Archive for the 'Art' Category

10
Apr
14

The World Looks Different When Traveling Alone

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"The World Looks Different When I Traveling Alone" 30" x 48" oil on linen

“The World Looks Different When Traveling Alone”
30″ x 48″ oil on linen

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I’m now nine months into grieving the loss of my wife and in some ways, it’s gotten lighter. I’m generally hard on myself but I will give myself credit for working hard to try and grow from this experience. As I’ve said before, Leslie died without a second of self pity and that made it impossible for me to slip into that mud, even though it seemed likely, given my inclinations.

I’ve also written before about the courage Leslie showed in facing her death. She accepted it and walked toward it willingly and proudly, knowing she’d lived a wonderful life. She even joked on the way to death’s door. Although the experience was profound, it wasn’t heavy. We shared a lot of laughter during her last days. She showed no fear and, although we cried at our becoming separated, she approached it with dignity and grace. There was nothing sad about her death. It was magnificent and miraculous. It is her absence that causes me pain.

I’m often confused about my feelings and suffer very strong emotional waves. Sometimes it feels like I really can’t endure another wave but they keep  coming. I never know when or where they’ll hit. I’ve learned to strap on my seat belt and observe my thoughts as they surge through me. Sometimes the longing to feel loved and connected to someone overwhelms me and I reach out to some unsuspecting friend with a heartfelt outpouring of gratitude and love. I worry that I sometimes overwhelm people with my urgent need for connection. Then, of course, I suffer over that.

In recent weeks, Ive felt myself start to turn away from my reverie over death and try to find something in life that I can engage myself in. I’ve felt some moments of acceptance and even feel satisfied for brief moments. As I turn back toward life, I realize that I have an opportunity to remake my life in any way I want to. Currently I feel consumed with the idea of having my life be used for something worthwhile.  I’m aware that I’ve been through these periods before and they’re fragile and shatter easily. I’m doing my best to stay as grounded as I can while still believing in the possibility that I can be useful, maybe even inspiring.
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"Two Dogs attending in Hospice" ink and watercolor in sketchbook

“Two Dogs attending in Hospice”
ink and watercolor in sketchbook

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I want to share this poem by the great John O’Donahue, who my friend Eithna Joyce introduced me to.

For Grief ~ John O’Donahue
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

03
Apr
14

“Tali” two versions

A friend and I were trading pictures of our dogs via text messaging and I had fun doing these small studies of her Australian Shepherd Tali.

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"Tali" 8" x 6" oil on panel

“Tali”
8″ x 6″ oil on panel

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"Tali" watercolor in sketchbook

“Tali”
watercolor in sketchbook

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17
Mar
14

Birthday Selfie

Although I completed my official birthday self portrait project last year, I will probably continue to do them every year. This year it’s just a sketch.

pencil and white conte in sketchbook

pencil and white conte in sketchbook

I’m not being as productive as I’d like to be and I’m working to change that.

18
Feb
14

Madonna and Child

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12" x 16" oil on archival paper

12″ x 16″ oil on archival paper

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4 1/2" x 6" watercolor and ink

4 1/2″ x 6″ watercolor and ink

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16
Feb
14

Sketch of a blue pitcher

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Blue Pitcher 7" x 10"  watercolor and ink

Blue Pitcher
7″ x 10″ watercolor and ink

A little sketchbook painting, while I try to figure out where to go next.

I’ve noticed that my interactions with people and the way I communicate, both in person and in writing, seem more deeply felt. I believe that, having lived through a time of urgent communication with Les, when I was frantic to leave nothing unsaid, has spoiled me for light banter.

Even though Les’ last days were so painful, I often find myself wanting to be there again. The air in the room was so full of urgency and intimacy. We often speak of the miracle of birth but death is a miracle as well. We tried our best to treat it like that. It seems so absurd, now, that we connected even more deeply just before parting forever.

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08
Feb
14

Psychotic reaction

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Psychotic Reaction 8" x 10"  oil on panel

Psychotic Reaction
8″ x 10″
oil on panel

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Wow, rough week! Just when you think you’ve entered calm waters, out of nowhere some kind of psychic wave crashes over you.

There have been three or four watershed events, in my life,  that have radically changed how the world occurs for me. The first was my first experience with LSD. The fact that everything appeared different to me, while under the effects of the drug, opened me to that there may be things beyond my perception. Leslie’s death has jarred me that way, although not as pleasantly.

I’ve made a lot of mental maneuvers to try and make sense out of what’s happened or, rather, to construct some kind of meaning. Holding that all together is more work than I realized and a seemingly insignificant event shattered it all in a second. The illusion of meaning I had so cleverly duct taped together crashed down on my head. leaving me feeling foolish and deluded.

Fortunately I have friends who impossibly manage to tolerate these manic episodes. They listen calmly and stand at a safe distance until they can get close enough to put their arms around me and say, “Deep breath.” “You’re OK.” “You’re held closely and dearly.” “I consider it a gift each time you choose to share your staggering”.

I’m OK, I’m OK. I think I’m OK.

Thank you J.E and E.R

 

 

 

 

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07
Feb
14

Update: Still LIfe, A Moment in Time opening postponed due to snow

The opening reception of Still Life A Moment in Time at the Columbia Art Gallery has been postponed  until

The Columbia Center For The Arts
215 Cascade Ave, Hood River, OR 97031
(541)387-8877
Opening reception: Thursday, Feb 13th 5PM til 7PM.
The show will be up until March 2.
"Turp Can" 11" x 12" oil on linen panel

“Turp Can”
11″ x 12″ oil on linen panel

28
Jan
14

Still Life with Overturned Glass

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Still Life with Overturned Glass 10" x 12"  oil and pencil on panel

Still Life with Overturned Glass
10″ x 12″
oil and pencil on panel

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I’ve been enjoying drawing back into the wet paint with pencil or whatever else I have at hand.

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26
Jan
14

Pear on a Blue Plate

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Pear on a Blue Plate 8" x 10" oil on panel

Pear on a Blue Plate
8″ x 10″ oil on panel

Richard Diebenkorn is always in my mind when I paint still life. Does this pear look angry?

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20
Jan
14

Still Life with Chinese Herbs

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Still Life with Chinese Herbs oil on panel

Still Life with Chinese Herbs
oil on panel

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14
Jan
14

Still Life Show at Columbia Art Gallery in Hood River OR

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Still-Life-Show-blog-post-i

I will be participating in a group still life show at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River OR. Please stop by if you’re in the area.


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13
Dec
13

Staggering through the Holidays

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

It’s coming up on six months now since I lost my wife. For some reason I thought I’d be through the worst of the grief by this time but I realize now that I’m just getting started. I wouldn’t say that there is any progression in what I’m going through. Some days I feel pretty much OK but most days I feel lost. Everyone says that the holidays are particularly hard to grieve through. I wouldn’t say that I feel noticeably worse now because of the time of year. It’s different all the time. Sometimes I’m feeling the loss of being in a relationship and living in the context of someone else. Other times I miss Leslie personally, her physical presence and personality. Sometimes it’s just hard to be alone.

I think the bottom line for me at the moment is feeling without bearings. My Buddhist readings indicate that this may be the natural state of life. Bearings are invented. In truth there is no up or down. Those are decisions we make. I try to embrace not having bearings and let that experience flow over me while it lasts. I expect that eventually I’ll choose an ‘up’ but I hope I can still keep a part of this experience in mind.

This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I can not control it. It pushes me around and takes me to places without my consent  and without warning. There are other people in my life who are suffering and I feel that I’m letting them down for not providing more comfort to them. I titled this post ‘staggering’ because I’m afraid that sometimes I may have crashed into loved ones who were trying to help or who needed help and I regret that. I worry about it and roll it over in my mind but always come back to that I’m doing the best I can.

I have had some experiences of Leslie, sometimes in dreams and occasionally in daydreams. I read recently, from an internet psychic, that sometimes the departed communicate with loved ones by ringing in their ears. I’ve had tinnitus since Les died and, although I don’t put much stock in internet psychics, it feels good to let that be true for me. When I notice the ringing, it takes me away with her a bit and I like that.

IMG_1246

A happy moment from last year. Les had two shirts made with the words “Luminous essence is all. All is luminous essence” and she wore them every day of her last weeks at home.

I don’t want to paint an overly bleak picture of my life. I am very fortunate to have close friends and family and two beautiful daughters I adore. I’m grateful for all the extremely happy holidays I shared with Les and for the many comforts I enjoy. Although I’m sad a lot of the time, I’m also happy in many ways. I have the luxury of being able to cherish my memories of Les and to share them with my daughters and others who love her.

Working-in-the-studio-10-27

I wish everyone Happy Holidays and hope the memories you create now will sustain you when hard times come.

02
Dec
13

Papaya and Water Glass

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Papaya and Water Glass 12" x 16" oil on archival paper

Papaya and Water Glass
12″ x 16″ oil on archival paper

I’ve been working on a large piece that’s taking a long time so I took a break and did this still life of a papaya. My acupuncturist recommended that I eat papaya for the enzymes that I seem to be missing.

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05
Nov
13

I Miss You

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Leslie's Things 14" x 11" oil on panel

I Miss You
14″ x 11″ oil on panel

Leslie had this reproduction of a Fra Lippo Liippi painting of the Blessed Mother as long as I knew her. She kept it close to her bed, especially in trying times. Les had an eclectic set of religious beliefs. She also loved Paramahansa Yogananda and recently reread his autobiography.

This still life includes Leslie’s glasses and her copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, her keys and icon and it’s all resting on one of her scarves.

This Saturday would have been Les’ 62nd birthday. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart, if you’re still following the blog.

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29
Oct
13

Still Life with Syringe

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Sill Life with Syringe 8" x 12" oil on paper

Sill Life with Syringe
8″ x 12″ oil on paper

It was pointed out to me that this image could be interpreted to mean that I might not be doing so great. There is no cause for alarm.

The syringe is one that my wife used to measure some of her medications. I always thought it would make an interesting still life object and dropped it into this setup.

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19
Oct
13

Pear on a Blue Plate

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Pear on a Blue Plate 9" x 12" oil on panel

Pear on a Blue Plate
9″ x 12″ oil on panel

I bought this pear quite a while ago then got distracted working on a different painting project. It’s pretty ripe and I knew it wouldn’t last long under the light.

I’ve got several projects going on in the studio, which is where I spend almost all of my time, when I’m home. It’s getting difficult to move around in here without tripping over something.

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16
Oct
13

Sketchbook spread

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2-portrait sketches-10-12-13

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09
Oct
13

Wicker Lunch Basket and Medicine Bottle

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Wicker Lunch Basket and Medicine Bottle 14" x 11" oil on linen panel

Wicker Lunch Basket and Medicine Bottle
14″ x 11″ oil on linen panel

Some more of Les’ things here. She didn’t use the basket but she bought it for our daughter to use for school, when she was very young. The cloth she used to wear as a kind of wrap around skirt at the beach, when we first met and the house is full of these brown medicine bottles. Les loved alternative medicine and up to the last day she was conscious, she used the stuff in that bottle.

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05
Oct
13

Life and drawing

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It’s been three months since my wife, Leslie, died. I find that these milestones have more of an impact on me than I expect them to. It also is really hard to believe that it’s only been 3 months. My poor brain has been through so many changes it feels more like 3 years. I get a kind of panicky feeling when these things occur. Aside from these temporal milestones, it’s sometimes triggered by doing some mundane task around the house that Les either used to do or relied on me to do.  An empty feeling follows the realization that it’s just me now. I don’t mean to be dramatic. The saddest parts are always about me, not Les. I’m just trying to share what this is like.

I’m trying to find a balance between keeping myself busy but not so busy that I avoid feeling what comes up. I regret not spending more time drawing the figure so I’m trying to get myself out to Life Drawing sessions more frequently. I went to one the night before the 3 month mark, when I was starting to feel the panic coming on. It was a good thing to do, because, to draw well, I have to relax and focus at the same time, which can be a tricky thing for me to do.

My drawings are not very good and it’s clear that I need to spend time on drawing hands and feet, especially. I share them here as part of my process. I hope to attend these sessions regularly for a while.

