About Me

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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into the wonderful abyss called Life and wondering with great anticipation.....what's next !?!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Season of Reflection - Happy Solstice

I am a winter baby. This is my favorite event of the year - the Winter Solstice - a time to be still with yourself and your gratitudes and ground yourself for the next round. May this season of going within find you present, at peace, and enveloped in the warmth of all Life's Blessings...

(artist unknown)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Under the Tuscan Sun

Greetings dear readers....I've finally gotten around to thinking about writing again after a whirlwind many months of changes and adventures. I felt a little stumped on what to write about and post, but the blockage is slowly clearing after giving myself permission to just "be" instead of "do, do, do".... Italy, northern Italy in the Tuscan hills to be exact, was exactly what I needed. Born a European and a traveler, I needed to feel that earth beneath my feet again and experience the rich traditions of art and food and architecture and the people of my past.... What's really cool is that I am still in touch with nearly all I met along the way - including some generous and kind Italians who opened their home to me and shared a bit of their life.  The world doesn't feel so huge and cruel and empty (as much of the internet will tell you) when one travels and discovers that, while we may speak different languages and wear different skin, our hearts seem to collectively yearn for the same things...

Here is a brief glimpse of my adventures:

A view from the back of the 17th century villa I shared with kindred spirits for 10 days while learning platinum-palladium printing techniques, eating-eating-drinking-eating Tuscan food, making new friends, and nurturing my creative muse. Did I mention eating?

And this was our nightly sunset view, walking back up from the village center, looking across the valley towards the very mountain that the marble slab came from to create 'David'....

Yes, I was seriously considering buying this in the quiet little village that has withstood the ravages of time... Can you hear the church bells chiming? Every day, every hour, 'like clock-work'.  I miss those sounds....

Back in Firenze (Florence), Ponte Vecchio along the Arno River is a lovely mix of old and new. This was my view from our dinner table one sultry summer evening...

The quintessential find along the streets of Firenze...

The studio window we worked under in a musty, ancient cellar of the villa. It opened to a stunning view of the valley and village below us which we had no idea existed until the last night we were there to celebrate and show our creations from the week. That's how immersed in the making we were....

Breaking bread. Every morning, a handful of adults gathered around this table, waiting for the warm bread made every day just for us.  It was a gift of love waiting to be savored....

I have an afternoon date with a fellow artist friend today - to share my Italian adventure with. It's on her bucket list so I am offering encouragement to go for it. Life is fleeting and meant to be experienced outside of our dreams.

Next installment, I'll share some other adventures in the Tuscan hills that simultaneously healed and woke me up...

Thank you for staying with me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The other side of transition

Never underestimate the work that goes on in life's transitional phases. When my last 'baby' left home in the fall for college, I thought I would just easily flow through that dreaded 'empty-nest' syndrome typical for so many parents, single parents in particular. I found myself simultaneously feeling stagnant and catapulted through either not quite knowing what to do with my 'free' time or having a staggering amount of opportunities and decisions to make.

In just a few short months, I planned and booked a trip to Italy with the sole purpose of expanding my artistic trade and developing a stronger portfolio, cleared out physical stuff, quelled out fair weather friends and acquaintances, and left my workplace of 18 years. None of which was a foreseeable blip on the horizon until I was standing smack dab in the middle of it. My life is nothing that I knew of it - kids grown up and gone, day to day habits have made a 180 degree to the west turn, the faces of friends.

I am standing in the middle of my dream.

I cannot tell you how revived I feel after the sudden appearance of these opportunities that were, until early this spring, faint whispers of ideas tucked deep in my gray matter and only visible in the quiet of sleep. Is it possible to dream our realities? It appears so... Change was asked for and I received, tenfold.

Next week, I leave on an artistic sojourn to Italy - Tuscan region to be exact. Firenze. Benabbio, Bagni di Lucca. Residing in a 17th century, Baroque villa with other photographer/artists - what better place but the birthplace of the Renaissance to nurture my artistic muse?

I look forward to a new and much needed twist to this blog site. Come back often for travel snippets and updates from new adventures...

A presto!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Capturing the love

Day 3 of the 3-pieces-of-art-a-day-for-5-days I have been challenged with.

This time I decided to post portraits I've done. Is that considered "art"? My photographer friends would say yes. There is always a debate about photography being "art". It's not done with paints or brushes or canvas or drawn by hand so many in the art world would argue it is not art. The word photography is made up of 2 ancient Greek words meaning "light" (photo) and "drawing" (graph). Drawing with light. The camera is our tool - our brush if you will. And the surface we place our images on - fine papers, wood, glass, fabric, metal, ceramics, and yes, canvas. Can that not be "art"?

It all started about 6 years ago when colleagues of mine asked me to take their family photo with another family they were close with. They were moving back east and wanted a memento. Since then, I've been privileged to photograph many families and artists. Each time, I learn something new - a different perspective, better ways to engage with my subjects, finding the right light, capturing a look, a feeling, a moment...

I think I enjoy making portraits for people because I have so few of my own with me in them. I'm always on the other side of the lens. When I was married, my children's dad would never take a photo of me with the kids unless I made a fuss of it. My memories of me with my children as babies on up are left in the photocells of my brain instead of a photo album or nicely framed print....

I get it when people aren't comfortable picking up the camera to take that memorable shot. We get distracted, busy, self-conscious. And then there are those who are comfortable capturing the moments but rarely get in those memories themselves. I'm here to help tell a story. The best part is seeing my client's faces when they realize they look pretty good in a photo or didn't really see a particular behavior in their child as they were trying to get them to behave while I was snapping away.

Either way, it's just fun.

I had a difficult time finding just 3 for this challenge post. If I were to review all my files again, I'm sure I'd pick 3 different ones. But, here they are - genuine, spontaneous moments of people who have graced my life...

#1. Photo bomb! I love this one. Largely because I know how tough it was for us to create a serene moment with just dad and mom and soon-to-be-born baby. This says it all about the joys and challenges of growing families, and it all spells Love.

#2. The boys in this family are a bit older and taller now. The natural way they all posed tells volumes about their relationship with each other. It warms my heart with hope every time I meet a family so deeply connected and in love with each other...

#3. My most recent portrait shot just last December. One big family divided into 4 smaller family units. My first photo shoot of this size. The challenge was a flat gray-overcast day with occasional peeps of sunlight - just enough to wreak havoc on my settings; black shirts and jeans;  and one person with shockingly turquoise blue hair. It was fun. I like the classic, timeless black and white treatment we agreed on for this shot. The color version was neat, too, but if you want to highlight the faces, classic black and white pulls out all the distractions of busy scenes and brings it all together.

Okay, so there are only supposed to be 3 art shots a day. I have to sneak this one in. These spunky little girls were a hoot to capture. Always animated. Always moving. We had a most beautiful fall day at the preserve. Sisters. The little one emulated everything the older one did. I hope they always stay this close.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weather makes us giddy.

So, I've been challenged by a fellow artist to post 3 works a day for 5 days.

This is Day 2.

Going back in the archives, I am sharing (again) some unique desert weather shots. I know I've mentioned this many, many times - but, we desert dwellers get really giddy whenever there is any kind of precipitation - especially drizzle/rain accompanied by fog. Fog is a super unusual occurrence in our desert. This year, we've had literally days and days of it. Once for 3 days in a row - the pea soup kind. Of course, I was teaching on those days - not conducive for chasing great fog shots. But I did manage to go out and play for an hour after school, before dark. There is something eerily special about standing out in the desert, enveloped in the thick quiet of fog. The best part? The smells! Oh my. Sage, desert lavender, cedar, pinion pine, creosote - all mixed with granite (yes, rocks have smells) and wet earth.


This shot was taken in January, 2 years ago. Not photoshopped or altered at all. This is what my camera captured. Yes. It was that thick. If you look closely at a print of this, you can very, very faintly see more vegetation in the background. There are hills back there and a dip between them with views to the valley below. Only 20 feet or so from the car, my daughter said I completely disappeared. I dreamt this shot many years prior. When I woke up to fog that morning, I knew I had to find that dream...

And this shot was taken just a few months ago. We had 3 days of thick fog in a row. This was day 2. I remembered to bring my camera with me to work that day and dashed out as soon as all the students left. Black Rock Campground, part of Joshua Tree National Park, is just minutes up the road from my school. I spent an hour mingling about, breathing in deeply. The fog would recede; patches of blue sky emerging. Then, without warning, I'd suddenly find myself totally surrounded by fog thick enough to barely see the bushes ahead of me. I lost my car - couldn't tell which direction I needed to go to get back to it. So, I simply stood in one spot, light waning for the day, praying the fog would lift just enough for me to get back to the car before blackness took me. I was too excited to get out and play in it with my camera to remember a headlamp. I will next time....

And, finally, my 3rd art shot for Day 2, another foggy day sometime between the first 2 shots above - late winter, maybe last year. The fog had receded to the distant hills. We pretty much had just a brief morning of it that day. There is a quiet melancholiness about this. I remember my ears ringing to the point of discomfort, so utterly still it was. When I printed it on a cold pressed, fiber-based matt paper, it had a more blue cast than this - which I actually like. It's hanging in my son's apartment near the beach now - a reminder of home.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Look closely

Looks like there is no slowing down in 2015. Thought I'd pop in and let you all know what's been up in my absence.

