watercolor of peaches by emily weil

daily painting | casita windowsill

The way light hits luscious, spherical summer fruits poised on a windowsill always enchants me. If I recall, my gracious host Nancy gave me these Trader Joe’s peaches when I stayed in her San Diego casita last August, and I put them on the sunny sill as they weren’t quite ripe.

I roamed around my photos collection looking for painting subjects and found this snapshot I’d all but forgotten. Peaches in particular are spectacular, don’t you think? Slightly fuzzy, rosy-hued, filled with the promise of drippy, sweet juices. One summer when I was a teen, dad’s peach trees produced such a mouth-watering crop I ate them until I was sick (I’ve never been so thin). I’m becoming more patient with my watercolors — taking more time. A sign of getting older, I guess. What’s the hurry? My world is upended with loss and grief and family upset. Yet painting a scene of summery fruit soothes and comforts my heart. How fortunate I am, to skid into my magical world of watercolors.

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

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | circus

Emotion central ovah heah (think Carmela’s voice, mobster Tony Soprano’s wife on “The Sopranos” which I’m enjoying again for the 4th or 5th time). You’ve been patiently reading these ongoing posts about my grief. Stormy, wet, weepy, sad and there you go, Bob’s Your Uncle. Still here. But rains cleanse and renew and refresh and make things grow. I’m into growing. I’m becoming stronger and more sturdy. I’m resilient and I am shedding crackled, dried up old skins like a snake. Dark childhood shadows drifting off into the ether. Six months since my sister Diana’s suicide now, and it’s getting easier to get out of bed in the morning, so healing does in fact happen even when you feel like the drippy technicolor emotions will drape themselves all over you forever. Life is such a carnival ride at times, but I’m strapped in and hanging on and fully here for the adventure, even when I’m screaming bloody hell on the roller coaster. As I get older I aspire to be myself. Only myself. It’s liberating, and it’s happening. This is good.

30″ x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $975

 

 

 

daily painting | hydrangea

Last week the grief fog began, timidly, to lift. I had heartfelt, healing and warm conversations with my niece as she came through town; we talked about family and her mom who committed suicide in May. Just voicing the frustrations with, anger towards and love for my sister Diana felt like a balm that soaked in deep, because Kirsten gets it, as she works through her own shock and loss. It was a welcome gift, to comfort one another. I am so grateful for all the resources I have access to — grief groups, therapists, warm friends, open-hearted family members, writing exercises, painting, and banding hawks. All these are medicines, healing my fractured soul and shattered heart. And joy is starting to creep back in around the edges of my life (and I’ll take it!). The cement shoes that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning are starting to crack and chip. The finches at my birdfeeder make me laugh a bit more heartily, and my new housemate, Buster Posey, my rescue guinea pig (who is Giants-orange) that a friend found abandoned on the side of the road, is hilarious and adorable and tolerates brief cuddles (“cavies” are pretty low-maintenance pets, I am learning). Little puddles of relief. Marvelous.

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | embers

Art as therapy is my world these days. Here’s another big abstract, a painting from several years ago I reworked. It’s satisfying, being in my studio and slinging acrylic paint around, consciously sidestepping rational thought (on composition, color balance, and so on); most of the paint actually lands on the canvas. It’s an emotional process, and digging into feelings and tossing them onto a paint surface is mending me. I’m very grateful — for my studio, that I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ workshops in 2008 which exploded me into a serious art practice; for glorious, vibrant paint colors, for headphones that supply rock and roll. Grief is a helluva rabbit hole to tumble into — I’m upended. I disappear into it, and at times I even have hope I’ll emerge with all my body parts. I’m sometimes satisfied, strengthened and exhausted, sometimes frustrated, spent and humbled. But always, always more whole.

68″ x 60″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $5600

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | 2020

Wacky wanderings is how I’d describe my world today. I’m finishing up the book, Proof of Heaven, about a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience (NDE) and writes about his journey into a place of love and joy and acceptance and connection to the divine while he was in a coma he wasn’t supposed to recover from. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s making me rethink everything, and in a good way. I’ve had faith for most of my life in a spiritual presence or higher power or Spirit or God (though I don’t like that term, it connotes male patriarchy and confining religiosity). Reading more about NDEs (I’m going back to the library for more) is boosting my beliefs and giving me more confidence to have faith and trust in the divine, western intellectual culture be damned. It’s like I’m learning that what I’ve always hoped to be true but was afraid to completely believe is real — there is an unseen, miraculous world that our limited human brains cannot access. A world of Spirit and consciousness and a loving, supporting, expanding universe. Because I’m in a stage of life where my “past is growing and my future is shrinking,” and because of recent deaths of my sisters, all these other-worldly concepts are on my mind, and I’m finding I’m in a place of, “Oh eff it, I’m going to leap off that cliff into total surrender and faith.” A place not exactly supported in our culture, but a stance that deeply comforts and encourages me. So, there. I’m reaching more deeply into my beliefs, dammit. It’s not a popular way of thinking, here in this world. But I’m more convinced every day that there is a higher being (or beings) that support me in this human life. And today I consciously choose to practice radical trust. This is difficult for me to share, as it makes me feel vulnerable. So I hope you are OK with that.

Which is kinda related to this painting. I took an older abstract I wasn’t crazy about and made a new one out of it. I’m doing larger works these days, as the over-sized canvases are better at holding all the swirling emotions that whip through me these days. I titled this painting “2020” as it felt appropriate. It contains all the roiling, messy feelings from that ridiculously crazy, painful year.

55″ x 65″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $4900

 

 

 

daily painting | sibs

Here is Quinn, one of three sisters I was commissioned to paint. It was a gift to their mom, who recently had a big-zero birthday (I am told she loved the paintings). A sibling-palooza! 

Sisters is the ongoing theme of my life these days. I have friends who have precious relationships with their “womb-mates,” and these connections my friends have with their girl sibs comforts me greatly. I was not close to my two sisters who have recently died, and that’s OK. It was more or less the result of growing up in a troubled, cold family. We all tried. Did our best. No lack of love there, but the bonds were thready.

I find this process of grief and loss a jumbled stew — it’s painful, excruciating, fascinating, illuminating, healing and deeply depressing. I know I am shedding things no longer needed during this crucible-like process. I will become clearer, more alive. I’m certain. But for now, the fog wafts around my brain and obscures my vision, for the pain of this loss is unspeakable, after my sister Diana’s violent act of suicide. I am showing up for this process, though. That, I feel, is very important and I think shows courage. Because I often feel upside down (though I mostly stay strapped in).

I loved a phrase I read in a book last night, “holding oneself… in the face of some emotional wind,” describing a character who had survived an intense and threatening experience (Peter Heller, The River). We are frightened, in our culture, of strong feelings. We want them to go away, and soon. But they need to be here, with us, moving around our hearts and minds and bodies until they have exhausted themselves (particularly since we’ve just been through a nightmare pandemic). I often have a hard time allowing myself to feel the grief — my brain says, “Buck up. You’re wallowing.” Or, “This is taking too long. You’re stuck.” Or, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” But reality is I am steeped in a profound process of loss, and it will take however long it takes, and I will stay present with the sorrows. I’m OK with that. And I side-step the harsh criticisms in my head that say I’ve lost my way. Because I haven’t.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | hollyhocks

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and it comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it, will make you less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” — Abraham Lincoln [lost his son Edward at age 3, another son William at age 11; after his assassination, his son Tad died at age 18].

Written from the grief bus. Destination unknown. Love, Emily.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $60

 

 

 

watercolor painting of shipping container by emily weil

daily painting | container

[I’ve been writing this in my head since 4:00 this morning; I hope not to ramble too much.] About 20+ years ago, my dad died. Except for losing our beloved Maggie, the family dog, who died at 16 when I was 17 (my childhood buddy), I had not yet experienced a major death. I remember sitting at my desk after my father passed away, staring out the window as I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Mom died 16 years ago (age 88). It was not unexpected as she was ill. That process of loss and grief upended me; my feelings were so painful and intense I worried I was losing my mind (she was a difficult woman and we had a bumpy relationship). I managed to find a grief support group for women whose moms had recently died and discovered my feelings were completely normal and similar to every other woman in that room where we gathered to heal. What a relief. What I am experiencing today, and remember well from the mom-grief, is frustration as our culture allows very little room for intense grieving. Basically you get about 3 weeks, and then you’d best move on and get over it as it makes people uncomfortable. Shut down that heart-pain. Hurry up. It’s not comely. It’s practically unAmerican.

So I am finding I need to somewhat ferociously carve out space for my grief. To create a safe container where I can thrash around and weep and express rage and shock and heartbreak. The death of my two sisters, both by suicide, within the past six months, has shattered me. My pain is normal, healthy, and even welcomed, as it heals me. This grief is a treasure and I “cleave to it as it cleaves to me. I don’t have a choice about feeling it but I do have a choice to deeply learn from it” (quote from a friend). It is often unbearably lonely.

This extends my post today into the too-long territory, but I feel this poem is important:

On Pain by Kahlil Gibran 

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.

     And he said:

     Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

     Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

     And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

     And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

     And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

     Much of your pain is self-chosen.

     It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

     Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:

     For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,

     And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

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