Its Been A Long Time, But You See........ Its all a Part of Me

I apologize for not posting here too much lately. My life has been otherwise consumed for the last 10 months as I prepared for and completed my vision quest of sailing to Hawaii in the 2016 Singlehanded Transpac Race. I have been writing about my process and experience the whole time on my sailing blog. Please visit me over there if you feel inclined! I realized this morning that all of this is so intertwined that I should share about it here in my art world as well. My creative practice informs everything I do, and sailing is no exception.

So here is one of my most recent posts that I feel is one of the most poignant with regard to my personal growth:

 Haunani and I leaving San Francisco after our start

Haunani and I leaving San Francisco after our start

 An elated me shortly after finishing in Hanalei Bay

An elated me shortly after finishing in Hanalei Bay

Coming Home to Myself

As the weeks fly by since my return from sea, the details of my voyage are sadly starting to blend together. It’s a bit disconcerting how fast the memories are fading into a snapshot. Granted, it is a larger than life and oh-so vivid snapshot that is forever emblazoned on my brain, but from where I sit now in my comfy backyard sipping on a glass of red, it is easy to start romanticizing and capsulizing the whole experience. My voyage is surely deserving of some romanticization (is that even a word?), but it is more so deserving of being memorialized with radical honesty. Even though my sail across the Pacific transcends most things in my life, I feel the same about it as I do all of my life’s experiences: it would be nothing without all of its peaks and valleys. In my opinion, the valleys of any experience seem to produce the most gems and it is in those challenging and dark moments that I find my deepest transformation. Life is alchemy if I allow it to be so. This trip was certainly no exception and I am finding out more each day just to what extent I have been and continue to be transformed.

I cannot tell you how many people told me before I left things like “you will be different when you get back”, and “this trip is going to change you”. Because I agreed (I mean, how could I not return a changed woman after over 2 weeks alone at sea?), I kept searching for the sure to be monumental change in myself as the days ticked away out there. I have kept searching for it after landfall…partially in order to be able to answer all of the eager questions to that effect. Was I changed? Am I somehow more evolved or confident as a result of this epic trip? Well, although I certainly feel something major has shifted (and continues to shift) in me, to be honest I don’t feel that different. What I do feel, after much soul searching however, is a deeper sense of who I already knew myself to be. Maybe that IS what they meant by different, either way, it certainly is a powerful revelation for me.

As I have mentioned many times, my whole trip except for a few days was very rough. I think there was a part of me that was minimizing or doubting that fact based on my lack of experience with such things. I would hear my Dad’s and brother’s tales of their crossings…. relaxing book reading sessions on the foredeck, or peaceful sunset happy hours in the cockpit… echoing in my brain as I clung on to various handholds on my heaving vessel under stormy skies. No one said anything about being tossed about violently while barreling along in 25-30 knot winds, where trying to imbibe a sip of water let alone wine in the cockpit would be a challenge. Still, I rolled with it thinking that maybe I had heard wrong….or more accurately, maybe this really wasn’t so rough after all. Thankfully I didn’t have to rely on my videos to validate anything, because they make my trip look like a walk in the park (I still don’t get why). Upon my arrival to Hanalei, the magnitude of the atypical conditions was promptly corroborated by two 5-time veterans of this race. One said, “you sure picked the worst year ever to do this race”, and they each said to me separately that it was the roughest trip they have ever had. Bittersweet, but the good news to me was the confirmation that I was not losing my marbles or exaggerating the intensity of what I just went through in my mind….PHEW! When I look back on it, I am not sure how I ever questioned myself, because there really was no respite from Haunani’s violent movement for most of my trip. We rarely saw wind under 20 knots (it was more like 27-35 most of the time).

When I decided to join this race, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was a greenhorn. I had no offshore experience, not even on a crewed trip. At that point, my longest and roughest trip had been a sail with my dad from Maui to Hawaii Island in 1985. In fact until I arrived in the SF bay, I had only sailed in wind over 20 knots a handful of times, most of which were in the last year. To be honest, I was probably more tuned into what I lacked in experience than I should have been, to the point of being really tough on myself (one of my bad habits) and feeling like I had to justify my choice to pursue this goal to the more experienced sailors in my life. At the same time, however, I also had a deep sense of the fact that I would be able to handle it. I had my fears of course, but as I have said before, I knew that “it was in me”. This deep knowing is what I believe has been deeply strengthened and elevated above the doubts as a result of my journey, because what I found out out there in the “watery disk”, is that exactly what I needed is indeed in me…and then some.