Besides the throes of a working girl, getting over a lively holiday season, and spending spontaneous fun-time with my adult kids, I'm preparing for my works to hang in the local county courthouse offices; planning a trip to Tuscany; prepping for a photography class I get to teach in Joshua Tree National Park; and playing with polaroid film and sun sensitive papers. I've finally finished up a slew of portrait shoots over the holidays so now I have time to hunker down and hone a body of work that has been dancing around in my head for months.

I've been such a hermitess lately - work > home > dog walk > work > groceries > home > dog walk  > work > family > work... Ever have those times when you just hole up for long periods of time and people start to forget about you?  I like to think of it as reflective, decompressing, creative incubating time, but need to remind myself, force myself, back out into the public realms to reconnect with people I do enjoy and care about. Then again, I am a solid introvert so that time is quite necessary.... Many people don't understand it. They assume you are being a snob, a bitch, moody...pick a demeaning adjective, it gets flung. You may have felt it yourself from time to time - the need to explain yourself because few 'get you' or are capable of seeing the depth beneath the quiet, sometimes aloof exterior.

Oh well. Toby loves me, no matter what I'm doing or not doing... even without treats ;-)

For my spring show, I am thinking of hanging a body of work depicting one of my favorite desert subjects: patina and rust. There are enough snapshots and thoughtful captures of joshua trees, boulders, and sunsets. I don't care to shoot them, preferring to enjoy the scene with my own eyes as the light dances on the mojave sand or a well-captured scene from someone else. I've always liked taking pieces of a whole - those more interesting parts overlooked because we are so distracted with the whole scene or just too 'busy' to look.

These look great in printed on fiber based matt paper. Very rich and organic. I always see something different each time I observe. I'm looking forward to seeing them hang on the courthouse office walls this spring.

What does your imagination tell you? Look closely.....

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long and Hello...

Merry Christmas (I'm on traditional time...) and Happy New Year!

Feeling nostalgic on this last eve of 2014. It's been an eventful yet good year for me, all in all. The nest is empty for the most part. I've had to adjust to not having to be "on" for someone else besides me on the home front. I had imagined all this free time filled with experiences I've been saving up to do once my family fledged the nest. Funny, but it seems I've never been busier with little free time, even on weekends, to do all the hiking, photographing, creating art, traveling, socializing I thought I was going to do. Looking back, I think I purposefully filled those spaces left open with mindless stuff to not feel the potential emptiness.... Empty, yes. Lonely, no. I am relishing the solitude.

My reserves needed refueling.

I had thought about doing an article on the best bits of 2014 or something like that. But, nah. I know what those are and that is enough. My energies these last few hours of 2014 will be purging, cleaning, clearing out clutter while sending out healing light and strength to those who need it most right now. So, while many are out celebrating, I've chosen to stay cozily in on this freezing cold night. We had a beautiful dusting of snow last night, leaving the roads slick and the desert hills softened. I feel an open hopefulness on my own horizon. Many opportunities have fallen onto my path - trinkets from my dreams to remind me to keep moving forward to what I imagined most to experience in what's left of this Life. I like the idea of quietly greeting the new year from a grounded place of gratitude. I need to make it my daily beginning and end again. No resolutions to feel pressured to complete. No promises to break. Just moving through the day with appreciation for what is.

It's a foolproof way to feel moderately happy and content every day - pretty much.

I have several friends who are battling some life altering challenges right now. They seem so young for this. One with young children yet to raise. One with many dreams yet realized. Instead of journaling my own Life's dreams and goals for these next 12 months as I might tend to do, I've decided to spend this evening in quiet contemplation and prayer - not for me but for my friends and acquaintances who will continue to face their own uphill struggles in 2015.

Here's to a 2015 of gratitude always; appreciating what is; better health; much Joy; peace of Heart; and leaving the door open for those surprises that make Life sweet.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

When the desert isn't dry

Oh my. Such interesting weather we've had this past week. 4 straight days of drizzle, soft rains, and dense fog. Today, day 5, sees a dawn of blue skies only to become shrouded in clouds again. My pellet stove is cleaned out and ready. Camera cards reformatted. Batteries charged. Toby is harnessed up and anxious to head out and see what this weather has unearthed on his favorite trails for him to nose around in. I love the feel of wet earth beneath my boots and damp, sage-scented air on my skin.

Precipitation in the desert makes us desert dwellers all giddy. I wish I could attach the smells with this post. Wet earth mixed with sage, cedars, and pinion pine with a touch of creosote. Even the granite boulders have their own odor. You can't help but take deep, gulping breaths when you step outside. The cloudy skies redefine the horizons, giving great depth and contrast to the valleys and surrounding hills and mountains.

Last Wednesday was the first of the dense fog days. Of course, I was holed up in class all day. My students and I frequently stopped and marveled at the changing view outside of our door. The mountain behind our school would disappear into the fog as it crept up to the perimeter block wall - intermittently disappearing and reappearing all day. There was a hushed stillness outside as if someone cloaked us with a soft, thick blanket. As soon as school let out, I headed for the national park campground just up the road from school. With only an hour of daylight left, there was no time to head into the interior of the main part of the park. I had the wherewithal to grab my camera bag on the way out the door that morning....hoping the fog would hang out for more than a few hours. I wasn't disappointed. It hung out for a few days!

Here are just a few smartphone snaps for now. Oh the wonder of wetness in a dry land....

I wandered away from the car up the path a bit. One minute the skies were clearing. The next, without warning, I was enveloped in a deep fog again. It was easy to get turned around and lose a sense of where I started from.  Take a deep breath. Can you smell the sagebrush and junipers? Mmm..

As seen on the way home. A Christmas tree emerged from the fog in someone's yard. Caught me by surprise the first go around. So I doubled back to check it out again.... Not film grain. Just lots and lots of fine water droplets...

©DianaShayDiehl   Shot with an iPhone4
I appreciate when nature makes us stop in our race to get through the day and pay attention to the finer details of our lives.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Things you find on a wander...

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking some San Diegan photographer acquaintances out for a photo shoot in 29 Palms - Wonder Valley to be specific. It's always fun to show guests my desert world. Makes me pay closer attention to my own surrounds and appreciate what's here - the expanse, the history, the quirkiness.

These shots are from playing with a new art lens I recently purchased. A Petzval, retro-designed from an original model that first came out in the mid 1800's from Austria. It's basically more of a fine art portrait lens, which I haven't had a chance to try out on people yet. Just the same, it was fun to use on the landscape and decay as you don't really know what you'll get until you take the images into 'the darkroom'.  It is a fully manual, prime lens - interacting with a digital camera much like analog (film for you newbies to photography jargon...) It has a very narrow focal point, making the background fall away in interesting fuzzy, subtle and not so subtle swirls.

If you are interested in the history of the homesteads of 29 Palms and Wonder Valley, check out this link - researched and authored by local resident/educator/artist, Kim Stringfellow. There's some great stuff on the website as well as an audio tour of the area. And, there's a book sale of Kim's works currently happening via a link on her website.

Check it out:  Jackrabbit Homestead

See what you think of the new lens....

Remnants of a life lived...

Ceiling of homestead cabin

Wonder Valley Homestead

Monday, November 24, 2014

A no particular title post...

Time flies. When you are having fun. When you are busy. When you are standing still. Doesn't matter - it just flies....

I thought I'd have all this time once my last kiddo left the nest for college last August. No such thing. I'm busier than I've ever been even though I had cleared my plate of the many committees and obligations that consumed me; only to fill that time with something else for someone else. I think my problem is there's just too many interesting things to be part of. And I can't say no. 

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."  ~Carl Jung

Today is another blustery, cold day. My favorite kind because it means I get to hunker down inside and dream and think and sort and sift through stuff in a mindless kind of way. Toby gets extra treats. And I can drink as much tea as I want because I don't have to wait for the bell to ring signaling a much needed break. Simple pleasures.

Here is an image from my summer trip with my daughter. We sojourned across Native American lands into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Much needed breathing space. New vistas. Expanses to stretch the legs, heart, and mind...

And here is one more from a wander at Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park a few weeks back. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inevitable transitions

Yes, I am alive! Thank you for the nudges. What have I been up to these past few months?

  • Graduated the last little chicken from high school
  • Welcomed home a daughter-sailor from an 8 month deployment
  • Taught a 2 week image printing class at the local college for our gifted and talented students
  • Helped newly graduated son settle on a college for the fall and attended an orientation in another state
  • Quelled through and prepped photos from over 130 artists for our catalog for the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (happening in Oct/Nov)
  • Hung out with the 2 older kiddos in their habitat of San Diego (Thank you for moving there!)
  • Took on a consultant role with the California Desert Protection Act's 20th Anniversary (back to my conservationist roots!)
  • Planned a week long trip through the mountains of Colorado with 2 of my 3 kiddos for early August (Can. Not. Wait to go.)
  • Cleaned out closets (Step 1 of becoming an empty nester)
  • Hung out with friends
  • Was awarded the opportunity for one of my photographs to show in TIMES SQUARE!!! on an animated HUGE screen - July 24 at 8pm should you live in NYC
  • Thought about tackling the garage
  • Joined an online art workshop (Wheeee! Time to get messy!)
  • Picked out paint samples for the bedrooms (Step 2 of becoming an empty nester - redo the house.)
  • Thought about picking up one of my cameras and actually shooting with it 
  • Quelled through countless brochures and online sites to plan a walking trip abroad (Step 3 of becoming an empty nester)  First stop, my ancestral roots of Ireland.....

Interesting things happen when you see the end of one chapter of life coming firmly to a close. A little anxiety at first but then....Oh boy! All the possibilities pop up to do things raising a family solo didn't allow. Thankfully, all 3 of my kids are living in places I am excited to visit and explore (besides the fact that they live there.....).  They are all on solid paths which eases my mind tremendously. I'm proud of all 3.

"Aren't you dreading being alone?" many friends ask. 

"Absolutely. Not." says I.  Because I am never really alone. And there is always something going on. Always. I welcome the quiet days....

"How sad that all your kids are will be gone now." a friend comments.

"Why?" says I. "Isn't this how it's supposed to be? Raise them to live their own lives on their own terms? Besides, they aren't 'kids' anymore. They are adults. I dearly miss the cute little kids they were, yes. And I enjoy hanging out with the adults they've become - most of the time.  There's no sadness in that. Inevitable transitions. Celebrate them."

"Oh." says the friend.  I'm not sure she got it....

So - new stuff on the horizon. Lots of it!!!  My daughter and I will be creating a duo photo blog in the near future. I'm really excited about that. She has quite an eye for imagery and her international travels have afforded her insights into humanity. Can't wait for you all to share this journey with us. Stay tuned for the link!

Easing-the-transition stuff:
  • Photo / hiking trip through parts of the Colorado mountains 
  • 2nd year of Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (with 4 other artists!)
  • Local photo / road trips to some new-to-me quirky places (looking forward to doing a trip log to share with you)
  • Playing with mounds and mounds of polaroid prints (just waiting for the paper to arrive to put them on!)
  • Monthly dinner gathering with friends in my comfy kitchen - prepping and sharing new dishes together
  • Visiting friends in Portland, Oregon (a place I've contemplated relocating to)
  • Getting those bedrooms actually painted
  • Doing more than just thinking about clearing out the garage
  • Stepping foot onto Irish soil.....

It's been a fairly mild summer, so far, in the desert. Many cloudy days - little rain from it - but relief from the blazing sun nonetheless. Here's a shot from a recent walk with my best hiking buddy, Toby.

The road may be long, but it is never lonely.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Just a short post for now. The desert is far from bland and boring. Spent a few hours recently wandering among a rather vibrant spring from a mild winter. (More images in another post.)  I see potential for some new transfers. Perhaps patterns for sun printed scarves. Maybe a collage of quintessential bits of my mojave. I'm excited about the upcoming Hwy. 62 Open Studio Tours this fall. November 1 - 2 to be exact.

Querencia. Finding strength from the open spaces.

A quiet walk provides a lot of inspiration.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Delicate wonders

Yesterday, these blooms weren't there. Today, the little shocks of color captured Toby's and my attention on our late morning walk. The wildflowers make us desert dwellers giddy with excitement. Hoards of visitors from all over the world plan their vacations with hopes of finding these tiny beauties in abundance. Some years we are disappointed. This isn't a "banner year" but the fields, trails, rocks, crannies, and roadsides are offering some lovely spots of color - some soft, some shockingly bright. There are some species rarely seen. These 3 (blurry from winds and the limits of an older smartphone camera) are common and expected signs of spring, and they were simply displaying their delicate splendor off the side of our road. Flowers. Tiny, perfect miracles of life.

Later on, I will go deeper into the park and surrounds in search of more....with a better lens to capture the intricate details...the higher elevations are starting to show. I do believe I need to do some color transfers of this year's display.

An encouraging reminder of what's to come after a long, dark spell....

Beavertail Cactus blooms

(blurry) Canterbury Bluebells. My favorite. 

Apricot mallow. Desert tortoise delicacies. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Seeking Shelter (aka Querencia 2)

I am having trouble picking up my camera lately. The spark of creativity is buried underneath a pallor of human unkindnesses. Can't watch the news or read the internet or walk through the staffroom without feeling personally assaulted in some way. The world outside is coming alive with wonderful spring light and peeps of color. The air is warm and alive with happy chirps and the whir of wings as life gets busy making more life.

But I stare at it from inside. Unable to move. Tears spill over without warning. There's a sharpness to my speech. Breathing is shallow as it burns in my chest. I feel like a thousand elephants sit on top of me. The only solace is my walking buddy, Toby, who insists on his daily walk - which we do. Most of the time. And I always feel, a little, better. I turn off the tv. I limit the internet to communicating with friends and family on "good things",  researching fun lessons, or playing a mindless game (or 2) of (dare I say it), CandyCrush. But I can't avoid the other day to day stuff. Either way I turn, someone is ready to pour a pot of boiling oil on me or someone else or anyone in their way. There is so much unhappiness and spite around. It's blocking the view.

Self rescue. After a brisk 2.5 mile walk with the Tobster, I started quelling through files of images for my "Querencia" project. While this image isn't especially artistic in an 'oh wow' kind of way, it certainly touches on where I can retreat and draw my strength from. A simple, armless, cushy chair flanked by books on one side and a Chinese red side table with objects that impart great love and mutual respect on the other.

The walrus tusk was my late husband's. He found it in Alaska, back in the early 1980s, on some beach in the Aleutian Islands - I think. He was a bush pilot, bringing scientists to remote places for study. The tusk was just laying on the beach near the walruses the scientists were observing - as the story goes. For several decades, it sat in a dusty shadow box, not sure where to place it. Then, a dear artist friend saw it one day, less than 2 years ago, when he delivered some metal sculptures I bought from him. He graciously offered to make me a stand to showcase the simple beauty of this sentimental relic from my past in exchange for some of my framed photographs. Deal!  Resting on the base of the tusk display is a painted rock. A gift from a former principal who knew I was struggling within a toxic marriage. "A paperweight, a soul to watch over you, or a tool to get him to listen to you," she impishly told me. Three souls. One display. Reminders of kinder times.

None of these people are alive anymore. All passed far too young and fairly sudden. My husband was in his 30s. My sculpture friend, maybe 60. My principal friend, 45. I think of them often and miss them dearly. All had a great sense of humor, were wonderful and fun company, and knew what unconditional love was. They all had many, many friends. People loved being around them - each in their own personal way. You could be assured of much fun and merriment in company of any one of them. When I sit in that chair, with a book to take my mind off of things I cannot change, they are there with me. Nudging me forward. Reminding me of all the love I have received and of all the love I have to give - in spite of those unhappy souls who cannot see their own worth.

Querencia. Being grounded. That place where one retreats to gather strength and feel safe and be reminded that it really is okay.

I feel, a little, better already.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Americana Culture

Happy 'almost' St. Paddy's Day! I am going to slightly veer from my quest to present my photographic findings of what Querencia is to do a bit of plugging for a friend of mine. Bear with me. I hope what I share is enlightening to you - and if not, pass it on to someone who would appreciate these bits of Americana.... I'm all for independent projects - people who have a passion to preserve and educate as they also entertain us.

Candacy Taylor. Creator of Taylor Made Culture. An amazing, energetic, inspiring and gifted woman with a passion for preserving our Americana roots. From the waitresses of coffee shops and diners to Bingo Halls to inner workings of beauty shops to female bull fighters. Candacy unearths and brings to light the fine details of what many of us have taken for granted in our daily lives.

If you are a baby boomer, you'll remember those vinyl padded turn stools on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning after church - sharing a meal with family or friends served by a woman who not only brought you your meal but addressed you personally because you were a regular. To many, these women were 'just waitresses'. To these women, this was their career - something they took heart in and did their job with love. It wasn't just a job for them. It was their life. And still is for those handful of diners and coffee shops that still exist in certain communities - usually smaller, rural ones - today. My town has one. C & S Coffee Shop. The same women have worked it for years. I find it comforting to step inside and allow time to stand still for awhile. The coffee is consistent and always good - served with a smile and a joke and story or two....

Here are some links regarding Candacy's works. I hope you'll explore them. Learn something. Reminisce a little. Support her cause. Pass it on.....

KCET Artbound Article: Candacy Taylor and Counter Culture

Indiegogo Project: Counter Culture   (The funding campaign ends in early April!)

Artbound Video: Beauty Shop Culture with Candacy Taylor

Taylor Made Culture: Candacy's webpage with all of her projects and the history of how all this started

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Happy New Year! Happy Valentine's Day! Yes, a little more than fashionably late but I was just not feeling compelled to write the usual things as the calendar changed over to a new set of digits. No resolutions. No over-the-shoulder reflections. No sappy promises for plans of a fabulous whatever. I'm trying a new approach. Just do it. Dream it. Live it. Stop talking. Just do..... 2014 saw me turn 55 and will see me become an empty nester as my last 'baby' steps out into the world and makes his way. There is a lot of restructuring energy going on these days with not a lot of time to sit and wonder about it all. Time is fleeting and feels even more so these days.  I'm trying to develop the fine art of slowing down and savoring the richness of the moments presented to me every day as I also take advantage of a multitude of opportunities crossing my path.

