Cartographic Stories: Beverly, Massachusetts

What place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you?

The same summer I moved from Western Massachusetts to Reno, Nevada, one of my good friends also moved west. Michelle moved from the North Shore in Massachusetts to Tacoma, Washington. Before we both moved, her house was a haven for me. That time in my life I spent a lot of time cozied up on friends’ couches, chatting about life and how to show up in the world. The fact that she lived in the town I was born in, completed a circle in my story.

She lived 2 hours away and by the time we both departed for the west I didn’t need a GPS to get there. I ran to the ocean from her house and snuggled up with her son to read books. Each January we created vision boards. We dreamed and challenged each other. Her presence in my life and the safety of her home was like the whiff of something magical and beautiful in an otherwise difficult time in my life.

They have since sold the house and live in another beautiful home overlooking the Puget Sound.

Michelle’s mom recently commissioned an aerial landscape of their old house in Massachusetts as a surprise for Michelle and her husband. This warmed my heart because it was such a special place to me and so many other people. The result was one of the most endearing pieces I have created.

beverly massachusetts satellite

Her response when she received it was completely in line with how she has taught me to perceive and open up to the world: "Thank you for your amazing offering, friend."

Yet the offering of what that home and her wisdom gave me was infinite and my own gratitude continues.

But this piece also begs the question: what place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you? What home do you no longer own the key to, yet you cannot help but wander the halls in your mind? How can we continue to integrate the energies of those places into our life when all we have are hazy memories and larger-than-life stories?

One answer is just to remember. Tell the stories. Walk the halls in your mind. Feel all the joy, love, pain, and growth that happened there. Let your formative past continue to inform the you that continues to evolve. Never forget what you've lost. Never forget where you come from.

My challenge to you:
Answer the question for yourself. What place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you? How can you continue to integrate those energies into your current path?

Cartographic Stories: Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor lies on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. It is my favorite beach on the lake, so it was fun to paint this as a commission for someone who loves it as well. Sand Harbor is a place that captures the magic of summer. Rocks jut out of the crystal clear water and create a landscape unto itself – part land, part water. There is ice cream nearby, the smell of sunscreen, and a long beach stretching invitingly. Home away from home.

This painting also represents a shift in perspective. Laura, the client who commissioned it, grew up visiting South Lake Tahoe. The view across the lake from the south was her view of Tahoe. Since moving to Reno and starting a family, she now spends more of her lake time at Sand Harbor, with almost the opposite view. The shift in perspective took a while, but how Laura thinks of the Sand Harbor view as her view of Tahoe and her second home.

Courtsey of Google Earth

Courtsey of Google Earth

My challenge to you:
Think of summer. It's right around the corner! Where is your favorite summer spot?

Cartographic Stories: Mansfield, Ohio

The places where we grow and learn in our early years of life often have the most fanciful existence as they live on in our memories. I explored the lore behind my own early childhood home in my Northampton post. These are the places that form large parts of our identity as we rapidly absorb all that we discover, and we discover so much when we are our curious, young selves.

This commission is of a small home (which you can't even see) perched on a hill covered in trees in Ohio. A highway flows by adjected to the local reservoir and farms embrace the little mound. It is where my friend, Christina, was born (yes, a home birth) and lived for the first 11 years of her life. From her memories, the hill is covered in dense carpets of vinca (periwinkle), trees, and rock piles.

Christina read a lot of fantasy back then (as I did too at that age!) and so her entire yard felt magical to her. The previous owners had planted patches of bulbs across the property that would sprout and bloom at various times in the spring. There were tiger lilies, daffodils, and snowdrops.

The hill was also covered in treehouses. Makeshift structures that Christina believes are probably crumbled by now but acted as incubation nests for her imagination. In one big white pine tree, she nailed a board to act as a shelf to hold her little Casio keyboard while she wrote songs swaying in the branches.

The dense and ever-growing forest taught Christina to create her own worlds and write her own stories. She plans to hang the painting over her writing desk to remind her to make something good out of life. Create and dream.

My challenge to you:
Remember what place most nurtured you when you were at your most imaginative and creative. Hold that place close in your mind for a little while. Feel free to comment about it too.

More Reading:
Christina's Blog and her recently published poem "Organ Donor" published in Bearings online and an essay in Belt Magazine.

And if you are interested in your own cartographic story painting, see my commission listings

My Cartographic Stories: Lake Tahoe

In 2012, on my life changing road trip (which I seriously need to write about soon), I stopped in Reno, Nevada. Sarah Stevenson was helping support my quest to promote creativity around the country, so we hosted a free art-making evening at Swill here in town. I had never been to Reno and honestly didn't see much of it while I was here that time. But, as many of us Reno citizens do, Sarah made sure that her out-of-town guest saw Lake Tahoe.

I still remember cresting the pass at Mt. Rose (highest year-round pass in the Sierras!) and ceasing all conversation just to look hard at the beauty of the glimmering lake shining bright and oh so blue between the trees. I was driving with my friend Brigitte, but Sarah made sure we all stopped at the big viewpoint to take in the colorful entirety of the lake. Then we went and ate at Jake's, now a favorite summer spot for my husband and I.

The first photo I ever took of Lake Tahoe, July 2012.

