Category Archives: creativity

HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”.  This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision.  I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.

Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics.  I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.

 

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, which should be the theme song for all caregivers out there.

Moon River

Inspired by Moon River, “this is my favorite song in the world” I was told. Plus – it is a fun song to play.

Inspired by Up UP and Aware

Inspired by Up Up and Away “It is such a positive song!”

While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!

When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.

The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing.   Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something. 

So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I  have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.

As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine.  The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!

A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.

What songs would you choose?  and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH APRIL 2020 READING

We can agree these are challenging and changing times. One thing that has changed for me is the way I read. I am a daily reader, usually 8-12 books a month. However, for the months of March and April, I read only 7 books!

For the first time in recent memory, I am putting down more books than I am picking up. Below is what I read, these are not reviews.

WHAT I READ BEFORE THE STAY AT HOME

The Ensemble, A Novel –  by Aja Gabel   This is about a quartet trying to make it in the world of classical music. I found it both interesting and tedious; the descriptions of the music was interesting, the relationships were tedious.

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler   Anne Tyler never disappoints. It is the story of Willa Drake, beginning in 1967 coping with her mother’s disappearance (again).  In 1997 she is a young widow. In her second marriage, she is kind of sleep-walking through her life when she receives a phone call from a stranger prompting her to travel across the country to Baltimore to take care of the daughter of her son’s ex-girlfriend. If you love Anne Tyler – you will love this book

 

WHAT I READ DURING THE STAY AT HOME

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver   This is based on an iconic work of art,  Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. This was a book club selection and I had trouble getting into it. However, after visiting MOMA in New York in March, I saw this photograph in an exhibition devoted to Dorothea Lange. That connection made it more compelling, so I returned to it. However, I was thirsty for the real story and the real women. I picked up a biography about Dorothea Lange, Dorothea Lange, Life Beyond Limits,  (which I have not finished) which I found more satisfying.  Oh yes, I was in New York in March on an annual art trip. I was there when the proverbial shit hit the fan!

 

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett   I had never actually read this book, but I knew the story. Even so, the book charmed me and I count it as one of my favorite books now!

Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild   After enjoying The Secret Garden, I looked at my own bookshelf. I have two shelves of very old books people have given me over the years – and I found this little gem!  The story is of an orphaned brother and sister. who learn they are going to be sent to separate orphanages. When they learn about  an uncle they have never met, they set out to find him. And, wouldn’t you know it? He is a performer in a circus!!!! What better setting for a childhood adventure! This was published in 1937, and there is an entire series devoted to different shoes; Tennis Shoes, Skating Shoes, Dancing Shoes – the list goes on.

Lewis Carroll’s Alices Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Yayoi Kusama   This is an all-time favorite book for me. I have to admit, this was a spontaneous purchase while visiting the Kusama exhibit in Atlanta. While the book is fun to read, I found myself missing the old illustrations. It is still a great friend, yes, books are friends.       

Kusama Illustration of Alice

Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons for Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women by Simon Doonan    I bought this book years ago in New York at the SoHo shop of designer Jonathan Adler.  See, Simon Doonan is his partner. I kept the book (I am not a book hoarder) and have lent it out several times. After seeing Mo Rocca interview the couple on CBS Sunday Morning and hearing a discussion about what does Zoom reveal about reveal about your house, I remembered the book. It was a fun re-read.

Plus, the discussion was of interest to me, because with so many talking heads on television these days, I continually walk up to the television and study what is behind the talking head, especially the books on their shelves. 

 

What are you reading these days? Has this new world changed your reading habits? 
 

 

FIND YOUR TRIBE

STEPS TO CREATIVITY #1

Finding your tribe is first step in living a creative life. Call them what you want, your tribe, your posse, your clan, your family – just call them! Find them! These are the ones that will support you and want the very best for you. The right group will:

CITY EMERGING

CITY EMERGING

 

KEEP YOU MOTIVATED

ENCOURAGE YOU

INSPIRE YOU

GIVE YOU SUPPORT

 

Did you know that geese travel 75% fast when they travel in packs? So, it stands to reason if you find your tribe you will gain momentum and reach your goals faster.

You can ask them to hold you accountable for your goals too (an accountability partner has worked for me – but she moved on – I need a new one!)