Ballpoint and Pitt Artist Pens

Ballpoint and Pitt Artist Pens

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Hipbone 2

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29
Sep
13

Turp Can

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"Turp Can" 11" x 12" oil on linen panel

“Turp Can”
11″ x 12″ oil on linen panel

 

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15
Sep
13

Miki And The Red Coat

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Miki and the Red Coat 21" x 14" oil on linen

Miki and the Red Coat
21″ x 14″ oil on linen

I’ve had this and another on the easel for a while. I’m not sure I’m finished. I want to let it sit for a while. Sometimes when I get to this point with a painting, I decide it’s better to just start another than to continue to worry this one. I’ve painted a few versions of this scene now, each a little different.

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11
Sep
13

Completion of Birthday Self Portrait project

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Self Portrait at age 23

Self Portrait at age 23 – 1976

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I’ve explained this a couple of times before on the blog. When I was in college I was given an assignment to do a self portrait and was then given information on the aging process and told to do another self portrait projecting what I thought I would look like at the age of 60. I was 23 when I did the first two drawings. I forgot about them for several years but some time in my 30′s I decided it would be interesting to do a similar self portrait every year near my birthday to see how close my vision was. I had planned on doing it every year and to use the same pose and media, etc so that the drawings could be easily compared. Discipline is not my strongest characteristic and I missed some years and got bored and did other compositions some years but I did produce an interesting collection of images over the 37 years since the original drawings.

This being the year I turned 60 is the logical completion of the project and, although I may still do self portraits on my birthday, the original project ends now. My wife’s health began to collapse this  year, not long after my birthday and it’s taken me this much time to get back to thinking about it. Frankly, it’s been difficult to produce any artwork, since her death and this seemed like a fun and simple thing to do to keep my hand in and, of course, to feed the blog.

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Self-at-60-comparison

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So it appears that, at the age of 23, I had an exaggerated view of how old 60 is. Perhaps in 1976, 60 year old people did look older than they do today. They say 60 is the new 40, right?

You can find other entries in this progression in the archives of the blog. I posted them as I did them.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. The original two drawings were reproduced from old slides.

28
Aug
13

My Show at Brian Marki ends on Sept 4

There’s one more week to catch my show at Brian Marki Fine Art.

"Betsy Arntz Barge Under Construction" 30" x 40" oil on linen SOLD

“Betsy Arntz Barge Under Construction” 30″ x 40″ oil on linen
SOLD

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and especially for those who will take home a painting next week.

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22
Aug
13

Remembering Good Times in Ireland

Les-in-Ireland--5v2

Leslie on Omey Island
gouache 7″ x 10″

Thinking back to our family trip to Ireland in 1996.  Good times.

03
Aug
13

Opening Reception

Last night was the opening reception for my show of paintings at Brian Marki Fine Art. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. Thank you to everyone who came out.

Brian did a really great job of hanging and lighting the work. I hardly recognized the paintings.

The most frequently asked question was, why are they called dolphins? To which I responded, why are the sides of a boat called gunwhales? I do not understand nautical terms.

Here are a few pictures from the reception. The show is up until the end of August. If you’re nearby, please stop by and let me know what you think.

IMG_5705 IMG_5714 IMG_5731 IMG_5716

IMG_5727

30
Jul
13

Artwork delivered

I delivered the paintings for my first solo show in many years to Brian Marki Fine Art yesterday.  I have one more piece I’d like to finish for the show, if Brian doesn’t mind hanging a wet painting.

21" x 27" oil on linen panel

“Building a New Life From the Wreckage of My Old Life”
21″ x 27″ oil on linen panel

The image above is the piece I’d like to finish for the show, in it’s current state.  It still seems a little chaotic but that is true to my current experience. I don’t usually put a lot of thought into titles. They’re mainly just for me to keep them straight in my mind but, given recent events, this piece  has begun to occur for me as a view into my life. I need to reconstruct a new life out of what appears to me now as the wreckage of my old life and this painting expresses that for me. It may not be pretty but it holds promise.

I have to say that, in spite of the fact that I’m not often referred to as a real “up” kind of person, I have been surprised at my ability to find positive meaning in my wife’s death.

