May 24, 2017 – When whispers become passions

“Getting there with my parrot tulip painting – and contemplating what’s next.”

There is this idea in our culture that what we should do is find our passion.  What’s more, we hear that this passion is like a switch – you come upon a way to channel your energies and boom:  You fall in love and are lit a-fire with the burning need to do this thing – at all costs.  It does sometimes happen this way; I had an airline pilot, a captain on 747’s, take a color class once.  She said that the first time she took a lesson in a small plane, she was hooked.  She sold everything she could to take lessons and made becoming a pilot her whole life.  My sense, though, is that this is rather rare – mostly it’s not how it goes. Much more often, finding what we would re-arrange our lives for isn’t quite as immediate or unequivocal.  How is it, then that we who aren’t “struck by lightning” can end up living our passion?

I’m asked quite often by those who have just met me how long I’ve been painting.  The answer I give them is that it’s been many years since I started, but if my painting life were a mathematical curve, it would be exponential – relatively flat for a while, and then in a short time it shot up.  Day one was a Saturday in June of 1992 – 25 years ago next month.  My mom and I thought it would be fun to take a one-day, adult-ed class:  Painting Flowers in Watercolor.  My first painting was a somewhat awkward blue-violet Dutch iris on a quarter sheet (11”x5”) with a plain white background.  I found the drawing frustrating, but using color was fun – yet still no flaring passion had yet been sparked.

I went home and over the next few weeks painted three more quarter-sheet paintings of tulips, sweet peas and a big, pale pink camellia.  But after that, because my life at the time didn’t support my being freely creative, my energy and impetus to paint petered out.  Looking through my stack of early art, there’s evidence that I did paint a bit in the years that followed, but only sporadically – usually on vacation.  More farting around than passionate!

About the turn of the century, when my Joseph and I had settled in to doing life together, I picked my watercolors back up again with a bit more enthusiasm.  But painting didn’t really grab ahold of me until two major circumstances impacted me – one internal, the other external.  In 2004 came the unthinkable realization that I wasn’t going to have any children in this life.  This enormous disappointment left a chasm in my soul that sent me looking for something to put my energies into – something more worth spending my life on than working in the corporate world.  The external force came in 2007 when I started showing my work – having an audience put a real fire under me to finish my paintings.

Ten more years down the road and I have come to know this life and these paintings as a direct outcome of how my life unfolded.  I love to paint, I love working with color, I love supporting others in their painting process.  Just recently I’ve started to notice something else – a deepening sense of appreciation for my paintings.  I was in conversation with a gallery owner from out of state about representing me and my work.  Looking at my website she expressed interest in my most recent paintings.  The idea of crating and shipping these paintings I’ve just finished – the ones for which I still can feel the struggle of making them – brought up a clear “no” from somewhere inside.  I want to have them close by – to be able to show them myself for a while first.

In one of my recent posts on the Beatitudes for Artists, I said that if there is one thing to pray for in becoming an artist it is this:  an irrepressible desire to make it.  I quoted Renoir as having said that for him the urge to paint was as persistent as the urge to pee.  When I first read this in the margin of one of Julia Cameron’s books, I wanted to paint that badly.  (It’s interesting, isn’t it, how I had a desire to have the desire?)  So how and where do we get this desire?  Initially it comes from the mysterious place that is the source of everything that makes us us.  It’s this place that whispers “watercolor” or “poetry” or “the piano” or whatever it is we hear.

Then what?  In my experience, it happens more like my exponential curve – we try it once, have a positive experience and then our desire grows a bit if we find it enjoyable and have had some level of success at it.  This then makes us want to attempt to do that again – and/or to try something else.  For some of us, at some point, painting – or whatever is our art – becomes what we do and who we are.  We get to the point where we can’t imagine being without something to paint.  Before the one we are working on is done, we are already considering what we’ll paint next.  We can even feel a bit of panic if an idea isn’t readily arising.

There are other factors that come into play.  Working a full time job, moving house and home, and serious Illness – ours or a family member’s – are often what use up our energies and keep us from creating.  But – as in my experience – loss can actually have a catalyzing effect.  After the acute grief has passed, loss can re-orient us; it makes a space in us that pulls away our resistance to create.  Looking at it, these circumstances are often out of our control, though.  We can’t really avoid life’s big obligations and we never go about seeking life-changing loss.

Lately I’ve been questioning the whole idea (that is so very American) – that we can do anything we want to.  That, with enough hard work and commitment, whatever we set our sights on is a real possibility. This is a very attractive idea – one that calls to people from all over the globe – and there are many examples of famous lives that prove it to be true.  But I wonder just how universal it is.  It takes a huge amount of desire/energy to overcome any circumstance and to sustain the commitment over time – in order to change our lives in a big way.  I wonder just how many of us can self-generate the kind of will that can keep up the energy necessary.  And then there are those of us whose lives are shaped by responding to what comes our way, rather than from a fire that arises from within us – a feminine rather than a masculine orientation.

I wanted to need to paint like Renoir did, but I didn’t actually rearrange my life to paint until circumstances arose that both stripped away my inner resistance and gave me a reason to.  The way I know myself to be, the way I am wired, I can’t imagine it having gone any differently.  So what does this mean?  Should we just be fatalistic about our desires and our creative lives?  Maybe.  But there is another piece.  The thread that has woven through my life in all of this has been to become more and more awake and present to my inner and outer life.  I first learned – and since have made it a practice – to pay attention – to my desires, to my pain, to what is going on in me and around me – so I can hear the messages that life has for me – so, then my responses can become more conscious and intentional.

I once read Victoria Moran advise to “live the chapter we are in” – as opposed to a chapter yet to come. If we are caring for someone we love, or are having to work very hard in some other way, we are pulled away from our creative work, then this is the chapter we are living.  Not being able to pour ourselves into making art is normal.  I’m finding myself, just as I was last week, ending with the question that I started with still lacking a pat answer.  Passion, where it comes from – and how it sometimes grows and sometimes doesn’t – is still pretty much a mystery to me.  I don’t question that we hear these whispers, though.  What we can do is honor the whispers, offer them our appreciation and hold them for safe keeping in our souls, knowing we will act upon them when life turns the page to the chapter that is theirs.

