My blog has moved

You will be automatically redirected to the new address.

If that does not occur, please visit;.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Morning Beastie Report

Post-Breakfast Naps

(Have you ever seen a more photogenic kitty boy?  I swear he couldn't take a bad photo if he tried.)


(Greeting the sun with the songbirds.  In their territory.  Directly above their feeders in fact.)

The Tongue

All tongue and all heart.  And open mouth all the time "insert anything you can possibly find that might taste interesting and cause your mamma to dig through the jowlies."

Oh and one more thing on this fine morning:
I like to call it the "Kitty Mustache."


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just a Handful of Reasons

For family who treks the long and winding roads to celebrate our togetherness, family who pours heart and joy into the creation of a meal, family who laughs and hugs and hopes and prays for each other.  For family who consistently loves, deeply and ever unconditionally.  For my tiny family: my BC (always, always), my kitty boys who give the best mojo, for Sancho-pup who is already joy-therapy.

Thanksgiving table

For the bounty of this life and the hindsight to see that this place I reside is exactly where I am meant to be.  For knowing that I have purpose, and knowing that I'm forging my own path through the jungle of life that has never been walked in exactly the same way before.


For health and positivity, for my ten fingers (honest - this is a thanks I give consistently), for only one more round of chemotherapy, for being encouraged to use the lessons laid before me to dig deeper into soul-territory, to find new kindness, to find new hope.


For you, for this place where we have met, for the incredibly real and rich and rewarding relationships I have found through this blog.  For the way you have heard my words, supported my hands and helped me thrive in a season that could have gone in so many different directions.

And these are just a few of the reasons I give thanks.

- Umber

Monday, November 22, 2010

Breakfasting Sounds

Cheerio me fair-feathered finch!

I've been rising with the sun, or to be more direct, rising with a little puppy-face whose bladder marks dawn like clockwork.  It's incredibly good for my head to be out of bed before the dew has dried; I am a morning person at heart who happened to marry a night owl and then spent a great many years woking till the wee hours every night.
THIS is what I've been seeing and hearing and delighting in each morning (and yes, more seed is on the errand list for the day).
I just had to share the cacophony with you too.

Morning Sky

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Traveling 2400 Miles in Five Days

We started here,
With stout cups of coffee and a sack of clementines.

Behind the Redwoods
wind turbines

South through the redwoods, their shaggy trunks leaning in close to hear Raising Sand (Alison Krauss played by yours truly and Robert Plant sung by BC) pouring through our windows.
South through the farm lands, blanketed in cashmere and guarded by the red-tailed hawks, stopping only to demonstrate absurd yoga poses at random small town gas stations.
South through the rolling hills marked by wind turbines and soaked with the valley heat, peeling off layers and giving in to spontaneous car-dance parties.
Then North, north higher than the flight patterns of migrating cranes, noses in books, two cranberry juices hold the peanuts please.
To these feet.
Which belong to some of my very favorite people on God's golden-crimson-chartreuse-ean earth.

Strolling through the Fallen
The Magic Friend Maker
In Redness

And here it is: I DO miss Seattle, but more over I miss my Mme.  Life feels a little fuller now that I've walked the layout of her home, now that I know where to find the microplaner in the kitchen, now that I've stolen her face wash while showering (heehee), now that we've purchased yet another set of matching accessories (thigh-high leg warmers make the world go 'round).
I basked in her Candaceness (totally a word) so much that believe it or not, these are the ONLY photos I took the whole weekend.  I had to just be.  Really BE.  Present.  To take those images and engrave them on my secret heart, take the moments of utter communion and moments of hysterical laughter and clutch them tightly so they last longer.  To be a little greedy.  I'm not sorry.  Not in the least.

But the weekend passed and we struck out to the softly frosted mountains of California to pick up this little beastie.

My Sancho
Sancho 2

Sancho is HOME!
He's puddin' pie and a little tank already, nine weeks old and eating like a horse.  A ten pound carnivorous horse with floppy jowls, a wiggle worm of a tail, massive paws and a face like rumplestein.

I love him
So big.

And for the record, the kitty boys are handling the situation as well as we could have hoped: Thai is the pure embodiment of Calm-Assertive (a la Cesar Milan - audio books equal 9 hours of hearing the phrase "calm-assertive") with his unflappable presence and air that says "I'm not moving but if you step one foot closer and I will bitch-slap you" while Sing is more of the Wild Card (a la It's Always Sunny) and Sancho has already decided that's far scarier.  Oh this family of mine!

All this to say, I'm so ready to be home.  I'll be heading in tomorrow morning (Friday November 19th) for Chemo Infusion Round 7 of 8 - can you believe it's almost over?  Just one more after this, and while on one hand I feel like I've been in chemo for a lifetime, on the other I remember when it felt like I had an impossible journey ahead of myself.  Thank God for friends along the way, eh? 

And on that note, I think it's time for a puppy potty break.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Like the Dickens


I thought I was terribly clever and on top of my business when I stacked up all your perfect packages and trotted right out to the post today... and then realized that my dear postal workers (Tom, Linda, I appreciate you and your funny little quips) would be off for Veteran's Day (and veterans, I really appreciate you because I love the life I lead).  So... tomorrow!

That said,
I also appreciate you.  Like the dickens.  More than chickens.
Your support yesterday, and honestly, every day, sets my heart on fire and I count my blessings to know this:
1.  I am following the path I was destine to walk.
2.  The ladies and gents I send my work to really and truly do understand it.  They hear the song I sing and weave it into their own hearts, bringing it into their own homes, their own lives, the lives of their children.  This is the greatest blessing I can hope to receive as an artist.

I must go pack enough clothes to make it through three weeks for the 72 hours I'm spending in Seattle starting tomorrow.  You NEVER know what might come up therefore I must have rain boots, vintage furs and striped tights just to cover all the bases.  In fact, that all sounds pretty good together.  Maybe I just decided on my airplane outfit.  Because that's really what airlines need more of these days: Panache
I'll be back next week (and back with a puppy!) so hold down the fort while I'm gone!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This is the Barn Owl.

Stone Barn Owl2

(hoot hoot)

... off to go get listy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the Subject of Why

Lately I've chatted with a few fine ladies about the love I've developed for painting on the sea stones I gather, and it occurred to me that the reasons really should be shared aloud.


I have long held the belief that we can chose to permeate out lives with art, from what we choose to hang on our walls to what we choose to hang around our necks, from the books we read to the music we hear, from the way we arrange our homes to the people we invite in.  Nearly every element we choose to surround ourselves has the capability to be a source of inspiration, of beauty, of joy, or just pure, simple pleasure.


I create art because not creating has never been an option; it is as vital to me as water and bread.  I have always made things with my hands, always seen images in my mind, always heard the call to translate that which I experience into that which can be seen.  But over the last couple years, it has become increasingly important to me that my art does not hang on a cold and distant wall, roped off, please stay three feet back and hold all photography.  With every passing day it become more vital that my art finds an element of intimacy, a breaking down of the barriers of traditional painting and what is considered "Art" by the gallery system.
There is something primal about creating small work, work that invites the touch and asks to be held.  That through the sense of feel we are able to gather a deeper, fuller understanding than we would ever be able to gather from sight alone.  I am a highly tactile person, a kinesthetic learner, I need to touch in order to unravel the puzzle that is my own life.  I need to feel in order to create a connection, to trigger that place in my soul which opens to the possibility of what learning may come.  It is this contact that grounds my feet and elates my heart, allowing me to focus and dream simultaneously.

Which brings me to the sea stones.


I have stones arranged in trays, stacked on windowsills, tumbled in messenger bags, each awaiting their specific imagery.  When I begin a new stone, I choose it carefully, rubbing it with my thumb and weighing it in my palm, turning it this way and that.  Waiting to see what image it calls forth, or if I have begun with an image I know I must paint, waiting to see what stone was meant to hold it.  When I paint, I hold the stone, rotating it with my forefinger while the brush slides over it's surface.  My mind settles into the rhythm of work and my body sways along to the music playing.  Somedays I choose a stone to hold while I meditate before filling the water jars and squeezing the paint tubes, allowing the weight of the earth to quiet my body in order to clear my head of the jumble of the day (I become particularly attached to those ones).  Sometimes it's as serious as can be, other times lighthearted to the point of silliness, but it is never random.
All that to say, it is my JOY to send these small pieces of art to the four corners of the world.  To send them knowing that you will hold them, run a finger over their smoothed surfaces, feel their heft and the residual cold of the northern Pacific Ocean, that they will sit close as the kind of art one is always allowed to touch.
Joy, I tell you, joy.

It is exactly the direction I wish to travel.
Stone Fern No3
Stone Elk Antlers
Golden Feather

These stones, plus a few others (including one Barn Owl!!) are ready for your consideration, no reservations this time.  I'll be listing them in the shop of wonders tomorrow, Wednesday November 10th at 11:00 am PST.

Additionally, I've been contacted by a slew of wonderful birds about offering custom orders.  After careful consideration, I've decided to follow in the footsteps of some wise friends and will be placing FOUR CUSTOM ORDER LISTINGS in the shop during the update.  The listings will give us a framework to discuss YOUR piece of art, be it your totem animal, flora or fauna.  I'm jazzed like a jumble of honey bees to work on these!  There is a very real sense of magic to give life to an image so specifically intended and I can't wait to hear from you!

Steady rain, steamy tea and loads of white gouache to each of you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Family Expansion

To my beloved interwebular community
(friendlies, bloganistas, readers of the utmost kind)

I'd like to introduce you to our newest member of the family:
Say Hello to Shelterwood's Knightly Sancho


Sancho spells hi with his tongue.

sleeping sancho

And then crashes hard; he is after all, just a little puppy.  I was going to try and wait until he was officially home with us (which will be next week) but after we met him in person over the weekend, I just couldn't hold out.
I'm in deep smit.  
He's the little beastie we've been waiting and planning for for ages, from his current wiggle-worm state of six pounds (the wrinkly butt stage!  swoon over the cuteness!) to the full seventy-plus pound boxer he'll become.

Oh Sancho, I can hardly wait.
Come home soon, we're ready for you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Glee List



Waking up to no less than 1557 new emails (ok, totally less than that) ALL from the feistiest sisters of soul who had me snorting and belly laughing before the tea kettle whistled.
Wearing pink corduroy pants I found thrifted earlier this week with a bright green cardigan and realizing I had sneakers that matched perfectly (yes. pink and green VELCRO. sweet).  It was so matchy matchy I had to complete the look with a hot raspberry-pink-pumpkin beanie.  I looked like a strawberry pistachio swirl, which suited my mood just fine. ** side note: do you dress according to mood?  I find that some days I need to change half way through the day just to accommodate a sudden need for more mustard or less cobalt.**
Eating the first nibbles of venison jerky from the very heart and soul of Montana.  Don't tell my vegetarian self, but THAT was some tasty flesh. 
Booking plane tickets to Seattle for next week to see her.  There will be breakfast out and we'll be splitting the eggs benny.
Opening my mail box and finding a Polaroid of so much greenery all the way from Australia.  And hoping to hug the bones of the one who sent it oh so soon.
Receiving pictures of four more legs that will be joining our family in less than two weeks.  I'm already weak in the knees.  HE'S SO CUTE I MIGHT EAT HIM.  I'm going to try really hard not to, but ohmygosh!  More on that later...

What's on you list?
I'll be waiting to hear!

Not on the "glee list" necessarily BUT I'll be receiving Chemo Infusion Number 6 in just a few short hours, on Thursday November 3rd.  Six down, only two more to go!  Rounding the curve and racing toward the finish line!  HiyyyYA!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sketchbook Writings

It was entirely too delicious out to hole up inside today, even though my studio is spanking clean and looks like one of those kitchen photographs that are too perfect to believe anyone actually uses the oven. That will change all too soon, but for the moment, I'll glory in all that is fresh and squeaky.


I left the house today with the singular intention of Serious Errand Running, you know, pick up the mail, grab some epson salt, buy two more finch sock bird feeders (the original feeder suffered the craftiness of the crows who managed to sling it up and over it's bough, then rip huge gashes in the fabric in order to gluttonize on the sweet sweet taste of thistle seed.  I can never find it in me to be upset at the crows; I have too much love for their iron will to thrive).  But when I tossed my sketchbook in the back seat of the Jeep, I knew other plans would arise.

I needed to write, to pour out the words that were bound up tight between my ribs, shortening my breath.   I also needed coffee and and an almond croissant, but the words were what gave me back my joy.  And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to share it with you in the name of all things honest.

- From my sketchbook writings, November 1st 2010 -

Last week dragged me through more mud than I was prepared to admit.  I thought I had finally learned how to deal with chemo, learned what to expect, learned that I could lay low for a couple days after an infusion and then jump right back on the fast track to Doing.  To Work.  To Life.  But this last round, this new drug, snuck up on me like a snake in the grass: I was striding freely, raising my head to greet the dawn, the first break of light blinding my face when he bit me hard in the achilles.  I fell and forgot how to crawl.
I'm climbing this ladder to nirvana, this ladder of self-discovery and self-truth.  I've learned a certain gentleness I've never know over these past few months; I've surprised myself with how carefully I can hold my own soul.  My feet have found their steadiness on this particular rung, and the words I've tried out now feel comfortable on the tongue.  Be Easy.  Forgive.  Your worth remains an untapped source.
But we are never static creatures.  And what worked before will not always work now.  The discomfort and exhaustion of now requires a new looking glass entirely.  And so I must reach up a hand and grab the next rung, feel my fingers grip firmly and trust that the ladder will hold even though the sunlight dazzles my eyes and my knees shake.
I think that's the key.  To see clearly, to observe myself from across the room and say "you there, sitting straight-backed and cross-legged.  You ARE where you are intended to be and these trials are lessons if you can only see them.  These events may etch themselves on your skin but they do not determine who you are.  
You are still worthy, 
still progressing, 
still creative, 
still lovely, 
still filled with light,
still exactly who you are meant to be."
I would wrap myself in a prayer flag made of kindness so that with every step I took, the wind would carry that message to the four corners of the earth, alighting like raindrops on the eyebrows of every person reaching blindly upward for that next handhold.