The visual arts can be an effective tool to assist the transformation of grief. Why not erase grief? I invite you to explore four art examples with me to feel through the process. Expressing one’s emotions while enveloping oneself into an artwork can allow the feelings to be felt and then released while making room for more uplifting emotions.
The loss of a child has defined and colored my life. With the initial approach of this devastating possibility, I felt as if I’d stepped into several of Picasso’s Blue Period paintings. My mind wandered from the grief and loneliness of one unspoken canvas to another. Join me if you will.
While we are in quarantine, I’ve provided a virtual tour of these artworks with hyperlinks. The first of the four works is located in the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. The Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada houses the second. The third example is hung in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY, while the last is displayed at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.
This process will take you through expressing and releasing grief and eventually transitioning to welcoming and revealing joy.
Picasso’s Old Guitarist
Let’s take a look at one of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period paintings, Old Guitarist. (See https://www.pablopicasso.org/old-guitarist.jsp) The Spanish artist completed this painting in 1903. First of all let your eyes slowly circulate throughout the painting, noting what draws your eye. Once you feel an acquaintance with the work, mimic the seated posture of the man (or imagine yourself doing so.) Cross your legs, let your head drop.
Visualize playing a mournful tune on your guitar. Maybe your singing voice is catching from your grief. The sad, cool blue tones are swirling all around you. Allow the tears to flow. Unbind the sorrow. Ah, upon a second study of the painting, notice the contrast of the warm hued guitar, as if it is your only hope. Ponder the promise of the arts and music to rescue your mood. Breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale and expand hope. Expel despair allowing it to dissipate. Thank Pablo for his message. Feeling into a sad painting can help to erase grief.
Picasso’s The Soup
Our second artwork is another Blue Period Picasso painting, The Soup. (See https://www.pablopicasso.org/the-soup.jsp ) This work was painted in 1902-1903. Please familiarize yourself with this work as well. Feel into the implied poverty depicted in the work. Perhaps your grief has left you impoverished. Feel the weight of your sorrow. As your heavy tears drop, you see them splat into the hot soup. It is okay. Let your grief go. Rest your eyes on the warm tones of skin on the two figures. Find yourself positively identifying with the spark of youth. As the adult are you giving or receiving the soup? Or, perhaps you play the part of the child. As you smile, wipe your eyes and nourish yourself with the imagery. Again acknowledge Pablo for his helping to erase grief.
Bonnard’s Dining Room
French artist, Pierre Bonnard’s Dining Room Overlooking the Garden is our third piece. (See https://www.moma.org/audio/playlist/1/105 ) He painted this in 1930-1931. Investigate this interior scene as you enter into the artwork. This particular painting offers more of a balance of warm and cool colors with the ability to balance your emotions. Welcome and breathe into the peaceful feeling of being invited to a table prepared just for you! Notice plenty of elegantly served food from which to choose. Feel the delight of sampling new delicacies with a friend or two. Sigh into the deep conversation, the familiar chuckles, the warm embrace of an enchanting atmosphere. Occasional glances out the window are as a breath of fresh air. Breathe deeply and thank Pierre for the welcome repose he offers. Doesn’t it feel better when you erase grief?
One year was especially astounding when we brought our fifth graders to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. This Chihuly piece is visible inside and outside the museum! As soon as my art students viewed the sculpture from the school bus windows, my ears were greeted by a chorus of ooo’s and ahh’s as if they’d witnessed the most spectacular of fireworks!
Entering the Museum
Entering the museum, as you climb the stairs to the second level of the atrium, take in the immensity of this roughly thirty foot high piece of over 2,000 individually blown bubbles of glass. Imagine yourself standing inside the building directly in front of this inspirational piece and being given the ability to fly! Swoop and dive with joy through the rainbow of hues enticing your vision. As your eyes dance from one gorgeous color to another, laugh and clap. Let your sight bounce from one sparkling glass texture to another. Notice the different perspectives achieved when viewing the outdoor sculpture garden via looking through a piece of Chihuly’s glass.
Contemplate all the energy and hot fire that was needed to create the blown glass in this phenomenally heavy structure. Visualize Inside and Out as alternately firing up, then cooling your emotions, much as the journey of each precious piece of glass. Think of the strength it takes to twist and blow and turn each individual piece to perfection. Imagine this very strength infusing your body and emotions. While reaching, stretching, mimicking the flow of the sculpture, revel in the sense of elation this piece achieves. Give your gratitude to Dale and his factory of helpers for completing your journey beyond grief!
