The spaces in between places

Today, I was looking at two paintings hanging on the wall together and wondering what to do next.  My eyes kept focusing on the blank space in between them and the words You are here grabbed me.

The blank space there on the wall, talking to me.  It felt like deadness when truth hit me. This is where I am.   Maybe you are here too.  For me, one side holds great loss and the other side prompts me to move on.  Since I'd rather not participate in either option at the moment, I've chosen to stand here--in between options.  Where nothing is happening.  The point I am going to make from here forward is that this place is a good place.  Yes.

because even when nothing is happening, something is happening.  That something is called rest.   

I am resting from the intense outpouring of love and loss my family experienced this year.  I am resting in between moments of grief, prayer, meditation, sadness.  I am resting when I shake my fist at the sky in anger.  This space is my Emotional House.  

Can I find a way to express this that isn't just about grief though?  Can it be understandable for all human conditions?  Because I think everything from grief to mild malaise takes a huge toll on our well being.  And my greatest hope for my husband, kids, sister and friends is that we can all find a way to be well.  My mother claimed she was never depressed a day in her life, so to be fair to her, I will state that this Place also welcomes those of you who are bent towards 24 hour happiness.  Being "blah" is not a prerequisite for rest.  I say this with a tremendous amount of admiration to skippy, happy people. You are as weird and marvelous to me and I might be to you.  We all make the soup.

The in between space of rest is a Divine Nation.  A hostel for all souls.  We rest our bodies every night but we neglect our souls.  Deep rest for our souls.  I have a hunch that when a soul rests, all gets very quiet. There are few words spoken.  Not much (insert nothing) gets done.  It may even look and feel like boring. Calories are not getting burned.  Paintings are not getting made.  Meals become optional.   Under all that uneasy nothingness, something really great is happening though.  It should be noted that sometimes a rest period can take up a whole entire day of your life (wow.)  A rest period can ask you for weeks or maybe even for months.    For painter Agnes Martin, it asked for seven years.

We are told to believe all things can be made new again.   Is newness being made in rest?  The answer I suspect, lies in trying. A great amount of patience is required to stop.  We must train ourselves to withstand the shame of being unproductive, the anxiety of severe quietness as well as the constant blabbing and judging of our hypercritical minds.   Sounds hard and it IS.   I know because I am here.

So stay.  Squirm in your discomfort.  Get quiet.  Sit still.  Find rest.  Emerge new.  Be BIG and loving when you have the energy to awake and take action.  

I don't yet have hindsight regarding my time here in rest.  I am hoping that when my time is done, I will be wiser about judging the nothingness as bad.  I hope that when I regain energy and joy, I will smile at you more often and not have to pretend that I'm feeling okay.  I'm hoping when I merge back onto the highway of life I will look back and discover what I earned in my rest. Until then, "I remain here."




This post is very short.  I wrote a sad post first.  I wrote a mad post next. This is the final -- a glad post.  I’m just trying, y’all.  It’s going to be okay.  Thank you time.


I've been thinking about gratitude and I feel my heels did in.  Even with the force of gravity pulling me down, I will pick one foot up from the sucking mud and push against its will by grabbing my own.  Today, I force a thank you.  A nod aimed right into the bullseye of Mystery and for the One who taught me that a girl like me CAN be sensitive WITHOUT being dramatic (which is hilarious if you know me at all).  For Mamasaan.  I love you, still and forever.

never quitting
always going, finishing
giving, bowing
never taking

to the empty
mender to the meek
miracle, maker

loud cackles, poured
unconscious of looking, judging

in fearlessness
you were free

never could I
only I will
humorous why nots

you, lifeguard
filling soul with air
floating to the top




SHR, teacher of all things L O V E

All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.
— Richard Rohr

A Manifesto to the living

If I survive this, I will have more empathy for your pain.  I will extend my arms out to you with gentle love.  I won’t ask you if you are ok and I won’t tell you it will be ok.  Instead, I will ask if I can help, I will remind you that you are loved and I will walk with you if invited to do so. 

If I survive this, I will remember that you are so incredibly beautiful.  That you are created to be a Healer.  I will remember that you show up in ways that blow my mind.  I will know that you are Humble, Powerful, Brave and Divine.  I will walk around in awe at the beauty inside of you and I will thank God for you.  I will also thank God for the deeply wounded, sleeping Ones who walk around accidentally, unknowingly wounding others.  Yes, I will easily thank God for them, too.

If I survive this, I will remember that sometimes you don’t know what to say.  I will know that suffering is scary for you, too and I will be more forgiving of your silence. I will understand that your indolence comes from fear and not apathy.   I will reserve a gentle place for you and your fear deep in my heart.



If I survive this, I will embrace Mystery.  I will understand that I don’t have ANY of the answers.  As my life continues, I will become more and more comfortable with not knowing and I will hold a deeper understanding of faith.  I will be so grateful for having been given the opportunity to view my faith through grief and loss.

If I survive this, I will let my curiosity run wild again.  I will unchain my courage to turn over rocks.  I will fearlessly walk through spider webs.  I will walk bare footed through muddy lakes and I will stay outside in the dark alone to embrace what scares me.

Finally, if I survive this, I will serve like I was taught to serve.  I will listen better.  I will show up for you, I will never tell your secrets and I will never participate in gossip.  I will try to be more humble, I will practice bearing your load and I will smile for you so that you can smile back.  I will fail, I will steady myself and I will try again.  I will try again.


Oil and charcoal on panel, 36"x36", layer #1

Oil and charcoal on panel, 36"x36", layer #1

faith that it will all work out

When birthing a painting, do all artists have the same experience?  I like to believe that even the Masters had the same pet rats that I do.   I hear them with their noisy chatter from the small, dark places in my head...

 "this might not work out for the best this time"

"you don't know what you're doing"

"this wont resonate with anyone"

"quit. now. before you embarrass yourself. again"

Day four of the drawing phase.  I had just started blocking in the first few cranes.  It took me two weeks to block in all of the cranes and draw the strings.  I loved every single minute of it and the days flew by like a dream.

Day four of the drawing phase.  I had just started blocking in the first few cranes.  It took me two weeks to block in all of the cranes and draw the strings.  I loved every single minute of it and the days flew by like a dream.

But somewhere in my head there is a place of light where a little bird sings "Have faith my dear. Keep going. Stay on course.  What you are doing matters."    Maybe I've worked on the optimism thing just enough to believe it because I'm still here.  Working every day.

This painting.  What a monumental task it has been.  I keep at it because it's about Cancer.  I will not forget that I saw Cancer happen, in real life and real time to a real soul that I loved so, so much. And I kinda think this painting is allowing her to keep on spreading her big love on this little planet even though I don't see her anymore.  So it is:  Faith has evolved and is being what it wants to be--in a painting that one day will talk without me.

Week 3.  I am adding the first layers of color and blocking in the cranes with white.  I started to worry about the flatness of the piece at this point but loved finally having some sharp contrast.

Week 3.  I am adding the first layers of color and blocking in the cranes with white.  I started to worry about the flatness of the piece at this point but loved finally having some sharp contrast.

Tomorrow is Monday fun day again.  The boys go back to school and I go back to the studio. It will be a big day because I'll be adding more orange to the background (which I like to call The Behind) before I move back over to the cranes again.  As always, before I start, I will bless the painting, pray "not my will but Yours" and move on to having faith that it will all work out. 

I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.
― C. JoyBell C.