Directional Kindness in 2016

Happy New Year!   As mundane an expression as that is, it is most often delivered with sincerity.  Friend or foe, I sincerely wish you a happy 2016.

Yes, I know that January is trending towards February and the stores are already pulling out Valentine decorations, but it is STILL January.  A new year.  A new beginning.  A fresh start.  The world collectively contemplates what has come transpired and what might be.   We look back and we look forward.

  The New Year is a good thing to pause and evaluate life, to make course corrections and embrace possibility, but the New Year is NOT the only time and it is not necessarily the best time.    

Mornings are opportunities for micro-evaluations and course corrections, but mostly mornings belong to routine and auto-drive or no one would make it out of the house.

First of the month.  Bigger than the morning but smaller than the New Year is the first of the month.  Twelve opportunities to pause, evaluate and make course corrections.

Seasons are bigger than months and more fluid.   Some places get four distinct seasons while others just get two or three.   Do you have a favorite season?  Do you, COULD you tie a new beginning to your favorite season?

Birthdays, like New Years, are singular opportunities.   Although they come around annually, they are never the same.  I was 55 on the 3rd.  It feels significant.  A new year, a new age, a new season of life.

Death is a cruel opportunity for course correction.   Mortality is not something most of us consider on a daily basis.  When death of one near or dear interrupts our routines, it is an opportunity to contemplate personal mortality and consider personal legacy.   Politicians do it.  Maybe we should, too.

I could go on and on but (HOORAY!) I won’t.   The moral of this story is that our lives are filled with opportunities to start fresh.   I am not saying that we can nor should avoid the consequences for our choices.  I am saying that there is power and there is mercy and there is grace in new beginnings and we don’t have to wait for a new year. 

Set aside a time and seek out a place to pause, evaluate, and calculate a course corrections.   Pause long enough to discover where we are and to remember where we are going.  Minor course corrections, early, will impact on the trajectory of a life.  Less correction is required the sooner the flaw is discovered.

Museums are a good place for contemplation.   The artwork allows you to see the world, be it landscape, still life, portraiture, or abstraction, through the eyes of another.  Art enables us to see ourselves in and through the work.  Take a journal.  You might be surprised where the art and your heart take you when you visit a museum.

Nature is the number one worldwide place for reconnecting with one’s self and direction.   New research is showing that our brains work differently exposed to nature.  EVEN a potted plant (not a pot plant but maybe that, too) can reduce cortisol (stress hormone.)  Take a pencil and a journal.  Write. Sketch.  Listen.  Hear.  Record.

Cozy places, be they at home or in a favorite coffee spot, make room for contemplation and new beginnings.   Again, the journal.  (3×5 cards work well, too.)

There is a kindness to a fresh start.   We usually think of kindness as something extended to others.  That is important, but what I am speaking of is kindness to oneself.   Allowing ourselves to pause.  Allowing ourselves to look back and to look forward, not with judgement or condemnation, but with love and kindness.  Allowing for and enacting course correction is vital.

I have been painting for over 30 years.   I assumed being a good painter would be enough to earn my living painting.  It is not enough and I am making those course corrections and learning to share my art (and my heart) with those outside my circle.   Thank you for journeying with me.



The Holidays are OVER!  YOU MADE IT!
Wait, WHAT? Aren’t the holidays supposed to be magical? 
 Yes.  Yes, except when they are not.
Recently I read:

What does that mean?   It means that EXPECTATIONS defeat happiness.
Expectations move us out of the present into the self defeating land of
Could’ve Should’ve.   
A steady diet of Disney-esque fairy tales, romance novels, movies, white knights and sunsets has us believing that happy-endings are our due. 

Fairy tales, romantic novels, movies, gleaming armor and sunsets are not bad things.
Expectations, though, can be devastating.
Expectations rob from the present moment.
Expectations keep us from enjoying the here and now

when the here and now is all that we really have. 

As my Grammie Hannan used to say,
“The world doesn’t owe you a living.”
She also told me not stir poo with a stick.

This is not the blog that I expected to post on January 3rd, my 55th birthday.  That blog was light-hearted with clever reminders that holidays are hard for many (most) folks and offer a reminder to give yourself a pat on the back for making it to the other side of the holidays.   If I had posted that blog on January 2nd it would have been fine.  The next day it was not fine. 

Backstory:  All six children (including two spouses) were here for Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.  The 2nd I was back to work writing the aforementioned brilliant blog and painting on a new painting.  The next day, my birthday, was a good day.  After supper I dusted off my internet connection and, while trying to remember my password, I allowed Facebook to distract me. 

A photograph in my feed took me back almost 40 years.

The photograph was of a high school classmate, Gloria, at a football game, but something was wrong with the uniform.  The headline didn’t make sense until I realized that it was not Gloria, but her daughter Sara Mutschlechner.  Sara, 20, a UNT (University of North Texas) student, had been shot in the head while driving friends home from a New Year’s Eve party.   Sara was dead.  The descriptions of Sara sounded like they were describing her mom.   The world shifted.   

Sara and her parents Gloria and Clay made it through Christmas, but now Sara, their only child, was dead.   I began weeping.  And not just for Gloria and Clay.  I wept for my sister, and my cousin.  For Pam, Jeff, Dianne, and Melodie.  I wept for the ones I love who have lost a child.

I was contemplating unspeakable loss.
Unimaginable loss that we all imagine.
A loss with no name.  An alienating loss.
I claim that my paintings represent stories of hope.  I claim to make paintings reflecting nature and journey.   Paint laid down like seasons.  Past seasons shaping but not defining the present.  The present influencing but not determining the future.   Clear medium stretching the  space between applications of pigment marking the passage of time. 

Some layers are hidden during the process while others remain visible, even if only partially, through completion.   Each choice influences the next.  The impact of the unseen layers ripples through the painting. 

I work with the painting, I fight with the painting, until chaos is resolved and beauty revealed.

It is easy to say art is a metaphor for life.

It is easy to claim art has a power to affect lives. Do you know what is not easy?  Hope.  


Hoping that my claims are true.
Hoping that others can find their stories in my work.
Hoping that, finding themselves,
they will be imbued with hope for their journey and their beautiful end. 

Are my claims valid?
Can hope be represented with pigments on paper?
Is there anything more hopeless than losing a child?  

I watched Clay and Gloria share their hearts on the news, professing gratitude for the 20 years they had with Sara.  They are people of faith.  They are clinging to hope.  I am a person of faith.  I am clinging to hope.   As a community we are clinging to hope because expectations always let us down.  

Maybe the equation is not one of subtraction but of addition.


Time Does NOT Always fly.

Have you ever worked on a project for five years?   Of course you have.

We didn’t get to where we are, wherever that is, without putting in the years.  So much of what we do is ongoing.  ON GOING can be discouraging.   Like feeding kids and pets.  You feed them and six or seven hours later they want to eat again!   So little of what we do is a done deal.   I try not to think about it.   Oh, you were trying not to think about it and now- ELEPHANT! – you are thinking about it, too.  Sorry.    

So, about ten-ish years ago I received a proposal for an art show with the word “liturgical” in the title and my experience (Southern Baptist and Bapticostal) led me to believe liturgical was a flow-y dance form with lots of wanna-be ballet moves.  I started researching.   A google search was followed by books.  (By the way, the word liturgy is summed up as “the work of the people.”)  

Scot McKnight’s “Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today” was the first book I read. Before I finished that book, other books were speeding on the way to my house (I tried to buy local, but they were not available so I slipped back into my addiction and ordered off of Amazon.)  Phyllis Tickle’s “The Divine Hours Pocket Edition” quickly followed by her “The Divine Hours” volumes 1 through 3 (Prayers for Summertime:, Springtime, Autumn and Winter)  and  Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours.   

This was all new to me.  As the set prayers and rhythms became more familiar to me they began to remind me of the relationship my heart had with hymns growing up.  We would sing hymns again and again and we never labeled them “rote.”  Why did we call prepared prayers rote?  

I also noticed that having a prayer written out for me was particularly wonderful when life was particularly hard. Instead of praying “oh, God, oh, God, oh, God HELP!” A beautifully constructed prayer keeps the desperation of the moment in perspective.  

Life circumstances become part of the larger picture, not the center of it.  This changed my art, my approach to painting and my approach to life.
This became the SUBJECT of my abstract paintings.

Five years ago enter a new 9 x 12 spiral bound Strathmore Visual Journal and Bobby Gross’ “Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God.” This book did not offer prayers for the hours of each day, but four short prayers to be used during bible study and a collection of verses for the week. This was more akin to the traditions of my childhood.  

The blank art journal needed a subject and the book was right there so I started doodling the verses for the week.  I liked how it turned out (God nursing, plugging into heaven) so I challenged myself to doodle and draw through Advent. A single drawing for each week mashing all the verses together into one image. My goal was to keep up my bible study and prayers and have fun.     

A couple weeks into the project my illustrator daughter walked past and challenged me to do an entire year. WHAT?!  I had not purposefully ever taken on a project that long and intensive. Challenge accepted AND I FINISHED IT! I was thrilled and relieved until Ruth said,  “Make it a book.”   GASP!    Who raised this slave driver! Oh, yeah-me!

The second challenge was harder than the first so here we are in 2015 and, finally, Liturgical Sketches Journal & Coloring Book is available for purchase.
I set up Liturgical Sketches Facebook page where drawings and insights can be shared. 

While I am hoping the book will earn a profit, I do post the week’s drawing each Sunday on the Facebook page along with the verses. Anyone is welcome to print off the drawing and go for it. Some weeks have two drawings. I started again but could not keep up with the new drawings, my painting and getting the book out. Each drawing takes 15 to 20 hours including bible study and research and a tiny nib on the Sharpie Pens. (I don’t like rushing God unless I have to!) 

