Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Goodbye to the Harlequin Table

I am sad today. I took a table that I painted a few years ago to the ReStore and donated it. This is a small thing, and something I do often, but today it made me cry. More than once.

I am surprised by the depth of this reaction. It's a side table I spent $9.99 on at a thrift store about 3 years ago. I did spend a ton of time working on it. I perfected a whole new technique involving layers of chalk paint glazes. And it is a vintage Henrendon (High end furniture) piece, most likely from the late 60's or early 70's. But that's not it. I have donated a ton of really high end stuff that didn't sell and things I have painted before with nary a second glance, let alone soul tears. 

And yet, this one stung, all the way to the core of me.

As I let my thoughts swirl, I heard things like: 

"But this one told me what it wanted to be." 

"I prayed about whether it was a good buy and felt strongly I should get it. 
So why didn't it sell? Why didn't it ever find a home?" 

"I am so tried of getting all excited about things that never pan out. 3 years, 4 shows 
and no one wanted it when I worked so hard and did such excellent work."

I walked over to the dishes and opened the dishwasher to make one last attempt before the weekend to finish washing what was on the counter (something I have been attempting since Wednesday). It was empty, except for the water bottles that my daughter despises filling and putting in the sink. I pulled one out, to see if they were clean or dirty and realized she had put away and entire dishwasher full of dirty dishes. I crumpled to the floor and started weeping, certain that this was so not about the dishes.

I prayed that I would be able to keep doing this mom thing, and that I would understand why God seemed to find my aspirations to succeed at something more meaningful to be unnecessary right now. I reminded Him how I had to quit running barn sales because I never made enough money to justify the enormous effort it took to conjure them into existence. I reminded Him that me doing barn sales and art was His idea, not mine. And I sat there, pleading for understanding and love.

Just then my dog, Harper, climbed up on me and feverishly started licking my tears off my cheeks.

If you have never experienced this before, it is very wet, kind of gross, insanely distracting, and incredibly funny. Needless to say, my pity party was disrupted. Now, don't think I wasn't still bawling, oh no. I was just bawling and praying and laughing and trying not to dump my dog off my lap and trying to decided if I loved or hated being licked. It was a slurpy, drippy tangle of emotions. 

Harper plopped right on my lap and kept trying to lick me while also turning around to find a comfortable place to sit or stand. And I felt this enormous wave of love from her. This sweet dog knew I was sad and was showering me with all the gifts she had to give. Her little licks, her attention, and her warm little body. So of course I started crying even harder as I saw her for the angel in my life that she is. Which made the dog lick more and me laugh more.

In the meantime, my taquitos were done. I put her on the floor and walked across the kitchen to take them out of the oven. Taquitos are a food of my soul. Straight dopamine there. I put them on top of the oven to cool and turned around to feel God say, "The barn sale was never about money for you. That was never the point. You have other things to do than paint furniture and that's what you'd still be doing if the money had followed." 

Of course.

And then my mind was filled with the image of a woman finding my table at the ReStore and it being just the shape or size or color or price she had been hoping for. I could feel her delight and relief at discovering "just the right thing." And I understood that it was about me developing my skills and then sharing my blessings with others. That my barn sale years had been about becoming more more, not making more. And even I can't deny that I succeeded there. I am so much more than I was.

I tell you this story for many reasons. 

First, it's what's happening today. 

Second, it will not be the last time God and I have this conversation. We have had it many times in the years since I quit doing shows and every time, I gain a little more faith in myself and a little more trust in where He may be taking my life. 

Third, never underestimate how much you are loved. God sent me this little dog two years ago and she has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. Allow yourself to embrace these types of experiences for the gifts from the universe that they are. Feel the love they are bringing you. It is OK to feel loved. We are all worth all the love the Universe or God could every shower down upon us.

Fourth, it is OK to not get the answer you want. Today, God did not tell me that I will be a huge success in the blogging world. He did not tell me that my paintings and collages will sell as fast as I can make them, if and when I get to that part of my life. He simply had a little dog love on me and told me that my enormous efforts were not wasted. Then He showed me how I was doing good things for the world and my future. He gave me what I needed to get up and write today. It may not be enough tomorrow. But it is exactly right for today. 

Before you get upset that He didn't tell you what you wanted to hear, think only about what you need today. I bet He will give you what you needed to stand up again and keep walking, at least today. And if you need more tomorrow, He will give you what you need for that day. Accept that what you need is enough. That you are already enough to make up the difference and keep moving forward. And try to see the angels hiding in little dogs, or fist fulls of dandelions from small children, or a timely phone call. 

So today I will be a little sad. But that's OK, because tomorrow I will look at my emptier garage and see space to work on my barn doors. I will think about someone reading this post and it being just the right thing to keep them going through a tough spot. If that's you, know I send my love, my deepest sympathy and a full understanding of your frustration. 

That said, you'll have to find your own little doggie angel. Harper stays with me.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

PS: Upon closer inspection, I realized that the dishes were clean after all and I was spared digging through all the drawers and cabinets to find the "dirty" ones to rewash them. Whew.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ruins, Part 2: Building Off the Rubble

As I have walked through the first week of my kids being back in school, and wearing my routines again for the first time since June, I have been wondering if it is time to change things up a little. Not making major changes, but little ones. Tweaks that change the trajectory, or rather, realign it.

Through the radical change involved with the children being home all the time vs. going to school, I have gradually forgotten what it was trying to accomplish. It has taken me a week of being back here, alone, to remember. And I have had to put the story back together using the echoes of what I was working on. There are clues all over, my journal entries, the scraps of fabric on the floor in the dining room. The bits of this and that stacked up in the studio, waiting to be put away or used again. It's all there, but it reminds me of the ruins I saw in Beaufort. Happy ruins, echoes of fun, or goals moving forward, or dreams becoming real. 

I promised I'd show you all, so let's head back to where Rt.17 crosses 
with Rt 21, about 20 min north of  Beaufort, South Carolina 

Or more specifically Old Sheldon Church Road.

 This is what you see if you look straight down the road, back towards freeway. The view isn't much different looking forward the other direction, although I think they were doing some road construction a little further down. 

I took this shot because it reminded me so much how my life has looked lately. Path forward, with lots of stuff on either side, but nothing transparent or clear, except the road in front of me. I always expect to stop and look at something along the way, but in a forest like this, full of growth, it's hard to see anything until you are right on top of it. You have to get to "there" before you even know what or where "there' is. That has so been my year thus far. I have seen nothing coming.

So you are driving along Old Sheldon Church Rd. and you happen to see the forest lighten up a bit on the right and "Boom!" there are the Old Sheldon Church ruins. But you can't park in front of them, just off the road. You have to look around a bit, and it's only then you notice the clearing on the other side of the road. Once again, my life. 

But what a delight these ruins are! When you do see them. it makes you smile. See how the sun hits them just so, making them shine out from the grove of live oaks? It really is enchanting. 

Here's a groovy one DK shot with his neat, "fancier than mine" camera:

I so love this pic. It is super weird, but you get a feel for the happy airiness this place gives off. It was a total shock. And I LOVE the pillars! Sigh. Wait till we get inside...

The ferns growing out of the stone just kill me! It's like dreams I've had involving...well, let's not get into that here. Suffice it to say, I was smitten with the place. 

So smitten in fact, that we brought my brother and his family and my sister and my kids back to see it a couple of days later. but we'll talk about that in a minute. I want to show you guys something first.

Check this out. The color view. This is what it actually looked like that day.

Here is the exact same shot, except taken in Black & White. I shot it with the same camera on a different setting in the exact same place and position, ten seconds after shooting the color one. Isn't it so strikingly different? Not bad or good, just a totally different interpretation.

This perfectly illustrates what I am feeling, returning to my life. I have the same things in front of me, but something has shifted in the way I see things. I am looking at my "ruins" in a different way. 

So let's play another little game. let's see what happens when we add people to the scenario. There was only one other person at the ruins when we saw it the first time. And she left pretty quickly, so we had it to ourselves for a while.

Serene. Mystical. Old. 

What you'd expect from ruins in the state you always hope to find them, abandoned.

Let's see what happens when we add people:

Isn't it shocking how it changes things? The people bring a story with them. 
You get a feeling of the past colliding with the present that I find so oddly invigorating. 

I mean, just look at this pic. It fills your mind with questions. Why is the tree full of bricks? Why is that guy in sandals and a button down standing next to it? Why would he care? How could this be a favorite picture from this photo shoot? Blending the Past and the Now always creates a different story, my friends. 

(And just for the record, this is my brother, the landscape architect, who was fascinated that bricking this tree had actually kept it alive for so long, which is what the mason was trying to do. And this is one of my favorite pics from the shoot because it captures exactly what he is like. And I absolutely adore him. I always have.)

Here the same tree, taken the first visit, without him. There is still a story full of questions and answers here, it is just completely different.

I have no idea where my new story will take me, or why I feel so empowered to deviate from what was before. But maybe it will be a better story. The break has given me some much needed perspective. In some projects I need to go deeper and further than I thought. In others, I need to back off a bit. And I think I will ask for some help. I have realized that though I really can do an enormous amount of work myself, sometimes it would be wiser to allow someone who can do it quicker, with less draw down to help or take over for me. (Hear that all you friends who are better at getting rid of clutter than I am? I will be calling you soon.) Sometimes you need help to take something all the way to "done."

So we'll see what comes as I build off the echoes of what was before. I have to say though, I think this story ends "happily ever after", at least for a while. 

Are you making changes you didn't expect this fall?  Tell me about them. I'd love to hear.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Pleasure of Ruins

There is something about ruins that has always fascinated me. I was obsessed with the Pyramids and Chichen Itza and Maachu Picchu as a kid. If you had asked me where I wanted to travel when I grew up, every location would have been the site of famous ruins, Egypt, Greece, Pompeii. 

I can't quite put my finger on why these sites are so engaging for me. I am not really a history buff, although I do find history interesting. But it's walking through the remains of a history almost gone where I get that jolt of excitement. It's like a drug for me.

So when DK and I took a slight detour from the family reunion that my family was having in Hilton Head SC, to go Beaufort SC to celebrate our 22nd anniversary, I was expecting a "normal" get away of dinner out, cute B&B, a little shopping and some photo shooting. At least until our inn keeper showed us the book of local attractions. There are THREE ruin sites within 30 min of Beaufort! An abandoned fort, Fort Fremont, and two churches, the Chapel of Ease and the Old Sheldon Church. I tried to stay calm and present as we ate our lovely dinner, but it's hard for even the most delicious Fried Green Tomatoes and Dirty Rice and Flounder with fresh black bean salsa to compete with the prospect of going and mingling with abandoned buildings...

So I decided to gently bring the subject of chucking all our plans and going on a  photo safari to the ruins instead

Me: "So, you know how we asked the inn keeper to push back breakfast until 9, so we could sleep in?"

DK, suspiciously: "Yes..."

Me: "And you know how we were reading about those ruins?"

DK, now nervously tapping his foot and bouncing his knee under the table: "Yes..."

Me: "What if we just go home after this and go to bed, and then get up at 5 or 5:30 and go shoot pics at the ruins before breakfast? Doesn't that sound like so much fun?!"

This all comes out like one big long word, with no breaths in between. DK just stares at me like I have a frog climbing out of my mouth. An "early to bed early to rise" approach to celebrating his marital longevity is not what he had in mind at all. It is, in fact, quite the opposite of what he had in mind. He just keeps staring at me with his very effective poker face.

Me, trying desperately to be a reasonable human being: "Or....we could go to a movie and then sleep in. Is the new Star Trek playing?" 

Whew. that was a close one. Score one for being able to Control the Obsession. 

So we look up the local movie theaters. Nothing. Not one movie of interest. Not even at the drive in. 

DK, casually: "You know we can't get to all those sites before breakfast and still be on time. And I am not getting up at 5am."

Me, snapping to attention, hope surging: "So what if we just went to the two sites south of town before breakfast and then ate?" 

My heart is pounding at this point. I know that if I can get him to the two southern sites, he will go to the third one as well, just to have the whole set. And if he's talking logistics.....Eee hee hee! I might just have him!

DK, typing furiously on his cell: "The sun doesn't even rise until 6:50 am, so there's no point in getting up super early....But..."

Me, interuppting, and almost spitting food all over myself: "We could totally get to the fort and the church on the same road and get back by 9 if we left by 6:30!"

DK, looks up from his phone, sees how much I want this, and says: "Yeah, I think we could make that work. But we need some major bug spray."

Oh how I love that man.

So we drove around looking for an open drug store and found a Rite Aid that was open for 10 more minutes. And since it was the South, they had some pretty bullet proof bug spray options. We even snapped up our morning rations of Diet Coke and Coke Zero, so we didn't have to delay our adventure in the morning. We went back to the B&B, snuck them in the fridge, and went to sleep at some pitifully early hour.

It was a gorgeous morning as we drove over swamp and estuary, great live oaks covered in Spanish Moss waving in the breeze as we passed by. DK had picked up a CD of Ravel's "Bolero" at a thrift shop earlier that week, and we decided that was the perfect music for this little adventure. 

After the promised 20-30 minutes had elapsed, we were a good bit of the way down Land's End Road on St. Helena Island when we passed the Chapel of Ease ruins, a sign that we were very close to Fort Fremont, our ruin safari starting point. We saw the sign, pointing out that it was coming up, and then promptly drove right past the entrance. We had to go down a little bit more to turn around, but in that effort discovered this:

A tree, in a pond, in a pasture, covered with egrets, at the end of Land's End Rd., St Helena's Island. Definitely something you don't see everyday. Unless you live there.

Here's a closer pic.

Bird photos by DK.
So. Many. Birds. 

It really was so freaking cool. Now add in the Bolero music, friends. I have it playing right now, snare drums setting the measured pace for the winding sensuous music, under a sky slowly turning pink. Ooo! Gives me the shivers..in a good way.

Needless to say, we made it to the ruins of Fort Fremont about 2 min later. 

Can you find DK? He's hiding, like Waldo, except in a photographic position.

Does anyone else get all geeked out about who may have walked up those stairs? Were they young? old? in love? Living with sorrow? Too inexperienced to worry about much? 

What kind of covering was on the cement? Was there a roof? Could they see the dolphins swimming by? Did they like the people they served with? Did they tell gross stories while keeping watch?

Those pits were about 8-10 feet deep. The guns for the fort were retractable, so they would load them in the pit, then hoist them up to fire. Up, down, up, down. Sink all the Spanish ships, as this fort was build for the Spanish American War. I think it said they could reload in about 1 min. It was pretty cool stuff. 

We walked all over that place, then got back in the car to our next destination, the Chapel of Ease. 

This site had a definite feeling to it, unlike the Fort, which had been surprisingly neutral. A sense of sadness, like old regret, floated in the air here. It wasn't dark, just a touch melancholy.  Some of the gravestones, especially those in the children's graveyard might explain that. That said, I also felt a beautiful sense of stillness and peace while I wandered. And a sense of lives lived hard, but lived all the same.

The Chapel of Ease was built to serve those who lived on St. Helena Island, so they didn't have to make the trek back to Beaufort to go to church on Sunday. I imagine it brought great relief to those who worshiped there. Remember, Beaufort was a 20-30 min drive at 50-60 mph. Imagine having to schlep yourself back to town on your one day off?

I need to do some more research about this mausoleum. It was so stylistically unique, almost to the point of being out of place.This piece reminds me of something Egyptian, like the Temple of Dendur at the Met in New York City. Maybe someone went there and decided it was the coolest thing ever?

And I love that so much of the architecture is tabby, a building material similar to concrete, made from the prevalent local oyster shells. Talk about up-cycling!

Can't you see the weddings here? Can't you hear the great sermons that give the congregation the hope they need to keep moving forward into another week? I could imagine the children running around the building while waiting for their parents to finish chatting with friends. This was a place that was filled with life, but the "for better or for worse" kind of the poor in the South.

Eventually, it was time to leave. 

"Bolero" was all finished an we had to get back for breakfast. 

And just in case you are wondering, we did go to the Old Sheldon Church ruins, but that's another post, for another day. You'll just have to stay tuned. And hope that school starts pretty soon, so I have time to write. 

Because I have so many great stories for you all. It has truly been a summer of wonders...

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw