Thursday, March 29, 2012

Silence is Golden

Once upon a time, in a life not so long ago, I went back to school to audit classes.  That means I attended lectures and read the material and no one held me accountable. No papers to write, no exams to sit through- just the unsullied experience of learning for learning’s sake.  Of the few classes I audited, the one that still whispers to me occasionally was the one in which we studied the art of Thomas Doran.  Doran painted gargantuan canvases of America’s most breathtaking scenes:  oceans, mountain ranges and the Grand Canyon.  He brought Mother Nature’s most violent palette and ambitious silhouettes to audiences who would never witness the beauty themselves.  But the beauty he depicts cradles terror in her arms.  This duality of nature, the awe-inspiring beauty and terror is sublime.

I am not using hyperbole when I describe his art as sublime, but am referring to the definition of sublime as Edmund Burke expressed it.   When something has the ability to hold the light and the dark simultaneously, the beauty and the danger, it is said to be sublime.

Why has the concept of sublimity taken root this morning?  Certainly the weather has something to do with it.  Tulsa has a way of lulling us into an idyllic state of mind.  One in which we plant a myriad of flowering shrubs, trees and plants.  While intoxicated by the heady fragrances of our newly mowed and landscaped Edens, we furnish our outdoor spaces with furniture and kitchens.  We sip our chilled Chardonnay and thank the heavens that we live somewhere like Tulsa.  We think we will spend the season outdoors, like those folks in California.  But the tornado sirens break our reverie, and the deafening buzz of a hundred winged needles inking our bodies in itchy red welts hastens our retreat to the artificially cooled confines of our living rooms where Netflix and reality television faithfully await our return.

I think the real reason I am contemplating the sublime today has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with my telephone.  It rang once yesterday.  Once.  I spent my day painting and caulking, and I washed a couple loads of laundry.  I watched a portion of my online art class.

So while sipping this morning’s latte and taking measure of the golden silences I have enjoyed this past week I also recalled the deafening aspect of silence.  When the silence is so loud we will say or do anything to shatter it.  I experienced one of those insignificant but awkward silences at a party recently.  A woman I know in passing saw me and our eyes locked.  She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came forth.  I feel sure my lower jay dropped as if to speak.  But my brain supplied no words.  Like two fish we stood gaping at one another for a moment.  Then we closed our mouths, smiled at one another, and moved on.  The commentator sitting just above my right temple shrieked, “Awkward!”  I can live with that.  I am learning to sit with the awkward silence.

There is also the immobilizing aspect of silence, the one that paralyzes us in bouts of depression or loss.  Hopefully it is an aspect of silence we encounter only rarely.  But its duality, the ability to terrify and immobilize or elate and inspire us, confers sublimity to silence.

So today, I am giving Silence its due.  Thank you silence.

But anyone who knows me knows that I can’t be silent long.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rays of Sunshine

It's been tough to find the sunshine through all the clouds and rain this week.  I have struggled all week to find those bright rays that make the most insignificant moments radiate with the beauty that only the present can hold.  I have made a conscious effort to keep my purpose in mind, even when I needed to be elsewhere.

Friday ushered in Spring Break here in Tulsa.  Rather than travel we have remained home, which a homebody like myself doesn't mind at all!  Especially when there are new crafty toys waiting for me.  But Spring Break for my family means doctor visits- lots of doctor visits!  It's a good thing we are all healthy, because I cannot fathom spending my life in doctors' offices.  For those of you who don't know, my daughter broke her elbow in February and that means orthopedic doctors and physical therapists (twice weekly).  Add to that dermatologists for other complaints.  Additionally, my Spring Break didn't actually begin until 2:00 pm on Monday when I submitted my yearbook for publication.  That was a moment to celebrate!

So in the midst of deadlines, service calls, and crazy schedules, laundry, hungry stomachs, and a to-do list that nags at me constantly, there were days I had to count my blessings very intentionally.  And I am so glad I did.  Since my Thursday blog posting is my way of checking in each week, I would like to share my list with you.
             1.   That first cup of coffee while everyone else is still asleep.  This week I had to get up pretty early to capture this moment.  But when I did manage to roll out of bed and grope my way to the kitchen, I took the time to sketch and enjoy the quiet before the storm. (I am attempting to sketch my moments of happiness.)
             2.  A visit from my FABULOUS sister-in-law.  We always enjoy one another's company and she shares my crafty passions.  It's such a shame she lives in Dallas.  (This was a double blessing since she brought new craft toys for me!  Check out the card below.)
             3.  Church on Sunday.  This Sunday we focused on meditation and its healing qualities.  Those rubbery relaxed minutes afterward intensified the beauty of the sun coming through the chapel windows with the spring blossoms lacing its edges.
             4.  My beautiful and supportive family.

I know that my chaos is not unique.  We all have appliances that sputter to a standstill, calendars that fill up behind our backs, children who need our love and attention, and homes that seem to spawn filth and clutter at an alarming rate.  But while you battle the everyday battle this week, take a moment to breathe deeply and think about those rays of sunshine that pierce the clouds.

Today's image is a birthday card I created with some of this week's rays of sunshine!  The image is a digital stamp from Dilly Beans, and I just LOVE her!  The card background is created from supplies from Pink Paislee.  You can expect to see more projects with these supplies.  I can't wait to try them ALL.  If you want more detailed information on the products or techniques I used, please email me or post a request in the comment section.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taming the Tree

The early morning’s cuppa brew is nearly gone and my brain is still fuzzy.  I keep waiting for the whir of organized effort to kick in.  But as of yet, the only noise is the dysfunctional chatter of wheels spinning and cogs clicking independent of one another.  I blame it on Daylight Savings.  Who freely gives up an hour of precious sleep, especially in the spring when the prolonged daylight inspires us to pack just a few more line items into our epic to-do list?

As many of you know, I am struggling with a yearbook deadline this week.  Nevertheless, I assessed some of my fears this past week and met them head-on.  Don’t laugh when I tell you that one of my fears came dressed as a Yaupan Holly.  The tree and I have a history- a sordid history of weeding, pruning, cursing, and upon occasion wondrous fascination with the wildlife it harbors.  To make a long story short, I finally took the gardener’s saw and pruning shears to it.  The alterations were long overdue, but for the past year I fretted that I would butcher the tree and be the laughing-stock of the street.  An honest look at the shabby state of affairs in my front yard made me realize how unfounded my fears were.  And after all, what if I did ruin the tree?  I could get rid of it.  I feared for the feathered families living in it- but managed to avoid destroying any nests.

My second little victory this week can be found in the pages of my sketch book.  As I explore more of my artistic or creative impulses I often hide behind the fear and insecurity of my own preconceived notions about my ability.  What nonsense!  There can be no harm in putting pencil to paper.  So, I forced myself to get up a little earlier than usual this week to sketch.  With my morning caffeine to cheer me on I reminded myself that nobody has to see my sketches, and I can even throw them away.  Imagine my surprise when I actually liked what I saw.  It’s a starting point anyway, and I hope to share them with you soon.

Did you step out on the ledge this week? 

I had hoped to share some art with you this week.  But since my sketches and my newly trimmed tree are the fruits of my labor this week, I will just have to be happy sharing another one of my recent creations. I received word that the new dyes I ordered have finally shipped.  I can hardly wait!  Until then, meet my Little Mermaid.  She is a Tiddly Inks image which I pieced, painted, and applied to canvas.  Her tail is created from hole punches. 

Keep on stretching your limits and come find me again next Thursday.  Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Feel the Fear

photograph by Renee Griffin
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” – Jessica Swift*         

This quote grabbed me by the collar and shook me to the bones.  Not because it’s particularly poetic, but because I recognized the visceral truth in it.  I will not presume to speak for others, but can only speak of my own experiences.  Close inspection of those experiences made me realize that if there is no fear it is because I am entrenched in my comfort zone.
It is so much easier to walk the worn path than to blaze a new trail.  But that worn trail will always end in mediocrity.  I have no qualms singling out mediocrity in the world around me, but daring to decry my own is difficult.  It’s so much easier to blame others- work, school, kids, little wild fires that need immediate attention.  But what truly perpetuates mediocrity is fear:  fear of failure, fear of discomfort, fear of criticism, fear of the unknown. 

I read Jessica’s words and the critic within heard the challenge.  I will embrace the fear and then, do it anyway.  In the spirit of pushing my limits and quieting that dark doubt that fear induces,  I bought a new set of water colors and ordered the ink sprays I’ve been secretly coveting for the past six months.   And just to make sure that fear itself hears me, I will invite you to view my creations.
Don’t leave me hanging though, I want to hear from those of you who also hear the challenge.  What are you inspired to do despite the nagging fears?

 “Queen of Fork  ‘n’ Cork” is one of my earliest forays into mixed media artwork.  I created it at the culmination of a very ambitious collaborative effort to raise money for our elementary school .  The canvas was a gift from several of us to our fearless leader, and I hope she doesn’t mind that I have shared it here with you.

Whatever you feel inspired to do this week, I hope you find beauty in the process.  While undertaking the daunting task of staining our new wooden fence this past week, I set aside the irritation that stems from tedium to appreciate the beauty around me.  The Bermuda is waking from its winter slumber, the forsythia have donned their spring attire, and the Bradford Pears have exploded in a shower of white.  So don’t just feel the fear, feel the beauty.

 Photograph by Renee Griffin.

*You can read the interview with Jessica Swift in Somerset Apprentice Spring 2012 p. 80.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Journey with Me

The concept of a blog has lingered at the edges of my mind for years.  I dismissed that shadowy notion for many reasons.  Like a child spurned, it sulked away, retreating into the haze of chaos that envelopes most my days.  But that childlike notion has returned a changed notion.  No longer timid but daring to be seen and heard and considered.  So, I have reconsidered.

In an attempt to justify my interest in establishing a blog I came to the realization that the blog is not the destination I seek, but rather the journey. 

We all journey- every day.  But are we cognizant of where we are going?  Do we notice the landmarks and the scenery?  Do we use them to mark progress?  Or like the Griswolds, frantically drive in circles hoping beyond all reason to arrive somewhere new?  If you are like me, you too have seen Big Ben too many times.

I invite you to journey in tangent with me.  Not, in tandem- but in tangent.  Your journey and my journey will be two very different adventures, but that shouldn’t mean that we can’t enjoy one another’s company.

If you catch me veering from the path, sleeping at the wheel, driving while distracted- you get the picture- then please tap me on the shoulder.

So for today I leave you the picture below.  It is not a photo that I would usually associate with myself, but the picture speaks to me.  It speaks of simpler days and quiets my mind and heart. I hope it speaks to you in the same way.  I welcome your comments and hope you will travel alongside me.     Until next week…

photograph by Renee Griffin