Compass

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My friend Dennis gave me a compass today. 1920s model, made in France, as thin as a mint tin. Something his father used, or kept safely, something that the rest of his family didn’t need because they referenced the land for direction.

I need this compass. Thank goodness Dennis, in his elder years, full of enthusiasm for life and nature, has figured that out, silently and perceptively. At least this is the story I tell myself.

A compass is an object. Physical. Metal. But it, in the palm of my hand,  points to forces that drive our way of life on this planet. It points to our location in the universe, and on our streets. We are not lost, though sometimes we need a compass to remind us of that. Neither do we have all of the answers that will be revealed to us, or not, so we are reminded of the larger powers supporting us as we stand upright or keep breathing as we sleep.

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My Brain

My brain
Has decidedly
Put down its foot
And declared,
It shall not race to the end.
It has concerned itself with its surroundings,
With the fervor of conquest,
As though thinking could put a leash or A ring
On the world,
Or hand a green office folder filled with important documents to the front door
Of my obsessions,
As though the contract within declared,
All solved. And resolved.
It is not so,
Not in a thousand tries.
My brain is taking
A route now
Of polite refusal
To engage in mental contracts,
One-sided deals,
Bargains with shadows.
We, my brain and I, don’t even know the addresses of the involved anymore, do we?
The resolution lies in a fade,
Except for surprises filled with grace,
Such as hugs exchanged in accidental meetings.

-Feb. 16, 2016

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Time To Get Out There

We can spend our entire lives being too shy to fulfill dreams. If you know me at all, I speaketh from experience, at least when it comes to being shy with my music.

So, in the interest of getting out there, I took the plunge and entered NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest last night. They didn’t require anything fancy, just an original song, recorded and sent to them. Fun and exciting, and a great way to dive into the deep end and then realize, it’s just the beginning of a long distance swim! Here’s my public (ack! public!) post on YouTube, a requirement to enter the NPR contest. Thanks in advance for watching. Til next time, I will dream of you (wink, wink):

 

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It’s Been A Good, Long While

WordPress tells me that I need to increase my blog posts. No kidding – and my apologies!  I somehow drifted, got busy, switched careers a few times, fell in love, purchased a house, opened my studio, made art in Skopelos again and in Iceland, hiked Northern Ireland, grew my hair long, cut my hair off, and grew it out again.  It’s been an era, I’d say.  We all have those.

So, I’m back. Are you still here too? Let’s communicate.

I’d like to share where my art is now.  It’s time for honesty: here are the creative endeavors that are full blown trees, or tiny saplings.  Since art is everywhere in my life, this covers a lot of ground!

  1. I have a new yard but it’s filled with white rocks that came with the house. My vision, on the other hand, is to grow a few small trees, keep the oregano bushes going, make niches of flowers, get a handle on the bind weed … there’s a lot to do, and all at 7 am before the New Mexico heat beats down on me.  That is art for another season, since it is still winter here, but spring is on its way.
  2. Earrings, earrings, earrings! I have a jewelry business at amycliser.etsy.com. I dream of ideas. I purchase stones, design, solder, bead, polish.  I photograph the earrings I make on special natural light window sills in our home (before the sun goes down each day). I coordinate my scarves, pin my hair back, find the right light, extend my camera arm at the right angle, and model my earrings. I then post them on Etsy and Facebook, to advertise, fingers crossed as I wait for sales in my new business. I attend local arts and crafts fairs, and consider what the year may look like. I do it all, and I am busy, satisfied, and trying to figure out my business strategies. I love these pieces I make and so do the folks who have purchased from me so far, for whom I am grateful in only a way a new business owner could be. I know that it takes time to grow it – and watching the growth is satisfying – but I pour more effort into Amy Cliser Studio constantly so that it will take flight. It takes a lot of faith, and I have that, plus joy in connecting my creations with my customers. The satisfaction level is really high!
  3. Collage, mosaics, and watercolor – I love these areas of my art too. They may be occasional, but they are definitely still on the table.
  4. My music. This is really big for me, the sleeping giant, the dream that is a calling, the electricity of performing and, again, connecting. I’m writing, practicing, singing, occasionally accompanying folks here in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (recently the greatly talented songwriters Seth Hoffman and Eric McCuen, and just a few weekends ago the fun, groovy and encouraging Night Train at the famed La Fonda Hotel). I think I promised an album to Dan Heatherly years ago – it’s coming.

So, that’s the state of things. No paint on the walls in this new house. No re-tiling of the small bathroom or our tiny foyer yet. It’s earrings and music. And, I’m grateful to say, an angel pushing gently at my back every day.  What’s that saying?  God helps those who help themselves … to a lot of coffee.

