Notes from the Garden

Thursday- There are moments of grace to be had walking out through the garden during breaks in the rain that has fallen for over a week now. Baby daffodils are emerging against the soft pink of the Camellias and Azaleas that seem to take turns flowering. Almost every time I step into the garden I delight in some new discovery as we get to know this new garden full of mysteries. Today's was the Sakura by the front gate.
Even taking out the compost has become a labour of love, often followed by shouts of "come see, it's all pink", "look what's popped up" or "is it a weed" "I don't know, leave it, it's pretty" or "what do you think that is going to be" and "look what I found" or "smell this", "is that kaffir lime" and so on.
When my mother last visited she swooned to find her mother's namesake, Daphne, growing all through the garden and the last of its heady scent still permeates.

Friday- Today I found the Japanese Pearl flowering down a path and  brought some in to liven the house which is still in the midst of sick babies. It looks so delightful on the new eggshell blue table, in fact everything looks beautiful against that blue.
I look forward to the openness of the weekend mornings when the babies will sleep in and there will be just me and my thoughts in the quiet of the morning light and the soft falling rain.
I've been enjoying reading May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, and it comforts me to know that she was so prolific that when I reach the end I can pick up another memoir. And yet I am never in any hurry to finish it, I've been reading it for a few years now, picking it up every now and again, reading a few entries, like catching up with an old friend, and then each of us going about our own lives until we meet again. It never even matters if I am reading passages read before.
Saturday- There's this urgent sense that the old needs to make way for the new as Spring is just around the corner and a week of rain wakes dormant seeds. I walk around with secateurs and hack at plants and pull away dead leaves. Today I was thrilled to find a Magnolia tree in the far corner next to the baby Magnolia that bloomed in winter, its buds almost ready to burst forth its magnificence. I planted out the  basil which hopefully will be pleased to stretch its legs beyond the restraints of the greenhouse tub it came in. It looks happy gently swaying in the breeze and momentary sunlight before the rain start again, almost grateful.

The garden looks wild and unkempt next to manicured and well kept gardens on either side of me. I like it wild, my attempts are just to nurture and nourish it and watch it, to let it flourish and be continually mystified by the constant new discoveries and growth. I hope I do more good than harm, of course I have no idea. And all the while I am reminded how much I love our little corner of the world here ♥ ♥ ♥

Shape Shifters and a Blog Hop

Shape shifters Galia Alena painting
Shape Shifters

 Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. ~Rumi
I was asked by an artist friend to join her in a blog hop, so here goes. First some questions about my work and process and then I will introduce you to a few friends on this blog hop whose work you should check out :)

What am I working on?
Creativity is not a replica of life but rather a tool for insight. Carnwaith
At the moment most of my creating time is going into a series of mixed media paintings, some  of which you can see in this post (and there are more in previous posts). The work is coming faster than I can keep up and I have to steal as much time as possible to get into the studio and lay the paint down as the paintings demand. Other projects which I thought I would be working on have all be shoved aside or abandoned for now as my energy is demanding to be given over to these pieces.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.”
― Miguel Ruiz
I’m not sure what “genre” per se we would be speaking of here but in general after struggling with the postmodern conundrum of “its all been said and done before” I’ve come to realise that that doesn’t really matter. I have to say and produce what I have to say and produce, I have to repeat it for myself, something within demands I do. I’m constantly struggling with the grasp of the language i.e. my skills and techniques are still learning and the results never quite land where I want them to but the process itself is paramount and each attempt gets closer to articulating what I’m trying to convey. The work is an intersection of all my experiences and perceptions of them at a certain space in time, that is how I process my unique experiences through my own eyes and my experiences, all the little things and the way that I perceive them are at once universal and yet unique to me, unique and ever so precious. That we each have a unique voice, and that if we allow them all to sing truly, then we have something beautiful.

Why do I create what I do?

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create -Ben Okri

The simple answer is because I have to. When I try to create something different, or nothing, it doesn’t work for me. If I set out wanting to do a different style, a more intentional piece or try other colours I like, or make work along the lines of others' work I am drawn to, then I get stuck, it feels wrong, it’s not me, it’s not “authentic”. I can practice other styles and techniques to train my eyes and hands, to hone my craft but then I have to produce the particular work that I do and often that just means getting out of the way and knowing that it is not up to me to judge the work.

