Time for a Palette Cleanser

17 09 2014

Have you ever had the joyfully gluttonous experience of a major multi-course dinner? If you have, you know the value of that little sphere of frozen citrusy goodness that appears between the chicken and the meat courses:  the palate cleanser.  That small gesture of refreshment – that complete break from what has come before and what is about to follow – amplifies the deliciousness of both.

Fine arting is a lot like fine dining. To keep the experience exciting and fun, we need to refresh our appetite, from time to time; otherwise, we can find our senses dulled and the delight we usually feel in our studios has turned to tedium.

For a long time – many months – I feared I had lost my passion for my chosen medium, enameling. I had works in progress that I couldn’t look at; the kiln was long cold; maybe I wasn’t an artist, after all . . .

When I mentioned my doubts to a few very good friends, who happen to be very fine artists, they suggested I try different media – just for fun. They encouraged me to play in their toy boxes – to experiment with their materials and working styles – just for the fun of it.

Boy, was it fun!

It was also refreshing. Without even realizing it, I found myself back in the middle of my begging-to-be-finished enamel works, looking on them with a very different perspective.  As I put the final touches on the things I’d been neglecting, Miss Muse is whispering in my ear (okay, she’s hollering) about all sorts of new enamel works to be created.

tourmaline detail 1


Feeling a little bit stale? Cleanse your palette and your palate. Squeeze a few bright new colors from some fresh tubes, pick up a crochet hook or a pen or a box of scrap wood – dive into the toy box for a while.  When you clamber back out, you just might find your old familiar tools are, once again, your very favorite toys of all.

counter sift


It’s an Investment

10 09 2014

9-10 14

Remember, when you were a kid, and some well-meaning relative gave you a savings bond for your birthday?

What kind of crappy present was that!   You had to wait for it to mature.  If you were patient, it would pay big dividends.

What the hell was that all about?  Remember how disappointed you felt, how confused, how downright pissed off?  If that person had loved you, she’d have given you something you could use NOW!

Siblings fall into that category, I think.  As the only child for over two glorious years, I was none too happy when my mother brought home and proudly presented me with an interloper –  my sister.  She interfered with my being-spoiled-rotten time; then she made it very clear that I was not, in fact, the smartest little girl ever (she was – and still is); and then she made me feel uncool and incompetent for my first-born-ness  .  .  .

and then, it happened.

Maturity – mine as much as hers.

Dividends of the highest magnitude.

Today is my sister Phyllis’s birthday.  I want to thank my mother for the gift she gave me on September 10th 1956 – the one I had to “grow into”.  This is a gift whose value continues to appreciate.

Thanks, Mom.

Happy Birthday, Phyllis.

Share and Share A Like, Wait a Love

3 09 2014

It’s the time of the year when being out “in nature” is appealing, even to the normally non-outdoorsy types. (Note: there are some folks, like the man I married, who are militantly anti-outdoor; I’m not talking about his kind.) The gentler angle of the September sun, a bit less heat and humidity, and the fact that the kids have been cooped up in school for a few days conspire to get people out of their houses and into the woods – or the park, at least.

The appearance of these nature novices can be alarming to the true lovers of the forest,  soul mates of the trees, friends of the little creatures of nature;  and they can be startled – and annoyed – by the presence of interlopers who do not properly revere the sanctity of Nature   .  .  .  (Insert derisive snort, here.)

This person summed it up, albeit rather gentler than some:

The field was quiet and empty, the lovely sounds of the babbling creek, birds softly chirping……………Then comes the Loud Family. “Linus stop that, Sissy don’t eat THAT. Come here, come here, come here, now! Where did you drop the ball? Put THAT down, yuck!!!…………………” Ah yes a beautiful day at the creek.

I get it.  I understand the desire for a quiet visit with a favorite brook, tree, or rock.  Yes, there are noises that can take out of the moment, BUT – and this might be shocking news – children are little creatures of nature, too.

It is hard for kids to learn how to appreciate nature, especially if their parents spend most of their energy scolding the exuberance out of them.  While we crave the peace and sanctuary that it offers, we must remember that it is critical for kids to learn to truly love the beauty of nature. If we don’t share nicely – if we jealously guard our “peace and quiet” – when we are gone, so will be the wilderness  .  .  .  because no one will have learned to care. No one will have been raised up to love Nature as we do.

Ooooh . . . listen. Is that the sound of the suburban pre-school warbler   How beautiful to see one in a wild habitat!


Labor Day Blues

27 08 2014

This is a strange time of year – the cusp of autumn.  Change is palpable; it is in the air. It is exhilarating for some and stress-producing for others.

Autumn is not an easy season for me. As the days begin to shorten, I find my mood darkening with the atmosphere.  As many as there are like me, there are others who anticipate winter’s chill and bluster as a time of magic and wonder. (I do not understand how this can be, but I have witnessed it in otherwise perfectly sane friends.)

Knowing that I do not like “football weather,” pumpkin chai latte, or the loss of Daylight Saving Time, but that I am powerless to stop their onslaught, it’s time to find a way to get out of this funk.

Change is part of life – it’s really a definition of life – so, in my sixtieth transition from summer to fall,

I am going to embrace the change of season.

I am going to revel in the transient beauty of painfully brilliant blue skies and a sun that seems to be glancing sideways at Earth, casting gold streaks across everything in its path.

I am going to delight in the scratchiness of a wooly sweater.

I am .  .  .

Oh, who am I kidding, I am going to sulk until April!

Please Be Patient

20 08 2014

The Oxford dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  We commonly use the word patience, when we really mean perseverance, especially in this often-used statement:

“I wish I had the patience to do that.”

Last weekend, I heard that, more than once, at a fine art and craft show. Have you, while gazing at some complex bit of beauty in a booth, overheard such a comment, had a friend say it to you, or perhaps even said it yourself?  There stands the artist, whose soul is on display as surely as his work, and, BAM! – someone has reduced his effort to just being able to “wait it out.”


I got the chance to visit a fine artist in her studio, last week, to observe her at work.  While I could learn many of the component tasks that go into creating her work, I could never – no matter how patient I might be – do what she does. This is not self-deprecation; I am merely stating a fact. The bases for this assertion are many, but let’s just go for the big obvious ones:

  1. Her muse speaks to her, alone. No one can copy another’s creative spirit. (Yes, we can copy work, but that’s not the same, and you know it!)
  2. She has devoted time and intellect to researching, experimenting, documenting, refining, and pushing the boundaries of her chosen medium.
  3. She is fearless in her work, because she completely trusts her vision of a piece and her ability to realize that vision.

Those things – creative fire and genius spark; desire, diligence, and artistic acuity; technical skill; and mad courage – are what we really see in the finished works of master artists and artisans. I think where patience enters the equation, perhaps, is when an artist merely smiles in response to, “I wish I had the patience to do that.”


This Post is Not About Robin Williams

13 08 2014

It is about all of us who remain alive after someone we love has gone from our Earth.

Being the one left standing is an immeasurably hard role, but we have been – or will be cast in it – at some time in our lives.  That is the nature of things, so we should try to prepare for it .  .  .  but we can’t. There’s no training manual, no play book, no YouTube tutorial. We must learn the part the moment it is thrust upon us.  With that understanding, I know this will be of little use to the uninitiated, but I hope it helps those new to the play.

Saturday marked the fourth August 9th without my sweet daughter. Two days later, hordes of fans, friends, and family felt the shock and loss at the death of Robin Williams.  The magnitude of mourners differs. The way in which they died differs. The rest of the story is the same. A light in our lives has been extinguished.

That does not, however, mean there is no other light.

Last week, many of my friends reached out with words of kindness and comfort. One who also shares the mother-wound, but who is in a different place in her grief, moved me to write this in response to her email of support and sympathy.

We lost immeasurably, my Friend, but we have not lost all. Your wound is fresher, but I hope you are – please – allowing it to heal.  The scar remains, but the love and laughter of family and friends makes it less acutely painful.

This morning, I looked out at Jessie’s pond and it was alive with birds, splashing and splattering water all over the place for their Saturday baths and I felt joy. I chose to feel the way Jessie would feel to have seen such a feathered water fight.  Choose, with all your might, my Dear, to feel the joy life has given you; the anguish does not deserve such energy.

Every time you choose to feel the joy – although it will be hard at first – you will strengthen your heart’s ability to feel it the next time. By choosing joy, you will be a light in the lives of others. Without any other effort, your choice will brighten their paths, your joy shining into the darkness of their grief.  For my sake and for your sake, please, choose joy.

Down Came the Rain and Washed the Cobwebs Out

6 08 2014

I have, for years, begged my mother to throw away some of the “junk” she has been storing, “in case she might need it.”


Well, a week ago, we came home from a family wedding to find that, while we were gone, there had been a deluge or two of epic proportions in south central Pennsylvania and there was an indoor pool where my mother’s family room used to be.

Having, as a child, lost all her family possessions – twice – in house fires, Mom grew up to be a “collector” of all kinds of stuff.  Much of it was in the flooded area of her home. Had it been my house, I would, I assure you, still be sitting on a step ladder, weeping.

My mother, who turned eighty-four in March, is, however, a very different animal.

Had I not happened by to catch her toting a soaking wet cardboard box up the steps, she would have not even told me about the mess that was her basement. There she was: clearing out boxes of ancient household records, carpet remnants, the detritus of her three grown children’s toy boxes . . .

8-6-14 - 2

She was handling it with energy and resignation – no crying.

I was able to convince her to let me Shop-Vac up some of the water and remove the drenched area rugs only because it would make me feel better to help.

When the rains forced my mom to do what I could not convince her to do, I felt relieved. I also felt guilty.  I never understood why it was hard for her to let go of things – things I knew were worthless.

Then I felt stupid.   What is trivial to one is treasure to another. If she wants to keep something because it comforts her or makes her happy, it’s valuable. The only thing of genuine value to me in that house –  the house I grew up in –  is her.

Protect your valuables, Friends.  The real ones are irreplaceable.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 432 other followers