Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wake up caw - In the Park

I walk along today on autopilot. With Jilly at my side, we pass the trash cans on the sidewalks, the piles of pink petals fallen from the cherry trees in the street and the remains of tulips in the neighbors flower beds.

As we enter the park, I notice the creek as I always do, and let Jilly off heel to sniff her way along the grass. My feet may be on the path, but my mind is elsewhere. It's on its own path, the one that twists and turns and circles endlessly. There are the thoughts that come from behind me, from the past of many years ago to yesterday. All those 'shoulda's' sneak up behind me and bonk me on the head and sadden my heart. Then there are those thoughts that spiral ahead of me, into the future years from now and tomorrow. All those 'could be' problems rise up for me to solve and make me shiver in spite of the sun's warmth.

I keep walking and soon find myself leaning up against the big fir tree as I do everyday. I try to focus on the energy there, but my mind races on, until suddenly a loud 'caw' of a crow sounds from somewhere above me. In that moment, my mind shuts up. I sigh with relief. Then, before I know it, I'm lost in my mind maze again, when I hear the loud caw, caw again. I look up trying to spy the crow but don't see it anywhere.

As Jilly and I walk to the cedar grove where I stand with my hand on the 'mother' tree, my mind is back to its twisting and turning. Once again, the loud 'caw, caw, caw' comes and this time I hear the message...right now, be here, right now. Every time the crow caws, the words repeat in my mind. I sigh again, this time deeply and gratefully.

I have received a potent wake up call(caw) and I'm thankful for this beautiful, feathered spiritual teacher.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Handcrafting a Life?

Today, reading Jennifer Louden's blog about living a hand-crafted life got me thinking. What would that be? What would it look like and feel like? Would I have to move to the country and live without electricity and a toilet? Eat bugs and boil leaves for my veggies? Ok, I'm being a bit silly here, I know.

But Walt Whitman, I'm not. I like to be warm, eat my own home cooked meatballs and pasta, watch TV, crochet, read magazines and yes, sometimes, shop. Ok, that's out of the bag, then...but it occurs to me, that maybe I live a more hand-crafted life than I think.

I do grow some of my own veggies, tomatoes, zucchini, chard, lettuce, beets(if they actually grow this year) and peppers. I grow basil and make my own pesto which I freeze in little cubes so I can use it throughout the year. I even, yes by god I do, grow my own catnip and lemon verbena which I make into a soothing nighttime tea. Believe me, it's wonderful on restless nights.

And, since I am an artist working with my hands in clay and metal and paint, and a writer working with my hands on the keys, I guess I am living a hand-crafted life.

But I know that I forget that almost every day, as I answer emails and worry about class sign ups, marketing and gallery shows. What I see instead are the never ending post-a-notes and to-do lists.

Yesterday, I was in that mindset, again and feeling frustrated. I decided to close my computer and clean my house. Can cleaning a toilet with my own hands, be hand-crafting a life? Yes. Two hours later, not only did I have clean towels, I had a clean mind. It was then, I found my hands back to crafting in clay. Funny, it wasn’t on my to-do list, but yet, it got done.

Maybe that's the key to a hand-crafted life, doing what needs to be done-yes-but also doing what calls to be done. Doing it with care, with precision, with knowledge, with determination and with heart and soul. And taking the time you need to get it done, and at the same time, spend time being alive in the world. Smelling the lilacs. Admiring the tulips. Walking my dog. Leaning on my tree and soaking up the sun. And listening to the whispers of desire that call to me.

Jennifer asked this question: "How about you? What tulips will you stare at? What hunger, what hand-crafted stirring, is beckoning to you?"

This is my answer. What's yours?

Friday, April 23, 2010

More fun with clay - In the Studio

Smooshing and pinching. Smoothing and carving. I love clay. This week, I made a new face in my new clay series...what it's going to be called, I don't know. Right now, that's not the point. The point is to roll out the clay, start a face and keep going. Knowing where exactly I'm going will come later...when I've gotten wherever that is.

So roll out the clay, I did. Smoosh. Fold. Pinch. Carve. It's not all fun and games, especially when the clay starts to crack. But, it's all fixable and flexible and that's one of the many wonders of clay.

Carving came on a face that I started a few weeks ago. I decided I wanted to do a relief effect of an oak leaf, so I started scraping and carving away at the clay until I got the a shallow relief. What I'll do with that, again, I don't know. It just felt right to do it.

