Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Saturday of Artists Just Being & G'bye-ing

I did rise early to do my ritual yoga, by myself, in the quietude of my room. It seems to carry an eerie echo knowing there was to be none of my peers to share it with. Around 9am friendly, familiar faces began arriving thru Damaris and my front door. Hurrah, we were all back together!

We wandered the kitchen, gazing at the ingredients in the refrigerator, considering breakfast - when - our marvelous Lena offered to make us all German Pancakes!!! Oh grief, "YES! Please" we all chime in! So we sit in big soft chair/sofa things and chatter, yelling questions and compliments to our graceful chef (here she is curtsying to our comments). One by one, the yummy light pancakes arrive on our plates and some become heavier with jam etc. and other possible condiment-al (is there really a word like that?) additions. We all pitch in to clean up and it feels like a warm family, reunited.

We all have left our art supplies all over the work table so we just pick up where we left of the day before. There are pages that need caught up, paintings that need assistance and additional objects that still need inserting. Lots to do - and we all nestle in to our work/play places and focus. Lovingly, laughingly we all meander from one another's work place to the other commenting, complimenting, suggesting - just enjoying the camaraderie and trust that has built up over the past five days. One of us comments, it's like an artists' community that one of us has dreamed of for a future somewhere. It's a wistful lil dream that floats into the air.

Somewhere in the day, someone of us comments they want to go look at ceramic ware mentioned by Baldo just a walk up the street - I chime in, "I'll come along" and soon, all, save for the immersed Dorian slide into walkin' shoes and head out.

The colorful storefront previews the variety of works offered to us. Some of us make purchases and befriend Diana, actually Baldo's sister, who is running the shop. She offers to show us her home just at the top of the hill, again, just up the street. And . . . we're off on another adventure.

As we follow Diana thru the streets, she explains how her father (or was it her grandfather?) had scooped up a good portion of the land when it was offered free for the taking. Apparently the Mexican government was anxious to form more villages and this one strung up - with lots of Diana's relatives owing or running many of the businesses. Her Uncle, who runs a construction supply business, has helped build this new home for Diana and her family. It's new, colorful, breezy and refreshing.

She tours us thru her cozy place, where fascinating elements of unique Mexican culture cascade every corner. In the kitchen area we see a gallon size plastic bag full of dried hibiscus flowers (used in teas), a beautifully carved squash and from one of the bedrooms she beams with pride when she pulls a beautifully painted portrait of her grandparents and shows it to us appreciative artists. The close knit Mexican family is evident everywhere. Not to mention the openness Diana has illustrated is bringing in four total strangers into her home. It truly opened my heart just witnessing it.
We do need to keep track of time as three of the ladies are flying out today on the late afternoon flight, leaving at 4:45pm. We have an appointment with Fidel who is picking everyone up and he arrives on time. As you can see from the photo, he's overjoyed at the extra beer we have left in the refrigerator and offer it to him - contingent upon him waiting to drink it 'til after he drops all three ladies at the airport. He laughs!!! Fidel proves to be a good sport, willing to take one last photo of us all before we disperse to our various homes. I still don't know if I'm sad or tired - and you can witness it on my face.
Later that evening, Bonnie and I got out for a light salad dinner and long walk along the beach. Bonnie is staying an additional week, traveling north to a smaller village to spend the week painting. We review the week, laugh and also tour thru Bonnie's online portfolio. It's a quiet closing to a full, delightful week.
This my be the final post on this blogsite - or not. There will be updates making mentions of upcoming retreats and classes. And - possible follow-up news on the travels and doings of the five fabulous women included here: Dorian, Damaris, Bonnie, Lena and myself, Elaine. Again, Amazing Universe, thank you for this opportunity to grow, trust and leap.
My suggestion . . . go ahead and take that leap!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day Five ~ Last Day of the Retreat

The day began beautiful again. 7:30am Yoga on the rooftop patio, a total of four of us are there to say the final "Sun Salute" to the Manzanillo morning sunrise. Several of us sit in meditation following . . . to center for this wonderful day.

Following breakfast, we gather at the big dining room table at 9am for a final mandala exercise and then, review of all the mandala pieces we'd created. This piece was based upon totems and "I am" work . . . very intriguing. Each design, placement and animal so were an extension of each one of us individuals at this time in our lives. At the review, we generally agreed that mandalas will now become a more regular part of our creative process and be used for self examination. A couple ladies swore they were "in love" with the circle now.

