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?
This week I have been in deep seeking mode. The early rains, the cold mornings tell me it’s time – golden chanterelle time that is. So each morning this week I have put on my rubber boots and grabbed my mushroom kit (a knife to cut the mushroom off below the dirt, a natural bristle brush to whisk off the dirt and a bag) and set off. These scrumptious beauties like to rise up in the deep leafy duff below the oak trees, blackberry bramble and poison oak spouts so this effort is not for the weak I tell you. These past drought years there haven’t been any chanterelles (at least that I could find) but this year I was heartened to see lots of fungi sprouting so shouldn’t the chanterelles arrive too. But each brisk morning I have been disappointed, bright orange, brown, black and white caps of other mushrooms have revealed themselves but not my tasty treasure. So this morning, like the others, I donned my boots and grabbed my bag – keeping my eyes low scanning the ground under the trees. As I walked up the back driveway, here at the Ranch, the open pasture to the north sparkled in the early morning light and the bright sun filled the grassy bowl. My head lifted and I forgot my mission, the sun so inviting, I was enticed to climb the hill to the open ridge. When I reached the top my heart pumping, my thighs burning and my lungs filled with the cold, crisp December air I turned to the sun in the east and stretched out my arms I stood a long while in that warm embrace, then turned back towards home, chanterelle forgotten but satisfied just the same.
Like my search for the mushrooms when I started this painting I was seeking one thing then found another. This image of a man releasing a bird came to me soon after my dad died and it seemed to encapsulate some of my feelings of his death days, so I did some sketches and then asked my son to pose for me so I could create the silhouette from my minds eye. This painting did not come easy, not spiritually per say, but technically I had all kinds of mishaps with paints and spills and goopy varnish that would dry that had to be carefully scrap and sanded off, I wrestled and cajoled and tended this painting to it’s finish. As I worked the painting the meaning shifted, and what I thought was about setting my Dad free, it became more about my relationship with my son and setting that free, trying to find new ground in the parent to adult child relationship.
So this was a long winding way to say – keep seeking just be ready to find something you’re not looking for!
Here is a peek at my studio sale today and tomorrow – if you are in Sonoma County stop by INFO
PS if you kept reading this far well good for you – here is A GIFT FOR YOU! It’s a link to one of my recent paintings you can print out to have even if you can’t come to my studio!
I haven’t written in awhile… sorry….when I got fired from my teaching job in late March I imagined so much time and space to make art and blog with you and meditate and ponder the meaning of life. But as Aristotle said, horror vacui, or nature abhors a vacuum, and while I was worrying about how to make money when my job ended I caste a fist full of seeds into the universe. Well I guess a lot of those seeds found fertile ground and now I need to consider thinning my crop down to the things I most want to do. I saw a Venn-diagram recently with 3 overlapping circles; one reads what you are passionate about the next reads what you are good at and the third reads what people will pay you for…..and where they all cross over is the sweet spot – where talent, passion and marketability meet. Simple enough in theory but harder to find on a day to day basis. When I finished teaching April 1st I felt like this was an opportunity- I was just given some space to find the sweet spot- but in my fear of no income I have been filling up my every minute taking on every job that comes my way. I have taken on more graphic design work, more work at The Bishop’s Ranch, more workshop teaching, more sewing jobs…. you get the idea. In some ways it feels good, I know I can make the money when I need to, but now I need to pull back and do that thinning of my possibilities garden I was talking about before and find the sweet spot in my personal Venn-diagram. This week I got a little clue about which way to wander. On Sunday I taught an Encaustic Collage Workshop for 12 wonderful women- they had a good day I had a good day and I felt financially well compensated. Also this week, kind of by accident, I sold 4 pieces of art- big pieces- and when told the prospective buyers the price no one flinched. So I think I’m beginning to zero in on my talent, my passion, and what people will pay for. So here’s to searching for the sweet spot and listening to what the universe is telling you!
My dad recently found these “business cards” of mine in a desk he was sorting out. I put business cards in quotes because you’ll notice there is no actual information; no phone number, and no address, not even my full name. I don’t have a strong memory of making these but I’m sure it was in college when I was often between phones and addresses, and maybe experimenting with a Madonnaesque one name only moniker. Anyhow- the thing that caught my attention after all these years was that was I put a bird on it. And I guess I’ve been putting a bird on it ever since. If any of you are familiar with the sketch comedy show Portlandia then you might be familiar with the episode in which Carrie and Fred spruce up a shop’s merchandise and “put a bird on it” every where (Portlandia). It’s a spoof on Portland and groovy shops and the predominance of birds on everything. Well I have to say I’m guilty as charge- I’ve be putting a bird on it since 1982!
I’m not sure what that proves but I do know the bird as symbol is a powerful one.When my son was growing a frequent topic of conversation would start like this “if you were an animal what would you be?” or “if you had a super power what would it you do?” my answer was always be a bird, sometimes a hawk or a sparrow but often a smart, sassy, loyal raven. My super hero strength was always flight. So I guess I’ve always been drawn to the bird and so the bird is drawn into my work. These new paintings are a part of my new story. My who am I and where am I going now wandering and wondering. Yesterday was my last day teaching at the elementary school and I’m not sure what is next in my life – but one thing I do know is what ever I make I’ll probably still be putting a bird on it, and dreaming of my life as a bird!