This is NOT about Covid 19

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My latest painting: The Sacred Cow

Well, here we are.  We seem to be experiencing a world wide phenomena most have never seen before.  It’s remarkable, amazing, frightening, overwhelming, unprecedented and yet, somewhat predictable as the world has seen pandemics before.

BUT, I’m not here to write about Covid 19 and the Corona Virus. I want to get back to blogging.  After 2 years of sparse contributions I’m ready to return to sharing my art and my thoughts.  If you recall, I said “see ya later” to the blog when I started to write my memoir following my hike down the Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Well, I finished the book, and several rewrites/edits. I was shopping for a professional (read objective) editor and an agent to help with that when Covid hit my corner of the world. Book on hold, I hunkered down and hung out with the newly retired husband.  We worked on various home improvement projects and considered ourselves fortunate to have property where we can walk and garden and be outside in a gentle way as the rest of the world seemed to explode with a level of angst and anguish and fear.

Now, in the past few years, along with the writing, I began to go on meditation retreats of different kinds.  I went on a yoga retreat, a woman’s medicine circle, a couple of silent vipassana style retreats, a big, splashy new age retreat as well occasional stay-at-home retreats where I meditated in a small yurt on the corner of the property for days at a time. I even hiked another 60 miles solo on the PCT where I realized it just wasn’t the same and there were too many people on the trail to suit my need for solitude.  In the past week, I’ve completed a 2 ½ day on-line retreat via Zoom meetings. What a world we live in now!

All this retreating and self-reflection along with the writing project stirred up deep seated traumas that needed to be witnessed (by ME) and healed. I am stronger and happier for having taken the time to clean out the cobwebs as well as fix the broken parts of my foundation so that my emotional house can be strong and withstand the next thing life had to throw at it.  When Covid hit, I was struck with an initial sense of fear (a normal reaction) but my training and inner work helped me to settle down relatively quickly  and be in a place of peace as I live each day as they come and try not to predict or look too far into the future.  Will we face financial ruin?  I hope not, but I can’t do anything about it, we made our retirement funds as safe as we could. Watching the news is anxiety provoking, so we limit our exposure and between the two of us, we’ve come up with a “safe word” to remind the other when we get worked up about how a global health crisis has become political fodder and other inflammatory issues, the stress of this is not good for our immune systems.  Will we catch the disease and will it be fatal to my asthmatic-over-60-year-old husband?  Maybe, but we are in a quasi-quarantine and do all the surgical-clean procedures if we ever have to go out and bring things home (which we mostly don’t). I’ve done all I can do to make sure he’s protected, as well as protecting myself.  Worrying anymore beyond this won’t help and so I surrendered to the present and that’s pretty much where we live, in the present moment.

But not everyone lives in there and when confronted with a friend’s personal issues that had her flashing her anger onto me, I puzzled over her reaction and knew that there was a lesson to be learned.  Somewhere.  During a meditative moment where I studied a tree outside my window in depth, the lesson emerged and I’d like to share what I wrote in my journal.  There is a lesson here for all of us and it’s not just about navigating difficult times but about accepting what is right in front of us all the time.

April 16, 2020

We were asked (in the online retreat) to observe a natural thing and look at it until we saw more than what could be seen and knew more than we had known.  I stared intently at the willow that holds my bird feeders.  I took stock of its obvious qualities, length, shape, color, various dimensions. I looked at it with my “artists eye” and saw the negative spaces between the branches the way some turned up and down.  I saw the joints of the branches, the knurled look of older fingers, the supple greenness of new growth. I noted lichen growing on elderly parts and flourishing on the deadwood.  I saw where bird feet had worn bark smooth as they perched, taking advantage of my offered seed and suet.

I began to look at the fractal patterns, the new growth was a repeating pattern of the growth that had come before it.  Not yet twisted and tempered by time, the new branches, while straight, still contained the essence of what they would become.

And then I applied the fractal metaphor to my own life.  The bumpy encounter with my friend came to mind.  My usual methodology of “talking it out” had been closed to me so I found myself tracing the issues back in time.   It was there, in those fresh, new, supple branches of early development that I saw the fractal pattern that would now be the hallmarks of our older growth.

If relationships are like trees, then there are many, many varieties and species. Some, bear fruit and are nourishing, while others provide respite from summer heat.  Some age gracefully while other may fall apart, their time on earth a foregone conclusion, serving a purpose that is brief though no less important. All trees have their place, to appreciate the fractal nature of life allows each to be what it is.  Nothing more or less.  And thus, rather than lamenting that my willow-like friend will never be the sturdy oak of my aspirations, strong and reliable, knowing that she is more like the willow, I can relax and allow, finding beauty and peace in all forms of communion with others.

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Serial Muralist

So now I am a muralist.  A serial muralist. LOL! I just finished a commissioned mural for a dog trainer/pet sitting business. Diana had recently installed a large shed for her new alpacas and wanted the back of the shed to  beautify her property.  Her home-owner’s association (HOA) wouldn’t allow a sign at the end of her driveway, so she opted to have a mural of dogs as a way to indicate to her clients they’d come to the right place.  The shed is 30 feet long, but it is hundreds of feet from the road, so the perspective makes the mural about “sign sized” as seen from the road.

Drawing in progress. Cut-outs of silhouette dogs made the next step easier.

Diana found me through Eugene Urban Canvas, a clearinghouse for muralists in the Eugene, Oregon area. I got listed with EUC because I like painting murals, and frankly, I’ve done a few in my time.

Spray paint around the image cut-outs leave an outline “glow”.

I now have an under-drawing structure.

I started thinking about how many I’d done as I worked on this project and realized there are a fair amount of them stretching all the way back to my high school days when I painted an Arizona desert sunset on my bedroom wall.  Later, in my 20’s, I’d painted a VW Beetle on the garage door of my mechanic as trade for some work on my own vintage bug.  The mural showed the car on a road heading into the coast range mountains, yet another colorful sunset image. Quite a few of my murals have been of sunsets, people seem to really like the color palette of yellow and orange against a gloaming blue sky.

Among some of my murals I’ve painted a fairy princess posed with a crescent moon, a moon over the New York skyline, the city lights of Seattle, ponies peeking out over stall doors, giant horses running across the roof of a barn (at 100 feet long, it can be seen from planes as they land at the Eugene airport), a Star Wars themed sunset, historic images and once, the world series winning Oregon State baseball team. As requested by my client, the baseball mural featured images from the big event and so, sadly, it was painted over when the team won the world series again the following year. Good for them, but it made the mural completely superfluous! It was painted over and something more timeless and generic replaced my work; who knew they would win again so fast? Probably my shortest-lived mural, it was up for less than a year.

You can see this driving north on Hwy 99, just past the Eugene Airport (Oregon) on the west side of the highway.

The entrance to Goss Stadium at OSU… for about a year.

