Monthly Archives: May 2016

Turning

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A little rain, a little snow…just enough moisture, in combination, to set things in motion this May. This is my favorite time of the year!

In the woods, the trillium are showing off their bright white three-petal blossoms. Wild ramps scent the air with the smell of onion, trout lilies bow their little yellow heads over crowds of their speckled leaves. Tiny yellow pantaloons are showing up among the airy foliage of the Dutchman’s Breeches. Spring Beauties display their little flowers on top of  wispy green stems.  Those who know where to look – and have time to gather – are finding morel mushrooms.

The trees, which will settle in to a fairly regular color of green before the end of the month, are now just unfurling their leaves in a riot of different shades. The serviceberry bush at the front of the house is covered with white blossoms. Lilacs and snowball bush will be next. The forsythia in the side yard offers a bright pop of color in front of the grapevines. By the time it’s done blooming, the spirea will have taken over.

Around and under the bushes, jonquils, daffodils and narcissus are playing a relay to keep their many shades of yellow  as long as possible. When one group is ready to hang their heads, the next one takes over. Among them, clusters of tulips add shades of red and pink. Hundreds of grape hyacinth around the yard and through the flower beds add the perfect contrast with their regal blue.

Looking ahead, iris and peonies are showing their foliage, and will be ready to flower just when the earlier blooms are finished for the season. The stalwart daylilies are getting  ready to take over later, and will last until the first frost in the fall.

Asparagus us coming slowly this year, probably due to the dry weather. I pulled enough rhubarb yesterday to make one pan of rhubarb crisp; if we don’t get rain soon, that may be it for the season. Strawberries are covering their bed with white blossoms that offer the promise of fruit.

This year is like every other: spring comes in, filled with hope, and hints of the good days ahead. Always, I trust in the promises of spring.

 

Another Point of View

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There’s something in the air. I don’t know how to explain it. There is a level of frustration a lack of ease – that I can’t seem to find my way out of. I look for more input.

I look at my horoscope:

Aspects of your life that you’ve neglected lately might haunt you on a day like today, Virgo. Make sure you’re keeping up with all your responsibilities. Things may come to a dramatic climax at this time, and you could find yourself at an important crossroads. Nervous energy could cause you to run around frantically in search of the right path. Don’t let indecision keep you from getting where you need to go.

And then another:

Today and tonight, pause when something plays over and over in your mind and brings conflicting and overwhelming feelings. You’re experiencing a completely new set of emotions and need to understand them. It’s vital to communicate honestly, keeping feelings and thoughts out in the open as much as possible.

I choose a tarot card:

The Empress:
Keywords: ideas, creative impulses, intellect.
Astrological Correspondence: Venus.
The Empress signifies the queen of life, the ideal woman, the archetypal mother. She represents the matriarchal goddess, being part of nature, fertility, sexuality, and the generative forces. As the life-giving mother she is connected to the Earth and the natural rhythms, the appreciation of the senses. As a card of good fortune she signifies that if we are gentle and caring, as well as patient, we can bring anything to fruition; we have to be able to wait until the time is right for action so that we can reap the rewards; as a result, hard work pays off and relationships become satisfying. The Empress can, in negative situations, also depict vanity, undeveloped creativity, stagnation, and
apathy.
Then the I-Ching oracle:
It is important to work and play well with others today. If you are a boss, be fair and open minded. If you are an employee, be hardworking and good-natured. If you are dealing with difficult or stubborn people, or coping with someone’s mistakes, you first need to find the right way to approach them. First you must stop judging them and listen more. If you can find some common ground between you, then there is the possibility of real progress.
I don’t put too much weight into any of these things. They can be fun, though. At times when nothing seems to make sense, sometimes the broad scope of a prediction designed for any stranger can hit startlingly close to home.

Timeout for Art: No Time for Art

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Have I used this title already?

I don’t know.

It seems like this is a frustration that has become all too common lately: no time for art.

I have counseled others in the past. I’ve said, if it’s important, you will find the time. I cringe at my arrogance. Sometimes, it is not a matter of lack of desire or not enough interest or a shortage of passion. Sometimes it is simply that there is not enough time.

If I were to run into a little extra time, beyond my 40-hour-a-week job, and the news magazine that takes all my spare time (though I cut corners and neglect duties associated with it and always feel that I should be doing more)…if there were more hours available after dog walking and helping my aunt…if I didn’t have this writing commitment…if I didn’t need to take care of my own house and yard, cook my own meals, do my own laundry…if I had a gardener…well, then!

If my time were freed up in some magical way, so that things that demanded my attention, and things I have neglected and felt guilty about, and things that have just been ignored were all taken care of…I would be in the studio.

I might be assembling collages, inking collagraph plates, or painting. I might be wedging balls of clay or shredding paper for pulp. I could be trying out something brand new, or finishing something that has been waiting for months. I’d see it now with fresh eyes, and would find a new and fresh way forward. I might find a way to use old materials, or burn them to make room for new ideas.

I would be busy, that I guarantee. I would be enjoying myself.

Tears come, as I type. This is not a happy situation. Long ago, I placed art in the center of my life, crucial to my identity, important to my sense of self. How did my life become so full of things that are not art? This is the frustration coming through. The frustration that comes from no time for art.

Wednesday

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Wednesday is the middle of the work week, for those who work Monday through Friday. For me, it’s back-to-work day. It feels just like Monday, only with more letters. After a long weekend away, it’s especially hard to get back into a work schedule.

I still have mounds of laundry to do. I have packages across the kitchen counter to find space for in my cupboards and on my shelves. I had a pile of mail waiting for me at the Post Office, that is now staring at me from the desktop. I have banking and other paperwork to catch up on.

This is the first day that the dogs will be alone together all day. I practiced a little last evening, while I ran to get the mail, pick up groceries for Aunt Katie and a couple packages at the airport. I gave them each a treat, a scratch behind the ears, and the instructions, “Take good care of things!” Rosa Parks is used to the routine; it’s brand new to Darla. They were both happy to see me come home, but both seemed fine. No panic, no damage…though it turns out my new dog tears into the garbage, when the opportunity presents itself. We had our first major altercation over dinner last night, and that makes me especially nervous. I hope it was just a food issue.

The newest issue of the Beacon came out. There are visible errors that make me cringe, but it’s too late to fix them. I’ll be distributing copies to the stores after work, or during my lunch hour.

My friend Sue is back on the island, getting ready to open her gallery for the summer. I haven’t had a chance to see her yet, but I’ll have to make time.

We’ve had a good share of cold weather this month, and it snowed here on Sunday. It seems to have leveled out though. The last couple days have been beautiful, and today is starting out nicely, too.

Happy Wednesday!

Dogs

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These dogs were good buddies. Clover and Rosa Parks entertained each other. Whether out on a chipmunk-chasing walk through the woods, a sniffing and swimming adventure at Fox Lake, or just sitting around watching me work, they kept each other company.

Ever since Clover died – just a little over a year ago – Rosa Parks has been a little down. She knows I’m her “pack” and she loves me…but I’m just not very much fun. I have no interest in finding the garter snakes that hide in the flower beds. I don’t chase chipmunks, or squirrels, or birds. Even walks have been less fun, without Clover. “What good is it to find smelly stuff,” Rosa Parks thinks, “without anyone here who wants to smell it?” Sometimes, when I am working at the computer, Rosa Parks lets out an audible sigh, and drops her chin onto her paws. I feel like she’s been bored, a little depressed and even sad without her friend.

I’ve been thinking about adopting another dog. I’ve gone back and forth about it. There is the expense: sometimes it’s a struggle to cover the vet bills for one dog. I work long hours. Rosa Parks gets lonely, and I feel guilty. Would I be just doubling my guilt? Putting a second dog into the same boring rut? I’ve been advised that’s not the case. Two veterinarians, plus the dog boarder and several animal lovers have assured me that – even though they may not interact much when I’m not at home – it would be reassuring to have another dog around.

Last weekend, my friend Linda and I visited the humane society near her home. We were introduced to several sweet dogs, learned their stories and observed their dispositions. In all, we visited three days. Darla is a mix of Boxer and Pit Terrier, just as Clover was. She is good with other dogs, and good with cats. She – due to household situations, not her own behavior – had already had four homes, and had three times been brought to the humane society kennel. Before I left for home yesterday morning, I stopped and got her, to bring her back to Beaver Island with me.

Darla is a big, gentle dog who was anxious for a home. Every time I stopped along the trip to walk her, she’d look around, find the nearest house and, wagging tail, start to walk toward it. Every time I guided her back into the vehicle, she seemed disappointed. Finally, we made it to Charlevoix and, after a scary (for her) plane ride, we were home. She seemed happy with her new yard and house. She rolled in the grass, and got quite excited about the big basket full of hardly-used dog toys. She wandered through every flower bed.

