Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hate Is NOT The Answer

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good (wo)men to do nothing."

I know it's terrifying. I feel the horrors of this energy too. The United States is a mess. A complete and utter mess. Still, I keep Hope in my heart. Hope. Because Hope is better than keeping terror. Or hatred. Or anger. I keep Hope in my heart so that it may keep me. We can not allow the ignorance of the few to corrupt the Knowing of the many.


So, while it may be a bit on the short side, today's missive is meant to keep you, ALL of you, from drowning in the chaos of recent events. It may only be "the second hundred days", but we can, and MUST, keep ourselves focused on the GOOD. While it may seem there is more evil than good at the moment, it is only because of media, both broadcast and social. Do not ignore what you feel. Do not deny what you CAN do. But please, please, PLEASE, stay in HOPE.

Act when you can. Write and march and do whatever it is that you feel will contribute to the GOOD. Keep kindness in your daily Life. Reach out to strangers. Open a door. Let that maniac who just cut you off go on his angry way. Don't cuss him out or wish him ill. Simply hold a space for Hope...for him too.

I realize this sounds pretty PHOOOFEEE. I don't care what it sounds like. All I wish is for us to KNOW that there is more Good than Evil. For all of us to be KIND.
And Mindful.
Action without hatred. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

a study in self

I've been drawing for a little over two years. The entire process of discovery is both surprising and cathartic. I never knew I could (draw). Always said "I can't". Which is what brought me to exploring the process to begin with. Simply tired of hearing myself say those words.

Up til now, I've drawn critters and mountains, and more critters, and trees, and flowers, the occasional trailer, some boots, and...more critters. Never, until two days ago, had I drawn the Human face (or form). Too intimidating. Too scary. Too...out of my league. And then...I realized I was doing it AGAIN. I was hiding behind my fear to avoid doing something I thought I'd suck at.

{I am not a fan of sucking at anything. Pesky ego!}

ENOUGH!, I hollered.

So, rather than attempting to draw some random face, I opted to draw my own. At first, my only reasoning was that it's one of the few pictures of me-self that I really like. Also, I thought it might be fun to try to get that nose right. I happen to like my nose. It is a large, strong, Italian nose and it suits my little face (and personality) perfectly. But lemme tell ya: that strong, Italian nose gave me a boatload of trouble. Just couldn't seem to get it right. Over and over, I'd draw and erase. Draw and erase. Walk away. Come back. Try again.

{"Samuel Becket said, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."}

Having spent more than twenty hours on this, I can honestly say I'm pleased. It isn't an exact image of the photo I used. Nor are the "parts" all mirror images of my face. But it was an exercise. An attempt to do something that I was afraid to do. And even though I drew this on sketch paper, which is to say, flat paper, which leaves little room for layering and shading and some other techniques necessary to do such work, I am honestly pleased with the result.

But there's more to it than just how well I copied an image of my face....

In the process, whilst looking at every tiny detail and trying to work out how to create those details (back to technique again), I realized that I actually like my face. I mean, it's not beauty pageant material, nor is it a face that could launch a thousand ships (hahahaaaa!), but it's a good face with strong features and ... character. What I'm trying to say is that in the process of looking at this image of mySELF, I learned some things I might not have had I not tried.

I learned that this whole idea of "self-love" is more than just about how we look. It's got nothing to do with what anyone else thinks about us. Or whether or not we're "beautiful" to the world. Self-love is about appreciating who we are. The core of our selves. It is a slow (and sometimes painful) process, but one that can heal much and change the way we view our lives. Yes, this is an image of my face. But it's not about my face. It's about how I see my SELF.

Big, ginormous, difference.

I finally get why so many artists did self-portraits. Their reasons may have been entirely different. Their motivations may have come from any number of emotional "places". But, in the end, a self-portrait is a baring of one's deepest fears.

Fears that are founded in nonsense.

Another wall...crumbles.

{Original drawing by Camille Olivia Strate. © 2017. All rights reserved.}

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Flew The Boot

My latest:

"Flew The Boot". Graphite on Bristol board. 11" x 14".

©Camille Olivia Strate

{Available for purchase. Contact Camille via StrateTalk (on FaceBook). 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I have learned...

I have learned that people are more alike than not. No matter where they're "from" or what language they speak, most folks are kind. IF you give them the chance.

I have learned that we have more in common with each other than we might think. Most folks want pretty much the same things: to love and be loved, to take care of their families, to have FUN.

I have learned that once we put aside our "labels" and cease with the judgments, harmony is not only easier to achieve, but quite readily ripples out into the world.

I have learned that when you gather 'round and break bread together, the most common sound you will hear is LAUGHTER. {UNLESS it's family. Then...there's no tellin'.}

I have learned that children know all this stuff better than "grown-ups".

I have learned that the only way to live one's life in a meaningful way is to make JOY a priority. Every. Single. Day.

I have learned that curiosity is the true "Fountain of Youth".

Keep your heart open.
Keep your arms open.
Shut the door on judgments.
Eat together more.
Laugh more.
Stay hungry for "new things".

Choose. JOY.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Einstein Was Right

It took me a very long time to understand the Theory of Relativity. No teacher was ever able to explain it to me in a way I could grasp. It wasn't until I read a book about Albert Einstein that I finally got it. Today, on the two year anniversary of my sister's passing, I do believe my understanding has taken on a whole new meaning.

Rather than launch into all the science-y stuff, (I know how short some attention spans are!), I shall, instead, leave you with this:

Time does NOT heal all wounds. In fact, "time", as we know it, truly is an illusion. Because if it weren't, then I wouldn't still feel the profound sense of unimaginable sadness when I think of my Cricket. Nor would it feel like a minute and a half ago that I last saw her. "Time" is the ultimate Jokester. We are Its dupes. I miss my sister still. Two years is a lifetime. Two years is a minute. Time is the Great Deceiver. I'm on to you, Jokester. Oh yes I am.

As I struggle to find my way back 'round to the Joy today, I will offer these. For myself as much as for those of you who come here to be reminded that Joy is a CHOICE. These photos are my reminders. I am transported back, what seems  Light Years, to a different lifetime of my own...and the many moments when the enormous Love of one Cricket LaStrada was there for me to touch. She may not be "far" from me now, but that veil is keeping me from a hug. And lemme tell you, she gave the BEST hugs EVER!

I love you, my Cricket.

{P.S. Just to be clear: "light year" does not denote "time'; it's about distance. And if you want to know more, look it up.}

{1986: my siblings and I, just after our daddy left the Planet}

{I don't recall the year. I DO recall the absolute JOY on her face when she opened this gift. 
I believe my brother gave it to her. That's his cheek there on the right.}

{THIS is my sister. Just look at those eyes!}

Monday, July 17, 2017

just in case there is...

If you happen to believe in a place called "heaven", it is likely you also have a fairly clear picture of what that place looks like. It could be some sunny, flowery field where the waterfalls are chocolate and the flowers smell like your mother's homemade cookies. Or maybe you imagine it to be palatial, where you get to live in the mansion of your dreams and you can eat lobster and caviar to your hearts' content without ever gaining an ounce. Perhaps it's simply an endless beach with crystal clear waters and bottomless margaritas. I've asked hundreds of people what heaven means to them, and not a single one of them repeated anyone else's version.

Such is the mystery of heaven. That is, if there is such a place.

Most of you are aware by now that I am a follower of religious tenet. I don't believe in god as defined by religious cultures, regardless of sect. When people ask me if I believe in god, I always respond with, "first you'll have to define what god means to you". I do this because as varied as peoples' versions of heaven are, so are their definitions of what god is. It used to be a slippery slope, especially back when I was of a mind that I felt the need to defend myself. Major arguments would always ensue. Many "friends" were never to be seen again. Part of that was my doing because I was as vehement about my beliefs as they were about theirs. Nobody would budge. Feelings got hurt. Friendship over.

Many years  have passed since I was that confrontational Being. I no longer feel desire nor need to defend my beliefs, or judge anyone else for theirs. To each his own, I say. If believing in a god that will meet you at some pearly gates to welcome you home is what makes life more bearable for you, I see no reason whatsoever to hold it against you. As long as your beliefs don't infringe on my liberties we won't have a problem. End of story.

There are more reasons than fleas on a stray dog why I believe what I believe. Those reasons are neither relevant to this "conversation" nor anybody's business. I prefer to keep such things to myself or, in very special circumstances, between trusted friends. Mostly because I don't feel the need to talk about it. Also because it's a tired topic and I'd much prefer to talk of art and critters and music and mountains. It makes for a much more joyful Life, and these days that's pretty much all I care about.

Which leads us to the purpose of this missive:

I saw a photograph the other day on a post that was about who you'll meet in heaven. It was a lighthearted piece; it made me smile. Apparently, the woman who penned the piece was on the fence about "heaven". She was trying to figure it out by writing it out. I do it too. Probably a big reason why I write on this here blog. It's about reaching for clarity. Sometimes it works.

Anywhooooo....the moment I saw the photo, without reading a single word, the first thought that popped into my head was: "if there is such a place as heaven, this is what mine will look like." Just the thought of it made me giggle. My mind immediately snatched onto the thought and ran with it. All manner of lovely images flew though my head, making the scene so clear as to transport me to this heaven. That was a week ago. I haven't stopped thinking about it. It still makes me giggle. And I thought it might be a lovely way to begin my week. Just a little seed, tossed out to the winds, to see where it might plant itself.

There is no other purpose for this meandering, other than to toss it out to you, and, maybe, if I did my job well enough, inspire you to share your own thoughts.

Heaven or no?
What's it going to "look" like when you get there?
Who will be there to greet you at the gates?

{Go on. Click that comment button and share your thoughts. Please?!}

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Can Forgiveness (REALLY) Heal?

It's tricky business: FORGIVENESS. And I've no doubt there are likely about a gazillion articles, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. ad nauseaum, on the topic. Probably's tricky business.

It may be "tricky" for a lot of reasons, but in my experience, after you clear away all the Ego and Excuses and ExtraCurricularBullshit, it turns out, it really isn't so tricky after all. Because, in the end, we all find out (eventually) that forgiveness isn't about whomever it is we blame for our pain or sadness or unfortunate circumstances. The act of Forgiveness is an act of Love...for ourSELVES.

Now, if you've ever read any of the nineteen bazillion "self-help" books out there, you've likely already heard this. OR if you happen to be of a certain religious pedigree. OR if you just stumbled upon this little nugget by "accident" matters not at all. What matters is that you reach that moment. That you finally get it. That you feel the excruciating hole in your heart begin to fill up again. And if you haven't yet reached that moment, perhaps I can provide a little hope for you until you do.

Let us back up for a moment (because you know that it's nearly impossible for me to write in any kind of chronological way).

A few years back, a dear and beloved friend of mine sent me a book she thought I might enjoy. The name of that book is "The Shack". It is a novel, written by a clearly "christian" man, who may or may not have had some semblance of a similar experience to the main character in the story. It is the author's rendition of what he believes is the ultimate answer to all the pain and grief and inexplicable agony we must endure until we find our way back to faith. At that moment in my Life, I wanted no part of any such story. I had (and still have) no interest in stories about "god" or "faith" or religious mumbo jumbo. To me, those stories are nothing more than stolen lore that were rewritten by a bunch of power-hungry men who wanted to control the masses. I've always believed that.

I still do.

Problem arose, though, when it occurred to me that my fascination with Mythology was nothing more than a curiosity about what makes Humans so vulnerable to such stories. I mean, just because millions of people "believe" in some god or other doesn't mean that my inquisitive mind should dismiss their versions of any given Mythology. Just because I fancy Pan or Odin or Kokopelli over the "God of Abraham" is not a good reason to visit a story by some man from Canada who may or may not have a gift to write, right? In the end, three years after she sent me the book the first time, she sent it again. This time I was ready to read it.

I will tell you that the book is beautifully crafted. The story is both excruciating and exhilarating. Between the tragedy of the main character's horrific event and the lengths to which he was willing to go to relieve the pain of his life, the other characters in the story came to life on those pages. By the time I finished, I was wanting more. And believe when I say, I was stunned by this realization.

Fast forward several years: the book has now been made into a movie. Among the cast are the brilliant Octavia Spencer (of "The Help" fame, among others) and the darling Tim McGraw (of Country Music fame). The rest of the cast were actors I'd never heard of. But I really wanted to see it just so I could see how it would compare to the book. {Also, one of the characters is portrayed by a delicious looking man named Aviv Alush. YumYumYummy man!}When it was released on DVD, I rented it and watched with a mix of trepidation and eagerness. Remember, I already knew the story and when I say "horrific", I mean horrific.

I actually had to pause the movie several times so I could gather myself and calm my heart rate down to a reasonable pulse. I called my dear friend and said, "I'm not sure I can watch it." She assured me that I'd be happy I did if I could just make it through the first part of the story. So I grabbed a box of kleenex, poured a glass of wine, and returned to the film.

I can't even begin to tell you how much this movie affected me. In all kinds of ways. On all kinds of levels. But the one thing that stuck out, days and weeks after I'd watched it, was a particular scene in which the main character must utter the words "I forgive you". It was one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever witnessed. It tore me up so bad that I had to pause (again!) and call my friend (again!) and get a little more assurance that it was "worth it". That scene sticks with me to this moment. And brings us back 'round to this whole long-winded missive.


Whether of not there is a god, or a place called heaven or Love so powerful it can restore us is of little importance. People get to choose what to believe in. What god to worship. How to live their lives. But no matter the choices we make, it is essential that we all come to understand that Forgiveness is absolutely positively essential if we are to live with any semblance of Joy. In the end, no matter what "happens" when we leave the Planet, it is the space in between that makes or breaks a Life. Forgiveness, the most powerful form of Love I know, is the key to such a Life.

But then ... who am I to say?