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 | smudgy trumpets

Searching for subject matter, I found a photo of this trumpet vine that grows outside my studio. Played with watercolor, was dissatisfied, added pastel, added acrylic pen and more pastel and then just said oh hell I’m going to have at it with the chalky, brightly colored sticks and smudge this thing into a pink, hot mess. It’s satisfying just to let go and forget about end results. Sometimes that makes for a good painting. Sometimes not. My mind’s not made up about this one, but my dark moods these days obscure my perceptions. Yesterday, though, offered relief and peace and those moments really sparkle against the murky grays of my grief — it was the 15th anniversary of my mom’s death, and my sweet brother and I went to the beach to visit and reminisce about our family. It was comforting to be in agreement as we reflected on our experiences with mom and dad and to love and console each other as we watched the surfers at Rodeo Beach, spotted dolphins foraging for lunch, soaked up the sunshine, remembered summer vacations as kids, and mainly just appreciated being together as the numbers of our sibs dwindle. So soothing to my sore heart.

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper