Strolling through the Stitches

snowI couldn’t decorate this year for Christmas – no tree, no tinsel, no lights, no pretty shiny bulbs with ribbons and glitter – but I sure had a lot of cheer. That’s something folks in the apparel decorating industry rarely get a chance to experience during the holiday season. But I was more or less forced into it during my long and “hoppy” month since my tumble from the step stool. My leg injury has opened my eyes to many wonderful things, but it’s been an up-and-down ride. A couple of weeks after the X-rays determined the damage was no more than a hefty sprain, the clinic called with a different story.

Further investigation of the X-rays had been done as a routine double-check by the Mayo Clinic (the parent clinic to our local Mayo Clinic Health Systems, lucky me). They had determined the X-rays revealed what might be avascular nervosis. Geez, sounded bad. (Even spell check doesn’t recognize it.) Well, all big medical words sound bad to me, considering the biggest word in my vocabulary for the last 27 years has been “digitizing”. But I’m not one to take chances with health issues, so, without hesitation, I agreed to add “MRI” to my schedule.

Now understand, this was my first MRI, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how long it would take. I had heard horror stories from the claustrophobic, but assured myself, that I’d never had that problem. I envisioned perhaps a half hour inside a tube and convinced myself it would be a dandy opportunity to meditate. (HA!)  I was wheeled outside in the cold to the large heated trailer that is parked in front of the clinic once a week (our rural facility is serviced by a “MRI-mobile”.) The technician explained how the process worked, while dangling a metal washer on a string in front of the white tubular opening. The washer flew up and danced around like a drunk fly until it glued itself to the inside opening of the tube. Eerie.

I then realized why the doctor had asked if I had any metal in my body, to which I had answered, “only if it was left behind the last time you guys were digging around and cutting things out.” She had snickered in a slightly devilish tone and remarked that we’d soon find out. Touche. I watched the tech pull away the metal washer and let it spring back a few times to display just how strong the magnetic current is, and imagined my body slamming up to the top of the cylinder, glued at the abdomen, limbs flailing, helplessly. I was so very relieved to be told only my lower body need be scanned.

I shoved the ear plugs in my ears as instructed, which then muffled the tech’s voice as she pointed to various digital panels on the front of the tube. So I pulled out one plug requesting she repeat the instructions and she replied, “I know, sorry. I’m like the dentist who asks you a question when they are digging in your mouth,” after which she promptly walked away to another room of the trailer to engineer the process.

No wait! Really, what did you say?!! The words got stuck in my throat as she disappeared too quickly behind a wall. I didn’t dare move. She had told me not to. And I recalled the metal in my dental work and didn’t want my head slamming into that thing. I struggled to read a tiny notice on the tube, “Do not stare directly into the light … severe damage ….” What light?! The one right above the notice? Maybe that’s not a light, but it sure looks like one. If that’s not the light, which light and just where am I not to stare? Why did they make such a warning so damn small?!

Then my attention was directed to the digital panels she had pointed to as they lighted and I discovered they were count-down timers that I was able to watch – something to keep the mind busy, I suppose, perhaps an attempt to comfort the patient, but they only reminded me of the digital count-down for a bomb. And then suddenly I found out what the ear plugs were for. As it scanned in 3-5 minute intervals, its swishing rat-a-tat-tat began, a sound similar to a worn out washing machine I once had when it went into the spin cycle – the one we had named “Old Tommy-Gun”. For 15 minutes I pondered, why in this new high-tech world does this sophisticated device have to make such a racket? What the hell goes on inside that thing? Well, I’ll probably never know the answer to that, but I decided that an MRI experience is certainly not the ideal time to meditate!

A few days later, a day after I was limping around the house, catching up cat-chairon domestic chores, the clinic called again. The specialists determined that they didn’t find what they were looking for but indeed, trouble was lurking on the inside where X-rays couldn’t go; a couple of small fractures in the area of the knee cap and one in the ball of the tibia. Long story short, I am now on crutches, wearing a knee brace and still very thankful for that chair on wheels that I had traveled on (to the dismay of one cat who had decided the new chair in the hall was hers.  I actually had to fight her for it.)  “You were lucky,” said the physical therapist, “if you hadn’t used your office chair to get around for the last few weeks, we might be talking about surgery.” … whew!

He instructed to not put any weight on it for two weeks, and afterward, only a bit at a time. And then he gave me an approved application for a handicap parking sticker good till April.  April?! It’s going to be one long winter!  I felt some relief when he said I need not use the brace, if I can remember to not bend or put weight on the leg when trying to get around on the crutches. I have one cat who has claimed that particular leg as her bed for the last 15 years and another cat who found the brace so disgusting she has tried tearing it off with her teeth. After spending a good amount of time trying to pick cat hair off the Velcro straps, I tried the “no brace method”, but quickly found out how easy it is to forget the rules. It was quite frightening to find myself standing in one part of the house, suddenly aware my crutches were no where to be seen.  I had been so preoccupied I couldn’t even recall if I had babied the leg and limped there!  I now keep the furry brace on as a reminder. I do not want surgery.

Fortunately, I’ve found that my work station for EmbroideryDesigns.com is the most comfortable place to sit because it has ample space for my leg to stretch straight out with my foot resting on a pillow. But I hadn’t given much thought to needing such a position when establishing my digitizing station. Punching has been slow-going because it’s very difficult to concentrate and let creativity flow when uncomfortable. I’m planning to set up my I-Cliqq digitizing software soon on my laptop, so I can punch while stretched out on the couch. Perhaps I won’t move through a design as swift as when working in my office, but I intend to take advantage of my forced slow-down. Digitizing is more enjoyable when you can stroll through the stitches, instead of rushing without recall to the end.  And so is life.

Although the dust and cat hair are merging into puffy bunnies, my husband is learning to do laundry and at least trying to cook something other than toasted bagels. I am sincerely appreciating the snowflakes drifting by the windows, the serenity and moments of silence.

fluteI even took my Native American flute out of its case, a custom made Christmas gift from my husband that I have only spent time with when creating a design to embroider on buckskin.  I had been thrilled with the gift and had vowed I’d start learning how to play it “as soon as the holiday rush was over.”  I was shocked to realize it had been hanging there for 13 years, waiting to sing. My name is engraved on its underside, followed by the name of its maker, friend, Lakota George Estes, dated 12/6/00. “A flute should be played,” George had told me.  I wanted to.  I just did not.  No time for play, I had to work.  Didn’t I?

After more than a decade, it’s finally being used for its intention other than a wall decoration; a personal quest for my ears and spirit only, but I am now committed to not stop until I learn to play Love Mountain – Wayra the Wind.  So that could mean I’ll be trying till I die.  Alas, a flutes I may never be, but I’m definitely finding a wonderful, inspiring peace within the process.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Yes, it has actually turned out to be the most enjoyable month of December I’ve had in 27 years. Not once did I have to crawl out of bed before 7 a.m. and if I stayed awake past 10 p.m. it was because I wanted to. I have not fretted over lost or delayed orders, and by gosh, it hasn’t hurt at all. So, let me also take a moment in this post to suggest you all learn to gear down a little during the holiday rush; something I know well is so very difficult to do for those who are in an industry of “Santa’s elves.”

If your holidays have been zipping by blindly, now is the time to take stock of how you handled things these last few months – or how things controlled you. Acknowledge where changes can be made for the better, and then resolve to make those changes next Fall! Don’t let the years of precious holiday smiles get smothered during the stress of deadlines and chaos of caps, polos and jackets. Slow the pace a notch, enjoy. Stop the machines now and then and step away from the computer to smell the pine and and taste the peppermint. Don’t wait to break a leg to remember how special the holiday season can be!

Wishing you all a most prosperous and peaceful New Year! 🙂

Inspiration in the Woods

© 2012 B. Landsberger“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.” – Albert Einstein

During sunny seasons I want to lay in a patch of violets and clover, look up through the trees at the blue sky and watch puffy, white clouds float by. But I know better. My allergy problems are so unpredictable during the warmest seasons and I’ve had to accept that “smelling the roses” is not always the wisest activity for me. I allow myself to get caught up in the daily indoor grind, while stifling the feeling of being cheated out of outdoor pleasures. It’s not until the temps drop to the 60s and leaves © 2012 B. Landsbergermorph from the deepest greens to earth tones of orangey-reddish-browns that I’m pulled outside uncontrollably with the hope to find something remaining of Summer’s splendor.

