Come meander with me on the pathless path of the Heart
in these anecdotal,
sometimes inspiring, sometimes personal meanderings of the Heart's opening in the every-day-ness of Life...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Art Day With Mom...

My mother celebrated her 84th birthday this week. We had her birthday celebration on the weekend – dinner and a home movie. And then I took her to lunch yesterday. We drove back to my place for a bit more of a visit; to give my sister a break from my mother, and to give my mother a break from my sister... We ended up spontaneously having an “art day.” It started with her saying that she was interested in knowing the medium that I work with. Really!? Interested!? I do not normally share my “art” with my mother very often. She has a particular and critical eye. But I figured what the heck. I felt secure enough in what I do – after all it’s just for fun – I mean, how could she “criticize” a simple vortex of color. There really aren’t any strokes or technique to criticize. It really is just a matter of perception. My mother has done some art in her life. She did wonderful pen and ink fashion drawings when she was in her teens and 20’s, then moved into oils, but left her art life behind to raise us kids. And she had never worked with Craypas Pastel Oil sticks before.

I enthusiastically showed her what I had been doing. I even demonstrated *how* I do what I do; enjoying the opportunity to instruct my mother :). Showing her how simple it really is, using color combinations, creating a vortex of color with different shades of colors, using the fingers and thumb to blend and merge the colors as much as you want in a circular motion, until it intuitively feels “finished” – until you are moved by it; explaining to her that it was just about color and movement, not making it *look* like anything in particular, and just seeing what emerges.

She patiently watched as I explained. I had assumed she wanted to do the same thing – just play with color and motion – making vortexes. I had forgotten how conceptual she is. For her, art isn’t art unless it *looks* like some *thing* - “like a photograph” she once told me… That’s a hard requirement and self-expectation to live up to, often leaving disappointment. She can’t relax and just have fun with it. So she gazed out the window and painstakingly attempted to draw/paint what she saw, trying to follow my technique. But it was a different kind of art and required a different technique, which I had no knowledge of. The technique I use was not appropriate for what she wanted to accomplish, and she had a hard time with it - said it was “labor intensive” - oh dear… For me, art needs to be fun, fluid, and from the Heart – no agendas, no expectations. It was obvious that we each had a different approach, a different way. And I had hoped to make this a “fun” experience for my mother.

But – we still had FUN together - really – something that doesn’t happen that often with us. Although she has softened a lot, she still pushes my buttons sometimes, and I imagine it would happen a lot more if I lived with her 24/7. But for now it appears we are on a voyage of discovery, both individually in art and together in relationship, which happens in its own ways and rhythms. And it only happened this time because spontaneity opened the door! We somehow just fell into “art making”… In losing ourselves in the silence of creativity we relaxed our stance with each other and opened the space for grace to appear – softening the space between us. Admittedly, this does not always happen. In this instance I saw the need to let go of trying to “help” with what she was doing – to not interrupt her process, or offer too many suggestions, but to encourage and support. I stood out of the way as much as possible, literally and emotionally, falling back into a place of open awareness, and just watched her do her thing. She was quite imaginative actually. She gave us a pond in the backyard!

It was an interesting exercise for me in patience, in presence, in just being in the moment, allowing Mom her creative space without judgmental interference; getting to know* how* my mother *sees* things, without labeling it, and just seeing her create the way she wanted to. It’s all about perspective – and relaxed presence – with each other and with our “art”…

So I’m planning another luncheon “art day” with Mom… Who knew creativity would open a door…


Presence to each other
is the door
to all belonging…

John O’Donohoe
From Eternal Echoes

We are cups,
constantly and quietly
being filled..

The trick is,
knowing how to
tip ourselves over
and let the beautiful stuff out…”

Ray Bradbury


  1. This is how it works... when you're not looking for it, the opportunity arises. How I love this story, Christine. It warms my heart! And wouldn't it be wonderful if you 2 could have these lunch and art dates together.

    You know the story of my mother and this reminds me a little of how many times I wanted to "talk" to her and how many times I chickened out or couldn't find what seemed like an opening and then the time simply arose.

    I see the same opportunity to make "peace" that I found with my mom. There is something so healing and wonderful about coming to a point where you can just be together, nothing else, no animosity, no wanting or needing. Just that quiet, gentle "being". This is what I wish for you!! Prayers headed your way!

