Friday, August 9, 2013

Martha's Vineyard and A Fine Romance

I am heading for the Vineyard next week for Illumination Night in Oak Bluffs.  If you have never been - you'd be in for a real treat if you can go. The charming gingerbread cottages are decked out with colorful (and in many cases vintage) Chinese lanterns for one night every year.

Susan Branch is releasing her newest book as we speak and I just found out that she will be signing at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven on Thursday, August 15th (4 - 5:30). It is my favorite bookstore ever and I have a lot of wonderful books on my shelves that I bought there. Each has a purple-inked Bunch of Grapes bookmark inside.

I plan to be there with bells on! When I met her years ago, I was enchanted by her thoughtfulness and bright outlook on life. I followed her trip to England on her blog and enjoyed every minute of it as she took all her 'girlfriends' in her luggage with her. Having been to some of the same places and loving walking back into history, her stories were that much more interesting.

Go to her website for more info on A Fine Romance and go back through her blog to join her on her travels by boat (Queen Mary II, no less) to England.  Or join me at the book-signing and get your own copy to read and reread to your heart's content!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Creative Evolution

(C) Gina Sekelsky
I have reached a point in my life when I know who I am and what is important to me. I am not saying the trip was a smooth one but I have tried many things and have grown as a person and an artist from each experience. I relish the thought of expanding my exposure for all my days to come.

I read articles and postings where people are trying to find themselves or direct others onto a path. The premise is that you can't do everything so you better find your focus and be happy with just that. The world is your oyster but, wait - you can't have the whole plate.

To be creative is a blessing to be explored without restrictions. You don't have to put a name to it.  I am an artist or I am a welder or I am a story-spinner. I don't feel it is important to distill an abundance of creative interests into a narrow channel. Spending time attempting to do this denies the expansiveness of what makes you YOU. It is frustrating and limits your exposure to creativity's bounty. Just as our minds expand and can hold the words to countless songs, our creativity mellows and morfs but can remain complete because each foray into wonder expands our focus in ways that strengthen our talent. The more we 'see' the more we grow.

Time spent worrying about who you are and what defines you keeps you away from discovering that very thing. Deny nothing, avoid nothing and fine-tune your music by drawing from all the creative interests and awesome sights you have (and will) experience. Appreciate your mind for its plethora of interests. You will find you have been yourself all along.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I have been writing...just not here

As a female of the species, I excel at multitasking. Well, I did in my earlier life. Now I single-task in a multiple fashion. Moving from one thing to another, my mind plans the next foray with aplomb except for the occasional brain fade when I get to the next room and forget why I went there.

Single mindedness comes with age - at least I assume it does. It has for me. I savor more, do things completely so I don't have to come back to them and I ignore an overburdened closet simply by closing the door. Hey, it is important to pick your battles.

Art and writing are more important to me than dust. Lately, though, construction has planted plenty of the stuff on every surface of the house so I am back to multitasking. I write a bit and swipe a cloth over the desk. I sweep out the studio in prep for the summer, taking paints from their winter storage out to their regular home, while simultaneously swiping a counter top with a cloth as I pass by. I clean plaster dust and wood splinters from the inside of the washing machine (I mean, really guys?) and then do the wash.

The new bathroom is coming along nicely. I will be happy when we can stop going down two flights of stairs to use the other bathroom. It will be a twofold luxury when it is done in a few weeks.

I've kept up with my journal, adding watercolors to the pages when a light touch is needed and pictures of trips and construction progress to illustrate the dialog of my days. I spent four nights at an inn in Gloucester a few weeks ago, painting at a beach I found in Manchester-by-the-Sea on the first day. The air was cool - mid to high 50's - but the sun made it feel warmer. I sketched the scene, adding notes to my drawing so I'd remember the color of the water and the sweep of the clouds. The next day I set up my easel, digging the legs into the soft sand and, stretching a bungee cord over the tray, anchoring it with two big milk bottles filled with water. I accepted its quirky tilt - uneven ground being what it is.

Life is uneven. The axis tilts this way and that and I find my footing either by digging in and firmly planting my thoughts or flowing with it. Both work to different degrees. It would be plenty boring if there was a sameness to every day. I know people with lives like that. I guess they must like it that way because they continue to do it year in and year out.

