Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Divine Little Luxuries

Do you have a bliss list?  A list of touchstones that make you happy...frogs, sunsets, puppy faces, chocolate icecream...it's a good thing to have, to remind you what to look for when you lose your smile, or find you've been nose to the grindstone so long, you've lost your way.  Here's another list worth starting:

Divine little luxuries.

Ann's latest little luxury?  A liner for the back of her new little car, so she can haul garden stuff and building materials without losing the new-car clean.  I helped her sew it from a tarp.  Okay, I sewed it.  When I started talking about grommets and gussets, her eyes glazed over.  While she and Cat hauled garden stuff in Cat's Jeep, I stitched up a few seams, and put in temporary ties, which she can replace with clip rings from the hardware store.
Divine little luxuries aren't things to have someday, when life is perfect.  Divine little luxuries are the things you can do without, the expensive but needed things you "should" wait for sales to buy in multiples, the stuff you really don't have time for, all the little conveniences you could arrange for yourself, but somehow never get around to...all the things that when you start to allow yourself to have them, make your experience of the every-day so much smoother, more pleasant, and sparklier.

Here are a few of mine (some I have, some I'm searching for, or working on incorporating)..
  • Pretty vintage enamel compost bucket, which replaced the plastic tub.  It's amazing how much I enjoy walking out to the compost ring, now.
  • Outrageously detailed paint in my closet ~ the last room to need it, one of the first rooms finished.
  • Leaving earlier than necessary for an appointment and driving the speed limit, instead of trying to do too many things, then rushing to be ten minutes late.  It is almost laughable how rich this feels to me, not having to pack every minute with "must-do's".  It's sad how rarely I do this, still.
  • Buying doubles of everything I use in the bathroom, so I'm always stocked up on the essentials.
  • Organic and/or locally grown produce.
  • Occasionally scheduling play dates with friends in the middle of the work week, and not cancelling for work, no matter what (like last Tuesday's 3 Amigas day, spent with Cat at Ann's, doing little projects like the bed-liner, photo'd above).
  • A great pencil sharpener, instead of three that don't really work.
  • New music.
  • Hardback editions of my favorite books, because I do re-read a few.
  • Fabric covered bulletin boards in my work spaces.
  • Pretty work spaces.
  • Lace trimmed paint pants, instead of painter's whites (only I know this is my uniform, but it makes me happy).
  • Etc. and endless...

Wanna know the funny thing about these luxuries?  They don't eat holes in your time or finances.  Quite the opposite.  When you treat yourself as the precious spark of Divinity that you are, and create as much Heaven on Earth as you can in your life (why wouldn't Heaven on Earth include functioning pencil sharpeners?), you up your capacity for abundance, you expand the quality of your available time, and you boost the vibrancy of the energy you give out. 

Treat yourself beautifully.  You're worth it, and you'll be doing us all a favor!

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions below, or by emailing me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

If you would like to add divine details to your corner of Heaven on Earth, maybe I can help.  Check out my portfolio of possibilities  at theartofthehome.com.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden pets? What? Pests? What pests?

This afternoon, I belatedly discovered that despite all the rain the past week, the garden expects water this week.  I am not a good gardener.  In fact, I am a shamefully neglectful plant mama.  Just as the three Roma tomato plants, potted and placed high out of reach of slugs in my back garden, had set beautiful little grape-sized fruit, I got in the habit of parking my van in front of the house, and completely forgot to water the back garden.  Out of sight out of mind.  And people wonder why I never had kids...at least I don't remember ever having any...
Luckily, the perennials, like my favorite-ever lily, don't require much care, though this one has become so shaded by the neighbor's trees, it's in need of transplanting this fall.  That's okay.  If I forget to park in the driveway the week it blooms, I can miss the whole show, so I think I'll move it to the front.  So glad it waited until after last week's wind and hail to bloom!

There are fastidious gardeners, and there are folks like me.  Okay, actually there is a very wide range of decent gardeners in-between, but we'll skip right over them, tra-la!  I'm not very good at remembering the fine details of watering schedules and soil testing, or little things like weeding, and in fact I'm regularly delighted to discover some new thing has wandered in and taken root when I wasn't looking.  The monarchs will find several milkweed plants in the back garden this year. 

I like the idea of the monarchs making a home in my garden.  They'll be in good company.  Being a rather unstructured gardener (that has a comfortable ring to it, don't you think?), I often find critters have moved in.  I'm not sure how many rabbits actually live in my yard.  I only ever see one adult at a time, but if so, she has two homes... 
I could replace the broken lattice below the front porch, but nobody sees it from the street, and Rabbit has been seen slipping through it in the evening.  I'm used to her at my back door in the mornings, and it delighted me to meet her in front on Friday night, though in the dark, we gave each other quite a start!

This wicker table was ready for the burn pile two years ago, but I left it too long by the back gate, and Rabbit moved in.  She's often under here in the mornings, unseen by the alley cats that hunt birds below my lilacs.  Though of no use to me, it's not really bothering anything, and being in a commercial district, it's not as if I've got the ugliest back entry, so the table will stay.
Having wild house guests actually saves me a bit of work.  When I left the winter light cover up on my front porch too late one spring, finches moved in.  I quickly installed a hook and moved it to a corner of the porch, to avoid accidentally cooking baby finch.  Now, when I'm ready to plug in my twinkle lights for the winter holidays, I simply dump the abandoned nest, and move the wreath-encircled winter cover back in place.  Much easier than hunting for it in the basement, and it's charming entertainment every spring.
A glass light cover, tucked into a wreath for a winter porch light cover, became a favorite nesting site for finches in the spring.  A hook in the corner of the porch allows it to be moved away from the light, avoiding the accidental cooking of small birds.
Sometimes, my wild friends require a little extra work, but that's okay.  One spring day, last year, I unloaded the work van, and left a step ladder leaning by the basement door.  The next morning, I discovered a Robin starting to build a nest atop it.  I had previously removed the screens from the front porch that had supported their nest every year, and was wondering where they would move to.  My ladder wasn't an option, but with a basement full of scrap wood and miscellaneous hardware, popping a shelf up in it's place took only a few minutes.  Though they were wary at first, the robins resumed building later in the day, and they returned again this year.  I love seeing them flit past the kitchen window, and finding an occasional piece of eggshell of that inimitable blue, makes it totally worth the effort.
It's not a beautiful birdhouse, but at some point I'll paint the robins' nesting shelf to blend in.  I just have to remember to do it when they aren't in residence.  Angry birds are dangerous!
I guess it's a case of "You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can't take the mountains out of the girl."  I know the locals think my wildish yard a bit unkempt, and I do try to keep it from getting too witchy, but sharing the quiet morning hours (before the humans venture out) with the wild creatures, is way more important to me than pleasing those who would try to keep nature in neat rows, and beaten back, with vile chemicals and hours of tedious plucking.  Their flowers are beautiful, but their stern looks and furrowed brows, as they stalk the weeds and invading critters...well, like Mama said, "If you keep that up, your face will stick that way."  I'm not shirking work.  I'm avoiding wrinkles.

...except for laugh lines.

Part of the reason my yard is so untidy, is that I am far more willing to work long and hard when it comes to painting beautiful spaces, for delightful clients.  Check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Feel free to comment below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  You can give me gardening advice if you like, but I'd be much more grateful if you would just wander through my yard mid-week, and water things.

P.S.  This post was inspired in a very round-about way by the gals responsible for the beautiful "Murmuration" video many have seen on facebook.  If you haven't seen it, or if you want to see it again, click here, to visit their website:  islandsandrivers.com.  Oh, and watch for an article by them in an upcoming issue of the soon-to-debut magazine, 365 Being!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How much wood could a big wind chuck...and how far?

