The “Art” of Travel

This began as a test of my new paint tabs, later turned into a sketch of our hike at Courthouse Butte.

Traveling begs photography.  One usually returns from atrip with a raft of photos on their cell phones as souvenirs.  When my friends and I travel together we also like to incorporate some kind of art into the mix.  This includes anything from painting, sketching, art journaling, and collaging.  Forget about the notion of being good or not.  This is just an adventure with your hands interpreting what the eye sees.  Sometimes the most primitive attempts evoke the strongest memories.

Hiking Courthouse Butte.

My first attempt at travel sketching was many decades ago.  I packed a fresh sketchbook and a new set of watercolor pencils lined up like soldiers at attention in a tidy tin box. Several sketches later I declared them horrible and I quit.  Over the years I’ve come across those sketches.  They bring back memories and emotions that no photograph can.  I feel the wind in those drawings and the mood of seeing grazing horses in a summer field.  The thing about art – it has soul, emotion, and heart that most snapshots miss.  I’m so glad I didn’t throw them away.  

My travel art supplies are simple and small.  I carry them in a pencil box and a felt, zippered pouch that includes watercolor “sheets,” a water pen (or colored brush markers, or colored pencils), and a postcard pad-sized watercolor paper and/or sketchbook. A glue stick and small pair of scissors are handy for collaging those travel brochures and tickets.

You don’t need much.  At the very least, bring a pen, paper, and a sense of adventure.

Sedona, Arizona was our last adventure this past April.  Pictured are a few things we brought home…

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Coming Out of Dormancy, a Garden Mimics Life

Dang, we had a long winter here in Oregon.  Rain, cold, and dreary skies persisted for months my motivation plummeting with the temperature.  Looking out at the first portion of my native plant garden I planted last year I fretted that many plants had perished over the winter leaving dreadful bare patches with their demise. Then bam- a few sunny days in the 70s and 80s last week changed all that.  All around I spotted my little green friends emerging shyly from the depths of the earth.

I look to my garden for the understanding of life.  We certainly don’t flourish in all conditions.  I certainly have been in a period of dormancy due to inhospitable conditions in my life. But as my garden tells me, inspiration will return with better times.

Some plants are coming back stronger than ever.  A few I thought I’d lost during the heat of last summer are returning in force.  My expensive Trillium kurabayashii that failed to bloom last year is blooming and returned with it a friend.  Then a few of my white trillium lost the battle with slugs.  A little wood rush perished for good.  Replant or try something new?  Such it is with our creative children…

The muse has flipped her sign to “open.”  It is over 60 degrees today.  I think I shall go out and work in the garden.

photos and artwork by the author

Please stop by my other blog about sustainablility at onesweetearth.blog

A Garden for the Birds, Bees & Me for Earth Day 2023

The past two months of March and April have been busy ones for me.  After a year of mulling around ideas, phase 2 of my native plant garden has manifested complete with a little gazebo for a writer’s nook.

Last year was phase one, largely a DIY project with a little help from friends.  This year I signed on some professionals to get the effect I wanted.  My vision is to provide (when the garden matures in a few years), a habitat for birds, invertebrates, pollinators, and myself to hang out in.  This is akin to bringing nature to my front door.  Later this summer a rock water feature will be added.

I was fortunate to find Marc & Josh of Amaranth Organic Gardening in Oregon City who were very enthusiastic about my vision and ready to go as soon as the gazebo was installed

I wanted a primitive look for the gazebo. My husband and I cut down alder poles which I debarked with a draw knife just like in the old days building a log cabin.  The next step- not an easy one, was to find a carpenter willing to build with these primitive materials and a sense of adventure. I found Richard, just the man, on Craigslist.

After Richard finished, Marc and Josh got busy, and voila my garden!  Now the fun starts watching the plants grow, a very slow process in this cold, wet spring we have been having in W. Oregon.  In the meantime, I have been having fun furnishing the writer’s nook with primitive furniture, and placing bits of artwork around the garden.

As a garden is an ever-manifesting being I’m curous to see what is in store for me.  I will be sharing as it unfolds from my writer’s nook.

Happy Earth Day!

Even the Muse Needs Time Off

We are in the doldrums of winter here in Oregon.  Inspiration has alluded me and I am more inclined to curl up with a good book by the woodstove rather than settle down to any creative projects.  This has led to a certain amount of guilt and frustration on my part…

But then I got to thinking, dormancy is a normal part of nature. Most of the plants in my garden have died back to the ground.  The bulbs have been sleeping waiting for the right time to come up and bloom.  Fruit trees are resting before the growing season.  Dormancy in the winter leads to flowering in the spring. Even farmers let their fields go fallow to give them a chance to regenerate.

So we humans must rest as well, particularly those involved in creative pursuits. Sometimes the muse just needs a break.  So I am bidding Daphne, my muse a nice holiday.  I’m to go about cleaning and sorting my long-neglected house and workspacen and catch up on my mending. interesting that during my most mindless moments, my best ideas manifest.

Rest up Daphne…

MUSE

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.

Six Years Gone & the Blog Goes On

Happy birthday dear blog, albeit two months late.  Although I have not been as attentive to you these past two years, let me tell you how much you mean to me…

Thank you for being the virtual scrapbook of my adventures, musings, and ramblings.  Thank you for providing a platform for my essays and poetry and for connecting me with other like-minded people.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity be my own publisher and editor.  Thank you for making me a better writer.

I may not get to complete memoir in my lifetime, but you are there as my proxy.  You are an essential thread in my life and for that I am grateful.  In the coming years, I will strive to be more focused and more timely.  May I also acknowledge my dear readers for their commitment to reading the meanderings of my mind.

Now, let’s blog on, shall we?

Tune into my other blog onesweetearth.blog on sustainable living.

Artwork by the author

The Art of Not Censoring Oneself

I found the following post in the DRAFT department of my wordpress site. I didn’t publish it because I thought it wasn’t interesting enough, exciting enough? But thinking about it now, this experience was important to me. That’s what’s key- not second guessing what someone else may think. As I say later in this essay, it’s about trusting one’s intuitive voice. Enough of this self censoring…

The following is an essay I wrote up from a 25 minute writing prompt from from my class at Fishtrap Writing Conference in E. Oregon last summer. The prompt was something like write about a risk you took that changed you. This experience popped up in my mind so I ran with it…

TOTEM

In the photograph, I am standing by a 4-foot totem of raw clay that is constructed around a young tree.  I am sporting a broad smile with a coworker.  In another photo were several children deep in the process of constructing it.  The totem was the finished project I was assigned as a parent volunteer at my son’s 5th-grade outdoor school camp.  I signed up for the art station since I was a practicing artist.  Not only did I want my students to experience creative magic in this cathedral of Douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock, I wanted them to honor the revered creatures of the indigenous people who once occupied this land. 

This project was new to me – but my intuition beckoned me to it like a faerie whispering in my ear. I quieted the fears of all the potential pitfalls and risks and decided to proceed despite them. In preparation, I brought 50 pounds of clay the color of a threatening sky.  For details, I had blue, red, and gold paint in 2 oz. bottles, some small paint brushes, and a handful of large, colorful plastic beads.  The rest of the materials we would gather from what the forest offered.

Each group of 4-5 students had been assigned to a clan for the duration of camp; beaver, porcupine, salmon, crab, raven, squirrel, and eagle.  I had selected a perfect juvenile western hemlock standing straight in a small clearing for our blank canvas.  As each clan of boys and girls arrived at the site for their session we spoke of their totem animal.  What did they know about it?  Why did the Native Americans celebrate it? What was the purpose of totems for coastal native Americans?

To construct their totem animal I explained they were free to use all the clay and tools provided but the rest they would need to gather from the surrounding environment. I spoke about the cooperative process. They were to recognize what each clan member had to offer.  I opened the first rectangular block of clay, cut it into pieces, and let the students begin allowing them to organize themselves as they saw fit.

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The Art of the Obituary

In September of this year, I took up the task of writing my mother’s obituary.  She passed away on June 28 from complications due to advanced Alzheimer’s at the age of 94. Previously I had never written an obituary .

An obituary announces the passing of a person’s death as a public notice in a newspaper, church bulletin, or the like.  Usually, there is a brief biography and a photo, but everything else is up to the writer’s interpretation.  An obituary can be solemn, funny, traditional, or even in poetic form.  Writing Mom’s obituary begged the question ”What should be said about a loved one when they pass?”  What was their essence? What was their legacy?

I didn’t like the idea of writing the 3rd person like a detached narrator so I made it clear this was from the viewpoint of her surviving adult children.  I had to keep in mind that obituaries can be very expensive in major newspapers.  Ultimately, my mother’s average-sized obituary at approximately 1000 words cost over $1000 in the San Fransico Chronicle for one run.  Her local paper for the same obituary cost $300 with 4 courtesy copies thrown in with the deal. (non were included with the Chronicle). So yes, a lot of money but hey, you only die once and everyone deserves memorialization. In most cases, like in my mother’s, the deceased estate covers it.

It was therapeutic for me, the author, to cut through all my mother’s foibles as we had our differences and honor her- her accomplishments and her legacy, I also decided to mention some of her hardships growing up. Hardship is a pivotal force in a person’s life.  I could see how her challenges as a child reflected in her parenting.  In her last years with her memory loss, all that friction washed away like dust in the first rain of fall. It was an honor to summarize her life for all to see.

As for the picture?  Rather than one from her youth, I chose one that was taken on her 80th birthday looking radiant with the celebration. 

Having written my mother’s obituary, I wonder about my own.  What would be written when all is said and done?  I have considered writing my own and leaving it in my will giving me some authorship.  I should include such things as

She liked to start her day with a steaming up of tea in her hand sitting up in bed with her pens & journal with a clear view of the bird feeder.

Felt complete with a dog and or a cat at her side

Liked to take adventures in the wilds, as well as  in art, writing, and music

I’d like the picture of me taken by my friend Deb we were out on the Zumwalt Prairie in 2021. Then I would choose one of my doodles to be included.

Now I may be tasked with writing my step-daughter, Heather who recently passed.  For this, I would solicit the help of her many friends to contribute their thoughts for a young woman who lived very large for her 38 years.  This is a challenge I would be honored to take up.

As I think of the many people that have passed from my life this year, I also think of the other beings, favorite trees, dogs, cats, and the like that have crossed the rainbow bridge that I could memorialize.  They certainly are deserving of an obituary as well, at least in my personal writing.  I’m inspired by this worthy genre.

Two good friends that passed on this last spring- Hilma Kaye and G.D Armstrong whose spirit lives on in my guitar…

A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022

With the easing of the pandemic, the summer bloomed with music.  Learning to play the tenor guitar was my defacto pandemic project. Three years later I was ready to venture forth with my new skills along with my friend, and neighbor, Kelsey in our newly formed duo “The Ribbon Ridge Girls” the name pertinent to the rural area we live in.

We kicked off with the Tenor Guitar Gathering in Astoria, Oregon in early June, a gathering of 4 string guitar aficionados. Kelsey plays a standard guitar but she was more than welcomed.   The tenor guitar came about in the late 1920s when banjo was going out of style.  Those out-of-work banjo players had guitars made with tenor banjo necks with the same tuning CGDA so they could still be employed. It’s tuned in 5ths rather than 4ths of a regular 6-string guitar. The sound of a tenor guitar is brighter and a good complement to a regular guitar. It faded away in the late 1950s and currently is experiencing a resurgence.  Tenor Guitar Gathering is special as it is the only event in the world that celebrates this instrument.

This was an intimate affair of around 100 friendly participants plus local participation at the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.  On Friday morning we packed the historical Astoria trolley strumming and singing tunes along the waterfront.  There were various workshops offered and in between, we sampled the beer, baked goods, and coffee that the town has to offer. Astoria also has an array of vintage stores we visited. At night we jammed in the local motel we stayed in along with the featured musicians.  A high point for me was meeting Tyler Jackson in person, my virtual guitar teacher from San Antonio, Texas, who was performing and teaching at the event.  We won big in the raffle, Kelsey won a guitar (which she later donated) and I won a year’s worth of virtual lessons from an award-winning musician back east (woohoo!)

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Something to Do

doodle by the author

Much of my time is spent with facinations that perhaps lead to nowhere. I doodle. I make art most of which is unshown and not for sale. I play music with no performing or recording aspirations, write and don’t submit the vast majority of my pieces for publication. My blog is not monetized. This is so counter to our culture’s obsession with productivity and success- but they all make me happy.

Today I read a post by Austin Kleon riding 5 miles to mail some letters rather than mail them from home because it “was something to do.” On a link embedded in this post was another post titled the same, “Something to Do.” I found this post so profound. It put into words what I have been unable to to do trying to justify my gratutious pastimes. In short, they keep me alive. To me that’s the ultimate payoff.

My workstation!

The Zen of Showing One’s Work

Last week I had the honor of reading my prose piece, “The Orchard by My House is Gone” at the book release celebration of Paper Gardens the annual literary journal of Yamhill County, Oregon.  I was joined by other local authors that had their work published along with family members and members of the community.  The most memorable part of the evening was when adults shared the stage with writers of all ages including those as young as second grade.  We were all writers in different stages of our journeys who took the risk to submit our work to be judged and perhaps rejected.

 A close friend asked to see my entry and I emailed it to her.  She read it and then responded that how much she appreciated me sharing my work with her.  Doing so gave her a window into my life and how I view the world.  She remarked in her email that a long-ago friend was a painter but would not allow anyone else to view her work and that “would potentially impact the way she felt about her art.”  I also have an acquaintance that ceased painting her stunning watercolors as she never sold them at the one event where she exhibited.  Paintings are especially challenging to sell as it’s not only if a person likes the piece, it has to fit and match one’s décor.

I find both these situations very sad.  We are always under the scrutiny of others- the way we think, dress, or otherwise live our lives.  I don’t make art for economic gain anymore.  What is imperative is that my creativity provides a spark to my life, joy in the process of its creation, and serves as an avenue for self-expression.  There lies the attitude of non-attachment. There will be some that don’t care for what I write or create, yet there will be others who resonate with it.  It’s not a deal-breaker as I am out to please myself.  It is the nature of bringing creation to the world to see. If I am pleased with my work and it is well-executed, that is enough.  It’s like hiking.  I go out and have a beautiful day among nature and if I see wildlife, so much the better.

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