Respect

Yesterday, a poetry prompt site I often respond to, asked for poems concerning the subject of respect. (http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/ ) The deference we offer, as individuals, to those around us. Although several things came to mind, when I read the prompt, I decided to let it go because I’m still quite busy getting ready for the Art Show, and had taken part in an interview, on the same site, the day before, using most of the day to respond to the comments from individuals within that community. They had given me, a great deal of respect for my ideas, as well as my poetry.

I usually begin my day, by coming here to my computer and checking out what is going on in the world around me. Imagine my surprise, when the first article I read was from Reuters, about how Mexico has sent a group of aid workers to Texas to help with the relief of the victims of Hurricane Harvey. That article may be found here:
https://www.yahoo.com/news/mexicos-red-cross-delivers-aid-storm-ravaged-houston-024412762.html

Given the fact that our president has, to some degree, been elected because of his desire to build a wall on our border to Mexico, and has just recently pardoned a man who defied the law in order to continue his personal persecution of those of Latino descent, such an act on the part of the Mexican Government is beyond amazing. What’s more, it is deserving of the greatest respect we, as a nation, have to offer.

Over the past year, our world has been seeded with an astounding amount of division, mistrust, and outright hatred. It has affected everyone. The dis-ease we feel is a palpable presence in our everyday lives. And affects even the most mundane activities we are involved in. I, for one, have little or no desire, to go out into such a world. Fear is crippling, and it is growing stronger every day, fed by the divisiveness of distrust and explosive anger, and fueled by leaders who see diversity and science as weaknesses, instead of the strength and progress they underscore.

Into all of this distress comes a Hurricane. A deluge of tragedy, crippling loss and unbelievable harm. Thousands evacuated from their homes, left with nothing to begin again. And yet, Mexico, with every right to turn its back, instead offers aid and solace. And by doing so, gives us the greatest show of respect one might offer to another. One can only hope we are wise enough to extend our own respect in return. Given the opportunity to learn what might be the greatest lesson humanity can encounter, I must applaud and humbly say, “Thank you.”

Elizabeth Crawford  8/31/2017

Notes: Image is a digital painting done many years ago, with the help of a friend whom I deeply respect and care about.

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Indigo Blue

Indigo
Digital Painting
by
Elizabeth Crawford

I have this thing with Indigo Blue. It started a long time ago, actually the first time someone told me to try playing with the paint program on a computer. That was almost thirty years ago. The image above, was the result of my ‘playing’. The paint programs, back then, were pretty simple, but still far beyond my ken. I spent a good amount of time just swirling the color around, not with any intention of creating a picture, but simply enjoying the play and the movement.

Until, I realized I had created a background sky of my favorite time of day: twilight. And, decided to take the next step, like maybe putting a tree up against that background. It took a while, but when my friend came back to see what had kept me so quiet and busy, she grinned and said, “Not bad, for a first attempt.”

I nodded, and said, “Too bad, I don’t know how to draw a bird of prey, that would be perfect, having it coming in to perch for the night.”

“Well, that’s why they have a cut and copy/paste function. So you can do that.”

“Have no idea what you mean by copy and whatever. You forget, I’m a writer, not an artist.”

“Move over, Grasshopper, and I’ll show you.” I did.

“First we have to find the actual shape you want. We’ll go looking for a bird of prey, you think is appropriate.” We did that and found one that was suitable.

“Now, I’ll cut it out, and then we’ll paste it into the background you have created.”

And I promptly lost interest and wandered off elsewhere. Only returning when she called my name. When I was finally seated next to her, she asked me where I wanted the bird, and I pointed to where I thought it should be. Then watched as she carefully positioned it, and clicked. Then with a few strokes, added a bit of the color already on the monitored canvas, and there was the image, I had imagined in my mind. It was magic. And I clapped in whole-hearted appreciation. Then I carefully transferred the image to a floppy disk, yes, that’s how long ago this took place. And it marks my falling in love with Indigo Blue, which continues to this present moment.

When I feel a bit lost, out of sorts, or just plain angsty (I just made up that word), I will eventually find myself in front of the paint program, dabbling with Indigo Blue (even its name feels good on the tongue).

And can see my own slow progress, as I eventually became more proficient with the always changing and new effects within whatever paint program I might be using. The friendship hit some very turbulent waters and ended in ten long years of silence. But, I never lost my appreciation for that search in twilight shadows.

Staring Into The Future
Digital Painting
by
Elizabeth Crawford

A single phone call put an end to that silence, and we began to chat, regularly on Messenger. In the course, of which, we also began sharing the different art things we were doing. I sent her an image of my first attempt at creating a rainbow. It had started, once again, with swirls of Indigo Blue. When I shared it with her, I told her that I thought lightning might be better than my attempted rainbow. She sent it back, only a short time later, having replaced the rainbow with lightning.

Having spent the past few weeks, sorting through my picture files, I’m very aware that Indigo Blue has spoken to me in all the forms I have used to express myself. That would include some photography,

my pen and ink doodles,

and even my kaleidoscope images,

hand colored or from photographs.

Perhaps it is the call of the sea, buried in the human psyche, calling us back to our beginnings. On a personal level, I find something soothing and comforting in its language. It speaks to me on a deep soul level, perhaps in words, or music, I can’t translate in any other fashion. Only know that I will continue to seek it out, wrapping myself in its comforting wisdom.

 

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Fire and Water

Am up to my ears in ink, kaleidoscope photo prints,

coloring templates,

colored and not,

bonfire kaleidoscopes,

and Black Gold photo designs.

Don’t really know if I’m treading water (never did get passed the doggie paddle), or running from the fire of my own creative urges. Having committed myself to this Art Show, I am now lost in the sheer volume, and amount of things I have done while “playing.”

Because all of these images were made because I was having fun, exploring, and trying to see where all of it would go. But now, I have to make choices. What to take, what to leave out? What will sell? Just because I like something, doesn’t mean others will do the same. And, of course, as I’m trying to make those choices, other ideas start popping up and I end up making even more images. Like the bonfire image above. Couldn’t resist trying a bit of distortion and this is where it took me.

I like both of the images, but I have only so many I can choose. So, I find myself moving between treading water, and running from the fire I myself have created.

I work on it everyday, telling myself it will all come together somehow. I have at least one month to get it together. And, at this point, I don’t know if that together is me, or the images. I’ve even considered going out and finding a perfect stranger. Hauling him, or her, back here and letting them make the decisions.

I’d like to ask my sister, but she is recovering from wrist surgery, and getting her own things together. She did come, one afternoon, with a box full of frames that I might want to use to showcase a few of the prints. Just another set of choices to be made. Tried to enlist my helper’s advice, but she just shook her head and said, “You are the Artistic one here, and I know nothing. ”

So, I’m on my own, all because I really enjoy dabbling in color, and making unusual things. I’m pretty sure I knew that to begin with, but resistance is a cornerstone of any creative endeavor. We resist because we are afraid. Will we, and our creations, find acceptance? I also know the answer to that one. Won’t know until I put them out there and give them a chance. So, I guess I have to jump into the fire and find out.

Which only reminds me of this:

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A Bonfire Celebration

Have been here, several times, but couldn’t collect my thoughts enough to write anything. That happens at times. And is usually depressing on some level. However, this time it wasn’t. I’m still teaching online, and working my way through my own current assignment. Can’t ask someone else to do what I am unwilling to do myself. It also allows me to model what I myself, as a writer and reader, would look for and find satisfying.

This part of the writing had to do with the rewards of going through an Ordeal experience. It highlighted the use of a campfire, in books and movies, to acknowledge a new level of camaraderie, bonding, and even romance (not necessarily sexual). An opportunity to tell the story of the Ordeal, what was done, the actions engaged, and to celebrate and remember the experience, for all who took part in it, and those who couldn’t for one reason or another.

I had written about an Ordeal experience from middle-age. And until that incident, had never really experienced a bonfire, other than as a cook-fire for hot dogs and marshmallows.  But, a friend, who had been through the Ordeal with me, introduced me to the absolute delights of building a fire and just sitting around chatting and reminiscing. And, to be honest, began a life-long love affair with that particular experience. So much so, that even my family knows that a sure way to get me out of my hermitage, is to invite me to take part in just such a gathering.

When I came here, I was again, hit by that nothing coherent to write about thingy. But decided to take a look at my media gallery to see if I might find some inspiration. This blog was started in 2008, which means there are a lot of images in the media file. But, I kept looking and finally came upon the bonfire photo that introduces this post. It is from 2012, five years ago.

I have been putting some things together for an Art Fair that my sister plans on attending. She loves the digital art I do, but her favorite is the kaleidoscopes I make from the bonfires, we’ve had in her backyard. Not only did I find something to write about, but now have a new set of images to show her, as well.

