Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Dormant Season

Winter is rough. For a lot of people, these dark, cold months bring lack of energy at best and seasonal depression at worst. I am no exception.

Hiking has brought relief to me through many winters here in Colorado. This winter has been so bitter that my escapes onto the trail have been minimal. I can feel the season creeping into my bones and settling in, making me bundle up in heavier and heavier clothing even while I work in my well-heated house. The urge to take a trip to Taos and soak in some New Mexico sun is overwhelming. But even as I call the B&B and make sure my favorite room is available, the realization that La Veta pass is treacherous to drive right now and the joys of being outdoors in Taos cannot be experienced as well in winter keeps me from spending the money.

I read books by Julia Cameron almost as a religious act, to reconnect to myself and Spirit -- she has a way with words that reaches me deeply. She refers to winter as the dormant months, the months in which we should take advantage of the stillness and settle down just a bit. Of course, she also recognizes that those of us with restless natures find this as difficult as walking on water. She suggests small daily bouts of creative work to keep us moving. And following her advice, for the most part I do something creative every day. I write here or in my journals, I sketch, or I pick up my knitting needles.

But the deeper we get into winter, the more of a struggle even those small tasks become. Then I must supplement creative work with tasks that support creative work. Today I called and left a message with the woman who runs the local A.R.T.S. Anonymous group. The day before that I put the next Boulder Art Association meeting on my calendar for next week as an incentive to get out and connect with my community. These tasks seem minuscule alongside the notion of writing a book or completing a painting -- but they are essential in maintaining my sanity through this season of dormancy.

I know my nature well enough to know that as the ice on the trails begins to crack and melt, my creative energy and motivation will once again return. I go through this every year, like clockwork. I just have to hang on and keep up the little daily tasks that maintain my sanity.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Adventures in Modeling Clay

Jeremy made the bear gargoyle and I made the bear paw. Yeah, in this medium my husband totally kicks my ass.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009 and New Artwork

Wednesday we went to Jeremy's parents' house to spend time with his family for the holidays. We had a great meal together -- Janet made sandwiches on her panini-maker, and Jeremy made fried pickles. We spent some quality time with the nieces and spoiled the twin nephews rotten. What's great about two babies is you don't have to take turns. But what's exhausting about two babies is you can't take turns. LOL

The drive back to Lafayette was harrowing Wednesday night. The Springs hardly got any snow, and the highway between the Springs and Denver was pretty well plowed. But once you got into Denver, the plows stopped. You'd think it would be the other way around, right? It was scary, and I'm glad Jeremy was driving. He's the best driver I've ever known, and there isn't anyone else I would trust on those roads.

Thursday, Christmas Eve, we went and saw Avatar at the theater in the afternoon. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Go see it. Now. So well done, so completely engrossing. Later on that night we went to a Christmas Eve contemplative service at the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I've been wanting to check them out, and this was a great opportunity. The people were SO nice and welcoming, and the service was beautiful. I believe I'll be going back next Sunday for the regular service. I love how they include and incorporate all spiritual beliefs. That kind of open-heartedness is so lacking in the world anymore. Finding it is always refreshing.

After the service, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. Not too many people had lights up in this area, and I was pretty surprised at that. We watched It's a Wonderful Life when we got home -- neither of us had ever seen it before.

Christmas day was absolute heaven. This was our first -- and probably last -- holiday just the two of us. We took full advantage. Jeremy brought me breakfast in bed, which was just the best gift ever! Then we lounged around in sweats, watched holiday movies, and Jeremy experimented in the kitchen. His brown sugar apples were to die for.

Today we went out and spent some of our gift certificates. I had my Meininger's art store card burned out in 15 minutes, but I got some acrylic and watercolor paints I've been needing, some modeling clay and tools, some texture gel (for texturizing canvases), and pre-cut art cards. OMG. When I started doing ATCs (artist trading cards), I was cutting all of my own board and it was SUCH a pain in the butt. Meininger's carries pre-cut cards made of illustration board, watercolor paper, you name it. I was so happy to find that! One thing I wanted to get that I didn't have money for this time was a big set of Prismacolor pencils. Next time, though! I also got an electric fireplace from Lowe's today. My studio downstairs tends to be on the cool side because it's at garden level and it's got a big north-facing window. But this little bad boy not only looks awesome, but heats the entire room in under 3 minutes.

Tonight my college dorm-mate, Erin, and her husband Shane came over. They were in town visiting her parents in Broomfield for Christmas. I was so excited, because I haven't seen Erin in literally years! They came over and we gave them a quick tour of the house, then we went to Efrain's for dinner. Jeremy and I had never been there before -- and we won't be going back again. The service was awful, and the food wasn't good enough to make up for it. But catching up with Erin and Shane was so fun. I miss them terribly, and I need to get my lazy butt out to Kansas to visit them soon.

After they left, I shut myself in my studio and worked on this double-layer painting I started a week ago. I had already laid down the frisket, so today I painted over everything in cobalt violet and then spattered it with phthalo blue. Note to self: spatter goes way farther than you think it will. I now have a phthalo-blue-spattered lamp and paintbrush cup. I'm letting the paint dry overnight, then I'll pull up the masking and see how it turned out. I also got a plywood board from Meininger's today, and I put a couple of layers of gesso on it tonight. It needs several more layers before it's workable -- and I'm not sure what I'm painting on it yet. But I can tell you I will be using a texturizing gel on the board before I do any detailed painting.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Family Time

My parents and brothers came up to visit us in Lafayette on Saturday. This was our holiday family time, since Jeremy and I are having Christmas by ourselves this year. Jeremy made fried pickles and I made a Mexican casserole and banana bread -- all of which was a hit. We watched a movie, played games, cranked out some Sing Star, and exchanged gifts. It was a really wonderful day.

My family has always moved around a lot. When my brothers and I were kids and now when we're all adults, we don't last more than a few years in any location. We've all moved apart, but only recently have we all moved close together again. I know it won't last long -- it never does -- so these times I get with my whole family together are incredibly special to me.

Here are a few pics from the day:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Art Baby Steps

I am trying to get back to my art. Not just painting, but writing, drawing, music, all of it. I have been struggling for many reasons, but my biggest hurdle has been the overwhelming desire to get back to where I was.

Before all the drama of this summer, I was painting all the time, picking at the piano, writing every day. I got up at 6:30 in the morning and journaled while the sun peeked into the living room where I sat. My paintings were the best they'd ever been. I was constantly inspired and didn't have to fight my work. Well, this is the way I remember it, at least. I suppose my memory could be embellishing itself a bit. But that brings me to my struggle today. I don't want to start from scratch. I don't want baby steps. I was THERE. I just want to go back.

But that's not how art works. Once you get out of the habit or practice, you have to start back a few steps. It's like returning to the gym after a long absence. Your creativity and habits need to work their way back to full strength.

So as much as it pains me, I'm taking baby steps. I'm working on a new type of painting using two layers of paint buffered with masking fluid. I'll post pictures once I have it done. And my writing... well, that's still an itch that hasn't been scratched. I let NaNoWriMo slide by this year without so much as a nod.

I will be writing more here after the new year. And no, it's not some kind of new year's resolution. I just can't talk about things as much here as I'd like until certain things have had time to ripen. But soon, dear readers, I won't be posting just once a week anymore!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Tail and Hoopla

As if Loki wasn't enough of a pain in the @$$, she's got yet another quirk that's going to cost us in sanity and possibly money. The vet calls it "happy tail", but there's nothing happy about it. When Loki gets excited and wags her tail, she smacks it so hard into walls, chair legs, people legs, whatever, that she actually breaks her own tail open. Our house looked like a crime scene on a particularly brutal episode of CSI tonight. I'm talking blood splatter on EVERY POSSIBLE SURFACE OF THIS HOUSE. But not only is it extremely annoying when she does this, it can also cause her to get an infection in her tail. And guess what -- canine antibiotics don't come cheap.

We're getting desperate. We duct-taped a sock around her tail the last few times this happened, but it never stayed on long. We're going to talk to the vet about amputation, but we're pretty sure it's not going to be an option at her age. Frankly, her tail is a danger to small children. And I'm not being a smartass about that. If you've ever felt the crack of a pit bull's tail, you understand what I mean when I say a child could easily lose an eye. So for everyone reading this post, take heed -- if you get a breed with a particularly strong tail (pit bulls and Great Danes are two breeds prone to "happy tail"), GET IT CROPPED WHEN THEY ARE PUPPIES!!! I used to think it was cruel, but now I understand why it is necessary.

