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NOTE: The following is about an interaction that I had with the Pippsywoggins, “Little Friends from the Edge of Imagination”. In times like these the Pippsywoggins often show up to share their wisdom with me.

I WAS SITTING BY THE SLIDING DOOR, reading the morning paper, when a slight movement caught my attention. I’m always on the lookout for evidence of wildlife in my garden, so without much thought I put the paper down and walked to the window. At first I didn’t see a thing. Then, as my eyes adjusted to the flickering shadows along the picket fence, I saw that between every post, on top of the highest crossbar, there was a Pippsywoggin, standing at attention. Completely still. Looking up. Arms raised as if in celebration … or praise. Or was it a greeting? I couldn’t tell. And I didn’t want to say anything that would disturb the scene that was playing out in full unbelievable poignancy right there in front of me, not more than 15 feet from my nose.

At the end of the line, or maybe it was the beginning (Pippsywoggins arrange things quite differently than humans do), was Gertrude Gretchen, the Pippsywoggin spokeswoggin. She turned her head towards me. Looked me directly in the eye. Then disappeared. No poof or anything. Just gone.

Of course I was startled.

The rest of the Pips stayed still for what seemed like minutes but was probably no more than a heartbeat. Then they lowered their arms and in unison flipped upside down so they were standing on their heads! Laughing. The tinkling sound of their laughter rang through the air with such a fierce joy that soon I was laughing, too, though I didn’t know why.

I still don’t understand what happened, nor do I know what the laughter was all about. But I’ll find out. I’m sure that I will because just before all of the Pips scrambled off the fence and down along the banks of Sand Creek they looked back at me and, in unison, blew me a kiss.

Brigitta had long anticipated a magical day at the annual Medieval Faire. She had designed her costume with multiple frills, capacious bags and dangerously pointy shoes. Topping it off were the warrior gloves. Perfect! What she never imagined was the owl which at precisely 3:00 PM would plummet from the sky to become a living accessory.

brigitta5a10Brigitta never imagined it, but, from that day on, she was different. The story that she now told about herself included the experience of the owl. Her world was bigger. There were clearer windows, wide-open doors and lower walls. She had made a connection with mystery.

In my own life, I remember a few “owl” times that changed how I saw myself. Some involved interaction with a person. One happened while reading a book. One was a face-to-face with a squirrel. Funny thing is that the more that I pay attention, the more “owl” times that there are.

Who or what are the story-changers in your life?

NOTE: The pictured character was designed by me, Maureen Carlson, from Premo! brigitta7a10Sculpey Polymer Clay plus a bit of wire and foil. Tucked into the concept is a dash of  imagination, the influence of Harry Potter and James Christensen, a fascination with birds that was nurtured by my mother, AnaBel Zelenak Crowell Peck, and a delightful polymer clay technique that I learned from Maggie Maggio called Color Washing.

The face was created using a What a Character Push Mold #F27 that was created by me and produced by Wee Folk Creations: https://www.weefolk.com/molds_list.htm#moldf27 .

Polymer Clay is a heat-set clay that comes in a variety of colors.

 

It’s Sunday morning. I’mriver2 sitting in my kitchen at the old rural school desk that is tucked in between the refrigerator and the corner cupboard. I’m drinking coffee and practicing being present, being aware. It helps that I’m on my 3rd cup of coffee! I’m trying to get back into a daily spiritual practice, and, am doing so, in bits and spurts. I’m reminded of what Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Hmmmm. I breathe slowly, in and out, and notice what I am seeing.

Out my window is Sand Creek, which is just visible if I stand up and peer over the fence.  I see a red squirrel racing from limb to limb. Surely she has had more coffee than me thissqauirrel6 morning! I keep losing her among the limbs, but then she stops and investigates something. Is the sap starting to seep out of the Maple Tree? And do squirrels like it?

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Across the river I can see a pair of gray squirrels chasing each other up into the highest limbs of the cedar tree, then leaping into an old willow, going round and round the trunk, then disappearing into the depths of a snowbank. Up they pop. Off they go again!

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Once summer day Dan and I were sitting on the deck, half way down the river bank, when we heard a PLOP.  There in the middle of the creek was a squirrel which hadn’t quite made the leap from limb to spreading limb from one side of the riverbank to the other. Learned something new that day! Squirrels CAN swim.

I stare up into the trees and imagine what it will be like in a few months, when the leaves will nearly block the view of the houses that are nestled onto the opposite river bank. In summer it is almost like we are living on the edge of the forest. That thought leads me to thoughts of the forest, and then, as thoughts often do, this one turns into contemplation. Pondering. Thinking about how the interweaving branches of the trees, those that allow squirrels to travel across the forest and even over the river, never touching the ground, are a great metaphor for the connections that we make in life.

I take up my pencil and write this, which, now, I offer to you.

I imagine myself as a tree, standing in the woods. You. Yes, you. You are one of the trees in that interlocking forest of my life …  branches touching, weaving together to create a network of relationships. Challenging. Supporting. Protecting. Inspiring. Applauding. Critiquing. Reacting. Denying. Questioning. Bristling. Loving. Pondering. Caring. Growing. Sharing stories. Apart. Separate. Yet together, grounded in the same earth, breathing the same air, drinking the same water, being shone on by the same sun. I can’t imagine being a single tree, standing alone in the meadow or on a mountaintop. I am thankful to be one tree in a forest full of trees with branches that connect with mine.

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As I write this I’m listening to the song “When Everything Old Is New Again”, sung by Peter Allen ( on You Tube).  The song, co-written with Carole Bayer Sager, so fits where I am right now. june2017

These lines, especially, resonate with me:

“Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”

So true! They make me smile. Remind me to grab hold of my imagination and fly. Encourage me to keep on dancin’ down that path.

I took this photo today, June 1, at 6:00 PM. The scene is the path that leads to the steps that go down to Sand Creek here at our place in Jordan, Minnesota, USA. Those of you who have been here in the summer will recognize the ferns and the bench. Same old place. Nothing new. But not so. It’s different now. It’s different because as of yesterday this is the backyard of our home as well as our business. Yes. Dan and I have moved in! The Prior Lake house now belongs to another family with dreams and plans of their own, while we are re-configuring the former Maureen Carlson’s Center for Creative Arts into a space and place that will nurture both our Wee Folk Creations business as well as ourselves.

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The experience of moving, after living almost 40 years in one place, has made me appreciate anew all of you who have shared your stories of challenges and change. It’s not as easy as it appears from the outside! You are my sheroes and heroes!

A little humor has helped in this 1 and 1/2-year process of downsizing and moving. The grandkids thought it was funny to sit on the couch one last time as it rested in the dumpster at the Prior Lake house.  They helped to make the moving day a joyful one to remember.

The old living room couch will never be new again.  And it obviously didn’t make the move with the rest of our things to the Jordan location. But the loving and living and laughing and learning that took place in that living room will never grow old.

Here’s to dreams!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where, and how, do you come face to face with wonder, with that which causes you to catch your breath in reverence, to bow your head in awe? Where is it that you feel connected to the mysteries of the universe?

20160916_192525_richtonehdrEach of us most likely has a favorite place. One of mine is my own back yard. It isn’t a well-landscaped place, nor unusual, nor especially beautiful. It is one corner of our 2 acres of land bordered by scrubby box elder trees, a very busy road, a lilac hedge and open farmland. Some might call it boring. But perhaps it is the very limitations of the place which bring the vibrancy and mystery of life into sharper focus.

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The boundaries of my yard frame the things that happen there in the same way that a beautiful picture frame isolates and enhances a picture.  I love it because I never know exactly what might step into or move through that frame. Each thing that comes feels like a gift.

One morning a few weeks ago I paused at my office window, as I often do, surveying the treeline that rims my property. It’s one of my morning rituals, one that brings me great pleasure, checking out this small square of land to see who or what will show up this morning. It often feels like a conversation with wonder, this through-the-window intimate connection with that which is other than me.

