Today I bring you my next eight December Reflections via photographs!
December 8: 5 THINGS ABOUT ME
- I am slightly far-sighted and as the years progress I notice that I need my glasses more and more for computer work and reading — especially when grading my students’ assignments.
- My hair is naturally light brown. Well, my hair is naturally light brown with lots of silver and gray.
- As far as I know, my cultural background is Irish-English-Scottish-German-Swedish and Prussian. My paternal grandmother told me that we’re related to Prussian royalty, but I’m not sure I believe her since she also told my brother that he was 1% Hawaiian. I’m also (apparently) related to Rufus Putnam, an American Revolutionary War general, so I guess that makes me a “DAR,” but I have no interest in that label or association. My favorite label is HUMAN and my favorite cause is PEACE.
- I have green eyes with a little bit of gold around the edges. These eyes are sensitive to light and this sensitivity sometimes causes ocular migraines.
- I have four tattoos on my body, including six birds and two Sanskrit symbols.
December 9: FAVE PHOTO OF 2015
It’s often so challenging for me to pick a “favorite” anything, so I have many favorite photos from this year. I will say that this photo of my cat Selkie delights me to no end. Last winter he sat with me in front my full-spectrum S.A.D. light absorbing the warmth and light with me as we traversed the dark months together.
December 10: SHADOWS
This last summer in Seattle was unusually hot. For the first time, my husband and I were considering getting an air conditioning unit. Instead, we cooled off in the kiddie pool and hid in the shadows of the sun.
December 11: GOLD
This sky! I took this photo on a walk home from the grocery store one evening this summer. The clouds were littered with gold and the sky was so softly blue. I dropped all my grocery bags and stared and stared. Remembering this moment reinforces my intention to stop and really look at the world with my whole body.
December 12: BEST DECISION OF 2015
So many good decisions this year, but I am going to focus on one that is constant: my decision to keep connecting, learning, and growing with my partner in this life.
December 13, 2015: A is FOR…
ART! And making artful messes! And reminding myself how the process of making art invigorates me like nothing else quite does. Here’s to a 2016 of setting up my art space in our new home in Bellingham and creating!
December 14: THE SPACE IN BETWEEN
Speaking of old and new spaces, this is a photo of our cat Selkie scoping out our empty bedroom right before our move. I think he found a few ghosts in that room … in that space in between.
December 15: SOUNDTRACK of 2015
My new (longer) commute from Bellingham to Bothell twice a week to teach at Cascadia College has certainly been an adjustment, but it has been made much more lively with some riot grrrl tunes. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ani Difranco on my drives and her strong energy, provoking lyrics, and social consciousness have me rockin’ and singing along with her up and down I-5.
December 4: RED
Red is one of my favorite colors, mostly because of its potency and boldness. There is no mistaking red. Red knows that she’s powerful. I created this art piece above our mantle over a year ago, and I am still struck by how people see different things in it. Some see a moon on the water as the surf froths up and some seem rain falling down. What do you see?
December 5: SACRED SPACE
When we moved into our new place in Bellingham this fall, it took me a while, but I did my usual space clearing and energizing ritual. This year, my cat Selkie wanted to be involved and he was very curious by the smells, sounds, and shifts in energy.
December 6: BEST BOOK OF 2015
I am quite biased, but I am also a very good judge of a powerful piece of writing. My mom’s memoir Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye was published in paperback this year after a run in hardback with a different press. This memoir explores my mom’s journey with loss in a lyrical and transcendent way. I am moved each time I read it, not only because this book is about my mom and my family, but because, through writing, my mother is able to let the light shine gently on grief and loss. For more on her book, please visit her website, where there are excerpts, beautiful reviews, photographs, and more.
December 7: BRANCHES
It is very dark in the PNW this year. Our resident weather expert Cliff Mass posted an article about how yesterday was the darkest December day in over nine years in our area! Instead of sharing a photo of branches from this time of year (though barren branches and dark skies can be quite beautiful, too), I am going to share a photo from this past April. These pink puffs of love delight me to know end. And set against a hopeful blue sky, I can almost smell the fragrant joy bursts.
