My Creative Journey

 

 

Posted on 07/03/2018 at 11:00am

My recent trip to Peru was enlightening in so many ways. My innate fear of such a remote area
of the world was indeed overcome. Could intense sunlight and inherited DNA be what makes these Andean people have such a talent with color? Their abilities are everywhere, even in the poorest villages. Colorful fabrics woven on primitive looms by native women sitting outdoors on the ground and working throughout the highlands expressed so much beauty in such an arid, high desert environment. Skills of intricate designs in weaving by using natural dyes and yarns have been passed down for centuries at this extreme elevation of 12,000 ft.

 

 

The children wear their mother’s colorful handiwork. Woven one-of-kind hats with colorful pompoms attached, bright ponchos, leggings, and sweaters, that are mostly made from the wool of the Alpaca an animal that also makes this high desert their home. They can also sometimes be seen wearing special hats and sweaters made just for them.

When death comes, local people wrap their loved ones for burial in their finest cloth, the culmination of a life of connection with textiles. From an infant’s first breath to her last, beautiful textiles provide not only warmth, love and consolation but also a tangible sacred knowledge that they connect to a strong tradition of proud people stretching back for centuries.

 

 

 

In the smallest villages, round beautiful faces smile easily, and the women wear a variety of strange hats, some tall, some rather flat but highly decorated, and all were very different. I wondered if wearing them was dependent upon the village or life status, Many of the indigenous Andean women wear a very thick layer of skirts, up to 10 at a time. I was told that when the one underneath gets dirty, she removes and cleans it, and puts it on top of the others. They simply squat to urinate, no need looking for a bathroom. I was amazed when native women told me that when babies are born in her village in the Highlands of Peru, they are not allowed to see the sun for the first 5 months of life. She asked me if I would like to see her baby, and she untied the knot at her neck and nestled inside at the bottom of the colorful wrap on her back was her comfortable sleeping infant. She told me the child was almost 5 months old and will be allowed to be exposed to the sunlight in another week or so. The sunlight in the highlands is unbelievably bright. There is very little shade, and although it was the beginning of their winter when we were there, the sun was very hot during the day but the air was low humidity, comfortable and cool, it would warm to about 60 degrees, and at night the temperature was in the 30’s.

The city of Cusco is a bustling village steeped in history that goes back further than the Inca and sadly polluted with old buses spewing toxic gases as they roar up and down the steep, remote mountainous area in this city of about 500,000 residents. Religion is an emotional, deeply sacred thing to them. Although they are Catholic they still hold ancient pagan-like manifestations with idols and rituals from times long before the Spanish arrived. Arriving during one of their most important festivals, I watched as parades of bands, and many types of floats with towering, very heavy decorated religious manikins and dressed-up statues were carried through the streets by rows of men in colorful dress shirts, swaying back in forth in a dancing motion and sweating profusely as they walked in unison for hours around the plaza.

Painting in the highlands was a challenge but I managed to paint two Plein air

“Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″

paintings while there. One day when most of the streets were closed for the festival, I unfolded my stool on a street where not too many people were walking and set up to do a painting. I worked quickly, as I always do, trying to ignore the crowd that began to form around me. It was the most people I have ever had surrounding me while I worked. I glanced around once or twice to smile at them and they would smile wide and nod affirmatively, most of them staying to watch me the entire time I painted. Their kind encouragement kept me going and gave me an incredible rush of excitement.

 

Another plein air painting was completed on the street from the entrance to the hotel I was staying. A native woman was setting up her daily meal to be served to passerby’s in a doorway on a busy Cusco street. I was amazed when a crowd soon formed to purchase and eat her meal while standing near her. Within an hour, her food buckets were empty and she was done for the day. I was lucky to capture her. A moment in time, in a changing world.

 

“Everyday Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″

 

 


 

Posted on 11/30/2017 at 4:00pm

Dear Artist friends, This story is for you, I know that you too have stories about when you decided to be an artist. This is mine. Both my father and my mother painted. Once they painted the same orchid from their wedding bouquet, and those amazingly beautiful but quite different oil paintings still hang in my Dad’s home. Five children caused their lives to take a different path. My cousin told me not long ago, that he remembered something my father said when I was still a little child after he asked me a dreaded question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I said, “An artist!” He hollered back, very mad at me, “No! You can not be an artist!”
It did not work. I became an artist. As an early artistic genius, it was very difficult to push back the fear of failure after being told that I was a failure from the beginning by my educators and my father. Undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, as well as being left-handed did not help.
I studied the master’s paintings from art books and copied paintings to imitate their strokes in my early years. Composition and perspective came easy in my own work. Color-mixing was a no-brainer. Where to go with my prolific ability was, and still is, an ongoing challenge.

Then: Art-Shows, Museums, Art-Fairs, Fine Art Auctions, Competitions, and brick and mortar Art Galleries.

Now: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Artwork Archive, American Artwork, and many more new ones every day.

I have done them all and still work hard every day just trying to keep up with it all. I think I now understand why my Dad was angry and afraid for me. ‘Artist’ is something you become, and then you are for a lifetime, there was no turning back and I think he understood more than me the sacrifices I would need to make.

As an artist, I wonder if you too have had the insecurities I have had of wondering if you have chosen this career, or if it chose you. Hang in there. It can be one of the very best, hardest, but most rewarding jobs out there.

 

“Dusk in Venice”  Oil on Linen  2017 18″x30″

 


 

Posted on 06/17/2017 at 4:18pm

Milkweed Blooming

A single butterfly with faded, worn-looking wings fluttered in front of me as I took my morning nature walk on a cool, misty-morning early this spring. I watched as it landed on one of the newly emerging 4 inch tall, thick, young shoots of milkweed plants beginning to grow. Looking closely I was shocked to see it was a Monarch Butterfly, but there was no bright, orange-golden glow that glistens in the sun on the velvety surface that I had always noticed on their delicate wings. It had somehow faded to a dull, cloudy, almost colorless shade of grey.

I watched mesmerized for several minutes after I recognized what she was, another creature that is facing undeniable changes in their environment. Shocked at her sad-looking condition, I stood quietly as she ignored my presence and fluttered directly to one of the small newly emerging milkweed plants, lighted upon one of its perfectly formed, blueish-green, thick leaves for a few brief seconds, then continued to another freshly emerging plant just like it, ignoring all the other spring weeds and grasses growing everywhere alongside the path where I was walking. She was going from one to the next of the small, non-blooming young milkweed plants. I was mesmerized.

What was she doing? Why was this faded, old-looking Monarch Butterfly going to each one of these very young plants and just touching each of them? The next day I walked back to the wild garden I have created once again on an acre of land by mowing narrow paths through portions of it, and there she was again, the only butterfly anywhere around doing the exact same thing she was doing the day before. I could only guess what she was doing, but it seemed very necessary to her.

Will she be carrying location information to her species, that there are healthy, wild, milkweed plants growing here? The next day on my return to the garden, she was no longer there, and I have not seen another Monarch Butterfly in the past few months since that early spring day. Summer is already heating up in Tennessee. The milkweed plants growing in my yard that the old Monarch Butterfly carefully touched, are now several feet tall and starting to get their lush fragrant blooms. I wonder if those sturdy young shoots could feel her delicate legs touching each of them as they were beginning to grow. Now, I am here painting these wonderful plants and I can feel their power as they stand tall next to me.

I look forward to seeing all the beautiful, delicate young butterflies as they flutter past me going through my wild garden of native plants later this summer. I realize the wildlife in our world is so threatened by our ignorance. I have heard that milkweed is very important to the life-cycle of Monarch Butterflies. We mow thousands of acres into lawns, to create perfect carpets of green. We spray and pull the weeds that will continue to limit nature’s diversity, and these wonderful living creations have all but disappeared from much of the landscape. I did not plant these milkweed plants. They simply started growing when I stopped mowing part of the yard. I hope she went to tell other Monarch Butterflies that these healthy plants are growing here, and I wish I could tell her, “I will always let the milkweed plants grow for you and your species.”

“Milkweed” 10″x10″ Oil on linen Copyright 2017

 


 

Posted on 09/30/2016 at 12:50pm
Sharon Rusch Shaver

Sharon Rusch Shaver

We talked all summer about taking out our small skiff for an evening ride just before the sunset, but it seems like we always have too much to do these days. Our old ’77 Ford truck, loaded with the little boat called the “Andrea Dory” and all the things we thought we needed, was waiting patiently on the hillside.

Old ’77 Ford Truck and the Andrea Dory

Never caring much for fast, noisy boats on open water, we have always enjoyed a leisurely ride on calm rivers and creeks with nothing but a battery-powered trolling motor to propel us silently along. One day we looked at each other and at that little boat and knew that it was finally a perfect evening to go.

The truck ride to the boat entry is located a short drive down a beautiful, tree-lined road, one of the very few still standing tall in this area of middle Tennessee. Our guiding mascot at the front of the boat watching intently was my sweet little Maltese, Sunshine, who was very alert and excited as we pushed off from the shore. Motoring slowly under a low bridge brought us into the shallow, glistening, calm creek waters where rarely anyone ventures. The trees gently bending over the waters edge created soothing reflections, giving us a welcome embrace. I brought my small paint box and set up quickly once we arrived in the best area where Dan the Man wanted to cast his fishing line. The evening sun was casting a brilliant glow on the rock wall created by eons of storm waters in this shallow creek in Middle Tennessee. Moments passed by, but with the stillness and floating silence, time seemed to slow down.

I painted quickly that last fading bit of sunlight with colors so brilliant.

A strong healthy catfish was caught and released.

A Great Blue Heron flew by looking for its night perch.

Our little mascot fell asleep.

There are only so many moments in our lives that we want to remember and hold on to. This is one of mine. The paintings I do of these creeks in Tennessee are near and dear to me. I will always cherish these gifts of the nature spirits. There is no way to capture all of my favorite experiences on canvas and with my words, but for a reason that I am not so sure about, I will always continue to try.

 

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Posted on 07/15/2016 at 1:18pm

The artists that join me on adventures to interesting and beautiful destinations to create and paint are at many different levels of experience. Studio artists who have worked for many years from photographs and those who have never tried painting directly from nature will have the most success and fun if they can let go of preconceived notions when they do plein air with oils.

One technique I use and share in my workshops is how I begin a painting. I try to capture my strongest dark values first, and then once I have my composition loosely worked up with the help of special artist tools and various tricks-of-the-trade, I can begin to work my subject’s detail by still continuing in the value study only, by then adding some highlights with additional tools.

Working quickly, I am creating a balance in the details through my value study right from the start. That early work on the painting helps me to do even the most difficult compositions with relative ease of accomplishment. Working the first 15 to 30 minutes this way gives me much better results later in the painting.

Often my students will want to dive right into using a palette of full color, trying to mix deep values that are difficult to achieve  because of their intensity. In order to hold down the values within a complicated composition, I have found it is best to hold back on most color for a little while.

I begin a painting using a mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red, the deepest I can find, and in 15 to 30 minutes my plein air composition begins to take shape. I then squeeze out some Cadmium Yellow, a touch of Thalo Blue, Alizeran Crimson, and a few greens. (I like Sap Green, Veridian, and Winsor Yellow.)  Lots of color variety within a painting is great, but I try to hold back on most of those until I am sure my composition and value study are ready for me to plow ahead!

My experience painting plein air for over 30 years has taught me that if I go to full color mixing too soon, I sometimes lose my way, and the values can weaken quickly. As I start trying to bring my darkest values back again, areas thicken when I would prefer those to remain thin.

Below is a plein air painting that I worked on one afternoon this week. The Tennessee sun was low enough in the sky to let me work without the heat, humidity, and bugs bothering me too much. Plein Air is fun if you have determination, an adventurous spirit, and the ability to let go if preconceived notions of how to paint in challenging surroundings. Good luck!

 

 

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“Summer Garden House” Oil on Linen 8″x10″ Plein Air Copyright 2016 SRS

 

I welcome questions and comments.


 

Posted on 02/17/2016 at 10:31am

Issue 16: February 2016

“A Window to the Sea” 30″x24″ Oil on Linen Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

 


 

Posted on 02/05/2016 at 2:04pm

The 2-story, well-maintained, old stone dwelling, anchored for untold eons on the rugged south-west coast of Ireland, welcomed me with its front door wide open to the warm spring breezes and shared with me that time had stopped many years before. A roughly painted wooden sign leaning against a chair out front of the building, said “OPEN”.

Stepping inside I was greeted by a lovely old woman, with fluffy blonde hair who was obviously dressed for an occasion. Although with advanced age, her fashion flair was apparent with a light-colored, billowy gossamer scarf tied loosely around her neck. She wore lots of jewelry, stockings with black heels, and her narrow white skirt fit a bit large on her narrow frame.  All combined giving her a demeanor of stately elegance. Bustling around her brightly painted kitchen with fresh white linen towels hanging, I watched as she was preparing to serve tea and coffee from a wood serving tray with her fresh-baked scones and rhubarb apple tarts, to me, the only person who had chanced by at the table placed outside on the grass in front of her home. Working by her side in the kitchen was her elderly husband, carefully handling the coffee and filling a pitcher with fresh cream. The curtains that hung in the entry window reminded me of ones from the 50’s that my parents had when I was little, and when I looked past them at the view overlooking the magnificent, glistening rocky coastline, I knew this was exactly what I was hoping to find. I enjoy creating stories through my work about the places I have been that are only fleeting in my memory, but perhaps will be capable of taking on a life of their own when I return to my studio and spend countless hours with my ideas and sketches to bring something new and perhaps lasting from them to share, with words and paint. If I do justice to any of those moments, I wonder if I will ever know.

“Irish Tea” Oil on Linen 14″x11″ Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

“A Window to the Sea” 30″x24″ Oil on Linen Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

“Irish Coffee” Oil on Linen 20″x20″ Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

 

“The Proofing” Oil on Linen 20″x20″ Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

 

 

“Rhubarb and Apple” Oil on Linen Copyright 2016 Sharon Rusch Shaver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Entrance to the Coast” Oil on Linen 30″x24″ Copyright 2015 Sharon Rusch Shaver

Join me on the next exciting journey to Europe, this year to Italy, to paint and share in the discovery of those experiences which  can give artists the stimulation that I have found is wonderful for artistic growth.

 


 

Posted on 08/25/2015 at 8:02pm

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Morning light filtering through lace curtains on this most recent journey to Ireland, nudged me from deep slumber on this cool and very damp, 50° morning in late May. With wool sweater, hat, scarf, and tall rubber boots, called Wellies, I walked carefully trying to avoid the large puddles on the road of the 12th century castle. A very small, young, red Irish fox with a distinctive round head and pointed ears, walked towards me and then sat in the middle of the gravel road staring right at me. There was a mist hanging, and the cold dampness barely revealed that spring had arrived. I stood silently, hoping he would not run from me. Moss-covered, grey stone walls, as tall as I am, with multitudes of  tiny purple spring flowers, were blooming from every crack along the wall, bordering the glistening path between the two of us. A muffled silence was hanging in the air, and I am sure that time slowed. I consciously tried not to move at first, studying his unique shape and size. Ever so carefully I moved a bit closer to him into the morning mist, and the diminutive, wild-animal hurriedly turned and bounded effortlessly into the tall grass. I saw his proportionally long tail and definitive gait, but only for an agonizingly brief moment. His curiosity with me, strong enough to allow him to pause, sitting and staring directly at me, was now etched into my mind, and the silhouette of an inquisitive young wild animal beaming at me in the Irish morning mist, left me yearning for more.

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Posted on 08/08/2014 at 11:41am

Arles,France 2014 My worn out travel diary that I have carried with me to record the things I never wanted to forget beckoned to me as I began packing for this last excursion to France. For over 20 years, I have written sometimes a page or more whenever I left the place I called home. Rarely I would re-read what I had written previously. What would I find in the places that I explored so long ago?  When I arrived in the city of Arles, France a few weeks ago, the ancient sycamores with their pealing, white bark looked ghost-like as they lined the road leading to the place we all called our home for many nights. A large group of horses resident in the fields along the entryway were always there to greet us as we went exploring in our rental car. One particular sunny morning after a blustery day and night of rain, all the youngest horses were laying on the ground asleep in the sun, looking like a deep, golden rust-covered carpet.  Each beautiful young one laying directly under their tall mothers, who were all standing close together with watchful eyes in a beautiful sea of green. Each one of the mature brown, white and multi-colored  horses had a clipped mane and partially shaved tail, so short that the hair stood up, and each one wore a leather bridle with a large bell dangling underneath. This area of France is known as the Carmargue. The land area is very flat, and because of its rich soil, it historically was noted for growing the best grass in all of France.  With our close proximity to the Mediterranean, large flocks of interesting birds where seen feeding in the fields near to the horses.

Horses in Arles, FranceA person I had become “friends” with before this trip on Facebook  lives in Arles, France and we got to meet one another in person and became real friends. She graciously showed us her city and country from a viewpoint of a local person, and that made our time there so much more full and interesting. In all my years of writing in my diary, I would have never thought that kind of opportunity to connect with someone before I ever left home could happen as it did. The world is changing in dynamic ways. Her knowledge of the French language was so important in several circumstances while we were there. One time I will not forget is when the owner of the establishment where we were staying became very angry, and was directing his anger at me for something, and I did not understand why. With red face and growling, we tried our best  to communicate with his broken English and my English with my best French language accent, but we were getting nowhere. I just stood there as my new friend spoke calmly in the French language to him, and I watched as he gradually became more calm and steady. I had no idea what they where saying to each other, but it did not matter. It was working. When I looked in his eyes when she was done speaking to him,  I said in my most sincere tone of voice, in a few of the only French words I know, “Seul regret.” He said, “No Sharon, it is not your fault.” Whatever she had said to him, it worked.

Wendy at home in Arles,France

As you walk along into the ancient city of Arles , you see tall buildings, most built of stone but covered with stucco, lining the narrow streets, then, when you look up, you see dark orange thick tile roofs against a striking pthalo blue sky. Sidewalk cafe’s are throughout and a welcome site to sit and have a cup of coffee and perhaps use a restroom.  One such “le toilet” was in the basement of the building that could have been the original Roman room for such a purpose. I tried not to look around, found a light however dim, and hurriedly did what I came to do before sprinting back up the stone stairs to the coffee bar, feeling like I was running from something that was surely waiting to grab me and pull me back down to that dreadful place.  Seriously, it was very dark down there, and I think probably ancient spirits love hanging out in places like that.Cafe' Tables in France

The ruins of Roman civilization are everywhere. In Roman times the city of Arles was home to over 500,000 people. Today a mere 50,000. Aqueducts that once carried water for miles from mountain hilltops to the city are a marvel of engineering and stand today next to modern roads. The huge ancient Roman amphitheater in the center of the oldest part of the city, built in 90 A.D. could hold 20,000 spectators and has been partially  renovated and is a beautiful site that is still used today for sporting events. Bull fighting, a sport that historically was done in the city, is now called Bull Games, a much less violent version of the sport where “matadors” attempt to put rings on the bulls horns. After a morning of painting, shopping, and a wonderful lunch in a private courtyard restaurant in the bustling area of the city called the “Forum,” we headed back to the van and all thought how wonderful the pool was going to feel when we arrived back at the accommodations. But where was Bob? He had not shown up at the specified meeting time and I was getting concerned. Bob was our most mature artist guest to join us on this trip, who from the start had a glint in his eye that made me believe he was up to something, and most everyone else agreed he looked a lot like Clint Eastwood. After spreading out into the city in search of him, he came walking up where we had agreed to meet hours earlier, but very late in the now hot afternoon.  Everyone was relieved to see him, and after returning the short drive back to our accommodations, and we finally headed to the pool.  Although I was very upset with him, that wonderful glint in his eyes and his statement to me that he had just been “exploring”, made me smile and glad that he was happily doing what I want everyone to do who joins me one one of these adventures, explore!

The Arena in Arles,France

When the guests had left and I had time to fill in the last few pages of my old travel diary, I realized how much I loved this place called Arles, France. Van Gogh settled to paint there through all of his insane moments of his creative  life. Throughout the city are markers to show where paintings he completed during his lifetime were painted. I did several paintings there, and so did my guests. We shared the joy of creating in a place that has so much history and beauty within it to explore. In the next few years I will  be returning to Arles. If you would like to be included on the list of people interested in joining me there, please send me a note.

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As I retire my worn out, filled up, old diary I must travel again next week, this time in the states. I am heading from my home in Tennessee to Colorado to participate in a plein-air painting event in the Rocky Mountains.  With pat-downs in the airport, plastic tasting airline food, and cramped uncomfortable seating, it is still my favorite way to get there. In just a matter of hours, I will arrive at some far flung destination. Perhaps I will see you there!

Come, my friends,

Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate,  but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

 

Ulysses. Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Posted on 06/25/2014 at 1:51pm

Traveling for my work is now a necessity.  The art galleries that represent me like to have new work several times a year, so I work hard loading everything I think I will need for the weeks I will be away into my large car-truck so I can spend countless hours driving from state to state visiting art galleries that now exhibit and sell my original oil paintings. I loaded over 50 paintings in the back of the vehicle, some placed in boxes, others stacked carefully with rugs and packing material between them, when I closed the back hatch-door a few weeks ago. The galleries are located in a variety of places. Some are in busy city centers, where parking my huge vehicle is a nightmare, and  others  are in quiet mountain villages.  When I arrive I unpack all of the paintings and show the busy gallery directors my newest work. I have a wide variety of genre paintings. Figurative, landscape, and still-life.  I work with a minimalist palette using a grisaille technique for figures, and my landscapes usually have strong color and are heavily laden with impasto brush or knife strokes. It is fun to hear the reactions of the directors. They love my work and are excited to see what I have brought them.

In Cleveland, Ohio I did a painting on the city streets while I was there. The theater district has had a recent renovation and now has a gleaming chandelier in the center hanging over the main road with flower boxes lining the street.  A welcomed break in my travels!

Painting in Cleveland 2014

Painting in Cleveland 2014

When I arrived  at a friends house after several successful gallery visits halfway through this spring’s trip, I opened the back of my vehicle and a large box with two very heavy paintings, that had shifted while driving, slid out and hit my ankle full force. The pain was excruciating, but with ice applied regularly while keeping it elevated for several days, I was able to continue on my journey to more of my galleries. I will always be more careful now before I open the back of that vehicle!

June Newsletter 2014

A part of my late spring driving journey that touched my soul was driving around Grand Island, New York. It is a large fresh water island situated between the Great Lakes of Ontario, Lake Erie, and the cities of Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, Canada,  and it is where I spent much of the first 18 years of my life.   On this trip I had a frozen, chocolate-covered banana for the first time at one of the only remaining summer food shacks, the Bedell House, that is along the river located in Historic Ferry Village on the Island.  It was delicious!  It was a step back in time to the days of Ferry travel to Buffalo from the Island before the bridges were built.

The Bedell House, Grand Island, NY

The Bedell House, Grand Island, NY

The Bedell House Grand Island 2 The Bedell House Grand Island 3

 

I heard many voices from my past echoing in my mind as I drove slowly along the road that we lived on beside the swift flowing Niagara River. I stopped and watched as the swallows swooped low along its banks to catch the sand flies that are abundant this time of year. Bountiful waterfowl lived just beyond the edges of the tall grasses that sheltered them from our busy lives. Mallards, pheasants, heron, and countless others called the Island their home long before it became full of subdivisions and strip malls. The familiar song of the red-wing blackbird stirred such memory in me. Emotion welled up and tears filled my eyes as the many school teachers, relatives and friends who once guided me in my youth and who gave me so much encouragement and love along the way silently began to enter my mind and fill it with so many things that I had forgotten. Suddenly, I felt myself  sitting on a seat all alone, drawing designs with my finger on the frost covered windows of the old school bus as it carried me through long, cold, windy, lake-effect snow winters to school. I felt an innocent child inside of me that moment.

 

Dawn on the Niagara

Dawn on the Niagara

 

The voices began to fade to a whisper as I drove up this familiar tree-covered lane to my home in the hills of Tennessee. May those memories of my youth always “carry me home”, no matter where I am in this world.

 

 


 

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