Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Turning Darkness into Light.

In the northwest, this is the time of year we ‘fall back’ by turning our clocks back one hour. It’s an old law that was meant to give farmers more time to work in the fields harvesting crops. It made sense then, it makes no sense now. And yet, we are still stuck in lock step, turning our clocks back the first Sunday in November. 

No one seems to like ‘springing forward’ or ‘falling back’. We all complain about lack of sleep and it upsets our body’s own natural rhythms. There’s evidence of more accidents and health issues around each time change. Which is why I’m glad the west coast has voted to stop these time changes. 

Why do we try to control time?

Because we are just one species on one planet in a vast universe. We’re afraid. One of the most elemental fears is darkness. As children, we all wake up in the night afraid of the dark. We fear monsters in the darkness under the bed or shadows in the corners. 

And we all know many reasons to fear the dark. There are dangerous animals outside. Violent people on the streets. More accidents happen in the night. So it makes sense to want to create more light when the days grow shorter and the nights last longer. 

Light is essential to our body, mind and soul.

We need light to survive. Sunshine gives our body what we need to make Vitamin D. Seasonal light changes affect our need for food and our moods. More light, well, just helps us feel lighter, too. 

That’s why we turn on the lights all around us 24/7. We want to feel safe. Protected. Healthy. With all these lights, and screens and daylight savings time, could we be missing something?

Maybe we need to honor the need for darkness too. 

Just like the earth needs the change in seasons, so do we. After the blooms are gone and fruit is picked, the trees need to rest. Leaves fall to the ground and create fertilizer for the next years  growth. 

Darkness cools and soothes and cradles new seeds and sleeping babies. Perhaps seasonal light changes not just trees but our very nature, too. 

We can slow down. Tuck into bed early. Rest by the fire. 

Let ourselves look up at the darkness as a place to imagine and dream. 
Bringing possibility out of nothing. 
Finding new ideas in the blank canvas of night. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Welcoming Worry

Am I going a little crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. As a lifelong worrier, I’ve fought hard to avoid worrying. And I’ve tried many anti-worry methods: aerobics, meditation, jazzercise, yoga, chocolate and binge watching on Netflix.

Many of the methods were healthful and helpful. And what’s not to like about chocolate and binge watching, “Bones”.  But none of them made the worry go away for good. 

Maybe it’s in my genes or jeans?

As a child my great Aunt Mae told me, “Susan, don’t worry about worrying. You come from a long line of worriers.” I didn’t understand her then but I do now. 

First off, worrying about worrying is definitely not helpful. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. And while the spinning might give you a little exercise, it also keeps the worry circuit fully charged. That said, I’ve spent quite a few hours chasing my worries anyway, perhaps hoping the exercise would help my jeans fit better. 

What’s there to worry about anyway? Really?

The world ending tomorrow? Trump getting re-elected? A plane crashing into my house? Falling meteors? A chocolate shortage? Ok, I know some of these are silly. 

But we all have worries that are very real to us. From birth to death, we work to survive. And with all that work comes success and failure. And the worry follows. I worried I wouldn’t graduate. Or find a job. Or an apartment. Or a boyfriend. Or a home. Or have healthy babies. 

Remembering my worries now about my sweet, small babies, I smile. Both of my babies were considered ‘small’. I fed them and changed them and rocked them all the while worrying constantly. Were they eating enough. Would they gain enough weight. Would the grow up and be good, strong people. 

Now 30 years later, I see my ‘small’ babies are strong, healthy, beautiful adults. They are fine. They are talented. They are working. Now they have babies of their own. And, you guessed it, they worry. 

They worry their babies are too small. That they aren’t growing and learning and eating well enough. That they’ll never learn to sleep through the night. Will they grow up to be good, strong people?

Worry was not what I really wanted to pass on to them  But then, I remember my great Aunt Mae and I say to them, “Don’t worry about being a worrier. You come from a long line of worriers.” 

Maybe the best we can do is welcome worry. 

Maybe welcoming worry won’t make it go away, but it will perhaps, make it a bit lighter. Shining a light on it as a guide to tell us what we truly love and care about. Helping us understand what we need in our life that may be missing. Maybe it’s a part of ourselves that thinks survival depends on being prepared for catastrophe and the only way to do that is worry. 

I’m not sure. And I worry about that. 

