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Archive for September, 2013

Fabulous — from the inside!!!

There’s only one thing in life, and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.  Diana Vreeland

You can make yourself fabulous!  Diana Vreeland


I love to be inspired.  I love to be lit up, bright and bold, on the inside.  And a few weeks ago, while visiting family and friends back east in coastal Maine, it was two women who ignited my inner fire, who reminded me that life is as big and bountiful as our imaginations allow it to be.  And these two women, though no longer living in their body homes, seemed very much alive to me as they spoke out from the airwaves and DVD disks.  And sometimes it is as close as the push of a button on the television’s controller in your motel’s cozy room and the switch of a channel, and the settling back into the feathery pillows, sometimes it is as close as that to find your way to inspiration.

And that’s what happened as I relaxed into a Saturday evening after a busy day of writing and hiking and dining out with my friend, Muriel.  It was Public Television that caught my attention and a special broadcast commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Peter, Paul and Mary’s first concerts in the early Sixties. The clips of them performing in front of what seemed like millions of candle-holding fans, harmonizing their voices in songs of passion and freedom, sending their message out onto the wind, their message blowing in the wind across places like the Washington Mall, these clips of the trio, young and full of idealistic vigor were inspiration enough for me.  And as I watched, I remembered how I used to stand on the sturdy coffee table in our cottage home and hold my imaginary mic and sing the words to songs like Blowing in the Wind along with Mary who was singing on my big sister’s transistor radio.  I remembered how I, a seven year old girl, swelled up inside with something that I couldn’t put into words even as I sang the words, something that made me feel not sad, but ready to cry, something that hinted at the huge and the hopeful, of what could be possible if we opened our hearts.  And what opened my heart and caught my attention while watching this Public Television documentary on this recent Saturday evening wasn’t just these clips from early performances, but also an interview with Mary at least thirty years later as she reminisced.  I perked up when I heard her say that the trio wasn’t perfect, that they squabbled and bickered, that their voices didn’t always hit the notes that they intended, that the harmony they envisioned for the world didn’t always come to them as musicians and as people.  But, in this interview, the older Mary described how, as they stood there on stage so many years earlier, young and astonished, she had held for them a vision of possibility, of the three of them growing into the people that they aspired to be.  And she went on to say that it had happened, that they did rise up, in their singing and in their living to this expansive version of themselves.  And this ability to imagine ourselves into being who we want to be, this inspires me.

So Mary, on that Saturday evening, ignited my inner flame not only with songs of inspiration but even more with her words.  Only Peter, Paul, and Mary could brew up the magic formula of “Peter, Paul, and Mary,” but every one of us holds the gift of imagination and every one of us can envision the person we want to be, the person that we are already in our hearts.  I was reminded of this once again as I sprawled out in front of another television set, this time at my friend Muriel’s house that same weekend.  We had rented the DVD Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, a documentary and celebration of this woman who changed the way that people looked at fashion and beauty and art, who was editor of Harper’s Bazaar for twenty-five years before becoming editor-in-chief of Vogue, this woman called, “the Empress of Fashion.”  It was an intimate portrait of Diana, and she, in interviews taped during the last years of her long life looked directly at the camera and spoke in a strong engaging voice, strongly engaged us with her voice.  “You can make yourself fabulous!” she stated with authority and an emphasis on stretching out the “fabulous”.  “Why not make the story more interesting!” she added with a mischievous smile.  And she did make the story more interesting and it was all fabulous, this life that she described to us, this growing up on the streets of Paris, this dancing her days away in a Russian school during her teen years in New York, this unleashing something wild in herself during the Roaring Twenties, this finding her way to Harper’s Bazaar in the Thirties.  Never mind that her mother had reminded her that she wasn’t pretty.  Never mind that the pay wasn’t great at Harper’s.  Never mind . . . because her imagination sparkled with an unlimited amount of glitter, and we, watching her speak and glimpsing snippets of her long life in this documentary are offered a grand sweeping glittery view of what is possible.  And I’m not talking about the world of fashion, though her eye for where fashion could go was remarkable — and I admit, for a gal like me who not only grew up singing Blowing in the Wind on the cottage coffee table, but also slipped into the box of silky dress-up clothes and paraded runway-style on that same rectangular coffee table, that the fashion element of this documentary was intoxicating – I’m talking about this person who created for herself from the inside out a life that delighted her, that enthralled her, a life that felt fabulous.

