As I was driving in the car the other day, I stumbled upon a radio interview with Carole King. At first I didn't realize who was being interviewed but when they started talking about her album Tapestry, I was instantly flooded with memories.
I found myself back in San Francisco in my friend Cheryl's flat. The sun was streaming through the windows, filling the room with light. We were both young mothers or about to be. The kids were either sleeping or not yet there. We were both completely engrossed in the first issue of Ms. Magazine. That day, we discussed every single article and when we weren't talking about Ms., we were listening to Tapestry. Cheryl had introduced me to the album and I couldn't wait to get home and get that music for myself. That afternoon, we were living the motto proclaimed so loudly in Ms., "Sisterhood is Powerful." It was an iconic moment. Who we were, and the zeitgeist of the times fell into a perfect alignment. Sadly, eleven years ago, I spoke about that day at Cheryl's memorial. She died of breast cancer in her late 50's.
As I pulled into the parking lot of my mother's assisted living facility, a clip of "So Far Away" was playing over the air waves. Tears arose as I heard the words, "So far away. Doesn't any body stay in one place anymore. It would be so fine to see your face at my door." I turned off the radio and got out of my car with such fond thoughts about my friend, realizing she was the first of my dear friends to die, thinking how my mother at 97 has lost every single one of hers.
Imagine my surprise when two days later, I had a facebook message from Cheryl's daughter Jennifer, saying she was coming to town and would like to get together. I've managed a thin thread of connection to Cheryl's family but lives are busy and full. I don't even get a Christmas card off every year. The last time I saw Jennifer was at Cheryl's mother's memorial a couple of years ago. I was thrilled to have the chance to spend some time with her.
We met for lunch down in the harbor on an unusually sunny day in Fort Bragg. Sitting at an outside table, I had a chance to get acquainted with Jennifer's husband, Tim and her daughter Ayla. We caught up on news about our families. It was a perfect afternoon for me and brought such joy to my heart. Jennifer looks like her mom, and carries many of the family mannerisms. I saw so much that was familiar and sat with such fond memories of Cheryl and I as young mothers. I found the words, "Life goes on," repeating over and over in my mind, and "How beautiful it is to see life going on."
At one point, the wind surprised us and lofted the umbrella that covered our table, into the air. It was so fast there wasn't time to respond. It blew up and over us and eventually landed on the ground, upside down, behind us. No one was hurt but it could have so easily been otherwise. We collapsed the umbrella and set it aside, enjoying the rest of our meal in full sun. I didn't think of it at the time, but as I write, I realize that it was a moment of such surprise, like losing my friend so soon when I least expected my friends to be dying. Death does leave its mark but today I was witnessing life going on, and felt blessed to see it unfolding in such a beautiful way.
Our lunch was long and relaxing. Before we left, we went out near the water and Tim took a photo of Jennifer, Ayla and me with the harbor and Noyo bridge behind us. Then we rearranged ourselves as 3 year old Ayla wanted a turn being the photographer. We said our good-byes, and wished each other's families well. I got into my car feeling full of friendship and connection, and pulled out onto North Harbor Drive. Within seconds my cell phone rang, I managed to pull over to answer. "Hello," I said. I heard a familiar voice on the other end. "Hi, this is Charles," was the reply. My mind exploded into a world of possibility, I do not usually hold. Charles was Cheryl's husband and is Jennifer's father. "Charles, do you know that I am just driving away from lunch with Jennifer and her family?" No, he didn't know. He didn't even know that Jennifer was in Fort Bragg. He was calling to see about coming up for a visit. Charles moved out of the area last year. I haven't seen or heard from him in a long time.
I can't help but want to ask how these things happen. Why after so long did I find myself on the same wave length with the Graham family in this week, on this day? I used to call events like this weird. Now I see them as just plain magic. They leave me feeling as if a fairy flew by and sprinkled my life with fairy dust. Everything sparkles! The ordinary drops away and I am lifted into possibilities that are unimaginable. I playfully wonder if Cheryl is somewhere pulling strings. It's possible but I'm not sure I really believe that. Jung called this synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence, where the larger energy patterns that lay beneath our conscious awareness break through into ordinary reality. I'll let others describe it and define it. Me? I don't want to pin it down. I just want to live it and let it open my world. Events like these fill me with awe and wonder. It is thrilling and I am more than willing to just let the mystery be.
Expressive Arts Exercise: Synchronicity
Synchronicity appears when we least expect it. We all have experienced it at one time or another. Sometimes, like in my story, they can't be missed but other times they come more shyly, and are harder to recognize. It is wonderful to honor these magical moments by making note of them in a special way. Decorate a box or a large envelope and keep it as a container for the synchronicites that tumble into your life. Jot them down on pieces of colored paper (decorate them too, if you like) and put them in your box. Keep it in a special place. Honoring them in this way, may help us to recognize them when they do appear. And on days when the spirit lags, take them out and remember these special moments. Invite this magic into your life!
