It's been a rough couple of weeks. My grandmother, known to many as Grammy Jo, died last Monday. While her passing wasn't surprising after a long battle with lung cancer, it was difficult for me to accept on many levels, and with no formal ceremony to mark her death, I have found myself honoring her in my own way... placing some of her antique trinkets around my house, sitting and writing in my journal while enveloped in one of her sweaters, watching a video that my family made about her life a few years ago, creating a special place in our garden for remembrance...
While I hadn't seen her very often these last years, she remained a strong presence in my life. She meant the world to my children, especially Noah, who often brings up his own memory of playing "choo choo" with her on the floor of my parents house, even while she carried around a tank of oxygen and had the "funny tube" (as Zoe calls it) sticking out of her nose. She was a feisty, comical, courageous woman who was set in her ways... she taught me so much about living out loud. She had deep, sincere laughter, and her strong (sometimes painfully so) hugs will never be forgotten. She faught her disease with such stubbornness and grace, and I am proud to have those passionate and willful genes in my body. While the days leading up to her death were particularly challenging to her and my parents, I have the wonderful gift of remembering her with the eyes of childhood innocence... jars of candy, visits to Santaland, china dolls, homemade pierogies, strong pats on the back, moist kisses on my cheek, and her unyielding acceptance of who I am.
She continues to live in our hearts, as I've explained to Zoe and Noah... they each have their own "theory" about what happens next... Noah claims that Grammy Jo has gone to heaven, while Zoe claims that she will be reborn as a turtle (because of a special turtle necklace she found while cleaning out Grammy Jo's apartment~ and since then, turtles are popping up everywhere!). Regardless, they both know now that they have a very special angel looking after them.... We love you, Grammy Jo....
Sayin' it'll be alright
It will be me
If you feel a hand guiding you along
When the path seems wrong
It will be me
There is no mountain that I can't climb
For you I'd swim through the rivers of time
As you go your way and I go mine
A light will shine
And it will be me..."
life continues to astound me with its twists and turns, with its metamorphosis and it's stillness, with its frustrations and its marvelous potential. we've made it to our next home, and our move is over. there are inevitably lots of projects to do, but the point is that we're there, and those projects can take a while to complete. there are no time limits, and the energy of the house makes us embrace that to its fullest.
at first, in line with our previous abodes, we called it the "magic bungalow," which later evolved into the "magic treehouse." the house sits on a hillside in a neighborhood full of trees, making it truly feel like part of the environment. when we sit in our dining area or look out the window from our bedroom, it feels like we're in a treehouse tucked in a rainforest. while our neighbors' houses aren't far from ours, it feels like we're in the boonies. the "illusion of seclusion" is what a realtor told us years ago when we looked at the very same house to buy. we loved it then, but at that time, Zoe was only a few months old, and we felt it wasn't condusive to a newborn, and was more like a vacation cottage that needed more work than we could muster at the time. i remember Deena saying, "i'd rent this house, but not buy it." and here we are, six years later! that's not the only serendipitous thing about the house... it turns out that the person who bought it shortly after we looked at it back then was someone i went to high school with in a small town in Virginia! we didn't realize this until after we had started moving in, and discovered a doorway with lots of measurements drawn on over the last years of all of the children that had grown up there... going as far back as 1964. pretty neat! well, lo and behold, there was her daughter's name, whom we had met back when adopting Noah in 2003, which is when we first discovered the high school connection. we had since lost touch, although i had heard just a few months ago that she moved back up to Virginia, which is when our landlords purchased it.
there was something about the house that was magnetizing the minute we walked into it, which explains why we found ourselves sleeping there long before we had decided to move most of our things. there was an energy about it that almost seemed to say, "you're home, and you're at peace.. take off your shoes, and leave your baggage at the door"... and then you walk in and immediately start breathing deeper, and you begin to think and feel and just "be" more profoundly. although i'm only now beginning to learn about the Buddhist faith, it feels very much like a Zen retreat. it begs for candlelight, the scent of burning sage and sweetgrass, and soft music of flutes and guitar, which has become a nightly ritual of mine. it's quite a bit smaller than our previous house, so we had to do some downsizing, although i like to think of it as simplifying. it has required us to cleanse the things from our house that don't mean anything to us, stuff that we've collected over the years just to have that really don't touch our hearts. every thing that we have now has an eir of intention about it, of heart-centered peace. it feels so satisfying to walk into a room and truly feel complete with what's there, even if it's messy.
perhaps knowing that we're truly living within our means has something to do with it, or perhaps we have come to a "lighter" place in our lives which is what attracted us to this place, or perhaps it has touched a piece of Deena and i's history of living happily and simply in a little one room cabin in the middle of nowhere, Indiana... it's difficult to know the reasons why the house feels the way it feels... the mystery is part of the magic. the kids (and us growups!) watch less television, and we're planning to cut down even more. they are constantly reading and coloring, taking things out to the recycling bin, dumping things in the compost, and weeding in the yard. On the "trail" the other day (which is a short little alternative path that goes from where we park the car to the house), Zoe discovered a garter snake, a real live snake in OUR yard! wow! now she wants a "snake party" for her birthday party (several months away), complete with the reptile man who brings live snakes for the children to touch and hold. she's following in my footsteps once again, for as a child, i was rarely without a large tank in my room inhabited by a garter snake, a corn snake, or a python. this summer, Zoe will be doing a week of "reptile camp" at the local nature center, and i can only see this new passion of hers growing. she is constantly reading the snake identification book i have, identifying all of the plastic and rubber snakes that she and Noah have stashed away in their rooms.
i will get some pictures up of the house in the next few days... but really, in order to really "get" what i'm talking about, you'll have to come visit and feel it for yourself. there's so much more to catch up on... studio stuff, family stuff.... i'm happy to be back in blog-land... stay tuned.
yes indeed, it's Nibblefest time again! above is a sneak peek of mine... this month's theme is "Birds & other Winged Creatures"... here is a link to ALL of the listings thus far:
keep checking back, as things may be added throughout the week. the contest and bidding ends on the evening of March 27th. the people with the most bidders (not the highest bid) wins... there are no awards though, other than a little graphic you can attach to your website. most nibblefesters just do it because it's fun and a wonderful way to connect with fellow artists! since i took a hiatus last month, i was anxious to submit something this time.
in other news, let's see... a FREE Women's Group Gathering open to the public will be meeting for the second time here at the studio on Wednesday, April 4th, from 7pm -9pm. our first meeting had three fabulous women with a lot to say... we spent the entire time getting to know one another and figuring out how we'd like the group to unfold. come and join us! whether you know it or not, each of us brings a most special gift to a gathering like this, and i encourage you to come and see what that might be. at this point, the group is "birthing" and it's a wonderful time to jump in. for this next meeting, i will have a special creative project for us to do together, and supplies will be provided.
the studio continues to present some challenges to me, and continues to teach me a lot about myself. it seems that almost every time it rains, a creek forms from one corner of the room to the drain in the middle.... a most cumbersome issue that involves moving furniture and closing down for the day! my landlord promised weeks ago that this would be fixed as soon as warm weather arrived (never mind that last week it was almost 80 degrees here!), but so far nothing. i pitched a fit the other day, and am hopeful it will be fixed this week. also, my landlord has been a bit delinquent with a few other small things he promised, such as an emergency light that the fire chief requires and some electrical wiring up in the ceiling. i know silly things like this shouldn't interfere with the innate creative process, but unfortunately it has, and doggone it, i'm angry about it! so my feelings regarding this space have been a bit wishy washy as of late... i was seriously about to throw in the towel last week after the last "flood". but i'm still here for now. we'll see how it unfolds. you never know, there may a move coming... or perhaps my landlord will start giving me the respect i deserve. stay tuned!
i am still also trying to figure out the delicate balancing act of being a full-time artist and a mom... i have been missing my kids... sigh... the summer seems to be approaching fast, and i'm trying to figure out my schedule, etc.
Please remember the following dates...
April 4, 7-9pm: Women's Gathering
April 22nd, 2-4pm: Earth Day Celebration for adults and kids!!!
May 5th & 6th: the East of Asheville Studio Tour (i will have brochures soon!!)- it's going to be WONDERFUL!!!
i am still working on a class schedule beginning in mid-May or June, but am hesitant to publicize it until after the studio issues are addressed, so again, stay tuned...
and here's a plug for my dearest Zoe... don't forget that she will be performing in Oliver on March 30 & 31!!!! on a daily basis, i catch her singing very loudly to the soundtrack she listens to on her headset and doing the most spectacular dances (she stops as soon as she sees me watching and says she wants it to be a surprise)... this is a HUGE deal! please come and support her and her friends! she would be so delighted to know you all care so deeply about what she's doing! let me know if you'd like tickets!
i wish you all warm blessings of spring, many opportunites to bloom, and the smell of freshly mowed grass (it won't be long now!)
well, let's see... above is a piece i recently finished for an EBSQ show around pyracantha, otherwise known as firethorn. it very much came out of how i'm feeling nowadays... fiery, energized, vibrant... it seems that my hibernation is over. i'm not just referring to this winter's sleepiness... it feels bigger than that! it almost feels like i'm somehow coming back into myself after a long time of separation. the studio is just now starting to feel REAL and i'm able to embrace it finally, which for whatever reason, i truly resisted before. not only that, but i'm reaquainting myself with pieces of me long since forgotten... for example, i think i was just too stressed out over the last year or two to truly appreciate and honor my children... although this is a little difficult to admit, i really don't think it's that unusual, you know? many of us get so caught up in the every day struggles that we take so much for granted. i'm in love with being a mom right now, immersed in the bittersweet journey of their growing up. i'm also beginning to honor my body once again, remembering the wild, outdoorsy, active woman i once was and rekindling my body's desire to feel that again. while i don't see myself as a "diet person", i have been making healthy changes that have made me over twenty pounds lighter; but more importantly, my soul feels lighter... it's rubbing off on the kids too, and we have decided to embark on an adventure as a family a year from this spring and conquer a section of the Appalacian Trail. we're arming ourselves with sleeping bags and tents so that we can do some practice camping this spring.
life isn't without challenges, but we can all shift into a space where we are able to honor the chaos and be grateful...
