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Surprise Balls!


Surprise balls! and they weren’t always round!

Life with my family and cousins in the mountains was like unraveling a surprise ball, new colors, new surprises, every moment…memories never to be rolled back together in exactly the same way! And believe me, I’ve tried over the years! In the summer we’d travel as a family up the windy mountain road through Sparta and Elkin, past the little porch holding up a shack on the side of the road, and a man sitting there who had the longest beard I’d ever seen! We were convinced he must have been very old and had started his beard when he was a newborn. Even the mountain roads themselves now seemed like the beginning of unraveling those amazing surprise balls.
Up at the Inn at Roaring Gap, there was a tiny little gift shop full of unusual things. Off in one corner, close enough for short people like me to reach was a basket and a shelf full of these amazing Surprise Balls in a variety of shapes… Swans, Ducks, Fairies, and Such! Each was about the size of a big softball! Granny would let us choose one, and if we ever could get past that first step, the second of letting ourselves unravel such beautiful creatures was even harder. Imagine a beautiful swan with a long graceful neck and majestic wing feathers, endearing eyes, and a bright orange beak! It was so tempting to take it home, name it, and build it a beautiful little forever nest. And it was equally as tempting to defeather and unravel her to uncover even more magic deep in the heart of the Swan.
I remember carefully pulling off each feather and sorting them to piles of shapes and sizes. Then I’d carefully unravel the thin strip of white crepe paper, trying to guess what the color was I’d see underneath that would be coming next. When one color of crepe paper would end and new was about to begin, there would be a tiny surprise that would fall into my lap from unraveling. Then a pale pink crepe color would take over my unwinding process. Eagerly I’d unwind the pink, trying to guess the next color to emerge, and magic momentum would build as I anticipated a new little surprise dropping in my lap. The surprise were so fun: a miniature harmonica, a little man strapped to a parachute, a shrunken sponge, a special ring, a tiny maze puzzle, and on and on! The changes of crepe colors were enough of a surprise, and half the fun for me was in trying to rewind my surprise ball, and ending with a similar shape as what was in the beginning. Sometimes the swan would transform into a less beautiful bird, but I would never classify it as the ugly duckling.
These surprise creatures were embedded in my memory forever and many a time I would try my hand at materializing that memory. Probably my best attempt was when I made a Pregnant Surprise Ball for a Baby Shower. It took me forever, first of all to collect appropriate little baby items that would fit in tiny spaces and easily be wrapped cozily with crepe paper…pacifier, diaper pins, tiny board books, and on an on…In the end ‘she’ (the surprise ball) was ‘surprisingly quite pregnant’ by the time I finished her! I’m amazed I made it to the shower before the baby came!

My plan had been to make it into the studio tonight to make a surprise ball, but that will need to be another day!

Meanwhile, I’ll unravel surprise plans in my dreams! Sleep well!

“Circle of Compassion”

Twig on Fairy RingHow to Be in More Than One Place at a Time

Hmmm…time and space…that’s a BIG topic. I better start early for this one. Actually I think I’ve been working on time and space issues my whole life long and then some!
Only quantum physics can save me now! Or Madeline L’Engle. My favorite book of all time, her brilliant gift to us all:  A Wrinkle in Time. I still remember reading this book in one sitting in one chair in the living room when I was 11 years old. My hands were in fists the whole time. I don’t even know how I was able to turn the pages! Literally I think I inhaled it.
Tesseracting, I’ve been working on perfecting ever since! Sofar I’ve to come to the realization that it’s a ‘belief’ thing…That the wrinkling of time and space between point A and point B must be done by the perceiver, the believer. You should see me telling myself that when I’m in the car trying to get somewhere 25 minutes away in what the clock says I’m allowed only 10 minutes. Well it’s a little ‘lame’ to ‘believe’ that I can make it if I don’t start believing it a little sooner than that! I also can’t buy the ‘other’ approach of hearing someone say, “we’re late” when it’s not even the time we’re supposed to be there yet! To me, that’s not a healthy projection either! I can’t be late until I’m LATE.

But the bigger issue I’m waking up to this morning is how to be in two places at the same time when my body isn’t even moving there. Here’s my thought process:
I’m falling to sleep feeling awful, lots of pain. I’m waking up feeling awful, lots of pain.
I hobble downstairs and try stretching but then shortly plop on the sofa feeling the same pain. It just doesn’t seem to stay in the room where I’d like to leave it. That being the case, I’m resting a bit more hoping to then move a little more, then walk a bit, then soak a bit in some epsom salts. In the ‘MEANTIME’….the ‘betweentime’…I guess that’s between point A and point B or between some point where I am and the next point I’m hoping to be…In the meantime,…there must be something I can accomplish that might help me later get to point R or somewhere along my path?

This brings me to FAITHFULNESS….that’s the believing part that I WILL ‘move on down the line’ or I WILL make it full circle. Sometimes I feel like a train moving around the Roundhouse, being repaired, being prepared for my next part of my journey. I can envision and believe where that will be and I can trust that I will not be forever chugging around in the roundhouse.

I want to be with my Mom. I want to hold her hand, make sure she’s comfortable, okay, and knows how much I love her. Likewise I want to be with my Dad. I want to reassure him that we’re all holding hands on this one. And what I know is that my stamina and windows of time during each day have sofar only been for a few hours and then I’m back to feeling awful. Where do I then go to lay my head when that wave of pain and fatigue wells up? What good would I be to them in that sort of shape? So how to be at two places at once? How to care for me and my Mom….
What I know is that my Mom and Dad are in loving arms and hands with my brothers and sister and sister in laws and her nieces and church and friends. They have a circle of love and circles of light all around them. They have been creating circles like that for others all their lives. And I guess what I’m really seeing is that if point A and B are each ends of the diameter of a circle, then they’re connected anyway. So I’m right there with them! And they’re right here with me! The only part of me that gets in the way of knowing that is the part of me that thinks there are no circles! How can we live in the world we do and NOT know there are circles! Moons and stars and orbs of light. Earth and planets and holes in the ice! Eyeballs and horizons that are 360º.

So even zero means everything!

So Mom, I’m there now. I’m with you and Dad and all my siblings. And because I AM my body will also get around to being there, too. Sometimes it just takes it a little longer.

After writing all this, I came across Einstein’s wonderful quote. Could’ve just found that first! Thanks, Albert!
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest as kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. ” Albert Einstein
Quoted in H Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu (Boston 1977).

Letting the pain have its say and move on

Lately I’ve had this visitor that won’t leave…I’ve tried denying it, ignoring, it, and talking to it, but basically, it must just also need to rest in me along with my artist in residence. It’s not a visitor I can see…more like God or fairies. It’s a sensation that goes deep into every cell and crevice of my body creating deep soreness like I’m being flattened or pressed with a steamroller to the ground. Naps, walks, massage and more are not releasing it. It’s something I don’t like to dwell on or even give any highlighted space in my life because it’s not what brings joy…at least I haven’t figured out how it brings joy.

It can bring gratitude when I feel hot water spraying on me in the shower. It can call forth my favorite word of gratitude, aciu, Lithuanian for thank you when I feel it release a bit or tender hands release it with loving support. Tonight it seems extra strong. I just need to let it be and move on through. Though I’ve worked on my drawings for Martha’s next page, I need to let allow this pain to move on through. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to finish drawing a painting Slug’s diamond trail. And for tonight, I’m not pushing myself to even be creative or productive.

I think I’ll just allow things to be and rest awhile. Sleep well.

Terrarium Workshop Day!

Today was Terrarium Workshop Day! For me, making a terrarium is like creating a tiny hillock under glass! The trick is to make it so the mosses are happy and compatible, and compact enough to fit in their new tiny ecosystem. Here a few from today. Now they all need to  ‘settle awhile’ and  get used to their new home. I want to watch them a few days to make sure it has enough moisture to recycle as rain. Here are some that are underway!

Terrarium1 Terrarium2 Terrarium3

I may tweak the insides and add a few more elements like rocks, wood, lichens, fern. Next I’ll work on the more exotically shaped ones. The third one is equipped with twinkly lights that are set to a timer to come on at a certain time in the evening. Here’s what it looks like with lights, though it I’m not very good at photographing it with the twinkly lights on.


They are quite fun placed in a living room on an end table, coffee table, or dining room table.

Terrarium1A Terrarium3A

Meanwhile, Martha Julia Agnes Adele is down at the ‘real hillock’ looking for her shoe! I need to get back to writing and painting so that she can get on with her adventure with Slab and Slug and find her lost shoe!

Martha Julia Agnes Adele 9

From now on, the drawings/paintings might take me two days instead of one! Lots more detail coming up!  Since these scenes are actual places at The Hillock down in the meadow, they are very fresh in my mind and I find it hard to leave some of the details out! When I later go back and try writing this in prose, it’ll be interesting how it goes!


Entering My Studio!

I’ve been so busy writing and painting that I haven’t taken much time to work on my studio, ACIU. I named it ACIU because that’s my favorite Lithuanian word.  Unfortunately, it’s been so full these last few years, that I haven’t had many times (or especially SPACE!) to create in it! So I’ve brought my $3.oo goodwill light table and paints and supplies into the house and set up ‘camp studio’ on the living room sofa and coffee table bench! Now it’s time to RECLAIM this Studio Space!  

ACIU: Aciu means “thank you”…and to me “it’s thank you every moment!”

It’s quite a menagerie! and I’ll let you in on a big secret, if it won’t scare anyone! It’s a lot like my mind! Actually, may even be better-sorted than my mind, but I’m sure my mind is a little more dynamic!

The drawers are the most organized in sorted. We’ll open them some time later!


Studio 1 Studio2

Enter Slab

Who better to enter the story than Slab, the Potter, who knows every inch of the Hillock, above and below ground. A perfect catalyst for Martha Julia Agnes Adele’s upcoming adventure. And maybe he’ll have some clues to the whereabouts of her shoe! He may need to be toned down a bit to keep him ‘manageable’. He does need to keep rather big hands and feet for digging and tunneling on his hunts for the best clay. Interesting that he doesn’t even have shoestrings to tie on his shoes!


Whew! need to take a break and draw!

Yesterday and today I have been attending a Picture Book Writer’s Boot Camp online! It has been incredibly motivating and instructional. I’ve so much to learn about writing and illustrating! I now know why I haven’t til now submitted my book to an agent or publisher! It’s incredibly difficult for me to write something as ‘simple’ as a query letter! Perhaps I have stretched a few writing muscles these two days! And now to get back to Martha Julia Agnes Adele. Tonight I’ve been trying to learn more what she looks like, how she moves, sits, thinks, etc. These are a few of her poses, though I haven’t found the one that goes with the next part of her story.