Category Archives: Art

Good Things

Standard

 

IMG_3209

Sometimes it’s easiest to see what’s wrong: with a particular situation, or a day, or with the whole world. It takes more energy to find the good things. Not always, though. There are times when my natural propensity for looking at the negative flies right out the window. I am left, then, with a humble appreciation of my rich life, and all the blessings in it.

I’ve had a lovely weekend. Well-balanced. It was productive, but not in a crazy-making way, where I plan more projects than I could possibly ever finish. Busy, but not too busy. I put laundry on the line…but also sat on the shore, reading, for one entire afternoon. I tended the garden, but also wandered the fields to collect wildflowers. I went over my notes for a class I am planning, and put hanging wires on a dozen framed collages. Then, I spent the rest of the day in my studio in frivolous and playful pursuits. I cooked and cleaned, but also took time to relax.

I could list the things I didn’t accomplish; there are quite a few. But why? They’ll be there, waiting for me. Right now, I’d rather just relish the good things.

IMG_3213

dried Rhododendron flowers make a nice bouquet

IMG_3206

wildflowers make another

IMG_3200

one almost-ripe tomato, two days before I harvested it for a wonderful BLT

IMG_3217

a row of collages, ready for the Museum Week Art Show

Advertisements

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 29

Standard

IMG_3166

List the happiest and funniest stories and news you’ve heard lately:

  • I cheered, just like everyone else, for the successful rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave. With water rising, monsoon season coming, and the whole world watching, it was high drama with a happy ending.
  • Rain, this week, was a relief for many of us around the state of Michigan. It has been a hot, dry season. Our “extreme fire danger” status has been lifted, which is excellent news in this season that brings so many campers to our woods.
  • My best friend, Linda, turned sixty-six years old yesterday. That’s almost unbelievable…and funny (though not unbelievably funny)…because my birthday is not that far away, and then I’ll be 66, too. How has it happened that we, who met in the sixth grade and bonded over a mutual love of mischief-making, have grown so old?  When we were both eleven-years-old, Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation made me laugh. Over the years, my best – rolling on the floor, laughing ’til my belly hurt, almost peed my pants – laughs have been with Linda. Our lives have carried us from marbles, pull-over sweaters and the Beatles; to husbands, housework and babies; to single-life adventures with teen-aged children; to all the things that make life enjoyable today. One of the best things is having Linda, who maybe knows me better than anyone (possible exception: my sister, Brenda), still in my life. We share interests in feminism, activism, art, cooking, gardening and books. And, after all these years, we still share some of the best laughs.
  • I have this Sunday off, for the first time since April. I’m almost giddy with all the possibilities! What I am not going to do is spend it sitting in this computer chair. So, as my mother used to say, “up and at ’em!”

 

Timeout for Art: Framed

Standard
IMG_3192

all dressed up…

No matter how pleased I am with my artwork, no matter how sure I am of the strength of the imagery, it’s always a nice surprise to see my work matted and framed.

IMG_3195

ready for the show!

I’ve actually sometimes not even recognized my own work! When I was in college, learning new processes and churning out like never before or since, I’d sometimes bring a stack of “rejects” over to holiday dinner at my parents house, and let my sisters go through and pick whatever they’d like. Later, I’d walk into their homes and – seeing my work framed and hanging on their walls – wonder who the artist was. It just dresses the work up so nicely, makes it look suddenly so professional! So, even though it’s a lot of fussy work, assembling frames and mounting artwork is always a rewarding job!

Summer Lows

Standard

IMG_3099

“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”  ~Richard Bach

“Nobody likes me; everybody hates me/ I’m gonna eat some worms!”   ~nursery rhyme

“Keep it up, and I’ll give you something to cry about!”   ~my Dad

I have nothing to be unhappy about. I live in reasonable comfort on a beautiful island. My health is good. People like me. I have nice neighbors, good friends, and a wonderful family. I have a decent job that supports me. I have two sweet dogs that adore me. And yet, difficult as it may seem, at times I can manage to be downright miserable. It happened this last weekend.

I’d had a particularly busy week at work. My already long days were made longer because I was staying after-hours to cut plexiglas to fit frames for a series of collages. I was tired, and looking forward to my days off. I was scheduled to have a three day weekend, my first Sunday off since April. It would do me good, and allow me to catch up on yard work and finish getting my artwork ready to show.

Saturday, I ran down to meet the ferry boat when it came in to our harbor. I expected my niece to be on it. It turned out I was mistaken about the date, and she was not there. I didn’t realize, until then, how much I’d been looking forward to seeing her. What a disappointment!

Later that day, I overheard my co-worker making plans for Sunday. “You know, you’re scheduled to work on Sunday,” I reminded him. Clearly he had not remembered; obviously, he was unhappy about it. I offered to work in his place. It wasn’t a big deal; I work almost every single Sunday all year ’round. I’m used to it. Still, something like that is perfect fodder when my mood wants to dip into the self-pity realm.

Sunday morning, up early, I sat down at the computer to write my blog. Turning to week #28 in my 52 Lists for Happiness book, I found, “List the projects you have been meaning to work on and finish.” What?!? I, the queen of good intentions and unfinished projects, could write an encyclopedia on the subject, not simply a list! What kind of exercise in humiliation is this? By that time, it seemed that even “the 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project” had turned on me! I spewed out one good example before heading out the door for work.

Sunday was busy, with lots of customers and in-coming freight. I mixed fourteen gallons of paint, cut several keys, and put together an extensive special order for eavestrough. I had a dozen customers come in after closing time. Then, when I was finally able to lock the door and turn out the lights, I clocked out, then went to the basement to finish my plexiglas.

By the time I got home, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I took the dogs to Fox Lake, made a simple supper, and was in bed before 9 PM. Wide awake at 2 AM, I read, paced the floor, worried about a hundred nonsensical things, and did some journal writing. I was finally able to sleep for a couple hours at dawn. By Monday morning, I was a mess: sad, sorry, depressed, full of self-pity and certain that everybody was picking on me.

It happens just that quickly. Life is normal, even happy, going along on an even keel. Then, a series of small occurrences cause imbalance. Lack of sleep. Disappointment. Physical tiredness. Stress. I know the contributing factors. It used to be, those low moods would last for weeks, or even months. Not anymore.

I know how to take care off myself, when I feel depression coming. I know how to get through it, too. Self-care is important. A soothing cup of tea, a hot bath, an afternoon nap, a good “comfort food” meal: what seems like indulgence is simply taking care of myself. Physical exertion, whether through exercise or, for instance, scrubbing a floor can go a long way to alleviate  feeling low.

It’s helpful to remember to NOT  take this time to vent to others. It’s okay to say “I’m depressed (or frustrated, disappointed or sad),” and to ask for understanding or help. It’s not a good idea to try to place blame on others for my own feelings. Any attempts to do that will only necessitate apologies later.

Beyond that, I reassure myself that the mood won’t last…and it won’t. Even at the worst of times, my life is pretty darn good…and I know it.

 

July 3rd, Fox Lake Road

Standard

IMG_0818

Tuesday, again. The last day of my “week-end.” It’s my last chance to catch up on my rest and get ready for the busy week ahead. The day to finish up all the home and yard projects I planned to get done on my days off. It’s blogging day. It’s the day I try to get to town for post office, transfer station and grocery store. As usual, one day doesn’t seem like enough time.

We’ve had a week of extreme heat, unusual for Beaver Island, resulting in a string of uncomfortably warm nights. There wasn’t a breeze to be found, here on the Fox Lake Road. My little fan barely made a difference in the oppressive heat in my house. I spent several nights tossing and turning, too hot to sleep. A storm came through on Sunday night, bringing welcome rain and cooler temperatures. I’ve been sleeping long and well the last couple nights.

This time of year, one of the busiest weeks of the whole year on Beaver Island, it is important to be rested. Businesses are stretched to their limits with thousands of visitors in addition to regular customers. The hardware store is hectic all day long. By the end of the long work day, I am exhausted. A walk or a drive to Fox Lake with the dogs, a bit of time to pull weeds from the flower beds and water the garden, then supper, a half-hour of cleaning time, and I’m done. I have no energy beyond that. All projects have to wait for my days off.

So, Monday and Tuesday are always busy days, and this week more than most. I finished setting up my bullet journal for July, with the month already underway. I finished a load of towels and another of rugs yesterday. I have dark clothes on the line now. I filled a wheelbarrow with weeds trimmed from around the stone-bordered flower beds, and started digging a new fire pit.

I have a large fire pit in the front yard, four feet in diameter, that I planned to use for pit-firing ceramics, and large bonfires with friends. I have never used it for either of those purposes. It is too big and deep to be useful for roasting marshmallows. I use it, mainly, for burning windfall branches and my household paper trash. A smaller fire pit will be more serviceable. The large circle in the front yard could be filled in and used as a flower bed, or simply returned to lawn.

So, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon digging a hole, and removing the sod from the surrounding area. I used the soil I dug out to fill in low areas of the back yard; I filled the wheelbarrow with roots to be hauled away. Today, I plan to empty the wheelbarrow, then fill it with large rocks to border the new fire pit.

Inside, I have two unopened boxes to deal with. They are filled with metal frames and pre-cut mats: almost all the materials I need to get two large paintings and a dozen small collages framed and ready to show. To finish, I’ll have to make time to stop at the hardware store, and cut a dozen pieces of glass for the collage frames. With the tourist season underway and a couple special art shows coming up, that has to be done right away.

Beyond all that, there are bills to pay and letters to write before I go to the Post Office. I need to gather up the recyclable trash to take to the transfer station. I should go through the magazine rack and get rid of those publications that have been hanging out since Christmas.  I have a short list of necessities to pick up from the grocery store, and should go through the cupboards to see what I’ve missed. I know I’m (dread!) out of ice cream! It would be smart to plot out a week’s meals so I can put lunches and dinners together with what I have on hand.

