Author, Artist, Seeker, Explorer

Cabinet of Curiosities

Posted on January 8, 2013

Last night over dinner a friend asked what I would collect if money and space were no object. Before my thoughts went wandering to a warehouse full of mid-century chairs, I talked about my fascination with odd little objects – vintage kewpie dolls and children’s books, bird nests, food ration books from Havana, Cuba, seashells, old keys, bits and baubles from an abandoned glass factory in Amman, Jordan, even my childhood shark’s tooth collection. (How I ever managed to hold on to that I’ll never know.) I have a 1930s dental cabinet in my studio that holds many of these treasures. In this gallery you’ll find a piece of coral from Bora Bora, dried roses, vintage stamp bundles, and old sewing needle packages from my grandma. I love re-arranging, adding and organizing everything in there, always leaving a few different drawers open each time so anyone wandering by can get a sneak peek and be encouraged to go exploring. It is one of my favorite things. I’ve started a virtual cabinet of curiosities over at May it pique your curiosity in 2013.


Posted on January 2, 2013


“We live our years in a courtly dance, circling through a roundel of sun, tides and seasons of body and soul that extend farther than our brief lifespan. We are ripples on a pond of incomprehensible depth. Every time we tell our story, we evoke the larger story. Yet for all the vastness of space-time and our littleness, we are not alone, orphaned. At threshold times, like the beginning of a year, in particular, we become aware of mysterious depths in and around us, of the pulls of time and tide, and of the backward and forward motion of generations coming and going. The word ‘January’ derives from Janus, the mythological god who faces in two directions. We, too, are left to look both ways, to straddle past and future, the known and unknown, to sense time and eternity as we begin the annual ascent toward Light. It is ours to live out our lives among these tensions in hopeful expectation that moments here and there will rise out of the grip of familiarity, break open, and, however fleetingly, become transparent. It is a long journey and we are often in a hurry to arrive, but, in the words of a Hasidic tale, we learn that sometimes we have to travel far to find what is near. All we know for now is that something of time and opportunity passes through the riverbed of our minds, drawing us into the widening currents of a year, and leaving us to a calendar of days that stretch out before us in a succession of beginnings – new each morning. For now, we follow the sun as it traces a hazy path through the cold skies of winter.”

{Excerpt from An Almanac For the Soul by Marv and Nancy Hiles}

On Turning 45, The D Word and Saying F*** It

Posted on December 30, 2012

Throughout most of my years online – first with a blog, and then on the usual array of social media platforms – my relationship with these portals of expression, communication and connection has been an uneasy one. I have tended to “blame” my online activities on my work, thinking that if I didn’t have to promote books or art shows or classes or whatever creative project I wanted to share, I wouldn’t bother. Sure enough, during this year of huge personal transition – when my creative work has been all but nonexistent – my attitude towards the virtual world has been visceral. I’ve been resistant to all of it, even something as basic as email. I can psycho-analyze this quite easily – I’m in an Inward Time, the seeds for the next phase of my work in the world are still underground, taking form, I am Resting, this is part of the natural Inward/Outward course of things as an Artist. I can tell that story, and it will make sense. It might even be true. But none of these stories have brought much comfort. A break from the online world might have been a necessary step in all of this, but without a space to lay down new creative roots I have felt lost and unmoored. I’m not online because I don’t have anything that feels worthwhile to share, and it is that part of the story I have been struggling with.

The zero birthdays have never jolted me much – turning 30 and 40 were welcome milestones, and I embraced them ferociously. It is the fives that give me trouble. There is something about moving from one side of the hump to the next that has inspired more questions and examinations. In the middle of these decades, I look back more to take stock, wondering where things will go as I move forward. Turning 45 this November was not merely about the 5 in between 40 and 50, it also feels very halfway. The possibility of being hit by a bus tomorrow notwithstanding, I am, statistically speaking, about halfway through…life. Throw this in the mix of a year when my husband has retired and we’ve moved to the house we will likely grow old and gray in, and my mind has been tossing and turning all the What Ifs, the Did I do the right things?, the Have I done enoughs? and so on, particularly as they relate to my work. I don’t know if I would call it a Mid-Life Crisis as much as a Mid-Life Inventory, where, whatever work I end up doing in the new year and beyond, the next phases feel much more precious. There is less sand in the hourglass, and each grain is like a jewel that I don’t want to waste or take for granted. The priorities I woke up to everyday in Santa Monica have shifted dramatically, and I’m still figuring out the shape and texture of the new ones here in Santa Barbara.

