The Fine Art of Blooming


The Fine Art of Blooming

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Van Gough - Irises - 1890
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise) Irises, 1890 Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958 (58.187) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/436528

 

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As spring marches steadily toward the moment when she hands over her mantle to summer, my garden persistently puts forth waves of blooms from the daffodils in April to the rhododendron, lilac, and apple in May, and the peony and iris in June. Some blooms are brand new; others at their peak, while still others rapidly fade. These blooms universally symbolize the struggles and triumphs of life and our human resilience amid difficulties.

These blooms – individually and collectively – also represent, for me, the effect that each human being has to bring happiness, comfort, and beauty to those around us each time we allow our truest selves to shine through – the person hidden in our core waiting to burst forth upon the world.

This task of finding our hidden selves is not complicated but it can be difficult. In the case of Vincent van Gough, his life was filled with the struggle to find himself amid his struggles with mental illness. He focused all of his endeavors to discover his style and identity as an artist – therefore, as he mistakenly believed, who he was as a person – on imitating other artists that he admired and wanted to emulate. He thought that his imitation of a master painter would make him successful, well liked, equal to or greater than the masters. Eventually, he was able to make the changes and adjustments to how he painted so that his methods and finished works reflected his vision of the world and how he fit into it. Yet, in spite of being able to discover part of whom he was and what made him special, Vincent van Gough still craved confirmation of his worthiness from the outside world.

How many of us have done the same thing in some form or other at some point? Something inside us says, “You are not enough; you are not special; you are not worthy of love, or praise, or friendship; you are worth nothing and have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the world.” Therefore, we think, “Since I am worth nothing on my own, I must have to change myself to fit the image of worthiness that the person or people I am with have so that I will be deemed worthy in their eyes.” I often wonder why we are never enough in our own minds, why we crave affirmation, why we can’t seem to be satisfied.

Van Gough’s Irises, like my garden, reminds me that each bloom is beautiful in its own right; each bloom has beauty enough for the world regardless of its level of perfection; each flower that refuses to bloom to its best ability deprives the world of happiness, comfort, and beauty; that even though a blossom is cut from its primary source of nourishment, it can bloom in the vase, in another environment. What a comforting thought to know that even when I feel cut off from nourishment, I am still able to bloom and bring beauty to those around me; that I can make life beautiful like no one else can because only I have my special combination of character traits and gifts. How will I choose to bloom today?

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Free Worksheet

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The Fine Art of Blooming Worksheet

 

Under One’s Nose


Under One’s Nose

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Norman Rockwell - Day In the Life of a Girl
A Day In the Life of a Girl – Norman Rockwell

 

 

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” -George Addair

Relationships are tough nuts to crack. Whether it’s the romantic kind, the familial kind, the societal kind, or the business kind, relationships inherently have innumerable moving parts. They inevitably jam up and break down frequently. The best relationships are the ones where all parties involved work hard to keep their moving parts cleaned and well oiled while helping others to do likewise.

With so much involved, why bother? Isn’t life easier when you eliminate the hassle? Who needs it?

As it turns out, we all need it, whether we care to admit it or not. According to a paper written by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary,

it seems fair to conclude that human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments.”

Forming these attachments has its challenges, particularly when one is becoming aware of a connection, a desire to get to know another person on a deeper level. It does not matter what type of relationship one is forming either. Romantic, familial, societal, and business relationships all encounter the initial period of uncertainty, apprehension, and doubt about whether a mutual attraction exists then taking the first step to initiate the relationship. This awareness of another as a possible kindred soul can stop us in our tracks as we fill to the brim with thoughts of self-loathing, unworthiness, and fear of rejection.

I always find it interesting that the instant we, as individual human beings, think about reaching out to another human being to make a personal connection, we begin compiling a laundry list of all the reasons why we are too flawed to make the connection, thereby talking ourselves out of reaching out.

