My new Chapbook!

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Dear Friends,

On this New Moon, a new offering:  I’m so pleased to announce that I have published a 60 page chapbook of my poetry and photographs of my paintings!  This has been a labour of love, and it feels wonderful to have a cluster of my work all in one place.  Not all of my poetry or paintings are in the chapbook of course.   And even if no one were to ever look at or read this little book, it has been a real affirmation to me of my artistic expression of the last four years.

The poetry is written both in my own voice, and in the voice of my inner wise woman or of the Sacred.  They’re all about wanting to live a life of depth, integrity, and fidelity to gifts or talents that can help the world to become kinder and more just.

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Listen:

“Life is the invitation to the portal

where we transform our

coal into diamonds,

where we recognize

the truth of all symbols to

throw us back together

into ourselves

and our wisdom.”

And I move into a truth that can only be known

by seeing all sides

with compassion —

including my own limited, bounded self in this limited, aching body.”

“Yes, it is possible to live creatively and sustainably, with grace and joy!

What grows the soul, do this,

and what makes dear body thrive, do that.

To nurture an inner life is your political act now.

Defending the depth dimensions,

your wisdom becomes gift.”

If you’re interested in a copy, I’m selling them basically at cost for $15.00, shipping included.  Of course, if you are able and wanting to support my work so that I can continue to offer Story Circles and workshops on a “pay what you can” basis, I would use your contributions with integrity, and gratitude.  Email me, and I will send you a Paypal invoice which you can pay with credit card.  I will send your copy on the day I receive payment.   http://www.catcharissage.com

Of course, my paintings and poetry are also available right here on my blog.

Thank you so much for your faith and encouragement in the past few years.  May we all blossom forth to be what this world is so hungry for:  love, beauty, kindness, justice.

With much love,

Cat

Mary the Magdalene

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Mary Magdalene, acrylic on canvas, Cat Charissage (c) 2017

Mary the Magdalene                                          Cat Charissage, May 2017

The stories say that you lived for 30 years in a cave, afterwards.

This rings true to me.

After the loss, and finding, and then a different kind of loss,

a soul needs a sojourn to a new place, and

a cave of memory, of healing, of wonder and contemplation to nestle into,

brooding over the waters of tears, floodings, overwhelm, and renewed life.

What can be birthed now?

What eggs might hold promise, possibility?

Every spring you remembered all that had happened with your Beloved . . .

How he had participated, both willingly and reluctantly,

pleading that this cup be taken away,

yet following through on his life’s integrity with persevering peace and dignity.

You were there, faithful, like his mother, when he was murdered,

both of you forever changed by those events, that horror, then such prodigious hope.

His mother moved afterward to Ephesus, living near the ancient temple of the goddess.

You went further, to a new land, a new life

Chewing on, swallowing deeply, fully digesting all that had happened.

And it did bring such life, such joy, such radiance.

Teach me, dear Mary, you, the Magdalene.  Teach me.

Hello dear friend,

Happy full moon, here in the Easter season.  In the past week I have seen spring return; on Sunday I went into my study and noticed the size of the fledgling leaves on the caragana bush outside my window.  By the time I went back upstairs at the end of the day (after painting the entire afternoon —- mmmmm!) the leaves on that bush had grown to twice their morning size!  All around I’m surrounded by green leaves exploding into view.  And I’m grateful.

This year while pondering the Easter/Resurrection/Spring/Renewal of Life story, I’ve been thinking about Mary Magdalene.  I’m not all caught up on the legends of her life after the Gospel stories, except to know that there are a lot of them, and almost none are historically verified.  Yet these legends also speak, at the least, of a psychological truth that certainly resonates in the hearts of so many of us.  One of the legends is that she travelled to the south of France and lived in a cave for the last thirty years of her life.  As “Apostle to the Apostles”, she continued to teach and lead others in their spiritual lives, for the rest of her life.  I decided to explore this in image and word.

I started with using colors that I don’t usually put together, pinkish red and golden yellow.  After writing my intention of being open to what I might learn from Mary Magdalene’s story (underneath the first layer of color), I storyboarded some of her legends and meanings to me on the right side:

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Without thinking too much, I followed the brush:

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Her cave, and an egg appeared.  Then more yellow connected her in time and across dimensions to now (welcome to my painting corner!):20170416_162434

Finally she appeared, along with these pods.  They seemed full of treasure to me, though I’ve never painted anything like this before:

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Here she is with her shimmering golden pods of possibility, already in red

bud:

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After a few more days of sitting with her, the words of her poem came together. (It’s the one at the beginning of this blogpost.)

What is this Spring budding for you?  What new energies, possibilities are emerging?

With much love,

Cat

Dream Lands in a Time-In World

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“Map of my Dream Land” Cat Charissage (c) 2017 watercolor crayons and sharpie marker

Dear Friends,

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in your dreams?  My spot is that little group of squiggles on the lower right of the map I painted in my journal (above).  I imagine that its tip accesses a still, reflecting lake.  There is no propaganda, no chemical weapons, not even any handguns.

Happy Full Moon in this month of April, in this Holy Week midway between the start of Passover and the feast of Easter, between the promise of deliverance from slavery and the assurance that death isn’t the end of the story!  This week is full of narratives of remembrance and hope.

I want to share two books with you that will warm your heart in the midst of whatever darkness we live in:  My Grandfather’s Blessings:  Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., and Time-In Parenting, by Otto Weininger, Ph.D.  Both books have been around for awhile, and both have impressed me deeply.

My Grandfather’s Blessings is simply full of love, written by a physician who counsels people with life-threatening illnesses who witnesses to how life reveals its wisdom, perseverance, and surprises.  Her dedication is “For everyone who has been given more blessings than they have received.”  She shows us how to see what is offered, and to choose to receive those blessings —- even when there isn’t any miraculous cure.  It is full of truth, healing, and wonder.

Time-In Parenting is a small book for parents of young children who are looking for ways to deal toddler tantrums and other deep upsets.  Weininger takes a different approach to that of the common one of time-outs, one minute for each year of how old the child is.  The book came out after my own son had passed through those difficult years before a child is able to use words to express their pain, anger, frustration, so it didn’t seem particularly needed by me.  Yet those years had challenged me deeply.  My son had experienced the (one) time-out I had meted out in response to inappropriate behavior as a banishment from those whom he relied on for love and survival.  As I left him on the bottom step of the staircase and went back to the kitchen, even though I was still within eyesight, this little 3 year old went from the hysteria of an angry tantrum to the hysteria of a deeply experienced abandonment and exile.   I knew at that moment that he didn’t need to be put away,  he needed to be WITH someone who loved him dearly who could teach him through example how to calm down.   I went to sit with him and hold him then, and from then on when emotions escalated to “tantrum”, that’s what we did:  I, or his dad, would sit with him, away from the situation, with love and calmness modeling self control and love for an upset self.    Weininger’s book, years later, described this approach with all the good reasons as to why this “time-in parenting” is a good response to little people.  That book, full of love as My Grandfather’s Blessings is, helped me trust my best self, and helped me be so grateful that I had not responded to my little boy with anger, violence, or even a banishment.  It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

So, my dear friends, let’s be with our own upset selves with love and patience.  Maybe take some time-in during these holy-days with a book full of love, or create a map of your own dream land.  Let us imagine a time-in world where pain, anger, frustration can be calmed with love, and then model that self-control and patience around us.  Just maybe we can create our dream lands right here in this dear world of ours.

With much love,

Cat

Playing in Intentional Creativity

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craft paint on watercolor paper (c) Cat Charissage, 2017

New moon greetings to you, dear friend!

Intentional Creativity isn’t focused on creating artistic masterpieces (good to know, as my piece here is anything but!), but rather on identifying and transforming an idea or story within us so that it is held differently in us.   We are then more free to move in our everyday lives without being controlled by the stories we have unconsciously taken in about who we are and what we can do.  Or what we’re allowed to do.

On Friday my painting teacher Shiloh Sophia (www.powercreatives.com) offered a livestream on Herstory, and this is what I playfully created.  I share it with you to emphasize that the kind of art I do, that is, Intentional Creativity, is not reserved only for the gifted and talented.  Just as all of us can write an email or journal passage that expresses our thoughts,  without needing the skills and gifts  of those who are exquisite artists of the written word, well, all of us can use simple art processes to express and work through our thoughts and questions, without needing the skills and gifts of those who are exquisite visual artists.  Using simple art supplies such as craft paint or watercolor, colored pencils or markers can be just as much in our expressive repertoire as typing marks into a computer or printing black letters onto a white page.

Shiloh led us in first writing an aspect of our life story, how we are in the world, and then painting an image that expressed how that sits in our body.  I made a grid form, as what I wrote about felt limiting while at the same time allowing me to see out, to see through things, to see how I wanted to be.

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I then painted little spirals in each of the openings showing how I wanted those openings to simultaneously both deepen and expand my vision.  Then when we were invited to make a mark symbolizing our freedom to modify or create a new story, I painted my bird of freedom, along with moving, expanding spirals OUTSIDE of the grid.

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I wrote a statement of the shifted story onto the bird of freedom,  and added the signs of growth and expansion.  While painting the greenery  (I first wrote “greenergy”, green energy, which is certainly how I experienced it!), I was thinking of chickweed, that weed that grows almost anywhere — especially in the cracks of our driveway.  It’s so common, yet cheerily beautiful.  Most house-proud owners diligently poison this “weed”, yet it makes a wonderful, nutritious salad.

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There are many plants, ideas, and people who have so much to offer us in our life’s journey of love and meaning, yet the overculture sees these as of no value, or even worse, as polluting the landscape.  There are forces, enacted in real live ordinary people with names, who mindlessly, and mindfully, destroy that which could otherwise nourish us.

Well, I stand for something different.  I stand for the weeds that nourish, the spacious carved-out times that tease out meaning, the simple art that shifts vision.

What’s your bird’s eye view today?

With much love,

Cat

From Mindfulness to Heartfulness

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—Mandala, gel pens on paper, (c) Cat Charissage, 2017

Hello dear friends,

Early last week I was able to take 2 full days away at a local retreat center for a silent, private retreat.  I read and slept and centered and just sat.  Listening.  It was great; I only wish it could have been a week or two longer!

I was very glad to return to my guys, though, too.  (That is, spouse and young adult son)  As I write you it’s still February, a new moon, and I feel very much in the energy of not knowing what’s coming next, but feeling something . . . .  How about you at this time of year?  I’m still crafting a life I would love to live, finding the balance between activity and contemplation, between what I’d like to do  and what’s even possible, between not getting any sleep and sleeping in, figuring out what’s in my control and what isn’t.

I spent the first half of my life finding out, it seems, that so much more was possible and in my control than I had ever imagined; now it seems that I’m well acquainted with fate, chance, destiny, and a fair amount of chaos — somehow it’s a perfect analog to how I knew so much more 30 years ago than I do at this age!  Building, letting go.  Building again, visited by the unexpected.

I’ve included the poem I wrote at the end of the retreat.  I hope that you, too,  are able to settle in to heartfulness.

With much love,

Cat

FROM MINDFULNESS TO HEARTFULNESS       —Cat Charissage, February 2017

Today I return home from a silent retreat.

Silence.  In an 8′ x 10′ room with comfy chair

and not so comfy bed;

meals prepared by the sisters of St. Martha,

otherwise I’m lovingly, prayerfully, ignored.

 

Maybe this can all be reduced to a shift in brainwaves

from beta to somewhere between alpha and theta.

Maybe; and, it feels exquisite.

A quality of quiet different from most days,

most akin to a middle of the night quiet

when all is well in the world.

 

All, of course, is not well in our world

Yet at the same time there is a place where

     all is well

     and all shall be well

     and all manner of thing shall be well

as Julian of Norwich told us from plague-ridden England.

 

I want to live there, here, in this state:

     quiet, alert, alive

     open, receptive, listening

I am not lonely, but part of;

Happy in my heart and ready to respond.

 

My scalp muscles have unclenched.

I hadn’t noticed that they’d been tight.

My inner organs relax, rest.

Blood flows easily, freely, throughout.

 

Words come, go.

 

I could live like this. . .

I want to live like this,

     ease, grace, flow . . .

 

Here I am.

Here I belong

happily in the mystery of all,

that Mystery whose center is everywhere,

     circumference, nowhere.

 

Another node of consciousness in the All,

I am grateful.         

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—watercolor and crayon on sketch paper, (c) Cat Charissage, 2017

                      

February in the belly

20170206_144417February in the belly  Cat Charissage

What’s coming?

A corner has been turned.

What unexpected is around this particular corner?

Stats will tell us that half the time what is unexpected will be good,

but many of us are at an age where the news isn’t.

We’re not too surprised when a friend is diagnosed with cancer,

or heart disease,

when we hear that the job fell through

or the marriage fell apart.

Yet, (a good word to remember:  “yet. . . “)

Those aren’t the whole story, ever.

Whatever the groundhog’s shadow portends,

spring will come.

Right now,

seeds in the belly of the earth

are feeling the extra hours of sunlight.

Right now,

there is new life growing in the belly of many a critter,

trusting that when it’s time to be born,

come forth,

arise,

there will be light enough

and warmth enough

and nourishment enough

to go on.

Many of us at an age

where bad news is not very unusual,

where we’ve seen many a winter,

we also know that despite the snow on the ground

and ice ready to trip us up,

yet — yet — yet again

we know that spring will come.

And yet again new life will grow.

It’s growing, now,

in the belly.

Promise!

Happy Full Moon tomorrow, my friends!  Much love to you, Cat

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All images in this post are working sketches for the art activity for tomorrow’s planned Red Thread Circle, which will be on the turning of the season Feb. 1/2:   Imbolc, also Candlemas, the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Blessing of the Candles, and even Groundhog Day!

I am one acquainted with the night

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(c) Cat Charissage, 2016

Dear Friend,

I’m not sure where to start with this post.  My commitment in this blog is to tell the truth, AND to be encouraging; to choose to look at life from the glass half full.  How do we talk about the hard times, acknowledging just how all encompassing and life defining they really are?

There are many wonderful things about my life.  Many privileges, enough resources, an abundance of friends and options.  But, I also live with chronic pain.

There is not a day that goes by in which I am not aware of just how present this physical pain is in my life, and how exhausting it is to be carrying it in my body, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.  There isn’t a night (for at least the last 15 years) in which I haven’t been awoken 5, 6, 7 times from pain, needing to rub in some Ben Gay (my “signature scent”!), move around or stretch, take some medication, do a little meditation.  The past few nights have been frustrating, as I’m dealing with rotator cuff pain (shoulder and arm pain) on top of everything else.  I’m exhausted at night, so go to bed around 10:30.  Then I’m awakened every 45 minutes or so:  can’t stay sleeping on my left side because of the shoulder pain; can’t stay sleeping on my right side because of my hip pain; can’t stay sleeping on my back because of my lower back pain.  I get up to walk around a bit, then go sleep in the lazyboy chair.  Or try to.  The nights have been cold, so it takes awhile to warm up the room temperature covers and help my muscles relax.  Often I  warm up the “magic bag” in the microwave and cuddle that until the blankets are toast.  I’m just ready to drift into sleep, and the Ben Gay wears off.  I know there’s no way to sleep now, so I drag myself into full awakeness to smear on the liniment — maybe add a little hot sauce, too (the capsaicin cream).   Andrew and I often joke that it’s not everyone who gets to sleep with such a hot woman as I!  Okay, fully smeared on all surfaces that usually ache or pinch, covers warmed through, I start to drift off again.  And a new sensation arises:  the arch of my left foot is going into spasm!  Oh geez — hadn’t ever noticed that that had been one place that didn’t used to hurt!  It’s pretty challenging to twist around under the covers trying to apply Ben Gay to my cramped foot — and not also onto blankets or chairs or, heaven forbid, rather sensitive, ah, private parts of my dear body!  (Been there, done that!  Not fun needing to take a shower in the middle of the night to soap off the camphor, menthol, and hot pepper that’s burning places it should never touch!)

