Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trees and Skies and Bikes

Sue and me at Silverman Gallery
in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
Biking feeds the eyes. A tour of galleries by bike, a trail ride, lots of road -- the head clears, the mind wanders. Some paintings have grown from bike rides. Following are photos I've taken for painting references.

On the way home from
Spring Green,
near North Freedom.
Amish country between
Ontario and LaFarge,

Wow, can't recall where
this was, somewhere
near Poynette?

From the top of Owen
Park Road in
Caledonia Township.

The wetlands off Cascade
Mountain Road
near Portage.

John Muir Park north
of Portage.
Great swim.

A dawn swim at Silver
Lake in Portage,

Off Highway U between
Portage and

The drive down the hill
when leaving home
for a morning bike date.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the Woods

Just when you thought you knew someone, bang, zing, you find out they have an entire secret life.

An original design by Rayo; this
piece is called "In the Woods."
Rayo and I have biked, swam, and run miles together over the years. I had occasionally heard little references to a beaded necklace or working out a design. Then, one day she shows me a work in progress. Wow. This is not your everyday beads on a string. This is haute cotoure, fine-art embroidered beadwork.

So when Rayo invited me to exhibit my calligraphy/watercolor things with her sophisticated creations at our local gallery, I was nervous but energized. I got busy.

Below are some of the thirty or more original calligraphy artworks you'll see at our exhibit called In the Woods -- a title we chose to reflect the feeling we had in stretching our range as we prepared for the exhibit. 

Go to to see some of the fabulous beadwork pieces that Rayo will present at this exhibit as well.

The exhibit opens Friday, September 2 with a reception from 4 to 6, at Drury Gallery at the Portage Center for the Arts. Open hours are  September 2 through October 1, 2011 Wed-Fri 1-6, Sat 10-3.  Admission is always free.

301 East Cook Street, Portage, WI 53901
Two tiny originals, about 5 x 5 inches framed; $48 each.
The maple leaf design says "The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness." J. Muir
The oak leaf design says, "In the woods we return to reason and faith." Emerson

This original artwork will be on display, as well as bookmarks for 75 cents of the same design.

This text by Winston Churchill will be exhibited; $300. You'll notice I sometimes can't resist including real objects.
Reproductions of this design are $16.

This original, framed in gold, 12 x 12 inches, is available for $120, and a few reproductions for $16, will be at the show.
Thoreau has offered many great insights. This original (NFS) and reproductions ($16) of this design will be at the exhibit.

This original is about 9 x 18 inches, framed in gold for $200. Smaller prints for $16 will also be on hand.

This small original (about 8x8 inches) will be available framed in oak for $50.

Another small original (8x8 inches) is priced at $55.
This 10x10 original has depth and is presented in a shallow shadowbox; the original is $200.
No reproductions are available of this design.

The yellow bicycle is inspired by my new Trek road bike. The text was pointed out by my husband. The text reads:
"But at this moment I came upon myself.
Previously I had existed but everything had merely happened to me.
Now I happened to myself."
Reproductions will be available for $16.

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." Rachel Carson
The 8x8 original is $55; reproductions are $16.

Some artworks are for fun; I started this piece almost three years ago and set it aside. Koi are a significant symbol of transformation and one of Rayo's favs so I was motivated to finally complete this illustration. Reproductions of this 6 x 8 watercolor are $16.

I love the Robert Frost poem "Swinger of Birches," it always reminds me of my brother who has actually swung on a birch (and now works as a fire fighter for the parks service.) This artwork is just the last bit of the poem. It starts, "I'd like to get away from earth awhile and then come back to it and begin over."
The 16 x 20 framed original is $160.

This original is elaborately framed in a 17 x 17 inch black and silver frame. It is created with fabric, paper, acrylics, gesso, pencil, watercolor, and gouache. You'll have to come see it! The framed original is $240.
Free small cards are available of this.

Thoreau again with the text about building castles in the air. This original is made of collaged papers, gesso, acrylics, watercolor and gouache; it's about 10 x 20 inches, $140. Sorry, no reproductions available.

