Peel The Onion

It is the eve of the big move. Tomorrow we fly to Seattle to pack up my possessions – mostly paintings, a rocking chair, and art supplies – and drive east. After months of wandering, paring down and letting go of all things familiar, I am creating a new home.

Many months ago, on December 31, the eve of 2013 with my life freshly exploded, a tarot reader told me that being by the water was essential for me and that I should at all cost stay by the water. I wouldn’t normally invest too much in the specifics of a card reading except that this particular reader has been frighteningly accurate. She told me with startling precision the details of what would happen to me (and for me) throughout the spring and summer. It’s as if I am living through the notes that I took from the session. I laughed when I knew in my guts that it was time to move and I realized that my move would take me from the Puget Sound to another powerful body of water.

I have felt for many months that the universe sent its border collie to herd me to a new pasture. I’ve been making choices but my choices seem guided or predetermined. It’s as if I am seeing a GPS map with a bright green line that shows me the path. The voice in my head is clear “In 300 feet, turn right…. Turn right.” And I do. A few instances early on I turned off the highlighted path, saying to myself, “This can’t be right! It can’t be this way!” And each time my metaphoric car broke down. I heard, “Recalculating,” and, when I listened, I was guided back on course.

In the past several years I have often used the word, “surrender” and keep thinking that I know what that word means – and I learn again and again that it has more layers than an onion and I am only beginning to grasp the depth of its meaning. To give over does not mean to live without intention. To let go does not mean to relinquish responsibility for choices. To surrender requires a destination in mind; it’s a paradox. It means to be a wayfinder, to listen to the ocean of life, read the fingerprint of the waves, hold the destination in mind, and call the island to you. It means that obstacles and deviations are necessary and never what they seem to be. Sometimes what looks like an obstacle is really a palette of choices or a regulator of time: you might get to the crossroads too soon and the universe needs to slow you down. It means to understand that life is a long-body of phases and not about fixes or arrivals or outcomes. In this sense, surrender, listening and presence are really the same thing.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.


It has been the perfect autumn day: warm sun and a drive along the shore. The trees are just beginning to turn. Autumn days demand a slower pace. They inspire reflection and quiet. I’m giving great slices of time to staring into space. I am not asking any deep or life altering questions. I’m listening. I’m closing my eyes and feeling the sun on my face.

Yesterday we stopped work early and walked north on the beach. The lake was quiet. It is listening, too. We found two adirondack chairs and sat with our feet up on a log and talked about writing songs and ideas for paintings. We talked about spiritual practices and meditation. We talked about new beginnings and tying up loose ends.

Art has always been a spiritual practice for me. When I was younger it was my route to inner quiet. While the rest of my life might be a cacophony of mind noise, the moment I picked up my brushes I grew quiet. I became present. As I have been learning to make all-the-world my studio – and consciously making every action of my life the same as picking up my brushes – I’ve grown to understand that every action I take is really a spiritual practice. How I do what I do, being as present as possible in all of my life’s moments, is a practice.

Not only are all actions a form of spiritual practice, but all places are sacred places. The idea of separation -being in church or out of church – is an illusion. It’s a recognition. If we are to walk a sacred path then we are never off the path. Here’s another cliché that is mostly true: It is the in little routines and small moments of life where the riches are found. Sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan in an adirondack chair, talking about art with Kerri, the autumn sun on my face, the waves lolling in – what could be more sensual, sacred, eternal and passing?

Dance With Grace

Chris wrote to me of Grace. His words were beautiful and I have been meditating on them these past few days. Chris has that way with me. We used to take long walks or sit in cafes late at night after rehearsal and talk about god, faith and spirituality. Chris is solid in his faith and is among the few people in my life who has deeply challenged and informed my personal path through the forests of belief and disbelief in the divine. He gets me thinking. Better, he helps me listen to the deep rivers within me.

Grace has many definitions but the one that is percolating within me is Grace as a gift of the divine to humankind. Another definition is the generosity of spirit. And aren’t these two definitions remarkably similar? Here’s the phrase from Chris that most struck me:

Unless, we experience in human form what undeserved, unmerited Love looks like, we will always be skeptical or confused about what Grace even means.

Isn’t that lovely? He is writing about Grace as a gift of love freely given from one person to another; no strings attached. He implies that love is what happens between us and what happens between us is divine. This is Grace.

This morning Skip told me of a book called The Gift. The author offers different understandings of what it means to give a gift. In some cultures a gift is something experienced and then passed on – receiving a gift comes with the expectation of giving it. The value of the gift is in the giving of it, not the possessing of it. It is to understand “gift” as a verb, an ongoing action. From this point of view, it is impossible to separate the gift from the giver. If love is the gift freely given, love is also the giver. And, it follows: to receive love freely given is to become love. The giver and the receiver unite in an ongoing dance called “life.” This love dance is Grace.

Each of us has unique gift to offer the world and all too often withhold our gift or hide it or fear it. We ask, “What if I’m not good enough…?” What if the generosity you seek from the world would become available the moment you became generous with offering your gift? What if the real value of your gift was in the giving of it. What would your life look like if your gift was freely given? Isn’t that what we strive to do: fully express without inhibition or expectation our gift to the world? Isn’t that what we call “fulfillment?” Isn’t this freedom? Isn’t this cycle of giving freely and receiving freely and giving…, the generosity of spirit? Isn’t that Grace?

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Hold A Boundary. Make A Choice.

I had an extraordinary conversation yesterday about the benefits of having and holding personal boundaries. On the surface that sounds like a no-brainer until you consider that the epicenter of pain for most of my clients, personal, educational, corporate and otherwise, is the inability to hold a boundary. In most cases, people know that they are frustrated or in pain but do not recognize that they’re in turmoil because they are giving the farm away. They are hurting because others are stomping on their sacred ground.

My clients are my heroes because, once they recognize that they need clear boundaries, they do the hard work of establishing and maintaining their borders. They stop allowing others to step on them. And then an amazing thing happens. They become powerful. Not the power-over kind of power (that is not power, that is control), but the deep inner force kind of powerful. They “own” themselves. They stop assigning responsibility for their happiness to other people and because they lift themselves from the victim role, they become creators of their lives. This, too, probably sounds like a no-brainer. It is easy to articulate but in most cases not so easy to do. I often say (and write) this phrase and it applies here: the actions you need to take are usually simple – it is the story you wrap around the actions that make things hard. Establishing and holding a boundary is simple. What reason do you give yourself for allowing others to step in your sacred ground? What reason do you give yourself for withholding your voice? What conflict do you think you are avoiding with your silence? The answer to these questions is the story you are telling and it is the story that makes things hard.

There is an equation in boundary creation that is simple and leads directly to the capacity to create. It follows a very specific pattern and goes something like this: 1) drawing and maintaining boundaries allows you to see the choices that you make. Without boundaries it is hard to see how you participate in your pain; it is hard to recognize your choices when your choices allow others to violate your space. 2) With boundaries you see your choices. You start to make conscious choices. Owning your choices brings a magical realization: your choices are, in fact, creating your life. 3) Once you understand that you are making choices every moment of your life, once you see that you are assigning the meaning to your world, you are capable of seeing how you actively create your world. Owning your choices, recognizing your power to give meaning, necessarily leads to the real power center revelation: you are a creator. You are the creator of your happiness and your world.

If I were a mathematician, I’s scribble it on my chalkboard like this:

Boundaries x Choice = Creator

[912. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Surprise A Frog

Trust me when I tell you that there is no way for a fully mature frog to take up residence so soon in the pond. We dug the pond at the end of June. While we were away in August a merry prankster poured soap into the pond. Suds clogged the bubbler and mucked the filter so the water was rancid by the time we returned. The soap killed everything. A week ago we drained the pond, scrubbed the liner, removed and tossed in the garbage all of the plants, and cleansed the rocks that define the border. And then we refilled it with fresh water.

Two days ago while I was scooping the leaves from the water, a frog darted across the pond, stepped on to the rocks on the far side and stared at me. I stared back. I’m sure the frog was asking the same question that I was asking, “Where did you come from?” After a lengthy stare down the frog decided that I was benign and slipped back into the water. It had an easier job solving the mystery of my sudden appearance than I had solving the mystery of its arrival. I continued scooping leaves and puzzled the mystery.

I imagined that this was the luckiest frog on the planet. Perhaps it was plucked from another pond by a very hungry hawk and, being slippery, dropped from the sky and fell into our pond. Of course, we live 3 blocks from Lake Michigan (quite a large pond) and it may have hopped the distance, evaded cars, cats, neighborhood children, and just happened upon our backyard body of water. Though, I doubt it. I suppose the merry prankster that dumped the soap might have slipped in the backyard late one night and deposited the frog. I doubt that, too.

A few weeks ago we had a surprise visit by a bat. Bats symbolize rebirth, emergence from the dark into a new way of being. My reading tells me that Frog teaches how to jump with courage into a new endeavor and fully accept the new way of life that comes with it. It is a shamanic symbol, jumping from one level of being to another. In addition, replenishment, nurturing of self, and cleansing of old ways are associated with frog. I couldn’t have a more timely frog visitor!

The two symbols together, bat and frog, are potent affirmations of the path just behind me and powerful harbingers of all the good things to come. Maybe I do not need to solve the mystery of the frog and simply accept the message and the messenger. Maybe I simply need to listen. When confronted with a mystery the Balinese never ask, “Why?” or “How?” – they simply accept that this universe is filled with great magic and mystery and are grateful to participate in the conversation.

[911. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.


It’s been 24 hours of ritual passage.

Last night, far off the beaten path in an old barn swept clean and decorated simply, Kerri, Kirsten and I attended a wedding. Well, truth be told, we attended the reception. Kerri played for a wedding and then we jumped in a car and drove several hours into rural Wisconsin. There was feasting and toasting and dancing. Old friends reconnected. New friendships were established. I’ve always thought that a good wedding was like a barn raising: a community comes together in support of the creation of something new, special, and useful. This was a good wedding. The ritual was filled with laughter (so I’m told). The barn was raised. Two became united into one. The elements of earth, water, air and fire are part of this union, nestled in a cornfield, a bonfire roaring, wine flowing, and the dancers breathing deeply.

With a few hours of sleep we were back in a church for services that included a baptism. A water ritual, a blessing of transformation; I’ve not attended many baptisms so I paid attention. I was delighted to realize that this water ritual is meant to welcome the new spirit into the community. The pastor kissed the baby on the head and said, “We have your back.” The congregation laughed and nodded.

Later, the congregation celebrated communion. I watched this ritual, too. “This is my body, take this and eat. This is my blood, drink….” This, too, is a ritual of joining. The community eats the god, they take the god into their bodies and in so doing become the god. They unify. They transcend. The bread is earth like the body is earth. It returns to dust. When alive, the body is fire. It eats, consumes, burns calories, and is constantly transforming. The air moves through the lungs, oxygen is carried through the body in the blood. The blood and body are water and fire and air and earth. “This is my body, take this and eat. This is my blood, drink….” The Makah literally consume their god, the whale. They hunt and eat their god. Actually, the god, the whale, chooses the worthy hunter to enact the ritual. The god feeds the people. The people resurrect the god. The indigenous people of the plains ate the buffalo in an agreement of death and resurrection. The god will feed you and, in exchange, you must perform the appropriate rituals to bring it back to vital life. It is a beautiful cycle.

Marriage. Baptism. Communion. Thresholds all. They lead to joining, belonging, and transcendence of the small self to participation with something much greater. Life honors life.

[910. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Welcome The Equinox

I just checked the official date and time of the fall equinox. Last night the moon was gorgeous so I thought the equinox must be today but it’s not. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac the autumnal equinox falls on September 22 at 4.44 pm on the east coast. That makes it 1:44pm on the west coast. It is the repetition of the numbers that stopped me and sent me to the internet. Lately I’ve been having a very special relationship with a sequence of numbers so my number radar is on high alert.

In numerology, 11, 22, and 33 are called master numbers and when they are found in a birth chart they carry significant and powerful implications. I am not a numerologist nor am I an astrologist but I like the notion that I will experience the equinox on the 22nd at 3:44pm.

From my brief internet search I found the master number 22 is the most potent and pragmatic of numbers. It signifies the translation of wild dreams into concrete success. I read that it is an ambitious but disciplined number. I’m particularly fond of this suggestion because I intend the coming year to be the era in which my wild dreams become concrete success and how lovely to cross that threshold on the autumnal equinox. Whether or not you hold any worth or meaning in numerology, the power of intention is undeniable and I appreciate the serendipity of the numbers in support of my intention.

In a birth chart, the master number 44 signals Opportunity. It signifies a great quest for knowledge. Through this number opportunities come as though they were road signs along your life path. The Alchemists appreciated this number as the signal of a visionary. I wrote a few days ago about closing my studio and I have always delighted that my studio number was (4)422. It is enough to say that, in these past few years, the road signs hammered me and my eyes were so crossed by hammering that my vision was blurry. So, I appreciate the obvious nature of the opportunities implied in the number 44 and look forward to kinder, gentler road signs and already welcome the return of clarity of vision.

909. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Choose Love

Kerri is practicing. Tomorrow she will sing for a wedding. The song she is singing is original, one of her new compositions. It takes my breath away.

“What kind of miracle had to happen for this to be…..”

Chris emailed earlier today with some big news. He will be a daddy in the spring. He will be a great father.

“Come let me love you. Let me give my life to you.” Now she is singing a song from John Denver. Isn’t this a song a daddy might sing to his child?

I slept in today. I’m doing that a lot lately, so deep is my exhaustion. Sleep feels good! The sun was streaming in the windows and warmed me. I had work to do but chose to linger in my blankets. Is there anything better than the sun on an autumn morning?

“Is it love that brings you here or is it love that brings you life
There is love…”

Skip will fly this weekend to meet his new granddaughter. Her name is Hazel and her grandpa already loves her to the stars. New life is all around! I can only imagine what it must feel like to see your granddaughter for the first time. Is it love that brings you life? Ask Skip. Yes. Oh, yes.

Now Kerri is singing a song by Dan Fogelberg. When I was younger I listened to Dan Fogelberg all the time. Today, for me, this song is both old and new. It is a kind of time capsule:

“Stronger than any mountain cathedral. Truer than any tree ever grew…”

It is a funny thing about the music we choose for weddings. The lyrics sound cliché unless you’re in love or meeting your granddaughter or standing in the river- and then the lyrics become personal. Is it love that brings you life? There is nothing cliché about that question. It should be asked every day.

In the book, The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo, at the very beginning of the story, the guide Petrus says to Paulo that the path must be rooted in agape. Root your action in love. Make choices from a loving place. Orient yourself to love. That, too, can sound like a cliché until you actually find the root and begin living your life from love and not fear. There is nothing cliché about embracing power and power, true power, is always born of love. The other choice is control and control is the blossom of fear.

“Deeper than any forest primeval, I am in love with you….”

Yes. And, again, yes!

[908. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Exit The Smelter

Soon I will be closing down my studio of the past 3 years. A lot of life has happened while I worked from here. I made a lot of great art in this space. Some of the most significant moments of my life happened in this studio. I lost and found my soul (poetic but true), was gifted with a special shade of turquoise, received a message across time from a harper that knocked the air out of me for weeks, finished writing a book, dreamed for hours at a time while losing all of my illusions. It has been a refuge and at times a home. It is more than a space to paint!

There are over 100 studios in the building – it has a long (and dark) history. Many years ago it was the Immigration and Naturalization facility. The 2nd and 3rd floors were detention facilities for people attempting to enter the country. Dipping sticks in tar made hot from the sun, the detainees wrote their names on the walls of the courtyard. They didn’t want to disappear and scratched a record of their passage with the only tools available. The people that renovated the building were wise enough to preserve the proof of life. I like the idea that artists now occupy the building. The history isn’t being erased but explored, honored, challenged and informed.

During the era that it was the INS building, the 4th floor was actually an assay office. Citizens carried their gold nuggets to the 4th floor to be weighed and exchanged for dollar bills. They rode an elevator through the detention center to arrive at the assay office. My mind swims with metaphors.

My studio space is on the 4th floor and was, at one time, the smelter room. It was the room where the gold was melted, the impurities burned off, and the raw nuggets transformed into bars. In preparing to leave I can now look back and see that I was in the perfect space. The heat of the past year burned off more than a few layers of impurity and I barely recognize the person I was when I first rented the studio. I feel thoroughly smelted.

Viktor Frankl wrote that happiness ensues. It follows. It is a decision. It is not something you pursue but something you feel after the pursuit. Gratitude is very much the same. It follows the heat. It becomes available when the heat of transformation has fired. As I transfer my studio to another place, closing down this era, I am eternally grateful for the meaning I am now able to make from my time smelter.

[907. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Step Into Your Ordinary

Yesterday I had a moment that was truly surprising. It will not sound like much but to me it was profound. I was raking leaves and deeply appreciative of the fall and thinking of my life a year ago. The fall is a reflective time for me and the repetition of raking facilitates great mind wandering. Last year at this time my metaphoric house was ablaze from a fire that I’d lit. I was intentionally burning down everything that I knew. It was the second time in my life that I’d put a match to my life. One year ago the fire was burning hot and rather than run from it like I did the first time so many years ago, this time I stood in the flames. I’ve learned that the conflagration is total and to run only prolongs the burn. The fire will always catch the firestarter. It is better to embrace the path rather than choose it and then deny that it was a choice. So I stood still and burned.

I’ve already written too much about my months of wandering. It is enough to say that I had no map and was in a new geography. I drank deep from the cup of lost. I had great teachers, met some dragons, acted poorly, fought bravely and was blessed with an extraordinary guide and master who could only go so far with me. As is true in all great stories, the last mile I had to do alone. That’s the point of most transformational ritual: the community and guides can carry you only so far. Dying to the old form is necessarily a solo act. In the course of a single lifetime there are several cycles of dying and rebirth. The dying happens alone yet it always leads to rebirth, renewal, and a return to the community. The transformation of the community happens through the transformation of the members of the community and vice versa. It’s a cycle of renewal just as is the cycle of the seasons.

And this brings me to raking leaves. I was content. I was nowhere else and wanted to be nowhere else. I didn’t need to achieve anything or change anybody or facilitate a revelation for anyone – not even myself. There was no gap between me and my artistry or my work. I am my artistry. I am my work. My moment of profundity: I realized that I’ve stepped into my ordinary. I feel no need to defend or justify or explain or lie or glorify. I no longer need to be anything other than the raker of leaves, the painter of paintings. Peace. I understand that raking leaves and telling stories and painting paintings and dancing in the front yard and making dinner are all celebrations of life.

[906. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine].

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.