Tag Archives: Artists Date

Peacock picnic in the Columbia River Gorge

Peacock: n. the national bird of India, related to the pheasant. The male peafowl, or peacock, has long been valued for its brilliant tail feathers. The bright spots on it are known as “eyes”, and inspired the Greek myth that Hera placed the hundred eyes of her slain giant Argus on the tail of her favorite bird.

Picnic: n. a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors

Peacock's personal table

Peacock's personal table

I spent the entire day exploring the spectacular Columbia River Gorge with four friends. We left the gray weather behind in Vancouver and drove 100 miles east to the the Maryhill Museum of Art.

This former mansion of tycoon Sam Hill was built in 1907  on a hilltop overlooking the Gorge near Goldendale, WA. He bought 5300 acres of land there in the hope of establishing a Quaker community, but it never really caught on.  His buddies – the avant garde dancer Loie Fuller and Queen Marie of Roumania – convinced him instead to convert the place into a museum.

Fuller was friends with Auguste Rodin, so there is a sizeable collection of Rodin sculptures and sketches. His collection of Indian basketry is impressive, and other exhibits come thru regularly.

I was taken by the gorgeous gilt furnishings from Queen Marie:

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's table

Queen Marie's table

But I digress. After museuming we went outside for our picnic with the peacocks.

I couldn’t get over the stunning colors… like jewels. In one direction the tail looks coppery, in another green, in another silver.

Peacock's back

Peacock's back

Tail - silvery angle

Tail - silvery angle

Our next stop was the replica Sam Hill built of StoneHenge, to honor local soldiers who died in World War I.

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

The Gorge isn’t as steep near Maryhill as it is closer to Portland, where the east side of the Columbia boasts some wonderful waterfalls. We stopped and hiked up one, gawked at others from below.  So much beauty on all sides!!

I think the Gorge is one of America’s most awesome scenic treasures. It’s 80 miles long and in some places the walls rise 4000 feet!

Pure pleasure: artist’s date at Tacoma Museum of Glass

Pure: adj. being thus and no other; unmixed with any tainting substance

Pleasure: n. a state of gratification; a source of delight and joy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihualy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihuly

To celebrate my birthday, my best friend took me up to Tacoma on Friday for an “artist’s date,” a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in her best-seller, The Artist’s Way.

An artist’s date is when you take time out from your ordinary life and usual artistic pursuits to do expose yourself to or participate in some other creative endeavor for the sheer pleasure of it.

An artist’s date can be as simple as dumping your button collection onto a table and playing with them. If you’re a writer, you could go into the yard and attempt to sketch a flower. If you’re an artist you could immerse yourself in a book of poetry.

Or it could be a real museum outing, as Judi and I  did Friday.

Tacoma is a two hour drive from here.  To get to the Museum from the parking lot, you cross over the highway on the magical Bridge of Glass, designed by the wildly creative glass artist Dale Chihuly.

On one side of the enclosed mid-section is a wall of crazy “vases”.  The roof  looks like someone dumped the three-dimensional phantasmagorical contents of a dozen super-sized kaleidoscopes onto a glass plate above you.

The glass pieces vary in size from balls about 4″ in diameter to trumpet shapes 3′ long and scalloped “flowers” 2′-4′ across.  The shimmering backlit shapes of brilliant colors can only be called ecstatic art. I could have permanently cricked my neck taking it all in.

Here is some more:


Chihualy ceiling closer view

Chihuly ceiling closer view

Here’s a portion of  the side wall:

A family in front of the wall of Chihualy "vases"

A family in front of the wall of Chihuly "vases"

Looking up at one of the two glass spires on first part of the Bridge. The chunks are BIG, like 2-3′ across:


Here’s a Chihuly chandelier:


The museum has much more than Chihuly, including a huge glass-blowing shop, where you can watch art glass being blown. There’s a terrific exhibit about describing glass art, beyond “I like it; I don’t like it” but you can’t take photos inside. (This exhibit closes in November; worth the trip if you live close enough.)

This is a museum for kids of all ages, and it’s in a part of town with two other fine museums, the handsome U. Washington Tacoma campus, the refurbished train station (now courthouse) with an enormous arched window with orange Chihuly “poppies” floating across it.


Closeup of Chihualy poppy window

Closeup of Chihuly poppy window

Can you tell I LOVED this place???

And PS – we ate lunch in the museum cafe: YUMMMMMMY.

Plodding on a padded plateau

Are you feeling stagnant? Stuck? Stale?

I just completed a feature article for a health magazine on losing the last ten pounds – and it’s all about how to get off that comfy plateau. Although weight loss is not my topic today, it does illustrate an important point with wider implications.

When we exercise, we tend to stick with a familiar routine. We walk a certain route in the neighborhood, we go to the gym and lift a regular set of weights, whatever. But the muscles get accustomed to that routine and get increasingly efficient at executing it – so the routine that a few months ago had the pounds peeling off is not doing much today.

The remedy is to wake up your muscles by giving them something different – if you swim, walk; if you walk, try a bike; if you run, try intervals.

The same thing goes with our minds. We are creatures of habit. We have carved out a set of daily rituals that make life simpler because we don’t have to think. What’s for breakfast: oatmeal. When to read the paper? As I eat my oatmeal. Which route to take to get to work? 78th Street to I-5. Where should we go on our night out? the movies. But our minds go soft and stagnant, just like our bodies.

Turns out your brain needs novelty too. Brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, try new things or in new ways we create new synaptic pathways and increase our creative capacity.

The most important ingredients for stretching yourself are curiosity and wonder… when you look around yourself and ask: I wonder what would happen if?… I wonder how??? I have had the most delightful experiences when I’ve followed that instinct. It’s almost a physical sensation I call the brain tickle.

We live in three behavioral zones: comfort, stretch and stress.

  • Comfort is the realm of existing habit
  • Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond the comfort of our usual ways that we’re overwhelmed.
  • Stretch is the sweet spot: where you’re doing things that are a bit awkward and unfamiliar but manageable. At first there is confusion – when you’re trying to fuse the old with the new. But then the brain sorts things out and gets stronger.

I know a guy who was bored with his life so he decided to spend a year doing one new thing every day. To keep himself honest, he started a blog where he writes about what he did that day and usually posts a photo as evidence. That’s one way!

Or you could take yourself on a weekly Artist’s Date as recommended in the creativity program, “The Artist’s Way.” You don’t have to spend money going to the theater or museum (although those are wonderfully inspiring), you can simply collect a bunch of leaves and make a collage, sit under a tree and listen to the birds, dance around the kitchen to an old rock and roll CD, take your camera on a walk around the neighborhood and take pictures of everything you see that is blue, try your hand at knitting or making something from modeling clay.

My favorite recommendation is to stretch yourself by joining Toastmasters. Simply getting over the fear of speaking to a group is the first major stretch – for some it’s life or death stress at first. The next stretch is coming up with a variety of speeches that will interest and inform your club members.

These skills are now in the realm of comfort for me, but delivering a speech without any notes is my stretch. My memory sucks and I don’t yet trust myself to just wing the general message.