But one thing I do see clearly: my worst worries never came true. So now, I’m going to work on welcoming my worries as part of life because I come from a long line of worriers. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Living a Gutsy Life

Gutsy is a word making the media rounds right now because of a new book, “The Book of Gutsy Women” by a famous mother-daughter duo, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I can’t even imagine what Hilary and her daughter went through during their days in the White House and on the road during the 2016 presidential election. I admire both of them. 

What they did and do and who they continue to be takes real guts. And they see the ability to be gutsy in other women. I don’t see it in myself but I can see it clearly in other women around me.

Meet my favorite gutsy woman. 

She is my daughter, Caitlin. From a young age, she loved to sing and act. Her first role at the age of 12, was the lead in “Trial by Jury”, a Gilbert & Sullivan play. Her naturally beautiful voice took everyone by surprise. But as her mother, I saw one very gutsy girl up there on stage as a 6th grader in front of the entire junior high school. 

Now, she has a Master’s in Vocal Performance. A list of vocal scholarships, degrees, awards and performances as well as work conducting and teaching music at academic levels. 

Three years ago, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband and found new jobs and performance opportunities. 

Beginning a new life takes guts. 

Now, Caitlin is a new mom. And as any mom knows bringing a baby into the world is a gutsy act. Birth itself is scary and many times, traumatic. Recovery from surgery takes time and sleep which almost don’t exist as a mother of a newborn. Add the responsibility of being the sole manufacturer of food for another human being, right? Nursing your baby is natural and wonderful. And very overwhelming. 

Now add to all of that trying to make a living in an insecure world as a vocalist and musician and teacher. Well, it all takes a lot of guts. 

Women are gutsy. 

Many people are gutsy including men, of course. My husband and son and son-in-law come to mind first. They have each worked hard, suffered losses and still continue to accomplish more. 

Women many times start out in the background just by being born female. I grew up in a man’s world surrounded by brothers. I was taught early to do woman’s work. But in spite of or maybe even because of that, I was very determined to do more with my life than dishes. 

And I did. Writing. Awards. Art classes. Gallery shows. 

Yet, even though I’ve done a lot more than dishes and diapers, I’ve relished that too. Nothing can compare to holding and feeding and teaching my babies. And as those babies grow, it’s a growing challenge to follow their fearlessness into this fearful and uncertain world. 

But, let’s face it, living a real life takes guts.  

So maybe, I am a gutsy woman. 
And yes, you are too. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Time Marches On

My daughter just had a baby. She was my first baby. My daughter has a son. My son has a daughter. They’re delightful, healthy and wonderful and I’m a delighted and grateful. 

I see my two babies grown up and having babies. They are older and, therefore, so am I. Oh, I’ve spent a long time in denial but time can not be denied. Nor should it. But in our society, especially for women, age is seen as something to hide. 

Cosmetics, procedures, diets, books, fitness programs are all sold to reverse or stop aging. But, we all know the truth, time marches on whether we like it or not. 

I’ve decided to like it. 

“Yup”, I said to my granddaughter, “I do have some white hair.” When she asked why, I said that my hair has changed during my life just like I’ve changed. When I was her age, my hair was almost the same color as hers, strawberry blonde. But as I got older, my hair got darker. And now, it’s getting lighter again. And I think the new lighter highlights will make my fair skin and blue eyes look even better. 

Nope, I don’t weigh 100 pounds anymore. But now I have muscles that can lift my granddaughter up high, throw clay, handle a 60 pound dog, prune trees, haul heavy grocery bags and do planks. And because I walk a mile or more everyday and do yoga, I can bend and stretch and climb stairs without pain. 

Ok, my knee may creak a bit, sometimes I get stiff. And that’s an important message from my body to take time to breathe and stretch. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to waste my time or anyone else’s complaining about it. Age does not give me cart blanc to whine. 

We live in a very ageist society. Women and men are expected to work until a certain ‘age’ and retire. Well, guess what? We don’t have to. I have had several women come up to me recently and ‘assume’ I am retired. When I say I am a working artist, they respond with, “Oh, you’re retired with a hobby.” Seriously? 

I’ve also decided to change how I see me. 

For years, I’ve been in denial of my wrinkles. I’ve refused to see my glasses as a sign of age. But they are there, right before my eyes. So it’s time to see them, and maybe give them some love, instead of hate. They do make it easy and far more comfortable to put all those details that I love into my art. 

Maybe it’s also time to see myself through a new lenses of experience as not just a survivor but someone who thrives. Someone who went through pain and heartache and fearful times and lives a good, creative, healthy, loving life.  

I’ve also decided instead of waiting for others to like me, I’m going to like myself for a change. 

I am still a woman. Smart. Creative. Loving. Capable. 
Yes, I’m older. 
Yes, I am a working artist NOT a ‘retired’ woman with a ‘hobby’. Seriously?
Yes, I’ve changed. 

Now I’ve decided as time marches on, to march with it. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Fall Favorites.

It’s official. Today is the first day of Fall and I’m loving it this year. I’m not sure why I’m not sad to say goodbye to Summer because it’s always my favorite season. For some reason, this year it feels good to see the changing fall colors, cooler temperatures and warmer foods. 

Here are a few snapshots of my favorite things about fall this year. 

Beautiful hydrangeas. 

I love how this plant produces so many different colors on one bush. Deep red. Light turquoise. Even a lovely purple. Oh, I know it’s the ph of the soil that affects color and each flower is like a living litmus paper showing the acid or base of the earth beneath its roots. While this is fascinating, the best part is how they dry out in a vase to be even more beautiful.

Surprise mini pumpkins popped up. 

I did not plant pumpkins this year, yet a new vine appeared in July. At first, we thought it was more zucchini but then magic happened. The squash we thought we had was in fact, a small crop of little white pumpkins. The reason? Last year, in November, when I was done with the mini pumpkins I’d bought at the store, my husband decided to compost them in the empty garden space. Voila!

Apples and crows. 

I love apples. As a kid, my favorite thing was fresh pressed apple cider. So every Fall, I just have to get mounds of apples and pile them in my big black, oval, slab built dish and add my artist friend, Terry’s quilted crow. 

I also love crows. One of my first mixed media pieces was about a crow shapeshifter. I’ve collected crows from other artists. And this year, I made my own slab built crow to add to my collection. It can hang on a wall, sit on a table for decoration or, maybe, I’ll add it to my Halloween wreath on my door this year. 

I can see now that my Fall favorites are also becoming Fall inspirations.   

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Time In. Time Out.

Life flows like the ocean, in and out. You and I know this.  But I forget as I get caught up in the everyday, trials and triumphs, schedules and space. Today as I look back at a Facebook memory photo, I’m taken back in time to our anniversary trip to Maui. 

Facing the view of ocean and sky was beautiful. The sounds of construction below us was not. We were moved to another unit just in time for our anniversary day. This was a gift in itself. I was very relieved and grateful. 

This year, was completely different. We were home living our normal everyday life. But we did make reservations for a special dinner at our favorite place. I found a wine from a vineyard that brought back a lovely summer day picnic memory. My husband found 2 dozen beautifully garden grown roses for me to arrange around our home. 

Again the flow. 

The last few months have been a wave of events, emotions and energies. 

It was filled with the wonder of a birth. My daughter and son-in-law had a beautiful baby boy. Flying to LA for me is like landing in a different world with all the sunshine, heat and constant traffic. But I’m so glad I got to be there for my daughter, son and new grand baby. I just wish I didn’t have to leave them when I know they could use more help. 

Back home, I spent time inside my home resting, cleaning, recharging and rearranging. I weeded, cut and cleaned out in the garden. I cleaned cupboards to make room for a new set of porcelain dinnerware, our anniversary present to each other.

In my studio, I worked to get my new work from bisque stage to glazed and done. And found time and energy to get back to the wheel and throw.

Time in and time out. 

I’ve had a lot of time out of the studio and I haven’t thrown on the wheel for almost 2 months. I was a little rusty at first.  My balance felt off. Getting my feet adjusted and the seat in just the right place seemed to take forever. But once I thunked that ball of clay down and the wheel started to spin, it all changed. 

Throwing on the wheel transcends time. Normally, I see minutes, hours and days click past but when I’m at the wheel throwing clay, time just flows. Hours go by unnoticed. And time just doesn’t seem to exist at all. Because I’m in time’s flow and not outside it. 

It’s so easy to forget to flow, isn’t it? Our world is so full of schedules and seasons and reasons that chart our time in and out. Perhaps what I need to see and remember is how good it feels to flow with time. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

All Fired Up

On my studio shelves, they sat. Almost 2 dozen new pieces, all painted, all bisque fired twice, waiting for me to be home and be ready to finally finish them. 

This week, I spent one day waxing. If you work in clay, you know why I wax. But if you don’t, I’ll explain. Waxing the bottoms of each piece is a necessary step to resist the glaze and keep the piece from being glazed to the kiln shelves. If that happens, there is no way to go back and the piece as well as the kiln shelf is ruined. 

So you can see, waxing is a very important part of the process. And since I make a wide variety of different shapes and sizes both wheel thrown and slab built, some with lids, each piece needs a different application of wax. It’s a bit tedious. And boring. But care is necessary because if I get wax where I want glaze, well that can ruin a piece too. 

Dipping is fun. 

I have a wonderful new glazing cart in my studio. It makes set up and mixing and applying the glaze to my pieces so much easier. 

It’s still a process, though. And each time I glaze, it’s a little different. New challenges pop up. This time, it was some sediment that needed to be strained from the top. So I borrowed a strainer from my kitchen to filter it out of the glaze. Note to self: I’ll need a new kitchen strainer. 

As I dipped in time with the music, wiped drips and set each piece down I was once again amazed and grateful. Even though waxing is boring, glazing is technical, and finding enough space for each piece to dry is a challenge, I still love what I do. 

A firing that’s fun. 

Today, I loaded the kiln. Fitting each piece around each other within the shelf space inside my kiln is always a lesson in organization and patience. 

I always worry I won’t have enough room for everything. Or I’ll run out of kiln shelves to put all the pieces on. Or I’ll drop something. My studio and kiln are in two different areas. So I have to put the pieces on a tray and carry them out to the kiln in multiple trips without tripping going up and down the stairs.

Magically none of this ever happens. It all fits. It all makes it inside in one piece. I always seem to have just enough kiln shelves and stilts to make it all work. 

And now, my work is over, really. The kiln is on the job. All I can do is sit with my timer and turn up the kiln when it rings. And wait with fingers crossed that this firing will create some new exciting pieces. 

I can’t wait. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Drawing a Blank

I really don’t know what to write about this week. I don’t feel anything profound bubbling up to the surface. Maybe because I’ve already written about one of the most miraculous events in life: birth.

I am so grateful to have 2 healthy, grown children and now 2 healthy, happy grandchildren. I don’t ever take that for granted. I know very well the hills and valleys of childbirth, baby and childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It’s a challenge for each of us, every day. 

Some days are joyous. Some days are not. And some days, maybe most, just fade from sunrise to sunset. Unnoticed. 

I want to notice. 

I want to make sure that somehow, everyday gets my attention. I want to be sure to see the sun, trees and birds. I want to feel the morning air, a kiss or my puppy’s cold nose. I want to hear the water flow in the fountain, sigh of relaxation or even the cry of a hungry baby. And sometimes, even when I need to hear the sound of silence, I want to notice that too.  

As the fan turns slowly above me on this very hot, late summer day, I want to remember the feeling of the air on my skin. I want to notice so I can tuck it away for those cold days when I’m shivering in the wind. 

Silence and noise. 

Last week was filled with beeps and bustle and excitement of a birth, the hospital, flying and driving and finding our way home. It was happily noisy and crowded and a little crazy. 

Now it’s been an opposite week. Unfilled space. Walks under the big fir trees at the park. Cold dinners in the heat. Catching up with all the things I’d left behind. Periods of silence stretched out like a cool blanket for me to rest under. 

And yet, as I rest and catch up, I worry I’m wasting my valuable allotment of life time. But I know in my heart that’s not true. I have packing and deliveries and work in the studio waiting for me. I have grandbaby sitting and doggy playtimes and errands to run.    

Life is so full of stark contrasts. It’s wonderful and crazy and loud and quiet and hard and soft. So maybe, this week, it’s time to celebrate the blank spaces in life.  

Monday, August 19, 2019

Giving Birth

Watching my dear daughter go through the stages of birthing a new human into the world is a wonderful, difficult, scary, exciting, joyful experience. But it is called labor for a reason. It is also a huge, overwhelming task that encompasses the entire body, mind, heart and soul. 

I’ve been there. Twice. 

One question my daughter asked me as I wiped her brow and held her hand was, why would I ever think of having two children? Or more accurately, after 24 hours of labor contractions and no sleep, why oh why would anyone ever consider having another baby after this?

