Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Empty channels, Slims River, shredded scientific papers, resin & pigment on panel, 33" x 66"
I sit in isolation, looking at a grey sky and high winds, reading apocalyptic news about the pandemic and thinking about the idea of a “a protocol of joy.” In February - or approximately 300 years ago - I was in Miami for an artist-in-residence as part of my MFA program. We worked with Miccosukee artist, activist and ordained minister Houston Cypress, who taught us about approaching life’s adversity through a protocol of joy and finding the shimmer of beauty and impermance in the world.  Riding the airboat across the Everglades on a sunny day watching waterbirds seems impossibly long ago in a far more innocent time. I understood joy and absorbing the shimmering quality of the place in that moment.  It took me back to growing up on the shore of Lake Michigan where I would go to the lakeshore and watch the light play across  the water, listening to the wind and the birds. The light still shimmers on days less grey and threatening than today and I hope my joy will return when the pandemic wanes and our days are not full of stories of suffering and death, incompetence and malevolence.

For now I think shimmering and long for the simple beauty of light on water. Soon the days will warm again and I will take my kayak out on the water and enjoy the shimmer on the Huron River. I love the light on water - so insubstantial and changing - inspiring me to thoughts of peace, escape, meditation on ever-changing impermanence. I’ve long focused on it in my work and sit surrounded by my paintings of it.

Wingaersheek Ripples I, Archival inkjet and encaustic on paper, 16" x 20" framed

Today I think of, reach for, a protocol of joy and it eludes me. I am lucky - secure housing, full pantry. I look out at a garden full of daffodils and  greenhouse and cold-frame sheltering seedlings. I walk in the woods, reveling in the beauty of early spring - the shimmer on the little streams and the bigger river. The shimmer will continue no matter whether we are there to watch it. It makes me think of the land acknowledgements we do to thank those who came before us and how they respected and nurtured the land. Here in southeast Michigan that would be the Anishinabek and Potawatomi peoples. Respecting their lifeways would be a good start on helping the planet recover from our industrial, consumptive voracity. Perhaps the silver (shimmering?) lining of this pandemic is the land having time to heal a bit from our industriousness.

Mississippi Flow, encaustic monotype on kozo, 72" x 17"

I was thinking about how to find joy and beauty in these times when I read a friend’s blog. She is a young mother living with metastatic lung cancer. She wrote that living with cancer and living with this era of Coronavirus have a lot in common:

"Who knows what things will be like in a month or even a week? Think smaller. Think about this day, this hour, maybe even this minute. I am breathing. There is sunshine. I can hear a bird….I like to call my next strategy Grief and Gratitude.

Make sure to let yourself grieve.
….Take time to honor and grieve for it all….

This may be harsh, but living with my diagnosis has taught me that what you have is THIS. Right now. This time IS your time. Don’t wish it away. What you have now might BE the good days. So enjoy what you can of THIS."

I think she is right - find the shimmer in the now, live in the present, acknowledging the past, hoping for the future as we live poised on the edge of I don’t know what.

We are all alone together, encaustic monotype and mixed media on paper, 9" x 9"

Interested in the land acknowledgement I mentioned? Look here. Interested in finding out about whose land you live on? Check out Native Land.