Thursday, April 28, 2011

My kingdom for a crumpet

It's embarrassing! I'm slightly ashamed to admit it.

But here's my secret wish: I'd really, really, really love it if the closest ladies in my life (counted on one hand - I don't bond easily, but I do bond deeply - and never mind the fact that two of them live so darned far away), could come over tonight and we would stay up all night, watching the royal wedding in the wee hours of the morning. We could dress in frilly dresses, eat scones and crumpets, and drink tea. While we were waiting, we could watch our favorite princess movies: The Princess Bride, of course!, Star Wars, Roman Holiday - can you think of others?

What's behind this shameful desire? I don't think it has anything to do with some yearning toward rescue by a Prince Charming. (I already have him, anyway.) I think it has to do with the whole magic thing. As a somewhat solitary child, I searched the back of closets looking for a way into Narnia, was convinced that there was a secret room in my grandparents' house, and dreamed many times that I could fly and breathe under water - if I could just remember how. (This led to a dangerous time in my life where I practiced jumping off of swings at the highest arc I could to see if I would remember how to fly, and dives to the bottom of the pool to test my aquatic breathing capabilities - thankfully self preservation took over in both instances.) I held leaf beauty pageants, talked to animals expecting them to answer, wandered outside looking carefully in tree stumps for entrances to fairy worlds, and felt deeply that I belonged to a world that I could not access.

So bring on the frilly dress, the tiara, and the magic wand. Wait! I'm mixing mythology. Maybe I really want to be the Fairy Godmother. Yes, that's it! I want to be able to use that magic. Fairy Godmothers are somewhat eccentric figures, coming and going at will, wearing whatever suits them. Maybe this:
maybe even this:

And that whole problem of distance and the fact that dear ones live so far away? No problem...I've got a magic wand.

Bring on those crumpets.

P.S. Speaking of magic, this is part of a magical piece of art given to me by one of those dear women I spoke of earlier. The artist is David Wooten and you can see more of his work here. What I would give to stand and observe him work!!

May we all find magic in ourselves and the world around us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking back to see forward

I ran the trail this week-end on our first glorious 60 degree day of the year and was disappointed.

Why? With my time. It was a perfect day, I felt great but I was disappointed with my pace by the end of the 4 miles. Don't get me wrong. I was thrilled to be out and running on my favorite trail and I felt wonderful but the pace thing nagged at me. Unlike previous years, I had worked out during the winter even though I didn't run. I thought that would pay off. Then I remembered my running log. Last spring I enrolled in a wonderful, free website that tracks your runs. You can find it here if you are interested. I reviewed last year's runs during April and found something that surprised me. Yes, my pace was about the same, but I was only running a couple of miles. I realized that I had indeed made progress because my 2 minute pace now is faster and I'm already running longer distances.

During my run today, I thought about how much I not only appreciate my online running journal, but also my beloved creative journal. You can find one like it here. I pour my thoughts, celebrations, fears, creative insights, plans and anything else into it. I tape practice mini paintings, sketches, cartoons, even actual plants right into it. The most wonderful thing about it is that I get to revisit the past through it and just like my running log, I discover surprising truths about myself and my progress.

I'll leave you with a last photo of one of my paintings that I'm playing with and a thought I heard today that has resonated with me: Wouldn't it be wonderful if we faced every day filled with an overwhelming excitement at the thought of "I wonder what wonderful things I have in store for me today?". I often without conscious thought, kind of face the day with an attitude of "What bad thing am I going to have to deal with today"? I don't actually think that specifically, but in some ways I conduct myself with that fearful mindset.

I wrote it down in my journal so I would remember as I move forward.

Friday, April 22, 2011

If I were a mouse, I'd be dead

I'm on a hunt.

Not an Easter egg hunt.

I'm hunting for wascally wabbits.

Just kidding. Really I'm hunting for my hawks' nest. A pair of what I think are Cooper's hawks are flying all around the trees in my back yard and I'm certain their nest is in one of them. There is one tree cluster I see them flying in and out of through the corner of my eye while I'm on my computer and I think the nest might be there.

This morning after catching that fleeting glimpse of a shadow, I decided to hunt them down. Grabbing my binoculars, I ran upstairs. Our house is built into the hillside, so our upper story is quite high relative to the pine trees in our back yard. I figured the hall bathroom window might give me a good view.

