watercolor painting of lifeboat by emily weil

daily painting | lifeboat

My goodness I’ve never written and rewritten and thrown out and edited my blog as many times as I have for this post. Took two days. How much to share? Will it offend? Should I just shut up, already? Beats me, so here goes, with apologies for its length.

I recently learned new details of my sister’s death, as she took the legal Death with Dignity cocktail to end her life; too much pain from cancer that was killing her. I was fortunate to have stayed with her in her final weeks in Seattle last Fall, and she and her husband were generous and very hospitable. She was never bedridden, and lived large until she died. When I flew home that Friday night in November I had understood that she wasn’t quite ready to call it quits and would try to make it to Thanksgiving, the following week. Or maybe even early Dec. I was unprepared for the call I got two days after I came home that she had died; I had no idea she’d taken the cocktail the morning after I left. It took 17+ hours to do its work.

What I found out in the last couple of days was that she had planned all along to leave the planet that weekend. She chose not to tell me. Was this her choice? Absolutely. She had every right. But, jeez.

My head was spinning as I tried to take this in. It felt like a gut-punch. But my sister was mostly unknowable and a closed book. Emotions were not expressed; she had no tolerance for them or any kind of vulnerability. She was in charge, always. Someone much smarter than me helped me figure out that the likely reason she didn’t tell me her final exit plan was to avoid an emotional conversation — I have no trouble expressing feelings and it made her very squirmy. So I believe she made sure that interaction didn’t happen.

As I have shared before, Kay and I were violently abused by our raging dad. He just didn’t like kids or kid noises. My view is that Kay’s way of coping and surviving our shared childhood trauma was to shut down emotionally. For life. It just hurt too much to embrace those feelings, so she bottled them up. Seeing her in this light, as I continue to grapple with my sister’s life and death, helps me see what happened and what was true. I detest lies and denial and plastic masks that look pretty and conceal the rot underneath (Trump’s administration was lots of fun that way). Probably because of family denial and my mother’s smiling insistence that our family was just lovely and weren’t we so lucky to have a dad that brought home a paycheck, I have been a determined (and probably demented) truth-seeker most of my life. I want to know what’s under that damn rock and please get me a flashlight. Nancy Drew was a detective and figured shit out. I wanted to as well (loved those books as a kid).

So, a lifeboat? Yes. I think my lifeboat after I survived childhood was faith. Can’t define it really; it’s my own design. But a spiritual practice sustains me and I think it has my whole life, though it has taken on various homemade flavors. I have worked hard to heal, and I aspire to keep my heart open as it makes life bright and satisfying, even though it means pain is included in that package. I’ll take it, though. I don’t want to miss anything. That’s me, poking around out there with my Eveready®, being annoying.


7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $90




watercolor by emily weil of shipping parts made into flower pots

daily painting | recycled shippy bits

As I rode my bike through the old navy base on Alameda Point near the USS Hornet, a gate was open into what looked like a former shipyard. Cool stuff! Like these giant pipes, maybe once part of the exhaust system on a big ship, repurposed into flower pots. I explored and took lots of photos, a treasure trove for me to use as painting subjects. This part of Alameda is a favorite part of the island — the former base is full of innovative businesses from distilleries to drone makers. It is rusty and dilapidated and unpolished and slightly dangerous, with many fun corners to discover. I worry that new condos and Starbucks cafes will soon take over this wonderful area that still is uncrowded and wide open and fun to poke around in. So I will enjoy it as much as possible, with its spectacular SF skyline views and the occasional peregrine falcon flying overhead. To be mobile and enjoy these small adventures makes me deeply grateful. As did getting my 2nd vax shot a few days ago (mild flu symptoms the next day). As I rolled up my sleeve for the vaccination I burst into tears just at the thought of hugging my grandkids again. Hope is perching on my shoulder, a bit warily, chirping in my ear.

9″ x 12″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $140




watercolor painting of twisty bark trees by emily weil

daily painting | twisty bark

You never know what you’ll discover roaming around the funny, funky corners of Alameda Point, home of a former navy base. On a bike ride, I spotted these fascinating, rough-barked trees that were so rich with texture and shadow and twisty-turny shapes. Painting and drawing these wonderful trees with their beautiful bark patterns comforted me today as I am trying to take in the info that we live in a country where we really like shooting each other. Gack. Too horrific to contemplate. Makes me remember standing in line to board a BART train years ago, while a couple of young Australian backpackers/travelers stood behind me, marveling at what they’d experienced as they traveled the U.S. They were agog at how we Americans love our guns, having just visited a shooting range. Sure made me stop and think about how visitors view our culture. As kids we used to shoot cans off tree limbs out in the country and I really enjoyed it. But, seriously? What is happening here?

9″ x 12″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink, pencil on paper = $140




daily painting | piglets

Wrestling piglets in the straw-strewn dirt — what could be cuter? These inseparable litter mates, I am told, will grow up and get huge. So I really enjoyed their cheeky adorableness out at the new location of Maker Farm next to Ploughshares Nursery. Charlotte’s Web comes to mind, with Charlotte saving Wilbur the pig. I loved those books, Stuart Little in particular. Probably because Stuart could fit into those clever little matchboxes and be safe, a feeling I longed for when I was Emily Little (how I loved those illustrations!). Today’s trip to buy groceries felt far from safe and made me so anxious, with Covid marching through California and getting more clever. Always happy after a crowded store experience to come home and scrub my hands with Clorox and Brillo pads and gargle with Lysol. Ugh. But this too shall piss — uh, pass. Happy Merry New Year, everyone. All the cliches have already been said about 2020, but my wish for 2021 is that our hearts can heal from loss and we can have hope again. And give each other lots and lots of hugs. LOTS.

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $90