7i9a4324 7i9a4658 7i9a5107 7i9a51117i9a5217 7i9a5224 7i9a5228 7i9a5382I’m creatively unexercised.  It makes me neurotic.  When was I in the studio last?  I feel cheated on time lately, though I know that we all are given the same number of hours, minutes and seconds every single day.  Time is fair.

I check back through my day planner to see if I’m guilty of squandering my days.  I don’t think I am.  I’m working as hard as I can.  I see the lists I’ve been making, every single day, for weeks and months — the way nothing seems to get crossed off, the way I transfer lists over into the days that follow and the pile of things to do just grows and grows.  I felt hopeless today.  I cried a little.  I had a miniature existential crisis.  I questioned my faith, my lifestyle, my food, my desire to hunt, our farm, whether or not I should blog anymore, if I’m going to lay down on my deathbed some day and regret having an Instagram account…I wondered what the heck I’m working so hard for.  I wondered why I can’t just find the sweet spot with small business, the sweet spot when it comes to balancing photography, writing and metalsmithing…cease the need to constantly evolve.

I picked up my camera and it made me feel tired.  I turned the studio on and just looking at my tools made me feel tired.  I went outside to deal with the last of the garden.  I picked the beets and carrots.  I made soup.  I answered emails.  I fiddled the day away.  This evening, I went down to water to find a little quiet and be in the wind and spitting rain.  It didn’t solve any of my problems, getting all tangled up in the breeze, but I had a sense of space as I watched the rapids froth and roll and I knew everything would be ok.

Summer is over.  My life is so hectic in the hot months.  It takes a long time for me to settle in to the winter months, figure out how to live with Robert again and share space, slow down, sleep deeply at night and readjust to having a helper in life.  I want to fast forward to the good stuff in life this winter but I know I have to patiently and calmly fight for it.  So I will.  So I am.

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I feel completely sick about this US election — I’m not talking about the candidates (I don’t want to open that can of worms in this space — besides, I identify as a libertarian and I really have no dog in this fight), I’m talking about the way people talk to each other and treat each other and squash each others opinions and spit in each others eyes.  Alienation and public shaming is the new pink.  It exhausts me.  When is the last time you sat down with a total stranger, asked them their opinion on this election and simply listened to what they have to say with an open mind and an open heart — connecting as humans, not clashing as enemies?  I have been asking everyone I meet who they plan to vote for and everyone seems terrified by my question, at first, until they realize I’m not going to jump down their throats and make them feel like trash.  I just want to know.  It’s my way of understanding the people around me.

We learn by listening to each other.  By hearing opinions.  By being courageous and open to the idea of having our own notions changed.  Are you afraid to learn and grow?  Are you afraid of changing your mind?  See each other.  Hear each other.  Listen to each other.  Even if you don’t agree, be kind to each other.  It’s just politics.  And I think, above all, politics requires diversity.  Absolute power corrupts.  We need a mixed bag of kittens in Washington DC because this nation is split right down the middle and both sides of the matter deserve and require representation.

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Rob just arrived home from elk hunting.  Thank God.  I’m going to whip us up a nice dinner.  I hope you are all snug in your homes tonight.  I’m so glad you are in my world.

XX

http://www.thenoisyplume.com/blog/2016/10/27/12286/

Beast Mode

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I’ve been coming and going so much these past three months it has been impossible to really sink into any fresh ideas in the studio.  I’ve found it best to simply embrace some small scale production work.  It’s so much fun!  It’s straightforward.  I sit down and I make a batch of one thing.  I make as much of it as I can until I am ready to make a batch of a different design — I go into beast mode.  These are rings and necklaces and earrings that I cannot seem to make enough of.  I fall into an easy rhythm.  I’m past the point of persnickety calculations and problem solving.  I simply make.  I make, over and over again and the making is a meditation.  My mind wanders towards the light.  I talk to myself, the dogs, the cat.  I miss him.  I think about my impending late evening run in the grasshoppers and gold.  I think about swimming in the river, feeling the smooth green run over my pulse points to cool me, vein by vein.

I’ll probably carry these designs into the fall and probably into part of the winter, too.  And gladly.  I love them.

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Idaho is beginning to burn.  The sky above the Snake River is heavy with smoke today.  I watched it drift in and turn the sunset deep orange last night while I was running the dogs.  I begin to worry for him this time of year.  Just a little.  I fret.  Just a little.

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I finally acquired a very grown-up thing — it’s called a coffee bean grinder.  I like it.  I grind my cute little coffee beans in the morning, make a squatty little French press, add my milk and enjoy the heck out of that cup of coffee.  The sun rises over the canyon wall in a terribly beautiful haze, the river swirls, the herons (the herons)…

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Tater has been starting his day by rolling in some heinous carcass somewhere so once he comes home after his death-bath I drag him outside and shampoo him with dish soap because nothing else will strip the stink of decay from his fur.  He’s disgusting.  But I love that about him.  He’s so much more macho-wolf-y than the other dogs.

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We bought a farm in June.  We closed on it in mid-July and the people we bought it from are so great.  There was no penny pinching niggling negotiation.  There was only straightforward neighborliness.  One day we were standing in their kitchen with them celebrating the official sale and purchase of the place and they simply said, “Hey, do you guys want the washer, dryer and fridge?  We don’t need them.”

Yes!

We will move in sometime in October after all this fire season madness.  I’ll be able to sneak in, by the end of August, and begin painting and gleaning furniture.  Our bed is in the Airstream in McCall so I have, quite literally, been sleeping on a Thermarest since May.  I’m over it.  I’m really over it right now because it has a hole in it and I cannot seem to find the time to patch it.  It’s ok.  There are worse things.  I just pretend I am always sleeping out under the stars with a stone for a pillow and the huge loft window kind of makes that a not-pretend thing anyway.  That said, I look very forward to having a bed and sheets and blankets again.

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I read until I cannot keep my eyes open at night.  It seems a good way to fall asleep.  This summer, I have liked:

Barbarian Days

My Brilliant Friend

The Journals of Grace Hartigan

Wabi Sabi

Dakota

The Cloister Walk

Thousand Pieces of Gold

River of No Return

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And finally, copper Birks.  How could I resist?
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Just Like You

7I9A25647I9A08177I9A99107I9A25417I9A25867I9A26007I9A2655I hit the wall yesterday.  I was bleary eyed, I could barely type out single words let alone sentences on the computer, I was 100% ineffective at everything I was hoping to complete.  I needed to spend the day in the studio and when noon rolled around I knew there wasn’t a chance I would be remotely effective in that space either so I shut it all down.  I stepped out of the house to peer at the sky — it looked capable of anything.  I packed a bag with my camera gear, water and two coats in case of rain or cold or both.  The dogs eagerly loaded in the truck and we were off.

More often than not, there’s so much to do around here that it can feel difficult to justify days like yesterday and I have to remind myself that going outside is how I sweep out the cobwebs and reverse the muscular atrophy that comes with too much computer work, too much photo editing, too much time spent hunched over in the studio, too much tame living.  Going outside is vital to my work.  It’s as important as answering emails, submitting images, writing my morning pages and crafting cocktail rings.

I signed another contract for a photography job this week.  I was on the fence about it for a long while.  I was afraid (I am still afraid) it might be a mistake, an overextension.  I like to do my very best, no matter what I’m working on, and I’m afraid of this job and what it might do to my life over the next few months.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  It will be a lot of work and I need to find a way to do it with joy and HEART, injecting soul and honesty into every image.  I talked to Rob about it.  I talked to some of my friends about it.  I wrestled with it like Jacob and the Angel of the Lord

In the end, I committed to the work because I didn’t feel like I could say no to it.  In this business, there’s soul work and there’s survival work and sometimes the two can operate hand in hand and sometimes they can’t and you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to get by.  I know there’s some romance hanging like a golden sunbeam over what I am doing with my life as a freelance photographer and a metalsmith but the fact is this, these are jobs.