With my love,

Cara

May 17, 2017 – Painting the truth

My tulip painting is coming along – I’m having fun with these colors!

Marin Open Studios 2017 has just passed, which means I spent the past two weekends hanging out at my mom’s real estate office in Larkspur, my artwork all over the walls, as people came in to see it. Witnessing the response to this art that I make from others – many of whom are complete strangers – is an interesting part of being an exhibiting artist.  I’ve come to realized that paintings – mine included – emanate a certain energy that some people can sense.  It’s like a radio station that is picked up by an inner receiver of that particular frequency.  But it’s curious to me – what is this transmission?  How is it that art and people have these connections?

It is certainly very individual.  There are plenty of people who either don’t even notice the art or, if they do, seem not at all interested.  My “studio” is a storefront space in a commercial district, giving my art the opportunity to be seen by passers-by who wouldn’t be walking by our house in a residential neighborhood in Fairfax.  People go by who are headed to the movie theater, the nail salon, the burrito place next door.  It is often assumed that I’d be busy all day with people seeing the art through the windows and wandering in, but even with a Marin Open Studios sign on the sidewalk inviting them in, not very many of those who weren’t already planning to, actually do.

Last Thursday, someone did.  It wasn’t even the official “open studio” time – it was during our painting group.  With nine or ten artists crammed into the space – lots of talking and activity, a woman walked in, almost in a trance.  Looking around she asked whose art is this? Someone pointed her to me.  She was on her way to a lunch at the Left Bank on the corner and was drawn in by my art.  It turns out she lives in London and was leaving town that evening.  She walked out having purchased three large prints of roses – completely unplanned.  She is one whose tuner picked up the frequency that Life in Full Color sends out, that’s for sure!

A new source of wisdom and inspiration has come into my life:  brainpickings.org – the site of Maria Popova, a Bulgarian-born Brooklynite.  She writes this beautiful and fascinating blog on culture, literature, art, history and other human endeavors, citing extensively from her sources.  I’ve just recently become a regular follower – and in the past few weeks every Sunday’s digest has provided me something that relates to this exploration of mine of what it means to be a human who makes art.  I bookmarked this post from a few weeks ago where she reveals Ursula K. Le Guinn’s take on art and its message – from the perspective of the art-maker and from its viewer.

Maria Popova begins with this statement:  “Art transforms us not with what it contains but with what it creates in us — the constellation of interpretations, revelations, and emotional truths illuminated – …” And then she quotes Ursula K. Le Guinn:

The kids ask me, “When you write a story, do you decide on the message first or do you begin with the story and put the message in it?”

No, I say, I don’t.  I don’t do messages.  I write stories and poems.  That’s all.  What the story or the poem means to you — its “message” to you — may be entirely different from what it means to me.

The kids are often disappointed, even shocked.  I think they see me as irresponsible.  I know their teachers do.

They may be right.  Maybe all writing, even literature, is not an end in itself but a means to an end other than itself.  But I couldn’t write stories or poetry if I thought the true and central value of my work was in a message it carried, or in providing information or reassurance, offering wisdom, giving hope.  Vast and noble as these goals are, they would decisively limit the scope of the work; they would interfere with its natural growth and cut it off from the mystery which is the deepest source of the vitality of art.

A poem or story consciously written to address a problem or bring about a specific result, no matter how powerful or beneficent, has abdicated its first duty and privilege, its responsibility to itself.  Its primary job is simply to find the words that give it its right, true shape.  That shape is its beauty and its truth.

She’s speaking about writing – as her medium – but I know this equally applies to visual art.  And I’d never considered this before – that there is a truth that our paintings hold.  We paint what we paint – for its own sake – for the sake of whatever we find worthy of our time and effort.  What happens next is out of our hands.  Ten years ago, my friend Vicki was one of the first buyers of my art.  She bought Paris Roses.  She told me that it took her to a place inside that she didn’t even know existed – a place that was both feminine and strong.  I had just painted roses that I thought were beautiful and Vicki received a message of truth.

Paris Roses – the painting that transported my friend Vicki

Several weeks ago I went to the reception for a show of watercolors by Paulette Engler, one of the original members of our Thursday group.  Paulette is amongst those who paints the most regularly and she shows more frequently than any of us – even me it seems!  Looking across the large room, one of her paintings jumped off the wall at me.  I said to myself that I wanted to have it in my life.  Though I had watched her paint it over a series of Thursdays, its transmission to me happened in that moment.

Paulette’s ‘Looking for Blue Skies’

She called it “Looking for Blue Skies” and painted it just after the presidential election last year – channeling her intense feelings into it.  I saw the largest of the pink flowers with its view blocked by the dark branches, yet I knew that inside that space it lived, pristine and un-marred by any darkness or chaos.  Paulette’s painting reveals a truth to me about light and dark and the un-broken, un-breakable-ness at center of all things.  I’d stake my life on it that Paulette had no intention to include this message as she was painting!

I love this idea that there are truths that are found, felt, seen, heard in works of art of all kinds – truths that the artist was unaware of until revealed by the receivers of the art.  Knowing this has me feel more deeply what it is I’m up to – what we are all up to.  But we also should not be over-conscious of it.  Ursula K. Le Guinn tells us to stay innocent to it.  She says to stay with our process, which for us is the specifics of pencil lines and brush strokes, and let whatever this magic is have its own life.  I hear a caution that if we become overly conscious of it we would get in the way of the “right, true shape” of our art.  These truths must find their own way, allowing the viewer to find their truth themselves – rather than hitting them between the eyes with our version of truth.

Going forward, as I paint, as I write my paintings’ stories, and as I give them names, I want to hold on to this innocence.  At the same time, I want to be ever more intimate with the spirit of my art.  Our paintings are our off-spring and I can see the parallels in parents’ relationships with their children.  We love them, shape them, support their way into the world.  But it’s not for us to say what they are here for, who they are here for.  That is up to them.  I end this post as I started it, curious as to the mystery of art and how it connects us.  I see that it is an enduring mystery – one we will never understand.  This feels – to me – just as it should be.

With my love,

Cara

May 10, 2017 – Beatitudes for Artists – Part 2

“Fruit Tart – a painting from a decade ago that gave me great challenges. I needed these Beatitudes when I was painting them – it would have been much easier on me!”

