Thursday, July 28, 2011


Do you get messages from the universe?  Where everyone seems to be saying the same general idea and you decide you’d better listen and take it in?  Well, I do, once in a while, where everything converges and I hear a tune made out of the notes in the air, and I want to sing that tune, too, because it seems to be the Most Important Thing Happening.  The trouble is I am often in a scheduled situation with pressure to meet commitments and responsibilities and I have to put that floating musical temptress out of my mind until I get my chores done.  Whether that is nobility or avoidance, I do not know.  Discipline has always been a tough pill for me to swallow:  I want to fulfill my obligations but sometimes the cost seems so high.  Time management and dreaming seem at cross purposes….In any event, I can’t follow every fairy note I hear. So, much of these whisperings and want-to’s get put on the back burner.
I have many back burners, so many that I can’t remember them all until the familiar notes play again, or a picture or a color reminds me of what is under the lid on that saucepan on the back burner.  And sometimes I forget what was there and it just blows away in an unfulfilled state.
A few months ago I had one of these convergences.  Several people whom I admire for their creative pursuits mentioned the very same book for its helpfulness to them in understanding their creative drive.  In the space of a few days, at least 3 different people mentioned this book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.  I know one of them was Sue at Mouse Notebook.  I believe one was Susan Branch who is always telling me (kindly) to get off my duff and do something creative.  And I can’t remember for sure but I think the other one was Stephanie Levy at Artists Who Blog.  I am mad at myself for forgetting what those harmonic chords were that led me to go out and buy the book.
But I did.  I acted on it and I paid money to make it a concrete plan, even though it had to go on the back burner until after camp. When everything was going to settle down.  So I have the book even though I’ve only read the Table of Contents.
It happened again.  Just this week.  A harmony of suggestions and possibilities that I heard, that got loud enough to attract my attention.  But I can’t remember what I was thinking or reading that made my mind turn the way it did.  I am so mad at myself for not being able to reconstruct the alleyway that brought me here.  Even last night at dinner I was able to tell Ron about what inspired me to sign up for an art course.
Maybe it was this from Ann Somerset Miles’ blog:
Searching for a change of vision
seeing with new eyes
adapting my usual way of working;
letting myself loose, and
not being afraid of failure.
That's what today gave me:
surprising the great leap forward -
- and I did no fall into the water,
did not drown in indecision.
Just those few short hours
with a masterful tutor
is all it has taken;
and I will never be the same again.
Such joy. A day of wonders."

Or maybe it was Stephanie Levy saying this that made me so crazy jealous to create:
12 Countries in 12 Months.
For one In just a few days, I am beginning a new art + travel project called year, I will take a trip each month to a new city in Europe where I'll be making photos and sketches, collecting ephemera, and documenting my journey by creating mixed media artwork and illustrated journals.

