I'm making myself a cup of coffee today, but only one. For the past 11 years, on Thursday afternoons, I've been making two cups of coffee for painting lessons with my friend and painting cohort, Sharon, and we would spend the afternoon talking, laughing, and yes, painting. This week, however, my friend is off on her next big adventure- moving to Cape Cod, closer to her sister, to live on a lake and enjoy the good life!
She and I are, in reality, polar opposites. Sharon is methodical, a planner, organized, prioritizes her life and goals, creates rituals and traditions, and just generally has her stuff together in every area. I would not describe myself as any of those things on a consistent basis, but spending time with her made me more mindful of those areas I would like to improve in. I loved the fact that she brought the same tin coffee can for her water for over a decade. Or how she starts every day making her bed , because it's her first accomplishment of the day. She filled me in on her home maintenance projects, travel plans, exercise classes, church meetings, and symphony outings. I love and admire her energy and her commitment to fulfillment and balance in her life.
Sharon and I are different in age, she is from the city and I am not, and as she was working successfully in the corporate world, I was becoming a mother. Although our lives and experiences are not all similar, we are also kindred spirits.
We love talking about anything and everything- writing, books, art and music, spiritual issues, politics, family and struggles. We find the same things funny and have lots of the same perspectives on life. To illustrate just how simpatico we are, when I felt compelled to write a blog about adjusting to changes in life- read it here -Sharon replied that after she read it, she was convinced that it was time for her to "adjust her sails" and go for it! I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about writing that blog yet, but it was intuitively written and I can't help but think it was meant to be.
Sharon pulled up to my house at 12:30 sharp each week. I could set my clock by it, and over time, seeing her car pull up became a beautiful little gift in the middle of my week. In fact, through all that happened in my life over the past decade, our lesson each week was probably what kept me painting at all. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharon kept showing up. She also brought me meals and gave me wonderful easy recipes. And she kept showing up. Through treatment, through recovery, I could count on seeing her each week, talking about life, painting, and a myriad of other things other than cancer, and at the end, we always looked forward to the next week.
When my mom began declining in memory, I would talk to Sharon about it and she would share about her earlier experiences with her own mother. We talked about subjects I normally would have talked to my mom about. She became a source of objective advice, and a caring confidant. And always, we laughed. Truly, I could, and did, share everything with my friend.
Sharon has had her own share of difficulty, heavy loss and pain in her life.. And what I learned from her over a decade of sharing our lives for a couple of hours each week, is that she is an empowered, courageous, and remarkable woman. She walks her path with faith and looking toward the future, always finding ways to fill herself spiritually, creatively, and intellectually. She shows up, plans her next trip, paints, writes, finds people to connect with, and does her thing!
Over the past decade, we created space to be artists together. And each week, when she left, I would say "See you next week!" and she would reply " Yes you will!" I love all that simple response contained- an optimistic outlook, a promise, hopefulness, and friendship. I am going to miss my dear friend. As I was contemplating my Thursday afternoon void one morning, I realized that Sharon had gifted me this beautiful ritual, one that I would never have stuck to for over a decade if it had not been for her. And now, this time is carved out for my own art, my own creative space. And I will honor her gift every Thursday . 12:30 sharp!
Easy (free) way to bring a little original art into your life!
Maybe you're interested in original art, but haven't found the right piece, haven't funded your art budget, or don't have a place for it. Here is an easy, risk-free way to get your own original little work of art.
So here it is- subscribe to ggwatercolors.com, and I will put your name in a drawing with all of the other new subscribers and will hold a drawing at the end of October! All of my 6x6 landscapes will be up for grabs and you can choose your favorite if your name is drawn! To browse all of the landscape drawings follow this link !
"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." Emily Dickinson
“None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.”
― Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
One of my favorite things about fall is going on long walks. Sometimes I even sheepishly manage to sneak out without my three dogs.
Once the mugginess of summer has subsided and those cool, dry breezes set in, I feel like a child- breathing in the air, thankful for my blessings and the beauty around me, noticing the bustling habitats that exist and thrive right along with us, unseen, every day.