I’m six feet tall and have been since high school. It hasn’t been easy on many levels. Try buying clothes and shoes in a culture that doesn’t think women grow this tall. Once in an elevator, a little girl about 4 years old put it into actual words. She looked up at me and then looked back to her mother and said, “Mommy, I didn’t know they made girls that tall.” I guaranteed her that they do, while her mother cast an embarrassed and apologetic eye in my direction. Of course, it was miserable towering over the boys in high school and in fact I still tower over most men, though it bothers me less today. It all bothers me less now, but I still sometimes struggle.
It might have been easier if I’d come into the world with an extroverted personality but, instead, I was a shy and very quiet child. I’ve spent my life learning to honor my introversion, and even learned to showcase that gift. But making myself really visible in the world in a way that matches my physical size has always been a challenge.
In a world where, if we listen, something guides us where we need to go, it is perfect that my heart lead me into the world of expressive art therapy. It is a profession that focuses on using the arts to express what is inside, putting it out there in painting, drawing, writing, movement and music. In other words, a profession aimed at making ourselves visible, first to our selves, and then finding ways to express who we are, in our larger world. As a practice it is definitely an exercise in becoming visible, not in a way that stokes the ego, but in a way that allows our deeper selves to surface into the light of day. That energy can become action in the world.
I recently had a dream that spoke directly to this issue of visibility and let me see that perhaps I’ve made some progress.
In my dream, I am visiting another town with a group of people from the coast. This town is more inland, like maybe Nevada City. We are staying at the house of the woman who is in charge. The sheriff has been called because I have made sounds in my sleep in the night that must have bothered the neighbors. I am mortified, but at this point, there is nothing to do but laugh. We have explained it all and the trouble is taken care of.
Now in the aftermath, I’m sitting in a room with a friend who is an artist, telling her about what happened. We are laughing together. The room has a solid wall of glass in front of us. There is a beautiful peach tree out there. It is a very large tree, more like the size of an oak and it has tons of peaches on it. They are not ripe yet but rather look like little green orbs with very fuzzy skin. I point this out to my friend and we both marvel, as we need more heat to grow such a tree on the coast.
It is time to go into town with the group and I can’t find my shoes. I find a bunch of different shoes, none fit, all are black, and all a mismatch. Frustrating. I feel like a really old person who doesn’t have it together and is putting others out. The group goes to town without me.
Now, I am magically in town in a shoe store, still trying on different shoes. Somehow I end up with a pair of cowboy boots. They have fringe and all, are brownish and have a three-inch heel. I think, “Oh no! I can’t walk around in these.” But they look and feel great. I love the style. It makes a completely different statement about who I am. Wow! Impressive and very extroverted! It is temporary as these boots belong to the woman in charge. It is true that the colors aren’t quite right. One is kind of whitish, like all the dye has not gone in.
The owner of the store is going to give us a pair of shoes and write it off. The shoes will be for the women in charge, and they will be free. This will solve our problem some how in the dream though I am the one who needs the shoes.
Maybe I will wear these boots after all. It is puzzling as I think they belong to the woman in charge and she is so much shorter and smaller than I. It is amazing that they fit me. But I look spectacular with them on. They make a real statement showing my power and uniqueness. I look really, really tall and I don’t even care that I’ll tower over everyone! No problem. Absolutely no problem!
I loved this dream from beginning to end. I am now 67 years old. As I lean more towards my seventies a burning question is arising in me and it won’t let go. “What is left not lived that still wants to be manifested?” This dream encourages me to speak out, let myself be larger than life, like a peach tree, so big, it is the size of an oak tree. I look at all the fruit on that tree that just needs some heat and those luscious peaches will be ready to be harvested and sent out into the world as sweet nourishment. Those boots, made for the woman in charge? Maybe I am the woman in charge. I fit in her shoes. She must be bigger than I ever imagined.
After guaranteeing my friends I would never find real boots like that in my size, I was surprised to find the boots pictured above, on the internet. In the description, I found this, “Caution when wearing this boot because everyone will stop you and say, ”Where on earth did you find those boots?” Stay tuned to see if I order them!”
Expressive Art Experience
What are your dreams and visions about a self that is bigger than you think you are? Take a moment to reflect. Let your wildest imagination dream up the unthinkable, something you might like to do if only.......Don't be afraid to dream. Make a painting or a collage that gives you an external picture, a self portrait of this person (your future self?). Take one tiny baby step in that direction. I guarantee it will be life giving.
This blog is dedicated to the healing power of nature and the arts. It encourages a different way of looking at the purpose of the arts in our lives. While we can all appreciate well known artists, musicians and writers, it is good to remember that expressing ourselves through the arts belongs to all of us. It is part of being human. The arts and time in nature take us out of our small selves into something so much bigger. We need this larger perspective to guide our daily lives. I have a Masters Degree in Psychology, am a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist and am owner and founder of For The Joy Of It! Creative Retreat in Mendocino CA.