Spring brings blossoms, summer brings fruit, and fall brings libations!
Last weekend some friends invited us to help them pick and press apples. We picked pounds and pounds of apples, brought by the wheelbarrow full to the press. Then we washed and dropped the apples into a mechanical chopper. The chopped apples were then put into an old-fashioned crank juice press. We took turns washing, chopping and cranking – filling jugs of apple juice to freeze for drinking later. Then we juiced more, about 20 gallons more in fact. This juice is now bubbling and brewing and becoming hard cider. This process is way beyond my skills, I’m leaving it up to a master mixer, but since I volunteered to pick and press… this fall I’ll get to taste. Not bad pay!
I have a years worth of workshops lined up on the calendar go to my website to see what’s happening and how to sign up! http://lisathorpe.com/classes.html
This is the bed my parents put into the dream house they built together when they were in their fifties – like I am now. And this is the bed they slept in, she on the right and he on the left for twenty-eight of their sixty-one years of marriage. This is the bed my dad rose from early every morning to walk the rural road beyond their driveway. He rose from this bed for his walk every day, rain or shine, in sickness and in health to, with few excepts, walk his goal. While that goal got closer and closer to home over the years, he rose from this bed just the same even deep into his journey with the cancer. This is the bed my father lay down on each night to sleep, and dream and hold my mother close. This is the bed I joined my father in during his last week to snuggle and keep him warm while he dozed. This is the bed, on Sunday night, that my husband and I lifted him into for his last earthly sleep. This is the bed my mother curled up beside him and held his hand and stroked his cheek and hummed and sang and sang and sang. This is the bed I sat my chair beside and joined my mother’s song to comfort his journey, to settle his body, to release his soul. This is the bed my husband sat beside to join the vigil, while I spooned my mother’s tired body, as we sang until finally we just hummed. We hummed a like a mother to a restless baby, an ancient tone of comfort, in this bed we hummed my father through the threshold of this life to the next. This is the bed my mother laid beside by fathers body, his spirit released, one last time till they came to take that ravaged, tired body away. This is the bed I wept in, sliding my body into the divot my father, my daddy, left behind still warm from his last corporeal moments on this earth.
My sweet, loving, obstinate, loyal, opinionated, talented, strong, generous, complicated father – Dodd Thorpe – died in the arms of his wife, at 3:23 am, Monday September 26, 2016. May his spirit live on in us!
I’ve been up with my parents since Monday and will be here for the foreseeable future my Dad started on hospice this week. His pain is being managed – His energy is low but he continues to walk and sleep in his own bed with his wife of 61 years, for now he is eating and enjoying a iced mocha or a gin and tonic here and there. His sense of humor is good and his sense of peace at where things are is clear. When he came home from the hospital this last week he was full of tubes and bags, his quality of life has shrunk. He is sanguine, he feels he has had a good life, right now is a struggle and he is ready. The whole family is on board and supportive. We three sibs are rotating staying here to help in this journey to support both my parents and now getting some blessed extra support from hospice.
When asked by the social worker if he had anxiety or fears about what happens when he dies he recalled something a rabbi once told him “when a baby is in the womb he isn’t scared about what is next, there is a powerful commotion and one existence ends and another begins” that is how he feels- he is ready, this life has almost come to term. We are all here to help him and my mom, hospice is the midwife. What is next is unknown
We are all trying to just be present to deal with what is required in the moment, to enjoy, to joke, to cry, to laugh, to hug, to hold….
Thank you for your love and friendship out there in virtual community land. I know I am being held by your love and concern,
😢😊😍😞😳😘(range of emotion)
It was my birthday on Sunday and, no surprise, I have been thinking a lot about the passing of time and this metaphor has been rolling around my head for the past five days, so I thought I should share it with you.
On the day I was born the archer pulled the string back on the bow and the arrow that is ME shot forth into the world. The arch of the arrow is unknown, the distance too and wherever that arrow lands, well that is it’s true mark – and not for me to know. I sooth myself by thinking I have control over those two factors – arch and distance – and perhaps I do to a little bit. My efforts can take me higher and perchance farther but there is capriciousness too, that is out of my control. And as I think about it, it is just that fickleness that is the true gift of life. In not knowing the arch and distance of my arrow, in understanding that I can not control all factors I can give over to the goodness and wonder before me – right here, right now. It is all there ever was, is, or will be. I give thanks to the archer for sending my on my path, I give thanks for the past 54 years and I give thanks for today – that will have to do.
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. – Meister Eckhart
A couple of weekends ago I taught a Mixed Media Art Journaling class at the Mendocino Art Center. The center is located in the quaint artsy coastal town of Mendocino in on the Northern California coast. It’s a beautiful little town and a lovely place to teach. On Saturday, after teaching, I made my way to the local bookstore and as I often do, I found myself thumbing through the poetry section. This poem of Mary Oliver’s spoke to me and I used it as my inspiration for my Sunday demonstration in my workshop the next day.
I Go Down to The Shore
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in our moving out,
and I say, ok, I am miserable,
what shall –
what should I do? And the sea says
in it’s lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
–Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings
The poem speaks to where I am right now- “I have work to do”. I had a summer with busy parts and lazy parts, visits, travels and guests. It is wonderful to get out of the routine, get out of the ordinary, to play with the rhythm of the day and the rhythm of the week. But at some point it is time to return to ordinary time. There is comfort in the return – the structure of rising early, exercise, and getting down to the business at hand. This week was that for me, doing Ranch work, making sketches for a commission, meetings, emails, even this blog, all of it. My to-do list has been sitting ignored for some time now and this week it’s boxes were checked, things completed new items added. It is both daunting and invigorating to return. So forgive me if I brush past you in my bustle, like the sea, “I have work to do”.
Not long ago I was honored to attend the wedding of a young friend. In truth I don’t know Meg very well and I met her husband Levi at the wedding. So why was I there you ask… well I was there because Meg is the daughter of my dear friend from college days, Molly. There are 5 of us who enter UCDavis in 1980 and have pledged to stay connected over these 30 plus years, such friendship is a wonder and a blessing. Meg’s is the first wedding of the next generation of this group of friends. So there I was with my husband and my long time friends and their husbands to witness Meg and Levi’s commitment to each other. Now this lovely young couple has been together for nine years already if you can believe it, college sweethearts whose love has endured. So on this weekend in July, outside the beautiful town of McCall Idaho, next to a rustic barn, chairs were set in rows – a bride walked down the isle with her beaming parents towards the love of her life, both standing in the bright sun with enormous Idaho clouds collecting as a backdrop, there under the broad Idaho sky they publicly proclaimed their love and devotion to each other. Their vows were honest and touching and bold. After 9 years of being together they realized the power of publicly proclaiming that bold, honest love. When we make a public proclamation then we are including the witnesses, and indeed the world, in that declaration. We are both sharing our bold claim and asking for support when we hesitate. Thank you Meg and Levi for the reminder of the power of proclamation, may your love be strong and true!
Now, in my tiny way, I make a proclamation to you dear readers – This week I begin a renewed commitment to this blog and you, to write regularly and thoughtfully what is in my heart, and mind and the art that goes with that musing. Thanks for joining me in the adventure.
I am excited to share my latest adventure – a coloring book! I am inching on to my 20th year living at The Bishop’s Ranch, in that time I have had the great privilege to soak up the seasons and the scenery here. Each season arrayed in it’s own palette, from vivid greens to golden brown, the hills and fields change their colors in a beautiful circle of fecundity and fallow that never ceases to amaze.
The coloring book has twenty pages of Ranch scenes both on the grounds and in the backcountry. I drew the images on my iPad in black line. Now the owner of the book can choose the season make it spring or fall at their whim – something of a visual choose your own adventure book. Coloring the pages can put the artist right back here to the Ranch, in that way it is both a coloring book and a memory book. For those who have yet to visit the Ranch it can be an enticement of things to come. Please follow the link to purchase one http://lisathorpe.com/shop.html
Here in my little slice of paradise spring has long sprung (sorry you guys in cold climes) and now it is iris turn to stretch out her long neck and open her beautiful face to the sky. The iris come in an awe-inspiring color palette that surprise and delight every year. Some time ago a friendly acquaintance asked me if I wanted some iris rhizomes (they look like a ginger root gone mad) he was digging out of his yard. I picked up a bucketful not really knowing what a treasure trove I had. The following year blooms of impossible beauty shot tall and sturdy in my yard. I have this purpley-pink bloom (above), and a surprising periwinkle blue one, there is a pale creamy yellow one and one that is a deep cabernet red and another that is a purple black of astounding darkness standing like the night sky facing the full sun. The flower itself is a delicate fluttering silk butterfly but the stalk it opens from is tall and sturdy and strong giving a wonderful jux of position. I have been admiring these beauties that rise from my garden with seriously no help from me now for at least 10 years. They rise and bloom and slowly fade and fall to burrow again in the comfort of the ground and spring forth strong and beautiful again each year, a good reminder of beauty and strength and resilience. Thank you iris, for standing as a bold reminder that I too can grow and bloom and fold fallow ready to bloom again when the time is right.
