Gigi Halliwell, otherwise known as The Word Wrangler, swirls among the fireflies, letting words emanate from her core. She is oblivious to her surroundings, completely lost in the land of intuition. Letters float through the air, and she is able to reach out to touch each of the letters and rearrange them to spell something profound. She has tried conjuring these words in different locations, but the middle of the forest seems to work best. In the forest, she is close to nature, away from prying eyes and opinions. The letters seems to come alive – glowing and moving about in graceful swoops. They always seem to attract fireflies; they can sense whenever Gigi enters the forest and swarm around her emanating more light. Gigi grabs a stick to record the message in the dirt. The letters stay in place only for a moment, and then they resume floating in the air. At first, the words do not always make sense alone but when she copies and rearranges them in a notebook, they make beautiful poetry. Haikus to be exact. One poem a day is about all she can manage. She shares her poems at The Wily Word Cafe in the middle of town, writing each one on the chalkboard the proprietor set up especially for her. The haikus always tell the citizens of Peacock Mountain what they must reflect upon that day – things that nature wants them to know. They all respect these messages.
Gillian Barnes from our Marketing and Communication Department at Endicott College asked me to speak about my art career as part of a feature for Women’s History Month. Gillian saw my calendar posted in a colleague’s office and wanted to know more about how I balance being an artist and working full-time as the Director of Internship – I am honored that she expressed interest in my career journey and wanted to share it with others.
Here is a link to read the article: Cindy’s Art Career Journey
I read an excellent, slim volume called “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart” by Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley, and I wanted to share some of the great tips I picked up from the book. I made a commitment to study poetry deeply this year, and a few days later, I stumbled upon this book in a bookstore. These are points that I want to remember, but I always like to share when I find content that is inspiring and useful… so here goes:
“There is a poet out there who is fluent in you (pg. 8) .” – The authors are encouraging readers to keep searching until they find the poets that resonate with them; I needed to hear this because it is often frustrating for me to find poets I really love. This reminds me not to give up hope, to keep searching for poets that know just the right words to awaken the dreamer in me.
“Ayurvedic medicine suggests the root of disease is often undigested emotion. Therefore, to feel is to heal (pg. 30).” – Writing poetry helps us to express emotions that are not always easy to express in day to day life, and in so doing, it helps to keep our energy flowing. I suspect a lot of us suffer from repressed emotions, so I loved this sentiment.
“One of the absolute coolest rules of writing is the Great Paradox, or, the fact that the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes (pg. 38).” – This helps to encourage me to write specific words related to my own unique experience. I often wonder if others will be able to relate to content that is unique to me, but this gives me permission to be uber specific – the details make the difference.
“There is no wrong way to experience poetry (pg. 49).” – The authors said that you should avoid writing the types of poems that turned you off from poetry in the first place (at least when you are first starting). For me, that is all the forms of poetry with lots of rules (i.e. couplets, tercets, quatrains, etc.) – as a result, I gravitate to free verse poetry because I want my writing to be as free as possible. Write the poetry that excites you!
“Poetry is the pen-and-paper version of paying wondrous attention (pg. 99).” – The authors talked about the importance of noticing – really, truly slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings and your life. And keeping a notebook with you at all times so you don’t forget the details.
“Make a list of things you could speak about for thirty minutes or longer. Review the list (pg. 111).” – This point addresses the age old question of “what should I write?” Well, write what you can’t stop talking about when you are given free reign to talk. And keep an ongoing list of those topics so you will always have a starting point when you sit down to write.
“Once you start to write and read every day, you will begin to think in poetics (pg. 119).” – It is important to establish a habit of reading and writing regularly if you want to get better at writing poetry – this is something we all know, but we constantly have to be reminded of it (or at least I do).
I hope you enjoyed my brief list of tips on reading and writing poetry. I would definitely recommend this book – if you like books such as “Steal Like an Artist” and “The Artist’s Way”, you will probably like this book for its straightforward, practical advice.
I created a calendar with a literary theme this year entitled “The Pleasures of Reading”. I wanted to share my final calendar images with all of you. This calendar is my favorite so far! I thoroughly enjoyed focusing on painting the books and people engaged in the best activity ever (at least as far as I am concerned) of reading. I enjoyed it so much in fact that I am thinking of focusing all of my art around literary subjects – books, imaginary book covers, book spaces, and more. I used to be worried that it would be too limiting to only focus on one subject area, but it is actually helping with my creativity. Somehow having limits/boundaries for my creative work is helping me to think of a lot more possibilities. Well, enough about that – without further ado, here is my full calendar for 2020:
I recently attended a talk by Erik Qualman where he spoke about the digital legacy that we each create online. The brief exercise he had us complete really caught my attention, and felt compelled to share it – it was about identifying our one word. One of the aspects of leaving a positive digital legacy (simply defined as the content that you leave in cyberspace that will be there forever) should be achieving authenticity. To get at what makes us authentic, Erik had us answer a provocative question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?” For me, the word “artist” immediately came to mind. It is the truest aspect of who I am, and it is how I want to be remembered on this Earth. It took me a long time to find my way back to being an artist (over 30 years). As a child, I definitely loved art – I enjoyed drawing and painting, writing stories, and reading voraciously. There is a newspaper photo of me on my first day of kindergarten (our local paper covered the first day back to school), and do you know what I was doing in the photograph? Drawing with an intense look of concentration on my little face. Being a proud mom, my mother cut it out and laminated it to keep, and I’m so glad she did because it is a lovely reminder of what I loved most as a child. And what I still love most as an adult.
