Saturday, March 23, 2013

Praying for warmth and a thank you to my father...

As is the rest of the world, apparently, our early spring is proving very winter-like. I can't believe how cold it is. I think it is colder now than it was in January. We don't have snow here, but the wind is absolutely brutal. I will be so, so glad when the warmer weather arrives. My joints are almost stinging. I know, why would anyone with arthritis live in northwest Scotland? Well, truth is, I am going to hurt wherever I am, so I might as well be where I want to be. I do think that maybe Chris and I should put aside some money for next year so we can go to Spain or one of the Greek islands in March. I would love to feel the warmth on my skin, burying deep until it hits the very bones themselves. That would be lovely.

Five years ago next week, my father died. I miss him terribly and find that while the pain is a little less with each passing year, my missing him does not diminish. When I am with my granddaughter, it is then that I miss him most. I wish he could have known her. Her middle name is his - Robbins - an unusual name. But he was one of a kind.

There are many things I inherited from my father. I have his sense of wonder, I have his love of education, and I have a fraction of his artistic skills. My father was an amazing artist. His favourite media were pen and ink (handy for someone who is colourblind) and watercolours (my mother often helped him mix the greens so they were the right shade for what he was painting). He also made the most amazing collages. He was just so talented. And he was humble. When he died, the kind folks who organised the reception in the church hall after the service displayed his art work. It was quite surprising the number of people who never realised the depth of his talent. He rarely talked about it to anyone. After he retired, he actually made some extra money doing beautiful pen and inks for a local B&B and painted a beautiful ink and watercolour wash painting of a memorial garden for a friend. But he remained modest about his great gift.

One thing, in terms of artistic skills, that I inherited was spacial awareness. My mother said that when they moved to the house that is now on the market, having moved from an old Victorian house that was, as I used to say, four broken hips waiting to happen, Dad knew exactly where everything would fit. And it did! Somehow he imagined a way to get the furniture from a three-story Victorian into a one-story bungalow. But, I am not completely surprised. I inherited that same ability from Dad. In my case, it is beneficial to my art.

Here's an example of what I am talking about. When I was in fifth grade, we had a Valentine's Day party. One of the games was to go to the blackboard and, while blindfolded, draw a heart. Mine came out perfectly and I won the game. There were shouts of 'cheat' from amongst my classmates. What they didn't understand is that I had the ability to trace the shape in my mind and place the chalk exactly where it needed to be. First, I drew one half of the heart. Then, after removing my hand from the board, I placed the chalk back at the top of the heart and drew the second half. Didn't seem like a big deal to me, but that is because it was something I could always do.

Despite having lived with this gift from my father for so long, it still amazes me. I can cut lengths of wire that are exactly the same length without measuring. I can look at a ruler and then cut a piece of wire the exact length I wish without having to use the ruler. It still surprises me. So, thank you, Dad, for that ability to know how things fit, how they relate to each other, and how to determine lengths by simply 'eyeballing' them. It has proved a very cherished gift indeed.

The other thing I inherited from my father is unashamed sentimentality. That is why I cry so easily at things that touch me or make me sad. Dad, I still cry for you, but now they are more tears of joy at remembering you and missing rather than tears of sadness.

Oh, I can't omit a big thank you to my mother as well. From her, I have inherited what I call the Dorian Grey gene. She is 86 and has hardly any noticeable grey hair and has spent most of her life with people swearing she is far younger than she is. I have had the great good fortune to have inherited that as well. (Although I can feel every single one of my 57 years!)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sadness and remembering life's blessings...

Yesterday we learned of the unexpected and sudden death of a friend. I wonder why it takes such news for us to realise that we must cherish everything and everyone we love? It shouldn't be the case, and I think Chris and I do a fairly good job of appreciating what we have. Still, it is always a shock to learn of someone relatively young passing away. We were so saddened to hear the news but are comforted to know the community here will be there for his family in the days, months and years to come.

After we heard the news, and after tears were shed, we decided the best way to bring a sense of peace and comfort would be to take a drive out to wonder at the beauty of the world around us. We took a drive we hadn't taken before, crossing to the other side of Little Loch Broom to the single track road that continues for 8 miles before coming to an and at a tiny village called Badrallach. After passing through a beautiful lowland area, complete with a manor house and ancient and twisting trees, the road climbed up and up, opening to barren land dotted with sheep, gorse, rocks and heather. The view across to the hill called An Talleach and down to the loch was breathtaking. The sun broke through the clouds here and there, creating shafts of light on the hills and water. As we entered the village, a border collie stood high on a rise by the side of the road, as if to greet us. His eyes were pale blue and his coat glossy and clean. We drove to the end of the road where a path becomes available for hikers to go an additional 8km out on the peninsula that juts into the sea. I am sure Chris and his children will take advantage of this path when they visit. I can only imagine how lovely the views will be from farther out. From there, no doubt The Minch, Skye, the Outer Hebrides and the Summer Isles will be visible. Despite our remaining sadness over our friend's untimely death, the drive cleared the mental cobwebs and reminded us why we love it here so very much.

The view across Little Loch Broom from the high road to Badrallach
We returned home refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks ahead of us. For me, that meant four hours at the table creating a necklace for inclusion in a group headed to a gallery in Inverness. Today will be more of the same.

This coming week we will be heading down to Fife and Edinburgh. We will be staying in Kirkcaldy on Monday night, spending time with Caroline, Andy and Catherine. Then on Tuesday, we will all pile into the car and head to Edinburgh to meet our darling Kelly and her wife Mattie for lunch. Kelly is one of my Mary Baldwin 'daughters' and not only Caroline's 'sister' but Catherine's godmother. We haven't met Mattie before and are anxious to meet her. They were married last year in New York City - how we wish we could have been there. Back to Kirkcaldy for Tuesday night and then the drive back to the Highlands on Wednesday.

The weeks beyond are full of markets and gallery and shop openings as Easter approaches and the area comes alive again in anticipation of the spring's and summer's visitors. We are looking forward to the warmer and longer days.