An Art Meditation

by Katie LaFond

This piece is a transcription of a meditation Katie shared at an EarthSpirit Saturdays event on July 25.  If you’d like to join future events, please follow the EarthSpirit Community on Facebook.  

Hello, and welcome.

My idea for today’s session was inspired by my difficulties with Zoom. Like many of us, I have done a whole lot more Zooming lately than ever before. I find it difficult and an incredible energy drain. I had a moment recently where I was doodling while I was Zooming, and my whole body and brain felt better. I suspect Zoom is mostly left brained for me, and the doodling was helping me get back into more right brained space. So, I thought that today I might share a doodling meditation with all of you beautiful people. 

I’ll lead us in some opening exercises, then we’ll meditate as I read some poetic prose I wrote, and draw for a bit. So take a minute, and get yourself some materials for doodling, painting, sculpting, whatever feels good to you right now. It needn’t be serious art, that’s not what this is about. It’s about relaxing, softening, and calming the self in meditation, with art as a way to help that process. I’m hoping this will jumpstart your creative process, and help unstick that creative block. You don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy making art. Humans make art. You’re qualified.

I invite you to gently close your eyes and notice your breathing. Don’t try to change it, simply be curious about it. 

Open to the breath in your lungs; the heat of summer; the waters of tears, sweat, and the sea; to stone; to the trees, that even as they are full and lush have begun to turn within; to the Sun Moon and Stars; and Open to the Unseen Ones.

Gently open your eyes, take up your tools, and create as you’re moved to.

All improvisation starts with the first mark, word, note. That first piece creates entire universes, makes thousands of decisions in a single stroke. Yet we do this every day, all day, with our words, our steps, our thinking. In one breath the urge to consider this first motion is undeniable and thick with significance, and how can we possibly just do it? And yet if we take too much time to consider all the possibilities that come with the infinite before boldly making a decision, we find ourselves paralyzed, unable to move forward. Go with your gut. Make that move. Make your mark. It needn’t be large, perfect, earth shattering, it simply needs to be. 

The first move invites the second. The second wants to dance with the first, whether mirroring it from a distance, or intertwining with it as a tango dancer, dragging her toe with the density of her passion. The second move is almost as significant as the first, bringing us a second dimension to the world we are creating with the motions of our bodies. You already know where that second mark goes. Let it flow.

With our third mark, we bring shape to our world. Just as milking stools rest upon three legs because they will always be stable, our third mark creates stability but not rigidity, and the art will begin to take on a life of its own. Our job is simply to be curious and see where it goes. Moving from a place of decisive action, from seeing possibilities and making impossible choices, to watching as our creation evolves on its own. 

We plant seeds in our gardens. Tiny hard packets of possibility. We go, armed with tools that bring us confidence if not guarantees. Spades, forks, rakes, cultivators, watering cans, tiny pots to start plants on windowsills, intensely scrutinized as morning coffee brews… Perhaps the seed won’t sprout. Perhaps a bird will eat it, or it will mold before it grows, or it will grow politely in its patch, or perhaps it will grow to take over entire gardens. Seeds are not promises, they’re possibilities. 

Do your seeds grow in a garden, or are they wild? What do you notice first? What takes time to become clear? Are there vines and brambles and hidden mushrooms? Are there neat, tidy rows? Do you plant with a ruler, or do you toss them, wild eyed, daring them to compete for light, warmth, water, and will? How does it grow through the season? Does it feed you? Does it feed itself, symbiotic plants fixing nitrogen, creating structures to climb… what other things live there? What bugs, worms, butterflies and critters make their home here? Sleep. Creep. Leap. 

So many marks in our lives are not of our choosing or making. We zentangle the corners of our identities, weaving our webs of self in the corners and doorways of our hearts. Sometimes we do the arduous work of shifting some of the major structures, but always there will be a shadow of where the structures used to be. 

A sigh. The body heaving and moaning, lungs letting go of their cargo. Another breath, and a moan. Breathe, and keen. Breathe, and sing. Breathe, and speak. Breathe, and whisper. Breathe, and whimper. Breathe and cry. Breathe, and wail. Breathe, and hum. Breathe, and shush. Hush. Hush.

Puzzle pieces, jumbled in the heart. Slowly assembled, but not all the parts belong, and some fit together only tenuously. How do you approach this puzzle? What do you do with the pieces that don’t quite fit? 

