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Books That Nourish My Heart

Kira Elliott 2014 booksRight now I am sitting at my desk, Riggins, my black mischievous cat, is perched on the back of my chair above my head. I hear my partner Jay going in and out of the front door packing up his car for band practice. He will be gone for hours, I have a rare evening alone stretching out ahead of me.

As I look around my office at the stacks of books, the sleeping cats, the colorful curtains, a cup of hot tea, my black meditation cushion, my iPhone 6, I can not help but think of how utterly grateful I am for my amazing simple life.

Now this is not simple as in a minimalist notion of simple, I have way too many books and maybe cats for that, but simple in, it doesn’t take much to feed my soul. A good book to read, something to write with, and maybe a way to take photographs of the world around me. These grant me so much abundance and space to feed my creative passions and my mind. Books in particular are a cornerstone of my life. There are literally stacks of books in every single room in my home.

I wanted to share with you my favorite of 2014. So over the last week I traveled throughout the house to collect my favorites to curate a list to share. As I sat down at my desk tonight I realized my “2014 favorite” pile towered with over 30 titles. I can’t pick just a few, there is no way to have “favorites”—they all are my favorite. So instead I will share a few that stood out for me.

Here are some that books that nourish my heart

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voiceby Terry Tempest Williams

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoirby Beth Kephart

Just Breathe Normally (American Lives)by Peggy Shumaker

Once I Was Cool: Personal Essays by Megan Stielstra

Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro

All of these books are beautifully written, helped me open my heart to my own life and gave me courage to keep writing and sharing. I recommend them all.

Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life by Abigail Thomas also stands out for me. I read this book last year on an early Sunday morning sitting alone at my kitchen table. Abigail uses an unconventional structure to tell story of her ex-husband, their life together and his death from cancer. Her words pierced my heart. Myself still raw from the death of D. I could relate to so much of her story. I cried and cried and could not put the book down. This book broke something open in me and set me a path writing my own story.So what are some of your favorite books of 2014?

This post is a response to Kat Mcnally’s Reverb14. Click on over to join in!

Registration for Writing to Open Your Heart is Open! Starts January 31, 2015. Give yourself the gift of writing and connection to others to help open your heart in 2015.

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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Kira Elliott and Riggins

The sun is shining today and yet is it is still bitter cold. The cold came too early this year as evidenced by my heating bill that came in the mail yesterday. It was over a hundred dollars and we are not even in January yet. Not sure if I am ready for this winter.

This past week was over taken with work. Tis the season for after work open houses and parties with funders, partners and vendors. I am still recovering from the 14 plus hour days last week. I am too old and don’t drink coffee like I used to be able to manage a schedule like that for any amount of time anymore.

That said, I am going to combine todays Inspiration to Open Your Heart with a little Reverb14.

Reverb14 is Kat McNally’s end of year reflection blog challenge. While I am not posting each prompt, I am writing about these in my journal each morning and I am learning a lot. It is not too late to join and link up.

So the prompt, I think yesterday, was to post a selfie. As luck would have it I am also participating in Catherine Just’s In Plain Sight and I have, for better or worse, chosen self-portraits as my subject for the month. Taking a daily self-portrait is proving to be uncomfortable at best. It is making me aware and confront the nasty little voices that criticize my body and appearance. A little habitual voice that is the background sound track to most of my days. Seeing myself in the frame day after day is helping to soften and question that horrible little voice.

And here are links for this weeks Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

Finding Space in the Corners by SarahWinfrey-  On Facebook last week, a young woman with a small child asked how to maintain connection to her creative work and still provide for her young son. Someone posted this blog post. It is hard to find time for our creative work no matter if you still have young children at home, work full-time or have other life obligations. I remind myself it is living a full life that fuels my work when I am pulled away from the work (like last week). Yes, I still need make time for it, and I love the idea of finding space in the corners, but I also need to be out there living and interacting with my life.

Poverty is Not Without Fierce Pride by Linda Tirado- I am on fire about Linda Tirado right now. I heard her speak on On Point and I swear she could take on Ted Cruz. Her book, Hand to Mouth: Living Bootstrap in America was just released. I think it needs to be required reading for anyone working in human services, homeless services or other helping fields. She writes an insider look at living poor. Or anyone who cares about 1/3 of the population of United States. As someone who has lived most of my life grappling with poverty, I could relate to her words. Her voice is strong and she hits the nail on the head. All I can say is read it now. She is the real deal.

