Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Heartfelt Thanks

This has been a long, hard year. But although I have faced more trial and tribulation in this year than any other I can remember, I have been blessed with friends who have stood beside me, lent me their strength and supported me with their kind thoughts and gestures and unending support. To all of you who have stood by me as I moved this this year, I thank you with all of my heart. I could not have made it without you. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and may the new year be filled with happy times and bring you all that you wish for. Joyeaux Noel.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Last Farewell

I have so much to write about. My travels in Tennessee and New Orleans. The Open Door sale and Christmas party with the Portland Art Collective. The fairy tale snow in Boise, just in time for the holidays. The difficulty in laying down the reins of a project five years in the making overcome by the recession and adjusting to the reality of a new job and a new way of life. All crammed into a span of three months time.

But all has been overwhelmed by my need to say goodbye to a man I have loved and hated and loved again in friendship. With whom I shared a love of the outdoors, a need to explore, and a life that spanned moves through four different states. We didn't always see eye to eye. Our lifestyles were wildly divergent. We had our difficult times. But what it comes down to is the love we share for our son and a need to acknowledge that no matter what has passed between us, we did share something special over the years and our shared time together is rapidly coming to an end.

I did not recognize him, lying in his hospice bed. I know of few diseases as cruel as cancer, that robs people of their appearance, their bearing and mean. He had lost over a hundred pounds and aged 20 years in the span of a few months. He is in a great deal of pain. And yet, he smiles...and jokes...and remembers.

We reminisce together...each savoring a favorite moment in our lives. The birth of our son, when he turned white with fear after learning he had to sit at my side during a C-section, afraid he would faint at the sight of blood. Our adventures (and sometimes misadventures) in Montana where the weather changed every 15 minutes and we put away five cords of wood by ourselves to heat our cozy log home. Our camping trips, fraught with calamity and the inevitable loss of one item of does one lose a TV remote on a camping trip? The many memories of our son as he grew to adulthood. The good times we shared with mutual friends. We went back to our happy times and agreed that had we stayed there, all would have worked out well in the end.

Too soon, it was time to leave him and return home. To say a last goodbye, share a last "I love you" and one last hug. Only death can show you how trivial the troubles of the still living can be. How important it is to stay connected in life. The need to communicate your gratitude to others for all you have shared with them in life and let them know how they have touched your soul. To appreciate how blessed you are to share your life with others.

Thank you, my dear, for the memories. I will keep them safe in my soul and cherish the life we shared together.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Learning to Breathe Again

It sneaks up on you….you wake up each morning and mindlessly prepare for a day you have already imagined. You forget to think…and breathe…and take for granted that which you are most grateful for. You think you have reached that space you want to own and call your life. Yet one day you wake up and realize the air is heavy with unexpected change. It begins with a stumble. You pick yourself up and stumble again and again. And soon you are reeling from the blows you are taking. Nothing you do seems to work. And you hurt. You can barely breathe between the blows. You want to take time grieve your loss. It’s real. The pain is real. But you can’t stop that long. You have been programmed to survive and you struggle to cope. You begin to crave time away from the well-meaning people who tell you to focus on what you have left and be grateful. You know they are right. There are starving children in China. You are desperately looking for those bootstraps to pull yourself upright again. Everyone says they are there. Why can’t you find them? You cry with the frustration of those lost in the woods after they realize the trail of breadcrumbs is gone.

And then it happens…you are confronted again by life…but this time it’s not about you. It’s about someone you have known for a quarter of a century. A person you have shared your life and a child with. You’ve had your ups and downs and eventually drifted apart, but still….there is that shared life, filled with memory and emotion that forever ties you together. And he has been given a death sentence. A scant two months to live with a cancer that has quietly spread through his body without making its presence known until it was too late. No time to pursue one last dream, take one last cruise down the road or sip a beer on the shore of a lake, with a rod gently bobbing in the current awaiting the tug of a fish. Just that fast. Just that permanent. Not fair at all. He had so many plans. He was just waiting for the right moment…not knowing they had all ticked away while he waited. And now there is only time to say goodbyes….

And you realize where you got lost in life. You thought you had control. You made careful plans for what you wanted life to be…what you felt entitled to because you did the work and jumped the hoops. But life just doesn’t fit in a cubbyhole waiting to be lived on your terms. We are only here for the ride and to enjoy the wonder of each day…to appreciate this short time we can share our lives with fellow travelers. In the end, we will not be judged by possessions or title, but by the simple act of laughing at each other’s jokes and offering our shoulder to cry on. And by experiencing the slack-jawed wonder of a meteor shower….or a green flash at sunset. To be content that every moment was lived and not wasted in the dark nest of a pity party. Time to dust myself off and continue on down the road and follow that star…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sitka Center Art Invitational

I am excited to be volunteering for the Sitka Center Annual Art Invitational at the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR this weekend. The theme of the show is bringing art and ecology together. Yesterday, I attended the docent training and was treated to a tour of 500 nature themed works of art in all medias. Art overload in a very good sense. The show will take place Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM. The forestry center is up by the zoo and parking and admission are free.

After the training, I meandered through beautiful Washington Park, adjacent to the center. Light rain scrubbed the landscape clean of daily grit, making the fall colors stand out even more than usual. I stopped to explore a bit before heading back home. Definitely a photo op for the future when I have time to meander the many trails leading through the forest and around the Japanese garden.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This will put a smile on your face...

You will need to turn my music off at the bottom of this page before playing the video - enjoy!

