Hearts, Hearts Everywhere

by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

Hearts, hearts everywhere. Well, it is the month of February, when Valentine’s Day is both hated, and loved in equal measure. So I’ve decided to share my series of heart paintings along with a very brief poem of my thoughts as I painted each.

Frozen Heart
Singing Hearts
“Bleeding Heart”
“Heart’s Light”
“Crawling Hearts”
“Cosmic Heart”

Livin’ my Best Southern Life, by Bayou Babe – Aka Cheryl Owen-Wilson

While attempting to come up with an idea for my blog, Bayou Babe spoke up and asked if she could take over.  What else could I say but ,“yes”.

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How y’all doin’ today?  This is my first ever blog so let me start by tellin’ ya a’ bit ‘bout myself.  I’m a’ southern woman livin’ my best life here on an Island in the fingers of the swamps what snake along Louisiana’s gulf shores.  My birth name is Gertie May Dupre, but folks call me Bayou Babe or BB for short.  I got tagged with that there nickname by a not very nice old boyfriend, who happens not to be with us any longer, but the BB stuck to me.  I might share how that come to be in another blog.   So why did I decide to create Livin’ My Best Southern Life?  Well, I was ease droppin; on somethin’ , Lena, was sayin’ at our weekly meetin’ of – Babies are for Huggin’ and Spoilin’.

Lena, is a’ city girl what married a’ right handsome Cajun man and now is none too happy ‘bout bein’ as she says, “dragged to the swamps” to live.  Anyhow, I heard her sayin’ to  Dorothy Jean, “That Bayou Babe, what an absurd name.  I’d never allow anyone to call me such a demeaning thing.  But she sure seems to live a charmed life even though I heard her husband fishes in the swamps and never graduated college.  Have you seen their home, must be up to their eyeballs in debt?  But you could eat off her floors any day of the week.  Wonder how she does it with two babies under four years old and no hired help?” 

I hear all the time how I got a perfect life, but Lena’s words are the ones what sparked me to share how I come by my life.  Course, ya gonna have to be a true Cajun woman to read this here blog, so Lena won’t be in on my little secrets.  It’s really not much of a’ secret to those a’ us who been born here.  I come from a’ long line a southern women what lived perfect lives.  Ya see it’s all in the recipes.  That’s what my grandmamma called them—her recipes.  They was passed down from her grandmamma and on down the line.  Now, these ain’t your add extra butter kind a’ recipes.  These here recipes are conjurin’s, and gris-gris’s, or whatever other word ya might want to call ‘em.

Thanks to one of those recipes, Lena come down with a horrible case a’ laryngitis right after that meetin’, bless her heart.  I might share that recipe sometime. but for this blog I decided on tellin’ ya  ‘bout how I come by my new cookin’ stove.  My old one was gettin’ a right thick layer a’ grease on it, not to mention the color!  It’s was a’ sickly pale, snot green.  Whoever thought that was a good color of the year, must a’ been color blind.  My new stove is stainless steel with a’ top what sparkles when I turn on the flame a’ the gas burners.  It sits next to the window in the kitchen where the curtains I just finished sewin’ waves to me.  The fabric I picked for them has lemon-yellow, checker-board squares surroundin’ blood red cherries with juice a’ drippin’ from ‘em.   We don’t get many breezes here on our Island, so I figured I’d conjure one up for this first day a’ cookin’ on my new stove, with my new curtains.  Took me a bit to recover my breath, but it’s worth it seein’ those curtains a’ swayin’. 

Now, as with any conjurin’, my new cooker did cost a price.  The blood stains I had to clean up after was a right chore, but I got it all figured thanks to Swamp Wife Daily.  They have the best solutions on how to get those pesky stains out. All it takes is equal parts  a’ vinegar, salt, and some water out a’ the bayou, collected right after a gator churns it up. 

But I’m gettin’ off track. I know I could simply write out a list for ya, like the recipes in my Talk About Good Cajun cookbook, but where’s the fun in that?  I like tellin’ stories better.  So here’s my story recipe for how I got my new stove.

First, I had to find someone who had the exact kind I wanted.  I had most lost hope when after months a’ lookin’ Mary Jane Butler was standin’ in line behind me at the Piggly Wiggly.  I heard her braggin’ and showin’ pictures of the exact stove I was a’ wantin’.  Well, let me tell ya, she and I had never spoken more than a word or two, but I invited her over the next day for a’ mornin’ coffee right then and there.   

When she got to my house, I kindly asked her to cut the cinnamon Bundt cake I’d baked, while I got us each a coffee.   A simple slip a’ my kitchen knife, ‘cause a’ the oil I put on it, and her little finger lobbed right off.   Then it slid under the, too heavy to be moved, cupboard  like I’d envisioned.  It was a shame it took off her whole finger.  I’m still not sure what I done wrong.  The recipe only called for tip of her finger, or in a pinch a small slice. 

Anyway, I helped Mary Jane wrap a towel like a’ tourniquet ‘round her hand.  I called her husband to come get her and while we was waitin’ I got on all fours pretendin’ to try and find her finger.  Of course I never did.  I was most apologetic when her husband come to take her to the hospital, even sent them off with half of the Bundt cake.  On the side a’ the recipe my grandmamma had written,  “always remember to leave whoever’s body-part ya used on good terms”.  When they was gone I retrieved the finger with my long gumbo spoon.  Then I followed the recipe by addin’ the spit from a horny toad frog to it before I taped it on to the back of one of my own little fingers.  I went ‘bout the rest of my day like normal, but every time I noticed her finger on mine I thought on how it had touched her shiny new stove.  When the sun was settin’ on the same day, it must be the same day, I buried her finger in my rose bed and sprinkled it with Holy Water.  The recipe says not to forget to use enough blessed water to saturate the dirt ya cover the body part with. 

The next night my husband Billy Joe come in from work wearin’ a big grin on his face.  When I asked why he was so happy he said,  “BB, you not goin’ to believe what I found on my way home today.  Come outside and see!”   

I tried my best to look surprised when I saw my new stove sittin’ in the bed of his silver Ford pickup.  When I asked him ‘bout findin’ it he said, “It was sittin’ on the side a’ the road pretty as you please, like someone left it there.  Must a’ fallen off a truck, but it don’t have a scratch on it. I tell ya it’s a miracle BB, a damn miracle.”

Did I mention this particular recipe only works on kitchen appliances?  Some need tweakin’, for instance, if ya wantin’ the whole lot, a stove, icebox, and one of them dishwasher’s.  Personally, I don’t like those automatic dish washin’ things, some of my best ideas come to me when my hands are covered in sudsy dishwater.  Sorry, I done gone off again.  

So, like I was sayin’ if ya be wantin’ more than one kitchen appliance ya might needin’ more than a piece of a’ finger.  Ya might be needin’ the whole finger like I got, or maybe even two.  Myself, I don’t think it’s best to be that greedy, plus think of how much cleanin’ ya’d have to do after!  For smaller things like my Kitchen Aide mixer, I only needed a whole thumb nail. 

Now ya see why knowin’ how to best clean up blood stains can come in mighty handy.  Ya might have to wait longer than a’ day for whatever appliance your needin’.  I think my gettin’ the whole finger sped my conjurin’ up a bit.  I know not all a’ y’all gots a’ recipe book a’ conjurin‘, so it pleases me to no end to pass on some a’ my own.  Every woman what inherits the book adds to it some a’ they own recipes, and sometimes I modify the ingredients from the old recipes.  It’s awful fun to see how it all comes out in the end,.

By the way, I heard from Mary Jane yesterday.  It’s been over a month since our coffee visit.  She said, “My hand is healin’ real nice, and I want to thank you BB for inviting me over.  Why if you hadn’t of I might still have that finger.  Did you know it was causin’ me so much pain with the arthritis?  Reverend Jimmy John says my piano playin’ is much better since I lost it.”

Before she hung up we was laughin’ and tellin’ stories like we been best friends forever.  Isn’t that just the way?  I got me a new cooker and Mary Jane is playin’ piano at Sunday church better than ever.  I hope ya enjoyed this here first edition of Livin’ My Best Southern Life.  My life really is perfect like folks say, and yours can be too, as long as ya willin’ to follow the recipes.

Like I said I’m addin’ my own recipes to the book.  Do y’all have any ya’d like to share? ‘Course I’d have to test it out before I added it. 

#mybestsouthernlife

#swampliving

#provenbloodstainremoval

#justafinger

#Recipes

“Violin in Red” an original oil on canvas, by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

A Sunday Date with “The Artist’s Way” by Cheryl Owen Wilson

“My creative mojo is gone, scattered like autumn leaves.  I am bare and exposed.”

“The pandemic has eaten all I had to offer in my creative life .”

How many of you creatives felt, still feel, or have had friends express this sentiment? Are you, as a friend recently confessed, “I’m stuck in quicksand and can’t find a way out.”

In the last year, every morning when I open my email there are several offers for classes or get togethers via zoom to connect with fellow artists/writers.  Normally I would have signed up for them all.  Yet during this past year and into the new year I couldn’t manage to commit to any of them.  The uncertainty of our world had left me feeling so claustrophobic, any class, weekly meeting, etc. seemed too overwhelming to consider. 

