A Stitch, In Time – A Mandala and a Practice

A Stitch, In Time © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Stitch, In Time © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Stitch, in Time

There are moments in time when it is just too noisy, too busy, too much.

What is the single thing (the stitch) I can do to bring quiet and ease to my life? Right now, without delay.

Some things I do when I need to step into a place of ease:

  • First, the breathing. Steady. Slow. When I feel in control of nothing, I remember I am always in control of my breath.
  • Look. What do I see that is pleasing, comforting. My lounging hound? The orchid I was given as a surprise “I love you” gift? The view outside my window – the backyard maple with a halo of yellow-orange? The sky, deep blue and infinite? What do I see that offers me a moment of ease?
  • Listen. No, really listen. Close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? The murmur of street traffic? Children laughing? Background television? Birdsong? Take a moment to listen to the sounds that surround you. How does this make you feel? If this is a positive experience, pay attention. If this provokes a negative response, pay attention. You hear these sounds even when you are not consciously aware of such. How might you make your environment more sound-friendly? How might you invite more ease?
  • Touch. Something we do not often think about is how touch can affect us. It is a powerful tool, too often neglected. Are you sitting comfortably? Are the clothes you are wearing body-friendly? No binding or rough spots? Touch is also a comfort I can add with minimal effort. Sometimes I finger mala beads. Or hold a special talisman — a ceramic heart from a dear friend — in my hand while I work. Or I rest my feet in the furry coat of Gracie the Wonder Dog — this makes us both incredibly happy. How can you add the gift of touch to this moment?

In a world that often feels over-whelming and loud, how can I find ease and comfort in the tiny space I inhabit? How can I make my environment friendly and conducive to my work? It does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. Just an awareness, a pause, may be enough to invite ease and calm into your day.

Remember. One stitch at a time!


Spinning Off Kilter – A Mandala

Spinning Off Kilter © 2016 Bo Mackison

Spinning Off Kilter © 2016 Bo Mackison

Kilter. A variation of the English word kelter, originating in the 1600s, which means order or alignment.

Off kilter. Out of balance or alignment.

Spinning off kilter, along for a wild ride. There is chaos in the out-of-balance and there is harmony, too.


Life is a Verb Camp 2014 – *Camp*anionship at its Finest


Morning is Dancing © 2014 Bo Mackison

I had the great honor and privilege to attend Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp 2014 last week. There, a hundred wonderful people gathered for the second annual camp near Asheville, North Carolina.

We danced by the lake at the sun rose over the tree line and the fog hovered upon Lake Kanuga, crying and laughing and hugging and offering deep support and love.We struggled though yoga moves before coffee(!!!) and breakfast while the kindest of kind instructors gently, so gently, encouraged.

We sang, some of us off key but with great exuberance, as a group of 100 vivacious, expressive, loving campers sang songs ranging from In My Wildest Dreams to Stars to Amazing Grace. The musicians were out of this world.


Camp Kanuga, Home of Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp 2014 © 2014 Bo Mackison

I slept in a Kanuga Cabin built in 1909 and on the National Register of Historic Places (for architectural history geeks like me who love that sort of detail).

Cabin 13, by the way, was one of the luckiest cabins with the kindest of cabin mates and social hour visitors, my way of thinking! Love you guys!


Rocking Chairs Provided © 2014 Bo Mackison

I rocked on the porch with other happy campers as we took in the view of the autumn trees and the lake beyond, and felt so alive in the midst of campanionship and nature’s beauty.


Geography of Loss Workshop – Found Poetry ©2014 Bo Mackison

I attended a pre-camp workshop presented By Patti Digh and Kim Joris on The Geography of Loss, based on Patti’s book by the same name. Oh what a day that was as a camp warm-up experience…self-awareness, discovery, opening to our stories, creating and sharing with the kindest of communities.

Tears and hugs and compassion, oh my!


You Can Sit Here With Us © 2014 Bo Mackison

I listened to the key note presentations of two of my poet heroes, Amy Shihab Nye and Ellen Bass. And decided I could call myself a poet again!

I was mesmerized by the stories of fellow campers during the morning Focus Sessions – and I even told my own story in a presentation on bullying called You Can Sit Here With Us. 


Tandem Typewriter Poets – Maya Stein and Amy Tingle © 2014 Bo Mackison

I attended Creative Spark workshops, one on Creating my Own Adventure (by the above creative beings), another on Being Stabby (felt making) by Deb Reynolds.

I also presented my own workshop on Desert Wisdom and the Gifts of the Desert – what a thrill for this introvert.  I pushed my anxiety aside and so loved sitting in our circle and connecting with each other through our precious gifts of self!  (Though I find it almost impossible to comprehend that I did not remember to take a single photograph during either of my workshops. I’ll just have to hold them tightly in my memory — easily done!)

I had a poem composed for me by the talented typewriter poet duo of Maya Stein and Amy Tingle. (Such wise, wise poems, delivered on the spot, nine lines on an index card.) I now cherish my two poem cards. Amazing! Thank you, Maya and Amy.


Camp Badges, Camp Memories © 2014 Bo Mackison

We collected camp badges for doing things like showing up (which can be amazingly hard), speaking out, being ourselves, making strong offers (another way of showing up, big time), for claiming our birthright as poets.


Patti Digh, Offering Hugs and Hope and Happiness and Humor © 2014 Bo Mackison

Of course, Camp is a Verb would not exist if it were not for Patti Digh, who had a dream, and worked incredibly to make it come true. Every time Patti appeared on stage she offered… Hugs. Hope. Happiness. Honesty. Honor. Humor. Love. Love. Love.

Patti Digh – camp director, friend, confidante, mama, organizer, creative, courageous, promoter of social justice, and human being extra-ordinaire. Patti and her troupe of volunteers turned Camp Kanuga into the brilliant Camp is a Verb 2014 with magic, synchronicity, and damn hard work.

Oh the Autumn Colors © 2014 Bo Macksion

Oh the Autumn Colors © 2014 Bo Mackison

And now only weeks away (so excited!) Life is a Verb 2016 returns to Camp Kanuga on the weekend of November 3 through 6. I highly recommend you check out the camp website if you are even the tiniest bit curious. It will be a life-changing weekend!

Community. Courage. Creativity. Wouldn’t it be fine if you were there?

A Tree, a Nest, a Dream

Tree of Life ©2013 Bo Mackison

Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”   ~ Gloria Steinem

It was only a few weeks ago that I spent time at Disney World with my two daughters. While there, I visited Animal Kingdom for the first time, and I saw the centerpiece of the park, a re-creation of a huge Baobab tree. The tree has over 350 animal had sculpted in its concrete bark. The leaves were individually crafted in five colors, all 103,000 of them. It was quite the tree, even if it was born of a man’s creative vision.

We didn’t spend time near the tree, and though I admired it from afar, it wasn’t until I returned to Wisconsin that my interest in this unusual Baobab heightened. I researched the history of the tree, and discovered that this particular tree is called the “Tree of Life”.

I was curious, because this tree, or actually a variation of it, appeared in a recent dream. It was one of those infrequent dreams for which I had complete recall (or so I believe) and I wrote it in detail in my journal. Now I find myself frequently replaying the dream sequence in my mind. I think it’s an interesting dream, and important, too.

And so I’m sharing…

Tree of Life - with Animal Carvings

Tree of Life – with Animal Carvings © 2013 Bo Mackison

This is my dream: I am in a nest at the top of a tree similar to the Tree of Life, so high that my nest — large and very comfy, and woven out of a soft, gauzy material resembling bubble wrap — seems to barely touch the leaves. At first I am able to lean over the nest — it is about waist-high — and see the carved animals on the tree. The animals are alive and friendly, and communicate through facial movements and eye contact. I most remember speaking to a hawk that is very near the nest.

It is a sunny day. I can see an infinite ocean from one side of the nest; the other side overlooks a deep forest, far below, just the tree tops are visible. I am alone, except for one visitor — a very large, very dark raven that has intense, emerald-green eyes.

The raven keeps coming to the nest. He circles the nest, darting about, then pecks at my head while I try to protect myself with my arms. Finally he snatches a single hair from my head and flies away. He does this repeatedly. I am fearful when the raven pecks at me and pulls my hair, but after he disappears from sight, I feel very alone and wonder if he will return.

This happens a dozen times or so. All the while, the skies gradually darken as evening approaches. Then I notice several things. The nest shape shifts and it is now very deep. I can no longer see over the sides nor communicate with the animals on the tree. I can’t see the ocean or the forest. I can only see the darkening sky. A few stars appear, and then the night sky flickers above me. I am in complete darkness except for the far away stars.

Tree of Life - with Animal Carvings

Animal Carvings © 2013 Bo Mackison

Then the raven returns. This time, he flies towards the nest from high above me, soaring in circles, drawing closer and closer. He carries a light. When he is very near, I notice his claws have turned into the hands of a human. In his hands he carries a crystal globe about the size of a large softball. The raven hovers over my nest and gently places the crystal ball into my open hands. Then he soars away.

I hold the globe – it is perfectly spherical and glowing brightly. When I look into the globe, I see a sun as it brightly illuminates the nest, my surroundings, and me.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She explores wherever she travels. And occasionally her travel experiences follow her home and appear in her dreams. She still marvels at the idea of holding a crystal ball filled with sunlight.

Beyond, The World – Barrier # 9

Defaced Wall II

Beyond, The World © 2012 Bo Mackison

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ~ Hermann Hesse

(This post is the ninth in a series of my story of art and healing. See the introduction and complete series at My Healing Journey.)

When I embarked on what is now my photography business, I discovered a way to make my life meaningful. Initially, photography gave me a reason for getting up in the morning, getting out of the house, looking at my world, and finally creating something that I loved and was proud of. The healing process of creative photography. It was several years later when I discovered how to work with my photographs on a deeper level.

When I photographed this wall, I was shooting an old mission and its grounds. I came upon this wall, discovered its defaced surface, then framed a shot so I could focus on the wall and the grove of trees in the distance. Months later, as I was going through photo catalogs on my computer, I saw this particular photo and it took on a new meaning.

For me, certain photographs are like other people’s dreams. They provide symbols, metaphors, and hints of meaning. They are open for interpretation, not on a literal base, but intuitively.

In this photo, I visualized the wall as a barrier in my life. The wall prevented me from entering a lovely grove of trees, a place I longed to visit for sustenance and revival. Beyond the wall, the world opened into a sacred space of color and life, a place where nature could heal and provide strength for body, mind and spirit. I wanted to be in that grove of trees.

I visualized different scenarios in response to my quest. How could I reach that sacred space? How could I get over the wall?

  • I could scrounge for scrub wood and strong grasses, build a make-shift ladder, and climb up and over the wall.
  • I could walk along the wall until I came upon a gate or doorway, a portal into the world of greens and blues.
  • Or…I could I look at the height and thickness of the wall, and walk away, accepting defeat before I even began.

The process of visualizing my options provided much food for thought.

I now have created a set of Desert Wisdom Cards, 24 cards in all, each with a photograph and a word. I use the cards during my morning practice, focusing on the photograph and using it for inspiration and speaking to my muse. I also use the photo and the cards as prompts for journal writing, or a springboard for an art or nature project.

I discovered in the process a vehicle that provided not only a way for me to use my art for healing, but a system that also promoted problem solving and goal setting. These cards provide me with a framework in which to consider choices, make plans, and instigate changes in my life — the self discovery and healing process of in-depth creative photography.

Next: Gazing Upwards