watercolor of poppy by emily weil

daily painting | briones poppy

“Grieving is a full time job.” So says my wise and wonderful therapist who is herself grieving her dad who died recently. This helps me relax a little. Oh that I could be that fictitious genteel Victorian woman who would be sent off to a year-long tour of Europe to recover from her loss. What a wonderful dream.

But no. We live in modern times and very few of us can take twelve months away from daily living to work through painful losses. Which is why I’m absorbing the reality that I have things that break in my house and they need to be fixed despite how I feel. Life problems present themselves (broken water heater) and it feels like the end of the world! Which of course it isn’t. And yes these are first-world problems. Which wipe me off the road in a messy mudslide.

So? And now? Well, practicing self-compassion. As I’ve ranted about before, our culture gives us about three weeks to get over a death. Move on, people say. Don’t live in the past. (SO helpful.) Which makes one withdraw more deeply into the grief process, which can be horribly lonely. But, you know what? I have compassion for those who have had painful losses. It can take years — YEARS — to work through grief. Which is a sign of a big heart  — if we didn’t love deeply, we wouldn’t feel the pain of loss. Yay for us.

So I’m deeply grateful that what’s in front of me is creating art. I’m working on a series of commissions, and I completed this one today. I’m doing large paintings from photos of Briones, as a partial trade for my new roof that was installed last year. The client has been exceedingly patient with me, as I took time for brother-care and then did some traveling late last year. And now as I work daily on this project, I’m grateful to experience the joy of being an artist. Once again I am thankful to Leigh Hyams and for her Esalen art workshop I stumbled into in 2008. She gave me a whole new life direction. And it’s good.

32″ x 32″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | january blooms

So today is about accepting limitations with as much grace as I can muster. OK I’m going to try not to be hideously boring here. My floating home (or “flouse”, a term I like) only has so much electricity feeding into it from the dock. I have no way of upping the amperage. Which means the tankless water heater Jonathan installed uses too much juice (we both researched it ahead of time but we missed the fine print). So we are going to try a different water heater, but it hasn’t arrived yet (today I hope). To make a short story long, this morning I ran out of hot water mid-shower while my head was full of shampoo and it was 45° outside. I grabbed a bathrobe and did a quick rinse of my hair in the kitchen sink with cold water, then ran out to switch the breakers back on out on the dock. Then I unplugged everything electrical in my house and tried again. Hot water in the shower! Yay! Which ran cold again while my drippy locks were full of conditioner (literally rinse and repeat! ha!). And yes it was sunny and not -3° as is forecast this weekend in Iowa. So there’s that.

This is not a life-threatening problem. These are first-world challenges, however unpleasant. One thing I’ve learned from years of therapy and support groups is that there are always solutions to problems — I might not like the answers, but I’ve been around long enough to know that I can trust myself (and trusted helpers) to resolve things one way or t’other. 

Which reminds me of going to a 12-step meeting in San Francisco eons ago and laughing my butt off when a woman talked about how, as a child of an alcoholic, if she gets a flat tire she doesn’t call AAA but suicide prevention hotline. Today I follow a therapist’s directive from long ago: Dial 911, step over the body and do the dishes (even if in cold water). 

[I did this painting in our Brushes by the Bay group yesterday, referring to a crisp, brightly-colored Trader Joe bouquet in my cute fiesta-ware teapot. I wasn’t thrilled with the piece, but it improved some after I cropped it. It was a blustery, chilly and wet January day. I like real weather.]

8″ x 6″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of honeycrisp apple by emily weil

daily painting | honeycrisp

Oh it felt good to take my paints out today. After December travels followed by holidays and then the unwelcome visitor of a flu bug on New Year’s Eve (clever little arsehole; it’s making the rounds) I pulled out my trays of the gooey, brightly-hued pigments. I’ve been doing ink drawings, but it was a delight to perch this apple on my counter and find the largest pad of watercolor paper I had and wet the big brush after weeks of monochromatic artwork.