This week we continue with the second half of Jesus’ eight Beatitudes that I’ve re-interpreted looking through the lens of making art and becoming an artist.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.

I say:  You’re blessed when you are gentle with yourself and others while in the process of learning and creating, for you will enjoy the process so much more and are likelier to stick with it.

Making art is hard; learning something new tests us.  We are forming new connections between our hands and brains, observing the results, practicing, fine-tuning.  Our egos prefer to do things we are really good at.  So, when we are in the sometimes-clumsy early stages of learning, we expose ourselves to judgement – from the inside and out.  Unfortunately (to our egos) there is no way around the learning process.   You can’t make the art of someone who has painted 1,000 paintings until you’ve painted 1,000 paintings.  And even once you’ve gained a certain level of skill, if you stay alive in your work, continuing to explore and experiment, you continue to risk.  What I want for you is to consistently tell yourself that you are doing your best at your current level of ability and inspiration.  Remember that as long as you are painting with your highest intentions, you – and your artist companions – are right on track.  Being kind and gentle to your creative self is how to keep yourself coming back again and again to the challenge that is making art.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.

I say:  You’re blessed when you follow your heart in your creative endeavors, when you do not allow your heart to be divided by outside influence and when you trust that your art is perfect and precious, for no one else will ever make the art that is in you.

I believe that we don’t choose what and how to create, rather it chooses us.  We don’t choose what we are drawn to.  We love what we love; we are interested in what we are interested in.  Following what allures you is being “pure of heart.”  There is always the temptation to allow your inclinations to be divided by the voices of others – often including the words “should” or “shouldn’t.”  And, especially when you are starting out, you may be inclined to have these voices lead you off your unique path.  Anything that comes your way as you create – instruction (including from me!), others’ processes, others’ art – is all there to serve you and your process.  Trust yourself, trust what you like and don’t like.  You and only you hold the vision for your art.  When you follow this vision, you create something that no one else in all of time will ever make – the art that only you can bring forth.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.

I say:  You’re blessed when you are at peace with the imperfection in all things – including your art and process – in doing so you embrace the sacredness of all acts of creation.

Making art may not seem as treacherous as other aspects of living a human life, but on the inner plane it can be.  Just look at the history of tortured artists, plagued with addiction and mental illness.  The tumultuous inner life of art makers calls for peace – a peace that surpasses all understanding.  This inner peace comes from a trust in something much greater than us and it is well worth cultivating.  Let any ego-drama pass by, stay with yourself and your precious desire to make what you make.  If you really think about it, where exactly does this desire to paint – to paint specifically this flower, or this face, or this patch of Earth – come from?  Where does any idea, inclination or inspiration come from?  It has to be from some divine source.  Operating with a trust in this source takes our small-self out of the picture.  At this level we are following divine “orders.”  It may seem like we are simply putting brush to paint to paper (or canvas), but we are actually making manifest, making real, something that wanted to become real – through us.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I say:  You’re blessed when you move beyond the opinions of others about your artwork, in doing so you free yourself as an artist.

Because of our uniqueness we have a certain strangeness to other people, and with this can bring a kind of loneliness.  As much as we need each other for support, to be cheered on as we work, at the most basic level, if it is to be our own work, we must make it alone – on our own.  Then, there will always be those who don’t get it, who will dismiss our art – or who even dislike it.  It helps to remember that what is said about our art comes from an entirely separate universe of human reality.  Tara Sophia Mohr says that feedback (negative and positive) is 100% about the giver of it.  At some level it is none of our business what someone else thinks of our art.

This is the culmination of all of the other seven of these Beatitudes for Artists:

  • When we open ourselves to making art,
  • when we allow ourselves to feel fully what we are here to express,
  • when we have appropriate humility about our art,
  • when we heed our desires to create,
  • when we are gentle with ourselves as we learn and grow,
  • when we have the courage to trust in our singular vision,
  • and when we cultivate an inner peace about it all,
  • then we set ourselves free from how anyone else may see what we make and we are ultimately free to make the art that is ours to make.

As artists we step in to the flow of creation, we become the channels, the vehicles for what is un-manifest to become manifest – through us – our eyes and hearts – and our cameras, pencils, brushes and paints.  We then speak with a voice – our artistic voice – that says what we alone are here to say.

I want to offer my thanks to Sister Mary Neill, my amazingly brilliant and oh-so-affirming-of-me spiritual director for helping me understand more fully what Jesus was saying in his Beatitudes, so I could find my way to these interpretations of them.  I’m so grateful for her guidance and companionship in my inner life.

With my blessings that your artist-self may be set free –

Cara

May 3, 2017 – Beatitudes for Artists, Part 1

“Raindance – rain and beauty, thorns and petals.”

As promised last week, (when I provided you with the context for why I’m doing this!) below are the first four of the eight Beatitudes that I’ve re-interpreted looking through the lens of making art and becoming an artist.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

I say:  You’re blessed when you first come to making art, devoid of any know-how and afraid to take the first step, for you are opening yourself to a whole new experience of being alive.

We all start at the beginning.  Not one of us comes out of the womb with a paintbrush in our hand.  We all come to making art for the first time without any idea how it’s done – and there’s no way we could until we’ve tried!  There is an innocence, a freshness when we first begin.  We have no idea what is to come.  To begin requires that we be open and receptive to the art that is to come from us.  Because, when you take it seriously and make art-making a regular practice, when you witness the stream of creations coming through you, your concept of yourself will change – forever.  We must attempt to retain this openness as we gain skills and competence – which may be an even more difficult thing to do! Competence gives us confidence, which can tend to have us think we know.  A perpetual cultivation of beginner’s mind is what keeps us – and our work evolving, growing and coming into its fullness.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.

I say:  You’re blessed when you feel deeply, when you let your heart feel the pain of your own life and the pain of the world, then your deepest self is revealed in your art.

