Balanced Living for Creatives

Balanced Living for Creatives

September 27, 2014

Plants R Us

Plants are so important to humans, but really to all the life on the planet. All people feel a strong attachment to nature. Nature, meaning plants, is what nurtures us, gives us life, gives us the very breath we take in. 
   Humans are here because plants are our food. We eat them directly or we eat the animals that have eaten the plants. Plants have starches, oils, sugars, proteins—all the building blocks of life. It is only through plants and the photosynthesis that they have created for themselves, that all other forms of life have evolved. 
   I say that plants are us, but really we are plants, we are from plants, we are all part of the life force of planet Earth.

September 12, 2014

Fiddle and Banjo Strike a Creative Spark

Old-time fiddle is toe-tapping music. I can’t resist and I was head bobbing along with everyone else at the Fiddle and Banjo contest in Lowell, Massachusetts. It’s a true contest, with prizes for the best fiddlers and banjo players. More than 50 contestants from all over New England took the stage.
The top fiddlers were hot and the banjo pickers were wild. But, the lovely part of this fiddle fest is that it involves musicians at all different levels. From what I could tell everyone was encouraged and supported, even those who were not so experienced.
Kudos to each musician brave enough to take part—from ages about 10 to about 70. Players wore everything from overalls, to Sunday bonnets, to dreadlocks and droopy pants. The action on stage was uneven, as each individual slowly mounted the stage and played their best pieces. But perhaps the most exciting part took place offstage, in a back hallway.
As fiddlers and banjo players waited to go onstage, they had a restless energy. With numbers taped to their arms, musicians began to play together, in a circle, right there in the back hallway. Group improv—that is where the energy of fiddle music comes from. By playing together a creative spark happens. It’s so lively the air fairly vibrates with the excitement of fiddles and banjos together.
This is the creative spark that music draws from both the participants and from those listening. Musicians definitely feel it. But also listeners get this creative energy, as well. But I think it is even more than that. The players, the listeners, the audience all come together, each essential, each bringing a greater energy to the mix.
Creativity is powerful. We all need to appreciate that creative spark. We get it ourselves when we are the talent, but we also get it vicariously when artists do their thing. It’s catching; it’s toe-tapping goodness.

August 5, 2014

Connecting to Joy

It's full summer, my work is going well, websites are taking on "personalities" of their own, my sculpture pieces are moving along, and my urban sketching is still great fun. I'm living in a wonderful place close to nature, next to a vineyard. Birds, animals, wildflowers, and trees surround me. It's a time of creative energies, comfort, and joy.
A big revelation that I am on this summer is that all these "venues" that I create can express these things. I can share the good things with others. Somehow, everything that I do is flowing together and all I have to do is flow with it in joy, contentment, and happiness. It's a journey and more and more I want to share it with others and bring you along with me. Sometimes, especially on my websites, I follow traditional advice and try to sound "professional," which means writing in a manner of professional detachment, avoiding overly emotive sentiments. That is wrong. The internet is a new concept in the world, and I want to approach it in new ways. This is a heads-up to you my readers to tell you that I will be modifying some of my writings and approaches to websites and blog. That's all I have to say. Except this—Follow Your Joy. 

July 7, 2014

Just Released!

My new ebook is out. I'm so excited that I got it finished and uploaded.
Find a New Career: Workbook and Guide A Creative Approach

Are you where you want to be in work and life? Find a New Career: Workbook and Guide is a creative approach to discovering your ideal career. Learn the steps you need to know to confidently take charge of the direction of your life. This ebook is chock full of exercises, quizzes, and hands-on learning. As a workbook and guide, it whispers in your ear, gives you a push in the right direction, and sets you on the first practical steps of the journey whether you are changing to a new career or choosing your first career.
What you will learn in Find a New Career:
  • Clarify your decision-making process
  • Take solid steps to change your life.
  • Take charge of the direction in which your life is going.
  • Set life goals that make a difference.
  • Begin the journey to achieve your ambitions, dreams, and desires.
Use exercises and quizzes to analyze your core qualities and personal values. Identify your work strengths and discover career options that lead you to the ideal work that you can be passionate about. Find out how to follow your joy to create a balance of work and life. It’s more than a career guide, it’s a framework you can draw on for the rest of your life.

April 14, 2014

Domesticated Insects

   A book I have been reading was discussing the beginnings of agriculture in early civilizations. It talked about plants, of course, in the beginnings of farming. And it talked about the first animals that were domesticated as well. So—there were domesticated plants, domesticated animals, AND the author also said, “Domesticated Insects.”
   That phrase threw me, at first. Exactly what are domesticated insects? Insects that are useful to humans? beneficial insects, such as pollinators in gardens? There are many plants and animals that are useful to humans but are not considered “domesticated.”
What are domesticated insects?
   The first and best example provided in the book is the silkworm. The silk moth was discovered first in China. It has been domesticated for more than 2,000 years. For the silkmoth, this means it can no longer survive on its own in the wild. It is cared for by humans, who also control its reproduction. The silk moth is no longer able to reproduce on its own.
  The second example in the book is the honeybee. Although it is possible for there to be honeybees that survive in the wild, most stay near human-controlled environments—farm and field. Humans build their homes, provide suitable floral foods, then reap the benefits of the hive—honey and beeswax.
   I thought to myself, in all of 2,000 years, why only 2 species of insects are domesticated? There must be more? This is the list I came up with.

Domesticated Insects
Silkworm—Fully domesticated, can no longer live in the wild on its own.
Honey bee—We build them hives, they give us honey, beeswax.

Semi-Domesticated: Bred by people for products associated with them.
India Lac insects—Shellac
Cochineal beetles—Red dyes, placed into plant heads, harvested.

Commercially Useful Insects
Leeches—Grown in captivity or collected for limited medical use
Flesh-eating Beetles—Grown in the lab for forensic work, stripping flesh from bones
Maggots—Grown in the lab for medical use
Nightcrawlers, fishing worms, earthworms in soil
Ladybugs for gardens, eat aphids and other insects
Nematodes—one beneficial kind for improving soil, but others damage plants
Flatworms or cockroaches for H.S. science dissection
Spider silk? Is this even viable?

Pet Insects

Up for consideration: Ants?; Butterflies for aesthetics and collection; Tequila worm?

   The list shows that there are really just a handful of insects whose products humans harvest and use. A few kinds of insects are eaten on a small scale by some cultures. Chocolate-covered ants aside, most are not eaten by humans. Insects do not train well, or at all, despite the imagination of a “flea” circus. And most are difficult or impossible for humans to control their reproduction. Hence, most insects are not domesticable.
   There are millions of insect species in the world—a true diversity of forms. Yet still only the two are domesticated. Silk and honey, are wonderful, and I am thankful to those insects for lovely fabrics and delicious, nutritious, food, including the use of Honey as Medicine. Insects, of course, are an extremely important part of our biosphere. They have essential roles in all of nature. And, for humans, insects are fun to watch and really quite fascinating. Perhaps we should try to value them more for their entertainment value.

March 28, 2014

Food As Medicine

We are lucky to live in a world where there are many options for health care and self care. Allopathic medicine or the conventional medical world of insurance companies. Homeopathic medicine, the opposite branch, that is holistically concerned. Herbalism that is the most traditional of medical concerns. And many other alternative medicine techniques that are becoming better recognized and appreciated. It is a good idea to choose the health care system that most suits you, and to pick and choose from all the systems for specific issues. Self-care is the way that we take on the responsibility for our own health. When we think of "medicine," our first thoughts might be about drugs and drug therapy, second we might think of herbs and herbal medicine preparations. But I also like to approach self-care by thinking of food as medicine.
     We all know that nutrition is important, that eating right is essential to good health. High quality, organic foods, make a difference as well. "Food as medicine" considers what we eat and how specific foods can affect our health issues. Some foods are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients that are preventative for problems such as cancer. (10 Foods that Fight Cancer). Some specific foods, such as honey or garlic, have antibacterial properties and can be eaten or even used topically for health issues. (Honey as Medicine) Adding, or subtracting, particular foods from the diet is done in response to issues as they arrive. That is how to think of "Food as Medicine," and not just something to fill the belly and delight the taste buds.
     Food is health. The foods we choose to eat make us what we are. We can choose health-based diets (nutrition), and we can choose particular foods for specific health issues (food as medicine). Whenever I think about healthy approaches to life, I always end up back at the big three: Eat right, Exercise, Rest. And I always consider Michael Pollan's statement: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. A good idea.
For more information, see the SimpleTens articles at Food As Medicine.

March 9, 2014

The Signature of All Things

     For those of you readers who enjoy novels about science and/or art, here is an excellent book. "The Signature of All Things," is a well-researched book about botany and early botanical art. The author is Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the book "Eat, Pray, Love," that so many of us read or watched on film. The Signature of All Things taps into the questing nature of nineteenth century naturalists. This is a time when naturalists have moved beyond the medieval mind and have started to observe and explore the world as the newly coined word, "science."
     The book explores the early sixteenth century writings of Jacob Boehme and the medieval connection between religion and all of nature. Writers and philosophers looked at items of the natural world as though the hand of God touched them all. They strove to discover this connected "signature" in all things. Seventeenth century naturalists, like Newton, began to focus more on observation of facts. Philosophers, naturalists were still often theologians by scholarship and nature. But by the early to mid 1800s, the world of information exploded to the point where one person, through study, could no longer learn it all. Individuals began to specialize in areas such as botany, geology, etc. Writers such as Goethe began to be interested in this new area of science. And forward thinkers, such as Darwin began to make connections and observations ushering in the brave new world of science.
     In her book, Gilbert follows the life and career of a Alma Whittaker, a woman caught up in the center of the botany world, and her relationship to an eccentric Ambrose Pike, extraordinary botanical artist of orchids. Taking place in settings around the world, this book is substantial and thought provoking. It is a sweet read.
Ah, Nature and art...could there be a sweeter combination?

