Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lillian Smith Center, I miss you already! And I haven't even left yet.

Day ten ends here at this wonderful place.  The light is getting lower... still not dusk but getting there.  Or as Bob Dylan might say, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there"

Times of leaving home and family are bittersweet, whether I'm going to a retreat like this one or to teach a class.  Then the times of leaving the place I've been are also bittersweet.  I love being at home but I also love times away when I can see things anew, spread out, make messes and inconvenience only me if I leave them where I stopped working for the day.  And my work places can spill over into living spaces.  No TV.  Internet here at the Center in my cottage but that's a new feature since Piedmont College has taken over the place.   That's not often easily available in places I go to teach or have retreats--hasn't been before here at Lillian Smith Center.  Maybe that's a good thing.  Every minute of time I'm spending on the computer searching for what the particular oak tree was that I found leaves from the other day, or reading, posting, sharing and commenting at Facebook are more minutes away from the "real" work I need to do.

I'm not quite sure why I was called to do the work I do.  However, I realized a few years back, with tears falling as I came to a recognition in myself, while talking to a dear friend when he revealed he'd finally realized he was "an academic" and that was OK.  Suddenly, at that moment I realized I'm an "artist" -- always have been whether I knew or acknowledged it or not -- and that's the work of my life.  No... as I've mentioned before... I'm not an artist who's the once in a generation type.  Like Georgia O'Keeffe or like Frida Kahlo.  No, I'm only a person who has finally, as she nears the end of a sixth decade of life, realized that what makes me happiest and feeling the most purposeful in the world is when I can look around me and try, as best I can, to record the world that I see.  And only hope that some of reverence and awe I feel about the sacredness of being able to exist in the world might show in my work, whether it be drawing, painting or my tapestries.

This morning I had a beautiful gift from a tapestry friend.  She was kind enough to write me about a recent Facebook debacle.  I'd posted a rant about a current candidate for the 2016 presidential race who'd made yet another, in my mind, particularly ludicrous statement.  I was then so mortified that I'd gone ballistic like I had.  I was taught, as many of us are, "If you can't say anything good (kind, positive, etc.) then don't say anything at all." Well, I don't always keep that adage in mind.  I certainly didn't this time!  The next day after having it bother me all night,  I posted an apology for the raving post, deleted them and declared I was going to deactivate my FB account.  I had many lovely and kind words from many folks encouraging me to stay around and so I decided I would do that.  And just zip my lip when I read something I find particularly upsetting.  But as a result of this I'm taking kind words to heart and appreciating them so much.  Here's one of many lovely thoughts sent my way...

Elizabeth Buckley, wonderful tapestry artist who lives in NM, wrote this to me:
"As artists we need to be very protective of our head and heart space, our way of tuning in and being present to our environment and to the sources of inspiration, of beauty, and that to which we respond in awe.  How we are able to make the world a better place through our artwork, our teaching, our keeping alive another way of viewing and being present to life--all of this is dependent on our ability to stay connected and clear, tuned in to the pulse of life beneath the chaos and negativity.  I think this is so crucial now more than ever." (italics mine...)
This was such an affirmation of what probes at my spirit all the time... there is a pulse of life beating always in the world, in spite of our human conceits and frailties.  Elizabeth put it so beautifully.

Then, back on Facebook later today I saw a post by a wonderful writer, Candice Dyer.  She'd posted Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese, which I'd never seen before.  The poem seemed to be to touch a bit on that very indefinable I'm seeking when I look at the world around me, particularly the small parts.

Thank you both Elizabeth and Candice, for today's affirmations and inspirations!  And thank you, world of north Georgia, for having such a beautiful place to exist within.

Photos from today:

Finished this drawing of a hickory nut I'd started last night.

Saw mushrooms pushing up through the gravel when I walked...
... found a cluster of eight poplar leaves on the road as I walked... Fibonacci again.

Photographed a couple of the many beautiful pine cones in the yard.
Became entranced with gravel.
I've gotten the car loaded... this is just a preview of the rest of the stuff I put in afterwards--and more tomorrow!

Later this afternoon I finally took time to sit in one of the rocking chairs on the Peeler Cottage porch where I've sat many times in the past and drawn or painted.  Here's a sketch from several years ago:

And here's what I did today:

 These are in a "tree" book I got from Alice Schlein in late 2011.  It's a handmade book with one of Alice's beautiful photos of trees as the cover.  Most of the drawings and paintings I've done in it are of trees.  I love the book and it's almost full now.  I have some notes from meetings at the back of it and I'll probably gesso over those to be able to use all the pages for images.  Once I use those it will be time to get another of Alice's books!

And now, it's pouring rain here; it's not dark yet, but it's (really) getting there.  I've got to end my postings at this retreat time at Lillian Smith Center with a photo of the red door, of course.  Once again, thank you, Nancy Smith Fichter and Robert Fichter; John Siegal and John Templeton; Craig Amason and Piedmont College, and especially Ms. Lillian E. Smith, for a wonderful retreat center for artists.


  1. I have had a glorious time this morning on the porch enjoying your posts about your stay here. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures and your creative process.

  2. Thank you dear Tommye. This is beautiful and oh so helpful.

  3. Thank you for sharing your pictures and your journey. The red door is always a treat!

  4. I ran across this later in the month, and I'm so delighted to read your words Tommye. You inspire me to reach down into my soul and find my voice as an artist and express it . Thank you, Cathie