Layered Inspiration

June’s Artist Date was another special experience for me. I decided a couple of months ago that I would take Flora Bowley’s Bloom True course on the process she calls intuitive painting. It complimented The Artist’s Way theory quite perfectly. Each week the course followed a theme like play or bravery and each day you were given a task to complete. 2 days per week you were to paint. The bigger the canvases, the better as far as she was concerned. I went through so many emotions over the past 5 weeks, and today my Artist Date brought my painting to a conclusion.

Funny enough, this month’s chapter focused on abundance and treating yourself with luxury intentionally. What this means is that you pay attention all month how you are spending your money (no judgement), and then seeing how you are stingy with yourself in areas that would actually matter more. I found this to be true. I found myself being reluctant to buy the canvases, but in the end found coupons and my unspent birthday gift which helped me purchase my first 36 x 48 inch canvas for only $12. It’s original price of $79 felt like a lot of pressure to make something spectacular. I also had several 12 x 12s laying around and decided to do a grouping of 6 for my living room.

Each week I added new layers of paint to my canvases and started feeling a little more performance anxiety with the last 4 layers. In her course, she teaches a style that is very free flowing and without pre contemplation for the final outcome. You put on music and paint layers in warm colors, then cool colors, then blacks and whites etc. In the end, you start seeing images emerge and go out seeking inspiration on walks or in books.

This month, in The Artist Way, you were to go for a walk and collect leaves and rocks. This was also an exercise in Flora’s course. Yesterday after working on my painting I felt that the colors were just not coming together and I began feeling stuck. So this morning, I took my final Artist’s Date by going to the park with my camera, a big plastic baggie, a sketch book, my Artist’s Way journal and a pencil.

I wandered up the riverbed and calmed myself with the water’s flow and began taking pictures and sketched a rock. I then walked back up toward the trail when a big orange butterfly almost flew into me. I watched as other butterflies danced through the clearing. I wished I could have gotten a picture before a crow upset the magic. I walked up the trail and found a clearing on the path with huge trees and hundreds of ferns and realized those were the final elements missing in my painting. I collected my leaves, moss, bark, and pine cones before making my own little forest offering (another assignment for the class). As I arranged the wildflowers, moss, twigs, and leaves a woman stopped to watch. I had to wonder what she thought I must be doing.

I went home and worked on my painting with my new pieces of inspiration surrounding it, AND I finished it and loved how it turned out. I felt the most excited that it really reflected my family. Every bit of the painting was symbolic of what inspires us and our spirit. Next up, I will be working on the last few layers of my huge canvas, but as for today, I celebrate. I felt like a real painter. Something that I hadn’t quite owned yet.













April’s Artist’s Dates & Walks were overshadowed by my preoccupation with reading deprivation. By the end of the month I was so thrown off that I believe that I really got back in touch with part of my younger Michelle. I felt a sense of renewal for physical vitality. I wanted to feel pretty again-to feel young again. I wondered if this is what a midlife crisis feels like. In the end, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to go on a trip to Florida with my husband. The calling sun becomes quite the temptation after a long northwest winter/spring.

Being a Facebook page owner has put me in touch with some great people. One afternoon (a couple of months ago) Laurel from Illuminating Souls offered free “angel readings.” I had never done these before, so it intrigued & brought me to tears to read the different page owners’ readings that day. It was such a sweet experience to feel that each person’s reading was so special and unique to them. Each reading also captured their best self–their potential. I decided this month, for my first Artist’s Date, to have a private reading. With little information about me, she was right on with my feelings and aligned with the direction that I have been drawn towards. She helped me to see that I have been leery of femininity, yet comfortable with the masculine. She recommended a couple of books for me to read including Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes which have turned out to be just what I’ve been needing (I can’t even begin to say how difficult it was for me to hold off picking them up until the new month). Laurel also taped the reading, so I was able to listen to it again later. In the end, I had two pages of notes and great new information for my journey ahead.

