Monday, December 29, 2014

wash us clean...




The Christmas tree is down and sun is coming through the windows it guarded.

Renewal is flushing in, a new year on our doorstep; welcome you are, wash us clean...
of the parcels we have collected and prepare our arms open, to soar.


With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, December 22, 2014

the canoe launch



These days my creative process is mostly about the experience of what I come upon accidentally; conjured together with hope and the willingness to turn down a road I have not driven before.  Often it is a whim that takes me off my path, an urge that just maybe I will discover something…

I had just that experience today.  Less than a mile off a route I travel frequently I found a little turn off that, I discovered, gave access to a canoe launch in the river.  A short drive opened to a small pad of no more than five parking spots and a lovely, lightly wooded parcel of land connecting it to the river’s edge.  I stopped my car and got out in the rain.  

The rain was part of what made this place so inviting, water falling into water, quieting the landscape, replenishing it. 

I stop frequently to take a few quick pictures of the landscape or something in it; I see them as opportunities to step into the natural world, to feel something of it, to glean something from it; to be part of it.

The rain was light and I did not hurry too much.  I walked almost to the launch, stopped and then took pictures in numerous directions from that spot; the water, the land, the trees, the ground.  And then I walked back, satisfied, satisfied, satisfied, that I had followed my urging. 

I do not know for sure if it is my experiencing or my recording, in photographs or words, that is more consequential, but I know that they cannot exist without each other.  And I know that I cannot exist in full without all of it.

With gratitude,

Joanna

Friday, November 21, 2014

the light



Late autumn is winter this year.

But today the light is shining.


So much more than the darkness of night is lifted when the sun comes out.


Thank you.


With gratitude,
Joanna 



Monday, November 17, 2014

giddy


The fall of the year’s first snow makes me giddy.   It is the giddy I felt as a child when we received the treat of a light dusting no more than a few times each winter.  Now I have 30 toes who are giddy too, and they pull me outside at 8:00 am on Sunday like they are greeting Christmas morning. 


I grew up in a river valley in the Pacific Northwest.  Each winter the mountains surrounding us would become white with snow and we would often comment on the icy chill in the air that accompanied it.  It was a treat, however, when the snow fell over us; a few inches of magic each year.  Now I live in a place where snowy winters are common, and snow is the one part of this harsh season that I have not yet grow weary of. 


I relish this magic that taps my youthful excitement, magic that wells up and makes me feel pure…pure excitement, pure stillness, pure hope.  This morning my purity is met by purity; 30 toes piling onto my bed, giddy over snow, magic on top of magic and my heart swells with the embodiment of what I once was and the beauty of being in the midst of it again.


I cannot resist!  PJ's still on, we don rain boots (as the snow boots are not yet unpacked, this is after all a very early snow) and flee into the wonderland.  A wonderland with grass still peeking through, bits of fluffy magic floating through the air, with giggles and excitement in pursuit.  There is running and rolling and the discovery of a partially snow covered sand box, what a novelty!  And then tears follow, hands are cold after mittens are pulled off and snow angels are made by a boy who throws himself down in a fit of frustration over a sandy, snowy bulldozer that MUST be brought into the house.  It is time to retreat, time to return inside and warm, time for me to think quickly, of a reason that will convince them to follow suit; promising hot chocolate (not our usual breakfast drink) and conceding to the bringing of the bulldozer does the trick.  This morning I want the magic to linger, concessions are okay.


Once our coats, hats and boots are off and inevitably strewn about the floor we proceed to the bulldozer wash (aka the shower).  Snow melts and sand washes away under a stream of water and all excitement is fresh again.  We turn it and roll it over to make sure all sides are clean and rinsed and the previously frustrated boy is now content to let it sit and drip and join the breakfast table.

The magic does linger, and the snow continues to fall outside, it blankets the ground around our walls and the roof above us.  Real life rolls on within these protective walls, voices increase, cereal hits the floor, crayons are scattered.  But I feel a renewed glimmer, I feel giddy. 


With gratitude,
Joanna




Friday, November 14, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

an invitation



The poetry of a mess is in its bits and pieces, and the movement of them, intentional and accidental 

Today I got to make one, a mess that is, and I am not sure if I will clean it up

I may just leave it for next time; like leaving my mind open, and an invitation open on my table to return


With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Courage to be Still




Be still and know that I am God…




Still as an adjective; not moving or making a sound...

