No Town too Small for Street Art

I live in a little logging town in the Coastal Range of Oregon. Almost no one passes through because there isn’t anywhere to go. If you roll into Vernonia, it’s because you live, work, or play here, or know someone who does.

Despite having a population of about 2,300, we just painted the town red. Not with rowdy revelers, but with murals!

I love Street Art. It’s bright and beautiful, accessible to all, and free.

Resa, over at Graffiti Lux Art & More, wanders around Toronto, Canada searching out street art. Her posts are gorgeous and inspiring, and if you enjoy murals, definitely stop by her place. I promised her I’d share my town’s new paint!

Behind the Black Iron Grill
Outside the Dentist’s Office
I love the 3-D look of this one.
The wall outside the El Amigo Bakery

The long wall outside the R&S Market (above)

Two murals outside Mariolino’s Pizza and Grill (below). The artists still at work!

Two more walls were just starting to get their coat of paint. So no photos of those.

I hope you enjoyed our the new street art in our small town.

The alley by Spice Island Grill

Credit due:

Some of these murals were commissioned by our generous businesses. The others were the result of a the tireless work of Rachael Organ, Vernonia’s Intercultural Committee, and the Portland Street Art Alliance, as well as a grant from the Oregon Cultural Foundation.

Meet the Muse Wrap Up

Thank you to all the creative souls who shared a conversation with their muses. What variety and loads of fun. We had dapper old men, dramatic divas, bickering muses, muse speed dating, dragons, poets, and monsters!

Here they are in order of appearance:

Trent McDonald from Trent’s World- An Amused Muse, Or So I Hope

Jacquie Biggar – Dig a Little Deeper -Advice from my sardonic/wise muse

Geoff Le Pard from Tangental – Musings from the Kitchen

Suzanne Craig-Whytock from My Dang Blog – A-Muse-ing

V. M. Sang from Dragons Rule OK- Meet the Muse

Ambrose and Elsie from Cosistories – Me, My Muse, And Roleplay

Balroop Singh from Emotional Shadows – I Can’t be Shackled

H. R. R. Gorman – Meet the Muse

Brad from Writing to Freedom – Musing for Moka

Frances from Volatile Rune – (Short) Conversation with a Muse

Greg from Almost Iowa – Speed Dating with a Muse

Pam Wight from Roughwighting – The Specialist

Christine (Elizabeth) Robinson from Before Sundown – Meet my Muses Lydia and Lilly

Teagan Geneviene from Teagan’s Books – Wednesday Writing – Meet the Muse

Jessica Bakkers – I’m Not A-mused

Jaye Marie – Muse-less

Elizabeth Merry from Pink Roses – I do not speak

Jude Kirya from Tales Told Different – Forgotten Muse

Eric Daniel Clarke from EDC Writing – Muse Talking

Dalo Collis from Global Sojourns of Photography – The Ukrainian Muse and the Paradox of Life

Robbie Cheadle from Roberta Writes – AMUSEing and adorable

Julie Holmes from Facets of a Muse – Return of the Muse

Hobbo from Hobbo’s Poems – Muses

Ka Malana from Fiesta Estrellas – Steps before the muse

Miriam Hurdle from The Showers of Blessings – My Multitasking Muse

Prior from Priorhouse – Conversation with My Muse

L. K. Latham – Conversation with My Muse

Kennedy J. Quinn from Miss Liv Adventures – An A-Musing Offer

Chelsea Owens from Chel Owens – Muse-ical Mishmash

Jan Sikes from Writing and Music – My Persistent Muse

Cath Humphris – The Bargain

Christmas in July

Another quick intermission in the muse posts.

I thought I’d share an idea for the holidays (which isn’t mine).

Missing Thanksgiving with kids and grandkids was a bummer, but the thought of missing Christmas is a heartbreaker. But who said we can’t simply postpone it?

For all those who are struggling with the decision about whether to get together with family and risk illness, or stay at home and pass the day twiddling your fingers in isolation, consider Christmas in July.

As the Grammy and instigator-in-chief in my family, I just set the date and booked a spot for a family gathering. In July.

We’re going to have a feast with turkey and cranberry sauce where we’ll pass around huge helpings of thankfulness. We’re going to string holiday lights around the fire pit and conduct a Secret Santa on the starlit deck. We might even decorate a tree in the forest!

