Before Our Very Eyes by Hayden Michelle

“Before Our Very Eyes” (31 x 18 x 10 in, detail)

Initially, I felt overwhelmed as I questioned as to how to convey the enormity of global warming and its urgency of need for the Encaustic Art Institute’s call for Global Warming is REAL exhibit. Thankfully, by connecting to experience that was close at hand, I was able to begin sinking into that exploration, one small step at a time…

Waxing up macro photos of the monarchs we raised led me into stillness where I could reflect on the complete dependency of these creatures and the ecology in which they live.

Deeper breaths ensued after sculpting them into form, a familiar and reassuring knowing from my hands that did not solve the bigger issue that looms large in my mind, but did bring quiet. Layers of dry pigment brought color back to the vibrancy hidden below many layers of wax… a slow and tedious process of breathing like back in…

Sewing wings together to create a narrative dynamic whole is both exciting and exacting, taking much slowing down and patience.

Working (and reworking) the background to represent the melting of our glaciers was a process of 3 completely different substrates being created, and I was grateful for the completed monarch swarm which motivated me to continue when the backgrounds took total absorption, concentration, and a willingness to start over. At least there was relief at the end with a suitable place to support these beautiful beings (as much as a contrast to their melting and relationship to the entirety of our planet being in dire trouble).

This part of the making saddened me the most, weighing heavily on my mind.

Here is the artist statement for the EAI exhibit that opens at the Encaustic Museum of Art in Santa Fe, NM, which runs from Sept. 21— Oct. 27, 2019:

"Last year our family raised monarchs for the first time, releasing them onto our land when they eclosed. Witnessing the changes day by day put me in touch with the fragility of their beings and their dependence on the many protective and nurturant conditions necessary for survival. Watching them grow through each delicate stage until ready to become hanging “J's”, form chrysali, and begin their process of emergence was breath-taking, flowing beyond words to complete wonderment, as reflected on my son’s face while two crawled across his hand, resting before their first flight into our fields and out into the world. As we sat in silence—eyes wide and hearts open— we experienced the miracle of their wings taking to open air. This experience brought home in a profound way that our choices matter, and empowers us to find ways to continue to act, big and small.

Creating this piece (out of photographs of the very monarchs we held) to depict not just the beauty, but the destruction of nature that is already happening, began as jolting and deeply disturbing. It put me in touch with a wide range of feelings— helplessness, grief, and anger. But as I continued to fully sink into the work, challenged by the materials and enormity of trying to convey such far-reaching implications through one piece of art, these emotions slowly metamorphosed into enlivening energy that grew. As I strove to convey the scope of global warming with a call to be moved into action, I was acutely aware that this is for not just our children and all generations to come, but for all living beings who are silently dependent on us for the very survival of their environment. May we be moved deeply to heal and protect the gifts of this precious world.”

Wonder Round Comes Full Circle (February 17-28, 2018) by Hayden Michelle

(I got interrupted by life for a bit! Please read below for my last post of the circle project :))

Well, the time has finally come to share the wrapping up of this year’s worth of daily sittings, paintbrush to paper in the simple form of a circle. It has been a time which originated out of a desire to be still with my thoughts and feelings as I awakened each day and to provide a daily documentation of that process while working through my discomfort with posting. What evolved has been beyond my expectations in all senses of the word— committing to a daily practice proved to be much more challenging than I could have known and has brought me very much in touch with my own resistance, time and time again. And I realized if I just stayed the course, a stroke at a time, I came out on the other side, whether feeling content with the paintings, or not. Sometimes the best we can do is show up!

“One thing I love about making art is the ability to start with a basic line or shape and pull it out into another, so easily transformed and often with no idea where it is going. There is freedom in that basic experience. It has been surprising to me to to feel the impact on the rest of my life from such a simple practice. Art profoundly heals...”

“This may have been a title I have used before, but if so, it is because there is plenty that dwells beneath our outer that has a life of its own. I have been thinking a lot about how our bodies function in the most complicated interchange of systems, going on without our awareness, until there is change that gets our attention. Sending love, light, and hope for all who are in the process of healing...”

“Another thing I love about watercolor painting, especially, is the ability to remove pigment— either to bring light into a saturated space or to remove unwanted areas (within reason). Some of my favorite is the lifting off and creating pattern where none existed before— it is such simple fun, nerdy as that may sound :). Here’s to hoping we all find ways to lift off what we no longer want in our lives!”

“Waking to heavy downpour on the tin roof, my drafty desk waiting in the dark did not call as comfortingly as the perfectly weighted warm blankets already over me. But as I began to paint the lines, allowing myself a bit of a coloring-book beginning in which all I had to do was fill in the lines, my gratitude for the paint and its lesson began to sink into my mind as surely as the color began sinking into paper, layer after layer. Thankfully, in a daily painting, all I need to do is begin and proceed, a bit at a time, staying the course until I see an ending. In some ways it is no different than other tasks which do not have a known outcome— we just meet them a step at a time, hoping to see through to the other side. “

“Last evening as we were driving on the highway, the clouds were forcefully traveling overhead in swirls of gray and white that were intensifying by the moment. My enthusiasm grew from pointing out their speed and beauty a single time to my oldest son, to marked excitement and an almost nonstop barrage of exclamations and questions as to whether or not he could see what I could from the front window and to inquire (repeatedly) if he was fully attuned to the unfolding beauty and mystery. He laughed and said he could see that look in my eye that meant I wanted to pull over and watch and take pictures. As we created a hill on which the foothills of the Appalachians came into view, so did the bottom layer of the horizon, filled with strips of almost-navy blue clouds, which resulted in me shouting that we must pull over! Sadly, we were running late for an engagement, and I was struck that it was my teen son who was comforting me and telling me reassuringly that we can do it another time, but for now we must venture on, much like I have talked him down many a time for having to leave the woods, a playground, store, etc. It was a sweet moment of connection to express my own pull to this amazing force of nature and to have my son be both amused and supportive, telling me not to worry, that he had snapped some shots of those clouds on his phone for me. I felt loved, indeed, and grateful for eyes that can witness these gifts of nature and of the heart.”

