A good intention is like the seed of a tree whose fruit we do not know.
George Bernard Shaw
It’s become a personal tradition to rather than make a long list of resolutions to pick a word to live by for the year. Last New Year my word for the year was “courage.” Looking back I believe I did the word justice (to the point of perhaps overdoing it?) I put myself out of my comfort zone by making a new body of work, participating in the Art Harvest Studio Tour, completing a printmaking residency, traveling Scotland to walk with friends & then to Ireland solo to attend Craiccean a week-long bodhran (drum) camp on one of the Aran Islands. Then there were a series of health issues that had to be navigated that took a different type of courage. I am happy to report things are much better!
Ready to give courage a bit of a rest, my new word for 2020 popped into my head during last week’s yoga class when my teacher asked us to think about and intention for the New Year. That word is “acceptance” with my secondary word being “focus”. I find one word can have quite a few layers to it and I am eager to explore where these will take me.
Last night I read the following poem I wrote at a gathering of friends as a toast to the New Year. I am very optimistic for better times and wish all of you the best for 2020.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” Mahatma Gandhi
One of my intentions for the New Year is to manage my time more effectively. As a creative type, I am constantly let astray by shiny distractions – a crow woman of sorts. I found two books that are very helpful on the subject.
“Make Time” by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky gives clear strategies to simplify and prioritize your day in a way that will give your life less stress and more meaning. The two authors are self-described “time dorks.” They were so overstressed in their high tech world that they developed simple techniques to really focus on what matters by doing less. Besides providing you with a simple daily template this book is chalked full of strategies to help you deal with digital distractions, tips to eat and sleep more effectively, and even how to get the most out of your caffeine habit!
Then there is “Manage your Day to Day: Build Your Routine , Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind”published by 99U. This compact little book is geared more to the creative than Make Time. There is also some overlap. Each chapter is written by a different person in creative fields about building a successful creative routine. The chapters are short, there’s a lot of quotes(I love quotes) and you can open anywhere in the book for a little pick-me-up.
Check these out. Best wishes for a creative New Year!
“If you want to create something worthwhile in your life, you need to draw a line between the world’s demands and your own ambitions”Mark McGuinness
“the comfort of reclusion, the poetry of hibernation” ― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
This is a bit of a holiday card to all my readers. I am going on a “blogcation, a bit of a hibernation you might say to immerge after the first of the year refreshed with new ideas and new direction. In this 12th month, the time of pause, I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a rejuvenating New Year!
Being a creative soul, my brain is constantly mulling over new ideas and possibilities for my visual art and writing. Being absent-minded really means not being mindful of the reality is in front of me in exchange for the reality I’m experiencing in my brain. My head is often somewhere in the clouds growing flowers. A really annoying side effect of that part of the creative mindset is losing things- constantly. I’m working on it.
A few years ago I welded a piece from junk objects I call ” The Goddess of Lost Things.”On her arms, I hang earrings and I have lost in hopes they will return to me (there have been mixed results). Her headdress is made from a rusted pair of garden clippers, some kind of plumbing fitting for her head and various bits of this and that I came across for her body.
This month”s prompt for “The Nuthatch Society,” My petite writing group was “loss,” a topic that can be explored so many ways. Rather than the serious side of loss, I chose this everyday part of my life.
Where the Lost Things Are
Tucked in burrows, sheltered from the obligations of daily use
I imagine they are gathered
Possessions I once held in my grasp that broke free and claimed their independence
The khaki hat I wore on the Camino de Santiago, left at a resting stop under a tree
How I missed its wide brim as my eyes squinted and my brow perspired under the Spanish sun- such a lucky find for another pilgrim
My prescription sunglasses in a case of mustard yellow, guaranteed to catch my eye, my name address & phone number in black sharpie on the back
No strategy foolproof
The red leather wallet lost years ago that fit so easily in my pants pocket. Where are you little one?
Earrings – always my most cherished
The mates, now single, put into service as zipper pulls, charms, and bling for art projects in memory of when they made such a darling couple
Hats, headbands & gloves fallen from pockets on ski trails through snowy woods- usually the ones hand-knitted by dear friends
Sets of car keys
The scarf that dropped from my neck as I walked through the bonny highlands of Scotland
Then the myriad of expensive striped wool socks that enter the wash as pairs and then exit a party of one
At times the lost return by chance or effort
Like my favorite watch of silver and turquoise from Santa Fe
But not before I bought a replacement on Ebay
Now I have a spare
In the end, it’s the curiosity that haunts me, the perplexing questions of how, when and where the lost were lost
Questions I would like to be answered complete with videos and maps before I die
Have the socks and earrings joined in more diverse pairings?
What new adventures did my khaki hat have?
Unsolved mysteries that will most likely remain as such
But for now blessings to all my lost possessions
Thank you for your service and blessings to the finder if there was a lucky soul
“Stop and smell the garlic. That’s all you have to do” William Shattner”
Lately, while others have been inside baking Christmas cookies these chilly Oregon Days, I have been outside planting garlic for the next year. Some of my friends know me as the “Garlic Queen,” for having developed an obsession for tasty, huge, and beautiful garlic. It’s become an art form for me. Yes, self-expression in growing garlic!
Being a garlic lover, I became very frustrated with the quality of garlic available in the grocery store. It turns out that most of the garlic in the USA comes from China! Surprising since garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow that most of it is imported. Thus some years back I began my education in garlic and garlic cultivation.
Originally from the middle east, 700 species of garlic are now grown around the world.
There are two main types, hardneck & softneck . The hardneck garlic has a hard woody stem and puts out a flowering scape (that is used for also used for culinary purposes). They have fewer cloves than softnecks but are all fairly uniformly large in size. I find they have a longer shelf life than softneck which contradicts other sources. Softneck or “artichoke” style garlic have lots more cloves that get smaller towards the middle. These are the garlics that can be braided. Each variety of garlic all has their unique flavors and storage life.
I grow Susanville (softneck) for their “wow” factor. They often can get quite large and have a pretty purple tinge to them. They make great gifts. For the hardnecks I grow “Musica” for the huge cloves, stronger taste. They also keep a month or so longer.
I have to give credit to the folks who raise Jacob and Churro sheep up the road at Bide A Wee Farm which I affectionately call “Poo Corner.” The composted manure from these furry darlings makes for great garlic as well as anything I grow in the garden. I also invested years ago in decent garlic seed from Hood River Garlic. I save the best heads from the years’ crop for the next. The bigger the clove planted equals the biggest bulb for the next year. Also worthwhile was purchasing the book Growing Great Garlic:The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron Engeland which is the bible of garlic growing.
The cloves are all tucked away now in their winter bed with a generous covering of straw mulch They will appear again come summer with the turn of the shovel as delightful bulbs- Christmas in July!
Here it comes – the biggest shopping day of the year in the USA – Black Friday. It’s the kick-off to the consumeristic feeding frenzy that Christmas has become, the holiday that fuels our economy. Humble Thanksgiving seems to have become almost an impediment to the shopping hounds. Some stores are even open on the day for bargain hunters to get a head start.
Few realize that the holiday shopping season contributes further to environmental degradation. Think about it…every gift and its wrapping is made up of materials extracted from the Earth. This would include plastic (oil), paper (trees), and metal (minerals). Then there are all the fossil fuels used to transport the raw materials to the appropriate factories, to their retail outlets, and then to their final destinations. Air and water quality are also affected by their production. For a 20 minute educational (& entertaining) video on the topic, watch The Story of Stuff. I used to show this film to my 6th-grade science students. It really gave them pause.
I’m not suggesting you trash all the Christmas fun but maybe its time to put a little more mindfulness in your holiday giving. Do people really need or even want all this stuff? Do we really need to upgrade to the latest device? Are their other ways to give without destroying the planet? Maybe a family discussion is due on the topic.
Here are a few tips for a more sustainable Christmas…
Challenge your family unit to find at least one awesome gift at a thrift shop (try to look for one that’s charitable) or an antique shop. You would be surprised at what you can find.
Think before you buy. Does this person really need/ want this?
Give photographs/memories in frames rather than purchasing uneeded stuff. Have your children write you a fond family memory rather than purchasing you a gift.
Handmake some gifts. My friends & I have a crafting party every holiday season. There are easy DIY gifts on Pinterest. Think you don’t have enough time? You’re too busy! Shut off your phone and turn off the TV and have some real fun.
Give the gift of experiences such as theater tickets.
Have your family unit sponsor a child through such organizations like World Vision or give the gift of livestock to a third world family through such organizations like Heifer Project.
I am captivated by tide pools. They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish. Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.
Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.
Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use. Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution. Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.
This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution. I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence. Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful. Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.
So what does all of this have to do with math scores? After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation. I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations. A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely. Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone). Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more testing.
So back to art. There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process. In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music. In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes. All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions. In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.
My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun. Children need creative outlets! And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!” Maybe have students visit tide pools too. Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?