A Road Map for 2022

From my journal. After a few years I’ve realized that the “new abnormal” is the new normal. As if the old normal wasn’t challenging enough! Here are my strategies to navigate this ever changing world, subject to change of course.

Continue reading “A Road Map for 2022”

Working Magic With Black Clay

I enjoy working with clay bodies other than white (see my post The Color of Clay). In my work, mostly sculptural, glaze functions as an embellishment rather than the main attraction.  This comes from my aesthetic and my dislike of the glazing process!  I find the contrast between the glazed and the unglazed piece quite interesting, especially with a toasty or reddish clay.  Two years ago I started working with this black (actually a deep chocolate brown toned) clay body.

Clay gets its color from certain minerals and pigments.  Iron oxide is what makes terra cotta clay red.  In the case of black clay, the color is from burnt umber.  It is a pigment in short supply these days so a bag of clay will cost you a few dollars more.  Any highly-pigmented clay is messy to work with and this is like working with black mud. Wearing a good apron is key.  Regardless, the end result of this clay is worth it.

My work is primitive. The pots are formed from strips I have coiled up.  The little goddess figures are pinched forms, the larger from small slabs.  I have fun dressing them up with wire, beads, and feathers after they are fired.  The arms on the larger figures are from juniper wood I gathered in New Mexico.

Waiting to be dressed up

Here are a few pieces I created this fall for gifts, for a gallery I am in, and for myself.

I have some of the small and large goddess figures left. If you are interested in purchasing one please email me at wildnotions96@gmail.com.

See my blog on sustainabile living at onesweetearth.blog

The Art of the Day Planner- How to Create a Journal of Creative Practice

The 2022 edition

Two years ago I started a daily doodle practice after challenging myself to do something artful every day. I’ve written about this before on this blog but I thought it worthy to bring around again being the New Year .

I decided about the only thing I could successfully commit to doodle in the 2” square of my day planner since it wasn’t being utilized for anything else.  The ground rules I made- use pen, no erasing, no self-criticism, go back over it later and add to it if you want.  Be spontaneous and just see what comes up. Often I only see the merits of an entry until I let it sit for a day or weeks later. Sometimes I take the previous day’s idea and make a different version of it.

The end of 2021
Continue reading The Art of the Day Planner- How to Create a Journal of Creative Practice

Embracing the Darkness- “Skijoring on Hoar Frost” a One Page Memoir

It is winter solstice today. This story came to mind of a much younger me living in Alaska…

photo by Pixabay

In December, the sun dips low in the peach and lavender sky at 1 PM in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Night begins to fall slowly at that latitude. When I lived there I learned to embrace the darkness lest I get claustrophobic in the small confines of our cabin. Dressed in layers of wool with a headlamp, I’d go chop firewood, shovel snow, or better yet, go out for a night ski.  We lived on Yellow Snow Rd., aptly  named for the many dog teams that lived on it so there were plenty of dog trails to ski on in the neighborhood.

Hoar frost was an event.  At subfreezing temperatures, moisture present in the air would freeze in a crystalline structure and collect on the surfaces of branches eventually coating them in a sparking beard of white.  At 10 below zero to 10 degrees above, a hoar frost provided the perfect conditions to ski.

Continue reading “Embracing the Darkness- “Skijoring on Hoar Frost” a One Page Memoir”

First Friday Art Talk- The Story Behind the Painting

This is the painting I wake up to in the morning and go to bed to at night.  It brings me a sense of peace and order when I look at it.

Why did I paint this?

The migration of birds fascinates me: What inspires them to leave?  How do they navigate their journey?  How can their tiny bodies withstand travel of thousands of miles of such rigorous travel?  Then there’s nature- always an inspiration.

In this painting with a base of sponged, brushed, and stenciled acrylic on a 12 x 12” dimensional artboard,  we look down on a flight of white birds over forest.  Stenciled ferns are below the abstracted trees.  The symbol of a river is collaged on the upper left quadrant and the collaged 4 negative triangles in the lower left quadrant symbolize direction.  Most of my collage papers are made up of “failed prints.”I bless my failures as they never fail to add the perfect touch elsewhere.  Rain is represented in the upper right quadrant by stamping a painted piece of corrugated cardboard.

To add a little sparkle I added a bit of gold leaf at the top. A stamped Asian symbol on the lower right quadrant adds a zen quality to the piece. 