That's my tree branch, but it's twenty feet on the opposite side of the tree from which it came.  Luckily no harm was done to the neighbor's building, and he and I made short work of clearing it. 
We've had some crazy weather this week in Minnesota.  Tuesday morning, eighty-mile-per-hour straight line winds hit Belle Plaine.  As far as I know, nobody was injured, but more than 50 trees toppled over.  I have soft maples, which are scoffed at as weed trees.  That would indicate to me they are native, which means they are adapted to prairie winds, which means they have really long and widespread roots, which means they don't tip over.  I'll take a weed tree any day!  I did lose one very large branch, but luckily it did little damage to my fence, and none at all to the neighbor's building.

All this weather is playing havoc with my paint schedule, but I finally got a start on the garage door project today.  The homeowner primed and base coated it, so the only boring part I have to do is tape, and man is there a lot of tape!  There's also an awful lot left to paint, but I did manage to get the technique figured out to match her wood sample.  I can't get the grain to go as fine as cherry, since the doors are already embossed with an oak grain, but it's still coming along nicely. 

In case you are wondering, the house,which has had some siding boards replaced, is getting a new paint job, with a deep ocean blue body color, and creamy white trim.  When it's all done, the only wood grain will be the garage doors and front entry doors.

After primer and base coat, it's time to tape the first sections to be panted.

This wood grain uses two glazes.  The first, a raw umber with a touch of golden color, shown on the bottom strip, is used to make the grain pattern.   This is followed almost immediately with a cherry colored glaze, tinted with burnt umber.

Here's a close-up.  Pretty real, huh?  Reminds me of a 1950's Cris  Craft boat I once saw.  Perhaps I'll go into ark painting, if the rain doesn't let up.

One panel complete, way too many yet to go.  Sure hope the weather man is wrong about chance of rain on Saturday!
 I'll try to get a photo once the whole place is painted, and my doors are finished.  For now, it's been a really long day, and I need to go shower off a layer of eau de Alaska (that's bug spray mixed with sunscreen), and get some sleep.  Hope your weekend is forecasted sunny and bright!

For the D-I-Yers:  I use latex paint as a base coat over a bonding primer, for exterior faux finishes.  Then, instead of glazing liquid or gel stain, I use the deepest tone base of the same product as the base coat, tinted with universal tints.  This insures that the finish coat is as strong as any coat of paint would be, and does away with the need for any clear coat.  I don't use clear coats on exterior paint work.  Pigmented paint holds up to sunlight better than any clear.

If you have questions or comments, leave them below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

More samples of wood graining and other faux techniques can be seen on my website, theartofthehome.com.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Water dogs and Cat food...

So, how was your weekend?  Mine was delightful, except it ended with a leaky kitchen sink drain, after which it re-ended with a leaky roof.  I did not get a lot of sleep last night, and then did not get the sink fixed before my authors' meeting with Cat, which wouldn't ordinarily cause much problem, but this was a week I promised to feed her lunch.  I actually could have fixed the drain before she arrived, but I had to choose between that and my morning meditation/prayer time.  I chose perspective over plumbing.  Trust me, it's a better day for all concerned, that way.

Monterey Quiche:  Dice 1 medium onion and saute in butter over low heat, while you...Make a basic pie crust with 1 c. flour, 1/4 c. cold butter, quick mixed to crumbs, then combined with a tablespoon or so of water.  Roll dough thin and line quiche pan.  Grate 1/2 pound Jack cheese and put on top of crust.  Top cheese with the onions and two little cans of mild whole green chilies, chopped coarse (better texture than the diced ones).  Mix together 4 eggs, 1 and 1/4 cup milk, a tsp or so of cumin, and about the same of oregano.  Pour the egg mixture over the cheese and chilies.  If you are using a regular pie plate, leave out one egg and 1/4 c. milk.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes.
Luckily, I had just finished washing the dishes and polishing up the kitchen, last night, when I smacked the compost bucket a little too hard into the chrome covered piece of rust once known as the drain pipe.  Unluckily, the local hardware store had closed ten minutes earlier.

Luckily, there is a powder room with a teeny-tiny sink just off of the kitchen.  Luckily I had only planned a simple quiche and cold fruit soup.  Unluckily, this meant chopping onions with no running water handy, and then because the oniony cutting board wouldn't really fit in the bathroom sink, alternative dealings with super-juicy honeydew melon, and worse...the dreaded mangoes.  John DeMers once said that the only proper place to eat a mango is in the bathtub.  Below a waterfall, on a surfboard, or at the end of a diving board must not have occurred to him, though perhaps he considered those improper.

Because the fruit was beautifully ripe, I was able to halve it and scoop it from it's shells, rather than my usual slicing-then-peeling, while chasing the juice back from the edges of the cutting surface.  It worked pretty well, except for the scraping-the-bits-from-the-mango-pit part of the operation, but that was to be expected, and the floor wasn't unbearably sticky. 

While the quiche baked and the soup chilled, Cat and I went over the progress on 365 Being, the magazine we're debuting September 1st.  We figured out our next steps, agreed on website colors, got to discussing recipes, and remembered the quiche in the nick of time!  I had been making the soup when Cat arrived, and caught up in greetings, I forgot the mint, but it grows just outside the back gate, so I grabbed two sprigs, shredded the bottom leaves, and stuffed it in the glasses, then got the quiche to the table before it got too cold (though cold is fine, when it comes to quiche) 

Mango-melon soup:  In a blender, puree 1 quart of strawberries, two peeled and seeded mangoes, and one medium honeydew melon, also peeled and seeded   Do it in batches, pouring into a large pitcheror serving bowl.  With the last batch of fruit, toss in a handful of mint leaves, about 2 tsp cinnamon, a teaspoon of nutmeg, and a splash of sherry.  If you have a frozen red juice on hand, like apple-cranberry, or raspberry, toss in a scoop of that.  Stir well to combine everything in the pitcher, and chill. 
  • Serve in tall glasses as smoothies, with a mint sprig garnish...
  • Or in soup bowls as a first course, with a dollop of really good vanilla yogurt and fresh mint leaves strewn on top...
  • or from a punchbowl with the mint floating in it, in the little punch cups that no one uses for any real drink.  The flavor of this is best with super-ripe fruit, and a few hours to chill.
Cat loved the fruit soup and the quiche. She was especially impressed by the caramelized onions in the quiche. Want to know my secret? Put the onions on to saute, while making the crust. Turn them low, then get sidetracked by the telephone, after which you wander through the living room and pick up a few stray bits of paper, which fortunately need to go in the recycling bin, which will bring you back to the kitchen, just in time to rescue the onions. Doesn't work every time, but when it does...heaven.

We ate, we talked, and Cat asked me about the rest of my day.  "Oh the usual, (Artgirl) Faithie's class, find a roofer, fix the kitchen drain, whip up a blog with the qui...uh-oh."
As I sat with both hands over my mouth, eyes wide, Cat asked in alarm "What?"
"The quiche is the blog post." slipped between my fingers.
"I forgot to take a picture."

So, as usual, I missed the money shot.  Though I will not be sought out by gourmet publications for my food photography, I think I covered for the missing slices passably well, if a bit unfocused.  Probably won't be sought out for my simple food, either, though I do cook well enough that the recipes are sought out by my friends.  Okay, so it's not nearly as pretty as it was, all puffed and golden, fresh from the oven, WHOLE, but it's super easy, and really good.  I hope you'll try it, and the soup/smoothie. 

And by the way, basic plumbing is also dead easy, and doing your own will save you serious bucks, so try that, too.  Six dollars at the hardware store, ten minutes under the sink, and you're ready for mango-cheese clean-up.  Ah, the fun you can have with the money you save...or the shingles.  Sigh.  Wishing you a dry week.

I'll be woodgraining doors this week, if the weather will cooperate, so check back here Thursday night to see this elegant upgrade to metal garage doors.  Also working on some art and bits for the magazine, and we'll start sharing peeks soon!

