Monday, December 17, 2007

Writing with a Partner

If you're interested in writing with a supportive partner, you might check out Connection Well. It's an online forum for writing partners to post their work and support one another. It was started by my friend, Jane, with her writing partner, Cathy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I find myself incredibly bored, hence the post

You know those days where you discard a dozen or more occupations with a sigh of frustration? My cat looks pretty happy, she is sacked out on my desk. I myself am bored out of my skull.

I thought I'd write about, well, I could pretend it was an Artist Date. Sure, yeah.

Last night, I was upstairs reading a book. Normally on Fridays, my husband and I practice what we call Catch As Catch Can for dinner. It's Friday, we've earned it. So I was sitting there as I said, and I caught a whiff of something that reminded me so much of Pama's gumbo, I had no choice but to make some.

My paternal grandma was Cajun, as was my grandfather. I called her Pama, a name she took up with gusto. Pama is a legend in our family. Strongwilled (she once pulled a gun on a man who tried to cheat her neighbor), a true lady, and a great cook, she loved nothing better than to sit on the front porch of an evening and chat with her family, her southern drawl wandering from ill friends to people walking past to what we were going to do the next day. I miss her every day.

I never actually got to eat gumbo cooked by Pama herself, at least not that I can remember. By the time she was older, she actually spent very little time cooking, though what she produced was fantastic.

But, she passed on the recipe to my mother, and we ate it frequently as I grew up. Pama's gumbo, for so we still call it, is my one true comfort food. I have only actually cooked it a few times since I moved out on my own, because it's just not the same. Also, my favorite version requires chicken gizzards, something I generally try not to keep on hand.
About a month ago, my dear friend's mother died and I went home for the funeral. On my last night there, my mom asked what I wanted for dinner and I knew without even thinking that it was gumbo. I made it with her, for the hundred thousandth time, and for a moment it actually felt like home, rather than this strange house stuffed with sewing machines and magazines and avoidance.

A true Cajun gumbo does not have tomatoes (shudder) like you find in most Cajun restaurants. That, my friends, is Creole, as is all that blackened crap you find. A true gumbo is a slightly unappetizing greenish gray in color, and sits on the back of the stove simmering for days on end, with the leftovers from various meals thrown in as it cooks.

It starts with a roux of flour and shortening or oil, which turns dark as you stir it, and richly nutty smelling. It's truly an alchemical process, the change happening from one moment to the next, in the blink of an eye.
Then you add chopped onions, celery, parsley, green onions, bell peppers, and chicken or some other meat, and bay leaves if you wish. You can also add okra, though most people think it's a bit like eating boogers (I, however, love it). Pour in water, let it simmer until cooked.

The most important part of the process is the gumbo file', which is a powder of ground sassafras leaves used for thickening. In true gumbo, if you choose to add okra you do not add the file, as both act as thickeners, but it is the file' that adds a delicate, dusky flavor and the green color. It is crucial that you add it after the soup has been taken off the heat. Add a very small amount and stir, then add a little more until you see a green sheen starting to form. If you add too much, it gets thick and ropey.

I can remember as a child, watching my father add the gumbo file' at the table. He would add it almost reverently, laving the soup across the ladle repeatedly until it was perfect. I think this is a moment in which he remembers his mother, and his father, both dead. They live on through this dish of our ancestors, and if the smell of browning flour and sassafras leaves gives me a twinge of nostalgia, I can only imagine what it makes him feel, his father having died when I was three. Perhaps he thinks of him, as he stirs. I am sure my grandpa used to perform the same task.

In the end, the gumbo I made last night was not all that good. I used sausage, which made it too greasy, and the flour wasn't quite cooked out enough. But as I added the file', I stirred it in a moment longer than necessary, remembering Pama and home and hoping I can make my children understand.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Finding the Vein of Gold

I'm cross posting this on my own blog just because it gets a bit more traffic, but I could use your help in particular. In order to find my "vein of gold," the area in which I work well thematically, I'm suppose to analyze my five favorite movies for themes.

1. Chocolat
2. Wonder Boys
3. Bridget Jones's Diary
4. Magnolia
5. A Room with a View

What themes do these movies have in common? Can you help? Thank you!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Okay, Okay, an Artist Date

My husband was out sailing all day yesterday so I did my first Artist Date.

Spending three hours cleaning house, making iced tea, and pounding chicken may not sound all that "festive" but it was to me.

First off, I cranked up the music, which I don't get to do that often. Then I cleaned. For me, cleaning is theraputic. It is the way I create order out of chaos. I love making the glass-topped tables shine, sucking up the kitty litter on the carpet, and getting rid of the galaxy of seeds my husband left on the counter when he toasted his bagel. A mad cleaning binge is how I make myself feel relaxed when I've had a particularly stressful time. Kind of like a more labor-intensive sage burning.

Also I danced.

Then I made four pitchers of different flavors of iced tea/coffee for the week: blueberry decaf for my husband to drink during the day; caf Constant Comment; caf peppermint (which required a trip to the roof to cut some mint leaves--to my surprise, they survived the winter and my lack of watering); and I turned our leftover morning coffee into iced coffee. The secret, you see, is to melt the sugar in hot water so it doesn't turn to grit at the bottom.

Then I stuck my nose in all four pitchers and inhaled deeply, because blueberry tea smells good. Which prompted me to go eat the dried blueberries we bought at Costco. Now I am full of anti-oxidants.

Then I prepped dinner (chicken cutlets with lemon, white wine, dill, and butter) by pounding the hell out of the chicken. If you think banging something with a metal mallet while dancing and singing isn't festive, you're in need of a re-think.

While I did all this, I thought about creativity and what it means to me. I take the definition literally: the act of making something new. It can be made of parts already built by other people. But they should be put together in new ways. Hence, I think of playing certain computer games as being creative (yes, that was my own work.) Cooking is certainly creative. Ms Theologian tells me that captioning pictures of my cats is creative. I will argue to the bitter end that Excel can be creative, especially since a blank spreadsheet sets my fingers itching in the same way a blank canvas does a painter.

But cleaning can be too, particularly you live with my husband (who is equally creative in his messmaking.) You are creating order out of chaos. Serenity in your life. You are taking what you have and building something meaningful by enforcing your will on its tendency to collapse.

At least, that's my argument for not bothering to leave the house.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Have You Discovered Your Secret Selves?

Have you discovered your secret selves yet?

Once you finish your narrative time line and cups, you can have a lot of fun with the task about your secret selves.

I have at least one secret self who is a nun. I call her Mary the Martyr.

Keep on trucking with this, guys. This is a fun task, and I'd love to hear about your secret selves here or in separate posts.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Daily Walk: An Unintended Consequence

Guess what? After two months of daily walks to this oak tree where I sit and write my morning pages, I've actually lost weight.

My walk is about 20 minutes to the oak tree and 20 minutes back after I write.

A hidden benefit of Vein of Gold!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Artist Date Goes Bad

Well, here's an artist's date that did not go so well: my husband* and I decided to go to the Huntington on a free day. The Huntington is a great museum with libraries and fantastic gardens in Pasadena. It's $15 per adult, so we don't go frequently. But, boy, oh, boy, was the free day crowded. I cannot tell you how much bumping and shoving there was in the pursuit of art. Roughly half of Los Angeles seemed to be there.

When we arrived, we wanted to get some lunch and ended up in a "cafe" with equal parts wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, screaming babies, and screaming adults. It was madness, I tell you! Madness.

I'm posting this as a non-exemplar, so if you have an artist's date that goes bad, you don't feel so dysfunctional. :)

*I do know that artist dates are supposed to be conducted alone. Sometimes I break that rule.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hi gang. I've officially begun The Vein of Gold now...and what i notice in myself most of all is resistance I don't wanna!! I don't wanna do my timeline. I don't wanna revisit my life. Anyone else experience this? Any tips on how to get through it?


Friday, June 1, 2007

Wizz Fizz

Inspired by TGR's artist date at the food market, I took myself to a lolly shop today and browsed the sweets of my childhood. I ended up buying a bag of Wizz Fizz. I took it back to work and opened it up at afternoon tea time. One of my coworkers saw it and made several exclamations. There's nothing like a blast from the past to kindle people's creative childlike sense of fun and play.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Short Excerpts from the Narrative Time Line

If you feel comfortable posting short excerpts from your narrative time line, you might go right ahead.

I wrote this story this morning.
Alternative pages

Hi folks...I'm Jordan Rosenfeld. I'm lagging behind finishing up the AW and will be starting VoG around the 4th of June. But I thought I'd pop in early and say hi! I live in the absurd little town of Morgan Hill, CA (sorry to anyone who likes it here), am still pining for Petaluma, which we left behind last year and hope to return to next year. I write mainly. Freelance--for a living. Fiction--for "fun" and I've got a book I'm in the process of revising for Writer's Digest Books due out in November (Is this too much of an AA speech here?):

Anyhow, I've been using my morning pages lately to write --*gasp*--fiction. That's right. I've been journaling since I was 11 years old (21 yrs give or take), and so processing my feelings on the page has never been an issue for me (doing it consistently certainly helps and I benefit from that--and what's more, how's this for the universe working mysteriously...since I started doing AW, my husband has begun journaling regularly for the first time in his life!). But I notice that when I write fiction--something crazy and unplanned that has no goal for it--I come away feeling energized, alive and ready for work. I thought I'd recommend this as an alternate to anyone who is struggling with their pages. Take a week's break and write fiction (or poetry, essay, whatever your favorite form).

And I promise (sort of) not to use so many parenthetical statements next time.

Hope you're all doing well. Let me know your thoughts

Monday, May 21, 2007

Artist Date #1, a resounding success!

On Saturday I had my first Artist's Date. I had a hard time deciding what to do - it was later in the day than I'd intended because of a work commitment that ran long, and I was feeling tired and cranky by the time I got home. First thought was to visit a nearby museum, but that turned into a dud. Armand Hammer museum? Closed already for the day. Science Center: closed. Natural History museum: closed. I guess I'd assumed they'd be open later than five on Saturdays. I could have gone to the Getty, but I just wasn't feeling it. I almost just drove out for a long walk on the beach, but then I had a Very Bright Idea: Mitsuwa!

About six months ago I realized that the store I drove right past every time I went to Costco was a big, fabulous Japanese market - why it took me more than three years of living here to figure that out, I have no idea. And as I'd been wanting to go for quite a while but hadn't gotten around to it I decided it was a great spot for an Artist's Date.

When I was sixteen, I spent a month in Japan over the summer, living with a host family and then spending several days in Tokyo with the three other girls and one teacher who were on the trip with me. And Mitsuwa took me right back there: I found all of my favorite snacks and candies (Pocky! Super Lemon! Green tea ice cream! Melon flavored gum! Pretz sticks!), I got to attempt to pronounce the katakana and hiragana on the labels of all sorts of items (and then look at the markers on the aisles that so kindly offered the English version), I watched a few minutes of some Japanese tv shows on the monitors near the entrance, I hemmed and hawed over cute little bento boxes and rice bowls and chopsticks and other knick knacks that I eventually decided I really didn't need, and I got all the ingredients to make what is hands down my favorite meal ever.

And then the second part of my Artist's Date was coming home to cook myself some okonomiyaki! It's like a cabbage pancake, sort of. The name literally means "as you like," and it's a home-style dish that folks in Japan make with all kinds of extra ingredients thrown in. My host family made it for me, and we also went to a restaurant for the famou (in Japan) Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (made with noodles) on our trip there, after visiting Peace Memorial Park. You make the pancake with cabbage, flour, water, an egg and a little dashi stock, and I put a couple of very thin slices of pork on it, and then top it with Japanese mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed flakes. Heaven!
So I had a culinary date with my inner Artist, and loved every moment of it. And now I've got enough supplies to eat okonomiyaki again several more times this week. Yippee!

My morning walk

Or, as some puppy owners call it, "walkies."

I finally remembered to take the camera on our regular 6:30 am morning walk.

Unfortunately, it was overcast this morning--unusual for New Mexico--and so isn't as pretty as most days.

We start from our driveway and go up a wooded mountain path.

This is high desert, so the conifer woods are also prickly-pear woods and yucca woods.

We encounter rocks to climb, then a logging road and The View.

This ugly metal barn-like thing is what's behind me as I look at The View. (Not so lovely.)

Then back down the hill to home. About a 25-minute walk.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Intro: GhostGirl


My screen name is GhostGirl because I was so pale in high school, people called me Casper. I like having pale skin, it makes me feel morally superior because I won't get skin cancer.
There, I said it.

Also I live on a housebarge on the Long Island Sound. I'm a transplant from California. It's been anthropologically interesting to say the least.

I have a husband and two cats. He works from home at his own business selling software, I work for a company that seems to think market research can make a lasting moral and spiritual impact on the planet.

Writing: There's a line in the movie "I Remember Mama" where Irene Dunn tells a famous author that her daughter also wants to be a writer. Famous Author asks: "Does she write, or does she just want to write?"

The answer for me is, no, and no. Other people want me to write because I'm pretty good at it. It's like tall people who are expected to be basketball stars but they really want to play with spreadsheets all day. Sorry Steph, I know you have high hopes for me! Can I make you a spreadsheet instead?

But I don't mind being creative. My favorite quote about creativity:

"My eyes burn from listening. I cannot only be the small sum of my experiences but must be a channel for those that I have never had and maybe never will. Otherwise, I can only hear the music through my finite human filter instead of hearing independent frequencies.

Frequency and tone are autonomous and of the multiverse not just of my meager knowing. We can transcribe musical experience from the multiverse if we can be exactly that - perceptive scribes and co-creators instead of needing to be the only creator, how lonely."
-Tori Amos, American Doll Posse (2007)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Artist Date Report

HI, all.

Sorry for the silence. The new puppy, a truckload of exam marking and an upcoming Board meeting totally sideswiped me this week--BUT I did find time for an Artist Date!

Al, my husband, was away on a trip this week, so one night I came home and the puppy and I collapsed in front of the tube to watch L'Albero degli zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs), a 1978 Italian epic film (three hours) about 19th-century peasant life in Lombardy.

It was an artistic experience for me on several levels:

  • while the background sounds (footsteps, birds, church bells, babies crying, etc.) were all audible, the Italian dialogue was completely mute--so that I had the English subtitles tell me the dialogue, but I didn't hear anyone speak. It was like watching a universe of telepathic people and gave a very calming (and eerie) aspect to the film.

  • the faces of the actors--who were local "peasants" according to what I've read--were amazingly expressive.

  • the depiction of the rural , peasant life made me feel the chill, the damp--and I liked it. It felt gritty and healthy and real.

  • the depiction of community made me very emotional; the community of tenant farmers spent the cold winter evenings in the stable, together with the livestock, telling stories, knitting, singing, saying the rosary. They sung together as they worked; they doctored each other as needed. It was so HUMAN.

  • the KNITTING in the movie was breathtaking. The shawls were the likes of which I have never seen: beautiful but very sturdy and wearable. I have been thinking about them for three days, and I think I need to design one based on one that a little girl was wearing which was a round shawl that somehow didn't fall off her shoulders as she milked cows or ran across fields. I am thinking of a version of Zimmermann's Pi Are Squared shawl--or a variation on an Irish pattern that I have. And I am going to use rugged, chunky Icelandic wool.

