Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Your Christmas Eve Gift - The Color of Life

I dedicate this post to my dearest friend Georgia Williams who is battling cancer. Who is choosing Life. Please hold love in your heart for her. Love, love, love.

I have to re-post this post I received this morning. It's today's post from the Advanced Style Blog which I love. It's such an inspiration to me now that I'm (sort of) old. I don't have to dress like these gals but I can move in that direction as I so choose. However, I would like to think like them. I am inspired by their words. That is the gift. As Mae West was purported to have said. "It's not the men in my life. It's the life in my men." I'd like to think it's the life in one's life that is important.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Color of Life

Text by Sue Kreitman

How old am I? Somewhere between my mid seventies, and eternity. By the time my mother was my age, she was dead for 25 years, so you can understand why I consider growing old an adventure and a privilege.

But I must tell you that I am not really an old lady; just cleverly disguised as one. Art and colour keep me young, keep me sane. Working as I do as an untutored ‘outsider’ artist is my therapy, my medicine, my joy and my purpose in life.  

I mentor and support visionary young artists and a few old ones as well. I create and curate iconoclastic art exhibitions. My life has purpose and my mind and imagination are always going full tilt.

Colour surrounds me: I revel in it, splash it everywhere, gulp it with a spoon. I am immersed in art. I make it, collect it, it fills and defines my existence. Childish, shamanistic, wild and anarchic, it is as far outside the box as it is possible to be. Box?? There is no box!

When I leave the house, I cannot bear to leave my collections and creations behind. So I wrap, festoon, curate myself before I sashay out into the world. The kimonos I wear everyday are hand painted by Diane Goldie, or collaged by Lauren Shanley, or designed by me, and stitched together by a local tailor.  My necklaces are art objects, usually rather large, and created by me, or by artist friends.

How lucky I am: relatively healthy, a supportive family, a wild assortment of vivid and talented friends. At this age, we may not be dead yet, but we can almost see it from here. It’s the Memento Mori thing: remember death, but choose life for as long as you possibly can.

Be bold, be adventurous.  Do profound things, dazzle yourself and the world. Contribute to society, and live large. Life is short, make every moment count. It is never too late to find your passion.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


“and life comes to one, as we dance on, dance on.” – ee cummings

Last night was the longest night of the year. We lit candles all over the house and had a big fire in the woodstove. We talked about this past year. We talked about the year to come. It was a good night to reflect and dream. I’ve read things recently that suggest our ancestors had a conviction that this was the time of year to do nothing. To stop. And it’s really interesting to note that before I heard this I’ve been having the urge to do just that. Nothing. No writing. No drawing or painting. Of course, the animals still need to be fed and the water situation still needs to be addressed. The Ranch still has its needs. It doesn’t stop. But I can at least slow down. But last night we did as the ancestors did. We just stopped.
I think the seasons are a wheel that slows more and more until it finally stops. All day yesterday it was stopped. Now, today, it starts up again. But slowly. It slowly gains momentum as the sun gains strength. Yes, the coldest days are yet to come. Yes, winter is probably going to be at her worst in the coming month but we’re ready. We’re still here and we have enough and we’re going to make it. It’s not even Christmas yet. We’re looking forward to the celebration of the new born baby who brought light and love to the world. But I can see why long ago the people who were in control moved that lustrous holiday a few notches over from the Solstice. The Solstice is very, very powerful and I wouldn’t want to be associated with it if I was trying to start a new tradition. It would be so confusing. So we get to have two powerful traditions right in the darkest time of the year. Can you really imagine life without these traditions? I can’t. I would be super depressed and looking around to make something up to replace them.
To be sure the Solstice has lost some of it’s validity in the world. At least, here in the good ole U.S. of A.  But here on the ranch it still has sway. We sort of, in a way, endure winter out here and count the days until the warm days begins again. The Solstice marks the change. On the day after we remind ourselves that the warmth is only a few months away and the dark season is beginning to end. We’re cycling back.
Here are a few images from the ranch that remind me that circles are so very much a part of life. Something begins, something ends, everything eventually comes around to where it began.

