Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stirring Up the Muse

The past two weekends I’ve participated in writer’s events. Last weekend Jackie Dove-Miller and I traveled to Ridgeland, SC for the Second Annual “Novel” Wine Tasting, Arts, and Literary Festival. It was held at the September Oats Winery, a beautiful setting of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. We were blessed with perfect outdoor-event-weather. Over sixty authors and artists participated. Walking the grounds in their 19th century finery were members of Sons of Confederate Veterans Charles Jones Colcock Camp 2100 and the Massachusetts 54th Company 1. As could be expected there was an air of having stepped back in a bygone time.

I met new people and had my first taste of shrimp gumbo. I am hooked and want more, more, MORE! The writers and artists were treated with a complimentary glass of wine and the wine tasting room stayed busy throughout the day.The icing on the cake was having two of my daughters, Deborah and Julia spend the day with us, helping out with everything from setting up our tent to shuttling me around in Deborah's golf cart. Deborah lives nearby and Julia was in town to visit her. 

My friend, Jackie, brought me to tears with her beautiful reading of her poems "That Something Within" and "I Want to Matter" from her book, Some Things I Just Know. The event was capped off with a lovely after party with a wonderful spread of food and drink.

This weekend’s event was closer to home. The Franklin County Arts Council Writers Guild had its First Annual Writers Day Retreat. Again, we enjoyed a beautiful setting on the shore of Falls Lake. The park's community building itself was enough to call up the writing muses with its fireplace, glass walls, and the convenience of a full kitchen. The view included the lake and the woods in full fall color. We did not have perfect weather. It was rainy, chilly and windy. But, that did not matter to the group of writers. In fact, we all said it enhanced the atmosphere for writing. Poet and teacher, Phillip Shabazz, led the group in a workshop where he opened a discussion of the muses, siting that it was unique to the human being. We dug deeper with an exercise on what things, people, or events have made us who we are. The workshop set the tone for a day of soul searching, writing and sharing. We broke for lunch and readings, then back to writing.

I also found time to walk, take photographs, watch an eagle flying over the lake and met another photographer who had come to the park to take pictures. Being out in the weather was refreshing to body, mind and spirit. I was keenly aware of using all of my senses – even the act of breathing the cool, fresh air was inspiring. I didn’t start a novel or write anything particularly profound as some of the ladies did, but the day was healing to my soul. Just being in the presence of such loving, talented, and giving people made it a day to remember.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Two Peeling Tips that Will Make You Happy

This is not a cooking blog. No way! But, after seeing a thread on Facebook about how to peel an onion and not cry I thought I’d share a tip my mother taught me on how to peel an onion without crying. It is so simple I don’t know why everyone doesn’t know it – cut the root end of the onion off first, before you start peeling it. Apparently the roots are the source of the chemical that irritates your eyes. Once it is removed and discarded you can peel and dice without crying.

My second tip will tell you how to how to peel a hard boiled egg without breaking the egg. All of my life I have struggled with trying to peel a boiled egg without it ripping out part of the egg.  My mother-in-law advised not to use fresh eggs for boiling. She always had a dozen of week-old eggs on hand for making boiled eggs. That improved my performance somewhat, but I didn’t always have that extra dozen eggs on hand, and even when I did, at least some eggs would still break in the peeling.

I was discussing this with my friend, Jackie, a couple of years ago (I am 67 years old now) and she gave me the simple answer to peeling perfect eggs. Put them in a bowl of ice water as soon as you take them out of the hot cooking water. Voila, perfectly peeled eggs every time!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Nightmare of Artist’s Block

I tried painting the same subject three times and all were destined for the trash can. No, don’t tell me, “Never throw away your art.” It wasn’t art, it was a mess. I had a hard case of artist’s block.
So, I Googled “artist block” and found I am not the only one that suffers the malady. Just like for writer’s block, the advice is to either take a break or work your way through it. Since, I’d developed a headache the break sounded good.

Whenever I experience creative block, whether it is writing or painting, I start to question my ability. That self-deprecating voice inside my head starts in on me with the “you’re not good enoughs.” It doesn’t seem to matter I am a published writer with six books under my belt and hundreds of articles, or have shown in juried shows and sold my art. I sold some just last week. When the block rears its ugly head I don’t feel good enough to call myself a professional writer or artist. I feel like a wanna-be.

I have noticed that when I am stressed or distracted by life events I become blocked from expressing myself creatively, whether it is my writing, painting or photography. Sometimes, I can move from one to the other. If I can’t paint I go take pictures, or write. Or if I can’t write I paint or play with my photos in my editing program. Sometimes nothing works.

To gain back my peace I resort to prayer and meditation. I go out with friends for lunch or coffee, I take walks around the farm or sit in my garden where I watch and listen to nature. All of these things help me find peace and once I find peace I can usually find my art again. But, even then, it is a process. It is like slowly waking up from a deep, night-marish sleep. It takes a while to focus on what’s real.

If I still can’t actually put brush to canvas I will plan a project in my mind until it forms enough reality that I can do some thumbnail sketches. I make a list of writing ideas, maybe try some prompt writing. Gradually I can hear my muse again. I can paint again, and in so doing leave my cares outside the studio door, lose all track of time and produce a work I love.  My prompt writing turns into a poem or story, I get a fresh idea for an article. Something that makes me feel I am good enough again.