Ideas About Thriving

I read a bit of Mary Oliver’s book of essays, Upstream, on a friend’s FaceBook page, and this grabbed me:

And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is an antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness—the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books—can redignify the worst-stung heart.

Reading, difficult for me since electroshock, takes determination and much effort, but Mary’s book is on my Kindle now, and I dip into to it every day. As my cycle shifts out of depression, her words help me open to ideas about thriving.  Here’s what I’m trying so far:

•Commune with the Trees

I have an open invitation from my friend, Martha, to show up in her garden—to wander or make art or write, to breathe in the green and listen, to put my arms around the trees and mend my torn connection to them.

I’m also determined to find green places to walk.  Arthritis and despair have held me back, but today I tried out Cody Creek Trail.  The pain was worth the trees and their bits of discarded, lichen-covered bark that they left for me.


For whatever reason—fear, despair, boredom—lots of projects languish, tucked away so their half-heartedness can’t hurt me.  These pieces deserve my respect and my care.  I deserve their beauty and the sense of stewardship their completion brings.

Today I hung the art quilt I started years ago when a friend in Marshalltown gave me her shop’s old upholstery sample books.  I took those pieces and centered them with a scarf my grandma used to wear wrapped around her head (the reddish cross in the middle).  I love the subtle colors and the way some of the fabric falls apart like melting butter.  It hangs in my sitting room, waiting for other pieces to join it.

I’m working again on a small art journal that I started when I moved to Muskogee.  It’s called The Zen of Bipolar Disorder.  Each spread is a “lesson” I’ve learned and try to practice.  I’ve used lots of natural elements—feathers, leaves, bones, sticks, raw wool—sewn to chiffon or cheesecloth or other semi-transparent media.  It’s wild, and startling, and unlike anything else I’ve ever done.  When finished, this little book (made from an antique Swedish almanac) will be my next submission to Art Journaling Magazine.

Today, I’m going to start the finishing of my Wall of Flowing Yellow.  Not long after I moved here, I found a wholesale fabric warehouse and bought yards of various yellow chiffons and silks (and a shimmery orange prom dress at Goodwill).  The idea was to drape this huge (14 feet by 8 feet) blank wall in the center of the duplex with the Feng Shui-accurate color of Health.  Some panels are beaded, some beribboned.  All that’s left is to sew nine panels together and hem the whole piece.  A few days work.

•Choose to Thrive

This last idea is an experiment in alchemy.  How do I combat the Place Hatred that takes over when my symptoms cycle into the Black?  Hating where I live stops any chance of growth.  It poisons the air and turns people into monsters.

One small shift—repurposing a journal—is the only idea I have right now.  I used this journal to analyze my Place Hatred, to be specific, to sort out what I could change and what I couldn’t.  I used about half of the journal to that end.

Now I will use it to explore Thriving.  What makes me feel alive and well?  How do I stay open to the possibility?  This will be a place to tuck notes and ideas, to jot down little joys and brainstorms.  As I experiment, I’ll practice proper scientific technique, keeping track of results, near-misses, and magic.

Oh, it’s a relief to know that I’m still on an Adventure.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nan Mykel
    Apr 25, 2020 @ 14:33:23

    Marvelous! What creativity and what a shining attitude! I’m reblogging.


  2. Writer Lori
    Apr 26, 2020 @ 06:02:13

    It inspires me to lean of the ways you employ nature and art to find your way out of the darkness, Sandy. May your adventure help you to rediscover a place where you can access peace and happiness more readily….


  3. Kiki
    May 02, 2020 @ 02:05:18

    I haven’t got any updates from WP lately, another hitch….. This post so full of beauty, also understanding and searching made me cry. Sandy, you’re such an outstanding human being, you teach us so much, I can only wish you an endless supply if joy, so gloriously expressed in and with these sun drenched panels. You are now the fourth of my quilt making friends. They are the best! Big virtual hug and very best wishes on your way to conquer day after day.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 02, 2020 @ 07:30:23

      Thank you, Kiki. My Gram taught me how to sew, and I never could figure out a sewing machine, so making little stitches with whatever in my lap has always grounded and comforted me.


      • Kiki
        May 03, 2020 @ 16:54:04

        I was a great ‘sewing queen’ (was going to write ‘sewer’ but fear that it wd leave a bad taste….!) – I made all my clothes myself for many, many years, incl coats, costumes, dresses, but also I made a whole ‘house’ for my small son – I can’t imagine how I was able to do all that…. now I see practically nothing any longer and I can’t put a thread through the tiny hole of the needle at my machine. I also made a few quilts, but the best thing is I MADE WONDERFUL QUILTING FRIENDS….

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