So I take away from the Date creative inspiration for a knitting project and memories of some haunting faces, scenes and scenery.

Narrative Time Line: A Tip

It occurred to me that one of the reasons I'm having such trouble with the narrative time line is that the categories that Cameron suggests do not feel natural to me: 0-5, 10-15, 15-20, etc. Some of the labels seem a bit misleading too (e.g., 10-15 as pre-adolescent).

I divided my time line into other categories: pre-nursery school, nursery school, elementary school, junior high, high school, college, twenties, thirties, etc. And that seemed to clarify my thinking about different eras.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Artist Date Ideas: A Master List

I would love to brainstorm artist date ideas. (I have one scheduled for Friday morning. I just don't know what it is yet.) What has worked well for you?

I'm going to list the ideas here from comments:

Museums (Getty, Getty Villa, LACMA, Museum of Jurassic Technology)
Observatories (Griffith Park)
Free Music Concerts (Jazz, Classical)
Free Theater (Independent Shakespeare Company)
The Natural World (parks, beaches, islands, urban landscapes with and without cameras)
Bead Stores
Plant Nurseries (as opposed to Child Nurseries, I suppose)
Antique Stores
Art Galleries
Arthouse movie theaters (where apparently Kel can get food delivered ?!?)
Thrift stores

Introduction: Kaye

Greetings! I am so excited to be here. I was a bit delayed in getting the book, but now that I have it, full speed ahead! A few years ago I had worked on The Artist's Way with a group of people which was a great experience. I think working with y'all will be awesome.

I hail from Burlington, Vermont. Burlington is about 2.5 hours away from Montreal which gives me that big city boost when I need it. I am originally from Southern California (Glendale). Though I miss the regular sunshine, Vermont is a lovely place and full of artists and free thinkers. By day, I work for a growing internet company that makes websites for car dealers. At night, I have a part time job at a grocery store which provides endless hours of entertainment.

I am single with a black cat named Tabby. I love to write, though am not disciplined as much as I would like to be. I am looking forward to making changes in my life with VOG and get more into my writing. My blog's pen name is Mrs. Han Solo because he's the hottest spaceman out there. (But maybe that's just me.)

Thanks goes out to Stephanie for encouraging me to do this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Narrative Time Line: Overcoming hurdles

It sounds like there may be a few of us working on the narrative time line at the same time (me, Femmista, tgr, Kel, and perhaps others: Linera? Ghost Girl? Mrs. Han Solo? Thea? Angela? Dawgma and Jordan are still in Artist's Way).

How has the narrative time line been for you?
What's worked? What hasn't worked?

It's a big hurdle for me. Big enough that I've focused on the tools (walks, morning pages, and dates) for the last two or three weeks.

I need to move through the Time Line. In some fashion. My childhood wasn't as bleak as the photo....

Monday, May 14, 2007

How are your daily walks going?

I thought we could check in about our daily twenty-minute walks. How are they going? Where are you walking to? How do you find the time? Are you skipping them? ;)

I'm walking in the backcountry behind our house in the morning with my dog. On Saturdays, I try to take a longer walk elsewhere.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

tgr, checking in!

Hey everyone!

I'm officially introducing myself now - thank you for the fabulous welcome in the last post.

I live near sunny Santa Monica, California, have a job that is a perfect fit for me, a fabulous partner, two kitties, wonderful friends and a little apartment that's stuffed to the gills with books, books and more books (and some other stuff too that's less worth mentioning - you know, furniture, food in the fridge). It sounds perfect, and yet somehow I haven't felt perfect in it - I've gotten so consumed with my professional life that I've somehow forgotten who I am outside of it. And I need to find a little more balance and remember who I used to be. I deserve to have my own life again. And my sweet (and very understanding) fella deserves more than the extra bits of time I have when I'm not working. Somehow in the growing up and getting a career and a grownup life on track I forgot about balance and rest and joy. I knew I needed something more, but I was just too busy to be bothered with spending time on it all. Silly me.

As my blogger profile suggests, I'm staring 30 in the face and while I think numbers are pretty arbitrary things, I also think that since we tend to think of our lives in units of ten, I want moving out of my twenties to feel significant, somehow. I've got just over two weeks left to figure out how, and this is a big piece of it.

I want to turn 30 with a new commitment to building a contemplative, joy-filled life for myself, and I intend to use Vein of Gold to get myself started. I've actually had the book for a couple of years but never really got serious about it, and eventually forgot that it was sitting there on the shelf. I wandered over to this blog at just the right time, and I'm very excited about jumping in and participating.

I don't much believe in signs, but when I opened the book for the first time a couple of days ago, I found these waiting for me! They feel familiar - I know I put them in there, but I have no memory of finding them or why I decided to press them in Vein of Gold. But what an auspicious way to begin!

Over the last year I've also been rediscovering my love of photography, with the help of a fabulous new digital SLR, and it's played a big role in helping me start to reclaim a life for myself outside of my professional one. You'll probably see more photos start to pop up from Artists' Dates (which I've yet to begin) and daily walks. In fact, yesterday I walked at a local park right next to the tiny Santa Monica airport, and enjoyed peeking through the fence to see the planes, as well as examining the textures of the eucalyptus trees that were scattered around the park.

I haven't really decided yet, though, whether I should force myself to leave the camera home when I'm walking. My photographer-self would mourn the lost opportunities, but I don’t know whether I’m more or less attentive to the world around me when I’ve got the camera at the ready. I think the biggest danger is certainly that I’d end up wanting to slow down too much, and my walk would become a staccato meander, only good for taking me from one photo op to the next. I think I can balance the urge out, though. I could make rules for myself – no stopping for more than ten seconds (oh, my), no multiple shots – one chance for each image – and no more than five (or maybe ten?) shots total for the walk. And every shot has to be something new that I hadn’t noticed before when walking. That’s a good discipline for my photography as well as a way to keep my walk authentic. We'll see how it goes.

I don't particularly care for photos of myself (one of the reasons I first got into photography - I could be on the other side of the lens!) but I know I'm supposed to post one as part of my introduction, so I'll share one that shows you my one sustained spiritual practice: snuggling with the kitty.

So far, I've managed to do my Morning pages for three days running, though I was feeling surly about it this morning. Can't tell yet if I'll be able to force myself to keep it up. And today will be my third daily walk. I created my list of "20 things you'd like to have manifest in your life" - I'll post them below. And now I'm tackling the narrative timeline. And it's kicking my butt. I know it's supposed to be hard, but I'm feeling quite overwhelmed at the idea of having to sum up my own life. Partly it's that I have a pretty extensive memory from my early life, and I'm exhausted just trying to put together notes about my childhood. At the moment I'm not feeling inspired to actually write any of it. And I'm not even past age 10 on my notes yet. I might just move right along past it so I can get on to other parts of the book, while I continue plugging away at is as I feel moved to do so. I really don't want my reluctance to focus on the timeline to derail my enthusiasm for the whole process. Are any of the rest of you working on yours yet? What's your experience so far?


20 Things I’d Like to Have Manifest in My Life

1. A regular spiritual practice
2. A sense of balance
3. Reclaim my innate sense of mystery & wonder
4. Comfort in showing my full self to the world
5. Lots of time to explore my photography, just for the joy of it
6. Strengthened connections to friends near & far
7. Start writing again
8. Better health – anemia under control, lots of energy, feel good about my physical self
9. My home to truly feel like home again
10. A contemplative, spiritual “nook” at home
11. Travel, seeing new places, whether big trips (some day) or day trips (today!) – just to get out there on a regular basis and see more of the world
12. More long talks with mom
13. Real progress toward that credential
14. To wake up every morning excited about the day that’s ahead (not still exhausted, not reluctant to start the day, not anxious about what needs to get done)
15. Plenty of time to read for pleasure
16. Feeling on top of things at work, not overloaded and stressed out
17. Much more music & song!
18. Rekindle connection to my younger, more joyful self
19. Get crafty – cultivate beauty on the cheap
20. To strive every day to live up to “My Symphony”

Welcome This Girl Remembers!

Or is it thisgirlremembers?

In either case, it's great to have you in our Cluster!

Friday, May 11, 2007


Guilt, guilt, guilt.

I must admit that since the puppy's arrival last Saturday, I haven't even opened Vein of Gold, much less had a quiet moment for Morning Pages. I have to figure out how to build them into the 5am morning pee adventure, shower, breakfast, morning walk and the office job that starts at 8am. Hmmm...

I have, however, had at least three 20-minute (or longer) walks each day, and a lot of watching, cuddling, cross-species communicating.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Are you dreaming more?

Here's something I had forgotten. Most of the time I don't dream, or if I do, I have no recall of my dreams in the morning. When actively pursuing creative journalling and other exercises like we get to do in Vein of Gold, I find my dreams suddenly get very active, vivid and I can recall them.
Are any of you finding the same thing?

Monday, May 7, 2007

How are your morning pages going?

I know that a bunch of people may have just purchased the book, but I thought I would ask how morning pages are going for y'all. How are the pages going? What are you finding tough about them? Easy? Can you get three pages squeezed out?

I filled up a lovely unlined Moleskine with morning pages between this and the artist's way, and moved to a lined journal, which I found terribly annoying. I'm trying the pages electronically. This is not what Cameron advises. But it's what I'm doing temporarily. Perhaps I need a Moleskin and a better pen.

If you haven't posted an introduction to yourself with a photo, description of hopes and aspirations for the group, and anything else, please consider doing so.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Introduction: Kel

G'day, I'm from Australia.

Until 18 months ago, my husband and I lived in one of the world's most liveable cities, Melbourne, Victoria. Now we live on a small island in the Gippsland Lakes.

That fact alone is one reason why I believe in the power of "The Artist's Way." Of course, there are a few factors that led us to take the plunge, leave all that was familiar, and start a new life. But completing "The Artist's Way" helped crystalise things. It gave me the guts to follow my dreams.

Following dreams is hard. While some days I have to pinch myself to check that it's all really happening, there are other days where the dream morphs into a nightmare. Lately there's been a few rough things happening. So it's time to check back in with the creative muse.

Things I'm passionate about: my man, my dog, creativity, spirituality, good coffee - and being part of a creative cluster. Thanx for having me guys. Looking forward to the journey.

