Wednesday, September 24, 2014

patterned by the seasons


Patterned by the seasons – we are life moving with the choreography of nature, the gesture of time, the whim of space.

We are patterned by the seasons, our coming and going; life, inside and out; our nourishment; our slumber; our play.

It is that time when corn has turned to pumpkins, when the farmstands have become festive – the summer veggies disappearing one by one.

More than a few leaves have turned, but most are still green. 
Autumn in its glory is on our doorstep.   

Welcome home.

With gratitude,

Monday, September 22, 2014

today's discovery

This project for me is about the discovery that spells ART in my life.  Art in many forms and written with many different letters; written in pen and footsteps, dirty hands and flowing tears. 

It is the art of the everyday and the art of the extraordinary; the making, the watching and the seeing.  It is what hangs on the wall and what takes us by surprise on any given afternoon.

It is writing until the switch of inspiration turns over and my heart feels electric again.  It exists at the core of passion and in the kitchen on Tuesday.

Join me in the discovery of the everyday.  In the ART of your life.

In the discovery and adventure of:
What you love.

In the things that are already in arms reach.
The things that make your heart electric. 

The things that make you exhale and breathe in more deeply.
The things that make you think, or give thanks, or make you open your eyes long enough to be surprised.

Discover the beauty in the ordinary, the art you are sitting on or walking through and get your hands dirty with the thing that makes your heart feel fresh.

Walk outside – inside – down your dark hallway at 3:00 am cradling an infant only comforted by your arms – in the shoes of someone you don’t understand – in the shoes of someone you love – in your own shoes – and you will discover…


With gratitude,

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Driftless, part 1: Moving Through the Land {Favorite Finds Friday}

I was blessed this week to spend three days in an area of southern Wisconsin known as the Driftless area.  A place so named because it was bypassed by the glaciers of the last ice age that moved across the upper Midwest; thus leaving in place an undulating landscape, characterized by hills, valleys and waterways.  I made my first trip to a small town in this region a year ago, and I returned this year again seeking the fulfillment of rest and inspiration; I was not disappointed. 

There is so much uniqueness here to be explored on foot and in words that I cannot capture them justly in a single post.  So this week will begin a five week Friday series on the Driftless.  From the whole of the land to the intimacy of ones lodgings to the fantastical world of early 20th century artist environments; the Driftless embodies nature, art and history in such a manner that one cannot seem to exist without the other, and when there you cannot imagine existing without them. 

This year I spent three days exploring slowly; writing, reading, sleeping and wandering.  I think it is in my blood to wander, to explore small places, to seek out, or perhaps just be surprised by something captivating in the ordinary.  I am in love with many aspects of this place, but it was the land that first made my heart stop.

The Driftless is simply beautiful.  Narrow roads weave through its vibrant and varying landscape.  They provide the capture of momentary vistas and then quickly lead you on to the next.  The land is dotted with farms and small towns.  Majestic barns stand out against the wide undulating prairie and the open sky. 

I am particularly attracted to the barns.  I find them beautiful in any condition, I marvel at their massive structures and how they represent the passage of time.  They mark the peaks and discern the valleys.  In this land they represent a way of life, an industry and a deeply rooted history.  It is a life I pass through while traveling these roads and I feel privileged to do so; as though I am getting to share in a little piece of someone else’s haven. 

This prairie land is gently forested, it is still green, but in this mid-September season yellow and orange tips are starting to emerge, giving a brief signal to what will soon be an enveloping hue.

I find solace here.  The movement of these roads is familiar.  They draw me back to younger travels; through mountains, and curvy roads that made my stomach turn.  They were all I knew then.  I did not know that someday I would long for them; for the next stop or the next thing to see just around the bend, to be guided and maneuvered through the land.  I relish that turn of the wheel now, now that I am turning it.  No longer a small passenger in the backseat, now a woman seeking my own adventure and familiarity.

With gratitude,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the path

I prayed for a path and that prayer was answered and even though I sometimes wander, I know I am not lost.
Even when my faith is low
and it often is
I have roots.

The path of this life bends just so
allowing us to see enough to anticipate
but not enough to know.

It requires we have faith or take a chance or believe or pray or jump or listen or close our eyes and breathe...
to take our next step – or to run, or to sit.
When my faith falters it is time to stop and look.   
But mostly to stop.   
To feel the path beneath my feet and look out just far enough ahead to know I am still on it...
to remember that it stretches out ahead of me.

My job is only to know this and to follow.

With gratitude,

Friday, September 12, 2014

the brick (favorite finds friday}

What is it that is so special about the perfect coffee shop?

Perhaps it is knowing that you always have a place to find even a momentary respite; a place to experience familiarity and oneself, a good conversation and a good cup of coffee. 

At different times in my life I have relished having a favorite spot where I could work or visit or spend some time with my own thoughts or a good book.  It is the kind of spot I have sought out each time I have moved to a new place, and I can still list each one.  They share similarities and differences all retain an emotional memory.  Perhaps because I have lived in unfamiliar places finding a unique spot has provided some comfort and a way to make an immediate connection. 


Coffee shop trips are a less frequent these days, but nevertheless I have found one quite near my home that just may be the best one yet. 

The Brick Café and Art Gallery in Belvidere, Illinois is such a beautifully eclectic spot.  It is located in a historic building just off the main throughway in the downtown of this quaint, slightly struggling little town. 

It is one of those places that invites you not just to sit for a while but to enter another world.  It offers a wondrous assortment of original artwork, inspiring and thoughtful messages, quirky crafted items and imaginative repurposed décor.

And it allows you to sit among them.  There is no separation between gallery and café, they are all one.  This intermingling of space does an interesting thing, it makes you aware of your own presence; everywhere there is something to be noticed; including you.

In this space I have experienced new perspectives and grown new connections.  I work here and I feel revived here.  It is the kind of place that is necessary to my connection to the greater place of where I inhabit.

The Brick is a reflection of its community and it invites it to connect and grow.  And I am most thankful to have found this new respite in my new land. 

With gratitude,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

feeling the wind

I step from the house to accompany the dog outside and steal a momentary escape.
Behind me thirty toes are wild and my patience is thin.
An autumn wind is blowing, the air is crisp and I breathe – deeply.  I have probably been holding my breath most of the day.

I let myself feel the sensation of this air moving over me, cool and replenishing.  I walk out into it and breathe a little deeper yet.
The sunflowers in the garden are moving wildly.  Some have broken in the wind and they hang over, their heads near the ground.  The others dance as the wind moves through them.  And I begin to feel free.

I turn back toward the house, thirty toes have gathered in the doorway.  When I invite them out my daughter’s smile explodes and she dashes into the yard.
“Let’s run in the wind before bath time” I say, and she has no hesitation – she runs wildly, arms open, the embodiment of freedom.

Her brothers follow suit, one less sure than the other so I scoop him up and we run together.
I want to feel this wind forever –its perfect threshold of strength and temperature, just on the brink of discomfort – I feel alive.

My children giggle and all I really see are flashes of them in this blur of movement and sensation.
“I am chilly” one says, and we begin to move back toward the door; back toward our inner world where warm, still air will greet us and we will resume our activities of closing the day.

But now I have breath and I am thankful.
The hours yet to come will have peaks and valleys but the wind will blow through them and I am thankful.

With gratitude,

Monday, September 8, 2014

photo walk in a parking lot

There is a shuttered automobile dealership in a small town near my home.  I drive by it often and have watched over the past few years as it made its final transition into a skeleton of what it once was.  It stands vacant now, its vast parking lot sprouting green through a river of cracked asphalt.  Its facade of metal and expansive glass, a genuine reflection of its mid-century birth.  Still dignified in stature this vast empty building now looks foreign in its homeland. 

It has been closed for sometime, but it was only very recently that I found myself strangely captivated by this lonely island.  I had to visit.  There was something almost eerie about the growing contrast between its still noble structure and the decay of its immediate surroundings. 

My visit is the result of quick planning, I park in an adjacent lot, in a shaded spot that looks out over this hardscape.  It is indeed a lonely island.  I approach with anticipation.  Questioning where to begin my exploration; and then I find myself immersed, stricken by the atmosphere of a void.  The atmosphere of absence.  My questioning is answered for me as I am drawn into this vast parking lot, feeling indeed that I am now a visitor in a land that is not my own. 

The building was constructed in 1968 by a man known as 'Doc' Wolf.  He moved to this modest town of Belvidere, IL in the early 1920s to be partners in the opening of a new automobile dealership.  An endeavor he was advised against because of its lack of promise.  Nearly one hundred years later Doc's son Jack is still in business across the street from this shuttered time capsule.  Doc moved and expanded his enterprise to this site from a downtown corner lot in the late 1960s.  This grand construction was the crowing of more than forty years of work and success.  He was joined by his son Bill who continued to grow this legacy until the dealership lost its Chevrolet franchise with the restructuring of that corporation in the early-2000s. And there you have it, the shuttering of two generations.

I continued on, looking and photographing.  Wanting to see; looking for what is here to be revealed.  Thinking about what this place had been and noticing what it feels like to be here.  I was not witness to it in its heyday, I have only a brief historical background and my imagination to guide me.  A self-guided tour directed by visual interest and an interest in capturing something beyond the shutter.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to hear Bill Wolf talk about his father and the family business that had defined both of their lives.

He spoke in a slow voice, recalling tales of early trial and error that had clearly become anecdotes for lasting success.  His talk was not rehearsed, but rather the calling of the moment, and it was obvious his words reflected the calling of his heart.  He concluded in silent tears, the gathering of a lifetime of work and family and letting go. 

I continue exploring with my lenses, trying to capture essence in detail.  It seems that in some way all of our explorations are at their core a reflection of us.  They are driven by our interests and motivations, by our curiosities and desire to communicate with the world.  I can't help but wonder if we can ever accurately represent someone else's world through our own perceptions.  They are representations of our own making, perceptions that cross in and out of reality.  A process that creates new realities, reflected in new experiences.

This mutual world of inside and out speaks in unison, they are the spaces we have access to and the spaces we can only look into, those of experience and perception.

I turn my attention to the whole.  I am not sure what I have captured.  But I have some clarity on what I have experienced.  Time to walk and reflect, look and see.  Time spent in my own mind while traversing evidence of minds that came before me.  I can't help but feel a sense of loss here, how quickly a thing can turn from vibrant to empty.  And yet this place embodies what I love most about the built environment, evidence of human experience. 

Experiences of then and now, they are different, but not mutually exclusive.  They exist concurrently now, one informed by the other.  My experience here has been opened ended and I am not sure how to conclude.  What is the last image to be captured, what have I missed?  And then for the first time, the memory card in my camera is full, and I say to myself 'I guess I am done'.  The question is answered for me.  

This experience is certainly a reflection of my own perceptions and my need to explore them.  There is always some accuracy in experience and always some conjecture.  Through this we are continuously met with a contradiction that is inherently human, to be at home and a visitor at the same time.  This structure is now at home and a visitor at the same time.   

Always at home in ourselves, always a visitor in the land we move through.

With gratitude,

Friday, September 5, 2014

woodstock, IL & its farmers market {favorite finds friday}

Did you see the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray?  That quirky tale of a grumpy, arrogant television weatherman who becomes trapped in a recurrent reality.  If so you will have some reference for today's find.  

Although the true reality of this wonderful town is far from the fantastical and sometimes obnoxious one played out by Murray in his 1990s rendition of Phil Connors.  Woodstock, Illinois not Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; the true home of the infamous groundhog report; is location that hosted the movies' filming. 

When I first visited Woodstock five years ago I was intrigued by this connection, curious and captivated at the same time.  But my infatuation with this place soon transferred from cinema to reality and of course on to history. And I began to return time and again. 

Main Street Woodstock about 1910

The community has historic roots, first calling itself Centerville to attract the designation of county seat of McHenry County, which it achieved in 1843.  In 1855 the railway arrived, establishing a direct connection to the bustling city of Chicago, fifty-five miles to the southeast.  Woodstock's central feature is its historic city square, which was primarily constructed in the 1890s.  In 2007 it was named one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

So yes, the history nerd in me loves this!  A preserved historic square that offers unique shopping, yoga classes, green space, an art gallery and a vegetarian walk-up restaurant.  

But my favorite is the farmers market.

The real arrival of spring is marked for me by the opening of the Woodstock Farmers Market.  Its coming is the reassurance that the world is growing again, and that we can begin to venture out.  A signal that the season of hibernation has finally come to an end.

The market opens with the modest offerings of the early season.  But they are ever so beautiful to behold.  Booths of growers and food vendors line the perimeter of the park that anchors the square.  Step inside the park, and discover, crafters, soap makers and flower purveyors clustered around a gazebo hosting local musicians.  A few chairs dot the surroundings, benches line the walkways, but mostly people sit in the grass, seeking the shade of the many trees or sneaking into the broken rays of the sun, their choice made by the strength of the season.

Our journey to the market is about twenty-five minutes.  A route that traverses a truly lovely rural landscape.  I look forward to this drive almost as much as I do the experience of the market.  In the spring the land is just budding, the fields are being tilled and the trees are sprouting.  As spring progresses into summer this land is awash in the abundance of growth.  As autumn arrives the landscape changes again, the fields are harvested and green transforms into a brilliant display of yellow and orange. 

The market too transforms in reflection of the seasons.  The growing season is ushered in by sweet tiny sprouts that will provide this years bounty. 

Ready for the table in early season are asparagus and greens then will come the squash and tomatoes.  The apples and potatoes follow suit, and oh the garlic!  There will be seeds for storing and herbs for drying. 

A visit to the Woodstock Farmers Market is a holistic experience; nourishment in history and community in the grass.  It is a place people go for the opportunity to walk a little slower in an atmosphere that encourages connection. 

This is one of my seasonal pilgrimages.  A way to mark and experience the growth, flowering and recession of our Midwest lifestyle. 

With gratitude,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

herb harvest

I sit at my patio table tying string around bundles of herbs - varieties of sage and thyme plucked from my garden in bulk.

It is an autumn-is-approaching afternoon; dry air, hot in the sun, perfect in the shade, wind blowing with a strength in-between breeze and gust.

My work table is a clutter of string and plant matter, a glass of water and a few stray vegetables.  Sunlight moving lower in the sky plays and dances among them, directed by the umbrella above me.

Twenty toes are 'fishing' in the sandbox behind me.  I am greeted on occasion by the presentation of the bounty of their imaginary pursuit.  Their voices too play on the wind.  I relish the sound of their activity so close and yet so independent.

I feel the wind playing against me.  It is bringing the confluence of seasons.  It will bring the change that will in short time move us back inside, to be sheltered against it. 

But now I sit, bare feet on cool stone.  Hearing and feeling the moments of this season in-between. 

With gratitude,