Two dates were spent with self-care activities like shopping, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, & a mani/pedi time. I am learning more and more that my artist needs to be pampered and to feel well and nurtured.

I went back near the mountain for my final date. The town that you go through to go up to Mt. St. Helens is Woodland. This little town has more going on than what one would expect. My favorite time of year there is spring because they have both the Tulip Festival and the Lilac Gardens in full bloom. I learned about these events back when I completed the Artist’s Way my first time in 2008 and have been attending whenever possible ever since. Woodland still has the small town feel, yet understands the value of hospitality.

My first stop was to the Tulip Festival. It was a little crowded for my style, but I went with it and took pictures with other people in them as well as the flowers. I enjoyed watching many ladies tromping through the flowers with their umbrellas up protecting them from the drizzle. I smiled to see many with cameras and many others with arms full of tulips.


Before heading home, I took a walk around the old town area, and I found Old Town Grill, a “new to me” restaurant to try out. My first impression of the place was that it was too dark inside. Most of the patrons were sitting on the other side of the establishment (in the bar) watching sports, and it definitely had the old bar feel to it (the kind that the lights are kept dim because the decor hasn’t been updated since the early 80s).  I’ve learned long ago not to judge a restaurant by its appearance, but in this instance it put me off because when I went to read the history trivia on the other side of the menu, there was a dingy build-up that was hard to ignore. Hand washing before eating helped restore my interest in eating.

The friendly waitress was also the bar tender which kept her occupied for a while before she could take my order; however, I didn’t mind having a little extra time to explore the historic pictures lining the walls of the restaurant of the trees, loggers, and settlers of the area. I felt an immediate connection with the past and got my next lead to go to the museum a couple of blocks away.

My sandwich was pretty good, but the fries were delicious. The grilled sandwich had freshly baked turkey breast, but a processed type of cheese melted over it that I did not particularly like. I would eat there again, but would probably try their club instead because so much of their food had a home made feel to it.


Next, I headed over to the museum. I found pictures of logs that were basically the size of the log trucks that carried them. I wondered where this old growth timber had come from. The ladies that staffed this small, two room museum were pretty knowledgable and very attentive. I learned that farming & the dairies were an important part of early Woodland. Going away, I felt that I got a good idea of its history and people.

A couple weeks later, I came back to Hulda Klager’s Lilac Garden the last weekend of their season. I did bring my daughter along (I know, it did not technically count as an official Artist’s Date, but I still wanted to include it) which turned out to be a good move since I fell in love with yet another lilac variety.

Gentle remembrances of the beauty of the bloom manifested all month long. The cycles of life may be arguably at their prettiest during the spring season. A longing of earlier times in life may surprise us, but shouldn’t be avoided because so many lessons may be felt.


Whispers from the Past

MARCH: Artist’s Dates & Walks

March started out a struggle for me to get out on my Artist’s Dates (AD) and Artist’s Walks (AW). I had a very hard time sticking with the rules for the first couple of weeks and one week even took my husband with me. Though it was nice having time with him, I really wasn’t at ease to go at my normal snail’s pace. AWs have become a time for exploration and noticing details…. ADs about connecting with the people past and present.

My husband had been telling me that I would want to see the Oregon City Falls, so when our daughters were in a Saturday jazz competition at the college there, I asked him if he wanted to go as well. We stopped to walk along the sidewalk above the river and took pictures of the water below. I took the opportunity to grill him with questions about the mills on the riverbank and the industry there. He said that as far as he knew they are a big producer of toilet paper.


Next we went to their museum. I tried not to get caught up in the worry about him getting bored, but that was a challenge for me. Museums are great because you see what the people of the area valued enough to preserve. They had a wonderful section of Native American artifacts and information. Another favorite was reading about notable, Ralph Eddy, photographer to their area, and I saw first hand how he was able to preserve their history through his beautiful work. His cameras were saved spanning his 50 plus year career right there in the museum. I did get some pictures of my own and made the decision that there was a lot more to Oregon City that I need to explore in the future.