I took a larger cradled artboard, flipped it over, and painted it black.  Then I mounted the painting inside of it to add a dimensional frame. This is an intuitive painting meaning I paint by what inspiration shows up at the time.  The color palette was inspired by another artist’s work and then I tweaked it to make it my own.

Even when I can’t travel, I look at this painting and I can go somewhere else.  I’m so glad no one purchased this at my last studio sale. It is called Spring Migration.

Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope

I have been on crutches for over two months now from a serious knee injury I have mentioned in previous posts. Ten days ago I was given the green light from my doctor to ditch the crutches and begin weight-bearing around the house.  Sadly, after 3 days the pain returned.  Instantly I went from hope to a state of despair.  How much longer will I have to endure this?

By “chance” I tuned into an episode of the OnBeing podcast called the “Future of Hope” an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, who happens to be one of my heroes.  During the interview by Pico Iyer, Gilbert speaks of how she navigated the pandemic and also the death of her life partner, Rayya from cancer.  Here are two excerpts from that interview which I needed to hear…

“if there is one thing that I, if I had the chance to do it over again, could’ve done differently, would’ve been to walk into it in a stance of surrender — arms collapsed, no clipboard, no agenda, no cherished outcome — and to have almost gone limp into it, which is not the same thing as hopelessness, but it is a very powerful stance to take in the wake of something that is bigger than you are.”

“And a friend of mine gave me a tip: to lower my standards of gratitude, to lower the bar and to catch the low-hanging fruit so that it’s not — it doesn’t have to be these huge, epic, grandiose gratitudes. The more physical they are, the more I felt it in my body. My gratitude for these slippers that I have that have an insole that you can put in the microwave and you can warm up your feet, that’s on my gratitude list almost every day. And I feel it neurologically. Even when I say it, I remember how comfortable those slippers feel, and remembering that doesn’t necessarily send me into despair over the state of the world, and it starts to kind of rewire my brain.”

Such good advice in tough times be it a pandemic, death of a loved one, or an injured knee.

Surrender

Gratitude

Every day I have to relearn those lessons.

I highly recommend listening to this episode.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope”

Wisdom From the Recesses of a Cluttered Desk

My old writing desk needed a good sort, a good project for a chilly autumn day.  Amazing what you can learn from this exercise. While cleaning out the little cubbies I came across some scribbled bits of wisdom I recorded here and there from years ago. I thought I’d share some…

  • Sometimes the only clear way forward is looking backward.  Unknown
  • Freedom is what you do with what’s happened to you.  Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Bloom where you’re planted. St. Francis de Sales
  • We don’t have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we’ve got- Andre Dubu
  • Above all, have fun- Julia Child

This is something I wrote a year ago on a loose slip of paper. I have no recollection of doing so…

If I were a brick in a hearth I wouldn’t have to wake up and wonder what the meaning of life was day after day.  I would know that I had a valuable part to play in the structure of things, surrounded by other bricks, joined by latticed gray mortar.  There I would remain day after day, year after year, warmed by the woodstove in winter, giving back my heat to the home.

I would watch the comings and goings of family, the bustle in the kitchen, cooking of meals, washing of dishes, the banter of daily life, the barking of the dog, the scamper of kittens.

But freedom would be wanting from my determined place on a wall

So I am not a brick in a hearth

Just a human trying to find her way.

Bringing Back the Music

After 1 ½ years of silence due to the pandemic, music concerts that were canceled are returning so when a friend said “Hey, I have 2 extra tickets to a Jackson Brown/ James Taylor concert -want to go?  Instantly I said “YES!” despite the fact the tickets were almost $140, it was at the huge Moda Center in Portland (I usually avoid large venues), and I would have to attend in a wheelchair due to my knee injury.  Sometimes you just have to seize the moment and go, letting the universe work out the details.  So on a rainy night in October, off the three of us went.

It only took about two chords of “Running on Empty” on the piano and I was transported back to a much younger me, a college student in the mid-1970s in that living room, that turntable, my friends, a more hopeful era infused in musical talent.  Two of my favorite musicians at that time were Jackson Brown and James Taylor, their vinyl albums well worn with use.  Looking back it was a time when I had the world at my feet- the music of the time making it all the more exciting.

I don’t know where the world went wrong since then.  We were the generation of change, peace, and environmental awareness.  I hardly recognize the country I live in now.  Still in that massive venue, thousands of us masked gray-haired Boomers let the music of these great musicians bring us back, and boy did they put on a show, visibly grateful to be doing so.  “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina, For a Dancer”, all my favorites. Brown and Taylor sounded just as good as they did 45 years ago.

The view from ADA seating

Maybe it’s my imagination or I’m suffering the prejudice of aging but I thought the music of the 60s & 70s was just the best.  Maybe every generation feels their music was but I’ve noticed the younger set actively appreciating this same music.

The attendees of my deep water exercise class at the local pool are all aging boomers. We all look quite inauspicious old gals on the surface but we have colorful histories as young women. The class before Halloween we all “dressed up.”  Our Purple Witch teacher had on a playlist of oldies including “Monster Mash” and other crazy music from our era. As we swished and kicked, we sang and shouted to the music trying to guess the title or the artist of the music to win power bars.  “The Monkeys, Sly and the Family Stone, Loving Spoonful” we yelled out. Memories let loose.  The lifeguards looked on with disbelief at all us old birds having such a good time and one of them took pictures.  (At this age who cares about what people think!)

Music has always saved me but in the last few years, it has been such a refuge.  Turn down the news and turn up the tunes I say.  Welcome back, musicians.  Thanks for making the world a brighter place.

The Magic of Synchronicity

“…when you’re on the right path, the universe winks and nods at you from time to time, to let you know. Once you start noticing these little cosmic cairns, once you understand that you’re on a path at all, you’ll begin to see them everywhere.”

From an article on Synchronicity Psycology Today

I’ve had times when my world is a muddle, guidance will appear in unexpected ways – something I read, hear in an interview, a conversation with a stranger.  These incidents usually occur in clusters when I have let go of fear and lean into trust.  Often I’ve experienced them while traveling alone and am literally lost .  

Such a state happened to me recently when I accepted my knee injury, framing it in a more positive light.  Before a concert, my friends and I were out in NE Portland at a little eatery.  The server, a young man took one look at me on my crutches and my imposing exoskeleton of a knee brace and said, “ Oh, it’s going to get better.  You are going to get through this.”  I said “really? You’ve had an injury like this before?” He proceeded to tell me about the broken femur and broken wrist he sustained while snowboarding a few years back.  I was almost in tears.  His words were like balm for my soul.

Later as one of my friends pushed me in my wheelchair in a very crowded line to get into the concert venue (James Taylor and Jackson Brown!) A woman with her husband said to me “Sweetie, you go right ahead of us.”  I replied, “You make me feel like a queen!”  The woman replied, “ You are a queen.  Own it, honey!”  By the way, it was a faboulous concert- but more on that in another post.

The following day, a dear friend I hadn’t heard from called me out of the blue and gave me a good dose of Jewish mothering wrapped up in a pep talk. , “Listen, you are going to get through this. You are a strong woman and you will find your way.” Then she sent me her comprehensive favorite movie list for streaming.

Now to some this would be a series of unrleated events but not so to me. I had to let go in order to open myself to what I needed- a good dose of mothering and encouragement to get me unstuck. Call it God, call it the universe that helps one along when they are lost. Sometimes the cairns appear in the mist to mark the way forward.

photo by Deb Broocks

Grey Zone

There is a space

Between endings and beginnings

A quiet valley

Full of swirling grey mist

All sense of direction

Lost

Be still

In this protected place

Rather than stumble in confusion

Let clarity present itself.

Listen

When the compass needle turns within

And the fog rises slowly

This is the time of departure

Cairns marking the way on the immerging landscape

The start of a new journey

poem and artwork by the author

Notes From A Tripod

(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)

The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur.   “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches.  Watch that left hip.  It shows low bone density.  Don’t gain weight.   We’ll go from there.  No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes.  Crabby surgeon departs.  I remain in a state of shock.

What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it.  The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution.  My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange.  Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again?  Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?

Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly.  It can be a lonely path to navigate.  Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations.  For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge.  My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice.  Travel?  I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework?  NO. Cook?- barely.  This is my first major injury in six decades of living.  I am such a beginner

After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.

Focus on what I can do…

Get a new doctor (check)

Write

Draw

Read

Watch movies

Sing

Play guitar

Swim

Ride my bike

Get outside

Clean out some drawers

Breathe

Meditate

  • I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
  • I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard) 
  • Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
  • I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)

I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished

but still, I felt a pulse

and I had to drive home to beat traffic.

Said the tree to the sky

My limb is broken

I will have to find a new way

To dance with the wind

Artwork and poetry by the author

See my other blog on sustainable living at OneSweetEarth.blog