Feeding the Birds

Watch this sunflower painting come to life in 2 minutes

(time lapse)

As part of my new homesteading adventure, I have a vertical garden on the small patio, a salad bar of microgreens. Microgreens are tiny plants eaten at the young tender stage for very fast harvest. Not all plants are suitable for this, as some greens/vegetables are toxic at early stages, so it requires research or purchasing from a seed company that has great instructions. 

These fresh greens make a tasty salad and are more interesting than the typical mixed greens found in boxed salads, like sunflower seeds. Sunflowers grow quickly and can be harvested in just a few days. Small fresh shoots with a couple of green leaves on them make a hearty salad with a mild flavor. Unfortunately, we are in competition with the birds!

We’ve been feeding the birds sunflower seeds for the past few years. We have a large family of cardinals who seem to be raising five active, silly, and hungry offspring. They discovered the sunflower seeds in my vertical garden and they will pick the plants to get at the partial seeds that remain on the leaves. While the seeds are germinating, the planter is covered (it’s part of the growing process, but I realize that if I hadn’t covered them they’d have eaten ALL of the seeds!). But, after the plants start to grow it’s time to uncover the planters so that they will receive sunlight. Sometimes a few seed parts are still clinging to the emerging leaves, and there may also be a few seeds that hadn’t yet germinated.

So, I’ve been feeding the birds in both their regular feeder and in our vertical salad garden. This has been a bit vexing, and hilarious. They act “naughty” when they pluck the seedlings from my garden and they seem to know when I’m displeased. They’ve grown up in our patio space and are almost like pets. I can’t teach them not to eat the food from our table though! That’s why I won’t be ordering any more sunflower seeds for a while.

For the sunflowers that grew too fast for us to eat them, I’ve been collecting them and transplanting them into pots. If they grow to full maturity, they will be fun and decorative to look at. We might even get to harvest their seeds, but I doubt it. I think we’ll just be feeding the birds!

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

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Update to “Downsizing our Dreams”

A bowl of peaches painting in 1 minute (time lapse)

I shared this peaches painting in the blog post “Downsizing our Dreams“, and also showed you photos of my new peach tree. The update: remember that there was only one peach on the tree, and I wasn’t sure if we’d actually be able to eat it? Well, that single peach stayed on the tree and turned from small and green to this gloriously beautiful reddish orange peachy peach! 

It was a bit under-ripe so it had the taste and crunch similar to an apple, but I didn’t want to risk not being able to try it at all (sometimes critters get into our garden before we have a chance to eat the food!). It was still very good, and amazingly fresh. The peach was so big that we all got to try it, plenty to go around. The texture was wonderful! I look forward to future harvests with our peach tree… hoping for more than one peach next year!

If you remember the blog post, the peach tree is also a spiritual metaphor for starting a new chapter in our lives. This felt like a burst of encouragement, this solitary beautiful peach, that one day there will be a bowl full of peaches, just like my painting. When we take one day at a time, the days add up. Seasons change. We then find ourselves in a new place and it will feel like a long time ago that the peach tree was small.

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

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2021, We’re all Grieving

You might remember when I talked about this painting before, from an artist perspective: Painting Nostalgia. This art has no video, and I’m relieved that it doesn’t. It was an emotional experience to paint this art of my parents’ wedding day. Both of my parents are deceased: one died young (age 37) and the other died older, but still too young. Both have been gone a long time.

We cannot choose if and when we’ll experience events that cause grief, but we can choose how we respond to it. The year 2021 has brought grief to all humankind worldwide. Grief doesn’t always come from the loss of a physical life, such as when a loved one dies. Sometimes we grieve the loss of the life we once had, as in the way that we used to live, and who we believed ourselves to be. We may not be that person any more and in a mental, emotional and spiritual sense, this is a death that the world is collectively grieving, whether aware of this or not.

When my dad died, people told me that he wouldn’t want me to be sad, he’d want me to be strong. He’d want me to go on with my life. And this was true, but the push for normalcy went too far and was dysfunctional. It was considered a badge of honor that I went to school as normal on the very day he died. He died at 2:00AM and I was on the school bus just hours later. Some of my students were shocked by this, and wondered if the rumor they’d heard that my father had passed away in the night wasn’t true. Why would I be in school if he had? Why, indeed.

 I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I made it through the whole excruciating experience, which is a story for another day. Fortunately and blessedly for me, I also had people in my life who were concerned about my robotic reaction to the passing of my father, and encouraged the opposite: talk about what happened. 

One of these occasions was when I was at a friend’s house and her study partner just happened to be there at the same time. My friend urged me to talk about Dad and I did, as an emotionless storyteller. But her study partner was full of emotion, so much so that he shed tears for me. This simple display of empathy touched my heart so deeply that I later asked my friend about her kind study partner.

My friend was delighted to play matchmaker and one thing led to another… that kind boy and I became high school sweethearts, and have been married for decades. The point of me sharing this is to illustrate how being open to reacting to grief in a healthy way can lead to something positive, perhaps so wonderful that it results in a permanent life change that will affect generations to come!

