Category Archives: New Adventures

Portraits

I’m still stretching my creative wings as much as possible. It seems to be how God is leading me most fully into engagement with life. I’m doing a bit of piano improv (sort of). It’s really more writing music over a given chord progression, which I don’t think is quite the same thing. Improvisation, in my opinion, should be natural and spur-of-the-moment. And what I’m doing is only spur-of-the-moment for a hot second; then I figure out what part of it I like and write it down. Lexi says this is completely acceptable and in fact is how you learn patterns and motifs you’d like to use and build on. I’m choosing to believe her!

On the fused glass front, my second version of the fall trees piece was slightly improved, but not enough, so I’ve added a bit more and it will go in for another firing this week. After that, no matter what, I’m calling it done. It is only my first effort, after all. I have also put together my Ile de Ré inspired piece, so here it is with all the frit (smashed glass bits) piled on approximately where I want it . . .

Ile de Ré inspired glass piece ready for firing — the colors don’t seem quite right in this photo!

. . . so that will also be fired this week. This one is much more a mixture of opaques and translucents, so guess we’ll see. It’s all a learning process. I’ll take a photo with the light behind it when it’s done.

I haven’t done a lot of writing lately, but thought I’d share with you one of the final assignments for the last session of the writers workshop, the end of September.  We were instructed to write a portrait, or rather to describe an actual portrait or self-portrait, so I decided to do both. You can probably guess what I chose first:

David 4 June 2013 at the Anchorage, Lake Sunapee

David at the Anchorage

              It was a quick snap across the table as we waited for our drinks at the Anchorage bar in the harbor. He’s grinning, flashing his dimples, looking off to the side, out at the boats, maybe, so you can’t quite see the changeable blue of his deep-set eyes, but fish are teeming across his shirt in shades of aqua and azure, cobalt and cerulean. There’s a chunky silver chain at his neck that gleams against his sun-kissed skin, echoed by tiny highlights in his eyes and on his slightly uneven top teeth. His hair is still mostly dark, but there are hints of grey at his temples and on his unshaven chin.

            He is completely still and sharp, caught in this moment of perfect contentment, but the background is strangely distorted, not out of focus exactly, more like a double exposure, giving a sense of movement to everything but him. And if you look closely, you can see the faintly golden reflection of a Windsor chair just above and to the left of his head, oddly seeming almost a sort of Byzantine halo, and beyond that the dim red glow of the word EXIT. If this were an album cover, there would be endless discussions of the symbolism of these images, in light of his death a few years later, but there was no awareness of any of this at the time.   

              When I took this shot, I had no idea how important it would be, how ubiquitous it would be. He’s not even looking at the camera, and yet it turned out to be everyone’s favorite shot of David. It was first on public view in my blog post wishing him a happy 64th birthday. Less than a month later his cancer was diagnosed, and I chose it as his profile picture for the CaringBridge website updates. Since I was on the site so often, Google kept a thumbnail photo icon on my Chrome homepage, that I saw every day until suddenly new graphic icons replaced the screen shots a few days ago. I felt strangely robbed and maddeningly impotent in the face of this unwanted update. But I also used this photo for the celebration of David’s life and I have a stack of extra programs on his bedside table and the 18 x 24 foamboard poster on an easel in the vestibule, so it’s not as if I can’t see it whenever I want. 

              But he’s looking away. He’s happy, but he’s not quite with me completely. At the time he was, but now forevermore he’s looking away, beyond the blue.

And this:

Sunny at the Rio

              Of course, it’s not an actual self-portrait. These were the days before selfies were hourly occurrences. David took this shot, trying out my new phone’s camera. A quick snap and it has been my favorite picture of myself for years. I love the way the afternoon light is streaming down at just the right angle, make Sunny seem even sunnier somehow. And although I am not especially happy to have my picture taken, I’m obviously happy to be with David, happy with my new phone, happy with the margarita almost out of frame, but ready and waiting.