But, remember the word – RECIPROCITY. To really have a tribe you can trust, you have to give it back. You need to encourage, inspire – in short – cheer them on!

Find a mentor! Thomas Edison mentored Henry Ford. Thomas Jefferson mentored Lewis and Clark. Paul Robeson mentored Obama. Maya Angelou mentored Oprah. Woody Guthrie mentored Bob Dylan. Ralph Waldo Emerson mentored Thoreau. Warren Buffet mentored Bill Gates.

Where are you going to find your tribe, find your mentor? First of all, get out there, go out into the world! Keep trying! Take a class, go to events!

Be curious. Be brave. Make connections!

THE POWER OF NO

21 STEPS TO CREATIVITY #11

Collage ©VickieMartin

Collage ©VickieMartin

Why is it so hard to say no for most of us?  Are we too nice? Are we afraid of being judged? Are we going to miss an opportunity? Burn bridges?

It is always important to keep your long term goal in mind. The most important thing you do is to keep  your long term goal front and center! Every time you say YES to something that doesn’t contribute to your long term goal,you are saying NO to something you could be doing during that time to accomplish your goal.

Listen to you gut. If it doesn’t seem right, say NO. “NO” is a complete sentence.

There are ways to say no. Maybe you are just too busy right now. Say you will think about it and get back – buy some time if you need to think about it.  Just don’t over explain, be concise and move on.

So, when I say “NO” to projects and events that don’t work for my long term goals, what could I be doing?

cooking

I could be cooking up a healthy meal (in one of my cute vintage aprons)

Painting, I can always be painting

Journaling or just getting my thoughts down on paper

Spending some time at the piano or with my ukulele

I could be clearing my mind and meditating

I could go outside

Just do what feels right for you. Learn to say no.

What would you be doing if you said NO more often?

 

CREATING MINDFULNESS BY WALKING

After re-reading the book DAILY RITUALS, HOW ARTISTS WORK by Mason Curry, I couldn’t help but notice how many creative people had a daily walking habit.

Beethoven walked with a pencil and musical papers to record what came to him.

Kiekegaard, the philosopher, was be so full of ideas upon returning from his daily walk around Copenhagen, he’d begin writing upon returning, standing up without taking off his hat (or putting down his umbrella).

Sigmund Freud’s son once commented his fathers daily walks were more like a march (I guess they definitely were NOT a stroll).

Both Emily Dickenson and Charles Dickens often walked three hours a day.

Mahler walked daily for up to five hours and frequently his wife Alma went along.

William Faulkner, composer Eric Satie, author Richard Wright and Franz Shubert was dedicated walkers.

Tchaikosvky took a walk in the morning for 45 minutes and another walk for 2-3 hours in the afternoon.

DeKoonig walked Manhatten at night.

There must be something to walking! While I live in a city, I am surrounded by nature. I noticed things I had never seen before in my neighborhood (and I’ve lived here almost 20 years!).  Below are some of the things I saw.

The beginning.

The beginning.

There are great patterns in the pavement.

There are great patterns in the pavement.

Love these flowers!

Love these flowers!

A hidden bench

A hidden bench

Blackberries - in July?

Blackberries – in July?

A hidden stream

A hidden stream

A hidden lake

A hidden lake

But, there's no place like home

But, there’s no place like home

Atticus and Ziggy waiting for me!

Atticus and Ziggy waiting for me!

I found walking very meditative. And, I was able to practice my word of the year.  See it in the picture below in my studio!

My word of the year for 2016 "mindfulness"

My word of the year for 2016 “mindfulness”

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK ONE – 21 STEPS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF

FIND YOUR TRIBE

Call it whatever you like: your clan, network, posse, gang, pack,  your family. But take the time to find them!!!!  These are the people that accept you as you are and want the very best for you!

The right group will help you:

STAY MOTIVATED

GIVE YOU THE COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS

INSPIRE YOU

ENCOURAGE YOU

GIVE SUPPORT WHEN NEEDED

Finding a community will empower you and give meaning to your work.  Your creative work is more than a hobby and they know it!

Your tribe will add momentum to what you are doing. Think of geese that travel in packs.  It is said the geese travel 75% faster in a group than when they are alone. So, doesn’t it make sense your creative goals and dreams will come to fruition faster if you find your tribe?

Your tribe should be people you trust, people that genuinely care about you and your work, that will cheer you on. But, remember, reciprocity is key. You also have to encourage, inspire and cheer too,   And you must do it honestly (just keep your ego in check and don’t be judgemental).

Being around others opens up the floodgate of more possibilities, ideas and opportunities.

Find a mentor. Pavarotti had mentors throughout his career. Jonathan Williams mentored Robin Williams. Nicholas Cage mentored Johnny Depp. Thomas Edison mentored Henry Ford. Thomas Jefferson mentored Lewis & Clark. Paul Robeson mentored Obama.

Where are you going to find them? First of all, get out of your house, go out into the world.

Case in point – recently the Women’s Caucus For Art in Georgia hosted DrawFourDays. A group of almost 20 women got together for four days and drew . I was unable to take part, but I did visit. What did I find? I saw friendships being forged, respect among the participants and creativity beyond anything I imagined.

maggiebethel talking

Maggie Bethel at the artist talk along with other wonderful work done that week. photo by Ruth Schowalter

maxine hess talking about her work

Maxine Hess talking about her work on her right

in front of Helen De Ramus and Kate Colpitts drawings

In front of drawings by Kate Colpitts, left, and Helen De Ramus, right

Be curious! Be Brave! Get out there and mingle! Who knows what could happen!

Next week Week TWO of 21 Weeks to your Most Creative Self:  Believe

 

21 WEEKS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF

What is creativity?  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “the ability to make new things or think new things.”

imagesEvery human is born creative.  However, as we get older society teaches us to suppress creativity (remember, you must color within the lines!). Interestingly, when you ask people who they consider creative, RARELY will they refer to themselves. Most think instead of Mozart, Shakespeare, Gershwin, Ansel Adams, the list goes on and on.  Right?

 

There is also the romantic notion of what a creative person is like. Most people think of them as being sensitive, temperamental, mysterious, often misunderstood. wuthering-cover

 

Okay – I admit, I think of Heathcliff wandering the Scottish Moors.

 

 

 

 

 

despondentOr a despondent soul.

But, this isn’t true. First of all, creativity is not based on intelligence. Being creative does not mean you have to make art.

Living creatively means looking at the world around you differently. Your imagination leads to thoughts, thoughts become words and words become action. Creativity is not worth anything if you don’t do anything with your ideas.

Let me repeat that

Creativity is not worth anything if you don’t do anything with your ideas.

A study in 2012 found 8 in 10 people feel that creativity is critical to economic growth, and over 60% of those surveyed feel creativity is valuable to society. BUT, 1 in 4 people believe they are NOT living up to their creative potential.

Do you believe some people are born more creative than others? I believe not. Creative people usually do six key things throughout their life (called The Innovators DNA).

Make connections between different things

question everything

observe

network

experiment

and most importantly, practice

Living a creative life is being fully alive.  When was the last time you felt fully alive? Think about this for awhile.

Believe you can change the world!!!

Spend some time this week thinking about what inspires you to create? It doesn’t have to be a work of art, it can be baking a cake, writing a joke, putting your clothes together differently, taking a different path to the grocery store. It can be anything! Find you passion!

Share what you think creativity is.

For the next 21 weeks I will share an action I believe will make that creative muscle grow stronger. Next week, Find your Tribe!

 

 

April Reading

I’m a few days late in posting this – but here are the books I read in April – some better than others.  Some were almost forgettable – now I know not to buy books at the Dollar Store – simply because they are there.  Here goes:

BODY SURFING by Anita Shreve:  I usually like Anita Shreve, but I found this book predictable, somewhat tedious and just okay. The most interesting thing about the book is she is revisiting a house that has been in a couple of her previous novels, most notably The Pilot’s Wife.

SAVAGE HARVEST:  A Tale of Cannibalism, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman:  With a title like that, it was hard not to be drawn in.  As I was reading it, the story kept popping up on the news (from NPR to CBS Sunday Morning)!  Michael Rockefeller disappeared off the coast of New Guinea in 1961. It was long thought and accepted he had drowned.  Now after 50+ years and alot of research, this is possibly a true account of what happened.  This is a story of a different culture, a detective story with cannibalism and headhunting, and a little art thrown in on the side. Michael’s collection of primitive art was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A STRANGER LIKE YOU by Elizabeth Brundage: I usually love books about Hollywood, but this was at the Dollar Store – and frankly – I’d forgotten I read it one rainy afternoon!

THE WRITING CIRCLE by Corinne Demas: Another book from the Dollar Store – but this one was somewhat better. The writers in the circle are professional published writers, which made it a bit more interesting. It was “okay”.

THE GREEN LINE by E.C. Diskin: I read this in one afternoon – as I do most legal thrillers. The Green Line refers to a a train line in Chicago.  While I was aware of civil forfeiture, this spells it out and shows how innocent people can be stripped of their personal property without due process. While it is somewhat predictable with a very crooked police force, it was still fun to read and learn about this unbelievable law!

A PLACE AT THE TABLE by Susan Rebecca White: This book started out in familiar territory, my home of Decatur, Ga.  The original inspiration is the friendship  of Atlanta Chef Scott Peacock and his friendship with renowned Southern chef and author Edna Lewis. The two main characters, Bobby Banks – a gay man from Decatur and  Alice Stone – an African American that grew up in Emancipation, NC.  come together in a New York restaurant, where their love of home cooking draws them together and secrets are revealed. I enjoyed this book!

A MAN WITH A BLUE SCARF, On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud by Martin Gayford: Martin Gayford is a well respected art critic, and this is his telling of sitting for seven months for a portrait by Lucien Freud, widely regarded as one of the best figurative artists in the 20th Century. This is a great book about the creative process, as Gayford took notes throughout the process. Interestingly, when the painting was completed, he sat again for an etching which took another nine months. I plan on reading this again, as this is a great look into a great creative mind.

EMPTY MANSIONS: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.;  What a story! Her father made millions in copper mining – he is the “clark” from Clark County (Las Vegas). They had a 121 room mansion on Park Avenue. Huguette and her mother were big music lovers and art collectors. Huguette played the violin, painted, but was extremely shy. One of my favorite stories is about a musician playing in their house and her mother suggested he start a quarter, but he told her the problem was they didn’t have enough instruments. So – she took a Cezanne off the wall, went to a gallery and sold it, came back and took the musician with her and bought FOUR STRADS!  2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello.  Huegette also collected dolls and doll houses, loved the Smurfs, the Jetsons.  She became a recluse, spending the last 20 years of her life in a hospital (she wasn’t sick!). Amazing story!

PLAY. CREATE. SUCCEED by Jean Hamilton-Fford: This was sent to me by the author as we are in a blogging group together. The subtitle of this is “Radical Thinking for a New Age”.  There are so many golden nuggets in this!!!  I read it quickly to get an overview – I wll definitely go back and re-read it slower and work through it. In reading through this, I realized I haven’t been playing much lately.  I’ll write more on this later when I delve deeper into the book!

Another book I have picked up is COLOR: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PALETTE by Victoria Finlay .  This is a fascinating book, but extremely dense. I have read the first chapter on the color Ochre.  Each chapter could be it’s own blog post! (Maybe that will happen!)

One thing I realized in writing this list this month – I spent too much time readng things I didn’t fall in love with – I was just using up time.  So – no more buying dollar books unless I have some background on the book. I’m going to take more recommendations  – starting with a book left in a comment last month – THE OLD WAYS – A JOURNEY ON FOOT by Robert McFarlane, thank you Helen DeRamus!

I’ll take recommendations!

 

 

SPRING CLEANING = CLARITY

I am in day six of a 10-day Detox.  That’s 10 days without caffeine, sugar, alcohol, meat, dairy, soy and processed foods.  But – it is 10 days with FRESH WHOLE FOODS!!!! This is my 2nd one this year, and I can say it really makes a difference. So – since my word of the year is SIMPLIFY, I took a day this week and cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator. Along the way I decided to stop using plastic containers all the time. This is my before picture!

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Pantry Before

Pretty much a mess – kind of embarassing it got this bad!  So – I proceeded to take EVERYTHING out. I checked the dates on all my spices, threw away the beef broth (I haven’t eaten red meat in months!) threw out all opened food and got rid of everything I no longer eat. Well, I am not the only person living here, so a few things stayed.   After filling SIX bags of trash (this included what was in the refrigerator too), and beginning the conversion to using glass containers, this is the result.

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What crazy things did I find? I found three containers of tumeric, two containers of cinnamon, expired red pepper, two bags of flour (and I rarely bake), Morton’s Salt.  I also had multiple produce bags in a drawer below filled with nuts.  So I remembered I had a labeler I’d never used, so I went to town making labels and putting everything into clearly marked glass jars. This felt SO GOOD.

So – on to the refrigerator.  After shopping for the detox – I just crammed everything in the refrigerator.

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refrigerator before

At this point, I did a little research and found How-To Store Fruits and Vegetables from the Berkeley Farmer’s Market.  It was subtitled TIPS AND TRICKS TO EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR PRODUCE WITHOUT PLASTIC. I looked at all the expiration dates and tossed out some mustard and other things like bar-b-que sauce.  Now – my refrigerator looks like this:

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refrigerator after

Gone are all the plastic produce bags. Gone are all the rubber bands.  Yes, there is still a plastic container in there, but that has individually portioned vegetables that we add into the dogs food daily.

All of this makes it all seem more appetizing. In doing this – I repurposed a few things that are now in my art studio.

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new purpose

Here you see plastic containers that I can use to store things in my studio, Morton’s salt that I use for texture and also as an abrasive, and the plastic containers food comes in that i have long used instead of a palette.  I was so proud of myself, I went and bought myself a present!

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NEW JUICER!

What should I clean out next?  It is amazing when you purge like this – how light and invigorated you feel. – it brings a kind of clarity.

I’m ready to clean out the bathroom, my closets (which I did recently) and then my studio!  But – instead, today I am enjoying some fresh juice, a salad and a book on the deck and listening to the trains in the distance.

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THE LIFE!

What have you done to purge and how did you feel?

 

 

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

As part of the C4 blogathon, todays prompt is to list five goals to achieve in the next 30, 20 or 10 years, goals to achieve in the next five years and goals for the next 12 months.  I’m going to approach it a little differently because I have a few major goals in each category.

Goals for the next 12 months:  First of all, this has been a trying year. My mom is getting older and at times forgetful. I found out on New Year’s Eve someone had ordered a debit card from her bank and proceeded to make regular withdrawals. Also – a couple of her credit cards have been compromised. So – one of my major short term goals is to get all of this straightened out, become her power of attorney, get her will revised (she did it in 1987), and in short – become the parent of my family.  On top of that, I work full time in advertising. This is the busiest time of the year and this year is the craziest it has ever been.  So, another goal is to set and stick to priorities with my family. 

I have a couple of lighter goals – I want to be able to touch my toes – basically get back in shape. Also, my word of the year was “simplify”, I’m on a path to make my life more sustainable – but I have to work on the organization more and I don’t want “things” anymore, I want to live a “life”.  (I don’t keep my books anymore, I sell them back on Amazon now – and trust me – I am a reader!)

I will have the images of my work organized.

I will blog regularly.

I will journal regularly.

I will get back into the local art scene – I’ve been a little absent lately. I’m on the board of directors for the Women’s Caucus for Art in Georgia, but basically, I am organizing the book club – so I want to get more involved.

In five years, I no longer want to have to work in an office.  Case in point, I missed yesterdays blog because I didn’t get home until 8P and worked a little more. It is now 9P, and I just checked my emails from work. So – can you tell? I can’t continue doing this. I plan on going to a financial adviser and getting on a 3-4 year plan.  With that, I will have a steady income from my art world. I have this “dream” to teach on-line classes. I don’t have this idea solidified, I don’t even know what I want to teach right now, but I do know I love connecting with people across the universe with the same interest in art.  (Currently I’m trading collage materials with people across the globe, what fun to get stuff from Iceland and Sweden in the mail.)

I plan on going on a fabulous art-retreat, I have researched Berlin, and also there is a teacher in Maine that I’m interested in.  

When I accomplish this, the rest will fall into place. 

In closing, yesterdays prompt was sharing a favorite work of ours – so I thought I’d sneak an image in here.

Spring moon ©vickie martin

Spring moon
©vickie martin