Freezer therapy...

Pastel on paper from aeons ago…

Pastel on paper from aeons ago…

Most of us have heard the story of the guy who adopted an ill-mannered parrot. The parrot had a hard life so the guy vowed to woo the parrot into changing with unfailing kindness. No matter what he tried the parrot was incorrigible. The parrot swore abusively, was rude, disrespectful and yet the guy held forth with forbearance. The parrot mocked and ridiculed the very person who saved him. This went on for some time with no effort on the part of the parrot to repent and change. One particularly difficult day, the guy lost his patience and tossed the parrot into the freezer hoping the parrot would cool off a bit. A couple of minutes later he opened the freezer and the parrot sidestepped docilely up his arm.

“Sir,” the parrot said, “I’m profoundly sorry for my ill-mannered behavior after you were kind enough to take me in. What I said and did was rude and loutish. It will never happen again.”

Very quietly the parrot asked,

“Sir, may I venture to ask what the chicken did?”

We drop the friend who is all about themselves, adroitly negotiate the intrusive co-worker, confront the abusive boss, and have at hand numerous ways to leave the narcissistic lover.

So. Why do we let our critic beat us up every time we attempt to make art, write the novel, play the concert, design a building or invent an easier way to install plumbing?

Here’s the news flash. The critic is ours to manage not the other way around, so why do we tolerate the disparaging voice in our head? We wouldn’t consider letting someone talk to us that way in any other situation and yet we do the dance with our critic, and possibly our shrink who is making a lot of money off of a non-existent figment of our imagination.

I’ve read we should give our critic a persona and name. Identify the gender of our critic. Really? In the same amount of time we could make work to get the happy hormones flowing. In the last century we’ve invented as many propitiations to our emotional insecurities as our ancient ancestors did to the volcanos. We’re supposed to eschew victim mentality, yet we let the critic badger us to creative death. Is there a certain cachet if we have an especially cranky critic?

Why spend any time on this dark-side brain candy? The critic only exists as we allow it to. If the critic is ours to create let’s conjure up a well-mannered, cultured colleague. The critic must be trained as we’ve trained our family, friends and coworkers to respect our boundaries. When we need an edit or critique, we can invite the critic in as a trusted collaborator on our terms. Under those conditions, the expertise our critic offers is invaluable. Any other time, the critic should live in the freezer.

Everyone's a critic...

Some of you have already seen this series of photos. One of the top-all-time-favorite stellar moments in the city. What doesn’t show was the week before. The same squirrel vying for attention with the journal I was writing in. This was the second time the curious little rodent showed up and a friend captured the moment. Thanks Sarah @makelemonaide.

Some of you have already seen this series of photos. One of the top-all-time-favorite stellar moments in the city. What doesn’t show was the week before. The same squirrel vying for attention with the journal I was writing in. This was the second time the curious little rodent showed up and a friend captured the moment. Thanks Sarah @makelemonaide.

A couple of artist friends recently questioned the point of spending their studio time trekking outside to paint or draw and expressed feeling pressure to produce “real work” for sale. I spend roughly 70% of my art making time in a studio and can attest inspiration abounds whenever and wherever we have a making idea and decide to act on it.

The interaction with even proximate nature, i.e. sidewalks through a city park, have nothing technically to contribute to the latest studio portrait or abstract. They have everything to do with keeping us alive and interested. Studies show getting out of our comfort zone increases our creativity.

For several years, at my favorite painting park, one goose slowly waddled in as close as possible and stretched its neck until it could look over the edge of my knee to eye the sketchbook in my lap. Stood there. Stared while the goose pals moved on. This happened enough times I could rule out the seeking free food theory - especially after I explained I don’t feed the Wild Things people bread because most of it will kill humans let alone the birds. The goose hung out for as long as I painted and found me every time I went to the garden. I’ve felt sad since it hasn’t been around last season or this spring. Either the goose found a girlfriend, met an unfortunate demise or didn’t like the direction my art making was going.

I’m posting a painting soon of a heron who let me photo and sketch him for over an hour from a few feet away. Then, the beautiful creature literally followed me from tree to tree while I walked through the park. When I left, he escorted me out to the gate. Some say herons can be mean and to take care. I feel companionship. I’m not worried. Watching birds in their natural space can teach us a lot about balance in our lives. Especially watching a heron do Tree Pose for an hour.

