Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can You Feel a Change in the Air?

So often, we spend much of our lives, blind to what goes on beyond the warmth and familiarity of our everyday routine. Snug in our nests constructed of happy memories and the love of friends and family; lulled by the belief that all is well with the world and we have found our way home. And we come to think we can own this life and, with careful tending, live our “happily ever after”.

But this chimera, this dream, dances just beyond our grasp, visited by the winds of change and the inevitable knowledge that ultimately, we have little control over where life’s journey takes us. Sometimes we await these changes with anticipation and the promise of mystery and adventure. Sometimes that reality is an unwelcome visitor, tarnishing cherished dreams and forever altering our road map for the future.

Today, we were visited by the head of our agency. He came to answer anguished questions as best he could from people whose lives have been upended by the signing of legislation making layoffs an inevitable event for our agency. Young people, just married, with new mortgages. Old people, once ready for retirement, whose savings are gone. People who worked hard to climb the career ladder, who now face demotion. All of us facing heavier workloads and new job duties. Six months ago, we were sure in the course of our lives. Now, many of us have lost the wind in our sails and are adrift in an uncharted sea. And there were no answers. Only the date the winds of change will blow: October 1.

The fear and anger, desperation and confusion, were palpable in the air. But little by little, I heard voices raised in possibilities – could we, do you think, what if…..and suggestions began flowing on how we could make this better. How we can survive. How we can make the best of a very bad situation. Side bar conversations after the meeting – this might be the opportunity to live a dream kept on a back burner, long thought impossible because we are so busy trying to live the American dream – a house, the right car, the ultimate vacation…

And you realize….while we cannot control our lives, always, always, we choose the colors through which we view these events as we struggle to find new direction. Rather than look longingly at the past, we can embrace the future with joyous anticipation of new adventures and destinations and be thankful for the opportunity to breathe deeply of the beauty of this world. We can lean on each other and learn new ways of doing things and we can survive. And maybe, just maybe, the future we dread at this moment will become our new “happily ever after”.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kayaking the Little Nestucca

I signed up for a kayaking tour of the Little Nestucca River Estuary near the town of Pacific City, OR through the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. The river travels through the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge between two shores that see little contact with man and teem with a rich variety bird and animal life. Our guide was Cheryl from Kayak Tillamook County who is also a volunteer for a local animal rescue agency, and she generously shared her rich knowledge of local terrain and wildlife as we paddled the river.

We put into the river just above the Highway 101 bridge - 8 of us in all, including Cheryl, and all of us eager to explore the river. After a bit of instruction on how to handle our sea kayaks (this was my first time in the narrower, less stable seagoing kayak), we launched into the cold, clear water and began our tour. While inland Portland was near 90 degrees, we were rewarded with perfect sunny weather.

The tide was coming in as we launched and we had to paddle hard to maintain our momentum towards the mouth of the river so we savored moments like these to rest a bit and take in the amazing amount of bird life in the tree canopy. Unfortunately, the constant need to paddle restricted the amount of photos that could be taken. And there were so many sights I would liked to have preserved. The osprey that caught a bit of lunch and took to the tree in front of me only to have a crow land beside it and try to steal the fish from the osprey's talons. The crow was rewarded with a swift peck from the crow, who flew a short distance away and watched for a second chance to steal the fish away.

Then there were the kingfishers whose harsh cry and beautiful plumage filled the air with movement. There were so many great blue heron, three and four in a tree. So graceful in the air, but more amazing to watch their landings in the trees that are not made for their size and long legs. Then there was the bald eagle that flew out of a tree directly in front of me; so close I could see the detail of each feather. The small peeping sanderlings poked among the rocks and grass on the shore, while great breasted cormorants swam in still water. The sand flats provided a resting ground for dusky canadian geese, the species actively protected by the refuge. As we stared in awe at the varied bird life in the trees, a harbor seal watched us silently from the water, never showing us more than the tip of his head and a large brown eye.

As we neared the mouth of the river, we stopped for lunch on a sand spit and we had an opportunity to get out and do a little exploration.

From the edge of the clear cold water, we could see a multitude of sealife in the brackish bay water. Sea lettuce that waved in the current.

Small "jellies" (no longer called jellyfish officially per our guide), swam in profusion within the bay.
We found this larger jelly fish among the plant life waitng for food to come its way.

The sand on the shore is held in place by various grasses with beautiful seed heads

In the distance you could see the spray from the Pacific Ocean where the river met the sea.

Deer tracks crisscrossed the sand along the beach.

and the skies were a beautiful blue with clouds that I hoped signaled the end of a very hot stretch of weather.
Small shells formed wings in the sand. Feathers and a bone evidence the life cycles that are part of the local ecology.

Once the tide turned, we headed back towards the highway, once again battling the tide.

On the way back, a deer and a fawn grazed on the shore, barely perturbed by our presence, as we paddled towards shore to have a better look at her. Suddenly, the fog began to over take us.

It did not take long to feel the cold tendrils of the fog clouds seep into our bones and I was glad for the warmth the paddling generated to stay warm.

We stopped and paddle into a backwater, overhung with trees and the weathered stump of a large Sitka spruce tree.

Near the bridge over the highway, the wreck of an old boat gives testament to the ferocity of local storm and the ability of ocean tides to carry something this large and heavy so far inland.

All too soon, we returned and the day came to a reluctant end. Although the paddling was hard, the reward was more than worth the effort.

The blackberries are still in bloom here where it is cooler.

The whole of life lies in the verb, seeing.
Teilhard de Chardin

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Breathing Deep of Life

There is such a sense of change in the air. Everywhere I go, I hear sad tales of hardship and loss, anger and sadness, regret and reluctance to accept the world has been forever altered by this recession. A year ago, I almost reached my dream of becoming a full time artist. Just a breath away; a few lazy days when the world was bathed with the rosy glow of hope and anticipation.

Then, as many people have, I watched my savings plummet, my equity shrink, my art sales become almost non-existent, my class attendance shrink. I found my fulltime job, the one that pays the mortgage and provides health insurance, is no longer the secure civil service job I stuck with like glue for the security. Instead, I face possible demotion or layoff for want of a few more years’ seniority. And I found myself becoming angry at fates that would allow my hard work and dogged pursuit of the American dream to fail. “Why me”, I asked as if there would be a reasonable answer. Because the correct answer is “why not?”

And then, this week, I found a lump in my breast. About the size of a marble. It’s not the first time…it’s the fourth. And each time I feel like I am pushing the odds of being told its cancer. Usually I am scheduled for a mammogram, to be followed by an ultrasound to determine what’s up. Each time, I have not had the ultrasound, because the mammogram cleared me of any ominous diagnosis. That’s why I chose to go alone to my appointment. I really did not think anything would come of it.

But this time, the nurse came in after the mammogram and escorted me to the ultrasound room. And I was terrified. After the ultrasound, the technician left to have the doctor read the results of both tests, leaving me alone in the room by myself for fifteen minutes or so. Leaving me to think and worry and mull how I would cope with a disease whose name strikes terror in your soul. Leaving me in tears that I might face something I am ill prepared to deal with. But when she returned, she handed me a pink piece of paper that read – benign. A beautiful word. A humbling word.

I walked to my car with my mind spinning – thoughts and ideas tumbling around in confused amazement. Because I realized in that fifteen minutes I had to consider my fate, that it is not the size of my savings, or owning a house, or having climbed the career ladder that matters. It’s not the newest electronic device, the best label, the most, the expensive, the elite. It’s not outdoing the next person or standing on someone else’s shoulders to look better or being in the right group or using someone poorly to get a step ahead. It’s not chasing our tails until we are so sleep-deprived that we stumble through each day without seeing the beauty of life or working or living in toxic situations. It is not what other people think of us.

What we remember and keep in the fiber of our soul is our family and friends. It is the miracle of each moment we are blessed to live in this amazing world. It is the wonder of diversity and the rare moments we connect with those with whom we share this world. On my way home, I ran into a friend who asked if I wanted to sit in on an art class. I almost said “no”, that I had no time, that I was in a hurry to get back to work, that I had too much to do. That is what I would normally do. But not this time…not, I hope, in the future, either. I sat down and breathed deep of the company of friends and the blessed opportunity to treasure this good life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Were I a cloud
I'd gather My skirts up in the air,
And fly well know whither,
And rest I well know where.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Opening Night!

At long last....a year in the making....a collaberation of artists and friends...and the twelve of us present our work in a featured show at Sixth Street Gallery in Vancouver, WA. The last week has gone by in a blur as we hung our work, completed the finishing touches and gathered for the First Friday celebration on a warm August night. And we were not disappointed! The turnout was substantial and we were delighted to watch and listen to the crowd's reaction to our work.
Andrew flew in from New Jersey and joined us...Judi, Suzie, Cynthia, Traci, Paula and the reception. Sadly, Z'Anne's truck broke down before the show and was unable to join us, although she spent hours with me hanging the show. Tracie Lyn and Mary Lin were at Art Unraveled. and Bee and Glenny were with us in heart, although unable to travel to the reception.

The sign was out to welcome everyone to the gallery. Food and wine were served to the guests. And the fiber show on the other side of the gallery was beautiful to behold. After weeks of terrible heat, the weather gods cooled things down quite a bit to make walking pleasant, as folks toured the galleries.

There is a glass gallery to the east of Sixth Street Gallery that made art from the old corner clock at Main and Sixth Streets.

And the crowds began to gather around the artists demonstrations right at 5 pm.

The wall, with all of our creations, looked magnificent. The diversity of art caught everyone's eyes.

And congratulations to Suzie, who was the first to sell one of her pieces from the show!!!!

Judi and her husband joined us. Judi who stayed for all nine hours it took us to hang the show.

And Andrew who flew to our show clear from New Jersey whose twelve piece centerpiece drew much praise and attention.

And Cynthia, whose beautiful flowers graced the gallery on opening night!

Thank you all for a wonderful journey through nature over the last year. The experience has been incredible and I am honored to have been a part of it!!!