Category Archives: Art

Thursday Thoughts

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This blog is going to be a bunch of jumbled thoughts. I don’t have time to be fussy about it. Usually, I jot down a few ideas, and put them in a kind of sensible order before I begin writing. Then I edit as I go. I check spelling if I have any doubt, though I am a good speller; I go to the Thesaurus if I have the urge to re-use a word too often; sometimes I rearrange sentences or even whole paragraphs. Not today.

It’s already late in the day. I stripped the bed this morning, washed the sheets and comforter, and have yet to remake the bed. My supper is in the oven. It has been a busy, stressful day, and I’m ready to be done. I’ve been feeling guilty, though, about neglecting this blog. There are few things in my life that I have stuck with for as long as this, and I don’t want to let it go. So, here I am, rushing to get something down, while my chicken finishes cooking.

This is my first day off in a week! I started my summer job at the golf course, which takes up my weekends, now, until the end of September. At the Community Center, a couple of my co-workers were out sick, so I filled in. Some of those were short shifts, and nothing was too difficult; still, a day when I have to go to work is a day when I don’t get much else done. It all piles up and waits for me.

Yesterday, after working a couple hours in the morning, I went to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. I took the dogs down to Fox Lake for a swim, which was a nice break for all of us. Then, I hunkered down to put together a packet for a gallery where I’d like to show my work.

I had a good start on it a month ago. Knowing the deadline was in June, and knowing my propensity for procrastination, I was determined to be ready. Then, my family was here for a visit. Then, my little dog got sick, and then died. And my job at the golf course started. And a couple co-workers got sick. And suddenly, the deadline – June 10th – was right on top of me.

So, yesterday I rewrote my Artist Statement and cover letter. I opened a Paypal account, necessary for the entry fee, and I started revising my resume. Because I tend to go right down a rabbit hole when confronted with things like that, I spent far too much time reading about and looking at samples of resumes and CVs and went to bed last night with the deadline still looming.

A couple recent rains have sent my lawn into a growing frenzy. It really needs to be mowed! I have to get the garden worked up and planted, if I’m going to get anything out of it. I bargained with myself: take today to finish everything that has to be done in order to submit the application to the gallery, then tomorrow, take the whole day outside.

It worked! I submitted the packet just before 4PM. I did a little victory dance, then took the dogs for a long walk. I made a big salad, and put a couple drumsticks in the oven to bake. It should be done any minute now. Tomorrow, I’ll be outside. Maybe, I’ll get to some semblance of “on top of things” by the weekend!

First of May, Fox Lake Road

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The first day of a new month always seems like a good time to assess how things are going in my life, out here on the Fox Lake Road. Just in time for May, the last of the snow has melted. It is not yet warm, though the sunshine makes a huge difference. On my walk today, I was wishing I’d worn my winter parka, rather than the light blazer I had on. Gloves would have been nice, too.

In spite of the cold, pale blue flowers – Siberian squill, I think – are showing up in waves across the front yard. Daffodils are ready to burst into bloom. Daylilies, tulips and iris have pushed their pointed leaves out of the ground. The tips of branches on vines, trees, and shrubs are swollen, ready to soon unfurl leaves and blossoms.

It occurs to me that, since this is the first of May, we are now already one third of the way through this year. Usually, that thought would inspire dread, for all the good intentions and sincere plans that I made, and made no progress toward accomplishing, that would now have to be tackled in the balance of the ever-shrinking months remaining. At the start of this year, however, I was pretty easy on myself. My list of resolutions is both shorter and less exacting than usual. Thanks to that, I’m not doing half bad!

I did write “walk every day,” “exercise every day,” and “blog at least twice a week.” That’s always a mistake; one miss and I’ve failed for the year! Instead of chastising myself for not meeting my expectations, I’ve simply made a note to remind myself, next year, to not quantify my plans. “Walk,” “exercise,” and “blog” would be sufficient, and would make success much more plausible!

Other items on my list of New Year’s aspirations, proof of my melancholy mood and intent to go easy on myself, include “laugh,” “have adventures,” “be kind,” and “live in the present.” One major actionable plan was “get roof repaired,” which I have done. I also wrote, “continue intermittent fasting.” I have continued it, though I’ve hit a slump in the weight loss department. All in all, one-third of the way into this year, not bad.

The last month was a good one. I worked twenty-two days in April. I read six books. I published a blog twenty-six days in a row. I walked twenty-three miles in April, though the month was cold, and marked by high winds often combined with snow, sleet or rain. When the veterinarian came to the island, I got my dogs in for vaccinations, routine care and, for Rosa Parks, the removal of a large fatty tumor. I set up my new mini trampoline the first of the month, and have worked out on it almost every day since. It hasn’t helped with weight loss (either!!), but I notice improvements in stamina and balance.

