Because we belive in them, they are real to us. A talisman can make us strong, help us gain certainty, help us move ahead with plans. I have several, and I wear them when I need them. Are they magic? Well, in a certain sense they are. When I need to give up cynicism, and be ready for dreams to guide me, I always bring in Raven Woman.

Wearing a talisman helps you focus on what the talisman is about and brings those thoughts to the forefront. That helps you concentrate on what you need to accomplish, and Voila! Magic.

But I choose my magic carefully, and often have to resort having the right piece made. Some time ago, while doing research for something else (isn’t that always the way it happens?) I came across the word abracadabra. You know, the one you’ve know since childhood as a magic word.

It turns our that it is, indeed a magic word. There is one story about its use as a cure for illness, but I found another meaning, far more magical to someone who makes a living with words.

It seems that the phrase was used in the origination myth. The Semitic Aramaic phrase, avra kehadabra, means, “I will create as I speak.” In the origination myth (the Aramiac translation), it was used when Spirit divided the light from darkness. Spirit created day and night as s/he spoke it. It has a second meaning, one of trust. “I will create as a I speak” is a promise to do what is said, to carry through.

I was taken with the idea of creation and trust both being attributes of writers. I designed a talisman. A jeweler completed it for me. The word “Abracadabra” is written around the silver ring, and the gold bail has what seems to be a flame on it.

The flame represent the fire of creation, but it also resembles the letter “shin.” Shin is the first letter in one of the names of the Almighty (Shaddai), in the word Peace (Shalom) and in the word Listen (Sh’ma). All interesting in their relationship. All magic words in their own right.

It seems great as a talisman for writers, and all those who create meaning with words. The completed piece is below.

abracadabra talisman

Chasing the Muse

The studio is breezy, crisp as January sings
Papers drift, display their wares to see what muse might bring.
Clients work delivered, banking balances done
So I can have the afternoon to let the muses run.
The evening is promised to the husband who complains
that we don’t see each other often when others pick my brains
or soul or heart or fingers worn down to the bone.
He needs some real attention, he’s been too long alone.

muse_again_copy.jpegI have all day! The studio calls, but then the cats begin

they want their food, the litter scooped, and then the doorbell rings.
The postman wants a signature, and when I turn to go
downstairs, I sneeze, and the top pant button blows.
I sew it up, and while I have the needle and the thread,
I might as well sew up the cuffs on the pants left on the bed.
The postman left a package, Lizzy sent the jacket
to try and get some feedback, so I unwrap the packet.
And type up notes to send her, she works hard at her art
I can’t just leave her hanging, so I finish what I start.

Now, back to work, chasing the muse, she waits downstairs for me.
On my way down, I take the wash, my arms just can’t stay free.
I sort the clothes, the machine churns, the suds are getting clean
the clothing, but the towels, too, need their turn in the machine.
Upstairs I go and fetch the towels and throw rugs while I’m there,
Bring them down and pile them up, and now, it’s my time’s share.

I pull the stool, and flare the sheet of handmade paper crisp
I sigh with pleasure at the feel, but sniff a smoky wisp.
The brownies I’ve been timing for my spouse while he’s out shopping
are burning in the oven, timer’s ring too soft to get me hopping.
Quick, before he comes back home, whip up another batch,
The ones I burned were walnut, these are plain, but will he catch
this slip? Maybe not, but I want time, the clock says almost four
I slide downstairs and just ignore the crumbs left on the floor.

You know the rest, you’ve been there too, I never find the muse
The truth is: those distractions are things I, distracted, choose.
Because my art is silent, its voice echoes from mine
And it won’t speak until I stand, claim my voice and my own time.


* * *(c) Quinn McDonald, 2007-8 all rights reserved. Quinn is an artist and writer, certified creativity coach and cat owner. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

You Are What You Search

When AOL revealed the 36,389,629 searches of 650,000 members, it was more than a peek into how we as a culture use search engines. It was a hands-on exploration into people’s lives. AOL tried to retrieve the data, (they weren’t serious, right? Just a formality of a try?) but it had hit an Internet insatiable for personal information. There was no calling it back. It became a game to figure out who people were, and no one is as competitive as a gamer on a hunt.

Several searchers, who had been identified only with numbers, were followed through the Web and un-numbered–named and identified by people who grabbed the AOL information.

Some search strings were sad: The searches of one user morphed over several weeks from “you’re pregnant he doesn’t want the baby” to “foods to eat when pregnant” to “abortion clinics charlotte nc” to “can christians be forgiven for abortion.”

Others were frightening, including the user who searches ran from “morning sickness” to “abortion,”a “leather daddy, ” and a girl worried about “getting pregnant” and “what does god mean when he says bless those who spitefully use you.”

AOL searchers turn to the Bible quite a bit for help, particularly Revelations. But when a search is on, the zodiac, psychics, private investigators and ancient poetry also are plumbed for answers.

What does all this mean? I’m not sure about our Zeitgeist, but I am sure that your email is not nearly as private as you thought it was.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. See her website at QuinnCreative.com

Raven Woman

She was an enigma and a gift. I stumbled across her accidentally, while researching something else. Her name was Maggie. She lived in the upper left corner of the country, and part of the time she lived in a house in a tree. The rest of the time she lived near a tree whose hollow trunk could shelter eight cows from the rain.

I wrote to her because she was a gifted carver of fossilized walrus ivory. The permafrost spits up chunks of it, and Yupik tribes harvest, carve and sell them. Maggie has a small stash of walrus ivory.

I’d seen some of her carvings, and I knew she was the right person to carve my dream. For months I’d had a recurring dream about a woman. She would come trudging up a hill, outlined against the night sky. A moon was shining in the dream and the sky was spattered with stars. The woman had big hands; she used them to hold her shawl close around her.

raven woman Once she reached the top of the hill, she would begin a simple dance. It was one of relief and joy, limited only by arthritis. At the end of the dance, she would wave her shawl over her head. At that moment, I saw the woman had the wings of a raven. She would wrap the shawl around her again, and as she trundled back down the hill, I could see on her back the constellation Orion.

What did the dream mean? I still don’t know, but Maggie carved it for me. Without more than the story above, she got it just right.

I miss you and your gift Maggie. Rest in peace.
–Quinn McDonald is an artist who wears the amulet Maggie made for her. Quinn is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

Dream Woman

[Note: To see the amulet and find out about Maggie, who carved the piece and the dream that inspired the carving, read yesterday’s post, “Raven Woman.”]

Maggie didn’t want to carve it at first. She hated taking direction when she had a vision. She did consent to listening to the dream. Once she heard it, she told me she’d carve the figure, but it would be her interpretation of my dream. When she was done, I could pay for the piece or refuse it, and not have to pay. I agreed.

Two weeks went by and I had to sit on my hands not to write Maggie and ask about the piece. But I said nothing. A wave of work hit, and I forgot about the amulet. A box arrived with Maggie’s return address. I opened the box. There, nestled in cream-colored mulberry paper, was the Dream Woman. She was carved from a fossilized walrus tooth. She was perfect in every respect: big hands, wearing a shawl, and on the back, an intricate and complete constellation Orion. The constellation had magic figures and sun sign icons carved into it. I was speechless.

The invoice said simply, “pay me what you think she’s worth.” My first thought was “I don’t have that much money.” Eventually, I paid her more then she asked for.

That night, I tucked the amulet under my pillow. I fell asleep almost immediately. I awoke at 2 a.m., sure someone was in the house. All three cats lay in the bedroom, fast asleep. They miss nothing, no one was there. I fell asleep to fitful chase dreams. I awoke exhausted and tired, as if I had been running. Today was a training day, and trainers have to be sharp. I left the amulet under my pillow and dashed off to help 12 adults learn how to write for the Web.

I arrived home, exhausted from lack of sleep and the effort of training. A short nap was interrupted by the feeling someone was next to the bed. No one was.

That night, and for the next three nights, the dream repeated itself. I was being chased through a house I had never lived in. I could describe the house in detail, but did not recognize it. An older model car pulled up, headlights shining through a low hedge. The chase would begin. A small, dark-haired child darted under furniture. I had been blond as a child.

On day four, I pulled the amulet from under the pillow, wondering why the magic it contained was not the magic I had hoped for. The dream that created the amulet and the dream she carried were so different. The creation dream had been peaceful and mysterious. These dreams were harsh and cruel.

At breakfast, a chilling idea hit me. I left my cereal uneaten on the newspaper and raced to the computer. Opening a blank email, I typed, “Maggie, when you were young, did you live in a house with a full front porch? Did the porch have a lattice that led to a crawlspace? Did you have a brown plaid couch? Did you ever have to run from someone?”

Two hours later I had my response. “You are dreaming my life when I was 8,” Maggie wrote. “I was thinking about it when I did the carving.”

Maggie didn’t tell me any more, nor did she need to. I had all the information I needed. Acting on her instructions, I left the amulet in full moonlight, then dug a hole and put the story of the dream in it.
I never had the dream again.

Maggie died recently, and my dreams are for her happiness and rest now.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and writer. She is a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

Nicer Voices in Your Head

Yesterday, I started a story about the negative chatter we all have in our head. Mine was running my life. It was negating what I was learning from books. When I was reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I loved it. But afterwards, my negative self talk made me think the books was useless and being cynical was clever. Here, then, is what happened next. . .

Getting rid of negative chatter. . .
Once I started to meditate, I began to want the negative self-talk to stop. A friend suggested I replace the negative chatter with positive thoughts. Affirmations? Me? Impossible. Not me. I forced myself. “I am a creative person.” “I am good at problem solving.” “I am strong.” “I am talented.” At first, it seemed ridiculous, selfish, vain. Then I noticed that I WAS a good problem solver. People were asking me to help them with their problems.

. . . opens the door to powerful change
Something else happened. I began to lose the negativity I thought was part of me. I quit doing something I had always done well—using my wit to criticize others. . I stopped telling people why their idea wouldn’t work. I didn’t like the protection my public face gave me anymore. I wanted my life to contribute, not denegrate.

Visualize change, create change
Using the same technique I used for meditation, hushing my mind, I began to imagine situations that seemed hard to me. Speaking to people. Explaining what I do. In my imagination, the people smiled at me. They were happy with what they heard. I had something useful to say. The more positive things I imagined, the more positive things I noticed when I was in training sessions or at art shows.

Last October, on a cool, but sunny day, I recognized myself standing at an art show, laughing with some other artists. I was happy. It was exactly what I had envisioned in the leadership course from three years before.

Change isn’t instant, but it gets easier
Visualization works because you focus on what you can do to influence the outcome positively. And once you’ve envisioned something, you begin to work on making it happen. To make it happen, we push away the negative, and choose to replace it with positive thoughts and actions. The choices are sometimes hard, but they are fueled with small successes and moments of joy. Change does not happen in a day, or a week, but it grows with each decision you make to make a positive choice instead of a negative one.

The Alchemist returns
Eventually, I bought another copy of The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. It seemed to be a new book this time. Filled with deep truth in simple terms.

“The old man leafed through the book, and fell to reading a page he came to. The boy waited, and then interrupted the old man just as he himself had been interrupted. “Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because you are trying to realize your Personal Legend. And you are at the point where you’re about to give it all up.”
“And that’s when you always appear on the scene?”
“Not always in this way, but I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen. There are other things I do, too, but most of the time, people don’t realize I’ve done them.” (p.25)

I finished reading the book and purchased 10 copies, which I’ve given away to people who want to transition into a different stage of their life. The negative self-talk will always be with you, but as a friend of mine says, “it’s always with me on the way to a show, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let it drive.”

–If you don’t want to tackle learning how to meditate, you can start with daydreaming. It’s easy and you get great results. Tips for daydreaming. If you prefer to cut and paste into a browser, it’s here: http://quinncreative.com/id34.html


© David Nanc, Descansos. All rights reserved

Men carried the coffin, women followed weeping. There was no hearse, and no mules to climb the steep hill to the burial place. The men set down the coffin to rest between the church and the burial ground. The simple coffin was pine, but the edges were not polished and cut into the shoulders of the men who carried it. Once they could move on, the men left the resting place, or Descanso.

Over time, marking the place of death became known as  Descansos, particularly if the death was caused by a highway accident. At first, it was a wagon overturned, a shot fired in the night, but over time Descansos marked a break, an interruption in life’s journey.

Now, Descansos mark the place of fatal accidents on the highways as well as the poems, tributes, and memories created for the dead.

Dave Nance photographs Descansos in the American West. The picture above is from his website.
Heather Blakey, whose husband recently died, writes Descansos as an act of healing.
–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

The Voices in our Head

The place god calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
–Frederick Buchner

Your Creative Life and the Voice in Your Head
You are creative, even if you don’t think so. But if you tell yourself you aren’t creative, you make it true. It’s the repetition of the idea that makes it so. Our brain can’t distinguish between what we visualize and what we experience. Ever rehearsed a phone call over and over, and then think you’ve already made it? Our brain believes what we’ve rehearsed.

What do we do with this great ability? If you don’t recognize how powerful it is, you ignore it, frequently sabotaging yourself. All of us have a voice in our head that chatters along all the time. “I can’t do that.” “Office politics are ruining my life.” “I never get what I want.” So we turn on music or the TV to push the voice out of hearing range. What we don’t do is change what the voice says. So we create a constant noise in our life to cover our own negative self-talk. And that noise won’t let in new ideas, life-changing thoughts or the silence that nourishes our souls.

Be Careful What you Rehearse into Existence
Ten years ago, while on vacation, I read Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist. It’s a simple story, beautifully written, about changing your life. I loved the story. Something in it seemed real and true. But the instant I admitted to myself I loved the book, the negative voice in my head said, “What a lot of New Age nonsense! You can’t change your life by thinking yourself into a better position. How can you advance if your boss doesn’t like you? She made that cruel remark during the last staff meeting” That made me think of the ways my colleagues could sabotage me while I was gone. For the rest of my vacation, I replayed this scenario. I arrived home stressed and worried, and discovered that our office space had been reconfigured. I was moved out of my window office into the cube farm.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d been rehearsing it for a week. I took The Alchemist and flipped it open at random, page 20.

“. . . at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and [believe] our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

The book flipped to page 24.
“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. . . . To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I sighed. I couldn’t control the office moving. The book was part of vacation—and like vacation, it was over. I threw the book out.

Visualizations Show You the Truth
A few years later, I learned about visualization in a course on leadership. The person guiding the visualization told us to imagine ourselves as leaders five years in the future. I had been sent to this course by my corporation, so I took a deep breath and tried to imagine what my role was in this company. Instead, I saw myself standing at an art fair. It was a sunny, cool day, and I was talking to other artists. We were all laughing. I felt a great sense of peace. When the visualization was over, negative self-talk filled my head. “ What about health insurance? Don’t be irresponsible.” “You sure like those selfish thoughts, don’t you?” “You’d better get your act together.”

Meditation Brings More than Calm
I hated those thoughts. I decided to learn meditation. The basics were simple. Once it got quiet, I recognized the negative chatter in my head. It to reminded me of my shortcomings, that the dryer just quit and clothes need folding, that I was not doing anything and a lot needed doing.

I kept putting aside the chatter; eventually it grew quiet. In the quiet, I began to feel comforted. It took a few months, but once my brain was quiet, the silence opened the door to peace, and after that, good ideas.

Tomorrow: What happened to The Alchemist, and what happend to me when he came back.

–The most recent edition of my newsletter, Imagination Works, is about metaphors. Specifically, why life is like Photoshop. Read it at http://quinncreative.com/id7.html

How Will You Heal the World ?

Every artist, I believe, is required to heal the world. Not in some grand way, but in tiny ways that form connections that turn to bigger ways.

The Book of Ethics says, “You do not have to complete the task. Neither can you put it down.” There is a story about the healing power of art here: http://solacetemple.wordpress.com/2007/01/14/art-heals/ Image: “How will you heal the world?” Ink, cut paper, acrylic paint, transfer, on 400-lb hot-press watercolor paper. (c) 2006Quinn McDonald


The Intersection of Art & Science

Poking around the Web the other day, I came across Phylotaxis. It’s a site that explores the intersection of art and science, and perhaps the third cross-road collision of our culture. When you open the site, you see a mandala made up of small dots. Running your cursor through them makes them scatter. Then they re-form. When you tire of watching negative space have its run, you click to see what this is about. That’s when the fun begins. The mandala grows bigger, and the dots emerge as images. If you click on a dot, it enlarges into a news clip, complete with date, source, and image. Yep, it’s news, sampled. Non-linear recent information. (See the static image from the website below, left.)

If you are organized, it might make you nuts, except there is a way out. The slide beneath the mandala moves. Push it to the left and it moves toward ‘science’ and the dots square up, neatly organized. Move the slide toward ‘culture’ and the dots begin a chaotic Brownian movement dance.
Johnathan Harris, the inventor (creator?) of Phylotaxis, finds interest in things most of us walk past, oblivious. The mandala’s structure, Harris says, came from the Fibonacci Sequence (long before The DaVinci code made it popular) and the Golden Ratio. The Fibonacci Sequence is the set of numbers where each step is the sum of the previous two numbers. This simple formula is found in the petal arrangement of roses, the breeding patterns of rabbits, and the shape of our galaxy.

Harris turns the internet into his paintbox and his vocabulary. His projects plunder internet sites for information and use the information to create art. In one piece, he lines up all the words in the English language in order of how often they are used in writing. In another, he scrapes websites for the words “I feel” and arranges the sentences into a database of emotion.

Harris is the artist of today, mixing his medium as carefully as the Old Masters mixed their hand-ground colors. Is this art? In my reality it is, but even if it’s not the conventional idea of art, it is certainly creativity.

Links–They all open in new windows


Word Count (Johnathan Harris lists, in order, the 86,800 most common words in the English Language. Take a look. Funny things: “God” is one word from ‘began,’ six words from ‘war.’

Fibonacci Sequence, also explains Golden Ratio

Flash illustration of Fibonacci Series (if you are in a hurry, but you have to have Flash)

Quinn McDonald loves the interplay of different planes in life. She has a newsletter and another blog in another world.