Let me know if you’re still here!  I am.  Can’t wait to connect again, and I hope you are well.

beaded flat

It’s no surprise that my earrings look a little like my collages, or that the stones in the photo travelled back with me from Iceland and Greece.  Completely handmade at amycliser.etsy.com.

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When There’s a Shark Swimming on Your Lawn

By definition, life is surreal.  And collage.  Sharks on your lawn becomes a reality, not just two things you might have cut out of magazines and glued down on canvas (shark + lawn).  You have to look twice in amazement.  Or sometimes you have to just stop and hibernate so that, during the dreamtime of sleep, a healing wand can ease your heart into your new reality.

It’s not easy.  It’s spiritual reconstructive surgery.

It’s not a bad thing to be rerouted by life, although there’s no denying the grief that blinds us on the way.  But while I’m being blinded, the magic happens when the sight comes back and I find that there’s still a shark in the yard — and that it’s ok.  That might take months, years, or minutes.  We should go gentle on ourselves.

This shark that terrifies me, that doesn’t fit my definitions, becomes my friend.  It opens me to what is possible in life, which in turn submerges me into a greater sense of grace and the fast-moving miracles coursing around me like so many cells of beating, breathing love.

a shark in the yards of New Jersey during Sandy

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Gravity, Love, and Standing Still

This is a set of conceptual equation and theorems that my intuition says is true:

If love = life = growth = change = motion, then love = motion.

Motion (as it pertains to growth) can follow other motion or stillness.

In the moment preceding motion, which may be stillness, lives possibility.

Therefore, possibility exists as a precursor to love and life.

I am currently in the moment of possibility with my career (not the art, which is always in a state of possibility, but the part that gives me a steady paycheck).  That moment of stillness that precedes motion (which is change, growth, love, and life).  It is the perfect circumstance in which your life hands you a new set of directives, opens doors, nudges you through the words of others, and brings you to a clearing, like the wide open spaces of the desert at Chaco Canyon, or Valle Vidal.

At lunch I sat at a table on a sidewalk downtown, eating soup and looking up at an empty white building across the street, feeling the sun on my sweater and the breeze undoing my hair.  I breathed deeply.  My vision felt off (a stress response for me that reminds me of Tiresias, the blind prophet — minus his powers).  I felt grounded in the thought that this is a fermata of life, before the symphony starts up again.  Before taking a new plunge.

Then I walked to my favorite coffee shop, where the barristo (also an artist) and I talked about intuition in the body, the fire that lives in the belly, and how heeding the appetite of the stomach will lead one to sense the desires of the heart.  After that five minute conversation, I re-emerged into the sunlight on the city street and felt a comfort nestled deep inside my own gut, the warmth of intuition.

We’re always changing, every cell in our bodies, every moment we travel around the sun, every passing second that we are snugly held in by gravity.  Change can throw us into discomfort, which, if we feel it, will dissipate up and out of us when it needs to, but gravity will hold us as we move.  The dignified balance of stasis and quickening.

And now I know this too:  the quietness exists as an invitation to listen to myself before taking further steps.  I remember one point in my life when I did not have enough faith to not step forward.  Now I am standing still.

Until further notice.

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Chocolate Peeps and Neurobiological Generation

I am so grateful for this day.  Just ate a chocolate-covered Peep, heart full.  (Ever eat chocolate when you’re overjoyed?)  I’m no theologian, but the essence of Easter characterized the connections I made today, all instances of rebirth in my life.

A connection between you and me means new neurological connections in my brain.  (Can you see that with me? Micro and macro?)  It’s all part of the same beautiful system.  We are both generating, an alchemy that makes me release worry, and accept myself because you are mirroring love to me, and lets me feel safe enough to dream.

I wonder, in the scripture of my Presbyterian background, if a holiness lives between us in the form of neurobiological growth, “wherever two or more are gathered” with the intent to nurture each other. If we remain open, vulnerable, forgiving, listening, releasing, risk-taking, open to possibilities of things we have shunned but would secretly love to happen — isn’t that exceptional?  What if shame were lifted?  What would your life look like?  What if you took extravagantly loving chances on yourself?

Places where I witnessed connection and rebirth in myself on this amazing day:

– I laughed all morning with people who know how to be open.

– When I asked a friend to hike with me in the afternoon, she said yes, and we hiked the mountains until sunset.

– My mom’s voice on the line when I called early in the day.  My dad calling me back later in the day.

– I saw amazing projects come to fruition by the hardworking hands of someone I love.

– I remembered the generosity of others who have been patient with me in the past.

I felt a sense of community that was overwhelming, and now I just want to keep it going.  (So I called another friend and we’re hiking tomorrow morning.)

In the spirit of rebirth, self-love, and connecting to each other, here’s the popular Brene Brown TED talk video that I want you to experience.  (Over 4,000,000 others have watched this.)

I want to see a humpback whale eye-to-eye. (Borrowed photo, unknown source.)

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