Simple Things That Stir My Soul

      Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

From This to That…..Read to the end please.

This time of year brings a powerful emotional rush for me, with blessings in such abundance that the ride from Thanksgiving until New Years Eve feels like one long continuous smile through teary eyes of gratefulness. I am a simple girl at heart, not very high maintenance I have been told. It is because I am an artist – it is ALL wondrous to me, the small is way more intricate than the big. Every day brings joy and wonder at all the goodness still in evidence in this tumultuous, troubled, wounded world. Every tiny thing stirs my soul. Every song, every kind word, every demonstration of love and giving melts me right down to a tender mess. During the holiday season, the common becomes the extraordinary; all that is good and true becomes magnified and more important in my eyes. Every moment is a reminder of how fortunate we all are to be where we are and who we are in a country of opportunity and bounty; we are all well aware of the alternatives.

I will always and forever be moved by the stark imagery of a red barn in the snow. It travels me back in time to my youth spent on eight magical acres in the country, when we lived in a huge enfolding mother of a home and Santa’s sleigh landed on the roof.

I am brought full speed to happiness by the giggles of little children waiting for Santa, opening gifts, bundled up against the snow, eating holiday cookies and finally snuggling in for bed on Christmas Eve.

I can tear up making mashed potatoes when I am suddenly aware of how many Christmases I have been fortunate enough to make them for a mob of partying people arriving through my door. I am so grateful to have survived all this time. I am so grateful for people who enjoy coming to my home.

I am amazed when the simple glass globe that changes colors and acts as a nightlite for  my laundry room (it really deserves a better location)  becomes the single most fascinating object in my home, (amid piles of new markers, crayons, coloring books) for my three precious nieces. I wish I had gotten a picture of them clustered around it, oooing and ahhhing….it was priceless.

I am struck by the panorama of the Rocky Mountain range spread out before me in snow-covered majesty against a deep blue sky, clear as a bell and sparkling in the late November sun. It is a scene I am treated to every time I drive through the entrance of the community I call home, and it makes my return from the most mundane errands a constantly changing artistic delight. That view is my barometer of weather rolling in and many times a barometer of the mood I am in. How can one not be inspired and humbled by that enormous landscape? It puts you right in your place if you are feeling the slightest bit grumpy. It straightens you up and makes you fly right as my mother would say.

I am ever-awed by the surprises that come my way, both great and small, during this giving season. I also happen to have a late November birthday, lumped in with Thanksgiving and Christmas and so I am also facing the fact that I am in the late fall of my life both literally and metaphorically. No need to remind me – I am well aware of the years, thank you very much. Winter is just around the corner. I can already hear the wind howling as it gets closer and closer. Anyone who is fortunate to have reached this point relatively unscathed asks herself or himself a lot of questions. I mean a LOT of questions….you become rather introspective. And quite philosophical. Wondering…how many Christmases are left…wondering how many of all the “this and thats” you might have left. What is to come? It is not always pretty up there in your mind’s eye. You welcome diversions.

I am fortunate to be blessed with an old-soul daughter, a rare and wise and fun daughter who is beautiful both inside and out, in my life who takes great pleasure in stunning me – shocking me – rendering me speechless and babbling like a goofball with monumental surprises beyond my wildest dreams! The most recent surprise (in a long list of events and occasions that scroll through the attic of my mind) first unfolded with a request to play a silly little game of rhymes, followed by the big realization when the answer was revealed, then chaos in my mind and dumbfounded confusion about how it had all been planned so carefully behind my back, complete with a Fed Ex delivery to my door with mysterious envelopes to open over a week’s time…….a plane ticket and more! It finally sunk in that I am being sent away to Paris for a week, accompanied by a dear friend (in on the planning) since my daughter was busy meeting deadlines with her job and could not get away. This is a wild dream that had been eliminated from any dreams (for one reason or another) I had for this particular year of my life! It is a rather large birthday I am facing. It makes me gulp. This surprise is large enough to match the numbers and now my gulps will be of wine. For an art major and fanatical fan of Da Vinci, Notre Dame, the Eiffel and all that is France, this will be heaven. I am crazy with anticipation.

I have learned more from this darling daughter of mine than I could ever have taught her myself. She was born Yoda-wise. I saw it in her baby eyes when she was born.

