adjective: scrappy – consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts. Synonyms – feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent
This week I sat in with one of the many quilting groups that sets up shop at the Ranch. This group calls themselves “Ranch Hands” – they are an eclectic bunch of traditional, modern, and everything in between, quilters. Usually when I join in I’ll have a project I want to finish or a particular goal in mind but this week I didn’t have time or inclination to figure anything out so I just brought my sewing machine and some thread and decided to make something from the scrap table. For the non-quilters out there – quilters love their fabric, they buy it, store it, save it, use it then there is always some left over. Generally, not being a wasteful bunch, they don’t want to throw out their beautiful scraps, so they bring left over fabric in all sizes and place on the give away table. So the scrap table was my inspiration. Someone had brought an array of plaids. None of the swaths of plaid where larger than about 12 inches square– but there where a lot to choose from so I got busy picking my colors. In the mix there were just a few reds so that became the middle of my wonky, scrappy, blocks. I created 5 improvisational log cabin blocks using yellows and golds, and 5 more using greens all with a red square in the center. Once I had them all laid out I thought I should break from the plaid grid of the whole thing and put in some improvisational curves. The result was 10 squares part gold part green. Now a purpose emerged – I would put these all together in a long autumnal table runner. Going back the the scrap table I found strips of green with a circle print and they were already cut 3 inches wide! Onward I went backing, quilting and binding all from the bounty of the scrap table. My scrappy improv quilt fits the definition above: a bit disorganized and untidy but also wonderfully feisty and determined to become something from nothing. It was a pleasure to step away from a plan and just let inspiration rule the day. A good reminder that sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can lead you down an interesting path.
It is Tuesday morning and I’m enjoying the rain that continues to fall outside my window. I donned by rubber-boots, raincoat and rain-pants and went for my first rubber-boot walk of what I hope will be a nice wet rainy season here in parched Sonoma County, California. Fully protected from the downpour, I could rejoice in the sound, smell, touch and even taste of the rain. I found myself fully in the moment, relishing the plopping sound of the fat raindrops as they accumulated on the bay laurel and released to the leafy forest floor below. Oh and the smell, the smell is divine, a mixture of the spicy smell of the bay trees and the licorice smell of the wild fennel tall and dry along the road as well as a smell that is all its own – the smell of fresh rain on dry ground – to be more precise petrichor. I didn’t know this word until my friend Jennifer shared it with me. Petrichor means “the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry grounds”. A pair of Australian scientists coined the word in 1964 and I found a surprisingly beautiful video that shows how this aroma is released into the air here is the link.
So I am blessed this day to have experienced this feast of the senses this morning and to be reminded once again to observe this brilliant moment. That phrase has become a bit of a mantra from me and I hope it will remind you to seek wonder every day.
The painting above is a new one. It is titled This is Now. I finished the painting last week and hung at Gallery 300 in Sebastopol CA, yesterday. The inspiration for this piece came from an entry in my sketchbook from some time ago that said only this: This is Now, this is Today – Yesterday is gone – Tomorrow is not yet here – What shall I do? – Who shall I be?
I was asked the the Journey Center in Santa Rosa to create a art quilt addressing the upcoming one year anniversary of the Sonoma County fires. Lately I have been doing a lot of botanical printing on fabric so it seemed like a natural fit to use leaves as my central metaphor. For the piece I used leaves from trees native to the oak woodlands that burned and remain a scar on the physical and psychic landscape. My piece starts at the bottom in a gradation of color. Each row depicts another point in the fire and the aftermath. The bottom row shows the green leaves of Valley Oak, Black Walnut, and Bay Laurel engulfed in the red and orange of flames, the next row the leaves and surround are all flames each row a progression from leaf to flame to ash to leaf again. If nothing else the fire have taught us that nature is persistent she does not give up easily the green shoots and leaves push up through the charred earth, scorched black trunks put forth new shoots. The human spirit is equally on display – a will to rebuild with a new deeper knowledge of the importance of home and community.
My work and the work of many others will be on display at the Sonoma County Strong Quilt Show at the Journey Center1601 Fourth Street Santa Rosa, CA 95404. The opening is September 21st from 5:30-7:30 and the show runs til November 2nd.
Lucky, my sweet old dog of 15 plus years died Friday and my heart is has cracked open…again. I thought maybe this loss would be easier but its not really. When you love someone, even a little dog, the bargain you make going in is that it will end one way or another and there will be heart break. But the sadness doesn’t mean the love wasn’t worth the loss. It is. Love is worth the loss.
Rest in peace little friend I’m so glad I got to be your companion human. You taught me about being in the moment, that sometimes sniffing around where you’re not supposed to can bring unexpected treasure, that wagging is always better than barking, and most of all how to love unconditionally.
This past week my extended family gathered to help pack up my mom’s life in the sprawling home she built with my father some 30 years ago to move into a two-room apartment at the back of my house. Needless to say, this means things need to be let go. This wasn’t a sudden decision, so my mom has had over 6 months to start sorting into three piles: keep, give away, dump. At the beginning my mom was reluctant to let some precious items go even though she knew she wouldn’t use them because frankly she didn’t use them now. Things like a porcelain tea pot my grandma made that was shoved in the back of a cupboard for 30 years since the last move, old photo albums with unidentified pictures, my dad’s report cards from middle school. When you have space you just fill the void but moving forces a cleansing especially a move like this one. My Mom read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter”. This book helped her a lot to let things go, she tried to pass things on to family but there are just some things nobody wants and those just had to go.
I even had a reckoning of my own in this cleaning process. When my parents moved to this past home they told we three children that they would store a foot lockers worth of items in their attic. They give us each a small trunk and at 18 looking at the precious items in my bedroom I chose the things that were sacred and special to me then. The pile of dolls pictured above is a collection from my sister and I’s trunks. I also saved a vast stack of Cricket Magazines, for some reason the stories and art in those magazines were prized to me at one time but for the life of me now I couldn’t fathom why I’d kept them for over 35 years. There were the a bean bag dolls called Larry Legs that my Grandma made and a red metal cash register. In the end I only kept the red cash register and even that I’m not sure why.
It’s interesting what we save. Some things out of inertia – it gets put on a shelf on a whim and never touched again till moving day. Other things we wrap in velvet and ribbon a put in our underwear drawer for safe keeping- love letters, old photos, wedding garments – proof of our youth and wild ways. But mostly it’s just stuff, pretty stuff, interesting stuff but in the end just stuff. One day to be put into three piles: keep, give away, dump.
I’m grateful my mom is coming to live with me. It will be a beautiful, joyous, maddening, wonderful, difficult transition. But she and I are both up to the challenge, both ready to hold on to what really matters – love of course – the rest, as we all know, is really just stuff.
I’m teaching a two-day Encaustic Collage workshop this weekend at The Bishop’s Ranch where I am the Resident Artist. This class is one I’ve taught many times, so I have a good idea of how to organize the space and materials for success. One thing that I think makes everybody happy is to have things arranged and ready to get creative. While the creative process itself can sometimes feel magical and loose, for me at least, the magic comes from having everything in order, so my mind is free to be inspired. I try hard to give that balance to my students too, I want everything to be at their fingertips with stimulating materials and careful demos to guide them to finding their genuine, creative voice in a new medium. Wish me and my 12 art adventurers luck!
In the busy mix of the weekend I’ll try to take some action shots of my students at work to share at the end of the weekend. Hope you make some time for your creative self too!