Truly any artworks which speak to you can take you to a place of solitude to express and heal your emotions. I sincerely hope you feel refreshed from erasing grief. I wish the best to you on your journey!
As a school year winds down, it is a good time for reflection. Are you an educator? Perhaps you are a parent or grandparent just earning the title of teacher? It certainly doesn’t have to feel as if you are hammering concepts. You should not feel you must nail your children’s pants to the chair! Hammers, after all, don’t belong in education!
“You can’t force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer.” Rachel Naomi Remen
Initially, this pandemic may have created additional stresses for families. Creative educational approaches may be an answer. The best learning comes from playing with your children’s talents. Just ask Howard Gardner! He is an American psychologist born in 1943. Howard Gardner has had a significant impact on the field of education.
Many of my years were spent teaching art as well as talented and gifted classes. As a result I was influenced by Mr. Gardner. While at a conference, I fell in love with his Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
The beauty is that a student’s talents and interests can be tapped. These may consequently prove mastery of a certain concept. More personal investment from the student helps them retain the learning.
Multiple Intelligence Theory in Education
The following is one way the multiple intelligence theory could be used. It could be an interdisciplinary method. All students could be studying social studies concepts. To demonstrate proof of learning, some students might pull in art and language arts for a final project. For another, it could be math and music. Yet another may utilize science and movement. In this example, all students would study the same concepts from the discipline of social studies. The difference, however, would be their end of lesson products.
Discovering and utilizing special intelligences is especially revitalizing. It can feel as if it makes one’s breath breathe deeper. Perhaps one’s heart may beat stronger. Maybe one’s voice may sing sweeter! As it is what we are meant to do, it increases ambition for learning. Just think if these were tied to everyday classes!
Certainly, a discussion between an intuitive parent or teacher and your child may be in order. This can tease out which specific intelligences speak to them.
Many Ways to Be Intelligent! No Hammers!
Most importantly, Gardner’s theory says that there are many ways to be intelligent. Initially, seven intelligences were identified. Later two more were added. The original seven are 1) musical-rhythmic, 2) mathematical, 3) bodily-kinesthetic, 4) linguistic, 5) visual-spatial, 6) interpersonal and 7) intrapersonal. Later, 8) naturalistic and 9) existential were added.
Musical-rhythmic would include singing, playing a musical instrument, or recognizing the music or rhythm in everyday sounds.
Mathematical intelligence would be working with numerals and their functions.
Using the strength and coordination of one’s body would be bodily-kinesthetic.
Linguistic intelligence is working with words.
Artistic skill as well as a sense of space as in map making would be visual-spatial.
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to work well with others.
A deep sense of self-knowledge is evident with intrapersonal intelligence.
Naturalistic intelligence is knowledge of the world of nature.
Existential intelligence deals with the purpose of life and the big picture of our existence.
Here are a few examples of products which would connect to various intelligences (as indicated by number).
write and perform a song 1
take a nature hike 3 & 8
write a play 4 & 5
perform a play 5 & 6
create a dance 3 & 5
paint a picture 5
draw a map 5
measure ingredients/double or halve a recipe 2
create a budget for allowance 2
build a bird house 2,3,5,& 8
pot plants, plant garden 8
care for animals 8
write about self-strengths 4 & 7
draw self-portrait 5 & 7
discuss thoughts on the meaning of life 9,4 & 6
Last of all, think of yourself as a life-long learner. How do you sneak in new learning opportunities? Usually things you produce in your spare time are strongly tied to your innate multiple-intelligences. Our children are no different. It is important to connect a student’s strengths to the learning goal. This creates a more permanent learning experience.
Hammers don’t belong in education! Remove the hammer from forced learning. Use it to build a bird-house instead!
Welcome to playtime, my friend, child’s play 101! Children can learn a lot from play, in this case from blocks. Among the lessons could be balance, structure, aesthetics, perseverance, and emotions.
First of all, let’s build a block tower. In order to achieve balance, the blocks must have sufficient surface contact to allow for subsequently stacked blocks. Placement of blocks is important to provide a strong structure. Generally a broad base is recommended to ensure a stable building. A small base could be used, but puts the tower at more risk. Does the arrangement of blocks look pleasing to the eye? An asymmetrical or random or perhaps symmetrical arrangement may be chosen. In order to create a structure, effort must be expended over and over to learn and create. Given time, practice improves the product. Emotions could be involved. Maybe a sense of accomplishment and pride could occur from a well-built tower. To a child, perhaps a toppling tower could be frustrating or funny depending upon the day as well as the cause.
