What the Dark Gives Us

"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
- Remus Lupin, Harry Potter

He came into my bedroom and told me he couldn’t get to sleep.

“I’m scared,” he said. 

I held his hand and walked into his room with him.

“What are you scared of, Buddy?” I asked him.

“Dementors, like the ones in Harry Potter. They like the dark.”

“I like the dark too,” I told him. “It gives us good things, like the stars and the moon.” I motioned out the window, and he nodded. 

I continued. “The dark is when certain animals come out to play, like the bats and owls. And the dark means we get to sleep and let our bodies rest and close our eyes.”

“And energy,” he added with enthusiasm. “The dark gives us energy. It’s like how we charge our batteries on our phones. The dark gives us energy, so we can be full charged.”

“YES!” I said, excited because I was thinking of our whole conversation the way only a mystic can, with great symbolism and meaning. “The dark charges us up so we can have energy for tomorrow.” Maybe we are both lunar powered and solar powered. 

I tucked the blankets around his little body and thought about how scary the unknown is to us, to each of us. The black expanse where everything is a silhouette or shadow instead of crisp outlines and lit up definition. 

I was thankful the conversation didn’t center around dementors. I wasn’t exactly schooled on my Harry Potter-ology, and wasn’t sure how one is to deal with dementors should there be an unfortunate encounter. 

As I was writing this, I couldn’t remember the name “dementor” and so I did a google search for “the dark ghosts in Harry Potter 3.” Not only did I find the name dementor, I also went on to read about a specific defense called the Patronus Charm, that evokes a positive energy force known as a patronus or spirit guardian.

It made me think about a certain album of lullaby music we had when our children were babies. The first song begins with a child saying, “Dear God, thank you for sending me angels to keep me safe.” 

In the future, should him and I have another dementor conversation, I will know about patronus, which is a good thing because now we have options. We will pull one of our painted magic wands down from the bookshelf and wave it towards that bedroom window where the dancing tree limbs cast ominous shadows on the walls and we will say whatever we need to say to feel as though the dark is for us not against us. 

I know now that there are some things completely out of my hands. For instance, I don’t get to command the darkness to go away. I don’t get to say, “Sun, come back out because my son is scared and cannot get to sleep and we all really need our sleep around here.”

The magic for me these days is a lot less “take this away” and a lot more “if this is how it is to be, how can I feel safe, loved, and full of wonder even here?" I think Jesus prayed them both. "Take this cup, but heaven forbid if I have to drink it, give me the will power to do so." So we ask the holy question, "How can I find the hidden magic while hunkered down right in the middle of all this damn 'paralyzed with fear?'"

Whether it’s angels or God or animal spirit guardians or hand painted magic wands, or talismans, or snuggling under blankets together or sitting under the moon to learn to trust her wild, or spells or prayers, it doesn’t matter to me. It might be all of these or none of these at different times. What matters is that when the ghosts in the darkness threaten to suck me dry, I will summon the courage to search for one more charm to get me through. And maybe this is another WONDER-full thing the dark gives us, the ability to recall and summon our own internal magic. 

My son came to me for help, sticking his little hand in mine. Harry Potter took anti-dementor lessons to learn the advanced Patronus Charm and he traveled with a band of vulnerable and loving wizard friends, and we, going Into the Dark Night, link Wild Mystic arms, so that should a dementor come for us, it will have to get past all of us.

I filled in a prompt in my right brain planner this week. It said, "Build a support team. Change your environment by finding others that affirm the secret messages, use their imagination and read clues. They must see gnomes and be Mad." Because see, I know now that when I am in danger of being depleted by a dementor, I don't need to call someone who will help me do the "right thing." I need to share space with a fellow imaginer. Someone with eyes to see the protective spiritual aura already around me (whatever that may look like) when I feel like the timid and fragile human who is being sucked of life.

That is what Into the Dark Night means to me. It is a gathering of those who have decided to embrace the dark that is not leaving and remind each other in howls or whispers, chants or siren song, hymns or mantras, hugs or love letters, lit candles and incense or blowing prayer flags that even in the face of everything it is actually very well with my soul. There is still time to join us. Care to blow the dust off your magic wand? 

Secret Rebel Club - Paper Turkey Feathers

"I thought you were going to tell me things would look better in the morning or something. I was preparing to murder you."

