How to enjoy a Happy Solstice

my copy after Gertrude Elliott Epenscheid from The First Christmas Tree

"When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born."

—Thich Nhat Hanh

I'm posting this before the stroke of the Winter Solstice, tonight, Monday, 21 December 2015 at 11: 48 PM.
Now the light begins to return. And not a moment too soon. If there were ever a moment to bring light into the world, it is now.
Be the light. Hold the light. Shine the light. Share the light.
Light up your countenance with a smile that emanates from your heart. It's guaranteed to fire the wick of joy in all who look upon you. It's a way to heal the earth and all of her creatures.
What is more important?

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."

—Victor Hugo


"The only way to find out is to find out."

—Gertrude Crampton

That's what Granny Glittens says to her black cat as she decides to be creative in a holiday emergency.
It's also one of the best attitudes to take whatever your creative pursuit may be! Try it and see. What's the worst that could happen?
This time of year, I like to share a few of my treasured holiday experiences from childhood.
Click here to read Granny Glittens and her Amazing Mittens from The Tall Book of Christmas.

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail."

Edwin Land

Allow Yourself To Receive

"In a nutshell, loving someone is about giving, not receiving."

—Nicholas Sparks


Allow yourself to receive

'Tis better to give than to receive.

It's true. It feels better. Still, if one person gives, another has to receive.
You can't give if you are depleted. You can't enjoy giving if you are burnt out.
In this season of enforced giving, I suggest that you remember to give to yourself—time, relaxation, self-care and compassion. When you need help, ask for it. When you need to retreat and relax, do so.
Allow yourself to receive thanks, compliments, support, rest, and love (in whatever form it arises) without diminishing your value in any way. Over the past few years I've noticed, especially in coaching and teaching, how difficult it is for people to simply receive a compliment without disparaging themselves in some fashion. A compliment about your work, accomplishment, clothing, anything, is a gift. Learn to receive that gift.
It's the old oxygen mask instruction. "If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person."
Giving and receiving are the yin and yang of energetic currency. You need both. If you think you might need to work on your receiving skills, this is a perfect time of year to practice!

"Giving opens the way for receiving."

—Florence Scovel Shinn

The Gratitude Game

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude."

—Friedrich Nietzsche


The Gratitude Game

It's as easy as saying thank you.

I did one of those popular Facebook analyses yesterday and discovered that my most frequently used word on that platform is "thanks". I like that. How timely.
Whether you're feeling as though you don't have enough (of anything) or are freaked out by some immediate or world situation, sit yourself down with a pen and paper and play the gratitude game.
Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for. Breakfast, potable hot and cold running water, a place to live, shoes, eyesight, hands, transportation, a friend, your animal companion, the ability to open your heart to another living creature, to give of yourself...Start with the basics. You may be able to write for pages.
That's all. It's pretty simple. A good exercise in bringing your attention right back to the present moment and the most important things.
If you're in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.
Read Art Buchwald's Le Grande Thanksgiving. (My perennial favorite.)
If you're here or elsewhere in the world, Happy Full Moon (tomorrow at 5:44 PM EST).

"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for."

—Zig Ziglar

Why nostalgia is bad for you

My demo from yesterday afternoon's Watercolor Pencil class.
After Fairfield Porter's Rosa Rugosa.

"Nostalgia is a seductive liar."

—George Ball


Why nostalgia is bad for you

Nostalgia is old

It drags you out of the present moment and throws you into a quicksand of the past.
I recently suffered a severe bout of nostalgia and it was not fun. Then I discovered that I'd inadvertently deleted seven years of photos on my computer. Then I found that the painting image I intended to use for this post was lost in a hard drive crash a few years ago. What little time I had to write this post evaporated in the search for old images.

Because I received several emails and other direct communications in defense of nostalgia after writing this initial post, I feel compelled to define my terms.

Although it has now come to signify fondness for things, places, people of the past, it actually means "acute homesickness." The Greek roots of the word are nostos 'return home' + algos 'pain'.

As a child at camp, for example, I had no natural defense against nostalgia. As an adult, however, I have a choice to mitigate acute homesickness with every trick I can think of to bring me into the present moment.
Nostalgia really is a disease. Here's my favorite description:
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
—A. E. Houseman, A Shropshire Lad

So here's what I've decided.

I'm letting go of the past with all the love and blessings I have in me. Good timing, too. Today is the new moon! I'm setting my intentions for happy new pursuits and loving every moment.
Here's to good mental health and living life in present tense.

"Nostalgia is when you want things to stay the same. I know so many people staying in the same place."

Jeanne Moreau

Axel at Wake County SPCA

Really? No one has brought me home yet?

F-ing incredible. Have you any idea what you're missing?

No. You couldn't possibly. Click here to visit with me or to talk about adoption.

Click here for the Wake County Death Row shelter.

Bring an animal into your life. Your life will improve!!!

The Irish Sports Page

"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

—Jerry Seinfeld


Who comes up with these things?

All Soul's Day. Dia de los muertos. Turning back the clocks and utter darkness in late afternoon. Too much all at once!
Still, remembering the dead and celebrating death on the edge of darkness can help us appreciate life and light with a bit more gusto and humor.
One day, long ago, my Uncle Jim took my mother and me out to the Overbrook Country Club for lunch. My mother must have mentioned seeing a friend of the family's death notice because my uncle said, "Ah, yes. The Irish Sports Page."
The what? It took me a minute and when I realized that he was talking about the obituaries, I laughed out loud. But then I thought, "My god! I read those pages all the time!" (Not so much to see who died but to learn the most interesting things about people's lives.)
I can't find the origin of the term (probably some pub over a pint) but I'm sure it's been in use for as long as there've been sports pages. And Irish people reading them.
When I lived in places with great cemeteries, I used to love walking through them. I even wrote a song about doing just that at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. It's one of my favorites (cemeteries and songs).
Contemplating death is good. It's a reminder of impermanence and that, while death is certain, the time of death is not.
When I find myself wallowing or stuck in some wheel of thought about what is past or what may come to be (or not), if I can step outside that loop, I have a little talk with myself. Okay now, is this the state you'd choose if you were to die tomorrow? Then I pull myself together, look at something pretty, make a drawing or something and come back to the present.
Death's gonna come. May as well live now!

"At my age, I'm often asked if I'm frightened of death and my reply is always, I can't remember being frightened of birth."

—Peter Ustinov

5 Tips for Healthy Feet

Sock Season

It's time to keep your tootsies warm.

I have to tell you about my new socks! One thing I love is finding a new article of clothing that doesn't shrink, pill, pull apart at the seams, or otherwise disappoint after one wearing or washing.
Although I've probably spent one-third of my life in flip-flops, I now like to wear good socks year round. They're easy protection from cooties and help to keep my skin and personal thermodynamics in good order.
I found awesome socks in the 6 for $12 bin outside of Twig in Chapel Hill recently. After my wear and wash test, I liked them so much that I went back for another half a dozen. There was no brand on the socks or tag (how refreshing) but I learned that they're made at a small mill in Graham, NC called Best Knit Hosiery Mill, Inc. I brought home pairs in two greys, white, and my favorite color green. (To prove that last point, see 2010 post on my first pair of Keen Newport H2Os.)
Although this blog has been primarily devoted to drawing and watercolor for a decade, my most visited post (by quantum leaps and bounds) is How to heal your fractured foot and ankle. And so, I revisit the subject.


"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."

—Leonardo da Vinci


5 Tips for Healthy Feet

Follow these steps...

Massage your own feet!
Find a reflexology chart or let your thumbs and fingers, intuition and pleasure be your guide. Don't know where to start? Rub the soles of your feet together vigorously on waking, after napping, (or any time you need a quick pick me up). Feel the heat and tingly energy. It's good for your whole being!
Soak 'em.
Fill a dish bin with warm water and epsom salts (or sea salt and baking soda) and sit still for 15 minutes or so with a good book or magazine.
Exfoliate your skin.
The best time to exfoliate the skin on your feet is after a good soak. Pumice stones are too harsh for me. If you're the same, try a wash cloth, loofah, or nail brush.
Most folks have a favorite moisturizer. Mine alternates from season to season. I love Mountain Ocean Skin Trip but am also an Udderly Smooth fan. This season, I'm trying out their Extra Care 20on both my feet and my hands. Also, moisturize your feet before bed then don some clean, lightweight socks.
Point, flex, and rotate (in both directions).
In the morning before you get out of bed and at night before you sleep. This will help keep your joints and muscles flexible, and your blood and vital energies circulating.
Come to think of it, all of the above will help to circulate your blood and vital energies.
Add your favorite essential oils to any of these steps for even greater benefit.
Speaking of which...

Good for your feet

Deep Blue Oil

Mmm, mmm, mmmmm!

After standing on my feet for all day teaching stints or local art markets, there is nothing like settling down at home to massage my feet with Deep Blue oil.
This blend of the essential oils of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, Helichrysum, and Osmanthus, penetrates deep and continues its healing magic long after the massaging has stopped.
Want a bottle for yourself?
Click here for my online store. Deep Blue Oil is also included as one of the top ten oils in the Family Physician Kit at a super value.
Need help? Click here to email or call to schedule a chat.


Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

—Theodore Roosevelt


Coming attractions!

If you're in the Triangle region and you'd like me to perform my musical program, Out Under the Sky, NOW is definitely the time to get in touch. My dance card is filling up quickly. I particularly love performing acoustic house concerts and private parties. Click here for more info.
Flash Sale of my watercolors is coming up in November. If you want first dibs, click here to sign up for an invitation for preview sale.

The Creative Heart

Watercolor and ink from a journal page

Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.

—Leonardo da Vinci


The Creative Heart

Just back from laps at the pool. Stroke and flow. Inhale, exhale. Contract, relax. Ah... I feel expanded and open. It's good for my heart. And what's good for the heart is good for creativity.
Creativity requires open heartedness. It's not really a thinking game. Problem solving is always a component, and practice is de rigeur for keeping your muscles sharp, but being relaxed and open is essential for the creative process. That's why people hit on some of their best ideas while in the shower.
You cannot create while contracted. In fact, a contracted state often results in destructive acts. Imagine how your heart feels when you are angry. Now imagine how it feels when you're in the flow of some activity, unaware of time passing. Your heart is open.
The heart is the seat of our emotions. It's also our secondary brain (although I think we could come up with a better phrase!). The electrical activity in our brain that fires off thoughts and memories, neurological impulses, etcetera, is complemented by the powerful electromagnetic energy in our heart which also has its own little nervous system and also holds memories.
Your heart will clue you into energetic signals that your logical mind may not only miss but, if noticed, dismiss. You know in your heart if some situation feels wrong, or if a person is not being honest. Or if you're not truly in alignment with what you're saying or doing.
Not only that, the heart resides in the fourth chakra center, spinning and radiating with green energetic light (if healthy and unblocked), linking the lower and the upper chakras.
It's the center of our system. By paying attention to, and honoring, your heart and all it's magnificent functions, you'll enhance your creativity and your love for living.

"New Moons are new beginnings. Now is the time for action…You are a powerful creator. What do you want to create? No matter the question, love is the answer. Love you. Love life. Love one another. Love."

—Kelly Rosano


Last night we marked the new moon in Libra

the astrological sign of harmony and balance.

Now is a perfect time to set your intentions for anything that may help you become more aligned with your most authentic self. If you're ever unclear about what and who is in alignment with your true self, bring attention to your heart. How does it feel in your heart?
As you set your intentions for the coming month (or longer), write them down. Notice how you feel about them and what your mind tells you. Can you strike an honest balance?
If you're undecided, I'd say err on the side of caution. Go with your heart.

Good for your heart

Gernaium lg
Geranium is the oil of love and trust. I massage a drop at my heart center every morning.
Geranium is sometimes called "The poor man's rose." Maybe, but to me, rose and geranium are entirely different experiences and geranium—the plant and scent—is one of my life-long, true loves.
Want a bottle for yourself? 
Click here for my online store.
Need help?
Click here to email or call to schedule a chat.

The Importance of Regular Breathing

from a page in my Creative Journaling with Essential Oil course...

One of the many reasons I love swimming laps is because it regulates my system by organizing my breathing and focusing my mind almost entirely on numbers—how many lengths down, how many to go, how many minutes done, how many seconds for one length, and so on.
I must thank my father, who was born this week, many moons ago, for getting me into the ocean and the pool before the age of five. He left swimming technique instruction to summer counselors at Friend's Central, but taught me to body surf himself—how to spot a good wave, when and where in the curl to catch it, how to let it carry my body, and what to do if I missed and was pummeled.
I may have been born part fish but my dad taught me how to ride a wave. I can still see him thrusting his arm out to sea, pointing out a swell. I am squatting next to him looking over my shoulder at the forming curl behind us, ready to release myself into its rush to shore. Time to inhale.
Anyway, it's fall and, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season to get our lungs in order. Swimming is great medicine for my lungs. So is intentional breathing. So are essential oils.

"The lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out."

—Doctor Shen's Compendium of Honoring Life, 1773



As some of you know, I am wild about natural fragrance and essential oils. In keeping with today's theme, let me turn you on to Breathe, an essential oil blend of Laurel Leaf, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Melaleuca, Lemon Peel, Ravensara, and Cardamom Seed.
I keep one bottle in my gym bag for the steam room, one in my home medicine cabinet, and a vapor stick in my purse.
Want a bottle for yourself? Click here for my online store.
Need help? Click here to email or call to schedule a chat.



"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

—Marcus Aurelius