Mountain waves (visual poem)

mountain waves 031116

I spend part of May in the Blue Ridge mountains celebrating my wedding anniversary. The view from Grandfather Mountain (in Western North Carolina) is like this – when is it a mountain, and when is it a wave in the ocean? It is overwhelming, especially at sunset

This is composed of cut up cardstock tests of Distress Ink – the edges of the main test. Reassembled like this, it looks like I’m trying to take pictures of the mountains, and putting captions underneath.

Card stock
Distress Ink
gold paint with glazing medium
Tim Holtz Idea-ology quotes.

 

(Click on the image to see it larger)

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Poem – Blue Paper

White lines on blue paper
Could be a
Blueprint
An x-ray
A map of the stars.

It shows the bones
Of a building
A body
Or the sky.

A sketch of the lines,
An outline.
A marker of where we are
And where we need to be.

Epicenter

When something bad happens, people like to know where it happened. They want to know how close it hit to them. They want to know if it’s going to affect them.

If your house is robbed and you’re part of the neighborhood watch, they will ask what street you are on. They want to know how close the danger is to them. They want to know if it is going to hit them next.

If someone dies unexpectedly, people will ask “How did she die?” or “How old was she?”or they will wonder out loud if she caused her own early death due to not taking care of herself. They want to know if there’s a possibility that it will happen to them. They want to know if they are at risk for the same thing.

In both cases, they want to know if they should move away from the danger.

No matter what you do, you will get sick, and you might get robbed. Asking how close it is to you only insults the other person and says “You are not like me. I’m special.” It implies that you think that you are above the other person – more blessed.

The phrase “There but for the grace of God go I” is especially insulting. If there is a tornado that goes through your neighborhood and your house is intact and half your neighbor’s houses are flattened, it doesn’t mean that God loves you more. It doesn’t mean that God gives more grace to you and withdraws it from them. It doesn’t mean that they did something bad to deserve it.

Bad things happen to people, period. Not just bad people. What matters afterwards is how we deal with it.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
– John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, “Meditation XVII”

Poem – Space inside

As if God
can be reduced
to things.

God is the
space between
things.

God is the
space between
us.

The atoms,
the neurons,
the quarks,

it is the energy
they have
that makes them work.

It is the stuff
inside the room
that defines it,
not the walls.

Likewise it is the energy,
the Spirit Within
that defines
us,
makes us
who we are.

Our bodies are shells,
our skin is just
a container
for the Spirit inside.

Skin color,
hairstyle,
clothing,
culture

– none of this matters.

Carbon copy

Sometimes it feels that all we are doing is copying each other. We copy style, ideas, and ways to think. We copy so much that we’ve copied our whole lives.

We have copied for our entire lives.
We have copied our lives, entirely.

Nothing is original about our lives when we copy.

After a while we have copied each other so much that we stop being anything at all. Have you ever seen a Xerox copy of a copy of a copy? After a while it stops looking like anything at all. It starts looking like a big mess. There are dots everywhere that weren’t there before.

White people in Western culture have started to think that they need to be Native American or Indian or Chinese or Tibetan. They don’t like their own culture and so they try and emulate another culture. They do this with clothing, with art, with music, with food. Perhaps they think they are showing respect to the other culture by adopting it.

I know, I’ve done this.

Meanwhile the other cultures are trying to emulate Western culture. They dress like us, watch our TV shows and movies, and have even started to try to look like us. Asian girls are getting plastic surgery on their eyes to look more Western and less Asian. There are products in India and Thailand to bleach the skin so they are more white.

We are trying to be them, and they are trying to be us. At what point are we going to meet in the middle? Then we won’t be anything at all.

Perhaps it is best if each person finds her own path. Stop trying to create it from someone else. Stop even trying to make it from your own culture.

Perhaps we need to stop faking it
so we can make it.

We need to start making it so that we are actually ourselves for a change.

Look at plastic surgery in general. What does “normal” look like anymore? Too tall? Too short? Too fat? Too skinny? Boobs too big/small? Butt too big/small? Eyes are too blue/brown/green?

You can “fix” that. But it isn’t a fix. It is a fake. You aren’t broken.

Eventually we will all have homogenized ourselves into one big mess of nothing.

Be yourself. Don’t copy anybody.

Paint the background first.

I’m not very good at painting yet. I’ve just read a tip that sounds really interesting. Paint the background first. Somehow this seems like it is backwards.

In life, you focus on the main part. You’ll see the building, or the dog, or the person first, and then maybe you’ll see the background. Maybe you’ll see the trees, or the clouds. But you never look at those first and happen to look at what is smack dab in the middle of everything, virtually yelling at you to look at it.

Paint the background first. If you don’t paint the background, you don’t have a way to paint the focal point. If you don’t give it a place to be, there is no place for it. If you paint the main thing first and the background last, you may smear the sky or the trees over it. You may end up leaving a weird edge around it.

This sounds a lot like life.

We have to set up for the big things. We have to make space for them. We don’t just graduate from college. We have to go to high school, and before that, middle school, and before that, elementary school. Maybe even there is kindergarten or pre-K in there too.

In order to write a book, you have to know how to write. In order to know how to write, you have to know words. In order to know words, you have to know letters.

Nothing is in a vacuum. Nothing exists on its own. Everything is connected.

Paint the background first.

The cyclical effect of pain – stress/pain/tension/pain

Our bodies feel pain in ways other than pain. Pain is the last part. Pain means that the problem has popped the fuse and we are now desperate.

When a baby is hungry he will make signs. He’ll smack his lips or suck his fist. Crying is the last thing he’ll do. If his mother doesn’t notice the signs in time he will get frustrated. His needs aren’t being met.

Pain is the same way. It has subtle signs at first. Our body wants to protect us from pain. Our adrenal system races to the rescue when we hurt so that we don’t feel it. This is backwards, because then we don’t know that there is a problem. We find out later when the adrenal system gives up and we are just like that baby, crying and miserable.

Pain has a cascade effect. It affects everything. It is kind of like dominoes. One thing leads to another. If we are in pain, our stomach will get in knots, our teeth will clench, and then we will get headaches. Our breathing will get shallow. We will become irritable. Then the tension from all of that will only make things worse.

Tension causes pain, and pain causes tension. Anger can cause tension which causes pain. Pain can cause irritability which leads to anger. It isn’t just a domino effect, it is circular.

You can feel pain in other areas than where the actual pain is. Acupuncture teaches us this. If you’ve ever gotten a tattoo you know this. If you get a tattoo on your ankle it can hurt on your lower back. If you get a tattoo on your upper arm it can hurt on your face. So be mindful that just because you feel pain in one area doesn’t mean that is the source of the pain.

You can head things off at the pass. You can learn to recognize the signs of pain before they are off the charts. You can stop the cycle.

Do a body scan every now and then, several times a day. Just pause for a moment and see how you are feeling. This is useful to do at least once an hour. You won’t remember to do it that often to start with – that is normal. Just do what you can.

How is your breathing? Deep or shallow? Fast or slow? You can change a lot by changing your breathing. Intentionally breathe in slowly through your nose, on a count of ten. Exhale slowly through your mouth on a count of ten. Do this for a minute at least. See how you feel. Do it again if necessary.

How do you feel? Do you have tension in your back or shoulders or face? Are you clenching anywhere? Intentionally release it. We tend to hold tension in our bodies. Tension raises our blood pressure.

Check your tongue. Are you pressing it up against the roof of your mouth? This is a sign to your body that you are under pressure. It will raise your blood pressure the same way that breathing shallowly or clenching your muscles will. Do your best to relax your tongue from the roof of your mouth as often as possible.

Remember that whenever you are checking your breathing or tension, you are making a positive change for yourself. Don’t get mad at yourself for having shallow breathing or clenching your muscles. This is totally normal. To get mad at yourself only causes more tension. Instead, focus on the fact that you are doing something good about it. Every little step towards health is something to celebrate.

Find activities that you enjoy to reduce stress. Do something creative. Draw, paint, bead, write, garden, cook – the list is endless. Pick one, and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. Get regular exercise, and don’t make it “exercise”. Children don’t “exercise”, they play. They are better off for it. If you find some way to move your body that you enjoy, you are more likely to do it.

Look at the things that cause you stress. What can you do about it? Can you make a change? Can you ask for assistance? Can you tell someone that what they are doing is harmful to you? People can’t read minds – you have to ask for what you need. Sometimes just thinking about this can make you feel more stress! Pick a book in my “survival” books list and read it. They are lifesavers.

I wish you well on your journey. We will never be stress-free. Life is all about challenge and growth, and stress gives us opportunities for that. Stress and pain are just signs that we need to slow down and reassess things. In this way, they are blessings. Otherwise, we’d not grow, we’d not ask for help, and we’d forget to be thankful for all the many gifts that we have.