The tools for the job….

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Now you might understandably think the burrowing owl bag had a couple of winery bottles tucked inside, and once it did and it wouldn’t have been a bad idea but today it is a hammer, tape measure, and tape. In my purse a framing level and comfortable shoes. I am up before six to get on the road with a painting friend to transport eight amazing pieces from five diverse painters to the old courthouse venue in Kamloops and the FCA Thompson, Shuswap, Nicola, open show.

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Happily the rain has stayed away which makes moving fragile pieces a bit less stressful. I dodge potholes like an obstacle course pro hoping when I deliver the  pastel portraits wrapped and propped, all of the powder will still be attached to the page! (it was they aren’t nearly as fragile as I fear. Side note, The Scream – Munch is pastel on paper.) I have watercolor and  inks, vivid acrylics, and oils round out the offerings. We arrive in time to avoid the sketchy elevator and make the two story dash up and down the stairs several times and unwrap all the cargo before the hanging begins.

This is a lot trickier than it sounds. There is much to consider in finding a flow. You want every painting to have companions that neither over power nor compete with one another . Ones that are reasonable as subject partners, ones that draw the viewer from one panel to the next, and ultimately feel harmonious without becoming boring. Then there are the physical challenges, measuring, sizing, straightening, strengthening wires and hammering in nails to the right depth and angle to sustain the weight of frames etc. It is a task that requires a lot of patient people working together to come to consensus with an eye on the clock!

IMG_3608 (1) My inclusion is ‘boy in the sun’. It is an oil on paper picked up from the framers yesterday for delivery today. (just to keep things exciting!) It is part of a series celebrating the contemporary competition pow wow. This moment a solemn interlude between dance categories, this young dancer grounding himself, the sun pouring over him – ‘Dancers, dance your style’.

The show opens tomorrow night.  For now, the room will sit quiet and dark. I wish I had a key so I could slip inside, sit quietly on the floor perhaps in the evening with a glass of wine and consider the stories in every mark and how they came to be. Coyotes with a shavings of gold leaf highlights walk across a bluff, flowers blooms, glass reflections traps and distort the objects before them, a giant humpback whale swims in an ocean lined with light, a little boy with John Lennon glasses and playing cards tucked in the brim of his hat reminds me of a character in a novel i once read but can’t quite recall, and oh those owl eyes.  The content is diverse as is the medium and presentation. Somewhere, a spark of an idea began months earlier in sixty different studio and the long prelude to this ten days in April began.

A lot goes into hanging every show. It should include a warm appreciation to the creative spirit and the gift we are given in the incredible diversity of beings. The way we see, process and reflect the world that makes our experience unique and similar, a spark, a connection and the hum of electricity that tells us we are alive.  It is all in the eye of the beholder.

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shelter from the storm

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Yesterdays lazy Sunday turned up a variety of treasures, included this beautiful fat chrysalis on a broken yarrow stem. While the wind was unrelenting  yesterday, I thought the place we tucked this one in the garden with slightly more shelter than were we found him would be fine. This morning I woke to the sound of rain and began to worry, what if it is too near the ground. Boots and slicker and after a bit of a search in the garden we are relocated to a spot near the well with more fern and yarrow tangles to protect from the elements. This process can take two weeks or more for some species to complete. I will be checking in and hoping for good outcomes.

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The snails are waking up as well. This little one is working on healing his shell, they are rather amazing little beings and this is one of their recovery skills. Some time back I shared a photo of a tree with a scar and a spike and the bark grown around it in amazing swirls incorporating the wound, a redefinion of sorts. A friend shared, this is a grief tree. In her culture the idea we move past loss or trauma is absurd. We do not discard the experience but we grow around it, we carry it forward, but forward we go.

and sometimes, we simply hold space.

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IMGP4545 We create space for those who follow, and for those in passing. It is an important task. There are moments when we are strong and what we do with that strength is the stuff that defines us.

This weekend I started prepping some sanded paper with gold leaf and a layer of pumice for pastel work. I think I am going to use the small squares for some snail sketches. The perfect little roundness of the curving shell feels compelling.  This may seem like a  separate blog, but there is a flow between experience and idea that is part of the process of creative expression. IMG_3604

The chrysalis, the healing shell, the perfect curve, something of value offered to make welcome something new. A rainy Monday, strong dark coffee,

‘Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm “- bob dylan

the cool calm quiet of the morning

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Often I find myself sitting on the rocking dock at the base of the wharf as the morning moves through the quiet wake of the day. First sounds are from a variety of bird, song and waterfowl. There is the constant sound of water gently moving against the dock, a kind of lullaby. Sometimes the otter will swim past or occasionally join me on the platform. In a few weeks there will be boaters and the lake will gradually invite swimming but for now it is an enveloping calm and that is a gift.