Then a writing acquaintance offered up weekly meetings with an old friend (a book)—The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron.  The book is a 12-chapter course in discovering and recovering your creative self.  I read the book when it was published back in 1992.  Since that initial reading it has traveled with me from home to home, but never again did I crack its spine.  My acquaintance’s plan was each week we’d read a chapter and on Sunday she would facilitate a zoom meeting lasting no more than an hour.  She gathered creatives from all across the US and as far away as the Netherlands.  It felt like a good start to getting my writing mojo back, but I also allowed myself the grace of bowing out if I felt it too restrictive. 

So I began my Sunday zoom meetings and to my surprise I missed only one of the thirteen sessions, and was sad to see it coming to an end.  I’m not going to attempt to incapsulate the many pearls of wisdom I garnered from rereading the book, but I will attempt to explain a few of the practices I recognized I’d subconsciously continued years after my first reading.

Before I begin I should address the use of the word God throughout the book.  If the word God carries for you a negative connotation, as it did for a few in our Sunday group—they explained the word immediately gave them a picture of an angry male figure passing down judgement on their every move–Cameron provides an acronym of her intent in using the word—”GOD equals Good, Orderly, Direction.  The word is useful shorthand, but so is Goddess, Mind, Universe, Source and Higher Power.”      

Let’s begin with positive affirmations or quotes as the book is riddle with them.  My favorite quote is: Affirmations are like prescriptions for certain aspects of yourself you want to change—Jerry Frankhauser. 

Positive affirmations or Quotes—I’ve collected positive affirmations/quotes for longer than I can remember and had no recollection of when I began this practice.  They hang like jewels from fairy lights in my artist studio, they’re on my bathroom mirror, I give them as gifts,  there is always a deck of cards with inspirational quotes on my bedside table.  I’m now certain my love of these small tidbits of positive energy came from my first read of The Artist’s Way.

Personalizing affirmations is also used in many of the tasks Cameron gives the reader to do at the end of each chapter.  In one such task we were to write:  Treating Myself Like a Precious Object Will Make Me Strong.  We were then instructed to place the personal affirmation in a place where we’d see it daily.  This particular task, I affirmations, elicited much discussion and proved to be one of the major catalysts on the road to creative recovery in our group.  Here are a few more Cameron listed: 

            I am a talented person.

            I have a right to be an artist.

            I now accept hope.

            I now share my creativity more openly.

I created my own I affirmation:  I Will Live with Intention in All that I Do

Morning Pages—Another practice I’d forgotten I began with my first read of this book. You put pen or pencil to paper and write.  No keyboards please.  There is a kinetic benefit to this daily stream-of-consciousness writing.   I may not accomplish this on a daily basis, and have even stopped writing these pages off and on over the years.  But when I do I find the time for morning pages I’ve found my creative mind is more easily activated.   Many paintings have been born while writing morning pages, as well as story lines and interesting characters.

“Show up at the page.  Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.” 

The Artist’s Date—The artist’s date is a weekly practice that ties nicely with my above-mentioned affirmation involving intention.  You’re to take yourself on a date with the intention of quietly observing.  Think of it as a sacred space, a time for healing solitude meant just for you.  It can be as simple as taking a brief walk, or cooking a favorite or new recipe, visiting a museum, or embracing silence while staring up at a starry night sky.  Many of my artist’s dates have been simply sitting in quiet meditation. 

Another of my own affirmations:  Life itself is Meant to be an Artist’s Date

Collage/Vision Board—Since I’m a visual artist as well as a writer I’ve found this exercise beneficial in many areas.  Collect at least ten magazines.  Then working within a ten-to-twenty-minute time frame tear out anything that speaks to you—words, pictures, etc., or if no magazines are available for you to rip up, print off similar things you’ve kept in files on your computer.  You then glue, staple or tape the images onto a canvas or board creating your own unique visual collage.  Look at it through the eyes of your past, present, future, and beyond to your dreams.  Display your collage in a place where you can see it daily.  I’ve created these vision boards not just for my own life’s vision, but also for characters in my stories, or for the actual stories themselves.  

“If you want to work on your art, work on your life.”—Chekhov

Through the thirteen weeks of meeting and discussing The Artist’s Way, did I recover my mojo?  Of course I did.  But I also found so much more.  As one participant said, “It feels so good to be able to talk to people who really get what I’m feeling.”

In closing, many in the Sunday Artist’s Way meetings have decided to perhaps begin again.  This time we’re thinking of meeting and reading a chapter a month as opposed to weekly.  This will allow us to delve more deeply into each chapter and tasks.  For myself, I know I will not let years pass before I once again pick up The Artist’s Way.  I wonder in a year or two how many daily/weekly practices I’ll be continuing from this second reading?

Do you have something you can go to, a book, a daily routine, to recover your creative mojo?