Friday, December 24, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Cold Moon

(click on image for larger view)

For this special full moon, complete with lunar eclipse and occurring on the winter solstice, I decided I would spend some extra time, go deeper, and create a Soul Reflections board by following along with Jamie Ridler's Soul Reflections Home Edition workshop in a box.

It's the second time I've created a board this way, and each time I look at this board I'm seeing different things in it. As I started creating the board I was concerned it was going to turn out an ugly, confused mess. However, as I pasted images down it felt better and better, and now I love it.

This board celebrates the feminine. Even the "tough" elements are "tough-glam" with sparkle and flair. It seems the board is telling me to pay attention to feeding my soul with beauty, pampering, rest, yummy things, nurturing environments. Flowers and butterflies symbolize the unfolding and transforming journey I'm on. I feel a lot of power when I look at this board, and I'm looking forward to discovering more of its messages.

Enjoy your holidays, with peace and joy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Embracing what is

I haven't been posting to this blog lately, and it's because I've been overwhelmed by unexpected events. In mid-October, after a bout of recurring knee problems, I was shocked to find that the MRI results showed my ACL was completely torn. Cutting (haha) a long story short, this Monday I had knee surgery to reconstruct the ACL, as well as address the other problems with the menisci and cartilage. What I've experienced so far has been a journey in five days that may preview the challenges I'll be facing during the approximately six month long rehab period. It'll be months before I can dance in my red tango shoes again.

This morning I had a moment of frustration. It was brought on by the strain of having everything so newly difficult that once was so easy. Putting a sock on a straight-braced leg requires another person's help. Picking up something that's' more that two feet away on the floor takes a series of steps where it once was an easy reach and swipe. I looked at pictures from earlier this year, and saw myself in vibrant health and happiness, and it was difficult accept that I won't be in that state for a number of months yet. Lots of "glass half empty" thoughts.

And then, in tears this morning, I saw that the source of my pain was that rift, that gulf between my expectations and my reality. For this journey, for my own sanity, I need to come to terms with patience and with myself exactly as I am now. It requires that I kindly acknowledge my body has been through a significant procedure, and it needs care and time to heal. I want to pop up whole and completely healed, but that is not what is. I've talked to plenty of people about what to expect, doing my research before the surgery. Without exception, they all mentioned what a challenging personal growth lesson the rehab brought, with its slow, deliberate, pace. I can hardly believe that at five days into the process I already feel this impatience. I mean, really!

The week has been emotionally difficult at times, and simply physically exhausting at others, but there have been bright moments.

I'm grateful for my wonderful guy, who has been encouraging and supportive at every step, such as the excruciating slow and painful "walk" up to our apartment coming home from surgery.

I'm grateful I live on the 2nd floor of this building, not the 5th, as the elderly woman with a walker does.

I'm grateful for a skilled and kind surgeon, a great hospital nearby, and wonderfully helpful and caring staff at the hospital.

I'm grateful for the thorough, well-trained, and empathetic person who is my physical therapist.

I'm grateful for simple and effective, frozen H2O. Ice... ah, it is the ingredient I've found works best for controlling the swelling and pain.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Comfort food and time

What's comfort to me? Like lots of other people, I'm sure, comfort partly means food. When I'm feeling I need some TLC the food group at the top of the list is rice. Rice in many forms: mushroom risotto, congee with pork and thousand year egg, arroz con pollo, rice pudding. Second on the list? Chicken soup. I'm happy to enjoy the chicken soups of many cultures: my mom's Chinese herbal chicken soup, Salvadoran chicken soup with huge chunks of vegetables and fresh lime to squeeze over the fragrant broth, good old Jewish deli style chicken soup.

And the simplest, but also hardest, comfort to me? Time off. I've been working hard the past couple of weeks, and the greatest relief and comfort have come from those things I do with "time off." That's a funny phrase. It sounds like we can turn time off. Or that we can turn ourselves on and off. With pressures mounting I made sure to listen to the little voice inside, crying out for some time on the couch watching Dancing With the Stars, with my knitting in my lap. Resting. Without that I don't know how I would have had found energy for the next demanding day.

I'll have more time to stretch out in comfort this weekend, and here's what I might do with it:
  • Take a walk and see the changing colors on autumn leaves
  • Bake a fresh loaf of bread
  • Sing an improvisation
  • Dance in the living room
  • Take a nap
I'm looking forward to surrounding myself with comfort. Enjoy what brings you happiness and join in the fun at The Happy Book book blogging group.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Harvest Moon

It's been a really intense period lately and I've been feeling it all in my knotted stomach and achy shoulders, neck, head. In one day, 10 days ago, I learned I need to have knee surgery and I arranged an interview with a freelance assignment. I have been a ball of stress lately, and I've been pulling out anything from the tool bag to try and help myself, hoping for quick relief. Almost nothing seemed to help, but I have to admit a couple of things did make me forget about my pain for a moment.

I performed with Mark Lamb Dance last Saturday, in the full storm of intense stress. I arrived at the venue exhausted, but by the end of the evening I was feeling energized by the inspiration and artistry all around me. Performing improv forces me to be completely in the moment -- and that means temporary relief from my worries about health or work. But it also gives me another perspective: there is more to me than whatever I am experiencing at the moment. I know these troubles will eventually be worked through, because I am committed to taking action. But also I am reminded that my soul needs dance and play and art. When I pay attention to what my soul needs, I'm able to jump, soar, transform, and kick ass. Red is such an important part of this board, and I think it symbolizes the energy that will help me move through a challenging time. I feel a whole lot better today, so perhaps the energy of the full moon has helped me release some stuff.

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuning in to: I Love to Dance

This week for the Happy Book blogging group, we're picking songs that compel us to dance. Although it was fun to think about, I didn't have time this week to create an exhaustive list of my favorites, and I can't think of them until I hear them again anyway! Maybe some other people in the blogging group will help me remember a tune I love to dance to. And maybe this little list will remind someone else of a great dance tune.

May your bodies sway, shake and sashay!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grateful for an artistic community

This week for the Happy Book blogging group we're focusing on who we'd like to thank. I feel immense gratitude to be in the company of a group of talented people who create beautiful work together. The amazing dancer/improviser/teacher, Mark Lamb, has created this wonderful monthly event. It was his vision, and it was built through the wonderful contributions of those inspired by that vision. Dancers, choreographers, improvisers, musicians, cooks, pastors, even a baby. The circle grows larger and larger, and the salons keep getting better and better! At the salon last Saturday, September 11, I witnessed this beautiful piece called "Peace Requiem." May we honor those who have passed, not by waging war but by cultivating peace and compassion in our hearts and in the world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A fun scavenger hunt

photographs and music © 2010 Helen Yee, all rights reserved

My knee has been bothering me again, so I haven't been able to go out there and take pictures for the scavenger hunt. But you know what? I've got lots of pictures sitting in my computer, and this was a wonderful opportunity to go back through years of memories. That was just as fun!

How was your week? What did you notice makes you happy? Check out others' happy posts here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happy cycles

You can listen to my musical improvisation as you read this posti by clicking the play button below.

The Circle - improvisation
Helen Yee - throat singing and violin ©2010

A circle...
For the last ten weeks I've been a part of Jamie Ridler's group coaching telecircle, called Circe's Circle. It's with celebration and a touch of sadness that we now depart from this wonderful and supportive circle. The happy part of this experience is all I've accomplished and been awakened to in my own creative process during these weeks. When I began the circle, I knew I had a collaborative project to look forward to. But soon, another creative project landed and another opportunity to be profiled for a television segment arrived. My summer was launching to full tilt rather quickly. And the culmination of these events has been a joyful, artistically fulfilling, connecting experience. And so, the question hovers in my awareness, expectantly: What's next?

As I mentioned last week, I want to explore what my own creations will be, outside of the ever-so-comfortable-for-me nest of creative collaboration. What will I create when left to my own devices? What will I be inspired by? What do I have inside me?

The beauty of beginning
I am continuing to explore, "If the word is love..." as a jumping off point for exploring my solo creative project. The music that accompanies this post is just that, one of my adventures in the land of solo improvisation. I'm happy to be digging through my bag of skills and tools, and tinkering with the possibilities. Possibilities. I like that word.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Sturgeon Moon

For this full moon I let my intuition guide me as I gathered an excess of images. Before facing the blank board I had no idea what mood this board would settle into. In a blur, my chosen images fell into place on the board.

This board has a lightness about it. Whimsical, child-like, exuberant, celebratory, colorful. I don't know how so many images with balloons showed up, but there is definitely a lot of movement upward in this board. There is also a touch of mystery here too, with the diver swimming toward the ocean depths and the egg. What do I think this board is trying to show me?
  • Hopefulness, optimism - things looking up
  • Celebration! with balloons, cake, fun jewelry, fancy shoes
  • A girl-woman quality that wants to be expressed
  • A bit of bling and glamour
  • Taking flight - jumping, floating, flying
  • Nurturing possibility - in the nest and egg
  • Cherishing beauty in nature, and in people-made objects and environments
  • And in the middle of it all: feeling the love
If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If the word is love...

You can listen to my musical excerpt while you read this post by clicking the play button below.

