Embrace the Storm

Watch me paint “Eye of the Storm” in under 2 minutes

(time lapse)

This painting was inspired by live radar of Hurricane Irma. How fascinating to watch the storm as it moved over the ocean! Up North, I’d been through bitter life threatening cold of -25 actual temperature, not including wind chill, blizzards, tornadoes, and floods, but none of those were a shared experience world wide. When a hurricane comes, humanity watches in breathless anticipation, in awe of nature. It is a bonding experience, and seems everyone who’s been through a hurricane, even if only to evacuate from it, has their hurricane story that they love to tell. I was worried that hurricanes would be a deal breaker for me down South, but everywhere I’ve ever lived, there has always been some type of dangerous weather. In fact, there were more episodes of dangerous weather in other places I’ve lived. At least with a hurricane, there is plenty of advance notice (usually- sometimes the forecasts are wrong about exact landfall or which levies may breech, tornadoes that spawn, etc.). My point is, I no longer fear hurricanes. We can’t escape risks in life. I love living in coastal Georgia, and hurricanes are a risk I’m learning to live with. I’ve only evacuated from the threat of two of them, but each time, I felt a renewed gratitude for my community, my home, my family, and my God. Maybe that’s what storms are all about?”
- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

“Brace for the storm!” is a fear based approach to life. “Embrace the Storm” is a mindset that takes us out of a powerless victim role. We can’t prevent or control all of the storms that come our way, but what we can do is see opportunities and make the most of every situation. A crisis is an opportunity to connect with other people through shared experiences and powerful emotions. A scary event can also heighten our spirituality and sharpen our senses. Suddenly what’s important to us seems clearer than it did when life was “safe”.

Life is never truly safe. We weren’t meant to be idle with too much time on our hands to fret. Some moments we forget to worry about the dangers of living because our minds are occupied.  When we push ourselves to be active and engaged in pursuits that we’re passionate about, we have little room left in our day for fear.

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Random or by Design?

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Is YOUR life random or by design? Ponder this as you digest today’s blog post. You may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

Watch me paint Porch Flowers in under 1 minute (time lapse)

“When we moved here, I didn’t know that the shrubs near the front porch were the flowering kind, until one day they burst out in beautiful pink and white blossoms. The flowers graced the ground when they fell, leaving a carpet of petals. The floral shower right outside our door was such a nice surprise! Sometimes in life we fear the unexpected- the call we don’t ever want to receive, the news we can’t bear- but there are times when the unexpected is a blessing. From the big surprises we didn’t see coming, to the small ones, an ordinary day can change in an instant over a cascade of flowers.”

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

Update to the above story…

A few years have passed since I wrote that description. True, it was such a surprise that first year we moved here and the shrub burst forth in gorgeous large blossoms, flowers that “graced the ground” when they fell. This makes me chuckle now, because “graced the ground” has morphed into “made a mess”, making the property looked unkempt and neglected.

 

The shrub was planted too close to the house, something we’d not have done if we were planning the landscaping. Now it is a nuisance problem that we have to take care of. It is crowding into the porch and blocking the sidewalk. The once-pretty flowers are now more like an infestation of blooms that blot out the shrub itself and shed petals that, after a rain, become slippery wet piles of debris.

“Porch Flowers” is a good metaphor for living a life by intention (by design), or letting random events and circumstances dictate our lives. As in all things, balance is the answer. Letting fate steer us can be exactly what we need; to learn about new paths. Sometimes fate is cruel, but often it is pleasantly surprising, like the welcoming porch flowers when we were new to the area and felt so lonely. I’m still grateful for that surprise.

But life, and evolving into a higher spiritual place, is about changing. Whether we want to or not, the world grows around us. Sometimes random events of the past create problems for the future if we are unwilling to take control and shift gears from a reactive, defensive and passive existence to one of deliberation, intention, and active design. The predestination of our lives doesn’t exclude our participation in the planning.

When you think about your life today, how much of your daily routine is a result of random events, and how much of it is by design? What might improve for you if you plan an area of your life that has overgrown its place? What was once pleasing and wonderful may now be a disheveled mess.

Today, my husband and I will be trimming the overgrown shrubs and trees that surround this house. We are renters, due to circumstances that uprooted us from the home we’d built and loved. But our journey back toward living in our own home is not as long as it once was, and we’re already planning our future flowers, shrubs, and trees in our hearts.

Acceptance of fate, random events, and forced circumstances is a necessary skill for a happy and positive life. But, few journeys stay on the same road indefinitely. At some point the terrain changes and the path narrows. There are forks in the road and choices to make.

 

What then? Do we let fate decide? Do we flip a coin, or let superstition rule? Do we say “this must be a sign” at the slightest random shift in the wind? Or do we live by design and intention, making a conscious decision about which path we will take next?

Balance. Let go and let the winds of fate guide your sails, but don’t let yourself be steered into the rocks. Recognize when it’s time to take control. Life by design can be just as freeing. Imagine taking the wheel of a motor boat and zipping across the unknown waters much faster than you ever thought possible. When you like where you are, you cut the engine and let your boat drift a while.

Reflection is meant to be gently led. Metaphors are useful for applying to your own situation; leading not forcing.

 

  1. Imagine the porch flowers in your life, and name them (small picture).
  2. Next, imagine a fork in the road (middle view). What decisions do you see in your immediate future? Even small decisions can make a difference.
  3. Finally, imagine yourself at sea (big picture). What type of boat are you in? Are you being steered, at the wheel, or drifting?

 

Think about living by design… you may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

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Sand Dollar

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… you’re invited to reflect upon what this means to you.

Watch me paint “Living Sand Dollar” in a minute (time lapse)

“I saw this living sand dollar in the touch pool at the Marine Science Center, but I’ve also seen many sand dollars at the beach. The living ones are dark and pop through the sand during low tide. We are not meant to take those, as removing them from the ocean will kill these special creatures. One time I saw a woman with a full bucket of living sand dollars and I felt grief stricken. But, when a sand dollar is light and dry (bone white and brittle, or turning that way), it is no longer living, and may be collected as a wonderful beach treasure souvenir.
The sand dollar is a fascinating simple sea creature with markings that have deeply religious and spiritual meaning for many Christians, and are especially meaningful at Easter. There are markings on the front and back, and “doves” inside (discovered only when a sand dollar is broken open).For many, the sand dollar represents the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1. Five slits in a configuration may represent Christ’s wounds while on the cross
2. Markings look like an Easter lily with a star in the middle, symbolizing the birth of Christ
3. On the opposite side is an outline of a poinsettia, or Easter lily
4. Tiny doves of peace and hope are inside (white bird shapes that were once the sand dollar’s teeth)
Besides all of this, sand dollars are special to me because my dad brought one home to me when I was a child. He had been to Savannah for a military training exercise and had found the sand dollar on the beach. He told me that I needed to go one day, that I would love it. Dad died from cancer at age thirty-seven, after having beat it once before when in his twenties. He had served two tours in the Vietnam War. I had recently turned sixteen years old when he died. Many years later, I not only got to visit Savannah, but I now live here, and hope to make it my forever home.
When I found my first sand dollar on the beach, I held it up to the sky and said, 'This is for you, Dad.'"

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

Update to the above story…

 

The art in the second video “Angel Releasing Dove” probably looks to you as if I was painting my sand dollar story as it relates to me holding a sand dollar to the heavens for Dad… but my conscious mind wasn’t aware of this connection until now, when putting this blog together. It was simply another painting project.