I prefer edges that shift and change like the waves on the shore. When I was in Gloucester, the beach was different each morning. The clear, rocky beach of that first afternoon became riddled with seaweed on the second day. The sea pulled some of it out with the next tide so the arrangement was different - undulating strips of seaweed hiding sea glass treasures in with the pebbles underneath their mounds. I accepted the changes with a sense of excitement and discovery looking forward to rounding the corner to find out what I would see.

When things are serene, I find untold pleasure in my own discoveries. A good book, rhythmic stitches woven into the shawl I am working on and the plunge and pull of silk thread through a needlepoint canvas. Good conversation with friends culminating in laughter and hugs. I am grounded by my pleasures. They help me meet my challenges with a bit more grace.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Westminster Tower
The sun is going down and it highlights the iconic monuments with burnished light. As dusk approaches, one of the most dramatic part of the day begins.

Over the years, business has taken me to London numerous times. Little bouts of exploration leave me enchanted with the different lifestyles in this world city. I have seen much, even with the time constraints of work and energy. I push through and enjoy a selection of different things on each trip. One time, it might be museums and art so vibrant it takes my breath away. On another, a walk through alleys and thoroughfares brings architectural discoveries. Mamma Mia at the Prince Albert Theatre and Evensong at St. Paul's, a tradition since 604. Sunday service at Westminster Cathedral just months before William and Kate's wedding had me studying the carvings and nave knowing that they would be doing the same thing gave me a sense of belonging to a stream of history. At least a little bit.

Continuance. There is what came before and there is what will come, but now is the real present. A gift of experiences and wonder. Challenge and acceptance. Wonder and love.

Close-up of Art
Brussels Alleyway

Appreciation. I cannot walk without admiring what went before me. Art so intrinsically molded into the facades of countless buildings which are left to weather the elements, sometimes for hundreds of years, and still they survive. Did he know - the builder - the carver - the mason? Did he ever think that I would be walking in front of his work eons after he died reveling in his vision? Did he realize that thousands more just like me would stand where I am standing and soak in his beauty?


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blizzards and Patience

As the media got hyped up for the impending New England storm last week, I listened with increasing excitement and delicious pleasure. While I knew it was probable that we'd lose electricity if the winds were intense, it didn't overly worry me. We had a fireplace, lots of wood and a freshly tuned-up generator.

Shawl from Nature's Wrapture by Sheryl Thies
I did what most New Englanders do, I did all the electricity-necessary chores, put fresh batteries in the flashlights, cooked soup and a chicken pot pie, got out my knitting and made a fresh batch of cookies loaded with chocolate chips. Nothing says comfort during a storm than chocolate chip cookies.

It is odd to watch a storm gather on a TV map and take a walk outside under a field of puffy clouds in a clear sky. They did fill in, though, towards the middle of the week and we knew the 'Euro model' would likely prove correct and we were in for a pissah of a storm.

My only disappointment was that the bulk of the storm was overnight on Friday and I missed it. The high winds rattled the rafters and I could hear the gritty sound of snowblast on the siding as I fell asleep. It was soothing. This one didn't feel like a threat.

While it was still coming down Saturday morning, things started dissipating before noon and then the skies cleared and the sun dazzled as it reflected off the pristine snow.

The snowplow didn't get to us until mid-afternoon (actually my choice when I answered his phone call). Take your no hurry...won't be going anywhere. Smile, smile. I like the feeling of being snowbound. It is cozy, safe and there is something about it that prompts me to take it easy and do things I might not make time for - easy things, pleasurable things. I knit, packed for my trip coming up on Friday and, of course, cooked.

This time, there was no electricity loss in Lunenburg although southern Massachusetts got a triple whammy on that score. No one was allowed on the road after 4PM Friday which was taken seriously so accidents were few and emergency people and plows could do their jobs with fewer impediments. Oh, I imagine there may have been a few foolish people but I wasn't out there so I didn't see them and I prefer to think they were all sensible and did what they were told. After all, it was only a 24 hour storm.  What could be so important that you just had to get to a store during the storm?  I mean, surely you knew about it beforehand?

I am so glad we settled here. There is so much to enjoy - good friends and family and maple syrup and blueberries to pick by hand. Oh, floating in the water - lake or sea, take your pick, both are awesome. Mountains and vistas, seagulls and an occasional bear tramping through the backyard. Okay, I can do without the last one. But warm beach sand you can sink your toes into until you reach the cool layers below, that is a scrumptious pleasure. The smell of the ocean, the feel of the breeze off the water as it cools your heated skin.

The hushed silence of the world during a snowfall and your sense of peace rediscovered when you experience it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Simplicity

When I was a child, Sundays were sacred. No work was done, dinner was in the early afternoon and quiet pleasures were enjoyed. It was the day we climbed into the back seat of the DeSoto and went for a Sunday drive.

I loved Sunday drives. Dad was home from work at Danbury Airport, gas was cheap and there were always new roads to explore. Rambling along the back roads, taking lefts and rights at will, we passed beautiful homes and wide expanses of green. Somehow we always ended up at the bakery for freshly baked hard rolls for steak sandwiches. It was where we perused the cases for just the right dessert to share after a light supper, usually napoleons thick with custard and flaky layers of pastry. A shiny coat of chocolate covered the top. Carefully placed in a white cardboard box and tied with a striped string, our dessert sent out tantalizing aromas. Dad would carry the box out to the car being careful not to tip it and spoil the topping. The fragrance filled the car on the drive home and our anticipation of the treat grew with every mile.

Details are fuzzy but I remember the bakery being in a big old house near the hat factory in Danbury, Connecticut. We'd turn into the drive and stop close to the house. Later, the New York Bake Shop came into the picture. I remember Dad and Mom winding out the wing windows beside their seats to channel the sweet breeze into the car.Was the radio playing? I imagine it was, but can't hear it in my mind.

Sunday was a family day.  Sunday night baths and into pajamas early to watch Disney before bedtime. Dessert would be divvied up and eaten in the living room before the TV - in itself a special treat. Occasionally, when we didn't take a drive, it would be ice cream - vanilla, strawberry and chocolate in one little pint box. Mom carefully peeled open the box and divided the block into slices, two bigger ones for them and a skinnier slice for me, before setting the flattened box on the floor for the cat to lick.

Sometimes we would visit family friends, sitting outside on sunny, summer afternoons or around the kitchen table chatting about the week while we kids played. Leaving the adults to their coffee and conversation, we would create imaginary worlds and explore the nooks and crannies of the house or neighborhood. Kids can find ways to play so easily. We never seemed to have a problem coming up with something to do.

Maybe, on the way home, we'd stop at the Dairy Bar by the airport for vanilla cones topped with jimmies or, if we were really lucky, dipped in chocolate.

Sunday's activities may have varied, but the quietness of the day prevailed. I liked the structure of my childhood days. Bedtimes (although I resisted them in the summer when it was still light out at 7 PM), cartoons on Saturday, being outdoors as often as possible - what seemed restrictive then now seems comforting and joyous.

The freedom to explore neighborhoods, gullies and streams, climb hillsides and walk to neighboring towns alone or with friends was a normality that has become absent from our children's lives. I credit my explorations for my love of traveling, my thirst for learning. How will the restrictions born of fear and danger change the people yet to come? Is safety an impediment to wonder and growth? Or will common sense prevail and wonder still bring a sparkle to eyes? I hope so.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Shiny New Year

There is something about the transition from one year to another that has us all thinking about new beginnings or, maybe, second chances. Whether we will embrace them is up to us.

This year, mine are really neither one. My new year feels undeniably fresh and purposeful but a continuation of the last one. I am getting things done without the stress of not enough time (because there is enough when I take my time). I am enjoying friends and family, contacting those at a distance, looking forward to seeing business friends at upcoming trade shows and loving my family near and far. The wintry scene outside my window enchants me as the sun streaks through the bare branches brightening the snow in its path. The contrast with the blue hues deep in the shadows of the tall pines give the scene depth and interest.

It is as simple as that. I write while my tea brews. I slept with my hand on our dog between us and Bob's hand covered mine, both pleased to have this loving creature in our lives.

While there are a few worries (as there will always be) to balance the contentment, I am trusting that those involved will follow their heart's desire and find peace once again. If they need me, I am here. I am a good listener and thankful for that. I check in, offer support and try not to interfere. I am not always successful at the latter, though, and I hope that the ideas we discuss offer food for thought. Sometimes only a long hug or commiseration is needed and I am okay with that, too.

There will be waves in my new year - ripples - perhaps storms. I will sail my ship as best I know how regardless of the tides flung at me. All the more reason to relish the here and now, be grateful for my life as it is at this moment.

I do. Oh, yes, I do.