WARNING: This post contains tropical scenes which may be damaging to your well being if you are in the Northern climates affected by the storm. Then again, these scenes may lift your spirits. You decide.
Two months have passed since my last blog post ... and a lot has been happening ...
Usually I set aside sometime to ponder a New Year — to reflect, project. Last year I rang in 2018 at a live Jimmy Buffett concert in Nashville — very far from my norm. This year I rang in 2019 downtown in Paradise South at 9pm. Yes, 9pm. You see "Paradise South" drops the ball at 9pm instead of midnight so everyone is sure to "make it." It was a rather large celebration for a small town and the ball is homemade and dropped via fishing pole by the mayor from a second story balcony. It is not my norm to celebrate in any sort of crowd but the rest of it is keeping in line with my lifestyle from homemade to the fishing pole, all quite unconventional yet attainable. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I'm developing a new norm? A crowd, loud?
The Ball Drop New Year's Eve
It is now January 15, and I am just beginning my reflecting and projecting upon 2018 and 2019 (and it will probably take me days to pull this post together). Whereas 2018 began as a party, 2019 began busy. I spent New Year's Day not recovering from an early 9pm night, but by matting and framing six new art works I painted throughout 2018 for an art show at the community art center. Artists know what work it is to mat and frame if art admirers may not. I am fortunate to have my own mat cutter that I acquired several years ago and that I finally dragged down to Paradise South where the main energy of all my painting is now my focus. In this bit of minimal reflection I realize that 2019 will be a year to carry on aka keep on keeping on what I started in 2018 — paint, plant, cook. The past couple years have been working up to this mantra and now that my life has finally clicked into place, I hope to really enjoy the process of painting, planting, and cooking.
I spent my wedding anniversary, the following day 01/02 (easy for the husband to remember), hanging my art show with the help of two terrific gals. The evening I spent with friends (one of whom helped me hang the show) at a local restaurant in great company. It was a fun, memorable anniversary if not our norm of a intimate dinner at a restaurant or at home cooking. I worked for the next three days at my favorite studio/store (loving my second career!) right up to the art show opening reception in which I appeared by walking across the street at the close of work into the reception. It was well received and I am very grateful for and thankful to those who came to support my artwork and myself — thank you! https://www.facebook.com/157460394588986/posts/779283939073292
The next morning began at 4am with a trip to the Gainesville airport only to arrive, on time, and wait to be checked in to, er bumped from our flight and placed on stand by for another flight to be missed again and to stand by to make a third flight to Atlanta. Then we arrived in Atlanta to the news that there weren't any more flights that day to our final destination, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We took the sky train to a nice hotel and made the best of it knowing we were guaranteed a flight the next morning to Puerto Vallarta.
On the wall in our hotel ...
I haven't been to Puerto Vallarta in a good while — maybe five years running now. My first few trips were due to my parents discovering and making PV their winter stomping ground. My parents are also the reason for this current trip. I want to spend precious time with them. We are all getting older. That evening upon arrival enveloped us from the balcony of our rented condo and we collectively sighed with deep contentment and realized what paradise Puerto Vallarta is cradled between the ocean and mountains. We breathed in rhythm to the sound of the surf and completely relaxed.
I will be here until the end of January (pinch me!) and so far it has been absolutely rejuvenating. Now, I can pause and reflect on the past year which has been life changing and gather my thoughts. Once again, I reflect on how selling our big house up North and becoming FL residents has allowed me to get on with life! Obstacles have been removed. It is somewhat of a shock that the very thing I thought so important to me — the house and Violet Fern garden — was the very thing that was in my way and weighing me down.
Previous visits to Puerto Vallarta inspired several paintings especially when I visited the botanical gardens.
Older paintings inspired by previous trips to Vallarta: Jardin Botanico Vallarta Study I & II, A Las Luz de las Velas
This painting, although recently painted just this past summer was also inspired by my previous trip to Jardin Botanico Vallarta years ago.
The Orchid House, a recent painting
This visit is no different! I see inspiration everywhere and I am excited to paint more botanicals. Because I packed so haphazardly I don't have any painting supplies or even a sketchbook — arrrgh! What I do have is the ever present phone to record pictures of what inspires me. I will be thrilled to get back to painting when we return to Paradise South and also curious to see what paintings develop five years later. Sort of like the aging trend on Facebook going on now, I will compare paintings then with the new paintings now. I also want to explore painting botanicals with acrylics as well as watercolor.
Inspiration is everywhere!
Oh yes, I would like this to be my new norm! Starting the year off with a pause and rejuvenating in beautiful Puerto Vallarta. I can project that this will be a year I am kinder to my body and will concentrate on better health and fitness like so many of us. I need to drop some weight — that's what is weighing me down now. Mornings I have been going down to the marina for gentle yoga 50+ classes and I am becoming somewhat addicted! I am amazed how much mobility I have lost and hope to get back.