How to Make Your Home a Paradise with Spending a Dime- Here are some quick easy ways to transform your home. Ever since my son moved out a few years ago cleaning my home is at the very bottom of my to do list. So yes, many of the ideas in this post require you to sort, clean and get rid of, and for me the time that requires is just as precious, if not more so, than money. That said, I do like the idea of not thinking of it as cleaning but rather transforming.

On Writing Young by Lucas Mann- How much perspective and distance do you need to write a personal essay well? Mr. Mann argues against the age old dictum that older authors have an advantage to writing better personal essays. I remember these ideas coming up at every critique in art school, almost dismissing my work because I really couldn’t know much about hurt, loss and life in my late 20’s.

Anne Lamott on Forgiveness  Need I say more, I have always enjoyed Anne’s writing and her ability to dig around inside and bring up the truth.

May you have a week filled with moments to see your own beauty and stop any nasty little voices. ~Kira

Writing to Open Your Heart starts January 31, 2015. Writing to Open Your Heart is an online weekly creative writing workshop where you will learn to trust your voice and share your writing with other writers. More information HERE.
Parts of this post is a response to Kat Mcnally’s Reverb14
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Release

Release my heartWhat unfinished projects from 2014 am you willing to release now? (Regret not required.)

This is a hard one. One of my unfinished projects this year was to return to my studio to paint and draw again. I want to paint and draw again, yet I walk through my studio each day and see the dust and cat hair collecting on my easel, paint brushes and paints. I admit when I read about others taking painting classes and using oil paints, my heart begins to swoon and yearn for that magic of standing before my easel watching my heart unfold. I love the smell of oil paint and what you can do with encaustic and oil stick. I love to draw a line with deep black charcoal, soft and crumbling, over thick velvety BFK Rives pure cotton rag paper from France.

I have not painted since D died over 2 years ago now. I am not sure why so much time has passed. At first it was the grief and the overwhelming amount of energy, both physically and mentally, it took out of me for months months, stretching out beyond a year. Now other pursuits and creative outlets have filled in those spaces and holes left by the absence of D.

Many things changed in my life when he died, not only painting, but my friends and a whole support community that was once my backbone was released, and I went into another direction. In some ways all those things from my past my life with D were too unbearable and painful, I could not breathe. Now a whole new life has filled in those spaces.

How has it become a habit to walk through my painting studio on the way to my writing space every day, multiple times a day? I admit I tell myself each day, I will paint again. I will pick up my charcoal and litho crayons again. I told myself at the beginning of 2014, this year the distance from the death was long enough. Yet here I sit in the early darkness of December and I have yet to make movement toward this space.

So yes, I release the project of painting again this year. I release the guilt and shame for not using these tools and talents I have. I release the woman I was who was grieving so deep and doing the best she could to keep breathing each day after she lost her partner and father of her son. I hold my hands over my heart, I close my eyes, I stand still and let myself forgive and release.

 

This post is a response to Kat Mcnally’s Reverb14

If you are looking for an online writing workshop, Writing to Open Your Heart starts January 31, 2015. More information HERE.
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Certainty

CertiantyWhat can you say right now with certainty?

Tomorrow will come. Even if I don’t wake up tomorrow morning, a new day will unfold. The birds will wake shivering in the pine, little drops of rain beading up on their backs. Today it was 50 degrees and raining. Tomorrow it may reach 25 degrees and it might snow.

Today doubt that has sat with me all day as I have painfully written word after word and then deleted those words. Tomorrow, maybe my words will flow with skill and grace. Doubt may show up again, it may not.

I know no matter what, everything changes. In Buddhism this is called impermanence. The solace of my heart rests in the certainty of impermanence. For this I am grateful. It gives me courage and willingness to get up out of bed each day.

 

This post is a response to Kat Mcnally’s Reverb14

If you are looking for an online writing workshop, Writing to Open Your Heart starts January 31, 2015. More information HERE. 

 

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