Thoughts on a Sunny Day
The day after Christmas found me meandering (not power-walking) through Riverside Park, near my studio. The temperature had reached 60 degrees - a rarity in Michigan winters, and I jumped at the chance to be outside in the sunshine. In part, exercise was needed after a day of excessive eating, but mostly I needed to be outside for my spirit and my soul. I needed to soak in the sunlight and commune with God through nature.
There were remarkably few people on the beautiful day after Christmas. If the nightly news report that Mike and I watched the night before is correct, the majority of people (75% said the news anchor) were returning gifts. That seems a bit sad to me for some reason, but I have to admit I like having the park mostly to myself. The sunshine and solitude help me slow down, center myself and pray. No profound, earthshaking prayers…just quiet, contemplative prayers of “what next?” and “how do I get ready for that?”
After an hour’s stroll I return to the studio, have a cup of tea, and read for a while. I am reading Playing God, Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch. A book that is quite thoughtful and giving me much to mull over. This slower pace of walking, drinking tea, and reading through the afternoon is a good reminder that life is to be enjoyed - not over scheduled and raced through from moment to moment.
The end of the year is often a time of reflection with a sometimes unrealistic expectation that “This year will be different!!” It might. It might not. Certainly it is good to reflect and create a plan to help achieve a goal or break a hurtful habit. Set a budget, invest in your skill set, use your time better, eat healthier…all good goals. Over the years I have set and achieved (or not achieved) many goals. But along the way I’ve learned to hold on a bit more loosely to the results and my expectations. Life has a way of zigging to the left when I was zagging to the right, but I’ve always ended up in pretty good places - eventually.
So I’ll slow down this week and do my best to think about and pray things through. I’ll talk things over with my artists' group that will get together this Saturday. We’ll talk about the joys and challenges of the holidays, pray for one another, encourage one another. We’ll talk about the upcoming year. There are irons in the fires, trips that are planned or to be planned, and ideas to sift through.
So ends another year.
For the past couple years I’ve been using a bullet journal as an organizational tool and have been mostly happy with it. If you’re unfamiliar with the bullet journal concept (BUJO for short) you can explore the internet to find out more. There’s even a book that you can find at bulletjournal.com or watch a video by the guy who created the concept at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=fm15cmYU0IM
The beauty of the system is you can buy one, or create your own, tweak it for your life, and make it as plain or creative as you wish. Some people like to make doodles and add stickers, but I used it purely for organization and tracking projects. The system was humming right along with constant updates and adjustments until my father-in-law started to decline and then died. At the same time one of my best friends entered hospice care. Suddenly, I could care less about projects and goals.
The BUJO lays open to the last week of July and I have no desire to take it up again. But life goes on - absurd as it may be - and there are still seasons, holidays, and deadlines to deal with. But for some reason this journal has some kind of emotional attachment and I can’t restart it.
Moving forward as best I can, I’ve decided to go with a ready made planner and see how it goes. Enter the Define My Day planner/journal. You can start it up at any time since it’s not a traditional calendar although I’m going to start it at the beginning of the year as a sort of fresh start. You can find the specs at their website: https://www.definemyday.com/.
We’ll see how it goes.
It seems this year has had sorrow upon sorrow, and while I try not to stuff down my feelings, it’s been difficult to process my grief - to the point it felt that grief was not just part of life, but that it was actually defining me.
Realizing grief is a process, I’ve been intentional about talking about my feelings of loss, and journaling. In the past I’ve also gone through grief counseling. These are all good things, but it seemed as if I were stuck in grief and not moving forward. After a while I just kept myself busy in hopes that would be helpful. It wasn’t.
By sheer coincidence, I started processing grief through art. I’ve been doing a series of photographs to illustrate both the elements and principles of art. Rather than just do photographs of each element (such as line, color, or shape among other things) I decided to do a series of the principles of art (things such as contrast, value and space) with the unifying theme of grief.
This has done two things. Using visual imagery and the creative process has connected me to myself again. Grief is no longer this huge boulder I have to negotiate around. I’m chipping away at it and its prominence has lessened. It’s also reconnected me to the creative process which has been such a struggle. Now I have ideas to communicate - even it it’s just for myself and not for display. I’m even carrying around a sketchbook again.
Life will always contain grief. It’s a sign of having loved and it is just one of those hard facts. It’s not something you simply shake off, but you can work through it. You just have to find what works for you.
One size definitely does not fit all.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.