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Flat things are not often singled out for gratitude. But in the Joy Dare, we were urged yesterday to single out 3 flat things to be happy about.

I'm experiencing the rare chance to take a long artist retreat. Sounds ideal, doesn't it? One caveat: you will have all the resources you need to paint, but you have to take all your voices with you.

The first week I was here, I went to a yard sale and found for $10 an old wooden drawing board, the kind that can tip horizontally or vertically, with a nice lip to hold canvases or what-have-you. The next week, I went to a couple of art supply stores and bought a lot of things I still haven't used yet: watercolors and pads and brushes and colored pens and acrylics and four square canvases on sale, 2 for 1. I set up the nicest art studio I've ever had, in the space between an old barn and the outdoors, in a large courtyard, with an old blue cabinet to hold things.

But there was the old voice asking none too gently, "Are you about to slather paint on squares of cloth? What makes you think that's worthwhile in the Grand Scheme of Things? Don't you need to pay some bills?" Another voice asked, " Don't you need a degree for that? Don't you need a pack to hang out with? Don't you need years of angst in New York?" Then another voice chimed in, asking, "Why haven't you done it yet? What are you waiting for, a muse?" It took me a long time to sort out those voices to hear one clear one (mine) saying, "I just want to, that's all." Then, finally (after reading Vonnegut's Bluebeard, of all things, whose main character is an Abstract Expressionist) I plopped on a floppy sunhat and tromped down to the barn, and under the porch roof where the honeysuckle are already giving off promises of home far away, I made these yesterday:

copyright 2013 margaret kellermann. Not to be reprinted without permission.

"Some Days Are Like That"

copyright 2013 margaret kellermann. Not to be reprinted without permission.

"You Are Here"

copyright 2007 margaret kellermann. Not to be reprinted without permission.

"Storm Vision"

Another thing that boosted my confidence a bunch: I pointed out this 2007 painting, "Storm Vision," the other day to my friend Mark. It wasn't even for sale. He said he might like to buy it. Which meant, he did.

"A poem should be
palpable and mute as globed fruit."
More than 3 perfect nectarine gifts to taste, at a fruit stand
on the way to Astoria on Highway 30. I love the presentation:
barn red basket and Sunday funnies packaging.

Photo Eric Smith

Has everyone else heard of the Joy Dare? Where you're urged to come up with 3 photographs or poems or tiny journal entries per day, according to the prompts in the Joy Dare, to find and express gratitude for 3 gifts a day? Sometimes the gifts can seem ironic, dark, even horrifying, and that's part of the overall plan: See everything as a gift, not just the brightly wrapped shiny things. This seems perfect for livejournalists. So if you're intrigued, and you haven't started already, I dare you.

I'm a bit late to the 2013 party, I fear, but the author of the blog A Holy Experience assures me I've arrived right where I am, right on time. And if I forget, or get distracted until December, that's all right, too.

So, to begin today, April 30:

Gifts given, made, sacrificed:

Paring down, I'm giving this lovely fairy queen to a poet friend who fills her walls with paintings of women of strength and beauty. I bought it at a yard sale two years ago from a woman who was also paring down; we shared stories of real fairy sightings in Ireland.

"There is nothing you can see that is not a flower." --Basho. I made this card recently, testing out watercolors again after years away. It's hard not to judge my art against the way I want it to look, but I'll just be grateful for watercolors and send it to my new grandson, 1 month old. He won't judge it. And besides, there is nothing you can see in the painting that is not a flower. (The yellow mug is a favorite, from Kensington Potteries, England.)

My concoction---freshly shaved coconut, unsalted peanuts and Ghirardelli chocolate drops---was a gift sacrificed to my stomach this morning. (The tablecloth is from a local kitchen shop, and the plate is old diner china.)

     Backyard bluebells coming out of the dark, Astoria   c 2007 mds

On this darkest and longest of winter nights...see what we can all look forward to.  Come on, spring!

Cherry tree ka-bloom, Portland   c 2008 mds

Abe and Isaac
as found at youmademesayit.blogspot.com

Feb 2 (continued)

Joe turns to the preacher and shouts something, so the preacher walks over. All I hear is the preacher saying "Jesus" very gently several times in the conversation, and then he walks across the street and is gone. Joe turns to me and asks proudly, "Did you hear what I said?"

Me: No, I couldn't hear over the traffic.

Joe: I shouted, "Hey, what are you selling?" And he didn't get the joke, so he came over and said, "Jesus." And I said, "You can't sell Jesus!" He didn't get it. So I said it again, What are you selling, and he said it again: Jesus. And then he asked me if I wanted to be baptized! "Are you kidding?" I said. He just said something about Jesus again and left. He wasn't very good at marketing!

M: Wow.

J: I've been selling for a long time, 30 years, and when you've got a customer, you don't just give up that fast. Unless you know you don't have a sale. Then you just walk away and you don't waste your time.

M: Maybe he knew he didn't have a sale.

J: You know, you're right. That could be. But you have to at least respond. You don't just walk away. Anyway, he was just reading out loud on this street corner. Nobody could even hear him. What a waste!

M: I couldn't hear much, but I could tell it was parts of the Bible. You know, I'm a Christian, too. And I was just writing about that man here in my journal. I was writing that it's very hard for me to judge whether or not it's foolish for him to be out here on the sidewalk. Because God asked people in the Bible to do some very strange things. He told Abraham to go up on a mountain and sacrifice his son, and at the last minute God stopped him and said, "No, that's okay, I believe you trust me enough to do that." So maybe God is asking that man to read and sing out on this busy street.

J: Because maybe one little word will seep through.

M: Yes.

J: I used to think I was right about everything. But now I'm older I know I don't know everything. I'm-- what is the word when you know you can die anytime?

M: Mortal.

J: Yes, mortal. Life is so fragile. You're not invincible. You can get hit by a truck and it's over. You didn't have time. You thought you had time to think about what you would do, but it's over too fast.

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