 

At the time, I’d found a bit of a broken shell that looked like an angel’s wing, and the idea to incorporate the actual shell into a painting of an angel was born. The “dove” idea came later when I realized that it was the right size to add to the painting. But really, it was just about using cherished treasures from a beautiful day at the beach with my family, especially my daughter who was walking with me when I found the broken shell and agreed with me that it looks like an angel’s wing.

 

So, it was new memories, not old, that inspired the angel and dove painting. And yet, obviously, it looks very much connected when I see the previous sand dollar story next to the angel and dove video. In this way, I once again see how our past, present and future are always connected- even when we can’t see it.

 

Sometimes that connection is seen easily by outside eyes, while we are oblivious to it. But does our unawareness made the connection disappear? I think not. Someday, we may see it. When that happens, it doesn’t make the reality suddenly reappear, it simply means that we are aware of it. Our awareness, recognition, admission, or approval of reality is unnecessary for truth to exist.

 

Nor do we need to understand serendipity or natural wonders, for those miracles to exist. And that brings me to a timely point to ponder:

 

If the religious meaning that some assign to a sand dollar is offensive, could a sand dollar be “banned”? The sand dollar is a living creature. Only when it is dead does it become a “thing” to possess and reassign to our own significance. The reality of the sand dollar’s life or death is not altered by the opinions, beliefs, passion, appreciation, or malice of humankind.

 

I invite you to ponder what happens when the free will of people to determine for themselves those thoughts that are kind or unkind to share, the words that should be said or left unsaid, and when the power of language that may hurt another may be considered a weapon; is controlled, stifled, and enforced by entities who perceive themselves as a moral authority over thoughts, ideas, words, and the association, distribution, possession and communication of these concepts. What happens? Is the truth altered? What is changed? Is the world a better place?

 

Is the sand dollar living or dead? If people no longer believe in religion, as is the wish of a very large movement (which is, of course, in itself a religion, though they are blind to it), for the “good” of the planet, will the sand dollar’s markings fade? Will they be erased? No, of course not. We cannot remove all traces of symbolism or reminders of what humankind believes, thinks, or feels that is “wrong”.

 

The sand dollar is a primitive living creature who is in many ways more free than we are. It is allowed to simply “be”… except when opportunistic beach goers collect these fragile beings while still alive, thereby killing them. The reasons for controlling other living beings may be scorn, condemnation and the prevention of influence and ideas that entities do not like… but sometimes control is about possessing another being, even if that possession denies them the freedom they need to thrive… or survive.

 

When I posted my Easter show yesterday, I named the video file “spring show”, because I wanted to avoid censors that blacklist the term “Easter”. Whatever your feelings about religion, politics, and other causes, I invite you to ponder what affect it has on us when entities control our freedom of thought, and our ability to share our thoughts with others.

 

Just as a sand dollar can never be “banned”, we are alive-imperfections and all- and are meant to be free.

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Painting Duality

Painting duality expresses the difference between two opposing elements. These elements may contradict each other as complete opposites, or may seem contradictory even though the elements are not equal and exact opposites . “World War II Veteran and Baby” depicts clear duality between old and young, past and future.

Butterfly Tree Flowers” is not a case of opposes, but is contradictory, more of a dichotomy than a dichotomy. A plant and an animal (in this case an insect, a butterfly) are two different things, but they aren’t complete opposites exactly. They are both living things. But, they appear contradictory in nature. The duality exists in the way that trees are rooted while butterflies fly free.

(Note: this painting was inspired by the potted butterfly tree bush we have on our backyard patio, beautiful plant, highly recommend… and DO attract butterflies and hummingbirds as well!)

Duality is the deepest when the difference is between life and death. One baby lives, the other dies. There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing a child; there is nothing more joyous than the birth of a child. “Marie’s Babies” was painted for a dear friend. She believed that she could not have children, but was surprised by twins. Her sons were born very premature. Sadly, one baby passed away after a month here on this earth. The surviving son is a happy little boy who gives his parents great joy. But always in their hearts, they will ache for the child who should be playing alongside his twin.