Marisol & Me

Oh Marisol, Marisol…

Your given name says it all-

Merry-go-rounds and parisols,

Wide-eyed adventures, stories untold.

***

Yet hearth and home, heather and loam,

They call you back, n’er to roam.

Content to spin yarns of shalom

And scatter joy here in my home.

***

Let us whirl our wool and sparkled light

Sipping tea, knitting at night.

But dream we will of sea and kite,

Of picnic fields, wildflowered delight!

***

What shall we say, Marisol and me?

Our capes are ready, hearts of glee.

If we stay or go, this we see…

Joy is here ‘neath the myrtle tree.

*****

-jpe 

April 19, 2020

Have you ever made something and felt so content, so full of delight, that you thought for a moment you might never need to make anything else ever again? That is precisely how I felt as I finished knitting this little mouse. The pattern is named Marisol the Mouse, and being smitten with that name and also with the shape of this mouse, I set about to bring one to life for my own.

The pattern is perfect, offering options for a bonnet or a beret. The only modification I made in the body of the mouse was to have two thicknesses for the ears so as to have the outer gray behind the inner pink. Making the bonnet into a cape was simple enough by picking up stitches along the neck edge and knitting down to the length I wanted, increasing on a few rounds to allow the cape to flair a bit.

Of course, by this time, Marisol was chattering away with me about her cape colors and I allowed her to choose from my handspun yarn stash. She has good taste as she chose a most delicious green multi with an ever so slight hint of sparkle. Thus will surely be fetching in the sunlight as she gathers nettles for tea and gleans wool along the hedgerows.

I thought I was finished, but she continued on about how a proper field mouse needs a gathering basket for her wool to be carried in and oh she simply must have a pair of knitting needles and wouldn’t those yellow-tipped ones be just the thing?

Her wide eyes fell upon the recently crocheted wee baskets I had made out of spun coffee-filters (a truly absorbing and enchanting way to make paper yarn!) and oh my she had a time choosing which one would be the perfect size and color for her. In the end she chose the brown one for it had flecks of green and pink and she felt the natural color was a more sensible thing for her outdoor walks. I agreed with her, of course, for who would contradict so delightful a mouse?

In my utter delight with having such an adorable and lovable creature to add to my menagerie of knitted wee beings, a poem bubbled up with the frothy giggles and sighs. I was completely taken with her and as I wrote about her, I realized I was also writing about me. I could see in her what I feel so keenly these days…a wide-eyed desire for adventure, to roam around freely, to be going hither and yon gathering pretties in a basket. I too dream of the ocean and flying kites. My infrequent trips to a grocery store with scanty shelves whilst wearing a mask is not quite the adventure I had in mind.

Yet somehow, in writing about Marisol, I found that I too love spinning yarns of peace, whether stories or actual wool. I too am content to scatter joy at home, sip tea and knit at night. I am in many ways loving the freedom to do just that. If I am able to stay in the present moment and not worry about future possibilities, then I am truly content and grateful, along with Marisol, for this home under the myrtle tree. (Which we do, by the way, have growing tall right at our front door.:)

So you see friends, in the making of a wee little thing, seemingly inconsequential in the whole scheme of this tops-turvy world, there can be moments of realization, of gathering joy to scatter around. Truly we wait in eagerness with our capes ready to dash out the door the minute “they” say GO! In the meantime I pray you are finding joy under your myrtle trees, with Marisol and Me. : D

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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Discoveries

It is likely something I’ve known all along, but there are times when I am hit with a realization that feels new, like a discovery I haven’t ever uncovered before.

This week’s daily drawings of trees gave fresh insight into the differences between drawing from life ( or even from a photo I’ve taken) and drawing from my imagination.

Some of these tree drawings are purely out of my head, imagined trees which certainly have their source in the many trees I have drawn from life over the years. Whatever comes out of my head is directly shaped by what I’ve drawn before. I have always known that in order to illustrate well, I need to always be drawing directly from life. But here are some of the differences I’ve noticed this week…

Drawings from my imagination tend to have a story to them. I nearly always insert a person or an animal or something which is interacting with the tree.

I also notice that these drawings have a simplified, more straightforward look to them. There are fewer “things” in the drawing, and the line is a bit straighter and defined.

When I draw from life however, the line work has much more character and energy as the actual contour is followed on the page. I love the feeling of caressing what is in front of me as if my pen were actually touching the edges and inner contours of the tree.

The “life” drawings also show more of the tree’s connection to its surroundings. My pen meanders from the tree contours to its neighboring bush or house. The grass on the ground connects with the trunk of  the tree unifying them and making the entire piece feel as if the tree could not exist solely on its own. It has to have  the earth, the grass, the sky, the clouds and any other objects in its environs in order to fully be itself.

It is this very connection of all that surrounds us as we draw that excites me.  I’m reminded that none of us exists  merely on our own. If I were to draw you, just you, without anything from your environment, I wouldn’t really be able to tell too much about who you are. But if I drew you in the context of your everyday surroundings, I would get a fuller picture of who you are and what makes you tick.

I strive to do something like this in the imagined tree drawings as well. A tree needs what is around it to tell it’s story, or to tell whatever it is I’m trying to convey in my illustration.

 

Both approaches to drawing are ever so fun and have their benefits, advantages, and pitfalls. I’m enjoying moving back and forth between imagined trees and actual, in front of me, trees. And even trying to blend a little of both into one drawing such as this one directly above. I drew the actual tree in my neighbors back yard and then added the fantasy elf who I imagine is responsible for Knitting the ivy sweater onto the tree.

Both of these approaches to drawing, and several more, are explored and detailed for you in my new drawing ebook! I’m really thrilled to be able to offer this 64-page PDF titled Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time for only a few cups of coffee! Check here to read more about it and see if you might enjoy beginning a daily drawing practice. Or perhaps you need some encouragement and fresh ideas for continuing what you already love to do!

If you want to follow my daily postings of the tree drawings then head over to Instagram! I’ll see you next week here with a recap of the week’s drawings of trees, both imagined and from life!

Trees & Me

It really shouldn’t surprise me. Drawing has always been so much more than simply lines on a page. I forget this phenomenon of conversation between hands and heart, of lines bold and thin drawing out what I need to see or acknowledge. Of course I thought, when I set about to draw a tree a day, that I would simply draw them as I see them out in the yard or neighborhood or elsewhere. But trees have long been a favorite subject of mine for pen and paint. Not only because of their incredible structure and shapes, but because they embody so much meaning, so much life, so much wisdom for living.

Indeed they have lived through so much. The plum tree in our front yard enchanted me the day we moved into our home 17 years ago. But I have watched (through numerous drawings) it’s trunk twist and lean in a direction that I now wonder if it will fall over one day. The front steps’ view from which I drew it’s portrait the other day doesn’t show much of the leaning. I shall draw that another day. Weather, age, and a towering pear tree beside it have forced a reach for the sun and a twist in the trunk like fibers on a spindle.

On my daily walks now I pay more attention to the trees that I have walked beside for so many years and which I have drawn on so many occasions. They are aging even as I am aging. I notice the cut off limbs, the bulbous way a tree grows around a lopping-off, the recent trimmings, the hack jobs where it seems no care has been taken to remove a tree…just severed in half, leaving still a significant portion of the trunk to continue “living”, if it can be called living.


I also notice small trees, the little Charlie Brown ones, the skinny spindly ones that may grow tallish but seem twig-like against their beefier neighbors. One such tree is in our back yard. It is actually a hybrid willow/cherry tree. It really isn’t able to get enough sun being dwarfed by the neighbor’s cypress trees just feet away. Under this sweet little tree we buried our cat Lucy. A rock marks her grave and we imagine her delight in being outdoors resting peacefully beneath a blossomed bower.

Winter trees have always enchanted me with their exposed limbs and revealed structures. You really get to see their shape, asymmetrical Limb patterns, bird nests and other ephemera lodged in their web of branches. No two trees are the same. Each tree is a unique being, much like humans. Their scarred and marred trunks tell stories of life and loss. I need to listen to these stories as they echo my own. Somehow, in drawing trees daily for not even a week yet, I receive comfort and solace for the unfolding stories in my life.

I’m headed out the door now to walk amongst them, to listen and to draw sustenance for the day.

New Year Eyes

”There are eyes in pencils and pens.”

This quote by John Piper, found in a book I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time, echoes down a long hallway of years of drawing and writing. I know this to be true…how I see so much better when I’m wearing my pens. A bic pen for writing daily pages of whatnot, the same pen for sketching random doodles, a fine Sharpie and a bold brush pen for drawing, fat markers and dual-ended colors, and a splash of watercolor here and there all help me see the world more clearly and true-ly.

Today, the last day of 2019, feels like any other day, except for a small flicker of  re-kindled hope. Not a hope that things will improve in the New Year, for so many of the difficulties and burdens of 2019 will go with me into 2020, and may even worsen.  It is rather a hope much like a faint far off sound that tickles my ear to turn towards it.  A sweet note (or is it a voice?) that I’ve heard before so many times…

…count them…draw them…put pen to paper…

…and in doing so, pin them to your heart and mind. So many gifts lay strewn at your feet, all around you, as you walk along the way, no matter how difficult or heavy the course. You need, Jen, to wield your pen in order to see the gifts.

Ok. I will. And what shall I pen and pin down with laser focus? What shall I count and list and name and draw into my heart?

Gifts. “Not gifts I want, but gifts I already have.”

-Ann Voskamp. 1,000 Gifts. Pg. 45.

I know this. Yet I forget what I already know…that gifts abound all around me every single day. This past year has brought gifts that I’d rather not have received, the painful difficult kind that has a way of overshadowing the lovely and joyful gifts.

As 2020 rolls in, I want to light a candle in those shadows, to peer down the end of my pens and see the gifts lovingly placed along  parched paths. There will be too many gifts to name them all, much less draw them all. But I will catch as many as I’m able, whispering thank you for each of them.

Ann Voskamp speaks of having her “hunt pen in hand”. I am holding mine firmly as I close out 2019 and jump into 2020. This pen with eyes may also have wings…I will need both for the year ahead!

Revolution

It takes 365 days for the earth to make one full trip around the sun. That’s 8,760 hours. Or 525,600 minutes. Or 31,536,000 seconds. Small increments, tiny moments, so many ordinary events which create one revolution.

Birthdays remind me of this. One more turning of the years has been made up of many days and minutes lived. There have been more breathtaking, joy-filled days than I can count. There have also been days of heartbreak, fear, and concern. This is living. This is revolution.

I suppose for both the American and the French, their Revolutions were also preceded by numerous days and moments, small yet not insignificant actions suffered and endured, which turned the wheels of decision, adding strength to what would become historic events. A spinning wheel will likely not bring about such history-making. Nor will spindles of all kinds—Turkish, Russian, Tibetan—create monumental, earth-moving events. But they do remind me that it is in the tiny, inconsequential turning of our minutes that a Revolution is achieved.

There are now 54 such revolutions in my life to date. I am grateful for each and every one of them! I am also a bit wary of those to come…the unknown daily turning and spinning on this beautiful planet. What will this year’s spinning bring? My usual hope is that it would bring good and happy things. But a revolution is taking place in my heart where I am hoping more for strength and grace to meet the moments of the coming days.

As I spin, I watch the lovely light-filled fibers twist into a strong line, which will bear the weight of far more than its substance. The resulting yarn may or may not be called upon to carry heavy loads. But if it is…it’s ready and able. Once it is plied with another strand, it’s strength is even greater. And a chord of three strands is not easily broken.

Sitting here at the end of one year’s revolution and the beginning of another, I see sitting on my desk, an exquisite pile of gorgeous hand spun yarns. Rich colors, varied and textured, have been wrangled into skeins of yarn ready for making into something else. They are not the final result, even though I do think they could be set in a frame and hung on a wall, just to look at and admire in hank form. But they beg to be fashioned into something else…a weaving perhaps, or a knitted garment, or a crocheted piece.

I too am a skein of hand spun yarn. I’ve been and am being spun by Loving Hands which are adding strength even in the twist of my life and daily living. I need not worry about the coming revolutions or how many I and my loved ones have left. He will use what He is spinning for His glory and purposes…and all of it for my good.

Today, on my 54th birthday, I will spin on…creating with my hands in the trust and knowledge that strength and grace are being wrought.

 

Notice & Observe

Here we are…again…at the starting gate of a New Year! All the hopes and fears of all the years (or at least those of 2018) seem to gather together in a clump as we look ahead, hoping the New Year brings less difficulty than the one before, and fearing that it might not. The temptation for me is to rally all my best efforts to keep things running smoothly, without wrinkle or wrench. I know by now this is an exercise in futility. Life brings to us each day a panoply of blessings and challenges…both of which I want to be in a position to notice and observe.

The lovely thing about a New Year is this turning of the number, or page, on a new vista of days, weeks and months. It can feel fresh and clean, unfettered by previous months’ busyness, waiting with anticipation for us to walk through it, holding promise and positive outcomes almost as carrots to lure us into the days ahead. I love this fresh feeling and the excitement of good things to come. Yet I also know that 2019 may very well hold some difficult, painful and confusing things for me as well. I neither want to blindly march into the year with a pasted grin on my face, nor do I want to wallow in future castastrophising (dreaming up all manner of trials and tribulations that may or may not happen). It would seem that “Que sera sera” might be a good tack to take…whatever will be, will be. Though helpful in some ways, this forward thinking version of “It is what it is”, doesn’t carry me through a New Year in the way I wish to experience it.

What I need this coming year, and what I intend to uphold as often as I am able to do so (no goal setting or resolution here), is to meet the New Year moment by moment by Noticing and Observing. To Notice is to say “oh look here at this little (or big)  thing”. To Observe is to pick it up and to ask questions like “I wonder how it got here?” or “look at the colors within” or “see how the shape is so lovely” or “does it have a purpose or is it simply a gift to enjoy?” and so on. Though I have had a good many years of Noticing and Observing, I still need this practice of meeting each new day with space to consider the small moments of my life. A sketchbook is a wonderful tool for Noticing and Observing.

On the 20th of December 2018, I began a new sketchbook which was given to me by a dear friend. To be sure I had not finished the 2 or 3 other sketchbooks I have going, but I had been wanting a book of days, one without a spiral in the middle, one in which to drawcument the days as I notice and observe them. It was also to be an anchor for me as I faced the craziness of the holidays. It has indeed been that anchor.

It is perhaps not a proper watercolor sketchbook, as in having the precise paper on which watercolor shines. But I love the almost cloth-like feel of this paper, and the handmade look of it with fabric cover and twine stitching. It is made by Anthropologie and I do hope they are still making these when I finish this one. Another will surely be in order. The very best thing is that my favorite markers, both fat and thin ones, do not bleed through the other side, thus allowing me to draw on all sides of the woven pages.

To Notice & Observe, is like dancing in puddles. When life gives us rainy days, as it has in abundance here in central North Carolina, it is best to notice where the puddles are and dance in them. Drawing and painting are perfect puddle activities, as are any other creative endeavors. Knitting, spinning, weaving and the like are all beautiful ways to notice what’s going on in your life and to observe it from a place of beauty. Writing is also excellent…I write every morning all the noticings and observations of both my interior and exterior worlds.

There is something amazing that happens when we Notice & Observe. Somehow, our hearts are lightened a bit. Perhaps it is in the lines and colors of pen, paint and wool that weaves into our eyes a renewed palette for the day. We also receive insight when we Notice & Observe. There is a direct connection between the lines on the page,  the strands of yarn and wool, to our minds and hearts. We receive hope, clarity, lessened anxiety and so much more in the act of making something with our hands. I look forward to this blessing today and on through the New Year. I wish it for you as well.

Happy New Year to you!

May it be filled with many moments to Notice & Observe!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

The Brink of Something

I have wakened, as I do every morning, to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. Of a coffee pot gurgling. A fridge humming. A clock ticking. In this pre-dawn deliciousness, I feel poised on the brink of something…

…a day

…a holiday

…days off from the norm

…a barrage of emotions which accompany being with lots of family

…creative hopes & dreams.

This “brink of something” is a familiar place for me. Don’t I experience this at least once, no five, even ten times in any given week? Don’t I find myself, as it were, perched at the edge of a glorious view, on tippy toes, arms outstretched, ready to leap and fly?

I think this is the truest index of my real situation. This “brink of something” is what gives me the delight, joy, excitement and wonder in my life. Yet it is also the culprit for much confusion, inner turmoil, even sadness and downheartedness. I often waken with the dindle and twitter of that ready-to-fly feeling…and then the day gets rolling and I’m left scratching my head wondering –

Is this it?  Was this the grand landscape into which I jumped?

The view from where I land each day isn’t so exciting or glamorous. And I haven’t landed in that “something” I thought I was in line for. By day’s end it all feels like the same mish-mosh of emotions, sad news from a world of woe, unrequited creative plans and dreams, weariness from slogging it out in the highways and byways of living.

Yet I awaken the next morning and there it is again… the desire to put on my jumpsuit and wings.

I could even go so far as to say that this has been my experience for all of my 53 years. Give or take a few mornings where grief and difficulty, or just plain ole monotony, have taken the wind out of my wings completely, I can see that this is the near daily ebb and flow of my life. To begin each day with such an exquisite hope, such a childlike desire to don my cape and wage the war of life with my paint brush, needles and wool…this is a brink I hope I always waken to.

The difficulty however is this — how does one live “on the brink” day in and day out? How do we, despite what life holds for us moment by moment, maintain an attitude of hope and expectation through it all? I write this not to offer a step-by-step  how-to. Although in just writing those words, I can see the hint of a path through.

Here, poised on the brink of this holiday season of Thanksgiving and then Christmas , my wings are more glittery than my average everyday wings. Woven with tinsel, rimmed in twinkly lights, they are fluttering with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas Eve. Yet 53 years has thankfully taught me a thing or two.

The real joy and delight of this season is not found in tinsel or lights (although I love festooning my home with them!) It is found in turning around from the edge of an imagined stunning vista, to view my life. The work I have daily, is to bring that dindle and twitter of anticipation to bear in my every day world. To stand on tip-toes with arms outstretched and to lean into whatever the day brings. My work each day is to walk step by step into it , wings unfurled, with the full knowledge of what this season is all about —

Gratitude that  I am not alone for the Christ child is coming and has come into our world.  Though I will one day stand on the brink of that heavenly realm, today’s work is thanksgiving for the view I have right here in my life.

May each of us embrace the now-and-not-yet-ness of this season. May we not lose heart in daring to stand tippy-toed on the brink of our days, anticipating our wings taking flight in all our joys AND in our difficulties and sorrows. May we brandish whatever swords of love we have been given, be they pens, paintbrushes, voices, instruments, yarn, clay or fabric.

And remember… you are not alone! I am on the brink here too and the Christ Child has paved the path before us, while also walking hand in hand , step by step, Emmanuel, with us.

Limiting Input

I have whisperings…little thoughts that return, quietly, gently. I am making an effort to listen to a few of them. Here’s one: What would I make, or want to make, if I limited how much I am seeing in the way of what other’s make?

I love Instagram. Well, perhaps I should say that I love seeing all the amazing incredible wonderful inspiring things that humans make in this world. I I am constantly inspired by the designs others are knitting and crocheting, the weavings they create, the paintings, the stitching…on and on and my poor little head is so full of things I want to try, that I don’t know which to begin next. And so I wonder…

What if I limited that input, or did away with it altogether? What would I, Jennifer, make? What would I paint? What would I stitch, knit, weave, etc? To be certain, I create what is original to myself and what bubbles up in my own maker mind. But it is definitely influenced by the wonders I have access to online. And it begs the question.

I am trying to listen more. Right there I seem to have contradicted the title of today’s thoughts. How can I listen more if I am limiting input? It is a rich and wonderful truth that we listen more deeply when we get quiet, set ourselves apart from the fray, find still places to sit and listen where external input is minimal. I am making time for this deep listening each day and even for extended periods. It is delicious. I’m finding help and solace in so many areas of my life. As a creative person, here’s something I’m discovering as I listen:

I myself, have within the creative coffers of my heart, a wealth of ideas, skills, abilities, and inspiration. Right here. Inside of me. (And may I say here…so do YOU, dear reader!) So this little gentle question is asking, “From that wealth, what do you want to make? Setting aside all the fantastic ideas and skills and beautiful things you see online, what do you, Jennifer, want to make today?”

So I am sitting with that question these days. Listening more fully to that sweet gentle whispering and wanting to take some action, little by little. It will be a process. I want to share that process here. And I am committed to these posts being short.  I have already surpassed the length I want to allot myself each day. And since I love sitting with questions, I’ll leave it at that. And let the rest unfold, gently, little by little each day.

Thank you for being here.

Jennifer