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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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Lakeside Trail

Autumn. It’s short but it was incredibly sweet this year in Muskoka! And I’ve been taking it all in, whatever I could get of it.

This is what happens when you feast with your eyes… What goes in must come out, and thankfully, I was feasting on beauty! I’ve been calling it “Lakeside Trail.” It’s an acrylic painting on a 36″ x 24″ canvas.

Here is the full size painting:

Lakeside Trail

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

With all the beautiful autumn colours this year, I found myself a little lost in the leaves, so to speak. Alas! Now they are all on the ground!

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!

I just wish I could get a better photo to show what it looks like in person, because all the texture and layers of colour don’t really show. All we’ve had more recently are cloudy and rainy days, along with some snow that dusts the ground occasionally, and I think I will have to be very patient. Whenever I can get some better photos of this piece, I will update the gallery photo.

Here are some close-ups, but again, they don’t do justice to the layers of colour and the details are somewhat muddied with the lack of good light lately (I even went outside to take these). I suppose I must wait for spring to get the right light again! A better camera would help, in truth.

 

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The Watcher

For Hallowe’en, here is a post that some will love and some will hate. My personal opinion is that it is creepy, so this is the perfect day for posting it. (In fact, I read it to a writing group this morning, since it was one of the writing prompts and I had been revising this story lately. Thank you all for your feedback today!)

You will have to do some guessing about who the “watcher” is, but by the end of the story you should know. My own rather strange nightmares over the years are the stuff of the dreams in the story but most of the rest is fiction.

I will say that I don’t have any pictures or paintings to go with it, and I don’t decorate for Hallowe’en, so how about a photo of my backyard garden as it looks this very day (in the rain)… I’m a little sad to see all those leaves on the ground, but I will look forward to spring!

Enjoy the story!

The Watcher

The child was lying peaceful only a moment before I entered the room. Now, her brows creased, she pulls the blankets up to her neck, gripping them with tight fists. Rolling into a fetal position, she does not awaken, for she is a prisoner in the dream she is having. As always, it repeats from the beginning, since the first time it played in her subconscious mind. There is blackness and a far away, steady hammering. Then, shapes begin to emerge out of the blackness as she cautiously moves toward the cacophony. Maybe they are being revealed to her, as if a veil is removed, but by whom, and for what purpose? They do not have distinct features, and their outlines are indecipherable, but they emit high-pitched cries, which she perceives simultaneously with deep, wicked laughter. Discerning the one thing the figures appear to have in common, the girl awakens in a sweat, though she fears to move even slightly. She believes they are targets for persecution, enslavement, and eventually, murder. She could not give words to these heavy thoughts at the time, but I was there, and I have listened over the years to her recalling of nightmares. The dream had come only this far, and at this time, she was only 5 years old. How she had concluded so much at such a young age is surprising, which makes me wonder if she is an old soul.

With every passing year the dream reveals more. Perhaps the child can withstand more revelation as she grows older, before she is overcome with fear enough to waken, or maybe she has a strong mind. Upon reflection this time, it occurs to her that she is being held within dream state, as if in a vise, to be tortured through these visions, so that she will identify with the figures. This idea is horrifying for the young girl, because she is beginning to believe that she is one of them. Her increasing fears of the dark and of falling asleep are understandable, but she perseveres to retain control, to focus on what is real and cast aside the unexplained.

#

This nightmare haunted the young girl for many more years, right into young adulthood. It demonstrates the complexity of her experience of life and of her continual search for meaning and purpose, even from a young age. She was always acutely aware that she existed, thought, and had some reason for being – I knew from observing her – but she couldn’t discern my presence. As a child, she wasn’t sure if anyone else she met was like her. She remembers thinking that her parents were planted in her life like robots. They certainly didn’t understand her – she was so convinced about this! Little did she realize at the age of 5 that they had simply forgotten the wonder of childhood. Even then, they were at risk of losing grasp of their purpose and meaning. Indeed, a time was coming when the girl would be shaken from the fall-out of their division.

Children are generally considered to be egocentric, but there are some young children who are capable of great empathy for others. Normally, as children get older, they start to understand that humans have parallel experiences, but they are still truly distinct from those of other people. Although she was still very young, this recurrent dream already confirmed for her that she was not just an individual looking on, but that she was somehow connected with the oppressed, and targeted for something that she couldn’t fully comprehend, in a much larger world than she knew. Instead of believing herself to be merely a helpless individual person, she discerned that she was also part of a larger group, with people whom she was certain she hadn’t met yet. I did my best to steer her away from them.

I noticed the signs that she is a sensitive soul in many ways, even spiritually sensitive. At some point, she began to believe that there is more to life than what can be experienced in the physical world, but she became keenly aware that many people react harshly to “religious” ideas. Her dreams, and a few “unnatural” experiences, made her wonder if there was an “other” world within her own, one she couldn’t see, except for glimpses, or manifestations.

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In her teen years, the number of recurring nightmares increased. Most of the time, she couldn’t see her enemy, but she could sense the heaviness of dread in every scene that appeared in her mind. She was usually entering an old house. Her fear of old houses started when she lived in the house that her parents rented on the main street of their village. Features of that house were unsettling for her, from the long stairway to the creaking floors, as well as the wallpaper and the drapery, from which she could make out faces in the patterns. To her, the faces always seemed to be watching her, just like a spooky old portrait painting. There was no comic relief from watching cartoons, for Shaggy’s and Scooby Doo’s reactions certainly did nothing to alleviate her fear, and only encouraged her imagination to be dark. Her mind could be her worst enemy, so much that she would tell herself it was only her imagination and yet, submit to her fright anyway and bolt from the room, which did nothing to increase her courage. Little did she realize that some of that drapery was going to end up in her new bedroom when they moved to their new house.

During these frequent episodes of unsettled sleep, she would often find herself in the same place, knowing what was eventually going to happen if she went through a certain door or passageway. Classic tell-tale signs for her to recognize were the creaking walls that only seemed to move at first, as if in warning, and the peeling wallpaper and shredded drapery with the stained patterns that told stories of evil times. There might even be evidence of a more recent homeowner’s attempts to do some renovations on the old house, but the building materials and the scaffolding always looked to be abandoned. As she moved about the house in the dreams, she would see puddles of water on the floor, and looking up, holes in the roof. The further she went in, she’d hear more noises, and sense more tremors, but something would draw her in deeper still. Inevitably, she would end up going through some doorway into a forbidden room where there would be an object of interest, such as a shiny, red wagon, or something that just stood out from the surrounding environment of darkness and decay. This was when the house would come alive and protest with a deep, angry, booming voice, and in an instant, the door behind her would slam shut, and walls would start moving and closing in around her, trying to block her escape. That was usually when she woke up.

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In all her waking moments since her early days until her late twenties, she could not remember a single sweet dream. Restful sleep was elusive. Sheer exhaustion forced her into it, but the nightmares kept interrupting, sometimes playing over from the beginning, and other times picking up where she awoke the previous time. That first childhood horror of the hammering, the deep-voiced laughter, and far-away screaming did not turn out to be the most crippling for her. It portended mystery and doom, but it seemed to warn of something distant, and so, she pushed it away, but not without some struggle, at least. After all, nothing in that dream was chasing her, like other frightful scenes during sleep. Someday, she would figure out what it meant, but she kept waking before the truth was revealed.

One person in her life showed great concern for her fright, and she attempted to help her feel protected when it was time for sleeping. This woman was her grandmother, who taught her a prayer to ward off evil, to say whenever she went to bed. She assured her that God was watching over her, that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her, and that she could ask him anything when she prayed. Now, to be clear, the child noticed that her grandmother didn’t talk about such things outside of this bedtime ritual, but it did make an impression on her, limited though it was. In later years, she realized it was a popular prayer, because most people recognized the words: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” The phrase, “soul to take,” rather concerned the girl. Even so, with all her sleeping troubles, it was the only prayer she knew. She repeatedly tagged on a request for her parents to get back together, but eventually, she gave up on that, as well as praying altogether.

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Well into her twenties, the dreams with the hammering and evil laughter still haunted her. She could identify the steady beating sound with what she thought looked at first to be oil pumps moving up and down, crushing and stamping. But they were not fixed like most machines that large, so that increased her terror. Then, she realized that the small shapes in the distance were people, being corralled into the bases of the blood-thirsty, bone-crushing machines, and as she stared in horror, she perceived that the machines were more like living giants, which were trampling all under foot. And yet, she knew the laughter came from another source, for there was one voice of malicious laughter that rang out over the continuous noise of wailing and bedlam.

While the cacophony she endured from that nightmare was enough to torment her throughout the following day, there was more to be feared from the suspenseful silence and dreadful presence in yet another recurring set of dreams she had during this decade. These were offshoots of the dreams of being in the old house which came to life and started closing in on her and screaming at her. Playing and pausing throughout the night, causing a restless sleep, she would startle awake repeatedly and fall back into a morphed scene on return. Eventually, she would find herself entering a large room in which there was a single armchair, strategically positioned so that it was deep in the center and turned away from her. As if under a spell, she was compelled to move closer to identify who was seated there. Sometimes, it was empty, or there was noticeable weight on the cushion, but no one was visible. Other times there might be a decoy. Yet, the effect of the heavy silence was such that the sudden loud movement of the walls or the sliding of the chair would wake her, and she could never get back to sleep after that.

However, an opportunity presented itself for the girl to discover who had been sitting there all along. This time, as she approaches the armchair from behind, she is surprised to see the top of a smooth, bald head, and on one arm of the chair, a pale, long-fingered hand resting. Cautiously, she edges close enough to peer around from the side, just as I am turning my prominently sculpted features toward her, and I hold her wide-eyed gaze. With my piercing eyes I begin boring a gaping hole through to her heart and mind, savoring her fear. But suddenly, I feel a disappointing jolt of disconnection. I had wrongly believed she was within my grasp. I don’t think I acted too soon, but I think she saw beyond my limited disguise.

In confounded disbelief I watched her without ceasing. Waking from the ordeal did not alleviate her fear of impending doom, so I waited for my next opportunity, and I was not inactive. Unfortunately, she concluded that the source of the malicious laughter was one and the same as the seated enemy in her most recent vision. She couldn’t explain why she thought that, except that being confronted with this entity immediately caused her to believe all the recurring nightmares were blending together. No longer did the warnings seem so distant.

I heard her relating this experience to her new love interest, saying that she has never felt so hated by anyone, and concluding that I seemed to be just biding my time before she fell into my clutches. Not to be swayed from my purpose, I continued to target her mind, but she has grown strong enough to resist my every attempt since she woke up in the night.

And just like that, within the same day, I could not connect at all with her anymore. She went over to the enemy and has been given the “gift” that prevents me from accessing her mind. I had no warning. While I watch her going about her days, it’s as if she is a completely different person. In fact, she doesn’t even seem to notice that her nightmares have ceased.

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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.

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Monarchs

You know you’ve met a nature lover when…

…You visit their house and as you approach their front door you notice some rather tired-looking, chewed-up milkWEED plants dominating the garden, where a much more beautiful specimen-plant should be.  Yes, that’s my house. Well, until this week, that is, when the last generation of this year’s caterpillars finally had their fill. The ratty looking plants are now in the compost bin, and our Rose of Sharon is in full bloom, getting all the sunlight it desires.

I tried to plant the milkweed seeds I harvested from last fall, but nothing came up in the spring. My plan was to see what came up, if it would increase somewhat year after year, and then I could eventually plant more beautiful specimens at my front door. Instead, I came up with a plan ‘B’ to attempt to transplant some new milkweed sprouts, but you have to dig way down to get the full root of the plant. After several tries, I think I was successful with transplanting 4 plants, although all but one died soon after. From what I’ve read, they will seem to die, but if the root becomes established, it will spread and come back the following spring. Fingers crossed… After all, the ones by my front door keep coming back, no matter how many I pull out for lack of space!

The following pics span from the first of June to mid-July. The flowers were in bloom and pungent at the end of June, when they are actually quite lovely, while some plants that were already well-favoured with eggs and caterpillars were looking rather worn out by mid-July. As soon as they looked this tired, I was itching to pull them. If I discovered an egg on one of the leaves, I waited. Sometimes I had to move a caterpillar to a different plant, so I could pull out the spent one.

Last year, I brought 25 caterpillars inside over the summer, later releasing all of them when they emerged from their pupae as adults. This year, I did not bring any inside. The Monarchs arrived earlier this year and I thought I would see how it went. But the predators didn’t really reveal themselves until August. I started seeing evidence of this… dead caterpillars with ants, spiders and beetles around them. And then the ground wasps returned. We attempted to exterminate the wasps without harming anything else, but that is an ongoing battle to revisit next year.

20180719_103915-EFFECTS

Even now, we are seeing adult Monarchs visiting my gardens, and the last generation of caterpillars have now pupated. So, it won’t be long before these ones are making the long trek to Mexico.

 

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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 are hypo-sensitive, and some started out that way 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 by the time our company arrived on Saturday who 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 in that painting.

Phoenix Rising to New Life

Phoenix Rising to New Life / 30″ x 40″ / acrylic on canvas

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):

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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.

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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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Why Is My Garden Such a Lonely Green?

I’m not talking about that emerald spring green that I love so much. Oh, but we did enjoy it while it lasted, as a few (several) photos will show. Spring was a bountiful display of  some happy new perennials, even though most of my early spring bulbs were affected by the prolonged winter, and by the deer that discovered many emerging bulbs this year.

I did spend a lot of time and money last year trying to infuse more variety into the gardens, in colour and blooming times. The vast majority of plants around the house were blooming in the summer, so I attempted to make the waiting time shorter for this year. I was so hopeful that I was going out almost every day expecting to see welcome changes. It was good while it lasted!

Here are a few of my spring favourites:

 

 

Now, this here pic that follows shows the early signs of what I dreaded might happen. I must admit that I enjoyed the energy they brought to the garden, and in truth, if there wasn’t so much birdseed being shoved onto the ground, maybe the rodent population would not have boomed! There have been times that the blue jays were to blame, but the feeder rising up from that post became the habit of several pairs of black birds, and they raked through the feed relentlessly. You would think they were looking for something, but they were very bad at finding whatever it was. My husband was filling up the feeder almost every 2 days, and when he came home from work, he saw it spread on the hill of the garden in a wide diameter with birds and rodents everywhere.

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If the black birds would have only taken a bit at a time, like the other birds, and wouldn’t have come back so often to make a mess of things, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But we desperately need a different spot for the feeder to discourage so much trampling of my plants, which cost a great deal to put there in the first place. This is an early photo of the area, but my hosta and the black-eyed susans near the base of this feeder are stunted from all the fondling by the chipmunks and squirrels looking for seed! They’re even eating the coneflower heads before the flowers can bloom. It’s not uncommon to see 5 chipmunks at the same time in the same area of the garden. We’re long overdue for some traps. 😦  Otherwise, I’m afraid they will be trying to get into our house in the fall/winter. The number of new holes around the house is a bad indication.

After a late end to winter and a rather short spring, we have also been enduring a long period of heat waves with few slightly cooler days to break it up. Bracebridge has had a fire ban for a while now.

Last year, it rained all summer and the spring green colours stayed on almost into August, with my black-eyed susans taking that long to finally bloom for the lack of sun. This year is completely different. I haven’t complained about the heat, not after that extended winter we had, but my gardens are not yielding me much joy this year, and it isn’t just the heat to blame…

 

[Hover over the photos above for descriptions (or click on the images).]

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This photo shows that the yellow lilies in the back were wonderful, but that was all I got in June. They were so fragrant! Oh, the little snail sculpture in front is no more – I went out one day to find that its face was 4 feet away (not the whole head, just its face…). And, see the delphiniums getting taller in behind? Wait for it…

Now, for my chicks and hens… Let’s just say that the roosters are plentiful this year.

 

Each grouping of photos show the development of the roosters. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re the most interesting. Apparently, when the hen is going to die off, it transforms into a “rooster,” sending up a rather phallic-looking growth, which then flowers and spends its seed on future chicks. Meanwhile the current year’s chicks turn into next year’s hens. I thought it was the coolest thing when I saw this happen for the first time last year, but there was only one then. This year, there are at least 6 and I’m showing you 3 of them.

 

And then there was the promise of the iridescent blue and purple delphiniums. This is what they looked like on June 30, and look how many more were yet to get showy!

 

But I went away for a few days, and when I returned, this is what I found. The squirrels and chipmunks took down ALL of them, and nothing could be done.

 

I kind of gave up for a while after this. My expectations became very low.

 

 

Well, the feeder is currently still standing in the same spot, but hubby puts out very little on the platform and does not fill it. We like the birds (except for the black varieties… ahem), so it would be a shame to take it down, all because of the few that have ruined a good thing. But the garden territory was not meant to sustain so many families of chipmunks, common squirrels, and now even more red squirrels… They need to move on, not move in. Yikes!

That aside, at least there is hope for some relief from the heat soon. And here is the latest sign of beauty in my front garden, soon to be joined by bursting black-eyed susans. Summer blooms are finally arriving, and I hope they can last well into the fall!

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Screened-In

Ahhh, this is the good life! When at home, enjoy the bug-free outdoors in your own screened-in porch! Day and night.

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It took us a while. We knew that after 2 years of black flies and mosquitoes, we wouldn’t do well living next to so many trees. But with a late start to the spring, and a short one at that, my husband was still building this protective enclosure when it was getting too hot to work in it anymore. He finished closing it in with the screens at the end of June, and he continued to work away on finishing the outside while it was 34 degrees C (or nearly 95 F).

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And this is the beating the hydrangeas took in the building process. But they’re are doing well, and in full bloom now, and they’ll come back thicker again next year.

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This was the view as you rounded the house to the backyard last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, the view from inside the structure is magnificent. I didn’t even realize that I could watch the sunset from my own backyard, as it goes down through the trees (look right in the center of the photo). And there is a breeze that was non-existent from the other deck.

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All that is left are the roof, whether that is shingles or metal (it still remains to be decided, so the roof has a temporary covering to protect the pine from the rain), and other minor, but time-consuming, finishing touches. That doesn’t stop us from fully enjoying it as it is. We come out in the evenings after supper and watch Masterchef Australia as season 10 is nearing the finale.

It’s so cozy in here that you could sleep comfortably under the stars – safe from the bugs, out of the dew, and lately it’s been so warm that there’s no need for a sleeping bag. But, I can’t promise you’d be able to sleep in, because there are just too many critters making a racket at 4 a.m.

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I’m blessed to have such a peaceful haven for a backyard. Now, I can create art out here too!

I did have a visitor on July 4th, much to my surprise. First, it landed on the closest tree beside me, and it peeked around both sides of the trunk at me. What was that flurry of red? And so big… Aha!

Then, it hopped over to the next tree, which is mostly dead… (watch the video and see what it did next)

 

 

And, here’s another, much smaller, fellow… Red squirrels are rather shy, but when I’m in the porch, I see them all the time, only a few feet away.

 

 

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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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Art on Display at the Bracebridge Town Hall

The Bracebridge Town Hall has once again welcomed members from Muskoka Arts & Crafts Inc. to show their work within the community.

MAC member artists who have submitted works for this show will have their art on display at the Bracebridge Town Hall for a 2 month period, starting May 31 until August 1, 2018. Continued future shows are likely.

This time around, two of my originals will be showing. Both pieces have cottage colours, but are different styles in acrylic painting. The first, titled “Off Grid Sabbatical,” is made from acrylic skins with the look of stained glass. The second, titled “Rugged Rectangles,” is a textured, abstract piece and uses some metallic colours.

Both of these pieces should be seen in person to appreciate them completely, not only for their textural elements, but also for the way the light dances along the surface to bring out the layered colours.

Anyone can stop in at the town hall to view the paintings on display throughout the halls. Most of them are for sale, and visitors can inquire to purchase while they are there.

 

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