Peering up towards the tops of the pine trees, I scanned with no luck. Disappointed, I dropped my eyes and was beginning to move away, when I realized that the elusive hawk was right across from the window, gazing at me. That gaze held me captive, so fierce and beautiful. Its breast was snowy white with burnt sienna speckles, but it was the gaze that paralyzed me. Have you ever felt like a mouse?

While on hikes, I've often wondered how many eyes are trained on me as I crash and blunder my way through the forest. Quiet, fierce, wild eyes that watch me and then move on.

Aware of me but I am oblivious.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not take this photo. I had an even better shot lined up, but my predator friend apparently did not want to be the prey, even if the shooting was only with a camera. I thought you might like to see what my visitors look like.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On being a prime number

I saw a book title yesterday that caught my eye: The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. I haven't read it, but the synopsis spoke of the people who are prime numbers:

Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and themselves. They stand in their place, in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed in between two others, like all other numbers, but a step further on than the rest. They are suspicious and solitary, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. Sometimes he thought that they had ended up in that sequence by mistake, that they'd been trapped like pearls on a necklace. At other times he suspected that they too would have liked to have been like all the others, just ordinary numbers, but for some reason they weren't capable of it.
I feel like a prime number sometimes, this last week particularly so. Sometimes I feel right with my "primeness", sometimes, like in the passage above, I achingly wish I could be like all of the other numbers. My week was difficult for many reasons that I won't bore you with, but I've been thinking about one thing. The artist from the workshop I attended said you should never paint the unique - leave it for photographs. The audience won't understand it. As a prime number, I am drawn to the unique, the things that stand alone. They are kindred spirits. There is no joy in drawing and painting the composite numbers for me. After last week I feel a tiny bit bruised, but am so very thankful for the dear handful of people that not only allow me to be a prime number but encourage it. Bruises heal and I have chosen to make them part of me in a good way, working towards the strength that prime numbers must have to survive. These photos are some of the images that caught my eye during the week. I'll leave you with a photo of me (as little of me as possible to give you scale), and a new friend - who is certainly a prime number! Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

California here I come

I begin an adventure today. I'll be spending a week in Northern California, attending a five day Tony Couch watercolor workshop. I'm excited to have the opportunity to gain greater mastery over this demanding but wonderful medium that I love so much. I'll take my camera and I am hoping to share with you while I'm there if it works out. If not, you'll hear all about it when I return.

I'm so excited to: spend time with a dear, dear friend, see extended family, AND experience several days of 60 degree weather!! I'm hoping to get a few good runs in.

Have a wonderful week-end.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Serving others

There's a voice in my head.

You probably have one too.
It makes comments. Asks questions.

Often it is negative, even at times punitive. And while I have tried to lessen its influence on my mood, I do take it into account and consider its message, because while the message is often warped, twisted, or exaggerated, it can have kernels of truth that warrant examination.

One line of questioning it has battered me with since I quit full time teaching to pursue art is along the lines of, "Are you being self-indulgent?"

I have given a lot of thought over the years to answering the question, "What makes a life worthwhile?" and I have come to the conclusion that at the end of the day it is all about serving others. Nothing else really much matters, not how much money you made, how beautiful your house was, running a consistent 9 minute mile, even creating something beautiful. The only thing that truly matters is did you help other people become more of what they were meant to be.

With teaching that question was easy to answer. I knew I was making a difference for other people. I could see it in my students' faces and the way they looked at themselves at the end of the year.

I received a tremendous gift yesterday in the form of feedback that yes, my art could serve others as well. One of my customers called to let me know how my art had transformed their lives in ways no one had anticipated. She told me that they moved the painting to the bedroom and they see it every morning when they first wake up. Her husband, who had been neutral about purchasing the piece, decided that it had inspired him to become more physically active. The piece reminded him of a time when he had walked more and felt better. So the two of them have started walking more and he's been going to the gym. They've also looked around at that room and decided that they need to make it more of a comforting place anchored in the colors of that piece. It's given them joy about their home and moved them to make their home more their own.

What a blessing!

P.S. I couldn't not have a visual to go with all of this text. The above photo is from a canoe trip that my husband and son took to Bowron Park in Canada.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Sometimes the simplest things have the biggest impact.