Thursday, October 25, 2007

Giving Thanks

My middle child, my Annie, lives in north San Diego County. She and her family are fine, their house is unscathed, their neighborhood escaped the fire and the wear and tear and stress of having to evacuate did not cause her (throwing salt and knocking wood, Annie!) to go into premature labor. I am so grateful, so thankful and just plain relieved that words fail me. And guilty. My family is fine but so very many families are not that I find the guilt growing day by day. I don't know why I feel guilty at reveling in the joy of having my loved ones safe and having their home safe, but on some level I do. To be honest, as great as the joy I feel at their surviving the last few days intact and unhurt, my ache and hurt is as deep for those who did not escape the ravages of the fires. How do you explain one house surviving the wild fire while the other six on a cul de sac are burned to the ground? At least, as I write this, the Santa Ana winds seem to be shifting to an on shore flow, which should bring some help to those amazing people fighting all the fires. I did hear a very scary fact on the news yesterday that more firefighters are hurt fighting wild fires with an on shore wind than when the off shore winds are howling. I certainly hope that is NOT the case this time.

I was reading my friend Bee's blog the other day and saw the following quote by William Henry Channing that she had used in one of her postings. I thought it was so inspiring I decided to copy it here. How lovely to read these words, and how hard to live up to them! Hope you don't mind me using this quote, Bee!

" To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, burry never, in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common, this is to be my symphony."
I have been working hard on gathering images for my Caffeine Chronicles journal. I could say it has been such difficult and hard work, but hey! It is a project involving coffee shops! I get to go to a different coffee shop every day and try out my favorite drink at each place, as one must purchase something at each one, as a sort of users fee! I love coffee shops! Each one has a personality and each one's vibe is different. some are cozy like a well-worn pair of slippers, some are hip and edgy, some are utilitarian. There are country style coffee shops and urban ones, slick and sleek ones, frumpy ones, cold and uninviting ones and some even feel more like art galleries than a place to grab a cuppa joe. This is turning out to be a lot of fun!

The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and autumn is well and truly here. My dad always said he loved autumn best, of all the seasons, and I have to admit that as I grow older, I am more and more fond of it, too. There is something about a blue sky in October that is especially beautiful. Perhaps it is because I know that I might not see another for months at a time as the weather in the Pacific Northwest is almost as dreary as folks from other parts of the country claim. Whatever the reason, an October sky with brilliant-leafed trees in the foreground thrills me more deeply than even a pear or cherry tree in full bloom in the spring. I have never outgrown the joy of wading through piles of leaves on the sidewalk, listening to the rustle they make. I love the smell of autumn. For someone who is not all that partial to the color orange, I sure do love to see a tree in blazing orange and yellow!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Post Portland

Art and Soul in Portland was a week filled with classes, new friends and time with "old" friends. I had a ball. Best of all was seeing Bee and being able to catch up with each other a little. I haven't seen Bee since ArtFest last spring and for one reason or another, emails between us have been few and far between, so having time to just be with a dear friend was especially lovely. She's just as funny, insightful, creative and nice as I remember. And she doesn't even snore! (Too bad the same can't be said of's a good thing that the one night we shared a hotel room that Bee was so exhausted that she fell asleep long before I did and didn't move for several hours after I got up the next morning! She was way too tired to hear my snores...I hope

I took two classes from Anne Bagby, the human dynamo. Anne always manages to pack her classes with so many techniques and creative ideas that I emerge mentally zonked. So much Anne stuffs into your brain in such a short period of time that it's amazing any of us are able to speak after class! I learned a lot, as always, and enjoyed so much seeing the work Anne is currently doing. Watch her explain her design process is as informative to me as the actual techniques. I guess I learn by watching as much as anything. One of Anne's classes, the stencil class, has given me a couple of ideas for framing some of my South American photos from the summer that I am really looking forward to trying. Anne suggested that we all sketch faces daily and while I haven't turned out a sketch a day yet, I am working in a sketchbook more often and can see the value in working more consistently. I like the idea of a face a day, but I just don't seem to have the drive to force myself to sit down and do one every single day! Another thing I should try to add to my list of things to accomplish daily, now that I've got this tooth brushing and hair combing thing down pat!

I also took two classes from LK Ludwig, another artist I greatly admire. LK is a good friend of Bee's, so I got a chance to sit and chat with LK that was not in a classroom setting, and I found her to be very funny and great fun to talk with. Her classes were fun, too, and LK is another one who jams so much information into a class that it's hard to take it all in at once. I felt like a voyeur for a while one afternoon as I sat and watched LK at work, picking and choosing what to use on the page she was working on, trying out ideas and then discarding one and trying another. Again, watching the artist in the process of creating was very, very helpful to me. LK's journals are things of beauty with layers of meaning and I love how she incorporates her photographs into her visual journaling. Her connection with the natural world is especially strong and by watching her work and studying what she does and how she does it makes me realize that I need to pay more attention to levels of meaning in my own work and that expressing myself in terms of water and woods should something I do more of. It's how I relate to the world around me and I don't think I've truly learned to work from that attitude. More things to think about!

I also took a very enjoyable soldering class from Sally Jean Alexander and enjoyed myself greatly in the class, even though my soldering is abysmal! I found her process interesting and liked the way she approaches her designs. Besides, Sally Jean has a wonderful sense of humor and we all laughed a lot during the class. The PMC clay class I took from Shari and Wendy was fun, too. I would really love to get into PMC and hope I may get there in the new year. It's rather pricey buying another kiln but making little items from PMC for gift giving is more likely to be truly appreciated by the recipients than large stoneware or earthenware items! I don't think anyone I know would turn down a bracelet or a pair of earrings, but most everyone has already a cupboard full of too many platters and bowls. Something more to think about!

I spent quite a bit to time last weekend working on an art journal that is part of a round robin I am involved in for a year. It's the Sensual Journal project and whatever work you do on some one's journal must engage four of the five senses (taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell). Now, that's not always the easiest thing to do on a journal page! I have now worked in two journals. The first had a theme of TIME. I really enjoyed that one and found that while I found the subject quite difficult to narrow down for my sub theme, it was a challenge and ultimately I really liked the work I did.

The latest journal has a theme of PLAY. I tried to work into my sub theme the natural world as I do think it resonates in me and makes my work (to me) more layered and meaningful. I have almost completed the page for this journal and am only awaiting the arrival of a birdsong CD in the mail. I chose to work on the idea of birdwatching as something I have come to find as play as I've grown older. (On some level it does sort of appal me that I have come to actually admit I enjoy birdwatching! I always thought of birdwatchers, when I was a girl, as sort of weird and quirky-in-a-not-good-way type of people who wore funny hats and un-stylish glasses----not cool like, ah, me!) Now, I readily admit, I consider myself a novice birdwatcher and I don't really care if my glasses are stylin' or if my new straw cowboy hat is silly. I am very pleased with the work for this journal, too.

Nonie, Susan P., Sandy from Juneau and I are going to take a class from Autumn in early November. I hope to do another wood carving to use as my Christmas card this year. I hope we have as much fun doing the class this year as we had last. I loved being able to send out cards I'd done myself.
I am working on a little journal project for myself at the moment, too. I think I'm going to call it The Caffeine Chronicles, but that may change. Right now I have taking a lot of photos in different coffee shops (and one must sample the wares while one is snapping away, right???) and saving the cups to use as the journal pages. It's all very experimental right now, but I think I may be onto something that is personally pleasing. We'll see.
Now that all my chicks are healthy or on the way to being healthy, and I have returned from Portland, my blood pressure has returned to normal. Jen had my pressure right up there when she announced she was diagnosed with a case of MRSA (drug resistant staph) behind her knee! NOT what a mother wants to hear. It was a very difficult time for Jen. Besides feeling awful and having to be on crutches and stay at home with the leg elevated, it kept her from training for her Ironman marathon next June. I was really concerned about her mental health as she sounded so depressed and down on the phone. Now, since she's been cleared for exercise again and had such a good experience both biking and running last weekend, she is much more positive and sounding like my happy, up-beat daughter. Whew! Annie continues to have an uneventful pregnancy, knock wood, Alex came through her third eye surgery quite well and the doctor is pleased with the results, and Kellie should be starting her first round of IVF drugs in a week or so. Everyone seems healthy, proactive in their own lives and happy. I am so blessed.