Timeout: Difficult Lessons


“That’s the thing about lessons, you always learn them when you don’t expect them or want them.”
― Cecelia Ahern, If You Could See Me Now

Crimes of opportunity. We should have known better than to leave our Brazilian hammock swinging on the second story porch of our casita. Rain pounded on our tin roof muffling all sounds, our hammock swayed lazily in an unprotected and dark area, our dog too was sick to bark at intruders…all were signals for an opportunistic ladrón (thief).

We should have known better. In a three-year period, we’ve lost a bunch of bananas (over 50 pounds of bananas), a long hose snaking through Ron’s garden, a sharp machete, Ron’s new hiking boots, an iPhone, and now our Brazilian hammock. These petty crimes of opportunity make me want to cry!

IMG_3425Though, we should have known better. We installed a bright light on the casita porch, took down our rope swing hanging from a mango tree, rolled up the remaining hose, and stored assorted rakes and our kayak on the gated porch of our main house….a real fortress. “What about this old mop and the broken plastic bucket?” I asked Ron. “Debbie, if some thief wants that old mop and bucket..let them have it,” he laughed.

I’ve followed trails of bananas and washed out partial footprints in the sand…all leading to a dead-end. I’ve warned all the neighbors that a ladrón is in our neighborhood. They have all had experiences with petty crime, too. In a way, it reassures me that we aren’t targeted because we are foreigners. Yet, it infuriates me that a stranger invades our private property.

The advice from the locals is to: get a mean dog or two or three, lock everything up at night, and spotlight the property with bright lights. It won’t help to install a high razor topped fence around our property. First, it is too expensive, and second, if a thief wants something bad enough, they’ll find a way. If they can easily shimmy up a coconut tree, a fence will not deter them.

We should have known better. But, we got lazy and didn’t expect a ladrón. That’s when things happen…when you least expect them. Lesson learned…again and again. It could have been worse. I won’t live in fear, but I’ll sure keep everything locked up tightly in our house from now on.

I still want to cry. The hammock was given to us as a gift when we visited Brazil. In Zeebra Designs and Destinations this week, Lisa quoted Kahlil Gibran, “I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind;  yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”

I’m working on learning to be grateful for these lessons…but, sometimes you just gotta cry.
A friend sent me a picture she took of her toddler when she laid her down for her nap. Her expression is priceless and demonstrates the feelings I had last week. I’m practicing sketching hair..I still have more practice to get it lifelike. YouTube had some excellent lessons on drawing hair.

Timeout for Art: Teachers


“Because teachers, no matter how kind, no matter how friendly, are sadistic and evil to the core.”
― Heather Brewer, Eighth Grade Bites

Normally, I wouldn’t post a sarcastic quote about teachers, but this is different. Walter White was a milquetoast chemistry teacher who broke bad when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He turned to crime by producing and selling methamphetamine with a former student in order to leave his family financially secure when he died.

Breaking Bad is a popular television drama series, and I am addicted to this show. Walter is: a protagonist turned antagonist, a nerdy middle-aged high school Chemistry teacher turned murderous drug lord, a villain seeking redemption by ignoring his past sins, and a monster because he has rationalized it all.

Shrouded in his crystal meth, Walter represents our dark sides. I often ask myself, “What would it take to break bad?” A terminal illness? A diseased brain? A fight with a family member? Do we all have the potential to break bad? How would I respond if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness?

IMG_3388 2 Breaking Bad brings out the best and the worst in me. The best, in that I can ponder the philosophical questions about life….the really important questions like; Are we human only because of chemical equations in our brains? When is it justified to kill another human being? What baggage do we carry on the road to redemption? What governs my life choices? Is it emotions, personal motives, or consequences of my actions? Without memories are we still human?

On the other hand, Breaking Bad can bring out the worst in me. I can rationalize poor decisions, react impulsively out of revenge, justify my wicked thoughts by blaming others, and cuss like a hurracca when my feathers are ruffled.

Simply put, I’m human. My dark side stays safely tucked away most of the time. Unlike Walter White, I don’t expect to break bad anytime soon. But, the potential is there. When Hank (Walter’s brother-in-law) confronted Walter and said, “I don’t know who you are anymore.” Walter responded, “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe the best course would be to tread lightly.”

Here’s to treading lightly, enjoying each day as it comes, living fully and compassionately, and keeping that dark side safely tucked away!

 

 

Timeout for Art: Compass


“The compass rose is nothing but a star with an infinite number of rays pointing in all directions.
It is the one true and perfect symbol of the universe.
And it is the one most accurate symbol of you.
Spread your arms in an embrace, throw your head back, and prepare to receive and send coordinates of being. For, at last you know—you are the navigator, the captain, and the ship.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

This quote is for Lisa of Zeebra Designs and Destinations because she helped to change my compass to the right brain instead of the left..temporarily. I am practical, analytical, strategic, and always in control. I am a realist.

Yet, when it comes to designs and art, I have to switch gears, to change my detailed and analytical mode of thinking to the right side of my brain where creativity flows, a free spirit reigns, and all my senses are tingling and alive.

It’s not easy for me and this week’s sketch proves it. I am fascinated with 3D sketches, where the world pops out beyond the paper and one asks, “How did they do that?” I began by sketching a simple glass of water. Not too bad, until I decided to add a Hibiscus.

Hmmm…maybe a little color? Now how do I draw the stem in the water so that it looks real? Was that refraction or reflection? Why can’t I shade a simple little leaf? What’s wrong with me? I ruined my glass of water. I should have left it alone. Erase..erase…erase. Pout..pout..pout.

No! Wait! There’s Photo Shop. No! No! No! That’s cheating. I have to do this again. Hmmm…maybe if I only show half of my sketch it will look better? So went the day…frustrated..angry at myself because I couldn’t draw a glass of water and make it look real.

I don’t like when I get in this mood. It’s like having writer’s block on the tip of my pencil. Today, I couldn’t get my compass to change directions…my left brain took over and immobilized my creativity…blocked me from accessing my right brain. So went the day.

I’m showing you one half of my picture first. Hmm…not too bad. BUT…
IMG_3337Bravely,( or foolishly) I press the “add media” button…
IMG_3336Oh, my poor little glass of water. What have I done to you? And those wicked leaves! Time to do some research on reflection…or is it refraction? Today, I don’t feel like the captain of my ship. My coördinates of being are spinning wildly, refusing to hone in on a location. All I hear is “relocating…relocating”.

Maybe it’s because I am researching dementia and watching the FRONTLINE series on assisted living programs….a fear of things to come? Maybe it’s because I was constantly interrupted today with Spanish lessons (which, by the way, the only word I could remember today was a word I would NEVER use in public) and other visitors, or maybe it’s because I couldn’t stop scratching the hundreds of bites I got yesterday from pulling weeds and cleaning the beach. Quien sabe? All I know is that tomorrow will be a better day and I’ll start all over again… forever grateful…forever learning from my mistakes…and most importantly…forever patient and gentle with myself when my compass gets out of whack.

 

 

 

Timeout for Art: A Species of Writing


This week’s Timeout for Art asks us to reflect on art as a form of therapy, as well as a stress reducer. As a former counselor and special education teacher, I often used art therapy with my students.

“Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist.”
― Eileen Miller, The Girl Who Spoke with Pictures: Autism Through Art

I was drawing tortugas (turtles) on my curtains for the Turtle cabin (Las Tortugas Casita), when my ten-year old friend, Lauren, stopped by our house on her bicycle. Ron was taking his Spanish lessons on the side porch. As I waited for my turn, Lauren and I tried to talk, but she spoke so rapidly that I had a difficult time understanding what she was saying. So, I asked her to draw it.
IMG_3253One thing I’ve learned about children in Nicaragua, is that they can’t quite figure out why we don’t understand them. I often wonder if our two and three-year old neighbors think we are just plain stupid. I think Lauren understands that Spanish is our second language, but she gets frustrated and rolls her eyes when I ask her to repeat the sentence just one more time…y mas despacio por favor (slower, please).

