EMBRACE YOUR RAW, STRANGE MAGIC
The way we’re taught to live has got to change, says author Casey Gerald. Too often, we hide parts of ourselves in order to fit in, win praise, be accepted. But at what cost? In this inspiring talk, Gerald shares the personal sacrifices he made to attain success in the upper echelons of American society — and shows why it’s time for us to have the courage to live in the raw, strange magic of ourselves.
How the Image of the Heart Became the Symbol of Love
We see the familiar symbol everywhere — in text messages, signs, cakes, clothing, and more. But we also know the real heart looks nothing like it. Historian Marilyn Yalom tells us how the anatomical organ became the symbol that we all know today.
Several years ago, I was meeting with a client I hadn’t seen in a few years. We started with the usual Hi. How are You? I’m Fine. How are You? small talk protocol, but then she saw a reliquary hanging on the wall in my office.
The reliquary — traditionally a container for holy objects — was a mixed-media collage I had created. Within the shadowbox frame was a painting of an angel, decorated panels, pieces of a poem, and symbols: an alpha and omega, a feather, a heart. An artist herself, my client asked about the piece, and I told her the story of lost love and deep sadness that had inspired it.
When I was done, she took my hand and thanked me. Then she told me her story — the disappointment that had shaken everything she thought she knew, her attempts to heal, and how the process changed her.
So there we were, two almost-strangers, pushing through the ordinary to the extra-ordinary moments in our lives. There was no protocol for the rest of our meeting that day, instead we talked about our common experiences, the different paths, the shared emotions.
“If we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive,” writes Margaret J. Wheatley in her book Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. “When we’re brave enough to risk a conversation, we have the chance to rediscover what it means to be human.”
Ultimately, isn’t that our charge as artists? As writers? To communicate the human experience — to bravely tell our own stories in an effort to share, to teach, to connect with others.
Make no mistake — it takes courage. It takes courage to be honest, to talk about love and loss, about success and disappointment. You have to be brave to talk about your passions and fears — both out loud and in your creative work. Writing, creating art, is not for the faint of heart. No. Writing, creating any kind of art that tells our story, takes big, brave hearts. It is from that place, from that wide open courageous place, that we create what is indeed, holy.
(Image: Divine Inspiration, mixed-media collage, by Jen Payne. Quotes from Wheatley, Margaret J., Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2012.)
Branford entrepreneurs Gina Macdonald and Jen Payne speak on their individual passions for their work, and how their creative interests in writing, art and mindfulness led to a collaborative effort on Gina’s new book Mind Your Own Body: A Body Image Handbook.
Wednesday, February 6
7:00 p.m. at Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library
146 Thimble Island Road, Stony Creek, CT
Copies of the Mind Your Own Body will be available for purchase and signing after the presentation.
Gina Macdonald MA,LPC,CEDS has more than 25 years of experience working with the eating disorder population addressing body image issues. A Certified International Eating Disorder Specialist/Supervisor and Licensed Professional Counselor with an Expressive Art Therapy Graduate Degree, she regularly lectures on college and university campuses to both staff and students.
Jen Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993. She is the author of two books, Look Up! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness and Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, published by her publishing company Three Chairs Publishing.
HOW TO BE A GOOD CREATURE
A Memoir in 13 Animals
Written by Sy Montgomery
Illustrated by Rebecca Green
Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy’s life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.
This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals—Sy’s friends—and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.
One of my favorite movies as a child was Dr. Doolittle. (The Rex Harrison classic, thank you.) Well, flash forward a few decades and meet naturalist Sy Montgomery and her menagerie of friends—the dog, the pig, the octopus, the spider. And more. From the stunning cover design to the sweet interior illustrations and through each charming story, you’ll get a new look at this world from the perspective of Montgomery and her chance encounters with the animals who have changed her life…and might just change yours. — Jen Payne