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One World We Share

Greetings to all of you around the world! This virus sure has made our world seem a whole lot smaller, while we are experiencing similar things in response to various restrictions that affect our daily lives, some of us more than others. I’m not going to say much more about Covid-19, because it is getting so much attention as it is, even eclipsing all the issues that were important before – issues that are still there under the current crisis.

So, that said, I’m finding it difficult to keep myself focused on what I was originally determined to paint for my upcoming solo exhibition for this November. Titled, “One World: Land, Sea & Air,” it is an exhibition of art with a message on endangered species and spaces around the world. I usually have goal posts such as group exhibitions and the like that help me finish paintings along the way. However, with all the cancellations of shows and other opportunities, I have found myself struggling with what I should be focusing on – maybe there is a more important message…

I wonder how much our world will change as a result of how we respond to this “crisis.” In many places where there have been lock-downs, there have been noticeable changes in pollution levels, but I don’t think that is going to last (too many variables, money and power being huge factors). But as much as I care about endangered animals (all animals, in fact), I also care about humankind. Far from endangered, yet we live with so many ongoing national and world issues that can at any moment threaten our continued existence. These issues are still there under the surface tensions of the worldwide Covid-19 threat.

Maybe my message should not be solely about endangered species and spaces… Maybe it’s more about the One World we share, the One World that is all we have, and the legacy we leave to the future generations of this One World.

So much to think about… but the painting must go on. More to come!

This is a recently finished painting I have showing at my home gallery until the time comes for my November exhibition, if public galleries will be open by then.

The Barn Owl is endangered in Canada. At first glance, this looks like a regular wildlife scene, but a closer look tells more… This is art with a message, with the destruction of habitat and the species represented by the cracking in the bark that is also spreading into the side of the owl. Its talons grip the branch that is in danger of breaking away from the tree. The snow is accumulating. “Don’t Let Me Fade Away” is mixed media on a 18” x 36” gallery wood panel.

A video with close-up zoom can be seen here.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

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Lakeside Trail

Autumn. It’s always short, but in 2018, it was incredibly sweet in Muskoka! And I was taking it all in, as usual, whatever I could get of it. The last time I experienced such extreme autumn colour was way back in 1997, when I was on my honeymoon in Algonquin Park. 

This is what happens when you feast with your eyes…

What goes in must come out, and thankfully, I was feasting on beauty! I called it “Lakeside Trail.” It’s an acrylic painting on a 36″ x 24″ canvas, with a whole lot of colour and textured granite rock and lichen.

Here is the full size painting:

"Lakeside Trail" / 36" x 24" / acrylic on canvas

“Lakeside Trail” / 36″ x 24″ / acrylic on canvas

Wanting to do justice to all the beautiful autumn colours, I found myself a little lost in the leaves, so to speak. Alas! Those leaves were all on the ground before long, but I had taken plenty of source photos from which I could create a scene. 

The path alongside this lake takes the hiker past the outcrop of granite and up into denser forest and to a lookout. Meanwhile the sun shines through the trees, creating a highlight on whatever autumn leaves it can reach. Watch your footing with all those rocks and tree roots!

Something I noticed along the way is my muscle memory for too much detail, an unwanted tendency toward perfectionism that I’ve been trying to shed from my early days as an drawing artist. For too long I resisted the paintbrush because of perfectionism, since I thought my pencil tip lent me more precision, but perfectionism robs me of joy. I found myself battling this tendency in the making of this piece, and I had to keep reorienting myself. It has turned out to be quite a fusion of styles!

That said, I am mostly pleased with it. I found a way to incorporate texture without losing all the details, so I am content.

But the colour! Now that is what excites me about this piece! Layers and layers of colour!

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This is where the painting hung before we sold our piano. It is flanked my 4 of my smaller landscapes.
The lighting could have been better (for the true colours of the painting), but this is me in July 2019 after “Lakeside Trail” won an award for honourable mention at the 61st Annual ECOAA Members’ Show.
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“My Backyard Is Full of Life”

I’m excited to announce that my book, “My Backyard Is Full of Life,” has been published! It is available on Amazon in print and eBook formats. I also have a limited number of print copies on hand and for sale at my art studio.

I wrote this book many years ago, but I finally made time to finish the illustrations. They are intended to look like the main character, 11yo Rachel, drew them herself for her nature journal.

This is a book for parents, grandparents, and teachers to read to children ages 7 and up, and it should be preread for children who are highly sensitive to nature’s surprises. This would be great as an introduction to a science unit, or cross-curricular activity, for grades 3 to 5. It is also intended for children who can read independently, who appreciate a few illustrations (about one/chapter), and who don’t always want a long read. In fact, it’s only about 50 pages long, so it’s a story for one sitting. Nature lovers, young and old, will learn that nature isn’t always predictable (sometimes it is less scary when we try to understand), and also that we can – and should – do our part to take care of our world, starting with our own backyard! We can all make a difference!

