Digital Doodling


Used this pen and ink “zen doodle” to decorate a poetry post yesterday. You may find the poem at

Went back later to play with it digitally, using the kaleidoscope app. Some very interesting things happened, even though it started out like a regular session with the app. There is some amount of deconstruction when I do the designs because many times the patterns get so busy they seem to lose their eye appeal and get too distracting. That happened with this image.


This started out very busy because the vine part of the image sort of took center stage. But all I wanted was this central part of the design. However, when I got that, the rest of the design was washed out by an all white background. Changed that to black and liked it much better. To give you a better idea of the steps in the process, here are three images that are all the same design. Just click on them to enlarge them for easier viewing.


As I added the number of petals (extensions) to the kaleidoscope image, I was really pleased with the outcomes.



And another set, using deconstruction.



doodle1k3But the best of all surprises came with this beauty. I think it is exquisite.


Notes: If you are interested in the creation of that first ‘doodle’, you may find the original Zentangle site, and instructions for drawing some of the patterns here:

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Laughing Out Loud and A Lesson



I did say I would write about that long ago entry that had me laughing out loud. Better yet, I think I’ll just copy the entry here:


This morning at 11:30, Joan was driving and started to laugh. She said,

“We got up at six am, got groceries, you unraveled my shorts, while I was wearing them, we laughed so hard we both peed in our pants, we changed clothes in the back of the van in a supermarket parking lot in Flagstaff, Arizona, then drove through the painted desert and the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi reservation, around inside Marble Canyon, and across the Colorado River. If that’s not enough, now we are in dense forest lands thick with massive Ponderosa Pines, we’ve seen an entire herd of deer grazing in a green clearing, looked more closely at a bubbling clear running mountain stream, and marveled at three to four foot snow drifts in the roadside ditches. All of that in five hours time. What could be left?”

Just a canyon, Joan, the Grand Canyon.

What can I say, we were Wisconsin yokels, first time out and committing gluttony of the eye. And I didn’t unravel all of her shorts. Do you remember, several years back, when they started making shorts with two contrasting colors for hems? It made it appear like the wearer had put on two pairs of shorts, one longer than the other? That’s what she was wearing when she climbed into the back of the van to find a place for the groceries we had purchased and were both carrying. Behind her, I looked up to see a small white thread dangling from the bottom hem, reached up and yanked it to snap it off. It didn’t snap. The entire hem, except for two or three stitches at the front, promptly came undone and was now dangling behind her knee.

With a few very colored wisecracks, we convulsed into raucous laughter and yes, both wet ourselves and had to change clothes in the back of the van while the other stood guard outside, all while trying to quell bursts of laughter at the unexpected situation we found ourselves in. It was a good way to begin the day, but we both agreed that it was also good that no one else was around to view the antics.

Just after noon, we checked into the Lodge on the North Rim of the Canyon. We had been planning this trip for about three months, and each time we called to try to make reservations, we had been told there were no openings. In a last ditch effort, somewhere from an Oklahoma motel, I had once again called the Lodge and was told that yes,  there had been a cancellation and we could have one of the individual cabins for three days and nights. Synchronicity is a wonderful thing.

That evening, after roaming around and getting our bearings, we decided to have a picnic on the rim. We had a table no more that six feet from that ancient rift. Alongside the table was a huge tree. As we were setting up for a dinner of grilled hamburgers, a huge raven flew to the tree and perched in one of its branches. It talked to us throughout our dinner, and we took turns talking back. It obviously had no fear of our presence, and at one point flew down and perched on the edge of the trash receptacle very close to where we were sitting. We asked it if it would guide us through our visit. It rocked on the edge of the metal container, bobbing it’s head up and down, cawing in a deep gravelly voice, perhaps telling us, “tomorrow, tomorrow.”

As I write all of this, I can’t help but see the symbolism in that final image of the raven to one side of us and the deepening shadows of the stone rift to other side. But in that single moment, we simply knew ourselves to blessed and were grateful to be alive.

Note: Image is a digital painting done many years ago.


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A Side Step


My last post was about following the signs and symbols and included a pair of ravens. Before going further (like about what made me laugh out loud in the journal entry), I thought it might be best to explore the symbolism of the bird.

As a bird, it is seen as a spiritual messenger, passing messages between the occupants of the earth and that which dwells in the heavens. It has a rich mythology as companion to other mythological entities and a varied history in Universal, Cultural, and even Personal Myth.

The raven has often been depicted (in paintings and photos) as a scavenger of the battlefield. It is a scavenger that feeds on carrion, but that depiction has created a symbolism that views it as a harbinger of death (something to be feared), and associates it with death and dying, especially the more violent kind.