Magnolia Air - improvisation on F# drone
Helen Yee - violin ©2010

What a happy week this has been. Last Saturday was the opening of a play I collaborated on the music for, as well as a personal first in multi-discipline performance, a duet with Mark Lamb using my skills both old and new, in throat singing, violin playing, movement and text improvisation. The play is truly a collaborative work of art, and I've enjoyed performing the music for it along with my collaborator, musician and sound designer Matt O'Hare. My duet with Mark Lamb flowed well, was surprising, funny and real -- it was a performance high! It's such an honor to be working with such talented artists, and the collaborative process is one I love.

There is that thing that pulls at me a bit. What would happen if I were to create on my own? Can I do it? Do I have enough ideas, talent, focus, gumption, etc.?

For the past nine weeks I've enjoyed participating in the wonderful Jamie Ridler's group coaching, Circe's Circle. We're near the end of the ten-week session together and I have one more thing I want to explore and create, to truly feel like I've made good progress on my project of creating a body of work. That "thing" is to create my own work. Recently the word that keeps coming up for me is "love." Jamie asked us to take a look at how this can serve our project. How can love serve my project? This week, I've decided that I will just explore what I love and keep track of what happens. What opens things up for me? What ideas take hold of me?

Today's creation was inspired by magnolia. Last night, after our performance of the play, I had a slice of delicious cake from a bakery bearing that name. This morning I decided to just go with it, let the shuffle play choose my starting drone, and begin. There's no telling where this is going to lead me. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 6, 2010

A happy ride

I had the most wonderful cab ride yesterday morning. This is not something you hear much in New York City.

I left my apartment, struggling with an injured knee, using an umbrella as a makeshift cane. As I hobbled to the corner, I hoped I'd find a yellow cab with a credit card reader since I hadn't been able to visit a cash machine and was in no mood to limp to the nearest one. Happily, there was a cab already stopped near the corner, the cab driver finishing the last bites of a morning snack.

The cab was air-conditioned (what a blessing in the heat we've been enduring this summer!) and the cab driver's first question to me was "How are you this morning?" I lied, not wanting to burden a stranger with my physical struggles. "Good. Pretty good."

He asked what instrument I had with me, and that began a conversation that lifted my spirits. We talked about his daughter, studying to become a doctor, who used to play the violin. How he loved listening closely to her practicing. We talked about how the violin can just make you cry, as it so sensitively expresses emotion almost more purely than the human voice. We talked about the power of music to move the spirit. It was one of those moments where I felt honored to be a musician. I struggle periodically with the meaning and usefulness of making art. This morning I had no such burden. This beautiful conversation with a cab driver from Bangladesh started my day peacefully and happily.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy creating

Manon / Sandra @ FringeNYC

For the last week and a half I've been busy, really busy working on collaborating on the music for a play, opening August 14, to be mounted at the Fringe Fest in New York City. Although I'm feeling a bit exhausted, I'm also very happy. For me, showing up at the studio each day is a vastly more satisfying experience than showing up at an office every day. I get to shape music and sound in order to support characters and story. I get to take out some of my favorite toys: my violin, a microphone, a few electronic gadgets, and explore and play. I get to PLAY! It reminds me that even when I'm creating and composing on my own, experimentation and play are the best mind space to create from. As for collaboration, I'm thankful I have this opportunity to work with some amazing artists, all of such wonderfully high caliber.

I'll keep this posting short and sweet. The creative juices are flowing and I am really excited about this excellent production. I hope maybe some of you out there will be able to catch it.

How was your week? What did you notice makes you happy? Check out others' happy posts here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dream for the Full Buck Moon

It's wonderful to take the time and build myself a dreamboard for the full moon. This month's dreams seem to be slightly gentler and softer, with more images of gardens, flowing movement, flowers, a bird. But there's still plenty of intensity too. I'm preparing to be profiled by an independent television station, and I'm busy collaborating on music for a play, and collaborating in a music, movement and text improv piece with a wonderful choreographer/dancer/improviser, Mark Lamb.

My winged warrior princess has made a return to my board, and she and the glamorous traveler have audiences and cameras upon them. This board seems to be calling me to explore my more feminine side with the vanity and jewelry. And I am also looking for some abundance and prosperity. Lots of things going on, so it looks like I also need some quiet time in the midst of all this exciting activity.

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy senses

Oh, there are many things brewing in my creative life, but for now I'll let them develop a bit before I share with you all. Having creative projects to work on definitely makes me happy. This morning on Skype video, my honey said it was great to see such a great smile on my face.

So my simple happinesses this week include:
  • Fresh plums from the farmer's market - the yellow ones, the red ones, the orangey ones, all tasting subtly and delightly different
  • Arranging a breakfast plate in a silly way to put a smile on my own face
  • A bunch of fresh lavender stalks in a glass vase, so beautiful to look at and smell
  • Loving the sound of my violin even more, ever since an expert worked his magic on it -- a series of tiny adjustments that added up to a whole lot of improvement
And with that violin sounding beautiful, it's time to create some music with it. Have a wonderful and happy week, fellow journeyers!