“Yesterday was spent out in the glorious woods with our beloved @redoaks_explorers friends. I started the morning with time alone in the quiet of the woods, studying new life that had cropped up in the past two weeks, but most of the day in the privilege of traipsing alongside a four year old, immersed in the rushing blue-green creek and on their banks, scouring for rocks and fossils washed up from the recent deluge of rain while his mama taught older children. It was a delight to be brought along on his adventures as we wove in and out of various bunches of children learning and playing all over the land, seeing life through his imaginative and open eyes while listening to his ongoing commentary as we discovered frog and salamander eggs, shuttled the webcam to each of 4 groups, and took a strongly suggested rest on the rocks to lie down and look up at the clouds that were changing formation so quickly in the vivid blue sky. I love this part of home educating— getting to spend time together with a mix of so many ages in what feels nothing other than natural. It is a wonderful feeling to know we can trust each other with our children, and that I could sink into this experience because I knew the other mamas were watching my own. I always come out of it deeper and richer, full of gratitude for this time in my life with my children and the children (and grown-children!) I have come to love.”

“Late yesterday afternoon, hands covered in pigment, hair crazily sticking out of my headband in all directions and a moth-riddled scarf wrapped around my neck, I went to the door after my son called me to greet a young man standing there covered in black mud up to his wrists. He and his friend had been looking to meet their realtor and had gotten stuck on the gravel road which begins past our driveway and goes down the hollow and back up to the other side by way of a now-rushing creek. This arrival at our door is not an uncommon occurrence (thanks to GPS, which sends people through a road not meant for cars) but what followed, was. We invited him in to wash up, offered water and food, which he politely declined, and he left, stating they had called someone to help. Moments later knocked his friend, also covered in mud.

After she washed up and made calls to get a tow truck (the company is quite familiar with the spot) they finally accepted some warm tea and we began powerful conversation that lasted for over 2 hours. We learned about their lives and the many challenges that brought them here. They enthusiastically engaged with my son about his life and interests and inquired about my art (which was in a big state of active mess nearby), and then shared bits about their life goals and plans for the future. It was wonderful to see worry and anxiety dissolve into laughter and shared connection. As it became dinner time, they joined us to replenish their hungry, tired, cold, shaken selves. When their car was retrieved successfully, we exchanged how much we had all enjoyed their unexpected presence in our evening over heartfelt hugs and requests to come visit if they find a house in the area. I could not have planned a more meaningful evening, a reminder to be open to how even a chance meeting with others can change our lives...”

“Some days it only takes the tiniest drops of light to make a difference... today I am grateful to awaken in my own home after a busy week in which I was away, hearing the wind billowing over the hills and watching the dappled light of sunrise bring to light the colors beyond my panes of glass. The quiet of the early morning is sacred time, indeed— wishing you all marvelous moments this Sunday morning...”

Rudimentary gestures of a tree first lived in this circle, upside down from this orientation. Upon completion and rotation, paths appeared. As I sat gazing into it, I could not decide if the colors reflected more sunrise or sunset, and realized it did not matter, as each day is filled with both... this is a recognition more poignant as I begin this last (partial) week of my year’s commitment to painting and writing every morning. As I move into a more organic approach that allows necessary breathing room in my life, it will be interesting to see how the push and pull of expression appears each day. I am grateful that there will continue to be space to rotate, find new perspective, and remain connected to the essence of what has evolved over these twelve months, both within myself and through connection with you who have joined me here... more to come!”

“I do not have many words for today... just watching the paint bring the inner, outer... a source of healing. I reflect on the power of art to communicate and wish for us all to find cracks for release.”

“When those we love are hurting and we are not able to be there in person, may we muster up all the light, compassion, courage and healing that we have inside ourselves and in the universe and send it to them, tenfold. Wishing as much comfort, support, help, and ease to those in pain and in waiting, hoping the glow of those who love you surrounds you in warmth and hope….”

“It is with mixed emotions that I post today’s circle, completing the 380th painting (did 15 sporadically before committing to the daily) in a bit over a year. When I see that number, it is hard to believe that the goal has been met. What started as a morning ritual to explore watercolor within the circle and writing words alongside to deepen and practice sharing, has evolved into an experience much more profound than I can write in this paragraph (long as they can be, at times, haha). I am deeply grateful for what was grown far beyond my expectations, bringing me connection, deep inner work, healing, courage, and joy in the privilege of shared humanity. I will share more depth soon, but offer my sincere thanks to each of you for following along and sharing in the journey with me, whether in word, witness, or spirit— I am very aware that it would not have been the same without you! It seems fitting that this circle which closes the daily loop, at least, is filled with a bit of spunk and oddity, reflecting the practice of balancing past, present, and future, as well as the light and dark, so that we can all keep going... much love to you all!”

The leap of faith harnessed every morning (as there was rarely a clear plan of what would fill the circle) was good for me on all levels. Beginning in a place of emptiness each day allowed me to sink in to what was just below the surface, delving into spaces that sometimes needed release and sometimes just needed to play and create without expectation. Basically, it taught me to get out of my own way :). What was so surprising is that something always came out if I just picked a color, loaded up my brush and let my hand move across the paper. My body took over where my mind was stuck. Some days that shocked me, as I felt like I could sit on that stool for hours, waiting for an idea or plan to come to mind. Trusting that a creative well of energy has an abundant presence within me is a gem that I carry forward and which expands to all areas of my life, although with a bit more effort!

The other gift is much more profound— that of connecting with all of you through this daily practice. Little did I know when I began that posting every day would lead to so many meaningful interchanges and bits of sharing, ranging from the deep and raw to the playful and humorous— such a wide variety of generous response! Those dialogues between us brought much validation to the energy being put forth in keeping it up for the whole year, fueling me when I really struggled to not bail. The words shared back reflected things I had often not seen, myself, and became a two-way portal which I really valued. I was incredibly touched by the love and support that flowed to me as each circle went out onto the screen, grateful for the experience of coming together from places near and far. That gratitude is difficult to put into words, but will always remain one of the most powerful parts of this year-long experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along and sharing yourselves back with me. I look forward to continuing sharing parts of the journey with one another and am enriched by these vital connections.

