Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Next Beginning

We all deal with it many times in our lifetime. Bad news, sad tidings, the gloom and doom of life. We are never prepared for it, no matter how carefully we plan the fulfillment of our dreams. On Monday, I received the news I had been dreading. As a result of a reduction in the work force, I have lost my management position. Demoted to a lower position with a significantly lower salary and status. Removed from the world of team building, problem solving, creativity and possiblilties that keeps me going in a tough field of work. Hard, now, to face my peers, whose jobs are safe. So sad to face employees that have been on this journey with me. Almost impossible to make it through a two hour meeting to carve up and distribute the team I have carefully built over the past five years. I am devastated. I am hurt. I am terrified. I am alone and on my own, facing a future I never imagined. I think I can't go on, hurting as I do.

But after I catch my breath, I look around. At my employee whose wife was laid off last month and he will be laid off soon. At the homeless person sitting next to his cart of belongings, wearing an oversized pirates hat with a bedraggled plume, soggy with the falling rain. At friends who have lost their battle with cancer. At working mothers who can't be there when their kids need them. At the many people you read about each day in the news that through no fault of their own, are visited by bad luck, bad karma, unfortunate events. And I know I must count my blessings, because it could be so much worse. No one asks for this. It is the randomness of life. Equal opportunity misfortune.

So I will look to what I have to be grateful for. I will have a salary, pay my mortgage, have health insurance. My dreams of travel and finding a way to become a full time artist may be delayed, but I will be looking for the next opportunity to make it come true. Life is not over yet. In a way, it is just another beginning, waiting for me to make the most of it. We never know what may come to us next. This may just be the best thing that has ever happened to me. I just don't know it yet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Art and Soul is Just Around the Corner

Just a peek at the copper repousse class I am teaching at Art and Soul in Portland on Saturday, October 3, 2009 from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. The copper is worked with tools designed for repousse to produce the design in the metal. Traditionally, it can also be done with hammers and shaping tools in a container filled with pitch to support the metal. Copper is a bit harder to work with than the more familiar pewter as it hardens as the metal is manipulated. When it does, it can be heated until red hot and quenched in cold water, to anneal, or soften, the metal. This process produces a residue which adds to the surface design. After the design is complete, you can also apply colored glass frit with a torch or kiln to add color to the copper for more eyecatching designs. Hope you will join me for the class!

There will be designs for the sides and top of the box, as well as wording on the front. The inside of the box is collaged. This box contains an actual nest.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sitka Center and a Cloud of Chickadees

Several months ago I jumped at the chance to sign up for two heavenly days working in the Boyden Studio at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology over Labor Day weekend. The studio is housed in a weathered cedar building nestled in the Sitka Spruce forest above the Salmon River estuary. The studio is blessed with a view of distant waves breaking on the sandy spit, where river meets ocean. Warmed by a wood stove, the studio begs you to break out your art materials and create.

Last Friday, I received a phone call that I would have this spectacular studio all to myself, as everyone else had cancelled. I was also asked to pick up one of Sitka’s instructors, Wuon Gean Ho, who had just flown in from London. She is both a veterinarian and a talented wood block print artist and we shared a rainy ride to the coast together, discussing life and art on both sides of the ocean. Since her class would not begin until the following week, we had the opportunity toenjoy two days of shared art, nature, food, conversation and laughter.

The grounds of Sitka Center are filled with unique art in odd nooks and crannies and each time I visit, I seem to find one or two more hidden treasures.

On Saturday afternoon, we hiked down to and along the estuary. We watched the boaters on the river and looked at the detritus of life along the shores – tiny crabs and jellies, as well as feathers and seaweed covered the shore where the tide had receded. Oregon law allows for anyone to hike along the shore up to the high water line, even if edged by private property. But soon we could see the path blocked by an incoming creek, so we attempted to cross 9 feet of dead grass on private property to get to the road. As we tried, we heard a voice from the adjacent property yelling that we were trespassing and, chastised, we returned to the high water line and forded the creek. Well, attempted to ford the creek, as I slid into the cold, muddy water….But we successfully made it up the hill and I was soon in front of the wood stove trying to dry out and recover my composure because we laughed about the notion of trespassing on a short strip of dead grass all the way back.

On Sunday afternoon, after a morning filled with art and conversation, we decided to brave the intermittent rain and hike the Cascade Head trail to view the ocean. The trail begins in coastal rain forest, dark with moss and filled with the calls of frogs and crows. Clown millipedes crossed the path, as well as small brown snails and Banana slugs. Songbirds mill about in the tree crowns and a Douglas squirrel was busy eating a cache of pinecones freshly harvested from nearby trees. The trail was slippery and I lost my footing several times along the steep upward path. The forest is so thick that most raindrops do not make it to the ground, but there was enough accumulation to make the soil almost liquid, in spots.
Suddenly, after what seems like a long upward climb, you leave the tree line and enter the native grasslands of the Head. The sky, which has been hidden from view, suddenly jumps out at you and your breath is taken away by the view of the ocean and river, 500 feet below.

Still above is the top of Cascade Head, another 500 feet beyond, with an even more spectacular view, but at this moment, the sky opens and the rain begins to fall.
I had lagged behind to enjoy the view and now had to hurry back to the shelter of the trees. After I entered the treeline, I stopped to listen to the sound of raindrops on the forest canopy. In the tree above me, I saw a hawk land and perch under a branch to get out of the rain and a squirrel scurry away, not wanting to become dinner. I closed my eyes and breathed deep of the smells and sounds of rain and forest, trying to preserve this moment in the memory of all five senses. Suddenly, I became aware of whispered twitters and the movement of air all about me. I slowly opened my eyes to find myself within a cloud of chickadees, calling out to all that would hear that danger lurked nearby. They passed so close that I could see the detail of the feathers on their breast. I was enchanted by the moment - a moment that filled my heart with the wild wonder of nature.
I stayed with the birds until they flew away and then scurried on to join Wuon Gean, and the warmth of the waiting studio. And all too soon, said my goodbyes and headed back to the city. Wuon Gean and I agreed to work on a small collaboration to celebrate our fateful walk around the high water line. The day was over, but I will hold the memory of this weekend close to my heart and remember it well in the coming grey days of winter.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Finding Peace

The tension in the air at work is palpable now….dreading the worst, yet still believing there are miracles to be had. We smile, joke, encourage and offer shoulders to cry on and listening ears. We are all embarking on a new and unmapped road: both those whose lives will be turned upside down by the loss of a job or demotion and those who will be left. The survivors face the yet, unopened envelope of future duties and responsibilities with the eye of a skydiver leaving the plane on their first jump. We grieve our anticipated losses, feeling powerless, unwilling carried forward by the unrelenting winds of change. We go home to face our families or just the empty rooms where we live alone and seek to ameliorate our fears.
Today I fled to the shelter of the river to shed the worries of the day. The nights are coming on more quickly now, just a few short weeks from fall. The cottonwood trees don’t know this yet; their green shiny leaves still dance on branches, unaware of their upcoming fall from grace. The sun is low on the horizon, slowly descending into the water, leaving smoky wisps of rust and gold to dance on the crest of each wave. In the east, the full Corn Moon rises through the evening stars, shying peeking through gossamer clouds to gaze at her reflection in the water. I watch a fisherman patiently watch his line in the growing darkness, his face lit by the occasional glow of a cigarette ember. Above, the erratic flight of bats and the piercing call of killdeer fill the air. On the beach, a solitary figure huddles close to a driftwood fire and stares without seeing into the always moving waters. I stand and breathe deep of the rich perfume of the ongoing cycle of birth and life and decay….the sheer beauty of the endless cycle of this earth and find my peace.