I could have laughed it off and said, ‘Oh, I was just crazy.’ Or skirted the issue with, ‘Really it wasn’t all that bad’. Or lied with the tried and tired phrase, ‘Oh, once you see that beautiful baby, you’ll forget all the pain’. But that’s not me, I don’t lie to my children. 

What did I say?

The simple answer is I knew I wanted two children, 3 years apart. And I thought my second birth process would be completely different than my first. That I’d do it better. That it would be easier. That because I’d been through it once, my experience would help. In most of the above, I was completely wrong. 

But I did it anyway. Again why?
Again, simple answer is I wanted to be a mom. Because I wanted to love, teach, watch, and help make babies grow into strong, creative, amazing adult people. 

And I wanted to do it better than my own childhood experience. I realize now that my desire to be a pre-school/kindergarten teacher and all my classes in education, development, nutrition and psychology were my way to learn better ways to parent. 

But there are so many more equally true answers. 

Life is precious. Each and every one, especially the ones you are privileged to bring into this crazy and chaotic world. 

Life is an amazing mystery. From conception to birth, the process the human body goes through to merge two microscopic elements into ears, eyes, skin, body, bones, blood, veins, muscle and mind into a unique, original, individual person is nature’s biggest and most thrilling secret construction project. 

Life is a miracle. Learning to see and feel and hear and touch. To kiss and walk and read and run and eat and sleep and make love is miraculous. Every day, each of us gets to breathe in new air, awaken our body, listen to our mind, hear new ideas and create with what we have in our lives on that day. 

Some days it might be just putting one foot in front of their other. Swinging on a swing. Planting a flower. Throwing clay. Singing. Reporting the news. Teaching. Walking the dog. 

And yes, life is also messy. There are many chills and spills and heart wrenching moments. But I think you’ll all agree it’s a roller coaster that, once we get on, most of us never want to get off.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hidden History

It all started out with small spot on the ceiling in the bathroom. It was a leak. The leak was fixed  but the ceiling needed re-painting. I ignored it. I had work to do, right?

And work I did: throwing bowls, vases, cups, mugs; building jars, vases, dishes; sculpting faces and bodies and masks. It all came together just in time for a spring show and my first featured gallery show in many years. 

I was happy, energized and relieved. And yet, I knew there was more to do. 

Staring at the ceiling. 

I woke up one morning and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew it was time to paint the bathroom ceiling. As we all know, one small step leads to big change. That small spot lead to painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. 

And then, there was the walk-in closet. The black hole that has never been repainted since we built the house back in the 90’s. I’ve dusted in there and re-arranged and organized over the years, but I’ve never taken everything out. Yeah. 

Oh, but it didn’t stop there. 

Nope. In between painting the bathroom and closet, cleaning all the shelves and cupboards inside and out, trashing and donating unwanted items, I tackled the kitchen pantry. But still did I say, enough? No.

I looked over from the pantry into my utility room and was shocked to realize that room has not been repainted since my daughter was in high school. Hint: she’s married, pregnant and has a master’s degree.

I confess, I’m a candle hoarder. Inside those cupboards, I found stacks and stashes of used votives, tapers, pillars and jars. I found stacks of empty jars without candles waiting in case I needed them. A reformed basket hoarder, I was shocked to find in the back yet another stack of unused baskets. 

Time to recycle. And remember.

My utility room got a new coat of paint. I picked almost the same shade of yellow that’s been on the walls for years. Yellow is not my favorite color. I justified it then because I hate laundry and yellow is a happy, bright color for a small, dark room. 

But after I finished painting yesterday and began putting the room back together I saw what this yellow room really means to me. 

The primary color palette was used originally in both my children’s baby rooms. On the wall hangs their tiny primary colored handprints. Across are framed cards with encouraging words I received from my husband when I was trying to find my way from full time mom to artist. Above is a line up of my favorite tins gathered over the years, some gifts from my favorite Gram. And on each side of the sink sit hand-built vases with paw prints of my dear departed dog and cat. 

Rooms, cupboards, and closets hide and hold our history. Our memories of good times and bad. Happiness and fear. Like a time capsule or treasure chest, these covered dark places keep our lives preserved for a time when, if we are brave, we can open up, clear out, let in new light and smile at the memories.