February 23, 2014

Haiku and Nature

Haiku is a very good way to keep in touch with nature. Haiku poetry is immediate and direct. You write about something striking you see in nature. The poem expresses how the event in nature moves you. The poetry form can be 5-7-5 syllables, or 3-5-3 syllables, or free syllables. This short poetry takes much time and care to find the right words. It must be both simple and expressive. It is a very attractive writing form for minimalists like myself. Here are some examples:

Apples fall
Sweet moldy dampness
Fog enfolds.

Empty nest up high
In a thousand bare branches
Smoky blue forest.

Poetry like this is great for outdoorsy people. Sit at the beach and watch the waves while you write. Think about it as you ride your bike. You can compose it in your head as you hike. I like to speak it out loud as I drive long distances in my car. If you want to learn the form and become a poet, read this SimpleTens article: How to Write a Haiku Poem.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and I would love to see some of your poetry.
O, Sweet Nature

January 16, 2014

Could It Be a Better World?

     There is a new phenomenon going on that the world has never seen before. I feel it most intensely when I travel to third-world countries. It’s about world-wide communication. It’s also about sharing information with your neighbors, as well as about keeping in touch with family and friends. I’m talking about the internet, digital technology, cell phones, and i-pads.
     Every place I travel, even in remote spots, there seems to be internet and technology. This means that everyone world over has access to the same information. Unfortunately it is also the same popular culture. I like to call it “anywhere Earth” when I see the same shops or restaurants like 7-eleven or Starbucks or McDonalds. However, I think the most significant impact will come not from the adults like me who now have access to information. I think it is going to come in the future, from the next generations of the world population.
     The phenomenon I notice is that teenagers, everywhere, are growing up with the same cultural values. In the past, regions of the world varied so much that people are different even if they come across the same information. Clothing, traditions, education were different in every region of the world. Now, the generations coming up all want the same clothing. They listen to the same world music. They cultivate the same values towards one another. This has got to be significant as these youth age and begin to take leadership roles in their various countries. We will see what happens. What do you think? Will it be for the better?

December 20, 2013

Feeling Chilled? Warm Your Core

Are you warm-blooded or cold-blooded? My friend asked me that question and I had to stop and think a minute. For, aren’t humans all the same inside? We all tend to run about the same temperature of 98.6, right. So it must be just a matter of perception, perhaps better asked, Do you tend to feel warm or cold in most situations?
     There’s no doubt about it, I feel cold. Not all the time, but I have noticed that when my friends and family are in shirtsleeves, I have at least three layers on. When they have to double up on shirt and sweater, I’m up to about five layers! Before I begin to look like the muffin doughboy, I thought, maybe I should find another solution.
     I don’t want to reach for the thermostat or throw a bunch more logs in the woodstove. Number one, it would make the house too warm for others. Number two that would be energy intensive and thus wasteful. Recently, I have been trying out a new solution.
     My work as an artist and writer means that I either sit or stand for long periods of time. That’s usually when I get cold—call it cold blooded, if you will. I noticed that my friend J is a speedy, high-energy person. When she moves, she moves quickly--fast paced, always on the go. She might call herself warm blooded. So here’s the solution that I have discovered.
     Whenever I start to feel cold, I stand up and exercise for about 15 minutes. Sometimes its a brisk walk around the office, sometimes I just go through pacing or dancing in place, standing behind my chair. After about 10 minutes, I am warm through. The funny thing is, that once I get to the 10-minute mark, I find it easy to go on to 15 or 20 minutes. This is great because for good aerobic benefits 20 minutes is ideal. To be kind to myself on those “down” days, I’ll let it slide at 10 minutes.
     Warming up by moving is fantastic on many levels. First off, the warmth that I feel is lasting. I won’t feel cold again quickly after my 10-15 minutes of movement. The warmth radiates from the core, not from the outside. Simply putting on another sweater doesn’t do the same thing. Second, it brings health benefits. Exercise is good for you; we all know that. Even short periods of exercise are much better than sitting or standing motionless for hours. Another thing I’ve found is that it builds my energy levels. Although I may never run around and move as quickly as J, I know that I have more energy after the brief exercises. Also, there is definitely a boost to my concentration and focus, as well as my creativity. These are all good things, simply accomplished, and this winter—I am sooo much more comfortable.
Please stop by my website to see some of my tips about fitness and exercise in a balanced life.