Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Drifting Wide Open Upon the Sea

Cargo Vessel and Sailboat off Coronado Island, CA. 11/14

Two poems I found for you in last year's journal.  
They remind me that in a moment everything can change... a life may flicker out and fly away, a project may fail and become something more, a hope may become a rich and loving reality.  

The Sea Takes Both the Vessel and the Sailor
Soon or late,
It’s all the same.
You will let go of everything,
to become one with everything.
Offering one life of memories,
for all life of memory.

The little worn boat on the sea,
with sparkling rain water slowly filling it.
Soon it is too full to move in two dimensions,
and then dives into the third.
Deep, deep it will fall.
All that seemed precious,
all seemed to be other,
all that seemed real
will spill over the gunnels.

The Ocean will take both
the vessel and sailor. 

I’ll Drift Wide Open Upon the Sea 
God, I drift.
I sail upon your body.
What a journey!
When my boat is full and heavy
I will not grieve.
I will lay back in your rocking ocean.
Arms wide open.
Eyes wide open.
Heart wide open.

Blessings to You, Gentle Reader,

(c) Copyright on Words and Image, Rick Sievers, December 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

HeART Residency

"Let the soul be hungry. Its hunger is the source of your Love."
                                                                                                                  Philip Shepherd from New Self New World, p. 419

I first wrote to you seven years ago at the beginning of the 2007 National Write a Novel in a Month experience in the blog: dreamingavalon.blogspot.com/2007   I remember putting my voice out there in the ethers, hoping it would arrive intact to your screen. How sweet and embarrassing it is to read those first lines of my coming out in this world. Since then I've learned a few things, like how important having a public face is to the creative life, even if in a modest way. Or the idea of treating one's creativity and spiritual practice with the respect and Humility they deserve.

This translated into showing up on the meditation cushion or the writing desk every day I could. This is Not to brag. Because I found that without my practice and showing up I would have been more incomplete in this world. I would have felt more senselessness around my problems instead of possibilities. I had to show up here at my desk or I'd continue to experience the little deaths that come from not touching my longing.

I remember saying that "If just one person accompanied me on this path, and I could be of comfort or admonition to that person, the whole effort would be worth it." Here we are, seven years later, still in love with spirit and creation. Thank you for being here.

Seven years later. It's another November. And I'm setting another intention in the creative life. I tell you about this intention for two reasons: One is that by stating publicly an intention the risk of Not following through becomes more treacherous than the risks when silent. The other reason is to accompany you or encourage you to hear your own longing.
  • Is there an idea or a place or a person that brings tears to your eyes when you remember them? 
  • Is there a longing that just does not seem to be satisfied in this world? 
For me it is of a place, on an island, where I felt safe and joyful. When I think of this place I
well up with longing. Is there such a thing of spirit for you?

I sit with this longing nearly every day, like I would with a friend who is sad and lonely and hopeful for the future. Recently I've had glimmerings from the Spirits when I asked how to soothe this open wound of missing a holy place and way of being. Here's what came to me in the journal as a reply to my query.:
Let the longing inform you that this...THIS... is real. Don't live like a ghost in the wind. You are here now. So Be Here, in your longing. Follow your tears home.
I was not so satisfied with this answer. So I asked for more concrete feedback about what to do with the longing:
Then paint it, write it. Vex the truth of ghosts with the real beat of your heart. 
Live this month of sadness as the artist that you are, the writer that you are, the friend that you are. Commit to Y/Our art and see the island made real in new and miraculous ways.
Call, Create and Correspond With your Longing.
OK, that was a specific answer for me. Here's another thing I've learned since 2007: When one receives a specific answer from reliable, compassionate, ascended aspects of this universe it definitely pays to follow through with humility and gratitude. Not out of a sense of guilt or destiny or even a promise of reward. Just listen and do what the loving part of your soul longs for. 

Here are my intentions for this November:
  • To live here on the Art Farm as an artist in residence
  • Show up for studio time 40 hours a week
  • Focus on Painting and Writing
  • Work on Completing long undone projects
  • Enjoin in camaraderie with fellow creative friends
  • Have a public showing of the art and writing at the end of the year
  • Mostly, to experience what it's like to Work as an artist. This is something that I've wanted to know my whole life.
Thank you for reading this. I offer this commitment more out of trembling than surety. I also offer this as an invitation to join me, somehow, in following your own answers from spirit. 
I think that all manner of sadness, grief, vexation are just different forms of homesickness.

What are you homesick for? 
How can your longing inform you in your everyday life? 
How does your soul want to create something beautiful or loving from that place that you can't quite reach in this life?


(c) Copyright, Words and Image, Richard Sievers, November 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seemingly Flawed Works of Love

Have you worked on a personal project with diligence and idealism? What about a way of life or a love affair or a work of art? Did that process turn out the way you dreamed? What if it failed? What then?

Our little farm produced hundreds of pounds of the most beautiful grapes you ever smelled or touched. Succulent to the eyes. Honey to the heart... These grapes were jewels. So, I decided to make a project out of canning them. The process and the result brought forth introspection and a surprising touch of grief over other projects I've participated in.

Canning at the End of a Long Growing Season

When you work the vines,
when you cut and fertilize,
when you water and wait,
then the harvest,
then storage in a cool dark room.

When you steam and juice,
when you infuse the skin with sugar,
when you boil and add pectin,
when you sterilize, fill and seal,
then you process in a rattling old kettle.

When you wait for the set,
and the grapes dream liquid dreams,
then you awaken the next day,
and you arrive at 48 gleaming mason jars.
You smile.
All your hard work is right here,
contained and steeping.

Then you open the first jar
with a pop and a whoosh
of inward rushing sky.
You dip in the spoon.
What do you find?
What does the process
bring forward in this world?

You find the jelly
you labored over for six months
is only very sweet syrup.
The pectin you applied failed.
The long work of your hands has not set.
Can it be that your taste buds still celebrate
despite the shift in expectations?

What do you do now with 48
expensive jars of useless syrup?
What now?

Just dip the spoon in again.
Taste all of the long journey
that you expected jelly.
you got syrup instead.

Is the taste of the explosive sun
worth the lacking texture?
Only you can answer.
Do you taste disappointment or possibility?

Perhaps the single spoon of wonder is worth
the past push of growth and harvest
through a season of sprinkler songs.
You must decide how to process
the difference between
what you dreamed and what is.

Disappointment or possibility?
Your answer will create your true experience of these fruits.
Your answer will honor or degrade you inner labor.

How will you label your seemingly stunningly flawed long won work?

Just sit for a moment and view what's here.
Distilled and preserved is all the sun and sweat and soil of summer.
A spoonful of bright earth!
I write to you wondering what to do with many things I've made and co-created that seemingly went awry. Such is the experience of life. A poetry book that sits in a tall pile of wrapped bundles. A family member who will not talk on the phone. A roof that leaks. A lover who has left after years of laughter and long winter talks. The grapes are just another choice point of how to label the process.

How will I deal with my seemingly flawed long won work? How will I name it?

I could just sit and view what's here. Or really, I mean Really, taste that one spoonful of distilled sunlight. I could re process the whole batch. Would I process again with gratitude or regret? I could possibly make gifts of syrup, a sweet offering to a Sunday morning stack of pancakes. I could even shuffle the rejects away into the root cellar, in shame, with the purple fruit dreaming of the vine and the man who forgot to pray.

What do you do with the flawed? 
Reject or love? 
What will I...what will you...choose?


(c) Copyright on text and images, Rick Sievers, October 2014.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Done is Better than Good

Banquet Room at the Hotel Del Coronado
"If you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going."
                                                            William Stafford

We saw Elizabeth Gilbert at the Portland Literary Arts 30th Anniversary gathering last night. Imagine nearly 3,000 people gathering to see an author speak for 40 minutes on her creative process. Astounding and wonderful. She's not only a famous author, she is widely read. Selling over 10 million copies of just one of her books. 

I'm going to paraphrase what I heard her say. Her focus was not only about the creative process it was about Will and even that ephemeral word: Calling. Stubbornness and curiosity are key to the creative in their work. Show up. Do the art that you are here to do. The ideas of following interest and being open to curiosity trump the trite advice to "Just follow your passion". 

She also addressed the idea of perfectionism in one's initial output of writing or art. Perfectionism is just another word for fear. This reminds me of what William Stafford said about becoming blocked as a writer. When you just can't meet your own standards, then lower your standards. Perhaps he was talking about the process when a creation of art was being birthed.  

Just get it out as you begin. The fits and starts of editing while creating are bindings that constrict the passionate, resonant voice of the artist. There is time for editing after the work is out on the paper. And there is a time of discernment in the editing when an artist says "That's good enough." 

When one sits down to journey into the creative process, fear seems to come along for the ride. Ms. Gilbert spoke of writing a book as going on a cross country trip with her creative soul. And knowing that fear will be riding in the back seat the whole time. Shouting. Crying that "It's not good enough", that "People will not even care about what is created" etc. She said that before she sits down to write she will have an active dialogue with Fear. She says "I hear you're going along on the trip too. OK, let's make one thing clear. You are not making any decision on where we go and what we see."

She mentioned how the world does not owe the creative recognition, or money or even the purchase of a single book/painting etc. The clinging to those results are all the creator's issues. There comes a point when the work is really done, not perfect, but done. The knack of knowing when this occurs is a wonder of maturity. 

The question I have for myself as I work on another book is to know "When is it done?" Yes, fear is there yammering. "You are still a novice poet." "You will not be recognized anyway. So why write." I answer "Yeah, I am a novice poet, a little dark, a little ephemeral, a lot sensitive. Yes, that is what I am right now in the world. AND I am going to do the art that my commitment requires of me."

If I do not complete this work, even if imperfect, I will experience a new companion that will join fear. And that new companion will be Regret. Is that who I also want in my back seat as I travel back home to my comforts?

The idea of not doing what we are here to do, even if unseen, unskillful, somewhat amateur, is akin to preparing and not arriving.  Ms. Gilbert said that this is like the young man who has taken all the necessary steps to attend a great ball. He takes dance lessons, makes a beautiful costume, saves his money, gentrifies his rough sensibilities. He gets prepared, shows up to the grand entrance of the gala gathering and then turns around at the door. He returns to his old life because fear told him small truth that his fear made into a holy injunction. 

Yes, most of us are amateur. Most will not be recognized like Elizabeth Gilbert. Most will write or sing to themselves and a few friends. And like me, most will periodically shy away from the grand dance, turning away on the threshold. Denying the world my costume and dance and presence.

Will I believe the little reflections of fear today? Or will I create just because that's what I do? 

Perhaps creation is what it may mean to be human. 
Created in the divine image...Creating in the divine image.

Ms. Gilbert said how art has been made by humanity for at least 30,000 years. In contrast, agriculture has only been around for about 10,000 years. Even "primitive" people knew that the creative life was on a par with the comforts of even the most basic of needs like eating. What will we believe about our callings and the need to put what's languishing inside out in the world? 

This blog, this farm, my books, your project, our community, are all in a state of seeming imperfection. Yet things need to come out and be said, or painted or built. Imperfections and all. 

Will it be Fear and Regret, or Calling and Discernment? These are themes I will contemplate today. Thank you for contemplating them with me. May your day be blessed with the creativity that only you can bring to the world.


(c) Copyright Rick Sievers, Image and Words, September 2014, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What the Garden Has Taught Me

 What the Garden Has Taught Me:

The chard, 
in the wrinkled burning of green and red
speaks to me this morning.

Each plant pulls hidden nutrients up from the Earth. Each soaks in the celestial light of the sun. Each strengthens its stalks in the wind. Each is a reflective product of where it sprouted, lived, bloomed and died. If seeds do not come, progeny occurs in other ways: Then they will feed the “gods” of the garden, the ones who talk with them and walk within their rows. They will also feed the small ones (Bugs and such), their still plant cells becoming bodies that walk and fly.

Then it will be time to die in the cutting or the frost or the blight, or if they are fortunate in old age. They will wilt into the soil, becoming yet more in the coming spring, all the while feeding the secret ones (bacteria and nematodes and worms) beneath the surface.
Is our life any different from the chard’s life? We see and feel in a different way. We reason. Yet at our essence we are the same. This moment, that feeling on the flesh. This kiss of the sun, that stroke of wind. This deep drink of water, that falling with the knife… All our experiences being stored in the body and anchored deep in the mystery of earth.
Perhaps we take in all we experience, akin with the chard. The flesh is actually stored sunlight and rain. Perhaps our beauty is ultimately meant for the distribution back into the living and the firmament.

Being a farmer has introduced ideas from the plants into the souls of my bare feet. The plants have offered me theories of the universe. This is one theory they present, so simple and resolute:

This life, all our experiences, thoughts and dreams, this is all there is. What we take in and what we give out, what brushes by in the wind is All that we’ll know in the end. And here’s the warp and woof of mystery:

There is no end, only change in the changeless.

And tapping sprinkler sings its rain upon the leaves. I hear a song, an elaboration of the chard’s theory of life:


Isn’t it amazing, a little chard can sing its theory on the universe in such poignant terms. Just think what we can sing, dear friend.
So I muse a little while longer within the waving rows of green: Though our minds are fixed on the forward progression of time, there is more. Time, as we know it, is illusion. It all happens at once. Unlike the chard, we just don’t have the physical equipment to understand this concept yet. Yet being human has it’s supreme benefits. This human experience is our chance to sequentially move in a body with the focus of moment by moment.
It does not require religion or spirituality or mysticism to subscribe to the chard’s view of the universe. Only physics. You can add the filigree of the other metaphors if you like. I pray that what I contrive about this life ads beauty and love to the whole garden, and not the burning cynicism of drought.
As for me today, I grow to the tender and ruthless touch of the Gardner. I dance in rhythm to the raven circling above. I bend to the children’s feet running in circles above my roots.

This… THIS… is heaven and hell right now, right here

What will I make of this life? Will my inner life be one of wonder or torment, gratitude or torment, connectivity or disregard, seriousness or ecstasy? Or will I be a mix of all life has to offer with no judgment? How about you, dear reader? As Rumi says in the Wandering Shepherd: “It is all good. It is all right.”

I think that beings who wish to awaken will be offered a choice: Either to keep all their experiences within the container of “self” or to offer all they know and wonder to world. The latter would be a choice to lose an identity of one in billions for folding into oneness.

Perhaps these ideas are true in part? Perhaps the chard is just a dumb mute plant. Perhaps these musings are delusion. For me and the chard it’s a win-win delusion. If I live as if This Is It and forever is here so be it.  If I live as if everything is a miracle, so be it.
Today I chose to live, the best I can, with the idea that my experiences are an offering and a melding into something so much greater, becoming less and more. I revel in the being of a garden green and swaying in the wind. Will you walk with me a while longer in the garden?


(c) Copyright Richard Sievers,  July 2014, All Rights Reserved.