Thursday, November 26, 2020

Grateful

 


I am grateful. Yes, in spite of all the terrible, difficult, confusing, maddening, and scary things this year has thrown in my path, I am humbly grateful.

I am grateful for my breath, my hands, my body (yes, even as it grows older). My arms are strong enough to lift my grandkids. My back bends, slowly. I make sure to use my abs. My legs love to stretch and walk and climb with me every day around the park and back. And my hands still love to throw, shape, trim and paint clay. 


Home and heart. 


Again, I’m grateful for my home, warmth and food. Especially this year with all the problems finding TP, cleaning supplies, flour and even yeast, it’s been scary. Just when I stopped ‘backing up’ my pantry so many things got hard to find. But one day at a time, I’ve gathered and stored. And I’m grateful my pantry is ‘backed up’ once again. 



While many other hearts filled with anger and violence and fear gnawed at my soul, my arms opened to welcome my children and grandchildren home. After many years apart, my daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson came home. Now I get to take care of two sweet, wonderful new humans. My granddaughter, Meyer is at that magical age of 5 and my grandson is moving from baby to toddler learning and growing with amazing speed and sweetness. 


Art and soul. 


Through all these difficult months, art has been my island of peace, safety and joy. Throwing teacups. Trimming delicate feet. Stamping bowls with messages to ‘act brave and kind’. Creating my own new way to make birds with heart shaped wings and encouraging words. 



All of this work lifted me up when my heart started to sink. It gave my body a way to work through my feelings. And my mind something else to focus on and move onward. And I am always and ever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do.


Inside and out.  



Quarantines. Walks in the park. Gallery sitting with a mask and no visitors. Shopping with social distancing. It feels more than a little surreal. It’s difficult. Frustrating. And sad. 


But inside, my home is still my home. Today, my daughter and I cooked and watched a movie.  My husband and my doggy Darby are now snuggled by the fire. Upstairs, my daughter and son-in-law are gently singing my grandson good night. And tomorrow, my son and granddaughter will be here to eat turkey dinner and



Every day. Every breath. Yes, even for every roll of TP.  

I am grateful. 

Again and again and again. 



What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Change

 



When I look in, out and around me all I see is change. Whether it’s the leaves on the trees, the election, covid case counts or new restrictions, everyday brings new information and adjustments to my daily life. 


I don’t know about you but it’s taken me a few weeks to get used to everything that’s happened around me. The election took its toll on me. I didn’t even realize I’d been holding my breath, worried that somehow things would go sideways. And let’s face it, it’s been a bumpy ride. I might now like it, but sometimes life is like that. 



Deadlines and deliveries. 


In the studio, I’ve had a lot to do. I admit I was surprised to be firing up my kiln twice in one week to meet a deadline. I usually get my work done well in advance. I’m a planner and a list maker which I realize doesn’t fit the artist stereotype. 


But I’ve learned that clay has its own timeframe. Cooler, rainy weather means it takes longer to dry. I have to wait to paint the colors, bisque fire, add glaze and do the final firing. While I’d like to hurry the process and force the clay to dry faster, I’ve learned with porcelain, that leads to cracks, bubbles or blow ups. So I watch it, feel it and work with it knowing I’ll be glad I did. 



This time, I was working with a new clay. I wasn’t really sure how long the drying cycle would take. I would’ve liked to wait a little longer to be sure, but I had a deadline. So I had to change my work routine and timing. 


Time to learn.


In order to glaze the new dove clay ornaments, I had to come up with a way to hang them in my kiln without letting them touch each other or the kiln shelves. I ordered heat resistant wire and bent it to fold in and over my kiln posts so each ornament hung in a separate groove during the firing. I slid each ornament into the groove, turned on the kiln and crossed my fingers. 



I opened the kiln the next day and let out a sigh. It all worked out. The ornaments were glazed on both sides, still hanging from the wires and now with a lovely pearl finish. 


Peace. 

 

I let out a huge sigh of relief that day. And I realize sighs of relief have been flowing out of me for days now. I sighed after the first big storm hit and my new roof and skylights proved strong and safe. I sighed when the election results finally came in. Yes, I sighed when I opened my kiln to see dove ornaments fired and fine.  



Throughout all of these changes surrounding me, I was hopeful, scared, doubtful and finally, relieved. Now, I hope these changes will bring peace and a change to come together, listen, learn and help each other.  

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Samhain

 


I come from a Gaelic heritage based in and around Ireland, Scotland and Wales, yet I didn’t learn much about it growing up. I was raised in a cozy mid-west suburb where I was sent to Catholic school and church. In my school, there was no Halloween. Instead, we observed All Saints Day where we dressed up as our patron saint. 

