Maximize Health, Maximize Life: Take time to care for yourself.
She is also one of my personal heroes. Not only because she is creative and does beautiful work (or because we’ve been friends since kindergarten and she married the best brother in the world). But, because she is unstoppable. Her love affair with clay did not begin until AFTER a life altering car accident in 2009. After she suffered a torn cervical artery in her brain stem; a location “too risky” to operate on. After having to learn to walk, talk, eat, and swallow again. After a lengthy hospital stay. After her eight hour days of guided physical, occupational, and speech therapy were about to end.
Jo: Once you returned home, what inspired your brilliant idea to choose pottery as your personal physical therapy of choice?
Cheryl: I wanted to do something other than the boring putting-blocks-on-top-of-each-other exercise. I wanted to do something meaningful and useful. I was watching a talk show and saw some pots they used for their decor and thought, “oooooooh, I can do that! They are really pretty.” I had, previously, only worked with clay once. That was in elementary school. I still remember the piece I made. I wish I had it now!
J: Did you then take a class or teach yourself?
C: I went to a local potter, Peter Lippencott, and had a private lesson. Private because I didn’t want to embarrass myself if the experience didn’t turn out well. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I would end up being frustrated. And, I certainly didn’t want to be center of attention in a group.
J: How did that first session go?
C: I made two bowls that day! Albeit they were the size of salsa dishes. I was hooked!
J: Hooked and ready to set up your own studio! Where and how did you set up your pottery space?
C: Thank goodness for my husband Brian. He’s a saint. He helped by setting up the wheel and hanging shelves. He changed the spare bedroom floor to linoleum to make it mud proof. He even painted the walls the same color as clay so any mess wouldn’t be so obvious. He also made things a little lower so they were more accessible to me. He helps with opening up glaze jars. He also loads and unloads the kiln which is outside. I’m lucky that my speech has comeback somewhat; now I can ask for help.
J: What challenges does your reduced mobility create for making pottery?
C: Since my left ulnar nerve [a major nerve that runs along the inside of the arm and supplies sensory and motor innervation to the forearm and hand] has never come back, it’s a little challenging getting the clay centered, lifting it, and trimming the piece. After feeling pretty good and getting it just right, I have put many fingers through things. Having enough room to get my wheelchair around is also challenge. Then again, we all have challenges or crosses to bear. Mine just so happens to be made out of clay, glazed, then fired!
J: As a therapy, was and is working with clay effective?
C: Yes. I was getting stronger and more coordinated. Eventually, I was actually able to sit up. My left side has never fully recovered, but I’m hoping one day. Just recently I noticed that I can pick up something from the floor without toppling over!
J: Cheryl, in a way, you have created your own physical and occupational therapy center right in your own home. Do you find pottery healing in any other way?
C: It is VERY relaxing. Potters call it “playing in the mud”. Imagine being six years old again and how much fun you had making mud pies. It is so relaxing, so rewarding, so comforting. I just can’t say enough good things about it. I’m beaming as I write this.
J: Have you experimented with other mediums?
C: My confidence was building and I got into jewelry making. Working with those tiny beads and split rings is good for working on my finite skills. Then I thought, “hmmm, I can put jewelry/beads on my pottery”.
J: And pottery in your jewelry. I love your clay bead work.
J: What advice do you have for someone wanting to experiment with clay?
C: Go to a pottery class and try it. There are usually a few-week sessions. Or do slab work. All you need is a rolling pin and two dowels for slab-work. Oh, and clay, of course. Ask questions. There are so many types of clay, even paper clay. YouTube has a lot of information. But, be careful. You’ll get hooked like I did!
Thank you for sharing yourself with us Cheryl.
Maximize Health, Maximize Life: CREATE a physical therapy program.
After a few hours of shoveling it off the driveway and into the wheelbarrow, our garden is now replenished with a truckload of rich organic topsoil from a local garden center. The next step is in progress, covering the soil with fresh mulch. It’s a beautiful site! And, from what I’m hearing, our future vegetables will be just as beautiful, healthy, and delicious.
Maximize Health, Maximize Life: prepare and replenish, add some rich organic nutrients.
With 30 minute Massage or Reflexology – $40
With 60 minute Massage or Reflexology – $60
Maximize Health, Maximize Life: share your respect and wisdom about self-care with a young woman in your life.
Music has always been part of my massage and reflexology sessions. In my 32 year health-care career, one CD has stood above the rest. It’s requested over and over. In fact, if I don’t have it already in the CD player and turned on, I am often asked, “Where is Ian’s flute music?” With every listen to Between Worlds I hear something new. Ian’s presence and connection are apparent. It is, not only relaxing, it’s other worldly, hauntingly beautiful, and whole. I love it and my clients love it – unanimously.
Ian Haag created this CD. In doing so, he has added beauty to our world and reminds us of the beauty already in our world. I’d like to introduce him to you.
Jo: How did you come to play the flute?
Ian: When I was a child I felt very alone and isolated. I suffered from much abuse and pain in my household and also in school. I spent most of my time alone in nature. I’ve always had a strong connection to shepherds and hermits. I understood how they connect with nature and always played wind instruments. Like the Greek god Pan. In nature the birds played many songs and brought much healing to my life. I wanted to play music and sing just like these birds, so I bought a flute and taught myself with lessons from nature. I never really felt like I’ve learned, but simply remembered to play. The flute helps me express a special prayer or can be a tool to help my heart open up and speak to the world, no matter what my mind may be telling me. It helps me connect with other people through music, even though I am very shy.
How do you go about writing your songs?
The songs for my flute are not written, but inspired. Everything in my environment has an impact on the sound. The shapes, colors, and patterns are what form the sound I feel. The music and the songs don’t necessarily come from me, but through me, and through the heart. The people, plants, color, wind, all the elements are musical notes in the environment. Sometimes mixed with a very short melody that comes from my brain. Naturally melodies that brought personal healing and strength for myself.
Do you have a flute collection?
I love to collect flutes! I have over 45, and growing. Some special ones specifically made by certain artists inspire me or touch me in some way. Plus there are many styles. Every flute is unique and special, and every time I pick a new flute up I learn a new song or something new about myself. They are like members of my family. The different colors to different textures, the woods, the sounds, each one is so special for a different type of mood or experience that I may be going through or wish to share with another.
What was this first recording session like for you?
The first recording session was a different experience, that is to say the least. It was hard for me to get used to playing with headphones on. Also dealing with all the mechanical things was new, yet it was a great learning experience and also a very grounding experience. An opportunity I am grateful to have. Every song on the album was created in the studio that night. I didn’t plan, I didn’t prepare, I just went there and played.That’s sort of how I like to do everything.
Do you play other instruments as well?
I collect and play all types of world instruments. I will play any instrument I can get my hands on or at least try! I play crystal bowls, singing bowls, Himalayan metal bowls, gongs, monochords, rattles, and more. I am always looking for ways to create sound. I love ancient instruments and discovering new ones. Whether I’m playing it right or wrong, it’s just got to sound good to me when I play for fun. A secret hobby of mine that I love is circuit bending. It is like painting with sound. I love making art.
Where can we hear your music live?
My music is played live at all the many meditations, classes, workshops, and sound journeys that we do. I also play live for my clients during private healing sessions. I consider the flute a very sacred medicine that enables me to pray and see differently. I will play with anybody, anywhere, anytime because I love the ability to be able to connect and jam. I am always open to new opportunities to play live and share my music.
Why Between Worlds?
Between Worlds has so many meanings. The full title “Transition Between Worlds” is the last song on the album. Between Worlds means the cycle of life. In the beginning of life, in birth, we come into this world and when we die, we transition and leave this world. It is what we do in the between time. It also represents the strength and the ability to be free of thoughts, free of emotion, free of feelings. The ability for us to change and move beyond certain obstacles. Between two worlds there is space, emptiness, and void. That emptiness and space also represents beauty, pureness, and freedom.
Where can I listen to a sample and buy your CD?
Inspired by my recipe for Zucchini Pizza Minis my creative sister came up with her own version: Butternut Squash Pizza. She guaranteed that a baking sheet full would be eaten fast. She was right! They were delicious. They’re also quick and healthy too.
Thank you for sharing your recipe and photos Jeri!
Maximize Health, Maximize Life – add my sister’s version, Butternut Squash Pizza.
It may be my favorite childhood memory. Quietly unzipping the tent, finding an appropriate container, handpicking just-right blueberries, and then heading off in our one-person orange inflatable boat. Sunrise in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
Yes there were campfires, roasted marshmallows, and sleeping outside. But there was nothing quite like the serenity of being in the center of the lake and floating. And floating and floating and floating, all day. Just floating. I was ten years old and perfectly cocooned by the Trees, the Sky, and the gentle rippling Water beneath the boat. Completely content. Completely relaxed.
I still find being near – and if possible on – water deeply relaxing. Do you?
Maximize Health, Maximize Life, float in a boat. (If that’s not possible: close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and for a few minutes imagine yourself there.)