Remembering Seena Frost: Friend, Mentor, Muse

spring 2013 190I feel greatly blessed to have known and worked with  a very special soul.  Her name was Seena Frost and she was the birth mother of the process that has changed my life in so many ways: SoulCollage(R).  She died on January 13, just a month shy of her 84th birthday.  Seena had been diagnosed with ALS.

There is so much that I would love to  share with you about her, but I think that above all, she would want you to know that her greatest wish was to inspire us to use our intuition and imagination to bring healing and acceptance to ourselves and above all to each other.  She loved to hear about all of us SoulCollage(R) enthusiasts around the world who have been building awareness of our inner community through creating cards.She was especially excited to hear about  how we have been forming outer community by gathering to do this in groups, sharing what we find out about ourselves, and finding joy and acceptance in the process.
Those of you who have attended my trainings and workshops have heard me quote Seena Frost multiple times.  I want you all to know that she can speak through you as well.   I admire so many of Seena’s qualities, but what  stands out for me now is her willingness and enthusiasm to continue growing, learning, listening, thinking, and creating.  She never stopped living because her imagination and sense of humor  stayed alive even when her body began shutting down.

Many people have written that they wish that they had known her in person.  If you  have created a SoulCollage(R) card, or read her book, or attended a workshop you do know Seena very well, because you are well acquainted with the process that she birthed and nurtured and practiced.  Whatever you admired about Seena is a reflection of your own qualities.

Seena always asked people that came to her events where they lived. She was so happy to know that kindred spirits all over the world love and appreciate her “baby”.  She does indeed live on in SoulCollage(R) and in our cards.

spring 2013 150

Seena Frost, founder of SoulCollage(R):
Feb.15,1932-Jan.13,2016

My Soul's Cookbook

How many of us struggle with our relationship with food?  We are told that obesity is a major health issue in the USA.  Of course there are many reasons for this, but how can we address the emotional component of this love/hate relationship we have with food and our bodies?
Food, love, mother, and nurturing weave together to create a nest in our hearts. The comfort and security of home are invoked by certain smells, tastes, textures and the combination of these that occurs when we are eating dishes that brought us happiness as children. Ask ten people what they would want for their last meal on Earth, and you would  likely get ten different answers.  Most would  choose foods that evoke a memory of feeling at home.   I have many inner children.  These are the Committee members that show up in my SoulCollage(R) deck , or the ones that show up in non-dominant hand drawings for example.  Several years ago, I had the idea of asking each of my  inner children (those for whom I had created a SoulCollage(R) card) what they like to eat.  This began an ongoing project of creating my Soul’s Cookbook out of an actual vintage cookbook.  I painted and collaged the cover (see image).  I allowed the younger parts of me to cut out images of favorite foods from vintage magazines and let each of them direct me as I glued and painted on the pages of the old book.  So far, my cookbook features lots of cookies, cakes, peanut butter and jelly, pancakes…all things I no longer allow myself to eat!  Choosing, cutting and pasting the images of these favorites  is fun and satisfying. I can feel  those yearnings that live within me  and I sense that they are honored when I create a page for them in my book.  It is almost as good as eating the forbidden foods…the cravings are awakened, but also fulfilled.  I remember where I was, who I was with, and how old I was when these tastes and smells brought me happiness and so a deep memory is felt and sensed.  (See Marcel Proust’s immortal memories evoked by madeleines in “Remembrance of Things Past“)
This altered book project is ongoing.  I will be sharing the pages, and some recipes, in future blog posts.  Hopefully, you will be inspired to try it!

