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A New Light
From our darkest hour, bright new joy may appear
For me, a new light appeared in late 2009.
After my husband died, life presented me with a new option, what I thought would be a fairy tale story of love and family. It meant leaving my beloved California and moving to a small town in Arkansas, but I thought it was worth it. I would get time with the woman who had always been my second mother and her son, the first love of my childhood.
That fantasy crashed all too soon, leaving me bereft, free floating without a clue about what to do with my 64-year old life. When a friend invited me to move to Colorado, I loaded up my essentials and drove a monster U-Haul to a small town near Boulder. There I hunkered down with layers of grief, which were almost as deep as the snow that came early that year and then stayed for that long, cold winter.
“Miksang Photography: focusing on learning (or re-learning) how to see
A small notice for a workshop about a different kind of photography captured my attention and lured me out of a shell that was growing all too comfortable. The description didn’t bill itself as “life changing,” so my expectations were minimal.
Looking back though, it now seems like a portal between “then” and “now.” However, it took a new friend with new ideas and exactly the right words to pull me into that unpaved territory. The workshop assignment was to see things in a new way and capture only the essence of what we were seeing. Diane and I connected early in the workshop and met for lunch on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall where we began to exchange life stories.
Memory is bright: the leather feel of the booth, shoppers passing by our window, the easy conversation that flowed between us until something I said prompted a response from her that broke time into before and after.
“Your cup is empty.”
Her words telegraphed through my body and found their mark. Tears began to flow as I recognized their truth. I was empty ... broken open, depleted and disconsolate, far from the dyed-in-the wool, rose-colored-glasses, cheerful optimist that I had been. Three years of loss had piled one on top of another until I was sitting there in a strange state feeling utterly alone, homeless, rootless, with no solid ground to stand on.
In a strange way though, recognizing myself as an empty vessel, gave me hope: I just needed a way to refill myself. This is where the real magic began.
Diane had flown in from the Northwest for the Miksang workshop. She had already created a body of work that she described as contemplative photography, images that captured moments of great beauty and peace. She wrote about these moments and published both her images and poetry on a blog.
The moment she showed me her blog, a shock of recognition ran through me. I had blogged for years as part of my work with InnovationNetwork but had let it drop when the economic downturn leading up to 2008 effectively destroyed that part of my life. Seeing her beautiful images and words on her laptop electrified me. I knew I could do that with my own art and words and recognized that it might help me refill my cup.
Within weeks, my own blog made its way into the world and, over the past 14 years, has given me a place to write about my life in more than 1200 posts … probably close to a million words primarily about my journey over those years along with hundreds of pieces of digital art made along the way.
That’s a lot of self-reflection and my cup is no longer empty. My life brims over with joy, beauty, friendship, health, and gratitude for everything that comes my way. From that abundance has come a desire to share what wisdom I’ve gathered and what I continue to learn. And from that desire came a niggling recognition that blogging was not the best mechanism for sharing the hard won wisdom I wanted to share.
Last fall, as Lynne Snead (my friend who had invited me to Colorado back in those dark days) and I finished developing a new journal on gratitude (Gratitude Mojo), we began looking at ways to share it and came across Substack, a newsletter platform for writers which calls itself “A new, economic engine for culture.”
I was vaguely familiar with Substack through Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters from an American” and, after getting a little more familiar with it, set up “Gratitude Mojo” and began the process of shifting away from my blog.
My appreciation for the community of writers Substack is developing grew rapidly and out of that appreciation came a new idea which I will talk more about with the next post.
In the meantime …
Please meet Diane Walker, photographer, poet, painter, and the friend who changed my life with a few words and an example of what an artistic life might look like. More about her and her art at https://www.dwalkerarts.net/
Diane Walker's colorful abstract paintings reflect both the joy she finds in the natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest and her concerns about the world around her. Inspired by her daily contemplative practice, she approaches each canvas as an opportunity to explore what might need to be painted through her in that moment. The result is evocative work that invites viewers into a thoughtful and occasionally whimsical space which sometimes calms the soul, sometimes reflects current events, and always inspires the imagination.
Question: What fills your cup?
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In good times and challenging ones, practicing gratitude helps us recognize the good things in our lives and build resilience for the challenges that come our way. Gratitude journaling is one of the best ways to better understand yourself and deepen your practice of gratitude.
Any journal will do … however, here are two we are biased toward:
Gratitude Miracles, a 52-week journal filled with inspiring quotes and the science behind 13 amazing benefits of gratitude. Available from amazon.com:
Or, Gratitude Mojo, a 26-week, workbook format, which comes to you free with your annual paid subscription … including one copy for a friend because having a Gratitude Buddy makes the journey better.
We want to help everyone develop a deeper practice of gratitude, therefore, all posts are always free. … However, it is paid subscriptions that help support this work.