The painting above is from my watercolor sketch book- I’m teaching a Wine and Watercolor class this Sunday at a local winery Campo Vida website. If you have ideas of places I can teach or contacts with organizations or businesses that you think could pare well with a watercolor class, let me know and I will reach out to them.
Lately I’ve been exploring symbols. For my birthday last summer I got a couple of books on symbols. They explore, in great detail, the symbols humans have been making throughout time, religion and culture. From the 20,000 years old red cow deep in the caves of Lascaux to the most recent facebook thumbs up and texting emojis, humans have been trying to express through symbols the meaning of the world around us. It is interesting to me that some cultures went down a pictorial depiction path for their written language as in the ancient hieroglyphs of early Egyptian and Maya cultures all the way to the much morphed but still based in a picture symbol of Chinese and Japanese. It makes me wonder about languages that are base phonetically instead. Have our brains developed differently because of how we enter our written language? Does the visual come more naturally to those who have grown up with a pictorial based writing system? (Some PHD student out there take this on! Please). That is a very long introduction into my recent endeavor to create my own personal hieroglyphics my own code for ideas and thoughts and feelings. I don’t have any interest in other people understanding them these signs are for me. I’m filling up pages in my sketchbook with scribbles, x’s and o’x and crossing them out until one that is simple, and somehow true, reveals itself. It is an interesting exercise- one that has no beginning or end just a little wander into wondering. Here is my Mixed Media art journal with my symbol for LIFE.
I’m teaching a Mixed Media Art Journaling class in beautiful Mendocino California on August 6-7th here is a link for more info and registration > Mendocino Art Center Registration
I thought I’d share a little art teachery stuff. I had the opportunity last year to do some freelance art lesson plans for the art materials company Grafix. I thought you’d like to see the lesson plan I did for teens on the selfie as art form. I want to thank my lovely teen niece who sent me a selfie to use in my sample lesson (because frankly no teen would be as inspired by my 5o-something selfie!) follow the link if you want to down load the lesson plans for free Grafix Selfie as Art Form Lesson Plan(that’s the not selfish part).
Never fear we over 50’s can do the selfie thang too! This selfie of me, using the same Grafix products, will be in the next issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.
Oh and this selfie series will be in the next issue of Quilting Arts Magazine (also using Grafix printable transparencies).
Every year at this time I say I’m not going to get crazy with all the holiday this and that, and every year I really try to keep it under control. But the gatherings and the baking and the making and organizing is just part of the season, part of the harvest time of a rich relationship filled life and really I wouldn’t want it any other way. This year as in past years, I gravitate to the pomegranate as a symbol of the season. My pomegranate tree is hanging heavy with this wonderful fruit. It is like locked treasure chest with a thick leather case. Opening it is always fraught with the possibility of juice and jewels everywhere, but once it is open the reward is evident. The color, the shine, the multifaceted jewels filled with sweet, sweet juice there is nothing else quite so wondrous to me. So here’s to the season of abundance and wonder and a bit of hard work too, enjoy its sweet, sweet pleasures.
Here is a page from my art journal. I am excited to say I’ll be teaching a class in Mixed Media Art Journaling at the Mendocino Art Center the 1st weekend in August. I would like to teach more workshops like this if any of you have a suggestion of a retreat or art center that would be a good fit for my offerings please let me know and even better if you have a personal contact for me, I would really appreciate it!
Yesterday it rained. It rained eight tenths of an inch. Such a gift in this parched, scorched part of the world. This morning, as the clouds pushed east and the sun rose amid the mist of yesterday’s rain, I walked the labyrinth. I have been walking the labyrinth several times a week as part of my new commitment to meditate each day. I find walking the labyrinth helps me clear my monkey mind and be present to the big mind, the universe, God. I have taken to walking the pressed gravel path barefoot. Carefully placing each footfall – feeling the earth fully helps me be present. Today as I removed my clogs the rain soaked trees dripping in delight, the exuberant birds greeting the sun, the rain and their flock fellows, the ground made a new sound a new crunch each step spoke of the soil’s joy at being moist again. The labyrinth here at The Bishop’s Ranch, like many, has a path that at the beginning leads you very close to the center then it meanders back and forth and around taking the sojourner far from the middle. The labyrinth doesn’t have any dead ends or secret passages way if one stays on the path no matter how long the passage you will come to the center. When walking the labyrinth I remind myself that it is a metaphor for my life journey. I know the center I seek is there I have glimpsed it on my long life excursion but I must stay on the path even when it feels far from the comfort of the center circle. When I arrive in the middle I take a moment to count my blessing and say my prayers. And then because life beckons I exit. I always try to walk out with the same deliberate careful step I took as I had when I entered but try as I might I find the way out faster than the way in. But as in the beginning of the journey the labyrinth brings me close to the center one last time before birthing me into the wide world again – a reminder to slow down, to feel the earth on my bare feet to listen to the birds song and feel the fresh rain before it slips away.
I’ve been spending more time in what I’ve now dubbed my Mixed Media Mediation Journal. I have found myself drawn into my studio and opening up to wherever the moment takes me. Today as I was cleaning out an art closet I found a pack of Sun Print paper that is probably 15 years old I had it in the throw away pile but thought better of it and gathered some leaves from outside my studio to see if the Sun Print paper still works after all these years – it does! You can see my row of sun prints drying in the art room. What started as a closet cleaning turned into a meditation in blue. I’m usually such an on task person – I don’t allow myself to play until the work is done – but I’m beginning to soften on that ideal – I’ve decided it is best to greet the muse when she presents herself – and today she was all decked out in blue and beckoning, I could not, should not resist!
Well summer is waning, don’t say it I know what your thinking “but it’s not even Labor day yet!” – true enough but for me – here – ordinary time has begun. School is back in session and I back to my classroom of kiddles, summer camps are over here at The Bishop’s Ranch, and summer visitors have all come and gone, my son is back at college. For me this is a perfect time to make some resolutions – create new habits, and get into gear with the habits I let slide in the extraordinary days of summer. So I’m back to my yoga class and morning hikes, I’m back to my breakfast of oats and quinoa and now I am adding flossing every day – I know what you’re thinking “she doesn’t floss everyday?” I confess I don’t and I’ve been lying to my hygienist for years but this week I have flossed every day! More importantly I have decided I want to meditate every day – a bit of flossing of the mind if you will- loosening of the flotsam and jetsam that clogs the mind and gently pushing it out. I have set the bar low to start I have been meditating 10 minutes a day. I figure if I can start that habit and prove to myself that I have the time then I will stretch it out longer as the fall progresses. I have to say I feel it, my teeth and gums are vibrant and happy and so is my spirit – things feel less stressed less pressing… Ok I know it’s only been a week but really It’s good – I’m keeping this habit.
To commemorate the opening days of ordinary time I decided to start a art journal. I haven’t really done one – I have a sketchbook that is more about ideas and inspirations but just quick notes and scribbles. I found this 1960’s art book- that was titled “Modern Painting, Contemporary Trends”. The pages are nice and thick and not glossy at all. If you can believe it the color art photos are pasted in individually! Anyhow I lightly gessoed up some pages and decided to do something…. I remembered my thoughts about the return of ordinary times and decided to depict ordinary objects. My eyes landed on my scissors and a sewing needle. So here it is the first two pages in my art journal (pictured above) I used pencil, marker, watercolor crayons, tissue and other papers from my stash with some matte medium over the top – Oh Yeah and of course as you’ve probably noticed my favorite obsession, I did a little spray painting with stencils too. I promise to show you more as ordinary time continues!