Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chì Mi’n Geamhradh Anns a' Ghaoith...

"Chì mi'n geamhradh anns a' ghaoith
Chan eil an sneachd fada bhuainn
Sgothan dorch' 's na craobhan ruisgt
Tha an oidhche nochd fuar"

Last Fall...

At Mom's old house...

I see winter in the the slant of the light, in the looming darkness, in the dread of October, in the long blue shadows cast by the smoky saffron light. The leaves are turning.

Tha na madainn fionnar. Tha an fheasgar goirid. Tha an oidhche dorch agus eagalach. Tha na duilleagan a' tionndadh. Tha mi glè bhronach agus muladach. Tha mi fo chùram...Cha toil Geamhradh.

I hate winter. One might wonder why I want to move back to Montana. Crazy I guess. It's the light. Really.

Apparently I have seven followers. I don't know who you all are, but thanks for following. My computer is 63 in dog years.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembrance of Nine-Eleven

Above the Stillwater River, Montana

I am about as far from the Twin Towers as it is possible to be, although in 1970 I was in New York City when the towers were being built. I think I saw them...

I was on my way to work that day at the frame shop...later I could only watch  in horror as the planes flew into the buildings, and I could only watch once.

As I listen on NPR to the ceremonies happening and the comments being made today at Ground Zero, I am often moved to tears by the simple and poignant words spoken by those who survived, and those who lost loved ones on that day, in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. I too remember all of those lost since: soldiers and civilians and inhabitants in Afghanistan and Iraq, on the streets of our cities, in Somalia, Libya, Africa--everywhere that people lose their lives to senseless violence, and there is so much of it in the world.

Ten years ago--how time moves us through our lives, as we remember those we've lost, greet those being born, contemplate the lives we have, the goodness of people juxtaposed with the evil of people. As human beings we each have both of these within us--the brightest and darkest of impulses. And part of being human, I suppose, is learning to discern between these, and all their shades of gray, and choose our journeys on the myriad pathways through life. They lie before us like the convoluted, shifting streams of a river delta, confusing, misleading, intertwined. And despite how it looks to us small beings, who believe we are each alone in our little rivulets, each of these streams is connected in some way to all of the others, and eventually they all lead  to the same ocean.

I am changed by the events of 9/11--every one of us is, in countless ways; altered in ways that cannot be exactly articulated, and perhaps have no need to be articulated. 

Life goes on. It continues inexorably, until we are gone and dust, and even then it goes on without us.

"Arise soul
soar above the singing river
go lying down into the ground
quickened by the stream
when all is said and done
the race moves on."   Runrig, from Running to the Light

"Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."  

Norman Maclean A River Runs Through It

Primordial ripples from the basement of time, Missoula, Montana, 2007

In the end we are dust.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Light At the End of Both Tunnels

More moony writing


Well, it's been a busy week and no rest in sight. We spent the Labor Day weekend in Montana on a whirlwind mini-holiday to visit my son in Helena. My daughter came too, so it was a real delight to be with them both. We visited my sister in Butte, and also my former in-laws, whom I hadn't seen for several years. Unfortunately when you divorce someone, you divorce their family as well. They are lovely people and I've missed having them in my life.

The painting was finished in the studio last week, except for the window trim. The three desk-cabinets arrived today--a couple of weeks early; those will have to be put together soon so that I can reassemble my workspace.

There is light at the end--a bit of delayed gratification because we're gone again this weekend, and I start both my Gaelic classes soon, and have to finish my graduate-level course in education as well. I'm mentoring two girls on their senior projects this year, and of course I'm yearbook advisor again. Last year's book was awesome--probably my best ever. I'm very proud of it.

And the other tunnel...retirement. A few years, I tell myself. If they go as quickly as this one has, it'll be no time and we'll be making our home in Montana. Some days this notion is all that keeps me going. I just hope the light I see isn't an oncoming train.

Note to my followers: If you read this, please know that I cannot access who you are. I now have six, according to my dashboard, but they do not appear on the dashbord or the blog itself. So if you could just let me know who you all are by leaving a comment (if you want to) that would be great. Thanks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Studio Progress and First Week of School

During painting

Where everything got stuffed

This was last weekend during painting. Originally I wasn't going to paint but I decided since almost everything was out anyway that I needed to do it, so I took everything off the shelves, took down the shelves, and we painted. I did the walls and William did the ceiling, sort of an off-white. It looks great, especially with the blinds!

Yesterday we painted the orange part to meet the white (second coat to be applied today) and started putting the shelves back. I decided to paint those too, since they were brown. Maybe, finally, I'll be able to start putting stuff back. The other three units, which are sort of like tables rather than cabinets, will not be arriving until after the 19th, so I still won't have a finalized floor-plan or a place to work until those get put together. They're movable so I have considerable flexibility.

The other morning, I did do a bit of watercolor experimentation trying to find a sketchbook that wouldn't bleed through. It was fun working on a proper surface.

As for the first week of school, I survived. I have huge art classes (27, 25, 25 & 17). The 17 are seventh graders and they are probably the most immature and recalcitrant bunch I've ever had. Behavior problems abound. Perhaps my expectations are too high. After all, they're only twelve.

None of the art materials I ordered were there yet, so I punted and gave the kids simpler projects that nevertheless help me understand where each student is in terms of skill level and understanding of art concepts. They are all over the place: my advanced classes have people who have never had art alongside those who've had it for six years. Stick figures (literally!) next to rendered and shaded objects. I must be insane.

I've got mid-school art, ninth grade art, and basically just two high school art classes. Because I'm part-time again this year, I have no true art program, no sequence, no scope, very little to build upon, but I try to provide as much rigor as I can with such a mix of kids.

Such are the woes of the teacher in a small school whose programs have been steadily cut over years of state-sponsored non-support of public education. I don't even want to think of what it's like in the bigger cities.  

I am, however, looking forward to retirement. I've been a department of one for too long.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Studio Reorganization and the Full Moon

Relatively clean after the major junk was cleared...

 ...and some shots of the moon during the last two nights, after the day's work was finished

Moon Calligraphy

Moon leaf

I neglected to take pictures of the horrible mess that was my studio before I started clearing it out. Probably just as well...These shots were taken more than halfway through, after I'd removed four tables and all the mish-mashy storage carts and boxes to the guest room and thrown away several large trash bags of garbage.

The first cabinet has now been put together (five to go; two more today and the rest are on backorder), and the old window shades were taken down and replaced with blinds. It's looking more like a professional studio now, after more than 12 years. I'm pleased and looking forward to going through all the art stuff crammed in the guest room: culling, keeping, putting away, painting the walls, installing shelves and lighting, and adjusting over the next few months. I'll (hopefully) have stations for the all the different work I do: drawing, painting, metal clay, polymer clay, traditional jewelry making, beading, sewing, printmaking, and stamping. I might even have space in the computer side for writing my story, doing my Gaelic homework, and lesson plans for my art classes!

Meanwhile, I'm making cool headpins out of silver scrap wire. I love torching stuff!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hope Amid the Ashes

View from my deck: Morning.

So, there are still days, and hours, and minutes; these treasures we call time. I am alive for some reason, or maybe no reason. I can still see the loveliness of a morning from my yard, can still hear music that makes me feel in the deepest part of my soul, can still see images of little kids starving in Somalia that make me ache for the world and detest the cruelty of people.

I am so lucky, I tell myself. I have friends and family, a house, a car, a job, a spouse who likes me, two kids who make me laugh even though they are far far away...I have eyes and ears and a body that still works, albeit not as well as it used to...I have time, still.

And therein lies the rub: our finite time on this lovely and sometimes brutal planet; this stunning, outrageous, extravagant world. I'm not afraid of death, or dying. I'm just afraid I won't be finished. But then none of us is, I suppose.

I often wish...well, time-travel is impractical. Life is what it is. My life is my life. I cannot change what was; I can only alter the future by my choices today.

I love being alive, really. I love the morning light. I love the green things growing. I love autumn's bittersweetness. I will miss these someday, and I love that, too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Eilidh's Dilemma

"Libretto", by me (in the collection of Myrna Dow) not a particularly good photo

Okay, so this is going to be depressing to's certainly depressing to write. I apologize in advance. You can stop reading now.

So...I'm going through all of my old artwork, some of it 26-30 years old, most of it, however, executed between 1994 and 2002. I'm sorting and culling and keeping and moving in anticipation of new studio furniture arriving next week. I wonder why I even ordered new furniture. For decoration, I suppose. I won't use it.

Here's the dilemma part, LP version: 

From this distance, I used to be quite good, even while I was teaching.  However, my creativity has vanished and I wonder what happened to it. Gone somewhere, I suppose, in a place hidden from me, perhaps forever. I can't remember how I did anything, much less how I came up with it. I was so full of ideas and passion and I was happiest making things.

I spent six fairly contented years between teaching gigs as an "artist" (I use the term loosely), although it was depressing being so isolated sometimes because eastern Oregon is not an artist's haven. But I did have art friends, did display and sell my things in galleries, did win awards for my paintings, did get into juried exhibitions, did feel good about my growth and progress as a practicing artist, did learn a great deal from the workshops and classes I took.

Somewhere in there, I realized that one of the requirements for continuing this pursuit (imposed from without, in part), was being able to make a living at it, to pull my weight around here, to help provide an income to this household, even though I was never very interested in making money from my work. All I wanted was to do it, to play with stuff--all kinds of stuff, every kind of stuff: paint, ink, clay, metal, film. I love tools and I love art materials and purchased quite a lot of it. But it became too expensive to keep messing about with things. I had to finally support my habit financially (why I do not know). I had to start work for real, like a job. I was a gallery director for about 3 years. I also worked as a picture framer for 4 years. I hated it.

So, after about a year of feeling suicidal, I copped out and went back into teaching in 2003. I do like it sometimes but high school level is exhausting. This year will be my 8th at Stanfield, my 16th altogether, and I feel so empty of any kind of creativity at all. Maybe all I can do is eight years at a time, like some kind of prison sentence.

Whatever...I was someone else back then, and now as I slowly go through my old work and get ready to burn it, I wonder what happened to my blazing ideas and the fire in my head. All I see are ashes. There will be no phoenix rising.

Retirement holds out little hope. The white flame is gone. I've lost the world's delight, and I'm not even dead yet.

Okay, I'm done whining.

(with apologies to Rupert Brooke, via Danny Kirwan: Dust)              

Monday, August 1, 2011

Outrageous Banality

Take Five

I just experimented with self censorship and was wildly successful: I deleted an entire post. I have no business posting my opinion on anything on this public forum, as little-read as it is. So, in a tribute to banality, here's a painting executed a few years ago. It hangs in my foyer. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Montana Pictures and Plans

High water on Lake McDonald

"...and the trees took the river in their arms." Along the Bitterroot

Butterfly at Lake McDonald

The most awesome day...

Some more pics from our recent trip. I must admit I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I usually do. It was raining most of the time we were there. I did get some really good shots of the Bitterroot, and high water everywhere for that matter, so as soon as I can I'm going to practice watercolor painting some of the scenes and try to capture the essence of being there. I can remember every feeling I had, and the idea of painting is to convey those feelings.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Plein air watercolor painting

Black Butte Resort..nice aspens

Black Butte View: unfinished but enhanced with colored pencils

Billings Farm Afternoon: something kind of magical happened but I can't figure out what...

Experiments in bad taste: Puffs of blue smoke, gumdrop haystacks, flaming trees, striped fields, and blue mountains...Sennelier watercolor. It bleeds! Badly!

Plein air...well, I still prefer my imagination, although the exercise was extremely valuable.

I recently attended a week-long watercolor workshop in Bend (with my mom and sister) which turned out to be rather different than I had first imagined: plein air painting, or painting outdoors from life.

One must possess the correct equipment for this sort of enterprise. When I finally got around to using my cheap and inadequate easel (still holding my palette in my left hand, my brushes in my mouth, and putting my water cup on the ground--unnecessary distractions) it proved a slight boon, but my paintings (studies) were tiny and atrocious just the same and I realized how difficult painting the landscape from life really is. I've been fixing things since.

Capturing a few moments of light is perhaps most tricky, since light moves across the face of the planet with inexorable predictability. By the time one feels he or she has captured the atmosphere, it's gone. Fleeting, light is, which may be why we make art in the first place: to arrest an ineffable moment that in essence is uncapturable.

And that is the very quintessence of plein air: the experience itself, the memory it leaves, the phantom traces in our souls, because our being there, fully present, is the essence of being itself. Presence. Awareness. Paying attention.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Montana pictures

Road trip: racing the cloud-shadows

Early morning mist at Coram

Getting there in green

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Work from the Sketchbooks

Some old stuff, some newer stuff, and some current stuff.



Hamlet's Soliloquy

Miroesque Notan (Kenneth and Elizabeth)

Girl (Lizzy?)

Abstract composition

Negative space

Old Hollyhocks, reworked and considerably improved

I am practicing but my right hand goes numb when I paint, and my left is useless. The colors on most of these are a bit richer than the camera captured. I took them standing on a chair above the dining table.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

What is home? Where one hangs one's hat, or one's heart? Given those choices, it's a no-brainer for me: it's where the heart resides. So we are "home" in Oregon again, from Montana, which  for me, is home and always will be. Here are pictures from our latest trip. I'm still going through all the ones I took so will post over the next weeks and months as I process them.

Aspens in Coram, Montana

Big skies, green fields, and rolling hills in the Flathead Valley

On the Inside North Fork Road. We started at Polebridge. The road was open only as far as Logging Creek due to flooding and the road being washed out.

From the Outside North Fork Road. Still quite a bit of snow on the mountains. Logan Pass was closed from Avalanche to the Jackson Glacier viewpoint.

To be quite honest, we are looking at retiring in Montana someday. To that end, we've begun exploring property acquisition. I've become used to eastern Oregon, but I don't love it. I don't particularly like winter, but I love Montana. So here's to the future, and moving home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Random Weirdness

Al at The Rock


Through a Glass Wetly


Tacoma Narrows

Road Trip


Weird lights

Who, moi? I thought I didn't have freckles anymore...and my bulbous nose...agh! wrinkles!

These aren't hipstamatic, but they're fun and interesting. I like taking pictures with limitations on my equipment. Everything is chance, and some of it may be useful as painting ideas someday if I ever start painting again. I'll have newer ones soon, reflecting on some discoveries I've made on how to distort landscapes by moving the phone...and this summer I intend to make a digital pinhole camera. More to come...especially proofing my blog before I publish.