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Introducing My “Art of Where” Shop

Introducing: Art of Where 

All items are designed by me from my original art, and they are made in Canada. Unique gifts, exceptional quality, great prices!

Wall Art, Clothing, Tote Bags, Accessories, Home Decor

Besides wall art (prints on paper, wood and canvas), Art of Where produces clothing items, pillow cases, and a variety of totes, carryalls, scarves and other accessories. Have a look below at only some of the items available from this production partnership. My complete store can be found by clicking on this Art of Where link. All items are made in Canada.

Interested buyers may also wish to contact me (Michelle) directly.

TO ORDER, email me directly at vine.art2014@gmail.com and I will send you an order form. I also take credit card orders. Shipping amounts are adjusted for multiple items, so it costs very little to ship additional items.

The following links will take you to other sites where art prints, clothing and household items can be purchased with my images:

Etsy Shop: VineArtandCreations

Fine Art America / Pixels.com

If ordering from within Canada, Fine Art America/Pixels.com will ship certain products from within Canada (no customs/duty charges), while any product can be shipped from their other locations (info here).

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Lone Wolf – There’s a Story in His Eyes…

Lone Wolf - There's a Story in His Eyes

I have wanted to do this painting for so long. Wolves are one of my favourite animals, and before I knew better, I used to dream of having an encounter with a pack. I fancied this idea that I would become a wildlife biologist or a photographer in the Yukon, but the closest I came to that was to own a white German Shepherd dog and name him Yukon. 

So, finally, many years after all those drawings I did of wolves, I finally painted one. It’s fitting that it is a lone wolf, and there’s a story to that, but I’m saving that for another time and another post.

The working title for the painting is: “Lone Wolf Searching.” Searching for what, you might say. Well, the story is in his eyes. But by the way he is looking at the viewer, maybe he has found what he has been searching for? Or maybe, one of those viewers will feel the same and want to take him home? Then, he will have found his pack. 🙂 I would have to ensure that I get a quality photograph for some art prints, of course, before I let him go. I have a perfect spot for him at home, but he’s going to a show this weekend first.

The following photos show the the majority of the process from start to finish. I transferred my composition from a 6″x8″ drawing to the 36″x48″ canvas, and then went to work on the areas I wanted to accent with texture. The setting is the edge of a forest and near the twilight hour after a snow storm. That tree in the foreground stands out differently from the rest, because it leans away from the viewer and toward the forest, hence it’s bark still has a covering of snow from the storm which has not blown or fallen off. No tree is really straight, even if it looks so at first. Nature is full of surprises and is never “perfect,” so I try my best to depart from “perfection,” and shoot for excellence instead. I get so much more joy in that approach!

I hope you enjoy the steps in the process, awkward as they may be!

If I don’t get around to posting before the holiday, have yourselves a wonder-filled holiday! Merry Christmas!

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Dive into Diversity (Awareness & Acceptance)

I am about to share a story I have written. It’s a message about “acceptance.”

October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada.

It is also the month for Sensory Awareness, and during the first week (dates vary) is Mental Health Awareness Week. Well, what does all this have in common? For some people, and some families, all three of these campaigns make a difference.

I wrote this story because “Awareness” is still needed, but “Acceptance” is needed even more. And I intend to have it published with my own art, since creating art was part of the process that led me to be inspired with this book idea/message.

I have called it “A Sea Turtle’s Plea,” because the main character is a sea turtle who is autistic and has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder/Dysfunction).

The subtitle, “Dive into Diversity,” is geared to teaching young people about Neurodiversity, which is a term that applies to differently wired brains and ways of thinking. Diversity, in general, within a group can lead to different contributions toward a goal, which can lead to greater chance for success/survival of the group and other groups affected. In this sense, the contributions of the Neurodivergent should be considered and respected for the benefit of all. I do envision the story being shared in schools within a unit of teaching plans on Neurodiversity and/or bullying awareness (Bullying other children with differences happens much earlier these days). Because of the pairing with the artistic illustrations in the book, teachers might use art for cross-curricular lessons for younger children, while other children might benefit from gaining increased awareness through additional community living and social studies lessons.

For more on my reasons for creating and sharing this story, see my prior blog posts, starting with this post (World Autism Awareness Day 2018)

If you enjoy this story in any way, please message me your contribution of encouragement, which is something that could be much more plentiful in this world.

Love to you all!

(the story follows..)

A SEA TURTLE’S  PLEA
(DIVE INTO DIVERSITY):

© C. Michelle Vyn

What is this?
A crack is forming. It’s loud, and I’m shaky.
This is my beginning, now I see.
But the light is too bright for me.                [Scared]

I breathe in air,
And stretch, pushing through this cage that surrounds me,
And tumble into something scratchy.
It’s everywhere. I can’t get free.                  [Overwhelmed]

Look! I’m not the only one.
The others rush to meet the approaching sea.
Waves welcome them within, leaving me
Wondering about this mystery.                  [Confused]

Fast forward.
I make my way into the sea, far behind.
When at last I catch up, I’m defined
As “different,” say the unkind.                  [Rejected]

They laugh at how gritty sand hurts me.
When I swim in circles, they point, and they poke.
They eat crunchy food that makes me choke.
And, I’m the last to laugh at a joke.         [Sensory & Social issues]

Many years later, I’m my only friend.
I’ve always felt lonely, kept outside the crowd,
By those who closed their circle, so proud.
Never to trust again, I vowed.                 [Depression]

One day, an old wanderer stops by,
Who says to have hope, and to myself be true.
Others need time to accept what’s new.
It depends on their point of view.          [Encouragement]

At that, he continues on his way,
While I struggle with my feelings, too intense.
If they knew how differently I sense…
Instead, they only took offense.             [Blame]

Never mind. I’m enjoying myself,
Healed from feeling fragmented… and forgiving.
Control is mine where I am living.
Wait. I am gifted to be giving!               [Accepting Self / Gifts]

It can’t be right to stand alone.
It might be unfair, but they are unaware.
If I withdraw and refuse to share,
How can I say I truly care?                    [Purpose / Meaning]

So, I make renewed attempts to connect,
But only on my terms, and when it feels right.
There are times when they’re only polite,
But sometimes they think I’m quite bright.    [Confident, Patient]

Now, this might be the best life ever gets.
Or, maybe, that nice turtle sees the real me.
He’s not like the others, that I see.
In fact, he looks confident, free.           [Hopeful]

We dive in, talking and listening,
Discovering what we share in mind and heart.
Yet this friendship is only the start
Of something we both want a part.    [True Friendship]

We pledge to partner with the goal
Of helping others to connect with someone.
And we agree it will not be done
Until true acceptance is won.              [Pledge]

We all need each other to succeed.
United as one, now that’s evolution!
What’s missing? Your own contribution?
Acceptance is the solution.                 [True Acceptance, not mere tolerance]

I’m not missing any pieces.
Nor am I a puzzle, as some might say.
I’m one colourful piece of the big picture,
Fitting in a different way.                  [Understanding]

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The Evolution of My Work with Acrylic Skins

From pouring paint…

Marbled

Marbled / 18″ x 24″ / acrylic on canvas

To finding uses for all those “leftover” bits…

Giant of the Deep

Giant of the Deep / 8″ x 8″ / acrylic on canvas SOLD

To purposeful “fracturing” for a stained glass window effect (on canvas)…

I can definitely see the progression over time, after learning what I could accomplish with pouring paint. I will do more of these, but sometimes I think that I should show these separately from my other works, because people could be confused about my “style.” I’m not confused; I simply love variety!

Another artist asked me recently, “Just what are acrylic ‘skins’?”

Let’s just say that sometimes they are: 1) accidental paint droppings that are created when poured paint falls over the edge of the canvas or wood panel; 2) the paint that dries on the palette, often bumpy and oddly shaped, while the reverse side is usually smooth; and 3) intentionally created upon a level plastic surface, from which they can be peeled when fully dry. I prefer the latter, and I am picky with what I choose to use. Sometimes it is the reverse side of the skin that is much more interesting. A curious artist will find ways to end up with interesting leftover “skins,” often intentionally choosing the surface they dry on to create a textured effect. I can’t reveal ALL my trade secrets, of course, but thanks for asking!

These 3 photos are of acrylic skins that I intentionally made back in 2015, for the purpose of fashioning them into something colourful. I didn’t know the specifics when I set out to make them, but I have an intuitive knack for seeing what will become of the art in the process. Inevitably, a number of ideas will take form, but when the paint dries, then I must ultimately choose how I will use them. Once I have cut away the sections I need, they are permanently removed from the whole piece, which is beautiful in itself.

What do you see in each of the skins above?

And can you guess how each of the paintings below were created? Was the paint poured directly to the surface, or applied after drying into a skin? What type of skins have been used? Palette skins or intentionally designed skins?

 

In 2019 I will be having a solo art show, so I will be creating future pieces with a mind to fit with my theme, “Discovery, Wonder, and Story-Telling.” Some of these already completed works will be shown there as well. While these pieces were created using “skins,” not all of my pieces do, but I tend to value colour and texture, so those elements will be consistent.

You can see these works and more in person by visiting the Vine Art Gallery of Muskoka, which is open for special dates and also by appointment. Online photos do not show how detailed or textured they are, nor do they give a true sense of the layers of colour within.

Ability and “Dis”-Ability (Part Two)

This is a continuation from Part One… re: SPD = Sensory Processing Disorder, or Dysfunction.

Thank you to those who have listened to and encouraged me over the years/decades, both prior to learning about SPD and even now. And to those who go to great lengths to reduce my exposure to triggers in their presence, in my home or in theirs, I am deeply grateful.

There are no meds that help with SPD. Believe it or not, there are “experts” who believe that one must simply continue to expose oneself to become accustomed to the triggers, as if they will eventually go away. This works for some, but not all. I can tell you the approach does not currently work for me, but has only made me feel worse. Granted, I’ve always had to find alternative ways of getting by, such as finding a seat with the window glare behind me, choosing different shampoos/deodorant/etc., and cutting out chemicals when cleaning my house. The list goes on and on. However, as the number of people increases within close proximity to me, whether just on the edge of my personal bubble, or upwind by breeze or draft, this drives up the threat to my health exponentially. That’s the state of things currently, anyway. I am optimistic that the effects will decrease in magnitude, after I can recover from some very significant stress overload.

About all I can do is try and control my environment, but there are so many variables besides SPD that are out of my control. One huge variable that affects me is the weather (i.e., barometric pressure). Another is fluctuations in hormones.

Perhaps the worst variable that contributed to crippling me in the past year was accumulated adrenal fatigue, mainly from the stress of my last workplace. That in itself is difficult to rebound from, but it has magnified the symptoms of SPD, and I am experiencing a long list of symptoms besides, indicating leaky gut, chronic sinus infections, fibromyalgia, and more.

Most of the time I’m staying at home, either inside my house or in my yard. No, I don’t sleep in, or take naps. In fact, I have a hard enough time sleeping well during the night, and I go to bed at roughly the same time every night. I don’t take meds to sleep because they only cause more problems and don’t help me sleep at all. So, the amount of sleep I am able to get is a huge factor as well, but it’s awfully difficult to sleep when I am experiencing pain and other reactions.

There are five basic sensory systems that everyone learns in elementary school: 1. sight (visual); 2. hearing (auditory); 3. smell (olfactory); 4. taste (gustatory); and 5. touch (tactile). Additionally, there are 3 other senses that hardly anyone knows about: 6. vestibular (re: motion, movement, balance); 7. proprioceptive (re: sensations from muscles and joints of the body); and 8. interoception. For helpful info, this resource explains the 8 senses (without all the ads).

Imagine how the human body takes in information from the senses. People with SPD can have hyper- (over) or hypo- (under) sensitive senses, or a mix of these along with some senses that actually do function as they should. However, my current experience is that most of mine are hyper-sensitive, especially smell, light, sound, and the vestibular sense. Some of mine started out hypo-sensitive and changed to hyper-sensitive. I have learned how to adapt in many ways over the years, but there are times when my tolerance gets tapped out. And there are some things I simply cannot tolerate at all, ever (like chemical fragrances, but even some of the natural scents, like blooming hyacinth flowers – I grow them outside but they stay outside).

Some of the effects for me are: crippling migraines, with accompanying nausea, dizziness, short-term memory retrieval issues, and cognitive confusion. I lose my ability to engage mentally in a project/activity, to socialize, to recall everyday words to express myself, and to do simple things like read or listen to music (I will spare you the exhaustive list). All I can do is muster up enough strength of purpose to think of a place to lie down – a dark, quiet room away from everything, with minimal exposure to anything sensory, if that were possible – and then I might need to crawl there. If I’m away from home but lucky enough to have some warning and enough time, then I will drive immediately home, or at least go to my vehicle. Otherwise, I’m stuck. It takes several hours, at least, for me to feel better. Often, the effects last for many days. Complications of barometric pressure and hormonal fluctuations will exacerbate the effects and one episode can continue for a week, only to return without much relief in between.

When I have those days or hours in between during which I feel “better”, I often feel elated and just want to enjoy myself to the fullest, but it doesn’t happen that often. I really do like to be around people, and I try to make the best of it, but there are only a few places besides my own house where I can feel safe. I try to make memories with my family. I want to make sure there are good times with them to remember. Being down and out for the count can be so isolating and depressing, and I certainly don’t want to stay in that pit.

I love the outdoors, being near or on water, or walking a decent trail, and I bring my camera with me to record my experiences or sightings. Some of the sightings end up in my paintings. 🙂

Another one of my favourite things to do is to write. Writing and painting are incredibly therapeutic activities for me. I have to be creative. This is why I recently went to my first meeting with the Muskoka Authors Association (MAA). I inquired just over a month ago, after knowing about it for quite some time, but I felt like it was impossible for me to get involved in anything of interest, because I would just have to pay for it with my health. Someone told me I should at least inquire about whether they have a scent-free policy, since that is usually the worst trigger for me when going to a social event. Well, I did inquire, and the answer was not yet, but they were willing to consider making a policy. Unfortunately, I ended up with a migraine that day, which prevented me from going. This month I was determined, once again, and I was feeling okay right up to a couple of hours before the event. I knew a lot of rain was in the upcoming overnight forecast, and I could feel the pressure building in my head. I took Tylenol and persevered.