I would encourage you to take some time to complete this exercise. The word you choose may be as unique as you are as an individual, or it may be as common as a character trait or social role chosen by many others. Erik only gave us a minute to think of our word, but you can take all the time you need to answer this one profound question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?”
Agatha did not discover her love for the cello until she reached her twenties. She had always been extremely active as a young child and participated in lots of sports; the thought of slowing down to play an instrument never crossed her mind. In college, Agatha’s music theory class took a field trip to a museum, and as part of the experience, the students got to try out lots of different instruments. For some reason, the cello just clicked with Agatha. She had no idea how to play it yet, but it just felt right resting against her body. With the support of her music theory professor, Monsieur Lamb, Agatha found a good cello instructor and started taking lessons in the afternoons after classes.
One day when Agatha and her cello instructor, Mr. Kim, were practicing, they decided to go outside to play because it was too warm inside. By this time, Agatha was quite proficient and could play lovely songs on the cello. As she played, butterflies started to swirl around her – first one, then two, and by the time she finished, there were about 20. Mr. Kim had never seen anything like it. The next day, they came back to the field to play, and the same thing happened. Out of curiosity, Mr. Kim played his cello to see if the butterflies would gravitate toward him, but they just fluttered away. From then on, he referred to Agatha as the butterfly charmer. Whenever she performed outside, day or night, butterflies appeared and fluttered lazily about enchanting everyone present. Agatha loved this spectacle because she had always been fascinated by butterflies. It always made her happy to see that the butterflies enjoyed her music, and she kept them in mind when she started to compose music.
To bring Agatha and her butterflies home with you, visit Etsy
Yuuma, the swan keeper, is known for breeding swans of an unusual size. She is currently the keeper of a family of swans with a female (Pixie), male (Beau), and two babies (Bobby and Lucky). Yuuma works at the bird sanctuary, and her lake and cottage are attached to it via a bridge. She is good friends with Birdie, the manager of the bird sanctuary. One of their favorite pastimes is taking long, quiet strolls through the sanctuary together while sipping tea and discussing the birds. Yuuma is also a ballerina for the local ballet company. She is obsessed with Swan Lake, and spends countless hours creating variations of it during her spare time. She creates one new interpretation each year and stages one grand performance for the citizens of the Isle of Adelle. They look forward to it all year because her productions are truly spectacular to behold. They all admire her wonderful talent, quiet tenacity, and gentle perfectionism.
This poem was created in Yuuma’s honor:
White feathers flow
yoked to a graceful form
drift slowly by.
To bring Yuuma and her swans home with you, please visit my Etsy shop.
Nora is an exceptional seamstress that Adelle recruited to join the art colony some years back. Nora said she would come on one condition – her home and shop needed to have an unobstructed view of the sea, and Adelle granted her wish. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Paris, Nora loves hearing the gentle swaying of the waves and seeing the boats headed to wondrous destinations. She likes imagining the places they might be headed, and her imaginings often make their way into her creations in subtle ways. For example, this yellow dress for Marigold, a perky harpist who has a flair for the dramatic, came about because Nora imagined that she was attending a night out at the opera in Venice. The gloves became a necessity because what Diva wears a dress without gloves.
People often say that Nora’s creations fit like a dream. She takes great pleasure in seeing her customers try on their outfits for the first time – when they swing, sway, and sashay in front of the mirror while professing their love for her clothing. Could there be anything better? Nora doesn’t think so.
One of her satisfied customers created this poem to honor her:
Shaping a fabric’s fate
her needle mimics the waves
making golden gloves sing.
This painting, Nora’s Stitches, is available as an original and prints via Etsy
Bernadette “Birdie” McGee is the founder of the bird sanctuary and the local bird shop on The Isle of Adelle. Birdie is the resident expert on all species of birds, and she is careful to fill new bird owners in on everything necessary to take excellent care of their bird friends. There are a few rules that every new bird owner must follow when purchasing a bird: 1) they must allow them to be free (the birds cages in her shop are just for decoration because the bottoms are all open) 2) they must bring the birds to her shop for proper grooming and regular check-ups and 3) they must participate in special training sessions to learn about their particular species of bird.
Birdie learned everything she knows from her grandmother, Agatha, a noted ornithologist at the Sorbonne. Birdie decided not to go to school (on account of being painfully shy – the thought of attending a huge university terrified her), but she learned everything intuitively by reading her grandmother’s books and taking lessons from her. She is still painfully shy with a quiet and gentle demeanor; her days are peaceful, well-ordered, and allow plenty of alone time – exactly how she likes it. The only time she becomes unusually vocal and strong is when it comes to speaking up for the health and well-being of her birds.
Birdie’s shop is attached to a vast bird sanctuary that is open to the community (there are well over 300 species of birds at the sanctuary). One of her favorite things to do each morning is to go into the bird sanctuary before everyone else is awake with a cup of tea and listen to the beautiful chorus of birdsong. She wrote a little poem to commemorate her favorite activity:
Alone among trees
sipping cherry blossom tea
a soul-stirring melody
fills the air with harmony.
Birdie’s painting is available on Etsy
Wade believes in making rainy days more amenable by adding joyful surprises inside each of his umbrella – surprises like pops of bright color, lights, glitter, and clouds. No matter what is happening in the sky, when his customers look up, they only see images that make them happy. There is something special about having joyful umbrellas to make it through a wet weather event. People order Wade’s umbrella’s from far and wide, and he will customize each one to match the personalities of his customers. How? Wade has developed a set of 5 profound questions to figure out all that he needs to know about a person (they are top-secret of course).
I created a brief poem to accompany Wade’s mini-story:
The rain taps lightly above.
Inside their dome
people gaze up
happy to be home.
Umbrella Man is now available on Etsy