If you have questions or comments, leave them below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

You can also check out my portfolio of paint possibilities at theartofthehome.com.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Relax and play and see what happens...

Once upon a time, many months ago, my friend Darla Farmer, who is on the board of directors at a place called Prairie Oaks Institute, got to talking to Carol Orr, the local high school art teacher, about painting the staircase at the farmhouse out there, and somehow, though the particulars are lost in the fog of time, I got roped in to lead a team of volunteers.  However, upon seeing the space, I wasn't sure how many volunteers we could squeeze in before it became a clowns-in-a-Volkswagen sort of a thing, and when no volunteers appeared to coordinate it anyway, I said I would just paint it myself. 

Jake volunteered to help, and brought his friend Savanna along.  In such a small space, it meant that except the ladder work over the staircase, there really wasn't much room for me to do anything.  Dang. 
 About the time I calendared the job though, with a fund raiser scheduled for this weekend, volunteers were being rounded up for many projects, and a future architect named Jake was roped in to help me. He arrived on time, with help. Having just gotten there myself, I wasn't ready to lead a crew quite yet, in fact, I hadn't been expecting a crew, and gulp, the crew was sixteen years old, which you all know by now, pretty well terrifies me. I don't have any of these creatures, and my Artgirls have all been little and mostly come one at a time, and sit still. I know, just relax and play, and see what happens. Easy for you to say.

We used the blues from three different rooms in the house, plus white, to do a Woolie blend.  The finish was chosen to play down the rough old plaster, since having it skim coated wasn't in the budget at this time.
I started off spectacularly badly, by asking if they were a couple or just friends. This created whimpering giggles, mumbles, silence, and more giggles. Once upon a time, a very longer time ago, I was sixteen, but I can't remember it clearly enough to know what this response means. We were there for five hours painting, but nobody ever explained. However, nobody was all kissy-face either, so apparently it was some form of "No, not a couple...but...?" Talk about an experience that showed just how absolutely I have become my mother. (Love you Mama, but you are so special, you really should be one of a kind. Hmm... I'm diggin' myself in deep here, aren't I?)

Fueled by doughnuts left for the volunteers, these two made pretty quick work of the staircase.
Well, Mama, it may put me back in your good graces to explain that I was volunteering for an organization called Prairie Oaks Institute, which is all about teaching organic growing and sustainable agriculture, and a bunch of other cool nature-related stuff. I'm going to just give out the link, here, since I am discovering I have started showing a certain parent's ability to somewhat mangle the facts. (I just fell right back outa her good graces, huh?) Click here: Prairieoaksinstitute.org.

Ever get the funny feeling you're being watched?  You never know who's hiding behind the paint!  This is the kind of stuff that happened when my back was turned, this and a really big glob of paint in my hair...Savanna, I thought you said it was "a little bit".  Sheesh.  Never work below enthusiastic teenagers on a sugar high.
We had a fun time, but make no mistake, these two worked hard. Neither plans to make a career of painting (while Jake is studying to be an architect, Savanna will be attending art school), but both intend to paint rooms at home in the near future, so hopefully I gave them useful information.

I know I gave them a little taste of the freedom of becoming an artist, because one of the best things about this particular paint technique, is how it breaks all the rules one learns in school about painting. Not only did we gleefully color on the walls, we dipped our brushes in all the colors without rinsing between them, and we dripped like rusty gutters in a downpour. We splashed it all on the wall, and then we smooshed it around to see what it would do, which was never completely predictable. There will be plenty of controlled, educational lessons on the way to their creative careers, but I hope they will never forget to sometimes just relax and play and see what happens. Worked for me yesterday, once again. Thanks you two, for a really fine day.

You can check out my portfolio on my website at theartofthehome.com (Jake likes the Spidey room), and you can leave comments below or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  Any really weird comments you read may be attributed to Savanna, who threatened to do her best spammer impersonations.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A little splasha happy...

Some jobs are pure fun.  Especially jobs for friends, and especially when they feed me lovely meals and take me on historic home tours, and most especially when they have an inspiration photo of something they like, but beyond that, they just want art.  I spent most of my weekend in St. Cloud, a couple of hours north of Belle Plaine, mostly in the bathroom.  No, not suffering gastric distress.  The food was divine.  I was painting the bathroom.

Before:  Wallpaper wainscoting was put in by the previous owner, as was the laminate counter.  My client stripped the wallpaper from the upper walls and painted them Behr "Peanut Butter", a shade we used in the adjacent kitchen.

Before:  Laminate counter in the pattern I call "Why Do They Even Bother?", as in, why do manufacturers even bother to make "faux-stone" patterned laminate that does not for one second stand a chance of being mistaken for stone? 

Not everyone will think this is real marble, but I have versions of this in my kitchen and bath, and most people think it's the real deal.  It's a not too expensive change, when tearing out and replacing a small but custom shaped counter may not be practical.  If you do it yourself, it will cost you under $50, and if you are the DIY type who has leftover stuff from other projects, it could be nearly free.

The basics of cheatie marble on laminate counters:
1. Squeaky clean and lightly sanded counter, with caulking trimmed neatly, crumbs of it removed.
2.  Bonding primer designed for laminate or plastics in general.
3.  Woolie blend a base color of latex wall paint with a few colors of art paint, using an art brush to create veins.
4.  When dry, buff smooth with a paper grocery bag (Yup! Just rip off a piece and gently rub in a circular motion, then feel how smooth it is!), and clean off the dust with a damp rag.
5.  (hardest step) Working quickly, brushing dry into wet, coat with a few coats of semi-gloss Minwax Polycrylic.  If you get brush strokes, do not try to perfect the wet stuff, no matter how tempting (don't say I didn't warn you), allow to dry, sand lightly, and re-coat.  Repeat numerous times until you achieve a perfect finish, or decide it's near-perfect enough.  Three light coats are ideal.
6.  Allow to cure a few days before letting water splash on it, and a couple of weeks before setting anything on it.

Folk art style tree of life mural.

I've done some one-stroke tole painting and even learned basic rosemaling years ago, but I chose to do this in a simpler style, without some of the blends.  I was thinking not only of the Scandinavian folk art popular here in the Midwest, but also of things like Zuni fetish animals, and those fantastical Oaxacan animals from Mexico, plus some of the other patterns found in old European needlepoints.

I can't help it.  I had to wrap onto the adjacent walls, and even let a dragonfly escape.  I'm betting a few readers will pick up on this as a repeat from another Tree of Life mural, of a completely different style, last month.  If you can't spot my style in the diversity of the stuff I paint, you might catch it in the compositional details.

Animals for this mural were chosen by the client, to represent family members, and the diversity of life on the planet.  I mixed styles from different cultures for the pure fun of it, and to represent the diversity of this extended family, though not exactly their precise ethnic backgrounds.

This one's pure Minnesota!  My first morning on the job, a cardinal came to the birdbath as I drank my morning coffee.  Good thing, 'cause I had forgotten quite how cardinal beaks look.  A crow inspected me from a rooftop next door, but while I enjoyed his visit, he didn't make it into the picture.

Wouldn't this make a happy fabric for curtains?  Or a sweet embroidery on a pillow?  Or maybe greeting cards!  Ah, something to do in my "free time"...

The Om symbol is carved into the base of the tree, and the roots are a joyful tangle.  Leo, with hearts in "ears that listen with love", stands to one side of the base.  The cat on the other side features the same ear detail, which I inserted to acknowledge this special trait, that I so admire in these dear friends.

Peacock is classic in Tree of Life depictions, though mine might be a bit more whimsical than classical.

And would it be my work if it included animals, but didn't include a rabbit?  Lucky for me, they listed it, or I mighta had to sneak it past them.

And, no, I'm not on a tortoise kick, nor a Tree of Life kick.  Don't you ever notice how certain words, pictures, or topics show up repeatedly in your life, sometimes?  Some call it coincidental, but I call it magical, and I'm happy to report, I've got a whole lotta this kind of magic happening lately! 
Check back often for updates on the happy magic in my little corner of the world, and in the meantime, if I can create some magic in your world, all the info for how to work with me is on my website, theartofthehome.com.