On the other hand, in many Native American Tribes and other cultures, the raven is revered as a symbol of the Shamanic experience of Life/Death and Rebirth to a higher state of consciousness, the ability to shift the shape of understanding and knowing, and even the ability to sometimes foretell the future. It often caws in a deep and rumbling voice. The caws sound like the Latin word cars, repeated over and over again. That Latin word means tomorrow.

Because of its intelligence the raven, on occasion, has been taught to speak. That, in turn, has altered the scavenger symbolism to one of the raven visiting the aftermath of battle to accompany and whisper to those valiant fallen, the directions to Valhalla.

Carl Jung saw the raven as a symbol of the shadow side of the human psyche and the darker parts of our personality. The parts we may have rejected, or would rather not know about. But Jung also thought that we might never find wholeness until we explore and get to know that aspect of our being. To do so, is once again, to raise the level of our consciousness, and also allows us to more readily know and accept others around us.

I told you the mythology and symbolism are rich and varied. So, how do I interpret the encounter we had with those two guardian guides? I see a bit of all of it in that one incident.

1. There were two ravens, one for each of us in that rented minivan. We were two very different individuals from very different backgrounds. She was younger than I by just over twenty years. Was an incest victim in need of a safe place, so I brought her home and she lived with myself and my two youngest daughters for almost ten years.

2. I had already created my own Personal Mythology, peopled with wild creatures that interacted with me, and represented pieces and parts of my own personality. In turn, that Mythology led us together, about a year and a half into our friendship, to discover that she suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder, now defined as DID: Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was the bond that allowed both of us to accept and trust one another in ways that were both new and constantly rich in growing knowledge for each of us.

3. Neither one of us had explored, in any depth, the shadow sides of our own psyches. When we did, it exploded the bond, and four years later, the friendship ended in deep personal pain (feeling much like death and loss) for both us and almost ten years of total silence between us.

4. Yes, the ravens showed us the way out of the place we were in, but the path they took us down was winding and led us through a very rocky hillside terrain before bringing us back to the Interstate.

5. A few years back, I answered the phone to hear a very familiar voice say, “Hey, Elizabeth, do you remember when we…” We have a long distance relationship now, but we never tire of the conversation, the memories, and the bond that outlived those ten years of utter silence.

All of which leads me to believe that we took part in all of the symbolism those two ravens had to offer.


Note: Both images came from the Internet.

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Following The Signs and Symbols 2

Zentangle Mandala #1  Breaking Free Separately Together  7-3-09

This seemingly empty space has been calling to me for several weeks now. Invariably, my fingers twitch a bit when it does, but I find excuses not to answer that call: I’m too busy working on my project, need to find those pages in my computer files, have to work on those images I want to use, need to fix myself something to eat, and so on and so on.

Although I have been writing, it is poetry and that has been only once a week for the wordle challenge at The Sunday Whirl. Those pieces appear on my poetry blog at Soul’s Music. So this space remains blank. Empty except for all those old posts that people still come here and read.

This morning I was doing a bit of research, so headed to my closet/library, but couldn’t locate the book for which I was seeking. Did find a part of a journal I kept during my first ever road trip out to Montana in 1993. Several of those entries made me smile in recollection, and one had me laughing out loud.

Throughout those pages, I found comments I had made about all the birds and wildlife we were encountering. One especially, had me sighing in deep satisfaction. We had taken a side trip to explore a park, led there by a small road sign. It turned out to be over twenty miles, much of it through flat barren landscape. The ‘park’ turned out to be a historical marker with a set of swings for kids to play on and possibly to allow it to be defined as a park. Disappointed, we headed back to the car where my partner in crime decided it was her turn to drive. The way out was a straight gravel road about two miles long that led to a paved two lane highway. Upon reaching that intersection, my friend stopped and said she couldn’t remember which way to turn to get us back to the Interstate. Shrugging my shoulders, I pointed right with my thumb and said, “Maybe?”

Two huge ravens swooped past, low to the ground and following the road to which I had just been pointing. They were the first living creatures we had seen since leaving the Interstate in what seemed like hours. We followed the ravens. I remember making a comment about how their wing spread seemed to be as wide, if not more, than the rented minivan we were driving. They stayed, soaring just above the pavement out in front of us, until five minutes later when we reconnected with the Interstate, well over twenty miles from where we had originally left it.

As we settled into more driving, I turned to her and said, “You asked for directions and you certainly got it, and two guardians guides to make sure we didn’t get lost.”

So, here I sit, all these years later, knowing I’ve been lost for a while. Not even aware that I have been seeking direction, and yet finding it once again in my own words, carried on the wings of two huge ravens. Maybe next time, I’ll tell you about that episode that had me laughing out loud.

Note: Image is one of a series of pen and ink doodles I did several years ago, simply titled Fantasies.

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John Spencer is a new author. Round Prairie Inferno is his first book. He labels it a Western that takes place in Illinois, just prior to the Civil War. It is rich in details about locale, divergent characters that express the opposing forces headed toward that major conflict, and a main character who would rather be tending to his farm than enmeshed in the traffic and activities of the Underground Railroad. Yet, that’s exactly where he finds himself to be, when he responds to the request of a beloved sister who is an active abolitionist. Surge, short for Lycurgus, encounters many levels of the coming conflagration as he rides his horse toward a place of new awareness, and the reality that some issues force us to take a side and eventually to make a commitment.

I enjoyed reading the book for several reasons. My first Major in college was History and I have repeatedly told John that his work is an historical fiction, a good one. The details are well researched and the language is both rich and diverse. His own delight in History comes across well and lends credence to his story. And the fact that it is one of my digital paintings which John chose to grace the cover of his book was frosting on the cake.

If you are interested in taking a further look at John’s book, you can find details here, just click on the image:

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Stone Birds of Hope

Still working on my manuscript in bits and pieces, but also involved in other things. My niece has been posting photographs of her garden and backyard. I, of course, have to play with all of those colors. Today, I found a poem in the images I created. It spoke to me of my own meandering process.


Stone Birds of Hope

Have been swimming through a sea
of words. Some of them make sense
while others sound like croaking
frogs hidden in a swamp of lily pads.
No more than echo booms floating
through lazy summer afternoon,
joined by buzz and hum of unknown
busy insect seeking whatever
insects seek. Others are mere darting
shadows of small birds caught in side
glance as they search out insects
to bring home to ever-growing
fledgling offspring.

Had hope and simple single idea
when I started but path keeps parting
into new and different tangents, fast
becoming numerous fragments
of meandering memory and forgotten
feelings. It takes time to learn language
of darting shadows,
croaking booms,
and buzzing hums,
while hope becomes stone birds
taking majestic flight while still
seeking home.

Amy3 stone birds

Elizabeth Crawford  7/22/14

Notes: If you click on the second image (kaleidoscope image I made from the first photo) you might see the flight of the stone birds I found. They could also be prehistoric moths come to make holes in my future plans, or gigantic butterflies that speak of transforming stone dreams into breathing reality.

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Lost And Found

Believe it or not, I’m still sorting through all that old poetry. Lots of memories, and yes, a few pieces I have no memory of ever writing. Recognize the handwriting, but nothing else. Many of the poems take me back and I can actually remember where I was sitting while composing them, know what I was feeling, and even why I chose the words I used. Others are a complete mystery as to what I was trying to express and now, I may never know. But most of them hold bits of my story that I felt were noteworthy at the time.

Some of you have heard the story of my first difficult creative writing poetry instructor. He held me up for a lot of hassling inside his classroom. But, I was determined to learn how to do this thing, despite his need for a scapegoat. And I did learn a great deal. How to tighten a poem until it ‘sprang’ from the page. Metaphor, especially extended metaphor, something I was apparently good at without a lot of trouble. The biggest lesson, however, came long after I left his classroom with the intention of never writing poetry again. I learned what I would never do to another human being when I became the teacher. Perhaps the most important lesson of all.

However, during that semester, I could most often be found with a pen in hand, bent over a notebook, writing poetry. And that was not just on campus, I carried my notebook with me at all times. As I have been rifling through all of those notebooks and old folders, I have come across most of those first attempts. But, there is a big hole in that pile of papers.

You see, during that same semester (about half way through), my father died from pancreatic cancer. He had always been my strongest emotional support. My marriage was shaky at best, I had filed for a separation, but had put that on hold when my husband went into rehab and joined AA. I figured that I needed to honor the over sixteen years already invested and at least give it a second chance.

Writing had become my means of getting through all of it. When my mother called to say that Dad had lost most of his motor nerve control, and she needed help, I immediately did several things. I called my best friend who promptly offered me a car to drive while I was gone (her hubby had a huge automotive service). Then I called all of my current teachers at school and told them why I would be gone and didn’t know for how long of a period. Then packed, including my notebooks and pens, and drove the 150 miles to help out.

I was elected to be my father’s main nurse, and had to learn how to give him insulin shots. A few years before, I had taken a course in Hospice training because I understood that this day would come and I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be. It goes without saying that nothing prepares you for that reality. My father passed away a few days later and I stayed to help through the funeral and with some of the legalities that Mom had to face. Two weeks later, I went back to school. My first class was creative writing poetry with my nemesis and I was carrying a notebook with about a dozen new poems in it.