My first photographs for Susannah Conway’s December Reflections 2015 challenge come in a set of there here:
December 1: SPARKLE
I purchased this crystal when my cat Mountie was the process of dying about four years ago. I placed it near him to provide comfort and clarity for his transition. In retrospect, this crystal was more of a comfort to me, since it is hard to know what to do when someone you love is dying. At least I was able to set an intention with this crystal and create some beauty.
Now I hang this crystal in my office. It dangles from a lamp so that it can sparkle any time I turn on the light to remind me of all the passages I have endured — my animal companions, my grandparents, friends, and my father. This crystal reminds me of the light that can be found around the edges of loss when we illuminate it with healing intention.
December 2, 2015: HOT DRINK
I see this view quite a lot in my life — my husband’s hand holding a chocolate brown mug filled with coffee. This is another view of Walter’s groundedness. Even holding his mug, he is geologic. When the winds of anxiety, worry, and sadness surround me, Walter’s steady sip brings be back to the earth.
December 3, 2015: BEST DAY OF 2015
I don’t know how I can possibly choose just ONE best day of 2015, for there were many good days sprinkled about. I will say, though, that learning that my book/card deck BODY CARDS: Insight from the Body, Wisdom for the Soul is going to be released in June of 2016 makes it to the top of my list. The tiny kernels of inspiration for this writing & art project began over 13 years ago in my living room with my best writing buddy Kristen during one of our weekly writing groups. Almost three years ago, Schiffer Publishing accepted my book proposal and now it’s an actual book that’s going to be released next year! This whole process reminds me to stick with my creative projects, but to also give them breathing room. I can’t crowd them or force them to be something too soon. I must nurture them and let them be what they want to be.
Once again, the soulful creativity of Susannah Conway has inspired me to participate in her “December Reflections, 2015” daily photograph challenge. I will be using Susannah’s prompts below each day in December as a way to reflect on this last year — and to think about what I hope is to come in 2016. Care to join me?
Here is Susannah’s list of photograph prompts:
Please hop on over to Susannah’s gorgeous website to learn more about the intentions behind this challenge — and to explore all that she has to offer. She’s a photographer, author, e-course facilitator, blogger, and beautiful human being.
See you in December for my first post!
This afternoon I took a walk through my neighborhood park (Ravenna Park) with the intention of 1) moving my body to help with my recent dip into the “Seattle Winter Lethargy” (that’s SWL, for those who need to know) and 2) finding beauty in the dark muckiness of winter in the Pacific Northwest.
At first, the trail ahead of me seemed barren and everything, no matter what color, seemed to have an ashen overtone. I saw three colors, really: brown, gray, and dark green — far from the vibrant greens and blues of spring and summer. I noticed wet decaying leaves marinating in mud puddles; cold naked deciduous trees looking a bit embarrassed; various slimy plant matter drooping and brown; and fallen branches and rotting tree stumps looking lost and discarded.
Even my Instagram filter has a hard time convincing me there is beauty here.
And yet, I know beauty *does* exist in what’s happening in these photos above. What’s happening is seasonal metamorphosis. What’s happening doesn’t look “pretty” because decay isn’t very photogenic. The process of transformation is not often gleaming with vibrancy either. I can’t help but think of the many personal growth spurts in my life. I think of how much muck I walked through, knee deep, in order to find my way again. Detritus is essential for new growth.
But can’t there be true beauty along the way, too, even in the shadow times of our lives? On my walk today I looked for beauty and found it when I got up close and personal with nature. I will be honest: I didn’t see beauty right away and I sometimes had to convince myself to see differently. But this is a good exercise, right? Find beauty in something that you think is ugly.
The wide angle lens proved to be disappointing, but when I paid attention and zoomed in, look at what green gorgeousness I found:
When I changed my perspective, the barren tress turned into art:
When I touched nature, she was surprisingly soft and welcoming:
And when I looked up, the deciduous and evergreen trees embraced the sky regardless of their different states of undress.
There is beauty in the winter, in the shadows, in the decaying muckiness of the season. There is beauty in you during your “winter” season, too. Zoom in, change your perspective, look up, connect. You will find mossy vibrancy and hope inside you. There will be a corner of blue sky peeking at you some days. And those mud puddles? They’re just there to remind you to take risks, get dirty, and play.
Let’s burn those traditional New Year’s resolutions. Take all of your “to-do’s” and “shoulds” and “have to’s” and place them in a pile of kindling. Watch them curl and scorch and turn to ash. Feel your body lift and lighten as the smoke rises. Listen to your heart’s caverns expand. Be present to how those “shoulds” have held you back, kept you from rising. Replace them with “I am” and “I want to” and “I am becoming.” Write your way into a brand new year of self-love, self-compassion, deep listening, and creativity. Listen to your body, write from your body, let your body speak.
The ZenPen journey begins on January 12, 2015.
Join me for body-based writing for healing, personal growth, and transformation.
$69 for the entire six-week e-course!
Give ZenPen as a gift to someone you love this holiday season!
The Goodies: What You Get in this E-Course
- Six weeks of “Lessons,” each covering a different ZenPen theme.
- A guide to body-writing basics, including the “ZenPen Kata” and “Trigger Point Writing.”
- A personal video from me once a week.
- Body exercises to try (breath, movement, meditation, etc.).
- At least five body-based writing prompts per week.
- Inspirational quotes, videos, images, and links related to each theme.
- An “Inspire-Me-Thursday” post with inspiration and motivation to keep you writing.
- Responses to and feedback on your posts on CourseCraft and in the Facebook Group.
- A community of like-hearted people with whom to share writing, insights, experiences, and resources.
- A 30-page ZenPen course document that is yours to keep at the end of the e-course.
- Unconditional love and support!
Here’s what ZenPen graduates have to say about the course:
“I love that we incorporate our bodies into our writing — or rather, let them do the writing for us. I’ve been trying to learn more about how to heal through my body and what it remembers, so I’m excited to add one more process in my journey. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to explore and heal here.” — Faith
“Your prompts, and the writing I crafted in response to them, at various moments made me take deeper breaths, burst into tears, listen more closely to various parts of my body, feel connected and warm, mourn, hope, build courage, and so many other things. Thank you.” — Jessica
“I have been journaling and studying all things journaling for four decades and the content here is very interesting and the information was new to me. I know have a whole new landscape to explore in my journaling. Thank you. — Bheki
“That’s why this course has been so helpful: little by little, I am seeing small ways to improve my awareness of my body, and now I can include it in that powerful triumvirate of mind-body-heart. I am only starting on this kind of awareness training, but I am already seeing the benefit: I am more present, less violent with my language towards myself, and much, much more forgiving of my ‘human-ness.’ Your course is tying in nicely with everything else I am learning about right now.” — Lauren
“Courtney is amazing. And I was needing a ‘reason’ to start writing again, but felt like if I just tried it on my own I’d be discouraged with more grocery-list type entries (from the head) rather than really getting some creative writing out. Through the ZenPen process, I learned that my body has a whole lot more to say that my Big Bad Mind won’t let it. Sorta like a stern parent, my mind REGULATES, and so when I can put my mind in time-out, then my body feels free to open up and give me lots of good stuff to work with!” — Jenna
“I learned to not rationalize too much, to listen to my body, to trust myself and my instincts, and to know that it’s OK to not make sense! I struggle with anxieties that something is wrong with me because I find great differences between me and many other people, but I’m slowly learning/struggling/challenging myself to believe that my differences are me and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve gained new perspectives from this course and I am very grateful for you Courtney.” — Hafsia
“ZenPen is helping me to be more present and loving with myself. It is facilitating a deepening relationship with myself that is necessary for me to be more of ME. I love your insights and exercises and the way you share yourself — very inspiring!” — Rachel
“The ZenPen E-course was outstanding in quality and quantity. I liked having lots of things to return to throughout the week — writing prompts, body work, videos, mid-week inspiration, and posting. Courtney’s replies to my CourseCraft posts were the highlight of the course for me! Through the e-course, I learned that I can do what I thought I couldn’t (write from my body) and that it’s an ever-expanding opportunity I can keep returning to and deepening.” — Nicole
A brand new year is on the way. How are you going to show up for yourself in a deep and meaningful way?