watercolor of grand canyon by emily weil

daily painting | grand canyon

Rain chased me away from this spectacular view of the Grand Canyon with blue/gray storm clouds hovering. Hard to imagine natural beauty with more gob-smacking drama. My road trip with a friend who planned to hike down into the canyon to join a river rafting trip already underway (did you know it can take over 30 years to get a permit to journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River?) brought us to this amazing National Park and if you haven’t been there I highly recommend it (and it’s usually crowded). Icy, slick, frozen trails made Nancy’s adventure a bit perilous but her sturdy crampons, well-prepared gear and years of hiking experience got her down to the canyon floor and the waiting river rafts. After she was safely on her way, I roamed around AZ and marveled at the sights around every corner. From snowy and chilly Flagstaff all the way down to warm, arid Phoenix, I took it all in and it was marvelous. This country! So many beautiful pockets of stunning sights. I gratefully absorbed the wonders of the warm desert sun, the brilliant stars, a full moon rising behind rocky cliffs, towering crimson rock castles, fast-moving roadrunners, the best chili verde enchiladas I’ve ever eaten and an amazing wolf-rescue/sanctuary in Rimrock which was a real treat (how many people can say they’ve been cheek-licked by an affectionate wolf?). Probably write more on that later; I hung out with tundra and gray wolves rescued from stupid, abusive humans. I’ve long been obsessed with wolves and had no idea what I was signing up for, so the whole experience was moving and memorable and spiritual. [If my wolf stories pique your interest, look up Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat, a book that upended my views of these incredible canines.]

Before the trip, I said a prayer asking for clarity as I edge into old-womanhood. Where to go from here as an artist? And as an art teacher? I got my answers and I’m deeply grateful though I’d be more comfortable if the wolves told me I was about to win the lottery. Sigh. All is good. Life is an amazing adventure and I’m not done hurling myself into it. Not yet.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of sunflowers by emily weil

daily painting | sunny flowers in teapot

Obviously my sisters have been on my mind lately since they have both recently left the planet. Younger sister Kay was a force to be reckoned with — focused and determined; when she had her sights on something you stepped back and got out of her way. I admired that strength, and also was frustrated by it (easy to feel bulldozed by her). Similarly, I think of older sister Diana who only a few months ago committed suicide. She was so shackled and hobbled by mental illness (she had a number of diagnoses throughout her life), paralyzed and tortured by panic and daily terrors. I related to her as I also absorbed a lot of fear as a little one, as our dad, a truly miserable guy, often flew into rages. Which makes me think, well, how would my sisters think of me? And did they see things in me to which I am blind? All too likely (this quote comes to mind from Fran Lebowitz: “Being judgmental, to me, just means I have standards.”). But I so aspire to clear-headed self-reflection. I do not want to live an unexamined life, which brings me to these sunflowers. They have such wide-open faces and seem so trusting. So American, too, being native to this country. Home-grown. My reflexive reactions to life when I hurt are to withdraw, to keep myself safe. Which is the illustration of Diana’s life; she was agoraphobic and painfully tormented in her later years. So it feels risky for me to open myself up to all of life’s myriad experiences with trust and faith and hope, which makes for a richer, often bumpier life. I’ll take it though. 

I am somewhat on that wobbly cliff as I ponder retirement and my future. I’m pushing 70, and in light of my sisters’ deaths, want to live to the max in whatever time I have left. What does that mean? Not sure yet, though art certainly is the hub of that wheel. These past 15 months have been ridiculously challenging and painful, for many reasons. As they have for all of us. Yet I feel extraordinarily grateful for the many gifts I enjoy every day, from my health to my life on the water to creating and teaching art to time with loved ones to holding a wild hawk in my hand (see GGRO.org) to… well, too may things to list. I’ve been encouraged lately to celebrate the life I have designed. OK. Will do.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $65

 

 

 

daily painting | buzzy bees

Saturday afternoon painting. I was going to head to my studio, but felt happier/safer here in my home, getting out my watercolors and selecting a photo to paint from, taken on a recent hike in Tilden Park, where small squadrons of bumblebees were collecting pollen in the profuse poppies growing alongside the trail. It was beautiful, magical, hopeful and fun to watch these industrious critters, buzzing from flower to flower, their legs laden down with pods of pollen like fat orange water-wings. Today: disappearing into a tray of paints, listening to the finches sing outside on my deck, greeting warm and friendly neighbors as they walk by on the docks, sweeping up bird feeder leftovers of sunflower seed husks that stick to my shoes when I walk inside, making peace with my life as it is in this moment. Can’t expect too many functional neurons today. That’s OK. My hands remember how to hold a paintbrush. I am alive, breathing, accepting.

7″ x 6″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $55