Art 280: Winding Down

Hi, Everyone.  I decided to add one more post while toying with keeping this blog going or closing it down; a decision for another day.  But in the time between now and then,  if anyone stops by and wonders at the meanings behind anything here: this is the me, behind the images of me… excerpted from my essays that followed our required presentations.

Who Am I?

When I first looked at the idea of self-portraits, I had to first look at “who am I?” and what things define me: the “individual,” versus me: “the mom, ‘gramma’, caregiver, sister, daughter, student…” all the roles I fill in any given day.   I have many things surrounding me that would make for informative photographs, and that would answer those questions regarding roles, but they still don’t say much about who I am, what do I see in myself, and what I want others to understand about me.  I wanted to look at my innermost self and convey that persona to my classmates.  That was when the camera came out and I started with a recent picture of myself with my dog, Baby.  While I did not take this picture this month (it was from a couple of months ago for another project defining “who am I”), I knew it was the perfect lead-in to me.Unit 1

Baby was the first animal I adopted on my own after the loss of my husband of over twenty years; she was also the first animal I adopted after the loss of my other two dogs (close together and both to serious age-related health issues).  I thought I did not want any other animals (after all, I still had a cat, three parrots, and a tank of tropical fish), but Baby filled a void I did not realize I felt until after about a year of working out in my yard listening to the neighbors behind me playing with their little dog.  That longing turned into a long car ride and a little three-month-old fuzz ball in my lap.  Now, as seen in this picture, she is not so little but is an old woman like me, and we understand each other.


Unit 1 One of the deepest hurts in my life and the most pivotal in defining the new “me” was the loss of my husband, Wayne.  The picture of his memorial table next to his ashes urn shows each of the elements that are interconnected to the “us” that turned into the “me”.  The flag was given to me during his memorial service; the shadow box holds a photo of him looking over at our wedding kiss in a smaller frame and next to it are the new Valentines Day wedding bands we barely wore a year, nestled side by side and surrounded by some of the rose petals from the single red rose he gave to me on our first date.  Next to the shadow box sets an empty bottle of wine… one of the things I learned to do was figure out what one I loved the most based on my own changing tastes… and in the middle of the display sets a pair of wine glasses: one upright for me, and one fallen, showing that my glass can always be filled, while his forever remains empty.  The red silk rose next to the goblets represents the memory of those first rose petals and the unfading love we shared.  The letter in front is an anniversary note I wrote to him saying, “I know why the widows wear black…” which is the title of my manuscript that sets under the music box (a gift from an earlier Valentine’s Day).


Unit 1

I started journaling as a way of looking at my new life and the directions ahead of me; and the resulting collection of journals (seen in one of the other photos, with my hand holding my favorite mechanical pencil) has become the seeds to this eventual book.  The photo of the journals defines me, the writer… the poet… and helped me rediscover me, the woman versus me, the wife.  In the process of writing this essay, I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to accomplish that was not related to any of my other roles.  One of those roles was caregiver to Wayne’s father, Denny, who lived with me during his final year and a half.  After ushering yet another person to the other side of life, I used a gift he left me to pursue another ages-old dream.


Unit 1That dream was to unleash the hidden “seeker” in me… combined with a desire to test my own courage, determination, strength, poise, and grace… a control of body and mind.  I had always been curious about the martial arts, and especially Tai Chi, so I went to the martial arts school where one of my older granddaughters had been taking Kung Fu lessons and signed up for their trial lessons to see how I liked it.  After that first thirty-minute lesson I was hooked and am still practicing it today.  The photos of the certificate and fringes show the levels I have Unit 1graduated from so far, and the two second-place medals are ones I won at my first competition between the school’s three studios.  The sash resting upon my formal uniform top sports the green fringe that shows my current level earned, while the sword on the wall is part of the level I am learning now and will (hopefully) be tested on by the end of this year.  The sword also reminds me that I am capable of more than I ever dreamed possible as long as I am willing to try… this new-found inner strength is coming from one who used to be painfully shy, especially in gym class while growing up.Unit 1