She believes deeply in the giving of experiences. She knows that there is great value in giving memories, because those will entertain and  warm you in the long winter of life to come when your ability to find adventure and action packed days is no longer a possibility. She finds ways to fill my bucket list and stoke my fire of a life well lived, so the embers will burn for a very long time. It must also be mentioned that her old-soul Renaissance Man husband is very much a part of this picture, also loving the fine art of the surprise! Thanks so much for this birthday gift! I will do it up right I promise!

Eiffel Tower by night

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Summer 2016

The photos above are my own – the first one is the vista taken from Mt. Lindo (the mountain with the enormous lighted cross) looking east toward the distant Denver skyline, with highway #285 winding its way west toward Conifer – a weekend journey for me, up that canyon to the place in the pines that I love best. (referenced in my new novel, A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON – AMAZON & KINDLE).

The second view is Evergreen lake, the third is the meadow across from Meyers Ranch in Conifer near where we hike, and the last is our little doe making herself at home in the sheltered spot surrounded by rocks just outside the studio window.

Summer 2016, from the ridiculously funny to the sublime and everything in between, is about half over and has already been logged as one of my personal best. I find my peace in the mountains. And yes, my blogs have been few this summer, but that does not mean I am uncommunicative. I am incubating new ideas. I am on fire to write another book (I have no control over this urge to write – it is an animal that needs constant feeding) but so far I am just making notes. I am also painting, which is quite similar to writing…requiring color, pattern and texture in the composition…focal point, sub-plots and sub-areas,  interesting detail and dialogue. The process for each creative endeavor uses much the same principles, and of course you must also open yourself up and bleed it all out. You have to be unselfconscious in your desire to share.

We are attending summer concerts, art festivals and galleries, having friends visit us, painting both in the studio and plein air, checking out the Little Bear Saloon to make sure it still rocks (it does), the Lavender Festival and exploring back roads on the Harley. We have had a Colorado, stay-at-home kind of summer, but we have big plans for Fall. Every breath I take I am reminded that these are my Halcyon years, now in the final chapter of my life. I cannot ask for more than this, nor would I want to. My extended world is not perfect – people I love dearly are battling cancer, friends have painful family issues to deal with and the world here and abroad seems to have lost its fucking mind. Chaos and unpredictability rule the day. But somehow I have found a degree of peace, relieved of most of the stress…and removed…to a place both mental and geographic…that I love. I recommend that you do the same. Cheer Up! Do what you can with what you have got, and make yourself some happy.

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Since I’ve Been Gone

IMG_5697 The BIG ISLAND

I thank all of you who have recently discovered this Blog in my absence and you loyal followers who have continued to read, substituting my Archives for the regular Blog entries, since I have been gone…..it is very gratifying to know that the Blog lives and breathes without my assistance. It did not even need life support, almost having more views than when I was home and writing more often. Hmmm…that makes me wonder.

I have been in Hawaii, on the Big Island, specifically 1000 feet above Kona on the west coast, for about six weeks. I will not rub it in; simply put I had a spectacular time. As with any extended vacation, one’s life changes, adapts and settles down to a new routine even within just 6 short weeks, and soon you realize you do not care anymore what happens beyond your days and nights in the paradise that has become your temporary norm. You hear all the news back home – the political crap and every other ridiculous media report back where your people are, but you pay it little attention and it sort of slides off of your consciousness like jello off a plate.

The more profound issues stay with you however and you gain greater clarity about them, including a dearly beloved family member who is battling cancer. With the sunsets and sea you do gain a degree of calm…just a bit more enlightenment…and your faith renews. Then just as you nestle deeply into that faith, really deeply, and you are sleeping every night  like a well-fed baby, hoping and believing again that all is actually going to be well in the world it is time to fly home on the red-eye and you are rather miserable to be returning to reality. You attempt to carry the good vibes with you. You want to believe. You want your faith to stay strong, back where it is still winter.

I have so many stories to tell. Wish we could sit and have a glass of wine and talk. Some are X rated and hilarious and there were other happenings I will never ever forget, standing out from everything else and those will be flashing memories in my mind like bright lights at a dive bar at 1 am for years to come. Crazy funny stuff, a scary thing or two (like nearly tripping over the huge, black coarse-haired, sharp-tusked, bloody, totally severed head of a wild pig on my happy little mindless walk one morning) to important spiritual stuff and everything in between. I am in love with the island and in love with the important reason I go there.

We went to new beaches I had never before seen in my past five years, painting on a different one every Friday morning with the West Hawaii Plein Air Paintersorganized by http://Richard Rochkovsky.com  and then some afternoons from 3-6 pm with the sunset painters group of Peter and Lily Jefferson. Every beach has a personality; gorgeous & benevolent, rocky & dramatic, and the black sand beaches are especially startling next to Prussian Blue and emerald green water. Giant, cruise-ship sized waves (those beautiful burly thugs come roaring in this time every spring) once again crashed the coast on several of the islands including parts of the Kona coast and we were spectators to a Mother Nature show that never disappoints.

And now I am home again to the west Denver area, literally just at the base of the Rocky Mountains, only about 5 minutes from my favorite canyon and it is snowing cottonballs outside my windows and although it is magical, I long for sea breezes and salt air. I do have the perfect combo of a mountain and sea life. When I am here or there, I love the scenery I am sitting in, I soak it up, and either parting is bittersweet.

Thanks to all the new friends I met this trip! You were so hospitable and fun! See you again, same time next year. I am thankful for such a lovely visit!

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, Author and Artist

Books – New novel,  A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON available on Kindle, and THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, both available on Amazon.com

Webhttp://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

On Google Chrome  http://www.joannbrownscottauthor.com

Arthttp://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

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The Force of Mutha Nature

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Well it’s been a wild Memorial weekend ride around the Denver area, and it’s only Sunday noon as I write this. This week, by some otherworldly twist of fate (twist being the operative word here) I found myself in two of the exact and most threatening locations where funnel clouds were spotted around the city, just days apart. How strange.

I never say that I don’t get out much – I do get out a lot – I am all over the place actually, driving and doing stuff from Boulder, 45 minutes to the north to Evergreen and Conifer in the mountains west of Denver and then twenty minutes south of the city where I live. Every north, south, east and west direction has been under the assault of Mutha Nature. We have had a session of turbulent skies bringing walls of rain so dark that you cannot see what is going on around you when you are driving in them, hail ranging from marble to almost softball size bringing severe damage, wind and flash floods all resulting in many insurance adjustments. I like weather drama but this is over the top. The 2 funnel clouds I found myself directly under – one while having lunch with a friend in the Cherry Creek area ( where the waiter asked us if we would like to go to the basement and we, for some crazy giggly reason, was it the Sangria? – declined) – and the other being an enormous, dense black storm cell wall of water I actually drove through as my cell phone was screaming an alarm to me to “TAKE COVER IMMEDIATLY! – never actually got their funnel acts together enough to do anything more than wave around in the sky in a serpentine  tail, trying to touch ground. I saw them on the news. If I had known what was over me I might not have been able to keep a grip on myself.

I have never driven through such a storm as I did in the second experience – I could not pull over, I could not stop, because cars would have hit me in that process since none of us could see the lines in the road or what was ahead. There were no possible shelters. I had no idea, when my excruciatingly loud cell phone alarm sounded whether I was driving further into the center of the storm action or if I was lucky enough to be driving out of it – the car radio told me next to nothing, thanks a lot. Luckily I was soon going to be driving west, up the canyon to Conifer,  so I knew that when that exit came, things would improve….but barely. Tornados just do not happen in steep canyons and mountain areas….I have been told. However the rain had created an actual river coming down the canyon highway, so deep I was afraid my engine would stall out since the car was making waves as I drove.

When I finally arrived in Conifer and we turned on TV the weather map showed the area I had driven through was the very middle of a gigantic storm cell containing funnel clouds, slowly moving north and east away as I turned west into the canyon. I had been directly under that phenomenon for about 8 miles. I was shaking. My friend, who had been a car or two ahead of me but out of sight,  poured me a vodka shot.  He seemed fine – I was not. It took us a while to laugh.

The outdoor decks, flagstone terrace and steps, ground and rocks on my friend’s property in Conifer were covered with what the hail damage had caused a couple days before – it looked like chopped broccoli but was actually shredded healthy green pine needles and branches and pine cones – the trees had been mauled. They looked pathetic. It was overwhelming to see such destruction – and that was just the yard. The house and other buildings will all need new roofs. A skylight is broken and leaking. The Ping-Pong sized hail pounded the place for a full half hour.

OK so does all of this adrenalin-fueled fear go away, after you realize you are still alive? No. I can still feel all of that experience sitting here as I type. Sun is out, sort of, but I am right back in it in my mind.

So what am I going to do with myself? Well of course I ‘m going to paint.

We shall see what that brings…..the YLC is talking to me again.

