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I spy joy in murals

Mural on Williams

Driving north on Williams in Northeast Portland for the first time in possibly a year, I was amazed to see this bold, albeit unfinished, mural on a residential building. An automatic “wow” escaped my lips. And then another, louder “wow” followed when I saw the other side was completely covered in art, as well.  I quickly looked for a place to pull over.

That’s when I met Kyle.

Kyle Simmons: curator, artist, student

Kyle kindly came down from his ladder, interrupting his artwork, to greet me.  I learned that the people who own the building commissioned this informal group of six artists to cover the exterior walls in beauty. Each allowed the freedom of his or her own style, you can see where one artist’s work ends and another’s begins.

Kyle has covered his section of the wall a couple times.  Just learning he’s been accepted to study art history in Italy (“wow” number 3), Kyle is adorning the building with a victory dragon.

They’re hoping to put the finishing touches on with the next dry spell (a bit hard to paint in the rain). Finished or not, it makes me smile to see life and color and art on a house.

There’s talk of formalizing the group into a non-profit with the mission of beautifying our streets with art.

Definitely something to be joyful about.

April 14, 2011   7 Comments

I spy joy in originality

Sand Forests on the beach in Seaside, OR

Last month we took a 3-day weekend to relax in Seaside, Oregon. During one of the daily beach jaunts I saw this young boy building something completely original. He wasn’t building the usual sand castle, but something more like a forest, made of twigs and feathers and stones. Only assisted by his father in what appeared to be merely a gathering of goods.

I was struck by awe. And joy. What a wonderful, original work of art.

It also brings me great hope. Hope for our children and the possibilities that are before them–and before us. Endless possibilities for creative thought and unique expression.

What amazing and unfathomable worlds are yet to be ours?  After all, everything is possible. Isn’t it?

October 4, 2010   No Comments

I spy joy in a bus shelter

Bus shelter in Vancouver, WA

Peace is in the air.  Or at least it seems to be.  I keep seeing signs of it everywhere.

A house in our neighborhood has a big peace sign on the lawn made with Christmas lights, a notice for the Let’s Think Peace art show came across Twitter from YES Magazine, and today I saw this bus shelter painted for peace.  These are just the highlights–I’ve seen peace sign rings, bumper stickers, t-shirts…

It’s kind of nice, the way the concept of being kind to each other seems to be top of mind.  It reminds me a little of a targeted ad campaign the way it shows up around every corner, but in a good way.  Which gives me a great idea: what if some wonderful foundation (anyone out there know Bill or Melinda Gates?) spent a few million on an ad campaign promoting peace and kindness across the nation?

I can see it now.  A billboard simply stating, “Be Kind”, a newspaper ad in the life section with smiling children of different races hugging or holding hands, Facebook ads asking, “How many times have you said I Love You today?”, the Google homepage with peace signs in the o’s, radio stations running 15- and 30-second spots with a kind warm voice reading a variety of quotations on peace, love and happiness, TV commercials with slide shows of joyous images.

Wouldn’t that be grand?

What might happen if we suddenly became bombarded with messages of kindness and hope, rather than fear and despair?  Would creating top of mind awareness for peace and kindness result in 5 more friendly acts per person per day? Or 2? Or 10? And what would the ripple effect of that be?  Less crime? More community?  It’s difficult to know for sure.  But I sure would like to find out.

Happy, peaceful holidays to you all.

December 29, 2009   1 Comment

I spy joy in my Daily Good email

daily good logo


I sign up to get emails delivered to me by various inspirational websites.  One I am really enjoying is Daily Good.

“DailyGood is an inspiring quote, a related good-news story, and a simple action — delivered to your inbox for free by volunteers every day. Just a ripple a day, simply to spread the good.”

I love it.  Saturday’s good-news story starts out like this:

Bren Bataclan’s cheerful cartoon creatures have been exhibited in some high places: at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in Logan International Airport and even on a Girl Scout patch.

But lately he’s been leaving his artwork outside unemployment offices and closed-down retail stores across the country bearing the note: “Everything is Going to Be Alright – This Painting is Yours to Take.”

Joy lives.  And it spreads.

September 7, 2009   No Comments

I spy joy in Flora's art

(cropped) Bloom True - painting by Flora S. Bowley

(cropped) Bloom True - painting by Flora S. Bowley

Beauty is a source of great joy for me. I find beauty in color and space, lines and angles, circles and odd shapes, wide smiles, deep eyes, and Flora’s paintings.

I found Flora S. Bowley’s paintings this week in a treasure trove called Hunt and Gather. Instantly, I fell in love.

Her art is bold, colorful, rich and complex. Simultaneously soft and strong, decisive, confident and meaningful.  I gazed at the large, visual feasts for a good long while, moving in and out of them, exploring.

It wasn’t until days later that I realized all the things I love about her work are things I want to be. What I find beautiful, it seems, is what I wish to find in myself.  I may have known that already, and tucked away that little pearl for safe keeping. But that is neither here nor there.

The gem is this: if I can find the echoes of beauty within—the moments of boldness, the confident actions, the colorful character traits—I can begin to see myself as a work of art, precious and joyful as Flora’s paintings. And my life, in turn, as a masterpiece.

(cropped) Manifest, painted by Flora S. Bowley

(cropped) Manifest - painting by Flora S. Bowley

August 13, 2009   4 Comments

I spy joy in art

I have always enjoyed art. Whether it’s a sculpture, a painting, a photograph, collage or what have you, I love knowing that what I’m looking at is one person’s creative expression of their unique perspective at just that moment.

This particular piece of art, drawn by my daughter, makes me smile. A bold, colorful flower, a really big heart, and her name in whimsical letters.

Joy, indeed.

May 14, 2009   No Comments

I spy joy in the little things

Drawing_taryn sm

When a friend and co-worker gave me two homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies one morning following a particularly challenging day, I was absolutely elated. If she hadn’t stood up to hug me I would have sat in her lap and given her a squeeze that may well have knocked all the wind out of her. This small but meaningful gesture gave me such joy for hours, long after I devoured those fabulous bits of heaven.

 It actually took me off guard; how much pleasure I found in those cookies and the warm and nurturing thoughts behind them.  Then, a day later, my daughter brought me, unsolicited, a beautiful drawing she’d just completed. “See mama, these are the clouds, and the sky and the sun.  And some flowers, and here’s me.  I drew it for you.”  My heart melted and there it was again – that deep, deep gratitude for a small and meaningful gesture.

That’s when it occurred to me to make a list of the little things that make their way instantly to the center of me and bubble up a smile that then sends ripples of gratitude so tangible I can just almost see them.  These moments of gratitude, of appreciation – that’s joy.  To be aware of and appreciate the moment and what’s happening in it is pure, simple, golden joy.  It lives.  And it spreads, if you let it.


The List…a beginning

1) chocolate chip peanut butter cookies homemade by a friend

2) picture drawn by my daughter

3) nice meal cooked by my 

4) good wine shared at a table

5) a quick reply from a friend

6) slobbery kiss from my dog

7) a genuinely kind word

8)  hay rides

9)  pumpkin patches

10)  playing board games with the family

11)  tying up loose ends

12)  eliminating clutter

13) morning coffee on a sunny deck

14) conversation with my kids

October 4, 2008   No Comments

Joy & fullfillment in the everyday

The foam waters of Kawana. Photo: Heidi O'Sullivan
The foam waters of Kawana. Photo: Heidi O’Sullivan












If I were in Queensland, Australia right now I’d be at The University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery looking at Heidi O’Sullivan’s photos. The gallery (and an article in The Sunshine Coast Daily) says of her exhibition:

“Soul Connect” is an explosion of positive energy as O’Sullivan uses colour portraiture to study where happiness comes from. Her subjects recharge their energy in their own ways, seeking joy and fulfilment in the every day – singing, dancing, running, meditating and more.

The gallery show is up now through October 11.

September 10, 2008   No Comments