Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Driving to the bank yesterday, I had "Performance Today" on the radio. I was so captivated by a tune that had violins, that instead of proceeding to the drive-through, I parked my car and listened to the end, making notes about the title of the piece and who was playing it. Later in the day I tried to find it on the internet, but for some reason the "listen" link on the radio station's web site didn't work for me. I did find, however, other performances of the same composition on "you-tube," Waltz No. 2 from Jazz Suite No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. There was something in that music that made me think about motion. I visualized a young woman riding a bicycle, gliding down a hill and around a curve, her head thrown back in sheer enjoyment of the breeze in her face and the scenery flying by.

Suddenly, I too had to move. It wasn't the kind of music I would dance to, and there was no way for me to hop on a bicycle, so I pushed my chair back from the computer, threw my head back to see the spinning ceiling fan, and propelled myself in circles in the desk chair. The music and the motion combined made my spirits soar as I enjoyed the most delightful fun I've experienced in a long while. I let go of my 60 years of propriety and played.

Monday, June 22, 2009


This morning, setting out in the dark to walk, I was startled for a brief moment by what I thought was a flattened snake in the road. I was mistaken. It was a crushed soda can. Hmmm...
I have no idea why my mind leapt to the scary conclusion of "snake," since I've never found soda cans threatening.

After breakfast I went out to water my potted tomatoes, and was dismayed to find one of my best ones damaged at the base. A large section of it was breaking away from the main stem. I immediately blamed our local squirrel population, ranting to myself about how they treat my container garden like a playground. But since I didn't actually witness what mischief broke the tomato plant, I had to stop my train of thought and just accept the fact that it is damaged.

It's funny how I can get all worked up over something that either is or could be a misperception. My fear, anger or even sadness can take me away on a swift ride down a river of negativity. My goal is to recognize when that happens so I can change my mind chatter into more peaceful thoughts.

What I don't understand is why I never seem to catch myself thinking "positive thoughts" by mistake, or raving about how terrific my paintings are!

Friday, June 19, 2009


There's been a lot of rain in Massachusetts according to my friends and family. Too much rain, with garden devastation and leaky roofs. And in the Carolinas we have had a lot of rain this spring, including a few deluges with high wind. It's hard to complain since we've been in extreme drought for a few years, but it does get tiresome.

I'm interested in how we view the rain. It "dampens" our spirits and "puts a damper on" outside activities. Yet without the dark, rainy days, or even the passing storms, perhaps we wouldn't appreciate the sun. Trite but true. It's also easier to have a "sunnier" outlook when the weather pleases us. We can be living barometers, setting our mood to the seasons and showers.

I think we all just want some balance in life. We can suffer setbacks as long as we also make progress. We tolerate loss by gaining perspective on what is important to us. Weather is just an outward sign that can trigger conversation about how we feel. Today, in Landrum South Carolina, the sky was filled with stars and a waning crescent moon as I walked this morning. When the sun rose and paled the indigo sky to baby blue, I knew this would be a good start to my day. Yesterday's storm passed and I'm ready for some clear sailing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

motion and stillness

I began my day just after 5:00 a.m., arising to walk in the still cool darkness, when mostly it's just me, Danny and the sound of birds. I enjoy the rhythm of walking, the feeling of blood pulsing through my body, my deepened breathing, my cells tingling with oxygen.

Two miles later, and breakfast under my belt, I sit at the dining room table, my pen and notebook replacing my cereal bowl and mug of tea. Sitting quietly, I am mesmerized by the ceiling fan's reflection in the glass on a painting, the sporadic splash of tires on the rain-washed street, a damp, peachy smell of pre-airconditioned summer and the sensation of itching from an insect bite on the inside of my arm. When I am still, the details of being alive at this place, in this time, reward me with rich abundance.

In my studio I employ this same balance of motion and stillness. The act of painting is often as natural as walking. I find a rhythm and let my subconcious mind breath and pulse life into my creation. Then I sit still, observing my work in progress, the way my colors combine, forms and lines intersect, and what needs to be changed. When the work is complete, I am overcome with pleasure, an oxygenated fullness of being, grateful to be alive.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

life and death

Today is my oldest granddaughter's 14th birthday. Mackenzie is a beautiful, intelligent young woman on the exploratory path of life. She's a flower bud, petals unfolding, drawing strength from the soil of family and the sun of her faith. Rains come and go, nurturing her growth as she expands into her future.

I also learned today that a friend's Dad died, the second friend in a week who has recently witnessed her father depart this earth. Both women acknowledged that "it was time," and expressed acceptance of the inevitable, but their rite of passage brought memories of my own loss, now more than 14 years old.

Fourteen years ago I celebrated the birth of Bethan's first child, a momentous and thrilling event, just a few months after mourning Daddy's last breath. Like every soul, he sprouted from the beginning of time, grew towards the sun, endured unpredictable weather, and made his path a poetic journey.

We gather as family on these occasions, supporting each other and celebrating the existence of a singular being. If I were to paint a canvas representing my thoughts right now, it would have patterns like winding roads and branching trees, diverging and intersecting and sustaining each other. Overlaying all these lines would be circles, cycles of life and death and life again, every one unique.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Unavoidable Joy

This morning, in a "daily good" email newsletter I receive, I read a 2005 report written for Inside Bay Area by Jill Tucker, titled "Little by Little." It was an account of how an 11 year old student in El Cerrito, California decided to forego birthday presents by asking her friends' families to donate money that would help children in a small impoverished village in Tanzania to improve their lives. The article touched my heart, and a few of Tucker's words struck a lovely note that resounded in my mind. She wrote, "But alongside the poverty, there is unavoidable joy..."

I've been considering those two words with some amount of wonder, not only for their placement in the chronicle I read, but because they inspired me to contemplate where they might apply in my own life. I realized that I'm not really intimate with the word joy. I've thought of it as a word meant to convey only the most profound sense of gladness. But when I looked it up in my dictionary of synonyms, I was really surprised to read that it means delight, glee and pleasure, words that have less gravity in my mind. It appears that I have been laboring under the false impression that joy was only for the most heart-felt occasions!

Now I understand why pairing the word "unavoidable" with "joy" was not the challenging concept I imagined it to be. In fact I'm delighted and quite gleeful, actually, to realize that joy is very much a part of my daily existence, not only unavoidable, but inevitable. I am very fortunate.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I awoke this morning a little after 5 a.m. and thought I would drift back to sleep in the darkness, the cool night air seeping through the open window. But a persistant mockingbird had different plans for me. My first thought was to roll over and block out his voice by reaching for a nearby pillow to cover my ear. But the varied bursts of lilts and trills captivated my reluctantly waking brain until I realized that more sleep just wasn't a possibility. I suppose if my "alarm clock" was the sound of raucous blue jays or cackling crows I would have risen disgruntled. But this mockingbird reported dawn so sweetly, I took its siren song to heart and smiled as my feet found my slippers.

On reflection, I can learn from this morning's observation. The sound of a voice, its tone and character, can make a difference in how we react to it. I interpreted the mockingbird's notes to be full of joy and felt pleasure from the song. When I use my voice today, I want to convey the same sort of felicity and gladness I arose to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I bought a gallon container of fresh strawberries a few days ago because I knew it was the end of the local season. We ate a lot of them out of hand, enjoying their sweet juiciness, like red sunshine. Today I took the remaining berries out of the refrigerator and realized they were fading. I cut them up to sugar for shortcake and had to make a decision about several that were on the mushy side. Oh, how my frugal self hates to throw away a berry! But I knew that if I put the "iffy" ones in along with the still firm ones, the whole bowl would suffer from that choice.

It is the same with my painting. I really have a hard time "throwing out" a portion of a painting that has some attractive qualities. I often argue with myself for leaving it in. But I have learned to recognize when my eye keeps going back to that same place and isn't comfortable with what I'm seeing, it is best to eliminate it. Those decisions can improve the "flavor" of the whole painting.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

yellow and black buggy

Yesterday, while driving to the bank, a very bright, half orangy-yellow, half black car/truck passed me going the other way. I immediately thought, "wow, is that an ugly combination." But then I had a conversation with my inner judge, who often gets full rein of my brain for long stretches, without any protest from the real me.

So I said to her, "who appointed YOU taste-master? I'm sure the automotive industry wouldn't be producing a vehicle that nobody would like, so obviously there are lots of people who find that combination of car and truck, black and yellow, appealing enough to pay a lot of money for it." This thought led me to ponder just how many of those car/trucks in that color combination had been produced, and whether a lot of them are languishing on car lots or if the demand exceeded the production.

From there I drifted into a comparison of the automotive industry and the art world. Having worked in galleries for over 15 years, I've listened to lots of opinions from art buyers. I've witnessed how most people respond to the familiar subjects they can identify and feel comfortable with. But there are viewers who slow down and observe the more unusual pieces of art, the viewers that challenge themselves to think "why am I responding to this painting or sculpture?" I admire those "out of the box" thinkers, because my artwork doesn't have immediate subject recognition. My paintings abstract ideas and conveys metaphorical concepts, and I like knowing that there are some people who are drawn to them.

I see lots and lots of white and silver and black cars, and lots and lots of white and black and silver trucks. People are comfortable with familiar choices. But maybe the ones who want something that stands out in the crowd, are just like the gallery goers I admire who are willing to look at something "different." My quick vote against that odd vehicle and subsequent conversation with myself has pointed out that I can be guilty of boxed in thinking, just like anyone else. I may never want to own a yellow car, but I have a new appreciation for those people who do.

Monday, June 8, 2009


This morning I commented to a friend on facebook about how exciting it is for me to have a vegetable garden, see a plant grow from seed and eventually bear fruit. This is a really juicy metaphor! Just as the work of planting and tending a garden provides edible, useful results, my labors in my studio are followed by the consequence of my actions. Unlike a tomato seed which possesses everything a tomato knows, I am never really certain what my outcome will be. But I can emulate my garden in my act of creation.

First I need to find a "sunny location" by shedding light on what I want my art to convey. I have to "prepare the soil" by loosening it, digging around in my thoughts for inspiration. I need to "water and feed" my concept with quality materials, taking the time to learn the best ways to use them. And I have to be diligent getting rid of "weeds" that can choke the growth I am nurturing in paint. Just like a seed gradually emerges from the soil, grows toward illumination, and becomes all that it can be, my ideas flourish when I give them the space and the opportunity to exist.

Right now I'm working on a compost pile to amend my garden. Isn't THAT a fertile metaphor!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

privet begone!

I spent a long time with the loppers this morning, cutting down scrub sumac and baby oak trees. In trying to get under an unwieldy privet, I got poked in the eye. Sometimes it takes a poke to make a necessary change. I took the loppers to the privet, then called in the reinforcements! Danny and his chain saw! Now the yard looks so much better.

Sometimes I have to poke myself when I'm in my studio. Complacence leads to mediocrity. Taking chances leads to a fuller sense of engagement with my work, and hopefully a painting that looks a lot better, just like the yard.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I'm not sure if I have a switch in my brain which allows me to shift into mindfulness, but I feel as though I experience a great deal more pleasure from life when I am paying attention to where I am and what I am observing. The mind chatter recedes and I am aware of how fortunate I am to be alive, healthy, and near my dear family. I also consider myself to be extremely lucky to be an artist. My art allows me to express what I think about and what I love in color and texture, form and line...

Even though I have to go to my paying job today and won't be painting, I walked into my studio and felt a little jolt of pleasure, observing a portion of a current painting that I had just resolved to my satisfaction. Painting is my metaphor for paying attention.

Friday, June 5, 2009


It's been raining. Yesterday afternoon when he got home from work, Danny disconnected the end pipe into our rain barrel and held huge plastic jugs up to the gutter spout from our large barn. He collected over 35 gallons in just minutes. It was a thrill to watch. After the drought of the last few years that rain feels like money from heaven. Maybe that is why I was restless last night and didn't sleep well. I kept hearing all that money going down the drain!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


One of my favorite activities is to spend a few minutes looking out a window and observing my front yard. The huge water oak tree harbors all kinds of wild life, from gray squirrels and a variety of birds to the occasional black snake. I know about the snake because it was inadvertently trapped in some netting at the base of the tree which was protecting some "visiting" bonsai plants while their owner was on vacation. Sadly, the snake died. Although I'm really not fond of snakes, I appreciate their appetite for mice and possibly chipmunks, those vermin in cute clothing that dig up my plants.

Today is overcast. The very gentle drizzle has stopped for the moment, but I'm hoping it will return and water my gardens for me. The squirrels, little more than teenagers, are out in force, foraging for the tiny acorns my tree produces. I tried raking and removing them earlier this year, but their small size and sheer mulitude made that almost impossible. So, in addition to the mounds from ant hills, we have the opposite appearance of little holes, dug by industrious squirrels. For me, this observation leads to thoughts about my paintings. When I make marks, each one must have some effect on the other. A "mound" deserves a "hole," so to speak, so the surface makes me reflect on the what nature has to teach me. Time to go into my studio and paint!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day One!

This is the birth of my brand new blog. I'm excited about sharing my artwork and my thoughts.