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Posts from the ‘Creativity’ Category

Introducing pLaNeT PoRtLaNd

The Violin Shop on pLaNeT PoRtLaNd

The Violin Shop on pLaNeT PoRtLaNd

Working almost full time in the wake of losing my pension has put a severe cramp on my artistic output. Introspection-wise I am still functioning but not putting much of it into writing. The Portland Nine writing group, which meets once a week, has been my only expressive outlet.

However, just as my head was about to explode from the log jam of my creative ideas, I discovered phone photography. It has allowed me to squeeze some creativity into my busy days. I usually take a walk each day anyway, so now I am bringing my phone/camera along with me and snapping shots along the way. (I’ve programmed the camera to make that gratifying shutter click noise too.)

Me on the hunt as the intrepid phone photographer

Me on the hunt as the intrepid phone photographer

Later, I art-ify (my word) the images — once again quickly and right on my phone. I’ve set up a Tumblr blog — just for posting these images — with minimal words. I can also do the posting from my phone which saves time. Oh, the wonders of modern technology!

I’ve called my new photo blog “My Year on pLaNeT PoRtLaNd.” It is at: http://planetportland.tumblr.com. Give it a visit if your like. If you have a Tumblr account you can follow it too.

I have been on my walkabout now for nine months – the perfect gestation time. Lots of lessons learned. I am currently crafting a bulleted list (for speed and ease of reading ) of walkabout pointers to be published here soon. I also signed a lease for one more year at  the apartment in Portland, Oregon. There is a lot I have yet to experience and learn from this very quirky and inspiring place I call pLaNeT PoRtLaNd.

I still have some Walkabout Woman portraits I am working on, albeit slowly . . . on real paper and with real art supplies!

That’s it for now. I hope everyone is enjoying Spring — in whatever form it is emerging in your life! Here’s one last phone/camera image:

My place of work, aka the poetry corner, on pLaNeT PoRtLaNd

My place of work, aka the poetry corner, on pLaNeT PoRtLaNd

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Skating on thin ice

skating on thin ice tree

Drawing by Betsy Lewis

The Walkabout Woman blog has been languishing. The truth is . . . I have been busy making a living.

The loss of my pension in February sent me off in a new direction, one with less time for writing or art. I am actually enjoying my foray back into the working world.  I find meaning and value in the work I am doing.

I am also grateful for the previous months of solitude I spent in deep communion with myself.

Everything seems to come in its right time and place, but I am aware that I am living more on the surface of life now.

It is as though I am skating on a frozen pond, with just a thin sheet of ice between my busy everyday life above and the shadowy depths of my inner life below.  I am relishing the frosty air on my cheeks and my strong graceful competent movements.  I feel joy and exhilaration with this new slippery speed that sends me careening into contact with other people.

My months of solitude taught me a lot about the magic of being present — and I have not lost the habit.

As they say, “It’s all good.”

I joined a writing group made up of  nine women – The Portland Nine.  I am # nine, the new one. Each Thursday night, from 6:00 pm to  8:30 pm, we gather, respond to 10 minute writing prompts and share what we have written.

There is a lot of freedom in this and I feel myself loosening up as the evening goes on. It is only with these women now that the sheet of ice cracks and I fall through to the depths below.

Sometimes when I am reading aloud, it touches a nerve and I cry.

And try as I might, I am unable to write a scrap of fiction or come up with the colorful adjectives or metaphors that the others do. I can only write plainly and starkly about myself or myself thinly veiled. In this group, however, I feel accepted and appreciated for my voice. I am only slightly embarrassed by my tears. The other women seem unperturbed, and the  hostess just brings out the Kleenex.

What is profound for me is this — day by day, art or not, work or not (or maybe because of it), I am witnessing the unraveling of the tangled threads of my life. Sometimes my tears are  from the relief of finally setting the burden down.

I bought a scroll for my wall which says:

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” Buddha

As I welcome in my own humanity and claim the wisdom of the crone that I am, the love I have received and given so far wells up inside me. I see that, in big and small ways, I am beginning to be able to love myself.

Reinventing the holidays (or confessions of a Christmas overachiever)

My Christmas Tree

My Christmas Tree

Early in this walkabout I said goodbye to relationships and ways of life that no longer served me.

Now I’m ready to tackle a holiday.

You know. The one coming up . . . Christmas!

I am having to be a little bit brave because this is hard. Changing how one celebrates the most beloved holiday of all is akin to stepping into a minefield. Terrible and wonderful memories begin exploding left and right.

Christmas with my family of origin was a mixed bag, but mostly nice.  My mother pulled out all the stops and my father disapproved, so joy in our bounty was mixed with guilt. My favorite memory is of my family gathering in the dark of a Sunday evening and lighting the candles of the advent wreath. In that golden glow we sang, laughed, took turns reading aloud and told stories.  This was love, pure and magical.

It was only when I became a parent myself, that I turned into a Christmas overachiever. Months before Christmas I started creating handmade personalized ornaments for everyone I knew. I drove kids to and fro, baked countless batches of cookies, decorated lavishly and stung yards of popcorn and cranberries. I crafted Christmas cards, wreaths and my own wrapping paper. I attended and gave parties. I shopped like a fiend, making sure everybody got what they wanted. And then after Christmas, I took it all down and packed it up again for the next year’s marathon.

I was the ring master for it all. But truthfully I found Christmas stressful. I gave myself too many things to do in my mission to make everything perfect. I was my own worst enemy.

So in my year of reinvention, I asked myself the following questions:

  1. What do I love about Christmas to incorporate into a new tradition?
  2. What has become meaningless for me?
  3. How can I take better care of myself during the holiday season?

Here is the first incarnation of the new Christmas for me:

My sister, the food blogger

My sister, the food blogger

Family and friends: In smaller doses. This year I spent several wonderful days before Christmas tooling around Portland with  my sister Robin. We tried out new and old ways to celebrate.

Décor: A few minimal but beautiful (to me) decorations. For more about this, read my note on Facebook about  mindful ownership.  No  tree for me. I can visit 20 beautifully decorated trees at the Pittock Mansion in Portland or take in the city lights twinkling below  my apartment window.

Sacred: I am lighting lots of candles this time of  year, just as I did when I was a child. They make sacred the dark days of winter. I listen to the Christmas music of my past. I plan  a day of mindfulness and Tonglen on Christmas Day.

Events: One or two small — or none at all. This year I went to Portland’s Crafty Wonderland Show.

The Hubbub factor: I like all the excitement of Christmas and being anonymous in crowds, so I went Christmas shopping without buying anything. I visually soaked in the beautiful things for sale and enjoyed being part of the crowd.

Eating and Drinking: In moderation. I don’t need to make or taste every possible Christmas cookie or dish. My sister  and I celebrated simply, slowly savoring a glass of port and one huckleberry chocolate truffle each (from Portland’s Moonstruck Chocolate Co.) No more turkey, ham or huge dinners for me. I am trying a spaghetti squash meal on Christmas Day from my sister’s blog.

Port and Huckleberry Truffles

Port and Huckleberry Truffles

Smells: Fresh greenery is at a premium in an urban setting. I bought two small sprays of red berries and a  friend brought me some clippings from her tree. When I walk by, I inhale deeply!

Children: I can’t be with my kids or grandson this year.  While in the children’s section of Powell’s Bookstore, I watched with delight the little ones about my grandson’s age. They fill me with joy.

Giving: In honor of a family member who chooses to be homeless, I  buy a sandwich or two when I grocery shop and hand them off to the many homeless folks I see in Portland. I hope someone does something kind for my relative too.

Christmas Day: I discovered on Thanksgiving Day that the city of Portland goes quiet and still on holidays. With only a few cars and dog walkers about, it feels rarefied and magical. I will be walking there again come Christmas Day.

Crafty Wonderland-Mt Hood Morning 027

My way is not the way for everybody.

And — as with everything — it’s a work in progress.

What do you love about Christmas? What family traditions to you cherish? What traditions would you like to change? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays!

Betsy Lewis

The Walkabout Woman

Where do you find creative inspiration? (Or a pile of dirt and a cow in the road)

Creative people are like magicians, conjuring things out of thin air. Where once there was nothing, there is something — a new story, tune, poem, painting, or invention.

My creative life is pretty lively right now. It hasn’t always been this way, but for now, creative block is out of the question. Every object, view, conversation, experience, no matter how small, is grist for the mill.

And with so much scenic grandeur for inspiration at Fish Trap’s Imnaha Writers Retreat, if I were to have creative block, it would be because I was overwhelmed with material.

As I took a walk, I thought about the intimidating cow blocking my way the other day. What could I make of a cow in the road? This led to me thinking about how I handle obstacles in my life and is now a blog post under construction.

The process of thinking of the cow, making it a symbol of a larger personal issue such as “obstacles”, sorting out the meaning of obstacles in my own life, writing about it, getting feedback from others – all this sets into motion a personal transformation.

I will never see obstacles again in quite the same way.

This is the power of writing and art to make meaning and be the catalyst for transformation in both the creator and the viewer.

I used to believe that some difficult people in my life will never change. I don’t believe that now. Even the ones who give me the most grief may change simply by being alive in the world.

This is a transformative moment of understanding for me. It opens my heart and my world.

It softens my  judgment of self and others.

I believe that ultimately it will change those difficult relationships.

************

A dangerous looking cow blocking my way has a little bit of drama, especially for a city girl, but what about something less inspiring.

I glanced around for the least inspiring thing I could find and saw a pile of dirt.

What about a pile of dirt?

Piles of dirt are everywhere – a dime a dozen. What could a creative person do with this I wondered?

Impulsively, I asked poet Lynn Robertson, who is with me at the writer’s retreat, if she could write a poem about a pile of dirt. She answered brightly and without hesitation, “Of course!”, and that day she proceeded to do just that — not once, but twice!

So here you have it – two first drafts of poems about a pile of dirt.

UNRAVELING

By Lynn Robertson

She unraveled

becoming a mound of dirt

in a thunderstorm

beginning with a small titter

of plain brown pebbles

escaping the confines of tolerance

hiccupping down the slope.

 

When the first rain fell

in single, weighty, tear shaped patterings

the surface craters caused by their bounce

across her silken complexion

were smoothed by watery runoff.

But a driving wind arrived close behind

blew the seeds of youth

from her mounds of hair.

The hard rains came after

there were no roots to hold her together.

 

The flesh beneath her eyes

drooped in crescent shaped slings

to hold back the flood

The rise of her cheeks

slid into joweled pockets

and later

when she could absorb no more

she slumped

spreading low and smooth

across the landscape.

 

It took her three days

to realize she hadn’t washed away.

In the way that erosion changes mountains

she had experienced a redistribution

of her wealth.

 

PILE OF DIRT

By Lynn Robertson

Pile of dirt from the tractor

Put it here, push it there

Dirt from the backhoe

Leave it here, spread it where?

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the dirt poor farmer from Nebraska

Dirt in a pile by a highway in Alaska

Dirt for the man tilling up a veggie patch

Dirt for the bugs and the babies that they hatch

 

Dirt for the grader

Smooth it here, fill it there

Dirt for the roller

Pack it here, wet it there

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the fill in a solid earthen dam

Dirt by the tulips in the fields of Amsterdam

Dirt for the holes in the road or on the street

Dirt in a mud pie, mix it up, make it sweet

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the rocks holding up a mountain tall

Dirt for a cushion when a boulder starts to fall

Dirt for the students when they study every layer

Dirt leveled smooth for the pins of a surveyor

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

You can move it, You can use it

You can mash it, You can smash it

You can smell it, You can sell it

You can wet it, You can get it

For your garden for your yard

You can bake it til it’s hard

 

Move it here, push it there

You will take it everywhere

In a box, in your socks

On your face, any place

You can follow where it goes

But no one really knows

Where at last it slows

To rest

 

 

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