A Mindset for the Road

We launched this blog last May, shortly before a three‐state drive to attend a Colorado writing retreat.

Nine months later, I’m birthing something new. It’s a merger of sorts, combining what I learned last spring with what I know this winter. Call it a RoadBroad’s 2019 approach to living and writing.

It comes courtesy of my writing friend, Danielle, who shared a version of this “Comfort Zone” graphic on Facebook. The image grabbed my attention so fast, my neck nearly snapped. My mind thought aha!, and off to the Internet rabbit hole I vanished where I found the same image, topped with the creativity quote:

Image copyright: TWH (The Wealth Hike); Quote copyright, Dan Stevens. 

It’s so timely, post‐New Year (either 1/1 or 2/5). There’s 45 weeks left in 2019.

Take a look at the graphic. Where do see yourself here as a woman? As a writer? 

Some days, I stretch across all four zones.

Today, I stretch across Learning and Growth. It’s blog post day.

Tomorrow, I’ll perch in Fear, courtesy of an upcoming public speaking event.

Who knows what Wednesday and Thursday will bring? I suspect Comfort Zone therapy after Tuesday. But by Thursday, Learning and Growth returns, incorporating the week so far.

Learning and Growth involves an awakening, a choice we must make consciously. Comfort Zone and Fear tend to rule by our default.

My goal is to shrink the red circle of Comfort Zone into a smaller dot. It’s home to daily human recovery needs, so elements of it are vital. Healthy eating. Daily exercise. Adequate sleep. Spiritual practice.

Before we are women or writers, we are human beings. Superwoman and her twin, Wonder Woman, checked out of this universe decades ago.

Fear is too much my friend. So that’s why she resides in the orange zone? Moving forward, I’ll honor Fear while keeping a healthy dose married to boundaries and deadlines.

Finally, I focus on where my heart and energy landed when I saw this graphic. Enlarge the yellows and greens of Learning and Growth into ever‐widening zones. Purpose‐filled days. Achieved dreams. Goals enlarged. Objectives accomplished.

Daily, I’ll massage Dan Stevens’ words: creativity comes from activating intuition, expanding perspectives, and living fearlessly. 

What’s your Zone Plan?

Maybe the graphic offers not your life, but a simple story.

Heroine’s Journey, anyone?

Lava on the Road, Story on the Page

Only weeks ago, I resolved to find magic in this New Year. It landed last night, courtesy of an unexpected gift.

The weekend crisis du jour sent DH and I on the road. A new lamp shade beckoned.

We arrived home with that and a bonus: a Lava Lamp for my writing studio.

In the store, the colorful box screamed, “All this color! You know you want me!” Curious, is it not, that all the box’s colors match my novel characters? Can you identify the six shades?

Looming larger, this toy offers a different kind of road trip—straight down memory lane. But in my 70’s teen days, I never owned a Lava Lamp.

Having one up‐close, I’ve realized a Lava lamp is essentially an electric candle, sans wick, parked inside a glass bottle. It works when a glob of bottled wax gets heated, rises then dances inside glass under illuminated by a tiny light bulb.

Lava Embryo With Legs speaks of new life, new creation, new start. And unable to stand.

This mutant look compliments reality. Nothing’s ever perfect as it’s born.

All applicable for what’s been an ongoing funky new year. Maybe now as we begin week number five, it’s full‐on reboot time? Isn’t that what last week’s Full Moon with a Wolf SuperBlood twist teased? Saying goodbye to the past and moving forward with gusto, finally free?

An hour after plug‐in, Lava Embryo With Legs grows up, sprouting a semi‐carpet of background grass.

Technically, my inner feminist says this should be Lava Woman. I squinted to identify relevant body parts.

It becames that: It. Or SkullScoliosisRump. Alien doesn’t fit because this image resembles no creature I’ve seen in the best (and worst) sci‐fi flicks.

Still, it’s perfect, mimicking change with scary precision. Is change ever easy to figure out?

Two hours in, an entire new world arises: Lava Universe?

This unfolding lava world reminds me of watching last week’s eclipse. Shadows and colors changing on the moon as a memorable lunar evening reveals itself. We changed, too, watching, absorbing.

As I unplugged Lava Lamp three hours later (and DH already in bed), the meaning of the night roared in.

We writers do all this as we pen the stories that call us to the page (or the computer).

Like solid wax in a cold lava lamp, Story remains static, unborn, unchanging. But give Story enough heat, time, and attention, and it rises to new life, changing shape, spawning tales, and building the form that was always inside. Waiting.

More than a half century ago, Michelangelo wrote: “The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of white marble does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.” 

Substitute a few words and you’ll find a writer’s truth: “The greatest writer has no conception which a single page* does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.”

We’re not working alone.

The Story is already inside us, awaiting heat, time, attention.

Like a lowly little lava lamp.

*Substitute computer screen, piece of paper, notebook, etc.

*NOTE: The Michelangelo quote is verbatim from 1501, thus verbiage rings/reads somewhat stiff and awkward to 21st century ears/eyes.

3 Days, 3 Roads, 3 Adventures

Tuesday. Drove to Hermann Park with Dear Friend (DF). We wanted to spend some time outside on a beautiful cool day with art, squirrels and ducks. This particular park is a wonderful place to go for a walk. There are concrete paths, gravel paths, and lots of grass to walk on. There are also many trees, benches and picnic tables. DF and I walked and sat and walked and sat some more. We absorbed as much of the park as we could and committed it to memory. I took pictures with a real camera (as opposed to the camera on my phone).

This particular sculpture was a topic of discussion last year when I took the Women In Art class at the Glassell. The artist who created this piece was sculptor, Hannah Stewart. The title of the work is Atropos Key and is located on top of the hill at Miller Theater.

Since it was a weekday, there were not too many people. Foot traffic did pick up during the lunch hour with several people escaping an office setting to commune with nature. Some folks just walked and others sat on benches and visited with the ducks. Some folks walked alone, some in pairs and others in small groups. The squirrels kept an eye on everyone who wandered through.

Wednesday. DF was in the hospital getting ready for some surgery. Nothing major or life threatening, but necessary. Sometimes a road trip involves being wheeled around a hospital (or accompanying someone who is being wheeled around a hospital). From admitting room, to pre‐op holding room, to operating room, to recovery room, to hospital bedroom. I spent the day either by his bedside or sitting in the waiting room. Surgery was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., but he was not wheeled into the operating room until 1:00 p.m. He pulled through the surgery like a champ. Only a 5 hour wait in the recovery room before DF is moved to a private room. Once I was assured he was comfortable in his room and tucked in for the night, I left with the promise to return the next day to transport him home. Nurses checked on him every hour.

Both before and after surgery, we spent time in curtained cubicles where we caught some strange snippets of conversations.

A doctor said, “Your wound is safe. You could put WD40 on it and it still wouldn’t get infected. You won’t have any problem with a shower.”

A nurse said to a co‐worker, “No, it’s an hour and a half. Do not try to add another 1/2 hour to my life.”

A nurse said towards the end of the shift to someone we could not see,“I don’t like coffee. I don’t like the way it looks. I don’t like the way it smells. I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t even like the look of coffee beans. Coffee is not my friend.

Thursday. DF and I had hoped for a hospital discharge by 11:00 a.m. No such luck. There were no more road trips around the hospital. Lots of waiting in the room. The nurse continued to visit every hour. Finally by 3:00 p.m. DF was sitting in a wheelchair on his way to the front door of the hospital.

Once out in the sunshine, we drove off in my car. We went to a drug store for meds and then to Brasil’s for an early dinner. I drove slowly through tree lined neighborhoods. Classical music played on the radio. Now life began to return to what can be considered normal.

Until next week.….

Stuck? Try Constraints

For the first time in our 30‐year history, DH and I low‐balled our gift exchange.

$30 apiece on each other.

Why the limit?

Boredom? Familiarity? Fixed income? Seasonal stress?

A numbers thing: $30 for 30 years?

But that anniversary isn’t until next December. And we’re not early partiers.

What answered was this: time for something different.

And so, DH gained Sherlock socks plus a World Travel Book for Kids.

Nirvana for a retired kid with a travel‐hungry Holmes heart.

He gifted Springsteen’s Broadway concert CD plus colored pencils and word puzzles.

Music for a writer’s ears while filling in word clues with 48 different hues.

The deliberate, inexpensive gift exchange has, in less than two weeks, ascended to status as Most Memorable Holiday Ever.

Why?

We forced ourselves to think outside the box. Which, unwittingly, drop‐kicked us into another one. Whoever hears ‘think inside the box’? 

With four hard walls around our gift‐giving, we surrendered dollars and expectation to creativity and consideration.

Overwrought, over‐priced shopping expeditions sit in the ash‐heap of our coupled past. Thank god!

Now, it’s simplicity, fun, and creativity—in all presents. And presence.

Constraints: they’re as clever as you make them.

Like a < 200‐word blog post.

First ever.

Magic, Not Resolutions

We say it once every 365 days.

Happy New Year!

What we forget is what else is true every January 1st.

It’s also Happy New Day!

And Happy New Week!

And Happy New Month!

Four times to thrill at a new start.

Next year, we’ll add a fifth: Happy New Decade!

It wasn’t that long ago that some of us celebrated Happy New Century and tag‐teamed with Happy New Millennium, too.

Why do we make only one of these happy proclamations then repeat it year after year, too? Are we numb to what the words really mean? Or could mean?

Photo copyright Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX.

Odd questions follow an otherworldly afternoon.

DH and I experienced the profound New Year’s Day Crystal Bowl Meditation at Houston’s Rothko Chapel. Neither words nor a singular photo can ever fully encompass this sacred space.

Multiply the mysticism by imagining people of all ages and types sitting on every bench with others camped on the floor on yoga mats and meditation cushions. Others crowd in quietly, filling the space at insistence to hear soul‐speaking chimes.

Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga offered gentle guidance as harmonies rang out from crystal bowls arranged in the chapel’s center. From the chimes came a year’s intention for release, recovery, resilience, and renewal.

An hour later, DH and I emerged to the glory that is Barnett Newman’s incomparable Broken Obelisk. The reflection of Newman’s sculpture in the Rothko’s pool is only part of its charm.

The art honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, ironically, our nation will honor two weeks from today.

Synchronicity roars. 

Today also marks the New Year’s Day birth of Irish writer Maria Edgeworth in 1768. Praised by Jane Austen, the British‐born Edgeworth was noted for her ground‐breaking innovation to the novel form. She also issued an ahead‐of‐her‐time clarion call for women’s rights and children’s education plus pithy and comedic social and political observations.

Edgeworth penned the novel Ormond, a title only one letter removed from my already unusual surname.

Synchronicity returns. 

How did I not know of this woman writer before? She’s so prescient that quotes from her 1795 Letters for Literary Ladies were recycled by 1960‐era feminists in America.

Edgeworth also penned this quote: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

Comforting words on this New Year’s Day. A sort of centering prayer.

As are the words of noted American author Neil Gaiman: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.…I hope you read some fine books…Don’t forget to write…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I’ll merge the wisdom of Edgeworth and Gaiman to craft my own vision for the new year: caring moments in 12 gentle months laced with magical dreams and self‐surprises, topped off with a dollop of healthy madness, all in service of full‐time storytelling and a life fully lived every day.

Four intentions of projects to embody, complete, and present by this time next New Year’s Day.

You heard it here first.

What’s your vision to surprise yourself?

Writing Chain

Prayer Chain, she called it.

I heard Writer Chain.

How could I not?

Look at its pieces—orange beads, angel wing, spiral, open hand.

Each, aspects of me.

The number four prominent—bead colors, bead types.

Divine Mother rising.

I bought Mary Jane White’s lovely bead work at Kay Kemp’s Holiday Marketplace in the Houston Heights. Upon returning to my writing studio, I laid the chain on my writing desk as you see it here—tucked in a circle and cradled in orange crepe paper as it was handed to me.

Words have flooded out of me since. More, better words than in months. Long‐percolating ideas and stories breathe with new life. Novel scenes possess a depth and weight unimagined at conception. Even scribbles from a novel initiated 15 years ago sparkle with invigorating possibility.

Best: feedback gathered on that writing stuns. (Note to reader: I share these comments begging your advance forgiveness for any perceived narcissism.) Some direct quotes: wow, what are you doing differently? Your writing has improved so much. Your stories flow so well; you’ve really crossed some kind of hurdle. How did you do this? 

I credit the Writer Chain.

Wonder invites pondering: what does chain mean? Words of pain—going dark and negative, a place I often reside—spring forth. Prison, gang, bindings, suffering. Then, Nelson Mandela.

To every yin, there’s yang. Mandela sought, and found, other meaning in his chains. Light to dark.

Perhaps chains serve as bindings, or links, to connect us, one to another. In uncovering those connections, we listen and interpret then discover what might move us forward. Uncover to discover.

Are these links, or chains, the key source for inspiration and progress in our journeys as writers, artists, human beings? How do we connect all the links we find?

Is this ultimately the Circle of Life?

The Lion King, courtesy Elton John’s songwriting wisdom, roars as the season encourages rumination.

I hope the chains, the links, in your life offer you similar inspiration and forward movement. Open your eyes and unclasp your hands. You’ll see chains and links illuminating your path. Little gifts surrounding you, awaiting uncovering.

On your desk. Under a tree.

Maybe take a quick, short road trip.

Only a half hour after I got into my car, I discovered Writer Chain.

I’m forever changed by a piece of art lying on a table awaiting my discovery. With my writing practice now unexpectedly richer than before, my life, too, stands enriched by a marketplace reunion with four wonderful artists—Kay, Mary Jane, Virginia, and Sharon. Thank you, friends.

A final thought for this almost‐over season:

Nothing reveals the truth like six little words on a t‐shirt.

Being Art

The headline stuns.

How did I not know about an art feast gracing a baker’s dozen intersections across my town?

My ego burns.

Isn’t a 26‐year, artsy resident — one who’s also an avowed news junkie — supposed to know all about the who and what of Art where she lives?

I share my discovery with fellow RoadBroad Ellen, who mentions that similar traffic‐signal art boxes stand across Houston. My mind wonders — is there anything Sugar Land has that the bigger, bossier sister city, 22 miles northeast, doesn’t?

My ego sizzles anew. Town pride smokes in the same skillet.

A Google search confirms Houston and Sugar Land are among hundreds across America that have repurposed ugly metal boxes into talking points for travelers stuck in traffic. The effort began at least 15 years ago in Connecticutt. Leave it to the Yankees to be so clever. And yet…

What a delightful way to turn unsightly man‐made mechanics into eye treasures for the stuck, the delayed, the bored! 

Ignorance morphs into curiousity which yields opportunity.

A day later, it’s time for an Art Box Scavenger Hunt.

First find is Judy Hope’s Tweet, Tweet, Sweet. Her melange of birds, hiding under this overpass, speaks to me. Freedom. Happiness. Peace. And color!

I dub the next stop “Blue Belle.” Not for that Brenham confection up the road.

Vivienne Dang’s Lady in Blue looks outward, dreamily, yearning of a bright future.

Her face rests directly atop the traffic box door. I wonder is that how she opens up — only at eye level? 

The sea of blue in which the entire image sits mirrors the background sky. Are we all sitting in a similar sea of blue?

The bees arrive down the road.

I offer thanks these insects are not this large in real life.

Why does this box scare me even as it lures me closer?

Mike Doan calls his creation Bizzy Beeze, praising the vital role played by honey bees in the farms that circle the Sugar Land community.

I realize an odd truth. The Bees have this blog post. Hmm…

Next comes Blossoms. That’s my title Artist Nataliya Scheib titled her creation, Butterfly Garden. 

I see only flowers. Zoom in and you’ll find butterflies by the dozen, darting to and fro among the color‐filled panorama of flowers.

This is the only traffic box I touch. Can you guess why?  

The final box I visit yields a single Butterfly.

Joy Chandler’s creation of Sweet Transformation highlights the plight of the endangered Monarch Butterfly, supposedly native to Sugar Land.

This lone image echoes Freedom. Joy. And the approaching Spring. The background of pastel circles add a sweet, supportive pallet.

I smile, standing here at the last traffic‐box art installation.

Birds. Blue Belle. Bees. Blossoms. Butterfly.

Don’t forget Boxes. As in Traffic‐Box Art.

The theme emerges: B Art. And now you ‘get’ the title of this blog post.

But what it all means? Alfie, do you know?

Me? I have no clue. But I will drive back down Highway 90A before long.

Eight traffic boxes await review.

Election Day Art Stroll

On election day while so many people were standing in line waiting to vote or working at the polls or watching the election news on television, I decided to take an Art Stroll. I had already voted and done everything I could do as far as campaign efforts. Watching the news was just making me nervous and stressed. I needed some self‐care and relaxation. As always, one of the best ways for me to stay calm and centered is to surround myself with art.

Lucky for me Wivla (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) had an exhibition called Shape at the Downtown Houston Library. Visual art was combined with the written word. Artists and writers combined forces give their impressions of Space via paintings, poems, collage, short essays, and mixed media. I believe this exhibition will be on display through December.

As it turns out I recognized the names of several women writers and artists who were a part of this exhibition. Here is a mixed media piece by Sharon Bippus. Her piece deals with Space as it pertains to family and generations of relatives.

I took the following picture of a group of works in this exhibition. When I looked at it later I noticed that I had included the painting in the upper right corner that was created by artist, Josena Arquieta, who has a studio in the Silos at Sawyer Yards. She is a very talented artist I met in the Women in Art class I have been taking at the Glassell School of Art. I look forward to seeing more of her work during one of the upcoming Second Saturdays at Sawyer Yards.

After strolling through this exhibit at the Houston Library, I traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts. I wanted to see the exhibit of the British Royal Family. I especially enjoyed the following pictures.

I loved this one of Queen Elizabeth with Ann Richards who was the Governor of Texas in the early 1990s. The Governor was hosting a party for the Queen here in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Ann Richards was always self‐assured and projected a strong independent persona whenever she was in public. She also had a great sense of humor.

Of course the Queen remains a very powerful woman herself. Throughout the exhibit it was interesting to see how the various portraits of her have shown her over the years.

I especially liked this picture of Queen Elizabeth. It’s not the typical portrait where she is sitting down looking elegantly regal. There is a real strength in this picture that is not always shown in her day to day duties.

This exhibit will remain on display until late January 2019, I enjoyed it so much that I strolled through it twice and may go back again.

By the time I had made my way through all of the works by local women artists and the pictures of strong women rulers and leaders, it was time travel home. I was in a much better frame of mind and ready to take however the election results turned out.

Until next week.….….…..

Life Collage

Another great week full of art and writing. I found myself exploring Collage as a method of creating art by assembling different pictures, objects, photos, etc. into one piece of visual art. I went to the Texas Art Asylum to see the show, Cutting Edge Collage Show.

The collage show was a good demonstration of the various techniques involved in this method. Quite a good variety of local artists and their work. Also, The Texas Art Asylum is a great shop to find anything that you cannot find anywhere else. Check out their website to see what it is all about.

After that visit, I had to try some of my own collage pieces. I have been involved in Soul Collage for a number of years now. Typically I would use pictures from magazines, newspapers and brochures to create. However, I am now in a phase where I like to use my own pictures. I selected a number of the pictures I use in this blog every week to make the following collage piece.

I like the idea of using my own photography to make collage art. It is like making a series of pieces about the journey of my life. I am going to continue to explore this idea and report back to you how it goes.

As you can see in my Soul Collage piece that I am still working with images from the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Bambu: This Thing Called Life. This will close on September 3rd and I just wanted to walk on the bamboo trail one more time. Since this is the second time I have walked through this exhibit, I really walked at a slow pace.  The museum wasn’t crowded so there was plenty of time to walk and observe without holding up others. When the museum is crowded, there can be quite a wait to experience this exhibit. If you want to go this weekend, then plan on getting there early.

Finally, I spent an afternoon at the Glassell in an art history class called, Women in Art. It is taught by Dr. Anna Tahinci who is genuinely excited and passionate about her teaching. She talks about the artists and their works, but she also wants to make sure her students are taking the time to really observe and think about the art we are seeing. The enthusiasm Dr. Tahinci exudes in her teaching makes the class a real joy and the time flies by much too quickly.

Now after being so inspired by all of the art and creativity in my world, I need to get back to writing. I promised my writing coach at least another 1000 words by midnight tonight!

More next week!

More Reasons to Celebrate and More Creativity!

For starters.……Good News! A personal essay I submitted has been accepted by Story:Color 2019. This will be an art exhibition, reading, poetry slam, etc. sponsored by some of the artists from the Silos at Sawyer Yards, Words & Art, and WriteSpace. They asked for some poems and essays from writers that artists could use for inspiration to create visual art. I am honored and delighted my essay was accepted. The Opening Night Reading and Art Exhibition will take place on January 12, 2019. I will be sure to share more details as I have them.

As for the journeys I took this past week, I spent Saturday afternoon in a Process Painting retreat facilitated by Cherie Ray of True You Creativity. Ah, yes. Another internal journey!

For starters, this studio is located in a relaxing embracing environment. Here is the outside of her studio filled with plants, trees, art and bird houses.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to experience Process Painting, I will give a very brief explanation. This is a process of painting where the end result is not the picture that is painted. Rather it is the process of creating that is the focus of attention. The purpose is not to paint a pretty picture; rather the purpose is to put paint on paper and see what the process of painting can tell you. It is great for unleashing creativity and creative potential.

Here are some of my painting samples as they were in process of being created:

There was no right or wrong with these pictures. They just were. I observed what came up for me as I painted. I considered what the colors told me. I loved my spot right by the window, because I was visited all afternoon by cardinals, turtle doves, and other birds as they snacked from the bird feeder and tried to figure out what the silly humans were doing.

This process reminded me of writing. I can’t write the “great American novel” in one sitting or in one draft. However, I can write by sitting down and putting words on paper. You can’t write a book or a short story without trying out ideas, putting words together in different arrangements to see what works. As my wonderful writing coach, Max Regan, frequently tells his students, just write something that is really crappy. Then if you like your draft or idea, you can begin to work with it. If your goal is only to write things that are good and meaningful, then you won’t get much done. Just write and then write some more. Whether you are putting paint on the paper or words, let the creative juices flow freely.

Thanks to the guidance provided by Cherie, I went home Saturday afternoon inspired and ready to continue creatively with both art and writing. As I walked out of her studio, I saw one of the universal signs that everything was going to be okay.

If you are interested in Process Painting or any of the other classes and retreats offered by Cherie Ray, please check out her website at Trueyoucreativity.com.

Then after a great weekend, I ended my day on Sunday by going to see the play, The Mouse Trap, which is currently being performed at the Alley Theatre. This play was written by Agatha Christie and is a good entertaining mystery for a late summer evening. I won’t give away the surprise ending. You’ll have to go see the play yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The stage design assures you of mysteries and murders just waiting to unfold!

I am looking forward to more writing this week and beginning an Art History class at the Glassell.

More details to follow!