Friday, February 17, 2017

LIFE IS....



My answer to that statement?

Life is a challenge
Life is a test or a series of tests
Life is wandering from one thing to another
Life is difficult
Life is beautiful
Life is so daily
Life is finding authenticity
Life is full of unexpected surprises
Life is open to suggestions
Life is the quiet time between busy activities

What is your answer?

My favorite choice: life is a series of challenges.


Grab a pencil and join me in a new challenge. I've signed up for the Sketchbook Project hosted by the Brooklyn Art Library. Over 35,000 people have submitted sketchbooks to the project run by the Art House Projects. They digitize the books so that you can view them on line. You could also visit the library in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to see the real work. 

Remember that all of us has an artist within. Drawing and writing out your ideas helps to develop your creativity. Go for it! Take a chance and accept my challenge.

Some of my favorite pencils. I've had the mechanical pencil since college. My new favorite is the fat pencil, second from right.



Your sketches, doodles, and words on paper gives you 
a quiet, yet effective way to be an artist
and to reach out to other people with your ideas.

Brown sketchbook from the Sketchbook Project

I just received my plain brown sketchbook from the Brooklyn Art Library and I've started filling it up with sketches and writing.
Come and join me. Grab a pencil and begin!








As you can see, I have several sketch ideas going on throughout my book. The top line consists of words. The second line is full of faces from places that I go. The third line is random items that I see or witness. And the last line is trees, so far. If you feel stuck for an idea, go outside, find something that interests you, and describe it. What color is it? What is its shape? What size? What kind of shadow does it make? Is it smooth or does it have texture? Try a contour drawing of it: look at your object while your pencil is moving slowly on the paper. Look at your drawing only when you come to a corner. Draw just the edges. Don't do any shading.


Anyone who wants to complete a sketchbook needs to buy one from the Sketchbook Project website. You will receive a small brown book with 32 pages, just enough to do one sketch a day. Fill it up and send it back to them by the deadline. Mine is April 15. Yippee, I have a little more time to fill up all those white pages that I have just started on!

https://www.sketchbookproject.com







Friday, February 10, 2017

WALKING THROUGH RAIN DROPS

Images by Bill Slavin
 Walking up the street, I see the flowers of our early Spring: daffodils, camellias, primroses, and the tiny pink flowers of Manzanita and Sweet Breath of Heaven. These flowers keep coming back each year, even though they are buffeted by wind and rain, their petals turn soggy and brown, and they fall and become mush in the mud. I marvel each year at their persistence against such adversity. They are a reminder how fierce and gentle Nature can be.





Our rain gauge shows four inches of water since last Sunday. After five years of drought, we have rain.The creek in our neighborhood, fed by water coming from the hills around Mt. Diablo, wanders behind the houses across the street. This year we can hear its roar from our house. Slides and fallen trees result from the heavy downpours that saturate the ground. We have the deluge of rain that was promised last year. The Sierra Nevada snowpack measures over 435 inches in many areas. (The average is 450 inches for the entire year.) We enjoy winter sports again.

California cycles between drought years and rainy years. It is so easy to relax and return to old bad habits. I find myself leaving the water on too long already and I have to remind myself to conserve even with the rain. If you are like me and grew up in California listening to the stories about the Owens Valley (watch the movie Chinatown), the first Gov. Brown's Peripheral Canal, the continual tension between North and South about water rights, and the struggles between farmers, city dwellers, and the fish and animals that also live in California, you know that we are all intertwined, dependent on each other. That's easy when we have abundance. Then it is easy to share. Water makes us feel clean and when it runs out of a faucet, easy to waste. Some people want to lift our current stiff restrictions on water use. Instead, we need to step back and work together to change our mindset permanently to use only the water we need.




Friday, February 3, 2017

PROTECTING WILD




First we needed chains.

A trip to Yosemite reminded us how seldom we ventured into the wild. We had to dig through our drawers to find our winter wear, shop for new sturdy boots, and we needed chains. We used to ski at Squaw Valley almost every weekend in Winter, often stopping during a snow storm to put on chains. The snow sometimes piled up 20 feet against the houses, we skied through 40-to-60 mile an hour blizzards, our faces bitten by the cold wind, our eyelashes and facial hair thick with ice drops, and our fingers and toes burned from the cold. Those times were as wild as I've ever been.






I've been reading The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane, who set out over a couple of years to find the wild places in Ireland and England. He swam in icy waters, hiked and slept through blizzards, trudged to the tops of mountains where he felt the indifference of the natural world to his solitary existence. Yet, everywhere he went, he walked where others had been walking for centuries. He finally discovered a truly wild place when he looked down a gryke on the Burren in Ireland. A gryke, a word I had never heard before, is a crack in limestone. Lying flat, staring down into the gryke, MacFarlane saw a wild world where seedlings had drifted and competed for space in a miniature rain forest. His glimpse of that world reminded me of a valley near Mt. Herman in the Santa Cruz Mountains. On one side of the steep hills was a camp bustling with people. But walking down a winding trail, I emerged in a rain forest filled with a rushing creek, tall redwoods, ferns, and other vegetation that grew with vigor under the tall trees' canopy -- a wild place.






I have friends and relatives who often seek the wild: women who ride motorcycles, hike along the Pacific Coast trail, climb Half Dome, kayak in deep water, and walk in Shackleton's footsteps in Antarctica. They push themselves beyond their anxiety. Skiing in the Sierra often reached that deep spot inside me where fear originated. Each time I ventured out on a blustery day, my subconscious would conjure up the image of a 5-year old girl stranded in the middle of an ice rink, ripe with dread, not knowing how to move with grace, expecting to fall and hurt myself. After what seemed a long time, with the help of a kind stranger, I made it over to the rink's edge. Skiing was like that. I had many miserable times out in the snow, standing frozen in fear until the cold would force me to turn down the mountain. But I didn't stop skiing either. I kept practicing. Eventually, with great joy, I could shimmy down moguls as tall as I am and could ski down all the runs at Squaw except the West Face of KT22. I tried that once. I stood at the top of the run and looked down. My skis hung over the edge, the mountain leaned in on itself underneath. That first step was too much for me and I turned and went down the easier East side. Sometimes you have to know when to back away.

We often live in fear: fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of the wild and fear of our own shortcomings. Being out in the wild, in the snowstorms, on steep mountain trails pushed me as far as I am ever likely to go, but I am a better person for trying.




Some people have destinations on their Bucket List. My list includes this first one: being in the wild once more. So, we trekked to Yosemite in our car equipped with chains (that we didn't use), with our new boots, our ski hats and gloves, and warm coats. We were greeted by the sunset on the top of El Capitan, by the quiet, snow-laden valley, by a managed wild place that is enjoyed by so many that there are signs to stay off the meadow to protect the native grasses from being trampled. Another sign stood tall to indicate the height of flood waters in the valley. Away from people, we could hear the crash-boom of huge blocks of snow that cascaded down the sheer cliffs. The sound echoed through the valley like an explosion, reminding us that we were also standing in an unmanaged wild place.

Does the wild tempt you?




This week's post is dedicated to Fred Korematsu, an American of Japanese descent, who challenged Federal Order 9066 during World War II. He wasn't afraid to stand tall in his beliefs.

Friday, January 27, 2017

LOOKING FOR YELLOW

Yellow: my favorite color. 
Bright, cheery, light-filled, the color of the sun. 
I needed to find yellow this week.





As an artist, I use the color wheel to make colors shine. 






Yellow, by itself, can be soft and comforting. 





I add yellow's analogous colors -- green and orange -- around yellow to make yellow more varied.








I add purple, yellow's opposite, in the shadows, which makes the yellow more intense. These quiet studies give me time to reflect and focus. They aren't always easy to produce, but they are familiar and satisfying.





At this time of year, with all the rain we have had and the political tumult we've experienced, I needed to find yellow to bring in the light. I could paint things yellow all day, but walking around in a yellow world would become boring.




When our son Theo was three months old,  the two of us accompanied Bill on a business trip to Southern California. We stayed in a well-appointed hotel with tastefully decorated rooms. Because I was a new mom and Theo was napping, he and I spent much of the day in our room. At first, the room was soothing. The walls were painted a trendy version of peach, a soft, inviting color choice. The lampshades, chair coverings, bedspread, towels, carpets, and even the paintings on the wall all matched that same shade of peach. Within an hour, the peach overwhelmed me. I felt deprived of color and needed to walk outside just to see all of the colors around me.

It is easy to continue to use my favorite color and my favorite method of painting, but I know that without making an effort to stretch myself, to move outside of that comfortable bubble I created for myself, my world would become flat. I know I need to look for ways to add diverse and unusual elements to my artwork, just as I try to do in my life. I will not settle for the way I have done things in the past. That's how I grow.




What are you doing this week to step out of your comfort zone?



Friday, January 20, 2017

UNRULY WOMEN


Tomorrow is a big day. 
Many of us will join together to stand for human rights, 
our civil liberties, and our diversity.

Women's marches and activism go back a long way. If you know your history, you know that at one time women were discouraged from attending college because it was thought their health would be affected by the challenge of rigorous study. The American Association of University Women, started in 1881, published their first report, "Health Statistics of Women College Graduates," which disputed the then popular belief. The group, now called AAUW with men and women members, still remains  a crusader for women's and children's education and equity.
  


Image courtesy of https://goo.gl/images/tBk6G0

If you know your history, you know the Suffragette movement brought about the right for women to vote in the U.S. in 1920. You know that women were assaulted and arrested for demanding their rights during the Presidential inauguration in 1913, and that the 19th Amendment was passed only when President Woodrow Wilson reversed his opposition and 36 states ratified the amendment.


image courtesy of https://goo.gl/images/8qGN4D


If you know your history, you know that women at the end of the 19th century rose up to protect birds -- an unimportant action, some might think. But five million birds were being killed each year just to adorn the hats of fashionable women. Minna B. Hall and Harriet L. Hemenway started small tea parties (interesting that tea parties show up in our history repeatedly) to encourage women not to buy hats with bird feather decorations. Their parties grew into the Audubon Society, which campaigned for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which continues to protect birds (think cell towers and wind turbines) to this day.

Women are not the only ones who are activists, but they often step up when the need is great.

What are you doing to stand up for your beliefs?

******************

To find out more check these sites:








Friday, January 13, 2017

ENJOY EVERY PRECIOUS MOMENT

Today's post is by Mary Anna Weklar




My dad lived a long and vibrant life filled with love and laughter. Four years ago just after he died, I started the task of writing out thank you notes to people who expressed their concern and support. I asked my Mom what she wanted me to write in the cards. Her answer was something very simple and profound, "Tell them thank you for the precious moments spent together." My heart breaks every time I think of the beauty of that. My Mom and Dad were soul mates who found each other at a very young age, so they had over 70 years together. They had known some of the people I was writing to for over 50 years. Yet, I got what she meant. Life goes by so quickly that upon review, it all seems merely like fleeting moments. And even in her grief, my Mom was able to hold on to the joy and appreciate all the good she and my Dad shared together with family and friends.

Recently I heard Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D speak about her 20 plus years of work around positivity and why it matters. She has found that positive emotions broaden our view of the world and expand our ability to lead healthier and more meaningful lives. Since positive moments don't always grab our attention like a negative moment, it is important to be on the look out (being mindful) to recognize the positive. While it isn't good for us or others to "fake" positivity, we can create rituals to help build more awareness of positivity over time.

Some simple things we can incorporate into our lives include, taking a moment to see something positive right now, even when we are not "happy." What can we be grateful for in this moment? Some of the things I have been noticing lately include the big ripe strawberries and cherries returning to the farmers market, the smell of sweet jasmine in the air, longer and warmer days approaching summer and the smile of my new baby nephew. In fact, babies and puppies are some of the easier ways to find our way back to the positive. Simple joys exist all around us and as we start to open to the positive in our everyday life, it is better for us than a big vacation. It becomes like an upward spiral where we can create a daily diet of micro-infusions of feeling more positive and grateful, improving our health and growing our resilience to life when it throws us a curve ball.

Deeper work includes mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness meditations and related actions. Offering service or volunteering for a cause of your choice is a standout for feeling good when all else fails.

My Mom taught me a good lesson with her reminder to enjoy every precious moment.

******************

Thank you, Mary Anna, for your submission to the reader challenge about someone who inspired you.



Mary Anna is a health and wellbeing coach with a passion for collaborating with people to live healthier and happier lives. Mary Anna loves being outdoors and you will find her hiking, swimming, skiing, exercising, or heading to a farmers market. She combines her expertise in nutrition, exercise, yoga, and integrative medicine with positivity, mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude. In 2014 Mary Anna completed a community health fellowship at Stanford University.


******************

To you wonderful readers who have tried to leave comments on my posts for the last month and have not been successful, the problem has been fixed. I want to thank all of you for your thoughtful responses and hope you will continue to comment whenever you can!



Friday, January 6, 2017

FAST AND SLOW




I walk fast.
I talk fast.
I eat fast.
I work fast.

With my sides hurting recently, I was told by my physical therapist to slow down. Oh, and to remember to breathe too.

Good advice.

It took me a week or two to realize what those instructions really meant.

Slow down and breathe. I repeat to myself as I move about my day.

I've been taking a watercolor workshop with an instructor who paints in a completely different way than I have ever experienced before.

First she starts with the darks.
She rarely does sweeping washes.
After about an inch of paint, she changes color.
She is slow.
Her paintings are luminous.
Her advice: look 3 times, think twice, paint once.

Good advice.

Starting with the darks

It took several weeks for me to catch on to her methods.

They work.


So now I will repeat it to myself again.

Go slow.
Breath.

Look 3 times.
Think twice.
Act once.



****************

Check out Leslie Wilson's watercolors at her website: http://www.lesliewilson.net