside the box covered in shiny paper.  (Boxes are over rated.)  Intangibles reach beyond the physical and touch our hearts.   Some gifts carry more intangibles than others.  Sometimes the intangible is the gift.

Art carries with it a myriad of intangibles.  dsc_0010

Consider why a diamond in a ring is more valuable than a beautifully colored citrine of the same cut?  Yes, a diamond is harder and makes for a powerfully sharp cutting surface, but that is not why we pay more for the diamond.  In a setting of silver or gold the diamond leaves the world of utilitarian value and dances into the world of intangibles.

What is a painting worth?  What is a story worth?  The cost of the canvas, pigment and brushes?  The cost of the ink and paper?   Of course not.  A novel reaches beyond the physical and takes the reader into another realm, and all from the comfort of her sofa.  A painting surpasses the aesthetics of matching the sofa upon which the novel reader is sitting.

It is the intangibles that pluck our heart strings that give creative endeavors value. 

2010, in preparation for an International Arts Movement (IAM) gathering, I read Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

It was not an easy read for me and, truth be told, I left the portion on poetry unread.  The 4/5 of the book I did read was worth contemplating.  I gave it to my hair stylist who provides tangible and innumerable intangibles services.  She has a gift.  She IS a gift.
Basically, Hyde contends that art operates outside of our commodity/market driven economy.  This presents a dilemma for the artist attempting to earn a living selling intangibles.  What she is really selling is not a 3×4 foot space holder but her gift.  While I (mostly) understand what Hyde was saying, and relate to the dilemma, I did not find it particularly helpful beyond the intangible of being understood.

A more contemporary take of The Gift of art can be found in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (Excerpt of Gilbert speaking about her book on release day:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/best-selling-author-elizabeth-gilbert-back-with-big-magic-creative-living-beyond-fear/) I have not yet read Big Magic but I have read a lot about the book. 

I ordered the Big Magic audio book this summer for a road trip.  It arrived in GERMAN!  The devil is in the fine print and I missed that my unabridged CD was not English!  (Great price, though.)   I set it aside and forgot about it until this week when a friend recommended and blogged about it.  (I ordered it in paperback and downloaded it in Audible today.)

Like Hyde, Gilbert reminds us that art moves beyond commodity.  Art is a capital G Gift.  Gilbert is easier to read than Hyde and she, like Hyde, asserts that art is not–GASP!!!!- utilitarian. dsc_0012

We do not need art.  (Some of us do, but we could actually survive without art.) 

Gilbert asks society to be brave enough to embrace non-utilitarian gifts.  She challenges artists to be brave enough to understand, and to own the nature of The Gift of art.

Here she speaks of the meaning of art.

“It means I am not exclusively chained to the grind of mere survival.
It means we still have enough space left in our civilization
for the luxuries of imagination
and beauty
and emotion
– and even total frivolousness.
Pure creativity is something better than a necessity;
it’s a gift.”

The holiday season is upon us.  Surely most of us will give and receive frivolous gifts.  As you choose and as you receive, seek out the intangibles behind and within the gift.

Is the gift perfect?  Wonderful.  What intangible does it express?dsc_0011

Is the gift just not right?  Does it disappoint?  Look harder and deeper.  Maybe the act of remembering or being remembered is an intangible worth cherishing.

Is the gift cruel?  I have seen cruel gifts.  Sometimes the intangible has to come from within yourself.  A cruel gift is about the giver not the receiver, it is about the giver’s deficit. Pity?  Forgiveness?

This holiday season I endeavor to share more of my gift, my art, and with it a plethora of beautiful intangibles.

May you celebrate the spying of a brilliantly colored leaf.
May you wonder at the delicate geometry of a spider web.  (Not the horror of walking into a web and getting it caught in your hair!
May you look up and see just the right color of blue in the sky.
May your path crisscross with unexpected beauty!
And may you be present in the moment to pause and receive the gift.

I am exploring ways to share more of my art, my gift of creativity, more freely.  My photography team (Thank you Alexis and Peter) is helping me get cleaner, crisper images and details!  One hundred paintings photographed last week.  Now to get the images to the website.  (Technical skills minimal.  Encouragement welcome!)

More ideas bubbling on the stove.  As my family will attest, things often boil over when I am cooking.

Here is to the intangibles!

Every time I hear, type or see the word intangibles an image pops into my head of a family very much like The Incredibles. The Intangibles race forward making the world a more beautiful place.   A super hero family living inside of my head!