In the meantime, I'm in touch with the folks I need permission from for my next book project, and have begun the first piece that will become a part of that manuscript. It's such an interesting process.... with "Oh My Baby," the book seemed to come from nowhere... my friend John was looking at my work one day and said, you know, your pieces tell a story... your own personal myth... and it's true... I suppose every artist's work does that to some extent. With the new project, I'm trying to put the chicken before the egg in a way.... rather than letting my work flow out of me and tell its own story, I'm creating the pictures for already existing words, which is more tricky, less natural, more challenging, but exciting in its own rite, merely because I feel passionate about the words. I am proud of what I've what done so far, but I also feel the need to keep a balance between letting go of the process and being in control.... so I've decided that as I'm working on this next book project, I also need to be working on some spontaneous, flowing pieces. While I'm not really usually a multi-tasker, I'm kind of thriving in it right now. I can walk into my studio and work on what speaks to me in the moment, rather than being obsessed with finishing something before starting another, which was my usual pattern. It feels like a real working studio now... despite the fact that it's quiet and I hardly have any visitors.
Isn't life like this as well? We must keep a balance between routine and spontaneity, between control and going with the flow, between basking in the familiar and experimenting with new things. It's what keeps us alive, juicy, and looking for more adventures.... :)
I'm heading into lots of projects.... A few weeks ago, my friend John Kennedy presented me with a children's book proposal using images of my work. It's a beautiful story, and after some delightful collaboration, we are hoping to have the book ready to be sent out to be seen by some of John's connections THIS week! This process has inspired me tenfold... I'll keep everyone posted... in the meantime, I want more! John and his wife Cinnamon reminded me not to push it, that as my images unfold, they will tell their own story.... so I decided that I will sit patiently and wait and see what happens....
Then last week, a visitor wandered into my studio, a girl probably of thirteen or fourteen, who spontaneously proceeded to tell me her story in the short time we had together. It astounded me to hear what her experience of being a teenager is like nowadays... i thought i had it rough! i have no idea what her name was, or where she was from... her parents were waiting for her in the pizza joint across the way, and when it was time for her to go, she disappeared as quickly as she appeared. it wasn't until the next morning that i realized how exactly she inspired me... already i see images unfolding within my mind's eye that may give strength to girls like her... and perhaps in my own daughter one day. and then i realized it's this poem, one that i've had tucked away in my files for years, that would reflect these images so well. i don't want to get any deeper in the telling of my idea until i get the permission i need to use the poem... but my brain is a-tickin'.. and again, i'll update you as things unfold...
Anyhow, there's lots more going on, but I have a lot to catch up on, so off I go....
Here's what I've been working on the last couple of days while at home with sick kids. This is my friend Courtney's belly mask that she found a couple of months ago in a closet and asked me to paint for her.
I have a few projects going on all at once right now, so I'm feeling a bit too scattered to write much more. But perhaps tomorrow I'll do some catching up....
I haven't posted in a while... between sick kids and snow days, I just haven't had a whole lot of time at the studio, atleast productive time. VERY frustrating. But today I intend to do some work on this mandala I'm working on, and another one I'm doing for the EBSQ water lily show (pictures will be posted tomorrow hopefully!).
It's cold and wintery here... finally... although it's supposed to warm back into the 50's this weekend when my folks come for a visit. It's perfect weather for hibernating... it's quiet around here. It almost seems like the whole town is sleeping. Many other local store owners have reassured me that in a couple of months, things will pick up around here so much I won't be able to keep my work on the walls, so I'm trying to maintain the attitude that I need to produce, produce, produce! Which is good, because I have lots of ideas stewing...
I think it's important to give ourselves permission to hibernate. There's a piece of all of us that naturally goes within during the wintertime. The mandala pictured above is just a fraction of what I intend it to be when all is said and done (it will measure about 3 feet by 3 feet), and I find it interesting that it's moving out from the center rather than moving in from the border... I suppose that simply reflects my need for connection right now. I've been savoring walks and talks with friends, focusing on health with my pal friend Mary Gordon, helping Deena try to find her true purpose as she looks for work, and playing with my kids. I savor each time a person walks into my studio with a wandering eye, anxious to form a connection... so in many ways, hibernating is not my priority. At the same time though, I treasure a snowy afternoon when I can sit around in my warm fleece pajamas and read a book, something I haven't allowed myself to do as of yet this winter. The closest I've come is the other day when a dusting of snow fell and the kids didn't have school. I did manage to climb into my cozy pjs, but instead I did laundry and cleaned. The kids were restless, and I was too busy to read a book.
Today in my studio, I think i'll make some tea, turn on some relaxing music, work on my mandalas, and hibernate, atleast until the door opens and someone comes waltzing in...