The open road

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Here we are at the beginning of a new year.  The time of year when plans are conceived and resolutions are made.  We shake off the disappointments of last year and dream of possibilities.

Like a traveler on the eve of a trip, we are full of anticipation.  Our senses are heightened.  We see, hear, smell, touch and taste with childlike intensity.

It is the time of year when courage visits us, kicks the chair from under us and propels us to explore new realms.  Listen to her and travel the open road.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”           – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Beginner

A few weeks ago, my sister asked me why I hadn’t painted for her. “I’m just a beginner,” I told her.  I need more practice and more practice and more practice, and more…

I took a watercolor painting class at the National Academy School in New York two years ago.  In the months that followed, I painted intermittently and by the end of that year, I had given up.  I had numerous paintings that look like blobs of yellow and orange paint that did not resemble a fruit let alone a pear.  Very few turned out the way I envisioned it and this frustrated me.

But, there is something about creating vivid images that led me back to painting earlier this year.  This time, I tried painting with pastels. It wasn’t easy either, but it is a forgiving media and I was able to correct my mistakes more easily and create several paintings that I liked.

Playing with pastels led me to acrylics and then to mixed media. I experimented with different supplies–acrylics, pastels, ink, water-soluble crayons and oil sticks.  I watched endless YouTube videos for several months before I finally decided to take an online mixed media workshop by Juliette Crane last October.

That class led me to creating this:

portrait 1

It’s not perfect but I like it.

I can’t thank and recommend Juliette’s class enough.  Her class made painting fun.  I fingerpainted, splashed ink, and doodled with pastels.  I learned to focus less on how the final piece would turn out and more on the process.

I still cared about the outcome and most of the time, I still struggled at different stages of the painting when it wasn’t turning out as I had imagined.  Still, I kept going. I painted over aspects I didn’t like and kept painting  or I would set aside the painting for a few days and work on it again until it turned into something I liked.

mixed media portrait2

I still have a long way to go but, for now, I am enjoying being a beginner.

P.S. Ira Glass talks about being a beginner.

The rain in Spain

Several months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of loud drumming.  My hazy brain still full of dreams tried to make sense of the racket.  Is someone banging on my door?  Did my neighbor suddenly take up the drums? Am I still dreaming?

It took another minute or two before full consciousness set in.  My neighbor wasn’t playing the drums.  No one was at the door. The sounds came from right outside my bedroom window.

Heavy rains rattled against the metal body of the air conditioner like the tapping of typewriter keys. The steady pitter-patter of the rain and the gush of water flowing down the drains hypnotized me.

Last year in April, it rained everyday for almost a week. Every morning, I woke up to raindrops hitting the cobblestone streets of a small village in Andalusia.  After a long and snowy winter in New York, I was looking forward to warm and sunny days in Competa, a whitewashed hill town in the south of Spain. Instead, we were rained out in an ancient stone house with no central heating, 2,000 feet above sea level.

I spent every morning in Competa staring out the kitchen window and wishing away the rain.  Like a sulky child,  you could almost hear me chant, “rain, rain go away, come again another day.”

With barely enough heat inside the house, I whiled away the long afternoons up on the covered roof terrace, where it was warmer during the day.  I read books.  I ate meals. I wrote. I ate some more and wrote some more.

The rain didn’t diminish the view of the mountains that surrounded the village.  On those rare occasions when the skies did clear up, albeit momentarily, I saw the Mediterranean.

Some nights, we braved the slippery streets of Competa to venture down to the local bar. Rainwater flowed from the highest point of the village like miniature waterfalls that followed us down the steep steps to the Plaza Almijara.

Bar Perico became our haven in Competa.  We sat outside when the rain cleared or at the bar next to locals and ate boquerones fritos or jamon serrano topped off with red sangria.

Several rainy days in a row in a sleepy hill town brought on cabin fever.  Driving on narrow, winding, cliff-hugging roads in the rain seemed like a bad idea but one day we braved the slippery roads and drove to the neighboring villages.  We went to the beach in Nerja where we ate delicious seafood and walked along the Balcon de Europa. We also ventured to Frigiliana another mountain village a few miles away.

But, most of the time on those long drizzly days with nothing to do, we stayed put. Up there on the terrace under the tin roof, I listened to the rain.

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

-Langston Hughes

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