Connections… Conversation… Community

This post is dedicated to my father, Dr. Leo Thomas “Tom” Rozum, who passed away Thursday, August 27, 2015. May we all be mindful of creating meaningful opportunities to connect with one another during our short time on this earth. It’s never too late to reach out and tell people you love them.

Tom Rozum in his boat (1976)

Feeling isolated? Blue? Out of sorts? Perhaps those feelings are a cue to take a look at where you are investing your time and energy. If you’re shutting yourself away from people – actual people, not visages on TV or the internet – this could be the root of your discontent. The trappings of a modern world netted with technology can make us forget how important is to have face-time with one another. But these real connections matter greatly.

“When we’re connected to others, we become better people.”

~Randy Pausch, ‘The Last Lecture’

fish network sky by dmitry zhuravlev‘Fish, Network, Sky’ by Dmitry Zhuravlev

Put your greatest energy into personal relationships. Listen to your passions rather than focusing on material concerns. Connect and engage mindfully with living, breathing people in your community and beyond. Risk being vulnerable and show others your authentic self.

People need to touch, see, and read each other directly. As social beings, we need to engage regularly in connection opportunities which utilize our entire repertoire of human cues.

connetions by denthe ‘Connections’ by Denthe

There are invisible threads which connect us to one another. Grasp them! You are are interconnected with every living being whether you realize it or not. Get to know your web-mates and cultivate relationships of depth. Your health and happiness depend upon doing so.

You can choose to see yourself as a lone, slender thread. Or you can let your inner light illuminate the other threads which are in intricate, tender connection with your own.

slender thread

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa

visiting friends again by robert tarr ‘Visiting Friends Again’ by Robert Tarr

Do you see yourself as part of one big group of several smaller ones? Are your boundaries loose or tight?

groups

“In this painting I used different colours to represent the different groups of people in the world. On the left side of the painting, I tried to resemble the world in my eyes. Groups all separated by different things, with the black lines and white words representing those things. On the right I painted what peace would mean to me, all the groups being mixed together, with the happy and peaceful colours around everyone.”

~Shannon Pennifold, 14 years, Red Deer, Canada

cross paths by abol bahadori ‘Cross Paths’ by Abol Bahadori

It’s funny how, in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope.

~Steve Maraboli

belonging by ricklene wren‘Belonging’ by Ricklene Wren

We all yearn to be known and valued, to belong, to find meaning together and to work together. Poet and spiritual teacher John O’Donohue reminds us that:

“Belonging is related to longing. If you hyphenate belonging it yields a lovely axiom for spiritual growth. Be your longing. Longing is a precious instinct in the soul. Where you belong should always be worthy of your dignity.”

little treasure by brigit byron coons‘Little Treasure’ by Brigit Byron Coons

“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.”

~Mollie Marti

vintage story circle

Don’t forget to be thankful for and to create opportunities to share stories.

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe. ” – Neil Gaiman

sharing stories by kara hendershot‘Sharing Stories’ by Kara Hendershot

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize.

~Chimamanda Adichie

going fishing ‘Going Fishing’ by Elin Pendleton

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…”

“Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” (Chapter 22, Howards End)

**********

“Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the gray, sober against the fire.”

– From chapter 22, Howards End (1910)

— E.M. Forster​, Howards End

only connect gravestone

Are you familiar with the concept of Ubuntu? It’s truly lovely and I reflect on its meaning often.

Ubuntu is a synonym of humaneness; it involves having a spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness with others. Ubuntu is an African philosophy that provides an understanding of the human being in relation with the world.

There is no English equivalent to the word Ubuntu. The Nguni word from South Africa refers to the capacity to express compassion, justice, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building, maintaining and strengthening community. It is about the self being so rooted in the community, that your personal identity is defined by what you give to the community. ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am’ is a good example of the ‘self-in-community’ foundation that gives rise to sayings in Zulu, such as ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ — ‘It is through others that one attains selfhood.’

ubuntu

When we acknowledge how much we depend on each other, we can rise above our relatively small differences.

chained together by salemo‘Chained Together’ by Salerno

September 2010, acrylic paint. Done for “The Peace Project” art exhibit sponsored by The Whole 9. For this piece, symbolism substituted for realism. The inspiration came from a story in which people chained together at a banquet table must cooperate or starve.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ‘Community’ by Aleathia Brown

Have you lost an appreciation for the art of conversation? Do you set aside adequate time for it?

