Week 41: Sunday Drive

The Blue Ridge in the Fall

On Sunday my husband suggested that we take a drive up to the mountains to enjoy the Fall colors. This is our favorite time of year, and it always seems to pass too quickly. The leaves had been rapidly deepening their Fall hues throughout the week, and we knew that this was the day to put any nagging chores aside, and surrender the afternoon to the joys of family time and natural beauty. My husband and I, our boy, and our dog, all piled into the car, and headed West. We stopped at our favorite country lunch spot, Greenwood Gourmet Grocery, and enjoyed an outdoor picnic of sandwiches and local apples, surrounded by displays of heirloom pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and cornstalks. This certainly got us in the mood, and soon we were driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway. As the panorama of mountains and forests opened up to us, it was hard to believe we were only thirty minutes from our suburban home. Shady tunnels of trees gave way to spectacular vistas overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. The mountainsides displayed their richly textured tapestries of orange, red, and gold. All my urgent To Do Lists and unfinished projects dropped away from my consciousness, and I had only the colors, the landscape, and the company of the people I love.

On the way home, my nine year old son got fidgety in the back seat and asked if he could play on my iPhone. I encouraged him a couple times to just enjoy looking out the window, before finally declaring, “This is a No Technology Zone!” Right on cue, Siri spoke up through my iPhone, her soothing electronic voice confidently instructing, “In 2 miles, turn right onto Rockfish Gap Turnpike.” Giggles broke out in the back seat. OK, so there is an exception for GPS!

Sunday Drive, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Detail, Sunday Drive

Detail, Sunday Drive

Detail, Sunday Drive

Detail, Sunday Drive


Week 33: California Trip Part IV

Up a long winding mountain road above Santa Cruz, and into the forest of redwoods and manzanita, there is a special gathering place for our family: Grandma’s House. Set into a hillside that slopes down to the ancient forest, the house feels inseparable from the land, welcoming the filtered sunlight, fresh air, and quiet presence of the towering trees. Multi-level decks and garden terraces look out into the woods, where some mornings you can watch the fog soften the peaks of the evergreens and roll its billowy blanket across the landscape. There is a blueberry bush loaded with fruit, and beds overflowing with rosemary, thyme, and roses. I delighted in the cool and peaceful mornings here, when we would take our hot coffee mugs outside to the terraces, pick some blueberries for breakfast (with a pinch of rosemary!) and enjoy the view and conversation with a house full of loved ones.

Our time at Grandma’s house was bittersweet on this visit, as we were not sure when we would return to this special place. Grandma is renting the house and moving to Virginia to be with us! We are so excited about this wonderful change for her and our family. We will miss our California retreat, but we hope to one day spend time together there again. In the meantime, we await Grandma’s move in a couple of weeks!

In creating the collage, it was most important for me to capture the atmosphere and sense of place that I feel here.  I chose to leave figures out of the composition, instead suggesting a human presence with the coffee mugs, chairs, and bowl of just-picked blueberries. In this way, the viewer is freer to project oneself into the picture and imagine the special places that they too may share with their families. The foreground plants are cut paper drawings made with pencil, charcoal, India Inks and acrylic paint. The roses are paper cut-outs from one of my digital pattern designs. The trees in the background are painted with acrylics, then collaged over with a wispy transparent paper to create the effect of drifting fog.

Grandma’s House, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Detail, Blueberry Bush

Detail, Blueberries for Breakfast

Detail, Garden Path

Detail, Forest and Fog

Week 31: California Trip Part II

California Coast near Big Sur

One of the highlights of our trip was the day we drove down Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to Big Sur. After miles of gleaming green lettuce and artichoke fields, we stopped in the little town of Carmel by the Sea. It was a cool day with a light misty fog. We warmed ourselves with a mid-morning treat of hot coffee and chocolate-dipped biscotti, then strolled the quaint town, admiring the stone walls, unique bungalows, and enchanting cottage gardens. When we got to the beach, we kicked off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and waded into the surf. This was only the second day of our vacation, and we were just so happy to be together- me, my husband, and our boy- with no distractions, just time to play, explore, and focus on each other. It was a bit too chilly for swimming, but that didn’t stop us from tempting the waves, wading in as far as we dared, then running and laughing back up the beach with the ocean splashing at our heels.

We continued down the winding coast to Big Sur, mountains rising up to our left, and rocky cliffs crashing down to the ocean on our right. The landscape is magical, decorated by creeping succulents in green, yellow, and red. The plants seem so beautifully alien and mysterious compared to the familiar flora back East. Cypress trees stand at the edge of the cliffs, leaning inland like gesturing figures, shaped by the wind. We stopped for an excellent lunch at Nepenthe and some shopping at the eclectic gift shop, The Phoenix. It was great fun and a little surreal to be making this trip again with our almost-nine-year-old boy. The first time Ken and I drove down to Big Sur together was in December of 1999, long before Max was born, on the trip when we got engaged. So much has happened in our lives since then. We still have the lyrical wind chime that we bought at The Phoenix all those years ago, and decided to purchase another one, with a new set of tones. On the way home, we stopped along the road to look out over the strange meadows, the ever-changing shapes of tidal pools, the craggy cliffs and jagged rocks, and the infinite blue of the Pacific. We are 3000 miles from our suburbia, yet we are here together, and so we are home.

Big Sur Road Trip, 12 x 12, acrylic collage

Detail, Succulent Meadow

Detail, Map

Detail, Highway 1

Detail, Cliffs along Highway 1, Big Sur

Detail, Cliff House

Week 30: California Trip Part I

We’re back from California and I have been working on a series of new collages about our trip. I’ll be catching up on posts this week and sharing some of our adventures along with my work.¬†California is a special place for my family. My husband grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and while I am an East Coaster by origin, I have grown to love the West Coast. Ever since my husband proposed to me on a beach near Santa Cruz, we have had many memorable experiences together on our trips back to California. On this vacation we returned to some of our favorite places, discovered new ones, and enjoyed wonderful visits with dear family members and friends.

On the first weekend of our trip, our boy Max turned 9. I wanted to make a montage of all the fun things we did on his birthday, as well as his favorite activities of the trip. But beyond creating a record of places or events, I wanted to capture the essence of this moment in time with our son. What does it feel like to turn nine and have the run of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, go fishing off a pier, wade in the surf, ride a rollercoaster, or see your first Major League baseball game? What does it feel like to be a parent or grandparent whose love for this child swells bigger than a baseball stadium, bigger than the San Francisco Bay, bigger than the Pacific Ocean? This is what I want to remember.

When a Boy Turns Nine, 12 x 12, acrylic collage

Detail, Max turns 9

Detail, Santa Cruz Fishing Pier

Detail, The Big Dipper, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Detail, Cake and Icecream

Detail, SF Giants Stadium

Week 29: Vacation!

In a few days we will be departing suburbia! We’re flying to California for a much needed vacation visiting family and friends. I’ll get my big city fix in San Francisco, plus family time in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz. My husband and I even planned a few days of grown-up time in L.A. while our boy, Max, has an adventure with the Grandpas in Yosemite. Max will turn 9 during the vacation, so we have something special planned for him too. Everybody wins!

This was a fun collage, depicting the airplane flying over our little suburban world and the Virginia landscape, with San Francisco peeking up from the horizon across the great expanse. The pets will stay behind with our house-sitter, so I included Holly and Olivia watching our departure. See you in two weeks! I’ll have lots of drawings from our trip to share!

Departing Suburbia, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Detail, Departing Suburbia

Detail, Departing Suburbia

Detail, Departing Suburbia

Detail, Departing Suburbia

Detail, Departing Suburbia

Detail, Departing Suburbia