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.


Bison Bench - thankful thoughts on Thanksgiving Eve

Hardly a week goes by without a photo arriving from bison bench fans:

Generous supporters made it possible to donate the much-loved sculpture to our welcoming airport. I remember plunging my hands into a five-gallon bucket of ice water to ease the pain and prolong my ability to carve around the clock during the hottest months of summer in the air-conditionless studio downtown sixteen years ago. The intense deadline and the challenge of creating a three-dimensional relief carving from black walnut was challenging to say the least - but frankly so was the task of fundraising to place the sculpture in the airport since asking for help is far from my comfort zone.

The photo on the right was taken by Raymond early in the morning last November after I had pulled another all-nighter with final preparations for my first of three trips to carve for the king of Bhutan. I was weary and anxious, excited and curious - much like I feel before embarking on any new adventure inside or outside the studio.

The eve of Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to share my gratitude for all of you who support me in various ways.  Your support makes my creative life possible.  Thank-you!

Breaking the egg...

Yesterday after a visit to my studio with his daughter a friend posted a photo of the sculpture I created for HATCH and wrote, "“When an egg breaks from outside pressure it’s death. When it breaks from inside it’s new life.”

I have been breaking from the inside.  Relentlessly intense events the past few years left me plumb tuckered and raw.  Exhaustion and grief forced me to rest and restore.

Feeling is healing - even if it isn't easy.  

The BIG little eaglet

I created the palm-size little eaglet as a fundraiser for Eaglemount in 2015.  They named the limited edition solid bronze little sculpture"Soren."  The little bugger found his way into many loving homes and even inspired chocolates molded from my sculpture (also raising funds for Eaglemount). Earlier this year they asked if I would make a big version of the eaglet for their new playground/garden.  Soooooo - before and after the last trip to Bhutan, BIG Soren was created.  He was delivered last month to the foundry to begin the process of becoming a bronze.

Charity Fundraiser

Passionate locals rallied to save the old Teslow grain elevator that is part of our town's history and landscape. Several birdhouses were made in the shape of the grain elevator using wood taken from the Teslow during the restoration process. Artists were asked to embellish the birdhouses which are currently around town collecting donations before they are raffled off.

Inspiration for "Owl"

Owlets are flying out of the studio I began this little bugger early last year. I hadn’t planned on creating an owl for 2016 (I had a another critter in mind) but early in the year an owl visited me on a full moon night. I filmed the Great Horned Owl while it sat like a sentinel on top of my beloved tree. Perfect shaped and majestic, the giant Fir tree a picturesque silhouette on starry nights between my bedroom window and the twinkling lights of Livingston below. The tree greeted me each time I drove home to my cabin at the end of the road near the top of this mountain. During the holidays I was always tempted to light it up with a huge star on top for everyone in the valley below to enjoy. We suffered and celebrated more than two decades together. The tree scourged summer after summer by Spruce Bud Worms during the last years.

After a particularly difficult winter for both of us, the tree seemed to bounce back with vigor. That spring it looked better than it had in years and I thought, “We are survivors, you and me, dear tree…we have this…!" Looking back, it is as if the tree rallied for me, knowing I needed a boost and some confidence, I drew strength from its strength.

Then it died.

I hated to ask Cliff to cut it down because Cliff had back and shoulder pain issues; old injuries from his logging days. I complained to Raymond about the negative “Feng Shui” that comes from such a large dead thing in our front yard. But what a perfect perch for a giant owl. The full moon night visit from the owl was poignant. Remarkable. I had a sense it carried a message and thought the message had something to do with my mother - perhaps the owl was letting me know 2016 would be mother’s final year. Raymond asked for Cliff’s assistance to cut the tree down in February as I birthday present surprise while I was in Panama. Of course Cliff made quick business of the tree and landed it perfectly so that it wouldn’t squish any of the young trees sprouting everywhere. Cliff cut the trunk of the tree into perfect rounds which became seats for guests at our wedding. The stumps sit in an Aspen Grove near my studio.

A few months after my return from Panama, Cliff comforted me on the morning I called Hospice for assistance to continue care for my mother in her home. Cliff took mom cookies and then he died on the same day Raymond cut the path in the meadow where Cliff was to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. An owl perched on the tallest tree next to the Yellowstone River when Raymond, Wynn and I launched a home made flotilla with some of Cliff’s ashes in the moonlight.

Again and again I picked up the little lump of “owlish” clay but I simply could not create. On a cold winter night I gave a stranded motorist a ride to his home up Paradise Valley, a giant Great Horned Owl owl flew past my truck window and looked directly at me. Those of you who know Cliff know he was legendary for the assistance he gave friends, family and strangers alike. I knew it was time to finish the little owlet. Emotional but healing, the little sculpture began to find itself while a fire crackled in my studio.

I sent a photo of the clay owl to my girlfriend Wynn. She texted, “OMG. It looks like him. Did u do that intentionally?” Honestly I did not...but I felt so much of Cliff while working on his owl that of course “Cliffness” emanates from the owlet. Crying as I write this, feeling is part of healing topped with gratitude. Not many are gifted with a “Cliff” in their life. He was one-of-a-kind, gentle, strong and damn loyal. The tears are good - the kind of gold that comes from loving and being loved.

Chapter after chapter, critter after critter and plenty of blessings...

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][/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.

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