A Fairy Ring of Mushrooms

Woodpecker Holes

A Stone Splashes into the Pond

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mystery Tree Revealed

We use Newville Road to get to Orland. Newville has signs on the internet and other directional signs when you get off. However, when you get to Newville there is not a single sign to tell you that you are there. You just have to know that the falling down structure over there is the old gas station(?) and that there were a lot of houses there at one time. The biggest indicator that Newville, a boomtown for chrome mining and logging, was once there is that there is a good size cemetery. That really tells you something. Newville is dead and gone.
Farther past Newville as you continue your trip to Orland there’s what I call Turkey Woods because we always see a huge flock of turkeys strutting their stuff. There’s the pomegranate tree on Millsaps property and we bandito-ed a few when they were ripe. They cost a couple bucks in the stores and I’m sure as heck not going to pay that if we can get some for free. I’m getting to know the road pretty well. We travel it a fair amount. There was one thing that we kept driving past that made me rubberneck and it wasn’t until last week that I said let’s stop. I have to see what this is.
It was a medium size tree/bush that had lots of large ruttle-ly lime green globes hanging from the branches or scattered all over the ground underneath. I picked one up and some sap stuck to my fingers. Otherwise it was unremarkable except for its size (large – about 3 ½ “ in diameter) and texture (weird). We took it home and I got out my reference books. Badda-bing! It was immediately identifiable as an Osage Orange.
            An Osage Orange is not an orange. It’s actually a member of the mulberry family. It’s not much good for anything. You (human) can’t eat it. The rind is very tough. It’s got a white latex-y kind of sap and thick flesh. Livestock will eat it.

Turns out it’s native to eastern Oklahoma and northern Texas but it spread across the Great Plains because settlers used them for hedgerows. I have no idea how this one lone Osage Orange came to be growing by the side of the Newville Road. Don’t you wish every thing could speak and tell its history? I’ve never seen another like it. Maybe someone came out here and they were from Oklahoma. Maybe they thought it would be a good idea to start a hedgerow there. Or maybe they thought this is good wood. We can do something with it someday. So they planted it.
Turns out if you prune it you can make a thick, tight hedge. But watch out for the nasty thorns. Maybe it’s not worth it. The best thing about an Osage Orange is the wood. It’s very strong and resistant to rot so it’s really good for fence posts. Native Americans prized it for making bows.
So there ya go. Learn something new every day.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Gift of the Gift

Andrea Hjelskov
I'm re-posting  something really nice that was written by a wonderful Danish writer and blogger Andrea Hjelskov. Her wonderful blog post came at a great time for me on so many levels. On a completely mundane level it came when I was having brain blockage from a really bad head cold. I can't think very well and I'm not going to make me. Think that is. One thing I've learned from escaping into this new life is that I must honor what my body tells me it needs. For years I ignored my body and told it to suck it up and then the mule came and kicked me. It said I've had enough. So let me tell you in no uncertain terms. I almost died. But I didn't. And I got the message.

I couldn't have said it better - what Andrea is saying here. This is the Season of Giving. In my bid to live life like it's a feast and not some crumbs off the table I like to think into each item that comes along and savor it and give it flavor. Sorry for the bad rhyme. I think you get what I'm getting at. So again, Andrea says it so well I thought why even try to? So I won't. She gave me permission to re-post it so here you are and I hope you feast on it! It's an interview with a woman named Marie Godwin. Andrea introduces her.

The Gift of the Gift by Andrea Hjelskov

Marie Goodwin is a woman working with gift economy. She is a writer and a personal assistant to Charles Eisenstein. I think they both do tremendously important work and I really appreciate how they try to articulate gift and sharing economy, the foundations, the challenges, the possibilities. You can read more about gift economy here and Marie wrote a really good introduction to the challenges of running a business in the gift economy. I recommend reading about this. This is something… happening.

Not long ago I asked Marie Goodwin some questions about “the gift of the gift” and these are her answers.

This is also a gift.

Just for you.