This text fascinates me, "Trees are God's first alphabet." Sort of makes one look at the landscape differently. The other two texts are "Who plants a tree plants a hope." (I'll bring free small cards of just that text.) And, at the bottom of the artwork you'll find "We grow when we plant trees who's shade we shall never sit in."
Framed 18 x 30 inches, $300; reproductions available $16.

"Even if...even if I'm not sure." Sometimes a little goes a long way. 8x10 inches, $120

In the woods, the fuller text from Emerson. About 18 x 28 inches, $200. Sorry, no reproductions are available of this one.
"We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and to know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot
"I was like a child playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." Isaac Newton
These little canvases (about 6 x 8 inches) are created with acrylics, gouache, watercolor. They are $42 each.

"To accomplish great things," about 11 x 14 inches, $85.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Point to La Pointe Swim

That's the finish "Pointe" over my shoulder.
This picture is from the night before the swim.

I think the word is "ideal."

I swam the 2.1-mile Point to La Pointe event on Saturday -- from Bayfield to Madeline Island in Lake Superior, where conditions were ideal. A new course record was set (43:24), my friend, Ann Berres-Olivotti, broke her record from the previous year to take first in our age again (49:16 this year), and I finished in 1:08:51 (had expected about 75.) The lake was at her best.

As I hear it, women who give birth remember the wonder and forget the pain. So, yes, I may be skimming a bit and remembering the rosiest. Still I know I was relieved that the temperamental lake was calm and 70-some-degrees. The pink morning sunshine and pebbly, red beach that faced the east were calming. The back of the field of about 150 women swimmers (where I deliberately seeded myself) had plenty of breathing room along the straight route.

Trust me, there are big, orange balloon on that
distant shore denoting the finish.
I counted buoys along the course, five altogether, and although I couldn't see each until I was almost upon it, I could sight far ahead to the little hump on the island that kept me in line. I allowed myself a couple of peaks at my watch, and despite my purposely easy pace (my iffy arm) things seemed to be moving along well. I didn't wish for another degree of warmth; my black wet suit, the sun shining on shoulders, and the 75-ish air temp made the water perfect for the effort of swimming. And the occasional nosefuls of sweet water were cool going down.

I giggled as I sighted during the last quarter mile because the yellow finish banner didn't seem to get any closer. I was baffled at an unexplainable current during the last 200 meters that held me in place despite efforts. But even this seemed right, I could hear the crowd on the island and see more distinct colors of the flags on the finish arch. I had just a few more minutes of swimming so drank it in.

From Madeline Island, the view across
the channel is clear. See the swimmers
along the bottom (hidden by pines)?
They are coming into the finish chute.
There may have been tummy butterflies, worries about my still-insecure left arm, and hidden wishes that I was faster. But five hours of driving each way is now just a moment of passing scenery and a friendly chat with my swimming companion. My night-before worries that the weather could turn into one of those "isolated thunderstorms" are evaporated. My near-sighted concerns that I wouldn't be able to see to the finish are disappeared. And I've almost forgotten the fear that my wet suit would be too tight -- I hadn't had it on for six weeks and me and Mr. Scale don't speak anymore. 

The many swimmers I met at the beach, and after the race at awards, and on the return ferry, were humble and warm. I think a big lake makes us all feel a bit of humility.

Afterward, I drove from the swim to my family reunion hours away. And, although I had swum two miles in the reunion's pond in 2010, this two-mile Great Lake swim got applause from my sibs. There is something about a big lake that is wondrous. And on Saturday, it offered itself up in an idealic way.

Point to La Pointe is a fundraiser for the Bayfield Rec Center. It has great community support, hot food, over 40 kayaks, sweatshirts, hand-made awards in age groups. At the awards ceremony, the event coordinator told us that this event kept the Rec Center from closing five years ago when the swim started. This year they raised $25,000. Find out more at

Monday, July 11, 2011

No Art Fairs Next Year

Saturday morning, hot and humid, at setup.
Note lots of big black bags in case of a
rainy takedown and four forty-pound weights
on the canopy to neutralize winds.

I'm standing on tired feet just off the capital square in Madison for the second day of a hot art fair. Jim calls at ten o'clock to say get ready, red radar indicates storm fronts are headed this way. I had already decided, but this news cements it: next year I'm not doing art fairs.

In 1988 we were thrilled to discover we could support ourselves by selling art; we made it our livelihood, dived in with dedication. We started our business in the economic boom, were able to get a home loan, settle in. We worked long days, set production goals, tracked inventory, traveled on weekends. When carpel tunnel, motels, and long days standing on sidewalks started wearing, I went back to school. When the economy stalled I was ready to freelance as a graphic designer with a plan to phase out of art fairs. It's been twenty-three years since that first little show, since the first thrill of coming home with enough cash to buy groceries and pay rent. We're doing no art fairs next year.

The patrons, customers, friends at art fairs taught me many things. I've heard their year's struggles and adventures, taken their suggestions about art to make and benefited by their guidance. I've seen their children grow up and marry--and supplied gifts for the weddings. I'll miss the annual get-togethers. Who knows? Maybe by 2013 I'll be happy to be back on a city sidewalk, eating celery and almonds, zip-zapping credit cards, chatting with long-time customers. But next year?

If you want a job that has flexibility and variety, times of great quietness and times of constant social contact, if you want a livelihood that tests your marketing and production abilities, develops your art skills, demands physical stamina and organized planning, art fairs are for you. But it's four generations of display panels and five canopies later. I'm ready for a sabbatical. No art fairs next year.

Back to yesterday's Art Fair Off the Square in Madison. The storms approach, black, noisy, and flashing. I panic; I take down the biggest art and run the heavy box to to the truck. Dash back to the the booth and zipper the walls down, make jokes to customers about holding on to the canopy, sweat. A drizzle falls, passes with no danger -- this time. I watch the sky and vow: no art fairs next year. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Slightly Blue Tail: The Story of Saddle Shopping that has a Happy End

No mystique here: a fuzzy peach dropped on the kitchen counter gets bruised. Dropped again and again just makes me weep. Now imagine the exquisitely sensitive area repeatedly bounced on a bike saddle--oh, momma, pack me a popsicle ‘cause I need a chill.

Comfort rating on this saddle:
It's ok. What else have you got?
Sue and I went saddle shopping.
Finding the right biking seat is akin to finding the perfect prom dress: you can’t describe why it doesn’t work, you just know it’s squat. So it was time to stop pussyfooting around and do some serious shopping. We packed up our junk and headed to our favorite toy shop: Wildside Adventure Sports in Baraboo.

The first saddle was ok, it was an improvement over the saddle Sue had been riding, so it got us a little excited. But we didn't quit there. No need to get shafted when there were plummier rides to try. We snatched the moment and aimed to bag a better fit.

A smooth-looking test saddle turned
out to be a muffin mangler.

The next three saddles were beefy and slick; real lookers but they didn’t make it out of the parking lot. Comfort was the goal, not bone-hard pains in the patootie.
Nuts, a fourth saddle had the balls to call itself "gel," pretending to be softer on the gender bits, but it looked sort of dorky so didn't even qualify for a test. 

St. Brian of Wildside patiently
replaced saddle after saddle.
With saddle number six we found the promised land.

The winner came with a package was practical, honest, and had a sense of humor. It called itself the “seriously comfortable Planet Bike A.R.S. Anatomic Relief Bicycle Saddle.” It fit, felt right, and allowed for a great ride. And what a bonus, it didn't stress the wallet.

The winning seat: like Goldilocks,
Sue found one that is just right.
Yeah, saddle shopping took a little time and focus. But, with patience, and a little trial and error, we found a real jewel. You might say the right saddle was a dilly in the end.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I wasn't alarmed at first, it was all so subtle. Jim's symptoms were explainable: as a headcold diminished a mild flu began, thus the headaches and malaise. Too much yardwork ached in his muscles. Extra stress kept him from feeling clear-headed--and Jim was certainly stressed.

Roxanne's x-ray in the emergency room.
Jim's mom broke her hip on May 17. Not a fall, not an accident. Roxanne had been standing in her bathroom, reaching for her walker, when a week-old ache turned into screaming pain. She couldn't move a step, she could barely keep her 100-pound body upright. She leaned on her walker and used all she had to reach for the phone--a phone she rarely kept with her. A time-warp later brought delayed EMTs (there was confusion at the station because another call was made at the same time by another resident). The belated medical workers worked gently to get her on a stretcher. She moaned and cried out in pain. It was a complete bone break; the top of her femur was centimeters away from the ball that rests in the hip socket. By evening her hip was replaced.

The small emergency room was crowded with
family and medical people.
Jim wanted to be with her at the hospital--his entire family was. Someone called him with a report every time a new medical person visited. But he was too unwell to be there that night. Anxiety can do that, I thought.

During the next three weeks Roxanne recovered well. She moved from hospital to nursing home, enjoyed her physical therapy, dreaded the food, took pleasure in the company of her roommate. Jim wanted to visit but got sicker. Was he worrying more? Stressed out about her long-term options? Even as Jim despaired over his mom's situation he was convinced his own health would be fine.

Symptoms continued to get worse. In addition to muscle aches and fogginess there was now groin tenderness and swelling. I'm not a worrier but this caused concern. He thought he worked too hard mowing the neglected ditches, pressing his body into the mower's handle. Maybe it's a bruise, he suggested, an irritation. Then fever, building to over 102 by evening. I googled, read about hernias, and called a nurse. "You need to bring him in," she said.

Men visit doctors less that women. Jim visits doctors less than most men. He wasn't about to go to urgent care because he felt fluish, even with the unexplainable, enlarging inguinal swelling. I compromised, "If this fever isn't gone by Monday, I'm taking you to the doctor." How often have I heard that men don't live as long as women.

Two days later Jim himself was finally convinced. Now rash had begun, the swelling doubled, and a red circle haloed an old tick bite, a tick that Jim now recalled pulling off weeks before. He was weak, shaky with chills and fever, pale and sweaty, couldn't eat. The doc could see him at 2:30.

Capacine, the
actress who
played Angel,
wasn't strong
Doctor Gregory knew more about Wisconsin ticks than your average entymologist. Both of his daughters had had Lyme; he'd seen many cases. His puzzlement was over the swollen inguinal lymph, but the treatment was obvious: an immediate shot of Rocephin, followed by a 15-day order of Doxycyline. "And come back tomorrow for another shot."

Although tick-borne illnesses respond quickly to antibiotics, Jim had one more bad night. He tried to hide his uncontrollable shakes as we watched the color-coordinated world of Duke in Alaska. (Jim is fond of John Wayne films and this seemed like a healing therapy.) But when the fever hit 104.5, I insisted on a visit to urgent care. Michelle Bonet (aka Angel) may have charm, but Jim was finally willing to go.

This story, like Duke's, has a happy ending. Two weeks have passed and Jim is well enough to again vow to avoid doctors. Roxanne is pain-free, mobile with her wheeled walker, and happily living with Jim's amazing younger sister. Jim might manage to worry less about her -- instead he's worrying about his sister.

And Roxanne and Jim have a strange new bond: they are both finishing Doxycycline prescriptions this week. An odd coincidence, but then, Jim and his mom have always been close.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marathon: To Run, To Blow

I thought determination was needed to finish a marathon but maybe not. Maybe just one snotty, ignorant, live-in-the-moment step after another is enough. It worked this time.

Building then Breaking
I laughed a little hysterically on the phone to Jim. "Could you give me the phone number for the clinic, honey?" It was the evening before the marathon. Train and dream, but unplanned stuff happens.

Sue and me before the race.
The marathon decision was made in the dullness and longing of January: a May event. Beautiful. Satisfying. And fun to travel and run with a friend. Snow, ice, darkness be damned, let the training begin.

January through March, I crunched along on ice and salt in YakTrax, tracked through melting muck, vaselined face against wind. Built miles. Then a one-two-three punch.

April long runs: a hip injury during a 16-miler was topped by a 10-day, nasty-ass headcold. This was a setback; I iced, I rested, I biked alongside my training partner for the next two long runs. We were a month from race day and thoughts of changing to the half-marathon started sneaking in.

Then another punch in the planning: six days before the race a second headcold filled my ear canals, stuffed my sinuses, left me dizzy and apathetic. I don't care, I just don't care. Marathon, shmarathon, whatever. Sniff. My congested ears couldn't hear the beeps of my Garmin, but I packed as if I was actually gonna do a marathon. As if.

Sigh heavily here. The day before the race: a urinary tract infection. I was beyond caring. Phone calls from me at the motel to husband, clinic, doctor-on-call produced a prescription from a nearby pharmacy. (Don't get me started on my phobia of taking medication, that's a story of its own.) In my mind it was decided: I was there to enjoy what I could, see pretty gear, admire the crowd, view Green Bay's Lambeau Field. I wasn't there to run a marathon.
The view from the hotel on race morning: windy.

Blow Me Away
It was race day. I was in the bathroom when the apocalyptic radio alarm slammed Sue awake. The howls of the wind had already woken me. That and the force of my bladder (all that water I'd been drinking, ya know). Gusts to 40 miles per hour. But, throw a dog a bone, the sun was peaking through clouds and the predicted rain would miss us.

Sue, my training buddy and race companion, had a good training season. No injuries, good energy. She had been hit with a three-week chest cold but was almost recovered. I knew she would finish this, her first marathon. I blew my nose and drank more water. I was there. I would run as needed.

Double-business Bound
The marathon and half-marathon routes were the same for the first 11.5 miles. This comforted me, I had an out. I would run what I could. I didn't have to make the decision about distance until mile 11.5. It was sort of a "marathon to be or not to be." So, like Hamlet, I put off the question. We ran.

Mile 1: Shuffle, bump, walk. Eight thousand runners. Eight minutes to get to the starting line.
Mile 3: Shin splints!? No way. Aw nuts. I'll never even get five miles.
Mile 5: I feel fine, loose, well. Nice girls from Milwaukee. Cute shirt. Glad I'm wearing these soft gloves, good for blowing my nose into.
Mile 7: I could run all day like this.
Mile 9: Wow, hip's good. This must be the right pace group. I'll finish the half without hurting myself. It would be REALLY smart to quit at 13, right? Smart to not attempt 26.2--'cause there's just no way. I'll decide later.
Mile 11.5: What? I have to DECIDE now?

Marathon or half, marathon or half-- to be or NOT?
A stretch at mile 22.
I could be done in 15 minutes. Or in 2.5 hours. What to do. Will I re-injure that hip and be whacked for weeks? Do I have the stamina despite undertraining, headcold, and UTI? Will I regret stopping--or regret continuing? How could I abandon Sue? What about living NOW, for the moment?

My brain wasn't willing to decide. My legs--on their own--moved me to the right lane, the marathon lane. I was turning away from the half-mary route and toward the full. Two roads had diverged; I took the one that said "26.2."

Mile 14: Stupid, stupid me: wrong choice. My piriformis aches, sciatic nerve, pain to my knee. Stupid me. Turn back, turn back. Do the math. If I turn back now I'll be done in a couple miles. Dig the thumbs into the pain and hope for myofascia release. Keep running.
Mile 15: Can I run 11 miles with my knuckles pressed into my left glute like this? It helps. Try Icy-hot? (Medication phobia be damned.) Let's stretch. Come on, piriformis, relax. I love you, piriformis, feel the love, baby--it's just 11 more miles.
After the marathon, the wind still blasted,
but it couldn't take away my medal!
Mile 16: Is this a tornado or what? Where'd Sue's hat go? Everyone's walking. This headwind. It's faster to walk than run. Butt's better walking. Not too bad. I can walk, I'm good. Ten miles.
Mile 20: Wind. Continuous. Wind to knock the snot out of you. Wind to tie your legs in knots. (Really nice volunteers.) Icy hot. Stretch, walk. Farmer blow, not into the wind.
Mile 22: The route turns. Finally and truly the wind is at our backs. Hip not too bad: stretch, walk, run.
Mile 26: A green, windless lap inside Lambeau Field. Big cameras, enthusiastic cheers, no shame in walking.
Mile 26.2: Finish. We both finish.

The Day After
I'm fine today aside from this headcold; the UTI is well under control. I slept soundly and long. I'm a little stiff, but no pain, no injury, no regret. Lots of disbelief that I finished the full marathon. Maybe it was for friendship, or the t-shirt, or the medal-- the full marathon medal is definitely bigger than the half.

Or maybe it was just being present, knowing it could get better or it could get worse, but that now, in the moment, I was going on.