Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dreaming of Spring, Chapter 1

Sitting here in Zero degree temps surrounded by snow, I'm dreaming of my vacation last Spring.  I thought I'd tell you about it in installments, so I won't bore you with it all!  My best friend Trisha and I went on my Dream Vacation. Since it was my dream, I did all the planning and reservation making. I plotted out a route, ordered a car, made reservations for the first night, and for a B&B in Idaho. I stayed awake too often, planning every eventually. I loaded my Ipod with music, packed car snacks, a water heater for the car, so we could make hot drinks on the road (which I never used) too many clothes, hiking boots, jackets, summer clothes, warm clothes, swimsuits...

The day came, May 16th. We flew into Jackson, Wyoming and rented a nice new Nissan Rogue. I was so excited to be back there, I had to show Trisha all my favorite places and explore new ones. The plan was to go into Yellowstone from the south and out the west entrance, continue on through Western Montana, Northern Idaho, into Portland-where we each had family to stay with, then go to the Canadian Rockies, down through Glacier and Yellowstone and back to Jackson. We had three weeks, enough money, good weather, music and a friendship that goes back to babyhood.

There were so many highlights! We saw wonderful places! The mountains were spectacular, cloaked in snow and wildflowers peeking out all over. We said Hello to the Grand Tetons, went through SW Yellowstone, staying a night at Old Faithful Lodge. We stopped at Quake Lake, west of Yellowstone. We fell in love with Ennis, Montana, a sweet little town surrounded by mountains, which is a huge fly fishing hub. We stayed in El Western Motel, which had log cabins with full kitchens in front of a lovely brook. It was so peaceful there that I had my first real night of sleep of the trip! The sunset on the mountains was pink, true alpenglow. We toured Virginia City, an old silver mining town, and had a great soak in one of the hot tubs in the C'Mon Inn in Bozeman.

We crossed over mountains into Idaho and followed a rushing river for hours on end till we got to the Palouse, where we went to Mary Jane's Farm B&B. What a find! I was so excited to surprise Trisha with a glamour camping experience. After her initial panic at seeing outhouses and tents, she was totally charmed by the place.  Picture platform wall tents with wood stoves, real beds, fluffy comforters and pillows, outdoor kitchens with vintage fittings, a gourmet 4-course breakfast served in the plum orchard. Fresh eggs and produce from the farm...outdoor bathtubs with a view! (Click on the link for their slide show.) We were the only guests at that time, and they really pampered us. The Palouse was a surprise-high rolling hills where farms tuck into the folds. They do dry farming there--no irrigation--and grow canola, corn, wheat, soybeans. Quaint little towns filled with shops and antique stores! We shopped and shopped.

In Portland, Trisha's brother Paul took us to an iris festival/ flower show.  OMYGOSH! Well, you must just look at the slide show, because what can I say? We both had nice visits with our relatives for a few days, (I had my own apartment at my cousin Jennifer's!) then we headed northeast be continued!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snowy Thursday

I don't remember hearing that it would snow today, but we have 2 inches so far, and it's still coming down. I have Fridays off from my "real" job and am looking forward to a stay-at-home weekend.

The desk at my "real" job!

This is the weekend I get the studio organized!  I've been following about 40 bloggers, many of whom have done wonderful organization projects in the past month. It's time to root out the rubbish and find the goodies and make it pretty and usable! It is, after all, a large corner of my living room. Maybe I'll even do before and after shots and set up an area to take pictures of my pretty things to show you all.

I wish I had more time to blog! I see all these great challenges, groups to sign up with, things to win. What fun they will be! Meanwhile I'm loving the blogesphere, where I can put my thoughts and words and images out there for you to see. I have received so much wonderful encouragement from my blogger friends that I can't wait to see what develops.

When I started in November, I said I'd show pictures of my Dream Vacation. I'm working that out now. It will have to come out in bits and pieces, as I have over 1200 pictures and lots of ground to cover. Don't worry, I won't make you watch all of them! I will (yes, I will!) get the first installment of the Dream Vacation out this weekend. Now, back to the real job.  Have a great day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Little Church Burned Down

Early last Sunday morning the little old church in a neighboring town burned down. It was such a sweet little church, built in the 1800's. Even though it was a little church in a small village, it had a big following of dedicated people who came from miles around to attend.

The church had one front door, and the pulpit was also at the front. The story goes that it was built that way to shame anyone who came in late. There was no back door until, in the 1920's, when there was a double wedding scheduled. The fathers of the brides cut a door in the back so the brides could walk down the aisles.

It was a simple church, heated with 2 wood stoves. Painted wooden pews, lovely old victorian chairs and a walnut pulpit in the front. Painted in soft green, it gave a lovely sense of serenity.  Hanging over the pulpit was a hand-made quilt called the loving quilt, which was loaned to anyone who was in need of comfort or suffering ill health.

I drove by there today to take a picture, and it is bulldozed now, so there was nothing to see. But the picture in the paper showed the side beams and much of the facade blackened, but still standing like a ghostly shape in ash.

The pastor, a dedicated, sincere man, welcomed members into the parish house and promised to rebuild, somehow. A parishioner donated one of her hand-made quilts to be the next loving quilt. I don't doubt that the rebuilding has already started.

This is a little story in the light of the suffering of the world, but it's a huge story to the people in the small community of the church. Even though I've been a practicing Buddhist for 34 years, it touches me too.

The suffering in Haiti and Afghanistan and elsewhere seems small from our living rooms in the big world, but it is everything to the people in those communities, their families, their neighbors. I pray that we can keep our hearts open, no matter who or where we are. This is what humanism is all about.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Love a Good Tree

Looking out my friend Chris's window at this ancient apple tree made me think of trees that had been important in my life. Yes, certain trees are memorable!

As a toddler, I had had a circle of bunnies, birds and squirrels as imaginary friends. I was a lonesome girl, as we lived in the country and all I had was little brothers. Before I was old enough to get on my bike and ride to Trisha's, I went to the woods for friends. Then I discovered books. I fell into reading and lived vicariously as Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, etc. The most wonderful place to read was behind my grandparents' old orchard, on a rock ledge covered with moss with a tall white pine at my back.  The sun dappled down through the boughs and branches. I could see the goings-on at the farm. Mostly, I just poured over those books and imagined...until a bobcat ran past me one day, close enough to touch!  (I'd rather have been standing up when that happened!)

After that I found an old apple tree in the orchard that I could climb and I fit right into the angle of the first branch and the trunk. It became my new reading nest and my horsie, too.  I wasn't all that interested in horses, but that tree made a good one. The orchard was eventually cut down to grow grass for heifers and later, for ponies.

When I was 20 and in love with Joe, we climbed Shingle Hill and got lost in the juniper bushes. I didn't know which way to go, so I climbed another pine tree. This one had big heavy branches all the way down, so it was easy. I got all the way to the top, got my bearings--and the branch broke under me. All the way down, each branch deposited me onto the next one without harming me. I landed at Joe's feet, laughing. Joe and I didn't last, but I'll bet the tree did. These old knees make climbing Shingle Hill but a memory.

When I was 24, I moved to Denver, made some friends and spent many a day discovering the lovely trees in Washington Park. Somewhere I have a picture of me up in one of those trees, big snaky black trunks and branches. I loved the evergreens of Colorado, and even lived in the towns of Evergreen, Pine and Conifer.

Several years ago Mom and I went to Oregon for my cousin's wedding, and we took a drive down into Northern California and back up the coast. After driving for quite a while in Oregon, we went over Grant's pass, heading Southwest. I turned off the main road for a change of pace and we found ourselves in a redwood grove! Mom got out and hugged a tree, first thing. We were awed and spellbound. We went into every grove we could find, took lots of pictures that didn't come out, and enjoyed our trip immensely! Driving through Northern Idaho last spring, Trisha and I found an old cedar grove at a roadside rest area. The hush and peace of the place reminded me of the redwoods and had us charmed. Could gnomes and fairies live in the holes?

Back here in Western Massachusetts, I fell madly in love with my old home territory all over again, and it was the trees! The spring fluff of new baby leaves and soft red maple buds that make my eyes water with allergies. The heavy summer maples, some with brown leather-like leaves. The sycamores-their mottled bark captivates me, and they have these dangling balls like ornaments at the very tops. What could be better that the yellows, oranges, reds, browns and sometimes pinks and wines of the autumn leaves? The sap will be running in another month and a half or so, maple syrup time. That means Spring is on its way, and the cycle of life goes on.

Have you hugged a tree today?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Open the Door

When my brother Jim bought this old hardware store, it was full of junk. It had been vacant for over 5 years, and it was overrun with rodents and sawdust and dirt. You see, it was originally an old lumber yard storage barn. It was made into a hardware store in stages. The old post and beam structure still shows in places. There was lots of structural damage over the years. Everyone who worked here must have tried their hand at hanging a ceiling or adding a wall or a window, because everything is mismatched, and most of it is crooked, unfinished, sagging or stained. The brothers who had run the store had retired and sold it to a farmer, who sold it to my brother.

Jim and his partner emptied it out to build our apartments, and all the wood stuff went into a huge pile out back. Every time I visited, and after I moved in, I gleaned treasures from that pile. Even the nail in my foot didn't deter me from climbing up that pile and digging out old drawers, a picnic table, an old wooden rake, old signs, shelf boards and a piece of an old door. He eventually got permission to burn it all, and my digging days were done.

I hung that old door piece on a beam and welcomed it home. But it was bare, and didn't have anything to say to me. After a couple of years, I dusted it off and made this piece. All the quotes and poetry on it relate to opening the door. I gave it color, personality and a reason to come back to life. That is why I love working with old wood, texiles and photos, to bring the life back into them. When the younger generations look at pictures and recognize no one, why keep them? Things that people discard can mean much more to someone else.

I've always been sensitive to old things. I have a tiny silk baby quilt that my great-great aunt Orril made. She was married in 1902, so it was probably from that decade--I took piano lessons from her in the 1950's. She lived to be 99-what a treasure her memories were! I have a picture of her when she was 17-sweet, innocent and very Victorian. She is my bridge to the past!

I am the oldest in my generation on both sides of the family. I guess it's fitting that I hold the history. I only wish I had more. So I make the connections in my art, slowly, piece by piece.

Keep on Dreaming!

Friday, January 8, 2010

My New Look

Do you like my new look?  I love these interchangable backgrounds, but the old template made it look cluttered. This one shows my pictures in a better light.  Let me know what you think.  I love to hear from you!  

What A Day!

Did this ever happen to you? I blogged till 2:30 AM, then got up to go look for a new car. I have needed one for a long time, and wished for all-wheel drive, roof rack, hatchback, low miles, affordable, etc. I looked at one that seemed like a good deal, but high mileage, and older. Then I found it. It is all of the above and in top notch shape. The salesman was adorable and very pleasant. I took a test drive, went out for a late lunch while they tried to finance me, then went home and awaited the call. It came! I'm financed with a lower price than we had settled on.  YAY! I pick it up on Sunday. 

Coming home, I was aware that I felt spacey, what with my new car dreams and lack of sleep, so I kept my eyes on the road and followed the speed limit. I got home and made some calls, worked on my blog, ate supper and then tripped and FELL face down on the floor! I'm no lightweight, so my housemates came running when they heard the crash.  I laid there till I figured out nothing was broken, then they helped me up. My "good" right knee and my left wrist are rugburned and swelling, so I'm icing and taking anti-inflamatories. My nurse-practitioner friend Meg told me to put arnica on it, so here I am!  Cold, gooey and sore.

But back to the car! It's gray, which I didn't want, but I can work with it. It is a good neutral for me with my silver/gray hair. Trisha thinks I could accessorize it with a bright throw and pillows. I thought of a big daisy on the antenna and a bright commuter mug.  Maybe matching litter bucket and umbrella? Or rugs--I saw some cute ones somewhere...  Okay, back to the ice pack and a good book.

Have a warm and cozy weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Crow Box, or A Crow Named Charley

Last summer I was reading “As The Crow Flies” by Jeffrey Archer, and I inadvertently left it out in the rain. I hadn’t gotten into it yet, so I decided to leave it outside and see what would happen. After more than a year out under the dripping gutter it started molting. The cover had turned into a warty rotten thing, but you could still read “The Crow” in the crusty paper. As the pages got crumbly, I tore them out and dried them.

I had purchased some old wooden boxes from a former antique dealer, and one had captured my imagination. I started to formulate the crow box in my mind. I found a perfect scrapbooking paper for the background-turquoise swirlies with a flocked brown tree on it. As it was nearing Halloween, I was able to find a fine feathered crow at Michael’s. With a found crow feather, the book cover fragment, various cutouts from a bird book, and other collected objects, the lid came together, then with wisteria vines and shredded print from the book, I formulated a nest. Crows are collectors of shiny things so I gave him a key, some pull tabs and bottle caps and some shiny silver thread. The paper shreddings were all about Charlie, so I call the piece “A Crow Named Charlie”.

This is the first truly multi-dimensional piece I’ve produced. I liked it so much that I made more shadow-boxes, including miniature ones with some of the same features as the crow box. I’m moving into a form of art called assemblages.

When I was in Portland, Oregon last spring, I was fortunate to meet a collage artist who does wonderful assemblages. Her name is Judy Vogland, and she showed me around her lovely arts and crafts style home, which was filled with her art. She also showed me her studio, the whole second floor of the house, with a balcony overlooking the neighborhood and it’s lovely gardens. Her work so inspired me that I came home with new hope for my future art. When my brother Richard gave me a birthday gift of the broken down bits and pieces of an old pump organ, I was in Heaven!  And Jim gave me a rotary tool that cuts, carves, sands, drills, etc. Dave keeps me supplied with feathers, rocks and seed pods. I’m always on the lookout for paper wasp nests and birds nests. People often give me odd things, saying, “you’re so crafty, you’ll find something to do with these.”

I admire the work of Joseph Cornell, Tim Holtz, and Michael deMeng (Secrets of Rusty Things), along with the great mixed media artists in the Somerset Magazine series. Look through the Blogs I Follow for more multi-media art. My goal for 2010 is to open an Etsy shop and offer my work to you. Meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

From an old cereal ad, “The best to you each morning” and throughout the day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mom's Red Wagon

My mom is 81 this year and lives alone in the house Dad and she built. She has me and 3 sons between 50 and 60. Her only wish for Christmas was a red Radio Flyer wagon!

Mom likes to garden, but has trouble lifting and carrying things. The wagon would be great for transporting tools, pots, dirt, weeds and leaves, bringing in the groceries, carrying wood from the garage to the wood stove, and any number of things.

Everyone said, "you already have a red wagon, why do you need another one," to which she would hang her head and say, "it's broken." This was a pathetic display of sympathy seeking, if I ever say one. My brothers berated her for leaving it outside to rust. She said she had had it for 20 years and it came from the dump!

As the older sister and solver of problems, I decided I had to be the one to get the damn red wagon. I had been keeping my eyes open at tag sales since summer, but there didn't seem to be any around. Living in the country, I couldn't even figure where to begin looking for one. Wal-Mart didn't have one, Craigs's List didn't have one. There are no good toy stores nearby. A local garden center uses them, but doesn't sell them. Then M gave me a lead on one at the pharmacy, of all places.

The closer it came to Christmas, the more pathetic she got. "I hear the pharmacy has a wagon---" I told her they didn't, I had looked. (I had bought it!) I told her to get over it. My brothers and our friend M chipped in and I carried the box around in the back of my car so she wouldn't see it in my house.

Christmas eve, I decided not to put it together, so I could wrap it in the box. It fit perfectly in two pillowcases. We gave it to her after all the other gifts were opened. She got all cute and coy and said, "what could this be?" Then her eyes lit up like a toddler's as she saw it was her beloved Radio Flyer wagon. Priceless. David began putting it together on the living room floor. As he refused to read the directions, he made a couple of mistakes and had to take it apart and rebuild it. Mom was getting nervous-she came into the kitchen and had a cup of tea till it was over.

Now the wagon resides in her lower parlor, where the wood stove is. She has a cardboard liner in it to keep it nice. She shows it to everyone who comes in, saying, "see what my kids gave me for Christmas!" I don't think we'll ever have to get her another one!

My friend Trisha thinks she can salvage the old one and plant flowers in it. Mom says it's junk, and Trisha lights up and says, "I know." She is expert at reusing junk, much more adventurous at it than I am. It may live on.

Happy Trails!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Day, A New Year!

Happy New Year!  We all say it over and over, but what does it mean?  Is it like Happy Birthday, referring to a day? Or like have a great year? Should I wait and see if it will be a happy year? What if sad things happen? Can I still have a happy year?

In my younger years, I went with the flow-observing where I was going, but not sure if I influenced the flow too much. When I began practicing Buddhism and discovered the idea of cause and effect, I started to realize that I made my own flow by the causes I made. I became a person who decided to do something, then actually DID it.  I eventually realized how that thinking puts me in the "driver's seat" of my own life. I'm writing the script, I can make it be what I want.

The next thing was to want something. I had to work my way out of complacency into a person who makes goals. It took me weeks to start writing down what I wanted, then I turned it into an art project I call a tag journal.

First I altered 5 tags with two different scrapbook papers. On the tops of one I wrote I AM:,  on the next one- I LOVE:, then continued with I DREAM OF:, I WANT: and I NEED:. I had a nice fine-point marker, so it was fun to start the word association on I AM. I am cool, music lover, artistic, gray haired, etc. You get the picture! I took me a few days to complete the tags, as I really opened my mind and started a dialog with myself. By the time I got to the I Need tag, I knew what my goals were.

Next, I made a large tag out of chipboard and altered it with nice scrapbook papers. (it is about 10" by 18") I put a picture of me on it and some pertinent quotes and journaling. I made two rows of pockets to put my tags in, so the tops show. I hang that one on the wall. It has accumulated a few other tags over the years.

Finally, I altered a small Tag Journal with the same papers as the large tag, and filled it with meaningful quotes and pictures of me. Many old ones (when I was cute) and newer ones, even though I didn't like my looks. I stamped and wrote on the front. I made a pocket at the back for my tags to reside and hung fibers from the tag holes. This is the portable version!

I did that project 5 years ago, and in those years, I have accomplished many of those goals. When I slip back into complacency, which is apt to happen in the dark of winter or when sad things happen, I look back at my tag journal and refresh my goals. I never want to forget what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it. My art has progressed a lot in 5 years, and I know I will continue to advance. So Happy New Year to me means--Create a happy life!