Monday, November 21, 2016

Miracles

I want to talk about miracles, especially today.
"Miracle" is not a word I use lightly. Here are some definitions from a Google search:
 "a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable
by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be
the work of a divine agency.
"a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development,
or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences. 
"an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something."
The biggest miracle of this day is the arrival of our son, David, 24 years ago.
It's hard to find words to describe how I feel about David. He is - honestly - my dream of a son. 
He's a man, living in Montana and doing a job which he enjoys in a place he loves. 
He is loving, responsible, intelligent, kind, funny, fit, strong, capable, athletic, interesting - and growing more so. He is adventurous without being foolhardy 
(at least, the adventures that I know about). 
 His interests and experiences spark us to think in new ways and try things that we probably wouldn't, without his instigation. He is good with children and kind to the elderly.
I am grateful to God for sending him to us.











Another miracle - completely different in nature - is the opening of my own little art gallery this past Saturday.
Two years ago - even one year ago! - this would not have crossed my mind as a possibility. It was beyond a dream - I had not even dreamed of it, because I was not painting two years ago.
After many years of prayer, meditation, study, inner work and finally stepping out in faith, a huge block moved out of the way, and I became more my self.
I am an artist, and I am happy to say it.
Our Creator helped me to become free to be my creative self.
In a nutshell, I have been painting steadily since September, 2015, and have been posting my work on my website and social media (Facebook , Redbubble and Instagram: karengberger).
I had a show at the Bloedel Reserve for two months during the summer, and have sold about a dozen works of art, as well as donating some to charity.
People have been asking, "Where can I see your work?" and I had to answer, "Online, or by contacting me directly."

One recent Saturday morning, I said to Gregg, "Is there a way we could create a space for me to exhibit my work? Build a shed here, or find a little place nearby?" We discussed a few options, and decided to think more about it.
That night, we had dinner with the family, and while we were dining, my brother-in-law turned to me and said, "We have a building at Savage Plants & Landscape that is not being used. Why don't you make a gallery there?"
Um, yes. Yes. Why don't I do that?
So I did.

This does not just happen every day, people.
This is serendipity, the Universe, the Creator, in action. It's a miracle.

I have a long way to go, personally and in my craft.
There are artists with far more expertise, and many more years of work behind them.
I could feel undeserving; I could feel less worthy than those others, but this is not about them.
This is my path, and this is the way it has unfolded.
It's a miracle.
The gallery is a beautifully shingled, two-room space with stone floors and wood beams, set in a glorious garden filled with healthy plants, stone work and original garden art.
It is more than I could have asked or imagined.
It's a miracle.

We held the Grand Opening on Saturday.
Family and friends (old and new) came from far and wide to celebrate with us.
It was a day filled with love, joy, discovery, reunion, support, hospitality and sheer happiness.
Katie made her presence and blessing known in very clear ways that day.

The Gallery at Savage Plants & Landscape
is up and running, and you are invited to visit
every day between 9 AM and 4 PM.
I won't be in the gallery every day, so please contact me if you want me to meet you there.
The good folks at Savage Plants will be happy to help you with the purchase of a painting or greeting cards from my line.
And if I'm not there, I'm likely in my studio at home, painting...which is also a miracle.

It's right to believe in miracles.
Ask, work, meditate, pray, take a leap of faith toward your miracle.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to you...to anyone!
And that's a good note on which to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Introducing...

my updated website: www.karengerstenberger.com.

I haven't been writing here, because I've been painting in every spare moment. Since taking Flora Bowley's Bloom True course in Portland, and taking her online e-course (available for one year at a time), all I want to do is paint. It's as if a great river has been released from its dam.

I've had the privilege of selling some of the work, and have been able to donate a couple of paintings to charity. I didn't dare to dream that any of this would be possible so soon after taking the course, and it fills my heart with joy.

Please visit my website and take a look at the gallery of paintings that are in the slideshow. Leave a question or comment here or there, sign up for updates, and please visit my Redbubble page, as well:
karengberger
I have photographs as well as paintings listed there. 

Original paintings are available by contacting me directly on the website, here or via email at karengberger at gmail dot com. Printed products are available through Redbubble. It's super-easy and fun to order from  Redbubble; the items are made-to-order and shipped quickly. I love my new iPhone case, made from one of my own paintings:
In addition to painting, I am serving on the Bainbridge Public Library board (now in the second year of a three-year term), teaching Word Soup(c) at the Poulsbo branch of Kitsap Regional Library this month, and working at the Bloedel Reserve as a facilitator of the Strolls for Well-Being program. All of these endeavors are wonderful opportunities for growth, sharing and fellowship with the community.


The process of stepping into my artistic self and painting as a vocation has been liberating, illuminating, challenging, gratifying and joyful. I want to be in the studio every day; it is a passion and a drive within. I pray that my work will grow as I continue, and bless all who see it. May it bless you!

Here is my most recent finished painting:
"Jellyfish Garden," 36" x 36" (available for sale)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Work in Progress Means...

...playing
...experimenting
...being bold
...going to the edge 
...risking and going farther
...letting go of what doesn't work
 ...working with what's working

...patiently, expressively, again and again
...until you know it's "finished." Notice that this painting started life as a horizontal piece, but ended up being vertical. It's an intuitive process!

Today is the first day of Flora Bowley's five-week Bloom True e-course, and I've enrolled. It's a perfect way to continue to grow in this way of painting, with Flora's guidance and the benefit of a virtual community. Graduates of her in-person Bloom True workshops receive a discount, and everyone has the privilege of using the class materials for a FULL YEAR. You can take the five weeks at your own pace, and you can take them over and over again, all year long. It's a fabulous opportunity to study with Flora again, and I can't wait to begin!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Power of Student Leadership #AWSL2015

Coach Jamie, the chairmen of #AWSL2015 and results of their service project
Yesterday, Gregg and I traveled to Puyallup (in case you're not local, that's pronounced pyew-all-up) High School, through a driving rainstorm the likes of which we rarely see, even here in Western Washington. I had been invited, through a message sent to Katie's Comforters Guild's Facebook page, to address the 2015 Fall Leadership Conference of the Association of Washington Student Leaders. This wonderful group of high school students and advisors gathers annually to learn and grow, and then take what they have gained back to enrich their local school communities.

The group modeled their theme this year ("We Over ME") on some of the motivational concepts of the Seattle Seahawks (#WhyNotUs, #AllIn, #MakeThemNotice). They asked me to speak to them on Day Two (theme: "Why Not You?") of the three-day conference, before they began their annual service project: making blankets for Katie's Comforters Guild at Seattle Children's Hospital. Each school had gathered fleece for the project, and sent it along with the delegates to the conference. Coach Jamie, advisor to the conference's hosting team, wanted to help all of the students understand the power and purpose of what they were about to do.

As the name AWSL suggests, their programming includes a huge emphasis on developing leadership skills; what isn't apparent, until you enter the conference, is the joy, fun, energy and freedom-within-structure that is part of the organization. I felt it as soon as the students began to gather in the gymnasium; it was like a pep rally for human potential.

I had prepared a short speech and sent photographs of the Guild's work to Coach Jamie. I packed two of Katie's comforters to bring along with me. I prayed and listened and felt that everything was ready to go when I went to bed the night before the event.

Yet I awoke yesterday morning with an inner knowing that I needed to re-write the speech.

In the wake of recent school shootings, I felt moved to speak to the group about the power of simple presence, of helping others to know that they are not alone, of knowing that we are not helpless in the face of tragedy. I sat down at my laptop and the words poured out of me, just as they needed to do, by Grace.

When we arrived in Puyallup, we were warmly welcomed. The "Varsity Team" (conference chairs) Kelty, Nicholas and Kenton introduced me to the crowd: hundreds of energetic students. The lights were turned down and a spotlight shone in my eyes, so I could see only my notes. After sharing the message, there was a huge outpouring of love and gratitude from the students. They stood and clapped, lined up to hug me and say their personal "thanks," briefly told me their stories of connection to Seattle Children's Hospital or to someone with cancer, and then they departed in teams to make blankets.

Gregg and I were taken on a tour of the school by the conference organizers, meeting and taking photographs with some of the teams as they worked.
This is what love-made-visible looks like
After an hour had passed, we were called back into the gym so that the results could be reviewed and tallied. Imagine our surprise when the total came in at 396 blankets!

It was hard to hold back the tears as the students admired the immediate results of their teamwork: nearly 400 blankets of all shapes, sizes and colors of the rainbow. They asked me to sit for photos and continued to thank me, but I thank them, because they made this miracle occur. {If you are a user of Instagram, go to #AWSL2015 to see the student delegates' postings.}

To Jamie, Kelty, Kenton and Nicholas, 
to every student member and advisor of AWSL, 
to every school which sent delegates,  
Thank you! 
I am overwhelmed by your generosity of spirit, and inspired by each one of you! 
Our schools, state and country will be in good hands under your leadership.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Poem for New Beginnings

Sunrise this morning
At the beginning of our Bloom True workshop, 
Flora read aloud the following poem by John O'Donahue, 
and gave each of us a copy. 
It spoke deeply to my heart.
To new beginnings, and work-in-progress
More of this morning's sunrise

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bloom True, Portland - September, 2015

Courtyard of the Tiny House Caravan Hotel

I've been home for a week from the Bloom True painting workshop in Portland with Flora Bowley. It is hard to find words for it - there are so many words. It was everything I had dreamed it would be, and better.
My own space, for four nights! Everyone should stay in a tiny house, just to re-set your idea of what "enough space" feels like.

Better, because it gave me time alone, in a new situation; the opportunity to go to bed alone in a Tiny House Caravan, wake up alone, reflect on my artistic self, my life, and anything else that arose into consciousness. I spent my days in a gorgeous, light-filled studio, led by an inspired artist, surrounded by unconditional friendliness, painting to my heart's delight.

My heart found delight in painting, for the first time in over 30 years: delight, freedom, pleasure, energy, joy.
New friendships were forged. The students in the workshop (all women - 17 of us) came from all over North America, with various backgrounds and levels of experience - from those who had never painted, to those who teach art.
Each day, I arose early in my tiny "Caboose," made coffee, read, reflected and opened my heart. Readings like this appeared, day by day:
- There is no expected pace for inner learning. What we need to learn comes when we need it, no matter how old or young, no matter how many times we have to start over, no matter how many times we have to learn the same lesson...Our greatest chance to change our life is to close our habits of mind and to open our ever-virgin hearts...The time has come to put our stones down. For hands clutching stones can't freely drum. And hearts fisting the past can't freely sing...stop defining who I am by those who have hurt me...The pain was necessary to know the truth but we don't have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive... - Mark Nepo
- Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two banks the river of my life flows. - Nisargadatta Maharaj
- Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition. - James Baldwin
- The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. - Bell Hooks
- Art, myth, and poetry invite us into the transformative world of sacred story. This kind of knowing has the power to change us at the level of the subconscious and intuition because it can open mind, heart, and body simultaneously.  - Richard Rohr
After meditating on these things, I showered in the tiny shower, dressed, and met the group at the curb to catch our ride to Flora's beautiful studio.
Photo credit: Flora Bowley
Photo credit: Flora Bowley (those are my paintings, in progress, on the far right)
Photo credit: Flora Bowley

In the evenings, spent - yet energized - from painting (standing up) all day, some of us went out to explore and found excellent local places to dine. The neighborhood around the Tiny House Caravan was absolutely perfect for blooming artists: filled with small shops, boutiques and restaurants, all brimming with unique goods, rather than touristy trinkets. We talked and laughed, and shared our lives, led far and wide and a world apart, yet connected by the brilliant thread woven through all: art.

Each morning, the readings and reflections which arrived in my in-box were spot-on for where I was in the process (and this is a process). Each night, I wrote with gratitude in my journal. The journal was a gift to Katie for her 12th birthday from a beloved hospital staffer; I had never dared to write in it before, but couldn't part with it. I knew that this was the right time to add my story to it.
In the mornings when we arrived in the studio, we gathered in a circle, and Flora shared a reading, words of wisdom, a ritual, reminder, demonstration or a combination of all of the above. 
Her dog, Pearl, was an important member of the tribe - our resident angel/silent therapist.
On day one of the workshop, Flora had a gift for each of us: a clutch purse made of her design, filled with nurturing goodies like sun tea, lip balm, soap, etc...
Sun tea, hand-made by a wonderful local herbalist

...and she had painted a miniature with a message for each of us. These were lying face down (white side up) on the table, and we were invited to select any one, turn it over, and receive its message. This one was mine:
...perfect for someone who was blocked for years, after making a serious study of art in college.

As I painted under Flora's gentle guidance and tutorials, I began to see deeply into myself. I began to let go and find new freedom. I enjoyed the encouragement and camaraderie of others who were undergoing the same process of stepping out in faith and wonder, doing their best, liking/not liking the results, and beginning again, over and over, moment by moment.

One of the things I love best about Flora's process is that we can begin again, at any moment. I have never experienced this wisdom in other art classes. Titanium White, or any color of opaque paint, can render the most awkward area of a painting (or an entire canvas) completely new and fresh again. It is never too late; no painting is beyond redemption. And they can be turned - any side can be "up." For example, a painting can evolve from this
my new studio space at home
to this
 to this,
and still be unfinished. We don't have to know "where it's going," don't have to think it through or impose a destination or meaning upon it. We can allow it to emerge in its own way and time, naturally.
 We were offered delicious, healthy, beautiful snacks each day, laid out under this window; a morning yoga session with artist/yogi Lynzee Lynx; an evening pizza-wine-and-painting session. I could have stayed for months, rather than days.

Flora's exercises and demonstrations were fun, challenging and exciting. Her demo painting went through many phases; here are a few of them:
Lots of freedom and fun from very the beginning
Then, unifying...
...unifying with shape and color
...adding some "POP" with color
Flora teaching us - such a gentle, wise, spiritual, experienced, full-hearted soul!
Fun with lines and shapes
Some "Brave, Intuitive" changes - and turns of the canvas
This is where she stopped - pure gorgeousness!
Detail of one of my favorite areas of Flora's canvas

When I arrived at home, I shared my work in progress (because my paintings are not finished yet) with Gregg and my parents.
Last day in Flora's studio: my work in progress

I shared the process with them, as well; I could see that it was all a bit radical to them, but they were delighted in my happiness and progress. Gregg was so engaged that he immediately helped me to set up a studio in our house - so now, I am continuing to paint at home.

"Bloom True" is one of the greatest gifts I've received in my life, for which I am hugely thankful. It has moved a block behind which I was stuck for over 30 years. I knew intuitively (by grace) that Flora was the right teacher for me, and am now enrolling in her "Bloom True" e-course to help me keep going. I don't know where any of this will lead, but it is taking me into more freedom, joy and full-heartedness, and that is enough. To Flora, Anya, Katie and my fellow Bloom True tribe members, thank you for being part of this joyous journey! I love you and will never forget our time together.