Timeout for Art: Begin Again

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I’ve missed several weeks, now, of “timeout for art.”

My friend, Lisa, is more consistent, though she has issues with internet speed and service in rural Ecuador.

I have no good excuse.

After spending several days in an embarrassingly dark, dreary mood, I decided I needed to shake myself out of it.

I had a good cry.

I took a long walk.

I telephoned my sister, Brenda.

I went to visit and had good (though heavy – on my part – on the self-pity) conversations with friends: Mary, Sue and Gwen.

I had a long, serious talk with myself.

I need to pull myself together and get on with life.

For a start: fulfill simple obligations.

Timeout for Art.

This collage is one of four intended for the Museum Week Art Show.

It’s not a great photograph, but I like these large format (20″ x 26″) collages. Each incorporates hand-made paper, bright colors and some three-dimensional details, in this case, sewn on buttons.

These collages, though fun to make, gave me trouble. First, they buckled as the glue dried. To fix that problem, I painted the back of the surfaces with polymer medium, layered them between plastic sheets (actually, trash bags) and weighted them down with a sheet of plywood. Then they took too long to dry. They have been sidelined to the “Meet the Artist” Show, which is August 2nd at Livingstone Studio.

If nothing else goes wrong!

 

 

 

Wading Through Summer

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I slept this morning, my day off, until I woke up naturally.

No alarm.

I woke to birdsong, and a gentle breeze coming in through the window.

Outside, flowers are blooming, sun is shining, the garden is growing.

And yet…

I woke to a feeling of deep sadness, mounting pressure and near panic.

I’ve been trying to figure it out, as I have coffee this morning.

I have lots to do, no doubt, and I am behind in everything.

Today, for instance.

This is the first day of Museum Week here on Beaver Island. There are speakers and activities all week long. Many of them, I have book-marked to attend. There is no sense, I tell myself, in being on Beaver Island and missing every good thing that goes on. Things that – if I didn’t live here – I would come here to participate in.

A week ago, I deliberately missed a good party – the Islander’s Reunion – because (1) I had to work all weekend, and worried I’d be too tired, (2) I didn’t have a companion to go with, and was afraid I’d feel out of place and (3), behind on everything already, I felt it would drive me farther into this mire that I am slogging through. Oh, and I couldn’t afford it.

Just last weekend, the Beaver Island Music Festival took place.

I stayed away.

Same reasons.

Slogging through summer. Mired in work and obligations.

Today, I have to finish and frame four collages to submit to the Museum Week Art Show (that deadline is tomorrow). I have to go over my notes for a talk I’m giving at the Beaver Island Association meeting this afternoon. I have frames to pick up at the airport, to frame six new paintings for the Livingstone Studio “Meet the Artists” event, coming up soon (that date is August 2nd). I have towels on the clothesline already this morning, have a comforter washed and ready to go out, and a load of dark clothes in the washing machine. I have a kitchen drawer, in parts, on the floor behind me, evidence of my sorry ongoing attempt to repair it. The contents of that drawer are keeping company with a cluster of dirty dishes on my kitchen counter, right next to the faucet that is still leaking and waiting for repair. “Do dishes” is on the top of my to-do list today, though I’ve already put other tasks ahead.

I’m feeling sand under my bare feet, and have to take time to sweep. My windows show evidence of swatted flies and mosquitoes; they could all use a good cleaning. I mowed lawn last week, but still need to take the string trimmer around the borders and walkways. The weeds are getting away from me in the garden. The back seat of my car is now full of “recyclables” so I need to make a trip to the Transfer Station.

I have too many jobs without endings!

The house: I could spend a forty hour week getting it caught up, what with drawer repair, half-finished painting projects and both major and minor construction all waiting…on top of necessary upkeep.

The garden will take whatever time I can give it and never, I think, be truly “done”. At this moment, though, it looks clearly un-done, which adds to the pressure I’m feeling.

Writing takes as much time as I can give it. I never finish a piece without thinking that – given more time or a tighter edit – it could have been better.

The studio: “bursting with ideas” feels like a cursed weight upon my back when I don’t have time or energy for bringing ideas to life.

My administrative job asks only a few hours each week from me, but there is much to learn and more to do and I hold the constant feeling that I am two steps behind in my obligations there.

The hardware (sigh…) and other jobs that specifically offer an hour’s pay for an hour of work, that I can walk away from at the end of my shift…are a blessed relief. They offer little in the way of status, glory or personal enrichment – though I am always enriched by doing a job well and to the best of my abilities – but they support me. Rarely do I wake up sad and overburdened by them…except by the hours they take that prevent me from other pursuits.

I remember summers, when I was small, with warm, sunny spots and shady places and trees to climb, and room to breathe.

There have been summers, with children or grandchildren, when we didn’t miss a single good day for the beach.

Where have those summers gone, that’s what I want to know!

Muddling through this awful mood, I came upon a lovely bit of writing by Will, who writes at <www.saddlebackmountainfarm.org>

I am about to go now and pick the first of the beans. It is early Monday morning. It is cool, clear, and the sheep are up and grazing to eastward. The largest of three porcupines that roam our farm nightly is still roaming. Bird flight and song are the only sounds. And in the garden in the middle of this living are my beans. 200 ft. worth. Damp with pinkish-white flowers, slim, willing, green. When I reach in to pick them they will swing. When I drop them into my bucket, they will sound. When I pick on down the row, they will increase, increase, this heaped-up increase of the fullness of life, this moment in the company of beans. And now the new sun and me damp at the end of the row, hands smelling of beans, the day just started, the sheep, when I look their way, looking off at something I can’t see. This increase. Do you understand what I mean? How there are moments sometimes when we are as lifted? Increased?

Another friend wrote of how she’d nearly forgotten about winter, now walking in bare feet to maintain “that connection to the earth.”

That’s what I want, of summer!

Renewal, increase, connection.

So, now – swamped in obligations, wading through summer – let me add to my list:

Don’t forget to appreciate what is here…to notice sun, breeze and birdsong. Don’t forget, in these long summer days, that life is short. Take time to read, to draw, to think…and to not think. Take time to walk in the water, to stroll under the stars, to feel bare toes in the grass. Take time to love the warmth.

Take time…take time…take time.

Digging in the Dirt

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When my friend arrived on Beaver Island recently, someone yelled out to her, “Hey, Terry, are you still digging in the dirt?”

Her answer was “Yes!”

Artist, musician, anthropologist, archaeologist, teacher…though recently retired, Terry continues her explorations.

I was fortunate, this year, to be able to work with her on an archaeological dig.

This wasn’t my first.

Twenty years ago I went to Grand Turk Island in the British West Indies as part of a team working with an archaeologist from the University of Florida. I made the arrangements through an organization called Earth Watch. I was taking a vacation alone and knew that – without an agenda – I would spend far too much time and money in shops and restaurants and bars pretending to have a good time. So, I paid for a vacation where I was expected to work forty hours a week.

It was wonderful!

Our expedition was titled “Before Columbus.” We were studying the Taino people, a division of the Arawak, who – by some estimates – were three million strong at the time of Columbus’s first landfall. Within twenty years they were nearly wiped out.

Our crew consisted of Bill Keegan, the professor who had been studying the history of the Taino on the Turks and Caicos Islands for twenty years, two graduate assistants, and ten folks like me, who had paid for the chance to work and learn.

We were a diverse group. There was a young woman just out of the army, a lawyer from San Francisco, a nurse from Boston, and a couple who were both involved in the burgeoning computer industry in the Silicon Valley. There were two retired professors, one from South Carolina, the other from Minnesota. My roommate was a dear woman (eighty-four years old) who retired from CitiBank in New York City. The youngest member of our team was a seventeen year old young man from upstate New York, whose grandmother bought him the trip as a high school graduation present. And me, a forty-year-old waitress from Beaver Island, Michigan.

We worked together, ate together and played together. We shared lodging and household chores. We rotated cooking and clean-up duties, with a chart just as if we were a family. After work, there was time for showers or swimming, reading or writing. We often played Trivial Pursuit after dinner. We never missed running down to the beach at sunset, to try to spot the “green flash” as the sun sank into the horizon.

I loved the work! From history to basic surveying skills, the learning curve was tremendous. I liked the precision of the gridded site, the mapping and record-keeping. I loved the child-like feeling that comes with being on hands and knees, digging in the sand. Always present was the possibility of discovery.

At the time, I thought that was the kind of trip I’d take regularly. As it turns out, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I’ve never forgotten it, though, and watched with interest as individuals or teams came to study the history buried here. I’ve told myself “next year I’ll find the time” so often, I almost quit believing it.

Until this year.

Terry is a wonderful teacher and a great story-teller. She is intent on finding, recording and preserving history, but never to the point of disrespecting the people who walked the earth before us.

She walks the woods as if she has a built-in compass. That comes, I suspect, from hundreds of hours spent familiarizing herself with the area. Terry has a good memory and an eye for detail.

We met on the road each morning, and carried our supplies in to the site. We altered our route every time, so that we wouldn’t leave a trail.

We were a crew of five. We took turns at jobs, so that each of us would experience digging, sifting and record-keeping.

We laid out an area four feet square, and divided it into a grid of sixteen sections. We went down six inches at a time, one section at a time. The first layer is mainly roots and leaf litter, but it has to be screened anyway, just to be sure. The second layer is more gravelly, and by the third, we were sifting through sand.

Our discoveries were small, but significant: isolated bits of charcoal, tiny pottery fragments, flint rock and chert. It didn’t matter, we cheered at every one, congratulated each other for recognizing something worthwhile in the dirt as we sifted through it, and sat in awe that we were touching the past.

It was an exhausting, exhilarating week.

I’ll jump at the opportunity to do go digging in the dirt again!

 

 

 

 

 

Phragmites

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cindyricksgers:

The end of the list:

Originally posted on Beaver Island Phragmites Control:

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Here we are, at the end of our “Top Ten Invasive Species on Beaver Island” list.

…And the number one invasive species on Beaver Island is [a drum roll would be helpful here]…

PHRAGMITES!!!

Common Reed.

Here on Beaver Island, just as in Michigan generally, two subspecies are present.

The native type of Phragmites, subspecies americanus, is a natural and beneficial part of our shoreline and wetlands vegetation. It may grow, at most, to be about six and a half feet tall. It grows as scattered stems that break down quickly, allowing other species enough light and space to grow beneath it. Stalks turn a lovely bronze color in the fall.

The invasive form of Phragmites,  subspecies australis, is much more robust. It begins growing earlier in the season and continues later in the fall than native Phragmites. It grows twelve to twenty feet in height and sends…

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Crazy Busy…Or Just Crazy?

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So what is going on with WordPress, now?
When I have zero time to sit at the computer to do anything, now the simplest thing has become a nightmare. The image – I hope it will publish as an image – appears to be in HTML code, as a series of words and non-words and forward slashes combined with numbers and punctuation marks. It looks like I’m typing on Mom’s old Royal typewriter…not the font I’m accustomed to.
I am behind in my writing, both in outside obligations and personal commitments.
I am behind in the studio, with several finished pieces to frame(that frames have not yet been ordered for)and others that need to be completed.
My garden is growing up in weeds.
I’m behind in getting Aunt Katie’s house ready for company.
My house is not fit, even, for discussion.
I am behind in my payments. Summer tax bills arrived last week, and I have yet to pay the winter taxes. I have barely made a dent in the large amount owed for keeping my house warm over that long, cold season. Insurance is over-due. I still have that drainage issue to resolve before the ground freezes. I’m due for more blood work and have not yet paid the bill for the lab work that was done six months ago. The list goes on.
I’ve had a full work schedule at the hardware store, with long, hectic days that leave me with little energy by the time I get home.
As Phragmites administrator,I am coming into the busiest time of the year.I’ve had meetings and conference calls and Emails zipping back and forth. I have notices to write and meetings to plan. I am past due in publishing my invasive species blog.
Just about the time that I learned that my grandchildren would not be able to come to visit this year…when I was right on the verge of falling into one of those funks with a “my-life-is-nothing-but-work,work,work” theme…an opportunity came up.
An archaeological dig was going to happen here on Beaver Island, in an area of great interest to me. A friend had organized it…and would welcome my assistance.
As busy as I was, as behind as I was…I nonetheless jumped at the chance!
To keep my budget intact, and not put too much strain on my co-workers, I filled in as much as I could beforehand.
I worked eight days in a row, with meetings squeezed in after and around other obligations, so that I could take this week off.
To dig in the dirt.
Who is crazy enough to take time off work in order to work for free?
I am!
I come home each day filthy, bug-bitten and exhausted, but I’m having a blast!
Today, with a little bit of energy left, I thought I might catch up on other things, before I collapse.
So what’s the deal with WordPress?

Autumn Olive

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cindyricksgers:

…almost at the end of my “invasive species” list!

Originally posted on Beaver Island Phragmites Control:

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Isn’t this a pretty plant?

Smells good, too.

It produces edible berries that birds love.

Sometimes it is difficult to make an invasive species out to be the “bad guy” that it is.

It’s certainly easier to dislike…Poison Ivy, say…than this lovely shrub!

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus Umbellata), also known as Oleander or Japanese Silverberry has plenty of good things going for it, sure.

However…

  • The rapid growth and ability to provide a canopy of shade quickly displaces natural plants.
  • The ability to set nitrogen in the soil makes the ground too rich for many native species.
  • The berries are widely dispersed by birds, so spread in uncontrolled.
  • It has been noted that the variety of birds is reduced, in areas where Autumn Olive berries are the main food source.

 

Pretty as it is, this is not a plant we want taking over our fields and open areas.

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Summer Breeze

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When the air is hot, and the wind is strong, I am transported back at least four decades.

It is usually only smells that have that power: freshly-cut grass brings me back to Sunday afternoons on Hunt Road, fifty or more years ago; a certain whiff of soap can evoke the spirit of my mother, when I was a small child; sometimes the smell of baby powder lifts me to a time and place when I was a young mother, with small children of my own.

But give me a strong summer breeze, and I am a teen-ager again.

I want to ride in fast cars with all the windows down, music playing at full volume.

I want to head for city lights or country roads, just for the change, the movement and distance.

I want to swim by moonlight, then walk the beach and count the stars.

I want to sleep in a tent open to the moving air.

There is a strong wind blowing today.

Not actually being a teen-ager again, my activities were much more mundane.

I walked the garden this morning, picked radishes and strawberries, and pulled a few weeds.

Went to work at the hardware store.

Picked up a few necessities: dish detergent, dog food, mosquito repellent.

Stopped to say “hello” to Sue, at her gallery.

Washed towels, and hung them on the clothesline.

Pulled a few more weeds in the garden, emptied the kitchen scraps into the compost bin, washed the dishes and tidied the kitchen.

Just a normal day…except for the wind.

That feeling of being at the beginning, with endless possibilities lying ahead…that sense of hope and chance and wonder stayed with me, and kept a smile on my face all day.

Just a normal, exceptional day.

Good things come in on a strong summer breeze!