Details, Details

Posh version of the typical Charleston style house
Posh version of the typical Charleston style house with the side multi-layer porches
Gardens at the Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston
Gardens at the Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston
Houses of S. Battery, Charleston
Houses of S. Battery, Charleston

Hard to believe it, but we’re in our last week in the Charleston area. Our friends Tom and Lexi have joined us for a bit . . .

David, Tom and Lexi at The Battery, Charleston
David, Tom and Lexi at The Battery on a breezy day in Charleston

. . . so of course, as David and I were planning what to do, I wanted everything to be perfect. I studied the tide tables and noticed that a super low tide would happen late Friday afternoon, right after they got here, so we decided we’d all go out to the beach and find amazing shells in the tide pools, and then we’d . . . and then we’d . . . . Except my directions were not 100% clear, so they found themselves on a bit of a detour before they made it here and arrived a bit later than expected. AND it was raining. AND they’d been in the car ALL day. So no super-low-tide beach walk (at least not until the next day).

Okay, I know. Some details are completely out of our control, but you’ve got to admit, sometimes attention to detail pays off . . . .

Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC
King Street, Charleston
King Street, Charleston

. . . even in this quirky seafood restaurant we found on the way back from checking out Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Those are actual aquariums in the portholes. How great is that?

RB's Seafood Restaurant
RB’s Seafood Restaurant
RB's Sommelier?
RB’s Sommelier?

Except here’s the thing. Sometimes you can make yourself crazy–or at least really stressed out–trying to get all the details perfect. I showed you an earlier stage of my watercolor portrait attempt last post, and when we took Tom and Lexi to the Coleman Fine Art gallery, I got talking to Smith Coleman (Mary Whyte’s husband) about how her paintings and her books had inspired me to attempt to paint a portrait. Since on the back of my camera the photo of it was only about 1″ x 5/8″ I decided it was safe to show it to him. He was kind, certainly, but commented that the color value was too much the same and I needed more contrasting lights and darks. I worked a bit more on it, and in some ways it’s better, I think. But it’s really hard to stop messing with it, and with watercolor you really do have to stop before you turn the whole thing to mud. Okay. Backing away now.

Watercolor of Doug - Take Three
Watercolor of Doug – Take Two

I’ve decided to celebrate the fact that I painted it at all, considering how afraid I was even a month ago to paint anything. Now I can think about starting something new.

Guess I’d better leave perfection to God and beautiful nature. I love the detail of the colors and patterns on these shells . . .

Everything made by human hands looks terrible under magnification–crude, rough, and asymmetrical. But in nature every bit of life is lovely. And the more magnification we use, the more details are brought out, perfectly formed, like endless sets of boxes within boxes. Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) — Photographer

Maybe a bit of a sweeping generalization, but certainly true when comparing much of human endeavor versus, say, flowers or shells or even snowflakes.

Here’s wishing you eyes to see and time to enjoy the beauty in the details!



Back to the Beach

After spending several cold days in Colorado, we’re back in South Carolina, near Folly Beach, where we take a walk nearly every day:

Sunset on Folly Beach
Sunset on Folly Beach
Sunny Afternoon on Folly Beach
Afternoon on Folly Beach

← Some days it’s sunny and warmish (or at least compared to what we’re used to in January in Colorado).




Some days, it’s windy and colder than it looks. ↓


Either way, though, this place — or maybe this journey as a whole — continues to spark creativity in me. No worries. I’m not quitting my day job, but I am having fun.

Shell Ornaments EnhancedFor example, while Chelsea was here, we visited the downtown market and found clear glass Christmas ornaments with sand and tiny shells inside. We both liked them, but I would have preferred them without the touristy painted palm tree and “Charleston, SC” on them, so I decided to make my own with shells we’ve found. I think I’m going to tie raffia on top, but here they are so far.  Kind of fun and beachy, non? →

Also, I continue to be both awed and inspired by the work of Mary Whyte. Do check out her website, if you haven’t already. She does absolutely stunning work that I had thought was only possible with oils. I’ve read two of her books in the past few weeks, and a couple of days ago decided to try painting a portrait in watercolor.

Brother-in-law: Doug
Brother-in-law: Doug

I chose to paint from this photo, which you already saw in the post Lake Life, because I liked the whole blue and gold thing going on, and especially the play of light on his hair and his sleeve, which, okay, I haven’t completely succeeded in capturing, but oh, well. Now I’m going to blather on until I’ve written enough that the picture of the painting is FAR, FAR AWAY from the photo, so you’ll have more trouble comparing the two. Blah, blah, blah . . . . blah, blah, blah . . . . And here’s a tip: Don’t think “painting of photo” think “inspired by photo” and it looks better.

As it turns out, though, it must be semi-recognizable, because David had gone to bed while I was painting and woke up to discover, “after all his sacrifices making this journey happen” . . . blah, blah, blah . . . , I had chosen to paint a portrait of his brother rather than him! He’s been pretending to complain ever since. (We know he’s kidding.) Doug, on the other hand, credits the Muses with great wisdom.

So, now, remove your glasses and back far away from your computer or cell phone or whatever device you’re using to read this post. (Trust me, it looks much better slightly blurry.) Here finally, as promised way back in France, one of my watercolors, which  happens to be my very first watercolor portrait ever–well, since kindergarten, anyway–so be kind!IMG_6902

Ta-da! Was that thrilling or what?

Okay, I’ll be serious now. For me, once Christmas is over, winter can be just plain hard and rather tedious, waiting for signs of spring and rejuvenation. Although it’s a little easier here, where it’s not generally cold and grey, maybe it is dreary where you are. If so, I wish for you inspiration and creativity to bring light and life and fun to those short mid-winter days. If, on the other hand, you love winter, please tell me what you love about it. I’ve made some progress this year with appreciating wind and even enjoying rainy days, so anything’s possible!

A few more thoughts on creativity:

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.   ∼ Yo-Yo Ma

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. ∼ Sophia Loren

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ∼ Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert cartoons



Downtown at the Brown

Our little side trip to Colorado also allowed David to have a couple of important business meetings (which I got to skip), so on Saturday, we headed down to Denver. First, though, we stopped in to our once and future neighborhood to say hello to our friends and motorcycle buddies, the Psykos. (More about them and our Harley adventures here and here and here.) Everyone was very welcoming, which is a plus, since we’ve already committed to moving back to the neighborhood!

If you’ve been following our adventures in France, you know how much we like interesting old architecture, so you won’t be surprised that our favorite place to stay in Denver is the Brown Palace Hotel, where the Christmas lights were still up (woohoo) . . .

Atrium of Brown Palace
Atrium of Brown Palace

. . . and there were shimmering chandeliers everywhere . . .

Brown Palace Hotel
Brown Palace Hotel

. . . and you know how much I love chandeliers.

This hotel seemed especially appropriate for us this year, since there are a number of French things gracing the walls, especially in the Palace Arms restaurant . . .

Palace Arms
Palace Arms

. . . including  dueling pistols said to have belonged to Napoleon . . .

Napoleon's Dueling Pistols
Napoleon’s Dueling Pistols

. . . (presumably Bonaparte, although when I tried to confirm that, no one I talked to seemed aware that there were two highly significant Napoleons in French history. Sorry about that, mes amis français!

Kir Royale for Teatime at the Brown Palace Hotel
Kir Royale for Teatime at the Brown Palace Hotel

I managed to talk David into having afternoon tea in the lobby on Sunday, although before the time for our reservation arrived, he had figured out it was definitely a “chick thing.” Over the course of a couple of days, we saw three or four men and probably 70 or 80 women taking tea in the atrium lobby. Still. It was beautiful and tasty, and he survived. I appreciate that he didn’t make me sit there by myself!

It certainly wasn’t all flowers and wine, with technological glitches and human error making Monday live up (or should I say down?) to its reputation. And David is currently suffering from whatever bug is going around. But I imagine you’d rather see and hear about the good parts, so I’ll spare you those details. It does bring to mind a favorite quote:

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun and some ecstasy. . . . Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. ∼ C.S. Lewis — The Problem of Pain

Wishing you many pleasant inns on your way home!

Preview of Home

We snuck into Fort Collins a couple days ago for a surprise appearance at a friend’s retirement celebration, and it was a truly special evening. Great to be back in our once and future hometown, even though we only had time to see a few of our friends. We arrived late Thursday, and Friday was spent skulking around, trying to avoid running into anyone we knew, so as not to spoil the surprise before the evening event. If we missed you this trip, I promise we are looking forward to seeing you in the spring.

The weather was a bit cold and gray at times, but the lights downtown were glowing and festive:

Old Town Fort Collins
Old Town Fort Collins
Fort Collins Lights
Fort Collins Lights

Christmas decorations were still up at Moot House, and the fire was blazing, providing plenty of cozy cheer.

Moot House
Moot House

Tom Glossi←Then off to the celebration of our good friend Tom Glossi’s thirty-one years in ministry. So much fun to surprise him–and everyone else, really, since we had told NO ONE we would be there. It was a bit of a preview homecoming, since we won’t be back for good until April. The evening featured another surprise guest, longtime friend of Tom and Lexi and one of my favorite troubadours, Michael Kelly Blanchard. ↓

MKB (2)

Michael’s songs have a way of soothing the soul like a healing balm, something we certainly need as the headlines continue to be filled with hatred and violence. With Tom in mind and his characteristic quiet compassion, Michael ended with his song, “The Holy Land of the Broken Heart.” His deep, resonant voice washed over us in a truly holy, transcendent moment. Here’s a bit of it for you:

Oh the eyes of humankind, show the pain that numbs the mind,     Search the sorrow for a sign of mercy in the maze. . . .   

Jesus, Lord of all I am, hold me with your wounded hands,                                Keep me in the holy land of the broken heart.

Amen. Peace be with you.

Arty Charleston

While Chelsea was here, of course we had to take her into downtown Charleston, so there was the usual peering down intriguing alleys and winsome walkways:


Charleston Drive

Brick Alley



Fortunately for Chelsea, though, this time I was also on a mission. Coleman Fine ArtBoth my mom and my aunt had insisted I find Mary Whyte’s paintings, and so far I had either been on the wrong end of downtown or was walking by the gallery on a Sunday, when it was closed. But this time, we were in luck and had a chance to enjoy Coleman Fine Arts, where Mary Whyte displays her amazing watercolors, uniquely and creatively framed by her artist husband, Smith Coleman. Absolutely stunning. Do yourself a BIG favor and check out their website, and don’t miss the videos.

I know the arts are well-represented in lots of different places, including many we’ve visited on this adventure, but there is definitely something about this area that seems to spark creativity. A number of writers make this their home, and artists and artisans are everywhere, many displaying their wares at the Charleston City Market. It was great to have Chelsea along, since her shopping / browsing tolerance is MUCH higher than David’s! Remember Chelsea in France? Anyway, it’s not all high art, but still. Got my creative juices flowing a bit.

So I’m feeling inspired again. I’m devouring Mary Whyte’s books on painting and doing a bit of drawing, but I’m still not quite ready to share any of that with you, especially since there’s a great deal of PREPARING to paint, and very little ACTUAL painting. Sorry. Instead, here’s today’s little arty photo project: ↓

I’m absolutely captivated by the patterns left in the sand by the wind and the receding tide, especially in the oblique, golden light of the setting sun. Besides simply looking super cool, these swoops, swirls, ridges and streaks make me go all philosophical, thinking about the forces that shape us. May the forces that shape you be few of the harsh-winter-wind variety and mostly gentle as the wash of the tide.