A Unique Experiment . . .

Boobalala” breast print art by Anne Copeland

Before we talk about Halloween in another post, let’s look at how Boobalala came to be. I think it was my 65th birthday. I had seen this really fascinating and wonderful art exhibit at a gallery or museum somewhere. I think it was a museum because it was huge. This male artist whose name I unfortunately cannot remember was fascinated with things about his body, and also with taking everyday things and making them look very different in such a way that you could no longer recognize them for what they actually were. In one of his pieces, he laid in a bathtub while a friend slowly poured colored water over him, taking photos of each addition and what was still exposed. He cut up the photos into many parts and rearranged them in fascinating ways that made us wonder what we were looking at even though we had been told. I was fascinated with the exhibit because I have often thought of many natural things and wondered what they looked like from a different perspective. I remember specifically as a child how I used to lie flat in the grass and look through the blades of grass to try to understand what the ants and other bugs’ lives looked like from their perspective. It was almost like being Alice in Wonderland, for it was a truly different world, and I could absolutely lose myself in it.

At any rate, when my 65th birthday came about, I was wondering about such different ways of viewing things we encounter every day. Somehow this is the sequence of things and what happened on that day. I decided to put on some African music from a primitive tribe and I got naked. I began to dance to the music to try to get my mind in the minds of those peoples and what they were experiencing. And then suddenly my mind turned to art, and I decided to find out what my breasts looked like from another angle. So I got out a length of black cotton, painted my breasts with white paint, and made breast prints with these things. I was really surprised that if most people would never know what it was if I didn’t tell them.

Next I decided to try multi-color paint (these were acrylics that could wash off easily) so I got out some white cotton, and painted my breasts with several colors, once again pressing them against the cotton to make breast prints. Amazing! Though they still did not look at all like breasts, they made truly interesting prints.

One ended up a part of a quilt I made called “My Garden of Earthly Delights” and it was donated to the Autism organization since I worked with special needs children for many years and to this day I am a strong advocate for them. This picture is shown below.

“My Garden of Earthly Delights” by Anne Copeland.

Now I really wonder if any of you who didn’t know this story would honestly recognize these as breast prints, or perhaps think them as disgusting. The quilt went to a good cause and I was thrilled to donate it because I imagine that someone somewhere is enjoying this happy quilt with no clue as to its history.

Both these quilts had the same beginnings, with no thoughts of being a disgusting person trying to shock others. It was curiosity about what I am made of, and what it looks like. I have not yet done other parts of my body, but the day may come when I do. These same body parts heralded my change into a young woman, and later on they gave milk for my children at a time when few women were still feeding their babies in this most natural of ways. It is part of what I am made of as a human being, and it is an important and natural part of every woman. It is a good and healthy thing to re-examine things we take for granted every single day. I am glad I celebrated this fact in such an enjoyable and artful way. I actually made “My Garden of Earthly Delights” first, followed by “Boobalala.”

Perhaps this bit of experiment into another aspect of my world is not earth-shaking, but I am glad I did it. Our lives are made of many things we take for granted every single day. I think that studying these things can enhance our ability to see better the universe that we also take so much for granted. Perhaps in seeing things differently, we will somehow be able to re-examine our beliefs about everything that we encounter each and every day. Thank you and Happy Autumn.

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Cycle of Life II

Milkweed plants one week after being devoured by Monarch Caterpillars

I could not believe my eyes when a week after the Monarch Caterpillars totally ate every single leave of the two plants that have also propagated themselves in several other places in the yard, and within one week, they have all come back, bigger and fatter leaves than before.

Sometimes we just need to believe that this old world will continue as it has been doing for thousands of years. Yes, I am not so naive as to believe that we do not have things like climate and environmental changes that are affecting the world. I am sure that some of the things have been happening since the beginning. I believe most sincerely that many changes in cultures have taken place because of the inability of human beings to adjust to the changes successfully. Some of the changes I am not certain humans could have adapted to very successfully such as the ice ages that took place, or perhaps the plagues. But at the same time, mankind DID in fact exist before AND after those things, so perhaps it was an accident that they survived, and perhaps they adapted more than we think they did.

Today a lot of psychology is used to convince us of this potential thing or the other thing, much as the whole world was set to collapse with the coming of the year 2000, is about to happen to us and there are more books and talks, etc. by all kinds of people telling us what we need to do to survive. And of course it IS fully possible that this thing or that thing could cause total destruction of our world at any given time, but the truth is if that happens, I don’t think we need to worry about it anymore.

If, like the cycle of life that I witnessed in my Milkweed plants, this old world goes on, why not just continue to do what makes sense and stop worrying about destruction or the rest of the “what if’s”. When and if they happen, we will deal with them as we need to then, and we will hopefully learn from our mistakes. There is really no guarantee either way.

Enjoy the moment. Appreciate the air we breathe. Look for the beauty all around us. Find miracles in the everyday events. Remember not to always worry about tomorrow because the reality is that when tomorrow comes, it will also be today. Tomorrow is just a way to avoid being fully alive today. Trust, because trust really is something that can benefit us all. I am glad I trusted those caterpillars eating the Milkweed plants and gave the world a chance to do what it does best. Someday I know those Monarch butterflies will show up, and when they do I will be glad that I gave the world and myself this gift.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .

By Yours Truly

This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.

The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.

It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.

The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.

So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.

No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.

Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.

Talking to Rocks

A rock is a rock, but is it?

Today after a doctor’s visit, I was sitting out on a little circular border surrounding a large tree. It was just about the right height for a bench so I sat on the concrete flat area that seemed made to sit on. Inside that was a ring of rocks. To look at them at first, they were all about the same size and most were round and there was a bit of change in color. I picked up one and began to study it carefully. This one seemed to have one end cut or broken off, and it revealed a much darker and varied , somewhat smooth surface, as if I were looking into it. Down one side of that top area, extended a crack that seemed as if another part of it might split off. And crossing that seemed to be attempts to cut it with a sharp object diagonally.

Something drew me to pick up other rocks in that circle and to look at them. I guess sometimes it seems that, for example, perhaps all grains or sand, or in this case, all rocks in a group are similar in size, shape, color and texture. But in this case, the more I examined the rocks, I saw how distinctly different each one was. And I began to think about how each rock might have formed and what must have transpired to make it so different from all the rest. In my mind were so many questions coming forth, seemingly spilling out like a dam that was overflowing. How could it be that stones that likely all came from the same source/location could all be so different in texture, colors, shapes and sizes. Where was this magical place and what other surprises did it hold?

As I was pondering all these wonderful mysteries, my Lyft showed up and honked for me. I grabbed the one rock with the top seemingly cut from it and put it carefully into my pocket. I wanted to look at it once again at home and I wanted to ask it questions. One thing I learned today was that we should never even take a tiny grain of sand for granted. There is mystery and magic everywhere in this world.

A New Day Dawning . . .

Our Evolving Relationship with God

I have been transforming my relationship with God or The One over the past year, and I have given this beautiful statement from Richard Rohr a lot of thought for its truth. I have become aware of how everything in the universe is sacred and it was provided for us to give us everything we could need or want for nourishment, for thirst, and for protection from the elements if we but make it our purpose to look for it and use it wisely. I have become aware of how there are many, many forms of humankind on this earth, and we were put here so that we could all learn how to get along, and to help this good earth to continue to survive.

I love this little piece of writing because it rings true for us all, and offers us a way to what spirituality or religion is intended to be. These days when I have to end the life of a bug or I cut a rose, or perhaps fail to appreciate so-called weeds of the earth, I stop myself and think about it, and suddenly I can see the beauty that surrounds us in its many forms. We have derived words that devalue even the nature of creatures and plants that were put on this earth for a reason.

Now I spend time each day meditating on all of these things and so much more that is related to my relationship with God and with the universe. Things look different for I am changed too.

The Butterfly and the Circle

Circling Butterflies by Anne

Both the butterfly and the circle carry much positive symbolism. And for me, these symbols are especially meaningful. The little caterpillar moves carefully along branches and twigs, filling itself with green leaves and perhaps flowers, and being careful not to fall or get caught in a spider’s web. Generally speaking, the caterpillar has no real defense system, and it is vulnerable to everything around it from the moment it develops from an egg.

But then it begins to build a cocoon, surrounding itself and closing out all that it has known in its brief life. And in this time, it spends in a form of meditation and growth. After a set amount of time, it begins to beat its newly formed wings (a symbol of its transformation) until it is able to slowly release itself from the cocoon. It is no longer in any sense a caterpillar. This newly transformed creature now seeks the nectar of the most beautiful flowers. Its new-found freedom enables it to travel to new locations, even those far away from where it started its life. It has no fear of going where it has never been before. Often a group of butterflies will begin to circle higher and higher into the sky.

Ancient people throughout the world recognized the circle as a symbol of infinity, and of being whole and complete. Spiritual and Religious cultures recognize the circle as a symbol of the female and the feminine energy , and especially of Mother Earth. It represents a fertile and sacred space. In the U.K. and other countries, there are many circles of stones.

The circle also represents a cycle that can be the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It can represent being complete and whole as well. For the Celtics, the circle was a sign of protection, and may be the reason that many early fortresses, temples, crosses and other sacred things were in a circular shape or contained circular motifs. The circle is found in many other cultures and countries throughout the world as well.

As I have noted, my art often contains images or symbols that are sacred to me. The cycle of life, and of completion belongs with the butterfly and its life cycle and my own life.