Monthly Archives: June 2015

Breathing

I just returned from my trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We camped out on our land in our little blue teardrop trailer and we spent a lot of time with my sister and brother-in-law, who have an adorable cottage just over the ridge from our land. We could only escape from the Florida heat for about five days, but they were delightful days.

I think everyone in our party would agree that the best day was the one we spent on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My sister packed a picnic lunch in a real picnic basket. She actually made the bread for the sandwiches. There was even a checked tablecloth that used to belong to our mother. It was a perfect picnic and we went up to the Parkway to find a perfect place to enjoy it.

Our first stop was Mt. Mitchell. Mt. Mitchell is the tallest peak in the eastern United States and we never go to North Carolina without making the climb to the summit. A sign at the visitor center told us not to worry about the bugs, that they might look like ticks, but they were harmless weevils. We wondered if we would see any of these weevils, but we couldn’t miss them. The observation tower at the top of Mt. Mitchell was crawling with them. They were on the benches and on the railings and all over the signs that pointed out the various other mountains you can see from Mt. Mitchell.

Two weevils.  I don't know which is the lesser.

Two weevils. I don’t know which is the lesser.


Some days, all you can see from the top of Mt. Mitchell is fog, but this was not one of those days.
We could see forever.

We could see forever.


We spent some time admiring this view and then we went back to the Parkway and drove to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, which was a perfectly beautiful spot for an outdoor meal. We found a table in the shade and enjoyed sandwiches, chips and fresh fruit. My sister brought hot water in a Thermos so we could have coffee and tea with our meal.
A Perfect Picnic

A Perfect Picnic


We lingered over lunch and then we put our picnic things in the car and headed for the trail to Craggy Flats. We had been to Craggy Flats before but we had always used the shorter trail from the visitor’s center. This trail was a bit more challenging, so we took our time and rested here and there along the way. The view at the top was definitely worth the hike.
Worth the Hike

Worth the Hike


We also enjoyed the long grass, the tiny wildflowers and the gnarled trees, which were so climbable even we older folks could not resist.
Tree

Tree


No, I did not do any painting while I was up there, but I sure did some wonderful breathing.

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I Need a Break

It’s too hot. It’s too hot to work on tie-dye outdoors. It’s too hot to paint outdoors. It’s almost too hot to breathe outdoors. Heat is not unexpected in Florida in June, but this heat is a bit extreme, even for us. I keep thinking I should be accomplishing things, but all the things I want to be accomplishing involve working outdoors. That’s just not going to happen in the middle of this heat wave.

Heat outdoors makes me lethargic even when I’m indoors. We have air-conditioning. There’s no reason I couldn’t be accomplishing things indoors, but I’m not. I’m haunting Facebook and admiring pictures taken by my friends who are on vacation in the mountains. Cool, green, foggy mountains. Florida doesn’t have any of those. That’s why a lot of us go to North Carolina in the Summer. We can get there in a day, and they have mountains.

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place


Mountains and waterfalls and happy little streams that make happy little noises.
Happy Little Noises

Happy Little Noises


Our turn will come soon, and I can’t wait. I’m hoping I will be able to paint when I’m up there. Even if I don’t manage to find time to paint, I’m pretty sure I will be able to breathe, even when I’m outdoors.

Resting

Summer is a hard time to be creative. The world is so rich and warm and full, it doesn’t seem to need any contributions from me. I love being outside in the summer. I love the lush greens and I love the colorful flowers and I love the sound of bees buzzing in clover. It all makes me happy but it doesn’t make me want to write a song or make a painting. It seems to beg me to just breathe and be thankful.

The bees like the birdbath.

The bees like the birdbath.


This annoys my inner critic, of course, who keeps telling me I need to be accomplishing things. I’ve been trying to keep that critic quiet by catching up with my tie-dye chores and my housecleaning, but my higher self must have seriously wanted me to take a little break. I was reaching for a basket of blanks to put in the washer the other day, just doing my normal job in my normal way, and my lower back said, “Oh, no you don’t!” and hit me with one very sharp pain, followed by lots more pain if I tried to keep doing my job.

I looked up “back strain” on the internet and it told me I should do pretty much nothing for a couple of days and then gradually get back to my normal activities. It was right there, in black and white. My inner critic had to shut up and let me rest. I couldn’t paint. I couldn’t wash blanks. I couldn’t put things into pre-soak. I couldn’t do any of the things a hard-working tie-dye artist and/or housewife was supposed to be doing. All I could do was be still and read or carefully play video games on a borrowed 3DS (thank you, daughters, for helping me cope with my forced idleness).

I have to say that once I got some arnica on me and some ibuprofen in me, I enjoyed those two days. I know it’s almost un-American to say so, but nothing is really a lovely thing to do on a sunny day in June, if you have an ironclad excuse and you know it’s only temporary. My inner critic was silenced and I got a good rest. I am gradually getting back to my chores now, with the addition of a back brace to help me avoid re-injuring myself.

I guess I need to learn to listen to my higher self when it tells me I need to rest. The grass tried to tell me. The bees tried to tell me. I just kept pushing, because that is what a responsible person is supposed to do. My higher self (or the Universe or Good Orderly Direction or whatever you want to call it) had to bring out the big guns, just to get me to stop for a couple of days and do nothing.

Sometimes nothing is the best thing anyone can do.

Winding Down

I thought I might paint this week, but, alas, I did not manage to do that. I think I’m still winding down from the Florida Folk Festival. I’ll have to wind back up tomorrow, so I hope I get this wind-down thing right before then. We ordered blanks last week and tomorrow, our package arrives. Then we will have to get busy dyeing again. We have special orders to fill and we have to replace as many as possible of the things we sold at the Florida Folk Festival. We are thankful for the special orders. Without them, we might be tempted to put off the dyeing, since we don’t have any other events on our calendar right now.

I hoped winding down might include painting but, apparently, it includes shopping and playing lots of iPad games. Oh, and watching movies about painting. I watched “Big Eyes” and I watched “Mr. Turner” and I watched part of “Georgia O’Keeffe.” I’ve seen that last one over and over, so I didn’t need to watch the whole thing. I get too angry at Stieglitz after a while and I have to turn it off.

I used to wonder about Georgia O’Keeffe. The artist, not the movie. I had seen her work in books and I wasn’t sure if her fame was due to her work or due to the ardent promotion by Stieglitz. Seeing small reproductions, I couldn’t see the value of the work. It just didn’t move me. Then our local museum hosted an exhibit of her work and I got to see it in person. Little photographs in books do not do it justice.

In person, you can see the depth and beauty of the colors. You can feel the emotion that went into the work. Once I had seen the actual paintings, I understood that she earned her fame herself. Stieglitz was a genius at promotion, sure, but O’Keeffe was a genius at painting. I saw the paintings and I knew.

That’s one reason my personal bucket list contains so many museums. Real paintings are full of life and spirit that reproductions can’t capture. I want to visit the National Gallery. I want to visit the Musee d’Orsay. I want to visit the Van Gogh Museum. I want to visit the Louvre. Again. Yes, I visited the Louvre once. I did. I was on tour with the FJC Chorale and the Louvre was on our list. The first time the bus dropped us off there, the museum was closed. You’d think a tour bus driver would know which days the Louvre is closed but that was not the case. We sang on the steps (this was 1973; there was no I.M. Pei pyramid there yet) until the bus came back for us. The bus brought us back another day and dropped us off again – an hour before closing time.

I had one hour to see all I could see of the Louvre. I remember the Winged Victory of Samothrace. I remember the Raft of the Medusa. I remember jumping up and down to try and see the Mona Lisa over the heads of the other tourists. I remember being out of breath from running and wanting to weep for all the things I didn’t have time to see.

The world is full of beauty. I want to see as much of it as I can. I want to create some of it, too. I do, but this week I was busy winding down. That doesn’t mean I didn’t accomplish anything.

Perfect!

Perfect!


See?