I had a grand time with this project. I utilized a mixture of traditional and contemporary images, a little snark and more than a couple of puns. Finding the connection between verse and image is akin to finding Waldo. I do hope that it is a fun project for everyone. 

God and I have a decent relationship. I heard a preacher once say, “God is the kindest person I know.” Well, good for you, Graham. My relationship with God includes lots of heavenly eye rolling followed by a divine sigh.  

 Hey!  Not that different from how my kids roll their eyes and groan, “Mommmaaaa!”

 You can find “Liturgical Sketches Journal & Coloring Book” here:

 It is a bible study. It is a journal. It is a puzzle. It is a coloring book.  A way to slow down and wait on God and your heart to sync.

A childhood friend (from my neighborhood and Baptist church) is now a monk and he sent me an article saying coloring has the same benefits as meditation. Cool beans!  

I know this is a departure from the paintings, but like my paintings, my life is layered and I wanted to share. 

I saw a TED talk about polymaths, read an article about polymaths, heard a radio program about polymaths. I Tend towards polymath. Drawing and doodling has always been part of me since my toddler years. Thank you for all your encouragement and support.

Happy Coloring!

The Fat Free, Gluten Free & NO Processed Sugar Choice!

Too good to be true?
NO, and it is yours to discover!
What is this heart healthy, zero calorie find?
What indeed?  The answer:  beauty.   

Beauty comes in a myriad of expressions.  A couple ignoring their electronics and looking into each other’s eyes at a table in the mall food court.  Baby toes.  The memory of a shared secret.  A cool breeze after a long hot summer.   A warm breeze after an icy winter.  A blue feather on a gray sidewalk. Pink pebbles.  Books.  A well worn journal.  Grammies.  

The sky is not the limit but the beginning. 

Freely and often we label people, places and things beautiful.   Still, too often, we fail to recognize beauty.  We confuse pretty and beauty.   Pretty is wonderful in and of itself, but pretty can quickly slide into shallow.  

Pretty requires Photoshop and airbrushes. Beauty glories in imperfection.   Pretty is fleeting.   Beauty endures.   Pretty is skin deep.  Beauty comes from a deep core. 

Both inspire tears.

I aspire to create beautiful paintings.  The process tends towards intimidating because the blank paper itself is quite beautiful.   My mark disrupts the perfection of the pristine paper, the well stretched canvas, the birch panel.  It is uphill from the first mark. 

I changed my diet. No more processed, sugar-coated lies about the frivolity of beauty.   

Beauty is not extraneous.
Beauty is not dessert.
Beauty is the main course.
Beauty feeds the soul.    

Watch for your pink pebble.
Smile at the couple in the food-court.  

Sit with a painting.  Be well fed. 

Next time I will share some of my process and some of my painting vocabulary.  Thank you for sharing your time with me.  


I have two horses.  My horse and my horse’s brother.  We love our stables (Will’s Ranch on Hwy 377 in Benbrook, Texas) and we love our stable director, Cherie.   Over the past three years our families, mine and Cherie’s, have intertwined and we have come to care for each other and we do what we can to be mutually supportive.  Cherie has ceaselessly encouraged me to get my art out into the world.   I have a tendency (HA!) to be more passionate about making art than pushing it out the door.  All artists need Cheries in their lives.

This week I chose to shovel horse pooh.  Our lead worker is leaving to care for a family emergency.   My help this week freed him to finish up specialty jobs before leaving.  (Confession:  I don’t think I would have jumped in if the temperatures were still at Texas summer heights, but Fall is in the air and the breeze is beginning to cool.)

Shoveling horse pooh might sound awful job, but yesterday it was freedom!  My mind took the morning off and my body was the boss.  (Is this why runners run?  I ran once.  Shoveling is better!)  I was so busy trying to keep that stray ball of pooh from falling through the space in my rake with the missing tine that my mind completely forgot to stress over social media, likes, hashtags, or followers.  FREEDOM!

When I paint or write my head takes over and I forget I have a body.   Inside my head, when I am in the zone, hours pass without any awareness of time.  When nature’s call gets too loud to ignore and I am forced to stop painting, I am shocked that my body refuses to comply.  My joints get stiff when my head forgets we are a team.

Presence is a hot topic these days.   Cleaning the horse runs and stalls forced my mind to acknowledge my body and let it lead.  The dance reversed.  I remembered that I am physically strong.  I can’t handle the wheel barrow, but I have wicked rake skills: ambidextrous raking!  The young folks work with headphones.  For me, it was a relief to think about nothing but the task in front of me.  I was present in body and mind.

I had forgotten why I am an artist.   Caught up learning the business side of being a professional artist, I forgot I was an artist.   (My business skills are- um – lackluster.)  Yesterday I remembered that I am and always have been an artist.  I noticed that pooh comes in a wide array of colors.   (Storm’s dropping were the most glorious green.)  Rocks, dirt, feathers, a raccoon skull, shavings, a sprig of grass defying the odds by growing in a dark corner, the blue sky with glorious clouds, the fat chickens, the peacocks and Lobo, the tabby cat, with his yellow belly and paws recharged my observation batteries.  I rediscovered beauty.  For four hours I was immersed in beauty: sans electronic screens.

At home I showered, ate almonds and an apple, slathered aloe vera on my sun kissed arms, took two naproxen and a nap.  Refreshed, and very aware of my forearms, I finished and photographed ten small paintings and started four new ones.   When I did check my computer I realized I had missed two online webinars.  OOPS!  But the important stuff happened.

Is there a moral to the story?  Why yes, yes there is.  All work and no play makes Gwen a dull, creaky, crabby artist.

This week I re-discovered truths I had forgotten.  The body and mind make a great team.  Presence is best served when they work together.  Balance is a requirement not an option.  If you are like me and balance has left the building, stop now and reintroduce your mind to your body.   It works both ways.   Physically demanding jobs (moms with young children, I am talking to you) require you to spend a little time inside your head.  Reading or journaling versus television, computer or radio.  Find your old flute and play your high school fight song.   If you have a head oriented job channel your mom and, “go outside!”  Take a walk.  (Shovel pooh.)  Plant something.  Play with your pet.  Go to the animal shelter and volunteer to love on the critters.

Five years ago, before the horses, I could barely manage stairs because of the pain in my back and knees.  The horses saved my life and transformed my art.  They forced me out of my head and into my body. is a result of that mind/body connection.  I forgot the lessons I learned five years ago when I committed to learn and do the business side of art (master social media) earlier this year.  This week I remembered.

The little paintings are for a project, but if you would like one just let me know.   I am nothing if not prolific and I have three weeks before the deadline.   The original large small paintings (5×5 ish, 5×7 ish) are $75 and the small small paintings (2.5×2.5 ish) are $25.  The ones in this newsletter are free as e-cards and available as prints.  It is easiest to see them on my Instagram account.  I creatively named my account GwenMeharg.

Thanks for hanging with me and enduring the mommy lecture.  Surely all of you lead lives with a healthy body/mind balance, but just in case you don’t…see lecture above.

Pie, Creativity, and the ART of MORE!

Pie is an excellent dessert but a poor mind set.

Pie, Creativity, & the Art of More

I like pie.
No ice cream.  Ice cream is like sugar in tea.
It is only necessary if there is a problem with the tea.

Some places don’t have pie.

Poland – no pie.  I fantasize moving to Poland, opening a pie shop, and becoming rich and famous.  The hitch?  Besides Poland being in Eastern Europe, the hitch is I have never made a pie and I am a very bad cook.  I mentioned making dinner today and Peter (16) laughed out loud and said, “No, Momma, seriously.”  A shadow of fear crossed his face and he offered to make dinner himself.  Maybe I will keep painting.

I digress.

Pie.  Pie is an intimate dessert.  Pie is difficult to share with a crowd. Wedding cakes and birthday cakes can be sliced into a plethora of tiny pieces and slapped on a napkin to be eaten standing up.  Pie will have none of that.  Pie begs a comfortable chair and demands a fork and a plate!  Tiny slices of pie? HMMPH!

Pie, with all its benefits as a dessert,
is not a healthy mindset.  

The pie mindset sees a set number of slices.  Each time a slice of pie is handed out there is less to go around.  It is a scarcity mentality.  It makes us selfish.  It turns us against.  It kills possibility.

But I am an artist so let us speak not of scarcity,
let us speak of creativity, art, and abundance.

Art, the manifest expression of creativity, is not diminished through sharing.
Art shared is multiplied.  
Creativity blooms in an environment of generosity.

We see it in children.  Watch a young child share a drawing with an appreciative adult.  Sparkling in the acceptance of her offering, she rushes back to create another.  Confession time – I am no different.  Adult artists are not that different from the child sharing her creative endeavor.  Acceptance of, appreciation of, our work makes us sparkle.  (I am so glad my teenagers don’t read my blog or I would NEVER hear the end of sparkle.)  Some artists hide the sparkle, but believe me, it is there. I am far enough into my journey as an artist that my work is not dependent on universal acceptance or appreciation, but when it comes along it is definitely encouraging.

Some in the art world would push scarcity.  Artists end up competing for limited wall space in galleries. There IS a scarcity of wall space within galleries and there are fewer and fewer galleries. The economy closed doors and poor management closed even more. It is easy to be discouraged, looking at an empty pie tin. But I am a more-the-merrier kind of gal.  There IS room for more.

We are in a season of flux.  Social media and the internet are making room for MORE.  There is a new abundance in the art world.  There has never been a better time to be an artist or an art collector. The world of art is at our fingertips and we can visit in our jammies!

Did you see the quote from President Obama floating around facebook today?  Set politics aside for a moment and imagine why artists of all varieties are sparkling today:

“The arts are what makes life worth living. You’ve got food, you’ve got shelter, yeah.  
But the things that make you laugh, make you cry, make you connect – make you love are communicated through the arts.  They aren’t extras.” 

The pie mentality says that the arts ARE extra.  There is not enough to go around.  Not enough time.  Not enough money.  Not enough pie.

I grew up Southern Baptist.  Now somehow my little corner of the Baptist world mine was a kinder, gentler Baptist.  We danced AND played cards- oh my.  Still, there was pie-think.  Not enough.  If your work didn’t point people to Jesus it lacked value.  Imagine what that kind of pie mindset does to an artist, actor, writer, dancer?  When “gifts” were discussed, art was NOT ON THE LIST!  “Art is a talent not a gift.  We will put you down your gift as hospitality.”  (SOMEHOW the musicians and singers could be gifted but not visual artists or actors or dancers.)  Hospitality was the catchall gift when the labelers couldn’t squeeze the congregant into a gift box.   Turns out the problem was with the boxes, not the artists.

So many of us grew up with the mindset that the arts are extras, frivolous.  Sometimes the old sound track creeps onto the play-list inside of my head.   I fight it by painting furiously!  Sometimes, not often, but sometimes it wins.

“As American as motherhood, baseball and apple pie.”   Somehow we stopped embracing the artistry of apple pie and started seeing the pie as embodying limitation, not enough, scarcity in America.  

It is time to ditch the pie mentality and embrace a PI mentality. 

Mathematical pi never ends.  It keeps on going. 

Because creativity thrives when shared it offers a path for combating scarcity.   The arts (participants and supporters) have a purpose beyond “frivolous extra” in the fight against scarcity.  FIGHT FOR MORE!   Embrace creativity and embrace abundance.   The arts make something out of nothing.  The arts bring life back to dying neighborhoods.  Arts make life worth living.

There is enough to go around, it just sometimes takes a while. Watching the refugees/ migrants on the news it is easy to believe that scarcity wins. The pie mindset can’t see solutions because it doesn’t believe there is enough.  If you don’t believe there is enough you are blinded to possibility.

I am a tiny cog.  I mourn with those who mourn, but I also celebrate with those who celebrate.  I can be happy for their success because I believe there is enough for all of us.  I paint paintings that move from chaos to beauty.  I paint paintings that defy the disorder of the world and proclaim the possibility of beauty.

Today Steve Garber wrote:  

What we believe about the end of the story shapes the way we live the story.  

I believe the end of the story is beautiful and generous and lacking in nothing.   My paintings give voice to hope and happy endings.  So, THANK YOU!

Thank you for joining the newsletter.  Thank you for visiting my website.  Thank you for liking and commenting on facebook.   Thank you for sharing my work with your friends.   Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend with me and with my art.  Thank you for being part of my story.   

Thank you for inviting me to share my art with you.   E-cards of my paintings are free and so are encouraging words.   Prime your creative juices today and send someone an encouraging note.  And maybe enjoy a slice of pie while you write it. (Let me know what kind.  Strawberry rhubarb is my favorite, well maybe blueberry, but then raspberry, than again coconut cream…)



PS:  I have added a few new places to interact more directly with me and share some of my art that isn’t on a website.


Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery (or Keyboards)

I have pond scum. I was moving rocks around on the bottom of  Roy Meharg‘s catfish pond in the front yard to keep a new potted plant (not a pot plant) from tipping over and OUCH, I thought something bit me. I pulled my hand out of the water and I had blisters on my wrist.  It itched like the devil. The itch traveled as did the blisters. Wrist, belly, arms, face, eye lid, neck, back.

Visit to the doctor and- well, she didn’t call it Pond Scum, but she did prescribe a cream to get rid of it and said it could take up to 4 to 6 weeks! Lordy, Lordy! No good deed, and all that. But in the big scheme of things what are a few blisters and a little itching. (Gonna cut my finger nails short, short, short before bed.)

Gives me character, right? David tells me I am already a character-hmph! (Wonder what he means by THAT!) 

I wrote a brilliant artist bio yesterday. It only took me four hours and guess what?  No, I mean it, guess. Yep. Jesus saves, but I didn’t. Tonight I spent 2 hours writing a solid mediocre artist bio and I am exhausted. Fingers crossed. Hope a single cheek bio is good enough. (Notice how I was delicate and didn’t say half-assed? I am really working on being more sophisticated.)

In addition to the cream there is a pill for itching. I am not supposed to drive or operate heavy machinery after I take the pill. I am beginning to think maybe it should also include a warning about operating a keyboard. (Note to self: Have David check that mediocre artist bio in the morning. It may be more cheeky than you think!)

Sweet dreams! Is it the weekend yet? I am ready for it to be the weekend.

3 Essential Rules For Collecting Art

I just read a very nice article on collecting art, “5 Unspoken Rules of the Art Market New Collectors Need to Know”.  Sigh.  My favorite was rule number five: gain a seat on a museum board or START YOUR OWN MUSEUM!  Double sigh.  (I am sure it is a very nice article for someone and if that someone is you, here is the link: )

Today I am feeling bold enough to suggest 3 rules of my own on collecting art for your living and work spaces.  (Home and office sounds so 20th century.  Some of us work at home and others live at the office.)

I just brewed a fresh pot of PG Tips, my favorite cup is steaming on my right, Wesley is snuggled up on my left so here goes: 3 Essential Rules for Art Collectors (who are not looking to open their own museum- not yet!)

Rule #1.  Wait, wait, wait!  We have a problem.  If you set a rule in front of an artist the artist is obligated to break it.

Can’t help it.

It is a rule.

Do you see the dilemma?

Instead of rule, I will call it a suggestion, a very strong suggestion.
Like when I SUGGEST my teenager take out the trash – NOW.  Yeah, a strong suggestion.

Suggestion #1  Love it.

The other article never mentioned love.  Maybe it was only about the market and not art but
 if you don’t love it, leave it.   

A few decades back an artist and his marketing genius brother sold the public a bill of goods wrapped in well lit velvet paneled rooms with stories of paint daubed onto prints by master hands.  They applied Beanie Baby theology to prints and sold high quality posters in gilded frames for extravagant prices, convincing customers they were in fact investors and their children would be able to sell these framed posters for a profit.  They were duped into believing they were not buying art, but they were making an investment in their future.  Art is an investment in the present that might, possibly payoff later.  You must love it now.

Like all true fairy tales, the sort the Grimm brothers collected, the ending was more cautionary than happily ever after.   Some purchasers truly love their posters and are still happy with their fantasy cottages twenty years later.  For them the artworks were a true bargain!   Those who purchased their light paintings as an investment, well, dark clouds may have dropped a little rain on that parade.

The result of all this chicanery was a public who no longer bought art because it touched their hearts or because they loved it or even because it matched their sofas.  People bought into the LIE that art was valuable only as an investment.  A generation forgot that art feeds the soul.  Buy art for an investment, certainly, but first, LOVE IT!

If your pocket is modest start small.    Small in regards to price or small in regards to size.   If it is important to you to have a certain name, it is possible to find something affordable in a mono print or a drawing or very small canvas.   I go to the Art Fair in Dallas and I see things by my art heroes that are very nearly within my means.   When college for my six is over and done with I will be purchasing one of those names.   For now I am collecting small works by friends and acquaintances who are ahead of me in their art journeys.   Sometimes I settle for purchasing their show catalogs which I cherish.  I see it as an investment in my art education and their careers even if it is only my little mite.

Beautiful work is available even for very shallow pockets.  There is truly something for everyone and with a little due diligence you will be able to find your perfect match.  Online shopping is always fun because you can shop in your jammies.  You can buy art like you buy vegetables: local, at craft fairs, boutiques, street vendors, local art departments (high school, college, junior college), coffee shop walls, restaurants, the possibilities for well priced art are endless.  As a matter of fact, my work is quite modestly priced and would look great with your sofa.

Hubby, David, reminded me to tell you about the Nancy Lee and Perry Bass family collection that we just saw (twice) at the Kimbell Art Museum. They focused on what they loved and were ahead of the curve with some of their selections and with others they joined in with what was trending.  Maybe I imagined it, but it seemed as though I could feel the love as I moved through their magnificent collection.

Maybe the works of those friends and acquaintances that I am collecting now will one day be spotlighted on Antique Roadshow 2075 with my great great great grand child jumping up and down cheering and exclaiming, “We had no idea!”   If that happens, hallelujah, but I am not worried about it because right now, I LOVE IT!  My soul is well fed.

Oh, I promised 3 rules.

Rule #2  See Suggestion #1

Rule #3  Ditto

fade out to the Beatles singing LOVE LOVE LOVE……

Dogs, Death, and a Beautiful Day

This morning we had our corgi, King, put down, put to sleep, euthanized.  So many pretty words to say something so hard and so simple.   We had our dying corgi killed.

Late one night ten years ago our 19 year old cat had a stroke.  We immediately took her to an all-night veterinary clinic to be “put to sleep”.   She was so old and she was so frightened and she could not stay upright.  Her eyes radiated panic.   I made a very quick and decisive and easy decision.

Josiah, who was the age Jubilee is now, 10, insisted on coming and on watching.   We TOLD him we were having Frankie “put to sleep.”  He was shocked and traumatized when, at the clinic he realized what “put to sleep” meant.   The look on his face and his desperate plea, “You mean she is dead?” still rattles my soul.   We made no vague illusions with Jubilee.   Josiah felt deceived and we intended no deceit.   Some things cannot be softened by pretty words.   With Jubilee we were quite clear.

The decision with King was not as clear.   His decline was slow and his ability to adapt was stunning.  Feeding had been a problem for a months.  I was very creative concocting tempting foods and, when I held the bowl for him, he would eat the new cuisine for a day or maybe two and then stop eating again.  I cooked more for King in the last two months than I have cooked for my family in the last year!

Friday, the 26th of June Jubilee, Roy, Peter, and I took a road trip to see the eldest child, Ruth, her husband, my friends, our friends, and NYC.   Between the time we left in the morning and David coming home after work, King had a stroke.  He could not stand, he was panting and drooling and David called very upset thinking he would have to “put him down” that night, but King rallied.   We decided to keep him comfortable and let his life run its natural course.  King proved to be a fighter.

For 11 days he refused to eat and would take just a little water.  He listed heavily to the right and could not stand up.  He figured out how to move up and down the hall by leaning against the wall and dragging his back end along.  (I think the left back leg still had some get up and go, but he listed so heavily to the right that it did not do him much good.)   Every day we called to see if King was “still with us.”  Every day we were amazed to hear he was still alive.

The day we returned, Tuesday July 6th, he started eating, sort of.  He deigned to drink Ensure protein drinks.  We started very slowly, but his digestive tract was NOT in agreement with his renewed appetite.  He became more and more distressed and on Thursday night we decided- no, I decided – it was time to make preparations.  Saturday and Sunday the kids and David would be at a big swim meet and I did not want to be home alone trying to dig a grave under our fig tree.

In a feminist fail, I asked David if he would dig a grave for King.  David, remembering how much it helped Josiah to dig the grave for our first dog, Wolf: digging and crying, digging and crying, digging and crying- invited Jubilee to join him.   When Peter came home from coaching he helped, too.   While they dug, I picked imperfect pears.

Thursday night was hard.  King, only able to move forward, kept getting himself stuck  in corners which required several midnight reorientations.   David also got up with him several times when he was agitated, scared, and panting- an indication of pain or distress.  I finally made a barricade using my 33 year old Singer sewing machine to fill the most obnoxious niche enabling King to keep moving forward without getting wedged into the cracks.   We hoped he would “pass” naturally, but the distress level in the house, his and ours, was palpable.

Euthanasia.  Such a slippery slope.   Yes, we don’t want our animals to suffer, but there is also the pull to avoid our own suffering.   We “put them out of their misery” when they are our animals, and yet we deny our fellow human beings the same courtesy.   We have to be careful to put them out of their misery and not just be putting them out of our OWN misery.   We all know the legends about putting the elder member of the tribe on a sled and hauling them out to the woods to be left to die.   Compassion.  Self-preservation.   Such a slippery slope.

(My sporadically affectionate cat is sitting next to me.  I wonder if she knows.  “Storm, do you know?)

When I was ready to make the decision to have King “put to sleep”, “put down” I imposed mightily on our horse vet.  Dr. Alton and his team of wonderful, caring veterinarians and assistants has been there for us through some hairy situations.  (Literally hairy.  A huge hairball wedged into Big Red’s second colon and required surgery.)   Dr. Alton’s predecessor, Dr. Howell, helped us the week before Christmas, 2010, put down Ribbons, another elderly and sickly cat.  He was at the barn looking after horses when I asked him to “put down” Ribbons who was having his first good day in several weeks.  He agreed.   He and his assistant took Ribbons into the back of the barn and held him and stroked him and “put him to sleep.”  I wanted that for King.

Thursday I had texted Dr. Alton and talked to him on the phone.  He graciously agreed to help us.  Friday morning I texted Dr. Alton that we were coming and asked if he would meet us outside.   “You bet.”

Peter and Roy came home from swim practice Friday morning and Peter played his guitar for King.   King had always been a fan of music.  Guitar lessons and piano lessons were his favorite days.  As soon as the instruments came out King was in the middle of the action.   Since King’s hearing was pretty much gone Peter sat on the floor with King and played.   Some of the time with the guitar touching King’s side so he could feel the vibrations.   Some of the time, just resting the instrument on his leg while King leaned against the same leg.   King seemed very happy.   We encouraged King to drink some water.

The ride to the other side of Granbury is just shy of half an hour.   King and Jubilee rode in the back bench seat of our 20 year old Ford van.   Jubilee sat on King’s right so King could list to the right against the seat back and Jubilee would stop his forward motion.   He scooted forward and laid his head in her lap.   King loves riding in the van and he did not seem to mind Jubilee’s tears and kisses as we drove.   He kept looking up and bonking her in the face with his pointy corgi nose.  The tongue, as quick as ever, would lap her drippy-from-crying nose.   It was a good ride and I am thankful for the intimate time Jubilee and King had together.

We parked beneath a huge oak tree in front of the clinic and texted our doctor that , whenever it was convenient, we were here.  He and a man whose name I did not get- a vet in training- came out to “do the deed.”   Dr. Alton kept apologizing, “I am so sorry.  I know this is hard for you.”  He shared, what we instinctively knew, that this is the hardest part of his job.  Truth be told, I should have been the one apologizing, it was hard on everyone present.  I was asking a lot from this good man and he gave sacrificially.   He is a dad with children just younger than Jubilee and I know Jubilee’s grief was tearing him up.

Isn’t it interesting how tear, liquid from the eyes, and tear, to rend apart, are spelled the same in English.  Indicative of their close association or coincidence?

I brought a large rectangular plastic storage bin and King’s favorite blanket for bringing him home.  Ruth and I sewed up the blanket for him several years ago when his joints started getting stiff.  It was a huge fuzzy pillow sham which we filled with thick memory foam.  We had removed one of the seats in the van which made a nice open place in front of the open van doors.   I picked up King and moved him from the bench seat next to Jubilee and placed him on his blanket in the bin on the floor of the van.   He greeted the new arrivals.  King LOVED riding in the van and he LOVED meeting new people.  He was overtly gregarious.

The sky was blue with a few wispy clouds and there was a breeze, a cool breeze.   The equine veterinarians, angels of mercy, came out to our extravagantly painted van, shared our pain, and suggested that we not watch.

Sharing pain is a beautiful gift.

Jubilee and I climbed over a rail fence, which was a little taller than it looked, and sat on the beautiful slab, stone-hinge benches under the same oak tree as the van.   Jubilee sat in my lap and cried.   Ten years old is not too old to be held and holding her was comforting to me.   She told me she was not ready.  I told her I was not either.   I did not realize that our ministers of mercy would “treat” King right there in the van.  I am so grateful!  It was good to share the old gnarled oak with King for “the end.”

From where we sat, with the open van doors blocking our view, we could see our veterinarian’s legs and feet beneath the door and the tops of their heads through the door windows.   Dr. Alton had to leave to switch meds as King’s veins were already collapsing.  King did not make any sounds and he was always quick to make verbal complaint- a trait of corgis.   I took comfort in King’s silence, the katydids, the sky, the breeze, the clouds, and Jubilee’s open expression of our shared grief.   Our unnamed veterinarian stayed with King while Dr. Alton fetched the new meds.  We could tell that Dr. Alton’s associate was stroking King.  I love our vet-in-training for staying with King and loving on him.  It would have been within his right to stand and stretch or just step away from the trauma for a moment.  He stayed with King and comforted him and by comforting King, comforted us.

Next week I will drive back out there and ask him his name, ask him and thank him.

A few minutes after Dr. Alton returned they were finished.   Both our heroic equine veterinarians hugged us wished us well.  I did not get his name, but I got a sincere hug.  I went to the van, ahead of Jubilee, and found King gently wrapped in his soft lime green blanket.  The little white paw prints on the material made it the perfect doggie shroud.   King was still warm as I pet him through to blanket to say goodbye and determine which end was which.  I peeked, his eyes were open.  He did not look dead.  I decided not to let Jubilee look and she was fine with that.   She had held him and loved him while he was alive and it was enough.

Before we buried him she wanted to touch him.   “He is so cold,” was all she said.

The drive home was teary.   We took turns crying and we cried together.   Jubilee called her Dad and her big brother, Forrest.  Telling her story to her Dad and to Forrest helped her process.  Listening helped me process.  Jubilee could not get through to Ruth, her big sister, and that was very distressing for her.  She was unable to reach Ruth until almost bedtime.

Because she needed to process and share her grief and was unable to reach Ruth, Jubilee started texting friends.  First Melissa and her daughter, Rivers.  Melissa is one of my dear friends and River’s is Jubilee’s oldest and dearest friend.  Next Jubilee texted Teri.   I love that we share friends.   Jubilee, 10, and Ruth, 26, both consider Melissa and Teri as their own friends and they are correct.   I love inter-generational relationships.   They are so important when I screw up or my children feel like they can’t talk to me but still have a trusted adult to talk to.   I am so thankful for generous, caring friends who love me and love mine.

Once home I placed King in the basement and Jubilee took a bath and I started writing.   Roy and Peter came home from working at the barn a couple hours later and we buried King under the fig tree with its almost ripe fruit.   King fit perfectly into the grave David, Jubilee and Peter had dug the night before.   Peter gently picked King up from the bin, careful not to disturb his fuzzy shroud, and placed him gently into the ground.   Watching my 16 year old son, the youngest boy, take on this heavy responsibility reminded me that soon he will be more man than boy.   He will be a good man.   I took a shovel and began covering him up.   After a minute Roy took my shovel and finished.  Peter pried up a large natural stone slab and placed it over King’s grave.   We want to make it, if not impossible, very difficult for scavengers to dig him up.

The breeze was still cool.
The katydids were still trilling.
The clouds still wispy.
Our hearts:  heavy.

We walked up the incline to the house and ate lunch.
Life stops.
Life goes on.

We search our memories for mercies and joys and ways to be thankful
for what has passed and what is to come.

Begun on Friday, July 10th, 2015 by Gwen Meharg.  Completed on the next day.  Saturday, July 11th, 2015, Josiah Odell Meharg’s 20th birthday.
(I have had two computer viruses since I began writing this and Storm, my sporadically affectionate cat, has joined me again.   She is stretched out sleeping and looking out the window.  I reach over and stroke her and tell her, sincerely, that she is a good girl.   She isn’t doing ANYTHING.  Just laying next to me and I automatically deem her a “good girl.”   Maybe I need to talk to myself and my kids that way more often.   Laying around enjoying the sun?  Good girl!    Taking a nap instead of doing algebra?  Good boy!   Hmmm, maybe not.)