My Soul's Kitchen: Recipes that Recapture Comfort and Joy

recipe on post card

Found in vintage cookbook: recipe for popovers


I discovered my mother’s cookbooks at age 5 when I discovered one with color photos of birthday cakes.  What a find this was!  I loved looking at these pictures, imaging the cakes in front of me on my special day.  As I grew older, I developed a strong desire to just be in the kitchen, washing dishes, cooking, setting the table…it didn’t matter.  It gave me a feeling of control and comfort to be in this room that was central to the home:  the place where one could play with messy ingredients, mix them up, heat them and create a nurturing concoction.  The place where it could be possible to make my Mom and Dad, my siblings and myself happy.  What could be better?   As I grew into adolescence, I found that studying the index of the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf,revealed more possibilities of this alchemical process:  of taking whatever I could find in the cupboard and creating something edible (sometimes!). The kitchen then became my refuge. I have never lost my love of these stained and tattered volumes.  When I find them in used book stores nowadays, I often bring them home. I flip carefully through the frail pages, where I find recipes written on old postcards, or envelopes, or notes written on the pages with stars, or crosses.  They speak volumes about the woman who cooked for her family and friends using this manual.  Her desire to please, get it right, evident in her earnest notes.  “Don’t over beat”, “Try with artichokes”, “apples didn’t cook enough, “No GOOD”.  Why do I find comfort in these pages?  I feel cared for and comforted when I imagine someone taking the time to search for the perfect recipe, and then to actually carry out the work of creating this dish in order to nurture herself and those she cares about.  I find myself traveling back to the days when “what are we having for dinner?” was the most important question of the day and this was quite enough to get excited about because we were lucky enough to have food and a kitchen in which to create a soulful meal.
Here is a recipe for Cream Puffs, found on a hand written  postcard  sandwiched between the pages of a vintage cookbook
Cream Puffs:
1 c hot water
1/2 c shortening
1 C flour
4 eggs
Heat the water and butter until mixture boils. Reduce heat. Add the flour all at once and mix thoroughly. Cook 3-5 minutes, until mixture clings to spoon and leaves sides of sauce pan. When cool, add eggs, unbeaten, one at a time. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Drop by tablespoon on buttered baking sheet. Bake  at 375 for 45 minutes. Be sure they are thoroughly done. should be dry on outside. Open on the side and fill with cream filling or whipped cream.  Cream filling:  1/3 c. flour, 2 eggs, 1/8 t sale, 2 c milk, 7/8 c sugar, 1 1/2 t butter, 1 t vanilla.  Moisten flour with some of the cold milk.  Add this to hot milk, Cook 15 min. in double boiler stirring constantly until thickens. Beat eggs, sugar and salt together. Pour hot mixture over them, return to double boiler, add butter, cook, stir, until (thick??)…add to popovers.
 

Uluru, Cradle of Life on Earth

my uluru painting

my “aboriginal” style painting created at Uluru


Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the sacred sites of Uluru (Ayers Rock) located in the red desert in the center of Australia.  The first thing that struck me were the vibrant colors of this immense landscape.  The sand is a brilliant orange/red, the bush (small trees and bushes) seemed a light green in contrast, the blue sky was brilliant against this backdrop, and the colors of the sunset are stunning.  Always present are the looming figures of the monolithic red sandstone mountains named Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  These sacred monuments are humbling in their stature.  Walking through the valleys of Kata Tjuta, I felt as if I were walking through the opening of the Earth, traveling through the birth canal of life.  I felt small and insignificant in this ancient and revered landscape.  This place is like a giant beating heart:  hot, red, pulsing,draining, and dizzying.  The trees that live here need fire to regenerate.  It is a harsh and unforgiving environment, and yet the aboriginal people have survived here for tens of thousands of years.  Only through community could people survive here. Here is what I wrote in my journal while I was there:   I feel a heaviness, a deep part wanting recognition, acceptance, love.  A deep part of me is not asking to be welcome, just saying I will no longer hide. I love my Mother Earth.  She is huge, throbbing, hot, windy, juicy, and alive in all that she does.  Her mystery is great and I cannot grasp her force, her power, her overwhelming presence.  I am in the inferno of creation.  I know nothing of who I am and where I belong.  I am alone in this place of deep, dark power wondering if surrender is a good idea, yet having little choice. I return home with a transformed perspective of the Earth:  she is an immense and powerful living being, and I am one of her children.  She gives of herself every moment, so that I can survive.  I love her, I am from her, I cannot own her.  I will do all that I can to protect her as she has protected me.
In front of Kata Tjuta

 Kata Tjuta in the background

New Life for Old Stuff: My Cuban Art Adventure

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Cuba a few weeks ago with a tour sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio,  hosted by Dr. Jonathan Overby and organized by Earthbound Expeditions.