If I had remained closed and spiritually stubborn, I may have refused to answer my friend’s questions about my father- opting to say very little and change the subject. But questions were asked and I was open to answering them. That one simple decision led to everything that happened in my life, my husband’s life, and our children’s life since. Obviously without that moment, my children would not exist.

Now, I’m not going to promise you (or myself) that responding to 2021’s grief events in a positive, spiritually open way will impact generations to come, but it might. It will at least impact OUR lives for many years to come. What is your response to the changes that have come to you, to the changes in the world that you may not have expected or wanted? When our lives change, there is a grieving process- the bigger the change, the more profound the grief.

If you’ve been greatly impacted by 2021’s events that continue to unfold, how do you channel your fears, anxieties, and sorrow? Do you deny your situation, are you closed to it, are you walking around the best you can as if everything is normal? Or, are you open to hearing your own voice speaking the truth about what has happened?

We don’t have to rely on fate, serendipity or miracles to randomly drop into our lives, like an unexpected stranger appearing with our friend, who later becomes our spouse and parent to our children! No, we don’t have to rely on these rare events. We can manifest positive changes for ourselves, simply by choosing to be positive and strong. We can then act in ways to be that person: a strong and positive person.

Rather than abusing substances, feeding other types of addictions, or sliding into an apathetic, morose, state of inaction, we can channel our grief into positive actions. This past year I chose certain areas of my life that I had planned to develop but hadn’t committed to. I then committed to several projects and worked steadily to make these things happen. 

One of the things I did was build up my immune system by creating something productive to do outside, like starting the garden I’d talked about but hadn’t yet done. A garden would improve my nutrition, push me to get more exercise, and I’d get my fifteen minutes of sunlight as well. What held me back was that we are currently renting a small house with only a patio area for a yard. I kept some flowers, but no food. I had no room for that.

But the limitations I placed on myself are nonsense! With enough determination I can overcome this challenge and plant an impressive garden on a small footprint. I knew this all along, but the truth is that I didn’t WANT that type of garden. I wanted one like I used to have before we had to sell our house. I didn’t want this “new normal”.

When I got over my spiritual and emotional stubbornness, I researched my options and committed to the investment of grow bags with handles. I can move them around and can even move them to our new house when that day comes. There is no excuse for not starting a garden, unless of course the real reason for not doing it is something else. Laziness? Apathy? An undisciplined lifestyle? Not really committed to change?

I’ve blogged quite a lot about my thriving garden that brings me great joy, with its greenery, food, and habitat for beautiful birds. So if you’ve been following me for a while, you know how this story ends: my garden is a positive lifestyle change that continues to evolve. One thing led to another and I’ve learned how to make my own spices, compound butter, tea, daily microgreen salads (it’s like an outdoor salad bar!), and other happy homesteading goodness that I never knew existed.

That’s just one area of positive change, and I could talk about it for many more paragraphs. But I’ll stop here. I only wanted to give one example of something we can do to change our lives and channel our grief into something positive, that may evolve into ever widening circles of change… good change. Life is changing, whether we want it to or not. When we direct how we want that change to go, we can manifest blessings from grief.

Blog posts relating to my garden, and spiritual journey:

Downsizing our Dreams

I’ve Joined the Butterflies

Bunting is Real

Hummingbird Swing 

You’ll love the videos I took of the painting bunting, and especially the adorable hummingbird on the tiny swing! Nature is so funny, wonderful, and healing.

 

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Update

Watch me paint “Painting Colors” in 1 minute (time lapse)

Update: I’m now down to only 5 left in the 2021 collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“! I’ve been busy with the garden but I’ll start the next painting tomorrow. Today I harvested and dehydrated basil. Yesterday I took care of the dill plant. Yesterday went fine, except for smelling dill for hours, and since I’m not a big fan of dill, that was rather unpleasant. But, the project went well and the family is happy to enjoy dill seasoning. However, today’s project went horribly!

Firstly, I was disappointed that, unlike the dill plant, my basil had not done very well. There wasn’t as much to harvest as I’d hoped. Then, after I’d washed the leaves for quite some time, I set them aside to air dry and I saw a bit of dark failed leaf material like the others I’d picked off… except this one moved when I tried to grab it. UGH, a worm! Shortly after that, when I was giving the basil another round of washing because of the worm… a spider suddenly appeared on the top of my hand! ACK! 

So, it wasn’t going well. Then, I finally got the basil under control, all washed and dried (dry from washing, instead of sopping wet), and ready for dehydrating. So I put all the leaves on the tray, unfortunately only one tray because the harvest was poor. I only had enough healthy leaves to fill a single tray. Then, I started the dehydrating process and the basil leaves were so light that the fan blew half of them onto the bottom of the oven, ruined!

