#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, simple living, spirituality

Living in the Deep: What it means to live a slow, passionate, creative life

dreamstime_xxl_84965828 teapot creative commons zero dreamstime.jpg
Creative Commons Zero | Dreamstime.com

In the past few years, I have been trying to strike a careful balance between opening myself up to the world, fully living in it, and living slowly. There have been missteps along the way. Taking a part-time job quickly turned into an energy suck. But letting go of it made space for the opportunity to teach English as a second language, which quickly unlocked a passion for working with underserved communities. I almost made the mistake of joining every writing group I could, but I’m trying to choose those that best serve where I’m at now in my writing career.

We can’t be everything to everybody. We have to choose a few things and do those really well. And we all have varying levels of energy. Some people can function in a high-energy state of overdrive with very little downtime. I, personally, suffer from several chronic medical conditions that are in and of themselves part-time jobs. They require management, attention, and downtime.

When I was in undergraduate, my journalism professor told me, when it came to opportunities, “You’re the belle of the ball. Dance with everyone.” And that was fantastic advice for a twenty-year-old. I went to grad school, interned at a daily city newspaper, had lots of awesome experiences.

But then I entered adulthood, post-college, and kept doing it. I was working three jobs and volunteering. I experienced a level of burnout that took a lot of recovery. I was exhausted and sick and no one could figure out why. “Maybe try doing less,” my doctor suggested when all the tests turned up nothing.

So, I did. I started focusing exclusively on writing. And then, later, I added in teaching ESL. I’d like to start fostering for the animal shelter again, if my husband is up for it.

I make time for slowness in my life. Some of the best parts of my day are those sunny afternoons when the animals and I just chill in the backyard. It’s actually very little sitting. It’s mostly herding cats and stopping the dog from digging, but it is so wonderful. It’s my happy place. Well, one of them, anyway.

I make time for moments that involve nothing but me, a comfy spot to sit, a warm blanket, and a cup of tea. I turn thoughts over like a hound turns over leaves searching for rabbit scents. I open myself up the goddess and god and wait for their guidance. I seek the part of myself that is calmness and light in a stormy sea of chaos.

I am often overwhelmed, with too many to-do items waiting in the wings. I read in a simple living book that we’re better served choosing three items to accomplish each day rather than crafting a rambling to-do list, and I’ve tried to work from that. Three is manageable. Anymore and I feel like I’m failing. Three forces me to prioritize. Three allows me to make time for stillness and self-care and all of my other responsibilities, from walking the dog to doing dishes, and space for relationships—cuddle time with my husband, phone chats with my siblings, coffee dates with friends.

I am learning. I am imperfect. I am a work in progress.

This week was an example of that. Overwhelmed by all the things I’ve taken on, I managed to revise one chapter. Not as many as I’d like, but I feel like this book is deepening, opening up to a level it hadn’t been at before, and I am so proud of what I wrote this week. I finished my word-cloud and sent it off to a blogging expert who’s helping me hone this aspect of my writing. I started off strong with visiting others’ blogs, but fell off toward the end, so there’s room for improvement there.

In terms of tending the hearth fire, the new washer and dryer are in! Finally. It was quite an ordeal, but we have a new washer and dryer. We’re still in the midst of the living room redecorating, and creating a message center in our hallway to organize incoming mail, action items like bills and whatnot, and receipts, which are all problem areas for us organization-wise. We have some major projects are on the horizon, but I think we both want to focus on some smaller ones before we tackle anything large like this again.

And so, I head into next week looking for some time to recharge. It snowed today, believe it or not, but the weatherman assures us warmer days are on the horizon, and I trust in the promise of spring.

I have always craved stillness and depth and purpose and magic. I have tried to fill my life with those things. There are, of course, the mundane things—the bills to be paid, the errands to run.

But in the midst of these things, there is magic.

Washing the dishes, the slightly citrusy scent of the dish soap filling my nostrils, Celtic tunes playing in the background, I am reminded that in the midst of the everyday, magic glitters.

We just have to be paying attention.

What about you? How did your week progress? How do you seek out calm and stillness in the midst of everyday chaos?

denise signature

Advertisements
#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, magic

A Creative Life is a Magical One.

 

dreamstime_xxl_89807281 creative commons stock photo
Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

A clear February night. I gaze up at the stars. I don’t know many constellations, but I can pick out Orion and his belt, bright pinpricks of light staring down at me.

A summer afternoon. I sit out on my patio, curled up in a chair, a notebook in my lap. The dog sits in the grass, perhaps gnawing on a stick. Birds chirp in the trees. I bring out my Tarot deck, whisper questions to the goddess and god, seek answers in the form of the beautifully illustrated cards.