Museum of the Oregon Territory

For my next notable AD, I went to a little city called Kalama in southwest Washington. I had been antique hunting several times before a couple years back and brought home many finds. This time I also learned that the high school in their town was the high school used in the Twighlight films. Even with this attention, the town remains relatively unchanged since the last time I was there seven plus years ago. I did eat in the little deli (the only restaurant in the antique mall), and had the most delicious sandwich made on home made bread. I bought fresh cookies for my family as well. I walked through many of the antique shops and one of my favorite shops was a mix of the old and the new. They had new things that looked like old things. This particular shop also had a big section just devoted to Native American finds. I saw a rattle that was carved out of wood for $200. I had no way of knowing if it was actually authentic, but I got to thinking that antique stores in a way are little museums for people who want to take things from the past home with them. I found a bunch of cool things, but bought a Ladies’ Home Journal from 1910 that I planned on using in my mixed media journaling artwork.  Image

For my AW, I asked about local parks or walking trails and was directed to their park, but didn’t make it to the location that I wanted to. I later read that their park has the world’s talest standing Native American totem pole that Chief Lelooska carved for the World’s Fair in 1962. He did not finish in time, but these were made from wood and still are beautiful today. The park that I did make it to was very small, but I went up on the hill for a great view of the river. Like many of the towns that I have visited, timber is the most visible industry. Factories and piles of tree trunks lined the river as well as a rail line. Driving under the freeway underpass also had clues of the past with a mural of Native Americans, white settlers, and a ship, but I did not find the written history of Native Americans living there before the settlers.


Since I can remember, I have had a strong connection with Mt. St. Helens (the little active volcano in my back yard). I was only 9 years old when she erupted. At the time we lived pretty close to the south side of the mountain so we felt the earthquakes pretty strongly leading up to the eruption and experienced the blackout from the ash from the eruption itself. Maybe the year before that I met Chief Lelooska (a school field trip that I would never forget). He told many stories, but the one that I remembered was of Mt. St. Helens.

As the spring came on this year, I felt a strong draw to the mountain. I know that the observatory is still closed, so for my last AD in March, I took my own approach from the area that I know I love on the south side of the mountain. I planned on going up to Speelyai Bay. I drove through Woodland set my odometer to zero. I needed to stay on the highway for 14 miles to find the bay. As I drove past Merwin Dam, the roads got narrower and windy, but I could see the gorgeous water below. At 15 miles, I knew that I passed the bay, but honestly had no clue which road to follow to get there. I passed three to four huge log trucks in route. I was pretty stressed at the point when a deer made its way into the road in front of my car. I slowed hoping that the animal didn’t double back and hit my car (deer are funny that way sometimes.. they run up the bank and come back into the road causing an accident). Making it safely back to Merwin Dam, I decided to stop at the Lelooska Lodge to check for upcoming events. I then went down to the lake with my journal and camera. After my walk, I spent the rest of my time there pondering the presence of the mountain. The park was almost deserted, but it was a gorgeous sunny day. The wind had a low howl that was a little spooky, and being alone up there felt exciting and also a little unnerving. It was a spiritual experience as well though. I closed my eyes and felt the stillness of what it is like to be close to the wilderness. I feel like this is an experience that I long for. I imagined what it would have been like to live off of the land. The park’s education board said that the early people who lived in the valley below hunted deer and ate berries.


On my way back through Woodland, I made one more stop at an antique store that was in an old house which gave it a charming feel. Again this store had some other trinkets that they were selling along with the older antique items. My favorite area was with the baby dolls with what my daughters would call creepy because of their eyes.  Image

Speranza Antiques, Decor and Everlastings

My longing for connection with the earth only gets stronger as I explore the different sites around my community–one that I find difficult to express in words. I want to learn more about the native people who lived in this area before the European settlers came. I also want to feel the spirit of the land.. there is a connection there that I need to discover for myself. My ADs are bringing me closer to this realization and inner desire. It is something that I accept about myself, but I also discount to a certain extent. How many of us feel these intuitive pulls, but aren’t sure where they lead us?

Connection-Nature’s Message

Week 7: Artist’s Walk-Lacamas Lake Park 

Recently, I have been feeling the urge to get out to places that I haven’t been to for a while or not at all. I have come to realize that a big part of the walk for me is the scenery. I want to feed my inner artist plenty of images and recapture the connection that I feel in nature with the trees, vegetation, and the wildlife.

I remembered that Lacamas Lake had some pretty great walking trails and thought that I should check them out again. As I pulled up to the park, several cars were in the lot and other walkers were also heading up the trail even though it had just finished a steady rain not 15 minutes before. I had time to get my camera ready and stop by the visitor’s reader board before heading out on the main trail. I find these boards answer quite a few of my questions about the location and even go into their history as well. In this case the reader board touched on the watershed system and why it was needed (it was made clear that their were many sources of pollution in addition to the mills). Another section talked about the Native American settlement when the European Americans arrived. The town had been named after the camas lily which was a staple for the Native American’s diet and still grows in the area.

As I walked up the trail, the first large manmade structure that I came to was a fish screen that had been placed there to keep the fish in the lake and not in the mills down stream. The next structure was a dam that had been constructed to aid the local mill operations. The contrast of the natural and manmade environment felt entirely contradictory in my mind, but somehow it was working. Sort of. I didn’t hear the chirping of birds or the rustling around of wildlife, but at time on the walk the roaring of the water crashing out of the dam was soothing and its power enticed me nearer. I went up the lower falls trail to get a better look from another angle. In the end, I got lots of pictures and had many thoughts and ideas, so I would say the walk was productive.



Week 8: Artist’s Walk- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Birding Trail

The next idea for a walk that came to me was closer to home. I had heard so many people rave over the bird watching spots in Ridgefield’s Wildlife Refuge. The place that people swear by is a drive through area, but I wanted a spot to get out and walk through. I asked my good friend who lives there and she told me about the walking trail. She offered me a water and granola bar and said that I should think about turning on my phone’s GPS since I like going out alone on my walks. I am so comfortable in my local woods that I don’t consider them to be unsafe. Only after I got home did I see the list of animals living in the refuge  which included hundreds of birds and also a few carnivores (even the dangerous mountain lion).

My walk, however was peaceful. I have come to realize that I feel a deep connection with the chirping and calls of birds.

Like the park of the week before, there was another area for people’s information.  This too was a Native American settlement that the Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered that consisted of 14 houses that a village of people were living in. They harvested wapato tubers that still grows in the wetlands.

Unlike the last park, few walkers were out and about. The day was overcast, but not cold or rainy. It seemed as I got there most of the walkers were leaving. I walked up the trail and the first structure that I came to was the Cathlapotle Plankhouse that had been a replica of the houses that were found during the early expedition.

The wetlands were filled with what looked like ducks and other water foul. I didn’t bring my binoculars or my high-powered camera lens. Both mistakes that I kicked myself for. I could see blue jays in the trees and other common birds.  I wondered what else I was missing as I walked up the trail. The trees were what captured my attention first. They were big deciduous trees with branches sprawling  widely, even some close to touching the ground. Trees that hadn’t been pruned by man, but had been left to their natural course. Some trees grew in one direction. This commonly happens with a persistent wind.

At one point the paved trail ended and became a real dirt trail. I followed it until I got a feeling to turn around, to go no further. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t passed another person in a good thirty minutes. Whatever the reason, I turned around and as I headed back up toward the beginning of the trail I saw a huge blue heron flying over the body of water. I wished that I could capture it with my camera, and tried. As it landed, it walked gingerly along the water bank. I did the same keeping pace with it. I wasn’t sure if its caution was courtesy of me or if it was looking quietly for food. Whatever its reason, I didn’t want to disturb its activity so I was still for a long time just observing. My need for connection had been satisfied. This was a place that I would come again and hopefully frequently.


