Here we are at the end of another year! It feels like the more times I go through the years, the faster they tumble by! So, as the final days of this year whoosh past, I will take a moment to reflect on what 2018 brought me.
My major time, this year, has been spent with Adrift and my art. How far I have come in the past year! I have moved way beyond papier mache attaching rocks and wood. Now I create ceramic vessels at Reitz Ranch, and add (or don’t add) the desert woods with a dab or two of plumbers’ epoxy and a few smudges of acrylic paint to blend in the joint.
I started from scratch with ceramics. Over the year I am learning to listen to the clay, not to overtax its capabilities. I still face dry-cracked pieces from time to time, but those are far fewer now. And when they happen, I can evaluate what I tried, what can work, and learn from there.
Another ceramic challenge this year has been glazes. Reitz Ranch uses cone 10 glazes, and by their nature, (and because of the aesthetics of my work as well) bright yellows and purples are out. I have been stuck, more often than not, on the end of not applying enough glaze to my work. The result has been dull black pieces. Recently, though, the goddesses of glaze have been kinder. I am pulling some gorgeous blue, and even red vessels out of the kiln. I know, within the year to come, the challenge of glazes, though real part of every ceramic piece, will lessen!
I am still not making many utilitarian pieces. My mindfulness vessels now hold water, and can be vases. I am making pieces which hopefully, with the help of friends, can become fountains. But a set of dinnerware remains doubtful!
With the challenge of dull colors, and the added non-useful nature of my work, my sales are not yet where I want them. Everyone who sees my work proclaim its beauty! Within days the Sedona Monthly Magazine will list me as their artist of the month. Certainly by the end of 2019, I will have established more of a record of sales.
While my health held up well last year, I was able to turn my potentially worst health crisis into a boon. A mis-diagnosis put me on a medication which caused depression and fatigue. For a month or so I could barely hold a conversation. But, during that time I turned out seven moving pieces in reaction to my own nightmares of abandonment and exploitation. Those pieces have now become the impetus for an art show and silent auction to benefit the Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Hopefully, over those two days, January 12 and 13, many people will see my art, and will donate money to end a horrific nightmare. I was able to move beyond a month or two on a bad med.
My writing has returned! I have to work a bit harder with word retrieval, but in the end the poems I have written have continued to make me proud. I taught a memory-writing class in Camp Verde, and thoroughly enjoyed everyone there, and their memories. I will do a follow-up session there, and do another class at the library in Clarkdale soon.
In 2018 I visited my beautiful grandsons. We enjoyed several field trips, some stories and a lot of play. If only I lived closer to them.
I look out my dining room window as I finish this. Mingus Mountain is covered with a filmy cloud, and beneath that I can see snow. I am so happy to be living in this gorgeous part of the world where something, each day, takes my breath away with its beauty. My mischievous doxies await their morning walk. They bring me daily love and pleasure. My shop-cats guard my studio, ready for every petting hand that enters. And, they patrol all corners of my shelves. They dance a graceful ballet around all my ceramics, never breaking anything. What fun!
To all my friends who choose to celebrate within this season of sharing faith and joy:
May you find beneath your tree and around your table the sustaining power of devotion to one another
And to those of you who choose not to mark this season:
May you celebrate the beauty and quiet within and around you.
To Restore our Dreams
Last summer, inundated by fears, triggered by all the news of mistreated children, the horrendous fate of migrants across the world, and the conflicting views everyone had as to what brought on this international conflagration, I went into a depression. I could not express myself. Words, always my comfort and friend, were unavailable to me. Generally, one who sneaks by on minimal sleep, I needed daily naps, faded and got into bed before seven each evening.
I turned to the one outlet available to me, clay. I went out to Reitz Ranch daily. I stayed, rarely speaking to anyone, for hours, forming faces and heads, primarily of women. I was not intentionally sculpting these images. It felt like my fingers took on a life of their own. The faces of the people I created were contorted by pain. It felt as if my own disbelief of the world around me was transferred into these pieces.
This period lasted for about six weeks. Three or four sculptures crumbled in the drying process, seven survived. My days were a blur as I molded the clay, carved out their contorted features. Not until I was ready to travel East to visit my son in September did I really look at what I created. I, who rarely cry, burst into tears, moved by the images of pain, disbelief and horror I created.
Deeply believing these pieces moved through me, I knew I had to share them with others. It has taken them three or four months to move them through the firing process. Only this week have I completed the final two masks in the set. The first time I laid them all out together, I, again, was moved to tears.
The power of the seemingly senseless pain depicted in these sculptures feels too deep for me to be able lay them out, invite people to see them and provide a bit of music. I needed to find an outlet for their discomfort, a way to at least begin to address the issue. I turned to The Coalition to End Human Trafficking. This chapter, based in Northern Arizona, raises funds to provide education and awareness of human trafficking to a variety of community groups.
My show will be a fund-raiser for the Coalition to End Human Trafficking, scheduled on January 12, from 2 to 5 p.m. In addition to asking for donations for this group, I will give them twenty percent of all proceeds from the sales of my art. We will serve snacks. Dave Rentz will play music.
I do not believe in coincidences. It turns out January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Northern Arizona chapter had already lined up Nick Lembo, a highly regarded speaker, to speak to two religious affiliated groups the following day. We can work together on January 12 and 13 to raise awareness of human trafficking. Maybe this can be an initial step in restoring dreams to more than 100,000 exploited Americans, and too many more around the world.
See you at Adrift (423 S. 5th St. in Cottonwood) on January 12 between 2 and 5. To Restore Our Dreams.
To Restore their Dreams
I cannot keep silent.
Around me I see deception harnessing
the backs of hapless wanderers.
I watch greed overtaking their confusion
and their pain.
My mouth cannot form words,
My tongue lies frozen.
I turn to my fingers,
set them free in a ball of clay.
In dirt I can sculpt this hell,
I display my sorrow
voice my outrage.
My anger speaks from contorted mouths.
My fear emerges from their grief-creased eyes,
My angry fingers touch their anguished
ones, bring them into light
Caught up in this muted vision
I reach out to you.
Can we reshape
this twisted human nightmare,
transform it to a dignity-filled urn?
Let us replace despair,
join hands, together
restore these broken dreams.
The holidays! The season calls out for festive parties and intimate times to talk to friends. Expectations build. Children dream of packages tucked under trees. As adults, we look forward to visiting with Aunt Mary and Granny Ann. During the year we do not stop long enough for this sort of catching up. Now, in front of a crackly fire we reminisce and look ahead, as well.
For many of us this is the time of year when our thoughts alight on those wonderful folk we find stored in our memories. As I look ahead to the upcoming festivities, my mind also visits with the dear ones who have passed on, but remain lively within my heart.
Walter, baby brother. You died just as we were discovering one another. You were eleven years younger than me. I bossed you around, teased you and chased you out of my life. Then I saw your sweet nature, your gift with music, your devotion to family. And we connected as family. I still her your clear voice in the music around me.
Jim, we survived a toxic family in opposite ways. You found a family elsewhere, your friends’ mothers became your mothers. I retreated to my room, established a gentle family of dolls to guide me beyond the chaos in our home. It took thirty years to get to know you as a confidante and fellow survivor. We talked for hours every Sunday, memories punctuated by puns. I share those puns with others now. I tell the stories to myself.
Patty. I found you through your laugh. You laughed so loud, I heard you blocks away from the dogpark. And your laugh was so infectious, I forgot I knew no one, took a wonderful chance with your friendship. You opened my eyes to the beauties around me. You clicked your camera. I found the words behind your exquisite image. Now I must find those words by myself. But they still belong to both of us.
Helen. We called your house Camp Helen. My doxies and I came down to Camp Verde searching adventure. We found it in dead trees riddled with termite holes behind electrified fences, in water-logged branches beside the nearby Verde River. Your magic was contagious. Now I create my own art, each piece with a spark of Helen in it.
And Judie, you gave me the gift of your spirit. How many times I awoke in the middle of the night in panic, and could call you. Your gentle voice, your strong faith, your deep love guided me beyond my nightmares. We knew you were dying. That last year, we spoke by phone daily. You shared your wisdom. I drank it in, hungrily. Now, alone, your wisdom, your devotion is deep within me, gives me the power to grow and live on my own.
And so, as Christmas approaches, as I make plans to celebrate another series of holidays connected only by memory to these five pillars in my life, I grab the music, the humor, the beauty, the magic and the faith I got from you and step forward, a party alive within me! Merry Christmas. Thank you for the lives you shared.
Tonight we live in darkness
Our planet turns
away from the golden promise
of the sun, moves into shadows
we call winter.
Our trees, bared
of the leaves of summer,
Strident threats loom
in the black of night.
We dread an unknowable
blizzard of hatred,
We huddle in this gloom,
forgetting the brightness
of the faces of our friends.
We stumble into this chill,
pray for the miracle
of light’s return.
We have these candles!
We can light them,
one by one. To stave off our fears
we dance in the glow
of their flickering flames.
Within the darkness of this wintry night,
let me look deep into the sparkle
of your eyes. Together we can find
the promise of light’s return.
Let’s light another candle.
Sing a song of peace.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"