This is the third in my Winter Park series. It reminds me of hiding and being found or seen.
As a child, one of my favorite books was “the secret garden.” I loved the idea of an enclosed garden, hidden away, known only to a few. Children love exploring and making forts. Couch cushions and sheets are transformed to castles, dirt, and rocks arranged in the wood to make a custom hideaway. I was no exception, stuffing our backyard tree house with blankets and treasures, playing monopoly with my neighbor in our fort. Feeling secure, protected from the world.
There are a few courtyards along Park Ave in Winter Park that remind me of childhood. I love this one with the fountains and the black wrought-iron tables with their red umbrellas. A blue door in the corner and bright citron green ones welcoming one to a tucked away store. There are spots that everyone knows about, and others discovered by only a few who will wander off the beaten path.
As I think about hidden places, safety, protection a passage from the book of Psalms comes to mind;
“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” Psalm 139:7-12 MSG
In a secret courtyard, in my room, as I walk through life, there is one who knows me who is with me, who is good.
I’ve started a series of paintings inspired by Winter Park, FL. Each painting reminds me of different things. The first painting, Hope Renewed, reminds me to have hope. This second painting is of the Briarpatch Restaurant along Park Ave. It reminds me to have perseverance.
I was in the area a few different times and it was always overcast. One day it looked like it was going to storm and a waiter was pulling in the chairs and tables for the day. But finally I was there when the sun was shining and people were enjoying a late lunch in the mild spring weather of Florida. I can compare the shots with direct sun and overcast and the shadows add much interest to the composition.
I tried something different for this one. Usually, If people are in my photographs I don’t paint them. Yet I took a chance and kept most of the people in this painting. (Shoutout to artist Margaret Baker whose paintings inspired me to keep the people.)
The start of the piece went quickly filling in trees, sky, and umbrellas, then it slowed way down with the people. I wanted to keep it simple, yet needed proportions to be believable. I was often zooming in to make sense of what I was seeing.
The Briarpatch will always remind me of the day I became a mother. It was the last meal I had before my daughter was born. A day that was long and trying, and yet knowing we’d soon meet her allowed me to persevere through the minutes and hours of contractions. And in the end, joy, meeting my daughter. The sunny yellow umbrellas reminding me of that day.
This was the first painting I choose to complete in a series inspired by Winter Park, Florida. The location is 430 W New England Ave in Winter Park.
I experienced a strong sense of hope and gratefulness as I walked along a street I hadn’t been on before.
I’ll admit sometimes life feels overwhelming and relentless. Difficulties seem to mount up instead of receding. Patterns emerge that cause a troubled heart, that this must just be as good as it gets. Learn to live with sadness and disappointment. We wait for change to happen and start to wonder if it got lost and isn’t coming after all.
I’ve been feeling a bit stir crazy. My list of places I’d love to visit grows, and yet I wonder realistically if most will get checked off. Don’t get me wrong, I like the familiar and going new places can be a source of anxiety presenting new challenges. Yet they hold potential. Potential to find a new store or restaurant or park that you’ll love. Potential for beautiful places to take your breath away. After living in Orlando for almost 20 years it can feel like all the places have been discovered. (And I long for something new to discover.)
So today my family kindly went with me so I could take some photos in Winter Park. I’d been a few times in the past few weeks and it was always overcast, and I love painting shadows. Today was sunny. It made so much difference in familiar scenes. And I found a few new ones. Another hidden courtyard off Park Ave with umbrellas and a fountain. And a street I’d never been down with trees and outdoor seating, bougainvillea, and dappled lighting. I felt my heart lifting. Like God was whispering in my ear, no matter how set things seem, I have more in store. There is a reason to hope.
Three things I’m drawn to; adventure, security, and home. All good things, yet they need balance.
Too much time at home leaves me feeling stir crazy and overly task focused on all that needs to be done. Who doesn’t long for security, safety, yet without risk, there is no growth. We all long for adventure in our lives, experiencing something new, and yet few of us live free of the responsibilities and have bills to pay.
The scene is of Port of Corricella, on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples, Italy. The island has a rich history, lots of Italian charm and yet isn’t as popular a destination. I loved the colorful boats and houses.
When I looked at the finished piece and how I framed the scene I smiled. You’ve got bright inviting homes calling sailors home from their fishing adventure, all in the shadows of what looks like a fortress. Home, security, adventure.
