We're off on a very special journey! Hope to see you back here in early July!

Love Thursday

Today's theme at Shutter Sisters is Love Thursday. This photo of mine is of my father holding my sweet nephew, his first grandchild, taken May 2007.


Exuberant Spring

The focus today over at Shutter Sisters is on 'out of body' photographs - those that are captured by accident. I'm still enough of a neophyte at photography to think that any good photo I take is captured by accident, but this one seemed to fit so well. Last spring I was taking photos of the blossoms on our red bud tree, a new beauty to me; it was only when I reviewed the photo later that I realized this honeybee had snuck in. The bee adds a sense of energy, brings a story to the photo that would not have been there without it. I like to imagine her going about her busy bee day, visiting all the pretty flowers and taking the nectar back to her sisters at the hive.


Icon Workshop: Completed Icon

Well, here it is: the icon of Christ that I completed the other week in a workshop. It's 13 x 17 inches (see previous posts for materials used.) I'm still a bit shy about displaying my work. I love doing the garments on icons but still struggle a bit with the faces. I may go back and do a few touchups on his face.

American iconographers are moving toward using more English on the icons (for obvious reasons!), but the abbreviations on Christ's icons are universal and are usually kept in Greek. A brief explanation: 'IC XC' are the abbreviations for Jesus Christ. The Greek letters in the halo mean, "I am the one Who is."

The large clusters of letters on each side of the halo spell Pantocrator. From wiki: The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful." In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek words for "all" and the noun "strength" (κρατος). This is often understood in terms of potential power; i.e., able to do anything, or omnipotent. Another, less literal translation is "Ruler of All" or "Sustainer of the World."

I'm off to take another workshop next week, although I'm not sure yet who the subject of my icon will be!


Saturday Snaps

Images from last Saturday:

A delightful surprise from my dear old friend Jennifer was waiting for me when I returned from our trip the other week - a box of handsewn flowering tea from this fascinating company (the photos on their website are much better than my attempt!) My husband and I were both intrigued to watch it slowly unfurl and open into a bloom in the hot water. Many thanks, Jennifer! It arrived at the perfect time, and was something I'd always wanted to try. I'm always very touched by surprises such as this one - brought a big smile to my face! Hopefully someday we can sit down together again over some steaming tea!

Another library book sale - $12.50 for this entire pile! It's quite a mad crush; within 15 minutes of opening the room is so packed one can barely move. I try to arrive early to get in line, and then move quickly and decisively to make my selections!

My first attempt at using memory wire - found some gorgeous beads in South Dakota!

And, some bright orange beets, purchased on my first visit to the very fabulous grocery store where a good friend works (I showed up just in time for her lunch break; it was completely unplanned - I love spontaneous time with friends - it doesn't happen often enough!)

Have a great Saturday!


Birthday Peonies

Peonies are the queens of gardens everywhere, reigning over their sisters in the loveliest of gowns to be found, their extravagant perfume trailing over everyone else at the party. I hope you've had the pleasure of sitting down face-to-face with a peony. They don't like to grace Southern gardens with their presence, but there are other ways of getting them to drop by. They always arrive in stores around my birthday; this year the first shipment arrived precisely on my birthday (I checked a few days before!) I left the store cradling my sweet peony bouquet in my arm with so much tenderness of feeling that I surprised even myself. They have become my birthday companions over the years, providing a celebratory display of beauty and fragrance for me to persistently stop and admire throughout the week. I think I could sit and look at them all day long!


A Day in Sioux Falls

I am sometimes amazed at how much one can fit into a day. I suppose it seems more striking when everything is new and novel. Looking at these pictures, I realize again what an enjoyable, relaxed day we had exploring Sioux Falls with family that we hadn't seen in awhile. And that must be one of the main benefits of travel: to lift us out of the quotidian rhythms of our lives, crack off some of the muddy plaster of routine from our minds, and help us surprise ourselves anew at our ability to enjoy and be open to the world around us.

Several years ago, Sioux Falls, SD was voted the best place in the country to live. At the time, being rather prejudiced favorably toward the western half of the state, I wondered why it merited that distinction. Having visited it again, however, I understand what a truly nice town it is.

The Sertoma Butterfly House was all aflutter with these beauties, in larger number than butterfly houses we've seen in large cities.

St. Joseph's Cathedral was striking and welcomingly quiet and peaceful inside.