Walking makes me feel connected to nature, God, and myself in ways I simply cannot otherwise.
So this week I am taking note and not just thinking about what I experience, but writing about and painting the small things that get my attention and inspire me as I get out and walk. Hope you come along! I would love to read and see what treasures you find outside on these glorious fall days! Please post in the comments!
These paintings were a lot of fun to do. Each one is small, only 8x8- experimenting with water and pigment, playfully imitating clouds, rain and atmosphere. Watching the sky and light change during the course of the day and through the seasons is one of my favorite things to do and one of the beautiful leftovers from growing up in Kansas.
Don't forget to subscribe to be entered into a drawing for 25% off any painting or print. Coming in October!
To purchase any of these original paintings, click the link Landscape
Oh Summer. The long days, lightening bugs flickering deep into the blue evenings. Sound of kids playing tag while hamburgers flame up over hot coals. Poolside, seaside, backyard, it doesn't matter, the world is just a little more relaxed and fun in the summertime.
I look forward to fall and all that comes with it, but I get a little maudlin when I first notice the shift in light that signals the coming of autumn. Right now the trees are just beginning to lose their green and I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad.
My favorite summers were when my kids were small and I got to relive those childhood summers with them. White hot days at the pool with popsicles and goggles that stretch into pillow fort movie nights when tired little bodies fall asleep before the credits roll.
Schedules, school, appointments, growing up - can we wait awhile longer? I'm not quite done with summertime just yet.
The Way to Rainy Mountain- by Scott Momaday
A single knoll rises out of the plain in Oklahoma, north and west of the Wichita Range. For my people, the Kiowas, it is an old landmark, and they gave it the name Rainy Mountain. The hardest weather in the world is there. Winter brings blizzards, hot tornadic winds arise in the spring, and in the summer the prairie is an anvil's edge. The grass turns brittle and brown, and it cracks beneath your feet. There are green belts along the river and creeks, liear groves of hickory and pecan, willow and witch hazel. At a distance in July or August the steaming foliage seems almost to writhe in fire. Great green and yellow grasshoppers are everywhere in the tall grass, popping up like corn to sting the flesh, and tortoises crawl about on the red earth, going nowhere in the plenty of time. Loneliness is an aspect of the man. To look upon that landscape in the morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun.
I've been thinking about getting a boat lately. Nothing fancy, just a little sailboat I could take out on a nice, breezy day or a moonlit evening. I grew up sailing with my family, my dad a lover of sailing, his Norweigan blood always drawing him to the water.
When you grow up sailing, you have to learn the terms, and some are more important than others. One of the sailing calls you learn to perk up your ears for is " We are coming about!" also known as "tacking".
This means if you are in the stern of the sailboat, you need to duck, fast, because the boom is about the swing from one side of the boat to the other so that the wind hits the sails from the opposite direction. This is a loud maneuver in a good sized boat, with quick movements, lots of ropes humming out and being reeled in hard , sails flapping, boom swinging. Right before the wind fills the sails again, the boat feels wrong, sometimes violent waves slamming it because of the wind hitting it at an awkward angle and everything being adjusted for the new course. I was always relieved when things quieted back down and we found ourselves underway again. . First timers on a sailboat, not heeding the call to duck, will find themselves taking a dunk in the lake when the boom comes slamming full steam across the boat.
My experience the past 15 years or so have not been a nice, smooth sail- divorce, blending a family, being diagnosed with breast cancer, being a member of the "sandwich generation", and a few challenging odds and ends thrown in for the fun of it- I have found myself trying to "come about" many times, trying to react, to shift direction when I need to without being knocked off the boat. Tightening my sails back up, and finding a new course, or at least a modified one.
I'm still working on it, but having practice makes you better at paying attention to where the wind is coming from while holding steady. I've found that the wind is more forgiving when I am able to allow some give in my sails and not try to control everything at once. Sometimes you've got to allow those big waves to slam into you while waiting for the wind to fill your sails. The important part is to remember that the wind is your friend. To work with it, not against it.
What I know for sure is that when we let go and instead of fearing change, embrace it and adjust our sails, we will find our way to gentle winds and a steady course again.
Painting helps me make sense of my life. It allows me to process things I'm not even aware of feeling. Sometimes I have no idea why I'm painting something until I'm finished and it speaks to me. This one wouldn't let me go until I wrote about it.
Thank you for reading it.
"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful: for beauty is God's handwriting- a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." Ralph Waldo Emerson
I went out of town this week without my charger and my phone died, so I was without my phone (gasp) for a total of about 6 hours. Which brings a snowballing of worry- almost panic; what if someone is trying to reach me? How will I keep track of my teenagers? I need to text that person about our appointment! What's my bank balance? Is it going to rain??What time is it? A cacophony in my head of all the things I am incapable of doing without this little rectangle of light I carry around at all times.
It took me a few minutes to calm down and remind myself that I did life without a phone for about 30 of my 48 years. And life, was fine, actually.
I began thinking of the differences in how we live today. How we automatically do so many things all at once because we have immediate access to so many things. Which brings to mind all that we miss because we are mesmerized by all there is to - read, like, contact, schedule, argue, brag, plan, etc.- right at our fingertips.
What happened? Are we in one simultaneous trance that we cannot extricate ourselves from? Somedays when I see friends arguing about the latest thing that there is to argue about, or the Kardashians are glaring at me from the headlines, I wonder.
There are so many moments that happen without announcement around us every moment of every day . Subtle, important things, like time to be bored enough to think or reflect without distraction and to demonstrate to our children what that looks like.
Who knows what thoughts and small interactions we are missing out on because we distract ourselves constantly? The momentary, fleeting beauty that will pass without our knowing because we were - what? What are we doing? Most likely nothing of consequence.
So this week, I am challenging myself and you to leave the phones out of reach more often, have faith that the world won't end , and start seeing the beauty of those things that don't call out for our attention, but are there waiting to be found, nonetheless.
Let me know how it goes and what wayside sacrament you discover.
…….And a time to every purpose under heaven.
My last blog post was January 17th, 2019 , approximately 6 months ago. Unfortunately, I have also barely touched my paintbrush in that time. Aside from a couple of commissions, which were godsends and made me get out to my studio, it's been a pretty long dormant season for this painter. In January, my mom moved in with us. She has dementia, so I'll just say the ensuing months were a big menagerie of conundrum, laughter, grief, patience, love and grace.
All you "sandwich" generation friends- which is in reality more like a panini press- you get me. It's finding the space in your soul and the freedom in your spirit to not numb out and just go through the motions, let alone create, that is most difficult when confronted with a loved one slowly being taken from you with Alzheimer's/ dementia.
For me, my mom has always been a beautiful friend and creative energy force in my life. I miss her "Barb-ness"- anyone who knows her understands that term- and on good days, I see a glimpse of it. Mom is in an assisted living place now and doing pretty well, better than what I could do for her, and our time together is less stressful now that she has a structure to her day. My family has been understanding, loving and patient during this time and for that I am so thankful . I feel a great load lifted, as well as guilt for feeling that way, but things are coming back into balance.
I'll tell you one piece of advice that guided me on this strange path; one of my "31 in 31" artist friends told me to think of myself as a tree during this time when I basically said, " I'm dried up". She told me to take the time to be still, and allow all the beauty I saw around me to feed my soul and my creativity, and to be patient with myself. The tree doesn't hurry, doesn't question it's dormancy, or the new growth to come. It trusts it's roots and knows instinctively that the dormant season naturally ends when the time comes.
The roots my mom gave me and I depended on always being available are also going dormant.. But they run deep, and I am finding they continue to feed me even as I let her go little by little. I am forever grateful and indebted to her for the depth and strength of those beautiful roots.
Here's to a new season of growth, for all of us.