Monthly Archives: December 2014

Year’s End

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Another year.

It has been a good one, I think.

I just don’t feel much like contemplation this evening.

I spoke to a thirteen year old today about the passage of time.

“It seems like it was just 2010,” he said, “and we were saying, like Wow! Double digits! And now it’s gonna be 2015 already!”

“The years fly by,” was my contribution to the discussion.

“I know! Seems like I was just in sixth grade…now I’m in eighth grade!”

Yeah.

Seems like I was just in sixth grade, too.

And here we are. Still counting the years as they zip past.

Happy New Year!

Timeout for Art: This Life

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When I was twelve or thirteen, I sat with pen and paper and cultivated the straight up and down handwriting that I’ve used ever since. It was a deliberate act of rebellion. It was an abandonment of the slightly-slanted-to-the-right cursive that the nuns had forced us to perfect, and that – by that time – came naturally to me. It was an attempt to infuse the letters with my creative spirit.

Through my adult life, I have fallen in love with clothes that have folds or flounce or fringe, bright colors and wild patterns. Artist-Chic. Trendy Bohemian.”That should be my style,”  I think,  “That is me!” Unfortunately, though they seem to reflect my personality, clothes like that do not fit my body. Seriously. It’s not just a matter of daring or convention. Instead of making me look to the world like a creative free spirit, clothes like that make me look like somebody’s frumpy grandmother. Which I am, but that’s not the image I’m trying to project.

I see creative people who sign their work with a flourish, who’s style defines them, who live the free-wheeling life one would expect of an artist.

Not me.

My simple, neat signature is the same one – other than giving up the little circles or hearts that I used to dot my “i”s with – I practiced as a child. My clothes are simple, comfortable and suitable to my life. Paint splatters are the only thing that would define me as an artist, most of the time.

I’ve grown to like it that way.

I appreciate my ordinary life.

This morning, Christmas, I put a splash of Irish Cream (a gift from Santa!) in my coffee, and carried it up to my studio. With the news on the television for company, I sorted and stacked collage materials, arranged the bits and scraps I’d saved, and covered them with a pane of glass, for later consideration.

I spoke to one daughter and one grandson on the telephone. There are more phone calls arranged for later in the day.

I put my long coat over my pajamas, and took the dogs for a walk in the woods. We went all the way back to the pond this morning. They sniffed and wandered and explored. I drank coffee and took photographs.

Now, with a cheery candle burning beside me and the dogs napping nearby, I have time to write.

Mornings like this one, this ordinary life feels extraordinary.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

One Lesson Learned

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I went to clean at my aunt’s house today.

She hired me a couple years ago to come to do a weekly or bi-weekly clean, mainly vacuum, dust, and sweep and mop the floors. She had come to the realization that she couldn’t do it herself anymore. She didn’t like the idea of someone else going through the house, plus they wanted to charge her too much, so she asked me, even though I’m not a very good house-keeper. I knew it was a hard concession for her to make, and difficult for her to ask, so I agreed, even though I don’t usually take on cleaning jobs. I would have done it for free, and told her so, but she insisted that she would pay me.

She would, however, pay me less than the going rate.

I reciprocated by doing the job in a haphazard way. Some weeks I do the whole job in one trip; other times I divide it over two or three days. I miss some weeks entirely. I rarely know ahead of time, as things tend to come up, so she doesn’t either. She’s very patient with me.

Today, with Christmas right around the corner, I knew I had to get there. I called in the morning so she could plan on it, and went on my lunch hour. She wasn’t feeling well, and was on her way to “medical.” The car was warming up, and my cousin was there to drive her, just as soon as she gave me instructions.

“There are potatoes in your mop bucket,” she said, “you can just move them into that basket.”

“The papers are for burning…just move them out of the way.”

This,” she said, indicating the little stand that held a small television, the satellite receiver and a couple dozen books, “do you think you can move this and clean under it???”

“Of course, I’ll do that,” I replied, and she was on her way.

It’s a pretty small, wobbly stand with a lot of fairly heavy things on it. I guess I hadn’t really thought about moving it. I usually swept around it, and kind of under it, and swiped that area with the mop…

Sure enough, when I pulled it away from the wall today, there was a clump of dust and dog’s hair among the tangle of cords that resided there. I should have been moving it out every time.

There was more to it, though.

There was something about the set of her jaw, and the forced way that she spoke, trying to keep her voice normal…kind, even…when clearly she was exasperated with my neglect…I saw my future!

I will be infirm one day, I can see it. I will be dependent on others for basic things.

I imagine my daughters, blithely folding all of my towels wrong – and every one differently – just like they did when they were teenagers.

I can see my mugs stacked in some nonsensical way, books re-shelved with no rhyme or reason, and my arrangements re-arranged in a ridiculous manner.

And I will have deserved it.

I cleaned up the dust and dog hair. I cleaned and untangled the cords. I dusted and neatened the books without rearranging them. I dusted the television and cleaned the screen. Though the clock was ticking through my lunch break and I had to get back to my other job, I gave every chore more careful attention.

By the time I left, I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, reformed by the visions of Christmas yet to come, and trying to make retribution.

Bless her heart, my aunt shouldn’t have had to make mention of my neglect; since she did, and it opened my eyes, I’ll try not to give her reason again.

On the Shortest Day of the Year…

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Today is Winter Solstice…in this hemisphere, the shortest day of the year.

This year, it is also the occasion of a new moon.

According to a notice I received in my mail this morning, “this is truly a divinely designed day to imbue your new year’s intentions with magic.”

This is the time to dream big, to set intentions for the New Year and to let go of anything – from grudges and resentments to bad habits and clutter – that could drag those big dreams down.

I love fresh starts!

I especially love the idea of setting down my highest hopes. “Hopes” and “dreams” and “intentions” sound much friendlier than “resolutions,” don’t they? And, I love the idea of getting a head-start. By the time 2015 rolls around, I’ll already be ten days in to my new year!

The plan, thanks to Kari Samuels at Numerologist.com is simple.

First, light a white candle to represent the return of the light and new beginnings. Say the following (or some variation thereof that feels comfortable and works with your own beliefs):

“I call forth my angels and divine helpers to guide me, protect me, and release me from all that no longer serves me. I ask for my heart to be filled with wisdom, joy, compassion and love. May the light within me grow more bright, so I may be a light for others for the highest and best of all. Thank you!”

Now sit quietly with eyes closed, breathe deeply and feel the connection. Bring awareness to the heart and keep the focus there. Open your eyes. Do the following:

  1. Write down all the wonderful things you’ve experienced this year, the blessings you’ve had, and the many great things you’ve accomplished. Take a moment to celebrate yourself.
  2. Write down all the people you are holding resentment for, including yourself, and why. Release each one with love.
  3. Write down any impressions about what you would like to create in your future. Don’t limit yourself to what seems practical or realistic. Dream big!
  4. Visualize yourself in your future until it feels real to you. Imagine yourself happy, confident and radiant, filled with love while surrounded by loved ones.
  5. Thank the Universe for already creating this reality for you.

What do you think?

I’m a bit skeptical, myself. It sounds a little too New Age-y, and quite a bit too easy for my German constitution. Shouldn’t all success be painfully hard, after all? Shouldn’t all change be riddled with angst?

Still, I can’t claim much success in many years of strict resolutions, either…and it is the Winter Solstice, after all…and the New Moon…

I brought home one white candle today…because I like the magical idea of manifesting happiness.

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Lost and Found

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I found my camera! It was in plain sight, in the front seat of my car, where I had looked for it at least five times.

I found my beret, missing more than a year, in the back of my aunt’s mainland car.

I found my hardware work apron, on a high shelf in an upstairs storage area, while bringing out the holiday decorations. I’ve been looking for it since I went back to work there, almost two years ago.

I lost my new pedometer, sometime during my travels last week. I hope it wasn’t left in a motel room, and that it turns up when I do a thorough search here.

I took the camera today, and went looking for color on this warm, gray day.

Our snow is gone, except in patches. Puddles punctuate the paths and walkways that were white just a few days ago. The warmer temperatures have caused Beaver Island to be enveloped in a misty fog.

My mood follows the weather.

I went walking to clear my muddled mind, as well.

New opportunities have opened up, making me excited and fearful and confused.

I’ve never been good with change, even when change is for the good.

I talk to myself one way…

A grand opportunity! A new challenge! A chance to learn and grow. A creative outlet for me! A perfect mesh of all of my talents! I can do this…I must do this…I will do this!

…and then I tell the other side…

I don’t know how to do this! I have none of the equipment or materials…or skills for that matter. What talent?! This is a perfect recipe for failure! My ineptitude made public! A grand humiliation!

A quote smiles down at me from where it hangs above my desk:

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)

Another acts as a reminder:

“Rise from your bed of languor.

Rise from your bed of dismay.

Your friends will not come tomorrow

As they did not come today.

You must rely on yourself, they said,

You must rely on yourself.”  (Stevie Smith)

And I know I have to go forward with this, fear and confusion be damned.

And do my best.

So…I’ll be shuffling other things in my life around for a while, trying to make everything of importance fit, and maybe finding a way to eliminate a bit of the extraneous. Not this…for this writing practice is the one solid, consistent thing that I can site as a success in my life, when everything else is languishing in neglect.

As I make lists of pros and cons, what is working and what isn’t, and what my ideal life would look like, it occurs to me that I’m pretty old to still be on that search…but I’m not ready, yet, to resign myself to just this life that I’m living.

So, I’ll accept a new challenge, with hope that I will have found my true calling…or at least something exciting on the way to it!

Happy Birthday, Katey!

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My daughter, Kate, has never hesitated to voice her displeasure.

As a child, foods mixed together, vegetarian quiche and Chinese food (except egg rolls) were prime targets.

Bedtime, too, or deadlines of any kind, really. Kate didn’t like “time to get up” or “time for school” or “time to come in.”

She didn’t like being left out or left behind. As the youngest, it seems that was often an issue.

Unfairness, unkindness and injustice – whether the victim was herself or some other poor soul – were things she noticed and hated from a very early age. She has always had a big, compassionate heart.

Today, I hope she experiences only things that bring her happiness.

I’m wishing only smiles and joy for her birthday.

Happy, happy birthday, Katey!

Timeout for Art: Dolls

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I like drawing dolls, stuffed animals and toys. They seem to hold the essence of the small people that have handled them.

Dolls have a human-like quality that borders on the grotesque when frozen in a drawing.

I did a large drawing of Raggedy Ann once, fully dressed in all of her patterned skirts and aprons, and sprawled across the page from upper right to lower left corner. To fill the empty space in the upper left of the page, I drew two longish rectangles, placed vertically side by side. In the first, I drew the doll facing front, from head to toe, naked, with her big grin, printed heart and stripey legs. In the second, I did the side view. Reminiscent of technical drawings (or mug shots!), they provided a nice contrast to the loosely drawn large image.

I did a series of six-foot tall Barbie drawings. I used Pellon, a non-woven fabric that is often used in interfacing as my support. It came in long rolls, and was a tough surface for multi-media work. I combined charcoal, oil pastels, soft pastels and acrylic paints. The surfaces became very dense with marks and layers of color…and there was Barbie,staring serenely ahead. One doll had blonde hair in a high ponytail, and a black and white diagonal-striped bathing suit, one had short, sandy hair – gone wild from misuse – and wore a snappy pantsuit. The third had crazy, long hair and an evening gown; one hand and part of the arm had been chewed off by a dog. They were good models, and it was a fun series!

This little “Indian” doll is a fairly common drawing subject for me. She was a gift from my sister, Cheryl, who tells me I had a doll like that as a child, and that she destroyed it. I don’t remember that, but I’m happy to have this sweet memento.