I have finally finished the oil painting that I have been working on for the past six months. It is a large canvas…24 X 30.
The vision for this work began as a challenge to myself. I wanted to paint a thunderstorm over the Badlands. My goals were to create distance; capture the back glow of light in a storm and the roughness of the Badlands terrain; and to improve my drawing skills by including animals….Hereford cattle.
The biggest challenge of this painting was the sky. I just could not get it right. Then, I realized I was painting a Minnesota sky. The clouds were too close. Once, I got that right, the painting started to work.
My goal with the cattle was to paint a very strong bull lovingly guarding his family.
2016 Painting of St. Genevieve Church in Centerville, MN.
For weeks and weeks I have painted and repainted the sky on the same canvas.
Whenever I start a painting I have the exact image in my mind. I can actually see it on the white canvas. As an artist, my job is to make the image appear for others to see.
I like painting landscapes especially ones with vivid skies. I have always had a fascination with clouds. I remember spending many hours as a small child, resting on the lawn just watching them change shapes. Quietly watching clouds on a calm summer’s day is a very peaceful and relaxing activity, which I highly recommend.
For me the peace of clouds disappeared in an instant when I was about eleven-years-old. Cloud watching changed forever on a stormy day while traveling in a car on Highway 12 just east of Litchfield, Minnesota. At the precise moment we were along side a huge metal factory, a tornado dropped out of the sky and shredded the big building. Huge pieces of metal ripped through the air and rained down all around our car. The destructive power of that small tornado was horrible, yet so very awesome. From that moment on, I had a very healthy appreciation for power, especially power that originates in the heavens.
After experiencing that tornado up close, instead of looking for the peace in the clouds I looked to find evidence of their power. It is exhilarating to stand in an great empty field and watch a thunderstorm explode on the western horizon and come barreling at you.
It was even more exciting to stare down a menacing mesocyclone astride my Arabian mare. Animals are naturally much better forecaster’s of weather that humans. My mare could sense stormy weather hours before it developed. Her restlessness and whinnying told me it was time to saddle up. Down to the edge of farm we’d gallop and wait for nature’s big show.
Radiant white clouds billowing upwards with great speed and purpose announced that the guest we were waiting for so impatiently was on its way. Just as the first gust of wind rushed up to make our acquaintance, I would pivot my mare and give her, her head and we’d race the storm home.
It was all speed, wind, water and…..power. Intoxicating!
I like power. I love the power of storms.
So, my goal for this canvas was to paint a beautiful powerful mesocyclone with all of its whirl and swirl. No matter how many skies I painted none of them seemed to meet the vision of my mind’s eye.
Since, I don’t tend to give up, I had to just keep trying and trying to succeed. Becoming more and more frustrated with a process that is usually as easy for me as falling off a wet horse.
Last week a very good friend of mine, who knows me extremely well, called to say hello. I told her about my canvas of perpetual repainting and how frustrated I was not being able to produce the image I wanted. I explained to her that my goal was to capture the winds and the beauty of a great storm, but I wanted it to be a friendly storm.
As always she listened to my concerns very carefully and then responded, “So, you want all of the power without any of the destruction.”
What is on my mind today is an expensive canvas that Doug bought for me this weekend. I have been oil painting on el cheapo student quality canvas for months, and, well, this canvas is the big league.
I am going to have to apply myself. Which always reminds me of the first time that anyone saw my potential and forced me to apply myself. I should have been the poster child for world class under achievers. Somehow I managed to scholastically skate through school never being challenged by a teacher to work up to “my” potential until a fateful day in college.
This momentous occasion for self-reflection occurred over a paper I submitted to a professor. He gave me an F. Before the shock of receiving a failing grade had even fully penetrated my consciousness, the old guy made all of the students in that class read their papers out loud.
After the shaming had been completed, I vigorously protested my grade by pointing out very specifically that my paper was a hell of a lot better than the blonde girl’s! Calmly the professor walked over to me. Looked me right in the eyes and responded that, yes, my paper was better than hers. For her that was A work. For me, it was F work. As she sat there and beamed with pride, he concluded my very public critique by adding that in the future it might help if I did not watch television while writing papers for him. That is, if I planned to pass his course.
