Home Is a Treasure That No One Can Buy

“I feel at home here.”

When someone says this, most people instantly understand what they mean.

autumn memories fall country home rural farm steve henderson painting

“Coming home” is something to look forward to. Autumn Memories, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

They feel welcome, safe, accepted, free to be themselves without judgment or criticism. They are surrounded by people who love them, things that matter.

Home is a special place, a place like no other.

To see this, try replacing “home” with other places where we spend our time, places we’re told are filled with a sense of family and warmth and goodness:

“I feel so at office here.”

“Relax. Make yourself at hospital.”

“My schoolroom is your schoolroom.”

“Work is where my heart is.”

It doesn’t really work, does it?

Now realistically, not all homes are safe, good places: there are people who do not feel treasured and protected at home, relaxed and assured, but rather than tear down the concept of home and substitute it with . . . work, school, church, hospital rooms . . . it is better to acknowledge that a home where one does not want to be is an aberration.

We want to bring the concept of home into places where it does not exist, not replace home with impersonal arenas that pretend to possess the attributes of home when they do not.

The artwork, Autumn Memories, invites us to a place of warmth and welcome, goodness and kindness, acceptance and love. The traveler walks down the driveway, drawn toward the rural farmhouse, lights glowing from the windows. Inside, a warm meal awaits, eager conversation between people who want to know about one another’s day, quiet moments when there is no need to speak.

These are gifts we can all give one another, regardless of whether we are in our home, or at the office, in the grocery store, by the hospital bed. While the element of privacy is generally missing in public areas, the need for acceptance and kindness, patience and understanding, safety and freedom, is very real, very necessary, and very within our abilities to give.

Home is a treasure worth desiring, valuing, and protecting, a treasure so priceless that no one can buy it, but everyone deserves it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Are You Important?

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Are We Truly a Divided People?

We are an agitated people.

Surrounded by media, saturated with “news,” inundated by commentary and analysis, we begin and end and live our days in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, us versus them, right versus left, and this right versus that wrong.

This is a calm place, set in the very middle of noise and freeway traffic. Evening on the Willamette, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

The more “news” we watch, the more analysts we follow, the more political speeches we hear, the more we are encouraged to see the problems as insurmountable, solvable only by fighting, combat, hostility, and dispute.

Obviously, there are problems. At base, they stem from greed, deception, selfishness, arrogance, and untrammeled ambition, because if we lived with the attitude that we are all family members sharing one earth, we wouldn’t countenance some members treating other members with disdain, cruelty, and disfavor.

“Ah, but that’s too simplistic, and you are naive,” we are told. “The situation is very complex.”

Indeed it is, more complex than the options we are given: vote for this, support him, listen to her, hate them, focus on that, censor “dangerous material.” The “other side” is told the opposite. Constantly, the answer involves dissent, division, disunity, and discord, but — and this is important — no serious, meaningful discussion. Such an attitude will rip any healthy family apart.

The artwork, Evening on the Willamette River, encourages us to step away from this atmosphere of agitation and angst, this place where we focus on disagreement and suspicion and noise and hate — even as we are in the midst of it — and think things through calmly, quietly, reflectively.

Intriguingly, this section of the river — so peaceful, so serene, so tranquil — is set in the middle of an urban freeway system. Not very far away, thousands of vehicles rush relentlessly past, in an area that is anything but calming, reflective, and thoughtful.

But at the river it is quiet, and there is great beauty in the shadows of the trees across the surface of the water, the soft glow of sunset in the twilight sky. As we focus on goodness, stillness, and quietude, we see the way we would like the world, our lives, our family to be, and we realize we won’t get there when our hearts are filled with fear and hate.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Peace and Quiet — We NEED These

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Managing Thinking, Creative People — Why?

Look it up on the Internet sometime: how to manage people. It’s something business and corporation interests obsess about:

How to Manage People Who Don’t Want to Be Managed

Managing Difficult People

Don’t Manage: Lead

Be the Leader That People Follow

lady lake woman alpine wilderness mountains independence steve henderson art

Step by step, independent people move forward. With persistence, they find themselves in unusual, beautiful places. Lady of the Lake, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

The essential theme revolves around a power in charge who is pulling, prodding, pushing, nudging, pressing, herding, and manipulating people into doing things that they probably don’t want to do. Because, if they wanted to do these things, and these things were worthwhile and good, people wouldn’t need so much convincing.

Intelligent, creative people do not need to be herded, like sheep, into thinking and doing interesting, meaningful things. They do, however, need to be coerced — subtly or forcibly — into performing meaningless, dull, prosaic, boring tasks that do not satisfy the human drive to use our skills and talents for the betterment of others, but are very necessary for the efficient and profitable running of a business or an empire.

The greater the creativity and intelligence — which corporate business needs for innovative products that sell, movies that “entertain,” or effective military weaponry — the greater challenge in controlling the people responsible for developing these products. Hence, the proliferation of articles on managing people.

The artwork, Lady of the Lake, illustrates the mind and mindfulness of the creative individual. She walks her own path. She continues steadily, persistently forward, one step at a time, with the ultimate goal of going someplace intriguing, interesting, a bit magical, and well worth being in.

She doesn’t mind that she doesn’t look or act like everyone else, because her goals are not to be treated like a member of  “the masses,” but to live — although it will be challenging to do so — as a free individual, a human being in all her uniqueness, and not a machine, or a consumer unit, or a nameless, faceless employee.

Deep inside her, in a place that is remote and inaccessible to the outside, external forces of business, commerce, consumerism, materialism, propaganda, peer pressure, and coercion, are her thoughts. And our thoughts — our ability to reason, to question, to analyze, to wonder, to imagine, to plan — are what keep us free.

So . . . how do you manage thinking, creative people?

Ultimately, you don’t.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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How Many Friends Is “Normal”?

When we live too much in the imaginary world of TV, movies, and social media, we start to believe that fantasy is reality.

Take friendship, for example.

harvesters sisters girls friends picking grapes steve henderson art

Each in her own way, according to her ability, but together. The Harvesters, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

In the land of myths, six to eight young, attractive, witty men and women regularly interact without anyone ever having to go to work, clean the toilets, or wash dishes. They just flow from one fun situation to the next, tossing out one liners and being close and supportive and connected.

Those without seven close friends orbiting about on a 24-hour basis start to think there’s something wrong with us. Why doesn’t our life look like it does on TV?

Because TV isn’t real, but our lives are. When we focus too much on the entertainment world’s voice, we forget the beauty, truth, goodness, and reality of what we have.

The artwork, The Harvesters, reminds us of this beauty. Two sisters join, each in her own way, to pick grapes under an arched portico. They are friends, true friends, because as family they share a bond that is unique, precious, and special. (And while yes, there are dysfunctional families, there are also many, many dysfunctional “friendships” — we just don’t focus on these.)

Because we are shuttled so early into schoolrooms of 30 other people all the same age, we pick up the impression that friendship is limited to our “peer group,” a group, as most of us readily concede, is as welcoming and supportive as a flock of chickens. (Ever heard of a pecking order?)

Family doesn’t count — not siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents. Nor neighbors. Nor people we see every day with whom we share a welcoming smile. These can’t be friends, real friends, because they’re not all the same age, which, according to movie world, is a major requirement for friendship.

How limiting and absurd.

Friends come in all ages, from all backgrounds, and frequently so don’t fit our entertainment-derived definition of friendship that we don’t recognize them as such.

But if they care for us, and we care for them; and they’re there for us, and we’re there for them, well, they’re friends.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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So American — Assigning Value Numbers to People

In the U.S., we pride ourselves on being a classless society, but we’re really not.

We have our Hollywood idols, our political royalty, our Silicon Valley Influencers, and a selection of Instagram celebrities who are famous because . . . because . . .

good shepherd indian grand canyon sheep southwest steve henderson desert art

Good shepherds are often not monetarily rich, but they overflow with priceless qualities. The Good Shepherd, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Since we pride ourselves on efficiency as much as we do being classless, we tend to ascribe mental numbers to people, based upon a value we assign to what they do. Lawyers, doctors, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, financiers, scientists, and of course celebrities — these are “worth” more than others, presumably because they work harder, are smarter than others, and contribute more to the world around them. Or they’re very attractive.

They “deserve” their “success.”

Conversely, people with low paying jobs of little esteem — non-leaders, non-influential, non-important, non-rich — “deserve” their obscurity and society’s disdain.

“If they wanted to make something of themselves, they would,” we sniff.

The artwork, The Good Shepherd, invites us to turn around and walk the other way, approaching people from a different perspective.

Good shepherds — people who care for others, people who do the actual difficult and physical labor of watching over young children, or very ill people, or loved ones with long-range debilitations, carry some of the lowest scores in our societal classification score.

And yet to watch over sheep, to care for them, to protect them from harm and fight off predators, takes intelligence, alertness, acumen, perseverance, and determination — all of the elements we accord to professions with the highest value scores.