And that’s the key for me, the key to unlocking a fabulous life; it has to feel fabulous from the inside.  It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside.  We don’t need to stand on a stage in front of millions and sing songs of freedom.  We just need to feel free in our own selves.  We don’t need to create exotic fashion shoots in faraway locales.  We just need to tap into our inner world of amazement.  So I’m thanking them, my friends, Mary and Diana, who spoke out loud and clear, who reminded me of how fun it is to climb up on a coffee table and let myself shine – from the inside.

Happy Birthday, Joy Center!!!

(This  letter was sent out with the most recent Joy Center mailing.)

I am so in love with this never-endingly beautiful life.  Esther Hicks

“I think that Joy Center loved the party,” I said.  I was sprawled out on the carpeted floor of the loft last Wednesday evening, and Amber, my poet/artist/book-binding young buddy was sprawled out as well.  She and her husband, Raja, had offered to help me clean up after this Five-Year Anniversary Party Day of mini-workshops and scrumptious food and evening performance.  It was ten-thirty now and the last of the participants had driven away moments earlier.  “I just want to lie here,” I added.  “I just want to soak it in.  And Joy Center does too.” I kept speaking as if Joy Center were a living breathing entity. I couldn’t help it.  I felt it to be true as I relaxed into the after-party spaciousness, and I wondered what made it so.

Six years ago in early September, Joy Center was a dream on paper and the beginning of a floor plan and a walk around the wooded property lines with Paul, the young builder who had climbed on board to bring this vision of mine into the world of matter.  And throughout that late autumn and snowy winter of pouring concrete and pounding nails, of lifting and stacking and bringing the hint of a dream into a wood and concrete reality, I felt expectant, as though I was about to give birth to something that had been in me for a very long time.  And although it was Paul and his merry band of young workers who put their hearts and their souls into the actual building of it, it was I who made the decisions, whose heart pounded sometimes with the fear of the unknown and the excitement that I was forging ahead with a project that was bringing  me hair-standing-on-end vitality.  And when it was complete, when the last of the shingles had been laid into place and the cupola tower had been added to the roofline and the kitchen cabinets painted glossy white, when the walls had been painted in rich and magical ocean and earth shades and the tile and wood floors had been scrubbed spotless clean and the magnificent silken banners hung into place, I stood in awe and admiration.  And I admit that I felt as though I was the mother of a brand-new baby, the proud parent of a gleaming shining vessel of potentiality.  And just as a mother pours her love into her baby, her expectation that all is possible for her  just-born child, I poured mine into Joy Center, poured the expansive feeling that this place that had been my dream to build could also be a place for others to nourish and grow their dreams as well.

So it’s true that in the beginning I did see Joy Center as my child, and, every once in a while, I’d pause as I stepped out of its front door after a yoga class or one of the events that we held that first autumn, and I’d plant my feet in the gravel driveway and I’d stare back at the cottage-like-home and I’d just breathe it in, the look of the building, the smell of the pines; I’d breathe it in deeply enough to make it seem real.  And even then, it didn’t seem like it was just my child.  It had been Paul’s dream, too, in his early twenties, to build a house, his first house.  And Sherri, an artist of food and silks, had never created anything quite like those banners before.  And my friend Alanna brought magic to the painting of the walls.  And there were the yoga students, the new ones who were discovering the practice of yoga at the same time that they were discovering this cottage in the woods, and the students who had practiced with me for years at my old studio in the basement of my husband’s dental office.  And the workshops – from the beginning, Joy Center was a container for creative play.  We danced our way through that first year, and we wrote and we painted and we meditated.  And the ideas for workshops and events grew and the people who became involved multiplied, and this entity that began as a sketch and a journal entry on paper became so much more than I could have envisioned.  There has been a wedding at Joy Center and a baptism.  There have been baby showers and birthday parties.  People have poured their hearts out; they’ve danced and they’ve sung and they’ve laughed and they’ve cried and they’ve dared to dream big.  And Joy Center’s walls hold the words of a multitude of poets and storytellers, and the songs of so many singers and the dreams of so many dreamers.

I think that’s it, that’s what I was feeling last Wednesday evening as I lay sprawled out on the carpeted floor of the loft.  I was feeling  a bounty of love for all all the people who have graced this place, for all the people who will grace this place.  And I was feeling a bounty of love for the place itself, a different kind of awe than I felt five years ago when it was a gleaming shimmering brand-new baby.  This place is alive.  It is alive and it has grown and it will continue to grow with all our energy, with the visions we hold, with the dreams that we dream.  And I am forever grateful.

Helen of Joy five years ago in front of a brand-new Joy Center!

Helen of Joy five years ago in front of a brand-new Joy Center!

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