Monday, April 15, 2019

Eating "Bamboo" (Japanese Knotweed)

First Harvest 2019
Copyright 2019 by Lori-Ann Willey

DID YOU KNOW that all-invasive weed called Japanese Knotweed (“Bamboo”) that everyone loves to hate is beneficial in many ways?  I grew up snacking on the young shoots, making passageways and cabin’s in the middle of the patch, hiding from the sun on a hot day, hiding from the rain on a rainy day, too.  I used the dried bamboo canes for flute-making, woven as a mat to sit on in the middle of the patch, and as “swords”.  Who didn’t enjoy having sword fights? “On Guard!” (En Garde – yep, I come from French stock).

“Bamboo” is an edible herb in which we American’s try so hard to eradicate because it is a very invasive plant that comes from Asia, and of course, Japan.  There, it was prized for medicinal purposes, not to mention its nutrients ( Vit. A and C, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and manganese).  With its very early and rapid growth -almost up through the snow- it was an important food to carry with explorers, early settlers because of those reasons.  The plant can grow several inches a day, so imagine the food source and medical use when needed …how prized!  Japanese Knotweed was taken to Europe and planted there for its ornamental value where it started to lose the purpose-grown that was so prized by the Asians/Japanese.  From there, it was brought to the USA.  Now, you can see it scattered about everywhere, but mostly where homesteads once were.  Didn’t know that did you?  Yep, can always tell where a house/farm used to be …just look for a lonely patch of “bamboo”.

Now-a-days, most people in the USA do not know that the plant is edible and should be prized instead of scorned with hundreds of dollars trying to eradicate the plant.  While people like me wished I had some of my own.  Though, due to its invasiveness, I have refrained from introducing it to our property so far, but am very, very tempted simply because I will put it all to use.  Every inch of it.  While I ponder, there are lots of people out there that are very happy if I came and take as much of the stuff as I want.  WOO HOO for me! 

Japanese Knotweed spread primarily via roots that are known (in some places) to grow up to 18’ deep.  Those fine root hairs, like the dandelion plant (another plant American’s like to hate, but I love) if left in the soil, will spawn new plants.  They will find the tiniest crack and sprout up.  As the plant grows, so does that small crack so I can understand why people do not like it around their driveways or house foundations, too. 

Internet Photos
After the plant dies away, the tall, dried, hollow stalks are left behind.  Some are too hard to break with the hands, while others are fragile.  They make great fire starters, trellises, tomato stakes, too.  The young, narrow sections can be used as straws.  Yep, sipping straws.

I have my own puree recipe created kinda out of the spur of the moment last spring and I do not share that recipe simply because I intend on putting my nature weed recipes into a book form one of these years.  However, if you search the Internet for Japanese Knotweed recipes, there are plenty. I’ve made jelly, syrups, and purees.  All of which are hits for those who try them.  Basically, the young shoots are tart and watery.  Aside from their hollow stalks, the flavor closely resembles rhubarb and can be used as a substitute in recipes.  Though you may have to adjust the amount called for …yet again, maybe not. 

On a medicinal note, the entire plant is/was used to make medicines.  Coined with their early, rapid, and seemingly problematic growth, you can see why “wayyyy back when” medicines were difficult to come by so why not grow them yourself?  That is what most cultures do/did once upon a time and that is why the knotweed was grown, too.  Knotweed is used to treat mouth sores, plaque on the teeth, sore throats, bronchitis, lung diseases, inflammation, stops bleeding, etc.  The plant has a good amount of resveratrol, but mostly that ingredient is found more concentrated in the roots.  Way back when, “bamboo” helped treat tuberculosis symptoms, too, so you can imagine how valuable this plant was to the people of Asia/Japan and why, despite the common belief of wanting it for ornamental purposes, why this plant was transported to new settlements, too.  You carry the weeds, roots, seeds, or plants with you to a new area, so medicine is at your fingertips there, too.  If such plants were not prized, why add it to the carrying load?  They wouldn’t.

I, for one, am a lover of the Japanese Knotweed, because not only is it neat and brings back a lot of childhood memories, I love the puree I came up with, it also reminds me how far modern medicine has come.  It has come to the point that we consider a once prized, nutritional, and necessary plant as an invasive and intolerable pest.  A time when it is easier and quicker to pop a pill than grow your own. I’m not knocking modern medicine, for sure.

I can understand the mess that “bamboo” tends to leave year after year, it’s invasiveness to beautifully manicured and landscaped homes, and the work involved after the plant dies back each year, too.  However, I am a nature gal, and I don’t mind all that. 

I reuse, recycle, repurpose …so, even the Japanese Knotweed is a prize for this modern gal. Maybe, if more people took advantage of the plant, they may look at the plant in a more pleasing and grateful way versus an eyesore.

