78 and counting…10 Day Travel Photo Challenge, final day!

Day Ten A collage of my United States of America

My Big Island Favorites and “The Whistler”, 2015

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Photos taken on my recent month-long stay on the Big Island of Hawaii – my 4th annual trip in what has become a welcome rest from the Colorado snow, although I do love snow. As you probably know by now, in my paintings or my photos, I am all about pattern, texture and color…as you can see.

We painted plein air, we painted in studio, we took day trips both north to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Waimea and down south of the Captain Cook area to a black sand beach where we were told about one particular whale who has become a local favorite, and a legend I predict. This whale is a female (because they see her every year with her newest baby) whose blow-hole is damaged or deformed somewhat, so when she blows she whistles a loud haunting whistle that everyone on shore can here. Each year they look forward to the return of “The Whistler” and watch her playing just off shore of this black sand beach in the evening hours. I took the sunset pictures you see here at that very location. They also tell me that the whales breech here daily in February/March making loud smacking sounds when their tales hit the water – loud enough in the morning hours to wake you from a sound sleep. They are swimming north on their yearly migration, headed through the Maui Channel onward to Alaska, and this beach is a resting place to stop and play. We also saw whales in Kona harbor, purposely, I believe, putting on quite a show for everyone lined up on the pier one evening. Is it possible….can you imagine….that this human-being/whale connection is somehow bigger than we all imagine? They know that in certain areas of the planet we are appreciative and friendly, desperately wanting to know them better and wishing them no harm, while in other foreboding seas they might be cold bloodedly slaughtered.

All animals who migrate, including whales, sea turtles and sharks, migrate for just three simple reasons – mating and birthing, abundant feeding and a climate that is tolerable. Those three conditions rule their travels.

I do believe that the same three conditions rule the travels of human beings! Think about it.

Yes I was gone…thanks for noticing!

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Magoon Beach, February 2015

But I am back again and renewed. The Big Island of Hawaii has become my February retreat and it suits me better and better every year. I always find something unique there, but the familiar dance I do with the island and the people I visit is both predictable and unique. This time I was exhausted, pleasantly so, when I got home but the reason for that is for another time. Let me just say that there is a kind of exhaustion that is so satisfying that it reminds you that you are indeed still very much alive and kickin’. We got a lot done, a lot accomplished this time, and the rewards of our efforts were abundant. Not trying to be mysterious here, just honoring the privacy of the people I visit.

My Friday mornings were spent with a group of people who all paint plein air. Look that up if you need to, but we visited a different beach every week and we painted our butts off for over 3 hours and then there was a formal critique of everyone’s work. Painting outside is not something I am used to, being a painter of abstract art and working on fairly large canvases with acrylic using a mixed media technique. Mine is a technique best done in studio where abundant space is available, in comfortable surroundings with running water and consistently good light, perhaps some music and being able to stop for lunch. Plein air is done outdoors – bringing constantly changing light and weather conditions. We painted one morning in a gale coming in from the western Pacific and it was a comedic struggle to hold everything down. On most Friday mornings we painted for 3.5 hours and dealt with ants, curious birds, sand in our paint, salt spray, flying debris and the ever present tourists who always sneak up on you so as not to disturb you and then proceed to disturb you with the most outrageous explanations of why they are not an artist themselves.

The water changes color depending on the clouds, the weather and even the wind, so just as you begin to capture the intense bottle green in the under belly of a gigantic wave, everything changes and you can no longer see that color because perhaps the sun has been hidden by clouds. My favorite beach to paint, by far, was a sweet sweep of a beach called Magoon by the older locals where the water was so gorgeously marbled with bottle green and cerulean blue that you could not miss doing something wonderful with it. The water was clear as a bell, gently washing waves fringed with white foam across sand that sometimes turned lavender in the morning light. There were palm trees on shore, permanently curved against the breezes and many shady places to sit while painting – you cannot bare to sit in the sun for over 3 hours and paint. They would soon carry you off on a stretcher.

Using watercolors which I have not used in decades I sometimes painted a realistic scene and also painted the same scene in an abstract style of flowing shades of blue and green feathering across the paper. It was lots of fun, but to tell you the truth it is difficult to paint with all that luscious water around, and so I would quit a bit early and play in the surf collecting interesting shells and sea glass while most everyone else stuck to the task at hand.

For your viewing pleasure I am including pictures of Magoon Beach and then later in another post, 2 of the abstract paintings that I did in studio while there in Hawaii. The plein air paintings I did in watercolor will also come in a different post where I can expound upon them and compare the realistic with the abstract.

Glad to be back in the swing of things here but missing the island already – so much to show and tell you about it all, but for now I will just say…

Aloha – be kind to each other, relax and feel the love!

The Creative Epiphany – Sitting Around at Sunset on the Big Island

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A selection of sunsets for your viewing pleasure, Kona HI

So during my recent stay on the Big Island, drinking sunset wine on the western deck at 1000 ft elevation, with the Specific Ocean spread out before us like glass, and well into the prime time viewing portion of a dazzling, colorful display in shades of pewter, silver, steel blue and iridescent gold underneath the warm colors of sister sun…we are feeling no pain and talking about birds.

Birds are plentiful there – squawking and screeching and calling to eachother for answers to the big bird questions. It begins about 4:30 or 5 am and continues with different groups and choruses all day long until dusk. Since lots of chickens roam the island in the epitome of the much sought after free-range chicken life, you are liable to have roosters nearby who of course signal the dawn in big COCKA DOODLE DAMN DOOOOO (I am awake now and so are you) announcements every single morning – the good news is the free-range part because eventually they move on to greener pastures and bigger bugs to eat.

And there are crows. Remember that all these birds first breezed into the island at some point in a very ancient time, either purposely or riding involuntarily on the prevailing winds or perhaps a storm that they could not get out of, like being in a giant washing machine headed somewhere. I am fascinated – glued – to James Michener’s thick, almost 1000 page classic book “Hawaii”. I got it when I came back to the mainland and can’t put it down. Well sometimes I have to put it down because it weighs too much to carry around all day. At the time of the Roman Empire and Christ the islands were still being formed by volcanic activity and did not yet exist as a habitable location….they were forming, becoming a potential paradise, but still without edible food and clear water. The Big Island of Hawaii and her smaller sisters had not even come close to being discovered or habituated by a human person. Think about that, and think about the first people arriving and how amazed they were….but I digress.

Birds are usually found in groups which are not always called flocks, and while sitting on the deck we googled bird info and the names of various bird groups. Here is what we found, and we could not stop reading, while opening another bottle of wine.

A bunch of Crows is actually called a MURDER. Then we also have : Teams of Ducks. A Mob of Emus. An Ostentation of Peacocks! A Pitying of Turtledoves…. A Cast of Hawks. A Wedge of Geese (while they are flying). A Siege of Cranes. A Herd od Swans. A Charm of Hummingbirds. A Company  of Parrots. A Conspiracy of Ravens. An Exaltation of Larks. A Parliament of Owls. A Tiding of Magpies. A Scold of Jays.

Well it got funnier and funnier. You had to be there ( we wish for you that you were…). We also made up some of our own – well of course we did. It was sunset in paradise and we had the time.

There are many more to be found if you follow this link to the Palomar Audubon Society page: http://palomaraudubon.org/collective.html

Open a bottle of wine and watch the sunset wherever you are.


The Creative Epiphany – Your Fountain of Youth

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wave5 Watching the massive wave events on the west coast of the Big Island, Hawaii in late January, 2014


“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is a matter of the will, quality of imagination, a VIGOR of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life”. – Samuel Ullman

I believe that if you can find a geographic place – a safe and enfolding place of  contentment, magic and wonder where you can go when you need renewal – you have found your version of the fountain of youth. Some people never manage to find that unique and stirring location, but others who are young at heart and keep an open mind to the gifts of the universe search for and find their particular GPS of choice and they use it time and time again to recharge the batteries of their souls. My daughter who has traveled the world says one of her favorite places of all she has seen is Yosemite Park, practically in our own backyard.

I have not traveled the world but still I know what brings me back to the places where my heart is fulfilled and brimming up with contentment and peace. For me there are several locations – Big Sur, the big island of Hawaii, Yellowstone and Yosemite Parks and the mountains of Colorado – and when I spend time in those locations I feel sure that I am a positive force in a greater universe. I am infused with such joy at every return trip, highly energized, feeling that my life is enhanced and perhaps even prolonged by the adrenaline rush I experience. The epiphany here is that what you want to happen will happen, and so if you believe in the power of a place, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards by using it to bring quality to your days and additional time to your life. You are what you think constantly about, as they say, and so whatever brings positivity and happiness in its purest form directly into your veins – to your very being  – can only be good. If it is in your power to find your place, do find it and hold it dear. If for some reason you are unable to go where you want to go, use your powers to picture it, find it, embrace it in your soul. Do not allow the boundaries of your physical world to confine you. Go beyond and get there.

The Creative Epiphany – I’m Back from the Big Island…reluctantly

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Thanks to those of you who hang with me even when I am missing in action, out to lunch, off the radar, in the witness protection program and out of communication! I appreciate that you sometimes read my archives during the void. I know who you are and I think it is incredible that you would take the time to do that.

I was away – really away – enjoying my third annual escape to Hawaii – the BIG ISLAND – and now the dye is cast. I am destined to be a chronic returnee. I have got it in my blood and it is written in the stars and my soul already longs to go back. I just got home late last night, and I am already missing it, so I’ve got it bad. Someone over there asked me if I was going to cry when I left and I said YES, of course. And I did. Apparently, the legend says, if you do not cry when you leave, you will not be back. So please do cry your heart out. If you do not “get” the island thing, you are not meant to return. The big island is funky, magical, mystical, spiritual, artsy, sensual, lazy, and more….everything stops for sunset…..people gather and watch….all the craziness of the mainland drifts away and seems irrelevant…..I turn golden and I sleep deeply….and the panorama of the Pacific Ocean, my specific ocean, keeps me constantly gazing west. I see it when I wake up, as I cook, as I paint, as I walk the garden. We describe it in paint tube colors; Prussian blue, cerulean, turquoise, teal, cobalt. Coke bottle green, silver-blue and pewter. Are we in heaven? A glimpse of heaven I am sure.

It snowed on the top of the two extinct volcano craters while I was there. That is not an unusual event since Mauna Loa at 13,796 ft. and Mauna Kea at 13,679 ft., are, yes indeedy, quite impressive mountains, with their own weather systems. Not just a dusting of snow – a day hiker got stranded up there in snow up over his knees and had to spend the night, barely making it out alive the next day. You realize, of course, that an active lava flow still exists on this island, hissing, squeaking and popping, devouring real estate as it pours and actually barrels along at times, falling into the sea in a thick molten pudding with grand pomp and circumstance accompanied by  a neon orange fireworks-like display. The prevailing breezes sometimes bring VOG to the heavily populated western and northern areas of the island, rolling dark from over the mountain tops like a thick fog that is sometimes laced with chemical volcanic aromas and also crop-dusting everything with a fine, black gritty residue. It is no big deal once you get used to it, just Mother Nature doing her thing, reminding you, lest you forget, that she is always and forever in charge. She is the orchestrator of this island’s multi-faceted personality. The big island is a lady of many moods – weather extremes and big waves. It is a study in contrasts with many climates in which to live.

We set out from Kona one day across the middle of the island on the new road traveling to the Hilo Harbor area on the east coast (the new road chops a lot of drive time off the old route of Saddle Road), then north of Hilo we visited the Botanical Gardens where I swear we found another  Garden of Eden. See photos included of that lovely isolated location on the edge of the Pacific. Farther on toward the Waimea and Hawi areas we saw the lush, green terrycloth-like hillsides of Hawaiian cattle country. Yes there are vast ranches and cowboys in Hawaii – the most prominent ranch being the legendary Parker Ranch. Waimea is also known for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese influence is strong and the crafts of the artisans are amazing. While in the quaint little town of Hawi, we stopped in to visit and deliver new art at the Living Arts Gallery on Main Street and chatted with Mary Sky Schoolcraft, the director. The art selection there is truly divine, varying from traditional land and seascape  to contemporary, and her enthusiasm for art is evident and enviable. Visit www.livingartsgallery.net In our drive heading south from there back to Kona, along the north western coast we watched the whale migration, heading north through the Maui Channel. I was overwhelmed with delight, able to see a whale’s tail or a breech every couple of minutes, babies sometimes discernible alongside their mothers. I am fortunate to stay with a dear friend on the island, and so I also experienced some day trips and excursions that are off the beaten path to most tourists.


Living on the island is a unique experience, quirky, fun, at times challenging to find what you need just when you need it, and yet everyone is generous and more than willing to help. People there are busy building, adding on to their homes, trying to find nice furniture without having to pay shipping from the mainland. If you like estate sales and good deals, it is a mecca for that. Recycling is taken to the last possible degree. We eat fresh eggs from one neighbor, and we are brought cookies from some one else….we share earthly delights from the backyard with anyone who will help us eat them. We can’t eat fast enough to use them all ourselves – avocadoes as large as footballs dropping daily by the dozens like giant avocado bombs. You would not want to be under one when it decides to cut itself loose. Mangos, papayas, lemons, wild cherry tomato plants acting as if it is a ground cover, and of course all of the flowering bushes and trees from which to bring cuttings into the house for daily bouquets. The Plumeria tree was just blooming as I left – wafting a fragrance that is intoxicating.

I have only just begun to talk about the big island. I cannot say enough. I will dream about it and I will keep it in my heart until I go back. I invite you to come along with me and read more in the coming days. And do cry….

The Creative Epiphany – Soul Food


This mixed media collage is titled SOUL FOOD – I did it several years ago and it is now owned by one of my favorite people. It is a large painting, it makes a strong statement,  and requires a dedication of space, much like the various things that feed my soul. If you examine it closely it reveals details about the passions in my life. I could not get them ALL worked into the composition of course but there is a selection of clues. Sort of like Cliff Notes. But my life is an open book…always has been. If you ask me a question I answer it honestly – if  you know me it does not take long to figure out what makes me tick. I reveal a lot in my art and my writing, and of course those “life journals” are pretty much out there all over the damn place so it is already too late for me to be mysterious even if I claimed I wanted to be. I am a communicator. It runs in my family – the genes from my straight-up-tight English Lit and correct grammar teacher mother combined with my artistic, musical, eccentric risk-taking furniture salesman father gave me no choice in life, really. My dad could tell a story – always a true one – and it would be hilarious. He was charismatic, handsome, romantic and a naughty boy to the very end. So the fact that I seem to be drawn to that very  type of guy is no big surprise.

But I digress – soul food is what is on my mind today. Cravings – soul food places and faces and things that feed me and fill me up, leaving me satisfied and content. I hope you all know what your soul food is, because when you need symbolic comfort food and you need it NOW then you probably know just what to do with yourself. I guess my equivalent of the old tried and true comfort soul food mac & cheese has got to be the BIG SUR COASTLINE of California. When I move back to Denver this summer I just don’t know what I will do without it. There is a very special place to stay as you travel south on highway 1 – it is a charming cluster of motel cottages perched along the edge of the sand dunes  on a desolate stretch of beach overlooking my Specific Ocean, as I call it – it is going to beckon you again and again once you go there. The place is THE SANCTUARY, just a bit north of Monterey and Carmel. Visit the website at   www.thesanctuarybeachresort.com

Oh and by the way, as you begin your drive down the coast, in the town of Pacifica just south of SF (that place that is always on the news because it is losing chunks of real estate into the sea)  be sure to stop for BBQ at The Gorilla BBQ place, 2145 Coast Highway 1, Pacifica – located in an orange railroad car on the left if you are headed south – the best BBQ I have EVER had. They do have mac & cheese.   www.gorillabbq.com   They even have their own theme song available on the website.