How nice it must be to have all these waterfalls in the city park!

Whimsical sculpture lines the downtown streets. This was one of my favorites.

All photos by my husband (who would have preferred that they be post-processed in Photoshop before being posted, but I'm not that picky...at least not in this instance!)


A Walk in the Woods

This little canyon is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. My last day at home included a peaceful two-hour walk here with my husband. It was overcast and cool, as most of the month was. Spring was slow this year; in late May, all the tender little leaves and plants were just making their way out of the ground.

One of the town residents acknowledges our arrival, leaving after a covert meeting at the community hall. We saw more deer than people on this hike - perhaps they are secretly taking over!

This is the river we follow the entire way. The path is an old road, which makes for easy walking.

Dainty seeds dangle from the branches; I was enamored with their beauty.

The moss down here is so thick that you'd think you were in the Pacific Northwest.

I always swoon over baby aspen leaves. I love the way they gently unfold from a tight little roll.

Beautiful young ferns appeared to be awaking from sleep, reluctantly stretching and unfurling their tendrils to greet spring.
Leaving this canyon is difficult; I could spend all day here! Its beauty and uniqueness make me feel as though I'm walking through a children's storybook, never knowing what treasure will appear on the path before me.


Icon Workshop Day Three

This is what my icon looked like about halfway through the day yesterday. Any guesses as to whom the subject of the icon is? It is near completion now and just awaits final touches tomorrow. We make our own paint from egg yolks and ground mineral pigments such as cadmium yellow and red, ultramarine blue, red oxide, burnt sienna, etc. It can be a tricky process!



I’ve been thinking quite a bit about elderly people lately, in part because my grandma would have celebrated her 85th birthday on May 23 were she still alive. She passed away almost three years ago and I still think of her every day and miss her dearly. I spent the afternoon of this May 23 watching some friends give a concert to residents of a nursing home. Most of these dear people were in wheelchairs; some were falling asleep during the concert, others were driving their chairs in circles around the rec room, and some were having a lot of fun with the maracas they’d been given to participate with in the concert. What reservoirs of memories and experiences must have been contained within them! The woman sitting next to me insisted that I take the metal triangle she’d been given and try it out myself. My own grandma refused to go to doctors for the 30 years in which I knew her, going to dentists only when tooth pain became bad enough; ending up in a hospital or a nursing home would have been even more distressing to her than to normal people, given her lifelong avoidance of medical care. Thankfully, she still lived to be 82, even as a chain smoker! However, this is a story for a different time.

This week I’ve been immensely inspired by one of my fellow students in the icon workshop. She is certainly in her 80s, but you would never know it. She is more stylish and thin than I’ve ever been and drives to class in her sleek Jaguar. She has lived all over the world – South America, Norway, the U.K., Dubai – as a result of her husband’s career, becoming an international traveler well before it was common. However, she’s not in the least bit prideful, but is very down-to-earth and sweet, often quoting snatches of scriptures in an authentic, honest way. Her vitality and curiosity astound me; the fact that she is excited about beginning to learn icon painting even in her 80s humbles me, one who sometimes questions the point of beginning new ventures in my early 30s. She reminds me of the need to establish a vision for my life and to cultivate the physical, mental, and spiritual health that will perhaps allow me to be like her in 50-some years.
Photo is of a flowering crab from my trip home this spring.


Icon Workshop Day One

It's a bit hard to tell from this photo, but today we laid the groundwork for our icons in my most recent workshop. We begin by tracing a pattern onto the specially prepared panel; once it's traced on, we incise the lines with a sharp tool. We then place several layers of shellac around the image before applying the gilding size. After the gilding size dries enough, we apply 23 K gold leaf to the background. You can see the small squares of paper that the gold leaf comes on scattered around the icon. We carefully brush off the odd bits of gold leaf and gently burnish the surface. Tomorrow, we begin painting with egg tempera!


Happy June!

A note to wish you a lovely June as I'm dashing around. We've numerous photos, thoughts, and tales from our recent travels that I hope to share soon. Tomorrow I begin a week-long iconography workshop; am eager to jump back into it after my month in a completely different and unrelated world. In the meantime, here is a lovely peony, captured yesterday in the idyllic small town of Minneapolis, Kansas as we passed through. I just about swooned to see them, my favorite flowers.