Category Archives: Art

Super Powers


Today, I mowed the grass. Not the entire lawn, but the small side yard that the kitchen door opens onto, and the whole back yard.

I wasn’t planning to. There are several memes going around about “no-mow May,” encouraging everyone to hold off on mowing until June, for the sake of the pollinators. I was happy to comply. I need very little encouragement to put off chores.

A few things caused those intentions to change. First, ticks. They are very bad this year, and I was getting nervous, thinking of them laying in wait in that long grass. Second, I swatted a mosquito yesterday, the first one this year. My house sits on a half-acre of cleared land surrounded by woods and fields. Mosquitoes can make any outdoor activities challenging; an un-mowed lawn just encourages them. Third, my sisters are coming next week. I won’t want to take time away from them to do yard work. Finally, I intended to spend this day in the studio, preparing for tomorrow’s art class. Nothing makes one job more enticing to me than when I can use it to avoid doing what I should be doing. So, by late morning I had decided that the lawn absolutely had to be mowed. Today.

I started by disassembling the massive puzzle that made up the contents of my garden shed. First, the table, that was the last thing in before I closed the doors last fall. Then, the bench and three chairs, tucked around and on top of the lawn mower. Finally, I could wheel the mower out. I checked the oil, filled the gas tank, pushed the little button three times. then pulled the rope to start it. The rope would not pull! I walked away and came back to it. Several times, expecting – or hoping – that suddenly, miraculously, it would work the way it was supposed to. No such luck.

What could be wrong? Had the engine seized up? There was oil, right to the level that it should be. There was gas. The good gas, with no ethanol to gum up the motor. I have a long, horrible history with lawnmowers. I’d spend hours out there, pulling that rope until I was sobbing in exhaustion and exasperation. When I could, I’d hire someone to come and start my mower, then mow until I was finished, no breaks, knowing that if I turned it off, I’d never be able to get it going again. My grass was always overgrown. I was constantly frustrated.

Then, four years ago, I bought the little mower that I have now. At about the same time, I learned about the problems ethanol causes in small engines. I was careful to always use the right fuel. Joy of joys, this mower would start right up for me every time. Until today. What the hell. So, I pruned the service berry tree, and weeded around the peony bed. I pulled the first of this season’s rhubarb. I worked at cleaning up the garden.

Ready for a break, I came inside, got a glass of water, and sat down at the computer. On a whim, I typed in, “can’t pull the rope on my lawn mower.” That question directed me to three youtube videos, each with a different kind, knowledgeable and not-too-patronizing man, showing me what the problem might be, and how to repair it! In my case, it was a build up of last year’s grass in the undercarriage, now hardened around the blade. It took me only minutes to find the problem AND FIX IT!

I was ecstatic! I felt like I had super powers! I wanted to burst into song, “I am woman, hear me roar!” I mowed the side yard, then moved on to the back. When that was done, even though I’d already clocked more than 12,000 steps on my Fitbit just from walking in circles and rows behind the mower. I took the dogs for a walk.

Then, fading fast, I fed the dogs, jumped in the shower, then made myself the simplest of meals: peanut butter on a flour tortilla, followed by a small ice cream cone, and finished with a large bowl of popcorn. I’m still feeling really proud of myself. As my energy fades, though, I feel like my super powers must have only been temporary. That’s okay…they came through when I needed them!

Shadows and Blessings


It was a rough weekend.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I start with morning news. The coverage of the coronation couldn’t outweigh the preponderance of grim reports. More devastation in Ukraine. Violence in Sudan. Another mass shooting in this country. In another city, a driver plowed into a group of people waiting for a bus.

Here, it rained. I didn’t sleep well. There is turmoil going on within my family that I’m unable to fix or alter. Doing nothing is difficult, even when there are no helpful actions to take. And, I’m still working at getting over this sickness that has grabbed onto me and held on.

I’m much better; sometimes I think I’m completely recovered. But, I still have a persistent cough that that catches me by surprise at the most inconvenient times. And, I’m lacking stamina. My daily walk wears me out. Yesterday, I stripped the bed, laundered the sheets and comforter, and remade the bed. For how exhausted I was after that endeavor, you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! It was all I could manage to get through after-dinner clean-up and a bath before collapsing into bed, dead-tired.

No matter how bleak things seem, though, I have learned to look for the blessings. There is always something of value to find.

A phone call from my daughter, Kate, was a nice surprise. A long walk with my big dog did us both some good. Words of encouragement and understanding from friends and family made my heart swell. A long, hot bath, with scented salts and a good book, is always so relaxing. And it is such a good feeling to crawl into bed between freshly laundered sheets!

Today, the sun is shining. I think it’s going to be comfortably warm. I have the day off. There is nowhere I have to be. As for what to do, I could go in several directions. The flower beds need to be raked out. There’s still organization to be completed in the studio. I have to go over my notes for art class. Right now, I’m going to pour another cup of coffee while I consider my options!



It is a wonderful feeling to hold a tremendous idea in mind, and work toward making it reality. That, however, is rare in my life.

No matter what I’m working on, I usually start at almost zero, and the inspiration comes as I get involved.

In the studio, I play with colors and shapes until an idea starts to take hold. Even then, its often just a fragment of a plan…something of interest that I want to pursue. My mind is working with “what if…” and “how about…” rather than a definite direction. Even when I have settled on a particular scheme, I find a way to inject randomness into the mix.

When working with clay, no matter how rigid your discipline, and in spite of all attempts at control, there comes a point where you have to surrender your work to the kiln. There, surprises happen. Sometimes it’s magic; sometimes disaster. A discouragement to some, I found that lack of control inspiring. I started planning for it.

The three elements of a glaze, silica, alumina and flux, are usually combined in balanced amounts, and applied to the bisque-ware. I tried mixing each element separately, then layering them on the clay body, so that the heat of the kiln would allow them to – only sometimes – merge. I embedded elements like marbles, beach glass and pyrometric cones between the layers of my large coiled sculptures, knowing they would melt during the firing process. That anticipated unknown conclusion was inspiring to me.

I am drawn to collage, and collagraph printmaking for the same reasons that I found working in clay so attractive: many aspects are out of my control. .I may decide on a row of shapes marching across the border of a collage, but I’ll select the shapes blindly from an envelope of random scraps. I’ve used the rolling of a die to determine color choices. I’ve cut materials carefully into uniform shapes, but then shuffled them so that the order of placement was out of my control. It is when I’m in the middle of a self-created problem (like how in the world am I going to make that ugly acid green work next to that lovely velvety rose?) that I feel most inspired.

Last winter, the resale shop was gifted a huge donation of yarn. People crowded in for first pick of the lovely materials. They looked for full skeins, and struggled to find enough of any particular yarn to complete a project. I went, instead, for the variety. A little of this, a little of that, in a hundred different colors and weights and textures. I worked with a basic, simple pattern, and three strands of yarn. When I came to the end of one strand, I tied on another. That way, the colors were changing as I worked. Having to “think on my feet” about which colors and textures will compliment what is already there is inspiring, too.

Of the hundreds of essays I’ve written over the years, not more than a dozen of them have been planned in advance. And, I have to admit, those are some of the dullest compositions. My most engaging writing happens when I dive in, edit as I go, and move sentences or whole paragraphs around to improve the flow. When I wrote first drafts in longhand, the arrows, scribbles and notes in the margins became a challenge to decipher when it came time to type. Then, as I continued to edit as I saw things “in print,” the mounds of waste paper were astounding! Computers, even with my hunt-and-peck typing method, have streamlined that process tremendously! Hurray for the ability to cut and paste!

Sometimes, without any idea of what to write about, I’ll select a photograph. That is often all it takes to give me a topic. Other times, I’ll land on a title, and see where that takes me. Today, feeling uninspired, I went with that. And here it is!

Simple Joy


Simple joy. That’s what I like to focus on these days.

I’ve experienced big joy in my life. I’ve relished those milestones that accumulate over a lifetime: graduations, weddings, births, new home, new job, new location. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve enjoyed my babies…and grandbabies. And I’m thankful every day for the experiences.

Lately, though, I’ve been paying attention to the little things. Often overlooked or taken for granted, it’s those precious little miracles that bring joy to every single day. A perfect poem. A neighbor’s wave. A new spring bloom. The look my little dog gives me when I open the door for her. The small stuff. If I am alert to them, those simple joys fill my days!



Sometimes it becomes very obvious that good rest is not easily achieved. In the last five days, I’ve spent more time in bed than I usually would in a whole month. I’ve been sleeping about fourteen hours out of every twenty-four. But I do not feel rested.

That can be attributed partly to the cold medicine I’m taking. On the one hand it causes drowsiness. On the other, I think it prevents good, quality sleep. I know my nights are filled with crazy dreams. When I’m up, I’ve been moving through the house like a zombie, no stamina to accomplish anything productive. I go in a trance from desk chair to dining room chair, kitchen to bathroom. After a couple circuits, the bed looks pretty inviting again.

Also, it takes a lot of energy to be sick. A bout of coughing can be exhausting! Making a simple meal makes me almost too tired to eat! Yesterday, I ventured out to give the dogs a walk. I dressed for the North Pole, and still walked with my arms wrapped around myself, chilled to the bone. We went a quarter of the distance we usually go, yet I was worn out by the time I got home. Could my muscles be atrophied after less than a week in bed? I can’t have that!

Today, I gave myself a stern talking-to. Enough of being sick! I’ve tested for Covid four times since Monday. Twenty-four hours between tests, as recommended. Repeating the test because sometimes it takes a while for the viral load to be sufficient for it to show up. All negative! So, this is a cold. A really bad, kick-ass cold, but still. It’s time to get over it!

So, even though I still had little enthusiasm for it, I managed to get a couple loads of laundry started. I tidied the house and gathered up the recyclables. I took Darla out for a good walk. One mile today, in the sunshine. It felt good. Now, I feel like I need a rest!



Yesterday, sick, I stayed home and stuck to the bare minimum. Audrey kindly delivered cold medicine and a few other necessities from town. Sweet Lois tapped on my door, so softly it didn’t even rouse the dogs, to deliver a healing blend of herbs called “The Cold Chaser.” “This works like magic,” she told me in our quick exchange. I thanked her and quickly closed the door, for fear that this good Samaritan would catch my cold.

I brewed up a pot of the tea right away. A mixture of organic herbs including echinacea, elderberry, cinnamon and other good things, it is very soothing. I warmed some chicken broth, added the juice of a whole lemon, and sipped on that through the day. That was all I had the energy for, and it was enough.

Today, I think I’m feeling a little bit better. Though I still spent the better part of the day in bed, I managed to make an actual meal. Having missed our walk yesterday, Darla was determined to go today, and for a minute there, I thought I was up to taking her. I puzzled over whether to pull out my winter coat again, and if the fresh cold air would help or hurt…and then it started raining. Which, for the record, has now turned to snow. That decided it for me.

“We can’t take a walk,” I said, “how about early dinner instead?” On her own, Darla wouldn’t have accepted that, but Rosa Parks was thrilled at the prospect of being fed, and her excitement was contagious. So. I fed the dogs, and settled in with a bowl of soup for my own dinner. It’s not much, but it feels like progress.



When I’m beginning the April A~Z challenge, and I come to the letter B, of course my topic will be books! Books have always been a big part of my life. As a shy and somewhat reclusive child, books were my closest friends. As a young adult trying to navigate the larger world, books were my teachers. And now, as a person who lives alone and is still shy and somewhat reclusive, books keep me company.

I always have a few books underway at any given time. Currently, I am savoring The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli. It is one of those books that I don’t want to end! I carry it with me, to read during my lunch break at work, or when I’m out to lunch in a well-lighted restaurant. The Simple Home rests on the bookshelf near the dining room table, for my morning study time. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd waits for me on my nightstand. Jon Irving’s latest novel, The Last Chair Lift, is on my tablet, for situations where it is easier or more practical to read from that format. I also have The 2 Meal Day, 1000 Creative Writing Prompts, Project 333, and The Power of Self-Discipline on that devise, for when I’m in the mood for a little instruction.

Audible has opened up a whole new world of reading for me! It allows me to listen to books while I’m doing something else. I “read” while driving, walking the dogs, or doing housework. It has added tremendously to the number of books I can devour in any given time. I’ve also gained great understanding of what used to seem quite impossible: the pre-television phenomenon of sitting around listening, and being entertained by radio programs! Recently, I’ve listened to the books by Lindsey Davis, all set in first century Rome. They have accurate historical references, along with relatable characters, a little romance, and a good mystery.

This year, I finished her Marcus Didius Falco series, and then read all she has published in the Flavia Albia series. The next installment is due to come out in July. That puts Lindsey Davis in a list with a few other authors, who publish slower than I read. I’m always on the lookout for new books by Louise Erdrich, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Laurie R. King, and Kate Atkinson.

On my shelves, books fall into a few categories.

  • There are books that I have read, but that I keep so that I can refer to them again. Art and photography books, and books of poetry are in this category, along with a few reference books, and everything written by David Sedaris.
  • There are books that I have finished, but that I loved so much, I know I’ll want to reread them. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, falls into this group. I have read that book more than a dozen times since I received it for my tenth birthday. Silences, by Tillie Olsen, is another, as well as all of the writings of E.B. White.
  • Finally, there are books I have not read yet.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have time to get to them, as my attention is easily drawn to newly published work. But, I take comfort in the idea that if I’m ever trapped in my house without access to new books, I will always have reading material!

Assessment: A Quarter-Year Check-In


Here it is, the first of April. We’re already one quarter of the way through this year. Its a good time to assess how I’ve been doing, with all my big plans and good intentions. Everything seems so possible when I start a new calendar; it seems I lose momentum quickly as the days pass.

First, I was going to divide the failures from the areas where I’m still plodding along, That doesn’t seem very nice. I’m not going to be that unkind to myself. I am old; winter is hard. I continue to push myself…though there are things I need to give more attention to, if I’m going to get back on track.

  • Writing. Every day, I write in my gratitude journal. Sometimes I do some other journaling, too. I have a book where I’m writing down memories, dates and other bits of information that might be valuable to me or others later. I have another where I take notes from books I’m studying from. I’ve started a family history for the Beaver Island Historical Society, but I have to crack down and put a lot more effort into getting that finished. Having fallen off in my blogging last year, I intended to do better. I started out the new year strong, then got lax about it. In an effort to try to get back on track, I am once again going to attempt the “April A~Z Challenge” where I post a blog each day of the month except Sundays, with titles and subject matter based on the letters of the alphabet.
  • Studio. I have a long list of cleaning and organizing tasks to do in the studio, to make it even possible to get in there to work. And I intend to get some good work done in the studio this year. At this time, so much space is taken up with storage of frames, materials and old work, there is barely a pathway through. I have hardly even gone into the room, except to pull out supplies for the classes that I teach. Sometimes, in a rush to find what I need, I create even more disarray. This is an area where I have to prioritize NOW, before summer’s busy-ness makes it impossible.
  • Health. I went in for my yearly “Wellness Check,” and managed, finally, to get across for annual screenings and treatments. I continue to walk almost every single day, and have logged over a hundred miles so far this year. My other exercise, a selection of aerobics, yoga, Pilates or weights, depending on my mood and the time available, has been sorely neglected so far. I blame it mostly on a lack of energy which I has been an ongoing issue this winter. My weight, despite all my efforts, has crept right back up to where it was when I started Intermittent Fasting over two years ago! I have to admit that it is not working for me. I still think the regimen has promise, and it fits well with my lifestyle, but it obviously needs to be adjusted if it’s going to do me any good. So, I’m reading a couple new books on the topic, and paying closer attention to quality and quantity.
  • Friends and Family. As always, I need to put more effort into my relationships. Make more regular telephone calls, send notes, make contact. This is an area where I consistently fall short, and carry a lot of regrets.
  • Dogs. I have two, and they are both doing well at this time. Though I swear living with dogs brings me just as much guilt and self-remonstration as I had when raising small children, I’m doing pretty well. I only wish I’d shown as much patience with my daughters as I display every single day with two spoiled dogs!

So, there are the basics. I may have missed a few areas completely, and I’m sure others could use further examination…but this is it for today. After all, I’ve still got the rest of the alphabet, and the whole month of April to go!

Doing This While Doing That


I am quite certain that I have an attention deficit disorder. I have not been diagnosed, except for self-diagnosis, but all the signs are there. It makes my life interesting…and busy…and messy. I find it extremely difficult to carry anything through all the way to its end. My life is filled with unrealized plans and unfinished projects. Disappointing, yes, but – for me – it’s the norm.

I know I’d be better off if I could be more mindful: to just walk when I’m walking, to take in the sights and sounds and smells of the world around me; to simply eat during mealtime; to only relax before sleep. That’s not me, though. I get frustrated with myself, but I have learned to work with my need to go in ten directions at once.. Sometimes, I even feel a little proud of how many things I can juggle. On a day that I’ve chosen to make bread, for instance, to go with the soup I have simmering on the stove, while I’m putting laundry through its courses and writing letters, you can bet that I’ll decide that this is the day to rearrange the furniture in a room or two…just to throw my life into complete chaos.