conversation by ruth parson ‘Conversation’ by Ruth Parson

If not, make efforts to spend some time with a trusted friend. It will do your spirit a world of good!

la conversation by henri matisse‘La Conversation’ by Henri Matisse

And remember to get outside in nature which is so nurturing for the soul! Converse with nature and other humans at the same time and find yourself lifted in a harmonious way.

conversation by rosalie nadeau ‘Conversation’ by Rosalie Nadeau

Many people on their deathbeds lament that they did not spend enough time with their friends. Prevent similar regrets by cherishing friendships as so deserved. And build new ones with diverse people who add vibrancy, richness and interest to your friendship bouquet.

friendship by ricky chou ‘Friendship’ by Ricky Chou
“It says we met in this world, and we can enjoy each other… Because in this world we are the same. You are Western, I am Oriental. But we met and we can enjoy each other. The fish in the painting are different, but they are the same. They don’t know each other but they can enjoy each other together. In the whole world everybody is strangers, but it doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. I did not know you before, but now we can understand each other and be friends.”

togetherness by adeyinka fabayo‘Togetherness’ by Adeyinka E. Fabayo

We all feel alone sometimes, and perhaps that is part of the human condition.  Yet connections exist all around. It is up to us to see them or not.

“When you look into the faces of these quiet creatures who don’t know how to tell stories–who are mute, who can’t make themselves heard, who fade into the woodwork, who only think of the perfect answer after the fact, after they’re back at home, who can never think of a story that anyone else will find interesting–is there not more depth and more meaning in them? You can see every letter of every untold story swimming on their faces, and all the signs of silence, dejection, and even defeat. You can even imagine your own face in those faces, can’t you?”

― Orhan Pamuk

i am not alone ‘I Am Not Alone’ by Angela Treat Lyon

MY TRIBE – by Alberto Blanco
(English translation: James Nolan)

Earth is the same
sky another.
Sky is the same
earth another.

From lake to lake,
Forest to forest”
Which tribe is mine?
— I ask myself —
Where’s my place?

Perhaps I belong to the tribe
Of those who have none;
Or to the black sheep tribe;
Or to a tribe whose ancestors
come from the future:
A tribe on the horizon.

But if I have to belong to some
tribe
— I tell myself —
Make it a large tribe,
Make it a strong tribe,
One in which nobody
Is left out,
In which everybody,
For once and for all
Has a God-given place.

I’m not talking about a human
tribe.
I’m not talking about a planetary
tribe.
I’m not even talking about a
universal one.

I’m talking about a tribe you can’t
talk about.
A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence must yet be
proven.

A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence
We can prove right now.

a coming together by d.m. le bris ‘A Coming Together’ by D.M. Le Bris

A Friendship in Flowers: Paintings by Irma Freeman

a friendship in flowers - irma freeman

After emigrating to the U.S., Irma Freeman lived a good part of her life in poverty. Yet, despite her personal hardships, in her paintings she created a richness that inspired her family and friends, as well as a following of young artists. In particular she often received the gift of flowers for her to paint, often from her friend Joan Brindle’s garden. Irma’s colors were vivid and surreal. No matter where she was, or how dreary her environment seemed to others, her paintings drew from a place beyond her reality where she transformed her life into a vase full of no ordinary flowers. Although she lived in her poverty stricken home, she metamorphosed it into some sort of wealth of color that was incredible to those around her. Through her beautiful flowers and landscapes, she made others see what she saw. It was if she had some sort of fairy tale she was telling though painting, a fantasy of her own imagination. It is her notion of imagination and wonderment that lead us to an idyllic world: using color and form, she was able to transcend her little city row house into a palace of dreams. http://www.irmafreeman.com/irma_freeman_center/past_exhibitions.html

Blessed in the spirit of Camaraderie

‘Blessed in the Spirit of Camaraderie’ by Fauna Warfield

When is the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger who piqued your interest?

the encounter by johannes ittenJohannes Itten – Die Begegnung (The Encounter)

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

~Fydor Dostoevsky 

circle of friends by delilah smith ‘Circle of Friends’ by Delilah Smith

The artful expression below called ‘All In Our Boxes’ is strangely captivating and a bit unsettling. How does it make you feel?

'all in our boxes'

Can you imagine how you might react upon seeing this while taking a walk through the woods? What would Thoreau say?

starry beach

Give place to others, as others have given place to you. Equality is the soul of equity. Who can complain of being comprehended in the same destiny, wherein all are involved?

~Michael de Montaigne

bridges not walls

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

~Isaac Newton

(Photo: Alsace, France, Jean-Michel Priaux)

understandingMarrit (gr. 6, right) and Luuk (gr. 1, left)

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” -Ralph Nichols

in the shelter of each other by tammy olson‘In the Shelter of Each Other’ by Tammy Olson

Storytelling is incredibly powerful, yet we often fail to appreciate its value in our lives. Do you make time for sharing stories with others?

Here are some reasons to do so:

  • Storytelling influences change at individual practice as well as organisational level
  • Listening to stories facilitates better person-centred care and can lead to improved services
  • Hearing personal stories engenders greater understanding, empathy and reflection
  • Rapport, trust and care can be nurtured in practitioner-service user relationships through storytelling
  • Personal storytelling benefits the teller as it can empower, encourage personal growth and build resilience
  • Due consideration needs to be given to ethical issues in storytelling and telling stories has the potential to be demoralising and disempowering for the teller

[This Insight was written by Michelle Drumm (IRISS) – http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/role-personal-storytelling-practice]

storytelling (1)

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. ~Irish Proverb

connedtedness by eliz kim‘Connectedness’ by Eliz Kim

“The important element is the way in which all things are connected. Every thought and action sends shivers of energy into the world around us, which affects all creation. Perceiving the world as a web of connectedness helps us to overcome the feelings of separation that hold us back and cloud our vision. This connection with all life increases our sense of responsibility for every move, every attitude, allowing us to see clearly that each soul does indeed make a difference to the whole.” ~Emma Restall Orr

human structures and the light of consciousness

“The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.”
~Frederick Buechner

‘Human Structures & The Light of Consciousness’ art display by sculptor Jonathan Borofsky. Borofsky describes his work as being connected through “the search for human understanding – symbols that give us a feeling of connection to each other.”http://www.percontra.net/12borofsky.htm

community street art

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.” ~Frederick Buechner

ocean garden by pat gellenbeck‘Ocean Garden’ by Pat Gellenbeck

“We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden.” ~Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordair

story telling here

“The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.” ~Barbara Deming

[Cover art: ‘Four Blobs’ by my son Eric Detjen]

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Layers. Changes. Integrity. Transformation.

I’ve always loved the creative exercise of pairing art images with verse. Below are visuals, quotes, poetry, etc. which have spoken to me this past year or so. May they speak to you, too.

(Note: Known artists/writers are credited for their work when I’ve been able to find the source.)

THE LAYERS

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

– Stanley Kunitz

layered reflections by david dunlop

‘Layered Reflections’ by David Dunlop

…the water is not clear,
the water is not still…

You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
“Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/…/antholog/kunitz/river.htm

Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.

– Laurence Olivier

nightscape

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

― Maya Angelou

Emergence pat gellenbeck‘Emergence’ by Pat Gellenbeck

sophia wisdom beauty painting

What awaits behind the door,
The whole you never fed?

The Doorway by Mela Richardson‘The Doorway’ by Mela Richardson

“Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.” ― Sarah Dessen

Hiding Brick Wall

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, ‘Animal Dreams’

animal dreams

TOP 5 REGRETS OF THE DYING…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html

“Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn one’s back on life.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

m twain - living

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

― William Blake, ‘Eternity’

joyful being

To be nobody-but-yourself ― in a world which is doing its best,

night and day, to make you everybody else ― means to
fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and
never stop fighting.

~ e. e. cummings

be yourself street art

Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.

― Henry Miller

bright hued tree

“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things. Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.”

― ‘Red Emma’ Goldman, Living My Life

red woman grafitti

A credo for living with passion and creating a life worthy of your inner fire…

jack london credo

behold by wenzel hablikWenzel Hablik, painter and graphic artist, architect, designer, and craftsman of the early twentieth century, associated with German Expressionism, painted this piece after his solo ascent of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, in 1906. This feat was a formative experience for him and quite an accomplishment at that time.

“Behold!… I am that which must always overcome itself.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

+++

“A bit of advice

Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.”

-Joseph Campbell

heart hands ocean

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film.

– Ansel Adams

sand  contours

“Believe in the holy contour of life.”

-Jack Kerouac

unapologetic brightness

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

― Henry Miller

leap in the dark

“We have only one life during which to make our short existence in the world somewhat valuable. Painting our lives with emotions is our personal free choice and the choice of our self-consciousness… How much more we can paint our lives with the soft colors of our emotions, the more our lives will begin to look like works of art. Whether anybody can appreciate these art masterpieces is a conundrum which is strictly related to the development level of the consciousness of humankind. May our emotions kill us softly.” ~Anonymous

life is a work of art

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

― Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings’

tiger fire

Live fully. There is only now. No one can live for you.

Go now, and live

Basic elemental instinct to survive

Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive…

Anything can happen…

― Neil Peart, ‘Prime Mover’

prime mover

Hold your fire…

Breaking Eggs: A Dream Poem

Our dreams show that the unconscious mind acts in a poetic way. Dreams “speak” in images – the pictures that come to us in the night. Do we listen to and learn from them as often as we should?

During a rather chaotic – and utterly transformative – time of my life, I had a very vivid and startling dream about throwing and breaking eggs. I wanted to capture the aliveness of my dream while attempting to understand its meaning, evoking the colors, sounds, and textures recalled.

This is my poetic interpretation of the dream:

BREAKING EGGS – by Jean Detjen

She wants to break something
On the unforgiving surface –
Stark, cracked and rutted,
Glistening with yesterday’s rain.
This seems, somehow, a place for endings.

Out of her satchel resting against her core
She reaches for something small and smooth,
An egg just gathered from a neighbor’s gracious coop.
So fragile it appears,
How easily broken.
But some things must die before they bring forth fruit.
And then, of course, the tug of curiosity.

Unsympathetically, she throws it with force
Onto the grey, hard road.
And another, and another, yet another still.
Yet stubborn life holds on,
Herculean shells refusing to give in.

Maddened and confused,
Mists of sweat form above her dry lips.
One egg now left.
Drawing all her energy, she projects it toward
A horizon far ahead, certain of its demise.
Yet curiosity speaks again.

Feet walk quickly to what is now a gloriously large egg,
Yet cracked to reveal a glow from within.
The newly translucent veneer reveals a creature unknown,
One ready to unfold its limbs and spread its wings.
This is life anew.
This is beauty.
This is.

Since writing this poem, I have come to realize that there is beauty in brokenness. When we acknowledge inner fears and anxieties as catalysts for transformation, it becomes easier to take risks and break through our binding layers and shells. We all carry a basket of eggs with us throughout life, awaiting rebirth via our attentiveness and nurturing.

So don’t be afraid to let yourself be re-born over and over again in big and small ways. New life awaits each and every day. Break free of your confines and self-imposed limits. Crack open your shell and fly!

“If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.” -Jim Kwik, learning expert

disrupted egg path on blue by james lavott ‘Disrupted Egg Path on Blue’ by James Lavott…Finite and infinite tiled paths disrupted by a Daliesque dangling egg on a background of blue.

broken eggs body paint Broken egg body paint

broken eggs by jean-baptiste greuze ‘Broken Eggs’ by Jean-Baptist Greuze.

Broken Eggs attracted favorable comment when exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1757. One critic noted that the young serving girl had a noble pose worthy of a history painter.

The canvas was painted in Rome, but the principal source may have been a seventeenth-century Dutch work by Frans van Mieris the Elder (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), which Greuze would have known from an engraving. The broken eggs symbolize the loss of the girl’s virginity.

expanding buddha by arley blankenship ‘Expanding Buddha’ by Arley Blankenship

transcendental shame by rich fautch ‘Transcendental Shame’ by Rich Fautch

the awakening by teresa gostanza ‘The Awakening’ by Teresa Gostanza

cracked by marisela mangia ‘Cracked’ by Marisela Mangia

fragile by aliya michelle ‘Fragile’ by Aliya Michelle

life by cynthia occelli ‘Life’ by Cynthia Occelli

Morning After – A Tribute to Artist Edwina Sandys

“I think women should allow themselves to be luscious. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a brain.”

~Edwina Sandys

A few years ago I had the privilege to help with an exhibit at The Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin featuring the Art of Sir Winston Churchill. One of my main charges was to research Churchill’s family of artists. In doing so, I was particularly inspired by the captivating art of his vibrant granddaughter, Edwina Sandys. Her work spoke to me in a primal way, serving literally as a catalyst for artistic yearnings too long dormant inside of me.