I take the floor next, to lead the way with an "Emotion Vignette" exercise. I've heard tale of such a thing before and most recently used it for expressing a very volatile situation I was experiencing in my life - with not alot of outlets, save for my painting it. It proved to be very satisfying and I've since talked to artist friends who have used this same process to process situations. Finding it a very valuable tool, especially for journaling where we can't always find words to express our feelings, this painting tool is invaluable! We all choose a topic that was "charged" for us and went to work with paint, magazine tearings (be they images or words), glue and found objects (I went outside, hunting for a feather, to symbolize "freedom" but instead, found lil seeds that represented the seed that grew into freedom). The results were quite expressive and powerful.

Here is my piece. It was around a situation where I'd had expectations of someone and was disappointed with what that person was willing to share. I found it created a big knot feeling in my stomach, and other images of reaching out with no one being there to meet me. In this process of creating, I realized it was the expectation that I had to let go of to find freedom. So with "faith'", "reaching across" the knot I'd felt, I found the "seeds to my own release". Anyway, this exercise worked AGAIN for me.

We break for lunch and for working on our individual journal entries. Some munch on our remaining Mexican food from Maria's delicious preparation or head out to the pool for a dip and some sunshine.

Our afternoon is filled with review of each participants work and comments on how they felt about the journaling process as well as filling out the retreat critique sheet we had passed out earlier. Some commented they were surprised at the amount of work they had actually done but, overall, we were all pretty "wow-ed" by each artists output. Three of the participants were relatively new to watercolor and felt they'd had some success in learning basic techniques. Bonnie still hates the bumps on the "cold press" watercolor paper. Sorry Bonnie :) We also worked up our individual "3 x 5 Card" process . . . a sweet, positive exercise that enables each participant to take home "a vision/insight" of themselves when seen thru eyes other than our own.

Our last retreat dinner together was just caddy-corner from us at the Tenisol Restaurant. It's a nice outdoor venue, with a gurgling fountain and nearby swim up bar. One of the things I noticed was that now, at this point, we all know and trust one another. The conversation was interesting and, some questions we pose one another each other, are pretty intimate. And beautifully, in saw the answers were - honest! For me the food became in material, my soul was so fed!

After dinner we meander the grounds, actually getting lost in the bowels of the condos, having to back tract to get out, but eventually trot down toward the beach and little market.

It's awkward this ending thing, to be honest, my brain seems to have completely blanked out what we did that final evening together. I'm not surprised, I've never been know for graceful g'byes. Somehow knowing we'd all meet and be together for the morning blurred the finality of this fifth and ending day of the Women's Mexico Retreat 2009.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day 4 ~ Morning Work & Travel North to Barra De Navidad

Just another day breaking on the rooftop for yoga, followed with a playful breakfast and then onto work on our morning Mandala Exercise. Our assignment today was to work with five basic shapes, the square, the triangle, the cross, the spiral and the circle. All the shapes have a variety of meanings as well as do the position, dominance and integration of shapes. Again, the
resulting designs fascinate me, just visually, not to mention the diversity of personality & consciousness revealed. We all examine and discuss the diversity and invention displayed with the use of something so simple as an elegant circle. But, we must leave this scene (don't worry we didn't have to clean up the "process area") and pack for a day trip.

At 12 noon, our driver, Baldo, arrives with the SUV and all of us, with our painting supplies & beach necessities in our packs, step into our carriage to Barra de Navidad. Baldo is an informative, comical and charmingly warm guide. We pose questions for him from his personal history to politics to local fruit as he drives past banana plantations, roadside markets and artist sculptures.

He asks us if we'd like to tour the church at Cihautan, a city founded and dominated by women. How could us women say "no"? So we take a short side stop and he assures us it's "ok" to take photos and wander freely in this lovely sacred space.

After about a 30 minute ride, we reach Barra and finally find a parking place. Town is packed as it's Market Day here.

Our first design is to find that place with the colorful tablecloths (grief, where was THAT?) for a light lunch. After s-o-m-e wanderings (where we strolled shops with "finds" like this wall hanging), we locate the outdoor cafe and settle in for lunch. We continue to be entertained, first with Lena getting her next "Young Coconut", then the cafe owner's beautiful and mischievous son. Isn't he adorable? We finish lunch (very good, too much tho) and head to the beach.

Sketching and relaxing is our whole agenda for the afternoon. I show the ladies who want to a few quick sketching techniques I like to use in places where people don't hold still: contour drawing and gesture sketching. I'm not pleased by the contour drawing and eventually bury a potion of it with a watercolor sketch of the beach and peninsula. I love that I don't have to keep my journal perfect - I can correct or work over an area. Nobody to please but me!!