In the end, I managed to collect only a small amount of dried basil. Well, darn it. That wasn’t a productive use of my time. I could have been painting! Tomorrow, when I feel sluggish and don’t feel like painting, I shall motivate myself by thinking of my afternoon with basil. Yep, painting sounds fine!

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I’ve Joined the Butterflies!

Watch this oil painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse)

I’ve come back inside after a crazy experience with nature! So, first the background story: my daughter found a bright happy tank top blouse at the thrift store and imagined me wearing it as I happily tend to my patio garden. It’s a turquoise/teal with a bright magenta/fuchsia floral print. And, indeed, I am wearing the blouse right now, and was tending to the garden…

I was bent down low to the ground because I was checking on the strawberry plant runners. Before tropical storm Elsa blew through the Savannah area, I removed my strawberry plant from its hanging hook (the winds would have knocked it to the ground), and placed it in the crook of a tree, near ground level. I decided to leave it in that sheltered place and realized it was easy to propagate new strawberry plants by adding small pots to the end of the runners (vines that create knobby sections that produce roots for new strawberry plant offspring if they connect with soil).

Anyway, so that’s what I was doing. I’m a small person (five feet one inch tall) with very dark hair. When I was squatting down near the tree, examining the strawberry runner pots on the ground, apparently all that could be seen of me is my bright floral shirt because suddenly and overwhelmingly I had become one with nature! I’d joined the butterflies or something….

Cardinals came out of the woodwork (literally, they flew out of the nearby woods), and gathered quite near to me. I held my breath, watching them through the branches of the tree that held my strawberry plant. It was quite fun to be so close to these beautiful wild birds! I turned my head to see that I was surrounded by nature, as suddenly a hummingbird was flying directly to me!

There was an awkward moment when the hummingbird realized his mistake. I was not a flower or a butterfly, or any part of his natural world. He hovered in the balance for a couple of breathless seconds. It felt as if time stood still. His wings fluttered in a soundless blur. Then, he zipped away as fast as his little body could go.

With my cover blown and bitten by mosquitoes, I went back inside. But what an exhilarating experience! For a brief time I’d joined the butterflies and was one of “them”, the tiny beautiful creatures of nature. In that world, nothing else matters but the moment. The family of cardinals flew together, taking turns at the bird feeder. Family and food, with a superpower to fly- what a life!

We too can prioritize good food and good company to share it with. It’s really our own choice to deprive ourselves of the daily celebration of life that the wild birds and butterflies have. True, we cannot fly, but we can surround ourselves with beauty, and make joyful basic needs our primary focus. It doesn’t take much money to enjoy a savory meal with people we love. During these troubled times, we need happiness more than ever.

God bless you, my dear friends. Join the butterflies for a few minutes today. The only moment that really matters is now.

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

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Autumn in 2021

Watch oil painting “Autumn Tree” come to life in under 2 minutes This short project began with an abstract background. Next, while it was still

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New Painting

Watch my new painting “Pumpkin Carving” come to life in just over 2 minutes (time lapse) Father and son enjoying an autumn custom of cleaning

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Worn

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Is your life fruitful?

Watch me paint this grape vine art in 2 minutes (time lapse)

What is the “fruit of our labor”? Are our lives a fruitful vine? Grapes can take several seasons to produce any harvest, but once they do, the fruit may be plentiful, beautiful and delicious! Not only this, but grape vines provide shelter for plants that need shade. They are great for covering areas that are unsightly, barren, or can otherwise benefit from a large leafy expanse of visually appealing vegetation.

This is a pleasant metaphor for our lives. It may take us a few seasons to start seeing the fruits of our labor, but once the rewards start rolling in, we may be in a position to inspire, help, and benefit others as well. What ARE the fruits of our labor? We are short sighted if we think only in terms of financial prosperity.

While financial prosperity is certainly a blessing, and can bless others as well, the word “prosperity” is not limited to money. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, prosperity is known as “the condition of being successful or thriving”. While the definition goes on to say “especially economic well-being”, prosperity is not exclusively financial. Good fortune and success can be defined many other ways.

The pursuit of happiness is critical to thriving. We can measure the fruits of our labor by the presence of happy outcomes in our life. Money is a tool for achieving happy outcomes, but it’s only one tool of many. How profoundly we connect with fellow human beings in our relationships, our communities, and even random encounters with strangers online is an indicator of our ability to thrive. Connection is “fruit” on our spiritual grape vine.

Other signs of thriving may be in the small details. When we have a clean, organized, and pretty space to live in, it’s a healthy sign that we’re thriving. It means we’ve managed to keep up with the daily tasks and chores of our lifestyle, while achieving a pleasant home environment. This can be true of a tiny mobile home, an apartment, or a rental. Small and modest doesn’t have to mean dirty, shabby, and miserable. 

The same goes for our physical appearance. We don’t need to pay for expensive hair cuts or designer clothes to feel confident and healthy. We just need to take good care of ourselves even when we’re stressed, tired, and anxious… ESPECIALLY when we’re stressed, tired, and anxious, as that’s when we need to take care of ourselves the most!