The first photo I ever took of Lake Tahoe, July 2012.

Two years later I moved to Reno. It was fairly unexpected to end up here, but it has been the best move possible. I met my husband and Tahoe became the place where we revisit favorite spots and make new memories all the time. I now have dozens of Tahoe stories and I am sure I will write more of them later.

For now, top 3 moments at Tahoe:

30th Birthday. I had just moved to Reno, knew basically no one, started a new job and there met an amazing man I instantly fell in love with. The first night we grabbed a drink together, Bret told me he knew someone who owned a condo on Tahoe that I could use for my birthday party. (BTW, best way to meet new people when you move somewhere new? Throw a party!) Little did I know that his parents owned it. We went up for the weekend and threw an awesome party. I went swimming at midnight in the freezing lake in October. Fun times.

But it doesn't end there. Monday night was my actual birthday that year and Bret reserved a window seat for us at the Lone Eagle Grille. We ate charcuterie outside by the firepit beforehand and paused our meal later to watch the sunset. Definitely one of his finest moments of romanticism and definitely sealed in the significance of the Hyatt compound in our traditions.

Sand Harbor. Lake Tahoe is actually not the easiest waterway to access when you're new to town and don't know where to go. It's easy to stare at from afar, but since the shoreline is mostly privately owned it's tricky to get to the beach. When I first started going to Sand Harbor with my friend Jodi I quickly decided it was my favorite. With a bar on premises that serves a delish pina colada, we always go to "boat launch" beach. It can be overrun with enormous boats blasting loud music, but it is also where the iconic, smooth rocks are found. I can close my eyes any time of year, see the crystal clear water and remember the first time I dove down in between the rocks or jumped off one of the ledges. I constantly find myself arrested by the beauty of Lake Tahoe and getting lost in it, sitting on one of the large rocks, is one of my favorite summertime activities.

Wedding. Last June, Bret and I got married in Tahoe. It was a wonderful weekend with family and friends from near and far. We chose to again center the festivities on his family condo in South Lake. Friday night we had a beautiful catered dinner and time to mingle on the beach. Saturday we took beach photos before dodging hail for our outdoor, mountaintop ceremony. Sunday we had brunch back at the condo again and said some teary goodbyes to our loved ones. It was a whirlwind and a beautiful gathering of all the souls we hold dear.

I've painted Lake Tahoe and various parts of Tahoe almost a dozen times. It is a lake known for its views and its completely iconic shape. Locals and tourists alike wear Tahoe shaped jewelry and sport the Keep Tahoe Blue bumper stickers. Most people, around here at least, can pick out the shape of the lake from an early age.

Tahoe sits trapped between massive mountains, suspended thousands of feet above sea level, deeper than imaginable and colder still. A mystery and a marvel, it has captured the hearts and minds of many painters, myself among them.

If you love Tahoe too, check out the paintings of Lake Tahoe that I have currently available in my shop.

Cartographic Stories: Puget Sound

My friend Evan and her husband, Randy, recently bought a house in Tacoma, Washington. In a lot of ways it was a typical first home story, but in a lot of ways, it wasn't. Being in Tacoma and buying a house was in many ways the re-invention of their marriage.

The move and the purchase came after a year of living apart as Randy's job kept him in New Hampshire and Evan felt pulled to explore the west coast. Evan wrote about their re-commitment to each other in a beautiful post titled there will be no divorce. It is an inspiring story for all those who get that marriage isn't easy. It's also a beautiful story of love and friendship. Once they had made the decision to be together, Tacoma became the place where they really started building their life together.

Fast forward to this year, Evan and Randy collect tiny art (featured here) and commissioned a tiny piece of their new home in the context of the Puget Sound. Tacoma is the port city in the lower right corner, Seattle is peeking down from the upper right, and the lovely Olympic Peninsula begins off to the left. Evan wanted the painting to encompass the whole area because, for them, living in Tacoma isn't about the neighborhood they chose, it's about the whole beautiful setting.

Evan and I have basically the same perspective on manifesting. Manifesting feels a little "woo-woo" and I'm pretty sure most things come from hard work, but I also can't ignore the spiritual-yet-very-real evidence of what positive thinking can do.

I asked Evan for a story about their time living in Tacoma and she told me that their best memory so far was when she manifested a campsite. Camping was not something they did in New Hampshire, but it was an activity they took up when they arrived in the Pacific Northwest. But, as I well know, there are not many reservable campsites out west. Many are first-come, first-served and that can make planning a camping trip difficult. On this particular trip they had secured a reservable campsite a couple hours away, but as they drove to their destination they realized they were actually headed out into the desert where they were going to bake in 100-degree weather. So they turned around. Once home they decided to try their luck on a first come, first served spot on the peninsula. If they couldn't find something they would head back home. As they drove to some of the more remote campgrounds on the peninsula, Evan chanted "I'm manifesting a campsite. There is going to be a campsite." part in jest, part believing. They pulled in and there was an empty campsite. She checked the board and it was actually free and waiting for them.

Those are the memories that solidify our belonging to a place, aren't they? The lighthearted stories. The memories of being with people we love and pursuing life together.

My challenge to you:
Appreciate the little things. Whoever is in your life, love that they are there.