Summer Daze.

The end of summer has been anything but dull.A mini-road trip with Peter, my youngest son, to visit my oldest son and his wife in Birmingham, Alabama.   Birmingham has a plethora of beautiful places to engage nature.  This trip we took a picnic and the puppy to Turkey Creek.

  I fell into Turkey Creek (I was just looking for a rock to sit on and read ) and somehow managed slip head over heels into a surprisingly deep, narrow swift channel and lose my white buffalo turquoise bracelet, chip my glasses, but keep my book mostly dry.
It reminded me of Schlitterbahn water park on the river in New Braunfels, Texas.  Peter even FOUND my bracelet further where the channel bifurcated.  I found new bruises for a week.

Forrest and Julie also have a new puppy who we had yet to meet. It was a great visit and I knit 8 preemie baby beanies while watching starting season 4 of Game of Thrones. I only made it through 8 episodes. If you wanted to loan me DVDs, that would be nice.

Sunday morning, Peter and I headed west to Cleveland, Mississippi, the home of Delta State and the Fighting Okra. Peter is a freshman and apparently Okra swim team because Peter and his best friend, Alexis, are both on the swim team. 

The dorm smelled funky. The humidity was brutal. And there was no GPS signal. But other than that, the transition went well. Probably better for Peter than for ME!

Yes. Yes, I cried, but mostly when Peter was not looking. Happy tears. Sad tears. Tired tears. I don’t know what the hell is going on tears. My GPS is not working tears.

I hoped the GPS would reconnect after a few blocks. Nope. With nothing looking familiar, I pulled over and ask an older gentleman for directions to the highway.

“Go South and East and eventually you will get there.”  I was glad the sun was low enough for me to figure out which direction was South and which was East! I drove South and East and I did indeed find the highway.

The drive between Fort Worth, TX and Cleveland, MS is 8.5 hours so I stopped on my way home. (I did not want to get home after 2 a.m.)

Monday morning.

Peter’s first day of college. Jubilee’s first day of 7th grade. Forrest and Julie were in Nashville to see the eclipse. Roy (20) and Londyn were in Savannah to see the eclipse. (This was their second big road trip this summer.)

Roy and Londyn also got engaged on this trip. (ALL parents are happy as are all the siblings. Londyn has a brother named Forrest and a sister named Jubilee. CRAZY, RIGHT!)

Driving home Monday, I switched back and forth between audible and the radio and hoping to get there in time to pick up Jubilee after school. The highway signs in Louisiana warned people to turn on their headlights during the eclipse. (Louisiana was in the 70% eclipse zone. It barely was noticeable.) Roy had provided me with proper eclipse watching eyewear so I was ready to pull over and watch!

At the Texas state line Welcome Center, I caught my first glimpse of the eclipse. Just barely, but it had begun. (I am wearing the safety glasses under my prescription glasses. )

Half an hour or so later I pulled off of I-20 onto the road to Starrville to watch the eclipse. (STARrville, get it? I am watching the eclipse of a star on the road to STARrville. Well, it seemed ever so clever at the time.)

I sat on the J5 Ranch fence to watch the eclipse. Maybe 70 -80%, and I watched it reach peak coverage and then I watched for another ten minutes. (I forgot that we were only going to get a partial eclipse.)

It did not get dark, but it got eerie. I was overly jazzed by the whole process. I pulled over a few more times before it disappeared things returned to normal. I wished I was watching with Jubilee

David was working from home and he captured some beautiful images the eclipse created by the tree shadows.

I made it home in time for after first day of school Yogurtland!

Everything between then and now has been a blur.

My son Josiah, 22, is in the Texas Army National Guard and is currently deployed helping with the Hurricane Harvey fallout. The scariest part was evacuating people from the Crosby area. They were in danger from the chemical plant. Nothing had exploded, but they were told could blow any minute.

They were still rescuing people and animals after dark. Two first responders had to wade waste deep water, one soldier on each side of the road, to be able to tell where the road was. All the time wondering when the chemical plant would blow. Even though it was a mandatory evacuation, half refused to leave. It was hard for the rescuers to leave them behind, but around each corner was someone else, waiting.

Josiah and his team rescued over 70 animals.

Now the water is receding and Josiah says it smells horrible. It looks like Hurricane Irma will be devastating Florida which means he will be headed. Now another’s son, another’s daughter will be called in to drive flooded streets looking for those in need. Most of the guard are happy to serve. Well, not happy, but thankful for the opportunity to serve their fellow Texans.

The cost, emotional and financial, is high. The debate over money, who gets it, who doesn’t get it, who pays for it, will be long with a great many losers. It is impossible to contemplate the years or rebuilding ahead.

In 2004 the children and I lived in Glogow, Poland. It had been 80+% leveled by the Germans as they retreated at the end of WWII.

The city was STILL rebuilding in 2004. Walking to the market, we would peek through the fence to see the bombed homes, the opera house, and skeletal churches, the empty and broken foundations. The fence was there for safety purposes, but I think more so that the residents would not have to look upon the devastation every day. Two generations have grown up in Glogow and the devastation remains. These are the images I imagine the aftermath of the hurricanes. This is what I think about when I contemplate rebuilding. A long slog.

60 years later, they are still rebuilding

Those of us not living with the consequences will not mean to, but we will soon forget.

I am old enough to remember when the news came three times a day. First the newspaper, then the six o’clock new, then the ten o’clock news. (We did not get a second evening paper.) Six o’clock and ten o’clock. Mostly kids were not allowed to watch the news at 10. The news could be turned off.

Now nothing ends. We are plugged into tragedy around the world 24/7. The immediacy is overwhelming. The effect is numbing.

All this circles back to the painting I am currently working on. Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants. It began as part of my wildflower abstracts, but I had not gotten to the abstraction part. I was happily sidetracked by a wedding commission.

When I got back to it this week red ants were weighing heavily on my mind. There is a lone red ant bed up at the horse stables. I get nostalgic every time I see it. I was showing it to Jubilee and telling her about horny toads.

Red ants and horny toads used to be plentiful across Texas. Horny toads feasted on red ants. The fire ants crept north and killed off the carpenter ants and the horny toads died. No red ants, no horny toads.

Horny toads are awesome. The cousins caught horny toads and chiggers at Grammy Simpson’s house in Goldthwaite, Tx.

My children have never seen a horny toad. They have never had the chance to catch one. I find that quite sad.

“WAIT!” you say. The painting is titled Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants.

Well, yes I know. I was thinking about red ants and how industrious ants are. My mind strolls over to the rebuilding due to hurricanes, the Mexican earthquake, and the fires the western states. All the sudden thinking CARPENTER ants. It just made more sense.

I am looking at my 4-foot square canvas with my drawing of red cypress flowers and thinking Carpenter ants. I research carpenter ants, but it is no good. Instead, I am thinking tiny, little bitty human carpenters. (Carpenter ants. CARPENTERS! Get it? Yes, well, it seemed clever at the time.)

Then I add spider webs. Spider webs because I had walked through several with Wesley. He walked beneath them, I walked into and through them on my way up the hill. One industrious spider rebuilt his/her web across the road so quickly that I walked through it again on my way back down the hill!

Somewhere along the way, I learned that spider webbing is quite strong. (It might have been in a comic book.) Spider webs, when not stuck to one’s face, can be quite beautiful.

Spider webs and carpenter ants.

My canvas was too big to work with inside my studio so I headed to the front lawn. On my way out the door, I grabbed a box of coins and another box of washers and nuts. I tossed these into the wet paint and allowed it to dry. Oh! And dice. I tossed in 40 small dice from a game we never played. (Here is a 45-minute video of the.  The first of it is sorta interesting. RIght away you can see I am in trouble!)

The washers, nuts, and coins represent the cost of time and materials that go into a rebuilding. The dice representing the gamble of waking up each day with less control than we like to believe.

Along the way, I learned that while watercolor and acrylics often behave similarly, there are vast differences. I did some Facebook Live videos of me making and discovering the differences. OOPS!  This hyperlinks to the beginning of the process including the moment I realize IT IS NOT WORKING as I planned and how I improvise.  It is fun to skip around in it.  You don’t need to watch 45 minutes.  

This is the hyperlink for a six-minute video at the end of the process .
(here is the link to the VERY long video where I go back after the paint dries and realize acrylic paint makes for a powerful GLUE!!!   This is the hyperlink of me taking the coins, dice, washers, nuts and rice papers off of the dried painting.  It took 68 minutes to pry them loose! 

But it is all good and this hyper- links to a 2-minute video of the details up close and personal. IF things had worked the way I intended then the painting would be done. As it is there are many hours ahead of me.

Maybe I will remember these lessons for the next painting. I would say there is an 80% chance that I will not have to relearn this lesson. Okay, 75% tops, but I will definitely remember for the near future.


Do you know a gambler? Someone who likes to take chances and expects to win?

This size painting finishes out at $3800. ( this hyperlinks to a 2 minute video of the details – so far.)
BUT for someone passionate about rebuilding,
passionate about hope,
willing to take a risk on an unfinished painting, there is an $800 discount waiting for them!
The person who claims it Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants before it is complete gets a hefty discount. (Payment plans are doable.)

Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants is changing by the hour. I will post images as things develop.

I really hope you are safe.
I hope that you know when to stay and when to go.
I hope that all our sons and daughters make it home tonight.
I hope our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, know they are loved, regardless.

I hope YOU know that I am glad you are journeying with me.
Sincerely, Gwen

PS. I am toying with a discount for all works in process. It is so labor and time intensive to market a painting. The discount will save me time and you money. Win/win! I love the infinite game. The one that keeps rolling along.

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