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After getting Darla settled in, I went to pick up Rosa Parks from the kennel. We were happy to see each other. I was nervous, hoping that my little dog would like Darla as much as I do. There was a little grumbling on first meeting, and there has been some growling coming from each of them since then. I’ve been able to intercede, though, before it escalates. Rosa Parks spent some time letting us know her nose was a bit out of joint about the new addition.

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Eventually, though, after wandering around the yard and garden together, they seem to have reached a level of acceptance. Rosa Parks practiced her manipulation techniques all evening. She’d look out the window and give a sharp bark (“Bird!”). Darla would rush to the door; I’d open it and they’d both run out. Darla would run after the bird; Rosa Parks would go sit under the cherry tree, and look back toward me with a little grin that said, “She fell for it again! Silly dog – you can’t catch a bird!” Then they’d both come back in for a treat. I think we’re going to be fine!

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On the Road Again…

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Today, I’m traveling.

After three days off island with lots of shopping, walking, talking and laughing, today is the day to go home. I have a long list to accomplish before I get on the road, from scheduling my flight to rearranging the vehicle to accommodate all of my new belongings. Right now, I’m deflating my bed…while drinking my first cup of coffee and writing. Once underway, I have about  three hours of driving to get me to Charlevoix airport, where I’ll wait for my scheduled twenty minute flight to the island.

Then home, where another long list needs to be ticked off. First, I’ll walk out to get my own car from the back parking lot, and drive it around to the terminal, to pick up my luggage. I have to get the  keys back to Aunt Katie; she’ll need the vehicle for a doctor visit tomorrow. After several days away, I probably have a big mound of mail to be picked up at the Post Office. I’ll retrieve Rosa Parks from the dog kennel, where she has (I imagine) been sadly pining for me. I’m bringing a surprise home for her…I’ll write more about that tomorrow. Then there is the unloading of the car, the unpacking of bags and boxes and suitcases, and then the laundry.

It’s seven o’clock in the morning. This is the start of a long, long day!

 

 

The 52 lists Project #20

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List the things that make your spirit feel free:

  • Warm breezes
  • Summer nights
  • A nice booming thunderstorm
  • Walking barefoot on a sandy beach
  • Singing out loud. Except for the rare “Happy Birthday” exception, I never do this in public. I sing, though, while walking through the woods or down the Fox Lake Road. I sing in the car. Sometimes, I sing in the shower. I sing to babies and dogs – who don’t care that I really can’t sing – whenever I get the chance.
  • Giggling uncontrollably.
  • Painting, when it’s going well
  • Writing, when I’m in the zone
  • Reading, when it’s inspirational
  • Listening to Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits or the Beatles
  • Riding bicycle – fast – down a slope that is pitched just right for speed, coasting ability and safety. No elements of danger for my free spirit!

Cherry Lane

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Since all of the old “Family Housing” apartments on the Michigan State campus were demolished a few years ago, it’s hard to find pictures. If I were at home, and had time to look, I might be able to find a snapshot or two. As I am visiting a friend on the other side of the state today, this stock image will have to do.

It is a good photo as it shows what the apartments looked like from the street. Because they were tiny, strollers and bicycles were stored outside. Students from other countries often had large shipping containers beside their doors. Originally used to bring their belongings to the U.S., they later served as a mini-garage. We always wished we had one of those big boxes, for storing all of our excess!

The Cherry Lane complex – one of three family housing complexes on campus – had more than forty of these building, with 800 apartments. We lived in two of them, in the seven years we were at Michigan State. We started on the ground floor, at 814B. We were relocated after a couple years, due to ongoing renovations, two blocks over to 920E, a second floor apartment. They were identical except that the later unit had carpeting.

We were pretty proud of our little Cherry Lane apartment. We were close to campus, being on the campus side of Harrison Road. My classes were all within a mile from home. We loved the name. Cherry Lane sounded so much better than University Village or (dread!) Spartan Village. We loved the proximity to the grocery store, which was just a short walk across Harrison. That plaza also had a cute little soup and sandwich restaurant where my daughters and I would sometimes go to have gazpacho while doing our homework. We were less than a mile from the main street downtown. We soon learned the bus routes, which added the shopping malls and downtown Lansing to our excursions.

The apartments had one door, that entered into the living space. To the left, a small closet, and a shallow nook that held a desk and a narrow bookshelf. To the right, the living room came equipped with one or two office chairs and a sofa that folded open to a bed. The next third of the space was divided between a small kitchen with a dining area, and a bathroom. Two small bedrooms behind the kitchen finished the layout.

Though small, the apartments were efficient and comfortable. Our lives spread out to the places we worked and the things we did. The MSU Library and the DeWaters Art Center became like second homes to me. Jocundry’s Book Store downtown was a weekend haunt, and Beggar’s Banquet – with hand stitched tablecloths and a changing art display – was my favorite restaurant. We’d take the bus to the Frandor Triplex on Wednesday nights, when all seats were two dollars, to watch whichever movie sounded best. We made friends from all over the world.

Of all the places I’ve lived, for a million reasons, the Cherry Lane apartments were one of the best.

Moving On

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Tulips and Beaumont Tower.

Tulips and Beaumont Tower.

After the end of winter and all of spring in North Branch, Michigan, my daughters and I went back to Beaver Island for the summer. They had friends to catch up with; I had a job waiting. We had a houseful of belongings, left hastily behind, to make some sense out of.

I paid my friend, Roy, for the time we’d stayed at his Erin Motel. I set up payments (or at least let them know there would be payments…sometime) or made  trades with all the people that had provided materials or labor, in getting our house to the state it was in. The electrician, who had expected my husband’s labor in exchange for his work, was offered a fairly new sofa, a color TV or to  be added to my  list for future payment. He chose the TV set. My cousin, Bob, for his assistance in building and roofing the house, had me draw a scene on a wall-sized mirror, and etch the picture into the glass. I had to learn how to sandblast, but one more person was paid.

One by one, I spoke to people that had given us lumber or insulation or shingles, in exchange for the promise of my husband’s help at a later date. Since I no longer had a husband, they had to deal with me. Some, I was able to pay out of the tips I earned tha summer. Others would have to wait. They all knew I cared, anyway.

At summer’s end, we moved to East Lansing, Michigan, to the Cherry Lane apartment complex on the campus of Michigan state University. There were three family housing complexes on campus: Spartan Village, University Village and Cherry Lane. They were spare, but had everything we needed. Everyone that lived there was either a student, a member of the faculty, or one of their family members.There was a huge library on campus, and many opportunities for cultural experiences from art to theater.

The campus itself was like a park. Walking trails led through well groomed lawns and gardens. Trees from all around the world were tagged with their origin and other information. There was always something blooming.

The entire town was geared toward college students. That was exciting to my pre-teen daughters. There were video game arcades and cute novelty shops, funky restaurants, and young people everywhere.

In the days before they started school – which was three weeks before my own courses began – we wandered the campus, learning our way around. We found the swimming pool, accessible for free, just by showing my student ID. We found the dorm building where free movies were shown. We gathered local newspapers to learn about the town.

Everything was new! These were exciting times for my little family. For the first time since my marriage ended, I started to imagine a future where we’d all be okay.

Timeout for Art: Waiting for Inspiration

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Far too much time, in my life, is wasted in waiting for inspiration.

I know all the angles.

There is the careful organization of materials: lay out the paints in tubes or cups or blobs on a palette; prepare the medium or thinners or solvents; make stacks of papers; wedge balls of clay; sharpen every pencil.

There is research: ArtNews and ArtForum magazines for current trends; home decor magazines for color ideas; a stack of instructional books for pointers on technique; art history books for reference; the book of possible titles for work not yet created; books of clipped words and pictures that I saved for inspiration, should I ever need it. Amazing, how often I feel I need it!

Then there are all the “asides.” I should make a pot of coffee before I get started; what about lunch? Best to eat before I get messy. Along those lines, I should make calls now, ’cause I won’t want to interrupt my work for a phone call. I’m sure I could concentrate on the job at hand if I just gave the studio a good cleaning first. The windows are dirty! I wouldn’t get the glare from the afternoon sun if I hung curtains, and maybe I should pull out the sewing machine and stitch some up.

Does it all work? Not really.

It makes me feel like I’m trying, that’s all.

Inspiration does not come to the one who sits waiting. To bring the good ideas marching one after another, unbidden, it’s necessary to just get at it. Plunge in! When my hands are busy and my mind is just open, not waiting and working and straining for the good idea, that s when inspiration finds me.