February 13, 2018 § 2 Comments
“Be of love a little more careful than of anything.”
~ E. E. Cummings
Ah, Cupid. Fickle, passionate, God of Love whose darting arrows don’t always hit the target … we celebrate you nonetheless, along with the eternal stuff of poetry and song, and hearts that beat a little faster.
Some celebrate you with devotion to the whispering of sweet nothings and a worship of chocolate and roses. For some it’s more bitter-pill than joyful-tonic. Others may simply prefer to spend the day with their cats. (I get that.)
I can count a few especially thoughtful, romantic Valentine Days. But as the story goes, those went all wrong in the end (beware the man who writes you poetry, a friend once told me…), so I turn instead to unscathed memories of shared Valentines from grammar school, or the hand-made kind we gave to our parents, with big red construction paper hearts and white lace around the edges, filled with unabashed adoration. And those we give our own children marked with a thousand x’s and o’s.
And yet, even considering a sour dose of romantic cynicism, I am a true believer in love. I don’t mean the love-you-think-is-love that hurts. I mean the fact that love heals, love lifts, love binds, love seeds and nourishes and shines a light; love enhances, love honors. Every task we do, every word we utter, every hand we shake, is better if there’s love in it. Love is the purpose. Love is the cause. Love is the root of all good that ever was or will be.
So let sweethearts swoon. Let the day be thick with roses and chocolates for all who’ve ever felt the exultation – or the sting – from Cupids’ arrows, all who’ve felt their heart swell, their color blush, their energy soar and their selfishness cease in the face of unbridled love.
And with or without a “Valentine”, maybe we can share a little extra heart today. For self, for others, for your pets, for your garden, for your books, for your bicycle, for your favorite chair. Even for the guy trying to make a left turn on a busy street. Raise up the heart quotient all around.
Celebrate love. Read some literary candy (a selection included below for you and your cat to enjoy). Give someone a cupcake. And smile, because – despite or by means of Cupid – love still exists in this mad world.
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX), Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
18th Sonnet, William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43), Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Love’s Philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
January 28, 2018 § 2 Comments
Thirty-three years. Practically vintage. Possibly even fossil material. (yikes – let’s stick with “it’s a good long time”.) But maybe thirty-three years in business is worth something. A pat on the back. An acknowledgment. A bit of reflection. So here goes.
January, 1985. Think Madonna, Whitney, Aretha, Sting. Think “Back to The Future”, “The Breakfast Club”, “The Color Purple” and “Out of Africa”. Think Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat. Think dance clubs. Think big hair and huge earrings and shoulder pads, leggings and high-tops and high-waisted pants.
And a young woman at a drawing table dreaming big dreams. Conjuring. Plotting.
So it was that Saxton Illustration & Design began in a small apartment in Chatham, NJ with a spark of an idea, a sweep of unexpected boldness, a love for freedom and a sack full of creativity (and some clients in her pocket; she wasn’t entirely reckless). It’s traveled far since then.
Countless designs for boatloads of clientele, hundreds of drawings and hundreds of pencils, pens and tubes of paint, miles of paper, an intimacy with tight deadlines and working round the clock, branding and more branding, words and more words, an endless array of pencil points, several Macs and four books later – it’s been quite a ride, full of plot twists, feasts and famines, joys and frustrations; all of it.
There was also the discovery of my love for tea. There was Center Street. Brainstorms with Kevin. Collaborations with Glenn. Magic with Leona. Lunches with Milton. Angie’s with everybody. The Midtown Direct. A brief stint with the mob. Art shows. Paper samples. There was Kenya, Egypt, Scotland, England, Germany, Venice. Jose and Yoko. Mary and Pete. Barnes and Noble. Sabbatical in Sedona. Motherhood. Lasting Friendships. A richer relationship with the Universe.
And while it’s evolved from t-squares and triangles and rubber cement to my first little Mac (then another and another…), from printing presses to screens, fax machines to email, brochures to websites, floppy disks to clouds, postcards to blog posts to facebook and instagram … my rules are the same: : 1.) Listen well. 2.) Stay current. 3.) Be reliable. 4.) Always do your best.
So there you have it. Except for one more thing. Having taken a few more leaps since 1985, I’ve learned that creativity never goes out of style, nor does it stand still – I’ve learned that it’s a restless and demanding master, and I its humble servant.
January 2018. Think Hip-Hop. Think Netflix. Think Street Art and Online Galleries. Think leggings and high-tops (yes, they’re back – just be thankful the shoulder pads aren’t.)
And the girl at the drawing table? Older, but still dreaming, conjuring and plotting. 😉
PS: You can see a bunch of my work at saxtonstudio.com, where there are also links to my books, Facebook pages, Instagram, etc.
August 6, 2017 § 10 Comments
“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.”*
Not the jump-out-of-an-airplane kind of adventure. Not diving with sharks, and most definitely not (ever) climbing anything resembling Mt. Everest.
No, this is an adventure of heeding the voice that shouts “go that way!” when staring at one of life’s crossroads.
Sometimes we listen to that inner voice. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it takes a while for the message to get through.
Well, I’ve been listening. For quite a long time now. And despite its ever-growing volume, I, naturally (as any rational person might), had plenty of perfectly tidy reasons for resisting what I’ll call the calling of my soul. Things like: It’s not practical, not sensible, it might be lonely or I might fail. And those things may be true. But no degree of stewing or planning, and certainly no length of talking about it, lessened the feeling that I was being led somewhere else, and that a leap of faith was required. Reasonable or not, resistance was futile. It was time to answer the call. To say “yes”. Period.
And with that realization – that acceptance – my anxiety and indecision fell away. Poof! The “where” became clear; I would go back to the southwest. It’ll be my Sedona: Part II. Confirmations appeared. Synchronicities. Opportunities. Details began to align. Amazing.
So. I’ll soon be trading tree-lined suburban streets for red rocks and cactus. Shingles for adobe. Manhattan’s high-rises for big wide skies. With my sensible list out-maneuvered by a relentless yearning for greater creative expression, I’m full-tilt trusting my gut and hoping the universe has my back.
Of course, yes, there’s a stack of bittersweet that comes with it. I’ll miss being close to the sea. I’ll miss my Japanese maple and tending my sweet English garden out front. The swings hanging from a big old oak tree. Copious amounts of tea and conversation shared with friends. Hot fudge ever present on the stove. (Wait. Actually, that probably won’t change.) Walls that expanded and rooms that comforted. This is the home where I raised my daughter, my heart filled to overflowing. Twenty of the more than thirty years of my graphic design business happened while here. Books were born into the world. Paintings were made. Heartaches healed. Joys. Tears. Laughter. Magic. If a house could love, this one did. Some of my best years lived here, so there’s been some “good-bye” that’s had to happen.
But I’m reminded that nothing is permanent. I’m reminded that a spirit denied becomes cranky and impatient. I’m reminded that we must, indeed, be true to ourselves.
And as I leap across Joseph Campbell’s proverbial chasm – it could be my imagination, but – it almost seems the universe is dancing. A new chapter begins; adventures await.
* Advice given to a young Native American, noted in Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth”.
May 23, 2017 § 2 Comments
Our hearts break, yet again, having witnessed (yet again) another senseless bombing overseas. My first feeling was renewed horror, followed immediately by the thought “this has to stop”.
For most of humanity, behaving with such unthinkable violence is unfathomable – and yet it continues. We watch with disgust, sadness, rage, fear and grief. We mourn (again and again), and vow to carry on, to “rise above”. It grows tiresome. I’m all about the power of love over fear, kindness over anger and good over evil – but we are fools to think atrocities will go away by wishing. When there is sickness we fight it. There’s a time for all things under heaven.
Yes, we have to do what we can, where we are, to nurture love and understanding. There’s a continual call to evolve and expand our light a hundred fold – but we also have to be aware that darkness laughs at us, taunts, and takes innocent lives and that that is not acceptable. It has to stop.
Heaven help us, if we cannot help ourselves.
For everything there is a season, and
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up
what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a
time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to
refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
March 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
Mother Nature likes to play in March. One day it’s glorious and spring-like, doors and windows flung open to the fresh air; the next it snows.
And what of the daffodils?
Fooled by the weather, some full-grown and giddy, their golden cups reach proudly for the sky. Then winter rains down again, and you feel sorry for them – yet, in the same breath, admiration. They’ve done this drill before. They’ve got looks, delicacy and toughness all wrapped up. We could learn a lesson or two from the daffodil.
Maybe it would be to rest in winter, allowing our roots to replenish. And after the cold weary days have dragged on and on, be the first to send out hope, defiantly and boldly sprouting up in February’s first light.
And maybe then, ignoring suggestions like “it’s too soon, nobody else is growing yet”, or “don’t you know something bad could happen?”, or “ah, such a dreamer” – we stand by our conviction. We encourage others. We grow taller. We bask with confidence.
And when the inevitable happens (but is it inevitable? they say it is, so it must be) – when the inevitable bad thing showers down upon us ~ we cover our heads, huddle together, look inward and brave it out, the strength from our nourished roots holding us tight. Knowing this will pass. Knowing we’ll stand again, straight and tall. Knowing, that bending in the breeze and holding steady, we can bloom just as brightly after a storm.
Lifting hearts to hope and renewal. Resilience and determination. A bright disposition. If we could learn these simple things, perhaps that’s good enough.
January 22, 2017 § 1 Comment
Women are amazing. And millions of us joined together as one yesterday, in a triumphant display of sisterly solidarity, to protest… what exactly? I may ruffle some feathers here, but I’m missing something.
Here’s my just-one-person-in-a-sea-of-people perspective.
I’ve made my own way. I started my graphic design and illustration business when I was 27. I’ve raised my daughter as a single parent. Did being on my own make it harder? Absolutely! As a fairly private person, this is not a card I’ve often laid on the table, nor admitting that there have been times I’ve been on my knees wondering how it’d all work out. But going it alone didn’t stop me, nor did being a woman stop me. I didn’t feel I’d been gypped. It was my path. I went the distance. I’ve worked hard. I might do some things differently but I’d do it again. And maybe all that makes me a strong woman. It also had the side effect of strengthening my belief that we, as women, should support one another.
My daughter has said, “but Mom, not everyone is like you.” And that’s true – not everyone grew up free from the idea that a woman was somehow less than; not everyone grew up believing that she could be many things, that she wasn’t “just” anything. Not a homemaker or a wife or a mother or an astronaut or an artist or a teacher or a star Olympian. She could be and do whatever she wanted. No one said to me, “you can’t do that”.
All of this was a big deal in shaping my beliefs, and I do understand that not everyone had what I see as my good fortune. But it did allow me to see that girls – you – we – are amazing! And along the way of life I’ve met tons of truly wonderful women. Some have husbands and families, some do not, some work, some do not, some are on their own, some have support. And not all – perhaps not even most – had my kind of childhood. But a lot of us have reached the point where we realize we’re a pretty awesome species. We’re smart. We’re savvy. We’re compassionate. We’re creative, We’re nurturing. We’re strong. We’re survivors. We’re thrivers. We’re warriors. We’re angels. We all have different strengths and different weaknesses. We struggle mightily here and succeed wildly there. We are flawed and we are perfectly amazing.
We also appreciate those who paved the way before us. The voting revolution happened, the sexual revolution happened, women “broke the glass ceiling” in corporate America, women own businesses, we have freedom over our bodies. There are women world leaders. Women in the military. If anyone still isn’t getting equal pay for an equal job, demand it, fight for it. Nothing happens overnight, nor are things perfect, but history can attest to the enormous strides that have already put us in a position to do as we please. We’re a far cry from the Patriarchal societies that persecuted wise women and healers, or that relegated women to second class citizens with few rights and no voice. We’ve come a long way.
And so I loved the idea of yesterday’s unity. I’m just not sure what it was meant to achieve. Was this about “women’s rights”, “human rights”, or outrage about the election of someone you can’t stand? Was it about fear? Because the way I see it, we in America, in perhaps the entire first world, have it pretty good. What rights are we lacking? One glimpse at some less-fortunate countries shows us that women there have a much rougher go of things than our well-fed, well-clothed, freedom-to-protest selves could possibly imagine. They are the ones who know fear. They are the ones who need women’s rights issues taken by storm.
I’m looking for some sense here. Maybe, in the end, what the marching achieved was simply this: a wave of sisterhood. And that’s a good thing in and of itself.
I’m all for acknowledging concerns, giving them voice, lending a hand. Joining together for causes we believe in. Supporting one another. Stepping up, reaching out, knowing that the feminine is divine and strong and powerful. Claiming and embracing that goddess within ourselves and radiating our beautiful, fierce, gentle, wise spirit into the world. Continuing to share, teach, grow, and rise. Holding heads high. Believing you can.
But not complaining. Because, while our work is not done, we are already amazing.
December 23, 2016 § 4 Comments
Visions of sugarplums. Partridges in pear trees. Sleighbells. Snowmen. Bright red bows and brown paper packages. Reindeer on rooftops, stockings and candy canes, holly and nutcrackers. Angels singing. Hope. Goodwill. Peace. Love. Santa.
Yes, Santa Claus.
Granted, I’m not sure he wears a jolly red suit and drives eight flying reindeer over all the world on a single night. Nor am I convinced that he comes down chimneys. There are lots of questionable details. But is Santa merry? Is he generous? Kind? Loving? Do his eyes twinkle? Does he light up hearts on Christmas Eve? I say yes. And we sure could do with more light in this world.
Santa Claus – with a whole lot of helpers – shares much more than toys – he shares hope, and goodwill, and peace, and love.
Santa is goodness. Santa teaches the joy of giving. (And receiving, it’s true.) He’s ingenious. He’s magical. Knowing Santa is believing in something unbelievable! Something you can’t see. Something bigger than you. Something bright. Something miraculous. Santa Claus, you see, is a lot like faith.
So, yes, I do believe. And I tell you this – beyond the shopping, the wrapping and cooking and crowds; beyond the fuss, beyond frustrations or the too much or too little, lies magic. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I feel it each and every year, some time during Christmas Eve – a glimmer? a glow? the settling of hoofs on rooftops? – that fills my spirit with an extra sparkle; a brightness. And I think it’s because this holiday season is really about the gift of light, and the gift of joy.
I wish you the gifts of light and joy. I hope you’ll be merry. I hope you’ll be glad. And I hope you eat all the cookies you want. (But do leave some for Santa…!)
As usual, I go a little crazy making holiday designs. Here are a few to get you in the spirit, just in case you’re not already there – some old, some new. Blessings – P
November 7, 2016 § 1 Comment
Is it over yet? Man, this has been a doozy. I’m not sure what I want to say or how I want to say it, but something wants to be said. And I’m sure others have had similar thoughts, perhaps already shared out into the world. But we each have a voice, so I might as well use mine too.
The general gist of what I want to say has to do with coming together in the aftermath of what has been, without question in my lifetime, our dirtiest, most contentious presidential race. It’s been torturous. It’s been strange. It’s been mean-spirited. It’s been like watching a no-holds-barred professional wrestling match where the referees have either opted out or taken sides.
I wasn’t sure we could be more divided than we were 4, or even 8 years ago, but I was wrong. There’s a similar – perhaps worse? – level of animosity towards opposing frontrunners (both of whom also happen to be the most generally unpopular choices ever), and all too often towards those who support those candidates. People, largely on social media, can be vicious in their righteousness, with dialogue that’s condescending and non-productive. There’s little genuine conversation – but there is a lot of judgment. Friendships are damaged, families tense. Like-minds share pedestals with like-minds and pat themselves on the back for their better wisdom and condemnation of those they don’t understand.
I’m glad my parents aren’t here to witness this display and I’m really, really sad that this has been my daughter’s first presidential election experience. I’m appalled and embarrassed and can’t wait for the damn thing to be over.
But of course, every election comes with its good, bad and ugly. (This one just seems to have achieved new levels of ugly.) History repeatedly shows that it’s bound to get heated. Passions run high. This is why our mothers told us to never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table. And I would tend to agree – although it’s a shame, because, intellectually, it makes for fascinating conversation. The trouble is it usually deteriorates to something accusatory and utterly emotional. Perception rules the day alongside a seeming lack of intent to truly consider another point of view or do the extensive homework required to get a bigger, clearer, more detailed picture. And yet, how could we sift through it all even if we tried? Who has that kind of time? And who knows what’s truth or not? In today’s world we’re fed non-stop not only by the tv news, but by a huge and ever-expanding social media machine made of both organized groups and regular people laying claim to this or that, all shouting to have their voices heard – because, of course, they are right and you are wrong. Or maybe worse than wrong. (“How could they possibly…?”) So we hear what we choose to hear, we process, and some of it becomes belief.
Belief is a powerful thing; and it can take many forms. And once it sinks its hooks, it’s hard to change course or even allow the idea of an alternate course.
After tomorrow, though, it will be over. (Do I hear a Hallelujah?) The aftermath will be a country half glad, half angry. And here we have a chance – there is always a choice – to put aside our disagreements and be respectful to one another again. To not judge people who voted with their heart instead of their head or their head instead of their heart, or however wrong or skewed you think they are – and if there are issues one feels strongly about, find a way to work on them. A new head honcho at Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t mean we put our heads in the sand for four years. If something’s important to you, get involved.
We should also keep in mind that a President is a leader, surrounded by a system of checks and balances. They don’t work in a vacuum. They are not a dictator with total power. Nor are they our parents and we their children. In this country, they’re elected to protect and defend our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Remember that.
And remember that we really are all in this together. So let’s shake hands on November 9 and get back to the business of living side by side, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. Love in the heart, eyes open. Because this place we call home may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn great, and worth our best efforts.
October 7, 2016 § 1 Comment
You should never read the ending of a book in the morning (kind of how you should never go to bed mad, or put sugar in herbal tea) – because what if someone comes to your door, and there you are sobbing.
And if you’re not teary, you at least need some time to sit with it a while, linger a little, say good-bye to the characters you’ve met along the way. You need time to return to reality.
Fortunately, no one rang my doorbell when I finished reading A Man Called Ove this morning.
I didn’t expect to have so many emotions while reading this book. I didn’t expect to break out laughing. (Though I adore humor – who doesn’t? – I’m a tough nut to crack when it comes to eliciting an actual “hahahahaha!” from books or movies.) And I didn’t expect to cry. I thought it might be filled with quirky people I didn’t particularly like. Turns out, it was filled with quirky people I somehow did like. I also liked the writer’s often tongue-in-cheek writing style – another happy surprise, and not something everyone can pull off, but something Fredrik Backman did spectacularly well. And in the end, I had to accept the fact that this book touched me deeply. For whatever reason. I loved it. And I think most people will find that they, too, will laugh and cry and feel.
For you book lovers out there who might like to read along virtually, my friends and I gather on the first Friday of each month. Some other Book Club books we’ve read since my last Friday Night Book Club posting (which, I confess, has been quite a while) are – in order of preference, my favorites first: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sender, The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman, Circling the Sun by Paula McClain, The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.
I’m also reading Diana Gabaldon’s entire Outlander Series outside of Book Club, because I’m obsessed with them. Currently on book five, The Fiery Cross. And I have a long list of books on my GoodReads author page if anyone wants to connect over there.
Peace, love, happy reading.