We American’s are quite spoiled.  We are “weed snobs”, but is it because we are “above” the common weed?  Or, is it because we cannot control the weed, so we learn to despise it?  Or, are we just so lost in the history and medicinal values of such problematic weeds that we no longer appreciate them?

Remember, Asians/Japanese are healthier people, they live longer, and have fewer medical problems than we “fat” and “lazy” Americans who eat for convenience and flavor.  Whereas the Asian and Japanese cultures eat and use such unwanted “American” weeds as the Japanese Knotweed, dandelions, and burdock. Each is very valuable. They are all HERE for a reason.  I think it is quite unfortunate that we American’s tend not to appreciate WHY these weeds are here in the first place.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

3rd Grade Culture Shock

3rd Grade Culture Shock
Copyright 2019 by Lori-Ann Willey

Both Paul and I grew up in Pittsfield and Palmyra (Maine).  I remember him as a child, ‘cause he was the only neighborhood kid that could beat me at “King of the Mountain” -a snow mound game where only one can fit on top a big snow “mountain” and all others try to take over the summit to become “King” until “over-thrown” so to speak.

Paul and I went to the same high school. Our parents knew each other since we were toddlers, and I knew his whole family, practically.  As a matter of fact, our parents, I think, were on the same bowling team for a while.  Paul’s aunt used to babysit my sisters and me, as we lived one street over.  Though Paul and I had lost contact until high school …from there, it is history.

So, with that said, after Paul medically retired from the Army in 1995, we moved back to Maine, bought a house and settled down.  Our Josh was about 2 ½ years old at the time and Alanda was in the 3rd grade.  Because it was May, we registered her at the same Palmyra Consolidated School as both Paul and I attended.  It was amazing to see some of the same teachers still working there!  If not the “originals”, their relative, it seemed.  One of my favorite teachers of all-time was, “Mr. Gilbert”, and he still taught there!  He was such a welcome many years before when I moved from Pittsfield to Palmyra at the end of my 4th grade year -same month, I think.

When we registered Alanda into the school system, it was suggested that we bring her to meet her new classmates.  I believe, it was the secretary (Luann(e)) who led the way.    Mrs. Libby was the teacher -the same Mrs. Libby that used to substitute teach while I attended!  Alanda was introduced to her new classmates and vise-versa.  Though Paul and I had grown up in Maine, come from poor families, and loved nature to the point of about living it 365 days a year (not much has changed, huh?), even as kids, we were a bit taken back, yet comforted by the students who curiously sat before us.

Alanda had attended Ft. Devens elementary school where all students were military dependents and from all over the world.  Just when you get to know one student, they transfer to another state or country.  Military children have it quite difficult -an ever-changing life- yet the same constant -the parents.  Alanda used to pick out most of her own clothes, liked to wear dresses, skirts, and dress pretty with pretty hair.  Sitting before us in the new classroom, we saw nothing of the like.

It was May -the heart of mud season.  And, each student showed they lived on a dirt road …mud-filled, just like how I grew up when walking to the bus (a true mile away).  Often, that time of year meant either wading in knee-deep mud, walking the water and snow-filled ditches, or “skirting” around the muddy spots through the snowy woods.  Some of the students who sat before us endured the same type of navigation process to catch their bus, too.  I had to smile at the memories that came flooding into my mind one after another.  “I’m home!”

Alanda, all prettied up with crisp, clean clothes of brightly colored flowers, long dirty blonde hair, was in stark contrast to those students sitting before us.  Paul and I could not help but notice that most were clothed in jeans and t-shirts.  Some students either wore slippers, sneakers, or mud boots up to the knees still covered with mud.  Some had hair going in every direction that seemingly hadn’t been combed in a week, mud and water trails up and down the arms, neck, and faces.  I felt at home and could not have been more in my comfort zone.  I remember sinking into the little chair as if I were still a kid, and thought, “These kids are soooo me when I was this age!”  As for Alanda …well, I think it might’ve been a bit of a culture shock.

Later, as in a few weeks later, we met up with a woman who Paul had known all his life.  Her parents were Paul’s God Parents.  Her brother-in-law, Mr. Gilbert.  With one of the kindest faces imaginable, Florence welcomed us back to Maine.  Instantly, I felt as if I had known her all my life.  A grin that melted the world around her, big dimples that clearly represented her character -fun-loving and funny.  With great animation, she recalled the day her daughter came home from school -that same day that Alanda was introduced to her new classmates.  Florence stated that Katie had come home with such excitement she could hardly speak.  It was as if she had been given the best gift in the world.  Her mother said, ‘Katie came home and said, “Guess what we got today?”  Florence asked, “What”?  Katie exclaimed, “A Giiiiiiiirl!”  Until then, I did not realize that the class was made up of mostly boys … something like 17 boys and only 3 girls. 

Alanda made the 4th girl, which instantly made her the focus of attention.  Not only that, as stated before, Alanda was dressed like she dressed every day of the week, at home, or not -a dress, dress shoes, hair long and prettied up.  Then, she was a girly-girl, but so were all girls at Ft. Devens elementary school.  They all dressed in clothes purchased as available in stores around where we lived at the time.  That, and I made a lot of her clothes back then.  As Paul told a friend a few days ago, Alanda dressed like a “Fairy God Mother” in comparison to her new Maine classmates.  Soon, though, buying clothes here in Maine, she was in denim jeans, denim coveralls, T-shirts, and sneakers, too!    It wasn’t long before she also ditched the dressy hairstyles.  The following school year, she fit right in as the 4th girl in her class.   Casual dress at Ft. Devens was in far contrast from the casual dress of a typical Mainer!

Saturday, February 23, 2019



Copyright 2019 by Lori-Ann Willey

What an honor it is to be an Honor Rock Portrait artist for an organization called Wilderness Walk for Warriors! 

Last summer, an “old” high school friend (“Jo-Jo”) introduced me to the Wilderness Walk for Warriors.  Knowing that Paul (my husband) is a Disabled Veteran and that one of my passions is to sit and listen to Veteran’s tell their stories, as well as sketch and paint portraits, she told me that I should consider being one of their artists.  I read the article she sent, and I fell in love with the concept.  It took me a while to convince myself that I could paint on rocks, though because I never had before. I also knew that my “forte” is sketching portraits on paper with graphite and charcoal, on canvases with charcoal that I make myself, or with paints called Water Soluble Oils.   My heart sank hugely when I realized that I would be much better off painting rocks with acrylics.  Rocks are porous, which means they will absorb my water oils slowly, which in turn changes the appearance as it dries.  So, using the paints I’m most comfortable with was out of the question. Besides, their drying time is longer than acrylics, too.

My passion is pure. I love our military -past, present, and future!

About three years ago, a friend of ours -a retired Pennsylvania State Trooper- was one of the Gold Star Family escorts for Wreaths Across America.  Along the way, he posted pictures and when he had time, we chatted.   During those chats, his heart rang true.  He was very touched and honored to be a part of such a journey.  In turn, it helped me grow more, too.

First completed Honor Rock.
My love for our military and fallen heroes grew stronger with each of his postings.  “Hogie” (AKA "Jo-Jo") -the friend who introduced me to the Wilderness Walk for Warriors- encouraged me, too.  Finally, one day, after doing a bit of research about the Wilderness Walk for Warriors, I felt inspired. The lure was too great to ignore. I found the President / Founder of the organization on Facebook and I had to grin. I recognized the man. He follows my husband and I on our Willey’s Dam Camp Facebook page and has shared a few of my photographs of Mount Katahdin -the view I see every day.

Chris Richardson (Founder of the Wilderness Walk for Warriors organization) was quick to reply to my message of inquiry. I asked a few questions for a better understanding of his program and he graciously answered each. Then, bravery struck me via the overwhelming urge to ask one last question -did he need another portrait artist?  The second I sent the message, a huge part of me sank deep into my chair while I asked myself, “What are you doing, Lori-Ann?!  You don’t know how to paint on rocks!  You don’t know if you can even paint portraits with acrylics, never mind on a new surface …and so small!”
The bed of our truck.

However, I would not allow myself to retract my offer. Instead, I was more determined than ever that I CAN DO THIS, despite the odds against me!  I had no idea what kind of rock to use or if I could find any suitable!   I was eager yet scared to death as I sent him samples of my portrait sketches/paintings so he could determine if my quality of work will suffice.  When Chris replied that he could use another artist, I had a lump lodged in my throat bigger than Mt. Katahdin herself!  “What did I just do?”

Though I was anxious, I told Chris that I had to be honest and before I committed myself, I had to figure out if I could paint on rocks …or not!  He understood and appreciated my skepticism while at the same time thanked me for my interest.  Soon, he hooked me up with a woman artist that had painted Honor Rocks for him. Quickly, I messaged her and quickly she replied and answered my worrisome questions, offered tips, hints, etc. I am forever grateful for her time, too!

Paul viewing GPS on phone.
So, once I learned what kind of rocks to look for, I set out to find a trial rock to paint.  As luck would have it, within 30 minutes, I found my first paintable rock!  WOO HOO! After scrubbing it clean, I grabbed my water oils and sat outside with a handful of peanuts to keep the chipmunks and squirrels happy in hopes that they would not try to help me paint. Usually, we allow them to crawl all over us, but on this day, I would not let them help me with an art project as I have in the past. 