So, looking ahead to this month, my list is long. Before the black flies and mosquitoes hatch, I have raking and clean-up to do in the yard. The vines need pruning, blackberry brambles have to be trimmed back from the fringes of the yard, and there is a dead juniper that I intend to dig up and haul away. There is work to prepare the garden for planting. I have to inventory my seeds, and order what I’ll need. Oh, and the clothesline pole needs to have it’s upright position firmed up before I dare use it.

Inside, the list hasn’t changed much from the last time I looked, as I’ve hardly gotten to any of the cleaning and organizing upstairs, that I planned to do last winter. When I still had my hardware discount, I bought polyurethane for my floors with intention of touching them up and putting a protective coat on them. It’s almost time to cry “uncle,” and put those jobs off for next winter; the busy season is coming upon us quickly.

I’m working on an application for a gallery downstate, to have my artwork considered for a show next year. The deadline isn’t until June, but I know how quickly time flies by. When my sisters come up to the island this month (and YAY, my sisters are coming to the island this month, and I’m SO excited, and it’s deserving of SO much more than a casual mention in this blog!), they’ll be bringing my artwork back up to the island that didn’t sell in the show last October. That will go directly into the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery. So, I haven’t been under pressure to be producing new work in the studio this year…so I haven’t. I’m starting to feel the pull, though, for some studio time.

Well, that’s about it, I think. That’s the way things are going on this first day of May, out here on the Fox Lake Road.

X is a Verb (April A~Z Challenge)

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This is another reprint of an old blog from another April A to Z challenge. I will not make excuses. It’s the letter X, for heaven’s sake!

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I’ve been wracking my brain for days, trying to come up with a writing topic for the letter X. There are few choices! The ever so predictable “X-Ray” occupied my thoughts for a while. That was followed by “xylophone,” which I would be hard-pressed to write more than a sentence or two about, and then “Xavier,” which also drew a blank. I toyed with the idea of “xanthum gum,” which I’ve seen listed as an ingredient in foods…but I didn’t know anything about it beyond just that.

I had almost settled on “X marks the spot,” for which I was going to have to struggle to pull together an essay about maps or treasure hunting or something. Finally, joyously, it dawned on me: in my life, X is a verb!

I think, daily, in terms of what items I can “X off.” I have lists of chores, daily and monthly…

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Sleep

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I fought sleep for many years…and then it started to fight me. As a child, I hated to go to bed. I’d creep down the stairs to beg for “just a little bit longer.” If that didn’t work, I had a whole string of ailments or emergencies I’d try, from needing a glass of water, to all kinds of physical maladies, to outright lies. “I forgot to do my homework,” was a chancy one that was only used as a desperate measure. Was the trouble I’d be in for forgetting my homework worth the few extra minutes I’d gain, at the kitchen table, pretending to do class work? I once tried selling my mother on the idea that “really! I promise! Sister Michael told us we had to watch Bonanza tonight!” That didn’t go over well, either.

Forced to stay in bed, my sister and I would whisper for hours. Or, with a flashlight, read or play games under the covers. Most board games and playing cards weren’t bad, but when we got hooked on Chinese checkers, we had to learn to be very stealthy. When my father came home, around midnight, from his second shift at the factory, it was too much. He had good hearing, and very little patience for his children being up late on a weeknight. He never came upstairs, but a sharp tone when he told us to “settle down up there,” would send us scurrying under the covers.

As a young adult, I was often unable to sleep, but it didn’t bother me. For one thing, I could get by on much less than the recommended eight hours. For another, nights were often extremely productive times for me. When my daughters were tucked into their beds, and my husband was asleep, I’d scrub floors, start craft projects, bake, paint, rearrange the furniture…I’d find ambition and inspiration in the midnight hours that was often missing in the daytime.

Then, the tables turned. My circumstances changed. I really needed my sleep, and a regular schedule was necessary. School-aged children, jobs, and college classes demanded my alert presence during the day. I could no longer function well on little or no sleep. Yet, often, I could not fall asleep. I spent too many nights watching the clock, willing myself to fall asleep, and calculating how much rest I’d get if I fell asleep instantly. If I gave up and got out of bed, there were none of the productive nights I’d managed when I was younger. The extent of my ambition was a marathon session of solitaire, a good book, or maybe a raid of the refrigerator. All the while knowing I’d be too tired to get anything accomplished the next day.

My insomnia went on, relentlessly, for so many years, I thought I’d never get it under control. The remedy came to me through a back door, in a way. I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and started getting up at an early hour. Every day. Having always thought of myself as a night owl, I was amazed at how quickly I adapted. I’m surprised at how much I’ve grown to love my mornings. And, after only a few weeks, how ready for sleep I was at a reasonable hour. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that I can drop off to sleep without a battle! Now and then, a bright moon or a troubling worry might keep me from sleep. It happens rarely, though. Mostly, it seems that I’ve finally managed to make peace with bedtime.

Lazy

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If I were asked to describe my character in five words, my list would be: shy; stubborn; trust-worthy; hard-working; and lazy.

“Shy” would get a snort of disbelief from the questioner. Nobody thinks I’m shy anymore. I talk all the time. I talk too much. I have a tendency to interrupt, or to talk over people. I know. But, I was painfully shy as a child, and I still feel shy. I spend a good deal of my alone time cringing and shaking my head over something I said, or the way some interaction went, and mumbling to myself, “stupid…stupid…stupid!”

“Stubborn” might not seem accurate to those that know me a little, but everyone that knows me well would nod solemnly in agreement. Thinking, probably, to themselves that “stubborn” might not be a strong enough word. Maybe “bull-headed” would be better.

“Trustworthy” would probably not be challenged.

“Hard-working” would be easily agreed upon by those who have seen me at any of my jobs.

“Lazy” is a puzzlement. How can Cindy be lazy?? She works all the time! And how can she describe herself as both hard-working and lazy?? Isn’t that a contradiction? Well, apparently not, because I am definitely both. Again, if you look to my family and friends and former partners, you would see lots of affirmative nods. And I’d have to agree.

I do work hard. In addition to jobs I hold to support myself, of which I often have more than one, I do volunteer work. I plant a big garden; I mow my large yard. I walk the dogs every day. I write and study and draw every morning. I publish a blog regularly. I exercise every day. Sometimes, I think I fill my days with work to challenge my firmly held belief that I am lazy. But there is truth in the adage that says, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

When I was little, there was lots of evidence of my lack of ambition. I was a master at avoiding chores. Once, my mother noticed that, rather than bend over to retrieve something from the floor, I’d developed the ability to pick things up with my toes. “Oh, Cindy,” she grinned, shaking her head, “that has got to be the height of laziness!”

Fifty years later, I went on a weekend trip with my sister, Brenda. I mentioned that I needed socks because most of mine had holes in them. “Really,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten holes in my socks.” “Hmm,” I thought, “must be that I work much harder, to wear out my socks.” Later, getting ready for bed, I watched Brenda lift one leg at a time, cradle each foot in her hands, and gently peel off her socks. “Wow,” I told her, “that’s pretty impressive!” “Why,” she asked, “how do you take off your socks?”

I demonstrated my method: step on the toe of the left sock with the heel of the right foot; pull the left leg firmly back, dragging the foot out of the sock; repeat on the other side. Brenda grinned, and nodded, and the look she gave me said 1) “No wonder you wear out your socks so quickly,” and 2) “That has got to be the height of laziness!” Yup, there’s no escaping it, the truth comes out.

Just This

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When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain

Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood, but speaks another language.  They do not understand him.
Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at the door where he has four times been given something: the fifth time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.

The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!’

When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

~Bertolt Brecht (translation by John Willett)

Edges

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When I’m faced with a blank surface, I usually start at the outside and work inward. Whether it’s a canvas to be painted, paper for drawing, or a collagraph plate to be filled with textures to print, that empty expanse can be very intimidating. The outer edge is a beginning point, for me. The first decision, no matter how meekly it is made, offers direction for the next one, and the one after that. Some artists plot out their compositions before they make a single stroke with pen or paintbrush. Not me! I start where the workable surface meets the rest of the world, and let the first small commitment lead the way!

Up and Down

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It has been a week of highs and lows in my little life here on Beaver Island. The news outside of this small sphere has been so decidedly dark, I can hardly bear to look. I hate to even turn to the reports these days. Let the world go on without me for a while, I can’t stand it any more! Here in my tiny portion of the world, there have been plenty of ups and downs.

My sister, Brenda called. She told me she thinks she may come for a visit in the spring, when our sister Cheryl comes up to open the farmhouse. That was wonderful news! I miss my sisters so much, always, that it does me a world of good just to know they are coming, and have dates to look forward to. She also told me they had figured out a way to get my artwork, that has been stored in Brenda’s basement since my show ended last fall, back up to me on the island.

I wrote to Lois, who has the gallery that carries my art here, to let her know the work was coming, and to make sure she had room for it. I had foolishly planned on selling everything in October. Though my sales were good, there was plenty to contend with after the show was over. I hadn’t planned on having to get it back home. I don’t have room to store it here. “Bring it on,” was her answer. What a relief!