During an intimate pre-opening gala, I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Sandys in person. While chatting, I shared with her my particular fondness for her Library Series. Edwina Sandys grew up surrounded by books and inherited her mother’s library. Over the years, the artist has repeatedly turned to books as a background for her images. The brightly colored Library Series serves as a literary obbligato to Edwina’s many themes.

“Wherever I live, I always have my favorite books with me: ‘Rebecca,’ ‘A Town Like Alice,’ The Discoverers,’ ‘The Oxford Book of English Verse.’ Even if I don’t reread them, their existence on the shelf is a tangible memory, a reassuring presence. This is my virtual library.”

Her companion piece Literary Woman – which I beyond love! – echoes that theme:

literary woman edwina sandys ‘Literary Woman’

A great lover myself of books, libraries, and art, we quickly connected and I told her I hoped she would complete the series with all star signs represented (of course wanting to see how my own sign, Aquarius, would be depicted). Below are some print images from this wonderful, witty series:

ls1‘Taurus in the Library’

ls2 ‘Aries in the Library’

ls3 ‘Pisces & Poppies’

ls4‘Literary Horse’

ls5“Pisces & Tulips’

ls6 ‘Catfish in the Library’

ls7 ‘Gemini’

Also of particular interest to me was hearing that although Sandys has sketched since childhood, she didn’t take up art seriously until 1970, when she divorced her husband and started her life over again. “I wanted to do something interesting in life,” she said.

She never went to art school, concluding that at 30, she knew who she was and how she wanted to express herself. “I wanted to get right into it,” she said.

So did I! I immediately bought her gorgeous hardcover Edwina Sandys Art book. While graciously signing it for me and – unbelievably! – spontaneously sketching me (something which those close to her said “never does”) she asked if I was familiar with the term ‘ekphrasis.’ I wasn’t and she briefly explained that it was one form of art describing another.

As soon as I returned home that evening I Googled the word and learned the following: Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise, and is a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, verb ekphrazein, to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name. [Wikipedia]

Immediately intrigued by the concept, I wanted to give it a try. Sandys’ life, words, and art were like a spark to me, igniting a part of me somehow forgotten, a flame diminished and begging to be rekindled. I was on the cusp of what I have since referred to as an “awakening.”

From that point forward – the very next morning, actually! – I frantically dove into writing poetry. Flipping through her brilliant book, a small image on one of the inner pages caught my attention for some reason. Perhaps it was the curly, mussed hair I related to. Or maybe the inquisitive eyes of a woman metaphorically buried, her face only partially exposed, drew me in.

morningaftersandys ‘Morning After’

Lit from within, I recall feeling an urgent desire to express myself and started with this ekphrastic tribute poem:

MORNING AFTER – by Jean Detjen

Languorous, lascivious, like a landlocked siren in a high fever,
Drowned in a pool of forget-me-nots
in a wave of cerulean blue.
Red hot embers tamed underneath,
smothered and stifled by a blanketing heaviness
as solid as the cage of encroaching bed rails.

Like a seasick woman carried away
with the rhythmic ebb and flow
before the silken waves have a chance to wash their cool relief over the beckoning sands,
she summons Melusina to ease her restlessness.

Dissolved by something reflected for a moment
perhaps only imagined,
she fashions herself like Sedna the Sea Goddess,
creatures swimming around her,
darting in and out of the wavy tangle of her long hair,
moving like dancers with the cadence of the tides.

Something now remembered by Anaïs Nin-
“I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths
and a great fear of shallow living.”
Eve’s curiosity embraced, all is wide open now.

She touches her hair, rubs her eyes,
settles her core with a gentle touch,
wishing only to float out to sea in ancient bliss.

Compelled to express my gratitude, I forwarded a copy of my poem to my momentary mentor and muse with my appreciation for all she shared. I expected no response, and was incredibly surprised and humbled to receive this reply from her, which I shall always cherish:

Wow. What a poem. I hope you have a big collection and will make a book of them. My goodness! Brilliant you have let yourself journey far … And returning .. Like Mozart’s music never quite letting go of the thread. Letting the kite fly but knowing when to girl it. Look forward to seeing you again. -Edwina xx

Since that life-changing meeting back in 2012, I’ve rediscovered my love for all forms of writing and art. Poetry, painting, music and other forms of creative expression have healed and nurtured many elemental parts of me.

My kite is flying, Edwina, and I’m girling it without abandon. Thank you for reminding me that it’s never too late to create a new thread and soar.


breakthrough floor

I couldn’t resist lying in the floor of The Trout Museum of Art during pre-installation of the 32 x 12′ Edwina Sandys Breakthrough art display.

One of Sandys’ major works, Breakthrough, is a tribute to her grandfather. The 32-foot-long sculpture, which is made of salvaged sections of the Berlin Wall, is installed at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., site of Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech.

Here I am several months after the exhibit at the site where her actual Breakthrough sculpture is displayed at The National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri:
jean breakthrough ncm


If you are interested in learning more about Winston Churchill and his family of artists, here’s a link to the exhibit’s Facebook page I developed and administer: https://www.facebook.com/ArtOfSirWinstonChurchill

Photos below of me meeting Edwina Sandys…

edwina and jean

Edwina  signing book

edwinasandysbooksignsketch

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks.” — Simonides


Resources:

http://www.edwinasandys.com/Edwina-Sandys-Art

http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/edwina-sandys-show-at-ann-norton-sculpture-garde-1/nLh9G/

The King’s Table

I can no longer eat this peasant food.
Force feed me if you must.
When you are not looking I will spit it out and let my salty tears sustain me instead.
After that crystal well is dry I will welcome the hallucinations,
Illuminating visions of feasts yet uncelebrated.
Starving while awake, savoring only dreams.

Your grace, – a voice imagined?
This table is set for you.
Come sit,
Open your eyes wide and take in the splash of bold colors!
Close them now and let yourself feel the depths of your voracious hunger.
Slow down your mind and inhale the inviting aromas.
Now let your hands enjoy the textures of the beautiful fruits before you.
Don’t be afraid to touch that which is both smooth and rough,
All is good.

Bring to your lips that which your appetite craves.
Is your mouth on fire and your lips bruised and scratched?
Then I would say you have eaten well.
There is pain and pleasure in many of the best dishes.
Devour with abandon, feed and be fed.
Let your electric taste buds flood your body and mind until you are numb.

Soft laughter? Am I being teased?
You are not, you are being healed.
But am I Queen? Or King? Whose table is this?
You are both. We are both.
This is all yours and mine and ours.
It is the only way to live.

So are you ready for another bite?

the picnic by gerard mcgourty‘The Picnic’ by Gerard McGourty

Cover art: Pablo Picasso – Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (d’après Edouard Manet), 1960 (Musée Picasso, Paris)

Thirsty Dream Cat

The abode churns chaos.
Yet creature comforts abound amid the clutter.
Doors swinging open reveal crumb-laden hallways
Darkening into both wide and small spaces.
What then?
A cat grey as fog skitters in,
Defiant muzzle raised in my direction.
Has it always been there?
Neglected, forgotten somehow?
It quietly circles my human form,
Soft, padding steps tapping out a plea,
Unmistakable frustration told through its eyes.
I know what that look means;
The crumbs have been eaten,
It is scarcely enough.
Yes! Thirst! Of course!
My visitor is wild for water, distractedly so.
I feel it, too.
The bowl is empty, stagnant, a mirage of relief.
Hesitation, a stare, and then-
Water sensed through smell, noses twitching,
Feline and female alike.
Yes, so very alike we are.
A washbasin ready for soaking away toil and sweat beckons.
Eyes connect, pulses quicken, a choice is made;
Silvery lithe blur leaps with wings imagined,
Its tongue ready to lap up its craving.
Puddle, pool, lake, endless ocean…
Airborne, limbs outstretched like a plane in flight,
Dive! Splash! Drink!
I lick the spray across my lips,
My own thirst quenched.

“Rapturous Life Defiant”

Below is a tribute poem to Grania Uaile (Grace O’Malley)…Queen of Clew Bay, Irish chieftain, pirate, trader and seafarer. I have been told by my mother that she is an ancestor of ours.  Historians have varying perceptions as to her virtues and vices, but no one can deny that she was a fierce and strong woman who fought for the people she loved. Definitely a woman ahead of her time.

Oh, no; ’twas not for sordid spoil
Of barque or seaboard borough
She ploughed, with unfatiguing toil,
The fluent, rolling furrow;
Delighting on the broad back’d deep,
To feel the quivering galley
Strain up the opposing hill, and sweep
Down the withdrawing valley.

Or, sped before a driving blast,
By following seas up-lifted,
Catch, from the huge heaps heaving past
And from the spray they drifted,
And from the winds that tossed the crest,
Of each wide-shouldering giant,
The smack of freedom and the zest
Of rapturous life defiant.

Sweet when crimson sunsets glow’d
As earth and sky grew grander,
Adown the grass’d unechoing road,
Atlanticward to wander,
Some kinsman’s humbler heart to seek
Some sick bedside, it may be,
Or, onward reach, with footsteps meek,
The low, grey, lonely abbey.

~Sir S. Furguson

Some interesting folklore:  Even though she had long, dark hair, Grace is often called ‘Grace the Bald’. It is said that when Grace was a young girl, she asked her father if she could sail with him. He refused to take her, because she was a girl.  However, Grace was determined to go with him, so she cut off all her hair and dressed in boys’ clothes.  She went back to her father and said, ‘Now will you take me?’

And so the adventures began…

One memorable story shows how Grace dealt with her enemies. Grace and Sir Richard Bingham were deadly enemies. He had been sent to the west of Ireland by the Queen of England to control the Irish. He made life very difficult for Grace, taking her lands and cattle. Once, Bingham locked her away in jail. Grace became so angry that, in 1593, she wrote to Queen Elizabeth I to complain about Bingham and his nasty ways. Elizabeth agreed to see Grace. It is also saidi that during that meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Grace sneezed in the presence of the Queen and her lords and ladies. A member of the court, in an act of politeness, handed Grace an attractive and expensive lace handkerchief. She took the delicate cloth and proceded to blow her nose loudly then tossed the kerchief into a blazing fireplace. The members of the court were aghast that she would be so rude to toss an expensive gift so easily into the fire. The Queen then scolded her and said that the handkerchief was meant as a gift and should have been put into her pocket. Grace replied that the Irish would never put a soiled garment into their pocket and apparantly had a higher standard of cleanliness. After a period of uncomfortable silence, (during which the members of the court expected the Queen to have Grace executed for her rude behavior) nervous then roaring laughter followed. The Queen was amused.

She was also a mother who protected her own.  Grace’s son Tibbott (Toby) was born aboard her ship. She defended her new-born son from an attack from Barbary Pirates.

Grace was definitely used to living life on the edge and taking risks. Another interesting tidbit:  Grace loved to play cards – one of her nicknames was ‘Grace of the Gamblers’.

In another story, Grace arrived at Howth Castle and requested hospitality. When she was refused because the “family was at supper” she kidnapped the young heir and held him until Baron Howth promised that the gates of his castle would never again be closed to unexpected visitors and to have an extra place set at every meal.

http://www.libraryireland.com/HealyEssays/Grania1.php

http://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/grace-o-malley-16th-century-pirate-queen-ireland-001773

Take a Journey Without a Map, Flâneur Style

Have you ever wandered aimlessly while on vacation somewhere? How about in your own city? Personally, I love the idea of being an adventurer right where I live, exploring hidden crevices, squeezing out sweetness from every corner of life. We all have an accessible playground calling to us in our own backyards. Flâneurs understand this.

American writer Edmund White describes the flâneur as “a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through a city without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the place and in covert search of adventure, aesthetic or erotic.”

But why keep our inquisitive natures a secret? Curiosity about our very own dwelling spaces ought to be openly cultivated and celebrated! We can all be urban explorers, our home cities seen newly as fragrant forests beckoning our curiosities and observations both intellectual and primal. Imagine yourself the captain of your very own local safari, no itinerary required!

Human brains are stimulated when we take alternate routes to and from familiar destinations. Our creativity gets a jump-start when we mix things up sensorily and experientially. Fortunately, it doesn’t require abundant resources (time, money, etc.) to do so when we keep it close to home.

French poet Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur — that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. Because of the term’s usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity.

[Baudelaire] settled on a word to capture the attitude he felt one should adopt when walking along the streets. One should become, he suggested, a flâneur…The defining characteristic of those flâneurs is that they don’t have any practical goals in mind. They aren’ t walking to get something, or to go somewhere, they aren’t even shopping…Flâneurs are standing in deliberate opposition to capitalist society, with its two great imperatives: to be in a hurry and to buy things…What the flâneurs are doing is looking. — Alain de Botton, Swiss writer and philosopher

For me personally, intentionally putting on my flâneur hat now and then makes me feel alive. It rejuvenates my community connections while soothing my restless nature with enticing novelty and nuance awaiting my delighted discovery in both expected and unexpected places. This mindful — certainly not mindless! — journeying also reminds me of the powerful force of gratitude.

I love where I live and challenge you to see your own community with new eyes. Feed yourself a fresh and colorful sensory diet that’s healthy for both body and spirit. New images and experiences are there just waiting to be discovered! Make a commitment to take a new path now and then and see where it takes you.

For your listening enjoyment: https://soundcloud.com/david-coonan/flaneur: Flâneur was composed in February 2011, and is scored for flute (doubling piccolo), b-flat clarinet, vibraphone, harp, and piano. The first performance was given by the Manson Ensemble with condcutor Benedikt Hayoz, at the David Josefowitz Hall, London, in March 2011. The performers were Lu Du (flute), Jamie Elston (clarinet), Philip Welder (vibraphone), Jimin Lee (harp), and Philip Howard (piano).

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My new Artful Living column in Scene Newspaper debuts March 2015. It’s all about feeding senses and spirits through the exploration of art, music, fashion, lifestyle, culture and creative happenings. I invite readers to journey along with me on an eclectic melange of artistic adventures, searching out muses and amusements, meandering as we go.http://www.scenenewspaper.com/ #JeanOnTheScene #SeenByJean

Work Summary

I’m collaborative, intuitive, engaging and resourceful, with abundant positive energy and an innate desire to make a meaningful impact on the world via the art of life. Every day is a privilege to live fully and I’m intent on doing just that!

My diverse work and community leadership experiences have provided a productive landscape for me to enhance quality-of-life in ways small and great. My wide-ranging skills in Marketing & Communications, Public Relations, Event Planning, Social Media, Promotions, Modeling, and more come with a penchant for writing to tie it all together. Wearing a variety of hats is something I’ve always enjoyed doing and I continually seek new ways to contribute and share my gifts.

Venturesome, inquisitive, and highly expressive, I’m always seeking new ways to tap into my creative reservoir and passion for meaningful initiatives and causes. I connect quickly with others with a natural ability to cultivate and sustain dynamic, meaningful partnerships. Integrity, respectful attention, and mindfulness are always present in the relationships I form in both my work and personal life.

I’m currently freelancing while I pursue new opportunities and can be reached either through this profile, via email at jeandetjen@sbcglobal.net, or by phone at (920) 574-6841.

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” ― E.M. Forster

Delicious Ambiguity: Questions and Curiosity Make Life Tasty

How often do you take advantage of ambiguity in the world? When is the last time you looked at something and thought to yourself, “What else might this be?”

As American actor, screenwriter, film director and producer Edward Norton once said, “All people are paradoxical. No one is easily reducible, so I like characters who have contradictory impulses or shades of ambiguity.” In the academic disciplines which study the human condition (history, philosophy, literature, etc.), ambiguity has often been valued as the basis of depth, subtlety and richness in art. Yet we often fail to embrace these qualities central to the Humanities in practical life applications.

We all have our hidden “mysteries,” do we not? And all of us will deal with unfair labeling throughout our lives by people looking for absolutes. Who cannot forget Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter, a complex portrayal of social and moral issues highlighting the dangers of eliminating ambiguities to get the meanings “right” (if that’s even possible to do with any real accuracy)? The allegorical tale shows that even so simple a label as the first letter of the alphabet is full of burgeoning meanings dependent upon changing contexts and nuance.

“There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don’t exist!” claimed The Wizard in Wicked. Yet even in the “land of the free” we still struggle to tear off suffocating labels which others put on us to fit their own needs to find comfort in (unrealistic) absolutes.

Ultimately, looking at how people respond to ambiguity says a lot about both human creativity and adaptability. Faced with life’s complexities it is natural that we desire to seek a sense of order and meaning. Yet multiple interpretations and the difficulty of achieving consensus remain a challenge. Perhaps there is a certain refuge in embracing uncertainties as a mysterious and wonderful part of existence itself. Not having all the answers about the world and each other certainly makes life interesting.

Is your mind mature enough to endure uncertainty? If so, how do you successfully navigate through it? Please share your thoughts on the subject, no matter how uncertain they may be.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”

―Gilda Radner

Featured art: ‘Uncertainty Principle’ by Regina Valluzzi, René Magritte, The Uncertainty Principle (Le Principe d’Incertitude), Etching: contemporary Russian artist, name unknown