My first attempt was a painting of my oldest granddaughter, Autumn.  Sitting in the sun with the critters being pesky, within two hours, my first portrait rock was complete. “I can do this!” Those two hours were very rewarding, and I learned a LOT about painting on rocks.  For one, as feared, the water-oil paints absorbed into the rock, so I knew, like it or not, I would have to use acrylics. I had no choice. The other lesson I learned was rock surface gouges either need to be smoothed or avoided.  There was a slight gouge in the rock I chose to paint, and it fell right across Autumn’s lip. That was the most important lesson I could have learned that day.  A sense of dread swept over me …how can I find any rock without gouges throughout the surface?  Impossible!

Because of all that, I spent the next few months in search of the perfect rocks to paint. I not only had to find the right kind of rock, but I also had to be mindful of the shape, the thickness, the size, the weight, and hardness, too.  I knew the rocks would be carried for 100 miles through the wilderness so they could not be fragile, cracked, sharp-edged, too big, or too heavy!  AND, each needed a paintable surface while watching for bumps or gouges that would give any facial feature a distorted look.  My husband is a Disabled Veteran that needs help with most doings, so I had to ask myself if I was really up for this huge challenge before me.  My days just living off the grid are always filled with things that need to be done as it is. “What did I get myself into?” was a question at the forefront of my brain …and for months!

I scoured every inch of our property, walked the logging roads, the surrounding woods, the stream below us, and even went snorkeling for rocks in the lake. I spent hours and hours, miles upon miles snorkeling, swimming, hiking and walking.  Each excursion was only about an hour long because I needed to tend to Paul, too.

My Art Helpers.
Day after day, week after week was spent in search of the perfect rocks to paint. Living off the grid, we have eight miles of logging roads to travel before we “hit pavement”.  During my search for the perfect Honor Rock, I had never been so excited to see the logging company grade the roads with huge machinery.  Nor was I so thankful for a newly replaced wooden bridge over a stream, or the newly dug drainage ditches, either.  I have somewhat of a mud phobia that I’ve worked most of my adult life to overcome (a terrible childhood experience).  Finding Honor Rocks helped me because I was so very determined to find the perfect rocks.  More and more I found myself traipsing in mudded ditches sinking to my ankles just to examine a rock on the other side!  It was a mind over matter situation.  I kept thinking that mud is NOTHING in comparison to what our soldiers go through!

Rock from "Jacque".
As the summer months turned into frosty and chill-filled days of fall, Paul, sensing my disappointment said he wanted to help.  Because he navigates mostly via a wheelchair, he could only travel where his wheelchair would go.  While in search of the perfect Honor Rocks, I happened upon several very cool fossils.  With each fossil in my backpack or clutched in my hands, I showed Paul. On his better days, he was able to research and learn about each one.  Though apprehensive about finding the perfect Honor Rock, I became more and more determined.

It wasn’t long before Paul started researching the landscape in our area of the state.  In doing so, he learned of probable spots where finding “my” rocks would be more plausible.  Despite his ill health and needing to use a wheelchair and working around weather conditions, there were days when  we’d pack snacks, bottles of well water, our rock picks, and magnifying glasses, along with geological maps of our part of the state, we’d set out in search for both fossils and possible Honor Rocks to paint.
One example of our travels.

I’d drive slowly along the logging roads as if speed was an option. It wasn’t.  Fallen trees, washed out culverts and roadways, wildlife, and boulders would force us to creep along slowly with the truck. Always, an extra five gallons of gas in the bed of the truck, too.  As we rode along, our eyes gawked through our windows. We stopped every few minutes to look at a possible Honor Rock or fossil.  Stopping to look at one rock “real quick” sometimes turned into a couple hours slowly walking throughout the area.

The entire truck is like this now.
Once, we decided to take an old “tote road” that we used to travel with a golf cart, “The Beast”, and snowmobiles. THEN, it was very navigable.   Well, a lot can change in 15 years. Man, did we get ourselves into a few very hairy predicaments!  It quickly became one of those situations that it was easier to keep going than to back up for miles.  We literally weaved between trees that prompted me to force my door open against tree trunks just so I could fill in a big hole or move a fallen tree ahead of us.  That meant first scouring the area for fallen trees, branches, rocks, etc.  Or, simply walking ahead for a while hoping to find an area where the “road” opened up or a place to turn around after about 50-shimmies with the truck.  Our truck got “scratched all tah Hell”. After the first few good scratches, it became amusing.  “That one won’t buff out either”, became a repeated phrase.