It’s no small thing to keep ourselves going in a healthy and positive way when the world feels difficult to handle. “Fruits of our labor” might mean that we’ve managed a shower, clean clothes, chores done, a decent meal, and a good night’s sleep… all so that we can tackle it all again the next day. One day at a time, every day, every season, until one day we notice that our harvest is beautiful.

A fruitful vine is evidence of a happy life. What that means to you is highly personal and individual. Perhaps we define a happy life as having family and friends, productive work that we (mostly) enjoy (not always, or it wouldn’t be work!), hobbies that make our time here on Earth feel fun, good health, faith that gives us hope and something good to believe in, the beauty of nature, good food and celebrations. Goodness, in other words.

I have spent time with people who are dying. They don’t talk about prosperity in terms of money. They talk about goodness. They talk about the good things from their life, their cherished memories from childhood and the people they love. Money seems unimportant at the end. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so important now?

So when I ask you- and myself- “is your life fruitful”, we need not wait until the grapes are in harvest years from now. Before the fruit appears, a grape vine is quite pretty. It layers green leafy patterns over anything it climbs. There’s something so peaceful about a grape vine, as it ascends to higher places and spreads its shade to other plants.

The fruits of our labor may be more about what we do BEFORE the fruit appears. How do we make our time here pleasant and peaceful for ourselves and others? How do we protect others? Are we growing and climbing? Fruit appears only after the vine has changed and grown.

The grape vine metaphor is on my mind because I’ve developed a special fondness for the grape vine I rescued from near death. It was clearanced out and then left to die. I took it on and nursed it to a large leafy green healthy state. But it’s yet to produce fruit. It will, one day. Until then, it is sheltering my other plants and attractive to look at. I wonder how big it will need to get before it finally bears fruit? I wonder the same about myself sometimes.

But rather than get discouraged, I feel inspired to get more grape vines and start again from the beginning. I’m imagining a (small) vineyard in my future. The vineyard produces beautiful grapes that we can make jelly, jams and wine from. There’s a house at this vineyard, where I one day live happily, busy in the kitchen with my family, working in my garden, painting my pictures, and talking to you, my dear friends.

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

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Growing or Thriving?

Do you remember when I first posted “Strawberry Flower” (when I painted it in April)? At the time, the strawberry wasn’t actually ripe yet. Indeed, it was barely a strawberry when I chose to paint my daughter’s strawberry plant that hangs outside. I painted into the future a bit, by imagining the strawberry as already ripe and ready to eat. Shortly afterward, my amazing prophesy came true! 😉

This morning I checked on my patio garden and I was alarmed to see that the cucumber vine had found my beloved new peach tree! ACK! I will need to end that monstrosity! I’ll unwind the coiling tendrils from it’s grip on the young peach tree trunk and attempt to “train” the vine to go where I want it to go. Diverting the vine from grabbing hold of random things nearby has been an ongoing battle with this crazy cucumber plant, which now looks like Jack’s beanstalk. Suppose I shall climb it someday to see what’s beyond the clouds?

On a happier note, I’ll soon have a bumper crop of cucumbers, most of which I plan to make homemade pickles with. They’ll make sandwiches taste delicious! I’ll also include other vegetables when I make pickles, so there’s plenty of flavor. The nutrition is better than buying pickles from a store, but not as good as eating cucumbers raw without any added sugar. The ones we eat straight from the garden will offer the best benefits.

And now for the vine metaphor that this blog post is leading to… thriving vs growing:

The cucumbers and strawberries are both are big success. My oldest daughter and I were wistful after seeing my youngest’s prized project, so we now each have strawberry plants too. Ours are also thriving. All three of our plants have grown vines that suspend below the pots. It’s possible to grow more strawberry plants from the vines if they grow roots. So, not only do we have delicious strawberries today, but we may have more plants for the future. And as I’ve already mentioned, my cucumber vines are sprawling endlessly. 

However, my wisteria vine is merely growing. The first year, we had plenty of beautiful, truly gorgeous, draping purple blossoms swaying from the expanse of its vine. The following two years, we had no flowers at all. The vine simply grew and grew, winding itself around and around and around, teasing us with leafy foliage, some of which would then die off and leave a mess behind. 

This season, the wisteria vine produced a single flower. That’s it, just the one. Then the vine continued to grow, spiraling around everything in its path. Before I caught it, it had wound itself around my dear red roses and snapped one of the established budding stems, severing it! It killed one of my roses! That got my Irish up, so I was quick to yank the wisteria vine and move it to the “naughty corner” of the garden where it is now sentenced to winding itself around an ugly post. It has beautified the post, and it has no roses to harm. From there, it’s fine that it may do nothing more than grow and grow, without ever producing the flowers that it is capable of.

With my metaphor firmly rooted, let’s ponder this philosophical question: Are we growing or thriving? When we simply muddle through life, adjusting to the changes in seasons by adapting and surviving, we may grow without thriving. We may even be a harmful influence on others, as our energy overpowers those who were flowering or producing fruit, suppressing them or even breaking their spirits. 

When a vine grows and grows without producing much, it may be more invasive than beneficial- like the wisteria. Even if a vine will one day produce a bountiful harvest, like the cucumbers, if the initial growth is a vine that latches on to everything else to pull itself up, it may harm the garden as the vine gets itself where it wants to go. The method to our success matters. A truly thriving spirit doesn’t need to pull others down to raise themselves up.

The strawberry plant has dropped vines that are not only producing fruit, but are floating below the plant, swaying in the warm breeze like it’s dancing. My daughter has placed a window planter box on a table below her plant (the plant I painted in the video at the top of this post), and the vines are gently hovering over it, nearly sweeping the soil now. Soon, they will land and we’ll see if she can grow more strawberry plants from these pretty vines.

A person who is thriving will dance through life without hurting anyone. When they succeed, they will drop their vines to inspire others to grow and thrive as well. There is a big difference between growing and thriving, and it also matters greatly how we get to where we want to go: if we keep climbing without ever reaching down to lift others up, or if we remember where we came from and look back to help those who are left behind.

Whether an underachieving and toxic wisteria, or a successful but overpowering cucumber, if we are a vine who goes on whatever path we want, with no regard for others, we aren’t thriving. We’re just growing, until one day we are no more. In the end, we’ll have nothing to show for our time here, but a withering coiled vine that eventually fades away.

But if we are a strawberry vine, we leave behind the ones we’ve inspired. We are never truly gone, as our energy carries on into the future. This is a life that is not merely growing, but thriving.

Maybe we’ll remember my wisteria-cucumber-strawberry metaphor when we feel too lazy, tired, or discouraged to work and invest in others the way that we know we should. I include myself in this. Whenever I come up with these metaphors for you, I put these seeds into my own mind as well. I feel instantly hypocritical if I don’t practice what I preach. So, I’ll strive to be a strawberry plant. And it just so happens that my favorite color is red!

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

Read More »

Autumn in 2021

Watch oil painting “Autumn Tree” come to life in under 2 minutes This short project began with an abstract background. Next, while it was still

Read More »

New Painting

Watch my new painting “Pumpkin Carving” come to life in just over 2 minutes (time lapse) Father and son enjoying an autumn custom of cleaning

Read More »

Worn

Watch this “Armor of God” oil painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse) There’s a lot going on in the world today, and

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New Painting

Watch me paint this “Autumn Leaves” oil painting in 2 minutes (time lapse) No matter what is happening in the world or in our personal

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Lion of Judah oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Quiet Lion

Watch me paint this lion oil painting in 2 minutes (time lapse) I changed the music for this video today. Whatever you’re experiencing, you probably

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Not Again!

Watch this oil painting about the dark side of the animal kingdom come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse) I don’t have a painting

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Happy Grief?

Watch this hedgehog oil painting come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse) You might remember when I painted this one and shared it

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Melancholy

Watch this lighthouse painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse) I share this one when I’m feeling melancholic, flitting back and forth between

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History

Watch this oil painting of the day (July 23, 2020) that the Statue of Liberty in New York City looked to have been struck by

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Things we See

Watch this jellyfish oil painting come to life in just over 1 minute (time lapse) You might remember when I shared this one in April?

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Embracing LIFE!

This is a tree on “Rock Hill”, a rural area in Ireland near Grenagh. Grenagh is a village close to Mallow in Co. Cork. In 2016 I lived there, off a boreen (a narrow road in which two cars can’t pass, and ours barely fit ONE, it was hairy). VERY remote. Even the native Irish couldn’t find us, they’d get lost. We had poor cell phone reception that only came in if we used a signal booster and stood directly under it. We had spotty, slow, and unreliable satellite service for Internet. Often a simple website would spin and time out. We had no rubbish (garbage) service and had to drive our trash bags to the dump site which was several miles away. 

We were completely isolated, with no visible neighbors. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I never felt alone. Of course I had my family with me, so I wasn’t alone, but many people feel unnerved when in a remote location far from any stores, hospitals, and civilization. That wasn’t how I felt. I was at peace.

Tree on Rock Hill” oil painting while still on my easel

in the house we were renting in Ireland

I’ve lived in very remote areas and very urban. I’ve lived in the inner city of Minneapolis. I’ve lived in villages (Geisfeld, Germany) and in small towns, suburban neighborhoods and apartment communities. I’ve lived in rentals, “fixers” and a hobby farm with a house we built ourselves (partly ordered up, partly with our own two hands). I’ve had times of want and times of plenty.

Some say that home is where the heart is, or where our families are, but I would politely say that this is not true for everyone. Sometimes we are placed where we do not wish to be. Sometimes we lose family members and are temporarily or somewhat permanently without close ties, without any deep sense of family or community. That has been true of my life.