When I got home from school, I changed into my costume and ran through the neighborhood trick or treating. I loved getting dressed up. I loved the candy. I’m glad I was allowed to have fun on Halloween. 


But I was never taught the true origin, meaning or rituals of Samhain which is the origin of Halloween. 



Spirits and Saints. 


Samhain, pronounced Sow’ in, is an ancient Celtic festival on November 1st. Because the Celtic calendar calculates the days using the Lunar calendar, the start of Samhain or All Hallows is on October 31 which is the end of the Celtic year. 


For the Celtic culture, this is a celebration of endings and beginnings. It’s a time to feast and celebrate the harvest. It’s also the Celtic festival of the dead. A day to remember lives well lived and honor spirits with bonfires, food and drink. 


The festival was changed to unite tribal culture with monotheistic religion. When Christian religion took over the Druid culture, Samhain was changed to All Hallow’s Eve or All Saints Night. 



Fire, food and faith. 


Certainly this year, of all years, makes the whole Western idea of candy and costumes seem wrong. Co-opting a culture by using stereotyped costumes can be seen as racist, sexist or worse. It could perpetuate misinformation and misunderstanding at a time when we need just the opposite. 


Yet coming together to talk, eat, laugh and celebrate may be what we need most right now. It’s getting colder outside and we need warmth inside our homes and our souls. Giving a sweet can be just a symbol of generosity by sharing food with people we know and those we don’t. It builds faith in the families surrounding us in our neighborhoods. 



If there was ever a year where we needed to come together, it’s this year. I need to find a way to end this difficult year with heart and hope and faith. 



Maybe, for me, that means making ghost cookies, carving a silly pumpkin, lighting my home with cinnamon scented candles and making a big batch of stew from the last of the season’s tomatoes. And most of all remembering the good souls who walked and lived and laughed and loved among us. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Small Steps



I’d like to say that this week has been an amazing array of big, grand and glorious things, events, sales and opportunities. I’d like to be able to look up at the sky and twirl like that opening scene from the TV show, Mary Tyler Moore. Or sing with free abandon(and on key) like Julie Andrews in the “Sound of Music”.  


But all I can truthfully say is that I showed up and did the best I could do. All the time looking up at the sky and asking, “Is it all over, yet?”


Slapping, rolling, trimming and cutting. 


Yup, the studio works doesn’t just give me something ‘to do’ to distract me from the current events swirling around, it saves me. Energizes me. And calms me. 



Precisely trimming a teacup takes all my focus. My mind cannot wander, well, unless I want a footless cup. Or an uneven bowl bottoms. But there is no doubt one of the most therapeutic part is slapping that clay down during hand building. I don’t have a slab roller, so throwing the clay down on a canvas board with a slap is a way to wedge and shape it before I roll it out. 


These are some of the many small steps it takes to make a finished bowl, teacup, vase, bird or ornament. Many days, it feels like nothing is getting done. 



Wise words always help me. 


Especially now, when I feel lost wise words of others help me find way. Martha Beck’s words landed in my inbox to save my day. 

 

“Any action we take, at any given moment, is small; big achievements are simply accretions of many small acts. Creating a full, meaningful life doesn’t mean doing huge things. It means that we align each small step we take with our sense of what’s right. And that takes courage.”



Martha Beck’s advice, “Today, look for two or three opportunities to act in accordance with what you most value, even though it takes courage. Tomorrow, do the same thing. And every day after that. Years from now, people will tell you that you’ve done big things. You’ll know better, of course. But it will be wonderful all the same.”



I don’t know that people will tell me I’ve done big things. After all, my teacups are small. But I do know that 10 years ago, my small step was a throwing class once a week and now, I see shelves full of vases and bowls and mugs and jars and, yes, teacups. And my work is out there online and in galleries. 




So, I know that once again, Martha Beck is right when she says, “It’s amazing how big a difference we can make over time, especially when all our small actions come together.”

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Simply Fall





It’s a blustery day and I love it. There is stew simmering in the slow cooker, fresh rolls rising and a cup of tea is steeping. I’m grateful to welcome this season, yes, even with COVID.



A rainy afternoon with a clean house and cup of tea. 




A kiln firing with new teacups, teapots, bowls and plates. 




A Halloween Raven wreath on my front door, a banner on the porch, a pumpkin and chrysanthemum on the porch. 





A plate of freshly baked chocolate cookies made by my husband and best friend, Michael. 



Spirits of the trees, a mask and pumpkin scented candles. 



A shape-changer sculpture and a crow made by an artist friend.



I’m grateful for all of these warm, creative, decorative, fun, tasty, scented, bright, spirited art and delicious tastes. It’s my simple way of celebrating fall. 


Friday, October 2, 2020

Quiet. Please.



As a child, these words posted in my local library brought peace. I remember reading them gave me a sense of safety and shelter and calm. And I know in my heart and soul that is exactly what I need right now. 

In July, the roof of my house was ripped off and completely replaced. We’ve lived in this home we designed for almost 30 years, so it was time for a new roof. While I looked forward to the new roof, I had no idea what it would be like to live through the transition from old to new. It was a VERY loud and messy process. 



In September, the front siding of our house was ripped off and completely replaced along with a small section on one side. After that was done, the entire house was re-painted including trim and the front door. Again, it was a loud and messy process. 


New strength. 


I love my new roof, new skylights and new vents. I love the strong, updated siding. I love the new paint color, new window trim and bright red door. But most of all, I love feeling even more securely sheltered in the home I designed and built three decades ago. 



Getting here has not been without its bumps and bruises. Siding and skylights were not in our renovating plans. But what I’m learning, especially this year, is plans change. And sometimes they change for the better. 


Creating challenge. 



With all the noise and mess and disruption, it was hard to find time, space and quiet to work in my studio or on my wheel. Glaze firing was put on hold due to air quality warnings and high outside temperatures. Yes, it was frustrating and I’ll admit scary. Because, my lifeline and connection to calm is creating. 


So I painted a new bowl and two new birds.  I re-arranged my studio. And I waited as calmly as I could, which I’ll admit included pacing, grouching and some unneeded snacking. But last week, before house painting began, I did manage to throw a few teacups. I made a new leaf platter. And this week, during the trim painting of the house, I trimmed and pull some handles. 



Balancing the see saw. 


I remember long ago, an expert described life balance, not as a balance beam, but as a see saw. It is so simple and so true. 


Life is not a straight, narrow path but a thrilling ride of quick ups and downs with short stops in the middle. Studio work helps me balance and yet, it is a constant seesaw ride: good weather for clay to dry vs (not) too hot, studio time vs marketing and selling.  


Then, of course, there is social media, politics, pandemics, forest fires, bad air quality and roofing and painting and 2020. 

 

What a see saw to live on everyday. A challenge that requires creativity and strength. And most of all, for me, a little quiet. Please. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

“Still, I rise.”

 



Again and again and again. 2020. This week my inbox and social media is crowded with messages like yours, I’m sure. We are all feeling and seeing and reeling from fires, viruses, deaths and disasters. 


One email focused on letting it all go. Jen Louden made a great point, “There’s a profound difference between surrendering to what is vs. falling into the grubby kind of “why bother? I’m learning to navigate between the two. I’m learning to feel my disappointment and heartache while dropping my stories like, I suck because __________ didn’t work or never happened.”


Inspiration and work. 


I admit, I’ve been in the ‘let it all go’ giving up phase. I also admit, I was heading for ‘why bother’ land. Louden’s email helped me feel the difference and steer myself back on the road.



I found a quote from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still, I rise” and I read her strong, beautiful, determined words over and over. My heart ached for her pain, saw her courage and felt my own small world rise.


Her words were the inspiration for a new piece. And I delivered it to a new gallery this week. Somehow the birds I’ve been making, Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem and the gallery’s 12x12 square all came together like magic. 



Being useful to the world. 


In the wake of Ruth Beader Ginsberg’s death, an email from Maria Shriver, Sunday Paper arrived with a question of how to turn despair into action. Asking everyone, “how you can be used right now. This is not a time for despair. This is not a time to bow out or go quiet. This is a seminal moment for each of us to dig in and dig deep.”


As an artist, how can I be used right now? I throw and hand build bowls, teacups, vases and birds in clay. This is not a revolutionary thing to do. My pieces don’t shout or march or protest. 



But, I realized the other day, they do make a statement. A friend came by my studio to buy one of my red ‘cup of love’ teacups. 


In the process, she loved and bought a bowl with the words, “Believe Love”.



And smiled happily at my Caterpillar/Butterfly with the words: love, joy, true, act, brave, kind. 




So maybe in letting it all go, I steered myself into new work that helped me rise. And maybe it will help my friend and others to rise, too. 


Despite the fear, death and smoke, I can hear Maya Angelou’s wonderful, brave words: 

“Still, like dust, I’ll rise”, “Still I’ll rise”, “Still, like air, I rise”, and “I rise. I rise. I rise.”