Choosing and Musing

Yesterday a friend, Lani, posted part one in a series called, “Can we learn to be happier?” on Facebook.

I thought that that was an unrealistic expectation and might even cause more suffering in this world. I believe that we focus too heavily on “the pursuit of happiness” instead of acceptance of what is.

I preferred that we instead focus on feeling content.

Lani thought they were perhaps the same thing.

I disagree. Here’s what Etymology Dictionary [DOT] com says about happiness

happy (adj.)

late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Ousted Old English eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”

and about the word content …

content (adj.)

c.1400, from Old French content, “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain).

content (v.)

early 15c., from Middle French contenter, from content (adj.) “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain). Sense evolved through “contained,” “restrained,” to “satisfied,” as the contented person’s desires are bound by what he or she already has. Related: Contented; contentedly.

then I said I preferred equanimity which has its roots in …

equanimity (n.)

c.1600, “fairness, impartiality,” from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) “evenness of mind, calmness,” from aequus “even, level” (see equal (adj.)) + animus “mind, spirit” (see animus). Meaning “evenness of temper” in English is from 1610s.

Pausing,  I wondered if I was just being picky or just cranky.

That’s why I’ve gone into the etymology of each word. I grant you it’s not the Oxford English … but I don’t have a subscription right now. Perhaps that’s something I need to treat myself to. But for now… this will have to do.

I claimed yesterday that happiness was too dependent on events, circumstances, even other people and it would seem my memory served me right as it meant in the original sense something to what we would refer as “lucky”.

On second thought I think that’s what many want … to be lucky, wealthy (in the sense of $$$) and even silly giddy. Not that I would deny anyone those moments. Glory, I sure enjoy my “silly/giddy” moments. Just saying I wouldn’t want to be that way 24/7. Exhausting and often inappropriate.

Unless of course, you are Welsh and you want to be wise. Now that would be excellent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard even a person of Welsh decent actually express that wish. So I guess this meaning left us late in the 16th century.

What I’d like to offer is that we seek balance such as that denoted by the word equanimity.

I propose that we stop vilifying emotions by calling them good or bad. They are just feelings and we don’t have to act on them.

For a start we can just allow ourselves to feel melancholy when we do and notice how that feels in our bodies. Then go about what needs doing … or if nothing needs doing just go about feeling melancholy.

Certainly, we can warn people that that is how we are feeling, but we may also need to let them know that we don’t need fixing or advice or cheering up. I think that would make me happy on those occasions when I just need to sit with a feeling rather than fake a grin. Indeed, I think that all this duplicity is crazy making.

We rail about the weather, the state of the environment, the behaviour of others … but in the instant we really have no power over any of that. It is only setting ourselves up to believe that we are the centre of the universe. Let’s start realizing that we are all connected and that we can only be in one place in time. Working from that may not always make us “happy” but it’s a good place to start on “equanimity”.

My husband frequently quotes a poem by Li Po and I share this today in all its appropriateness.

In the landscape of spring

there is neither better or worse

the flowering branches

some grow long

some grow short


Photo Credit Jeff Suchak

layering and textures from Kim Klassen

This Thursday blogging will examine an etymological / emotional theme for the rest of December and seeing that this is the last Thursday of 2013, we may need to extend it into January 2014.

I’d really appreciate your comments about how these posts make you feel. If you have a friend or colleague who might benefit from or even enjoy an exercise in pondering how to be authentic and balanced in this wacky world, please share a link. I’d love the company.

Another look at “homecoming…”

In Ladder to the Moon, Allegra Taylor, speaks these words outlining the expansive view of home:

“Home, as journey’s end, as a spiritual destination, as coming to rest in my own heart. The end of exile.”

And today these words bite into my heart till it bleeds. For today we are having the Bruce Grey Owen Sound’s late edition of Sisters in Spirit Vigil Imageand it is the day I hear the news that 2 more young women are missing – Nicole Hannah Whiteduck and Laura Spence.

