Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Artistic Pursuits

So, I have this thing. This thing many consider to be a gift. For years I've carried it at arm's length. A beautifully packaged present I have been afraid to claim or become too attached to, I struggle to own the title of artist. I have acted courageously in response from time to time, but just as frequently, my attitude has been of (ashamed) apathy.

Beautiful things stir me; I know I'm not the only one. There's something about a purple carrot cut into a round revealing a radiating white center, something about sunlight filtering through a curtain, something about little details of life that stir and capture me and send me longing for more. I want something bigger, something even more breath-taking. And so I go to canvas. I go to textured water-thirsty paper. I set my fingers to lettered computer keys.

I make these inadequate attempts to say something that expresses what my soul thinks it's trying to say, what it longs to voice. Oh, it's a wondrous thing when clarity comes. But, most of the time, it takes a hard persistent journey to reach that clarity, and there is the ever-wondering if it will show its peaceful face.

Here's one example of clarity that came. I was honored to be commissioned to paint a piece for a mere acquaintance. She was looking for a wedding present for her husband and out of their love for art and the collage of their own experiences together thus far, this idea came together.

The bride and I got together for coffee and she shared the subject that initially inspired this idea. It is a tree she and her groom have continued to come back to during significant moments in their relationship, so from that, we talked about other activities and ideas they mutually value. There are many details in this painting, so I will just choose a few main things to expand upon. First of all, while I loved the look of the tree and recognized the great value of its sentimentality, I had also immediately recognized this couples' desire for a rich, grounded base together. Thus, the roots became significant. In order to keep the tree a main component, I repeated it from another perspective as well. Secondly, the shape moving upward and across the canvas is that of a kayak, a popular activity for the two of them and a symbol of a new and hopeful journey. Lastly, the words "Love, Trust, Adventure" written across the top are words the bride had engraved inside her groom's ring as a surprise.


I finished this painting in July, and my easel has been mostly unoccupied since. I have two large paintings that need some reworking and polishing this coming year. I hope to make 2011 a year in which safe, arms-length-away living just isn't possible, especially in the arts. Especially in who I'm meant to be as an artist hungering after the Master Artist.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Great Fit of Wasted Energy


I entered into this fall season dragging my feet. In a sense, I willfully filled the soles of my shoes with lead and resisted the change with a great fit of wasted energy.

Even with all my struggling, the sun's face shied away. I lost my early morning running routine, late evening opportunities for dinner outside in a sun dress, and the satisfaction of a chilled glass of white wine. It had been a peaceful, enjoyable summer, and I did not want to let it go.

I am ashamed to admit that it took me until November to recognize my full resistance. It took this long to release my grudges against 7 a.m. darkness and limited access to fresh flowers. It took being startled by the season's own unique beauty to realize the blindness I had been living in.




In my longing, I had ignored the transitions and gifts of September and October, and all of a sudden, November was here. It came with a strong, striking posture and commanded attention through explosions of color. Even though half the trees had unburdened themselves of brittle leaves by the time my eyes chose to see, there were still mosaics of yellow, brown, pink, and orange across the sidewalks my feet cross daily, and some of the most brilliantly yellow and red trees are holding on. (My favorite scene is bright coral pink leaves reaching up toward a grey sky. I could live in this color combination.)



The season had to change, and just as fall is threatening to call itself winter, I am opening up my palms and willingly receiving. I don't run as much as I did during the summer, but I walk to and from work everyday, and those half hour segments of time in which I simply cannot hurry along slow me down and force me to reflect, think, articulate, and observe.

I'm finding winter ales to an excellent replacement for those glasses of white wine. I don't get as many evening dinners with my roommates, but our household gatherings are all the more precious when they spontaneously come about.

Little by little, I am seeing why I don't want to be anywhere but in this season right now. Some moments, the contentment is pure enough to nestle in -- the enjoyment of one day helping me look forward to tomorrow without wishing myself there too quickly.

So, winter, I anticipate your mittens and mulled wine and snowy pine branches. These are going to be lovely when they arrive, but I'll count and file away each mental and photographic image of autumn until the day to say goodbye comes. I intend to make it swifter, more gratitude-filled, and less selfish than the last transition. Until then, who's up for pumpkin pie?




Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Settling Here


I have been penning stories in my head. I have been scheming up paintings and drawings within my heart. Unceasingly, it seems.