More importantly, good shepherds need to be kind, compassionate, patient, and truly caring because if they’re not, the sheep won’t and don’t trust them. These latter elements, the ones that are truly important if we want our planet to operate with the idea that all humans, not just a few, matter, are singularly unmentioned when we extol the value of the top-numbered career credit scores.

It would be nice if the planet’s important people possessed rich, deep character traits, but, we shrug, you can’t have everything.

That being so, it’s best to seek out — in ourselves and others — the traits that are truly worth something. No need to wait on the leaders for this one — their focus is on other things.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Too Much Stuff? Yes, It’s Stressful

It’s fun to have things, nice things — a car that works, comfortable furniture, books and mugs and clothing and kitchen appliances and meaningful knick knacks — stuff.

And, in the United States, most of us have a lot of stuff, sometimes too much, as evidenced by our fascination with shows about hoarders. Perhaps vicariously watching people who are overwhelmed by stuff makes us feel better about the many drawers in our home, overflowing  to the point that we only see 10 percent of the contents, much less use them.

sea breeze coast beach ocean seascape grass sand steve henderson art

A gentle breeze, the sound of the surf, the feeling of sand underneath our bare feet: what we find here isn’t stuff, but peace. Sea Breeze, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Because sometimes we have so much stuff that we don’t know what to do with it, and it keeps us busy dusting it, organizing it, moving it around, and boxing it up to give away so that we have room for more, new stuff.

And while this is an unlikely form of stress, it can be, for many people, stressful.

The interesting thing about stuff is that it’s not limited to items we touch. While an overly cluttered environment is disquieting, it is minor compared to a messy, scattered mind, strewn with anxieties and worries, angst and restlessness, uneasiness and envy, misgivings and doubts — the mental stuff we absorb each day through advertisements, movies, “news,” pop culture books and magazine articles, Influencers, sermons, social media posts, junk mail, and political speeches.

The result of this is that our mind is filled with thoughts that do us no good, crowding out those that could, pushing aside meditation and prayer and deep thinking and replacing them with worries that we are inadequate, deficient, incompetent, lacking.

The artwork, Sea Breeze, invites us into a place where there is no such stuff — neither material nor mental. A soft breeze blows through the grass, and under our feet (bare, of course) we feel the delightful tickle of sand. The surf in the background is gentle, rhythmic, soothing.

This is not an empty place by any means, because it is full of quiet and tranquility, serenity and peace — what we look for to imbue our mind.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Lies and Darkness, Truth and Light

Gossip and rumors are obviously not good things.

They do not, however, happen in a vacuum. They occur when truth is obscured, when shadows are presented as light, when people responsible for giving explanations are not trustworthy themselves.

mount nebo mountain utah wilderness landscape steve henderson painting

For now, the peaks are hidden, and the cracks and crevices of the mountains obscured in shadow. But light and wind work their changes. Mt. Nebo Range, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

It doesn’t matter if it’s a small town squabble or national debacle. Regular, decent people are smart enough to know when they’re being put off, and that’s too often how these things go.

“Just don’t say anything about it, and it will all die down,” is the conventional wisdom of people in power.

But it doesn’t. Die down, that is.

Once the item is off the front page of the newspaper, replaced by something new and improved that is distressing, shocking and violent (or, conversely, some wild and wacky antic by a reality show celebrity), it’s assumed that it’s forgotten. And while the rumors and gossip may die down, the questions, the doubt, the distrust held by regular, decent, smart people remain.

And most importantly . . . as the light shifts, it shines into the shadows, and what was hidden is revealed.

The artwork, Mt. Nebo Range, catches the Utah wilderness mountains in a moment of clouds obscuring the peaks.  At the foothills, portions of the landscape repose in darkness, and it’s difficult to see detail.

But the landscape, and weather, are not static — as we stand in the winding dirt pathway at the right foreground of the image, we look at the peaks and know that sometime — maybe soon, maybe not — the breeze will blow the clouds away and the peaks will shine in their detail. As the sun advances across the sky, what was in shadow will be no more. The entire landscape will look different.

All we have to do is wait — patiently, watchfully, steadfastly. And while we wait, we continue to think.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

The Lies We’re Told

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Who Wants to Be Angry All the Time?

This last week, I encountered a number of angry, irritated people. A couple of them came out verbally swinging, and while my first reaction was to swing back, I didn’t. Instead, I did the old “a soft answer turns away wrath” thing.

palouse falls waterfall landscape wilderness washington steve henderson

Anger, like massive quantities of water, needs time and space to diffuse. Below Palouse Falls, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

For one person, it worked. He calmed down, and by the end of the interaction we were new friends. His problem was successfully resolved.

The other guy wasn’t having anything to do with soft answers, and was fully into wrath. He was not interested in explanations, reparations, or solutions: he just wanted to vent. Which he did, vociferously.

Suffice it to say, his problem was not solved, and we did not part friends.

Lots of people are angry these days, and understandably so. We live in a society where there are decided problems and issues, but no person within our reach who can actually solve them. Instead, we shuffle from one “customer care,” customer service, or political aide to the next, with the too frequent response of, “Gee, we’re sorry this happened, but I can’t do anything on my end. I’m really really sorry.”

It’s easy to get mad at the messengers, because they’re the only ones we can talk to. The people with power to make things right hide in the shadows.

The artwork, Below Palouse Falls, gives a visual of where we might want to be in this frustrating situation. In our anger, we’re upriver at Palouse Falls (center background — you can see the spray). By the falls proper, a vast cascade of water floods over the cliffs, roiling and boiling in the pool, 200 feet below. This is our anger, and while we are here, we are in danger from the power and flow of water. It can drown us.

But just below the falls, the water calms, and we are able to think more clearly. We need not (and should not) give up pursuing justice, but we do so more wisely and well when we are not venting, in a state of furious, impotent rage.

In a clear place, in a quiet state, we more effectively act.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Little Things Really Do Make a Big Difference

It is natural for human beings to want to make a difference in the lives of others around us. For all our issues — we can be selfish, greedy, envious, arrogant, proud, angry, and petty — we also possess good qualities. Kind, reasonable adults feel compassion toward those who are hurting, and when we ourselves have been hurt in similar ways — we’ve been lonely, we’ve fretted about money, we’ve made stupid mistakes and been treated with understanding — we’re less likely to trumpet judgment.

geese sunrise river columbia country morning dawn river steve henderson art

In the landscape, the geese make up a very small physical part, but they add — literally — volumes to its impact. Sunrise on the Columbia, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Our society, which worships celebrities and rich people, tells us that the only way to make a real difference is to head to poor countries overseas and start a non-profit foundation. But this is a misconception that prevents real people from doing the true good we can do.

Truly, it’s the little things that make a difference: a genuine, kind compliment to another is priceless. A small, random gift to someone for no other reason than that they exist creates unseen, but lasting, impact. And listening: never, ever underestimate the power of putting down your phone, turning to the person who is talking to you, looking them in the eye, and listening. Not judging, not thinking about what you’ll say in response, but listening.

The artwork, Sunrise on the Columbia, illustrates the importance of the little, hidden, almost unseen things. In the big picture, the gaggle of geese swimming by physically play a very small part, seemingly eclipsed by sky, trees, the river itself. But they are what make the morning magical: we hold our breath as they swim by because we don’t want to break that magic, scare them away, impel them to flight. That tiny little flock of geese transforms a beautiful morning into a memorable one, and when we tell others about it, that’s what we remember.

Small things . . . are not so small after all.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Peace and Quiet — We NEED These

Some words go together really well, like “cookies and milk,” or “crackers and cheese.”

Food aside, another fine pairings of words is “peace and quiet.” And while it’s possible to enjoy cookies without the milk, or crackers without the cheese, peace and quiet complement one another in a way that is strongly interwoven, to the point that if you pull on one thread, you unravel and weaken the fabric.

banking columbia river canoe picnic island river steve henderson landscape art

A lone canoe, in a quiet, remote place. Here, one finds peace and quiet. Banking on the Columbia, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

In a place of cacophonous noise — loud voices, thumping “music” beat, dinging phones, and the drone of the TV or radio — it’s difficult to feel at peace. Quiet invites us to slow down physically, and mentally.

In the same way, in an environment of anger, frustration, anxiety, hatred, bitterness, envy, and sarcasm, the heart is not quiet. It agitates, worries, fulminates, cries out for relief — for peace.

The artwork, Banking on the Columbia, invites the viewer to step away from the noise and the tension into a remote place where one can wander and explore — because that’s what we do when we are in a place of peace and quiet: we give our minds opportunity to wander and explore: to question, to think through issues, to daydream, to wonder.

When we are constantly surrounded by noise and stress, our minds do not have this freedom, but they run, like hamsters on wheels, around and around and around the same concerns, the same worries, the same irritations. Life seems to have no answers because we do not have time and space to seek them.

We need to step away. If we cannot paddle a canoe to a remote island, then we can close and lock the bathroom door, put in ear plugs, and run a hot shower or bath. But we need to find peace and quiet.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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