September 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
My father blamed our year in Germany for my wanderlust. We lived in Karlsruhe, where each weekday morning I walked a tree-lined, cobblestoned path with my brothers and sister to meet our school bus. I was in kindergarten, which meant I got out early, so my Mom would take me exploring after school, often having me translate (because as a kid you pick up languages really fast, especially if you want Sabina, Helga and Petra to like you), and often involving ice cream or Toblerone bars. Towards the end of our stay, we traveled to I don’t know how many countries (I got a doll in each one, and the collection was fairly substantial), and I relished every minute. At 5 years old, the world was my oyster – and indeed, that whole experience may have set me on an irreversible path of desire to see as much of the world as possible.
Since then, I’ve come eye to eye with an elephant in Kenya, gotten sick on the Nile, slept in hammocks in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle, Greek Island hopped, was reprimanded at St. Peter’s cathedral for my too-short skirt, reveled in Venice’s waterways, swam in pristine natural pools under hidden waterfalls and lots more. Here at home I’ve gotten a taste of the my own country’s north, south, east and west. And there’s SO MUCH more to see. Oh the places I still hope to go…!
That said, just recently I got to visit the great
country state of Texas, where everything is bigger. I loved Austin’s Tuscany-like hills and funky shops, and San Antonio’s rich history housed in limestone architecture. I did not buy new cowboy boots, but did see lots of little lizards, was treated to Texas barbecue ( a “must” I was told), ate lots of fajitas (my favorites were at Austin’s Güero’s on South Congress), enjoyed graffiti walls and art spaces, and had an absolutely fantastic time with my Texan friends.
All of which was in somewhat stark contrast to another recent trip, where I’d gone north to the Finger Lakes region of New York State – where everything gets cold and very snowy in winter – and fell a little in love with a small town on a crystal clear lake, surrounded by farms, vineyards and well-kept, New-England-ish homes. Oh so lush and pretty.
I don’t know what’s next, but for now it’s time to hunker down again at home, where there are designs to be designed and books to be written and paintings to paint. Oh, and bills to pay and rooms to keep clean.
But here’s the best part – I can still go places even when I’m sitting still. Places of the mind, places ignited by ideas and imagination. Places conjured by thought, or a view, a conversation or a moment. A dash of color, the way a leaf is lit by the setting sun. A song, a train whistle, children laughing, crickets chirping. The scent of rain, or a flower, or dinner roasting. Something in a dream, something in a story. The tumbling of ocean waves.
You go don’t have to be someplace grand. Granted, I’ll be the first to say “I want to go there!”– but the places your imagination can take you can be equally grand. Places your mind can take you by learning new things can be equally priceless. Places your feet can take you can be equally inspiring. Just by being present, observant; experiencing the world around you, listening to the world within you, stretching your senses – oh the places you’ll go! And isn’t life richer when you do.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss,
April 2, 2016 § 3 Comments
Pond. Woods. Cabin. Pen. Paper. Laptop. Me, and piles of unfinished writings. (Right. Thoreau didn’t have a laptop, much less electricity. So let’s call it a modern-day female Thoreau of sorts.) Wind whipping through red-budded trees, ducks squawking, late afternoon sun bouncing off royal blue water, star-studded nights and a deer (or three or four) to greet you at your door. Some fresh space for the muses.
Of course I wasn’t really alone. Aside from the ducks and deer (and, apparently, bears), there were plenty of other characters for company – a couple of boys and girls, some angels, and monsters, a flying horse here and there. There were real-live actual people too, nearby but not too near, and no one making a ruckus. No cars zipping by, no leaf-blowers or tv’s blaring. Laundry could wait, dishes were few, regular life paused. Except I did miss our cats sitting on my work. (I think?)
So, that was my five-day gift to myself – a mini back-to-nature answer to the incessant chatter of works undone while I’m otherwise busy designing things like branding and book covers for my wonderful clients. A cabin in the woods. A room with a view. Pen and paper. It was both enough and not enough. Is there ever enough time, though?
We do what we can when we can with what we have – then grab on and go.
January 24, 2016 § 4 Comments
We just finished up a big round of snow here in the Northeast. Great buckets of it swirling like a mad dance – not a soft, dreamy snowfall, but an angry, wicked one – piling up a few feet of fluffy white by the end. Today saw lots of digging out and some requisite complaining. But I have to say, I love a good storm. Always have. As long as one is safe and cozy. I find them marvelously inspiring.