Through it all, my spirit and mind stay housed in the same body. Home is where I am. Home is wherever I go. I feel most at home when I am at peace, close to God. There are times in my life when I have the company of precious loved ones to share this journey, and times when I have not had that blessing. There are times when I feel a strong connection to the place I’m living, and times when I’ve counted down the days to leave.

Embracing LIFE is to seek joy regardless of circumstance. Even an enslaved person has free will, should they choose. Mindfulness is a commodity that cannot be stolen without our consent. Even if deceived, on some level we are responsible for delegating the responsibility of our independent thoughts to others.

Today I am in high spirits. I am ripe with fresh ideas for my art, work, and lifestyle. I was up early and transplanted seedlings that I’ve babied into sturdy lush greens. My garden is really taking off and it’s such a delight to see. I’ve already enjoyed compound butter and infused olive oil and vinegar salad dressing. One of the tomatoes is red and will be ready to pick soon. My strawberries are formed but still green. One day soon my garden will be bursting at the seams with goodness… all from a small patio space.

I’ve blogged several times about the painful sale of our hobby farm when my husband lost his job. One by one, flock by flock, all of our animals were sold or given away to good farming homes, including our beloved sheep that we had raised from lambs and the guinea fowl that we’d hatched as eggs in an incubator and raised into fully grown birds. I could list all of the animals and the losses, but it’s the garden that’s the point of this. We had a very large garden that was plowed down a hill.

The garden was my husband’s deal. It was too much for me. The ground was uneven and the area was buggy. I’m allergic to many insects and the constant threat of it was unnerving. The terrain was steep and rough. He planted the rows in a compact way that made it hard to push through without brushing up against the plants. It was really and truly not my thing. I tended to my roses and other flowers in the landscaped areas near the house. 

My gardening role then was to can the tomatoes, bake the zucchini bread to freeze ahead, and cook/store all of the other garden foods as well. He grew the food and dumped it onto the kitchen counter. From there it was my job to see that the food went from the garden to our stomachs.

But now, many years later, I have a pretty garden of my own. I’m honestly quite hooked on the thrill of seeing my hard work grow into fruition. Every day there is something new to see and learn. I’m astonished at the world that has opened up for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew about food. I’ve discovered bloggers who are teaching me that there are many different ways to eat that I’d never thought of.

I’ll still do the things I’m familiar with, like canning tomatoes and making refrigerator pickles from cucumbers. My husband has his own gardening space too, so there will be zucchini bread-making again in my near future, just like the old days. We haven’t abandoned the things we used to enjoy. But I’m delighted to try new ideas. My tastes have changed over the years and I’m especially intrigued by the nutrition found in herbs. My husband actually thought parsley was “just for decoration” and was surprised when I showed him the many health benefits of adding parsley to our diets.

Embracing life is about feeding ourselves good food… not just literally, physically, but also good mental and spiritual food. I’ve been studying new things and expanding my ideas about philosophy. I’ve been learning more about science and botany. I’ve been learning more about chemistry and health. I’m pushing myself to see beyond what I’ve always known.

Last night I was in a foul mood. Everything was getting under my skin, especially the dark, somber, dystopia of “current year” (a trendy phrase I despise, but it suits). As I fell asleep, my mind was full of angry thoughts and pessimistic emotions. I woke up several times. My broken, disrupted sleep ended when I woke up with a splitting headache.

But I walked into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, and opened the patio curtains. A tiny hummingbird flitted away and my garden plants seemed to greet me. It was a splendid morning, if I chose to see it that way. It was up to me. Would I allow the world’s perception of my future to control my thinking (mind), my health (body), and my emotions (spirit)? Or would I see the truth plainly in front of me?

Today I have chosen to embrace life. Every day I must choose anew. It doesn’t matter where I am, where I live, or who is with me. It doesn’t matter if I am in lack or plenty. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or full health. The choice is always mine to make.

I will have a good day today because I choose it. I will experience joy, regardless of my circumstances. Whatever pain or grief I have, I shall set it aside into the private healing space of my mind and spirit. I will see beauty and let the sun shine into my heart. Will you join me in embracing life? The choice is yours. Every day we are blessed to be here, we have an opportunity to choose joy.

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New Painting

Are you enjoying autumn treats? My daughters love the specialty coffee and snacks that come out this time of year. They especially love their sister

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Downsizing our Dreams

Watch me paint these peaches in 1 minute (time lapse)

When the company that my husband worked for sold their work overseas and “downsized”, he had to train his foreign replacements before eventually losing his job. We sold the home we’d built, downsized, and moved. Our expectations for the future were downsized as well. Or were they?

Since we no longer had jobs or a house, we were free to travel and move wherever we wanted to go. That journey is a long story that would take many blog posts to write. We are forever changed; we are stronger and better. But I’ll skip ahead, to when we returned to the United States with no savings left, nothing but a plan for how we’d start over.

The days of owning our house and having large garden are now long gone. Our plans for a new life are underway, but we’re still a couple of years from finishing our 5 year plan. My husband went back to school. He’ll be an intern in the fall and graduates next spring. It will be two or three years until we are in a position to move from our current station in life. 

