Star Mandala

Star Mandala
I was watching a video about the healing powers of art and music. Specifically, that art and music are indeed therapeutic for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. I am a firm believer in the healing powers of music, and I agree that the music must first mean something to the person in order for the therapy to be beneficial. If it is music you enjoy, then it can trigger happy memories, and perhaps open conversation. Sometimes the topic takes me back to a time when lyrics such as, “I believe in music, I believe in love” were very popular.
During the art therapy discussion, they described how patients are encouraged to express themselves using paint and paper. They spoke of making a group project out of creating a mandala.
This idea intrigued me. I’ve had a photograph that I’ve been working with for a few days, of artwork by my five-year-old granddaughter. I wasn’t really getting very far with it until I started thinking about creating a mandala.
The center portion of the design is my granddaughter’s original artwork. I used the cookie cutter tool to create the stars from the same colors as the original. Then I used the ellipse tool to make circles and found a close match for the magenta from the color swatch for their fill. After that, I chose a gradient and texture for the background, and framed it with the magenta and a bevel effect.
All in all, I must agree. This has been very therapeutic. And I am happy to have preserved another piece of artwork from the next generation.

A Bowlful of Flowers

Flowers in the Desert
Honestly, I’m still thinking about this one a bit. The only thing “real” here are the flowers. What is special about these flowers is that they were growing, thriving, in the soil in my backyard even while enduring the heat of the desert mountains. As often happens, the photograph did not match my memory of how glorious these flowers looked in the sunlight. So I cut the flowers from the photograph, and with some layering, achieved a potted plant look. I added the butterflies because I thought it needed some contrast and balance.
Perhaps we need these things in our daily lives. A little contrast, to break up the routine. Balance, to be sure all areas of our lives are being nurtured. Color, to keep things bright. And reminders of the importance of growing, and moving forward, such as lovely flowers and butterflies.

When the Light Comes Shining Through

When the Light Comes Shining Through
I got to looking through some of my older photographs and noticed this one from a road trip several years ago. I don’t remember exactly but given the route, it was either New Mexico or Arizona. End of a thunderstorm. I love thunderstorms, the dark clouds, the electricity, the bass of the thunder booming. We used to sit on the front porch at my grandmother’s house during the summer and watch the thunderstorms come. And pass. I remember once, a preacher reading scripture paused on the phrase, “And it came to pass,” taking a moment to reflect on the reassurance that most things in life do, in fact, pass. They come to pass, the good times and the bad times, along with the challenge to be thankful for the good times and hold them in our hearts, and to keep moving forward through the bad times, forward to the next thing, whatever that may be.
Hope sustains us through, either way.
Somehow reminds me of this song:

Now to do some changes
Laughter as well as pain
Now I can dance in sunshine or in rain
Come and follow me,
To wherever the light breaks through…

I love that moment, when the light breaks through.

Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower 2016

One of my passions is theater. I enjoy a good movie, but I adore the intimacy of a good stage production. For awhile, I lived in a place that still had a dinner theater, and one season, Cactus Flower, a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, was among the offerings. This dinner theater production boasted Ann Miller. I had the privilege of seeing Ann Miller dance, live, on a table.
Growing up on the west coast, I wasn’t familiar with the phenomenon that is a cactus flower. These days, I live in the desert mountains. There are numerous cacti in the garden, and each year, the flowers bloomed with a passion. This variety lasts only 24 hours, but with the wonders of technology, today’s design saves one for posterity, open to the fullest before it faded away.
As I worked with the cactus flower, I was thinking of how beauty can be found everywhere, even in seemingly unlikely places, such as a dry desert. And even though these moments may be fleeting, they become treasures of the heart, to be retrieved when one is in need of encouragement.
I also thought about regeneration. The flowers may fade, but the cactus remains, steadfast, and then next season once again, it presents its gift of flowers bursting forth in their blaze of glory. The gifts we have to offer  may not be as obvious. It may seem they go unnoticed. Or like the cactus flower, perhaps they are few and far between. But there’s also a chance that someone does notice, that it makes a difference to someone, and becomes one of their treasures of the heart.
Finally, if you look, you will see two spent flowers in the design. Not just one flower, but many flowers taking turns, if you will, presenting their gift to the world. And so it is with people. It is not up to just one person, all the time. But we take turns presenting our gifts.
Thank you for listening as I share my thoughts. I am delighted to present my cactus flower with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that the earth laughs in flowers. May this be a reminder to us to laugh when we find beauty in unlikely places every day.

Let It Go

Ice Castle - Let It Go
I’m sure some of you have had quite enough of the song from Disney’s Frozen. However, I live in a house full of little girls who have not. In fact, they still gather round their princess dolls and act it out. The four-year-old can sing it quite well, in my grandmotherly unbiased opinion.
If I remember correctly, the castle is one of England’s. Another photograph I saw that I wanted to work with, and this is the result.
Thing is, most of the time when I’ve heard the phrase, let it go, it’s in reference to something negative in your life that’s maybe holding you back, something that annoyed you that is best forgotten, along those lines.
To me, this is about a gift that someone was forced to withhold. There is power in those words, as she begins to see what she can do. Makes me wonder what the rest of us might be sitting on, what wonderful creativity we might see if we let it go. Don’t hold it back anymore.

Just Start Over

Just Start Over

The photo of the little plant appeared in a Guideposts post on Facebook with the caption, “Don’t Quit, Just Start Over.” It was accompanied by a story of a pastor who was discouraged and asked his young daughter if he should quit. The young girl told her father, “No, just start over.” And apparently those words brought about a change of attitude resulting in new life in the church as well.
I believe that growth is part of life, and learning is part of growth. When I look at the photo of the young plant, I think about how it started from just a seed. I think about how it needs the sun to help it grow, as we need the warmth of love and encouragement from our family and friends. And I think about how the plant will someday need to start over. Leaves will fall and be replaced by new growth. Sometimes we lose things, a dream, a friend, but we move on and find that our lives are reshaped by the ebb and flow of the comings and goings.
It’s okay to grieve the “goings”. It’s okay to make mistakes. When it gets to be too much, it’s okay to reevaluate, make new plans, dream new dreams. Remember to embrace the “comings.” They encourage new growth. Growth leads to all sorts of things.
I like that, don’t quit. Just start over. Here’s to new beginnings, big and small.

Here is the Guideposts story, if you’d like to check it out.

Winged Cloud

Winged Cloud
The photo was taken several years ago when a storm was approaching. The view from my window held me enraptured, and my trusty cellphone caught the image. I was taking an earth sciences class that included meteorology, and the instructor had encouraged us to look up and study clouds. As if I needed any nudging to skywatch.
The photo hung out in Photoshop for a couple of days. I was so fascinated by the cloud itself, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, besides just look at it. When I located the quote by Sharlot Mabridth Hall on the web, then it became an exercise in the art of using text to complement the image beneath.
I suppose in spite of my fascination with science, I remain the poet at heart, because I love the “flight of fancy” suggested by the quote. Whereas, I could not tell you what type of cloud that is. Storm cloud? I prefer “wondrous winged cloud.” May the poet live on.