Stretching my horizons, heart and stomach

The once-in-fifiteen-year snowstorm happened while I was in Paris....twice...! Traveling is damn good for....everything...!  The opportunity to go to Paris was totally unexpected and lucky-for-me travel expenses were in a large part paid for as I was asked to speak to youth at a business school (one of my favorite experiences from the trip).  My first day in Paris at Muse d'Orsay and my final day in Montmarte were my two favorite days with plenty of goodness (and LOTS of art) in between.  I was struck down by food poisoning one night.  The attack was intense enough that I passed out and hit my face on the way down (in my hotel bathroom) but once again luck was on my side as the black eye from the fall waited until I was on my way home to "bloom."  Although the attack was violent and I was alone, it was rather quick-lived and I was able to recover and resume Paris goodness.  Plus a good friend from home arrived in Paris with her friend at about the same time as the attack so Raymond knew that if I had to be taken care of then she would step up and mother me.  While in the bathroom (for the second time) of the Museum in Monet's house (I was still recovering) I remember thinking happily how I was sooooo inspired all I wanted to do was draw and draw and draw (and then I remembered that is all I wanted to do before I left for Paris).  I laughed out loud.  Happy as hell.

 

Happy Feet off to Paris!

My two happy feet left for Paris after sharing a blissful afternoon with Heidi and Kobi together in this sweet little spa followed by tasty lunch topped off with a walking tour of public art and fresh chocolate factory samples all in their ‘hood. #blessedwithfriends #happyfeet #gratitude

New Year's Day Sledding Party

We love sharing our epic 2 mile downhill sled run with gleeful kiddos and jolly adults. Forty adventurers young and old giggled and screamed their way down our mountain again and again. Momma Nature offered blue sky, sunshine and stellar views, we contributed shuttle rides up (1000 foot elevation gain). My studio a warming hut/party place complete with hot chocolate, warm soup, yummy treats. What better way to enjoy New Year’s day? [embed]https://www.facebook.com/amberjeanart/videos/10155266832299021/[/embed]

The legendary Fred Becky (and little o'l me)

Patron Saint of the Dirty Sock Club, Fred Becky dosed my life with inspiration right at the budding beginning of my intoxicating love affair with ice climbing. Super lucky to have shared a few days, a few meals, lotsa stories and some unforgettable pitches of ice with the legend when he was 83 or 84 years old.  He kept after it, climbing rock and mountains for yet another decade before he passed away in October.  One of highlights of the Bozeman Ice Festival last weekend was the screening of “Dirt Bag - The Legend of Fred Becky.”

Meeting Fred and viewing the documentary has spurred me to step up my game - both inside the studio and outside in Momma Nature.

The rough and tumble life of a rodeo bullfighter

[embed]https://youtu.be/jECnJkiX6VQ[/embed] I was in the stands near the fence when Raymond got tossed (and tossed again). Third bull, first night of the 3-day Roughrider Finals. Out of more than 60 rides only three bulls were covered (ridden for a full 8 seconds). I didn’t take the footage. I could see Raymond’s face when he was in the air looking down with the notion to land on his feet only to see the bull’s nose between his legs. This was the pen of Junior Bulls and just the beginning of an intense weekend for multiple reasons. The bull riders vote for who they want to protect them at Finals - an honor Raymond is humble about and an honor he won’t get again as he went into the season with a plan to hang up his cleats and retire after Roughrider Finals. Before, during and after each event this year I could see his conscious effort to make the most of his final season. Seven years ago when Raymond began the arduous journey of stepping in front of and around bulls, he was an age when most bullfighters are retired. I tell him often it’s a good thing purple is my favorite color since bruised up and swollen happens at times (broken, split and stitched happens also). I discussed this aspect of bull fighting with two kids in the hot tub Sunday morning at the Jamestown North Dakota hotel, hours before Raymond’s final event. BIG eyes got bigger when I told the little girl and her brother that my husband was one of the bullfighters. Reverent silence followed, broken only by the hot tub jets and finally the little boy asked, “Did you see that guy get flipped?” His sister nodded solemnly with recollection. “That was my husband.” Long bubbly pause then he whispered loudly, “Did it hurt?” “Yes it hurt but that happens sometimes when bullfighters put themselves between the bull and fallen rider, near the fence, in the corner (added challenges to a challenging sport).” Banged up, Raymond continued to protect the riders that night, the next and next. Lotsa good saves by both Raymond and his partner Tim Walford. Rank bulls and intense moments down to the last bull on the last day with a final big bump and tumble when “Goldfinger” a great big o’l bull ran over Raymond after Raymond smoothly shot the gap to distract the bull from the tossed rider. Rider safe, the bull went for the barrel man whom Raymond ran to protect. So the scariest action happened just when I thought he was finished with the last bull and after the rider was safe. Obviously things aren’t always pretty, predictable or graceful in the arena with a 2000 pound bull. But they are real (as is my relief and pride). 