Again, that's all part of the process and the fun of it, isn't it?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Babies and Lilacs

A few days ago, I got a few closer shots of the goslings at the park. As you can see, Mom and Dad are very protective, so I wasn't able to get very close. I love watching the families of Canada Geese that live around the lake. But I wanted to know more about them, so I went online, of course, and here are a few fun facts about these geese.

They are called Canada Geese, not Canadian Geese. In the 1960's, they were declared an endangered species. Since then, their populations have grown so much, they are commonly inhabitants of golf courses and suburban parks with lakes, like mine. These geese mate for life and are devoted parents. The bonding with begins at the nest. Mom may lay and hatch the eggs, but Dad is a fierce guardian and protector. I often see the Dads parading up and down in the lake directly in front of their nests, which reminds me of the old movies where human Dads pace the hospital waiting rooms while their wives gave birth. A pair of geese may have 4-7 goslings in one nest and once hatched, Mom and Dad take equal part in parenting. In fact, if another pairs goslings need a little watching, the geese will share the duties as a community. It's not unusual to see a large group of 15 or more goslings surrounded by several pairs of protective parents. I just love these little fuzzy darlings!

Another lilacs are blooming and beautiful! A confession: I love lilacs so much that when I was in college, I used to go on late night 'lilac runs' cutting handfuls of the fragrant flowers for my small study room. Luckily, I never got caught. Now that I have my own yard, I have 3 different purple lilacs and one white one. Here's a picture of some of the cut beauties.

So, right now, I'm in Lilac Heaven!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Babies arrive - In the Park

What a surprise! New goslings and ducklings have arrived and they are already out swimming in the lake with their parents.

The geese have been honking in and around the islands in the lake for the last month and the ducks have been pairing up in the tall grasses. So I knew that it was that time of year, I just didn't expect to see little ones this soon.

Geese pair up for life, so I see the same pairs year after year nesting in the same spots around the lake. Geese are the most protective parents I've ever seen. As the goslings make their way around the lake, the parents are always there. One parent swims in front while the other circles around and behind the babies. If other parents are available, they join the group, adding additional protection for the goslings. And if you are not an 'aware' human and get too close to those babies, watch out. The goose 'in charge' will hiss at you, be smart take the warning and back off. If you don't, they'll bite you.

Ducks, well, they have a much more relaxed parenting style. When the ducklings are on the lake, it's usually just one parent floating alongside. And even then, sometimes the adult will just swim away in search of their own meal and leave those ducklings all alone to fend for themselves. So, it doesn't surprise me that our park has a much bigger goose population than ducks.

Still it was a surprise and a special treat to see these little ones on the lake today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's cooking - Around the house

Today is a 'home' day. After all the work for classes, art openings, studio work and family gatherings, I needed to get things back in order. My studio is in my house, so what I'm really saying here was I needed to leave 'work' and concentrate on the home-front. So, after I did the needed emails and tax stuff, it was time to go home.

Putting on a ham bone to boil for split pea soup set the mood. Then it was time to empty waste baskets, dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, mop the floors and wash the towels. The droopy flowers and sad plants got composted. Clean towels were put up and fresh flowers were cut and arranged. A few plants got re-potted.

In the midst of all these domestic duties, the rain and cloudy skies vanished. The sun came out. Of course, that did point out a few dust bunnies I'd missed, but that's ok. What better way to clear the house and the mind than with the bright sun shining in. One of the things I've come to realize is that domestic duties aren't just good for the home, they're good for the soul. Cleaning the dust on the furniture is a way to clean my mind and clear room for more creative ideas. Not that it happens instantly, there were no obvious eureka moments today. But the clean surroundings refresh my senses.

After that it was time to get out in the sun, so I took the dog for a walk. It was so warm, I was walking along with no coat on! Amazing! Just a few days ago, I was bundled up in polar fleece, gloves, hat and a rain coat. Today, I'm wearing a baseball cap and sunscreen. What a difference a day makes, eh?

What I realized on the walk was that my pot of soup just didn't seem right anymore. That's ok, too. I can save it for tomorrow when it's supposed to rain and get creative again, cooking up something else. I decided to whip up one of my favorites, pasta and cheddar cheese sauce. I've always made my un-macaroni and cheese from scratch with real local cheddar cheese. It just tastes better to me than that stuff in the blue box, and really, it's easy to make. Here's the recipe.

Pasta and Cheddar Cheese Sauce
2 cups uncooked pasta of your choice (I like penne)
Boiling water to cook the pasta
2 Tbsp butter (yup the real stuff)
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese(good local cheese, please)
1/2 cup grated cheese for the top
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the water in a large pot, put in the penne to cook. While it's cooking, melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the flour and mix together. Now add the milk slowly, stirring with a wire whisk until all the milk is in and heated. Add the cheese in small handfulls, mixing with the whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick. Turn off the burner. Drain the pasta, put it in a casserole dish and pour the cheese sauce over the top, mixing the sauce and pasta together evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and put it in the oven until it's all bubbly and melted. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making Masks - In the Studio

I love to make masks. I don't know why, I just do. And in spite of some of my art teachers who told me that making masks was 'craft' and not 'fine art', I've followed my own heart in my art and I keep making them. I've made masks out of paper, clay, copper, plaster, and aluminum mesh. I've made masks for costumes, indoor art and garden art. I've even made a mask for a centerpiece in a copper oak leaf wreath. I’ve worked with adults, elementary, middle school students and teachers making masks for plays and as art pieces. I’ve seen the transformative power of masks for the maker and wearer alike.

Masks are magic. Making them, becomes a journey for me into the world of story and myth. I've researched the symbolism of animals in different cultures, mythical beasts, cultural folktales. I've learned that masks have been created and used by people from all over the world for almost as long as man has been on the earth. They've been used for healing, spiritual ceremonies, story telling, dramatic performances, entertainment and holidays.

The Latin word for ‘mask’ is ‘persona’. And, indeed, wearing a mask does change our person in many ways. It changes the shape of our face, concealing us. It changes our attitude or emotions. It changes our character or role. Wearing a mask, you can become a different ‘persona’. You can become a playful pup, fierce lioness, mythical dragon or powerful thunderbird. You can become anything you desire or detest. You can conquer your fears. Touch wonder. Feel your wisdom. And embrace your freedom.

To me masks are powerful and life changing pieces of art. And no matter what happens in my life, I am going to continue to follow my heart and make them. This weekend, I get to share my love of mask making with other mask makers and mask art lovers at a group show at the Doll Gardner Gallery.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Expectations - In the Park

It started raining yesterday and didn't stop all day. The rain pattered, poured and pounded against the windows, doors and roof all night long. Add high gusty winds slapping against the house bringing down tree limbs and making the lights flicker ominously. In the morning, even though it was still raining, Jilly and I headed to the park. I suited up in my northwest basics, polar fleece and rain parka with a hood. Jilly, my darling yellow lab, is a 'water' dog, so I guess, she's always well-suited for the weather.

I expected to be soaked. I expected Jilly and I to be the only ones to brave the weather. I expected to see lots of robins, because of all the worms wiggling across the paths and swimming in all the little and not so little puddles.

What I found at the park was a bit of reality. There was a break in the rain and Jilly and I walked without getting wet. I wasn't alone, the regular walkers were all there, too. I saw many groups of geese, duck couples but only one robin.

Expectations are just that, expectations. I grew up with the mantra, "Expect the worst and you won't be disappointed." As a little girl, I hated that phrase my mother taught me over and over. It made me sad. Lucky for me, what I've learned after a few more years on this planet is that it's not true. What we expect...the worst...doesn't mean it will happen. Like, today, it didn't. And isn't that a very good thing.

There's still a lot of wiggling worms, I guess they're safe from the robins for now, anyway.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring has sprung - Around the House

Celebrating spring! It may be cold and windy with rain and hail pounding the window panes, but it is...officially spring. I love spring. All the bright colors of daffodils and tulips, the scent of lilies blooming.

Now, I love to celebrate the changing season by putting out colorful eggs, fresh candles and my old lacy tablecloth. As a little girl, I really looked forward to easter because I got to get 'dressed' up all pretty. A brand new dress in bright pink or white tights...shiny patent leather mary janes...and a straw hat complete with bow and flowers to made me want to twirl!

When my kids were little, I did all the traditional things...colored eggs, candy and little toys. I dressed up my little girl all pretty too, until she didn't want Mom dressing her up anymore. Now that my 'children' are 'grown up', I called them to find out what kind of treats they'd want now. Caitlin wanted a coconut filled chocolate egg. Kyle wanted a maple sugar filled chocolate egg. They both wanted the solid chocolate foil covered eggs. Neither of them wanted the traditional chocolate bunny! Here's my little basket filled with goodies for all the 'children' in my family.

For me, it isn't easter without a chocolate bunny, so I bought one for myself and one for my husband. For my husband, it isn't easter without dying colored eggs. So, here he is coloring a dozen easter eggs, just for the fun of it!

I love spring. Of course the real celebration is about growth, the rebirth of new buds, new hopes and new opportunities. I hope you find a way to celebrate spring ...that you find some time to 'twirl'... new dress or not!