Life Inside the Pandemic

IMG_3720  The gorgeous cards in this post are the artwork of my gifted Cuban friend Lazaro Iglesias. You can find more of his artwork on FB under the name of La Vie Boheme. He currently lives in Santa Fe. His art always speaks to me, but especially now.

This pandemic experience feels to me as if we are all trapped in a big crystal globe – really pretty to look at – ethereal – the kind you shake to make snowfall – only it has a more sinister trick up its sleeve. I have never in my life felt more vulnerable and I am sure you feel the same.

Every day something happens that is weirder than the day before. We must remain learners now – not knowers who cannot be enlightened about anything at all. There will be many discoveries ahead and we need to remain open and aware, living in the moment and not losing our places in the plot that continues to unfold by the minute.

Concentration is key, but my mind pings around from one subject to the next like a pinball machine and I cannot come in for a landing on any one thing longer than a mosquito bite at twilight.

I decide I want to use my time to re-read the Constitution. No – maybe the entire Mueller report. Or do I want to search on Pinterest for that recipe for gooey sticky buns. I do manage to read an entire book that I absolutely could not put down titled AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins. I have not read such a gripping book in 30 years, I guess because it is so real and relevant to our current world. It is beautifully written, expertly researched and so very uplifting in the bravery its characters display. Please check it out on Amazon and please read it. It is a true page turner.

Maybe I can make myself paint today, I think. While I decide whether or not I can find that illusive creative spark I will have my second Cadbury egg and keep my eye on the third…while I play some older CD’s I have almost forgotten about. John Mayer – I grab for anything of his and wind up with WAITING ON THE WORLD TO CHANGE. Couple minutes later SLOW DANCING IN A BURNING ROOM comes on and he croons “we going down….” I look for something more mindless.

The phone rings a lot. One friend who wants me to read a couple Bible verses that she thinks are pertinent. A second friend who wants to gossip….really? How do you know anything about anyone right now? A third friend, a decade older than I am who wants to talk about the good old days, at this sharp point in time when I am all too aware of how old I am in the time of the world pandemic. Each friend is dear to me and holds a place in my overall scheme of things, but I am not in the mood for the wrong friend at the wrong time.

My brother has a couple drinks every evening and two is enough to jolt out his playful side from the darkness of the day, and he wants me to kid around with him on the phone. I live alone, and I hate to drink alone. It does not take me to a happy place. So I am busy doing other things when he calls and starts his silly routine. Because I appreciate the effort, I endure…..and I do love him. Oh ha ha.

Both my kids now live at altitude, after being raised at altitude in Conifer and Evergreen, CO just up the mountains from Denver. I talk to my son or my daughter, who always make me laugh. Kelly and her husband Jay live at Lake Tahoe – I mean they really live AT IT, on the water. Looking out at the Big Blue all day long in its changing light and seasons will keep anyone stable, I think to myself. That scenery is restorative and cleansing. We have good talks and she does keep me just sane enough, but not toooo sane that I  completely lose my characteristic craziness. It’s a fine balance.

My outdoorsy, “wolf boy,” mountain climbing, 14’er gobbling  son always has a new adventure on the horizon and must have the lungs of a Japanese pearl diver. Every weekend he is Up There climbing something. He must be clean and deep and fine when it comes to lungs. We make a date for him to visit with me next week in the greenbelt space outside my condo. I will order a pizza and have it delivered there, half to him and half to me, 20 feet apart.

The days blend into one long ordeal of time, grinding along and revealing new information every day about what we are up against. I have had some bleak moments, some dismal periods of time that are based in much more than a mere pandemic. There was plenty going on even before the pandemic arrived at my door. But I do see good in each day and spring is coming and the sun continues to rise and set and shine down upon us. Let’s make every effort to keep our chins up, ok?

 

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The Risk Taker

 

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I was told recently, in an insulting and accusatory voice, that I am no longer a risk taker…..

The sting of that remark has prompted a great deal of thought.

Is it true? If I have changed, is it due to my advanced age of 77 or have I simply turned into a chicken? I believe that anyone who knows me well – almost anyone, apparently – would find the offensive statement that I am no longer a risk taker to be false. I live a full life. I am a moving target.

There are many  definitions of being a risk taker, depending on who you ask. In my peer group of seventy-something adults the risk taking most of us do is probably way below the level it was even just 10 years ago. We are perhaps a bit slower, a lot wiser now and we prioritize what is important and what is not worth the effort of getting stirred up about. We weigh things. Do I feel like jumping on a plane to Madagascar or am I content with driving down the Big Sur highway with a person I enjoy? Is someone going to accuse me of being a chicken if I choose Big Sur?  Yes. But I am just prioritizing how I want to spend my time. It’s a big ordeal to fly to Madagascar.

Growing up on 8 acres of country in the hills of southern Ohio, I roamed and wandered freely all over that acreage and well beyond, alone and gone for hours and hours at a time. I was fearless and independent even as young as seven years old. I climbed trees much taller than our pitched-roof house, making my mother gasp and my father proud.  I road horses and one particular insane pony who bucked me off repeatedly and might have easily broken my skinny neck as I landed on hard ground. I was quite confident,  although some people who barely knew me might have decided that since I was pale of complexion and blue-eyed, petite, soft-spoken and intelligent that I must be a scaredy-cat, afraid of life.

I made the highly contested decision to go west to college instead of staying close to home because I could not stand the thought of never leaving Ohio. After arriving in Boulder, Colorado I realized I belonged in the west and basically made all my decisions from that day forward in support of that plan. I had places to see and things to do. I wanted to broaden my horizons. For the next several decades circumstances offered me and my new family the chance to live in at least a half-dozen different states and I knew that every move we made was an adventure to be welcomed. I loved to explore and meet new people.

During the time I  was raising my children I ended a chapter or two in my life and began others. It took courage and a high degree of risk taking to begin a new  life again, and then again, and again several more times in new locations and on my own. I did not come away from those experiences unscathed. I have been battered and bruised, learned some valuable lessons and kicked some butt, because when rotten things happen to me I rise above and take action. I have taken on battles with insurance companies, social security, moving companies and various negative people who were not truly my friends. I was, at one particular period of time, so defeated that I took the risk of emotionally exposing myself 100% to a professional person I trusted who gave me enormous help and peace of mind with the realization that the simple, honest things I was expecting out of the relationships in my life were normal and deserved. After learning that lesson, I chose to remain single rather than push for the security of being married.

 I am an open book. I have expressed my deepest thoughts in art and in print, gaining a degree of notoriety with galleries showing my paintings, an appearance on national TV resulting from a letter I wrote, authoring 4 books published on Amazon.com and being quite vocal whenever I get the chance. It requires intestinal fortitude to write down on paper and publish, for the world to see, the gutsy little thoughts in your head. Any person who paints or writes from the soul opens herself to criticism and judgement.

I have traveled rather extensively, halfway around the world in both directions, sometimes alone, and become a better person for it. Traveling opens your eyes and broadens your gratitude. Traveling is not the biggest risk – living a narrow life can be the risk that takes you down.

These days I am most happy doing the same things I did when I was a young girl growing up. I hike alone in the mountains outside Denver, I paint and write, I travel and I meet new people whenever I can. I am not afraid of getting older. I am not afraid of new relationships. In my mind, largely  unchanged after decades of time, I feel like I am 10 years old climbing a high tree. I take great joy in celebrations, giving gifts, surprises, cupcakes, Mexican food…..and meaty conversations.

I laugh a lot and when I can no longer do that with a person in my circle of friends then I know it is time to move on. Any melancholy person, any sad soul is probably not going to be taking many risks. It is a joyful thing to be high on life, and the enormous risk in life is if you enjoy living! because life can be taken away at a moments notice. RISK is the bottom line to everything, down through decades of time. Living fearlessly, with confidence and faith, for all of your years on earth is risky as hell.

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We left our hearts in Silver Plume, Colorado, so we returned for a closer look….

 

We stopped in Silver Plume a couple weeks ago on a plein air excursion. We felt we had been transported back in a time-travel adventure, having driven there from Conifer, Colorado for a day of outdoor painting. Of course we had been aware of this tiny mountain hamlet because it is just up the road from its big sister Georgetown, but we had never wandered its dirt road Main Street or explored its character with any depth.

We decided to go back., and we are so delighted that we did.

Silver Plume enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame in the years from 1864 to approximately 1893, when unfortunately the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed, the USA abandoned the silver standard and the price of silver drastically declined. Until that historic defining event the mountains around Silver Plume were being mined as if there were no tomorrow for plentiful high grade ore, primarily from the precarious heights of 13,587′ Mount McClellan, where the locals would tell you that the silver veins were so rich that silver flakes broke from the rock in feather-like patterns giving the town its name.

