Sorting out the tangle

September 23, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Posted in art, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, gardening, health, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography | 7 Comments
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A Wild Puff Ball Mushroom Growing in our Front YardIn early October there is an open studio art trail in our area, and I have been invited to be one of the participating artists. Michael Zambito, the chef and owner of Zambistro Restaurant where some of my paintings are on display, has graciously agreed to use his restaurant as my “open studio”. It is on a Sunday (October 5), and he does not normally serve lunch or dinner on Sundays so the entire floor of the restaurant will be available for me to set up as many paintings as I wish.

Of course, the paintings that already hanging at the restaurant will be on display but I will also be able to show my collection of watercolor paintings from when I was living and painting in Los Angeles along with any oils I have on hand from my days painting here in New York. I have sold most of the oil paintings I have created since living on the farm, so I am busy creating some new ones hopefully in time for the event.

Needless to say, these are very busy and productive days. I’m working on two large paintings of sunflowers (20″ x 24″ and 15″ x 30″) and one large painting of a field of hay bales (approximately 15″ x 30″), along with a smaller painting of hay bales in a field (I think it is 14″ x 18″ or so), and a small painting (8″ x 10″) of an old blue door on an abandoned building.

With all of these paintings going on simultaneously I have the concept of sorting out tangles very much on my mind these days.

A sunflower might seem to be a very simple thing, but truly when you are attempting to paint a very closeup detail shot of one single sunflower you realize all of the shapes and flows and lines and spots and wrinkles are quite a tangle of information. The problem I set out to solve each time I approach a new painting is, “How do I sort out the confusion and communicate as simply as possible the beauty that I see?”

As a painting develops I get to know that subject and I continually analyze it as to what is the simplicity regardless how complicated it might seem. What is the simplicity of the slight and shadow, the form and flow of lines, the brightest highlights and the deepest darkest recessess of shadow? What are the very most important details to communicate, and how do I communicate them simply and clearly, always keeping in mind that with art less is more.

The Rail of the Elevator over at our CottageWith each painting I go through a period of uncertainty — how am I going to do this? Am I on the right track, am I floundering. I have faith and confidence in each case that I will come out the other end having created a painting that I am happy with, because that is what manages to manifest. Still, I feel myself confounded by the tangle each time just as I am on my way through it.

Sometimes — often, really — I take a break to rest my eyes, my arms and back … myself spiritually. At those times it is nice to go out in the yard and walk around, look around, observe the tangle of life out there in the trees, the wild plants and flowers, the fields, the clouds, life.

Isn’t this thing of sorting out the tangles really what life itself boils down to? That is the question I posed to myself while standing out by the barn on a painting break last week, wrestling with some grape vines I wanted to make into a wreath.

And, just as with a painting, sometimes while I am in the middle of a tangle in life I feel as if I am floundering, uncertain if I am approaching it clearly and working out the simplicity of the problem or making things more complex. As I am in the midst of a tangle it can be very difficult to know if I am on the right track or not.

So, in life just as with a painting, sometimes I have to take a break. Back off from the tangle, the problem I am attempting to solve and stop trying to solve it. If I relax myself away from a problem and am willing to experience the problem being there without my having to think of something or do anything about it, I find I can later approach it again and perceive it more clearly.

A couple of days ago I was working on the larger of the hay bale paintings. There are several hay bales out in a field, and I was working out the problem of how to paint the field with the terrible tangle of grasses and wild flowers mixed in with cut hay or wheat. I mixed various colors, and tried this and that with various brush strokes and techniques and color mixes … and arrgghh. I started to get that feeling that I was floundering. I had to stop painting, and just work on some other things.

Two Dove Eggs in a Nest My Husband Found in the Tangle of the WoodsYesterday when I went back to that same painting after a break of two days, I looked at it newly and realized that I was doing just fine. As I picked up my brushes and began to work on it again, I could see that my previous actions had a natural rightness to them. Of course, I begin each painting with a conscious decision that my actions will be naturally right.

I try to remember to make that conscious decision about life on a daily basis as well — at least once a day. It is a point of faith and self-confidence that I purposely decide on and reinforce with a purposeful decision often in life. Even during times of confusion or difficulty, even when life seems to be demonstrating for the moment that I don’t know what to do or where to turn, even then I try to remind myself that there can be a natural rightness to my actions. That faith in myself and in life seems to help more often than not.

So last week one day when I needed a break from painting I headed out toward the barn with a pair of pruning shears in my hand. I began finding and taking cuttings of wild grapes vines to use for wreaths. Wild grape vines, now there is a tangle for you if ever there was a tangle. The little grabby feely things on the vines are all tangled up on other plants and vines, holding on for dear life. I grab a vine and pull on it and all kinds of other things come along with it. Even after cutting the vine off and dragging it out in a clear spot in the yard, still there is quite a tangle to deal with.

I snip off all the leaves and bits and pieces of other plants that are caught up in the vine. As I begin coiling it into a circle for a wreath-to-be, the little feelers grab onto each other, my clothes and hair, parts of the vine I don’t want them grabbing on to.

Patiently I go, knowing these little tangles and attempted tangles will happen. I just don’t get thrown off by it. Perhaps that is what constitutes patience–not getting thrown off by the tangles that come along or try to come along. You know it will happen, so you just stand your grown and keep on building whatever it is you were working on.

Pretty White Vase with Dried FlowersLife. What a trip. I keep learning more and more about life each and every day. It is funny how very wise you can think you are when you are young and full of yourself. I remember feeling very wise indeed, proudly so. Certainly I did exhibit intelligent thought at times for my age. I am not one to put myself down, and I don’t say these things now about the blissful ignorance of my younger years with any inclination toward self-deprecation.

No. I just happen to relish the things I have come to know now that I have quite a lot of life and previous tangles behind me. Knowledge and experience casts a golden glow on life, much as the golden glow of golden hour light toward the end of the day. Beautiful, rich, full of experience.

And I am just getting started on this time of my life.

Hmm. I do like it. Strike that, I meant to say, I do love it. I cherish life, and this life including every little scrappy tangle I have ever had the pleasure or anguish at sorting out. From each tangle I have grown and figured out a thing or two about a thing or two.

I suppose now I should be getting back down to that easel so I can continue with the task of sorting out the tangle on my canvas.


P.S. For the knitters among you, I published both the printed version and online download version of my Cuppa Joe pattern featuring a scarflet, fingerless gloves, and a matching gift bag. Find it in my Etsy store, on my website, and in my Ravelry store.

The circle of life, the river of me

September 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm | Posted in art, country life, dogs, faith, family, food, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, summer, yarn | 11 Comments
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I am a river, life is a circle. Seasons change, life rolls out and rolls along sometimes rushing, sometimes meandering. Just like a river. I am a river, life is a river, we are circles and orbs, each of us, all of us, one of us.

This summer I found my inner farmer, and she is not within me at all but is connected to me. She is in the form of my sister-in-law and her husband who grew these lovely vibrant vegetables. She is the farmer who works our land, who planted winter wheat last autumn and harvested the golden tips of grasses this summer. She is the young Amish farmer from down the road who came to our fields with a team of four powerful honey-colored draft horses to bale the straw left after the other farmer harvested the wheat. My inner farmer is connected somehow with these and others whose paths I cross and whose work I observe and cherish in this wholesome farming community that claimed my heart.

This summer I developed a number of new knitting patterns, with dear Blu in my lap each morning as I enjoyed my Cuppa Joe each morning and knitted whatever new creation was wandering around in my mind. From Christmas Stockings to a knitted bags, and even my 1Bag for planet Earth. This summer has been a productive time for knitting and publishing and working on a new small business that perhaps holds some good prospects for a future game my husband and I can play together. In commemoration of this lovely summer of Blu-in-my-lap-morning-cuppa-Joe-knitting-first-thing-in-the-morning, I am calling my latest creation Cuppa Joe. The new knitting pattern will be available next week and will include the scarflet, a pair of fingerless gloves, and a matching giftbag to place them all neatly inside in case you want to give them away as a gift.

This summer my thoughts have been on my children. Of course my thoughts are often on my children … my beautiful, vulnerable daughter and my handsome talented son. They are both artists, we are many miles apart, and I love and miss them both. They gave me this teddy bear one Christmas back in Los Angeles, a teddy holding a prize pig. He reminds of my new surroundings and my own Blue Ribbon success with biscuits and a hand knit Christmas Stocking the first autumn I lived here. Interesting how something from the past could be a reminder of something in the future. A reminder back then of things to come–had I only known.

This summer my husband and I have worn many hats together, and at times we have grown tired. Tired can be good if you earn it from working hard doing things you believe in, serving others, creating a future. My husband and I have been doing all those things, many of them together. We are a great team, and this summer we have gotten to know that about oursevles even more than we knew it before. When we first got together (only two and a half years ago) we had faith in the concept that we could be a good and maybe great team. But to find it out and know it for sure you have to jump in and experience life. Get your hands and feet dirty, your back sore, you soul dunked in the rushing waters that are the river of life. This summer has given us many opportunities to live, love, sweat, grieve, laugh, worry, recover, create, rejoice. We’ve done all that and more and we have a glimpse now of–yes. Yes. We are a great team. It bodes well for the future.

This summer I learned again that from destruction and chaos can emerge creativity, beauty, and order. We humans normally don’t get that when we are in the middle of destruction and chaos. Some of us get around to seeing it, and make something out of whatever is left. Two destructive, chaotic forces this summer: wind and grape vines. The wind and rain brought down three huge limbs from our beautiful, graceful willow tree. My husband spent a couple of afternoons cutting down, chopping up, and hauling away the remains that lay dying on ‘neath the canopy. As he worked to haul away the destruction, I gathered some of the smaller branches and whips and wove them round and round into wreaths of various sizes. I sat there in our gazebo weaving them into lovely little pieces of creation to create some lasting beauty, while he labored with the big stuff and the thousands of whips that I could not work fast enough to use. As for grapevines? They grow wild all over around here, climbing up trees, shrubs, barns … they can be a powerful and invasive destructive force. I trimmed some of the tender running vines entangled around one of our trees and added their grace to my willow wreaths. Order out of chaos, creativity our of destruction. The circle of life continues.

This summer I dreamed of future times when perhaps there will be more family living closer by. Someday, married children happily living closer by. Perhaps. Sometime, grandchildren. Perhaps. Increased happiness, a longer reaching future. More time on the river, fishing, canoing, lounging on hot summer days, having an ice cream on the dock, watching a little bit of water slowly going by. Enjoy swans, geese, ducks, king fishers, peace and quiet, peaches and tomatoes. Someday, more of the good things will surround us. Even more than we have today. Perhaps. Verdant dreams of summers to come, I like this part of me — the part that is free to dream.

This summer there were picnics and camping and canoe trips–my husband, sweet Blu, and I. Together we enjoyed car trips, pitching tents and gazebos, paddling, smiling and laughing. One of my favorite memories of this summer will be gliding along nearly silent in the canoe on the river. I could feel the strength and guidance of my husband at the back of the canoe as I faced forward and there was Blu, standing next to me with his front paws on the seat, his head close to mine, proudly looking ahead as the river dog that he is. Blu went on his first camping trip this summer and he adapted to roughin’ it beautifully. He went on his first canoe ride and did not spill us all into the river. Outstanding. He also learned what it means when we say, “Get in the car boy,” and, “Want to go home?” Oh Blu, you make us proud.

This summer we went places, we stayed at home, I canned a whole mess ‘o jams, peaches, and vegetable stock. Blu grew up several notches, my husband and I got to know ourselves much better as a couple and noticed that we were doing that, I gave a gift to Mother Earth (1Bag) and celebrated another of my birthdays occupying my little speck of space on her vast plains. It rained, it shined, winds blew, branches fell, the moon circles round over head lighting the night quite brightly at times. The barn stood sentry over it all, graced with our pretty quilt square. We picked cherries and berries and enjoyed some lucky numbers. This summer we served others with gladness in our hearts and planned future service that will gladden us even more.

This summer, the river across from the farm flowed brilliantly as ever.

This summer, the river me enjoyed life and bounty while tripping over stones along the way.

Busy summer

September 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm | Posted in country living, faith, family, knitting, love, marriage, photography, yarn | 11 Comments
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