Friday, October 12, 2012

Say Yes to Your YES

Initial Montanaro instructions are simple:  Run in a circle. Say the word "yes." Repeat. Continue. Go.

Keep it that simple. Feel : Yes.

What will happen? We don't know. Mine won't be yours, yours won't be mine. Start, to just get there. GO.

Embody the word, the meaning. BE : YES.

Really feel it -- deep, visceral, both the animal and the angel of it. Keep running. Say / scream / whisper the word Yes. Keep running until you feel it first here, and then there. Yes. Higher, beyond, through the core. YES. First physical, then mental, then spiritual in whatever that means for you. YES! Feel it in every part of your being, every layer, linear and vertical like a gorgeous berry cream trifle, spherical and horizontal like an ancient wider-than-arms weathered oak.

You will know when you arrive. YES. We'll watch. We are the Witness. YES! We're with you in your shoes, or your bare feet, your flailing, screaming, elevating, rousing, softening self in this white-hot red-tinged experience. YES!! We'll feel the exhilaration, the universal multi-level-layer orgasm void of doubt, concern, ambition. YES!!!

One focus.  Be -- and be in -- YES. It's deceptively simple. You might, like me, sometimes break down into a NO -- a solid pithy grey foamy bog that refuses to abate despite figurative foot speed and vocal volume. Go, again, in a day, or a month, or a year's time. YES.

It can't help but bubble up -- or geyser push -- to the surface. It's both small and BIG. Maybe not so wide anymore, but oh so deep. It's strength is rooted and also shooting straight through the earth and out the other side, no dimension, phobic-free, unshutterable, cadence-less. YES.

What is it, to what do you say it, how you do it -- not the point now.

YES feels like this... preceded, and followed by, both question + exclamation marks.

It's choosing to wear the red dress in addition to your standard black. Roaring through walnuts off the pristine park path. Whisper soft fist-clench-pull-in -- or hoarse yell spread-finger sky sprint -- when you've nailed the note or the chord, final-stroked the creation, aced the looming test, clearly answered the query, sharp-pinned the presentation, made the goal, screwballed the pitch, shot the arrow BAM to middle center black.

It's behind the life-changing decision AND behind the choice of this week's peanut butter brand. YES.  The one that fuels both the beginning -- and the end -- of painfully personal relationships and power-play professional alignments.

Run literally and metaphorically until you feel flight. YES.
Out of breath -- not beaten down, but pulled up and out. YES!
Move until every fiber of your being knows that yes, this is... YES.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Now Hear This -- Self-discovery through music and stories
Trista's newsletter -- Read the current edition here
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her blog, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Life Lines Up Like That

Here, arranged chronologically from right to left, are the journals I’ve written, illustrated and shelved over thirty plus years.  Over time, they have morphed from tiny cloth-covered lined-page notebooks to large blank-paged sketchbook tomes whose covers I paint myself.

She holds it for me -- a relic from a college-era nude body sculpture class tightens it up.

Over the course of my life, I’ve gone to great lengths to hide them from others, and even from myself.  After all, who wants that mirror?

Apparently, hell yes, I do.

The other day I pulled out that green one.  Because I date everything I write, I knew this particular book charted the amazingly painful waters of my music therapy internship in a large failing medical/psychiatric hospital that was poised precariously between wealthy pristine neighborhoods and the impoverished rougher part of a grey gritty city.  Day and night sirens screamed full-throttle into our unprotected 4th floor dorm cavern, and my entries waxed on about my doubt and achy longing for personal and professional connection.

I surmised that reading my own writing again, now, would help highlight how I can be fully present and open to today’s test-drive “Now Hear This!” event that I’m holding in just a few hours in my home -- a house that is stunningly similar to what I dreamily described on Super Repeat in that journal.  This gathering is all about careful music listening, storytelling, and the literal lightening of memories.  And that green journal -- among entries about brazen many-hour walks through questionable urban territory, an intense observation of a forceps (two types!) baby birth, and what I ate too much of at all hours -- included a particular entry about a very specific piece of music.  

This piece of music, when heard in a group setting among people actually listening with me, had suddenly shed light on who I was at that moment, what music truly meant to me, and the shape and color of my immediate future should I choose this or THAT (or some other) direction.

Except the entry wasn’t there.