Wonder Round (February 10-- 16, 2019) by Hayden Michelle

As I have wrapped up my exhibit and am now in prep mode for KY Crafted: The Market, I am realizing how much I need bits of space that are not inhabited by a to-do list. It was wonderful to take just a couple of hours to meander over our land and see what tiny signs of spring are erupting. These small fungi are less than a quarter inch in size, yet leapt off the branch to my eyes. It is amazing how much color pops when we have been in a period of muted and diminished tones. Wishing you all moments of inspiration and hope for upcoming change…

“What was intended as a quick and simple circle ended up being one which became more layered by the minutes that began to pile past the hour.  As I continued to see (somewhat agitatingly) the sky lighten, my mind became more and more distracted by the remembrance of the pan of brownies laying on the counter in the kitchen, leftover from the dear visit from my sister and her spouse yesterday.  It started to feel comical that my focus turned to what lay ahead rather than what was in front of me, yet neither would go away, haha.  Thankfully, my brush water became so dark that it had to be dumped and renewed, and the sink just happened to be near the pan of brownies, and I may have just taken a bite or two, which enabled the completion of the circle when I returned.  Such simple plans made more enjoyable by simple pleasures...”

“As the warm air from the heat vent is released above my head and more cold rain hits the window panes, I realize how much I miss the breeze that comes in through open windows, bringing fresh air filled with scents of petals and green that grow on the hills while filling my ears with the songs of peeper frogs.  I love that the mere recalling of details of that air on my skin and breathed in by lungs and ears brings it alive.  How amazing our brains and bodies are, able to connect us vividly to the past while functioning perfectly in he present...”

“Sometimes it is the night dreams from which we awaken and sometimes it is the days to which we rise that are topsy-turvy... hoping always, light remains within sight to ground and offer us hope. “

“As the lines glided across the circle and the darks once again lightened outside my window, I reflected on how outside of this circle, the sun sits at many points in the sky.  I love that we are all connected by not only this privilege of incomprehensible technology, but by being part of the bigger whole as we make our lives in this universe.  I am so grateful for the many ways we lighten each other’s way.  Just last night I was talking to a friend and we were discussing the importance of sharing how others positively affect our lives in ways they may not even know, perhaps stemming from experience we had at a much different time in our lives, yet remaining a powerful presence.   It is worth the effort to reach out while we are still alive, both to tell and to hear, each opening from the vulnerability of the exchange.”

“It is not every day that I fill my page with literal hearts, although I did so quite easily as a child and can remember practicing making them until there was little space left on the page.  Their simple shape cannot begin to contain their power to connect, heal, inspire, enliven, grow, and experience joy so great, that it is beyond words.  Wishing you all expansive love today, all directions and even off the page...”

“Bright colors once again adhered to the brushes this morning... I am drawn to their vibrancy and the potential energy that awaits the smallest addition of water to bring dry pigment to life.  Surely, there is metaphor in there, as we too, are brought to life by the literal gift of water as well as that which feeds our souls.  What elicits your most vivid self?”

“Except to paint with minimal line and shading, these forms landed on precarious parts of the page without expectation.  Suspended in mid-air, they appear to be on a journey.  Not sure where we are going at times, we hang on tight, trusting the process as it unfolds... (although looking at the painting again, they actually look quite relaxed and gently held as they are carried forward— points to ponder!). “

Wonder Round (Feb 3-- 9, 2019) by Hayden Michelle

The pine needles that collected in the crevice of this log emitted the most wonderful scent in the drizzling rain last week. I was rejuvenated by just one short day in the coming-back-alive woods, happy to have time both alone and alongside dear friends in the sacred space of nature. I am carrying this energy forward into this week that is full, reminded that it does not take long to replenish our stores… Wishing you all quiet and stillness in nature or places that bring you comfort and energy.

“As the circle grew into an all-seeing eye, it seemed to be gazing into the horizon.  When I was little, I would mull over who and what lived beyond where my eyes could see, wondering if I focused hard enough, if the answer might come into view.  As I have aged, I still wonder about the lives that are past my own and those I love, all across the world.  It has always made me aware of the privilvlege of living where I do.  As I added in the yellow lines at the end, I realized I returned to the same quiet wish that has remained— for hope to exist for all beings. “

“I do not mind running late for my day when I am happily engrossed in a painting, but this morning is not so much one of those days.  And that is ok.  Onward with the day, letting this circle just be as I remember that the  intent from 11 months ago was to come sit at my desk and paint whatever comes to mind... at least it reminded to be gentle when what is most needed is to let go and get on with the day.  Happy Monday to you all!”

“The small seedlings that burst forth inside the circle this morning made me smile, not only because spring is beginning to round the corner here, but because there is joy in the tiniest of details when we take notice.  I continue to be amazed at how these minute role models of perseverance, with their determination toward growth and light, continue to bring awe, wonder, and inspiration.  May we all find beauty in the itty-bitty today...”

“Enjoying yesterday’s energetic colors, I reached for them again this morning, sitting in contemplation about the gift of life.  Not a one of us knows how long we get to be on this earth, a truth that can feel both daunting and motivating as we seek deeper richness, experience, connection, and meaning in the day before us.”

“I have to admit that this morning was another of those days that took effort to paint anything.  And that is just how it is, eh?  We cannot crank out day after day of any activity without ebb and flow, and must dive in where we can find an opening.  Fortunately, we have Red Oaks Forest School waiting and must get out of the house early, buckets of rain, or not.  Knowing we have something to look forward to helps make the leap forward when we are tired and in need of some rejuvenation... wishing this for all of you, as well...”

“One thing that makes it both difficult to awaken and to proceed out of bed is the pitch darkness of winter mornings... as the wind came howling in overnight to bring our shocking spring-like temperature of 74 down to 30 degrees and continued to whip against the glass this morning, I lie under heavy quilts feeling the privilege of warmth and safety.  Awakening an hour before my already-early alarm was not so much what my body needed in terms of rest, but perhaps what my mind needed— time to luxuriate in space open to thoughts, feelings, and a calm sense of being, without expectation.  It made me recall growing up and coming of the age to have overnights with friends and how when the lights were turned off, some of the best conversations transpired, bringing forth a range of vulnerability, pondering, and utter silliness.  It is nice to experience that darkness can still bring a softening of the mind.”

“I don’t know exactly why I resist (or think I “should not be”) painting in bright colors some days— I suppose it is partly for good measure to push past what is familiar.  Despite always have been enamored with color, I have not always gravitated towards expressing the bright, a process which has evolved over many years of making sure I do nothing to stand out in clothing, paint, voice.   I feel immense gratitude to continue traveling this open road, buoyed up and encouraged to go deeper by mere shades and hues which draw me in... Today’s  is joy-filled, as my sister and her spouse are coming to visit.  I can hardly wait and I happily let the paint exclaim that!”

"Beyond" wraps up this Week! by Hayden Michelle

This past month has been an eye-opening experience for me as I installed, opened, and am now wrapping up my solo encaustic show, “Beyond”, at the Mill and Max Gallery at the Shambhala Center in Lexington, KY. I have been stretched in my know-how, excited by the anticipation of opening, and quite delighted by the engagement and meaningful interaction with others as they have responded to my work, both in person and online. It feels much longer than a month and I am so grateful for all that has transpired.

Because pictures are worth a thousand words, I am leaving it at this, full of gratitude for my oldest son, Eli, who took all of the photos involving people, allowing me a looking glass into the energy of others as they took in the work and engaged with each other and with me. I am filled with gratitude for friends and family who supported me in the making, installation, attendance, and messages of encouragement and affirmation from near and far! A special thanks to the Shambhala Center for their invitation to show and for their support throughout. I feel incredibly rich and send heartfelt thanks to you all…


(photo credit, Tiffany Combs)

(Photo credit, Karl Lindstrom)

If you would like to watch a video of the show, you can copy and paste the link below to see a tour— enjoy!

If you would like to squeeze in a last-minute visit, you can email Karl Lindstrom (gallery director, at before Feb. 14th, when the show will come down.


Wonder Round (Jan. 27-- Feb. 2, 2019) by Hayden Michelle

The pure blue of the sky peeking through hazy clouds swiftly passing overhead mirrored the vastly swinging weather much of the country has experienced in the past week. I always find it comforting that the blue remains behind the clouds, no matter how dark, and have appreciated that metaphor since I first read it years ago. Now that we are experiencing much warmer temperatures in the last many days, hopes of spring do not seem far… wishing you all bits of hope in the last of winter in the coming weeks.

“As this month is wrapping up, we launch into a spring semester that is chock-full of experiences that are sure to bring us into unimagined growth and challenge, with hopes of discovering new tricks to juggle the ever-slippery element of time.  It is both exciting and daunting to push ourselves past where we may have gone before and my intention is to view this as opportunity as often as possible, as this ol’ noggin of mine can easily sink into overwhelm-stress-mode.  Here’s to hoping for extra energy for us all as we finish the last days of this long month and head into the new...”

“The colors that merged here came from remnants in my paint pan, swirling together much like pieces of the day and life that end up in my dreams.  It is interesting, at times, to interpret and find meaning in dreams, and at other times, to let them be, knowing they are part of us that we do not control.  I am grateful for creativity of all kinds that brings us in touch with this loosening of mind.”

“This morning’s organic forms reflect an intention I am working on— reaching out when I need help.  It sounds like such a basic task... something we teach our children from a young age.  Yet for most, I would dare to say, it is not easy at all.   I have asked for more help than usual lately and I must declare, it feels surprisingly good, despite the angst in the asking.  And the bonus part is that those asked have shared that it makes them feel good, as well, closing the circle of exchange with positive energy and reinforcing that the sky will not fall, but open...”

“An integral part of yesterday’s intention, this one appeared on the wonky warped watercolor paper— relief at using my voice.  As I have written before, this has been decades in the making, and continues to be a work in progress.  I intentionally used the word “relief” in the title to remind myself that speaking when I need to speak results in change, at least inside myself, each and every time I can do so.  May we all find empowerment use our voices!”

“Having returned from being on the road the last three days, I was especially happy to wake up in my own bed and sit at my desk to paint, a familiar view coming into focus through the window in the early light... This morning’s circle speaks to me of the ongoing challenge of balancing time, aware that our growing children’s moments with us shorten by the day while the dedication needed for my art runs alongside.  Both leave me constantly trying to catch up, but fill me with abundant gratitude for the sacred roles they play in my life.”

“As we begin this month of February, I am reaching a landmark month.  At its completion, I will have painted a circle for every day of the past year.  It has given me much more than I can express here today... and yet as powerful as the experience has been, it has been at least as challenging, and I know that my energy needs to turn to other parts of my life and the growth of my art.  I will continue to paint circles and to share, although with the release of parameters for myself on how and when to do so.  I very much value the connection and sharing with all of you that has already taken place and look forward to continuing the flow as new paths emerge.   Who knows how these circles will expand into open space?  I realize as I write those words that it is trusting the process that is most important for me, coming full circle to where I began in this daily meditation.”

“When I painted this circle, it was completely flipped from top to bottom.   Only when I rotated it to this orientation did another bird-like creature appear to me, making me laugh, as it seemed to be determinedly going somewhere.  It occurred to me that even a small shift in perspective can change not only our days but our lives, surprising us when it comes.”

Wonder Round (Jan. 6- 26, 2019) by Hayden Michelle

My goodness, how time has flown for the past three weeks as I have been immersed in preparing for, installing, and being present for my show, “Beyond”, which runs until February 14th at the Mill and Max Contemplative Arts Gallery at the Shambhala Center of Lexington. I have reflected many facets of the experience in the circles, below, which was a nice way to document the experience, which has been full and deep for me. Gratitude for all of the learning that has transpired on so many levels is the predominant feeling that stays with me. Thank you all for following along so supportively!

