One Little Word: Journey

Dear Self

The One Little Word prompt for September involved writing a letter to . . . yourself.  Here's mine.

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Dear Self,

I know you were looking for . . . something . . . when you chose the word JOURNEY for 2015.  I know you wanted to wander (a little) off the comfortable and well-worn path of your life.  You used the words "shake up."  You used the words "explore" and "discover" and "get a little lost."


(You did.)

And, as usually happens with this One Little Word thing, you get what you're looking for.  (That's why you sign up every year, right?  That's why you put up with all the prescribed arts-and-crafts scrapbooking bullshit and commercial "kits," isn't it?)  Because, turns out, the process - and the monthly prompts - all work for you.

So, yeah.

OLW strikes again.

Life took you on a JOURNEY you weren't quite expecting when you signed on to this gig.  You landed in some kind of wilderness - one that you wouldn't have picked for yourself and really didn't expect.  And -- AH! -- that's the real beauty of a JOURNEY.  Sometimes you know where you're headed, and sometimes you don't. I kind of remember . . . that you were hoping for a JOURNEY where you didn't quite know where you were headed.

And.  Well.  That's what you got!

Now that you're moving again -- out of that wilderness and onto a path you didn't know existed back in January - you've learned a few things.

Like. . . 

Heading out on a JOURNEY when you don't exactly know where you're going . . . is risky.

Getting lost . . . means being uncomfortable.

And (like with any trip), it's important to pack lightly.  Which means . . . letting go.  Getting rid of what you don't really need.  Ideas.  Objects.  People who drag you down.  Commitments you shouldn't have made in the first place.

Because being lost -- really being lost -- and wandering (even flailing) in the wilderness for a while might just be the best way to find out who you are, what you might want to do, and how you want to live the rest of your life.

When you set out on a JOURNEY - any kind of journey - you should expect to come back changed.  And, y'know, you don't get to direct what that change will be.  It just . . . happens.


Here's to "getting lost."  And "exploring."  And "discovery."  Here's to "shaking things up."

Keep going.



"Cherish your wilderness." -- Maxine Kumin


The Soundtrack . . . of My JOURNEY

Back in July, the One Little Word prompt involved creating a playlist inspired by your word.  


But you know that when the truth is told . . . 
that you can get what you want or you can just get old. . . 
when will you realize . . . Vienna waits for you!
---- from Vienna, Billy Joel


As you might imagine, this was an assignment close to my heart!

The original prompt involved coming up with 9 songs.  I limited myself to 50.  (Ahem.)

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Songs about travel.

Songs about being lost.

Songs about finding yourself.

Songs about discovery.

Songs I just happen to like -- that speak to me about JOURNEY.


I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night. . . 
---- from River of Dreams, Billy Joel

I'm breaking through
I'm bending spoons

I'm keeping flowers in full bloom
I'm looking for answers from the great beyond
---- from The Great Beyond, REM


Jump in, let's go
Lay back, enjoy the show
These are the days when anything goes!
---- from Every Day is a Winding Road, Sheryl Crow


The sky was the limit . . . 
The future was wide open!
---- from Into the Great Wide Open, Tom Petty


I want to tear down walls
that hold me inside
I want to reach out
and touch the flame. . .
---- from Where the Streets Have No Name, U2


You better lose yourself in the music, the moment. . . 
You own it, you better never let it go. . . 
You only get one shot, do not miss your chace
to blow . . . this opportunity comes once in a lifetime. . . 
---- from Lose Yourself, Eminem


So I would say you've got a part. . . 
What's your part?
Who you are, you are who, who your are . . . 
---- from Who You Are, Pearl Jam


She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there's time to change . . . 
---- from Drops of Jupiter, Train


We're just ordinary people, you and me. . . 
Time will turn us into statues, eventually . . . 
---- from Statues, Foo Fighters


Just What I Needed

Hello friends.


Earlier this week, my mom and I visited the new Japanese Gardens at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  While we were there, I picked up this little Jizo for my own garden.

Jizo Bosatsu (Japanese Buddhism) is known for his vow to benefit all suffering beings and his commitment to stay with them until “the hells are empty."  He is the special protector of women, children, and travelers -- helping those at important life crossroads who may be facing new challenges.  Jizo, especially, helps children that have died navigate the transition between life and death.  Possessing unflagging optimism, courage, gentleness, and a nurturing love for all beings, Jizo plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to aid those in need. 

I have always been drawn to the Jizo, and having this little statue in my garden makes me smile. He will be a reminder to me, as I continue on my JOURNEY, that while life gives us many challenges and brings us to many crossroads, we are not alone.

Just what I needed!

Stepping Way Out

Last Friday, I stepped way, WAY outside my comfort zone and went to an all-day, outside "sketching" workshop . . . 

in an unfamiliar location

with not one person I knew

sketching (publicly)

I'm still not sure what possessed me to sign up and go, exactly.  (Although I've always wanted to be able to sit and sketch a landscape.)  

(And . . . because journey.)  

So I went.

I got a little bit lost on my way there.  I almost just bailed and turned back for home.  

(But I didn't.)

The location turned out to be a fabulous private garden property (way out in the country on a totally unmarked road, which led to the getting lost part) that made me gasp at every turn.


I delighted in exploring the grounds with my gardener's eye.

And I was so very glad I had my camera with me (because sketching alone, for me, would never have done the place justice).


It really was a perfect day -- comfortable weather, not too much sun, bird song in the air, and lovely vignettes and vistas . . . 










Most of the other workshoppers just plopped down in front of some incredibly picturesque view, got out their easels and their watercolors, and sketched/painted the day away.


I was a bit more restless (and a lot less accomplished).  I moved around from place to place . . . and mostly sketched various leaves.


(Because . . . just beginning.)

The very-patient-and-incredibly-supportive instructor kept phrasing all of her feedback to me with the following statement, "for those returning to the visual arts after a very long pause."  (Cracked me up every time!)


It was a lovely day, all the way around.  I'm glad I didn't head home when I got a little lost, because the overall experience was worth a little personal "thrashing about."  (Journeys are just like that.)

JOURNEY . . . Lessons So Far

I've done One Little Word five times now.  Five words.  Five very different experiences.

At first, when I start out with my word each year, there is a flurry of inspiration.  I'm always excited to "invite my word into my life" (as OLW leader, Ali Edwards, says over and over again).  I find quotes and poems.  I set intentions.  I find visual reminders for myself.  (And I usually buy some jewelry.)

Early on, my word doesn't usually . . . gel . . . for me right away.  It kind of . . . just sits there.  I do a lot of wheel-spinning.  It always seems like maybe I picked the wrong word.  

But then, around now, things start coming together for me and my word.  By the end of May, there's been enough time and distance that I can start to see how my word is connecting in my life.  Sure, I'm bound to be disappointed by mis-steps and whole chunks of inaction around my initial intentions.  But.  By now, I'm usually beginning to understand how seemingly disparate things . . . urges . . . inclinations . . . awakenings . . . actually connect in some way.  Unexpected themes and patterns begin to emerge.  My word . . . begins to act as a pivot point in my life.


When I set out on my JOURNEY this year, I knew I wanted to head off in a new direction.  But I wasn't quite sure what that meant, exactly.  I set some goals for myself; some intentions and action steps for the year.  I've come to think about those intentions and action steps as . . . DESTINATIONS on my JOURNEY; places I hope to end up, eventually.  As in . . . I want to go . . . THERE!   That's kind of the easy part.

Choose a destination.
Set off.

Now that I'm actually moving along, you know what I'm figuring out?

Sometimes the JOURNEY is quick, uneventful, and direct.  But sometimes . . . not so much.  Sometimes there are unplanned side trips you just can't resist.  Sometimes you decide to take the scenic route (because why not?).  Sometimes you get re-routed, or stuck in a detour. Sometimes you have some kind of breakdown and need assistance.  There are even times when you decide to turn back.  Because that wasn't actually where you wanted to go at all.  And sometimes . . . you get lost.


Usually, I'm not so comfortable with getting lost.  I like to know where I'm heading, and how I'm going to get there.  I like maps and compasses and GPS.  I like setting goals and having specific things I'm working toward.  

But, I'm starting to think that I might need to allow myself a little time and space . . . to get lost.

It feels right, somehow.  
Even though I have no idea what that means.

(And that's the power . . . of one little word.) 


One Little Vision

One of my favorite "prompts" from Ali Edwards' One Little Word program is always making a vision board.


The project is simple and "old school":  look in magazines for images and groups of words that inspire, and put them together as a vision board.

Although you won't find me creating a OLW scrapbook, I am all over the vision board!  I've always loved collecting images and words from magazines and catalogs -- ever since I was a little girl.  In the days before Pinterest, I used to keep files and notebooks full of stuff I'd clipped . . . for inspiration.  So this project is right up my alley.

Over the course of the month, I've looked through random magazines and clipped out things that just resonated for me.  This past weekend, I sorted through everything, and started grouping them together on a 16x20 inch canvas board.

It's always pretty fascinating to see how it all comes together - because themes and messages emerge.  This year, I was surprised by the uniformity of color in my images, and "action" words I found.  Here's a closer look at my board.

The upper left corner . . . 


The upper right corner . . . 


The lower left corner . . . 


 And the lower right corner (my favorite). . .  


I love making vision boards -- and I'm pretty sure this one will inspire me all year long!


Always With Me

As I explained last week, I'm letting my "inner artist" come to the surface this year as I explore my creative self with Carla Sonheim and Lynn Whipple's online Spark class.  So far, I've had a lot of fun trying some new things . . . and letting myself go WAY out of my usual "box."

But it has been a little more challenging than I thought.  And not because of the art-making.

Right off the bat, I encountered inner resistance.

You can't draw.
These people are REAL artists.
Who do you think you are?