Another place, another time. A wind comes, and sucks fiercely at the branches, and the stones, and the bones. Taking away anything that is not solid and strong and it is scary but in its wake is a clarity and lightness of spirit that would never have been chosen…… but dances with the vastness of spirit.

Sweat, beading and falling, rolling down warm skin, finding its path and blossoming as a dark patch on fabric. Tingles on sun- warmed skin, and more sweat. A salty sting in the eye, and then the delight of a gentle breeze kissing salty, sweaty skin. A face turned to greet the breeze, and the scent of flowers comes with it. An eternity in a moment, an indulgent moment, in deep awareness of the strong currents swirling, always swirling, in an endless dance.

What sweeps you away? What grabs your fascination with thousands of enfolding hands and everything else falls away before the deep passions of your being? What is it that you pick up, and the hours disappear as you dissolve into the joy of doing? Is there more than one thing? How often do you let yourself become so absorbed in something? Does it scare you? Delight you? Confuse you? 

What is the weave of your fabric? What is the warp, running along the length of your life, sticking with you, stubbornly or consistently, supporting you? Is it thick or barely noticeable in the final tapestry of your story? What is the weft? The threads you choose each day, weaving in and out of the other strands of your life? Is your weave smooth and even? Do you feel the threads with your fingertips? Is it sticky and fuzzy and awkward, tangling from time to time? How patient are you as you untangle the threads? Do you change your weft, to make it easier to weave, or do you like that soft, fuzzy wool so much you’ll take the time to slowly work it into your fabric? When you pull a thread from your life, how careful are you to pluck each remnant fiber out? Do you keep it? Do you add it to a new project? Do you let it go?

Consider for a moment,

The sensation of sun on your skin

Goosebumps

Cold shivers

The scent of rain and leaves in autumn

The crunching sounds of cold snow underfoot

The smell of wildflowers

The sound of bumblebees

The warm heaviness of loved ones sleeping in your arms

The taste of honey

A cup of tea, a toasty woodstove, and a compelling story

Easing into a warm bath

Watching the sun rise

Watching the sun set.

Soddenly crawling into bed after fulfilling, challenging work, to relax into a deep velvety sleep

Bathing in Full Moon light.

The feel of writing with the perfect pen

Waking slowly from a sweet dream, a smile on your lips, as you gently bring that sweetness into your waking day

Gently soaking knitted lace, spreading it out, and seeing the patterns and swirls emerge clearly for the first time

The first flowers pushing their way through the winter snows

Working diligently at a piece of art, stepping back, and realizing it is so much more than you thought as you were working so carefully up close

The way a perfect sunset takes your  breath away.

Music so beautiful you gently cry

The first ripe tomato in the garden

What feelings make you stop, forget the past and the future, feelings that make you exist only now?

What is precious to you?

What moments in your life changed you forever?

What mistakes have you made that were actually happy accidents that revealed things to you you can’t now imagine your life not containing?

What is your favorite flower? Color? Bird call? Food? Animal? Person? Time of day? 

What do you turn to for comfort when the world feels too big, too hard, too much? 

How do you celebrate when things flow well?

How do you know when it’s time to be done? When it’s time to step back, to look at the whole, and to contemplate final touches? How do we know when, and how to let go? 

Look at your piece. Close your eyes. Breathe deep and think of puppies, waterfalls, and candle flames. 

Open your eyes again. If you were only to make one more mark upon the page, what would it be? 

Perhaps things need to sit sometimes. Perhaps the time isn’t now. Perhaps your work isn’t complete, and there isn’t anything you can do about that right now. Are you able to let things be, trusting that when the time is right, you’ll know, you’ll return, and both you and the piece will be ready?

It’s time to set our tools down for now. We are not static. We need to rest, to nourish, to eliminate, to dream. Our art flows like waves in the ocean, with tides and swells and spray.

Feel yourself. Be curious, but not judgemental. Feel your breath, and the points of your body that are supporting your weight. Feel the spots of tension you’re holding. Go ahead and roll your shoulders. Feel the frustrations, and the satisfactions, and the confusions, and the surprises… and breathe.

Feel your chest rising and falling with your breath. Wiggle your fingers and toes, your legs and your arms, give yourself a hug, run your fingers through your hair, take a deep breath, and take a minute to just be in your body. 

Thank you so much, and I wish you a beautiful season.

Art doodle

Art by Kimé Moore, used with permission


To see more of Kimé’s art, visit her page, SwedishWillow Arts, on Instagram or Facebook.

