Unexpected Goodbye

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A page from my art journal that I created when looking for answers this last week.

Most people spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family.   Your co-workers become an extended family.   If you are really lucky some of your co-workers become your friends. I had a co-worker who was one-of-kind guy.   Our careers ran parallel paths in so many ways that made us click and become more than co-workers.   We were friends. Unfortunately last week I lost my friend to suicide.

Montana has a rampant problem with suicide. We are often number one or two in the nation per capita when looking at our suicide rates. It is a sad reality to know so many families personally affected by suicide. For RangerSir and I it is not people we know second or third hand that have been impacted by this crisis.     It is people who we know as a member of our inner circle.   In January we attended two funerals for victims of suicide.     It has left us stunned and reeling seeking to understand.      Something we may never do.

Suicide affects young and old alike.   If reaches across gender and economics. It is a problem in rural and our cities.   Suicide leaves behind family and friends who wonder what more they could have or should have done.   There are no answers. Only holes in lives about what was possible that will not be.

I beg of you if it is a moment of great despair or if it is a long battle with mental health, please seek help.   It may not feel like there is anyone out there who cares, but there is.   It may not feel like there is anyone you can share your burden with, but there is.   It may feel like there is no way out, but there is.   Call out for help.   Ask for help.   Accept the offer of help.   The world is a better place because you are in it.

We All Get 24 Hours

It seems everyone is always running out of time to do things myself included.  Each of us complains about not having enough time.   There was once a commercial showing people driving up to an ATM like machine and getting a few more minutes or a couple hours because they did not have enough time.  I’ve looked for it on YouTube and could not find it to share here, because it was so perfect for this post.  It was great because it showed that each of us would like more time to do things in our lives.

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This post started to formulate in my mind,  when someone said to me that I had more time than they did.   Seriously I have more time?   Yes, I may not have a job outside the home at this moment, but I get the same 24 hours as everyone else.    I am not going to go on about all the work type stuff that I do to justify what I do in a day.   Instead I am going to talk about what I do with the non-work time, to carve out time for things the bring me me joy, and renew my soul.  Hopefully this post will inspire you to find some ways to carve out time that nurtures your spirit.

When it is time for a work break, I used to spend it at my desk catching up on the news on the internet.   Now I get up and leave my desk and take Zip, my dog, for a walk.   I get outside and enjoy the day or freeze my butt off, either way I know what is really going on outside in the world.

When it is time to cook dinner, RangerSir and I work tandem and talk about what each of us did that day, solve the world’s problems, or compare notes on what new crazy is happening in American politics.   It is time to stay connected.  It is family time for us.

After dinner RangerSir relaxes by watching TV.   He picks out what he wants to stream that night for his viewing pleasure.   I on the other hand generally can’t imagine that, so this is the time when I go to my studio space and get creative.   It is this time in the evening when I take art type classes online and do my assignments.   It is during this  time when I make samples for classes I plan to teach.   It is this time when I think of friends and make cards to let them know I am thinking of them.  It is this time when I try things I have never done before. It is the time when I work on writing.   I work on my journal and explore in mixed media.   It is time with no excuses for just me.

Lately I feel like I don’t have enough time.  Yet I realize it is my choice not to have enough time.  That feeling stretched thin is a result of my choices, that second class right now may have been more than I should have put on my plate.   There are things in my life I probably don’t have to do, and yet I do them sacrificing things I’d rather do.   If you are working two jobs to put a roof over your head this post is probably not fair to you, but most of us do have some free time and maybe we just are not using it right for us.  We are picking to do things that do not feed our soul with our discretionary time, so we look at others with envy when we see them do things that we wish we could do.

When you feel like you don’t have enough time for yourself, ask yourself what things in your day  are discretionary and  you could actually choose spend your time differently than you have in the past.   Start today and carve out time not “just for yourself” but to do something that makes you feel good.   Don’t go with the routine because it is easier not to change, but change because doing something refreshes you and make your life easier. We each only have 24 hours in a day, but doing something that is just for us, that makes us feel better can make  the rest of the day a much better experience. It is not selfish, it is survival.

Making It Work

One the things that feeds my soul is my creative pursuits.   This new job has made it a little more difficult to feed that outlet.   I work ten hour days in the field and spend my nights away from home.   It has made access to my creative supplies limited and most nights my energy is completely maxed out.    This said, I am not giving up on being more than a worker bee for four days a week.

I always have my camera in my work truck in case I come upon something great driving on the backroads of Montana.    I have also started to explore some of the advance settings available on my smart phone, that I am starting to carry with me when I am out doing field work to capture some of what I see in “my office”.   I discovered just this week my phone has a macro setting, that I can use for close-up photographs.