The most likely reason for this phenomenon is that our fear of rejection overwhelms us, so we try to head off the stranger’s impending rejection by rejecting ourselves first. How many times have you dreaded going to a party, a networking event, or some other superficial situation because it requires a tremendous degree of vulnerability from you? How many of you reading this experience extreme anxiety in such situations? If you think that there is something wrong with you because of this, you can breathe easier when I tell you, “there is nothing wrong with you”.

Think about it.

  1. We fear what we don’t know.
  2. We are hard-wired to make deep personal connections. In order to attempt such connections, we must open ourselves up, thereby becoming vulnerable.
  3. Since our earliest Paleolithic days, we are also hard-wired to belong to a group for basic survival needs. The Group provides safety, opportunity to reproduce, and an increased ability to gather food to name a just a few benefits of belonging.
  4. Being denied admission to The Group, even if The Group consists of only two members, creates a fear for one’s safety and survival. In the modern world, this safety and survival is on an emotional level since food and shelter are infinitely more readily available than in our Paleolithic days. In today’s world, emotional survival is essential.
  5. The more superficial the situation (meaning situations with a large proportion of strangers who do not necessarily intend to continue an association with others from the group once the situation is over – for example a luncheon for a friend’s book group, a fundraiser, cocktail party, or as a Plus One at a wedding), the greater the chances are that we will be rejected because humans can only handle a handful of deep personal connections at a time.

These natural instincts for survival clash with our fear of being denied survival because rejection means that we are alone in the world, vulnerable, and susceptible to attack.

In this month dedicated to declaring affection to those we love, our awareness of and focus on initiating new relationships is heightened.  This brings to mind a lesson I learned early on when I was getting the hang of relationships. Today, I leave you with the words I told myself after losing a friend in high school as my wish for you in the year ahead. May you, too, discover that the best relationship you’ll ever have is right under your nose.

 “Do you know the best way to be a best friend? Practice. Practice being a Best Friend to yourself. Learn how to get to know who you are, what you like and dislike, what makes you laugh or cry or happy or angry, everything about you. Learn how to talk and how to listen. Know what you are afraid of and learn how to act in spite of your fear. After all, you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not know how to be a friend to yourself, you will never be able to be a friend to anyone else. If you can’t be a friend, you will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a boyfriend or husband, nor will you be able to make your relationships with your family work. Make certain that you are a friend to yourself first. Everything else will follow naturally.”

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

Please support the next generation of Artists:

February 6 through March 6, 2016

EXHIBITION OPENING EVENT
Saturday, February 6, 2 – 4 p.m

A lively and diverse exhibition of original works by Berkshire County high school art students celebrating the region’s talented youth will be on view. Sponsored by Berkshire Bank.

 

Los Medanos College Student Art Show 2016

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 2ND TO THURSDAY MARCH 3RD, 2016

gallery hours are T/W/TH 12:30-6pm.

Categories
(Awards given in each category)
Drawing, Painting, Graphic Design, Sculpture / Ceramics, Photography, Animation / Digital Art and Advertising Art

Reception: Thursday 2/4, 4-6pm. Join us for light refreshments and come see the Awards Ceremony at 5pm.

 

University of Nevada, Reno

University Galleries Valentine’s Auction: Public Viewing

Friday, February 12 at 6:30pm

Jot Travis Building, Student Galleries South 39.5386300785728, -119.816557914018

The highlight of Reno’s winter season, University Galleries’ biannual Valentine Auction will be held in the Jot Travis Building. Art priced from $20 to $10,000 is available for online preview before a silent auction the night of the event. It’s a not-to-be-missed community event. Free parking is available at Davidson Academy. Become a member, and get into the VIP member-only preview before the main event. Visithttps://universitygalleries.wildapricot.org/ to become a member.

 


School Days: Learning to Make a Difference

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Norman Rockwell - Studying
Norman Rockwell – Studying

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”

George Washington Carver

School. It can be a touchy subject for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Anyone who has been packed up and shipped off to school for twelve or so years, will have encountered his or her fair share of experiences good and bad that set the course for his or her taste for learning, oftentimes for the rest of his or her life.

I met a long-time friend of mine for coffee a while back. We first met in high school, I following my prescribed path through the public school system, she trying to make the most of a situation in which she did not want to be. Back then, I can’t think of anyone who would have known that my friend hated the situation her parents had placed her in.

After winning an academic  scholarship to her school of choice, her parents refused to let her attend the school because of their own fears and limitations involving their experiences with school – “This family’s not smart, she has no business going to a school like that,” “We’ve made a comfortable living with our public school education so it’s good enough for our kids,” “Sure, she’s smart compared to the kids in her small town class but she’ll never be able to measure up to the kids in that school”. This not-so-smart friend of mine recently graduated from Harvard with an impressive ranking and having made substantial contributions to her field of research.

Norman Rockwell - Inventor
Norman Rockwell – The Inventor

As we were talking, we discussed the tremendous role that others play in one’s sense of self and confidence in one’s abilities, as well as how much damage others can do to your psyche when they live, not only their own lives but yours as well, out of built up fears and misconceptions. We talked about the life choices we made based on what others had to say or had done to us that we regret. Ultimately though, we realized that we both have chosen to take the responsibility for our lives and educations, making the most of the opportunities before us. We both realized that we embrace education in any and every manner in which it presents itself to us, that we have always done this. We both realized that because of our tenacity in our unconscious pursuit of learning and becoming better people, it allowed us to discover our passion for learning later in life and have consciously pursued it ever since. Education for us truly has been the key that has unlocked the golden door to freedom.

The Problem We All Live With - Norman Rockwell
The Problem We All Live With – Norman Rockwell

Although the opportunity to have a basic education is de rigueur for many people around the world, so many others have difficult struggles to obtain a fraction of a fraction of what we take for granted. As school begins here in the U.S.A., keep in mind that your experiences, fears, and desires regarding school, education, and career is not the same for the children you encounter. Their experiences and attitudes may be far worse than you can imagine, or they may be far better. What matters is that we listen to them, truly listen. Read between the lines. Pay attention to words and behaviors,  to what is said and what is not said. Try to revisit your own experiences, deal with them and use those experiences to help someone else obtain their key to freedom a little more easily. Your support and encouragement may be the defining difference that changes lives.

Consolation


Consolation

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“I took that smile and I put it right where the hole in my chest was. It was better than coffee, or chocolate, or a perfect pirouette. I clutched it and held it tight.”
Cecil Castellucci, Rose Sees Red

Consolation is a quirky thing. Well, perhaps more correctly, it is the objects of consolation that are quirky.

The After the Ball - Confidence, Alfred Stevens, 1874situations in our lives that require consolation are as numerous and varied as the individuals who inhabit Planet Earth, as are the reasons one gives or withholds or accepts or rejects the outreach, the personal connection, the support of another Human Being.

Our experience in similar situations often determines our level of willingness to extend or accept consolation. For example, if our reaching out in a time of dire need was met with rejection or callousness, we are wary of turning to others the next time. If we extended comfort and likewise were rejected, it is hard not to take the rejection personally, therefore we, likewise, are wary of offering ourselves to another in the future.

There are times in our lives when we simply are hit too hard by whatever blow was struck us. We dissolve under the weight of the circumstance, throw down any security measures we have instituted for our protection, accepting whatever consolation is available.

As a consoler, these moments are defining moments for our character. More often than not, when we are the person available in the moment that another is struck an unbearable blow, we are caught off guard and not prepared to give of ourselves on such an intense level. Our lives are interrupted, inconvenienced. We must now make a choice. Do we feed our irritation at the intrusion and act accordingly? Or, rather, do we take our eyes off of ourselves and connect with another’s anguish? Do we endure the suffering of someone else as something to be gotten over, like the flu? Or do we push the world aside and enter into the relationship fully for however long it takes to restore solace and bring the needed relief?

During my teenage years (which were, naturally, turbulent), there were many times when my mother gave me permission not to attend the wake or funeral of various family acquaintances in order spare me some anguish. Shamefully, more often than I care to admit, I accepted this permission to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation, to not have to get dressed up and go out just before dinner. I have since realized that whether or not the situation means anything to me, my presence means a great deal to the grieving person because my presence shows him or her that he or she matters, is not invisible, is worthy and important enough to make an effort for. In fact, by extending myself to another in pain, my own pain is lessened and often healed.

My experience has shown me that oftentimes all it takes is a genuine smile, a smile that connects on a personal level, that touches the other person’s soul and lifts it from the mire. People want to be noticed, to be known, to be invisible no longer.

My experience has also taught me that the more fully and freely I enter into a person’s situation, the more I receive from the experience – be it anonymously from the other end of the subway car or alone in the room with a dear friend who receives devastating news. Instead of viewing the need to be present to someone as and annoyance, I now embrace the opportunity to make a difference in the world one lonely soul at a time.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Personal Independence: Rights and Responsibilities of Doing It “My Nowm Self”


The Birth of Our Nation s Flag by Charles H Weisgerber

Personal Independence: Rights and Responsibilities of Doing It “My Nowm Self”

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

A few years ago, when I was three years old, my mother and I found ourselves in the middle of a valuable teaching and learning moment that would stay with me to this very moment. This teaching and learning moment is the butt of many a running joke in my family, for good reason. Not only does it illustrate my self-reliant nature and personality, it also makes for great comical imagery.

One day, in my early days of being fully ambulatory, my mother and I encountered a street that necessitated our crossing. Mumma extended her hand for me to take for safety, as had been standard procedure. This particular day in my thus far brief life was the day that I consciously discovered my self-reliance and confidence in my abilities to handle the situation, for it was this particular moment in which I chose not to hold my mother’s hand to cross the street.

“Cathleen” Mumma coaxed, “you have to hold my hand to cross the street.”

Grasping my own hand, I responded in earnest, “I’ll do it my nowm self” and proceeded across the pavement, carefully placing each awkward step between the crosswalk’s milky lines, Mumma right beside me.

As a nation, America in the 18th century is the equivalent of my three-year-old self declaring my autonomy. With independence comes responsibility. As a three-year-old claiming independence, I was responsible for knowing and following the rules of the situation I asserted I could handle. As a parent, Mumma was responsible for guiding and protecting me in my journey to adulthood. The more mature we become the more responsibility we take on, the more independent we become.

Oftentimes we confuse demanding our rights with independence, as a child throwing a tantrum or sulking because he or she did not get his or her way. My trusty Oxford Dictionary states that independence means “not dependant on”, thus implying maturity. To mature means, “fully grown” or “to ripen”. To ripen means, “to be ready”. How often have we demanded our independence only to discover that we were not ready to handle the situation? In retrospect, the situation we were not ready to handle came with certain responsibilities that we were not willing to accept or rise to. Acceptance creates the readiness to act.  My experience has taught me that the more I accept the responsibilities, duties, obligations of whatever situation I find myself involved, then proceed to fulfill my responsibilities, the more independence I enjoy.

This Independence Day weekend has made me more mindful of the responsibilities others have accepted, sacrifices others have made, and lessons hard-won that form the foundation for the independence I enjoy today. Thank you, Mumma, for your patience as I fumbled my way to maturity. Thank you to all those who have made sacrifices in your lives or with your lives in order that I might be free.

Happy Independence Day, America.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Alighting


Alighting

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Cardellino by Marco PreziosiThis morning as I was washing the dishes, staring out the kitchen window at the flutter of activity in the apple tree – watching the birds flitter from branch to branch, from the apple tree to the blueberry bush (the birds are on their annual summertime vigil for the perfect moment to abscond with the sapphire spheres of delight), from one birdbath to another – I began thinking of all the ways we do the same thing in our lives in an endless quest to find the perfect place on which to alight.  Perhaps our hyper-paced society has conditioned us to be impatient. Perhaps our training in instant gratification keeps us ever on the lookout for that one big thing that will satisfy all our needs, at least until our patience wears thin and we seek further gratification.