I love it when everything comes together and makes sense, and includes a delightful surprise, as well. All of these images came from that single photo, I took years ago. I’m pleased, and my sister will be happy as well.

Elizabeth

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Black Gold

The other day, I was looking through my files to set aside for an upcoming Craft Fair. My sister had suggested that I might want to pull out some of my doodles and make some black and white prints. I was inverting some of them, just as an experiment, when I came across one done in blue ink, rather than black.

Without a thought, I inverted it and what came up was that first image. I love Happy Accidents. My mind started jumping, so I immediately took the black and gold image to the kaleidoscope app, and started playing with it.

I felt that I had struck gold, literally and figuratively. I stayed with it for quite some time.

Thought they were amazing and before I knew it, I had over twenty different images. Each one different, but all of them unique and more than pleasing.

The last one had a blank black center, and I wasn’t sure I wanted keep it. Then remembered some of the things I used to do with other images. Did a bit more playing and digital sketching. Did I mention, I love Happy Accidents?

Decided to title the whole series as Black Gold. I think I might be busy for awhile.

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Wake-Up Call

This is an old photo I took of my friend Jocko. He would come, everyday, to stand at the top of the utility pole, visible from my office window. He would caw, until I opened the blinds and talked to him. That was almost three years ago. He hasn’t returned, but I got another type of Wake-Up call two days ago.

I had just posted a piece on another site. The prompt was to write about War and Peace, so I did a brief dialogue on that subject. It may be found here:  https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/dialogue-on-war-and-peace/

Amazingly, even to myself, I reduced War to fear of other, that which is different and unfamiliar. And peace became deep acceptance that we all share the same fear. Just after finishing and posting it, the phone rang.  As I reached to pick it up, I could see the caller ID, which read Jehovah Witness. I’d already clicked the button by the time it registered, sighed heavily and said, “Hello.”

She immediately launched herself into what was obviously a cold call, “Hi, S…, this is….”
I tried to tell her she was looking for my oldest daughter, but she wouldn’t be stopped, until she made a request to read a Bible verse to me. When she perkily asked her question, I took a deep breath and said slowly and clearly, “You are looking for my daughter who no longer lives in this city.”

She immediately switched gears, saying, “Oh? This isn’t S…? Well may I ask what your name is?” At which point, I wanted only to hang-up, but flashed back to what I’d just written about: fear versus acceptance, hate versus love, war versus peace. Immediately thought of the humor in of all of this, and that perhaps the Universe was checking in to see if I would stick to the words I’d just written, or allow myself to become just another casualty of hatred toward what is different from what I believe.

As I slowly said my name(which means God is my oath), my head was flooded with memories. At the age of 27, I’d had a deeply moving Spiritual experience that totally altered my person and the manner in which I viewed the world around me. For several years, after that, I had studied with the focus of a hawk, searching for the meaning of that experience and what it really meant, for and to me, personally. During that time period, I would get occasional visitors, like my caller, and had a few memorable experiences just chatting with them. I began to relax, maybe smiling a bit.

She immediately repeated my name and then launched herself back into her cold call dialogue, ending with a request to share a verse from scripture with me. A bit curious, I said yes. She read a verse from Jeremiah. A very familiar verse, it turned out. When she finished reading it, she immediately began to explain to me how relevant it was to our world today and these present trying times, ending with a question about whether or not, I could see its value especially in the present moment.

Now, I was smiling, as she once again tried to explain its deeper significance. I said, “There is something I should tell you. Years ago, I thoroughly studied the Bible and even taught Adult Bible Study classes.”

A very brief pause, then, “Oh? I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone who has actually studied the Bible, let alone taught Bible classes. Which part of the Bible were you most attracted to?”

“Well, I studied all of it, but was particularly drawn to the Old Testament Prophets, especially to Isaiah, and, more importantly Jeremiah. Which is very interesting seeing as you just read Jeremiah to me.”

Now, she was almost gushing, “Yes, I agree, but…”

“Perhaps you should ask me what I like about Jeremiah so much.”

“Well, yes, you are right. What is it you like about Jeremiah?”

“The fact that in telling his story, he got very human, and confessed to being completely disillusioned by his people and their refusal to listen to him. So, much so, that he became angry with God and accused Him of being untrustworthy, comparing Him to a brook with waters that fail. But, God doesn’t get angry at Jeremiah. Instead, He tells the man that if he will put away his angst, God will bless him. I have always liked it because it tells me that God accepts our human frailties, and continues to love and bless us despite that reality.”

“Yes, when we do the right thing, God will bless us. I have some small pamphlets that I’d like to send you, so that we can discuss them the next time I call. Would that be okay?”

“No, I would prefer that you didn’t.”

“No? You don’t want me to send them to you? May I ask why?”

“Because I already have a very well-developed Spiritual Belief system that works just fine for me.”

“Okay,” she seemed a bit confused, “may I call you again. Perhaps, we could share other verses. Maybe you could read one to me next time? I’ve never called anyone who has studied the Bible and taught classes before.” Now, she was gushing.

“I suppose you could do that.”

“Yes, and next time you can share one of your favorite verses with me?”

“That would be okay, if I’m not busy.”

We said our goodbyes and ended the call.

It was only later, that I realized that although I was being honest, when I explained my preference for Jeremiah, that the story I had paraphrased to her, is to be found in the verses, just prior to the one she had originally read to me. I told her about it, because when I read it originally, years ago, I finally realized that the prophets were simply human beings, called yes, but filled with the same human frailties we are all dealing with. That of being perfectly imperfect human beings. And that love and forgiveness go so much further than anger and hate might ever travel.

I have no idea if she will call again. It makes no difference. I feel that the Universe was simply telling me that I am in the right place, doing the right thing, and perhaps the call was really for her, and not for me at all. And by the way, Jocko is a crow, and crows are a symbol of higher law, that which is greater than the law created by man.

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My Plan B

Often, when I find myself struggling, I move myself into another space. A world of color and movement. It is my escape hatch, called Plan B. We all need one.  One of my poet friends put up a photograph on Facebook, and as soon as I saw it, I asked if I could play with it. This is the photo, taken by Richard Walker, or his wife, Kelly.

Richard knows what I mean when I ask that question. I put the photo into the kaleidoscope app and just play with different settings and effects. Some of the designs need a bit of background, for a finishing touch. I do that digitally as well, using my very versatile paint program. Here are a few of the designs rendered from Richard’s photo.

I stopped when I had fifteen of them. This photo just didn’t want to quit, and I’m fairly certain I could have continued for several more hours. I think that one photo would make a small handsome coffee table book.

Other times, I just go into my paint program and create a pattern of different colors that I find pleasing.

Then take it to the kaleidoscope app and play with it.

I’ve been doing the kali’s for several years. I often post the results on Facebook for others to enjoy and they always receive delighted responses. I’ve used the app on other things, like pen and ink drawings I’ve created. This is one of them, using a simple repeat line drawing (doodle) done in colored ink.

And one of many results:

Although a simple side-line hobby, three of my digital paintings now grace the covers of a set of historical fiction novels, by an Illinois author, and have been purchased to be used on the brochures of a woman in Australia for advertising her work in meditative therapy techniques.

I have several small sketchbooks with innumerable doodles I did while caring for my ailing Mother. I used the app to turn them into coloring pages, which I then colored with India Ink, and have hundreds of these designs, waiting for coloring.

Although a different design, the template above is similar to this one which was colored with fine art pens.

I recently put together a book of my created kaleidoscopes, and am patiently (not) waiting for that to arrive in the mail. It was quite expensive, but I figured that all that time and effort deserved its own recognition. And I’m sure, that when it comes, I will spend some amount of time, letting it soothe me from whatever I am struggling with in the moment.

Life is a struggle, much of the time. There are times when writing words gets difficult to do. Having a Plan B, can go a long way toward resolving that issue.

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At the Mouth of the River

At my request, my sister took me to the small park that sits at the curve of the Fox river, where it accepts the flow from the Bay. I have to visit it every year to see the Pelicans that migrate there, and use Pelican Island for their home base through the summer months. That little white dot, in the midst of all of that blue, is one of the many we saw.

A much closer look at his buoyant ride on the waves. Most of the large birds were in the air, flying in familiar formation.

But, we were also visited by this small juvenile red-winged blackbird, unusually out of place, and exploring the mown grass just a short distance from the picnic table where we sat.

It only had the beginnings of a few strokes of red on its wing and I couldn’t seem to capture those small spots. I tried, but this was the best shot of the lot I took.

Meanwhile, also unusual, a lone sea gull worked its way in a huge circle around the table where we sat quietly chatting.

Slowly working its way closer, until it actually approached my feet and I could have bent down and touched it, if I chose to do so.

Birds, in general, are seen as spiritual messengers, because they spend much of their time in the air, moving between the earth and the heavens. And their feathers are a symbol of truth, that which is so light it drifts on the slightest breeze, yet is strong enough to carry an entire life, wherever it chooses to travel.