Which got me thinking about inspiration in general, and being interviewed a few months back by a delightful young woman for her college art & design thesis. I almost always enjoy an interview, and this was no different. There were, naturally, the expected questions: what you look for when hiring, how you got started, etc. But my favorite question by far was, “What inspires you?” Because what doesn’t? Really, I told her, just about everything. But what exactly?
It’s true I’ve traveled a great deal – I lived in Germany as a child, I’ve leaned on the Great Pyramids and dined atop the Eiffel Tower, slept in hammocks in the Yucatán and picnicked on a sprawling red tablecloth laid out on Kenya’s Maasai Mara. New York City has been a stone’s throw away most of my life, as has the sea, mountains and farms – so, no doubt all of these experiences have piled up an almost gluttonous visual feast in my memory banks – but the other truth is that I can find just as much inspiration stepping out my door onto a freshly shoveled step, or a cracked walkway shaded by an overabundant smoke bush, or a beautifully designed book cover, a great photo, a well-crafted film, a thunderstorm, a child’s drawing, an old barn, the spokes of a bicycle wheel, the human face, gorgeous architecture, great athleticism, excellence in anything, shadows on snow. I can be inspired by a random slant of light, pages of striking prose or what comes in dreams. It can be a conversation, or something overheard on the train, a character in a story, or a character in real life. It can come “out of the blue”. It can be the act of simply looking up at the universe and falling into its wonder. It comes from the sky. The wind. The earth. Fire. Stones. Flowers. Rivers. Mountaintops. Birds. Dragons. All of it. All of life’s endless bigness, beauty and mystery, where there are more textures, tones, colors, moods and designs than one could begin to imagine. It’s a vivid palette from an endless well.
Now, I know some may say this artist or that artist inspires them, or this style or that style, or maybe that they’re driven by social causes or a desire to make particular statements. But really, whatever moves you inspires you. And being moved doesn’t always involve epiphany or deep emotion – sometimes, yes – but it’s fundamentally about what makes your mind light up and your heart quicken just a bit, taking you out of the mundane into enthusiasm and possibility. Sometimes, you can’t actually put a name to it.
So, if you keep your ears, eyes and heart open, feeling inspired isn’t that tough. Maybe it’s about what you do with it. Whether you let the flame flicker out or you jot it down, draw a line, pick up a brush, play a note, make a plan. Because inspiration is kind of a two-pronged arrangement – it loves to seed, and it loves to be watered with action. When you can hold onto the inspiration once the work of it begins, there lies some real power.
November 22, 2015 § 3 Comments
The other day I was inches away from getting creamed while driving through a green light. Another driver came whizzing through a red light at the exact time I was crossing. (Insert: life flashes before eyes.) Shock and impulse took over as I slammed on the brakes. Had l arrived at that spot just a second earlier, I’d not be writing this. It was way too close a call, and once my heart rate went back down, I was thanking my Angels and feeling overcome with gratitude for both the timing and my car’s brakes. (It also reminded me that we should always be a little more cautious on the road than we might think we need to be.) And I thought, well, this’ll be an easy one for my gratitude jar – which, I then realized, I’d neglected for a while.
It began a few years ago – although I’m sure some of you had the idea before I did – the filling of a jar with slips of paper on which we’d scribble the things we were grateful for. (If you haven’t done it, I’ll tell you that just the act of writing down what you’re grateful for feels good.) It can be a daily exercise or as the spirit moves. Sometimes they pile up in one sitting. Anyway, we’d start on New Year’s Day, then empty the jar and read all our notes the following New Year’s Day – and smile a lot – then start again.
This year I thought I’d start a jar for the holiday season – a time we expect to feel gratitude, but in reality can feel exceptionally stressed. It also feels like a particularly murky time out there in the world; people often pick up on that vibe (consciously or unconsciously), making us feel even more ornery. Actively “being grateful” can do wonders to help. It takes just a few minutes and costs nothing, but the benefits are strong, well-researched and well-documented, including things (you may already know) like improved physical, mental and psychological health, higher self-esteem, better sleep and better relationships. All good stuff. Funny how we so easily forget this simple but powerful tool.
