Friday, December 7, 2018

Tis the Season: Trees, Memories and New Ideas.

I do love the holidays. The lights, colors, smells and sweets all help to make this darker time of the year brighter. First, I clean out fall and re-deck the halls. I put the trees on the mantle, plop bright red pillows on the sofa and get out my Santa collection and my children’s favorite Christmas books. 

Every ornament and Santa picture is a happy trip down memory lane. The candy cane Rudolph and starfish Santa my children made in school. The photos with Santa at Meier and Frank’s Toyland. But those babies are Masters graduates now. 

Many seasons, many changes. 

For the first time this year, we did not go out to our favorite tree farm for a freshly cut Grand Fir because the family sold the property to developers to make yet another subdivision in our suburban landscape. It’s sad to see it go. But we’ll always have the memories of many family treks in the woods to find that perfect tree. 

Now our perfect tree came from Amazon. I know. Some might say a faux tree is good for the environment and cutting a fresh one is bad. Or visa versa. There are good and bad sides, of course. One: it finally fits our narrow space so we don’t have to move all the furniture. Two: it’s tall and stately and clean. Three: it’s reusable every year. 

But I do miss the smell and freshness of a ‘real’ tree. 

Creative Spirit. 

I know I often see change as bad. There’s the fear of the unknown. But what I find too, is a spirit of adventure. A chance to try something new. An opening for creativity.

I missed the Grand Fir smell and I decided to see what I could do about it. First, of course, I brought out the candles and searched for ones with a ‘forest’ scent. It works. But it’s not what I was really missing: the scent in the tree itself.  

Ah ha. I work in clay. 

What holds scent? A bisque fired clay. What did I have in the kiln? Bisque fired red clay hearts. I unloaded the kiln and found 2 dozen nicely bisque hearts with porous clay on the back. I was just going to make magnets out of them, but I realized they could be more. Add a ribbon, and a magnet, a few drops of good scented oil and I’ve got a Christmas tree that smells like one again. 

Problem solved.

Now when I walk past the tree, all the lovely memories of fresh cut trees, Santa visits and sweet, little faces blend with our new faux fir. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thankful: A Day of Small Moments

My granddaughter, Meyer is curled up, fast asleep tucked in by her baby blankets with her head on her special purple pillow. My sweet new Lab puppy is also curled up on his soft bed, asleep. This is truly a blissful moment. And a moment that can be so easily taken for granted because it’s just a normal, rainy, Monday. 

Thankful surprise. 

About a week and a half ago, I got the call Guide Dogs had a career changer for me! Tears of joy streamed down my face, as I listened to the director’s message. I jumped. I laughed. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

What is a Guide Dog Career Changer? Quite simply, a dog who, for many reasons, would not make a perfect dog to help and guide a blind person. With all the exceptional breeding, puppy raising and training, there are very few puppies now who don’t move on in the program. The ones who are career changed have a wide range of issues from physical to behavioral. They may not fit the Guide Dog program, but they are still wonderful.  

Meet Darby.

Delightful, sleek, strong and sweet, Darby is an 18 month old, black male Labrador Retriever. Born and raised in California, he came up to the Oregon campus a few weeks ago. He was career changed for his difficult ‘home’ habits. 

This means he ‘counter surfs’, ‘dumpster dives’, plays keep away and is very vocal. Now, I’ve dealt with all of these issues with other dogs. But right now, I want to get to know him. 

I now know he loves to walk in the park, jump for balls and eat strawberries. He does not like rain, getting his feet wet or dried off. Geese, ducks, kids and other dogs all distract him. He’s very energetic and needs to be reminded to take it easy going up or down stairs, across the floor or out the door. And he whines, cries, and yowls when he is in his kennel, which  just makes me laugh. 

Progress Already. 

He already knows his new name. When I call him, he comes. When I go around the corner without letting him know, he sees me and follows. Now, instead of pulling, he waits. He walks easily up, down and around. He is learning to ‘settle’ on his blanket or bed.

He does not bark. He is lying here on his bed, listening to new noises: cars and trucks on the street, dogs barking, the furnace and yet, he is quiet. His head goes up with each sound, he looks to me, I tell him it’s ok. He puts his head back down without a sound and does not disturb my sleeping granddaughter’s nap. 

It’s 3:30 now. Today’s rain continues and the dull, cloudy light is fading. But to me, it’s been a beautiful day. Why be thankful for a quiet, rainy Monday?

Because life is all about the small moments filled with giggles, yawns and peace. Thankfully. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

You Just Never Really Know.

One day, you dream of doing or making or being or creating or loving but you don’t see any way that it might work out. You don’t have the skills or the place or the equipment or the time or the opportunity. 

All you have is a dream that’s like steam on a mirror. You can see a vague form. You have a sense of presence and possibility that feels warm and inviting. But you can’t reach out and grab it. Not yet.  

Waiting is not fun. 

Patience is not my strong suit. I get so frustrated when I’m waiting for anything, anywhere, anytime. And yet, I know I can’t push time forward or backward because I am just one element, one blink of the immensity of time. Time is not mine. 

But when I see the future of an idea or a creation, I want to do it and see it now. And yet, at the same time, I know creation is not about the destination, the end point, the result. It’s about the journey. And the journey can take some crazy curves. 

Clay, my teacher. 

I love clay. It’s soft and cool and so wonderfully squishy. You can throw it and mold it and roll it. I can make it into cups, bowls, vases as well as masks, figures, flowers and faces. I can paint it and carve it and enjoy it’s pure, essential color. 

But it will not be rushed or pushed. It will only become in its own time. 

And I have learned to honor that even as I chomp at the bit of time. It’s a life long lesson in patience that is taking me a lifetime to learn. 

And that’s ok. I like all the life in and around me and I hope I get to keep living it for a long time. But since my sweet Jilly died suddenly in March, I’ve been shocked into the reality that time can stop suddenly for anyone at anytime. That fear has been chasing me lately, making me run faster and hurry. Yet at the same time, I’ve found myself holding my breath. 

But without breath, there is no life. 

And so clay, once again teaches me slowly to be here, in each roll, slab, turn of the wheel to be in each minute, each day, in each breath. That what I dreamed but never thought I could do, I can. What I thought would never happen, does. And an opportunity I’d given up on, comes to me. 

Breathe. Because you just never know. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Time to Go High not Low.

Photo by NASA Apollo Astronauts 12/7/72

I was sitting staring at my TV with my mind cluttered with dark thoughts when up on the screen popped a view of the Earth from the Space Station. There before my eyes was a soft, white swirl of downy clouds topping planet Earth. 

My mind stopped. My eyes relaxed. I actually smiled down at all of us who live here. Birds, otters, whales, dogs, cats, horses, elk, deer, bears, fish and yes, even, insects all eat and sleep here. And yes, most of us will die here. Many of us much too soon. 

The fear and pain and horror is not to be denied. Many sad realities of now need changing and the weight is hard for all of us. Even more so for the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have lost their lives and loved ones. So many wrongs need to be righted in this topsy-turvy time.

But it’s way too easy to get caught up in the hate and fear and violence. And doing so helps no one. And stops nothing. At this low point in our life in this country and on this planet, I found some comfort in these beautiful and wise words from Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama on going high.  

“I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high-always and without exception. It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?”

“When someone’s trying to pull you down into the mud, it takes a lot less effort to give in and join them in the muck than to keep yourself upright, standing tall. If you allow yourself to play on their terms, they win. It’s what they want you to do. You can’t give them the satisfaction.”

“Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shoe away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul -your whole value system - and not just whatever happens to be your stance on a given issue. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it’s also about the person you want to be -the kind of country you want to have.”

“Barack and I have always tried to do this: When the haters come our way, we don’t let them distract us from our purpose. We brush them off when we can, and we deal with them when we need to. But we never lose sight of our goal. We never stop working. And we never stop trying to set a good example for the next generation - not just for our two daughters but for everyone’s kids. Do we want the next generation to be angry? Do we want them to be spiteful and petty? Or do we want them to live by the values that our parents taught us - values like honesty and generosity and respect?”

“I think the answer is easy enough. And it’s an answer that always applies, not just when it’s easy.”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

As the Wheel Turns: Home Stretch

Sometimes, I feel I’ll never get it all done. Yes, I do love creating. And art, is all about the process whether I’m working with paint, copper, window screening or clay. I love layers and textures and colors. Oh my.

But working with clay as I do, there are times when I just want to look up and magically see all my pieces perfectly glazed and sitting on my shelves.

There are a lot of stages in the art of making porcelain pieces. Some I love. Some I don’t. 

Throwing =Love. The smooth clay is lucious. The spinning wheel is meditation in motion. 
Handbuilding = Love.  Slapping, rolling, texture, cutting, pinching, shaping are all wonderful. 
Underglazing = Love. Layering color after color is pure play. 

Glazing = Don’t Love. Messy, tedious and a logistical nightmare.

My studio is in three different places in my house. In the garage, I throw and fire and store glaze buckets. In the home office/studio, I handbuild, paint and glaze. In the utility room, I get water for throwing, building or painting, set up for glazing, mix and clean up brushes and glazes. 

Glazing day set up: 1 1/2 hours. Bring in glazing buckets from garage. Get glaze from studio. In the utility room, open and mix glaze in each gallon bucket. Carry bucket from utility room to studio(opposite sides of my house). Bring in more water to mix more glaze to fill bucket(because it’s too heavy for me to carry from utility room) in studio.

Dipping bowls into the glaze bucket = 1/2 hour. 

Cleaning up = 1 hour. Washing the table, spatula, brushes, mixer, buckets x 4, moping floor, stacking and re-shelving all above equipment either in the garage or my inside studio. 

After all glazed pieces have dried overnight, I load them on a tray inside and carry it out to the garage where I load the kiln. This takes 3 to 10 trips, depending on the kiln load. 

Home stretches. 

I wondered, perhaps there is a way to make my home and studio stretch to work a little better. Now I have a 5 gallon bucket of glaze mixed and ready to use sitting on a new metal cart with wheels inside my studio. Next time I need to glaze, I can roll it out, mix it and use it all in one place. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wanted: Four-Footed Best Friend

I love dogs. And happily, most of my life has been filled with fluffy tail wagers, spotted barkers, wonderful walkers and cheerful chewers. Since my sweet Jilly died suddenly, I’ve felt loss and grief, as you can read in my other dog blogs, but there’s more to it. 

I feel lost without a four-footed best friend. Yes, I am an animal person. I’ve had many cats, too. And once a week, my son’s dog comes along on Meyer Monday’s and I get to take her for a walk, feed and play with her. But as a true ‘dog’ person, I miss my pack. 

I grew up with dogs.

The first dog I remember was a cute Beagle. I was very small but I remember him sitting beside me. Our next dog, a black, Standard Poodle, was adorable. True to his poodle roots, he was happy, energetic, fun and loyal to us all. If you’ve never been around a standard poodle, you’re in for a treat. Smart and entertaining, they are irrepressible and need kind, firm training. But I call them the ‘tigger’ of dogs for a reason. 

My two Golden Retrievers were both sweet, loving and wonderful family dogs. One was definitely calmer and easier to train. She loved to play frisbee, swim in her very own wading pool and cuddle with the cats. The other, a field dog golden, was energetic and smart with a mind of her own. She loved to chase birds, swim in the ocean or any available body of water, play ball and go for long walks. 

Jilly was, of course, wonderful, too. But she was also special because she came to us from Guide Dogs as a career changer. Smart and energetic, Jilly had a few training quirks but we worked together forming a strong bond of love. She loved to chase squirrels, eat tomatoes and strawberries out of the garden. She especially loved to walk. And so we walked to the park almost everyday.

Along the way, I’ve taken dog training classes, helped with rescue dogs, and done lots of dog sitting. And although, I’m really glad to see my son’s dog, Apple, every week, I know someone is missing from my life.   

Where, oh where, is my new doggy?

I didn’t think finding my new dog would be so hard or take so long. I’ve searched and searched online but I haven’t seen my new friend, yet. 

I know many rescue groups are bringing in dogs from Asian countries, but I really want to help a dog from right here. I have a granddaughter, so I need to be careful of certain mixed breeds. But surely, there’s a 12-18 month old Golden or Lab out there who needs a good home?

Jilly was so special to me, the first place I looked was where I found her: Guide Dogs. I’ve applied for another Guide Dog career changer, but because I’m just me, and not part of a therapy association, I’m afraid, I’m low on their list now. But maybe, just maybe I’ll be chosen again. I sure hope so. 

What I do know is this: I am a dog person looking for a four-footed best friend. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Good Kind of Tired

Life revolves from inward to outward, fast to slow, busy to not. This cycle isn’t just mine, of course, it’s the way of the world all around me. From the seasonal growth of spring and summer to the seasonal rest of fall and winter, movement happens whether we want it to or not. 

I’ve shared my ‘seasonal musings’ many times before. While I love spring and summer, fall has been my least favorite time of year most of my life. This year, spring hit with death for me. And, as autumn leaves fall this year, even with the nationwide difficulties, I feel an odd sense of optimism.

Working hard to hardly working. 

Last week, my studio time was spent pricing, packing, loading, unloading, setting up, and taking down my work. It was a weekend show called Art In The Burbs at a local high school. I was excited to be juried in. I was glad to be sharing a booth with another ceramic artist friend. We both did well on sales which is definitely worth a happy dance. 

But it was also a huge amount of work. And the whole process from inventory and wrapping up my porcelain for transport to meeting, greeting and selling was stressful. Ahead this week is unpacking from the weekend, doing sales inventory, editing a group newsletter and gallery sitting. 

Right now, it’s nap time. My granddaughter is here peacefully sleeping. I am cozily sitting on the window seat dozing, clicking around and, obviously, writing. One thing I’ve learned about naptime from my granddaughter is to take some time to rest, myself. Something I never did when my kids napped. But now I know one of the best ways to actually get more work done is to take time to stop. 

I feel a good kind of tired today. 

I tried a new kind of show and it worked out well. I learned a lot about setting up and manning a booth for 16 hours over 2 days. What seemed overwhelming in the beginning, was not in the end. I have a holiday show and gallery show coming up in the next few months. And the curious thing is, I’m not worried. 

Just like this weekend, once I got there and started setting up, I was surprisingly calm. 

The air feels like it’s clearing. 

Maybe it’s the seasonal change. Maybe it’s not. But watching the leaves fall this year, is not making me sad. It’s like a crispness is sweeping through my soul.  

The emotional smog that’s covered my life for months, feels like it’s lifting. 

I feel a small sliver of hope lighting and lightening my way.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

How to deal with fury and fear?

It’s been an awful week in this country. Watching the bravery of one woman who dared to come forward to save the sanctity of the highest court in our land. Listening to an experienced federal judge shout, insult and refuse to answer questions put to him showed him to be totally unqualified for the Supreme Court. And then, our president ( lower case, intended) mocked her in a speech, which, showed him to be not fit for his office either.

How do I deal with the onslaught of fury and fear that I feel? Where can I find information to help me understand, process and move through all this?  

The answers came directly into my inbox. 

Several authors wrote insightful emails that not only helped me out of the trench of anger and fear, but illuminated the darkness. Here are quotes from their emails. 

Lissa Rankin with psychologist, Robert Augustus Masters, PhD. Robert’s on the ‘boy’s club’:   

“I’m inviting men to stop toleration this faction, even if it includes your boss, your political rep, your law enforcement buddy, your drinking pals, your brother-in-law, your father. And I’m also inviting women who are caught up in this faction-through misplaced loyalty, fear, blindness-to also cease toleration such men and speak the fuck up.”

Tara Mohr on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony:

“I want all of us women to see what we watched today as a play, a kind of narrative-crafted, sculpted, with a point of view that is meant to have a particular impact on us.  

The story could have been shaped as one about investigating(truly investigating) a potential crime, or as a story about rape culture in teenage life, or about the patterns of abuse we see amongst powerful men - or all of those. But that is not how the story was shaped for us. The title was given: “Is she telling the truth?”and that question was made the central theme. 

The shaping of the story is intended to shape us as women. It is supposed to teach us that the first question to ask a victim is not, “How can we help?”but “Are you to be believed?” It is intended to imprint into our hearts that if we speak up, we will be met not with compassion, but with skepticism from our fellow human beings, when we most need their support. The story is crafted to vilify for us the caricatures of the conniving woman and the good guy wrongly accused. It is here to teach us women to become skeptical of each other, and then, even worse, to become suspicious of our own memories and experiences.

So, my request today to all of us is this: see the play being performed for your inculcation, and choose not to swallow its narrative. Instead, choose consciously what you will make of what you saw, or heard, or read.”

What do you choose? 

I choose not to feel like a victim. I choose to see myself as a survivor and a champion of truth. 

Here is the truth: Abuse, bullying, violence towards someone else smaller than you doesn’t show power, it shows weakness. And your weakness is what you really fear. 

Stop. Now. 

No more excuses. No more denials. No more temper tantrums. Man up, America. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Out of the Darkness comes Light.

As I sit here, tucked under a cozy throw,  watching my granddaughter slumber in sweet peacefulness, I wish and want and hope. 

I wish for her to live a life in a world different from the one I have lived in. A world where all people are safe and respected in body, mind and soul. A country where everyone understands that everyone has the right to live free from abuse of any kind.

I want her wonderful, brilliant mind to be embraced, encouraged and utilized. A system of education and work where her talents and dreams are seen as not just valid but invaluable. A place where work and health and life are an integrated whole for everyone. 

I hope she will never know the pain of abuse. I hope she will be seen and heard and encouraged not to just do well, but accomplish more than anyone else before her. I hope she will have the power to choose her own path, her own life, her own love based on her own guidance system with the support of a good education, healthcare and economic system that values people over product and bottom lines. 
Enough now. There’s been enough darkness. 

While she sleeps peacefully on this cozy afternoon, I read the news and shiver, not from the cold but from the darkness growing across our nation. 

I’ve lived in a very different kind of world. (Yes, #metoo) A place where power meant pain. Physical punishment was not only accepted but encouraged. Where on Fridays, the nuns would use a belt on the week’s worst child and broadcast it over the school public address system. Where little girls were to be quiet, sit still and listen more than talk.

Graduating at the height of the feminist movement, I thought now, everything will change. Finally, women will have power over their own body, mind and life. Finally, there will be no more abuse or pain or inequity. I worked and got paid more than my mother did, but there was no big change. Yet, I was encouraged by even those small steps forward. 

Forward or Backward?

It seems with every news story, we are moving backward instead. Why? I’ve been asking and asking myself that question over and over in a desperate attempt to figure out how we are now where we are in this country. 

I thought, when I was 20, that the world was changing for women in a good way. Twenty years later, I prayed that the world would finally change for my daughter in a much better way. Now, I look at my granddaughter’s sweet, sleeping face and I see that the world hasn’t changed very much at all. 

And I’m angry. No. I’m pissed. This was totally unacceptable then and even more so now.  

Here is the truth: Those patriarchal men know their time of power and evil is ending. That is what these men really fear. 

Now it’s time. Our time to see beyond this darkness. It is our time to step into the light. 
And create a different kind of world. 

Look to the horizon:
The sky is dark and the stars blink bright. 
Softy, the celestial night lights dim as the world slowly turns from night to day.
The deep black sea turns grey as light pink dabs the clouds and blue fades up. 
Birds silent in the dark, begin to speak up and the first boat jets across the waves. 
Good morning, world. 
A new day has begun.