I am Moving

Greetings all followers. This is my last post on WordPress. I have created a new site for art and blog on FASO Fineartstudioonline.  But you can find me by simply googling janisdehler.com. I am excited to be part of a broader artist network with more capability for showing and connecting and writing.

If you would like to follow me, you can click on “add your email” and that should do it. I think there is a glitch in the follow button that shows on the blog page. That is being looked at. I will try to post once a week and you will receive it as a newsletter in email.

Thank you for following me here and on the Camino Journey. Be sure to go to my art section and click on the “Camino Series”. It has my art and reflections related to that journey as I have lived them over this past year.

Happy Spring! It is such a joy to see the sun these days.

Jan

A Unique Flavor

This week we are up on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The previous week we were in Upper Michigan sleeping along the shore of Les Cheneaux (the channel Islands) in Lake Huron and drove by and played in Lake Michigan. It feels both a privilege to be in the presence of such bodies of water and humbling at the enormity and power of each while we experience them with their own unique vegetation, shoreline, and personality.

Between these lake visits, I attended a funeral for Walt, a man who had been both a client of mine and a hospice patient. A large gentle man, bound to his wheel chair and oxygen, who deeply grieved the loss of his wife the year before. It took almost a year for Walt to go out to his workshop alone as he was always with Sharon even while he was out tinkering and inventing. He is now resting in peace next to his beloved and the thought of him brings a smile as he touched the hearts of our whole team who grieve his passing. As I write this, I pause as it is challenging to paint a portrait of this man not knowing the day to day life he lived previously. I can only say it was his gentle tears, his inability to put his feelings into words, it was his smile, his loss of his beloved lab, Mitzi, along the way, his passion for good toffee, his decision to bring the outdoor cat in the house after Mitzi died and the cat’s partner died and admitting he didn’t really like this cat but felt sad for the cat’s loneliness in its loss, his deep appreciation for all the attention he received in his illness and loneliness, and in the end maybe it was the peace we all felt when leaving his presence that brings such life to his memory.

I purchased two books this week that are entertaining me between bike rides, hikes, fishing, and exploring along Highway 61. The books are by Kathy Rice, owner of the now closed Pie Place Cafe in Grand Marais, MN. Delightful cookbooks with many of their famous and favorite recipes of salads, sandwiches, soups, fish, and of course pie! I loved that she wrote that she did what she had a passion for, which was make pie. We share that passion. I could have a bumper sticker that reads, I brake for pie. Each recipe begins with a portrait and a story of an individual who entered Kathy’s cafe. Some were local and some from other locales but each captured her imagination in some way with story, art, personality, and life history. Many became life long friends.

In the end, we become a smattering of who, what, when, how many kids, where did I work, who is left behind and on and on in a dry list offered as some form of identity in the newspaper or funeral program. Reading Kathy’s portraits of individuals she has met, I realize each portrait of a life she offered us could be the obituary for that life lived. Kathy captures, as best she is able, the soul of the individual through her words. It puts me in mind of Heather Lende (heatherlende.com) who was introduced to me by my sister, Di, and who is, among other talents, an obituary writer for a local newspaper in Haines, Alaska. Heather’s obituaries paint a portrait as do Kathy’s words. I would say each has a passion for people and take the time to open their hearts and minds to that one before them or the one who is being grieved for by a loved one.

Kathy states “the soups flavor will vary according to what you choose, but that is part of the fun.” Thoughts: What am I choosing this day, this month, this year, this life, that flavors my life? My grandson loves making soup and throws in many questionable items without a recipe. Most often it works, sometimes not. It takes courage to choose but if we do not choose others choose for us. To paint a portrait that captures the essence of the person we have to have the courage to see and portray what the individual might perceive as a flaw. Maybe that is what creates the wholeness of a life. Maybe it is merely that particular “spice” that adds the flavor to a life well lived.

Les Chêneaux, Lake Huron

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Lake Michigan

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Lake Superior

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A Blessing and Blooming

The pavement rose bushes are in full bloom and the waft of rose scent in the air feels like an intake of blessing on each breath. I missed the peonies as rain hit hard on their opening. The lilies are in bloom with splashes of color everywhere.

The last couple of weeks have simply been hard labor with scooping a few ton of rock into our landscaping around the back of the house. What seemed insurmountable in the beginning is now two thirds complete, one shovel of rock at a time. My body still holds a few aches from the job but also pride in accomplishment while realizing the enjoyment of sweaty dirty focused labor. The job was made fun with two grandkids to help us, keeping us focused and laughing in the midst of it all.

During the week, I called Margie, a newly bereaved late 70’s woman whose husband died a month ago and has been told she needs to vacate her rental as fast as possible as it is being sold. Distress, tears, disbelief, stuff to be sold or given away, no time to grieve, panic, all this I heard as I visualized Margie trying to move a ton of rock with very little support. I remember those first weeks of deep grief and the fog we move through as we try to find our bearings with a brain not functioning well as we forget things, have a hard time focusing, and find ourselves melting in tears at the small reminders of our loss. We can feel buried under an insurmountable weight.

For many of us it is the people surrounding us who help us with each shovel load, helping to ease the burden, keeping us focused, and we are grateful. At other times we find ourselves alone in our grief, sadness, and confusion. Whether we are alone or surrounded by loved ones, we ultimately find we must look within to our own resources, that which guides us daily. Finding in our own stillness the quiet moment releasing the waft of roses arising from our own heart, that which is connected to all life and loving and living and that which draws us forward to live and grow into the only thing to which we can become, ourselves in full bloom. Our own wholeness of being.

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The Lilacs are in bloom, it must be June.

IMG_3959I am finished with the drawing class and grateful; grateful for the learning and grateful to have some space in my life. Learning was often a struggle as when it is possible to see where one wants to go but not sure how to get there. I did learn and am both proud of and surprised at what I accomplished. Finally, it all came together.

I lost a rhythm to my life when the class started and have not painted in months, have not been writing, and have not picked up the pencils again. Life is full of distractions and usually those distractions involve people I love and care about or work that needs to be done both paid and in the home.

Today is a day to begin again and find the courage to write and push that muscle to contract and expand as the thoughts rise to the surface and bring focus to the inner realm. The class taught me to see. There will be days when I will be blind to what is before me but the work in this class taught me that looking and then looking again is a good exercise in allowing the brain to make the connection with the perceived object. When drawing from a photo of the north shore, what I thought were some complicated branches in the lower right hand corner and had decided to ignore were on second and third look, a week or two later, large boulders with veins and rust. All being important features to the whole that I merely cast aside as being “too hard” and dismissed as not important. When I realized they were boulders, I could not fathom how they could be seen as anything else as they were so clear. When opening my eyes with an open mind, I felt excited by how interesting these features were and they turned out to be fun to draw.

This habit follows us and happens many times in life. We see or hear based on what we believe not by what we truly see or hear. In the moment of looking, when not fully present, we add judgment to the act of looking. We define and categorize what we believe we perceive. We add another layer to the moment of experience. It is like looking at a rainy day and deciding we do not like this day for the rain. When we open our hearts to the day, we see the way the world becomes more green with the watering; we delight in the puddles; we explore the play of hiding under an umbrella; and, we connect as one with the experience of life.

Final Drawing Project

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Simply Because

We sit at the dining room table eating our breakfast on a Sunday morning. The geese are flying in, following the river from the north to our house then they turn and head back up the river. Is it spring or is it not? That is the burning question these days. The goldfinches are in their full yellow splendor. The eagle makes a swoop down the river to our house and then she also heads back to the small island and to her nest. The deer across the river are more visible as they dine on the promise of new grasses with hopes for a heartier fresher meal.

We believe it is fully spring despite the heavy layer of snow. Each day we can do more outside, today leaving the storm door open to take full advantage of the warming slant of the sun into the doorway.

Those who are grieving are telling me they are needing a break from the long winter, wanting to move their grief into the soil of the garden, planting something that offers color and promise of harvest, digging with their own hands, heart, and soul. This last storm left Dan with a stroke of which he is making some recovery with a long journey ahead. This last storm also dropped a barn roof on a barn of 100 milk cows. A devastating loss for a farmer. Dan is working hard to regain use of his body. The farmer is assessing his loss and with help restoring his barn and herd. This is our human resilience, our movement toward light, health, spring. Restorative spring.

Could we be like the geese and simply move toward the rays of spring light and warmth, simply because? Or the warbler who makes her nest ready for her new young, as it is time to do so? Could we merely stand in gratitude for this new day of snow, sun, puddles, and returning geese because it is a new day of life?

In the words of poet Mary Oliver, let us..

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it. 

As we allow the day to enter us fully we feel the day in every cell of our being. How can we not sing it out, draw it out, share the joy of the story of our life even if it is in the quiet of our own heart. Even if  it is the warbler who alone understands our song.

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Brother Sun

This morning’s waking gift was the pink horizon anticipation of the sun along with the crescent moon with a reflection on mother Superior. It reminded me of St. Francis prayer, Canticle of the Sun.

….Praised be You God for all Your creatures,

especially Brother Sun,

Who is the day through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,

Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my God, through Sister Moon and the stars,

In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair….

Blessings on this day before us.

Reflections From The North Shore

Leo and I set out to snowshoe on the north shore of Lake Superior near the mouth of the Caribou River. It had begun to thaw a bit and we sank up to our knees in places, got off the trail and made our way to the road and then back on another trail closer to the river. In some ways a deer trail although we had to bail on that as their path headed down a cliff to the water and then across and up the other side.

Leo was hoping for window pane ice flows to the shore and his wish was granted yesterday as we listened in awe to the crashing of the ice flows into each other and to the shore. Each morning, each day, Lake Superior is a different lake on the surface as it thaws, flows in different directions, refreezes and delights us with unexpected formations.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life consists in what a man(woman) is thinking of all day. ” We feel this truth as we contemplate the water each day; I lived this truth as I walked the Camino in Spain for three and a half weeks. With vast open space, contemplating the beauty before us, we open and feel united to that which we contemplate. The day is the water, the field bathed in the morning sun, the splash of color on the wisteria as I turned the last corner.

We can drive through beauty at 60 miles an hour every day and not see it nor experience that which is before us as we plan our day, reflect on how to approach our boss, review the argument of last night. We create a habit of not seeing until we are removed from our day to day habits and are faced with little else to contemplate but what is before us. That is the gift of retreat, we leave something behind, we withdraw from enemy forces, and in the act of retreat we review and re center. The enemy being that within us which we struggle against to be present. Seeing beauty is an act of will and honing that skill is an exercise of a muscle allowing us to hold a strong and steady gaze.

Allowing beauty in to the center of our being changes us in ways that allows us to be one with the constant beauty which lies below the surface. Beauty reflects the beauty of our own true nature. As Lake Superior changes throughout the day, all the while being its’ constant true self below the surface, so do we flow in and out of myriad emotions, thoughts, and movements in our day and beneath it all are each a spark of God, pure love, unity.