With Thanksgiving this week, the timing seems ideal to start fresh. And this time, I’m inviting you to join me – by doing your own, or by helping to fill a virtual gratitude jar. I’ll be opening it up to the public on my facebook pages*, now through January 1, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a great response and a wave of human gratitude can spread far and wide, rippling farther and wider again and again. And wouldn’t that be something to be grateful for.
What are you grateful for today? There’s always something. Grab it, jot it down, try to make it a habit. Feel free to share. Let’s do this.
Oh, and thank you. 🙂
October 12, 2015 § 1 Comment
Whether it makes me lucky or unlucky, strange or strangely interesting, I’m one of those people who can go for days at a time without interacting a whole lot with other people. (Okay, even I think it’s kinda strange sometimes.) Maybe as an artist it simply comes with the territory; where swaths of solitude are a necessity. Who knows. But for whatever reason, I ended up a decent dose of the “I’m okay being by myself” gene. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person, and fairly choosy about how and with whom I spend time. Admittedly, there are times when I wish I were a more social animal; but at some point you just accept how you’re wired.
That all said, people matter. There are people I absolutely treasure. People I’ve known for eons, people I’ve known for just a few years, even some special people I’ve just met. There’s something remarkable that happens when the connectivity ions are in sync. They’re all a little bit different, of course, with varying depths and points of connection, but they matter, tremendously. And because they matter, they deserve nurturing.
We ‘ve all probably experienced friendships where we may not see or speak to one another for years, yet when we finally do, the years dissolve and the connection is as real and true as ever. And those are pretty darn great. But it’s not enough to count on that. For one thing, pardon the morbid truth, they may not be there any more. For another, different people love us and teach us and learn from us and help us grow in all sorts of ways. Their value is often immeasurable. (And vice versa.) But most of the time none of these happen of their own accord. You have to cultivate them, feed them, water them. Pay attention. Be present. Write the note. Make the call.
And sometimes, when you nurture, when you do your part, you even find magic. And magical = happiness. Magical lights you up. The air feels electric, your energy is high, the weights of the world are somehow lifted for a time.
I was blessed to experience this twice in the last month. Once with a beautiful family who came to visit from Austin, Texas. It involved a serendipitous introduction by a mutual friend, a little girl who loves fairies, and a very real feeling of being surrounded by angels. Another was just the other day, with a few friends whose paths didn’t cross until years after having been, unknowingly, in the same place. It was like we’d known each other forever. (And there I am, looking a little like Lois Lane with Clark Kent. How fun is that?)
Both instances were joyful, and pure, and magical. Both also came about because along the way, other friendships were nurtured. And both gave me a sense of deep happiness, because it feels pretty wonderful to know those connections exist in this life.
And they exist because we take the time to give them some of our heart.
People matter. (Even for those who might prefer a night in with their paints and pencils to a night out.) And a lot of the time, they’re even responsible for some pretty outrageous happiness.
Nurture, my friends, nurture. Nurture the people who matter to you.
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
June 13, 2015 § 6 Comments
proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.
– ♥ –
Dear Peony ~ Your bloom is brief, and your heavy heads droop low under the weight of folds and folds and folds of petals – deliciously soft, intricate petals going every which way, having blossomed from tightly packed, perfectly round balls to form, perhaps (if there could by such a thing), the perfect flower – oh, how I adore your sweeping grace! You are elegance and beauty; you are divine.
(until next time, you can see the ongoing Plethora of P’s here)
June 7, 2015 § 13 Comments
Intention: Early morning Sun Salutations. Long walks along the shore; the wide, cream-colored beach hedged by flowering dunes and solid, old homes with weathered shingles and thick white pillars holding up wrap-around porches. Bike rides and ice cream and warm sea breezes fueling inspirations that spread themselves like butter, page after page, in my notebooks. Skin, tingling and alive from the surf and the sun. Hair in happy, salty tangles. Laughter as the sun makes long shadows in the sand and friends share a toast to the tides; to each other; to the red glow on our shoulders (pass the aloe, please). Meditations under the moon; breaths keeping time with the rumbling, tumbling, humbling waves.
