Reflections on Life and Art

  • It started with kittens.....

    So, the story starts with kittens.

    Not my darling cats, Peter and Emma, but with my sister Louisa's desire for kittens, which started not long after her elderly cat, Thoreau, died -- and which got really strong just as COVID-19 was breaking out.  Suddenly all the local shelters emptied out as massive adoptions in the Boston area took place.  Not a kitten to be had.  A great thing!  
    But then a friend of mine said, "What will happen as the economy worsens?" Would people who adopted be forced to surrender their pets?  Would families be forced to give up their dog or cat to a shelter because they could no longer pay for food or vet bills??
    An ASPCA study in 2015 found that for the people who surrendered their pets, "40 percent of those with annual incomes below $50,000 indicated that free or low-cost vet care would have prevented them from relinquishing their pets, and 30 percent said free or low-cost pet food would have helped them the most."
    When I lived in Spokane, I learned that Meals on Wheels there had found that many of its recipients were not eating their meals but were saving them for their pets, because they could not afford pet food.  That's when Spokane Meals on Wheels started a Saturday morning Pet Food Delivery service.
    So during the first year of COVID I learned about PAWSitive Pantry in Vermont -- and how the organization was started to help people feed their pets.  I knew I couldn't pay for a lot of vet bills, but I could contribute to the Pantry and help people (and their pets) that way.  When Louisa and I talked about a charity or charities to support with our gallery sales, the fact that PAWSitive Pantry and Vermont Foodbank worked together to help feed both Vermonters AND their pets made it an easy decision.  
    Louisa finally got her kittens -- Lewis and Clark -- from a shelter in Georgia which rescues animals from shelters without a no-kill policy, and sends them in vans up to the Northeast. 
    The picture is Louisa's pastel of Lewis ("First Night, Forever Home")
  • It's Just Paint

    In the midst of this past COVID winter, my sister came across a quote that made us both laugh.  Through the magic of online ordering, I created a mug for her which had this quote on one side, and on the other -- which as a lefty she would see as she held it in her left hand -- a photo of one of her favorite pastels.  I envisioned her taking a hot mug of tea up to her studio on a cold winter day, and looking at it as she began to create a new pastel. Inspired by it. Comforted by it.  



    Because we both agree that while the idea of creating can seem inspiring and exciting, the reality can often feel anything but.  Instead, it can really make us anxious.  It can raise a whole host of questions that threaten to paralyze us before we even begin:  Will this "work?"  Will anyone like it? Will we even like it?  Or will it be a waste of time, materials and energy that could have gone into something else?  There are no guarantees.  Maybe it would be better to just stay downstairs and not go up to the studio today after all....

    Because each new act of creating means stepping out into a space where we have not been before.  Each sweep of pastel across a blank sheet of paper -- or each brush of paint on a tiny piece of polymer jewelry -- is a risk.  It can feel as momentous as reaching out our finger to touch Adam's and trying to bring something to life.  And we are not God.  (I wonder if God ever worried, "Hmn, is this going to work or not?)

    But creating is not a life-or-death matter.   In these challenging days, when death can seem to be all around us, that is a good thing to remember.  We can play with our art.  It might work, or it might not.  Maybe it will be something that ends up in our trash can.  Or maybe the magic will happen and we will create something of lasting beauty that brings something fresh and life-giving to the world, that gives joy to the one who sees it.  But it is the act of reaching out, of risking, which matters.  That is why we do it.