Check out others' happy posts here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Strawberry Moon

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts."
(from a painting in a window in Soho)

"What happened? Did you feel that? The room changed -- I felt something on my skin."
(from an article a friend shared with me)

This dreamboard has to win my own award for "wordiest board!" I'm not used to having so many words on my board, but I'm curious to see how it goes. The dream I have most strongly in my mind for this moon is the creation of a new body of work. What I see here are inspirations to recognize and honor the power of art. I've often vacillated in my life between seeing my art-making as an unimportant, inconsequential act, or seeing it as a potential healer of ills and feeder of souls. Synchronistically, a community orchestra colleague told me yesterday about a New York Times article featuring an artistic hero of mine, Laurie Anderson. The descriptions of the impact of her work are similar to what I would like to hear said about my work. After seeing that my dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall were fulfilled, I'm excited to see where this chapter of the journey will take me.

I see that this moon I am being asked to look at and appreciate the significance of what I want to do, perhaps what I am called to do. At the same time, there are reminders to play, to "leave the edges wild," to have courage, to kick ass, to align with the deepest levels of my being, to not be afraid of big ideas, to tune in to myself and the inner dance. I am really intrigued with this board, and I can't wait to see what work will emerge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy for a taste of nature

A couple of simple, small things made me smile this week. When I squeezed honey into a bowl of homemade yogurt and store-bought cereal it made this pattern. Looks like a heart, doesn't it? I had to snap a photo of it.

The homemade yogurt is something I've just started doing. We're probably at about our sixth batch of the stuff, and it is miraculous, fresh, delicious. I'm always a little nervous before I lift the cover on the pot, after it has incubated for a number of hours. It has not failed yet. The wonderful organisms seem to go right on living and doing their thing. I save the last bit of yogurt of each batch to use as culture for the next, and so far it's been working like a yummy dream.

I am also looking forward to adding some fresh herbs to my cooking this summer. The pot of chives came from a friend, and the basil from the farmer's market. Happy, herby deliciousness is ours! I might be inspired to add to the collection on my future trips to the market.

Check out others' happy posts here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy ingredients

I made my first trip to a local farmer's market at the northern end of Manhattan. I can't believe I've lived in this neighborhood for ten years without being aware of it. It's a welcome discovery that, on this trip, yielded fresh strawberries, eggs, delicious mushrooms, and garlic scapes. The vendor heard my plan to use the mushrooms and eggs for omelets and threw in a few squiggly garlic scapes for free. Thank you, thank you!

But what about all of this makes me happy? I want to notice more deeply what the ingredients of happy are. Exploration and discovery. Being outdoors on a beautiful day. My curiosity to look online for how to use garlic scapes. The simple enjoyment of delicious food. The visual beauty of fresh produce. The good clean feeling I get from knowing that my money is helping support local growers and a healthy environment. The sharing of a new experience with my honey. When I look underneath the surface of such a simple thing, and see that it yields so much happiness, it helps me know that there is plenty to go around if we just pay attention to it.

Let's try this exercise with the knitting. What makes me happy about knitting? The aesthetic joy of walking into a yarn shop filled with colorful and luscious yarns of different materials, and choosing from such a bounty. The soft, creature comfort of touching my chosen organic cotton yarn. The sense of adventure and discovery of looking online for some fun patterns. The self knowledge of recognizing my joy in challenging and stretching myself, learning new things, pushing myself to grow. The satisfaction of having tried something new and having it turn out lovely. The satisfaction of knowing that something I had wanted to experience but had previously assumed was too complicated (and therefore, scary) is now part of my life. I like making these little washcloths because each one gives me a chance, in quick succession, to enjoy these steps over and over again.

Maybe when we peek underneath the hood of these wonderful vehicles for happiness, we can discover its inner workings. What's inside your happiness?

Check out others' happy posts here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Passing, a reminder to be happy

This week brought the horrible news of a childhood friend’s passing after a battle with cancer. While we were no longer close and I knew little about his private life, we stayed in touch twice a year when I visited his office for exams and cleanings.

In the call from his office a few nights ago, his assistant’s wind-up delivered a blow I wasn’t prepared for. For a moment before the conclusion of her fateful sentence, I imagined the call was about a postponed appointment because of his parent’s passing. But no, it was about my friend himself. He'd never told me he was fighting cancer.

He died too young. He was my age. It is a powerful reminder that our time on this planet, in this lifetime, is limited and therefore precious. I feel very sad for his family’s loss, disappointed that his children will no longer have their dad.

