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.
The birds are full of ideas. I watched pair of sparrows with straw in their beaks searching for a perfect nesting spot today. The bees as I walked down the wisteria laden arbor here at the Bishop’s Ranch are also full of ideas. Their busyness got me full of ideas as well. I’ve been admiring the Cala lilies along the Ranch house walk for a few weeks and realized I better get busy if I was going to catch them before they start to fad. So I snapped a bunch of pictures on my phone and wandered off wondering what next. So like the birds and the bees I got a creative idea too! I printed about 12 of my Cala lily photos onto printable cotton and with a bit of inspiration from the early photo collage work of David Hockney got to work on this fabric collage of Cala Lilies at The Bishop’s Ranch (if you look closely you can see the Chapel of St. George in the back).
Don’t delay follow those creative ideas buzzing around in your head let inspiration take over, you’ll be glad you let it rule the day!
Welcome to Spring, welcome to this day, welcome to this moment. This is it! This is all there is! Invite this moment in, welcome it.
Here is a new piece commissioned for the office at The Bishop’s Ranch retreat center office. I hope it welcomes the guest into the beauty of the moment and the wonder of life flowing in and around them. 24×48″ mixed media on wood panel
I went for an early morning walk today. I was on a mission to pick persimmons to make steamed persimmon pudding. There are several persimmon trees here at The Bishop’s Ranch and as always there was an abundance of persimmons. Yesterday I noticed that most were gone or fallen to the ground, or pecked to the stem by grateful ravenous birds; birds who can’t believe their luck to find such a treat just days from a solstice dark night. This frosty morning I realized that if I don’t get some now I wouldn’t be able to make my Aunt Lorraine steamed pudding.
My Aunt Lorraine turned 90 this October and I brought her some stone hard persimmons as a gift. As a thank you she sent me her recipe for steamed persimmon pudding… and in her Christmas card I got this week she asked me if I’d made it yet. So you can see I felt duty bound to honor this women with the making of a steamed pudding!
As I often do I started making the recipe before reading through the entire directions. My batter was made before I realized I’d need a “6 cup greased metal mold” – opps – I could picture what I think I need, my grandma had all these copper decorative pans with fluted sides – I think that’s what I need – all I have is a Bundt pan – it will have to do. As I read on I realized I need to fit this Bundt pan into a large kettle – it just fits! Uh oh how do I get it out? I need to put water in the bottom of the pan… with a bit of kitchen twine and some knotting skills I managed to rig a string lift to check the water. Now I’m ready to go! What? “Steam for 2 ½ hours”. With time on my hands I did this little painting of some persimmons waiting on my windowsill. Still more time and I’m writing this blog and connecting with you… still 59 minutes to go, I guess I should clean the kitchen now. But not before I give thanks for persimmons, and family recipes, and the gift of time for this disorganized cook to paint and ponder and reach out to you.
Be well this holiday season and take time, however it presents itself, to give thanks for all the beauty and love swirling around the long dark nights and short crisp days of Solstice.
Hello friends, it’s been a busy week with a busier weekend; lot’s of lists and check marks and more things added to the list. This morning I’m heading out to Incarnation Church to lead a All Souls and Saints Icon making workshop for 20. I have a long list of materials to pack in the car to get on my way. As I was dashing up the driveway to my studio to load the car a wonderful vista over the vineyards emerged: golden rows of vines, a silky layer of fog ribboning above the river beyond and two brightly colored hot air balloons floating above. I took a glace and told myself I’ve got no time to stop – get the car loaded and get going- my head told me. As I dashed into my studio I saw this painting propped against the wall ready to take to my Mendocino show, it gently reminded me – your one job is to observe this brilliant moment -and so my heart listened and I stopped walked out on the patio, drank in the moist morning air, let the sun warm my face, watched the birds out flank the floating balloons and gave thanks.
This is just a little reminder to me and you (now I’ve got to go – I have a workshop to lead!)
It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged – I’ve been working hard to get ready for a solo show at the Mendocino Art Center. I’m loving the work I’ve done for the show and I’ll share it with you through the next few weeks.
As many of you know I live up in Sonoma County in Northern California, I’m sure you couldn’t miss the news of horrible fires up here. I’m relived to let you know that West of the Russian River where I am was unscathed. The tension and fear pervaded the area and everyone in the area was touched in small and big ways by the devastation. I painted this triptych during the week of the fires as my way to calm my nervous energy and direct the unknown into something I know how to do. I know how to paint, so I painted. It brought me peace to do the work and it is my small offering to those who have lost so much.
Peace Be Upon You
The Mendocino Art Center show begins November 1st through Thanksgiving. The opening is November 11th from 5-8pm. If you happen to live in Mendocino area or close by I hope you can come. Mendocino Art Center info