Is Losing Blocks Merely Child’s Play 101?
Now, what would happen if the top blue block was knocked off my tower? It wouldn’t be entirely catastrophic, but perhaps a bit annoying. What if someone grabbed one of my yellow blocks? My tower would certainly crumble, but perhaps I’d still have my base intact. However, my tower would be the most vulnerable by the loss of the red block base. More than likely, I’d have to entirely start my tower over if someone messed with a red block.
This, my friend, is exactly what has happened to our world with the pandemic. Everyone has their own towers of blocks. Many have lost the top of their tower, some experienced crumbling in the middle, while the towers of a few were completely obliterated. We cannot fully function without a complete tower, particularly if any of the lower levels are extremely damaged.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In the fields of education and psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs perfectly describes what we are experiencing. This hierarchy model is depicted by a pyramidal tower such as my photo.
The essential red base represents our basic human needs of food, water, sleep, clothing and air. The orange level of blocks shows the necessary elements of security and safety resulting from financial resources, health and home. The yellow layer depicts a sense of belonging from relationships with loved ones, family, friends and organizations. Self-esteem from accomplishments is found on the green row. The very top blue pinnacle is fully utilizing one’s potential and talents.
The Tower of Your Life – Child’s Play 101
Finally, look at the tower of your life. Is the base strong? That must come first. Work your way up to check the weak parts. How can you strengthen those elements? Consider the balance, structure, aesthetics, perseverance and emotions of your life. If your tower is intact, how can you assist others in rebuilding their towers? Did I say children could learn a lot from play? Well, perhaps we adults can, too! Blocks can be far more than child’s play 101. We can rebuild our world, one block at a time.
Have I ever told you about my most memorable Mother’s Day? I’ve celebrated Mother’s Day throughout my life with the collective matriarchs of our individual families: my grandmothers, mother, sister, mother-in-law, aunties, cousins, and daughter-in-law as well as other family members. This holiday has been revered with numerous delectable meals, family gatherings, cards, store-purchased presents and home-spun gifts along with heart to heart conversations. My most memorable Mother’s Day was the one with a special guest.
Even though this is my forty-third Mother’s Day, there is one particular year which stands out. As a mom who has a child who is no longer physically with us, my first Mother’s Day minus our son was not on my list of top ten things to experience. If you could imagine (don’t), I felt somewhat bereft of joy as I awoke that morning.
It promised to be a quiet day. I was thankful to be able to relish being with two of my favorite people – my husband and our daughter. Following our breakfast, we meandered out to the deck for our morning coffee or tea ritual.
Our Guest on Mother’s Day
The sun was deliciously warm as we basked in the beauty of the moment. My husband was the first to receive the visitor. A small brown and orange butterfly landed on his slipper! The little critter lingered for some time. A long last, it fluttered over to my bare toes. The winged wonder tickled my shin as it gingerly climbed higher. When I held out my hand, it graciously accepted. I brought it closer to my eyes. It appeared to be tasting, perhaps kissing my skin! Our daughter desired to greet the wee one as well. Finally, I convinced the insect to crawl from my hand to hers. Her body became a runway from hand to toes. Our butterfly encounter lasted at least twenty to thirty minutes, however, it seemed that time stood still. We felt as if our son was with us!
Then on Father’s Day that same year, my husband heard an interview with George Harrison’s son, Dhani. He missed his father terribly after his passing. The son had a dream one night in which George came to him. Dhani inquired, “Where have you been?” to which George replied, “I never left!”
Out of the Ordinary – Miracles!
Whenever something out of the ordinary happens in a miraculous way, it can be a sign of our loved ones. A prolonged visit from a butterfly is a rare occurrence. There was a message within the butterfly’s fascination with our feet and how it didn’t want to leave. When I pair this with the Harrison interview, it gave me pause. I believe that we are to know that our loved ones follow and influence our footsteps all the days of our lives. These were the most precious and powerful gifts to receive on our first Mother’s and Father’s Days since our son shed his earthy chains. Our guest provided the absolutely most memorable Mother’s Day that could be!