After a while, we no longer cringed at such loud screeches as limbs gouged through the truck’s paint job. With hands outside our windows, many times, we found ourselves trying to part the “road” branches 3-4 inches in diameter. Literally, I could not see where I was driving at times and was lucky if I could dodge the trees.  Our scratched truck shows that we enjoyed our excursions, though.  Scratches are just cosmetic stuff, though we killed our trade-in value for sure. It was all well worth it if we found just one rock or a neat fossil.  That day we didn’t, but it was still worthy of our attempt.

Granddaughters helping to find Honor Rocks ...and fossils!
At times, we’d spend a few hours navigating gravel pits, too. Paul would drive his wheelchair to different sections and then use his cane to walk closer to the rocks scattered about.  He sat and rested a lot, but he found some great fossils.  When our granddaughters came for a visit, we decided to take them to another gravel pit for them to explore.  That morning was very cold, but that didn’t stop us from looking for rocks.  Them either!

In the span of several months, all in all, I found four rocks that, with a little bit of sanding with a rock sander, I felt I could paint. After posting about all my hours in search of rocks, a friend messaged asking about my rock preference. He wanted to help look for rocks where he lives, too. He is the same man that I mentioned earlier -the Gold Star Family escort for Wreaths Across America. We know him as, “Jacque”.
Sketch to learn facial details.

Last week was the week I choose to sand down the rocks I had chosen to paint. Ironically, it was the same time that Jacque decided to send the rock he found, too. Perfect timing. Except, when his rock arrived, I was more than a little bit envious!  His rock was perfect!  It didn’t even need to be sanded!  Mother Nature, with her ability to erode and weather, had already perfected it for me.  His rock made for my 4th (possibly 5th) rock to paint.  Lots of hours, days, weeks, months to find 4 rocks is worth it.

In December, knowing the portraits were of small detail, I felt more comfortable learning the facial features of each hero via paper and graphite pencils first.  I wanted to learn their faces before attempting to paint them onto rocks.  For me, it is a necessary step. 

Sketch to learn facial details.
A few days ago, I started painting my first Honor Rock and this morning, I finished my first real rock portrait.  Upon completion, I messaged Chris and asked him what, besides the name should I paint on the rock. He replied, Name and Rank. Then, told me not to forget my initials as the artist.

It was that last sentence that prompted me to write this blog entry.  Though I’ve painted and sketched many, many, many portraits and paintings over the years, and always finished with my initials and the year of completion, I not once considered placing my initials upon the Honor Rocks as an artist. The rocks are NOT about me. They are about our fallen heroes …their honor.   Chris is right, though.  I should initial my work, and I will, not only because he requested it of me, but because I should claim such an honor in painting these rocks.  This project is not about me as an artist, it is all about THEM – our fallen heroes and their family members.  I am just a portrait artist that believes in our military, our country, and our flag -past, present, and future.
Onto my 2nd Honor Rock.  Yes, magnifying glass is a must.

My own disappointment is that I cannot paint all the fallen, but I wished I could. They deserve it. Their families deserve it, too.  As for me, I am so greatly honored to help in some small way.  


Wilderness Walk for Warriors treks through the Maine 100 Mile Wilderness carrying Honor Rocks of our fallen heroes. They start in Monson where a  Wilderness Walk for Warriors Team take part in an opening ceremony which include a roll call and presentation of the newly created Honor Rocks. All are deeply encouraged to join them for the event. After an Honor ceremony, the  Wilderness Walk for Warriors team starts their hike with the Honor Rocks through 100 miles of Maine Wilderness. Ultimately, the Honor Rocks are a part of an additional Honor Ceremony atop the summit of Mt. Katahdin. The Honor Rocks are then carried down the mountain and united with surviving family members.

“ Wilderness Walk for Warriors / “Assisting the Living, Honoring the Deceased.”

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Ispiration Strikes in Odd Ways

Inspiration Strikes in Odd Ways
Copyright 2019 by Lori-Ann Willey

Ima Plannah, which means I thoroughly plan almost everything beforehand.  Before I work on an already started painting, it sits where I must see it as I pass by from any direction.  Each pass, my brain churns into action as I pinpoint a correction or a color choice.  Furthermore, I fix or mix those colors in my brain well before I again touch paint to canvas.  If skepticism torments me, I further “paint" the correction in my mind.  Maybe, I have an odd disorder, but it works for me.  To me, it is kinda like the rule of thumb, a "Measure twice, cut once" mentality.  It is the same as when I sketch.  I will study a face here and there for days or weeks before I touch a pencil to paper.  It is just how I am and probably how I will always be.  When it comes to writing, such as this blog, all these entries are impromptus.  I have a topic and the words just flow as I type them, which is probably why sometimes, they don't make much sense.  However, when I write my books of the fiction kind, I “write” inside my head for weeks on end.  When I think all the "bugs" are worked out, only then will I open a blank document and start typing. 

A couple weeks ago, I started an "unrehearsed" painting.  With an idea, or rather, a combination of ideas, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and started painting without much planning ahead of time. That was a mistake that won't happen again.  I’m SO NOT an impromptu painter.  Those who follow our camp page will recognize the partial painting seen here.  After I showed it to our daughter via Messenger on Facebook, I told her my concept until that point, and being a creative woman, I knew her thoughts would help guide me into the area of the unknown …where did I want to go with this painting?  I wanted planets.  I wanted a desert scene, and I wanted it all to be surreal with metaphysical qualities, yet with a message or at least a painting that people would have to stop and think about the meaning behind it all.  Or, better yet, come up with their own interpretation.  I ran a few ideas by her.  Though I had one idea that I wanted to “run with”, I really didn’t know just how to go about it.  With the basic layout "sketched" with paint, the wet canvas needed some drying time before I could continue.  Until then, I would ponder the placement of the final details.  

While in bed sick this past week, both Paul and I, with the worst bug we’ve had in decades, I slept a lot and watched TV a lot.  Not being much of a TV person in the first place, Paul knows to watch whatever he feels like watching and if I’m interested, I’ll watch with him.  If not, then I’ll turn over and go to sleep.  Even if I do like the show, often I zonk part way through due to a body that is tired from daily living off the grid.  However, Paul tries to find a show he thinks I'll like.  Usually, a comedy or something educational.  When Paul turned the channel to watch Star Wars, I found it a perfect opportunity to just roll over and go to sleep.  I never understood why that is such a beloved movie by so many.

So, today comes, and here we have it … an unfinished painting stares at me from the next room, I'm still not feeling up to par, tired of laying down, and with the feeling that I'm totally done watching TV. forever, is when I became inspired with renewed hope such as the title of this blog indicates. 

After I posted my latest blog, our friend, Michael messaged to see how we were fairing the flu.  Then, he asked me if I was willing to read, and then, critique a synopsis of a movie script he had written.  Though he knew I purchased his latest book, I told him that I hadn’t read it yet, so could I give my thoughts without first reading the book in which the script is based?  He said I could if I didn’t mind the spoiler alert.  To that, he gave me a quick rundown of the storyline.  I was intrigued.  It seemed to be right up my alley.  We further discussed each of our connections in the film industry.  Though he already has his own connections, it doesn't hurt to have a few more -a "plug" of the informal kind is still a plug.  Right?

Over the next couple of days, he again checked in on us.  Yesterday morning, feeling better overall, when I opened Messenger, I saw that I had yet another message waiting from the man.  This one had an attachment.    It was his synopsis!  Still with a rumbling stomach and foggy brain, I knew I wasn’t ready to give an honest read-through.  However, after being uppinaddah bed for a few hours, and with a cup of hot coffee, that I would learn later was a very bad idea, I sipped as I read slowly and probably too methodical-like.  Within the first few lines, I was intrigued.  Not only were his words carefully chosen, but they also flowed.  They captivated me, and they held my interest more and more as I read.  I saw the scene play before me and I loved the storyline thus far.  Quickly, I scrolled to see the length of the .pdf.  I was met with disappointment when I learned that I was almost halfway through it already. 

As I continued to read, the painting mentioned above threw visions in my face as I unintentionally saw my painting slowly come together through his words to the point that I struggled to separate my painting from the story before me.  Ironically, the painting and the storyline aren't even similar in theme or meaning.   Oddly, as I read further, my painting wouldn't leave the forefront of my visions.  I saw each "planet" now as a "bubble" bringing life to a new world.  Though that is the intent of my painting, why did my mind bring these two storylines together?  A book : A painting.  

Then, it happened, the introduction of what I considered a “new angle” that further captivated me, as I have four different books on Maine Native American’s sitting beside me.  I stopped reading and glanced over at my stack and smiled. His synopsis piqued yet another interest of mine …my own heritage and the seeking of who, what, when, how, and why I am via my Native American roots.  I love mythology and wondering “why” such stories came to be.  I had to admit to my friend, that I would have to re-read his synopsis at least once more because his summary brought forth my other loves in life -Maine, Off the Grid, and Native American’s.

In my own mind, I had separated his story into two stories, two visions and for some reason, my mind kept them separated.  Furthermore, my brain kept throwing my painting into it all, which is not fair to the story he had written. Though, I only told him that I would have to re-read his synopsis again.  I did not tell him why.  My brain had been greatly inspired.  A re-read, or two, or three is a must and I already know that each will be enjoyable.  Putting his words into one story instead of my mind that kept interrupting and separating them will be enjoyable, too.  Though he is looking for a critique, I’m not so sure I will have one.

