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!

December Reflections: #16-24

My next December Reflections cover the last nine days/prompts! Here I go:

December 16: I SAID HELLO TO…


In 2015, I said hello to a new home. We moved to Bellingham this September because my husband got a job as a Dean at Bellingham Technical College. We learned of his job acceptance on September 1, he was at his new job by September 14, and we officially moved the following week. It was quite the feat since we had been at our Seattle townhouse for 10 years! Our search for a place to live was a challenge since we were looking for a rental home at the same time as a gazillion college students at Western. Luckily, we found a very special condo that suits us just fine!


December 17: MY SMILE


This isn’t quite a smile, but this goofy look represents my playful side — a side I never want to lose. I turned 40 this year, which makes me a major grown-up, but I often feel like a kid.


December 18: CIRCLES


I tried to organize and purge as a packed to move to Bellingham. I did a pretty good job and one of my techniques for letting go involved taking photos of items that brought me joy. Do any of you remember letter books from Kindergarten?  I found a handful of my letter books and was quite taken with the “O” book.


December 19: I SAID GOODBYE TO…


This series of photographs is sure turning into a documentary our move and this photo fits right in. I indeed said goodbye to our home in Seattle. I have lived in the Seattle area all of my life and in Seattle proper for almost two decades. The townhouse we left was a safe haven for us and a place for my massage business to thrive.


December 20: WARMTH


This summer was so warm in the PNW that I almost didn’t miss the sun directly on my skin (due to my skin cancer risk). The air was like a hug from the sun without the harmful rays.


December 21: NUMBERS


THREE. That’s the number I remember from 2015. My husband Walter and I have a very dear chosen sibling named Robyn and on the day of the above photograph we had spa pedicures together. I miss our (almost) daily sibling time.




This Winter Solstice sunset was a bit subdued, but quite lovely and serene. I took this photo after having a massage and before going to a lovely new friend’s house for an all-women solstice intention-setting gathering. This photo overlooks Bellingham Bay.


December 23: DELICIOUS


The very best taste of 2015 has to be this cluster of fruits & veggies we purchased on the boardwalk of Venice Beach, CA during the holidays last year. The bouquet of cucumber, mango, and watermelon was vibrant, refreshing, and uplifting!


December 24: ONE YEAR AGO


One year ago today (well, one year ago tomorrow) we were in Palm Springs, CA in search of a blue sky holiday. On Christmas Day, we traveled to Joshua Tree State Park for a hike in the sunshine. The sky was so blue, the earth so solid, trees so crocked, our shadows so clear. (We’re trying to make an “M” and “C” for “Merry Christmas.”


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