Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The long and the short of it

Today is the first day of winter.

Which also means that it is the shortest day of the year.

Which also means that EVERY DAY FROM TODAY ON WILL BE GETTING LONGER - leading to my favorite time of year...SUMMER!

But, in my determination to not wish my life away (I wish it were summer now; I wish it were then, not now), I will share my attempts to embrace the now, particularly my impossible mission progress:

4 mile run on the Centennial Trail - 12/16/11

28 degrees - freezing fog

As we approach the end of the year I also want to take the time to thank you all so very much for following this blog. I truly appreciate your support and insights and look forward to spending more time together in 2012.

On that note, I will be taking some time off to be with family, so look for a new blog post after the New Year.

Merry Christmas

Have a blessed New Year


Friday, December 16, 2011

So self-centered

For once, I am thinking only of myself.

You're probably thinking one of two things:

  1. What?!!! This is NOT the season to be selfish, (at least not out loud).

  2. For once? Ha! (This is for those who know me well.)

For the record, I am speaking artistically.

I have a mission to paint two pieces that are strictly for me. It could be said that I always paint for me. Except for commissioned work, my projects are self-determined. I paint whatever seems to be demanding to be painted. But the work is still somewhat outward focused, projects designed to go out into the world to find the people they were destined for.

Not these two pieces. These are for me. They sing to me and it is time.

One project has been patiently waiting since the summer. I will paint my hawks. I want this painting to manifest the magic that I felt during the time these four magnificent fledglings perfected how to be hawks, with me right there. It was my "Summer of the Hawks". I'd like this painting will be a tribute and reminder.

The other project is new yet strangely clamoring for immediate attention. It will be based on this photo:

I've never felt the least desire to be part of one of my own paintings, but when my husband took this photo at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, I was captivated by it. Usually I compose a painting, but my thought is that this one will be much like the photo, somewhat Andrew Wyeth inspired, if I'm so lucky.

I love that I am on a path that offers no hint about where it is leading, that I am alone, and that I am looking at something that the viewer cannot see - a visual metaphor for my life if I've ever seen one. Not that I am alone, of course. I have wonderful loved ones who have journeyed with me. But we each experience life uniquely, and therefore in some ways will always be alone. We cannot know where our paths will take us, and we each see the world in a way that others cannot.

I plan to share studies for these two projects with you. Studies are especially important for these projects for a couple of reasons. One, these two pieces seem to want to be BIG (at least that is what they are whispering to me, right now), and two, they are demanding to be painted on TWINROCKER watercolor paper!! (Maybe this is really me wanting to paint on this paper. It is so expensive. I have their website tabbed on my computer and I visit it periodically, my nose leaving prints on their virtual glass display window, with my grubby fingers holding my meager pennies in my hand, hoping for the day when I will be good enough to justify spending so much money on such an extravagance.) I will be completely freaked out when actually faced with a blank sheet of this paper, so smaller studies will be absolutely necessary.

I'm telling you all of this to give you a preview of what I will be working on but also as a bit of accountability to the work, so that I won't be as likely to chicken out and work on something safer. Of course, since the creative muse who has been assigned to my case is who she is, none of this may work out at all or I may end up with something totally different. Who knows?

I just can't see that far ahead on the path.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quality of the day: wonder

I woke with anticipation this December morning
my excitement and determination adequate weapons
against the ice and cold.

To see the birds of prey
fierce, not tame
demanding my respect.

To see the elk
who decided to be elsewhere that day
but they are sovereign beings and I wouldn't have it any other way.

To see the land
not dead, but dormant
stunning in austerity.

To see the lights
an unexpected oasis of color and life
in a frozen world.

May your days be filled with wonder.

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge
Manito Park

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel

The man thought he would explode if he listened to his wife and son's chatter a minute longer.

"Why don't you two ride ahead?" he said. "I'm going to rest here a minute." He leaned his bike against the old mill stones that lined the trail and walked over to look at the river.

"You sure?" His wife saw him take a deep breath as he kept his face turned away. He didn't answer. "OK. We'll ride on ahead and then come back for you." She watched him for a minute, concern lining her face, and then turned with a bright smile to her son. "Let's race to the next mile marker," she challenged.

"Ha! You'll regret that." He surged in front of her and she followed.

"Oh, God. What am I going to do?" The man wiped his hand across his face and stared at the river. The voices of his family were replaced by the familiar memory of a shuffle of footsteps and the tap of a cane. "Dad, what do you think?" he asked softly.

He could see his dad shake his head the way he always did when he thought his son was being particularly stupid about something. "About what? What's the problem?"

"I was laid off. Twenty-five years of working for this company and I'm no longer needed. We got bought out; they closed the division. No more job." The man continued sightlessly watching the river. "Been looking for six months, can't even get an interview. They say I'm overqualified, but there don't seem to be any jobs at my previous level."

His shoulders sagged and he took a ragged breath. "It wasn't supposed to be like this. Wasn't this when it was supposed to get easier? It did for you and Mom. It did for most people my age. How is this right? How is this fair?"

"Fair?" He could hear his father's short, gruff laugh. "Life's not fair. I think the biggest disservice our generation did yours was to teach you that life was fair. Look at history. Was there ever really a time when people could expect fairness? Hell, look around you. Look at those old millstones you've got that fancy bike of yours leaning against. Cast aside, old technology. That bike of yours will be the same. Things change; people are always reinventing the wheel - life just rolls on. And it will roll right over you, grind you into the dust if you let it."

The man could see his father gaze off in the distance as he leaned on his cane. "You know, when I think back, I can honestly say that the best times were when your mom and I were struggling, barely making do. Later, when things got easier we got complacent, maybe sleepwalking a bit through the days. There's something to be said for having to stay sharp.

"There are lots of ways to die in life, but two stand out: being too afraid to take risks, and being too complacent to need to." The old man laughed. "Be thankful that at least now you don't have to worry about the being complacent part."

"I'm tired, Dad."

"I understand. Do you hear that? It's understandable. Life isn't fair. But you're going to be OK. You'll be more than OK. You're my son, aren't you? Now get rolling!"

"I miss you, Dad."

"Pops, who are you talking to?" The man turned around to see his son and wife standing behind him. He hadn't heard them return. He smiled sheepishly. "Your granddad. I pretend he's still here sometimes when I really need him. It helps me to remember what he taught me."

"Dad, are we going to be OK?" his son asked.

The man's gaze moved over the old mill stones, his bike, and landed on his son. "Yeah. We'll be OK. We'll be more than OK. I'm your dad, aren't I? Now let's get rolling."

Reinventing the Wheel

Watercolor - 9 1/2" x 13 3/4"

Centennial Trail Series

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fold, or all in?

Inspired by the Centennial Trail Series of paintings. Of course, it's about more than just running.

I planned and prepared well
before I set out on the trail
but it is cold, so cold.
"Push through it", I tell myself.

I am alone
my footsteps, my breathing, and my chattering teeth
the only sounds I hear.
Voices of fellow travelers, small animals scurrying in the bushes,
snakes slithering across the trail
even my brother hawks -
all gone
part of a different season.

I want to fold, go home
my excuses easy to find, logical, full of common sense
full of something.
That's what makes it so hard; sometimes you have to fold
and wait for another hand to play
but how many times have I folded when I should have gone all in?

I see white trees standing out against the burnt sienna shoreline.
Nondescript in the earlier lush, green days of summer,
this cold, stark season brings out a beauty
that I recognize in myself.

It still hurts; still is so hard
and cold and lonely on the trail
but I'm feeling something else, an energy
warmth from inside brought about by movement
and sheer perseverance.

It has to be this way
a level playing field of choice: all in or fold?
heartbreakingly easy to fold
because the return of going all in can be so great.
The trail is hard; every day the choice is new again
and you have to do it alone.

Although as I continue
I see others on the trail.
No easy Sunday afternoon participants here
they have already folded.
There is a depth of acknowledgement in the greetings we exchange,
because you can't get this far on a whim.

The sun feels warm on my face
even though it is still icy cold in the world around me
it no longer cuts at my heart.
Energy flows through to my fingers.
I feel strong, alive.

Tomorrow I will face the same choice,
and it will be just as hard as it was today
always a level playing field.
I might fold tomorrow - it has happened before
but today,
today I went all in.

End of a Season - Watercolor, 8" x 10 1/4"

Standing Out - Watercolor, 10" x 13 1/2"

Perseverance - Watercolor, 8" x 10 1/2"