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Friday, September 30, 2011


I have cycles, and sometimes those cycles require crawling into my den and hibernating. Sometimes I feel like a bear sleeping away the winter, and sometimes I feel like I'm hidden in my cocoon turning into a butterfly. Hibernating lets me rest and heal from my last burst of interaction with the world.

I’ve been on some employer-enforced retreats too, but it’s hardly an actual “retreat” when you take all of your coworkers and bosses with you. We shivered in cold cabins and bonded over flip charts while trying to make left-brained people understand the point of brainstorming without footnotes. Really, couldn’t we all bond much more effectively over dinner and drinks in a warm restaurant? I’m not quite sure why upper management guys seem to think climbing on ropes suspended on telephone poles is a good idea.

For all that, I’ve enjoyed work retreats. I’m a good camper and enjoy helping the camping-impaired survive campfire songs and toasted marshmallows. I like this kind of thing so much that I managed a retreat center for a year when I told my then-husband to getmethehelloutofIndianaand BACK TO OHIO any way possible. I made bouquets of flowers for the cabins, brushed away the spiders and chipmunk nests, and had some wine by the campfire – then retreated to my house with central heating. Good times. It was kind of like Girl Scout camp for adults, and I got to live in 130 acres of pristine woods overlooking the Grand River, one of two rivers designated “wild” and “scenic” in Ohio. (The other river with that designation is the Chagrin, where I spent my childhood.)

This retreat center is a rich man’s folly/tax write off. He is blind, so if you look closely in the photos, there are posts strung with rope along all the paths. This was a help to him, but also for the groups of blind kids who came out to catch their first fish. Blind kids fishing isn’t exactly a safe activity, but we all survived the flying fish hooks. My lifeguard skills came in handy for the double pools too, because a lot of those kids didn’t know much about swimming. I wanted to wrap some of those kids in bubble wrap during their visits. When guest-free, I liked to float around on my back in those pools at night and listen to the owls hooting in the surrounding woods. Blissed out.

The bell tower bonged every 15 minutes and chimed out every hour. I hated 12 o’clock. Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bonggggggggg… (Ironically, I currently live by Catholic seminary's bell tower.) The owner said he had his first wife’s skeleton in the basement of the tower, but I checked and it's a plastic skeleton. What's real is the 1500’s executioner’s sword mounted on the wall. You can tell it’s an executioner’s sword because it doesn’t have a point. There’s no reason for a point when you’re cutting off heads. The rest of the bell tower is a vertical art museum. I found that a bit ironic for a blind guy, but he also has a 4 foot tall jade mermaid in there which he can appreciate by touching. It’s a gorgeous sculpture, but very few people get to appreciate it since the tower is locked almost all of the time.

Managing a retreat center was actually quite a bit of work, so when I had the opportunity to move across the street to 100 acres of pristine woods without responsibilities, I jumped at the chance. That place became my actual retreat, and I came out of an artistic hibernation with a prodigious burst of paintings and a new style.

For those of you who read my last post, a big maple tree came down in my yard this week. I got out loppers, clippers, and a bow saw and dismantled the crown on my own. When my next door neighbor John Jr. came out, I offered him firewood for labor, and he came over with a chainsaw. When the tree bested his chainsaw, he recruited another neighbor with a bigger chainsaw. I heaved logs over the fence in a very messy pile while John Sr. filled me in on neighborhood gossip and the evils of government. There’s still quite a bit of tree on the ground, 15 foot long x 5 foot high, but it’s raining and I’m spending time inside with my Epsom salts. Maybe I can get some wet wood to burn in the fireplace?


  1. Linda, I love your drawings and interesting stories. :)

  2. ...and your stories make our day. Great illustration :o)

  3. Your posts do make me smile Linda,you have lived such a life and you still have at least another half to go. Amazing story about the retreat - what a shame that mermaid stays locked away! I could do with some of your wood for my little open fire.....can you send it to the UK via the internet...;o) LOL!!
    Have a restful weekend, don't overdo that wood chopping,(or is that advice too late?)
    Jane x

  4. PS meant to also say... really beautiful illustration.

  5. Can you imagine the shipping costs? I keep looking out there and wishing someone would make a dining room set out of the wood still laying out there, but I guess it's all going to end up as firewood. Thanks for the comments!