I had asked my sister to take me there, because I wanted to speak to her about something that I was struggling over. I had already written about it, but it was still troubling me because it was a piece of my past that had suddenly come full circle and was now intruding on my present moments. I was hoping that by talking it out, with Mary, I could discern my own truth amidst all of the emotions and memories, and then find a path through what was now a current situation, and a choice of action I was quite uncertain about.

Although, raised in the same household, and attending the same schools, from kindergarten, through high school, we do not necessarily share the exact same spiritual belief systems. We were both married within a nine-month time period. She has two children, I have four. She will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary next year, while I went to College, got a divorce, and have been single for nearly thirty years. She was one of two or three people I wanted to discuss this with, because I knew she would see it differently than I do.

And was very surprised when she agreed with where my thoughts, and writing had taken me. She said that she would have interpreted the signs in the same manner I had, but then cautioned me to be very, very careful because of my age and disabilities. Something that I was very aware of and had already taken into account. She seemed more than satisfied that I agreed with her about that. We left the park, picked up lunch, and returned here to my apartment. After eating and chatting a bit more, she left and I sat down to write a letter.

Four pages later, I realized that I was still busy explaining why I was writing the damn thing. So, I quit, and took a nap. Later, continued watching an old tv series. It’s about two brothers, who although they grew up together, because of their very individual abilities, had led very different lives, but are now working together. And the episodes I watched were about how each of them was struggling with what they individually want to do with the rest of their lives. Sound a bit familiar?

So, today I decided to get out the photos and share them here, only to realize that they have made me realize another message altogether. I am seeking the truth, my truth, in all of this. And the birds were part of that reality. Pelicans are a symbol of buoyancy, they speak to the ability to dive deep, to find nurture, then swiftly pop back up to the surface with whatever they have grasped.

I have written poems about the red-winged blackbird, and see them as a symbol of the creative fire that burns no matter how much darkness might surround it. They continue to sing, and to rise in flight. Will even respond to a human voice that mimics them amateurishly.

Gulls come in all different sizes and differ in coloring. They are scavengers and will eat whatever they find or is tossed at them.

Which seems to relate to what I have been doing and will continue to do as I dig deep for more of my truth, come back up to the surface, and with the aid of words and images, continue to search and scavenge for whatever will lead me to the choices I still must make. And that simply tells me there is more for me to find, to discover, and to know.

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Some Background

Some Background

In my last post, I introduced you to my inner child, Beth. Now, I’d like to back up and explain how that scenario became possible. While being a stay-at-home mother, I did a great deal of reading, much of it fiction. But, would stray into other areas on occasion. I read a great deal of psychology, spirituality, and other things that simply interested me. One of those things was about dream work. I had always had very vivid dreams and could, more often than not, recall them in detail. I was also interested in Native American spirituality and that led to an interest in mythology and symbolism.

All of that led to an idea that it would be great if I could somehow learn how to dream while consciously awake. Remember, I was alone at the time, and there was no one around to point out the sheer illogical reality of that thought. The up-shoot of that reading, and dreamy sort of thinking, eventually led to the creation of my Personal Mythology. The beginnings of which can be found here on this site by typing in the title words A Tiger Named Pain.

Once I began to be comfortable with spontaneous imagery, the thought of using it to meet my inner child made all kinds of sense. The imagery was a direct link to my subconscious mind, all of my memories, thoughts and feelings. My inner child had to exist within that space, all I had to do was be willing to try it. And that was the hard part. That willingness was not easily obtained because I was extremely fearful of the outcome. Yes, I understood that this was going on inside my head, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t effect my emotions.

I knew I had abandoned that child, left her there alone in the back forty swampland, of my own mind, to fend for herself. She had to hate me, intensely. How do you seek, or even begin to expect forgiveness, under those circumstances? I mulled around with those types of questions for weeks. Finally realizing it was just plain fear that was holding me back. I had come to know that fear is never a good reason for delaying the inevitable.

All I had to do was breathe deeply and close my eyes. And she was there, had been waiting, all of that time, for me to come to my senses. She even shushed me when I sought forgiveness. She had been sure that I would find my way, at some point. That trust, which she offered so freely, was a priceless gift, one among many.

Our second encounter was, to say the least, mind blowing. She came to me and told me there was something she wanted to show me. Held out her hand and asked me to follow her. I did. She took me into those woods she had originally stepped out from. Led me to a beautiful meadow, she called her Secret Garden. There she asked me to sit, and just watch. She stepped into the center of that clearing and began to dance, to music she, herself, had created. I was mesmerized. Only slowly coming to realize that she was the very center of imagination, and thus: creativity.