It was a trip back in time in many ways.   I was impressed by what we did not see: big box stores, fast food chains, designer clothing outlets, etc.. And I was impressed by the motifs, neon signs, architectural styles, and of course the classic cars of the 1950’s that are very much alive and part of  the ambiance of Havana.  As a child of the 50’s, and as an enthusiastic collector of vintage images and “stuff” from this era, I felt that I had entered into a time warp that is very much alive in my psyche.
There is so much to say about this trip, but I would like to share with you today about the art that I saw.  Cuban artists are using stuff of the past decades to create art.  I saw mosaics in many places, created from old dishes, bathroom fixtures, sewing machines, whatever could be found!  It is so stimulating to see how an old bathtub could be placed inside a mosaic and used as a canvas.  Wherever we went, there were artists selling work that they had painted on canvases that seemed to be made of old muslin sheets, and collages made on newspaper backing.  The art is very well done, and very exciting because it is made from whatever can be found..much of which is very old stuff.
I have been using vintage images in my collages for years.  They speak to me from the places in my psyche that need a voice. They speak from a time that has passed but still lives within me.  My experience in Cuba reminded me of my own process of reclaiming the icons, the colors, the faces, the stuff of my childhood and reworking it through creative processes into something meaningful.  Giving life and a voice to forgotten bits and pieces of the past.
I also could not help but notice that the old buildings are in sad need of repair and updating, and that as beautiful as Havana had been in the 50’s, there is now work to be done:  the goal there is to modernize without destroying the great buildings of the past.  It has been a wake up call for me, too….time to bring some of those old images living in my head up to date.  Guess I had better get to work on some more SoulCollage(R) cards!
Do you have any images or “stuff” from your childhood living in your unconscious?  Creative play in community is a wonderful way to discover what is wanting to emerge from your inner being at this time in your life.  Consider joining us as we explore our inner worlds.

This is an amazing place near Havana, Cuba, created by artist Jose Fuster, to find out more and see a video click here Fusterlandiafuster land

 

Spring Emergence: Your Creative Self Wants to be Seen

The unconscious seems to delight in breaking through- and breaking up- exactly what we cling to most rigidly in our conscious thinking. (Rollo May in The Courage to Create, p. 59)

The long winter is finally ending. I can hear the ice cracking on the lake. I hear the “woosh” of frozen chunks letting go, surrendering to the sun, breaking off and floating downstream, as I sit by the creek. I see the geese and ducks arriving, finding ever enlarging expanses of water still surrounded by icy shelves. They swim around, dive under for food, and then use the ice as a convenient resting place to stretch their legs and their wings.
Many of us who have spent the long winter complaining about being stuck inside, incubating in the dark are now feeling a strange reluctance to face the light. We began to believe that we were more comfortable in our snug cocoons… the kind of feeling one has when waking up on a cold morning, unable to leave a soft, warm bed. But the call to move, to get up, to stretch our wings in the sunlight is undeniable….whatever has been germinating in the dark womb of winter is now feeling the urge to reach out to the sun. I am not even sure whether I want to see, and feel, what has been growing in my internal darkness, but I can tell that there is no stopping it. Like the geese, I must learn to dive under the surface of the melted ice, swim with what is growing there, and find a place to stop, rest, and commune with others finding their way through creativity.
Are you willing to dance with whatever your unconscious is delighting in breaking through the ice of winter? Sit down with some magazines, scissors and a glue stick and allow the images that grab your attention to arrange themselves into a 5 inch x 8 inch collage (SoulCollage® size). Use tag board or mat board as a backing. Allow one “energy” or dominant image of a person or animal per card sized collage. Whoever emerges may be the ones lying beneath the surface, waiting for you to notice them. When you are done, you will have made a SoulCollage® card to begin or add to your collection!