Finding Peace

Week 5: The Artist’s Walk

I planned my walk early in the week. I decided to walk along a different water front. After meeting some friends for lunch downtown, I took a brisk walk along the Columbia River walkway. Being in the downtown, I mostly wondered what this walk would have looked like 100 years ago or longer before having man’s impact. Vegetation was sparse. I even wondered if the trees were native to our area. The river was wide and its color blended with the sky.

Many walkers and joggers passed along the concrete walkway that had been made for a heavy traffic of people. I had a hard time feeling as at ease as I had the week before, but continued along as planned. I took pictures of the plaques that were occasionally placed along the walkway explaining history of the river and the settlement of the area. A feeling of disappointment hit as I finished my walk. There was still the beauty of the river and its banks, but I couldn’t help but feel a loss for what must have been its majestic beginnings. It was brought to this state all for the sake of progress.

Week 6: The Artist’s Walk

I didn’t plan my walk as early on, but decided that I would stick closer to home. I went to Lewisville Park that is set down along the Lewis River. As I drove into the park the rain began to come down. I wasn’t going to let that spoil my walk though. My rain coat would keep me dry enough.

The park was basically deserted. There were a line of cars parked outside of the park’s entrance (walkers, joggers, fishermen, and hikers regularly park there to avoid the entrance fee), but once inside the parking lots were empty except for the occasional truck. I wondered if there would be a possibility of animals up on the trail that I planned to walk along. I figured that I would make as much noise as possible. I went along the river bank first to look at the river. The rain was coming down hard enough that the rocks were slippery and I needed to protect my camera. The river always moves fast during this time of year and today was no exception.

I found the entrance to the hiking trail and took my time walking up the steep dirt walkway. I stopped to admire ferns, moss, and so many beautiful trees. I forget how much I really love this setting. My way back I decided to put my camera away and really just enjoy being a part of so much greenery. I felt like I was breathing and relaxing deeply even with a brisk uphill then downhill terrane. At one moment I felt so happy and peaceful that I knew this was an experience that I would want to duplicate. I considered all of the factors that were in play. I was alone. Lush plant life surrounded me. The river roared  below. Birds tweeted above. The rain had stopped and blue skies broke. Endorphins also must have kicked in after 45 minutes of walking up and down the trail. Would it be too much to ask for this place to stay unspoiled forever?


Slowing Things Down

Week 4: The Artist’s Walk

The desire to get back to nature surfaced again and again over the week. I found it interesting how many times the thought to plan my walk came to my mind throughout the week and especially during my Morning Pages. I felt like it was a time that I did pamper my artist with high quality air and greenery.

I also notice that my artist is feeling rather shy when out and about these days, so I decided to pick a more secluded location where I would be less inhibited. I consider this a perk of living near the country. There are times when the quiet is so important.

I chose to go to Battle Ground Lake for my walk. As I walked down to the lake I noticed that it took my eyes several moments to begin to come into focus with the details around me. A handful of fisherman were along the dock and shore line. There was a stillness. It crossed my mind that these guys have the idea. They are out there with the stillness of the lake. Every noise that the animals make echoes and is amplified. I looked out on the lake and notice birds lined up on floating logs. I regret not bringing my high powered lens to get a shot. I only realize that these were ducks after the one at the end of the line stirs and flies off and lands in the water with a splash.

I decide that I want to go around the lake’s lower trail in order to get in a nice brisk walk. I remember that it is only a mile around and think that it should be no problem to complete before the sun gets low in the sky. As I begin around the trail a small animal in the bushes scurries away. I am just as started by its noise as it was by mine. I get a chance to go right down to the water and a fish scares and splashes away from the bank’s shallow water in a hurry. During this time of year when the park is mostly forgotten, the wildlife must also have that feeling of being safe and alone.

I get almost a third of the way around the lake before the trail is covered with water and I must turn around. It is then when my eyes really come into focus and I begin to see all of the interesting things around me. Steam was rising from a floating log in the water, ferns were growing out from the most unusual places, a tree trunk which could pass in a Dr. Seuss landscape. The old lesson that the artist’s eye is an eye of detail once again manifested itself to me. I could hear many sounds of the little critters all around.

One must slow down, really slow down if one expects to see the beauty that is missed by many. It was on this date all alone that I was able to relax enough to really let go of an agenda of having to go, go, go.


Life Awakening

Week 3: The Artist’s Walk

I didn’t realize until working on scheduling these walks that in my mind, I don’t look forward at all to the winter landscape. All week, I had been holding out for a day with heavy frost so that I could bring a camera to capture some beautiful pictures. Even though a lot of the northwest is still green, things are soggy and brown as well. Nature doesn’t seem like she is at her best.

For the first time this week, I slept in late and had a jarring start to the day. I looked at my clock realizing that it was already 10 am. If I didn’t get out now, the sun would be up melting away that beautiful frost. Turns out that I had the best of both worlds.

As I made my way down the first street, the sun was warm enough to take the edge off of the cold, and the frost was beginning to melt causing showers of frost pellets as birds flew from the trees. I walked on looking for leaves covered with crystalized frost. I headed to the most shaded street that I could think of to try to get some pictures. That street was amazingly sunny that morning, but my trek had taken me farther from home than usual.

Walking back home was where the magic happened. I heard the quacking of ducks. I wasn’t expecting nature to be in full swing. I crossed over to the other side of the road and looked down to see around 20 plus ducks swimming around in the marshy wetlands below. I saw the movement of a shy raccoon heading into a burrow to remain hidden from a human’s view. I noticed the chirping of birds and realized that these little creatures are also eagerly waiting for the warming of the sunshine.

I was not the only one taking full advantage and immensely enjoying the crystal clear blue sky and appearance of the sun. I must remember how uplifting it is for the spirit to be out on foot on the good earth.



Week 2: The Artist’s Walk

This morning got off to a slow start, but being that I am on vacation, that was okay. After my morning pages and meditation I got my walking shoes on and was out the door into the frosty air–cold enough to snow. I worried a little bit about slipping, so walked on the road.

I was feeling a little bored with the familiar route, so I took off in the opposite direction. I hoped that I would points of interest to photograph. As I walked along the road, I noticed a few dilapidated sheds that I hadn’t before. Next, I came to the new construction. I found myself curious as to why I never think about change (even a change of house) until I am out and about on a walk. A walk can be a transition space that helps you realize what changes you are ready for even when you aren’t “ready.” It is a magical time when on foot when you slow down and really notice life around you. Many times, a writing piece will make itself known to me while I am out walking. Thoughts that seem so insightful. It is one of the rare times that 100 different things don’t seem to be competing for my attention (media today has become very much a part of our lives with a barrage of information, etc). Walking is a time when I am in touch with my creative mind with little or no real effort.


Imagination in Motion

Week 1: The Artist’s Walk

Procrastinating to get out for my walk this week was a problem. I am almost surprised at how long I put it off. Just getting out the door to take a walk hasn’t been the most appealing idea. I could think of a hundred other things that I would like to be doing!

So, when the sun went down this evening, I knew that I had to go. No more excuses. I put my warm gear on and ventured out with my phone and mini flashlight. Immediately, the drizzle of rain and coolness of the night got me thinking. A road that I had walked a million times in the daylight became a great scene for a fictional story. The walk was uneventful, but I noted the differences in the landscape and neighborhood on a drizzling evening. I wondered why more people don’t walk in the rain. I didn’t find it unpleasant. The sky was gorgeous. The clouds darkened in a line across the sky. I always thought that it was interesting that a couple miles away will be dry while I am getting soaked. The roads were empty. Almost no car traffic either. As I took my final turn to the road that leads back to my street, a man smoking on the side of his house came out of the shadows and started me a little, and I quickened my pace.

As I headed up my street, I realized once more that one needs to get out of their routines once in a while for imagination to flow. Sometimes doing something out of the ordinary gets the heart pumping once again. A walk is not only a walk, but it is research. Research for my work.