              If you look closely, you can sort of see the large graft on the side of my nose where the cancer was removed, and you can certainly see that my nose is a bit cockeyed as a result. “Picasso-esque” David and I called it. But that’s not what draws my eye. I see the glint in the green eyes and a smile so big, I can almost pretend I have dimples.

             Mostly I see joy. And sunshine. And I know I am still that person.

********

True. I absolutely do know that, but by this time last year, David was on hospice, so those memories are a bit more on my mind than usual. Also, tomorrow (Sunday the 18th) is the 40th anniversary of the day we were wed, so that’s got some emotional weight as well. I’m trying to learn to let go of random markers like that, at least as a source of regret. I’m choosing instead to be grateful that we did have almost 40 years together, even if it was almost. 

And I’m looking forward to lots of time with family and friends coming up over the holidays. We ALL miss David so much, but he is a part of all of us, so when we’re together and reminiscing, somehow he’s present and it is good.

Helen, Thanksgiving 2016

Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN! Forty years ago, she let us co-opt her birthday for our wedding day. Thanks again, Helen! She turns 91 tomorrow and is still going strong. The rest of us can barely keep up! If you don’t have her contact info to send a birthday wish, leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure she sees them.

Wishing all of you rich times with your dear ones! Bless you!

Living in Color

A few weeks ago, there was an artists’ studio tour here in Fort Collins, and I definitely took advantage of it. I visited three on Friday afternoon, another ten or twelve on Saturday, plus a few more on Sunday. What a treat. I’ll leave a few links for you at the bottom. If I give them to you now, you may never come back to finish reading this post!

One of the studios I visited was that of Cole Thompson, a photographer working entirely in black and white. His work is stunning and he very kindly talked with me, rank amateur that I am, about various aspects of how he produces his images. I love his work and he has inspired me to learn more about photography. One of these days, I may even do a post with black and white images, but not just yet. Although I love the drama and the artistry of black and white, I have to admit color feeds my soul in a way I seem to need right now. So for the moment, I’ll take my black with a splash of vibrant color. Like this . . .

One of the rare sunrises I actually was awake to see out my back door! And yes, I’m sure I went back to bed right after taking this shot!

During the studio tour weekend, I also stopped by to see Sibyl Stork, whose work I have loved for years. She’s the artist who taught the watercolor class I took (and LOVED) just before our 2016 road trip out to Portland, right before David’s cancer was discovered. It was good to talk with her again and to check out all her fabulous new work.  She doesn’t have a class available for me right now, but I’ve got a lot going on at the moment anyway. Another possibility for the days ahead.

Today is ten months since David’s been gone, and I’ve had a few rough moments recently, times when the irrational questions resurface. Questions like, What?! Really?! Forever?! (here on earth, anyway). But as I wrote in the last post, I’m making a concerted effort to be present in the here and now and to let the day’s own troubles be enough for the day.

In fact, I’ve been so open to trying various creative things, in my efforts to come back to life, that I’ve gone a bit overboard and now have to reevaluate and maybe scale back a bit. Pro Tip: You know you’re not listening quite well enough to the still small voice of God when you have to get life advice from a Dove chocolate wrapper: “You can do anything,” it said, “but you can’t do everything.” Hahaha. Okay. Got it.

One of the activities I’m keeping for now is Kathi Dougherty’s fused glass open studio on Thursday afternoons. Hers was another studio I visited, and her work is an absolute celebration of color. For my first project, I wanted to play with the hues of fall foliage, since that has always been one of my favorite things. Kathi has done some gorgeous pieces on this theme, but of course I didn’t want to copy hers, so was a bit paralyzed at the start until she directed me to begin by collecting my colors. THAT I could do. I definitely also wanted sky and water. You know how much I love blue, even aside from how it reminds me of David.

Love those blues!