Last week my big break finally arrived and I dashed out for a © 2012 B. Landsbergerwalk in the woods, camera in hand, hoping to capture the sustaining summery stuff. And indeed I found a few flowers, bees and a bunny or two that scattered faster than I could point and shoot. Startled by my rare presence in their domain, they sprang from under fallen branches and dove into the surrounding brush or below another pile of fallen branches. © 2012 B. Landsberger

© 2012 B. LandsbergerThe storms and flash floods in recent months have certainly made their mark. Splintered branches are dangling overhead, tethered by spiraling grape vines as thick as the branches they entwine. 

Many of the stately trunks bare scars that © 2012 B. Landsbergercause the mind’s eye to see faces with expressions frozen in time, revealing the pain endured when their branches were ripped away.  Their scars display the © 2012 B. Landsbergerstruggles that they had no other choice than to push through, and push they always do. I imagine it’s one reason they can survive for hundreds of years.

Some “tree expressions” take on a more extra terrestrial appearance after woodpeckers have their way, digging for bugs and creating coves perfect for winter nests – one of many ways Nature takes care of herself.

© 2012 B. Landsberger

Nothing goes to waste in Nature. That which falls to the forest floor is always put to good use as shelter for a variety of critters or it serves another purpose, as the fallen leaves that blanket the wild grasses, insuring the forest floor will return in Spring.

And there’s just something special © 2012 B. Landsbergerabout dead wood. Not one piece looks like the other; each with its own unique details of © 2012 B. Landsbergerlines and dots in a swirling grain of marbling tones.  I could meditate, ogling these images for hours, studying the shapes and flows of colors as the inspiration is absorbed.  It takes me on a non-drug induced, artistic high, reduces my stress factor, while at the same time, ideas are born … peaceful, yet motivating. And of course, I even ponder how these wonders might be digitized for embroidery or how to describe them in words. I find each piece of dead wood unique with a “story” that is incredibly fascinating.

So too is the bark of a living tree that continues to stretch and crack, evolving into vignettes of merging images only the mind’s eye can see.

© 2012 B. LandsbergerToo often I overlook the most brilliant beauty around me, believing if I don’t see what I yearn to see, then the beauty must not exist. But when I recognize the beauty that does exist – when I really look – it’s amazing!

“Look deep, deep deep into nature.”  What do you see?

[I see many things in the bark of this tree — turtles, faces, snakes, butterflies, Leprechauns, Angels, Jesus and more.]

all images © 2012 B.Landsberger ARR

Take a break – feel the ahhhhs …

I have so many things I’d love to blog about, and unfortunately, at the moment life is getting in the way of writing. But I won’t leave you with nothing. While watching a slide show of photos captured on a nature walk a couple weeks ago I decided, perhaps, it would be a good time to share a few in the “break room”.   … Enjoy

The purple phlox and yellow wildflowers are in full bloom, carpeting the woods in every spot where the rays of sun reach through the trees.Butterflies fluttered and danced from one blossom to the next in the warm sun …Viceroy butterfly

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Nessus Sphinx or Hummingbird Moth

When I first saw this moth (above and below center-left) I assumed it was a baby hummingbird until I saw no beak and it had antennae.  About half the size of a hummingbird, it jets and halts between each blossom and drinks while arching its back and pushing its tail forward.

A beaver has been busy doing what beavers do …

And other critters have been busy …

A pair of Mallords enjoying the peace of a gentle flowing river …

Taking a break to stretch and preen …

And then it’s back to busy …

Oh, to be a duck …

Till next time, many smiles! 🙂

Creativity Awaits Outside the Window

Watching the raindrops hit the leaves of the Crabapple tree outside my office window today, I considered how fortunate I am to actually have a window.  I’d spent at least 20 years employed at various jobs working in spaces without windows.  Three of those positions required that I create, either by writing or designing or both, but rarely did I find muse while on the clock.  Inspiration necessary for motivating creativity was acquired during outside walks during breaks and lunch hours or at home – where there was a window.

For about 18 years I’ve been working from a home office with two large windows; one is half-draped to keep light hitting my computer monitors and the other is devoured by the Crabapple tree.  I can’t see very far beyond the window from my chair, but what I can’t see, my mind’s eye can.  The seasonally, changing view is embedded in memory, as I routinely walk over to the window every hour for a Yoga stretch.  (CTS and PAD will not be my downfall if I can avoid it!)  Within minutes after opening the window – even when it’s Minnesota cold – for a relaxing daydream, along with a meditative, breath of fresh air, my mind kicks in with an uplifting fervor and the creativity flows!

Not being able to steal a glance at nature every time I have a mind-block would be so drastically stifling!  I’ve spent a good deal of dead time staring at a blinking cursor on a white doc page or canvas of a graphics or digitizing program, and then, later during a walk or gazing out the window, I’ve been hit with an epiphany.  I jot a note or capture a picture to examine later and it’s the image that helps me recall exact details of my bright ideas, because it triggers what I was thinking at the time.  I’m then able to move forward in my project at a faster pace and with more clarity.

I never question why it works (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually nature that turns on the switch of creativity or just the physical act that tells the brain to take a break so the “juices” can flow.  I only know that when I find myself just sitting there trying to squeeze out the next paragraph, design or digitizing solution, staring at my pencil cup just doesn’t cut it as well!  The weather can be sunny or snowy, or rainy and cloudy in a blue sky or grey, and after a brief gaze at the Crabapple, the wheel of creativity never fails to turn.  Oh, sometimes a Cardinal or squirrel interrupts my focus, but the experience usually enhances inspiration, which sometimes leads to an idea for an entirely new project I can tuck away in the slush pile.

Curious to know if this is a common or personal experience, I did a little research and found that there’s actually a study of the affects to employees at work places with and without windows called “A Room with a View: A Review of the Effects of Windows on Work and Well-Being” by Kelly M. J. Farley and Jennifer A. Veitch.  Now, I haven’t read the entire study (yet); however, a statement in the abstract told me I wasn’t alone.  “Windows with views of nature were found to enhance work and well-being in a number of ways including increasing job satisfaction, interest value of the job, perceptions of self-productivity, perceptions of physical working conditions, life satisfaction, and decreasing intention to quit and the recovery time of surgical patients.

Fresh air from an opened window is also said to spur creativity, because it enhances brain power, according to various claims.  If you can’t open a window, brief outdoor walks should be mandatory, because it helps you get your Vitamin D, as well as “’Vitamin G’ – what experts call time spent in green spaces”, explains Prevention Magazine in The Fresh-Air Fix”.  The article also offers six ways you and your family can benefit from being outdoors, which by the way, spending time socializing has also proven to be another way to pump up creativity.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a window in your office and find it difficult to arrange hourly breaks outdoors, try taking a few tips from the ancient Chinese system of Feng Shui.  Whether you believe in its laws of aesthetic energy or not, many of its principles are in agreement with scientific facts, as well as the results of health studies.  Good air quality is the first thing on the list in “Create Good Feng Shui In A Small Office with No Windows” followed by displaying various types of art, including a wall mural depicting nature.  That would be my preference, along with a small aquarium, if forced to work in a windowless room.  I must have some place to look where my mind can take frequent walks – my body is just not that ambitious!

If you have one or more employees whom you depend on to produce great creative works, provide nature in the environment, but give them more than a potted plant.  (Yes, plants do improve air quality, but it’s simply not enough!)  If possible, arrange for an office with a window or hang a large photo of the Rainforest or of somewhere a mind can tip-toe through brain-titillating tulips.  And by all means, allow brief, outdoor breaks for rejuvenation as frequent as reasonable.   Sitting still for too long can cause dead stares into pencil cups.

Finally [and I suggest this, of course, at your discretion] cut a little slack when your hired “creator” occasionally appears to be dawdling in daydreams, while staring out the window or other focal point on your dime.  Have patience.  Surely, a masterpiece is about to be born!