Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters • HeART Haven Studios

Back alley off of Superior Ave., Alma Michigan


 "Doors in Back Alleys"


Contentment and I are coming to terms these days.


So often I feel like I’m relegated to walking the back alleys of life rather than running through the fields of wildflowers or twirling on the peak of some stunning mountain summit.  “Back Alleys, God?!!!  What’s with this?  Am I paying penance for something?  If so, you better tell me what so I can do business with that and then go run through the fields!”  Often my rants with God go like this.


When I think of back alleys, the words dirty, smelly, dark, dreary, hidden come to mind.  The behind the scenes of real life, not real life itself.  Right?  So why am I here then?  I tell you, I’ve been through some infinitely long back alleys in my day!  Today I sat down in the alley and looked around.  Yep.  Sat down right there in the dried grass along one side.  And looked around me. 


(Train of thought and unspoken chat with God:)


Geez, (I grimace) what a dirty building. Ugh.  Glad I don’t live there.

The brick is kinda cool though.  Brick is so rarely used now. 

(cocking my head, considering) It’s actually kind of beautiful, really...all those colors in just the brick alone...

Wow, look at the blackened area there...must’ve been a fire there at one time. 

Why are there bars on those windows and none on these others?

Yellowed newspaper in one small window.

A teddy bear with one eye sits forgotten on one stoop. many stories behind each of these doors, I bet....

A lot of life, love, joy and sadness, overcoming struggles behind each of these doors,

running up and down these fire escapes....

Kind of a cool thought, now that I notice it.

Love the color of the doors though.... bright new paint, inviting, all of them.

(Waving and saying hello to a delivery guy at one door.) 

Hmmm, wonder what’s in there? His jovial greeting seems to brighten the whole building.

Look at those amazing colors!!  Vibrant purples, plums, burgundy, violet, periwinkle and teals, oooh oranges there!

What a lovely contrast to the neutrals of the surrounding walls!

So many doors to choose from!

Life is like this building. 

Many only choose to see the front polished surface.

I get to experience too the back alley side, and I am richer for it.


OK, SO WHAT, GOD?  What are you trying to tell me then?


  1. 1. Be content with what’s in front of you!  Don’t spend all your time wanting more that you don’t see what you have.

  2. 2. Appreciate & participate in the now the beauty and relationships in your present. Take time to look deep.

  3. 3. Prepare yourself to be ready for when I do show you the door to open.  Take time to LEARN from the stories...

  4. 4. Recognize which door I open to you.  Sometimes what you think you want isn’t really what you need.

  5. 5. Have the courage to ACT when you see where you’re to go.


Suddenly, that back alley looks rather beautiful in so many ways.  I am glad I am here.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Lotusland, Montecito, CA


"Old  Souls in and Uncertain Land"


I visited Lotusland today and took photographs in preparation for a Georgia O’Keefe lesson for 4th Grade since they will soon take their annual field trip to this one-of-a-kind garden.  I’m also doing a series of Santa Barbara Landscape paintings and wanted to include Lotusland in the exhibit. 


As I wandered through the gardens on my own, I was struck by how I resonated with these exotic and prehistoric plants.  Old souls all of them.  All paradoxes.  Each an enigma.  Prickly yet elegant aloes of a sundry variety--thorny yet healing all at once.  Delicate, wondrously beautiful cacti, holding us at spines’ distance and yet containing the watery nourishment within for one walking a parched desert.  Bromeliads of every color and size imaginable and Staghorn Ferns, appearing strong and assured at first glance, but if you look closer their survival defies reason, for there are no discernible roots or holdfasts to allow them to cling to trees or rocks.  They seem to live on air alone.  And then there are the lotus flowers, of course!  These exquisite flowers, symbols of rebirth and purity seem to emerge like phoenixes from the still waters of a dark and murky pond. 


These plants seem pulled out of the natural order of life and seem to exist here in Lotusland like Old Souls from other dimensions that we’re allowed to view through some wrinkle in time perhaps.   My existence often feels like one or another of these sequestered plants pulled out of time.





All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Alice Keck Memorial Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA


"Old Loves"



A male friend of mine and I were sharing about old loves, lost loves, unfulfilled loves of our past.  I found myself reflecting a moment on those, his and mine, and felt such a peace.  Never one to follow society’s strictures of  emotionally discarding, or worse, badmouthing, past loves, instead I cherish them each for their special role in my life at that time and their own unique gifts to the world.  Every person has worth and beauty.  I look for it and choose to see it--even the ones who may have had a less than positive affect on my life.  I recognize that I, in part, contributed to how they related to me.  I also feel blessed to know that even the most difficult of relationships helped me grow into the woman I am today.




Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Love is eternal.  The aspect may change, but not the essence.”    I hold each of these people in a quiet room in my heart, not forgotten, but respectfully treasured, my heart open for the man of my dreams one day.  I would expect that just such a man would also have old loves, and I would not be jealous of them.  I would not have been ready for such a man when they knew him.  Nor would he have been ready then for the woman I have become.  There’s a decided beauty in that.



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.


 "My Many Gardens"



My English Garden 2009:  Pat Austin Standard Roses, Heirloom Sweet Peas, CA Poppies, Foxglove, Lizyanthus, Lobelia, Ranuculas, Joseph’s Coat Roses, Stock, Penstemon, asters, delphinium, yellow climbing rosess, Cecil Burner Roses, Yellow fresias.


Gardening has always been one of my loves.  I miss it in my new place, which is not really my own anymore.  I love growing all of my own vegetables for my meals.  I love my flower gardens!  The garden here was my English Garden, profuse with color and scent.  Each day, I’d throw open wide my french doors of my bedroom and step into this garden.  How could I not smile, no matter how trying a day might prove?!  As a teacher I have a long-term garden-- I give my time and passion to growing strong, creative, confident children, but one often doesn’t get to see the fruits of his/her labor unless that 1 in 500 students decides to write you when they’ve grown.  Mostly, a teacher, plants her seeds on faith alone.  Each year I try to instill passion for life and learning, a heart for one’s fellow man, and an inspiration to make a difference in the world.  I do so with unceasing hope that my students will  create a world richer now, and later, because of that.  It is a profession that relies strongly on faith.


This is why gardening is so necessary to my life.  When I till the soil, I get to see the rich colors immediately and smell the loamy fertility.  Each day I walk out into my garden and rejoice with childlike delight at a new sprout, leaf or bud!  They are like tiny children of mine, come out to play and revel in the sunshine!  In the early morning hours, I marvel at the dew on the freesia petals and slim elegant finger leaves of the ornamental grasses.  The dew sits there, momentarily poised in surface tension, shivering delicately with the faint breeze.  If you really look, you can see the soft hues of a continuous spectrum arch out from those tiny prisms across the petals.  What beauty and richness far greater than money, houses, cars...  I thank God that I was given the gift to be able to notice it.  What a glorious, precious gift it is!





All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA 


 "Living in the NOW"


 I never realized before that although in practice I live in the present, in my thoughts and reflections, I’m always stretching back to the past to understand.  Perhaps it’s my enjoyment of history and understanding the whys of human nature and civilizations that causes me to do that.  I think this approach served me for a long time in evolving and growing into the woman I am today.  However.  It’s time to live in my immediate present.   Suddenly I hear my friend’s words in a completely different light:  “Live each day like it is the FIRST day of the rest of me life,” in response to my own comment that I was living each day as if it were my last, meaning appreciating each moment.  But living my way, I’m focusing on the past, and living his way, the past IS the past and I build on who I am today, simply, purely.  It’s as if all the dead weight I’ve carried dropped off of me.  Wow.  Duh!


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Koi Pond at Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA 


 Yesterday afternoon I walked to the other side of town, just letting my feet go where they led.  I found myself at Alice Keck Memorial Gardens.  I sat by the pond and just rested.  My mind, body, my emotions.  I was still.  As I emptied myself of all the clutter and worries of work, life, love, family... I just let myself take in the beauty around me and listened.  The pond was a periwinkle blue with lillipads of purples and greens scattered about like nature’s beautiful confetti.  A swish of the tail of a large orange koi fish sent out little shivery circles over the water’s surface.  Likewise, the turtles moved the water as they slid into the coolness after basking themselves in the sunshine.  Across the pond I watched a few people moving their arms and bodies in the slow, graceful circles of a martial art.  I reflected on all the circles before me and the circles of life---the rhythmic flow of them, one upon the other.  I think this is my favorite movement in Kung Fu is the fluid use of the circle.  There’s a naturalness to the movement in keeping with the flow and cycles of life.  It is a constant evolving, changing, movement.  Happiness, sadness, suffering, excitement, all moving one to the other and never an end unto themselves.  There’s a peace in knowing that.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

The rocks below the breakwater, Santa Barbara Harbor, CA


My middle years have been a journey of refining for me, like a shore stone, carved and molded by the waves of time.   --The sometimes turbulent work of the demanding waves across my shoulders, wearing off the harsh edges of past defenses  In the water’s wake I discover more intense colors of myself that didn’t exist, or I didn’t see, before.   It’s a little uncomfortable without my protections of dull invisibility.  It’s cold there, wet water  on my new skin in the unrelenting breeze.  Vulnerable.  Clearer.   Exciting too.


Balance has been key lately.  Balance of when to reveal transparently and when to be silent.  Balance of deep philosophical intensity and just enjoying the present without pondering its existence and ramifications.  Balance of speaking up and remaining quiet.  Balance of giving and receiving.  Balance of intention and spontaneity.  Balance of initiative and simply being content in waiting.  I’ve been reading the book “Calling In the One,” which is giving me great insights, and my Kung Fu class and my growing friendships with its members are teaching me a great deal on how to live thusly.   Through these experiences, I’m learning to walk with my head up, not down, as well.  


So often we tend to think of learning and growing to have some finite beginning and ending point, especially if we’ve been in the educational system long enough.  I have found, however, that the more I learn, the more I learn I don’t know.  The more I think I’ve grown and evolved, the more I realize I must grow.  It creates both a sense of confidence and  a constant state of humility, something I am also seeing in my learning of Kung Fu.  With that comes the disquiet of wondering if I will ever be sufficient enough for whatever end I hope to achieve.  Perhaps that too is part of the lesson---being patient and content in the whatever “state of unfinish” that I am.   


Balancing inner growth with outer giving must happen as well.   Just as one cannot continue to grow outwardly if one doesn’t attend to the inward, I am seeing that the opposite is also true.  One must also focus on giving to others lovingly, compassionately, selflessly, without personal agenda.  I’ve been given beautiful examples of men and women who give whole-heartedly of themselves to others, and I thank God for them daily---for their giving hearts and example to me....Megan and Marty, Pat, Lisa, Trish, Paul, Cheryl, Yvonne, Willie, Rich and Jill, Rhonda, the teachers I work with...



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Kelp Beds off Pacific Coast, CA


I think our Western society has taught us to be too independent.  I am no different.  Truth is, as a girl, I was raised to be a boy. Strong, resourceful, capable, independent.  Never show weakness.  Never let them see you cry; only babies and girls cry.  Such were the messages I received through childhood and early adulthood.  I learned to not only hide all weakness but to deny it even to myself.  I didn’t compete with women, but men instead because women I discounted in some bizarre way as not up to my standards.  That shames me now!  I denied a whole side to myself that was part of the beauty in who I was created to be.




We are taught that the opposite of independence is “neediness”...and neediness is to be avoided at all costs.  Ironically, in being so independently strong, I cut myself off from receiving, which leaves a huge hole in my soul, and in turn exhibits itself as “neediness,” the very thing I sought to avoid!  Instead, if I live in the present, both giving and receiving, then my soul is nourished on both counts.  I used to think that God only showed His love to us through nature, but that’s only partly true.  He shows us His love through the giving to us by others!!  No wonder I’ve struggled with feeling loved by God for all of these years!  I’ve held him at bay, refusing His love!!




A decade or so ago, my best male friend of many years told me, “Linnie, You’re an enigma to men-- You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met.  You’re also the most fragile.”  Those words have haunted me for a decade now.  I buried them deeply, either not ready to hear them, or not understanding and knowing what to do with them.  Suddenly at 50 I get it!




50?!!  It took me 50 years to get it?!!  My first thought was how incredibly discouraging.  Then I thought, “Thank GOD that I at least got it sometime!  I’m not dead yet!”  As a more recent dear male friend said to me, “Live like this is the FIRST day of the rest of your life, not the last.”




Wow.  This gets to the heart of my loneliness in life up until recently.  I’ve tended to isolate instead of being actively engaged in other’s lives as well.  I want to give and give and give, and try and refuse any gifts given me.  I’ve even gone so far as to not give in the past so I won’t have to receive in return!!  Experiencing the giving hearts of new friends in my life has brought my mistake into sharp relief.  I’m forced into a receiving end in accepting help to move (is this why I’ve had to move home and classrooms 3 times each in the last 3 years?  It took me 6 times to “get it?!!!:)  I’m also forced into the receiving end while learning Kung Fu, because I am the “new kid,” the novice, at least 3 belts below anyone else in the group.  It’s humbling, but I’m realizing it’s exactly where I am supposed to be right now.  I’m also forced into accepting “financial breaks” from people close to me just because they care, and my mind fights to reject their generosity, but my heart knows there’s something more going on here. Even the accepting of hugs and attention is a lesson for me in growth.  I am starved for it, and yet I want to push it away, so I open myself to it and find myself feeling loved and less lonely.  ---all the things I like to do for others but never allowed myself to receive.  How can I truly love if I cannot receive I realize now.  




I must honor my need for others.  Just as it brings me great joy in reaching out and being there for others, I need to allow others that same kind of joy that comes from giving to me.  




Photo is not mine but borrowed.  There was no author attached to it, nor did I see a copyright, however, if you are the photographer, please let me know so that I might gain permission and/or give you credit for it.




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