A Year of Drops: Educate Yourself

by Katie LaFond

Step 12: Educate Yourself

  • Read books like Garbology, Cradle to Cradle, The Backyard Homestead and Rubbish!
  • Go to lectures and workshops

    Photo by Randy Adams, used under a Creative Commons license

    Photo by Randy Adams, used under a Creative Commons license

  • Places like The Haberdashery, and even the mass.gov website have many great classes you can take to learn new skills
  • Join movements! If you want to be included in emails about upcoming events, please email us at earthspirit@earthspirit.com
  • Lead by example. Not all activism is marching. If your friends and family ask about your new habits, you have some experience now.  Tell them about your experiences, reference the materials you’ve used, or you can direct them to this blog post to get started themselves.

This is the last part in Katie’s thirteen-part series in walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more:  introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden), step 9 (environmentally-friendly products), step 10 (reduce energy consumption), step 11 (get crafty).

A Year of Drops: Get Crafty

by Katie LaFond

Step 11: Get Crafty

  • Learn to cook, sew, knit, spin, make soap, make detergent, make candles, keep bees, can food, make cheese
  • Slow cookers and pressure cookers simplify a lot of home cooking and
    Photo by Tabatha Alcina, used under a Creative Commons license

    Photo by Tabatha Alcina, used under a Creative Commons license

    allow you to make your own “convenience food.”

  • Keep your meat bones and use them to make broth. You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to make broth. Also consider keeping onion skins, carrot tops, and other food waste that can add complexity and nutrition to your broth
  • Keep in mind that in any area where you know how to make your own, you’re a more informed consumer
  • Split the work up and share your responsibility with your housemates or family
  • Create reminders for yourself so you can keep up on periodic tasks: google calendar alerts, sticky notes…
  • Organize your house to make it easy to do all these things: keep baskets of rags in your kitchen and a couple of recycling buckets handy so you can sort as you go.  Hanging them vertically on the wall with hooks can be super handy.


This is part twelve in Katie’s thirteen-part series in walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more:  introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden), step 9 (environmentally-friendly products), step 10 (reduce energy consumption).

A Year of Drops: Energy Consumption

by Katie LaFond

Step 10: Examine Energy Consumption

  • What sorts of energy do you use? Electricity can often be traced back to fossil fuels, but if you look into solar or wind options for your home, you can reduce some of that. You can also specify with many electric companies that your energy come from renewable sources.
  • You can rent solar panels for your yard. They don’t have to be on your roof, but if you have a southern facing roof, go ahead and research options for that.
  • Consider elbow grease, or being more steampunk: electricity is not the only kind of energy out there. When cleaning using natural cleaning products, you often have to use a
    A home energy meter. Photo by Digitpedia.com; used under a Creative Commons License

    A home energy meter. Photo by Digitpedia.com; used under a Creative Commons License

    little more elbow grease. Consider it exercise!

  • If you have a woodstove, check to see how efficient it is. Sometimes, incentives are offered for upgrading to a more efficient stove. Efficient wood stoves and pellet stoves can be a great way to heat your home without using fossil fuels (remember to keep your chimney clean to avoid chimney fires). Fans are also available to circulate hot air that run on the heat power coming from your stove already.
  • How much energy do you use? Consider converting to an “on demand” water heating system, so that you’re only using energy to heat water when you need it, and not to keeping a full tank of water warm when you don’t need to
  • How hot/cold do you need to keep your house? Slippers, robes, and sweaters are cozy in the winter, allowing you to keep your home a little cooler, and a fan can help you stay comfortable with warmer temperatures in the summer.
  • Programmable thermostats are available if you have a thermostat in your home. Bringing the temperature down 6 degrees at night can save a lot of energy. Much more than that doesn’t save as much energy as those first 6 degrees. If you’re away at school/work during the day, consider keeping the temperature low during those hours as well. Set the thermostat to warm up a half hour before you typically get home so that it is comfortable when you arrive. The best part about this option is that you can “set it and forget it.” It is a seamless drop in the bucket that takes a minimum of effort.
  • Dryers are a huge energy consumer. They also slowly degrade your clothing, meaning you need to purchase new clothing sooner, which is also wasteful. Hanging your laundry inside/outside is much more efficient, and adds humidity to dry winter air inside your house. I use a retractable 5-line in the house.
  • When replacing your light bulbs, consider CFL, or LED bulbs. Be aware that CFL bulbs contain mercury. Recycle them properly.
  • Turn off lights when you’re not using them. Consider lower lighting in your home unless you’re reading or doing detailed projects. Consider burning a beeswax candle at night instead of using a lamp, and reconnecting to the cycles of light and dark through the year.
  • Power strips will draw energy even when there is nothing plugged into them. They often come with switches; turn off your power strips when you’re not using them.
  • Most chargers (phone, tablet, kindle, laptop) also draw energy even when your items are not plugged into them. Despite it being only a “trickle” of energy, it adds up, home to home. Unplug them when you’re not using them.
  • Turn off the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher. Open the door at the end of the cycle and let them air dry
  • Wash your laundry on a cold/cold cycle unless hot water is necessary to get them clean. Towels and diapers benefit from a hot cycle, but otherwise, laundry gets clean on a cold/cold cycle
  • Many electric companies will do an energy audit for your house to help you learn where you could be more efficient.