As the due date looms near for hanging my first solo show (vs. “deadline”... an intentional change in chosen word suggested by a wise soul, connecting to positive energy in what is yet to come), I am noticing a shift... Never having set up an exhibit before, let alone of my own work,  I have carried a fair bit of anxiety as I wondered what the completed space would be like in the gallery (it is beautiful), which work would make the final cut to be placed into that space, and the details of the many logistics involved in preparing for a show.  My mind has not been a quiet place.  But slowly, I have been making lists (and checking them twice— or ten times) and crossing things off one at a time.  By doing so, while implementing a more active meditation practice, I have noticed that the anxiety is lessening and being replaced by relief and excitement as the date draws near.  Pouring over my inventory of encaustic sculpture has had the unexpected benefit of introspection as I recall the meaning of each piece, the circumstances of my life at the time made, and awareness of what has changed since the making.  As I gear up for all that must transpire in the next 2 weeks leading up to the opening, I am focusing on gratitude for this process of growth.

As we were gifted by another day of sunshine yesterday, I went on a second walk in the afternoon, soaking up the warmth and soothing of the rays on my skin.  It felt energizing, calming, and full of hope, even for the number of minutes I had available to stroll.  It is amazing to me— the effect of light in our lives— both natural and that which is shared in exchanges with each other.  Sending vibrant healing energy to all of you, no matter the amount in your sky today...

This is all I could muster this morning, as not every day is filled with endless energy.  Still, we all get up every day and do the best we can with what we have.  Wishing you all the energy to get back up on the horse in whatever ways are needed today, surrounded by the knowledge of being human and the light of being loved.

The unconscious comes in handy sometimes... this one arrived to remind me to break through the surface of what surrounds and come up for air.  So simple to do, yet difficult to remember in the midst of intense focus and concentration...  more lessons in balance!

As I head into town to begin installation of my art, I am aware of the many working parts that have come together to arrive at this point.  I am grateful to my children and spouse for their patience, love, and sacrifice of my presence throughout the prolonged preoccupation involved while creating the work and organizing the details, and to my family and friends who have shown understanding, support, encouragement, and hands-on help.  I am thankful for the members of the Shambhala Center in Lexington, who have had faith in the long process of renovation as well as in my art, and have worked tirelessly to enable the installation a week before the opening.  Here’s to hoping the day unfolds like clockwork :). 

My only painting goal this morning was to complete my circle before the kettle boiled for tea, which made me laugh as I threw caution to the wind and got to work. It was quite freeing to know I would not labor over word or image today, saving energy to return north and continue working. Finding small pickets of release are a great start to any day, hoping we all do this more often!

After thirteen direct hours Thursday and nine more yesterday, all of the artwork is now on the walls or suspended from 14 foot ceilings... level, secure, and happy.  Figuring out a wire suspension presentation system with flat artwork is challenge enough, so being able to successfully do so with sculptural work (after countless experiments that left us with a mixture of frustration, laughter, and persistent steam coming out our ears as we tried attempt after attempt to pull the work flush against the wall), was no small thing.  And I could not have done it alone.  I am indebted to the brain workings and moral support of all who had hands and minds involved in that coming to fruition!  “Triumphant” is the word that popped into my head as I climbed into my car late last evening... and not in a grandiose sense, but in the simple sense of sticking with an overwhelming task until completion, aware of the power of group in being able to proclaim it complete.  I will use this boost of energy for my tired body as I dig into the tasks of repairing a large sculpture damaged in return shipping and the preparation of words that I decided will accompany my art, after all...  Thank you all for following along in this process with me.

Over and over gain, I am struck by the power of connection... how we offer balance, support, and love to one another through all kinds of times in our lives.  Sharing my vulnerabilities with others has taken long and careful tending (as it does for us, all) and gifted me back tenfold, the fear involved in the opening.  May we all be bolstered by the safe nurturance offered by one another...

One thing that is most always true for me, is that things take way longer than I think they will... after spending the entire weekend repairing the sculpture and writing and printing statements for each of the 33 pieces in the show, I am beginning to see light peeking in after all are placed on the walls today.  I decided that the Mill and Max Contemplative Arts Gallery at the Shambhala Center holds a unique opportunity for the holding of words that is not often included an exhibit.  It was worth the time to reflect on and refine what I had written about each piece, and my hope is that the words will bring further contemplation, acting as bridge with the viewers who ponder their connection to the artwork. 

Feeling gratitude for the sensation of peace this morning, I send it out to all of you before I leave to finish up the last remnants for the exhibition.  I am looking forward to taking time after  putting up (very) last minute flyers and taking care of some neglected computer work to photograph all of the installed work.  It has been an interesting emotional process to go from these pieces living alongside the fullness of life in our home to becoming a collective that rests in spaciousness.  I realized that I need alone time to sit quietly and be with my art today, reflections of years’ worth of inner work that are now external.  I said to my friend last night that it feels like being inside-out and is a bit startling— but more than that, it gives me perspective and allows objectivity to see the journey of getting to this place in my life.  I think if we each had the chance to step back and take in the paths that have led us to where we now stand, that we would connect with more compassion for ourselves and each other...

One thing I have repeatedly been reminded of as of late is the obvious fact that I do not have control over all that happens in a day.  As I have aged, some times a peace comes with this truth and a settling in to what evolves... at times, there is even relief and joy at seeing the blooming of what I could not have imagined.  Other times, there is hard work to do on acceptance of outcomes I would not wish to choose.  It is a balance for us all, as we navigate day by day.  This morning, I decided to use only one color and to let the water dictate the flow.  It was relaxing to paint this way, with little thought to composition, allowing the paint and water to land and move where they wanted to go, much like the clouds passing overhead in the sky...

What a difference it makes to start the day in silence, soaking up spaciousness and calm and possibility.  That is one thing that painting the circles has done for me— grounding me in stillness after getting out of bed, rather than hitting the ground, running.  It is gentle for the mind, spirit, and body, and there when called on through breath and intention— a simple gift.

