Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Imagine for a moment, a woman living inside this broken-down home. Standing slightly back from the window or perhaps even chained to a chair, not by iron but by a damaged body and shattered spirit. Peering out, lost in belonging to what, she wonders.

Her world becomes small and hope wedges itself in the cracks of the brick and mortar. The sands of time crumbling away in the dust.

The ache of it all patched and cemented in the withering and rotting. What life is there left to live in the watching it creep away? What meaning is this to the emptied out and broken?

I can imagine her or him all too well. Can you?

In fact, I’ve been her.

This image spoke well to the haunting of my past. To the mind and thoughts, the heart and body, the lies and false bravado I clung to. All of it manifesting into a body breaking down long before its time. The heart of me desperately wanting… seeking… love and the holiness in the ultimate love.

But it’s not found in the repeating, in the doing of the same thing over and over no matter how hard the work is for different results. Something other must appear – Grace in the wake of pleas and prayers and barrenness.

I was lost in the new age and the more I tried to find myself there, the wider the separation grew from my soul and my body. The bigger and wider I tried to see into The Universe, the deeper I plunged into physical pain and spiritual warfare.

I screamed in agony outwardly and stripped myself inwardly, until nothing was left, and hope seemed elusive. I had it all, yet I had nothing.

Until a miracle occurred. The Lord, he reached out his hand and offered me his Grace, a new way and a new life. I do bow down in worship and gratitude, every morning you can find me there. He rescued me from a broken way of living, in the ruined shell of a house.

This past year has been one of glory and trial, of love and letting go of the past. It’s not an easy thing, the letting go to become something other – the myself in the offering, in the making.

Over my life, I’ve had a couple of back injuries and have a genetic disposition to spinal stenosis, which after twelve long years of living with pain and a walking disability, and numerous tests, it was finally diagnosed this winter.

Too young. Too soon. Twelve years of hope receding, disintegrating and resignation setting in, my world was getting smaller. Like the decaying leaning falling down home.

I’ve learned to pray. And, I know that nothing is impossible for God. My prayers for healing whispered in earnest with the caveat, if this is your will I will endure. The difference now being I live knowing where I belong and to who – so there so much life and living in me now.

There came with the diagnosis a feeling of closure and peace in the knowing. According to the medical professionals there is no cure, but there also came a silver lining and a sliver of hope.

I’ve been off the radar living deeply in a rehabilitation program these past few months. It’s been intense, twice weekly visits to a hospital for therapy and rehab and engaging in a growing intensity twice daily exercise regime, to build strength, flexibility, manage pain, and with hope and fingers crossed (prayers!) that the impinged nerve causing the disability will heal over time.

My body is changing and growing stronger. It’s been hard and exhausting. Where the hope lies, I’ve become aware, is in the healing of old wounds and in the letting go of the past, and the lies I’ve believed.

Yes, the daily exercise regime makes me stronger physically, mentally too and there have been improvements in pain relief and management, but where something spectacular happens is in the moments when I pray, and I see, and I make strides in letting go of the past hauntings and the need for things to be different.

As I give it all up and thank God for the life he has given me, as I learn to see my life, and every one, and every thing, and every situation as a blessed gift from him – then the life that was and all the suffering releases, and it is then I experience moments of ease of walking, of mind and body and soul.

The tension softens with each breath of grace, and all of being is in a twinkling lasting eternity. All striving and wanting something different is forgotten. The sands of grief carried off in a breeze become seeing and being through the eyes of our creator.

And, when life is lifted up, given up, and praised as the gift it is, the moment becomes so very precious.

I’ve given myself to living this physical and spiritual rehabilitation. Turning away from social media and all the comparing and need for validation it conjures up, turning toward God instead.

Learning to lean more and more into him with each trial of faith. Spending time with him where life feels alive – in prayer, in studying the scriptures, and for me in writing. I know I am undergoing big changes from the inside out, though it may look like it is on the outside, the real change happens deep within.

Writing points the way for me. It reveals a living full, in the now and a future. What it specifically looks like is still a mystery. I’m learning there is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty and wisdom and understanding waiting to be found in the resisting and suffering.

Grace is but a breath away.

When life should seem enough, but it isn’t.

When love should fill up everything, but it doesn’t.

When there instead, is a niggling nagging feeling something is missing.

When grief, anxiety, or fear is a consistent presence.

If anyone is reading this, if this is you in any way, take some time away from the world pressing in, from noise and distractions… to pay attention to little (or big) things that are trying to speak to your soul. Ponder what is important, what is truly important. What will fill the deep ache, not on the surface of living, but eternally, infinitely, everlastingly.

Seeking the deeper meaning of life, when I’d finally exhausted all the ways that seemed to take me back to suffering,  helped me to hear God calling my name. Everything shifted. Everything I thought I knew or believed altered, when I heard, and felt the love waiting for me to say yes.

This love that overcomes all and fills every need and desire is real. It calls your name. In the quiet place. In a whisper, the soul hears.

Celebrating Diversity Across Canada… Hooray My Series is Finished!

Celebrating Diversity Across Canada… Hooray My Series is Finished!

It’s been over a year in the making, longer by several months than I had planned, and I had many moments of wondering whether I had anything creative left in me to finish this big project. But, here before the month is out, it gives me such immense pleasure to announce that the Canada Legacy Series of paintings is finally complete!

In a moment of great inspiration in the fall of 2016 I came up with an idea to explore diversity across Canada by weaving together painterly stories of our past, present and potential across territories and provinces to celebrate a full expression of the truth and beauty of Canada.

My plan with the Canada’s Beautiful World project was to take nine months to explore each of the territories and provinces; it’s history, culture, peoples, arts, and stories, and connect with the land and spirit to create paintings dedicated to expressing a voice, values and lessons each of us brings in creating a new frontier.

I had traveled in seven of the ten provinces and looked forward to reconnecting with them and virtually exploring the rest of Canada, as I began though, I quickly discovered that the scope of the project was much bigger and more time consuming than I anticipated.

The first several pieces I dove into a great amount of research and then had to find a way to distill what I learned into my impression of each of the territories and provinces. As time went on I realized that to continue with the amount of research I was doing it would take me more like two years to finish painting these thirteen pieces.

The history was fascinating, the diversity so much more diverse than I could have imagined from the indigenous peoples to those who immigrated from other places far and wide. The landscapes, scenery, arts and culture so abundantly rich and beautiful, sometimes utterly breathtakingly stunning.

Of course, there are the harsh sides, those that pull on the heart and made me want to wail in pleas and protests, which included environmental issues and global warming challenges that are greatly impacting the way of life in many places, though in the urban areas we are so largely unaware.

The making of ‘The Secrets of the Great Bear Sea’ for British Columbia, for example, was dedicated to bringing attention to the threats of the proposed oil pipelines through these waters, and the impact it poses to the whales, birds, seals, fish and ecology along the coastline and beyond.

SECRETS OF THE GREAT BEAR SEA British Columbia

In the territories, I was moved to overwhelming concern about the effects of global warming, as the indigenous peoples are speaking out about, though who is listening. Their winters growing warmer, the ice disappearing, the winds over the past couple of decades have actually changed direction. The winds have changed direction! It might not mean a whole lot to the rest of us, but to them this is a huge concern for survival. They can no longer make accurate predictions in weather patterns or changing seasons, and it affects their tracking and hunting so vital for their livelihood.

The polar bears are forced inland, as I discovered in not only the territories, but also in Manitoba, ‘Where the Polar Bears Reign.’ In Churchill, Manitoba – the thoroughfare to the seas for the bears, there are great numbers of them having to scavenge in the urban areas, in the dumps, anywhere they can search for food that is no longer available to them because of the receding islands of ice where they would normally live and swim and hunt.

WHERE POLAR BEARS REIGN Manitoba

Now, in this place people live with the real danger everyday of being attacked by a bear, so they are forced to change the way they live, having to travel in groups, staying indoors to stay alive. Children can no longer feel free to go outside and play, in fact, for Halloween their trick or treating door-to-door is restricted to a night in at the community centre. Table-to-table instead.

There is so much that is extraordinarily beautiful to behold, but I was also becoming weighted down with angst and depression at times, and with the amount of research going into each piece to prepare me for making the painting, I made the decision to alter my approach.

My research scaled back and instead I kept my ears, eyes and heart opened for what beauty, story or culture would draw me in with a desire to experience it somehow, and then give it voice through brush and paint to abstract representations on wooden panels.

Acrylic paint. Oil sticks. Gold mica flakes. Glitter. Pastel sticks. Pencils. These were the mediums I used.

Brushes. Palette knives. Chop sticks. My fingers. These were the tools I used.

West to East, first from the North through the territories and Nunavut, then through the provinces from British Columbia easterly across the nation wrapping up in Newfoundland and Labrador.

What a journey it has been. New discoveries to memories revisited.

In the making of ‘The Princely Isle,’ (Prince Edward Island PEI) a long-forgotten memory came bidding up unexpectantly when coming across a photo of the typewriter Lucy Maud Montgomery used to write her Anne of Green Gables series of books. I remembered, in a hazy recollection, seeing this very typewriter when I was nine years old, just shy of 50 years ago, and suddenly realizing that there were people who wrote the books I loved reading, loving the slinking away and slipping into other worlds. It might have been in that moment of realization that the yen, the yearning, the calling to write was born. The calling that would seek me and find me time and again, until I could no longer live or breathe without it.

THE PRINCELY ISLE by Kiernan Antares

THE PRINCELY ISLE Prince Edward Island

To finish up the series in Newfoundland and Labrador was pure delight. ‘The Rock Stands Out,’ from ancient metamorphic rocks and glacial fjords to the quirky, slightly off-kilter and many dialects of English, where storytelling is their way, I fell in love and put this place I’ve yet to visit on my bucket list. I swooned in the echoes of their own way of living and the stories being told, so their forgetting never happens.

THE ROCK STANDS OUT Newfoundland and Labrador

It would be a vision fulfilled to see this entire Canada Legacy Series find a building for its home, hung together in celebration for our nation, past, present and future. If you know of such a place or have any thoughts or ideas, please do send me a note.

In the midst of a physically challenging January, with a cold being passed back and forth plaguing our home, somehow the inspiration, motivation, drive and energy compelled me to make my way into the studio, to forge ahead and open the floodgates for the creative flow that would bring the project home to completion.

Despite the artist block that plagued me like no other in my years of painting, I am filled with good measure of gratitude and fulfillment in this undertaking. I am richer for it, for all that I’ve learned, experienced, and created. I am filled. And, I am pleased with the artworks and my growth as an artist and as a writer finding my voice.

I am so very grateful to my husband for encouraging me, helping me to keep the focus, and for reminding me I can do whatever I set out to do.

I am also very grateful for all of you who cheered me on over the past year and wrote encouraging words that inspired me to keep going!

Most especially, I am grateful to God for giving me the gift of writing and painting, to express my heart and soul and all that he made me to be, through the way of words and colour.

May the long-time sun of dreams and purpose and calling be found in each one of us. May our destiny find us willing and ready. May courage strike a chord in all of our hearts that we may be filled to the measure, through our grit, and slings and arrows may our home find us in a deep abiding joy.

With love,
Kiernan

The Rock Where Everything’s a Little Off-Kilter

The Rock Where Everything’s a Little Off-Kilter

I’ve never been so charmed by a people as of those from Newfoundland and Labrador. How can you find them anything but endearing?

Oh the arts, the culture, the storytelling, the landscapes, ocean creatures, land and sky, the whole of it so rich, it beckons to the writer in me to want to escape into and create my own stories. Fantastical stories, sweet stories, whimsical stories, romantic ones too, for I do believe they see all of it, all of the life of it through their heart’s making.

The colour, the stunning beauty, the quaint and quirky, the off-the-beaten-path of living. Their tales with language of their own making. Can I just peak away and live in an imaginative world upon The Rock, just for a little while at least?

Painting The Rock Stands Out didn’t come all at once, no it took some effort, trying this here and that there, adding and pulling back. I nearly gave up on it because I couldn’t see it, then suddenly there it was.

I had colourful inspiration to gaze upon, but ultimately this photo became my muse that I landed on…

In between the strokes, I delighted in watching videos… listening to their lyrical voices, and their living close in that is their paradise. Here are a few to enjoy…

Can you tell I’m a poetic and romantic at heart, swooned by stories?

I’ve done my share of traveling in North America, the Caribbean Islands, Europe, Africa, and until I began this virtual painting journey across Canada I didn’t realize how much magnificence there was across this nation. Places I discovered would be so cool to visit, but the one that captured my heart the most is Newfoundland-it’s become THE  place that I want to put on a bucket list. So, BW if you read this, whether my man is keen or not, we’re coming to visit!

Dreams Coming Alive… in the Remembering Places

Dreams Coming Alive… in the Remembering Places

“Going around by the main road would have been so unromantic; but to go by Lover’s Lane and Willowmere and Violet Vale and the Birch Path was romantic, if ever anything was.”

~ Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

I was only nine on the cusp of turning ten, so the memories are perhaps not so reliable, and of course, our memories are always tainted by the limited awareness  and perception we have in the snapshot of a moment anyway.

I might even romanticize, what flashes in the turning upwards of my lips into a smile, what precious happiness there might have been, there and then… on The Princely Isle.

The walk along Balsam Hollow Trail, at Anne of Green Gables. A father’s thick calloused hand, made so by hard labour in a factory by day, and saws and hammers and nails in building on weekends, holds his daughter’s protectively. The ground made smooth by thousands, maybe millions of steps before them. A canopy of green, alluring, beckoning trees, a brook laughing itself in the hollow, vagabonds of the orange spotted Touch-Me-Not’s and Blue Violet’s delighting the senses.

A daughter, happy to be inhabiting her father’s world in this magical place, who takes pleasure in her mother’s arm around her shoulder as they pause and pose for a lifetime cherished photo.

Mum and Me 1971 Anne of Green Gables in PEI

What speaks to the heart, what inspires, what moves, what calls to that holy place where hopes and dreams find a stronghold to draw up, and down, and inward that are destined to burst outward, somehow, this delight, is so very different for each one of us.

Our magical place where we come alive, I think if we dig we can trace it back to a door that opened in childhood… to give us a peek, or to mold us and shape us and steer us back toward it if we’ve forgotten.

When I came across this photo doing research on Prince Edward Island… my heart skipped a beat as a flash, a lightening fast remembrance of perhaps THE moment when the concept of being a writer was set in motion. I was a reader from a very young age, oh yes I escaped in Nancy Drew seeking clues in her mysteries, I reveled in stories, but until perchance THIS moment when we came upon L.M. Montgomery’s typewriter, I had never given consideration to the ones, the marvelous ones who wrote, who dreamed up the stories and made them come alive on the page.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Typewriter at Ann of Green Gables, PEI

I’ve had this thing, this fixation, this happiness, this drawing to… anything coastal, anything horses, anything featuring writers… television shows, books, films… if it has any one of these elements in it, I’m there, enchanted, watching or reading… if it has a combination of any two of these things… oh boy! Maybe it all started in that dreamy time in PEI… when I was a young girl.

What sparks in childhood come alive in us? What dreams await for us to remember?

Researching, remembering, contemplating, and painting my piece for PEI in the Canada Series, The Princely Isle seemed to have touched a special place, a special remembering place inside.

THE PRINCELY ISLE by Kiernan Antares

THE PRINCELY ISLE by Kiernan Antares | Acrylic & Pencil on 24″ X 30″ Gallery Wood Panel | #18P-002-138-BW

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It has always seemed to me, ever since childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite inside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond – only a glimpse – but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”

~ L.M. Montgomery

What dreams may come for you, in your remembering places?

Kiernan

Brunswick by the Sea: My Photographic Challenge

Brunswick by the Sea: My Photographic Challenge

Ah… Brunswick by the Sea, it had to have been the most challenging, most difficult painting to photograph, and one which after numerous attempts under different lighting situations, I have been unsuccessful in capturing just right.

The glare, the greens and yellows against… beside… the blacks. Just. Never. Quite. Right.

Down to my last three provinces, and after many months, long past my goal of completing the Canada Legacy Series by September, suddenly, with the new year, some forward movement and success in my artistic endeavours.

Writing, having become a desperate need, took over all my thoughts and took up all the space in my heart for expression for a good portion of 2017. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but honestly, I wondered if my ability and desire to paint had left me, in the empty, perhaps for good.

But this series haunted me. I was so close to finishing the first and most effort and time consuming phase. A part of me was so close to saying it was done, there was nothing left in me to give, to bring… to painting. But, this so close, wouldn’t let it go. Wouldn’t let me go.

It was the longest and hardest artist block I had experienced to date. Despite wanting, longing, needing to write, I often found myself unable to do either.

I’ve disappeared into something, out of sight, away from social media. That’s my way, when there’s nothing coming from inside, I need the abyss, the quiet, the away from everything. I’ve been that way since I was a young girl. When there’s too much stimulation, too much noise, too much of just about everything, including what I love, a tension builds inside that replaces everything and blinds me… and binds me.

When there’s too much, and my too much doesn’t take a lot to get there, my throat aches with the empty. I literally and physically have no words that my vocal chords can produce, not even in whispers. Everything inside me is simply empty, my breath heavy, my body weighted down.  My heart and my soul just wants to be held… in the stillness… in the arms of God… in the arms of my beloved.

This is my greatest life challenge, when the living of and in the world becomes too loud. This is my darkness.

Somehow, in the midst of all this empty, there is a swirling of creation, of life becoming something new, yet again. My last three paintings come out of this nothing, and my book idea redefines itself, a vision emerging within a new form.

Movement begins out of the void. I may find it challenging to be in the world, right now… still…  but creation itself stirs and this has to be where I am.

In the midst of winter, darkness, emptiness, love is deeply alive, even and maybe most especially because it breathes into existence in this place. There is a holiness here.

In the home stretch, long in the coming…Brunswick by the Sea emerges out of this desert.

Once Upon a Time…

Once Upon a Time…

What is the word upon my soul,

the pen

the colour

the brushstroke

that begs everything to come alive

with the beating of my heart,

the blood coursing through my veins,

the in and out of breath,

that was shallow… lifeless

before You called me,

before You spoke my name.

 

I turn the pages of my past

and I see brokenness,

in the midst of hellfire

tender hearts cry out,

the eyes say it all.

 

What is the story that wants

to be written.

With arms stretched out,

my head slumps down…

What voice beckons

to be heard.

 

Can I take what’s hard to examine

and make beauty of it.

Will I see You

there beside me

through it all.

 

Through Your eyes

will I see.

Through Your ears

will I hear.

Through Your heart

will I feel.

 

Promise me You’ll not let me

wander.

Promise me You’ll not let me

waste, while and whither

life away,

always learning and never knowing

You.

 

What needs to be asked.

What needs to be seen.

What needs to be heard

in the word upon my soul.

There are several ways to write a memoir. Perhaps the easiest is to just sit down and write about whatever memories come up, then sift through and see what theme or patterns would become apparent.

I’ve been sifting and sorting through the recesses of my mind, and I became determined (maybe obsessed is a better description) with having just one word that would claim me. In a Life Worthy of One Simple Word I explore this notion.

My one word did indeed demand my attention… the theme that will inform and guide me in my memoir writing process… I’m not ready to divulge it just yet, but it stands as the working title of my book.

Now, as I’ve sat down to begin the actual writing… yes, I could simply begin, but before I do… before I get in too deep… new questions arise. Questions that will impact everything.

In what voice shall I write? From which perspective?

I don’t just want to blather on about things that happened. That’s for journaling. I want it to be exploratory, informative and interesting to write and to read.

Maybe I’m procrastinating. Maybe I’m making it harder than it needs to be. But, then again maybe the story has a mind of its own and its working to get my attention, so that I don’t get in the way and muddle it up.

I think sometimes we forget to soften into quiet moments, or even to create space for our minds and our hearts to listen to the gentle whispers of our soul.

We’re so anxious to move forward, to take steps, to be actively doing something. Our worlds so noisy, so busy, so demanding with doingness. What happened to being and feeling the presence of the moment?

My day had been planned. The photos would come out and it would all be revealed. Then I would be able to dive in and write.

The photos did come out. Memories and feelings swamped me. My head did indeed slump down in empathy. My cheek resting on an old beat up album, and I asked the questions.

I waited. I listened. I waited some more. I reflected on my artworks… on the photos… on a notebook I purchased specifically for times I would need to write, pen to paper, ideas or thoughts for the book.

Some things need to percolate.

I have a fascination with notebooks. Maybe all writers do. I love mine to find me and not let me walk away.

Sorry honey, the dollar store kind, they’re the ones thrown in the compartment in the car, when I need something I can scribble on and tear out. But, to write with, really write with… we need to have a relationship.

I love to love how they feel in my hands. How does the cover feel and what does it say, if anything? What about the design? The line spacing… it needs to be just right. Not too squished together and not too far apart… just right that I don’t feel restrictive, but not wasteful either.

My most recent purchase, the one specifically for my memoir is a simple black leather notebook. It has a strap to wrap around it. It makes me feel like a writer with a purpose. And, embossed in silver on the cover is the phrase,

‘Once upon a time…’

Hmmm… Once upon a time… long long ago…

I don’t know why, but it invites me to open my mind… to possibilities.

Writing is a way for me to lean in close… to listen and explore the world God created inside me.

I’m well into reading the Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, ‘Angela’s Ashes’ by Frank McCourt and there is one line (just one line in the whole book) that I have highlighted on page 202.

“It’s lovely to know the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.”

I stopped. I smiled. I nodded… yes, indeed.