Art at the Sea

I don’t know about you, but by mid-February, I am done with winter. I’m done with the PNW gray skies and drizzle and cool, damp air. The other day, in an attempt to work with my lethargic energy that had anxiety at the fringes, I forced myself on a walk (inertia is strong this time of year for me!) and headed down to Bellingham’s Marine Park for some “sea therapy” and I found my inner pilot light.

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I noticed art in a cockle shell and he became the subject of some spontaneous nature art.

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And he developed quite the personality!

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And then I saw art everywhere!

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And then I felt better. I felt productive, active, creative, connected. I saw beauty in this “barren” time of year — and I even noticed the million shades of gray in that sky and water. Inertia is strong, but lesson learned. Art disrupts downward spirals. Nature is a canvas. Time to go for another walk.


Entering the Feeling

Today I’m working with some feelings of inadequacy. It’s the kind of feeling that creeps in unexpectedly and without warning, like its been living under my sternum for months, giving me little doses of low confidence once in a while, but mostly keeping itself in check. Do you know what I mean?

This afternoon, though, I let out the feelings of inadequacy from their ribbed cage and they had much to say as they rattled and clanged their way out. Instead of shutting these voices down with the silent treatment or pep talks, I let them yell, and this is what they said, in the form of art:


Right now, I think the “cures” for these feelings can be found in the repeated words at the bottom and top, but I’m not sure yet. And I think the egg means hope of some kind. In a world where we often share our “best moments” with the world — our smiling selfies, our accomplishments, and our important and pivotal moments of greatness — I think it’s also important to be real with what is irking us, with what challenges us, with what we’re still working on even after over 40 years of life. Sometimes we need to expose the pain that’s living behind our chests, and for me, I need to turn it into art, and apparently I need to share it on my blog, too.

What are you methods of dealing with those tight feelings of fear or inadequacy or pain? If they could express themselves outside of you, what form would they take?



Time is Not Sad — We Are

About a month ago I created this art piece at a “crochet” gathering at my friend Brenda’s house. I learned to knit one hat in college over 20 years ago, but never picked up knitting needles again. At Brenda’s, I tried my best to crochet, but my hands and mind weren’t quite on board. I was able to make one string of crochet loops and my mixed media mind took over. There is a certain impulse or urge I feel in my body about creating mixed media works. I think it’s the impreciseness of it, the different textures interconnecting, and surprise meaning created by unusual juxtapositions.

I pulled out a large envelope of collage materials, scissors, glue, pens, and needle and thread and went to town in an old notebook. This is the piece the emerged from that art-making session:



For a month, I’ve been staring at this piece, curious. Why is time not sad? I kept asking. That bit of text was cut out of some poem or magazine article and called me to use it. Art-making is mysterious this way. So this evening, while dusting off my shelf where this piece sat in waiting, I spent some time with it and this line emerged in my mind: “time is not sad — we are,” and then this poem flowed out, as if the art piece was making the call and the poem was giving the response. Here is the poem:


Time is not sad – we are.

It’s an emotionless tick-mark passing

through an invisible scrim.

We are sad because it doesn’t bend

for us, makes no special accommodation,

doesn’t write a letter of excuse, gives no

pardons, makes no concessions or apologies,

never moves up our appointments, delays

our arrivals, suspends our goodbyes.

In fact, it doesn’t even know we are here –

such an absent companion – and still

we obey its laws, follow its cycles,

and surrender to its every minute,

our bodies pressed into it, leaning forward

as if walking into the wind, eyes watering.


The moral of the story is this: trust your creative impulses, let your work develop for you — it will always have a message — and try allowing one art form inform another, as if in dialogue.

Wishing you creative bursts of insight,





c. 2017 Courtney Putnam – all rights reserved in all media

Immersion in 2017


I love the mindful and intentional traditions I see so many of you doing at the transition of each new year. This year, I have decided on my guiding word for 2017 and I’ve chosen IMMERSION.

Here is the etymology of “immerse”:

immerse (v.)

“to plunge into (a fluid),” early 15c. (implied in immersed), from Latin immersus, past participle of immergere “to plunge in, dip into, sink, submerge” (see immersion). Figuratively, of study, work, passion, etc., from 1660s. Related: Immersedimmersingimmersive.

For this next year, I plan to plunge in, dip into, sink, and submerge into everything I care deeply about. Here are some of those things:

human rights and social  justice

racial equality and justice

environmental justice

LGBTQ+ and women’s rights

inclusive (intersectional) feminism

animal advocacy

immigrant rights

native rights


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives this phrase for the word immersion: “absorbing involvement.” So I also add to my 2017 immersion goals these activities of creative submersion:





digital photography editing

short film making


Implied in “immersion” is some risk. I’m up to the challenge. While in Hawaii over the holidays, I found myself entering the Pacific ocean with mindfulness. I knew that the surf was strong. I knew, while warmer than the ocean off the mainland PNW, the water would feel cool. But I did it anyway. I immersed myself. I let the ocean envelop me and jostle me about, but I stayed strong. I surrendered to being in it — to being part of it. That’s the level of commitment I want to feel this year.

Final December Reflections: #25-31

My December Reflections project has come to an end and here are my final photographs and reflections. Happy New Year!

December 25: LOVE IS…


LOVE IS… a moment on a beach at sunset accepting imperfection, embracing compassion.


December 26: REAL LIFE

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I do a lot of this. I have stacks of essays and assignments. I read. I comment. I grade. If it’s a nice day, I’ll even do it outside.


December 27: 2015 TAUGHT ME…


Yes, this. Even if things don’t turn out the way I want them, even if there are tornados in my heart and earthquakes in my legs, there is an everlasting okayness that will prevail.


December 28: A SECRET WISH FOR 2016


After four decades of life, I still struggle with confidence. I believe in confidence and have small moments of grounded self-acceptance, but often I feel like an impostor. Here’s to a new year of feeling that I am strong, capable, smart, creative, beautiful, and loved.


December 29: HOME


When I can touch the earth, I feel more at home. Here’s to more trees, more water, more grassy fields, more dirt.


December 30: THANK YOU FOR…


I thank my body for her self-healing abilities. She is always trying to create harmony and equilibrium for me.


December 31: MY WORD FOR 2016

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Here’s to an abundant new year of manifestation! Create! Produce! Manifest!

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