Giving Form to Your Dreams for the New Year

Happy New Year to you!
Welcome to the “in between” time.  This is the perfect time to put on your “observer hat”, and  look back over the past year, or years.  What were your dreams at this time last year?  What were your dreams at this time a decade ago?  What are your dreams for the next year?  Looking back, I almost always find that the coming year has been full of surprises; and I often feel like many of  my dreams are placed on the back burner when life throws the unexpected in my path. As a gift to myself, I like to take some time to get out my vision boards from previous years.  These are the collages that I have made at various times in my life, that show my dreams and hopes for the future.  I have been shocked to see that many of these dreams have come true, even those that I forgot about!  So, I am convinced that there is power in giving shape and form  to one’s dreams. You can do this through  imagery: whether it is drawing, painting, or collage.  I believe that when we do this, we are sending out a visual prayer…and affirming to ourselves and to the Universe that we take our wishes, hopes and dreams seriously.  So why not take some time to gather images that speak to you of your dreams?  They can be personal dreams, dreams for the community you live in, dreams for the country, and for the planet.  When you have a stack of images, sit down with your scissors, your glue stick, and piece of tag board, or card board, or sturdy paper.  Arrange the cut images in a way that is meaningful to you and glue them down. While doing this, remember that there is power in your visions.  If you don’t know what your dreams are, and if you have created SoulCollage(R) cards, ask your cards what they dream of…and ask them for help in creating your vision board.  Then, keep your vision board out where you can see it …and add to it as you feel moved.  Have fun with this!
 

Beautiful Practice of the Sami People: Joiking, or Singing Your Essence

There were very few dry eyes in the audience of around 500 people in Stockholm, Sweden, as Åsa Simma joiked her name on stage in front of the International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers last month.  Åsa is a Sami elder who had explained to us that joiking (pronounced yoiking),is a way of singing the essence of a person or place or plant, etc.  It is not really a song, but more of a sung expression.  Traditionally each Sami child is given a joik when they are born. Hearing a joik is like hearing the sound of one’s soul…they have a mystical quality that takes the listener to a deep place within.  Åsa also explained to us that for many years, it was against the law for the Samis ( the indigenous people of far northern Scandinavia and Russia) to joik!  They were not allowed to joik the names of their children or family members, or even themselves.  So, you can imagine the powerful experience of hearing her joik her name before all of us in the auditorium. Her soul’s expression touched us deeply, as our souls felt and recognized the beauty of these sounds. (You can find out more about the Sami people by viewing this beautiful, short film created by Åsa Simma here: Film
This experience lead me back to thinking about a subject that I have been teaching and writing about:  giving voice to my SoulCollage(R) cards, or other art pieces, through sound and music.  Instead of dialoguing in words with them, or asking them their name, what if I asked my mandala or SoulCollage(R) card to sing their essence to me?  Maybe this is something you would like to try…or what about singing your essence as you look in the mirror?  The results could be profound, and the process could be quite joyful.
To listen to a beautiful  example of joiking, click here: Yoik of the Wind
 
 

Sami Structure, photo taken at Skansen Museum, Stockholm


 

Gathering Around the Fire

Photo taken at Skansen Museum in Stockholm


During my trip to Sweden and Germany with the International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, I found myself drawn to the energy of the ceremonial fire which burned for four days in Sweden, and three days in Germany.  The fire was the place where we gathered at the beginning of each day and at the end.  There were ceremonies, prayers, celebrations, healings and above all it was a place for everyone to be together in sacred space.  In both countries, the fire was held in a public space, so people on the street, who had no idea what was going on, would join us out of curiosity, or perhaps because they were drawn to the fire for reasons unknown to them.
One such person was an elderly woman in Stockholm, who had been begging for money in the park where the fire was held.  She appeared to be homeless, wore a scarf, and many clothes even in the summer warmth. Most of us had tried to ignore her, being told not to give money to beggars on the streets. However, the Grandmothers modeled for all of us bystanders, how to treat an elder:  they invited her into the circle around the fire and then they gathered around her.  One by one, each of the Grandmothers blessed her and honored her as an elder.  This woman seemed stunned at first, tears glistened in her eyes as she stared in disbelief at these women praying for her.  She was there at the fire each day, waiting for the Grandmothers, and each day the tears filled her eyes as they acknowledged her presence.  She was not begging for anything while in that circle.  She was feeling welcomed, accepted, honored and respected, which seemed to be most fulfilling to her.
As I witnessed this beautiful demonstration of unconditional love and acceptance, I thought of my inner hearth…my fire where I wish to gather the many parts of myself and help them feel at home.  I wonder if the homeless ones within me, the parts of me that I would rather not see or deal with, the parts that I may be ashamed of, I wonder if I have the strength and the compassion to welcome these needy ones….can I honor them, bless them, pray for them, and accept them into the inner circle?

Adventures with The Thirteen Grandmothers

 I have just returned from spending three weeks in Europe (Sweden and Germany) with the International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.  I was blessed and honored to be asked to serve as a personal assistant to one of them, Grandmother Rita Long Visitor Holy Dancer.  It was an amazing experience to be part of the support team that travels with these remarkable women.  I will be sharing here as I continue to process and integrate all that I witnessed and participated in during this sacred journey.

  • The themes that are percolating in my being as I think about and feel the energy of my experience at this point, are:
  •  The importance of the sacred fire, the hearth, the center of the gathering, as the place where we go to connect with the sacred guidance that is availalbe to us. The fire was ignited and blessed by the Grandmothers on the first day of each Council gathering and burned continuously during the four days of the meeting.  This was a place of ceremony, prayer, and contemplation for all at any time.  It was the heart beat of the gathering, and had a palpable energy that soothed and energized.
  •  The importance of reconnecting with our indigenous souls.  We all have indigenous ancestors some where in our history. We all have a cellular connection with those people who knew how to tap into the wisdom of the Earth.  Witnessing and participating in ceremony and rituals that help us reconnect to the Earth and the elements move us and touch us at a deep, physical, cellular  and spiritual level.
  • The Earth and nature are our mirror of our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our creator.  How we treat the Earth, her plants, creatures, water, soil, and air mirrors how we treat our bodies, our friends, our families.  When we respect and love our natural envirnoment, we are lovng and respecting our families, our grandchildren, our neighbors, friends, and our selves.
  • We all have the potential to be wise elders. We each have the capacity to connect with the plants, animals, and spiritual world through ceremonies and prayers that are moving and meaningful to ourselves.  We can develop these practices as we allow ourselves to interact with the natural world around us.  Listening to the plants and animals around me, trusting my instincts and my inner guidance, and allowing my self to feel and experience the love of the Mother through these connections to the earth are ways that I can develop my own way of honoring, celebrating, and asking for help and guidance.
  • The Grandmothers are models of elders who have accepted their roles as teachers and healers.  They are models of women who are not afraid to speak about their lives, and are happy to share what they know and have experienced so that we can all participate in the healing of the world for the next seven generations.  They are showing us how 13 women from very different traditions and cultures can come together, enjoy each others’ presence, and inspire people from all over the world to show up and participate in the new “old” way to walk on the Earth.
  • One of my personal projects as a result of this adventure, will be to assemble my own internal Council of Thirteen Wise Women, to advise me as I make choices and decisions in my life.  I will use my SoulCollage(R) cards to identify these 13…I may already have created them and may find them in my deck, but if not, I will have fun creating cards for the new, as yet unidentified, inner Grandmas waiting for me to ask for guidance.