Another must-visit place, farther down the coast past Carmel by almost 2 hours is Nepenthe – you can Google or Bing it and read to your heart’s content – I cannot possibly do it justice with my mere words, but I will say that the word Nepenthe means to alleviate pain or sorrow….to cause to forget trouble….and it does live up to it’s press. The views are beyond belief, and on my last visit there for the occasion of my late husband’s memorial day spent along Big Sur with dear friends, my pain lifted and I felt lighter than air when we settled in there for a very long dinner on the terrace. Go there to feed your soul. Go.

There are many areas here in northern CA that I consider my soul food places. In the 7 years I have lived here I have soaked up a lot of rare and wonderful memories. Yosemite leaves me breathless, Tahoe of course is my family’s playground just an hour and a half from my front door. Wine Country – Oh my goodness. My favorite art supply store of all time is FLAX in San Francisco – it is like a candy store for me. The exotic collage papers imported from all corners of the world are my magnet, pulling me in and holding me hostage there for hours. That store is responsible for changing my artistic life and direction. And it is so much more than papers – it is a great place for kids and for wrappings,  ribbons and albums, books, journals, paint of course and canvas and every single thing you can think of in art.  www.flaxart.com

This blog entry will be continued – so much to say and so little space. Emotional Soul Food is a concept that I highly recommend you explore – if you find a safe and comforting place to go, a particularly wonderful person to visit, something satisfying to eat, a lovely location to sit for awhile or a midnight walk along the beach – if you know how to employ your special people, places and things for your own peace and comfort – well then you are taking care of yourself well. And I believe in taking care of yourself. There are few people who will do as good a job of that as you do, and it is indeed a full time job.



The Creative Epiphany – Gone


I am gone – I left the island in the dead of night with a stiff breeze behind me, embarrassed almost to be leaving because who in their right mind would leave, and flew back to northern Cal. I didn’t really want to leave and my dread of the long night ahead of me on the plane was punctuated when the person next to me spilled a full glass of tomato juice all over my carry-on.  I took it as an omen that I was going to hate the trip home. I really didn’t want to leave, or did I already say that. The island life is alluring, delicious, sensual, colorful and it grows on you. You roll around in the ambience, like a dog on a good smell, wanting to get it permanently into your pores. It is sensory overload 24/7. I wanted to really be there – not just visiting. I met a lot of new people who I already believe will be friends, I painted, I wrote and I thought a lot. We took day trips, we went to street fairs and markets, we visited art galleries and many beaches.  I took about 7 million pictures and told myself I was absolutely allowed to stand there on my beach of choice for over an hour if I wanted to, attempting to capture the perfect wave in one magnificent photo.

But now, as the James Taylor song says, “Say nice things about me – cuz I’m gone.”

The seduction of color hits you at every turn in Hawaii. Those of us who are hooked on it, who must have our daily fix, who lap it up and eat it whole with juice dripping down our cheeks as we photograph it, who live and breathe it and cannot possibly get enough of our junkie habit, our COLOR drug of choice, well we are happy as hell on the islands.

The paintings I finished over there in lala land were like alien creations – colorful, wild and a little bit too free even for me. Like craft day in the loony bin. Kind of mindless and silly with metaphorical smiles. Abstract to be sure, and I know it was my hand that painted them because I watched it happen, but somewhere along the way they went all goofy and the color became almost the only thing. It was fun while it lasted, however. I worked fast while held in the zany clutches of some island gremlin and lost my common sense as I flung the paint around. I guess that would be called painting with abandon. A good thing, really, to be able to unleash that inner 3 year old and give her an afternoon purely for her enjoyment. She got her wiggles out.

But she grew up fast on the ride home when that tomato juice hit the fan. It seemed symbolically rude. Like a smack in the face that said, “Ha Ha, nanny nanny foo foo – you have to go home now.”

And so I did – I took my toys and went home.

Wow is it drab here at home in the middle of February. When I returned from the island, the barefoot confetti life gave way to the black frost bitten gerbera daisies in the pots around the patio. Spring is still a way off here.

But I have pictures to prove the validity of paradise and what it does to you. Wanna see some?

And don’t you know when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around.  55 degrees seems like freezing as I leave baggage claim and load my stuff into a friend’s car for the drive back to Lincoln.

Was that place a dream?