Or perhaps it was this course description in another blog from Stephanie that made my ears prick up and my heart beat faster:
“Topics will include:
  • believing in your creative dreams
  • pushing through your fears and developing your self-confidence
  • celebrating prosperity and earning money with your artwork
  • increasing your financial abundance by creating multiple income streams
  • using the internet as a way to stretch and grow your career as an artist
  • creating artwork without inhibition and how to avoid getting stuck
  • ditching procrastination for more creative play and practice
  • nurturing your body and soul to increase your creativity
  • avoiding burnout and promoting balance in your life
  • finding positive support for your work and building a network
  • connecting and collaborating with others to energize your creative business
  • creating daily adventure and making your life more interesting
  • expanding your horizons and finding your unique role in the world
  • developing practical strategies for time management for busy women
  • and much more!  “
Or maybe it was just a composite of everything that has come my way from all the creative blogs I read, to my own yearning for expression. 
In any event, I have decided to take a sabbatical from my normal, helter-skelter life and look seriously into my creative life.  I don’t know what it means at the moment, exactly, or if I will in fact produce anything that brings me joy or money or brings anything of consequence to the world.  The sabbatical aspect means that
1) I am not going to fill all my time with other people’s agendas.  I will not be selfish, but I will be setting boundaries (I hope) on my time and energy.
2) I will set aside hours for the purpose of addressing back burner ideas and impulses.
3) We will not have international students living here this year, not so that I can be lazy but so I can give concentrated time to producing.
4)I will actually thoughtfully read The Artist’s Way and do the exercises it prescribes at the pace it recommends.  I will journal, sketch, and pay attention to this drive in me.
5) I will follow through on my ideas, even if they don’t work.  I hope I will keep following past the point of discouragement to the breakthrough of success.
6) I will take the e-course on Creative Courage and see where that leads me. 
7) I will address all the stockpiled back burner issues for which I have already purchased paints, fabrics, patterns, or taken up storage space in my basement or craft room.
8) I will find that listening to the music of my life will bring me a quietness and satisfaction that I am missing currently.
9) I will plan little field trips to enjoy nature and art forms which will refresh and energize me, even if it’s just down the road or to a garden or toward the beach.
10) I will not sacrifice other significant relationships for this cause, such as my husband or my children or my God.  I will also have time with them.
I am very excited about this turning point.  Calling it a sabbatical gives me the sense of permission I need to do things a little differently.  I hope I am able to maintain my purpose; being in a class will help.
We are going camping this next week.  I am taking my camera and a sketch pad to be ready for what comes! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Camp

 Last week was my week as Director of Girls’ Camp at Eagle Fern.  I feel today that I am just waking up from it, from the recovery process of a long haul of preparation and execution.  In some ways this feels like my first day of summer vacation: the first discretionary time I have had since school let out.  Today I can choose what I want to do first: shall I do laundry, or water the plants, or go out to lunch, or write, or organize my craft room jumble?  The joy of choosing is part of the summertime freedom.

If I told you about camp from a camper’s viewpoint I would tell about the skits11-07-20-20-00-22R and the s’mores, 11-07-20-20-20-19R and the counselor dress-up 11-07-21-19-25-04R  11-07-21-19-13-52R  With the judges11-07-21-19-14-47R  11-07-21-19-25-10R and the campfires11-07-20-20-11-21R 11-07-20-20-11-45R 11-07-20-20-13-05R 11-07-20-20-16-17R 11-07-20-20-40-13R and the western day11-07-19-08-40-52R 11-07-19-14-57-56R 11-07-19-18-23-09R and the crazy hair day11-07-20-08-24-23R 11-07-20-08-04-38R and the pajama breakfast and the skill sessions where we learned to sew11-07-19-16-22-04R 11-07-19-16-20-13R   or go on the challenge course or do woodworking 11-07-20-15-27-32R or dancing11-07-19-16-27-58RHip-hop class

or cheerleading or french braiding with ribbons.11-07-19-16-26-31R  I would tell you about how nice Amanda is and how her stories about Much-Afraid in that book made me think she was just like me. 11-07-20-19-43-13R I would tell you about free time11-07-18-16-39-34R and the store where we got to spend money every afternoon 11-07-19-15-32-14R and do crafts11-07-18-14-04-49R and go swimming or go on the zip line11-07-19-14-39-59R or the giant swing10-07-23-14-22-12H or the challenge course or do archery or shoot BB guns.  There were so many things to do and it was so much fun to be with my friends for a week to sleep in the same cabin and stay up late whispering and giggling.11-07-18-19-50-19R

If I told you about camp from a director’s point of view I would start in March with a sheet of names and email all of last year’s counselors.  I would tell of searching for the unknown group of 24 counselors needed to staff 12 cabins of girls, and the repeated phone calls and emails and unreturned messages left until just the right group of counselors was solidified the week before camp.  April was spent leaving phone messages so my trip with my dad in May wouldn’t interfere with camp progress.  The big worry was getting an activities person and a music person, two vital roles that eluded me until the week before camp.  I called every musical person I knew who could lead and play an instrument at the same time; you’d be surprised how many of them are otherwise employed during the summer.  Our activities person was a new-to-me recruit from Amanda’s university, and what a relief to have her!  Every morning and evening there is an all-camp activity such as the counselor dress-up for the “Miss Eagle Fern” Pageant, a scavenger hunt, etc.  Five evenings we had planned prior to the activities person coming on board: a movie night,11-07-18-19-55-45R 11-07-18-19-50-43R 11-07-18-19-51-03R a hoe-down,


Electric slide after the Virginia Reel wore out


11-07-19-18-52-00RHoe down fiddlers

2 campfire nights with s’mores,


a banquet night and the Miss Eagle Fern pageant.

So, besides recruiting, a great deal of energy before the week started went into scheduling the classes, chapel times, cabin activities and all camp activities.  Charts were made as to what was offered each day and sign-up sheets made.  Skill sessions were planned with various counselors leading them.  The girls had to be divided into their cabin groups including their requested cabin buddy and/or counselor.  And then on the day camp started new registrants walked in the door with plaintive voices “I thought my grandpa was signing me up.  Can I be in -----‘s cabin?” 

After that, the camp was in session and the momentum was rolling.  At that point, the counselors became the key players and the director’s job was mostly done,11-07-21-11-27-24R Me and my co-director, my daughter Emily

apart from time-keeping, bell-ringing for each transition,10-07-20-11-31-00H and keeping the high school and college staff apprised of our needs and paper towel shortages.

Was it a good week? Very.  That’s all you really wanted to know but I just had to say the rest of it.  On the last day as I led the line of campers to the rec center to be picked up by parents, a camper said to me, “I waited a whole year for this week and now I have to wait a nuther whole year.” Another camper said, “We never have breakfasts like this at home.  This food here is so good.”

Some of our girls come from very poor circumstances and some from financially comfortable.  Their heartaches have no economic boundaries, however.  Loss of one parent or another affects many.  Trouble with friends and self image is common.  Knowing that they are loved by us and, more importantly, by the Lord, is the real mission of the week.  In this, Amanda did a wonderful job of sharing Hinds’ Feet on High Places (Hannah Hurnard), the allegory of a young girl learning to trust the guidance of a Shepherd.  11-07-18-11-05-52R            Trying to make a team cheer

11-07-19-07-52-20RA misty flag salute


Finally, after a few wet days, blue sky


The cooks get to eat at last

11-07-19-15-21-38R 11-07-19-15-21-54RDisplaying headbands made in Crafts

11-07-19-16-30-52RLearning to crochet 11-07-19-16-32-19RLearning to play Mountain Dulcimer--she did!

11-07-20-15-37-08R 11-07-20-15-36-56R

New Friend

11-07-20-19-00-44ROld friend

11-07-20-15-56-39RHangin’ out in the plaza, waitin’ for the bell to ring    11-07-20-19-39-48RThis cabin’s counselors made matching book bags and tie-dyed shirts for their campers!

11-07-21-07-53-55R          11-07-20-19-56-55R      Ezekiel entertains at campfire11-07-20-20-11-13R 11-07-20-20-11-21R        11-07-21-07-54-02R 11-07-21-08-47-19HChapel

11-07-21-13-43-12RA Happy Camper  

and a happy director!  But I don’t mean to give the impression that it is our doing which made the camp successful.  Everything was prayed over and our prayers were answered.  We had so many last minute personnel changes and the Lord supplied our needs.  The books which were to be the big prize on Friday night arrived on Thursday via UPS at camp.  The flu which was going around from the previous week didn’t spread to our campers (however, I came home with it).  We had no accidents or injury except a bee sting and some homesick tummy aches.  No behavioral problems.  No whining or grumbling about the weather or anything!  Everyone did what she was supposed to do and the staff genuinely cared for the campers!

Yes, it was a great week!