I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
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Saturday, August 23, 2014


I have a very tiny bird skull in my office with a jawbone as thin as a thread.  I don't think anyone notices it or the vase of feathers.  They might see the nest with the clay bird, but I don't think they notice that either.  My natural history section is filled with things I found in the garden at work.  It gives me something real to look at when I'm stressed at work.

There was a movement in Dutch art when artists would show a dead leaf or flower, or a skull, or something to show that life is fleeting.  The Dutch were wealthy, and it was a way to remind people to focus on what mattered.  We're at a similar place these days, people are caught up with what they have materially without thinking enough about the lessons they need to learn or the legacy they'll leave behind.  It's too easy to get caught up with all the obvious things we want without thinking about what we need.

"Medieval Times" in Baltimore, MD
For me it isn't about material things.  It's getting too caught up with deadlines and other people's needs without any time for myself.  I hit an invisible wall and took a vacation, driving to DC, Baltimore, the ocean, and upstate NY.  That's a lot of driving in Pennsylvania, an endlessly interminable state with a lot of mountains just to make it even longer.  I'm sure I saw more headstones than houses in that state, and a lot of the people I saw were Amish, people who are in their way the antithesis of materialism.

All that driving by myself gave me a lot of time for thinking, but thinking wasn't making me happy.  Once in a while that little bird skull flitted through my mind.  What matters to me?  How can I arrange me life so those things that matter are a part of my daily existence?

House in Lily Dale, NY
I enjoyed seeing my friend in DC and my cousins in Baltimore, and enjoyed the activities we shared, but I was still looking for rest.  A coworker loaned me her Lake Chautauqua, NY condo and I unsuccessfully tried to force serenity.  I needed to get in touch with myself, but couldn't seem to get there.  A speeding ticket from a cop who looked like my ex-bf didn't help.  Neither did my daytrip to Lily Dale where a spiritualist told me to leave because I wasn't "receptive".  Really, who gets rejected at Lily Dale?!

I picked up shells at the side of the lake and grouched to myself about the shells' dirty shades of brown.  I painted the shells blue to match the color scheme of my friend's condo, then painted words on them.  The resulting arrangement was my thanks to her for loaning me the getaway.  I supposed that was more meaningful than the inspiration I wanted to have for my next great painting, so I packed up and left.

Sunset at Lake Chautauqua, NY
I stopped at a "Cheese House" and the lady tried to sell me Finnish cheese.  I asked for something local, but she said her father quit making cheese in the 40s.  "The best cheese is from Ohio."  Not just any Ohio cheese, but from my area.  I bought some Middlefield cheese and joked with her about my mom, or was it Grandma, who liked baby swiss, saying that aged swiss was a waste of money because all you get is holes.  The Cheese House lady said the holes were free, and I felt my childhood come back to me when an old man said exactly the same thing as I watched a big ball of wet cheese wrapped in cheesecloth get pulled out of a huge stainless steel vat near the place where my ancestors lived for generations.

I spent the rest of my time chopping up a peck of (unpickled) peppers I bought at a farmer's stand, then making dill pickles.  (7 quarts)  I'm finally starting to feel that relaxation that I was trying so hard to force on my travels.  I'm glad I went visiting, but I'm glad to be home.

Happy to see a palm tree in Ocean City, MD


  1. You were in some of my old stomping grounds, a region very emotionally charged for me.

    Blessings to you.

  2. Oh--I forgot to mention, I love your bird skull. I have one too, an exquisite thing. We are always looking for feathers, egg shells, old nests--little bits of themselves they leave behind.

  3. Your old stomping grounds are looking very pretty. I love this time of year. Thanks for the comment!

  4. The shells were such a memorable gift!

  5. Again, a nice post. This time an introspective jewel. Sometimes the act of driving itself is healing and the act of coming home again a cause for relaxation. Thanks Linda. You always give us something to think about. :)

  6. My friend said she likes the shells :) Thanks for the comments everybody!

  7. You are so right in that we too often spend our time not doing what is important in life. Instead we get sucked in to the material world and work and entertainment and what not. I like your idea of having a little natural history collection as a reminder or not forgetting what is important in life. I think your last sentence reveals much what I have found works for me when I need to get back to myself again: Hard work, whether literally or for instance doing a strenuous hike in the mountains. Talking about whole in Swiss cheese. You know the whole are the best part? Not literally but the cheese around the wholes. :-)

  8. I like the part around the holes in Swiss cheese best too :) Today is one of those days where I have to remind myself that hard work is its own reward. Thanks for that reminder Otto!

  9. I love that you keep a collection of treasures at work to remind yourself of the little things that matter. Nice job on the skull, and the new and improved shells!

  10. Sounds like a terrific trip. It can be so beneficial to reflect on what one considers the most important things in this fleeting life. I think the Dutch had a great idea with their reminders, as do you with your bits of nature at your desk.