So, it’ll be a few more seasons of working from my “studio” in the kitchen/laundry room/living room space (a section of wall by the patio doors) with only patio space available for gardening. Because of this, it’s wise not to plant anything too big. So, when I asked my husband to look for a peach tree, I was very clear that I meant the dwarf variety that is suitable for patios and small spaces. 

He came home with this.

It blots out the sun in this picture I took this morning! 😲

I took one look at it and said, “It’s bigger than I thought it would be. It’s a dwarf variety?” The expression on my husband’s face told me all I needed to know. 😂

Well, it’s mine now! I dreamed of having a real peach tree ever since we knew we’d move to Georgia. I’d downsized that dream to a dwarf patio tree because I thought that was my only option. But… I’m pleased that my husband didn’t remember my lengthy conversation about dwarf peach trees and bought a REAL full sized glorious tree!

And look! There’s already a peach on it! Now, this one may not develop and may fall off before maturing, as this peach tree is young, but it’s still such a beautiful symbol of hope for the future! I took more pictures… I love how the early morning sun made these look powerful.

In the picture below, the branches on the left are from an established mature tree on the property. So you can see that this peach tree is quite tall. My husband says he can trim it down if necessary when we move. It will be a challenge, but he’s determined to transport this tree to our unknown, yet-to-be-realized future home. We are quite crazy, he and I (the good kind of crazy that makes life worth living).

The peach tree soars above our container garden trellises. Speaking of which… the trellis on the left is for my cucumber plants. I plan to make homemade pickles, like I used to do ten years ago when we still had our house. The trellis on the right is for the grapevine I rescued from the dead. It was a nearly discarded, nearly dead vine when I got it. I nursed it back to health and now it’s thriving. Its leaves cover the entire trellis and will soon go over the top! There were some early grapes, but they were tiny and sour. Someday it will produce sweet juicy fruit!

You can see my garden more in this shot. There are bell peppers, a blueberry plant, and herbs in the bottom part that I need to transplant soon. The big leafy “tree” on the right is the grapevine I was telling you about. The view of the lagoon and the woods is quite pretty and I appreciate it very much. It’s the common view that all of our houses on this row share. One last picture, below.

Here you can see my work for today, besides painting of course… and housekeeping that’s gone amiss. The vertical garden on the left is new. The five planters are all empty (the leaves you see are from the tree behind it). As I mentioned earlier, I need to transplant the herbs that have overgrown their pots (the ones in the bottom of the gardening cart). I also have new seeds for salad greens that I’ll be planting. 

To the right, those pots where things look dead and scraggly are my roses. They usually do very well but are in a temporary barren state because they were treated for a fungus. Their leaves die off when this happens and then grow back better. They are prized roses normally, and I’ve painted them in several of my art projects.

I thought I’d have to wait two or three more years to have a food garden, but my daughter showed me otherwise. She was pining to garden and we bought her a container garden of her own. It’s on the secondary patio square that used to have an outdoor dining set on it (I cleared that so she can garden, the chairs had fallen apart anyway). 

Sometimes we do things for others that we really want to do for ourselves, but have not given ourselves permission to do so. Of course I was aware all along that I could start a container garden and did not really need a home of my own or a yard. Obviously if I can grow roses I can grow food. But doing so felt like I was committing to this temporary life. I stubbornly refused to plant anything too permanent, anything that would involve an investment. 

For weeks I watched my daughter blissfully tend to her plants. My resistance was starting to crack. I even painted her strawberry plant for the new art collection. Remember this one?

She won’t get much of a harvest since she’s dabbling with only one plant or a few plants of each type of fruit or vegetable she wants to try. So, the only way the rest of the family will get any fresh garden foods is if I plant my own garden, and we are passionate about our perpetual evolution to a healthier lifestyle. So, really, I’d be doing what’s right for my family…

Once that seed was planted in my head, it was only a matter of time before literal seeds were planted in soil. Of course the garden expanded beyond my original plans to just get a couple of peppers, and maybe a few herbs… how about cucumbers for pickles… don’t we need salad greens? We need oregano, surely. How about a PEACH TREE! 

Just when we resign ourselves to downsizing our dreams, life has a way of presenting us with opportunities. Do we take on a peach tree that requires we really do get a house of our own again, with a yard to plant this before it grows too tall? Do we expect our dreams to come true, or not? Sometimes it seems we are asked to commit to our plans. Maybe it’s a test. If so, I passed! 

Is there anything in your life that would give you enjoyment if only you gave yourself permission to do it? I tell you, I made “compound butter” (butter that is whipped until creamy, then fresh garden herbs are added such as rosemary, parsley and chives, then the butter is whipped again and molded into a log to wrap with waxed paper and chill), and it was DIVINE! I put it on fresh bread but I’ve read that people use it as cooking oil and put it on meat as well. I watch my calories so I’ve not buttered everything yet, but when I can fit it into my diet I’m going to add it here and there. It’s DELICIOUS!!!!

