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Author Archives: Harmony

I Thank My Lucky Stars for You: Giving thanks for a very good year of blogging

I Thank My Lucky Stars for You: Giving thanks for a very good year of blogging

 

 

 

lucky stars for hwa

 

Something special slipped by more than a month ago, without my notice: the first birthday of this blog at Harmony with Animals. I published my first post here, The Cows of Grief, on October 9, 2013. The thirteen months since have been an explosion of color, of joyous animal art, and now, a gentle exploration of deeper concerns.

Going public with art and writing is odd — very vulnerable and very rewarding.

I have been struck down by vulnerability attacks, including one just last week that I haven’t even written about yet. Publishing my work — that is, going public with my deepest and most intimate creations, even if they’re “just” cartoons — has left me breathless, shaking, but always feeling courageous and grateful.

I have been bouyed by your support in all the hundreds of comments that you have so kindly left for me, especially when I was attacked by Art Harpies, when I opened up about my long-term struggle with hypothyroidism, when I wrestled with laryngitis (a.k.a., the larynx-busting vampire bug from space), and when I opened up my own heart, as I did just last week.

You have supported me through endless small acts of courage, through little paintings tiptoeing into the world, through the creation of several Bossy Little Corgis, through illness caused by paint, and through a summer of devestating news.

You’ve been here, post after post, as I’ve developed skill as an artist. You’ve been here, post after post, as I’ve developed courage as a writer and blogger.

You were here through Daisy’s cancer diagnosis — and the news that the tumor was benign. You were here when the vet drew Tucker’s blood and told me over a crackling phone that he had kidney failure. And you’ll be here again, I hope, when I have more to share on his healing (good news, that is — with the blood tests to prove it).

I can’t thank you enough. But I think I know where to begin. I can begin right here: Thank you.

Honestly, I’ve been shocked that so many people have visited this little blog in the past year. Some of my posts have had a few thousand views each. One post, the darling one about Tucker, my orange kitty boy, has been viewed nearly eleven thousand times.

It boggles me. It really does. Especially since I don’t really know what I’m doing, am not all that reliable with a posting schedule, and am deathly allergic to marketing.

But really, once the boggled feeling subsides a bit, I feel absolute gratitude. I am so very grateful for each one of you. Thank you for being a part of my life through reading, loving, and supporting this blog.

I made the Lucky Stars painting in this post for my friend Susan Michael Barrett, in gratitude for her, and for our friendship.

Now, I’m sending it out to you — to everyone here — in celebration of our friendship, warmth, and connection. I’m sending it out to you in deep and joyous appreciation.

I thank my lucky stars that each one of you is here.

 

 

 

 

The Great Wave, the Stark Blue Sky, and All the Eyes of the Animals: In which we discover one less thing that we owe to the world

The Great Wave, the Stark Blue Sky, and All the Eyes of the Animals: In which we discover one less thing that we owe to the world

 

 

big wave

 

Outside, I may look the same: a woman held beloved by some, indifferently by most, and maybe hated for all I know, writing and painting and tutoring college students with my days.

My home is stable, even serene when the three cats and two dogs are napping, though not when their twenty legs gallop toward us at mealtimes.

But in the past two months, my inner life has been like a storm at sea, with waves dipping in stomach-lurching troughs, then rising up three stories in a crash of white foam.

What I want to say today is this: In this storm, I’m okay. Actually (now, a small smile grows) I’m more than that. I’m sometimes lost in the wonder that is hidden inside fear.

I want to assure you that I’m sound in the mental health department. In some ways, despite the storm, I’m doing far, far better than mere soundness, if feeling numinous is any measure.

I feel vibrant with the songs of the trees, and the bright eye of a seal riding the water behind a wave, and the sunlight coursing through a stone as though all of life were transparent.

 

agate light

 

It is strange, this spiritual awakening, because it was brought on by tragedy, and if I were to name that tragedy, my current experience would sound like a sick and unkind response.

I’m not ready to share the tragedy, though. I alluded to it several posts ago, with the news I got from a relative’s phone call, news that stunned and terrified me. But I’m not ready to share its details. Honestly, I can barely bring myself to face it, even now.

Just know, in its aftermath, I’ve been in the deepest troughs of the waves, and have felt hatred and fear coursing through me. But when the waves of anger and hatred and fear crashed down, I survived, and the storm sky — eventually, with time — has given way to blue. Not yet to forgiveness. But to blue, and light.

 

daisy and the sky

 

Oh Courage, Where Art Thou?

For now, I’ve given up on a grand reveal of painting mediums. I know, I know — I kept promising, and I’ve even had posts half-written that were bouncing to be finished.

Now, though, I need to pay attention to what is really happening inside me. It is taking all my skill to stay with it, and to give it its mosaic of names — all the feelings of grief and rage and shock and love inside me, all the moments of cloudbreak, and the ladders of light from the sky.

When courage called me a few weeks ago, in my last post, I wasn’t really willing to hear it. I filtered it through the labyrinth of pop culture references that my brain seems to harbor (even when I can’t remember where I last placed my keys, and lose paintings that are clearly in plain sight, and don’t know if the dogs have been fed until I notice that I’m holding the meaty fork that scooped their meals).

I’d thought that the call to courage was all about sharing art, but that was only a small fraction of it. It was only the part I was willing to hear at that time.

The call — when it stopped jangling like commercial tunes through my mind, when I settled and let myself hear it — was actually about sharing me, my whole self, here in the sanctuary of this blog.

It was about sharing me with you.

I’ve kept myself from you. I’ve been showing you the dazzle of my inner ten-year-old, my bright laugh, my animal drawings in their cartoon curves. But that isn’t all of me.

When the call of courage came, it cracked me open to show this: That I often hide behind my own self, curtained by joy, when what really wants to be expressed is sorrow, presence, and the breath of life I find in animals and words.

This takes far greater courage than I’d known.

I’ve been trained well by our culture to show a consistent face to the world. I want to have a laugh-filled voice, with Bossy Little Corgis printed on fabric and coffee mugs all the world round. I want. I want.

But what I get is this: the clear sky, and the exquisite vulnerability of pain, my own breath sitting with it, and the rich brown eyes of the animals watching me.

Daisy rushes up under my hand, and I find myself stroking the fur on her crown. Gloria, her tongue hanging long from the side of her mouth, runs up to me, and in her eyes I see the brightness that comes when the present moment is the only choice.

 

Gloria and Daisy

 

 You Don’t Owe the World

In college, I knew a girl named Kristy, her hair like the tip of a burning match, spiked red and flared toward the sky. She worked at the college cafeteria, ladling out tater tots with plastic-gloved hands.

Back then, like now, I was struggling with the desire to show a consistent — and perfect — face to the world.

In the afternoon, when it was slow and I’d finally remember to eat (oh college, land of nutritional nightmares), I’d be pulled to Kristy’s cafeteria as though by gravity.

One day, she was working the register. Around us, students floated through the quiet building. Workers were pulling near-empty trays of food. The only sounds were murmurs and the crash of pans being washed in a kitchen.

When I saw Kristy sitting in the cash register booth, staring up at the seam between the wall and the ceiling far above, something changed in me, and an urge to confess shot through my gut.

Somehow, as I unwrinkled the wad of a dollar bill to pay for my bagel, I spilled it all to her — my struggle to keep myself true to type, my longing to be seen for only a slice of me, my desire to somehow mark myself with a brand as though that were it and my identity would be complete.

My angst revolved around writing. If I were this identity, I could write that. If I were that other identity, then this other thing would be me. And I’d write those other stories. Or this batch of stories. Or that batch of poems. I could only write them if I’m this or that.

But who am I?

Kristy sighed, taking my dollar. She had no plastic gloves that day.

“Harmony,” she finally said, her eyes narrowing behind their ironic horn-rimmed glasses, “you don’t owe the world consistency.”

Then she met my eyes and I felt momentarily stunned. I thought I owed the world everything, and not just consistency: I owed responsibility, seriousness, cries of outrage, hard work, sacrifice.

You don’t owe the world consistency, she’d said. These words have echoed back at me year after year.

I don’t know where Kristy is — lost somewhere in that pre-Facebook world, hopefully in a tall, leaning house with cats of her own, and nary a tater tot to be seen. But in some ways, she is here right now, at my shoulder as I write this post.

Harmony, you don’t owe the world consistency. Just be yourself, you know?

And then she gives a shake of that flame-tip hair, and another customer comes down her pike, and I’m jettisoned out to the cold cafeteria, my tray balanced on uncertain hands.