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I have been enjoying the close proximity of loons the past few years but have yet to meet the wee babies and each early summer that is high on my wish list as I sit on the waters edge with a sweater wrapped around my shoulders and a thermos of hot coffee to combat the damp feeling of the shoreline. Sometimes while my eyes are set on one thing, something else literally flies by and the shift in focus, the startling of a challenge to perception is jarring. Last week I swear this goose was playing chicken with me!IMGP4365

Like most experiences, small moments mirror larger opportunities. If you are focused on one specific detail, the big picture becomes blurred and you may miss an important detour. The way we see and process data is increasingly altered by technology. I listened to Robert Bateman talk about the importance of green spaces and children being exposed to nature and I fell a little bit in love with the 82 year old weathered painter in a worn sports jacket, with a body of work that staggers painters and businessmen in entirely different ways.  What makes us rich, what is our legacy,  may have little or nothing to do with our accomplishments but how we fit into the bigger picture and one step further, how we hold open the door to that experience for those who walk behind us.

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Green spaces are important to all of us, from the entry with mouse eyes and all around the circle to back again. From the cool calm quiet of the morning, until the brilliance of sunset and the soft velvet darkness that closes the day, I hope you have a moment, that takes your breath away.  Easter weekend is a marker for renewal and rebirth, and as such a small reminder to simply take time – breathe. ❤

from Judy, on her 57th birthday

there was a movie, to gillian on her 37th birthday…. but, twenty years later one learns, from is often more important than to.

 

It has been a kind of tough week here with our kitty hospice plan, one that is about offering whatever favourite foods, windows, sunbeams and snuggles make our boy comfortable and happy. It is sort of what we want for everyone we love in closing days. We recognize Izzy is time limited, and it gives us the moment to reflect on the obvious, all of us in fact are. We just do not all know the expiry date.

That said, I think a good policy is to take the wonder offered you, whenever it comes your way and this week I have had some lovely kindness shown to me and for that I want to say thank you.

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I am usually big on birthdays. Everyone’s including my own! This year I made my wish early and asked if it would be okay to just be real with what is in the moment and if that is happy, or if that is sad, to just be with it absent the need for a timed celebration.  Today is  pretty good here and that is a bonus gift. I get as well celebrations are for all of those involved and I am sorry to have been a wet blanket, be forewarned next year, game on!!!

I have spent a couple of hours weeding and puttering in my garden, I have been in and out in a normal summers way following the always good advice whenever you can stop and pet the cats  ;).

Lots of notes and a few phone visits found me in nice moments, and a guest stopped by for an afternoon snack,

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My sweet niece and great nieces and nephew offered me a mid day celebration, which I could not make work, but it does not wholly matter because I feel it to the tips of a very big smile. So, from Judy, (sorry for the third person voice), on her 57th birthday….. my wish for all those in my world and in my memories, take the love that is offered you, give the love you can.  Try not to be afraid of risks, if it is not the outcome you imagine, maybe it is still a plan in progress.  Let go of self consciousness, we are each absolutely fine the way we are this very moment.   Be your own best self. Be your own real self. My choice today was no big dinner, no cake, no candles – take out pizza will be on the menu, a glass of wine so a toast instead of wishes.  This is an amazing life, on its hard days, on its grand days, it is ours for the moment. Jump into the deep end, don’t worry about the splash! And as always, walk softly, it is a world of fragile things, amazing and precious ones -each of us included.

letting go

I write this blog, from the little yellow house in the big woods. It is prone to a very personalized picture of the way rural life can work. We have bears and coyotes wander through, raccoons who become quite familiar, and over time our inside four leggeds have switched from dog heavy to a cat bonanza, small gifts from the big woods. The interesting thing is, I would never have described myself as a cat person, famous last words. One spring a young feral cat pushed her way under the boards of our old house at a bit of foundation retreat and in the underspace had her kittens. We determined their lifespan outdoors would be very short and over the space of several weeks when making friends failed we used the friendly trap and one by one we brought in the kitten pack, including mom who was barely more than a kitten herself.

The transitions were not all smooth, we had to gain their trust as furless two leggeds and the stories are many but the one I want to share is Isaac’s story. Isaac was a beautiful little sleek black kitten who would be all but invisible in the shade of a leaf as he napped in the daytime. He was an explorer and a wildly playful one who would blindside his mom as she sat watch for her brood. He climbed the trees and used small branches to leap from one spindle of the hedge overhang to another, he was the first kitten to come inside.

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He was so small, though we do not know their dates exact we thought about 8 to 10 weeks old. We brought him into the laundry room and when we opened the trap in his frantic race to escape he sprang head first into the freezer, not once but twice before hiding behind  the fridge. My daughter stayed in the room and tried coaxing and bribing and eventually cornered him and picked him up to her sadness his response was to detach and become limp, to give up. Feral cats are not picked up by things that aren’t planning to eat them, so, it took a while before he started to understand that wasn’t the outcome plan. He broke us the first night when he would go the the register above the crawl space and cry into it for his siblings. Those first few days he became so wonderfully attached but his understanding was like pre toddlers in the space where they do not know you are still there if they cannot see you. He wanted a constant companion.  When the next kitten came in a few days later we were relieved he had a mate. We did not plan to have a bunch of cats, we planned to get them people ready and re home. It took a huge investment of time and trust, months for the mom, and by then we surrendered to life with the cat pack. Isaac, laughing one, had the first of many laughs on us. He is the Alpha cat . When any stressors come up, he takes the foreground and the others fall in behind him. We have learned so much about their communication systems by being a parallel pack of beings now fully integrated.

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Around february, Issac started losing weight. At first we thought it was a good thing as we had been trying to bring their sizes down, one thing you will know about ferral to tame is the trust in abundance is never really there and stress eating is not just a people thing. By March we made an appointment and had first check up, nothing seemed wrong, but the weight kept dropping. In April we did a senior blood screen and everything seemed pretty normal but the weight kept dropping. We bought a scale and monitored the weight, increased calories to see if he could gain some but it wasn’t going well so on the last appointment we agreed to a surgery that would either allow us to go forward and have the next expected five years of life, or know we had made one more strong try. Everyone including the vet was hopeful. I was hopeful. Tuesday morning at my yoga class during savasana I found myself with such a clear visualization it was as though watching through a window. Izzy, his little self at about a year old, walking in blowing sunlit grass, a hazy gold to the sky. His face alert, exploring, he was alone again without his pack, an alpha first to check out this new place and I knew in my heart no matter how much i wanted not too, it was a good bye. I could not stay with the meditation, or in the room, Tears fell and fall still. I truly hate good byes.

It might seem when whole towns have burned to ash – when countries become unsafe for their citizens and perilous re homings are daily news, when there are so many things of magnitude to consider, to be fixated on the life of a small feral cat an indulgence. I understand that. The thing is though, when you learn that all life is precious, that life interactions teach us a love story that enriches our spirit and that all loss includes grief, there isn’t a sliding scale for value. life is life, love is love and while this story is not wholly over, its end not fully written, we understand recovery isn’t part of it. Izzy comes home tomorrow to be with his pack until he lets us know it is too hard to stay and then we will let him go the rest of the way.

Before the kittens came in, I felt it absurd we were so committed to their rescue. I was losing my mom in pieces at the time. Ed was in transition with work and health both now strong and better than we had imagined, but at that time I felt like saving one thing I might be able to impact might get me through. In a lot of ways, it really helped. In the course of being less focused on human demands, we took a turn at learning to be more humane and that is a gift I will keep always.

I am trying to reconcile the sorrow i feel with the image of a kitten walking through tall grass, beginning a next adventure in a new place, and knowing in part when the next pack mate leaves us, they will not end up somewhere alone, .

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weekend workshop

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This weekend I participated with a small group of painters gathered in the Vernon Arts Center in a workshop offered by Kelowna artist, Alex Fong.  I have done a few watercolors over the past few years, but even on the ones that found their way to showing have left me envious of the lightness of hand and unguided paint mix on paper I have seen but no so much achieved.   I thought I would enjoy something outside of the comfort zone.

The group was smaller than registered which actually turned into a really nice thing for those of us in attendance. I did find myself challenged in a number of ways, trying not to get stuck in  the absurd self imposed pressure to produce in a room with some pretty prolific painters, I simply had to let that one go.

When I paint at home I start with creating space. I have music, I have a candle, I make a small offering and invitation to the process. This was a classroom setting. A freakishly quiet one the first day especially before a music source was located, and people worked – I am a slacker! But, while I figured out what I struggle with, I also took home a practice list in my head which is the thing I always glean from participating in workshops and watching demos.

I get mesmerized watching people paint, and in this watercolor and some acrylic processes, contrary to popular belief, one can enjoy watching paint dry!  While I beat to death the watercolor application on fish shapes, Alex paused for a two minute goldfish on my sketch pad,  I smiled at it this morning and tucked it neatly on my wildly disorganized cork board.

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I am just about to unpack my basket of things from the workshop, I have a couple of hours before this morning rolls into appointments etc., so while i will start with a walk in the garden and survey the ever growing list of what really can’t wait for weeding, feeding, mulching etc., I will also take a few moments to move paint in a way that is different from my usual approach. I appreciate the strength of limit in watercolor, the underworking as an approach. It is very different from my usual way of under planning. It will not become in all likelihood my medium of strength but I think it will be a fun place to spend some time.

The paintings at the top of the page were carried home! The benefit of a small workshop allowed each person to receive a gift of a personal made for you painting, (i know, lovely right!), and the flower with the leaf turning so elegantly was mine from an end of the day draw!

Reading through some quotes on watercolor, I think this one is closest to my current understanding…You have to negotiate with this medium. It wants to have some say in the work. If you ignore it completely, it will scream ‘Liar’ at you. (Bill Vrscak) . But there is a sense of balance that appeals to me. I have written on the difference gender and life experience  in the developing role of a painter. Sunday, as we all know was mother’s day. My day was a shared breakfast with those at home, a lovely day of being in the garden, dinner and the best berry shortcake made by my daughter near by, a good phone visit with my far and away girl,  a lovely gift to share with my painting friends as we converse in the green spaces painting bits of summer. All aspects of my world flow together, family, garden, photography, paint, and the strengths vary, the pressure from soft to compelling, the light always present, the patchwork always its own kind of perfect. Thanks for stopping by.

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