I thought I might  do more with my writing this summer.   I had hoped to start editing the novel I started in November nights in my motel room. I had hoped to do more travelogue blogging about what things and places in Montana.   So far I have been doing my blogging at home and scheduling them for the next week.   There have been no spontaneous blog posts.  That doesn’t mean there might be one yet in my future.   It is too soon to give up.

I planned to finish binding on three quilts that could be done if they had a binding.   They have been around my house as unfinished projects for way too long.  I imagined that I would finish the bindings in front of the TV in the motel room.  Not having TV at home, I thought I would spend time watching things I don’t get to see at home.    So far I have not found TV that I wanted to watch, so I guess it is okay that  I haven’t even packed a quilt  to take along at this point.   There is so much I have to take each week, a quilt seems like just too much to tote each week.

This week I am adding my sketch book to my collection of personal stuff I take along in my work truck.    I am not sure exactly why.   I don’t seem to have any talent in the drawing arena, but it might be interesting to see what I put in there with a few minutes I hope to carve out when I break for lunch.  Maybe they will be sketches, doodles, a few words or something else.    I will pack some sort of pencil case at this point and call it another grand experiment.

This job is all about doing something out of my comfort zone and exploring life in a way I have never done before.    I have always found that I often do my best thinking when I am being creative, so I am still figuring out ways to make it all work.

Quote

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

 

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Flashback to Celebrating the End of a Century

As we celebrate the end of a year I just had a flash back to how I marked the end of the 20th century.  I received a quilt top I had made with 2000 different fabrics to mark the end of 1999 back in the mail from a friend who had quilted it for me.

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I had long ago forgotten about this quilt, mostly because it turned into an overwhelming project that did not pan out to this wonderful creation I had imagined when I started it.   As we approached the end of the 20th century,  there was a plethora of folks who thought if we swapped fabric that we could all end up with 2000 different fabrics from around the country if not the world.  Then each of us would make an amazing quilt using 2000 fabrics to celebrate the end of the century.

I am not exactly how we all exchanged addresses, but we did.   Each of us sent one another an envelope with 10 squares of different fabrics.   They were suppose to be quilt-quality fabric.  Some of what I received went directly to the trash clearly not quilt quality fabric even for the 1990’s when quilting was in the mist of a reawakening.    I taught quilting and used all sorts of fabrics, but was beginning to explore some art quilting and the new emerging batiks.   I used it as an opportunity to cut up what remained from quilts I had made and trade  it out with others.  Lots of what I received was that classic calico I am not sure they even print any more.

Soon my rural mail box was full of squishies every day.   This is what we called an envelope with 10 squares of fabric.   Some tucked notes in with their squares, explaining the significance of one of their squares.    Several from Canada found fabric honoring their country with the name Canada blaze on the square they sent a print with  the maple leaf that was synonymous  with their country.   One lady who own a bakery in NYC, said she bought special bagel fabric so she could include a square in each package she sent out.    I got one with an ostrich on it from a lady in Australia.   A person from New Orleans found fabric in gold and purple with figures of Mardi Gras, fabric that would likely never be found in northern Michigan.  I got an Asian print from a woman in Japan, long before they became a mainstay option for quilters in the US.    I remember this inspired me to go out and buy fabric that would represent where I lived and enclose a square of fabric with pine needles on it to tell the story of the pines where I lived.

Once I collected my more than 2000 pieces of fabrics, I purged some of what I could not believe that someone sent, or pieces that were a long ways from square, until I pared it down to 2000 pieces of fabric.   Then I thought about design and became overwhelmed by what I had and how to best organize them to sew them together.    I toyed with color rainbows, light vs. dark, designs within designs….but no matter what I came up with my project was huge and I had no way to manage it.   I eventually threw up my hands and just sewed my 2000 squares together.   When I finished it was not this wonderful master quilt I had foreseen.   It was too big for me to quilt I was now over my head again, and whatever inspiration I had when I started this project it was long gone.

I pondered and finally decided that I would send it to my friend, who was also a long arm quilter with the statement, “quilt this puppy and send me a bill.” Now this friend is a perfectionists.   She organizes her fabrics by color and light to dark.   She makes amazing quilts that have an iridescence and luminescent by using that understanding of color and light to make them sparkle.    I am sure she looked at this and want to use it as a dog blanket.    It was bundled up and put in the bottom of  a pile  almost completely forgot about,and she was hoping that the UFO (Unfinished Objects) fairies would come steal this nasty from her closet.   Some how occasionally she found it and we talked about it, but always finding its way back to the bottom of the dark closet.

Just this week it showed up in a box from the UPS man unannounced.   It was like having someone dig out the card you made for your mother in the third grade, framing it and sending it to you.   Oh my!    I called my friend and she used this an experiment in quilting style she had thought about but never tried before…to make her feathers freely come from all different directions on a long arm quilting set up that doesn’t really lend itself to that kind of style.   She said she was glad she tried it but no hurry to do it again, so much trouble.    The quilting is absolutely breathtaking.    It is the star of the quilt.    You want to appreciate this quilt from the backside and the talent of my friend.

Receiving this has taken me back.   This group of squares has provoked memories of the grand experiment.    Looking at them make me I remember a few of the folks who I swapped with.  It reminds me of the talent of friends who introduced me to quilting so many years ago.  It has also let me know how far I have come and the evolution of not only the art of quilting but also of me.

Another one off the List

Yesterday my husband and I visited the Holter Museum in Helena, Montana.   It was on my list of things to visit before I leave Montana.

It was the first time I had been there, though several of my friends had visited it before and it was a highly recommended stop.   We finally made the trip because it had an exhibit of Ansel Adams works and I wanted to see his work once in person.   It had two other exhibits Montana’s Living Landscape and Black Pinto Pony, Monte Yellow Bird.

We arrived to discover that there was no admission charged, a suggested freewill box was by the door along with a guest registry.   I can tell you that a free admission opens the doors to so many who might not otherwise explore art.    I remember years ago as a student in Minnesota, Thursday night at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts was free.   A girl from a small town in Illinois went almost every week because as a student free was good entertainment.  As a young woman with no idea about art I  got to experience the Dutch Masters; learned what the Impressionist were;  see original van gough; saw King Tut and other goodies from his tomb;  saw the works considered to be America Sublime, including  Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran;  see Picasso and other work from modern art, some I learned to like some and others I could never figure out.

Ansel Adams understood the power of cropping.

The gallery was not packed but it had a steady flow of visitors.  I overheard one  visitor say they had never see it so busy.   I enjoyed the landscapes that one has come to associate with Adams, but some of my favorites were of images I had no idea he too.  Portraits and cityscapes.   I always knew from past study that Adams was a master with lens filters, anticipating the moment when to click the shutter, knowing what to crop, and a master in the darkroom.    What I did not know is he had taken photos at the Manzanar Internment Center, when the Japanese Americans were relocated.  He published a book of that work.   He also took some portraits though as you can imagine it wasn’t his favorite submit.   I so enjoyed those, but haven’t be able to find many of those in a Google search to share with you. He also took photos of San Francisco.   Something I would never have imagined.   I so enjoyed getting to know the photographer for more than his famous black and white photos of Yosemite.

The Montana Living Landscapes was a collection of local photographer’s work.   Some of it moved me.  Others of inspired me to be more creative and use my camera more.   Much of it inspired me, and some of it like all art I looked at and said that is art?

This work by Kate Davis clearly qualifies as art.

The last salon had the works of Black Pinto Horse, Monte Yellow Bird: Stories, Traditions and Faith.   It was interesting in that it used old papers as the basis for his art.   It was a traditional Native American work inspired by the paper he found.   They were almost full of subtle nuances that you could only find by looking at all the details and trying to tie the artist work with the paper it was done on.

I so enjoyed my visit I recommend to to anyone.   It is a small enough museum that you don’t need to plan to spend more than an hour or so.      It will be something I will try to take in each time I run to Helena.   Like any museum it will expand your horizons.

My visit the Holter Museum reminds me of why I put access to the arts on my list of criteria when thinking about a place to retire.   I want to continue to learn about the arts and expand my horizons.

Exploring Yourself and Art

After my blog posting on talent I “met” some interesting folks who took on some interesting tasks to explore art.   My posting on the local art teacher, made me revisit this.  Each of these folks  had decided to participate in their art daily.

One of them took pictures daily.  Some of them are pretty spectacular and others are really simple.  What a cool collection of snapshots of your life.  Another of them sketched and posted those sketches in their blog.  Their goal was to have 365 at the end of a year, not necessarily once a day, but a year’s worth.   I can see the moods and evolution of the work already.

What each of them shared with me is that by doing regular art, their creative juices flowed more easily, and their art improved.   It is something that we all need to do take time to embrace our art, be it photography, writing, drawing, painting, quilting or throwing pots.  Allow ourselves time to use and develop our creative talents.