I also love the food here, of course, being the foodie that I am. I consume food but food also consumes me. I hope to turn my constant cravings to more whole plant-based foods and not addicting process foods. I love this area where we can walk to the marina and pick from the many restaurants. I am finding that there are many more vegetarian and vegan options than I remember. One of my favorite places for brunch after yoga class is The Yogi Bar. They also offer yoga classes but I haven't worked up to their level yet — maybe next year.
Unfortunately, I can't just eat out for every meal so I am also cooking: beans for less than a dollar, chopping fruit, homemade pico de galo, and guacamole all fresh. I purchase warm corn tortillas out of a cooler (!!!) at the commercial (grocery store) after a good 30 minute walk there. We cab it back and unload our groceries into available shopping carts at the condo and wheel it right into our kitchen! The tortilla chips are not coated in granular flavor enhancers that mess with your brain and taste buds. They are simply tortilla chips. I feel I am in detox and I'm feeling good! Tequila has been my beverage of choice. No wine, no gin martinis or tonics. Just lots and lots of tequila — straight, with club soda and lime, margaritas, palomas ... hmmm, maybe that's why I'm feeling so good!
Did you catch that I wrote "maybe next year?" We have already reserved our spot in beautiful Puerto Vallarta for next January 2020. You kinda have to if you want to stay near the marina. You can bet next year I will have painting supplies! If this is carrying on, well then let me carry on! I think 2019 will be another great year and I wish you the same.
So, it's here, finally. That elusive balance I've struggled to achieve for the past few years. I feel I have arrived. I'm there!
I find myself singing The Who ...
don don don don don don ...
And freedom tastes of reality
I had the guts to leave the temple! I cannot explain the sense of release in letting the big house and garden go. Something I felt so entwined and entangled in, and have untangled, dropped, and walked away from. The first weeks full time at the cabin in the woods were bliss! A simple 12x12 foot space without electric power, septic, tv/internet ... and it was bliss! It was also a test run to see if my husband and I could spend at least four months living there next summer. We have come to the conclusion we CAN, and not only that, but look forward to it!
Off the grid living is pretty convenient, really, with solar panels for power to charge the phones and tool batteries, etc. We have a two burner propane cook top, a propane on-demand water heater, propane heater for chilly days/nights, and a compost toilet from Nature's Head. We have our laundry serviced as in drop off and pick up (thanks Nicole!) — nope, not terrible at all. We haul water in and store it in a 35 gallon holding tank for dishes and showers (outdoors) which, honestly, IS a chore and something we will work on changing next summer. A solar powered pump runs the water through the water heater. We converted our chest freezer into a solar-powered refrigerator with the use of a special thermostat regulator (whaaa?). The chest freezer is better insulated and opens from the top so is much more efficient than a refrigerator. It works quite well but we still buy ice for cocktails which is something we need to figure out because I am a ritual believer in happy hour and ice is a good 40 minutes away round trip. A bag of ice in a good cooler lasts a couple of days if it's not terribly hot.
Our solar "refrigerator" on the porch aka "The Green Room."
Our cabin kitchen as viewed from the bed in the "bedroom."
Our cabin was built to last by us with minimal maintenance in mind, a refreshing change from the 100 plus year old house we left behind. The garden will be a raised bed, standing height (see plans here), for veggies and a SMALL area of flowering perennials that will be easy to tend. If I'm repeating myself it's because I believe in what we say comes true!
I have so much time! Time to focus on myself, my health, painting, kayaking. Such change! I completed three paintings before we left for our winter digs AND completed one I began in 2017. Before, I would be lucky to complete three paintings in a year! Best of all, there aren't any onlookers! No one is there to watch or hear what I am doing aside from the deer, porcupines, raccoons, birds ... it is so liberating!
Fast forward travel South ... Now, we are at our little cabana, as I like to call it, in Florida's Nature Coast. It is a little larger than 144 square feet at a whopping 660. We will spend time here through May(!), and I'm getting good and settled in. There's been a lot of packing, moving, shuffling, sorting, storing these past couple years ... I'm ready for things to be in their place, a bit of routine and a little fun! We have neighbors, but it's a different, completely laid back pace. They don't give a hoot what I, nor anyone else, does. I walk everywhere because the weather, and folks, are usually pleasant.
The main living area of our little cabana - really it's all one needs. We actually have a separate bedroom off to the left.
The garden is a bit of work but fun ~ tropical vibes ~ believe me, I've learned not to over extend. It is manageable. Nature surrounds, after all it is the Nature Coast, so I don't feel the need to create a forest in my backyard which I think it what I was subconsciously attempting to do at the old house. The veggies are grown at the community garden and that helps. The fruit trees planted by the previous owner, which I intended to try to keep alive and thriving, are going to be replaced as they decline (from lack of special treatment) because I am a habitat/wildlife gardener and the trees are not natural in this environment. They require fertilizer and water and extra care. I've already replaced two, one already dead before me, with native trees to this environment; a live oak and a redbud. The live oak looks great! The redbud looks as if it is struggling a bit and I believe it is because our irrigation system was not working for much of the summer. Luckily there was ample rain. I will make sure to water it while I'm here until it gets established. I have other native trees in mind, too, such as Yaupon Holly and Wax Myrtle. Eventually I will replace the irrigation system with a soaker hose system like the one I placed in the back of our property from Gardeners Supply ~ so easy! Most importantly, did I mention that I am in no rush to "finish" the garden? It is a perpetual work in progress. Pictures to come!
So here I am, living the dream. The dream that took quite a few years to whittle down to, which sounds ironic because usually one builds up to a dream. I've downsized to a dream. Trading in the big house for two smaller ones, to live in only during the best of weather. It is like good design — pairing down to only the finer essentials.
I have an art show coming up in January at the local art center! I've already set up my work space so I can create some much needed new work for the show "Flora, Fauna, Fins & Feathers" which I've somewhat incorporated into my newly updated web site as you might have noticed.
My little corner studio space. Not the luxurious dedicated whole room, but quite comfortable and efficient.
I'll be painting and gardening as usual but with much more presence and focus. I'll have time to play creatively, truly enjoy the earth, er, sand, and being outdoors. I'll have time to work on my health and wellth. I try my best to eat and live Vegan. I enjoy preparing and cooking plant-based foods. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about a Vegan lifestyle or plant-based eating ( ; by the way unless, of course, if you ask where I get my protein from.
Lunch! Spiralized carrot and purple cabbage salad with hemp seeds, golden raisins, cashews and tahini lemon dressing with a side of olive bread with sunflower artichoke spread purchased from the Hendersonville co-op on our travels.
The last time I wrote to "ya'll" was at the end of February! (Practicing my Florida there.) The last coloring page I offered was in May (although I do have a new one in the works). The last time I painted? I'm not even sure because it's been so long! All I can say is this is my new norm because I got my JOMO working. No, that is not a typo (Muddy). JOMO is not particularly a new coin of phrase but for those of you unfamiliar, JOMO is the Joy Of Missing Out. There's the Fear Of Missing Out — FOMO — and then there's JOMO. I hope to step back from all social hype (because I don't suffer from FOMO), and retreat to the woods to find my JOMO.
What do I hope to find? Freedom. A new, lighter tread. Creativity without walls or judgement. My inner world. Inspiration in nature. New perspective. Vision. New connections to the astral plane ...
My paints are packed in a box, more of a tote. They usually are and I bring this tote with me back and forth, North and South, and each time I used to plein air paint. The tote sits at camp at the ready. I am waiting on a new, portable easel that weighs in at 4 something pounds but that can fold flat so I can work in watercolor, but I also want to experiment more with acrylics and oil pastels. The easel will provide me with a surface to paint on that can be moved out of the way which is very much a component of small space living.
The catalyst spurring my retreat is selling the house and along with it, the Violet Fern Garden. If you're local and you visited me over Memorial Day weekend you may have heard me exclaim that the house/garden were sold already. And it was right up to when the financial details fell apart. But here we are again and it looks like the financial details, and all other details, are staying together until mid August when the whole lot of it becomes officially "no longer mine." When that happens I hand over the keys and move into the woods never to be seen again ... well, almost. Internet is limited. Charging phones and computers will use precious solar resources. A good book, "nature sitting", meditating with mind and brush will be much less taxing. And the only thing I want to connect to is my paint brush and yoga mat for at least four weeks time. I relish the idea of retreating for awhile and finding my way.
This is where I will retreat to, to paint and find my way back into art and yoga.
I will miss the (fancy) house with its beautifully carved staircase and of course, the Violet Fern Garden. The house, I didn't bring to potential, in fact often neglected, and it needs a few things that her new owner will give to her including warmth in winter and a new roof.
But I take comfort in the fact that the garden is in her glory. She is all grown up and wild and in her very own radiating element without any meddling on my part. She doesn't need — to be divided, thinned, weeded, poked, prodded, reshingled, stripped, painted, cleaned — she just is.
All the critters who live among her agree, the garden isn't in need of anything. I disappear for days at a time and you know what? I don't matter. Everything grows and carries on and then a few of the critters say wait a minute, where have you been, you are the peanut dispenser! Peanuts now, please!? Yes, it might be nice to weed a pathway or prune a few things here and there to please the human illusion of control ... My neighbors think so, as evidenced by discarded grapevines thrown at me over the fence, but you know what? I won't have neighbors for very much longer. Besides, any amount of control excised will be inevitably swallowed up by growth.
Yes, the Violet Fern may creep out of bounds a bit and not look very suburban or kept, but neither do I, and regardlessly she still teaches me. It is this wild side I always appreciate and embrace because that's who I am and what makes me feel connected in the universe. I don't mind giving up control and allowing a few rough edges to fray here and there. I rather enjoy watching the fray with curiosity to see where it goes and what I may learn. I almost feel badly I rooted the Violet Fern here in the center of conformity and confinement. But in her being here, she offers a special respite to those who seek abandonment.
Maybe her new keeper will box her in or even mow her down but it's comforting for me to know the Violet Fern grows freely to her wildest potential before I leave. And it's comforting to know that the new owner will tend to the beautiful house. And it's especially comforting to know that I can walk away and totally miss out.
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