Surrounding the physical heart in our chest, the heart that pumps our blood to the rest of our body – is an emotional, feeling heart.  This heart is both tender and indestructible.  The hurts and disappointments in life teach us to protect and conceal this heart.  The blessing comes when we allow this heart to touch and be touched – it’s where we experience awe, wonder, astonishing beauty as well as pain, loss and tragedy.  By allowing this heart to feel, we build its capacity.  We can withstand our own suffering and thus the suffering of the world.  Creative expression very often finds its genesis in the suffering we’ve allowed our hearts to feel.  Think of all the human stories of great loss that led to making a difference.  I know that I’d not be making this art and living this life if I had not endured the pain of being childless.  Ready access to this heart serves our art making as it is the instrument that receives the messages of what our art is – what materials, what subjects, what color palette.  It guides our choices, it feeds our visual voice.  It is the compass we follow as we share with the world the message that is ours to bring.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.

I say:  You’re blessed if you are humble in your creative process, when you do your authentic voice shines through you most brightly.

This one brings to mind something that Ruth, a woman I used to go to church with, gave me – an understanding of the word “humility”.  She said humility is a healthy relationship with our sense of self – our regard for ourselves isn’t either too high or too low.  We honor and accept our gifts and our shortcomings as they are.  I hear people say frequently that they have no “natural talent.”  But the gift of creating isn’t bestowed upon you (or not) with a magic wand; because you are alive you have the capacity to create.  Holding that you (too) have the capacity to create provides the courage to step in and give it a go.  And when we maintain that the art that comes through us has a life of its own, we find it odd to take full credit for it.  We become its channel rather than its creator.  It is when we allow this process that our art becomes a reflection both of who we are as well as something we’d never have imagined.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.

I say:  You’re blessed when you have a great desire, a hunger to create – this is the fuel for your learning and creating.

More than talent, more than experience, more than anything else, the desire to create determines what happens in our art making lives.  It is what gets us into our first class, it’s what gets us to sit down (or stand up) and actually do our craft.  It’s what gets us through the often challenging learning process.  It’s what endures the self-criticism and fears.  In one of Julia Cameron’s (The Artist’s Way) books I read a quote, attributed to Renoir.  He said something like:  For him the urge to paint was as persistent as the urge to pee.  A bit earthy, but it makes his point!  I remember reading that and actually wishing for my urge to paint to be that strong.  This was a wise wish.  I still don’t experience the desire to paint quite that urgently – it’s more that if I am away from my painting for too long, I get supremely cranky!  But I now have the clear sense that there is a body of work in me that is in the process of emerging.  I wonder if the desire to paint isn’t the art’s desire – wanting to come through us?!  If you long for anything, if you pray for anything in becoming an artist, the most important would be to have the flames of your desire grow.  It’s where it all starts and how it’s sustained.

Stay tuned to next week for the second four…

Love,

Cara

April 26, 2017 – Supremely Blessed

“Beatitude”

You know I’m an artist; you know that I am a guide to those on their own creative journeys – and if you have been reading these posts for a while, you likely know that I’m also a spiritual seeker.  My seeking began in my 30’s centered in what would be called New Age spirituality, but now my heart finds nourishment and curiosity in the Christian path.  I shiver a bit as I write this.  I wonder what you might be making up about my saying this?  Even to my ears it sounds freaky – Jesus freaky.  Telling you I’m Christian makes me want to clamor to explain – I want for you to know what kind of Christian I am. Because I’m not the kind of Christian that comes to mind for most people in the liberal circles I travel in – or would have come to my own mind thirty years ago.

As were most Americans, I was raised in a family that had its spiritual roots in Christianity, but hardly anyone around me seems to have much connection to that fact.  Even our big Christian holiday celebrations – Christmas and Easter – lack much connection to Jesus’ birth and death and resurrection. I have no idea how or why, but I am heaven bent (because “hell bent” so doesn’t seem to fit!) to discover for myself the pearls of wisdom and useful practice in the tradition that has come out of the remarkable life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.  And some of what I’ve discovered is such a far cry from my knee-jerk understanding of “Christianity” in my earlier life – that it is astonishing!  I know that what I’ve learned is soundly rejected by those who follow more traditional ways of believing.  But what I’ve discovered feels right and true to me.

I also see that I am not “all the way in” as some others are.  I am still holding on to my rational, figure-it-out mind when considering who Jesus was and is.  I don’t consider him my “Lord and Savior,” I don’t even worship him – worship – to me – is for God, the creator of all that is.  I’m not sure how I would describe a relationship I might have with Jesus – if I even have one.  But I deeply, deeply appreciate that in his time on the Earthly plane he was an enlightened wisdom teacher – whose teachings are as relevant and useful today as ever.

Because I wasn’t raised practicing our tradition, I’ve never read the Bible and don’t have much of relationship with it, either.  (Some Christian I am, huh?) Except for one section – the Beatitudes.  I do have a relationship with the Beatitudes.  I was introduced to them on a trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico in 2003.  Led by my then Pastor, Sara Vurek, we spent 10 days staying with the Benedictine Sisters and met and visited with some of the poorest people in the area.  I learned about Liberation Theology and the life and work of the beloved Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated.  We went to a church in Cuernavaca that had the Beatitudes engraved on a large exterior wall on its side – surrounded by a garden.  “Blessed are those with the spirit of the poor” I read.  We were told of how central these words, spoken by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, are and the place they hold for those living in such oppressive poverty in Latin America.

A few years later, Evelyn, my mother-in-law, gave me a book called “Reading Jesus: A writer’s encounters with the Gospels” by Mary Gordon.  I think it was her relationship with the Beatitudes that really helped me form mine.  She writes:

“For many days, I write and rewrite these words by hand and then I am paralyzed.  Struck dumb. Afraid to write.  Silenced by the depth of my attachment to them, silenced at the example of sheer moral greatness and the sense that after these words there is, perhaps should be, nothing to say.

What kind of life, what kind of living is suggested by the Beatitudes?  Perhaps equally important, what virtues are not mentioned… elided, simply left out?

Most striking:  the bourgeous virtues.  There is nothing about honesty, keeping your word, paying your debts, placing yourself in the right place in relation to authority or hierarchy.  Mercy, peacemaking, poverty of spirit, purity of heart (the body is not mentioned here).  The sexually well-behaved are not given a place.”

She later writes movingly about the second one:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” as a “perpetual mourner” having lost her father when she was a child.  This Beatitude speaks of the dignity, the duty even, to allow our pain as we mourn our losses, knowing that comfort is at hand.

