Category Archives: Art

Summer, Still…

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Three weeks ago, near the first day of summer, I wrote about my childhood memories of this season. I could have chosen to write about summer days when my daughters were young: long walks to the park, outings to local swimming places, and long hours spent on the white, sandy beaches of Beaver Island. I could have written about summers when my grandchildren visited here: mornings at Iron Ore Bay, days full of adventure, and evening drives to see the deer. In my memory, this warm season meanders slowly along, allowing me to savor every sensory summer offering.

But, here I am, in real-life summer. The days speed by. How can we be halfway through July already?! And all I feel, most days, is exhaustion. It’s not only that it’s busy, though it is. There are hoards of people in the shops and on the streets. The harbor is filled with boats, and the beach downtown is full of people, every time I pass by. There is also the tiredness that comes from the long list of “to-do”s that are not getting done.

Always, there are things to do, and I’m behind in almost everything. My income taxes have still not been filed; there are galleries to contact regarding future shows; I have to follow up on some paperwork for the state. My flower beds are weedy, and the lawn is ready to be mowed.

I gave up on the garden when July got here. If I did manage to find the time to clear the weeds, turn the soil and plant, there would still not be time left in this short season to see results. So, my vegetable garden, this year, consists of three tomato plants, a few kohlrabi, four hills of summer squash, and one row of beans.

I’ve closed the door of my studio. Expecting company, and needing to clear space upstairs for them to sleep, I used the studio – which was already over-full – to store two totes, three big baskets and a large piece of exercise equipment. Those things can now be moved back out, but it doesn’t solve the problem: there is too much stuff in that small space, and I don’t have time to do anything about it. Even if I did, I don’t have time, this summer, to work in the studio.

Last week, My daughter Kate came for a visit. I expected her, plus her husband and two of her sons, but at the last minute, work conflicts got in the way of any of the men making the trip. What a treat! I love my son-in-law, and seeing my grandsons is always wonderful, too, but I almost never get to enjoy Kate’s company alone. I loved it! Having her here gave me a reason to stretch beyond my little world, as well as a perfect companion.

We visited all the gift shops. We walked the dogs together. We took a drive around the island, and I got my feet in the sand, at the beach at Iron Ore Bay, for the first time this year. We went out to lunch, two days in a row! We had simple suppers at home, and spent the evenings playing games. Having come from a big, competitive, game-playing family, that’s one of the things I miss most, living alone. Kate and I got in enough Boggle and cribbage to satisfy me for a while!

Kate’s visit was short, but enjoyable. It reminded me what summer can be, if I allow myself to relax and take part in it. I intend to do just that…before this summer, too, is just a memory.

Jumping In

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This summer, like any other, is a mash-up of good things and bad. Some stretch around the world; others at least nationally. Others are very close to home. Today, I’m jumping in to talk about some of them.

I am continually horrified by the war in Ukraine. I’m reading The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn, a well-researched historical novel set in the early years of the second world war. It is told from the perspective of a young Russian soldier, a female sharp-shooter, as the Nazis – violently, horrendously, and without provocation – push through their country. Now, in real time, the Russians are the invaders. Their actions are the ones that are unbelievably heartless, cruel, and that they have to lie to try to justify. How can we humans be so awful? How is it that we can’t seem to learn from our own suffering, that inflicting suffering on others is not the answer? This is only one conflict in a world that is full of them.

In this country, there is continuing gun violence. We have no time to recover from one devastating incident, before we are faced with another. The politicians rant on about the loss of our second amendment rights while the funerals are still going on. And our judicial system has just made it easier for folks to carry concealed weapons.

The dust from that news had not even settled before the Supreme Court went on to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that ensured a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. That feels like a “punch to the gut” to all, including myself, who have worked hard in the fight for the women’s rights and equality. I know this is a highly controversial topic; conflict-avoider that I am, I hesitate to even bring it up. But I think the time for measured silence is long past.

I can’t speak as knowledgably as many. I don’t have a medical background. Psychological, medical, economic and ethical reasons for needing to terminate a pregnancy are wide-ranging. I can’t quote scripture, but I know that scripture can be, and has been, used to energize and support whichever point of view you want. I can’t even accurately talk about the historical precedents, when laws have been invented, passed, repealed and changed to suit the whims and needs of men, and to keep women “in their place.” But all of this information is out there. I am not pro-abortion; I don’t think anyone is. But I stand firmly with science, and a woman’s right to make that difficult choice.

My friend, Paul, has always read everything I write and has frequently offered me his opinion. Over the years, I’ve learned that we share a love of learning and quite a few political opinions. We have often commiserated over current events and the condition of the world. I know that he appreciates some abstract art – though not mine – and that his preference lies in realistic paintings of beautiful scenery.

Last week, I started my blog with a Mary Oliver poem. Paul stopped in at the Community Center to tell me that he was glad I had found time to write, and that he prefers poetry that rhymes. I didn’t argue. At more than 90 years old, I think Paul is welcome to his opinion, whatever it is. We spoke for a bit about the state of the nation, this busy season, and the wonderful cadence of E.B. White’s poetry. Unlike today, that was as controversial as I was willing to be. On Saturday, Paul suffered a massive heart attack and died. I’m glad for the time I spent listening. For Paul, a rhyming poem:

Village Revisited

(A cheerful lament in which truth, pain, and beauty are prominently mentioned, and in that order)

by E.B. White

In the days of my youth, in the days of my youth,
I lay in West Twelfth Street, writhing with Truth,
I died in Jones Street, dallying with pain,
And flashed up Sixth Avenue, risen again.

In the terrible, beautiful age of my prime,
I lacked for sweet linen, but never for time.
The tree in the alley was potted in gold,
The girls on the buses would never grow old.

Last night with my love I returned to these haunts
To visit Pain's diggings and try for Truth's glance;
I was eager and ardent and waited as always
The answering click to my ring in the hallways,
But Truth hardly knew me, and Pain wasn't in
(It scarcely seemed possible Pain wasn't in).

Beauty recalled me. We bowed in the Square,
In the wonderful westerly Waverly air.
She had a new do, I observed, to her hair.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^





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!