For one thing, it was such a privilege and relief to be able to see Leslie on to a peaceful and meaningful death. It was the perfect completion of our relationship. Four years ago, when Leslie’s cancer became metastatic, the primary purpose of my life became to see to it that Les was taken care of and had a good death and I lived to fulfill that promise. So many women have to go through this alone. I am grateful that Les was loved and cherished and nurtured and adored to her last minutes. Well beyond her last minutes, in truth.

I have also been overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family. My relationships have been enriched by Les’ passing.  I have made new friends who have made profound contributions to my life.

Leslie continues to nurture me even in death. I was rooting through the freezer and found a treasure. Two containers of Les’ wonderful beef stew.

My stomach and heart are both full of love. I miss Leslie’s physical presence but I feel her with me all the time. I’m a very fortunate man.

17
Jul
13

Grieving – day 14

It’s been two weeks since my dear Leslie died. The days seem almost normal until someone mentions her name or asks how I’m doing. I don’t wake up weeping anymore, it takes me a few minutes for a thought to bring on the tears. Sobbing feels good, when I’m alone but, for some reason, I don’t like to cry in front of others.

I’m looking for silver linings… The car mirrors are always adjusted to my liking now. When I put something down, I know I’ll find it in the same place when I want it. That crazy filing system that Les used can finally be put in something I call order. I’m happy for Les that she won’t have to become really old and doddery and a worry to our children.

I miss her, though.

I have some things to share:

I came across a cassette tape of love songs Les recorded for me for Valentine’s Day in 1983. Nine months later our first daughter, Emily, was born. Les was 31 years old, at the time.

My Funny Valentine – Rogers and Hart

Marie – Randy Newman

Willow – Joan Armatrading

Younger Than Springtime – Rogers and Hammerstein

Our dear friend, Andrea Carlisle, has written two beautiful pieces about Leslie’s death. Below are the links:

What To Take To A Dying Friend

Leslie

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My brother, Jim, Les and me w dogs Timber and Indi circa 1983

My brother, Jim, Les and me w dogs Timber and Indi circa 1983

12
Jul
13

August show of paintings

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BM-Show-Card

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30
Jun
13

BFF Anniversary

Yesterday, June 29, was the 34th anniversary of the day I met the best friend I’ve ever had, my wife, Leslie Robinson. We married 2 years later and drove across the country from Eastern Long Island, NY to Portland OR. Leslie was a singer/songwriter and I was a painter. She gave up her singing career when our first daughter, Emily was born, in the hospital we can see from the deck of our little house. I quit painting when Les bore our second daughter, Clair in the front bedroom of that house.

Leslie now lays dying, surrounded by that family in the living room of that house. Although my heart is breaking, I feel privileged to be able to help her complete her life and make a safe crossing to whatever is next.

Les hated posing so I don’t have a lot of paintings of her but, on our adventures, she usually wore a red coat that I loved painting.

Leslie-in-the-Snow-wtrclr-10x14

Les was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. She chose to do an alternative therapy instead of chemotherapy and radiation. After treatment, Les remained symptom free for 9 years. When the cancer recurred, she did radiation and hormone therapy, which gave her 4 more years with relatively few symptoms. She tried chemotherapy a few months ago and just couldn’t stand the side effects, so she chose to stop treatment.

We have been very fortunate to have had so much time together. Les and I knew this was coming and are as prepared as anyone can be for such a thing.

I have found solace in the book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rimpoche, over the years and have begun reading it again. …

Men come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good. Yet when death does come to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries what fury what despair!…

To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of it’s strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death … We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”  ~ Michel de Montaigne, The Essayus of Michel de Montaigne

06
Jun
13

Plein Air in Ranier, OR

A friend and I drove out to Ranier, OR to paint at the defunct Trojan Nuclear Plant (now a park) but there was not much there we were interested in painting so we drove on into the nearby town of Ranier, which is right on the Columbia river. These 2 paintings were done from a parking lot in the town.

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"The Mary B"  9X12 oil on linen panel

“The Mary B”
9X12 oil on linen panel

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"Docks in Ranier" 9x12 oil on linen panel

“Docks in Ranier”
9×12 oil on linen panel

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