This morning as I lie awakening, I reflected on the hours of my life that have led to the opening of my exhibit today— they are many in number and have transpired over years of work, inner and outer.  As the years have unfolded and my marriage grew to bring two children into the world, my hours were infused with the care and raising of our boys.  Now that they are old enough, they have nurtured me with their dad by giving of their time and energy to support the intense focus needed to grow my art, as have many friends and family.  It is a privilege to have today arrive and I am brimming with excitement that is steeped in gratitude that it has come to fruition.  Thank you all for the outpouring of love, encouragement, and enthusiasm that you have so generously shared with me!

What a joy to share that the opening last evening was a most lovely and successful event!  It was so exciting to be greeted by friends, family, and the many new folks whom I met... a sweet balance of lively and relaxed, steeped in engagement.   It was an enlivening experience to watch others react to the work (especially the sculptural mobiles that were in gentle motion) and was delightful for me.  I deeply appreciated those that could attend and felt the love and support from afar from those that could not.  Several pieces will be going home with others, which is wonderful, as well, and hearing the connections behind the chosen pieces was very meaningful.  Today, I step into the artist talk as it starts off the afternoon for the grand reopening of the beautiful Shambhala Center that houses the art gallery.  As my friends reminded me last night, all I have to do is speak from the heart about what I love to do— I hope I can remember that when the time comes! 

How exciting to wake up this morning with no expectation for the day, other than to sink into the feelings of relief and gratitude for all that has transpired in the last few days.  I am happy to say that the talk went well, encouraged and supported by the wonderful group of people that came and engaged in thoughtful questions as I shared about my life and my work.  The afternoon continued to blossom with deep discussions with many individuals, and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of sharing and growing from one another.  Hooray for the arts for connecting us in this path of life!  I could not be happier today to have some time to ponder what I have learned from this whole experience and to allow myself to relax into space without a list, tea in hand and a fire soon to be in the wood stove.  First, though, an exhilarating walk into freshly fallen snow!

It is funny how our bodies and minds can rebel against the inevitable task of getting out of bed, knowing much awaits at the beginning of any week.  This morning I watched the moon set outside one window and the sky lighten in the other, toasty warm and grateful under a heavy stack of blankets.   As I shuffled over to the painting desk that looks out on daylight (unusual!), I took comfort in the ease of the “doodle”, reminding myself that like the days and weeks that need attention, one mark after another will get us to where we need to be.  Wishing you all an easing into your days...

As I passed the woodpile en route to the hills with doggie in tow this morning, my eyes were drawn to the strong pattern of rings that were illuminated by the morning light.  As I meandered along in the loud crunch of boots on frozen snow, I contemplated how each ring radiates out from its core, growing wider and stronger as the core gets farther and farther removed from the edge, yet there all along.  How much like trees we are, our layers built up over time through all sorts of experiences... and how easy it is to forget we are pure and strong at our core.  I believe it is always there, continuing to help us grow outward from the basic goodness that has been present from the beginning, if we can just see it.  Wishing connection to this foundation within all...

Last evening we gathered around a rickety card table and played Tenzi, a speed game of rolling dice, ten each for a total of forty... the noise against the plastic of the table was near deafening.   After “losing” round after round and blaming it on not being able to concentrate, lol, I placed a very old wooden card table top on top of it, and it was like magic (although I did not proceed to repeatedly win).  It was interesting to see how we were able to not only focus and relax, but to free up energy to laugh and enable ease to emerge, which was highly contagious, of course.  It made me think of how we are influenced by our surroundings every day, and how challenges both in the environment and in our own minds can affect us in ways much more serious than a dice game.  I wish there were a way to quiet the noise that interferes with basic life for so many...

When I walk the land before the sun has illuminated the sky, I am often quite startled by the sound of wings, quickly making an escape out of the tall grasses that lay feet away from my own.  I do not know the name of the bird that flies, having no light to see anything but the blur of wings, and I suppose the name is not important.  I always feel sorry for having disturbed it’s place of nightly rest and refuge, and wonder how that must feel to be only surrounded by small blades of scrubby ground cover.  Perhaps it is being close to the ground after depending on wings all day that matters the most...

Another critter appeared today, mirroring the vibrant sunshine that woke me, long past my usual waking hour.  What a gift, this light... a reminder to soak up its essence and to pass it on to those we meet in our days.

On this Saturday morning, these simple forms came to be, eeking out permission to dwell in the uncomplicated.  It is good to let our minds rest as much as our bodies.  Happy Weekend to you all!

Wonder Round (Dec. 23, 2018-- Jan. 5, 2019) by Hayden Michelle

This glorious dramatic sky changed before my very eyes moment by moment as I made my morning rounds. It was fitting that it reflects the pace of life that seems to be in full swing these days, full of moments of beauty, stillness, and deep gratitude when I slow down to see and feel them. I wish you all release from that which beckons to be left behind from the last year, and an abundance of goodness, growth, and health as you enter the new year. And as always, I am grateful to grow my art and life alongside you who join me here… thank you!

“Painting from the leftover edges of the mixing tray brings softness that I am less likely to create directly out of the fresh pigment, and it wasn’t until rotating the completed circle that I saw the path.  It is interesting to think of all the things we bring together to move our lives forward every day— a blend of past experience, energy to dive into the day at hand, and hope for future days to follow.   Wishing you all softness, yet again, to enter into the days ahead...”

“As many of us are in the midst of last-minute holiday preparation and mid-swing celebration, may we find moments to be still and quiet, connecting to that which holds deepest meaning, while also holding space for those whose hearts are heavy...”

“Unlike yesterday’s circle, filled with space, this one is space, filled!  It did not begin that way... rather, I started with a few abstract holly leaves, remembering how much I loved drawing them as a child, their curves springing to life over the page... which led me down the path of many Christmas memories, made so special with the intention and hard work by my mama.  Color filled my mind with images of the bright chunky lights my step-father faithfully hung on the roof’s edge (while we all anxiously watched from the ground), down to the tiny colored lights on our tree filled with many beloved hand-made ornaments and the even-tinier speckles of colored sugar and red hots that paintstakingly (or not!) decorated our sugar cookies.  It is no wonder that the holly leaves got lost in the thick color that took over the page, and like the stillness of yesterday’s circle, gave way to the raucous excitement of my seven siblings and me on Christmas morning.  As we celebrate with our own children now, I remain more thankful than ever for the love shown in the details and the colors left in my mind.  Wishing you all peace and joy and much love in all ways you are celebrating!”