I ordered a trampoline. It was a decision that was a long time coming, and I felt pretty good about it. I managed to lose a couple of the pounds I’d gained back over the holidays, but not nearly enough. I’ve doubled the distance I walk, most days, and expanded my indoor exercise to thirty minutes each day. I read that working out on a trampoline burns twice as many calories as running for the same length of time. And, it’s much easier on the joints! I’d watched a couple videos that used mini trampolines for a good workout; it didn’t look too hard.

I researched further, compared prices, and ordered. One 40-inch exercise trampoline. With a safety handle. Weight capacity 350 pounds. Foldable for easy storage. I was extremely proud of myself. Then, the doubts started creeping in. People that I told were surprised. Or shocked. Aghast! “How old are you,” the woman at the airport asked, laughing, “and what in the world made you think you wanted a trampoline??” Still, I don’t think it was a bad idea. I used to love jumping on the bed…

At the first of the week, the lovely spring-like weather inspired me. Tuesday, I washed all the rugs, and hung them outside on the clothesline. I opened the windows to the breeze, and swept through the house. By Wednesday morning, Michigan’s fickle weather had reasserted itself. I woke up to a cold, sleety rain. One clothesline pole had split and fallen, leaving all the rugs on the wet ground. In the bathroom, I saw that the ceiling had sprung a new leak, and was dripping a steady stream into the bathtub. In the kitchen, I started the coffee and bent over to give my big dog a belly rub…and put my back out!

That was a discouraging morning! Since then, I’m happy to report, the guys came out and patched my roof. I got in to the Health Center and got prescriptions that help my back pain. I’ve got the rugs back inside, and down where they belong. As for the clothesline pole, that will have to wait until the ground is no longer frozen!

My trampoline arrived on Friday. Today was the first day I felt well enough to even get it out of the box. It looks sturdy; it’s quite cute. It’s going to take up a little more floor space than I’d anticipated. It’s not as easy to fold for storage as I’d been led to believe. Turns out, it takes two people to get it opened up. Since I am the only one here, it’s going to stay in its folded-up state for a while. That’s okay. The way my back feels, it’s going to be a while before I’m going to be doing any jumping up and down!

Just in Time!

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For weeks now, I have been meaning to get busy in the spare room upstairs. There is furniture to arrange. A large bookcase has to be emptied and moved to make room for a dresser. Once the bookcase is set up in its new location, the shelves have to be filled again. One chair, a small rack that holds DVDs, and a couple framed pictures have to be moved, too. The box spring should be brought down the stairs and outside, in anticipation of having it hauled away. I’m not sure that I can manage it on my own.

I decided that, as I’m shuffling things around, I might as well put another coat of paint on the floor of that room. Of course, there is sorting and organizing and cleaning to do, too. Every day, I plan to start; every day, I find an reason not to. Once again, because I never do learn, I have built a manageable job up into an insurmountable task, that is now too intimidating to handle.

When that job is finished, if it is ever finished, I have plenty to do on the other side of the landing, in the studio. From cleaning to creating, the studio always has a long “to-do” list. Downstairs, where I manage – though barely – to stay on top of things, there are plenty of tasks to catch up on. Now is the time for spring cleaning. All of the windows need to be washed. The rugs should be cleaned. Thinking ahead, I should order plants and seeds for the garden, and I have a few seeds to start in the house.

I couldn’t seem to find the energy tackle any of it. Every day, more of the same: ice; cold; snow. The end-of-winter doldrums had caught up with me. I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. I forced myself through my daily routines: make the bed; write in the journal; study; draw; exercise; go to work; walk; do the dishes. Most of the time, they are just rituals that add order to my life. Some days, in this long, slow time of year when the landscape hardly changes and it feels like winter will never end, those habits are the only things that keep me from dropping into depression. Often, they are the only things I accomplish in a day.

Then, suddenly and seemingly without warning, everything changed. There was a hint of spring in the air. The sunshine was especially warm and cheering. Overnight, what had been a thick layer of snow and ice on the Fox Lake Road turned to slush. By the next day, there were large patches of gravel showing, and the slush had melted. My little dog, Blackie Chan, usually hates to get his feet wet. He will shake off each paw with a look of disgust on his face, if he steps into anything other than solid ground. And yet, the day before yesterday, that little dog walked all the way down the road, in water to his knees, smiling the whole distance. I know just what he was feeling!

Today, I can see bare earth in patches across the back yard. When the sun is shining in, it’s warm enough to have the door open to the screen. The rhododendron has unfurled its leaves, and has tiny buds forming on the stems! I think I’ll hang the rugs out on the clothesline today! It’s early yet, for spring on Beaver Island. Here, we can usually expect at least one more major snowfall. Several years, we’ve gotten a blizzard after the first of April, and we often have patches of snow still visible through the month of May. Still, today it feels like spring, and I’ll relish it. I say, just in time!