At the end of January I finished the painting above, and gave it the name “Beatitude.”  The Beatitudes are each a paradox:  amidst what we’d think of as lesser is really something far greater.  On the same plant – at the end of the season – are both the dying leaves and the still-radiant flowers.  The name came to me before I started painting it – before even drawing it.  It also occurred to me that these teachings from this man who lived two millennia ago could use a higher profile right now – to be more top of mind than ever before in my life.

During my vacation over the following two weeks, I took on the audacious task of interpreting them for myself – from my point of view as one who creates and supports others in creating too.  I’m certainly not the first to do this, but every other interpretation that I found online was done by a pro – those who make their lives in this tradition – including Pope Francis.

In the next two weeks I’ll share with you what I’ve come up with – the first four next week and the remainder the week after.  I’d so love to hear from you – (even more than usual!).  I’d love to know if reading how I see these ancient teachings, looking through the experience of bringing forth creative expression, might meet you.

It’s scary to do this, to reveal this part of me to the world so publicly.  But doing scary stuff is where life is really lived.  And it’s what Jesus did.

Offering you blessings – and my appreciation for who you are to me,

Cara

April 19, 2017 – Art springs eternal

The reward for hiking to the top: all the green this year is intoxicating!

Fear is a big character when it comes to making art.  I see it all the time – in myself as well as in those around me.  Last week I received an email from someone who had come into my mom’s office while one of our group sessions was underway.  She said she wanted to learn to paint but she wanted private lessons, as she felt intimidated by the work she saw us making.  I hear this often – someone comes to get a calendar and tells me that she wants to do something “creative” but has to get over her fear of doing so. I meet someone at a festival who expresses the wish to be able to make work like mine.  When I invite her to come give it a try, I can see her almost physically retreat from me.  Then there was the customer who, when I delivered a piece of art she’d bought to her house, was so excited to show me her newly renovated “craft room.”  My reaction was:  This isn’t a craft room, it’s a studio!  I completely understand her reticence, though – there is a certain audacity in calling what we are making art.  When we sit with a blank piece of paper and begin to draw and then paint something of our own choosing, we are making our mark, we are revealing something of our self into what we are making.  There is something in us that craves doing this – I often wonder about what this force is and I think it’s related to the very human need to share of ourselves – to be really seen – the idea of which is both thrilling and terrifying.

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April 12, 2017 – When love leads

Starting a new one – my first painting of tulips(!). The warm colors are a welcome change for me.

Last week at dinner with a couple of the artists in the Friday group, the subject of jury duty came up and I found myself recounting the experience I had when I sat on a jury several years ago.  On trial was an undocumented woman from El Salvador, a mother of three who cleaned houses.  The charges against her came from an incident in a courtroom when her husband was being remanded into custody.  Sitting with her kids in the back of the courtroom, she ran up in protest when she saw him being brought to the ground – he was resisting arrest – and being restrained by several deputies.  She ignored the judge telling her to take her seat, prompting several other deputies to physically restrain her too.  She was forced to bend forward over the back of a courtroom seat, her head pushed so that her face was buried in the seat – with two more deputies holding each arm behind her back.  The charges against her included: contempt of court, resisting arrest and assault of a police officer – in the struggle, one of the deputies, a woman, was bruised on her forearm.

I was amazed how easy it is to end up on a jury panel.  If your name is called for you to come up to sit in the jury box and if there aren’t any questions the attorneys ask that would illicit an opportunity to reveal something they might object to, by default you are on the jury.  I thought that each potential juror would have been questioned for at least a few minutes, but after stating my only name and what I did for a living, just like that, I was on the jury.  The trial process was tedious and an inefficient use of the jurors’ time.  We were there from 9am-5pm for something like three and a half days and were in the courtroom for maybe a total of 8 hours hearing the case.  There were long lunch breaks and we were left for hours in the jury room while the judge tended to other matters.  It was both fascinating and frustrating.  But the most challenging for me was the deliberation process.

It was clear to me that this woman was not in any way a threat to society.  She had an emotional and very human reaction to a frightening situation.  Sure, there are people in her shoes who may have been able to restrain themselves, but what she did – in the scheme of all the crimes are put to a jury – seemed barely consequential.  It was bad enough that she had been handled so roughly (we were shown photos of the many large bruises on her arms), then she had been put in custody not knowing what was happening with her children and then her husband was released from custody and left the country, leaving her to fend for herself and her kids.  It incensed me that the precious resources of a jury trial were being used this way.  I couldn’t imagine why the District Attorney had pursued the case against her!

When our foreperson asked us each to indicate where we were leaning on the charges I was the only one who expressed reservations in convicting her.  Yes, we were instructed to make our judgment based on the facts as presented and the law as it was described to us.  Based objectively upon that, I can see how the others came to their guilty conclusion – it was clear she made a big ruckus in the courtroom.  But I could not help but look at the whole thing from a broader perspective and I saw no justice in convicting her.  I hoped that I might be joined by others – but none of my fellow jurors – some of whom were mothers – shared my perspective.  There were some tense moments as 11 other people looked at me, silently asking me if I was going to get in the way of having this whole thing be over with.

The resolution arose after one man brought up the idea of a “grand bargain.”  He asked me if I might be willing to find her guilty on the two lesser charges and not-guilty on the more grave charge of assaulting a police officer.  I sat with this for a minute or so, as they all waited on my response.  I realized that given the spirit of compromise in his question, I didn’t have the guts to hold the deliberation up and I reluctantly agreed.  After the trial was over I met with the woman and her attorney on a bench by the windows outside the courtroom.  I asked why this case was even brought to trial.  Her attorney told me that if she had been convicted of the assault charge, the deputies who arrested her would have been immune to any charge she might have brought against them for excessive use of force.  The best defense is a good offence.  As much as this made sense, it made me even sicker – and it made me feel used.

For a few days afterwards I felt bruised.  I felt the injustice of a world that works to protect the powerful against the vulnerable.  I felt the loneliness of holding a stance based upon my heart’s deepest knowing – within such a world.  And I longed for the strength to have held my ground.  I ask myself if I would have the strength now – I so want to believe that I would.  I know that if I do ever find myself as a potential juror again, I won’t hesitate to speak up about this experience and the way it has eroded my faith in the criminal justice system in our county.

This is holy week in the Christian world – the week we commemorate the last week of the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Standing my ground in a trial of an undocumented woman is small potatoes compared to his standing before Pontius Pilate and the Roman Empire.  He, in all his humanness, certainly had the courage to lead with love.  He teaches us to love our enemies, to care most for the least of us, to turn the other cheek.  We’ve heard this many times, but putting it into practice is a whole other thing.  Take, say loving our enemies.  Love those who gas their citizens?  Love those on the opposite side of my politics?  Even love the guy on the trail who doesn’t control his aggressive dog?  Loving no matter what is hard!  And to do so often goes against what we’d think would be better judgment.  But love is anything but rational.

Leading with love – especially in some situations – can be a radical act.  It takes courage, it takes having a well of self-love to draw from and it takes being connected to something greater than us, greater than the whole situation.  It’s that third force I’ve been writing about lately – the one that delivers us to another dimension.  And as I work this path of becoming more aware and conscious, I see that living this way allows us to be truly free.  Not the kind of freedom that is provided by protective armies – or by any kind of armoring, but the freedom of an uncompromised heart.  It’s a long-term project to live this way – one that I’m determined to continue to work on.

After a weeks of a news fast, I’m back to reading the paper – carefully – trying not to take in too much rancor.  I keep looking for anyone bringing in a broader, more loving perspective into the public discourse that I can hitch my hope to – There is a part of me looking for love to take the lead as it felt it would (for many of us) with the election of our last president.  But I’m seeing the world entirely differently now.  It appears that change must come from the ground up, rather than the top down.  I feel the call for love to lead us from within.  So, after my check-in with the world, I’m getting myself right back to making beauty – as art, as making space for others to create in, as caring for people, as meals I cook – in any way I can.  It is when love leads that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

With my gratitude for the companionship of your love,

Cara

April 5, 2017 – Ain’t mishavin’

Life in Full Color - Eden

That last bee, last bud, last flower center painted. This one is now officially finished. I’m calling it “Eden.” Look for it on my website later this week. It’s already spoken for, but I’ll have beautiful giclee prints available soon.

Brené Brown (no relation) is one of the heroines of my inner journey.  Several years ago I watched her first two TEDs talks on vulnerability and shame and knew she was the real deal.  I’ve read a couple of her books and have felt enormously supported by what she has to say.  She’s since been on Oprah (two shows in a row at the start, because Oprah wanted more after the first one!) and she has become quite well known in the world.  What she teaches is an antidote to much of the causes of inter-personal harm in our culture – as it helps people live whole-hearted lives.  The perfectionist streak in me is tenacious and Brené Brown’s discoveries and teachings encourage me to lighten up on myself.  Her latest book: “Rising Strong” has been waiting for me in my audio book library for a while.  Last Saturday, after an unhappy exchange in the morning with my hubby, was the time to start listening to it.  So, as I was working on finishing this painting above of apple blossoms and bees mixing the soft pastels of cobalt teal blue, quinacridone rose and hansa yellow medium, I heard her tell me about picking ourselves up after an emotional fall – and becoming stronger in the process.

One of the questions that she explores at length is:  In any given moment, are people doing the best they can?  It seems there are two pretty distinct camps.  Those of us who tend to be hardest on ourselves, tend to be hard on others as well – and believe that people are absolutely not doing their best.  Then there are those of us who see that everyone has their own story, their own capacities, injuries and experiences and that in any given situation, if they could do better they would.  Though I continue at times to be pretty hard on myself, and to pass judgement on others – I sure was on my sweetheart on Saturday morning, I can easily find my way to the other camp.  I see the wisdom – and the miracle of human interaction – that comes from giving someone the benefit of the doubt and not reacting as if there is something fundamentally wrong with them.

It’s funny how ideas tend to constellate and recur.  This is a message I’ve heard in different forms before – some quite recently.  I first heard it from Alison Armstrong.  When she began her studies of how men and women interact, she asked herself these questions:  What if nobody is misbehaving?  And:  What if there is a good reason for what they are doing?  These two “what if’s” alone can be life-changing.  Then just last week I was listening to a Krista Tippett conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama who she describes as a poet, theologian, and extraordinary healer in Northern Ireland.  Towards the end of their talk she quoted him as saying “most people do what seems reasonable to them at the time – most of the time.” She followed:  “the people who may be so offending us and may seem frightening to us are actually doing what seems reasonable to them.”  And there are certainly others in the world who might need to make room for me – when what I’m doing isn’t reasonable to them.

It’s a challenging idea.  Brené Brown said that she calls herself the most likely person to be asked the question “even serial killers and terrorists?”  Yes, even those who commit heinous acts are doing their best/doing what seems most reasonable to them/are not – in their minds misbehaving.  This does not condone what they do, it does not mean that we don’t respond and protect others from them.  But what it does is re-install their humanity.  Though we may have the tendency to want to test the idea in these extreme cases, where it really can have impact is when we apply it to those closest to us.

I often read and listen to wisdom like this and think about all the people I love who I want to share it with – in order to bring greater peace and happiness to them.  I’m so oriented towards those around me that I have to remind myself to consider it for myself – and to actually look inward first.  Because, I can only offer the generosity of this perspective towards those around me if I’ve allowed that I’m doing my best too.  It has become my tender desire – and intention to be as gentle with myself (beyond a wholesome discipline, says Desiderata).  I am doing the best I can in any given moment.

From the stand point of the “other side” one could say that this is a slippery slope.  You might protest by saying that we must be held accountable when we are not measuring up.  Yes.  We should.  But the problem comes when the accountability-holding is cloaked in judgement and criticism (“you should have known better!”).  When the response lacks any acknowledgment of our shared humanity, of our intention and our desire to do well, it shuts us down.  Hard-liners don’t acknowledge that what we all want is to be heard, to contribute and to matter.

As a later-in-life teacher/guide to those who are discovering who they are as artists, I see how critical this idea is in the world of expressive and creative arts.  I’ve heard many, many stories of those whose teachers did not come from the “doing the best we can” camp – who squashed spirits in response to tender sprouts of early art work.  I have a few stories of my own – this is why after childhood it took until my 30’s to be brave enough to try my hand again at making art.