During its heyday Silver Plume was transformed from a dirt road lined with temporary ramshackle miner’s huts into a bustling town of 2000 people, where miners, businessmen, tradesmen, shop owners and working class families from as far away as Wales, Ireland and Italy settled, believing they would make their fortunes in silver. It is easy to imagine the activity along that strand – music coming from the saloon, ladies watching the street action from open second-story windows above, probably some horses tied in front of the shops and miners, when they got a day off from their 10 hour shift, $2.50 a day, highly dangerous jobs. Mules were required to carry men and supplies up the mountain to the mines; cooks, laundrymen, doctors and hardware salesmen were probably in short supply. There was a fine Opera House, a saloon and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church….until 1884 when a fire swept the eastern end of town stopping just short of that church…. a true blessing that the entire town was not up in flames.

The public school, red-bricked and rather grand, constructed in 1874 at the opposite side of town, was spared from the fire. The interior rooms reveal authentic, just as they were, classrooms and desks. The school quickly became a hub of activity and a source of comfort and assistance in the community when there were mining deaths in families and widows and children needed help and emotional support. The school has since become a museum, and the ladies who guide the tours are more than happy to share with you the history and the legends of that time and that place. Of course the school is haunted – strange things still do happen from time to time.

Silver Plume is a quaint and funky village – Main Street is still lazy and unpaved sending clouds of dry dusty dirt into the air when occasional vehicles drive by. Kids ride bikes down the middle, lazy dogs bark once in a while and everybody says hello to everybody else. People want to know, in a friendly way, where you are from and why you came to visit there. Gurgling Clear Creek runs along the perimeter of town on its way down to Coors brewery in Golden, where it is indeed the clean, clear water used in that famous beer. Houses are painted in purples, pinks, teals and yellows, with wildly contrasting trims of Victorian style. There is a local bar, in a weather-worn white-ish clapboard building with the word BREAD painted on the front.

I do think you must visit Silver Plume. See this 2 room jail which I did manage to paint in watercolor! There are more pictures on FB and Instagram.

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Check out my newest book, all about Creativity, available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

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http://www.artistjoannbrown-scott.com  for my Art

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Questions Answered – Find Yourself in the Pages

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From the author of The Creative Epiphany…Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations

YOUR MIRACULOUS, TIMELESS CREATIVITY

The Care and Feeding of your Creative Gifts

By Jo Ann Brown-Scott

What is it that drives your creativity forward, year to year, decade to decade? Where does the energy originate? What fuels it? What is mojo? Does it dwindle over time or gain strength? Does age matter? How can you possibly sustain creativity at its best level of performance over an entire lifetime? What do you do if it begins to fade and falter?

The mystery of creativity’s timeless energy is explored and explained here.

Creativity is a hunger for expression. You might feel it as a yearning, a passion, a desire or a dull ache to get something done. You want to say something, invent something, sing, dance or perform, paint or write or cook. You might want to teach, volunteer your expertise or compete for a gold medal or trophy.

Creativity is a wonder. As an artist of any persuasion your life mission is to inform others of the wonders of the world, however simple or magnificent they might be. You relish that assignment because you like to wake people up to life. You are a see-er, an observer; you thrive on the interpretive reporting of whatever you notice, nuanced or enormous. You are the vehicle for that job. You create, you perform, you compete, you express. You bring attention to what you do. You and the unique way that you live your life and what you do creatively ARE one of the wonders of the world.

Perhaps you excel at a skill and you must find a way to keep one-upping your own performances. You might want to tackle a project or pursue a talent for the sake of the recognition it brings or just for yourself and the intrinsic joy of accomplishment, answering to no one. Is it hot fame or building a lifetime legacy of quality and character that fuels your fire? What is your thing?

Your creativity is shaped and defined by your unique DNA plus everything you do, what you see, what you read, what music you like, where you go, who you know, what you taste, what you swallow, what you wear, where you decide to live and everything you smell, feel, think, dream and touch and your very attitude about life. All of the above become the map of exactly who you are. The ways in which you are creatively gifted write the documentary of our life.

The biggest creative accomplishment you can make is to live your life enthusiastically and well, creating a story of choices and accomplishments that build your character and express your gratitude for the time you were given to be alive.

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Available now on Kindle and in paperback on AMAZON.com

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Returning…with gifts

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Hello again!

Apparently I can’t Blog and write a book and chew gum all at the same time, because once I began seriously writing my new book everything else fell off the to-do list. I have been busy.

My gift to all of you creative friends is my new book.

This book is all about YOUR MIRACULOUS, TIMELESS CREATIVITY and the ways you can keep it alive and hot through all the decades of your life. Life is unrelenting, if you are lucky. It goes on and on and maybe you will live to be one hundred years, or more. Maintaining and thriving within the world of activities you feel passionate about is the key to happy longevity. The quality of your long and arduous life journey is dependent upon how resilient you are…how able you are to withstand and overcome the inevitable adversity that will come your way. Creativity is what carries you through. Every one of us must have a passion and a desire for expression. The love of doing something that is fulfilling and intellectually exciting is critical to our human-ness and our mental health.

This book is for the people who want to remain vital and alive – dancers who become one with the dance, writers who cannot stop writing, designers who never run out of ideas, singers, mountain climbers, artists, photographers, poets, chefs, weavers and wonder-ers, cabbages and kings…..

This book is timeless and ageless, offering playful suggestions and serious observations about creativity’s place in your life. It is not a book about growing old – it is about staying young at heart. It is relevant to any time of life because it is about not losing  your spirit and your youthful approach. That can happen when you are 21 or 71.

If you are here on earth to create, you are going to learn from this book. If your passion is there but your mojo is not, you have a problem. Learn how to prevent that sad occurrence before it settles into your days and nights. Simple child-like habits and rituals can save your creativity from extinction. If you can remain curious and awake, always questioning and wondering, forever young at heart and grateful for your life you will stay productive and enthusiastic about the life you have been given. Your gifts of creativity are the offerings you make in gratefulness for life itself.

Available on Amazon.com and Kindle by July 1.

You can also special order it from your local bookseller.

http://www.artistjoannbrown-scott.com

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Art Serendipity/S. Santa Fe Drive in Denver

 

 

 

So it is Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend and I am driving over to the relatively new-ish art district on South Santa Fe Drive in Denver. (When you have been showing your art as long as I have, Denver’s “new-ish” art district has probably been on the rise for the past 15 years. Seems to have flown right by….. ) I am on an errand to pick up my painting titled CASCINA ( see top gallery photo ) that was juried into the Mixed Media Show at Core Gallery on S. Santa Fe and 9th, that is ending today after a 2 week run. Lots of great feedback from the staff there about my painting put me in a somewhat heightened mood of satisfaction, reinforcing why I continue to pursue this often thankless, ridiculously painful, but always colorful career in the wild and crazy world of art. After loading it into the car I decide to wander around the neighborhood and take some pictures which I usually do not give myself permission to do, unfortunately. I was instantly rewarded for my attention.

I am immediately joyful with what I see, finding nuances that I had never stopped to notice  before. It almost feels like I am in Puerto Vallarta, or even Santa Fe or Albuquerque. And I love that. Contemporary art and extraordinary, edgy wall graffiti juxtaposed with weathered Mexican pinata colors, fresh flowers, funky tattoo parlors, barber shops, aromatic taco joints, bright umbrellas over crowded tables of lunch crowds and many many art galleries. Escaping for an hour or so was just what I needed, and there were many other folks doing the same thing. The galleries were busy.

The cherry on the top of this delicious, aimless, decadent, vividly memorable meandering was an accidental ( but not really ) discovery on a back street, between 9th and 10th on Inca. I turned the corner to find two guys collaborating and executing the most fabulous, enormous, graffiti mural on the long wall of a building; a building, I am told, that has been a coveted and honored location for such art for almost 30 years. It is a group effort with several contributors but at the moment Quentin and Soul are the ones with the spray cans. And it is gorgeous! A jungle theme is in place with some dinosaur images coming next to the party and I am fascinated to hear the whole plan unfolding as  ideas are bounced around. Spray and step back to take a look, spray over some of it and then add more. The image is all about sharp lines and curves; intense color against black; hidden images and ones that stand right out. Humor and messages. It is mesmerizing to watch. So…..it really is a jungle out there.

I ask how they can be sure that some other taggers are not going to mess it up by painting over it – my god I cannot bear even the hint of that tragic possibility. I already feel vested in it, just by standing there and watching it happen – I feel protective of it by osmosis. Is there someone who guards it by night? I want to volunteer.

They tell me that leaving no empty spaces is part of the key – no tempting, inviting blank areas that some jerk might believe need his additional touches.

And it is also about R ES P E C T. And T R U S T.

No respectable artist would ever ruin another guy’s work.

I learned a lot in a short conversation of only 20 minutes, as they worked, and added vastly to my meager knowledge but huge respect for the BIG guys of universally recognized graffiti art – like King Banksy and the others.

Ahhh. In another life…..I would love to do that. It was a whole new slant on art for me.

 

Preoccupied with Concern

The pretty images above were all taken in Singapore, several years ago. Singapore is a lovely, orderly country where there is literally no crime or corruption, where people respect the laws of government and place a high value on history. Singaporeans exist peacefully with each other and their neighbors. The locale is heavenly, the food is fantastic, the architecture is stunning and the people are quite curious about America. The pictures were placed in this blog as eye-candy in hopes that you will read down to the following text.

But these days I am preoccupied with thoughts of destruction. I tried very hard to write something else today but I could not control my seething fingers. I have become so distracted, so preoccupied, almost oblivious to the memories of the way things used to be in our lives, before he was elected. All I see in my future is conflict. I am embarrassed and ashamed of my country for the poor choices we are allowing to be made for us and the new set of despicable values that have become the norm in Washington DC. We have lost our honor, America.

America, bless its ignorant heart, is killing itself. We have become suicidal.

I thought we had become better educated than this. I have become sadly preoccupied with watching America self-destruct as it unfolds in the daily news. There are not enough hours in the day for every single thing that needs our “powerless” attention and our hollow “hopes and prayers”. In a miniscule period, equal to one ten-millionth of the blink of an eye in  the universal scheme of Time, we have lost our democracy to an uninformed, poorly educated, narcissistic, sociopathic, immoral lunatic who takes sick delight in chaos and hatred.

Our fragile world is fish-tailing across time, bobbing and weaving under the pressure of the increasing number of internal negative elements whose common purpose is to take us to our knees and render us helpless to change anything. The path of destruction widens daily as new levels of insidious corruption and malfeasance reveal themselves. Things have always been dicey on this planet; no consistent certainty of which side is winning during the time of our existence. But now… these days, it seems clear that the good side is losing. Before I was preoccupied, I woke up optimistic about humanity. Now a disproportionate portion of my waking hours are spent in terror of what is unfolding right before my eyes.

I am ashamed of my government. It no longer stands for the greater good. It is infested with greed and corruption and hunger for power in epidemic proportions, destroying our foundation in methodical precision. As if by hoards of ravenous grasshoppers on a rampage, we are being chewed down and eaten alive by our elected officials, leaving a barren path of nothingness; devoured by politicians who are getting fat and sick on rage, revenge and the new Republican mantra of apathy toward the people who elected them. Do these people in Washington not have children and grandchildren? Where is their vision for the future? What sense of responsibility do they have, other than to their own egos? For all this their dark legacy will be remembered; they are the destruction-ists.

If you are a person who cannot see it, you are more than just blind; you are self-absorbed, in denial, numb to the truth, ignorant of past history or too lazy to care. You are not preoccupied enough with the current state of affairs. You must fortify your courage and read about this phenomenon. You must be informed. You need to know what we are losing on a daily basis and define just what it is that you personally believe is worth fighting for, not abstractly but in the bloody trenches. Do not remain blind, deaf and dumb to history being made in the daily decisions of ignorant fools.

Major accomplishments that have taken decades to put in place are being vaporized right before our eyes. Not only basic human rights and privileges for every human being, but environmental protections critical to our planet’s survival. Water and air are becoming more and more contaminated but clean water and fresh air are no longer considered a basic human right. Education loses and guns win. Poverty and hunger remain as ostentatious military parades are planned. Parks and national treasures are being destroyed and dismantled for the sake of more oil and minerals. Walls are built and fear is mandated. Does this sound like it could be a description of North Korea or Russia?  Germany during WW II? Hell yes it does, but it is happening here in America.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that a handful of treacherous men and women in high places have taken it upon themselves to promote, follow and enable a warped and perverted leader in the process of accomplishing his murderous agenda.

How can we allow this to happen?

What is wrong with us?

Must we allow everything to be torn down in order to see the light again?

History is always our teacher; nothing good can come from this.