The news shook me, telling me again that life is not to be wasted. But what does that mean? Partly it shows me I must cherish all the moments of life – that I can truly soak in my journey and really pay attention to my fellow travelers and the beauty of the world around me, wherever I am. It reminds me I must pursue what is in my heart, and that I cannot put things off for some future day that may never come. It’s a message to live fully. To make courageous choices. To be in the present.

We shouldn’t need brutal reminders of mortality to make us pay attention to the sweetness of life. So, perhaps, that's the gift this weekly practice of observing and acknowledging happiness brings.

Let’s pay attention. What brought happiness to you this week?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Happy: Dreamboard, Flowers, Friends

My happy this week was making a dreamboard again, after missing the last moon because of a full, full, full calendar. It was wonderful to get back to this practice of tuning in and letting my intuition guide my choice of images for this Full Flower Moon. This cycle, I didn't have time to post my own or respond to others' dreamboards, but you can check out dreamboards here.

I love flowers (who doesn't?) and this makes me happy too. Success! The orchid bloomed this year!

And simply spending time with friends, new and old. We enjoyed a cookout on a friend's deck during Memorial Day weekend. Great creative company, delicious food, fresh air. What a wonderful way to begin the days of summer.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy making music

It was my first time playing there, and it's been a dream of mine for a long time. I have been there many times to take in concerts of all stripes but I still wanted to see what it's like to be on that stage. I was part of the string section in a great program of contemporary gospel music, "A Night of Inspiration." I put in the practice, got there. Surely, the practice is never over. That's part of the challenge and the joy of being a musician. I had a great time being part of the show and maybe someday I'll be there again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy with flowers

Here it is! I am quite excited to have finished my very first knitting project. Although I have vague memories of knitting little 4 x 4 sampler squares in my youth, I never endeavored to follow a pattern to actually MAKE something specific. I finally listened to my heart, and then followed the message to completion of a tea cosy or tea cozy -- depending on what part of the English speaking world you hail from! I'm especially proud of myself for (re)learning to knit from the wealth of how-to videos on the web, and for finding a pattern on the web, and for having the guts to alter the pattern to fit a smaller teapot, and the guts for trying a whole bunch of new techniques that fell in the "someday I want to try" category. I am very happy with the results, and I joyfully gave it to my good, tea-drinking friend.

Funny, now that it's all done and I don't have an ongoing knitting project, I feel a sense of missing something. I no longer have a little bag to open up at the end of the day to knit another couple of rows. Have I stepped on the path of becoming a knitting addict? :)

What kind of flowers are these?

This week I went on a walk with a friend and the park was blooming everywhere we looked. In a way, I feel like things are starting to move in my life after the quiet, internal phase of winter. I got a couple of very interesting music gigs this week. Happy, happy for the chance to do what I love.

You can see what others are saying about what makes them happy at

Friday, April 9, 2010

Walking happy

This week's happy included a nice, long walk in Central Park. We've been having a freakishly warm week here and the sunshine and the chance to walk around without a jacket on were irresistible. It is still very early in the season, so the trees were just starting to release tiny, tender leaves. I love the different shades of green in springtime.

The delight of children crowded around the giant soap bubbles made me smile. I stopped and took it all in, including the beautiful plaza around the fountain. No water yet, but it hardly diminished the beauty. I just miss the sounds of the fountain. I snapped some pictures and felt like a tourist in my own city.

And also this week, I finally gave in to the urge to start knitting. I didn't want to knit a scarf as my first project, and I couldn't think of anyone who really wants one, especially as the weather is warming. I found something I really WANT to make, and because it is a surprise for a friend I won't describe it.

Entering that yarn store and then leaving with the bag of goodies, I felt a surge of happiness. I was giving in to the urge I'd felt since December. The yarns were soft and a pleasure to touch, and all those colors! I showed the sales assistant the pattern so she could help me find the right yarns and needles, but I didn't tell her I'm a beginner. Suffice it to say, the project is not typically what one would choose for their first real knitting project. It involves circular knitting, crochet, and piecing parts together. No peeking! You'll see it when it's done.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy outlet

This photo is from my honey, who went to plug in his laptop computer and found three happy faces beaming at him from under the desk in his hotel room. His email made me smile, though thousands of miles away.

Here are some other "happy outlet" moments this week:
  • Baking a loaf of whole wheat bread
  • Making a delicious roasted squash soup
  • Skype video so I can still see my honey even when he's away
  • Beautiful sunny weather (after days of gray skies and rain)
  • Seeing cool, inspiring, thought-provoking art at MOMA
  • Having dinner with a close friend
  • A sense-memory of playing in an inverted quartet (2 cellos, 1 viola, 1 violin)
At rehearsal with the trio yesterday we had a visitor who happens to be a cellist. She knew the song we were working on, so we all played it together. I was not prepared for the powerful sense-memory of hearing two cellos with a viola and violin. You see, for ten years I was part of just such a string quartet, Invert. For ten years my body and soul vibrated with that particular combination of sound frequencies. It was a powerful reminder to me of just how much music can evoke memories and emotions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Worm Moon

I thought about not doing a new dreamboard for this full moon. I loved my last dreamboard so much and I felt there was unfinished business, so I was hesitant to move on. But also, I didn't know if it was a good idea to let energy stagnate. Jamie Ridler's helpful suggestions opened up possibilities for me, whether or not I decided to make a new board, and made me feel it was okay to trust my instincts. Upon further reflection, I decided that I might be chickening out of creating a new board, for fear that I wouldn't like it as much as my last. That in itself raised a red flag. The suggestion that I could "have my cake and eat it too" by keeping the old board in sight AND creating a new one appealed to me and gave me an opening. I'm planning to keep the old board as part of a screensaver slide show, which also includes my intentions for 2010, and a Soul Reflections board I did at the turn of the new year.

But now for the Full Worm Moon Dreamboard...

I struggled a bit with creating this one, but now I'm slowly getting more comfortable with it. The first thing I notice is the mouth. It makes me think of loud mouths, of people who won't shut up, brazen self-expression. The check marks also stand out. It's like a seal of approval, or a "done" on the to-do list. It is affirming that I want to get stuff done, to be more productive and disciplined. There's a more symbolic and iconic quality to this board than my previous ones, a boldness in the symbols and shapes. There are odd juxtapositions, the sleeping pig and its dream bubble. The cotton plants in an industrial and urban setting. The faucet and the yin-yang blueberry sphere. I'm also surprised by the images related to being on stage, of having the lights and cameras on me, of getting dressed for a gala honoring my achievements. I feel very far away from being out there and being recognized -- I still think of myself as being in the preparation stage. Perhaps it could be a yearning or a motivation? The winged warrior princess is here again -- I've included her now for the fourth full moon running. Recurring also are the seashell and the flower, perhaps symbols of a natural growing and unfolding process. And again I have included an image of dance.

The only words here are on the board the film crew assistant is holding up: Rituals, Casting process, What's next.

What's being produced? I'm intrigued.

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happily there's no knead

One of my recent constants for happiness is homemade bread. If you've been anywhere near food websites in the past several years you have probably come across numerous discussions about the eye-opening, delicious and liberating technique for making bread. I tried it once, after seeing an article in the New York Times, and I've been hooked ever since. I'm hoping that the weather spends its nice, sweet time lingering in springtime before we're propelled into the it's-too-hot-to-turn-on-the-oven New York summer. It only means more loaves of delicious bread for us!

I had a rough day earlier this week, and you may guess what my honey suggested. He knows that making bread is good for my spirit. There is something simply calming and magical, and also deeply satisfying, about waiting for nature to do its thing. It soothes my mind to go to the kitchen and peer at the bowl to see how well the yeast is doing its work. And ah, the smell of that bread baking -- pure happiness that rivals cutting into that loaf and tasting the first slice.

If you're curious about it, just Google "Jim Lahey" and "No-knead bread." But be careful, you might become another among the legions of addicts.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy: lost and found

I feel like complaining about this week: about the nightmares that disturbed my sleep, about the travel problems that delayed my return home from a wonderful trip, about the travel that kept me away from home, about being in a van for seemingly endless hours, about a week that was uncomfortable and frustrating.

But this morning as I struggled to think about what happiness I could share from a difficult week, I realized that lacking the things that make one happy can help us see what those things are with greater clarity. My happy this week is a realization that the things that make me happy do follow a pattern. This week I missed:

1. the sounds, smells, tastes of the wonderful food my honey and I cook at home
2. the delicious sensation of dancing
3. the blissful freedom of improvising music
4. the warm comfort and happy silliness of being in my honey's presence
5. the feeling of connection and acceptance of being with cherished friends
6. the freedom of an unstructured day, making my own decisions about where I'm going to be and when

I think these things are the "staples" in my recipe for happiness. I might be reminded of more ingredients of happy as I think about it further, but I do believe these ingredients form the core of my happiness recipe. My relationships, food, dancing and art/creativity.

It's Friday, a rainy day in the city, the end of the week before I get to fully savor being back home and returning to the things I love. I began today with a rehearsal -- making music with my favorite trio mates. My mood instantly lifted in their companionship and our music-making. Lunch was a delicious homemade panini. My honey made a wonderful chai that filled our home with warming aromas. And this evening as I write, instead of traveling yet again to go to a birthday party, I'm staying home to savor some unstructured time for myself. I might even do a little dance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happily exploring a new town

My happy this week is a brief trip across the country to explore Boise, Idaho. Being a little whimsical while exploring public art, letting the kid in me express herself was a happy thing. The extra surprise was that my honey actually caught me in the act.

