My New Little Sanctuary

7I9A2617I’ve been slowly and deliciously chewing my way through Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances (which is a splurge brand new so look for it used).  It is one of the most beautiful art books I’ve ever handled, and full of snippets of wisdom and truth, and once you read her thoughts and letters and the things others wrote about her you can fully appreciate what she was trying to do with her paintings and they become unquestionably beautiful.  She wrote a lot about how the artist must create a sanctuary to create in and that once in her creative sanctuary, she must not be disturbed lest she suffer murdered inspirations.  She didn’t even allow herself a dog or a cat while living remotely in New Mexico.  She cloistered herself away in order to create without interruptions, to keep her inspiration as pure as possible.

While I do have some hermit-y tendencies, I do not mind the occasional studio interruption (especially if it is fur bearing).  And of course, there’s my trail run every day around 2:30pm, wherein I interrupt myself and which I daydream about as I work, looking forward to the wind and the sky all around me.

I am trying to keep this new studio as spare as possible.  I like the texture of the room, the volcanic stone work, the quiet paint color of the upper walls  and the light is amazing — the wall behind my benches in this photo is the only complete wall in the space.  The room has light pouring in from two directions of windowed walls and a third wall bears big French doors that lead into the dining room.  I have worked out of 8 different studios in the past 9 years and this is by far my most favorite space yet.

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[Here comes the cavalry!]

We had friends come to dinner last night.  I was so excited to see them.  I feel we’ve been in renovation exile here!  After they left I started thinking about our main group of Idaho friends.  We first met these guys nine years ago when Rob was on a hotshot crew with them in Pocatello.  I think it’s safe to say this crew of boys will always been our life and to our great delight, one by one they started getting married and we love the ladies they’ve brought into our posse, too.

When we lived in Pocatello, we were social instigators.  We loved to throw big dinner parties with loads of food and delicious drinks and copious amounts of dessert and after dinner tea.  We would have gladly gone bankrupt just to host our friends in our home and feed them — it was such a great time and it’s something we still love to do, whenever we can.  To have two of those lifetime pals pop by for dinner last night gave our new little home such a great feeling of love and friendship. We took them for a before-dinner walk out on the land and laughed aloud as all the dogs careened through the sagebrush, up and down the riverbank.  We’re now entering into recruitment mode wherein we try our best to convince all of these beloved pals of ours to buy property near to where the farm is located.  We need them all close by once more, just a telephone call away from joining us for a dinner party.  Wish us luck.

With that said, before our friends arrived with their dogs, Rob spent most of yesterday working on a batch of ossobuco with elk*** and some of my freezer-fresh garden tomatoes from last summer.  We took the recipe from Rohan’s cookbook Whole Larder Love — a cookbook after my own heart.  It’s so beautiful to read through and since it was created by a kindred, I can’t help but to respond to the imagery and the ideas captured on the pages.  Actually, if I were to create my own grow/gather/hunt cookbook it would be a lot like this one, except there would be more working dog photos.  By the way, if you haven’t heard of Rohan, I do recommend his blog as well as his Instagram feed.  He’s talks about important stuff.  All the time.  And I admire his photography very much.

Anyway, Rob whipped up this amazing elk ossobuco bedded on polenta and a chocolate cake to go with and we all ate ourselves silly and then sat and talked with tea and a bottle of lovely, extra dry riesling until Laura and Jeff forced themselves to leave for home.  I wish they could have stayed the night but I shouldn’t get greedy about these things.

To our delight, what we had imagined this home could be when friends and family come to visit became an apparent and beautiful reality last night.  We had a cozy fire in the living room fireplace, both kitchen bar tops were handy food prep spaces, no matter where we were working in the kitchen we had a solid view of our guests and a comfortable conversation distances, our dining room table was a pleasure to linger at, our sofas fat and plush.  In short, we are so glad we made this home what we imagined it could be.  I have absolutely no regrets regarding how long our renovations took or the struggles that came with doing those renovations during what has been a hard, hard winter for this part of Idaho — even now, as I type, it’s snowing steadily outside and I’ll probably need to shovel the walkway to get out to the truck when I drive to the post office at noon.

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I have the studio warming up and am looking forward to creating for most of the day.  Have a lovely Monday.  Make it beautiful.

***Rob had a successful (hail mary) elk hunt this year.  He shot a cow over in the Hell’s Canyon region of Idaho  in late November and packed it out in -22F weather.  I am so deeply grateful to have this meat in our freezer this year.  I thought it was going to be a skinny year for us, and we were so short on time for hunting and food getting and the snows have been so deep and treacherous for upland hunting — it’s been a difficult winter, a true winter, for all the critters, including us.  I prayed hard for this elk of ours and even had middle of the night anxiety about our food stores and empty freezer (!!!) for a few weeks leading up to Rob’s success in the field.  When Rob phoned me to tell me he had a cow down and was coming home I truly rejoiced.


One of my best friends is dating a man who survived electrocution and then testicular cancer and I love hanging out with him because he has a knack for appreciating every moment that lands in his life and then, he’ll exclaim about it, voice aloud his delight for others to hear so that they might notice, too.  I love that about him.  Usually I’m the only person doing that kind of thing, I mean audibly freaking out about the shape of the clouds in the sky or whatever beautiful detail that catches my eye about a thing or a person.  There’s always something to catch my eye.  There’s something beautiful about everyone and everything.

