Tomorrow

More than ever before, we need to be making things. This is not merely to while-away the time or to keep our minds off of all the sad news and the what-will-happens. There is an inherent belief in creating something that says, if only in a small way, “Tomorrow will come. A new day will rise.”

We cast on a knitting project and in so doing is the stalwart belief that I desire to and will finish this sweater or hat or pair of socks in the future!

We draw in our sketchbooks to capture a small bit of something that caught our eye today so that we can remember it tomorrow.

We spin wool into yarn which is in itself a ball of possibilities either for you or for someone else to make into a thing of beauty another day.

We begin a tapestry weaving or some cloth knowing that it will require us to keep weaving tomorrow and the next day and perhaps even the next.

(Ok, so this isn’t a loaf of bread. I DID bake bread yesterday but I didn’t take a photo of it. I think this looks like a most delicious loaf, don’t you? :D)

We bake bread with the knowledge that it will be enjoyed for at least a day, maybe two or three.

Just as planting vegetables and flowers casts our net into an unforesee-able future…so too does penning a poem, molding clay, writing a song. As Julia Cameron notes in her book The Artist’s Way, creative people are like equestrians in an obstacle course. The rider must throw his or her heart over the fence in order to land on the other side. This is precisely what we are doing as we daily set our hands to making something.

Whether it is actually planting a garden, or baking bread, or beginning a large oil painting, I hope that you will make time to create something. For this will pull our hearts forward as we endure our current worldwide situation. If anxiety prevents you from that large commissioned piece, then make something small and manageable. Try a new way of creating like origami or simple watercolor doodles. You will discover your heart is a bit lighter as we leap over this huge fence.

Grace and peace to you all this Easter weekend and beyond!❤️

Change

There is something about our current state of affairs that feels like a suspension, hiatus, time-out, or an extended stay-cation. It’s as if the world has been put on hold and we are hovering in place, holding our breath, until we have made it over the bridge, or until we are told we can come up for air.

I’ve also thought of these days as being on a phone call in which I’ve been placed on hold, or a VCR tape which has been paused. I imagine that the tape is being stretched as it waits in suspension until it can roll again. None of these images of our present situation adequately describe what’s happening .

It may be nearer the mark to use Tolkien’s definition of adventure versus quest. We are decidedly not on an adventure, where we will return to things as they were when we left them. When this is all over, we will be changed. The earth is already changing, and we humans will live and think of our lives differently than before. We have certainly not gone anywhere as an adventure would call us to do. Rather we are on a quest, one in which we are pinned in place, endeavoring to do our part in a worldwide effort to stay home and stay well. The effort to do this is far greater and more costly than the freedom to go on grand adventures. Yet it remains true that we will not land on the other side of this the same. We are being changed. I feel it in my bones.

Shifts in life often yield changes in art making. I have found some difficulty in sticking to drawing a tree every day. The drawings I make are decidedly simple and shape oriented, as if I’m designing for a weaving or a stitched fabric piece. Despite being in love with oil pastels , I’m wanting to let go of the must-draw-a-tree-every-day and just draw as I like, or weave or stitch.

It is likely that in letting go of having to draw a tree daily, that I will continue drawing trees. This was true before I began the quest on January 23rd. Trees are ever a fascination and will always be. My hope is to maintain this focused attention to their physical details, personality and their likenesses to me…or the other way around.

We do not know yet what changes will remain with us once we have been allowed to leave home, roam freely again, breathe and press play. That too will likely bring a shift in creative focus and I’ll want to follow whatever is next. For me, merely the change in seasons always brings changes in mediums and color choices. It will be interesting to see how we are all led to create once the current crisis is in our rear-view mirror.

Are you sensing a shift or change in your creative work? Do the seasons affect you in this way? Is the current quest we are all on changing what you create or how you approach your work as an artist/maker? I would love to know!💖 Most of all, I hope you each are well and safe and able to receive whatever this time is bringing your hands to create, no matter how simple or seemingly inane it may feel. Just keep creating, keep making things, writing poems and stories, shaping clay, painting and drawing pictures, trees or not. It will steady us and see us through to the other side.🙏💖

If I Could Be A Tree

If I could be a tree

I would a willow be

To wave at all I see

And shelter those with me.

***

Or perhaps I’d be an oak

To dangle tire and rope.