Most of the time, it’s not quite that extreme. I’ve learned to plot out activities that I can do, while doing something else. While having my morning coffee, I write in my journal, draw, and read. While watching the morning news, I do an exercise routine. TV works well with multi-tasking. I choose programs with commercials. While watching a show in the evening, I often hold Rosa Parks on my lap to give her some attention. Or, I crochet. When a commercial comes on, I jump up to do the dishes, put laundry into the dryer, or set the coffee pot up for morning.

Audio books have been a wonderful addition to my life. I can listen while I’m walking the dogs, or while I’m drawing or doing needlework, or when I’m driving. Regular books have always been my companions, to fill to overflowing the time while I’m eating, or before I fall asleep. I don’t spend much time on the telephone, but now that my my phone is cordless, I can focus on any number of household chores while chatting. When I’m working in the studio, I put a movie on. I favor ones that I have seen before, so they don’t demand too much attention.

Trouble arises when a task demands all of my focus. That is when I usually fail to make forward progress. It’s just too hard to concentrate on only one thing. Those jobs get delayed. When I finally do tackle one of them, I’ll find a hundred things I surely ought to be doing instead. Or I’ll decide to make a pot of soup. Or rearrange the furniture. That is my life.

Tragedy, Disaster and One Evil Doll


Sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep, I have no idea why. Most of the time, though, I know what is keeping me awake. Caffeine in the afternoon will get in the way of good sleep. I know to stay away from coffee, but I’ve been known to indulge in some form of chocolate – cocoa or no-bake cookies – and often don’t think about the side effects until I’m wide awake in the middle of the night. If I’ve had a stressful day, I will sometimes relive the events well into the wee hours. A full moon often interferes with my good rest. It’s funny how easily I can nap in the afternoon, but a bright sky at night leaves me wide awake.

When I was younger, the wakeful nighttime hours were often productive times. Sometimes, the house would reap the benefits of my insomnia. I’d organize drawers that had been neglected for ages; I’d scrub floors with moonlight shining in through the windows. Other nights, I’d read for hours, or plunge in to art or craft projects. Or bake. Or write. Not any more. These days, I’m tired when I go to bed. I feel the weariness, even when I cannot fall asleep. I don’t have the energy to even concentrate on a book. I certainly can’t imagine any more ambitious undertaking!

Now, when I can’t sleep, it’s just me and my thoughts. I often wind through the plot of a movie I recently watched, or a book I’m reading. These are not unpleasant thoughts. If something is troubling me, though, I mull it over for hours. Usually that is something from my day, like a disagreement, or some thoughtless thing I said or did. If I ever inadvertently offend, rest assured that I will suffer for it, going over and over it in my mind, feeling ashamed, and thinking of how I should have handled the encounter differently. Sometimes I make mental lists: things I plan to do; items I need to purchase; repairs that need to be done. I try to avoid grocery lists, or any thoughts involving food. If my thoughts go in that direction, imagined hunger will prevent me from falling asleep.

Recently, my middle-of-the-night thoughts went in an entirely different direction. First, the recent shooting at Michigan State University played on my mind. That’s not surprising, as those events have been on my mind day and night. More bright young lives wiped out, and others altered forever. That campus is familiar, and dear, to me, and it breaks my heart that it has now become a part of a larger, very sad story.

That led to thoughts of the killing of four students in Idaho. I replayed everything I knew about the crime, the victims, and the young man arrested for the murders. From there, my mind jumped to the sinking of the Titanic, and all the horrors of that fateful night. I’ve seen two movies and read three books about that disaster, most recently, The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe. I’ve watched documentaries about the ship, its sinking, and efforts to find and explore the wreck. A few years ago, my sisters and I visited one of the Titanic exhibits. So, I had plenty of material to ruminate about, during my sleepless night.

The next contribution to my night of troubling thoughts was “Chucky.” I don’t know where that came from! I rarely watch scary movies, and I have never seen any films featuring that evil doll. But there he was, the last piece of a wide-awake nightmare.

Sleepless nights are rarely pleasant…but I’m thankful that they are not often as miserable as that one was!