After my parents retired, particularly my mom, I was amazed that they ever had time to work. There was always a party or meeting or some other event they were attending. These people had been the original homebodies, but it in retirement, they were living it up.

Being on sabbatical is a little different than being retired, but the last few weeks have been very busy.

First, there was the delivery and installation of my pieces into the Pacific Artists’ Co-Op Gallery. I helped for a couple days, painting walls and pedestals, in addition to delivering and tagging up my paintings.

Next, I delivered my painting and four others to the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Exhibition.

No sooner than that was done, my friend Sandra came down an we went the opening reception of the Gallery.

Then, the next day, we went to the convention and breakout sessions by various artists. I took a great session on pattern by the incomparable Margaret Godfrey.

Then I took a class with Beth Verheyden on bringing emotion into my work.

From provided reference photo. Goal to be bold.

Cherry tree in bloom. Goal was to concentrate on shapes.

Doodle during the class. Title: Surprised.

Amazingly, to me, I’ve been able to get a little painting in between all these events.

I hope to do a better job with blogging and such, but I can’t make any promises. My website was hacked a couple of days ago, so there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work taking up my time!


I searched for this word/feeling on Google, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe it doesn’t exist? The feeling that you want to get somewhere, and you know the somewhere exists, but you have no idea how to get there. You aren’t lost. You know where you are. But you can’t figure out the path between where you are and where you want to be. Whatever the word for this feeling, that is emotionally and physically where I am. Thus, it is unsurprising that I am currently in the middle of an art piece that I know how it should look, but I don’t know how to get there. There is a lot of paint flying around the room.

Sabbatical Update

It’s been a month since I started my sabbatical. In most ways, I feel like I am (slowly) heading in the right direction. I’m not longer experiencing adrenaline attacks of anxiety and I’ve (mostly) given up on imaginary conversations where I “win”. Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of things to do. The days go by quickly. By the time I have my morning coffee, take the dog for a walk, and play in the garden (weather permitting) it is easy to spend the afternoon working on computer projects or art. There are still errands and chores. If I am starting to feel a little panic about letting the days slip away without a plan, I try hard to listen to the kind part of my brain say, says, “Tara, it’s only been a month. You’ve been working full time for 30 years. Let things unfold in their own time.” Rather than the mean part says, “You need to do something to make this thing worthwhile!”

Looking at my work over the last few weeks, I really see this dichotomy playing out. Please indulge me as I try to explain.


A few weeks ago, during my initial decluttering phase, I decided to clean out and donate a bunch (a big bunch) easels. I put the various colors in mason jars (yellows, blues, pinks, reds, etc.) and have been working on using up these colors ever since. There is a little urgency to this quest; the colors are mixed with water and with some of the colors, mold has become a force. As such, I’ve found myself spending evenings just painting over various paintings. Just painting. Applying color. Painting.

I find this process spellbinding. Sometimes the colors completely obscure what is underneath, sometimes they blend, sometimes the old paintings show through.  I’m not sure where this is going, other than trying to use up the paint. But I think it might be going somewhere.


Several of these brushed pieces had a color range that reminded me of white-faced ibis. I had three pieces in the same color range as well as the piece below; however, the piece below also has acrylic on it, so it isn’t exactly the same, but it is also brushed with the same mix.

Earlier this week I received an email from the ISEA that their Annual Juried Exhibition “Innovations” would be opening in a few days. Unlike their other two annual shows, this exhibit is in person and exists at the location of the annual Symposium. I have signed up to go to the symposium this year due to Kimberly Santini giving a two-day workshop. It is in Grand Haven, MI, in September, and I figure the trip, symposium, and return will take the better part of three weeks. I’d like to have a piece in the show.

So, upon receiving the reminder email, I decided to work on a piece for the show. I had some papers I had overpainted on my desk, and the color reminded me of the iridescence of white-fronted ibis. I decided to stop fighting my idea and do a collage with the paper.

After sketching the ibis on tracing paper to get the sizes right, I used the paper to make a pattern, then cut out the birds. Seeing them on a blank background made me realize I needed to, you know, have a background. I decided I didn’t want to “waste” a half-sheet of watercolor paper, so I decided to assemble one with scraps of bad paintings.

