Posts By: Teresa

Old Dogs And Winter

Posted by on Jan 13, 2018 in Blog | No Comments

The animals I live with are getting on in age, but then again, I guess I am too. Griffin is ten, and that is three years past expected for an Irish wolfhound. Kiwi, the marmalade cat is 15 and my horse is going on twenty-five.

It is winter on San Juan Island. There is a fire burning in the woodstove day and night, winds and rain are relentless. It is technically still morning AND it will be dark in four hours.

I was walking with Griffin in the woods today. Glistening green. Can I paint glistening green? It was the highest tide I have ever seen by the lagoon. It started to rain, and with the wind, we got soaked to the skin. Ducked into the wood and followed a deer trail that wove in through the moss covered limbs next to the rain-dappled lagoon. Griffin led the way through a four-foot high trail. After struggling over tree trunks and under branches, we eventually found ourselves back on the main trail. We were the only human and dog in the park today.

I often think of Fenny, my girl wolfhound who passed away last year. She and Griffin were never more than a few feet from each other until the day she died. I wonder if he senses her presence, like I do, when we pass through her favorite haunts.

We don’t walk as fast as we used to. No longer three miles of rugged terrain in less than an hour. Griffin is slowing down and there is a time and place for every action. The slowing down gives me time to pause and consider. I notice colors and shapes, smells and sounds. The moldery scent of leaves gone by reminds me of an eight year old walking home from school in a small town in Quebec. The brilliant fall leaves fallen after a storm. Finches are chirping and hustling in the undergrowth and eagles chortling in the distance. The colors are intense this time of year. Damp brings out the richest and lushest of color. Cedar tree appears green but when I look closely I see alizarin, gold and blue. There are thousands of shades of green. Where sun strikes foliage the light glistens white. The deepest shadows are as dark as raven. I ponder, daydream and make up stories. I meander and walk for the sake of walking, drinking in the grace and abundance of the woods. Just me and Griffin and all the creatures of the forest.

It is winter on San Juan Island. The people are friendly and I can turn left on Spring Street. The bounty of Christmas lights warms my heart. Christmas Eve, Kings closed its doors early; everyone hugged each other and went home to their families. This is the essence of the island in winter.

Back home, the sun is low in the sky and warming a spot in the clean straw. Kiwi and his old bones is curled up there, eyes closed and drunk in the warmth. The garden has been put to sleep and new beds are fermenting and fecund, preparing for spring planting.

It will be dark soon, so I bring in some firewood from the wood pile under the trees. Cut a few years ago and well seasoned. I am protective of the kindling and only use a tiny bit to start the fire. I am not so good with an axe so I cherish what I have. Dog bowls are filled with water and Kiwi, Griffin and I are ready to retreat to the warmth of the little wood house on the hill. Smoke is billowing from the chimney. It is inviting. Griffin takes to his four foot by five foot memory foam, Kiwi curls up by the fire and I begin chopping vegetables for dinner.

The animals are getting older and I take more moments to be in their presence. I sit in the chair by the fire, hold Kiwi in my arms and we look into each other’s eyes. Winter is about slowing down, going inside and reflecting. The colors are richer. Maybe it is because I slow down enough to notice.

Luck and Other Wintery Thoughts

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

A friend asks me, “How are you?” I say, “I am well thank you,” She says, “Of course you are.” “Your life is perfect.” “Perfect boyfriend, perfect house, get to ride your horse anytime you want, painting is your job.” “Of course you are great.” “You are lucky.”

As I go through my day I ponder my views on luck.

Winter is coming, here on San Juan Island. It is 7 in the morning and dark outside. The wind is howling and rain is pelting against the east facing windows. This is soothing to me. I can relax and give myself permission to sit down in the middle of the day and finish knitting that sweater. The garden is resting, it is too wet to ride and the studio is cold. I make soup and stew, cookies and zucchini bread. Finally, there is a need for a fire in the woodstove to keep the house warm. I have missed the fire in the center of this home.

I am a fan of weather. I hike the trails around Jackals lagoon and mount Finlayson almost every day. I notice the subtle differences. I love the days with the most intense winter weather. The ones where the trees are swaying so hard they look like dancers. Scary, exhilarating and dizzying to stand under. The roar of the wind makes me feel small. The farther I walk into the deep woods the more peaceful and protected I feel. It is usually just Griffin, my wolfhound, and me who venture out on such days. I like the solitude. It is cathartic; just my dog, the woods and me.

I have been noticing how some of the foliage on the great cedars turns ochre during the heat of summer. These fronds fly off in the wind and mingle with alizarin, raw sienna and burgundy leaves from big leaf maple, willow and alder. It looks like it is snowing colored glitter. The glitter falls and lays thick on the path below. When it rains, winding rivers are formed flowing down the hills, scraping away the layers of color to the black earth below. These black earth rivers are contrasted by yellow, umber, alizarin and gold.

After a big rain, droplets of water spill from wet foliage, as the sun streams in through the cathedral of monster cedars. Mist is rising in a thin veil as if illuminating an alternate world. I encounter a dad with his little girl in the woods today. She says, “there are lots of fairies in these woods.” I answer, “yes, there sure are.”

Is it luck or did I dream it up?

My schoolteachers told my parents that I would have done a lot better in school if I would stop daydreaming. Ha! Yes, I did spend most of my time imagining. I dreamed about the woods and the lake. I imagined myself galloping through the woods on a beautiful horse. I dreamed of gardens and deer and foxes, rabbits, dogs and cats. I fantasized about the house where I would live, surrounded by beautiful pastures and trees and animals. I conceived drawings and conjured paintings of my invented personal paradise. I shaped my future out of sand. I dreamed up this life that I am living.

A few years ago I was not happy. I lived in a desert and I wanted to come home. I felt stuck ankle deep in muck that was holding me in place. I had forgotten to imagine. I had forgotten to believe that when there is a will, there is a way. I started to dream again. My musing brought me home.

I am dining on homemade brothy, root vegetable soup, rich with tomato, cumin and a hint of coriander. Sharing a bottle of 2005 Syrah with a beautiful man who smells of pine pitch and chain saw. My kind of man. Is it luck or did I dream this up?

No. Not luck. I believe in dreaming. I believe in appreciating the small things, and I believe there are fairies that live in the woods.

 

Sixty Dollar Salad

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

I have romantic thoughts about growing my food. Fresh organic food. Fresh picked and becoming salad. Packet of seeds 2 dollars and 99 cents.

I make raised beds. I buy untreated fir 4X6’s and treat them with some kind of all natural organic wood preservative. It takes a few days. I hire a handy guy who can assemble the wood into raised beds. I purchase several hundred dollars worth of organic soil and fill them. Now I am ready to plant.

I plant the seeds. Lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard. 30 days to harvest it says on the packet. This seems to me, that may be an optimistic assumption. If everything goes right and a garden has 4 feet of organic material, a perfect amount of water, sun and ideal conditions, maybe. On the other hand, if the temperature is not quite right, not enough water, too much water. Too cloudy, too sunny. Late frost, cold nights or hot days. The moon not in the correct quarter. The stars not aligned. You know the ones. Then the seeds don’t sprout and the salad is not ready in 30 days.

I keep buying more seeds and filling in where seeds have not made it. If, after 30 days, I still have seeds sprouting and becoming plants and the cats haven’t dug them up and the deer have not discovered them and the rabbits are staying away. If the house sitter hasn’t forgotten to water when I went away for the weekend and the bug that eats the tops of the peas and beans has missed a few and I remember to harvest the plants before they bolt, I consider the garden a huge success.

I am working on the second year. I added 6 inches of manure in the fall. I amended and mulched. I prune and preen and talk to my beloved plants. It is May and my kale is 6 inches high, lettuce the same. I have some lovely little radishes. I am gloating with pride, and then I go to the farmers market. There, I see kale the size of small trees, lettuce so beautiful it looks like the kind they photograph for the cover of a gardening book. Tomato plants 4 feet tall. How is this possible?

I ask advice to find out why my plants aren’t growing as fast as the plant lady’s at the market. Opinions come freely. “You probably aren’t watering enough.” “You are probably watering too much.” “Did you wait until the moon was in the first quarter to plant?” “Oh no!” “Did you mulch?” “Slugs.” “Probably slugs.” “Must be voles.” “Happens to me every year.” “Deer, that’s the problem.” “Birds.” “You should never have a bird feeder, or the birds will eat your seeds.”

I have two main obstacles so far this year. Cats and pill bugs. I have three beautiful cats that are now looking for good homes. Cats dig up my seeds right away or they wait until the little plants are barely up. I read that coffee grounds work to keep cats away. Cats don’t like coffee grounds apparently. So I give up tea and start drinking coffee. It takes a lot of coffee. Wood ashes work if there are enough of them but the seeds don’t seem too happy. I begin to pile sharp objects onto my garden. Pieces of wood, wire mesh, rocks, branches, metal grid. Now my garden looks like the Mexican border wall. Dismantle that. I am confident that by now the cats will have found new places to go and will leave my garden alone. No. Not so. I get a huge pile of sand and make them sand boxes. No. I make them a dirt box. Nope. Next is motion sensor sprinkler system. If that doesn’t work, electric fence with barbed wire around premises.

Something is eating the seedlings as they emerge. I have been replanting thinking that they are not germinating. Then with closer examination I notice stems sticking out of the soil. Only stems. Pill bugs only eat decaying matter I am told. Wrong. Pill bugs swarm attack and devour my new little beans as they peek above the soil line. First I try Diatomaceous Earth. This is made of Crustacean fossils and is not at all toxic. It is composed of tiny sharp shards that either dry out the bugs or debilitate them. But I have to re apply every time I water which is twice a day. 30 dollars worth of the stuff in 30 days. And if I forget or don’t get the timing right the little creature’s swarm, attack and devour the fresh new leaves. I can trap them with beer is another suggestion. Collect little cans; make holes in the soil around the plants. One can per square foot and fill with beer. Not exactly attractive and I don’t even like beer. Next, I make little walls around the seeds using toilette paper tubes or plastic bottles. When the plants emerge the bugs can’t get to them. Little walls to keep out the bug terrorists and another hypothetical solution that doesn’t work. I buy more seeds and I buy small plants already started. I also start my own seedlings. I will succeed.

I persevere. I plant the seeds, reseed after the cat digs up the first lot, reseed after I accidentally apply too much wood ash. Reseed after the pill bugs eat the seedlings. I am addicted. The first thing I want to do each morning is to check on the garden. Water and nurture. Watch things come alive.

What is it that compels me to grow year after year? What is it that gives me a rush when I see that first seed catalogue come in the mail each winter? The pure unadulterated pleasure of appreciating and sharing my first tender greens mixed with herbs in the spring. The taste and the exhilaration. Delicious yes, and that first salad is worth about 60 bucks. Money well spent.

75 Degrees And No Relief In Sight

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

I like to tease my sisters who live in Ontario and Alberta, and friends in Colorado. They tell me it is unbearably hot this summer. “It is hot here too, I say, 75 degrees, with no relief in sight.”

We get the boat in the water early morning when Griffin Bay is calm and looks like glass. Come back in with a quota of 5 crab. There is a family of children and grandma fishing for minnows off the dock. Giggles, flip-flops, and memories of a cottage in Quebec long ago, and a minnow net that my father made for me.

Summer on San Juan Island is about morning rides on my horse, when the dew is still on the grass from early fog that settles into the valley overnight. There is complete utter silence this time of day. A doe lifts her head to look at me as her dappled fawn hops over close to mama. I see a fox up ahead on the trail. Back at the barn, one fat barn swallow won’t leave the nest. Parents keep bringing food and more food. I am pretty sure he is too fat to fly.

Low tide in the summer is my favorite. I take off my shoes and walk way out at False Bay. Warm salt water on my feet. Dogs love to lope along and splash through the tepid pools. Clouds of birds shifting with the tides. Sea gulls and sand pipers run in and run out with the waves. I am mesmerized as I watch. Tide pools full of tiny crab, limpets, sea anemone and chiton. Especially low tide close to full moon and summer solstice reveal sun stars and purple stars, and once in a great lucky while an octopus.

The tractor showed up today and is cutting the hay. The smell is intoxicating. Reminds me of my first pony, Penny, and the smell of fresh hay that my dad and I stacked next to her stall. With the grass cut, the dogs and I can walk to the pond again. It has been 4 feet tall and quite a trek to get down the hill. The farmer will be turning the cut hay into huge round bails. Such a majestic sight out the front window. I am always sad when they come and take the bales away in the fall.

I go into town midday for the first time in awhile. Things are quite different here in summer. I have to walk 2 blocks to get to the gym. What an inconvenience. I never turn left on Spring Street any time of the year, but this is beyond turning left. It is grid lock. The ferry is unloading and someone is waiting for a parking space, holding up traffic all the way to the boat. Are you kidding me?

Night time and night life is quite different summer vs winter. I go out with my girlfriend on Friday night. It is an adventure. So many people having a blast in a new port. Interesting stories to tell when I get home. Not many familiar faces. I think I prefer winter, where the place may seem bereft of life, but it is more about connecting with friends than a rowdy party.

This time of the year in the San Juan’s is pure magic. There is a sparkle that I don’t see anywhere else. A sparkle in the landscape and a sparkle in the people. Summer days are long long long. The garden is abundant, people are happy, birds are singing and it is 75 degrees.

I moved to this island in 1989. Although I have come and gone for a time over those years, I am still in awe of its beauty and its magical presence. Each time of year has its own special personality, but summer is the island at its very best. Spring is really my favorite, though. Fall is quite spectacular, actually. And winter is the pure healing joy of peace and quiet.

 

If I Were a Cedar Tree

Posted by on Dec 2, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

 

If I were a cedar tree I would sway in the wind, bend but not break. I would be aware of the moment and nothing more.

If I were a cedar tree I would watch the world change. More generations than I can count.

If I were a cedar tree I would never be alone. I would be mother and life force. From bald eagle to tiny microorganisms that live under bark. Lichen and moss, mama fox and kits live in hole under root, woodpeckers gorging on supper, junco’s and wood hatches flitting to safety. I would give shelter and safety, sustenance and perch.

Wise woman would cherish my wisdom and see the spirit within me. I would have seen settlers come and cut down brothers and sisters. Yet, I would not wake in the night and worry. Things would be simple.

If I were a cedar tree I would welcome back the salmon that spawn then became fry then swam out to sea. I would watch as the sea gulls, eagles and bear come and feed after the next generation has been laid.

If I were a cedar tree I would hear the whispers in the dark of night. No one would know I was there.

If I were a cedar tree I would stand proud for artists with their easels and paint. I would display my beautiful sweeping branches, massive trunk and flecks of red and gold and rust within the thousands of shades of green in my boughs.

I would stand tall and calm as children climb on me and parents teach.

If I were a cedar tree I would be whole, neither happy nor sad, but at peace with my life as it is. I would live among my brothers and sisters many hundreds of years we would be. I would be strong and steadfast as those around me.

If I were a cedar tree I would be whole. I would not be bothered by the judgment of others. I would stand in peace. I would not judge.

If I were a cedar tree I would not plan for my future nor fret over my past. I would notice the caw of the crow and the nip in the air.