But that’s the nature of murals, they are generally considered public art, so they have to do their job as décor and if that job is linked to a business or a place in time, well, things change and so too then must the mural adapt or perish. I’ve come to accept the transitory nature of murals and have found the ones that last the longest, fit the best into their space and time. I once painted a Tuscan landscape in a client’s craft room, when they sold the house years later, did the mural survive the sale?  When the teen-aged girl who loves horses, grows up and moves out, will her mother still keep the pony visiting over the stall door?  I know my mother did not keep the desert sunset in my teen-aged bedroom; she redecorated and turned it into her sewing room, the sunset replaced with a clothes rack.

I encourage clients to have me paint their mural on canvas or large sign boards, that way if ever a move occurs in the future, the mural can be brought along, or even sold and transferred to a new owner. The Seattle mural benefited from this as the nightclub I painted it for, went out of business and the mural was relocated to another city.

Nine feet long is not easy to transport, but it survived the business!

It’s how I managed to get the fairy princess back, where she now graces my car-park wall. But, it’s also how the same fairy princess was stolen right off the Alpine Market wall and disappeared for a few weeks. She was MIA until the thieves realized they would never be able to display it without advertising their crime and so, late one night, returned her to the back alley behind the store.

Oh where did you go, fairy princess?

Murals have stories to tell, and my newest one is no exception.  While painting it, my client received calls from her Home Owners Association demanding she quit as the mural was unacceptable to them.  Diana had notified the HOA months before that a mural was coming (after they complained about her long white shed) but no questions were asked and nothing more was said about it until the day I outlined the image.  Unfortunately for the HOA, murals are not against the rules, so we continued on, despite further phone calls and a hastily penned letter.  Once again, a mural of mine has generated controversy; not everyone is a lover of the arts.  But when it comes to beautifying your property, it seems some have overstepped the boundaries of good neighbors.  I’m glad I’m not taking it personally that someone called my work “graffiti” before I was even done with it; truly, it says more about them than me.

Blocking in color.

The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense. Pablo Picasso

Clouds are coming along, grass area blocked in.

As for me, I love changes, change is all about new energy and growth. Change is the essence of creativity, and that sometimes takes courage. This time however, the changes that may be forthcoming could possibly be a renewed and updated HOA or if it doesn’t serve the people as it was intended, then perhaps its dissolution altogether?  It depends on what the neighbors say and how things progress from here on out. Diana is not backing down; she loves her new mural!  If you’d like to support Diana regarding the mural, comment below and I will forward your messages on to her.

Just about there!

There is power and energy in art, and sometimes, the bigger the art, the bigger the reaction.

Finished mural, All Wags and Smiles!

Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.  –Albert Einstein

Dr. Joe and the Supernatural Genius

I know, it’s been awhile.  I started a post several times and couldn’t figure out how to write about the last 6 months without a lot of emotional content. I was excited to return to trail and in May hiked a portion of the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon.  I took pictures, framed my shots so I could do another Wilderness of Women trail paintings, I was ready to rock the blog with new art and new adventures.

But, when I got home from the trip, I found out that my step-mother was in the hospital and my 83 year old Dad was home alone and having a hard time.  I had been in the river canyon with no cell reception, and it had been a marvelous time on a rough and tumble trail in some epic back country, so the news was unexpected. My Dad had been loosing ground with some dementia and relied heavily on his wife; they were staunchly independent in their life and totally unprepared for this sudden illness. Neither one of them would even ask me to come down to help, but I insisted and booked a flight to California. Dad was relieved, I figured it would take me a week or so to set up some care-givers and I could return to my life uninterrupted, free to be me, doing my thing, getting back to what ever it was I wanted to do. You forget sometimes that life isn’t always so predictable and it can change and rearrange everything.  Disasters strike and knock you for a loop. Fires, floods, famine, death, destitution, tragedy.  Life is not always roses and laughter.  We forget, sometimes that the other people that things happen to? Sometimes those people are us.

The day before my arrival, my father fell and hit his head.  He was cleaning the house in preparation for my coming; he was so happy I’d be there, my stepmother’s illness was his personal disaster and my arrival would be just what he needed to get through it. But instead, when I arrived, I went straight to the ICU and learned more about his traumatic brain injury caused by the fall and the subsequent bleeding that happened as a result of his blood thinners.

I spent the days in a daze, running back and forth between their rooms, her illness was severe, I’d never seen someone so sick before. His brain injury had him confused, affected him at first like a stroke, then later, more like a coma. I was numb and put one foot in front of the other, this was a tough trail , it felt like I was climbing Mt. Hood all over again.  But it also felt like a storm at sea, I was out of my element as I navigated uncharted waters through two sets of doctors, nurses, hospital staff, administration, social workers, not to mention Bay Area traffic and an empty house that needed bills paid, the trash taken out and a million and one other details left behind as these two peoples lives fell apart and sank into the ocean. Together we washed ashore in the Mountain View Hospital, surviving, but still castaways on an island of illness and tragedy. I sported the expression of one whose life is in upheaval, you see these hallway ghosts in most hospitals, they walk between their lives outside and their tragedies, inside. Now I was the one in the midst of the drama.

My father died two weeks later. My stepmother finally turned a corner and began to show progress on her recovery. She went to a care facility a few days later, and I made funeral arrangements.

I was sad and shocked and all the other words that describe the emotions of grief, but not angry, I skipped over that, I chose not to be angry. Death is a part of life, there was nothing to be angry about. I just faced it; I don’t believe in turning your back on it for even a moment. I will always be grateful I was in the room with him when he died. It was a privilege, truly. I didn’t know it would happen so fast, in the entire 2 weeks, no one had told me this was coming. I thought he’d eventually be released to a care home. I was distracted by my stepmother’s condition and unable to comprehend the seriousness of his injury. It was less than 24 hours after they put him on palliative care that he died, but I guess I must have known something because I had taken the time to talk to him and say goodbye. I reached in to his world as much as I could in those 2 weeks. I sang to him and he responded, somehow music making it’s way to a part of his brain that wasn’t being crushed and absorbed by the injury. Those simple songs were my comfort and I’m so very grateful for that last connection.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, but who is Dr. Joe and what’s up with this Supernatural Genius stuff?  Ok, hang on, I’m getting to that.  Setting the stage here.

I spent most of the month of May in California, and came home as spring was turning into summer. In an effort to do something “normal” I put myself back into the studio and painted a scene from the Rogue River, from a time before the shipwreck.20180830_100316-1

Blue Lupines on the Rogue River

The Rogue River in southern Oregon is one of the last scenic and wild rivers in the country.  Thousands of people float this river each year, but you can hike the length of it through the Rogue Wilderness along a narrow, often ledge/precipice trail, that hugs the northern edge. Painting this for me allowed me to leave my tragedy behind and let the creative spirit soothe my soul.

I did a lot of self care this summer.  I went to see NY Times bestselling author, researcher and speaker, Dr. Joe Dispenza at the Science of Spirituality conference in BC, Canada. He rose to fame after the movie, What the Bleep do we Know? came out and has been working at studying  brain neurology and the cosmic connection for some time now. His books, The Placebo Effect, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself  and Becoming Supernatural  have, as they say, garnered much acclaim, and influenced me greatly in my own personal studies of the brain and personality.

Without getting too much into his work,  he is currently focusing on meditation as a way to heal the body of disease and faulty thinking processes that lead one into a diseased state.  Going to the conference helped me process as well as give me a respite from my life. I returned invigorated and ready to handle whatever was to come next.

My stepmother recovered and came home. I traveled down to CA again to help with the transition and to start going through my Dad’s things.  It is a monumental task, these things you accumulate in your life. As well organised as my parents are, there are still so many details to sort through; it certainly gave me a new perspective on my own life and how much stuff is in it and how much my survivors would have to wade through.  Perhaps it’s true what they say, at some point you don’t own things… your things own you.

The rest of the summer flew by with more backpacking trips, some major home renovations and then, just as I was getting on with life, another death in the family.  Our old Dog, Hank, finally reached the point where it was time to put his body down and let him go home. I couldn’t see it for the longest time, I wouldn’t let him go. I’m sure it had something to do with my Dad, but we were going through heroic measures to keep him safe (he was practically blind and deaf), to keep him clean (he had to be assisted when eliminating as he could hardly walk), to keep him fed (he would forget he was eating and stumble away). It took considerable effort to keep this old dog alive, but I had begged him to stay alive for me as I traveled from home and he was doing it, but at great cost. I finally realized it wasn’t fair to ask him this anymore, and so, we laid our little boy down and cried some more.

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Hank

Then, last month, we packed our bags again and headed back to Canada for a week-long advanced meditation retreat with Dr. Joe.  We had enjoyed the conference so much, my husband really wanted the full on experience. NOW, here’s where things get interesting.

Neither one of us realized how intense this workshop was going to be. In 7 days, we probably meditated approximately 35  hours!  3 sessions a day, 1-2 hours each, with  two 4-hour long sessions. In between the meditations were lectures and breaks for meals. We dragged up and back to our hotel around 7 or 8 each night, fell into bed only to get up at 5 for a 6 AM meditation the next morning. The 4 hour sessions started at 4 AM yet we were all lining up in the hallway at 3:30, eager to get in and get started.

I had amazing insights and healing; body, mind and spirit. Synchronicites abounded, every day was a new study in connection to the Universal energy of life, and I released all my angst and pain from the past few months and let my heart open to love. Every morning Dr. Joe would have us turn to the person next to us and introduce ourselves as Supernatural Geniuses. We all laughed, but we all did it because we were along for the ride and why the hell not?  We all committed to the affirmation, we were there to learn and to grow.

And to top it all off, just to test us on how coherent we could remain while faced with a challenge, we rappelled off a 30 story building. Yeah, you heard me, rappelled, as in ropes, harness, bounce-and-down-you go. I decided right then and there, I wasn’t going to be scared.  Fear was a choice I was not going to make. Our group went the second day right after breakfast, and I was glad I didn’t have to think about it too long.  I made myself NOT think about it, much easier that way. I just focused on the job at hand, stepped over the edge and belayed myself down.  I did take a few moments to look around and caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, looking like a bad-ass urban mountain climber.

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Toronto Spiritual Spiderwo/men!

The conference was healing, magical, mystical and with all that meditation, a transcendent experience. It would be a whole other post just talking about what happened, but instead, I will leave you with the first thing I painted when I got home, I kept seeing this during some deep moments in the void. I’m calling it:

The Universe is Watching You.

Because, well, it is.  You are a part of the Universe and you see what you do and who you are. Especially if you get some awareness and really take the time to look. Nothing like tragedy and challenges to be that wake up call. But it doesn’t need to be tragic.  You can choose to awaken without it, and when you do, you too will be a Supernatural Genius!

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Mindful Eating

Thanks for the Good Lunch

My friend, author and blogger, Amira Makansi recently posted an article about eating lunch alone. Though it really was less about solo eating and more about taking the time to feed yourself and enjoy your food. Taking a break from your work life to really experience your food gives you a moment of pleasure and respite from your day that is missing when we divert our attention from our meal by distractions such as reading, watching media or multi-tasking.  She advised us to slow down and taste our food. Especially if, like us, you work from home and cook for yourself.  (Here’s the link to that article.)

Sentiments I had to agree with, and, being a stay-at-home artist and writer myself, felt compelled to comment upon. I pointed out how appreciating our food can go beyond the taste if you take the time to think about it.  With a little pause for reflection, we can consider where the food came from and how it even got to our plate to begin with. She suggested I blog about this concept and this post and painting are the result. Synergy at its best!

I often start a meal with a silent offering of gratitude. I thank the food, I thank the farmer who grew the lettuce or beans or artichokes. I think of and thank the people who tended the crop, who picked the produce, who put it on the trucks and brought it to the store. Did the produce wind up going to a cannery or plant where it was processed, maybe made into something else, like the coconut yogurt I used to make my creamy vegan dip? If so, then I thank the factory workers too.  I try not to eat a lot of processed foods, but coconut yogurt is clearly in the processed food realm, along with my soy cheese and even my tofu. There are so many plain ingredients that really are part of a process, so it’s impossible to avoid all processed food. I also can’t dodge the packaging, so there goes a thanks to the people who made the can or plastic tub. I also like to remember the people who took it off the truck and stocked it on the store shelf. When I take the time to think of all the hands that were involved in making my food, besides my own, the numbers are staggering.

With every meal, hundreds of people have contributed to get the food from the farmer to my plate. Even the spices and the salt and the condiments add to the party.  Although you may eat your meal by yourself, you never truly eat alone.

In the spirit of gratitude and thanks to all who’ve helped make my meal, I went out into the studio and created, Thanks for the Good Lunch. Earlier in the week, when I had a particularly nice-looking meal, I took a picture. That day I had made a cauliflower crust pizza with artichokes, olives, red onion slivers and spinach. I added cut apple, baby carrots and snap peas. I had a warm cup of chicory coffee with soy milk and an oat flour muffin with cranberries, walnuts, dates and orange zest. See what I mean about ingredients? With each one came hundreds of workers, a veritable army of food workers who collaborated to get their goods to the store where I could buy it and create a healthy lunch. I didn’t even include the woman who posted her cauliflower crust recipe on-line, or the electricity my oven used while I was baking muffins and pizza crusts. The interconnections can go on and on, so I try to keep my thanks to the food itself. Still, there are a lot of people involved in some way.

My food ritual may be time consuming, and yes, sometimes I am thanking the people while I am chewing thoughtfully on my concoction. I’ve taken the time to make this nice meal, it would be a shame to let it get cold while I ran through my mental list. I know I don’t remember everyone, but my point is this; by taking a few moments to remember, it connects me to my food in a very mindful way, my meal becomes a meditation in mindfulness and allows me to nurture my mind and my soul as well as my body. It also serves as a reminder how interconnected we truly are. All the way down to our salt.

And that, makes for one, delicious, mindful lunch.

And Now for Something Completely Different

If you are a Monty Python fan, you may recognize that title.  If not, sorry, you’ve missed out on kooky British comedy from the 70’s, though I imagine some quick web searches will put you in touch with their surreal and somewhat stream-of-consciousness act.

They often stopped their sketches with the catch-phrase: And Now for Something Completely Different.  So, here I go again, stopping my “ART” blog for something else.  Though, to be fair, it’s art in a different form.  Most likely inspired by writing this blog, and then definitely inspired by my Library and REI lecture series on the Wilderness Of Women, a lovely Powerpoint presentation I whipped up and delivered from Portland to Medford.  The feedback I received was very positive and it inspired me to start writing a book.  A book I’d been writing for over 30 years.  A book about my trail life and my off trail life, how they intersect and influence each other.  When my shoulder got hurt and grounded me from hiking last year, I took advantage of my in-firmed circumstances and used the time to write.

My book has morphed into something else, however, and just like all the best of my art, it took on a life of it’s own.  Part memoir, part trail journal, part coffee table art book, part philosohical and spiritual exploration, The Spiral Trail is heading for parts unknown.  Like it’s title, it spirals around and comes back to lessons learned, growing and developing into a story about a life lived on the trails and woods and translated into paint, guided by source.

I’m still working on it, and I’m still painting and hiking and doing all the things that need to be done.  I’ll try to pop into the blog from time to time to say hello and share a new piece.  For now, here’s an excerpt from  The Spiral Trail  to start my literary exploration into the writing of a book.  I hope you find it enjoyable and interesting.  Wanting more is good!  So, come with me and lets take a walk in the woods…

 

Chapter 21

Mushrooming

I took the dogs out on another gold hunting excursion. As I understand it, there are places where one can still pan for gold, actual gold nuggets that wash down from creeks and rivers, but that’s not the gold I am looking for.  I’m looking for Chanterelle mushrooms, a gloriously school-bus-yellow fungus that litters the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest each year when it gets cold and wet. They are delicious, meaty and mild tasting mushrooms, sought by gourmet chefs as well as poor college students because, for those of us who have access and knowledge, they are free. I was taught how to find Chanterelles by a couple of Dead Heads (fans of the Grateful Dead), both of who were deep into their respective studies at Oregon State University at the time.  One in Forestry, and the other in Mycology, the study of fungi, so they knew what to look for as well as where to look for them. My first taste of a Chanterelle had me rolling my eyes upward in delight, they are that good. I paid attention to the where’s and what’s of Chanterelle hunting and I learned my lesson well.

I began hunting for Chanterelles by myself the moment we landed in Alpine and found them at low elevations in those early days.  But the craze for Chanterelles took off and the economy did not, spurring hundreds of mushroom hunters to take to our local woods in search of quick cash.  Which in turn spurred another form of industry, the mushroom buyer, one of which put up a sign on their driveway and gave the hunters an easy stop on their way out of the hills to cash in on their gains.  I’d like to say “ill gotten gains” as they tromped over public and private lands alike and yanked up the mushrooms without regard to keeping the root system in tact and leaving a few to grow and spread their spores for future mushrooms. Chanterelles will return year after year if you treat their ground gently, but that was not to be.  Our woods were inundated with groups of hunters, they’d park their beat-up cars along the mountain roads and carry in white 5-gallon buckets intent on finding a large haul.

I felt a twinge of disgust at these interlopers, these were my woods they were bustling about in, yelling back and forth, disturbing the quiet as they raped the forests of their delicious yellow fungi fruit.  They pulled up every one and left nothing behind but beer cans, candy wrappers and toilet paper.  I frowned every time I saw them out there, failing to see the irony that I, myself was heading out for a mushroom hunt. Their presence was forcing me to range farther from home and I was irritable about the idea I couldn’t prowl about in what I considered “my woods”, which of course, weren’t.

I learned early on to keep quiet about my mushrooming grounds, having once taken a friend out and kindly taught him how to identify and find Chanterelles only to learn he later took a group of his friends back to my spot where they cleaned out the entire hillside. I never quite trusted him after that and our friendship suffered. But such is the nature of gold fever, it changes one’s ethics when you are in the midst of a find.

Since then, I’ve sworn friends to secrecy before taking them to known places but as the hunter hoards continued patrolling my local hills, those known places became found and decimated.  We had dry falls and late rains and some of my best spots were clear-cut, spelling the end of any nearby Chanterelles.  They need deep mature forests, cool weather and rain. I found myself travelling farther from home to find my gold.

Still, every year I’d get a few for dinner.  And sometimes I’d stumble across a new patch and manage to put up some for later, though really, frozen Chanterelles are never as good as freshly picked.  There were some good years before the big local clear-cut happened, I’d bring home bags of them and then spend hours cleaning them all.  But after they cut the hills directly behind us, it got harder on everyone.  Even the hunters began to range along the Alsea river drainage, the backside of our local hills and my last-ditch effort at mushrooming.  It seemed as if all the best spots were picked over, my hunts became hikes.  Those were lean years, it was lucky if I’d find one or two and that would be it for the season.

But still I tried, I felt as if I was missing something… there had to be a place I’d looked over, some patch of woods I’d yet to explore.  I’ve been riding and hiking my local section of the coast range mountains, keeping to about 5 or 6 square miles and had come to learn this land pretty well over 30 years.  But I hadn’t been everywhere between the roads.  Between the roads is lots of brush and the mature woods needed to cruise about without risking life and limb, or at the least, a few scratches from the dense understory, was getting harder to find.  But there were still a few patches of them, it’s just that I had transitioned from being a deer path following bush-whacking hiker to a road follower.  I could take my horses on the road, either an abandoned logging road or an active one, and had cut a few trails to link up roads so I could make a big loop rather than backtrack, so I hadn’t been doing much off road hiking.  Not even when I decided to return to backpacking and was planning and prepping for the PCT.  I was after miles and conditioning exercise and you can’t get a work out pushing your way through the underbrush.  That kind of hiking is slow and meticulous as I wander about, carefully taking note of the terrain and topography, making sure I do not get lost in the “it all looks the same” woodland.  My deep wood exploring days seemed to be behind me, and with it, my lack of mushrooming luck.

Until last week.

I took a friend on another excursion, hoping the old places would have some kind of nostalgic luck, but no luck was to be found.  Doreen is somewhat new to me as a friend, but we get along well and she was game for hiking about, looking for mushrooms. We drove further out to an old patch I knew of and when that panned out, I took her off trail and off road, but again, nothing. We did not go far from the road as I am reluctant to drag tourists along on these kinds of bush-whacking hikes. I’m quite concerned about becoming lost in the woods, so I work hard paying attention to the hundreds of details that will allow me to back-track my way to safety in the event I’m not sure where I am.  After my jumpy nerves at finding the staircase on the “moonlit” beach, I’ve had some concerns about my state of mind in an unknown situation where no map is at hand to guide me.  The woods beyond my woods are just the same kind of unknown situation as I am not nearly so well acquainted with their topographical peccadillos as I am for my own side of the mountain. This emotional state does not blend well with chatting with friends as we prowl the woods.  I have to concentrate out there and so, I have not been exploring as I mushroom hunt.

Needless to say, Doreen and I got skunked.  I found two mushrooms in the old patch, one for her and one for me.  We shrugged, it was a nice day and the dogs were having a joyous time racing about the forest, it was fun just to watch them and hike about.  We didn’t care all that much so we started back for the car which was parked about a half mile away. I guided us back to the road and took an alternate road, making a loop of our hike.  I always make a loop if I can, there’s something about a circle that makes me feel like my hike is complete, even if it’s a small circle at the end of a straight out and straight back trail.  I call those keyhole loops, and they serve the purpose of “not backtracking” that I like.

We were on this loop when I spotted an opening in the trees off the road.  Something about it said “check it out!” to me, so check it out we did.  I led Doreen off the road and onto a deer trail that disappeared through a brush tunnel and into a deep and open patch of mature forest.  It didn’t look like a deep wood from the road, choked by brush on both sides, I had assumed it was a young stand of trees.  These young stands are usually so thick with underbrush you can’t get through without serious effort, frequently jungle hacking your way through isn’t even worth the pain.

I was surprised and delighted by this find and after picking our way over the old dumped trash at the entrance (I will never understand why people uses the forest as their personal dump) immediately saw scores of mushrooms all along the game trail. There were pink ones and slimy brown ones, some yellow boletus and white death cap kind of mushrooms, not what I was after but still, there were mushrooms here and there were quite a lot of them!  I was encouraged to follow the deer path as it hugged the side of the hill just below the roadway, my boots cutting into the soft needle strewn soil as if I was marching across a snowy mountain field.  Continuing on, I came across our first white Chanterelle, a rare variety, but not that unusual for this area. I’d found white Chanterelles near where we parked the car once, even though, and it’s hard to believe this, but that was 25 years before and before the woods had been selectively cut.

A selective cut will only take say, every other tree, and even though it preserves the forest as a forest, it’s harder to do. I like them, but once the forest is opened up, more brush will fill in between the trees and the Chanterelles won’t return.  It’s too light and airy for them. Seeing this white Chanterelle here gave me hope.  I bent down, carefully pushing aside the fir needles and debris, I cut it gently at the base. Doreen came over to see the mushroom and exclaimed, “Here’s another one!” and she set to the task of cutting that one for herself.  Again, we had found two, one for me and one for her.  But this time, the conditions were better.  No brush and a swath of deep woods.  I followed the path as it paralleled the road above and came across another scattered patch of Chanterelles.

“I found some more!  Yes!”  I picked a few and left a few for her to take before moving down the trail to another scattered patch.  We were ecstatic at finding them, and I was happy to find them in such an easy place.  I didn’t need to worry about getting lost or loosing sight of Doreen as we fought our way through dense underbrush.  This hillside was open and the road was a laidback climb out. We left behind the small ones to grow and talked about coming back for them later.  I pushed on ahead of her and went from patch to patch, finding them and then calling for her to take the ones I’d left for her to harvest.  Sometimes she saw a few I’d missed entirely and her bag began to fill up with a good haul.  As she was delicately brushing off needles and dirt, I wandered down a draw to see if there were more downhill but came back empty handed, unwilling to get beyond earshot of Doreen leaving her alone in the deep woods.  Bringing her out here was my responsibility and I take that seriously. I seem to have been the pathfinder in most of my hiking relationships, it’s not like I tried to take that role, but that’s just how it worked out.  Jane once called me the “human GPS” and I laughed.  I may be good in the woods, however, don’t trust me in the city.  I get all turned around when confronted with streets and buildings.  There’s too much data for me to process.

I don’t think of myself as a confidant pathfinder, more like a nervous pathfinder, I’m worried about getting lost.  I try to remember Daniel Boone, that great Kentucky backwoods explorer who was supposedly quoted as saying he’d never been lost, he just didn’t know where he was for a couple of days.

But still, Pathfinder is my trail name and so, I have a reputation to live up to; regardless of my nervousness in the woods, I also know I have the skills and abilities to untangle myself from a backwoods mishap. What I don’t have, on this day, is an actual map of the area, which, without a compass would be useless as the woods are so deep, dark and topographically convoluted it renders a map useless without the means of pointing one in the right direction. I also don’t have a compass.  Just my faith and skill and backwoods prowess, somewhat like Daniel Boone! I also have my nervousness which keeps me close to the road and checking to make sure we haven’t wandered away from it as we go from patch of gold to patch of gold.

Eventually, we run out of mushrooms and of the deep woods as we get closer to an old overgrown cut which is full of brush. I suggest we climb out and head back.  We’ve managed to find about a couple of dozen mushrooms a piece, so we turn for the road.  Doreen takes the time to pick the ones we come across on our way out and I let her have my share as my bag is full and I’m content with my haul.

I’m content with all of it as I feel I’ve broken the Chanterelle curse that seems to have been hanging over my head the past few years.  I didn’t know if pickings were scarce because of the buyer (but I have noticed they aren’t in business anymore so that’s good news) the dry fall seasons and the new clear cuts or just my inability to get off trail and take the time to find a new place to hunt.  Probably a combination of it all, but the dry spell is over and now I have a new patch of woods to check out… the draw that leads away from the road has me intrigued.

 

The following week, after a solid week of rain, we get a gap between storms and I decide to take the dogs back to the woods and explore the draw.  I figured to look and see if I missed a mushroom or maybe two and then work the hill below this new spot with the hopes there are more Chanterelles to be found.  I go by myself, because I need to explore and not worry about another person.  I don’t have any confidence that the dogs will help me in any way, they are too busy sniffing and digging and running about doing their doggy thing.  I’ve never lost a dog but one time, though like Daniel Boone, she wasn’t unsure of her location more than a couple of days. I hunted all over for that dog, called through the woods and then knocked on any doors in the vicinity. She must have followed something deep into the forest and got turned around because it did take her two days to come home whereupon after much tail wagging and famished eating, she fell asleep for a good 12 hour stretch.

Needless to say, I don’t trust dogs to get me out of the woods.

I parked in the same spot and walked down the road to our exit spot.  I followed our line of mushroom stumps and only saw one seedling mushroom that had grown enough to make it worthwhile harvesting.  I put the Chanterelle in my little orange Osprey daypack, then after getting it back on again (not as easy of a task given my less than 100% shoulder range) I picked up my hiking sticks and headed down the draw.  I began to note the changes in terrain, the hill on my right covered in moss, the hill on my left covered in shrub. I went down, threading my way through small trees, ducking under and stepping over dead branches.  I came across a dry creek bed, noting the stump next to the bed was covered in small, translucently white, spindly mushrooms. I marked this as my landmark and stepped over the bed, forgetting to look behind me to see the path as it would look if I was returning the same way.  My plan had been to follow the draw down to a logging road that I knew was below me, but the hills had folds and contours I was unfamiliar with, I wasn’t sure exactly how far down the road lay and I was anticipating mucking about as I was hunting, crisscrossing the terrain as I went.  It’s easy to get turned around in these coast range hills, distances become hard to judge so I was expecting a long haul across and down slope before hitting the road.

On the other side of the creek, a hillside of tall timber opened up into what I thought was prime mushrooming grounds, so I began traversing the curve of the hill over to a set point before reversing my path and coming back to the creek.  I zig-zagged twice before getting all the way to the creek but instead of a dry bed, I now came across a flowing stream of water.  I guessed it was the same creek bed but that where I had crossed, the water had gone underground.  It was a significant amount of water and I followed it uphill until I came to a series of ponds, obviously springs tucked away in this fold of woods.  It was a lovely find, very private and nestled into the woodland like a love note hidden in a drawer.  Precious and sweet, I wondered how many animals used it as their personal drinking pool.  I looked over my shoulder quickly, I had come across a cougar kill the previous day and my neighbor had seen a big one crossing the road.  The odds were small that cougar even knew about this pond, but still, I glanced around before chiding myself for unfounded fears.  My two terriers would be thrilled to take on a cougar, or at least bark at one anyway.  They also were more likely to be a cougar’s lunch than I was, but since that’s a story I’ve never heard or believe, it doesn’t bother me to let the dogs have the run of the woods.

I wandered about the pond, checking its size and considering if would be a viable personal swimming hole in the summer, or if it would turn into a mush of mud once the rains were gone.  The dogs drank from the edge and we turned back to the creek, following it downhill.  But when I got to where I thought I had crossed the creek, everything looked different.  The hill on my left had changed direction, opening out into a wide flat spot with scattered grass.  There was a stand of alder trees I didn’t recognize and a bank of moss that hadn’t been there before.  I stopped, frozen.  How did this happen… in my checking out the pond, did I forget about a fold in the hillside, did I follow the wrong creek?  Is there another creek I missed? Nothing looked familiar and I began to cast about, returning to the creek bed, looking for my marker, the stump full of tiny mushroom.  There was no stump.  I stared at the creek.  How can there not be a stump?  Where is the stump?!  I crossed the creek anyway and looked at it from the other side.  Now it too looked unfamiliar.  I hadn’t crossed here, I must have gone downhill too far.

I took a deep breath, I wasn’t scared, not yet, I just needed to look about a little more.  I crossed the stream again and walked back towards the hillside where I had been hunting mushrooms looking for anything that looked familiar. I thought back to a movie I’d watched last week, On Golden Pond.  There is a scene where one of the main characters, an 80-year-old man, gets lost in the woods around his summer home.  He’s scared because nothing looks familiar, he can’t remember his surroundings and he begins to run through the woods looking for something, anything he can recall to place him in the world of known things again.

It’s a bit of a fear of mine, to be lost in the woods.  And it’s another one to lose my faculties.  My mother had dementia when she died, and before it became severe, she had these episodes of getting lost.  Once going out into the woods in the middle of a snowy New Hampshire winter and falling, laying in a snowbank for hours before she was found.  It was a chilling story for me to hear as I clutched the phone to my ear, 3000 miles away and a day after the event.  She wasn’t allowed to be alone after that, but now I’ve inherited the fear for myself.  What if I too forget where I am?  What if I forget what the woods look like?  It would be just like me to wander off alone as an 80-year-old and then turn left at the tree that looks like an owl’s head when I should have turned right. It’s not like my trails and paths have actual signs.  My hikes are full of personal knowledge, I know where to go because I’ve gone there before.  But not right now… right now I don’t know where I am because I can’t find my way back.

And so, I tell myself, I’m not going anywhere until I can find the way back and when I find my way back I am going back!  I had made all sorts of mental notes along the way, so I knew I should be able to find them again, I usually do. I took out my mental list and went over it in order.  The stump of mushrooms, the hill of moss, the hill of shrub, the pink flag left by a surveyor, the dented can, the narrow draw all the way up to where I found my last Chanterelle and then up and out to the road.  I walk a large circle, get back to where the stream still has water in it, before it goes underground.  I notice where the water actually becomes submerged, flowing between sticks and rocks and disappearing into the moist soil, dirt so fertile it looks almost black.  I look up stream and down, here there is water, and there, just a dry creek bed that shows where overflowing winter rains carve a funnel that opens out into a flat trench.  I take 5 steps to my right and suddenly, from where I’m standing, I see the mushroom stump. I take a deep breath and am relieved.  I had overshot the creek crossing by about 20 feet and continued on until the terrain had changed and I was unexpectedly surrounded by a scene that was unfamiliar both backwards and forwards. The whole incident feels like I’m reading a book where I’ve accidentally turned two pages and now the narration makes no sense until I find my missing page and the story line falls back into place.  I step back across and walk my path out but I only go about 10 yards before I turn back to the creek.

There’s no need to run back for the car.  I’m back in the land of the known.  I wasn’t lost at all, I just didn’t know where I was for a couple of minutes. It was disorienting and a touch disquieting but am I going to let this stop me?  Of course not.  I head back down the hill.

But this time, I do leave a few more markers, scraped boot prints in the duff, a couple of crossed sticks and I try not to veer off my trajectory by sticking to as straight a line as possible. It’s easier to see the way back that way.  I come upon an old skid track from the original cut of this forest, it’s barely perceptible as time has eroded away it’s clean lines and random trees have grown inside it’s borders.  It’s still clearly a flat place in the hillside, so I follow it down until I can see a road below me.  The dogs run ahead and are running up and down the road, maybe showing me that it was here all along, maybe sniffing the path of a wild animal.  Whatever their motivation, between the trunks of trees, I see their white bodies zipping up and down a horizontal line about 200 feet below me.  I’m still carefully edging my way down across the soft needle strewn duff, my boots sink in and I watch for slick branches as I’ve already slid down one that lay like a trap just a fraction of an inch under the carpet of forest debris.  I used to wonder why older people fell as if they were children again, but now that I am a little older myself, I get it.  We aren’t as flexible or fit or even as balanced as we used to be.  It’s easy and faster to get out of condition from hiking then when I was younger, my muscles don’t catch me and correct imbalances as fast as they used to.  And so, sometimes now, I fall and slip and when I do, it’s startling and strange.  I never used to fall.  But I never used to be 56, so I take it easy and use trekking poles, they’ve become a part of my new high tech hiking world, just like bringing a cell phone and a personal locater beacon (which I hope to never need).

I drop down onto the road, glad that I reached my goal and surprised that it was closer than I thought it would be.  Instead of hiking out, I make some side trips into the woods, continuing my search for gold.  I notice that every time I wriggle out of my pack, pick a mushroom, then look about for more, I will not find one until I put my pack back on and head out.  Then, sure enough, another mushroom!  I struggle out of the pack, my not-yet-unfrozen shoulder is somewhat uncooperative with all this on again off again gyrations.  But, if I only find one at a time, still, I am finding them, so I resign myself to fussing with the pack.  On my way out, I find one last group and decide I’m done for the day.  I have plenty for dinner and then some, so I hop on the road and climb up out of the draw.

The road is steeper than I remembered, I haven’t been on it for some time and can’t recall a time I ever actually walked it.  I’m usually on this road with my horse and they do all the hard work for me.  It’s good to get a feel of the road from their perspective, I gain a little empathy every time I walk a trail that I usually ride. I stop to catch my breath from time to time, glad that I am not the kind of rider that pushes a horse too hard, I let them stop and breathe as well. Hiking with a heavy pack helps me to relate to how hard they actually work.  Just when I’m about to reach the car, I see an opening in the trees that looks inviting.  Without thinking too much about it, I wander in for a last chance hunt for mushrooms.  What the hell, why not?

I find another old skid track, it’s faint and mostly gone, covered with moss and underbrush like huckleberry, salal, ocean spray and young alders who are trying to take advantage of the sunlight provided by the logging road I’ve just left.  I weave my way through the thicket but stick to the flat ground. The brush thins out a little further in, and I’m walking in a mossy fairy forest of tall timber and soft earth. There are sword-tail ferns, their ostrich plume like fronds are still, no breeze can reach them down here even though the tops of the firs sing with the winds that touch the canopy up above. I follow the line across a curve of hillside, sometimes stepping over downed logs and limbs, sometimes ducking under them.  I marvel in this hidden gem of a forest, surrounded by thinned timber stands and clear cuts.  Most of these forest lands are considered a crop and are usually homogeneously full of Douglas Fir, but there are bits and pieces of more diverse forest and it’s always fun to be inside a stand of trees that feel somewhat wild in nature.

I walk until I come to some remnants of old growth, stumps from trees that must have been 100’s of years old, these stumps litter the woods near my home.  They are as large as couches, rotted remnants of their former selves, they still fill me with a sense of wonder and awe at their immense size.  At the bottom of the stump I find more chanterelles, they ripple out of the duff, golden flowers with wavy fungus arms.  They push up the moss and the fir needles and curl around clumps of debris, hanging onto it like a baby’s fist.  There is one large one in front of me, then one to the side, one above on a ledge of dirt and as I look, I see them everywhere.  I’ve struck the motherload.

I carefully pull back the carpet of needles and cut my mushrooms, filling my bag, then another.  I’ve picked more in 5 minutes than I found in the past hour or so.  It’s lovely to find a place like this, a place where no one has discovered and disturbed.  I have such a plethora to choose from, I get choosey and only pick the best ones, leaving some to continue rotting or to grow up into adults.  I harvest so many, I run out of space in my bag.  Any more and I will crush them, so I settle my pack carefully on my shoulders and collect my trekking poles from where I planted them in the ground.

Before heading out, I take one last walk down my personal yellow brick road.  I want to see how much farther this streak runs and consider if I can return later for another go at it.  I also want to see if I can resist the “gold fever” that grips me when I find a patch.  Can I resist the temptation of taking more?  I see a few scattered here and there, but I don’t feel the need to add to my harvest.  The forest has been kind to me and provided a feast of mushrooms. I move deeper into the forest and come across a pristine patch of chanterelles in a bowl of moss.  They look almost staged, they are that perfect.  A shaft of sunlight streaks down between the trees and lights up their small golden glade, I can almost hear the fairy’s dancing about this sylvan fantasy.

I pause before getting closer to the patch, I don’t want to disturb the scene or be tempted by their beauty.  But I do walk over, just to appreciate and marvel at how lovely a fungus can be.  I usually see “delicious!” when I see a chanterelle, but this time, I’m thankful for their presence in the forest.  It says, “I’m healthy” and “I feel good, all is right in the world.”  Just seeing them makes me feel the same and I’m grateful for the bounty I’ve lovingly placed in my pack.

 

That night for dinner, I prepare my mushrooms in a wine cream sauce with garlic and pour it over white bean noodles.  And once more, I touch heaven on my plate and my eyes roll back in joy.  Yeah, they are that good.

 

 

 

 

My Three Sisters

I love the Three Sisters Wilderness.  It’s my home base wilderness.  It’s where I go to reconnect to the divine in a very deep and real and magical way. I’ve been hiking there for the past 32 years, so I call them “my girls”.  They are so beautiful, with their lava flows and cinder strewn meadows of wildflowers, an oasis of magnificence in central Oregon. For those who don’t know, they are named North, Middle and South Sister; AKA Faith, Hope and Charity.  Three characteristics that are well worth some effort.

I like that the girls have AKA’s, because I do too!  I rarely use my birth name and  since I’ve had three different last names in my lifetime, I don’t have a deep connection to the names given to me. I’ve chosen my name and my place in the world.  And I’ve chosen my totem mountains.

Which, by the way, are one of the very few mountains (named by the white man) with a feminine name.  Interestingly enough, they are rarely called by their “proper names” but are instead referred to by their relationship: The Sisters. Why do you think that is?  What does that say about our culture, or, our culture of the past, that a mountain could not have a woman’s name, nor be named after one?  Or if they did, it was best that we reference them by their family associations. Was it, that in the old days, men liked to label things that stuck up and out of the landscape as masculine? By that line of reasoning, then all canyons should be named for women, right?  Well, I’m doubtful as to that kind of reason, but that’s research left for another day.

Through my Facebook group, Women of the PCT, a sister hiker contacted me a year ago to buy the painting of Charity (South Sister) but the email was lost in cyber-space until I unearthed it and replied.  Did she still want the painting?  She did, but alas it was too small.  So, we negotiated a larger version to be commissioned and off I went, happy to oblige! I was thrilled to have an opportunity to paint my darling girls. To paint for a “hiker chick” was a bonus.  This is yet another trail painting in my series, The Wilderness of Women, only this time, it was a personal request and that made it even more special.

I chose several photos and compiled an image that doesn’t exactly exist in reality, to get them in this order, I had to squish them together a little bit.  I’ve used my “artist’s license”. You may not see this exact scene from a spot on the trail, but it exists in my heart.  An appropriate sentiment as that is where “my girls” will live forever. And when I am gone, please spread my ashes here, so I can be a part of them as they are for me.

Now, here we have it, My Three Sisters:

My Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
2′ x 3′

Art In The Valley

I’ve been walking by this cute Gallery for years now,  a few weeks ago, something steered me inside… where I started up a conversation with one of the artists in this darling cooperative gallery.

Long story short, I’m now a member of Art In The Valley!  So, if you are ever in Corvallis, Oregon and would like to see my work in person, come on by!  It’s on second street in the beautiful downtown area, right by a great bakery, bookstores, great food and boutique shopping. We all take turns working the gallery, so who knows, maybe I’ll even be there that day.  Or, send me an email (Skyevans@me.com) and check with me for a schedule. I’d love to meet my readers.

Two of my horses and an abalone shell.

Alone in a field of Poppies Acrylic on Yupo approx 2′ x 3′

Gone Girl Comes Back

I’ve been thinking about my blog and how I’ve neglected it for so long.  Poor blog!  The longer I stayed away, the harder it got to make myself sit down and write a post.  I’ve been painting, and I’ve been writing, I just haven’t been putting it HERE!

So here’s a brief update:  I hiked in Sedona… and painted this:

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona was magical, I came home with a renewed love of the desert and so many more images to put onto canvas.  This is the first, but won’t be the last.