In fact, I think there’s too much glamour attached to the notion of doing full-time creative work, I mean the image of the working artist — it’s not more noble, it’s not more soulful, it’s not more meaningful, it’s not more emotionally and spiritually centering to do art full-time for a living.  The work itself can be noble, soulful, meaningful and centering (ANY job can be these things) but doing creative work as a full-time job isn’t going to strip your life of normalcy.  You’re still going to be human   You’re still going to have your struggles.  I’m just trying to be honest about this because sometimes folks get worship-y about the lives of full-time artists.  The work is just as messy and complicated and beautiful as having a job out in the real world.

Just like you, there are mornings when I don’t want to do my work.  I want to do something else.  I want to stay in bed curled up with my animals and read a book instead of facing my inboxes or sitting down in front of a necklace design I managed to bung up when I let myself work too late in the night with muddled eyes.  There are times, too, when it’s the joy of my heart to work!

I get tired.  I get energized.  I get hurt.  I get healed.  I get empty.  I get full.

I’m just like you.

Anyway, the dogs and I went out yesterday, we had some gale force wind blowing in our ears, we found plenty of really cool dead stuff to look at, we watched the hawks hunt, we listened to the canyon wren, we heard the chukar chuckling, we gazed off in the distance and daydreamed, we kept our eyes peeled for antlers, and we walked it out, mile after mile, until the sun went down.

We don’t regret, for a moment, how we spent the day.

Early To Rise

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I woke up terribly early this morning, around 4:30AM-ish.  I was out of bed by 5AM and I know why!  I ate not one, but two cuts of antelope backstrap for dinner last night (keep in mind, this is American pronghorn we are talking about, an antelope steak is tiny compared to a beef steak).  I was thinking about it and I realized that our diet here is pretty vegetarian.  I know this probably comes as a surprise since we spend a lot of time hunting. But here’s the thing, we don’t eat meats every single day.  We eat a lot of eggs.  I think we consume red meat every 1.5 weeks or so and then, of course, upland meats here and there.

Last night I grilled that backstrap and then sliced it up to go on top of a huge pile of greens, artichoke hearts, toasted walnuts, carrots and cucumbers (this is one of our very favorite meals here, Robert swoons for it).  But that red meat is so clean and wild and fresh and beautiful and a rare enough portion of my diet that it gives me a huge energy burst which signifies the importance of animal proteins to my very cells!  Early mornings like this, in my life, are always a product of eating elk or antelope or deer the night before.  Clean meat really works.  I believe in it.  When this body wants it, this body gets what it wants.

This is all to say, it was early here and I was outside right as night was turning to morning, the dusky quiet moment when all of the life on the river begins to stir in anticipation of the sunrise.  I saw a flock of pigeons flitting about at the edge of the cliff, the white winged doves zooming about in pairs as they tend to do, Canada geese overhead and down on the water, a variety of ducks, cackling pheasant roosters above the house and the quail covey chattering down below, incoming herons, the bald eagle, yellow winged blackbirds, robins, meadowlarks (oh my heart) and down on the water, fish were belly flopping all over the place like they were performing for a cheering crowd at Sea World.  It was beautiful to be out in the quake and clamor of it all.

I am reminded now of the time I went out with an acquaintance of mine who is a recordist (he makes recordings of nature sounds and is an incredible naturalist, to boot) to a huge marshland near Soda Springs, Idaho.  He was hoping to capture the sound of cranes trumpeting in the early morning.  We arrived at the marsh around 3AM, plugged in all the high-tech recording devices and sat down with headphones to listen to the world wake up.  Lang’s recording equipment was so sensitive it could capture sound up to 8 miles away and you really cannot imagine what I heard that morning.  I could hear ducks smacking their beaks, water swishing around the knees of herons…

The memory of it still blows my mind and I wish I could relive that symphony of sound over and over again.  It was gorgeous to hear the marsh stirring in the tiny, dark morning hours and the depth and breadth of the murmuring under high quality amplification — it changed my awareness of sound.  Forever.