Dream it. Live it. Just do it.

Nothing is wrong. Everything is right. I've just resurfaced from a particular busy spell in life....  The fall brought my first big public participation in our local Open Studio Art Tours and it's been a happy madhouse ever since. The 6 Chicks Popup Gallery was a great success. Our 2 months went on to 3. While I'm happy to have my weekends back, I miss it. Met some wonderful people. Had the thrill of seeing some of my works go off to live in NYC, Michigan, Las Vegas, Boston, and local abodes. Loved meeting the folks who visit my magical corner of the desert.  Intriguing conversations. Friendly, warm souls.

<----- A lovely couple who purchased one of my favorite little rag matte paper framed prints - joshua trees silhouetted against one our iconic sunsets... now gracing the wall of their NYC home...

After 6 Chicks closed its doors, (We decided it was time for a creative hiatus...) came several weekends of workshops for me. What to make now? Where to go with it?  It's a process trying to figure all that out and, sometimes, a bit of unraveling needs to be done to get there. And sometimes, a lot. I was told that I'm "all over the map" with my photography and that was after only seeing a few snippets. New to the world of portfolios, I didn't really know what to show, so I showed a little bit of everything. At least the things that have sold or gotten some notice. Yes, all over the map would define that collection. Portraits. Street photography. Moody desert photos. Accidental captures that turned out 'pretty good'.

But what's my story? I had the pleasure of attending a "unearthing" workshop recently that turned me 180 degrees to figure that out. Visual Narratives -  taught by Susan Burnstine (One of the most intriguing fine art photographers I have had the pleasure to meet and be inspired by), and sponsored by Medium San Diego (a wonderful independent organization whose 'mission is to foster awareness and understanding of innovative photography'). I left there with words like "harsh", "fragile",  "regret", and "survival" to mull over as 'my words'. But those weren't it. None of them tasted right. Not alone anyway.

And that is where "Querencia" comes in. Querencia is a beautiful word that struck me to the core even before I knew what it meant. In Spanish, “querencia” describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. It comes from the verb “quere”, which means to desire, to want. This could mean that favorite sweater worn almost religiously when you need to feel comforted; that coffee cup reached for every morning because of the way it feels in your hands; that time of year when you step outside and go "Aaahhhh...." and wish every day could feel like this;  the group of friends you have dinner with every month at your favorite cafe. Querencia is where we gather our strength.

Our bodies know querencia. If we pay attention, we can find it even when we are miles away from our physical structure known as 'home'. And sometimes, that structure - the house, apartment, condo - doesn't feel like home at all. It's just a place to land at the end of long days filled with busyness....

Querencia. All creatures crave it. The doves that desperately make their haphazard nests in precarious places over and over again. The cactus wren that tucks its nest deep into a cholla to return to spring after spring. The swallows who travel great distances back to where they were born to propogate their species - as do the migrating whales, sea turtles, salmon, and geese. I follow a fellow photographer/artist whose "Querencia" is her traveling camper van and her dog, Max. Those wheels take her all over the United States while she documents life as she experiences it. On the road all the time,  just her and her dog, yet she has "Querencia".  (You can read about her adventures here: Alison Travels ) I've seen where 'home' was literally a lean-to shabbily structured out of found materials. Certainly not "appropriate" by upper and middle class standards but "Querencia" to the inhabitants.

Querencia does not have a specific look. Home. It's where all Beings feel safe. It exudes strength, familiarity, comfort, a sense of belonging.

And so begins my body of work as I reach deeper inside. It might look like it is "all over the map" but then, so is "Querencia".

Where is yours?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve

However you celebrate, or not, during this holiday season - let me wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and best wishes for good health and peace of mind this coming New year. For what else do we need to be happy? It's all really pretty simple. Underneath the facades, don't we all just want the same thing?

I hope you are abundantly showered with all that brings your heart peace...

Last year's photos but one with all of us home. There's an empty spot at our table this season. To all who are far away from "home", let the waves of love envelope you during your time away....

Saturday, December 21, 2013

#175: Happy Winter Solstice 2013

My 175th post!

Ah, the official beginning of the winter season cycle. With it comes the dawning of longer days as we make that push toward the Sun again. A simple post this evening as I hunker down on this longest night to reflect upon the past year. The Winter Solstice is about turning within, making peace, expressing gratitude, and setting fresh intentions as the horizon grows ever brighter.

Some Solstice reading for you:

Understanding the December Solstice

Yule Rituals: Feeding the Soul, not emptying the bank account...

December Solstice Traditions  (<----I like this one the best.)

Be well; stay grounded; and appreciate always. Here's to the light....

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Look up!

Oh dear readers....thanks to those of you reaching out, wondering where I have disappeared to. I am alive and thriving and quite well - thank you! It has been a lusciously busy few months with more offers to exhibit my works than I have had time to keep up creating anew. Family and work life seem to take precedence over creative life at the moment. All great and happy challenges to have. You'll hear no complaints from me (save not enough time in the day, of course....) There has been an interesting change of energy in my day to day place of late. Karma come due. An oppressive weight has been lifted and I didn't have to do anything but keep my distance - and my mouth shut (Well, sort of...). Never realized just how bad it has been until that source went away. I can breathe again. And smile. And, maybe, I won't have to begin my days crying in the parking lot before I even walk in the door...

I will leave you with a photo (or two or five) of some of my latest portrait sessions. I so love making portraits of families. Have I ever told you why I have such a passion for that? Next post. I promise.

Until sooner (than later)..... Be well. Stay warm. Don't let the preparations and rush of this holiday season wear you thin. Enjoy the reflective and softer nature these winter days bring to us...

The "Jumping Js". No sit still, smile at the camera, and say "Cheese!" for these guys.
Loved watching the brotherly love and fun ooze out of these fellas...

A natural at hamming it up.
You could tell they respected and loved each other.

Photo sessions are hard work.
My images on fine art postcards and more traditional 5x7 greeting cards - selling like hotcakes! 

And, the Tobster. Patiently letting me snap his portrait with our fiery desert sunset skies overhead. This image is straight from the iPhone. A "Wow!" kind of evening and a reminder to always...

Look Up.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Domino Effect

November?!?! When did this happen? Seems I was just waving my daughter off to sea one warm end-of-summer day and now - time to think about the Thanksgiving gathering...

Usually this time of year I am out and about all weekend on the desert trails in and around Joshua Tree National Park. The weather has been, for the most part, outstanding. Perfect, crisp mornings - cool to warmish days. Beautiful skies with the occasional clouds wafting overhead. But. Other than dog walks each evening, I've been in my cave, making creative messes. First it was to prepare for the Hwy. 62 Art Tours. Now, it is to prepare commissioned works requested during the Art Tours AND for THREE more exhibitions - one beginning next weekend! Wow. Talk about dreams manifesting into realtime. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. It is finally happening.

I am an artist.

I've always believed that owning art and adorning one's spaces shouldn't just be for the "wealthy" and status oriented folks. It needs to be for everyone. Art is an exchange of energy with a life of its own. Healing. Empowering. Entertaining. Creating soothing spaces or bumping up the tempo. Humans are creative and expressive beings - regardless of the economic bracket we find ourselves in. Thus, pricing one's work can be a challenge. There are quite a few discussions in my local art community around that aspect - being careful to not out price your work so it never sells or under price it either. There seems to be this *attitude*, for lack of a better term, that *cheaply* priced art isn't really art or that when an artist sells their works lower than someone in a similar medium, they are trying to 'undermine' others. I find the discussions quite intriguing. The perspectives are as varied as the styles of artists out there. One needs to consider many aspects in pricing artwork, like: the cost of materials; time investments to advertise and network; finances and bookkeeping; take classes and/or read up on techniques and trends that affect ever evolving styles in the art realms;  costs of traveling to patrons and clients for special orders; studio space and upkeep of all that - even if it is one's home; and, of course, the time it takes to create a piece - hours and hours and hours and days and weeks and months...  Then, there's the better known and more popular you become, the price tag goes up. How do you assign value? For such a subjective field - art - there are a lot of rules and judgement. My brother once told me, when I was first getting into exhibiting my works, that putting it out there to the public builds strength and character and a tough skin. You have to be secure in yourself  to let the criticisms and even praise roll off - otherwise, you are allowing the public to influence your artistic vision and sense of self. For me, I am most grateful when someone wants something I've created to look at in their home or work space. And for the rest, if I've shown them something new or intriguing or taught them another way to do something or provided a few moments of a pleasant diversion or even have given them something to debate over, then that is a winner, too. Engagement. Connection. Expression. Shifting and sharing perspectives. Humanness. Priceless gifts.

I am quite digging the transfer process on wood. I found these cool little wooden gift tags the other evening and am anxious to see how they take to the process.

I also bought (another) new toy - a way to take digital photos and print onto analog film, bypassing the polaroid camera. Mine is ailing. Out of one expensive pack of polaroid film, I may get 3 shots that work. A pricey way to play. Now, every piece of film works without getting jammed up and ruined from an antiquated camera. And all this from my cellphone shots. Pretty slick, no? 
Well, I'd better "get to work".... after I enjoy the rest of this glorious Sunday afternoon OUTside on a desert trail. Who knows what my camera might find to *paint*...