Since for this first project I wanted to work primarily with crushed glass, called “frit,” I then smashed larger pieces to create a pallet of colors with which to work.

I could have made a plate or bowl, but I chose to do a flat art piece (using the term “art” VERY loosely). Mostly the point for me was to play, experiment, create. I read this yesterday in Girl, Wash Your Face:

Creating is the greatest expression of reverence I can think of because I recognize that the desire to make something is a gift from God.                                                                                                                                 — Rachel Hollis

First version of first fused glass project

I agree and I am grateful for that gift. And as much as I would love to effortlessly produce truly beautiful things, the chance to try is enough, and the learning that comes from mistakes is a bonus. Here’s version one of my first piece →

Not horrifying, but not fabulous. I love how the light comes through, but I didn’t realize the small black “branches” would be as prominent as they are, showing through the translucent glass, as you can see. That was not what I intended and they bug me. Fortunately, it’s possible to add glass and fuse?/fire?/heat? it again. I don’t really know the lingo yet. But onward — and hopefully upward — to version two. I’ve added some opaques and I’ll see next Thursday if it’s improved or not. Here it is awaiting a second turn in the kiln:

Note the added rocks in the stream. Not sure how that will go!

My next project is inspired by this photo looking west from Île de Ré, the beautiful island just across a bridge from La Rochelle.  This is possibly my favorite photo from our various trips to France, so I don’t expect to improve on the photo, but I’m super inspired by the colors.

Île de Ré, France

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Collecting colors and smashing the glass into variously sized frit

I think it’s therapeutic for me because there are no rules, except reasonable caution for the sake of safety, and there’s no hurry. Kathi and the other regulars I’ve met are kind, so that’s a welcome change from the news, anyway. And I do think there’s something transcendent about the simple act of creating, that somehow taps into the image of our Creator God, put in each one of us.

Here’s a bit more from Rachel Hollis:

The freedom to carve out the time and have a safe place to create art is a blessing of the highest level in a world where so many people are unable to have either.  

I am grateful for both the urge and the opportunity to create. Wishing you both as well!

I’ll leave you with a colorful October family photo from thirty years ago. Yikes. Half my life!

One of our annual trips to the pumpkin farm — 1988

Please leave a comment if you have a minute, even if it’s to tease me about the enormous eighties red bow in my hair! I love hearing from you.

And don’t forget to check out these websites:

Cole Thompson — Sibyl Stork — Kathi Dougherty

Enjoy!

Les Amis

There’s a weird grief inertia thing that makes everything take four times a long as it should, so I’m finally getting around to finishing the post about the visit of our dear friends Pascale and Jacky from La Rochelle . . .

David, Pascale and Jacky, June 2013 on Ile de Ré

They came to stay with me, along with Pascale’s daughter Anna, and were here from May 31st until the 12th of June. Here it is more than two months later, so high time to publish this post about all our adventures!

Although  Anna is completely fluent in English, neither Pascale nor Jacky is, so lucky for me we spent the entire time speaking French. Or rather they spent the entire time speaking French and I spent it trying to keep up (and having my mistakes corrected — which I had requested, to be clear, but a bit discouraging at times to find I’m still so very far from fluent). Still, I have come a long way!

I had planned to cram as much as possible into the time and it’s true we did a lot. They arrived a bit late on Thursday night the 31st, so Friday we took it easy, strolling around Old Town Fort Collins and lunching on the Rio patio, because . . . margaritas! I love France, as many of  you know, but the one thing you cannot find in France, or at least not often or easily, is Mexican food. Avocados, yes. Margaritas, sort of, sometimes. Mexican food, not so much. I love the story Courtney tells of her trip to France in 2014, when she was so discombobulated with jet lag she ordered a margarita . . .  at an Irish pub . . . in Paris. We were laughing so hard I never got around to asking how it was. But here? We’ve got margaritas nailed. And nail them we did, so then had a stroll up Mountain Avenue to walk off the tequila and introduce them to other dear friends, Tom and Christy, then home to enjoy a low-key evening.