So how are you doing with balance? Are you playing it too safe? Is your heart so locked up you are missing life-giving relationships? Or do you need to be more responsible, construct some healthy boundaries?
Recently I’ve been longing for adventure and feeling a bit trapped. I’m still learning contentment and to try and discover new adventures closer to home. I may not be able to put a stamp in my passport and fly over to explore this island. However, I can find undiscovered areas near me. Wonderful friends might have moved far away and yet I can continue to open myself up to people who remain and find connection and a sense of home and security.
You might have heard the phrase; ” Red sky at night, Sailors delight, Red sky at morning sailors take warning.” This phrase came to mind after I’d finished the piece. The scene is still and calm, a moment of overwhelming beauty. Those perfect moments tend to be fleeting, you never know how long they will last. They are a chance to catch your breath, a respite, perhaps a renewal of hope or time to strengthen oneself before facing the world again.
The painting could be read as either a promise of calm for the next day or a warning of what’s to come. Some storms we can see coming and others take us by surprise. Many times we are powerless to prevent what’s coming. All we can do is prepare. What do you do to prepare? What gives you hope when you know one is coming or you’re in the midst of one?
At times I’ll admit I worry, imagining all that could happen, usually all the worst-case scenarios, stomach in knots. Convinced after looking up my symptoms that I’ve become a doctor and something is majorly wrong. Somehow thinking my being focused on how bad it is or could be can do something other than weighing myself down. Feeling without help in the world.
Other times I shift my focus from the storm to the one who can calm the storm, and promises to be there with us in the midst. I’m less paralyzed and remember that I am not alone. The circumstances don’t change but my perspective does, and a determined hope surfaces.
So smooth sailing or storms ahead I think there is always a reason to hope!
I am fascinated by banyan trees. One tree can look like a small grove, arms stretching parallel to the earth, and then it sends down roots, that slowly grow down to the ground and eventually provide support for the heavy branches. They are maze-like, one tree can take up an acre of land! The banyan tree is the national tree of India, yet can be found in Hawaii and other temperate climates. Henry Ford, with Thomas Edison, planted the first banyan in the continental United States, in Ft. Meyers, FL in hopes of finding a cheaper source of rubber. I’ve been able to see a few of these marvels in person. Legoland in Florida took over the Cypress Gardens where one was planted 90 years ago. I’ve also enjoyed walking the grounds of the Ringling museum which contains several of the trees. This painting was inspired by the grounds there. If you are in Sarasota this is a treasure, the grounds are beautiful. It also has a wonderful collection of art and a fun look back at the circus.
I was reading about these large fig trees and found they have also been called “the strangler tree.” The seeds of the tree often germinate on branches of other trees, and as it grows, roots and branches surrounding the host tree it can end up strangling the life out of the host! This hit me, left me pondering. I can think of positive and negative things in a person’s life that acts like a banyan. On the negative side I think if we allow things like hate, bitterness, or greed to fester and grow, they can take over. They influence every area of our life and choke us, leaving a hollow shell. Yet on the flip side, the positive, I know people who have surrendered control of their life to God, and his spirit starts working within. The transformation is amazing, bearing the fruit of love, joy, patience, peace, self-control.
Learning about the strangler tree I think I will now look upon it as a reminder and a caution. What am I letting grow in my life? Will it choke me or allow me to be stretched growing in grace and beauty?
A few weeks ago we forced our kids on a family bike ride. We were riding down a country road and discovered another road we hadn’t been down. A short dead-end country lane. Old oak trees defying gravity, spreading their branches. Sun low in the sky, golden rays illuminating moss and branches. I stopped for a moment looked around at this beauty that was so close to home, but had never been seen. Thankful that we got off the couch, and for mild Florida winters.
I’ve been working on paintings this past month that belong to two different series. One is Italian landscapes, the other is local landscapes like these majestic oaks. The Italy paintings are dependent on using a friend’s photos. It’s a dream to see the sights with my own eyes. I don’t have the benefit of having walked around and examined the angles for myself. To know what is just out of the photo. (Although for the night beach scene I also looked on Google street view.) The landscapes of the oaks are moments captured pretty close to home. I’ve walked or biked around, took in the scene, know what the surroundings are. I can go back to the place for more photos if needed.
I’ve been on a journey. Back when I painted just for myself I didn’t think about if anyone else liked what I was painting. It was simply a time to express myself, to slow down, to see how beauty gives hope and can transform a life. Now as a professional artist one of the challenges is to find inspiration, while at the same time painting what I hope will appeal to local audiences. And it’s been a good challenge. It’s forced me to look around me. To stop the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side. To stop the mindset that day to day is boring, ordinary. To focus on the here and now instead of the next trip. It’s like learning to appreciate vegetables. They are not chocolate or cheesecake. But they are good for you, and your body feels better, stronger when they are a regular part of your diet.
So I’m still learning. Still seeking out beauty here, and I know it will be revealed bit by bit.
It is a strange phenomenon, places that many would consider a once in a lifetime trip, that exude beauty and wonder, yet the reality is living there full-time is pretty challenging. Resources might be more limited, no driving down the street to your favorite supermarket. That amazing view you’ve seen in photos requires a demanding hike with some dizzying drop-offs. We dream of that perfect trip, yet are grateful to return to our comforts at home. Makes me wonder if I miss out on some incredible beauty because of my tendency to avoid the uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Or maybe I miss out because I take for granted what’s around me, engrossed in my to do list or Facebook feed.
Visitors flock to Positano yearly, spend a day or two, taking in the shops and scenery, showing off on their Instagram accounts. Yet I think those who live there have the opportunity to appreciate its beauty while living with the tension of its challenges. Taking a hike on your day off, kayaking along the shore discovering small watery caves and beaches. Taking the steps down to your favorite lookout to enjoy the sunset. Maybe life is meant to be a combination of challenges and taking in the beauty. The challenges make the beauty sweeter, and the beauty making the challenges bearable.
I love this scene, Dusk, light coming on on the hillside, chairs line up waiting for a new day, peaceful.
I find my tendency when facing challenges is to study the problem, look at all the facets, worry, and then see if I can find a solution. Some things I can do, like looking in the fridge and figuring out what to make for dinner. Other things are totally overwhelming, and I can feel alone. Or I alert my husband to the breadth of the problem, hoping he will magically have a solution. No doubt, it’s a comfort for others to journey with me through it. Yet I’d like to switch my default. Instead of being overwhelmed by the size of the problem, I’d like to look to God and be overwhelmed that he is with me. He will journey with me and has the power, love, and goodness to actually do something about the problem.
Oh, the irony, So I didn’t plan to be painting a beach scene when an arctic blast will send temps well below freezing and blizzards have covered everything in white. But here I’ve been painting people lounging, relaxing on the beach, basking in the sun. It takes an effort to create new habits. Here’s to leaving worry behind.
I loved the bird’s eye view and the variety and interest the umbrellas, chairs, people, and shadows made to the scene. It was a fun scene to paint, the water and rocks going quickly. Then bit by bit tackling the beach.
This is Conca dei Marini near Amalfi. The Amalfi peninsula is mountainous, rocky, with hidden towns and beaches tucked away along the coast. The hilly terrain lends to some amazing views as one stops along the road to take it in. Better yet grab your towel, find a chair and sit and relax.
This week a lot of my mental space has been occupied by my daughter who will be entering high school next year. At school they got information on how to sign up for classes in the fall. I had a lot of questions, and am grateful for friends who are a year or two ahead of me on the journey and can help me, and my daughter navigate through this. One friend said to make sure she has a tribe to journey with her. That stuck with me, and I do find myself praying often for good friends for my daughter.
At the same time, this painting has been on my easel. This stand or grouping of mature Live Oak trees was inspired by Chisholm Park on East Lake Toho in St. Cloud, Florida. A group that has weathered life together, each different yet the same. These trees have been through more than one hurricane over the decades. At times a limb grows along the ground, but it still grows. I’m always amazed at how far branches spread outward. These are no timid trees closed in on itself and contained. They take up space, ever reaching outward, and upward, roots going deep. So I’ve been thinking of this group of trees a bit like that group of friends ones need to thrive in life, and in high school. There are some big branches that you might be able to follow with your eyes from trunk to tip. Distinct, definitely belonging to that tree. But as you look up at the canopy of branches, leaves, and moss, it’s harder to see just what belongs to each individual tree. They are living their lives intertwined, drawing from the same resources, weathering storms, together.
And so I keep praying that my daughter would have some friends to go through the challenges and enjoy this phase in life together.