I am grateful to be able to catch my breath while 2024 is fresh. As I’ve rested while my body fights the pesky virus I’ve read some great books. I finished House of Broken Angels last night. I could hardly put it down. It’s about Big Angel and his expansive, boisterous, loving, crazy Mexican family. Big Angel is dying (I swear I didn’t know that about the plot when I downloaded the book onto my Kindle) and started a notebook of things he loves about his life. So I started one too. I suppose getting out my paints would fit into that category.

So today I’m grateful for hot showers (my water heater died and will be replaced tomorrow) and hugs from my very tall neighbor and my guinea pig’s hilarious chirps and the night herons that slow-dance through the mud out my window and Facetime calls from my granddaughter and gin cocktails and black-chested African snake eagles and a lovely chunk of soup in the freezer I found today that I’d forgotten about. I woke up so sad today — grief is just part of the fabric of my life, and it’s tough to wrap my mind around the fact that my brother isn’t on the planet any more. I miss him every day. And I’m happy we had so much time to love each other while he was dying. So my mantra today, which helped me get out of bed: 1. Show up 2. Pay attention 3. Tell the truth 4. Let go of the outcome. I did that. And I had a stupendous day.

10″ x 14″ ink, watercolor on paper = $185

 

 

 

watercolor of rose bud by emily weil

daily painting | rose bud

I created this small painting a few weeks ago and thought I’d post it before my schedule gets a bit more busy; we scatter my brother’s ashes tomorrow, I’ll join family members up north for turkey day, and then soon after will have the privilege of going on an exciting international trip.

I’m hanging on during the emoting. The ups and downs are like being on the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz (just looked at images online and they made my stomach lurch) — so far I’m still strapped in but am a bit dizzy. I am enjoying the sweet company of friends and family who are arriving for the ashes ceremony tomorrow and also when I stopped at the grocery store to buy Thanksgiving pie ingredients I started crying in the dairy section (well, as I write this, that makes sense, as bro was the family’s supreme commander of holiday pie-making). This led to me doubling over in the elevator down to the parking garage (I was alone). Then there was the contentment of arriving home where it is safe and beautiful and dry and I felt the deep satisfaction of knowing I will see more loved ones tomorrow.

I don’t expect Mr Toad’s Wild Ride to be over any time soon (keeping to amusement park references) but I did get a case of Dramamine® at Costco.

Have a good holiday season, everyone. May you enjoy peace and love and fun and contentment. If your heart hurts may you find solace and comfort and places that soothe. 

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | belt it out

So the thing about grief is that it rips your skin off, and then it knifes deeper into your muscles and organs where, with surgical precision, it tears open all the old wounds that you’d rather not look at. This is its gift.

So I kind of celebrate this moment (she said, perhaps masochistically). And I would like it very much if I never again felt like this. But I know things are shifting and re-balancing and I will come out stronger. I’m certain of it. It effing sucks but chains I have dragged behind me my entire life that I didn’t even know were hindering me are rusting through and falling off. Childbirth and open-heart surgery come to mind, to add the list of metaphors.

This painting represents part of my journey.

Broken hearts are more open, I am told.

40″ x 28″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil, cut up scarves, cut paper on canvas = $1450

 

 

 

watercolor of crab cove park by emily weil

daily painting | crab cove

“Linda Wishkob was magnetically ugly. Her pasty wedge of a face just cleared the post office counter.” Louise Erdrich wrote those astonishing sentences in her book, The Round House. What a writer! Those two lines alone are worth the price of her powerful novel. I love being in the middle of a book that pulls me in its direction throughout the day making me look forward to whatever time I can carve out to devour it.

Speaking of writing, I am finding writing in my journal to be helpful. It’s like talking to a therapist. It’s a release of emotion and very healing as I don’t have to edit my words or try to sound nice. I can write with abandon, knowing that no one will look at me with that dreaded look of concern while they worry I’m going to go jump off a bridge.

Grief, man. What a trip.

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

 

 

 

watercolor of green onions by emily weil

daily painting | green onions

I’m writing this while sitting at a little desk in a Crescent City Air BnB apt. with big windows that look across the street to the ocean. Storms are piling up out there and my rain boots are keeping my toes dry. I’m told to keep an eye out for migrating whales.

