All posts for the day January 6th, 2013

Cirque du Rochester Challenge…Me? I Accept!

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

What a way to begin the new year and to start coming out of that self-imposed cave.  From “underground” to Aerial Silks!  Aerial Arts of Rochester has issued a challenge for eight people from all who applied… and I am one of the lucky eight!  And I am also scared to death!!

I have never, in any way, been considered an athlete.  I never felt strong enough, coordinated enough, or confident enough to play sports other than couples’ soccer (it was more about the wings and beer afterward than it was about playing… I mean, how seriously can you take a team that calls itself the Bakers’ Dozen, and all the players have cute names like Peanut Stick, Sticky Buns, or Cheesecake?  psst…I was Cheesecake and my husband was Sticky Buns!).   I ran myself back and forth and basically did whatever I could to avoid the Bruce-Smith-serious guy that would charge my way whenever the ball happened to find its way into my part of the court.  Believe me, I wasn’t going to argue with him if he wanted it!  That’s the extend of my athletic ability so far!

I am ready to change that.  Yup, at 50 years old, I am going to train in Aerial Silks!  For one thing, Bruce Smith won’t be chasing me down!  It’s just going to be me and Mr. Gravity.  Ummm…yeah.  That’s the scary part.  I have a lot of mass for Mr. Gravity to pull on!

During the next twelve weeks, I will be taking FIVE one to one-and-a-half hour fitness classes a week, as well as meeting with a nutritionist.  By the end of March, I hope to have a lot less mass and a lot more strength.  I have never been able to do a pull-up in my life, yet I will have to build the strength to pull myself off the floor onto silk drapings.   You can click on the picture to link to the Aerial Arts of Rochester.


My motivator?  My daughter, Illy Welden.  I have seen her blossom in the past two years since she began Aerial Arts training.  Her strength, her physique, and her confidence have soared!  When the opportunity to apply for the Challenge came up, I realized that I wanted what Illy has for myself.  Maybe I won’t be the graceful aerialist that she now is, but I can get my behind off the couch and into the air!  I can become stronger and more fit as I pass through these “Golden Years” and hopefully with a lot more grace.   Illy will also be my teacher for one of the five classes each week…talk about role reversal!  But she will keep me motivated when sore muscles and bruises come.  She will keep me going when I first fail at hanging upside down (and I am sure that I will have other failings…but I will work through them!).

This is Illy’s first Aerial Performance after studying for less than a year.  While I’m not sure that I will ever be able to be as good as she is, I certainly aim to try to do my best, and I hope that one day I will be able to post from my own performance!

Altared Perceptions: January 2013- “Heroism”

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Yes!  Am am now caught up!

When I saw that January’s theme was Heroism, I was excited to volunteer to design this month’s decor.  With my passion for Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, what could be better for me to get my creative juices flowing and ease myself back into the world once more?

The design is based on an earlier post I’d written (“Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road”).

full display

I wanted very much to keep the design simple and abstract.   The three boxes represent the three characters that Dorothy met on the Yellow Brick Road in Oz: the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion.  I also wanted to tie January’s Hero theme in with December’s theme of Blessings.  Each box represents a Blessing that the characters needed to find within themselves, and each box is “wrapped” like a gift because blessings are gifts!  The overall idea is that there are those blessed with compassion for others (represented by the Tin Man) and those who are blessed with brilliant ideas (represented by the Scarecrow); however, those who are blessed with the courage to act upon the other two (represented by the Lion) are true heroes.


The Scarecrow claims that he doesn’t have a brain, but the Wizard points out that he had one all along.  Even though he exhibits cleverness in outwitting the apple trees, the Scarecrow just didn’t recognize his own intelligence without some outward symbol to “prove” its existence- a diploma.   When Dorothy took off with Toto to get away from Miss Gulch, she really wasn’t using her brain.  She was simply reacting without thinking.  She didn’t think about the impact her running away would have on those who loved and cared for her, particularly Aunt Em.

Tin Man

The Tin Woodsman claims that he can’t feel anything because he doesn’t have a heart.   The tin smith who built him forgot to put one in, but he is the most sentimental of the three companions.  Like the Scarecrow, he needs some outward symbol to prove that he has just as much love and caring as anyone who has the physical, blood-pumping organ that he desires- something tangible that he can look at as a reminder.  And so he is given a heart-shaped testimonial with a built in clock that ticks.   Dorothy’s running away from home and hurting those who love her can be seen as almost heartless.  She is more concerned with and seems to care more for herself and her dog than her family.

CourageAnd then we come to the Cowardly Lion.  He claims to not have any courage, but throughout their journey, he exhibits great amounts of bravery when the need arises.  All he needs is a medal from the Wizard as an outward sign of his courage.  As this relates to Dorothy, it takes more courage to face our problems than it does to run away from them.

Brains, heart, courage— thought, feeling, bravery– that’s what I need to integrate on my own path.

When the Wizard leaves Oz, he puts the three in charge of the land in his absence.  Their combined talents — the wisdom to know the right thing to do for the people, the compassion to think about the needs of the people, and the courage to actually do what is best for the people– might create a land of peace and harmony.  Of the three, though, I see courage as the one of the three that would keep things in proper balance.  It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right, another thing to FEEL what’s right, and an entirely different thing to actually DO what is right.   Of the three, I think that the Lion is the key to that balance.  For harmony, all are required.  To be brave but not know what to do or not care about others would be futile.  To know what to do but not care about others or not have the courage to carry out what’s right is also futile, as is wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve but not knowing the best course of action or having the guts to do anything about those one cares about.  And so with the “healing” of her friends, Dorothy is also “healed”.  She learns about looking for her heart’s content beyond her own back yard, but only after she saw from her friends what it meant to use one’s brain, heart and courage.  Only then could she return home.

I want to be “home”– balanced.   full displayThat’s the reason for the inverted pyramid with courage at the base.  Without the courage to act upon our compassion or our ideas, what good are those blessings?

The yellow ribbon represents the Yellow Brick Road, or the road we all journey on throughout life.  It is not smooth, but filled with hills and valleys and twists and turns.  However, having the courage to continue on our path is heroic in itself.  Heroism isn’t just for Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman…it’s those people who face challenges day in and day out with the courage to keep going.

So… it’s that balance that I need to work on within myself as I move along my path.  Hmmm… interesting that Oz was also surrounded by a great desert, and I seem to be emerging from one.  Perhaps, like the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion, I need reminders of my blessings and gifts.  I shouldn’t NEED reminders, but I guess they serve as affirmations in times of feeling lost or alone.   Like the Scarecrow’s diploma, my degrees in my office remind me of how I am able to use my brain.  Like the Tin Woodsman’s testimonial, pictures of my children are a daily testimony of my love for them, and gifts they have given me are reminders that they love me in return.  However, what I do not seem to have on display are any signs of my courage.   I do know that I HAVE courage– I’ve made several trips through Hell and have managed to survive– but what I don’t see on a daily basis is any outward symbol on display.   The Lion continued to wear his medal so that he wouldn’t forget– where’s my “medal”?

Maybe that’s why I still struggle with inner fears.  Maybe, like the Lion before he “found” his courage, I have a tendency to forget those times when I have been brave.   Its purpose would not be to sit and gaze at it all day.  I don’t stare at my degrees, and I don’t constantly sit and stare at the pictures of my children– but I do like having them there to notice from time to time.

It’s usually when I am feeling pretty stupid about something that I happen to go into my office and I’ll notice the diplomas.  Then I usually remind myself that I can use my brain, and pretty soon I’m feeling a bit more confident about thinking things out.   When I get out of the “God, I feel so stupid” mind-frame, an answer to the problem usually seems to present itself.

It’s when I am feeling sad and lonely– particularly since the final break-up of a long term relationship– that I do pick up the pictures and think about each child in turn, or I see something that one of them made for me or gave me as a gift, and then I remember that I always have them, no matter what.  Their love, and the love of supportive friends, will serve to remind me that I am never alone.  Remembering that I am loved will help to keep me from flitting about trying to find love in all the wrong places.  If I am ever meant to be with a partner, then it will happen– but not because I used loneliness as an excuse to go on the prowl.    I am open to the possibility of a partner appearing in my life one day, and that is enough.

I think that if maybe I came up with some kind of outward symbol of my personal courage, the inner struggle with my fears will be better dissuaded.   If, on days when I am feeling most fearful or riddled with conflict, I had something that my eye could happen to fall upon– like the diplomas and the pictures– it would help me in the same way.  So that is what I am going to concentrate on… creating a visible reminder.

Of the three Oz characters, the only “mortal” one was the Lion.  While the Scarecrow was physically torn apart by the winged monkeys, he didn’t die.  The Tin Woodsman stood for many years rusting away holding his ax mid-air, but he was still alive.  Only the Lion can grow old, get sick, and eventually die.  And if courage dies, the other two won’t be as strong because the balance will be broken.  However, the Lion is also the only one who has the power to reproduce and pass his legacy on to the next generation.  In that way, courage might never die, and balance might be able to be maintained.

I do find it also interesting that, of the three characters in the film, only the Lion has a song of his own.  While all three sing a version of “If I Only Had a _________”, the Lion is the only one to have a solo number when he sings “If I Were King”.

That’s what I need to do for myself.  Not only will it be helpful to have some kind of symbol as a reminder on days when I feel weak, but I have to keep courage alive.  I have to pass it on somehow.

And so I re-post this.  I need to remind myself to continue the hard work to reclaim my inner courage, and I write to try to pass the idea of courage onward.   And perhaps re-reading this from time to time will be all the reminder I need to face my fears and make peace with them.

Altared Perceptions: December 2012- “Blessings”

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

rock musicalI have to admit that when I first saw the drawings for December’s concept, all that ran through my mind was the jingle for “Mystery Date”.  Remember that old game?  “Open the door for your Mystery Date…”

As I thought about Blessings, though, I am reminded of so many doors that are available to me in this world.  Like the old Advent calendar I used to have with my children every holiday season, these doors were opened each week of the advent season with blessings behind each one.  All we have to do is open the door to let them in!

Doors that I would like to open in 2013: first, my heart.  I want to find the courage to open up to people and let them into my life.  I have been avoiding that for awhile as I have been working to try to get myself together.  I think I am ready to open that door now.  Maybe I won’t FLING it open, but just opening it bit by bit will be a start.   It has been a year and a half since I ended my relationship, and I am ready to allow a new one in if a knock comes at that door.  That is a blessing that I will welcome.

I also want to open my eyes more and take in more of the beauty around me.  Shutting myself away from the world for six months also closed off the beauty that I could have appreciated better.  I resolve to bring my camera back out into the light and go look at the world around me.   That is a blessing that I will welcome.

Opening my ears and listening closer to others is something else I will be doing.  As I learned in the month of humility, it’s not all about me.  I do need to be a better listener, and that will bring blessings as well.

My fourth door is the mind.  Expanding my knowledge and experience will broaden my mind, bringing me blessings that I have yet to even fathom.  There’s a lot for me to learn, and with each passing day, I give up that opportunity if I don’t open the door.  This, too, is a blessing I welcome.

Another way to look at this decor of doors is in a quote from Joseph Campbell: “When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”  I have always loved those words, and as I looked at these doors this year, I am reminded of all the blessings that have entered into my life, and all those yet to come I am willing to allow in!

Altared Perceptions: November 2012- “Humility”

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Another very difficult topic to grapple with…but it does flow logically out of “Honesty.”  November 1

These beautiful cloud paintings were created by Michael Pigott.  While looking at them, it makes me think of the immensity of the Universe and what a tiny blip I am in the midst of it.

For so long, my over-involvement with a huge number of activities fed my ego.  That was a hard thing to honestly admit, but it seemed that the more I did, the more I was looking for recognition.  That’s a poor excuse for being busy, busy, busy.

Of course, in the midst of trying to do it all, I didn’t see it that way; however, as I think about humility and really realize the blip on the map that I am, it does put things into a healthier perspective.

november 7

There’s something to be said about the unity of a bunch of “blips”, though… like a single grain of sand.  All alone, the grain of sand is practically nothing, barely noticeable unless one takes a really, really hard look.  However, if several million grains of sand come together, bound with a common purpose, they can form the most beautiful sand castle.  Millions of raindrops falling together can bring growth and nourishment to others.

The majesty of these clouds fills me with awe.  The paintings seem so real that I could almost reach out and touch them, yet stretching my hands to the very sky itself reminds me again of how tiny I am in the midst of this Universe.   But as tiny as I am, I still am a PART of it. Without the trillions of tiny particles, the whole would never be.  And I am content with that.

November 2






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