On that happy note, my weekend. Saturday I went down to the Springs for a hair appointment. Cheryl met me for lunch at the Ritz, and we caught up for a bit. Then I stopped at my parents' house on my way back north. Uneventful, really, but nice to see loved ones. When I got home, Jeremy went out and rented Accidental Husband for us to watch. Don't bother, folks. Then I caught up on my reading (finished Secondhand Spirits and started Casting Spells) and did some knitting.

Sunday was all about Christmas shopping. We don't have a lot of money this year, so it's not as much fun shopping. Usually we use this time of year to spoil our loved ones. It's fun picking out the perfect gift for someone. But this year we're having to be a bit more frugal. Boo to that.

I sent out my holiday cards yesterday. You know, I grew up with my parents getting holiday cards from their friends and family with letters and pictures and such tucked in, and they in turn sent out holiday cards with our family photo and a letter of what we had all been up to that year. So when I sent out my first set of holiday cards last year, I followed in that tradition and wrote a letter to go with the cards. Although none of the holiday cards Jeremy and I had been receiving had included letters or pictures (though my friend Jennifer always sends a picture of her dog in a funny hat, which I so love to see every year), it never crossed my mind not to write a holiday letter to go with the cards. Call it childhood brainwashing, I dunno. But I was pretty shocked at the reaction. People were OVERJOYED to get a letter. They talked about it at family gatherings, chatted me up about it when I saw them, and generally freaked out (in a happy way). Of course, that means I'm going to do that every year, now, because you know I love a good hoopla.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Holiday Pics

A couple of pictures to share. First, me and Della at the Holiday Tea with our li'l trees:

The tea was so fun! They had plates of cookies and pastries, all the tea you could drink, and the most amazing storyteller. This woman was the type of storyteller that got really into the story, doing the different voices and such -- I haven't gotten to enjoy something like that since I was a kid! She told probably a dozen stories over the hour she was up on stage -- stories of the season, stories of the solstice, a few little kid stories, even a Robert Frost poem sang to the tune of "Green Sleeves" -- and it really got me in the holiday spirit.

The second picture I want to share is the tree Jeremy and I put up last night:

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Elf Hunt

Jeremy got home from Kansas City (not St. Louis -- I am correcting my last post) last night. Our new house is only about 20 minutes from DIA, so his drive was easy. I had Chinese food waiting when he walked in the door.

Matt, Katie and Kenzie came up to visit us today. There was a holiday festival going on in downtown Lafayette. There were live reindeer and a lot of the businesses were having open houses with cookies and cider and such. First stop was the reindeer. They were really docile as people hovered around their pen. Here's a pic:

Then we walked up to Mojo's to check out their fair trade sale and grab a drink. There we learned about the elf hunt. Oh yes, there's an elf hunt in Lafayette! Participating downtown businesses have elves hiding in their stores. You can pick up a booklet at any of the shops that has a list of the businesses participating, a picture of each elf, and a little rhyme with clues as to their locations. Then you go into each store and look for the elf. When you find it, you get a stamp in your book. Kenzie LOVED this. She got several stamps as we walked around today.

We went to The Huckleberry for dinner. The last time Jeremy and I went there, the waiter told us the veggie burgers were the best in the world -- so this time I had to try it. OMG. Homemade with beans, nuts, veggies and tempeh, that veggie burger was insanely good! We got slices of blackberry pie, German chocolate cake and lemon curd cake to go, too. The blackberry pie was the closest thing to my mother's recipe that I've ever tasted. We brought the treats back to our house and ate them while watching Four Christmases. It was a really funny movie, but I think we all laughed more because we could totally relate to the family holiday craziness!

Tomorrow Della and I are going to the Holiday Tea at the Lafayette library. I have no idea what to expect, but it sounded like fun. We'll see! I will definitely be wearing long johns under my dress, though... it's FREEZING out there!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

LOL Cats New Moon

Jeremy is in St. Louis until tomorrow. I'm bored. So bored, in fact, that this made my night -- so thanks to Cheryl for sharing...

LOL Cats New Moon

Oh, and on another note, it's so freaking cold and icy outside I want to drink hot chocolate and stay in bed all day tomorrow.