On the first day of summer

Summer Fling, Suzanne McDermott, Watercolor, 9 x 12 inches

It felt like I frittered the day away.

All morning was socked in by cool, grey mist. I opened the windows to let the wet air through on a slight breeze. All I can remember after that was turning in small circles, picking up this, moving that, organizing a bit of one thing, washing something else.

Even Tallulah, released for her daily constitutional, turned in little circles not far from the front door, then ran inside, startled by a far off neighbor.

When I finally took my own walk, it started to rain as I'd reached about the farthest point away from my house. Walking through the rain was refreshing and an added delight.

It's summer now and time to take things as easy as we can.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Copyright @ 1990 by Mary Oliver. First published in House of Light, Beacon Press. Reprinted in The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays, Beacon Press.


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Why I Love Peppermint

Suzanne McDermott, watercolor, 5 x 7 inches

Growing up, we had two universal panaceas:

My father's white cotton handkerchief and the roll of Pep•O•Mint Lifesavers in my mother's purse or pocket.

Ever since, clean, white cotton and peppermint my go-to solutions when comfort and soothing are in order.

If you've studied watercolor with me, you'll know that I keep a stack of well-worn, white Irish linen damask napkins on hand at all times. I readily admit they are as much for working as they are for comfort, like Linus' blanket.

If you've ever visited my gardens, you'll remember that the pot of peppermint was probably the first stop. Whenever I have to restart a garden, a good peppermint is usually the first thing I pick up. I have a pot of chocolate mint outside my door and pinch a leaf for my coffee every morning. Yum.

Peppermint oil is easy to find in European pharmacies. In the years I toured solo through Europe, I always kept a bottle in my shoulder bag, wrapped in a white cotton handkerchief. Two very good things to keep on hand, I'll tell you.

Congestion, stale breath, fatigue, the blues, nausea and headaches. Right off the top of my head, those are just a few conditions peppermint will cure. Yes, cure.

Finally, I ran out of the 2 bottles of China Olie I bought in Holland way back when. It's great to have found a better, much higher quality replacement with doTERRA's Peppermint essential oil.


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What nobody tells you about the leap of faith

Suzanne McDermott, Die Brücke, watercolor, 5 x 7 inches

Taking a leap of faith

is all the rage in coaching and entrepreneurial work. But there's a rather important matter in the process that most people don't mention up front.

When you're in mid-air and there's no net and your landing ground is nowhere close, you have to engage an entirely new degree of faith. This level of faith may be as new as the ground you are aiming for.

What nobody tells you is that you're going to have to find and engage an entirely new level of faith to call on not once, not twice, but over and over again.
“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”
— Marilyn Ferguson
What if you don't reach the other side?

What if your wings don't work or your parachute doesn't open or your hands don't grasp the trapeze bar or...

I don't like being in-between. I like to know what I am doing, where I'm going and feel my hooks securely in that thing. I like to plan, take action and accomplish.

Of course, this is not how life works. Life, learning and creative activities unfold in their own time, at their own pace.

When I find myself in the in-between I remember that I am moving through Bardo.

The Tibetan word Bardo describes the state between death and rebirth. The "in-between state." The Bardo Thodol, known in English as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, defines six kinds of Bardo. Three are associated with life: The bardo of birth, the bardo of dreams and the bardo of meditation.

In simplest terms, birth signals the state of life (in-between death), dreams the state in-between waking and sleeping, and meditation the state in-between the incessant stream of thoughts.

The Bardo Thodol translates as "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State." That's a description you have to mull over.

The word "Bardo" comes from the Tibetan words "bar" meaning "in between"; "do" meaning "island" or "marking point."

Here's the thing. If you frame your phase of uncertainty (whatever your journey may be) in terms of Bardo, you may rest assured that you will always reach the other side, your destiny.

Your phase of uncertainty may not be easy or fun but you can remove at least one aspect of fear from the equation. You'll always get to the other side. It's a given because you're only in-between.

I'm getting used to it. You?
“What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one.... It’s this in-between that I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.”
— Federico Fellini

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Artist as Healer

Tuscan Vestige, Suzanne McDermott
Watercolor, 7 x 10 in.

"At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer;
a wordless trust of the same mystery is the foundation of your work and its integrity."

—Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
Of all the posts and articles I've published on the web over the past nine years, by far, the most widely read and shared is called How To Heal Your Fractured Foot and Ankle. When I say "by far", I mean by tens of thousands of hits over and above all else.

The article is all about everything I did to help myself heal my own, yep, fractured foot and ankle. I have always loved researching, experimenting and playing with the healing process. (After all, the creative process is a healing process.) Some things work, some don't. I love to share modalities, practices and products that work.

Learning to heal ourselves is so much about learning to know ourselves and, often, about ourselves in relation to nature. Same thing with creative work.

Anyone who's ever picked at a scab knows that the healing process must be allowed unfold through it's own course over time. Just like the creative process.

And just like the creative process, healing can bring up a lot of fear and resistance because, in both types of practices, you have to trust and allow nature to take it's course. That fear and resistance? It often shows up in the form of control issues and perfectionism. Fundamentally, control freaks and perfectionists block the energetic flow by clinging tightly to the edge of their cliff. It's a form of anxiety that requires a healing process all it's own. That's healing process is all about trust and letting go.
“Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.”
—Thomas Merton
The creative process is a journey. Healing is a journey. Trust is a journey, too.


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