It is difficult to be patient. When you are searching for direction and answers to what your life is all about, you want the answers now so as to not waste time and get into the full swing of living a meaningful life. I am not immune. Finding your calling in life is oftentimes a painful, drawn-out process. Even when you discover the What, the How, Why, Where, and When may remain elusive.  Sometimes we feel guilty for the gift of knowing our What, so we fret over whether we have made the right decision, even when all the evidence points to the affirmative. We feel the driving need to flitter from branch to branch, from apple tree to blueberry bush, from one birdbath to another just to be certain that we chose the right branch in the first place. All the while, we keep waiting for our life to begin.

Cardellino, by Italian wildlife artist Marco Preziosi reminds me of the need to settle in for a while on each branch, observe my surroundings, enjoy them, and be happy that I am alive, knowing that the life I have lived thus far is part of the ultimate answer and the training I need to be prepared for what is to come.  The answers will come if I stay still long enough to hear and listen. All the flittering and fluttering creates a din that drowns out the still, small voice whispering the answers we seek.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Snaking Our Way through Life: Laying Our Journey One Stone at a Time


Snaking Our Way through Life: Laying Our Journey One Stone at a Time

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

The work of Andy Goldsworthy has fascinated me since I was first introduced to his work through my local PBS station and his documentary, Rivers and Tides. Lately, his works have been on my mind as my life takes unexpected turns, leaving many unanswered questions in its wake.

I am reminded of late of Mr. Goldsworthy’s sculpture The Walking Wall snaking its way through and around the grounds ofAndy Goldsworthy - The Walking Wall the Storm King Sculpture Park. Oftentimes the wall’s path seems illogical and a waste of effort. Myriad questions pepper my thoughts about the make-up and the journey of the wall, yet the one that persists is, “Why does the wall go around the trees, seemingly deliberately, when it could have avoided them all together?”

Until this morning, I never had an answer. Perhaps the answer never came because I was not ready to hear it. Perhaps I did not have sufficient life experience and wisdom required to see or the heart to understand. Perhaps, my current situation unearthed the necessary materials for the key. Whatever the reason for my blindness and deafness, and I suspect all of the above are a great part of the reason, this morning my ears and eyes were opened.

Our lives, as much as we love to plan them out and lay straight paths for them, are rarely if ever straight. Life is unpredictable. It pulls us away from our plans in the form of  family or  friends in need, unexpected opportunities or obligations, and obstacles of varying shapes and sizes creating detours and courses that seem illogical to anyone other than ourselves.

Andrew Goldsworthy - The walking Wall 1These detours create a beautiful ebb and flow when we have a chance to stand back and view the structure of our lives from afar. The apparent randomness and accompanying senselessness that we feel as we live through the detours reveals itself as a fluid dance, a beautiful ballet that expresses the patterns, struggles, and emotions of our journeys over the ground we travel.  We see that we are stronger than we imagined, made of sterner stuff, and have reason to be proud of where we are in our journey because, whether we realize it or not, we have done the best that we can under the circumstances in which we found ourselves with the materials available to us at the time. Hindsight will inevitably provide us with better ways to have dealt with each situation. Yet, hindsight, by definition, is not afforded us in the heat of the moment. It is only by stepping back to take in the wider view that we see our accomplishments, in all their lovely imperfections, and dance a dance of joy at the mark we have left on the world.
2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

For your further enjoyment and enlightenment:

Here are two short videos of The Walking Wall at the Storm King Art Center Sculpture Park that are worth watching as well as an amazing hour-long video of Mr. Goldsworthy speaking at the St. Louis Art Museum (all videos obtained via YouTube).