That’s what’s happening, or should be happening, on this third day in July, here on the Fox Lake Road. From the looks of this list, I’d better get busy!

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #26

Standard

IMG_3030

List the times when you felt like you made a difference in someone else’s life:

[This is a harder question than it should be. Sad, too, to think maybe I haven’t made much of a difference.]

  • There are the obvious, big things, of course. I made a difference slowly and consistently, over the long term, in the lives of the people I raised, or helped to raise: my brothers and sisters, other children I took care of, my own children, and my grandchildren. I made a difference, I hope, to the children and adults that I’ve taught, over the years, through the weeks or months of lessons. I’ve made a difference in every job I’ve held, by always applying myself, working to a high standard and showing friendliness and enthusiasm.

[But the directive says “list the times.” That seems to be asking for specific, individual occurrences. Much more difficult.]

  • When my oldest daughter was a young adult, she moved to Texas with her boyfriend when his job sent him there. Though he was a nice young man, and they were in love, things did not go well for her. They had moved there for his [high-paying] job, so her pursuits took the back seat. My daughter found herself falling into a role of  “little wife” and “helpmate.” She cleaned up after her boyfriend and his friends; she packed lunches and delivered them to the job site; she fit her life around his schedule. Far from family and friends, accustomed to having her own job and income, she was having a hard time, becoming increasingly more discouraged and depressed. My concern grew with each telephone conversation. Finally, I flew to Texas for a visit. I didn’t “do” any specific thing, but I believe my presence made a difference. We talked; we laughed; we enjoyed the pool. We were both reading the series of books by Jean M. Auel, and compared our thoughts as we progressed. We explored the city and its outskirts. We looked into colleges, job possibilities, and other programs. It was a good week! By the time I left, my daughter seemed like herself again. She was asserting her place in the relationship with her boyfriend, and in the household. Many things remained exactly as they had been, but she was no longer the “default” person for all of the clean-up. She had enrolled in business school, and was excited about her prospects.

[So is that it?? ONE bullet point? What kind of list is that? I can’t think of another!]

  • So, then there are the little things, impossible to list individually, often done without thought or planning, and hardly remembered, but that I know have sometimes made a difference. This includes: honest compliments, freely offered; kindness in daily interactions; a smile; genuine empathy for another’s plight; a hand-written note of thanks or appreciation; understanding, with or without agreement; and sometime’s just my presence. Each are easy, thoughtless, little things, but I learned the impact of these small kindnesses by noting how it felt when I received them from others. They make a big difference!

 

 

 

Good Things, and Bad

Standard

IMG_3036

Often, I feel bombarded with negativity. The news is full of desperation and disaster. I will not go through life with blinders on, but when it all gets to be too much, I narrow my scope. In my small world, there’s always a mix, it seems, of good things and bad.

Good: Yesterday, on our arrival home from an outing to Fox Lake, my big dog charged through the snowball bush, which just happens to be in bloom right now. She came out on the other side, grinning, and covered with white flower petals.

Bad: She was grinning because she’d caught what she was after. She had a large garter snake dangling from that smile. Though I’d really prefer she not kill things, I have to admit, it added to the whimsy.

Bad: I’ve gotten, perhaps, a little too good at my karate-like moves for killing mosquitoes. The other night, one of them was bouncing around on the kitchen window. Lightning-fast, I flung out my open hand to squash it. Which I did. I also broke the glass, which dropped out in large pieces onto the sill and into the sink. Except for one large, jagged piece that is holding firm to the top of the window frame. Unbreakable! I’ve even tried hitting it with the rolling pin! It seems determined to hold its place, looking dangerous, waiting until I least expect it, to drop out and shatter.

Good: The poppies are blooming in my yard!

Bad: A Sunday night rainstorm resulted in two lengthy electrical outages, and foiled my plans to mow the lawn on Monday.

Good: The rain was exactly what the garden needed. Everything looks fresh and healthy.

Bad: While I was emptying the lint trap on top of my dryer, an ink pen freakishly leaped from the basket where I toss items found in pockets, rolled across the dryer and dropped into the hole where the lint trap goes. Now, when I turn that machine on, it rattles and clangs as if it’s going to self-destruct. Until I can take the dryer apart to retrieve the pen, all laundry has to be hung outside on the clothesline to dry.

Bad: The wet weather also foiled my plans for getting laundry done on Monday.

Good: Monday was set to be my day for doing a week’s worth of laundry and hanging it on the line, and for mowing the lawn. When that became impossible, suddenly I had a day off! I could read, or write. I could start a household project. I could spend the day in the studio. Endless possibilities!

Bad: I spent my day off mostly sitting around, watching movies, reading magazines and playing on-line Scrabble. I accomplished almost nothing of consequence.

Good: It was actually a very nice way to spend a day off!