Nutmeg and I walked on the Struble Trail recently and met an elderly man doing his miles with the aid of a walker. He is my new hero, adapting to what life is throwing at him and living it his way.
And isn't this everyone's story? Every season of our life we face new situations and we adapt and learn as we go along. I am adapting to the physical changes that accompany getting older, adapting to a life where those I love most live far away, adapting to a life in which my identity and time are not tied to a job or caregiving role.
My latest card deck, Journeying: An Optimistic Guide for Life’s Ups and Downs, is meant to work with the inevitable changes we encounter. Based loosely on Joseph Campbell's The Heroes Journey, this deck offers the user a universal story of life - one of challenges, obstacles, allies, lessons, and ultimately growth. Each card has an image inviting introspection as we ponder questions like "How does this connect to my life today?" “What can I learn from this universal challenge?” On the reverse side of each card are reminders of one's resilience, courage, and resourcefulness and a question to consider. Like all my work, the cards takes the positive approach to life.
There are 36 cards. They are 3.5" x 5 “. The original artwork has a whimsical, mystical quality. The characters, represented by men and women of different ages and race, interact with all sorts of animals. These are front and back of two of the cards:
Playing with the images in this deck resulted in wonderful conversations between me and two of my more senior friends. The images work for them, for me, and also my millennial friends. No matter your age they represent universal life experiences.
Choosing the Encouraging Life
A ninety-card deck chock full of encouraging ideas and whimsical images. Perfect support and encouragement
Cost: $15.95 plus shipping
So this is me offering hope and encouragement. I’m not going to lie - it is frequently difficult for me to share myself - we all have vulnerabilities. And yet, I think this is what we are here to do: show up, be ourselves and share our love. I am heartened by the many quiet conversations I’ve been privileged to be part of lately. There is much good being done in the world. It’s not on the nightly news but it is happening. And you, my loyal friends, are part of it. So gather your courage, take a deep breath, and share your love with the world. It’s what we do.
Best to you,
This illustration is available for purchase in my etsy shop. See side bar.
I grew up on the south shore of Long Island close to Jones Beach. On hot summer days like these, we spent so much time in the ocean that at night in bed after a day's swim, I could feel the push and pull of the waves still working on my body. But today, if I close my eyes and think of home its the marshes I see - that middle space of earth and water between the ocean and solid ground. I remember golden cattails reflected in the water, the smell of salt on the edge of the pond and the cushion of mud between my toes as I searched for the red winged blackbirds perched on the sea grasses.
This week I finished reading the highly recommended Where the Crawdad's Sing (Delia Owens). It is a finely crafted story about a young woman who calls the marshes of North Carolina her home. The heroine, Kya, collects bird's nests, feathers, shells, and mushrooms. She studies clouds, knows the tides, paints the grasses, feeds the gulls. Its a love story between the marsh and Kya. It is poetry and mystery and awe and I was captivated.
My muse Mary Oliver says in her poem, My Work is Loving the World, our work is standing still and learning to be astonished. How, I ask myself and you, do I learn to be astonished?
It was easy for me to be at home on this earth when I was a child. As a seventy year old woman my work is to learn to be at home again, but this time with the maturity to give this world the amazement and astonishment it deserves. I take a clue from Kya, who studied the marsh and came to know it intimately and learned to love it.
My Work is Loving the World by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
I welcome your thoughts on learning to be astonished.
Best to you, Judy
I visited Arizona last month and man do they have a big sky there! Where I live in Pennsylvania the land is hilly - you can see as far as the next red barn. But in the desert the clouds and blue sky go on forever.
Loving as big as the sky is a very tall order. My hope is to gradually build up to that with one act of kindness at a time. Today I wrote a short thank you note to the woman who introduced me to the 'big as the sky' concept. Her generosity and words made me a more loving woman.
By being herself, and sharing herself freely, she changed my life for
Who, by their words, ideas, and actions, has influenced your life? Who has made you a better person? Have you told them?
These cards are from Choosing the Encouraging Life card deck.
This morning I propped them up on my kitchen table to remind me to share myself with others, because it matters.
Love you big as the sky, Judy
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now... Rilke
Rilke invites us to have patience and love and live the questions that shape our lives. I don't know about the patience part but I've been loving and living with encouragement as one of my questions. How can I be an encouraging person today?
Living with this question I created a card deck of encouraging ideas and actions that I would love to share with you. The deck has three parts - Encouraging Beliefs, Encouraging Actions, and Strengths. Use the deck to support your spirit through the changes and challenges of your life. Use it as your own personal creative muse. Use it with teens, seniors, friends, and co-workers. Use it when you are grieving, growing, creating, loving, and in confusion, despair, hope and joy.
While creating this deck I encountered the inevitable obstacles, delays, disappointments and confusion that are part of a big project. I was so pleased to discover that the ideas in the deck helped see me through the rough patches. This is exactly what I had hoped for!
The images are all original drawings of women and birds. They are quirky and spunky characters which is perfect actually because you and I are quirky originals and that is what we have to work with.
If you'd like to purchase a deck please click on the button below.
PS - like children, art projects require many people to help them grow. I offer much gratitude to Annette Murray and Jim Bradley for helping me bring this project home.
Best to you, love Judy
The sky is not your limit. Your mind is.
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