Tag Archives: inspiration



Rarely if ever have I remembered my time before recovery with wistfulness. Today was an exception.

Spotify may be the best investment I’ve made in many moons. A few keystrokes and “Layla” is streaming through my headphones.

Something about the late sun striping the bedspread in the tender angst of Friday afternoon takes me back some decades ago, when I knelt before my cheap little speakers, strained to cracking with Derek and the Dominoes.

The ache of all my hearts, the one in my mind and the one in my soul, the ones past and present, poured out as I howled away some murky loss, too deep for my own understanding. Today I marvel at how I was able to release the deep cold keening from my guts to the accompaniment of Duane Allman’s wobbly blues guitar.

I loved being that drunk. I loved the ability the wine gave me to smash through the restraints of society and discipline and shame and just wallow in my pain. I never felt more alive than when I was intimately in touch with the thing that hurt me, that walked every step with me, that never seemed to abate without the blessedness of alcohol roaring in my ears, drowning out my thoughts.

This is how I know that I am an alcoholic and that I will always be one. This is how people who are like me immediately identify with what I’ve written. Booze gives us a religious experience like no other. It puts us in touch with the God within us in no other way because it provides a visceral awareness of our own blood and the mayhem of our lives.

As a recovering alcoholic, I am mindful of the power of these thoughts. I try to refrain from glamorizing that time when I am in AA meetings, because I well remember sitting on a hard metal chair, teeth chattering from anxiety, wishing I could do it any other way.

But nothing else worked, and until I could touch the God within me through grace and mercy, I would recite the words and say the prayers and hope like hell no one talked about how glorious it was to be potted like a plant by means of some chemical.

I go tonight to be with those like me. Many of us are artists, writers, chefs, creators of lovely things, and we are giving of our loveliness to raise money for people who are also trying to do it our way, finding God within themselves. There will be alcohol there. That’s a big puzzle for some.

The truth is, we find that the harder we try to obliterate the fact of alcohol, the more likely we are to drink. I personally have found that shaking hands with my demons and calling them by name is more likely to keep us in a civilized partnership.

And interestingly, in spite of my nostalgia for the past, I have no desire to drink today. The price is simply too high, and the extremes of emotion as consequence of it are exhausting. Most of that deep cold keening has faded and crumbled, and in its place is the quiet knowledge that I know where I’m going, even when I don’t.


the freedom to be outlandish


outlandishI am up early; the house is quiet. My editors don’t need me yet so I can sip my coffee without a file waiting in my queue. It’s a nice feeling, unpacking a brand new day at my leisure.

I cruised by Julia Cameron’s blog for a bit. She’s bookmarked in my ARTS folder. It’s the place where I park important sites related to creativity. There’s lots in there about knitting but also about spirituality.

My rationale goes something like this: if God is the Great Creator and we are made in His image, then we must be creative as well. Julia says that in all her years of teaching she has never met a totally not-creative person.

Personally, my creativity is not limited to what I do with my hands. When I was an art director I learned how to think creatively, to find interesting solutions to common problems, to turn a thing on its head, to view life through a prism. Even at the time, I knew I was living in a gift, being paid to have the freedom to be outlandish.

We’ve had a break in the weather. The sun sets sooner and comes up later. I quit knitting a tank top and started knitting a shrug. The neighborhood yard sale is this weekend: it’s a good time to take inventory and divest myself of stuff.

I’m still married to the notion that I have to hang onto things because I might have a need for them someday. There’s also the pile of objects I keep because I just like the way they look. But occasionally I play a mental game in which I am packing to move into a new space. It sort of helps me determine just how much crap I really need to take with me.

This is true of my inner residence as well. Stubborn myths and contracts remain attached to my heart even though I have chipped away at them over the years. But others have become mushy and friable and I am relieved to realize that I am no longer bound by the peculiar catechism of my childhood.

Being outlandish can be lonely. But I find it attracts people of like-minded pursuits, those who find joy in service, those who are tired of their rut, those who are pioneers. These are the ones I depend on to lend me an arm when I am limping.

So down the path I go, probably the one less traveled. Surely treasure awaits.

Weasley Blanket


I made a small blanket for Elijah when he was about four, and it came out as a distorted parallelogram.  If any of you use Photoshop, you know exactly what this looks like.

When I frogged it out it became a pile of small balls of worsted weight acrylic yarn, which I never use any more.

Now I hardly ever go to movies.  I think it’s because I watch them so much on my laptop that I get used to having a (mostly) purely cinematic experience.

Watching a movie in any of our local theaters is sort of like seeing them at a bus stop.  I just find it hard to tune out all the cell phones, the conversation in the seats behind me, the feet up on the seat next to me, etc., etc.

So one weekend I decided to catch up with the rest of my family by watching ALL the Harry Potter movies back to back.  By the time it was over I was sure I had been living at Hogwarts for two days.

Ron in his room at Hogwarts

every boy needs a blanket.

Then somehow when I was trolling my usual sites I came across a wonderful project by Jackie Wierzbicki— The Ron Weasley Blanket.

You can read about her journey at http://penguineerspurls.blogspot.com/2011/12/potter-pattern-done.html.

So I found yet another destash project, this time using those orphaned balls of worsted.  I’m averaging about three squares a week and hope to finish this by the time Eli needs a blanket on his bed.

I ran out of stitch pins, so I substituted whatever circular needles were hanging around, just transferring the squares and letting the needle tips dangle on either side.

I also had a hard time keeping up with where I was, since I didn’t QUITE have all the colors I needed in progress (Ravelry, Listia and eBay to the rescue, of course) so I stuck the squares up on the wall with pushpins.

My daughter likes the look of this, so I told her for my next project I will knit her a wall.


Log Cabin Blankie


This was my first big destash project of 2012.  It started on a long road trip from Memphis to Wichita, in the back seat of my daughter’s vehicle, next to Hannah, her puppy.

I think it took on some of her characteristics.  It required much more attention from me than I originally planned to give it.  It caused me to spend more money than I had budgeted.  And it seemed to take over my waking life.

Log Cabin squares

The pattern for the blanket shows it bordered with black, similar to many of the granny square afghans I grew up seeing.

Not a fan.

So I thought I’d border mine with a blue to match my dorm pillow.

and the squares just kind of get lost.

So I’m frogging out the blue and I’m going to make some more squares.  Stay tuned.



I just walked into the house after a morning drive. More on that later.

I’m having sort of a freefall of the senses; something in it very reminiscent of the one and only time I jumped out of an airplane.  Gravity and direction seem sort of vague, and I feel something that whispers both of euphoria and of panic.

I’m current on my meds and my blood pressure is probably just fine.  I am short of breath and my heart rate is rapid.  I noticed on the drive home how wretched my distance vision has become — it was kind of alarming to notice that I couldn’t read the street signs until I got right up on them.

I came across a small journal recently and found several pages outlining the symptoms of a bad fibro relapse.  It was interesting to read it while I’m essentially in a remissive phase.  There were days when I would get up and run an errand, go back to bed; get up, complete a short assignment, go back to bed.  I would sleep up to 14 hours a day and still feel tired.

People suggested I was sleeping too much.  Hell, I knew that.  I also know my body.  I know the difference between the malaise that comes from sitting around too much, which exercise will remedy.  I also know the bone-crushing exhaustion of fibromyalgia when it surfaces as chronic fatigue.

These weather precursors that I experience occur 1 to 2 hours before a front moves in.  The more dramatic the symptoms, the quicker and more violent the weather becomes.  When I was very ill I would pass out, as if from an attack of narcolepsy.

Now the precursors are less possessive, and are similar to the sensation I have when I’m approaching a channeling state.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s sort of a feeling of vertigo, a gentle pleasant humming in my head.  My sense is that I can almost touch the spirit guide that is present.

Sometimes I can channel the guide through writing or typing, but the session is always best when I’m channeling on behalf of someone else.  When they are receptive, they contribute their energy and their bandwidth, so to speak, to the communication.  And sometimes remarkable things happen.

My mission today was to pick blueberries.  The weather has been lenient of late and I practically missed the strawberry season, and blueberries just started.  So I sped off to Nesbit, only to find that there’s no picking on Sunday and Monday.  But I had a nice chat with George, stopped at the Dairy Bar for a vanilla shake and made my way home slowly up Highway 51.

The sights and sounds of the country nearly almost always sprout hope in my heart.  I see little rundown shacks and I think, I could live there.  The Capricorn in me points out that I couldn’t live there without Internet access and a lawnmower, but surely that’s manageable.

But there was something about seeing the clusters of blueberries on the bushes, thick as grapes, still green, that feels like money in my pocket.  They’re just waiting for me, just like the angels.  I just need to reach out a little.

Sunday Morning ~ Jack Grapes


Sunday morning. Spring. I wake to the sun lifting one leg over the top of the Ticor Building on Wilshire Boulevard. The new leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window are tinged with sunlight. If only I were a photographer or painter I’d freeze this moment and crawl into it.

Sunday morning. I have to get up but my body wants to drown right here in the bed. Spring ambles up the street waving its arms. A matinee today. I have to be at the theater by two. Yesterday, I find out from my agent that I didn’t get the part I was counting on.

Eat this, they say.
It’s good for you.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.

I eat and concentrate on the window, on the tree, on the sun beginning to beat its chest as it comes over the top of the tallest building.

I drive down Beverly Boulevard, take the curve where it changes into 1st Street, turn on Grand and park right across from the museum. It’s just after ten, hardly any cars on the street. MOCA doesn’t open till eleven. The sun has followed me all the way, reflecting off the Security Pacific Bank Building, glass and steel going all the way up.

I get off on this urban sleekness, especially the unfinished building across the street, another skeleton of steel and concrete. Someone should stick a sign on it, make it part of MOCA, part of the Permanent Collection, and leave it just as it is, unfinished. No clear line where the museum ends and the rest of the city begins. One easy flow, stretching all the way back into our homes, into the very center of our lives.

I walk past the California Plaza sign, running my hand along the chrome and glass, then head downstairs for a cup of coffee and cinnamon roll at the “Il Panino.” There’s a girl two tables over, in the sun. We both drink our coffee in silence, checking our watches, writing something down in our journals.

She’s an art student from Santa Barbara come to see the Jasper Johns. She asks what am I here to see. “Oh,” I say, “the art. Just the art. I don’t care. Just something.”

I don’t understand anything.
Hot and humid days;
nights, dark and mysterious.
They take me to school.
I stare at the blackboard.
The kid from around the corner beats me up at recess.
Some nights my father doesn’t come home.

My mother shrieks on the telephone.
My pet turtle dries up in the sun.
My uncle dies on the floor in the empty kitchen.
Who is the world?
Why is the moon where the sun is?
If the street goes nowhere, why is it in my bed?
What is the rain that rains just rain,
and why does it rain crows, or bats, or baseball gloves?
How is the pencil writing my name,
and why is my name the name for the thing that fixes tires,
the name for the flag on the pirate ship,
the name for the clown crushed in the box?
Outside, the kids continue to jump rope on the sidewalk,
singing, “A my name is Alice,”
seeing everything, but knowing nothing.

The class takes a bus with Miss Cook
to the Delgado Museum on Elysian Fields Avenue.
We’re going to see Vincent Van Gogh.
Later, when I tell my mother,
who was born in Antwerp,
she says to say it like this,
Vincent Van Gough,
and she coughs as she says it.
Van Gough! Van Gough!.
But Miss Cook says Van Go.
We are marched single-file from one room to another,
walking past each painting that hangs just above our heads.

Vincent van GoghI look up at the painting.
I can’t believe what I am seeing.
Everything mysterious and horrible about the world vanishes.
He paints like I paint!
Trees outlined in black.
All those wavy lines, all those colors.
And he piles the paint on.
He’s wasting all that paint,
just like I did before they told me not to waste all the paint.

He sees everything I see.
The moon is where the sun is.
The street that goes nowhere is in his bed.
It’s not just raining rain,
it’s raining crows and bats.
He sees the blood, he sees the faces.
Everything so bright it’s on fire.
Everything so dark it swallows me up.
The man cuts his ear off.
The man leans against the table so sad.
The man dies on the floor of the empty kitchen.

I stop in front of the painting with crows above a cornfield.
The world I see is real.
I bring my hand up and touch the dried paint.
It’s real!
Mounds of paint,
swirls of paint,
rivers of paint!

But it’s not paint.
It’s real.
It’s the world.

“Don’t touch the painting!” Miss Cook yells.
She pulls my hand away.
She yanks my arm into the center of the room.
“Never ever touch a painting!”
She shoves me into a seat in the back of the bus.
It doesn’t matter.
The world is real.
I fold my hands in my lap.
I know what I will do.

I will write about the real world.

Frank Gehry11 o’clock. The girl heads off toward the Jasper Johns. I walk into the J. Paul Getty Trust Gallery and find the Geary cardboard chairs and cardboard houses. “Can I sit in them?” I ask the guard. “They can be sat in,” he says, “but you can’t sit in them.”

“Oh,” I say, and walk into the room with the huge pavilion shaped like a fish. I walk into the belly of the fish. The wood inside is so beautiful.

“Don’t touch the wood, please,” says the guard.

I wander over to the Nauman video. A clown is being tortured on simultaneous video screens. “Clown Torture,” it’s called. Later, in the Permanent Collection, I bump into the girl from Santa Barbara. In the center of the room, a metal sculpture of a man moves his motorized mouth up and down. A silent




This, I understand. I stand as close to it as I can. The guard watches me suspiciously.

Over in the North Gallery there’s an empty spot in one corner. Something was there, but it’s been                 removed. I make a sign for myself and hang it around my neck. I stand in the corner of the Permanent Collection, North Gallery, as still as I can, one arm out in the gesture of an actor about to speak.

Eat this.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.
The street that goes nowhere is in your bed.
You know nothing,
but you can see everything.

A woman and her little girl walk up to me. “What does the sign say?” the girl asks.

“Touch me,” her mother says. “The sign says touch me.”

So the child reaches out a hand and touches my own.

by Jack Grapes

A New Year

The sun is crashing through the morning windows as if it were June.

I want so much from this New Year.

I want not to tiptoe through my relationships.
I want not to relinquish my freedom to the musty dank of ancient fears.
I want to fill my path with Light as bright as this January summer sun.

Forgive me all the sins of years, and grant me the hope of a graceful life.
Help me to see myself as I see those who surround me with love.
Bring me to the knees of compassion and tenderness.
Remind me to laugh with my entire heart.

Send me out to give of myself the gifts that I have not yet seen.
Bring me afresh to the wonder of life and those who live.
Give me the determination to forge ahead when the day is stale and empty of inspiration.
Devote me to my promises, my truth, my word.

Fold me in the arms and wings of those who are ever present to fashion of me a being of joy.
Let me never wander from your kindly Sight, or trespass on the ground of squandered time.

Thank you for giving to me all I need before I think to ask.

Stormy Bailey
© 1 January 2009, The CatWirks





One time Winky gave me a box of marshmallows.

“Here,” she said.  “These will make your panties too small.”

What she handed me was about the size of a corsage box and heavy as a grapefruit. I looked at the label.

“Handcrafted Marshmallows,” it said.

I wondered about marshmallows that weighed so much.  There must be a bunch of them in that box.  No chocolate or pecans, just pure marshmallows, except they might have had a chance encounter with peanut products.

It was hard to miss the price tag:  $18.50.  I knew Winky must have a good story yet to tell.  I already had a list of questions, beginning with:  “How did you happen to come by a $20 box of marshmallows?”

Williams-Sonoma’s ad agency certainly earned their paycheck.  The box itself was a work of art.  It told all about the marshmallows, how it took three days to make them.  I imagined an apple-cheeked man with a tall white toque, stirring a shiny copper cauldron with a big wooden paddle.

Sometimes when these fantasies erupt, it’s 1932.  But I digress.

First there was a heavy cellophane wrapper to peel off the box.  Then there was a wide cardboard ribbon to slide off.  The face of the box opened like shutters, and inside was another box.  But not just any box.  It was like a small safe.  It had a little hiding place for the marshmallows, which were also wrapped in more cellophane, not once, but twice.

I looked at the block of perfect marshmallow cubes, cut three-by-three like a nine-piece quilt square.  There were two layers of them. I pulled out the first marshmallow that would let go of its family.  It was like nothing I’d ever tasted.  It was light yet substantial, and you could taste something besides sugar and air. This was a marshmallow you could depend on.

As I chewed and chewed, I read the rest of the marshmallow story.  It said you could heighten your marshmallow experience with a cup of cocoa or a pot of chocolate fondue.  Was I supposed to wait for chocolate fondue?  I couldn’t think of anyone who might have some handy, so I took mine straight.  I would think about fondue another time.

Standing at the kitchen sink in near-dark, in my nightie and houseshoes, I popped a second marshmallow.  For just a minute, I thought about the unpaid bills I had on my desk, and the ones that I knew Winky also had on hers.  I thought about other friends and family who lately were adding more beans and rice and noodles to their meals. Here I was, eating a marshmallow that cost over a dollar.  Sometimes life is so wonderfully strange I have to write it down.

© 2008 Stormy Bailey.  Excerpt from “A Day with Gustav,” My Mother’s Sinful Child