What I am about to share is hard for me to talk about, because of my aversion to sounding cocky (aka: playing big), but I think it is important. I think that so many of us (especially women) downplay our innate strengths as a result of societal conditioning and consequential bad habits. I am certainly guilty of this. I can say now that the (at first unknown) underlying reason for setting out on this journey was to unravel this habit. I have been called out many times for playing small, as well as for being critical of myself and downplaying my strengths. One of the last things Thomas said to me before I left was “ your capabilities are far beyond what you think they are Margie”. I heard various versions of the same thing from people close to me as I prepared to leave. I didn’t fully take it in because it was more comfortable to be invested in some deep-rooted negative belief (that could oddly co-exist with my innate confidence). So here is the nugget that I have come away with and I believe I finally truly understand. Tears actually come to my eyes as I write this. My investment in playing small and the fact that it can co-exist with my innate confidence is all because of a deep fear of how people might react if I rise into the biggest version of myself. I have craved the ability to step into my power and confidence and have strived dilligently for it over the years, all the while undermining it with aforementioned stupid habit.  Well, maybe it’s not totally stupid because I am sure it served to protect me on some level as a kid or adolescent, but as I approach the mid century mark, I see it for what it is: complete and utter bullshit! It serves no one, least of all me. My time at sea has pulled this into sharp focus and has made me realize something huge: The reason I like to sail alone is that I do not have to play small. I knew I could not accomplish this feat of sailing to Hawaii by doing so (even though I clung fiercely to it until the moment I pulled away from the dock), and when I am around others, especially those I perceive to know more than me or have more experience than me, I all too easily step away from my own power and into that small place. When I am alone, I do no such thing. My wish for myself is to be able to integrate these two things and live my daily life the way I lived at sea, where I felt safe and entitled to be the full version of myself. No apologies, no explanations, no rationalizations, no tiptoeing.....just full-on unadulterated me.

What I saw clearly out there was a strong and capable woman, who despite some moaning and groaning didn’t get rattled by much. People keep asking me if I was scared out there, and my honest answer is no. I wasn’t, and it wasn’t because there did not exist scary things, it was because I knew in my guts that I could handle it all. There are people who have questioned my abilities and expertise, but at the end of the day, I knew (and then just to be sure, proved it to myself) that I could take care of business out there. Of course I had support and needed encouragement sometimes. Its like life….just because I allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help or support, does not mean I am weak or incapable. In fact I think asking for help is one of the bravest things we can do. Admitting our human-ness and embracing vulnerability is a huge strength. My tendency to do so is often mistaken for weakness, but as I sailed alone out there in the great blue, I felt no weakness….only wholeness. I realize that I need to now embody that wholeness in my daily life. I think that the reason people might mistake my vulnerability for weakness at times is because I allow it, and even play into it. My commitment to myself from now on is to STOP IT (seriously, watch this video...its hilarious!). I hope anyone else who struggles with this will join me. We are doing a disservice to the world by not living from and sharing the full version of who we are. I believe that as a result of this voyage, this is finally shifting in me. If by sharing my struggles and successes with this huge change, I can offer even a morsel of inspiration for even one other person to step into the glory of themselves, I will be so happy. We can all keep reminding each other!!  Deal?

**If you want to read more about the power of vulnerability, please do yourself a favor and check out any and all work by one of my heroes, Brene’ Brown. Here are a few links:

Her TED talk on the topic that went viral

She has written many books on the topic, but my favorite is Daring Greatly

In other news....Ill be back into my studio next week!! Let the art flow!!!!! YAY!!!!!!

Letting Go

Shifting Gears

 

For the past 7 months, I have been running around non-stop preparing for my big sailing adventure. I haven’t talked much about it here, but if you are interested, please read about it on my other blog, SailingHaunani. I am participating in the Singlehanded TransPac on July 2, so my life has been consumed by all things sailing lately. Making art is always on my mind, but I have allowed it to settle into the distant recesses lately. That is until yesterday when the pull into my studio could not be denied. I was supposed to go on a practice sail, but when those plans changed, I surrendered to my creative urges and dove into my studio for a few hours. I pulled out old pieces that had been laid to the side and breathed new life into them. It was amazing how much flowed out of me in a short time. I guess it had all been bottled up in there! What I am really amazed about (and reminded of…AGAIN) is that once I open that door, the creative juices start flowing and are almost unstoppable.