    1. Hey ZDS! I know, isn't it cool! :) So unplanned and unexpected. I was simply amazed at how it just spontaneously unfolded. We both commented on how "therapeutic" it was to to have this "art experience."

      So true what you say - just coming together, nothing else. No need to say anything, just this shared space of spontaneous creativity.

      I've been feeling more of a "peace" with our relationship for a while now, feeling more compassionate - as I have also softened. :) Imagine that! But this experience just seemed to take it to a deeper level, made me more aware of something else going on underneath it all, and just being open to it. Like you said, it happens "when you're not looking for it..." Thanks for the wonderful comment! :)

  2. This is such a lovely story, Christine! I love that you & your Mom had fun together and made art too. We all approach art differently, and art mean different things to each individual. But art has a way of bringing people together in the end, and that I love. Sweet to see your purple vortex at the top and your Mom's nature-inspired scene. Maybe occasional art dates with your Mom might be something. I like the idea of two people growing individually and together through art. :o) Happy Day ((HUGS))

  3. This is such a beautiful story. What a lucky Mom and daughter you are, celebrating a birthday, playing together with oil pastels.Just doing this activity together is enough, right? Bonding in a new way. A blessed day. Love both of your styles and results!

    1. Thanks Suki, Yes, just doing the activity is enough, especially when it was totally spontaneous and unexpected! I think that's what made it so special because it hasn't always been this way. I have usually been way more guarded with my mother, so it was really nice to feel this new openness. And besides, she's 84 and becoming more child-like, more open herself. So we are making big strides here. And am thinking that listening to your chant all weekend helped too :)

  4. Yes, yes, yes! A huge thank-you from me, too! (I also love the Bradbury quote----how to "tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out": You---and those who comment here---are constantly revealing ways of doing so.)

    1. Thank you Chris for your presence here and your beautiful comment. Always trying to tip this cup over and let it all flow out! :) We are all wonderful travelers on the road together!

  5. What a great way to connect via art! Yes, to drop one's points of view and just let the connection happen... that's love! And what a beautiful picture she made.... maybe next time there will be some squirrels she can draw! :-)

  6. Thank You Dear Christine...This is such a beautiful sweet story. If there was any true and real description of 'Art Therapy'...this would be it. How glorious in the simple making of art there is the simple revelation of BEing. I mean...how SWEET is THAT?!?!?!


    1. Leslie - you say it so well! Yes, "the simple revelation of BEing." Beautiful. Thank you for pointing that out! ♥:)

  7. you and mom and beautiful.

    thank you for this wisdom and insight: it appears we are on a voyage of discovery, both individually in art and together in relationship, which happens in its own ways and rhythms.

    and i love bradbury but never heard the quote. love it.

    1. Ed, you are so sweet hearted! I was just reading through your writings on the Carson Animal Shelter in LA (under your Journalism link)... Couldn't get all the way through - too heart rending... I can't imagine what it was like to actually work there! I see that you are also a relocated New Englander :) Me from Mass 35 years ago.

      I found the Bradbury quote on another blog :)

      Happy Voyaging! :)

  8. I LOVE this:
    "In losing ourselves in the silence of creativity we relaxed our stance with each other and opened the space for grace to appear – softening the space between us."
    A door to world peace...one by one.

    Very moving post...my mom always championed my art but I don't recall her ever being relaxed enough to want to play with the materials.

    1. Thank you D :) Yes, wouldn't that be wonderful! Peace through creative silence, and music, and art, and....

      The experience was a wonderful reminder for me that just stepping back from personality and being in Silence with someone is so healing, and creativity opened a way for that to happen... I was *totally* surprised that she wanted to "play"! But think we need to find another medium for her that is easier to work with - maybe chalk...

  9. My mom was an amazing painter but our visits with each other were always focused around a meal and not just to hang out and do something creative. She was so concerned about making a mess she painted in the basement and would never have wanted to "mess up" the kitchen with art supplies while we were there visiting, even though it was just family! This makes me wish we had done something creative together, while we still could. I'm glad you and your mom had this time together!

    1. Mom and I don't usually do anything like this either! It was totally spontaneous, and unfolded on its own, which is why I think it "worked." But - am going to try to have more moments with her like this... We'll see what happens... :)


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