In kid-laughter I’d soak

And wear an autumn cloak.

***

But oh a birch to be

In ruffled finery

Graceful limbs so free

A merry dance of three.

-jpe

*********

We personify trees all the time. At least I do…seeing them as beautiful people with personality and history. But couldn’t we tree-ify ourselves? Is that a word? If not, let’s make it one! I like imagining which type of tree I’d like to be and why.

The problem is that I’m hard pressed to land on any one type of tree for long. A month ago I wanted to be an evergreen, tall and enduring through winter’s blast. Last week I wanted to be a cherry tree with explosive fireworks of blossom and color. Yesterday an oak, today a fanciful birch.

These birch trees are fascinating to me. I’m fairly certain that we have River Birches growing in our neighborhood. It puzzled me this week to notice that all of them, with only one exception, had three trunks growing out of one. The exception had two trunks. With a bit of research, I discovered that this is how they are planted…three risomes together in order to keep the height of the tree down a bit. Apparently, left to grow individually, they grow way too tall. Clumping them together, or allowing two other suckers to grow along with the main trunk, helps keep their height under control. But I digress…

Whatever the reason, they look to me like three sisters, or three friends dressed for a party, dancing or laughing together. Their happy coexistence reminds me of the Trinity, of strength in a cord of three strands, of a perfect prime, and the number of children I have.

And how about you? What tree would YOU like to be if you could be a tree? And why is that? I’d love to hear from you and what your tree-ification might be? Well, for today at least!😉💕

P.S. I seem to draw imaginary trees a good bit…like the Yarn Trees and this Steam Tree. It happened as I gazed at my morning coffee and could see the steam rising and curling out of the mug…which got me to thinkin’ that it surely must grow from the bottom, where it is “watered”, or “coffee-ed” and…well, anyway…it’s fun to think about.😃

Noticing

It seems to me that one of the chief benefits of drawing is to allow us to really notice what’s right in front of us. I’ve been walking the sidewalks of our neighborhood, almost daily, for the past 17 years and I discover new things all the time.

There are certainly days when I’m hunkered down, either due to the weather or to so much going on in my head, and I’m speed walking through the circuitous path of cement ribbons. On most days I’m able to look around, to marvel at the seasons changing and all that this evolving miracle brings.

This spring, I’ve noticed the trees more acutely. Drawing does this…particularly when one has narrowed their focus to a certain subject to draw for an entire year, one notices more than usual. Or perhaps it is noticing what one knew to be true but had forgotten one knew it.😂

As Spring blazes through the neighborhood, I cannot help but notice the Cherry trees! Gorgeous, pom-pom shaped blooms hanging from limbs everywhere! I feel as if I’m walking through a fireworks display…explosions of color everywhere, some shooting out in every direction, some swirling in twists and curves (the red buds!) , and others cascading down, as if blooms were tossed up in the air and then fall to the ground. And on windy days…the most delectable kind of snowfall, pale petals floating down, gathering along street edges, begging to be walked through.

By the end of my walk I can scarcely contain myself…it’s as if joy came showering down on me as I walked! I feel refreshed and renewed even in the midst of this strange time. It reminds me of a quote by playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht—

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.”

This daily practice of drawing, is my way of noticing the happiness that is right under my feet. Whether I’m drawing what I’ve seen on a walk, or something out of my imagination, happiness fills the page in front of me, claps two hands on my face and kisses my cheek, saying, “All will be well!”

I suppose there is a way to notice without drawing. Most of the time I only realize the fullness of what is at my heels as I draw. Something to do with seeing and putting pen to paper. I imagine writers and poets have this sight too, as they craft words to show us what they see.

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I draw primarily so that I myself can see. In sharing with you what I’m seeing at my heels, I hope that you too might sketch a bit in order to really see what happiness may be right there at your feet, despite how upside down the world seems right now. To encourage you in this wondrous practice of daily drawing what is at your feet, consider my ebook of twelve lessons filled with instruction and encouragement! For the price of just a few cups of coffee, you may just stumble upon a new way of seeing beauty in your life!🙏💖

Be A Tree

More than ever before, I find myself wanting to be like the trees I am drawing. They stand tall, firmly rooted no matter the ever-changing weather, bending however needed to the passing winds and storms, yet always growing, even blooming, despite their losses.

Yes. I’d like to be a tree.

But my inner life belies this stalwart image of rootedness. I can feel so unsettled, fearful, and confused amid the recent viral storm. I find myself reaching out for branches to hang onto as the winds blow.

When we consider trees, we often think of them in terms of seasons. Trees grow and change with each passing season. They add a new ring of strength around their trunks each year. And it is this that I hang onto as I think of what our current situation is requiring of us…this is a season, and it too shall pass.

Winter will clock over to Spring here very soon. Then Spring into Summer. We hope, along with Summer, that this virus will cease spreading, and that life can return to what we had thought was “normal”. We are all, in varying degrees, experiencing shock and grief over the loss of our normal everyday. But it is a season, much like Lent, and it will pass.

Yet also like Lent…we will not be the same after this season of fasting and difficulty. It remains to be seen just how different the fabric of our individual and collective lives will be once this virus has made its way through the world. We will look around at the devastation of not only lives, but also livelihoods, and a new normal will be established. The seasons will continue to come and go. There will be a lasting impact on how we view and live our lives from here on.

The wounded trees I draw have this in common: life continues to throb and burst forth from gaping loss. How this is, I do not know. But I want to be like these trees. I want that for you as well as for me. I hope to look around one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, and see all of us standing tall or perhaps a bit bent, with our various wounds and scars from battling the virus, yet growing, perhaps even thriving and blossoming into something completely unexpected.

I don’t know how this will happen, but it is our hope as we walk this Lenten pilgrimage through a forest of difficulty and uncertainty. The Master Arborist walks among us and with us through every glade and glen, every season and storm.

In this Forest I will gladly be a tree, come what may.

Rooted

“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted, they travel about as far as we do.” – John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist.

Though I may be hard pressed to say that every tree I see and draw is completely content (as of course, we embue them with having feelings:) … I do have a sense that no matter their state, the trees exude a rootedness, dare I say confidence, in where they are and what they have endured.

Same tree as above…but this is its good side.

Even the tree at the entrance to our neighborhood stands tall and proud, waving the beautifully brittle leaves of last year which have hung on through the winter. This tree has a large open wound on one side that makes you wince. But from the other side, you would never know this wound is there. Perhaps this lack of discontent, as Muir notes, is due precisely to the gripped rootedness which pulls its life force from the earth and refuses to give up no matter what it has lost.

I see so many trees in and around our neighborhood which have suffered loss and yet still thrive. If you’ve been following my 365 day journey of drawing a tree a day, you will have seen numerous trees in various states of injury. There are many more to draw and I think this is becoming a fascination…the compelling reality that no matter how trimmed, cut off, torn in two or broken a tree is, there is still life pulsing through its veins and proclaiming, “I am here!”

What we do not see, and therefore I do not draw, is the extensive root system of any given tree. To be sure, I often see and draw the one or two roots which erosion has exposed. But beneath the soil, reaching far deeper and wider than we fathom, a massive subway system grounds the tree in its place and brings it the energy and nutrients it needs to survive and flourish.

I often fail to recognize this rootedness in my own life. But when I see it, I marvel at the connectedness to so many people, to a community, a church family, creative friends, and to my own immediate and extended family. I am filled with gratitude for the rich soil of faith which upholds it all and gives vitality and strength no matter the evident brokenness above ground.

Today as I draw, I’ll sink into my own roots a bit more, and lift up branch-like arms and hands in gratitude for all that holds me fast. 💖

Poems

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

-Khalil Gibran

I am finding this to be true. Each and every tree…no matter how trimmed, blighted, hacked off, or allowed to grow free…speaks in verse or rhyme a tale of life and love, beauty and grace.

Evening sky behind treeline…

The limbs are like pens, writing in the sky, waving words through line and shape. We are nearing the end of the season where I can see the tips of these pens. In a month or so, most of the trees will have blossomed and leaved, hiding the pens themselves, but showing off their colorful raiment, sharing a new stanza to their poetic life.

Neighborhood tree in Oil Pastel.

It has already begun here in the piedmont of North Carolina. Everyone is marveling (and perhaps a bit skeptical) over the early Spring activity. Daffodils, pear trees, forsythia and irises may all be blanketed in snow once or twice more before spring temperatures are here to stay. No one is complaining. Bring on the glorious display! My pen is ready to draw the transformation!

This week of tree drawings marks a shift not only in seasons, but also in sketchbooks. The last four days have been drawn in a slightly larger book which is probably intended more for writing than for drawing. There are tiny pale dots everywhere which I quite like along with the thick smooth paper. There are so many pages, I’m thinking it will last me a looooong time! We shall see!

Pear tree blooming in neighbor’s yard. Oil pastel with fat marker.

There is also a slight shift afoot in media choice. I have always been seasonally affected when it comes to what I choose to draw or paint with. The last two drawings in my sketchbook contain more oil pastel and hence more color on the page than in my previous sketchbook. I love it all! I welcome the shifts and try not to talk myself out of them. 😃

I was delighted to hear from several of you after my last post and that you are indeed receiving notifications now in your email boxes! Hoorah! I appreciate each and every one of you who takes the time to read these posts. My hope is always to bring you a spot of delight in your day and perhaps inspiration to draw or make something yourself!

Be on the lookout for tree poems! My eyes are peeled…💖

Gamut

In a week of drawing trees, one can run the gamut of emotions. From surprise in a Walmart parking lot to needing a hug, to laughing out loud, or standing in silent awe … trees evoke a plethora of thoughts and feelings.

I am not always able to capture the full range of this in any given drawing. But I try. It is in the trying that the real benefit lies. Attempting to draw lines that evoke something of what I felt in that moment allows me to dive into what I’m thinking and to sort through it on paper.

The sketch becomes a kind of visual language, often aided by actual words on the same pages as the drawings. I don’t always add writing to my sketchbook pages, but this particular cheap sketchbook begs for it and I love adding written thoughts to the drawings.

I will soon finish this sketchbook. In anticipation of this, I’ve already purchased another cheap book/journal which has, instead of pale lines, tiny dots. I have tried a sample page at the beginning of the book to see how my favorite sketching media hold up on this paper. I’m especially interested in whether my markers bleed through.

Paper is actually whiter than this!😃

Thankfully the thick paper passes the test and so I’ll be working slightly larger for the next batch of daily tree drawings and all the other random sketches I add in a day.

Perhaps a sketchbook flip-through will be in order when I’ve finished the current book. Fun, eh? But first, I would love to hear from you dear reader…

Last week it came to my attention that some folks who had subscribed to receive my blogs via email, were not actually getting them. I’m afraid this may have been happening for quite some time…months and perhaps even years. Would you be so kind as to try and respond with a comment just so I know that at least some of you are receiving the notification of a new blog post in your email box?

Apple tree in tapestry!

And on that note…in the event that you are just now receiving notice of my blog posts, do scroll back through them. I would like to blog more regularly and knowing that folks are actually receiving them, will help me tremendously!

I would also love to hear what creative work has you excited these days! I am spinning and weaving a bunch along with the daily tree drawings. But I am always dabbling in many other fun and enchanting mediums such as tapestry, crochet, gouache paint, hand stitching and more!

Truly running the gamut of all my favorite creative mediums!

Drawings Beget Drawings


Perhaps it’s a law of Physics…but it is a reality I’ve noticed time and time again, that when you set your pen to paper and make a drawing, three others are begging to be drawn!

You draw the tree and in doing so you notice daffodils are blooming a full month early! And one must, simply MUST draw the daffodils too.

Or you imagine a large Oak tree and in drawing it, mice show up busily making a merry life all around while a friendly Owl watches over them.

On and on each drawing woos and entices you to keep drawing and even to draw the space around you or the people sitting nearby.

This is just the way it is. When you draw, there will be more to draw. And you’ll find yourself so in love with drawing your world, whether real or imagined, that you fall asleep thinking of tomorrow’s tree, or whether you’ll have time for a few more drawings than just the one daily tree drawing.

Like Frost’s poem about swinging on birches…I too would like to go…perhaps by climbing it…but preferably by drawing the  birch tree…

…draw the black branches up the snow-white trunk that leads my gaze toward heaven as I keep drawing until my page can bear no more…💕

One could do worse than be a draw-er of trees. It will lead to all kinds of adventures in a sketchbook.😃

 

The Space Between


There is a delicious space between one’s head and the page. Sometimes I am not so aware of it as I begin to draw. But several drawings of late have me pondering this place where connections are made, lines speak like words, life informs lines, and vice versa.

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