In a very round-about way, his words in motion and my painting on a stilled canvas is a movement of a different kind ...and, on more than one level.  A personification, if you will, that after reading the synopsis only once, has left me flooded with curiosity.  I believe that this writer certainly has the “hook” he’s looking for.  At least I think so. However, I may be a little partial of his topics, writing style, and the man himself, too.  

As for my unfinished painting, I smile at the intent behind it all.  Maybe, just maybe, upon completion, it'll make sense to others, too.  Earth, space and the creation of it all, one bubble at a time.  Just like Michael put one word after another to create such an intriguing storyline.  Two weeks ago, I was "stuck" in how to further portray my thoughts on canvas.  Now, I know without a doubt that I'm on the right track.  No one else has to understand how a totally different storyline confirms, in an odd way, that my painting makes perfect sense in a surreal kind of way.  I hate the phrase, “Apples and Oranges”, but in this case, it works …again, in a metaphorical kind of way!

When I asked Michael if I could mention his name and book in this blog entry, he came back with, "I read your Blog and was deeply touched - and I MUST see that finished painting! You should know the full Script is actually completed. And yes you may plug the book. You may want to mention it was a rushed trial run for the movie script which is far better".  The book sits in front of me.  Today, I start reading it with the hope to someday watch it play out in a movie upon the TV.  It'll be one movie that won't prompt me to roll over and zonk like so many do.

When inspiration strikes, it doesn't matter from where or from what, but run with it!  Even if that inspiration does nothing more than to ensure yourself that you are on the right track with a project, with life, and/or anywhere in between!  

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Lure of Deeply-Grooved Wrinkles

The Lure of Deeply-Grooved Wrinkles
Copyright 2019 by Lori-Ann Willey

Growing up on a dead-end dirt road in a family of “I’d rather be outside” type people, there is no wonder why Ima Nature Nut.  Daily living meant learning, not only about life as humans, but life as insects, animals, weather patterns, the land, and the freedom of self-expression and encouragement.  Plain and simple, I was what most would consider, a “Tom Boy”.  I never scrunched my nose at the title.  I embraced it.  It meant I was strong and tough.  It meant that I was not singled out as a “girl” that was supposed to be inside learning how to cook, clean, and doll up my face, body, or hair.  It meant, instead, that I could learn to be who I was as an individual.  I loved that freedom.  It is the same freedom that I love today, too.

When a topic comes up, I often hear the voices of my parents.  The educational discussions that were as natural and forthcoming as the weather.  I learned so much from them.  Even today, I still reflect upon those conversations.  Truly, my childhood outside the classroom was not only in experimentation, learning by observing, but I always learned from my parents, too.  Excellent teachers in both forms of the word, “natural”.  Our son always told me that I was a “natural teacher”, but in reality, I am much like my parents and every conversation is a learning opportunity.   

Always as a child, I listened intently to the stories told by others.  Captivated by every word, tone, facial and body expressions that made their stories come to life for me.  Embedded in my brain until they slowly slithered away into the Land of the Forgotten.  Man, I so wished I could remember every story I heard growing up!   I truly miss what I cannot remember if that makes sense.  Thus, why it is so important that I write down my own experiences and memories in life.

I remember well when my mother spoke of someone with deeply grooved wrinkles upon their face.  He or she, “had a hard life”, or “they’ve spent most of their life outside”.  With each, she told of what she knew about that person and their “history” as she knew it.  It wasn’t gossip, it was factual and conversation-based with a lot of appreciation and respect behind her words.  Often, if a sad story, her eyes would water, and her voice would quiver in the retelling of what she knew.  I am so much like my mother in that way.  Empathy was/is great within her.  Always.

There was this one woman who became a family friend.  She became so close to our little family that I considered her an aunt and trusted her as much as I trusted my own parents.  Her name was Noreen Catlin.  Her husband, "Alphie" called her “Reenie”, but to our family, she was always, “Noreen”.  Those who read my books, know her son as Steve.  Noreen was a tomboyish older woman with short, near black  hair that was always parted on the side.  Despite the aged look upon her deeply grooved and wrinkled face, she always claimed she was 39 years old.  Said with a wink, of course.  Her skin, very dark, so I presumed, as a child, she must’ve had a good portion of Native American within her, though I don’t ever remember that topic arising.    She hunted.  She fished.  She drove a truck.  Quick to fix anything.  Quick to help with anything, too.  Though I never knew her story, I knew she loved to garden, and be outside all hours of the day if she could.  A woman I greatly admired.

You may be wondering why I’ve written all this above?  I can be a bit long-winded, but I get my stories and memories out in my own way …all to often, the lengthy route.  

I’ve been an outside girl all my life, so when Paul and I visited the idea of living off the grid back in 2005, it was not a new concept to me.  Though I never officially lived off the grid growing up, I did live without running water, which meant lugging water throughout the year.  It also meant using an outhouse throughout the year, too.  I didn’t mind that in the least …neither one, though modern life indicates it is an inconvenience.  People have often wondered why we chose to live off the grid when we are set financially, have a beautiful and large house on the grid.  Why would we choose such a different lifestyle?  A harder one?  Why not?  I’m not afraid of hard work.  I’m knowledgeable more than most on how to live without modern conveniences.  I have the will.  I have the want. I have the ability.  Fortunately, Paul has all that, too.  However, as it must, his health dictates.

For many years, we did not have a mirror at camp.  My “mirror” was my own reflection in a pane of glass or upon a stilled water surface.  We’d go for months without seeing ourselves in a real mirror.   When I did step in front of one in a public restroom or when we went home or visited someone, I’d often not recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror.  “Woah!  Is that really me?”  I looked different.  I had aged. I had developed wrinkles that I had not watched grow.  I had graying hair that I did not see emerging.  My face had changed shape, too.  I looked 10 years older than the last time I saw myself, and I couldn’t help but just look at myself from side to side in awe. 

Then, I instantly thought of Noreen and I caught myself grinning into the mirror.  Wrinkles were more plentiful.  I had aged, and I hadn’t had a clue.  Life off the grid is hard work.  It is exhausting, even.  Yet, I love it.  Despite being overweight, I hadn’t ever been stronger, healthier, happier, or more fit in my life, except for when I was a little girl living at the end of that dirt road.  Then, the town’s people called my family “Hippies” ‘cause we ran around barefoot.  We all did except for my father.   Unless I was injured, and I’ve had some wicked doozies in here, I never became lame, no matter what the hard task or for how long.  My muscles were well tuned …right down to the tiniest fibers.  I could work like a horse, move and lift heavy objects from one end of the camp lot to the other and never feel so much as fatigue in the end.  What about that doesn’t say, “fit as a fiddle” or “strong as an ox”?  Lame?  What does that mean?  That is me living off the grid.

Due to Paul’s health, and as you know, we are not able to winter off the grid this year.  It is the first winter since 2005.  Paul’s health must come first.  Though it is a challenging lifestyle transition, I’m very thankful that we have a home to retreat to until his body and his medicines are figured out for safeness of off the grid living again.    At camp, I was wicked active just in every day living.  Here, not so much.  I mean, the house is big, so to get from point A to point B is at least movement.  With hunting season over with …and I hunted both rifle season and muzzleloading season, I’m not very active here physically.  But that is about to change.  We have an exercise regime set up, but now we’re recovering from the flu so that has been put on hold for a few more days.

I feel very lazy here. Very unproductive, too.  Labor here is sweeping and mopping the floor and very little snow shoveling.  Though it takes me 45 minutes to sweep the downstairs with a push dust mop, I do not consider that exercise!   I’ve become soft and I feel my muscles melting.  I need to change that, ‘cause I need to feel at the top of my “game”, too.

Since we’ve been home, we’ve met up with a few people we know (unfortunately, they are death based gatherings) and several that we don’t know.  “You look great!” is the comment mostly heard.  Another is, “You look quite a bit younger than you do in your pictures”.  I kinda smirk without understanding their meaning.  I’ve become a “Fair-skinned Lady”, apparently.  Not being outside for hours a day in the sun, winds, and/or freezing temperatures, my skin has softened, as have my wrinkles, too.  Those, to me, are droopier, but others say, they are far less pronounced in person as opposed to pictures of me a couple short months ago. 

My mother’s words rang through my brain and I had to smile.  I’m 52 years old and I’ve come full circle.  Though life is challenging for so many people, we all have days when we feel tired.  When we all feel old.  Off the grid, I was so active.  I felt young, fit, and alive.  Here, on the grid, I feel very old, tired, and lazy.    Why my face doesn’t look the part is because it is sheltered now from the outside elements, the elasticity is returning to my skin because it is not destroyed, slowed, or altered by the harsh elements of off the grid living and daily outside chores and doings.

Though many would be appreciative of a soft, younger, easier to gaze upon face, I am not in appreciation of it.  To me, it does not show my true character, my experiences, or my preferred lifestyle.  It shows one of protection and easier living.  I don’t like it. To gaze upon a well-weathered face of an older person who has lived a life in the outdoors is the look I want.  It is the look I’ve always loved, always appreciated, always respected.  The stories they tell …each deeply carved line has a history -a story- and I want to hear them all. 

Life on the grid is an adjustment for me.  Life IS easier in many ways, but my love is off the grid, outside, aging with nature.  Once this flu-bug is out of our systems fully, I will be spending time outside with my cameras again.  Hopefully, soon, we can get back off the grid sooner than later, but for now, I guess I can wait until I once again look like an older woman with lots of stories to tell.