Unit 1The photo of the recorder with the music book shows another side of me I started to explore years ago, but had to pass by for many reasons.  So, one of my birthday treats to myself was this recorder and book, combined with my younger daughter’s promise to teach me how to play right along side her youngest daughter (age nine), who has the same model recorder I do. This is one more reminder that I am never too old to try following an old dream…. although this new purchase made me realize I now have to get an adaptive one geared for folks with arthritis in the fingers.  The one in the photo will go to my other nine-year-old granddaughter and we will all learn together!  Onward!

Unit 1

The final two photos show my love of gardening, edible and decorative, as seen by this cross-section of my gardening book collection and the seed file box, a gift from my kids.  The last photo shows the love doesn’t stop at the books: my gloves are dirty and the tools are old, and the garden nurtures me, body and sole.  The red wire basket was re-purposed from one of the kitchen play-sets my grandkids outgrew, Unit 1and the small tree next to the basket is one of the bonsai trees from my first husband’s estate… my daughters let me keep it when they settled his affairs.  It serves as a reminder that our friendship did not end when the marriage ended….

Without him, I would not have my two beautiful daughters.


While the nuances of each of the details in these nine photos may be less significant to the outsiders’ eye, the message is still the same: this is a woman who has lost the love of her life, but has found ways to nurture the essence of who she is and what she holds dear.  She has challenged herself and continues to learn and grow, and that age and setbacks don’t have to slow a person down.  One final aside is my selection of elements used to set the tone:  The background colors of deep blue flowing into the colors of sunrise are from the WordPress theme templates, this one titled “Dusk to Dawn”.  I loved this one for the metaphor to my own life as I transitioned from the darkness of loss to the dawn of the new me.   As for the colorful spread of roses at the top of my blog; it is a snapshot of my own roses… one of the 60 +/- rose bushes trimming my yards; my home is on a corner lot and most of the roses are on the street-side of the fence that surrounds my secret garden along one side of my house.  The rest are in the secret garden and in the back yard.  Eventually there will be 100 assorted rose bushes as I continue the theme around to the front of my house.

I have named my home Castle Rose, because a woman’s home is her castle and because life is like a rose… beautiful and colorful… sweet smelling, but covered in thorns.  Castle Rose is my “very-first-bought-on-my-own” home; I knew it was meant to be my home the first moment I walked into its not-quite-finished raw state with about three weeks of post-construction interior work still needed.  I bought it because I needed a change following Wayne’s passing…. I needed to re-define “home” while re-defining me… and I knew then that this was the place to do both.  This was the home that marked the acceptance of my new life.

Thank you…

Tim, Angie, Kalynn, thank you for responding.  Many people do not understand as much about myth as is out there to share… but by the same token, just as many, if not more understand even more about myth without realizing it… because they know it by other names and beliefs.  Without wanting to alienate anyone over their own belief structures, our goals include showing a link to myths worldwide that go back beyond recorded time…  to the ancient oral traditions.  I want to share the benefits of the experiences I enjoy from serving as a tutor in this myth class by giving these students a chance to share their projects with their peers outside of the classroom.   The students in this course typically come from disciplines of study across the campus offerings, and by the end of each semester we see just how much their semester-long immersion in myths gives them the ability to translate them into unique sculpts, drawings, original myths, stories, and poems, etc., further demonstrating just how much myth crosses the disciplines of education.  Their creative expressions demonstrate how much it surrounds us daily; and yes, that it even lurks at the core of, or in the shadows of, our studies in sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, theology, art, and even in environmental/nature studies.  Your responses have given me more to think about as I prepare my next unit essay.  I have also been sharing your feedback with Sherie for added input in getting this project moving forward, and she appreciates the feedback you have given.

