Tuesday, June 17, 2008


“Do not doubt that you are born to create. Do not believe for a minute that the realm of art belongs only to others. Do not believe what you have been told or think you heard: that you are incapable, unimaginative, not artistic…. If you have believed these things and woven your garment from doubt and fear, disrobe and look within. Find what brings you joy and go there. That is your place to create, to move with the spirit, for the Muse lingers near the home of your joy.

Creativity is of the inner realm. Each of us becomes our own expert….In our creating, we ourselves are created, added to, enlightened. What matters is the movement, the union with spirit, that subtle drive that wakes us from our sleep, takes us from our dreams, and invites us to become the dream expressed.”
--Jan Phillips, Marry Your Muse

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scarlet Tanager

While I’m writing in the mornings, I open the window beside my chair so I can listen to the birds sing. We had several bursts of cooling showers last night which made the birds seem even livelier and more vocal this morning. Over the course of fifteen minutes I heard robins, eastern bluebirds, Carolina wrens, crows, a wood thrush, a phoebe, goldfinch, my towhee, chimney swifts, titmice, chickadees and a few others that were familiar but unidentified.
This morning I also had to step outside and take a peek. Today’s surprise was a male scarlet tanager hopping around and feeding in the lower canopy. And the rest of the surprise is we are well into the breeding season for this bird. He is clearly a seldom seen resident. I have very likely mistaken his song for a robin from time to time.
One of the interesting things I read about these birds is that the female, yellow with dark wings, also sings a less bold version of the male’s song, often in response to his song.
I caught this fuzzy photo of a female in early May. The female selects the nesting site and incubates the eggs, while the male feeds her and shares in the feeding of the young. My birder's handbook says a scarlet tanager can live as long as ten years. That's interesting to think about.

Monday, June 9, 2008


“When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” --Audre Lorde
Isn’t that a wonderful description of power—the strength to serve your own vision? It’s not about being powerful in relation to the world, it’s being powerful in relation to yourself--the courage to be who you are, to live your own dreams and follow your own heart. And yes, to write that novel, to paint that image, to dance that dance or walk that trail, to put your heart out there.

Self-doubt is one of the most powerful fears we face. In fact it is fast becoming one of my favorite emotions. It tells me that I’m on the edge of what I know. I’m on the edge of my comfort. That if I go any further, I might be on shaky ground. And that may be exactly the ground I need to be on to get closer to my truth. Self-doubt brings us to a decision point and no matter what we chose next, we will be gaining ground.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


We live in two worlds, our inner world and the world outside of us. One of our greatest challenges in life is bringing these two worlds together.
For some reason that thought brought to mind caterpillars and butterflies, maybe because their life cycle is so full of transformations. This photo is of an Eastern ten caterpillar. I had no idea how striking this caterpillar was until I looked more closely through the lens. These are the guys that hatch in the spring and weave those silky bag tents in the crotch of tree limbs. Stephen Lyn Bales, naturalist and author, refers to the tent caterpillar as “bird fodder”.

Our transformations are barely noticeable at first but not necessarily less dramatic. At some point, when all the tiny changes link together, we begin to shout change--changes in choices like friends and clothes, changes in laughter and attitude, changes in what we like to do, the way we walk and even where we like to walk.
Bringing our two worlds together frees up creative energy and when that happens, anything can happen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Blank Page

“It is in facing the unknown that we find out what we know.” Morning pages, 6-3-08
Wild Hyacinth

We are all afraid of the unknown. This is a natural survival fear. It is also a life challenge. Everyday holds small unknowns but with these we have some level of control and choice. It’s when the bottom falls out and we are on wholly unknown ground that we must take a leap.

There is unknown wisdom in each of us, unknown knowledge and unknown talents. But since unknowns make us doubt and shrink back, the Universe sometimes gives us a push forward, a reason to take that leap.

When I was finishing the novel, even after writing the final scene, I realized there was one more story thread that needed a bow. I sat down with my pen and blank paper with no idea what would come next. I had one little thought--maybe they could have pizza together.

And so I sat with my blank page and my pen and that pizza and I wrote words on the paper, starting and stopping and starting again, until finally the lines began to flow, the characters moved and the scene happened. And when I was finished, I read what I had written and was amazed. The loose threads had tied themselves together without my knowing it. This is the fun of creative work. This is the unconscious helping, a wholly magical, hard working and benevolent part of our beings.

And this is how it happens, how you write a book, paint an image, live your life. You show up, you take what you know and you go. It isn’t easy and it isn’t smooth. But in the process you discover who you are and what you’re made of and what comes next.
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Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham