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New Art: A Highland Walk

 Hello there, friends!~
    I am back with new art....although these last couple of weeks have been...crazy! Just after school was out, the weather got rough here in OK. One evening a tornado tore through my hometown, and we suffered some pretty terrible damage in the yard--- luckily the house was fine aside from some repairs needed to the roof. All in all, we were really lucky, but it was traumatic. And it's not something I want to dwell on too long at the moment, so instead let's go to Scotland :)

   This was one of those rare paintings where I sat down and painted it in a day! That rarely--- RARELY-- happens! But this lass wouldn't wait! The inspiration for this piece has come from some daydreaming a friend and I have been doing about Scotland....she wants to see her ancestral castle, and I am always willing to fall in love with a place and go on an adventure!

   I love the landscape of Scotland, the tradition of fiber arts--- they are amazing weavers and knitters! And the wild beauty of the land.

   Out of curiosity, I began to scan my own family tree to see if I had any traces of Scotland, and lo and behold! I found 3 times great-grandmother named Millie McGregor! Let's just take a moment and enjoy how fantastic that name is...you know she had to be spunky! She was from the Kentucky region and married a Van Winkle, which was my maiden name. I have her grandson's wedding photo framed and hanging above my mantle. How thrilling to find my own Scottish line, and to discover that the McGregors were a very old and prestigious clan. Their motto is "royal is my race."
    'nough, said, right? ;) 

    Perhaps I am a descendant of beautifully freckle-faced Celtic princesses? I mean, stranger things have happened, right? It's thrilling to think about! One of the things I love about genealogy is that it is so much more than dry dates and names, they are stories--- stories that literally run through your veins. Sometimes those stories are happy, and sometimes those stories are very sad. But they are worth learning about, and learning from. I am very curious to know more about my McGregor ties....and their story of coming to America. Everything I've found online has had them coming sometimes around the American Revolution, but I know you can't trust everything you read online (ha, understatement!)But there IS a story there, somewhere. And perhaps one day I'll get to know it!

   In the meantime, I've had lots of fun painting this pretty Scottish girl, wandering through a highland meadow picking a bouquet of heather and tramping through the thistle. I even added the Scotch pine, especially since it is the 'plant badge' of the McGregor clan (I've always loved pines! Is it genetic?! hehe)

  This painting is currently available in my etsy shop, and in need of a good home!
Thanks for coming by and have a wonderful week--
Take Joy!

Creativity & Community

Master Weaver Kate Smith and Illustrator/Icon Tasha Tudor work together to harvest flax for spinning. Each year they'd get together for several days to work together on their craft.

    Lately I've been having really good conversations with friends. About our feeling that something is missing....lost but perhaps not unretrievable. Something many of us haven't even really experienced first hand, but have some deep sense memory of--- community.

  Now, I'm about to get a little hippy dippy on you, so fair warning ;)

As I've learned to weave, I've learned to dress my loom. To take it from yarn on a spool, to the warping board, then to the loom and through the heddles, threading each little needle eye one by one. Then it's time to tie all the threads with even tension to the bars on each end of the loom and wind all that thread, with good, even tension, on the back beam to prepare to weave.

    But the at the end of it all, after all that work, I usually find that I've made some error, or that I need at least one more pair of hands to help get the tension right as I roll up all that thread to prepare to weave. I've discovered---- this is something that is not meant to be done alone. Most women, when they sat down at their loom, had done all that preparation in tandem with their daughter, their mother, their friend who'd dropped by, their neighbor.  It made me feel lonely and a little out of my depth. It brought home that, on most days and in most tasks, I am alone and have always assumed that 'doing it all on my own' was the default. But something in me has started to question this, and I've started to miss something that my grandmas, great-grandmas and all those other women before me had--- a community to lean on, and a respect for the small tasks they did each day. It's something that I miss, although it's not something I really ever had in the first place. But that wont stop me from looking for it.
Knitting with yarn harvested and milled by my friend Lavonne in Montana. She raises her own beautiful Shetland-Romney sheep and has acquired a wool mill to process it. She is my favorite shepherdess, and her wool is a dream!

My loom---- so relaxing to weave on but oh so much work to get all set to go!

My current weaving, done with yarn I've been dyeing with natural plants and elements. The green was created with goldenrod overdyed with indigo and the pink is from avocado pits

     The truth is, I don't have any set plot point for how to make this happen. How to look around and gather my community around me. But I figure the first step is to raise my hand and say, "hello? Anyone out there?"

    I have a sneaking suspicion that our lack of community has been broken down by the message that has been ground into us that we need to do more faster, and the guide of what is 'worth our time' is the money it generates. Aint nobody making money helping me warp a loom. And it was many years before I even had the gumption to call myself an artist, because there seemed to be a stipulation that I be making a certain amount of money and have a certain amount of sales before I could claim the title. There was also nothing more uninteresting to people that for me to tell them I was home raising kids, because that was supremely 'not worth anything.' I can see now that there's been a struggle within my own life of finding the worth in the small things I love and enjoy, because they aren't worth much to society at large.

   We measure quality of life in these modern times by the quickness of the action and the cash it creates. The frantic accumulation of money and acquiring of 'stuff' is what life is supposed to be about in our times. To try to get off that track is often uncharted waters.
   There is no time to go help a friend, or look after a baby, or gather with friends to do a slow, time consuming task. Our priorities don't allow for it.

  But, what if they did? They used to. 

  A couple of weeks ago I was out at a living history event at Hunters Home in Tahlequah, OK where I volunteer. That day I was out on the front porch of a small, rustic cabin, usually doing spinning demonstrations. Nearby friends were dyeing yarn in a big copper pot, there were others shearing sheep, building things, plowing up the field for this year's crop (I think corn?) and horses and a wagon transporting visitors.

   I looked around and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. There was no hurry, just steady diligence. Everyone was creating with their hands, getting things done...but there was no frantic sense of hurry or "I gotta do this and this and this...."

   I thought, "ohhh, this is nice. How do I keep this?" And to be honest, it's been hard. Modern life doesnt allow for much slowness. Or much gathering to work alongside our neighbors. We are to get in our cars, go to our office, get in our cars again, close it up in the garage and then go alone into our homes.
All my natural dyed yarn in fabric, gathered in all its glory! I kinda just like to stare at it lovingly sometimes. It took a lot of work to get these things done, but it was so much fun to see how each experiment came out.

A closer look at the yarn

      I really have no answers to the things I'm asking here. But I am very open to suggestions. A few conclusions I've come to though, are these things...

- I want to know my neighbors and my community more.

- I want to purchase more of the things I use in my life or wear from the people that actually make them. And yes, I realize that this will cost much more money. I need to be more mindful with my spending and spend for longevity and quality, not just cheap and easy.

- I want to get together more with my friends and create. I want to support their creating and support, with my dollars, those who are creative.

-  I dont want to assume that life is done in a set way and I want to remember that life's worth isn't measured in money. I heard the phrase 'wealth doesn't equal worth' the other day and it really clicked in my brain. I want to stop thinking of 'success' in terms of money, and more in terms of happiness, freedom and fulfillment.

- I want to remember that my life and my community are mine to create, and not to give into fear of what is 'should' be, or blame those I feel make it hard for me to live out my ideas. We are all living in this world together, and we have to find a way to do that in a positive way. Time to stop complaining and blaming, time to get to work.

- Realize 'work' can be quiet and fulfilling on a soul level. It doesnt have to be big and flashy to be worthy of doing.
My hens Peggy and Victoria both care for this little flock of chicks. They are two devoted mamas who get things done!

   Ah, and finally.....create community where I can. Be a good friend, a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter. Just try my best every day.

   If you have any suggestions for me....whether they are books, or artists/craftsmen to support, methods of staying focused, or a place to find community--- I am all ears. I am here to learn! There's a Zora Neale Hurston quote that says "there are years that ask questions and years that answer." I am oh so full of questions. And I am ready to work towards answers.

And of course, most of all---
Take Joy!~