I believe I have a guardian angel. I don’t really know what that means, but my life has been guarded from great harm several times, and the guardian did not feel like it came from within myself. Something external helped me, saved me.
When I was a small child, perhaps five, my family lived at a sprawling ranch house with a big in- ground pool. What fun we all had there! As one to try to impress and compete, I was frustrated I was not allowed to dive into the pool like my older sister and cousins. So one day I snuck out to the pool alone, squeezed through the chained door opening and gave it a try. I went into the pool and straight to the bottom on my head. I think I was knocked out. I remember I opened my eyes while laying on the bottom of the pool and looked up to the surface , the sun dancing high above. Next thing I knew I was standing on the poolside, choking and coughing, sore headed, but alright. I have no idea what transpired in the between time. The rest of that memory is as clear as a bell. I did not do that again.
Several times in my life I was rescued from the waters- of a lake once, a canal, the ocean; each of those times rescue came from a human hand. That time as a little child I was all alone.
Helper in the Wood
Flash ahead many years, I am twenty-three, married and working as a teacher assistant. Summers were off, so I picked up a fun summer camp councilor job. I was put in charge of a group of four year olds and assigned two junior councilors, thirteen year old girls. We all had so much fun together! One of my job requirements was to pick up a group of children in the morning, bring them home after camp. I drove a big passenger van owned by the camp and my junior councilors, JC’s, came with me. Though we listened to the radio and did some singing during these runs I was a very conscientious driver. Safety of children was serious business.
One morning we’d picked up the last child and were headed back to camp, approaching a busy intersection. I waited as the light turned green, looked both ways then proceeded forward . As I did I was compelled to stop and look again. A car full of young people tore down the hill through the intersection right through the red light. So fast it was terrifying. I caught a glimpse of a beautiful young woman through the window of the back seat laughing at a joke, totally unaware her driver had just ran a red light in traffic. If we had gone into the intersection I believe most all of us in the two cars would have perished. Nine kids and myself would not have made it to camp that day. At least six young people would not have gone home from the other car. The potential tragedy still shakes me all these years later.
This time I know I was mentally touched and cautioned by an external presence. I can still feel that too.
Fast forward again, I am now the mother of a college student and my family is picking her up from the university as spring session ended. All her possessions are coming home from her dorm room for the summer. The day is miserable, cold and raining hard. No hand carts were available. My husband, high school age son, daughter and I are all tromping through the rain with arms full of items to load into the car. Then my daughter slips and her knee goes out. She sits in the wet grass trying to recover, assures me she will be ok and to carry on. Arms full I miserably plod toward the car feeling distressed and begin to cross the small side street toward the parking lot. Cars line the street, visibility is bad and I step off the curb and I feel a command- STOP! A car speeds by up the street two feet from my face. I was stunned! My mind literally reeled- I would have been killed if I had proceeded! I was so shaken I walked back to my family for hugs, and told them how I had just been stopped somehow from being killed.
These events happened in my life. I firmly believe I was protected by someone or Someone. My personal beliefs have me with a strong faith in God, but perhaps His emissary was an angel? Or was it a dear person to me who had passed on? Whatever the case may be I am deeply grateful for the time I have been given on this beautiful earth, and deeply grateful to God and how I was helped.
And that is my story about my Guardian Angel. Do you have one too?
We’d moved; from a triple DDD of a house to a B cup. We sold, donated, threw out so much stuff to fit into our new place but still had a garage full to go through. Over the past year I have looked through the boxes and disposed of or placed most of it.
One thing I kept was a coffee can full of keys from my past. Keys- all sizes and shapes and ages, none of them functional any more but there they were. Key memories. A key stamped MOM, for my mother, to her old house. A key to my first home, my first, second and third car. To a suitcase? A padlock? A key I had scratched the work BACK into for an old back door. I could remember every place, car, person I was with or loved that was associated with those keys, and I could not seem to part with them
So I googled what to do with old keys, and I found my answer; make a memory key chime.
Busy life, I assembled it all in a box- fishing line, beads, more old trinkets, keys, my pliers set, jewelry findings, then left it. I began searching for a round top to hang it all from. Time passed. One day my husband was working with my young genius grandson to teach him how to take things apart- LOL- and they had a broken ceiling fan in pieces. The round top part was perfect for my project, so I brought it to my box.
During a recent art class break I got out the whole shebang and got it going. Stringing the beads and keys were a meditative pleasure. I made a strand with favorite colors for each of my family members, and one with rainbow colors. I made one for my mom who had passed. I made many in orange and turquoise because I found those colors pleasing. Old broken necklaces, fishing tackle, a butterfly from an old mobile, they all got strung there.
Putting the creation together, not so easy, for me. I have an artistic mind, not a highly mechanical one. I got some assistance from my husband for this part, appreciated that. Tying fishing line knots required some research for me, and made my fingers sore…but finally it was done.
I hung it outside on a cold and breezy day and took photos, made a short video, and smiled at it. I really loved the thing, and was proud that I forced myself through the work of it.
There is a song by Dan Fogelberg called Souvenirs, with this line
…And here is the key
To a house far away
Where I used to live
As a child.
They tore down the building
When I moved away
And left the key unreconciled.
My memory key wind chime.
Have a fine day to all, may you enjoy your memories too.
I am an art teacher as well as an artist. A recent occurrence in my children’s art class led me back to ponder the term pareidolia. I had made copies of my personal collection of “face tree” images for the children to use as landscape composition subjects. All of the kids in the class could see the face images. They had fun with the subject, even as I reinforced the step by step process of working from background to middle and foreground.
Very interesting to me was that when their parents arrived to take the children home, I realized upon sharing the images with the adults that most of them did not “see” the “faces” in my photographs.
I was at one of the lowest times of my life . Alone, sick from pneumonia and still in intensive care in the hospital when I got a phone call that my mother, who had been doing very poorly for a time, had just passed away.
A snowstorm was icing the street outside, ambulances arriving with accident victims pouring into emergency, and I had told my family to stay home that night to be safe. I felt about as alone as a person could feel. Hospital nurses were so kind, but the huge demands on their time did not allow long talks and I needed a friend; when they offered to call the hospital chaplain for me I said yes.
The Chaplain. So a knock on the door and a presence filled the room, bigger than life. A blinding white smile, and a warm hello Ms. Patricia. He walked right up to me and took my hands in his and introduced himself as Chaplain Chris. He asked what I needed and I told him I needed to pray with someone for and about my mother’s passing. Chris asked me if I was of a faith, and when I told him Christian he asked Catholic? No, non denominational, and respecting of all good people of their faiths. Chris said his order too was non denominational. We sat down and prayed, taking turns, and it was a good thing. Next we spoke of some personal, unresolved issues between myself and my mother, and he made it easy to speak freely. He had responses that were helpful to me, mostly about love.
Then Chris asked me if I knew of the book of Job of the Bible. He said his own story had many parallels to the Biblical story and began to tell it.
When he was just beyond his teens Chris left Africa for Maryland to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. He had worked hard and managed to come up with $60,000 to pay the for the flight school, arranged to move in with a cousin and flew here to the US. The day he was to start the school closed doors. All of those who had paid for tuition were left without. No refunds were ever made. The poor young man was devastated. The money was more than anyone in his poor area had ever had or spent and it was gone. Legal recourse was sought by all, for nothing.
After that Chris had nothing to do. His cousin was pressuring him to take up with her girlfriend, to marry her, but Chris was engaged to a girl in Africa and was trying to stay true, tho he liked his cousin’s friend. That pressure increased and led to a big fight; the cousin told Chris in disgust she wasn’t driving him anywhere anymore, even to church.
So he was wandering around, depressed and came to a church by a field. He went in to a service then met the Pastor and asked if he could stay and pray by himself after. The Pastor agreed and showed him a room. Chris went in and poured his heart out. He wailed, wept, asked why, asked the Lord for help. In Africa the buildings were all made off concrete block, mostly sound proof. Here they were wood and dry wall. The Pastor had heard his loud crying prayers clearly, and he was very taken by the Chris’s honest and open approach to God. He told Chris he loved how he prayed, and asked him to pray with his congregation. Chris became a regular at the church. He was shocked tho when the pastor and elders called him to a meeting and offered to pay his way through seminary school. A full scholarship.