This unique stew of experiences and emotions has had me living under a very dark cloud off and on for months. I have been reticent to drop the D word – to say plainly I have been battling depression this year – but there it is. I am not sharing it to garner sympathy or seek condolences. I know it will not last and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong, and in the midst of the darker days I have countless moments of beauty and abundance. I don’t think this is merely chemical and I don’t think this means there is something fundamentally flawed with the life I am living. I think it is a fairly normal state of affairs considering the magnitude of Change in our lives this year. I have been flung into an entirely new territory that feels far away – even downright foreign – to the space I inhabited as an Artist and Creative before my husband called me almost a year ago with the first serious inkling of his retirement.

I have not been going to therapy or taking medication or even meditating to deal with the depression; my approach has been much simpler. It has been to Fake It, to Act As If, to Show Up, to Declare 2013 to be The Year of F*** It. Yes, I am triggered much more easily and more sensitive than usual. I have been riding swells of frustration over the power of very old demons coming back to haunt me. I was knocked for a loop by something I consider to be a profound breach of trust, and it took the very direct and almost stern words of a brave friend to ask me, “Why are you taking this so personally?” to get my head out of the muck in one particularly troubling moment. Languish is a word that keeps coming up when I think of the work of my soul. All of those things are true.

But faking it has worked. Acting as if meant I worked played in my studio this week – for the first time in months – and when I finished for the day I was completely blissed out. Showing up means I haven’t been hiding from the world, but have continued to run errands and see friends and share meals and dance in their living room. Yesterday it meant I went for a run in the woods, and last week it meant an impromptu trip to LACMA. Declaring 2013 to be The Year of F*** It means I am saying Yes to travel and possibility and wild ideas. It means I know the dark clouds aren’t permanent, and even on the days when I feel them hovering just above my head, they won’t prevent me from Living. It means my most meaningful work is not, in fact, languishing; it means I am doing the uncomfortable work of sitting still with unknowns and honing my ability to recognize what attitudes and actions feed my ego and which ones serve my soul.

In the end, the joke’s on me; the irony is in my saying something like “faking it” has worked. Because what, really, do I have to fake? The joy I have experienced in all of this has been anything but insincere, the beauty in my life is technicolor-ly real. When I’ve laughed, every laugh has come straight from my gut – uninhibited and exuberant as ever. It is all real. It is all here. It is all part of the journey. And what I must never, ever lose sight of is how, in the past, when the D word has cast shadows over my days, I have always emerged with arms loaded by gifts – of gratitude, compassion, wisdom, humility, strength and equanimity. All the things I value most within myself are not lost during these times, they are, ultimately, enhanced and bolstered. I am not suffering. I am alive. And with all the world’s woes looming large on everyone’s horizon as the new year stands poised to leap forward, that is the greatest blessing. That is my prayer of thanks. Today and every day.

Posted on December 13, 2012


The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds 
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

  David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home


Posted on November 14, 2012

Two years ago, I created a stack of hand-painted, handwritten cards with “You Are…” messages on them and offered them to whoever needed one. It was around the time of Thanksgiving, so last year I decided it would become a tradition and made the same offering again. This year the creations are a wee bit different. I have a vintage time card holder that I use to hold little notes, photos, messages, and embellished time cards for house guests and visitors, and this is what my latest creations are inspired by. The cards were created with a bit of paint, some pencil illustrations, a dab of glitter and a single word taken from vintage books. I only have twenty this time, but they are ready to be scattered.

If you are in need of a tiny bit of inspiration as the holiday season swooshes in, send your address to I’ll add an update here when they’re all gone.

Update: The cards are all now ready to go to their new homes. Thank you to everyone who wrote!

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

On Hiatus

Posted on November 3, 2012


In the back’s low hollow sometimes
a weightless hand guides me, gentle pressure
so I tack soft as a sailboat. (Go there)

Soften the space between your eyes (smudge
of eucalyptus), the third eye
opens. There’s the wide vermillion sky

that cradled us before birth,
and the sun pours its golden sap
to preserve me like His precious insect.

~ Mary Karr


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