Last week, I went out for the first time this very cold spring. Easel set up, deep into the moment. Gradually an awareness of sound, plops at regular intervals around where I was standing, brought me back. My first thought was I don’t want bird poop on the page or down my neck. I investigated and discovered the miscreant was a squirrel perched on a high tree branch pitching rather large, and when they found target painful, seed pods. Aiming. On purpose. I don’t know if it was the same squirrel from the photo op last year saying hello or a stranger squirrel commenting on the quality of my painting. Everyone’s a critic.

The interaction got my attention. I researched the characteristics and behaviors of squirrels to ponder the example they may offer for my art and life. One of the most applicable learnings is squirrels have a lot of fun while they are working hard. Point taken.

These informative experiences are available for all of us if we are willing to be aware and respectful when they occur. Walking the neighborhood, the trees in an area about five blocks from my front door kept catching my eye. Motivated by fresh curiosity about the configuration for a possible painting, I pressed further into the growth and stumbled on a natural area! Thirteen years I’ve walked by. The beauty of the few acres with snow falling sparked a new painting series.

When we venture out in the world, we find surprises. These may become our primary subjects or the energy of discovery may suffuse other work. We develop a personal connection to the image when we make a record with sketches or photos. We own the piece with our whole being and all of our senses contribute if we choose to bring the moment to life again through our art.

If studio painting is your thing, I fully support you and go back to work.

If you have disabilities discouraging you from being out and about, know there are many safe parks with paved walks, easy parking and access. Paint the reflections of apartment windows across the street or the florals in the local grocery store.

If you want to join the conversation or have questions, please leave them below. I’d like to hear from you.

Next, some thoughts on how changing up occasionally in the studio benefits our creative work.

An extra hour...

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

Palmer, Alaska has a current population around 7,000 ish so imagine how modest the population was in the dark ages when I was young. The Dark Ages used to be the ten centuries prior to the Renaissance. Now the Dark Ages is reclassified as anything before Apple. Palmer is located in the Matanuska-Susitna valley, the Tigris and Euphrates of The Last Frontier. The 43 mile drive from Palmer to Anchorage on Highway 1 is about 45 minutes on a good day. Before Sam Hill’s revolutionary vision of paved roads made it to the Far North, the trek between Palmer and Anchorage seemed interminable. Of course, it was Much Longer the reverse direction.

Now, Highway 1 runs north and south while the moose still run east and west. The ineffective merger creates confusion for moose and drivers alike. Add snow and it’s a 3-D, real time Dodgem. On any given day, part of the scenery is at least one car whose driver lost. Even in good weather, Alces Americanus may unexpectedly become a new hood ornament.

Ted Pyrah commuted almost three decades from Palmer to teach in the Culinary Department at University of Alaska at Anchorage - in addition to running a farm, now the largest U-Pick in the Mat-Su valley. In a passing comment about his morning, Ted shared one idea that’s stuck with me and changed how I view personal time and contribution. Thank you, Ted.

He told me he built in an hour every day specifically to be available to help people in trouble along the road during his drive to or from work. He said if he didn’t need the time he had a whole unplanned hour available every day.

People need help at the most inconvenient times. If we’ve allotted time to help into our schedule, we have the time available. Yes, sometimes the incident doesn’t fit the agenda, however, it all works out. We really do have all the time we need.

Footnote: On a serious note, Moose are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet and may cause serious injury or death in altercations or collisions. Moose kills are given to the first-up organization or individual on a roster to harvest the meat. Alaska is not keeping up with the rest of the world by installing animal overpasses. Overpasses attempt to alleviate human and animal suffering, however, it hasn’t yet been determined who will teach moose to use them. The animals were here first.

The best laid plans...

Collagraph approximately 22x15” Cracks me up. Tend to forget the image will be in reverse when I plan a print. A definite signal to practice right-side-really-on-the-left by making more collagraphs..

Collagraph approximately 22x15” Cracks me up. Tend to forget the image will be in reverse when I plan a print. A definite signal to practice right-side-really-on-the-left by making more collagraphs..

Why do our resolutions tank so soon? Actually, mine haven’t since I stopped making them - a guaranteed win to start any given year. TaDa!

Resolutions are 4000 years plus of embedded genetic coding driving us to promise the gods we’ll be good if they don’t rain destruction on us. A few centuries ago, resolutions became a part of western religious observances as a way to determine once a year if our moral compass still functions. The irony is not lost. No wonder our intent backfires when we have an ancient ritual driving us while society has moved on. Our “resolutions” are on a slippery slope to start with. When we understand and separate how much of our decisions, responses and feelings genuinely belong to us from what is ancestral, cultural, historical knee-jerk genetic programming, we stand a pretty good chance of handling our life as it comes. 

The current iteration of manifesting leads to the same end if we treat the Universe as our personal concierge, especially when other people are involved in our preferred outcome. Herding humans who have no clue what they’re supposed to do for and with us is like minding mice at a crossroads. My rule of thumb? What is my business, another’s business and the gods’ business. Thank you, Susan Grace Beekman. I’m over my boundaries if I’m involved in any business but mine. Although, I have plenty of opinions when asked. 

Limiting the Universe to the parameters of our knowledge base and imagination also becomes problematic in manifestation. Most Alaskan’s don’t know how to swim. The 9 months of ice and below freezing water during the few weeks of summer may have something to do with this. When I went “Outside” to university, the apartment had a pool and I decided to learn. Every morning and night I faithfully repeated the intention while I imagined with every fibre of my being backstroking across the pool - primarily because I couldn’t figure out how to put my face into the water and breathe at the same time. I can still do a terrific backstroke, although I need a life vest to snorkel in water deeper than my knees. Now, I petition the Universe for the right next step and move forward on my desires one right next step at a time leaving the path and future open to coincidences or shifts along the way. We all know Yoda stated empirically, “Do. Or not not. There is no try.”  

So, we’re circling back to the last post. When we consider our goals and make resolutions have we taken into account our personal rhythms and consulted our heart for preferences? What has real meaning for us? How are we attempting to propitiate the gods by offering sacrifice? How many of our goals initiate from guilt? Are our goals really Great Aunt Harriet’s desire for us? What would we rather do to meet our need to improve while being soul happy? Speaking of happiness, when was the last time we were happy and what were we doing we’ve forgotten to do? 

Goals rarely work as well as they could when we don’t account for our feelings. How many times have we attained an objective only to realize the outcome didn’t make us feel well? Or, how is the intent helping us avoid issues central to our life mission? How many aspirations begin in guilt because society dictates a mainstream norm and our path may be in the margins? 

Our life breathes a huge sigh of relief when our personal integrity is supported by our direction. 

If you want to join the conversation or have questions, please leave them below. I'd like to hear from you.

Fractals and factions...


Deep in the corner of a Christmas box, I found a kaleidoscope, an inexpensive trinket bought on a whim to remind me of childhood. The magic is in smoke and mirrors, creating fractals. As I turned the barrel, I had a fleeting thought of how the planet and people on it resemble the toy. We are each a beautiful color, part of the world design. Yet, we divide into factions, each group believing their cause is the one to "fight" for the right to be right for. We classify and categorize and specialize each other and our alliances. We scramble to compete for cash to fund our pet project. The Big Bad Other isn't destroying us, they don't have to. They are using the divisiveness between us to their advantage. What if we took the word fight entirely from our vocabulary? What if we channeled the same level of energy to respect each other, rotate our opinions a few degrees, and coalesce into a bigger picture of cooperation, consensus and unified whole? Technically fractals go on forever and don't end at the edge of our myopia. 

Ah, family...

My dysfunctional family of origin starts to look better and better when I consider even the mob is designated a “family.” Left to my own devices, I’d be the consigliere in my clan, however, they voted me off the island decades ago. 

The myth is families are there for you when things get tough and are interested enough to share the good stuff when there’s no drama to keep the story moving. Family resonates the ancient hope of the tribe to remain safe when the lions prowl. 

Or not. Sometimes, they pour mesquite barbecue on your feet while you’re sleeping and feed you to the big cats. 

Distance, death, difference of ideology, abuse ~ many events may  disrupt a blood family. 

In the end, the decision is ours to surround ourselves with the proxy family of our choosing ~ or those who have chosen us ~ and remember what George Burns said…

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” 

Achieving the impossible...


It’s faster work to walk on water when all of the conditions are right. Possible when the seas are rough, although the effort may be taxing and the results take longer. Aligning ourselves with our inner knowing and tracking our intentions allows us to achieve what we often originally think is impossible. 

Cracking the Code...

I’ve been totally surprised when men stop me in public to compliment the floral shoes, on downtown city streets or plein air painting in the great out of doors. Women, on the other hand, comment on the vibrant stripes. The polarity of opinion appears to serve as a metaphor for the distinct differences between men and women. Perhaps the shoes symbolize the way we view ourselves and our projections for the opposite sex. I may have discovered the next Rosetta stone, a cipher for communication between Mars and Venus. If I can crack the code the Nobel Peace Prize is next. So close. 

