This page contains stream-of-consciousness writings of whatever’s on my heart and mind. I was inspired to open up by my new blog friends, Mars and Something Beautiful who bare their souls and inspire the world.
I’ll Leave the Light on for You
Contemplation of my last ‘serious’ piece of artwork
This piece of artwork was created as a collaboration with my mother’s work. A year after her death, I found a small canvas board with a cabin sketched on it, a small pond and suggestion of a fence painted in light blue oil, and some paint in blue and white on the sky. I wasn’t sure what the white vertical patches were, but I found some magazine pictures with her art supplies that showed a rustic cabin and some tall yellow poplars that she may have been using for inspirational images. I realized they were to scale to fit the piece, and I had the strong inspiration to finish the work.
My artwork style and toolbox of techniques vary in the extreme from my mom’s. She did traditional oils and crafts. My work is mostly abstract or impressionist with an occasional stray into realistic illustration. I knew I couldn’t paint the cabin and trees in the way she saw them, but my usual tendency to bring collage’ into a work urged me to use the actual magazine images on the piece. The only trouble was, I needed them to be transparent, not just magazine images. I felt driven to allow the background paint to show through what I added, and I really wanted light to show through the windows. This place was more ethereal than where a crisp photographic image could live.
I researched and learned a new technique, ‘transfe colle’, that was used mostly in the 1970’s. It uses sticky vinyl (clear contact paper will work) and rubs the image to the surface then soaks in water to remove the paper from the ink, which is transferred to the vinyl. The light areas will be transparent, and the image intensity is usually weakened here and there making it have partial transparency as well. Conveniently I began working at a company that heat-pressed vinyl to the face of the painting, so I was able to professionally ‘marry’ the vinyl to the canvas and create a fully unified image. Even the original textures of the oil paint and canvas are preserved under the almost invisible finish. I get a lot of ‘how’d-you-do-that’s.
I’m uncertain why I used red acrylic as the predominant wash and vehicle for creating bushes. The ducks and some of the bushes are also images from her archives she used for inspiration. The ochre just seemed to go with the red as ‘light’. I might guess that the red was due to the intensity of my emotion while doing the piece, since at the one year anniversary of losing her it was a bittersweet project which connected me to her and also made me feel, keenly, her loss.
I do know for certain why I had such urge to let light glow through the windows…My mom and dad had purchased a painting together years before of a similar cabin, and my mother always smiled warmly when she noted, ‘I love this painting because the light in the windows looks like someone is waiting for me to come home.’
Rediscovered Nugget of Knowing
Reflection and gleam in the eye
Interrupted by ripples
It frustrates me that I can’t see the expression.
Stillness brings clarity
In the quietness I see the anger—I see the calm.
I hear what it is ‘you’re not listening’ means.
Sound is not all that should be heard.
Meaning is not all that means something.
To the Best of the Best
Has your heart ever bled for someone else? Squeezed in agony until tears run out your eyes like drops of blood? I don’t mean yearning. I don’t mean grief at missing someone or losing them. I mean feeling the pain that another feels until it breaks you in two, even when you have no problem of your own.
That happened to me today. I realized how much a friend must be suffering when she had to step back from something she loved to do, to take care of too many things beyond her control. And it hurt me that she can’t have it all. That she can’t be showered with the peace and joy and prosperity that her service to her family, friends, arts community, work place, town, and country has earned and she deserves. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone with a bigger appetite for doing, caring, striving to make things better for all. And I grew up in a home that valued service to others above money, so I’ve met a lot of such spirits.
I just wish her tummy could be filled, that she could taste the desserts she has created instead of always being presented with another empty plate to fill for another.
I’ve been feeling that way for awhile now, but today there was something deeper than selfless service without reward. I heard in her unavoidable retreat from service for a time, the ache of defeat. I am not her, so this is my heart’s rendering of her view, but it seemed she felt shame at not accomplishing her every goal and dream right away. Her beautiful soul should never have to feel that way. I was angered that circumstance pushed her down yet again, when she has struggled so long to move up. Her pain tore a hole in me.
I am sad that she thought she had let me down…an impossibility. The bridges of communication she has built, the structures of encouragement, the knowledge and spark and life that she has breathed into me and this community has lifted us all to a higher plain. That foundation is unshakable because it is in each one of us she touched. Her stepping back doesn’t let us down, because we have already been taken to the mountain top. We know the way. We stand strong.
From the bottom of my oh-so-squeezed heart, I wish her the strength and courage to feel the joy of all she has done instead of feeling the loss of what she cannot do.
The cup of success you have filled is not half-empty, my remarkable and life-changing friend. It is overflowing with plenty for all, and I hope you too can drink and enjoy some rest.
-June 22, 2012
This ramble makes me feel old, but I wish I could have understood this perspective when I was young. Maybe that’s what being young is, however, and only time can teach this liberating lesson.
Nevertheless, I will commit it to page.
At one of my writer’s gatherings at a local café last week, one of the moms in the crowd was talking of how agitated her oldest girl (early 20’s) was when she had some car trouble. It seemed to me she would be comforted since her sisters and a friend were along for the ride, but Mom said she is always very upset by unexpected things like that.
The phrase stuck in my mind, ‘…always very upset by unexpected things…’
We 40-50 somethings at the table passed it off with the famous Gilda Radner line, ‘There’s always something.’
Is the ease I feel as I age really as simple as that? The understanding that I should expect something rather than nothing to interrupt my day? I laugh as I realize it may be so.
Youth and its ideals expect wonders and perfection. They think each day should be perfect and better than the one before. But as a result they are always measuring. The unexpected throws them into a disillusioned tailspin.
This world of expectation—of SHOULD and inflexible planning is a flimflam. Goals are wonderful, but for me, it’s about grabbing the perfect opportunities as they present themselves rather than striving to make them be. The wondrous challenge is to seize the moment and grow, not decide how it will all turn out in the end.
I learned to embrace serendipity. The better part of each day is what I make of the rollercoaster that comes my way. Seeing the beauty in chaos is a fabulous equalizer, and I’m glad I can wear these glasses. The expected has become the mundane and boring part. Not that I’m asking for flat tires and havoc! But I’m able to roll with the punches because my chin is down and watching for them.
So at the risk of playing the biddy, my young friends, I urge you to see each day for what it is…an opportunity. Not to be perfect, but to BE, and to see the wonders of the moment. It’s really not so bad when you let go and let it roll. In fact, it’s better than I ever could’ve imagined, and I’m glad I didn’t achieve the limited version of ‘my perfect world’.
-June 13, 2012
Tribute – Memorial Day
I passed by the cemetary in the pouring rain today where a crowd was gathering to remember the fallen. It was not the place for me.
It wasn’t the rain that sent me on, nor the cemetary–I find them beautiful places. It was the crowd. Though I knew many were centered on honor and pride, they were also centered on loss and grief. That is not my heart today.
Instead I visited my own standing stone–still in the rain. In the shelter of a tree by the river, I sat and found at its foot forget-me-nots which I set over the living water on debris gathered from the tumult of the past. I gazed beyond the small blossoms to the stone I sought, centered in the rushing flow of life. The rapids swift at its feet. Spring growth vibrant at its back on an island in the stream.
Life is what our soldiers stood strong for. Peace and plenty is what they wished for those they left behind.
I see this blessed beauty and remember and thank them.
May 28/12 – Memorial Day
It was an average Saturday, I was pruning a bush in the yard and my husband was restacking our firewood. The bush had to get dug up and moved in mid-winter, so it needed some TLC to remove the brown parts and encourage new growth. It was hard to stoop over while clipping each part, so I brought out an old stool to sit on to ease my back.
This stool doesn’t look like much. A stubby four-legged type with a thick, rectangular redwood top stained and worn from many years. One of the legs had been reinforced and glued into the top several times as it was used a bit too roughly at times. Kind of a sad little thing for looks, but practical and loved.
