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 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).
This week I set myself the challenge of reining in the vast expanse of drooping draping bulb tops in my yard. I will admit that part of my motive in setting this challenge on my blog was to kill two birds with one stone: bird one, get a grip on my burgeoning spring yard, bird two, do something artful for the blog. Right away I set at it with a will. I began braiding the bulb tops. Straightening and stroking each bundle, braiding and binding the chaos of green. As I set about my task I thought about my childhood and my mothers ritual of washing we girls hair in the kitchen sink. We would lie on the counter and she would wash our hair as if we where ladies at a salon. After we would sit on a low stool and she would tediously untangle our hair and braid (or put it in sponge curlers) for the week. This musing got me about three feet into my flowerbeds. So I thought of my horseman dad, who is an expert braider, who has stories of braiding the tails of pack ponies and polo ponies alike. That musing got me about two feet further on my mission to subdue the riot around me. Next I thought about the last time I had braided all these bulbs, it was when my 14 year old was 3 or 4 years old and content to wander the yard with a train or two in hand making every board a train track, every rock a station. It was a lovely time in my life where my focus was the wanderings and wonderings of an emerging little person, a slower version of life, slow enough to braid yard after yard of fallen foliage with the soft toot-toot of Thomas the Tank engine mingling with the buzz of bird and bee. Ok that musing got me about 3 feet more. I had barely taken the curve of the flowerbed!
Two hours in now I began to question my sanity, but as one who always takes homework seriously (even self imposed homework) I vowed not to quit. I did take a break however, and on that first day of braiding went to have lunch in the refectory here at The Bishop’s Ranch with other Ranch staff. I explained my personal challenge to the table of diners and they all decided to take a fieldtrip to my yard after lunch. The reactions to my mania where varied, Cass, who is the Care taker here as well as a master gardener took one look and exclaimed “No Way” and walked off muttering something about knotting up bulbs would suit him fine. I don’t blame him since while I can measure my bulb tops in yards he would more likely measure those drooping around the Ranch in miles. Cecilia, who works in the office questioned me on the purpose of braiding did, it help the bulb in any way? I explained that keeping the tops until they dry helps the bulb but braiding or knotting or leaving them lay makes no difference to the bulb. Her response was “So you’re just showing off then!” I stammered and stuttered a bit while I pondered my answer. I thought about saying it’s all about beauty and art and wabi-sabi blah, blah, blah… but in the end I said, “Yeah, it’s about showing off”. Her response surprised and delighted me “I’m going to do it along my driveway where my neighbors can see it!” Maybe we all like to show off every now and then.
I’ve put in hours each day this week and did not manage to completely control the chaos of fading foliage, but that’s ok, it’s been time well spent. Meditating and musing, laboring and lingering, over time past and time spent, content to contain if not control.
Those born in the year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac are said to be: articulate, talented, and ambitious. They exhibit the best of taste and are good mannered, they give sound council and are extremely lucky with money and business (thus the lucky rabbit foot I guess, not so lucky for the rabbit). Despite their speed and agility, Rabbits don’t rush into things; they seek peace and tranquility and have distaste for conflict. If you were born in the year of the rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975 1987, 1999 and of course 2011) you’ve got some great attributes. I myself was born in the year of the Tiger and both Tiger and I have a bit of a bite…but that is for another post. What I really got thinking about this week is our desire for signs and symbols. The Greek zodiac pops up in the 1st millennium BC, I couldn’t find out when the Chinese zodiac was derived but suffice to say it was a long, long time ago. Today we can still read our horoscope in morning paper, people still read Tarot cards and toss runes to get some clue to their life’s meaning or direction. More modern means to the same end are psychoanalysis or tools such as Myers Briggs personality tests and the in depth Enneagram system to name a few. My point is that there is a human thread from ancient times till now, an inner drive, longing, hope, to “know thyself”. The phrase itself is as old as time and comes from the ancient Greek, perhaps from Socrates himself. We want some way to explain ourselves, maybe we even want excuses for how we behave, choices we make. I know for myself that my Lion month and Tiger year give me undeserved cover for my roar and bite, as Nietzsche said “The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self”. But self-reflection is vital to gaining understanding about our true self. Without reflection we cannot grow and learn and change. And without growth what is the point of this walk on earth we call a life? As Carl Jung said “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” So once again I rub the sleep from my eyes and stretch to the day and hope to awaken a bit more of myself, my why, before I fall into and inevitable sleep to dream and wander from my truth. What a blessing to have another day, another morning. AWAKE!