Reality: Early morning drizzle followed by chilly, windy torrents. Cold; did I mention, cold? My giant-sized, fluffy red blanket and I step, daily, onto the thick-pillar-adorned porch to admire the angry sea’s spectacular beauty; this week she’s a pounding, twisting, frothy tempest. My blanket-bundled self takes 20 yard walks to the bench at the top of the beach, finds a dry-ish spot to watch the sky for signs of sunshine. Friends arrive, singing “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow…”. My girls, generally hunkered down with their laptops and phones, are otherwise perfecting their omelette and smoothie-making skills. We eat exorbitant amounts of whole-wheat tortilla chips with guacamole dip. We find that Scotty’s fresh flounder tastes just as good in stormy weather as it does in good weather. Thank goodness I remembered to pack the Scrabble board and card decks. And my red blanket.
But still, it’s not enough to see the sea, I need to stand close, near the edge (but not so near to risk dipping my blanket in the surf) ~ so we venture time and again onto the wide, cream-colored coastline and marvel at the ocean’s extraordinary magnificence. My blanket and I enjoy tea under the eaves by the flowering dunes. We read. We take pictures and post them on Instagram. During a break in the unforgiving wind and rain we settle into a comfy spot on the soft sand and attempt to write in my notebook.
“Oh cruel fate . . . why do you mock me?”
So it’s short walks, no bikes. Ice cream, no warm breezes. Writing inside, not out. Skip the aloe. And despite the lack of shadows for five straight days, we do laugh; and we share toasts to the tides, and, mostly, to each other.
“Serenely full, the epicure would say, Fate cannot harm me; I have dined to-day.”
(1771 – 1845)
April 12, 2015 § 10 Comments
There’s the occasional foot-in-mouth moment. The you-can’t-explain-why times. The useless but sometimes enlightening what-was-I-thinking’s. The poorly timed brain overload creating havoc with numbers (oops, I was only kidding?). And there’s always a child somewhere to help you keep it real.
And then, of course, there’s this. This grand, sweeping, marvelous magnificence of raw power and rumbling passion and crashing, curling waves that pound and push and pull (with equal parts grace and ferocity) on impossibly soft sand beneath never-ending cobalt skies ~ this incredible vastness where mermaids live and giant, finned beasts taunt sailors who chart their course by stars that shine from even more unfathomably large heavens above; all of this, too, will keep one humble.
You work. You love, and play, and learn. Laugh and cry. Scream out loud, shrivel into quiet corners. You try. You do your best, and wear your super-human-hero cape with pride. Even so, you always, always, at some point, find yourself inadequate. Or wrong. Or just unprepared. Because that’s the stuff of life ~ the mystery and the magic, the smooth, the bumpy, the “a-ha’s” and the “oh shit’s”.
We’re not meant to get it right all the time. It’s lovely when we do. It can feel ugly when we don’t. It’s exhausting and glorious (with equal parts grace and ferocity). No matter how high we climb the proverbial ladder, no matter how good, how brilliant, how well-intentioned ~ there will always be something to keep us humble. We’re just travelers, after all. All of us.
January 28, 2015 § 4 Comments
Almost like clockwork, every January I’m reminded of my love for black and white. Maybe it’s the monotones of winter. Maybe it’s the bright white snow against a black sky. Maybe it’s because each year a new Ansel Adams calendar hangs on my studio door.
Whatever it may be, I’ve long been drawn to the beauty of black & white art, going back to the first time I picked up that favorite tool of mine (the #2 pencil) and sensed that magic was held within its lead.
From pencil or pen to the magnificent drama of a fine black & white photograph, I’m captivated by the power and emotional breadth that can be achieved without a spot of color. No distractions. Just character and grace, depth and strength and guts and mood. And like a good story, well done black & white allows your mind to add its own color by filling in what’s left unsaid.
Please note, I’ve tried to find image sources for all of these images, and sometimes failed. I would love to give proper credit where due, so if you know the original source of any of these labeled “source unknown”, please let me know!
December 3, 2014 § 1 Comment
I’d meant to post something fun today, but then this happened, impressing itself with some odd sense of urgency on my over-scheduled brain of late, and so, I’m going as the spirit moves. (The fun one will come later ~ promise!)
I might watch its descent,
Its elegant tumble,
Its demure, soundless slip
From a crisp gray sky.
Its color dim,
now a crunch underfoot ~
A piece of dust, a memory,
An unceremonious gesture of time
In the waltz of life giving life,
and giving life again,
on and ever on.