Grampy and I will drop off presents this December, but the true gift of the holidays is time with our loved ones. It will happen. It will be special because we’ll all be in this together.

Stay safe and enjoy the holidays whenever you decide to celebrate them. ❤

Meet the Muse (prompt)

Adobe Stock image

I’m reading a page-turner in my writing room when I hear conversations below me in the muddy track called “my driveway.” Nobody ever ventures up this mountain besides the solitary UPS driver, and this sounds like a crowd. I peek out the window.

Muses. Lots of muses. What the…?

They fall silent and, as one, swivel to stare at me. Expectant. It appears a decision has been made.

One of them breaks from the pack, and I can’t help but groan. The Mercenary Muse (once subcontracted by my Bossy Muse) starts up the rain-slick stairs.

I open the door and look up, way up. The muse is a hulk, and he smells like a battlefield after a month long campaign. He bares his teeth in a sneer as if I’m the one who needs a shower.

My Mercenary Muse (aka Discipline). Artwork by Peter Pham

“Where’s my regular muse?” I ask.

“In the ocean.” He tracks muddy prints on my floor and sits on a granite throne that appears in front of my couch. “She’s trying out your next book.”

“Oh really?” I arch my eyebrow and get a little huffy. “You’d think the author would have a say in the next story. What is she, a pirate or a mermaid?”

“A sea witch.” His grin is disturbing, though not as horrifying as his skimpy little outfit. I wish he’d close his legs. Yeesh. “I’m the Ferryman,” he adds.

My eyes snap up, and I blurt out a laugh. “Oh, no, you’re not.”

“Don’t defy a muse.” He glowers through the warning. “I am the Ferryman.”

“Gah!” I lean into his face, nose to crooked nose, angry enough to risk his breath. “No chance, big guy, not unless you submit to a complete makeover. Otherwise, forget it.”

“You’re the author.” He settles back in this throne with a smug smile and picks something from his teeth.

Artwork by Victor Nizovtsev

I wrinkle my face and cross my arms like a petulant… author. A Ferryman? And a Sea Witch? Am I actually considering this? I want to throw up but change the subject instead, “So, who are those muses, and what do they want? Don’t tell me they want scenes in the next book.”

He grunts to the negative. “They want some publicity for their authors, and I told them you’d help.”

My eyes narrow. “How?”

The brute leans forward, elbows on his knees. I’m tempted to hand him a toothbrush and bottle of mouthwash. He ignores my grimace. “They’re going to have conversations with their writers, and you’re going to reblog the posts.”

I tap a finger on my lower lip, considering the idea. The last time my blog friends joined in was a blast. And wonderfully creative.

I extend my hand. “Agreed.” We grasp each other’s forearms like warriors, and I squeak as my bones grate together.

“Agreed.” He lets go and heads for the door. “And I want your plot outlined by the end of the month.”

“But… but I’m not done with my reading challenge and now…”

If looks could squash me like a bug, I’d be plastered to the wall. He stomps down the stairs and joins the other muses. His throne fades away, and I peer out the window as the crowd disperses into the rain. I better get a post ready.

Here are the rules: (prompt now closed)

Post a conversation with your muse on your blog and link back to this post or leave a link in the comments. Don’t have a muse? Just open the door and see who shows up.

No word-limit and keep it family friendly. Include an image of your muse if you’re inclined (with respect for copyrights, please). I’ll reblog all posts received before December 1st. Thanks for playing… Meet the Muse!

Blogging Kindness

Nina’s Kindness

I started my blog in June, 8 years ago.

It’s seen me through 16 books, and I’ve made thousands of connections. I’ve met hundreds of bloggers I’m delighted to call “friends.”

Is that a hollow word? Not at all. It means that on some level I’ve felt a connection, perhaps brief, perhaps lasting for years, perhaps close enough that if I’m in your city or state or country someday, I’ll reach out and invite you out for coffee or wine.

For writers, blogging is essential, not for sales, but for the incredible encouragement, the cheers, the advice, the shoulder to gripe on or cry on. Bloggers are the ones who pat our backs, offer their time and talents, help us find resources, and support our marketing efforts. We get to showcase our reviews, our covers, our snippets, flash fiction, and poetry. We learn, we are challenged, we celebrate others and are celebrated.

But blogging isn’t only for storytellers, obviously. I’ve “met” artists, photographers, philosophers, jokers, wanderers, chefs, teachers and parents, historians, and thinkers. During these dark days of isolation, the kindness of bloggers has felt especially important. When I want to withdraw, bloggers remind me that the world is full of kindness.

I commented on a post by Nina of Method Two Madness that her painted rocks were beautiful as well as a wonderfully creative way to brighten the world when we so need beauty and light. The next thing I knew, Nina was sending me three beautiful pieces of artwork. They now sit in my garden:

Kindness in my garden

And she added in this beautiful card, which I’ll be framing from my writing room wall – a reminder of the many gifts of blogging and the kindness of very real friends.

Artwork for my Writing Room

Thank you, Nina. ❤

If you get a chance, visit Nina and Kerfe at Method Two Madness. They share a beautiful blog of artwork, prose, and poetry.

Does the kindness of bloggers brighten your world?

Coffee or wine, my friend?

Surviving Lockdown

Life continues to feel surreal.

A week ago, the hubby’s fixation on the news became too much.

I had to flee the house.

And ended up outside:

Beneath blue skies.

Spring said, “Hello, I’m here for you!”

I found some moss that needs a serious haircut.

And got my dirt ready.

In a week or so, I’ll plant my cold crops and watch them grow.

My dad turned 89, so I left a message in sidewalk chalk outside his senior apartment.

And in my writing room, I’m making masks.

And writing. A little.

My heart goes out to all those who are suffering.

To all those who are caring.

I wish you warmth, peace, and light.

Write and Change the World

A replay of a post from 2015. Amidst all the unpredictability today, a few things are entirely within our control, and one of them is kindness. ❤
***

JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…

 

Winter’s Creative Gift

image: pixabay

pixabay free images/ Anja Osenberg

The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here in Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only four months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.

For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.

We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.

Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!

In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.

Writing “The End”

Pixabay image

I imagine all artists – writers, painters, composers – come to a place in their work when they (in one form or another) jot down those two words: “The End.”

Naturally, the end of a first draft isn’t the END. There are months of rewrites and edits ahead. The collection of words I’ve tallied up on my laptop is still a work-in-progress.

But the story is done. The plot has wrapped up. The characters have completed their arcs and in some cases have died. Even my happy endings don’t come without pain, suffering, and loss. They are always bittersweet.

When I write “The End,” it’s emotional. As I scribble this post, days after penning that last line, my eyes gloss with feeling. And there’s no single reason.

“The End” comes with a sigh of relief and a wish to tell someone the powerful news. It’s a milestone. More than a year’s creative work coming to its conclusion.

But, for me, there’s also an odd sense of grief. I don’t know what to do with myself.  I’m restless. My sense of time shifts; my focus suddenly flutters away. I can’t sit, can’t move on. The story that consumed my thoughts and hours is over. The pressure to write, to capture my characters’ thoughts and hearts and sacrifices before they slip away, dissipates. I know the story now from the beginning to the end. The characters I have lived with and come to love have nothing more to say to me. They journey into their futures without me. Inside my head, I’m… alone.

Writing is, for many, an emotional undertaking. I’ve felt this way with every first draft.

I finished my first draft on November 18th with an additional 26,722 words. My NaNoWriMo challenge is done. I’m grieving.

And prepping for the less intense application of my craft.

Do you have any emotional reaction to writing “The End?” I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

The Cowboy in the Bedroom

Can you guess who this is?

I have a framed picture in my bedroom on a small table. It was drawn by a local artist, Kerri Boutwell, and I eagerly bought it several years ago.

Lately, on several occasions, I’ve noticed the portrait turned around and facing the wall. I’d turn it back, only to find it flipped around again several days later.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the odd ritual to my husband. “Have you been turning the picture around?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the cowboy staring at me while I’m in bed.”

“The cowboy?” I laughed. “That’s not a cowboy. It’s Mark Twain!”

Well, apparently it’s okay to have Mark Twain staring at him in bed because the drawing hasn’t moved.

Isn’t it a great picture? I never knew Twain was so handsome, even with the god-awful mustache.