Since my life has been so single purposed lately, a lot of areas have gone untended. My creative practice and my spiritual practice are two biggies. It felt so good to show a little love to myself in this way yesterday. I felt so nourished and so deeply satisfied. I was able to process some things that have been lingering, or more accurately that I have been avoiding. I was able to dive into those places yesterday. I took a deep swim in grief, loss, disappointment, and exhaustion. I still have not fully realized what came out of it, but I will say that I feel different today. Things are stirred up, and in my morning writing session today, I was able to chip away some (previously elusive) healing nuggets to chew on. I could see more clearly and feel more deeply into so much that had until now been a confusing swirl.

The theme for me right now is letting go. I must let go of so much. I am not sure why that is so scary or hard, but it is. I am grateful to my creative practice for showing me where I need to go and what I need to do. I hope to dive back in later today for more clarity and more release. I suspect that no matter what I do, just that one act of getting into my studio healed some places in me that needed healing. Art really does heal!

Here are some pieces I worked on. All are in process....just like me!

Digging Through The Layers

To say that I have been in a huge funk the past month would be an understatement. I have been trying very hard to hide it (mainly from myself), but that’s not really working anymore. Over the past few days, I have come to a place where paying attention is the only option. So…..I reluctantly tiptoed into my art studio, recalling from somewhere in the recesses of my mind that making art heals me. I'm obviously being a little facetious here, but it is also true. For as long as I have been making art, and teaching others to use the creative practice as a healing tool, I STILL forget this simple and powerful fact at times (kind of a lot actually). Well, maybe forget isn’t the right word…I think ignore is more appropriate. Sometimes I ignore the call to my own healing. This time it has been because I am scared. I’m not often scared of my own dark places, but right now I am. I am just starting to process it all, and it is very deep and personal, but I would love to share where I arrived today as I dusted off the cobwebs, both literal and creative. There were ALL kids of voices telling me to stop, to walk away, that everything I made was shitty and worthless…I could go on and on. What I have learned over the years though, and what I trusted today (even though I didn’t feel like it), is to keep going no matter what. I kept going and what came out was layers and layers of tar like feelings. They are the entry point. Tomorrow I will go back in and greet them again and keep excavating. One foot in front of the other……

 

The dark thoughts, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. --Rumi

Art Journaling Workshop at The Wyly in Basalt, CO

As I have mentioned many times, The Wyly Community Art Center is so very close to my heart. It is where I took my first art journaling class over 15 years ago, which was a life-changing event for me. I was so honored to be invited back to teach my 2nd workshop there this summer. It is a 2 day intensive called "following a thread". We explore techniques and exercises that help get us connected to our unique creative voices. Teaching always transforms me, adn this weekend was no exception. Sharing my own creative process with students brings me closer to my truth and reunites me with myself in a fresh way every time. It is such an honor to witness people find their groove and come alive through their creative processes!

A Circle of Women

There is nothing like a circle of women! I woke up feeling so grateful and reflecting on the amazing women in my life. I have been so blessed with my friendships with women over the years. I find that no matter what, when a circle of women forms, the most magical things happen.....healing, opening, laughter, friendship, truth-telling, love and undying support. I feel so grateful for my sailing ladies! We usually sail on Tuesdays, so I dubbed our standing date: "Tita Tuesdays". I am from Hawaii, and in my book, Titas are just plain badass ladies. Urban dictionary defines Tita this way: "a word of Hawaiian origin, which can be used to describe a woman of any race who is strong, independent, able to think for herself, and FIERCE in a number of different ways. .... a Tita is a woman who can hold her own and doesn't take any crap. It's a good thing to be a Tita". Anyway, here is to you my sailing Titas!!! I love you all. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better sailor, person and friend. Thank you for supporting me and loving me, and allowing me into your lives....

 One of our epic sails on Tita Tuesdays

One of our epic sails on Tita Tuesdays

New Beginnings

a journal page about not playing small anymore.

new beginnings
new beginnings
No more holding back ~Be reckless
Tell Your Love To Everybody. ~ Rumi

Oh Rumi! This man’s words always speak to my soul, but somehow these really got me today. It is Christmas Eve, AND we are in the solstice new moon. For me it is a perfect time to ponder new beginnings…or shall I say new openings. I think that most people who don’t know me very well would think that I am living out loud and holding nothing back. Those that do know me well, however, know that I have a very annoying tendency to make myself small. I think I share this habit with many women. Tara Mohr  has devoted her life to supporting women in instead, PLAYING BIG (please go get her new book of the same title ASAP). In reading her book, and then having this quote hit me square in the face this morning, I am realizing how much I still hold myself back for the perceived comfort of others. “Why would you do that?” my friend incredulously asked me the other day. I actually couldn’t answer, and when I dug deep, all I came up with was this familiar feeling that I am “too much” and I should tone myself down so that others can feel more at ease around me. When I look at the people who surround me, whether in my life or online, however, I can see that this does not apply at all. I can see that this is an old story, that was never even MY story, but one sung to me by various adults in my life when I was a child. The truth is, that when I look at what I really want to create in my life, I want to be surrounded by people who are living large in their own lives and supporting me in doing the same. So here is to new beginnings, no more holding back and PLAYING BIG (and not apologizing for doing so)!

Following a Thread

Following a thread...This phrase has been my unofficial motto for a long time, especially for my art practice. This idea has inspired many a journal page and art piece. I evolve, my art evolves, but my path is always about the thread. It is a constant in my life and I relate to it as a lifeline of sorts. It has always been a guiding force, though at times, hanging onto it has been a sheer act of faith. I have found that if I trust it, however, the thread always leads me exactly where I need to go. So far it has been quite an adventure!

I have been following the thread  lately in a different direction with my with my lettering and my use of text in my creative process. I have always combined text and imagery, usually in such a way that the words are invisible glue that hold together the layers of a page. The words come in many shapes and styles, and are usually hidden or illegible, and create an abstract texture that mirrors the depths of my own many emotional layers. The most consistent way they appear is an abstract script that I spontaneously developed years ago.  Lately my script is taking on a new life. It has become more bold and angular, and a much more prominent part of my journal pages and pieces. I keep asking myself what this is all about, but then I remind myself that I don’t always have to know the why’s of everything (not my easiest lesson), and I just kept traveling into it. Most of the time it feels so alien to me that I don’t even recognize my own work, and others it feels like I am coming home. The more I surrender to it, the more it feels like home to me. I see this new place as a stepping-stone to deeper understanding. Every time my work takes a turn like this, something is usually about to be revealed to me. Today I was impatiently wondering what that could possibly be (and when the hell am I going to figure out the pieces for my upcoming show, and is this a part of it?), when a dear friend reminded me to focus on the journey and not the (anticipated) destination. Of course he is right, and it reeled me right back (albeit kicking and screaming) into this moment in my process, and the beautiful mystery that is unfolding. Here is to being present with what is here right now. What is here right now for me is layers of bright and crazy street art looking calligraphic mayhem.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~

Embracing the Fallow Times

Some journal spreads I have been working on while visiting my family

I read a blog post recently written by my new inspiring friend Tara Leaver. It was a part of a blog hop for which I actually nominated her about the creative practice. Her answers all resonated with me deeply, but one in particular really got me thinking. It was about the ebb and flow of the creative practice. 

Reading her words kind of brought me to my knees. She reminded me of the importance of giving myself space to breathe and permission to embrace that ebb and flow. I have had the consistent experience of ebb and flow throughout my 20 years of making art, yet when the ebbs come, I undoubtedly feel like there is something “wrong” with me, and like I should “do something” about it. The way that Tara talks about it re-framed that for me and helped me to see those ebbing times as necessary and sacred periods of creative fertilization and rest.

I just recently came off of the longest ebb in the history of my artistic ebbs and flows. Rupturing my Achilles tendon and the ensuing recovery was the catalyst and the great gift of bringing me back to the flow. Before that, for months, I would walk by my art table and feel like I "should" be making art. That would then of course, start a barrage of self-critical thoughts about not being or doing enough. Then the cycles of guilt and shame would kick in. We all know how productive and motivational those thoughts are...ha! All joking aside, I wish that at that time (and so many others) I could have lovingly reminded myself that it was okay (and even productive) to be in a fallow period. If I could have seen then what was coming next, I would have bowed down and worshiped that ebb. Lesson learned....I hope! I am now profusely thanking that hiatus and embracing the fierce flow of creativity that is currently coursing through every facet of my life. I am also aware that it wont last forever and I am preparing myself to welcome the space of another ebb when it comes. I feel so grateful!

 

 

A little artists blog hop action to inspire.... and connect cool people!

A couple of days ago I was nominated by a new lovely friend, Maz Hawes (please check her out because she is AMAZING) to take part in an artist’s blog-hop.  I had NO idea about blog hopping, but now I do.....A blog hop is where one writes a post that is based on a few standard questions (in this case to share one’s own creative practice). It also is a way to introduce and learn about other artists and their blogs. I will be introducing the artist that nominated me as well as three other artists nominated by me (and those artists will in turn do the same). It is a great way to connect with other artists and to learn about their creative process. It excites me because one of my passions in life is bringing like-minded people together. This is the perfect way to do that across many miles and cyber space.

First of all, I love my new friend Maz, the minute I saw her work in an online art journaling group (A Stand for Art Journaling, created by the amazing Orly Avineri), I was captivated. TRULY captivated. I am so happy to be connected with her and to be able to be inspired by her creative bravery and authenticity through our (albeit virtual) connection. I hope to travel across the seas one day and meet in person!

I am nominating another brave artist from across the pond, Tara Leaver. I came across her work online, and find her entire vibe and philosophy quite entrancing (I'm not sure if that is even a word, but its perfect for how I felt when I saw Tara's work). She is also a crusader for the healing powers of art, and that just makes me downright happy. Please check out her work and read her lovely musings on her blog ASAP! There are two more amazing souls that I am nominating, but I haven't heard back from them yet.  As soon as I do they will be added here!


 

Here are the questions:

How does my creative process work?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

What am I working on now?

Why do I do what I do?

 

How does my creative process work?

I have been keeping art journals for over 15 years. My creative process centers around that practice. My journals are like old friends.

True love....see what I mean??

For me, art journaling is a spontaneous and intuitive practice....a form of meditation. Sometimes I set intentions and treat the process very ritualistically and intentionally, and others I just grab a pen or brush and lay something down as I pass my art table. Either way, whatever needs to come out does, and it usually clears the space for even more creativity and healing. I will typically either start each page (or spread) with a written prayer or a stream of consciousness release. These words rarely end up being an obvious part of the page, but rather a layer. If they are visible, one can rarely glean their meaning. They can be secret messages or mindless ramblings, but they hold the page together with their layers, texture, and energetic offerings. I rarely make a page without words as an ingredient; mingling them with paint, texture and marks allows for what I feel is very potent expression. A very important part of my practice is to stay present and not judge what is coming out (a simple idea, but not easy AT all most of the time). There are days when I make “mud”, and days when what evolves ends up being beautiful and pleasing. Both are valuable, but to value one over the other is dangerous for me, because just as all of my emotions are essential, so is every facet of my creative expression.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work differs from others' work because it is mine. I know that sounds trite, but it really is so true. Just as I remind my students all of the time, I must remind myself that I have a unique voice, and the more I can listen and pay attention to that, the more my individual style and offerings will emerge and grow. I am not saying that it is easy to be true to that, because I can certainly get caught up in comparison, or imposters’ syndrome or feelings of unworthiness. I am also not saying that I am not inspired or influenced by other artists work.  I bow down to other artists and revel in their talent all the time. It inspires me to no end, and I take it all in and let it percolate so that it can inform my own unique practice (on that note, if you haven't already, you must read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon...BRILLIANT). My mentors and friends push me to be true to myself by watching them do the same. I am ever grateful for the existence of all of the warrior artists in my life. That being said, one thing that I feel may be different about my work from some other mixed media artists is that it is always centered around my emotional growth and the processing of my life experiences. I rarely come to the page with an intention or an idea of what I am going to make, but rather allow the universal creative life force move through me and take me exactly where I need to go in any given moment for the highest good. I find that the highest good usually translates into my own healing so that I can go forth from a grounded place and share that healing with others...which is really at the core of my life's mission.

 

 

What am I working on now?

 

I am working on a body of work that stems from my journaling practice, but will be displayed publicly and presented in a very different and more polished way than ever before. I have never consciously created a body of work for a gallery or any other purpose. It has always terrified me to show my art publicly because it is so intimate and personal. My work has always remained contained in the safe harbor of my trusty journals, and has only been shared with my family, students and friends. I was recently invited to do a show at my dear friend’s gallery, and instead of completely freaking out when she asked, I choked back the feeling that I would vomit and said “YES”! I am currently creating pieces for this show. They are mixed media pieces on paper that are mounted on wood. The theme is “following a thread”.  This is a little sneak peek at some trial pieces.....

I am also working on my new website which will include a blog (this one) about my creative practice, art journaling resources and classes and will also be home to my portrait photography business, Woods Photography. There is another rather huge and exciting community project underway which is still a secret....so stay tuned for that! :-)

Why do I do what I do?

As I say in my bio, art (my creative practice) came into my life both as a gift and salvation. Learning to tap into my innate creativity through art journaling has helped me to navigate some dark times. It continues to be a grounding force in my life’s journey. I create because it is as important to my well being as eating well, sleeping, exercise and prayer. I strongly believe that creating art heals me on a deep level, and I strive to honor that gift by sharing my understanding of creativity as a healing tool with my students and clients.

this was a  tough one...processing something very painful