 

 

Year Long Canvas Week # 10 – Reprieve

snow SNOW DAY

The YLC has had nothing new added since last week due to a freakish spring SNOWSTORM in the Denver area and the mountains, making a commute into the city for Monday art class a crazy idea even for me. It was freezing cold; the snow kept coming down, and what began as a slushy rain on Saturday turned more syrupy and thick and then serious by Sunday. On Monday morning it had snowed all night, gotten much colder and morphed into black ice on the highways and a total accumulation of about 7 inches south of Denver where I live and 24-36 inches in the foothills and higher country. The skiers are nuts with joy; the highways up to ski altitudes are clogged with people ditching work and Arapahoe Basin will stay open until June, they have announced. Here where I live, today is better with just cloudy skies, temps in the 50;s and snow nicely melting off all roads. By the weekend we’ll be into the low 80’s.

Oh I know, I could have worked on the YLC at home, but I like to “do her” during class because the energy is so palpable and positive you could cut it with a knife in that classroom. But I also, yes I do, I really really do, like her so well the way she is that I used the “snow day” excuse to give her a reprieve until next week’s class. That’s legal and I made an executive decision to let her rest. I need to think and carefully calculate what will happen to her next.

I actually spent the snow day re-working an old 18×24 inch canvas that I had stored in a closet, and I am pleased with what happened. Often the best work I do is giving life-support to old compositions that I became so disgusted with at some point that I shoved them away into a closet, letting them rest and slip into an intentionally induced art coma. Not as punishment but to give us both a time out, allowing frustrations to settle down. Taking them out, months later, breathing oxygen into them and seeing them with new eyes is usually worth the effort. So yesterday I did that and the attached photo is the finished composition.

?????????? Mixed Media painting titled WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN, copyright 2014, Jo Ann Brown-Scott

This painting surprised me. The places that are re-worked and covered up with new ideas amount to about 3/4 of the finished image. Only the orange area is original and untouched. The decision was what to cover up and what to enhance, as is usually the case. If you zoom in you will see that there are some shapes delineated with black ink, almost like boulders and stones falling. The orange area has a definite sun, and a sunset type of glow. You might choose to interpret this as a literal landscape with some kind of rockslide and a sun setting above a horizon but that would be the easy way out.

I prefer to think of it as a slide, a break, a tumble of some “LIFE” issues happening in a chaotic rush of action placed in contrast with the permanence of the sun rising and falling every 24 hours in a constant and reassuring event that tells us all that some things never change. The sun will come and go, regularly alerting us that life goes on. Thus the title – WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN, life continues and hope endures. That’s my story on this one.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – The Proverbial Springtime in the Rockies

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Photos from the south Denver area looking west, March 8, 2014

Here we are just a week from SPRING! and yet it is white everywhere. Yesterday we had a cotton-ball fluffy, white-out blizzard thing blowing up in our faces and our noses here in my south Denver area and today it is melted off in all the right places and the sky is supernaturally blue. The snowmen, so carefully created yesterday afternoon at the height of the  action are now slumped over and dripping sweat from this afternoon’s warm-up to a near 50 degrees. And so it goes in SPRING!

This will be the mother nature of things for the next couple months here in the Rocky Mountain region as SPRING! springs forward and then changes her feminine mind only to retreat and accept another wintry blast from the past. We actually like it, this back & forth, even while we complain about dressing in the morning for coldness and peeling off layers as the day progresses to warm, sunny afternoons. Shorts by afternoon is a not an uncommon thing for us in March and April.

We are almost ready to bid a fond adieu to the snowiest winter in over 20 years. Many of the mountain ski resorts have a base of well over 300 inches of snow and added another 2-3 ft.  in the past few days. There is a long and winding slowly moving line of cars heading up through the canyons into the mountains to the ski areas, and SPRING! break is a perfect time to ski….our lovely neighbor to the west, Lake Tahoe, has not been blessed with the powder this winter. Some years you are the anointed one and some years you are not. We feel your pain; been there too and done that.

We here, however, are on a Rocky Mountain High. We breathe deeply the joy of living in this spectacular setting.

