Friday, December 19, 2008


I'll Blog Blog Blog more on this later. But basically I am still working on my own healing- health post surgery issues with this one. AND I keep coming to the conclusion that we are all interconnected.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things I have Done In My Life

I found this on Haley Hughes Blog and I thought I would give it a try. It's a list of life activities and events and you highlight in BOLD the things you've done.

Things I've done in my life (in bold):

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant

Want to play along? Copy the list to your own blog (or email) and highlight the things you've done

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waiting for our New Dog

Still waiting on a rescue group to approve us for a dog. It's been a week and the Labrador rescue people haven't answered any of my emails after our home inspection so I am wondering if we passed it. The other Lab rescue place can't do a home inspection for awhile and won't consider our application until we are inspected.

In the meantime we're checking out other dogs. Arizona Weimeraner Rescue just posted "Buddy" who has lots of potential for us. Wondering maybe if he's our dog.

I hope we find him soon. Oz is still so incredibly heartbroken about his dog. Me too. We need some doggy love to fill this household. It would be nice if we found a match for Christmas.

Here's a photo of "Buddy" from Az Weime Rescue and there are others if you happen to be in the market for a used Weimeraner!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jewel Trees

On The Wish Granting Jewel Tree of Tibet

I recently downloaded a recording of Robert Thurman's The Jewel Tree of Tibet: The Enlightenment Engine of Tibetan Buddhism from . This series of recordings has really altered how I see the world and inspired my recent spurt of tree paintings.

Recently Robert Thurman has taken the place of my former committee PhD chair as my favorite old fart academic father like guy. Oh by the way- Thurman- yes that Thurman, in addition to being Uma Thurman's dad, he is also the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Colombia University

In the recorded version of Jewel Tree Thurman takes the listener on a 6 lesson retreat on Tibetan Buddhism. Here's a snippet from a review in Publisher's Weekly:

Thurman successfully spins the text's interpretation so that it becomes more transparent to a Western audience. He describes Buddhist karma, for example, as "Darwinian evolution with an individual twist," and also cautions readers not to adopt some blissed-out, mind-emptying idea of Buddhism just because they imagine that it's Eastern and therefore superior. "When we seek to enter the path of enlightenment, we have to engage with society." On the other hand, he notes, we also need to embrace ascetics like monks and nuns, and invest generously in their work toward liberation. The book has some truly beautiful moments, as when Thurman encourages readers to meditate on the loving-kindness of their mothers (even the bad mothers, he says, made sacrifices to keep their children alive and fed), or when he offers 11 steps to compassion, love and happiness. Although there are a few hiccups - moments when it becomes obvious that the "root text" of Mentor Devotion is a tricky one indeed - this is a fine tool on the road to enlightenment.

Thurman is quirky, deep, a total lefty politically and gets his politics in every chance he gets- most of which I don't agree with, well the end result but would argue the path by which he gets there, but I honor that view- as it is similar to my husband's view and he presents them in a hilarious way. He has these amazing rants that show the breadth of his knowledge, that begin with a pedagogical discourse, a history lesson, a quote from Shakespeare, Socrates, brings it back to Buddhism, pulls you into meditation mode, and soon you've left the planet and sank deep into the unified field- drawing from a deeper well of information I hadn't thought possible from a book on tape.

The heart of the audio retreat is learning the skill of visualizing the "Wish Granting Gem Tree". As I have been meditating on it every night for the past couple months I am just starting to get. It is a symbolic tree of refuge within which sits all the enlightened beings ready to reach out and assist you with any requests you may have. He leads you through the visualization- imagining a tree- seated with Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Mary, whomever you choose as your mentor deity. Here's a description of the tree from Thurman's Inside Tibetan Buddhism/Rituals and Symbols Revealed: Rituals and Symbols Revealed (Signs of the Sacred)

You visualize a lush, green meadow in a vast heavenly field in a perfected realm. There is a crystal lake with delicious waters, from which grows a majestic tree. Its powerful trunk has five main branching sections and flowers and wish-granting gems hang on it like fruit. On the central branch at the center of the crown, there is a shining jewel throne with a glowing moon-disc cushion upheld by eight magic lions. On that throne sits your mentor in the form of a perfect Buddha. Above him or here there is a stack of historic mentors, a living, astral chain of mentors reaching back to the historical Buddhas and adepts... Before the tree circulates a vast host of fierce protector deities. All the enlightened beings on and around this wish-fulfilling refuge tree seem vividly alive, fully aware of you and your practice and dedication. They smile at you radiantly, and their delight in you fills you with joy and confidence. Around you in the field are all ordinary beings, including your family, dearest friends, worst enemies, and all animals (for the moment in human form.). All of them look toward you longingly, seeking help in their own quests for safety and happiness. You vow that your going for refuge will help all of them.

Thurman paints a portrait of this cherished Tibetans Buddhist tradition of "wish-fulfilling jewel tree" that is totally accessible to a 30 something Midwestern girl. He brings it down to a level where extremely difficult esoteric ideas are explained in a way I really get. The kernel of which is that what the Buddha taught has the power to generate bliss and enlightenment within all who absorb its teachings, be they Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim. Everyone one can benefit from his project because it is not religion but a way of seeing the world. Thurman argues that happiness, in fact, is the true goal of Tibetan spirituality. Wish-fulfilling jewel tree imagery acts like a mandala or a yoga pose to focus your attention on truths larger than yourself. It allows a space that is completely lacking in the Western imagination, a map you can jump into, look around and find out who you are and why you are here.

For me personally, it has become an incredible vehicle to better understand myself and the world.

It has inspired this whole new series of trees. Each one a "wish granting tree" that brought a new perspective to my practice and my art.

Interviewing For A New Family Member

We've filled out applications for a new family dog with a couple rescue organizations.

Desert Labrador Rescue

Arizona Labrador and Giant Breed Rescue

AZ Weimeraner Rescue

Under normal circumstances I would not be in a huge hurry to adopt another dog, but Oskar, our 3 1/2 year old had a difficult time with Tyler being gone. He has really been missing his dog. Which in turn, makes it a bit harder for me.

So together as a family we've been reading dog breed books, looking at photos online of available dogs for adoption in Tucson, thinking of boy and girl dog names. That seems to lighten the sadness a bit. We decided we definitely want another Lab, but not a Black Lab- only white or chocolate. We all agreed it wouldn't be fair to the dog if he look exactly like Tyler as no dog could fulfill that expectation. Also together as a family at dinner we took a moment and put it out there to the universe that the right dog for our family find his/her way to us.

A Desert Labs volunteer came on Saturday for a home inspection where they check out your house before they let you adopt. We'll find out this week if we pass their standards. The volunteer brought along her 5 year old chocolate lab "Chelsea" and it felt so nice to have a dog in the house again. We were all sad to see her go.

Two new dogs came up on the website today- Ben and Dharma. I am taking it as a bit of a sign about Dharma as I have been practicing Buddhist meditation the past few years- and this month in particular with all the health excitement dove right in to a lot of dharma study. So I wonder if she'll be our dog- or will lead us to our new dog. Either way it felt like a wink from the universe we are on the right path.

Here are their photos

Ben- 3 year old male yellow lab

Dharma- 6 year old female

I thought I'd post their photos here- just in case their future home was to be with a blog reader and seeing their handsome mug might make that happen quicker. I was surprised to see how many pure-bred dogs need good homes and are ready for adoption. Please click on the links above if you are looking for a Labrador in AZ or want to make a donation to a worthy cause.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Photos by Erik van Hannen

Many people have asked me the inspiration for the painting of Tyler running into the woods. I found an incredible photographer looking through FlickR one night named Erik van Hannen. He has a great series of tree photographs and that is what inspired the trees for Tyler's painting.

Click Here to view his profile and see his photos.

Here is the one I used for inspiration from a photo set called "In The Woods" (have a look there are several breathtaking landscape shots)

Photo Copyright Erik van Hannen

I've placed Tyler's painting below for comparison.

What drew me in about the photograph was it felt as if you could step right inside of an enchanted forest. I could feel the cool fog and smell the mist. As I was playing around painting I found myself inhabiting the space of the forest and it was indeed very magic. I had almost finished the painting and decided to paint the dog in as it felt so good for me to be "there"- I wanted him to go "there" too. As I painted it our last night together, I wanted to have a visual memory of our time together. A reminder that he would always be there for me in the enchanted space whenever I needed him. I am beginning to believe more and more that the ones we love never really leave us, they are always there, it's just they are in a different space. They are just a bit beyond where we are now. Too far away to feel, touch, hear, but close enough that if we are quiet and still we can know.

Another one of van Hannen's photos I feel really moved by is one called "Revenge of the Trees"

When you close your eyes and blur them a little it almost looks like a snowflake pattern in the spaces between the branches.

I did a painting of birch trees looking up for a child's perspective a couple months ago. I had so much fun doing it and it brought me so many memories of growing up in Wisconsin I wanted to do another one. This is my favorite of the photos I've collected from the "looking up perspective" for inspiration. The colors in this photo- particularly the slight sepia tone helped me pick the background for the current piece I am working on.

Photo copyright Erik van Hannen

Seems that many of my friends and family are going through big life events right now. When I was waiting on my cancer diagnosis after they took the tumor out in October/November (it's benign- everything is okay!)I worked on painting the trees that became Tyler's painting. It was very meditative and healing. Whenever I got into fear- I worked on another tree. It helped me stay calm but more then that I used it to train my mind to only think about healing and growth. Using it as an excise to find the beauty in each branch, gnarled and twisted, it was perfect. I imagined my body, like the trees, healing, growing, stretching with each branch, neurons firing, growth regenerating. Each tree I painted became a prayer, a good thought, a deep breathe. So I started that again with this painting. I have friends who are trying to have a baby- so I sat in the studio one night and focused on them, prayed, meditated, thought about them while I painted their tree, the joy with a positive test, the pregnancy, first ultrasound, holding their baby, another family with a baby facing health concerns, I did the same, focusing on love, Light, health, feeling of relief when they are all back together, a lifetime of family memories, first steps, first words, first day of school, joy with each, another tree, branches stretching growing, reaching out. My mother in law in India traveling alone for 5 weeks, all the new experiences, lots of growth, and then the bombing that happened 3 days before she left out of Mumbai. I did one tree where a branch had fallen and smaller branches reached out holding it up. Each tree has a story. Some of my tree/stories connect in knowing each other and their branches touch, meet in the air, others do not. Interesting how they come together and pull apart. What I am learning is how interconnected we all are, how we all need each other. Some branches block out the Light, others let Light through. Beauty comes through in the patterns and spaces that are created in the process.
Enough writing... back to painting.
Love to you all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Progress 12-04-08

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Be Here Now

Moving Video putting music and pictures of Ram Dass reading from "Be Here Now".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Progress on New Painting

I started a new piece this week. Sort of a continuation of the Tyler Dog trees. Feeling like I have a bit more to process there, especially with the benign tumor diagnosis. I went back to the urologist today and it seems I am all healed up. I saw photos of my bladder from the surgery and doc was pointing out areas and explaining why they looked cancerous- what they cut out, etc, which I sort of got lost in the explanation- blur. Anyhow-- I left the office feeling a lot of gratitude. The rest will just work itself out.