I like to think of myself as a fairly confident woman.  I pretty much do what I want, say what I think, and step boldly.  I don't like to think of myself as . . . someone who can't.  

When that Inner Critic whispers in my ear, it makes me feel like . . . Junior High.

So I decided to . . . go there . . . into the belly-of-the-beast.  I decided to explore this Inner Critic of mine and see just what all the fuss is about.

First, I decided to just draw it.

  Inner Critic

Turns out . . .

It's a She.
And she looks like a cardboard cut-out.

Next, I used words to describe her.

"My Inner Critic . . . is blonde and has blue eyes.  She looks perfect.  But she is Not Nice.  (She judges.)"

"She might look pretty, but it's only on the outside.  (Inside, she's rotten.)"

"Her hands are behind her back.  (So she can cross her fingers while she lies to your face.)"

"You might think she's your friend, but then, when you've made yourself vulnerable, she'll laugh behind your back and make you feel stupid for every trying.  Or trusting."

"So then, you start to doubt yourself.  And maybe . . . you even leave yourself and become cardboard.  (Just like her.)"


Turns out I know just who my Inner Critic IS . . . and she goes right back to Junior High.

Discovering where this particular voice comes from helps me move forward.  

(In this case, drawing without judging myself so harshly.)


This simple exercise has been quite cathartic for me, actually.  My Inner Critic will probably always live there, deep in my soul.  But I can deliver some counter punches of my own now!

And that feels really good.





Psssst!  I'll let you in on a secret . . . 

An artist
deep inside me.

(I've decided . . . to let her out.)

I wanted part of my JOURNEY this year to include creative expression.  But.  Heck.  How do I do THAT . . . when I've been suppressing this whole artist-living-inside me thing for most of my life?

no time
where would I start?
no talent
people would laugh

I just can't.

Yes.  I could see that I would need to tread lightly here.  Because I was clearly running right up against that most formidable opponent . . . my Inner Critic.  But the more I thought about including ART - and the creating of it - on my JOURNEY, the more I felt the pull of of wanting to do it.

I've been following/reading Carla Sonheim's blog (author of The Art of Silliness) for awhile, and I've been tempted to try some of her online classes.  She seems to have a gentle, generous, inclusive approach to art.  

But.  Inner Critic.  (So I didn't.)

Early in December, though, I stumbled onto Carla's year-long online art course with her friend and fellow artist, Lynn Whipple.  Just the name of their course - The Year of the Spark - called to me.  The more I read about it, the more perfect it sounded.  Their promotional materials made it look fun and light-hearted and non-threatening.  They described the course as being "all about art, and how we can infuse more of it into our lives.  More art, more creativity, more inspiration, more motivation, and more fun."  

It seemed to be . . . just what I was looking for.

But I hesitated.  I agonized over it for days . . . 

should I sign up?
could I do it?
would people laugh?

(that damn Inner Critic . . . )

Finally, just before the New Year, I did it.  I signed up.  I freaked out a little.  But I signed up.


And . . . you know what?  I'm really having a great time.  It's FUN.  I'm trying new things and learning all sorts of art-y stuff.  The "Spark community" is diverse (artists and non-artists alike, from all over the world) and safe and supportive.  (Like, well, no one is laughing.  Out loud, at least.)  

I'm really glad I'm trying this.  It's definitely out of my comfort zone, but it's just where I need to be right now.  And I'll even share some of my "work" with you!  (Just . . . don't laugh.)

The result of lesson #1. . . (Guess who???)

J-pups pencil and pastel jan 2015 - Jan 20, 2015, 9-58 AM

(Feeling the pull of The Spark yourself?  It's not too late to sign up and join in. . .)



True North

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."
                                                                                                      ---Douglas Adams

My mom has a compass necklace -- with a tiny, real, working compass.  She wears it whenever someone in the family is traveling.  It's not that she's superstitious . . . it's more about keeping the people she loves close to her heart when they're in transit.

She's done this for a long time now.  Many years.  When I'm on the road, it always gives me a warm feeling to know my mom has her compass on!  

As I started thinking about symbols for my own JOURNEY this year, I decided I wanted a compass necklace of my own.  I found one here that I particularly liked.  It's not a working compass - like my mom's.  Instead, it's a silver casting of compass rose wax seal, and it is lovely to wear.


I can take comfort in knowing that even though I don't know exactly where I'll end up on this journey of mine, I'll always be able to figure out where I am!

Wearing My Word

When it comes to my one little word, I've discovered that I like to have visual reminders of my word around me.  I usually try to find some inspiring piece of art featuring my word to display in my house, and I like to find "wearable" versions of my word.

This year, I ordered some MantraBand bracelets for my journey . . .


I love them!  They are slender and subtle and clink in a delightful way when I wear them all together.

The MantraBand company turns out to be pretty cool, too.  Their mission is simple -- they want to inspire and empower with positive messages.  (And they support a great cause, too.)

Even their packaging is thoughful and inspiring.


Wearing my word . . . is a great reminder.  
(And it looks cool, too.)