I think Lang looked over at me as the marsh began to stir and he smiled when he saw my face, I am sure my expression was one of sheer rapture and elation.  It was an experience I’ll never forget and one of the greatest gifts of sound I have ever been given.

After this experience, I began to wonder about micro-sounds.  The tiny sounds that our weak human ears cannot register, like the musical tone of cotyledons pushing up through soil, the leathery sound of chartreuse leaves unfurling or the crunch of dirt molecules beneath the feet of ants.  What does that sound like?  Don’t you wonder?  Does anyone but me wonder about these things?

I like to be able to really sit back in a wild landscape and spend quality time in sensory immersion.  Sometimes I go crazy and let myself sense it all, all at once, but it’s also nice to isolate a sense and consciously go deeper with it.  In these waking springtime moments, when the world is so fresh and pungent and stretching, I find the swirl of details keen and bright.  It’s a wonderful time of year to squander the morning hours on sensory experience.  Which is exactly how I spent part of the morning today.7I9A2323-2

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Besides all the regular, wild-haired, nature girl stuff, I vacuumed up a black widow spider this morning.  I’ve been letting her live in a wee nook in the kitchen window frame for months now but she has grown very large since we first met and lately I’ve had a sense of her watching me, not to mention I am terrified she’ll lay a nest of eggs.  So I ambushed her with the vacuum at approximately 6:01AM and she made a *thunking* noise as she flew down the hose like when you suck up a nickel.  It was disturbing.

I’m almost finished meeting a bevy of deadlines here and have been slowly re-entering into studio work after a few days away from the bench.  At midnight, a couple of days ago, while waiting for my WIFI to ramp up so I could upload photo submissions, I was doodling in my sketch book and writing a poem when this ring design came out:

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It’s a continuation of my Rags & Riches Series and it’s so delicate wearing!  The bird and feather are one piece of metal, connected thinly by careful sawing and hammer formed in opposite directions (which was a challenge).  I’m working on finishing an essay currently but am hoping to have a few more of these made for you by the end of the week.

X

The point of this is not to rush, not to hurry, not to make as much as possible as quickly as possible, not to be wooed by the promise of profit and fame and attention, not to suffer from narrow sight or insecurity.

The point of this is to aim for perfection, to strive for honesty, to hone craft, to draw on personal experience, to comprehend the depth and root of inspirations, to develop a personal aesthetic, to allow that aesthetic to evolve and change, to be breathed into and thereby connected to the Creator and thereby connected to creation, to turn off the light at night and have a sense of completeness and enough-ness, to feel joy while working but to understand and embrace suffering, to transform each scar and wound into fully healed and robust beauty.

The point is to grow big enough as an individual to not embrace envy, to not foster bitterness, to do your own work (work of the hands and work of the soul), to shine brighter yet, to feed passion, to create with conviction, to learn how to fuel intensity, to keep your commitments, to apologize when you need to, to hear intuition, to know when to say yes, to know when to say no, to build successful boundaries, to grow generous, to bravely fail and courageously succeed — they are one and the same.

The point is to do it because you love it.  To love it because you have to do it.  Whatever it is.  To break your own heart in the pursuit of it.  To be healed by it.  To have your weaknesses illuminated by it.  To be refined by it.

Work is work whether it is rooted in an 9-5 office cubicle, a janitorial closet, a schoolroom or in a small nook you’ve claimed as a studio space in a strawbale house perched on the flank of an emerald river.

Love your work.

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http://www.thenoisyplume.com/blog/2016/03/02/11329/