I was setting it on heavy gravel, and when I scooted to enable my reach, the weakened leg broke–beyond repair. The part that should have fitted into the top shredded and completely broke off from the rest of the leg. There was no way to fill the hole and make it stand strong again. I felt a twinge of regret and moved it aside until the yardwork was done. I told my husband what happened as he went in the house and then went to the garbage can to throw it away.
When I dropped the stool into the can, a piece of my heart thunked into the bottom with it. I began to cry, shocking myself with the depth of my pain. ‘It’s just a stool,’ I soothed myself. But my heart knew that wasn’t all there was to it. I staid my sobs, but couldn’t seem to pull myself out of my oversized grief. My husband felt bad for me and pulled the stool back out and told me he would modify it somehow or make it into something else. I begged him to put it back. I didn’t want to keep it when it could never be the same.
As I often do when I can’t figure out my emotions, I sat down to write. My pen squiggled on the page for awhile and then told me what should have been so plain.
This stool had been with me ever since I could remember. I had it in my room as a child, and one of my best friends even broke her arm falling from it where she foolishly balanced it on my bed to clown around ‘on stage’ when she was four. It had traveled across the country with us when we moved (after at least one or two leg repairs) and remained in my parents home when I went away to college. I still used it to reach the soap in the cupboard when I brought laundry to do while visiting my parents when living in apartments as an adult. And I found the same trusty stool there to support me when I came by to eat breakfast with Dad on my way to work once a week in the time after Mom passed away. I took it from our family home when my Dad passed away, though most people would not have seen it as a treasure.
I have the memories whether or not I have the stool. I tried to tell myself this for comfort. Usually that would be enough. But my pen told me there was something more. My dad had repaired it so many times. The little stool was like a ‘never give up’ loyal companion. I was upset that it was beyond repair. I couldn’t fix it. No one could fix it. It was gone…. Just as my family is gone, and my family home is gone. And I can’t fix it. I can’t fill that hole. There’s no glue that can hold that leg of my life in and bring back that faithful support of home and the people that were there through it all.
A good cry washed my raw heart, and I’ll get a new stool soon to reach in the cupboards and into the future.
-May 19, 2012
My Eyes Were Opened
I value my upbringing in a place and family that allowed me to meet people of many cultures and ethnicities within an environment of complete acceptance. I was aware as a child that not all the people in my community had my oblivious regard for these differences. My brother and I were displaced from our earliest schools by the implementation of forced busing for racial integration in the heart of Miami Florida in the early 1970’s. But the Cuban, Black and Mexican children I had met in kindergarten and first grade, the missionaries and teachers from around the globe that I had met through my parents’ connections, did not have the monstrous faces that the ensuing racial war tried to present to my young psyche. I already knew they were my own kin.
Throughout my life I have accepted each person for the unique individual they are, and cultural differences have attracted me rather than caused fear or repelled me. I have been greatly enriched for my openness.
Even so, I realized one day that my identity of clan was not without bounds. I had been dating an Ethiopian man for about two years and had been immersed in his culture within the Seattle Ethiopian community and had come to know many of his friends. We often dined together at the local Ethiopian restaurant where all would gather. There was a terrible famine in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia and a news report came on in the back room. We all crowded in to see the latest and share the burden of grief. When the images came on the screen, I was struck to the heart as I never had been before. In the wizened faces of the suffering people, I saw Teddy and Tamarat and Yared—my friends and brothers—ill and near death, flies at their eyes, stomachs distended in extreme deprivation.
I realized then that I had never seen starvation before that day. With all my global awareness and cultural and ethnic openess, my eyes had been closed. I had always seen those who were suffering as someone or maybe even some-thing other. ‘Starving people’. I had thought of those visages as unworldly apparitions. Sad and far away and unreal.
Knowing Ethiopian friends with healthy, American-fed faces brought those people to my table. I could see in them the strong people they once were and the terrible, horrifying hand of want. Suddenly, they were me—without. And their suffering has become mine.
Due to that experience and many others in relation to my varied African friends, I have continued to have a heart for Africa. My story Palms Outward is one expression of this. I also reach to know more people from around the world and do what I can to raise awareness in others in my culture of the joyous differences and wondrous similarities of the heart that bind us to each other. The suffering of one is the suffering of us all. Reach out to the ones next to you, and together we can change the world.
-May 6, 2012
I used to be a morning person. I still feel best at that time of day, but I don’t jump out of bed early like I used to. Instead I’ve become used to sleeping in–waiting until the last minute to get up and get ready for work or whatever I will do that day.
When I was a morning person, my dad was still living. He’s been gone over 3 years now, and for the most part, I have recovered from the terrible blow it was to lose him–my father and my friend. But I’m not the same.
I’m not sure if it’s that I want to sleep–I do see him and/or my mom in my dreams sometimes, and I relish those times we visit–or if it’s that I don’t want to get up. It’s not like Dad would be at the breakfast table anyway–or missing from it. I’ve lived with my husband for many years. But even so, when I ate breakfast or enjoyed the dawn while my dad was living, perhaps I felt him eating breakfast, looking out at the morning light somewhere too.
Since I was a little girl, my father worked hard and often traveled in his job. He made an effort to spend time with me and with my brother, and he believed it was important to give us each a time of our own with him when he was home. Breakfast was my time. My time to talk, be encouraged or simply share the beautiful sunrise over the sweeping view of the Cascade Mountains that stretched across the horizon out the kitchen window of my childhood home.
Yes, I am not the same. I have lost something–someone very dear. Those moments will never be again. But I hope I will wake up and enjoy the morning again. The sun still rises, and it is glorious.
My dad taught me to embrace the world with wonder. To look up and see the clouds racing across the sky, the birds gracing the trees, the moon shining on the water at night, and the sun shining over the peaks at dawn. Any time, anywhere I saw a spectacular view, I would call him to share it, or point it out if he could go to his window and see it too.
Perhaps I still hold on to my pillow because it’s hard to see it alone. We only get one dad. And I am a fortunate child to have had a father with a generous and wonderous soul, which he took the time to share with me in the morning.
I can take joy in sharing this spirit with you.
-April 27, 2012
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LOVE the painting AND the collaboration. It is so beautiful a gesture and the color sings. Thanks also for the technical info. It’s really interesting and worked very well. Terrific post.
Thanks so much! I also added your blog to the Cool Artwork Links. 🙂 I love what you do!!
The story of your & your mother’s painting is wonderful, as is the painting itself. Great idea, and you approached it with so much careful thought, and as you indicated, the emotion that inevitable comes with the one year anniversary.
Thanks for your appreciation…and I just saw you decided to follow my blog. Thanks, and welcome!
I love the painting and your story. It is interesting how I am just now starting to do art and am drawn first to collage. My mother is an artist too, although she can no longer do that much of it. I have many of her supplies, sketches and incomplete canvases as well.
Thank you for coming by my blog and liking my poem today. Not only do I appreciate that, it caused me to come over to look more deeply into your blog (which I follow) and to find this work of art and your experience, which are directly applicable to what I am currently working on. I am soon going to launch a multi-art effort, on April 1, and will be sharing my learning process as a beginning visual artist as well, with pictures of my process and mistakes!
I have only scratched the surface here and look forward to exploring more.
Thanks so much for delving in deeper, Nia. You have ‘liked’ some of my personal favorites and things that mean the most to me. I’m glad my project ‘with’ my mom has inspired you. It was a rich experience and still holds much emotion and special memories. I wish you the best on your new artistic journey, and I’ll look forward to seeing glimpses on your blog along your way!
Thank you, Sheri. This connection is very meaningful to me. If I can ever be of help to you with writing or anything else, please let me know. (email@example.com)
Thanks, Nia! I feel the same way, and if anything comes up with your artwork etc., I’m always glad to help too! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much!