Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Road To Nowhere

This is from a newspaper article I was asked to write back in 2014:

"Creative people are often asked about their inspiration or their muse or whatever it is that kicks their imagination and motivation into high gear. Some have really complicated rituals while others turn to music to put them into their prolific state of mind. There are even a few people that recommend sticking to a routine which I do not get at all since I see routine as the antithesis to creativity.

As an artist who uses photographs as the basis of my artwork, when I need to get my blood flowing I get in the car with my cameras and sometimes a person or two that I love and my dogs and I hit the road. Drives to nowhere are always the goal, and always on country back roads. Nothing soothes my soul and clears my head more than indulging the wanderlust and need for simplicity that is imbedded in my personal genetic makeup. Farms and barns, cows and horses, corn fields, roadside stands, and a sky full of puffy white clouds.  There is not much that can be better than all of that. My artwork revolves mostly around these kinds of bucolic scenes although I do add a whimsical twist to them in order to really get people’s attention. We are all so inundated visually and otherwise nowadays that sometimes you have to go left of center to make people see.

When I am out on one of my drives I have to pull over countless times to let someone pass so that they no longer tailgate me.  They ride up on me not because I am going too slow but because they are going too fast.  Although I am maintaining the speed limit, I am in the way of them racing at breakneck speed to get to where they are going in record time.
I am in the way of them racing to speed through their life, seemingly oblivious to the risks they are taking, the most important being the risk of missing out on the very quality of their own lives. 

I want people to slow down. That is one of the reasons why I enhance my landscape artwork so that it has a manipulated, wonky element to it.  It makes people pause; they linger long enough to really see what they are looking at.

I want them to pay attention to the beauty that is everywhere that they are not seeing as they lose their senses of wonder and awe to the myriad of distractions that everyone is consumed with and buried under nowadays.

I cannot imagine that it is worth any of these risks, particularly the risk of not seeing all there is to see every single day of our lives.  Remember staring at clouds until they turned into recognizable shapes?  When is the last time you did that?

These days everyone is preoccupied as they rush from one place to another. They are talking, texting, checking in, status updating, tweeting, Instagramming, picking up, dropping off, shopping, etc. 

All of that distraction is coming at a very high cost and that cost has nothing to do with the ridiculous amounts of money spent on gadgetry.  

When is the last time you got in the car to go for a drive to nowhere?  How about taking a walk in the countryside just to listen to how quiet it is there?  Do your kids know how great it is to dip their toes into a stream or to laugh while watching the antics of a bunch of farm animals?

Le petit bonheur is a French term that translates to the small happiness.  It means to take pleasure in and appreciate the little things. It means that if you see a lady with a camera pulled off to the side of the road, instead of speeding past her, think about slowing down to see what she is taking pictures of. 

You might wind up being very pleasantly surprised."  SOH, 6/14

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grief, Chapter One

     Aside from the obvious the one thing I really hate about death is that all traces of the person disappear.
     And it doesn’t take long either. 

     Gone, like dust in the wind. When the dead person’s name is mentioned people cast their eyes downward, as if they’re looking for the person on top of their shoes or somewhere on the sidewalk.  Say the name of the dead person out loud to someone and they respond in hushed tones, like they’re talking about something or someone shameful or embarrassing. 

     Pictures might stick around for a while but eventually they’ll be put away, too painful to keep in plain sight. Personal belongings are put away in boxes that are mainlined for a closet or attic never to be brought out and gone through again. Sometimes Left Behind People even give the dead person’s stuff away to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or some anonymous organization that has drop boxes in the parking lot of the local supermarket where some strangers will wind up with the dead person’s favorite sweater or shoes, maybe even with their scent still clinging to it. This makes me very uncomfortable.  

     I hope no one gave your stuff away.  I hope it’s in a box in the attic and sometimes someone sneaks up there when no one else is around just so they can open your box and spend some time with you. 

     I have not been able to figure out how to get them to believe me when I tell them how wrong it is to act like dead people never existed.  Of course, I’m the crazy girl who thinks that dead people are still here; that you just can’t see them in the flesh anymore.  I’m the one who wouldn’t think twice about continuing to set a place for the dead people at the dinner table or even to talk out loud to them but that kind of thing is seriously frowned upon in polite society.  The thing is though, that everyone does it to one degree or another, they just don’t admit it which is a really big shame. 

     What I don’t get is why people let the love they had for the dead person turn into sadness. I mean, I understand grief. Well, that’s kind of an understatement. There’s not a lot of people who understand grief better than me.  It’s been my constant companion for decades now.  I take it everywhere I go kind of like a best friend. Or, a frenemy. I don't think it's very nice that a person spends their lifetime - however long or short it is - doing things and having conversations and making people laugh or maybe they made really good chocolate cakes or gave great hugs or would not give up those corduroy pants they wore long after they went out of style. Whatever it was, whatever they were, it seems to me that it is a downright travesty to sweep all of that under the rug, never talk about any of it, and instead get sad whenever they are thought or spoken about. Makes it seem like their life didn't have much meaning or substance which is the absolute furthest thing from the truth.

     Anyway, since I live with grief all the time and I have watched its effects on myself and others for years, I know how it works. Or how it wants to work.  Grief is always there even when no one has died.  It sleeps in the background of everyone’s life as they are preoccupied with living. Grief is the boogey man and the bully rolled into one. Once grief wakes up, it bangs on your door and if you let it in it will lay on your couch, dine at your table, sleep in your bed, drive in your car, brush with your toothbrush, and invade your thoughts, your attention span, your very ability to think.  

     Like a squatter, grief moves in uninvited and stays for as long as it likes and everyone seems powerless to do anything about it.  Sometimes it stays for an acceptable period of time and leaves.  But don’t be fooled, it will never be very far away.  It just goes back to sleep, albeit fitfully, in the backyard or the garage or the basement. 

     And sometimes it goes and hides in the closet after wreaking havoc and comes back out years later when it’s the last thing you ever expected. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Cozy Palace

Growing up, I was always taught that it is a sin to make judgments on people and that you should avoid doing that best you can. Besides, nowadays you can get tarred and feathered and given one of a hundred different labels if you say out loud what some people think is the wrong thing or if you make a judgment that people don't like.

Yet it seems all them same people are the ones who talk bad about where I live.

Well, I don't care what they say.  I love where I live. This place is my cozy palace.

When I bake cookies in my little oven they taste and smell  just as good as the ones that fancy people make in their expensive kitchens. Maybe I don't have a granite countertop but I have prepared many meals on my plain laminate one that have nourished and given pleasure to me and the people I love.

Heck, I could rip out my old countertop and put in a granite one anytime I want to but that's not going to change a single thing around here except to drain out my bank account for no good reason other than so I can say I got a granite countertop. No, thank you.

You know, this little place holds just as many memories as any other house anywhere on this planet, by God. It knows our tears and every other high and low that's come our way. It's protected us from every storm that's passed through, too. And every year we set up the Christmas tree with all our old ornaments and the twinkle lights right there in front of the windows so everyone can see and maybe get a little bit of spirit.

Maybe it ain't much, but it's home.

Yes, it is our home.

-Sharon O'Brien Huey

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cloudy Days Are My Favorite Days

It's gloriously cloudy outside today thanks to a Nor'easter passing through here in New Jersey.

Gloomy. That's the popular word used for days like today. The weather people say 'today will be gloomy but fear not, sunshine will return!', completely ignoring those of us who are hoping the clouds will stick around for awhile.

As far back as I can remember, I have loved cloudy and rainy days. I am calmer on cloudy days. I get more done and am far more productive. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Harvard and UNC Chapel Hill¹ show that worker productivity is higher on so-called "bad" weather days and the reason for that is because of the cognitive distractions that occur on "good" weather days. 

Sunshine dulls the mind to risk and thoughtfulness. - Adam Alter

I won't convince sun-lovers to switch teams and I wouldn't even try to because we all have our preferences,  but I do hope that if you are on Team 'Gloomy', you could take a minute to appreciate the gifts that cloudy days bring...gentleness, quietude, etc.

If you need a little extra help, do a Google image search for "sunsets". Take note that the most beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies.

credit:  OwlsQuotes.com

Monday, October 25, 2021

Making 'Scents' Of Autumn

Can you smell the delicious and comforting smell of fresh baked cookies?

I can't. 
And it's not because we don't yet have smell-o-vision.

I am anosmic, a person who has anosmia, which means I can't smell anything. 

I wasn't always without the ability to smell anything. Twelve years ago I had a double lung collapse cause by a case of walking pneumonia which came very close to killing me. And while I came out of that experience very thankfully with my life, it cost me my sense of smell when two months later, while still recuperating from the lung thing, I caught a minor cold which caused my already overwrought system to shut something down.

And nothing has been the same since.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Joy Pauses

While driving along a country road this past weekend in South Jersey, I spotted this little flower stand... kind of hidden on the corner of someone's property. 

Without asking,  JP knew to turn around because I do not pass up roadside stands. 

In the distance I could see the field where the flowers were growing. Blissful.

There were several different types of bouquets and stems to choose from, but one in particular stood out. Somehow, they were only $5.

I bought my $5 bouquet of flowers home and put them in my best vase.

And I have been in all of it ever since they are quite possibly the most beautiful flowers I've ever had. 
I can't tell you how happy they've made me in these past few days. I have to stop whatever I'm on my way to doing in the house as I pass them just to linger and admire them, giving me little joy pauses throughout my day.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you get off the main road and slow down enough to see what is around you. 

I've been preaching that forever. 

Looking for the little things the give life the most meaning.

Finding magic in simplicity. 

It's there if you slow down enough to look for it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

So Long, Summer 2021

Where I live, here at the NJ shore, it's currently summer frenzy time. 


What that means is that the tourists (we affectionately call them Bennys) have checked the calendar and have become aware that the summer shore season is dwindling down.  
And while summer does not officially end until 9/22, around here it unofficially ends on Labor Day 9/6 - a mere week away. 

This incites full on panic on their part as they frantically eke out whatever is left of summer.
Traffic will be go from hellish to nightmare-ish and the crowds will somehow get bigger which doesn't seem possible but is.

Also, as summer winds down the tourists will not care one iota what the weather forecast says; they will get in the last of their summer fun, weather be damned. The other day I saw a family of many schlepping their way to the beach despite the dark clouds and light rain happening that day. You definitely do not want to be on the beach when the weather is acting up and you should still check the weather on what seems like a nice day before even stepping foot onto the sand. There are way too many stories with bad endings.

What this means for (some of) us locals is that we are well-advised to shelter in place until after Labor Day when the place we live becomes (mostly) ours again. September is known as Local's Summer around here for good reason - the weather is divine, the water is still warm, and the tourists have mostly left. I don't feel bad for being glad at their departure because, afterall, they had it all for the past 3+ months.

That being said, I am very much looking forward to the next phase of our life when we...

well, I'll wait to explain that in a future post.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Cherry Time Of Year

Currently there are probably 1.5 pounds of perfect dark, firm, perfect cherries in an old metal colander in my fridge.
Every day for some days now, I go to the fridge and I grab a handful which I set out on the countertop to warm up awhile because I do not like cold fruit.
My intention is to eat that single handful at some point and then get on with my day.

Except I keep repeating the process - go to fridge, handful on countertop, return to kitchen a little bit later, consume - approximately twelve a few more times throughout the day.  

I cannot stop. 
I will not stop.

I am a cherry addict.

One time JP and I were driving around aimlessly one summer day in our old pickup truck and we stopped at a roadside stand and bought a whole lot of cherries...then we continued driving around on backroads, radio playing, eating cherries and spitting the pits out the window, making each other laugh and, more importantly, making a sweet memory that we still enjoy remembering together.
This would fall under the category "Simple Joys" and if you have not done this, I can't suggest strongly enough that you make haste and get to it. Just do it, trust me.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Blueberry Jalapeno BBQ Sauce

We were out on one of our meandering road trips to nowhere recently and happened to find ourselves by Emery's Farm in New Egypt, NJ. Of course, we had to stop because one does not just drive past Emergy's without stopping.  Lucky me, they had lots of their organic blueberries for sale so I loaded up and I've been making batches of my blueberry jalapeno bbq sauce and putting it on top of everything.  

Blueberries are NJ's official state fruit and were the #1 crop in NJ last year which is just fine by me because I can't get enough of them. I used to pick buckets of them in the woods behind our old house and make blueberry pies for my father which is the quintessential summer dessert, if you ask me, as long as you've got vanilla ice cream  to scoop on top of your slice(s). And not only are these little blue marvels delicious, but they are wildly good for you! Blueberries are the #1 antioxidant fruit and consumption of these little dynamos has been linked to reduced risk of cancer, increased insulin response, a reversal in age-related memory loss, lowering blood pressure, and will benefit your love life because no one could resist you if you tempt them with a homemade blueberry pie or this bbq sauce (I made the last part up but still...).

Anyway, this sauce goes particularly well on pork, roasted potatoes (I swear), and burgers. Heck, I might even pour some over vanilla ice cream.

I got creative recently and put together this watercolor recipe and I've made it available for you to download, if you are so inclined.

Click HERE to download.


New Event! October 2021

I am very pleased to announce that I have been asked to display my artwork

at the Barnegat branch

of the

Ocean County Library

I have a special affection for the Ocean County Library -not only because it is an invaluable resource to our community and one of the best library systems, but also because I used to work there. 😊

So, yes, I jumped at the chance to show my photo art in my own community and within an organization that I still hold near and dear to my heart.

I'll probably have at least twenty pieces on display.

The exhibit will run throughout the entire month of October 2021.

Ocean County Library
Barnegat Branch
112 Burr Street
Barnegat, NJ 08005

Updated Online Photo Art Shop

I have finally updated my photo art shop - a task I've been putting off for far too long.

The newest pieces are loaded and available, including this one:

It's an easy and very secure process to make a purchase.

You can choose to have your order sent directly to you from the art printer
or you can elect to have it sent to me first, so I can sign it.

Art makes a wonderful gift for yourself and others
and your purchase helps to support an artist/small business! 

Fun & Uplifting Simple Little Giveaway

This is a picture of the decal I currently have on the back of my car.

I got tired of seeing profane, sarcastic, nasty stickers on vehicles every time I left the house and wanted to send the opposite message out into the world...something that uplifted instead of insulted.

Lord knows we've got more than enough stuff to feel bad about in this current world of ours, am I right?

I got the idea that there should be more of this kind of thing - wishing complete strangers well - that I ordered two more and decided to make them this month's giveaway.

Nobody likes giving stuff away more than me!

For the month of August, I will be keeping track of every person who comments ('likes' don't count - I'm wanting real interaction) on my Facebook pages, signs up for my newsletter, and/or hits the share button under my artwork posts.  

Then I will randomly select two of those people to receive this decal, absolutely free of charge, no strings attached.

Let's uplift together ♥

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