I was so proud of myself for making compound butter, even though I didn’t actually make the butter itself. My husband had made butter for us a few times back in the days when he had a part time job milking cows at a dairy farm. He’s led an interesting life, that man. And because of it, he’s learned how to do a wide variety of things. But, we aren’t making our own butter for this project. What makes it so fabulous are the fresh herbs combined with the creamy addictive nature of butter. It’s amazing how trying something new elevated my spirit!

I have long term goals to reach, and the day-to-day of it can feel confining sometimes, especially since I work in such a tight space. I can reach out and touch my art easel from my computer desk. If I spin around in my chair, I can reach out and touch the kitchen table. Beyond the table is the kitchen itself. The din of an active family clanking and splashing around in there at all hours is only a few feet from my head. Then, there’s the laundry machines, which my son has currently packed full of all of his clothes without sorting by color (no, I’m not going to bother having that conversation). The machines are in a “closet” in the kitchen. None of this is artist zen, not even close!

We are starting our fourth year of this living arrangement, and I could have the attitude that I must steel myself up for a couple more claustrophobic noisy years of working as hard as I can to reach our goals, or… I can view this chapter in our lives as a beautiful time in which our kids are rather trapped into living under our roof and we’re all muddling through with people we love. There will be a day when I’ll miss this togetherness, these days of managing moods flying at me from all corners on the intense days, and laughter filling the space on the good days. Sometimes the tears and laughter change from minute to minute.

Whenever your dreams feel downsized, perhaps you’ll remember my story of the peach tree, and use it as a metaphor for whatever it is that you have put off doing. You can “plant your tree” now. Don’t worry if it seems you’re running out of time. You can trim it back. One day, you and that tree will be where you want to be, and you’ll have beautiful fruit when the season is right. Until then, enjoy the journey, because no matter how difficult these days may be, they will end. 

Time is precious. Downsizing our dreams doesn’t mean that we stop living. It only means that we plant our future gardens in a temporary space.

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Quiet Joy

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… Put the kettle on, then lose yourself for a few minutes in this blog. Don’t miss your invitation to quiet joy.

Watch this garden come alive in 2 minutes (painting time lapse)

"That’s me, on the swing. My real life swing is actually a rather cheap, much smaller, version of this, but I enjoy my time on the patio. The morning glory vines along the top were real, but we later yanked them out because birds were perching on it and pooping on the swing! The birds don’t usually come around all at once, but all of these do visit our patio in the places I’ve painted them. The bluebirds visit seldomly, while the cardinals and hummingbirds are here every day and I’ve begun to think of them as my friends!"

- from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Updates to the above story…

 

My potted red roses are already growing again this season. The roses that I painted in this picture have turned out to be a surprise. Apparently this plant is a climbing rose variety, very hardy and blooms abundant flowers all season!

 

A couple of weeks ago I “trained” the climbing rose vines to grow through the arc and neighboring lattice (where the bluebird is perched). Now the vines have fresh spring leaves on them and the rose buds will quickly follow. The roses will be very tall and sprawling this year, some will rise above the arc and lattice! That will be such a beautiful sight. I didn’t expect any new surprises, yet here we are. Of course I’m taking this as a positive metaphor for how life is going (“growing”).

 

I invite you to let this metaphor about my roses settle into your spirit. Could it be that something you’ve started years ago could become more than you expected? Is there something you could “plant” now that will surprise you in the near future?

 

I meant this as a spiritual boost, but I also meant this literally… why not plant something new? May I suggest a butterfly tree? I’ll share with you the kind that I have:

Notice the potted “butterfly tree” on the right?  It has the hummingbird feeder on a shepherd’s hook in the same pot. Why? Because this bush really does attract hummingbirds and butterflies, as the advertising tag claimed it would. When I saw a hummingbird snacking on these flowers, I knew we’d be able to keep these delightful little birds as our patio friends if we put a feeder in that same pot.

 

And it worked! From the first return of the hummingbirds until fall settles in, they visit us every day. This little tree can remain in a pot, and it’s apparently easy to create new plants from it (I’ve not done this yet but I plan to).

Watch me paint these butterfly tree flowers in under a minute (time lapse). Visit the butterfly flowers art page to learn more about this type of tree.

This is how my work station looked when these bird paintings were in progress: bluebird, hummingbird, cardinals, goldfinches. We also get the ruby throated type of hummingbird, the glorious painted bunting, blue herons, and even the occasional eagle!

 

The herons and eagles drop by because of the lagoon in line of sight from our little yard. We don’t feed them, they go fishing for themselves. It’s always exciting when we see them catch a big fish!

 

Feed the birds, you’ll not regret it. Many of you probably already do this, and need no encouragement. It’s one of life’s quiet joys that we can have even if our circumstances are humble, stressed, or infirm. All we need is a window, and someone to help stock the feeder if incapable of that task.

 

We see other types of wild birds, but I won’t give any spoilers because I haven’t yet painted those.