September 1, 2009

Apple Tree
9" x 12" oil on linen

I fell in love with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as soon as I lay eyes on the Park last August. I knew I had to come back to paint those amazing dunes. In October I returned for a few chilly and wet days in nearby Frankfort, MI. I painted on the dunes the one day it was sunny (and 45 degrees). Meanwhile, next door to the place I was staying, a foreclosure sign went in the ground of an old Victorian fixer-upper; within 4 hours, my husband and I had made an offer. We got the house even though responsibilities in Atlanta wouldn't allow us to move any time soon. During a quick visit in November to show Roo what we'd gotten ourselves into, the snow started to fall and we headed south again.

I applied for the Artist in Residence program in January. In early May I learned I'd not been selected. A photographer and filmmaker were chosen this year, but would I be willing to be the first alternate? My 96 year old mother had just fallen and broken her hip. I wasn't sure what the future held for me, her primary caretaker. But I agreed to be on stand-by in case someone was unable to serve. Then mom's condition quickly deteriorated. When she died less than a week later, my world seemed to have fallen apart. Yet, in the midst of terrible grief, it slowly dawned that nothing was keeping us from returning to beautiful Michigan. I would have a summer to paint even though I would be at Sleeping Bear.
By the first week or so in July I managed my grief sufficiently to resume painting. I headed up to a meadow across from Old Indian Trail in the Park. I found myself walking around what turned out to be an abandoned orchard and there made my first painting at Sleeping Bear. Something about that old apple tree spoke to me. Perhaps it reminded me of my mother in her last days -- largely worn out but still producing a few juicy apples. In any case, the painting signalled a day of new beginnings. (As I write this I'm reminded to go back out tomorrow and check to see if the apples are ripe.) I'll keep you posted.
BTW, I did get a call from the Sleeping Bear Park, just a couple of weeks ago. It turns out I will be an Artist in Residence there. In fact, I head up (20 miles north of Frankfort) to begin this Saturday. I've decided to blog my way through the 3 week sojourn there. I'll post my work and tell how it's going. I hope you'll come along for the viewing or maybe even to get out and paint.

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