Category Archives: Art

In the Middle of the Night…

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A month ago. when I woke up in the night, it was with a sense of dread, and near panic. Forefront in my mind were the one hundred things I had yet to do, at least half of which I was behind on. Deadlines loomed. Mistakes and missteps haunted my thoughts. There were always money worries. My household bills were behind because I was using my personal income to make ends meet for my  business.

I was often driven out of bed by obligations to be met, a budget to review, or jobs to be done that my schedule didn’t allow for. I would sit at the computer, then, trying to write an article covering an event that I had been unable to attend because I was at my other job. Or, I would once again cover the dining room table with paperwork, trying to figure out what I was missing, that there was no profit here. There were many nights of too little sleep.

Days were spent juggling my job at the hardware, a couple other side jobs, the duties and obligations associated with my business, and everything else necessary to keeping a life running smoothly. That was my life for the two-and-a-half years that I held the position of owner and editor of the Beaver Beacon news-magazine.

When I took on that job, it seemed like a good idea. I have many long years of study, and college degrees I have barely used. I’ve spent most of my adult life working at menial labor in customer-service positions. That’s something I am really good at; that is grtifying all by itself. It has also allowed me to live on Beaver Island, which I love. It has provided me with enough income to support myself, and the freedom to pursue my artistic calling. Still, at times, I’ve felt that I’ve sold myself short. So, over the years, I’ve occasionally applied for or taken on other positions that seemed to better suit my qualifications. The Beacon was one of them.

Almost immediately, I realized it was a mistake. I was overwhelmed, incapable of giving it the time it deserved, unable to fix the things that were going wrong.  I spent about two years trying to find someone willing and able to take over. I contemplated other options, none of which were good…for me, personally, or for the long-standing place the Beaver Beacon has held in this community.

When everything seemed hopeless, someone came forward. After several discussions, many questions answered, and papers signed, Steve and Elaine West, who have successfully managed to put out the Northern Islander for more than a decade here on Beaver Island, have added the Beacon to their repertoire. They have good ideas and exciting changes planned. I can’t wait to see how the whole thing evolves under their guidance. I’m looking forward to contributing an article now and then…when it’s not a crucial deadline that keeps me from sleep!

Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I smile. Sometimes I get up to let a dog outside. I may, if the weather is mild, step out onto the porch to look up at the stars, or to see what stage the moon is at in the night sky. Other times I just lay there in the darkness, appreciating the calm, and the warmth of the little dog sleeping at my feet. Sometimes I stretch, roll over, and go back to sleep. This is the way I want to always spend my nights!

 

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Summer’s Last Sigh

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Though I’ve been enjoying having the windows open to the fresh, cool September breezes, I got up night before last to close every one. It was cold! “Frost,” I thought, and spent a good time before falling back asleep assessing the losses. I should have anticipated this, I thought, and at least covered the tomatoes. But I was wrong.

Yesterday morning was definitely chilly, but there was no sign of frost. Summer is still underway. The garden is still plugging away, with beans growing and tomatoes ripening. That huge pumpkin plant (with not a single pumpkin on it that I can see) is continuing to spread its vines all over the back fence. The grass is still growing, and still needing to be mowed (and I am – still – stuck with a mower that won’t start). The berry brambles – though showing their fall colors – are still producing fruit.

Though I had – as always – my long list of things I wanted to accomplish on my Monday, the cold air gave me reason to set it aside. How many more good days of summer will there be? And won’t I miss them when they’re gone! Better to take advantage, when I can. The dogs were happy for the change of plans.

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With camera, gathering bowl, and a big lidded cup filled with coffee, we went by car to the drive that leads into my Grandpa’s wood lot. My cousin has mowed wide paths through the clearing that make it easy to get to the blackberries that grow wild there. It seems like the plants were aware, too, of the short time left in this growing season: the vines were the fullest I’ve seen, with ripe berries. I easily filled my bowl.

Next, on to Fox Lake, where the dogs rewarded me with wag-tail enthusiasm when they realized the day’s adventures were not yet done. There was still a chill breeze, but the sun was bright and the sky was clear. With no book or journal to take my attention, it was just me, the dogs, and the view. I sat right down in the sand. It was a perfect way to spend one of the last days of summer.

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Timeout for Art: Adjustments

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I spent some time last week kind of giddily shredding and weaving painted papers together. I then followed up by mounting the woven papers on to painted supports. This week, the – less-fun-but-more-important – item on the agenda was to work at pulling it all together.

I want to preserve the colors of the woven papers as well as the painted backgrounds. I do not want it to appear that two totally disparate elements have been mushed together. I want there to be some chemistry there, between the background and foreground. Maybe that means down-playing or subverting the weaving, so that the background pops. Maybe it’s in subduing the background to let the woven papers take center stage. I think the answer lies in some combination that will allow both to show to their best advantage.

One idea was to add an additional layer of pattern over the entire surface, to make both other elements seem secondary to the whole. Another was to darken the edges of the woven papers, and the background around them. That’s the idea I tried, by rubbing paint selectively around the woven panels. So far, it’s all just an exploration or possible solutions. Nothing wondrous yet.

These Days

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I took some time yesterday to update my bullet journal. Through the busy summer months, it had been kept up in just the most rudimentary fashion. Yesterday, I filled in the workdays and paydays, habits and activities to the monthly charts, based on the notes I’d jotted on the daily pages as I rushed through my days. I went through the long-term lists for home and garden, and highlighted the tasks that I’ve completed.

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I made pretty good progress in the garden; in the house, not a bit. But, winter is coming, with more time to devote to painting and repair.

There is still plenty to do around here, no doubt. In addition to all the items on my list – many of which take money as well as the time that I seem to always be so short of – there are sorting, deep-cleaning and organizing tasks all through the house. There is – new to my household – the old footstool to reupholster. Soon, if the weather holds, I’ll have tomatoes to put up for the winter. The lawn needs to be mowed. On top of all that, I have big plans in the studio, with projects to finish and new skills to learn. And, the exercise program that I’ve neglected for so long. Every single new day, week and month, I think, “It’s time RIGHT NOW to re-commit to that!” There is plenty to keep me busy, but – these days – I do not feel overwhelmed.

I was recently able to pass on the Beaver Beacon, the bi-monthly news magazine that I have struggled with (as writer, editor, reporter-at-large, bookkeeper, distributor, bill-collector, and sometimes photographer) for the last two-and-a-half years, to someone more capable of the job. I have gone to press with my last issue, and expect it to arrive any day now. I feel like I’m learning to breathe again.  I’m remembering what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night without a sense of panic and a long list of things to do immediately. Now, there is no guilt and self-recrimination involved when I simply roll over and go back to sleep. These days, I feel like there is time, and that I will find the energy, for whatever life brings.

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Timeout for Art: Weaving

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Recycling.

Re-purposing.

Shredding.

Weaving.

I’ve been pondering how to talk about what I’m doing, to give it a bit of dignity. No matter how I try to dress it up, though, it is this: I gather old drawings, or paintings on paper, or painted papers that have been waiting for a purpose, or unfinished works that, let’s face it, I probably never will finish. One by one, I put them through my office shredder, turning them into colorful and sturdy 1/2 inch strips. Then, just like we learned in grade school, I weave the strips together. I have put some of them on painted panels that were waiting for inspiration. That’s it so far. Child’s play.

Though I like some of the things going on here, I don’t consider any of these finished works. I’ve been having a blast, though, and am happy to have some pictures to share. I’m not sure where I’ll take this idea, or where these methods will lead me. It will be fun to see how it works out!

 

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Time Out

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I could have gone to work today; the hardware store was just a little bit under-staffed without me. I didn’t, though. Today is my birthday, and I took the day off.

I was wide awake at one o’clock in the morning, thinking of all the wondrous things I could do on this bonus day off. I was still awake at six o’clock, ticking off activities to fill this special day. Sixty-five years old is a pretty big milestone, and deserving of some kind of notice.

I could watch the sun rise! Maybe I’d bring the dogs, a thermos and a book down to Iron Ore Bay, and spend the morning on the Lake Michigan shore. Perhaps I’d spend this entire day in the studio making art. Maybe I’d mow the whole lawn…in this one day, rather than four or five evenings after work…so the yard would be something to be proud of. Or I could tackle any number of cleaning projects I never seem to have time for. I could take myself out to lunch, and drink a glass of wine right in the middle of the day, and read for as long as I wanted. I could take a really long walk…

Turns out, I did none of these things.

At 6:30 this morning – just about the time my mother and I were together busy with my birth sixty-five years ago – I decided I was hungry.  I made an egg and two pieces of toast, then, belly full, concluded that I could probably fall asleep if I tried. I snoozed on the couch until almost ten o’clock.

Lack of rest led to lack of ambition. Pajamas were comfortable; coffee was plentiful. With a hostage-taking stand-off in North Carolina, a hurricane closing in on Texas, and all the usual madness in Washington D.C., there was plenty of news to keep up with. In between news cycles, I buoyed my spirits by reading the birthday greetings on my Facebook page.

I went to town in the afternoon to pick up a couple packages. I brought the dogs along for the ride. I picked beans, peas and tomatoes from the garden, burned papers, and did one load of wash.

I enjoyed long conversations with – in order of occurrence – my daughter Jen, my best-friend Linda, my sister Brenda, and my daughter Kate. I made a nice dinner. I’m going to bed early. It was a wonderful, lazy birthday…a time-out from everything!

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Not Quite

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This is the season, it seems, for qualifiers. My birthday is almost here; I am not quite sixty-five years old. Summer is nearly over; fall is coming soon. It’s that “in-between” stage that begs for evaluation and invites plans. That’s where I’m at right now.

Summer. It came in slowly, with cold, rainy days through most of June. Even when it warmed up, it seems the hot summer days were often balanced by chilly nights or cool, windy or rainy days. Mosquitoes were never unbearable. I almost always slept under a light comforter.

I spent the early part of the summer getting my back yard reconfigured and my garden planted. Though it was a lot of work, it has pretty much taken care of itself since then, and has been a source of satisfaction and fresh vegetables for weeks now.

Most of my flowers are finished blooming, though the ones that are still offering their bright faces are more appreciated than ever. The low hedge of  “Autumn Joy” Sedum is healthy and bright green. Before long, its flat flower heads will be glorious bronze tones.

Aunt Katie’s illness dominated the summer season. When she was home, the goal was to buoy her spirits; the wish was to see her improve. “How are you today?” I’d ask whenever I stopped. “Not good,” she’d answer, discouraged. “I wish I had a different answer,” she once said, vehemently.

I brought her a large potted tomato plant, to grow on her kitchen porch. My cousin Bob planted a tub of salad greens just outside the door. His sheep grazed just behind the farmhouse. She watched them from her kitchen stool as he did her breathing treatment.

Morning Glories came up from seeds dropped in other years. Aunt Katie was never well enough to put up the rows of string for the flowers to climb; I never thought to do it for her. Now, in August, the vigorous  vines have tumbled over and formed a thick mound, reminding me of my neglect.

When she was getting care on the mainland – between two hospitals and a rehabilitation facility – telephone calls became a focus. There were calls to Aunt Katie’s room and to her cell phone. There were calls to the keyboard and to the nurse’s station. Because she was often out of her room, away from her phone, or unable to talk because something else was going on, and because the nurse’s station was poorly staffed in the evenings when I was able to call, I was usually frustrated. When I was able to get updates, I called family members downstate to spread the word. My cousin Keith changed his route to be able to visit with Aunt Katie on the way to and from his cabin. His phone calls were highly anticipated and welcome for the good information on her spirits and her progress.

When Aunt Katie finally came home, she knew – as we did – that she was coming home to die. Friends started calling, and stopping by. Dishes of food were dropped off. Family members altered their summer plans to get to the island. Though she was clearly weak, struggling, and in decline, I thought she’d be with us for a while. I packed a week’s worth of clothes, to bring to her house, and anticipated being there a month or more. That was not the way it worked out.

On, then to the services to honor my aunt. Bringing together many of her nieces and nephews and their families, islanders who knew and respected her and the contributions she made in her long life, and friends who wept openly at the dear heart we had lost. It was exhausting…and wonderful…as many events like this are, but a fitting send-off to a wonderful woman who has been a big part of my life.

The funeral was a sad start to the planned, week-long vacation on Beaver Island for my sisters and their families. Still, good company, fine weather, and lots of little children helped to bring perspective and joy to a transitional time. For me, especially this year, their presence was a blessing.

Work was the second major focus of my summer. Extended hours at the hardware store made for long, busy days. In addition, there was writing, event-covering and business to be taken care of for the news-magazine. Getting artwork where it needed to be – and myself where I was supposed to be to promote it – was another pull in yet another direction.

Though my diet and exercise plan went out the window less than two months into the New Year, I have somehow managed to lose about eight pounds. Walks with the dogs went from daily – as promised – to a couple times a week, as time and weather allowed. Our rides down to the Fox Lake were often foiled by other people and dogs on the shore. I only made it to the Lake Michigan beach a couple times this summer, and I never went swimming. That should be considered at least a venial sin in the evaluation of both my summer and my 65th year. I live on an island, for God’s sake!

So, as I look back over the year, and the summer season, I’d have to say it was not quite as successful as I would have liked. That’s okay. There was joy, and progress, and change. It was not quite a failure, either!