It was a best case scenario, and Chris took the schooling. It also got him away from his cousin and the girl he liked a bit too much and had been seeing too much of- he left town suddenly but was ashamed of his actions. Chris went through the school but sort of thought now what? He really wasn’t that sure he wanted to be a Pastor. He was sure he wanted to be a pilot. But he returned to the church, joined the congregation and worked there for a while. Then he had a dream or vision of a bunch of Pastors in a group. They were telling him, come to North Carolina, we want you here. He had the dream several times before he told his church leader. The elders got together and discussed it, and decided he did have to go there. God was calling him. About that time another cousin he thought was in Texas got in touch. He said, Chris my wife and I want to buy a house, but we don’t have enough money. Can you help? Chris did, the cousin bought a house in North Carolina and asked Chris to move in too. So he went there next and began to seek a church that needed him. About that time he was led to a church that wanted him to start a new branch, he was led too by his pilot craving again. As he halfheartedly began working on establishing a new church he also enrolled in flight school for some air training. He loved it so much. Chris worked hard at the church, and did very well. But he still did not feel that was what he wanted.
During his first air training flight Chris was assigned to an instructor he did not like too much, but up they went, each working a separate part of the controls. Chris got the plane up and the pilot took over as they were heading down. The controls froze. The pilot tried everything he could, but the plane was not recovering. He told Chris to brace for a crash and Chris was terrified. He began yelling to God- you want me to be a Pastor I will! I will stop fighting you Lord I will do anything just save us! And the plane recovered, the pilot brought it down. Ashamed, Chris went to the head of the flight school. He told the man that he either wanted to never go up with that trainer again or he wanted his money back. He was denied both. He went back to the church. Meanwhile, the church elders had decided to send Chris and another young church leader back to Divinity school, offering him a full scholarship to get his masters degree. And so he did, while working at the church.
Now Chris had a masters, and career choices were opening up to him. He should have been content, but just was not. He was also mad at himself for his pilot dream and tried to ignore it. Then he had another dream, of a group of Pastors calling him to come. He tried to ignore it, but it was there. He did not want to listen. But it turned out that his church had further plans for him, and wanted him to get his doctorate, with them sponsoring him. And he went with that, back to school.
The remainder or this story is not as clearly remembered, but the basics are as I heard from the man. Chris got his doctorate degree and was offered a leading position. He tried to get out of it. He side stepped and said other people were more worthy, and was just doing everything he could to avoid this role and committing to it. Secretly he enrolled in flight school again, and was very glad. He was also ashamed of himself again, could barely stand himself. The morning of his first flight session, he woke up in his house on fire! Everyone but Chris was out of the house, but Chris was trapped in a burning foyer by a door. He was being badly burned and screaming when he was rescued, and spent many months in the hospital after that. His face, hands, arms and feet, legs were all damaged, and recovery was very difficult. During this time he met a hospital chaplain who was wonderful to him and helped him through the agony so much. Chris slowly began to think he had found his own calling; ministering to the sick and fearful patients in the hospital and helping them and their families in their times of crisis. When he was almost healed, he had strongest and clearest vision of his lifetime and it changed his world forever.
In his dream/vision he was being called outside. He went out and saw a long pathway, and began to follow it. He looked at the other people on the path and saw that they were all shining white. Looking down t his own body, he saw that he too was shining white! Whiter than white, whiter than silver or white gold, but so beautiful and valuable as to beyond his imagination. He saw that all of the people were the same shining color, no matter their ethnic background.
All were walking toward a huge gleaming structure, like a soaring cliff. It was perfectly flat fronted, with no openings, yet as people in the distance approached it they appeared to go inside. and when Chris got to the walls, he too saw an opening and went inside.
Inside he saw huge people- tall and shining white. they motioned to the small newcomers to join them in groups, and though no one was talking, Chris was unafraid to realize he was in heaven. It was all whiter than silver,radiant and too beautiful for him to even comprehend. All giving love, peacefulness and knowledge filled him and all those who were there.
(My own memory becomes even less clear on the rest of his story’s details. I had been listening for 45 minutes to his tale, and was sick. I was also very full of grief and weariness. My excuse, but there it is.)
Chris felt he was given a choice to stay in heaven, with the perfection of the tall beings and God, or to return and live his time on the earth. His choice was not easy, but he felt it was clear, that God had plans for his time on the mortal planes. So he returned.
Like Job Chris was tested over and over. When he followed his own will he was led back to the will of God, over and over. He was led to where he was supposed to be, and he showed me the bad burn scars on his arms like a blaze on his path. He became a Chaplain for the Hospital, and was much valued in the position. Chris had found his place.
His eyes were clear and warm as he looked at me at this story’s end. He told me that he was sure that my mother was with God. That she was with the spirit of her beloved husband again, even if she had her own doubts about God, heaven, religion. Chris told me he knew this because,” God loves us all so much! He just Loves us!”.
And Miss Patricia, he said, He loves you and He will help you with whatever issues you need help with. And I am sure of that.
I asked him then if I could tell his tale in my blog, and he said of course. Chris took my leave with a warm handshake, said goodnight and left.
I was as full of peace as I could be. I felt that I had just been with an angel.
So this was a story I promised myself I would tell when I could; it took me a while because it was difficult to express. Some people are so filled with their faith, have so given themselves to their God that He just shines right back out of them. I was very fortunate to have met this man, and spend an hour I very desperately needed in the company of someone so kind, so full of faith and love.
What does this have to do with an art blog you may ask? well, if art comes from the artist, their life, inspirations, who they meet,and what they experience, then I have just shared a piece of where my art may come from.
By the way I made a good recovery, though I still miss my mother and always will.
It was a fine festival weekend, a local Renaissance faire, and I set up my stand in the “castle” barn.
At shows and festivals it is always a great idea to befriend your vendor neighbors; encouraging and helping each other out is so beneficial and making new friends is a bonus. So my fellow vendor author Patricia Hughes and her friend Roxanne listened as a man in a friendly group entered my stand. He was an enthusiastic guy, told me how much he loved dragons, and even showed me the site on his arm of a future dragon tattoo. The happy guy made a big effort to tell me how much he loved my dragon paintings and that he planned to return after touring the faire to make a purchase. Yay, thought I! I love dragons too, which is why I paint them!
My neighbors heard the entire exchange, and we all hoped the “Dragon Man” , our assigned nickname, would return to my stand later.
The faire went on, recorder music playing, knights and ladies strolling, entertainments ensuing, and later the Pyrate sword vendors next to us set out to have their big event- a prize drawing and auction. The rowdy group began with an ARRR! then drew tickets, made pirate quips and put on a crowd drawing show. It was fun to watch, till my friendly neighbors Pat and Roxanne noticed “Dragon Man” in the crowd there. They gave me a detailed report as “Dragon Man” proceeded to pull out a roll of cash and buy a sword, two swords, …eventually Seven Swords! We feared “Dragon Man” had spent all of his discretionary funds, confirmed when Roxanne saw him leaving the faire. The Pyrate auction went on.
Oh well, ya win some, ya lose some.
I busied myself with something else when Roxanne yelled- Pat, that’s your ticket! I threw down what I was doing and hustled over to the rowdy front- yes, they’d pulled my ticket for the drawing!
There the head pirate was waving a large sword about and he peered at me and told me to say ARRR! So I Arrred. Again, he yelled- So I ARRRRRRED! He handed me a very large, heavy carbon steel and brass and leather handled sword, and I turned to leave with a stunned Thank you!
Now, I wish “Dragon Man” had made a dragon painting purchase instead of spending all his money on swords, but it seemed the fates had decided to give me a reward for that loss, a beautiful sword- LOL!
Who would have thought I would ever write a blog about Canadian Geese? (you may call them Canada Geese more properly, but I’ll stick with what I know)
This is about mourning for a friend.
We moved to our dream home a year ago; a small house on a beautiful big lot bisected by a creek. The house needed much repair,but the setting is a dream. Along with our new home came a plethora of wildlife to watch, interact with and learn about. Two Canadian geese were among them.
The first spring we watched them nest, hatch and fiercely protect a passel of fluffy yellow little goslings. We were enchanted. We watched their devotion to each other and were reminded that these birds mate for life. So this spring I watched with anticipation as they returned- announcing their return with loud trumpeting.
The couple looked about the place, reminding themselves of where things were, and then began to build a nest in the middle of the stream on a small island. Oh no! That island flooded out totally during heavy rainfall. I walked down the hill to speak to them about it. Mrs and Mr Goose, this is not the place to build! Please chose another spot, on the bank, ok? They ignored me. I hoped for the best. The next day, April 1st, the Mrs laid her eggs and the vigil began. Geese eggs take about 25- 30 days to hatch. That night it snowed.
The pair sat through snow and rain, high winds, switching off and taking turns to eat and sleep; they slept in the middle of the stream on one leg. Some goose was always keeping those eggs warm. This has been a very cool spring. I found their devotion to be endearing.
Then the weather really threatened. Heavy rains were predicted for the 15th of April. I worried so about them, and woke early to check. Sure enough, torrential rains had fallen all night, and the stream was flooding. At 6 am the island was only barely above flood waters and rising.
And there sat Mrs Goose, holding on for as long as she could to her spot on the nest…until she could not. The next time I looked the island and nest were submerged. She and her mate stood on the edge of the flood and watched, and waited.
At 11 am and three and a half inches later the rains slowed to a drizzle and the floods began to recede. The gooses moved a bit closer. At time Mr Goose would raise his big wings and flap, honking loudly all the goose curses he knew at the flood waters, at the fates. They were obviously so upset.
They waited and watched again.
The island slowly emerged and Mrs Goose went right to work. She began to dig with her beak. The big bird covered every inch of the island as it emerged, over and over, digging holes. Then she swam about the island submerging her head to look into the rushing waters.
The geese searched for hours. To no avail. Their eggs had been swept away. Next the Mrs dug a shallow hole and laid down in it, with nothing in it. She arranged her feathers just as she had on her real nest. Mr Goose walked around and looked upset. Occasionally one or the other would honk loudly, in pain and frustration I think. This must be how geese mourn.
Eventually they both left. They returned many times and dug and dove some more. As they frantically searched their island their pain traveled up the hillside to me. Geese flying overhead honked down in sympathy. It was a dreadful day for them. Me too. About 7:00 pm tonight they finally left again.
So I am writing this for them, my unlikely friends, in sorrow for their loss. Though they are only birds, they suffered today, and I am sorry my friends.
I so enjoy painting this beautiful bird in watercolor! This is the fourth one I have created over the past 25 years, and I have reached the point with him, as I often do, of asking
Is It Done?
As you work on a new painting, you become very enmeshed with it, intertwined with its creation, its subject, the process…you can lose almost all objectivity. You can take it to the pinnacle of perfection only to look at it the next painting session and say NOT THERE. And worse yet, you can add a bit more, a little bit here and there and Ugh! It is overdone!!!!! In watercolor this is a special danger, as all water colorists know.
Through research, talking with other artists, and my own ideas, here are some ways you can access if your painting is indeed done.
Take the painting way across the room, walk away, turn around, wait a few minutes and then turn and look at it. You may see it with a different eye, see perfection or see a glaring area of need.
Turn the painting upside down and then repeat the above process. This can help with compositional flaws, dark/light balance problems, color needs.
Take the painting into the bathroom or any area with a decent sized mirror and hold it up to the mirror. You will see it reflected backwards, and be able to look at it with a new objectivity. This can really help.
Put the work across the room, walk away and block out the left side with your hand. Analyze what you see there. Bland? Too busy? Not enough dark, light, detail, etc…? Then do it to the right side. This can help too.
Use your camera to take a pic, then adjust it to a black and white image. Doing this can really help you with color values; you can see where it pops, see where it is boring, see how the dynamics match what you want for your work.
Ask a friend or family member for an opinion of your work. This is really helpful at first, people who care for you will offer their genuine ideas about your painting. Unfortunately after the first 50 times you ask them, it gets old, they get less objective too, this is your thing, ultimately, not theirs.
Set up an alliance with a fellow artist. This is a biggie. You critique for them, they critique for you. Invaluable! Of course you will differ. Of course you may not agree all the time. But a person who knows artistic principles and what you are trying to accomplish and convey with your work can be exceedingly helpful. Be a good art friend to have one.
So there you have it, my best ideas to help you help yourself. I have been through 1 – 5 already, time to bounce this one off of my friends and my artist buddy.