When I was little, my parents had Alvin Toffler’s, Future Shock in their extensive library. Mr. Toffler was right on the mark in preparing me for change; it’s been the touchstone of my life. Every time I feel like I’ve landed, every time I feel that I’ve arrived, every time I’ve experienced contentment, there’s change to deal with.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about choice. About consciously choosing to limit the decisions we make in a day by eating the same breakfast, by wearing the same outfit, by structuring waking hours the same way.
I’ve always found routine dulling to my senses. In the podcast, the speaker specifically referred to Jobs and Zukerberg. (Black turtleneck and hoodie). Can they actually remain creative in the midst of mind numbing routines? Life as art, right? Wrong? I guess I usually find comfort in Blundstones, jeans and a soft, loose shirt. I guess a good cup of expresso and foamy milk is my usual breakfast.
I have always believed I was comfortable with change, welcoming it, jumping into it, what iffing it into being.
Most recently, because my husband works in a town 41/2 hours from our home, we bought a second one. It has stellar ocean views and it’s smaller than our first home which we bought intentionally to house the six children between us.
We are not mortgage free on either, till the death and all that, right? So, to get the second house paying for itself, we suited and put in a carefully curated AirBnB. So far, so good.
As of late October 2018, AirBnB’s in our area are required to pay occupancy taxes. In Port McNeill, it needs to be registered as a business. We then needed to update our home insurance.
Change! Change! Change!
Now, I need to learn to use some simple accounting software. Now, I need to learn how to carefully track spending.
Seriously? All I really want to do is travel and paint, paint and travel…and hang out with my tribe.
I should okay the sale of our southern house. My freedom to travel and paint and hang lies in that act.
It’s just that, it contains. So. Much.
You know, life’s detritus is in that place. And my studio is there. And stories of the past are in the walls and garden. And proximity to my blood tribe, is there.
Have you noticed that because our present and future are so all consuming the past barely exists anymore? Traditions that used to matter so much seem to have dissolved. I can’t even answer the question of why they were important other than to imagine them as the threads that bound the tribe together. Now we have cell phones. We’re in constant contact anyhow. My kids wonder why it’s so important for me to ‘be live’ with them and I wonder where these changes will lead to next.
Life with tribal gatherings is rich in pleasure, memories, history, herstory, mystory, yourstory, and drama. This is where we share and polish our beliefs and values en mass. I think that’s important to the future.
So change. Letting go. Grabbing on….
Where did I leave my Blundstones? I need to go for a walk.
The full moon; it’s always that great ball of reflected light that signals the way forward. I breathed it in and let it out, I was holding so much more than I knew.
The next morning I found a beautiful heart shape rock on my doormat. True story.
And then the rain started. In earnest. It was due. Maybe even overdue. I may have even hoped for it. I don’t mind the rain at all and it doesn’t keep me inside. I kind of like the saltless feel of it on my cheeks and lips and I like the heft of my boots almost as much as I love my feet bare.
I have been known to walk barefoot in the rain. Swimming in it is far better!
My art has taken a backseat to so much these past months. I still make some time for it every day but unpredictable things have happened forcing me to attend and participate in ways I haven’t before. I have acquired new skills that I didn’t necessarily look to have.
Look for joy, be kind and loving, and stay engaged because it’s all connected. We’re all connected.
Every morning I offer up a little prayer for forgiveness, gratitude, and open heartedness. (Its available on the blog) Often I’ll ask what is needed from me that day and I’m usually met with a little thought that I have come to know as wisdom from the universe.
When I find myself awakened at night, repeating my prayer through allows me to find sleep again. Essentially, instead of counting sheep I’m counting my blessings.
This is a little practice that I have created for myself based on seeking, reading, finding, trying, sifting sorting and finally, elimination. It’s a simple practice among others I utilize that helps me to thrive.
Can you name the practices you engage in to maintain your best self?
Have you even thought about what your best self feels like?
I used to think I was my best self when I was exhausted…
when I’d ‘given it everything I got’ … to work and family
when I’d ‘given 110%’ … to others
when I’d ‘sucked it up’ … and pushed beyond my limits for the team
when I ‘put it behind me and kept moving forward’…for the wellbeing of others
Those mantras, the ones we are sold to motivate us to produce more and more and more… they put ‘my best self’ in harms way.
What are the mantras you have adopted to drive yourself to exhaustion?
I now know that my best self feels light, airy, spacious, as well as loving. My best self is well rested, playful, golden! My best self knows that boundaries are not just okay, but in fact, a necessity.
… Come visit me at Thrive and ask for your free gift!
When I picked up my Iphone this morning to check in on emails and texts and such, I found an email from a woman at a government agency who’d addressed me as Dear Sherri. I am here in promising to begin all of my emails with dear because I want you to feel like I felt when I read that; cared for. I then read a thank-you note from a good friend who I replied to, an invitation and a random thank-you and blessing from Deepak Chopra, or his ‘crew’ more likely and a lovely anecdote my sister-in-law posted. It was all great mail!
After a lovely chat with my daughter and signing and naming many of my acrylic painting, I set off to the printers, to get them professionally photographed and ready for cards and giclées.
And then it happened.
I was 10 vehicles behind a horrific traffic accident. A tanker truck had collided with another vehicle and overturned. The guy from the truck behind me jumped out of his sei with a tiny fire extinguisher. Cars around me were turning around after being told to get out of there! I shakily drove back up the Malahat feeling blessed to be able to do so.
Once in Mill Bay I went into the grocery store feeling dazed. I hadn’t had anything to eat. I bought some sushi and two chocolate bars and lottery ticket. The lady at the till handed to me and actually said…and here’s the winning ticket! I thanked her for saying that and asked her if it was her standard spiel. It wasn’t. Then I went to the car and scarfed down two chocolate bars. I’m not proud of that but it replaced my fear with a stomach ache. I haven’t felt fear for a long while. I didn’t like it. A stomach ache I can deal with.
I hope the people are okay. I hope the fuel didn’t spill; that poor harassed salmon spawning creek, Goldstream.
Do you stand with the other British Columbians, Washingtonians, Oregonians, Californians world citizens, flora and fauna who do not want increased tanker traffic along the coasts? I do. Accidents will happen. They happen. It’s a real thing. That’s why we have a name for them.
I stand for the earth and the future of life on the planet. I stand for beauty … nature’s beauty … natural beauty… love … because I really do believe that it’s a love of beauty that will save the world. I ‘ve seen it in action in so many ways that work. It’s what I try to paint and it’s how I aspire to be in the world. Thank you to those who touched my day and made it better. My resolve is strengthened to fight for the beauty that surrounds us.
‘Essoyes’ Acrylic on Vintage French Linen – unframed – 27 1/2 ” by 26 1/2″
Good luck with this everybody! Let me know if it helps.
I’m all packed up. I created a lot in a month, some of it good, some of it pure process that I can toss or remake. I guess that was the point. Making. Painting.
But you know, Despite having my guard up, I was totally seduced by the beauty of the place. Ziggy Attias, the owner and conceptual lead has created an experience I have only ever dreamed of.
We artists have resided together in the utmost comfort of our own spacious, castle like rooms above shared living areas decorated in a luxurious style true to the Napoleon Trois building. The shared, beautifully outfitted bathrooms have served us easily and the studio rooms gave us inspiring views of the little valley. Importantly, the natural light was fantastic during the day and the walls and floors could be dripped on without worry.
As a surprise, we also had most of our meals prepared for us by a gifted French chef, Marie. The food was excellent and Marie was always happy working in the kitchen. It freed us up to paint and it created a jovial family like atmosphere for evening meals.
Ziggy’s house rules were few and easy to live with. Generally, any minor tasks we shared in were carried out without discussion. They just got done in a manner that was respectful of everyone’s time. With that level of respect in a communal space, it’s easy living together.
I will miss my new friends but I suspect we’ll all keep in touch and meet again. They’ve touched my heart and become a part of me. I also plan on returning to this beautiful place one way or another. It had the best double rainbow I’ve ever seen anywhere before. There was actually a golden shimmer beneath it. How could I not want to come back?
I am filled with gratitude for this experience in France coming on the heels of my retirement. It has transitioned me.
Thank-you, Ziggy. Thank-you, Universe.
Today I’ve been working on what will likely be the last painting I create at my Art Residency at Chateau Orquevaux. As I painted, the last in what has become a connected series, I began to examine why it was important for me to do such a thing. Here they are, in order of importance for me.
I’ve been painting in relative isolation for the past years, in my home studio, and loving it. I realize now that I applied for the residency not just for the place to paint but for connection with like minded people. I love the artists I’ve met; they are my extended family. We share ideas, philosophies, dreams, and aspirations easily and without judgement. We see the world as possibility in colour, shape, line, texture and design. Picasso’s wordless book of bridesmaids has a storyline we can interpret easily together. Between us, there is only support and sharing, competition just isn’t a thing here. We laugh together when we could be crying and we cry together when we could be laughing. Everyone here is whole and rich and perfect because that’s what we notice about each other first and foremost. We just generally get each other.
Having a tribe, a tribe that I’ve lived communally with for a month, that I’ve shared meals and wine with and created with, who come from all over the world, who are a variety of ages, who have distinctly different styles and experiences, who came with the same awe and excitement I came with, who have the same reverence for art and creating, well, that’s as golden as it gets in the work world. And yes, making art, creating, is work. Important work. Valuable work. The French get that. Connection is belonging.
I’ve loved the studio spaces just above the bedrooms, the rhythm of each artist’s working days, and the chats about creations and processes when studio doors are open. Learning is one of my drivers. When I’m learning, I feel alive. Yesterday, I found out about the brute art movement in broken English. My heart was filling up as I listened. I’d already viewed the exhibit. I knew how it made me feel. Yes, I feel art. At lunch today, while articulating how my painting morning was going, I generally like to paint uninterrupted from 9:00-2:00, I understood how much more exhausting it is for me to paint a series than it is to paint completely intuitively. Intentional painting, for me is less enjoyable. My bucket gets filled when I feel free. April, a writer in residence, understood this feeling and expressed how she noticed it come up for her in her practice as well. Having an opportunity to discuss our inner observations really helped me to consider freedom as one of my basic human needs even beyond art.
I have new rituals that I will integrate into my home practice. Eating breakfast, slowly, as well as drinking coffee every morning, is going to happen everyday even without the croissants. I will put more attention into line and into learning about the New York art scene and emerging artists. Opening my home to artist gatherings and work stays will be on my radar. A residency or two every year will become a regular part of who I am and what I do.
I always say, gratitude paves the road to joy. I feel it here x’s 10. This place, Orquevaux, is beautiful. Discovering it and each other; I am so grateful. This is magic and coincidence at its very best! Thank you Ziggy Attias, for your vision and your invitation.
Yesterday, the painterly lot of us decided to go see Renoir’s Home in The village of Essoyes. My car got sidetracked as soon as we spotted the vineyards. We knew it meant one thing, Champagne! So, when we came up to our first vineyard, and the chorus sung Please stop, I did.
After a tasting…I had no idea pink champagne was a real thing…we left with the trunk jingling. When you can buy a big bottle of the best for 14 Euros, you do! So much thanks to Matilda, who provided a loving explanation of her families long history and of the process, in English. She explained that she’d just spent time in Australia, really, but not waltzing.
On the road again, we caught up with the other car in Essoyes. They had chosen the perfect bistro on the river for lunch. I very much enjoyed duck confit with a fresh salad and sharing a creme brûlée, my first one here.
Once we’d eaten and enjoyed our expressos, there is no way to rush in these little villages and I love it, we were off in search of Renoir. Here’s what we found.
1. The houses in these old villages go cheaply.
2. His studio, above was super cute both up and down.
3. His house was not a typical small village home it was very well appointed and lovingly cared for. Credit to his wife, for sure.
I fell in love with the lace curtains!
4. His gravesite was not the most beautiful thing in the graveyard.
5. The river that he used to paint beside is in fact incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
It seems there are no bad days in the Champagne region of France!
Yesterday, as planned, all of the artists at Chateau Orquevaux hopped into cars and headed convoy-style to shop a couple of brocantes.
We browsed stalls and soaked in the jumble. The difference between a brocante and a typical western garage sale is that at a brocante you can find a tool or piece of art from the early 1800’s next to a Limoges tea set, next to a made in China plastic toy.
I found an ancient pair of reading glasses, some traditional French linens, some lovely buttons and tin of old papers with which to collage. When I got back to the chateau I found it quite disturbing that the tin contained relics of a deceased man’s life. Letters, passports, pictures, readers, a pill case with a pill still in it, and his obituary. This was the detritus of a life, the things one saves. Private things that shouldn’t be sold at a garage sale, but apparently at a brocante, might turn up. I sat with this tin a long while at the Chateau. I know the face and name of the divorced man, and I know the faces and names of his children. I felt called on to paint him, in forgiveness for inadvertently purchasing his personal remnants. I may choose not to collage his paperwork, I don’t know yet. The bonfire last night seemed to be calling for him but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I’ll figure it out.
I’m happy with the linens. They’re in great shape and will become surfaces for art. Except the red striped towels. I bought them for that but their value lies someplace else. They are heavy, whole, and still meant for the kitchen.
Finished at the brocante and feeling a thirst and hunger, we drove into central Joinville. This is a picturesque town with shops, a cafe or two and a bakery. The baguettes and croissants here are so light and buttery that it is no wonder they are a French staple! We made our way past the bakery, however, and into a Bar/Restaurant for a delicious lunch. I had a crepe filled with goat cheese and fresh basil. Honey was drizzled on top and it was accompanied by a small salad. Heaven! And a new use for honey. Honey and soft goat cheese are perfection together.
After cafe creme we walked up and into the church. It was built in 1544 and is quite remarkably. The ceilings gave it a Roman feel, the stained glass added colour and story, the statue of Mary provided gentleness, and the angel striking down from the heavens contacted that. A turn and a walk toward the back of the church showed off the magnificent organ pipes and a relief that was carved in 1567. My goodness, belief has power! I would say that the church was just as artfully beautiful as it was awesomely fearsome.
Next up was a stop at the Poisson Karsts. After so much rain it was a surprise to see how dry this particular area was. The area is a winding drive up a narrow road (that is a thing here) before a quick walk to view the karsts. Karsts have something to do with springs underground drainage, caves, limestone, and calcium. I wasn’t able to figure out much about what I was seeing because of my lack of French but I could see what looked to be caverns. I also noticed that mountain bikers had shaped and enjoyed the terrain.
There is so much to explore here in just this small corner of France!
We ended the day with a bonfire at the front of the chateau. With the river and falls behind me, I could imagine the ocean sounds I’m used to for a minute. This place, has a different beauty than the ocean, mountains and forests I know. It has the accessible remnants of a very human history. It has rivers in canals, green rolling hills, and forests of young growth. It is alive despite it’s patina.
After Paris, I rented a little car. Doing this from home, before I left, was much more economical than doing it as a walk up. I used sixt and this was what was waiting for me when I arrived. A brand new Citroen.
The Chateau is a dream! It’s the vision of Ziggy Atticus. He’s an artist, originally from New York, who is now creating an oasis for artists in this beautiful French hamlet.
A family of coypus are what create the dirt piles in the foreground.
The bedroom I’m in is just gorgeous!
It looks out over and beyond the scene above.
There are chickens for fresh eggs and goats for cuddling. (They smell exactly like goat cheese)
When I’m not enjoying the little village and the grounds,
I paint! That’s why I received the scholarship to be here, after all!
Ziggy jokingly said that he changes the locks after every residency but I think he actually might have to. It’s a perfect spot for anyone who loves to create!
I’m so grateful to have been chosen to attend while also receiving a scholarship to do so!
If you are interested in the residency you can apply through Instagram. Just post your work and tag Chateau Orquevaux. Dreams can come true.
1. Walk everywhere. But choose an adroitment or two to really get to know.
That way you take home a piece of Paris as yours. You’ve seen the sights, but when you can name shops and streets and gardens, you feel a part of it.
2.Choose a cafe, sit out front and sip. Relax. Give your tired feet a break. Everyday. Once or coffee, once for wine.
I’ve visited Starbucks in Canada, the USA, Peru, Bali, and now Paris. I love their products the free wifi, and the familiarity away from home. They’re the only big brand I look for in faraway places. In Paris, though, it just felt wrong. There are super cute cafes on every street where one could sip great coffee (or a glass of wine) and sit and watch, instead. I did some of that everyday of my visit. Go to the same spot, or try many. It’s all good.
After the Louvre, I visited three more wonderful galleries. Each was somehow more wonderful than the last. Here they are in order:
Musee d’Art moderne
4. Walk Through the original Bon Marche
It’s an amazing place for food and clothes. Think mini boutiques for designers with phenomenal names. You’ll definitely wish it was in your home neighbourhood, just like it is …. because everyone needs these!