Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

“Untitled” from “The Emperor’s Pear Tree,” from an as yet unpublished folktale, © Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is repeat.

Have you ever been stuck in one of those no-win situations where the same unwanted (read: bad) results repeat over and over despite your well-intentioned and best efforts? Of course you have. It’s an all-too-human scenario that frequently—and maybe even necessarily?—precedes “learning,” that grand goal of Life. (more…)

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Little Suzie, with probably her first book. Circa age two?

Little Suzie, with probably her first book. Circa age two?

I have a long-standing relationship with books. It’s really more like a love affair actually, with a passion that has never cooled. Sure, the Internet is a vast source of information right at my fingertips and only a question, word or phrase away…but it is the deliciously slow unfolding and divulging of a book’s treasure that keeps me coming back, forever in love.

Books find me–the perfect books–like an answer to a heart’s call. I keep a Wish List on Amazon and often within months those same books show up in my life, whether through the funds out of nowhere to buy them new, through a gift or loan, or through a thrift store or yard sale. Magic!! Other people have this kind of attraction with parking places or money, I hear…

  1. Here’s just some of the things I love about books:
  • Books let me fondle their creamy pages, feel their delicious weight, and stroke their shiny or textured covers without ever once feeling used or abused, at least to my knowledge.
  • Books are content to be themselves, unique and not needing any reassurances from me.
  • Books don’t complain or care about wrinkles, sagging or aging. Indeed they often become more valuable with age. Good role models, yes?
  • Books don’t need me to make an appointment to see them.
  • I can laugh out loud, disagree, reject or walk away from a book, and there are no apologies necessary. I can even throw a book at the wall, though I wouldn’t ever. I don’t have to watch my P’s and Q’s or be tactful. I don’t have to give a book a certain amount of attention and time in order for it to feel loved. They are always there waiting patiently, and a book never holds a grudge.
  • I don’t have to clean myself up in any way to have a face-to-face with a book, no matter how expensive that book was.
  • I can ask endless questions of their pages and indexes, wear out their paper with thumbing…and they never get irritable or say, “Times up!” A book freely offers me entertainment and the full depth of whatever wisdom it possesses, and with no apologies. Unconditional love at its finest.

I, in turn, admire, appreciate and respect them immensely, turn to them often, praise and recommend them, lavish money on them when I should be paying bills, and give them an honored place in my home.

Relationships with people, on the other hand, are harder. Why can’t people be more like books, I sometimes wonder…

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul.

“There Is No Frigate Like a Book”  by Emily Dickinson

SusanHillAnd ten points to the person who can identify the title of that book I’m holding in the photo! (My memory is not that good…) Click the image for a larger view.

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"Dancing with the Devil" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Dancing with the Devil” © Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is disguise.

A gregarious friend once confessed that he found parties and large gatherings exceedingly stressful. “How can that be?” this terminally-shy wallflower thought. He’d always seemed so confidant, so ‘in his element’ in a social arena that was stuff of my own personal nightmares. But then he went on to say that it was stressful because he was a different person in every relationship and with every person he knew. And that he didn’t know who to be when faced with all of those people at once.

That conversation stuck with me for a long time. Only recently I realized that neither of us felt good enough, essentially worthy. Neither of us was sure that people would like us, just as we were. My coping method was habitual withdrawal, and his adaption was wearing a disguise in each situation. But essentially the same dilemma. It was that same old impediment, a belief in a Hostile Universe.

Does a chameleon feels unworthy or stressed? Surely not. So there must be a healthy way to stay connected to one’s own essential Self—and still be adaptable to changing circumstance, environment and people. I’m still looking for that balance. Believing that the Universe is actually friendly seems to be the key.

“Dancing with the Devil”       (pen & ink)

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(detail) c. Susan Sorrell Hill

(detail) c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Our friend John died today.

We had known him for thirty-five years and a lot had happened to all of us during that time. John was a presence, a self-made man in the best tradition, a force to be reckoned with. He accomplished and adventured much in his span of sixty years.

John was: lightness and darkness, sweetness and sometimes less so, massive self-confidence and sometimes a little wiggly, independent and sometimes lonely. He was boundless energy personified and sometimes he was nailed to the floor. John was determined to make things happen and sometimes unable to let things happen naturally. He was adventurous and brave and yet there were some places he probably just could not go. John inspired great love, and occasionally the opposite.

In a word…John was human, just like me.

In his last days of consciousness, all of his light and sweetness were very much in evidence, and all of the less-so’s of the human nature had been surrendered. It was a good death, with time for closure with his family and many friends. He was seen and appreciated in abundance for his essential qualities, and I think that had always been his secret goal, perhaps even unknown to him. Perhaps that is all of our secret goals as we machinate through life trying to prove ourselves…?

Watching it all unfold over the course of a month taught me something important. I saw clearly that the light, soul-centered side of one’s nature is always there in the background, sometimes in evidence and sometimes well-disguised. But in the end, the side of Light is the only presence that holds sway. It is the essence of who we each are, and the only part that continues to live on, somehow and somewhere. Watching John go through his dying taught me that each of our essences, the spirit of wholeness and loving peace, is always available, just underneath all that stuff we humans tend to ‘lead’ with in this life. We never lose it, and we return to it at the last, even if we’ve been a bit estranged for quite some time.

Thanks for that lesson, John. I will endeavor to deserve it and practice letting my own light shine more often. Godspeed on your next adventure.

“A New Life”      (watercolor, pen & ink)       

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill


The Illustration Friday word of the week is time.

I have a friend who is—on the surface of things—about to run out of time. Though he has always run faster than just about anyone, one of the diseases of our age has caught up with him. “Dying,” I think, “What’s wrong with this picture?” It’s Mad-Tea-Party surreal, and accompanying the experience is a tinny voice in my head singing that Second World War era tune, “We’ll Meet Again.” You might remember it from the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

We’ll meet again…don’t know where, don’t know when. But I’m sure we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

In response to the news, a friend in the market said yesterday, “Well, we all have our expiration date.” Such a dreadful way to put it…so very final. Having no personal evidence, I cling stubbornly to the belief that we dance again with those who have been significant in our life, maybe even over and over again. It just makes sense, and my heart-knowing agrees. When another friend’s mother passed on last year, I quietly assured her father that he would see her again. His bitter response was, “I don’t believe in all that.” I could feel his pain, and wanted to at least plant the seed of hope there, for isn’t life all too brief and difficult if we believe that this is all there is? “Well, you’ll be surprised then,” I replied. Perhaps I should have kept my thoughts to myself and mumbled the usual  social condolences…

I can’t say I understand the mechanics of it all, nor do I believe in the standard version of a Heaven, but I have always been a firm believer in the idea that there is much more going on down here and ‘out there’ than we can even begin to grasp or imagine. If it’s just us, and this is all there is, it “seems like an awful waste of space,” as the young Jody Foster’s father says in the 1997 film, Contact. My personal version of a Higher Power wouldn’t make that sort of error in judgement.

No, I am sure we will meet again.

“Mad Tea Party”     (watercolor, pen & ink)      The original is available here

"Mad Tea Party" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Mad Tea Party” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

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"Persona" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Persona” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is spirit.

‘Tis the season for gentle reminders and reassurances


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. ❦ If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. ❦ Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. ❦ Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. ❦ Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. ❦ Strive to be happy.

This brilliant summation was written by the American writer, Max Ehrmann in 1927. Still works, yes?

SusanHillAs promised ages ago (and I’ll get better at this) — photos of the painting in progress:

“Persona”    (watercolor, pen & ink,gouache)      ❅❅ Prints and the original will be available at some point…

Traced down, inked, stretched and resist masque in place. Now for the watercolor washes...

Traced down, inked, stretched and resist masque in place. Now for the watercolor washes.

The first watercolor washes safely down and the resist masque removed.

The first watercolor washes safely down and the resist masque removed.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is shadow. Psychologists write that when two lovers are in bed, there are actually six people between the sheets: him, her, his parents and her parents. “Ewww,” I can hear you saying with that all-too-clear image in your head. But what those clever head shrinkers are implying with that creepy phrase is the fact that all of us are influenced by our environment and relationships, particularly those from our family of origin, and most especially by our relationships with our parents. Think about it: don’t you find that your partner or ex-partner has been heavily influenced by his or her familial past? Can’t you still hear that particular teacher’s judicial voice in your head? Don’t you find that you react to certain people in a predictable way because they remind you way too much of that overbearing parent of your childhood…? A friend said to me recently, referring to her current relationship, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just have a relationship with just that one person, all by themselves, without their relatives and often without their friends too? Amen to that! Alas, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Even when the aforementioned influences are not physically in the picture, their influences (as psychologists note) will always be ‘in the mix’ somewhere with each of our personalities. As much as we would each like to view ourselves as a unique, autonomous free-thinkers and do-ers, the shadow of our families and our past experiences infiltrates and influences much of our personality, actions and view of life…for better or for worse. We are complex beings, are we not? “No Rest no. 2”    (watercolor, pen & ink)  Collect the original here.

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