 

Animals and Animals

So. This whole post is really a letter, written to each of you as though you each were my closest friends.

I have loved sharing my bright and sometimes childlike art. But I want you to know that I’m also starting to explore my own life more deeply here on this blog, my inner feelings and struggles, with all the luminous words I can hold.

And I want you to know that there will be animals at my side…

… or under my foot, tripping me near the counter at dinnertime.

… 0r rising up the ragged snag of a dead tree, their beaks rattling the bark for bugs.

… or dipping their slick, gray heads above water, calling out seal songs to the tide.

… or moving one slow foot at a time, their wood-colored skin curved back and forth in silence.

 

And I want you to know that there will always be art here, and cartoons, and blooms of bright color to lighten our deepening way.

 

zen kitty 3

 

 

 


 
 
My thanks to the nineteenth-century Japanese artist Hokusai, whose
woodblock print inspired the art at the top of this post.

 

big wave detail

 

 

 

Courage! Coming Soon to a Blog Near You!

Courage! Coming Soon to a Blog Near You!

 

1413317545235

 

So. How long ago was it that I got sick from my acrylics?

I know: A billion years.

And all this time I have been promising you panting hounds the long, cool drink of knowledge:

Just what the heck is Harmony painting with these days? What is this masked mystery medium she’s referred to? And how about that curious cardboard box, too?

 

daisy and box 2

 

 

But First, A Word From Our Sponsor

 

Hey, neighbors! I’m Harmony’s courage, your leader in low-priced snacks. And I’m here to tell you that I’m now in stock! Yours for the low, low price of your attention — Harmony’s courage!

 

And Now Back to Our Regular Programming

Ahem.

Yes. Yes, of course. You were wondering about paint.

And I have meant to tell you about it for months.

Except that somehow, in the intervening months since my Acrylic Angst, in the dramas and traumas of this summer, somehow in all this, I lost something important.

I lost my dash, my daring. I lost nerve.

 

1413325113882

 

 

I have planned a post in my head now for two months now, introducing you to my new medium — both of my new mediums — and to many charming paintings, but somehow, somehow, that post never gets written.

Again and again, the writing doesn’t occur. I don’t do it.

Finally, though, I’ve noticed the pattern, caught it in my gaze as it tries to melt back into the woods.

And I know: When something does not happen again and again, it’s time to dig to its roots.

 

But First, Another Word From Our Sponsor!

 

Back in stock and braver than ever! Harmony’s courage! Fill it to the rim with courage! Eleven courageous herbs and spices! It can be yours, too, for the low, low price of courage!

 

Ahem.

I think I’ll need to have a word with that sponsor soon.

 

Now

It’s late afternoon. The day has been full with conversation and quiet. The autumn sun hangs ripe in the sky. I hear the sounds of hammering from a rooftop. Everyone is preparing for the storms to come.

Twenty minutes ago, I sat here at my computer, my socked feet propped up on the table legs, and stared out at my greatest confessor: the blank page.

And suddenly, this happened:

 

Four out of five dentists agree on Harmony’s courage! Good to the last drop! The sweet you can eat between meals! Missing your moxie? Try Harmony’s courage! Now at a blog near you.

 

My brother-in-law, born in the 80s, told me recently that he was raised by television. If he was raised by TV, then I was raised by commercial announcements.

 

Courage: The Breakfast of Champions!

Break me off a piece of that courage bar!

Courage: It’s what’s for dinner.

I can’t believe it’s not courage!

C-c-c-courage. One of the all-time greats!

 

As I sat in the glow of my monitor, as the hammering sounds echoed across the rooftops behind me, as Miss Addie stole into my office and wrapped her tail around herself for a nap, old jingles and advertising slogans pranced through my mind.

 

My courage has a first name. It’s O-S-C-A-R!

Nothing outlasts the Couragizer.

This is your courage on drugs. Any questions?

 

After a lifetime in consumer culture, when advertising opens its gaping maw to speak, I’m well-trained to listen.

Here’s what I hear:

The moment I settle in to write a blog post about paint, when I have only shared one painting (sweet St. Francis) in recent months, when I am at the far edge of frustration about my recent block on sharing artwork, when I’m clench-jawed and ready to white-knuckle my way through this, just then, the vast storerooms of my subconscious mind begin to speak.

 

It’s courage, the San Francisco treat!

 

When this first skirled through my head, I thought it was just a clever way for me to hide my feelings.

Hey, says my good ol’ subconscious, let’s be clever. Instead of writing what’s real, we’ll just mis-quote commercials! We’ll be much more popular this way.

(Actually, that last part is probably true.)

Now, though, I’ve purged my system of most of the slogans, and I find that a greater truth remains:

Courage wants my attention.

 

 

From where I sit, I can see four kitty paintings that I haven’t shared with you.

I can see a colorful collection of paints, a palette open wide, a brush dangling off a table’s edge, a block of paper having drifted to the floor.

I can see drawings I haven’t shared, notes on stories that haven’t seen light, and a near empty easel with a canvas askew, with just a few lines suggesting the kitty to come.

I can see the computer that hosts the first draft of something of exhilarating fun, which also causes me to tremble in my variegated socks.

Despite the traumas in the last few months, my world has truly burst with creativity. I have burbled with new ideas, guzzled new knowledge, bounced with anticipation at what’s to come.

I just haven’t found the courage, in the past couple of months, to share much of it at all.

Now, though, it’s time for courage to return.

Yes, courage has called. It’s mine for only a penny and I can cancel anytime.

Check back here for it soon.

 

 

Happy St. Francis Day! An itsy bitsy watercolor celebrating the celebration of animals

Happy St. Francis Day! An itsy bitsy watercolor celebrating the celebration of animals

    Once upon a time, back in the 13th century, back before the 21st century was even a glimmer in our ancestors’ eyes, there lived a monk who loved animals. His nickname was Francis.         Let’s follow his lead and celebrate our spiritual connection with animals — the animals we love, theContinue Reading

Miss Addie’s Sunbeam: A Furry Photo Festival

Miss Addie’s Sunbeam: A Furry Photo Festival

    It’s time for celebration. Luckily, Miss Addie got the memo. So did the sun. Yesterday afternoon, a serendipitous sunbeam shot across my office, catching this beautiful cat in its glow.       I grabbed my camera, swiftly swapped out memory cards, and started clicking away, as Miss Addie purred in the sunlight. She droolsContinue Reading

Come, Autumn. Come, Harvest. Come, Joy.

Come, Autumn. Come, Harvest. Come, Joy.

  The truth is, I don’t want to write this. Or anything. The truth behind that? I really do want to write and share. It’s just hard right now. It’s been a very hard summer. All of the stress is catching up with me, and I have been shrinking back into my shell.   Beginning It hasContinue Reading

It’s Benign! It’s Benign!

It’s Benign! It’s Benign!

  Good News! Good News! Daisy’s tumor is benign!     The vet called us just minutes ago. The lab results were in. Daisy’s growth — that lump on the side of her face, which the vet removed a week ago — was benign! It was, though, still a tumor. That thought on its own is chilling.Continue Reading

Our Veterinary Whirlwind (plus a big surprise box that came at the perfect moment)

Our Veterinary Whirlwind (plus a big surprise box that came at the perfect moment)

  We’re in a veterinary whirlwind. Tucker, our big orange monkey boy, was recently diagnosed with chronic renal failure.     It’s not as bad as it sounds. I feel positive that he has a few good years left, with a lot of care. But still, his diagnosis weighs heavily on my heart. Tucker is underContinue Reading

My First Teeny-Tiny Oil Painting! “School Picture”

My First Teeny-Tiny Oil Painting! “School Picture”

    I’ve been waiting and waiting to show you something… I have been tapping my toes for six whole weeks, just waiting for this certain little something to dry… Now, finally, it’s ready! I present to you “School Picture,” my very first teeny-tiny cartoon oil painting!     I’m in love with this orangeContinue Reading

My Acrylic Angst: Getting Sick from Acrylic Paints (with a pit stop for cat pee along the way)

My Acrylic Angst: Getting Sick from Acrylic Paints (with a pit stop for cat pee along the way)

  I haven’t painted in an ice age — a week, at least, if not more. Slowly, the gloom creeps over me. What’s an artist to do? Last week, if you recall, I reported (sadly) that I seem to be having a reaction to the fumes of the acrylic paints I so love. What kindContinue Reading

 
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The Beginner's Guide to
Animal Wisdom

is a little ebook that will help you listen to your animal pals.
Want the book & occasional newsletter? Sign up below.

(Or visit this cute little page to hear me fizz about why this book is fabulous!)

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