Studio Touring in the Garment District

Last night, my friend Ina invited me to visit some of the dozens (hundreds?) of art galleries in the Garment District during the Garment District Arts Festival. My nephew Girard joined us. We three were blown away by the varieties of creativity and mediums of so many artists.

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Here’s Girard at an artist’s studio where the Dutch artist is riffing on our surveillance society by surveiling on Newark’s surveillance camera.

There was so much political and personal art. I loved the beauty of it all. To be creative, you have to admire other’s creativity.

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Here I am with one of my new favorites, artist Margaret Zox Brown. I loved the color and the dynamism of her work.

Before the art touring, I fulfilled my civic responsibility by writing Postcards to Voters. I gathered with some church friends, where we encouraged random voters to vote. My assigned candidate was Jen Lunsford for State Senator in New York. I don’t know her, but having read about her, I like her! We have to keep pushing for better leaders — civil discourse. Our current political climate is abysmal. We need leaders who care more about humanity than money. We need leaders who value freedom of the press, art, equality, respect for our neighbors, the environment, integrity.

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A gathering for good — Postcards to Voters

Doing good — supporting political artists and encouraging voters — feels good. These activities restore my faith in this country. I’m grateful to be among so many upstanding citizens in New York — my friends, fellow artists and my nephew, too.

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What I Mean by Spiritual Autobiography

First Church of Jamaica Plain (Boston), MA
First Church of Jamaica Plain (Boston), MA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
scandinavia
scandinavia (Photo credit: herbstkind)

This morning Kelly forwarded me a question someone had written on our website, “What do you mean by spiritual autobiography? How is that supposed to help us grow?”

I felt defensive. Isn’t it obvious, dear reader?

But I’ve learned that quick email replies have helped my business. Answering random emails is part of the small business owner’s task. This is especially true as I’m trying to get participants to this month’s Writing Workshops. So here’s what I wrote to the person (who did not leave his/her name!)

Here’s what I mean: In the spiritual autobiography class, we look at moments in our lives not as random but as meaningful — small moments and big moments. For ex., being in my Scandinavian grandma’s kitchen was as sacred as church.

We look for the times when we turned one way instead of another — times when we felt found after feeling lost. These are the moments we look for and write about.

How spiritual autobiography helps: We see the pattern in our lives. When we find these threads of holy and sacred throughout our lives, we can create the patchwork quilt of our purpose. Like all quilts, this will warm and comfort us. It will add beauty to our lives.

We see the events in our lives. not as the results of a roll of the dice but as the intentional striving for growth — spiritual and personal growth. But we find within ourselves an increased sense of belonging, responsibility, and purpose.

I base my techniques on my friend and mentor’s book, The Story of Your Life by Dan Wakefield.

I’ve taught this class in weekly sessions and in day-long retreats. Most recently, at the end of March, I led this class for an afternoon session at First Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston. We laughed and cried. It’s a privilege to do this work. Thanks for being interested and for inquiring.

Sincerely, Mary Beth

M.B. Coudal and Dan Wakefield
Me and Dan (Wakefield) on his way home.
Visiting Harvard
I took the kids to the Boston area for their spring break.

Haiku

Hope

In the creative writing workshop I taught yesterday, we wrote haiku. This traditional Japanese poetry looks surprisingly simple — seven syllables, then five, then seven. But we found it challenging, a habit of writing we are unused to.

I told the class to think of the poem’s structure like the cage around a songbird. You have to confine your poem, your bird, your meaning, within the frame. Within the constraint, the songbird can sing freely. And then the poem can flow like a song, traveling far from its cage.

I gave us about 10 minutes to write our haiku.  Here are a few of mine.

I have been teary
Hoping to be understood
Fearful of shadows

Somehow I miss you
Your crazy way of kissing
I live on longing

Need to swim far out
Farther than you can catch me
Splashing, laughing, far

Crying at the Sky

I was in yoga on Saturday morning. Because it was Heritage Day, we could not meet at the Heritage House. So we met on the band shell of Ballard Park. It was a little like being on stage. Well, it was like that because we were on stage.

Almost everything that Michael, the teacher, says during class is brilliant. He said that in a new translation of the Upanishads, published in 2008, a line was written, “Hope is never false.” And he was making a political statement. 2008 was about hope. Hope is never false.

Wow. His July theme for the yoga classes was independence. Because Independence Day can be celebrated for days beyond the 4th of July. It can be any day. It can be every day.

I looked up at the sky from the band shell. I think I was in warrior pose. The white clouds were striated. The blue sky was almost too blue. I started to cry. I have no idea why. The beauty of the sky does that to me sometimes. I cry during church when the choir sings too. I don’t know why. I am an intellectual. There are times when yoga, a cloud or music sneaks past my intellect and makes a direct hit for my heart. Or maybe it’s my soul.