Pop in and say hi @ the X facta.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Welcome Thea!

Glad you are here. :)

i'm in

I made it in, but I won't be active for a spell yet. thanks for the invite


As a Skeptic (or one who is still in the Skeptic Stage, not having done the Artist Way), I am fascinated when what Cameron advises turns out to not only work but ring true in the Wider Order. Like the puppy manifestation thing (I put a puppy on my list of 20 things, and 30 minutes later I get a call about a litter of puppies who are the right breed, the right age and nearby).

Sognatrice is a writer and blogger in Italy, and I read her blog this morning. She is not following Cameron's guidance explicitly, but as an artist she seems to be doing instinctively what I am being guided to do. In her post today, she blogs about five things she does everyday to be/feel successful, and they involve
  • quiet time of reflection
  • gratitude and love
  • walking
  • writing
From her blog, I also know that she takes regular Artist Dates, though she doesn't call them that.

It's a natural living out of what Cameron suggests and, for me, confirmation of its validity.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Artist Date #1

For my first official artist date, I sort of spontaneously decided to go to a local park near the San Andreas with my camera for an hour. I intended to take photos of landscape elements, with their extreme tilt (due to the tectonic forces at the fault) and did for a while. But it was extremely bright, and everything looked washed out rather than vibrant. So I turned downward.

I ended up with a collection of photographs of trash. More precisely, I looked for pieces of trash that were juxtaposed against the natural world in some way.

This photograph, for example, is breccia and a bottle (of Bud?).

Trash really wasn't everywhere at the park, just at the low points where it had settled if it was heavy or in the bushes where it had blown it if was light. This is a tissue stuck in some dry cheat grass near sandstone.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted the collection to have more of a Where's Waldo? feel to it, and began to focus on trash that was harder to see amid the landscape. This is yucca and green glass.

In any case, I seemed to be drawn to photographing trash and wandering around the rocks alone.

Welcome Kel!

Thanks to Kel, we are now an international team blog!

We have the US Southwest and the US West Coast covered, and now we have the Land Down Under.

Excellent and exciting--the more diverse the better when it comes to sharing ideas.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Cameron calls it “Imagic-nation”, but I prefer Dreamtime.

Cameron writes, “Desire (energy), coupled with imagination, creates form” (p. 34).

I can see how Michelangelo used this, how Bach used this, how Byatt uses this.

More importantly for me (being no AS Byatt), I see that it applies not only to the creation of what is commonly referred to as art but also to the creation of one’s future, one’s life.

I, of course, am thinking of the house that I desire, the puppy that I desire, the career that I desire.
Cameron seems to be a great believer in visualization and attainment.

My stumbling block is that I have known some visionaries—amazing, creative forces who did not always have the follow-through or practical ability to bring their visions into being.

So how does one have both the creative leap of faith and the nose-to-the-grindstone ability to make it happen? For every vision born is a bureaucracy to be negotiated. Or maybe I am just too rooted to the earthly plane of existence.

Her task to enter our imagic-nation through walking asks us to “Think about what you’d like more of, what you’d like less of, what would make you happier, which things make you glad” (p. 37).

This has been my meditation for the last year—before I ever picked up Vein of Gold—and I have yet to come up with very concrete answers. So I guess I need to walk more and be more focused on these questions. And, as Cameron reminds me, I need to stick with the positive and not get sidetracked by anxiety and fear.

Finally, Cameron suggests making a list of twenty things I would like to have manifest in my life—material, spiritual, intellectual, artistic. Here is my first go at such a list (I come up with thirteen before faltering):

1. calm and optimism related to my work
2. time for quiet reflection in each day
3. a puppy
4. more connection to outdoor things—more time spent in the outdoors
5. a feeling of belonging in my community and culture
6. gratitude (mine, felt for other people and things)
7. high-speed internet
8. daily reading
9. daily knitting
10. daily cooking
11. a home of my own
12. a good haircut
13. respect (earned from others)

In this chapter I discovered that Cameron has a home in New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment”, where I also live. So I'm looking for those ley lines!

Welcome Mrs. Han Solo!

And who among us did not want to be Mrs. Han Solo?

(Perhaps those who did not wait in line for two hours in 1977 to see the opening of Star Wars? I did!)

Unless, of course, you really are Harrison Ford's wife? (Stranger things have happened in the blogosphere...)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Introduction: Femminista della casa

Ms. T says we should do an introduction.

To this end, I was looking for a decent picture of myself, and the only one I could find is one used for some online work I do--hence the small size, since I nabbed it off their site and pasted it here. I like it because you can't see the acne scars.

My general life interests are in food, craft, health, literature, and sustainability, and, barring literature, this is what I blog about.

I am not a natural activist, but I do feel an obligation to act, given the general state of the planet.

I am not a naturally spiritual person either. I'm afraid that my basic nature cuts to the efficient and the practical and doesn't always soar to the bigger ideas.

However, I do feel bursts of great energy and creativity, and I'd like to explore that in a community of others doing so.

Welcome GhostGirl!

Aha! With the addition of GhostGirl, we are now FIVE.

I'd say that makes us a legitimate Cluster, don't you?

Transformative Transportation

I’ve just read the Setting Out chapter on walking, and, while I have to gag at Cameron’s pun-filled prose, I get the underlying ideas and they do indeed resonate.

I walk to work and I walk home, and, because I am trying to be a good Vein of Gold pilgrim, I shall try to incorporate an additional longer walk into my day as often as I can.

My walk to work in the morning is energizing—fresh morning air, quiet bird song, lovely light.

The walk home is less energizing than cathartic: an intense time of mental processing for me, something which I had not realized until now.

It is a short walk, but in that time I sometimes discover some inner rage that I had not let surface at work—and thus arrive home in a foul mood.

Sometimes, however, it is a time when optimism and humor come to the fore, when my exuberance is allowed to bubble up, when I notice beautiful things. (Today, I had a lovely encounter with a Eurasian Collared-Dove.)

The task of walking prayerfully, listing and vocalizing gratitude, also resonated. My new boss starts every meeting with a call for “appreciations”—something that is none too popular with the Old Guard present at the various meetings I attend. I too initially found it rather saccharine, but I like what Cameron says:

What you are actually doing is gaining altitude so that you can see life from a higher perspective, where you are able to recognize many more choices.


Welcome Dawgma!

Another member of our growing cluster! Dawgma has just joined!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Welcome Linera!

A hearty welcome to Linera, whose has just joined this blog and now makes us a creative cluster of three!

Introduction: Ms. Theologian


I'm one of two informal lay leaders of the Vein of Gold group.

I blog as Ms. Theologian, my co-leader is Femminista.

My general life interests are in spirituality, writing, and hiking. This photo was taken in Utah at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

I firmly believe the sacred circle rules in that creativity occurs in safe and accepting places, and that creativity is born of generosity.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Walking as a Spiritual Practice

Part of the Vein of Gold involves daily twenty-minute walks to reinvigorate yourself, process information, open yourself up to the beauty of the world, and express gratitude.

I've been walking regularly for years, but started a new routine a few months ago in the backcountry behind our house. I walk on an old Forest Service road.

The plant communities are mostly chapparal and oak woodland. We are at the edge of the Mojave, and have very little water. Everything that survives here must have adapted for a harsh life without much water.

Still, amid the harsh landscape, I find that there is such unexpected beauty here. This plant is a fire follower (I can't place its name, despite learning it as a naturalist).

I walk with my dog, who tends to scare off any wildlife. But I manage to surprise this baby side blotched lizard into staying still (middle of the frame).

Most of the trail is open and exposed. Usually I leave earlier in the day, but I couldn't seem to get out before 8 a.m. There is something raw and vulnerable about being this exposed with only rare opportunities for shade on the hillside.

And something so tiring when I finally make it to the oak tree where I sit before heading back. (Just so you know, this is really not a good photo of me, unless you want to see what I look like after a workout and with not enough sleep).

I'm developing quite the courtship of this particular oak tree. In wet years, it shades a swimming hole. But most years, it simply shades an arroyo and the rare hiker who manages to find this bit of shade in the desert.

I say my morning prayers under the oak. Most of my prayers are of gratitude for being alive and being allowed to survive and thrive. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Artist Date #1

Just got back from my first Artist Date.

I spent about 1 1/2 hours walking around a historic residential district of a nearby town. It is a sunny spring day today, and I intended to focus on architecture and gardens. Instead, I picked up on much more: sounds, smells, imagined interiors, and some soul searching.

I smelled freshly cut planks and wet paint from workmen and DIYers; I heard music from passing cars and dogs barking in yards; I exchanged greetings with porch-sitters whom I passed.

I thought I would take photos to share but felt uncomfortable photographing people's homes. I took pictures of the homes that were for sale and started to indulge my fantasy of having a home of my own (I've blogged about it twice on my other blog--here and here--and it isn't a feeling that seems to be abating). I want roots. Or major change.

I was melancholy the whole time. And restless. And introspective, despite my plan to focus on the external rather than the internal.

I've been nearly ten years in the same location with the same employer. My passion has been my work--but I think I may be burning out on that. I think I need a new passion, and my thoughts turn to three things: career change, housing change, or adopting a puppy. Or all three.

In the end, the Date was a meditative act, which was, I think, useful, but perhaps didn't quite meet Cameron's directive.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our Creative Cluster

Just read the Setting Out chapter on Creative Clusters.

So far, we are a creative cluster of two, but I'm hoping some others from the blogosphere will join.

And why not join? It is all about playing!

In this chapter, I learned that clusters are supportive, not competitive, and that we should share actual work with the tools and not gripe about the obstacles.

So please disregard most of my posts so far. Oops.

The Task for this chapter is to make a cluster list. Cameron talks about clusters working by phone and by letter. She does not mention blogs, but perhaps that is because I have a 1997 version of the book.

Then she says to move on that list and set up the cluster.

I think Ms. T and I have already moved on that point by creating this blog, and Ms. T has actually already made a list and invited people.

I need to be more proactive about inviting blog friends. I will send out some invitations now.

Damn. Forgot To Do Morning Pages.

This morning I was in the shower, running late, when I realized that on Day Two of my Vein of Gold Odyssey I had forgotten to do Morning Pages. Not yet a habit. Damn.

Then I thought maybe I could squeeze them in at work.

Then I remembered Ms. T's post about the office worker who kept a journal at work and got fired.

So now I am doing Lunch Hour Pages.

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Artist Date

I've been going for the low-cost artist dates. This is from last night's artist date that involved me, a sketch pad, and some aged watercolors. Uhm. It's a mountain, just in case that wasn't clear. I've titled it, "The Mountain." I just painted what I wanted and didn't really judge the result. :)

Other successful artist dates: The 97 Cent Store (twice), Staples (once), the Salvation Army (three times), Goodwill (once), the creek (three times), and one session with play-doh. I suppose the point is that they tend to be low-cost things that I want to do, and enjoy, rather than what I "should" do to be a better artist.

Creative Deepening: Artist Dates

I have just read the introductory chapter on Artist Dates, and here is something I think I knew but never articulated:

“breakthroughs occur when focused, rational thought and activity are followed by a period of release” (p. 18).

I think I am good at periods of release. I have cultivated the idea of making time for fun, and, aside from guilt about what I think of as my own hedonism, I find this time to be beneficial.

My regularly scheduled periods of release--things I do for me and not for some Grander Purpose--are (1) a weekly hour at the local hot springs with my superbly creative friend Edith and (2) a weekly hour and a half spent with new crafting friends at a Kaffee Klatsch.

But these cannot be counted as Artist Dates. Artist Dates need to be solo engagements--things I plan and do on my own, for my Self, to re-stock my imagination.

So, a weekly task is a weekly planning of a weekly Artist Date.

What to do?

This week, on Wednesday afternoon, I am going to walk through a historic residential district of a nearby town, looking at the architecture.

I have a walking guide brochure that explains some of the history of the neighborhoods, and I will finish in a park near the library, where I will sit and listen and watch. I might take my camera (is that allowed?) so that I can capture and keep any images that really speak to me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

DEFIANCE re Morning Pages

Ok, so I am on page 17, and I am already set to break the rules.

Not being a natural rule-breaker (I like rules), I’ve already broached this with Ms. T, and she seems ok with it:

I am not doing my Morning Pages in longhand. No paper. No pen. No way.

I am going to keyboard them, for several reasons:
  • my hands, used to keyboarding all the time, cramp up if I attempt to write longhand. (I am left handed, and I do have that uncomfortable, crooked southpaw way of holding the pen. Ouch.)

  • I get none of the aesthetic pleasure Cameron hints at by writing longhand.

  • writing longhand is less sustainable—filing up pages and pages of actual paper with things no one is going to read vs filling up virtual pages stored on a microchip. I am trying to have less "stuff" around me, not more; pages of my stream of consciousness are not what I'd like to have cluttering my life.

And when Cameron says we have to write longhand because "there is an energy to the hand," I answer her thus: keyboarding is still using our hands to write—it is just using a different writing implement with which to write.

Cameron does admit to being archaic. With that I agree.

Setting Out

So I've begun.

I've just read the first chapter, an introduction, and I must admit that my Skeptic is lustily bellowing all kinds of warnings.

As I read this first chapter, there are two ideas I note:

  • "the tools of Vein of Gold will be more deeply felt, and therefore more deeply resisted, than the tools of The Artist's Way."* (p. 5)

  • "Art is made through a series of moments--choices--leading each to the next. Life is made in the same way." (p. 12)
I also note that Cameron suggests time to be spent in each "kingdom", but I do not know if I'll be able to hold myself to a schedule. She suggests four weeks in the first kingdom and two weeks in all the others. That's a sixteen-week journey--but I expect I'll take longer.

*Cameron's editor has not been consistent on the use of "the" in the titles of her books. Sometimes the titles include the definite article; sometimes they don't. Perhaps it depends on which edition...?

Sacred Circle

I thought it would be best to establish some ground rules for any group work that occurs. I'm a little put-off by the phrase "sacred circle" to describe group work, but it is Cameron's phrase, and I really like the rules she suggests, so I'm going to post them below and in the side column:

Sacred Circle Rules (p. 210 of The Artist's Way)

1. Creativity flourishes in a place of safety and acceptance.
2. Creativity grows among friends, withers among enemies.
3. All creative ideas are children who deserve our protection.
4. All creative success requires creative failure.
5. Fulfilling our creativity is a sacred trust.
6. Violating someone's creativity violates a sacred trust.
7. Creative feedback must support the creative child, never shame it.
8. Creative feedback must build on strengths, never focus on weaknesses.
9. Success occurs in clusters and is born in generosity.
10. The good of another can never block our own.

Monday, April 16, 2007


This team blog is a space for those who are working through The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron.

It is a space to ask questions, share discoveries, write out tasks, report progress.

It is a work-at-your-own-pace space.

You are welcome to join.

All you need is

(1) a copy of The Vein of Gold

2) an invitation to join this blog--which you can get by contacting me and requesting an invitation. Email me at femministadellacasa AT gmail DOT com. In your email, please let me know if you'd like to be listed as a member on the side bar--and if you'd like that listing to link to your blog. (If so, I'll need to know your blog url.)

When you post, please label your post according to the chapter or Kingdom or task you are working on--that way, we can visit posts that are relevant to what we are working on at the moment.

See you on the journey!