Sunday, November 5, 2017

How It Is Now

There is some work being done on the grounds of my townhouse. Everywhere one looks, there are piles of gravel and pipes; bulldozer-type machines parked in random places; and that lovely red mud the South is known for. Overturned in clumps and ridges, it scars the landscape, making it virtually impossible to walk anywhere without getting stuck in the muck of it all.

So there is a new system in my home to taking out the garbage and the recycling. One must first don the large, rubber boots that now have a place of honor by the front door. It has been like this for weeks, and there is every reason to believe it will continue to be like this for weeks to come.

We don't fuss. We don't complain. We simply put on the boots when we need to toss the garbage. That's just how it is now.

We didn't used to need to do this. We could walk out across the soft grass in bare feet if we wanted. My herb garden - composed mostly of souvenir plants from Colonial Williamsburg -  lined the way to the bins. Now, the soft grass is gone, the herbs destroyed by machines, and hard red mud that lay beneath it all is exposed in the place of what was.

Putting on boots to take out the garbage. Such a minor annoyance, really, in the grand scheme of life. In just a few weeks, it's become an instinctive habit, and soon it will just seem normal. Like it's always been this way.

Subconscious Adaptation.

Even to the smallest change.

We adapt to big changes, too. The ones that break us, even. The ones that create new landscapes in our lives. We say we will never adjust, that we will never get used to the way it is now. But we do, because deep inside of us, the primal that remains knows that like the city hawks and suburban coyotes, we, too, must adapt in order to survive.

We could miss what used to be. We could miss who used to be. But we would get bogged down in the muck. Some part of us knows that we have to simply have to plow through to get where we need to be.

I won't lie, I miss the little pathway I created. I miss the herbs so carefully selected on one of our favorite travels. But these things are gone now, and missing them does little to restore what was. The new landscape, barren as it is, has become normal to my eyes...but it, too, will change. By spring, the work will be done. The ground will be leveled back to normal, and grass will grow again. I will recreate the pathway and replace my tattered garden with new plants.

I don the boots without even thinking and walk outside, bag of trash in hand. I lift my eyes upward,  past the barrenness of the landscape. I see trees alive with autumn fire. I see a pileated woodpecker gliding from one tree to another. I see emerald green moss covering a fallen tree. I see leaves drift slowly into the creek, where they spin and float away. Captivated by it all, I move forward, remembering that I will miss what beauty remains if I avoid plowing through the muck.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This Summer. These Moments. These Days.

How do you sum up that which seems impossible to sum up?

How to express concisely that which is so, so far from concise?

I read once that it seems years and years will go by without many changes at all, then suddenly everything changes all at once. That seems to be the way of it, I will agree. My last post, on Palm Sunday, we were looking forward to Spring Break trip to Legoland, summer vacation and well, just the joy that comes with the spring blooms and warmer weather.

A few weeks later, I was hired to teach a class at a local university. One of my long-time goals. Just one class, not a full-time position, but still, thrilling. In the midst of this, however, my mother passed into spirit.

My mother, in her late teens
We all hear about how difficult it can be to lose a parent, but until we go through it, it's impossible to understand. I won't write more about this now. But it happened. And in the midst of processing this, something else happened...

I interviewed for, and was offered, a dream job! Another long-time goal, finally realized. A bright spot. However, the very day after I accepted the position, my father was hospitalized with a massive stroke.

My father, in his 20s
And all the while, regular life went on. Animals had to be fed; children had to be cared for and kept in the age-appropriate spaces between knowledge about what was happening and protection from the knowledge of what was happening; homes had to be tended; bliss and joy had to be found and shared. I reconnected with old friends and reacquainted myself with things I once enjoyed but had, for whatever reasons, not found time for lately. I shed the skin of a former profession and, through workshops and training, stepped into a new career. I found moments of laughter with family I'd not seen for years, and depths of compassion I didn't know I possessed as I watched my beloved, rugged, lumber-jack like father struggle to feed himself.

Though I am in my 5th decade of life, my mother's passing, my father's stroke, and my career change have all left me feeling a bit lost in the world. A strange mix of grief and emancipation. I miss my mother and long for my father's return to a healthy independent state. I am nervous about learning the ropes of my new job and a bit more sentimental than I expected to be about leaving my old one. I feel as though I am leaping without a safety net, and at the same time, have a rush of creativity that has me doing everything from creating new works on my easel to making jewelry from found objects during quiet summer-citronella-incense-coffee-friends evenings on my patio.

Autumn Puddles, diptych, oil on canvas
And all the while, the birds sing, the cicadas hum, the sun rises and sets. Nothing waits for us to catch up or be ready. Eventually you being to feel normal again. In time, people quit texting or calling to see how you are. Cards quit coming in the mail. You are able to forget that terrible things have happened for moments at a time, and you can fully reach out and embrace with joy the new things that are coming your way. As Robert Frost so eloquently said once, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on."

I sit with my toes in the sand while my child rushes the waves. I am grieving and I am happy. I want to both hide from the world and revel in it. I want to sing and laugh from excitement and I want to be silent and still with sadness. And in this summer, in these moments, during these days, all of this is normal.

All of this is sane.

All of this is me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring Rolls In...Some Exciting News...and Palm Sunday!

Spring is rolling into Carolina! Hooray!

This past week was a bit tempestuous, however.

We were treated to two days of dramatic storms that brewed flash floods and tornadoes all across the Southeast.  If you remember fall 2015 as well as I do, then you know I do not take flood warnings lightly. Not anymore. Amazing how some things stay with us, even long after we are healed from the trauma of it. Still, we were blessedly safe and all the anxiety resulted in two days of coming home early from work. I'm not going to complain about that as there was plenty to do here as always!

During the worst of the weather, I finished up my dad's birthday slippers. He turned 70 during the week but we celebrated yesterday. On Thursday, my son made his gift for my father, which was a homemade fruitcake.

Now that, my friends, was a true labor of love. We made the little one so we could sample it. My oh my. Definitely keeping this recipe for Christmas gifting. Here it is for you!

In preparation for the special day yesterday, we went out for strawberries last Saturday! This time of year many local farms let you pick your own, which is backbreaking work really that reminds us to truly appreciate and thank all of those who play a part in getting our food from seed to table.

These strawberries were used to make the strawberry shortcake for my dad's birthday party yesterday. It was a big hit. A spring and summer dessert staple around here. Luckily the storms this week didn't do much damage at local farms and we'll be able to go gather more throughout the season...

...because nothing beats strawberry jam, right?

 I was up to my ears in strawberries last Saturday it seemed, but so worth it to have several jars already for enjoying and gifting to others. We are still moving towards more and more homemade and handmade gifts for all occasions and nothing beats yummy foods! Everyone already seems to have so much stuff, don't you think? 

I also made a shoofly pie last weekend, and let me just say,! This is one I will definitely make again, maybe even today.

The recipe came from a little book I have been enjoying reading a bit of each evening. Because no one does simple living quiet like the Amish, correct? 

It's a great little read, filled with great traditional recipes from Amish country and reminders of how to slow down, step out of the hectic, consumer-drive pace of mainstream society and embrace the things in life which matter most.

Which brings me to a bit of excitement...I have secured a monthly meeting place for the SC based branch of Radical Homemakers! I am really excited about this and busy planning the year's curriculum now! What would you like to learn about and enjoy if you attended these meetings? I'm thinking of everything from learning to keep bees to making Christmas garlands from old cards. Oh, it's going to be delightful! Learn more about the Radical Homemaker movement here and if you are local, join our SC group for updates and meeting times/location!

Today is the Palm Sunday Procession and service at our church and since our priest applied for and received a parade permit, and we know bagpipes and donkeys are going to be included, we are pretty excited about attending! Afterwards, a slow Sunday with lots of playing outside and a bit of painting for me. I've a commission to complete and a few new pieces, including this one, Pine Moon, to varnish for upcoming shows. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a blessed and happy Palm Sunday!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Honoring the Wishes of Children

It's been a busy few weekends. I've had a lot of fantastic art opportunities, and for that, I am very grateful. However, it's required a lot of weekends spent in the car, driving at least an hour away to deliver art to be exhibited.

I've tried to make the best of it each time, turning one such trip into a fun-filled day at Congaree National Park outside of Columbia, SC. If you are in the area, I highly recommend spending a day at this magical, mystical place. I've never seen terrain like this! We can't wait to go back. We spent the day there with a friend after dropping off a piece of art for a Women Speak, an art exhibit for Women's History Month Exhibit at the State Library in Columbia. I bought a sun printing kit there in the visitor's center that we can't wait to try out!

As this weekend drew closer, I reminded my son that I'd been invited to attend a gallery reception this weekend in North Carolina to see a friend's show, meet the gallery owner and network for possible exhibition opportunities in that area for the future. Professionally, this was important. And while this gallery is not too terribly far of a drive, but it would have meant another Saturday in the car.

Normally my son is as excited about weekend adventuring as I am, but apparently he'd had enough road tripping for a while, and expressed a deep desire for just a 'stay-at-home' weekend. For both of us. He wasn't whining; he just really, really, really wanted to be home.

Home. Our refuge, our favorite place above all. The place that inspired me to start my Radical Homemakers of South Carolina group. The place where we live and love. Where I create, where I gain my strength, balance, and focus.Yet for the past couple of months, it has seemed that on weekends, we've barely been here. This was an important networking opportunity....but...I am mother before all else. There will be more receptions and more networking opportunities. He is young and in my care only for this short, sweet while. And his voice deserves to be heard. His feeling and opinions matter. And if I, as his mother, don't teach him that his thoughts and feelings are important and deserve respect, who will?

It is always a bit of a balancing act when your life's work doesn't operate around weekly 9 to 5 hours. As an artist, you worry people won't take you or your work seriously if you don't attend or participate in events. But when you work full-time as well, the balancing act can begin feel like a juggling act. I found out that I, too, needed some stay-at-home time. Somehow, in the fun and adventuring of delivering art and attending events, the weekends have been slipping away with very little real, actual rest. Lying in the meadow in the sunshine yesterday, feeling the earth warm beneath me, hearing Spring come alive all around me, I remembered how important this balance of rest and energy is. How important time in nature is. Not just for children, but for all of us.

At the end of the day, my son, the aspiring chef, made Lemon Bars and I made Fudgy Vegan Beet Cupcakes.  A friend visited for coffee and conversation and had the delight of sampling both! Our evening ended peacefully as the day had begun.

Today I'll make some carrot soup with carrots we picked up at the Farmer's Market yesterday and banana bread with the Quinoa flour I splurged on because I've given up bread for Lent. Or maybe I'll let my son make one of them. Or both. Because it's easy to adventure without leaving home, really. And of course, I'll work on a few paintings here and there in between, as I always do.

Happy Weekend!

I currently have work on display at The South Carolina State Library and The Richland County Library, both in Columbia, SC. Pending exhibits in July and August; more information to come!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Black and White Photo Explorations

Well it seems I rarely find time to come around this way lately, but I've been painting and working and road-tripping like a fiend. And playing, of course. A lot. And playing around with black and white photography, an old love of mine that I return to from time to time.

Me, playing around in the woods after a day in Athens, Ga.
Love the way nature dwarfs me in this pic!
As my friends all know, and are likely tired of hearing about, I discovered our Cuban Cafe Uptown and have fallen hopelessly in love with Cuban coffee.

Colorful decor in black and white.

Small but mighty!
Of course exploring new coffees is one of my favorite traveling purposes! I was surprised when the boy was willing to try Turkish coffee with me at our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant!

 I have a Turkish pot at home and make this coffee frequently thanks to a friend who is married to a Turkish gent who brought me a pot back from Turkey and taught me how to do it properly!

He wasn't a huge fan...but I am proud he tried it!

Also been doing a bit of reading...

...and wandering about in nature wearing inappropriate shoes because the urge to wander in nature, for me, is always spontaneous...

...and enjoying - probably a bit too much - the Panera Bread that opened up here in our town last week!

Here's the boy and I at the grand 6:00am!
And since black and white is the real theme of this post, here's a shot of our new kitty, Sevarus Snape! He just happens to guessed and white! :-)

So stinkin' cute!

So that's a bit of what all I've been up to! If you are local to my area, check out my solo exhibit at The Mill House, which will be on display for the remainder of this month. I am preparing now for shows in June and August, and booking more as time permits. I'll keep you posted here about upcoming shows and new works!

Thanks for checking out my black and white photo explorations! 

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What I Want to Say to You, Sam Kashner

Earlier this week, I finished When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School by Sam Kashner. I didn't want the story to end. But of course, they all do. They must; otherwise we'd never discover the new stories.

I discovered this book on the shelves of a local thrift shop, and my first thought was excitement. "Who else in this community is reading about this? I want to meet them. I need to meet them." In small, rural Southern towns like mine, like-minded folks are often few and far between. Then I realized if it was at the thrift shop, they'd given the book up and maybe weren't so like-minded as myself after all. I paid my dollar and hurried home. Sam Kashner, if you are reading this, sorry that your book was in a thrift shop being resold for a dollar but if it makes you feel better, I've discovered my own book in a thrift shop before too. Happens to the best of us. And being a paperback, mine was only fifty-cents.

But seriously, I hope, Sam Kashner, that you will read this post one day and know that your book was probably the best dollar I ever spent. I can't even put into words how much I needed to read it. Your honesty, at times brutal and at the expense of your own ego, I'm sure, made the experience more real for me, the reader. But it was more than that, and this is not a book review. This was what I would say to you, if I could, if I had been able to find your email address or ever run into you on the streets when visiting New York.

Your book woke something up in me that I didn't even realize needing awakening. It reminded me that, throughout all the difficult and often financially un-prosperous years, my art, in whatever form it takes - painting, poetry, my one ill-fated book (long story there but involves years of work diminished by a shady publisher) - is always worth doing. Despite the fact that it may never set the world on fire, it's my legacy, and what I was born for. And financial prosperity doesn't always equate real success. As you know better than most, many of the Beat writers were always one step away from desperate poverty. Yet they accepted this and kept on living in the only way they knew how. Kerouac's reaction to his success is legendary, and I always felt like it was because he never expected it, not really. When you are used to a very select few people understanding you, truly 'getting' you, it would be nothing short of overwhelming to suddenly have the world at your door, clamoring for an audience, just to say to you, "I feel/think about/understand the world the same way."

Reading about your experiences was engaging and even humorous at times, but the end, the last chapters were what affected me so deeply. This next part I'd have to actually tell you personally, because it's far too intimate for me to share with the rest of the world why I related so much to the last pages of your book, and why they might have inspired me so. But you know what you wrote.What I want you to know is how glad I am that you wrote it, that you had the courage to tell your story from start to finish, open and honestly. Again this isn't a book review, but nevertheless, your story will remain with me now, in some small way becoming part of mine.

This is why what we do - our art, our poetry, our writing - is always worth doing.