I love it when you leave comments below, but you can email me with questions or comments, too.  If you are a DIY sort, don't hesitate to ask how I do stuff.  I'm not at all secretive about products or processes, and I'm always happy to share whatever I know.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

May I repeat myself?

I'm off to be wined and dined by friends/clients this evening, and then have a very long day of work for them tomorrow, so I have to beg off of my Thursday blog post.  I thought I would leave you with a link to an older post that is a favorite of regular readers and good friends (pretty much the same people, I guess).  As it is about to be very hot and humid in Minnesota, causing much whining, here's a reminder of winter, when you whined for summer:

(Late December, 2010)

The Bread Lover's Workout 
(click on the title to bring up the post)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare...Making Peace With Time.

I am one of those people known, to my occasional chagrin, as one who lives in her own timezone.  Time has often seemed to move at a pace out of sync with my imagined concept of reality (that may be either an oxymoron or a redundancy, but I can't quite decide, so I'll just leave it be).  I have a profession where my livelihood would seem to depend on correctly estimating the hours in a job, and after 25 years of this, I can say with perfect certainty that (gracias a Dios) it does not.  Yes, I know how long it took me to do something similar in another house, because it was slightly longer than something similar in the house before, and your house will take me longer yet, because as I perfect techniques, I don't get quicker, I get more perfection in the details.  But then I have days like yesterday, where I left my house with just enough time to arrive at my destination, and managed, not once, but twice, to arrive a good fifteen minutes early. My apologies to anyone who was caused undue concern over the condition of their watch batteries.

I thought I would completely refresh my front porch last weekend.  Instead, I was sidetracked by several worthwhile adventures, and so all that was completed was the painting of this dresser, which acts as wind-block, plant stand, and outdoor storage.
I once wrote a revised edition of the tortoise and the hare, in defense of the hare, who though he didn't reach the finish line first, he had all kinds of speedy, bouncy adventures along the way, enjoyed a perfectly lovely nap, and did, in the end, reach the destination.  I have identified for years with rabbit as a totem symbol, knowing I have the pause-and-leap-and-change-direction-mid-air-and-always-have-a-plan-b-and-know-it's-all-cyclical, and let's not forget it's (pro-)creative qualities.  (Okay, catch your breath, if that sentence did you in.)  I think there is value in the hare's approach to exploring the scenery along the route to a goal, enjoying the encounters, leaping playfully, and resting as needed.

The mural at Unity of the valley is not exactly progressing quick like a bunny...
Last year, about this time, Tortoise/Turtle showed up in a big way in my life.  In my earlier revised story, I felt tortoise had been given undue congratulations for staying boringly, steadily on the path, never pausing, never looking left or right, never playful, never bouncing in delight.  Tortoise made it to the finish line first, but so what?  It didn't seem to me that there was much joy in the journey, until, in my own journey around the calendar, from last spring to this one just ending, I got a lesson in turtle energy. 

...in fact, sidetracked by a few worthwhile adventures on the way to work (which included two unexpected hugs from perfect strangers), all I accomplished last Friday on Unity of the Valley's mural, was this tortoise/turtle and a few cacti.  Not the big progress I had planned, but it seems a good balance of living in the present, and forward momentum toward a goal.
When it became obvious that turtle was going to cross my path on a daily basis, and that ignoring the warning to take things at the pace presented was going to very obviously cost me (time, mishaps, and my first ever speeding ticket, received on the exact spot I moved a turtle from the day before), I took note.  I slowed down.  I started to learn to let things take the time they needed.  I chose to have faith in Divine right time, over my own agenda. 

Now, I'm very good at getting my way, exactly when I want it, but as turtle pointed out, quicker isn't always better, nor the most rewarding.  Quicker isn't always necessary, either, and turtle's other notable trait, the fact that turtle cannot be separated from it's home, was, for me, a message straight from God, that I was to have faith that I would not be separated from my home, even during those first financially precarious months following a divorce.  (If totems and God in the same paragraph are incongruous for you, please know that it's my belief that Divinity speaks to each of us in whatever language we will most likely understand.  I stay alert to unusual patterns in nature and daily life, as one way of receiving messages.  Communion with infinite, omniscient wisdom, to my way of thinking, neither began nor ended with the writing of that beautiful book, two thousand years ago.)

So, I've been thinking about turtle, as it's cycle in my life seems to be waning, and I think that though in the original story, tortoise looked neither left nor right, he didn't miss all the scenery.  I think this forward focus gave him time to really see what was right in front of him.  And though he didn't bounce off on remarkable adventures, neither did he tire himself out with distractions, when he had something he really wanted to achieve, more than anything.  Perhaps he didn't stop to visit with everyone he passed by, but who knows the interesting thoughts and plots he hatched in his head, as he marched rhythmically forward.

And so I am coming to a place of peace with time.  I am learning to not overload my daily list with more than any human can accomplish, giving me a better liklihood of arriving for things on time.  At the same time, I know my creative soul may be inspired at any moment to hare off on a tangent, and I do my best to arrange my schedule so that clients, and others, won't be inconvenienced by my artist's need to get an idea snared while it's fresh.  I am coming to peace with my truth that, while sometimes I can bring results about quicker, if it doesn't feel good in the process, it may be time to drop into turtle mode, and trust that better results will come from a calm steadiness. 

Note that I didn't say sit still.  The only time I've personally seen a turtle sitting still in the wild, is when one has found itself in the midst of several lanes of traffic, and seems to have frozen in indecision.  Yes, I'm the lady you see pulled over to the shoulder, running out with the snow shovel to scoop/push the hapless reptile to safety.  I do it because it's kind to both the turtle, and to the motorists who will try to dodge it, and I do it also to say to Divinity, that if I should freeze in indecision, or find myself in harm's way, please send someone to give me a gentle push.

Some days I'm turtle slow, and some days I'm quick as a bunny.  Some days I'm content in my home, and some days I'm haring around all over the metro.  Some days I'm calm and focused, and some days I'm, well, a bit hare-brained, and oh so "late, late for a very important date".  But these days, I'm really mostly at peace with time.  There is so much to experience, and though I could push to get everything I want faster than fast, I know I get more when I take it at the pace that feels joyful in the moment.  I think that pace has a name, and so I wish you, on whatever journey you are making in your life, Godspeed.

When not waxing philosophical over fables and timetables, I spend much of my time creating beautiful surroundings for clients, with the intent of enhancing their experience of this amazing journey called life.  You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

If you have comments or questions, or wish to share your own philosophical musings, feel free to click the word "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Inspiration: Belle Ami

I love sharing this sweet old house, and it seems my friends love her nearly as much as I do.  Here's a poem written by my friend Elle, at a recent soup and studio gathering...

Small Town Memories
Small towns
Allow the memories to pass through me

With each slow-moving car
Time ticks to the beat of the swinging chain
That suspends the front porch swing
Which faces the little pink bookcase
The little pink bookcase
Just like the one my grandmother owned
And kept on her porch to hold the books
Books she would read to me
She would read and laugh until she cried
And I would laugh until I slept
All to the sounds of the songbirds

She is long gone now
But the same tolling bell still rings the time across the rooftops

Which brings me back
To the sounds of the songbirds today
Awakening me with their springtime chortles
That sound so much like her laughter
And remind me of the books
That opened my world
From the little bookcase on grandmother’s porch
Like the one painted pink
Across from me
As I rock to the beat
Of the swinging chain
And the cars pass by
In this small town

~Elle Allen
Inspired by all the familiar pieces, antiques and otherwise at Dawn Marie’s home and while sitting on her front porch this fine spring day in Belle Plaine, MN.
Leave comments or questions below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, if you prefer.