How does my writing process work?

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”  Vincent van Gogh
This quote is exactly what my process feels like at the moment- the images that I’m painting are coming to me in dreams and visions, I get the images down quickly and then begin to work with them, painting the layers, listening and watching what else wants to comes through. The paintings change from the first vision as new things show up in the process and dreamtime works with them by night. For me they are full of meaning and symbolism, some of which is surprising and yet obvious. For example, Butterfly Song had first been visualised with a different sort of butterfly, more like a flower unfurling from the throat and I knew the image would have a lot of blue in it for the throat chakra. When I started painting it, orange also wanted to be part of the image, orange which is representative of the sacral chakra, where our creative urges stir. Once I thought about it, it made perfect sense that liberating the throat chakra, from where we speak our sacred truths, that our sacral chakra would also be liberated. The butterfly itself also has strong feminine imagery in it with the valva but you can also see very clearly the hands in the peace sign, Namaste…
So I guess you could say that this group of work is an exploration of dreamtime.

Now let me introduce a few friends:
Laly Mille is a French artist who lives near Tours, in the Loire Valley of France. Her soulful paintings and poetic assemblage pieces invite you to listen to your dreams. Laly is also currently working at a nursing home where she facilitates creativity and art workshops for the elderly. You can find her on Facebook or visit her blog at www.lalymille.com. Her beautiful artwork is featured in the July/August edition of Somerset Studio, the popular artist’s magazine.

My work as a fiber artist working with fabric and fiber to create abstract 3-dimensional forms was my focus for many years. I started painting full time in 2009 focusing on portrait/figure work painting in acrylics, watercolors and mixed media. Fractured Angels is the continuous thread throughout my work. My art parallels my spiritual journey and I identify with the flawed, cracked and fractured human yearning for peace and fulfillment.
The older I get the stronger the pull to explore and express this theme in my work. Along the way I discovered I loved teaching. I find the creative process so incredibly interesting. My energy lies in that process and to share that with others has been the most fulfilling role of my life. The spiritual nature of the creative process is something that I think about a lot. The idea of constant practicing of my craft along with allowing myself to let go in moments of creating is the key to authentic art. 

Becky Cavender is a writer, relationship coach, artist, and single mom living in the Pacific Northwest. Becky has several articles published on Huffington Post and she has lived in five countries on four continents -- including Myanmar, where she published a guidebook for expats moving there. When she’s not writing poetry, traveling, interviewing inspiring creative types, or working on her novel, you can find her at any of the best local coffee joints sucking up her caffeine.
You can read more of her work and learn about her coaching services on her website:

Veronica Funk was raised in Northern Manitoba, studied art & design in Alberta, apprenticed with potters, stone sculptors and painters and spent a year painting on a farm in Saskatchewan. She is inspired by the changing colours of the Rocky Mountains and prairies which surround her foothills home.  She has been painting professionally since 1999 and is currently continuing her education towards completion of her Bachelor of Fine Arts designation.  Despite forays into mixed media, altered books and pottery, she has always returned to the medium that got her career started: painting. Over the years she has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles and her work and writing have been published in a number of art books and magazines.  Her goal is to create a visual story.  She combines symbols, imagery and vibrant color through the use of opaque and transparent acrylic glazes, stamping, utilizing her hands as tools and drawing with her brush. Her images are an endeavor to capture the essence of Canada. http://www.veronicafunk.com/

Course Correcting

 On Christmas Eve, my family and I flew home after a few years living abroad. We bought a house on line and were waiting to move into it. Many said it was a brave move, buying a house off the internet. I had heard that before, that it was brave to pack up your family and move to a new country with no real plans. For me it didn't feel brave, it felt like the only thing to do when that itch to break out of one life and try another, to jump- not jumping wasn't really an option. Buying a house on line wasn't brave either. What was brave was admitting that the move wasn't working, that the children were not happy. What was brave was releasing a dream (sometimes we hold them too tight and dreams are fragile things) and doing what needed to be done to bring harmony and make room for new dreams. What was brave was risking failing, and leaping anyway, and then doing it again. Course correcting.

Luminous Mandala word of the year journal page, Galia Alena
Luminous Mandala- word of the year page
We didn't go back, there is no going back, as the saying goes "you can not step into the same river twice". So we didn't go back- we made a conscious choice to go forward, to find a place where we could all flourish. Course correcting.

View from Couch Surfing
 So on Christmas Eve we flew out of the land of the Long White Cloud and returned to the land of OZ. We arrived, with no plans but in time to spend Christmas with family and friends. After a few days couch surfing with family and then at a friends place near the beach luck dropped a little boat shed to rent for a month and we spent a few weeks with the ocean lapping at our feet.

Travel journaling Galia Alena sketching boat shed
Scenes from the Boat Shed
 Literally an old boat shed which was down several flights of stairs into the rocks, the old boat shed had been converted into a studio flat right on the water, so much so that if you were a sleep walker you would be in dire trouble in the night. In the mornings I was woken by the wake of the passing ferries and would then dangle my feet down into the water at the end of the bed while nursing my morning coffee. We reacquainted ourselves with old stomping grounds, caught up with friends, enjoyed the warm weather and outdoor concerts while waiting until our new house would be available for us.

Travel journaling Galia Alena sketching boat shed

 When the month was up, it was time to move up the mountains so the children could start their new year, and a little furnished house serendipitously fell into our laps until we could finally move into our new house.

Picasso Inspired Journal Galia Alena
Picasso Inspired Journal
 So many elements of luck and trust were at work in our move home. I made the decision to bring my family home sitting in a sweat lodge at Esalen surrounded by my beautiful sisters all supporting one another in our truths. In the dark hot tent, to the singing voice of Pixie and others I knew what needed to be done. It took awhile from the initial knowing, to the later hearing and then the final breaking of the camel's back at which point having none of the details sorted or the means to do it, I threw myself at the mercy of the universe, opened myself to trusting and declaring the intention of going home and left so many of the details open. In so many ways I/we were supported by friends, family, chance, luck and serendipity and while all the details are still unfolding it has been a pleasure to watch the pieces fall magically into place. With gratitude I sit here and type from my new home where my children are again happy (I will share more on the new home in another post, although if you follow me on Instagram you would already have had some sneak peeks).

Fleeting Altered Book Galia Alena, mixed media journal
Fleeting Altered Book
Of course, while in between lands and homes, there was light sketching and playing in little journals, a different way of working for different circumstance, an extended travel kit and inspiration from Misty (fleeting altered book and Picasso homage journal) and Jeanne (pattern journal). I hugged my children, worked in my books, listened to the whispers of the muses and let things fall where they would.

Pattern journal, Galia Alena, art journal sketches
Pattern Journal
A word on course correcting, we should all always be doing it, looking at our lives and seeing what is working, what isn't and what is missing (what's still needed as my friend Maya says), risking mistakes to find our own way, making glorious and brave mistakes, and being brave enough to course correct, sometimes a few degrees, sometimes 180, always with quiet listening and fierce abandon for life.

With Gratitude

A Choice in Every Breath {Just One Paragraph 5/30}

Galia Alena Prayer Flag, Textile Art
WIP- Medicine Wheel Prayer Flag
 Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help... an instrument of grace.
                                                                     May Sarton
The last two weeks, our mid year break, have been marked by cabin fever and a bug that gripped my daughter on the last day of school and swept through the house knocking us all flat on our backs. Even now my chest is held hostage by the grip of this monster cough and my head is weary of the violence that has ensued. The weeks have been spent curling up in front of the fireplace watching series after series of Merlin with the children, my head and energy levels way too low to stoke the creative fires. All this has made me grateful for the slow pace of my new "Shiny Butterfly", hand stitching fabric collages entirely inspired by the wonderful work of Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth. I discovered her work a few months ago when I was working on Of the Heart (a book project combining plaster, paper and cloth), and disappeared down the rabbit hole of textile art. At the moment I am working on some prayer flags. One thing that I'm loving about this is the slow pace of stitching layer upon layer allowing much contemplation as the textures and meanings in the work build.  Such a different pace from laying down paint which can be down with wild abandon, stitching requires intention, every stitch a breath. Of course paint strokes can be laid down in the same way but it is a choice, not a characteristic of the medium. Here is the beauty of where mediums collide and inform each other and I muse over the rhythm of work and life- a stitch/stroke in every breath, a choice in every breath.

Shiny Butterflies {Just One Paragraph 4/30}

Galia Alena Photography butterfly at Easlen
I have Dilettante in my archetype set, although (I also have Rebel ;) ) I prefer to call it the Renaissance Woman archetype. What this means is that as a mixed media artist no medium is off limits, oh what joy. Sometimes this makes me feel like a "Jack of All Trades Master of None" (which I know is not true as I've mastered several) skipping from one shiny new medium to the next. But oh what joy. As an artist, the use of different mediums weaves a certain trail into each other as "rules" and discoveries of one medium are translated into a new medium in ways unimagined. I had a tarot reading done when I was teaching at SoulFire Retreats, and she said (along with much else that still rings in my mind) that I was easily distracted off my path by the fluttering of a passing butterfly, I'd be off chasing its beauty, always distracted from my path yet always coming back to it. What if those distractions were the path? What if those distractions fed and strengthened the path? I read a quote in passing the other day that went something like this "If you can see the path ahead clearly then you're on someone else's path". The journey wouldn't be quite the adventure if we knew where we were going right? My path is definitely a meandering, winding path with many diversions for shiny butterflies.

Tomorrow I will share one of those new shiny butterflies with you.

Dream Casting {Just One Paragraph 3/30}

Bird Spirits, Galia Alena, mixed media art acryllic pastels collage wax encaustic
We can redream this world and make the dream come real. Human beings are gods hidden from themselves. ”
Ben Okri, The Famished Road 
This morning was another lazy start to the day. The golden light streams in over the mountain tops bathing the kitchen in it's glow made ever more dramatic by the dark clouds engulfing the mountains from every other direction. The last official day of the school holidays, the last day I get to crawl back into bed with my coffee and catch my fleeting dreams before they disappear. Last night I dreamed I picked a white apple from a tree that grew outside my childhood home and this white apple lingers in my imagination. Whilst most wake to write their dreams down, I have been reaching for my sketch pad to quickly sketch the dream creatures who visit me before they fly away into forgotteness leaving my memory with only a shadow. I'm collecting quite a few characters which I couldn't have imagined and yet here they are formed in my dream state, (the painting above comes directly from a dream I had after I read the first chapter of Ben Okri's The Famished Road). This quite time of reflection, dreams and magic feels like a gifted spell, one I dare not move too fast least the spell be broken and the reality of the day floods in casting the dreams into the shadows until night falls again.
Magic becomes art when it has nothing to hide.
                                                      Ben Okri

{Just One Paragraph 2/30}- Outing myself

I've been skirting around picking up my journal and writing again, wondering where all the words are. Oh and there are so so many words, they flood out of me unstoppable and completely inspired when I am in the shower, when I am driving. And then they slip away, taunting as they go as if they say "well you didn't show up, you didn't sit with your pen and paper and invite us in." Perhaps they are right. Perhaps I have ignored them too long. And they niggle at me, I know they are a piece of the puzzle I'm trying to put together, a huge piece, yet they are that lost piece, the one that rolled under the couch and bred with the dust bunnies, mutating so much that I barely recognise it. Today I am remembering this quote from Twin Peaks, Dale Cooper talking about his Buddhist take on investigative enquiry: "When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object in inquiry we must always pay strict attention." Well, yesterday I picked up Christina Rosalie's book again to read and ended up quoting her on my facebook page, then I found myself reading a post by my birthday sister Nika who has joined Christina on a paragraph a day for 30 days. "To pay attention, this is how we pray" is my mantra at the moment, and I am paying attention to these separate but connected threads which are leading me to believe I am meant to join this challenge. Yesterday I wrote a paragraph, today another, so indulge me for a month while I ramble for a bit, I promise to sweeten it with an image or two, and perhaps an invitation or a recipe.
Galia Alena travel journal

Flower Jewels, Ocean Deep- Pushing against my painting edge

Flower Jewels, Ocean Deep, Galia Alena
Flower Jewels, Ocean Deep, Galia Alena
“I am still learning” Michelangelo
If a painting should stretch the painter, help them grow them in their artistic expressions, then this painting was a success. I just pulled it out from its hiding place tucked away behind a stack of canvases where I shoved it several months ago in frustration of not knowing how to finish it or what I think/feel about it. Forgotten, I moved onto other things like water colours, pottery and a lot of art journalling but decided to bring it back out into the light this week.
For quiet sometime I had struggled with this painting- a sense of freedom and joy and exploration danced across the canvas while my mind (you know the critical one) struggled with how to calm it down, tie it altogether, find some places for the eye to rest. I pushed against my painting edge.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to find it” Michelangelo
Sometimes my painting feel like the opposite of the Michelangelo story of how he chipped away at the marble block until he found the sculptures within. For me it feels like I add and add, layer upon layers of paint, obscuring hidden symbols and secret images, until eventually and hopefully a painting emerges. Its like I know its in there somewhere but I’m not sure where or how to coax it out. This is how I push against my painting edge- always looking for the magic, dancing between freedom, joy and intuitive abandon and that always critical, processing eye. What I learned from this piece is that sometime this is always going to be a fiery relationship and sometimes we just have to surrender to that dance rather than trying to resolve it.
Even now when I look at this piece, with all judgements aside, there is still this one little thing that niggles at me that I know is not finished, that I will always notice when I gaze on this painting- a reminder to just let it go... 
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo

Balance- the Holy Grail of the 21st Century

The Elusivity of Balance
Balance- the Holy Grail of the 21st Century
    My idea of balance, the balance that I seek is calm, tranquil, level and serene, an ideal. I never find this calm and tranquil balance for very long and wonder if it is like the holy grail, a legend, a myth and all this time I have been on a wild goose chase searching for something I shall never find. When I do find it will I even know what it looks like and is it something I can hang on to. Is balance a verb or a noun? I think for too long we have sought the noun when in fact it is the verb we need.

“To keep your balance you must keep moving” Einstein
    I feel more that I disappear into the depths of one thing or another and are not able  to find this “balance”, this harmonious and mythical place where things work together. My life is more like a pendulum that swings from one direction to another and then back again. Giddy I look around to steady myself as I swing another direction. Somethings get neglected while I swing in another direction and then back again to be reconnected.
    I wonder, is not the pendulum of perpetual motion not a form of balance? Could I not claim my life, myself is balanced as long as I’m swinging? Perhaps it is better to continue swinging, searching for that center balance and in the process be balanced, than to find stillness, to stop off balance? So I take console in the fact that perhaps my life is more balanced than I think it is.
    Maybe what’s missing is a clear goal, a point to center my gaze on like dancers do when they spin. Perhaps then I would find my calm in all this perpetual motion, this oscillation.
    Finding ones goal, purpose, ones point on the horizon, that’s the tricky question and often a moving target.
    What is this balance, this ever so elusive balance that we seek? A goal made more weighty in modern times when we are supposed to be able to have it “all”. The weight of “all” is heavy, no wonder it is tipping the scale off balance, tilting it towards ever more busyness, in our endless task of acquiring, achieving, obtaining, maintaining. All a lot of busy doing and not a lot of being. We do motherhood: driving, carpooling, organising, rallying, working- when do we get to just be a mother.
    When I’m out of balance, not just a little bit, but a lot out of balance, I feel myself reverberate, like a tuning stick struck. I vibrate either side of myself trying to catch up with or slow down to myself. I can see myself just out of focus, refracted all around me like some dark halo. I step and I hear the echo of my step as I try to catch up with myself. Almost like one foot in this world and one foot in some parallel world, just out of sync and only vaguely visible through a foggy window.
    I try to calm myself with yoga or chi gong, be in the moment, the current moment and my invisible arms reach out and grab hold of bits of me, pulling them back into my center. Making me feel more solidly grounded in this world and less like a shadow that may disappear as the sun shifts the light, casting me away. Then I return to the demands of my day and a screaming child evaporates this state of calmness. C’est la vie- it begins again.
    Balance is not only three dimensional, it is four dimensional in its complexities. Balance of the personal external things, work, family, motherhood, diet, health, leisure etc with the more complex inner things, calm, centered, desires, flowing energies, creative spirit, joy, gratitude and then out to balance the larger external, the planet, humanity, the environment, karma. Always so many balls in the air.
    Balance isn’t something you can tick of your to do list, synchronise with you i-phone. Balance requires deep introspection- everyone needs to find their own point of balance. The point where    you find stillness in the perpetual movement. You can not seek someone else’s definition of balance and hope to meet your own. Balance can be held for a moment- but what about when you string all those moments together? Practice, choices, priorities. Balance requires trial and error and surrender, it is both a passive and an active practice. And it is a practice, a journey, something you do not find but something that you choose and do. At the very least, balance in a dialogue you have with yourself.
“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves”  Frank Herbert