With that in mind, this new life of ours in this new space is replete with goodness.  Each time I open my eyes to a new day, every time I stop to put a log on the fire in the living room, when I lay in bed for a moment longer to watch the squirrels in the crowns of the elms through the bedroom window, I find myself exclaiming my delight aloud.  I go out running, hiking and walking with the dogs and the land offers up such treasures every single day, whether it’s the lichen come alive on the stone faces in hues so vibrant they seem otherworldly, to the freshness of the wind as it passes over the river and slaps my face, to the muskrat skull I found  a few days ago and the mismatched four-point sheds I tripped over while running a jackrabbit trail the other night…it’s all here…all the moments are all here and I see them all and I rejoice.

I write from the new studio space at the farm which is brimming with light as though it holds an indelible, inner glow that cannot be dimmed!  Our new home is shaping up nicely.  Naturally, I have a creative itch to scratch so I’ve set aside some organization work to fiddle around at my studio bench instead — mostly finishing up some small scale production work I failed to complete before packing up the house for the move to the farm…but my unexercised mind is racing and I have not be able to resist laying out arrangements of stones and other doodads, firing up the studio and doing some soldering and tinkering…mostly I’m laying out studies in color.  The landscape here is fat on snowmelt and rain but it’s thin on chroma and I suppose gemstones have become a way I can quench my craving for color.


Already it occurs to me how much I will miss living at the strawbale house on the steep slant of the South bank of the Snake River.  Being able to watch the sunrise over the water and steam, witnessing the waking of the world, one bird at a time.

Did I tell you that in December, from the kitchen sink at the stawbale house, I watched a pair of coyotes stalk a group of ducks that were in a floatilla near shore in a wide eddy on the far bank?  The stalk culminated in a terrific splash attack and the coyotes missed their mark and thereby their breakfast but I think they had a fun time, regardless.  The duo proceeded to make their way upriver, hunting voles in the snow as they went, leaping and pouncing, tossing their live, velvety food into thin air before snapping it in the steel trap of their jaws.  I watched the whole thing while wearing a pair of rubber gloves and pressing binoculars to my eyes — dishwashing was stalled for a good fifteen minutes.

I’m going to miss seeing the herons landing on the island below that house, surprising the muskrats on morning strolls, the flight of the bald eagle and osprey.  I’ll miss being a part of all that magnificent, teeming life.

As I let go of one place, I turn to embrace this new home with great joy in my heart.  I counted the trees in the immediate yard at the farm and there are 34, all mature (this number does not include the fruit or nut orchards, the wind rows or any of the trees in the far hay pasture) ranging from elm to locust to ponderosa pine to Austrian pine, to blue spruce to a single, young,  bristlecone pine!!!  I pet the bristlecone every single day, it’s such a sensory experience.  I don’t know who planted it but thank you, whoever you are!  Thank you!  You’ve made a perfect stranger so glad.

In these yard trees is a heavenly host of birds, even though it’s winter.  I look forward to seeing new nests appear this spring.  We also have barn, great horned and shorteared owls on the premises and walking the lawn is made difficult by the mountains of owl pellets piled beneath the trees — I see rodent bones and the motley, partly decayed faces of doves, small skulls and shards of hide in those pellets.  As always, it’s an impromptu biology class for me, just strolling around this place!  I learn so much just by looking, engaging my logical thought processing and employing my deduction skills.  I feel like the Cinderella of this place, with all my little critter friends, and I sing to myself as I go about my way, dressed in rubber boots and rags (…not really dressed in rags but I couldn’t resist writing that…).

I can’t wait for the tree canopy to burst away into wild greens this spring and the row of almond trees in bloom and buzzing with fuzzy bees.

We’re settling in, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, painting and dealing with finishing details as we go and let me tell you, our space is so lovely.  So lovely.  But let me tell you the most important thing — we arrived home from our southwest trip at 2AM and I stepped into our new house exhausted and hungry.  I navigated through the maze of unpacked boxes and stacked pieces of furniture, brushed my teeth with a broken bathroom faucet and fell into bed to sleep the best, deepest sleep I’ve had in a long while.  If I could choose a word to describe the past year of my life it would be: CHAOS.

If I were to choose two words they would be: UTTER CHAOS.

 With the completion of our move to the farm, all things feel relatively calm and orderly…everything is in the right place (even if it’s still being unpacked).  I think I fell into a kind of hibernation survival mode leading up to this big move and now, my energy has been unleashed fully and I’m humming and buzzing from blossom to blossom in a kind of kinetic, hyperactive quest for nectar.  It’s beautiful.  It’s beautiful to be myself again.


I look forward to sharing some photos of our new home with you but my camera is broken and in California undergoing a $800 repair so in the meanwhile, here’s the final few pictures I have of the New Mexico portion of our southwest trip.

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The tiniest anatomical heart for you to wear at your throat in true milagro style — as a reminder of a particular hope, goal, dream or prayer or in gratitude for a prayer answered, a hope redeemed, a goal met or a dream made reality.

This piece is made even more powerful if given as a gift…I have twenty and I’ll make them available tomorrow in my shop at noon, mountain time zone.

I’ve meditated so much, this winter, on the idea that courage is not the absence of fear but choosing to act despite the presence of fear.  I apply this notion to my life on a daily basis when I am trail running, creating in my studio or working in partnership with Robert on the flaws within the realm of our marriage.  You name the thing and I assure you, there is fear there for me, in some shape or form, but I go forth and I meet my fears head on, every single day, and the clash you hear is of steel on steel, spirit on flesh, heart on heart…

…and but for the grace of God go I.