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I despise the thankful lists. Maybe it’s because I filled out one too many construction paper feathers for the turkeys in elementary school. Maybe it’s because I learned it was the obligatory way to end any prayer, because after you’ve asked for a bunch of crap, you best be telling God, if you know what’s good for you, that you do notice at least some of what he’s already given you. Or maybe it’s because the thankful lists start to come across as standardized forms where you check the boxes before family, faith, health, food, friends and home. In small print at the bottom the form reads: To maintain your likability, be sure to leave no box left unchecked.

November rolls around and you might as well get yourself a whole paper pad of these forms. You’re going to need them to prove you have a heartbeat. 

For all the angst and disgust and bristling I feel towards the thankful lists, don’t let me fool you. I am a softy. One Thanksgiving I...

{Continue reading at Secret Rebel Club.}

Secret Message Society Zine - Issue 20

Before I do a sneak-peek of the newest issue of the Secret Message Society Zine, I wanted to share a touching story with you from a Secret Message Society Member. 

She sent this photo to me of a drawing she took, side-by-side with a page from a Secret Message Society Zine. 

Then she said this:

So, this picture in your zine blew me back into my past. The one I drew is a character my Mom used to doodle ALL the time. (That's what he looked like to the best of my memory.) I lost her when I was 17 back in 2001. Not my favorite Life experience but we all have our stories, right? :) Anyways, I just wanted to share that because it felt too important to keep to myself. She doodled all the time, especially when she talked on the phone. I'm a little sad I don't have any of her doodles. All I can do is re-create that guy. He always reminded me of Cousin It. He was my favorite too.
So to see something so similar in a space I find so healing just makes me feel I'm still on the right path. She's always sent me obscure signs. I'd say this is one. :) 

Hugs & Such,
me

This is why so many of us in the Secret Message Society just keep going - because we know there is a secret message always hiding for us, just around the bend, and when we find it, we are sure, once again, that our mad, messy, vulnerable, intuitive Self is not only welcome here, but it is both creating and accepting a world we can thrive in. 

ISSUE 20 has arrived!

Members can tiptoe into the Secret Lair for a digital download right NOW!

Issue 20 features Angie Byers as the centerfold artist! 

I can't wait for you to see the contributions by members Gina KimmelRobyn Ann Bogart, Briana of Orange Spiral Arts, Whimsy Moon Spirit, Hillary Rain, and Prudence of PrudyChick.

I would really love to send you my gypsy journalism in the mail. There are digital and snail mail options available. AND, there are additional perks to belonging to the Secret Message Society. 

Read about them HERE.

Back issues are available in my Etsy store. Once they sell out they're gone. 

Here's your peek at Issue 19:

yes i can have.jpg

Secret Message Society - November Centerfold

SECRET AND RARE INCOGNITO PHOTO OF VISUALLY ORIENTED.

SECRET AND RARE INCOGNITO PHOTO OF VISUALLY ORIENTED.

THE LUCKY 13!

Name: 

Angie Byers

Alias: 

Visually Oriented

Secret mutant power:

Secretly encouraging others (SHHH!! Don’t tell!!)

Current art medium/creative endeavor I am exploring:

Photography, Writing, Digital art, mixed media, liquid acrylics all combined 

A Secret Message I found in the last week:

Life is more beautiful (in color)

A stranger I interacted with recently: 

A young Russian truck driver who’s trucking company was called Popeye Trucking, complete with Popeye the Sailor’s face

A word that means a lot to me right now: 

Release. But, quiet is another that is working within me currently as well. 

When I don’t feel like my art matters I tell myself: 

Who am I kidding?! I usually panic and then remember that I CAN’T possibly be the only person feeling this way. That usually helps, LOL!

I knew I was an artist when: 

I was able to draw the girl in the “draw me for for $10,000” advertisement that was in EVERY magazine that I read in the 90s. 

A rule I like to break: 

That things have to be aligned perfectly, or that nothing can be messy. I am always a bit messy, so now I just embrace it!!

This is what the Secret Message Society means to me: 

A place where artists of all types can come together and share our secrets with each other 

Here is something I created that I want to share with you:

1. The ledger itself is from the 40s/50s.

I used colored ink, liquid watercolors and liquid acrylics (like ink in a way) and tried to keep the liquids more opaque so that the old handwriting would show through. The photos are taped in, as they fell out of my window and I was trying to just keep them somewhere protected, and then I liked the result. 

2.  Rust to Restoration.

I love old cars, and car parts, and cruise ins. This photo was taken strictly in B&W mode on my DSLR. I have been trying to learn more about B&W photography and what does and doesn't make it "work." Being a detail oriented photographer most of my photos are only the parts and pieces that I am enamored with. {There are very few full car photographs in my archives - unless it was something that I had never seen before) Life is in the details, you know? I find beauty and depth in rat rods such as this one. There are so many personal nuances that this man had made a part of his car "art," that it was hard not to crawl inside and ask it questions. 

If we meet on the street we’ll know each other as undercover artists by:

Fun jewelry! Artists ALWAYS have fun jewelry – and BOOTS!!! 


Angie Byers is a creative mess maker, photographer, writer, and mixed media artist. She is a charm bracelet loving, Coca-Cola drinking, Jeep driving, tomboy, who can’t afford enough cowboy boots, funky jewelry, cameras or typewriters. She decorates her home with vintage furniture and old car parts. She is a lover of the color RED, a magazine addict, and a quote collector who chases old cars and searches for rusty things to photograph. This native West Virginian now resides in North Carolina and dreams of becoming more attuned to her Pirate side.  

She can be found on Instagram under the name “Visually Oriented” (which she feels should be changed to something more Pirate-y sounding) and she has an on-again, off-again relationship with her blog visuallyoriented.blogspot.com


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Each month I am featuring one Secret Message Society Member, both in the Zine and on my blog. I want you to see some of the creative ways these artists think, explore, live. When you open the Zine to the middle you will see an enticing double page spread designed by the centerfold artist. There will be a companion post here on my blog where I ask them a Lucky 13 questions. Want to join our grassroots movement of artists who are actively collecting, creating and inviting Secret Messages into their life?! You can subscribe here and/or get more details. 


Untraditional Shiva Meets Dia De Los Muertos

Last year on Halloween, I was wrapping up an I Am Thrashing series on my blog as celebration of the release of my book Thrashing About With God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything.  When I was asking friends, family and other thrashers to consider writing a piece, my friend Valerie agreed right away and asked if she could take October 31 as her day to post.

The day meant a lot to her, especially since, in her words, she had "in 2010-2012 experienced a divorce, the death of both parents, the death of my only aunt, the death of 5 pets, the death of a friend, the loss of my main source of income, the loss of my house, a major move across country." She valued the day of Samhain, "the day where the veils are thin between worlds and the dead are whispering."

In March of this year, I found out my friend Valerie died. She was 58. Shortly after finding out I threw myself into a very healing and growing time of mourning that I called an Untraditional Shiva. 

I have just let this Untraditional Shiva continue as I have need or desire, so when Halloween rolled around this year, all I could think about was how much this day meant to her as a holy day. A day to listen to the dead whisper that, "all is well, that life is a grand and glorious dance of energy moving and flowing, of God appearing in all forms, always perfect."

I didn't spend extensive time planning out my agenda. I just did as Valerie said she did, " I ride the wave of God in action."

Minutes before we were to leave for a Halloween party I decided to paint my face inspired by the Dia de los Muerte skulls. I am not much of a horror person. I loathed being scared by people in my neighborhood during Trick-or-Treat as a kid. As I painted my face pale white and put the black rings around my eyes I kept asking my kids if I was too scary for them, but they were cheering me on.

It is something I never would have been bold enough to do on my own, but thinking about doing it for Valerie meant I could do it with out question. Of course. It felt like I was tapping into the energy of an ancient ceremony that honored those we love who have gone into an unknown realm. The quick application of the makeup was so tender and emotional for me.  I felt transformed into a being that could truly tap into the sacred act of aching and loving a dear friend and all that she embodied.

I borrowed my lips from the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland. The three dots by my right eye are a spiritual symbol that stuck with me when I saw a poster of a woman hanging in the window of a hair salon last Fall when I was visiting my friend Janae in Oregon. They signify the trinity to me - Mystery Messy Mad.

I donned my lacy black slip, red tutu, fire tights, and black and white striped leg-warmers. While dressing up I started to feel playful and light. I thought of when Valerie was asked in an interview where she grew up, and her response was, "I'm not sure I have grown up."

I read about how The Day of the Dead celebration (and it is a celebration) can often encompass Oct 31 - November 2, so I decided to make it an occasion. I gloried in having the weekend off of work.

I made pumpkin pie. I burned incense. I drank coffee from my Neverland Mug. I painted my fingernails black. I watched Nightmare Before Christmas and drew the characters on cards so I could send them off as love letters because Valerie taught me so much about the other side of thrashing, which is softening.

I feel it as if she saw me through to the other side and then left me to figure out the softening bit on my own. She left me clues. She still leaves me clues. But is it possible that the softening bit is even harder than the thrashing bit? I am SO thankful I got to experience some sort of awakening while she was still present in this realm.

I took my kids to see The Book of Life, knowing, just knowing, that it would be full of timely #secretmessages for me. I jotted down favorite quotes like this:

"Going there would be certain doom."
"Well, it's a good day for doom."

And this:

"You didn't have to live the life written for you. You are writing your own story."
*(In her own words, Valerie reinstated this truth to me over and over.)

And this:

Love never dies.

I thought about how my biggest fear, just like Manuelo, has been the fear of being myself because maybe no one would love me any more, and how Valerie managed to love me big through every thrash, flinch, punch, kick, and scream along the way. It can be so embarrassing to try and be yourSelf.

I built an altar of remembrance and read some more chapters in a book called The Sparrow that she had suggested to me. On All Soul's Day, I picked three Tarot cards (Valerie shared her love of the Tarot with me the last time we met in person. I felt like she had a way of always waiting for me to ask questions before she revealed something. She was never in a rush. Never operating under pretense.) Last night I spent some time exploring the cards' significance. The third card I picked was to be what Valerie wanted to tell me, and it was spot on to the direction I feel drawn.

I am very protective anymore about who I will let speak into my life. I feel very sure that the only voices I wish to vulnerably internalize are those who cheer on my quest to be more and more my Mad self. With Valerie's death I felt a blessing of sorts, and that was echoed loudly over the weekend. A blessing reiterating that I have what I need inside me now, and I must create the Neverland reality her and I spoke of in our last few conversations. 

I am here to bend the rules. To be a colorful fool rushing in to love too much. To "always play from the heart." To not listen to or believe in anyone who is taking me away from my Mad beliefs I am making. 

Valerie said her unusual spiritual path ended up being her bedrock of grace when things were difficult. What was real to most people was not real to her. She created and received secret message transmissions at a different frequency than most. She was my self-proclaimed woo-woo friend, who entered and exited my life like a soft black curtain blowing in the most gentle of breezes. She deepened the Mystery and expanded my capacity for Love and helped to awaken my mystical spirituality in subtle, tender, laughter-filled ways. She allowed me a safe cocoon to find my own reason to be here when all the reasons had escaped me.

This Untraditional Shiva has and will continue to be a portal for me to find riches in a thrashing life once drained of hope. It's as if my friend Valerie pulled a paintbrush and a writer's pen out from behind my ear, long ago tucked there in an effort to retire from my own larger than life desires, and she tucked them back into my fists and she coaxed me to spill open once more, only this time, for my own sake. And to be honest, I'm trembly about that.

I am still make believing what this all gets to look like. 

P.S. My dog ate the pumpkin pie before anyone got a slice. Trick or treat? How's that for dark humor?

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

I wasn't raised Catholic. I wasn't raised saying my Hail Marys. So when I was standing in my closet with the pure white Mary statue cupped in my hand, it didn't make any since that the words, "Hail Mary, full of grace," should exit my mouth. I didn't know I knew that little grouping of words. 

It was one of those days where I felt the need to purge. The energy was oscillating through me, making up its own mantras in waves:  "I have changed. I have moved on. I am ready for the new." I came across a little box of trinkets that marked mystical moments along my spiritual journey. As I stared at them, ran my fingers over them, some of them, like my pink camel, still moved me deeply. Others, like Mary, fell flat. What was it I saw in her? I tried to recall.

I grabbed Mary, running my thumb along the slick side of her headdress, and I put her in a box to be donated to Goodwill. She will mean a lot to somebody, I thought. Someone will be ready for her. 

The day unfolded into what I like to call (just like the character Alexander did in Judith Viorst's book) a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." 

"I am so angry I want to throw something," I heard myself say to no one in particular while standing in my kitchen. I stood aghast at the intensity of my own lividness. How can I coax you back off the ledge, without minimizing your angst? I asked myself. The rage wanted to feel something give way. 

I walked, no, I stomped, past the box of donate-ables, and I saw Mary, all white and pure and perfect and full of grace. I grabbed her and felt her fragility between my fingers, felt her willingness to take one for the team.  

On the concrete slab that is our back porch I threw her down with all my might, and I whispered, no I hissed, "Hail Mary, full of grace" because I was irate that I, on that day, was a woman without an ounce of it. 

I don't know why so many of my big turning points in life seem to demand a sacrifice. Why a dark ritual seems to ask to be carried out before the light can come. I suppose it could be translated as twisted and evil. The wild mystic in me finds it holy, maybe because I was raised on a bedrock of redemption costing a helluva lot. 

I could have thrown down one hundred Marys that day. The moment of impact was powerful, cathartic. I thought about this as I used a broom and dustpan to clean up Mary's parts. I wanted the shattering to go on and on, like a baseball batting cage where the balls just keep firing. "Hail me another Mary!" I would shout. "And one more. And one more." 

It's like what Liz told me, "That feeling of something physical expressing how you're feeling inside can be so incredible and almost lets you exhale a little bit in an odd way. Especially something shattering amongst the difficult days when you're trying to hold it together." 

I had reached the critical moment of letting it, allowing it, creating a way for it to go right on ahead and fall all apart. I smashed Mary.

Thank you, Mary.

You know why this is so difficult to do, right? This traversing The Dark Night? You know it is because we have been told we must protect and worship the purity, the sanctity, the saints. Don't take the name in vain. Don't mar the miraculous. Don't deface the deity. I think about Asher Lev drawing art in a holy book. It was blasphemy. In the realm of religion it doesn't get any worse than being sacrilegious. 

I didn't go into it with a spirit of wanting to destroy something beautiful like that haunting scene in Fight Club. I went into it knowing full well that whatever expectation I had of beauty for that day had already been ripped out of my hands, and I needed something physical to show for it, so I didn't have to hold all that pain inside me. I needed a way to show that graceful things and perfectly white and pure things don't last long in my reality. I wear a new pair of tights. I rip a new pair of tights. Alexander has to wear his railroad train pajamas and he hates his railroad train pajamas. And so it goes. 

Of course there was not this much thought put into it at the time. At the time it was just white rage. No, let's call it blind faith. 

What has the appearance of desecrating a Mary on my back porch slab is actually my alchemic way of bringing meaning back into something that had gone lifeless. Moments before she had been shoved in a box, forgotten. Moments before my day had gone awol, and I wasn't about to pretend it was looking better than it was. 

This week I've been thinking a lot about grace, tenderness, gentleness, softness. Mulling those words over in my head because they are the direction I am feeling pulled. As has so often happened in my spiritual life, that which I am leaning on to rescue me up out of this life has been jerked out from under my armpit, pushing me deeper in. There is no Mary to hail anymore, no unsoiled woman present to be grace on my behalf. She is shards swept into a dustpan, her shrapnel a most vivid reminder of all I am wanting to embody.

And now I must embody it, if it is to be.

Behold, all things are being made new. 

I am touching my new down in anxious awe, my feathers still wet with rebirth. I am feeling the nervous beginnings of my very own mad sort of softness, gentleness, grace, tenderness-with-skin-on start to hum with life. I am becoming the things once externally prayed for. I am drawing from the  bubbling fountain of youth within. It is a fountain called Mystery.

"I have changed. I have moved on. I am ready for the new."


If you feel the dark calling, if you are in need of a safe place to shatter something, if you know what everyone else is calling sacrilegious and blasphemous is tasting an awful lot like seeing to your own healing, you are invited to go dark with The Wild Mystics this Advent + Winter Solstice.

We go in together. We come out changed.







Secret Message Society Zine - Issue 19

ISSUE 19! IT'S READY! 

Members can tiptoe into the Secret Lair for a digital download right NOW!

Issue 19 features Brittany as the centerfold artist! And let me just tell you, she showed up brave.

I can't wait for you to see the contributions by members Deb TaylorGina Kimmel, Robyn Ann Bogart, and Angie Byers.

I would really love to send you my gypsy journalism in the mail. There are digital and snail mail options available. AND, there are additional perks to belonging to the Secret Message Society. 

Read about them HERE, or read more about the zine HERE.

Back issues are available in my Etsy store. Once they sell out they're gone. 

Here's your peek at Issue 19:

Secret Rebel Club - You Came Here For It

I picked the Neverland mug again for coffee this morning. I have noticed my gravitation to it as of late. My hand hovering over the Wild Strawberry mug, the Evoke mug, the tribal mug, trying to give any of the others a fighting chance, but knowing full well that all I really want is my mug from Valerie with her East Coast photo of the schooner’s sails. The mug that reminds me of Captain Hook’s flying boat, hi-jacked by Peter Pan and his band of Lost Boys with the help of the sprinkling of a certain fairy’s dust.

I am sitting here in the gawdy, olive, floral-patterned chair, drinking my pixie dust infused Neverland coffee and getting reacquainted with Alanis Morissette while reading snippets from a new obscure book I purchased called Finite and Infinite Games. 

There is this section:

“No one can play who is forced to play. It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infitinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.”

{Continue reading at Secret Rebel Club.}

Your Turn, My Turn

Artwork from The Secret Message Society's Weekly Magic Mail. 

Artwork from The Secret Message Society's Weekly Magic Mail. 

At Cafe Evoke I walk a lot of laps. The kitchen is in the back of the shop, and when the food is prepared I walk it out front to the people in the main seating/serving area. I also walk out to stock the pastry case and to refill the mini fridge with things like fresh sandwiches, hummus, salsa, and yogurt parfaits. 

This main area is usually very lively, and I get to catch snippets of conversations. 

"OK. Let's go ahead and get started. We've got a lot to get through," said a man leading a business meeting. 

"Have you ever lead a small group before?" A pastor asked a couple. 

"I think I need to order some waffles. Those look so good," said the girl to her friends at the table overflowing with laptops. 

"We are actually reading his book right now," said one guy to another. 

Snippets. 

And then I'm back in the kitchen, continuing with the food instead of getting to hear the next sentence.

This week I walked out to get some milk from the front refrigerator, and I took in the bustling space. Young and old. Laptops and knitting needles. Stacks of books and journals. Conversations: some with tears, some with laughter, some with serious weighing in from both parties. And my heart leapt up into my throat. 

We are so creative. We gather. We rile up. We get ideas. We think. We discuss. We debate. We dream. We learn. We believe. We doubt. We get up and try again one more time. And standing there, I wanted to just applaud us. I was thrilled in that moment to get to be the one serving up sustenance, so they could all keep at it. "Hey guys, I got this leg of the journey. You all just keep pressing into whatever it is that has you sitting in a magical coffee shop mid-week. You carved out this moment. Bask in it."

I really do enjoy elements of being in a "service-industry" and I do think, despite all of my thrashing and awakening, I very much still have a servant's heart. BUT, and that's a BIG BUT, I want to serve in shifts. I want to show up and work my 9 hours with the heart of someone who knows what it feels like to be on the other side of the coffee table. I want to make sure you've got precisely what you need, so you can have the most comfort doing what you came to do, because when it's my turn I want the same. 

I have spent so many hours in coffee shops plugging away at my hardest questions, rearranging my Rubik's Cube, walking myself through dark places, believing, dreaming, doubting, burning, that when I stood there during my milk-trip to the front, I saw the whole breadth of how we give and take. 

When my co-workers are done working, I make them food. When I'm not working they make me food or drinks. It's a trade-off that allows the energy to keep flowing. It's how the giant heartbeat of humanity gets to beat every single moment. 

Whenever my kids used to vie over whose turn it was to do something, instead of saying, "Let's take turns," they used to say, "Your turn, my turn. Your turn, my turn." This is what working in a coffee shop has given me a sense of. A willingness to not be the one out front all the time. Somedays, if you need me, I'll be in the back.

Just after riding my bike home from work yesterday, I saw my neighbor coming home from high school on his skateboard. He rolled past my driveway to his and waved at me. I had the sense that he had just completed a shift as well.

"How was school?" I asked.

"Oh you know, not bad. I finished another round of testing to get ready for college."

"That's gotta feel good."

"Today's victory is tomorrow's build up," he said, smiling wide. 

I smiled back thinking there is no way this kid is in high school. He always speaks like he has years to him.

I walked into my garage and then I heard him holler, "Oh, and how was your day?"

"It was good! It was really good. Thank you for asking."

We go away. We do work. We reconvene and check in on each other. We say: "What you are doing is hard. Thanks for taking a shift," because we know it doesn't matter what kind of work it is, somehow the energy and passion all leads up to one big source and we all have the option to gain from it.

Today when I pedaled home from work my legs were tired. It was hot outside. To get up my street is a bit of a hill, and I was standing and grinding it out in my yellow tights and black boots. And then I saw my neighbor, rolling back down the hill on his skateboard. He'd already checked in from his shift and was heading to the next appointment. He had both his fists raised in the air and he was cheering me on. 

I tossed my head back and let the breeze hit my face, glorying in the moment. "Thank you!" I yelled, because we did it. One more time, we did it!

Your turn, my turn.

Secret Message Society - October Centerfold

SECRET AND RARE INCOGNITO PHOTO OF BRAVEHEART

SECRET AND RARE INCOGNITO PHOTO OF BRAVEHEART

THE LUCKY 13!

name:

Brittany

Alias:

Braveheart, The Artist with the Pretty Mug

Secret mutant power: 

Unlocking the chains surrounding my heart and soul to find the door underneath and feeling the world through colors.

Current art medium/creative endeavor I am exploring:

India ink and red diary-ing

A Secret Message I found in the last week:

“Yes, it’s very much like how when you are trying to look at the stars.  Sometimes you see them more clearly when you unfocus or relax your eyes.  When you look at them directly, you can’t see them as well.  I don’t know if that makes any sense but you are learning to look for stars.”  A dear sent this to me when we were blushing and talking about learning the anatomy of our bodies and how to love them.  

A stranger I interacted with recently:

I generally bring my own coffee cup with me and the baristas have taken to calling me “the artist with the pretty mug.”  This morning, the barista told me that her favorite part of mornings is seeing my coffee mug and me because it reminds her that there are still people who feel color.

A word that means a lot to me right now:

Permission.  I’m currently taking the Blushing Wild ecourse and it’s all about giving myself permission to explore and find the things I have been too afraid to look for.  

When I don’t feel like my art matters I tell myself:

I read Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese because it brings me back to my core as an artist.  Someone who is free to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep tress,

the mountain and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are headed home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

I knew I was an artist when:

I noticed that I breathe easier when I am covered in ink drops and paint smears.  I found the noise that had always been so loud in my head became quieter the more I immersed myself in art and color.  

A rule I like to break:

I like to color outside of the lines.  Even color outside of the paper.  Colors running together and getting on skin and coffee cups soothes me.  

This is what the Secret Message Society means to me:

This is my tribe.  This is the place where I am accepted just as I am.  Questions, doubts, fears- all of me is accepted. 

Here is something I created that I want to share with you: 

If we meet on the street we’ll know each other as undercover artists by:

ink splattered clothing and a faraway stare.


Brittany snorts when she laughs and she tends to listen to the same song constantly for a week before starting on a new one. She has one blue and one green eye that turn grey when it rains. She believes grey should always be spelled with an “e” never an “a.” She drives a blue pt cruiser named styx after the river in greek mythology not the band. She adores the look of lower case letters and the sibilant sound of subtle alliteration. She has many scars and she wants you to ask where they come from and she wants to know about yours. She believes we are called to be rescuers, to hold our palms over the gaping wounds of broken people. She believes eyes speak and hearts are made to be broken, but they learn to love again. She believes love should be bigger than intolerance and she trusts in the wonder of being barefoot. She believes children always talk to angels and adults have simply forgotten how, but she knows a child’s laugh can heal a broken heart. You can find her on Instagram.


Each month I am featuring one Secret Message Society Member, both in the Zine and on my blog. I want you to see some of the creative ways these artists think, explore, live. When you open the Zine to the middle you will see an enticing double page spread designed by the centerfold artist. There will be a companion post here on my blog where I ask them a Lucky 13 questions. Want to join our grassroots movement of artists who are actively collecting, creating and inviting Secret Messages into their life?! You can subscribe here and/or get more details.