Dancing with Bulls...

[embed]https://youtu.be/Yz9PYUejIho[/embed] While this footage isn't from this weekend's event, it captures in slow motion a few seconds of what I prefer to call "bull-dancing" rather than bullfighting. Those who choose to protect the cowboys who ride bulls are a gritty graceful bunch. Raymond entered his career "dancing with bulls" at about the time most men retire. He got kicked, flipped, flattened, winded, whooped, whacked, squashed and even scalped once when a bull stepped on his head. But between the dirt and the snot, the air and the hard ground, the bull and the rider, Raymond got GOOD. Damn good. Last night's event with a pen of rank bulls in a small dust-filled arena, ten young competitive college cowboys rode their hearts out knowing Raymond would go the distance and do everything possible to protect them. Raymond is too humble to brag but this little bit of footage gives a glimpse of his ability as a dance partner to lead and redirect his 2000 pound "partner" in the chaos on a dirty dance floor in Wyoming.

Montana Fires

My goodness - I am far behind with updates as I returned last month to Bhutan to complete the sculpture for the king a few months earlier than planned (with only two weeks to prepare during which I worked hard to try to complete a commissioned sculpture and then too - we took my mother's ashes to Nebraska to entomb with my father's ashes). Friday I finally felt more grounded and less jet-laggy.Meanwhile, Montana is experiencing an unprecedented fire season so I wanted to let you know that so far we are ok up here on my mountain while much of the state suffers and we are all under extreme alert and much smoke:

Fingers crossed...

I update Facebook and Instagram nearly daily (and will soon be investing in a way for my blog to be more connected to the daily updates)

Stay tuned (and stay safe)

A rabbit for a prince

I leapt into the project the morning after my arrival as if jet lag wouldn't catch me.  The weather has been unseasonably COLD since my arrival in Bhutan.  After two days at the job site finishing the panel with the snow leopard I carved last year, I got sick.  But I continued carving the little rabbit cheered me up as I struggled to carve in the cold with a cold and very little good light. [embed]https://youtu.be/Hgv5N6RvwHU[/embed]

Asha Kama

"Mani Wall" by Asha Kama Dasha Karma and I

Last year while in Bhutan I read about the painter Asha Kama, fell in love with his work and was heartened by his commitment to public service. Determined to meet Asha Kama I asked around.  Yesterday my dream came true via my dear friend Dilu. I haven't a clue just were to start gushing about my visit to VAST (the only contemporary art center in Bhutan which is also dedicated to interactive social community programs).  Asha means "uncle" - even the king addresses Kama with the special distinction of "uncle" because of all he has done for the youth and elderly in Bhutan.  Uncle indeed...! Asha Kama is a powerhouse and a delight. I look forward to fostering our friendship and doing what I can to support the lively youth and stellar vision of VAST.

I purchased this beautiful carving from Nepal which the Prime Minister of Bhutan donated to VAST to help support their mission.

Time warp in Bhutan

These little beauties enthusiastically walked me the last 1/2 mile "home" to Risum yesterday afternoon. They asked me to sing them a song so I sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" - which they said was "a very beautiful song." image

Had fun coaxing this little rabbit out of the wood - a gift for Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck (who celebrated his first birthday last month)

Two weeks have leapt, spun, crawled, tickled and tortured me since I left Montana to embark on the second chapter in the carving project for the king of Bhutan.  Time is a trickster.

Can I just say...."PHEW?!"  Today is my first day off since I arrived.  Unseasonable cold, wet and snowy weather challenged me to the max since I am carving outdoors and have only natural light to see by (not because electricity and light don't exist in Bhutan but because the only artificial light source is florescent which doesn't work at all when carving relief - besides the fact that florescent light literally makes me crazy).  I woke my third morning here with a nasty cold after two bone-chilling long carving days.  Luckily the cold waited until after dinner with the governor in his home before it clutched my innards, clogged my lungs and zapped my bones.

But I kept carving.  I even crammed two sawhorses into my room to carve with more warmth in near darkness next to the window while snow blew sideways outside.

Magic, happiness and soul food are fast friends in this magical kingdom.  But a few days ago I found myself pushed to a tender edge - raw and emotional.  Fragile.  I desperately needed a break before I broke.  My dear friend Dilu offered me refuge at the splendid Druk Hotel which he manages in Thimphu.  After a breath-taking and life-threatening 3 hour steep narrow mountainous ride I arrived weary and teary in Thimphu to the delight of finding a claw foot TUB in my room. Sweetness and relief (tubs are rare here). I awoke early this morning cocooned in sumptuous comforting sheets, serenaded by city dogs enthusiastically barking their Sunday morning "revival meeting."   I am calmed by the elegant beauty and healing tones in my spations well-lit warm room - full of gratitude.  This gift of a room is like a light sponge cake slice of heaven. Pure delight.

The next chapter in Bhutan

I left Montana a week ago already (seems like much longer ago).  My first post enroute to Bhutan: One of the many beautiful sites on the long journey to Bhutan

The impressive land/snow mass presence of Mount Rainier pumped my spirit with belief and strength as we flew by.  Not so long ago I found myself on that summit in borrowed snow gear, rented boots and crampons - my first snow/glacier/mountain summit embarked upon rather blindly as a distraction/reaction to deep grief of suddenly losing my dear dog Shiva.  Life presents summits, none of which come by without the not-so-simple ability to put one foot in front of the other in unfamiliar and even extreme conditions while belief and disbelief dance with each other.  Powered by the drum beat of persistence.  Compelled.  Scared.  Humbled.  Intrigued.  Here I go again - not the ice crystal snow ghost mountain but a creative endeavor in a tiny fairytale country undertaken as a gift for a king.

You can follow regular updates on Facebook or Instagram

Five decades...?!!!

Super tough socks gift with a guaranteed lifetime warranty for the birthday girl... When you get carded at the liqueur store buying goodies to celebrate your 50th birthday AND the memorable weekend away brings lots of warm fuzzies and fond memories shared with my husband (who spoils me) his folks (who are family) and friends (the best).  Plus an extra bonus day celebration President's day when twelve girlfriends soaked with me at the Boiling River while wearing lingerie... (lotsa giggles and goosebumps)

Home Sweet Home

Oh my goodness.  We all need to sit down for a long cup of tea or a big glass of wine as I've sooooo many stories to share...! Warm hearts in below zero temps

I meant to write.  Sooner.  More often.  But lordy life walloped me with complexity at the same time I was whipped with jet lag (much worse jet lag on the return than going over).  Just a quickie list to give you an idea:

Studio furnace gasped, sputtered and quit (over and over) a few days before my return from Bhutan.  I had to gimp it along, restart and restart the poor bugger while keeping a fire in the stove for the following week.  Raymond had to keep blowing our road open for three service visits while we waited for parts during a SUPER cold snap.

Ski time with my tough (frosty) little niece.

No truck.  My truck was totaled just a few days before I left for the fairy tale kingdom of Bhutan.  I've owned 3 trucks in the last 30 years.  Insurance companies and shopping...

Solstice in Yellowstone.  What a blessing to be at Old Faithful with my new (OFFICIAL) family for a few days of pure beauty and total delight.  The snow coach delivered us back to civilization a day before Christmas Eve.

The holidays.  Mix of celebration and mourning.  Cliff and mom a big part of my heart and soul.

Lotsa post-holiday life stuff as the sale of my mother's condo was settled, a new (used) truck purchased, some intense post-dog-attack yuckiness in the formal (formidable) world of attorneys and insurance companies, the delivery of a sculpture to the Yellowstone Art Museum and a total (much needed) revamp of my studio.

More (of course) has transpired in the four weeks since my return.  I am still processing the magic that happened overseas even as I begin plans for my return.