“Generational Tree” is the first oil painting for the 2022 collection “Seasons” (of life and nature). Paintings in this collection celebrate seasons of life (metaphorical, representational, or inspired-by-real-life scenes about milestones, rites of passage, and shared human experiences of love, aging, family, and beyond) as well as seasons of nature (literal scenes depicting autumn, summer, fall, and winter). “Generational Tree” represents the passage of time; how the elders in a family reside at the top of a mature tree and are the branches which through the ages become fragile and one day fall away- yet the branches below are healthy and strong, tender new twigs will continue to grow, and the roots created long ago will give life to this family for many years to come.
Watch my poor beautiful butterfly tree come to life in under 1 minute (time lapse), flowers only… and then in the painting below you can see the full butterfly tree. My heart broke when this tree died this year so I special ordered a new seedling.
So, one tree dies and another is born. I hope my new seedling grows healthy and is soon tall with many flowers. It’s doing well so far and is currently looking healthy. I have a rather somber, but also uplifting story about a human life that dies and another is born. I will save that story for tomorrow.
Was the sun rising or setting? Was she enjoying the early morning serenity, or was she so absorbed in her book that the sun set on her? Time has no meaning without context. Without it, we choose what it means.
Today, time slipped away and I didn’t paint as I’d pledged to do yesterday. Instead, my daughters had me on a bit of an adventure. At one point I was helping to remove a pine tree that was growing inside a flowering shrub. I transplanted that tree and I plant to decorate it for Christmas. When I do, I’ll think about how my oldest discovered the tree and how excited she was to show it to me. I’ll also remember when my youngest pulled on the root, fell backward onto her bum, while showering me with a cloud of dirt. I’ll recall how she laughed while telling the rest of the family this story.
Maybe I’ll paint the tree. I paint what inspires me. Sometimes it’s not very inspirational, just a project assignment, but I find a way to connect to it. Other times my art is deeply personal, profoundly sad (and I cry while painting it), or a humanitarian statement. But usually, my art is something in-between. It’s the real life moments between the sun rising and setting, when we choose what time means.
Remember what it felt like when we were kids? Swinging carefree like this… do you still like to feel like you’re flying? Whenever you need to tap into positive energy, imagine yourself like this girl, playful and free. You are surrounded by clear beautiful skies, the green shelter of nature, and reflective waters.
This is your spiritual place that you can visit in your mind whenever you need to remind yourself of what it feels like to be free. Fight for your past, present, and future self, that you may always have the wind in your hair and the sun upon your face.
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.
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.
A sheltering tree is a place we can go when we need rest. When we are weary, a literal tree is a good source for peace; visiting a real place in nature is restorative. But, what I’m talking about here is a metaphorical sheltering tree, a spiritual place we can visit even when we are in the middle of a busy day indoors.
Good sleep, nutrition, exercise, sunlight, healthy relationships, reading, optimism, and faith are just some of the many helpful ways to maintain a balance in energy levels to avoid becoming weary. Yet, we can’t always prevent spiritual exhaustion and physical fatigue. At these times, we must rely on our mind to provide shelter to our body and spirit.
Do you let your thoughts tumble into your brain at random, based solely on the circumstance of the moment? On an average day, this may be a habit that doesn’t affect you much. But when you are weary, your thoughts may quickly induce frustration, disappointment, melancholy, and even lead to depression and despondency. When we are in a weakened physical and spiritual state, our minds can conjure up negative thoughts that spiral downward.
Take control over your mind by rejecting random thoughts. Think with intention. Direct the flow of thoughts that fill your mind by choosing what to focus on. Imagine your mind as a television screen. Don’t tune in to whatever happens to be on, and don’t flip through the channels. Choose your show and go directly to it, allowing nothing else to display in your mind. Focus on “sheltering” thoughts, patterns of thinking that restore your spirit and strengthen your health.
"And this too shall pass" (this day will end)
"This won't matter 5 years from now" (it won't feel bad forever)
"When I get better sleep tonight, I'll feel better"
"I can do all things through God who strengthens me"
"People love me and would be sad to see that I'm so weary"
"*I* love me and I will fight against weariness"
"God loves me and wants to give me rest"
"Time heals all wounds" (let the process happen naturally)
"Some of what makes me weary is not real"
The last one is significant. “Some of what makes me weary is NOT REAL.” When we instruct our mind to analyze the situation, we may realize that our weariness comes from being overwhelmed by issues that are exploited, manipulated, manufactured, propagandized, or steered to produce exactly this result: weariness. When we are weary, we may give up and submit to the thoughts and actions that others want us to have.
Attempting to control others by wearing them down is an abusive relationship, whether our abuser is a person we know, or a vast coordinated agenda by people who’ve never met us (world government/media/edu/establishment/etc. entities). Whether our oppressors know us personally or not, people who control others don’t care about us as individuals. They care about our compliance. This is an unhealthy relationship that we must instruct our mind to reject.