This lead to a kind of party, with backgrounds assembled, glued, gessoed, and painted in a willy-nilly manner that promises to create fun, but may not exactly what I was looking for.



About three backgrounds later, I was applying the last layers of gesso when I accidently saw the assembled background from the back side (meaning the various failed paintings). It had a fun quality to it, so I decided to gesso the back (with color) instead of the blank fronts. Upon removing the cling-wrap texture, I was really enamored. I dismissed the idea of the piece being “good enough”, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.

“Gifts” – 15″ x 22″ mixed media

I had just about decided to go ahead and give it a shot as-is when I picked it up and saw that I hadn’t completely covered the entire “area” of the paper. There were several little holes. I got out my faux-gold foil and filled them in, a little like kintsugi (repairing a broken piece of ceramic with gold).

A break between papers filled with “gold” leaf foil.

This piece feels like a reflection of me, at least right now. Unexpected, off track, and with holes. But, also, with beauty and grace. As I am going through this sabbatical process, I’ve read a few books on burnout and stress, but nothing seems to fit. So far, the closest I’ve come is “Braiding Sweetgrass” which is a delightful read that invites me to slow down and find balance. I see the themes of that book in this piece.

Gritty Gusto

The deadline for the AAEA show is coming up (July 14), and I really would like to get a piece selected. As I have mentioned before, I have been accepted three times (the minimum for juried membership), but not within the same five year period: 2015, 2017, and 2022. I need to be accepted twice more in the next three years to get that coveted membership. As such, I did this small study today, in preparation for a larger piece.

I’m pleased with most everything except the horse’s head. It’s overworked. I may fiddle some more with values and see if I can resolve it.

Looking Ahead

For this next week, there isn’t much going on. I am hoping to get in some good painting and project time. Starting in April, I’ll be gallery sitting (Pacific Artists’ Co-Op Gallery). Additionally, the WSO convention (with painting drop-off and pick-up) will be that first week, so it promises to be a busy month.

As I final note, I have added an item to my daily self-care report on Facebook (when I get get FB to post it).

Sabbatical Day xxx –
Useful Chore: xxx
Fun Item: xxx
Peaceful Thing: xxx
Self Care: xxx

Again, this is following Gretchen Rubin’s regime of a goal a month. I’m finding it difficult, much more so than decluttering. The voice in my head gives me a lot of grief about “wasting time” on things like moisturizing my legs or taking Qi Gong class twice a week, even those these are the kinds of things that make me feel better. I may have to spend more time on this one, but it’s an area I need to work on.

Because my gifts deserve care.

That was a hard sentence to write.

Tell and Show

While my sabbatical, and the events leading up to it, have dominated the blog for the last few months, I’ve been getting in some painting time. Additionally, other artistic projects have come to a head, and I haven’t had time to devote myself to laying them out. This post is a catch-up to keep everyone up to date.

Pacific Artists’ Co-Op Gallery

Last year, during my open studio, one of my guests mentioned that the Pacific Artists’ Co-Op Gallery in Lincoln City was looking for new members. At the time, I felt too busy to pursue the tip, but right around the time I was considering my employment options, I happened to see that they were accepting applications for this quarter. So, I sent in my application. I was invited to take the next step of an in-person interview on February 27. The interview went well, and a few days later I was delighted to receive word of my acceptance. Starting April 1 (no fools) my work will be in a gallery!

Watercolor Society of Oregon Spring Exhibition

For the last several years, I have been batting zero at getting into WSO shows. So I was thrilled with the news that my painting, Graceful Grazers, had been juried into the Spring Exhibition by juror Keiko Tanabe.

“Graceful Grazers”

The Exhibition and Convention will be in Yachats, which is just a stone’s throw down the coast from me. I’m looking forward to attending the convention in a few weeks, and I’ve been working hard to finish my presentation (and video) for the conference break-out sessions. The title is “Paint Like a Parisian” and I’ve been spending a lot of painting time working on examples and filming them for the video. Consider coming!