It’s the most important thing I do in the groups I lead – I create the container – a safe container – for the art to emerge from the artists.  We are so vulnerable when we allow others to see the art we make – especially when we are first starting.  I have had several people express interest in joining us, but feeling tentative about it because of the skill and capacities of the other artists in our group.  It is hard – to imagine walking in with little experience or confidence, surrounded by these artists and their artwork. But every single one of us started one day and has a series of paintings that reveal the progression of our abilities.  And, on top of that, if a new artist could hear the thoughts inside our heads as we paint – they’d realize that regardless of how the world gives accolades for what we are painting, we are often so lacking the inner-confidence one would imagine we’d have!

Life isn’t forever.  We all will one day become incapacitated and die – and will no longer be able to pick up a brush and put color onto paper.  So, as long as we bring a desire to express ourselves genuinely, what we do is precious.  There is a note of grace in every impulse, every color choice, every dab of our brushes.  We are doing our best in every minute.  The miracle comes as we pay attention to the result we got and make adjustments for the next one.  We learn and get better.  It’s really that simple.  It is my prayer to have the presence of mind hold this perspective as much as I possibly can.  And when I can’t, to notice and adjust and grow.

With my love,

Cara

March 29, 2017 – Why make art?

I’m back to the painting of apple blossoms I started last spring – it’s the perfect thing to paint – and be in love with – in this moment.

I spent the day last Tuesday sitting on the jury for this year’s Sausalito Art Festival.  It’s a big honor – to be asked to review all the 2-dimensional artwork of those artists who applied to be in this year’s show. When I was first asked to do this several years ago I was very intimidated;  a relative newbie to both making and showing art, I thought “what do I know about judging art?”  It turns out it doesn’t take much special training or experience – responses to the art are pretty clear.  The process involves clicking through four examples of the applicant’s work, plus one of their booth and reading a brief statement.  It’s odd how this is – and I can’t explain exactly how it happens – but an impression arises readily.  It’s amazing to me how much is conveyed about the artist by just five images and a few words.

There are those whose work doesn’t seem to have gelled quite yet – looking as if the different pieces of art could have been made by different people.  And there are those who have landed upon a subject – say dancers, books or doughnuts that has become their “thing,” causing their art to lean towards shtick. When there is something consistent about the work – the method, the perspective, the color palette, the kind of subjects or the abstract patterns they use, along with something ineffable – however hard it is to articulate it, a kind of light shines through.  I’ve discovered it’s not difficult to see the sweet spot between un-developed and over-polished and between scattershot and repetitive.

At the end of the day I was left wondering about these artists – what their stories are, why they do what they do and what keeps them making art.  “Why?” is a very potent question – one that is important to consider – and endeavor to answer – for anything we undertake, really.  In looking at some of the applications, the clearest answer as to “why” that came to me was:  “to make money.”  This is a legitimate reason – artists need to make a living!  And this is a very expensive festival to participate in. But unless “to make money” is accompanied by other why’s, it can lead us to make “product” – as in something to sell, rather than creating to express our soul.  I watch “make-money” at play in me as well. It reins in my impulse to play and experiment very much.  Making and selling art has become what I do and people have come to expect a certain kind of art from me.  Yet, I feel a strong desire to keep evolving as an artist.  It’s a tricky balance.

My real whys are much bigger.  First off, I make art because I’m alive, because there are paintings in me and because I receive messages from things around me telling me to paint them.  I make art to uphold beauty, life and light in the world.  I also make art because I am a teacher and I cannot be in solidarity with those I accompany on their painting journeys unless I’m experiencing the often noisy inner-process of art-making alongside them.  There is an I-must-make-art force in me that is energized by all of this.

A while ago Sue Rink sent me a Brain Pickings article by Maria Popova about Henry Miller’s book, “To Paint is to Love Again.”  He is preaching to the choir in the title of the book alone, but when I finally got around to reading her article recently, I found it full of affirming snippets from his book.  I appreciate his connecting painting with loving, with seeing and how he writes of being in relationship with our art:

“To paint is to love again, live again, see again.  To get up at the crack of dawn in order to take a peek at the water colors one did the day before, or even a few hours before, is like stealing a look at the beloved while she sleeps.  The thrill is even greater if one has first to draw back the curtains.  How they glow in the cold light of early dawn!”

I paint a lot in the evenings after dinner.  I stop when my body starts to wind down;  I get chilly and lose my ability to focus – time to climb into bed.  In the morning when I look at what I did the night before with fresh eyes, it’s almost always a delight – my labors transformed overnight.  Henry Miller further speaks to our relationship to what we are painting – our subjects:

“The practice of any art demands more than mere savoir faire.  One must not only be in love with what one does, one must also know how to make love.  In love self is obliterated.  Only the beloved counts.  Whether the beloved be a bowl of fruit, a pastoral scene, or the interior of a bawdy house makes no difference.  One must be in it and of it wholly.  Before a subject can be transmuted aesthetically it must be devoured and absorbed.  If it is a painting it must perspire with ecstasy.”

I contend that art reflects the consciousness of its maker.  Iain McGilchrist says that it’s not only a reflection of our consciousness but it is our consciousness in another state – our art is the physical state of our consciousness.  Everything that has ever been started as an idea.  So, with love in the room – when we are making love with our materials, with our subjects, in response to the privilege of being able to make art – the resulting paintings shine with love’s light – they “perspire with ecstasy” in Henry Miller’s words.  Yes, painting is challenging, but love and challenge often – maybe always – go hand in hand.  The thing is if we are “phoning it in” it shows it in our art.  There are a few paintings I’ve done over the years for less than “in-love-with” reasons.  It’s no wonder they are still here, unclaimed.

It’s a mystery where our impulses to create come from.  What impels us to do anything?  Why do we fall in love with a person, why do we desire (to do, to make, to have) anything?  But I also think it’s something to pay attention to.  Our “why’s” live somewhere in there.  This applies to not just making art, or even creating, but to all the ways we are compelled in life.  I know for me, first becoming aware, and then getting very clear about why I do what I do has changed how I experience myself.  It en-courages me to progressively allow more and more of my soul into my artwork.