It was she who had led me to those books I’d been reading. She, who had created the Mythology from my own story. She who had taught me how to deal with, and become friends with the wild creatures that inhabited it, and had taught me so much about my own life and living. She, who had nurtured my curiosity, while feeding my thirst for knowledge and personal awareness. She, who with the greatest of patience, had guarded and defended me from the bogeymen of fears that would have stopped all of it.

There is so much to be learned by seeking out our inner child. She is a precious gift that continues to give of herself. And I am grateful.

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How We Get Here

Staring Into The Future
Digital Painting
by
Elizabeth Crawford

How We Get Here

The last time I posted, I wrote about my inner child. We all have one because we all have both a past and a memory. Research tells us that by the age of five, we have constructed a world view: a sense of how the world works, and particularly our role, or place, within that world. Stop and think about that for a moment. At age five, that world view must be rudimentary at best, yet it becomes the filter through which we order much of the rest of our existence.

By age five, I had come very close to death, had been told (overheard my parents say) that I had about a 50 -50 chance of living through the surgery, and at best would probably end up with some amount of retardation (brain injury) with the result of something similar to Cerebral Palsy. And for at least, the next ten years, had to sit, yearly, and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon. See those kids paraded out in their wheel chairs, many of them unable to speak clearly, let alone feed or take care of their personal functions without aid. Add to that, a visit to the doctor’s office meant being told that I was ‘his little Miracle Girl‘.

As an adult, I can look back and see that all those people were simply being grateful, but as a child I saw it very differently. I was me, but not just me. I had the ghost of another, far more unfortunate child permanently attached to my very existence. But, especially to my mental capabilities. Cerebral Palsy is an ongoing permanent glitch (hick-up) in mental functions. And miracles are very iffy things. Are they real, or just a fluke? I attended a Catholic Parochial school. I knew the drill. Miracles were examined for centuries by impeccable scholars before being pronounced as such. I, on the other hand, was just another little girl trying my damnedest to disappear into the woodwork, while not being allowed to do so. I was afraid and terribly angry. It was all so unfair.

It took another thirty years. Years of reading, exploring, studying quietly and on my own, until I began to unravel much of that childish world view. It was hard work because I wasn’t trying to convince the world, I needed to convince myself. And I was definitely a skeptic, with an overloaded knapsack of guilt and doubt.

I had read about the idea of the inner child. I had dismissed it out of hand. Not for me. Until the day I realized that I had dismissed it because it scared me out of my wits. It frightened me for very good reasons. I knew I had abandoned that child in me. Run from her and all her questions and accusations. She needed me, as any child needs a good parent. But, I didn’t trust me to be that for her. How could I?

I had also learned (through all of that study and reading), the value to be found in spontaneous imagery. I knew what I had to do. I made a space of time where I wouldn’t be interrupted. Got quiet, calming myself with slow deep breaths (while simultaneously breaking a sweat), then closed my eyes and asked my inner child to come forward.

She was there in an instant, stepping out of a wooded area. Dirty face, fisted-hands on her hips, torn dirty jeans (two sizes too big), large dirty t-shirt, her hair oily and greasy but covering her head in natural curls. She stared straight back at me from her defensive posture. And then I saw a strange contraption tied to her shoulders. Two huge blocks of wood, one to each side of her head, meant to protect it from any harm. The words “chip on the shoulder”, whispered their way through my mind. And I started crying, because she couldn’t turn her head to either side, without colliding with those wooden blocks.

I tearfully begged for her forgiveness, while she listened silently and totally still. Then I asked her if I could please help her remove those ugly blocks. To which she grinned for a split second, then went still again and nodded her head. I did so, and we both sat down rather hesitantly. I leaned cautiously toward her and said, “I know this is important, I must first ask your name. Will you tell me what it is?”

A wisp of smile crossed her lips, and she said softly, “My name is Beth.”

We both just sat there grinning at each other. I had chosen, about a year previously, to take back my baptismal name, Elizabeth. It means God is my oath, in Hebrew. And the word Beth, in Hebrew means God’s Abode, God’s House.

Elizabeth Crawford 6/1/2017

Note: The image is a digital painting done some years ago. I was just playing with colors and different effects in the paint program, when I realized that a face was taking shape, so emphasized what I was seeing in the color. It has always been a favorite.

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