Lauren rolled her eyes, and tried to describe a sparkly thing that sits on top of a King or Queen’s head. “You know…YOU KNOW,” she said, “Una corona. UNA CORONA.” After I looked at her picture, the puzzling Spanish pieces fell into place.
IMG_3264“You are my best friend among all my friends,” Lauren said. “That’s why I gave you a crown.” Ahhh..how sweet, I thought. “Now, can we make cookies?” she asked. Hmmm, I knew there was an ulterior motive. “Lo siento, mi amor,” I responded. It’s almost time for my Spanish lesson and I need to buy more chocolate chips.  Art can be used where no words exist…too bad I ran out of chocolate chips, though. 🙂

“Talking about Art is like trying to French kiss over the telephone”. ~Terry Allen

I had just started my Spanish lesson, and Lauren and Ron were blissfully drawing in my place, when Carlos, the local artist arrived. “Patricia said you wanted to see some of my paintings,” he said. I was thinking about starting an art class at my house and interested in looking for a good instructor.
IMG_3258Carlos has over 30 years of experience as an artist.
IMG_3255IMG_3260Attempting to talk about art was like trying to French kiss over the phone. I needed to see it, feel it, and touch it. I’m still not sure that Carlos and I will be a good match. Communication will be difficult, but his art revealed his love for Nicaragua. He’s very talented and his personality shined through his paintings.

“Art is communication.”~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

IMG_3261 Living in Nicaragua with Spanish as my second language has convinced me that art is communication. Art reveals personalities, reduces stress, and sometimes even persuades me to make chocolate chip cookies for my favorite ten-year old.

Timeout for Art: Walk First (At a Turtle’s Pace)


Lisa, of Zeebra Designs and Destinations, posted a quote by Don Getz who said, “Learning to draw before you paint, is like learning to walk before you run.” How true! But, I am going at a turtle’s pace…slow and steady. My Casita de Tortugas needs some new turtle paintings, so I unpacked my paints and brushes for a new challenge.

Marvin and I designed a turtle out of my Pre-Columbian pottery shards and plastered it above the door of the casita last year.
IMG_1096When Marvin’s daughter, Lauren, came to visit, we opened a new box of permanent markers and drew turtles on the curtain, which hangs on the front door. I discovered that both Lauren and her father are very talented.
IMG_2585The finished entrance! What do you think?
IMG_2592Since we are moving the bedroom downstairs, and my new art studio will be upstairs, I am enjoying decorating the Casita de Tortugas. Yesterday, I started painting a turtle to hang on the bedroom wall.
IMG_3249Today, I finished the turtle…I think. I used a metallic copper paint to embellish some of the turtle scales, but it doesn’t show up in the picture. Hmm..maybe I’ll add just a few more highlights. So, Lisa…I have a question. Once it is done to my satisfaction..since I’m working at a turtle’s pace…what do I put over the paint to protect it? Or do I need to put a finish over it?
IMG_3252Next, we’re painting the casita walls a soft golden color. Ron’s creating shutters for the windows out of PVC pipes and I’m covering them with canvas. Of course, I’ll be painting some turtles on the canvas, too. I’m moving at a turtle’s pace, but, hey…I’m retired…no deadlines..no worries…and no stress. Life is good, retirement is better, living abroad is priceless.

 

 

Timeout for Art: Drawing


I just returned from the states…another long, strange adventure trying to get back to Nicaragua, but that’s a story for another post. I didn’t have time to draw this week, so I’m posting a pen sketch I did eight years ago. What makes this sketch so unique is that I found it in my old sketch pad, tucked between worn, moldy pages. I’m surprised that it survived the ravages of the tropics.

This was the first wedding we attended on Ometepe Island. I wanted to give Eric and Danellia a portrait, but I couldn’t capture the beauty of Danellia. Portraits are very difficult!

IMG_3183Below is the first pencil sketch I did for Timeout for Art…a sand dollar I found on the beach.

IMG_3185While in the states, I bought new sketch pads, pencils, and a few new watercolor brushes. We are remodeling our guest house and transforming the upstairs bedroom into my arts and crafts studio. It will be so nice to spread out my projects.

Timeout for Art is brought to you by: Zeebra Designs and Destinations. Check out the many talented artists on Lisa’s incredible blog.

 

Timeout for Art: Good Bones


Design in art, is a recognition of the relation between various things, various elements in the creative flux. You can’t invent a design. You recognize it, in the fourth dimension. That is, with your blood and your bones, as well as with your eyes.
David Herbert Lawrence

Southern hospitality is the backbone of the Southern United States. For the past two weeks, I accompanied my talented mother to her weekly painting class where I was greeted by an enthusiastic instructor who has a third eye and a creative spirit. As my mother prepared her palette, the instructor invited me to sketch the architecture of the “Old South”, which the class was painting in oils.

IMG_3147Mom reflected on the good bones of the shotgun house, painting the foundation first, before adding the lighter details. The shotgun house was the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the Civil War to the 1920’s.

IMG_3150Good bones! I think this is a camel-back shotgun house because it has a second story.

IMG_3148I settled into an architectural frame of mind as I attempted to make the shotgun house seem old and well used. Of course, that meant adding lots of winding ivy. After all, you can’t invent a design. It’s just a matter of adding a creative twist with your blood, your bones, and your eyes.

IMG_3170Checkout Lisa’s Timeout for Art: Bones for many creative artists.

 

Timeout for Art: Happy in Nature


“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” –John Muir in a letter to his wife Louie in July 1888 

Visiting my mother in the states for two weeks, I find that I miss the solitude and the heart of nature. Street lights, traffic, crowded stores, a hot concrete jungle, and constant artificial chatter unnerve me. I am happiest in nature.

Opening the local paper listing events in South Carolina, I had a serendipitous moment when I noticed a tiny picture of a painting by Albert Bierstadt, Valley of the Yosemite, 1864. Zeebra Designs and Destinations Timeout for Art this week is Happy in Nature! The theme was a perfect reminder of the peacefulness I needed to overcome my cultural shock.

There is no happier place in nature than Yosemite. Our son, Cory, works in Yosemite as an interpretive naturalist. Because I can’t visit him on this trip to the states, and I’m in a bit of a cultural shock frenzy, I grabbed my sketch pad and settled into a tranquil mode of sketching Albert Bierstadt’s painting. With every line and soft shade, I was transported to Yosemite and to our son, who shares his love of nature with us.

IMG_3155Below is One Day in Yosemite, with several clips of artists painting in Yosemite. If I can’t join them, I can live vicariously through my sketch.

Timeout for Art: This Little Piggy Went to Market


“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

A good friend of mine in Nicaragua is a pig farmer. Her two sows recently had two litters of 19 piglets in all. When the piglets are six to eight weeks old, she sells them. She invited me to visit her two farrows of piglets the other day. Scrambling on top of one another, bouncing, jumping, playing, napping…I enjoyed every second watching piglet antics.

This quote seemed very appropriate because there are two giant mama pigs, who take turns nursing the 19 piglets. The piglets sidle up, snuggle close, and I think they just want to be sure of each other.

IMG_3135During this video, there was a 6.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Nicaragua. There was plenty of rockin’ and rollin’ going on, but the sweet little piglets didn’t seem to mind one bit. And if you are rooting for the runt (who walks away unable to find a teat), don’t worry. He sidled up with the other mama pig a few minutes later…just to be sure.

Timeout for Art: Happy Trails


This week’s Timeout for Art is all about happy trails and the Chilamate tree. A friend visited us from the states last week, and she had never seen monkeys. Knowing that the Howler monkeys hang out in the Chilamate trees, we went on a quest for the largest and most spectacular trees in tropical forests.

Also known as strangler figs, these majestic trees begin life as an epiphyte in the crotch of another tree, then produce roots that snake to the ground to eventually anchor in the forest floor. Eventually, it strangles the host tree like a boa constricting its prey.  As the support tree decays, some Chilamate trees end up with interior passageways from base to crown, becoming true jungle gyms for the Howler monkeys who like to hang out in the trees snacking on the leaves.

Wandering through happy trails with Chilamate trees shading the worn, dusty paths, we fulfilled our quest. We spotted several Howlers lounging in the treetops lazily sleeping through the heat of the day. By the way, I was going to draw a monkey in the tree, but I wanted to focus on the splendor of the tree itself.

Happy trails to you my friends…. until we meet again.

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