I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness with my dear friend, Amira and painted this next image. I struggled with capturing our faces and still feel out of sorts whenever I look at it.  But, I decided to add it to my blog so you can see that while I may personally have trouble with some of my work, I’ve learned that other people LOVE them!  And pieces I love, other people feel somewhat “meh” about. Who am I to say it’s good or bad?  It comes down to your own taste.

Cold July Camp

I was commissioned to paint a beloved family member.  Elkton was an older dog, and his photo’s didn’t do him justice.  I managed to shave off a few years and pounds and drop him into a regal hunting pose.  Here he is, surveying his kingdom:

Elkton the Wonder Dog

And I painted a portrait of my son and his girlfriend.  He was heading out for a job interview and Karen sent me a quick shot of their morning and a glimpse into their thoughts as she titled the photo.  I loved this selfie she took; I had to capture that smirk!

Dressed for Battle

Then I painted a view of my willow that seemed poignant, yet crisp and quietly vibrant. I hung it in the newly remodeled guest bedroom to bring a bit of the outside, inside.

Winter Willow

Followed by a few fantasy images to get in touch with my feminine side and to reflect the deep introspection I had been exploring of late.  I sustained an injury the previous fall that just managed to get worse over time. When you are dealing with chronic, long term pain, it helps to spend time listening to your body.  I kept asking that question…  what are you trying to tell me?  I think my body just wanted me to sit down for awhile.

The Hermit Girl Meditates

Connections of Love

Besides these images, I’ve tooled around with some odds and ends art projects and did some remodeling on the house.  I’ve had to readjust my life in the past year as I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury that really set me back in my activity level.  You wouldn’t know it by the new flooring and slate tile I managed to lay down, but still, 2017 has been my year of recovery.  I couldn’t ride or hike or do my normal kinds of things, so instead, I took my “Wilderness of Women” paintings on the road.  Literally.  I created a presentation about my art and hiking, how each one influenced the other and gave my lecture/slide show at REI stores from Portland to Medford. It was inspirational for me as well as for others and after it was over, I began to focus on a writing project that germinated from this dog and pony show.  I’ll devote another post to it, later, but for now, this one will have to do.

I think it’s time for this hermit girl to come on out of her cave and say  hello to the wide world of life.

Hello world!

Blue on Blue

PCT in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA  A field of blue lupins echo the deepening sky as day turns to night.  (Based on the photo by Gabi Fulcher 2014)

IMG_0038 (2).JPG

When I started this painting I had no idea how blue it was going to go.  I had been doing a lot of inner work, thinking about my inner self, my concepts, my ideas, my integrity, my weaknesses.  Why do I think this way, what lessons are there to learn from our emotions… when I get frustrated or upset, what does that come from? Does it come from the situation at hand or from a lifetime of similar situations that make the current crisis seem bigger than it is?  I examined all my inner wounds like a forensic investigator, trying to make a case for guilt, innocence or acquittal.  I had no preconceived notions of the outcome but one word rose to the surface and I followed it like a flashlight in the darkness.

That word was compassion.  That I find the compassion in myself, that I nurture the compassion and choose the compassion rather than the hard edged anger and meanness that was trying to gain a foothold. I don’t like the hard edge… though I admire the strength anger has given me.  Anger is a good emotion, it’s a powerful one, but not one that should be driving my car.  You can’t make anger go away, but you can recognize it’s usefulness.  Anger is the fire that burns away the pain and takes you down to ash so you can rise again, clean and new and reborn.

Anger turned inward is depression.  There were too many times I had taken that anger and smoldered the flame with my body, inhaling the toxicity, allowing depression to take a toehold deep inside. And so, with the gray skies of the Pacific NorthWest dumping their seasonal load upon my home and myself, I found a deep blue streak staining my life. I had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.  I just couldn’t do it, that blue funk was everywhere.

But then there was compassion.  And compassion led me to stories and places and videos and chat groups and forums and a greater understanding.  I followed every lead, turned over every rock, searched in all the drawers, cupboards and forgotten shelves.  The anger that had masqueraded as depression was swept out and dealt with.  The light began to shine again as we rounded the equinox and the sun literally returned to my part of the world.

With gratitude, I stood before a blank canvas and painted yet another in my Wilderness Of Women (WOW), a series of paintings from the trail.  All paintings are from photos taken by women hikers.  So far I’ve only done one from my own photo, the rest were taken by other women hikers.  This image of the PCT is from the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington State. It was sent it to me last winter by the photographer/hiker, Gabi Fulcher.  It’s been hanging in my studio for some time now… and well, now seemed to be it’s moment.

All these WOW paintings have a vivid saturation of color that connects my deep love of these wild places to my heart.  This one was the same in intensity, but different in just one word.  The word is “I”.  As in “I” painted it, because it doesn’t feel like “I” actually did.  I stood before the canvas after sketching it out in my normal fashion.  I was between the 6th and 7th chakra painting in my last series (see previous post) and using the same palette of color I was about to start when I hesitated.  I’ve done this before, and usually with good results, so I trusted the pause.  And I said to my muse: go ahead… you got this one.  Do what you like, I’ll just hold the brush.  And so, she did. Or he… it doesn’t matter, my muse is gender neutral.

Blue on Blue can speak for itself.  It’s so much more than me.  Just like the word compassion.

 

Getting Balanced

I’ve felt somewhat out of sorts lately and have been focusing on getting myself back on even ground.  To do that, I’ve been meditating and learning how to trust my instincts again.  A healthy, mostly vegan diet along with more exercise and physical therapy on old injuries has contributed to getting my  body in better shape. My mind has been occupied with new ideas and philosophies, I’ve been working on old wounds there too, so that just left my soul. Body, mind and spirit are part of the whole and I realized I’ve been neglecting this last part for some time now.

I had been drawing mandalas and coloring intricate patterns as part of a meditative effort to balance my mind. One day I noticed I had used rainbow hues every time I sat down to color; page after page in my book was full of bold and brilliant color.  Suddenly it occurred to me, without even thinking about it, I had been choosing chakra colors. Chakras are thought to be centers of spiritual power within the body; if I ever needed a hint on where to focus my spiritual attention, this seemed a good place to start.

In an effort to blend my art and my soul in a more purposeful way, I set out to paint the 7 chakras. With each one, I focused on the corresponding color and let my muse take ahold of my brush. I really had no idea where I was going with these, but decided to trust the process and see what happened.

I started with the root chakra (red) and progressed upwards from there. Each one became more and more complex, unfolding before me. As I worked through these small canvases, I noticed a change in myself.  I felt lighter, happier, more relaxed. Information came my way and seemed to reinforce what I was learning about myself during the process. Even difficult issues leveled out and didn’t knock me out of balance.

I finished the last one the other day, and as I hung them together for the first time I noticed the changes from one to another.  From simple to more complex, one flows into the next. I think of this series as a personal workshop for my soul, an exercise in returning my energy centers to a state of equilibrium.

But because of the blog scroll, to show them to you in the order in which I painted them would be to misalign them.  So, to counter this, here they are in a top to bottom orientation. Just to note, they are opposite of the order in which they were created.

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