Fear seems to have made its presence known upon planet earth. Due to Covid-19, humanity has been suffering various amounts of discomfort, anxiety, worry or fear. Our planet has never been immune to the emotion of fear, however when the entire globe is affected in numerous ways, we need to address it. Learning how fear can be transformed, as well as what the opposite of fear seems to be, can go a long way toward abolishing or at least reducing this negative emotion. I have been no stranger to the concept of fear. Miracles and other antidotes could transform our fear.
Mom, at least you know… we need some miracles and other antidotes.
In mid-summer of 2009, I was feeling self-conscious and mildly fearful. As a teacher, I had been finding classroom discussions increasingly difficult. Lunch time banter was occasionally misinterpreted. My hearing wasn’t what it use to be. Following a good sized investment in hearing instruments, I began enjoying “normal” hearing again, but was worried of what others would think if they knew I wore hearing aids. I will never forget what our son told me when I quietly let him know my predicament. His response was, “Mom, at least you know what is wrong with you and how to make it better.” That immediately put my puny health issue into perspective. Our son had been suffering from puzzling digestive issues for two years. He didn’t know what was ailing him, and what’s more, neither did any doctors. Are there any miracles and antidotes for us?
Fear at 6 a.m. Where are the miracles and antidotes?
Fast forwarding to the first day of school that fall, we received a 6 a.m. phone call from our son’s wife. (She considerately did not want to wake us too early.) As she worked nights, she wasn’t home when our son decided to drive himself to the hospital in the dark of the night. He was in excruciating pain, very nearly blacking out on the drive. Even though it wasn’t optimal to miss the first day of school with my students, we decided it was much more important to be with our son.
There were all sorts of tests and potential diagnoses. Initially, his liver demanded attention, so they placed a stent in his bile duct to allow his liver to properly drain. In fact, because the stent repeatedly became dislodged, he had this done three different times! A surgeon was absolutely certain it was his gallbladder, so it was removed. Following this surgery, the gallbladder surgeon assured us it would solve all our son’s issues. It did not. Our son endured countless scopes and biopsies. Fortunately, the doctor heading his case was transferring out of town. The new head doctor was a refreshing change. He doggedly pursued causes rather than treating symptoms. A month and a half following our son’s drive to the hospital, he received a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Dear, God, where are the miracles and antidotes, now?
I literally saw a house of cards collapse in my mind’s eye. My husband and I were devastated. We would much rather have had it be one of us rather than one of our children. He was only 31 years old.
Miracles and other Antidotes: Knowing was half the battle.
Our son, however seemed to be relieved just to have a diagnosis. He knew something was desperately wrong, but he felt empowerment in knowing what it was, just as he had assured me with my health issue. It remained to be seen whether anything could be done about it. In retrospect, this took me back to when our son was a little boy. He enjoyed watching G.I. Joe cartoons. At the end of the show, it was always stated that “knowing was half the battle.” This knowing felt like progress to him. This amazing antidote raised his spirits.
Even with this diagnosis it took another two to three weeks of further testing and scheduling before he would undergo a very lengthy, complex surgery called the Whipple procedure. This surgery would entail a pre-exploratory to determine whether to go on to the second phase. The second part of the process would remove parts of his pancreas, stomach and small intestine plus his bile duct. Then this expert team, who did over two hundred of these procedures annually, would have more piecing together to do. Basically the mid-section of the digestive system had to be restructured and reconnected to allow food to properly break down and pass through.
Gut-wrenching fear…could it be transformed?
As one could imagine, this was one of the most gut-wrenching fears any parent could experience. Pancreatic cancer is notoriously challenging to diagnose and difficult to survive. We were so afraid of losing our son. While pounds and hair escaped my body, sleep eluded. We were still going through the motions of the workaday world whenever we weren’t at the hospital.
Prayers were frequently flowing from our lips. However, sometimes quite often, I felt far too exhausted to even pray. That is when myriads of churches, friends and relatives from the east coast to the west coast took over holding our son up in prayer. These connections and the support were simultaneously comforting, humbling and lifesaving.
By the time the Whipple procedure rolled around, our son had just turned 32 years old. He was welcomed to the post-surgical suite by close family members and friends. It was a huge, lovely room by any standards, but especially for a hospital room. I recall the space including a cushy, deep brown leather couch, various lounge chairs and of course our son’s bed. By far the best part, besides the support afforded by all present, was our son regaining consciousness following such a harrowing surgical procedure. As many as 25% of Whipple procedure patients died during or shortly after their surgery as recently as the 1970’s, particularly if the surgeons were inexperienced in the procedure.
Miracle and Antidote: Express love while they’re alive.
Yet again, I was taken back to our son’s little boy years. Transformer toys and cartoons were part of his youth. The Transformer character, Optimus Prime stated, “The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how they love them while they’re alive.” This gathered group of friends and family were evidence that our son was a fortunate one with many who demonstrated their love for him.
One of my methods for dealing with fear was searching for ways to help our son. Coincidentally, an open, partially read magazine happened to be advertising a CD on energy healing. It has parallels to laying on of hands as well as prayer. This learning path led to quite effective ways to assist our son in managing pain as well as other various symptoms. In fact, while he was in surgical recovery at the hospital, medications were not phasing the pain, however energy healing did. This practice in turn began dissolving my fear.
Once our son returned home, he found a meditation for children to alleviate pain. Merely by visualizing that he was holding a piece of shiny, molten metal in his hand, he was capable of easing his distress enough to fall asleep. By morning, his hands and feet would be sweating! How powerful our imagination can be!
Miracle and Antidote: Transform the fear by never telling me the odds!
Back in the olden days toward the end of my pregnancy with our son, we attended the very first Star Wars movie. He truly kicked up a storm when the music became loudly dramatic! Our young son always loved playing with Star Wars toys of the era. Han Solo from Empire Strikes Back, bellowed, “Never tell me the odds.” There was never a time during our son’s bout with pancreatic cancer that he allowed any doctors to give him a prognosis. He believed only God knows the day or the hour. Our son as well as many of us were open to miracles – and we got them!
A few months following the Whipple procedure, he actually felt much better than he had for a very long time. Amazingly, he was able to return to heavy duty work as a semi driver delivery guy.
Miracle and Antidote: A child is born!
Miraculously, our son and his wife conceived a child some time later. Considering he had six months of chemotherapy following his surgery, they were very fortunate. Prior to their child’s birth, I decided to design a baby quilt with a poem around the perimeter. One of the purposes of my poem was to imagine what wondrous things I would love for this beautiful child soon to be born. The next to the last line of my poem was, “See rainbow beauty on your birth”. I gifted my quilt at their baby shower before the birth.
On a gorgeously toasty March day, our son informed us that his wife was in labor. We drove to the hospital to warm a couple of seats in the waiting room. Shortly after the birth, our son texted us a photo of our healthy, new granddaughter!
Within a minute, our daughter who lived several states away sent us a photo of a newly formed double rainbow! Wow, this was really “See rainbow beauty on your birth”!
Miracle and Antidote: To transform fear, welcome what is within.
Several times our family participated in the pancreatic cancer walks to acknowledge those who dealt with the disease. The slogan is “Know It. Fight It. End It.” Many times, people get into the militaristic mode of fighting an ailment. Later in our son’s illness, he expressed great discomfort over this philosophy. Throughout his journey, he learned to become a person who was accepting of what was within him. When I ponder this, it makes sense because a willingness to welcome what is within ourselves implies being relaxed. If one is in an angry, fighting, ever vigilant mode, this tension would not be conducive to healing. Again, the Empire Strikes Back comes through with, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”
Miracles and Antidotes of nine years
Our son endured many years of ill health with recurrences and corresponding treatments. He also had to eventually cope with regulating pancreatic enzymes and insulin dosages. Fortunately, there were also episodes of relative wellness peppered in between. He had three separate diagnoses of cancer with clean scans and markers after each. The fourth time was more than he could handle. Roughly three months prior to his passing, he told me that he just wanted to die. Oh, my heart hurt for him. As much as I thought I couldn’t bear life without him, even more, if it was in my power to release him from his suffering in this earthly realm, I would. Including his two years of symptoms prior to diagnosis, he was with us for an astounding nine years.
Healing of gratitude in transforming fear
Twenty some days prior to our son’s passing, my husband was fortunate to view a bald eagle flying directly over our home! I had read that when one sees an eagle, a good practice is to begin a gratitude journal for twenty-one days, listing ten items for each day. I decided to begin my own gratitude journal while our son was home bound in hospice.