How quickly the afternoon passes and our wonderful Baldo has gotten us situated on the beach just below the restaurant, "The Sea Master" where we'd planned on going for dinner. It sits right on the beach but, since it's gotten rather windy, we'd settled inside. The colorful room was lively and got even more personal as we were serenaded by a local wandering minstrel. Dinner was yummy and it was all too soon that Baldo had gone to get the vehicle to transport us back to Manzanillo.

Our drive back to our condo is quiet, especially after our Baldo's mood saddened, finding out one of his friends was buried last week after a fatal head-on collision. The sun was setting and darkness fell over the landscape leaving a pink-orange horizon.

For our final "talking stick" meeting, we got to hear Dorian's travels across life. We'd all shared now and it set in place a very special bond ... all of us knowing such honest and personal experiences and viewpoints of oneanother. It was with some sadness that we all finish sipping our decaf-coffee from Dorian's French Press, leaving footfalls along our routes.

It was a memorable day with a hint of bittersweet. I'm realizing tomorrow is our final day of the Retreat and I'm not wanting it to end. But life continues ... and I've harvested some amazing lessons from this time and these very special women.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

April 15 ~ Wednesday at the Beach

Following quiet yoga, we finish our breakfast and all pack up for a day at the La Bonita Beach, just at the north end of the bay. Morning is cool with a grey mist hovering over the scenery. We silently watch to day waking activities going on around us like these fisherman who also seem to bring in food for the birds. I fall in love with the still boats harbored just out from us coupled with an old pier that served as a morning roost for pelicans.

As the sun began to break thru, more activity, families, and entertainment came our way. Our Lena discovered they offered "Young Coconuts" just like she reminisced where she was raised. A sweet smile covered her face. All round us complete families, from infants to Grama crowded tables around us. One table behind us was making everything from scratch. We took peeks as they made "limeade" from freshly squeezed limes and chopped cilantro for a salsa later in the day. Oh, what a divine aroma to smell wafting thru the beach air. The Mango Man saunters by us too offering treats (doesn't he have the most beautiful native features?) and also a percussion expert. The drummer, who's traveling set was composed with 3-1 lb. coffee cans, empty and inverted, along with square sticks, was totally into his element as he sang and danced. I also work up a sketch for Dorian and Bonnie who were interested in seeing Watercolor Pencils at work. Although they offer great portability and flexibility, I find it difficult to take values to the extreme dark that I often like to work with. So I eventually take to my watercolors to finish off the very dark areas in the shadows.
We are scheduled to head back to the Condo for another demo and it's application, "Making Your Own Stamps". Several choose beach umbrellas as the simple image for creating their stamp. And pages bordered with happy, multi-colored umbrellas begin to fill the journals.
Need for dinner lurks in our empty stomachs and soon we head down to the nearby "Oasis Restaurant" on the beach just two blocks away. After all the luscious and large dinner we've been indulging in, I opt for a crisp green salad and am quite refreshed with my choice.
Our evening coffee and "talking stick" share, with Lena as our focus tonight, takes place back at the Sierra Madra complex. Things have gradually and graciously quieted down in the neighborhood as the Easter Weekend get farther and farther from us. Again, we are intrigued and amazed at the various travels of our peers who have traversed so many different places and so many different experiences to be sitting in front of us as beautiful, generous and lovely human spirits ... with so much to offer.
We all return to our beds feeling blessed for who we are and for those surrounding us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

April 14 ~ 2nd Full Retreat Day

Morning Yoga began my day with a couple of ladies to accompany me on the lovely sunrise rooftop. After our group breakfast effort, we nest into the large dining table to launch into our morning Mandala Exercise with Damaris. We focused on our own hands and energy with we felt in and or around them, positioning them on our black paper - and began.

Again, very intriguing how differently we all perceived and received our visions. Here is the diverse results in beautiful mandala format!

My presentation followed with a presentation around Right/Left Brain Hemispheres. We all took part in an exercise drawing a line drawing of a man - upside down - so as not to view the object with a "image in mind". You can see the result I got from the exercise in my previous entry on the full page layout, top, far right side of my journal page. It's such a freeing feeling working totally from our Right Brain Hemisphere - if - we can stay there! I also took time just before lunch break, to demonstrate a way I've invented to add Watercolor pages which you can insert right into the spiral binding. I'm always feeling like there's room for more pages in the watercolor journals I've purchased. This allows me to add 5-6 pages or pop in other shapes cut out of paper. Hurrah!

After our lunch we trekked off on an adventure to the main "Centro" of Manzanillo. On the local bus, it's about a 45 minute ride, passing alot of local color including a sophisticated Soccer Stadium and Manzanillo Port (one of the biggest on the west coast).

Arriving in Downtown "Centro" we walked past the square fountains and meander towards the large blue sailfish, for which fishermen know Manzanillo well! Passing thru some local vendor stalls we watch the work of this lovely native woman embroidering the wares she sells. We sampled a few refreshments and, of course, bought a few items to take home with us and wander back towards our bus stop.

About two thirds of the way back to Club Santiago, we hop of to cross the busy street and relax into a delicious (for me, probably the best we had the whole week!) at La Toscana Restaurant! We amble thru the main dining room onto the wide sunset lite patio, overlooking the beach. Our entertainment encompasses kids rolling in the sand, lovers strolling hand in hand, and joggers out for a before-dinner-run. Bonnie is near estacy watching the colors dance upon the waters - and - is only silenced by dinner arriving. Mine was a moist, delicate Sea Bass with a Mango/Ginger Sauce. "Ohh's" and "ahh's" echo over our meal. Pretty content, and with dessert "to go" in hand, we board the local bus, ready for our last leg of travel to get back to the condo. About half way along our route, a pair of young men board the bus, painted in marvelous mime faces, red clown noses and comical outfits. Probably a brother team, we venture, proceed to prod, tease, converse and entertain (including a pale blue balloon pony twisted out of a long balloon) the crowd. Unfortunately we couldn't understand a word, only their funny, playful gestures and smiles from the passengers. Many stops later, after passing a hat for their efforts, the wave adieu and bound off the bus. Only in Mexico, I think - what a joy!

We arrive over to Puesta Del Sol Condos to break out our desserts and nest in for our "talking stick" session with Bonnie sharing tonight. Weary from our outing today, the three of us not staying at Puesta Del Sol spill out into the lovey, near full moon night to weave thru the Menorca Condos. It's a cozy night feeling with the swimming pool lit up, people on the wifi connections under the large thatched patio and families giggled and converse over deck gatherings.

We turn in, grateful for a day showing us how a culture different than us Americans live. Glad to be alive.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

April 13 ~ Retreat Full Day One

I was up early to complete my meditation & yoga before readying the rooftop for the Retreat Early Morning Yoga. The sunrise was quiet, gentle as we completed the "Sun Salute" with deep breathing and dedication to the total newness of this experience. A GOOD day is born!Once downstairs, we have an hour to conjure up coffee, tea and some favorite shape of breakfast. Several arrive late for yoga, confused by their condo clocks that had not been turned ahead to the Daylight Saving Time, now in effect. But we giggle over food and position around the big dining room table for the coming presentations.

Damaris will be beginning the mornings (while we are still hopefully, in the left side of our sleepy brains) with a sampling of Mandala information and exercises. Following a brief history of Mandalas, she leads us through a Maori Mandala. Quite fascinating, seeing how, when given the exact same instructions, everyone creates a VERY different image.

I take over next, briefly going over the "whys" and "what" of journaling and then move into a quick tour thru drawing basics, perspective, and color wheels. As you can see from my journal page, we all did a simple watercolor color wheel. Also, to give a demo of how watercolor frisket works, I head up to the rooftop patio to sketch the "banana slug" yellow Menorca Condo roofline, just across from us. Everyone else breaks off to work on their own sketches and reheat some of Maria delicious left-overs from last night's "Welcome Dinner", for lunch. I travel around answering questions and adding suggestions where needed. All participants worked with such dedication, it was inspiring.

Following the break, we meet back at the big dining room table for more demos and around 5:30 we gather ourselves for a long leisurely walk all the way down the beach, crossing over the lagoon bridge to enjoy dinner at "Playa Real". As we cross the bridge, we pause to take photos of the Azaleas now in full bloom and capture a beautiful Mexico family, taking photos of their 'grama' too.

After a playful dinner, we treck back to the condo in preparation of our evening "Talking Stick" time. Tonight is Damaris turn to relate her experiences around how her life has affected her creative process. We are finding what a treasure it is to learn more intimately about one another, seeing the amazing journeys we all have taken to get us to where we are now.

It's late when we break up, heading to our respective beds with visions of another day of artist's play dancing in our heads.