We also had a chance to do something new to both of us, snowshoeing. Being a city girl, I don't get to enjoy the great outdoors much. That desire made itself apparent in my most recent dreamboard, and wow, here I am with a few days to be in the great outdoors. With some borrowed gear, we headed to the mountains. Happy, happy!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Snow Moon

I look forward to these moon-thly opportunities to delve into exploring our dreams, and to the quiet time to tune into what's going on inside of me. This full moon brought so many images that I went to a larger, more panaromic format and still had to edit some out!

Freedom has popped up again as a theme, but this time it's joined by other words including calm, yes, spirit, art, connecting, artist, me. I liked what Jamie Ridler suggested, not only dreaming big but also looking at what actions I might take, inspired by what I see on my board. So here goes...
  • I could pay attention to how my energy flows
  • I could meditate
  • I could spend some time in wide open, natural places
  • I could make my kitchen and living room more calm, pleasing and artistic spaces
  • I could explore and play with technology
  • I could find more opportunities to connect with people
  • I could work on mastering my craft of music
  • I could look for ways to showcase my art
  • I could get on the dance floor
  • I could listen to and trust my instincts
  • I could say yes to myself when I feel an urge
  • I could treat myself as a precious jewel
  • I could unfurl and take flight
  • I could find beautiful ways to decorate and elevate my process of unfolding
I know some of the items on the list have been brewing for a while, and this moon may provide just the right impetus to get things rolling. Some of the other items are very intriguing, calling out to me in new ways. I'm looking forward to keeping this full moon dreamboard in sight and seeing what new discoveries I may find.

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Permission to...

I, Helen, wish to give myself permission to fail.

It's really that simple. The desire to create works of beauty, to play something perfectly, to have that dish come out right, to say the right thing at the right time -- all those desires have felt at times like heavy responsibilities, keeping me from trying out new stuff for fear that it won't turn out "right." The outcome has often been the empty page stays empty, the desire to create remains un-acted-upon. I wish to give myself permission to suck at stuff, to not be great at everything, to try and sometimes fall on my face. To laugh, get up, and try again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

One of those really satisfying days

I'm trying to collect and remember my happy moments. Sometimes they are such tiny little moments in the day, and sometimes they are a whole, really great day.

Wednesday was one of those really great days, that began with the trio playing live on the radio. We began with a wonderful drive up the Hudson River, taking in the beautiful snow covered trees along the way. Snow has a way of brightening up the drab barren trees, highlighting their forms and branches, giving the eyes some relief from shades of gray and brown. We played live in the studio and chatted with the host, RadmanX. Talking on the radio still makes me a little nervous, even if I was a radio dj in college! One of my favorite moments (besides playing music with my trio mates, which I love to do) was listening to Leanne deliver the Poetic Service Announcement. She was handed a book to choose from and recited a poem by Rumi, "Chickpea to Cook" as translated by Coleman Barks. Leanne and I love to share foodie adventures, both eating and cooking, so it seemed so apropos that she landed on that page. The broadcast is an hour long, but if you're interested you can go to Radio Active Lunch Hour to listen to Trio Tritticali's archived show.

After we got back to New York City the rest of the day involved eating good Thai food, taking a nap after that late lunch, discussing the Artist's Way chapter with Leanne, then heading out to hear Mahler's Third Symphony at Carnegie Hall, and then sublime eats at Yakitori Totto nearby. Food, friendship, music - in any order, it makes me happy!

You can see what others are saying about what makes them happy at

Friday, February 12, 2010

A happy snowy day project

I'm sure you can by now complete the phrase, "When life hands you lemons..." One happy moment from this week I'd like to share comes from making lemonade out of those proverbial lemons. Wednesday delivered a snowstorm that caused my honey's flight to be rescheduled for the next day, which ultimately led to another automatic rescheduling for Monday (um, sorry that is not going to be okay!!), which then led to his driving out to his destination 12 hours away by car.

We decided to tackle the project of painting the entryway to the apartment, and while I don't love the process of doing it I do love the results. A day of being stuck in the cabin led to beautifying our little space.

Oh, and another moment of happy comes from anticipation! I'm happily looking forward to an adventure up to Vassar College's radio station with my cherished string trio mates on the Wednesday lunch hour show. We'll be playing some of our favorites live in the studio. Yay! Here's a link for more info and how to get to the webstream and archive, just in case you want to tune in...

You can see what others are saying about what makes them happy at

Monday, February 8, 2010

Insight out

I created this collage as a way of using a non-linear, non-logical process to examine an issue bothering me. It was in this week’s chapter of “Walking in This World” the sequel book to ”The Artist’s Way.” It reminded me of the Soul Reflections process, but with the addition of a subject, held lightly while I searched for images and arranged them. Here is my question, and my jotted thoughts about the resulting collage.