...and as a noun; deep silence and calm

On what is likely the last nice day of the year, it is still as a noun that I am seeking

Leave the dishes in the sink and go outside to join the playing voices

Some things can wait, and some cannot

This is the gift of stillness

The kind of stillness in which I am not held captive by my mind’s urgency

The stillness that begins within

The stillness that alerts me that I am not God


With gratitude,
Joanna

Friday, November 7, 2014

Driftless ~ part 2: Mineral Point {Favorite Finds Friday}

Welcome back to the Driftless!

 
  
My series on this lovely region is picking up today with a visit to one of my favorite Wisconsin towns.  Mineral Point is a beautiful, authentic town; a melding of history, art and the everyday.  It is a place that has truly called to my heart and mended my spirit.

Mineral Point is located in southwestern Wisconsin in a region known as the Driftless area.  The Driftless is so called because it was bypassed by the glaciers of the last ice age and left a lush, undulating landscape characterized by a topography not commonly found in Midwest America. 

I first visited this town just over a year ago at the suggestion of a neighbor, and returned again in mid-September of this year.  I was seeking solace and inspiration.  I found both and much more.  I suppose I expected a place more touristy, more gimmicky, but what I found was a place that felt undeniably real.  It is steeped in history, real history, not the brand that has been gussied-up to evoke nostalgia. It is steeped in art, handmade objects offered by those who made them.  Mixed in with galleries and antique stores are the callings of the everyday, a hardware store, library and thrift store among others.  Mineral Point is not an escape from reality but an offering of many realities coexisting to create a truly authentic experience.

I am deeply captivated by the co-existence of art and history here.  In this place history is a beautiful and poignant backdrop for art.  Its presence keeps us attuned to the raw and fleeting nature of our existence, it is art that gives that rawness meaning and draws out its beauty. 
 

A Mineral Point guidebook describes the early history of the community in this way:
“Mineral Point began, in 1828, with mining.  In search of lead, miners pushed their way north from Galena; when they found ore, they dug, hunkering down in crude shelters carved into the hillsides.  An early wit called them badger holes, and so was born Wisconsin’s nickname: the Badger State…
In 1971, Mineral Point was the first Wisconsin city to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, The National Trust for Historic Preservation honored the town as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, it was the People’s Choice for best small town in Wisconsin for a historic getaway and the most beautiful small town in Wisconsin and Wisconsin Trails named it the best History Town in the state.”

There is much to be discovered in this community and I have yet to experience all that it has to offer.  Each time I visit my list of places not to miss grows longer.  Here are a few!


De La Pear,12 Fountain Street; Johnston Gallery, 245 High Street; Howdle Studios, Inc.,225 Commerce Street Brewery Creek Brewpub, 23 Commerce Street

Pendarvis and Merry Christmas Mine Hill Historic Sites
114 Shake Rag Street

In 1935 Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum began a preservation project that became a Wisconsin historic site and is now operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  The site is a beautiful collection of buildings that date to the earliest settlement of the community. 



The collection can be experienced via a tour led by a costumed interpreter or by self-guided tour with a detailed brochure.  Perhaps because I am an introvert I have a tendency to choose self-guided options when they are available.  I like to roam at my own pace, with my own thoughts.  And that is how I experienced Pendarvis.  Visitors are welcomed through a series of buildings that house interpretive materials describing both the history of the community and buildings and their preservation by Neal and Hellum; who are credited with initiating what has become a legacy of preservation in Mineral Point.  This is a beautiful move at your own pace collection that invites reflection and pause. 

Across Shake Rag Street is another gem, the Merry Christmas Mine Hill trail.  It is the site of a 1905 zinc discovery made during the Christmas season.  


This mile long trail consists of two loops that wind visitors up a modest mountain that captures picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.  It is an interpretive trail marked by signage and artifacts that tell the story of the mine hill's history.  It is a moderate hike not to be missed.

Brewery Pottery
76 Shake Rag Street

This is the quintessential artist residence and studio.   Housed in a massive 1850 brewery building, this mutual space is alive with the creative spirit.  A beautiful gallery showcasing the work of dozens of artists is complemented by a working pottery studio.  This place is old and new; beauty and decay at once, history and art intertwining.