Anna, Hewlett Gulch

Saturday we headed up Poudre Canyon. By the way, pronouncing it Pooder Canyon, as we do around here, is a bit startling to actual French people, but they coped. We made it up to Arrowhead Lodge and the Poudre Canyon Chapel, then came back down a couple of miles for burgers at Archers Grille, a favorite of David’s and mine. Then back down the canyon, stopping at Hewlett Gulch for a bit of a stroll.

Pascale and Jacky enjoying Colorado nature

The day was absolutely glorious . . . ↓

Hewlett Gulch

We had been on the go from early morning,  but they rallied later for drinks, tapas and jazz with Mark Sloniker in the Sunset Lounge at the top of the Elizabeth Hotel.

On Sunday we headed to Denver — the Denver Art Museum, a walk around all the usual highlights of downtown (with a bazillion other people), then a stroll through the historic district near the botanic gardens, then . . . something I did not even know existed. Anna had read something about this place online . . .↓

International Church of Cannibus, Denver

. . . and wanted to see it. Not really my thing, but it certainly was colorful. A little creepy the way the lights hang out of the eyeballs of the animals on the ceiling, but maybe that’s just me.  😉

All three of them came ready to see or do anything I suggested, and they were up for any adventure. Certainly Anna had done her research and had things she wanted to see, but they were easy and friendly and grateful for whatever I offered in the way of entertainment. Despite my ambitious to-do list, we also had to be sure to fit in time with Wendi, my former student and now friend, as well as their former exchange student. Wendi is the reason David and I met them in the first place — Thanks Wendi!

In the time they were here, they managed to fit in, not only the above, but a BBQ at Wendi’s house, and then a three-day side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Then back here for the summit of Trail Ridge Road, plus Estes Park, then dancing at the Sundance Saloon . . . ↓

At the Sundance Saloon with Wendi and her parents, Julie and Tom Russell

. . . then a dinner at Tom and Lexi’s (whom they’d met last year in La Rochelle). Then a few very hot hours in Boulder . . .

Pascale trying to cool off in the Dushanbe Tea House, Boulder

. . . then another BBQ with Wendi’s family before flying home on the 12th. Whew. Fortunately, they were indefatigable.

But the most important thing for me was that they had traveled all the way from France to see not only the sights of Colorado and beyond, but specifically to spend time with me and with Wendi and her family. Of course, we had all hoped David would still be here and well enough to be able to host as he loved to do, but it was not to be. His spirit of joy was with us, though, and so many memories of times together with all our treasured amis. I hope for many more!

 

Seaside Ramble

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ∼Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is really the third and final part of the New England Nostalgia Tour, which it’s high time I finished, since I still have to tell you about the visit to Chelsea two weeks ago. Sheesh. Better get busy.

By Monday, the 12th (October, of course), everyone had headed back home, and we had done all we could to help Helen–except, of course, vacate the premises, so she could empty the fridge and cabinets and have the water shut off. We had hoped to see our friends at Four Legged Farm, but couldn’t get in touch with them. And worse, online it looks like they may no longer be there. Hope all is well with them.

So Tuesday morning we packed up and headed back to the coast . . .

David at Odiorne Point State Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
David at Odiorne Point State Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

. . . for a bit of nostalgia further north. That evening we had a stunningly fabulous dinner at the Bridge Street Bistro in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which seemed to promise good things for our little unexpected coastal jaunt. Although we have never lived on the east coast, over the years we did occasionally take our girls to Ogunquit, Maine, to this exact beach, as a matter of fact . . .

Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit, Maine

. . . during summer visits to Sunapee, so they could see the majesty of the ocean and dip a toe in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. Who knew the north Atlantic could be this blue?

York, Maine
York, Maine

I thought this kind of color was reserved for the Florida Keys, so super bonus.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting∼Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nubble Lighthouse
Nubble Lighthouse

We had a glorious couple of days enjoying coastal blues and views, not to mention a bit more New England fall foliage, choosing back roads or in this case, as-close-to-the-water-as-possible roads, and between York and Ogunquit, Maine, we found the Nubble Lighthouse, then stumbled upon a beautiful stone church, St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, stopping to enjoy the memorial garden . . . .

Memorial Garden at St. Peter's by the Sea
Memorial Garden at St. Peter’s by the Sea

So lots of rambling, loads of seafood, and even a return to Newburyport . . .

Newburyport, Mass.
Newburyport, Mass.

. . . for lunch on the way to the Boston airport. A wonderful finish for our sixteen days in New England. We enjoyed our time with friends and family, seeing familiar sights and discovering new ones.

I’ll leave you with a few more quotes from old Bostonian, Ralph Waldo Emerson:

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Wishing you your best day . . . and then another . . . and another . . . .

 

New England Part Two

We just got back from a whirlwind visit with Chelsea in Alexandria, Virginia, but more about that once I finish the posts for the New England trip, so stay tuned . . . .

While at Sunapee, before the boat was picked up to be winterized, we had a chance for one calm, cool booze cruise . . .↓Scotts Cove, Lake Sunapee. . . and a couple not quite so calm, including a chilly, breezy swing by the quirky Sunapee house of Stephen Tyler (of Aerosmith fame, for those who may be unfamiliar with the name, like my classical music loving dad) . . .↓ Stephen Tyler's Sunapee House(Mr. Tyler did not appear to be home, as the Jolly Roger flag was not flying. Whether he was or not, he did not invite us ashore.)

We also had a walk in the woods, where we found the Never Give Up Tree last year.  Consequently, it’s my favorite trail, but now sadly in need of TLC, with lots of trees down blocking the path, including one with a directional arrow pointing skyward. We chose to stay on the ground and appreciate the last of the season’s ferns . . .↓FernAnother day, we drove over to the east side of the lake to walk around The Fells . . .↓IMG_9033 (2). . . and discovered a magical little Fairy Village . . .↓

. . . where the young or young at heart can build houses for fairies. Lexi and I were enchanted, but David and Tom were apparently NOT feeling young at heart, so we didn’t stop long.

And on yet another day we headed up to Simon Pearce for lunch and a look at the glassblowers and their latest creations, stopping at Quechee Gorge on the way home . . . ↓

Then all too soon, it was time for Tom and Lexi to head home. We consoled ourselves by inviting the cousins, including the newest generation, down for cocktails . . . ↓

Skilled glassblowers and quirky musicians, curious babies and awe-inspiring nature, pristine landscaping and whimsical fairy houses. It’s all got me thinking of care and attention to the task at hand, while not losing sight of the mystery and magic of creation.

I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning. ∼J.B. Priestley

Wishing you a bit of magic in your day!

(Third and final part coming soon . . .)

New England Nostalgia Tour

There’s a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left. ∼David Guterson

Ah, home again! Just barely getting caught up after 16 days in New England. On the plus side, there are new adventures to tell you about, but way too much to share in one post, so this is Part One.

We left Colorado on October 1st, with traveling companions Tom and Lexi. The plan was to spend a few days, before heading to Sunapee, cruising up the coast from Boston, visiting various landmarks of their time living in the area.

On the tour, Tom’s seminary (see him waving?) . . . ↓

Gordon ConwellRed Barrel 2. . . and the now defunct Red Barrel, which we had visited on a previous trip. Sad to see it crumbling away into ruin.

Red Barrel 3Red Barrel Bus

Fortunately, since we had already experienced the Red Barrel, we had already planned to lunch at another of Tom and Lexi’s favorites, the still thriving Woodman’s in the Rough . . . ↓Lunch at Woodman's

. . . where a poster offers the excellent lobster-eating advice: “What gets out butter stains? Nothing. Wear a bib.”IMG_8939 (2)

The next day we did a bit more touring, including Rockport and Newburyport, but it was so cool and rainy, we decided to head to Sunapee a day early.

By Saturday evening, we were here . . .Sunapee Sunset

tom in my favorite reading spot, especially when the fire's going!

Here’s Tom trying out my favorite reading spot (especially when the fire’s going).

Of course a main draw of New England in the fall is the glorious foliage . . . Fall Leaves OverheadWe generally plan a longish stay in the fall to help close down the house for the season, but also to be sure we don’t miss the peak colors. This year they didn’t really get going until around the eighth, but then they were spectacular.Fall Foliage 4Sunapee Village

Couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite things about walking in the woods in the fall is the way it makes me want to look up . . . Looking Up

Things may be beginning to decay down below, but they’re glorious on high!

 By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. ∼Thomas Merton

Wishing you minimal disappointment when revisiting old haunts and a wonderful colorful fall! Part Two coming soon . . .

Stone Soup

I love the children’s book Stone Soup–how it starts with nothing but stone and water and ends with everyone joining together to share what they have, resulting in a delicious soup for everyone. I’ve been thinking about stone a lot lately. We’ve received the parts of our cast stone mantel, one of our final settling-in projects. I was assured that anyone could put this together, but it is HEAVY, and both David and I would strongly prefer that it not fall off the wall onto anyone. Therefore, I’m delighted to report that it will be assembled tomorrow by Actual Professionals. So far, it looks great. Here’s a detail shot of one of the legs . . .↓

IMG_8693It’s just what I was hoping for as a reminder of the beauty of La Rochelle . . .

Stonework, La Rochelle, France
Stonework, La Rochelle, France

If you look closely, you can see almost the exact same detail on the two vertical pieces on either side of the center crest. I didn’t even notice until I put this photo in the post. How cool is that?

We’ve seen a lot of other stone as well this past weekend, on another Harley trip with our friends . . .Psykos August 2015 . . . okay, obviously NOT the official posed photo we all lined up for. Sorry. The rain was threatening, urging us to get back on the road, and I didn’t want to annoy everyone after they’d already posed for Janet.

Aside from that pause, there was not a lot of stopping for photos. We had a lot of ground to cover. Mostly we went over . . .↓

Over the Pass
McClure Pass

. . . between . . .↓

Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Canyon

. . . around . . .↓

Gateway Canyon
Gateway Canyon

. . . and even through various portions of the Rockies . . . ↓

Glenwood Canyon Tunnel
Glenwood Canyon Tunnel

. . . At the top of a mountain in Glenwood Springs, a few of us even went inside . . .↓

King's Row Cave, Glenwood Springs
King’s Row Cave, Glenwood Springs. Gondola ride required to get up there.

It turns out that huge swathes of southwestern Colorado are absolutely gorgeous. I had no idea. Definitely want to go back.

David and I started and ended the trip on our own, to have time for business responsibilities, which had the added bonus of allowing us to ride those days at our own preferred pace. We love easy cruising, savoring the full sensory experience, the warmth of the air, the smell of the evergreens, the beauty of the wildflowers, the majesty of the mountains, the unexpected thrill of a wildlife sighting. And since we were on our own the last day, I even got to stop to get a decent photo of the Nokhu Crags . . . ↓

Nokhu Crags
Nokhu Crags

Of course, our pace is not everyone’s preference. Others love the adrenaline rush of quick curves and speeding straightaways. We can’t keep up and don’t want to. But here’s the Stone Soup part. At the end of the day, we’re together, eating and/or drinking something fabulous, and usually laughing. We all have something to contribute to help each other enjoy the experience.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. ∼Khalil Gibran

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! ∼Dr. Suess

Whether you prefer the speed or the savor or a bit of both, may your friendships be strong as stone and broad and beautiful as the Rockies.