This is part eleven in Katie’s thirteen-part series in walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more:  introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden), step 9 (environmentally-friendly products).

A Year of Drops: Environmentally Friendly Products

by Katie LaFond

Step 9: Look into Environmentally Friendly Products

  • Be aware that being “eco friendly” is now a fad, and a marketing scheme. Don’t be sucked in.
  • Many times, you can make your own cleaning products. Baking soda, washing soda, borax, water, and vinegar are great natural solvents. (But be careful when mixing baking soda and vinegar, unless you’re doing a science fair project!). Here’s one resource; there are many
    Photo by Arria Belli, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Arria Belli, used under a Creative Commons License

    online.

  • Try castile soap in the shower, as hand soap, and as dish soap.  You can even use the bars to make your own laundry detergent!
  • You can make many personal care products using recipes found online.  This lets you know exactly what’s in it and avoid ingredients derived from fossil fuels.
  • If you have a septic tank, avoid using products that will kill the natural flora like bleach. The flora will break down your waste naturally, allowing it to cycle back into the ecosystem.


This is part ten in Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden).

A Year of Drops: Start a Garden

by Katie LaFond

Step 8: Start a Garden

Your own yard is the most local food possible!

  • Inside: put containers (pots, window boxes) in your southern facing windows. Herbs and small things like carrots and bush beans work well.
  • Your local garden center can help you learn how to care for your plants. Consider your soil and make sure it has enough drainage.
  • Outside you have a lot of options. You can make your garden as complicated or simple as
    Photo by Irene Kightley, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Irene Kightley, used under a Creative Commons License

    you’d like. Start small, add to it each year, educate yourself, read lots of books and ask for help.

  • You can have your soil tested for contaminants cheaply, usually through your local university extension center.  In Massachusetts, UMass does this.
  • Container gardens can be a great option for those in condos or apartments. These can be in or outside, and depending on the size of your container, can be as simple or complex as you’d like.
  • Rooftop gardens are quickly catching on in the city. Community gardens are also popular.
  • Start with easy to grow items: beans, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and squash like zucchini and butternut.
  • Plant bee- and butterfly-friendly plants like milkweed, bee balm, black-eyed susans and sunflowers to keep your local bee populations fed and healthy
  • Buyer beware: pesticides are sometimes present in plants you can buy. Last year I was dismayed to learn that there were plants for purchase at a large popular store that kill bees when they visit them. Visit a local garden center where you can talk to an expert and get ideas. It might be a little more expensive in the moment, but well worth it in the long run.


This is part nine in Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local).

A Year of Drops: Buy Local

by Katie LaFond

Step 7: Buy Local

Where do your things come from? Try to source as many of the things you use within a 100 mile radius of your home, and choose options that are in line with your values

  • Candles are often made of paraffin, which comes from fossil fuels; look for beeswax instead.
  • Buy what you can locally. Not only does it stimulate the local economy, it means that items aren’t being shipped cross-country to your home, which burns fossil fuels.
  • Large companies have the benefit of established infrastructure to efficiently move
    Photo by Richard Walker, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Richard Walker, used under a Creative Commons License

    materials, but they are often moving them long distances, burning fossil fuels. If your item is not available at smaller, local shops, check freecycle, craigslist, and your circle of friends before buying an item that is being shipped long distances.

  • Support your local artisans! Many old arts (soap making, candle making, cider pressing, and more) are being reclaimed, and each time we choose to buy locally, we’re supporting the kind of communities we want to live in.
  • Do you often have items shipped to your house? While it is convenient for our busy lifestyles, it means that fossil fuels are being burned to ship things to your house. Try to combine shipped purchases into larger orders to reduce the number of trips being made to your house. Currently, I’m working hard at this, as I struggle with my love of Amazon Prime and Groupon.

This is part eight of Katie’s thirteen-part series on walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food).

A Year of Drops: Locate Local Food

by Katie LaFond

Step 6: Locate Local Food Options

  • Local farmers will often let you use your own containers, reducing the amount of plastic you take home
  • Eating locally can allow you to develop a relationship with the land, animals, plants, and farmers that feed you and your family. Feeling a connection to that which nourishes us is something that my family cherishes. We take a moment to give thanks before eating, often saying our farmers’ names aloud.
  • Farmers’ Markets can be found in many communities during the summer and even the
    photo by Sarah Rosehill; used with permission

    photo by Sarah Rosehill; used with permission

    winter. I have even found Farmers’ Markets on the Mass Turnpike!

  • Helpful resources: CISA, Local Harvest.
  • Eat food that is in season. It is often available more locally, and connect you to the cycles of the land where you live. For example, where I live, I eat asparagus and fiddleheads in the early spring, broccoli in the spring, peas in the early summer, zucchini in the summer, tomatoes in late summer, squash and apples in the fall, and root vegetables (onions, potatoes, beets, carrots) over the winter.
  • Join a CSA or two. Veggies, meat, milk and cheese shares are widely available in both the city and rural areas.
  • If you have the space, start a garden.  Nothing is more local than your back yard!  There are lots of great resources for beginning gardeners available for free online.  Start by growing just one or two of your favorites.
  • Be brave! Take a new food home each week and learn how to cook it. If you don’t like it at first, try one bite each day for a week. Taste can be acquired.
  • It may be more expensive to eat locally, but remember that it doesn’t need to be shipped long distance and buying local food stimulates the local economy. “Cost” is so much more than a price tag.
  • Cook big batches, and package meals in reusable containers (repurposed spaghetti sauce jars) to freeze for nights that you’re tempted to get take out. Remember to leave a little space at the top of glass jars before freezing!
  • Processed foods come in a lot of packaging. Eating less processed food will significantly reduce your waste stream (and improve your health).


This is part seven of Katie’s thirteen-part series on walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less).

A Year of Drops: Use Your Car Less

by Katie LaFond

Step Five: Use Your Car Less

  • If you’re near your workplace, ride your bike. Keep your clothes in a bag and change at work.
  • If you’re near the places you do your errands, ride your bike. Child bike trailers can be handy for hauling groceries. I had a tricycle with a basket on the back which was a great grocery-getter.
  • Combine trips. I do much of our household shopping on my way home from work.

    Photo by Luxomedia, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Luxomedia, used under a Creative Commons License

  • If you live in an urban area, consider public transportation or walking for short trips.
  • Can you carpool?  Some offices help arrange car- or vanpools too.  Ask your HR department about it.
  • Do you have “stuff” in your car? More weight means reduced gas efficiency. Roof racks create drag, and reduces gas efficiency. If you can remove it and only use it when you need it, consider it.
  • When replacing your car, consider a more gas efficient car


This is part six of Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk more lightly on the Earth.  Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost).

A Year of Drops: Composting

A Year of Drops: Composting

by Katie LaFond

Step 4: Start Composting

  • Lots of resources are available if you are interested in learning how to compost.  This is just one of many educational websites that are easily found.
  • Compost tumblers can be an interesting option to explore, particularly in urban and suburban areas.
  • Many towns also offer covered compost bins for purchase with the cost partially subsidized by the town.  This can help composting happen a little faster and keep critters out of your pile.  Check your town’s website to see if yours is one of them!
  • If you don’t have a compost heap, bring your compost to a friend’s heap. I did this for quite a while when I lived in an apartment in the city.

    Photo by Joi Ito, used under a Creative Commons License

    Photo by Joi Ito, used under a Creative Commons License

  • Some places will take your compost drop off.  If you live in a city, check to see if there is a municipal composting program.
  • If you want to compost your meat and oil, you have to get a little more advanced in your composting skills. Talk to your local expert if you’re interested in this.
  • If bugs (e.g. fruit flies) are attracted to your compost, you can keep your bucket in the fridge
  • Consider starting a worm bin.  This can be a good option if you’re in an apartment, and can double as entertainment (worms!) if your child is like mine.


This is part five of Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk more lightly on the Earth.  You can read the previous posts, too: introduction, step one (recycle), step two (reuse), step three (reduce).