Menucha: In the Company of Friends

Two weeks ago, I returned to Menucha, a retreat in the Columbia River Gorge to enjoy a weekend of art, friendship and long healing walks through the abounding beauty of the Gorge. We arrived on Friday afternoon and settled in to our rooms and spread our art materials across the tables in Creevey complex, eager to begin our incredible weekend. This is our fall retreat, where we welcome not only the members of the Portland Art Collective, but the talented friends of our members who agreed to share our weekend with us.

Tory's wild hat.

Carrie's crown

But first we don our hats and speed to dinner. After being treated to the acapella rendition of grace by a choir group that sent shivers over your skin with the beauty of the vocals, we sat down to enjoy a turkey dinner. Delicious. Complete with homemade bread and jam. And of course, the shared stories and laughter as we all caught up with each others lives or enjoyed getting to know those guests who had not attended before.

After dinner, we took a tour of Wright's Hall, that used to serve as the main house when this was a private estate owned by one of the founders of Meiers and Frank. As with all old houses, there are oddities. A one way mirror in the master bathroom medicine cabinet that looked out on the great room dance floor. A full wet bar concealed behind a wall in the basement that hosted a party or two during the Prohibition. And a hallway that hosted our rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat with perfect acoustics.

We returned to Creevey and sat down to work on our projects. And more talk. And more laughter. And mutual admiration of the art we created. But the night grew late and one by one we trailed off to our bedrooms.

We woke to a beautiful, sunny day full of promise. I could not wait to get outside after breakfast and take a walk through the grounds. The day was full of colors - leaves, berries, water, and sky filled my camera with the eye candy of fall.
I finished my walk by completing a meditative journey through the labyrinth, seeking peace with all that has happened at work over the past few months and looking for direction in a world suddenly chaotic and unfamiliar.

Tory's beautiful hat.

The rest of the day was filled with art, laughter and the company of friends, both old and new. Tory Brokenshire taught me how to solder one of her fabulous wire and polymer clay sculptures that took most of the day and her excellent skills as an instructor. I have dubbed her the Old School Marm. Severall of the members also taught mini classes and gladly shared their art expertise with everyone and we learned how to make felted soap, crocheted wire and bead necklaces and Zentangle doodles.

Too soon Sunday came and it was time to return home. After our goodbyes, we took one last walk around the grounds before heading down into the valley. I was sorry to lose the company of my fellow artists and friends. I feel so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Chance Encounter

I felt her presence stooped next to me at, of all places, the toothpaste display. As my head bobbed up and down to check the brands and prices, her head moved with mine. As I rose, she rose, and her eyes met mine. Eyes so clear and blue that they penetrated my soul and explored my puzzled expression. She said, "Who are you?" and I asked her the same. She said in a whisper, "My name is a secret and no one can know." A diminuitive women, well into her eighties, dressed primly in pink Sunday best. But there was strength in that stare....and mystery. I asked her where her people were. She said she had not found them yet, but she was searching, looking in odd nooks and crannies. I was mesmerized by her stare and at a loss for words, although she looked at me expectantly waiting for a reply. But before I could speak, her daughter came, took her arm and said, "Come along, mum. It's time to go". As she walked away, her eyes never left mine. She stole a bit of my soul that day. Clever woman. Gathering up a family one soul at a time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small - Apifera Farm

Just a short distance from urban Portland is one of the most beautiful rural areas I know. Yamhill county. A wine lover's dream full of scenic winding roads through rolling hills, and small hidden pockets of forest hiding burbling brooks and small rivers. Vineyards, lavender fields, woollies, horses, cows and chickens share this country with their lucky humans. Heaven on earth. And in a small corner, hidden just around a bend in the road, is Apifera Farm, where artist Katherine, and her husband, Martyn Dunn share their world with three small, but very wise donkeys.

Katherine is a well known artist of primitive and whimsical art which she creates from vignettes of her life at Apifera. An amazing life filled with creatures great and small - a one-eyed pug and a wild eyed chocolate lab. Naughty goats that flaunt their ability to escape through electrified fence, but who run for their pen when caught where they don't belong. Shy cats who run for the hills when they sight a human and old crusty cats that ignore you completely. Chickens chasing each other across the barnyard, as the horse waits patiently for a hug and a treat.

But best of all are Pino, Lucia and Paco whose sad eyes and patient demeanor make them look wise beyond their years. You can't help but reach to hug them as they nibble animal crackers from your fingertips. They're magical , those donkeys, and will teach you a thing or two about life if you listen carefully while you scratch behind their ears.

The garden is winding down for fall as the leaves yellow and fall. You can breath fall in the crisp air ripe with the smell of fallen leaves and wood smoke. The vegetables are in except for a lonely few tomatoes still nestled in the vines. The sunflower heads ready themselves to feed the birds this winter, sagging with the weight of their seeds. And the pumpkins glow orange in the gray misty air, lighting the nooks and crannies with the glow of an autumn sun.
The barn and outbuildings all bear the patina of time and service and have somehow set down roots and become part of the land. The colors of the patina rival that of paintings that artist do purposefully - the hand of nature on a timeworn palette.

Each time I visit this farm, I am reminded of the musical, Brigadoon, where once in a hundred years, a mortal could find and visit a magical town in the Scottish moors. When the day ended, the town disappeared again, but the memory of its beauty and charm were burned on your soul forever. As the day drew to a close, we said our goodbyes and exchanged promises of keeping in touch. The memories of my visit to Apifera will warm my heart through the winter and give me solace in my urban home that these magical places do truly exist.