“There is always a feeling of transition after days of intensity, and today I am grateful to awaken feeling filled with gratitude for family and friends, a new stretch before me...  I painted since 5a this morning, in preparation for a chunk of  days ahead in which I will sink into a flow of necessary focused work, followed by play, connection, and rest.  Wishing you all rejuvenating breaths today and in the days that will bring 2018 to a close...”

“On Christmas Day, I was walking alongside my spouse and oldest son (who was effortly doing rotations and hops on his old scooter, towering above it’s tiny frame with his now, large agile one), taking in the gift of sunshine and blue skies in my mother-in-law’s retirement community.  We came upon a nature trail— although short in length, a dip off the beaten path... passing by a tiny stream and trees, made smooth so that all can have access.  As we meandered down the winding way, my eyes kept being drawn to matted-down filaments and delicate translucent petals, detached from their original source of life and saturated by the rain... reflecting various stages of change as they made their return to the earth.  How much like these remnants we are as we navigate the different stages of our lives, filled with intrigue and beauty, still... may we all see our value, inside and out, and our place in the web of life.”

“Hooray for today!  We are heading out with our two sons to have a bit of a family excursion before we join the larger fray of my family, and I’m so excited to have this sacred and joyful time with them.  We will visit a small town in Ohio and walk the same trails in the nearby gorge that we paced right before going into labor with our first, almost 15 years ago, and eat at our favorite pizza haunt (who wouldn’t love a pizza place named, the “Ha-Ha Pizza?”).  How special it is to revisit still-cherished spots, having the privilege to share the love and meaning of place with one’s children, especially as they grow and more fully appreciate the inevitable stories and laughter that revisiting will bring...”

“No matter how many years pass and how we may all change, we are forever interwoven with our families, whether we are in contact, or not... As all of my siblings come together today, bringing their growing and already-grown children with them, I feel grateful for the connections that are there and will always remain, aware of the ways we influence one another over the course of our lives.  Sending love to all families, everywhere, in any sense of the word, “family” that may be held dear.  Let us nurture one another and honor those that are still with us in spirit as we gather.”

“This phrase popped into my head as I finished this circle, and I am relieved to hear it, as it is always life-giving to feel choice lies ahead rather than mere obligation to what has already been laid down.  Watching our sons see the doors multiply before them reminds me to connect to the joy and excitement that can come with possibility, rather than the all-too-familiar default of anxiety in approaching the unknown.  Children remain some of my strongest teachers...”

“When I realize I have lived another 365 days, I am aware of the immense privilege of stating that collective truth— and that each experience has brought some degree of love, joy, loss, grief, anger, fear, hope, or questioning.  It is a natural time to reflect on that which I choose to bring with me into the next year, while holding out strength for those things which carry no choice.  Each and every day is a gift and I am filled with gratitude for all that have had been part of my life and growth this round, no matter how near or far.   As we leave 2018, may we all find renewed meaning, courage, and loving in the days to come...“

“Awakening in the wee hours of the new year is such a unique feeling... I love the chance to reflect about the past year, but even more so, to envision the year ahead.  May we all find energy to create what we most want and need in our lives, and help each other along the way to be our best selves...”

“Needing to paint with different colors this morning, this composition appeared, reminding me of an ongoing search for equilibrium, all levels.  It is a good time of year to take stock of dynamics which need careful tending, which feels much more doable than total change.  Let us be gentle, once again, as we highlight areas that seek our attention in the coming year, careful not to use goals as another way to feel that we were “less than” to begin with...”

“Last evening as my spouse sat down to play the organ, I sat down at my desk to paint.  I felt enlivened to sit in the room filled with amazing depth of sound as Bach’s “Sinfonia” transported me into another dimension.   I am grateful to have grown a deep appreciation for the pipe organ, an instrument which had no meaningful connection prior to meeting my husband 22 years ago... I was thinking about all the various ways we influence one another in our lives, separate instruments joining together to play such intricate and diverse harmonies.  How profound it is that our ears can conjure up a whole slew of memories and feelings when we pause to listen, and tether us to the generations before that heard the very same notes.”

“Part of what intrigues me about painting into the shape of a circle is that it feels as if there is endless edge to explore... I appreciate the ability to push the pigment all the way to the outer periphery, often times stopping short there, glad for the containment.   Other times, I paint as if there is a whole universe that exists beyond the edge that I can not see.  Both offer freedom and a chance for introspection, reminding me to continue searching the edges both inside myself and in others, and to celebrate what might be discovered there...”

“Today’s circle has more energy than words for me, and the single-word title popped into my head and stayed in the silence that followed.  I think I will let it rest today and allow the space around it to remain...  (although I am always curious and open to what it may evoke in others).”

Wonder Round (Dec. 9-22, 2018) by Hayden Michelle

With the last two weeks passing by (filled-to-the-brim with activities), I am happy to be sitting still in a rare lull on the afternoon of a full and lovely Christmas day, revisiting the musings of experience that have come my way. I hope you all have found moments of quiet, connection, and joy, especially today. Sending love and gratitude for each of you, gifts in my life…

“As my feet stumble on chunks of frozen ground, I am brought into direct contact with the earth, whose rigid surface remains immobilized on these cold days. Yet I know that not far beneath this unforgiving exterior, lie many beings working to prepare for new life above the surface where they now rest, gathering energy for their becoming. Connecting to this awareness brings an easing into what is uncomfortable in the moment, as the wind bites my face and my feet now walk more mindfully.”

“Barely stirring after my first alarm, I began listening to a meditation I had preset before going to sleep. I have never been able to be consistent with meditating formally, and mostly do so when making art, my mind often emptying as I relax into a deeper state of being and awareness that comes naturally with creating. However, I have noticed as I have gotten more and more busy, adding activities of my kids and family as we age and evolve into different times in our lives, that my mind has gotten a bit chaotic. Often these early morning awakenings, despite the best of intentions, can morph into worry sessions about the day/week/month, year... the mind is amazing that way— how it can start small and explode within moments, in both the most positive and negative of ways... hence, my decision to use guided meditation. It was interesting to envision light coming into my being and becoming more expansive, rather than restricted and tight before even sitting up to get out of bed. As I started to paint (not even thinking that I had just painted spiral forms yesterday), I was happy to sit with the awareness tha all we can really do is start with where we are, and move out from there. That is a sense of accomplishment for any of us, and can bring gentleness to whatever is on our plates...”

“Continuing the ponderings of yesterday, I think of the small and quiet voices in our minds that tell us of the things that seek our attention. It takes awareness to notice and listen, and space to allow the discernment of whether to fuel those fires or let them go when they are messages that do not serve to help us grow or heal. I remember being struck by the simple statement in social work school many years ago, “awareness is the first step to change”. It is interesting that this still comes to me decades later, offering the valuable lesson that remains relevant and vibrant.”

“Being an introvert, I do not mind space to be alone— in fact, I need a healthy dose of it as much as I need other elements that enable me to keep my flow going. This circle within the circle appeared all of a sudden, making its presence known smack dab in the middle of the painting. I was not reflecting on anything, at all, until it appeared and demanded attention. I noticed my tendency to want to connect it to something else in the painting, fill in with some color representing warmth or light, and decided to let it rest, as it seemed to need to do. I know that being alone allows for space to be... in charge of our own time, thoughts, feelings. It can be easy to neglect that need, filling in what needs to be done for other obligations, others we love, other “shoulds”... May we all find ways to see clearly what it is we most need, and respond with generosity for ourselves.”

“Happy today to be less on the go, I look forward to exploring the direction for the day that lies ahead. I am always amazed how it can lift my spirits to have even a small break from intensity in schedule and wish you all the same!”

“As much as I am working to be mindful of planting my feet on the ground and being centered in what is, I find my mind wanting to gaze upward and outward beyond my immediate experience, opening to possibility and space free from expectation. The convergence of these two brings balance and allows more peace to radiate within myself and towards those I love.”

“When I was clearing my bogged-down mind to fall asleep last night, this simple image came to me, the lines of water moving gently and rhythmically over these small stones. I was relieved for the quieting it brought and the power to wash away the day so that restful sleep could follow. Our minds really are amazing in their ability to transport us to other places or to a deeper place of calm inside ourselves. I will tuck this away and remember to pause to create space for more during this weekend time, which can be all too easy to fill with things that need to get done. I wish you the same...”

“When I was young I never could quite remember which to shade darker— the trees closest to me, or those farther away... I honestly still have to think really hard about that (often having to gaze out into landscape to try and figure it out), and it makes me chuckle to realize the parallel that exists between my focus on what is before me in the moment and what lies in the future. It occurs to me that this may be one of those things tied in to trust, and that perhaps by letting those things beyond my nearest gaze recede and blur a bit, there will be more energy to absorb what is right before my eyes.”

“As I finished up painting the orange in the center (the last color to be laid down), I stopped myself, realizing there was more energy available when I allowed space around the orange to breathe— once again, a simple painting reflected an issue close at hand for me. The power of creativity, in all forms, is immense... a gift we can give ourselves in one way or another, every single day.”

“With hues that do not often show up in this space, I enjoyed just playing this morning, the only expectation but to explore... there is satisfaction found in such simple permission!”

“After luxuriously sleeping in two hours later than normal, I walked the dog in the light. Every single inch was bathed in a warm glow that brought life to the millions of tiny ice crystals that covered the earth. Only pale shades of color shone, but they were beautiful in their slight variations. I love that part of winter— that it makes me notice details and subtleties that are often lost in the bold splashes of color that spoil us in spring.”

“I have been thinking a lot about my mother and father’s lives, their parents, and the generation after generation that led to me being here, all still alive in my DNA and some, in my memory. It is much to ponder, wondering about the many lives that were lived in various degrees of fullness, with similar challenges and many that surely were quite different. There is so much history lost. It reminds me to share with my children what I know of those that have gone before us, and to deepen this knowledge as I continue to move along in my stage of life. We are all richly made...”

“As we in the Northern Hemisphere come to this day holding the least amount of light, I enter it quietly, with a sense of sacredness, reflective on what I want to release as well as bring forward in my life. I am heartened that light will return with each day that arrives... What are some ways that you celebrate the Winter Solstice?”

“Last summer, my friend shared a video of her dear son dancing and doing calisthenics, all the while keeping one hand on the lawn-mower, pushing ahead full-speed in a rectangular pattern, unconcerned that anyone might see him. I don’t think I ever had that level of confidence, lol, but was quite inspired by his wild sense of abandon. I am not sure when we lose touch with that freedom to play along the way (and sadly, some never experienced it), but want express that silliness and light-heartedness as life keeps rolling on, as it is never too late to connect to this inner spirit that waits to be let out. I am so grateful for the children in my life that proclaim this so naturally and bring so much joy by just being themselves. I wish you all bits of play in your days, wherever you can make it...”

Save The Date! by Hayden Michelle

It’s time to share a long-awaited announcement— my first solo show, "Beyond", is set to open on January 18, 2019, from 5-9 pm, at Mill and Max Contemplative Arts at the Lexington Shambhala Center, Lexington, KY.  I will be exhibiting my encaustic sculpture, mobiles, and two dimensional work in this lovely space…

“Rebirth”, (5.5 xx 7.5 x 7.5 in.)

An artist talk will be shared by me the following afternoon (the 19th of January) and I will update with details as the time gets closer.  I am thrilled to be able to have my exhibit included in Shambhala Center’s grand reopening, following a year’s worth of beautiful renovations of this sacred space.  As reflected in their mission for the contemplative arts’ aspect of their center, art is viewed as sacred path, which mirrors a deeply-held belief for me, channeled through my hands and heart as my work is created and shared.

“Outgrowth”, (27 x 39 x 15 in.)

I look forward to meeting any of you who are able to come join me in this celebration, happy to kick off the new year with such positive energy with such a lovely group of people!

Mill and Max Contemplative Arts at the Shambhala Center

305 W. Maxwell St, Lexington, KY, 40508