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Sometimes the wonder comes from the color of the sky or the formation of clouds. If I catch it at just the right time, I see the spreading light of the morning sun illuminate first the tips of the branches, then, gradually, as I watch, the trunks of the trees turn from brown to pink to various shades of yellow and then back again to colors of the earth.

Often I’ll see a squirrel flicking it’s tail as it leaps from limb to limb in the big maple, or maybe a couple of rabbits stretching out their legs as they playfully race through the asparagus bed. Sometimes it will be a woodpecker knocking its head repeatedly against the dead Elm that still stands, though it leans its shoulder against a sturdier neighbor.

But this morning, nothing. Not a Chickadee, or Cardinal or Crow. Not a flock of sparrows. Not the upside down Nuthatch who creeps along the trunk of a tree.  And most definitely not the timid deer which occasionally glide through the yard.

I resign myself to the fact that nothing is there this morning. I almost turn away to begin the task of putting order to my day, when I see a movement. Out from the shadows of the trees steps a very alert, very alive and very big Coyote. Now some of you may hear the name Coyote and think predator, nuisance, danger, warning. But to me, it is magnificent. Proud. Beautiful. Graceful. Tilting it’s ears to catch every sound as it sniffs the ground, following, I presume, the scent of the rabbits or the squirrels or some other 4-legged prey.

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I watch until it disappears behind our garage, heading towards the rolling pasture that is just beyond our driveway. Then I stand still a moment in reflection. In what seems to me to be Sacred Space. Sacred because for a few moments I am in that very present state of mindfulness which takes me outside of myself and into the ever present now. A space that moments before felt mundane and a bit stressed, but now feels wide open. I am connected to the web of life, where anything is possible. I am part of it all.

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You, perhaps, are used to seeing coyotes in the wild, perhaps you even hunt them. Which I do understand. I grew up on a farm and am familiar with the need to protect ones barnyard animals and beloved pets. But in the 40 years that I have lived on this corner of the world, it is the first time that I have  glimpsed one here, up close and personal, alive and free.

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It is this sense of being free, of this Coyote coming into my space on its own volition, through no cunning, or efforts of travel or enticement from me, that makes this moment so special. For just a brief snippet of time, a wild thing of nature has chosen to step into my personal space and share its life with me. Perhaps it is this sense of me being the recipient, not the mover of things, that so humbles and enlarges me at the same time.

I’ve marveled at seeing the giant Condors flying over the Grand Canyon.  In the Colorado Rockies I rounded a corner and looked eye to eye with a reclining moose. In the Florida Everglades I counted the alligators and on the California coast it was bugle of the elephant seals that astounded me.

 

But for that daily sense of connection to all that is, nothing beats the unexpected gifts that step into the frame of my own backyard. It reminds me that even in my routine daily life, perhaps ESPECIALLY in my routine daily life, I am a part of all that is.

For this I am grateful.skunk1

 

 

 

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A Conversation
with
the Pippsywoggin
Addie Brianne

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, like just last week, and in a place far, far away, on the river bench that overlooks my garden studio, I sat in some state of despondency and contemplated the little door that is nailed to the base of the old willow tree.

 

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I didn’t really expect the door to open or anyone to come out of it, as I knew all too well that it was only a fake door, and that my friends from the edge of imagination, the Pippsywoggins, were not real at all. But I wondered, given a chance, what the Pippsywoggins might have to say to me, today, in the midst of the turmoil that is permeating our world.

 

 

 

 

 

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And so I sat on the bench, by the little door and stared at the muddy waters of Sand Creek, feeling compelled to be there, but also feeling a bit like a fool.  And then it happened.

 

 

 

 

 

An image appeared before me, addiebposter157that of the 5-inch tall Pippsywoggin Addie Brianne, who plopped herself down beside me, crossed her hands under her chin, and looked expectantly over at me with a grin.

I grinned, too, for of course it would be Addie Brianne who would show up. I remembered her story, which begins like this.