  6. Gorgeous little chipmunk there! I can't say I look forward to the hibernation season, but I do have considerable retreat requirements. And when I say retreat, I mean MY den (a.k.a. studio). I truly enjoy traveling, but I can never create anything more than sketches until I'm on my home turf.

    P.s. Hold off on the wet wood-- if it's anything like ours was, it will only add to your frustration level. It will be a treat to have a stockpile for next year though!

  7. I always love to read your stories!
    And the drawing of the chipmunk is just totally great!

  8. I guess I need to be on my home turf to work too. I mostly made angry paintings in Indiana. I did manage to make fire yesterday, but it was with old wood, not the maple tree that just came down. I wish I had rescued more wood from the rain so I could have fire today too. Brrrr... Thanks for the comments!

  9. Oh, I feel like I planted a chipmunk seed in your brain. Very nice drawing. Retreats. Yuck. Well, I guess I have both good and bad memories of those. Cold and musty cabins were definitely all the rage for those. Sorry about your tree.

  10. Thanks Paula, and yes Sharon, you did plant a chipmunk in my head :) Everyone else can see Sharon's chipmunk on her blog.

  11. I know where to always go for a good story and nice illustration. I think you've lived many lives as your experiences are very rich. Thank you for sharing your world.

  12. Heisann!

    Join me on tracking, hiking or just a simple walk on Sunday!

    Put on your walking shoes, bring with your camera or paper and pen and document what you see on October 9 and link to my blog!


    Bring with some friends ;:OD)

    I missed this week illustration, nex week too, I have other things to do! Travelling....

  13. Heh Linda, well why is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? because I guess we are looking at it through atmospheric haze.

    Hmm, that doesn't sound right!

    What an interesting life you lead. "Interesting' in the nicest way too.

    I've never seen a chipmonk in real life (I have seen two squirrels though - twenty years apart and for two seconds each) but this fellow looks so alive. I think it's the eyes, he has that life in his eyes where he stares at us and says - see I am here. So there :)

    Have fun with the epsom salts. Don't take too many of them!

    PS I am impressed how you attacked that tree :)
    And thanks for sharing those pics. And telling us a story. I confess to enjoy coming here and reading as much as I like to look!

  14. Amazing work...love it! Wonderful post too! Thanks so much for stopping by over at POP ART MINIS appreciate your comment! Happy Creating!

  15. I don't think I realized how many stories I have until I started blogging them. Chipmunks are very cute to watch Andrew. They're little and harmless except for the holes they put in the yard. Mine make a mess stashing plum seeds throughout my garage. Epsom salts are for the bath to soak sore muscles. I'm still sore!

  16. Heisann!
    Driving home from Lia, we had to stop for a nice little squirrel who wanted to cross the road.
    I see them more seldom these days. When we moved into our house twenty years ago, we had one in the garden for a few years.
    Your is adorable ;:OD)
    Those who are living in Scandinavia don't have the dark and light lines, they are brown all over!

  17. I've never thought of all-brown chipmunks or no chipmunks at all. Maybe I'll start appreciating my little guys a little more? They are pleasant to watch scurrying around. Thanks for the comments!

  18. I like chipmunks! :) Squirrels for me, take a little more work to like! lol! Anyhow, beautiful illustration. I worked at a retreat center too a couple of years ago...another thing in common! :)
    I really enjoy reading your blogs.

  19. Fabulous post, Linda! Wow, you have had so many experiences so far in your young life..and to see the images of the retreat is so interesting! I can't imagine fishing with the blind, but you managed to make it seem manageable. Your chipmunk is simply gorgeous, and by chance were you near Chagrin falls? Oh what a beautiful place.

  20. Thanks everybody! And yes Shirley, I do live by Chagrin Falls, and it is a very pretty place. I'm spoiled with scenery :)

  21. Great story and great illustration:)