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]
Darkness brings reflection. But also, I found myself slowing down more than usual the past few months as my heart, body and mind needed to rest a bit after the intensity of the last several years. I kept chipping away at all the chores left by both my mother's and Cliff's passing. Piles of unfinished business. I read a passage by Louise Nevelson earlier today which totally resonates with me,
"I believe that we can clean our minds out and not carry too much waste. Anything that's cluttered is a constipation of some sort. Anything - a house, a closet. If it's clear you can put something in it, but if it's crowded you can't put anything in it. So I always started with that kind of premise." - Louise Nevelson
I have been working - lots - it feels good to be inspired. May winter solstice bring blessings with the promise of more light.
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.
Two Thanksgiving dinners were shared with my mother in the warm embrace of Raymond's family (which honestly feels like less than a year ago). But lordy the last Thanksgiving with mom was TWO years ago (last year I celebrated Thanksgiving in Bhutan...!) Grief induces a weird time warp. Intensely vivid memories play with weighty emotions. I needed another totally different Thanksgiving holiday experience. We found it:
Rocky took this photo of me Thanksgiving afternoon at the "Kicking Mule Saloon" - one of several buildings restored and recreated into an imaginative western ghost town beneath the Tobacco Root Mountains. The ghost town was conceived and created by Kat and Rocky - two lovely warm-hearted inspiring people. The wooden boardwalk western "Main Street" sits as a full-of-character embellishment between their home and Rocky's studio. We were lucky to be able to spend the holiday talking art, life, survival and adventure at their awe-inspiring home. Kat prepared a scrumptious traditional dinner.
Rocky's studio is one of my favorite places to refuel with "art juice." I've admired his work for decades:
Cliff I know you hated to see me cry but you witnessed and cared for me through every simple and complicated crying spell imaginable during nearly 3 decades together on this mountain. I have been crying a lot lately - missing you so damn much. The loss of you in my life hasn't gotten any easier or smaller or more bearable. I couldn't even write and share stories on your 70th birthday yesterday. Raymond has been patient and kind. He even indulged in my nearly manic desire to hang two of your giant rusty grapple hooks with heavy chain because somehow it seemed important to salvage them from your sawmill and embellish my studio. I stood protectively at the bottom of the fully extended jiggly ladder with words of encouragement for Raymond (who hates heights and ladders). I could see you shake your head, eyes sparkling while your comments rang crisp and clear in my mind. I heard your laughter. Bonding, binding, storied and impossibly heavy chain just seems appropriate right now as I fumble with emotions equally dense and impossibly heavy. There is something in those hooks warm with rust...
I love you so damn much Cliff. Even as I miss you, I know your love was as unbreakable as that chain. Every clunking bit of horrific pain wracking my heart with loss is worth the love we shared. Every damn bit.
[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.
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:
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)
My My husband; kick' n up dirt and tapping bulls while protecting the young men who ride.
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)
A sharp perfect cutout sliver of moon hung above Livingston like a stage prop yesterday evening as I got in my truck. I had just shared a piece of chocolate cream pie with a girlfriend. We exchanged advise, support and love for each other as we shared current challenges in our lives and the world we live in. I feel lucky to be surrounded by so much beauty and strong supportive friends.
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.
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.
Cathy Weber is a fabulous artist and inspiring friend who has urged me the last few years to join her at CRatpod - a 140 mile ride around the Pioneer Mountains to benefit Camp Mak-A-Dream. I have actually signed up twice but life intervened. So this year I am IN...! I must be nuts. I am juggling so much on my plate right now - the last thing to add to the list is a HUGE ride over several mountain passes two weeks before my wedding (I just have to say my tummy did a happy little flip when I typed the words "my wedding") Frankly I am not very much into road biking. I LOVE mountain biking but paved roads and traffic are not my thing. I got the road bike used from friend a few years ago just to enjoy the brief period each spring when Yellowstone National Park is closed to vehicles but open to bikes. The park is MAGIC on a bike...! Springtime in the Rockies most often doesn't allow for much single-track biking so the road bike is simply a fun way to get out with a friend, talk, take in scenery and catch up. Last year an early spring ride ended in horrific disaster when I was attacked by three pit bulls. Severe PTSD kept me from creating last year - the journey was dark and challenging. The act of registering to join Ratpod was a gutsy leap-of-faith and a purposeful challenge to myself. What better way to motivate myself back onto the road bike than to join a wonderful good cause and dangle the challenge of a BIG ride to get my butt back onto the skinny-tire bike.
In between spring storms, work and intense "momma-care" I have begun to squeeze in moments to ride:
Life also has kept me pretty distracted. Between caring for my mother and some serious health issues of my own I’ve lost momentum several times. Momentum is key. Quite a bit of my confidence got squashed the last 6-7 years. I needed to shift my thinking and pump up my belief. I began the year with a whole new focus on goal setting (yearly - monthly - weekly). My new focus includes daily review of my goals so they do not become elusive.
The other BIG shift is Raymond. I have never had a true partner who has my back with such unconditional support. He totally took care of me, supported us financially and never judged or pushed me during this past year while I weathered the challenging journey of PTSD after the dog pack attack. I feel so lucky. I am extra driven to give back, help out, make him proud and be a true partner to him. The “Raymond button” helped motivate me into overdrive.
Fairy dust. I can feel it in the air - I want to keep dancing so it doesn’t settle. Thankful for a bit of magic, I am overflowing with gratitude.
Carved 15 years ago in Black Walnut (then cast in bronze) - I am pleased to finally have a public sculpture on "home turf!" Once it is installed, the sculpture will be the first thing visitors see when they arrive into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (after they get through security). I just need a few more patrons to complete fundraising efforts to pay off the loan for casting this monumental sculpture.