Archive for April, 2008

The Gift: A Fiddler Tidbit

April 30, 2008

For all those people who come to my blog looking for fiddler crab information, a small tidbit I found. And I can verify the 10-gallon tank part. I have three fiddler crabs – 2 females and one male and the 10-gallon tank gives them enough room so nobody kills anybody else. Anyway, the gift:

“In the aquarium they are happiest in pairs, as sometimes one female will kill extra crabs in her tank. This is less likely to happen in very large tanks. It is recommended to house them in at least a ten gallon tank. They do not thrive as single pets.”

And the real news flash at this website article ( Essortment: Fiddler Crabs as Pets) “Crabs are not affectionate pets.” 🙂

The Post – Agony in the Garden: If Jesus Needed To Do It, Why Do I Think I Don’t?

April 30, 2008

I was just looking over the “blog stats” page on WordPress for my blog – they’re not elaborate statistics, mostly total page views per day, what pages were accessed, and the list of search terms some people used when they stumbled across my blog. Amazing to me are the number of people who are looking for fiddler crab information. I will have to keep that in mind and remember to pass on any new things I learn, for their benefit.

I also spotted an unusual search term: “the agony in the garden.” My mind flashed immediately to all those Good Friday services in church, reading the various Gospels describing Jesus waiting to be turned over to the soldiers before His crucifixion. One of the things that always caught my ear in those gospels was the number of times Jesus kept asking His disciples to stay up with Him, be with Him, pray with Him, and how He complained to them when they kept falling asleep. I think what always surprised me was that Jesus almost sounded….whiny…scared…..human.

All through the Gospels as Jesus traveled and preached, He sounded wise, patient, compassionate, forgiving, amused, even angry….together. But weak? Frightened? At the end of His rope? Needy? He sounded almost like ….us.

Now most of us can’t stand it when we or the people around us act like that, never mind Jesus. Our immediate reaction is more like “get a grip,” “grow up,” “stop whining,” or my usual comment around the house: “You got a backbone?! Then use it!” I have to admit, I almost felt uncomfortable with this Jesus. He wasn’t ….perfect.

Maybe that was the point. I think He wanted to show us that EVERYBODY has their moments of falling apart. Sure, we can’t go around whining to everybody all the time about every little thing. But you know, life can be hard. Sometimes it can really suck. And sometimes, even grown adults want “Mommy.” They want to whine, stamp their feet, have a good cry, complain that it’s not fair. And sometimes grown adults are just plain scared.

Now the Catch-22 is that they don’t want to admit it or EVER let anybody else see that side of them. Nobody wants another to know our “shadow” side….see those moments when we’re not together, when we mess up, or are just plain needy.

My favorite Stephen King anecdote is when he tells of driving somewhere while his wife read one of his manuscripts. He kept glancing over at her, anxiously awaiting her verdict, until finally she snapped at him, “Will you stop being so goddamned needy?!”

The reality is, there’s not a human being alive who doesn’t have their “locked in the bathroom, crying behind closed doors, convinced you’re a failure, needy moments.” I think Jesus was telling us to stop pretending we have it all together all the time, because we don’t. Even He didn’t. He knew what it was to be human, to freak out for a few moments convinced you aren’t up to the task before you.

The thing about it is, when the time came, He was up to the task. Jesus even had the presence of mind to heal the man whose ear Peter cut off, and to tell Peter to put away his sword. I think Jesus is letting us know, it’s okay to fall apart sometimes…in fact, it’s probably necessary now and then to just break down and cry. Feel your fear, acknowledge your anxiety. Maybe it’s even empowering. Once you have felt those, the only way is up. You get up, you wipe your eyes, brush yourself off, take a deep breath, and get back to being a grownup…get on with the task you thought you couldn’t do. Because you can.

So I guess the agony in the garden was that Gospel reading that gave me permission to “not always have it all together.” Just remember to get back up after you finish crying. If Jesus can have His moments, it’s okay for us too.

The Gift

April 29, 2008

“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow.”

Chinese Proverb

The Post – Leave it to Black Elk, Thomas Merton, and David to Get Things Back on Track

April 29, 2008

Sunday’s gift post read:

“I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which this power could come to the two-leggeds.

If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power would come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.”

Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Souix (1863-1950)

I owe a thank-you to Black Elk. He reminded me of something I’d been forgetting.

It’s been a long winter. Illness, colonoscopy, biopsies, endoscopy, more biopsies, lack of sleep, ER and doctor visits, pulled muscles…. Over the course of 4 months my coping abilities went through the floor while my exhaustion skyrocketed. I kept going, but it felt like I was carrying a 10-ton load on my back, and not very well.

The pulled muscles were the icing on the cake as that took away my treasured daily walks, my meditative time when I do a rosary. When I was younger I thought the rosary was boring and useless. These days I’ve grown to love it. And for whatever reason, its effect seems to be most powerful when on my walks – the synergy of prayer and nature. The repetition of the prayers are a meditation of sorts — one of those types of ceremonies Black Elk refers to — that centers you, restores you, gives you love to share with others, and opens that hole in your soul that allows the Universe to work through you. And for the record, anything really worthwhile or successful that I’ve “done” in life, I didn’t really do. That power came from elsewhere.

In any event, with everything that had happened over the winter, my rituals had become infrequent. Not done on purpose, just that not feeling well, I figured I’d let it go until I felt better. That was a mistake. I’d forgotten that my true power came from opening to something greater than myself. I was like a car on empty, continuing to drive without stopping to refuel. How far can you really go doing that?

Black Elk said that in his own life, without that outer world power coming through the hole in him, anything he tried to do was foolish. I could relate.

Once Black Elk caught my ear, of course Thomas Merton decided to chime in. Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk, a spiritual contemplative, who was a prolific writer and a visionary and who studied with monastics of other traditions, including the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. Anyway, on the wall over my desk, I have this piece Merton wrote:

“The more you can work in a spirit of detachment, the closer you come to working for God than working for yourself, and the less strain there is on your nerves. You do not worry about things so much, and therefore, you don’t get so confused, so mixed up, so tired. In fact, you recognize that your self-love, your pride, is trying to take over the work by your reaction. When you’re exhausted and upset and haunted by work that seems to be going badly, it means that you’re working for yourself and are taking the consequences. But when you are free, you work with an ease that amazes you. Half the time, without any necessity for special thought on your part, God seems to remove obstacles and do half the work for you. When God wants a thing done, the speed with which it achieves completion and success almost takes your breath away.”

I realized I’d not been working in any kind of spirit, much less one of detachment, and I was taking the consequences. I’d forgotten that I am that hole Black Elk speaks of, the tool to be used, not the power behind it. I needed that force to remove the obstacles, and carry the load. In reality, we are all that hole….each of us is the tool to be used by a power greater than us if we allow it. And it’s that power that can achieve great things, things much larger than we can ever do alone. I’d just forgotten about that.

As soon as that light bulb went off, I decided it was time to get back to walking, even if only briefly, and it was time to also start that rosary again. Its amazing, but even before I finished that first walk and rosary, I could feel the shift in myself. It was like coming home.

Psalm 121, the Song of Ascents says:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

So, David, Black Elk and Thomas Merton, three different holy men from different times and cultures, but they all pointed to the same source, and they all spoke the same language – that of the soul. I am grateful to all three.

The Gift

April 28, 2008

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

Dalai Lama

The Post – New England Seascape painting – set 2 – details

April 28, 2008

Here’s a few updated shots of oil painting details. First up, the lighthouse. I managed to conquer it – finally got those sloping sides right and then was able to move onto railings and bars an antennae etc. Some days, things just come together…like it was the day for it or something. In any event, I am pleased with the lighthouse, right down to the little rivulets of water draining over the rocks and back into the surf:

Here’s the finished fishing boat that the other day was just a base layer of color, and now yes, it even has the churned up foam as it plows through a wave:

Last for today – the side of the wharf shed isn’t complete without a scattering of lobster buoys hanging on it’s side.

I will note that after I shot all these, I then sat down to paint and realized I’d forgotten to put some “reflections” in the water…so next set of pictures, I’ll include the reflections, as well as a couple shots of the finished town buildings.

Now, on to the waves in the middle and front of the picture. After that it’s time to finish up the rock details in front, and add some tide pool creatures up close on the right front bottom corner. To be continued…

The Gift

April 27, 2008

“I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which this power could come to the two-leggeds.