Why is it so hard for me to claim my strengths and gifts?

The first thing that strikes me most strongly is the center of the image, from a distance, looks like a void. Upon closer inspection it is actually a lighter image with jewelry hanging from a tree and the words “money does grow on trees.” Other words that pop are “strategist,” “great artists,” “you,” “work,” “the moment,” and “punk prose poetess.”

The next thing that strikes me most is the bright red in the collage. “The world’s great artists want to show you how they work” is next to a woman dancing. Her bodysuit has a grid on it, like the gridwork of the bridge, like the grids in the circuitry of the piano, the grid that is assumed underneath the graph the woman is drawing, and the tile-like pink gum. There is also a theme of electricity, with the circuitry and the wall socket, and the lightning.

The next most arresting images are the woman with her head in red bondage, and the collaged face. The red bondage could be the baggage from my upbringing with culturally very Chinese parents. There is a binding of my head, the modesty, the focus on the books. Right next to that image is the words “the moment” and I’m not sure what that is. Also the collaged face is an overlay of a child’s eyes onto Patti Smith’s face. The eyes of a child combined with the older, non-conformist, poetess. The pearl earrings suggest the gifts that are found within a pearl, an ugly slow process that produces a thing of beauty from an irritant. Also interesting is the modesty of the hellebores, the downward facing flowers that offer such sweet surprises. They are now being hybridized to try and develop flowers that have a more outward face. But how do I feel about their current beauty? I think there is something mysterious about it. The gifts, hidden. Maybe that’s like the oyster and the pearl too. Is it a funny coincidence that the name of these flowers reminds me of the words “Helen bores”?

The Thinker, the brain, the phrenology head, all point to something that is being mulled and thought. There is the obvious, that my brain is a strength and gift, but while I thought of myself as the smart girl I didn’t have the feeling that I was in the top of the class. Why? Perhaps because of my ingrained Chinese modesty. Perhaps because of that non-conformist punk in me. I was into punk and new wave as a kid, and it was a taste in music that felt a bit outside. I was proud of that outsider status, and I had always felt like one anyway because of what growing up Chinese-American in the white suburbs was like. I also hated that outsider status because I wanted the comfort of belonging.

Another theme in this collage is music. The piano, the actor carrying a well-worn guitar case, the wizened visage of Patti Smith. What is it about Punk Prose Poetess? These are words that are funny together. “Putting it all together” is a challenge and I feel I’m running out of time.

The avatar is staring me down. I haven’t seen the movie and I’m not sure I’m going to, but there he is. The avatar is a substitute, a symbol, an imaginary me. What would my imaginary me be? Am I the dancer? Am I the disheveled punk? Am I the businesswoman drawing a chart? Am I the child wearing glasses, toys plunked down near the wall socket? Lost my fuzzy lamb, a kangaroo? Am I the woman with her head in bondage? Am I the actor musician walking down the street? Am I the thinker?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wishcasting: What story do you wish to live or let go of?

This week for Wishcasting I wish to let go of a story that portrays me as unqualified or underqualified. I have had a tendency to feel that there is some prerequisite experience or knowledge that I need first in order to... fill in the blank. That could be -- put myself out there as a teacher or expert, create a composition, sing in public, or sell my services for anything that I'm able to do. I almost always feel there is some level of mastery to be achieved before I can legitimately put myself out there, or allow myself to create something new. This old story is weighing me down, and I wish to be like the dancing "grim reaper" on the tarot card I drew today. I want to leave the old decaying matter aside, and cut loose the threads to let new possibilities be released.

The possibilities? Mastery is not a prerequisite, it is an ever just-beyond-reach ideal. The new story I wish to live is that I have years of experience learning various disciplines and crafts, amassing knowledge, and that while the process will never end, people can still benefit from what I have within in me thus far. So while art and life are a work in progress, it's completely okay to share exactly where I am today. It is still something worthwhile to give.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dreamboard for the Full Wolf Moon

I couldn't resist bringing back the central figure from my last full moon dreamboard, so the warrior princess is going to strut her stuff again for another moon. This time I felt drawn to majestic skies, beautiful seashells, rich swaths of color, fresh greenery and bright oranges. Drawn to contemplate and celebrate the limitlessness of the ever changing sky, the princess may be getting ready to try out those wings. There's been a growing process, and the outer shell has been expanding to accommodate the developing soft being it houses. The spiral twists, wider and wider with each turn. In my best moments I feel I'm becoming what should always have been obvious I would become all along. Only I still don't know what that is. Perhaps only in retrospect will the path look like it has clearly been there the whole time. This month I'm seeking to have around me the bright energy, patient concentration, and sparkle I need as I move in the direction of being free.