Yet there has been a disconnect between the inner yearnings and the outer actions, and it is as if each opportunity passively let go adds more strength to the barrier. I am an artist. An aspiring creator. For months now, there has been little reflection of this in my life.

Midway through last month, in a fit of desperation, I found a scrap of paper in my purse and scribbled down the articulations trying to work themselves out in my mind. I was on the bus on the way to work, and it was a particularly important day in the calendar year of 2010. Forgive the melancholy. This was my honest heart on that day...

My favorite bus driver says, "Happy Saturday," with a generous smile, knowing today ends my work week. My automatic response is an enthusiastic "yes!" But as my smile fades and I find my seat, I'm reminded this day hasn't felt happy yet.

I woke up remembering that I didn't get this day -- September 18th -- last year. It passed me by as my jet flew a host of travelers across the Pacific to Auckland, New Zealand. And now my heart is all tangled. My throat hurts, and my shoulders feel heavy.

I want to want to be right where I'm at.

The window reveals grey sky over grey water cradling forested islands. A rain-drenched world from the long, wet night. I love these smells, these colors, these sensations. But I miss the thrill of being in a land where accents catch my ear, where currency is colorful, where ferns and tropics mix in abundance.

I miss it. And I want to let it go.

I am earnest in wanting to engage in this local life I'm living. I am here after all, and I remind myself that it is very much on purpose. I did not accidentally buy a plane ticket up to Seattle from L.A. after landing back in the States. I did not mistakenly wind up with all my suitcases of belongings in the closet of my mother's new home. And I did not just trivially sign a yearlong lease on a house.

As I get ready to publish this post, I look back over the past week and realize how little I have wished myself anywhere but right where I am at. I like these pavements my feet now find familiar. I like getting to run beneath golden trees and disrupt fallen pink, red, and orange-hued leaves. I have a new workplace, where my days and energy are consumed by helping others to cake, coffee, and a good glass of porto. I like these things.

My heart has spread wide across this world, and sometimes that makes it feel very thin. Tonight, however, I experience the luxurious fullness of all these memories sewn across continents. I'll settle here.



[Top: Breakfast of poached egg & Marmite on toast / Bottom: Cemetery on Lopez Island, WA]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Day Off

My weekends begin on Sundays, and I like to pretend that the fact that I get Mondays off while most other people head back to work, means my weekends are extra long. Sometimes it feels that way. Other times forty-eight hours feel like twenty-four.

Today was such a pleasant day off that I wanted to share snapshots of a bit of all I enjoyed. Simply having the leisure of pulling out my camera to freeze a moment kept a lightness within me.

The light of sunshine poured through the windows of our home as I pushed up screened opening to let in the declaration of summer.


Radishes on buttered bread with fleur de sel are my favorite summertime snack. I made them into lunch with the addition of this simple dish, subbing in fresh fava beans and mint from the pot on our front steps.


I just love the little details of this home. Especially the fresh flowers that rotate in each week from my roomie's parents' garden.





And then there's the joy of having an art corner of my own with easel and palette and tubes of paint to squeeze and smear. To have a spare room that is beautifully sunlit and accommodates my excessive art supplies is not something I take for granted. (Though, I was thinking, it would be nice if a mat cutting room came with it too...)


I had time to enjoy all these things as well as take a long walk along the gravel trails of a nearby park with towering, fully-green trees shading my way. There are so many cute old houses around here to keep me fascinated on exploratory walks through the neighborhood. And I love that two great grocery stores are just a jaunt away.

I was able to revel in all these things today and am now ending the day as the last orange light of the sun slips behind silhouetted evergreens beyond my living room window. Old favorites, Glen and Mar, softly sing through my speakers. Buttons on jeans hit the metal dryer walls. It won't be too late of a night, and I'll wake up rested for my early morning run tomorrow.

Even though life's current rhythm doesn't accommodate this blog very often, I appreciate you still hanging on and meeting me here now and then. Till the next mood strikes, the next recipe inspires, or the next painting completes itself (I'll definitely have something to share in that regard in a few weeks!)...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Full-Bodied: Creativity Boot Camp


I've had to cut myself a lot of slack lately. There are so many things I want to do: organize my new room, hang art on my blank walls, get up early to run, stay up late to "be productive", finish books long drawn out, move on to new equally relevant ones. Between my hours of work, bus travel to and from, and the appointments in my planner, I'm being reminded that so often I set unrealistic time lines.

I know I am not the only one participating in Creativity Boot Camp with a million other things weighing on my mind. So, I read Madeline's guidance for each day and do what I can with each one and sometimes I get through the journal prompt, other days I pull out my camera for the word prompt, sometimes I do both, and some days I just carry the additional thoughts and awareness in my head.

I loved today's daily thoughts to heighten senses and simply savor each encounter with scent, sound, touch.

While my job does not revolve around artistic creativity, there are a lot of sensory elements that feed this aspect of my spirit. I touch cheese, I smell it, I taste it, and I describe each of these elements to my customers. Our primary "wine guy" stopped in this afternoon and poured me a glass of a white and a red and we swirled and inhaled and savored. These are the obvious elements of sensory engagement in my daily life.

In response to a few questions from Creativity Boot Camp, the most pleasant sensation I recall is in the nose of the Sauvignon Blanc. It was satisfaction alone.

The most memory-invoking was the experience of drinking my tea as I read the prompt for the day and sat at the table with my breakfast. I have a strong affection for hot milky black tea thanks to the four months I lived in Oxford in which I survived mainly on PG Tips and Digestives.

The heart-tugging sensory experience of seeing the sky transition from grey to purple to orange to pink drew me to the stone steps outside our door with camera in hand. I ditched the cliché photos I had snapped of a glass of Pinot Noir and hung onto the definition of full-bodied found at Merriam-Webster:

"Having importance, significance, or meaningfulness"

I looked at the house that has turned into a home in the last week and the sky that was my salvation when I lived in Abilene, TX, where natural beauty rarely amazed, much less surfaced. Since leaving West Texas I have seen many beautiful corners of the world and the contrast I know now makes encounters with beauty that much more beautiful.

Place is important to me, though I hold the term "home" loosely. I'm swift to attach it to geographical locations and particular bedroom walls, but I'm also lax to pick it up and move it along to new scenery when the time comes.

So, for as long as this place is appropriate to call home, I'm finding importance, significance, and meaning in inhabiting and enjoying it. I'm so grateful the sky follows us everywhere we go, and there will always be sunsets and sunrises and reminders through them of how striking beauty is to the soul.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fluid: Creativity Boot Camp




Yesterday's Boot Camp assignment was to create a work outside of our typical style, to embrace who we are but also stretch ourselves and perhaps stumble upon a fresh discovery of ourselves.

At first I struggled with how I could intentionally do this and with the question of what was outside the bounds of my self-imposed "rules" of creating that I could capture in the few hours I have after getting home from work at seven o'clock. So often my subject matter in photography is limited to food and still life details with wide aperture settings and swift shutter speeds. The first idea that came to mind was people - photographing people. I squirm at this idea more than so many others because I have strong opinions about the sort of people photos I do not like and very rarely succeed in capturing them how I do like. But, then, I rarely try.

I do not like people to feel uncomfortable or under scrutiny so my most successful shoots have been with friends who are already very comfortable in front of the camera. Children are great in this way, too. But I do not feel like I have mastered how to relax people who would not otherwise be at ease and this is where the discomfort and doubt of my abilities come into play.

I hoped to get some people shots yesterday if the opportunity worked itself out, but instead stumbled upon these more spontaneous shots on the ride home from the grocery store. I do not like to do sloppy work. I love that food and flowers and chairs do not move, so that I can get the negative just right and focus in just the way I want. Being in a moving car doesn't allow this to happen easily. So I threw my shutter wide open to a setting that caused it to slowly wink and ramped up the aperture to make sure the exposure stayed balanced.

It was a gorgeous day and the breeze felt good on my hair as the golden dusky sunlight soothed my skin. As my sister drove, I leaned out the window and sporadically snapped pictures of the upward view. They're nothing worthy of hanging in a gallery but they're outside of my norm and happen to incorporate fluid strokes, which is perfect because the word "fluid" was our theme for the day.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grow: Creativity Boot Camp

I meant to get on board with this Creativity Boot Camp from day one, but the weekend got away from me and I forgot all about it until my run yesterday morning. By last night I had made it back around to the website and was determine to get down to business. And this is the best sort of "business" I've ever had to do. Yes, it is soul-digging but refreshing and rewarding and worthwhile.


The word for the day was "grow" and the journal prompt was listening to music of your past to conjure up those feelings of deep emotion experienced in younger years, at times of more naivety and/or rawness.

It was perfect timing for me to leap in. I am a music junkie.

I have assigned certain songs or bands to different stages of my life and places I have been. Damien Rice's O and Sixpence None the Richer's Divine Discontent epitomize my senior year of high school. Throw in Brandon Heath's "Small Town Flame" and certain pieces from Les Miserable that I mourned through on the piano and flute, and you have a girl with dreams but concerns about the world's safety in heart matters. Not just in love but in freedom and companionship and the purity of beauty.

To a degree I suppose I still have these ideas and wonderings but with a bit more seasoning. Time has proved both beautiful and tragic in the six years that have passed since I threw my cap in our little school gym and envisioned a life of independence.

I have laid claim to the self-titling of artist. I have trembled with paintbrush in hand, anxiety overwhelming; I have seen brushstrokes moving and colors inspiring beyond my humble inclinations. I have seen brothers marry, friends grow to near-family, and a dad walk out in a way that still sends reverberations. The music and the hope and the dreaming and the loving and the losing have all mixed together and clashed in varying degrees, and I'm left knowing that the best way to move on is to keep sowing beauty. To keep believing Beauty. To keep creating as I was created.

I was reminded of this by the draw to engage in this boot camp, and as I prepared today, one of my favorite bloggers emphasized the notion. A past entry of hers always brings me to tears over the innocent sincerity of this internal desire to re-create that so many of us bear.

I'm participating in this boot camp for me. Because my creative juices need a good, proper uncorking. It's been awfully dry around here. However, a blog is a shared space and I never mean for what I write to be purely selfishly focused. I hope the things I publish in the next week and a half bless and inspire you as I grow and am inspired.

Here's to growth. Here's to the little green fruit I discovered on our tree today in this new yard. It's the tree outside my new window, and I had no idea it was a fruit tree!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This New Ol' Life

In all the new ways of life in an old place such as Bellingham, I am being reminded of the motivation and renewed energy that can come with change and of the opportunity to shed and refine bits of my old self. Surely, the opportunities are here, but the motivation only occasionally raises its head.

I'm not only needing to be intentional with digging into the darker inner parts of self but intentional in keeping a grasp on the little things that bring me joy: making art (this is a big joy-source), breathing fresh morning air when the world is still mostly silent, baking for others, cooking a meal that I'm excited to eat, and savoring the joy that lit my steps as I prepared to walk into my present job.

So many things to be grateful for in this day...


  • An art project that led me to discover this beautiful tree at a quiet new-to-me park.
  • Roommates to come home to.
  • Bright and deeply green lush hillsides.
  • New names to learn and hands to shake.
  • Sunshine after yesterday's rain.
  • Hot tea on cold hands.
  • Music for just the right mood.
  • The smell of a shop full of cheese.
  • Squirmy dissatisfaction that signals shifts (for the better) must come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NZ: The Loose Ends

I've been thinking about New Zealand a lot this week. Not just the country as a whole or the way saying it tugs at my heart but the specific memories from my most recent residence there.

Finding a coffee shop to frequent in Bellingham reminds me of Caffe Massimo in Takapuna and the strength of their cappucino, which always came served with a familial wink from the owner.

Boarding a bus and seeing Bellingham from a whole other viewpoint reminds me of the rides across the Harbour Bridge into downtown and how I spent my last few trips trying to engrave that beloved skyline into my memory. It reminds me of giggling with high school girls as we headed to the shops or the beach and how beautiful those young ladies were (are). It urges me to seek out eye contact with the bus driver as I step off and make sure to send a "cheers" his way...but it's not the same here as there. And it would be dull if it was.

Changes have been stewing ever since I landed in Bellingham (much more permanently than I expected). I feel so grateful that, in the settling, newness and adventure still have created days of inner smiles as I squirm uncomfortably and/or excitedly. I still have reasons to take big gulps of air, to wonder about the unknown, and to be reminded that so much of what I picture isn't at all what comes to be. And that's for the better.

I'm seeking community once again and yet am in the unusual place of already have some automatic "ins". Family, for example. A few lasting friendships from those days when Bellingham really was a brand new place as well, when I was a (naturally) blonde nine-year-old with a lingering Kiwi lightness to the ends of my sentences. I'm grateful for what has lasted through so many years and for what is to come.

Before getting further into Bellingham life on this blog, though, I need to wrap up the loose ends from New Zealand. It will come more in pictures than words because there are just too many stories over the course of the three weeks my mum and sister and I spent traveling the north and south islands. Reunions with old friends are among the dearest moments. But swooping narrowly between peaks to land in Queenstown, cutting through water of the darkest teal as fjords framed the way for our voyage to the Tasman Sea, and slipping into the rhythm of left-side driving while leaning to the right and the left with each curve of road that took us around the Coromandel and through dense fern growth and alongside near-deserted white sand beaches, these experiences were priceless in their own right.

Road to Milford Sound I

Road to Milford Sound II

Milford Sound - NZ
Milford Sound

New Zealand Flax

Our friends' llama

Ella and her chicken

Inside Christchurch Cathedral


At She Chocolat at Governor's Bay

On the Mount in Tauranga

Bush walk to Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula


Northern beach along the Coromandel

Looking west across the Coromandel

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Summer New Year's: A New Cafe and Its Fries


In these catch-up posts on my four months in New Zealand, it's worth including an update on the coffee shop I endorsed so highly back in October after a weekend in Raglan. My friends and I returned to their bach for New Years weekend and we were all very excited for stops at the distinctive artsy Tongue & Groove as often as we could justify needing coffee in one day.

As it turns out, we walked right by the entrance to the cafe and then stopped at the doors to the next store, confused and bewildered. (I was the one more so bewildered as my confidence in how well I had learned the blocks of Raglan's main street in my last visit were now in question and my generally reliable sense of direction also up for examination -- at least internally, for, upon stopping, the rest of my company immediately understood that this familiar spot had simply been replaced. That's right, entirely gutted and replaced.)

While we all shared in a healthy dose of mourning for Tongue & Groove as we sat down in these new surroundings, it didn't take long for us to appreciate what was before us: The Shack. A bright white sunny old beach house turned cafe with less grunge than its previous resident and a bit more swank. The wide wooden boards lining wall and ceiling had been entirely painted over in clean white and uniform paper globe lights hung high over our heads. Apart from the warm-hued wood trim still around windows and doorways, the only other prominent colors came in striped fabric in cheerful oranges, yellows, pinks, and whites that covered a low L-shaped bench running along the back wall and part of the length of the room.



I have no critiques of their redesign. I think they created a lovely new space that I would be happy to live in. However (if I must point out a negative), it did seem awfully chick-y, though that didn't keep the place from staying full all weekend long with both men and women...my sister and I even sat next to some high school age boys while waiting for a take-away order of curly fries.

Somehow I neglected to get any pictures of the food and don't remember anything too distinct about it. Except those fries. Kiwis seem to live their fries (most often referred to by the British term chips) because I really don't think the amount of fries I'd eaten the previous five years amounted to the quantity I consumed in New Zealand...especially if you count Burger Fuel's kumara chips, which have already received one mention of affection on this site.

Anyway, back to The Shack's fries. We got a rather late breakfast our first morning in Raglan, so my friend took it upon himself to jump straight into lunch fare and order curly fries. At 11am and paired with my morning coffee, I was not drawn in and let the rest of the table pick away. However, every time we walked by the sidewalk-lined tables outside the cafe throughout the weekend, every table seemed to have at least one large bowl piled high with the cute curly fries complete with a bright sprinkling of fresh parsley. So on the last day the craving got to me, and as we were heading out of town, my sister and I made one final stop and placed an order for the road and grabbed a cold sweaty bottle of ginger beer. I won't blow these fries out of proportion by saying that they were the best I've ever had, but they hit the spot on that summer afternoon. Their batter was crisp and lightly coated each pure white spiral, hitting that spot of salty and starchy that many of us wish we could stifle.

As for the rest of the holiday season, my sister and I got to spend Christmas day
with dear old family friends and feel truly welcomed as family. This was in Tauranga, a city we only spent a few days in and that I remember most strongly as the place with the Wild Life Park...a quirky experience recorded on my 35mm, which reminds me of all the rolls of film in my closet nagging to be developed.

Between Christmas and New Years we were in Taranaki near New Plymouth having a wonderful time at our friends' dairy farm. I kept procrastinating on pulling out my camera during this time and sadly realize now that I have very little to show of the spectacular views we saw and even less of the dear faces of people we grew closer to. I'll offer what little I have.

okurukuru winery



Stay tuned. Just one more post on NZ, and then I'm jumping into the exciting happenings of my present life in Bellingham, Washington. Truly, they are exciting! I can't believe the opportunities that have opened up to me recently and can't wait to share.