If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power would come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.”

Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Souix (1863-1950)

The Post – Insight

April 27, 2008

I had this idea last summer about selecting an emotion, and trying to put it on canvas…just let whatever arose in me when thinking of and feeling that emotion, flow down through the paintbrush, into the oil paints and emerge on the canvas. I started two of them – one called “Insight” and the other called “Uncertainty.”

Uncertainty is half-finished…I think. Maybe more than half. Maybe less. I’m uncertain. 🙂 Actually, sorry, just couldn’t resist joking around. It is not finished yet, though after staring at it on the garage wall for a year, I sense now what to do to finish conveying that. Sometime this week, I’ll post pictures of the current state of that painting, then get back to work on it.

The one I have here today, Insight, I just finished this week. It was actually “just about” complete last year, but I kept staring at it and feeling it lacked enough depth. This past week I did a bit more and feel better with it. So I think it’s done. Unless I change my mind. : ) Even in insight, there is uncertainty.

In actuality, I think that was the thing I discovered about insight as I painted it. I know for myself, and maybe others feel this too, that when someone speaks of “gaining insight into something” the perception is that lightbulbs go off, the sun blindingly breaks through blackness, angels sing, and music blares because now, having insight, everything is solved.

I realized as I painted and thought about it, that insight is much more subtle, less certain, and often still pretty tentative. You have that lightbulb moment, yes. Out of TOTAL darkness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, there is suddenly a glow up ahead that shows a way out. However, it is still not without shadows and dark crevices. Just because you gained some insight into something doesn’t mean you solved it all and now all your problems are over. Like Jesus sending the Apostles back out to fish in the morning after they spent an entire night catching nothing, gaining an insight doesn’t free you from the fact that you still have work to do and probably some things still to clarify.

Yet, there is that glow, a highlight showing the way, hope out of despair, and maybe hope is insight’s biggest gift.


Close-ups of the top and bottom halves of the painting:

The Gift

April 26, 2008

Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.

Black Elk

The Post – New England Seascape – 1st set

April 26, 2008

I’m going to save most comments for picture captions, but here is the first set of pictures. This is a New England seascape done in oils, in progress. A gift for my sister and brother-in-law. The canvas is an odd size – 12 inches by 36 inches and as such, a challenge for composition – long and narrow. But still, a fun thing to try. I’ve got a somewhat poor shot of the overall painting, then a number of shots – closeups of various parts of the painting. Most of these are in “base layer” stage – they still need finishing details and colors. I did complete the details on these over the last 2 days, and later today, I’m going to shoot pics of some of these finished closeup areas – the town, the wharf buildings, the fishing trawler, the lighthouse – to show the difference as the painting progresses. But for now, set 1, New England seascape:

Lighting is a bit off here…so much for “auto” mode on the camera, but a shot of the whole painting just to give an idea of layout.

The lighthouse has been fighting me from the beginning, even in sketches. It has gently sloping sides and lots of details. Given that I’m still struggling to get a base coat down and still haven’t got the “sloping sides” right, a battle still to be fought.

Very base layers of the residential area of the town with a really rough church in the background. The black blob in the middle, will eventually be a Corvette, a gift for my brother-in-law…the only Corvette I can afford to give him. But it IS the thought that counts. 🙂

The rock pier and wharf buildings are farther along but still need some touch ups. The red building on the end is the often-photographed shed in Rockport Massachusetts that you see on all the calenders. Maybe common to some, but I love the building so I put it in.

Again, a roughed out fishing boat just “plopped” on the water. Aside from details, some foam and waves would be good.

Just a long shot of the right side of the painting. The roughed out rocks in front will need a lot more detail and the “pool” of water, will be a tide pool, complete with some rockweed, strips of kelp, blue mussels, and other tide pool critters. Maybe even a hermit crab…. 🙂

A mid-painting shot…

And a shot from the left. The effect I want is to feel like you’re right at the tide pool level with the waves being driven right at you as they crash against the rocks.

These remaining shots are just some close-ups of the wharf buildings with lobster traps stacked against them, as well as a closeup or two of the tide pool area. In any event, the next set of pics will have a fair bit of progress. Stay tuned!!!