I want to sincerely thank the executive of MAA for their willingness to make me feel welcome for that meeting and future ones. I don’t think I had any additional reaction from scents that night, which was the issue they addressed. In fact, they announced a new scent-free policy at the beginning of the meeting and said it would be sent out in an email to the membership. I am not the only one who brought this up, because a guest had done so at the last month’s meeting, so my timing was right for a change. But still, as I heard the announcement (well-spoken, I might add), I just wanted to hide. If only people knew that I was sitting there thinking, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry that I seem so demanding and anti-social. Please, don’t anybody be mad or resentful about me.” I’m not sure how long it will take to join in with the group without having those thoughts, but maybe after I have a sense of belonging there. No one knows me yet, but many were friendly.

Not to put a damper on things again, 😦 but of course, as I said, I arrived with a migraine already in process, but I did react to the lighting (visual sense), and at the end of the meeting, because I didn’t leave soon enough, the sound of the chairs and tables being moved were grating on my senses too (well, I was trying to be social and talk to another member, and others were just trying to clean up!). So, it wasn’t the scents this time. Instead, it was the lights and sounds. It’s nobody’s fault. I’m merely stating facts, just so people can attempt to understand, if they are willing. That was Thursday, and I was sick with severe migraine and nausea after the meeting and right through until Saturday afternoon, and for all I know it might have had nothing to do with being at the meeting. All I know is that often the factors combine to overstimulate me, and it takes quite a while to recover. Thankfully, I had improved enough to sit with our company who had arrived on Saturday and had travelled 4 hours to visit with us.

The most difficult thing about SPD, over and above the crippling effects of the disorder/dysfunction, is how much I have to ask others to go without, just so that I can be involved in something with them. When they are willing to go to that extent for me, I am touched by their kindness and I’m incredibly grateful.

If you have seen or know my painting, “Phoenix Rising to New Life”, now you will know more of the meaning that painting has for me.

MIVY-0001

Phoenix Rising to New Life / 30″ x 40″ / acrylic on canvas (new 2019 image)

It’s the feeling I get when I see this kind of thing in nature (if you see it, and you can relate, comment below):

IMG_0298crop

Thanks for reading, even if you don’t comment here, but I do hope this helps somebody somewhere… someday.

Love to you all!

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Ability and “Dis”-Ability (Part One)

What can I possibly know or say about this subject? I don’t look like I have a disability.

I certainly shouldn’t talk about it on Facebook. Isn’t that where people post all things positive? Give the impression that all is well in their world with smiling faces and carefully selected words?

In fact, I have hardly written anything for the last 6 weeks on this blog, because I have been unable most of the time.  ***This is not a rant. I am simply trying to share something very personal with a goal to increase awareness and understanding.***

It’s difficult to share this even with friends, even family – to those who know my small accomplishments, and even the things I talk about eventually accomplishing, despite the amount of dedication and hard work they take, or have taken. What they don’t know is how much I have had to keep lowering my expectations for myself and my future. But I still have big ideas. 🙂

For many reasons, some of which will be expressed below, I have shifted away from pursuits in the academic and intellectual world and have re-entered the arts. Yes, I have returned to my first love, visual art, and I tend to alternate between painting and another of my loves, writing. This has happened gradually, due to an increasing number of challenges that, when combined, became insurmountable.

Gradually, I say, because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of the symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), nor did I have a name for it until more recently. In these days, with so many chemicals we are exposed to daily, I just chalked it up to that, and tried to avoid exposure. That worked well, or so I thought, as long as I was a stay-at-home mom, or when I was a student and spent most of my hours in my own safe, home environment. I could come and go, to school or to play dates, or whatever, being that those were not environments I was exposed to each day, because I had breaks in between. Sure, I was conscious of the debilitating symptoms on and off, but the periods of rest ensured that I could recover, while I was still blissfully ignorant about my limitations or that I was merely “coping”. The fact is: I was always living with disability, which was not only invisible to others, but also to myself.

feature

Friends and family have often spoken to me about being gifted, or blessed, or being a renaissance woman (aka multi-potentialite), and some have rejected me for such things. (If they only knew the curses that have come with the blessings!) Indeed, as I write it, there is no way I can avoid judgment for sounding like a braggart, but I don’t care what people think anymore. I have never profited from any of my talents. Schools will continue take my money for tuition, and I will continue to graduate summa cum laude, but I have learned after 3 degrees that it doesn’t matter. Besides, when a gallery requests my artist’s CV, they don’t care about any degrees or work outside of visual art. I have nothing there, because I’m self-taught, with the exception of the studio course in the first year of my BA.

The Masters degree I earned at seminary only amounted to more requests to volunteer in the church with teaching women or children, at least where I am living now. I have no patience or desire to deal directly with the ongoing issues revolving around women in ministry. It has been emotional heartbreak for me, to say the least, but I’ll stop there on that issue. Ultimately, however, it is the sensory issues which have destroyed my ability to volunteer, along with allergies to the mold in some church buildings, which I cannot even enter without paying for it, healthwise. My disability is such that I don’t get any communication from the church, which is to prove its invisibility and the lack of understanding in the community. People have no idea what I have been through. I’ve never been the recipient of hospitality (meals, visits, etc.), like those who have had other illnesses, not to say I want that at all. But I suppose that the few people I’ve told don’t really understand anything at all about what I deal with 24/7/365. And like Jesus said, “Forgive them… for they do not know…” So, that is what I do. But it’s lonely at times. I’ve lived here for 3 years now, and haven’t really found a church where I can be safe from sensory onslaught, or to use my “gifts”.

Perhaps my degree in education was a waste, because I didn’t know beforehand that it would only amount to a long wait for a permanent job while endlessly supply teaching (I discovered that I wasn’t willing or able to do that). But, even if I knew that teachers’ college was a demanding program, with no real down time away from the classroom, I had convinced myself that I was going to do it anyway. It wasn’t long before I felt exhausted with Mono and Bronchitis, to which I was likely susceptible because of the chronic dis-ease caused from my ongoing sensory issues (greatly increased from classroom triggers of lighting, sounds, smells, etc., etc.). Somehow I still made it through the program, determined to “succeed”, and graduated summa cum laude, but then I “failed” to follow through because of overwhelming fatigue. I ended up doing very little supply teaching, and then I moved farther north, where there are less teaching jobs. I would have made a great teacher, of children or adults, if I didn’t have SPD. I knew I could teach, because I found myself teaching often, but not every single day, and not in challenging environments. Alas, I finally realized it was something out of my control.

Such has been the cycle of my life; my successes eclipsed by my failures. And my failures have ensured that no one will promote me. For a woman who has prided herself in being capable and dependable, I now feel perceived as unreliable and unworthy. One might say that it has all been meaningless.

But that is only a snippet of my life. I don’t believe that is how God sees me. And I don’t believe that people are born with one purpose in life. Just as this world is constantly changing and we need to adapt to it, I am determined to adapt to my circumstances. If there is meaning to be found in all this, then I will also find a way to share it to help others.

I don’t know if I will ever use my education again, except for writing, or as a basis for something else I’m good at, which is research. I will be content that I was once a teacher to the best 3 kiddos when we homeschooled, now years ago. In fact, I am learning contentment in all things. It is a lifelong process. It also involves un-learning some things, like caring about what others think of me.

How can we judge another person, when we have not walked in their shoes?

Now that I am older (goodness, I am approaching a half-century milestone in only weeks!), I have seen how my perceptions and judgments have changed over time. Gone are the days when I blamed my parents for many of my enduring troubles, because I see this is merely history repeating itself, for don’t we all do this to some degree when we are young and think ourselves wiser than we really are? Instead, I can now say that I have walked in their shoes from time to time, even if only in hindsight of memory, and knowing a bit more about the nature vs. nurture influences in their lives that have continued into my own.

This awareness sobers my judgment, and heals over the wounds of the past, increasing my ability to love them more. And not just my parents… but other family members and friends, old and new, as well.

But, am I becoming more lovable? Even in isolation, due to my sensory issues?

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If no one is listening, is it noticed? If I speak, will anyone listen? I suppose that is why I write. But will anyone who reads this comment? Does anyone want to know more about me? About  my art? About SPD? Or something else? Will anyone read this to the end?

This is only part one. Part two will follow in a few days. Will there be a part three? I really don’t know. It depends if anyone wants to have a conversation.

But I am not looking for pity or sympathy. I’m looking for kindness, just like everyone else.

Until then, remember how much you are blessed, and be a blessing to others, in whatever small way is possible. It might make someone’s day.

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New Artwork: “Ruby”

As promised, I’m sharing a finished piece (finally) that I started back in February with intentions of entering it into the spring members’ show. My other two pieces took too much of my available time, I guess. This one is much smaller (8″ x 8″), but I wanted to do the subject justice, since I consider these creatures to be amongst the most awe-inspiring in their beauty and power, contained within such tiny bodies.

“Ruby” is the title of my latest painting of a ruby-throated hummingbird, which is hovering in front of a hibiscus flower and about to sip its fill of the flower’s nectar.

About a month ago, when the hummingbirds returned to my backyard, I remembered my nearly completed piece. When I finally devoted some time to focus on the final steps involved, it took only a few hours to add the finishing touches of painting and the sealing coat, divided over a couple of days to allow for needed drying time.

As you can see, because of the glossy surface, it is very difficult to get the desired quality of photograph to show this piece online. I have uploaded one taken from an angle to show the details with less glare. In person, the viewing is much easier. 🙂

I hope you like this handsome fella,

inspired by the sweet visitors to my backyard!

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Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

My “Phoenix Rising to New Life” painting is a very personal piece, as I’ve always felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Since the phoenix is mythological, I took the liberty of depicting a more peaceful bird to represent new life. Its magical lift and effortless flight promote an appreciation for its confidence and grace, even while it is vulnerable during this stage of renewal.

[February 2019 update: I recently spared the time to go back and retouch this painting, and brought it to a professional photographer to get a better photo. As you can see by comparing them side by side, I have not taken away anything essential from the original conception, but I have merely “fixed” areas which I was unable to back in November 2014 – to complete to my satisfaction – due to not having the needed materials at the time. On the left is the 2014 version, on the right is 2019.]

If you have ever felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes, then you will see a lot of symbolism. The level of the lake is flat, much like the flatline of a heart monitor. The rising elevations of the mountains hint at the power and strength of the new life, versus the flatline.

There is fog on the water, signifying the morning of a new day. The fog also acts as a cover for the phoenix, as it seeks a safe direction to start its journey.

Of the 4 tail feathers, two are peacock-like, one of which resembles a human eye. This eye was not meant to be the all-seeing eye of God (or perhaps I would have placed it more within the triangular area of the mountain). Instead, it is a human eye, which serves to remind us of where we have been and what we have learned, so that we can take part willingly in the transformational process of renewal.

The phoenix was a Christian symbol for resurrection in the time of the early church. The leaves on the tree occur in sets of three, pointing to the triune God. Therefore, it is fitting that the tree is in the foreground and that it stands out somewhat 3D from the rest of the painting. It also shelters the phoenix somewhat, and serves as a marker of its complete departure from its past.

Meanwhile, its old body lies in death, which is represented by the rocks in the lower right corner of the painting. It is a human body, with female form, lying in the position which it fell in death. But it wasn’t all for nothing. There are already spring flowers bursting from the fertile ash in the crevices of the rock, indicating that we leave a legacy that helps others to learn from the past and look forward to a better future.

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First Hummingbird Sighting 2018

Hooray! I’ve been following the sightings that people have been recording on this website, so I knew they were getting closer to Muskoka in their migration. In eager expectation, I put out the hummingbird feeder a few days ago. When I saw them today, I had to submit my own sighting on the website.

It was raining for most of today, so these photographs are from indoors and looking through the bay window. The wind didn’t help me get many pics that were in focus, but I still got proof of the return of these lovelies. There was at least one pair, but the pics only show the male.

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In the above photo, you can see the ruby colour at its throat. But even though these pics are all of the same bird, its throat looks black in some, because of the light.

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He even looks a little chubby when he is at rest. So sweet!

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Spring Has Finally Arrived!

Winter 2017-2018 was LONG, but good riddance! We received piles of snow well into April this year, and it’s only been completely gone from our yard now for about a week.

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Lake Muskoka was still covered in ice on April 15th.

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On April 24th, the snow had to be shovelled off our back deck so it could melt in the sun. My back garden was completely bare. Thanks to the deer for chewing the few tulips out back down to nothing. Since the snow and ice still covered the front gardens, those tulips hadn’t yet emerged, so they were safe.

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On April 29th, the sun is finally high enough in the sky to melt the snow on the front yard, but there is still a small patch.

 

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And there were only a few crocuses in the front garden then.

 

 

 

 

 

But now, I am proclaiming a long overdue welcome to spring!

In fact, on May 1st it seemed to go from winter temperatures the day before right into summer (while snow was still on the ground ?!@&!?). Of the snowdrop bulbs I planted, not a single one came up, in the front or in the back. They should have done so before the crocuses, which makes me think something was wrong with them. I won’t buy bulbs packaged by that company again.

Every spring, I can’t resist touring my gardens to see which of my “green babies” has just burst out from the ground, day after day. In the sunshine, I can almost watch them growing. It helps to cheer my soul after the winter blahs.

Now, everything is coming up (except for one out of 3 lupines I planted). We may have had a slow start, but it’s all catching up!

I’m so excited to see my gardens fill out this year, after all the work I’ve put into it. Finally, I can rest in knowing that I shouldn’t have to do much work with it this year, except some maintenance, but that is a peaceful activity.

Happy Spring!!

 

 

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Mako the Golden

We lost a true friend this April. I write this to honour the furry fella, Mako the Golden.

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Looking back as life keeps moving forward.

Mako was always adventuresome. This dog lived the life of a true companion to his chosen master, always willing to hop in the truck (front or back) and hang out at the workplace through the day, and never missing his ride home.

He knew his pack. As with any dog, one master rose above the rest, because the dog choses on its own. Mako started with one owner, then circumstances moved him around within the same family, but eventually, he decided on the one. He went with him wherever and whenever he could.

But Mako knew and loved all the rest who came and went from the home he claimed as his own. He greeted everyone like he hadn’t seen them in ages, even if it was only a few hours since he last smelled them. Many people came and went from his lakeside home, and he hung out with everyone on the dock and in the boat(s). Ducks and fish were a few of his interests, and he couldn’t keep his nose away from a potential catch, or meal.

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Eyeing up a potential meal, with my daughter and my sister-in-law.

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Showing some interest in my son’s fishing hobby.

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My daughter had a special attachment to Mako, and the feeling was mutual. She was much more than his trusted tummy-scratcher. When his master had to be away, Mako stayed at our house and he slept in our daughter’s bedroom on his own bed. Yes, he also brought his own stuffed animal.

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At our house, Mako always looked with longing out the front door to the street where he would see other dogs, but we couldn’t let him outside without attaching a leash and walking around with him, because he wasn’t used to the city.

At his home(s) he was completely free. He romped through the hills and forest, down to the dock and lake, in search of the sources of all the scents in his world. One time, he followed his nose to discover a girl-dog at a residence not too far from his property, and he outstayed the welcome of her owners on several occasions. And during the work week, Mako had his run of the workplace property too. He was used to running, sniffing, and rolling, but he was sure to be back when the workday was done for his ride home in his master’s truck.

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The dock and boathouse on a frozen Lake Muskoka. April 15th, 2018.

This year, old man winter would not relent, and the lake was still frozen on the surface well into April. On the evening of the 10th, Mako made his usual request to go outside for his constitutional, but he didn’t return. It was suspected that he was visiting his girl-dog, and that he would make his way back as always. The next morning, he still hadn’t shown up. Later into the morning hours, he was found a short distance from the dock. He had, for reasons unknown, fallen through the ice, and although he tried desperately, he couldn’t get out of the freezing water for all the broken, shifting ice. In the dead of night, no one heard a sound. The extended winter is to blame, and it isn’t welcome anymore! But Mako was, and always will be, sorely missed.

I’ve not had the pleasure to know that many special dogs, but he made me want another dog of my own! It has been a while for me. Maybe I will get my wish someday, but for now, we’re all missing this guy like no other!  

 

 

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Seasons

In October 2017, many stressful events from the past 2 years came a head for me, and I’ve needed to step back from almost everything to take charge of my health. I’ve been extremely quiet about it, but I suppose that was easy, because I stopped working and stopped every social activity, so I guess no one was able to ask me where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to. I’ve mostly been at home, trying desperately to gain some energy and motivation for the things I have always enjoyed. Since May this year, my quality of life has rapidly declined, and it seemed to be doing so exponentially by the months, then the weeks, and finally, the days. At this point, I don’t know how long it will take me to feel 100% again, or even 50%.

I’ve been struggling to create anything, and I have only accomplished a few experimental art pieces, which I posted to my facebook account. I’ve decided to write a memoir, because I think it will help me to process the stressful life events that have contributed to my situation. So, I am gathering and organizing the details in a timeline for now.

Being unhealthy physically does have its impact on mental health, and vice versa. Most of my physical ailments are invisible, but stress has taken its toll on me in many ways. I’m currently dealing with chronic migraines, brain fog, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, night sweats (not to be confused with hot flashes), all over muscle and joint pain, back pain, abdominal pain and pressure, bloating, allergies, dizziness, and intermittent vertigo. All this contributes to depression and anxiety. Most disturbing about all this is trying to sort through it all, but I’m not sure if I can even hope to get at the root cause. Is it “leaky gut”? I already know I have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), but I am not officially diagnosed. As an adult, it is very difficult to find anyone who can diagnose this, because the occupational therapists generally deal with diagnosing children up to age 18. I also need to find someone who can confirm whether or not I have a chemical sensitivity, which is over and above SPD. If I don’t do the research myself, how will I ever know? I just keep writing this down for my next doc appointment, so that I will self-advocate and eventually get some answers. If I don’t write it down, I simply forget everything these days.

I’m finding that my health has forced me to enter a season of life that can be only be explained through imagery. Around Thanksgiving, I went for a walk on the Huckleberry Rock Lookout trail, taking my sweet time and breathing in the fresh country air. If you don’t already know, there was a fire that went through Milford Bay in 2012 and the evidence remains on this trail, mainly further in, as you get closer to the feature lookout. There are still some charred remains of trees, and there are many dead ones still standing, but there is plenty of regrowth, slow as that might be. With the passing of time over the years since the fire, the trail becomes more beautiful, despite the trauma it suffered. That is the hope I have for my health, that I will come through this season stronger. I just don’t know how long this will last, as I haven’t hit recovery yet.

In the meantime, albeit slowly, I am determined to gradually complete more art. I will see what Muskoka Arts & Crafts has planned for shows in 2018. Every year, they put on a Spring Members’ Show, so hopefully, I can enter some new pieces by then. One small step at a time.

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