American Academy of Equine Art – 2024 Spring Online Limited Palette Show

The AAEA is displaying out several online show this year. The first is a spring show designed to challenge artists to look at things differently. I decided to enter a couple of works that met the limited palette (no more than three colors) criteria.

Neither is my best work; I see drafting errors in each, and I wish (as always) I hadn’t used Thalo blue. But it’s still fun to have something up anyway.


A couple years ago I applied for an artist in residence position through the Voices of the Wilderness program. I did not get in, but this year seemed like a good time to try again. I turned in the application a couple days before the deadline and have received confirmation of receipt. Fingers crossed!

Other Painting

As I said earlier, there has been a lot going on. But I’ve been spending some time each day doing a little painting, and I thought I’d show off the results.

I’m still not able to focus, but applying paint is a step forward. I’d like to explore a series, but I’m still just trying to get my head around all the other stuff going on. In other words… more to come!

Taking my bearings

Bearing (noun):
a) the situation or horizontal direction of one point with respect to another or to the compass
b) a determination of position
c) comprehension of one’s position, environment, or situation

A couple weeks ago, I made my big announcement; I had decided to go on sabbatical for a year, walking away from my stable position at a state agency to explore the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up. February 20th was the big day, and I turned in my computer and other equipment in a drama-free, anticlimactic ritual.

So, what exciting events have transpired since then? I’ve slept in, watched movies, done puzzles, painted, and decluttered the house. Yes, it’s all excitement, all the time around here.

Quite honestly, this low impact lifestyle is a carefully thought-out decision. I don’t know where I want to go, so it seems wise to focus on where I am and work from there. For the first few days, I would have random moments of dread and adrenaline, where I would have to stop and remind myself that I was safe and no longer needed to worry about work or what others thought of me. I’m happy to report that this seems to be happening less frequently.

As I’m not sure what I really want, other than to be happier and calmer, I have decided to (loosely) follow Gretchin Rubin’s awesome book “The Happiness Project“.  I’m not committed to every item on her list, but it seems like a place to start. For those who haven’t read the book, Ms. Rubin embarks on a year-long journey to improve her own happiness. Each month she picks a topic and works on it, trying to “roll” the lessons from previous months forward. Some of the topics included:

  • Clutter
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • Parenting
  • Play & Leisure
  • Friendships
  • Spending
  • Thankfulness
  • Finding your passion
  • Mindfulness
  • Attitude
  • Rules (self-imposed)

While all these items are fantastic, not every single one appeals to me equally. So, to get started, I decided to follow Rubin’s lead and start with a house delutter. Each day, I tackled a room or two, cleaning as I went. Several friends have commented that my house wasn’t that cluttered, but I think these things sneak up on you. Here is what I removed:

  1. one 40-gallon bag of yarn (donation)
  2. two 40-gallon bags of miscellaneous household objects (example: duplicate set of salad tongs) (donation)
  3. 4 c-pap sleep machines as used by my parents (donated to appropriate spot)
  4. four 10-gallon bags of extra art supplies (donation)
  5. 40 superfluous storage bins (sold)
  6. desk (sold)
  7. table (sold)
  8. rolling cart (sold)
  9. zip bag of jewelry (donated to local fundraiser)
  10. more than 20 puzzles (donation)
  11. two bags of books (donation)
  12. one 40-gallon bag of shredding (garbage)
  13. four computers of various ages (electronic recycling program)

So now, with the house looking fantastic, I am looking ahead a little further. In the next few weeks, I hope to do some work on my website and a few other art-marketing chores. And I hope to spend some time relaxing and having fun. I feel like my next stop will be something to do with my health, but I haven’t narrowed it down further than that.

Another thing I have decided to commit to is a daily summary of this project. Each day on Facebook, I answer the following question:

Sabbatical Day ? –
Useful Chore: ______
Fun Item: ______
Peaceful Thing: ______

Some days I’ve had to dig pretty deep to find a fun item.

With the exception of Gretchen Rubin, I’m struggling to find resources to help me figure out next steps. I spoke to my recovery coach about this process, and she came up with this list, derived from asking her supervision group.

  • Make it ALL about YOU.
  • You don’t need to have plans or goals.
  • Be comfortable in discomfort.
  • Be curious.
  • Ask yourself: When I’m on my death bed, what might I regret not doing?
  • Don’t have to do what society expects you to do.
  • Pour into yourself.
  • Reset your nervous system.
  • Reconnect with the body.
  • Avoid to-do lists.
  • Say YES, especially to your inner child and subconscious (the stuff that bubbles up that we often dismiss).
  • This is an adventure in unfolding, not another thing to achieve.
  • Learn how to rest.
  • Allow. Allow yourself to unfold. Allow yourself to process and feel and rest and learn who you are.
  • Be open.
In addition to this plethora of idea, the group recommended three books:

I love having a reading list. It makes this experience seem legitimate, somehow.

I hope to write a more “art related” post this week, because a lot of exciting things are happening on that front as well. But don’t hold your breath; I’m on vacation.


I’ve been thinking about detoxification a lot this week.

detoxification (noun)
Biochemistry. the metabolic process by which toxins are changed into less toxic or more readily excretable substances.
The act of detoxifying.

I felt uneasy about using detox as the title of this blog, so I put it into an online thesaurus. But the alternatives seemed too fancy: cleansing, decontamination, reclamation. So, I looked at the antonyms of detox: contamination, impurity, decay… The list goes on, but I’m definitely in search of the opposite of that list.

Detox has been on my mind for a variety of reasons. Before putting out last week’s post, I had told several close friends about my decision. Advice flowed, as it does, and one item that kept coming up from my friends was letting myself “detox” from working life. A good friend described a period when she had packed up and left her job and city and spent time just driving around, figuring where she wanted to land. Another friend described a period when she had been on family leave and how it took her body six weeks to relax.

As I served out this last week, I spent some time pondering what life would look like the next week. When would I get up? When did I want to implement the food lifestyle change completely? How could I get more exercise? Stretching? Where could I find more fun? Were there projects that I had lying around. Did I want to continue with them?

I have no answers to any of the above questions. I can only report that I turned off my alarm clock. I’ll have to set an alarm for next Tuesday, my last working day, but I’m going to start this process by seeing if I actually have a preference for morning or night. I’m not a morning person. I’ve always said I was a middle-of-the-day person. But it seems like a good place to start this adventure.

In spite of grandiose plans to relax and detox, I’m still me. I’ve decided to apply (again) for the Alaska Artist in Residence Program. I have applied to be a member of the Pacific Artists’ Co-Op Gallery and have an interview on the 28th. I have signed up to take a two-day workshop (and probably two week road trip) with Kimberly Santini at the ISEA fall symposium.

Of course, I already had the 2024 Art on the Edge Studio Tour on my calendar, I’ve also submitted paintings to NWWS and WSO, so I’m waiting to hear back on those. The ISEA Winter members show, Making Our Marks, is up right now. I have a piece in it, and I always enjoy looking through the pieces and reading about the amazing art experiments. And I’m trying to beat the deadline (February 27) for the AAEA Exploring a Limited Palette show.

It’s early days (I mean, I haven’t even officially left yet), but I’m already starting to feel some additional peace. For instance… I painted this weekend. Nothing I’d like to show here, but I did apply paint.

2024 Goals (Part 2)

“Sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go right.” ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon

“When things go wrong, this is what you should do. Make good art.” ~ Neil Gaiman

When I wrote the initial 2024 Goals post, I knew things were up in the air. A magic eight ball had a better chance for predicting the future than I did. A little over a week ago, the response came back: “Outlook not so good.”

Fall 2023

After returning from Paris in October, I felt like I should give working with my boss another shot. In the two years we have been working together, the last with her as my supervisor, we have never been able to come together as a team. I’m not sure what the exact problem is, but I’m sure I’ve contributed more than my fair share. We are very different people, with approaches and outlooks that often clash. Both of us are stubborn and opinionated, and neither of us is shy about making our displeasure known.  Additionally, there have been some overarching management changes that have acerbated the exasperation and distrust.

Within a few weeks of my return from Paris, it became obvious that my trying harder was not going to make a difference. So, I shifted to Plan B: Finding another job. During the period between Nov and February, I applied for more than a dozen positions at other state agencies and went on six interviews. I was even offered a couple of positions, but with one thing and another, nothing ticked all the boxes.

Mom’s Death, the Pandemic, and Other Disasters

The year before the pandemic hit, I had lost my mom. I was just coming back to the world when COVID happened. Like a lot of people (at least the ones I talk to), the years of constantly shifting danger took a lot out of me.

Also in the last five years, I’ve been formally diagnosed with diabetes. This is in addition to my weight-related heart condition and compromised lungs. At a minimum, these do not bode well for my longevity. At a maximum, some days are a real problem.

Mom left me the beach house as well as her and my dad’s lifetime of savings. It had been on my mind for several years to explore early retirement, which my financial advisor told me was very possible.

Straws & Camels

A little under two weeks ago, I had a job interview that should have felt good. The job sounded similar to my current position and had some of the same job duties that I have liked in the past. The group seemed nice. Remote work was allowed. I had done well in the interview process, giving me strong hope for being offered the position. But my gut still felt heavy.

I returned to work and the straw that broke the camel’s back drifted downward. It is not worth going into the whole situation, but it could not have been more obvious that there was no way my boss and I were ever going to get to a thoughtful and respectful working relationship. And so, the next day, I gave my notice.

Plan C

A few days later, I was offered the job I had interviewed for, but I turned them down.

I don’t just need a new job; I need a complete reset. I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m medically compromised. And I’m confused about who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m confused about my skills and my faults. I’m confused about where my round peg fits into this square-hole world.

2024 Goals

My last day at my current job will be February 20, and then I’m going to take some time off. I don’t think this is early retirement; this is a sabbatical.

In the next year, I’m going to put some real time and attention into my physical health, though I hadn’t yet formalized a plan. I’m also going to try to figure out the question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Until I was about ten, my answer to that was: “A horse.” I wonder if that position is still available…

Lesley Humphrey Workshop

Before getting started on this write-up, let me just explain this point: I will not be posting anything that Lesley Humphrey did in the workshop. For one thing, that work is hers. For the second, I worry that whatever protections she has for her work won’t be the same on my site and someone will steal her images and bad things will follow. If you want to know more, please read my article, “Why I don’t buy mass-market prints (and you shouldn’t either.)”

Day 1

As previously documented, the weather in the Houston area was experiencing a polar vortex. While I had been initially sad that day 1 was to be a half day (starting at 1) this turned out to be a fortuitous decision, allowing the workshoppers who were not staying in the hotel to travel to the site. I had been excited about this workshop for ages, but I became even more excited when I saw the list of attendees:

Painting with fellow equestrian artists is a real privilege and I hoped we’d be able to connect on important topics (what is your favorite trick for mixing bay, how do you handle tack, etc.) I did not do well pursuing this goal because I got involved in painting. (Priorities…)

Lesley started us out adding an “exciting first layer” to gessoed watercolor paper or panel. The gesso allows paint to be easily wiped off.

Having watched her videos (both on her site and YouTube) I had been expecting this, jumping in with my usual abandon. A while later my area was littered with a variety of starts.

(Note: I didn’t think I’d have the slightest trouble remembering the different parts of the workshop, but I can’t remember what followed next. If I get something wrong, please forgive me.)

Next, Lesley asked us to work on value studies. Based on the progression of my sketches and other things, I think this happened toward the end of day 1, but it could have been early on Day 2, because it flows nicely into the next event.

Day 2

Lesley asked us to pick out a photo from a bunch she had laid on the table. We were supposed to feel the one we were attracted to, then contemplate it for a while. Lesley walked us through a Soul Collage exercise where we described the photo we had selected starting with, “I am the one who…” I had picked a rather bulky race “pony” with roses in his hair. My exercise started with, “I am the one who does the work.” Being the kind of person who can’t really handle discussing my feelings in a group, that was all I offered. Others really went to town, revealing thoughts and connections that were very personal. While I am not good at expressing feelings, this was a good exercise for mining meeting out of a photograph. We are painters, not copiers. What we paint should be personal and emotional. I think that’s one of Lesley’s most important gifts as a teacher; she doesn’t care if you paint well or badly as long as you paint emotionally.

With this in mind, she went through a version of her 12 Lights lecture (link is to a video demo). I have heard this before, both from Lesley and from other artists. Unfortunately, the concept is one of those things that make my head hurt. The reality of having so many rules feels like too much. If I was committed to this method of painting, I am sure I could learn them; however, I don’t see that happening in my future.

A new thing I got from this demo was the idea of laying down a basic form (form shadow) in Caran d’Ache crayon. Lesley did this by creating a sort of cone which indicated various planes of the object. It is a very different way of constructing a form and is another thing that has made my head hurt in the past. But it made a little more sense this time, especially with her use of paint.

Lesley essentially uses watercolor paints out of the tube, with no dilution. As she explains, she is an oil painter who doesn’t have time for oil painting and watercolor is easy to travel with. This gives her oils and watercolors a very similar style as well as a strong, robust texture. But it is not a traditional use of watercolor. This came together for me on the last day of the workshop. The crayon and concentrated watercolor do not necessarily merge “cleanly.” With a smidge of water to soften things up, the resist of the crayon can create a mosaic-like effect that is extremely exciting. It made me want to stop and observe that mingling, which is a poetry I don’t find in my own work.

The group worked through the afternoon, with Lesley providing ten minute coaching tips to each person.

Day 3

Day three started out with some demonstrations meant to bring all the points together. Lesley finished her coaching, and then it was time to head out to a sketching session at Palina’s Ponies. Originally, this was supposed to happen on day 2, but the weather pushed that back. The VERY relaxed Rusty was held for us while we sketched. The goal was supposed to be less about an accurate drawing, per se, than exploring composition possibilities. I did not do well with the assignment. I struggle with composition and wish we could have had more time with this concept.

We were allowed to tour the barns, seeing a variety of equines and lessons in progress.

Returning from our field trip, it was time for a final critique. Or at the very least, a final show-and-tell (Lesley offers suggestions, but doesn’t really “critique”.) She took each person’s work and used mats to show various areas of potential. It was really great to have a chance to see everyone’s work, including my own, which improved greatly with a frame.


Workshop paintings are difficult to judge in so many ways. First of all, you are trying to learn something new. If that doesn’t mess up your painting, in my opinion, you aren’t trying hard enough. Second, while I am a very fast-paced painter, it is impossible to ignore that the group is on a schedule. And finally, the mere fact that you are in a group, at least for me, dulls my creative edge. There are a lot of thoughts flowing around, and keeping to my own thoughts can be tough.

As such, these paintings are not stellar. There is one that could be really nice but needs some additional work. And there are a couple that could be enhanced and possibly become an interesting work.

All in all, this was a great workshop. Fun people, horses, good teaching. The travel portions seemed a bit dicey at the time, but have turned into a good story now that I’m safe at home.

Lesley reached out to the group after the workshop, thanking us and telling us she had had a good time and enjoyed herself. She also sent me a personal note, which I am going to paste below (slightly edited) so I can easily find it for reference later.

Dear Tara

I just wanted to make sure you made it home safely, and I also wanted to thank you for making this epic trip to join us in Rosenberg, Texas. It was such a long way to come, and I love having you with us. Your energy, your calmness, your work ethos was so inspiring….

I was stung (Editor’s note: This term was used by the group to discuss the feeling of being moved by a piece) by how very poetic your ibis (?) was and the masterful way you had organized the canvas, helping us feel the poetry in it. It was as if we were just sitting there enjoying watching the bird. The piece was comfortable to be with… I just wanted you to know I loved it.

When something ‘new’ pops up from time to time, I don’t touch them, I just leave them and ponder them. No need to finish everything Tara…

All the very best to you and thank you again for coming. I was inspired by your enthusiasm for all animals, and for art. XX

With warm regards


Hello Lesley,

I’m sorry for the delayed response. Between traveling and heading back to work, I swear I only get things done on the weekend. And that’s when I’m good!

Yes, I made it home safely. Not too adventurous the second time around, but a long day!

Thank you so much for your kind words about (tentative title) “I walk softly”. I need to spend some time with it now in a quiet place. I have this voice that says “that’s nice, you should fix…” and I have another voice that says “STOP! For the love of GOD, STOP!” I am learning to listen for the second voice because if I put a piece aside at that point, I usually end up with something special in the end.

It was a really good workshop. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am coming home with a lot of inspiration. Now I just have to put in the easel time!

Thanks again for the great workshop!




This piece is just so poetic, with a sensitive, gestural line that is lost and found, lyrical in quality, poetic and uplifting. When this sort of painting cropped up for me (which they do once in a while)… they are signposts about what might be. They tend to come along to signal a new direction, should you choose to take it. If your ‘old pattern maker’ steps in, it will want to drag you back to the old and familiar. I’d let it sit, as a signpost, until more start to crop up. Then you will know what it was trying to teach you.

I love the title, which signals to me that you have found the humanity, the connection with it that anyone would love to sit with. It’s gorgeous, well-edited, and has an energy which one cannot describe. It’s Art.

My old mentor told me that the good ones tend to happen quickly, and when they do we’ve got to stop the minute it produces a pleasant feeling. In some cases, this was in the first 20 minutes for me, and when I continued.. I ended up covering up that ‘essence’, so I learned to stop because you just never know which part of the painting carries that quality.

I loved having you as part of the group. Please do keep in touch and let me know if you need help.

Stay warm! XX


And I rode an alligator home

Months ago, I saw that one of my favorite artists, Lesley Humphrey, was doing a workshop January 15-17, 2024, down near her home in Texas. The instant signups became available, I bought my seat, my plane tickets, and my hotel. At the time, I noticed that travel would be over the MLK holiday, a weekend that has traditionally been terrible. An ice fest. Not the week before, or the week after. Something about THAT weekend brings out Nature’s desire for ice cubes. But I told myself it would be fine.

Ten days before I was due to head off, the weather forecasters started chanting the word: “SNOW”. I scoffed. But as the days moved forward, some kind of cold weather event seemed guaranteed. The last couple days before I left, I checked forecasts and eventually decided to take an additional day off work to drive up to Portland to stay at an airport hotel. This turned out to be a good decision.


I got to the hotel and even the airport without too much drama. But just as the plane was about to take off, it began to sleet. The plane was grounded for four hours waiting for enough break in the weather for ground crews to apply deicer within the takeoff window. The flight that was supposed to leave at 12:40pm and arrive in Houston at 6:40pm ended up arriving some time past 11pm. This, of course, meant I couldn’t pick up my rental car. So, I took a Lyft to my hotel.

The next morning I got up very late (past the hotel breakfast) and went into an increasingly frigid world to forage for food. Houston was also on the cusp of a polar vortex, and like Oregon, they were not prepared. After lunch, I decided to bundle up and do a little birding. It really wasn’t too bad, and because of the weather in Oregon, I was prepared. Also, it was sunny, so no rain would spoil the fun. I went out to Brazos Bend State Park, which was 17 miles away and a 25-minute Lyft ride.

At the park, I had the BEST time. Quite by accident I fell into a companionable walk with a couple of ladies who chatted amongst themselves and helped me identify all the little brown birds.

I nabbed 44 bird species, walking three miles around the forty-acre pond, 17 of them new species.

And I saw an alligator.

Even the trees were wonderful.

It was getting dark, and we heard Barred owls as we were leaving the trail to make for the front entrance. They told me that a Great horned owl pair had set up camp the last several years in a large oak by the front entrance, and I heard one as I was passing by. We said our goodbyes and I called a Lyft, hoping the wait wouldn’t be terrible. Two hours later, no one had “picked up” my request, it was pitch-black dark, and the temperature was dropping. It was starting to dawn on me that I was in trouble. (Note: I also used the Uber app with similar results.)

I began to use my phone to find a transportation alternative. I called the hotel; they recommended Lyft and Uber. I started calling traditional taxis; they refused to come get me due to distance. location, and/or my inability to give an exact address. I called AAA. They wouldn’t help me without a vehicle. So, I decided to hike a mile about the road to where Google assured me a business existed. With an actual address, maybe I could get a ride. I began to walk.

I will also mention that my phone was QUICKLY running out of power.

I arrived at Brazos Bend Powersports/RV Park/RV storage about 7:30. It was not the well-lit destination I was hoping for, but I began begging for a Lyft ride again. As nothing continued to happen, I began to seriously question my options. With tears. And more than a little hysteria.

It is at this point that the angel appeared. Her name was Marissa and she lived in the RV park. She offered to drive me back to the hotel, refusing all offers of payment. (Note: I sent her a thank you note and gift card upon my return home.)

The next day was Monday. The workshop was starting at 1pm, but there was an additional crisis brewing. The polar vortex had hit Houston, and the roads were increasingly slick. Many people started sending word via a group email that they weren’t coming. I began to worry that they would cancel the workshop. But Lesley is a sturdy soul, and the workshop went on. (Note: That post coming tomorrow.)

Wednesday I had to leave the workshop about an hour early to catch my plane home, and I am delighted to report that this leg of the trip went off almost perfectly. Upon arriving in Portland, however, it was obvious that chaos had descended. I had a lot of trouble getting a Lyft back to my car at the hotel. When my car did arrive, the driver barreled down the streets as though not noticing the ice, all the while eating chips and talking to a friend in the front seat. She tried to drop me off a block from my hotel, and if the parking lot hadn’t been an ice-skating rink, I might have let her. Once at my car, I had to let everything warm up for about 20 minutes and spent that time chipping the windshield out from about 3/4 of an inch of ice.

Once out of the parking lot, the main roads were not bad, but it was bitingly cold. I drove very carefully (slowly) home and made it home at 4am, with the day clocking in at 23 hours awake. I fell into bed. I got up long enough to go fetch Key at my friend’s house, came back, and took a nap. I had a (work) meeting that afternoon, so I worked for a couple hours, then a full day on Friday.

I need more naps.

2024 Goals (Part 1)

I have been dreading writing this post all day. It’s kind of amazing how many things I have done to procrastinate it. I had all but decided on a strategy, when I went onto Facebook “one last time” (because, obviously, that’s not procrastinating AT ALL). There, I came across this series of “memes” from @yournaturallearner. (Before continuing, I don’t know anything about them and don’t endorse them in any way.) Here is what they said.

It goes against nature to set goals in the middle of Winter.

Lean into the hibernation stage. Release things you don’t need. Eat the extra calories. Rest. Make a lot of soups. Plan a gardne. Cleanse and declutter your home. Connect with your children. Read and be bozy. Buy new compfy pajamas. Journal, paint, draw, bake. Drink warm teas. Go inward.

Set goals in spring when welcoming in new things feels more aligned.

When I read that, I realized that I’m not ready to announce–or even plan–certain things. So, there will be a second post on this year’s goals at a later date. For now, this is what I am willing to commit to.


  • Art on the Edge Studio Tour (June 2024) – yes
  • Enter these shows:
    • WSO Spring
    • WSO Fall
    • Equine Art Show (Emerald Downs)
    • AAEA
    • NWWS Spring
    • NWWS Fall
    • Western Fed
    • ISEA – International
    • ISEA – Fall member
    • ISEA – Winter member
  • Blog: Write at least 52 posts – no (42 including this one)
  • Newsletter: Quarterly newsletters
  • Apply for Alaska AIR


  • Reading: Goodreads 2024 Book Challenge – 80 books
  • Nosework with Key
    • Work toward:
      • NW3 – 2 down, 1 to go
      • L2C
      • L3C
      • L3I
  • Bonsai
    • Go to “mentorships”
    • Keep up with video channel
      • Get better at filmography
      • Get better at sound
  • Spring garage sale targeting extra art supplies & knitting stash

For right now, I am going to procrastinate announcing health and fitness goals, mental health steps, and employment desires. It’s currently too mixed up for me to come up with a plan. Let me just say that my regular readers know my job has me under a lot of pressure and I’m taking steps to change some things.