Tree Noise

Tree Noise

We may be the only house in Vermont where you can’t actually see a mountain. We carved our plot out of the middle of a hill, leaving as many trees as possible. The result is that we can see outlines of mountains through the branches in the winter, but most of our view is defined by the vertical lines of the tree trunks and the blur of green that covers them in the summer. It’s not a vista or a monument. It’s not white noise, it’s visual tree noise. 

I’ve always been grateful for that tree noise. After a stressful day, it brings me back to earth. It soothes and then inspires. Even when I was working at home, however, I didn’t understand its full potential. 

Normally, just a few days of being home gives me a co-morbid case of cabin fever and wanderlust. Pneumonia initiated my quarantine back in March, well ahead of the state lockdown. It’s still kicks my butt each day, but yesterday I realized that illness is not the only thing that, for the first time in my life, has turned me into a happier homebody.

Thing1 wanted to test drive his car after replacing the cooling system and invited the Big Guy and Thing2 along for a joyride. It was a perfect spring day in the Green Mountain state, so, of course, they said yes. Wiped out from sitting in the garden and mulching the onions (thank you Strawbale Gardening), I opted for a nap in the lawn chair.

The seasonal streams and wind sang through the trees, supported by their supporting chorus of songbirds and crows. I opened my eyes every so often to absorb the visual tree noise. Recently turned green after a last blast of snow, it took center stage again.

I’ve viewed most of our world lately from my fuzzy blue office chair. The tree noise has consisted mostly of branches and mud and snow, but whether highlighted by puffy clouds and a crystal sky or muted against a backdrop of purple and mud, the effect has been the same.  

The patterns and colors wipe away concerns and replace them with ideas and creativity. “Do I have the right shoes for that?” and “What’s my next career move?” become an hour of writing and reading. Paintings conceived replace wish lists made up of things that create happiness for the few minutes after they’re bought.

As those wish lists disappear, so does the cabin fever. We still order the things we need — groceries, essentials. I think, however, my days of trying to wander away from my worries or to purchase happiness and serenity may be over.

Everything to be Thankful For – Giveaway

Everything to be Thankful For – Giveaway

Acrylic on canvas panel, 9×12”

I’ve done clothes. I’ve made a dent in the pile of books so that I can put everything away.

Now I’m getting to papers. On her show, Marie Kondo makes it look very easy to get rid of papers, and for the most part I find that to be the case. I have financial records going back 17 years that could definitely be scanned and burned. But I also have stacks of sketchbooks and drawing pads chock full of drawings sketches and even little paintings.

A lot of them are pretty bad, but I love them all. They are proof that I have at least given my creative life a fair chance. But in my 10 x 10 office, there is only so much room, and right now that space belongs to the future. It belongs to the paintings that are waiting to be made and the books that are waiting to be written and illustrated.

About two months ago, I started scanning in the drawings, thinking I would make an e-book to sell on Amazon. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them once the scans were done, but now I think I know.

Thing2 has claimed dibs on anything I plan to discard (he hasn’t let the Big Guy know he’s second in line). But instead of burning doodles I don’t want, I’m going to start offering them here for a regular giveaway. I figure it’s a fun way to thank the drawings (and readers who like them) before sending them on their way and starting a new stack.


Tonight is the first giveaway. This is a painting I did at paint and sip in acrylic. if you like it, share the link and leave a comment. I will choose a winner at random from the comments on Wednesday January 16th and mail it out to you.

OK, I Get It

OK, I Get It

So far this is been a pretty good exercise. Sure there is a leaning Tower of clothing on my side of the bed, and the Big Guy could be suffocated if he tries to go to sleep too early. But going through this pile of stuff give me a chance to understand what it means to truly feel joy from something you own.

As I’m going through the contents of my closets and drawers, I’m realizing I have a little bit of a handbag problem, more of a footwear problem than I would’ve liked to admit, and a scarf problem.

I have a collection of scarves, but I tend to wear only one or two of them over and over again. my go to winter scarf was rolled up and put back in the drawer as soon as everything was emptied. It doesn’t give me joy, but I work constantly. Then I put another piece from the pile, and I smiled instantly.

It was a piece made from antique handkerchiefs collected and assembled by my friend Maria Wulf. I saw the scarf when I was a guest artist at one of her open houses, and I remember the moment I saw it. They were pinks and greens and blues, and two of the hankies had patterns in which Paris figured prominently.

As I rolled the scarf up and put it back in the shoebox I have now designated for these items, I felt myself smiling the entire time. Suddenly I realize exactly what this process was about. It was about being mindful of the things that surround us. Some people will certainly go through this process and find a lot more items in the collections that bring them back kind of joy. I realize (and I’m not terribly surprised) that a lot of my acquisitions only brought me joy when I was acquiring them.

The donation bags are filling up, and I’m going to try to hold onto that feeling of joy so I can summon some of it when I’m next to tempted to add to the collection of things in our house.

Decluttering

Decluttering

I had already decided to make 2019 the year of finished projects, but I was a little unsure of where to start and how best to prioritize them.

Last night I stumbled onto a new Netflix show, Tidying Up, and, having seen reviews of the host’s books on Amazon, decided to give it a whirl. I knew that the host, Marie Kondo, made her fortune helping people de-clutter. Some of the reviews had panned her strategies as being doctrinaire and extreme, So I hit play with healthy amount of skepticism.

Ten minutes into the show I was hooked. I recognized the people she was helping—parents of children a little younger than ours. they too had started the show as skeptics, but as they begin to think their relationship with their possessions, they begin to see the beauty and the advertised joy of illuminating what doesn’t make your life better.

I listen to the show last night as I struggled to settle on an illustration style for a book I’ve been working on for too long. I played with colored pencils. I played on the iPad drawing tool. And finally I got out what worked for me at the very beginning: a number two pencil and a $10 pan of water colors. It took me an hour to redo the first drawing, and it was the first time I’d been happy with the results for this book. I’m onto the next pages, issuing methods that I “should“ be using in favor of the one that works when I’m illustrating.

Focusing on the method that brings joy worked so well, I may actually have to try it on the house. My days of being able to write about being the world‘s worst housekeeper may be coming to an end.