So goes the night.  Awaken, take note of any dream, smear some more hot sauce on dear body, walk around a bit, try not to awaken dear spouse, get warmed up again, hopefully drift off.  Often, somewhere around 5 in the morning, I finally drift into a deeper sleep.  While I’m thankful for the rest, it usually means I sleep in until almost 10 a.m.  Feels now like half the day’s gone.  Another night where it takes 11 1/2 hours to get about 6 hours of sleep.

And then there’s the next day to get through.

Believe it or not,  I’m not whining in telling it like it is.  As I’ve said, there’s so much good in my life, including excellent conventional and non-traditional health care.  There are still many things in this 21st century that can’t be fixed, and this is simply my life right now.  It’s also similar to the  lives of many others who are acquainted with the night, surviving pain, holding vigil, coping with anxiety.  Let’s not forget just how hard life can be for so many people.  How can we be anything but kind?

With much love,

Cat

p.s.  I’ve just posted my Winter/Spring 2017 offerings, including workshops on Sacred Circles, Spirals, and Mandalas, and Dreaming Your Life Awake.  See: Current Offerings

Your Tree of Life 2017

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(c) Cat Charissage, 2017

Hello dear friend,

Happy first Full Moon of this new year!  Has the beginning of 2017 prompted you to ask yourself how life is going and how you want to be living in the next while?  (Otherwise known as making resolutions!)

Consider these areas of life:  

*Interactions with others, or my work in the world;

*My relationships and my family;

*My physical and material needs;

*My relationship with Sacred Wisdom and my inner self.

Consider these questions:

  • What brings well-being, contentment, happiness for me?
  • What’s going right in these areas?  What am I grateful for, appreciative of?
  • Truly, what do I already have?  And truly, who am I already?
  • When, and how, do I feel most at home in my body, my spirit, my self?
  • What allows me to be most compassionate?  What improves my mood?
  • Am I overgiving? Overdoing?  Do I need to do LESS in order to live more fully and  more deeply?
  • Are there any new habits I want to develop in these areas?
  • How do I  choose to direct my life force in these areas of life?

These are the questions (some of them my own, some I’ve written in response to inspiration from others) that I offered at the Dec. 30 session:  Your Tree of Life 2017.  Along with a guided visualization and Red Thread Circle, the 7 of us painted our trees with our answers to these questions imaged in some way:

ROOTS:  What things or ideas  (accomplishments/attitudes) from last year  do I want to fertilize my coming year?   

TRUNK:  What is my theme word, prayer, or mantra that I want to keep front and center  this year?

LEAVES:  What do I hope to bring forth?  Something new?  More of the same?

For me, it’s not nearly so much about what I want to accomplish as HOW I want to be living, with a sense of spaciousness, listening, and be-ing — with time for art-ing, too! Open to mystery, unfolding.

And you?

Much love,

Cat

P.S.  If you wish you’d been there, you can book a private session to do this workshop (or many others) in person or through video call with me. Work with me individually.

COMING STUDIO EVENTS  (RSVP at catcharissage@gmail.com)

Join me for a RED THREAD CIRCLE on the second Friday afternoons of the month at 1:30 p.m. starting February 10.   Also  Friday, March 10;   and  Friday, April 14.  We will have a discussion and simple arting on one question/prompt I will offer, in the context of a Red Thread Circle.  By donation.

The LAST SATURDAY of each month is OPEN STUDIO.  Join me in my studio from 1:30 to 4:30 for simple arting and great companionship.  Bring something you’re working on, or learn a new technique.  Next Open Studio:  January 28.   By donation.

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Finding the Light, Being the Light

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Unfolding Mystery (c) Cat Charissage, 2014

Dear Friend,

In this season of the celebrating the new light, many of us have our challenges and wait in vain for Santa to make everything ecstatically wonderful.  Perhaps the ubiquitous story is needed precisely because so many of us won’t be living it in its entirety — keeping hope alive.

There’s no need to remind ourselves of the lack of world peace,  lack of family peace, lack of homes, lack of health, lack of happiness that so many across the world are experiencing now — I just poured a bunch of concerns into my journal that don’t need to be dwelt upon.  I asked myself again what it is that enables humans to endure, to survive, and even to share love and light in the midst of a “far less than perfect” living situation, because even as I witness and experience the “lack of’s”, I truly see the kindnesses, the coalitions, the reaching out of hands to help.  As we stumble through another holiday in this needful world in the midst of our needful lives, let’s remember to note how we do get back up and keep on going, and how much we have in the midst of wanting and sometimes desperately needing more.

Today I’m thankful for a warm comfortable home, a messy but wonderfully comfortable study/studio, healthy and happy enough family members, a recipe for amazing vegan gravy, the trayful of cheerful votive candles burning on the table, wi-fi, herbal tea in humongous insulated cups, plenty of paper and art supplies, a fridge full of provisions, family members who welcomed us in Calgary two days ago, other family members who will welcome us tomorrow, feeling a bit better after a painfully cold and aching morning, newspapers with the year’s “Best of’s”, enough snow for a white Christmas but not too much to make travel dangerous, plenty of great books, gifts of honey and love, Christmas ornaments hanging from bookshelves and other unusual places, the space heater churning out warmth, cookies glazed with chocolate, new (to me) cushions for the hard chairs in my study, new (to us) car that is so much more comfortable than the old one, a small pile of presents wrapped in old newspapers and cheerful red ribbon, not having to go anywhere today, my wonderful women friends in my Story Circles, my teacher and mentor Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and tribe of the Sacred Heart, my faithful and encouraging readers, stories and images of beauty and hope.

Now, your turn!  Even if you don’t write them out, here or in your journal, take 30 seconds to look around and see what you do have, here at the end of a challenging 2016.  Note the struggles you’ve survived, note your victories, note the work still to be done by you that is meaningful and needed in this next year.

May your presence in this world, now, bring light to us all.

Much love and warmth,

Cat

Mandalas and Silence

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— all mandalas (c) Cat Charissage, 2016

Hello dear Friend,

I’ve been finding that I need silence more than ever these days.  I feel anxious and frazzled, and in mourning for the sufferings in the world.  I’m dismayed at the new level of permission granted in our culture for persons to be insulting and hateful, especially in the media, but also apparent on the streets and in stores.  While I’m mostly shielded from it due to privilege of my birth, race, and location as well as by my primarily home-based life, my heart just aches at the incivility of our civilisation.

Besides becoming and living the change I wish to see in the world, I’m always discerning what it is that I can do, or not do, to mend the world within my reach.  And right now, it’s to not do.  I sit, settle, meditate, and find the calm center out of which I wish to live.

Drawing and coloring mandalas facilitates finding that calm center.  I almost always start at the center and move outwards — the way I want to live my life.

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I find that it almost doesn’t matter how I arrange the different motifs or symbols; as long as it remains balanced it ends up being beautiful in its own way.  Just like my days.

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While black and white ones jotted in my “to-do and maybe-do” notebook are simpler and quicker to create than the larger colored ones, they too are worth doing.  Just like the simple actions of being calm in my interactions, or smiling at the clerks and secretaries in my rounds of errands —- worth doing.

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Sometimes the day, and the mandala, calls for planning and careful attention to exactness and detail.

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Other days, and mandalas, are filled with whatever life gifts — or challenges — me with.

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Have you ever played with mandalas?  Do you color in the new coloring books for grown-ups?  How do you find centeredness in your life in this world, now?

May this darkest time of the year (in my northern hemisphere) remind us that darkness can be either frightening or mysterious, dangerous or fertile.  May we discern well, and may we respond to it all with centeredness and compassion.  And always, to bring what beauty we can into the world.  Happy Solstice to you all, dear ones.

With much love,

Cat