Looking for it meant reading through the entire book -- shockingly, I could not put it down.  While that memory could still be hiding in some paperwork I have yet to resurrect from a bedroom closet, very slowly it dawned on me that the reason I pulled out that journal wasn’t for that entry after all. 

Past Trista survived and documented her path so that Present Trista, at least this week, could look back and appreciate, pull forward, share, and luxuriate in the very bits she once meticulously and tirelessly worked to hide.

You've experienced this, too?

Perhaps the experience of reviewing written periods of one’s life feels, oh, I don’t know, sickening, and invites “I’d-rather-[fill-in-the-blank]”.  Thoughts of zealous book-burning may come careening from dark corners.  

What comes up when sitting through that Hell for just one moment longer? No, the moment after that? Holding it -- the feeling, the book, the passage of time, the acknowledgement of change -- and realizing, Yes, it’s clear I am no longer that person, is nothing short of exhilarating.

Life lines up like that.  And on it goes -- a chapter shelved, another begun.

Helping others realize the rich value of those challenging moments and how they reward us NOW, especially through music and the arts, is an Amen Hallelujah Glory Be Hot Damn experience.

So today, won’t you help us hold moments for each other, casting away what is NOT,  and allowing glorious light to fall upon what we’ve been / who we are? Together we throw wide open the doors for new experiences to oh-so- gladly, good-wickedly, confidently and seductively usher themselves in.

Amen Hallelujah Glory Be Hot Damn.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Peter Gabriel -- Secret World
Popular posts:
Philip Glass:  Breaking Through and Maybe Minimalism
Sense of Place
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her blog, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Procrastination as Punishment

So, we'll just jump in -- what if your fear isn’t completely about failure or rejection? 
What if this “holding back” thing is only partially about recoiling from having to feel bad/unwanted/stupid/insane?
What if you are procrastinating because you don’t believe you actually deserve the incredibleness you’re on the precipice of experiencing? 
What if your procrastination pause is a form of systematic self-induced punishment -- a wildly creative sabotage you’ve designed especially to keep the beautiful-fantastic-happy AWAY?

What if your procrastination is protecting you from both ick AND bliss?
Withhold the good stuff from yourself? Why... would you do that
What if your fear is about not quite believing you are worthy of a better life, of having heaven instead of hell, of feeling good, REALLY good, no explanations nor apology necessary?
What if your fear is about being lauded, appreciated, acknowledged, respected, recognized, seen, heard? 
Holy cow what would THAT be like?!
I mean, what the hell would you do with that it would feel so foreign you’re so not used to it and what if everyone expects big everythings from you now and what if you have to constantly live up to that and sitting with the discomfort of praise is SO “blank” and what will others think of you past present and future and how would you explain this newfound whatever to your parents/significant other/church/the government/the cats?
Stop punishing yourself.  
What if picking up that pen, the phone, the paintbrush, or hitting “send” means your whole life could change? It could. It will. It is.

What if this next thing you’re about to do makes the dream that much closer to coming true? It could. It will. It is.

Isn't it fabulous we always have this choice?

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Simon and Garfunkel -- (a very specific verse of) Bridge Over Troubled Water - Live
Popular posts:
Philip Glass:  Breaking Through and Maybe Minimalism
Walk Into It
The Egg Project -- Self-discovery through metaphor
Trista's newsletter -- Read the current edition here
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her blog, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Walk Into It

So, it's a big birthday.

Go to the desert, meet what comes up.  Walk.  Right.  In.
Surround yourself by people who get it, and come together in love.
Then venture out alone.
Pick up the lemon that rolls out to meet you, greet the mountains surrounding the sun-drenched cacti, smother the apple in leftover peanut butter, invite all of it, in.
Float in the warm water, gaze at shooting stars, let purging tears flow.
Glorious light.

This is what it looks like, this is what is, Now.

Wild Geese 

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 trees,
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading 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. -- Mary Oliver

It is, just right.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Led Zeppelin -- Fool In the Rain, Ramble On
Bruce Springsteen -- I'm On Fire
Fleet Foxes -- Helplessness Blues (thank you, JD)
Mumford & Sons -- Sigh No More (thank you, Ally)

Popular posts:
Philip Glass:  Breaking Through and Maybe Minimalism
Dear Creative Work
Sense of Place

Trista's newsletter -- read the current edition here
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Sunday, February 05, 2012

What I Do for the Super Bowl that is Not Football Related

It's Super Bowl time! But I had to look that up.