I offer a workshop on color that I named “Get Intimate with Color.”  A part of me thinks is a silly name for an art class, but when I reflect on what had me come up with that name, I realize I meant it literally. I believe in being intimate with our materials and subjects.  Intimate’s Latin root means “in-most.”  It requires the in-most parts of us.  Our soul is reflected in what we create when it emanates from there.  To me this is the whole enchilada.  Intimacy is relationship; relationship is connection;  connection is the sacred made manifest.  It’s the God in me seeing the God in you – and vice-versa.  When we make art we connect – we become intimate with those who see it.  For me, there’s no better “why.”

With my love,

Cara

March 22, 2017 – Desiderata – things desired

“The painting of plumeria started last month on Kauai is done. I’m just not yet sure what its name is…”

It’s all gotten to me lately – the state of the world, especially as depicted by the news media, the political situation, the divisiveness and outrage that seems to be everywhere.  I’ve been finding myself uncharacteristically depressed, wondering what the point really is to life.  Please don’t worry about me; I’m not in any danger.  I’m not at all lost – my inner witness is alive and well and taking notice of all of it.  But, still it’s been no fun inside me.  I’ve always been a pretty up-beat person.  For most of my life I’ve generally sought out the optimistic position.  From that perspective, I’ve looked about to see what’s good and helpful about what is.  But these times are challenging my sunny nature in a way that I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve been reading about “highly sensitive people” and taken a couple of quizzes online.  According to the results I’m not off-the-charts sensitive, but I am on the spectrum.  So I’ve been asking myself how I need to best operate in light of this.

Betsey made mention in the last little while that she’s become scrupulous about what appears in her email inbox.  Then I read an email written by a politician who I admire and greatly appreciate who said that all the appearances, letters and phone calls are working.  To which I thought to myself “Great! People are showing up.  And since they’ve got putting the pressure on covered, I am free to do what only I can, which is make my particular kind of beauty and be love in the world.”  This was the impetus to do what Betsey has done with my inbox.  All these messages telling me how broken the world is have been weighing down my heart.  Even if I wasn’t reading the messages, the subject lines are getting into my brain before I could delete them.

So, starting last week, I’ve been systematically unsubscribing myself from anything that doesn’t lift my spirits.  Anything.  I’ve overridden the voices that have told me that I should stay informed and have removed myself from all organizations that are working to “right the wrongs” of the world:  political, environmental and human rights.  Then there are all those who want to help me become a huge success selling my art – since I’m not doing all the things they recommend, these messages beat me with a stick – gone!  Those run of the mill retailers wanting to sell me stuff of any kind – they are gone too.  When asked why I’m unsubscribing, I’m telling them I just need a rest.  I figure they will wriggle their way back in eventually.  But for now, I want to hear nothing from any of them.

On top of this, I’ve not cracked open the newspaper, except to read the review of “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, and the Food and Pink sections of the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.  I’ve not been listening to NPR in the car, but rather music on Pandora or an audiobook.  I’m already noticing a lightness dawning in me – especially when I open my inbox.  For starters, there are far fewer emails – reducing my overwhelm!

Since nature abhors a vacuum, it’s not surprising that something else has already crept into the space in my consciousness – a piece of writing I first read more than thirty years ago.  I took French and a class in Greek and Latin word derivations (which woke up the word-nerd in me!) from Guerard Piffard at San Diego State.  At the end of each semester he gave each of his students a copy of Desiderata beautifully printed on parchment paper in a calligraphy type with colored illuminations.  Though this copy said it was from a church in Baltimore dated 1592, Desiderata was written in 1927 by a writer-poet, Max Ehrmann who lived in Terre Haute, Indiana.  It became well known in the 70’s when it was published as an inspirational poster.

I put the Desiderata Prof. Piffard gave me in a frame that sat on a little table in the entry way of my first house, in my first marriage.  At his request, I left it behind for my ex-husband when we split up.  Though I don’t have my professor’s gift anymore, I do have Max Ehrmann’s words in me.  Something in the last few days told me to look it up again and I’m working on learning it by heart.

If read through a cynical mind, one could attribute its popularity to the burgeoning new age when it came into the mainstream and read it as trite and Pollyanna.  It doesn’t help that people have written versions of it for lovers of cats, dogs, horses and babies.  But, the way I see it, the consciousness of the collective caught up to Max Ehrmann’s and people resonated with it.  Regardless of how they’ve been watered down and made commonplace, these words written 90 years ago are a salve to my soul – especially these:  “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

As I mentioned last week, I’m also reading about the law of three and the Christian Trinity, which figures in here.  The law of three says that when there are two opposing forces (affirming and denying), a third force (reconciling) arises to bring a fourth state in a new dimension.  I’m called to be – I’m called to live as a third force person – neither affirming nor denying, but reconciling.  And I’m trusting that the conflict has its purpose – it’s just that I’m not one to take part in the back and forth of it – at least not at this point.

You could say I’m rationalizing burying my head in the sand, but I’m certain that I am not.  The law of three tells us that intensity of the conflict means we are headed for a whole new world that will ultimately be better for all of us.  And my intuition tells me that we won’t take a linear path as we head there and along the way it will continue to be rough-going – it will likely get even worse before it gets better. The necessary reconciling third force must come from somewhere, so there’s a need for some of us to stay out of the fray – emotional and otherwise – and faithfully hold out hope for the future.  As a sensitive, I cannot do this taking in a steady diet of all the conflict.

When I was in despair last week, I told my Sister Mary that if the world were devoid of beauty, I’d not want to keep on living.  She reminded me that this is my job – I’m on the beauty beat.  I know I’m not alone – my guess is many of you are too.  If your soul is asking you to back away from the fray, I invite you to join me and keep yourself from the non-stop info machines.  I’m certain that if there’s something we really need to know, some way we are really needed to show up, someone will let us know.

Desiderata in Latin means “things desired.”  I’m pretty certain that a better world is what everyone, everywhere wants.  And regardless of which of the three forces someone operates from, Desiderata, these “things desired” are supportive.  Thank you, Max Ehrmann, for the life you lived, the words you wrote and how these words continue to bring us strength and hope.

With my love,

Cara

Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

 

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