These two young mothers (Laura has 4 children, one is three months old, Nicole has ) left to go and “party” … or so we surmise. They had come into some money, and they cashed these cheques, but they left their wallets and cell phones home … and that surprises me because I have daughters and sons of my own who bring their cell phones everywhere. They left home with only the clothes on their back.

Ironically, Bridget Tolley, Laura Spence’s mother, is a founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit.

By all appearances they didn’t plan to disappear. But they have.

It is hard to “go missing” on a reserve; they are true communities; everybody knows everybody. Yet they have truly “gone missing”. They have been missing for five days.

No calls to families. No contact with friends.

And we worry.

We pray.

We hope against hope.

More than five years ago, Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, went missing from the Kitigan Zibi reserve and neighbouring Maniwak. The same communities that Nicole Hannah Whiteduck and Laura Spence belong to. These women are still missing and unaccounted for.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called for an “the “disturbing phenomenon” of missing and murdered aboriginal women” in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Yet the federal government seemed not to notice his call for “a comprehensive and nationwide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a co-ordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic…”

Yet here we are – exhausted from the effort of repeatedly finding ourselves in the position of helplessness approaching hopelessness and futility as to how we can prevent this kind of thing happening. Worse still, we often worry alone in our own small communities…alone and feeling unsupported.

So tonight, it warms my heart to be joined by others who empathize with our loss…and not just the loss, but the callous disregard to find answers and … frankly to find these women and/or their abductors … and sadly sometimes their murderers.

We gather tonight to say Gi zah gin to each of these girls and women (and to boys and men) who are far from home. We love you. We will always remember you. We will wait and work until we can bring you home. Until every single one of us is safe everywhere we go… none of us can truly feel safe.

I want to reassure this community that we are cohering into a small group of concerned First Nations people and thankfully some who may not know their connection to our Nations, yet know that we are all connected…we are all Relations. Plans are underway as we meet here for 2014. Next year, we will be gathering again on the real ceremonial day, October 4th to honour these women, to bring them home…and to let all the powers that be know that we will not be silenced, we will not rest until every person in this land takes the “going missing” of a woman, a girl, a boy, a man, a child of this land seriously enough to take action … until that is resolved. And we will continue to do this until there is no longer a need, may it be so, for us to worry, to pray, to hope for the return of our daughters and yes, our sons.

ImagePhoto Credit: Jeff Suchak

Until we are all safe until Mother Earth calls us home.

Wee Mandala Tutorial

How I Create a mandala from a photograph with Photoshop Elements 11


This is a simple 4 quarters mandala; I call it Feather Mandala.

We will be working in Photoshop Elements 11. To begin pull in images that are potentials for a mandala.

Make copies of each photo so that you don’t accidentally change your original image permanently. Just a reminder, please check what kind of file you are saving. PSE wants to save anything as PSD which is their own proprietary format. However, we need to save all files as j_pegs; so please note that and choose jpg format each time you save, resave, or save as. And all will be well.

Work only with these copies, not your original photos. In fact, once you’ve saved copies, just close your originals.

Step 1: Find an image that you captured with your camera, iPhone, cellphone, iPad or tablet. It must be your own photograph or it will not have the same kind of meaning for you when you meditate on it. This picture is a pair of owl feathers that I keep in a little rock with a hole in it.

ImageStep 2: Really see (not just look at) this image. The best mandalas are composed of radiating lines. These lines will draw your eye inward and back outward. There should be a centre point also called a bindu (Sanskrit for “the point where creation begins”); it is very subtle in this particular mandala, but there is a sense of concentric circles and if you enlarge this you can see a small circle right in the centre.

Step 3:Image

Usually you will want to crop your photo to limit distractions to your mandala. In this crop I’ve used the spine of the dotted feather to pull in the eye to the centre point. This will become the top left side of the mandala. Save as a new image file. Close your original cropped image in case you change your mind or want to begin again. Close the new cropped image. When PSE asks if you want to change say no. You will still have your changes because you already saved once.

Step 5: Pull the cropped image into Photoshop Elements 11 (you “saved as” once you cropped right?)

Step 6: At the top of your screen you will have 3 options: “Quick” “Guided” and “Expert”. For this next step you must choose “Guided”.


