"I see things differently..."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Here's to the Best in All of Us this New Year!

In this new year,
I offer my gratitude
to all who play their parts
as creation carries on,
as life moves forward.

All are needed; All work together in this creation
This is a poem, which like the future, has no real ending
to which acknowledgement and appreciation
can be added; anyone can join in.   (Please do!!)

For the life work, I took the separate verses
and randomly rearranged the order
to reflect the diverse nature of our gifts...
the great fortune cookie of life
as we each open to our callings.

Here's to the newly born, the babies,
who keep us aware of our vulnerability,
who bring out our tenderness and nurturing,
who offer hope for the future.

Here's to the children
whose freshness and exuberance
enliven our world
with new eyes, new ears….
new opportunities for 
a future of better choices.

Here's to the teenagers
who challenge our values
who test their new strengths and desires
who explore their interests, their options,
whose urgency is ever upon them.

Here's to the young adults
who try out the possibilities 
of their life paths
seeking work that is meaningful,
marrying and starting families.
Excited and terrified by the 
significance of choices being made.

Here's to the middle aged 
who bear the full weight of their responsibilities
who are immersed in their work
who are raising children 
and shepherding aging parents.
Who are striving to not lose themselves
entirely in the midst of life's demands.

Here's to the elderly
with their reflective wisdom
who are seeing the larger picture
even as their eyes dim,
who are aware of their mortality
and of the many farewells
that fill their days,
the tenderness they feel 
as they experience life's fleeting nature,
and the pull of life beyond this one,
which awaits their arrival.

Here's to the photographers and moviemakers
who help us see our world...
to see both beauty and ugliness,
ourselves at our best and our worst...
that by bringing it to clear view
offer it up for healing.

Here's to the storytellers
who weave words into meaningful tales,
who take life experiences
and capture the lessons and surprises
in a way that gives us greater understanding
of our journeys on this earth.

Here’s to the actors
who perform on the stage
the truths, the dreams, the fantasies of our lives
so that we can feel and act beyond the ordinary and mundane, 
inspiring us to new heights.

Here's to the therapists
Who guide our broken spirits
through probing exploration
and artful re-visioning and re-framing 
to bring us back to our true selves.

Here's to the teachers
Who help bring the collective
knowledge to our upcoming generation
and teach them how to learn, 
how to use their curiosity 
to seek new answers
to the questions and challenges that ever arise.

Here's to the coaches and consultants
Who take their knowledge and experience
and share their expertise
so that others in their work and challenges
may have their paths smoothed so that
they can ride on the shoulders of those 
who have traveled similar paths before them.

Here's to the leaders in government
that strive for justice,
that both lead and respond,
that discern the will of the people
and guide with a goal of fairness to all,
that reward good stewardship
that protect the vulnerable.

Here's to the healers of all kinds
who take our bodily malfunctions and wounds
and strive to bring us back to 
physical health and well-being.

Here's to the warriors
to those who defend and protect,
who selflessly offer their lives
for purposes that they believe in
who put themselves on the line
with their unwavering commitment,
both body and soul.

Here's to the sales people
who bring forth the features
of the things that can help our lives
run more smoothly and safely,
that can bring us beauty and enjoyment.

Here's to the gardeners
who tend their small plots of earth
gently nurturing each individual plant,
protecting them from overcrowding,
bringing flowers to full and glorious bloom,
bringing produce to fruition.

Here's to the poets
who blend words into rhythm and harmony,
forming crystalline distillations
of our experiences and aspirations.

Here's to the workers,
who assemble, who record. who carry out
that which needs to be done,
who attend to the particulars of our lives...
the steady, the meticulous,
the guardians and champions 
of the intricate details...
the unsung heroes.

Here's to the sculptors
wielding chisel and knife,
patiently paring away the non-essential,
who release angels 
from stone and clay.

Here's to the composers
who arrange separate sounds
into rich layers of harmony
and moves them in an divine order 
through the narrow strain of time.

Here’s to the musicians and dancers
who faithfully and creatively 
perform the song, the dance, the symphony.

Here’s to the homemakers
who bring beauty and warmth and order
to the surroundings of the lives that live within
the four walls that shelter us.

Here’s to the athletes
who train and discipline their bodies and minds
to feats of strength and beauty
whose courage and determination
are formed into powerful, cohesive teams
or soaring and splendid, solitary achievements.

Here's to the merchants
who connect those that create with those that receive,
who perform a service
in the smooth functioning of commerce.

Here's to the architects
who design the blueprints of the places where we dwell,
the gardens that surround us,
the neighborhoods, and cities,
bringing a planned order, functionality, and beauty
to our created environments.

Here's to the explorers  
and those who travel to new shores
and new worlds!
Who use their bold sense of adventure
to help us push our boundaries,
to farther reaches.

Here's to the painters
Who takes the materials of earth
and, armed only with a brush,
dances them into images of prismsatic colors and light.

Here's to the parents
who foster and raise up new lives
through their love and their example...
the teaching process of presence,
the discernment of the unique needs
of the young lives as they grow.

Here’s to the journalists
who dig deep to find the facts,
who probe that which is hidden,
who mine untapped sources of knowledge,
and report what they find.
Filled with a desire to bring forth truth and 
generate discourse,
helping us each find our own truths.

Here’s to all who suffer
who arouse in us compassion
who move us to needed action
who reflect our mutual wounds and brokenness 
of body, mind, and spirit,
who awaken in us a desire to heal and be healed.

Here's to the garbage collectors
who release us from our past
who clear away the debris that 
our living has generated, 
the clutter that would lead to stagnation.

Here's to the farmers
who faithfully nurture the seed
planted in the cultivated earth,
through all the gifts and wounds that weather provides,
to a harvest that reaches our tables
that fills our reserves
that prepares for next year's crops.

Here's to the quilters
who take the ragged remains
of our discarded clothing
or the untried new cloth
and stitch them together
to bring warmth to eye and heart and body.

Here’s to carpenters, plumbers, electricians
and builders all kinds
who execute the plans
that bring into physical reality
the structures of our habitation.

Here's to our spiritual leaders
who hold us in awareness
that there is more to life
than our earthly needs and desires
that this is not our home forever, but
that we are travelers on a journey.

Here's to the mosaic artists
Who take the broken pieces of our lives
and set them together in new ways,
more intricate and glorious
than the separate parts.

Here's to the engineers
who understand the 
mechanisms of how this world functions
and builds on these truths
to create complex and workable mechanisms.

Here’s to the scientists and researchers
who explore the facts and create hypotheses
and unflinchingly hold them to the test,
advancing our knowledge and understanding 
of the universe.

Here’s to the cooks
Who prepare the foods
that nourish our bodies and souls,
that bring out the rich fragrances and tastes
which we ingest and use to sustain our lives.

Here’s to the caregivers 
who tend to the needs of others,
who humbly nourish, and salve, and bandage, and clean up,
who honor and value the care receivers,
seeing past their weakness and dependency
to the strength and dignity of their individual lives.

Here’s to the realtors
Who help us find the dwellings
and workplaces
that are best suited for our needs and aspirations.

Here's to the historians
who help us remember 
where we have been,
who do not let us forget 
hard-learned lessons.

Here's to the storytellers
who spin their words
into meaningful tales,
who take life experiences
and capture the lessons and surprises
in a way that gives us greater understanding
of our journeys on this earth.

Here's to the weavers
Who take the separate strands of many colors ,
creating strength and beauty
through using their minds to design
and engaging their full bodies 
in the patient laying of the warp
in the steady shuttling of the woof.

Here’s to life, to our fellow sojourners
on our various paths!

My prayer is that we each
use our gifts toward greater good
that we recognize and honor and value
each other for our unique offerings,
our unique circumstances,
our seasons of life... 
that no one be lost or unloved,
that no life be wasted

I am inclined to believe that 
on the Seventh Day,
though God rested,
it was only a pause
before God continued to create
in and through us.

God has not abandoned us;
God has anointed us!

The best is yet to come. 

Gail Elizabeth Speckmann

Monday, November 18, 2013

Taking down the garden…(or the garden takes me down!)

I came, I saw, I ….well, anyway…. here's a saw about a saw

Let me start by saying that I am amazed at the sequence of "truisms" that somehow guided my thoughts and actions from one misadventure to the next.

Today is our borrowed day of good weather in the middle of November.  So, of course, it occurs to me that I should take the garden down.  (I may not get another lucky break…)  After our recent basement flood and less-than-successful garage sale, our garage is not in good order.  So I search … "Where are my garden tools"?  I can't believe that I'm finding nothing; usually they are squirreled away in various locations.  Did we accidentally sell them off while retaining our legiitimate garage sale items?

I have some work to do!   A hefty row of (ahem) wildflowers with thick stems are more than my scissors are up to handling.  Besides which, I had fallen in a backyard pothole covered with wet leaves a week ago and landed on my dominant hand, so I am not up to all that cutting either.  (I inwardly congratulate myself for foresight in recognizing I could aggravate my healing muscles and tendons).   

Now, being an artist, I know that it is very advantageous to use the right tool for a job.  But also I know a lot about improvising creatively with an unusual choice for a tool.  So I start eyeing our saws.  For some odd reason, we have a variety of saws.  I spot a middle-sized one with a clean orange handle and think "That's the one for me!"  

So I proceed to saw down the "garden", loading up a wheelbarrow with giant weeds.  In the middle of my row, I remember that there are some fine branches hanging down from a nearby tree.  They are at eye-level, and I've been meaning to trim them before someone gets hurt.  I am quite certain these little twiggy branches will just cut off very easily.  But no!  They are tenacious, and I saw away at them.  When the first thin branch finally releases, I go a little too far with the saw and cut into the tip of my thumb.  Nothing deep, so I am tempted to keep working.  Although it is rather messy, and I decide to go in to clean it up.  I wash it off and apply some (seriously expired) antibiotic ointment (does anyone ever go through these tubes in time?) and bandage it.  

I believe that I am ready to go back out and finish the job.  But suddenly I remember that a few years back my cousin almost died from an infection he picked up in the garden.  The bacteria had entered through a a very small cut. And didn't I just talk with a friend who had the "flesh-eating virus" just about take her life a few months ago?   

At this point, I'm not keen on taking any chances, so I give it up. I listen to my inner wisdom which reminds me that sometimes the effort is not worth the cost.  I am only to happy to listen…. Clearly, my instruments of choice are the pen and paintbrush! 

I rest my case….

Monday, March 11, 2013


An artist friend of mine posted on Facebook today this question...
"What is visionary art? I see some artists claim that description, but it has my head scratching. Any ideas?"   The first reply posted came in the form of a wry question... "They have visions of being an artist"?  

Realizing that at times, I have described myself as a "visionary artist", I decided to post the following response:    
"I have used the term "visionary artist" to honor that the work is come from a greater vision beyond my own limited self…a way of celebrating the connection to a larger consciousness. This is what I understand "visionary" to mean, but it is certainly a word that could contain a rich variety of interpretations. I would love to hear how others see it". 
Well, just offer that out to the universe, and one might expect a response from the "larger consciousness"....complete with all the sense of humor that it can provide! 

A few hours later,  I was working in my art studio.  My giant converted dining room table is what I actually paint on.  It stands next to my easel which I keep, tightened by levers, in a flat position.  In a sort of reversal of purposes,  I use this real easal as tabletop... makes sense??   
I needed to reach for a painting tool on another stand, and, as I did so, leaned ever-so-lightly on my easel.  The entire easel collapsed forward into my frantic arms.  It had been loaded with paintings in progress, supplies, notes, slides….it was all there!  Even as I was desperately trying to catch the falling objects and stave off the rest of the cascade, I started seeing pieces that might help me in my current work project.  So I laughed as some answers to my creative searching, were literally tossed into my arms.  Some reckless visionary artist I am….yes, I accept all help….even when it comes in forms that I would not choose. 

So by my definition, being "visionary" appears to be all about staying open.... as life hands me my "material",  I may well find myself creating something entirely different than what I'd originally had in mind.  I may find myself laughing in holy horror at the directions that things have gone.  I may find myself throwing my hands up in the air, waiting for instructions on what I should do with the mess.  Or, most likely of all, I will find myself just proceeding onward, trusting that the direction will be given as I go along. 

Ultimately, I believe that claiming the name of "visionary artist" is about affirming and following through on a commitment to staying open, holding an awareness that all that happens in life is potential material----an offering to transform and bring to wholeness whatever is given to us for that purpose. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Citizens' Arrest

On the next to the last night of my Sights & Sounds of Ireland Tour, I experience the most memorable event.  All the other wonderful moments will be treasured, but this one above all the others, is indelibly etched in my mind.

Four of us were returning to our hotel at dusk along Dublin's Grafton Street (the main shopping area). Though not crowded, there was a comfortable number of people around, and we felt very at home.   I dropped a few steps behind to take a photo of the other three (Rick, Jeff, & Patty) on my iPhone.  As held up my iPhone to click the shot, a hand swooped up to grab the phone from my hand.  

The sinking feeling of loss swept over me, immediately followed by my internal response, "No!"  I spun around and gave chase to the thief and his two friends, shouting "Stop, thief!" repeatedly.  Patty and Jeff heard me and immediately joined in, Patty, in good voice, yelling, "Help!", and Jeff, a retired teacher and coach of "track & field" took off with great speed.  He hadn't run in years, but proved it was still in him!  Rick didn't hear us, and was confused when he turned around and there was no sign of the three of us.  

Other bystanders did join in the chase, including a musician with great running ability.  3+ blocks later,  Patty & I caught up with the others at a pub, where we were told that a short blonde fellow had run into the building.  As she & I turned the outside corner, we inadvertently blocked the escaping thief.  He had been "flushed" out of the bathroom, where he had locked himself in, but had wriggled free of Jeff and the others.  At that moment, he was re-captured along with one of his other companions (who was already being held).  The young thief said that he had tossed away the iPhone.  Two new friends and I re-traced the chase path, looking under cars and in the top of trash receptacles, but to no avail.  But when we returned, we discovered that others had also gone searching and had found the phone, intact, along with my last photo taken----a blur of color as the theft took place.

I called Rick, who then re-joined us.  The police came, took the report, and escorted the two 15-year olds (it turns out...) in their car.  Also found on the thief was a wallet loaded with cash and credit cards (not mine....)  The group surrounding us were thrilled over the citizens' arrest.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have given chase.  It was an instinctive response. I am always very careful with keeping my belongings protected and out of sight and warn others to do so also, but it only takes one slip up.   As it turned out, what could have been a very bad experience turned out to be a very positive one.  The generous support of friends and strangers was heartening.  I confronted the two boys, probably sounding more like a concerned mother than a theft victim, that they were "never to do that sort of thing again!"  Most likely not a terribly effective lecture, but I imagine they will remember that people rise up together to stop wrong-doing.  Maybe the consequences will help turn them in a better direction----one can hope.  

The following night, in front of our entire group, Rick presented Jeff, Patty, and me with our new "Dublin Track & Field" T-shirts.  He probably best summed it up when he said, "No one gets between Gail & her camera"!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Creativity Unleashed!!

Yesterday we held our 2nd annual Art Paint-in for the neighborhood kids.  We converted our kitchen into an art studio and pulled out the art supplies.  I showed them some ideas and then let them go wild!  There was incredible enthusiasm, and one of the little boys exclaimed, “I really am an ARTIST!
I had tried out some of these project ideas with some of my painter and writer friends a couple of days before.  The reactions were remarkably similar from this older group of friends!  It makes me smile to realize that all you need to release creativity is offer an open, encouraging environment, provide materials, demonstrate a few ideas, and then the group excitement and activity becomes contagious.  My role simply becomes sort of a cheerleader, and much of it is simply staying out of the way.  Too much of “me” would not allow enough of each individual to pursue their own experience.  A little interaction, a lot of enthusiastic (and genuine) appreciation is all that is needed.  Oh, and a little encouragement to bring out the quiet one....and a gentle reminder to the over-enthusiastic to share the materials.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Testing....1,2...." Dreams within Dreams

What a strange dream!  And yet it seemed to hold lessons for me.

I was in a classroom, and we had huge exhibits set up in front of us, rather like a museum.  We were taking a test, a final of sorts.  The questions were in essay form, and they did not seem to fit what we had read and been taught.  They were exploring a new level of our knowledge.  It seemed the most important thing was to be able to find links, progressions, in the objects in front of us. The test ultimately seemed to be about what we could observe and how we could connect the parts insightfully and creatively.  I wrote at great length for the first question, not realizing that there were two more to come.  And so of course, I came under time constraints.  That seemed to be the next test:  Could I stay calm and clear-headed in the face of the brevity of time left to me?  There were also questions about the color/tone of the objects (sort of an emotional knowledge or understanding).  I was fairly panicked about the time element---trying to figure out if there was a way that I could somehow extend it.  Then it started to dawn on me that I could simply walk away because this was just a dream.  No consequences to be exacted because I had not completed the test.  My life was elsewhere. 

I awakened with relief, only to start facing the tests of my day ahead.  Could I make sense of the questions posed----they didn’t necessarily relate to my orderly idea of the material I should be tested on.  The important part seemed to be what I could observe and how I could insightfully and creatively respond to every situation.  Could I help connect the disparate parts in some meaningful way?  Also working within time constraints----could I remain calm and clear-headed?  Could I understand the emotions of those around me? Could I even ultimately be okay not answering all the needs and questions posed to me, knowing that my fuller life is actually elsewhere?

Dreams within dreams.....how many layers to this great adventure of life?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Windows on Winter Solstice

It is December 21 today, Winter Solstice, and we are having our exterior windows cleaned at this very moment.  This seems a fitting thing to do, letting as much light in as possible on this darkest of days! 

I like this metaphor on several levels.  First of all, it is wonderful to recognize that we can receive the help that we need in getting the light through.  I am grateful to the man who is making this possible.  I also know that we will need to do the cleaning on the interior side--again, a most fitting metaphor as we are responsible for clearing away the dust and debris that clouds our vision from inside ourselves. 

And the source!   God gives us the light, generously, faithfully.... Sometimes it seems less than we desire, but daily it is replenished, and seasons wax and wane and circle ‘round.  People through history  have recognized the importance of welcoming the turning back towards the light. Winter solstice has been celebrated with gatherings of song and feasting throughout the ages.  How fitting that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time of year----His presence brings light into our darkness and hope for the days to come.

May you all see with brightness and clarity through this season and beyond!