Marie gave me her thoughts and perspectives, she gave me a little bit of time and she invested in our relationship by doing this for me… so that I could write this blogpost… for you. I invest in you.

What is a gift, Marie? I sometimes think that we, in our culture, look to the gift as an OBJECT but it could be more than that, right? What do you think a gift is? How do you define it? How do you articulate it? What does it MEAN to give someone a gift?

​I think a gift has two components: 1)  the first is need. A gift must fill a need that exists in the receiver’s life, whether or not that need is known or unknown to the receiver. The giver, understanding the need, makes an attempt to fill it. ​2) The second is that a gift must create a bond between giver and receiver.
I think both of these things fly in the face of our weird, western attitudes about gift giving. We conflate charity with gift. Charity is giving without a bond and not really knowing anyone’s particular needs. We just give to give. That is an act of generosity, for sure. But it isn’t true gift giving. Living in the gift means being aware of opportunities to fill needs and to create emotional bonds (and receive emotional bonds) through the gift you give.

You have been working “in the gift” for a long time not at least in relation to your work with Charles Eisenstein.  I would like to hear about the challenges of this work? And has it changed you?

​The biggest challenge has been that almost no one knows what ​I’m talking about when I say, “I’m working in the gift…”. They think, “I’m donating my time for free…” (see note above about “charity”). There is a lot of judgement. When I say I have an almost full-time job, some people have pushed back and said, “Well, not really… you are doing your work for free, that’s not a job…” They don’t understand the gift economy and the relationship I have to Charles in the gift. I do other things through gifting too, like events as well as a side-business I’ve run. Each time, I have had to spend a LOT of time to get people to understand what the gift economy is and that gifting does not (NOT) equal free. 
I wouldn’t say that working in the gift has changed me. It has set me free and affirmed my deepest notions about work. It has made me feel more happy around work, in service to something bigger. There’s really no price for that. 
Now we´re entering the season of Christmas which is kind of like a season of gift. How do you perceive what is happening in our culture right now, this month?
​I see an incredible amount of consumerism and “gift giving” that is completely devoid from the actual needs present. It is giving out of obligation. Giving because spending money on someone is now seen as what is important, rather than filling actual needs. I do think there is an actual longing for connection, but because we are so disconnected from people in our lives (living remotely from extended family, children spending most of their waking moments away from home and away from adults, not having any community), we don’t actually know what people need. What might be a really appropriate gift… what might build a bond between giver and receiver. We want the bond, but don’t know how to get there. 
How do you celebrate Christmas? How do you give gifts? How do you raise your child to understand Christmas?
​We celebrate Christmas, kind of. We aren’t Christian, so it isn’t a holiday for religious reasons at all. More because our extended family (and culture!) expects us to be participants. Really, the main celebration in our house is our yearly participation in our local theater’s presentation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a story about the gift of insight and deep change, the effects of true giving and relationship, the dire consequences for an individual who prioritizes money over everything else in life; and the presence of life-changing miracles. Learning and re-learning Dickens’ story is a gift unto itself every year. If you haven’t read it in the original, I highly recommend it.
We do give gifts to each other as a family and I try to be a mindful giver…but I have to admit … I really struggle with this one. I feel little joy (and a bunch of resentment) at the expectation of mindless giving. I don’t send out Christmas Cards, or drive myself to the brink of insanity to prepare trinkets for people. I’m not really handy or crafty, although I have been known to whip up a tincture or two for people to give them.
We try always to make Christmas earth-centered (solstice orientation) and each year our community has gatherings that celebrate the solstice, with drumming and fire. 
What is the gift of the gift? What will people gain from working with gift economy? What is the true nature of giving?
​I think the gift of the gift is learning to create and depend on community again. Trust is the main tenet of living in the gift. And it is really hard. But it is like a muscle that has not been used in awhile; with some use and time it grows strong. People really love receiving but they also love giving, and if you are seen as a giver in your community you will be taken care of when you have needs. Testing those waters and finding people around you is the best thing you receive from living in the gift. Knowing that you have a net underneath you is valuable beyond measure.
Here's a link to the original article