A New Head Space

 

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my best distraction…. Sadie La Pup

In my studio each day, I try to focus on my art. I set my intentions for the day. Some days this is harder than others because I can get distracted and have trouble getting started. The distractions are many times in my head. Where do I start? What are my emotions for the day? Where did I end off yesterday? What is on my to do list? When is the next show? And, how many mugs do I need? (Do we really need more mugs in the world?)

But, some days, I have to get out of the emotions and find something to help my brain have a place to land other than the days news, family problems or just planning for another event. So, I have found that I can get into a zone much quicker if I have someone to listen to that will evoke learning about a new topic or give me a different perspective of how the world works.

I have found Podcasts to be very good for doing all of this. And I thought I would share the few that I listen to and why, in case you also need to get into a new head space. Here are the five that I have found to be just the ticket to help me to get through when silence or Pandora is just not enough to soothe.

So, first, Waking Up with Sam Harris. I think that he is about to rename this podcast soon though, to become, Making Sense with Sam Harris. Sam is a neuroscientist, philosopher and best-selling author. He explores important and controversial questions about the human mind, society, and current events. Sam also meditates. I think this is what I most am attracted to this podcast for is because his best selling book Waking Up is about doing meditation without religion. Sam is an atheist but realizes that we can train our minds to have a spirituality that can help with our daily lives. I love that! His podcasts can be very lengthy and the guests have in depth conversations about lots of topics and the perspectives they give are very current and well thought out.

Hidden Brian is a podcast that is sometimes featured on NPR because it is produced by them. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships. Shankar has covered topics from the opioid crises to becoming the change that you want to see in the world.

I just discovered Every Little Thing. This fun podcast is hosted by Flora Lichtman who used to be on Science Friday with Ira Flatow on NPR. She is just delightful to listen to and has a great sense of humor. I binged on this one several days ago and found myself laughing out loud at the history of pirates and the puns that were in the dialogue. Facts are used as the basis for the stories and experts are brought in to help talk about each topic. I highly recommend this one but, if you are sensitive to language or don’t want children exposed to that use caution, but I guarantee that you will really enjoy the format for this one and the topics are so fun.

TED Radio Hour. This show is a spin off of the TED talk series. This is an actual show that is featured on my NPR station each week but the podcast can be a good way to not have the breaks that the station may put in. If you are not familiar with TED talks, it is also a good learning tool and an effective way to gain insight about how others have solved problems. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, in case you were wondering. It isn’t from some guy named TED.

The One You Feed is the least favorite of the five suggestions but this one can sometimes be interesting as well.  This show bases it’s premise of meditation, primarily but, using the parable of the Good Wolf, Bad Wolf the show begins by the guest being asked how they use the Good Wolf, Bad Wolf concept in their lives. If you don’t know the parable, you can read it here. Topics on this podcast range from depression to procrastination and why we do it, to some pretty woo woo topics that tend to make me turn to something else but, I have heard some good authors here with some good information too so I haven’t completely given this one up just yet.

In addition to the five podcasts that are my base, I have listened to the lengthy podcast series S-Town and Serial. Both these are incredible and you really get drawn in as if you have someone in the house telling you a story that will capture your attention. And the  weekly NPR show This American Life has shows that run in three Acts, usually with a theme for the week.

So, if silence is too much, the news is worse, family problems can’t be fixed and you need an aversion, check out my options for a lighter mood to your day.

The Firefly Legend and the Thistle Flower…

There is a family in my area that grew up having to take the thistles out of the farmland so that the other crops could grow. The family members talk of this as a childhood memory that they hated having to do. Now, however, they are older with children of their own and have fonder memories for those times and have embraced the thistle as a type of family crest. At Christmas this past year, I made several items with a thistle design on them just for these family members to reinforce and share that bond. While I was working on a batch of thistle mugs for one of the family members to give as gifts to her many siblings, she wrote me an email which I would like to share part of here….

“I smile in so many ways over these mugs:

knowing the joy you gain through the creation of your hands and the understanding of using the gift God has given to glorify.

I think about what my dad and grandfather must be thinking when they see us reminisce over a flower (weed) we spent days eradicating from the soil.

In anticipation of my mother and siblings when they join in with delight.

and last, I anticipate the envy of the younger generation when they witness how the Thistle has bonded us together, knowing they will want this same bond (but also knowing they would revolt as much as we did when told they have to spend the digging hours to really appreciate the beauty of the Thistle).”

So, I have embraced the Thistle flower and now also embrace their bond of family and memories that it brings but also because I think it is a really cool flower. And I recently made a large pasta size bowl that I wanted to do an unusual decoration on and kept coming back to the thistles. The botanicals that I choose are usually my favorite flowers or veggies but I also went looking for some designs to compliment the thistle when I opened one of my quilt books and found a new story to go with my thistle flower.

Kumiko Sudo does wonderful origami quilts and quilt books. Lots of flowers and textural appliqué patterns. I immediately looked for the thistle, which she did have and found that she had written a legend about the firefly, in reference to the thistle flower. I don’t know if this is a story that she made up or if it is one of Japanese tradition (after a quick google search, there appears to be all kinds of different firefly legends) but I thought it would be fun to share it with you and then show you a quick video of how I used the legend on the bowl that is now in my kiln, firing and will get posted in it’s final form in a day or two.

A Long time ago, a fly thought he would take a nap on a  thistle flower. He loved the softness and the beautiful purple color of the flower. But as he was landing on the flower, the fly accidentally struck his bottom on some of the plant’s sharp needles. Hurt and upset, he waited for the wound to heal. To his great surprise and delight, he discovered that his bottom now glowed in the dark. In gratitude to the thistle for this special gift, he decided to become a night guide for all small creatures. To this day, we can see his descendants, which we now call fireflies, working hard throughout the night.

Kumiko Sudo

And after I got her legend drawn onto my bowl, I added fireflies and thistles and you can watch the bowl spin on my banding wheel. So, stay tuned and after it comes out of the bisque firing tomorrow, it will get a clear glaze and a soft green rim to compliment the legend and the beautiful purple flowers of the thistle. Enjoy!