Maybe I’m Latvian

I just read an article entitled, “Latvia: Europe’s Nation of Introverts”, and it did my heart good. It’s rare to encounter fellow travelers, because we isolate ourselves by definition. Hearing that there’s a whole country full of them felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I may have found my people.

Obviously it’s impossible, or it should be, to make a sweeping commentary about the character traits of a whole nation of people, but it seems even they poke fun of this cultural tendency. And the article goes on to point out that creativity has been found to be strongly linked with introversion. Latvians take creativity very seriously. They also seem to enjoy comfortable silences as much as I do.

I can’t imagine how Latvians coped with being part of the Soviet Union, a time when they were forced into communal living situations and were constantly being watched. That would be my definition of hell. Unfortunately, in spite of the low population density in this country overall, they still are clustered into apartment blocs in metropolitan areas to this day, all the while longing for the single family homesteads of the pre-Soviet era.

And it seems that Latvians are leaving the country at an alarming rate, meaning that it is in sharp decline, and the nation may have to embrace immigrants if it’s ever going to thrive. That will pose a challenge for these people who tend to cross the street to avoid talking to strangers.

Latvians are quick to point out that other countries have a reputation for introversion too. They cite Sweden, Finland and Estonia as having this trait as well. Personally, I think it has to do with the weather and the desire to emotionally hibernate when the weather is crap. It’s a theory.

This article portrays Latvians as self-sufficient, creative, and thoughtful people. I think I’d like them. If I didn’t look so much like my sisters, I’d wonder if I were adopted.

From what I’m seeing on line, it’s a beautiful country. I may just have to go visit. Just having friends say, “Why on earth are you going to Latvia?” would make me smile.

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Murals and Graffiti

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that public art is near and dear to my heart. So much so, in fact, that I’ve started a Facebook group about it. Feel free to join!

I think my all-time favorite genre of public art is easily murals. (I feel the same way about graffiti that is well done and well thought out, but I doubt property owners would agree.) It has something to do with starting out with a blank wall, and then turning it into something else. It’s magical.

Each mural is unique to its creator and its location and its message. Many of them tell stories. Some brighten up shabby areas with vibrant color and powerful images. Murals can also have a sense of humor and/or a sense of history. They can evoke emotions or inspire pride.

If they use depth of field, they’re basically creating space that didn’t exist before. Think about that. They create a whole new world. It’s amazing.

I consider murals to be delightful miracles. I really don’t understand why anyone would leave a wall blank when there is such potential for beauty. Our walls cry out to be canvases for our imaginations.

What follows are some murals that either I’ve seen or they have been sent to me from all over the world via the Pokemon Go app. Enjoy!

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Art Unites Us

We are definitely living in high stress times. And we are more polarized than we have ever been. It’s really distressing to see so many connections being shattered. It’s making me desperately cast about for anything, any little thing at all, that can be labeled a force for unity.

And then I thought: Art. Hold on. I know what you’re about to say. Art can be controversial. And there’s a debate over whether things can be considered art or not or whether they require historical context and education to be displayed. And there’s also an ongoing debate over whether art should be federally funded. I get all that.

But I would argue that all those issues are ancillary to the fact that art exists in every culture, one way or another. Culturally, we all feel the need to express ourselves. We want to put a mark on this earth. We want to add beauty to the world.

I think that creative streak is the thing I love most about humanity. If we lived in dull, grey, blocky, uninspiring spaces, if we had no ability to be unique in any way, this world would be a dull and lifeless place. It is a delight to go somewhere I’ve never been and see unexpected murals or sculptures or whimsical fountains. It is one of the primary reasons I love to travel.

So, yeah. Art can be controversial, but it exists in one form or another within all of us. It may be different from country to country or from artist to artist. Some things might be more my cup of tea than the next person’s.

But the fact that art exists is the thing. So I’ll cling to it for now, for some much-needed sanity, and if you are on Facebook, I encourage you to join my Public Art Lovers Group.

I’ll leave you with some public art from around the world that I received from Pokemon Go friends. Enjoy!

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Painting Flower Pots

Every once in a while, I have this powerful urge to get creative. I suspect it’s the same feeling that animals get when it’s time to migrate for the winter. It’s not an option. It’s a compulsion.

But as we’re in the throes of a pandemic, I didn’t want to run out to an art supply store to get materials. That made me cast about in the yard and garage to see what was already on hand. That added an additional layer of creativity to the project.

We have a lot of (perhaps too many) mostly used cans of paint in a wide variety of colors sitting around, taking up space. I also happened to have a bunch of empty terra cotta pots in my greenhouse. So I thought, why not? What you see below is the result of my handiwork.

Okay, I never said I was Van Gogh. But it was a fun few hours, and now when I see these pots it makes me smile. I even went a little wild and tried gluing glass beads on one, as you can see. While it looked good on the day I took this picture, it didn’t hold up well. I guess the moisture and drying qualities of terra cotta do not make for a good gluing surface. Lesson learned.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be artistic. You just need to look at what you have available in a different way. Use your imagination. Have fun. Satisfy that compulsion.

Teracotta pots

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Creativity under COVID-19

It seems that every cloud has a silver lining. Even though this quarantine has been an exercise in torture and an economic nightmare, I am seeing a worldwide artistic explosion as a result of it. Yay, us!

Just today a friend sent me a link to this facebook video. It’s the best, most creative COVID-19 song I’ve yet to hear. I’ve listened to it about 20 times now, and it always makes me smile. It makes me want to do a jig. Thank you, Dermot Ryan, wherever you are, for making the best of a bad situation.

I’ve also seen some amazing artwork that people have created using whatever happens to be at hand. I’ve seen photographs of someone skiing down a mountain, the mountain being a bed sheet, and the pictures taken as the person poses on the floor. I’ve seen people reproduce famous works of art using balogna and toilet plungers.

I’m enjoying the many games people are coming up with to entertain themselves and others. There are also some amazing facemask designs out there, as well as astonishing inventions and creative ways to help/connect with one another remotely. Humor, both dark and light, abounds.

For every hateful or idiotic act that this virus has inspired, it seems that there are 10 artistic creations. That gives me hope, and it makes me rather like humanity more than I have in quite some time. Keep up the good work, everybody!

Maybe we all just needed the time and space to let our imaginations run wild. Maybe we are taking extra care of our mental health through art therapy. Whatever the case may be, I’m enjoying all this creativity, despite the fact that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to enjoy anything else. Stay safe, everybody! We can do this.

220px-Ghost_Hug_chalk_writing_on_Hawthorne_during_Coronavirus_pandemic

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Making Bookmarks

Every once in a while I get this overwhelming desire to be creative. Mostly when that happens, I sit quietly until the urge passes. The older I get, the more I feel the need to conserve my energy. But on this day, my artistic muse would give me no peace, so I decided to borrow a wonderful idea from some of my fellow little free library stewards and make some bookmarks to give away.

I had several children’s books in my inventory that were all but falling apart, so they weren’t suitable for putting in my library. But I find it really hard to throw out books, even when they are past their prime. It seems sacrilegious to me. So these books had been sitting forlornly in a corner for several months, no doubt contemplating their fate with dread.

The artwork in most children’s books is amazing, so rather than recycle those pages, I chose to upcycle them. Making bookmarks is really easy.

  • Simply cut out a page, positioning the art in question to show it off to its best advantage, and allow extra paper to fold over for added thickness. Bonus points if you can get cool imagery on both sides of your bookmark! (If you’re like me, cutting a book up will make you cringe. I find it almost as distasteful as throwing one out. I had to keep reminding myself that these books were too tattered to read, so it is better to make them into bookmarks than it is to let them fade completely away.)

  • Bookmarks don’t have to be a uniform size. It’s not like most of them hang out together, standing at attention like little soldiers. They are meant to be used. I do try my best to keep them at 90 degree angles, though, because otherwise they look strange, at least to my eyes. So I found it helpful to use a cutting board that has a grid on it.

  • Once you have the bookmark cut and folded, I use a glue stick to glue it together. Glue sticks are a lot less messy than liquid glue is.

  • Then I lay them flat under something heavy to ensure that they dry flat.

  • Once dry, I use a hole punch to make a hole in one end, and reinforce that on both sides with hole reinforcements that you can get at any office supply store.

  • Then I add a ribbon tassel to the end. (I bought a variety of colors on sale so I had a multitude of choices to compliment or contrast the art.) Done.

Now, some of my fellow library stewards laminate theirs, or use clear contact paper on them. I haven’t done this yet, but it is a good idea if you want the bookmark to last and stay clean. However, I know my history with bookmarks. They usually get lost sooner than that type of longevity requires. (That sounds much better than saying I was too lazy to laminate, doesn’t it?)

The best part about this project is that you can do it while watching PBS, or the channel of your choice. Call it multitasking if you must. I just call it twice the fun.

Here are pictures of some of the bookmarks that I made. It’s going to be hard to part with many of these, because I think they’re beautiful. But part with them I will, because I will do anything, anything at all, to increase someone’s joy of reading. I think that’s the most important gift you can give.

These bookmarks will be placed, a few at a time, inside my little free library’s gift cubby, in the hope that they’ll make some patrons smile.

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Recyclart

Every once in a while I have to do something creative. I wish I could engage in artistic pursuits more often, because it makes me feel alive and whole. Every time I make something, I wonder why I let so much time pass between projects. The experience is so fulfilling. But, you know, there’s so little time…

I am in the middle of a project that I’ve been working on sporadically for a few months now, and I guarantee that I’ll be blogging about it when it’s done. But in the meantime, with a little help from Lyn, a friend I’ve made through this blog, I’ve stumbled upon an incredible website that I’ll definitely be consulting before all future endeavors. It’s called www.recyclart.org.

This website is a treasure trove of exciting ideas. On its home page, it describes itself as “Creative ideas based on repurposed, recycled, reused, reclaimed, upcycled and restored things!” I’m getting excited just by browsing. I especially love the idea of combining two of my passions: art and recycling. I suspect it’s going to be my source of inspiration for Christmas gifts for years to come.

The website itself is a cool set up, because not only can you search by categories, such as clothes, garden ideas, and home décor, but you can also search by materials. For example, I looked up projects that you can make out of old books, and I found instructions for making clocks, Christmas ornaments, origami wall art like the kind shown below, a stool, a floating book wall, and a bed frame. How cool is that?

From this site you can learn how to make a pendant lamp from lace doilies, furniture from pallets, planters from license plates, benches from truck tailgates. You can even make baskets out of old t-shirts.

Okay, I need to back away from my computer before I get so jazzed up that I commit myself to about a decade of creativity. I tell you what, though, I’ll never settle for something mundane and off the shelf again.

Recyclart

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N-N-1 Again

There’s an interesting project that’s been floating around in the blogosphere, thanks to my friends Anju and Norm, who write the blogs This Labyrinth I Roam and Classical Gasbag, respectively. It’s called N-N-1, where the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time.

Basically, you take a picture within a designated timeframe, and then write 50-200 words about it. You turn it in to the designated host (which this time happens to be Natalie, from the blog Wild Rivers Run South). You don’t have to be a blogger to participate, but if you are, when you turn this in to Natalie, give her a link to your blog and/or website as well, and she’ll include it.

Sound interesting? I know the deadline is rather short for this one. Entirely my bad for not posting this sooner. Here’s Natalie’s information in her own words:

Miss Anju and Mr. Norm asked me to host the next N-N-1. With some fear in my heart, I accepted. But because of the person I am, I want to make this one slightly different.

We have done themes before, and I like them, so this time let us do the theme “Season Changes.” The theme is voluntary, so you are not required to stick with it. Secondly, rather than be forced to take your picture on a specific date and time, or even just a specific date, you have a three day window to take the picture.

Now for the details:

Take your picture sometime between Thursday, May 2nd and midnight on Saturday, May 4th. Send your picture, a bit of writing (no more than 200 words of prose or poetry) to me at ngarvois@gmail.com no later than midnight on Monday, May 6th. Oh! All times are local to where you are. I’ll put all of the submissions together and post them in my blog, wildriversrunsouth.wordpress.com, and send you a link so that you can reblog the post if you want to. You do not need a blog in order to participate. If you know somebody who would like to participate, please let them know.

I hope you’ll participate. It’s been a very fun and eye-opening experience in the past. I’ve shared two of them on my blog, here and here. Check ’em out, and contact Natalie!

Images around the world

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Holiday Markets

I’ve always thought that the quintessential Christmas experience would be going to a holiday market in someplace exciting like a village in Germany or France or something. I kind of feel as though we Americans are relative newcomers to the whole holiday thing. Nouveau célébrants.

It would be exciting to experience tables upon tables of crafts that have been created for generations, and eat traditional foods that I’ve never heard of before. All while wearing a beautiful, heavy sweater knitted by a half-blind, arthritic little old lady who doesn’t speak English. And I’d be wearing ear muffs for the first time in my life, too. And a furry hat with matching boots. And mittens. Not gloves. Mittens.

But one really shouldn’t overlook the holiday bazaars that we have right here at home. They’re amazing as well. Recently I went to a Christmas Night Market right here in Seattle, and there were hundreds of booths full of hand blown glass, paintings, jewelry, ornaments, clothing, and food galore.

I didn’t buy much. I’m trying not to accumulate stuff. But I have to say that if I were in one of those families where you buy something for even the distant cousins, a holiday bazaar would be my venue of choice. Anyone can go to Walmart. But supporting a local artisan so that he or she may make a living from some unique craft is special, indeed.

Even if you buy nothing (in which case, leave your wallet at home so you’re not tempted), these markets are a great deal of fun. Something about being surrounded by creativity just adds another wonderful layer to the holiday experience.

Happy holidays, dear reader!

Bazaar

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A Cool Dream

I usually forget my dreams immediately upon opening my eyes. But sometimes they’re so fascinating I repeat them over and over in my head until I can write them down. This was such a dream.

In it, I was a writer. (Big stretch, right?) But I was living inside what I wrote. For example, if I wrote of a lush, green forest, one would appear around me. (Yes, I dream in color.) I could conjure butterflies and birds and deer and flowers.

I sat at my writing desk and I created three dimensional, living, breathing art. It was really exciting. It felt as though I was conducting an orchestra and painting a picture at the same time.

And then, I got writer’s block. So I wrote about a coffee table book, and one appeared on my writing table. It was a big, thick one, full of glossy photos. All I had to do was open the book and look at a photo, and I’d be inspired to write about it. And so the creativity continued.

I can’t describe the feeling of contentment and joy I was experiencing. It makes me happy to think that I’m now in a place in my life where such positive dreams are flowing out of my subconscious. It was a creative, problem-solving kind of place. I could have lived in there forever.

And then my dog Quagmire kicked me in the ribs and I woke up. The magical world popped like a soap bubble. Even so, I gave Quag a big good morning hug. That dream made me feel really empowered, but my dog makes me feel loved. So that’ll do quite nicely.

Fantasy Forest

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