If I were a cedar tree I would stand tall in grace.Cedar950

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Bring Love To The Surface

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

There is a feeling in my heart. It is deep and primal.

I feel it when I am in love.

I feel it when I am listening to Bob Dylan’s, “Make You Feel My Love.”

I feel it when I am gazing at, “Still Life With Basket and Six Oranges,” by Vincent Van Gogh.

It is the perception of God.

Art is a conduit for love and an artist creates in unison with God.

A great artist has the ability to tap into the realm of magic and bring love to the surface.

That way the rest of us can see it/ feel it/ breath it.

Art is love at its purest.

Love

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

A perfect love is one where two people are more exceptional for being together. Not just sharing a life, but enhancing, supporting, and celebrating. Where we can be more as two, than as a singular. Conjoin and move a mountain.

I Am A Mediocre Mom

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

I am a mediocre mom. I figure if I just claim my mediocrity. It takes the pressure off.

My daughter graduated from high school this week. Talk about pressure and hard work for these youngsters. Getting them ready for the real world they say. Stress and competition and the main goal- good academic grades.

I am a mediocre mom because I support my girls in the B’s and much as the A’s. I support them in the C’s if that is where they are right now and I let them know I love them just as much. There were 64 graduates this year and not one is better than another. All of them have a calling and a beauty inside and out. It may not be getting A’s and top scores. It may be in their heart. In the way they help people or animals or saving our planet. I say we need to celebrate all of these young adults and encourage them to find their own unique voice. Guide them in trusting their instincts and heart. Academics is important but it is not the only score to our value. I wish for them to love themselves as deeply as they deserve. They are our future and they are complete.

How arrogant would I be if I assumed I knew what success meant for Emma when I come from a different generation? These young adults have a future nothing like mine so how can I judge? Let us encourage them to find the voice that is unique to them. We have much to learn from their wisdom. Our lives develop in layers and we cannot become who we are by eliminating any one layer. No regrets. No shame. No Blame.

I was sitting in the bleachers with some good friends. It was hot and I was thirsty so I asked a friend to bring water. The only container he could find was a flask. Roche harbor water in a flask at high school graduation. I laughed out loud. So, like I said I am a mediocre mom. I have not been involved in the graduation events and have-not participated in the volunteer opportunities. I am not on the PTA, or any of the other TA’s. I am a mediocre mom so drinking out of a flask may come across as appropriate.

I am a mediocre mom and once in a blue moon, maybe on a full moon, I will crack open a bottle of nice wine. Go in the hot tub with my daughter and talk about boys and love, life, sex, politics and the future. We will be honest and tell each other secrets. We dig deep into the recesses that will guide my girl in her future. I am so incredibly proud of my daughters and in awe of all three for who they are. I hope all of the perfect moms as well as the mediocre ones tell their daughters and sons that they are superb just the way they are.

I encourage you to celebrate with your children. If it is with C’s or A’s or B’s because that is where they are right now. Love them as much for the D as the A.

It is all worth it. Join me in my mediocrity and accept and love these young men and women no matter what and just the way they are.

 

Art Love and a Woodpile

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

Fern950I get up at 4:45 in the morning. That way I am painting by 5am. That way I can get in a good two hours before Emma gets up.

I am an artist and I have the best job in the world. I put in the hours doing the work. It is not that I have more talent than the next person. It is that I have the tenacity to persevere and consider and move through life in an artful way. I keep working even when I am tired or bored. Even when it appears I am getting nowhere. Even when I should have a “real” job. I am compelled to keep going because there are paintings that want to be painted.

My being an artist is not just about making a painting; it is about all things in life. It is contemplation and reflection as I move through each day. In relationship, it is not worrying about the future or holding grudges about the past. It is regarding the blue on my brush and deciding it is a perfect color today. Tomorrow it may be turquoise or alizarin. I cannot see into the future or know tomorrows color anymore than I can be sure the lover I am with today will be perfect for me tomorrow. Living life one stroke at a time is ideal, artful, and contemplative. I keep putting down the paint one stroke at a time until the panting is glorious enough to change the energy in a room or has fizzled out and needs to be resurrected into something new.

I build my canvas and stretch it with linen. I put paint on thinly first then build up layers. Each layer has a sense of completion and energy of its own. As the layers build they contribute to the layers to come and the over all essence of the finished piece. Relationships are much the same. I will never look back at an adoration and wish it had not occurred because each love contributes to who I am today. I will never say, “was it all worth it, because the answer is always yes.

At home, I plant flower boxes taking in texture, color, fragrance and flavor. I use flowers, herbs, vegetables and put together a composition that is pleasing. I bring home produce from the grocery store. I pick off the labels and place them just so on the counter contemplating composition and design. This is living an artful life.

My dear friend Rob stacks his woodpile with patience and thought. Each stick is considered and placed just so, the wooden cart situated to create a sculpture of sorts. I don’t know whether he regards it as art. I think not, but I do know he appreciates beauty and prefers good design to happenstance. This is where the line between contemplative and creative becomes blurred. Rob might say his stacking is contemplative and many would call it art. It is one and the same to me. What is the difference between picking up a piece of wood and discerning where it would be best suited and putting paint on a brush and considering where that particular color would like to land?

 

Like the woodpile and the lover, I like to think of each painting unfolding as contemplative practice. First thought best thought, as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpochi, said to his students when referring to Dharma art. Making art that changes the energy in a room takes more than a concept. It takes putting in the hours, listening to the work, pushing through the boredom. It takes being present and feeling sadness as deeplyt takes faith that withstands fear. It is contemplative. It brings love to the surface.

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Smell the Roses

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

I wake up with my face resting on the window ledge. Nose facing out. The fragrance hits me first. A pungent aroma of wild roses and the sweet smell of Hawthorn. Cat I call Tiny Tubby is curled up under my arm and Kiwi, the orange tabby is on the next pillow. Griffin, the boy Wolfhound is on the sheepskin rug by my bed and Fenwick, Wolfhound number two, is a few feet away. Two stray cats look up at my bedroom window anticipating breakfast. Stella, the black cat from up the hill will be here in a minute.

It is 5am and I can see the sun beginning to rise from behind Mount Baker. Mount Baker is my mountain. I call it that because it is the center of every room in my house. I walk in the front door and there it is. Unique everyday. Sometimes pink, sometimes blue, other times shrouded by mist.

I get up and make tea. Sun is streaming in the windows and I feel warm.

I think, write, plan, putter, sit.

I moved to Boulder Colorado in July of 2003. Newly divorced and needing a new start. Packed up a U-Haul with my 3 kids, dog, 3 cats and our stuff. Headed east. I thought I should try being a small fish in the big pond. Thought I would be happy. Thought I would find success. I hit the continental divide and cried all the way to Boulder. I didn’t stop crying until mid September. Regret, worry and hesitation hit me hard. I walked into my new suburban rental and immediately wondered how I could get back to my island. This did not feel like home. I felt completely alone surrounded by so many people. Kids were small and registered in a new Colorado school. House in Friday Harbor was rented. Nope, I was stuck. I worked my art business and taught thousands of people how to paint. I got married and divorced. I finished an art degree at a Buddhist University and I learned how to meditate. I met some wonderful people and I never stopped missing my island.

I daydreamed about the magic of the San Juan’s. The intoxicating smells, the colors, the drizzle and cloudy days. I dreamed about this feminine place that nurtures and embraces me. This place where friendships flourish and lovers are born. I felt as if the island wanted me too. A pull. I began a vision to get back to my home. Back to my people. Back to my tribe and my flowers, owls, eagles, quail, rabbits, foxes, little birds, deer, trees, beaches and my mountain.

July 1st 2015 I landed, full time, both feet. I am back.

And here I am, smelling the roses.

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