An autumn day. A leaf breaks free of a branch, caught in the wind, spirals down toward the earth. I’m reminded of a childhood superstition–that if you could catch a freshly falling leaf before it touches the ground, your wish would be granted. I still believe. In faeries. In wishes. In the power of belief.

A creative life is a magical one. Stories whisper from the ether. Brushstrokes reveal hidden worlds. Songs draw emotions out of us. Plays and films and TV shows and books transport us to other worlds.

I am learning that one of the most important things we can do with our lives is to embrace and celebrate the magic. We don’t even have to call it magic. Call it any other name. Beauty. Wonder. Joy. Spirit.

Let’s make space for it to speak.

Magic Exists Nora Roberts Quote

TENDING THE CREATIVE FLAME

This week was a hodgepodge of writing tasks. I made some changes to my author website, finished revisions on chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss, and wrote 1,375 words in Spun Gold. I also got a revise and resubmit for a short story, so I switched gears and dug deeper into the story. I feel like it’s much stronger, but I need to do a read-through and polish it before I send it back to the editor.

TENDING THE HEARTH FLAME

In hearth and home, I’m redecorating our living room with some unique art I found on Etsy. We’re really wanting to revamp this space, so we’re taking it one element at a time until it’s where we want it to be.

TENDING THE SACRED FLAME

I want to find a way to incorporate my magical practice into my everyday life. So far, lots of walks in nature and pausing to enjoy the beauty around me. Sunset walks with Leo have yielded some majestic views, and the cardinals have been flitting merrily through the yet bare trees. I’d like to bring some daily meditations into my life, along with getting back to work on my book of shadows.

What about you? How do you celebrate the magic of the everyday?

denise signature

#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons, year in review

Merry Yule: 2016 Year in Review

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo by Marcin Jagiellicz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

In the Pagan tradition I walk, Yule, or the winter solstice, is all about rebirth. It’s a turning point, much as New Year’s Eve marks a turning. We say goodbye to the old and open our arms to the rebirth of the sun.

The longest night of the year holds within it a spark of sun, a promise that as the Wheel of the Year turns, the days will grow longer, the earth will eventually reawaken, ice and snow will yield to crocuses and daffodils, and the summer god will reign once more.

So I think it is fitting that my last check-in post for 2016 falls on Yule, as I mark the turning of the wheel and the promise of warm, sunny days to come.

I’ve started penning haikus in the past few months. I love the challenge of fitting a poem, a thought, an image into so few words. Haiku is language stripped down bare, and as such, it offers a far more intimate experience with language than a novel does. We’re counting each syllable; each word must drip with meaning and imagery. It’s simple, and in a culture where we’re constantly inundated with stuff and information, I’m starting to crave the simplicity haikus offer.

Before my year-end review, I’d like to share a haiku I’ve written in honor of the winter solstice:

Long night yields to dawn.

You rise from winter’s belly,

promise of fire.

Haiku shared and holiday well-wishes bestowed, I turn now to my year in review.

It was a year of ups and downs. I said goodbye to my beloved beagle, Angel, who brought her gentle, loving energy to my life for ten years. And, in the last few weeks, I welcomed a new creature into my life, a bundle of energy named Leo. I became a published fiction writer with the publication of my two novelettes, The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key. I taught a course on media writing. Hubby and I continued to settle in to our new home. We painted. We tore out the ugly, overgrown, half-dead bushes in the front of the townhouse and planted new, including some lavender.

On the writing front, here are my accomplishments:

  • Penned a novelette, The Faerie Key, revised it and its companion piece, The Beltane Kiss, had those professionally edited, revised them some more, and published them on Amazon.
  • My novel A Prince in Patience Point won second place in the Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest.
  • Expanded a short story formerly called Midwinter Bride into a novella titled Goblins and Grimoires. Finished a first draft of that novella (or second draft, depending on how you look at it).
  • Penned another novelette, White Wolf, Red Cloak, and started expanding it to novella length, now titled Fates Entangled.
  • Wrote a short story, Silver’s Stray, and started expanding it to novelette length.
  • Wrote two short stories, Spirits of Embers and The Forest’s Own.
  • Started writing poetry again, both free verse and haikus.
  • There were also numerous starts to stories, ranging from a redcap running amok in a library to a story about the magic of mistletoe to a trio of sisters who find themselves the guardians of three sacred artifacts.

For a year where I weathered a prolonged creative dry spell, I’d say a fair amount still got done in 2016.

And so, with this post, I wish you a very merry rest of the year, however you celebrate or spend it, and a happy New Year. Thank you to all of you who visit my blog, who leave thoughtful comments, who’ve offered support in any way, whether it’s a bit of advice on Twitter or Facebook, or buying one of my books, or simply a word of encouragement during a dry spell. It really means a lot to me, and I feel very blessed.

What about you? What accomplishment are you most proud of this year? Do you already have plans in place for 2017? If so, please share!

denise signature

magic, spirituality, symbolism

Exploring the Elements, part 3: Fire

This post is the third in a series about the four elements. Previous posts explored the symbolism behind the elements of earth and water.

Photo by Lisa L. Wiedmeier at WANA Commons.

Perhaps no element is as contradictory as fire. It provides the warmth necessary to heat our homes and prepare our food, yet it is capable of tremendous destruction. It is associated with both passion and rage, with the ability to create and destroy. Smoke can be blinding and suffocating, but the torch’s light can be illuminating and comforting. Fire is also the only element that cannot exist on its own: It needs fuel and air.

Much of the language associated with creativity calls to mind the fire element: the spark of creativity or kindling an idea. In the forge, we can create weapons and tools. Where water is associated with emotion and love, fire is associated with passion and romance. Where earth is associated with stubbornness and stagnation, fire is associated with anger and action. Most fire signs are intense. Whether outwardly aggressive or inwardly focused, most fire signs know what they want and pursue their passions with intensity. They can have tempers, though their flares of anger can also be short-lived. Fire is also associated with courage and strength–a willingness to fight for what is right. When harnessed properly, the energy of fire can inspire us to creative acts or empower us to stand up for ourselves.

Like water, fire is an active element. While too much fire in your life can result in anger, rebelliousness, intensity, or aggression, too little fire can result in weakness, submissiveness, or inactivity. Call on fire whenever you want to spark creativity in your work, stir up passion for your goals, or fire up your love life.

Associations with the fire element:

Photo by karylmc in WANA Commons.

Cardinal direction: South
Season: Summer
Zodiac signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Colors: copper, gold, orange, red
Gemstones: amber, fire opal, garnet, hematite
Herbs and spices: allspice, basil, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, witch hazel
Plants: ash tree, calendula, chili peppers, hawthorn, holly, oak
Fantasy creatures: dragons, phoenix, salamanders
Altar items: athame, candles

For more great information about the four elements, check out these wonderful sources:
“Celtic Magic” by D.J. Conway. Llewellyn Publications.
“Herb Magic for Beginners” by Ellen Dugan. Llewellyn Publications.
“Feng Shui Home” by Gill Hale, Stella Martin, and Josephine De Winter. Barnes & Noble Books.

magic, spirituality, symbolism

Exploring the Elements, part 2: Water

In the first post of this series, we discussed the nurturing qualities of the earth element. In today’s post, we’re talking about water.

Water, governed by the moon and the goddess Venus, is generally associated with emotions, love, and spirituality. People who are water signs can be moody and emotional, but also sensitive, generous, and compassionate. In dreams, bodies of water are said to symbolize the unconscious mind, and the state of the water represents the dreamer’s psyche. Cloudy or muddy water represents a lack of understanding of unconscious desires and urges or being overwhelmed by negative emotions, whereas clear waters reflect that the dreamer is in touch with his/her innermost desires or fears and is in a receptive state of mind.

image accessed at stock xchng

Water can be a clear, still pond or a wild, raging river. It is a dynamic element, in contrast to earth, which can leave a sense of being “rooted in place.” Just as earth provides a nurturing sense of stability, water is also healing, but in this case, in the sense of cleansing. Water can soothe wounds, washing away negative energy. In nature, storms can be intense and powerful, but also cleanse the atmosphere (take a moment to imagine the cool, refreshing scent of a forest after an intense rainstorm).

Water energy is necessary in every home. It provides a feeling of love and connection and helps to add a sense of movement in places where there can be stagnation. Water represents purification and receptive, feminine energy. Consider adding a mirror (a water symbol) to a corner or an object made of glass (another water symbol) to spaces that could use more water energy. Beautiful symbols of water energy abound. Consider using a glass dolphin statue as a paperweight or adding a bowl of seashells to balance out a room.

Do you ever feel like you need more of the water element in your daily routine? If so, how do you welcome water energy into your life?

Associations with the water element:

image accessed at stock xchng

Cardinal direction: West
Season: Autumn
Zodiac signs: Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio
Colors: aqua, blue, silver, white
Gemstones: aquamarine, moonstone, pearls
Herbs and spices: chamomile, feverfew, thyme, vanilla, yarrow
Plants: birch, elder, lotus flowers/water lilies, seaweed, roses, rushes, violets, willow
Fantasy creatures: nymphs, mermaids, undines
Altar items: chalice, bowl, or cauldron filled with water; glass objects; mirror; seashells

For more great information about the four elements, check out these wonderful sources:

“Celtic Magic” by D.J. Conway. Llewellyn Publications.
“Herb Magic for Beginners” by Ellen Dugan. Llewellyn Publications.
“Feng Shui Home” by Gill Hale, Stella Martin, and Josephine De Winter. Barnes & Noble Books.
“True Magick” by Amber K. Llewellyn Publications.