Finding the way...

A friend of mine sweeps into town every couple of months.  She’s flirting with Portland, thinking of a move, not ready to make the commitment. She doesn’t really drive here.

I’ve lived in the city for most of a decade, getting to know my way around the quadrants as long as it doesn’t involve I-5. I’ve become an expert at creative avoidance navigation and back ways. 

Both freeway challenged, we were on an adventure to see the amazing play, The Outgoing Tide at the Coho. Point A was Wilsonville, Point B ~ 23rd and Raleigh. For the first time, I drove north on I-5, to 405 and the theatre.  

We had great directions and as we traveled farther into the heart of the city, the signage was more frequent and the markers we’d been given hadn’t appeared yet.  Attempting reassurance, my friend declared:

“They always write way more than you need on a freeway. You don’t need the part for everyone else, you only need the part that tells you where you’re going.”

Words to live by. 

When life is flashing past, sometimes it’s difficult to travel our own path with so many other  trails intersecting while we move at breakneck speeds. Easy to get lost, or intimidated, or sidetracked by something shiny blinking in the distance. In the end, we find our path by tuning in to personal discernment and reading the directions intended for us. Only for us. On our very distinctive route through life. The road only we can follow. 

Just ignore all the signs that aren’t meant to get you where you’re going.

Easy Peasy. 

Objects in mirror...

I use the bathroom mirror as a huge whiteboard… because it’s big enough for the big ideas I have first thing in the morning and because I’ve been yelled at since I was three for writing on the walls. This statement is part of the current intention. 

The Hubs was driving me to an event and I was eating worms over a perceived lack of time, energy et al.

He:  (Attempting to remind me of the affirmation) “What do you read in your mirror?”

Me: (Rousing from the gloom to glance at the side mirror) “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

I was in Hyperdrive speeding toward Venus while he was waving frantically from Mars. 

After considering for a couple of days, I realized the mirror is indeed a teacher especially when we understand with our soul the intentions we set really are closer than they appear. 


Suspending disbelief...

Oct 2012, graphite drawing

After two days, 860 pages (I’m always polite about reading the acknowledgments) and a struggle to learn the language, customs, geography and history of dwarves, elves, Urgals and dragons, I crashed landed back in reality this morning.

Suspending disbelief for an extended period is like a two week vacation in Neverland.

A bit more death and destruction than I prefer but I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re fighting an evil king-magician-spellcaster person who didn’t know for a couple of centuries what kind of pain he caused. The dragons hook up but sadly for the hero (and us) Eragon floats off into the sunset alone. Although, with a life expectancy of 1k years plus, he still has a chance to get the girl, or elf, or dwarf, or ….  Four books in umpty-dozen languages and a movie under his magic belt at age 27. A great start for Christopher Paolini author of “Inheritance.”

Suspending disbelief is a great tool for creatives.

In the dark...

My spouse was already out cold. I’d almost completed the rituals in preparation for rest and stood at the side of the bed after a very long day. I flicked on the light, set the phone alarm, applied lip balm, fished the sleep mask from the top drawer and skimmed it into position across my eyes effectively blocking all visual information. I kicked off the slippers and slid into bed, pulled up the covers and the universal sigh of “I finally get to lie down” emanated from somewhere deep in my soul. Blissful deprivation with the relative quiet of evening in a suburb of twenty thousand people right over the back fence from 2 plus million. I’d curled into my favorite dream position and was dropping off when the voice came out of the dark, very close to my ear…

“So, Zorro, you gonna sleep with the light on all night long?”

I’ve mentioned before our bodies are the evolutionary product of thousands of millennia and physically our responses are slow to catch up and cope with the myriad of technological stimulations we’re subjected to. Back in the day, we slept in caves and didn’t have to deal with blinking cell phones, glow from alarm clocks, computers downloading at three a.m. and street lights seeping glare through the blinds. I’m told there are even those who sleep with the television on. In the bedroom.

The consequences of these exterior conditions are hard on the health of our still indigenous bodies. Melatonin is a hormone necessary for the regulation of numerous critical physiological functions. Melatonin doesn’t trigger and function properly in the presence of a light source, no matter how small. Recently, studies suggest women who sleep with lights on have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Yep. It’s serious.

One of the solutions, when we don’t have the option to regulate our environment, is a simple sleep mask.

So, turn off the lights and keep the sword handy, just in case.