Monthly Archives: May 2017

Take A Hike

Posted May 26, 2017 by Kerry McFall

Some of the best advice ever: Take a Hike.  Get outside.  Move, Breathe deeply.  Listen.  Really look at your world.

painting of cow parsnip

“Take a Hike”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I wandered up to Bald Hill on Monday, taking my own advice and also wanting to postpone another round of phone calls to insurance company robots.  It was lovely, and I was delighted at the varieties of wildflowers in bloom.  Cow parsnips get the prize for biggest, flashiest blossoms and they are EVERYWHERE.  Their big lacy umbrellas are really tall this year, over my head.  Looking up from beneath them gives them a glow against the bright sky, which I tried to portray in this painting by using a dark background.  The batik effect of that background is thanks to a post by Elsbeth McLeod of Sketchbook Skool, where she described using plastic wrap on wet paint to create random shapes  – I’m pleased with it, although my resident critic says the light spot is a bit too light and draws attention away from the blossom.  Hmm.  After it dried, I added a few light layers of colored pencil using the side of the lead, which highlighted the paint edges and also gave nice overall texture.

As for those phone robots, I have to shake my head at how we as consumers put up with such horrendous customer service.  How did we ever let them get away with this?  Why is there never an option that says, “Press 3 with your middle finger to flip a bird at the corporate MBAs who thought this was a good idea…”  After 15 minutes of pressing this, that, and the other, I get the privilege of listening to music on hold for half an hour before a human being answers.  And for this I pay over $450 a month?!  Grr.  I need another hike.

For an interesting comparison between this plant and Queen Anne’s Lace, here’s a web page ink

magenta rhodies

“May Rhododendron,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

I often paint or sketch things that are setting on my dining table, which is a warm maple wood.  The window behind the table has venetian blinds of the same warm hue, and the strong vertical and horizontal lines have always intimidated me before this.  I decided to try just a suggestion of those influences today, and I think it almost worked.  What worked even better was the process of making the piece, losing myself in the colors and shapes, taking my mind off the challenges that await this next week: getting my mother into memory care, waiting while my son begins his epilepsy diagnostic sessions at UC San Diego Epilepsy Research.  So many milestones to absorb at once.  But like making sense of how to capture the ruffly flower petals and veined leaves, we’ll be taking it one step at a time, one line at a time, one day at a time.

Mother’s Day and Strawberry Jam

Omelette and Croissant

Mother’s Day Breakfast, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Somehow Mother’s Day always makes me think of that elusive vision of breakfast in bed, which has never quite panned out according to the Hallmark Card fantasy.  You know, the one where smiling children deliver champagne, bacon, chocolates, flowers… to a well-rested Mom in a nice velour bathrobe… My husband’s twisted sense of humor led him to help the kids provide cold coffee and green jello in bed one Mother’s Day… as the Queen might say, “We were not amused.”

My solution this year was to go to The Patissier French Bakery this morning and buy my own breakfast a day early.  A buttery omelette filled with tender potatoes, topped with tomatoes, and a croissant on the side.  I ate half, and saved half and brought it home, so although I will not try to eat it in bed (always messy, especially with a cat lurking around the edges), I will be sure to have my menu of choice  tomorrow morning — and the coffee will be hot!

But even so, this year Mother’s Day feels quite strange for me.  My own mother has slipped away quite suddenly as Alzheimer’s has made its presence known.  Our relationship has for years been not easy, so I don’t really have a rosy haze of memories to mourn.  But it was difficult last weekend, looking into her freezer and realizing that I was seeing the last jar of Strawberry Freezer Jam she will ever make.  I brought it home and made a painting of it.  Funny how food, a simple glass jar of fruit and sugar, can come to symbolize something as complex as a human being, something as multi-faceted as the relationship between a parent and child.

I am a mother, and a daughter.  I have a daughter, and many near-daughters.  I have a goddaughter.  I am also a Wicked Stepmother, and a step-grandmother, and a Mother-in-Law.  Even with all those matriarchal titles, the kids are all scattered this year.  So after my breakfast, I will drive to the “Skilled Nursing Facility” and visit my own mother, wondering what to try to talk with her about.  Maybe we’ll talk about jam.  Or more likely, she’ll just sleep.

sketch of jam jar

The Last Jar, mixed media by Kerry McFall