It’s just gorgeous here. Beautiful views, stormy seas and this place is very affordable. And loving family (good lord what a concept — pretty foreign to me, but I am delighted at how my connection to niece Kirsten is strengthening). Oop, here come fresh raindrops on the window. Last night it was quite stormy and I listened to the ocean all night.

My lovely niece is directing a play in a local theater group here which prompted my visit. She will likely move out of the area and this may be my last opportunity to see theatrical productions that she creates. Her whole family has been involved with this theater for decades — even my sister Diana, Kirsten’s mom, used to play roles before she became housebound and withdrawn.

And I am here in yet another place to heal. The ocean does that. And Kirsten and I will seek out walks in the redwoods between raindrops.

I did these little green onions/scallions in Alameda last week. Would’ve posted this yesterday but the storm took out the internet across the city for the day.

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

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting on canvas by emily weil

daily painting | seventy-one

I’ve often longed for a frontal lobotomy. That desire is fresh again — anything for relief from Nurse Ratched, who embodies the grief that is my daily companion. I hardly know how to explain myself. “How are you doing, Emily?” is a question asked by people who genuinely care. “Doing my best,” I answer. Because it isn’t culturally acceptable to answer the question honestly: “Well, I was writhing in my bed this morning from stabbing pain in my gut and shards of glass in my heart and it feels like my kitchen floor is jaggy with razor blades and I can’t sleep and I sometimes spontaneously sob hysterically in the produce dept. of the grocery store and I wish I knew who put TNT under my mattress and blew me up. But other than that, I’m fine.”

Truly kind people want me to feel better. I get that and appreciate it. But it also adds pressure, like I’d best hurry up with my mourning. So that makes me withdraw, and then the grief process becomes more isolating. 

Just being honest here. Thanks for reading this. I’d like our culture to be smarter when it comes to holding and supporting those who have had difficult losses. It’s just amazingly lonely and takes years. I’m so bored with justifying my technicolor emotions.

And I’m deeply grateful for redwood trees that I can literally lean on because they help absorb the pain. And for a studio full of paints. And birds. And October moonrises.

30 x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $1025

 

 

 

watercolor of pomegranate by emily weil

daily painting | october pom

I brought this pomegranate as subject matter to our Brushes by the Bay group yesterday. It had gotten a little dried out in my fruit bowl which makes it more interesting — it develops harder edges and interesting geometric planes. Fun. 

I’m home from my glorious Mammoth Lakes vacation. It was a beautiful reset button. I had clear, temperate weather and starry nights and breathtaking vistas every day. The morning I left the skies were cloudy and it was 45°. Talk about timing.

So I was happy to rejoin my artist pals to do art in my marina. I love the individual syles and media we use — watercolors, colored pencils, pen and ink, pencil. Nice to be home. So much life to grab with both hands.

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

 

 

 

watercolor of convict lake by emily weil

daily painting | convict lake

I hardly know where to begin. I am the grateful recipient of a gift of a vacation in Mammoth Lakes, in the eastern Sierras, an offering from a dear relative who has a place here, and who knows the losses of the last few years in my family. It is a reset button for me — I am resting, crying, grieving, exploring, painting and writing. At Convict Lake, a gob-smackingly beautiful place, I set up a little painting station and chatted with fisher people and other hikers and watched bald eagles catch trout. After painting I walked partially around the lake, and a man stopped me and pointed up to a bald eagle in a tree just above the path! So we marveled and shared our views with other hikers. An elderly couple came by, and I gave them my binocs to get a closer look at the majestic creature. The man said he was 87 and had been in wild areas all his life and this was his first sighting of a bald eagle. I was thrilled for him. 

I am healing. I am absorbing all this beauty and love from the wild. Craggy peaks out of every condo window and aspen trees with changing colors. Stars and the milky way — I’m at 8,000 ft. and Jupiter beams like an incoming airplane. Local natural hot springs to soak in. This is good. This is beyond good. I’m a big grateful, absorbent sponge. 

Don’t want this to be a boring travelog. But boy howdy I am appreciative of this slice of magic wedged between death and grief and mourning and my life in Alameda.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper