Monthly Archives: November 2020


16x20x1.5 acrylic on canvas

Kaamos is the Finnish word for the polar night. A time for remembering the light. For contemplating and appreciating the summer days. A time for fires and saunas.

The winter darkness is not so extreme here in northern Minnesota, but with daylight savings time it is getting dark in the afternoon.

In the summer months, I spend days outside with my kids. Hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, biking, roasting coffee beans over the fire. In the winter, I become more contemplative and long for those warm, sunlit days.

Darkness tells us what light is. There is a Finnish saying,

Even a small star shines in the darkness.

In its own time

We don’t create things out of nothing. We rearrange things that we are aware of. I guess sometimes we’re not aware of them consciously, but they’ve gotten into our mind and then sometimes make a surprise appearance.

There are things we knew about but didn’t appreciate yet.

When we went on summer vacations in the 1960s I was interested in one thing. Playing with my cousins.

Dad pointed out the house where he was born. We’d go to the church where mom and dad got married. I met my grandfather’s sister. We drove down a stretch of road where mom terrified her brothers by driving 35 miles per hour. None of it meant that much to me.

I felt like an outsider with my relatives because I had a different last name and we lived far away.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on my family tree, and I want to find out as much as I can. I want to visit the relatives that are still living in New England, and the graves of those who are deceased.

We get this brief opportunity to be the living ones. My mother wrote an account of her early life that showed me that her generation, and each generation before me, was made of real people with a life full of struggles and dreams.

These are the things floating on the surface of my stream of consciousness now, and are the kind of things that will come out in my creative expression.

Creativity comes naturally to each of us whether we feel we are creative or not. We have to interpret and piece details together in order to know anything at all. Creativity is not reserved for artists, though artists use it to tell their stories. The most whimsical… the most fantastical pictures and stories were stitched together from pieces in the artist’s mental scrapbook.

We develop our craft not only by practicing the creation of art, but by having experiences, observing and reading.

I sometimes feel bad that I didn’t appreciate things earlier, but realization comes in its own time.

Family Tree

I always thought it was interesting the way other cultures remembered their ancestors. It seemed like such a foreign concept to me. I saw it in movies and documentaries. I just dismissed my forebears and thought mine was the only generation that mattered.

Now I see that I am just a link in the chain.

My ancestors were winners. They were successful in passing on their genes to me.

Now I am trying to piece the family together.

I was fortunate to inherit many old photographs, the study of which raised more questions, and each small answer now feels like a victory. It’s a puzzle to understand them from the clues left behind.

By reconstructing my family tree, I see that I am part of something bigger than I realized. Throngs of people contributed to me. I can look into the mirror and see them looking back through the centuries… through my eyes.

I remember the day I stood in a cemetery with my grandmother. She took me from grave to grave saying “This is my mother… this is my grandmother.”

It was peaceful, standing with her in the dappled sunlight. I remember it as a shimmering day, the way I remember all those New England vacation days.

I want to go back there again, to the final resting place of those who came before me. I wasn’t ready to appreciate them yet.

Now I’m much closer to the end of my life. My grandmother and my mother have passed over to join the army of predecessors who are no longer here. I want to know them, and to honor them.


I find artist’s statements and resumes, introductions in general, off putting. They tend to be either boring or snooty. A list of past jobs doesn’t really tell me anything about you. Accomplishments don’t tell me what you were like when you did them.

If we are introducing ourselves, of course we want to put our best foot forward… we want to present the best version of ourselves that we can.

I like to say I am an artist and writer. These are things I do, and things I am passionate about. They are a process rather than a laurel, and then if you ask, I can show you or tell you what I’ve accomplished.

I prefer to meet someone by my bonfire pit, and then discover their talents along the way.

I still have to write artist’s statements. Mine don’t usually include where I studied or where I am employed. I am happy to share this information.

You don’t need a diploma or degree to be interesting and relevant. Not everyone is defined by their job. Not everyone needs a job at all. You’re valid either way.

Refrigerator Magnets

I believe that creativity comes naturally to people. Acting on that creativity does not. That’s why not everyone is an artist. I think you have to be willing to do things poorly so that you can learn to do it well. You have to be willing to be misunderstood. Expressing your creativity through art is a skill that has to be developed, or at least embraced. This goes way beyond painting. Every failed attempt is a lesson. When you learn another way not to do something, you’re one step closer to finding your right way.

I tend to be very critical of the me I was in the past. Thirty years ago. Forty years ago. I see my old self as closed minded, insecure and uninteresting.

My brother suggested that I forgive my former self and learn to accept him for what he was and the conditions that he was in.

Yes, my mind has opened some, but it can still open further. I heard a warning years ago “We must keep an open mind, but not so open that our brains fall out.”

I want my mind to open that far, and discover that it’s attached. Keeping your mind closed for fear of losing something tells me that your mind is made up and you’re not willing to learn or adapt.

I want to expose myself to things I may have never considered before. And I don’t want to stop there. I want to keep pushing against those doorstops and sticky hinges. I don’t want to have my mind made up. I don’t want all the answers. The things that ring true for me will stick until they don’t. They’re refrigerator magnets. Thoughts can be updated or replaced.

I don’t believe everything I hear.

What if you held so tightly to Bronze Age ideas that you closed your mind to modern science?