Art 280, My Sense of Community, My Sense of “Self”

1.  Describe your community. You may be a part of many communities: church, school, neighborhood, youth groups, town or social activities. Describe the community that you seem the closest to.

    I tend not to be what many would label as a “joiner,” therefore I do not belong to many groups outside of my home; that made this a challenging thought to puzzle over.  While I belong to a fairly “young” neighborhood, in a small town mushrooming too fast, in a state growing ghost towns of foreclosed homes even faster, I do not know too many neighbors outside of the circle of our cul-de-sac and the handful of families my grandchildren associate with.  Our shiny new park around the corner, complete with its fanciful accessories for play and relaxation is rapidly changing that for the better, not just for me, but for many of the neighbors all around me… but change is still slow for me in that arena.  In my narrower world, I belong to and share that “sense of community” with other students and faculty members of our local community college; some things there still capture me, even though I no longer formally attend classes on campus.  I currently serve as a peer mentor in the English, ancient literature, and mythology classes of Sherie, a dear friend of mine who transitioned during a span of over six years from my instructor, to my mentor, to my friend.

2.  What are the shared experiences and events in your community?

    One is our creative arts journal, a publication of our college that highlights works from student and local writers, artists, and photographers.  I had the privilege of having a written piece published in it several years ago, and through Sherie’s recommendation, I am now serving on the review board to select the new pieces to be published this semester.  It has been enough of a good experience I can see myself being involved in it each year, either as a contributor or as a committee member (one cannot do both during a given publication term).

Long before I started on this committee, I took my interest in writing and story telling and channeled those energies into Sherie’s class on mythology.  Through our weekly assignments I discovered the interconnectedness between mythology and our daily lives, whether we are aware of its connection or not.  Our final project for the semester was to create something original from our learning experiences as long as it was connected to what we covered and discovered in our myth studies, and then we had to share it with the class at the end of the term.  We had the latitude for a host of ideas such as writing an original myth, poem, or song, creating a magazine or newspaper, a poster, painting, sculpt, skit, or game… we had enough flexibility to let our imaginations soar!  And we did; there was a little bit of everything as my classmates showcased how life inspires art, and art enriches life… and it was all laced together with myths.  My project was a sculpted figurine with an original myth (in poetry form) explaining how the first butterfly came to be.

3.  What common goals do you and the people in the community share?

    Since that first class, I have been invited to return and participate as a peer mentor for budding mythology students who either come into the class already interested in the subject, or who were touched enough by the experiences of the coursework to want to study it in depth.  In the beginning, when my own interests peaked, I did a lot of research to see what colleges and universities offered programs in myth studies (few do, except for stray classes under the guises of religion or humanities).  Each semester students ask me where they can take more classes, so I share my “search-experiences” with them.  We have even had suggestions from a handful of students about a possible myth club, but so far, not enough interest was there to make it a sustainable goal…someday, though.

4.  What stories in your community need to be told?

    One of the requirements for the final project is to do a write-up explaining how and why you “picked your topic” or “it picked you”… and the students who survived the rigors of the semester frequently feel rewarded with a sense of self-discovery on what they were able to accomplish; many of them have shared with us that completing the project was as valuable as the grade.  I think the journeys they found themselves on can be as enriching to future students as it was to their classmates, and the ability to share the sense of energy (Or is it synergy?) to others interested in the subject of myth and how it permeates our lives would be a great gift.  I have discovered the diversity expressed in the hows and whys of the projects is as diverse as the projects themselves.  Sherie feels, and I share in the believe that the biggest loss would be for all the years of collected materials in her office and her home, gifted to her by these former students, to go unnoticed when they could be used to teach and inspire others that myth, like art, is within each of us and takes on many forms.

5.  How might individual, group, and community stories be told through artwork?

    The infectious aspect of this myth-journey comes through in Sherie’s enthusiasm for the subject and how enriching it has been for her to see the works of her students at the end of each semester… and for me to be given the gift of sharing in it as a tutor and as an observer, rather than me stopping at being one of the “ssshivering” student waiting to be called on to walk to the front of the class.  Throughout the years, Sherie has had a dream and a goal of creating a book compiling and showcasing the efforts of these students, collected from over 15 years of projects presented… all on mythology.  She feels strongly about how much insight these students are able to provide, and how so many of them presented their original works worthy of any artists and storytellers conference around.  She also feels this book would be a potential textbook for future mythology, art, and literature students…a world of sociology and humanities wrapped up in one class.  We already see their stories told through a variety of writings, music, and artwork… the goal is to share that with a much wider audience outside the classroom.

6.  Is there a sign, symbol, ritual, or story from these questions that could act as a central metaphor?

    I don’t think it is so much about capturing a single sign or symbol, but that Myth, itself, is the metaphor.  Myth is a metaphor for living… past, present, and future… and it is rich in symbols, rituals, imagery… and it is timeless.  Peoples and beliefs change over time and distance; places change over time and have a direct impact on the actions and beliefs of the people living in that place.  Religions and politics have been globally influenced throughout time through the myths of their followers.  Additionally, one of the core aspects of myth is the oral tradition of storytelling coupled with the way myths deliver meaning embedded in messages.  Myth is so entrenched in cultures across time and space that there are examples of its influence on the vast expressions of art and architecture across the world and throughout the ages.  We spend millions of dollars to visit these landmarks and art forms, and countless hours reading and researching the hows and whys of their existence and our own.  Projects like these students have created shows us that myths do not die out, they are just reborn in infinite ways through people, consciously or not.

7.  Are there opportunities for you to support and expand upon local craft traditions?

    Invariably, each semester a handful of shell-shocked students will come up to me or to Sherie after reading the instructions for the assignment and ask for ideas for that final project.  A common thread runs though their introductory comments, “I can’t ___” (write, paint, draw, sculpt, stand/speak in front of a group…) just fill in the blank.  I try to remind them it only sounds or feels like they cannot do it because it is still early in the term, but as they learn about the different myths and characters, they will most likely experience that one moment when they feel inspired and will have that missing connection come alive from within.  I then share my own story about the project I chose.  Mine started out one way, based on a character from an existing favorite myth, yet ended up quite different on a subject near and dear to me.  The materials chosen were less than cooperative, and the finished piece was not what I planned, but it was what I wanted to express just as deeply.  In the process of drafting my write-up explaining how and why I created it, I ended up with a four-page poem instead, and then still had to do the write-up.  During my reading of my poem, I unveiled the figurine at just the precise moment called for in the poem, making it both a visual and an auditory experience for the audience, and I could see and feel the connection the audience felt to my presentation.  Sherie always tells her students to let the project pick them because they will ultimately feel more connected to it and do better because of that connection.  In my case, I could not argue even if I wanted to!  That classroom project was a stepping-stone to an invitation from Sherie to work with her on her book so we can breath a public life into her collection of student works.

8.  Discuss the idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What aspects of the community environment do some members of the group find beautiful that others do not?  Can those who find something ugly see it in another way?

One of the big questions we discuss on a regular basis in the myth class is the concept of opposites and how societies define or measure opposites, now and throughout history.  If someone were to make the statement that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” Sherie would not hesitate to ask the class the next question: “how do you define beauty?”  If a student replies with “something that is not ugly,” she will then ask them to define ugly… that is when the round of discussions really gets going, and students see fairly quickly it cannot be easily defined.  From infancy we are taught the language of a concept but not as much about the deeper meanings that give power to the words we use to express a concept until we are much older.  We are taught to qualify and to quantify through language but often miss the subtle differences between the two terms.  For instance, “good” versus “bad”… or in the case of our previous assignment, “beauty” versus “repulsive”… are little words that represent illusive ideals that are taught to us based on our family or social frameworks.  But… how and why it is defined that way… what makes it good or beautiful compared to what makes it bad or repulsive is less concrete.  Before a thing can be adequately labeled good or bad, we must come to a consensus on what good means… or what bad means.  We can say a “ rock is a rock because it is not water” because it is a concrete object defined by the words of our language… we can quantify its existence.  But when we say “water is good because it is not bad,” we must define what attributes would cause it to be seen as good.  Likewise, if we say “a rock is bad because it is not good,” then we must first decide what attributes make it seem bad… we must qualify those nuances of difference within the confines of our collective languages and social structures.  When we look at qualifiers, we suddenly are looking at an illusive aspect of language… the subjective, feeling aspect of words and how and why we give them the powers they have to help or to hurt.  Often it is through the symbols, rituals, signs, and metaphors of myth that guide us in assigning qualities to the power of our words, the power to our language.  That is the key reason beauty will always be in the eyes of the beholder.

