Crazy Orchid Lady


I have recently evolved into a grower of orchids, an orchid enthusiast, if you will.

It was unintentional.  I never meant to become this…um…type.   In my mind I see a frigid, uptight figure hovering over precious specimens, lavishing them with obsessive attention that has no other outlet in her lonely life: The Crazy Orchid Lady.

I like to think I am not that person.

However, I must confess to putting pictures of fresh blooms on social media and gleefully pointing out new stems to visitors.  My friends smile and nod politely.  I am sure they are a bit puzzled by my enthusiasm.    I expect there are a few eye rolls when I am out of range.  (yes, I know it’s true)

No one could be more surprised by my sudden interest than me.  What is it about growing orchids that delights me so?  Is it their sexy appearance? The colourful show?  The necessary fussiness?

The whole thing started after I received a couple of orchids (in bloom) as gifts.  I had never owned an orchid before.  I didn’t know what to do with them.  Thank goodness I had my Mom to guide me.  She told me to  water them by placing the pot in a container of water rather than pouring it in from the top.  She reminded me to dust the leaves.  She provided me with a container of orchid fertilizer.

Aided by Mom’s sage advice, I kept the orchids alive.  They graced my home with beauty for months.   Placed strategically on tables in my living room, they looked lovely.  I enjoyed their elegance until the exotic blooms started to fade. Eventually the last bloom drooped and fell.

I snipped off the long, arching, empty stems and took a good look at what I was left with.


The grocery store variety of orchid, phalaenopsis, without blooms is a rather hideous plant.

It looks like the tongues of dried out leather boots surrounded by petrified shoelaces.

Ugly.  So ugly that once the blooms are gone, you do not want to leave the orchid in a place of prominence in your home.  The homely little plant is banished, shoved into a lightless corner to collect dust.  Special watering procedures are neglected. The scrawny green mess gets more dried out and petrified. Eventually the orchid is deemed dead and joins the Poinsettias, Chrysanthemums and Gerbera in the compost heap.

For some reason – perhaps it was because the orchids were gifts – I made an effort to keep them alive.

I dusted.
I watered.
I fertilized.
A couple of leatherish leaves grew. A few more tentacle-like roots crept forth; but the plant remained hideous.

A year went by.

Then one day, as I was performing my watering ritual, I noticed a short green stem poking out of leaf base. A week later – another! The stems grew long and divided into two, then three. Buds appeared, then gorgeous, vibrant blooms slowly opened. For some reason they seemed bigger, bolder and more beautiful than the original flowers. I gazed at them with delight. I had helped this horrid little plant become something more, something amazing.

I learned the key to success with orchids is that you must love them, even and especially when they are ugly.

So now, I am proud to provide. It costs me about 15 minutes of attention every month. I know I waste more time and energy on lesser things.  My small efforts are rewarded generously. For a time, such as now,  my home environment contains full-blown, extravagant gorgeousness.

I have the honour of witnessing beauty.

I am not a crazy orchid lady.
I am an orchid coach.

(Now, to apply the same approach to my family, creative practice, community………)



 “While the jury convened to adjudicate the applications recommended your application for funding, I am sorry to inform you that the Arts Board is unable to provide you with a grant as there were not sufficient funds available to support all of the recommended applications.”

Almost, but Not Quite.

Thanks, but No Thanks.

A little dream withers and dies.

Of course this is not my first rejection letter.  You get a lot of nays and for every aye as an artist.  In fact I have received this letter from the Arts Board three times.

The first time I was positive about it.     My application had been recommended for funding, an improvement over a previous attempt.   I took it as a sign of growth and development.  I felt I was moving in the right direction.

The second time I was disappointed, but resigned to the competitive process.  Other projects and opportunities quickly filled my life.

Yesterday, after receiving the same news a third time, I crossed my arms and stuck out my lower lip in a defiant toddler stance.  “Fine”, I thought, “I am never applying for one of your stupid grants ever again!”   A bit of hot, salty water fell out of my eyes.  I flopped on the bed and indulged in a pout. I admit to being terribly unprofessional in my reaction; but I really, really wanted the outcome to be different this time.

After a bit, I decided that cookies and coffee would make me feel better.  As I was preparing the coffee, I accidently bumped the carafe on the counter.  Glass flew everywhere.  Some strong words were said in a very loud voice.

The day went on.  I moped.  I did some non-art work.  I went to bed.

Rejection is so easy to take personally.  It doesn’t take much to convince yourself there is something wrong with you or your work or your education or your lack of education or your writing or one hundred other things.   Maybe you are just not cool enough.  Maybe you are the biggest loser that ever lived.

Once you recover from the initial disappointment, rejection can be a positive process.  I recently learned about the 100 Days of Rejection project by Jia Jiang.  He was tired of being scared of rejection so he purposely entered situations where he would be denied, hoping to desensitize himself.  Through his zany social experiments Jiang discovered “that the stings and slights of rejection are universal among us as humans, but that with conscious intent we can turn rejection into enterprise, insult into ambition, and regret into courage.

One of the first things I saw when I opened my eyes this morning was the rejection letter on my dresser.   After my shower I picked up the phone and dialed the contact number provided in the letter.

I needed to know more.  I needed to know why.  I needed to know where I had gone wrong.  

No matter how hard it might be to hear

The Truth.

After a 10 minute conversation I knew.

The truth is: I just barely missed it.   My application was strong and ranked highly.  If I tweak my proposal a bit using the feedback provided, I have a really good chance of making the cut next time.

Thank goodness I asked.

Maybe one little dream can be revived.

And as for dream number two, it is still out there.



Schrodinger’s Letter

“Oh, by the way, this letter arrived for you yesterday”.

My husband plops a slim white envelope on the bathroom vanity.  The return address belongs to an arts institution I have sent, not one, but two separate proposals to over the last few months.

My stomach lurches.

My heart pumps a fresh shot of adrenaline through my body.

The Letter I Have Been Waiting For is here.  I need only to rip the thin layer of paper to know.

I pick up the letter, walk to the bedroom, and place it on the dresser.  I put it address side down so I am not able to read any words through the paper.

I consider the letter and what it might contain.

My stomach flips.

I prepare myself for all possible outcomes.

I try to be rational.

Statistically the letter is most likely to be of the  “Thanks, but No Thanks” kind.  A tactfully worded note will inform me that, although my work has merit, there just isn’t enough funding or space or need at this time.  (I think a successful applicant would receive notice by email, followed by a formal letter, don’t you?)  I will sigh and accept the news.  I will allow myself a good mope and then move on. I may even convince myself I have more creative freedom this way.  (Who needs them anyway!)

As I try to keep myself calm and prepared for the worst, the wide-eyed optimist inside still dares to hope for the best.  It reminds me that I spent a lot of time and effort on my proposals.  One of them could be successful.  My work is worthy.  I have had plenty of encouragement.  I have done my best.  I know acceptance by this institution would mean a lot to me.

 I allow myself to dream a little.

There is also a really, really small voice that whispers, “What if both of my proposals were selected?”  My rational mind is quick to chastise this voice for going too far, but still….what if?  (The term “over the moon” comes to mind.)  At the same time, the insecure voice says “Oh no, then you will actually have to succeed! There will be so much more potential for failure.”  EEK!

The last possibility I can fathom is the letter pertains to a subject unrelated to my proposals.  Perhaps the institution would like me to participate in a survey, attend a conference, or discover a new program.  My hopes and fears will be put on hold for another day.

I take the letter off the dresser.  I turn it over in my hand.

The letter holds potential for triumph, disappointment, frustration, fear, elation, suspense, success, depression, tears, and relief.   If fact, no matter what the news is, I will probably experience all of the above.

There is nothing more frightening than success, except perhaps failure.

So, is the dream alive or dead or something else altogether?

Let me open this letter and find out.



I am a watcher of the curious birds we call artists.   I especially love catching a glimpse of the creative nests where art is made.   I am fascinated by how creatives, be they painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, or designers, mould environments in which to incubate and hatch ideas. 

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit the creative nests of artists I admire.  It is such an honour to be welcomed into the physical space of creativity.  Each studio holds its own magic:  Aganetha Dyck’s space is aromatically seductive with the scent of beeswax, a pleasant by-product of her collaborative work with honey bees; Wanda Koop’s studio is a painter’s dream with an amazing mechanized wall that makes it possible for her to position her work vertically or horizontally as required; Martha Cole’s studio has many  windows providing a view of her converted church home and light as she draws on fabric with her sewing machine. 

In my own modest journey as an artist, I have built nests in a variety of locations: bedroom, dormroom, corner of a dining room table, corner of a different dining room table,  guest bedroom, lobby of a community hall, and a classroom in my former elementary school.

My current studio is a bonus room above the garage in our new house.   When we finally moved in to our home after years of planning and working, I admit that I was intimidated by the newness of the space – the unmarked floors, the blemish-free walls.  I wasn’t sure how to feather my new nest.   I spent a considerable amount of time on-line looking for ideas. A search of “studios” on Pinterest provided visions of beautifully crafted creative nests: organized, colour-coordinated, crisp, clean. The spaces were so beautiful, so well crafted, that I questioned their functionality.  

I cast my memory back to the artists’ nests I had visited.  They, too, were organized and clean, but not pristine.  Evidence of real work was everywhere.  Sinks held recently used brushes.  Floors showed signs of previous painting projects.  Surfaces were marked and scarred by tools.  

When you find a bird’s nest, you can always tell if it was used to create new life or not. The abandoned nest is clean and empty: a barren vessel.  The used nest holds feathers, bits of egg shell, and droppings.  It is soiled by the necessities of creation.

Bit by bit, my creative nest is developing its own magic.  Slowly but surely I am making a mess of it.



The world of art is a galaxy of luminous stars.

My favourite social media feeds are filled with postings about art and artists.  Every hour, I am exposed to new images, new work, new media, new ideas.   I spend a portion of my day star-gazing, pondering the vastness of the creative Milky Way.  The work of other artists fills me with interest, bewilderment, and awe. It is wonderous and inspiring and very overwhelming. 

So many artists.  So much creativity.  So much good work.

The reality of one’s insignificance is revealed when you look at the stars above. 

I read an article recently about the top visual artists of the moment: the brightest stars in the galaxy.    I am ashamed to say I recognized only a handful of names on the list.  I was instantly concerned about my ignorance. I questioned my ability to make relevant work, being so out of touch with what is going on in the world of art –  supernova, mega-star, history-making Art.

My reality is far removed from the centre of the artistic galaxy.

The truth is, I make small work in a small village in a sparsely populated area of the planet.  I am geographically and culturally removed from large artistic centres.  I am not a superstar. I am a tiny star located 27,000 light years from the galactic creative centre:  a puny pinprick of light often clouded by interstellar dust.

I am not a Sirius, Canopus or Arcturus.

But, I am a star, shining on.

In order to keep working I have to believe that, in some small way, my work sends light out into the cosmos.  The sun in our solar system is small compared to other stars in the galaxy.  However, it has a vital part to play in the universe, especially to the astronomical objects surrounding it.

I have come to realize that everyday, everywhere, there are creative people making work in a modest way.

The Milky Way is formed by billions of stars emitting light together.  Individual stars, large and small, are no longer distinguishable within the band of light that arcs across the sky.

The beautiful, breathtaking glow is created by all.

So twinkle, twinkle, little star.

(By the way, according to those with more knowledge than me in such matters,  the centre of the galaxy is a supermassive black hole:  impressive, but very hard to shine around.)



Last week, my creative work was a series of short bursts, distractions and irritations.   Spring break meant juggling parenting along with the usual part-time job, art business tasks, and studio time. The week was full of social obligations, such as family gatherings, birthdays, play dates and meetings.  I cooked meals, watched countless handstand attempts (my daughter’s latest obsession), fed cats, drove here, drove there, made gifts, and hid eggs.  Like a fool I tried to sneak in some art making time, but just as I would settle into the studio, there would be a hungry kid or a hungry cat or a phone call pulling me away.

By the weekend, a heavy case of crabbiness had set in.   I could feel the space between my eyebrows contract.  A squinty-eyed frown took over my face.   My temper shortened.  My tongue sharpened.  I recognized the signs and warned my family –  “Beware of Artist Interrupted”.

In my foul mood I daydreamed about an entire week of just being an artist.  Making work.  No distractions.  No obligations except the studio.  No people.  No cats.

Then, Monday arrived.   My schedule returned to normal.  My sweet, happy  daughter went back to school, my husband went to work, and I climbed the stairs to the studio.

I sat down at my work table and immediately felt guilty.

I am spoiled. I have a beautiful studio in a brand new house.   My part-time job is only two mornings a week.  I usually have 2 full days and 3 half days a week to work on my art life. The social outings that pared down my work time last week are a sign that I am surrounded by family and friends.  I have my husband’s support and my daughter’s love.

The truth is, if I had a whole week by myself with no interruptions, I would probably be bored and burned out after 2 days.  I would waste time because I could.  I would have more time to distract myself with unimportant things, such as organizing my sock drawer and scrubbing the studio sink.  Knowing my time in the studio is limited forces me to focus.

My life as a whole feeds my creative work.   I base my drawings and collages on my experiences as a mother, wife and community member.  Without the interruptions, I would have nothing to make art about.

I really should be giving thanks for all the annoying distractions.

So please, interrupt me,

but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Marring the Page


The blank, unspoiled page is a place of possibility.  The potential to create greatness, goodness, beauty, truth, and meaning is before you.  The paper awaits your hand, your marks, your words, your voice, and so you lift the pen, the brush, or the pencil to begin and then


You hover with uncertainty over the page.  The fear of ruining the perfection of possibility settles in.  To make the first mark is to commit to the inevitable mistakes and struggles of creative work.  

An artist can get stuck indefinitely in fear of marring the page.

I return to blog writing after a very long break.  This post is the equivalent of making a bold mark on a pristine page in a new sketchbook.  I don’t know what the work will look like a week, a month or a year from now.  These first few posts may look like the misfit drawings found at the beginning of a sketchbook.  They may not fit in once the momentum builds and work flows.  

However, I am making marks and

I am using a permanent marker.