 Once you have chosen guided, you will have a new menu bar on the right of your screen.

Touchups (click on the arrow to close this one)

Photo Effects (click on the arrow to close this one)

In Photo Play you will have a few choices.

 Choose Reflection by clicking on the word. Now you have new choices.

Click 1. Add Reflection. Pause, it takes a second or two.

You will see a faint image below your original image in reverse! Ta Da!

You want it to be as close to your original though, so now you choose 2. Eyedropper tool and choose one of the darkest areas of your image. Click!

Now choose 3. Fill background. And watch the magic. Click Done.

Step 7. “Save as” a new file for this image. I usually name it left_side.jpg It won’t stay the left side but it’s helpful for visual thinkers because that’s what it looks like now.


Step 8. Close this file, using “save as” and choosing a new name e.g. “left_side.jpg”. But don’t save the old one with a different name.

Step 9. Now open the “left_side.jpg” file.

Step 10. Rotate it to the left or right depending on where your focal point is. I like to play and try it both ways, just always remember if you do to choose save as so your original file will remain intact.

Step 11. Make a reflection of your “left_side.jpg” file. “Save as” a new file with mandalabase as part of the name. This one would be feather_mandala_base.jpg for instance.


 Step 12. Pull the mandala base file into PSE11. Switch back to Expert mode. Using your Eliptical Marque Tool scribe a circle like so…


It might take some practice, but you can always “undo” these circles until you get it the right size. Also you can move the circle once you’ve scribed it, even if it goes off the picture…

Step 13. Use the “Cut” option to cut the circle out of this image.


 Step 14. Open a new blank document.


Step 15. Choose “transparent” for the Background Contents (bottom choice box).


Step 16. “Ctrl V” to paste your cut circle into the new document.


Step 17. Save as your final name. e.g. “Feather_Mandala_Final.jpg”

Step 18. Print on high quality paper and frame! Meditate on this image frequently and bask in the glow of accomplishment.

Tomorrow I’ll share how to achieve a similar effect using only Picasa and Word. You can download Picasa (free!) from Google … here:


Staying on the Path…


Pitching in for a friend/artist colleague from whom I have learned so much. Thanks Lani!

Time to give back. So this Monday, I am posting a “Monday Challenge” and linking in to her site.


Mindfulness and self-compassion are my areas of growth for the present moment and the present moment is the only one we’ve got. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, this life in which you find yourself incarnated, is all you have; this present moment is yours to savour and to learn from.

In a little Facebook group we’ve carved out to learn more about “Elephant Training”  we’ve been talking a bit about goals, their uses, their benefits, their drawbacks. How and why to set them – and when not to.

I’d like to go across the grain and say that I feel there is a seduction in goal setting that can get us stuck, keep us procrastinating and often push us to be self-critical in the extreme. I have good company.

Leo Babauta has helped me to view goal setting as counter-productive if it takes me off that perfect path, out of the present moment.

Jonathan on “Paid-to-Exist” speaks eloquently on goals as a means to cultivating your path, but unhelpful when they pull you off it – which really speaks to me.

But as I reread for the third time, “The Mindful Way through Depression” I came across this, “Over time these goal-driven mind states will become more familiar and less of an enemy or an obstacle…Rather than a reason to despair, however, such goal-driven and judgmental mind states can be treated as cues, reminding us of how easy it is to get caught in difficult emotions around ‘getting somewhere’ or ‘making progress.’”

Kent Nerburn speaks so poignantly about not letting “goals” get in our way here:

Your Assignment … should you choose to take it

Just for today try to be more in the present moment, not letting goals – yours or someone else’s – get in the way of the wonder that resides in that unique and fleeting space in your life.

Tonight, write or sketch about that in your journal and smile, enjoying that presence and that moment twice in your life.

Be well!Image

Mail Art – Correspondence to Memory

Mail Art is very dear to my heart, through it I have made many new artist friends and colleagues. It has stretched me to grow into a practice of art that has enriched my life. So…that said what to actually do to convey the memories mail art evokes in me.

