Thursday, March 15, 2012

Following the Energy

My process painting teacher used to tell us to go where the energy is. Is there energy for it? she would ask, of a color, an image, a particular aspect of the painting we were working on. If so, awesome, keep going, if not, find where the energy is and follow it.

It's a good life lesson, for sure. Maybe even the gold standard. And for art, no question. But what I'm thinking these days, is that it's most likely also a good barometer for blogging. Because the truth is, and as much as I do not want to acknowledge it, the energy for continuing this blog is not there. Has not been there for some time.

Sometimes we have to close doors for others to open. Even when it hurts or is sad or represents the letting go of a particular hope or dream. If you've been a reader here, it is no secret how much I love to write. Also, how much the ability to write has been eluding me. You also know that other creative things are birthing themselves. And there is so much energy there for these things. I scour thrift stores and flea markets and flower shops looking for the perfect ingredients for photos. I work hours editing, sometimes until my eyes literally give out and I have to close my laptop. A certain vase, a particular rose, the way the afternoon light comes in through the window turns me on the way a turn of phrase or particular word or sentence has in the past. I hear Chris' voice echoing from the nether regions of years ago... follow the energy... Still, I resist...

I began this blog as a place to write myself through the most grief-stricken, difficult, painful, confusing, lost period of my life. It has been my friend and companion along the way. Here I have shared, processed, gained insights, tended my wounds, been vulnerable, found my voice, gained confidence, practiced radical honesty, and so much more. After a year on the market, my house in Sonora has finally sold. A seriously difficult chapter closing. The week after I moved all of my stuff out and into storage, I bought myself a bicycle. Traded my house for a beautiful little Nirve comfort cruiser called "Island Flower." (Whose pink rims practically made me swoon when I first spied them in the bike store...) Riding for the first time in over two decades, I am aware of a feeling... a joy, a bliss, a serious contentment, that I have not known in years. A thought occurred the other day, as I rode on a trail that follows a sweet little creek near where I live: I feel like I am getting my life back... It was fleeting, but that did not make it any less welcome... or any less precious.

It does feel as though I am starting to recover. Though I shake in my boots just a little at the uttering of the words. Yet there has come a certain level of seeing and perspective, which tells me there is already enough space from the deepest black of the dark night to get a glimpse of its gifts, to appreciate that it's been a slow, deep, hot burn that has fundamentally altered me, in huge ways, that I am blown away by and seriously grateful for.

I don't understand this call to surrender the want to write. To close the door and let it go. I don't understand or like it, but I do trust it. Because though the desire is great, the energy isn't there, and because just go with the energy always seemed to work; blocks disappeared, pathways became clear, new and vital things arrived on the scene. Whole, amazing paintings happened simply by following the energy. It is so ironic, I look back and see that things only really began to shift with the dark night after there was total surrender, after I got the message to trust it, to honor it, after I began to fight for it instead of fighting against it with every breath in my body - weird I know and yet it is true - I fought for the dark night (though I'm sure what I was actually fighting for was my soul... )

I love this blog. Have loved it from Day One.I've loved putting myself out there and I have loved that people enjoyed it, were inspired by it. But it does feel--though inexplicably--that leaving it behind is the right thing to do. To go with the flow of what is, to see that as I recover, it might actually be appropriate, good and positive even to give up the (cyber)space where it all played out. Just as I had to give up the home where I had become life-threateningly depressed, leave it behind in order to more fully recover and move on to what's next, so, too, here... least for now. Because we really just never know...


God knows I had no idea that I would, in my 60th year, overweight, out of shape, climb onto a bicycle again... or that the first words I would utter, as I cruised around the parking lot of the bike shop would be, OH MY GOD, I AM IN HEAVEN............

We just never know.

Oh, and p.s., you can still find me HERE at my Flickr account. And maybe later elsewhere... who knows... maybe a travel blog or one dedicated to creativity. Maybe I'll be inspired to return here and muse some more... endless possibilities, really, when we don't grasp, and insist on any given one.

Anyway, I close for now...
With serious love, gratitude, and appreciation,

Debby Rose

Thursday, March 1, 2012


This pitcher was a gift from one of my sisters decades ago. She bought it for me at the Smithsonian on a trip to D.C. I have loved it from day one, both the pitcher and her thinking of me, knowing the exact right thing for me, so much so that when one of my girls was fooling around one day and knocked it down breaking the handle, I glued the pieces together, glued it back on (unusual behavior for me, as something so broken could not be saved), placed it back on the shelf, and have continued to love it.

I think of how each of us from our little family, parents included, have been broken. I think of this sister, the one that I've wished my whole adult life to have a closer relationship with, and her unexpected call the other day. Hearing her voice, her laughter, bringing back such family memories. Thinking of her own unexpected, unique and serious life challenges over the past few years opens a space in my heart that distance, differences, and misunderstanding oftentimes closed.

Aren't we all broken in some way? Even those of us for whom it is not so apparent on the surface? I love the metaphor of this vase... how life breaks us, no bad intent, just part of this earth walk, and we glue ourselves back together and march on. The scars becoming part of the fabric of our beings; a place of more vulnerability and tenderness for sure, but part of the beauty that makes up the whole. Part of the mystery that doesn't just mark our journey, but creates it, most often unknowingly, and only in hindsight, like gazing from the mountain top we didn't know we were climbing to the sudden vista, looking out at all that we had traversed; the switchbacks, the steep hills and deep valleys, peaceful meadows, the detours and long stretches of isolation and wilderness, darkness and light, the streams forged and rivers rafted, looking back on it all and seeing that truly, we could not have arrived any other way.

And p.s., a few hours after posting this I opened a new book I received in the mail today and found this quote:

Life breaks everyone... but some grow stronger at the broken part. ~Ernest Hemingway

I love life's synchronicities.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life Is Messy

This is what happens when I try to create a photo in the "soft and dreamy" style that seems to be all the rage right now. Or, when I'm given an assignment, like I was recently, to create a photo where "less is more." It makes me want to laugh out loud... because for me, in just about every way possible, I've always, and I mean always been a more is more kind of girl.

It's sobering, really. And not so little heartbreaking. Because I've also always been judged, shamed even, for that. I came into this life with big energy. Big passions, longings, feelings, needs; I drive fast, walk heavy, laugh loud, crank up the music, think, feel, and love deeply. There is a huge thirst to live life to the fullest. Growing up it was never okay. And I did my darnedest to change myself; shrink and twist myself into all kinds of shapes and sizes to try to fit in the little box that I thought would bring love and approval. And of course, as all kids do, I internalized the message, and learned to detest the very things, the powerful, and actually pretty awesome things that make me who I am.

And so, as this photo was creating itself (really... we so think we're in charge...!) I began to see it as the symbol it is... We are all made up of layers and layers and layers. As is life. It hits me that this is probably why I've fallen so in love with processing with layers; it is such a beautiful representation of what is. The messier this photo became, the more I fell in love with it, and the more I saw myself in it. Especially the soft inner core, because here's the thing that most people don't know--because I'm afraid to show it and therefore it is most often not seen--that inside this big rough-around-the-edges exterior, lies an exquisitely tender and vulnerable being.

Thank goodness we are not one size fits all. Try as I might (and believe me, I've tried), I cannot create those dreamy images. And that's okay. More than okay, even. In fact, the messier this photo got, the happier I got; the riskier it felt, the more excited I began to feel.

At retreat this weekend with my teacher Isaac, I watched as more and more of the trying to be what I'm not fell away, growing in it's place, a bigger seeing, acceptance, and appreciation for what I am.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Sometimes, when the word well is dry, there's nothing to do but find inspiration in other people's creations. This has been one of my favorite poems since the first time I read it years ago. It hits me in the deepest, least visible places, in the land of mystery and tenderness, knowing and soul.

I miss writing. It's been my go-to thing for so long. A way that I express myself that comes pretty naturally. But I realized today - and I can't believe it's taken a while to see this - that what is not happening right now with words is happening with images.  I spend hours each day creating with my images. In short, I am finding, seeing, and expressing myself through my art! Whoa... Not only has this been a dream for so long, but I have known intuitively, have written about it here in fact, that somehow, in some way that I cannot know or understand, a huge part of this dark night journey has been and is about creativity.

My sister said something amazingly wonderful to me the other day. She said that when she looks at my latest photos, they look like me.


And it brought this poem to mind... as I greet myself arriving at my own door... As I get it to stop bemoaning the absence of words and throw out the welcome mat, open my arms, sit and feast... It's almost too much to take in.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art and Life

That sweet night; a secret.
Nobody saw me;
I did not see a thing.
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart.
~John of the Cross

I am hooking up today for the first time in a while at The Creative Exchange. What I love about Lisa's approach is the emphasis on love; your camera in one hand, she says, your heart in the other


In a way, I guess, I'm celebrating. It's been exactly a year since I began learning Photoshop Elements. It was a huge curve for me, and over the year, with the help of some online courses, I've gone from pretty much daily wanting to throw my computer across the room to becoming a fairly competent user. Along the way, I've had hits and misses, successes and failures, some good photos, some bad; I've watched my art grow; but the one thing that has eluded me is a sense of my own creative vision and my own unique style; what was missing was some invisible thing that longed to be expressed, a feeling maybe, something that I could not have articulated, but knew the moment I saw it. 

In the past couple of weeks I've started to see it. Something's coming together, it began with a simple thought to photograph the things that I love and that I've been surrounding myself with for years. The books, vintage dishes and painted-peeling things, candles, shells I've collected on my travels, the flowers I buy each week when I grocery shop; all that I love to look at and be around, that float my boat and even better, feed my soul. It seems simple, but somehow I'd been missing it.

How can we go wrong when we move toward what we love? Not just art, but in our daily lives (which are also art, the blank canvas of our everyday lives...). I was told on Moloka'i that the very foundation of the native Hawaiian spirituality is discernment.  To pay attention, to discern what does it for us and what doesn't, and make a conscious choice to move toward one and away from the other.

As in art, so in life. Or is it the other way around? Not that it really matters. And here, another gift of the dark night.

Thanks Lisa... 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gifts of the Dark Night

If nature can handle the destruction and reconstruction
 of a caterpillar into a butterfly, 
why shouldn't I surrender and trust
 that it can handle what is happening to me?
~John Moriarity 
The book I've been reading, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, has been serious food for this soul. I find myself wondering if it's possible for a book to change one's life, and my answer is I truly think so. A book, a poem or quote or song, an offhand remark, coming at the right time, when by some grace there is even a crack in the veneer, can, indeed, shift things substantially.

I can't say that it has cured me. Obviously, since as I read it, I slipped again farther into the darkness. But I can say that I now have a container in which to hold this experience. One that helps give me patience and tolerance. One that adds depth and meaning, that offers sustenance, hope even, and that provides a sense of understanding, without having an actual clue why, this might possibly be happening.

I have learned that this is a journey of the spirit and soul, as much as, if not more than it is of brain chemistry, circumstance, lifestyle, or genetics. I have re-learned what I've known for a long, long time but had lost sight of; that we live in a world that is myopic and lacks balance, a "solar" world, where light and brightness and happiness are valued over the lunar, which is dark, inward, still, mysterious, fertile. Where pain is avoided, where quick fixes and the hero's outward and upward journey are both preferential to the slow, deep, internal burn necessary for true transformation and rebirth. In short, we live in a world that values the yang, but not so much the yin. And if you've dappled at all in eastern spirituality or philosophy, or for that matter simple gardening, you know that there must always be a balance. That life cannot, does not thrive when it's out of whack. We only have to look around at our world to see how true that is.

Already I am glimpsing gifts from this dark night. I am reconnecting with parts of myself that through no fault or blame have been lost along the way. I have turned to creativity, some days as the only possible way to get through the next moment, and see my vision and art evolving in a way that I could not have imagined. For these things, I am grateful, if not for the dark night itself, and maybe even that is around some invisible corner I've just not quite yet arrived at.

Thomas Moore says it better than I could ever hope to~

The black of the dark night comes from ignorance, not knowing what is happening and where life is taking you. The only choice... is to remain in the present, not bound or deluded by the past, and not imprisoned in a fixed and defensive idea about the future. The worm has to let the transmutation take place. It would do no good for him to plan his wingspan and colors or to wish to remain in the snug safety of the tiny world he has known. The most difficult challenge is to let the process take place, and yet that is the only release from the pressure of the dark night.