Wonder Round (August 26- September 1, 2018) / by Hayden Michelle

This week brought a flurry of activity both in our house and as we left to camp for a few days.  It was an interesting contrast between sinking into the deepest concentration I could muster as I completed another application (which recognizes artists who are in the midst of parenting), and transitioning to experience that revolved around only the most basic of needs, such as setting up (and seeking) shelter, preparing food, gathering and communicating with families, and exploring the natural environment.  It ended with a witness of the miraculous process of one of our monarch caterpillars releasing into its chrysalis form.  I am filled with gratitude as we head into this next week, officially beginning our academic school year, and launching into a very full autumn with my art.  Best to all of you as you enter into this month of September...

("Being a right-handed person, I have wondered for a while about how it might be to let my left hand begin the painting. Silly as it may be, I felt enough doubt that I did not try it for months— until today. I put the brush awkwardly in my nondominant hand, swirled it around in the black, and put it to the paper. And the circle did not implode or fall apart. It just began differently. It was curious to see my right hand come in and fill in the spaces between the dark marks, and more familiar shapes begin to fill the empty space. It made me wonder about how things might evolve if we were all to practice with less knowing and more trusting, not tied to the outcome or reassurance of having traversed that territory before. We could use a little less dominance in this world we inhabit :)...")


(As this week unfolds, our family will welcome in the school year with a camping trip with our beloved Red Oaks Forest School. I am grateful for this grounding in nature and kindred community that will help calm the anxious anticipation of balancing homeschooling, art growth, family needs, friends, and self care. I am thankful for this daily painting time, which brings reflection to my hurried mind, slowing it down to be in the moment, leaving me with a tidbit to carry along mindfully during the day. What brings extra grounding to you during times of intense energy expenditure?")


("Wishing you lightness from that which weighs you down, the comfort of basking in dappled sunlight, and the reminder that at our center, there is a deep well of healing light. Shine today, even if only in that acknowledgement within yourself.")


("It occurred to me that anger is not something I often share outwardly in these circles, yet is certainly part of the human experience. And this one is not about anything atrocious, at all... just was the outlet for pent-up frustration of applying for another grant for hours and hours yesterday (17 straight, to be exact), mostly due to glitches in the system that kept deleting my application, or the WiFi that is not quite amazing in the sticks where we live, dropping and making me start again (and again and again and again). I took deep breaths and had pretty good perspective at the beginning of the day, but as it wore on, my oldest reminded me in no uncertain terms that I was not the most fun human being to be around! And I desperately wanted to just stop and forget the effort and time needed to complete it, but knew that would then be throwing away all the writing and day’s worth of effort already painstakingly getting me to that point. Onward...

So, I finished at 1:15a, reflecting on why in the world I keep putting the energy into applying for these things that have remote chances of success, and realized being awarded a grant or submission to a show is secondary (although lovely) to the necessary hard work of building self-confidence and identity as I am putting my work out there for review. For me, it is this vulnerability of exposure that is the hardest part of being an artist, yet I know it is the only way to keep moving forward. All that to say, letting myself feel my anger through the paint, even getting it outside the lines with the very first mark, allowed it to take up less space in me and move on through. And I awakened this morning (4 hrs later), in high gear to pack so that we can hit the road to camp with buddies. Certainly, relief awaits!")


("This morning I painted not in solitude and quiet, but in the midst of a growing circle of awakening children and parents, the buzz of frenetic activity against the background of peaceful breeze, singing birds, and chirping late summer insects. I had to laugh as my painting got more chaotic as I went, absorbing the many conversations (happening all at once, haha) that evolved around me. So grateful to be here and with this gang... may we all find connections that are full of life. (And now on to make breakfast for my neglected and patient children!)")


("Today’s circle was actually painted 2 nights ago, in quick succession after the red-filled one that was an expression of release of anger and overwhelm. It was interesting to see that although still in the midst of the unfinished grant application, that by the mere act of painting, relief and calm were moving back into the space of the sphere. I am grateful for the perspective that pause (and paint) can bring to our experiences in life, and for the peace and fun that camping for this short time away has brought. Hopefully, I will be able to quickly recall this short bit of a lesson as we head into more structured and demanding days. Peace to all of you... (and now off to a lazy cup of coffee with the group before we break down...oh, the simple gifts we can allow ourselves ;))")


("An hour after unloading the van last night and dumping piles of equipment in various areas of the house, I delicately lay the screen house that houses several monarch caterpillars (who camped with us in order to be attended), on the dining room table. We already had the good fortune to witness one finishing up the final moments of her chrysalis right as our tent was set up and before the storms came, the next morning, with a second near the end of the process, and a third as we left the nature center on the way home. We were thrilled to gather around and see the final movements as the jade green being emerged... I had no idea that this process took a matter of minutes, and was very much hoping to witness this all from the beginning. 

So I sat and got my iPad at the ready, thinking that since this latest caterpillar had made the characteristic “J” while hanging, that any minute, the miracle would happen before my eyes. Well, I sat for 2 hours, watching for the tiny pulsations to further, and of course, was recalling labor, and the organic unfolding of that process, and went to sleep. I checked them at midnight— still still... and when the dog awakened me early to go outside, although not thrilled with being awakened, was excited to see that the caterpillar was still resting. 

So I set up camp again, noticing that her antennae were droopy and her “J” curve had released, just as I had read as a sign of getting close. And sure enough, the caterpillar began the hard work of releasing her outer skin, and revealing the luminous green pulsing pupa that lay underneath, ready to be revealed. I could hardly breathe as I watched, mesmerized by this most complex, yet natural, process. It felt otherworldly, yet struck me that this process happens over and over again, for the continuance of all living things. Although common, it is profound, and makes me want to tune in not only to the process with monarchs, but to be mindful of the proliferation of life all around. What an energizing and privileged way to start the day..."))