Artist Dates

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud - Week 6

Daffodils William Wadsworth

Many of us live in a world of constant chaos. Noise surrounds us: both audible and visible. It’s no wonder by the end of the day we’re fried, hoping we can find solace in the comfort of a hot bath or warm cup of tea.

In his poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, which I share below thanks to The Poetry Foundation which has it on its website, Wordsworth welcomes the silence, calling it the bliss of solitude. He ends his poem with:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Silence and mindfulness are not something many of us, I’ve quickly realized, are comfortable with even though research has shown that silence helps to reduces stress. I’ll raise my hand and admit I was among those people. While I need complete silence to write and work, silence when I’m not working felt off to me. Like I needed to fill in the time and space with something, anything. But I pressed on, hoping I could get to a place where it wouldn’t feel odd.

This week I ran the first time without my ear buds playing music to help me. I forced myself to take in my surroundings, hear the birds chirping, the kids laughing at the playground during their recess, the hum and honks of the cars driving past me. What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t just the new sounds I was hearing, but the new smells I was inhaling, too. Without the music to distract me, all of my senses were on alert - including my sense of smell. I took deeper breaths to take in the intoxicating scents of spring - little wisps of sweet hyacinths and the odor of manure mulch a landscaping service was unpacking from their trucks near a home.

I missed listening to my music and using the music to help me get through my run but then as I paused to think about it, why was I using the music to help me “get through” something? Is it possible I might enjoy running more if I was more attuned to how my body was reacting during the run? I don’t know but I plan to found out next time I run outdoors. Right now, I still plan to put those earbuds in when I run at the gym.

In the meantime, if you made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll enjoy a moment of silence today, as I did, and seek out some daffodils that are finally making an appearance in my part of the world.


I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud 

By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

 

Pausing To Notice The Beauty In Front Of Us - Week 5

Jason Brammer Artwork.jpg

My artist date streak continued this week, week 5, with an exploration of the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. I’m in this neighborhood every week but I never venture too far from where I need to be. This week, though, I decided to take a detour. As I wandered down 1000 N. California, I stumbled upon this large-scale mural on the side of a building. Turns out it’s by a Chicago visual artist named Jason Brammer. His storefront studio is in this building.

If you follow my Instagram account, you may notice that I love any type of art, but especially public art. One of the reasons I love Chicago is because there is so much art around this city, from large sculptures in parks to murals beneath viaducts. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to let us see what’s in front of us rather than constantly rushing or allowing ourselves to be distracted.

Thank you, Jason, for making our city a bit more beautiful for us.

Why I'm Dating Again + A Surprising First Quarter

My daughter and I brought a new weeping pussy willow home this month and I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see it bloom. She named it Steven. Once the weather cooperates, we’re planting Steven in our backyard to replace the fruit tree that died a couple of years ago. She and I agreed we need more trees in our lives so Steven will be a nice addition to our backyard.

My daughter and I brought a new weeping pussy willow home this month and I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see it bloom. She named it Steven. Once the weather cooperates, we’re planting Steven in our backyard to replace the fruit tree that died a couple of years ago. She and I agreed we need more trees in our lives so Steven will be a nice addition to our backyard.

March, thankfully, brought in the first day of spring on March 20. Man, was I ready. I embraced the day with wide open arms as I was looking forward to finally shedding my winter slump.

With the first quarter of the year in the books, I took some time to reflect. I read and am now re-reading and putting into daily practice The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Early in the book, she writes:

“It is often said that what you give attention to grows in importance.”

Ain’t that the truth.

This can be said of the things and activities we plan but also the company we keep, right? In late 2017, I wrote about the importance of showing up. Having felt like I was neglecting some of my friendships, I had vowed to make more time to nurture those friends I hold dear. I cannot tell you how much it means to me that many of my friends have taken the time to meet with me this quarter. Friends I haven’t seen in both months and years.

All I had to do was reach out and ask and they made time for me. It felt so good to hear how they were doing, share in their struggles and celebrate their successes. I’m so grateful and I am committed to continuing to make time to see my friends. An unexpected benefit is I’ve also met several new friends simply by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and allowing those new relationships to slowly take root.

Why I’m Dating Again

New relationships and rekindling old ones are important to me but I’ve also begun something new in March: I’ve started dating again. Those dates are with myself.

One of the things Cameron recommends in her book is to schedule weekly artist dates. I used to do these regularly before I had kids and smartphones took over our lives and it reminded me how important they were to my psyche. I also read the piece by David Brooks in the New York Times last week: Longing for an Internet Cleanse. If you’ve been following my monthly updates, you know I’ve been trying to minimize the time I spend online needlessly. These weekly artist dates have been nothing short of amazing and necessary. If you’re interested in what I’ve been doing this month, here is where I went on Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4. I highly recommend scheduling your own artist date.

A Couple Of Recent Projects & A Tease

This month there are two projects I wanted to highlight because I’m so proud of how they turned out.

  • The Designers’ Designer: Shumaker Design + Build Associates. I had the pleasure of working with Suzanne and Garry Shumaker to write the bio for their architecture design + build firm based in Evanston, Illinois. It was such a fun writing project and it doesn’t hurt that Suzanne is a gifted photographer, too, and her images accompany my words on their site.

  • EatingWell magazine. Seeing your byline in print never gets old, at least for me. It was such a treat to write the Food With Purpose column for the April issue of EatingWell magazine (out on newsstands now!). My editor was great to work with and I loved interviewing Dave Miller, the CEO of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, the subject of the profile.

  • Coming up…speaking of interviewing CEOs, I had the pleasure of interviewing a new CEO who recently took the helm of a 150-year-old company. That interview was so fun to do and I can’t wait to see the story publish (which should be sometime this week!).

Books I’m Reading Or Am Excited About

I have a talented group of friends and several have books that either recently come out or they have their pub date soon.

Coming Soon - but you can pre-order now!

That’s it for now from me. I’d love to hear from you. What’s going on in your life? In the spirit of keeping my calendar open, if you’re up for a coffee date or lunch or visit to a museum, let me know!

Here’s to an even more beautiful and rich April, friends.

Appreciating Art In All Its Forms - Week 4

This week I took a little detour as part of my artist date. I tacked it onto a client meeting I had in the Loop and decided to go a bit earlier so I could stop and really enjoy the Marc Chagall mosaic located in Chase Tower Plaza. The piece is called Four Seasons and since I come to it from the east side since that’s where I get off the subway, I rarely ever have the chance to walk around the entire thing and just take it in. I intentionally gave myself extra time so I could enjoy all four seasons, like we have in Chicago. It was such a lovely experience, just to sit and look at the piece on the west side as well as the north and side sections. It helped that it was a gorgeous day so many people were out and enjoying the weather and their company.

Marc Chagall’s Four Seasons in Chase Tower Plaza in Chicago.

Marc Chagall’s Four Seasons in Chase Tower Plaza in Chicago.

After my meeting, as I rushed to grab the train back since I had plans that afternoon, I decided to pause and walk into St Peter’s Church on Madison. In all the years I’ve lived in Chicago and worked downtown and trekked into the Loop for client meetings and passed this church, I’ve never once walked inside. Granted, I’m not Catholic so that may be one reason since it’s a Catholic church. Still, I craved the solace and my daily morning meditation has helped to remind me of the importance of slowing down so I figured, why not…I’m going to walk inside.

I guess I wasn’t the only one who needed the solace and quiet from the busy-ness of life. While I wouldn’t say it was packed, for a Thursday afternoon, there had to be at least a good 30 people in the pews. The church is massive and beautiful. Marble statues, rows of wooden pews, candles lit, it really felt so calming. I left feeling not as rushed or anxious and it was a lovely feeling.

St Peter’s Church on Madison Street in Chicago.

St Peter’s Church on Madison Street in Chicago.

Stopping to Smell the...Tulips? - Week 3

I’ve been visiting the Chicago Flower and Garden Show annually for several years now and one of the reasons I love it is because it makes me hopeful that winter is on the way out and spring is around the corner. In this case, spring arrived (at least on the calendar) on Wednesday, March 20. We still need to wait a couple of months before we can plant any vegetables but I’m hoping to get started with growing my herbs indoors next month before I bring them outside. Baby steps, friends!

Pink tulips are my favorite spring flower. Seeing them annually at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show makes me smile.

Pink tulips are my favorite spring flower. Seeing them annually at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show makes me smile.

Women’s Journeys in Fiber usually has an exhibit at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show and I love to walk through it and take in the art. This one by Natasha Lehrer Lewis made me pause. It’s not big but it caught my attention. The theme of this year’s exhibit had to do with time and her piece, entitled Time, asks the viewer to try and recall the last time we took the time to stop and smell the roses. The piece has a little girl clutching flowers, inhaling their aroma and appreciating the sunny day and the innocence of childhood. “In time, storm clouds of life gathered in the distance, and the rumblings of adulthood could be heard,” the artist writes in her description of the piece. “Before long, these clouds hung over us, dark with the cares that now preoccupy our once creative minds.”

She goes on to write, “I am learning more with each passing day, to make choices and find balance for my soul. Never let the child-like innocence be clouded out by your storm clouds. Life is just too short.”

The art piece by Natasha Lehrer Lewis made me pause. Perhaps not to smell the roses, but to consider how I’m trying to balance the storm clouds and life’s demands with more opportunities to feed my creative soul.

The art piece by Natasha Lehrer Lewis made me pause. Perhaps not to smell the roses, but to consider how I’m trying to balance the storm clouds and life’s demands with more opportunities to feed my creative soul.

It was another great week of seeing friends and meeting new ones. I’m really enjoying these artist dates as well as getting out to see people. This winter has been brutal for me so it’s nice to feel more alive and happy. Thank goodness the sun has been making more appearances, too!

Soaking In Nature and Natural Light - Week 2

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that I’ve embarked on a new year-long project to take an artist date a week. This week’s artist date appears to have a bit of theme as it reminds me that spring is around the corner and I cannot wait to get outdoors more often, in open space and around nature.

Plant Shop is the perfect little shop that is packed with beautiful plants for your window sill or corner in your room that needs some greenery.

Plant Shop is the perfect little shop that is packed with beautiful plants for your window sill or corner in your room that needs some greenery.

I learned of a new-to-me plant shop, appropriately called Plant Shop, so I set out to find it. It’s as darling and charming as I read and so glad I visited. I followed-up that visit with a trip to the New Independence Library, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite libraries because natural light streams through the enormous windows.

The New Independence Library’s windows and stepped seating area are among the many reasons I love this contemporary Chicago Public Library. It’s easy to get a lot of work done in this space since it feels both open and calm.

The New Independence Library’s windows and stepped seating area are among the many reasons I love this contemporary Chicago Public Library. It’s easy to get a lot of work done in this space since it feels both open and calm.

Sometimes it’s fun to explore in nearby neighborhoods. A change of scenery can do wonders.

Sometimes it’s fun to explore in nearby neighborhoods. A change of scenery can do wonders.

Finally, I had a pocket of time and the weather was nice enough that I decided to go for an extended walk with my dog Scout. Across a busy street from where we live, there is a small neighborhood that is filled with beautiful American Craftsman homes. We trekked in that direction and one corner home always has something to catch the eye. I was drawn to these pretty bird cages that hung from one of her trees.

My New Love Affair - Week 1

Don’t these handmade papers beg to be touched?

Don’t these handmade papers beg to be touched?

There are many things in life that make me happy. Textiles, handmade paper, art, and trees are among them. Books and coffee, too. So when I set out to start dating again, to take myself out on “artist dates” as Julia Cameron from The Artist’s Way calls them, I started jotting down some places I could visit to reclaim some of the creative feelings I seem to have lost in the bustle of day-to-day life. I suppose it’s no surprise that my first date was to BLICK, an art supply store in Chicago’s Loop.

While Cameron advocates for time alone during these artist dates, and I’m committed to doing them alone, I’m also trying to schedule more time with friends. I was able to follow-up this lovely artist date with a real date with a friend who I met for lunch nearby at Miller’s Pub, one of my old haunts when I worked around the corner and attended graduate school at DePaul University.

If you care to follow along, I’m hoping to use my blog to stay accountable and an online diary of sorts as I post my weekly artist dates here. If you have any recommendations on places to visit, please let me know. My goal is to keep these dates going through the end of the year.