Every journey begins with imagination. Even the journey of a life … that path we travel from conception to death, even this wandering begins with the imagination of two souls. Sometimes the imagining is born of love. Sometimes desire. Sometimes rage or passion or indifference. Always, we begin with the wanting. The wanting to be here. To go on.
Along my way there have been sidetracks, switchbacks, detours. I have strayed from the path, I have been broken, I have fallen down and thought I could not get up, could not continue. I have run out of gas, lost my mojo, stumbled in the dark.I have , at times, wandered without a map. Too proud to ask for directions. Or embarrassed. Following my nose. Or heart. Or something else: a kind of song. Ancient. Wise. Eloquent. Solemn.
And yet, my way has not been a lonely road. I have had companions. They have been my guides, the threads that held me, my constant guiding stars. Among these companions, are my soulmate and husband, Tim, my sons Mickey and Gabe, our sweet old Sam (and now that Sam is gone, our dear old Charlie.)
In my imagination, I walk the road ahead. Steadied by friendship, by love, by faith in something larger than myself. I am grateful for the blessings of my life.
I originally published this post on my old blog that I don’t update anymore, in 2008. Just decided to ressurect the photo and post because it feels true to me still. Hope you enjoy it. ~Maureen
I woke up this morning to a deep quiet outside my window. The window was open a few inches (I like sleeping with cold air on my face.) Most mornings, even as late as yesterday morning, I awake to the chatter of tiny songbirds in the lilacs just outside. This morning all was silent.
I looked up at the sky. Gray-blue. Little humps of snow covered the lilacs. Soft. Bare of leaves. And oh — the branches! The black brush stroke branches against a hundred shades of white snow! I knew my palette was going to change overnight. Just. Like. That. At least for one or two paintings. Black and white. Simple. Distilled to the essence of pattern. Calligraphic strokes against a pale plain sky.
On Labor Day, 2014 I began a new documentary-style photo essay in collaboration with Dr. Mark Ibsen who owns Urgent Care Plus in Helena, Montana. We are telling a story with photos of his patients, of Mark and of his staff. We aren’t sure what the story will be yet — that will come when we see what the photos are telling us. For now, I am going to be spending time at the clinic and with permission from the patients themselves, documenting their time with this passionate, compassionate healer.
Watch my blog and my Brown Bird Studio Facebook page for progress on the photo essay, and for announcements of an exhibit which we hope to have sometime in the next few months.
Hands can tell so many stories just by themselves. Like eyes, hands are expressions of our history, our struggles and triumphs, our pain, sorrow and celebrations. Hands instruct. They argue. They heal, comfort and can hurt. Here are a few images from this week, from the first batch of photos that really pulled at my heart. I am curious what you think and feel when you see these images.
Thank you for looking and appreciating. I look forward to some dialogue about this project as we continue.
Last week, my young friend, Grace and I invented our own “art camp.” She stayed with me for four nights and we had 3 full days of creative fun. I sure hope we get to do this a couple more times this summer. Hanging out with young people fills my cup, especially when they are as enthusiastic about life and learning and creativity as Grace is. It was super cool that we got to do so many projects and have some adventures just the two of us. Actually, it was three of us — Charlie came along too.
I promised Grace I would teach her how to make a blog post, so I am going to leave the DIY tutorials until she comes back for our next art camp. In the meantime, here are some photos of some of the things we did and made:
Hearing robins singing has always been my first sign of Spring.
We’ve tried to arrange for our shamanic study group to meet in Montana, our home-ground, for almost 20 years. Well, they came this spring! Yay! And I kinda think everybody pretty much fell in love with Montana’s beauty and wildness. Yellowstone Park, the Yellowstone River and Paradise Valley to be specific.
It’s been a long time since I have visited Paradise Valley and Yellowstone Park in springtime. Starting when my sons were little, we camped in Yellowstone but usually after school was out for the summer, or in the fall. I’d always heard about the incredible spring surge of baby wild mammals and birds there, but I’d never experienced that awesomeness until this retreat. Fall was always my favorite Montana season. I’ve changed my mind, though.
My new favorite season?Spring-near-Yellowstone. Yes. That is a season. Springtime-near-Yellowstone. Not just plain old Spring.
In early May, Mother Earth is waking up in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Waking up in a big way:
Her trees sure woke up — fast! In just a couple of days, before our eyes, the aspens and cottonwoods dressed their bare branches in mists of green, then fully clothed themselves in designer-leaf-garments.
As spring days grow warmer, Earth’s sacred waters awaken. Snow melts. Soft rains come. Rivers swell and fill their banks. The water covers sand bars, willow thickets and ancient boulders. Listen to the sound of a small stream feeding a big river and notice the beauty filling your heart:
During the night the land sleeps. Mists cover the bottom of Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka range. With sunrise, the clouds lift to reveal a snowy shawl on the mountain’s shoulders and, as the day warms, her shawl unravels into rivulets that feed the swollen river. Earth’s sacred waters take many forms.
Mother Earth is waking up with babies. Every kind of wild-fertile-life-explosion-of-exuberance baby: bison calves, wolf cubs, fox kits, fawns, elk calves, gopher kits. Eaglets, goslings, osprey chicks and kildeer chiclets. A hatch of mayflies and a hatch of trout fry, bunnies, ducklings, loonlets and grebelets.
Birds mate, nest and raise a brood. Or they just pass through, feeding all around us – energy for the journey.
A grebe mother floats by with a brood of grebelets on her back. Two of them are just behind, tucked up against her tail as close as they can be, in the wild, rising waters.
Yellow-headed blackbirds sing their water-in-the-throat-joy
Dusk brings the chortling call of sandhill cranes, their color that of deer, goose and fallow field
Canada geese stand on a snag midstream, high water all around them, calling their distress in not-quite-unison
White pelicans glide downriver — a silent line on invisible rolling air-hills
Mama eagle brings home a snake, then a rabbit, a duck, a fish — she’s a good provider
Nuthatch, woodpecker, chickadee, siskin, finch — the timbre of bird-song in a meadow swells to a symphony of beats, noise and vibrant texture
The cottonwood grove where we met around a fire, is alive with aspen-catkin-fluff dancing in the air to the rhythm of bird-song
Above our heads, baby gracklets (made-up-word-warning) strain their wobbly necks from a hole high in an old snag. Their begging calls must fill the parent birds with urgency — bring more bugs! Bring more bugs!
A red tailed hawk screams hoarsely from across the flooding river — an osprey answers at dusk
Our Earth is sacred. There are some places on Earth I can more easily feel and experience that sacredness. The Yellowstone ecosystem is one of those places for me. It is holy ground.
Just for fun, I found some recordings of some of the birds we saw and heard during our retreat. Listen here:
We stayed at River’s Bend Lodge and some cabins at Paradise Gateway, hosted by Carol and Pete Reed with help by their daughter-in-law, Holly. What a great place to stay — right on the river, surrounded by more wildlife than I’ve ever seen in one place. Thank you for opening your slice of Paradise to our group.
I love my mom so much it makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode. I can feel it in my chest. I feel it in my throat. I feel it in my hands and belly and spine. I know it in my eyes. I know this love in my mind and in my soul.
When I look at her — really look deeply at her — I see her for who she is and not just for who she has been for me.
I love to listen to her stories. I love to support her on my arm as we walk. Wrap my arm around her slender shoulders. Laugh with her. Bring her a cup of tea. Cover her with an extra blanket. Open the car door for her. Share our tears. Share chocolate. Watch her when she doesn’t know I am looking. Wash her hair in the kitchen sink. Cook for her.
I love knowing in the night, that she is snoring gently in a room just a few feet from mine … love knowing she loves me, because when I thanked her for letting me take these portraits of her, and for spending these almost-3-weeks with me, she hugged me and cried. We both cried.
Mom is 82. I feel more deeply connected to her now that I am an adult, than I remember ever feeling as a child. That is not to say I wasn’t close to Mom when I was little — maybe depth of relationship comes with the compression of time, with the way age matters less and less as we grow older. The difference between 80 and 60 is less than between 25 years old and 5.
Today I watched her through my lens. She knew I was looking. She knew my camera would capture every wrinkle and blemish, yet she relaxed and let me pursue something I have wanted for a long time … to capture the elusive portrait of someone who is part of me. Who is so deeply connected to me that when the time comes to let her go it will be the hardest thing I will ever do.
Maybe depth of relationship comes with changes inside me. Changes in that place of rebellion that still burns like a stubborn ember of fire. When I look in the mirror nowadays, I see my facial features softening, melting a little. I look like my mother. I am becoming a beautiful crone. A wise woman. Like her. When I see her through my camera viewfinder, I see myself in 20-some years. And I hope with all my heart, that I am as good and kind and loving a human being as my mom is.
I really do appreciate you. For reading my words and for commenting. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when someone comments, or emails me to let me know they are reading and appreciating my posts. For telling me that I have touched their heart. Just alot. So thank you, and here is a desktop or wall calendar for April that I hope you will enjoy.
Sorry it’s a wee bit late. These calendars are a gift because I want you to have something to remind you of a different way of seeing the world around us. And … well, just ‘cuz…
I’d love to know if you find these useful.
The calendars are free for you to download. I will try to post the calendars the first day or two of each month. The only thing I ask is that you use them only for your personal use. Please don’t sell them yourself. And please do tell your friends these are available. Thank you!
If I don’t have the size or proportion of your computer monitor, or if you would like one for a cell phone, please tell me in the comments and I will make one for you and post it here. This month I am posting two versions: the calendar below may be downloaded and printed for your wall or fridge. The one at the top of this post is desktop wallpaper for your computer.
How do I do this? Just right-click to save the image. Let me know in comments if you have any trouble. You can download and print either calendar. Happy Springtime to you, wherever you are!
Here’s one for your iPhone:
and here is one that’s 1280 pixels wide, for your desktop:
And, finally, here is a calendar for your (analog/actual) wall (just print it out on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, using the “photo on matte paper” settings.)