I thought back to many of the swaps and trades, “I lost my Marbles”, Gothic Arches, Wreck this Journal. Then it hit me, 2012 was full of art “swaps” and random acts of art, how could I capture it? Hmmm…a perpetual calendar.

With only a week to produce a piece and another Random Act of Art deadline galloping toward me, I realized that I would have to turn to some already made work to come up with a perpetual calendar. One of the most fun things was doing glue pages, glue books, and ATCs with 14 Secrets to a Happy Artist’s Life and 6 Degrees of Creativity – the two online artist groups where I am deeply involved.

I rifled through leftovers. It wasn’t hard, I have a tendency to make extras of everything I do in these trades because sometimes someone hears about it and the deadline has passed. I like to be able to send a little something so that they don’t feel too left out. And hey, I have a daily art practice so it keeps my hand in so to speak.

I found some glue pages (these are 8 x 5 cardstock or ready made index cards covered with collage from magazines, handmade papers, gum wrappers, whatever you see that strikes your fancy. They are often playful, some with hidden messages. Perfect!

I managed to find 10 that were evocative of a month of the year, so I only had to put together two more to come up with a perpetual calendar. The friend I am sending the RAA to is, like me, a bit of a “Dead Head” so each one had a tiny piece with Jerry Garcia’s face or trademark hand with the missing finger on it added to it.

Just in case you’d like a peek … here


Where I live January is always cold and snowy … a black and white world.


In my world, February is a time when I yearn to leap into some sunshine.


The Ides of March … lots of time to read…love it.

Can you find Jerry?



The envelope was created with a single 16 x 20 inch piece of canvas paper. The outside of the envelope was stamped with a tiny script stamp in olive green so that it would sink to the background. Then I painted many coloured yarns front and inside. These symbolized the many “yarns” that have gone between us as we traded mail art and formed deep bonds across oceans and “borders” around the world. Art speaks a language that is understood by everyone!


More “yarns” and postage stamps to make the giftee smile some more…memories in a pretty envelope.


I applied many used postage stamps inside the envelope. It has two heart shaped holes punched in one of the extensions and 3 very long pieces of yarn were inserted. These are used to close the portfolio envelope and to echo the yarn that is inserted into the glue pages so that the perpetual calendar can be hung.

The materials I used for the glue pages that became a month in the perpetual calendar were 8 x 5 inch cardstock and index cards, glue sticks, matte medium, and papers of all sorts, some were torn from hand-painted artist tissue, some were purchased handmade paper, but much of the collage is from magazines, old or the free ones advertising upcoming events.


Materials for the portfolio envelope are 16 x 20 inch canvas paper, acrylic paints mixed with gloss acrylic medium (to enhance flow), a rubber stamp and inking pad, and used postage stamps. Each item also uses a colourful yarn that I used to knit a grandchild a hat called Flower Power.

By using these things I am sharing my art and my daily life with someone I may never sit down with over a cup of tea, but who is part of my life and so we share what is important to us.

I would definitely encourage anyone to do a little mail art. It doesn’t take a great deal of skill or expensive art materials and it revives an old way to make friends and break down borders that after all are artificial since we are all Relations and part of a great family. One recommendation I’d make is not to use metals or metallic substances in your mail art because Customs worldwide will have clanging bells of their metal detectors go off – which will slow down the delivery of your precious cargo.

Mail art is better than penpals in this day and age … it’s a piece of nostalgia with a twist. Thank you to everyone who has shared a piece of art with me…it’s a piece of you that I’ll always treasure.







Spring has me feeling like a kid again (still?) … and so I post this pic to entice you to play a little game with me. Do you know what this is a picture of? Please comment with what you think and maybe you’ll get a surprise.

ATCs anyone?

Over at the Art Therapy Alliance’s  Six Degrees of Creativity  we celebrated the new year and the closing of another session of learning new techniques with a swap called Pocket Change.   How it worked was you sent 4 ATCs and you received 3 ATCs back. Well, smarty pants moi made four times three and got back


ALLLLLLLL these goodies! Whoot! Click on the pic to embiggen and read the fine print. tee hee.

Thanks Gretchen Beth … and Hannah this was so much fun!