Fight against weariness that comes from outside sources who wish to control you. However, if you have analyzed your situation and you’ve determined that source of your weariness is not imposed upon you by an “enemy”, but is instead an issue of authentic circumstance, your response may be different. Choosing to fight against weariness in this case may do more harm than good.
If you’re weary because you are grieving a loss, it’s healthy to let yourself feel the fatigue, the heaviness, and the sad weight upon your body and spirit. Grief can be from the death of someone we love, or may be a similar type of loss that we may not be completely cognizant of. When life changes, either yours or theirs, you may miss someone more deeply than you expected due to estrangement, a life change such as being busy with a new job or a new baby, moving far away, distanced by poor health, or when adult children leave the nest. Change can hit us hard, and that process is completely natural.
Be mindful of any other types of changes. Some change may not directly involve relationships with people, but may instead be about how you spend your days. Have you changed the type of work you do? We don’t necessarily have to change jobs or careers to feel the impact of a change in how we work or how we spend our time. If our schedule has changed, we may initially experience an artificial boost of energy as we adjust to the new ways. When we settle in, we may “crash”, and then feel weary. This is normal.
Some types of weariness are completely natural and are a normal process of adjusting to life’s changes. It does not mean that we are doing the wrong thing, that something bad has happened to us, or that we have regrets. It could mean that, so it’s important to ponder our situation. But our weariness could easily be part of the process toward a healthy adjustment to change, and all we need is time.
Giving ourselves time means that we are patient and don’t rush the process when our feelings become uncomfortable. It’s common advice to warn each other not to respond in a knee-jerk way when we are upset. Wait, sleep on it. See how we feel in the morning. This is wise advice for avoiding acting on rash decisions that we later regret. But it’s also sound advice for our thoughts, not just our actions.
Recognize when your thoughts don’t flow in a logical, rational, calm manner that is loving and kind to yourself. Notice when your thoughts are jumping and overlapping in a knee-jerk way that you may later regret. Loose, unproductive, illogical thoughts can lead to a downward spiral of unhealthy attitudes that prolong a “bad day” into something more permanent.
When you sense that your mind is running amuck in an unproductive, unhealthy, destructive manner, reign yourself in with the image of my tree painting from the video at the top of this blog post. Let your mind rest in the peaceful shade of the Sheltering Tree. When we are mindful, we restore our bodies and spirits. Healing begins with our thoughts.
While the world condemns us, we must love ourselves and each other. We cannot love our neighbors “as ourselves” if we do not love ourselves. It is our responsibility then to love ourselves and pull ourselves back up out of the pit when we are weary. Humanity needs each and every one of us to be strong. If you are weary, go to the sheltering tree and stay awhile. Give yourself time. But not too much time… we need you.
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.
Watch me paint “Autumn Tree” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)
Do you spiritually go “wherever the wind blows”? How much of your life do you plan, and how much do you leave to fate, circumstance, random connections, or stagnation by default? Do you want to move, but you stay? Do you want to stay, but you move? When the world is windy, are you rooted down or are you swept away?
When we are rooted like this tree, we may be shaken, twisted and knotted up, and nearly bent to the ground, but we will not fall. When the winds cease we will stand once again, and new leaves will grow. The more challenges we face, the stronger we become.
When we no longer fear storms, we are less concerned about which way the wind is blowing. We know that we’ll survive it, regardless of which direction from which it comes. I’ll depart from my metaphor and be more specific: we hear lies and rumors of lies at a pace that is extraordinary but not unprecedented in world history. If we believe that we cannot withstand the storm, we may submit, comply and surrender, even if our hearts are begging us not to. However, if we know that we are deeply rooted in our beliefs, values, and spirit, the winds can hit us from all directions and we will not only survive, but will eventually thrive.
Be as a tree. Stand rooted in who you are. Do not allow the noise, which has revved up to a mighty din, influence you. The babble competes for your spiritual attention and attempts to control your days. You are not part of the collective, whose only value is to enrich the powerful few. You are an individual whose thoughts, emotions, and actions are important to the eyes of God, and when joined together are collectively powerful for the many.
Keep your own counsel. Seek your own knowledge. Follow your own intuition. Always question what those with motive to lie are saying, but never doubt the discernment and wisdom that is a gift from God. As a dog will growl when he senses a bad person is nearby, so will your spirit growl when you sense something is wrong. Don’t ignore that feeling. Heed it.
As trees need water, soil and sunlight to remain healthy and strong, so do we. We need sustenance both in literal nourishment and spiritual. This is a good time to pursue things that necessitate that we believe in a future. For example, plant something. In doing so, you commit to the idea that you expect to see it grow. Plant both literally (flowers, herbs, vegetables, etc.), and figuratively (begin projects that require a commitment to future events, or have long-term goals). When we choose the future, we generate hope. The two cannot be separated.
The winds of this world howl, but may we stand as strong as a deeply rooted tree. Don’t fear the storm. Believe that we will survive it, and even one day thrive. Let your mind, body, and actions make you stronger. Commit to the future, and plant hope.