The Creative Epiphany – It’s 15 Below Zero in Colorado Tonight…don’t be like the bull

th[3] photo courtesy of nation.time.com/2013/12/4/snowy-day-expected

This Colorado weather and its record low temperatures takes some practice and I have not gotten the hang of it yet after moving back here from living in northern California for the past six or seven years. My internal California thermostat re-set itself at a higher comfort level while I was out there. I was happiest at 70 degrees. I had forgotten that in Colorado most people wear layers all winter long and setting one’s indoor household thermostat at 67 for daytime and 65 for night is common. Coloradans are a hardy bunch, and energy conscious too. So now my first authentically cold winter in years has arrived with a blast –  and the first day or so of it I am so stunned and intimidated that if at all possible I decide not to go outside for even one little minute. Then there is another night of bitter cold at 15 below followed by today that brings a high of 7 above and I begin to realize that life must go on. I cannot shrink like a spring violet under the winter cold – it is only December and there is a long way to go. So I gathered my best version of how I used to be when I was a Colorado girl and I ventured out. I was out doing errands, sort of, within a small perimeter of my house. That is progress. Everybody else was out there too. Looking just fine I might add. I was dressed and layered as if I were on that Antarctic expedition with Prince Harry.

I dare not walk for my usual daily mile and a half because I can’t manage to get a deep breath of air in this deep freeze, so I went to the neighborhood gym. That requires practice as well, since I dislike exercising within a swarm of sweating specimens, all riding or propelling humming machines yet going nowhere. I prefer to actually go somewhere when I make the motions of walking.

My friend called yesterday and said she had slept with her PJ bottoms tucked into the tops of big wool socks so that the legs would not ride up during the night. Don’t you hate that? You turn over just once and your legs are bare up past the knee. The bed is damn cold in the parts that are not under you, and so it is a shock to reposition a leg or an arm if they are not totally shrouded in pajamas. This is what they call a 3-dog night because you need 3 huge dogs in bed with you to keep you warm. No wonder the people in the middle ages slept in the same room as all their livestock, but talk about sweating, smelly specimens – yuk.

And another thing. Can you imagine sitting down on a toilet seat in the night in this weather? Of course it is inside the house, but it is like an ice cube even so. We are supposed to open all the cabinet doors under all the sinks so that the pipes have full access to the heat within our homes and theoretically they will not freeze. Have you ever had frozen pipes? Ever heard the creaks and groans that plumbing makes at night when it’s this cold? That keeps you on alert. Ever heard a pipe pop open and spew water like a hydrant as it warms up and thaws? When we lived in the mountains of Evergreen, CO. as the kids were growing up, frozen pipes were almost a yearly thing. And when the electricity went off during storms, our well water was inaccessible. We had a wood stove for back-up and used it several times  to cook a sort of dinner. Wood had to be chopped for the fireplace as well as the stove. We chose to live in the country with all the fun and inconveniences of that lovely lifestyle…oh the kids could tell you some wild stories.

Mr. D. our neighbor in Evergreen had cattle who were lucky enough to pasture at 8300 feet amid Aspens and pines, grazing on fresh grass in bucolic meadows surrounded by mountains. One late fall a freakish blizzard blew in and it snowed big hunky flakes that accumulated at an inch every hour and by morning of the next day we had over two feet. Mr. D’s cattle had not made it back to the barn and had been huddled against the wind and the snowfall all night in the leaf-less  Aspen grove, just about a hundred yards from the road. The next morning as we drove by in the car we saw quite a spectacle for the eyes of my two young children. Mr. D. and his ranch hands were cutting up the bull of the herd and sliding out  huge chunks of blood-red meat on tarps across the snow. The crimson splattered snow was unmistakably  the scene of a killing. But why?

Did the coyotes kill the bull? Or a bear? I called Mr. D. and got the full story from him so that we’d all rest easier knowing the truth. When a bull’s testicles freeze, he must be shot or he will die a slow agonizing death from gangrene. A bull’s testicles hang pretty low, and in two or more feet of snow it becomes impossible for him to escape his fate. Right then and there he was shot and cut into edible pieces to be frozen and eaten later in many a meal. The scraps were left under the trees for the coyotes and we could hear them howling all night with their good fortune.

The local news here has coverage of the livestock and how the farmers care for their animals. People are foolish enough to leave dogs and cats outside…what are they thinking? It is cruel and inhuman.

This story and others come to mind as I experience a grand weather event such as this. If you follow this blog you remember that last fall we had a five-hundred year flood event here, all along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. We were underwater! They said that if it had been snow instead of rain we’d be digging out for days. Now the snowy weather has begun and  unusually cold temps are here. I think it’s going to be a doozy of a winter! And I am pretty excited about it.

PS – I know the picture above is not a BULL but it is the best I could do.