(The following is a memoir piece I’ve been working on off and on for several years about my family’s annual camping trips to Yosemite in the late 1950s and 1960s)
In August, my middle class family packed up our ’56 Chevy Bel Air red and white station wagon and left our suburban L.A. home to camp among the cool pines of the Yosemite Valley. We left in the wee hours of the morning to avoid driving in the oppressive Central Valley heat. My older brother, Steve, and I would occupy the “way back,” converted into a bed with layers of soft quilts. This functioned as our sleeping and play area. Seat belts were not even thought of back then. There was no digital world in the late 1950s and early 1960s so upon awakening we would occupy ourselves by reading our stash of comic books and Mad Magazines. We would play endless card games of War. When we were tired of that we would sing folk songs in lively two-part harmony, our parents joining in on “I’ve been working on the Railroad, Suwanee River, Clementine, or our favorite, “the Titanic ”.
I was on an amble on Franklin Street in Astoria, Oregon last weekend when I came upon this remarkable rock wall below a Victorian home. Little pink flowers were growing from the cracks of the stones of the wall. Had I been in a rush, I would have failed to notice this striking little art gallery. Here are a few examples of natures hand on a city side street.
in cracks of cold stone
Last week I had the honor of reading my prose piece, “TheOrchard 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.
Who doesn’t love flowers? There seems to be even more of a special place in people’s hearts for the wildflowers found in nature. Here in Oregon it is prime wildflower season. Some are even blooming currently in my new native plant garden. Especially prevalent right now are camas (Camas quamash), beautiful blue-violet spikes of star-like flowers that pop up in the meadows. They were a significant food source for the Native Americans that once inhabited the area
About 40 minutes away from my home in the town of West LInn a new Nature Conservancy site opened up last year, the Camassia Nature Preserve. The 22 acre parcel is a mix of lush forest, meadows, and oak savannah with a boardwalk that meanders the main route. There is about 2 miles of hiking trails in the area. Also prevalent are glacial erratics- boulders from Montana and Canada that were dropped in this area after the great floods that occurred after the melting of the ice sheets that covered the north during the Ice Age.
Yesterday the weather was lovely, partly sunny and in the 60s, a welcome change from the rain and cool temperatures. I decided to take a drive and check it out. I was not disappointed!
Here are some of the things I saw in this special place.
A bit of wildflower trivia…
The reason you may often see the dazzling combination of bright yellow and purple wildflowers together is that it attracts pollinators- and humans seeking beauty.
And…my photos really don’t do this place justice!
Looked what bloomed today!
a wild Iris
a queen amidst my garden
her lilac petals arch gracefully
like arms in a curtsy
about her throat a white collar
etched with fine black lines
with a blush of gold
Gaudy hybrids shout for my attention
down the driveway
but it's her sublime elegance
that captures my wild heart
It’s been a very cool spring – even by NW Oregon standards. April set a record for the wettest ever recorded so native plants planted in late February & Early March have been slow to emmerge. Still, it’s been thrilling to watch the ferns unfurl and various flowers to reveal themselves in my native plant garden. I’ve been adding some artistic touches with some old sculptures of mine scattered about the garden.
One great find at “Hortlandia” was a little table made of scrap wood for a top and legs of thick curly willow. I added two small benches cut from the stump of an old walnut tree that was taken out a few years ago. and sorely missed. Now I have benches to remember it by This area is my fairy tea spot.
I recently divorced Instagram. This last year or so was the big social media Instagram experiment. Almost everyday I posted the off-the-cuff doodles I draw on the right side of my day planner under my tag @almostdailydoodle (still there!) The upside is that it makes a tidy little record of my innocuous art online. The downside is how much time Instagram was sucking from my life with all the posting, checking, liking. I thought I was above all that- I guess not.
Doodling is my morning creativity workout. It has become my main art form as of late, downshifting from ceramics and printmaking. It is fun to show my art now and again so I thought I would post them here occaisionally and see how it goes in a blog format.
The title of this post is the first line of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese.”
The poem continues:
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves……
I came upon this poem years ago. It was the first poem that I loved, that I could pull around me like a homemade quilt. It became my anthem of sorts.
Now the interesting thing is Oliver did not set out to write a greatest hit, nor any work of great meaning. According to an interview with OnBeing, she created this poem quite informally to illustrate the difference between end-stopped lines and enjambment to another poet. But words are powerful and when she released this poem to the world it spoke deeply to many people. It’s become one of her most loved poems.
For me, it permitted me to do the work I needed to do regardless that I sucked. Do it anyway. Over the years I’ve agonized over my work like every other creative, but her poem on my wall makes me understand that it’s not the likes, the money, or the accolades. I do not have to suffer for my art. Ultimately, it’s the daily practice of doing and honing my craft. It’s what my soul calls to me to do (which did not include quitting my day job).
Time is no excuse. Write the poems in grocery lines, at stoplights (using voice memo), doodle designs in boring meetings. The dream won’t happen unless you do it- unless you listen to the voice of the wild geese within.
I never was interested in poetry until I read “Wild Geese” until I read Mary Oliver and discovered more poetry. Now I write it. Here is the poem in its entirety…
I have had this unfolding conclusion that I do not have to accept my own mythology, my notions of limitations and inabilities, as written by others or by myself.
My first inkling of this concept was in my junior year of college. One of the most popular electives on campus was “ballroom dancing”. As a child, I was told indirectly that I was clumsy and uncoordinated by family nicknames that were not so endearing. I bought into it telling myself I could not do a cartwheel or any of the other physical badges of honor that young girls collect. Still, I needed an elective and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Lo and behold I proved myself wrong. I was doing the jitterbug, swing, rumba, waltz, and the like. Not only was I good, but I also loved it!
A more difficult life script to rewrite was the notion of “I’m not good enough” which I dragged around since childhood like a large overstuffed suitcase (without wheels). This one is rather toxic for the soul, especially if one is an artist or writer, like me. It’s the one that tells me “I can’t, I’m too old, I’m too flawed, I don’t have the right training, I’m too this, too that.”
Three years ago at age 63, I decided that, no, I wasn’t too old to pick up the guitar again, traded in my old one for a lovely tenor guitar I love, and started to take lessons. I don’t learn as quickly as in my younger years but I am so grateful I got over myself and started again. What a joy music brings! A year before that I started to write even though, no, I was not an English major- but so what. I’ve gotten better. I have two blogs, I’ve gotten published but beyond all that I love the process. All from recrafting my story.
I found that I can rewrite that, ?YES, I am good enough and I will commit to honing my craft no matter where I am at be it as a visual artist, writer, musician or ____________.
An advantage of meditation is being able to recognize that old script playing in my head. I can disagree with that voice in my head, “Sorry, you are so WRONG!”, show that voice the door and change the station with a positive script that reads…