9.  Who could you partner with for this project?  Youth groups?  Friends or family?  Civic communities?  Religious communities?

I have already been invited to partner with Sherie for this book project and to participate with other students of this shared interest.  From this we have also discussed the possibility of creating, at least to start with, an on-campus opportunity for the myth students to showcase their talents and ideas.  To do this we would need to expand the partnership to include the “powers that be” on campus to bring it into reality.  As much as all of the students have been challenged to do their projects, Sherie and I face our own big challenge in bringing this book and these myth exploration opportunities into reality.  The goal is growing closer as we gain momentum in getting this book underway.  My part in this book, so far, centers in an on-going independent study course in mythology, where I have been cataloging her collection of students’ works, and comparing them to traditional myths that have stood the test of time while she mentors and monitors my progress.  As she patiently tries to gain permission forms from past students from another campus she taught at years ago, we believe having something for our current students would be beneficial….  We believe that the ones we have collected forms from at this campus should not have to wait for the past to catch up to us to share their works.

10.  Where could this event take place or displayed at?  Church?  Public library?  Bank?  School?  Community center?  Park?  Other public place?

This could be set into motion as either an event or a publication centered on our community college campus and expand outward to our multiple-campus district as the project grows, and eventually out into the community at large.  Baby steps rather than no steps would be the path to follow here: Instead of just the students of the single course as an audience, it could be made available as an open-house event within the classroom or the department where the students would have a larger audience for their hard work.  Another idea would be for a presentation done in conjunction with another campus-wide event where it would be open to the entire campus community… not just to the in-class students… or a booklet/magazine similar to what I have seen some colleges offer for students in their creative writing programs.  It would not be much different than some of the other courses and programs on this campus (and others) where the culmination of efforts are showcased, such as seen when the art department has their students’ works in big window displays facing the hallways of the art department complex; the theater students being able to participate in public and private presentations of their talents; the music department performing recitals on campus and in public venues; and journalism and photography students having presentations of their works.  I think whenever a campus can offer an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in a setting outside the classrooms, it further validates the efforts and costs put into their education.

11.  Who would you like to reach in this project?  Who would you like to [have] see this project or be educated about [it] [in] your community?

I would like to see a diversity of people be reached by this because it is something that touches our lives when we are not even aware that it does.  I think the more people see how myths are intertwined in our daily lives they will see just how much we are more alike than unalike; I feel that can have a unifying affect on many people’s sense of community and to what communities they see themselves in.


Construction Zone Ended

Thank you for your patience while I tweaked my page.  I am pleased to report that the “operator error” that caused the problem has been corrected: the photos are now behaving properly, and to celebrate, I gave my blog a facelift.   I found a background theme that is restful and actually does what it should… sit quietly in the background!  I felt the original was too busy and distracting.

Onward and forward!

repairs in progress

Hi everyone… throughout the rest of today my site may be up and down, off and on, in and out… otherwise looking wacky from time to time from what is known as “undergoing repairs” for the dreaded “experiencing technical difficulties” I am having with the way my photos are behaving… or not behaving.  Bare with me, please.