Addie Brianne is content with life.  She doesn’t have any great ambition to be a dancer or a seamstress or a writer.  She doesn’t have urges to gather the largest strawberries or the sweetest nectar or the shiniest pebbles.  She is just content to relax and to respond to life as it comes to greet her.

 

Ah, but don’t think that she is lazy.  No, not for a moment.   Above her front door is a sign that says:  THE FIRST THING TO DO IS TO SHOW UP.  And this she does.  Every day.  With as many of her senses of sight and sound and touch and taste and smell as she can marshal together.

Her little house hangs like a basket in the middle of a clump of willows that grow on the edge of a small farm pond where cattle come to drink, where a pair of Mallards yearly raise a brood of ducklings, and where the neighboring Irish Setter routinely comes to bark at crabs.

Because she has made it a habit to show up, she has been there to see the new calf get his first wobbly drink.  She was present when the littlest duckling got swept through the drainage ditch by the sudden spring downpour, and she glimpsed the look in the Setter’s eyes when he came face to face with the giant snapping turtle.

She shows up, and because she does, opportunities for learning and growth and amazement are continually hers.  The other Pips are a bit jealous of her charmed life.  But, you know, the funny thing is that even though they have visited her little house in the willows many times, none of them have seemed to notice the sign above her door that says:  THE FIRST THING TO DO IS TO SHOW UP.

 

riverwestposter57I bent down to pick up a twig to throw into current as I contemplated Addie Brianne’s story.  Now what, I said. So what if I show up? How does that change anything in this messed up world and my messy life?

As I said this, Addie jumped up and ran towards the little door at the base of the old willow tree, throwing these words over her shoulder as she entered the door, “It may not change the world but it might change you.”

I hardly had time to think about the implications of what she said when Addie was back in front of me holding a sign that said:

 

 

Show up.

Keep it simple.

Keep it honest.

Be true.

Those Pippsywoggins! Always with something new to challenge me!  But I took Addie’s poster home with me and nailed it above my own front door.  You’re welcome to make copies for yourself, if you like. I’m sure that Addie B wouldn’t mind.

 

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The view out my office window is dreary indeed, not at all like last fall’s blaze of sun-bright yellow nor the spectacular glow of ice-white which greeted me one morning last winter.

 

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Today it’s gray, a dull lifelessness, which fits my present mood. I’ve no reason to be glum as the future is full of creative possibilities for joy and love, adventure and discovery, compassion and connection. I do believe that, but last night I let myself watch way too much cruelty, dissension and hatred on TV. That, on top of days of political news and confusion as to what’s moral and what’s true, plus my own disheveled getting-ready-to-move house and studio, and I went off to bed feeling like curling into a fetal ball, which I did. As a result I woke before 5:00 this morning feeling the dread of an already forgotten but way too vivid dream.

So here I sit, determined to bring myself back to that inner space and place where I can look at both myself and my fellow human beings with light and hope reflected in my gaze. I know that there are many ways to center oneself and reconnect with soul. There’s prayer, mindfulness, breath, yoga, meditation, gratitude, forgiveness, paying attention to one’s thoughts, various healing modalities, physical activity, volunteering to help others … and there’s storytelling.

I believe that all of us have a knowing, a wise soul, inside of us, deep in our inner core where we connect with Mystery, with each other, with All that is. We each access that inner knowing in a way that fits us, who we are. One way that I connect with that Truth is to immerse myself in nature. Another way is to sit down and have an imaginary friar2poster2conversation with the Pippsywoggins, little friends from the edge of imagination.It may sound weird to some of you, but it’s great fun, really, and a bit magical, too, as going into the world of make-believe allows me to access inner truths that escape me otherwise. Speaking with the Pippsywoggins let’s me be a kid again and put voice to ideas that otherwise are only rumbling around somewhere, beyond my grasp. Letting go and seeing where the conversation leads, has, in the past, been a great adventure, but it has been on hold for the last 15 or so years because, well, life has been busy. But, just maybe, now’s the time to open the door, that little one that’s hidden at the base of the old willow by the creek, and see if anyone’s there.

I’ll let you know …