Oh my goodness, some days it was quite the challenge to think of anything for which I could be thankful. I searched high and low in the nooks and crannies. Perhaps it was a bit of tasty food or a loving, knowing glance. Maybe it was sunny outside, some days I was grateful for the rain. Amazingly, I was able to find ten items each day. The practice served to focus my mind on each individual moment. This was powerful to think that if a mother could be attending to her child in hospice and be thankful, then anyone can.
Club of bereaved parents
Since his passing, I’ve discovered that the club of bereaved parents is far larger than I realized. A parent never gets over losing a child. We think of him multiple times daily. There is probably no grief greater than relinquishing an offspring. It is out of the so-called natural order. It appears that there are varying degrees of acceptance of this type of loss. Every parent’s experience is unique.
I am grateful we were granted a slow good-bye to our son. Many are not given that. However, no matter what kind of loss we have endured, whether a loved one, a way of life or one’s own health, we can choose to be grateful. Anything upon which we place our attention tends to multiply. Gratitude begets gratitude. Concentrating on loss multiplies loss. Be grateful for what you had, what you have and what you will have, but mostly be grateful for now.
Since my first agonizing days of fear upon hearing the pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I entered into the classical dark night of the soul. Never in my life had I encountered such fear. In another Star Wars movie, Phantom Menace, Yoda gives one of the best descriptions of fear that I’ve ever encountered. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”
Fear versus love
Many of the books to which I’m attracted speak of fear as being the opposite of love. Initially, I thought that hate would be the opposite of love. However, when I think of our life force and the energy of these varying emotions, it does make sense to think of fear and love as opposing forces. If we are oozing with hate, we may be shaking with explosive, boiling rage. While we are filled with fear, we may be quivering, withdrawing and not partaking of needs to sustain life.
When we are overflowing with love, we are exuding the goodness of life to any and all. This ebb and flow of energy depicted between fear and love seem to be more polar opposites. Our life force energy is drawing inward while experiencing fear whereas our energies are expanding outward when feeling love.
Miracles and antidotes: Luminous beings are we!
Fear was harming my own health. I wanted to be strong to love and help our son as much as I could. I know that learning to work with life force energy not only gave me a more vital purpose, but it also revealed evidence that we are so much more than our bodies. This energy work skill set at times enables me to faintly see streams of light emitting from within. We only don our human frame as a vehicle in the earthly realm. I wonder if these occasional glimpses of etheric light are sneak peeks of the soul.
Another Yoda quote from the Empire Strikes Back states it well, “Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter.” The Holy Bible also confirms this in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” Via my experience, I take this quite literally! This knowledge is also instrumental in banishing fear. Let your light shine, it scares away the fear!
Fear can be transformed with miracles and antidotes!
These days of coronavirus are certainly trying, however, even in the darkest times a path toward the light can appear. As a teacher, it is quite evident to me that all which happens in our lives is actually part of a life lesson. I found through our son’s wisdom beyond his years that there is comfort in what one knows. Connections of love and prayer are sustaining. Imagining and visualizing the best outcome can bring good things. Acceptance wins over rebellion. Being grateful is possible even during the deepest challenges. Fear can be transformed.
Yes, we are coping with the tragic effects of Covid-19, but we can overcome. Let’s imagine and visualize an even better life-sustaining world with hope, love, peace and joy for the good of all. We must look for the miracles, relax and breathe deep. We can do this!
The book-length polished draft of my memoir is topically similar to this essay. As I am currently seeking agented representation for my memoir, any comments, follows or shares would be appreciated. I am grateful for you! L.M.W.
What if we could take lessons from Mother Nature? What would she have us learn? The corona virus/Covid-19 pandemic has created a sense of loss. Let us look to the trees for observations of the results of stress as well as for answers to alleviate stress. Perhaps we could learn from the habits of our rooted friends.
Lessons from Mother Nature: Results of Stress
Sometimes if we lose hope, we may feel hollow on the inside. It is rather like dying from the inside out.
The pandemic has imparted us with the pity of Pieta. This photo is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of the crucified Christ lain across the open lap of Mother Mary.
As the trees, we may not take in enough nutrients and begin losing bark (or weight).
Perhaps we may go the opposite direction and overeat. Neither is healthy.
Even giants may lose their balance.
We may feel as if we are riding a seesaw with scenarios of this or that.
The intricate entanglement of various world systems of humanity such as health, economics, education, environment and entertainment has become obvious. The entangling of these systems has tangled our lives in a similar manner.
Lessons from Mother Nature in Relieving Stress
Trees stand straight and tall, bend and strengthen with the wind, and accept sun as well as rain.
We must relax, remain calm and keep our heads. Remember to laugh!
Forests of trees or individual specimens with multiple trunks have good support systems. We humans would do well to have friends and family upon which to rely (even from a distance if need be.)
It is always good to have a partner when one must go through any “harrowing” experiences. Each is there to brace and embrace the other.
Sometimes we just need to get or give a hug. Physical contact can get the cuddle hormone, oxytocin, flowing. For those living alone, reach your arms across your chest and caress your shoulders. Having pets to hold and hug works well, too.
As the trees, we the people should be rooted and well grounded. Being out-of-doors is a grounding practice. Nature invites us outside to join her. Trees keep Mother Nature company every day, twenty-four seven! Gardening is very grounding, as is nestling up to a favorite tree while reading a good book. Have a picnic upon a soft blanket spread over lush, cushy grass. Go for a secluded nature hike. Breathe deep, soaking in the fresh air and warm sun. Marvel in the melody of birds’ song. All these grounding activities are quite rejuvenating. Being grounded helps to weather most any storm.
Broaden your horizons as this far reaching cherry tree. While we are in isolation, bear some home-based fruit by trying new projects which have up to this point only lived in your mind. Knit that scarf. Build that bench. Send that letter. Paint that picture. Swap that engine. Write that blog. Make that difference for someone else, whatever that may be!
As an elephant with an uplifted trunk symbolizes good luck, look for the positives. Focus on what is going well. Be thankful for those things.
Remember to sing and dance! It is good for your soul and makes life worth living.
Lastly, trees forevermore reach for the light. Turn to the Source of all life who brightens your spirit, even during the darkest night. Think of this pandemic as wind, rain and sun. Reflect on the wind imagining that it is blowing away that which is harmful. Allow the rain to wash and remove the unnecessary residue, but also provide much needed moisture. Revel in the life-sustaining sunshine. What new and better elements can you create for our ever changing world? Contemplate how you could help make it happen.
P.S. Grab your camera, what’s your nature story? Make it shine with beauty!
On this, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it is ever more urgent to see our planet and her inhabitants in a new way. We live together on a big, beautiful, blue globe. Years ago, I ran across an analogy to explain the concept of oneness to children. All you need is a fist-sized chunk of blue modeling clay and a mind full of imagination.
Hold that orb of clay then roll it between your hands until it is nice and round. Next, grasp the ball in one hand and think of it as being the earth. Now, use your thumb and pointer on the empty hand to pinch out small raised areas. Create them over the entire surface of the clay. All the pointy parts are people. To separate the people from the earth for a long time, they would not be able to survive. This example shows it is quite easy to see all is from the same elements.
Certainly, this marvelous planet upon which we live has been clouded by the coronavirus pandemic. On one hand, we have the coughers. They may be represented by those who’ve contracted Covid-19 or truly anyone who has experienced the domino effects of the virus. On the other hand, we have the coffers. This could be any number of resources.
Blue Globe: The Coughers
Here we have the coughers. I must say my heart goes out to all those around the world whose lives have been lost, as well as to the families, friends and humanity who most keenly feel their loss. This has been a tragically grievous circumstance. Not be forgotten are the people who no longer have a source of income, or perhaps fear the potential loss of home, shelter and sustenance. You are the true victims. I feel for the frontline responders, regardless of occupation, putting your lives on the line. Your selflessness is to be commended.
I give a nod to the business owners, doing your best to stay afloat. Supporting your employees, community and customers when possible is to be highly endorsed. I think of the young parents who are fortunate enough to still have a job, maybe even home based, but yet, are also tasked with simultaneously educating your children. Stepping into new roles can be a challenge. I hold you in high regard. I ponder the plight of the extroverts and applaud your efforts to consider other ways to remain connected, yet physically isolated. Our entire planet is certainly affected by Covid-19 in some regard.
Blue Globe: The Coffers
This virus has exposed the highs and lows of life here on planet earth. The high points demonstrate the coffers or life enhancing resources and efforts of mankind and nature. Among the highs are balcony bound Italian singers, serenading their neighbors; individuals and groups sharing their bounty with those in need; and the U.N. Chief who has declared a worldwide cease fire on violence not only between countries, but also between domestic partners within a home.
There are companies retooling their production lines to produce much needed medical equipment; scientists who are cooperatively working with like minds around the globe to create Covid-19 tests and treatments; and innovators who are developing necessary products as needs arise. There are satellite images of reduced air pollution; an increase of wild-life (inside and outside zoos) as well as evidence of more love and compassion for our fellow humans. An example of the lows would be evidence of greed and hoarding among our fellow humans. However, I choose to focus upon the positives (the coffers) as I know we can shape our world by that which occupies our minds.
Years in the art teaching profession made it abundantly clear that parameters on an artistic assignment helped produce the strongest art projects. This coronavirus is no exception. We are well aware of the limits imposed upon our world by this virus. The creatives are now stepping forward.
Perhaps this virus could be the ultimate reset button to better our world, to fix the quirks in our current earthly systems. The answers will lie within this pause to be still, to know ourselves, to find that which brings one joy, stimulates the imagination and simultaneously benefits humankind.
Any solutions to coping with Covid-19 will and must involve working together, even or more especially by being in social isolation. We must use quality health practices, kindness and common sense. It is critical that we practice collaboration on all levels: people, communities and countries. It is appropriate to point out on this Earth Day that all of us are partners on this big, beautiful, blue globe of ours.
You see the coughers could represent literally any world problem. The coffers could certainly be any solution. Perhaps this pandemic will finally convince all of us earthlings that we truly are one people, as one Mobius strip, one world working together!
The theme for my blog has been quite a journey. There are a number of topics which have wanted to ooze out of my pencils, such as loss of a child, the idea of fear, and of course the loss of what one might call normalcy on planet earth. Somehow I thought education and art should play a part. Maybe I could philosophize about reality. My best friend (my hubby) and I were brainstorming potential themes. One idea that popped out his mouth was Mobius strip.
As I’d not played with a Mobius strip for some time, I made one. I also created some other related but different strips. Once I began analyzing how these strips perfectly illustrated some prominent concepts of reality, I knew I had my theme. The fun part is when I asked him why he came up with Mobius strip, he didn’t know – it just planted into his head! (He is a gardener after all!)
One of my most memorable activities as a sixth grader (a few years ago) was making Mobius strips. I bet you’d enjoy this activity, too! To a child and even an adult, its properties seem quite mysterious. The best way to demonstrate their characteristics is to use a paper which has light on one side and dark on the other. This can be easily achieved by coloring one side of a white sheet of paper.
Cut three long strips. Two examples will not be Mobius strips, but one will. Tape the two ends of the first strip together without any twist so it resembles an ordinary ring. Then draw a pencil line around the inner circumference without lifting your pencil until you’ve completed the loop.
Will this be a mobius strip?
Next, grab a pair of scissors and snip only along the line. The example below shows this cut will result in two completely separate rings. It represents the sense of duality or opposites. In side and outside are distinctly separate as are light and dark. The two rings have no connections. The initial ring lost part of its identity, much as a parent losing a child or a human losing what our world once was.
Hmm, maybe this one is a mobius strip?
Now the second strip gets a bit more interesting! With this strip, twist it twice. The taped ends will match dark to dark on one side and light to light on the other. Even though the inside and outside are still not joined, the twisting makes both simultaneously visible. Placing your pencil on the light side only, trace the circumference of the strip without lifting your pencil.
Now cut the second strip, again only on the line. The most unique characteristic of this one is that the two rings, even though separate, are linked together! This represents humanity as a whole beginning to work together. It speaks of starting to understand the big picture of reality.
Finally, a real mobius strip!
Finally, we are ready for the third and final strip, the actual Mobius strip! With this one, just do one twist prior to taping the ends. There will be a joining of light to dark on the inside as well as the outside. To be clear, the first two strips are not Mobius strips, but merely extensions to explore the behavioral properties of 3-D surfaces. With those first two, your pencil only drew on one side of the strip. However, you may be amazed while drawing on the third strip that you will be able to draw on both sides of the paper without lifting your pencil!
The most fascinating fact regarding cutting the Mobius strip is that the rings do not separate, but they elongate into one large loop when cut through the length of the strip. It has the appearance of an infinity sign. If one were to cut down the center of the strip again, it would continue lengthening the loop.
With the lovely Mobius strip, inside and outside become one. Light flows into dark; dark flows into light. For if it were not for the dark, we would not know the light. The perceived loss of a part of the ring, of a child, of the world becomes expansion, a larger reality. This is my Mobius strip mindset. Real loss is truly only an illusion. Welcome to my world!