We were to have a guest poet (another English professor) that morning. But, before introducing his guest, my instructor stood up and gave us a personal lecture about what happens when you lose someone close to you. He and all my fellow students knew exactly where I had been. He explained in great detail, that because we had the inner drive to write, such an experience would fuel our pens. Then he became adamant, telling us that because grief was an emotional thing, what we would write during that time would be nothing but sentimental tripe that no one would or should be expected to read. And God forbid that any of us would even consider turning in any such garbage for assignments in his classroom. He went on and on, and I shrank into my desk with every word, knowing this was all directed at me personally.

I stayed in my seat for only one, make that two reasons. I refused to let him know he had definitely scored a bull’s eye, and the young man (a particular friend) who sat in the desk in front of me. About half way through this uncalled for harangue, my young friend turned completely around, grabbed my clenched fists in both of his hands and clearly said, “Some people have a need to be assholes, know that this too shall pass.”

At the end of the semester, I decided on, and promised myself two things. I would never write poetry again, nor would I ever enter a small space with that man even if my life depended on it. The first promise was kept for a year, until I messed up a mid-term in one of my History classes (my major at the time), and my Professor insisted that I could make it up by writing a twenty page paper on a subject of my choice, but it had to include a poem about that subject. When told that I no longer wrote poetry, he simply said, “If you want a decent grade you will.” I did. And finally realized my life wasn’t life without poetry.

The second promise was tested about two years later when I finally decided that I had already accumulated over half the credits for a second major in English with a writing concentration. Problem being that the head of the English Department was none other than my nemesis, who was still harassing me from afar by physically describing me and telling his students that I was the poorest example of a student he had ever come across, because I couldn’t tolerate the slightest whiff of good healthy criticism. Several of them came and asked me if it was indeed my person he was talking about. Seeking guidance from an individual in authority, I was told that my only recourse was to submit a formal complaint. My entire academic career was riding in the balance. I said I needed time to think about it.

I got less than 24 hours. Somehow the whole thing was leaked out and my nemesis was visiting all of his colleagues on campus, telling them about an impudent middle-aged student who was talked into forging a harassment complaint against him. Within 45 minutes I received visits from no less than three individuals all carrying the same message. This was all clearly a mistake and all I had to do was go to his office and we’d talk it out civilly. The first visitor was the Assistant Dean of the campus, a woman I had worked for as a Teacher’s Assistant my first year in college. The second was the Dean of the History Department and the third was my current poetry writing instructor. I guess you could say the Big Guns.

I carefully explained to each of the three about the promise I had made to myself and my intention to keep it. Then gave them a few brief examples of what the man had done to me while in his classroom, especially the already mentioned episode after my father’s death. When asked if I was going to go through with the harassment complaint, I honestly said that I was still considering that whole possibility. I was and continued to do so without discussing it with anyone. I came to a conclusion which I didn’t speak about with anyone. I was now where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do with a Mentor I will always respect and admire. I declared English as my second Major and went on with my life knowing that to lodge the complaint would simply turn me into some awful form of my nemesis and keep me embroiled in the good-old boy system of the college hierarchy for who knew how long. I didn’t have or want to take the time for all of that.

There were at least two consequences from that episode. I couldn’t stand to look at the poems I had written about my father’s dying process, hid them away in a folder buried deep in the filing cabinet. At the end of that semester I was publicly awarded the highest honor awards given by the History and English Departments. I didn’t feel great about either of those things but life goes on and I was learning.

About fifteen years later, in a close knit writing group created while I was teaching, the group itself decided to have a bonfire and burn whatever writing we couldn’t find peace with, that simply embarrassed us, or could not find a permanent home after years of searching. While looking through my files, I found the folder with those death and grieving poems in it. I still couldn’t touch or read them without a very dark cloud surrounding me, so I tossed them into the bonfire and slowly walked away.

Which brings us to this current moment. As I have been sorting through my files, I have been aware that I didn’t have those pieces about my father’s death and what I absorbed at that time. That made me sad as I thought I might have used one or two of them in this current manuscript I am creating. At least in some revised or reworked format. But, yesterday, I found complete drafts of three of them mixed in with other pieces from different times and very different circumstances. There is a God and I do believe. I cried when I read a letter I sent to my father several months before his death. It included a poem I had written directly to him based in a song that made me think of him the first time I heard it and every time I heard or sang it afterward. My intention is to post it to Soul’s Music when I finish here.

I am still working on the manuscript but it may take a whole lot longer than I first thought. I’ve written a lot of poetry in over thirty years, but this sorting is worth every minute of the time I use up. And I thank God for that woman who was and is a poet, but who also became a pack rat in the process.

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