I spent nearly an hour here in mid-September taking in the collection and having the privilege of talking at length with artist and co-gallery owner Tom Johnston.  Yes, even though I prefer self-guided tours I savor the personal stories of creative people, the sharing their work and interests.  This gallery is one of the treasured experiences to be had in Mineral Point



Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts
18 Shake Rag Street

Such a unique and welcoming place, Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts is another pure example of history and art melding into one another.  A place that elicits exhale. 



My treasured retreat, the Stagecoach House at Shake Rag Alley.   This mid-nineteenth century stagecoach stop now serves as the offices for the arts center campus and offers three private, guest rooms upstairs.  Retreat is all I can say.  I have to save the rest for next weeks post...



The Foundry Books
105 Commerce Street

Heaven for the casual browser and the academic alike.  The foundry offers a well recognized collection of out of print books, books on the history of Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, and an extensive collection of early regional maps.  
  


This lovely shop is also an invitation to pause, the essence of what I have found Mineral Point to be; a true invitation to move at your own pace, to make personal discovery while exploring an eclectic environment. 

As I write, reflecting on my experience in this unique town, authentic is the word I keep coming back to.  Authentic in how it exists and authenticity is what it invites from visitors.  The opportunity to meld into yourself.  To be your own art despite your history. 



The discovery of a place that helps you discover yourself is a true gift.  I would recommend one travel any distance to experience this place. 

With gratitude,
Joanna

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gratitude



I found this piece, while looking through a notebook this afternoon. It was written earlier this autumn while on a short personal trip.  Reading, I winced and my eyes welled with tears and I learned a gratitude for my own voice previously unknown to me.


The prick of anxiety, it pulsates up and down, from the tips of my fingers to the back of my eyes.  It is when I slow that I feel it, surging again, poking fun at my fear of letting it in – I am already here it laughs, already inside, you are already holding your breath.  It is me you are feeling you have forgotten you

Laughing and pricking it continues – surging up and down, in and out, forcing the wave through me; and on its heels, stabbing at my heart its friend depression, the void of self-loathing; who are you, it says, who do you think you are, nobody wants to hear you – nobody wants to see what you have done…put the pen down and stop hoping…

My children need me – I am their garden – the voice under the voice begins to speak. 

And my heart begins to lift.

As I sit with my eyes closed reminding myself to breathe, I clench my pen, I will not let go.

I will remember me
I will sit and breathe
I will remind myself again
I will close my eyes and open them
I will allow my feet to carry me, my eyes to see and my pen to scroll
I will speak

I will allow myself to feel weak and wretched and hungry for freedom from them and I will throw myself a lifeline of passion and belief, the wandering of the land and the movement of the brush.

The many alls that make one.

The beautiful variation that makes us whole and makes us breakdown because sometimes the cracks widen and we fall in, and sometimes we climb out.

All of it is beauty for how else would we understand?  How else would we feel and know and be taught, to continue walking and looking and seeing – for each day there is a little more.


I have been thinking about gratitude with some intensity since yesterday.  Last night I started a family gratitude practice for us to share during the month of November; after all it is the month of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.  I awoke with thoughts surrounding gratitude.  This morning I photographed a pumpkin sitting in a window captured by what I saw as a particularly lovely morning light, and I thought about gratitude.

But when I read the previous words I felt a gratitude that was new to me.  Gratitude practices urge us to be thankful for the blessings that surround us, that is a beautiful thing.  But the blessings within us, those are often left unrequited.  Our faith, our inner voice, our humor, creativity, passion, bravery, uniqueness, honesty, willingness to fail or succeed, to be present, to sacrifice, or at least the willingness to try and to try again when we fall short.  These are the beautiful blessings of us that warrant thanks too.  This is not vanity, this is permission and acceptance. This is the beauty of believing that our voices are worth speaking, that our hearts matter; that they can bring change and inspiration and quiet comfort.

Be thankful for all that surrounds you, and be thankful for what wells from within you.  For it is in gratitude that our blessings are given life. 

With gratitude,
Joanna   




Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Monday Morning...so many perspectives



So many perspectives from a single vantage point




Life brings us to the moments, but we must stop in them




We must look long enough to see




Happy Monday morning, be in your moments 



With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, October 27, 2014

Someone's Home

I have to make rules for myself, like don’t pull over along the side of the road to take photographs unless there is a safe place to stop and park; and don’t enter abandoned buildings by myself.  Well, this morning I cheated a little bit.  I have been mildly obsessed with this abandoned farm house for nearly six years.  In summer it becomes overgrown and is lost from view and in winter it stands out among the dormant trees, blatant and bare.  In autumn, it begins to emerge, and this morning I saw it in full for the first time this season.  It is visible again. 


So just to be clear, there was a safe place to pull off the road, the vestiges of a driveway, and I did not actually go inside.  But I did approach it closely and walk around until my protective conscience overtook me once more.


As I approached the structure and began to see inside, which is completely exposed, doors and windows long disappeared; I realized that I had no expectations as to what its inner portion would reveal.  And even though I had not imagined this space, its decay took me by surprise. 




A decaying house was at one time someone’s home; it is in this that I am captivated.  Home, comfort, safety and success, hard work and rest; home is shelter.  A structure that marked achievement, now it marks things that are past, it has become a record rather than a respite. 



Intimate like a chair to the form of the body is the space of the home to our soul.



Akin to chairs, houses are my structural obsession.  Home is the container in which we live out our most private and intimate moments, and it holds the succession of regular moments that come together to form our private life experience.  The experience of home is the one most influential in our early lives, and the place that we long to establish as we grow.  As adults we make the transition from being inhabitants of a home into the proprietors of home; the makers of experience. 



And while home can mark triumph it can also mark tragedy.  A decaying home speaks to the loss that home can be, safety compromised, dreams disappointed. 



The exploration of something abandoned feeds the wanderlust in me and a desire to experience meaning in place.  When I look at this place I want to see its glory, I want to assume glory was once here.  And yet I don’t know.  So ultimately it leaves me to my own mind and my own questions.  It becomes an open book that invites new stories and a platform for new meaning. 

With gratitude,
Joanna



Friday, October 24, 2014

Door County's Washington Island {Favorite Finds Friday}



This week I have to interrupt my Friday series on the Driftless to share another favorite in Wisconsin.  Five years ago my husband and I fell in love with the Door Peninsula, Door County, Wisconsin.  It has become our family's summer vacation favorite, and it is truly one of my favorite places on earth.


The Door Peninsula is a narrow piece of land that jets from mainland Wisconsin into Lake Michigan.  On it's west the sheltered waters of Green Bay are separated from the vast expanse of Lake Michigan extending north and east of this modest shaft of land.


Door county has a strong agricultural history, still present, it provides a refreshing backdrop to a waterfront speckled with cozy towns, expansive views and stunning state parks.  


This summer we discovered a place new to us, and oh.....

Washington Island rests seven miles north of the Door Peninsula and is accessed only by ferry boat(and airplane).  It is truly the icing on the cake.


We first visited in July of this year.  In mid summer the weather was temperate and comfortable; the island lush and simple.  It has a decidedly rural feeling, complimented by thick woods and of course stunning waterfronts.  


The term 'island time' is not a quip here.  This place truly invites, and in a sense forces, one to slow down.  No reason to drive fast, there is not that far to go.  Walking and biking on the roads is common.  It is as if on any given day there is exactly the right number of things to see, and the perfect amount of time in which to see them.  There is not a feeling that you have to squeeze everything in, there is just the simple and pleasing experience of discovering what is around you. 


Last week we were privileged to spend another four days on the island.  This time we were met by a stunning autumn hue; red, orange, yellow, highlighted by lingering green and a fresh blue sky.   Each turn of highway 42 was a new invitation to splendor, splendor that ushered us up the peninsula in anticipation and delight. 


The final surge of anticipation comes when boarding the ferry boat at Northport Pier at the tip of the Door peninsula.  


The nearly half hour ride aboard the ferry is the final invitation to let go before reaching new ground.


On these shores there is relaxation, reflection, activity and quiet.  History, agriculture and art.  There is time to wander and sit.  Even with small children we were able to keep a slow pace. 

  
I am a lover of Wisconsin.  It has a rustic authenticity that resonates with my love of the land and journeying through it.  It has a topography that congers the one I grew up in.  There is something about it that satisfies my lust for nature.   


This place is a feast for the eyes and the soul.


Until next year, Washington Island, thank you for the discovery.



With gratitude,
Joanna