My life is measured by creative projects (including those involving the harp), and I remember the Super Bowl is around this time of year because I agreed to have a floorcloth done and delivered by my client's Super Bowl party.

My client came to me because her first floorcloth was crafted by someone else from linoleum, and it turned strange colors and curled and peeled and was an overall disaster.

Stapling down and priming a very thick raw cotton duck canvas is what it takes to make a floorcloth from scratch.  Art room paraphernalia is pushed to the walls (as you see in the tulip example below) to make space for this kind of project, and measures are taken to ensure the cat won't leave prints in the paint.

For every floorcloth that's going in a particular room, I use the motif, colors and photos the client provides.  Above is the simple drawing I submitted to her for approval, at right is the finished floorcloth.  Click here and scroll down this page to see how the 68" x 100" floorcloth complements her other decor.

Function and where the floorcloth will be installed determines the design.  The border became the focal point in the above floorcloth because it's home was under the table; the center field (ha -- a Super Bowl reference, no?) of the floorcloth below became the focal point because it was going to be installed in the main room of a contemporary loft in California.  This massive 6' x 9' floorcloth's final tulip motif offered unexpected depth.

Below is a picture of the tulip floorcloth installed in the client's home -- click here to see another view and and close-ups of those bulbous blooms.  I would also love to see it hanging on an otherwise empty wall.

My current project is a pet mat for a beautiful golden retriever, and it will probably look something like this, except not quite, and incorporate an awesome shimmering iridescent lime green, the pet's name, and a black and white checkerboard border.  The mat is water resistant and can be wiped clean with mild soap and water so pet bowls can be placed right on top.

Once I figured out my own method of priming, hemming, acrylic painting, non-toxic varnishing, and (sometimes) waxing floorcloths, the door opened to a variety of home decor options.

At left is an advent calendar, measuring 10" x 38".  I fashioned this after a wool felt version from my childhood that has long since disintegrated.

Two sets of felt and velcro-backed Joseph and Mary are included; one travels from left to right, the other right to left.  Day 1 is the first house on the lower right, and Day 23 is the last house on the upper left; Day 24 is the stable, Day 25 is the mirrored star of Bethlehem.

Each house has a velcro piece on the path where Joseph and Mary stop to rest.  A pocket on the back of the painting stores the travelers not in use.

On the art table now -- a four panel project for my mother of fruits / vegetables that she and I have yet to figure out how we'll hang in her sage green kitchen -- I'm loving the idea of suspending them by shimmering sheer white ribbon.  So far, one panel is of carrots, and another is of lemons, each highlighted with metallic and glitter paint to accentuate curves and undulations.

This method creates the perfect floorcloths, advent calendars, personalized wall hangings (at right), highchair mats, and more...

Click here to read more about floorcloths.

Click here to see the Floorcloth Design Gallery on my website.

Though all images here reflect a very color-blocked graphic style, I do have a softer side.
And now off to enjoy a Super Bowl of spaghetti, ice cream, or chocolate something, on a placemat like this little girl's.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Very halftime-worthy, can't-help-but-get-off-the-couch Pa' Bailar (Bajofondo Mar Dulce)


Friday, February 03, 2012

Breaking Through: Philip Glass and Maybe Minimalism

This week Philip Glass celebrates his 75th birthday.  In a most interesting interview with his second cousin Ira, he explains, "It's not how you find your voice, but how you get rid of the damn thing... "

I first experienced Glass in a college music class that offered an uncreative listening format of brief lectures followed by corresponding music samples.  Sitting through Minimalism, 12-tone theory, and the like had zero appeal to my frazzled spirit.

I had barely survived creating my composition for this module in another class, shutting myself inside a piano practice room for the weekend to get it done.  Now I know the immense value of composing and performing "live" your own piece for each style we studied, an element I embrace and employ in my own teaching / coaching today.  But at the time it was an exercise in insanity -- I had very limited time then to appreciate the assignment as a way to learn the music from the inside out, truly absorb it, through an intensely personalized process.

Fortunately this time, we were able to play a pre-recorded version of our piece instead of perform it live.  My aggravation shone through in the title I selected.  "This is called S.O.S," I told the class simply, enjoying that it could be interpreted whatever way the listener chose.

A classmate who knew my angst slowly smiled and asked what that stood for.  I stared at him, stood a little straighter, and delivered.  "S.O.S. stands for Same Old Shit."  Snickers ran around the room as I pressed "Play" to share the angry solo piano recording I had probably made only 12 to 48 hours before.  That class included written critiques.  My classmate's: "Well, it didn't sound like shit to me."  My professor's: "I hope 'S.O.S.' isn't the way you really feel -- you do good work as I've said before and I've really enjoyed having you in class."

But back to Philip Glass.

Armed with all my baggage and preconceptions, I braced myself for our listening session.  And then, there it was -- loud and clear and jarring, the frenetically perfect musical example of my life as I knew it.

I have no idea how the professor introduced or explained this musical sample -- I could only feel the class recoil at the maddeningly repetitive nature and the sheer volume and never-ending layers that cascaded over us.  "Can you hear when one element is shifting, an instrument, a rhythm, one note in the melody?" he offered.  "NO!" The class screamed.  "What IS this?!? Make it stop!"

And then there I was, maybe wearing yellow, staring hard at the wall, dead silent and solid, mentally pushing everyone and their noise away, Shut Up! Yes I can hear it! FEEL it! Let me listen! Do NOT stop!

I was riveted.
I couldn't wait to get inside it.

listen listen LISTEN don't you hear?!?? - this is life, this pulsating hypnotic incessant NOISE, this pounding pulsing driving insistent forcing of rhythm and melody - this pattern, over and over and over again, sustained tones that do not go away - what bravery to capture the human condition like this, to be with it, over and over and over - how as a listener or performer do you not go deep within it and yourself to find the nuggets, the seeds, the place from where all this expanded and grew?

Yes! Let me IN!

I remember the album cover as pulsing light emanating from a bright white center that both pulled you in and pushed you out.  I can't find that image anywhere now, perhaps I made it up, saw it as it felt.  In my single dorm room I huddled next to the cassette player, closing off everything around me, pushing everything to the side, get and go AWAY, I'm going in.

Overlapping patterns, shifting ever so slightly, in any direction, required my dedicated attention.  Wavering even slightly from an inner focal point rendered it chaos.  Brilliant.  Devastating.

My own life then was exactly like this.  I had created so many layers of existence, and it was a constant fight to not drown -- my journals from then document my mind-bending frustration, isolation, and a strange dependency on the glutinous anchor of schoolwork and a schedule not my own.  Overloaded with credit hours each semester to graduate early with two degrees, in the throes of a full-blown eating disorder, grappling with imploding issues at home, attracting attention from all the wrong places in all the worst ways, I retreated to campus hiding places where I locked myself overnight to hammer out papers and projects, and walked for miles and hours off campus longingly gazing at warm-lit windows of houses where life appeared to be far removed from my daily careening chaos. I had a zillion eyes watching me but none that really saw.

In all the chaos, Glass' music assured, there is a subtle shifting.  The shifting is inevitable -- nothing stays static.  Direction is unknown, but headed somewhere.  Linear doesn't apply, there's no room for it.  Paying attention to what is happening along the way, hyper-aware and sensitive of the pulsing shifts, is the only way through.

That album cover and that music was a musical illustration of hope in a world where I felt I had little to no control.  It was a vivid portrayal of what didn't make sense, and the meta-vision of what did.  In a morass of confusion and overwhelm, choosing one pathway or anchor -- an instrument, a motif, a rhythm -- and following it all the way through, suddenly lifted the veil and revealed a brilliant landscape of incomparable intensity and magnitude that, in a powerfully parental way, demanded focus and reverence.

This is how transformation happens -- to be pulled, by your own volition or not, out of one place and into another, of newness, openness, and expansiveness.  Glass seeks for himself -- and offers to us -- a way "to break out of your own training."  Time and time again I've seen my own students at the harp or piano, all faculties ablaze, hit that white center.  With a little coaching, they usher in small and large transformations and breakthroughs that shape the course of life from that day forward.

The "noise" is begging for you to notice its layers, what lies beneath.  Demand the space and time to grab that glittering end and hold on tight.  You're in for a ride.  Open your eyes.  Get IN this place that is anything but Minimalism -- inside the chaos is immense beauty and light, illuminating both the path you're on and the one you've been searching for.

Happy Birthday, and Thank You, Philip Glass.

What is your transformative "Philip Glass" moment?

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Philip Glass excerpts, all recordings listed on his website

Popular posts: