watercolor and ink drawing of hollyhock by emily weil

daily painting | peralta hollyhock

As I left my therapist Lucy’s office on Peralta Ave in Albany the other day I noticed this lovely hollyhock towering in a yard across the street (snapped a photo). There’s something about these flowers — I only see them in the summer, and they seem quite accessible and almost pedestrian but also very gorgeous. They are not sophisticated or aloof, like a perfectly grown rose or an elegant lily. Which is why I think they are magnificent. Lucy is helping me walk through this very difficult chapter in my life (and in my family) — death, dysfunction, addiction, estrangement, cancer and suicide lurk. And death is a natural — even miraculous — part of life. And those of us left behind get out our mops and try to clean up the bloody bits of our beat-up spirits. Lucy advises me to keep my heart open. Which often seems impossible. But when I do, and choose to see the love and magic in the world that surround me, my steps are a bit lighter — I appreciate the red-shouldered hawk that flies overhead when I have conversations on the Mill Valley patio with my brother as we sit under a huge, blooming magnolia tree. Bright scarlet dragonflies zoom around outside my houseboat, skimming the estuary waters. Red tail hawks in a nearby Monterey Pine dodge dive-bombing crows. I get to see golden eagles have kids in the Sunol hills. Finches and sparrows mob the bird feeder on my deck. And, best of all, I absorb the warm hugs and loving affection from my brother. It’s a beautiful world.

OK now I am going to follow the steps a counselor suggested years ago when we experience hard times: Dial 911, step over the body, and do the dishes.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of tennessee valley trail by emily weil

daily painting | tennessee valley trail

After visiting my brother in Mill Valley the other day I headed to the Tennessee Valley trail not far away, a spot I hadn’t visited in several years. The fog was roaring in and I knew my afternoon hike would be breezy and deliciously cool. My walking sticks helped me along the way and at one point I stopped to listen to at least five different species of birds calling, including a Swainson’s Thrush, who sings a lilting, gorgeous song (I’m not so savvy about identifying birds by song, but since I bugged GGRO’s Allen Fish about this mystery birdcall a few years ago I knew this one). A wildlife photographer was trying to spot the bird for a good photo but it was elusive visually; its song, however, filled the valley. That lovely walk soothed my heart. As nature always, always does.

So. Time on my hands? Seriously? What IS that? (I’m adapting, however — now in its ninth week, this brother-brain-cancer crisis has consumed my life). But with Covid roaming the halls of James’s nursing home I’m at home for now (no argument there). So the paints are coming out. And the laundry is done. The dust on my bookshelf is wiped clean (it was practically sprouting seedlings). I’m still tired, but I think that is a fact of life these days. And I am learning that I need to call by name the sadness that sits next to me on my couch every day. To welcome it and not ignore it. To embrace it, even. Loss is a central ingredient of my life for now. I accept it.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | american kestrel

“Allow” is my word for today, the first anniversary of my sister Kay’s death. Unsurprisingly, my feelings are bouncing all over the place, so I think my best practice is to not resist today’s emotional road trip. I love the bullet points in “The Mourner’s Bill of Rights,” sent to me by a wonderfully supportive facilitator who comforts family members of those who chose “Death with Dignity.” A sampling:

• You have the right to experience your own unique grief

• You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions

• You have the right to experience “griefbursts”

Aren’t these marvelous? I will keep this card handy today as so far I am really needing it; my brains are scrambled and I’m upside down, so I’m just going with it. My little guy Buster greeted me this morning with his usual “Wheek! Wheek! Wheek!” which means Good morning, I’m hungry in guinea pig. I scratched his head and gave him some cucumber (his little purring noises crack me up). So far I’ve needed one trip to Berkeley Vacuum and Sewing Center to clean out the shavings from Buster’s cage that clogged my vacuum. He’s worth it, though my house smells like a barn from the small animal hay he eats, but it’s a nice smell. With all the death in my family and in the world lately, I am especially grateful for the miracle of life. In all its forms, including guinea pigs — warm friends who walk with me and hug me when I need to stop and sob for a few minutes, the wonderfully feisty falcon (American Kestrel, shown here) we banded last week, the butterflies visiting the plants on my deck, the occasional bat rays (that look like sting rays) gliding in the shallow water at low tide in my marina, the optimistic Cooper’s hawk that perches on top of the cement silos in our parking lot, playing I-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye (which is probably a gorgeous paprika color) a nice small songbird happy-hour hors d’oeuvre. I am happiest when I am 100% focused on this moment, this second in time. Because I am alive, and so are you, and isn’t that amazing? 
NOTE: Raptors are handled and banded at GGRO with appropriate state, federal and IACUC permits.