Day 25. Tired.

“Come With Me” 6×6 inches, oil on canvas

I found a file in my google drive this morning that I’d created in 2021 called “Poems I Like.” Some I remembered well, and others felt like it was my first time reading them. Thank you, past me, for creating and then forgetting entirely a file that would serve me now so wonderfully.

It’s day 25, and I am admittedly tired, which is why when I rediscovered e.e. cummings’s poem, “You are Tired, (I think)” it spoke directly to me. Just before I read it, and daunted by the task of having to write this very blog post, I decided to take a breather and do the spiritual practice I described in day 7 and day 20 where I write myself a letter from Unconditional Love. 

What is so insanely beautiful about today is that this poem has the same spirit and tone that my letter did. I read Cumming’s poem as though it were Love writing it. And, specifically to me. In my letter, Love said, casually of this very blog post, “I’ll help you write it. I know you’re tired.” And I suppose Love did.

 

“You Are Tired (I Think)” by e.e. cummings

 

You are tired,

(I think)

Of the always puzzle of living and doing;

And so am I.

 

Come with me, then,

And we’ll leave it far and far away —

(Only you and I, understand!)

 

You have played,

(I think)

And broke the toys you were fondest of,

And are a little tired now;

Tired of things that break, and —

Just tired.

So am I.

 

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,

And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart —

Open to me!

For I will show you the places Nobody knows,

And, if you like,

The perfect places of Sleep.

 

Ah, come with me!

I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,

That floats forever and a day;

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 24. So much depends upon…

“How the Light Gets In” 8×16 inches, oil on canvas

Today’s painting is a bit of a shift. A couple weeks ago my family was invited to one of our most dedicated and long-time 31 in 31 participant’s new home on a huge, sprawling span of land complete with a large pond and a perfectly placed red canoe right at the water’s edge. When my husband and son immediately climbed in, I couldn’t help but start to rewrite in my head the famous William Carlos Williams poem: 

so much depends

upon

 

a red wheel

barrow

 

glazed with rain

water

 

beside the white

Chickens

 

In my mind it was more like

 

So much depends 

upon 

 

a bright red

Canoe

 

Glazed with mud water

Below the white 

Sky

Anyway, I tried to use my people in the red canoe as inspiration for one of my daily paintings but, well, it was, to borrow from the kids these days, exceptionally “mid.”

But it got me thinking about families, ours in particular, and how the word blended so often gets paired with the word broken. What if we might look at families in light of those Japanese bowls– Kintsugi – where they repair broken pottery by mending it with gold, silver, or platinum as a way of treating “breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

Expert Christy Bartlett explains, “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated.” Most agree that this process makes the art more beautiful, more compelling. 

 A dear friend of mine who is not particularly religious started wearing a medal of a saint around her neck to inspire her towards a particular calling she feels in her bones. And I wondered, who is the patron saint of stepparents because maybe I could use a little of that kind of inspiration. 

So I painted St. Joseph, who I know so little about perhaps because so little is known about him. This painting came swiftly, nearly painted itself as though the honoring of what the world calls broken was moving my hands.

I wasn’t thinking about the Japanese bowls until just this moment when I sat down to write, but I think it fascinating that the background of my painting has “cracks” in it where the layer of color from the previous layer can shine through. 

As Leonard Cohen taught me, and I say to myself at least once a day, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

You might notice some red on Joseph’s beard and you’d be correct if you guessed that was because I wanted to put some of my husband into the image since his role as my son’s stepfather inspired the whole thing. Perhaps I did paint a little of the red canoe after all. 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

"The Bud Stands for All Things" 24x24 inches, oil on paper I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I...

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Day 23. Caution: Artist at Play

“Inspiration Does Exist” 16×20 inches, oil on canvas

I have been working on today’s painting for several days now. It’s a good bit bigger than my paintings so far, and I had no idea where it was going until it got there. First one bird. Then two. Then three and four, in a circle around a crowned head (where did that come from?). 

Weeks ago, I’d bought some plastic stencils from Michaels, and they proved useful in creating that floral pattern on the clothing in the bottom right. 

I want so much to say something profound about this one. I want to offer you a poem or perfectly crafted sentence that you enjoy as much or maybe more than the painting. But I don’t have one, and I’ve been looking at the screen long enough to know it’s not coming. Don’t mind me, I’m just the anguished lady at the train station staring wistfully at those barren tracks.

Almost ten years ago, when I started painting full-time, I often quoted this line from Picasso: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working” because as soon as I started working on painting, really working on it, showing up to it to the same extent that I had shown up to any of my other full-time jobs, that’s when inspiration would strike and not before. It was always the act of painting that revealed some new idea, some new strategy to me. 

But now on Day 23, I’m seeing that it’s not just working that inspiration finds compelling enough to visit. It’s play. This painting was almost all play, from beginning to end. I scraped off as much as I added. I used weird palette knives with odd edges. I used a plastic stencil; I finger painted. I was willing for it never to find its way. 

I think I remember my artist friend Gretchen coming to a similar conclusion on her blog long ago, but I was too busy working to really understand: Inspiration does exist, but it must find you playing

It’s so obvious. I could have learned it by watching children in a school yard for five minutes. I could have learned it when we played Dungeons and Dragons over the holidays (see day 13). And maybe I did and it took all those times to finally get it today. 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

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More From The Blog

Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

"The Bud Stands for All Things" 24x24 inches, oil on paper I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I...

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Day 28. Except the Opposite

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Day 27. One day at a time.

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Day 22: The one that almost wasn’t

“Sing the Tune without the Words” 8 inch diameter, oil on canvas

I know this is painfully trite, but I’m diving in anyway: Mondays are hard. My son nearly missed the bus as I threw all the previously chopped onions, peppers, garlic, celery, and beans into the crock pot, threw the dial on high and ran out the door. Red beans, like painting, take time. 

I’m usually a day or two ahead in my 31 so that I can have my mornings for reflection, writing, and posting and my afternoons for taking knives to canvas. But everything I worked on over the weekend was just not there. More simmering required. Sans the delicious smell.

So after the kind bus driver waited patiently for my sweet little disheveled, half-jacketed, backpack open, scurrying eleven year old to board, I rushed to my studio and stared at a painting I’d started yesterday thinking maybe it, like Mondays, was a bit trite. 

 

Do you even sing the tune without the words, bro?

 

I worked and reworked it a bit, gave this cardinal an Emily Dickinson halo as a sweet reminder of what my birds mean to me, trite or not. 

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

BY EMILY DICKINSON

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

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More From The Blog

Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

"The Bud Stands for All Things" 24x24 inches, oil on paper I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

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Day 27. One day at a time.

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Day 21. Do over.

“A Holiness that Exists inside Everything” 8×8, oil on canvas

Today’s painting started many days ago. I was trying to explore the poem by Mark Nepo that I shared on Day 14– This line in particular:

In the very center, under

it all, what we have that no one can take

away and all that we’ve lost face each other.

And I was trying to do that with these two herons– one dark and one light who were facing each other and around them was a floral border made of both full bloom flowers and wilting ones.

And…

It wasn’t great. The composition led your eye more to the spaces between the birds than on them. The poem goes on to end with my favorite part:

It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured

by a holiness that exists inside everything.

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

And isn’t it interesting that this new version which keeps some of the old, erases some of it, and also adds to it, is perhaps still working toward that idea of all that we have that no one can take away coming face to face with all we’ve lost? 

My hummingbird today represents the holiness that exists inside everything. That little flutter of spirit, present in the blooms that burst and those that wilt. In the sadness and in the beauty. 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

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More From The Blog

Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

"The Bud Stands for All Things" 24x24 inches, oil on paper I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 27. One day at a time.

"Look at the Birds of the Air" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Every 31 takes me on a different trail through the same forest. One year I discovered the magic of watercolor. Another, my ideas and hopes started to grow as plants and flowers from the heads of human figures, a...

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Day 20. Love Letters II

“It’s Okay, Dear One, to be Proud of Yourself” 6×6, oil on canvas

I came across a photo of a little Prothonotary Warbler with its chest pushed out, and I knew that kind of confidence would have to make it into a painting. 

I learned this years back about parenting: It is more important to encourage kids to be proud of themselves than to shower them with our own pride in them. I learned from one expert or another that instead of always saying, “I’m so proud of you” to the high grade, the goal scored, the helping hand to someone in need, I can sometimes try “Wow, you must be so proud of yourself.” And now that I’ve tried it a dozen times or so, I can really see the difference. I don’t want my kids’ confidence to hang in the balance of my approval. I want them to have a deep and abiding sense of their worth. To be in this world firmly instead of being pulled towards the first signs of validation wherever they might find it. 

And perhaps, in this strange world of being an artist in 2024, with its every-changing algorithms and videos and little clickable hearts, I need to cultivate that in myself too. On day 7 I mentioned this two way prayer I learned from Liz Gilbert where she writes a letter to herself from Love each day, a practice I’ve been doing, though not quite daily. Recently in one of my letters, Love wrote this simple and unexpected phrase: It’s okay to be proud of yourself

Below is a little excerpt from the letter, one I’m a little hesitant to share, but one I feel Love would want me to. 

On your run yesterday you felt so good. You got the smallest taste of self-compassion. And you ran without worry of the time or your legs or your heart or your breath. And you wondered if it was me that whispered to you, “your vulnerability is your strength” or if it was just your programming after having consumed too many woo woo podcasts and Brene Brown books. But it was me, and the way to know is because of how it felt. Like an exhale. And I felt that little bit of holy pride welling up inside you. That was me. That was you. And it’s okay, my dear one, to be proud of yourself.

 

I wonder, dear ones, if there is anything of which you are particularly proud this day? Rooting for you, always. 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

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More From The Blog

Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

"The Bud Stands for All Things" 24x24 inches, oil on paper I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 27. One day at a time.

"Look at the Birds of the Air" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Every 31 takes me on a different trail through the same forest. One year I discovered the magic of watercolor. Another, my ideas and hopes started to grow as plants and flowers from the heads of human figures, a...

read more