September 19th through 24th, 2010
Elaine Frenett & Jean Warren, Tandem Teach
Lake Alpine, just east of Bear Valley in California

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leisure Day, Tandem Teachers Play

We all three awoke our usual early times. I did my morning yoga silently in the still dark room and longed for the crisp air where we usually did our "Sun Salute". This morn, our final participant was to be picked up by her hubby and whisked off for "Brunch". Jean and I waved her g'bye, returning to our coffee and thoughts.

We had a completely open, uncommitted day to play. Sigh . . .

Now what do you think we'd want to do? What a silly question!! Go PAINT.
We left our packing for later (one can always put things off in order to paint, right?) and bagged up our journals and painting materials. We head out in different directions . . . smilin' at the glistening day before us.

I head west . . . I'd been in love with these small ravines that we pass each morn on our way to the rocks where we'd done our yoga. I get all nestled at the corner of the pedestrian bridge in a spot of shade and start sketching. The blissful Saturday was a flurry with the nearby campground (the only remaining open one around the lake) and just as I start adding in watercolor, I hear a heard of children in the distance. I'm buried in pigment, merrily zig-zigging down the rocks, when I realize the boys are very near, and are using BBs to shoot chipmunks and squirrels. ARGH! I'm sitting there focusing on "acceptance" and was pretty much getting there, when, I notice the boys are aiming up at the quick lil' furry animals in the trees. And since they are down in the ravine below me, when aiming up - - they are also aiming AT ME!!! I shout down for them to move on and find targets below my range and I'm grateful they seem relatively obedient. So my vision for my first sketch is now kinda shot (sorry, no pun intended) and I stash things back into my pack. Besides I needed to find a bathroom.

After a quick visit to the Lodge, I point my paintbrush in the opposite direction, towards my favorite rocks on the lake, the Miwuk rocks. As usual, I'm delighted with the arrangements of rock, the patterns of shadows and the brilliant yellow turning foliage. I nest into a shady spot with a full view of a rocks, lake and some of that sprinkle of yellow. The warm afternoon whispers by, I can hear others over near and diving into the refreshing water. In time I can hear a class group nearby, with the teacher quizzing the group on the variety and characteristics of the various and numerous trees in this area. Shoot!! Wish I could hear better to take notes. Jean and I have been pondering what this and that tree is. HERE were all our answers!

I'd begun feeling like my dear sunny journal entry was complete and to my liking. I turned around, responding to a sound to my right and - POOF! - there was my dear friend and tandem-teacher, Jean! What a pleasant surprise! She'd completed her journal work and we commiserated with our days happenings.

I had an off the wall suggestion for closing our afternoon. So I sprung it upon poor Jean. I mean, that afternoon sun was comfortingly warm, the solar warmed rocks offered inviting resting places and the mountain lake water must be invigorating - - how about we go for a dip? She looked at me like I must be nuts. And most of us already know that to be at least partially true. But, again, I asked, "why not?" I'd heard these kids yelling back 'n forth how wonderful their "swim" was. "So, how 'bout it Jean?" She tentatively agreed to trot back, change to our suits and return to this warm sandy beach.

So we return, seeking out a shallow cove where the water could have been warmed by the sun. We poke and peek, sticking in our toes. Finally, we get brave and wade in. The water was refreshing! I dunked into my shoulders and Jean was the REAL brave one and dove in, swimming out a ways. I dog paddled along too . . . glad that we'd actually gotten brave - - and enjoyed it!

Eventually we wander back onto the beach, looking at the interesting artifacts washed up on the beach edge . . . I was inadvertently looking for a keepsake from nature. A warm breeze whispered by, and there, just up against a rock, I say a gossamer glisten. What was that!?! Gently I knelt down to find the remains of probably the wing set of a mayfly. It was a dainty set . . . and when I picked it up - SNAP! - the pair broke apart. What a perfect ending gift from Lake Alpine . . . one tiny wing for Jean and one for me. We took the remaining warm hours on the giant granite rocks, updating our journals and absorbing the final moments here.

We weave our way along the lake walkway, back to our cabin. Skipping the idea of eating out again, we just munched on leftovers in the 'frig as we reviewed the entire retreat. Going over each exercise, judging how successful we felt each was and popping in ideas/renovations for improvements for next year's retreat. It was great to do this while everything was fresh in our minds. And the part I so admired about Jean, as my Tandem-teacher, was her professionalism and willingness to honestly access our endeavor and relish thinking of better approaches/ideas! For me this review was just "icing on my cake" for this retreat!

The remainder of the evening we popped from pile to pile, packing up things for tomorrows departures. A silent sadness sat watching us chattering and working. Our amazing "Women's Journaling Retreat" was coming to an end.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Five, Closing Farewells

Our quiet morning yoga ritual grounded us into our final retreat day. I felt a new lingering sadness to see our participants trickle away one by one. But its a good reminder for me that all things change . . . to release and move into the new upcoming adventures.

Once back at the Ponderosa cabin, we brewed and chewed our breakfasts, then, prepared for our few final exercises. One of my favorite closings sounds a bit hokey, but even Jean changed her viewpoint once we did these sweet, positive sharings which everyone was able to take home. Not only a memento but also a reminder of all the amazing traits others see in us that we often overlook or forget. We are such clear mirrors for one another :)

Then, we each presented our retreats work, commenting upon successes and some judgment too, of course (aren't we our worst critiques?) We were all impressed with the quantity and quality accomplished. Now we know some of these wouldn't be in museums but the growth and experimentation that went on was astonishing. Many of the writing/meditation/internal processes that we experienced weren't even visible on paper. How do you measure stretching your envelope? or combining a spiritual slant to getting lines on paper? or responding in color only to what you felt rather than just what you saw? I remember asking once in my journal writings, "how do you paint the breeze?" and again, that is what these journal reviews were echoing in my heart.

We closed the Retreat formally at noon, leaving a big-wide-wonderful afternoon for all of us four to go out and do as we wished. At our leisure we all packed up our painting/journal gear and head out into this gorgeous day.

We'd all ended up going to the east end of the lake with all its variety of granite rocks, sculpture-like trees, all backgrounded with azure blue lake. It was a painfully beautiful day. Some of the aching was from knowing we'd all be leaving soon. But we had lovely results from the day . . . here's a few samples.
Another of our cluster flew away that afternoon. We all helped carry out her bags and assisted in positioning things in the car. I was almost glad when she couldn't find her keys (oh grief, we had to unpack a bunch of things to find the key ring under one of the boxes!!) . . . her time with us lingered just a bit more. But eventually she drove off, headed to her home destination in the late afternoon sun.
For dinner, we chose to wander down the hill to the Lodge Restaurant. After days of substantial evening meals, we split plates or ordered a smaller version of the usual meals. The sun set slowly as we were sitting on the restaurant patio and we returned to working in our journals with occasional chirps from each of the three remaining from the original five.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day Four, Big Shapes & Emotion

Our morning yoga was peaceful, only enhanced as we watched this mystical dance of a fly fisherman casting poetically across the still mornin' lake.

Jean has our first assignment of the day, "Walk & Draw". Originally we'd planned to travel over the ridge doing this exercise en route to Duck Lake, but with not all our "knees" able to take the full 4 mile hike, we opted to include everyone and meander around Lake Alpine.
Jean's instructions went something like:

" 'Walking Drawing' is a way to train ourselves to look for the big
picture, main shapes, thrusts, tangents, and space divisions. We then
developed one of the 2" squares into a larger painting, pleased with what our
memory provided."
I did enjoy this exercise ... it stretched my brain. I found that the long and farther I walked, the better my eye became accustomed to "seeing" this way. So of course, when I got back to the cabin to pick my favorite 2" square to turn into an actual painting, I choose the final sketch square. But my lil brain at that point, almost hurt, attempting to make up or pull from memory, what I'd so loved about that scene without relying upon the local color to influence me.

I had some extra space along the left side of my bottom page and wanted to capture for my memory, this sweet scene that one of the participants provided for us each morn. She'd tear into small cubes, a parade of bread squares along the deck railing for the crazy birds to come feast upon. It was just another added delight that each lady brought along with her to add to this delicious mix of women.

After we each enjoyed our lunch selections of choice, we were on to the afternoon agenda. This process was to involve an emotional scenario in our life, one that had a strong charge to it. The primary expression was to be painted or drawn, augmented with images/words found in magazines provided. We all worked diligently and once more, the outcomes were so diverse and fascinating. I'll display Jean's and my pages . . . well, to protect the "innocent" :)

Next exercise was more playful. This invention for dropping in something into one's journal came to me completely from having to solve a problem. We designed the image, either to paint, or to be painted, then cut out a shape in our journal page. Next, in the journal we cut a larger window, or sort of a margin or "moat" - - into which we would stitch the original piece of journal page back into the space.

Here's a sampling: Jean choose to replicate the "Talking Stick" that we'd all created our first evening together, the colorful ice cream cone came from a reminiscent moment from our Murphys visit the day before and I wanted to use the unusual, brilliant thread samplings a friend had saved up and sent me - just a couple days before I left for this retreat (PS. Thanks Vicki!!!).

This evening started to mark the gentle ending of our group. One of the participants had chosen to leave one day early just so she'd not miss another fun gathering, but it sadden us to see any of our precious participants leave. In these few days we'd woven into a close, dear little family. We all waved and bid her g'bye with this telltale shot off the deck as she drove off.

This big dark magical night sky quieted us into sleep under this full moon sky.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day Three, Switched Around in Murphys

Confused? Don't be . . . its easy to explain. One of our participants had to leave one day early and to best accommodate mileage and time, the group decided to help her by switching around which day we all visited Murphys.

More clear? Good!!

So anyway, after our precious mornin' yoga, we organized, as best you can five women, and hopped into Jean's vehicle (which she was kind enough to chauffeur). And we were on our way.

We'd planned a short drawing exercise while en route but, discovered it was less than successful due to the abundance of turns and lack of visibility for all in the back seat. So we scrapped that idea early, trading it in for just enjoying the views.

Once we reached Murphys, we parked near the park and first toured town. Notice the big frog here with two of our artist - Calavaras County is well know for its frog jumping competitions. My personal favorite was the towns "Moon Alley" Candle Shop. Not only was the craftsmanship outstanding but their decor and slightly Asian in flavor for its displays were entrancing. My journal page here shows the candles as well as their outstanding and unusual business card, again reflecting the Asian theme. Its a charming historic town with some shopping opportunities. We had to reel in some of us to get them all in attendance for a delicious, inventive and zesty flavored meal at "Grounds".

After we'd met briefly at the Murphys City Park for writing exercise (where we were also entertained with the birthday celebration of a cluster of lil' girls and their hoola hoops - remember them?) we dispersed to choose our favorite visual and spend a couple of hours sketching.

Here Jean caught me just setting up in a tiny corner of afternoon shade preparing to sketch the "Spices" building, selling fresh spices and herbs, and offering even better shadows and color combos for us artists. The woman, whose office door is behind me, was so kind to offer me water and a tour of her cozy work space. Not only was she a gracious and generous Psychologist, but an accomplished mask artist in her own right. She had several of them hanging in her entry way and she and her husband ran the gallery in the street front of the building. As you can see, I've not finished my journal entry yet, but here's one of our participants completed pages.

Since we'd all just finished a luscious and large lunch, we all agreed to return to our Lake Alpine cabin and just "graze" for our evening meal. Having a more "open" evening offered us the opportunity to set our watches and get down to the lake in hopes of capturing the "alpine glow" reflected in the water from the ridges high above the lakes edge. But alas, fickle Mother Nature saw fit to leave out the pinks in her palette and we disappointedly shot a couple "golden" shimmers.

The remainder of the evening was cozy with conversation and journal work. Then we tumbled into bed with dreams of another cluster of hours spent creating away our time. Ahhhhhhhhhhh . . .

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day Two, Day of the Ducks and Flexibility

After we finished our morning yoga we nested into the cabin to focus on the writing aspect of Journaling. This exercise was a process to show that everyone CAN write and maybe, just having some inspiring words to work from could give us a little spurt of imagination. This was to take 40 minutes, but us creatives, well, we took two hours. Everyone was SO into it that I just couldn't stop the flow. I have to admit this exercise was so potent for my spirit that, when we each went to read our stories twice thru (with no comments, just listening), I was so near sobbing that I had to pass it on to have someone else read mine the second time. WOW - powerful stuff this writing! Jean's comment went:

'Cut-up-writing' took us double the time-couldn't you tell we all were loving it! I went about cutting out the text with having an idea of what my story would be. But as I started to paste them down, the process took over and I found the
story taking on a theme of its own. Creative writing? Yes!
Well, since we were now an hour and twenty minutes behind on our plan, we had to become flexible. Jean's exercises and demos became compressed and combined. But everyone was so open minded and agreeable off we went for Jean's process:

Our 'Contour Drawing and Intuition' exercise took us down to the tree roots by the shore. As we sat waiting for the bell to tell us when to draw and when to close our eyes in meditation, I felt that this was "the most important thing in the universe", as we caressed each contour with our pencil, we were really SEEING. Then, we painted our sketch, while trusting in the process, we felt the shapes and the rhythms. Telling ourselves that there are no rules, no preconceptions, and no mistakes.
I loved doing this exercise outdoors right mixed up in nature. As you can see the local duck population came down to see if we were offering any food. But even when we offered none, they stayed around with sweet antics for us to observe. This process was a favorite one for many participants, including me. But check out the amazing results.
We return to the cabin for the late afternoon and several Meditation Exercises. I'm especially fascinated with results from our Mandala work. These amazing women so got into expressing the visual and reading the textual translations, garnered mainly from a wonderful book I might recommend to everyone, "Animal Speaks" by Ted Andrews. I had to re-do my Mandala over once I got home just feeling I'd so humiliated and misrepresented the hawk world. I mean, really, it looks like a parrot with a bad beak day! So you see now how I REALLY saw my vision when I had a reference to work from. Apologies Hawk World!

Jean felt, "Mandala and Buddhist Meditations-we need these insightful exercises to focus our imagination."

All in all a very productive and fascinating day. I'm continuing to be amazed at the juicy visions and feeling we are to express and the potential for filling up journals with our beautiful energies. I am just reinforced with the health and stimulation journaling is and will continue to be for me, and hopefully anyone who whats to join me in this fascinating pursuit.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Retreats First Full Day, Gathering

Most of us start to tumble our of our cozy beds and into the kitchen around 7am-ish. We bump around, pulling on clothing, sipping morning hydration and waking as the sun streams over the far ridge and into the living room. Well, we no longer call it a living room ~ with three tables all set up with permanent artist's work spaces, it looks more like a kids playroom. But it's heaven for us artists.

Spilling out onto the deck, with blankets and yoga mats in hand, we amble out, much like the quail do. Following in trusting order, down to the lakes edge, we start our mornin' yoga "Sun Salute". The air is clean, sun,warming and exercise, invigorating. Ahhhhhhh - THIS is how to begin the day!

Once back at the cabin, we have a agenda aimed at filling all our heads with the process of "Journaling". I have a "basics" flier and we go over it ... considering various aspects of what one needs to consider as they begin journaling and an introduction to page design.

Then after lunch on the deck, we move into the juicy part of dancing with process and technique! Jean leads off with her "Sketch/Draw" demonstration, culminating with this active and joy filled journal page. Jean's commentary,
"I couldn't wait to get started on my 'Page Design' as Elaine presented my
techniques she had used. The 'Sketch/Draw' discussion and demo encouraged us to look for the rhythms and movement and how we synthesize nature through our ideas. Truly a game of contrasts and dominance. Feeling of being
there, shadows, light, response, what you hear, smell, memories, dreams, describing the indescribable, nature provides the ideas-it's all there. What attracts your eye? This (color, shape, line texture, space) says (happiness, excitement, boredom) to me. What was your initial inspiration-go back to that gut feeling. Break the rules to get your point across. Relationships and connections, this against that. Molding paste - how fun to explore! Photo corners, beads, cut windows, matte medium - lots of avenues to help define our images."
I'm loving how Jean's words curve and flow around her images, showing how every person's journal is so different and so beautiful!

Our afternoon is packed with gobbling up "Tips & Tricks" for journal pages with further demos. We all finally got our fingers into the "goo" and had some fascinating results. We chatter and nibble and paint the later afternoon away at our tables.

Once the sun goes into hiding behind the large evergreen tree out the south facing windows we all begin turning towards closing the door and warming the oven for dinner. Jean has prepared an Enchilada Meal delicious and big enough to feed us for the rest of the week (yep, it did) and we tossed together a salad (salvaging the lettuce that hadn't gotten frozen by the refrig from whom we were still learning settings).

Conversations on creativity and more free time to privatize our journals lulled us towards bedtime. Like I mentioned ... a day spent in an "artist's heaven" ...