It was the only F, I had ever received! Oh, the outrage! A publicly outed F and being beaten in any fashion by a blonde! Especially, a blonde that had no idea she had just been highly insulted.
I knew two things at that moment: that old professor was a lot sharper mentally than he dressed, or than I gave him credit for; and, if he wanted an A paper, an A paper is exactly what that man was going to get.
I applied myself writing the next week’s paper. I received an A+ and eventually aced his course. He ended up being one of the professors that I asked to write a recommendation for me to be included in my college placement credentials. I never read any of my college placement credential recommendations for over ten years after I graduated. When I finally asked for a copy to review, it surprised me that he wrote about that paper. It amazed me to know that the A+ he gave me on that paper was the only A+ he had given out that entire year.
Yes, expensive canvases always pressure me. They must filled with some fantastic topic excellently executed, but for some reason…I just want to paint Hereford bulls fighting in a mesocyclone.
Moral of story: Don’t judge a professor by his obvious lack of ownership or ability to use a clothes iron when he has the power to really mess up your grade point average.
The beauty of this autumn’s leaves was positively inspiring. On our walks around the lake by our home there were times when I felt that all of nature’s colors were illuminated by a joy and peace that could only be God given.
As usual the colored leaf season in our state has passed quickly. Those beautiful leaves, of a week ago, now lay on the ground. The ones in our yard have already been raked, and are now a blank of warm protection covering next year’s berry plants and flower bulbs.
Yes, the trees have begun their winter rest. Their bare arms and fingers filtering the peach, pink and golden morning light into a lacy dance as they, just like all of the rest of us, await the impending cold and snow.
This is the reason why my blogs have be few and far between lately. I have been doing oil paintings for my friends who have helped me battle the blood cancer Multiple Myeloma and a broken spine for the past four years.
This oil painting is for my friend Pat. She did not know me at all when she volunteered to come to my house for eight hours a day, one day a week to take care of me so that my husband could continue to work. She heard about my situation at church and just called me and said she was coming. That four years ago.
This woman not only helped me with very personal daily tasks when I was too weak and in pain to do them myself. But, she actually used to shave my legs when I couldn’t reach them, so that I could feel well groomed.
Pat is a treasure, as is Susie, Mary, Janis, Sylvia, Bette, Lynn, Jennifer, Mary L. and Jean. These women practiced their Christian faith by taking care of what Jesus would call “one the least of mine.” They will forever be my best friends.
This painting is titled, “Morning Glory.” Pat is a very experienced and excellent gardener and she asked for a painting of peonies. I wanted to paint an image of peace that included some of Pat’s favorites…flowers, walking outdoors in the woods, hummingbirds and a peony in a water bowl.
I just finished this oil painting yesterday, of St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Centerville, MN. The painting is titled, “The Calm After the Storm.”
I walk this path almost everyday. Round trip to the church and back is about two miles. Good exercise, great view. There is always something scenic to look at along this trail such as God painting storms and sunsets on the sky against the back drop of Centerville Lake, Bald Eagles soaring and fishing and wild flowers.
A couple of years ago when I was still pushing my walker, my helpers would take me out walking on this path. That spring the wild flowers were especially outstanding and looked like a carpet of pure color. My friend Janis would try to figure out the names of the wild flowers. My friend Pat, the avid gardener, usually knew them. Mary would just enjoy them.
I will never forget what getting outside to see those wild flowers meant to me during that spring of challenges. I had been surrounded by the ugly of pain and cancer for so long. Even when it hurt like heck to walk, getting outside after being house and bed bound for years and being greeted by the beautiful colors of those wild flowers felt like heaven to me.
My helpers kept me on the path to recovery by getting me to that wild flower bordered path leading to the old church. They brought beauty back into my world and I will always be eternally grateful to them…Mary was Monday; Sylvia, Tuesday; Janis took over Wednesdays for Jean; and Pat was Thursdays.
Each of these women, and many other volunteers, helped me every day over the almost four years that I have fought Multiple Myeloma. They practiced their Christian faith and demonstrated their love of Christ Jesus by caring for me in kindness, patience, humor and love. They walk the narrow path.
This painting was made as a gift for my neighbor Susie, who is also was one of my helpers. She is Fridays. Susie is also the administrator for the church in the painting. I bet she will find a good home for it.
Psalm 121 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”
Sometimes it is hard to read old posts on my blog. This zucchini bread recipe is one of those posts. When I wrote it in August of 2014, I had just finished several rounds of intense chemotherapy for my multiple myeloma and was preparing to begin the stem cell transplant process.
I had already been greatly blessed in that my myeloma is very reactive to chemotherapy. However at that time I was still using a walker and confined to sleeping in a hospital bed in my living room, which I had been already been in for almost two years due to a incredible amount of bad pain from all of the compression fractures in my spine and all of the atrophied muscles from being in casts and braces.
Where I spent almost two years of my life.
Add to that the side effects of the chemo including a lot of nausea and intense bone pain throughout my body from the targeted cancer cells. I had to be so very careful when I got sick as the very act of vomiting could cause additional bone breakage due to my bones being so brittle and weak from my cancer. Then, too, I had been on very strong steroids for months to help kill off the cancer cells, but as a consequence I had sunk into a rather miserable and defeating depression.
My husband sleeping on the couch to help me when I got sick in the night. Then, he would get up and go to work the next day when my helpers came to be with me.
It was right about that time that I needed to decide if I wanted to do the transplant and take one more round of even stronger chemo, guaranteed to make me really sick, before the transplant process. And, I had just been informed that I still had myeloma cells in my bone marrow biopsies.
When I read this old blog post this morning, it amazed me how positive it was knowing how sick and precarious my health and options were at the time I penned it. In fact, during my interview at the University to see if I was eligible for transplant, I actually asked the doctor in charge of accepting me into their program if this procedure was extending my life or my suffering and dying.
This picture was taken after my last intense round of chemo and while my stem cells were being collected in the machine behind my husband. And, we are smiling!
I was drowning in pain– emotional, mental and physical–and did not want to pointlessly extend my suffering or the inevitable. I will never forget the doctor, during that long interview, looking me in the eyes and saying, “Patricia, you took the radiation for your thyroid cancer that had already spread to two lymph nodes over 25 years ago and you are still here talking to me today.” To be honest, that was the only part of that long meeting that passed through the clouds of depression and entered my chemo mangled brain.
When I heard those words, I went from “I can’t do this anymore” to “Ok, I will do this for my husband, but I will do this.” I not only decided to do the transplant, but took the stronger round of chemo too.
Sitting up in body cast, watercolor painting, not allowed to lift elbows off of the table.
Pushing my walker on a hiking trail at William O’Brien State Park
Sitting up in my body cast watercolor painting. Note how the elbows are firmly on the table. My back was not strong enough to the support the weigh of my own arms. Then, I would have my husband take me to parks where I would push my walker on hiking trails. These were just a few of the activities I did to get stronger for my transplant.
Once I make a decision, I stay the course come hell or high water. I am dependable like that. So, since I had decided to fight on some more, I figured that I was in the same position as one of my favorite Civil War General’s who believed that you should never enter a battle with one hand tied behind your back. No war has ever been won with half measures or without the grace of God…not even a war with cancer.
Post transplant with my World War II buddy El Ewert and I sporting matching hairdos.
This morning as I remembered what my life was like two years ago, the Bible verse, “Where does my strength come from? It comes from the Lord” drifted through my head. There were many times during that summer, fall and winter that God carried me. For during those dark times, I was given a peace and strength, that is still with me today, that is impossible to explain. I have felt the grace of God and it is wonderful.
Current picture of me…cancer free.
The almighty God must still have a use for me for here I am, on this beautiful summer morning healthy, happy and baking. Yes, the Lord was my strength through all of that suffering and my husband was my support. This morning free of walker, pain and cancer, I will joyfully give the Lord my praise and thanksgiving and my husband zucchini bread.
Normally this time of year I would be processing lots of zucchini picked from my garden to put into the freezer to make breads, muffins and cakes during the winter months and for the holidays, but these past two years have been anything but “normal”.
It will be two years ago in November that I started breaking ribs and getting compression fractures in my back from a case of multiple myeloma. Within the first six months, I went from being the very active and able-bodied press secretary to Minnesota’s Secretary of State, grandmother, mother and wife with lots of hobbies and interests to being in a nursing home on heavy pain medication unable to walk or even brush my teeth myself.
During this time of physical, emotional and mental challenge, I have done my best to keep positive and that means keeping busy. Many of my…